Walking in Dreams

by Sweetprincipale

Early season 6. Buffy's body comes back in one piece, her mind a little less stable. Uncertain of reality, a sleep-deprived Slayer finds one thing she can cling to, waking or dreaming. Plenty of angst and stream-of-very-tangled-thought to begin with, but it has a sweet Spuffy ending.

Author's Note: All due credit to the writers and performers of "Hurt" for quoting the lyrics of that poignant song. I prefer the Johnny Cash version, and as one man in black to another, I think Spike would as well. If you've not heard it, I recommend listening while reading the ending section.

Author's Second Note: Thank you to those of you patiently waiting for more updates to Union, Timeless, and Waiting- THEY ARE COMING! No abandoning pieces here. Just a brand new baby in the house and it takes me about four days to write one paragraph. Hang in there, and keep sending the encouragement, it does help.

Nothing of Buffy belongs to me, except my sincere admiration. However, this story is all mine.

Part I

"Goodnight. Wake us if you need anything?"

"Yep. Night, Willow. Night, Tara. Goodnight, Dawnie." Buffy feebly collapsed against the door as it shut. Thank God. Done with another day.

Not like night is easier.

They all thought she slept. She hadn't, not after the first time, when she woke them all with her screams. She stopped sleeping four days ago.

Humans can go for a week or something without sleep. Slayers can maybe make it two. Twice resurrected Slayers, what do you think? Three? Then what happens? Do I die, or just fall asleep? Pass out? Which option do I want?

It doesn't matter. Because the main thing isn't what happens when I finally can't take it anymore, the main thing is just staying awake as long as I can. Because I can't take what happens when I sleep. Can't take it again.

Sleeping gave birth to surreal things that might actually have been real things, heaven, hell, this world- which one was the real world, the reality or the dream? Should she say nightmare? She couldn't tell anymore to begin with, and sleep was a cruel joke. Everything was a cruel, befuddled joke but sleep was the worst part, because she lost the ability to keep track of her carefully placed markers, the things she used to keep reality somewhat straight. She wasn't really sure what was real, but she had ways to keep pretending based on where she was, wherever the hell that was.

Even in my head the sentences stopped making sense. Soon I'll stop talking, and I'll be some thing they visit in a hospital. Which is a sort of hell inside a hell, and is this hell on earth, or just plain hell that looks like earth? Was heaven part of the hell package- you get a trip there, then have it torn away so you suffer more?

She fell back on the bed, sprawled with her arms out, head thrown back. That was dangerous. She didn't let herself lay down, she usually sat at her desk chair, or paced with her silent steps, mindful not to wake the others.

Her eyes closed wearily. Another step into the quicksand. Sleep tugged. Blackness seeped in at the edges of her eyelids. She inhaled deeply… exhaled slowly… her mind shut off.

Buffy sat up with a gasp. Terror gripped her, and then relief. Had she fallen asleep for seconds, hours? No bad dreams occurred. But wait. Was she sleeping still?

Shit, shit, shit. The terror was gripping her again and this time it wouldn't be cast off.

Buffy looked around the room. Sleep deprivation or sleep itself? What made the room seem blue-washed and blurry? What made sounds seem to echo and bounce? Sounds from the next bedroom over- soft sighs, giggles- Willow and Tara making love, just talking?

Or are those mocking laughs? Conspiring whispers?

Gotta get out of here. Gotta wake up! She pinched herself hard. It hurt.

She could have sobbed. Waking, sleeping, dead, alive, she was so used to everything hurting all the time that the pinch did no good. Nothing determined.

Maybe if I vomit. Can you vomit in hell? Or in your sleep? Or in dreams? She felt queasy enough to, that was a permanent state of affairs lately, like the pain, the dizzy, confused feelings…

So again, not going to tell me anything.

And I could go crazy sitting in here, trying to figure it out. Or I could start screaming, and if they run in and things change, like really change, that would clear it all up, right?

Except for them figuring out I can't sleep. Me telling them why. Me out of control. Me being not me, just a Thing. Hospital. Hell.

She rolled to the floor, crept to the door, trying to find the doorknob with eyes that wouldn't focus. She fled.

The world was like a carnival. One you walked through in your nightmares. Hadn't that been her reality, though?

A sweet fall evening with a big full moon, and couples passed her without seeing her, even glancing at her. I'm invisible. I don't exist here.

No. They don't exist in here. In my head. Hurray for dreams. I can just people watch. Look at all the normal.

She took in the sights. Mr. and Mrs. Middle Aged with their mini-van full of sleeping kids, on the way home from a vacation probably.

Young and in love, people kissing, holding hands.

And people everywhere ignoring the one- or was it two?- faces she saw that had yellow eyes manifesting out of human features. She could scream or she could run, or she could fight them.

But it's my dream. In my dream- maybe they don't even exist.

She slowly walked towards them.

"Slayer. Coming at us." A nudge of the elbow, a tilt of the head.

"Thought she was killed by Hellions." Eyes widened as the petite blonde seemed to walk towards them without blinking and apparently without thought for the traffic.

"They ripped her apart. She got back up."

"That had to piss her off."

"You wanna take her when she's pissed off?"

"Are you crazy? I'm not even that hungry. Let's run."

A pickup passed between her and the alleyway where the vampires taunted her. She moved, almost through it, and in a blare of horns that seemed more like a dim buzz, they were gone.

They were gone. Like she wanted.

Nothing hit her, and she was somehow across the street. Noises, lights, they were out of proportion.

I am dreaming. Just stuck in the same old town.

I thought dreams would be better. More shopping. Or something.

Maybe that's all that I can dream about- looking at the place I used to be, am again without wanting to be. That and demons and vampires.

She stumbled. Sleepwalking? What if I'm sleepwalking?

Or maybe I'm this tired in my dreams, too…

Where would I walk to?

This is predictable. I wonder if I'll have recurring dreams, and this is where they'll all end up? A cemetery.

Figures. Don't you dream about the places and things most often on your mind, or the places you spent the most time in?

She turned slowly. There was mist pooling around her ankles. She rolled her eyes. Very appropriate for a nightmare- or as it turned out, just another scene from her life.

I wonder if I get to see people, too.

That would really be the nightmare. She winced. Dealing with people awake and asleep.

Another vague turn, blinking through fuzzy eyes and a pounding head, stumbling along, then stopping.

Oh. Hey. This is Spike's cemetery.

She walked around the perimeter of the mausoleum twice. The Slayer was working through some thoughts, and was also wondering if reasoning abilities should seem this clear- muddled as they still were- if she was dreaming.

Thoughts like- I see Spike every day. But he hasn't "talked" to me since that first night. I like that better than people being in my face, demanding I talk, open up, explain. Lie. Act grateful.

So is this a good dream, then? I'm going to come see a person- well, vampire, who won't ask me to talk. Just looks at me. I look at him.

Yeah. That sounds good, right now.

Buffy's steps gained purpose and balance. She walked evenly to the door of the crypt and confidently pushed it open, smiling faintly. This will work. Dead people hanging out together, in the dead people place, in quiet. Maybe I'll relax enough and I'll wake up without screaming.

Spike looked up, startled and yet he had no reason to be. He'd been expecting this for days, ever since she reappeared. His bottle tipped, boots crashed to the floor as he stood up, peering anxiously at the pale figure who'd materialized in his doorway.

Been expecting this. But- not like this. Expected the avenging angel, the speech, accusations, reasons, righteous indignation. And I get a shadow.

"Buffy?" His voice quivered slightly, so full of pent up emotions, only able to get one word out.

She didn't even speak. Nodded slightly, came over to his chair and sat herself in it, dark-circled eyes wide and watching. Like she expected a performance.

Maybe that's it. She's not stupid. She knows I know, she knows this is what I'm waiting for, this what I deserve.

A performance. A final performance. She deserves that from me- and I deserve what's about to come next- from her.

See, this is nice. I come in. I sit. I can see Spike, and Spike doesn't speak. He lets me sit in the chair, and I just watch him. No one has to talk. She sighed contentedly-albeit briefly. Ew. Why don't my dreams come with smell-filtering? She could smell lingering smoke and a hot acrid splash of cheap liquor. Oh right. He knocked over the bottle. Her foot kicked the small puddle and it rippled. Realistic.

An edge of doubt was creeping into her solid insistence that she was in a dream-world. Wait- this is too clear for a dream. Right? Wait. She began to open her mouth, questions in her eyes.

Which is when Spike seemed to come from nowhere, drop something into her hand.

A stake.

Heavy but not too thick, smooth. "I don't want this." Buffy blinked, confused, gripping it and releasing it, letting it roll to the floor with a clatter.

Spike swallowed. "However you want to do it, let's just do it." He whispered.

She stared blankly at him.

Right. Who am I to be calling the shots here? "Whatever you need to do- do it." His voice was no longer a whisper, but soft and strained.

What I need to do? What is he talking about? Her brain rebelled. No! My dream! I'm not doing anything. Whatever I need? I need to sit and no one is going to make me do anything. She stared through Spike, not at him. She resisted the urge to cross her arms. Too much effort for someone so tired.

That should have tipped her off. If she was already asleep, should she still feel so exhausted?

Spike stared back, but he couldn't get her eyes to join his. Why should they? I don't even deserve for her to look at me. It's only a miracle that her eyes are open again. It's my fault they closed in the first place. I don't deserve anything, but this. A chance for her to make it right, make it happen- what should have happened in the first place.

I should have died. Not her. I failed to keep Dawn off the edge of the knife, and so the Slayer was sacrificed. She needs to be avenged. There has to be retribution. My promises don't mean shit anymore, and Dawn won't need me with the real hero back on duty.

The hero just sits. Not even able to bloody look at me.

But her face wasn't cold, or angry. Just impassive. Maybe she didn't know what to say. Maybe she had too much to say to speak at all. He tried to give her words.

"Slayer- Buffy…" Spike knelt in front of the chair, cold fingers somehow turning to ice as he tried not to fumble picking up the fallen weapon. "It's okay. I deserve this, and I know it. It's going to make things right. Hell, I'd have done it myself if I wasn't supposed to be here, keeping Dawn safe." He laughed shakily despite the wet gleam in his eyes as they lowered to the floor. She didn't speak. Still. "I'm sorry I failed you. Failed you both, and you paid for my mistakes. You gotta do this. Even the score. Balance things out." Before he could lose her nerve he forced the stake back into her hand. "You need to say something beforehand, you say anything you want. You need to…" He didn't finish his thought. She wouldn't make it hurt. She wouldn't toy with him or torture him. She wouldn't give him one last smile or, in his guilty, grieving mind, give one parting kiss that he in no way had earned.

"Please. I can't live with it anymore." Knowing she died 'cause of me. And she's back, but in so much pain, and she could never forgive me. Never be like we were, whatever the hell it was. "You end me."

Nope. See. This is a dream. Ha, take that brain. Thought you fooled me. Like Spike would ever want to die. Like he'd want me to kill him. Especially after I just got back. Spike is so happy I'm back. Spike doesn't want anything from me. He'd never ask me to kill him.

Unless he wants to die because living like this- in his own personal hell- is too much. I can relate to that.

No. Because I'm back. He likes me being back.

Something was off. Unreal. Well, dreams weren't always accurate, even if they were so detailed and vivid. Buffy shrugged, barely moving her shoulders.

The slightest twitch made him tense, but he didn't move away. Waiting for her words, or her telling blow.

The stake left her hand. Hurled far with as much ease as if she was brushing off a gnat. "No."

Spike blinked at the wood went sailing past his shoulder. "No?"

In my dreams, I don't have to kill people. Especially not people I … I don't mind. "I'm not going to kill anyone." Buffy said firmly, though her voice had a curious lilt to it Spike couldn't quite place.

"But I…"

"I said no." Ah ha. See? In my life, you can't do that. Maybe the dream world isn't going to suck.

She doesn't understand, Spike thought. She doesn't know how bad it is to exist around her, but know I can never… She'll never trust me again, little as she did, there was something. She'll never believe I love her. I'll have to live with the failures and the fears, and the memories of her dyin' in front of me. Buryin' her. Every night I saved her, stayed alive for those dreams… and then I woke up… find her still dead. Until one day last week.

"You don't want to?" He finally asked, still kneeling, head still bowed, a knight unhorsed.


"Don't you know I deserve it?"

"Is that what you want?" Her head swiveled slowly, like she was looking for clues as to how this dream thingy was supposed to play out. Am I supposed to stake him? Well, screw it. I don't want to. And I really just want to go back to having quiet.

"I know what I ought to have, not what I want." Spike said sharply.

"If I give you what you want, then do you go back to letting me be quiet?"

What the fuck? He couldn't quite follow her train of thought. If she killed him, then he'd be ashes. Those were typically soundless and not at all bothersome. It was his turn to stare, to struggle for words.

"What do you really want?" Buffy repeated herself, and also spoke to herself. Dreams are full of symbolism and significant crap, especially when you're the slayer. She kept waiting for something to click, some magic words that would move her back into the happy part of this sleeping world, back to the sitting in relatively peaceful silence part, or send her down the road into a new nightmare.

"If I could have what I want- I want… wish you could forgive me." Spike whispered in a strangled voice, tearful and not caring. He'd cried for her, over her body, over her grave, in front of people who hated him and now sort of tolerated him. He had no qualms about crying in front of the living woman herself.

"Forgive you?" She repeated.

"But how could you? You died 'cause I couldn't keep Bit safe, and you had to make the final substitution. Died. 'Cause of me."

"No. Glory. I died because of her." Buffy argued factually. Spike is crying. Spike is curling into a ball. Her hand hesitantly reached out and patted his hair. His head jerked forward. Feels so real.

"I broke the promise I made. I never… not one I made to you." He swallowed, speaking like his voice was broken.

"I don't think you could help it." I break promises. So many promises. If that's like lying, I lived a lie, and I live one now. The only thing I blame anyone for is ripping me out of heaven. "Did you bring me back?"

"No… I'm sorry, Slayer. I didn't know, or I… I don't know if it's the right thing to say, but I wouldn't have helped. Unless they promised me…"


"That you'd stay. No matter what. Dead things come back different, I know that, I'm bloody proof of it. An' I wouldn't care what was changed, not if you didn't. I didn't know about them. I didn't know about this. So no. I didn't bring you back, didn't even lift a finger to try. Just kept wishin'… in my head. That I'd saved you. Every night I saved you. Least in my dreams, I did."

"Dreams are supposed to be good." Buffy mumbled. He saved me. That made him happy. He wanted me to kill him 'cause he didn't save me for real- what's real again? Never mind. I don't kill in here. Maybe I can make his dream happy- in my dream. Maybe our dreams are connected?

Spike saw her suddenly clutch her head, pain in every feature, and he instinctively went to reach for her, support her. His hand fell back down, head returned to its perch in humility.

"If I forgive you, that would make you happy?" She stumbled over her words, tongue too heavy, brain too slow.

"Of course! Second best thing in the world you could ever give me!" He exclaimed, eyes suddenly meeting hers, shining. For a second. "But this isn't about me." He reminded her gently.

That's right. My dream. I'm not mad at Spike. He tried his best. He lost a battle, and well, so did I. "I can forgive you. I don't even think you did anything wrong." Buffy whispered. "Not that night. Not s-since I came back."

Spike simply stared. "Say it again." He finally requested.

"I forgive you." I can't forgive the others right now. "For whatever stuff you think you did." His eyes glowed, his face seemed like it would crumple in relieved tears- and she would hate that. The noise and the emotion… "On one condition."

"Name it." Take my head, take my arm, take anything you want, I owe it all.

"You let me sit in your chair and you keep it quiet until I wake up."

"I can do that." Spike nodded firmly.

"Thank you."

"Thank you." He rose unsteadily. "You go ahead an' fall asleep. I'll keep it quiet as you like."

Buffy nodded. Wait. "Go ahead and fall asleep"? But I am asleep. No, this is dream me and dream me isn't, so dream Spike would say something like that.

Her head spun. Edges blurred, like they'd been doing ever since she woke up in hell that turned out to be earth, a place she once considered home. This state of dreaming had been the least awful so far.

Can you sleep in your dreams? I bet that's when you wake up. Like when you fall and just before you hit the ground you- Her thoughts stopped. Last time she'd been falling, there'd been no waking up, no "It's only a bad dream" relief when you wake.

Don't think about that. Anyway, I don't want to wake up right now. I just want to have the chair, and Spike keeping everything loud out of my head. No sleeping in my sleep.

"Can you sit next to me?" She heard herself ask.

"Of course." Spike blinked and immediately sat beside her, squatting on the stone floor alongside his chair. "I can be dead quiet."

"No. Not dead quiet." Buffy's voice was hollow, but the response was immediate. "Dead is… confusing."

"Just an expression, Luv." He whispered, voice reflexively pitched to soothe. "Just meant, I'll give you whatever you need." Whatever I can give.

Hysteria threatened to bubble up and out, but exhaustion tempered it to one long, convulsive shudder. Like anyone can give me that. Like I know what that is, or would be. I just want- just need- to stay sane. To be safe here. The dreamworld. Closest thing to heaven I have left, right now, and it could go to hell real fast.

"I'm not surprised you don't trust me to try an' do that for you." The vampire twisted his fingers round themselves in a nervous gesture, voice showing the same kind of strain. "Why should you? I wouldn't- but then, you do all the things I can't do, Buffy. Big heart in the big hero." He smiled, words genuine, no mockery, but no pressure either. Only simple recognition. Gratitude.

Buffy relaxed, the tension of keeping up the facade ebbed, she stopped trying to control the balance of reality vs. insanity. "You know, it's funny. In here, I'm calling all the shots, but you're the one doing everything right. I don't know what you're doing- but it's working." She frowned. If this is my dream and I'm doing what I want, I should be able to tell what's coming, what he's doing, what I want him to do. But everything happens… whatever happens, I'm not in control of it.

That's one thing that stays the same, no matter where I go. She blinked and tears seeped out. Huh. Feels wet. She stared at a drop she caught on her fingers- until other fingers slowly came up and crept between hers.

"Are these real tears?" Buffy asked in a voice barely above a whisper.

In answer he dragged her hand across his face, and she jumped at the contact.

Wet. Real. Buffy's breath seemed to vanish.

"Real as mine." Spike answered, own chest seeming tight.

"Dead things cry, too." A confused voice of realization.

"You an' I can be very much alive, don't matter what labels people slap on us." His voice brittle, swallow coming hard on its heels. "But it gets messy, doesn't it? This life after death stuff. Confusin'? Out of control?"

This might be real. Might be a dream. Seems like I'd have to be dreaming to have someone get it, say what I can't say, can't tell anyone. He's in my head. Well, duh, dreams are in your head, so he's in my dream after all. "So hard… Too fast, not fast enough. Can't keep track sometimes." She admitted, eyes suddenly blurred.

"Know the feeling." Being near her had confused him for so long, how he should act, what he wanted to be, how he could win her or possess her, until it boiled down to sheer bloody gratefulness alone that she was back. Miracle- that she'd forgiven him, spared him. He would always love her, even if she could never love him back.

"Do you know what to do?" Buffy's worn voice asked him, breaking the spiral of his thoughts.

"Not a hundred percent. Try to get by. Try to ease the pain. Find somethin', someone to help if you can." His smile was somber as he made his offer. "You got me to help. I'll stay right here, you rest. That's what you wanted, yeah?"

"But not fall asleep. If I fall asleep in here, I'll wake up." Buffy shook her head.

Confusing as hell, but he didn't show it. Carefully asked, with a neutral tone, "You don't want to wake up?"

Not wake up. Eternal sleep. That's what it sounds like I mean. Maybe that is what I mean.

When she didn't answer, he felt a coil of sickness spreading inside him. She's dyin' again. Not a heroic leap, a slow suffocation. Buried alive she was, buried alive she is again. "Hold on, Slayer." Spike didn't want to push, but he didn't know what else to say, heart too full to stay silent.

"I don't know if I want to. Or what's real enough… to hold on to." Buffy let her hand reach out and swim through the foggy air her heavy eyes made out. She blinked when she hit something solid. Spike.

"Right here." He reiterated.

"Maybe I just don't want to anymore." She could confess that. In here.

He swallowed over the noose-like tightness in his throat. "I don't have the right to ask you to."

He didn't demand. Didn't expect. Just wanted. Dreams are good for that, I guess, Buffy thought.

"If you let go, I'm still gonna hang on. I'll always be wishin' I could have hung on to you." Spike's lips twitched in a ghost of a sad smile. "For now, you wanna let go, I guess here's as good a place as any. Cry, scream, throw things about. Sit and stare, noises off."

"Thank you." Buffy murmured, and oddly enough, found she meant it. For the first time since she'd been back, she meant it. No. Second time. The first time was with him too. When he knew what hurt my hands and didn't make me say it. When he knew how to make the pain stop and didn't make a big deal.

In this dream, Spike knows what to do. And I- don't. So I let go. And he hangs on. "You tell me what to do for now. You make feel better."

He blinked. "I do?"

"Yes." Simple statement of fact, and then black edged eyes that were in such a worn, thin face, stared at him with a faint flicker of hope.

"Uh. Right." More than he'd hoped for. She forgave him, She trusted him to try to help. She was in pain, and he knew it had to do with being here, alive, though he didn't claim to know the specifics. "You wanna lay down?" Frantic head-shaking, and the hope seemed to fade. "No, no, you said that. Not gonna sleep. Just gonna rest. An' I'm gonna stay here and keep things quiet. Not dead quiet, peaceful quiet."

A relieved nod. "That sounds really good."

She sat. Her head would bob as if sleep were about to consume her, and like the fighter she always was, she'd give herself a hard shake and force herself to stay awake.

About the tenth time this happened, Spike finally asked, "What d'you think happens if you sleep, Buffy?"

"I wake up. Out there. In the real world. The Hellmouth world. And when I slept the last time, I woke up screaming, everyone was scared, looking at me, waiting for me to say it's okay. To lie, because it isn't okay. Nothing is okay. So, I don't sleep. I was … I can't keep nightmares and reality apart. This is an okay dream. I haven't slept since the first night I came back." Safe to tell the dream man. Safe… She settled back in the chair.

"Dream? Now?"

"This. Now."

"Luv… why would you dream about me?" He asked very carefully, mind panicked. She thinks she's dreamin' and I know she's not. She's goin' mad, and I'm good with madness, but I don't wish it on anyone. Not her, especially not her. Was this like sleepwalking, and weren't you supposed to avoid waking a sleepwalker? If he made her see this was the waking world, would he snap her mind, already teetering on the break?

"Because I can only dream about things from my life. And tonight's a good dream. Okay enough dream, anyway. You're the only one I don't mind talking to now. So I ended up here, with you. And it's working. The nightmares haven't gotten in and I haven't woken up screaming."

"Don't you think you'd - don't you think I would know all this, if this were a dream an' I was in it?"

"It's my dream. I'm allowed to do what I want, say what I want. Tell secrets. Not kill. Not fight." Her voice was fainter on each word, and coming more slowly.

"You could do that awake, Buffy. I'd stand by all that." He prodded gently.

"Yeah. You might. I don't know about the others. They want Buffy back."

"And you are?" His chest tensed. Dead things come back different… Sometimes just the body, different characters inside. But this is her. Just- something off about her. Not that it makes me love her any less.

"I'm Buffy. But I'm also Dead Girl Walking. I'm heaven's reject, I'm hell's favorite punching bag. I'm exhausted and I can't act anymore, which must be why I finally crashed."

"Or you think you did." He took her hand and squeezed. "Feel that?"

"Mmhmm. Feel this too." She took her fingers and neatly dragged them over her forearm. Tiny ridges of white appeared.

"Easy, Luv!"

"I tried to figure out if I hurt . If I'm awake or asleep. I figured out- that I can't tell. Awake, asleep, I'm numb or I hurt all the time, everywhere. I think I like numb better, only then you start to worry people. 'Cause you can't act for them anymore. Buffy in pain at least remembers the drill."

Oh my God. My Slayer. My Sunshine. What did they do to her? What can I do for her?

"Am I allowed to make you feel, if I don't make you hurt?" Spike asked after a moment.

She hesitated. "Feel what?"

"Anything. Anything you want."

"I just … want to feel like I felt before."

"Before you passed?"

She hesitated, then shook her head. "Before they brought me back. Where I was done fighting. And I was safe. There was warm stuff all around me, inside me, outside of me, and I knew I was safe. Nothing was going to hurt me anymore, and … and they loved me. Just being done, not being anything anymore, they still loved me. No one to save. No one to fight. No one to let down." Tears had slowly risen to the surface of her eye, and now they cascaded down. "Please. If you can make me feel that, or anything close to it… That's what I want to feel."

He didn't know how it happened. Tried to tell her this was real. Said it over and over, this might be a dream to you, Buffy, but it's real. Awake. I'd be there in your dreams, be there in your waking world, you've got to believe me.

Blank stares. Her reiteration. "That's what he'd say. Spike is weirdly the same, no matter what reality I'm in."

He wanted to growl in frustration. I'm him. He's me. This is- not getting through.

He stopped trying. She doesn't need the strain of arguin', goin' round and round with me, while she gets more and more word down, looks more broken, more confused, more sick with every passing, blurry-eyed glance.

Spike slid his arms around her hips, head in her lap, and waited until he felt her shudder and let herself sink under his touch. He rose up, she slid down, until she sat halfway across lap on the floor, her back against the bottom of the chair, head on the seat of it. Her blank eyes were staring at the stone ceiling. He put one arm round her shoulders and rocked, sending feelings of warmth at her, wishing his body knew how to create heat without fighting or shagging.

The rocking turned to swaying with humming. Whispering little comforts. He didn't sing anymore. He'd sung lullabies to Dru. Slayer didn't need a lullaby, she needed a rallying cry, an anthem that she could still march to, while knowing she wasn't alone in this battle.

"Even if you changed… Still love you. Always." Spike whispered thickly. She looked startled for a second, and then her face returned to that clay-like blankness. "That's real. Not a dream. Do you know that? Can you believe that?" Don't push, don't push.

I have to push this much. I have to tell her. Unless- in case- this is my only chance, the last chance, the chance I should have had, shouldn't have had.

The first words of the song made her twitch in his arms. Shudder and gasp.

I hurt myself today

To see if I still feel

I focus on the pain

The only thing that's real

Tell him no, not a song about pain. No one knows this pain. Her mouth opened once, and gulped down words instead of letting them escape.

The needle tears a hole

The old familiar sting

Try to kill it all away

But I remember everything

Hard to sing if you're crying. He didn't know if she could tell that the waver in his voice was the sobs he was holding in, not the fact that he hadn't sung in almost five years.

What have I become

My sweetest friend

Everyone I know goes away

In the end

She looked at him. He wasn't looking at her now, looking down, tears trickling out, falling over lips still working to bring out this song. My sweetest friend. Is that me?

Does she know that's her? That I- that I never minded immortality until I knew I'd be alone, without her, at one point?

And you could have it all

My empire of dirt

I will let you down

I will make you hurt

I don't want that anymore.

I don't want to give her that anymore. But that's- that's all I might be able to give, when she's breaking like she is, an' I'm already broken like I am.


I wear this crown of thorns

Upon my liar's chair

Full of broken thoughts

I cannot repair

Beneath the stains of time

The feelings disappear

You are someone else

I am still right here

He kept singing. Ignored the hesitant, waking tone in which she said his name.

"Spike?" Her hand reached for his chin.

What have I become

My sweetest friend

Everyone I know goes away

In the end

He met her eyes. Goes away in the end. Captured her hand and didn't let go.

And you could have it all

My empire of dirt

I will let you down

I will make you hurt

"No." No, he wouldn't. No, I don't want it. No… I don't think I'm dreaming. I can't feel his sobs in my sleep, only my own.

If I could start again

A million miles away

I would keep myself

I would find a way

Silence throbbed when the words ended.

He has a good voice.

I should have sang something better. Different. "Slayer?" He finally answered her.

"Don't - keep yourself away." Buffy shook her head.

"Sweetest friend." He kissed the fingertips he still had hold of. "You could have it all- all I have. An' if I can find a way- any way to do anything you want, you know, don't you, that I'd do it?"

She nodded. I felt something. Something that- didn't hurt. It was sad. It was- pain that's like missing, not pain that you feel in your body. In your heart. He makes me feel something. Pain that- pain that comes when you have to hurt yourself one more time, for a reason you don't mind…

"I ended up here because I missed you. I don't know what that means, in reality, in dreaming. I missed you and I don't want to go away again, if I have to miss you, now that I know - that I can feel what missing being around you is like. I can't let go of that."

Spike was too stunned to speak at first. "You sure of what you're saying?" He finally managed to ask in a torn voice.

Not entirely. But there were things she was certain of. "You do what they can't."

"They don't love you like I do."

To be continued…