WE are shaped and fashioned by what we love.
—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
'Awakenings' is Part Two of a multi-part series, 'Journeys' and follows Part One, 'Promise to a Lady'. If you've not yet read that, you probably should, or parts of this as well as future parts may well confuse you. Some plot points from early Season 6, even some scenes, and an occasional direct line of dialogue, have been downright stolen by me and incorporated into 'Awakenings'. I hope I've kept this to a minimum, but I'm sure there will be occasional eyebrow raising among readers, especially during Chapter One. A longer note from me following that chapter explains my reasoning in a little more depth, if anyone is remotely interested.
'Journeys' has angst, sex, blood play, and the occasional very bad word. Most of all, it has, I hope, love. However, the adult nature of this story does give it an overall rating of NC-17. For readers following the story at FF.net, chapters with material unsuited to FF.net policies will be posted in a edited form, or summarized there. Alternative addresses will be provided for readers who are old enough and wish to read the unedited version.
Feedback will not necessarily make the chapters appear any faster, but I've found it does inspire me to keep plugging away, and it is lovely to receive. In other words, please send. My e-mail address is: MKStatz@aol.com.
I'm going to try to continue to post at a sedate pace until I've completely finished the story. Then – watch out – because I promise I'll be sending out chapters much more quickly.
Joss Whedon, ME, UPN, WB, blah, blah, blah...The television programs, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and all of the characters appearing in them belong to someone other than me. If they belonged to me, I'd – well, read and find out.
MaryJanuary 15, 2003
Part 2: Awakenings
BY starlight and candle-light and dreamlight
She comes to me.
Wrenched away. Torn apart. Torn out.
No, no, no. Please. Please.
The complete absence of light.
Something soft, smooth.
Damp, musty smell.
Too close, too close, too close. Too tight, can't move, can't breathe, can't see.
Devastating, uncontrollable terror. Terror so overwhelming, so crippling in its intensity that thought was impossible. There was only blind instinct. Push, punch, fight, claw.
Nails breaking, tearing away, wetness, blood.
Can't breathe, can't…breathe.
Dirt. Rocks, Falling. Into her face. Scream. Scream.
Help me. Help me. Help me.
Oh help me. Please, please, help me…
Dirt in her mouth, filling her mouth.
Punch, claw, tear, rip, push.
Too much dirt. Too much. Falling on her. Covering her.
Can't breathe, can't breathe, can't breathe.
Trapped. Imprisoned. Terror. Terror.
Buried, buried. No, No, please. Help me.
Reach. Which way? Where?
Out, out, out. Reach. Higher, harder.
Please help me. Oh, please, please.
Air. There – air.
Gone. Lost. Oh, god, the loss. It was screaming through every cell of her body.
And terror. Suffocating, soul destroying terror.
Terror that would haunt her for the rest of her – life.
Across town, at the base of an unstable tower, a small figure twitched.
It was dark. At first he was so relieved to be out of the blinding light he'd been trapped in that he only felt thankful. Until he realized why it was so dark.
He was blind.
And in pain. Moving carefully, he guessed that about half the bones in his body were broken.
He used his long dormant powers to take stock of his surroundings. He was somewhere familiar, somewhere still humming with latent power. Ah, yes, the tower. The site of what should have been his greatest victory, and had instead been witness to his most ignominious defeat.
With painful slowness he pulled his broken body across the rough ground until he came up against something hard. Brick. A wall. Good enough. He would stay there, huddled amid the general rubble and let his bones mend.
And he would plan.
She was scared. Really, really scared.
Spike had left her here, tucked safely out of sight. He'd handed her a stake and a knife, and told her not to move, not to breathe. He'd come right back. Two or three minutes. No more.
Don't move. Don't breathe.
What kind of demons were those? They were awful. Really scary. And totally gross.
Oh god, oh god, oh god.
Hurry up, Spike. Hurry up.
There was a noise. She froze. She hadn't moved a muscle since Spike left, but she still froze, and the fear increased in intensity, making her nauseous. She swallowed. Just take a deep breath. Oh, eeeww. So, okay, don't take a deep breath. Don't breathe at all.
Right there. It was right there. Just on the other side of those garbage cans.
She squeezed her eyes shut. Spike. Please come. Please, please, please.
A – sob?
Or, maybe – a moan?
Her eyes flew open. Was someone in danger? Had those – things – hurt someone? Did someone need help? How could she help? She was only fifteen! How could she –? How?
Her sister had been saving the world when she was fifteen.
That's different. She was the Slayer. Superpowers, remember? You're just a – well, a mystical blob of energy. But you don't have any special powers – at least none that you know of, or know how to use. And how unfair was that, anyway? She bet if she knew how to control them, she would have really cool powers, like, um, flying, or laser beam eyes, or breathing new life into things with her golden breath, or mind reading, or something even better that could totally save the world, and not have anything to do with destroying it.
Don't, Dawn! She yelled at herself, silently, pushing away thoughts of her unknown past with Glory.
You're not evil, you're not evil, you're not evil.
Even chanting it didn't always help much.
Just focus, focus.
Couldn't she at least have some kind of power that could get her out of this alley and safely home? That whole flying thing would be really handy to have right now.
Don't be so bloody stupid! You don't need any superpowers. Just wait for Spike. And if someone is in trouble just a few feet away from you, all you have to do is pull them in here with you 'til Spike gets back to save both of you. And you don't need any lame-o superpowers for that!
Who was putting all these rescuey thoughts in her head, anyway? And could she please make them stop doing it? Right now?
She peeked out. Nothing, nothing – oh, there. A foot. Two feet. You're laying on the ground in an alley. What did you think you were going to see? Feet. Little feet. Like size four and a half or five or something. Tiny feet wearing – wearing the same black shoes that Buffy had been wearing when they'd buried her.
Dawn squeezed her eyes shut again, then reopened them. There was another muffled sound, and – oh god, oh god, oh god.
It was Buffy.
Her dead sister had squatted down, huddling against the wall not five feet from her, and Dawn could see her clearly. She'd never seen that abjectly terrified and lost look on her sister's face before, but it was still her.
How could it possibly be Buffy? It couldn't be, could it?
Get a grip, Dawn, she told herself. It's not like anything weird ever happens in your bizarro little corner of the world! You're the poster child for Anything-But-Normal.
But still, it couldn't really be Buffy… Could it?
Dawn stared. Shoes, stockings, dress. She'd chosen them herself. She should know.
Her sister glanced up, their eyes met, and Dawn knew.
Oh, god, it really was Buffy.
She heard the roar of a motorcycle, the yelling of those demon bikers. They were coming closer. Spike wasn't back yet. And Buffy was not hidden. Oh god, oh god. She didn't have time to think about the utter impossibilities of the situation. She didn't even know how she'd kept herself from crying out when she'd recognized her sister.
Help me, help me, help me.
I can't do this. I can't. I can't. I can't.
Please, oh-Great-and-Powerful-Inner-Conscience, don't make me. Don't…
Just do it – go! Now!
Dawn darted out from her hiding place, grabbed her apparently no-longer-dead sister's hand and raced back into the movie theater she and Spike had come out of not fifteen minutes ago, pulling an uncommunicative Buffy along with her.
She heard the door slam shut, followed immediately by Spike's frantic voice calling for her.
Oh god, she thought, he was sooo gonna die. He'd been so – she was almost afraid of what his reaction would be. She needed to warn him, prepare him.
"Stay here," she said to Buffy. They'd found another exit from the movie theater, and come straight home, avoiding the areas of town that seemed to be under attack. Buffy hadn't said a single word yet, not one, and Dawn was starting to get a little freaked about that, about her. Could she talk? Was she –? She was fine, fine. Dawn couldn't let herself think anything else. She couldn't. "I'll be right back."
As she dashed down the stairs, she could hear Spike tearing through the downstairs rooms, calling for her. They almost collided at the foot of the stairs as he rounded the corner from the dining room.
"I'm here" she assured him. "I'm okay!"
She wrapped her arms around him before he could even speak, hugging him tightly to give him the reassurance she knew he would be craving.
"Thank god," he almost moaned into her hair, hugging her back with more strength than he usually used.
She squeaked in protest, and he loosened his grip. He kissed the top of her and released her, and she cringed as his face changed from terrified relief to terrifying fury.
"I bloody well told you to stay put! Where the hell did you go?"
"Spike." Dawn tried to calm him.
"Don't you ever pull a stunt like that again."
"Do you hear me? Do you know what I thought when I couldn't find you? Have you got any bleedin' clue, you stupid bint?"
Oh-oh. He was calling her names. That was never a good sign.
He took a great shuddering breath and ran his hands through his hair. She watched him, waiting, as he tried to bring himself under control. She knew he must have been scared – okay, maybe more than scared – to come back to the place he'd told her to stay, and to not find her.
"You wanna explain yourself?" he asked. "Now?" His grating tone of voice told her he was still majorly pissed at her, but at least he didn't have that scary 'I'm gonna tear your head off!' look on his face anymore, and she sighed inwardly in relief. Sometimes she still wasn't positive he'd be able to control his temper. She trusted him, yeah, but still… Once he'd told her that controlling himself, and holding onto his temper, after 120 years of not caring about doing either of those things, was bloody hard. He had to work on it all the time.
"Spike – I have to tell you something. Something important. I want you to promise me you'll stay calm." Her blue eyes locked on his. "Will you promise me?"
His eyes narrowed on her, and he seemed to be absorbing her serious tone. He took another deep breath. "What is it, pet?"
"It's something good," she began, then smiled, and her eyes lit up. "It's something wonderful. It's –" she broke off when his eyes left hers. He'd caught a movement on the stairs out of the corner of his eye, and, still on edge from his earlier fear, he did that whole protective thing and shoved her behind him as his body pivoted in the direction of the movement, poised to attack.
Even though he was no longer looking at her, Dawn tried a shaky smile, her eyes imploring him to stay calm, to see, to understand. She touched his arm lightly, a familiar touch of support and friendship. Just to let him know she was there. She moved to stand beside him again.
He didn't seem to move or react in any way at all for a period of time that was probably very short, but seemed to drag out endlessly. Then the completely stunned expression on his face changed, and his features went soft as he tipped his head back and gazed up at her sister.
His lips moved, just a little, the merest shift of position, but no sound emerged.
Dawn looked from her sister to her best friend. Buffy was still and silent, her face expressionless, and her eyes large and dark. She was as pale as Spike. Spike looked – well, he still looked stunned, and something more. Awed, maybe. His face was full of a kind of disbelieving wonder, and even under these very weird circumstances, Dawn knew that, someday, she wanted a guy, the guy, to look at her like that. After a minute or so, she broke the silence.
"She's kind of – She's been through a lot, with the...death. But she's gonna be okay. I'm sure of it. She'll be okay." Dawn tried to reassure both of them. Maybe Buffy, too.
He said nothing. His head had tilted slightly to his left, and his eyes were... Oh god, she'd never be able to describe the look in them.
"Spike? Are you okay?"
Dawn was talking to him. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that her lips were moving, and he heard sounds. He couldn't interpret them, but…
He tried to pull his mind together, and absorb – this. "I'm... what did you do?"
"Me? Nothing!" Dawn sounded defensive.
His expression changed, and he nodded toward Buffy.
"I was gonna fix 'em. I don't know how they got like that."
He knew. Oh god, he knew.
"I do. Clawed her way out of her coffin, that's how." He met Buffy's eyes. "Isn't that right?"
Buffy's expression hardly changed, but she pushed her hands behind her back as if she was trying to hide them from him, from them. From herself.
"Yeah. That's what I had to do."
O! Speak again, bright angel!
"'ve done it myself."
He couldn't take his eyes off her. He couldn't.
Awe, yes. Wonder, yes. Unutterable joy.
This – oh god, this is too – it's too... He couldn't even call it happiness. Either it wasn't there yet, or it had gone so far beyond that simple emotion that there weren't even words…
"We'll take care of you. C'mere ..."
She moved toward him, and he turned, his body silently directing her into the living room. His hand hovered just over her shoulder, but he didn't touch her. He didn't know if he could. His mind was operating on an entirely new and unfamiliar level, but he thought he might be afraid to touch her. For just a moment he remembered the night in the training room of the magic shop when he'd thought the bot was Buffy. If he touched her now, would he discover again that she wasn't real? He knew she was. Knew it. He could smell her, hear her heart, the flow of her blood through her veins, but the fear still ripped through him. What if…? He didn't think he could live through that again.
He was pretty bleedin' sure he couldn't. If he hadn't had that vision in his Slayer's bedroom that night, if she hadn't told him she needed him, that she was counting on him, made him give his word again to watch out for the bit, he didn't think he'd've been able to force himself through one more empty day.
He spoke to Dawn, but his eyes never left his Slayer.
"Get some stuff, bit. Basin of water, mercurochrome, some bandages."
Buffy sat down on the sofa, and he sat on the ottoman, facing her. He was never going to stop looking at her.
His Slayer was alive.
She offered him her hands and, offered them, he instinctively accepted them.
He could touch her.
For a second he closed his eyes, feeling a warm glow where his flesh touched hers. It seemed to momentarily soothe his fears. He gazed at the bloodied hands, the broken knuckles, the torn fingernails, before his eyes returned again to her face.
He was touching her.
Touching her. Her hands.
His Slayer was alive.
His eyes were on her face, riveted. Her face. She was here. Alive. And he was touching her. Her hands were resting lightly in his. He could feel their warmth, the living flesh.
"How long was I gone?"
He opened his mouth, and words came out.
"Hundred forty-seven days yesterday... um, a hundred forty-eight today. 'Cept today doesn't count, does it?" He looked at their joined hands. A hundred and forty-eight days. One for every year he'd existed, living or undead. The last hundred and forty-eight days had seemed longer than the entire one hundred and forty-eight years. His eyes came back to her face. "How long was it for you...where you were?"
Her eyelids dropped. "Longer," she murmured, before lifting her eyes to meet his again.
Dawn returned with a small basin of water, a cloth, and some medical supplies.
"Got the stuff."
She knelt on the floor next to them. Together, carefully, they began to clean Buffy's hands. Dawn offered the occasional comment, her tone young and nervous, but trying very hard to be soothing, and other than those few words, none of them spoke.
There was noise and voices, and too many people talking at once. He wasn't taking it in. He wasn't comprehending it, them, this. None of it.
Since he'd returned to the alleyway where he'd hidden Dawn while he went to steal a motorbike in order to get them safely out of harm's way, only to find her gone, he wasn't sure if he was really comprehending anything. And certainly not Buffy, or this…
They'd done this.
They'd brought her back.
They'd brought her back.
They'd done some spell. Willow had done some spell, and they'd brought her back.
And they'd left her in the ground to claw her way out of her own coffin.
The dark. The terror. Had she felt it?
Oh god. Of course she had. He could still feel it.
One hundred and twenty one years had passed, and he could still feel it.
"What did you do?" he spoke, finally, his voice so quiet it was lost in the rabble of sound filling the room.
They'd come in the door, their faces drawn and stressed, and come face to face with Buffy. They were clearly shocked, and at first he'd thought they hadn't had anything to do with her resurrection either. But their excitement and their babbling words had soon disabused him of that notion.
They'd done this.
They'd grabbed at her, hugging and squeezing her, voices going on and on, raised in excited pitch, ignoring or not noticing that his Slayer was practically cringing away from them.
He'd wanted to tear her away from them, but it was Dawn who had rightly jumped in to defend her big sis, insisting the others back away. She'd then guided a still silent Buffy upstairs, where, she announced, she was going to put her sister to bed.
The gang hadn't stopped blithering on since, and he could make out more of the words now.
"Yes, she was quiet. Well, um, silent. She was probably tired. Or in shock. Oh, god, Willow, you did it! Remember how she'd described Angel's behavior? We're lucky she wasn't clawing at us in feral mindlessness. She seemed okay. She would soon be back to normal. Willow, you were amazing – and really, really scary...Jet lag from hell. I did it. I got her out. This is wonderful. We did it. Pulled her out of hell. Saved her. Thank god, thank god. She's back. She's tired, and okay, she hadn't said anything, and she seemed sorta shocky, but she's back. She'll be fine. A few days, a few weeks, maybe… Does anyone want pizza?"
He thought he was going to explode.
"What did you do?" It wasn't a shout, but it was louder than his previous attempt, and the dark, dangerous tone caught everyone's attention.
They all turned to him.
"A spell." Willow's voice was still wildly excited. "I did a spell! Can you believe it? Spike, she's back. She's back! I did it!" She took a few steps toward him, smiling, and he could see she wanted him to share her excitement. "Isn't it wonderful, Spike? I got her back! Our Buffy!"
He looked at them all. Willow's grin, Anya's bright eyes, Xander's semi-happy, semi-sneering expression. Even Tara was smiling her quiet, shy smile.
"Why did you leave her?" he asked hoarsely. "Why did you leave her in the ground, alone?"
"In the ground?" Xander asked. "What do you mean?"
"She had to claw her way out of her own coffin, you stupid prats! You lot obviously planned this all out, and if you were doing the soddin' spell, then where the hell were you? How could you leave her like that?"
There was gasping, and shocked denials, and he wanted to scream at them for their carelessness, their stupidity. Had they even been near her grave? Didn't they know she was most likely to return through her mortal remains? Wasn't that common bloody knowledge?
"Her hands, they're... That's why they were bandaged," Xander muttered. "Oh, god."
Their excitement dissolved into horror and guilt.
Spike forced himself not to say more. He was far from sure of his ability to control himself right now, and if he started shouting at them, Buffy would be disturbed.
"We d-didn't know, Spike," Tara told him quietly. "We thought the spell had failed, and didn't realize we were wrong until we came in the door and found her here. We never w-w-would have... left her grave, never would have left – her."
"Well, I would have," Anya admitted without remorse. "Those demon bikers showed up, and they'd have chopped us into tiny little pieces if we hadn't run like gazelles. We wouldn't have been much help to Buffy after that, if you ask me."
"What? It's true!" Anya was often a little more logical than some of the others.
Xander looked like he might be physically ill at any moment. "I know it must have been bad. Okay," he amended off of Spike's look. "Worse than bad. But it couldn't've been worse than what she was going through in some hell dimension." His eyes met Spike's. "Right? I mean, this is really bad, but we got her back. She's here with us, alive again, and we have to focus on that. We can't change how she came out, but we can be grateful she did, right?" He looked around at the others, seemingly seeking their agreement, before looking back at Spike. "Don't try to tell me this isn't the best night of your entire existence, Spike."
Spike looked at them all again. They'd brought her back. He should be grateful. He just hoped...
"Magic," he said quietly. "The thing is – with magic there're always consequences. Always."
When he went out the door, no one tried to stop him, and no one called after him.
Spike sat silently on the roof, smoke curling around his head from the burning cigarette he held loosely in his left hand. He'd spent more than 120 years in the dark, and he still loved the sounds of the night. But tonight he didn't listen to the calls of the various birds that hunted after dark, didn't hear the chirping of crickets, which he normally found so soothing. The cool, welcoming night air he'd loved even when he was alive made no impact on him tonight. Unlike some vampires, he rarely missed the sun. There was always much more to see in the night sky. Things he was blind to tonight.
Daylight was the not the kind of light he craved. The light he craved lay just inside the windows of the two rooms he sat between.
He heard Dawn shift in her bed, heard her breathing change slightly, and his body tensed as he listened for any sounds of distress. None came, and her breathing evened out again. Buffy's breathing was different, and he knew she lay awake in her bed, unable to sleep. Perhaps there would be no nightmares tonight, no need to go to either of them and offer comfort, as he had so often with Dawn these past months.
But he remained in place, just outside their windows. Guarding them, keeping watch, being there. Just in case either one of them needed him.
Silent tears made tracks down sharply angled cheekbones.
His Slayer was alive.
He was sitting on the floor in front of the leather sofa he and Dawn had nicked from the mansion, one knee drawn up, when she came in.
He'd been there a good part of the day, torn between wanting to get dead drunk and wanting to stay completely sober so that he could keep his mind focused clearly on the fact that his Slayer was alive.
He'd hardly moved. He was afraid hysteria was bubbling just under the surface, and he hoped that by staying very still, he could avert it.
He'd had so many dreams, so many visions, so many nightmares since her death that he wasn't yet sure if he could really believe last night's events. They had seemed real, had felt real; but so had a lot of the waking visions he'd had, so had so many of the dreams.
He didn't even know for sure if he could separate fantasy from reality anymore.
She didn't say anything. She came in and sat down on the floor only a short distance from him, facing him. She drew up both knees, wrapped her arms around them, and met his eyes without speaking. Her eyes were wide and dark. They didn't look hazel anymore, and he missed the flashes of green and golden brown. They looked huge, though; far too big for her face, and empty, the way they'd looked last night as she stood on the stairs.
Looking at her now didn't really seem to be doing much to convince him she was real.
He opened his mouth to say something, anything, and couldn't. No sound came out.
Did she blame him? Of course she did. She must. And why wouldn't she? It was his fault, after all. He pushed a hand into his hair, and lowered his head, unable to meet that silent gaze. He'd been repeating that motion – pushing his hands into his hair – fairly often during the day, and the blond strands were wildly disarrayed now, standing up in short spikes and tight curls.
He wanted to cry or scream. He wanted to fall on her, and feel her body against his, under his, moving. Just moving. Alive. He wanted to wrap his arms around her and bury his face against her throat, her breast. To sob out his relief that she was here. Alive. To tell her of his joy, his pain. To beg her forgiveness.
He so desperately wanted, needed, to touch her.
And he couldn't even say her name.
So he just sat there, only a few feet from her, staring at the floor between his legs, his hand resting on the back of his head. He was so afraid of what he'd see in those eyes if he looked into them again. He'd never felt fear like this before, not in life or death. Fear mixed with sorrow, and guilt, and pain. He should have known only she would ever be able to affect him this way. Almost since the night he'd first stalked her at the Bronze, she'd had the ability to send his emotions ricocheting in half a dozen different directions at once.
Neither one of them spoke.
Long, silent minutes passed. The only sound came from the electronic hum of the refrigerator. The silence stretched out and out and out.
Finally, he took a deep breath and raised his head, meeting her eyes. They were still focused on him, and he had the impression they'd never left him since she'd entered the crypt.
Waiting, he thought. She was waiting.
When he spoke at last, his voice was quiet, the tone somber and heartfelt.
"I do remember what I said. The promise. To protect her. If I'd done that ... even if I didn't make it, you wouldn't've had to jump." He paused, swallowing. "I want you to know I did save you. Not when it counted, of course. But after that. Every night after that. I'd see it all again, do something different. Faster or more clever, you know? Dozens of times, lots of different ways ... "His voice was still steady, and he wondered somewhat that it hadn't broken yet. It faded into a whisper, "Every night I save you..."
She said nothing. His body had tightened up a little, in anticipation. Of what? Blows, maybe – physical, verbal, emotional. He felt sure they would be coming. But she remained silent, and still. After a time, he realized she wasn't going to launch any sort of attack, and some of the tension left his body.
They continued to sit there in silence, and as it lengthened, it somehow grew more comfortable.
Why had she come here, he wondered? He'd thought she was going to accuse him of failing her, as he knew he'd done, or perhaps... He wasn't sure. But he'd been sitting there all day, as if... Almost as if he was waiting for her, as if he'd known she would appear.
His eyes were on her again, touching on her hair, her face, her body. He was listening to her, too. Listening to the beat of her heart, the soft in and out of her steady breathing. Sounds he'd heard in a thousand dreams and visions. Sounds he'd longed for. Sounds he'd been so sure he would never hear again.
"We could sit on the furniture if you'd like," he said at last. "The bit and I redecorated. The downstairs, too. It's quite posh."
Her eyes didn't move about the room in exploration as he'd thought they might do. Nor had she been distracted by his words, as he'd hoped. He waited, then spoke very softly.
"Buffy? Slayer? If you're in – if you're in pain. Or if you need anything... If I can help you... I don't know where you were, or what happened to you while you were – gone. But if you're in pain now... If you need me..."
"I was happy."
The simple words fell into the room, softly spoken, but they felt heavy and hard.
"Wherever I – was – I was happy. At peace. I knew that those I'd left behind were all right. At least…" she frowned, looking slightly puzzled. Then the frown smoothed out. "Yes, I knew it. Time was different – it didn't pass in the same way, and nothing had form... But I was still me, you know? And I was warm and I was loved... and I was finished. Complete.
"I don't understand about dimensions or theology or any of... but I think I was in heaven."
Spike's eyes stayed on her, his face betraying his concern.
"And now I'm not."
"I was torn out of there. I was there, where I belonged, and then I… wasn't. They pulled me out. Them – my – friends. They think they pulled me out of hell, but…" She looked at him, her eyes full of questions and pain, and confusion.
"And I – I think something got pulled out of me… I don't know what, but I feel like something is missing, and," her voice dropped to a pained whisper. "And I think it might be something I need. Everything is all… I can't seem to – I can't seem to…"
Her eyes slid away from his, and she fell silent. Perhaps she felt she'd said enough, maybe too much, but he had so many questions… Spike stared at her. He'd never felt torn this way. She sounded so lost that he could barely feel anything but pain for her. Yet, at the same time, he was glad she hadn't been in some hell dimension, undergoing who knew what forms of physical, mental and emotional torture.
A variety of emotions continued to rocket through him, and underlying them all was a desperate rapture that she was back, that she was here, alive. And that now, at this moment, she was physically close to him.
He waited to see if she'd say more. When she didn't, he moved at last, pushing himself across the floor to sit close to her. He reached over and took one of her hands in his. Head bowed, he brought it to his mouth and pressed a lingering kiss to her palm. He said nothing, just sat there beside her, offering her what little comfort he could with his closeness. Several minutes later, she laid her head on his shoulder, and a little sigh went through her body.
"I can't – they can't know. I can't tell them. Not yet." Her head moved, and she glanced into his eyes. "And you won't, will you? Please?"
Of course she'd think of protecting her friends, even if they bloody well didn't deserve it. She was still the soddin' Slayer, wasn't she?
He hesitated, but at the appeal in her eyes, he nodded reluctantly, saying nothing. He wasn't gonna argue the point with her right now.
Her head fell back onto his shoulder. Her hand stayed in his.
Spike pushed his concerns down, forcing them out of his head. For now. Instead, he allowed himself to enjoy – sensation. His eyes closed. His Slayer's hand was in his. Warm, living flesh. The softness of her hair brushed his cheek. He listened to her, to the sounds of her living body, filled his nostrils with her scent.
Warmth flowed through him.
His bones had healed. It had only taken a matter of days, and he was pleased by that. His powers were still strong.
Better yet, it seemed the blindness was not going to be permanent. He was able to make his way to an abandoned building where his eyes and his body could continue to heal.
And where he could continue to plan.
He still needed the key. Glory had been destroyed, but there were two others, each just as powerful, and just as hungry for destruction. The others had had disagreements with the volatile Glory over execution, disrupting the flow of destiny, but the multi-dimensional reign of horror and terror they'd all envisioned nearly two thousand years ago could still be made reality. All he needed was some time to prepare, to research. He needed to know just when the next alignment would occur, and the next ceremony could be performed.
And the key.
He would need that little girl. It was nothing personal. Just necessary.
But her guardian – the Slayer. That was different. That was personal. The bitch had jumped. Right into the portal, pulling him in with her. He didn't know what had happened to her. But he did know, that in the hundreds of years he had spent trapped in the blinding light of the portal, twisting in agonizing pain, he hadn't once sensed her presence. And he'd had far too much time to think about that, and to contemplate what he would do to her if he ever met up with her again.
When he'd heard the magic, felt the powerful forces summoned by the words being spoken, he'd known his time in the portal was almost over. And he'd felt the power of the forces summoned flood him, altering his already fearsome strengths, and giving him knowledge he hadn't previously possessed. Knowledge it would be quite valuable to have. His mind had gone on full alert. And just before his broken body had been dropped unceremoniously onto the ground near the tower, he'd sensed the Slayer's presence, had smelled the unforgettable scent of her strong, warrior's soul.
She had been somewhere nearby.
He had learned patience over the nearly 3000 years of his existence. He could wait.
He'd let the Slayer continue to protect the key, his key now, until he was ready to use it. Then he would take his key, and the Slayer would pay for what she had put him through.
Warning: Mild spoilers for upcoming chapters.
Okay, Buffy's back. And yeah, a little familiar, but with a few twists here and there… I want to reassure readers, though, that this story is NOT going to be a rehashing of Season 6. I brought Buffy back in much the same manner, because the aired version of her resurrection worked well for the story I wanted to tell, and was easier to use than making up an entirely new scenario. (Sometimes, that's called laziness, but really, there's no need to get personal.) I found the scene on the stairs in 'After Life', and the 'Every night I save you' speech to be such perfect B/S moments that I just had to have them exist in my little Buffyverse, too, so I quite blatantly stole them, altered them just a tad, and plopped them right into my story. (I did tell readers I was planning to steal some lines from early Season 6 way back in the summary before Chapter One of 'Promise to a Lady'. I'm sure you all remember that, right? LOL.) I will warn you now that I um, **borrow** some moments from 'Tabula Rasa' as well, and the Willow endangering Dawn idea from 'Wrecked', and, okay, maybe some chip related issues, but, honestly, I twist them around quite a bit.
When it comes right down to it, I stole all the characters and the entire first five seasons, so I suppose nicking some bits from Season 6 isn't all that cheeky of me.
For the most part, other than these instances, 'Journeys' goes off in its own direction. Buffy's experiencing a somewhat different fallout from being in heaven, and though the Willow/Power Trip idea is still used, I think I've succeeded in handling it differently, with a change in the reactions of the others, and in the consequences. The remaining plot is mostly, I hope and believe, my own. Once we get into the third part of the story, 'Revelations', there will be very little that seems familiar to anything we've seen aired at all. Unless, of course, Joss has been hacking my computer, and amazed by my brilliance, has adapted my story for the show. (**snort** – but, um, just for the record, almost every single detail beyond Awakenings has been plotted since before I posted Chapter One of 'Promise to a Lady' on September 29. Insert eye rolling, etc., here.)
I was completely floored by the wonderful feedback I received after posting the final chapter of part one of 'Journeys'. As I mentioned in my notes at the close of that chapter, this second part of the story, 'Awakenings' has been giving me a lot of grief, and I think all the encouragement readers sent helped me to sit down and take a long, and very hard look at it. For that push, I thank everyone who took the time to drop me a note or post a piece of feedback at sites that have a feature allowing that.
After much hair pulling and the use of some language I generally try to avoid, I decided that I couldn't really solve the problems I was having. So, horror of horrors, I made a major plot change which is involving huge amounts of re-writing.
I realized that what happened on air in Season 6 was very much coloring my thinking, and once I let a lot of that go, realizing that I could, because, after all, Alternate Universe, most of my problems were solved. I really had to go back in my head to how I felt about the 'ship and the characters, to what I thought might happen before Season 6 began to air, and even what I thought and felt after the first few episodes, and ignore where Joss and ME took the story after that (except, of course, **ahem** for the things I wanted to nick from them). I hope readers will be able to do the same, that you'll buy into this altered vision, and will continue to enjoy the story.
The shift in the plot makes the story not quite as "realistic" to me, but as I work on it, it seems to get more and more possible, and it certainly seemed to ease the writing process, so perhaps it was meant to be. And it is one I haven't seen used in another fic. (Not that I've read every piece of B/S fic ever written, though you would never guess that from the amount of it I have printed off and placed lovingly into three rings binders! It's a good thing that you can find binders that go with almost any décor, because they're sitting all over my house…) Most importantly of all, I think I've been able to (almost) seamlessly integrate the change into the future parts of the story, which have long been very thoroughly plotted, and are largely written. (Whew! Mary wipes brow in relief at this blessing.)
And just for the record? I freakin' love my readers – thank you so much for actually sitting down and delving into this fantasy of mine.
MaryJanuary 15, 2003