Title: The Calling

Author: Katjen

Rating: R

Pairing: B/S

Summary: Tag to "Showtime" - Season 7

Disclaimer: Me no own. You no sue, okay?

***

They are slow together. He leans on her shoulder, shuffles like a toddler through the caverns as the firelight flickers on the craggy walls. Angels and demons twist and disappear into themselves and his eyes follow their movements desperately trying to keep track of what is real and what is shadow.

Fresh air. He can smell it. It invades his nostrils, stings his empty lungs. It's clean and cold and he lifts his head to see a pillar of light streaming down through the darkness of the cave from a hole in its roof.

"We're almost there", she says.

They step inside the moonbeam. He watches the dust particles lazily floating by. She helps him climb through, out of the ground and into the world again. The stars burn white in the still darkness and the wind that soothes his scarred skin with its soft touch is silent and slow like sleeping breath. He falls to his knees. He's too weak.

Her hands slide down his back and under his arms, lifting him up. She stops for a moment with her forehead resting between his shoulder blades and he closes his eyes. Her breath is so warm he shivers. She lifts her head. Her hands slip down to his waist steadying him.

It's comforting, the familiarity with which she handles him. He tries not to take her kindness to mean anything more than it does, but he can't help but be touched by the intimacy of one hand gently curved around his bicep, the other at the small of his back. It makes his head swim, his raw flesh even more sensitive and aware of the smooth heat of her palms. It reminds him that she knows this body, has had it under her spell. He tries not to enjoy it too much. This is not intimacy. This is reassurance. These touches say "this is real, I'm here with you" and nothing else.

They walk a little more. She half carries him and after a while her breath becomes ragged. She's tired. He tries to walk for her on his own. He takes a few steps, her hands slide away. His knees buckle and she catches him. He can't do it, not yet. He needs her.

"I need"

"To rest?"

"yes."

"Okay, but not out here. I don't think either one of us can take anyone out right now." She searches the darkness and her eyes settle on a white building gleaming dimly in the moonlight. The church.

They make their way slowly. They are quiet together.

His body is weak and trembling but he wants to tell her that he feels better, clearer, different without the voices cluttering up his mind. He's remembering himself The voices, they had only let him remember the bad things. They had made him forget that he wasn't always like this, evil. He had been an innocent once.

His childhood comes to him now like songs he can only remember the choruses to and he hums them to himself over and over. The papery skin of his mother's hands and the soft sliding sound they made across the leather cover of her bible. Those fingers sifting through red carnation petals looking like spilt paint on a white pillow before stroking through his hair and smudging the tears on his cheeks. Nothing else takes shape. He remembers hands when he should remember faces, remembers touches instead of words. Those moments with no beginning and no end, those floating middles of memory surrounded by nothing but a dull ache of happiness and sadness had been so important to him once, had meant so much that they are all he remembers of his younger self now.

He looks at Buffy's hands on his naked skin and remembers how he had clung to those touches because he had always known even from the very beginning of his life that a time would come when he would call for mother, call for her arms around him, and be ignored. He remembers that knowledge used to keep him paralyzed with fear in his small bed. He had felt that fear again for the first time in centuries chained up there alone in the dark with every child's worst nightmare. He had felt like a babe left alone in a nursery in an empty house on an empty street in an empty country. He could scream and wail and call for help and no one would come. And so he did the only thing he could have done. He had remained silent and waiting, hoping against hope that he would be heard.

They push open the doors of the abandoned church. She helps him lie down on one of the pews. He looks at this modest house of God and remembers others with high ceilings, flying buttresses, murals on those ceilings, statues in the halls

He'd turned to God for comfort when mother no longer came and he remembers going to see Him every Sunday, remembers sitting beside her with her cool white hands that no longer reached for him. He remembers their stillness and the yellowed paper beneath as she rested them on God's words.

He can almost see those words now tattooed on the air above him as he stares up at the peaked ceiling. He looks at the blue black shadows spilling out from the seam and imagines his mother's bible tented over him. He smiles and his lips barely move.

"Would you believe I used to be a religious man? God-fearin' and all thatI knew the name of every saint frozen in the colored glass, knew every psalm whispered in the candlelight"

He'd tumbled rosary beads through his fingers, whispering the words, believing every one of them. He can't recall any of them now. His infatuation with God had been relatively short lived. With one look at a girl who walked and spoke with the grace of one of his imagined angels his faith was displaced. The church became a shrine to her and he'd come and sit, scribbling lines into the margins of his hymnal watercolored in blue and red from the sunlight streaming in through the stained glass windows as he compared every aspect of her to everything holy and good. He'd stare at her during the services and pray, pray that she would see him, really see him, that she would hear the beating of his heart and love him back just as desperately. But she didn't. And on the very night he professed his love to her he received a kiss from another kind of angel.

Whenever he remembers Dru mother's hands slide away from his feverish forehead. Cecily disappears like God and the stained glass drips into dark glistening puddles. His dark angel touches him and touches him and touches him. She whispers the secrets the moon and stars have shared with her into his ears.

Drusilla had become his goddess, his religion, and he had worshiped her with his mouth, his hands. They had fed off the world, bathed themselves in blood. He had needed no one else, had wanted nothing else. And then one day he called for her and just like everyone else, she didn't hear, she didn't come.

Buffy leans over him. Her skin is blue in the moonlight. Her eyes are worried, they trace the carvings on his naked chest. The lip of fabric stretching across her breastbone parts as she leans even closer and it exhales a crucifix. He's transfixed. He had had one himself once. Its home had been around his neck as well, beneath his shirt collar for so long nestled at his throat. It was what had awoken him from that long terrible sleep. A burning slow and soft then a searing into his flesh. He had torn it from his neck, watched his blistering skin try and heal itself and then his gaze had caught on the two blemishes of dried blood just above the mark the chain had made. Bright red like carnations on the pillow. He thought of Lazarus. He had smelt his own blood and his new teeth had burst through his lower lip. He thought of the Devil and had stared at his gold cross already dusted over, buried in the dirt, dimly shining, shining in the darkness.

He reaches out to touch it and her hand catches his. Her touch is gentle like her whisper.

"You've been hurt enough."

He squints at her. She has bruises on her face. On her neck and shoulders. There's a slice along her cheekbone held closed by tiny bandages. His lips barely move. He says, "you're hurt..."

"You're worse off than I am," she answers.

He watches her throat move as she speaks and rests a finger in the hollow, feels the soft pulsing under the skin. His palm hovers over the cross and the burning is good, it's warm. She takes his hand away again, touches the lightly burned skin. She looks at him and her eyes are wet. He remembers that that had happened the last time they were here together. She had seen him broken and split open, bleeding the truth out trying to cure the fever, quench the spark. Her eyes had been wet her voice like something weak and easily broken, snapped in half like a stick, like a neck. The pews to his right are still smashed into matchsticks. His costume is still on the floor, a rumpled electric blue puddle. She hadn't wanted that.

No one wants Spike.

No one wanted William either.

Because William wanted too much, needed too much. He was too easily hurt. And SpikeSpike took too much, expected too much. He wanted and needed everything he couldn't have. But he did have her for a short while. He had Buffy riding him until he ached, calling out his name as she came

He wants it back.

He wants to take it now. Here

He swallows, takes his hand from hers, presses the heels of his palms to his eyes, afraid.

Spike is closer to who he is now than William ever could have been. He's harder to let go, and he feels him just below the surface this thing who hurt for the fun of it, killed when he wasn't hungry, tortured when he was bored. Tried to rape the woman he claimed he loved.

He can hear her voice, can hear her say "you've changed" and he wants to believe it's true, wants to believe that Spike has no claim to him now. He wants to believe that for the second time in his long life he has been reborn. He wants to believe that this time he'll be worthy, this time he'll be heard.

He opens his eyes and hers are so green and he thinks maybe what she's said is true because his heart feels too heavy to be William's, his love for the girl too deep, too unselfish to be Spike's.

She looks at him so softly and her touch is so gentle as she threads her fingers through his hair. He suddenly wonders if he's dreaming again because really, Buffy doesn't touch him like this, doesn't look at him like -

She sees the fear, the doubt. She soothes it all away with whispers that brush against his skin like kisses. "I'm here Spike. It's real you're safe"

She helps him to his feet. Her hand is over his heart. He places his on top holding it there. She lets him and he knows he's not imagining it. She heard him. She's here.

"I'm bringing you home with -"

"You came for me," he says suddenly. "I called for you and you came"

She looks into his eyes as they stand in the doorway of the church. She supports him with her small body, holds him close so he won't fall. She smudges tears from his cheeks.

"I'll take care of you."

"You came," he whispers and even though he knows he shouldn't he dips his head and kisses her.

Her eyes are still closed when he opens his. She's frowning. She opens her mouth to speak and he stops her because he already knows what she will say.

"That was thank you Buffy." After a long moment she nods, and her hands slip away as he takes his first step.

end.