Buffy closed her eyes. She could feel Spike slowing down; letting go; but he couldn't. Not yet. Not when they were so close.
Getting him up out of the cave had been the hardest part. He'd almost passed out after climbing the rope ladder, with Buffy right behind him. Now they were so close to home, and she had a feeling he wasn't going to make it.
Suddenly Buffy felt her left side give way as what little support Spike had given her disappeared. Spike groaned, lapsing into unconsciousness before he hit the pavement. Buffy cursed inwardly.
"Spike? Spike? Come on, please," she murmured. She sighed from frustration and fear before pulling her cell phone out.
"Xander? It's me. I need some help."
Spike woke to pain surging throughout his body. He felt odd, like he was moving, and yet he wasn't. It felt like a car.
Spike opened his eye and looked around. He was lying face up across three seats, and sitting next to him on the floor was Buffy. She looked so real; so pale, so tough, so touchable. But he was only dreaming.
Spike shifted and instantly regretted it. He let out a soft moan that caught Buffy's attention immediately.
She took his hand and smiled. "Shh…it's gonna be okay now."
Spike recognized Xander's voice at once. He closed his eye and suppressed another moan.
"Yeah, and he's not looking too good. How far 'till home?"
"Five minutes or less."
"Good. And thanks for picking us up."
Spike could see Xander smiling without even opening his eye. "I'm just glad I found you before those nasty hooded guys did." Then, without the humor in his voice, he added softly, "You know they'll come for him, Buff."
"I know," she said, her voice full of determination. "So what? Let them come. I dare them."
Spike opened his eye and saw her face. She could've scared off a legion of vampires with that look.
Oh, that did not come out right. His voice sounded cracked, and he felt like something had broken when he said it. He flinched with pain then felt her squeeze his hand for reassurance.
"Shh, no talking, 'kay?" Her voice and face changed from warrior to worried in seconds. She tried to smile, but failed. "You'll be all right. Trust me. They won't touch you."
Spike smiled softly and closed his eye. The last thing he remembered before passing out again was Buffy and Xander's voices telling him to try to stay awake.
Buffy couldn't remember the last time she felt so worried, so tense, so scared. Spike had passed out again, despite their pleading with him to stay awake. Xander had assured her that he'd be fine, but Xander was driving. Xander couldn't see Spike toss and turn, like something was chasing him.
Before long, Revello Drive and Buffy's house came into view. As gently as she dared, Buffy helped Spike into Xander's arms. Spike stirred and groaned as Xander waited for Buffy.
"It's okay, buddy," Xander said casually, "You can call me whelp tomorrow, and we can forget this whole nicey thing, 'kay?"
Spike tried to come back with another line, but ended up gasping in pain.
Xander's smirk vanished. "Hang in there, Spike," he muttered.
Buffy took Spike's hand and walked alongside Xander as they climbed up towards the house.
The door opened for them, revealing Willow with relief written all over her face.
"Thank the goddess you're back! I was getting all panicky and…" Willow's mouth dropped at the sight of Spike. "What happened?" she finally managed to whisper.
"Lotsa things, Will. We'll explain later," Xander said. "Can you get us some bandages?" He glanced down at Spike, then back up at Willow. "Make that lots of bandages."
Willow nodded and nearly crashed into Dawn on her way to the bandages. Dawn squeaked and covered her mouth. Tears rolled down her face as she gazed at her former friend.
"Oh…my…" She never finished. She choked up on the last word, then furiously began wiping away the tears as she gazed at her battle-worn sister. "Is there anything I can do?" she asked Buffy when she finally found her voice.
Buffy tore her gaze away from Spike long enough to glance at her sister. "It's okay Dawnie," she said, her own voice shaky. "We can get it."
This time Dawn didn't try to hide the desperation in her voice. Buffy gazed at her sister long and hard before finally nodding. "Yeah, there is. You can get one of the beds ready."
Dawn nodded eagerly. "My bed. I'll bunk down here on the couch."
Buffy shook her head. "Too soft. Get mine ready. Then come back down and find Willow. Tell her where we'll be."
Dawn nodded, her eyes widening as Spike pulled out of his unconscious state once more.
His good eye caught sight of Dawn and he smiled. "Good to see you, Bit," he managed to whisper.
Dawn nodded again, her eyes brimming with tears. "Good to have ya back, Spike," she said, her voice quavering.
Spike tried to say something else, but it came out in a cough that racked his whole body.
"No more trying to talk, all right?" Buffy said, brushing the hair away from his face. Spike nodded.
Dawn gave him one last smile before heading upstairs to make up the bed.
Spike gasped. "No! Don't you hurt her! Buffy, NO!!!"
He could see the vampire he had created pulling her up to her feet, then throwing her. She cried out, then went still.
"Buffy…no…" Spike pulled forward, only to be held back by his chains. Now he remembered; he was still attached to the wall. Buffy groaned and sat up. Well, more like tried to. She choked on her tears as the vampire came at her once more.
"Spike…Spike, please…help me…"
6 more steps, and she was dead.
"Leave her be! It's me you want! Don't hurt her! BUFFY!! NO!!"
4 more steps.
2 more steps…he had her. He was choking her, and the only person that could've saved her couldn't. Because he was held back by a set of chains that should've been easy to break through.
Buffy sat back. He'd passed out again as Xander carried him up the stairs. They'd laid him gently in her bed, and Xander hadn't pulled any comment on it. He was being really nice, helping him out. And for that, she was grateful.
Downstairs she could hear the girls, who'd been ushered into the basement, now upstairs and starting to ask questions. She couldn't discern any words though, because another noise suddenly caught her attention.
Buffy glanced down. He was tossing and turning again, whispering things in his sleep. She knew how that was. Not sleeping, and then finally falling asleep, only to have that invaded by nightmares.
He tried sitting up. Buffy pushed him back down as gently as she could, hoping he wouldn't try something like that again. Sitting up was NOT the way to let your scars heal.
Tears began running down his face. "Buffy…no…"
Buffy blinked. "Spike…" she whispered, wishing she could see what he was dreaming.
"Leave her…me you want…don't hurt…Buffy…"
Buffy brushed away her own tears. This was too much. "Spike! Spike, please…" she said, shaking him gently.
His tossing started becoming more violent. "Buffy, no!"
He started, rapidly trying to blink the tears away. He looked around, then started backing away from her. "Just a bloody figment," he said, trying to laugh; trying to act tough.
"Spike," she started, reaching her hand out towards him. He backed away further until he hit the wall.
"Please…" he choked out. "Please…no more…"
Buffy tried to smile and fight back more tears at the same time. She reached out and took his hand. He flinched, then gazed at her with bewilderment. He took his hand from hers, and brushed away a strand of her hair. His hand rested on her cheek, and a look of joy spread onto his face.
"Buffy?" he whispered.
She smiled. "I'm real. And I'm here."
Spike started to laugh, and then he cried. He buried his face in her shoulder as she pulled him close and held him. Just held him as he cried.
"You…you really came…and…" he managed to make out.
Buffy held him tighter. "Shhhh. Yeah, I came. Like I was gonna just leave you with that thing."
"She…she said you wouldn't come."
Buffy gulped, breaking the knot that was building in her throat. "Kinda figured it would. Spew some garbage, I mean."
Spike tried to answer her, and found that the only thing he was capable of at the moment was crying. And the only thing Buffy felt like doing was wrapping him in her arms and stroking his hair.
Half an hour later found the two still in each other's arms. Voices from downstairs brought Buffy out of her dream-like state and back into the world she knew. She pulled away from Spike and began fluffing the pillows.
"Well, that was bleeding pathetic," he said, smiling.
Buffy grinned. "Aw, don't worry. Everybody is entitled to his or her own cry party. Just didn't think yours would be so big," she teased.
Spike laughed, then doubled over with pain. Buffy's laughing ceased too, as she tried to lay him down without causing him further hurt.
"Xander carried you all the way upstairs, you know," she said, reaching for a wet rag.
Spike's expression was amused. "Really? Harris did that for me? I'll have to thank him for it," he said, smirking.
"Well, don't tell him I told you, but I think he's looking forward to you calling him whelp tomorrow. True, you annoy him to no end, but you gave a good fight in the battle of the wits arena. Andrew doesn't do that. He just…annoys."
"Oh, yeah, Tucker's brother."
Spike nodded. "Oh. How's his…?" he trailed off, pointing to his own neck.
Buffy smiled. "He's fine. He's currently the bane of my existence."
"Don't you make me laugh again, luv."
"I'll try to remember that."
He closed his eyes as she placed the wet cloth on his forehead. She looked around, then frowned. "Drat it. I could've sworn the healing herbs were here! Willow probably still has them." She glanced over at Spike, then took his hand. She gave it a reassuring squeeze. "I'll be right back," she promised, heading for the door.
She turned back just as she reached the door. Spike's eye was open, and his smile was soft.
Buffy smiled back at him, then headed out.