I wrote this about three years ago. I have a few friends that are very damaged by things that have happened in their life and I was coming to terms with the fact that they can't be ok just because I want them to be.

WARNING: extreme violence, torture and at least the very strong suggestion of sexual violence

This fic is AU (that should be pretty obvious once you start reading). Basically everything after Spike got a soul is different. It's a few years after that. The rest you should be able to get from reading the story. I don't know why the first can touch Spike, really its because this fic wouldn't work otherwise. If you want you can read it as it can somehow make him think stuff is happening that isn't because he's dead.

Spike's head had fallen at an angle so that his blue eyes starred up at the black ceiling, a dark smudge to his blurred vision. He smacked his skull against the stone wall. A dull thud resounded in the quiet. His impossibly thin body started to shake as he laughed crazily, with nothing but despair in his eyes.

"You're nothing. Do you know that? Just a scared little girl."

"I don't think so." Buffy smiled and took a step closer to The First. The apparition had taken the form of her dead mother. "I'm flesh and blood. I have a mind and I can feel the sun and the wind on my skin. You can't. You're not even alive, just a parasite, existing at the expense of humanity. I'm not afraid of you."

The thing's appearance changed. The slayer found herself staring at a mirror image of herself. The doppelganger moved forwards, whispered in the young woman's ear.

"You should be. For I am in every man, woman and child that has ever lived and that will ever live. I am legion and you can never destroy me."

"Me and my friends seem to have finished off your eyeless minions easily enough. Some day we'll get you too."

"Fool. I am forever!" The First laughed, and in a rush of cold air was gone.

Unsure what to do Buffy picked up a broken piece of mirror and started to adjust her hair. She'd just tucked one troublesome blond strand behind an ear when the silence was shattered by Willow calling her name. The tone was urgent, frightened. She jumped to her feet, dropping the silvered glassed. She'd left the room before the fragments had settled on the hard floor.

They stood at the doorway of the cell, shocked, undecided as to what to do next.

"We were looking around and we just found him here." Xander paused. "That is Spike, isn't it?"

Buffy nodded, stepped inside the small dark room. The atmosphere of fear and suffering was almost overwhelming. She looked at the pale figure in the corner.

He was naked to the waist, chained to the wall. She hadn't thought it was possible for someone to be so emaciated and still be alive. But then, he wasn't alive. Was he? He was facing away from her. A dense lattice of scars and crimson slashes covered his back and gave testimony of a hundred different whippings.


He flinched but didn't make a sound. She moved closer, crouched down beside him. His head was still turned to the wall. She placed her hand on one bruised shoulder. He started to tremble violently.

"Look at me."

He wouldn't. She reached around to his other side and turned him towards her.

The extent of the bruising on his face suggested a broken jaw. The area beneath each eye was blackened and a livid scar pulled the centre of his bottom lip down towards his chin. His hair was longer than she remembered and curly. What disturbed Buffy the most though was the way he wouldn't look at her but kept his terrified eyes fixed on the floor.

"Can you understand me?"

His skin crawled at her touch. The shuddering intensified.

She stood, remembered The First Evil wearing her face, walked back to her friends.

The living room blinds had been pulled down in an effort to block out the sun. Spike had been left in a half sitting position by one of the walls. So far he'd made no attempt to move. He probably wasn't strong enough to anyway.

A little bit away the 'Scooby gang' tried to make sense of the situation.

"What's wrong with him Giles? How can he look like that and not be dead?" Willow questioned.

"He hasn't been given any blood."

Xander was confused. "But shouldn't he have, you know, turned into a big pile of hover filler then?"

"No. A vampire can't die from starvation. But a long enough period without blood will... cause permanent neurological damage."

"Oh fucking great! Are you telling me that we're now stuck with an insane evil undead guy?"

Tara looked up suddenly. "He's not evil."

"What?" The boy laughed. "You got a bit of amnesia there?"

"No," she replied defensively. "I remember what he's done. But something's changed. Can't you feel it too Willow?"

"Feel what?"

"The soul."

"Oh god..." That was Buffy.

All eyes turned to Spike. It was a good thing they did too. Because his right arm was starting to smoulder where it had met with a stray ray of sunlight.

"Crap!" Xander shouted, running across the room to pull the vampire back into the shadow. The others followed a moment latter, Buffy lagging behind. She looked at Spike. There were wounds on his chest through which bone was visible. He caught sight of her and started to bang his head against the ground.

She turned to Giles. "I can't... I can't deal with this now." A pause. "Just put a bed for him in the basement or something."

Willow placed a supportive hand on her friend's back. "It's ok. You go upstairs. We'll take care of it."

She came down to see him latter, during the night. She hadn't been able to sleep, yet had had to force herself to leave her room.

He wasn't sleeping either.

The others had done their best, bandaged the more recent injuries, dressed him in a clean pair of jeans and t-shirt, bought a package of blood and managed to feed him some, left him lying on an old mattress.

Buffy moved closer. He was curled up in a foetal position, his eyes wide, staring straight ahead. She sat down in front of him, reached out as though to take his hand. He flinched away.

"Do you know who I am. I'm Buffy, do you remember me?"

At the sound of her voice he started shaking like before.

"Spike, do you remember me?"

Two pairs of gloved hands held his arms. They forced him to the centre of the room, threw him down to the ground. His hands were shackled behind his back so he fell straight down, whacking his head. A heavy wooden stick made contact with his side. A bone fractured. He gasped. A second blow caught him across the back of the knees and a bright burst of pain filled his mind. He struggled to get up. But he was disorientated and the movements were weak. He was hit again, in the stomach, on the back of the head. Again. And again. And again.

When finally the beating ended he lay unmoving, blood dripping into his eyes from a gash that crossed his forehead. A woman stepped into his field of vision, small, blonde.

"Hello Spike."

Dazed he starred up at her. She moved closer, swinging her hips. "You want me, don't you? You even tried to take me once." She gestured to the two bringers. They pulled him to his feet, pushed him onto a cold metal table, locked his wrists to a hook at its top. The position was painful. He ignored it, looked at the woman before him. She climbed up on the table, straddling him. She placed one hand either side of his head, leaned forwards. Violently she pushed her tongue inside his mouth. She tasted like ashes.

"I'm sorry Buffy."

"What, don't you want this anymore?"

She smiled cruelly, ran her fingers down his chest, started to unbuckle his jeans.

Xander stood beside his friend, just inside the doorway of the basement. It had been over two weeks.

"Face it Buffy, he's not coming back. And to be honest, I'm not so sure that's such a bad thing."

She looked at him accusingly, hurt.

Regretting what he'd said but still unwilling to take it back the brown haired man turned and walked away.

She returned her attention to the pale figure trying to hide in the corner of the room. He was starring at her, with his piercing gaze. Slowly she approached.

"I'm not going to hurt you. You've got to know that by now."

His eyes never left hers. He tried to back further into the corner.

"I've seen the scars Spike. I know The First Evil hurt you. But it's over now. You've got to snap out of it."

There was no sign given that he even understood the words.

Tears wet her cheeks. She looked down.

Slowly, and ever so tentatively, a cold narrow hand reached out and touched her own.

Stunned, it was a few seconds before she realised what had happened. When she did she smiled widely and pulled Spike into a hug. He stiffened and flinched away.

He was naked, chained to the ceiling. Blood was flowing in little streams from deep cuts down his arms. His feet could just reach the floor. She circled round from behind him. Her skin was smooth, her face flawless.

"I have something for you."

A bringer came forward, holding a heavy metal cross set on a silver chain.

"Now be a good boy and try it on."

The faceless servant lifted it over the vampire's head. The cross fell down against his chest. He could feel the skin crack and blacken, the impossible heat eating through his flesh, burning the bones.

His eyes were rolling back in their sockets and his back was arched. He wanted to scream. She moved closer, so that her head was right next to his. Her breath on his cheek was cold as ice and dry as dust. "I can do anything I want right now," she whispered in his ear. "You can't stop me. You deserve it anyway." She ran a finger along the blistering skin. A half suppressed cry escaped his lips.

"Now, now... stay quiet." She dug her nails in.

He bit his lip. Her hand drifted downwards.

"You need to take some blood."

Spike was sitting on the mattress, his knees pulled up to his chest. Buffy was holding a mug of pigs blood, trying in vain to get him to drink at least a little. She held it up for him and he flinched away. He made no move to take the object, just stared at her, frightened and confused.

She said nothing. Something inside her was crumbling. But she was getting used to his fear. At first, she'd kept expecting him produce a cigarette from his pocket and start smoking, or grinning to call her by some weird English swear word. She understood now, that wouldn't happen.

She offered him the cup again.

"It's really important that you drink some of this."

Neither her words nor her gentle tone registered. Buffy raised the mug to his lips, tilted it so the fluid could flow out. Carefully she placed a hand on the back of his head to hold it steady. Immediately he pulled away. The blood spilt, soaking his top and her trousers. He started shaking like crazy then. His hands were up in front of his face and he was rocking wildly back and forth. With each oscillation he was hitting his head off the wall. "Calm down Spike!" She grabbed hold of him, forcibly stilling him. "It's ok! I'm not going to hurt you!" She let him go. He kept rocking.

"I'm not angry. I'm not going to hurt you..."

The bed was broken glass, cutting into his back. Her hands were on his chest, pressing him down. With each thrust of her hips she laughed and the pain grew worse. Vaguely he knew that something important had been destroyed within him a long time ago. But what or how he couldn't remember. She had what she wanted. Nightmare and reality had become one. And there was only her face. Buffy's face.

He could see her now, standing in front of him. Her hands were placed casually on her hips but her face was angry. She moved closer and he tried to back away.

"Do you remember all the things you've done Spike? All the people you tortured? All the innocents you murdered?" She slapped him across the face. "Do you?"

He nodded.

"Good. I don't want you to ever forget what you've done, what you are." She unzipped his jeans, pushed him back against the cold concrete floor. "You're a monster. That's all you'll ever be. If anyone is stupid enough to care about you, you'll just end up hurting them." Her hands grasped his wrists, holding him down. "I'll tell you what to do when the time comes. And you'll obey, won't you? You'll obey me and damm them all."

She'd left, left him shaking on the floor, struggling to hold back the tears. Then he remembered what she'd said.

It was difficult for him to stand up, more difficult still to make it up the stairs. He kept slipping, bruising his shins, snapping a bone in his wrist. But finally he was standing in the doorway to the main house. He tried to turn the handle. It took him a few moments; his fingers had been broken so many times that they didn't grip properly anymore. But the door opened. He stood in the corridor. It was early morning.

Leaning heavily against the wall he took a few steps forwards. He could see into the sitting room. Buffy was sleeping in one of the armchairs. Nervously he moved closer. She looked so young. He bent down, wrapped his thin arms around her shoulders. Her eyes fluttered open, looked upwards in sleepy confusion. A universe of glacial blue stared back at her, filled with pain.

Spike stood, started to walk away. He reached the front door, lifted the bolt and pushed it open. It was only then that Buffy became fully awake. In an instant she was on her feet. She shouted out for him to stop. But his hands clenched tight he stepped outside.

His eyes were open, watering in the bright light. He seemed impossibly pale, as though all the colour had been bleached out of him. But only for a second. Then the fire took him, burnt away the tortured body till only ash remained. Drifting softly on the cool morning breeze.