Disclaimer: I don't own the characters from Buffy or Angel. I wish I did, but I don't!
Author's Note: This takes place after Chosen. I'm writing this as a huge Spuffy fan, so ya better believe that's the direction it's going! :) This is my first ever Buffyverse fic, and I'm really not quite sure what I'm doing attempting it, but I'm easing back into writing, so we'll see.
Drawn to the Fire
In the moment, she knew. She could feel his essence; his very being was surging through her as searingly as the hottest flame. But all thoughts vanished as the hellish stone beneath her began to give way, cracking and expanding, threatening to swallow them both. Still, she remained still, his sharp blue eyes silently studying her as he contemplated the what-could-have-beens.
And then her legs were carrying her away from him. She could hear flesh sizzling in enchanted sunlight, and all she could do was run. He wouldn't let her save him. Not again. It was time for him to do the saving.
"Hey, B?" Buffy blinked painfully as dusky light filled the dark hotel room. She picked her heavy head up from the pillow and glanced at a tired, banged up Faith who stood stiffly in the doorway. "Just wanted to tell ya…Robin's gonna make it. He lost a lot of blood, but he should be good to go in a few days."
"Good," Buffy said quietly, uncertain herself if her voice had even carried far enough for the other slayer to hear. Faith's hand jiggled the door knob, and she shifted her weight from foot to foot, contemplating her choices. Stay and have a heart-to-heart or avoid the mushy sentimental crap all together.
Buffy closed her eyes for a moment, but they flew open again at the feeling of weight being shifted upon the bed. She felt a clammy hand on her shoulder.
"I heard you. It's good. He's gonna live."
"I know you heard me. Are you…are you alright? I know you and Spike…"
"No. You don't know anything about…"
"Whoa, B, I didn't mean to…" She had felt every muscle in Buffy's arm tense, and she knew that the subject of Spike would be a sore one for some time. She stood up and moved back toward the door. "Andrew's taking orders for dinner. Some of the girls got quite an appetite after…after everything. You want anything?"
"No," she said quietly. She brought her hand to her forehead, rubbing the ache as if willing it to go away.
"Alright. Just…let me know if you change your mind." Faith started to walk away, but Buffy sat up quickly.
"Make…make sure Dawnie eats something."
"You know there's no making that girl do anything. She's as stubborn as her sister."
"Tell her…tell her I'm alright. I just need to be alone right now."
"Ok. Just…well…" Faith seemed to be pondering her words. "You aren't the only person who lost someone today. A lot of girls died…and Anya…"
"You think I don't know that? I'm sorry they're gone, Faith. I…I can't change that."
"No, but you could…be with the girls…with Xander. I think he could use another friend. Willow's trying, but she's not…look, he needs you, alright? Maybe you can talk to him…share the grief? It's gotta be a heavy burden to carry alone." Faith slipped out of the room, and Buffy slowly lay her head back down on the pillow.
Her hand splayed out against the mattress, and she studied the slightly-singed flesh. It was just a bit pinker than her other hand, and as she curled her fingers, she felt a twinge of pain there. It was all she had left of him, and in that moment, her heart sank. He was really gone. Not gone like normal people. He was dust. No grave to visit, no coffin to lower into the ground. He was gone, buried beneath a city that would never be resurrected from its new home in Hell.
"I love you."
"No you don't, but thanks for saying it."
She closed her eyes as tears beat against the backs of her lids like waves crashing against one another in a hurricane.
"I do," she whispered. "I should have told him. I should have…" She broke down. Deep down, she knew why he'd said it. She knew that if he'd let himself believe she could really want to be with him, he might have given in and ran with her. But he'd had to stay. He'd had to see it through to the end, so he'd told himself she couldn't really love him. Only, she did. She truly did. So why didn't she argue? Why didn't she pull him out with her? Why didn't she try to save him?
Opening her eyes and letting the tears free, she buried her face in the pillow and let everything out.
Giles, Willow, and Xander sat in a booth in the back corner of the café. The surrounding towns were practically deserted, so the now smaller group had made themselves at home on their way to…wherever it was they were going. They'd sent word to Angel and his people in L.A. that the Hellmouth along with The First were buried once again. Along with that news had been a roster of the dead, which heavily outweighed that of the living. Anya and Spike's names seemed to stand out above all the others.
"He said she was brave," Xander said quietly, picking at the uneaten, stale muffin on his plate.
"She was brave," Willow said gently, placing a hand on her friend's shoulder. He didn't react. It was as if he couldn't feel it. Shaking his head finally, he looked up at Willow with a tear running down his cheek, and Willow was brought back to a day in first grade when he'd come running to her, crying after some bullies picked on him. Only she'd been able to quell his tears. She reached out, gently placing her hand against his bruised face.
"I wish she wasn't. I wish she'd run away…like she did before graduation. You remember?"
"I remember," Willow said quietly. "But Anya wouldn't have left. She…she loved you, and she wouldn't have let you go into this alone."
"Willow's right, you know," Giles said quietly. "Anya was a lot of things. And her heart was in the right place."
"She was a fool," Xander replied. "For loving me. For thinking her death mattered. What did her dying do? Huh? The only person that really needed to die was Spike, isn't that right?"
"Xander," Willow said quietly.
"Why the hell were any of us there, huh? Maybe if Angel had gotten the amulet to us sooner…if we'd known what it could do, we could have saved a lot of lives."
"We all could have done things differently," Giles said quietly.
"I could have done a spell…something with sunshine…"
"There's no use pointing blame in this matter, Xander," Giles said quietly. "If we hadn't wanted to be there, we wouldn't have been. Anya was there, because she knew it was right. And it's why you were there. Even if we'd known what the amulet was going to do…we'd have all been there, fighting just in case, because we all know that things aren't as black and white as the pages are printed."
Xander shook his head.
"All I know is that the woman I love died because we were stupid enough to think we had a shot of getting out alive…" Xander stood up and walked away, leaving Willow and Giles sitting silently alone.
"I should go after him," she said quietly.
"He needs time to grieve," Giles whispered. "Losing someone you love…we both know how devastating it can be. How rational thoughts fail to register…" Willow felt a twinge in her heart at the thought of Tara lying in her arms, still, eyes reflecting only the last moment's happiness she'd displayed before a shot rang out and changed their destinies forever.
The silence only made the pain worse for each of them, thinking of their respective lost loves, both Tara and Jenny.
"I'm going to go…I…I don't have much of an appetite anyway. Just knock when it's time to head out," Willow said quietly. Giles nodded in understanding and watched the perturbed witch rush out of the diner and back to the sanctuary of her hotel room.
She restlessly dangled one leg over the porch rail, as she looked down the deserved street. She knew without a shadow of a doubt that this would be the last night she spent looking at what used to be Mrs. Parker's overgrown shrubs across the street or the large crack in the sidewalk courtesy of a very large demon she'd slain a few years ago.
There wasn't a chill in the air, not even a breeze, yet she felt particularly chilly and wrapped her arms around herself. She knew what she was about to face. She knew that she might very well die, and this time, there would be no coming back. She'd thought about death a lot, and she'd once been ready to accept it, once been ready to die all over again. But now, all she wanted to do was spend the rest of her life with someone that knew her, knew her better than she knew herself. Closing her eyes, she thought about Spike and the words he'd said to her. It was like he knew exactly what she'd needed to hear, and even more than that, he'd said those things without wanting anything in return. She knew in her heart he was the real thing.
Before she knew what she was doing, she was heading down those steps, steps she'd rarely used before Spike had moved into the basement. She'd spent enough time down there as of late to be able to picture certain imperfections in the foundation. She'd often thought about how it was amazing the house was still standing after everything that had gone on inside it these past seven years.
There he was, sitting in that cot, the very cot he'd held her in just a night ago. A glimmer shined toward her, and she realized he was dangling the amulet in front of himself, contemplating the mystery that encircled this new gift.
The moment he saw her, he stood, placing the amulet on the pillow, his body tensing at the very sight of her. Tensing out of frustration, need, desire, and fear that he might lose control and hurt her. God, he never wanted to do that. But the look in her eyes told him she wasn't there to tempt him. She wasn't there to make him think about all of the amazingly nasty things he'd done. No, she was there for strength, the very thing he needed from her.
"Buffy?" he asked, his voice soft, uncertain. She stepped toward him, bridging a gap that had been between them for far too long. Shaking her head, she left him wondering exactly what was next. What could he expect? He didn't deserve to have her looking at him like this. He knew that. But still, the moment she held her hands out, placing them on his shoulders, he knew that this wasn't like before. This was what they'd become. Close. This was what they were now. They absorbed strength and determination from one another, but something was different now. Her hands moved around him, and her arms encircled him. She was hugging him, holding him tight. He could feel her heart pounding against his chest. The rapidness increased, and he realized she was trembling. Terrified.
"Come on, luv," he said softly, holding her tightly, sitting down with her still wrapped in his arms. He lay back on the cot, and she lay against him, atop him, her head buried against his shoulder. He closed his eyes, willing his body not to betray him. He gently rubbed circles against her back, closing his eyes as he felt her breathing warm his cool chest.
The feeling of his arms around her made her safe. She felt untouchable. She felt certain that this was right. Whatever this was, it was supposed to happen. Spike was a champion, that was for certain. He was her champion. When he held her, it was as if the entire Earth crumbled away, and not even the impending apocalypse could crumble the certainty she felt toward him. Spike had changed, and she was never more sure of it than she was in this moment.
"Spike?" She sat up, bleary eyed, blinking into the dark. The dank smell of the room reminded her of where she was, how she'd gotten there, and how Spike wasn't with her. Prickling sensations ran up and down her arms and her back. It was as if a part of her was missing but she could still feel it. She could still feel his arms around her.
Suddenly, she felt as if she was suffocating. She was restless again, and she needed to breathe.
She pulled herself away from the bed and opened the door, letting in the smell of oil and the sound of crickets. She leaned against the wooden doorframe and closed her eyes for a moment, listening to the sound of near-post-apocalypse.
"Buffy?" She turned at her sister's voice. "Are…are you ok?" Buffy turned toward her sister and continued leaning on the frame of the door.
"I will be," she said softly.
"Do you wanna talk about it?" Buffy pondered that option for a moment before shaking her head.
"I think…I wanna keep it to myself…something for me. Something I can remember without…"
"I get it," Dawn said quietly. She fidgeted nervously, stuffing her hands in her pockets. "I miss him too. I miss all of them." Buffy didn't move. She only blinked. "What are we gonna do now? Nobody wants to talk about it. But we…we have to, don't we? We can't stay here forever."
"No, we can't," Buffy replied. "I guess we have some Slayers to find. We'll start there, and…I guess that's all we can do."
"Yeah," Dawn said uncertainly.
"Go on. Get some sleep."
"Things'll be better in the morning, right? Things are always better in the morning." Buffy smiled bravely for her sister and nodded her head.
"Yeah. Good night, Dawn."
"Night." Dawn disappeared behind one of the pale, peach-colored doors, and Buffy listened carefully enough that she could hear the box springs squeak as Dawn collapsed atop the dusty mattress.
Taking a few deep breaths and staring out at the night, part of her hoping he'd pop up out of nowhere to steal a kiss or to taunt her into a fight like the good old days, she finally gave up hope that he was coming back to her. If it was meant to be, it would come in time. She knew that he was gone, but she wasn't ready to let go yet. She wasn't sure she ever could.
To be continued