Then I'll Take Your Hand

"Spike," I said but he was miles away, back in Prague, where I'd been hurt, trying to figure out how he could have prevented it, trying to figure out how he could have saved me.

"Will it hurt?" I asked as I walked up behind Spike and laid a trembling hand on his shoulder. I could have kept it from trembling. It would have been difficult but I really could have done it. I didn't want to.

As he came halfway back to me, Spike absentmindedly took a drag of his cigarette before replying. "Will what hurt, luv?"

"Dying."

Spike spun around so fast he wrenched my hand. I cried out as I pulled it back from his sudden swirling and held it to my chest, like the small bird it was. He picked me up very, very carefully, as if I were as fragile as spun glass and held me close saying, "You're not going to die, luv. You're never going to die."

As he started to carry me across the room, faint figures slipped out from behind Spike's fears until the room was filled with their cold, cruel glances. "Oh goody, a party," I said. Spike didn't respond to me but looked around the room, at all our pretty guests, as if he were lost. They were people from Spike's past, people William had known. Children, closest to us, and then adults: supercilious women and mean-spirited, mercantile men who had icicles growing where their hearts should have been.

One man stood apart from the crowd. He resembled my Spike but was older and had a heavier build. He caught Spike's eyes, turned, and walked away, fading into memories. Spike staggered back a few steps. The crowd leaned towards us, avid for his pain, as if they would feed off of it. Spike stood up taller, held me closer to him, and started walking towards them.

Belittling brickbats twittered around the room like little birds. I held my hand, which felt better now, out to join them so it could fly away, fly away but covetous cupids came down and clipped my wings. The birds started flying in close with razor sharp wings and I wondered what kind of patterns the cuts would make on my skin but they flew right through me and attacked Spike instead. I watched in fascination as razor sharp words cut into his heart.

One of the boys threw a ball, which hit Spike in the head. More boys and even more threw balls at Spike, balls which passed through me as if I weren't even there. "Catch it, you idiot," they taunted him but how could they expect Spike to catch the balls while he was holding me up? Each barbed remark brought tears to his eyes but Spike wouldn't show how hurt he was. As he walked past the boys, they turned and skipped off into the mist, sneering and ridiculing even as they faded back into Spike's mind.

Disparaging women recited poems. Terrible poems but poems that William had poured his heart and soul into. "William the bloody awful poet," callous men jeered as they laughed, laughed, laughed at William's pain. Spike shrank into himself, as if trying to hide his heart.

With each cruel cut, from the boys, from the women, from the men, Spike's tread grew heavier and heavier until his slow steps seemed to pain him much as my illness hurt me. He crept past the sardonic socialites but he should have gone faster because the mocking phantasms wouldn't leave until he'd reached them. Although he grew no older, with each hurtful sneer, with each agonized step, Spike aged before my eyes.

Then there was one figure left. Spike stopped as soon as we saw her. An older woman sat on a love seat, on a chair that wasn't there, coughing, coughing, coughing into a handkerchief. If she wasn't careful, she was going to start coughing up blood soon but then William, still shiny and bright like he'd been when I'd first made him mine, stood before her. "No," Spike shouted as William stabbed short, sharp rage into the woman's heart. She screamed but just before she turned to ashes I saw myself sitting in her place and laughing, laughing, laughing until ashes, ashes, I fell down and dust drifted into the sudden stillness.

Spike staggered a few steps to a chair and fell into it as if his legs could no longer hold him up. I whimpered at the sudden pain and held my wounded hand out to him. He took my hurting hand into his and gently kissed it.

Love weakens him, I thought as I relaxed into his arms.