A/N: Thank you to xoChantelly for reading this pre-beta, and big thanks to PaganBaby and Angearia for beta reading. The Spike/Other isn't a major thing, please don't be put off by it!
In My Dream, You Weren't Mine
"This isn't right."
"Nothing's right 'bout this world, B." Faith flicked her cigarette to the ground, crushing it beneath the heel of a heavy black boot. She lit another, took a deep drag, and sighed. "Sucks for you, paired with me. Betcha Kennedy put the schedule together. Bitch."
"I told you the last time, we're on watch together? No talky." Buffy's response was automatic, but almost as soon as the words left her mouth, she frowned. "No… that's not… this isn't right."
"So you've said." Faith's voice was sarcastic, her posture relaxed even as her eyes scanned the horizon for any hint of movement. "Look, Buffy. You hate me. I get that. Can't be easy for you, listening to me fuck your pet vamp night after night. You made the choice, though, to push him away. And when he came to me? Who am I to turn down a body like that?" Faith leaned back against the concrete wall and shoved her hands in the pockets of her jeans. "But when we're out here, we can't let those things get between us. We've gotta look after those girls, it's our duty. You hearing me, B?"
Buffy opened and closed her mouth, not knowing what to say, wondering when Faith had become the responsible one. Her head felt stuffy, her eyes blurry and unfocused. "Yeah," she said, and her tongue felt too big for her mouth, like it was made from cotton-candy. "I understand… I made a choice. 'Cos… he killed Robin. After… after he had a soul, he killed him." She shook her head, trying to clear the muzziness in her mind. "No, that's not right. He let him live, on account of his mom… I said I'd let Spike kill him… I wouldn't have, I didn't abandon Spike…no…"
Buffy put a hand out to steady herself, and when her palm met the cool concrete, it almost felt like him. Like his cold, smooth skin stretched taut across hard muscle. She shivered, and then a memory of a warm bed, flickering candles and him, solid and cold and real, limbs tangled with hers, smiling, happy.
Then the memory – vision, whatever – was interposed with another, of Faith, of him, of them together, sitting on his cot in the basement, smoking flash him pressing Faith up against the wall of a mausoleum flash a Turok-Han with its hands around his neck, pressing, squeezing and then a cloud of dust and the ancient vampire was no more, and Buffy was there, she was, but Faith was there first, stroking the skin of his neck, his face and kissing him.
It was too much. She slid to the floor, the heels of her hands pressed so hard into her eyes that she saw stars. "Not right. This isn't right." And then, darkness.
There were voices, so many voices, all clamouring to be heard. She didn't want to listen, didn't want to rouse herself from this semi-consciousness. It was nice here. If she stayed here, floating in this soporific state, she wouldn't have to face the reality and the confusion of it all. Was it reality? Was it real? Everything was so mixed up, threads and strands of memory all intertwining together, making a braid that she couldn't unravel no matter how hard she tried.
The conversation with Faith had seemed so normal, so routine, but at the same time it was wrong, so wrong. She remembered being on watch tens of dozens of hundreds of times, looking out across the tattered ruins of the town, just waiting for a Turok-Han to cross her line of sight. Keeping the girls, the few who remained of their little group, alive, for just one more day.
But if she thought about it too much, it didn't feel real. She felt disconnected, lost, the strands of her consciousness touching something that was warm, that was happy, that was life. But she couldn't quite grasp it. She was like a greyhound, running around and around the racetrack, always hoping to catch the rabbit but never quite making it.
She smiled to herself, but was careful not to let the grin show on her face. Didn't want to let the voices know she was awake. But the thought of chasing after a rabbit had made her think of Anya. Dear, sweet Anya. Except she wasn't dear or sweet, more blunt and abrasive. But you tended to look fondly upon the dead, although no – that wasn't right. Was she dead? She remembered Xander's tears, his crying oddly lopsided on his one-eyed face as he laid flowers at the edge of the Sunnydale crater, months after the battle. But she also remembered Anya teleporting in on borrowed magic, just the other day, having found another Potential, this time in Russia.
Buffy shook her head, trying to clear it. Which was right? The first, last, neither?
Nothing made sense anymore.
"I'm telling you, I didn't do nothing to her, all right?" Faith's voice, too loud and harsh.
"There's nothing we can do, she has to break free of the dream's hold by herself. It remains to be seen whether she has the strength of will to fight back. We don't know what kind of dream-world the demon sent her to. She might prefer it over this one." Was that Giles? But he'd died, his neck broken by a Turok-Han in the school's foyer. Buffy felt her eyes fill with tears, but she made no move to wipe them away.
"Okay, okay. So maybe I teased her a little. Nothing more than the usual. B kept going on, 'this isn't right, this isn't right.' Goddamn it isn't right. Fuckin' vamps have taken over." Shut up, shut up, shut up-Faith-shut up.
"You sure? No mojo you can use to get her back? Poor love's fightin' off somethin' bad in there." Buffy could almost feel the weight of his hand as he swept her hair back off her forehead. Spike's voice was deep, comforting. Her eyes flickered, she wanted to see him, feel him, but then-
"Buffy, love? …Oh come on! I call everyone love, it doesn't mean anything. Fine. Slayer? You gonna wake up?" –his tone changed, became cold and uncaring. She lay still.
"Buffy, sweetness? Come on, open those pretty eyes for me. I know… know things haven't been as good for us, lately. Been a little down in the dumps, both of us, yeah? But things'll get better. I promise. Know it was my fault. If I hadn't been such a bastard last night, you'd never've gone out alone. Fuck- Buffy. Just… come back to me, yeah? Come on, pet, wake up for me. Please."
When she finally opened her eyes, she found herself staring up into Spike's face. He had one eyebrow raised and his lips were curled into a smirk.
"All right, Slayer?"
Buffy sat up and threw her arms around his neck, pressing her face into his chest and inhaling his scent, that clean-smoke-leather smell that she knew so well. But- wait. There was something else, a hint of a perfume that wasn't hers, and she pulled away.
Spike was looking at her with a mix of sadness, confusion and something else, something that looked a little like hatred. It was a look she hadn't seen in years – though she felt she had come close to bringing it out over the past few weeks and months.
"You don't get to do that anymore, B." Faith sounded amused, but there was a hard note to her voice that sent out a beacon-sized warning. Stay away from my man.
Buffy scrambled backwards on the nest of ragged blankets, gazing at Spike and Faith, staring in amazement at the two of them putting up a united front, standing closer together than Buffy liked, their body language that of two people who had been intimate for a long while.
The thought of them together made her skin crawl. Spike was hers, wasn't he? Had been hers for a long time now. She remembered – oh, you say the word, and she's a footnote in history. I'll make it look like a painful accident. – but then other memories - night after night of lying on a hard pallet, in a cold room with the handful of potential slayers that still lived, listening to the rhythmic creaking of the one-and-only mattress in the next room along, the sound of flesh-on-flesh, the grunts and groans of two people fucking. The thought of it made her feel sick.
"This isn't right." Buffy felt it beared repeating.
"See!" Faith exclaimed. "She was saying that before, then she spazzed out."
"I don't know what's going on," Buffy said. She had to make them understand. "I don't think I'm in the right place. Things… everything's confused. You two, you're not supposed to be – you two."
Spike's gaze hardened, lips pursing, which made the hollows of his cheeks stand out in harsh relief. "Don't think you get a say in what I do anymore, Slayer. Had enough of you bossin' me around back when Sunnydale was still Sunnydale and not an uber-vamp playground."
"I- I'm sorry."
"That's a new one," Faith said. "Apologising. Getting down off that high-horse at last, B? Finally realising that we're not your little lapdogs anymore?"
Faith's words triggered another memory, of a time when she'd felt more isolated and lost than any other.
"I didn't come here to take anything away from you, but I'm not gonna be your little lapdog, either. I came here to beat the other guy, to do right, however it works. I don't know if I can lead. But the real question is… can you follow?"
"Faith's right, Slayer. I'm not Harris' biggest fan, and I've had more than enough of all the little girls tramping around underfoot, but he's lost an eye and a couple of them were killed. And you led them there. S'not on, Buffy. Let's vote."
"I don't think I'm your Buffy."
"I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You're a hell of a woman. You're the one, Buffy."
"You're not my Spike."
Buffy stood up, and wrapped her arms around herself, trying to ward off the chill of the night. She looked past Faith and Spike, out of the tiny window, into the darkness. It was still, quiet, but she wondered how long it would be before a Turok-Han approached.
Behind her, Faith was whispering something in Spike's ear and his hand was on her waist, his fingers slipping beneath the waistband of her low-slung jeans. The sight sent shudders of jealousy and revulsion through Buffy.
Spike was hers. He'd come for her after fighting alongside Angel in L.A., and they'd been together ever since. It hadn't been easy; nothing worth anything was ever easy. She could close her eyes and see everything that had happened since Sunnydale had fallen, so clearly. That was real.
And then she opened her eyes, and saw her lover, her vampire, her man in the arms of someone else and the memories drifted away, leaving only slight tendrils in her mind and suddenly, this was real. This Spike and this Faith, who had been a strange form of friends-with-benefits ever since they hadn't saved the world from the First Evil, ever since everything Buffy had cared about – her sister, her friends – had perished in the battle.
"I'm not supposed to be here."
"Slayer, none of us are supposed to be here," Spike sighed. "Way it should've gone, we'd've stopped the uber-vamps months ago."
"I don't mean that," Buffy said, shaking her head, the vision-memory-dream of a sweet and loving Spike, of a cosy little apartment in England, of nights spent slaying in cemeteries followed by fantastic sex becoming clearer by the second. "This isn't my world. This place… it's wrong."
"Well, of course it's wrong," Faith's voice was sneering. "Been wrong ever since you didn't stop the apocalypse. Ever since you got your sister killed. Ever since you let the uber-vamps kill Willow and Xander and Giles. Remember them, B? Sweet little Dawnie? The Scoobies? Remember how you drove away the only person who might have supported you? Drove him right into my arms and between my legs? Remember, B?"
"Stop it!" Buffy closed her eyes, concentrating on an image of Spike – her Spike – smiling and laughing and kissing her breathless. "You're wrong, this place is wrong. I don't belong here, it's not me not me not me!"
She sank to her knees, hands on her ears, trying to drown out the sound of Faith's husky laughter and Spike's mocking chuckles.
And then – suddenly – she was blinking sleep from her eyes, sitting up in her own bed, in her own home, and Spike was there, his arms were around her, his lips pressed to her neck murmuring over and over, "Buffy, you're okay, was so worried, Giles didn't know if you'd wake up, love you love you love you."
Buffy couldn't help the tears that spilled from her eyes, running hot tracks down the cool skin of Spike's neck. "I'm sorry! I'm so sorry."
Spike pulled back. "Love, you've got nothing to be sorry for. If anything, I should be the one making amends. If I hadn't said what I did that night you wouldn't… I'm sorry, sweetness. Should've been there."
Buffy smiled, and burrowed her fingers in his hair. "I dreamt. And everything was wrong. We didn't save the world. There were Turok-Han everywhere, and my sister, my friends – all dead. In my dream, you weren't mine. You seemed to hate me. I don't know why, couldn't work it out. Everything was so confusing… so messed up."
"Shh," Spike swiped at the tears on her face, then kissed her, softly, sweetly. "We saved the world, didn't we? So many times. The Niblet, your Scooby pals, they're all fine. And I don't hate you, Slayer, could never hate you. I love you. "
Buffy kissed him back, slipping her hands around his neck. "I know you do. Love you, too. I'm sorry for how I've been lately. All moody-Buffy." She shivered. "But I can't stop thinking about how differently things could have gone. Seeing that world… I'll be better, I swear it."
"Me, too." Spike stroked her hair, gathering it up and then letting it drop. "Try and put it out your mind, Slayer. It was just a dream."
Buffy sighed, and laid her head on his shoulder. "Yeah. Just a dream."