A distortion of memory in which fantasy and objective experience are confused.
Chapter 1: Void
Empty blue eyes in sunken sockets stare into oblivion. A pallid man cast in shadows sits still as stone in a dark room with only the dim light from a small table lamp to make him visible. Like an undead doll he is as lifeless as the furniture that surrounds him, as soft and sturdy yet immobile as the sofa on which he sits. Red hair swishes around a woman's face as she stares into the vacant eyes of the man who is lost within himself. Lost deep in his mind Spike has fallen catatonic.
"Maybe he'll just snap out of it," Xander comments and Willow turns her attention from the comatose vampire to look back at her friends Xander, Buffy, Anya and Dawn, all cast in shadows. They suspected that Spike had been killing, they even came to expect it to be true, but none of them had expected this.
"I don't think so," Willow says. "I think… I think he's in some kind of catatonia."
"What like lost in his mind catatonia?"
"That would be the one." Willow turns her gaze on Buffy. "What happened?" The Slayer's lips thin for a moment.
"I think there was something there, talking to him, making him do things," Buffy says as her eyes fall on Spike and memories of vampires, vampires Spike sired, attacking her in that basement come to mind. She remembers Spike talking to himself, remembers him screaming and pulling at his hair, his platinum locks stretched to their limit; remembers the creases on his brow and the guilt in his eyes. Do if fast okay? He said you'd do it, Spike had pleaded and then there was that sad look on his face as the fear made him retreat into his mind. He shut his eyes waiting for the end to come, wishing for it even and wanting for her to bring it. His insanity turned into a deathly still silence. He believed she'd kill him and earlier that night she had come to terms with the fact that she just might have to, but she saw him change.
"Something like what was talking to us?" Willow asks.
"Maybe, but if it was, it's been screwing with Spike big time."
"So what do we do with him?" Anya asks moving closer to Spike and bending down until she's eye level with him. She looks at his stone solid features with an odd sense of fascination.
"I need to know what's been messing with him… with all of us, and Spike's been the closest to it."
"And you plan to do that how?' Dawn asks. "Spike's kinda non-responsive at the moment."
"I'll have to snap him out of it…" Buffy's eyes are glued to Spike's as she thinks over a solution. "Willow, remember when Glory took Dawn and I went all coma-y…"
"Yeah and…" Willow's eyes snap up to Buffy as she understands what the blonde is getting at. "You want me to go into Spike's mind?" Her voice is slightly shaky as she seems a little fearful at the thought of what Buffy is suggesting; fearful not only for the thought of evoking such a spell but for the thought of entering Spike's mind.
"Not you, me."
"What? Buffy think about this for a moment," Xander protests. "It's too dangerous, Spike's an out of control serial killer, and that's outside his mind, I don't even wanna know the fantasies he's got locked up in there."
"Not just the fantasies think about the memories," Anya adds in a wistful tone and her face takes on a look that says she's reminiscing about her own violent past.
"Look, there's something evil working us, and if we're ever gonna have a chance to fight it, we need to learn everything we can about it." Buffy takes a step toward Spike and kneels before him to look straight into his blue eyes, eyes she's gazed into many times before, but they are so different now; faded somehow, hollow. They used to sparkle with a fiery passion, a blistering relentlessness, and smoldering ambition but now they are as dead as the body in which they rest. "I don't have a choice. Whatever this thing is, from beneath us, it's bad, and it's only getting worse."
The vampire's limp arms had been thrown over Buffy and Xander's shoulders as they dragged him up the stairs. After the first few steps Buffy's mind drifted to thinking about her own catatonia years earlier. She feels sympathy for Spike; she understands what it's like to be locked in her own mind, to be lost there. She knows how it feels to let the fears take over, to just give up because there's no real hope anyway.
Buffy and Xander walk into Buffy's room and sit Spike on the floor with his legs stretched out straight and head leaning against the side of the bed. Glossy blue eyes stare at the wall as empty as before. Then Xander hovers protectively behind Buffy. Finding her in the bathroom last year, seeing the bruises and teary eyes that he had caused gave Xander the reason he needed to hate Spike like he always had. Before that Spike's inability to hurt people kept Buffy from killing him, but now he could hurt Buffy and the fact that he had; just like Xander always thought he would if he ever had the chance, now there's no reason not to kill him. In Xander's mind that would set the world straight. Black and white, vampires bad and Scoobies good and Spike would be staked and things would make sense again. But here Spike is, still undead, and these shades of grey don't make any sense to Xander. He stands behind Buffy with his overbearing presence until Willow enters with ingredients for the spell. Buffy looks to Xander giving him the okay to leave, he hesitates for a moment then allows Buffy to be alone with Spike and Willow; allows her to stay in the grey room that he doesn't understand.
"Are you sure about this Buffy?" Willow asks with worry, a crease forms between her eyes and her lips twist into an anxious curl.
"I gotta know what I'm up against Will, and Spike knows this thing." That's her official reason, but there is another lurking below the surface. There are emotions that Buffy has for Spike which she doesn't understand. Last year things had not ended well, but what he's been through recently makes her feel for him. The things he's done for her mean something; Buffy just doesn't understand how it all works together yet.
"I just… I don't want you to get lost in there… you have no idea what kind of thoughts run through his head."
"Yeah, but they can't hurt me right," Buffy says, her words flippant, grabbing the candle and other ingredients from Willow wanting to just get on with the spell.
"Not really, no… but if you start to believe what you see around you is real you might not be able to find your way out, you have to be careful Buffy… this spell opens up a link between your minds. It's like a bridge, and it could be really dangerous."
"I'll be fine; I know what I'm getting myself into." Buffy's face is calm to ease her friends concerns, but she takes them to heart none the less.
"Do you? Buffy Spike's… well he's been pretty much crazier then crazy lately… when I helped bring you out of your mind I was basically an outsider watching you go about things, but Spike's got a lot more guilt then you did, a lot more pain, you might not even be able to bring him out of this." Buffy's face falls. She knows Spike is dealing with centuries of guilt from the blood he has shed; he has a soul, a soul he got for her, to be hers, and it's eating him up inside, burning him, and she fears that Willow might be right, that maybe he's gone in too deep. "Just promise me you'll come back." Buffy looks up and offers a soft smile.
"I promise," Buffy says and after a beat of silence Willow leaves the room closing the door behind her.
Buffy sits before him now, legs crossed, back straight as a stake, and fingers folded loosely in her lap. A thick white candle rests on the ground before her. Everything is in place. Spike's eyes are staring at her, his empty eyes, like those of a china doll and in that moment Buffy believes him to be just as fragile as one, fragile like glass or a mirror, but Spike has shattered and Buffy is needed to pick up the pieces and put him back together again. She needs to get all the pieces in place before anything can be seen in that mirror again, before anything can be seen in his eyes again.
Spike's shiny silver Zippo rests in Buffy's folded hands. It had fallen from his jacket pocket earlier and was the first lighter Willow could find when she searched the house for supplies. Silver moonlight reflects off its surface as she flips it open and watches the orange flame dance before her. Buffy just stares at the Zippo for a moment, its flame swaying back and forth; many memories are connected to this tiny object, memories of Spike.
She remembers him flicking the silver rectangle open to light a smoke before disappearing into a dark alley, remembers him lighting candles in the lower half of his crypt after their more passionate encounters which lasted until the wicks had burned out. This lighter is more than just a scrap of silvery metal, its part of Spike. Because of that Buffy finds it appropriate for her to be using it to start this spell.
Buffy lowers the flame to the candle and lights it. She looks up to Spike then, meets his empty eyes and begins chanting the spell in her mind. All thoughts are forgotten except for the words of that spell. White wax melts and creates an ever growing pool around the wick. Moments pass and tiny clear beads stream down the side of the candle as the flame grows brighter. Buffy reaches out with her mind and then the world goes blank.