A/N: I'm sorry for the long delay. I've been sidetracked into the world of Glee lately, as well as trying not to fail out of my doctoral program. This story will progress, but at a slower pace than I'm sure many of you would like. Just know that I'm absolutely in love with this series and haven't been writing as much due more to constraints of time and muse than due to any lack of interest.
The first version of this chapter was beta-read by the ever lovely and ingenious Hortense, who has been my faithful cheerleader in keeping this fic going. I made some changes after her wise suggestions, so any mistakes are mine.
That being said, I hope you like this latest entry in the Series:
Previously on The Vampire/Slayer Chronicles:
After a brutal fight to free Buffy of her captor, Carnivora, the team limped back to Slayer Central to lick their wounds. Willow and Fred traveled to another dimension where a being called Verigard is guiding Willow through the process of controlling her magic. Buffy, upset by her time in Carnivora's dungeon and unable to sleep, sought out Angel and Spike for comfort.
Chapter 3 – Reconstruction
Half-asleep and holding Buffy in my arms like I'd been dreaming of since I left Sunnydale, wondering at the fact that getting to do this in the infirmary last week hadn't been a one-time deal, I breathed her in and kissed the skin behind her ear. When she gasped and shivered, I realized that I hadn't actually thought through how she might react to the gesture. With fear I decided, because of what she'd been through. "Sorry," I mumbled, letting my head fall back on my pillow, or what little was left of it beside the back of Buffy's head.
"Why?" she asked me in a whisper as Spike looked over her at me. "It was nice."
Oh. Not fear then. Desire. Hope flopping around in my chest, I hummed low in my throat and kissed her again, letting my lips linger. This was it. This was what we had all been waiting for, wasn't it? For me to get over my fears and let myself have what I wanted from her, from them? Growing bolder, I traced a line of kisses down her neck, trying to think only of her skin and the way it jumped and how the tiny hairs stood on end, and how good she smelled, not about her blood. Because that was there, too, enticing me from under the surface, calling out and reminding me how much better she tasted than almost anyone else, on par with Spike, whose blood I'd grown dangerously addicted to over the past six months. The smell of her blood brought to mind how she'd cried out in my arms, riding through the pain and perhaps finding pleasure before I drained her almost to death. It wasn't going to happen again. I had a hundred years practice denying any and almost every chance I had to bite. Half a year of being Spike's lover couldn't have unraveled that resolve too much, could it?
Spike's voice whispered to me over the woman in my arms, asking, "Ange?"
"Hmm?" I replied, nipping at Buffy's neck with my lips this time in a way that made her whimper and sent her heart beating like crazy. And beyond her, Spike was there, holding her hand, rubbing his fingers up and down her arm, stirring up the smell of desire that poured from her skin. I couldn't even remember what this had been like, holding Buffy, without him there. It made me miss him for all that time we'd been apart in the last century, each convinced that we hated the other and was hated in turn. To my credit, though, Spike didn't have a soul for most of that time and I hadn't been ready for him. That time had only come to pass recently.
"You know what you're getting yourself into, Peaches?" Spike whispered, catching my hand from Buffy's hip and holding it. "Because I'm the one who has to deal with you tomorrow if you get all broody and regretful. Don't do it unless you mean it this time."
Peeling myself away from Buffy, I sat up, knowing that this really was the last chance I would have to back out, to take Spike and be with him somewhere else, forever. But he was right. I would end up resenting him, and myself, if I turned her away again. And I couldn't do that to him, not when I knew how feelings, built up over decades and centuries, could feed on each other, feed on time, and leave our relationship in tatters eventually. I couldn't lose him.
I must have been silent for too long, because Buffy broke into my thoughts, saying, "I came for company, Angel. I came here because being alone in the dark made me feel weak, like he could still get me. Like I never stabbed that son of a bitch in the first place." She sighed and shivered, frightened again, the sweet smell clouding the scent of her desire. "Nothing needs to happen. Though," she chuckled and sat up, kissing my chin, "if you're ready for more, I'd love to just forget for a while, you know? Find myself again, here with you. Forget the monster I should have killed today." She sighed, looking away as she confessed, "I just want to forget feeling that hated and weak. I want to feel strong. I want to feel loved."
Spike and I shared a look, another silent conversation in the near-dark of our bedroom. He knew it too. This was a turning point and the choice was mine. He'd already made his choice, and it was to push for what he knew I wanted and then follow where I led. I'd led us both here, half of me not knowing what I was doing, and the other half seeking her out despite all the reasons not to. Sighing, I smiled down at her and said, "We love you, Buffy. We always have." I only realized Buffy had been holding her breath when she let it out through her nose in relief as I kissed her again, my lips putting just the right amount of pressure on hers. "And yes, cor," I mumbled as I pulled back, catching Spike's eye quickly, "I mean it. Thank you."
Spike smiled and nodded, actually believing me for once, and I knew he understood my gratitude. I had wanted this. Even before I knew it could be done, even before he and I found Buffy again, I'd wanted this without knowing it. Some way to love my William and my Buffy at the same time. To know that the only two people I'd ever really loved were safe in my arms and loved me back. To know they would forgive me for leaving like I had, Spike in Romania and then China, and Buffy in Sunnydale, twice.
Here, in my arms, was my chance at salvation. Not the soul-goes-to-heaven sort of salvation, but the salvation of my heart, making things right with Buffy so I could feel whole, so I could keep on loving Will the way he deserved to be loved. Not wanting to waste that long awaited for chance, I bent down and kissed Buffy again.
When I released her mouth to trail more kisses down Buffy's delicious neck, Spike shifted closer, squeezing my hand as he leaned his forehead against Buffy's temple. "You're really here," he whispered in wonder and I noticed when I looked up how reverently he kissed her face, her cheekbone near the eye.
"I'm really here," she agreed, slipping one arm around his lithe frame to hug him. That was okay, or better than, because I could feel how they were both mine, under the surface. Spike had said he would give me Buffy if I asked him to, free and clear. But I couldn't do that, not when I could imagine how miserable he'd be when left out and how miserable I would be without him. So it was good, that she pulled him in, that she loved him too.
Spike laughed a little, hugging both of us together, and his happiness rolled over me, comforting and unsettling all at once. I hoped he was up to the job of keeping me sane, because at that moment, I really wasn't. Then, Spike dove in, aiming for Buffy's mouth, kissing the hell out of her and making her tremble even further in my arms. Oh, god, I could already tell this was going to be fantastic. Here's hoping I made it out the other side.
Sighing, I called through the heavy front door of the castle, "What assurances do I have that you won't go all Terminator when I let you in, Josh?"
"Put me back in the dungeon," he called out. "Chain me up. Feed me once a week. I don't care, as long as it keeps me away from him."
"And the twerp?" I asked, sighing at the need to save Andrew from a demon, again.
"Give me your word I'll live a long life down in the dungeon and I'll let him go."
Remembering Josh was an Incubus and had … ahem … special dietary needs, I asked, "And how exactly am I to make sure you don't waste away in the dungeon? While we're not usually about the cruel and unusual treatment, I'm not bringing you victims!"
"Harris," Josh chuckled. "It's a castle full of teenagers. I'll be fine, even locked down in the dungeon. I don't even need to see any of them in person."
"Ew," I grimaced, not wanting to think about what sort of sexual energy all these teenage girls were giving off. It was difficult enough telling myself I was way too old for most of them, even if my heart was a little tenderized from the whole break-up-with-Renee episode.
Wanting the take-down to go smoothly, I stepped away from the door and asked into my walkie, "Where are those guards, Steph?"
"Ready to strike on your mark, sir," the girl replied, and I smirked a little at being called, "sir." I still wasn't used to the grown-up feeling it gave me.
"Roger that," I replied, going back to the door. "Alright, Josh. You got my word, give Andrew up without a scratch and we'll agree to put you up in the fine and fabulous Chez Dungeon."
Into the com, I said, "Give the order," keeping my ear pressed to the door so I could hear what was going on. "Drop the nerd and back away from the door," I ordered the incubus. "Let the girls take you without a struggle."
I couldn't really tell what was going on, but at the same time, Andrew started pounding on the door again, saying, "Let me in, Xander!" and Stephanie came back over the walkie-talkie, "All clear, sir. Prisoner is secure."
Sometimes I loved how cool I felt at my job.
There was no more Willow.
There was no home.
This was all that will ever be: lost and scattered flecks of nothingness that used to be a soul.
There was no I or me anymore. There was no sense of self and barely any consciousness. Everything was gone, broken down and forgotten. Too many pieces lost, and the puzzle wouldn't go together right without them. The holes would be too big.
Down, down, down, into something deeply devoid of being.
No hope, just that place, that awful, wrenching place that I would have called hell if I hadn't known any better - and if I had been able to find my mouth.
Ashes to ashes, but nothing burned. For a place reveling in the absolute contact of paradoxes, Verigard's dimension had no flames. There were places of hot and cold, but no actual flames. Thus, nothing had combusted and I had to remember that the flecks and flakes weren't ashes. They were Willow. They were mine if I could ever find them all.
As numerous as grains of sand, as light as dust and just as impossible to hold together. Sandcastles can be fun, but they don't last, do they? They don't hold up against the waves and the tide and, God, I missed Earth.
But there was the question, always. Persevere or let go? Try to gather myself up or just fade into nothing and everything? Let the people I loved (not sure what they were called at the moment, but I remembered, instinctually, how they made me feel) go on without me, or be the strong one I never was? Get the fuck over myself and find every god damned tiny piece, or let them scatter on the still and silent torrent?
I sat for a long time, letting those pieces drift away while I tried to remember what was so good about being something other than this. This was fine. I didn't know how long I would last, as the dust blew away, but there were eons where I just didn't care. I gave up, but still the void didn't take me. It didn't want me either.
Which was not at all right, because everything I could remember was screaming that being a pile of dust meant you were finally done. Finally gone. No more. Kaput! Why wouldn't I fade?
Maybe it was just this damn fucking dimension. If everything existed and didn't exist at once, I'd been gone since the moment I'd arrived. Chewing on that thought, I wondered if my two friends still existed and wondered if they were still waiting for me. It seemed important not to keep them waiting.
What was the problem again? Magic? I remembered being good at it, but I couldn't remember, exactly, how it happened. Was it relaxing certain muscles and thinking really hard? Was it wiggling my nose? I didn't have any of those things anymore. All unraveled, blown away but somehow coherent enough to realize how fucked up this was.
The being wanted me to figure something out, but what? Maybe if I waited another hundred million years, it would get bored and quit expecting so much of a pile of dust.
Maybe it was a decision, maybe it was survival instinct, but I knew, deep within the nothingness of me, that I had something to live for.
Friendship, there was something worth living for. Friends, good friends, like the blonde one and the boy and the one with the pet equations made me feel like I was worth something, to someone.
Hope. Hope that I could get back to the people I loved, hope that I could find someone just for myself, hope that I could fix this and be human again. Hope could be my guiding light, my map, my schematic that said where all the pieces should go.
And of course, there was the sheer stubbornness to make myself believe that I needed the pieces, before they were gone. I would not fade, even if I could. I would become whole again if it killed me.
The first two pieces were the most difficult to put back together. I knew what I had to do, but finding a way to do it was proving ... challenging. Devastating. Frustrating. So damn hard! I just...
I needed it to happen, but I couldn't remember how to make it go. I tried to ask my two friends, but they didn't even acknowledge me. Was I that far gone? Was I dead and refusing to go, like a ghost? Then why couldn't I let go of this belief that if I tried hard enough and put the pieces back together, that I would live again?
Maybe it was a stupid belief. Maybe this was all there was, floating around, free from care and worry other than the pull of non-existence. At least being here, in this state, was better than the uncertainty of before. I had no one here. No one to hurt by what I was doing or not doing. Free of responsibility. Safe.
And they were safe from me until the first two pieces slipped and locked together, and I could see the whole they were part of. I could do this. It wasn't impossible, it was just freaking difficult. And if I changed this piece and that one, put my ego back the way it should be, build a better Willow, my friends would be safe. And I would get to see them again. I would get to go home.
All of a sudden Spike's fingers scrabbled at the bottom of my pajama top, finding their way underneath and pulling up on the fabric. Both men groaned when they could see me again and I smiled at that ego boost. Angel really was ready, and Spike seemed to believe him, and I only hoped that we weren't all seeing just what we wanted to and nothing else. And then, they were all over me, roaming hands and lips, hard bodies and the unmistakable feel of vampire that my sick little brain twisted around from fear and distrust into love and desire. At least they both had souls. There was something to be thankful for.
Angel lay down behind me, pulling me close against his bare chest, all that cool skin pressed against my back and his a hand on my stomach, before burying his face in my hair and then brushing it aside so he could kiss my neck again. I was beginning to think that was a big thing for him. Neck-kissing. Huh, never would have guessed with the whole vampire shtick he's got going…
In front of me, Spike caught my lips again, his tongue finding mine and making me moan in excitement at the cool cigarette and iron-tinged taste of him. Then, his hand brushed carefully at the underside of one of my breasts, teasing and tantalizing like he was so good at. I would have said it was some sort of seduction technique, except that when he went for it in earnest, kneading one boob, his thumb brushing brazenly over the nipple, we both groaned, him like he'd been a man starving for years and had finally found a Twinkie.
Breaking his lips away from mine, Spike raised his head to watch Angel, saying, "I love you, Peaches, but I've sorely missed tits."
Angel laughed against my neck, and I found myself smiling, too. "So you're saying," Angel murmured, "that if I had tits, you'd be happier?" Oh, I loved this side of him. The one with a sense of humor that wasn't buried under decades of repression and guilt. I should have known that Spike would be good at coaxing it out of him.
"Oh, god no!" Spike cried, collapsing back onto the bed with a loud laugh that had me giggling. "Angel, that's just too disturbing for words."
"Yeah," I said, turning to face him, appreciating the joke, but not the image it had suggested. "Your chest is perfect." Running my fingers over his chest and just about dying of pleasure at how good the muscles felt under my hands, I tilted my head up to kiss Angel with gusto. He'd looked like he needed it. Spike fitted himself behind me, hand finding my other breast this time, scraping the skin between my shoulder and my neck lightly with his teeth so I whimpered against Angel's mouth.
"Mmm," he mumbled, "you taste like Will."
"Is that a bad thing?" I asked, reaching back for Spike and pulling him closer with a hand on his ass.
"No," Angel replied, his hand covering mine on Spike's ass, holding him steady while Angel thrust against me at the same time. All three of us gasped. "It's one of the best things I've ever tasted."
"God," I groaned as they both started rocking against me, hard male flesh everywhere. "I don't know how this is going to work, really. But however it does, there's too many clothes in the way." I kissed Angel again before pulling at the elastic of his pants, aching with the need to get him naked again, the need to feel him pressed against me, in me. All of a sudden though, Angel growled and turned his face away from me, and I could tell that he'd gone all bumpy.
"Too excited, luv?" Spike asked with a smirk in his voice, reaching across me to stroke his hand down the front of Angel's pants, making the other vampire gasp and squirm. "Fuck, you're hard," Spike crooned, his hips rocking against my backside, even while he touched Angel.
I'd been with them before we left LA, and I'd spent most of the summer in their company, but this was the first time I'd really seen something this explicit between them. The surety behind Spike's actions spoke to the fact that they did this all the time, when I wasn't around. I'd seen them kissing before, and I'd imagined what their lovemaking would look like, but now I was seeing it up close and very personal. And the way Angel arched into Spike's hand, like he didn't have a choice in the matter, like his body knew exactly what to expect from the other man, had me gasping to catch my breath and wondering if his body would ever know me that well.
"Will," Angel growled when he got himself somewhat under control, "I can't put the fangs away when you're touching me like that."
"I like them," I assured him, no stranger to Angel's game face, pulling him back toward me so I could kiss him, fangs and all. I nipped at his lips with mine, noticing they felt exactly the same as the moment before, except for the sharp teeth behind.
"See?" Spike chuckled, abandoning Angel in favor of pulling at my pajama bottoms, getting them and my underwear off me in one fell swoop. "Buffy likes them, Ange."
Taking the opportunity, I pulled at Angel's pants again, pushing them down past his hard on, and then trailing my fingers up his shaft, shivering at how something so hard underneath could have such soft skin. Angel growled again, struggling to push his pants the rest of the way off. "I don't," he gasped as I touched him, thrusting up into my hand a little as I fisted him, "want to hurt you."
Moaning as Spike pressed my mound with all of his fingers and moved them in slow circles, I told Angel, "You won't."
"What if," he gasped, catching my hand and stopping me from stroking him, "I forget and bite you?"
I shuddered under Spike's touch and leaned my head back against the blonde's shoulder, so I could look at Angel. He was definitely in full vamp mode, but I was so far gone at this point, I thought he looked even hotter, except for that desperate worry in his golden eyes. He was so scared for me, like I was some other girl who couldn't protect herself.
"I promise," I told him, taking his hand. "I won't let you, okay? I'm really good at the whole, fighting off bitey-vampires thing, honey. It won't be a problem."
Angel nodded before looking past me and asking, "Spike?"
"Yes, luv?" I could almost feel the blond trembling with frustration. He wanted to get on with it, he wanted me so badly, I could tell. It felt almost like before, when he and I had been involved and it had been a few days since we'd had sex. It gave him this look in his eye and this tension in his body that I knew well, that I could practically feel from a mile away. Briefly, I wondered if Angel knew it too, or if Spike's body language with him was different. I doubted it.
Angel continued, "If I call out to you, can you give me your wrist? So I can bite you instead?"
"Yes," he gasped. "Yes, anythin', Angel. Just quit stallin' me here."
"Why don't you," Angel whispered, "go first? Would that be okay Buffy?"
My brain at less than full functioning capacity, it took me a moment to think it over and finally nod, "As long as you don't leave. As long as you stay involved here with us, Angel. I don't want you two fighting over me about who got to do what."
"I'll stay," he agreed. "I just need Will clear-headed enough to keep me in line."
"Thanks, Peaches. I'll do my best." Spike sat up, pulling him in for a deep kiss, the sight of which made me shiver, before turning back to me, eyes dark with desire. "Slayer," he crooned in that low, low voice that made me want to do anything he asked.
"Spike," I whispered, keeping a hold on Angel's hand as the blond vampire turned me and pressed me down, my back to the mattress, fitting his hips between my thighs. Spike kissed me, hard, panting through his nose as he rubbed his prick up and down my slit, teasing me, asking for what he needed.
"Bloody hell, Buff," he breathed. "I love you."
"I love you, too," I groaned, more than ready to let him in, to let him stretch me after all this time, to feel everything that they would make me feel, to show them how much I loved them both.
"How is she doing?" I asked Verigard, watching Willow lose her structural integrity even as she sat solidly in one place, lost in thought.
"Almost … there," it replied, petting one of my favorite formulas until it started purring. "She … gave up everything … with her … pride. Everything needs … to be rebuilt."
"How long do you think it will take her?" Illyria rolled her eyes at me and walked away, bored by the discussion. She was still upset with my lack of a world domination plan, but something told me she didn't like to be alone either. Here, in a dimension where we could take advantage of the paradox that was our existence, she could have figured out a way to leave me forever, but I was pretty sure I felt her thoughts about that possibility. She didn't want to be left here alone, without a tangible body, blowing apart on the still wind like Willow.
I liked to think maybe she was just the littlest bit fond of me, too.
"These things…" the guardian told me, "…cannot be … predicted. Though your equations … might give an … answer!" It laughed, a shimmering rumbling silence of humor that I couldn't help but join in. The entity reminded me of my grandfather in some ways, which was comforting and a little disconcerting because my real grandfather was supposed to be dead in another dimension.
But what is death but crossing into another dimension?
Shaking my head at the thought, I tried to turn back to thinking about Angel's predicament. I was almost there. I had almost figured out a scientific theory and the plans for a device that would let Angel be physically connected to the Aegis from anywhere on Earth. At this point, it was a matter of figuring out how to let the paradox flow into a material that was anything but paradoxical. "Verigard?" I asked, suddenly struck with an idea.
"May I remove some material from your dimension? I'd like to study it under Earth-conditions."
The being seemed to think on this for a long time before replying, "It has not … been done. History … future … it shouldn't be possible."
"Can I try?" I plead, using my best emit-pleasing-thought/smell/emptiness skills I'd learned from Illyria. It came across as something approximating a smile. "I promise I won't take much…"
There was that rumble again. "You may try, … Fred. You may try."
Please review and tell me how much you'd like the next chapter. It might help me prioritize it in my list of fics to work on writing in my very limited free time.