Title -- OUT OF THE STORM

author -- Devylish

disclaimer -- JW, Mutant Enemy, et al. own BTVS.

spoilers -- anything through Hells Bells is fair game

feedback -- does anyone ever actually say "no" to this? You can send comments to devylish@hotmail.com

rating -- R for language

AN -- Response to the A-Z alphabet Challenge issued by Stephanie (Honeymajandra). Words to be used were: alien, beach, castle, dwarf, elephant, floating, gun, hotel, ice, journey, kite, lightning, mermaid, nudity, orchestra, pearl, quicksand, rescue, stage, tornado, undressing, veil, widow, xenophobia, yacht, zero. She made a request that the tale be set after 'Hell's Bells' and that it not be sad or dark.... I kept with the setting, and eventually there is some Spuffiness, but a bit of Buffy 'woe is me' was necessary (actually most of it is pretty dark...). Anyway, "It was a dark and stormy night.. . "

OUT OF THE STORM

It wasn't the rain, the thunder, or the blustery winds that made her question her sanity; it was the fact that she was once again standing five feet away from Spike's crypt. Lightning crashed over the graveyard and Buffy cursed herself again for foolishly, stupidly, idiotically drifting back into *his* cemetery.

She had broken up with him; yet here she stood. She had blown up half of his home; yet here she stood. She had even dealt (damn gracefully!) with him bringing another *girl* to Anya and Xander's almost-wedding, and yet, here she stood, again, just outside his door.

Tonight, just like every other night this week, she had started out with the best of intentions. She had planned to patrol any and every damn corner of Sunnydale -- except for Spike's domain. She had headed out, out to patrol, to protect the innocent -- to fight the good fight [good Buffy!] -- as she was supposed to do. She had gone about her business, thinking about nothing in particular. Nothing other than kicking some demon ass... And before she knew it, she had found herself standing here. Standing in the rain -- wind tossing her short hair around her neck in thick strangling webs -- outside Spike's home.

Once more, her day's journey had led her to night's door.

"Damn!" She beat down the tornado twisting through her mind and backed away from his crypt. *What's it take to get me to listen to my own, damn good advice. Stay away from the demons... unless you plan to kill them. Simple-ass rule, Buffy!* She forced herself to turn and walk away, back toward Ravello Drive. Back toward the house that, no matter how many people she filled it with, always felt empty to her.

Buffy laughed bitterly to herself. *The damn house has been so full of people during the past few months that I should rename it the HOTEL SUMMERS.* All those people... friends... and she felt empty. She laughed again, a hollow tribute to her increasingly fragile state of mind.

She had two, well, honestly, three definable states of being these days. One, she had affectionately labeled: The Void. It was like this black hole of emptiness that started in the pit of her stomach and swelled over and nullified everything inside of her, leaving her only a vacant shell of herself. The second state of Buffy-being she had named: The Rage. This one started at her fingertips, quickly balled itself into a fist, and then became this overwhelming quagmire of seething anger. When under the influence of The Rage, Buffy, simply, blindly went looking for trouble; striking out at everything and everyone she met. Buffy Rage... it was not a good thing.

Halting before the front steps of her house, Buffy considered her third state of being: The Shameless Sex-goddess. She didn't care to think about where this state of being physically manifested itself, but when she was in the throes of it, she was little more than a lust-ridden, emotionally saturated, Spike-aholic.

Closing her eyes, Buffy lifted her head, and let the ice and cold rain cover her face like a veil. She breathed in the rain and wind that pelted at her form, floating into a memory of her and Spike. In her mind, a picture played, a film of the two of them, entwined together -- drowning in one another -- and then proceeding, time after time, to rescue one another. *Mmmmmm...* Scenes of Spike undressing her roiled around in her brain. They dueled with her memories of Spike whispering pearl after pearl of love to her -- until she was wreathed in a necklace of his love...

KERCHUNG-UNG-UNG!

Buffy jumped with a start as a clap of thunder rolled overhead. *Buffy,* she whispered to herself, attempting to break free of her memories of Spike. *Pull yourself out of the quicksand that defines your relationship with Spike. Think about something else, Anything else! Think about... about... flying a damn kite on a spring day, think about lying on a beach somewhere -- basking in the summer sun, think about jumping into a fragrant, swirling pile of autumn leaves... Think about anything except for the bloodsucking demon and how he makes you feel!*

Buffy resolutely climbed the steps of the porch, but couldn't seem to make herself go into the house. All those people, all those friends, who used her home as a meeting room, a boarding house, a feeding ground... All those people. *God! Damn it all to hell! First, I can't get out of the bloody,* she paused and cringed at her own use of a Spike term. *First, I can't get out of the "darn" house, and now, I can't make myself go in!*

Buffy veered to the right, and moved to the swing located in front of the dining room windows. Sitting gingerly on the damp seat, she propped her legs up against her chest and wrapped her arms around them. Letting her head droop, she knocked her forehead against her knees a few times.

*Why can't I develop a nice, healthy case of Vampire xenophobia? I mean, maybe if I feared them, or truly despised them, I wouldn't have become The Chosen One, and then I wouldn't have fallen for Angel... and then, I would never, ever have experienced these non hate-like feelings I have for Spike. I would have a normal, un-vampire involved life.* She rubbed her forehead against her kneecaps. *Am I really asking for that much? I don't think so... I mean, it's not like I'm looking for a fairytale existence. I don't want a castle in the sky. Or any silly singing birds or flitting fairies. I don't even want seven little dwarfs... or "dwarves", or... What the hell is the plural of dwarf?!* Groaning Buffy lifted her head and rested her chin on her knees.

She stared out into the maelstrom filled darkness for several minutes listening to the storm thrash around her. She heard the wind whisper "William" and the thunder echo "Spike". *Great,* she thought, *even the orchestra of nature is contriving against me.* As the night murmured, and howled, and played for her, Buffy could feel the *rain* starting to fall unbidden from her eyes.

"Fuck!" She screamed into the storm.

*Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!!! You've got big problems Buffy Summers. Big ol' elephant sized problems. You've got zero concentration these days, and every damn thought seems to lead you right back to -- to him!* she sighed.

She wanted to give in. Give in to him and just be --.

Her mind pressed her, *Give in, or give up...?*

Buffy thought about the gun that lay hidden under her mattress. She had nearly dropped it in surprise when she had found it, covered by a soft cloth, tucked in the back of Joyce's closet. She had not known that her mother had a gun until she had started cleaning the house after her death. Buffy had definitely been surprised by her mother's possession of the weapon; she'd been surprised, but she hadn't sold the gun, or given it away.

It amused her to realize that she'd never even thought about using the gun as a *slayer* weapon... Using the gun against a demon, or a vampire, or a triumvirate of idiots, was an alien concept to her. Yet she'd kept the gun. She'd kept the gun for... for different reasons. Reasons that she'd thought about less and less since she'd gotten to *know* Spike. Less and less since she'd tasted his lips and felt his touch. Less and less since the *no nakedness* clause had been removed from their relationship. *Unh huh, nudity changes everything.*

Buffy smiled helplessly, realizing that it had happened once again. Somehow, despite her desperate attempts to steer her thoughts well clear of Spike, she had managed to end up thinking about him.

*Really, why do I keep fighting "this" fight?* She let her legs drop from their huddled position and pressed her toes onto the porch in order to set herself swinging.

In the corner of the porch, right by the steps, she watched a spider, a Black Widow, brave the winter storm and spin her web. Buffy watched the spider in silence. Seconds turned into minutes. And as she watched the spider create a silken home, Buffy's mind suddenly began to clear.

*That's what's wrong with me... I'm afraid! I'm afraid that I will hurt, or lose those that I love, so.... so I'm trying not to let them get too close. I'm afraid that I'm a Goddamn Black Widow spider!* It all, slowly started to make sense to her... the throwing herself into her work, the avoidance of the Scoobs, the failure to pay attention to Dawn... the pushing away of Spike.

She jumped up from her precarious perch and did a mini dance of happiness. *I'm afraid that I'll hurt him, or,* glancing at the spider, *eat him alive... Jesus!* she exhaled.

In her mind she ran over the number of times she'd used Spike as a punching bag. And still he kept coming back. She tried to recall the number of times she'd verbally chewed him up and spit him back out. And still he kept coming back. She even attempted to recall how many times, during the beginning of their relationship, when neither one of them had been aware of how close love was to hate, she had actually, literally attempted to kill him. And still, he had kept coming back... to her.

Grinning like the fool that love makes everyone, Buffy made a declaration into the night. "I love Spike! I love William the Bloody! I love William James Nelson!"

*Of course, now I have to tell him that.* Her courage flagged momentarily, then she squared her shoulders, and kicked her own ass into gear: *Exit stage right Buffy, and go and get your man!*

As she fought her way through the storm, back to Spike's crypt, Buffy looked down at her mud spattered, drenched *slay clothes* and realized that if her clothes looked this bad, her face and hair must look equally horrible. She briefly considered waiting until morning to see him. A hot shower and clean clothes *would* be nice. *But, on the other hand, as Anya would probably say, "lots of long, hot sex would be better"* Knocking loudly at the mausoleum door she muttered to herself *Beside, If he really wants me, he'll take me whether I look like a drowned rat or not!*

When his door snaked open, Buffy looked Spike in the eyes, looking to see if she still found acceptance, and strength, and love there. And as always, they were all reflected at her from the depths of his dark, crystal blue orbs. But pain and defensive barriers tinged them. Barriers and pain that she knew she had inflicted and help to erect. Gathering her newfound knowledge and strength around her, Buffy sheepishly asked:

"Permission to come aboard?"

As Spike gazed down at the Slayer, hurt made him answer brusquely "My home's not a bloody ship or yacht, pet." Love made him add, "Although, all wet and rain covered like that, you do look a great deal like a mermaid..." he shrugged his shoulders and stood aside to let her pass. "Come in."

Buffy stepped into the doorway, but did not pass him. Instead she turned toward him so that only inches separated them. Standing toe to toe with Spike she reached up and put her arms around his neck.

"You know, I think that's why I love you. You always see something beautiful in me, even when I know I'm all wrong, and turned inside out." After pulling his head down so that she could caress his lips with her own, Buffy gently drew back and turned her body so that she could pull the stunned vampire back into the tomb.

"Spike, come in out of the storm."

end.