Blink and You'll Miss What You Never Saw

She doesn't remember having this dream; can't remember waking up and feeling the longing and the loss. She should remember, shouldn't she? Because she has this weird ability to remember her dreams. Always has. Even before she knew she was a Slayer and that all those mondo bizzaro dreams had meaning ("import", Giles would say, in his stuffy, British way…except he's off being stuffy and British in England, where it probably doesn't stand out nearly as much). She can even date them. Well, not exactly, at least not all of them, but she remembers important things that happened right around the same time and that's pretty much the same thing, right?

But not this dream, no, not this one. It's not even a whole dream, just fragments that change and increase and decrease for no reason she can think of. None of it fits into any open slots in her memory and, try as she might, she can't jam this jigsaw puzzle of a dream into a month or even a year. It's just there…as if she was born with it, or, more accurately, born with the ever-changing piecesof it and she can't figure any of them out. They just hang around like ghosts and no matter how hard she tries to at least shove them in a closet in her mind so she doesn't have to think about them, she still sees them. She doesn't just see them – she feels them. She tastes them.

She's on a table – a kitchen table. Not her own. She'd never do this in her own kitchen, not even with her mother gone. It would feel too weird. No, she's in Angel's kitchen, flat on her back, panties torn, ankles locked around Angel's waist, some kind of utensil digging into her back, and ohgodohgodohgod – Angel's inside her. It's better than it's ever been. She's not a virgin anymore and they're not worried about an impending apocalypse and it's just about this – this great thing that two bodies can do together. Ohgodohgodohgod. It's never been this good. Not ever. This is better sex than any two people have ever had. It's a fact. Not even Willow with all her cyber skills could find two people who've experienced anything like this. She darts out her tongue to lick the skin of his shoulder.

She tastes sweat.

Vampires don't sweat…do they?

The detail maddens her and it stays with her even as other parts of the dream shift and fade. One restless night, a night where she's tossed to and fro in her bed by the pain of just being – breathing, existing, living– she has another dream… Maybe not a dream, she can't sleep well enough for that without the comfort of tight walls and a covering of earth, but a fevered remembering that at least makes her think for a few moments that she's not the Buffy who clawed her way out of the grave, but the Buffy she was before she ever leapt into the wide, blue yonder.

She's in Riley's room. It's a generic 'frat boy' room, not too different from Parker's (oh god, don't think about Parker – never, ever think about Parker) but she's not thinking about that (not then, but later, much later). No, she's post-slayage and she's horny. Hungry, too, but she's really not in the mood to stop for pizza. She just wants to get Riley out of those clothes and inside *her*. Make the itch go away, celebrate the victory.

It's been a long time since she's had a guy by her side who can at least sort of match her, and if it takes an arsenal of weapons and a supporting cast to get him there, well, she's not gonna think about that right now because that would kill the buzz building between her thighs.

So she doesn't and pretty soon, she's flat on her back in that institutional bed and Riley's inside her. It's good. Really good. Lots better than 'the-one-who-shall-not-be-thought-of-ever-again'. Good enough that she lets go and closes her eyes, let's her tongue touch his skin as she kisses his shoulder.

Her breath catches and her eyes shoot open. Something's wrong. Something's very wrong.

She closes her eyes again and tries to forget.

It all connects to the dream, the real dream – the one she can't remember well enough, the one she wishes she could just let go of and forget. She doesn't know how and she doesn't know why, but it's sitting there, salt and bitter on the tip of a tongue that can't tell the truth to the people who need to hear it…a tongue that rises in songs of bitterness and numbness and a longing for what she left behind – for a place from which she was torn, bleeding from wounds no one but her can see.

No one but her and Spike.

So she lets it happen; lets the chaos take over; lets herself drown in pain and the comfort of someone aching for her in a way she's sure she'll never feel again.

Maybe she hates him. She's not sure. Maybe she just doesn't care at all. It's possible. Her emotions have been reduced to the raw essentials and nuance isn't exactly on the menu. She can fight, she can fuck, and she can forget.

Well, she can forget everything except…

She's lying in Angel's bed and there's ice cream and cookies and nudity. The smell of recent – very recent – sex mingling with the scent of cold and chocolate and sweat. There's magic of a very earthy kind crackling in the air and she can't stop staring into those big, brown eyes. He smiles at her and it's the sexiest thing she's ever seen. The ice cream isn't the only wet thing in this bed right now. "God, I love food."

She says something unimportant in return and they banter about chocolate and peanut butter, but what she's really focusing on is feeding him ice cream and how perfect this moment is, how it's better than those dreams of weddings and babies and *big* moments, because this is real. This is a real moment being shared by a girl and the man she loves.

Ice cream falls onto Angel's chest and she's transfixed by the slow slide of it down flesh now warm with life, a chest that rises and falls with breath after breath.

"Okay, mortal coordination leaving something to be desired," Angel says.

She smiles. "Wrong. It's just right." She shows him just how wrong he is by leaning down and licking it off. The taste… It's the most intoxicating flavor she's ever known. It's ice cream and the taste of Angel's skin – Angel's sweat.

Her eyes are still closed and she turns to the cool body beside her, tongue delicately darting out for just *one*more*taste. All she tastes is cold marble and ash.

In one shrill, piercing scream of a second she gets it – she's sure she gets it. More words from what she'd thought was a dream echo in the cold, dank, depressing air:

"Mmm, this is a dream. You're human…"

But it wasn't a dream, was it? Not the one dream she'd ever had that she couldn't fit tidily into its context. No, it's more than that…

…It's Heaven.

It all makes sense now and she wonders how it could have taken her so long to see. This is where she was before her so-called friends forced her to come back.

She closes her eyes again. For one last scream, she sees Willow's body, limp and dripping with mute, impossible agony, hanging from a meat hook. (She should feel guilty about that; if she were still the girl she was, she would feel guilty about that. She doesn't feel guilty about that…only guilty that she doesn't.)

But there's nothing she can do, is there? She turns and looks at the sleeping mockery beside her – thinks about what is true and what is real, about her sacred duty and how much harder her life will be with this scarifying burden of memory added to an impossible load. There has to be something, some way to fix this. Because she was given a gift, right? Shouldn't she get to keep it? But no…

What did she do? Didn't she save the world enough? Doesn't anyone up there care that she's in pain and she's hurting and that now this memory is slicing her up inside like a thousand knives? Can't she have anything? Just one little thing to make this okay? Not perfect, she's not asking for perfect, but okay…just okay. Okay?

Buffy blinks back the acid in her eyes and she does something she hasn't done since she was a little girl: she prays.

Sleep returns.

When she wakes up, she's shivering and her body aches from sleeping on the hard floor and from fucking Spike for all she's worth. She's blank and cold and all she can think about is how to explain being out all night to Dawn and avoiding annoying questions from anyone else.

The dream (the memory) is gone.

It was never there.

The End.