Ring on her Finger

By Nickeltaffy

Disclaimer: I would like to thank Joss for the use of his characters. They are still his and will never be mine. (heavy sigh).

Chapter 29

"Hey, Willow! What did the weatherman say the weather was going to be tonight?" Buffy called out against the thunderous golden squall that surrounded her.

When the rushing turbulence finally dissipated, Buffy caught herself as she staggered against the sudden change. Blinking her watery eyes, she looked down to see that the edges of her shoes were obscured by about an inch of sand. That's funny, she thought, she wasn't at the beach. She froze, and clinched her eyes shut as she slowly brought her head up, almost dreading to what she would see. Wincing, she dared to open one eye to peak out where she was. Okay, that's totally weird, she thought. She closed it again and then opened the other eye to see if the view improved. She quickly shut that eye as well. Taking a deep breath, she stood there with both eyes closed for a moment to consider the situation she found herself in

"Okay, Buffy. You're obviously experiencing some kind of hallucination. There were lots of drugs in the Initiative. You could have easily gotten jabbed with a needle during all the business." Buffy muttered. "In a moment, you're going to open your eyes and see your friend Willow standing on the sidewalk waiting for you. Okay? One, two, three… "Buffy opened both eyes and calmly took in the scene in front of her.

"Oh, crap!" she groaned as she flung up her hand in frustration.

She saw she was standing in the middle of a long hallway sided on each side with towering tan colored stone walls. She quickly turned about in a wildly spinning circle as she looked all around her. Finally stopping, she craned her neck to see if she could see anything down the hallway but did not see anything but more sand and stone. She slowly looked up to see that the walls were made immense fitted cut stones that seemed to extend beyond her line of sight into a white murky haze. Looking back down, she huffed as she crossed her arms in front of her to think. As her arms were folded over her chest, she noticed her fist was still wrapped around the ring. She opened her hand and brought it up to her face. As she looked at the red stone ring lying so innocuous in her pale hand, she tilted her head in contemplation.

"Are you the reason for all this trouble?" She asked the ring, as if expecting an answer.

She jumped when she heard the sound of motion down the hallway. Without thinking, she dropped her hand and shoved the ring into the front pocket of her pants as she began to follow the sound.

"Hello? Anyone there? " She called as she rambled down the hallway toward the sound.

She prayed that she wasn't making a bad decision here as she moved quickly down the endless hallway. The sound continued to beckon her forward, but always staying just ahead of her. Finally, out of breath, she blundered into a large room. In the center of the room there was a large pool of water appearing in the middle of the floor. On the other side of the pool, a figure stood draped in a large cloak, so neither face or hands could be seen.

"Oh! Hello." Buffy gulped as she stared at the figure which made no gesture of acknowledging the slayer. Rolling her eyes, she added. "So, do you guys put on the Christmas Carol every year?"

There was no reaction from the cloaked figure to her jibe. It stood solemnly on the other side of the pool, not moving or speaking. Buffy wrinkled her face as she stared at the enigmatic form and let out a little sigh of annoyance.

"Okay, you got me here. What do you want?" Buffy stated, placing her hands on her hips.

Then slowly, the figure lifted its arm and pointed to the pool.

"You want me to look in the pool? Okay, I guess." Buffy shuffled her feet as she began to hesitantly get closer to the pool. "But if something grabs me, I'm knocking you out!" She warned, pointing her finger at the figure.

She looked quickly at the figure on the other side that hadn't moved. Swallowing uncomfortably, she looked down in the water as she put her hands on her knees and knelt over the pool. She could see nothing in the dark water of the pool when she first peered into it. She raised her eyes at the figure briefly before sighing and looking back down.

"Okaaay, I'm looking. What exactly am I supposed to see?" Buffy groused with an irritated sigh.

As she looked into the darkness, she could begin to see the bare outline of a man lying unconscious. It was as if she was looking down from a great height. At the murkiness began to recede, she could begin to make out details. It wasn't until she saw the light bounce off the platinum hair that she recognized who it was.

"Spike!" Buffy called out.

…..

As he came to, Spike didn't know how long he had been lying there. Spike felt his body floating as if suspended on a slow current of water. Everything around him felt rather insubstantial; there was feeling of drifting that he was in no hurry to disrupt. He found that the idea of lying there on his back with no ambition of moving quite tempting. He was brought out of his daze by a flash of excruciating pain emanating from his chest. He brought up his fumbling hand to the location of the pain in the center of his chest. He blinked when his hand finally found the source of the pain. He lay there as he let his hand transmit the information about the source of the pain. His fingers wound around an object sticking out of him. It was a thin knobby...reed?

He lifted his head to look at what was in his hand. A groan escaped him as he recognized what it was. It was one of those bloody darts the Scooby gits were shooting all over the place. Wouldn't you know someone would get hurt, that someone would usually be him. He grumbled under his breath as he wrapped his hand around the shaft of the dart to extract it. Holding his breath, he pulled at the dart. Nothing happened. He gave it another good series of tugs...still it did not move. Resettling his shoulders and gritting his teeth, he repositioned his fingers for one tremendous effort to remove the dart. He threw all his vampire strength behind the attempt. For several minutes, he fought against the pain in his determined effort to yank the intrusive projectile from his body. Finally, panting with exertion, he surrendered to the idea that the small arrow would not budge from his chest.

"Buggar." He spat as he pulled his mouth into a thin line.

Planting his hands behind him, he pushed up to a sitting position and looked down at the arrow. It must be caught on a bone. It was just millimeters away from his heart. If he had a bloody knife, he could have cut it out of him…oh well, if wishes were horses… Rubbing his forehead, he decided that he would just have to make do with the damnable thing sticking in him.

Spike lifted his head and looked around the strange landscape around him to see where he was. He quickly remembered the last thing that happened in the Initiative. He glanced around quickly, hoping not to see Buffy. He didn't see her, in fact, he didn't see anyone. Good, he thought, the Slayer was safe. He turned and pushed up to his feet. He stood up, brushing his hands as he decided that it was time to get on with it. With all the swagger he could muster, he leaned back and yelled.

"Come on out, you bloody poofter! Let's see how you dance!"

"Spike! Spike!" Buffy yelled at the water as she fell to her knees beside it. She watched him wake and slowly move. "Can you hear me? It's me, Buffy! Spike!"

When she didn't see him respond, she knew he couldn't hear her. She watched him wrestle with the arrow in his chest. Frantically, Buffy plunged her hands into the water to try to reach him, but only disrupt the scene in the water. She sat back and pulled her hands back into her lap as she impatiently waited the water to still.

"I can't reach him!" She moaned as her shoulders fell in defeat, placing her forehead in her hand. Suddenly, her head whipped up and she glared at the figure across the pool.

"Is this what you want me to see? I don't understand! Why go to all the trouble to bring me here if I can't do anything?" She snapped as anger filled her eyes. "All I can do is sit here and watch Spike get destroyed. Why? To what purpose?"

The figure did not respond, but continued to stand like a statue on the other side of the pool. Buffy looked up and felt her emotions begin to overwhelm her, as she let out a huge sigh of anguish. She slowly shook her head as her eyes tickled with tears. Bringing up the back of her hand, she wiped the beginning of a tear that was about to fall from her eye. As she did that, she looked back down and her eyes fell back to the pool. She saw Spike resign himself to the state of the arrow sticking out of his chest and determinedly pull himself to his feet. A small smile pulled at the corner of her mouth as she saw him pull all his old arrogance in stance. She could see him lean back and puff out his chest. She heard him yell the taunt toward his opponent to make an appearance.

She sat there for a moment staring at Spike, knowing that she might soon be witnessing his death. It seemed to cause an ache in her right down to the middle of her bones. Becoming aware of the turmoil going on inside her, she began to examine her feelings about Spike. Why was she getting so upset? It was just Spike. Giving herself a little shake, she thought that she was getting too carried away. It was the whole big dramatic scene getting to her. She needed to reaffirm her parameters about how she felt about Spike.

"Get a hold of yourself, Buffy. You're the Slayer and he's just a dumb vampire." Buffy lectured herself as she wrapped her arms around her body. "It's not like you really care."

The figure reached up and pulled the head back from the cloak. It revealed a thirtyish looking woman with long dark blonde hair pulled back in a Victorian hairstyle.

"No, I believe you do care." Aunt Charlotte responded. "You care quite a bit."