A/N I hope you all enjoy reading this story as much as I did writing it. It starts a couple of days after Buffy has confessed to Tara about her meetings with Spike. There will be three parts in total. Regards CC.

Preview of part one:

"You're not me!" Buffy cried desperately to her sister. "Steal things, I don't care." Dawn self-consciously felt the lapels of her jacket, the same one she had given Buffy for her birthday. "Have sex even, I don't care….hate me, but don't be me." She held her kid sister by her shoulders. "Don't be me," she pleaded.

Preview of part two:

"I don't know what I was expecting to find," Faith said. She turned to face Buffy. "But I can tell you it certainly wasn't this." She turned away again and looked down at a dark-haired half naked man chained to the far wall. "I have to admit, B you surprised me. I didn't think you'd be into the whole master slave thing." Buffy approached her and stood by her side. "Mind you, I can see the appeal. I've even tried it a few times."

"No," Buffy cut her short. A vision of a blonde vampire flashed across her mind. "No," she repeated with a hint of desperation. "Faith, this is Angel."

"Oh. That clears up the chains question, but opens up a whole lot more."

Preview of part three:

"No! I'll not play their wish-fulfilment games any more. Don't come any closer!" She screamed at him. He ignored her and she didn't stop him as he wrapped his arms round her. "I don't remember this," Buffy cried into his chest. "I can't afford to make up new dreams…..I'm sorry, Angel."

She felt his hands on her shoulders as he gently went to hold her at arms length. She was then pushed violently backwards. She hit a wall hard and collapsed down it to a seated position. She opened her eyes, having closed them momentarily on impact, and saw Angelus looking down at her, a sword in his hand, and the demon, Acathla several feet behind. He lunged with the blade. Buffy only had time to instinctively flinch. The blade pierced her shoulder.

Chapter one

Seeking consolation in Spike's arms was not an option. Not any more. She had told him so only two days ago. By revealing her feelings, her shame, to Tara she realised she had been using the vampire more than the reverse; Spike may love her but she did not love him. She repeated the mantra whenever her mind suggested she seek him out to sate her need for action. She was determined not to use sex to forget.

Buffy leant her weight against a large imposing tomb to some forgotten Sunnydale resident; a hero perhaps or a villain, no-one remembered or cared even. Her face betrayed her thoughts, or the lack of them; a blank expression for the emptiness she felt. She had spent the last years of her childhood and all her adult life so far playing a part she hated. She was stuck in a contract she had been forced to sign under duress with no visible end-date, despite having tried to renege twice. Despite her feelings, however, she needed action. She felt the constant need for it: to seek it out, to relish its adrenaline-high like nectar, anything to make her forget. Sleep and action got her through the blinding sunlit days and the relentless nights.

She needed to fight something. She needed to kill something evil to justify her continued existence. Both were infinitely better than debasing herself. Yet the latter did not seem so bad; sex, after all, was merely a physical act between animals of the same species – mostly. She mourned the loss of her romanticism, adding it to the long list of things she had lost since being forced on this route march. She needed action.

"Hello, Buffy."

She turned her attention to the voice belonging to the person she had heard approaching for several minutes, and sighed dramatically when she realised who it belonged to. "Warren," Buffy acknowledged without enthusiasm. "You're a sore for sighted eyes."

Jonathan and Andrew joined their leader. "It's good to see you again…..all alone," Warren said ominously.

Buffy beamed with genuine amusement. "You're threatening me," she stated rather than asked. "That's so funny, yet quite insulting. Tell me, which should I react to, do you think?" She moved forward two steps.

"Don't move!" Warren shouted. He pulled out a revolver and aimed it at Buffy, his arm outstretched. "Get back!"

"What?" Buffy responded to the contradicting demands. She was annoyed and her body language betrayed her changing mood. She made to move but was jolted backwards. It was several moments before she realised she had been shot in the chest, just below her right shoulder. "You shot me!" She cried incredulous.

"Hey, dude you were supposed to shoot her leg. What's up, did you miss?" Jonathan questioned, with a note of rebellion.

"This will make it quicker," Warren preached. He returned his attention to his victim. Buffy had backed herself to the wall of the mausoleum and slid to the ground. Her eyes stared straight ahead, a mixture of shock and curiosity at the sudden development. The mix of emotions being conveyed and the fact that she was extraordinarily attractive momentarily threw him. "You didn't expect that did you?" He finally plucked up the courage to say.

Buffy looked up at him. "Yea, but you shot me," she repeated. "Super-human strength or not, it still hurts," she added coming to her senses. "First you say don't move or you'll shoot, then you say move, then you shoot me. Do you even have a plan?"

"Oh yes, most definitely, and it's just started." He turned away from Buffy. "Come on, guys, now we wait," he said cryptically. The three would-be crime-lords left Buffy slumped against the tomb.

"Did no-one ever tell you not to turn your back on a wounded animal," Buffy called after them, but was ignored. She rested her head against the stonework. Her chest hurt and the violent throbbing of the wound made her head pound. She wrapped her coat round herself, covering the bloodstained blouse to keep warm. She looked up at the stars; a field of diamonds laid out, it seemed, for her benefit alone. "Pretty," she said childlike and closed her eyes.

When she opened them the first thing she saw was Spike.

She stared up at him as he stood over her. Eventually she held up her hand. Spike took it and pulled her to her feet. Buffy's shoulder erupted as gravity fought against his strength. It eased only slightly when the vampire released his grip and she stood unaided. He still seemed to tower over her, though.

"Thank you," she offered. "What're you doing here? This isn't your neighbourhood."

"House hunting…...you blew my last one up, remember?"

"Only the basement. The ground floor is still half presentable."

"If a tad unsafe structurally."

Buffy smiled despite feeling uncomfortable in his company so soon after their last conversation. She edged pass him.

"What's up, don't you trust me?"

She turned round. "I trust you…I just don't trust me." She turned again to walk away.

"Just tell me you don't' miss me." He took a few steps forward and called after her. "Look me in the eyes and tell me you don't want to throw me against that wall and…."

"Please!" She begged. She stopped but did not turn around.

"You can't live without me," Spike persisted. "I'm your fire; your reason for continuing your existence…."

Buffy swung round. "But that's all it is! An existence. Our relationship..…it isn't even a relationship!I…...I hurt you. We have sex and I hurt you and…..I enjoy both."

"I get a special kind of pleasure from it as well."

"Stop it!" Buffy pleaded. "You know what I mean. You're not that obtuse." Spike walked up to her. He gently stroked her hair and she leant into the caress. "It's not fair," she whispered. "I opened my heart to you last time and you still play me," she continued as Spike guided her to the wall. He ran his hand down her body. "I can't love you," she said.

"You never say you don't, just you can't."

"I….it's just sex. I enjoy the sex."

"I believe you. No-one is that good at faking it." Buffy flinched at the crudeness of the remark and edged along the wall out of his grip. "It's more than just the sex," Spike persisted.

"No!" She cried, partly to convince herself. "I don't love you! I…..don't," she repeated barely audible.

"I don't believe you."

"Do you want it in writing?" A third voice interrupted. "Leave her alone already."

Vampire and slayer turned to the newcomer as he appeared from behind the tomb. Buffy wanted to cry out when she saw Xander standing before them. She wanted to flee, but that never accomplished anything; she always ended up returning. "How long…?"

"Long enough," her friend replied and turned to leave.

"Xander, wait," Buffy pleaded and pursued him. She found Willow and Anya waiting for them and stopped in her tracks. Agonising seconds passed as friends faced off. Buffy felt a rare sense of helplessness and did not like it. "Please don't look at me like that." She sensed Willow's disappointment and Anya's contempt, and a mixture of both from Xander. "You don't know how hard it's been..…I needed a release…..something to…don't judge me!" She changed suddenly when she could not bare the silence any longer. "I won't be judged by you!" Spike joined the scene. Buffy looked to him briefly. "I haven't done anything wrong," she said softly. She then saw Dawn.

"Buffy….." Dawn started.

Spike went to his ex-lover's side. Xander grabbed him by the shoulder but the vampire twisted the grip into one if his own, causing the younger man to bend with the strain it put on his back. "Believe me, it would be worth a splitting headache to hurt you," Spike said with a menace none of them had heard from him for a long time.

"You brought Dawn?" Buffy asked taking everyone by surprise. The look in her eyes scared them. "You brought Dawn on patrol with you." This time it was a dangerous accusation, made more frightening by having Spike standing beside her.

"We're not on patrol, Buffy," Willow said.

"It's OK," Dawn added. "I came prepared." She produced a stake from her jacket pocket.

Buffy was caught off guard again and her earlier menace drained from her face to be replaced by horror. "Throw that away," she commanded. "Get rid of it. Throw it away!" She half ordered, half cried. "Please."

"Why?" Dawn asked shocked at her sister's reaction. "I'm older than you were when you started…."

"You're not me!" Buffy cried desperately. "Steal things, I don't care." Dawn self-consciously felt the lapels of her jacket, the same one she had given Buffy for her birthday. "Have sex even, I don't care….hate me, but don't be me." She held her kid sister by her shoulders. "Don't be me," she pleaded.

"Buffy," Willow said from behind. "We came looking for you…your father phoned."

Buffy looked questioningly to her sister. "It's true, Buffy," Dawn confirmed. "He's coming tonight."

Buffy stepped back. "William, would you take Dawn home, please?"

"William!" Xander spat in disgust at the familiarity.

"Shut up, Xander," Dawn said. She went to Spike's side. "Aren't you coming home too?" She directed at her sister.

"Later. I'll be there later." She walked away from the gathering. No one went to stop her.

Spike took Dawn's hand and they both made to leave. Xander grabbed his arm again. "Do you have any more secrets you want let us in on?"

"We all have our secrets," the vampire responded cryptically, but with a knowing expression that agitated the younger man.

"And what is that supposed to mean?"

"I'm just thinking, way back when Buffy went to stop Angelus from opening that portal, and you went to meet her…..well I wonder whether she received all the info she needed then." Spike watched his words have their effect; Xander stepped back remembering the moment all too well. "It's not so much the secrets themselves, White Knight, but why we feel we can never confide them to our friends."


Buffy had been standing behind the tree in front of her house for over an hour before she decided to finally enter. In that time she had resolved to be nice; to be welcoming. When she opened the front door, however, and saw her father with her sister, all her good intentions disappeared.

"Buffy!" Dawn welcomed with relief. "Daddy's home."

"Oh good, an adult."

"It's good to see you, Buffy." Hank made to approach his eldest daughter.

Buffy moved to the side. "I'll put some coffee on."

"How are you?" He asked not oblivious to her avoidance.

She turned to face him. "What are you doing here, father?" Buffy asked wearily whilst rubbing her eyes.

"What sort of….I heard that you had been hurt…."

"Well, you can see I'm fine now. Mom's still dead though."

"I know and I'm so sorry…."

"Thank you for that. Now, to the coffee." She entered the kitchen to find Spike drinking. She giggled manically. "I wonder what my dad would say if he saw you drinking that."

"I'd say it was cranberry juice," he suggested. "And offer him a glass."

Buffy laughed genuinely. Dawn then joined them. "What were you doing in there?" The younger Summers girl demanded. "Could you be more unwelcoming!"

"I don't need a father…..I need a Watcher."

"I need a father," Dawn almost pleaded, ignoring her sister's near silent entreaty. "I need a sister too."

"I'm sorry. It's just I have so much anger bottled up. Where has he been, Dawn? I just freaked when I saw him near you, as though the last year hadn't happened."

"I know," Dawn placated, comforting her as though she were the elder. "I have a list of questions as well, but…..not tonight, huh? He's home, Buffy. Make peace before we interrogate." She smiled.

They both left the kitchen. Buffy held Dawn back briefly. "You know I wasn't serious this evening….about you having sex, that is."

"I sorta guessed that, and…..about you and Spike, I…I'm happy you found someone when you needed to."


A few minutes later Buffy stood a few feet from her father. "I'm sorry for my earlier….poor hospitality," she offered awkwardly. "It's been a bad day, which started really early."

"It's OK, Buffy," Hank said as he made up the gap and embraced his daughter.

"You're here to stay, right? To look after Dawn."


"Good. I'm glad." She broke away. "I'm tired. I really must get some sleep."

"Of course. Sleep well, dear. We'll talk more tomorrow."

Buffy reached half way up the stairs and stopped. Her chest hurt like fire and her legs felt fit to fail her each step she took. She had barely made it back to the house. Her bedroom door was visible and she looked longingly at it. It would be so easy to just lie down, Buffy thought. But, running away never achieved anything; she always returned. She also heard Dawn's earlier words echo in her head. She turned round. "Spike, would you take me to the hospital?"

"I wondered if you'd get round to asking." Buffy looked puzzled. "You're bleeding….I kind of have a heightened sense for that."

"You're bleeding….." Hank copied.


Buffy lay unconscious on her hospital bed; electrodes and tubes attached to monitor her vital signs and drip feed her drugs to keep her alive.

"I don't understand," Hank said for the third time. "She was fine when we brought her in."

"The doctor said the bullet had a hollow casing….some drug was released into her bloodstream," Xander explained having returned from speaking with the medical staff. He knew them quite well, having spent many an hour at the hospital during past crisis.

"But why did she take so long to tell us she had been shot…..and who shot her? Does she have a death wish or something?"

No-one replied.


Some time later, Warren stood over the still comatose slayer. "You kept us waiting. I expected you here hours ago. What, do you have a death wish or something?" He leant over the bed and placed an electrode to each temple. "Still, at least you're quiet now….none of your usual sarcasm," he added crouching down to plug in a small metal box to the mains supply. "Sweet dreams, slayer."

Minutes later he sat in his van with his partners in crime.

"Did you connect everything?" Jonathan asked nervously.

"No, I thought we'd try hypnotism instead. Of course I did! Now sit down, Frodo and be impressed." Warren flicked a switch. He leant forward and spoke into a long slim microphone. "Can you hear me, Buffy?"

"Warren, is that you?" Buffy's voice responded loud and clear from a speaker suspended from the roof of the van.

"Yes!" He celebrated. "Science beats magic!"

"Why can't I feel my lips move when I talk?" Buffy asked.

"Because you're thinking, not talking, stupid."

"I'm gonna hit you in a min…why can't I feel my arms move? OK, explain."

"It's called…..well, actually it's not called anything. I haven't named it yet. Wow, this is so cool, I get to name something."


"Alright already. The guys and me are having a video evening."

"And where do I come in?" Buffy asked.

"You're the video."

"Come again?"

"I think I'll call it a dream reader or, perhaps dream viewer." He flicked another switch. "You're going to dream and we're going to watch."

"Thank you! Finally an explanation. Why is it the bad guys always take so long to….hey what's happening? Where am I?"

to be continued