Beneath You Still

Written by Phoebe

Content/Rating: I'm calling this an R. Not because of the content of this chapter, which is probably no more than a PG…but I know if I continue on it will rate higher, so why take a chance? There are some adult themes in here, some violence…nothing major. Slight spuffiness at the end.

Spoilers: "Lessons" and "Beneath You". Please don't read if you haven't seen the seventh season and don't want to be spoiled.

Disclaimer: Not mine.

Summary: The ending of "Beneath You" was pretty abrupt. This is my version of what may have happened after the screen faded to black.

Feedback: I just finished watching the episode "Beneath You" when I wrote this. I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, if anywhere. I'm not even sure if it is deserving of a sequel. It wasn't planned…just jotted down out of nowhere for no real purpose except that it wanted to be written. I would appreciate any comments you guys might have on this…any suggestions as to whether I should continue on or shelve it.

Beneath You Still

Part One

"Can—can we rest now? Buffy…? Can we rest?"

The words were a jumble of confusion in her head, fused somehow with the scent of his flesh burning as the crucifix scalded it. For a moment Buffy stood rooted to the floor, staring down the aisle of the church as if watching a movie. He had draped himself over the cross, embracing it as though it were a person, a thing to offer him comfort. Smoke billowed over his hunched shoulders, snaking lazily over to where Buffy stood, encircling her like a snare.

She closed the space between them in a millisecond, dragging him off the crucifix with a hard yank on one arm. He fell to the floor and didn't get up. His arms were crossed over his chest but she could still see glimpses of his charred flesh, could still smell the sick sweet odor that hung in the air all around them. She was crying. Tears slid down her face, quietly at first, then accompanied by small whimpering sounds. She kicked him in the side with the toe of her shoe. Hard. He didn't even flinch.

"Idiot!" she sobbed, kicking him again. Hard. Harder. She was trying to draw a reaction from him, trying to bring him back to himself, but he only lay there. On his back, arms folded over his chest, he looked like the dead thing he was. It frightened her, him being dead. "GET UP!" she screamed.

"Did I hurt you?" he asked. His voice was so soft she could barely hear it, hoarse and choked with pain. He was staring up at the ceiling, oblivious to her abuse. "Did I hurt you, love?"

She slid to the floor, onto her knees at his side and sobbing. She touched his chest, pressing both palms against the blistered flesh where the crucifix had touched him. "Why are you doing this to me?"

"Shouldn't have come back," he said, and she knew from his tone he wasn't talking to her. "Shouldn't have come here. Animals die in the desert all the time. Heat. Sun. Dry. Burn. Death. Death in the sun…shouldn't have come home. Where is home?"

She pulled her hands away but he grabbed her wrists, forced them back onto the burn, pressing down.

"Make it hurt. Need the pain, love. Deserve the hurt."

"No—" she pulled her hands away. "I don't want to hurt you, Spike."

"Used to hate you," he said. "Used to want to dead in the worst way. Dead and gone and out of here." He smacked the side of his head with the heel of his hand. "Wanted you out of here but you wouldn't go. Made your bed all nice and lovely and wouldn't leave me. Dru left me—because of you! All I had, Dru was, and she left me. Alone. Wanted you dead but I couldn't do it. WHY COULDN'T I DO IT?" His voice rose to a scream so loud the stained glass windows rattled. "TELL ME WHY I COULDN'T KILL YOU!"

He rolled onto his side, onto his feet. "Death. I live in the action of death. Then. Not now. You wouldn't let me. Tried to be good but you wouldn't let me do that either. What does it take? Where does it lead you? Where do I go? You want me gone but you won't let me leave—you pull me back when I try." He glanced at the crucifix as he spoke, and his voice dropped down low, almost a whisper now. "Let me go, Buffy."

"I am not letting you kill yourself!" she snapped, rising. She grabbed his arm in a rough grip that hurt them both. She tried to pull him a safe distance away from the altar but he shook her hand off. When she reached again he smacked her. She picked herself up off the ground and smacked him back, twice as hard. He went reeling against the wall.

"Why are you doing this?" she demanded, grabbing his shoulders and shoving him against the cracked plaster. "Why?"

"Well…duh…" He looked at her almost pityingly for a moment. Almost tender. Then he screamed, "BECAUSE I AM INSANE!"

He jerked away from her, turned against the wall to hide his face. "Can't you see that? I'm all…gone. Where did I go?"

"You're not insane!" she shouted back. "You're just fucking up your mind so you won't have to deal with the consequences of what you did!"

"Not dealing? I'm not—I'm not—I'm not dealing?" He spun around to face her. His cheeks were smeared with grime and tears. He grabbed her hand, forced it against his chest, first the cuts then the burns. "You call this not dealing?"

"No I don't! I call it a childish self indulgence. You feel bad inside so you have to hurt yourself outside? That's not insane…it's just stupid."

"It's for YOU! It's all for you! Do you think I like being this way?" His voice broke. "I hate it. I hate being this way. But I do these things for you…to make you love me. I'm making me hurt the way I made you hurt…I'm saving you the effort. Thought you'd at least appreciate it."

"What I would appreciate is for you to stop screaming and talk to me like a normal person."

He bowed his head, grabbing a handful of hair and pulling. "No…" he moaned. "Not now. She's here. Gotta talk. Gotta talk. Gotta talk. Gotta explain. Let me explain. I earned that. No…no…NO TALKING! SHUT THE HELL UP!"

She managed to grab his arm before his slugged himself in the head. "Spike, get a grip!"

"Make it stop. Make it stop. Make it—make it—make it STOP!" He whirled around, began pacing the length of the small church like a caged animal. "Can I? Can I talk now? Can I? It's MY TURN! I raised my hand! Why"—he turned to Buffy, wild-eyed—"why don't you call on me?"

"Spike…"

"Am I gone? Did I go? Where did I—when did I—why— Am I? Am I—did you send me away? Did you want me to go? WELL DID YOU?"

"SPIKE!"

Buffy grabbed his arms, held them to his sides. He squirmed but she was stronger. She pushed him down to the floor, straddled him so he couldn't move. She leaned down, staring right into those feverish eyes. "You have to stop. I won't talk to you unless you calm down. Do you want me to leave?"

His dark blue eyes flickered with comprehension. "Don't go," he whispered. "Don't leave me. I'm alone when you go. Alone with them—with it. They'll kill me when you're gone. Mark my words they will. All dead—deader than now, even. Don't leave me alone, Buffy. I need you."

Her grip on his arms loosened a little. "Then calm down…please. I can't talk to you when you're like that. I want to talk to you. Will you let me?"

"Talk," he whispered. "Talk. Talk to me. Please talk to me. Let me know I'm not dead. Not gone. Not…" Tears welled up in his eyes. Spilled over. He started sobbing.

Buffy didn't know what to do. She felt confused, torn. She wanted to run away, find a place, a quiet place to hide. She needed to take it all in, to figure it out. But he was here now. Crying. Beneath her.

She released his arms.

"Spike…don't…Don't do this…"

'"It hurts," he moaned. "God please make it stop. Make the pain stop." His hands grappled at the burns on his chest.

Buffy pushed them away gently. "Don't touch it. We'll—we'll go to my house. Fix it up. It won't hurt after we fix it up some."

"Not that. Not there. Not outside. Inside. Deep inside it hurts. It burns."

"Is that what you were trying to cut out? The pain?"

He nodded, his face twisted into a grimace. "Deep. So deep down. I couldn't find it so deep down. Then. But maybe now…maybe later. I'll find it. Make it leave. Make it stop. Make it die."

"You can't cut it out, Spike, the pain…the guilt. You can't make it leave."

He sniffed, wiped at the streaming tears with one grubby hand. "Don't you think I know that? I've known it all along. But a bloke can dream can't he? He can try…"

"No. He can't try." Buffy cupped his face in her hands, tilting his head up so she could meet his gaze. "You can't try. Not anymore. Do you understand?"

"I understand," he said. "You don't. It's coming for you—I can feel it. Rising out of the earth with jaws bared and hungry. It wants you. That's why it's here. It's why I'm here. I was called here…to protect you from it…"

"Called by what?"

"By me. I felt it. We all feel it…rising…angry. I couldn't leave it to you. Not alone. I came back. Went to where it was—went to guard it, you see. Wanted to know what it was up to all the time. But it's powerful. More than I thought. More than I can handle. It…comes to me. Alone at night. It shows me things. I can't control it. It's going to get away—it's going to come. And when it does…"

"What is it?" Buffy tried to keep the note of panic out of her tone, but it wasn't easy. Everything seemed to be falling apart at once.

Spike shook his head slightly. "Can't answer that question, love."

"Does it have a name?"

"Not one any of us care to remember."

"Why you? Why does it come to you?"

"Because I am a traitor. It knows, you see. I'm trying to be good…and now is not a good time to be a good guy. It wants me. It wants me back. Wants me evil. Wants me dead. Take your pick. Might be all three."

She swallowed, hardly noticed when he dared to brush the tears from her cheeks with the back of his hand. "How long?"

"Not long. Month…months maybe. It grows impatient." He saw the expression on her face and hastened to add, "I'll protect you! To the ends of the earth. Not like last time. Better. I won't save you late. I won't let you go. It will never touch you, Buffy, as long as I am around to stop it."

She pressed her fingertips to his mouth. He was talking too much, too fast, about to many different subjects. It was confusing her, scaring her. She had to stop. She had to think. She needed to think. She climbed off of him.

Spike watched as she slowly made her way over to the largest of the windows, looking out on the darkness with a dazed expression. He didn't get up. He only lay there, watching her. "Did I hurt you?"

"What do you mean?" Her voice was as dazed as her eyes. She seemed overwhelmed by everything he had told her, shell-shocked.

"When I touched you—the—the flashlight—we touched when I…. We touched. Did I hurt you?"

"Yes."

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to. Touch you, I mean. I didn't mean to."

"I know."

Spike got to his feet. He pressed a punishing finger into his burn as he said, "I didn't mean to…hurt you…in the bathroom. That night. I didn't go there to hurt you. You didn't—and I—lost control—couldn't stop even if I wanted to. And I did want to."

"I don't want to talk about that!" She closed her eyes, trying to banish the painful mental images. "You—things change. You've changed since then. Just…leave it alone. I'm not angry. Just don't talk to me about it!"

That wasn't an absolution and both of them knew it. He hung his head.

"I'll go—"

"No!" Her voice was so vehement it startled them both. "I—I mean…no. Don't go. Please. Come with me—part of the way, at least. Walk with me."

He nodded. They walked out of the church, both of them forgetting about his shirt which had been left on the dusty floor. His burns leaked fluid as he moved, glistening and hot in the moonlight.

They were halfway to her house before Buffy spoke again. "Will you help me?"

"Help you what?"

"Defeat it. You say it talks to you. You know what it's planning, what it wants. Will you help me?"

"It's why I came."

She watched his face as they moved. He seemed calmer now, sane. Yet she knew just underneath the surface something was waiting to explode. She wanted to help him—wanted it so badly it hurt. But she couldn't. She had too many other things, too many other people she was responsible for. She couldn't take on this one, too. She didn't have the strength.

"Don't have to." His voice in the dark sounded strange to her, so calm and matter of fact. She wondered for a moment if he was even speaking to her.

"What?" she asked. They were near her block now so she stopped, reluctant to let her friends see him walking her to the door.

"You don't have to have the strength. I don't need your strength. I have plenty of strength. What I need is heart. Your heart. If you give me that I don't need anything else to help me along the way." All of this was said quietly, completely without expression.

She stared at him. "How did you know what I was thinking?"

He laughed—a short, sharp laugh that made her heart jump. "I know you. You're…inside me. All the time you're inside me. Can't hide much from me when you're always in here can you?" He put his hand to his heart to show her what he meant. "I can feel it…what you're feeling. It hurts me to feel it but I do. I'll make it all right if you'll just let me stay. I need to stay. Your heart…it's the only home I have. I need it."

She had expected this sooner or later. She even had a little speech all planned out to tell him. A speech that would let him know, once and for all, that she could never love him, never trust him again. She opened her mouth to deliver it, but he spoke first.

"You don't have to do anything. Or say anything. Or even feel anything. Just…let me stay, Buffy. That's all. Just let me stay."

She nodded. Before she even had time to think about it, she nodded. She leaned her forehead against the uninjured part of his shoulder, allowing herself the luxury of feeling close to him for just an instant. Then she pulled away. "I have to go home. The others need me."

He nodded. She could feel his eyes on her as she turned away. She had walked maybe twenty feet away when she heard him say, "Buffy?"

She paused to look over her shoulder. He was standing a distance away, watching her. His eyes were open now, honest—sane. His hands were at his sides and not weapons to hurt her with. His voice was low, a little apprehensive, as he spoke.

"May I love you? Even if—even if you don't ever love me back. Even if you never acknowledge it. May I love you?"

She hesitated just a moment. Nodded.

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The End.

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