|Story Title:||Miles To Go Before I Sleep|
If I Knew Then
William is afraid that Buffy really wants Spike and not him. Bess tries to hold onto her very life as regrets for missed opportunities and a lost future spur her on.
Music Referenced: If I Knew Then, Lady Antebellum http://youtu.be/SGhWO-HsoL8
|Thanks:||Giant thanks to Anona for betaing this chapter, including her grammatical and punctuation corrections, wonderful commentary, and final review. Also thanks to Capella42 for her insightful suggestions that made the whole story better. All mistakes are mine because I simply cannot stop fiddling right up to the last moment.|
|Rating / Warnings:||
NC17. Content is only suitable for mature adults. Contains explicit language, sex, adult themes, and other adult situations that some people may find objectionable. If you are under the age of 17 or find any of these themes objectionable – GO AWAY.
Sunday, May 8th, 2011, Gift-less Universe:
“It’s like … ummm … tomato juice,” Buffy explained to William as he eyed the mug of thick, red liquid suspiciously. “Try it, I know you’ll like it,” she encouraged him, pressing it into his hand.
William smelled it. “It doesn’t smell like any sort of juice I’ve ever encountered,” he protested with furrowed brows.
“Just trust me. You’ll love it,” Buffy cajoled sweetly, feeling like she was trying to talk Billy into eating green peas. No! Gross! They squish like eyeballs! Blech!
There had been no sign that anyone had come through the portal at ground zero, so the trio came back to base camp. Spike said he’d take a note back there and leave it on the altar along with a map so when her friends did come, they could find their way to them. By the time the trio of Spike, William, and Buffy had gotten back from looking for Bess, all the red muck had morphed back into harmless, dry, glittery dust. Andrew had dried off all the holy water in Room 314 and gathered some plywood and two-by-fours to make a new make-shift door in case the Reds came back. It wouldn’t hold the large vampires for long, but the splintering wood would give everyone inside the room warning of the Reds’ arrival, at least. And now Buffy was trying to get William to drink some blood.
“Please? For me?” Buffy gave him her best smile.
William sighed and melted – he never could resist that smile. He lifted the mug to his lips and the demon within surfaced without him even realizing it. He guzzled the blood down furiously and handed the mug back to Buffy eagerly.
“Perhaps … I was a bit quick to judge,” he admitted abashedly.
“Would you like some more?” she asked hopefully.
“If it … I mean … I wouldn’t want to impose on our … hosts or appear a glutton,” William stammered.
“It’s ok, they don’t mind. I’ll be right back.” Buffy took the mug and headed off in search of Andrew. The next mug would not be animal blood. William needed something stronger, something to heal his mind quickly – he needed Slayer blood.
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” Andrew balked at Buffy’s request to draw her blood. They were standing in a small kitchenette within the ‘suite’ that he and Warren had created in Room 314. Apparently Warren’s talent with all things mechanical earned him the largest accommodations in the community – larger and more lavish even than the leaders.
“I didn’t ask your opinion. He needs it. Either you draw it or I’ll slash my wrist and draw it myself,” she threatened.
Andrew made a pained expression. “Owww!” he exclaimed, rubbing a hand over his own wrist. It hurt him just thinking about it.
“You lost a lot of blood to the Reds not twenty-four hours ago,” he reminded her. “I don’t think…”
Buffy started rummaging through the drawers looking for a knife.
“Ok! Ok!” Andrew acquiesced and Buffy stopped pulling out drawers. “But not a pint – just one mug … half a pint. Then maybe tomorrow another mug, ok?”
“Fine – do it.”
Later, while William got a shower, Spike helped Buffy bring in a mattress from another room and Andrew found some dry sheets and blankets to put on it. The mattress was wet – pretty much everything was wet, but they flipped it over and it wasn’t too bad. Except for the lovely periods of unconsciousness, she couldn’t remember how long it had been since she’d slept. She wasn’t really even sure how long she’d been here. Shouldn’t someone have come looking for her by now? Certainly Annie could show them where the portal was. Or were they all too busy looking for Spike, Bess, and Angel – unaware that they were here too?
Then she got a cold feeling deep inside her. What if Warren had done something to them … what if he had hurt her friends, or put them under a spell or something? What if they didn’t even realize she was gone? Had he been the one that had dropped her back through the portal? Her gut said he was the most likely suspect; she didn’t just fall in all by herself. She would have to interrogate Andrew later to find out just what Warren was capable of, magical and otherwise.
Spike pulled her out of her thoughts when he stated flatly, “You lied.”
Buffy blinked and stopped her task of putting the sheets on the mattress. “I what?”
“You bloody well lied,” he repeated. “You said you were married to Spike. You made me think …” his voice broke and his jaw clenched. He didn’t know why it hurt him so much to think that she had lied about that, but it did. Perhaps he just wanted to think that somewhere, in some world, he was worthy of her love. Spike was worthy. “You lied,” he said again in a deep, hoarse voice.
Buffy shook her head and stood up from the floor where she’d been working. “No, I didn’t. I am married to Spike.”
“That,” Spike spat, waving an arm in the general direction of the bathroom, “is not Spike.”
Buffy took a deep breath and blew it out. “He’s not himself … it’s a long story – some of which I don’t even know. I didn’t lie to you.”
“I’m not gettin’ any older,” he informed her, folding his arms over his chest and looking at her expectantly.
Buffy rolled her eyes and sighed. “Fine,” she acquiesced. She took a deep breath and tried to come up with a Cliff’s Notes version of what had happened. “While I was here with Annie, he and Bess and Angel were fighting a big demon octopus … sound familiar? Apparently Tara’s mojo was stronger than she thought,” she began with a tone of accusation in her voice.
When Spike didn’t reply or even act like he noticed the venom in her voice, she continued, “Spike was swallowed by it – he’s been immersed in an acid bath this whole time, while Bess and Angel tried to rescue him. He began hallucinating … about the past. About … London and – it’s really complicated, but he thinks he’s William. He thinks I’m his wife from 1890, Avengelyne … he doesn’t remember being Spike … yet.
“I didn’t lie. I married Spike – I married a warrior with the heart of a sweet, romantic man.” Buffy stepped forward and laid a hand softly on the side of Spike’s face, meeting his eyes with hers. “If things had been different here … if the battle with Glory hadn’t claimed so many lives, one day she would’ve loved you too.”
Spike averted his eyes and stepped back. The fluttering in his chest that he had fought since the first day he’d laid eyes on the Slayer exploded like an exaltation of larks taking flight in a single whoosh of shining wings. It was actually physically painful and he wrapped his arms around his torso to keep his ribcage from exploding. Words escaped him – thoughts escaped him. Spike turned quickly and ran right into William, who had been standing unnoticed in the doorway behind him. Spike powered past his doppelganger and out of the room, without a word.
William stood unmoving in the doorway, freshly bathed and dressed in clean jeans and a t-shirt borrowed from Spike. His eyes met and locked with Buffy’s across the short distance. He looked utterly heartbroken – crestfallen. His expressive blue eyes shone with hurt and betrayal.
“I am not …” he began, then swallowed hard. He took a deep breath and began again. “I am not your husband? I am not what you … desire?”
“William,” Buffy coaxed softly, stepping forward. “Yes. You are my husband.”
“But you just said you married … Spike, a warrior. I am many things, but I am no warrior. Many things here are confounding, but of this I am quite certain.”
Buffy gave him a small, sad smile and took his hand. She led him over to the mattress that lay on the floor and pulled him down to sit next to her. “William, you are a warrior. How many vampires did you kill in the basement? You fought Angel and dusted him. Do you have any idea how many times I fought Angel and could never dust him?”
“But … I don’t understand. You said you were married to Spike. I may acquiesce to your point that I have gained some fighting skills previously unbeknownst, but my name is not ‘Spike’ nor should I ever imagine it would be,” William argued.
“William, do you remember when I first came to you, I told you that we had been together but I lost you?”
William nodded, his eyes searching hers for the truth. He suddenly felt unsure again, just as he’d felt since dropping into the ocean in this strange land. Nothing had made any sense, he didn’t know who to trust; everything was frightening and overwhelming. He felt as if he had been walking in quicksand, and one small misstep would take him under to his grave. Then his angel was there, and everything was fine again – he felt sure and confident. But now … now he was losing his grasp on that feeling of surety he had gained; it was slipping through his fingers like grains of sand. Who was he to her? Was she really his Avengelyne or did she belong to Spike?
“The man you became, that I knew, that I lost, was named ‘Spike’. That’s why everyone calls you that – they think you’re him. You look like him,” Buffy explained gently, reaching a hand out to touch his face.
“But … that … that … malcontent is named Spike,” he asserted, waving his arm at the door Spike had fled through. “This is what I am to become?” he asked with alarm. Then an even worse thought came to his mind. “Or is he … when you … passed over, were you reunited with him? Is he your one true love where I was simply a … stand-in?”
“No!” Buffy exclaimed in alarm, shaking her head adamantly. “No,” she continued in a calmer voice, “he’s not my husband. You are. You are William. You are Spike. You’re a warrior and a gentle man with a lion’s heart. You just don’t remember yet, but you will. I promise, you will. Everything will be alright, William, just trust me. You’re the one I love – the only one I’ve ever loved.”
William closed his eyes and tried to believe her. It was all so confusing and frightening. “I suddenly find myself overwhelmed with exhaustion,” he admitted quietly.
Buffy nodded. “Lay with me,” she requested, shifting around on the mattress to lie down and opening her arms, inviting him to join her. William looked at her for a long moment, indecision and worry in his expressive blue eyes. He still wasn’t certain she was telling the truth; he couldn’t wrap his head around what she was saying about Spike and William being the same person. Was he deluding himself to think that this angel, this Slayer, would actually choose him over a true warrior if given the choice?
“Please?” Buffy whispered. “William, I need you here, with me.”
William bit his bottom lip and nodded slightly. He may be deluding himself, but he felt an indescribable pull towards her. She may not truly love him, but perhaps she could in time, he reasoned with himself as he lay down in her arms and cuddled against her. His eyes closed as he breathed in the fragrance of his wife and took comfort in her soft curves and strong embrace.
“I love you, William,” Buffy whispered against the top of his head.
“I love you, Avengelyne,” William replied groggily as his muddled mind slipped into the first actual sleep he’d gotten in weeks.
Bess moaned and her hand automatically went to the goose egg sized protrusion on the back of her head. It still hurt like a son-of-a-bitch. Then something occurred to her – she no longer heard William or Angel talking or arguing or fighting. She forced her eyelids open and looked around.
“What the …?”
She was in a room she didn’t recognize and was alone. She pushed herself up to sitting as she tried to figure out what was going on. Her nose told her she was near the ocean; it also told her there were more of those big, red-eyed vampires around.
“William?” Bess called quietly as she struggled up to her feet. The room was small, no larger than her bedroom back at the mansion, and sparse. There really wasn’t anywhere for anyone to actually hide in it. She now stood in one corner of the room in front of a pile of dirty burlap bags that she’d been laying on. Apparently those were supposed to be her bed. There was only one window … a round one up high on one wall, well above her head. A porthole, she thought. I’m on a ship.
She moved in front of the window and jumped up so she could look out. She got a quick glimpse of the ocean outside the window before dropping back down to her feet. Her theory was confirmed – she was on a ship.
The jarring of the landing made the throbbing in her head turn into a shooting pain. She held her forehead in her hands to keep her brain from exploding out through her skull, and decided that jumping hadn’t been the best idea.
After a few moments, when the pounding in her brain subsided back down to a dull throb, she reached her hands into the pockets of the cloak she had on. Her weapons were gone.
“Damn it,” she muttered to herself before focusing on the single door of the room. Just like the walls, the door was made of steel. Before trying the handle, she put her ear up to it. There were vibrations echoing through the steel, but they were small and seemed to come from far away – it might’ve just been the ocean lapping against the hull and reverberating through the ship.
She pushed on the handle. Not surprisingly, it was locked. Her last shred of hope that her father had, for some unknown reason, brought her here, dissolved. She was locked in; she was a prisoner. That sudden realization chilled her. She felt a shiver run down her spine despite the warmth of the room … she knew the cause of it: pure fear.
Bess took a deep breath and closed her eyes as a hundred years of imprisonment flooded her mind. A hundred years of being a victim, a hundred years of being used and abused and treated like nothing more than a lab rat, a hundred years of fear and loneliness and despondency.
Bess opened her eyes, their blue depths shone in determination. “No,” she stated firmly. It wasn’t a plea or a prayer; it was a statement of defiance. “Not again.”
Bess wrenched the handle on the door with all her Slayer-vampire strength. It creaked loudly as the steel locking mechanism first resisted, but then bent to her will. A satisfied smile quirked Bess’ lips – obviously, her captors had underestimated her strength. The heavy door swung inward with a groan, as if moving actually pained it.
Bess cursed all the noise; it was sure to bring company. She decided the best course of action was to simply not be there when they showed up. She stepped into the dimly lit passageway and looked left and right. She had no idea which way to go to escape, but had a 50/50 shot at it. Those were better odds than she’d face if she just stood there frozen by indecision, so she turned left, hiked up her skirt, and began to run.
She came to a stairway and scrambled up it, taking the stairs two at a time. She hit the landing running hard, made the turn up, and flew up the next flight. There had been no sign of the red-eyed vamps at all. Maybe they were all sleeping, or out of town for the weekend on holiday.
When she turned the corner at the next landing and started up the next flight of stairs, the glimmer of hope that she wouldn’t have to fight to get out of here was squashed painfully. Bess was hit in a full body slam by one of the Reds, which had launched itself down from the landing above her. She was driven back and smashed violently down onto the stairs, the heavy vampire landing atop her. Her already throbbing head cracked against each stair as they both slid down to the landing below in a tangle of limbs.
The goose egg on the back of her skull ballooned into an ostrich egg from the heavy blows and the stabbing pain returned with a vengeance. Bess shook off the surprise and the stars that danced in front of her eyes, and began to lash out at her attacker with everything she had. Fists, fangs, and feet raged against the much larger vamp, and she knew at least some had connected because she could hear the creature screech. She bit down with her fangs on the only thing she could reach – its arm.
Brackish, gritty, lukewarm blood flowed into Bess’ mouth as she tore at the flesh of the vampire’s arm like Cujo with PMS. Her hands sought out its eyes and she tried to press her thumbs into the glowing red orbs, but before she could find her target, the vamp smashed its arm, which Bess was attached to, against the bulkhead.
The Slayer-vamp’s forehead banged off the steel and several of her teeth were broken by the blow, including her two long fangs. She was dislodged from the vamp’s arm and fell to the landing in a heap. Her head was now spinning in two directions at once. The blows she’d taken to the back of her head had already sent clockwise spirals out, and she’d been fighting through those, but now the blow to her forehead sent her head spinning in the other direction as well.
She tried to stand back up, to defend herself, to find a way to get past this single sentry, but she wavered on her feet. Freedom couldn’t be much further up these stairs – she need only get to the deck, then she could dive into the water and elude them. She doubted they could swim as well as she could … if only she could get to the water.
Bess shook her head as she righted herself, her hands clenched into small but mighty fists. She would get out of here or die trying. She would not be taken prisoner – not again. It was not an option.
The red-eyed vampire was simply standing there at the base of the stairs, watching Bess with an expression that showed little more than a bit of annoyance. Its arm had a gaping wound, but it barely seemed to notice; it just tilted its head to one side curiously and waited for Bess to get up. That, in itself, told Bess she was in big trouble. You don’t wait for your opponent to get up. You don’t let an enemy regroup and shake the cobwebs from their brain unless you’re very stupid, very confident, or …
Four more vamps came loping up the steps from below Bess, their long legs taking several steps at a time without any effort at all. From behind the vamp she had been fighting appeared more glowing red eyes – six in all.
… or you have reinforcements coming and you just have to wait for them to show up.
“Shit,” Bess cursed to herself as she looked from one group of Reds to the other.
“I guess that means I die today,” she muttered to herself as she kicked at the first vamp below her on the stairs as soon as it came within reach. It was a bare-chested male with the same long, dark hair and alabaster skin as all these tall, red-eyed vamps had. Her foot hit him square in the chin with a satisfying crunch. He grunted from the unexpected blow and tumbled backwards, taking the other three that were behind him down as well.
Bess would’ve liked to have watched them rolling down the stairs, but the vamp that she’d been fighting before decided that it had waited long enough. Now that reinforcements had arrived its bravery and initiative had returned as well. Bess just barely got turned back around before the fist of the vamp above her slammed into her jaw, sending the blonde sprawling back against the bulkhead.
Before she could recover, she was engulfed by the long-limbed, giant creatures. Bony fists and booted feet slammed against her body. She tried to protect her throbbing head from the blows by covering it with her arms. At a lull in the assault, she dropped to the floor and curled into a defensive ball just as the blows began anew.
As she took the beating and tried to resign herself to her fate, her mind was bombarded with regrets of things that would never be. Thoughts of the family she finally felt a part of, of her siblings and her parents, rushed in. The good memories that Wanda had promised Bess she could make with them were suddenly ripped from her grasp.
Troy’s face shimmered across her closed lids and the burgeoning feelings that he stirred in her made her chest tighten. There were feelings inside that she hadn’t yet allowed herself to name, hadn’t allowed into the light. She knew they were lurking there, just behind a veil that she’d woven out of her fear, but she refused to acknowledge them. She regretted never telling him what she felt; she regretted changing the subject anytime she thought he was going to profess his feelings towards her. That fear suddenly seemed so childish and stupid – there were plenty of things to fear that were much worse than love. Vampires with glowing red eyes, for example.
Thoughts of Sue-Ann and Angelpie popped into her mind. They were her two best friends in the world – friends that had reminded her what it was to have a friend, what is was to be a friend. She wished she could tell them both how much they had helped her find herself when she was so very, very lost. She was pretty sure Angelpie knew, but Sue-Ann probably didn’t. Why hadn’t she told her before? She should’ve told her.
Apparently deciding to die and actually dying without fear, regrets, and second thoughts were two entirely different things. There were so many things left to do, so much life left to live, but Bess didn’t think she could endure even a single moment as a prisoner, not again. Death on her terms, even with regrets, was better than life on someone else’s terms. A low, dangerous growl surged up from her gut and poured out of her throat. She had to fight – perhaps she could still escape, if not, then she would die trying. She wouldn’t die curled up in a ball like a victim; she would die like a Slayer.
She rolled to her knees and elbows, her hands and forearms still covering her head as the blows continued. She gathered every ounce of regret and fear she had within her and steeled herself with her emotions – this was her last, her only chance. She pushed up and lunged wildly at the nearest vampire, lashing out like a wildcat that had been backed into a corner.
Bones crunched, blood splattered – she felt her own flesh tear as the long nails of one of the beasts slashed across her shoulder. Live or die – it felt like the decision was hers for a brief moment. She simply needed to battle on, heedless of pain or injury – simply outlast them. She was a Slayer: this was her calling.
In the next instant, the choice to live or die was taken out of her hands. Her fate was not her own; it was sealed by a shrill war cry that cut the air like a gleaming hot knife blade. The Red’s cry of victory reverberated through the bowels of the ship, echoing down long, empty passageways and ringing in Bess’ ears like a death knell.
Oh no, Bess! How many more lives will this dimension claim? Will Buffy be able to find a way to get home? Will she find a way to keep any of her promises? More to come.
If I Knew Then, Lady Antebellum
First time that I saw you,
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