|Story Title:||Miles To Go Before I Sleep|
Wash It All Away - Part 2
Confusion reigns as life goes on in the Unexpected Universe.
May - July 2011
Wash It All Away (Understanding) by Evanescence http://youtu.be/revnB46LPAE
|Thanks:||Thanks to YOU for reading! Without you none of this would mean anything! Giant thanks also 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:||
(A month later) Just after sunset, Monday, July 4th, 2011, Independence Day. Willow and Tara’s house.
Buffy nuzzled against Spike’s neck as she sat in his lap in an Adirondack chair on Willow and Tara’s dock. Fireworks exploded over the lake behind the witches’ house in a dizzying display of color and sound. Spike wrapped his arms around her tighter as they watched Annie, Dani, Billy, and JJ, who all sat in a row on the edge of the dock. Tan faces, tinged with pink from playing in the sun and water all day, were turned skyward. They waited impatiently, toes dangling in the cool water below them, for the next explosion and volley of brilliant light to paint the dark canvas of the sky.
Suddenly, there was a loud splash and one of the children – it was hard to immediately tell which one – shrieked as if a shark had lurched up from the clear water and attacked them.
JJ had kicked water on Annie, surprising her with a spray of the chilly, mountain lake water, soaking her. Annie retaliated, her longer legs dipping even deeper in the clear water, and drenched JJ from head to toe. Then, all hell broke loose. Dani and Billy joined in and, before any of the adults could even attempt to stop them, all the children were in the shallow water at the edge of the dock, splashing each other, screaming and laughing gleefully. They only stopped momentarily to look up when the sky lit up again, giving the fireworks another appreciative ‘Ooooo!’ before resuming their battle.
Buffy sighed and shook her head, glad that nine-month-old MacKenzie was safe in a playpen at their side and out of the line of fire. Willow, Tara, and Eddie, who was now sixteen months old and toddling along pretty handily on his short, chubby legs, had gone to the house just a minute ago. The witches had forgotten to bring the makings for the S'mores, which would be roasted after the fireworks display ended, and had gone to retrieve the treats.
“Well, look on the bright side, luv. You could toss ‘em a bar of soap and not ‘ave to worry about baths t’ night,” Spike offered. “You could probably do with a bath, yourself,” he added with a sly grin.
“Oh no!” Buffy objected immediately as he gathered her in his arms and began to stand up.
“No! No, no, no!” Buffy yelled as she wiggled like a worm about to be put on a hook, trying to get away from him.
Spike crossed the distance between where they sat and the end of the dock in just a few long strides and tossed his wife over the heads of the children and into the deeper water beyond them.
Buffy’s shriek was drowned, literally, when she went under the water, but resumed a second later when she pushed herself up to standing. She looked, and felt, like a drowned rat. “GET HIM!” she screamed at the kids, pointing at Spike.
Spike was doubled over, laughing heartily, and utterly defenseless. So engrossed was he in his mirth, that he didn’t react quickly enough and, before he knew it, lake water was raining down on him in torrents. The children, along with Buffy, were splashing buckets of the cool liquid up at him. He started to curse and back up, but before he could get far, his adversaries scrambled back up onto the dock and surrounded him. With Buffy in front of him, tugging on his arms, and the children at his back pushing, they forced him towards the far edge of the dock.
Spike fought back only half-heartedly as the children laughed and pushed with all their strength in an effort to dunk their father/uncle in the cool water. He’d swum with them earlier in the day, but was now dressed in his jeans and t-shirt. He hadn’t actually planned on going back in, but, he thought wryly, he shouldn’t really be surprised – his plans rarely worked as planned.
Spike made sure to pull them all in with him as he went off the end of the dock and into the refreshing water. The children squealed in victory when he went off the dock – right up until they hit the water, then it was more of a gurgling sound. His head didn’t actually go under the water and the children, along with Buffy, descended on him like a pack … uhhh … school of piranha, trying to drag him down.
By the time Willow, Tara, and Eddie returned with the makings for the S’mores, including marshmallows and long, sharp implements for roasting them over the fire-pit, the whole scene had disintegrated into pandemonium. Spike tossed his attackers away, sending them flying out into the deeper water, one after another. They would swim back and try again, only to be tossed away again between peals of laughter and squeals of delight. On and on it went until the humans were gasping for breath – exhausted from their effort and hilarity. Spike never did get completely dunked under, although he was thoroughly soaked from head to toe.
As the grand finale burst into a colorful montage of sparkling light above them, everyone stopped and looked up – everyone but Spike. He looked at the wet, dripping faces around him. Wide, bright eyes and giddy smiles gazed up at the display. A kaleidoscope of colors from the fireworks painted their damp skin and the water around them in a dazzling reflection of the show going on above. They were all perfect. His heart swelled with pride and adoration at the sight of them. He wanted to burn this image of his family in his mind and remember it for all eternity.
When he looked at Buffy, she met his gaze and gave him a smile before drifting over to him and wrapping her arms around his neck.
“Mr. Weckerly, have you ever been kissed under a fireworks display, dripping wet, while standing waist-deep in a lake?” she asked with mock solemnity, as if she were a reporter asking a serious policy question of a presidential candidate. Her eyes sparkled with the bright lights above them … and with a little evil glee, as well.
“Can’t say as I have, Mrs. Weckerly,” Spike replied before dropping his mouth to hers. He pulled her wet body against his, lifting her up slightly as the kiss deepened and their lips melted together. Only when the booming of the fireworks fell silent and everyone up and down the large lake cheered and began clapping, did they break the kiss.
“Love you, Buffy,” he whispered to her, giving her a hard squeeze before releasing his hold.
“Love you too, Spike.” She smiled at him before taking his hand, and the two of them followed the children out of the water and over to the fire pit for the night-cap of roasted marshmallows and S’mores.
While the kids sat in the thick grass of the witches’ large, backyard oasis devouring their messy treats and debating the merits of flambéed versus browned marshmallows, the adults sat around a table on a stone patio not far from the fire-pit. Willow had also brought out a carafe of iced coffee spiked with Kahlúa and lots of cream, which went surprisingly well with the chocolate desserts.
Spike watched Buffy as she talked animatedly with their hosts. He hadn’t seen her so relaxed and jovial since he, Bess, and Angel had gotten back from their mission to retrieve a downed nuclear submarine at the bequest of the FBI. The crew of the sub had been killed when the uranium core had unexpectedly, and quite inexorably, began leaking radiation. It was a gruesome sight inside the vessel, even from a vampire’s point of view, and the rescue of the sub was a bit tricky to pull off. But, in the end, they had been able to contain the leak and link the sub’s navigation system up with the Navy ship at the surface so it could be brought back to port via remote control.
They were still waiting on the money for that mission. Apparently it was alright for the government to take their time paying bills, unlike normal, everyday people. Who was going to foreclose on the FBI? What would you even repossess? The J. Edgar Hoover building? A fleet of black sedans with dark, tinted windows?
There was also the matter of a retainer contract with the Council that still needed to be signed. Everyone on the CGC had approved it except for Buffy, who had yet to even look at it.
When the three vamps had gotten back from the mission a couple of days later, Bess and Angel still had severe radiation burns on their faces, hands, and arms. Buffy had freaked out. She insisted on applying healing balms and tinctures to their wounds, despite knowing that vampires couldn’t get infections. She’d checked Spike’s body thoroughly for burns, but all his had healed via the magic of the Gem of Amarra.
Typically, Spike would’ve enjoyed such an inspection, but this was just … strange. Buffy had been panic-stricken and she couldn’t even explain to him why. After showing her that he was fine, she’d broken down into tears and didn’t calm down for quite some time. He’d held her and comforted her and tried to get her to tell him what was wrong, but she’d said she didn’t really know, just that she had a horrible feeling that she couldn’t quite shake.
Since then, things had only gotten worse.
Spike watched his wife now with hope that she’d turned a corner. He hoped whatever had been haunting her over the last couple of months had passed. As Spike watched, she broke off small pieces of graham cracker from the S’more that sat on a paper plate in front of her and handed them to MacKenzie, whom Buffy was holding on her lap. Buffy would also take nibbles of the sweet cracker, but she avoided the chocolate and marshmallow as much as possible. Buffy sipped at the spiked, iced coffee as she talked and joked with Willow and Tara. To the casual observer, she seemed fine. Spike knew better.
The ‘baby weight’ around her middle that she’d gained with the twins, and had finally made peace with, was gone from her body now. Everyone told her how wonderful she looked and asked how she’d finally lost the weight. Buffy always just shrugged the question off, but Spike knew the answer was that she barely ate anything anymore. Just like she was acting like she was eating the treat in front of her now, but not really consuming much of it at all. She’d been doing that for weeks. It worried him and he tried to talk to her about it, but she brushed him off, saying she just wasn’t hungry.
Now, sitting here at the table, she leaned back against the chair and Spike saw a small wince cross her face before she brought the smile back up to hide it. Spike frowned, remembering the welts on her back – welts that he had put there just the previous night. That was another thing that had changed in Buffy since the FBI mission: playful, light sex games weren’t enough for her any longer. Over the weeks, she’d needed more and more violence and pain to reach climax when they made love. No – scratch that. They didn’t ‘make love’ anymore – they had sex, they screwed, they fucked, they copulated, but they didn’t ‘make love’. Gentle love-making and soft words of adoration did nothing for her anymore. She wanted rough talk and rough treatment, and nothing less would do.
Spike had gone along at first, but, as she got more and more demanding, he’d balked.
“Whip me!” Buffy had demanded one night, handing him a cat of nine tails that he’d never seen before. She turned around on all fours on the bed, offering her ass and back to him, and waited.
Spike took it from her and smacked her bare rump with it – just barely hard enough to bring a pink tinge to her cheek.
“No – harder!” Buffy had instructed him, wriggling her ass back towards him.
Spike accommodated her, smacking the leather down a little harder on the other cheek.
“More! C’mon, Spike … whip me. I’ve been a veerry bad girl,” she purred. “Tell me what a dirty whore I am and beat me for it.”
Spike sighed and tossed the device down onto the bed. “Buffy,” he moaned. “I don’t think …”
“C’mon, Spike. It’s not like you haven’t hit me before! I’m the Slayer … not Tinker Bell, for Christ’s sake! And it’s not like you haven’t called me a whore before, either,” she pointed out, looking back at him over her shoulder.
Spike winced visibly, as if he’d been slapped. It was true, in the heat of anger he had called her a whore before – once. He'd thought she was sleeping with the newly returned Angel. She’d lied to Spike about his grand-sire being back from under the waves and she’d kept the vamp hidden in the basement of the high school. Spike had felt betrayed, and had been furious with her. Even as enraged as he was, he’d regretted calling her that almost as soon as it tumbled out of his mouth.
“No,” he stated flatly. “I’m sorry, Buffy, but … this is goin’ too far, luv. This isn’t just messin’ around anymore. I love dirty talk just as much as you, and Slutty-Slayer’s one o' your best looks, but this … it’s different, pet. This isn’t … you.”
Buffy growled … literally growled at him, and swung around to face him. “What’d you do, join the Moral Majority when I wasn’t looking? You can’t tell me you haven’t done this before, Spike! Christ, what the hell kind of vampire are you, anyway?”
Spike pursed his lips together angrily, got up off the bed, and began tugging his jeans on. “I’m not gonna flog you. I’m not going to call you …” he stopped and clenched his jaw in anger. “I’m just not gonna do it.”
Buffy sat on the bed and glared at him with undisguised anger. “Fine,” she spat. “You can just sleep somewhere else then.” She picked his pillow up and flung it at him with all her strength. If it had been anything heavier, it would've knocked him down.
“Fine,” he snarled, snatching the pillow out of the air with one hand before he turned on his heel and left their bedroom, slamming the door behind him.
“Fine,” Buffy hissed after him.
The next morning, when Spike came into their room to retrieve his boots and a t-shirt, he found Buffy laying face down, wrapped in a tangle of blood-soaked sheets. For a moment, Spike thought she was dead. His stomach quailed and lurched as he rushed towards her. “Buffy!”
He turned her over gently and she opened her eyes just enough to see and looked up at him. his relief was palpable. “Buffy, luv …what the bloody hell happened?” he asked as he took in the scene.
As he looked around, he'd realized that she’d used a stake and scratched long, jagged gouges in the flesh of her arms and legs, her abdomen, her chest, and even parts of her back that she could reach. She’d been caked in blood – some dried and brown, some still fresh and scarlet. The previously white sheets were red-brown with it, and he’d later find that there had been so much that it had soaked through the sheets, mattress pad, and all the way into the mattress itself.
Buffy had given him a weak, crooked smile. She’d reached a shaking, blood-soaked hand up and touched his face. “It’s ok, baby … I took care of it. I punished the dirty whore for you,” she’d breathed, before her eyes fluttered closed again.
“Bloody hell…” Spike had intoned with dismay, shaking his head in disbelief.
From that day forward, he’d done as she asked. He was sure if he refused, what she would do to herself would be worse than anything he’d do. He’d also called Tara for advice:
“It sounds like something happened to her when you guys went on that mission,” Tara observed after listening to his story.
“I sussed that out m’self,” Spike snarked back, frustrated. “But, I’ve talked t’ Faith, Rupert, the Harris’ … even the Niblett. They all say the same thing: nothing unusual happened except for the Niblett falling off the cart at the Green Grocer and needin’ twenty stitches in her arm to patch it up.”
“What does Buffy say?” Tara wondered.
“Not a bloody word. Says she’s fine, but she’s not eating right, she barely sleeps, she’s … distant and clingy all at once. She kept the bits home from school for a full week ‘cos she didn’t want to let them outta her sight. It wasn’t until the principal called and said that they were falling behind and missin’ important assignments that she finally let them go back.
“We went to the beach one Saturday. As soon as we got there, she went completely crackers. Refused to let the bits go near water. Made such a scene we had t’ leave not half an hour after gettin’ there. Said the ocean wasn’t safe – there were things in it – under the surface. I told ‘er, ‘yeah – bloody fish’, but she was …” Spike sighed and shook his head. “She wouldn’t ‘ear of it.
“She’s gotten more and more masochistic, and now … this.”
Tara sighed. “Spike, I can talk to her, but, honestly, if she won’t tell you, she’s not gonna tell me. I can prescribe some anti-depressants …”
“No – she won’t take ‘em,” Spike interrupted her, knowing how Buffy was about taking anything like that. Ever since the Wish World she’d been almost paranoid about taking any kind of pills.
“What about the bond?” Tara suggested. “Can you … ya know, poke around in there?”
Spike sighed and rubbed his eyes. “I can only see what she’ll show me and she ain’t showin’ anything of late.”
“What about in dreams? Dreams can be very telling,” Tara continued.
Spike shook his head. “She barely sleeps. When she does, she won’t even let me in ‘er dreams at all if I don’t talk like William, look like a ponce, and call ‘er ‘Avengelyne’,” he admitted to the white witch. “Even then, the dreams are limited to … well … It’s bloody strange, but all she wants to dream about seems to be livin’ with William and the bits back in London – back in the nineteenth century. I’ve tried suggesting some other things. She used to love going to the beach in our dreams – I thought, ya know, it would get her over this new fear, but she won’t ‘ear of it – unless it’s Brighton Beach and everyone’s dressed in soddin’ wool swimsuits.”
Now, from across the table, Tara watched Spike as he watched Buffy. Buffy had seemed perfectly fine to Tara the last three days that she and Spike and the kids had been here for their annual Fourth of July visit. Tara did notice that Buffy wasn’t eating much, but she was eating. The Slayer had definitely lost weight and was easily down to what she’d weighed when Tara had first met her. Tara thought about that a minute and decided that was not really a positive. The first time Tara met her, Buffy had just been brought back from the dead. Tara had also noticed that Buffy hadn’t worn her normal skimpy swimsuit this weekend. The Slayer had a one-piece suit with a tank-top, which completely covered her torso, back and front, and boy’s-cut bottoms. Buffy had also kept an oversized t-shirt on over that, saying that she didn’t want to get too much sun. Since when had the consummate California girl worried about getting too much sun?
Tara turned her attention back to Buffy as Willow continued talking. “Oh! I almost forgot to tell you,” Willow was saying, looking at Buffy. “Anya called and said they need you to sign off on that FBI contract by tomorrow or let them know what needs to be changed.”
Buffy stiffened visibly, then forced a grim-looking smile back to her lips. She took the glass of iced coffee and Kahlúa and downed it in two swift gulps, then poured herself another. “Sure,” she agreed, taking another long swig of the new drink.
“It sounds like a really good deal for the Council,” Tara piped up, trying to sound positive and act oblivious to Buffy’s discomfort.
“Yeah,” Buffy agreed, downing the rest of the drink and pouring yet another.
“And you guys, too, I guess, right? What did you guys get for that mission, Spike?” Tara asked brightly.
“Ain’t got a plug nickel yet,” he groused. “Supposed to be a million … each. The Benjamins are in the mail, I reckon.”
Buffy stood up abruptly. “I have to change the baby,” she offered as her excuse and headed for the house, walking fast.
Spike looked at Tara and cocked a Spock-like brow at her. She shook her head and looked after Buffy’s rapidly retreating form. Obviously, things were not ‘fine’.
Inside the house, Buffy changed the baby’s unsoiled diaper, then laid her down in the crib they’d brought with them. Buffy went into the guest bathroom and splashed cool water on her face. She stood there, leaning on the counter heavily, her head hung down in despair.
She wished she could figure out what was wrong with her. Ever since that FBI mission, she’d felt … God, it was almost impossible to even pinpoint what she felt and it was completely impossible to verbalize it. Buffy felt like she was either on the verge of a panic attack or an emotional meltdown nearly all the time. There was something boiling just below the surface that she couldn’t touch, couldn’t see, couldn’t even describe; she could only feel it. It filled her with unexplainable guilt, remorse, and fear. The strangest things set her off: the beach, the mention of the FBI, even watching Annie’s dance recital sent her heart skittering and reduced her to tears. She felt like she might lose control at any moment, and she was never sure if she’d be able to rein herself back in when it happened.
She wanted desperately to tell Spike about it, maybe even let him in enough so he could feel it too, but anytime she’d come close to doing that, she was filled with absolute terror. She felt sure that whatever demon was lurking in the dark of her soul and controlling her, was something that would turn Spike against her. He would hate her if he saw it; of that, she was certain. It was about the only thing she was certain of.
The only thing that made her feel marginally better was pain. It was best when Spike inflicted it, but self-inflicted pain gave her a sense of calm and control that she couldn’t achieve any other way. She pulled a small Swiss Army knife out of the pocket of her damp shorts and opened it. The thin blade gleamed in the light from above the mirror. Buffy swallowed hard and lifted her shirt, then sliced her stomach, left to right, with a long, smooth stroke of the sharp blade. She shuddered slightly when the metal invaded her and the pain began. A renewed sense of calm came over her as she continued, inflicting several shallow slices on her abdomen before dropping the bloody knife in the sink.
She breathed deeply, reveling in the feeling that came over her of finally being in control again. The feelings of guilt and of being on the verge of a complete meltdown faded to the background and she let out a long, relieved breath. She rinsed the knife off, folded it back up, and stuffed it back in her pocket. She wiped the dripping blood off her skin and pulled her shirt back down over the new wounds. The cuts weren’t deep; they’d heal quickly enough – soon enough that she could do it again in a few hours. Buffy washed her face again, then retrieved MacKenzie, and headed back outside to join the others.
“Feel like a walk, pet?” Spike asked when she returned.
Buffy looked at the kids. Their treats were long gone. They were now engrossed in trying to catch fireflies in a couple of jars. “I don’t know …” she began hesitantly, chewing her bottom lip nervously.
“They’ll be fine,” Willow offered. “We’ll stay out and keep an eye on them.”
Spike stood up and took the baby from Buffy’s arms and handed the redhead to Tara. “C’mon then – let’s go see what’s at the top o’ that hill,” he suggested, pointing to a wooded hill that rose up on the other side of the street from Willow and Tara’s house.
Buffy looked up there and frowned. “It’s too dark to climb that tonight,” she protested. “And the kids would probably like to go…”
“Let’s go, Slayer,” Spike demanded, cutting her words off as he pulled her by the hand and started dragging her away.
“It might be private property,” she continued to object as she stomped heavily behind him. “We could get shot for trespassing.”
“It’s not; we won’t,” he assured her as they moved away from the others.
Buffy turned her head and looked back at the children. “But … what if the kids need us and we aren’t here?”
“Got m’ cell phone,” he countered as he continued to pull her along. “Plus – got two bloody powerful women right there watchin’ ‘em.”
Buffy felt panic swelling in her as they moved away from the kids. She had a desperate need to pull her knife out and make a few slices in her flesh to calm down. She knew Spike would freak out if he realized she was still doing that and just how often she did it.
After that first time when she’d used the stake, he’d only caught her with the knife once. She’d told him she wouldn’t do it again. Since then, she’d been careful to re-slice the same lines each time so she didn’t make new marks. She also always made sure to leave enough time between cutting and any chance of him seeing her naked for them to heal over. At first, she thought he might notice that her scars never faded, but he never said anything about it.
Buffy’s panic rose further – what if he wanted to have sex up on the hill? It hadn’t been enough time for the slices to heal – he’d know for sure.
“You know, I’m really not feeling very well,” Buffy tried, laying a hand on her stomach. “I think I drank too much of that coffee.”
“Well, you can toss your cookies up ‘ere in the woods just as well as back there in the yard, pet,” Spike dismissed her objection as they crossed the road and started up the hill.
Fuck! Buffy cursed silently. She was starting to sweat, even though the night wasn’t that warm, and her breathing was shallow and labored. She could feel her heart racing in her chest and was afraid Spike would notice. He didn’t seem to realize anything was wrong as he kept trudging ahead, pulling her behind him. He blazed a path in the sparse underbrush near the road until he found a narrow trail.
She suddenly realized that Spike had been talking. She hadn’t heard anything that he’d said except for, “Whaddya think?”
“Uhhh … whatever you think is fine,” Buffy hedged.
She sighed in relief when he shrugged and turned to the right. She could just make out a fork in the narrow trail they’d been following as she walked behind him. He must’ve just asked her which way she thought they should go.
The trail wound around through an evergreen forest. Buffy followed Spike in silence. He’d finally let go of her hand as he walked ahead of her in the dark, just assuming that she would now follow him. She wished she’d thought to bring a flashlight with her; it would be hard for her to follow this trail in the dark without her vampire guide. Probably the point, she thought, rolling her eyes.
At the crest of the hill, the trees gave way to a meadow. Spike led her to an overlook that had a lovely view of Willow and Tara’s house as well as the large lake and the other houses that dotted its shoreline. They could just barely see the fire pit in the backyard of the witches’ house. Once in a while a dark figure would pass across it – one of the children, probably in pursuit of fireflies.
“Pretty,” Buffy agreed. “Let’s go back,” she suggested immediately.
“Let’s not,” Spike countered, as he turned to face her. “Where is it?” he asked, as he reached out and began pulling at her shirt.
Buffy pushed his hands away and backed up. “Where’s what?”
“I’m not bloody daft, Buffy – I could smell the fresh blood when you came out of the house. You’re still cutting yourself – on your stomach, yeah?”
“I’m not …” she began to deny it, but stopped when he cocked a skeptical brow at her. “It’s nothing,” she amended. “It’s no big deal.”
“It is a bloody big deal!” Spike asserted, stepping forward towards her. “It’s not right. It’s not healthy. On top of which, you promised you’d stop.”
“It’s nothing,” Buffy insisted again, her voice low and threatening. “And I did not promise; I just said I wouldn’t do it. I never promised.” She wrapped her arms around her torso and began stomping back the way they’d come. “I want to go back.”
Spike sprinted around her and blocked her path. “No. We’re talking about this here and now.”
“There’s nothing to talk about,” Buffy snarled at him, taking a step to the side and continuing her trek back towards the trail.
Spike grabbed her arm when she tried to pass him and he spun her around. “There bloody well is something to talk about. Tell me, Slayer! Tell me what the fuck is going on with you.”
Buffy jerked her arm free of his grip. “Nothing is going on with me!” she insisted again, then she began running across the open ground in the direction they’d come from.
She found the trailhead and followed it by the light of the moon until the canopy of trees got too thick, leaving nothing but pitch black around her. She couldn’t tell which way the trail went – she couldn’t see it at all; she could barely see the tree trunks. She heard Spike coming behind her and she just started running downhill. He couldn’t find out what was wrong with her. She didn’t even know what it was, but she knew that, above all, he could not find out. He would hate her. He would leave her. And somehow she knew that she would deserve that.
Buffy stumbled and fell several times, but picked herself up and continued her downward trajectory. She came to a steep drop-off and caught herself just in time before she tumbled over it. Spike’s boots cracked through the forest behind her – he was getting closer. She jumped off the ledge, but couldn’t catch her balance when she hit the steep incline several feet below. She rolled, head over heels, down the hill, unable to stop her plummet. Branches and rocks scratched and grabbed at her as she tumbled down until finally she came to rest against the trunk of a tree. The air went out of her lungs when she hit it, and she lay there for a long time, trying to get her breath back.
Suddenly, Spike was there, standing over her. She hadn’t even heard him walk up. It was as if he’d flown or teleported and was just there.
“You can’t run from this, Buffy!” he informed her, jerking her up by her shoulders. He pushed her back against the tree trunk that had stopped her fall and held her firm. “Tell me what happened when I was gone,” he demanded angrily.
“Nothing,” Buffy answered truthfully if not accurately. She knew something happened, she just didn’t know what it was. She couldn’t remember. It was just a feeling.
“Balls!” Spike growled, shaking her. Her head banged back against the tree and for a moment stars flashed behind her lids.
With each shake, the back of Buffy’s head thunked against the hard bark of the pine tree behind her. She moaned and didn’t fight Spike at all, letting her head pound against the tree repeatedly. Each rap of her head against the wood echoed through the dark forest, sounding like someone thumping a watermelon in the grocery store to see if it was ripe.
When she moaned, Spike flinched, realizing that she was enjoying the pain he was inflicting. It was exactly what she wanted him to do – hurt her. As the realization hit him, he stopped shaking her, but continued to hold her firm, trapping her against the tree. “Who was it? I know it wasn’t Peaches – he was with us. Harris then? Or was it one o’ those FBI gits – that why you fall to pieces every time anyone mentions them?”
Buffy’s eyes flashed open wide and she shook her head in denial. “What?! No! No … Spike, I swear on our children’s lives – I would never!”
“Then tell me what the fuck happened, Buffy. What the bloody hell is wrong with you?” he demanded again.
Buffy closed her eyes and shook her head. Her whole body went limp in his grip, suddenly unable to fight any longer. “I don’t know,” she whispered at last. “I just don’t know.”
Spike studied her in the dark. She looked utterly defeated and her voice sounded hollow. He suddenly regretted pushing her this far, but he had to do something. “Buffy,” he began softly, “I love you. Please let me help you. Please let me in.”
Buffy choked back a sob, but couldn’t stop the tears from gathering behind her closed lids. She blinked her eyes open. The dampness spilled out and trailed slowly down her cheeks as rivers of fear. “I’m afraid,” she admitted. “Spike – I’m so afraid.”
Spike couldn’t help but think that her voice sounded like that of a small child. There was no doubt that she was terrified. “What are you afraid of, pet?”
Buffy swallowed hard and met his gaze. A single shaft of moonlight stabbed through the canopy above them and gave just enough light for her to see the worry in his eyes. Somehow seeing them made this harder. “Losing you,” she murmured, lowering her gaze.
Spike furrowed his brows and shook his head in confusion. “Buffy, I. Love. You,” he stated emphatically, shaking her lightly to make her look back up at him. “Whatever it is, we can work it out, pet. You just haveta tell me. It’s sending me ‘round the bloody bend not knowing what’s wrong – not knowing how to help you.
“Don’t you remember?” he continued. “‘Sickness and health, good times and bad, joy and sorrow?’ Buffy, I promised to love you unconditionally, and I do. But I can’t go on watching you destroy yourself. You’re all that I have, pet – just give me a chance to help you.”
Buffy wiped her eyes and nose with the back of her hand and sniffled back her tears. “Spike, I don’t know what it is. Honest to God, I don’t know. Something … something must’ve happened, but I don’t remember. It’s just …” She paused and closed her eyes, taking several deep breaths to try and calm down so she could get the words out. “It’s just a feeling – a feeling like …” Buffy bit her bottom lip and willed the tears to not fall. They didn’t obey. “I feel like whatever happened, you’re gonna hate me for it and … I can’t … I’m so afraid.”
“Buffy, I could never, never hate you,” he assured her.
Buffy snorted her disagreement. “You’ve hated me before.”
Spike shook his head. “No – I’ve never hated you. I’ve been annoyed with you, cross with you, mad as hell with you. I’ve wanted to throttle you several times, and there was once or twice I desperately wanted to kill you, but I’ve never hated you.”
Buffy allowed a small laugh to escape her throat as she leaned into him. Spike wrapped his arms around her and closed his eyes as he dropped a gentle kiss into her wildly tousled mane of gold. She felt so fragile in his arms, like she would break with the slightest pressure. What had happened to turn his strong, stubborn Slayer into such a terrorized woman who found solace only in punishment and pain?
He felt a tightening in his gut, as if her terror had somehow seeped into him via osmosis. He was suddenly afraid that he was going to find out the answer to his question. The warning: ‘Be careful what you wish for’ rang in his mind, but he pushed it away. Whatever it was, they could handle it. They had to handle it. There was no one else that could drive him as stark, raving mad as this woman could. If that wasn’t the definition of a soul-mate, of true love, then he didn’t know what was.
Things have obviously changed, history reset. What did Gift-less!Spike do to change things? Can our Spike help Buffy with her 'funny feeling'? Why does she have this residual fog clouding her emotions but no one else does? Will Spike find out what happened to her? Will her worst fears be realized if he does? Can he forgive her for her transgressions and failure to protect their first-born? More to come ...
Wash It All Away (Understanding) by Evanescence
You hold the answers deep within your own mind.
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