"Comes the blind fury"
-- John Milton
Spike didn't catch her before she fell. He didn't even try. He was still flat on his back, trying to make the pain go away and hoping the world would stop spinning, when Buffy collapsed. For a long moment he stared across the soggy grass at her, blinking in surprise, then he hauled himself upwards slowly. Or tried to.
It hurt. That last hit from the demon felt like it had broken a few ribs. Actually, it felt like it had broken a whole lot of ribs. Damn. Spike hated broken bones. They hurt like hell.
Still...he had other things to worry about. The ribs would heal soon enough, but not if the demon got back up and continued with the killing. And then there was the Slayer, who might or might not be dead. Or at the very least, bleeding to death beside him.
No. There. He could hear her heartbeat through the rain. It was a little weak, but even and steady. She wasn't dead. Or even dying. Not yet. Relief poured through him, followed by a chaser of annoyance at yet more evidence of how much he cared, despite his best efforts to the contrary.
"Damned Slayer," he muttered as he climbed painfully to his feet, holding his side with one hand. "This is all your fault. Couldn't even kill one demon without getting yourself all shredded. Not to mention me." Stiffly he walked over to her then bent down and pulled the knife from her limp grasp. Narrowing his eyes, he turned and moved towards the demon, kicking the unmoving creature in the side and enjoying the solid thump of his boot on its hide.
"As for you," he said, hefting the knife in one hand. "Let's see how you like this..."
With that, Spike bent down and, with relish and a certain grim sense of satisfaction, hacked off the demon's head.
* * *
It didn't take long. Once Spike might have lingered over the task, enjoying himself, but he had more important things on his mind. Like the fact that he had an unconscious Slayer to deal with. And how anyone could come along at any time. Her friends would probably jump to the wrong conclusion -- what else was new? -- and stake him on the spot, whereas his friends...er...acquaintances... fellow creatures of the night -- whatever -- would try to finish her off. And him too if he got in their way. Besides which, she was still bleeding. The scent was wafting around him like honey and clover -- and probably drawing every creature within a five mile radius. Slayer blood. The ultimate goal of half the undead population of Sunnydale.
Scratch that. The entire undead population of Sunnydale. Including him. His fangs had descended again, unbidden, at the thought of all that lovely hemoglobin, just laying there. Spike licked his lips...then shook his head. He didn't need the warning tingle from the chip in his head to stop that line of thought in its tracks. No. It was...
It was one of those emotions that Spike had decided he wasn't going to think too hard about. He glared down at the unconscious Slayer. "I should just leave you here," he said out loud. "You're more bloody trouble than you're worth..." Nevertheless, with a sigh he straightened, wincing, then crossed to her side.
Her heartbeat was still steady and the bleeding from the wounds on her arm had slowed a little. When Spike laid one palm along her cheek though, her skin was cold and she did not move at his touch. "Probably get sodding pneumonia, you will. And find a way to blame me for it." Swearing under his breath, Spike shrugged his coat off, wrapped it around her, then, bracing himself against the pain in his ribs, bent down to pick her up.
She was surprisingly light, the vampire found as he lifted her. There was so much strength that emanated from her, so much force of mind, that he tended to forget just how small she really was. Now though, her body limp and cold in his arms, she seemed almost...
Actually, she seemed pretty much like she always did. Only unconscious. And bleeding. He had to get her out of here. Neverthless, for the briefest of moments, Spike allowed himself to savour the feeling of having the Slayer in his arms. He swallowed once, deeply, then straightened and, ignoring the fire that was burning a path along his right side, carried her off into the night.
* * *
Buffy was dreaming. She was on a boat sailing away from something or someone, the spray from the water lashing her across the face and the even motion of the craft making her faintly nauseous. Besides which, she was cold. And her arm hurt where the giant tuna fish had fallen on it. And why the hell was Giles dancing with an octopus anyway?
OK. This was way too bizarre. Time to wake up. But then the dream changed and she was underwater, miles beneath the surface, the light swiftly receding. There was something else with her in the dark, something that grabbed her by the ankles and was trying to pull her even deeper... Buffy kicked out desperately with both feet, fighting to get back to the light, but it was no use. A fish, or another creature altogether brushed by her, its skin cold against her own, but she couldn't see it, could see nothing except the inky blackness surrounding her. Then, even the fish was gone, and she was all alone. In the dark. Panic ripped through her, and she flailed out with both hands...
...and hit something solid. Buffy's eyes flew open -- and met only darkness. Suddenly the terror from the dream became real. She was trapped in the dark, couldn't see, couldn't...
"Quit bloody struggling, will you?" A voice said, sounding slightly winded. "I'm trying to help!"
Buffy stilled, her heart thudding as reality crashed in around her. "S-spike?" There was a faint quaver in her voice, one that she couldn't quite conceal.
"No, it's bleeding Prince Charming. Who do you think?"
Buffy blinked as the last traces of the dream faded. She gradually became aware of her surroundings. The scent of leather and stale cigarettes. The sound of rain falling. Cold water running down her face and neck. Something warm and soft enfolding her -- Spike's coat, her mind supplied -and her cheek resting against something cool and solid. The sensation of movement... He was carrying her. Buffy jerked once in instinctive reaction and Spike's grip around her tightened.
"Are you trying to make me drop you?" he snarled.
Buffy stilled, but it wasn't because of Spike's words. No, it was the pain that was rising up inside her with every movement. Her left arm felt as if it were on fire and she could feel blood dripping down her fingers onto the ground below. And, for the first time, she was glad to be blind -- she so did not want to see how bad the damage was. The rest of her wasn't much better either -- pretty much everything hurt. A lot. That demon had really done a number on her.
The demon... Buffy tensed slightly, ignoring the various body parts that shrieked at her and the wordless growl from the vampire carrying her. "Is it dead?" she asked, her voice a little breathless. It wasn't from fear though. It wasn't. And neither did it have anything to do with the fact that she was cradled against Spike's chest while he carried her to god knows where...
"Yeah, it's dead," he said.
She could almost sense his grin. "Pretty sure."
Buffy frowned, but let it go as relief began to cascade through her, leaving her weak and shaken. It was over. The demon was dead. And she was still alive.
She was still alive.
Not quite certain how she felt about that, Buffy turned her mind to other things. Like the fact that she was in Spike's arms...and wrapped in his coat. She twitched. "Put me down," she said, her voice as steady as she could make it.
"Oh sure. So you can fall on your face before you get three steps. Not bloody likely."
"I can walk..."
"Sure you can." With that he moved his left hand, the hand that was beneath her shoulders, and squeezed her left arm, just above the elbow.
She didn't quite pass out, but it was a near thing. The pain became agony, sweeping all the way down to her toenails, and she couldn't stifle the gasp that rose to her lips. The world rocked for a moment and she distantly realized that Spike's chip had kicked in with his actions. He staggered briefly then righted himself and kept going. 'Serves you right,' she thought hazily.
"Sure you can walk, Slayer," Spike was saying, an echo of pain still in his voice. "Run a bloody marathon, you can. I'll just leave you here then. Let you find your own way home."
"So why don't you?" Her voice was tired, bleak, and wracked with agony. "Why are you helping me anyway? Why didn't you just let the demon kill me?"
He didn't answer her. Instead, there was a brief silence then he said shortly: "We're here."
"Where?" Buffy whispered, the agony in her arm beginning to abate, just a little. But not enough. Not nearly enough.
Sensations sweeping over her. No more rain. Damp earth. A sense of great age. A small, enclosed room. Spike's crypt. He was telling the truth.
Something deep inside in the Slayer loosened, some tension that she hadn't even known was there until it was gone, vanished. She knew where she was. With that knowledge came a sense of relief -- and she began to shake, her body trembling violently within the folds of Spike's coat. It wasn't because of her injuries or the cold, she knew. It was...everything was beginning to crash down upon her. The aftereffects of the battle with the demon. Shock probably. Surprise that she was still in the land of the living -- more or less. And...and something else altogether.
For just an instant she felt Spike's arms tighten around her...and then, without warning, he let her go. Buffy tensed, expecting to hit the ground hard. Instead she found herself being deposited fairly gently on the top of the marble tomb in the middle of his crypt. He set her down...and she immediately began to topple over to one side, just managing to brace herself with her good arm so that she remained upright -- weak, dizzy, blind, and shaking like a leaf. But sitting up. Yay for Buffy.
"You okay?" Buffy heard the scratch of a match, then a wreath of smoke wafted toward her. She shifted uncomfortably, trying to find a position where her arm didn't hurt quite so much.
"Yes," she said firmly, keeping her gaze levelled downward so he couldn't see her eyes, wishing the trembling would stop. "I'll be fine."
"Good." With that he seized her, holding her firmly by both wrists, ignoring the way she flinched as his fingers closed on her left arm. "Then do you want to tell me what the hell that was all about?" There was real fury in his voice and Buffy leaned backwards, trying to free herself.
"Let me go!"
The vampire ignored her, his fingers tightening around her. "Are you trying to get yourself killed? 'Cause if you are maybe you could let me know ahead of time and I won't bother to save your sodding life in future."
At that moment something broke inside her. Later, Buffy would say that it had all finally become too much. Her blindness, the battle, everything that had happened to her up to that point... She had finally reached breaking point. The straw that broke the Slayer's back. With what was probably the last of her strength, she wrenched loose from the vampire and shoved him violently away with one well-placed fist, sliding down the tomb until her feet reached the ground. Her legs held her up...just.
"I never asked you to save me!" Her voice was choked with emotion and she swung her right arm, desperately wanting something...anything to fight. Something she could actually defeat, someone she could beat into the dust until it all went away... Fury was running through her in torrents, wiping away the pain and the memories and leaving only rage behind. Pure, unsullied rage. Buffy aimed another blow at the vampire. "I was doing fine on my own. If you hadn't interfered I would be..."
Spike evaded her with ease then moved forward again, shoving the Slayer violently back against the side of the tomb and pinning her hips with his own. He caught both of her wrists and forced her arms behind her back, holding on to them both with one hand. Then he reached up with his other hand and seized a fistful of her hair, tilting her head back as far as it would go, baring her throat to him. She struggled, but he held on, moving even closer so that the full length of his body was pressed tightly against hers.
"Dead," Spike said menacingly in her ear, listening to the pulse of the vein beating beneath the skin of her throat as he held her. "Dead is what you would have been if I hadn't interfered. What's the matter, Slayer? Sacred duty finally got too much for you? Got a little taste of that death wish and you want more? Well, just give the word, girl, and, chip or no chip, I'll still..." But then his voice trailed away as what his brain had been telling him for several minutes now, finally began to sink in.
The Slayer was still fighting to get loose, though her efforts were weaker now. Her heart was fluttering against his like a wounded bird and her entire body was shaking, with more than cold. But that wasn't what had stopped him. No, it was her eyes. And their complete and utter blankness. The way they weren't focused on him and the way they didn't follow his every movement. Almost as if...
Spike dropped her abruptly and stepped backwards, stunned. Blind?
He must have said the word out loud because her shoulders sagged, all the fight abruptly going out of her. Buffy collapsed back against the tomb as if it were the only thing still holding her up, and dropped her head, no longer meeting his gaze. There was a long moment of silence, then she said wearily: "Yes, I'm blind."
Continued in Part 4