"Be to her faults a little blind"
-- Matthew Prior
"Spike," Buffy said at last into his shoulder, her voice muffled.
"Uh...what exactly am I wearing?"
"One of my shirts. And my coat."
A brief pause, then:
"Put me down."
For the second time that night, Buffy felt his hands on her waist and then she was being lifted onto the tomb again, her legs dangling over the side. She took a deep breath, trying to ignore the dizziness...and the quivers that kept going through her body every time he touched her. It was just Spike, for god's sake. Spike the soulless, evil demon. Spike the undead. Definitely not quiver-worthy. Not even human. But it made no difference. It was as if her body had suddenly decided to fixate on him, despite what her brain kept saying. Buffy's jaw tightened. 'Fixate on someone else,' she told herself fiercely. 'Get a grip!'
Of course, she had had a grip on pretty much all of him not long ago...
Buffy shook her head, forcing her thoughts away from that image through sheer willpower. Instead, she focused on her injuries. And there was a lot to focus on.
The dizziness was still there, although it had abated a little, she realized. Her head still swam if she moved too quickly but she didn't feel as if she was constantly on the verge of passing out anymore. Her arm continued to throb and pain pulsed across her back and down the length of her right leg...but overall she felt better. Probably a five plus on the battered-but-better-Buffy scale. Maybe even a six... Now if she could just shake the memory of rolling around on the ground with Spike...
As the thought flashed through her mind, Buffy became vividly aware of just how close the vampire was standing. When he had lifted her up he had somehow manoeuvred it so her legs were on either side of him, his hips fitting snugly between her knees. And he was still holding her, both hands on her waist. Buffy swallowed. Hello! Personal space issues!
"What are you doing Spike?" She was proud of her voice this time. It was cool and steady with just a hint of steel beneath the words.
"Keeping you from falling on your face," he said matter-of-factly, making no attempt to move...except for his hands, which shifted slightly as he spoke.
Buffy's breath caught in her throat...but then sanity reasserted itself and a sense of outrage finally overwhelmed the other, more erotic feelings shooting through her. Hastily Buffy knocked the vampire's hands away and leaned back. "I don't need your help," she said, her voice cold. "So back off Fang Boy. Right now."
There was a long pause then Spike did step back...and for a moment she missed his proximity. But only for a moment.
"Oh yeah. I forgot. I'm 'beneath you'." Spike was saying scornfully from a few paces away. "Well, we won't get into who was beneath who a few minutes ago. 'Course you don't need my help. The mighty Slayer doesn't need anyone, does she? You can go and get yourself killed all by yourself. Certainly don't need me for that."
"Shut up, Spike. You don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh don't I?" He stepped forward, crowding her again and she fought the urge to shove him back...violently. "The fact that I saved your life means bugger all to you, doesn't it? Fact is, you probably wish I'd let that demon finish the job..."
"Stop it." This time she did shove him away, using both hands and a great deal of force.
It didn't help. A moment later he was back, closer than before, seizing both her wrists as he had done earlier, ignoring the stake still clutched in her right hand.
"Ruined your little plan, didn't I?" Spike continued, pressing his verbal attack. "Thought you were going to go out all noble, didn't you? Be the right little martyr. Well, let me tell you this, Slayer -- I've seen martyrs in my time. Killed a few of them myself. And you know what? In the long run, at the end of the day...all they got was dead. Didn't make a blind bit of difference what they did. 'cept to them of course."
Buffy shook her head violently. "That's not true."
"Sure. Say it's not true. Say you can make the world a better place by not being in it -- and who am I to argue? But it's just you and me here. So let's be honest, right? You weren't going out to save the world -- you were running away from it. Come on, admit it -- you gave up. The going got tough and little Buffy ran away and hid from the big bad world. Tell me, were you thinking of anyone beside yourself when you decided to go out and off yourself? That family of yours, f'rinstance?"
The anger that had been steadily growing inside her suddenly blossomed into an inferno and Buffy ripped her hands free from the vampire's grasp, not caring how much the motion hurt her wounded arm. "I am thinking about them," she said, her voice choked with emotion. "I can't protect them like this. The world needs a Slayer, and I can't be it! Not anymore!"
"So...what? So you just give up, is that it? The baddies win and the world gets a new Slayer?"
She was on her feet now, standing in front of him, not caring how she had got there. "Yes!" she shouted, her self-control completely shattered. "Yes, I came here planning to die tonight. Yes, this time I'm going to let the bad guys win so the world gets a new Slayer. One who can see, one who doesn't need help just to get dressed... Is that what you wanted to hear? Does it make you feel good to hear me say it?" Buffy's voice was shaking, along with the rest of her, and it was taking all of her willpower not to hit him, not to use the stake on him...not to take out all her fear and frustrations on the one being she knew could take it...
"No," Spike answered her quietly. "But you needed to say it."
Disbelief went through her. "Oh that's just great," she snapped, acid bitterness etched in her voice. "Psychiatrist Spike is in. What a good idea. Get Buffy to admit she's suicidal, make everything all better by talking about it. Well I've had the shrink job already thanks, from people who actually care..." She stopped, swallowed, then went on.
"You just don't get it, do you? None of this is going to make any difference. We can talk about my feelings all you like. Hell, we can pound on each other till dawn if that's what you want, but nothing's going to change. When the sun comes up I'm still not going to be able to see it, no matter what you say or do, no matter how much I wish otherwise. I am blind, Spike. I'm a blind Slayer. And I can't do my job, not like this. I can't...I..."
To Buffy's complete horror her voice suddenly broke and tears welled up in her eyes. No. No! She would not do this. She would not cry in front of Spike. Especially not in front of Spike. Taking a deep, ragged breath, she spun around and leaned both hands on the tomb, blinking fiercely, willing the tears not to fall.
He was right behind her. She could feel him, unmoving, a solid presence at her back. Buffy swallowed, desperately fighting the emotions that were threatening to overwhelm her. "Look," she said shakily. "You saved my life. Fine. Thanks very much. But I want you to leave me alone now so I can do...what I need to. So just...just let me go, ok?"
"No, pet. I won't."
Buffy sagged and for a moment she thought she was going to burst into hysterical laughter...or turn around and sob on his shoulder. 'Can't do that,' she thought disjointedly. 'I'm the Slayer. Have to be strong. Have to do this by myself. Have to...'
But then Spike was reaching out, pulling her back against him and wrapping both arms securely around her waist. Buffy tensed, half-heartedly trying to break free, but his grip around her only tightened...and somehow she couldn't find the strength to struggle anymore. It was as if all the energy had drained out of her, leaving her weak and exhausted, as if she were being sucked deeper into something that was cold and dark and she no longer had any strength left to fight it. Her dream flashed through her mind again and she remembered the cold presence she had sensed. Spike?
Buffy tried once more to free herself then gave up. "Let me go," she whispered weakly, her hands resting limply on top of the arms that were holding her.
He shook his head, his face brushing her hair. "No Slayer," he said, his lips close to her ear. I won't. Maybe you're right. Maybe this is the only way out. You want to get yourself killed, I'm not gonna stop you." There was a pause, and when he spoke again it was in a whisper, so soft she could barely hear it. "But you don't have to be alone..."
Yes. Yes, she did. Everyone needed her. She had to be strong for them, for the whole world sometimes. Not the other way round. Not...
But, standing there with Spike's arms around her, she could almost believe him. There was something comforting, even protective, in the way he was holding her, and her body relaxed, just a little. It would be so nice to let go, to stop being the Slayer and just be... Hesitantly, as if expecting him to pull away at any second, Buffy slowly allowed her head to lean back until it was touching Spike's shoulder and then, with a long quavery sigh, she closed her eyes, feeling the tension flow out of her.
* * *
Spike swallowed. It wasn't possible to feel such ecstasy...and so much pain. Buffy was finally in his arms. Willingly. Not struggling, not fighting. Relaxed. And it was sweeter than heaven. But it was hell too. Because try as he might, he couldn't delude himself that he was the one she really wanted to be with, that she would be with him at all if anyone else was around. Soldier Boy...the Watcher...her gang of Slayerettes. It didn't matter. Any of them would do, better than him.
He was...he was convenient, was all.
But then again...did it matter if he was only a poor replacement for the others? After all, she was in his arms right now. And now was all that mattered. 'So just enjoy it while you can,' he told himself fiercely, 'and stop bloody brooding about it.' He closed his eyes, listening to the Slayer's heartbeat, feeling her warmth against his chest -- and a feeling of desperation went through him.
There had to be a way. Something the Scoobies hadn't thought of, didn't know about... With that thought, Spike's eyes flew open and he froze.
Maybe, just maybe, there was.
Continued in Part 8