"If the blind lead the blind"
-- New Testament
Buffy sensed the change in Spike's mood and a faint tremor of regret went through her. For the first time in...well, ever...she had felt safe. Secure. Protected. It had felt so good to just let go, to lean on someone else for a change. She knew it was temporary, knew that it couldn't last. It never did. But, for a moment --just for a moment -- she had been able to convince herself that it would. That this feeling didn't have to end. But then she felt Spike's arms stiffen around her, the sudden tension in his body...and she sighed.
Spike. Weird. It seemed as if she had spent more time in his arms than out of them tonight. And, for the most part, enjoying it. It didn't make any sense. They had been mortal enemies, reluctant allies...and everything in between for the last few years. He had fought with her, kissed her, lied to her, and almost destroyed the most important things in her life. He had hurt her...and been kind to her. He had almost killed her...and had saved her life. More than once. Not even counting tonight. Buffy sighed again, her head still resting on his shoulder. I don't understand you, Spike.
"And you probably never will, love. But I know you."
She must have spoken out loud, Buffy realized. She opened her eyes. "What do you know?" she asked wearily, not moving.
One of his hands moved up to caress her hair and it was a true measure of her exhaustion that she just stood there and let him. "I know you don't want to die," he said. "I know you're not ready to dance that dance yet. That's why you fought that demon instead of just letting it kill you. Hell, if you'd really wanted to off yourself, there's lots easier ways. More certain. Less messy."
"Maybe I was afraid." Her voice was bleak.
"To die? Could be. Or maybe deep down you think you're not done with the living yet. Maybe you're too busy just trying to keep your head above water that you can't see the big picture."
Her dream. Endless darkness beneath her. Distant light above. And Buffy, caught in the middle, unable to reach the one, unwilling to give into the other. Trapped.
With a shudder, Buffy pulled free of the vampire and turned around to face him. "So what is the big picture, Spike? What is it I'm not seeing...besides everything?"
She heard him move slightly, his hands sliding into the pockets of his jeans. "Choices," he said simply. "Never looked at all the choices, did you? So busy trying to fight everything on your own it never occurred to you to ask for help. You know what it is that makes you different from all the other Slayers, pet?"
What? Buffy frowned, trying to keep up with the way the conversation kept changing gears. "No. But I'm sure you're going to tell me."
"It's all those friends and family you've got hanging 'round. Told you that when we first met. You've got all these people around you -- even me now, thanks to this bloody chip. But in the end, you're still alone. Too afraid to reach out to others, 'cause that makes you vulnerable, doesn't it? It's safer to go out and take on a demon by yourself than to ask for help. Because the worst the demon will do is kill you. But if you open yourself up...well, then you run the risk of having your heart ripped out. And that's a whole lot worse than death, isn't it?
"What do you know about it Spike?" she whispered, a lump forming in her throat.
There was a jagged, self-mocking edge to his voice. "You'd be surprised. But you know I'm right, Slayer."
Yes. She did. He could read her like a book. A large book with big print and lots of pictures. He was right. She didn't want to die. But she didn't know how to live either. The thought of rejection, of asking for help and not getting it...it was terrifying. On the other hand -- so was the idea of dying alone in the dark. And there was more to consider here than just herself. Spike was right. She had family and friends who loved and needed her. More than that, she loved and needed them.
The dream kept intruding on her thoughts. She hadn't been able to reach the surface by herself, no matter how hard she tried, she remembered. But maybe she wasn't supposed to. Because there had been something else in the water with her. It was dark and scary, but it was all she had.
He was all she had...
An eternity seemed to pass while the thoughts whirled around inside her. Finally Buffy drew in a deep breath, her heart pounding painfully, so loudly she knew he'd be able to hear it. Then, fear twisting snake-like inside her, she said softly:
"Will you help me Spike?"
Another eternity went by. And then:
"Yeah, love. I will."
* * *
She had asked him for help. Not G.I. Joe. Not her whiny friends or poncey Watcher. But him. Spike. And better yet, he actually had some help to give her. He knew how to get her sight back.
Well, he didn't really, but he knew somewhere they could go. Some place that might be able to help her. It was a shot in the dark -- no pun intended -- but it was better than nothing.
"You're gonna have to trust me," he said fighting to keep his voice unruffled.
Buffy didn't move. "OK," she said.
"'OK?' That's it? No sarcastic remarks? No insults?"
She shook her head slightly. "No. Sarcastic Buffy is on vacation. This is the new-and-improved, non-scathing Buffy."
"Right. For what -- the next two minutes?"
She frowned. "I'm trying to be new and improved here. You're not helping."
"Just 'cause you're in touch with your inner self right now doesn't mean I have to be. Then again...getting in touch with the inner Buffy could be fun..."
Spike grinned as first awareness, then embarrassment flashed across her face. "You are...disgusting," she said, hitting him on the chest with one fist. But it was a half-hearted blow and they both knew it. Still, it helped to relieve the tension. The emotions that were running between them were too strong, too raw. Better to fall back on insults and violence. At least those were familiar. Safe...
And at least it wasn't the hand with the stake in it that had hit him.
"I am at that, darlin'." Spike agreed cheerfully. "That's why you like me."
"I happen to like nice men," she snapped.
Spike seized her right hand, pulling her towards the exit. "I'm a nice man," he said as he led her back outside, into the darkness.
* * *
"So where are we going anyway?" Buffy asked, stumbling a little as she stepped up onto a curb.
"What happened to the trusting me?"
"Oh, I'm trusting you all right. This is me being all trusting...and gullible and naive and blind as a bat!" Her voice began to rise, becoming louder and louder as she walked alongside him. "And if you don't stop letting me walk into things I'm going to..."
"Going to what? Stake me? Won't be much use to you then, will I, blondie?"
"You drive me crazy, you know that?"
"Yeah, well, right back at'cha. At least you're not the one holding hands with the Slayer. Hope no one I know sees me..."
"Tell me about it. And where are you taking me?"
Spike didn't answer right away, shaking some of the water out of his hair instead. It was still pouring bloody cats and dogs and he was getting soaked. Again. He shot a quick glance at the Slayer. 'Course, she was all warm and dry in his duster, wasn't she? Meanwhile his sodding jeans and t-shirt were...bloody sodden. Typical. Irritation flashed through him -- and something inside the vampire welcomed it with a sense of relief. It was better than the other feelings that had been welling up inside him, back there inside the crypt. Dangerous emotions that he hadn't felt in a very long time. Emotions he'd be just as happy doing without.
No. Think about something else. "It's called the Trial," he said abruptly.
"You're taking me to court?"
"Not that kind of a trial, you daft git."
"I am not a...whatever that is. Just tell me about this trial..."
"It's a..." Actually, he didn't know what it was. Precisely. Sure, he'd heard a few rumours, a bit of hearsay here and there, but that was it. Still, beggars couldn't be choosers. "It moves around, I'm told." Spike continued. "You don't find it. It finds you."
"So we're what? Walking in circles until some -- thing -- finds us? Good plan. Is it too late to go back to the cemetery and look for another demon?
"No. Yes," Spike said indignantly. "And I do have a plan. Actually, I've got an address."
"Uh huh. And what happens when we find it -- excuse me -- when it finds us?"
"We ask them to give you back your sight."
There was a long silence, then Buffy finally said, in a small voice. "They can do that?"
Spike nodded, then remembered that she couldn't see him. "Yeah," he said. "I think so."
* * *
Still, it could be worse. 'Maybe' was better than no way in hell. 'Maybe' was better than a whole lot of things. Besides which, 'maybe' was all she had.
The Slayer shivered briefly, then winced as she stumbled again, her arm jarring against her side and sending a stabbing pain into her shoulder. Silently, Spike reached out to steady her...and she felt him flinch too.
Buffy blinked, momentarily forgetting the pain in her arm. "What's wrong with you?" she asked sharply.
"I'm sure you're going to spend the rest of the night telling me."
"No, I mean -- Are you hurt?"
A pause, then: "A few broken ribs. From killing your demon."
Oh. She hadn't realized he had been injured. How could she not have realized? And because of her... "Sorry," she said quietly, wondering all over again at the incongruity of this conversation. Apologizing to Spike. Walking hand in hand in the rain with Spike.
Asking Spike to help her...
"Why are you doing this?" The question came out slowly, almost reluctantly.
She could sense his surprise as he turned to look at her. "Doing what?"
Buffy started to wave her free hand then stopped as pain tore through her arm once more. OK. Rule of the evening number 28 -- no gesturing with the left hand. She tucked it slowly and painfully into the pocket of his coat. And rule number 29 -- try to ignore the fact that you're wearing his clothes.
"All this," she said, a little unsteadily. "Taking me to this trial thing. Helping me..."
He sighed, sounding annoyed and...something else. "Because you sodding asked me to," he said. "Happy now?"
She swallowed. "Oh."
There really wasn't much to say after that, Buffy decided. So she said nothing, walking on in silence with him instead.
Continued in Part 9