"Closed his eyes in endless night"
Spike hit the stone floor hard, not having enough strength left to even try to cushion his fall. Not that it would have done any good if he had - his left hand was so burned from the holy water that had engulfed it earlier that even the air dancing across the back of it was enough to ignite every nerve end on it. As for the right one -- there were multiple cross-shaped burns on the palm, matching the ones on his back, chest, and feet. And meanwhile blood still coursed from the wounds on his leg while grey fog was beginning to gather on the edges of his vision.
Slowly though, random images began to filter into his consciousness. Cold stone. He was laying on his back on a stone floor, he realized. A cool draught was playing over his naked chest, tracing lines of agony across the burns. And there was light. Flickering shadows. Torches, that was it. He was back in the first room, where he and the Slayer had entered...
Buffy. A small jolt of alarm shot through him. Where was she? Gritting his teeth, Spike struggled to lift his head -- and groaned. Even that one small movement was almost too much, the fog around him growing thicker.
He should welcome it, he knew. Should welcome anything that would make the pain go away, welcome the oblivion that was waiting to take him...elsewhere. But -- but not just yet. He had to find the Slayer first...
Probably wasn't going to get the chance though, he realized remotely. The darkness around him was growing, all sensation washing away on a tide of pain. 'Sodding hell,' Spike thought dimly as the realization hit him. He knew what was happening. He was dying.
It hurt more than last time, though.
* * *
Buffy smelled the blood first, its metallic tang sharp in the air, so thick she could almost taste it. Lots of blood. And there, on the floor... 'Vampire,' her Slayer instincts told her helpfully.
'Spike,' she corrected them.
Buffy darted forward, crossing the room to kneel by the vampire's side, the stake forgotten in her left hand. "Spike?" she said, reaching out to him tentatively.
His only answer was a low moan when her fingers brushed against bare skin. Hastily Buffy snatched her hand away, not wanting to cause him further pain, then she sat back, wondering what to do next.
"What's wrong with him?" she asked tautly over her shoulder.
"He's dying." The English tones were cold and indifferent now, all hint of any prior emotion long gone.
Dying? How could he be dying? Vampires didn't die like this. Not slowly, in pain and bleeding. So how...?
"This is the Trial, Miss Summers. The rules are different here."
The man must have been reading her mind again, but Buffy no longer cared. "Well damn your rules," she said grimly. "And damn you! What more do you want? If you wanted him dead then why do it this way? Or is it me you want dead? Well fine," she continued, climbing to her feet and taking a menacing step toward him. "You want me, then come and get me. But unless you're really willing to take on one majorly pissed off Slayer, I suggest you stop quoting some damned rulebook and help him! Because I so meant what I said earlier."
"And what about your eyesight, Miss Summers? And your champion's choice to sacrifice himself for you?"
"It's not his choice to make," Buffy said flatly. "It never was. And you know what? I don't even care anymore. I don't want my sight back if it means somebody else has to die for it."
"Are you certain?" There was an edge of -- something -- in his tone. Tension maybe? Or anticipation?
"Yes. I am. After all -- what would be the point in being able to see again...if I couldn't look at myself in the mirror? So just...just end this. Now."
There was a pause, and then: "Only you can do that, I'm afraid."
Huh? Buffy frowned, turning back to Spike. How? What was she supposed to do? What could she do? He was in so much pain and there was so much blood... It was soaking into her shoes, the smell of it filling the air until she thought she would choke on it.
A shudder went through her. She couldn't. She couldn't "There has to be another way," she said, almost to herself, more a plea than anything else...
"Oh will you just shut the bloody hell up and stake me already?" Buffy jumped. It was Spike's voice, wracked with agony and barely louder than a whisper, but he was awake. Just barely, but awake. Which meant he had heard everything that had been said... Buffy swallowed then sank slowly back to her knees again beside him. "What did you say?"
"You heard, blondie... Get it over with."
She shook her head violently. "Are you crazy? I'm not going to kill you. Well, not today anyway."
"Stubborn...bloody...woman. Year ago you wouldn't have so much as batted an eyelid. Would've staked me as soon as look at me. And you know you still want to..."
With an effort Spike managed to raise his upper body slightly, reaching out with unsteady fingers for her. Buffy didn't move away, didn't even flinch as his hand closed around her left wrist and pulled it forward until the stake in her fingers was resting against his chest, the point just over his heart.
"You said it before, Goldilocks. World needs a Slayer. And with this chip in my head I'm just a waste of space. Be doing me a favour, really. So just...bloody do it!" He tightened his grip on her wrist.
Buffy closed her eyes and for one instant -- just one -- she actually considered it. With one move she could have everything back, could regain everything she had lost when she had first felt the demon's acid burning in her eyes. Her sight. Her life. Her future...
But she would lose too. Self-respect. Peace of mind. And Spike. She would lose Spike.
"Stupid vampire," the Slayer said savagely, wrenching her arm out of his grasp and pulling the stake away from him. "Much as I would love to stake you into dust right now, I'm not going to."
"Slayer..." his voice was weaker now.
"And don't 'Slayer' me, either. Who was yelling at who about choices earlier tonight? You can dish it out pretty good, Spike, but can you take it? It takes a lot to live. I should know. Dying's easy, but living...living is hard and painful and everyday. And it doesn't ever get easy. The hurt and the loss and the pain don't ever go away, whether you live to be twenty, or a hundred and twenty. But, if you're really, really lucky, you get a few minutes of happiness too, mixed up in all that pain."
"And you know what Spike? Those few moments make it all worthwhile."
"You don't understand..." His speech was slurred.
"No? You don't think I know what it's like to feel helpless? Defenceless? Weak? Dependent? Feel free to stop me at any time. Well, big surprise, Fang Boy, but I do. I know exactly what it's like. So you've got a chip in your head that won't let you kill people. Well forgive me if the sorry just keeps eluding me. You've still got a life, Spike. And you can't tell me there's no joy in it anywhere, even if it's just in the little things..."
Buffy's voice softened. "'Cause sometimes the little things are all we have left."
"Nice speech, Summers." Spike's voice was still frighteningly weak, but he somehow managed to inject a note of scorn into it. "Not exactly life-changing though. 'Cause like it or not, I'm still gonna die. It's just gonna take longer unless you stop mucking about and bloody do it!"
Buffy closed her eyes briefly, a tremor going through her. But the decision had already been made. She opened her eyes again. "Look," she said softly, leaning closer to him. "You need blood. And I've got it. So...so just go for it. Drinks are on Buffy. Only...try not to take too much, OK? The Slayer supply is running kinda low right now."
Which was true. Actually, now that she thought about it -- really thought about it -- Buffy was still far too weak to even be considering this. The blood she had lost earlier, combined with her injuries...well, she just shouldn't be doing this. If she did, it could kill her.
But if she didn't, it would kill him. And besides, it was too late to back out now. Far too late. Better to just get it over with, before she started thinking too much...and before he died and made the whole thing pointless anyway.
Licking suddenly dry lips, Buffy leaned further over the vampire, bringing her neck even closer to his mouth. "Do it Spike," she whispered. "You finally get what you've always wanted...and it's probably not even your birthday..."
Nothing. No answer, no movement. Buffy frowned. What was he waiting for? Had he passed out? Or...? Her frown deepened. No, he was still conscious. So what was the holdup? Another tremor ripped through her. If she had time to think about what she was doing, time to let the fear that was gathering in the pit of her stomach take control...then she wouldn't be able to do this. As it was, her fingers were already beginning to shake at the thought of...of...
It wasn't like she had never done this before, Buffy told herself firmly. She had. The Master, Angel, Dracula... For a Slayer, she had spent way too much time with fangs in her throat. But she had always walked away before, one way or another. This time though...this time she wasn't sure she would. Because she was already so weak. And because this was Spike. Former mortal enemy number one, head of the Slayer most wanted list... Only it went deeper than that now, didn't it? And maybe, just maybe it was more frightening than all those other times...because he was most wanted in more ways than one...
Buffy swallowed deeply then forced the thought aside. "Do it, Spike," she said again.
"Love to pet." His voice was barely a whisper now. "But
Oh yeah. Buffy paused, holding herself just above the vampire's prone body. The chip. Then she shook her head slightly, feeling her hair brush against his chest. He didn't even flinch, was obviously holding onto consciousness by a thread. "Doesn't matter," she whispered softly. "Remember? You told me the chip works based on intent. If you don't plan to hurt me then it won't hurt you."
He didn't answer. Buffy sighed softly, wishing she didn't have to say this, wishing there was some other way. Any other way. But there wasn't. And she was all out of time. And options. So...time to bare her soul along with her neck.
The Slayer leaned closer until her mouth was right beside the vampire's ear. "I've been bitten before, Spike. And we both know that..." her voice quivered, but she went on resolutely: "that if I want you to do it, that if I want you, then...then it won't hurt me. That is -- it will hurt...but I'll enjoy it." A pause. "And Spike? I'm going to enjoy it."
And then there was only the sensation of fangs, tearing through skin and sinking deeply into her, a lean, cool body beneath her own, and an arm coming around her to pull her even closer...
And Buffy was right. She did enjoy it.
Continued in Part 13