Semi-series of short post-ep musings, from Spike's POV. These were written in the week immediately following each ep, so if some things don't jive with later developments, that would be why.
Begins with Showtime, right after Buffy cuts him loose from the Big Evil.
As she cuts him free the whole world is somehow lacking in weight. It's soft, like you could fall through it, and full of little prickles of pain. Cotton candy and metal shavings. Don't drink the water. Her shoulder under his hand is the only solid thing.
She looks at him with dark, liquid eyes, filled with a tension that he cannot read. When did she become opaque? She's asking something, or maybe promising, but probably even she can't tell you what she means. She never did speak with words.
She turns under his hand, slipping his arm around her shoulders, slipping her hand around his waist. She's warm, and although that shouldn't matter, it does. Her heat surrounds him like a benediction. The other one - she was never warm. He never noticed the difference until now.
Her house is different from the way he remembers it, boarded up and under siege and full of strangers, painfully young girls with staring eyes. It reminds him of a boarding school. Is he supposed to know these people? Their eyes are full of awe and fear, but they're not really looking at him. They are hers, he can tell. Just like he is. They worship her. Just like he does.
Her grip on him is tighter, as though she can protect him from the silent questions that surround them. Maybe she's protecting herself. He can sense that he's an oddity here now, a marvel and a mystery. They look like they want to poke him with sharp fingers, to see if he'll bite. He lowers his eyes to the carpet. Blood and fear. It doesn't work that way any more, but some things never change.
Someone asks a question. The voice roars in his ears, and he doesn't hear the words but he imagines it's something like, "You're bringing him here?" Her shoulders shift under his arm, and she snaps back a reply that would freeze molten rock. She has never liked those kinds of questions, not about him. Questions like, Why are you doing this? What am I to you? Why now, after everything fell to shit, after trying and trying and failing so hard, why do I have your belief and your soft words and your arm around me now, when I finally understand how little I deserve it?
The strangers are not asking these questions, of course, but neither is he. He has begun to learn that there are worse things than living in doubt. When you know the answers, there's no such thing as hope.
He expects her to take him to the basement, back to the familiar safety of chains and concrete and the subtle torture of her presence. But instead, inexplicably, she is leading him up the stairs towards the bedrooms, and this is when he begins to understand that things have changed. What they have changed into, he has no idea. But as she lays him gently on the bed - her mother's bed, the witches' bed, but not any more apparently - a treacherous peace is seeping through him.
She is standing somewhere to the side now, not close but not far away either. He can't see her, but he can feel her presence, making the air around her restless, like a distant storm. He keeps expecting her to grab him, haul him into a chair, tie him down, but she just stands there, making the hair on his arm stand on end.
"Not safe," he mumbles, meaning that it's not safe to leave him unbound, that she is not safe from him.
"I can handle it," she says, and he could swear that she is smiling. She turns away, digging in the corner, and when she turns back she is covering him with a blanket. For a moment he thinks she misunderstood, but when he looks at her to protest, it's clear that she means that she can handle him. Unexpectedly, this is comforting.
"Don't eat anyone," she adds, after a pause.
"Don't think I could. State I'm in." His eyes are closed. He is very tired. He can hear her moving around, feel her retreat. "Don't leave," he says, without thinking, already less than half-conscious.
"I'm not going anywhere."
Later, he will be surprised by this, and somewhat confused.
They are in a foreign country now.
Continued in Potential