But it had to be done, and his determination filled him like a cold pillar of strength, holding him straight as the world rose and fell with the waves.
He tried not to think of it. He was strong. The strange sensations coiled around him like snakes. But it was only the heat, only the discomfort. It wasn't-- couldn't be anything else.
And the heat and his circuitous thoughts blurred together and he fell into a thin and insubstantial sleep.
There was an expanse of black water. He stood naked in its warm, soft current. His bare feet rested lightly on the sandy and unseen lake bottom. And he held her.
He held her up, one hand beneath her, on her back. She was stretched out, otherwise floating in the water. The soft, pale line of her waist cut a stark contrast to the dark expanse. She trailed her fingers limply in the current. Her hair flowed wet against the sides of her face, clinging about the black and shining ripples. Her thigh was bruised darkly. She stared into the dull and woolen clouds above them, deep in thought-- distant. The Slayer's eyes were dead, unseeing.
And the water moved silently around them.
He was unsure when he awoke. It was a slow coming to awareness, the light growing redder and warmer around them-- slowly becoming aware of the light of the exposed bulbs shining through his eyelids. And he was aware of his tears.
He was overcome with a profound despair, and his shoulders shook with sobs. His chest swelled with the inner pain and he bit his lip, shuddering with their force. And his eyes snapped open.
Long hair flowed before him, soft and light brown.
The figure was immensely beautiful, glowed with its own inner light. Her eyes were sad and joyful at the same time. They saw through him and knew everything that was in him-- every ugly corner of his lost and tired heart. She held a hand out to him with an unearthly Grace.
Tara. In that moment he knew she was dead.
The sadness rose in him, the despair of his dream and that which it recalled, and he reached out to her. He barely touched her fingers, but they were cool in the oppressive, sweltering heat of the cargo hold.
And as he touched her, he found he could not stop the tears that fell.
And she knelt beside him, tilting her head to the side, her eyes full of compassion. Yet she did not speak.
Silently she looked at him. She was Love Herself, stroking the tears away. She saw everything-- everything repulsive in his dark, unworthy mind. And she looked on it gently, a slight smile of compassion on her soft lips.
When she embraced him, pressing his head to her breast, he simply clung to her like one completely lost.
And he wept.
It was only then he smelt the blood on her chest, and saw the wound. He wondered how he hadn't seen it before. But it didn't, somehow, seem to matter in that moment-- nothing mattered. Not time, not words. It seemed like she was the only thing that was substantial. She was, in that moment, the only thing real. He clung to her not only for life, but existence itself.
What seemed like hours passed, and it seemed that in his sobs he told her everything-- all that he had known and done and lamented over his long and tedious years. And she silently received him.
And at last, he fell to a quiet sleep in her cool and gentle arms.
When he awoke, he was leaning awkwardly against a crate. The sea rocked, and the sun had moved considerably in its corner. It was blue in its geometric patterns on the floor.
He tried to shake off the dream-- its pulling weight within his chest. It wasn't what he was here for. And yet, waiting eternally in that stifled, airless hold, it clung to him, resting like a shadow in his unquiet mind.