Sunlight was finally streaming through the open blinds, bringing the
seemingly endless night to a close. *Morning, thank god,* Buffy thought with
relief. She shifted in the chair by Willow's bed, trying to get comfortable,
wondering how Giles was doing out in the hall. He'd been in the room with them
for most of the night and Buffy had finally sent him out to get some rest,
reminding him that he was too old to be pulling all nighters. Giles hadn't been
amused, but she'd caught the relief on his face as he'd left the room.
She groaned softly at the cramps in her arms and legs. Every part of her body
ached with exhaustion, but sleep had been impossible as she'd fidgeted and paced
all night. All she could see was Spike's face- the hurt in his eyes, the
disbelief at her accusation.
What had she done? How could she have treated him that way? *Because he's a
vampire...and vampires kill.* And she'd looked the other way for weeks,
pretending not to notice his feeding habits. The guilt over that had never
really gone away and Oz's death had only reinforced it.
Deep down, she hadn't really believed that Spike had killed Oz. No, she'd
merely projected her own feelings of remorse and self-castigation onto him, to
relieve the shame that she'd felt. Disturbed by the direction that her thoughts
were taking, Buffy pushed them away and turned her attention to Willow.
The redhead was sitting up in the bed, staring blankly out the window. Her
face was a porcelain mask, completely devoid of any emotion. Buffy wondered if
it had been a good idea to let her go the entire night without a sedative. She
wouldn't have minded having one herself, to feel the sweet oblivion so readily
available with chemical assistance. There was something to be said for leaving
reality behind, especially when your reality was worse than most people's
Each time Willow had drifted off to sleep, she'd awakened mere moments later,
screaming for Oz. The nurse on duty had tried desperately to sedate her, but her
efforts only increased Willow's panic. The girl had been terrified that if she
fell into a deep sleep, she'd be trapped inside her dreams, unable to claw her
way out. Buffy and Giles had convinced the nurse that they would watch over her,
and that they'd awaken her quickly so that she wouldn't disturb the other
patients. By sunrise, they had both felt as if they'd experienced first hand
every moment of horror that Willow had lived through.
As if sensing the Slayer's thoughts, Willow turned her head and looked at
her. Or rather, 'through' her, with the same unfocused gaze that she'd had since
arriving at the hospital. Buffy tried to smile reassuringly.
"Hey," came Willow's soft reply. Her eyes pulled into focus for a brief
moment, allowing her to see Buffy's bedraggled state, see the large purple
shadows rimming her eyes. Guilt and anger flared again, as she considered how
much of a burden she'd been last night. Somehow, her resolve face managed to
surface. "Buffy, you're going home right now and getting some sleep. Take Giles
Buffy looked at her in surprise. "We said we wouldn't leave, and we're not
going to," she answered, shaking her head. The motion made her dizzy and she
moaned, bringing her hand up to press against her temple.
Willow's voice hardened. "You're going and that's final. You and Giles need
rest, you're going to get sick if you keep on like this." Her face crumpled,
unable to sustain its determined expression, and fresh tears began welling up.
"Please, Buffy, I need for you to go. I don't want you to have to watch over me
Buffy started to protest, but Willow cut her off. "Xander and my parents are
coming. I'll be fine until they get here." Her eyes found the window again. "It
'is' daylight, after all."
Buffy watched as Willow held out her hands, catching the rays as they spilled
through the blinds. Her eyes narrowed as the other girl studied her hands in the
light and Buffy knew that she was looking for bloodstains. Her heart
constricted, guilt encompassing her once again.
"The sun is so warm," Willow murmured. "I didn't think it would ever get
here." She was absently rubbing her hands together, frowning as she stared at
"Willow, are you sure you want me to go?" Buffy asked worriedly.
Willow dropped her hands and met Buffy's eyes squarely. "I'm sure."
Buffy hesitated, not wanting to add to Willow's distress, but unsure if she
should be left alone. She searched the redhead's eyes, seeing the sudden clarity
in them, and relented. "Okay, then. I'll go."
Buffy stood and stretched, every muscle in her body screaming for a hot
shower to soothe them. And afterward, she would slide between cool, freshly
laundered sheets. The thought was almost too pleasurable to bear. She walked
over to the bed and took Willow's hand in hers. "If you change your mind, or
need me for anything, call me and I'll come right back."
The redhead gave her a weak smile. "Thanks, Buffy."
Buffy squeezed her hand once and headed for the door to tell Giles that she
was leaving. Her hand was on the knob when Willow's voice stopped her.
Buffy turned, expecting Willow to ask her to stay. What she heard instead
caught her by surprise.
"I remembered something else. Th-the vampire who..." Willow's voice cracked
and she looked down for a moment before continuing. "He said that Spike was
finished as Master. That it was time to take control..."
The blood drained from the Slayer's face as she looked up at the window, and
the sunlight shining through. *Daylight...did something happen last night, after
Oz?* And suddenly, Spike's face was all she could see, and she nearly choked on
her next words. "Did he say anything else?" she asked hoarsely.
Willow's eyes were haunted as the vampire's words rang in her ears, making
her relive last night all over again. She shook her head. "Just that they were
going to kill you...because of Angel."
Buffy didn't care about that, all she cared about was making sure that Spike
was all right. If the minions had banded together against him...*How many? God,
how many are there?* The mansion, she had to go, had to see...
"I have to go, Willow...please tell Giles that I went home..." She grabbed
her duffle bag from the floor and fled, not stopping as she ran past a sleeping
Giles, curled up on the bench in the hall.
Willow twisted the blanket covering her lap, staring at her hands again,
knowing that home would be the last place that the Slayer went to. "Be careful,
Buffy," she whispered.
Buffy ran, exhaustion forgotten as fear gripped her entire being. Fear that
Spike would be dead when she got there. *No, he can't be. He's strong...* Strong
enough to take them all on? How many were there? She pushed her body beyond
human endurance, forcing herself to run faster.
The memory of how they'd parted was taunting her, repeating itself in her
head. How she'd backed away from him, the look in his eyes, the hurt tone in his
voice- "You don't think I had anything to do with...?" Her failure to reassure
him, to believe in him. The realization of how much she must have hurt him
struck her like a slap in the face. *God, Spike...I'm so sorry... Please be
She made it to the mansion in record time. Bursting through the door, she
never stopped to consider the possible danger to herself, or the folly of
charging into a nest of vampires, armed with only a single stake.
"SPIKE!" she called out frantically. Her heart pounded as she waited for an
answer. Nothing. Dropping her duffle bag on the floor, she started for the
stairs, only to be halted by the sound of his voice, echoing in the main hall.
Buffy whirled around, spotting him sitting on the couch by the fire. "Spike!"
Relief flooded her as she ran to him. "Thank god, you're all right! Willow said
that..." She gasped as his blood streaked face came into view. "You're hurt!"
she said, dropping her stake and taking his chin in her hand.
Spike jerked his head away from her touch. "It's not mine." His eyes were
cold, empty as they stared into hers. "What do you care, anyway? I'm just
another fucking monster, right?"
"Don't say that," she whispered.
"Why not? It's the bloody truth, isn't it?" His face dared her to deny it.
"Doesn't matter how many times we've fucked, soon as someone ends up dead, I'm
the first one you think of."
Buffy flinched at the bitterness in his voice, knowing that she deserved his
anger. Her eyes were bleak as she answered him. "I can't help what I am, what
I'm trained to be... anymore than you can help being a vampire."
Spike snorted. "Well, isn't that a bloody convenient excuse?"
Buffy noticed the nearly empty liquor bottle on the couch next to him.
"You're drunk," she said flatly.
"Not as drunk as I'd like to be." He tilted the bottle and drained it. "Fuck,
it's empty." He tossed it aside. Looking up, he glared at her. "Don't suppose
you'd like to get me another? It's a bit sunny in the other room, or I'd do it
Her eyes wandered over his bloodstained clothes, the rip in his shirt. "What
happened, Spike?" she asked, ignoring his request.
"I took care of business, like I should have from the start." He looked down
at his hands. "Got rid of Angel's by-blows, every last one of them."
"By yourself? How many?" She held her breath, waiting for his answer.
He raised his eyes until his gaze bored into her. "Five. Used to be six...
Your friend must have taken one with him last night."
*Five... He killed five minions on his own?* She stared at him in wonder. *If
he can take out that many at once...* Had he been holding back with her? Could
he really have killed her that easily? She had the horrible feeling that she'd
underestimated him, a mistake that could have been fatal, had the circumstances
been different. *But the circumstances 'were' different, when he first got here.
So why didn't he kill me then?*
"Spike..." She reached for him, stopping when he pulled away. His eyes were
full of hurt and anger, glittering like chips of blue ice. Their coldness stung
her flesh, as surely as if they'd touched her, and for the first time in their
relationship, she felt a prickling of fear. Her body tensed as she watched him
warily, realizing that he was nearly vibrating with fury.
She tried to apologize for hurting him. "Spike, I'm sorry, I didn't mean-"
Spike cut her off, saying quite deliberately, "If you're not going to get me
another bottle, and you're not here to stake my fledglings in their beds,
then... PISS. OFF." His lip curled into a cruel smirk. "Unless you're interested
in a quick fuck?"
His crudeness startled her, bringing tears to her eyes, and Buffy blinked
them back, wondering why she was so surprised at his behavior. Hadn't she
thought the worst of him last night? Hadn't she seen him like this before, back
in their mortal enemy days? Yes, she had. Had heard him say worse things, many
times. But not in the last seven weeks. Not since they'd become lovers.
She didn't want it to end like this. It couldn't. Just the thought of being
without him made her chest tighten with pain. Buffy struggled to find the words
that could make him forgive her.
"Please don't do this Spike," she pleaded. "I know that I hurt you, and I'm
sorry. I was upset last night, I didn't know what I was saying or thinking...or
feeling. I wish that I could take it all back..." The tears fell in earnest as
she desperately tried to make him understand how sorry she was.
Her words fell on deaf ears as Spike fought for control, his hands clenched
into fists at his sides, nails digging into his palms. He wanted her gone, out
of his sight, out of his fucking mind.
He lowered his head, feeling the anger roiling inside him, fueling the
demon's bloodlust. It made him hungry, as though killing the minions had only
been an appetizer. The blood rushing in her veins, her tears, the scent of her
fear, all screamed 'prey' to him, letting the demon edge ever closer to the
surface. If she didn't leave now...she never would. Not alive, anyway.
"Please, Spike...I love you..."
His head shot up with a snarl and Buffy gasped at the bloodthirsty look in
his yellow eyes.
Through gritted teeth, he said, "You're not welcome here, Slayer, so unless
you fancy finding out once and for all which of us is stronger, I suggest you
Her Slayer survival instinct kicked in and she slowly got up and backed away,
retrieving her stake as she went. She gripped it with numb fingers, knowing that
she'd never have the strength to fight him if he attacked.
He was growling as she continued moving to the door, keeping her eyes trained
on his, fighting the pain that clawed at her heart. It was like Angelus all over
again, only worse. Much worse. It felt like she was being ripped apart, piece by
Picking up her duffle bag, she stopped at the door, looking at him with tears
in her eyes. "I'm sorry, Spike," she whispered.
"GET OUT!" Spike roared, picking up the discarded bottle.
Buffy ran out the door, pulling it closed, just as he reared back and threw
the bottle with all of his strength. She jumped as it shattered against the wood
on the other side. Her knees buckled and she crumpled to the ground helplessly
as fresh sobs tore from her throat. She wrapped her arms around herself and let
the torrent flow, releasing all of the grief and anguish that had built up over
the last twelve hours. Giant shudders racked her body as she lay there in the
sun, freezing cold, in spite of its warmth.
"Spike," she whimpered, curling into a ball, just a few feet from the door.
Inside the mansion, listening to the Slayer's distress, Spike paced and
growled, wanting to tear the door off its hinges and go after her. He was
uncertain as to what he would do if he actually got his hands on her. Comfort
her? Fuck her? Kill her? It was just as well that daylight prevented him from
doing any of them. He clapped his hands over his ears and howled, trying to
drown out the pitiful sounds coming from the other side of the door.
"Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up, SHUT THE BLOODY FUCK UP!" he screamed,
hammering at the heavy door with his fist. His agitation grew with every murmur
of his name from her lips and he prowled the room, looking for things to
The end table flew into the fireplace, lamps shattered against stone walls,
chairs were picked up and smashed on the floor, but none of it helped. For the
first time in his unlife, massive breakage failed to soothe him. After upending
the couch and shredding the cushions with his claws, he stopped, suddenly aware
of the silence outside. His body sagged with relief, finally free of the
Taking a last look around the room at the destruction, he slowly made his way
upstairs, wondering in the back of his mind if he was losing it, like Dru had.
It wouldn't surprise him in the least if he was- hell, it made sense, in light
of his recent actions with the Slayer. *Don't think about her, think about how
good it felt to kill again. To feel bones breaking and flesh tearing...to feel
like a demon again.*
He stumbled into his room and fell on the bed, looking for the oblivion that
he knew was sure to elude him. *Sleep, just let me fucking sleep...* He closed
his eyes, knowing that there would be no escape from her, not even in his
dreams. Moaning her name, he rolled over and slipped into the void, where
visions of the Slayer waited to torment him.
Buffy heard the crashing and screaming from inside the mansion as she lay
there, powerless to stop the flood of gasping sobs that poured out of her. Each
sound Spike made was like a knife in her heart, filling her with a stabbing pain
that left her paralyzed. The agony went on and on, making her withdraw further
into herself, trying to shut out the sounds of Spike's fury. With every hammer
of his fist, her body jerked as if it had been touched by an electric current,
wringing desolate moans from deep within her throat.
Gradually, as her mind shut down in self preservation, the tears slowed and
the convulsive shudders stopped. She rolled to her knees and began crawling away
from the door, away from the frenzied destruction on the other side. When she
could no longer hear him, she stood up and started heading for home, her feet
automatically going in the right direction.
Buffy walked through the streets of Sunnydale in a daze, arriving on her
front porch with no memory of how she'd gotten there. She went inside and
somehow made it upstairs, her arms and legs growing heavier with each step. In
the distance, she heard her mother's voice, but couldn't seem to open her mouth
to answer. Everything was cold, numb...entirely dead.
In the sanctuary of her room, she climbed into bed without getting undressed
and lay there staring at the ceiling, until sleep finally claimed her. She
tossed and turned fitfully for the rest of the day and into the night, sometimes
calling for Spike, sometimes Guillaume, never fully waking from the nightmares
that plagued her. Nightmares in which she ran, searching for both loves, but was
never in time to save either one.
Buffy awoke near dawn and lay there in the semi-darkness, feeling
disoriented, hot and uncomfortable. She was groggy from too many hours of
restless sleep, unable to lift her head from the pillow. Kicking the covers off,
she stared down at her clothes with a puzzled frown. Why was she still dressed?
She had no memory of falling into bed. The last thing she remembered
Willow, hospital, and then... Spike.
Pain stabbed through her as she remembered their meeting at the mansion. His
face filled her vision- the muscle in his cheek twitching with anger, his eyes
glowing yellow with bloodlust. There had been no trace left of the tenderness-
the humanity- that he'd shown her time and again over the last few weeks. From
the things he'd said, and the sounds of destruction coming from within the
mansion, it was obvious that anything he'd felt for her was dead. The love
they'd shared had been wiped out in a single moment of hurt and distrust.
"Noooo..." she moaned, as tears began to fall anew. Over. It was over, just
She wept quietly into her pillow, struggling to breathe past the ache in her
chest and the lump in her throat. She'd failed. Failed as a Slayer, failed as a
friend... Failed as a lover.
She could only imagine what Giles' reaction would be when he found out about
her deception of the last few weeks. Disappointment? Anger? Contempt? She didn't
even want to think about what it would do to her to lose Giles on top of
everything else. At this point, there wasn't much more she could take.
The Hellmouth had worked its mojo on her life yet again, ripping it apart at
the seams. Oz dead, Willow forever changed from the innocent girl she once was,
Spike was a Slayer-hating demon once more, thanks to her colossal fuck up. A
demon who felt betrayed. If he- *oh god*- If he decided to come after her, to
hurt her the way that she had hurt him... This time around, there would be no
promise of "I'll make it quick, it won't hurt a bit." No, this time...
She couldn't think, couldn't see, couldn't breathe. Couldn't deal with the
thought of going back to being enemies, of trying to kill each other again. She
didn't have it in her to stake him- not anymore. Didn't have the strength, or
the intent. It was killing her now to even think about it. To think of plunging
a stake through his heart, seeing him turn to dust...
Her mind rebelled at the image, so she stopped. Stopped thinking, stopped
Forcing him from her mind, she let herself go numb, just as she had outside
the mansion. *No wonder Willow tuned out, it's better than feeling...feeling
Lying there in the dim light, Buffy concentrated on calming down, pretending
that she was in one of Giles' Zen training sessions. Slowing her breathing so
that it didn't feel like she was suffocating. Letting all of her muscles go
limp, forcing the tension from her body. Drawing on the same reserve of Slayer
strength that allowed her to fight automatically without thinking. Everything
around her reduced to white noise, until she finally got a grip on her emotions.
When her body had completely relaxed, Buffy turned and looked at the clock
beside the bed. *Five o'clock- AM, or PM? How long was I sleeping?* An urgent
need to urinate answered her question and she winced at the painful weight of
her bladder pressing against her side.
She sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed, pausing as a wave of
dizziness rolled over her. When the room stopped spinning, she shakily stumbled
into the bathroom and relieved herself. She wanted a shower, but didn't think
that she had the strength to stand for that long. *I can at least brush my
teeth, wash my face. Getting rid of morning breath shouldn't take too much
Buffy stood and stared into the mirror, gripping the sink like a lifeline.
The face that stared back at her was scarier than any monster the Hellmouth
could spit out. She was as white as a sheet, her eyes sunken and rimmed with
deep purple shadows. *That can't be me. God, Cordelia would have a field day if
she saw me looking like this.*
She picked up her toothbrush and applied the paste with shaking hands, then
raised it to her mouth. The clean, minty flavor of the toothpaste made her mouth
tingle and she brushed harder, trying to remove the film that had built up over
the last thirty-six hours.
Suddenly she was gagging, the toothbrush falling into the sink with a clatter
as bile flooded her mouth. She turned, leaning over the toilet just in time for
it to catch the meager contents of her stomach that spewed forth into the bowl.
Clinging to the rim helplessly, Buffy watched as remnants of the stale donut
and diet coke she'd consumed at the hospital splashed into the water. Her
stomach continued to heave long after it was empty, the painful spasms causing
tears to leak from her eyes again.
She'd always hated throwing up, hated the way her entire body strained with
the effort, as if all of her internal organs were being forced out as well. It
felt like that now, felt like her body was trying to purge itself of everything
After what seemed like an eternity, the retching ceased and she collapsed on
the floor, trembling violently. Sweat dotted her forehead and beaded on her
upper lip as she rested her head against the cool rim of the bowl, waiting for
the shaking to subside.
"Buffy?" came her mother's worried voice from the other side of the door.
"Honey, are you all right?"
"No," Buffy croaked out weakly. *I'm not all right, I want to die.*
Joyce opened the door and rushed to her daughter's side. "Oh sweetie, look at
you." She brushed Buffy's hair off of her face and felt her forehead. "You don't
have a fever," she said, letting the back of her hand caress her daughter's
Grabbing a washcloth from the vanity, she soaked it with cool water, then
filled a glass from the sink. Turning back to Buffy, Joyce dabbed at her face
with the cold compress.
"Better?" She gave her a sip of water, smoothing her hair back in a
comforting gesture. "Let's get you back into bed, okay? I'll bring you some
Buffy nodded listlessly and leaned on her mother as she struggled to stand.
She felt weak and exhausted, both physically and mentally. Letting Joyce lead
her out of the bathroom, she wondered if things could possibly get worse, then
berated herself for even daring to think it. Things could always get worse on
the Hellmouth, it was practically a given.
Joyce was talking as she helped Buffy to her room, more to herself than to
her daughter. "I knew this was bound to happen- running around with your friends
almost every night, not eating properly- I'm sure your father had you
galavanting all over L.A. doing god knows what... And now poor Oz and Willow,
attacked by that gang..."
Once in the room, Joyce efficiently got Buffy undressed and into a clean
nightshirt, settling her back into bed. She sat on the edge for a moment,
holding her daughter's hand. "Poor baby. I know how much you hate being sick,"
she said, stroking Buffy's hair.
"Mommy, it hurts," Buffy whimpered, curling into a fetal position. At that
moment, she wasn't sure whether she was talking about her stomach, or her heart.
Both ached more than she thought humanly possible.
Joyce murmured a few more words of comfort, then left to get the promised
ginger ale and a bowl, in case Buffy got sick again. As the door slid shut
behind her, Buffy closed her eyes and prayed for the nausea to pass, tears
slipping down her cheeks. She wanted Spike, wanted everything back the way it
was- Oz alive, Willow happy- just wanted to rewind the past forty-eight hours.
*If only the Hellmouth had a time machine...*
Her mind was filled with 'if onlys'. If only she'd gone to the Bronze with Oz
and Willow. If only she hadn't blamed Spike for Oz's death. If only Spike had
killed Angel's fledglings two months ago. If only... If only she didn't feel
like she wanted to die...