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In The Mind
 
Whole Fic
 
Title: In the Mind
Challenge: #69
Disclaimer: I own nothing here but my own imagination. Joss is friggin’ God of the Buffyverse and I am a lowly wannabe-God-peasant-type-person
Setting: Post ‘The Gift’, post AU ‘Prophecy Girl’.
Summary: When Buffy leaps from the tower at the end of her twentieth year of life, she expects nothing less than death. Peace. Instead she wakes up in a place where her friends believe her to be insane and a dangerous enemy wants her dead. How will she react when she finds out she wasn’t the one who killed the Master? And everything she knows is a lie...


CHAPTER ONE: Into the light

Tears, streaming down her face.

Eyes hollow with realisation.

“Buffy... No!” she pleads.

“Dawnie I have to.” the Slayer replies, grasping her sister’s shoulders.

“No!” Dawn cries, shaking her head, trying to deny the situation for all she is worth.

“Dawn listen to me,” Buffy begs, “Please, there’s not a lot of time. Listen.”

Dawn’s eyes are widening with the implications of exactly what’s about to go down.

“I love you,” Buffy says, her eyes swarming with the emotion, “I will always... Love you. But this is the work that I have to do. Tell Giles...” she pauses for a moment, realising this will be the final words of understanding and compassion that she can pass on to her friends, “Tell Giles I figured it out. And... And I’m okay.” she closes her eyes slightly, feeling as if the weight of responsibility is already lifting from her shoulders. “And give my love to my friends,” she continues, “You have to take care of them now. You have to take care of each other.” she smiles, “You have to be strong. Dawn... The hardest thing in this world is to live in it... Be brave. Live.” her eyes are glittering as she realises her new found freedom. “For me.”

The Slayer, older than her years, stands for just a moment, absorbing every aspect that is her baby sister.

She looks so young and sad as a lonely tear zig zags its way down her cheek. There’s an empty look in her eyes, like a lost little lamb who doesn’t want to be left to face the world all alone.

But Buffy knows that her sister will never be alone. As long as Spike and the Scoobies live; Dawn will never go unprotected.

She reaches for her then; extending her fingers to run them softly through the long brown hair that falls straight as icicles around the young girl’s shoulders. Her fingers weave through the soft strands and she pulls her sister toward her, pressing her lips tenderly to her cheek.

Then she gazes into her eyes for one last time, before turning away and breaking out into a powerful run, facing the bursting ball of energy that befalls her.

She can hear Dawn’s choked sobs as she leaps gracefully into the light.

Light... and warm.

The feeling surrounds her until she feels consumed by the light. Happy... and safe... and bright.

Ouch.

She has to close her eyes.

The light is burning.

She screws her eyes up tight, then slowly opens them again and- ouch!

Her eyes snap shut.

The falling sensation is gone.

She can’t understand where she is or why she feels so still and hollow.

‘Am I dead?’ she wonders.

‘Is this Hell?’

But the light, so bright that it fills her conscious and burns through her closed eye lids, it flickers like a weak over head lamp.

Then she hears it; a gentle ‘beep... beep’, steady and calming.

It matches her breathing.

She’s breathing; she’s alive.

She isn’t in Hell.

The jump didn’t kill her.

The long list of realisations dawn upon her one after another. She feels her chest rising and falling at a steady rate and again, she tries again to open her eyes.

The blinding light confuses her. It feels the same; the same as the light that was supposed to kill her. Supposed to absorb her and take away all the pain of responsibility, of having to be an adult and the Slayer.

A choked sob escapes her chapped and broken lips as the beeping of the machine alters.

“Bright...” she whispers, “Too bright...”

She hears hushed voices all around her and suddenly the lights are gone.

Then somebody is speaking to her. The voice is female but sounds as if it’s coming to her through a thickly insulated wall. She can’t understand the words; muffled and hollow to her ears.

She strains to make out the voice, her eyelids fluttering in the process.

She feels a clammy hand in hers.

It brings back the cold reality of her current situation.

Slayer lives to face another day.

Again.

Before she’s even opened her eyes; tears are seeping from them. Hot; they burn her like acid as they curl out from beneath her matted eye lashes.

She gasps a deep sob and grasps down on the hand that is wrapped around her own.

“Buffy?” she recognises her own name; but not the voice speaking and it only makes her sob more.

“Why, why, why...” she mutters, pulling the hand toward her chest and forcing it down above her heart, “Why is it beating?”

She keeps her eyes closed; comforted momentarily by the darkness.

Dark like a coffin in the ground.

“What’s wrong with me?” she whispers. “I wanted... I was ready...”

“Shh...” the voice is soothing and familiar but it doesn’t calm the Slayer who fell so close to death; only to be pulled back into the cold world once more.

Slowly, slowly she opens her eyes and looks up into the face; shrouded by darkness above her.

“There you are baby.” says the gentle voice.

For a moment Buffy just stares; eyes wide and cold with icy tears as she stares into the daunting face; half cast in shadow and half illuminated by a pale blue night light.

Then she screams; loud, high and shrill; pushing the strange apparition as far away from her as she can manage.

She sits up in terror, pulling the starch white hospital blankets around her chest and backing herself against the steel head board as her eyes shoot around the dimly lit room.

She recognises the faces of her friends; strange and distorted by the low, flickering light.

And the... thing... laying on the floor, sitting up slowly.

“Lights. Lights. Lights.” Buffy chants; watching as Xander flies over to the light switch; slamming his hand down on the white button; flooding the room with the same bright, white glow. Harsh and biting back into her closed eye lids as she balls her fists into her grimy eyes, trying to block out the harsh light.

She hears someone approach her cautiously.

“Buffy?” Giles’ voice.

He rests his hand slowly onto her forearm.

“Are you okay?” Willow’s voice floats into her conscious.

Slowly, Buffy pulls away her hands, opening her bleary eyes and blinking rapidly as she tries to clear the blind spot left by the huge ball of energy she was facing just moments ago.

“I...” her voice sounds weak and grates like sand paper against the back of her throat.

Her lungs hurt and her chest feels heavy.

Her friends are looking at her. Xander, Willow, Giles and... the thing.

She watches as it gets slowly back to its feet, looking at Buffy cautiously.

Willow turns to look at the thing, offering her hand to support it as it approaches Buffy again.

“Baby?” it uses her voice.

Wears her clothes.

Sees through her eyes.

And looks just like her.

But it’s not her; because she’s dead.

“Stay away from me,” she says, “You’re not my mother.”

The creature’s jaw drops in unmasked horror, eyes widening as it stares at the Slayer, hunched up on the starched white bed.

“My mother’s dead.”

“Buffy!” Willow cries as Joyce stumbles backwards, away from her daughter. “What’s wrong with you? Your Mom’s not dead!”

Buffy stares at the red-head. Her best friend.

‘Why is she lying to me?’ her mind is screaming.

“Dead... Dead,” she mutters, “Come home; mom’s dead on the sofa. Try... Try to make her live but... But something cracks. Eyes are open. Body... Body... Tell Giles not to move the body...”

“Willow get the doctor,” Giles says in a low voice, unable to tear his eyes away from his muttering charge. Arms wrapped around herself, she rocks back and forth.

“Dawn... Dawn... Be back before Dawn...”

Willow runs from the room.

“Dawn... Gotta take care of Dawn... Don’t let them take her away from me... Gotta take care of her now... Now mom’s dead... Dead like me... Dead like I am.”

Giles takes a tentative step toward her.

“Buffy?” he asks.

Her head snaps up.

“Giles,” she says, “Why am I alive? I was so sure this time.”

“Buffy listen to me,” he says, “There was an accident. You’ve been in a coma for eight months-”

“Seven months and thirty days.” Xander corrects, his serious eyes locked on his best friend’s face. He loves her; seeing her like this is painful.

“Seven...” Buffy’s eyes are wide, “How? I...”

She looks at the creature pretending to be Joyce who has backed herself into a corner, staring at Buffy with wide eyes.

“I don’t understand...” Buffy whispers, shaking her head.

“Buffy, the accident,” Giles says, “What do you remember?”

A question she can answer.

Still clear in her mind.

“Dawn...” she says, “End of the world... You wanted me to kill Dawn... Spike... Help... Buffybot... Glory... Glory wanted to end the world... Use Dawn’s blood... Always got to be blood... Summers blood... Just like mine- made out of me... Death is your gift... Jumped- I had to. Knew I would die. Had to jump... Had to jump... Let Dawn live... Live for me...”

Giles looks over at Xander whose eyes are widened with horror.

“Giles, what’s wrong with her?” the boy asks in a hushed voice.

“I don’t know,” Giles replies, “She must be... Suffering the after effects-”

Suddenly the door crashes open and Willow runs back in, followed by an elderly looking man.

Buffy’s eyes widen when she sees the needle in his hand.

“Just a sedative,” she hears him say, “Calm her down a bit.”

“But she only just woke up,” Xander’s voice sounds frantic.

“She’s not herself right now Xander,” says Giles, “The doctor knows what he’s doing.”

“She’ll be restrained when she comes around,” the doctor says, flicking the needle as he approaches the Slayer, paralysed by fear, “Don’t want her hurting herself,” she looks over at Joyce, “Or somebody else.”

He pulls Buffy’s arm roughly and pierces the needle into her flesh, pushing the cold liquid into her blood stream.

“I think we need to talk about what happened to this girl.” are the last words that Buffy hears before her eyes roll back into her head and darkness consumes her.

.................................................

“Ooh, my poet... The Slayer wakes,” the soft voice floats toward Spike who looks over at his approaching princess.

“Slayer’s awake?” he asks, “’Bout bloody time.”

“Oh- but my William- she is not the same,” Drusilla whispers, leaning in toward his ear and breathing unneeded breaths against his neck, “She is from another place. My Spike; she knows you.” the dark vampire lets out a small gasp, “She will not be ready for you my love. She thinks of you as someone to mock. Oh- but you will change that Spike; you will change her.” she sighs, climbing onto his lap, “I see it; I see it all now. It wasn’t your fault; the whispers lie about my Spike.”

“Slayer’s gonna get a shock when she meets you and I, pet,” he says, “Slayer’s gonna-”

“Buffy.” Dru says, catching him off-guard. “Buffy. You call her Buffy. She knows us Spike... She wants you to kill princess.”

Spike brushes hair away from his lover’s face, then places a finger against her lips.

“Hush love,” he says, “No one’s killing princess. No one.”

“You can kill this one Spike,” Dru tells him, closing her eyes as she leans against him, “No one else believes her; no one but princess knows that she is telling the truth. Pump her full of cold liquid to keep her voice quiet; don’t want to hear about dawn; dawn rises when we die Spike.”

“She still in Sunnydale?” Spike asks, cradling his sire against his chest.

“Sunnydale yes; but it’s not the world she left behind.” she lets out a small, gleeful laugh. “All along the truth; but they’ll not believe her.”

.................................................

Giles sighs as he sips from his coffee; pulling a face.

“Believe me,” the doctor says, “I’ve lived in this town long enough to know things aren’t always what they seem.”

“One and a half years and I can agree with you there,” Joyce says, rubbing her eyes.

“Tell me what happened to this girl.” the doctor persists.

Xander and Willow look at each other. Willow’s cheeks are streaked with fearful tears.

She and Xander have spent so long waiting for their friend to wake up from her coma that it all seems so unreal to them now.

“She’s the vampire Slayer.” Giles states simply. “She was called at age fifteen to fight demons and vampires.” he lets out a bitter laugh, “Save the world.”

Joyce looks less than surprised by the revelation.

The doctor merely nods, muttering about how he had assumed something of the sort.

“Seven months, thirty days ago, Buffy fulfilled an ancient prophecy proclaiming her death at the hands of a vampire known as the Master.” Giles continues, pulling off his glasses and rubbing his face vigorously. It’s been a long few months and the effects of time have lain heavy on the old Watcher’s shoulders. “He drank from her then discarded her unconscious body in a pool of water. Moments later, Xander here performed CPR but unfortunately she had slipped into a coma. Seven months, thirty days later; here we are.”

Again; neither Joyce nor the doctor look particularly shocked. Eight months is a long time to figure over and draw your own conclusions after all.

“And this... Master-” Joyce asks, “What happened to him?”

Giles pushes his glasses back on; looking over at his young friends who look aged and grimy from their ordeal.

“A stranger.” he says, “A vampire called Spike.”

Xander feels Willow shudder at the mention of the evil creature’s name.

“He came offering help. Angel told us... Told us that he couldn’t be trusted but... The world was falling apart and we had no choice. Spike- he told us that he likes this world- likes being able to kill what he wants, when he wants- so he offered to help us defeat the Master. Save the world.” Giles shakes his head, taking another gulp of his coffee. “He wasn’t strong enough to challenge the Master; no one was; so he convinced us to invoke him with an ancient power. It made him strong; much stronger than we could have imagined. He killed the Master in such a short time it would have been amusing under any other circumstances.” the old Watcher looks again at his young friends, an apologetic look on his face, “But then Spike found out about Buffy’s condition and he left us with a promise. He said that as soon as she wakes from her coma he will take her on in a fight; tear her apart; just to reset the balance between good and evil. And we haven’t seen the vermin since.”

“Now, now, Watcher. That’s not a very nice way to talk about your hero is it?” the British drawl comes from the doorway and everyone turns to stare at the peroxide blond. Standing straight; he looks menacing and calm. “Now- someone gonna show me where Slayer’s waiting for me to fulfil my promise.”

“Which is why,” Giles continues, keeping his eyes locked on the threatening vampire, “We need to make sure Buffy gets better as quickly as possible.”

“I understand.” the doctor replies, also staring at Spike who is sucking in his cheekbones with annoyance.

“So,” the blond says, “Slayer’s not well. Guess I might just have to put the girl out of her misery.”

“You stay the Hell away from my daughter,” Joyce says, “Or I swear by God-”

“So you’ll be ‘er mum then,” he says, “It’s cute,” he adds, “Threatening me an’ all; even after hearing the tale of my power-boost.”

“You hurt my daughter and I’ll-”

“He’s not touching Buffy.”

Everyone turns to loom at Angel as he breezes into the room.

“Spike,” he says, “Thought we told you not to come back here.”

“Uh- yeah,” says Spike, raising an eyebrow, “And since when did I ever listen to you Angelous?”

“You should have,” Angel says, “Buffy’s going to kill you.”

“Remember Drusilla,” Spike asks, crossing his arms, “Well she has a little thing we like to call ‘second sight’. She knows. She told me. Your Slayer came back wrong.”

...............................................
A/N: First chapter- hope you liked! I thought making Spike super-strong and Buffy extra-weak would make an interesting change Biteyness! Please review!
..............................................

CHAPTER TWO: Conversations with insane people

Dawn.

She smiles as she burns; her fingers reaching out for her sister as she falls backwards into the blazing blue energy.

Smiles as Joyce joins her; embracing her as they fall.

And all Buffy can do is watch. Watch as Spike leaps after them, joining them in their warm descent.

They wave at her as they disintegrate; leaving her behind again.

Taking the gift meant for the Slayer and using it all up.

Stealing her death.

Forcing her to live again.

And Buffy wants to jump too; to follow her mother and the key, but all the blue energy is gone and Giles is calling to her to come and help him and the Scoobies clean up.

“Buffy!” he calls, “This is your sacred duty as a cleaner; don’t ignore me!”

“Buffy...”

Flash.

Her eyes snap open and she stares up at the bleached white ceiling.

“Buffy...”

She hears someone speaking her name and she tries to turn to face the stranger.

That’s when she feels the straps holding her down.

Tilting her head slightly, she stares down at the brown, leather straps pulled tight over her arms, chest and legs. Her eyes go wide with fear as she squirms.

Tears stream down her cheeks as panic takes a grip of her.

Can’t fight.

Can’t move.

Can’t breath.

Oh God- Can’t breath.

“Help me!” she rasps.

A face moves into view. Who is it? She doesn’t know.

“Miss Summers, my name is Dr Phillips. Do you know where you are?”

Buffy shakes her head, eyes closed as she tries to deny it again. She didn’t survive; she couldn’t have.

“Hell.” she says, “Am I in Hell?”

“No Buffy, you’re in the Sunnydale memorial hospital. There was an accident; do you remember any of it?”

She squints up at him.

“Accident?” she asks. “It wasn’t an accident. It was a sacrifice. I chose to die; why am I still here?”

“It was an accident Buffy,” he assures her, “There was a fight; do you remember a fight?”

“Glory.” Buffy agrees, “She’s a God; I hit her with the Troll God’s hammer again and again and again but it didn’t matter. In the end it wasn’t even Glory who opened the portal.”

“No Buffy that’s not what happened,” he says, “The Master- do you remember the Master?”

Buffy narrows her eyes up at the man.

“Master?” she asks, “Yes. He killed me. Xander brought me back.”

“Yes Buffy- that’s right,” the doctor says enthusiastically, “Do you remember anything else?”

“Angelous.” she says, “Mayor’s ascension, Adam and the Initiative, Glory.”

He gives her a strange look.

“Can you explain what you mean?” he asks. Buffy looks at him fearfully. “It’s okay,” he adds, “I know that you’re the Slayer. I just want to help you Buffy.”

“Angelous.” she says, “He was my boyfriend but he turned evil and I had to send him to Hell.”

From behind the one way glass, Joyce, Angel, Giles, Xander and Willow listen to Buffy speak with wide, confused eyes.

“The mayor was evil and he became a snake so we blew him and the school up.” Buffy smiles, feeling better as she recalls the familiar events, “Riley was my commando boyfriend and he was part of the Initiative who made Adam. He was an evil Frankenstein and I couldn’t defeat him. In the end Xander, Willow, Giles and I all combined together to make a super Buffy and together we killed him.”

Xander, Willow and Giles all look at each other with empty expressions.

“Glory wanted the key. My sister Dawn is the key. Glory wanted to kill Dawn to open a portal to her own world and to close the portal, Dawn’s blood had to stop flowing. We share the same blood so I sacrificed myself instead. I thought I would die but... But I woke up here...”

“That’s...” the doctor searches for words, “And all this happened before you met the Master?”

“What?” Buffy asks, “No- that was years ago. He killed me then I killed him.”

The doctor nods.

“I see.”

..........................................................

Giles shakes his head as the doctor steps into the room.

“Any of it?” the doctor asks.

Giles shakes his head again, “No. None of that has ever happened.” he says.

“So... What does this mean?” Willow asks.

“Not good I’ll bet,” says Xander, “I mean... The stuff she was saying; it seemed so... So bizarre; even for the Vampire Slayer.”

“And for her to be saying it,” Angel adds in a low voice, “Like she actually believes all of that has happened.”

“And didn’t she say that she killed the Master?” asks Willow.

“I’ve seen this.” the doctor says quietly, winning everyone’s attention with three simple words. “Patients who fall into a coma for a long time sometimes... It seems she may have continued what she believes to be her real life... Inside her own head...”

Xander looks up sharply, the words hitting him first.

“So what- you’re saying she’s insane?” he demands.

“No, not at all.” the doctor replies quickly, “Just confused. Very confused. It will take a Hell of a lot to convince her she’s not the person she thinks she is; she’s not the person who killed the Master.”

He looks to Joyce.

“The sister...” he says, “Buffy spoke about a sister- Dawn?”

Joyce’s face is ashen white.

“Buffy’s my only child.” she says.

“So the story she’s built for herself,” he says, “Has changed drastically from her real life.”

“But how could she do that?” asks Willow, “How could she just add a sister to her life story?”

“Buffy’s a special girl,” replies the doctor, “I’m sure there’s some magical reasoning behind her ‘sister’... Whatever it is... We shouldn’t encourage her to talk about it. It won’t be healthy for her to believe the world she’s been in is anything other than psychological.”

“So we don’t ask?” says Xander, “What if she tries to tell us?”

“We tell her it’s not real.” says Giles. “We reinforce the truth.”

“I get it.” says Willow, “Seven months and thirty days. Years must have passed in her mind. I wonder if she kept us in her world.”

“She did.” says the doctor. “You heard her speak about the demons she has fought with you.” he sighs. “Whatever happens, remember that she’s not crazy. It’s not her fault she fell into a coma.”

“Does she have to be kept restrained?” Angel asks, his fists balling slightly.

“For now, I’m afraid.” the doctor replies, “Just until she realises what’s really happening. I shouldn’t worry.” he adds, “She’s a strong girl... You can see her now.”

......................................................

“Dawn?” asks Buffy as the door opens. She cranes her neck to see who has entered the room but they stand just out of view. “Please; I just want to see my sister.”

“So it’s true.” says an unfamiliar voice. “Slayer’s mine for the taking.”

Buffy stiffens as she feels the nasty approach.

“Who are you?” she asks, “Stay back- I swear-”

“Swear what?” asks the voice, “Gonna stake me? I think you’re a bit too restrained for that.” he lets out a small chuckle, still staying out of sight, “Did you know your friends think you’re insane. D’you really believe you killed the Master?”

“I...” Buffy furrows her brow, “I did kill the Master.”

“Yeah- sure.” says the voice, “I don’t think that’s what I heard.”

“What are you talking about?” Buffy demands, trying to keep herself calm, “Explain yourself!”

“Well- I was eavesdropping- you know, evil and all- the good doc was telling your friends about how you’ve spent your entire coma building a fantasy life for yourself. Believe you have a sister, believe you killed the Master.”

Buffy tries to make her voice sound unimpressed. “How about- do have a sister- did kill the Master.”

“So you really are the first insane Slayer then,” he says, “Do you even know what year it is?”

“2001.” she says, annoyed that he would take the piss out of her so much.

“1998.” he corrects. “Guess you’re in trouble now.”

Buffy feels her jaw drop- 1998?

Suddenly the hideous face is in view and the fangs are headed straight for her jugular.

Door slams open.

Dust falls down over the Slayer.

She opens her eyes and looks straight up at Angel who shoves his stake back into his pocket.

“Hey Buff,” he says, smiling down at her, pretending to see past the restraints and crazed expression, “Long time no see.”

Slowly Buffy shakes her head, her damp blond hair falling around her grimy face like a frame.

“Angel... What’re you doing here?” she asks in a quiet voice. “I... I didn’t know you were back in Sunnydale.”

He takes a deep breath; horrified at being presented by the fact that he is clearly not a part of Buffy’s fantasy world. Horrified that his once strong Slayer should have a fantasy world at all.

“Buffy; I’ve been here all along.” he says. “Same as you.”

“LA,” she reminds him, “With Cordy and Wes. I’m not stupid.”

“Cordy?” he asks, “Wes? Buffy; I don’t know these people.”

She gives him a puzzled look.

“Angel- what’s wrong with you?” she asks, quickly adding; “Are you evil again?”

“What? No I’m not evil,” he says. “Again?”

“Where is everyone?” she persists, “Where am I? Why am I restrained? Why did that vamp just tell me it’s 1998 and I’m really just insane? Why isn’t Dawn here? And why... Why didn’t I die?”

“Buffy I...” Angel’s voice sounds quiet and defeated.

Again the door opens and Buffy looks up to see Xander, Willow, Giles and the creature posing as Joyce enter.

As soon as she sees her mother’s kind face Buffy feels herself slip into a panic. She struggles against the leather straps in her desperation to move away from the creature that looks so much like her loving-dead-mother.

“Please make it go away,” she whispers, looking directly at Joyce.

“I wish I could baby,” it says. Using her voice.

Buffy utters a tiny cry.

“Don’t let it speak to me. Oh God; I wish my mom was here.”

“I’m right here sweetheart.” her voice is so soft and familiar.

“But it can’t be you.” Buffy whispers, “You died... I... I remember. I found you- on the sofa in the sitting room. Eyes open.”

Joyce breaths in sharply, gulping in the required air.

“Baby- that never happened,” she says, “I’m fine; mommy’s fine.”

“But I-”

“It was a dream Buffy,” says Giles, stepping into the conversation; seeing the obvious distress Joyce is facing. “Everything that comes after facing the Master in your memory... Isn’t real. Do you... Do you remember fighting the Master?”

“Yes.” she says, “Twice. He won and killed me; then I won and killed him.”

Willow takes a step toward Buffy, reaching for Xander’s hand as she walks to face her best friend, the Slayer, Buffy, strapped to her bed like an animal or savage.

“Please Buffy,” she says, “For you to get better you’ll have to forget everything you think you know; accept that it’s not real.”

“It’s 1998 and you’ve been in a coma for seven months and thirty days; since you faced the Master,” continues Xander, “Whatever’s happened to you... Well... Hasn’t.”

The words hit her like a ton of bricks.

“No...” she whispers. “No... You guys; this is my life...”

She stares up at them with wide eyes full of tears.

“It can’t have all been in my mind; I’m not crazy; I swear you guys. It’s not me- you must have forgotten.”

Xander holds his newspaper before the restrained Slayer’s eyes.

February 25th, 1998.

1998.

1998.

“But...” she says, “Things that have happened... People we’ve... I’ve met...They’re not real?”

Her friends don’t know what to tell her. All they can do is watch as the tears begin to seep down her cheeks again.

“Riley?” she asks, “Is Riley real? And Tara?... Anya? She must be, I mean... Oh God...” she chokes for a moment as she thinks of someone.

Someone who makes her life easier. Treats her like an equal; a worthy rival and a trusted companion. Someone who fell in love with the person she really is. Someone whom she hates and despises; but never tells her she’s worthless or stupid. Someone who always allows her to unleash her anger on him even when he doesn’t deserve it.

Someone who’s always been there like a safety net she doesn’t need, but feels reassured by.

The one who risked everyone to keep her baby sister’s identity a secret.

The one she shouldn’t even care about right now; should be glad that he doesn’t exist after all; not care at all that he won’t just... Be there.

“Spike...” she whispers, “Is he a figment of my imagination too?”

Willow jolts, taking a step back from the bed and walking straight into Xander who holds her still. Giles’ eyes widen at the sound of the evil being’s name, and Angel visibly stiffens.

“Spike?” she says again, “I... I don’t want him to not...”

“Bleach blond hair?” asks Xander, “English vampire?”

“Slayer of Slayers,” she agrees, “Killed two in his time. Sired by Drusilla?”

Silently her heart is screaming; please, please let him be real! I need the one who I’m allowed to hate; I need that or I’ll go crazy...er.

She looks at her friend’s scared faces.

“How could she...?” asks Willow, turning to Giles.

“Slayer,” he says gently, “She has prophetic dreams. I suppose we can assume that part of her coma was prophetic in that respect.”

“Spike’s real?” Buffy asks hopefully, blinking back tears “He exists?”

“We...” Giles looks around, “We can’t be certain the vampire you know from your coma is the same vampire who stopped the Master.”

“Stopped the Master?” she asks, “Spike?”

“About a week after you were comatosed,” says Giles, “He came moaning about how he likes this world.”

“Happy meals on legs or something like that,” adds Willow.

Buffy has the desire to sit up but the restraints hold her firmly in place.

Having just heard that nothing from her life is real; the relief at finding one real aspect is almost over-whelming.

“He’s real,” she says aloud, “I can’t believe... He’s really real? Really real. Real Spike. Spike who loves me. Spike who wants me and loves me. Spike. He’s real. Real, real, real. He’s real.”

Xander’s mouth drops open in horror and he grabs hold of Willow as she trips in another attempt to back away from the truly crazy Slayer.

“Oh dear Lord...” says Giles.

.............................................................................

A/N: Not much Spikey yet; I’m waiting for the perfect opportunity to bring our two favourite blonds together in the most effective way! Hope you liked- lots of ‘crazy’ Buffy! Please review- thank you!
.............................................................................

CHAPTER THREE: Nameless Exchange

“Ohh Spike,” coos Drusilla, “Your time is nearing. She speaks your name in sunshine my love; she will not be prepared for who you are.”

“She will not,” Spike agrees, “And we will dance in the Slayer’s blood- Love.”

.............................................................................

Spike stares at the body lying before him; so perfect and unmarred, more beautiful than he’s ever seen her before.

With a smile on her face, she truly looks like she’s finally at peace. Sleeping. In a better place.

The sun is rising but he barely notices.

It’s not even until Dawn pulls him into a comforting hug that he realises he’s crying.

Crying. Weeping like a baby over the body of his sworn enemy.

Wishing more than anything that she could have loved him.

“Spike; we need to get you out of here.” he doesn’t recognise the voice.

Xander’s face looks bleary and foreign to him when he turns to stare into the boy’s eyes.

“Buffy...” Spike says.

“She’s gone,” the whelp’s voice is full of pain and Spike wants to run to her body.

But an insistent hand on his shoulder propels him into the safety of shadow. Not that he cares.

She’s dead.

Gone.

Cold, like she was never meant to be.

What does any of it even matter without her? Without her warm smile and her harsh words; each one like a knife wound to the gullet.

“Spike?”

Dawn.

Then he knows.

He will always carry on.

For Dawn, for the Scoobies, for himself.

But most importantly.

For her.

Because it’s what she would’ve wanted.

Spike; fighting to the very end. A good man; even without his failed love.

.........................................................

“I’m going.” Spike says, lifting Drusilla from his lap and placing her steadily on her feet. “Back to the hospital. Tonight.”

He smiles as Drusilla squeals with delight.

“Oh; we’ll be having sugar cubes for tea my love,” she says, “And we can put our sugar into her blood and watch the crystals turn red.”

“That we can,” he agrees, pushing her hair away from her face and pressing his lips down against hers. “Love you.” he growls into their kiss; causing his sire to giggle like a child.

“Oh- my William,” she says, “You do not know.”

.........................................................

Buffy tries to roll over in her sleeps but thick, leather straps hold her firmly in place. She strains against them and they cut into the delicate flesh of her arms.

In her dreams she sees the real world; Dawn, Xander, Willow, Tara, Anya, Giles, Spike.

Her eyes snap open.

He’s near. She knows. She can feel him.

“Spike...” she whispers.

The darkness that’s all around her frightens the Slayer.

It hasn’t been dark for a long time but now the lights are all gone.

It’s night and her tiny holding room has no windows to the outside world. The thick door in closed, but unlocked, since there’s no way for her to escape anyway.

And she’s drugged. Heavily drugged. Something to sleep to; it makes her eyelids heavy but she refuses to succumb to the thick liquids demands as it seeps around her veins.

Just like she refuses to believe that everything she knows was just one long dream.

And she can’t understand why her friends are refusing to believe her.

She feels so lost.

For the first time she wants to be alive; really alive.

And this right now... This isn’t living.

The door is opened gently and Buffy strains to see the dark shape moving into the darker room. For a moment, whoever it is becomes a dark silhouette against the low light of the hospital corridor outside of her room, but then the door is closed with a click and the figure blends into the dark.

“W... Who’s there?” she calls out in what ends up being a tentative sounding whisper.

Her words invoke a low chuckle that she recognises.

“Spike.” she says, relief in her voice, “I knew you would come. God; can you get me out of these restraints.”

The only audible reaction given from the blond vampire is a small click.

After just a few seconds, Buffy jolts against the leather, recognising the sound as a key turning in a lock.

“Spike?” she asks, “Where are you? You’re scaring me.”

“Was the idea pet,” he says, “Gonna tell me how you know my name? I wouldn’t have thought your little mates would want to scare you so soon after waking from your coma.”

“I...” she doesn’t want to tell him. “Why are you here?”

“Slayer,” he says in a mocking tone. “When I heard you were strapped to a bed, neck fully exposed and no one even bothering to protect you- I was hardly going to stay away was I?”

“Where is everyone?” she demands, horrified by the fact that they aren’t near by like she requested they be.

“Oh, I’d say they’re probably waking up right about now,” says Spike, “It won’t take ‘em long to get out of the closet I stuffed them in. Good thing this door has a lock. Means I can take my time with you Love.”

Buffy shivers at his use of the word; so reminiscent of the Spike she knows.

Spike mistakes her shiver for a sign of fear and his smile widens, giving Buffy a glint of his fangs.

“Kinda funny,” he says, “How they got you all strapped down... Like they wanted you defenceless. Knew I was coming for you; but did they warn you?”

“Actually- yes.” Buffy says, struggling to keep her voice sounding calm.

He laughs.

“Obviously,” he says, “You’re more crazy than Dru.”

“I am not!” Buffy exclaims; hating being compared to his ex. “Wait a minute... You and Dru... Are you still together?”

“Of course!” he says, a slight laugh in his voice, “She’s my bleedin’ Sire!”

“I know,” Buffy says, quietly missing the Spike she knows already.

She wonders how he took her death; if he cared... If he cried. Hell- she hates him as much as she can but she knows... If he died she would cry because... Because everything would change. And because... He just wouldn’t be there anymore. Nothing but ashes.

She wonders what happened to her body. Is it dust, just like a vampire? Was it broken and bloody? Were her eyes closed when they found her? Was her neck bent at a strange angle?

“Are you always this absent?” demands the cold voice and Buffy jolts again when she remembers that none of it was real anyway. Just one long, long dream.

“Not real. Not real.” tears jump into her eyes.

“Bloody Hell.” Spike moans. Buffy feels his hand around her neck.

Cold reality.

The Spike she knew... Wasn’t real.

This Spike; the deadly Spike. The Spike who wants to kill and rip and destroy her; not kiss and hold and care for her. Not that she would ever let him.

“Any final requests Slayer?” he asks as he prepares to snap her neck the same way he did his second Slayer in.

“Please...” She whispers, “Just for tonight... Please call me Buffy... Like you used to...”

Her words make him falter. Purely out of curiosity, he pulls one of his hands away from her soft neck, keeping the other one poised just above her jugular like a warning.

“Used to?” he asks, raising an eyebrow.

Eyes adjusting; Buffy can almost make out the familiar peroxide blond hair, slicked back dangerously.

“When we met before.” she says. “It was always ‘Slayer’ but then... I guess things changed.”

“What the Hell are you talking about?” he asks in a warning voice.

The sound of his voice sets her teeth on edge. She closes her eyes.

“You mean- you haven’t heard?” Buffy asks. “Eight months they tell me I’ve been in a coma. In my memory though... I killed the Master four years ago.” she looks up sharply trying to catch a reaction but his eyes are too dark to see. “I met you a few months after I killed the Master. You wanted to kill me. We fought a lot; I kicked your ass a Hell of a lot-”

“Insane.” Spike mutters.

“It’s the common conclusion.” Buffy agrees. “Apparently I’ve been living my life out in my own mind. I guess that’s a fancy way of saying I’m insane.”

Spike chuckles, lowering his hand back to her neck.

“Gotta give yourself some credit,” he says, “You managed to buy yourself some extra few minutes. Now it’s back to the killing though.”

“Will it be quick?” Buffy asks, “You once promised me...”

He takes his hand away and slips into game-face.

“I don’t think so.” he says, “Thanks for the idea. We have all night; I think I’ll have some fun with this.”

“Please...” she says, “The Spike I knew would never kill the Slayer when she can’t fight back. Where’s the fun in that? Why don’t you let me free so I can fight back?”

He chuckles.

“Nice try Slayer, but really, no.” he grabs her shoulder and looks down at her. Through his enhanced vision he can see her face.

Damn; she’s pretty.

Blond, green eyes, soft features.

But she looks tired and there’s a fearful acceptance on her face.

“God; every Slayer has a-”

“Death wish.” she finishes, looking back up into his eyes.

He knows she can’t see him but it still haunts him; those empty little orbs gazing up in his direction.

“Exactly.” he says, his eyes glowing amber.

“I knew it would be you,” she whispers, “I always knew it would be you. Even when you loved me; I knew you would be the one to end my misery. Please; if you still love me; please take away the pain. This isn’t my life. I want to go home.”

His hands grip down on her shoulders painfully hard.

Love? How dare she?

As if he would ever love her; disgusting; an image of light.

The killer of his kind.

Disgusting and grimy.

Love?

With a roar of rage his sharp nails break the skin of her shoulders and he plunges his elated fangs down into her vulnerable neck; pulling deeply as he hears her scream in agony.

.........................................................

“Spike- are you okay?” his eyes are closed and he ignores the imploring voice. “Spike- okay; he’s asleep.”

“Safe to talk?”

“Should be.”

“Willow- are you sure about this? Brining her back... I mean we all want... But we...”

“Xander; Buffy... We don’t know... I mean she could be in Hell and we wouldn’t know...”

Spike feels his ears perk up; wondering if they’re really discussing what he suspects they are.

“So the spell... Everything’s ready?”

“You’re good for next week?”

“Of course... I can’t believe we’re actually going to bring her back...”

“I miss her so much...”

Spike lets out a long sigh; as much as he may want it too; he can’t let them do this. Slowly he sits up, opening his eyes to look at Xander and Willow’s shocked expressions.

“Spike...”

“Save it Red; I know what you’re planning... Can’t let you do it Love.”

“But Spike!” she protests. “Hell; Buffy could be in Hell!”

“What about Heaven?” he asks. “It’s too much of a risk pet.”

“I can do the spell Spike,” she says, clutching at Xander who looks just as scared at the prospect of losing all the hope they’ve cumulated over then past few weeks since their friend’s death. “It won’t go wrong.”

“Don’t doubt you there Red,” Spike says, “But we have to think of Buffy. It would be selfish just to assume she’s in Hell just because it suits us better.”

“But there’s every chance she could be.” says Xander in low tones, “Isn’t that a risk worth taking?”

Spike falters slightly. In all honesty, he hadn’t considered the fact that his Slayer could be trapped in Hell. Suffering day in and day out; being tortured and hurt for all the good she’s done.

“We check.” he says in a quiet voice. “You prove to me that the Slayer’s not in Heaven and then we can talk about bringing her back.”

“But Spike-”

“I don’t wanna hear it.” he says, “Buffy comes first.”

.........................................................

“There’s a way.” Willow says.

Spike looks up from the paper he’s pretending to read and stares into Willow’s determined eyes.

“Tell me.” he says.

“It would... There are risks involved. Not for Buffy,” she adds quickly, “Risks for us I mean.”

“It doesn’t matter.” says Xander.

“Agreed.” says Spike.

“Well,” says Willow, “There’s a spell that will enable one of us to visit Buffy, wherever she is... Just for a short while then they’ll be called back; but long enough for whoever goes to be able to find out if she’s happy where she is- or not.”

“I’ll go.” says Xander instantly. Spike lets out a short, bitter laugh.

“Don’t be a ponce Whelp. I’m going.” he says.

They both turn to stare at him; horrified and disgusted expressions on their faces.

“Spike- Buffy’s my best friend. She doesn’t even like you- in fact- she hates you. She only gets one visitor from her past life and you really think it should be you?”

“Sorry Spike but I have to agree,” adds Willow, “I’m sure Buffy would be more comfortable seeing someone she’s close with and since I can’t go, as I have to perform the spell, well Xander is the obvious choice.”

“Sorry kids but I’m going.” says Spike. “Xander; if Buffy’s in Hell do you really think you’ll be able to keep yourself alive long enough to report back here? We need someone who knows Buffy but can stand their own; I’m immortal. I’m going.”

Xander’s eyes are wide but Willow nods at him slowly.

“Okay...” the boy says eventually. “But if you hurt-”

“Don’t even say it.” Spike says in a dangerous tone.

......................................................................

“Are you ready?” Willow’s voice sounds determined and grown up; long forgotten are the days when this red-head was a quietly spoken book worm without even the magical ability to float a pencil.

Buffy does that to people; changes them; for the better.

People are nodding.

Xander, Anya, Tara.

“I’m ready.” Spike says.

He sits in the centre of the group, surrounded by candles which Tara is busy lighting.

He watches, mesmerized, as she drops the lighter he lent her down onto the linoleum flooring and takes two hands into her own.

“Decoray...” Willow begins, “I call upon the ancient power of the Goddess of the past life; let our willing champion take the journey her spirit took and let him-”

“Does it really say champion?” Xander asks quietly. Spike gives him a dark look.

“And communicate with the words we bestow upon him. Let him bringeth her our message; and only let him return when he truly believes that our warrior is safe.”

Spike feels a jolt go through his body as she continues. His spine twists until he finds himself on all fours, staring down at the cooled floor.

“Oh Goddess; grant him passage.”

Spike’s body twitches but he manages to keep himself from collapsing.

“Is he meant to be doing that?” someone whispers urgently.

“Shh...”

“Oh Goddess! Oh Goddess!” Willow cries, “Decoray, Decoray, Decoraylous!”

Everything goes black and Willow’s chants begin to blur as he feels the world fall away from around him.

Suddenly all he knows and all he feels is blood.

It fills and consumes him as he drinks it; his fangs burrowed in a neck that feels so soft and familiar.

He doesn’t think; doesn’t wonder what he was doing or why.

Nothing matters but the rich, smooth blood running down his throat.

And the pain; it’s gone.

No dull throbbing; no electric bites of pain.

Just pure, undiluted, pure pure pleasure as he takes a further pull of the oh so familiar blood.

This is something he’s longed for, for so long.

Something he’s craved; deserved.

Then he remembers; for the briefest second.

Her name.

Slayer.

Buffy.

He rips his fangs from the pallid neck and stares down at the glazed eyes.

Slayer.

Buffy.

They sent him back to save her; save her from Hell and all he did was kill her all over again.

“Buffy?” he asks; practically begs, “Can you hear me pet?”

Her eyes blink slowly. Once.

Her mind is spewing with confusion. Why did he stop? Why can’t anyone ever finish the job? Why is she always left standing?

Why is he looking at her like that?

Like he cares?

“Spike?” she asks in a tiny, weak voice.

“It’s me Love,” he says, “What’s going on here? Where are we?”

She stares at him; her eyes narrowing with each second that passes.

He looks around, leaping to his feet and heading over to the light switch. Slamming his hand down on the weak plastic, he floods the room with harsh light, spinning around again to face his Slayer.

What he sees makes him choke on breath he doesn’t need.

“Buffy...?” her eyes are absent. She looks degraded and exhausted; thick leather straps pulled tight against her tender skin; marring it with crimson blood, like the blood he still tastes on his lips.

Her blood.

Willow was right.

Hell. The Slayer; epitome of good; was sent to Hell.

She stares at him with hollow eyes that trickle tears.

“Aren’t you gonna finish what you started?” she asks in an empty voice. Accepting; staring up at him and accepting her death. Accepting the fact that he will kill her.

He runs to her bed and drops down beside her; grabbing the leather straps and ripping them clean off of her, then throwing them to the other side of the room with a low growl. Then he turns to stare down at her; his eyes filling with tears again; like the last time he saw her; body perfectly still and eyes closed.

“Buffy...” he says urgently, “What’s going on here?”

“You were killing me.” she says in a small voice that lacks emotion, “You should hurry up and finish. My friends will be back soon and I don’t want them to dust you; but they will Spike. Please hurry.”

His tears drop onto her face as he brushes grimy hair away from her forehead.

“Buffy- we have to get you out of here,” he says, looking around the room again, “Where are we?”

“Sunnydale Memorial Hospital.” she says, “What’s wrong with you?” she adds with untrusting eyes, “Why are you tying to help me now?”

“I...” he doesn’t know what to say or what’s going on. Buffy doesn’t seem surprised to see him; she seems strange.

It makes him wonder how long she’s been suffering here.

“How long Buffy?” he asks, “How long since you jumped?”

“I thought you didn’t believe me about that; like everyone else.” she replies in a cold voice.

Her answer throws him even more.

What’s happened to her?

What’s happened to his beautiful Slayer?

Why was she strapped to her bed like an animal?

And hospital?

Didn’t she just say she was in hospital?

“Can you walk?” he asks.

She stares up at him; eyes wide with confusion. It’s like she doesn’t know him at all.

Eventually she shakes her head.

“They keep me drugged up; tell me it’s to help me sleep. Its not.” she widens her eyes emphatically. “It’s to keep me weak to make sure I don’t bust out of their poxy restraints. They know I’m the Slayer; they know.”

“Buffy I’m so sorry,” he says, “I’ll get you out of this place; I swear.”

She looks away.

The restraints are gone; he tore them away; but she still can’t move.

Like a child she lies, staring at the starch white ceiling.

“Please...” she says, “Spike; I just want to go home...”

“I’ll take you,” he says, “I promise, but Buffy; will you let me carry you?” she keeps her eyes away from him, not wanting to look at his face and see the vampire she misses so. “I have to Buffy; you’re too weak to walk and we have to get out of here now.”

Eventually her head bobs in an accepting nod.

‘He’ll probably just kill me,’ she justifies to herself almost hopefully.

She feels him lift her into his strong arms and her head falls against his chest. She tries to move away; doesn’t want to touch him, but he holds her still in a steel grip. Besides; she’s too weak to fight the direction her head falls in. Weak from the drugs and blood-loss alike.

He walks swiftly to the door and reaches for the handle.

Then he groans.

“Locked.”

“You locked it.” the weak Slayer reminds him. “Earlier.”

He stares at her.

“No I-”

“The key’s probably in your pocket.”

He shivers when he pulls the tiny silver key out of the pocket of the black jeans he wears.

Where did it come from? He didn’t lock that door; he knows it. He’d been with the Scoobies just moments ago.

And yet; here the key is; sitting in his hand.

It’s too strange for words; like all this had been planned out to a disturbing degree. Or like he walked onto a set and while everyone else is already in character, he flails around looking for the script.

Slowly he fits it into the lock and pulls the door open; dropping the key on the floor as he carries Buffy out into the corridor; not wanting to be associated with the whole situation.

The everyday scene of a busy hospital befalls him and suddenly he doesn’t know what to do. If this is Hell then where should he go? Everyone who passes him looks so normal, and yet; they must all have known what lay beyond that door, strapped to the bed and drugged up to her eyeballs.

“Buffy?- Oh God; what have you done to her?” Spike instantly recognises Giles’ clipped accent and he spins around with relief to face the elderly Watcher.

“Oh- Rupert- thank God,” the vampire says, “Buffy- we need to get her help.”

Giles stares at the heavily drugged Slayer, curled up obliviously in the dangerous vampire’s arms. He doesn’t know how to react.

‘I try to take her and he’ll kill us both,’ his mind reels, ‘But Buffy- she doesn’t know he isn’t safe.’ No sudden movements or the strong vampire might decide to kill her right where she lays in his arms; cheek firmly pressed against his non-beating heart in a manor so trusting.

He decides to test his waters.

“How did she get out of the restraints?” he asks, trying to keep his voice calm.

Spike looks up sharply.

“She didn’t; she’s too weak. Someone’s made sure of that,” he shot a dark look around the busy corridor, wondering who was to blame, “I got her out of ‘em.”

“You did what?” Giles whispers, staring up at the blond nervously, “Spike; she’s not well. Isn’t any part of you saying that kidnapping the Slayer when she’s sick is cruel and unfair.” he casts his eyes down guiltily. “We all know what you have planned for Buffy but couldn’t you have at least waited until she could put up a bit of a fight? Grant her at least that dignity. Let her have some time with her friends first?”

Giles feels guilty even saying the words; he knows his Slayer can hear him perfectly clearly. But the truth is; a dangerous and powerful vampire who is practically unstoppable swore to kill her as soon as she woke from her coma. Well she woke, and, painful as it was for any of them to admit it... She didn’t stand much chance.

They had hoped that Spike would let it go, at least for a while until Buffy got better and at least stood a chance.

But now, here he was, holding her in a vice like grip against his chest, slowly backing away from the Watcher with a wild look in his eyes.

“What are you talking back?” Spike demands, looking down to check on Buffy who is staring up at him blankly. “Why would I... Why would I hurt Buffy?”

Giles lets out a bitter chuckle.

“Because it’s what you bleeding well do.” he says. He looks up and sees he’s caught the vampire off guard. He decides this is the best opportunity he’ll get so he braces himself to try his luck once again, “Spike,” he says, “Please; Buffy needs to get better. Let me take her back to her room.”

Spike looks up to see the Watcher holding his arms out for the girl. He almost hands her over; almost; then he hears Giles’ words again.

“Let me take her back to her room.”

“Her room?” Spike asks, “Please God Rupert, tell me you’re not a part of this.”

“A part of what?” he asks, an edge of fear in his voice.

“This... Torture. Buffy; strongest girl in the world drugged up and strapped to her bed.” it makes him hold onto the girl in his arms even tighter. “I can’t believe you would condone this mistreatment.”

“Be careful Spike,” Giles says in what can only be described as a dangerous voice, “You almost look as if you care. Wouldn’t want anything to come between you and your bloody battle.”

Spike wants to punch him.

“There’s something wrong with you,” he tells the old man with disgust in his voice. “I’m not leaving the Slayer with you.”

He turns and rapidly begins to stroll away; feeling Giles panic behind him.

“Please Spike!” he calls out in a last desperate attempt, “She’s not well. Please don’t encourage anything she says; it’ll only mess her up even more.”

Spike stops in his tracks. Turning, ever so slowly to face the Watcher again, then looking down briefly into his Slayer’s absent eyes once again.

“Are you saying she’s...”

“Lost her marbles.” Giles says, “For now anyway. Please; she needs to be with her friends.”

Spike resents that comment.

“I am her friend.” he says as he continues to storm from the busy hospital; leaving Giles standing, paralysed to his spot.

.....................................................
A/N: Yay- now we’re into the action! Hope you liked!! Please review me- it keeps me going!
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CHAPTER FOUR: Protection or betrayal?

Spike is running, he doesn’t know where to go; what to do.

This is Sunnydale; he knows the sights and sounds like the back of his hand, and yet, something feels different. Wrong.

Buffy’s face is crushed into his chest and her small hands cling onto him reluctantly, like she really doesn’t want his help; sooner be left to die with the remaining scraps of her dignity.

“Are you kidnapping me?” she asks in a quiet voice as his run slows.

He’s exhausted and a bench calls out to him; offering him a place to rest for a moment or two.

Spike walks briskly over to the bench and places Buffy down. Then he sits beside her and feels her crumple into his side, her head lolling weakly.

So weak.

He’d never seen his Slayer so weak.

“I’m not kidnapping you.” he says, “Just couldn’t leave you in that place.”

“Couldn’t kill me either.” she says cynically. “Just want to go to my real home. Last time I died I had to wake up here; maybe if you kill me I can go home.” she jolts and looks up at him suddenly, “No... No... No...” she says, “Didn’t die. Wasn’t real. None of it was. Just a dream; just a dream. Not allowed to talk about it. Not healthy. Not real. None of it was real...” she reaches a hand out slowly as if she’s going to touch his face, “Except you. You were real...”

“Buffy.” he tries to catch her hand but she snatches it away again.

“But even you’re wrong. Not the same Spike; Spike’s not nice; stay away from Spike.” she shivers, trying to support herself away from him. “Spike wants to kill me. But even this Spike can’t do it.”

“Hey,” he says, grabbing her shoulders gently and turning her so he can look into her eyes, “Spike doesn’t want to kill you.”

His words make her sob and tears begin to stream her cheeks again.

He stares at her; she’s clearly traumatised. Whatever’s happened to her is having a huge effect on her and he knows he needs to get her out of this place as soon as he can.

“Willow was right.” he murmurs.

“Did Willow tell you that I’m insane?” she asks, “Did you know that I’ve lived inside my own mind for the past eight months?”

“What?” he asks, staring into her terrified green eyes and feeling his heart clench at their hollowness.

“Anya, Tara, Dawn, Glory, not real. None of it.” she tells him, looking up at him with serious eyes, “I didn’t kill the Master. He put me in a coma eight months ago. I lived a whole four years in my own mind, then, when I thought I was finally getting what I always wanted; my freedom; sailing through the warm, blue energy... I woke up. Here. When I told my friends about my life they decided I was crazy. Doctor tied me to the bed. Injected me with cold liquid. Telling me again and again ‘it’s not real, you have to get over this if you want to be free in this world again’. And I cried but no one cared. Then I was scared; so scared that I dreamed Spike too. That I just made him up in my imagination. And I was terrified by the prospect of loosing him.” she drops her heavy head into her hands, “Thought how my life would be without him. It was painful to think that in the whole world; he was nowhere. Couldn’t just tell myself that he was off in some foreign country with Drusilla. No comfort. So I asked. Had to know. And they all looked at me like I was even more insane. Spike exists but he doesn’t love me. He hates me... You hate me. You forced the Scoobies to invoke you with some ancient power then killed the Master. Then, when you heard about me, decided you’d claim your next Slayer. But you waited, like I could have guessed you would, and you waited until I woke up just so I could see the one who kills me. And I always knew it would be you... Ever since the day Spike told me... ‘And you know when that time comes... I’ll be there... I’ll slip in’... I always knew when it came down to it; he would be the one to kill me. But then you couldn’t do it; you bit me; got halfway then pulled out. Took me here. Listened to me.” she looks back up at him again, her eyes big as she blinks away tears. “And I still don’t understand.” she says, “Because it felt so real. I remember killing the Master clear as day, but it never happened. And I remember Mom dying; finding her on the couch; but that never happened either. And I remember my baby sister- remember dying for her... But she doesn’t even exist... And I didn’t die. Because it wasn’t real.”

Spike stares at her, tears leaping into his eyes as she chants her mantra.

“It wasn’t real. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t real.”

“Shh Baby.” he says, stroking her hair, trying to soothe her.

The action makes her body jolt and she tries to move away again, managing to get a couple of inches between herself and the blond vampire before looking up into his eyes.

“You’re not him.” she tells him in a heartbreaking voice. “I can’t look at you without seeing him. Why aren’t you trying to kill me?”

“Don’t wanna kill you, just wanna help,” he says, “Now Buffy; you gotta listen to me very carefully.” he speaks slowly, the way he used to communicate with Drusilla, and he places his hands on her shoulders; making sure she’s paying attention to his words.

“Dawn.” he says. “Is real. Anya, Tara, Glory, Dawn. All real.”

She stares up at him, her eyes narrowing.

“Willow did a spell; she wants to bring you back to life. I was afraid you might be in Heaven so she agreed to send me to wherever you were. Buffy; I opened my eyes and found my fangs in your neck.” he takes a deep, unneeded breath, “I don’t know where we are Buffy; but I know I’ll do whatever it takes to get you home.”

She stares at him for a moment, then scrambles to her feet as fast as she can begins to run away from him. Slightly alarmed; Spike lets her get about ten feet away from him before he leaps up and goes after her; grabbing her shoulders and dragging her back to their bench.

She squirms under his forceful touch and she lets out a small cry as he pushes her back onto the bench.

“Buffy listen to me-”

“No!” she interrupts, “You just want to confuse me; make me believe the world I made up was real. You just want to hurt me. But you can’t- I know, I know.”

“No, Buffy, listen to me,” he says, “You died for Dawn; you really did. You leapt off that tower so graceful and beautiful I thought my heart would explode when I looked up and saw the smile on your face. And when you landed you looked so peaceful; sun was rising and I nearly caught fire; just sitting there, crying over your beautiful, cold, body.” he sighs, looking into her wide eyes, “Dawn is so torn up. On the surface she’s dealing well- but I know her better than that. Last week she had to do a presentation on real-life heroes for a school project. She based it on you Buffy and I was so proud. But the school gave her detention... Said the project was supposed to be real- not make believe.”

Buffy closes her eyes as he tells his story. He makes it feel so real. Like Dawn is really out there somewhere; painting pictures and listening to her radio.

“Dawn’s okay?” she asks, knowing that she’s succumbing to his evil plan. Letting herself believe that her insane fantasies are real after all. ‘Not real. Not real.’ she silently chants.

“Dawn’s doing okay.” Spike says. “I caught her though, the other day, hugging the BuffyBot... Crying she was, like she wished the robot was you.”

Buffy looks away. The BuffyBot? How could he have known?

“And Willow?” she asks.

“Hit her hard.” Spike says, “She cries a lot these days; not when people are around, but when she’s all alone. Doesn’t even cry in front of Tara. She confides in me though; we’ve gotten closer; we all have.”

“Xander?” Buffy asks in a weak voice.

“Broken man.” Spike confides. “Right now you’re all he thinks about. Anya tries to cheer him up and he smiles and laughs, but his eyes are red-rimmed.”

“Giles?” she asks finally, looking down at her hands, then quickly back up at Spike.

“He... He left.” Spike says. “Stayed for a while but realised there was nothing for him in Sunnydale with you gone.”

The news brings fresh tears into Buffy’s eyes and she collapses against Spike.

She doesn’t know whether to believe him or not.

Not seems like the safer option. Accept that it was all a dream; get better and get her life back. Be seventeen again and not have to worry about adulthood for a good few years.

But on the other hand, here was the blond vampire she’s so familiar with, telling her that everything she’s been told was a dream is really real. Her life. It exists after all. She’s not insane.

“Spike?” she asks, pushing herself back so she can look up at him.

“Yes Love?” he asks.

“Are...” her voice wavers for a moment as she contemplates what she wants to say, “Are you the Spike I know? The Spike who fell in love with me?”

He nods numbly, looking away from her eyes; unable to meet her penetrating gaze for some reason.

“That’s why you won’t kill me?” she asks.

“I don’t know that the other Spike would have killed you,” he says, reaching to caress a wave of blond hair gently, “But I know for a fact that I couldn’t.”

“Chip?” she asks.

“Doesn’t work here.” he says.

She stiffens slightly, attempting to pull away again but he holds onto her fast.

“Not gonna hurt you pet,” he says, “Already lost you once and that’s far too many times for my liking anyway.” his hands ghost over the soft skin of her face as he shakes his head, “What have they done to you Love?”

She looks down, unable to meet his gaze now.

She’d felt degraded by the restraints. Insulted by the disbelief and accusations of insanity. And hurt by the horrified and disgusted looks her friends had worn on their faces.

And now she felt confused; so very confused.

She feels Spike’s finger beneath her chin and he tilts her head back up so that she’s gazing into his eyes again.

He feels almost overwhelmed with relief as he sees a flicker of emotion cross through her dark green orbs.

The first sign of hope she had given him.

The first time her eyes hadn’t been completely hollow.

And the emotion.

He knew it as soon as he saw it, mainly because he saw it so often in the Nibblet’s eyes.

Trust.

He had half killed her, then kidnapped her, but he has her trust. She believes in him.

“I’ll get you home Buffy, I promise.” he says.

“Don’t swear that to me,” she begs in a soft voice, her voice strained; showing Spike clearly how exhausted she really is, “If it all goes wrong...”

“I’ll get you home pet,” he insists, “Even if it kills me.”

Suddenly Buffy screams in terror when a stake flies out of nowhere and imbeds itself into Spike’s upper arm. He grunts in pain; pulling it out slowly, looking down at his own blood adorning the wooden spike.

He almost smiles, however, when Buffy pulls herself up gently to inspect the damage. She sits on her knees, softly pulling the black cotton of his tee-shirt out of the wound; tentatively touching the small hole left by the splintered word; earning herself a low hiss from Spike.

She gives him a look and he’s so consumed by her actions that he almost forgets that whoever just threw the sharpened wood at him is still out there.

He soon remembers, however, when another stake bites into shoulder blade.

“Bloody Hell!” he exclaims, ripping it out.

“What’s going on?” Buffy asks, looking fearfully out into the darkness.

Angel steps into view, another stake poised and ready to release.

“Buffy its okay,” he says, keeping his eyes on Spike, “I got it under control. Spike,” he spits, “Let her go.”

“What’s going on Angel?” Buffy repeats, staying firmly where she is. She may not be sure that this Spike is telling the truth but she isn’t ready to dismiss her hope completely just yet.

“Buffy get away from him,” Angel demands, no softness left in his voice, “Look at you; look at what he’s done to you! Get out of the way so I can get this stake in his chest.”

Buffy’s eyes widen and she looks quickly at Spike; silently begging him to tell her what to do. Crystal blue eyes meet dark green and for the first time that evening... She recognises him.

The glisten of love and pain in his eyes is so reminiscent of everything she told herself was a dream.

Everything she forced herself to believe had never happened; so desperate to be free and normal again.

As she gazes into his eyes she realises that her life is about to get a lot more complicated. Knowing that she’s not insane after all is like a sobering glass of water and now she sees; really sees.

Slowly she stands; her eyes never leaving Spike’s face. He looks afraid; afraid that she will leave him and let him suffer all of Angel’s hatred, face death all alone.

But his eyes show understanding and words from the past haunt him.

“You’re beneath me.”

And he is. He knows it and he knows that she knows it too. He’s sure he sees it reflected in her eyes as she looks down at him; seeming unable to tear her eyes away.

“Buffy!” shouts Angel, “Get out of the way- this is the best chance any of us will get at killing him!”

In a flash she makes a decision.

She spins around to face Angel, standing her ground and effectively protecting the blond vampire’s chest.

“Buffy get out of the way,” he says in an impatient voice. Damn- he so does not have time to argue with his insane girlfriend right now- not if he wants this day to have a dusty ending for old Spikey. “Buffy!”

She hates the way he’s looking at her and talking to her. Like she’s nothing; like she’s worthless because some doctor declared that she was crazy. Had he even bothered to ask her how she was? If she was in pain? If she missed the quiet oblivion of her ‘made-up’ world.

She feels Spike’s hand on her waist and it sends a shock through her body, making her start slightly. He quickly pulls back, misreading her reaction and Angel balls his fists, squeezing the stake in his hand until blood seeps out from between his fingers.

“Touch her and I’ll rip your head clean off your body,” Angel threatens, blood dripping from the end of his stake, “Just get away from her or I’ll-”

“You don’t hurt him.” Buffy says in a low voice.

Both Spike and Angel look up at her in shock and surprise. Spike wishes she were facing him so he could see her eyes but instead he has to make do with the back of head; trying to imagine the look that she’s giving Angel.

“Buffy this is crazy!” Angel cries.

The Slayer tenses at his use of the word.

“I assure you,” she says, trying to keep herself calm and at least looking as if she’s in control. “No one here is crazy.”

She takes a deep breath, trying to settle the bad feelings coursing through her. She tries to stand straight; doesn’t want Angel to see that she’s weakening even further.

“Buff- just get out of my way,” Angel says. “Spike’s dangerous- you can’t seriously...”

His voice trails off when he sees Buffy collapse to the ground with a slight cry, voicing her own surprise.

“Buffy!” Angel cries, but Spike is there first. He kneels beside her, turning her over onto her back and sucking in his breath when he realises she’s unconscious. Quickly, he stoops down, letting his ear linger close to her lips.

“She’s breathing,” he says, more to himself than for Angel’s benefit, “Barely.”

“Get away from her.” the dark vampire’s voice is threatening.

Spike looks away from Buffy slowly, a realisation dawning upon him.

Angel is going to kill him.

Then, when he’s nothing but dust, Angel will take the unconscious Slayer.

Take her into his arms and carry her all the way back to her friends.

Back to the hospital.

Back to the dank little room.

Back into the leather restraints; with further repercussions for her failed attempts to protect him.

Spike’s eyes close in horror as he imagines her face when she wakes up again and finds herself strapped to the bed.

Would she lose her will to live again? The same way she had when he found his fangs in her neck. He remembers the disappointment that reflected in her hollow eyes when he pulled his fangs away from her.

He knows getting both himself and Buffy away from this situation will be more than difficult.

Finally, he opens his eyes and looks back down at her face. He loves her, God he loves her so much. So many weeks since he saw her jump from the tower; happy; happy to be leaving him and finding her peace. Then, what cruel twist of fate had brought her here?

So long it’s been since he last heard her voice, feels longer than the few weeks.

And he’s found her.

He’s actually here, staring down at her beautiful, youthful face once again.

And he won’t let her go.

Whatever it takes.

“Stay back.” he tells the other vampire, a low warning in his voice.

Angel falters just long enough for Spike to make his move.

He grabs the Slayer by the shoulders and hauls himself swiftly to his feet, pulling her up with him. He wraps his left arm around her waist while his right hand snakes up her front, then clamps down harshly around her neck.

“Don’t try anything Angelous.” he says in the steely cold voice he hasn’t used in years, not since he fell for Buffy, “You want the bitch to live through this then you’ll let me past.”

“Let her go Spike,” a new voice.

Spike spins around to see all of the Scoobies in tow, eyes wide as they take in the situation; Spike’s hand clamped around Buffy’s tender neck.

“She passed out and he went for her.” he hears Angel say quickly. Damn- this is going to be harder than he planned.

“Let me past or I swear to God; I tear her bloody throat out.” he says, his voice dangerously low.

He can’t look at Xander and Willow. He’s gotten so close with them the past few days; planning the spell, talking and, he would say, almost becoming friends with them.

It hurts to see their wide eyes turn hateful; even if they’re not the same people he knows.

“Let me past.” he repeats, digging his nails into Buffy’s neck, just enough to draw blood.

“Okay- stop Spike!” Xander says urgently, “Stop- just... Just don’t hurt Buffy.”

He loosens his grip immediately; glad that he won’t have to hurt her anymore.

“Let me past and the bitch gets to live.” he repeats for everyone’s benefit. “Try to stop me and I rip her throat out. Do you really think I won’t do it?”

His eyes close in exasperation as he hears her groan.

“Bollocks.” he mutters as she groggily wakes; instantly jolting when she feels the iron grip around her neck. As the silence stretches on she hopelessly wonders who her captor is.

“I mean it.” Spike’s dark voice crawls past her ear like velvet, “Let me go or I’ll tear the bitch apart.”

Buffy feels her heart shatter. All the faith she had emplaced in him falls apart at the sound of his words. Maybe she wants him to kill her; if he was lying then maybe she really is insane after all.

She struggles against him and Spike tries to hide the pain in his eyes as he tightens the grip he has on her, stifling any further movement. Buffy cries out against the pain but her cry slowly fades out when she notices something new.

Spike’s hand, gently caressing her side as he tightens the grip on her neck. His fingers trace small, soft circles across her waist, concealed to her friends by his slim hips.

She doesn’t know what to do.

“Giles- what do we do?” Spike hears Willow’s soft question and he waits with baited breath for the Watcher’s answer.

Giles looks up at where his Slayer is being held captive.

“Don’t kill her.” he says in a cold voice which lets Spike know everything he needs to.

They’ll let him go.

“Would I?” Spike asks as he lifts the Slayer back into his arms and sweeps as quickly from the scene as he can; heading for the crypt he knows Buffy will recognise.

It isn’t his home yet in this place, but he knows it like the back of his hand so he should be on own territory if he and Buffy get jumped.

She lies on his bed unable to move again; feeling terribly weak and vulnerable as she watches him move around the crypt.

Of course she recognises it.

He’s sitting on the sarcophagus where she gave him her first sincere kiss; his lips bruised and bloody after taking torture to protect Dawn. She’d felt so sure of herself that day; completely in control; always in control.

And yet; here she lies, unable to move with de-chipped Spike just metres away from her.

He hasn’t said anything to her.

The silence that stretches between them is almost unbearable.

She can see the guilt and regret flashing from his eyes but she doesn’t seem to care.

She’s exhausted and her body aches from all the rough handling she’s under-gone in recent days. She just wants to sleep; sleep and never wake up.

“I had...” he tries. She keeps her eyes closed. “I had to Buffy; it was the only way to get us both out alive.”

She doesn’t reply.

“Buffy- please-”

“Spike- I’m tired.” she interrupts. “Please; I just want to sleep.”

She opens her eyes briefly to see him looking down at his hands in defeat.

“If they killed me,” he says in a quiet voice, “They would have taken you back to that place.” he looks up sharply to see Buffy staring at him intently, “And if I was dead; no one would be able to tell Willow that you’re not in Heaven so you’d be stuck here.” he closes his eyes, not wanting to meet her penetrating stare as he continues to explain his actions. “They weren’t about to let me walk away with you, and you were a bit too unconscious to explain anything. So I did what I had to; and don’t think it didn’t hurt me because it did Buffy; it did.”

“I’m tired.” she says again, not wanting to forgive him just yet, even though she knows in her heart, she hadn’t blamed him anyway.

“Okay...” he says, “Get some sleep. I just wanted you to know that nothing’s change. I’m going to get you home.”

“I know...” Buffy replies in a soft voice, looking over at his closed eyes.

..........................................................

“I know you’ll never love me.”

His words; earnest and blunt, catch her attention. She turns slowly, wondering where they’re leading.

“I know that I’m a monster.”

She blinks slowly. She shouldn’t speak now; there seems to be something he needs to say to her and she owes it to him to listen. His eyes are so open and honest, she finds it difficult to look at him directly.

“But you treat me like a man and that’s-”

He looks up at her and realises that he’ll never be able to share his emotions with her again; not after the way she reacted to his first declaration of love. It’s not her fault; she’s the Slayer and he can’t expect her to love him; feel anything other than disgust for him.

He sighs and lets her leave. But he stands for a moment at the bottom of the staircase, just staring up after her; gazing at the area she occupied just moments before.

And he loves her.

Buffy wakes with a jolt.

He loves her.

She felt it running through her dream, through her conscious, through her very soul.

She’d always known; he’d always said and yet... The implications had never truly sunken in.

He loves her.

“Spike.” she calls in a loud whisper.

No reply.

Feeling some what stronger, she pushes herself up into a sitting position; surprising herself when she realises how much better she feels.

She looks over at Spike who is lying motionless upon his sarcophagus; asleep.

“Spike!” she calls again to no avail.

Turning herself around, she drops her feet to the floor and pushes herself up into a standing position.

Slowly, step after step, she makes her way over to Spike’s sleeping form.

She reaches out a tentative hand to touch his chest, mesmerised by the rise and fall; wondering why the vampire is breathing at all.

‘Must be a reflex thing,’ she thinks to herself, ‘Like a subconscious memory.’

Suddenly his eyes shoot open and his hand is clamped around her wrist. For a second he’s glaring up at her and Buffy has to wonder if the other Spike has come back to kill her; surprised by the fact that for once, she doesn’t want to die.

Spike has given her a glimmer of hope; a chance to get back to her own world; and that, at least; is something worth holding on for.

After a moment his dark eyes clear and his hand drops from her wrist; he’s back with her again. He’s Spike.

“Buffy.” he says in a sleep laden voice as he stares up at her, “You scared me.”

“Sorry.” her voice is still hushed, “I... I had a dream...”

“I’m sorry pet,” he says, sitting up immediately and indicating to her to relax beside him, “Was it bad?”

“No it... It was just a memory,” she replies, “At least; it was a memory if I’m not crazy.”

“If you’re crazy I am too pet.” he says, “Which memory?”

“You...” she says, unable to look at him for some reason, “After I re-invited you; standing at the bottom of the stairs- telling me...”

“I know you’ll never love me.” he finishes.

“Yes.”

“I remember too.”

“So it was really real?”

“Yes Buffy- it was really real.” he leans back on the cold stone, letting her turn to look at him, “I thought about it,” he says, looking up at her, “Far as I can tell; this seems to be some kind of alternate universe.”

“Alternate?” her voice is sceptical.

“You jumped into a very powerful force Buffy; something we can’t even contemplate; and something definitely powerful enough to throw you into a parallel world... The main difference here seems to be that you didn’t defeat the Master; that’s the pivot point that makes our two worlds different.” Buffy’s watching him closely; wondering why he cares enough to have puzzled it over, “You’ve been in a coma but you didn’t dream our lives; you’re not the same Buffy. I think- think-” he emphasizes, “That the Buffy from this world and yourself have switched places. Obviously as, in our world, you’re d... no longer alive... Well the Buffy from this world went to wherever you were meant to go; Heaven or whatever waits for heroes in the afterlife.”

Buffy stares at him; feeling unnecessary tears in her eyes; mad at herself for being so stupid.

“Can we be switched back?” she asks, “Can I get out of this place?”

“You know Willow.” Spike says with a smirk, “We can do anything you want us to Buffy. The question is...” he swallows, knowing the answer to this question will change his life forever; no matter what option she chooses, “Would you want to... Stay dead- or would you want to be brought back?”

Buffy shivers; on the one hand, she wants to live again; see Dawn and her real friends more than anything, but on the other; the prospect of finally being able to rest; to sleep and smile... Well it’s just as inviting.

“I... I don’t know, I... Do I have to decide now?”

“Of course not,” Spike says immediately, glad she’s not ending his hope so soon. As long as he’s here with her, he can believe that she’ll come back with him. Even if she won’t be with him; at least she’ll be there; breathing and laughing and smiling and so perfect everyday and- God he loves her so much.

“I love you Buffy,” he says; knowing he can’t keep it inside, “You know I’ll do whatever it takes.”

“I know.” she says; not knowing if she’s accepting his love or his help. “And Spike, I’m... Well I’m glad you’re here; for what it’s worth. You- well I guess you saved me from the other Spike.”

He smiles, glad to hear she appreciates his help. She looks up at him again.

“And Spike,” she adds, “I do know now... How much you’ve changed for me I mean. I... I met William the Bloody and I know... You’re not the same vampire you were.”

She waits with baited breath for the arrogant ‘Bloody well am- evil me’ comment. But it doesn’t come.

She looks up in time to see a tear slide down his high cheekbone. Just one. But it was like a dagger to her heart.

“You did that to me Buffy.” he says, wanting so badly to reach out for her, “You... When I fell in love with you it... It changed everything for me. I wanted to change for you Buffy.”

Now she has to look away because she knows she’ll only hurt him if she looks at him. Because if he sees her eyes he’ll see all her hatred for him again. And he’ll know that Buffy could never love him.

“Well at least one good thing came of my life.” she says in an almost bitter voice.

“Hey-” Spike says, “More than one good thing; if you can even count me. What about Dawn- wouldn’t she be dead without you? And Willow- you certainly changed her! Do you honestly believe she’d be a witch right now if she’d never met you?- Bloody Hell- without you Willow and Xander would never have made it out of high school alive. Giles would be just a regular old bloke and Angel... Well I guess Angel would still be the worthless homeless guy I’m told he was before he saw you. Buffy- you touch lives- it’s what you do. Don’t for one second believe you’re anything less than a hero- because you are a hero. You’re one of a kind.”

Tears are running down her face and she has to turn away to maintain her dignity; wiping desperately at her blotchy red cheeks.

“Hey-” he says again, turning her back around to face him, “Don’t ever be ashamed of crying Buffy- don’t be ashamed of who you are. And please- for Gods sake- don’t ever let these people convince you that you’re crazy- because you’re not- I swear to you- you’re not.” he takes her hands into his, “You saved the world a lot.” he tells her, “... That’s what we had engraved on your grave stone.”

Buffy shivers at the information, feeling Spike’s hands tighten around her own.

“Spike-” she says, “I’m not done- I want to go home. I do. Will you take me home?”

His heart expands at her request.

“I will.” he says, barely allowing himself to believe what she wants, “I will- I swear it.”

Lost to her emotion; Buffy pulls her arms around the blond vampire and lets her head rest against his firm chest. For a moment he remains completely still, then, softly as if he’s not sure he really should; he lowers his arms down around her, pulling her slightly closer to him.

“I love you.” he says softly. “I’ll get you home if it kills me.”

“I hope it doesn’t.” she replies, so quietly he very nearly misses it.

But he hears.

..........................................................
A/N: Well there you go; Buffy and Spike in Spike’s crypt- kinda safe for now. Hope you enjoyed- please please please leave a review for me!! Thank you!! (Geez- I just realised how long that chapter was!!)
..........................................................

CHAPTER FIVE: Taken home

When she wakes she’s still in his arms.

They’re held tightly and protectively around her slight body and her cheek is rested against his neck.

She feels him swallow almost nervously.

“You awake?” she asks.

He sighs gently then pulls away to look down into her wide green eyes.

“Awake.” he agrees, “You okay?”

“I’m okay.” she says; keeping her eyes on his. “Because of you.”

He smiles.

“Sleep well?”

She nods.

For the longest time neither moves; they just sit, gazing into each other’s eyes.

Then, again Spike sighs and pushes Buffy away from him slightly; getting up from the stone sarcophagus and looking around the crypt.

“I guess you need food.” he says. “Not really sure what to do.”

“It’s okay; I could go without.” she says quickly.

“No- Buffy, no.” he says, “I’ll get you food. It’ll just be... Difficult.”

She pushes herself up slowly too, dropping her feet to the floor then trembling as she tries to follow to where Spike is standing.

He feels himself shudder when she touches him; lays an unsteady hand down on his chest.

“I can go myself.” she says, “I’ll be fine.”

“No- if something happened I wouldn’t be able to get after you until sun set- that’s not for hours.”

“Spike.” Buffy says, “Little too overprotective. Slayer- remember?”

“Buffy- they’re going to be looking for you.” he says, trying to keep his voice reasonable, “There’s more of them than you.”

“But they’re also my friends.” she says, “And Giles knows about stuff like parallel universes. I know I can make them understand; help even.”

“I don’t know...”

“Spike- please don’t Riley me.” she says.

He sighs.

“If you’re not back by sun down then I’ll go straight to the hospital.”

Buffy nods.

“See you soon; promise.” then she takes a chance; does something she never would have before yesterday; she places her hands flat on Spike’s chest, leans forward on her toes and presses her lips against his. “I’ll be fine.”

“You will be.” he agrees, handing her some money to take to the general store. “Soon.”

.....................................................................

Buffy keeps her head down as she walks briskly along the light street.

She’d acted brave to Spike but truth was; she didn’t know what she’d do if she saw her friends.

She’s afraid; cold and feeling more alone than ever as each step takes her further and further away from the only person who knows her in this world.

She only knows one thing, and that is; there’s no way she’s going back into those restraints. The humiliation had been too much; she’d sooner die all over again.

“Buffy?” she tries to ignore the redhead’s voice. “Buffy?”

“Hey...” she feels a hand on her shoulder.

“Buffy?” Xander’s voice.

“Slow down...” Willow’s.

“Buffy please talk to us.” Xander’s pained voice makes her stop.

“Buffy we’ve been so worried,” Willow says, touching her arm and turning her to face her. “Did Spike hurt you?”

Buffy’s face is pale and her eyes are watery. She tries to avoid their eyes.

“Buffy- what did he do to you?” Xander demands.

“No- Nothing.” Buffy says, “He... I’m getting food...” she wishes she could form coherent sentences. “I want to... Don’t hurt...”

“Buffy- we’re not gonna hurt you. Come on Sweetie- let us take you-”

“No!” Buffy interrupts Willow mid-sentence, “I won’t go back to that hospital- to that room. I won’t- I won’t!”

“No Buffy, no!” says Willow, “Home- let us take you back to your mom.”

Buffy contemplates this for a moment; remembering Spike’s words; parallel universe; everything different; Mom’s still alive.

“She’s real?” Buffy asks, “Mom, I mean?”

“She’s real.” Willow promises, trying to keep the judgement out of her eyes. “She misses you Buffy- we all do. Please come back with us? We can help.”

“I want to... But... But no- I need to get the food then get back to Spike. He’ll be wondering where I am and he can’t come after me until sun down.” she says; hoping she’s convincing her friends.

She’s not.

“If we get you home Buffy, he can’t come after you at all. Barrier remember?” prompts Xander.

“The barrier’s up?” Buffy wonders aloud.

“Yes. You’ll be perfectly safe- come on!” Willow says; eager to get her friend to safety as quickly as possible.

“But Spike-”

“Buffy he can’t get you if you’re home- come on; please!” Xander’s voice is so frantic, Buffy can’t help but follow him; just to keep him from bursting a blood vessel.

‘It’ll be okay’ she tells herself, ‘I know I can explain to them.’

As soon as she steps through her front door she knows she’s made a mistake.

The doctor she recognises stands in the living room along with the friends who made her trust them.

“Miss Summers,” says the doctor, “We’ve been terribly worried.”

“Will this have had any effect on her treatment?” she hears Giles ask in a low voice.

“More than likely.” the Doctor replies. “Do you want her hospitalised again?”

“No-” says Willow quickly, “I think she’s still spooked out- restraining her again won’t achieve anything; please just let her stay at home.”

“For now.” the Doctor says grimly, taking a seat. “Buffy- can you tell us what happened? Why you were protecting a dangerous vampire?”

Buffy gulps; hoping her friends will be understanding.

“Guys- you have to trust me,” she says, “I have a story to tell and it may sound slightly far-fetched.”

They all sit down without comment; their eyes giving nothing away.

Buffy looks over at the dark circles under her Mother’s eyes; she looks tired and sad. ‘Did I do this to her?’ she wonders; remembering how torn up her mom was last time she had her institutionalised.

‘Never again’ Joyce had promised herself when they let her daughter go.

“I’m not crazy.” she says in a voice so powerful she even surprises herself. “Everything that’s happened to me... Really happened.”

“In your mind maybe. Buffy,” says the Doctor gently, “But in real-”

“No.” she says insistently. “It actually happened. Giles- parallel universes; they exist right?”

“Well- yes, but I don’t see-”

“I’m not from this world.” Buffy says, “In my world, I killed the Master; I had sex with Angel and unleashed Angelous, I blew up the high school and killed the Mayor, I joined forces with Xander, Willow and Giles to defeat Adam, I sacrificed myself to save Dawn. All this happened and nothing you can say will convince me that it didn’t.”

“Oh dear...” says Giles.

“Buffy- this is a huge step backwards,” the Doctor tells her, “Until you can accept that these things didn’t happen; you will have to be kept under hospital treatment.”

“I will not.” she says. “Giles; when I died in my world; I jumped off a tower into a huge ball of energy; and that would be enough to throw me all the way into this world. Heck- that was the gateway to Hell; I’m not surprised I ended up in a world as sucky as this.”

“In theory Buffy but-”

“No- you have to listen to me. Two different worlds; I swear to you I’m not insane. I was weak for a while; that made me mumble a bit; but I feel better now; Spike-”

“Spike!” says Xander, “We should have guessed!”

“Buffy- whatever he’s told you is a lie; you can’t forget that he’s evil.” says Giles, “He just wants to confuse you to make you more vulnerable.”

“No,” says Buffy, “He had plenty of opportunities to kill me last night and he didn’t- not even when I asked him to,” she adds in a quieter voice. “I trust him.”

“You trust him?” Xander asks sceptically, “You trust the guy who swore to kill you as soon as you woke from the coma?”

“Oh no-” says Buffy, “I don’t trust that guy. Oh right-” she says, “The Xander and Willow from my world want to perform a spell to bring me back to life; take me out of this world and back to my own. But the Spike of my world convinced them to check that I wasn’t in Heaven first; so Willow performed a spell to send him to wherever I am. He found himself in my hospital room; and that’s when he broke me free. I realised who he really was- and that’s why I protected him from Angel. He’s my only chance at getting home.”

The other’s stare at her a little disbelievingly.

“Buffy- that doesn’t sound very-”

“Please Giles; just accept. How would you like to wake up one day and be told that your whole life was a dream?” Buffy asks. “Is there any way I can prove it?”

“I suppose give us information about something you could only know from the future.” Giles says, “Something we can find out quickly. At least then you can prove it to yourself as well as us.”

“Isn’t Spike enough?” she asks.

“With all due respect-” Giles says, “He is still a vampire; he could easily be lying.”

Buffy nods.

“I guess we could find out if the people I know are real.” she says, “Anya, Tara, Riley.”

“I’ll get on my lap top.” Willow says, instantly leaping to her feet. “Full names?”

“Anya Jenkins, Tara Maclay and Riley Finn.”

“Done.” Willow says.

“What about Dawn?” Joyce’s voice is old sounding, “Didn’t you say you have a sister called Dawn?”

“She doesn’t exist yet.” Buffy says, “I know that much.”

“Bingo.” says Willow, “I have one ‘Riley Finn’; lives in Iowa?”

“That’s him.” Buffy says, “Is there a picture?”

Willow turns the lap top to show Buffy the younger looking Riley smiling out at her. His hair is longer, like it used to be when they first met; Buffy has to wonder if he’s already a part of the Initiative.

“Does he have military connections?” Buffy asks.

Willow clicks a few buttons, makes a sucking noise and says.

“He’s into some pretty deep stuff for his age,” she says, “Something called the Initiative?”

“Oh my God,” mutters Buffy, slightly annoyed, “Took us months to figure the Initiative out. Takes Willow one second.”

“So- this actually is the same guy?” Xander asks; “This is someone you know from your world?”

“My ex-boyfriend.” Buffy agrees. “He’s real.”

Buffy notices Angel take a subtle look at the screen; a contemptuous look crossing his face when he sees the boy.

Willow quickly types in the next name; clicking a few buttons and working the magic she barely uses anymore in Buffy’s world.

“Tara Maclay.” she says, “All I got is a death announcement for her mother, along with this picture.” she shows Buffy the sad looking Tara.

“It’s her.” Buffy says, “Another person I didn’t make up.”

“Anya Jenkins...” Willow says, typing it in. She types a few buttons and the lap top makes a beeping noise. “Nothing.” she says.

Everyone looks at Buffy, wondering what she’ll do now.

“Uhh...” she says, “I know I didn’t make Anya up- I don’t think I’d have it in me to make up someone so obsessed with sex...” she thinks for a moment, then decides to try something. “Anyanka!” she calls, “ANYANKA!! Get down here- I wanna do some vengeance!”

Everyone gives her horrified looks as if she’s even crazier than they originally anticipated.

“ANYANKA!!”

Suddenly the room flashes with light and a veiny faced woman appears, hands on hips.

“Who dares summon the evil Anyanka?” she demands in a foreboding voice.

Buffy lets out an excited little squeal, then throws her arms uncontrollably around the vengeance demon.

“Everyone exists!” she cries.

“Woah!” says Xander, “This is actually what you were looking for?” he asks, “I thought we were talking about people!”

“She is a person in my world.” Buffy says.

“Hey!” says Anyanka, in typical Anya style. “What the wiggins?”

“Same question.” adds Willow.

“Well in my world, Anya was summoned by Cordelia who made a wish that went wrong; as far as I’ve heard; Giles ended up breaking Anya’s power centre; leaving her human. She ended up falling for Xander and therefore made it into the Scooby Gang. I guess you kind of get used to her.”

“What. The. Wiggins?” Anya repeats.

“Falling for Xander?” the boy repeats, “How? But... What?”

Buffy smiles, glad to see her friends showing signs of actually believing her.

“You make a good couple,” she says, “Eventually. Did I prove myself?”

“Too much to be a coincidence,” says Giles, “There must be truth... I mean...”

“You’re from another world?” Xander asks incredulously, the words finally sinking in. “Buff that’s... That’s amazing.”

Sighing, finally happy again, Buffy falls down onto the warm, familiar sofa; lying her head down against the arm rest.

“Okay- I’m going to sleep now.” she declares, closing her eyes with the exhaustion of finally having her story believed.

............................................................

Spike paces his crypt with frustration and nerves.

An hour, he’d expected her to be gone at the most.

Eight hours he sat and waited; wishing he could sleep; wondering what the Hell could have happened to her.

“God Buffy...” he moans, eyes trained in on the door; willing her to walk through. “Where is she?”

His heart expects the worse; Angel caught up with her; beat her up for protecting Spike from his stake the night before; dragged her back to the hospital and forced her back onto that bed; injected her with something cold and painful; stripping away her hope and humanity.

“Just hold on Buffy,” he says, checking the time and then heading for the door, “I’m coming for you.”

..............................................................

She was in her own bed when she woke.

Blankets tucked up to her chin; Mr Gordo close to her side.

Made her wonder who had carried her up here; kinda made her hope it wasn’t Angel.

The thought of Angel- in her house- in her room- tucking her into bed... Well- it was still pretty wig-worthy.

She sits up; slowly untucking herself when she hears a commotion coming from down stairs.

“Stay the Hell away from her!” Xander’s voice.

“Lemme in!” Spike’s.

Buffy practically leaps from her bed, running from her room and down the stairs, not even bothering to check what she’s wearing.

“Spike!” she cries, running straight out the front door and into the darkness; throwing her arms around him. “I’m safe Spike; I’m fine.”

“Buffy...” he nuzzles himself into her neck, wanting to take her far, far away from this place, “I was so bloody worried.”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” she whispers, pulling back to stare at him; tears streaking down her face in the heat of the moment, “I’m so sorry. Will you still help get me home?”

“Of course I will,” he says, pulling her back against his chest and looking down at the top of her head, “I promised you didn’t I?”

“Spike...” she whispers as he strokes her hair, “They know... They believe me...”

“Get away from her.”

Giles’ voice is cold as ever as he stares at the vampire taking full advantage of his vulnerable Slayer.

“Get away from her Spike.” he repeats.

Buffy spins around in the vampire’s arms to face her friends, bathed in the light of the house while she stands shrouded in the shadows of the night with Spike.

“It’s okay,” she says, “Spike...” she realises she may have told her own story, but she failed to mention the fact that the Spike she knows is a lot less evil than the Spike they know.

They’re all regarding him with matching looks of disgust mingled with fear.

She remembers what he did yesterday to get them both to safety.

“Spike’s from my world... He’s good...”

“Buffy,” Giles’ voice is exasperated, “You’re being manipulated-”

“No!” she insists. “I’ll prove it- I’ll prove how much I trust him.”

Her friends watch in horror as she turns to face him again.

“Spike,” she says, “Give me your hand.”

He does so immediately, though not before giving her a questioning look.

Slowly she begins to lead him toward the house, watching as her friends back away, behind the safety the invisible barrier offers them.

“Buffy- think about this,” Willow says pleadingly. “You don’t have to do this to prove yourself.”

Buffy has to ignore her friend.

“She’s right Buffy-” Spike adds, not wanting her to do anything she doesn’t really want to on the spur of the moment. “You don’t have anything to prove.”

She ignores him too; walking all the way through the door, holding his hand just outside the barrier.

“Spike...” she says, meeting his cooled blue eyes; knowing she can trust him more than ever, “I’ve invited you into this house twice before and I’ve trusted you with Dawn and my Mother for years. I trust you Spike; and not just because of the chip.” she tightens her grip on his large hand and his eyes seem to stare right through her.

“Buffy...” his voice is so soft, “You don’t have to...”

“No.” she says. “I do.”

She takes a deep breath.

“Spike... Come in.”

He remains on the other side of the door, gazing at her for a moment longer. Then she backs further into the house, bringing him with her.

He looks up at the threshold, seeing how different it is from the inside, before meeting her eyes again and saying;

“Presto. No barrier.”

She smiles, then throws her arms around him.

“Thank you.” she whispers in his ear, “Thank you for being you.”

“So...” says Xander, “What now? We all just sit here and socialise with the soulless demon you’ve suddenly decided to fall in love with?”

Buffy looks up sharply.

“I don’t lo...” she feels her mouth go dry.

She’d hugged him. She’d kissed him. What if he thought...?

“Please,” Spike says, “Buffy doesn’t love me.”

She can’t look at him. Not now; he must think that she’s using him; using him for a free ticket home.

“Spike...” she doesn’t know what to say to him either.

“Hey- it’s okay Love,” he says, turning her to face him again, “I never expected you to fall in love with me Buffy. I never expected anything from you at all. I didn’t before and of course I don’t now. This is just about getting you home; back to your friends and back to Dawn.”

She nods numbly, understanding.

“Thank you Spike.” she says.

After a long drawn out moment of silence, Willow realises someone needs to break the ice, and decides to take the job upon herself.

“So how does Spike get you back home?” she asks.

Buffy looks quickly up at Spike, wondering why she never asked him that question. He looks confused for a moment; then his expression clears.

“The spell Willow cast,” he says, “It said I can only return home when I’m sure Buffy’s okay- something like ‘and only let him return when he truly believes that our warrior is safe’,” Spike lifts his eyes, “Shouldn’t take Will long to set up the spell once I get back... She’s had it planned for weeks.”

“How will you know when to leave?” prompts Willow; only a little unnerved by her unconscious part in the plan.

“I don’t know...” he says, “I guess it’ll just happen.”

“Great.” says Xander, “And while you’re off setting up spells in another world; we’re stuck with evil; all-powerful Spike who now has an all-access pass to Buffy’s house, and her neck!”

Buffy jolts at the information.

“Bollocks.” mutters Spike, “I hadn’t thought of that.”

He looks at Buffy who’s eyes are wide and fearful; suddenly so desperate to live again.

“Spike; he’s going to murder me...” she whispers, hiding her face quickly in his welcoming chest.

“No.” he says firmly, pulling his arms around her. “I won’t let him hurt you Love.”

“With all due respect,” says Willow, “You’re not actually gonna be here. You can’t protect her from yourself Spike.”

Slowly he looks up, his eyes clouded as an idea springs up inside his head; like something he’s been longing for all along.

“Yes I can.” he says. “You... you may not like this idea.”

“Go on.” says Giles; disturbed by the fact that his charge’s head is still buried in the vampire’s chest.

“I... I could claim her,” he says.

For a long time no one speaks; then Xander laughs.

“You’re kidding right?” he asks, “I mean you don’t actually expect us to fall for that do you?”

Spike looks at the boy questioningly.

“We give you access to the Slayer’s throat and you’ll drain her dry.” Xander continues.

“He won’t.” says Buffy, looking up. “He loves me.”

Spike looks down;

“It would mean the other Spike won’t be able to kill her when he returns to this body; conection’ll be too strong.”

“I think we should do it.” says Buffy.

Spike turns to her incredulously; disbelieving his ears for a moment. That is; until he sees her eyes.

Wide.

And sincere.

“Spike...” she says, completely oblivious to everyone else in the room, “I trust you. I know you don’t want to hurt me.”

“Can I just bring up the ‘Spike is still evil; this is all a trick’ argument again?” asks Xander, raising a hand.

Buffy and Spike both turn to him and he lowers his hand sheepishly.

“Xander,” says Buffy, “This Spike isn’t the same guy; he’s the guy who promised to protect my sister to the end of the world... The guy who offered to kill his sire- for me... The guy who...” she looks at him, “Loves me without a soul.”

“You are my soul,” he whispers.

She touches his face lightly.

“You claim me...” she says softly, “And the other Spike can’t hurt me?”

“I’m not sure- I just know that he won’t be able to kill you.” Spike replies, “It should keep you safe long enough for Willow and the others to perform the spell to bring you back into our world.”

Buffy swallows nervously.

“Will it hurt?”

Spike closes his eyes, finding it hard to believe she’s even considering his idea.

“I can make it painless.” he says.

“Buffy please-” says Giles, closing his eyes, “Tell me you’re not even deliberating this for a moment.”

“Giles- this is a question of life and death,” says Buffy, “I think I’m going to go with life in this case. If the other Spike is going to return then I’ll need a safety net; tell me now if you have a problem with me actually living through this.”

“I...” he pushes his glasses up his nose then turns to Spike, “You hurt her in... Any way... And I swear to God- we will kill you.”

“Acceptable terms,” he says, “But if I hurt her Rupert; Bloody Hell, I’ll stake myself.”

“So we trust him?” Willow asks, “We trust him to claim Buffy?”

Giles’ look is still cold.

“If it’s what Buffy wants.” he says.

“It is.” Buffy confirms.

“If we’re gonna do this...” Spike says, “Well it should be soon- I could be called back at any time. I think Willow should do an uninvitation spell as well; tomorrow.”

“Me?” asks Willow, “I don’t know how.”

“Oh...” says Spike, “Maybe Giles could help.”

“Agreed.” says Giles, “We’ll meet back here at sunrise tomorrow morning; Spike; you will have claimed Buffy by then.”

He nods.

“Okay.” he turns to Buffy, “You sure you’re okay with this?” he asks, wanting her to feel perfectly safe.

“It’s fine; I’m fine.” she replies, squeezing his upper arm slightly. “Let’s do this thing.”

“Good luck.” Willow says.

“Don’t let him hurt you,” Xander adds.

Then all three of them are gone and Buffy and Spike are alone.

“Where’s your mom?” he asks.

“I don’t know.” Buffy replies, “I’ve been asleep since I got here.”

“Don’t really want her to walk in on this,” he says, “She might get the wrong end of the stick.”

“My room has a lock.” she says quietly; then blushes when she realises what she’s suggesting. “I mean... She... We’ll be okay in my room...”

“It’s okay pet,” he says soothingly, “This is me Love; you know I’m not expecting anything more from you. I’ll claim you then you can sleep- okay?”

She nods thankfully.

“I don’t know why you’re so nice to me.” she says with a smile.

“Come on.” he says, getting to his feet, “Things are about to change.”

........................................................................
A/N: He he he. Please review!
........................................................................

CHAPTER SIX: Staking the claim

He leads her up the stairs and toward her bedroom, holding her hand tightly in his own. He can hardly even breath when he thinks about what he’s about to do; scared he’ll hurt her; scared she’ll change her mind, but more than anything; scared it will all go exactly to plan and he and Buffy will be tied together forever.

“You’re sure?” he asks as she sits on her bed.

She nods, watching him turn the key in the lock.

“Lay down.” he says in a gentle voice.

She gives him a funny look, but does as he says; laying her head down lightly on the pillow and stretching her body out in front of her.

“Promise it won’t hurt?” she asks in a light hearted voice; trying not to show her anxiety.

“I promise pet.” his voice is silky like velvet.

He sweeps over to her bed; suddenly making Buffy feel very nervous. She tenses slightly as he sits down beside her and takes her hand.

“Spike...” she says, his name sounding strange to her. It makes her wonder what the Hell she’s doing; letting a Master vampire near her throat; letting him claim her. It doesn’t matter who he is; has she forgotten who she is?

The Slayer shouldn’t be claimed.

Never.

“I...” she wants to move away. “I don’t think this is such a good idea.”

Spike’s hand goes limp in hers and his eyes cast down.

“Buffy this is important,” he says, “The other Spike... I know him better than you do; he’s me remember. And I know he wants to kill you. Pet- we can’t let that happen or we’ll never get you home.”

She takes a deep breath.

“Sorry.” she says, “Entitled to a last minute wig-out I think.”

“So you still want me to-”

“Yes.” she says quickly. “This is about me getting home; you’re right.”

His eyes look sad at her words.

“This is about you.” he agrees.

“Okay.” he takes her shoulders and moves her up the bed a little; propping her head up against the head board. “I’m going to need you to relax Love.”

He brushes hair out of her eyes and Buffy tries to hide her amusement while she watches his intense expression alter as he checks that she’s comfortable.

“Spike...” she says with a smile. “I’m fine. Please- I trust you.”

He looks up and meets her eyes with a gentle smile of his own.

Their eyes lock for the longest time, bright green on cerulean blue. Then slowly Buffy leans forward and offers him a gentle kiss on the lips.

It’s brief and sweet, but enough to let Spike know that she really does want this.

“I just want... To make sure...” he says, leaning in so their lips are almost touching, “That you fully understand what will happen.”

“Spike,” she says, “It doesn’t matter. I’ll be safe. You’ll keep me safe; I know you will.”

“We’ll be connected forever Buffy,” he says, “Only death, or my sire, can break this.”

“I understand.” she says.

“There will never be anyone else for me but you.” he tells her.

“I know.” she replies.

“Your feelings for me might change.” he says gently, really not wanting to scare her off.

But her face seems to clear with realisation.

“They already have.” she whispers, her green eyes sparkling.

He looks up at her sharply, surprise filling him.

Then she kisses him again; this time with more passion and intensity.

She pulls herself up from the pillow, wrapping her arms around his neck to draw him closer to her still.

He moans with pleasure as she pushes him down onto the bed, pulling away to stare down at his beautiful face from above.

“I want this Spike,” she confides, “Not just for convenience; for me; to keep me safe. I want this for you; for us.”

Spike feels tears rise in his blue eyes which shine like precious stones.

She wants him.

She leans down to kiss him once more; pressing her slight body against his.

“I love you Buffy.” the blond vampire tells her as he rolls himself on top of her and gazes down at her. His hand almost trembles as he smoothes her beautiful blond hair away from her neck and tilts her head to the side.

“Close your eyes Love.” he says, not wanting her to see him in game face.

“No.” she refuses. “I want you Spike; every part of you.”

He nods numbly, transforming into his vampire guise; expecting to see the horror and disgust appear on the girl’s face as she gazes up at him.

To his surprise, her hand reaches up curiously to trace the lines of his face appreciatively.

“You’re beautiful.” she whispers. “And I’m ready.”

He nods.

Many times he’d fantasized about taking Buffy over the years; but never like this. In his dreams; he was always rough and in control.

But as Buffy reaches up to pull him down to her neck, he knows she’s always had a hold over him; she’s always held the control.

He grazes her tender skin with his elated fangs, feeling her shiver with anticipation beneath him.

“I love you.” he whispers, opening his jaw wide and leaning forward a little more to sink his fangs into the soft curve of her jugular, taking a deep pull of her powerful blood.

“I need you.” she replies, her hand knotting into the hair at the base of his neck.

He’d lied.

It does hurt.

But not in a way she would have expected.

It’s like the perfect combination of pleasure and pain, entwined together for what feels like an eternity; making her wonder whether she should beg him to stop or scream out for more.

The feeling of his fangs digging deeper and deeper into her makes her feel faint, but her hands still hold him to her neck; indicating for him not to stop.

Spike feels like he’s stronger than he’s been in years, the feeling of Buffy’s blood pumping around his veins and straight into his heart.

Buffy rakes her long nails down his back, drawing lines of blood across his broad shoulders.

He pulls away from her neck, her blood dripping from his fangs and slipping down onto her chest.

He stares down into her slightly glazed eyes, his own burning with a violent emotion.

“Mine.” he growls, dipping his head to lick her wound clean; sealing it for an eternity.

“Yours.” she confirms; stroking the back of his neck gently.

He collapses on top of her, his nose nuzzled into the base of her neck as he inhales her scent deeply. He drops his arms over her possessively, holding her close to him as he roles onto his side.

Buffy stares at him with wide eyes as everything sinks in.

She is his.

She belongs to him.

Forever.

Before she can even think properly about what she’s doing; Buffy leans toward the nail wound she left on his strong shoulder; running her tongue over it and letting his coppery blood slip down her throat.

“Mine.” she whispers thoughtfully.

His eyes open with confusion and he stares up at her.

Then he understands.

“Yours.” he agrees. “Forever.”

She pulls her arms around him; crashing her lips down on top of his as she forgets everything; forgets who and what she is. Forgets where she is and why. Forgets everything for the sake of this very moment.

She pulls away from the kiss to stare at him; his eyes are filled with an age old longing and she knows he deserves everything she can give him. He’s done so much for her and now she can finally repay him.

“Spike...” she whispers. “What happens now?”

He leans his forehead against hers, holding her forearms in his gentle hands.

“The claim should kick in...” he says, taking an exhausted breath, “In a few hours... Then we’ll start to be... More aware of each other and...”

He’s so tired.

Buffy strokes his cheeks gently and he looks up at her through those shining blue eyes.

“You... You claimed me...” he says, “Why... You...?”

“I wanted to.” she says, “It just felt... Right.”

He nods, understanding.

“It does feel right.” he agrees, “And it makes the claim stronger.”

“So that’s good.” she says.

“Buffy it makes it more difficult to break.” he warns her, “When we get back... Back to our world... When you want to get back to normal; move on with your life; find a new lover... The claim will be difficult to break.”

She looks at him with unmasked shock.

“Break?” she asks.

“When my part’s over; when I’ve got you home safe and sound; you’ll want to break the claim; have a normal life again.” he says, “It’s going to be more difficult because you claimed me.”

Spike wonders why the tears are slipping down her cheeks.

“Break?” she repeats. “Spike... I told you; I want this. Not just for convenience... Forever.”

He stares at her; hardly able to understand what she’s saying.

“Spike- I don’t want this claim to be broken when we get home.” she tells him. “I want to be with you; I do.”

His eyes are filled with so much disbelief, Buffy has to kiss him again.

She kisses his cheeks, his eyes, his nose, his chin, his neck, his shoulders, his chest.

All the while he sits, frozen in shock.

Then her lips meet his in a searing kiss.

“I...” she says, running her hands over his chest, lips just inches from his, “I think I’m falling in love with you Spike...”

His eyes close in bliss at her words and he can hardly breath; suddenly glad that he doesn’t need to.

“You make me feel so safe.” she whispers; falling beneath him as their bodies meet in the perfect design; clothing long since shed. “I love you.”

“I-”

He crashes down toward her lips, ready to kiss her; ready to give her everything they both want so badly; both deserve more than anything. Ready to lose himself to her the way he’s always dreamed of doing.

Her lips so soft and expectant; waiting for him to kiss her; to love her in every way she can imagine.

Just mere inches apart; but those few inches feel like miles.

She wants him more than she’s ever wanted anyone or anything.

She burns for him; feels his body burn for her in return from where he lays above her.

His lips.

Her lips.

Ready to meet.

But then, when the inches between them are nothing but millimetres; his head explodes in blinding white pain which shoots through him over and over; pushing him away from her roughly as his whole brain seems to split in half with the pain.

He has to close his eyes against the intensity.

When he opens them again, Xander is lying unconscious on the floor in front of him.

Suddenly panic takes over him as his eyes shoot around in search of Buffy.

Something horrible is going on and he can’t make sense of any of it.

“Buffy!” he calls, “Buffy!”

He tries to run; wants to get away from the unconscious whelp in front of him, but when he tries, he realises something is holding him back.

Heavy hands; he looks down at the thick manacles clamped around his wrists.

“What the bloody Hell is going on?” he cries.

Just moments ago he’d been holding the woman he loves in his arms, about to make to love to her in every way, and now; what?

“Oh my God- Xander!” Willow’s voice.

Fast footsteps rush down the stairs.

“What the Hell did you do to him?”

She throws the question at Spike who is still nursing his painful head.

“Nothing,” he says, “I don’t even know what the bloody Hell’s going on here!”

“Well that’ll be the effects of your chip kicking in.” she says in a harsh voice, dragging Xander away from the chained up vampire and into safety.

His eyes flicker open.

“Xand; what were you doing?” she asks softly.

“I...” Xander’s voice is pained, “God; I don’t know Willow. I just want this to end.”

“I know.” she says, “Hush. Go and find Anya; she’ll fix you back up.”

He nods and gets stiffly to his feet; sending a contemptuous look in Spike’s direction.

“You suck.” he tells the confused vampire.

Spike strains against his chains.

“Red; what’s going on?” he asks, “Where’s Buffy?”

Willow turns to him angrily; tears sparkling in her darkened eyes.

“I told you Spike,” she says, “Buffy’s dead. Let it go.” she adds, “The only reason you’re still alive is because of who you were and...” her voice trails off, “Remind me again why I don’t stake you.”

Spike’s eyes widen with pain,

“Buffy’s...?” he reaches out through the claim to find her, calling out to her through his blood. She can’t be dead; it was just moments ago; just moments ago that he’d held her in his arms.

She couldn’t be gone.

It couldn’t all be over already.

He’d loved her so much; and she’d said it to him; she’d told him that she loved him.

And she’d meant it; he knew she had.

Tears slip from his eyes without him noticing or caring, as he reaches out through the claim.

He feels her blood; and it’s not flowing. She’s really gone.

“She can’t be dead...” he whispers, “I... I promised I’d get her home...”

Willow looks even angrier now.

“Spike- shut up!” she yells, “You know Buffy’s dead; you were only laughing about it earlier. You’re sick; you know that?”

He stares at her incredulously.

“Buffy...” he whispers, “I love her so much... I promised I’d get her home...”

Willow looks about ready to clock him one herself; when suddenly, she freezes.

“Wait a minute...” she says, edging slowly toward him, trying to figure out if this is a trick. “Spike...” she stares at him; something’s definitely different. “You love her?”

“I love her.” he repeats, “Willow sent me to find her and I failed her again.”

He doesn’t even care that he’s crying in front of the red head.

He just can’t believe that after everything; he’s lost her all over again.

“I love her so bloody much.”

“Spike!” Willow cries, “It’s you!” she runs to him; completely certain that the monster is gone. “I don’t understand; how?”

He looks up sharply.

“How what?” he asks.

Willow winces at his tone but lets it go as she quickly unchains him.

“I’m so sorry,” she says, “The spell went wrong. We thought we were sending you to where Buffy is; I think what happened was you began to channel some of the primal evil from the Hell dimension she’s in. Do you remember any of it? Do you remember us chaining you up down here?”

Spike rubs his wrists; looking around.

He’s in the Summer’s basement.

“No.” he says, shaking his head, “I don’t remember.” he scratches his head, then tries to wipe away the stream of tears still making their way down his cheeks, “How... How did Buffy die?”

Willow’s face looks sorrowful.

“Spike; I’m so sorry,” she says, “I didn’t realise you would forget. This spell was such a bad idea.”

She sits him down gently.

“She died a few months ago...” she tells him in her softest voice, “There was a God; Glory. She tried to kill Dawn. Buffy sacrificed herself to save Dawn.”

She lays her hand down on the trembling vampire’s arm.

He jolts.

He knows this...

“Wait-” he says, “Where...” he looks around as things begin to dawn upon him, “Am I in 2001?”

Willow nods lightly.

Spike leaps back to his feet, throwing his hands up in the air.

“Oh God!” he cries, “Then he must be with her right now; what if the claim hasn’t taken hold yet?” he turns back to Willow, fear creasing his face, “We should have uninvited me straight away; why the Hell did we wait?”

Willow’s getting slowly to her feet, backing away from him.

“Spike...” she says, “What’s going on?”

He tries to get his head straight; tries to figure out where he is now.

“You’re the Willow that sent me to where Buffy is, aren’t you?” he asks.

“Yes- but it didn’t work.” she replies, “You were still here; just all weird and evil. Like I said, I think you were channelling-”

“No.” he interrupts. “That wasn’t me. You’re spell worked perfectly Red.”

“Then I don’t...”

“I found Buffy.” he tells her; making her look up suddenly with shining eyes.

“You found her?”

Spike nods numbly, his heart wrenching as he recalls everything to the attentive Willow, whose eyes widen as he tells the story of a girl trapped in an alternate reality where everyone believe she’s crazy.

“We realised that soon I was going to switch back to this world, so we decided that I should claim her, to make sure the other Spike couldn’t kill her in the time it takes for us to set up the spell to bring her back.”

“She wants to come home?” Willow whispers.

“More than anything.” Spike agrees. “So I claimed her, not twenty minutes ago.” then he realises, “You said- part of the spell- I couldn’t return until I knew she was safe...” he looks at his hands, “Just before I got pulled back here- she told me I make her feel safe.” he shakes his head, silently cursing the wording of the spell, “Will it work Willow? Will my claim be strong enough?”

Willow stares at him; hardly believing what he’s telling her.

“Buffy let you claim her?” she whispers.

“She asked me to.” he corrects.

“Does she understand what it means?” Willow persists.

“She knows.” Spike says, some what agitated. “And she wanted it as much as I did.”

Willow looks sceptical for a moment; then quickly clears her expression.

“It should take an immediate effect in that respect.” she assures him, “The other definitely won’t be able to kill her; but we should get straight to work on that spell anyway.”

“Just one thing.” Spike asks, making Willow turn back, “How... How long was the other Spike here for?”

Willow thinks for a moment, then says; “Just under a month; why?”

Spike feels the blood drain from his face.

“Two days.” he says, “I spent two days in the other world. Time must move at a different rate.”

Willow bites her lip.

“I guess we have a head start.” she says, “We should get on; the quicker we work this; the better chance Buffy has.”

...............................................

He looks so beautiful; mounted above her like an image of the Heavens themselves.

He’s going to kiss her.

His lips are sinking closer and closer to hers and she knows exactly what will happen next.

And she wants it; God she wants it.

“I love you.” she whispers as his lips stop, mere millimetres away from hers.

And he laughs; cold and harsh; right into her face.

“Spike?” she asks.

His laughter doesn’t stop.

It gets louder, and more powerful.

“Stupid, stupid girl,” he laughs, “Did you really think...”

“Think what?” she whispers, fear gripping at her insides.

“Look at you.” he hisses, “You’re the Slayer; you’re supposed to be smart.” he watches with satisfaction as her eyes glaze over, “You let me mark you,” he says, observing his bite mark on her pallid neck, “And all it took was a few lies and sweet words. I can’t believe you fell for it!”

Buffy’s eyes widen as she realises what he’s saying.

“Lies...?”

He’s laughing again.

He’s bluffing but she doesn’t know that; he’s going to pull this off.

“That’s right sweet cheeks; and you don’t have to tell me that you fell for it because the fact that I have you pinned to a bed says that much to me all by itself.” he laughs.

Buffy tries to push him off, not wanting him to see her tears.

“No.” she says, “This can’t be happening. I know you. I know-”

“Do you really?” he asks, “Do you really think you know me? Did you really think we were going to make sweet, sweet love?”

“Spike...” she pleads, “Don’t do this to me; don’t turn evil like all the others; please don’t do this Spike... I-”

“Don’t say it.” he interrupts, “My love is only for Drusilla. You’re a disgusting, filthy, little girl.” he slaps her across the face, still keeping her pinned to her bed.

“But you claimed me...” she whispers.

He stares at her, slightly thrown for a moment. Then he says;

“Yeah- think about why I did that- bitch.”

.............................................................
A/N: *sigh* poor Buffy! Hope you liked. Please review me!!
.............................................................

CHAPTER SEVEN: Who are you?

They found her the next morning, curled up and all alone on her bed; small hands gripping at the rumpled sheets as tears slip down her grimy cheeks.

“Buffy?” Willow asks, “Where’s Spike?”

Buffy looks up slowly; her eyes blank and empty as she stares at her best friend.

“It was all a lie...” she whispers in a hollow voice, “It really was a dream. Spike... Spike said those things to make me trust him.” she lets out a rattling sigh, “What Giles said all along; about Spike wanting to make me trust him so I’d be more vulnerable... He was right Will.”

“Oh, Buffy...” Willow says, tears coming to her eyes at her best friend’s obvious distress, “I’m so, so sorry Buffy.” she walks briskly to her bedside and drops down beside her, “We never should have trusted him with you.”

Her words make Buffy sob even harder.

“But Will,” she says, “I trusted him, I wanted him, I... I still do.” she looks down, “I wanted everything he was promising me. I wanted... To not be crazy; for my world to be real.” Willow takes her hand gently, and Buffy looks up with watery eyes, “And if he was lying,” she says, “That means my world isn’t real either.”

Willow bites her lip.

“Oh God...” Buffy says, “Why did he do this to me?”

........................................................

Buffy stares into her dimly lit bedroom mirror; her fingers lingering over the bold claim on her neck.

She’s so confused.

Spike had loved her; he had; she’d been so sure about that.

But every time she thinks about him; reaches out to him through the claim; all she feels are reels of hatred and anger directing themselves toward her.

The claim is painful now; more painful than the bite itself had been.

And all she wants to know is ‘why’; why he did this to her. Why he laid his claim upon her; why he told her so many lies.

He’d told her to think about that; think about why he’d claimed her; right before he’d stormed from her bedroom; leaving havoc in his wake as he crashed over her precious belongings and trampled them into the ground like her heart; without even caring.

“Spike...” she whispers.

She feels his hatred increase as she whispers his name; like he knows; knows when she’s thinking about him.

So that’s why he did it.

To hurt her.

To let her know exactly how he really feels.

“No more.” Buffy says with resolution, pulling the collar of her shirt up, hiding the marred skin from view. “No... More...”

Then she turns away from the mirror; resolving to leave every aspect of her fantasy Spike behind her forever.

If she wants to get better... Well she’ll have to do exactly as the doctor says.

That means staying healthy.

And dreaming about an imaginary Spike is certainly not healthy.

...........................................................

“We dig her up.” Spike tells them, “Before we do anything else; we dig her up.”

“What?” asks Xander, clearly disgusted, “Spike she’s... We can’t- it’s just... Wrong...”

“She’s going to wake up in her grave when we bring her back. Can’t have that.” Spike sets his face, “So we dig her up.”

They took shovels and flashlights; trying their best to look inconspicuous as they wandered through the dark cemetery.

“How do I get myself in these situations?” Anya questions aloud, “I should be at home having lots of sex right about now.”

“Later.” promises Xander, then realising what he’s just said, “Uh... Shouldn’t we be digging?”

Spike and Willow share a sarcastic look as they dig their shovels down into the damp earth.

“Hurry.” Willow says in a commanding voice, “No sex for you tonight Anya; we need to get the spell completed by the end of the night.”

.......................................................

Her body is stiff and badly decomposed.

Even Spike finds it difficult to look at her corpse.

She certainly isn’t the same girl he’d held in his arms, just days before.

“We’re sure this will work?” Xander asks; staring at Buffy’s body; laid softly on her bed. A disturbing image that he’s somehow unable to tear his eyes away from.

“It has to.” says Spike in a determined voice, “I need... I promised...”

“Shh...” says Willow. “It’ll work Xander, Spike. I promise.”

“Everything’s set up Willow.” Tara’s voice is soft and understanding. She knows what her girlfriend must do to save her best friend. “Do you want to...”

“I want to.” says Willow; taking one of Tara’s hands and holding her other out for Spike.

“Spike.” she calls.

His cold, white hand is in hers in an instant.

Then Xander and Anya join too and the circle is complete.

“Osiris...” Willow says in a soft voice, “Here lies the warrior of the people... Trapped... Help her cross over Osiris... Help her cross over; back into her body. Osiris...”

Spike holds tighter to her hand as he voice becomes stronger.

“Grant her the passage back into this body. Find her wandering soul and anchor it back into our world. Osiris. Osiris. Let her cross over!”

Willow breaks free from Tara and Spike as her body begins to convulse.

“What’s going on?” Spike asks immediately.

“Shh...” says Tara, “Willow said... Told me this would... Said for us not to interfere.”

“Osiris!” Willow cries out as gaping wounds slice open across her wrists, “Give her life; Give her body! Osiris!”

The red head jolts suddenly; her body rigidly straight as she begins to choke; letting out her voice in small, strangled sounding gasps.

“Osiris...” she manages.

Suddenly the room flashes with light and for a moment, everyone is blinded.

Spike falls backwards; covering his eyes with his hands against the intense light. Struggling to sit up again; he wants to see her body; needs to. Needs to know if the spell worked.

He rubs his eyes vigorously; trying to clear them. But it’s no use.

Instead he struggles forward, in the direction he knows he left the body.

And there it is; as he nears the bed.

A faint, but sure, heart beat.

“We did it...” he whispers, “We got Buffy home.”

..........................................................

They all sit around her bedside; desperately longing for her to wake up; to thank them and then return to her normal life.

Spike especially, sits with baited breath, clinging onto her clammy hand.

‘Come on baby; just open your eyes’ he silently wills.

He wants her back in his arms; against his chest; against his lips.

He wants to cradle her and stroke her hair.

But for now he must make do with holding her hand; and that alone is earning him plentiful glares from Xander.

Spike had decided not to tell the other Scoobies about the claim, and Willow herself had kept quiet about it. For some reason he felt like it would be jinxing fate to tell them that Buffy had declared her love for him. What if she came back and changed her mind?

Spike hopes more than anything that she won’t.

Because he needs her; more than ever he needs her; just to hold and to gaze at; it would be enough.

“Willow; Xander!” Spike calls instantly when he feels her cold hand twitch in his, “I think she’s waking up over here!”

They’re at his side in a heart beat; Xander resentful of the Slayer’s hand entwined with Spike’s. But he doesn’t comment as her beautiful green eyes flicker open.

She stares around the room absently for a moment or two; then smiles gently.

“I’m home,” she whispers, “Everything must be okay now.”

Tears trickle down Willow’s cheeks as she stares at her reanimated best friend; so afraid to touch her in case she might break.

Xander touches Willow’s arm and she turns around to bury her face in his shoulder.

Spike gazes at his Slayer; so beautiful once more.

He wants to take her in his arms right now and kiss her, but self control holds him back.

“I promised you Buffy,” he whispers, “I promised you I’d get you home. I love you so much.”

Buffy’s eyes flicker over to his face and she smiley warmly at him, making his heart expand instantly. Then he notices something odd about her smile.

“Thank you.” she tells him, “For getting me home.” she stares at him a little longer; looks down at where his hand holds onto hers; then back up into his sparkling blue eyes. She tries to smile; the man’s presence is certainly a comfort to her- but there’s a nagging question, “I just...” she starts, trying to maintain her smile, “Well- who are you?”

...........................................................
A/N: Sorry about the very short chapter but it was just begging to be left there wasn’t it *evil laughter*. I promise the next will be up soon. Please review and I might be even quicker!
...........................................................

CHAPTER EIGHT: Breaking Princess

Willow pulls away from Xander as soon as the words slip from Buffy’s lips.

‘Oh God!’ Willow realises, ‘We did something wrong!’

Spike stares down at her; horror etching across his features as the words ‘Who are you? Who are you? Who are you?’ echo through his brain; a mile a minute.

“Buffy?” asks Xander.

She looks up at him and smiles instantly with recognition.

“Xander.” she says, “Did you miss me?”

“Like Hell.” he says; not bothering to make sense of the fact that she recognises him and not Spike; just completely consumed by the way she’s looking through her eyes. She’s alive; truly alive.

“Willow,” Buffy adds, “How long was I out?”

“A... A few months,” Willow says; relieved by the fact that Buffy clearly remembers her too; but feeling terrible for Spike. “A few months Buffy.”

“Jesus.” she says, closing her eyes again. “It feels longer.”

Spike stands awkwardly; taking a step back.

He’d been ready, in all honesty; completely ready for her to reject him; laugh in his face even. But this... He hadn’t prepared himself for this... Hadn’t expected Buffy to look at him with a completely blank face... Like she’s never seen him before in her life.

“I...” he says, “I think I should go...”

“No, Spike; it’s not her fault.” Willow says quickly, “You have to stay so we can work this out.”

“Spike?” asks Buffy. “Funny name.”

“You don’t remember him at all Buffy?” asks Xander gently. He too feels the vampire’s pain. Imagine enduring everything Spike did to get her home; only to find out that she’s forgotten him altogether.

She shakes her head.

“I don’t... Sorry.” she looks at Xander and Willow questioningly, “Who is he?”

“No one.” Spike replies; somewhat bitterly, “Just the guy who loves you; faced your Hell to bring you home again. Fought to prove you were sane to your friends and did everything he had to just to keep you alive and standing tall. No one.” he reinforces. “Forget it.”

He leaves the room quickly; surprised when Willow follows him.

“Did it go wrong?” Willow asks, “Did I do the spell wrong?”

“I...” Spike looks down, “It went right Red; everything went right... She just... Doesn’t remember me.” he pats her shoulder awkwardly, “There was always gonna be a catch Will. You should find Lil Bit; she’ll want to know.”

“Sorry...” Willow says, “Can you find Dawn? I... I don’t want to leave Buffy.” He nods numbly. “Spike,” she says, before he walks off, “We’re not leaving it here. She’ll get her memories back. She’ll have to remember you... You’re her... Her mate.”

Spike sighs; cementing his original fears.

“I already tried,” he whispers, “There’s no claim. It’s like it never happened.”

Willow’s eyes go wide and Spike turns to find Dawn.

“Where did that man go Willow?” Buffy asks as she re-enters the room. “He was nice.”

Willow smiles softly.

“He’s gone to find Dawn.” she says, “How are you feeling?”

“Little groggy.” she says, “Like someone just killed me.”

“Understandable.” says Xander. “Can you remember anything about where... Where you went?”

“Dark.” Buffy replies, “Like a cave or something. I don’t remember much- my memory’s all boggled right now.”

“Do you remember Spike finding you?” asks Willow in a soft voice.

“That man?” Buffy asks, “No. I’ve never seen him before in my life.”

..........................................................

“Dawn.” Spike knocks gently on her bedroom door, “You here Lil Bit?”

He pushes the door open and finds Dawn curled up on her side; body convulsing with sobs.

“Dawn?” he says again.

She looks up at him with tear-streaking eyes.

“Spike...” she says, “They brought her back... I feel it.”

“You feel it?” he asks. Then he doesn’t know what to say.

They stare at each other for a moment or two.

“You want to see her?” he asks eventually; walking over to Dawn’s bedside.

The teenager looks up at him with a heart breaking look.

“She’s really back?” she asks, “They really did it?”

“She’s... Back.” Spike says.

“And the month you spent crazy in the basement?” she prompts.

“Part of the spell.” he replies.

“Thought as much.” says Dawn, pushing her bed sheets away. “I wanna see her; God I wanna see her.”

Spike takes her hand and helps her to her feet.

“Buffy!” Dawn cries as she steps into her sister’s room and sees the pretty girl awake and smiling as she talks with Xander and Willow, “You’re alive!”

Buffy gives her the strangest look, then says;

“Yep- alive and kicking.”

“Are you... Are you okay?” Dawn asks.

“Oh- I’m good.” Buffy says, addressing Dawn; “Could use a Pepsi- Diet please; sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

Dawn’s eyes widen.

“My name...” she says; looking quickly at Spike who looks sorrowful; shaking his head.

Willow is white as a sheet. ‘I can’t believe we’re putting Dawn through this’ her mind cries. ‘Buffy doesn’t remember her either.’

“Dawn- come with me.” Spike says quickly; not wanting the young girl to break down in front of her sister.

Dawn quickly turns and runs from the room; throwing herself straight into Spike’s arms.

“Spike- she doesn’t remember me.” she sobs.

“Me either.” Spike replies, “No need to fret; Willow’s on it.”

“She doesn’t remember you either?” Dawn replies, “Why- I don’t...”

“Me either.” says Spike softly, shaking his head.

......................................................

Gripped by a petrifying fear, her body twists violently as she remembers her final fight.

Her attacker; too strong; too strong for her to over come.

And where was that opponent now?

Who had killed that violent creature if she didn’t?

Is it still out their?

Scratching at the window frames to be let in.

She can practically hear its harsh voice.

Heard that voice laughing as she died; laughing at her pain and suffering.

Still out there.

Who would have killed it if she couldn’t?

She needed someone.

Someone strong to protect her.

What was his name? He had looked strong.

“Spike!” she cries; terrified by the darkness, “Please; Spike!”

Sitting just outside her door; unable to bear the idea of being more than a few metres away from her; even if she doesn’t remember him; he still loves her. Loves her so much.

He hears her call and leaps to his feet, throwing the door open and making her scream.

“Oh God; it’s you...” she says, “Thank God.”

“You remember?” he asks hopefully.

She casts her eyes down.

“Sorry.” she says softly, “I was just scared and... And I remembered that you looked strong...”

“Hey- shush.” he says, “That’s okay. Want me to sit in here with you?”

“Please.” she replies, “I’m scared... The creature that killed me... Is it still out there?”

Spike shakes his head.

“Giles... Killed him- her- him- her... Yeah- it.”

Buffy’s eyes grow wide.

“Giles killed him?” she asks, “How?... I couldn’t even... I was paralysed.”

Spike stares at her; wanting so badly to sweep her up in his arms and comfort her.

“Shush.” he says instead. “You should get some sleep Buffy.”

“I don’t like it.” she says softly, “So dark and alone. Please- you’re too far away.”

His heart wrenches as she request he move closer to her bed.

This room; this very room in their alternate world; was the room where he claimed her. He could practically taste her blood and lust on her lips, but now; not even his mark was left to mar her skin.

He remembered how he’d felt when she returned the gesture. The feeling of her hot little tongue sweeping across his shoulder; taking his blood; accepting his love willingly.

“This better?” he asks, sitting in a chair not far from her bed.

“I can’t see you.” she replies. “Please... Spike.”

He feels lightning shoot through his veins when she says his name. It rolls of her tongue like sugar; so natural for her to be saying his name.

She feels it too.

“Closer...” her hand lies beside her on the bed, “I don’t...”

She doesn’t need to ask as he sinks down onto the bed beside her.

The very bed where he claimed her as his own.

“Thank you.” she says; laying her head against his firm chest. “Safe now...” she whispers as her eyes close. “Master’s dead... Can’t get me now. Giles killed the Master. Safe now.”

And that’s when Spike realises.

.....................................................

“She’s the wrong Buffy.” he tells Willow with conviction, “This isn’t her world.”

“What?” asks Willow, “How can that possibly-”

“When the two Buffy’s switched places; our Buffy woke from the coma the Master put her in. The other Buffy went to wherever our Buffy was supposed to go. When you called her spirit back... You called back the wrong Buffy.”

“The Buffy who doesn’t know you or Dawn,” Willow says, realising. “Oh my goodness; that means our Buffy is still trapped with the Spike who wants to kill her.”

The vampire’s eyes widen with horror at her words.

................................................

“Slayer.” Drusilla states the second Spike steps through the door, “Oh my Spike... What has that nasty girl done to you.”

She weaves toward him; reaching out to touch the crown of his bowed head.

“My Spi- oh!” she retracts her hand as if scolded, “No...” she whimpers, “Not my Spike... What have you done? What have you done?”

He can’t look at her.

Can’t believe he allowed himself to claim the Slayer. The SLAYER.

One minute he’d been chained up in a basement; taking some of his anger out on that ugly brute of a boy; not even caring about the ‘chip’ they were always yabbering on about. Then; just as the pain was about to kick in; he was gone. And when he opened his eyes; there she was; right below him. He could feel her blood in his veins. Taste it on his lips. Sense it in his heart.

And her eyes; they had stared up at him with an emotion he dreaded to even contemplate.

How? How had this happened?

“Dru...” he says, “I don’t know...”

“She screams in your heart,” Drusilla says, “I hear it too; she cries for you to love her. William; William; what have you done? What have you done to Princess?”

“Not you baby,” he tries, “Remember; nothing hurts Princess.”

“Bad little Slayer.” she says. “The bad little Slayer hurts Princess. Steals her toys and breaks them. Oh William...”

“Please; Dru; I don’t know what happened.” his tone is desperate; pleading with his sire to understand.

“But Princess knows.” she says, “Knows what you did. Words you said to that nasty little Slayer. Words you’ve never said to Princess.”

“Words?” Spike asks, “Dru; what words?”

“Dancing. Dancing.” she says, “Dancing together forever; you and she.” her eyes snap shut. “Princess has to do this for you Spike. Princess will do this.”

With a sudden motion; she pushes Spike away from her; letting him crash to the floor before turning and gliding from the building.

“No! Dru no!” Spike calls; watching her go.

.....................................................

“This is a good step Miss Summers.” the doctor says to the absent looking girl. She was nodding but he knew she wasn’t listening; too caught up in her own trauma to even contemplate what he’s saying anyway. “Acceptance is definitely the first step toward getting better.”

“Acceptance.” she agrees. “Accept that lies are lies.”

“Exactly; and I want you to know that you’re handling this very well.” he adds.

She looks up; allowing him full sight of her tear-stained cheeks.

“I just want to get better,” she says. “Thank you doctor. Thank you so much for helping me.”

“Of course.” he says. “You want a lift home?”

She shakes her head.

“Walking clears my mind.” she tells him, before picking up her bag. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Seven sharp.” he agrees, “You’re making good progress Buffy.”

She nods; opening the door and stepping out into the dark; trying to remember anything the good doctor had said to her over the last hour and a half.

She’s failing miserably to recall any of his words; when suddenly a dark shape shoots out of nowhere and tackles her to the ground.

“You.” Buffy recognises Drusilla’s voice.

‘Oh God!’ she thinks, ‘Spike’s girlfriend! I claimed Spike; she’s going to kill me!’

“You.” Drusilla repeats; pinning the dirty little girl to the ground, “You broke him. You broke my Spike. He’ll never be fixed now; not ever.”

“I didn’t...” Buffy’s voice trails out as Drusilla transforms into game-face. “Please...”

Spike rounds the corner and sees his sire pinning her to the ground.

In that moment everything he knows slips away; all he knows; all he feels; is forgotten.

All he sees is some... thing... threatening his mate, and his pure, vampiric instincts take over.

He doesn’t remember who she is; doesn’t even remember who he is. Just knows; deep down; that he must protect the one he claimed as his own.

With a primal growl; Spike launches himself at Drusilla; ripping her fangs away from Buffy’s neck.

Both women look at him with shock as he punches Drusilla again and again; still growling savagely.

The he snatches a stake from Buffy’s open bag and, with one last possessive yell; drives it into the beautiful vampire’s chest.

Slowly, Drusilla transforms back into human form and she stares down at the stake he is still twisting into her chest; then back up into his eyes.

“William hurt Princess...” she whispers; disintegrating into ashes.

As the stake drops to the floor; Spike’s eyes widen and he backs away from the pile of dust in front of him; then throws himself at it.

“DRU!” He screams, “NO!”

Then; he spins around, pointing an angry, accusing finger at Buffy who is still lying; petrified on the ground.

“YOU!” he shouts, “What did you do to me?”

“No... No... Nothing...” she whispers; the words barely audible. “I-”

“You made me do this Bitch!” he yells, “I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you for this!”

He launches himself at her; grabbing for her neck and pinning her back against the ground.

Buffy tries to squirm beneath him; tries to make sense out of anything that just happened. Spike killed his sire... To save her.

He clamps his hand down around her neck; glaring at her beautiful face with eyes full of icy daggers.

“You’re going to pay.” he says as his grip loosens slightly, “You’re going to...” he can’t do it. He doesn’t know why; but he can’t kill her. “I hate you.” he tells her; rising back to his feet and staring down at her with contempt, “You’re going to regret the day you let me claim you.” with a brutal kick in her direction, Spike turns to leave. “I’ll find a way Slayer, and when I do,” he calls over his shoulder, “You’re dead.”

....................................

“Please... Too far Spike...”

Her voice; so soft; but like a dagger to his chest every time he hears it. Like; she’s so near; yet so far.

He can hold her in his arms for all he’s worth; but it will never change a thing.

This isn’t her; isn’t the girl he fell in love with.

“Shush Love,” he says, “Bad dream?”

She nods with a whimper; letting him take her into his arms.

“You were there.” she says, “But you were mean. Someone called Drusilla tried to kill me; but you dusted her.” a small tear slides down her ample cheek, “But then you tried to kill me.”

“Shush baby; it was just a dream.” he says, rocking her slightly. “We’re looking into ways to get you home.”

“Home.” she says. “Will the Master be there?”

Spike had outlined the situation to her as best he could, but the young girl in the woman’s body had found some parts difficult to process.

“No- Master’s dead.” he promises. “Anointed one too- killed the bugger myself.”

“You did?” she asks; looking up at him with a wide-eyed innocence he isn’t used to seeing radiating from Buffy’s body.

“You bet.” Spike replies, a slight smile on his face. “You think you can sleep now?”

She nods softly.

“Will you stay?” she asks, “Just for a little while longer?”

He sighs deeply.

“I’ll do whatever you want me to Buffy.”

.......................................................

Buffy wakes from her dream with a heavy nostalgic feeling in the pit of her stomach.

“Why?” she whispers.

All she wants is to get better, and yet, she can’t stop dreaming about Spike; dreaming about the Spike her imagination built.

She misses him. And she loves him; more than ever.

As soon as the feelings make themselves known like a knot in her stomach, she feels Spike’s rage grow. Can practically feel him lashing out against the lowly minions he and Drusilla had taken on over the past couple of weeks.

“Spike...” she whispers; tears in her eyes as she again begs the question; why did he do this to me?

....................................................
A/N: Sorry to end on a not so happy note. Hope you enjoyed the new twist... Please leave a review- it’ll make my day!
....................................................

CHAPTER NINE: Forming the plan

“So?” asks Spike, “Can we do it? Can we switch them back?”

“I don’t know,” Willow admits, “I mean; it’s a lot more complicated than what we originally had planned. This isn’t just a case of anchoring a wandering spirit; this is an actual, cross dimensional switch. I just-”

“You did it before.” Spike interrupts. “You switched me into that world.”

“I did,” she agrees, “But unintentionally- and not permanently. I don’t know if I could-”

“But this is Buff.” Xander enforces, “You can do it if it’s Buffy right?”

“God knows I’m going to try,” Willow says, “I’m just... Well I’ll have to create another place; a sort of limbo between our two worlds where the two Buffys can meet and exchange places.”

“Would that work?” asks Xander.

“I think it would.” says Willow, “It would have to be like a cross roads; as technically only Buffy...s can make the decision to switch worlds.”

“How would our Buffy know what to do?” asks Spike, “She already thinks she’s going insane; I’m pretty sure seeing a clone of herself will be enough to push her over the edge.”

“I... I actually already thought of that.” Willow admits, “See; I thought it would make a lot of sense to send someone with her; the same person from each world; a kind of body guard.”

“I’ll do it.” Xander says instantly.

“Don’t be a ponce Whelp; I’m going.” Spike says in a low voice, using the exact same words as when he declared he would take the journey to visit Buffy’s afterlife.

“Spike I don’t think-”

“No Xander, he’s right.” Willow says, “It actually has to be Spike.”

“Has to?” the vampire asks.

Willow looks at Xander nervously before answering.

“The Limbo world I’m going to create; it will be inside the minds of both Buffy and her Guardian so the two will need to be very close-”

“I see how Spike DOESN’T fit this bill,” Xander interrupts.

“Close.” Willow repeats, “As in; connected in some way. In the other world... Spike’s claim on Buffy should still be strong; assuming it hasn’t been revoked in any way-”

“Wait a minute,” Xander says, interrupting Willow mid-sentence once again, “Claim? Spike claimed Buffy?”

He doesn’t even look ashamed.

“I did.” he says. “So my claim should be strong enough to conjoin Buffy’s mind with my own?” he persists.

“More than strong enough.” Willow confirms. “All it would take is for the two pairs to be doing exactly the same thing in both worlds at the same time; while both I, and the other Willow chant the incantation.”

“Sounds complicated.” says Spike.

“It will be.” Willow agrees, “That’s why I’m not positive I can do-”

“You’ll do it Red.” Spike’s voice says ‘Don’t disagree with me’.

She nods.

“For this to work...” she looks slightly nervous again, “Well the one claim won’t be strong enough; it’ll be too one sided and only our Buffy and the other Spike will be able to enter the Limbo world... So... For this to work; Spike, you’ll have to claim Buffy again; this Buffy... So all four of you are connected and can act as one mind.”

Spike’s face is set and determined.

“We’re going to do this.” he says, “And we’re going to bring Buffy home.”

“We are.” agrees Willow, “You okay with this Xand.”

The Whelp sends a contemptuous look in Spike’s direction; then stops himself as he realises what the vampire is going to put himself through to bring his Slayer home.

“Don’t give up Spike.” he says, “I’ll be counting on you; we all will.”

Spike nods; meeting Xander’s eyes in a mutual sign of trust and respect.

“Tell us what you need Red.”

.................................................

Spike let Willow explain the details to Buffy who listens with wide eyes as the red head describes what she means by ‘claim’.

“He’ll bite you.” she begins, “Pull a minimal amount of blood; then lay his claim on you verbally. It won’t hurt; it should leave you feeling good. And of course; Spike will be as gentle and soft with you as is possible.”

Buffy’s eyes look like a pair of saucers straight from the dishwasher as they shine with what Spike can only assume is terror.

“Bite me?” she repeats. “Like the Master did?”

“No.” says Spike instantly, “The Master was trying to kill you Buffy... This... Well I need to do this so that I can save you; get you home.”

She stares at him for a moment longer; unable to tear her eyes away from his.

She’d known from the moment she first met him that she could trust this man. She’d felt it then, just as she feels it now.

“You promise it won’t hurt?” she asks in a small voice; reminding Spike completely of the Buffy he had lost; the Slayer he had already laid his claim upon.

“I promise you.” he lies again. “It won’t hurt. Buffy; I’d stake myself if I hurt you pet.”

“Well... Okay then.” she says. “If it needs to be done to get me home.”

“I’ll start looking into everything we’ll need for the spell.” Willow says, “Spike... I don’t mean to rush you but-”

“I understand.” he says. “Quickly but gently.”

Willow nods and watches as he leads the young girl in the woman’s body back up the stairs and towards her room.

“Good luck.” she silently wills; knowing this will be the first step.

..........................................

“Lie down pet.” he says in his gentlest voice, as he removes his long leather duster.

Buffy does as he commands without even thinking about it.

This is the man who has slept beside her every night since her return; listening to her cry about her nightmares and comforting her about everything she misses and has lost.

“I trust you.” she says in a small voice.

“I know you do.” he replies; not wanting her to know that that fact alone scares him a thousand times more than the thought of her wanting to stake him. The idea that he could hurt her without her trying to stop him... He shudders.

He sits down beside her; taking the same position he took last time.

Same room.

Same bed.

Same girl.

He flashes back to that night - “Only death, or my sire, can break this.” - “There will never be anyone else for me but you.” - “Your feelings for me might change.” - “They already have.” - “I want this Spike. Not just for convenience; for me; to keep me safe. I want this for you; for us.”- “I love you Buffy” - “I think I’m falling in love with you”

He stares down at Buffy’s face.

“Are you ready?” he asks.

“Yes.” she says with conviction. “Wait- no.” she takes a deep breath. “Okay- yes.”

He can’t help but smile at her, and this relaxation of his features helps to ebb away the young Slayer’s fears.

“Will you hold me?” she asks.

He nods numbly; pulling her up into his arms and letting his nose rest against her neck.

Breathing deeply; he inhales her oh so familiar scent.

Warm and natural; yet radiant and beautiful.

“This is for you Love.” he says as he transforms into game face; gently grazing her soft neck with his extended fangs.

He instantly feels his hands grip down on his arms; not used to having sharp teeth so close to her neck; Slayer; she isn’t supposed to let things like this happen.

And yet; she doesn’t resist as she feels those sharp fangs find their way into her fragile jugular; piercing the skin and instantly clamping down.

He takes a long, slow pull of her blood; not wanting to hurt or frighten her.

Just enough to connect them; have her rushing through his veins once more.

He takes another pull and she lets out a small whimper; tightening her hot little hands on his forearms; trying to keep herself anchored to him.

He takes another, final pull of blood; making it last; letting it run down his throat and warm his insides like cocoa.

Then slowly, he removes his fangs from his neck; running his tongue softly over his mark. Destroying all traces of the Master and sealing his claim upon her, before slowly pulling back.

He stares into those deep green orbs; so bold and clear. They tell him everything he’ll ever need to know; offer him everything he ever wanted. He stares into them and he knows that it’s true.

“Mine.” he says; believing it with all his heart. She truly is his.

“Yours.” she agrees; unaware of where the word came from; but knowing deep down that it was the right thing to say.

He stares at her for a second longer; allowing himself to become lost in those euphoric eyes. Then, when he can’t take it anymore; he drops his face into his mate’s hair and she strokes the back of his neck gently; letting him cry into her shoulder.

.............................................

They sleep for a while but Spike’s slumber is restless; he knows they must get on; doesn’t want to leave his Buffy in the wrong world for longer than he has to.

The Buffy he holds in his arms right now; belongs in that world. She has to be allowed to return there; to the correct time, with the correct memories.

The only thing that really bothers him is... Well; the other Spike.

He too is written into a big part of Willow’s spell to switch the Slayers and Spike can’t help but wonder if in reality; he’s actually going to cooperate.

“Are you awake?” asks Buffy; adjusting herself in his arms and turning to face him. “Spike?”

“Yes.” he replies, “It’s just... I don’t want to go down yet. Not yet.”

She strokes his cheek gently; allowing her fingers to ghost over his chiselled cheekbones and rigid brow.

“We have to.” she sighs. “Willow said we have to move quickly.”

“I know.” he says, lifting her into his arms as he stands. “Are you okay? Feel tired?”

“A little.” she admits, “But it’s okay; stop fussing.”

“Sorry.” he says, nuzzling his nose into her neck and kissing his mark, “Can’t help it pet.” She giggles slightly at the contact and her reaction makes him smile for a moment.

Then he sets his face with determination.

“Okay- time to get you home pet.” he tells her.

“Did it go alright?” asks Willow when she sees Spike carrying Buffy into the sitting room.

“Went fine.” says Spike, laying his new mate down softly on one of the sofas, next to Xander. “We all ready here Will?”

“Actually, there’s one more thing I need to do.” she says, “I need to contact the Willow in the other world; to let her know about the spell and what she needs to do.”

“Contact?” asks Xander, “Contact how?”

“Through our minds.” she replies, “I think I can manage to switch places with the other Willow, very briefly, and pass on all the information to either you, or Buffy herself.”

“Will you be able to control how long you’re there for?” asks Spike, “Will you be able to find Buffy and tell her to hold on?”

“If I can do it; I will.” says Willow. “Xander; call Anya; we’re going to need everyone for the big spell. I’ll get Tara. Spike; can you see if you can find Dawn? I think Giles should be here but I don’t know if he’ll make it in time so I’m going to call him just to let him know what’s happening.”

“Save yourself some money.” says the elderly Watcher standing in the doorway with a warm smile on his face.

“Giles!” cries the young Buffy, leaping to her feet and running to throw her arms around him. He looks quite taken aback by this gesture.

“B... Buffy?” he asks, his voice wavering slightly as he pats her head awkwardly.

“It’s a long story Watcher.” says Spike. “Got a spare twenty minutes?”

...................................................

“So what are you actually doing here?” Anya asks, after listening to Spike recap the second half of the story; sitting in Xander’s lap impatiently.

“I... Well; the Seers in my Coven back in England decided to give me a very cryptic message about Buffy and left me with no choice but to return to Sunnydale.” he replies, “I thought I might be needed or at least missed-”

“You’re not having the shop back.” Anya interrupts immediately, “Papers were signed old man; you’re not having it back.”

He gives her a slightly weathered look.

“I am fully aware of our situation Anya.” he tells her, attempting to hide the agitation in his voice.

“Everyone ready?” Willow asks as she flounces into the world, “B-Jesus this is gonna be weird.”

“Just make sure you don’t freak anyone out,” Spike says, “I mean... I’ve been there and those people are not too accepting about other worlds. They should listen to you though Red; everyone always has done.”

She smiles at him, then sits cross legged and alone in the middle of the living room carpet.

“I won’t be long.” she says; closing her eyes and beginning her quiet chant.

Moments later, her eyes snap open and she finds herself in the very same room; just with a few less occupants.

She’s sitting on the sofa next to Xander who is offering her popcorn.

“Woo hoo,” he says, “Earth to Willow; the films not that engrossing.”

“What?” she asks, “Oh sorry. I’m just a little distracted... Don’t seem to be able to... To move.”

She tries one more time but no, her original prognosis was correct. She has no control over this body.

“Okay, Xand, can you turn me to face you?” she asks.

He nods, a worried look on his face as he turns the rigid girl around with some difficulty.

“There.” she says, “Better. Anyone else around? Buffy? Giles? Spike?”

“Buffy’s asleep.” Xander replies, “Giles is... Well, at home. And Spike? Will; we only uninvited him yesterday after he tried to KICK Buffy to death.”

“Oh...” says Willow, slightly deterred, “Okay- that could complicate matters.”

“Matters?” asks Xander, “What matters?”

“Well...” Willow looks slightly nervous, “First things first; we’re going to need to re-invite Spike then-”

“What?” demands Xander, “No- absolutely not. No way.”

“Sorry but this is ‘absolutely not’ up for discussion.” Willow’s voice is so stern that it actually manages to shock Xander into silence for once. “We need to get Buffy back to her own world and Spike claimed her. He plays a big part in my spell.”

“Wait a minute-” says Xander, “You sound like Buffy back when Spike was screwing with her mind- I thought we all agreed not to mention the ‘other world’ while Buffy’s still recovering.”

“Recovering...?” Willow asks, “From what?”

“Her bout of crazy-ness.” states Xander, “Remember the whole; I’m not from this world, Mom’s dead and I died for Dawn.”

“Xander!” if she could slap him she... Well she definitely would have considered it, “Buffy was never crazy; I’m from that world too. I’ve come here to tell her how to get home.”

“Okay- now you just sound like Spike when he was trying to sweet-talk his way into her bedroom.” his voice turns angry at the mention of Spike, “If that claim wasn’t so damn strong... I swear I’d stake him myself.”

“Sweet-talk his way into her bedroom?” Willow asks, feeling the blood drain from her face.

“Telling her everything she dreamed was true; screwing up her mind and actually making her believe that the world she made up exists out there somewhere.” he says, “Forcing her to believe that he was from that world as well; then scaring her into letting him claim her; God knows why he did that; hasn’t stopped trying to kill her since.”

“He...” Willow feels quite weak, “He was from her world.” she manages, “Just after he claimed her... He was pulled back into my world. He wasn’t trying to screw her up- or ‘sweet-talk’ her or... Anything... He just wants to get her home.”

Xander stares at her, not quite sure how to react to this new Willow-weirdness.

“Will... What are you talking about?” he asks eventually.

“Okay Xand; it’s really important that you listen to this; I don’t know how long I’ll have here.” the boy nods despite himself, always trusting Willow to the end. “Buffy IS from another world. The Spike who claimed her was on a mission I sent him on to find out where Buffy was.”

“That’s what he told us.” Xander confirms.

“Spike claimed Buffy to make sure that the other Spike wouldn’t be able to kill her while he was gone. He was pulled back just after he claimed her.”

“Buffy told us-” Xander says, “That right after he claimed her, he revealed that he only did it to hurt her; laughed in her face then tore up her bedroom and left.”

“Damn.” says Willow, “Poor Buffy. She must be so messed up right now- she... She fell in love with him... I know she did...”

“Actually; she seems to be doing okay.” Xander replies, much to Willow’s surprise. “She went straight back on the treatment; wanting to get all of the lies and Spike out of her system. The doctor says she’s making good progress.”

“Oh God!” says Willow, “But we need to get her back to her own world; Xander; we performed a spell to pull her back into her own body; but we only managed to pull YOUR Buffy into our world. She has nightmares about the Master killing her every night; and she has all the memories of this world.”

“Our Buffy?” asks Xander, realisation dawning in his eyes “So you need to switch?”

“Yes.” Willow agrees, “But it only works if both Buffys are willing. And more than that; they both need a guardian; someone connected to them in some way.”

“Spike.” Xander says in a dark voice.

“Exactly.” Willow continues, “They’re tied through blood; that’s the closest connection there is. The spell I’m going to perform will send both Buffys and both Spikes into one place. The place itself will be held inside their own minds and there they can complete the switch.”

“It really has to be Spike?” Xander asks, “Because I don’t know how helpful he’ll be about this.”

“It does.” she confirms. “Is there any way of communicating with him? I know he’s a complete brute; I had him chained up in the basement the whole time our Spike was in your world.”

“We can try.” Xander says, “We’ll have to.”

“Okay.” Willow replies, “And I’m sorry; about you having to re-invite him I mean. It’s just that the spell needs to be performed somewhere familiar and I thought Buffy’s room would be the best place since that’s where both claims took place.”

“I understand.” he says, “Just sorry I didn’t know earlier.”

“Oh, and Xander,” Willow says, feeling herself start to fade, “Make sure you can convince Buffy too.”

“Will do.” Xander tells her.

“What?” she asks, reaching for the popcorn.

“I said that I’ll do that.” he replies.

“Do what?” asks Willow, then, “Hey- I’m facing the wrong way. Duh!”

...........................................................

“Buffy?” Xander pushes the door open gently; not really sure how he’s going to do this. “You awake?”

She hurriedly brushes away her tears; wanting to keep her friends convinced that she’s getting better; wanting to keep herself convinced that she’s getting better.

But she knows she’s not.

She burns for Spike; burns to have him near her.

“I’m awake.” she says, sitting up. “What’s up?”

“I...” he’s not sure how to say, “I just received a visit. From Willow.”

Buffy gives him a funny look.

“Cryptic much?” she asks.

“Yeah- sorry about that.” he says, “Just don’t know how to say... I just received a visit from the Willow in your world... She knows how to get you home.”

Buffy falls off of her bed in her desperation to get away from Xander, letting out a small scream as she tumbles to the ground.

“No.” she says, “Xander don’t do this too; I need to get better. Better. No. No. No.”

“Buffy I’m so sorry.” Xander says as tears spring into his eyes, “Sorry we didn’t believe you; didn’t believe Spike. Let you believe that you were crazy when all along... Buff I’m so sorry.”

He walks toward her but she backs even further away.

“No.” she says, “It was lies. You’re lying; I know it. Why is this happening again? No. No. No. No- better. I need to get better. I need to.”

“No Buffy; you need to get home. We can do this!”

“I am home.” she says. “I died; the Master killed me. I was in a coma; I remember now. Please, please Xander. No. I need to get better.”

Xander takes a deep breath; hating what he’s about to say, but forcing himself to say it anyway.

“Spike.” he says, “He loved you. He was pulled back into his own world just after he claimed you. It was the other Spike who told you those hurtful things. Spike... He loves you.”

Buffy’s eyes go wide; wide and terrified.

“He’s... He’s real?” she asks, her voice so fragile, Xander knows that it would only take the word ‘no’ to kill her right now.

“He’s real.” he confirms. “Your friends... In your world... They know how to get you home.”

“Home. Home.” Buffy says, “I want to go Xander. I want to go.”

“I know you do.” he says.

She lets him touch her hair, and he kneels down to pull her into a hug.

“What do we do?” Buffy asks.

“Right now...” says Xander, “We need to find Spike. Nasty Spike.”

........................................................
A/N: Hooray; we have a plan! I hope I made it clear enough; please review my work! Next chap will be up very soon. Not long to go now... *sighs*
........................................................

CHAPTER TEN: Reclaiming the power

“He’s in a crypt,” Buffy says, closing her eyes, “On the other side of town. I know the cemetery. Come on.”

Xander nods, grabbing for his coat and Willow reaches for the keys; having been filled in on all the details.

“So how do we go about this?” Xander asks, “You know; without him killing us.”

“We strike a bargain.” Buffy replies, having already thought about this. “We give him something he wants and he helps us.”

“What does he want?” Willow asks.

Buffy closes her eyes; knowing exactly what he wants; sensing it every time she closes her eyes and tries to sleep. She inhales sharply.

“My blood.” Buffy says. “He wants my blood.”

“Buffy... We can’t... We can’t let him kill you...”

Buffy closes her eyes again.

“He doesn’t want to.” she says. “He doesn’t understand why not; but he doesn’t want to kill me.”

“I guess it’s a start.” says Xander.

“If that’s what it takes,” says Willow, “To get you home.”

“Then I’ll do it.” The Slayer finishes. “For the other Buffy too.”

...................................

Spike looks up with mild interest as his crypt door crashes open.

He’d known she was on her way; known for a good hour or so but that hadn’t tempted him to leave. If anything; it encouraged him to stay put.

“Spike.” she says, stepping into the dank hovel.

He hadn’t expected the friends to be there; thought she would have come to face her ‘demon’ alone.

Not such a Slayer after all.

“What the Hell do you want?” he asks; wanting to sound threatening, but only managing to sound vaguely lazy.

“I’m here to... Strike a deal.” she informs him. “I need your help.”

Spike chortles slightly.

“Not quite what I had in mind Slayer.” he says, “Thought I made your death sentence perfectly clear to you.”

“Yeah.” says Buffy, feeling stronger than she has done in days. Standing here; in front of Spike; she loves him, and that’s why she can do this; to get home; to her real Spike. Let him know... Finally let him know how much she loves him.

“God; will you stop directing all that drivel at me.” Spike demands, making Buffy falter slightly.

She has to tell herself three times that her Spike is going to save her; just to keep her standing.

“Spike- shut up.” she says. “You have something I need, and in return you get my... My blood.”

Spike’s laughing again.

“You think I won’t drain you dry?” he mocks.

“I KNOW you won’t.” she replies; unfazed.

He regards her for a moment; unsure of what to do.

“This help-” he says, “What will I have to do?”

“There’s a spell.” Buffy says, “To switch me and the other Buffy back. I... I need a guardian to take me to this limbo place inside my own mind and, well... Since you claimed me you’re kind of... The only person that can do it.”

“Haven’t you spent enough time in your own mind recently?” he asks cruelly and Buffy freezes, not so sure that she can do this after all.

Spike senses the fear floating around his mate and has to compress his natural reflex to comfort her.

“Damn claim!” he yells, “Fine- I’ll get you back to your stupid world; but it’s gonna take a lot of your precious blood Slayer.”

“Sure.” says Buffy gratefully, “Anything. Anything.”

“We should... Get started as soon as possible.” Willow says in a quiet, daunted voice.

“Where are we off to then?” asks Spike, “Don’t think you’re wanting to do your little mojo out here are you?”

“Buffy’s house.” says Willow. “We have to... You have to be re-invited.”

Spike chuckles, taking hold of the Slayer’s arm.

“I like this plan already.” he says. “Lead the way then Slayer.”

...............................................

Buffy stares at him from across the threshold; remembering how tender it had been, the last time she had invited him into her home. And the time before; just before he swore to protect Dawn until the very end. And the time before that; the very first time when he had sought her out to call a truce.

“Stop doing that Slayer.” Spike says with agitation, “I don’t need your life story.”

Buffy almost smiles.

Almost.

She takes a deep breath; looking into Spike’s eyes as he holds his hands up against the invisible barrier.

“Haven’t got all day here.” he says with slight annoyance.

“Fine.” she says. “Come...” her voice falters. She can’t do it. She can’t. “Come...” he’s rolling his eyes and getting out a cigarette while he waits, “Come...”

“Would you hurry up?” he demands.

“Come... In... Spike.” she finally manages.

He looks up, dropping his still burning cigarette to the floor and crushing it underfoot, before entering the house. He shoots her a malicious smile as he crosses the threshold, closing the door behind him.

“Okay- I’m getting bad feelings...” says Xander as the peroxide blond approaches the three school kids.

‘Pull yourself together Buffy.’ The Slayer tells herself, ‘This is Spike; he wasn’t even scary back in his day.’

“Spike; quit it.” she says, “We don’t have time for cat and mouse. Get your ass up to my room.”

“Just my ass?” he asks, raising a brow, “I could leave the two of you alone if that’s what you want.”

Buffy blushes frantically.

“Eeww- gross- shut up Spike and just get upstairs. We need to get on. Will, Xand.” she turns to her friends, “Tell me if the others get in contact using the creepy Willow method again. I suppose they’ll need to tell you when they’re ready to go.”

“Okay.” says Willow. “Buff...” she adds, “Don’t let him hurt you more than... Well you know- more than he should do.”

Buffy gulps, then nods.

“I’ll see you in a minute.” she calls over her shoulder as she heads upstairs after the blond vampire.

When she reaches her bedroom, he’s already laying on her bed, lazy smirk on his face as she walks into the room.

“Scared Slayer?” he asks.

She starts to shake her head but Spike raises his brow again.

“Buffy- you’re my mate; I know when you’re scared.”

She jolts- that was... That was the first time he had ever called her Buffy. She wasn’t even aware that he knew her name; let alone expected him to use it.

She shakes the strange feeling off, approaching the bed.

“Let’s do this.” she says. “And remember; don’t kill me.”

“Like I could.” he says cynically, indicating for Buffy to lay down beside him.

‘This feels strange.’ Buffy thinks, as she lies down, feeling Spike’s body behind her. ‘It does.’ she hears Spike’s voice in her head but it doesn’t surprise her for some reason.

‘Be gentle.’ she thinks softly.

‘Of course I will be.’

Buffy almost smiles at him for the second time that night, finding it so much easier to communicate with him through thought.

“You ready?” he speaks aloud; wondering why he’s even bothering to ask his victim if she’d ready.

“I’m ready.” she says simply, feeling his arms go around her as she closes her eyes.

‘Oh God...’ thinks Spike, ‘What the bloody Hell is wrong with me?’

‘Nothing’ Buffy’s voice inside his head.

Slowly he transforms into game face, raising himself onto his elbows for better positioning, then lowering his fangs to his mark already healed on her neck; reopening it slowly; savouring the taste of love running through her blood.

He takes one long, deep pull, then FLASH, images appear before his eyes.

-“I know you’ll never love me...”-

-“I know that I’m a monster...”-

-“But you treat me like a man and that’s...”-

-Her body, sailing through the air like a fish in the ocean; heading down, down, down, until... Crack...-

-She looks like she’s sleeping; so beautiful that for a moment he allows himself the fantasy that she survived.-

-He watches the coffin lower into the ground with a bitter taste at the back of his throat. Wants to throw himself at the ground and tear it up. Rip away the flowers and the grass until there’s nothing left.-

-Buffy Anne Summers. Beloved sister. Devoted friend. She saved the world a lot. And she did; she really did.-

He lets the blood slip down his throat, feeling her spirit inside of him.

Her strength.

Her power.

Her love; all of her love.

He pulls away his fangs and, before he can even contemplate what he’s doing, he looks into her eyes sincerely, whispering;

“Mine.”

She stares at him for a good, long time; wondering exactly what game he’s playing now. But his eyes are so clear; she realises he’s being genuine. And that alone throws her.

Tears fill her eyes as he continues to stare at her; awaiting her reply with baited breath.

“Yours.” she breathes finally. And the second that single word escapes her lips; she realises something she should have known all along. “Wherever we are; whoever we are...” her voice is soft as a whisper, “I will always be yours Spike. Monster or man... You’re still the only one.”

“The only one.” he echoes, raising his hand to touch her cheek. “No matter which world we’re in; we’re destiny.”

“Forever.”

“Forever.”

‘This is weird.’ Buffy thinks as she gazes into his eyes, ‘No matter where we are; we’re destined to end up together.’

‘It’s not weird.’ Buffy jumps at the sound of his voice in her head but he holds her still. ‘I could get used to this pet.’

“Me too.” she admits aloud.

He smiles.

Then pulls his hand away from her face; wondering half heartedly why he’s not feeling even remotely disgusted by his own actions.

“Come on Pet,” he says, “Time to get you home.”

“Okay... Spike...” she adds quietly, touching the mark on her neck tenderly, “Did you... Did you know you were going to do that?”

“I didn’t.” he says; placing his hand over hers; protecting the mark. “When I was... When I was biting you I just... Realised.” he closes his eyes, “Destiny. I want to protect you Buffy.”

“But... I don’t need protecting.” she says.

.............................................................

“Okay.” Willow says, addressing the others. “I need to cross over to the other world one more time; tell them they need to start setting things up.” she knots her fingers nervously, “Hopefully they will have been able to talk evil-Spike into helping them.”

“We’ll soon find out.” says Spike, his arm tossed causally over Buffy’s shoulders as they sit back on the sofa.

“Okay.” says Willow. “I’m set.”

The room falls silent as she closes her eyes, breathing deeply and chanting her words quietly.

“Will?” Xander’s voice, “Weird... other... worldly... Channelling... Will?”

She opens her eyes.

“Check.” she says. “How’s it going on this front?”

“We’re all set for the spell just waiting...” a strange look crosses his face, “Waiting for Buffy and Spike.”

“You managed to talk Spike into it?” Willow asks.

“Buffy did.” he replies. “She offered him a deal; a whole shed load of her blood in return for his help. She’s convinced he can’t kill her but...”

“God.” says Willow. “Is she okay?”

“She’s fine.” Spike’s voice is cold and Xander quickly grabs hold of the inanimate Willow, turning her to face the vampire and Slayer.

Spike holds Buffy in his arms; clutched closely to his chest; bite wound still bleeding on her neck.

“If you’ve hurt her-” Xander’s voice is harsh.

“He didn’t Xand; I’m fine.” says Buffy, running her hand lightly across the vampire’s chest. “Willow?” she asks, opening her wide eyes to look at her, “My Willow?”

“It’s me. I just dropped by to...” she stares at her friend curled up in the vampires arms like she’s not afraid of him at all, “Buffy- Spike’s...”

“It’s fine Will.” she says, “Is the spell ready?”

Willow nods uncertainly.

“Buffy and Spike are all set and ready on our end. You?” she says.

“We’re ready.” says Spike, setting the Slayer down. “How’s this gonna work again?”

“I’m gonna communicate with this Willow via the mind; tell her exactly what to do. Giles about?”

“On his way.” says Xander.

“Good- Xand; I’ll need you and Giles on either side of me; just do exactly as this Willow tells you to.” she turns to Buffy and Spike. “You two will be sat on Buffy’s bed; it’ll make the spell less hazardous when you pass into your own minds. You need to be doing exactly as the other Buffy and Spike are doing; something inconveniently close like kissing or biting or something.”

“Think we can manage that.” Spike says.

“Then what Wills?” Buffy prompts.

“It’ll be like passing out. You’ll slip into the limbo plane- I’m not sure what that will be like; just that it’s where you’ll meet the other Buffy and Spike and it is where the exchange will take place. Then; Buffy, you’ll wake up back in our world and Spike; you’ll wake up here again.”


“And if you try to kill our Buffy before she wakes...” Xander leaves his threat open-ended but Spike bats it away with a sarcastic look.

“No more Buffy death.” the Slayer says, taking a few steps toward Willow, “I guess I’ll see you soon Will.” she says, “Tell the others that I miss them... Tell... Tell Spike will you?”

“I will.” she says, then, “Why is everyone looking at me? Did I do that cool future-Willow thing again?”

“Creepy.” says Xander.

“Gotta agree with you there.” says Buffy.

...................................................

“They’re ready,” she says, “I told them about the formation; Giles and Xander either side of me; Buffy and Spike on the bed.”

“Buffy okay?” Spike asks, closing his eyes as he awaits the precious information.

“She struck a deal,” Willow says, “With the other Spike. She gave him her own blood in exchange for his help.”

“What?” demands Spike; his eyes snapping open, “What happened? Is she okay? Is she safe?”

“She’s fine.” Willow says softly; remembering the tender way in which the vampire had been holding her. “She told me to tell you that she misses you.”

Spike closes his eyes again; telling himself again and again that it’ll be okay; he’ll get her home.

He feels Buffy’s hand on his forearm and he opens his eyes to smile at her.

“I’m okay pet,” he says, sensing her worry, “No need to fret.”

“The other Spike,” she says, “When I get home; will he hurt me?”

Spike shakes his head.

“Never.” he says. “He won’t hurt you.”

“You promise?” her eyes are wide and sparkling.

He can’t answer her; can’t promise something that he can’t be certain about.

“Buffy?” says Willow, “I can promise you that the other Spike won’t hurt you.”

Both Vampire and Slayer look up sharply and Spike has to know;

“How can you be sure?” he asks.

“Spike...” she says, “You should have seen the way he was with her. Holding her so tenderly...”

“The claim.”

“That was my guess too. Either way; Buffy will be safe with him.”

Buffy grasps Spike’s hand momentarily.

“I’ll be fine...”

....................................................

‘Willow Rosenberg.’ The voice inside her head makes her jump out of her skin; ‘Willow.’

“Y... Yes?” the red head asks aloud.

‘Is everything set up?’

“Yes.” Willow tries to make her voice sound stronger like the other Willow’s but fails fairly badly. “By the way this is pretty wiggy.”

‘I know- but darn cool!’ says the voice proudly; momentarily releasing her inner dork. “Ahem. I mean- are you in Buffy’s bedroom?’

“We are.” says Willow, “Buffy and Spike are on the bed; me Xand and Giles are by the window.”

‘Okay. That’s good. Bare with me.’

Willow pulls out of her mind and turns to the others;

“Buffy, Spike; on the bed. Xand, Giles; I need you by the window.”

‘Okay.’ she says, returning to her telepathic conversation. ‘Xander and Giles need to be chanting, ‘Haroon diplamay’ over and over; can you get them started on that?’

“Haroon diplamay.” Willow repeats, “Got it. Xander-”

The older witch cuts back to her own world, turning to the two men.

“Okay- Xander, Giles; start the chant.”

‘I’m back.’ she calls out to the other Willow, ‘Cringey I know; but I need Spike and Buffy to be kissing now.’

Young Willow grimaces.

“Eeww- but done. Buff-”

“Buffy, Spike. Kiss. Now.” Willow says, turning to the couple on the bed, before closing her eyes again.

‘Now; Will; repeat with me...

“Troya, Goddess of the in between. Grant passage to these four warriors; these two souls. Allow the gates of Limbo to open. Grant them passage to your in between land. Carve the pathway for them to journey home. Let them reconcile. Troya; open your heavy gates; let them cross temporarily into Limbo. The confused spirit and her Guardian. Tied together in this world and the next. Every world as they share this intimacy. Let them cross over! Into the mind. In the mind. In the mind.”

Both Buffys listen closely to the words as they kiss both Spikes.

The cold lips of the vampires making the warm lips of the Slayers feel flushed as they both try to concentrate on the spell and not the men in front of them.

Across two universes, in two different worlds; two sides of the same girl fall in love.

Simultaneously, they break away from their kiss to lean their heads against the men they hold and whisper the gentle words, “I love you Spike.”

Across two universes, in two different worlds; two sides of the same witch feel the power of the ancient Troya course through their veins.

Simultaneously, red hair splays downwards as two heads snap back; eyes black with possession as they cry;

“IN THE MIND!”

Flash...

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A/N: So there you have it; story over. Nah- I’m only joking. But we’re close now... Hope you enjoyed that chapter- please leave a review if you’ve enjoyed my work so far and thank you to everyone who’s been here since the start.
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CHAPTER ELEVEN: In the mind again

The older Buffy opens her eyes and looks down at the younger Spike.

“Where are we?” she whispers.

He pulls away from her gently to look at their surroundings.

“Couldn’t say Love.” he replies, “Should we take a look around?”

Buffy nods, getting to her feet.

“Did you know that you’ve changed?” Spike asks her cautiously, “You’re older; your body. I mean... You’re not a sixteen year old girl anymore Buffy.”

She looks down at herself with a slight smile.

“I got my body back...” she whispers.

“So that means the other two must have made it.” says Spike, “You did the body switch thing; now we just have to figure out the whole ‘world switch’ thing.”

“Hours of fun.” says Buffy with a moan.

She feels Spike take her hand and she turns to look at him.

“I’ll get you home Buffy.” he says; his words hitting her like a sack of bricks in the stomach as she is harshly reminded of the other Spike. “It’s okay,” he says instantly, feeling her heart ache, “I’ll get you back to the man you love.”

Just as the words escaped his lips; two figures walk into view; the bigger figure carrying the smaller one.

“Buffy?” calls the older Spike.

“Spike?” her eyes are wide as she takes in his body; hasn’t seen him in this body for what feels like years. He rushes to her.

“Are you okay? Did he hurt you?” Spike asks.

“She’s fine.” the other Spike tells him, “And of course I didn’t bloody well hurt her.”

The older Spike starts slightly at the sound of his own voice coming from someone else, but he quickly regains himself.

“Is she alright?” asks the older Buffy, nodding to the cowering girl in Spike’s arms.

He lightly brushes hair out of her eyes and then closes his own, feeling her emotions wash over him.

“She’s tired,” he says, “And homesick.”

“Me too.” says the older Buffy; but somehow she’s managing to stand, “Do we know what we have to do?” she prompts, “How to get home.”

The older Spike shakes his head.

“I guess we’re wandering then.” says Buffy.

The four walk together in a strange silence, two sets of the same people, looking at their counter parts with mild interest and disdain.

Spike continues to carry the younger Buffy, checking every so often to make sure she’s okay. But for some reason, his arms are getting tired.

“Spike?” he asks his younger self, “Could you...”

“Buffy...” he says as the young girl is placed into his strong arms. He looks down at her with wide eyes of realisation.

“I need you.” the young Slayer says, looking up into his beautiful blue eyes.

“I get it...” whispers the older Buffy, “Younger Buffy needs someone to protect her- and younger Spike said he wanted to protect me.” she looks up at her own Spike, “But I don’t need protection. He was sensing the wants and needs of this Buffy.”

Older Spike pulls his arms around his Buffy.

“Maybe that’s what we’re supposed to figure out-” he starts.

“That we’re meant for each other.” Buffy finishes.

They turn around to look at their younger selves but they’ve already gone.

Buffy offers Spike a gentle smile.

“I think it’s time we got out of here.” she says, leaning up to kiss him full on the lips.

“I second that.” he replies, before melting against her and giving her everything he has.

“I love you Spike.”

“I love you Buffy.”

Flash...

................................................

“What do we do with them?” asks Dawn; looking at the unconscious pair; slumped against each other in a close embrace. “Should we just leave them?”

“I don’t know,” Willow says, packing up her supplies, “Can’t be sure how long they’ll be out. Maybe we should lay them down; let them be comfortable.”

“That’s a good idea,” adds Xander, “Buffy might not want to be waking up so close to Spike.”

“I don’t know about that...” Willow mutters. “Okay; Xand; you and Giles get Spike. Tara and I will take Buffy. I’m thinking separate rooms for now.”

“Safer.” agrees Xander, “In case we end up with the wrong Spike or something.”

Buffy was alone when she woke.

Dark and alone.

“Spike?” she whispers. No response.

For one terrible moment she wonders if it all went badly wrong and somehow she ended up somewhere completely different; but then she sensed someone in the room.

“Buffy?” the voice was oddly familiar; but equally, one she hadn’t heard for a painfully long time. “Shall I put the light on.”

“Please.”

It takes a moment for her eyes to adjust after the small room is flooded with light. Dancing blue spots obscure her vision as she tries to focus on the person in front of her.

“How do you feel?” the voice is soft; hopeful.

“I feel...” Buffy starts, “What... What year am I in?”

“2001.” the voice replies; allowing Buffy’s face to crack open in a radiating smile.

“I made it.” she whispers. “I’m home.”

Then suddenly the voice has arms and they’re wrapped around her in a close embrace as the owner of those arms weeps openly.

“I missed you so much Buff.” Dawnie’s voice, “The other... Other Buffy didn’t know who I was.”

“Oh Dawnie.” Buffy replies, stroking her long, milk chocolate hair. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry I had to leave you Sweetie. Never-” she adds, “Never again... Sis.”

Suddenly she picks up on a strong feeling of terror coming from the next room. It grips her in a vice like hold and she sits; rigid with fear.

“Spike...” she whispers.

Misreading the trepidation on her sister’s face; Dawn quickly jumps in.

“It’s okay Buffy,” she says, “We locked him in another room; just in case it was the wrong Spike or you really didn’t want to be waking up next to him.”

The fear in her stomach tightens.

“No- it’s not that,” Buffy says, “It’s just... He’s scared; I can feel it.” Dawn gives her a strange look and Buffy sighs impatiently, “Can you take me to him?”

Dawn shrugs, getting up from the bed and helping Buffy to her feet.

“You wanna see the others fir-”

“No.” Buffy interrupts hastily. “I need to see Spike, now, Dawn.”

The younger girl pulls a key out of her pocket and slides it into the locked door, casting a slightly worried look over to her big sister.

Then she unlocks the door and opens it.

Buffy walks in nervously, her legs trembling a little as she felt his fear was over her again.

‘Why is he so afraid?’ she wonders, ‘Spike is never afraid.’

‘Thought I’d lost you.’ the soft voice floats into her mind and Buffy smiles, ‘Among other things.’

“Spike?” she says.

She sees a dark shape move across the curtained windows.

‘Love- I’m not safe.’ he tells her silently.

“What are you talking about?” she asks aloud; feeling her own fear now, “Spike; talk to me.”

She sees a flash of platinum hair as he turns around to face her.

“Chip; love.” he says simply; holding out his hand with a glittering contraption in the centre, “We were in our minds so I took the opportunity to pull it out.”

Spike waited; waited for the anger, the disgust; the staking.

But to his surprise; Buffy ran to him, and he dropped the tiny chip on the floor as she threw her arms around him for a passionate kiss.

“I love you Spike,” she says earnestly, “Haven’t you learnt anything?” he stares at her in wonderment; waiting for her to answer, “No matter who we are Spike; we’re destiny.”

“Destiny.” he echoes.

She pulls back for the briefest moment.

“But the claim...” she says, “I want-”

“I understand completely.” Spike says quickly, “We’ll call Angel in the morning; he’s the only one who can break this; the only way we can break this without either of us dying.”

“Spike,” she says, with a sheepish smile, “That isn’t what I meant...” she bites her lip in apprehension of what she’s about to say, “I feel it Spike,” she tells him, “The claim here is only one way- only you have a claim over me...”

“Oh...” he says; realising what she means.

“I want to claim you again Spike.”

His face remains closed and unreadable for a moment; then, slowly, he breaks out into a spectacular smile; sweeping his girl up in his arms and carrying her over to the bed.

He sets her down gently; leaving a trail of kisses over her firm body, then taking her hand in his.

“I love you Buffy,” he says, “With all my heart.”

“I know.” she says. “And I meant it Spike; in the other world; I meant it when I told you that I loved you.” she closes her eyes, “You found me; you saved me; I love you.”

When she opens her eyes again, his lips are just inches from his.

And she smiles.

Here forever with her soulless soul mate.

...................................................

EPILOUGE

Across one hundred thousand oceans; one hundred thousand skies; one hundred thousand universes.

One hundred thousand Buffys act as one girl as they wake in the arms of their platinum lovers and smile up at the clear blue eyes that greet them.

Simultaneously, they reach up to touch their lovers’ defined cheekbone; whispering the words; “I love you Spike; wherever; whoever we are. I love you. Only you. Always.”

..................End...........................

A/N: Gahh!!. I’m done. Feels good to finally finish a fic!! And a happy ending; this is a nice change for morbid-me!! I really do hope you enjoyed it; if you did; please PLEASE leave a review- trust me- I’ll really appreciate anything you have to say. All help is good help. Hope you liked!!
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