This was written to redeem the pledge I made at Writercon UK this year. Brutti-ma-buoni won and asked for Buffy and Spike and Season 7. This is what she won!
Just Dreaming… by Lilachigh
The salt laden breeze stung the cuts and grazes on Buffy’s face but it also washed away some of the tension, a little of the dread and lurking fear of failure.
Rain clouds were gathering - she could hear the mutter of thunder in the distance, but overhead the sky was a dark blue, spattered with myriads of stars. Looking up she realized their light had begun journeying before the first Slayer had been called. And the light that was leaving them now would arrive - well, she’d be long gone from the world, but would he?
She watched Spike’s thin strong hands – oh god, memories of what those hands could do - dealing with ropes – he called them sheets which was weird – ducking her head as the long wooden boom swung over and the little dinghy changed direction. “Where did you learn to sail?”
He shrugged. “No idea, pet. You pick up all sorts of
skills in a century and more of living. I can ride a horse, play chess, bungee jump in the dark – hey, Slayer, I can even sew. Some cuts and slashes need a few stitches now and again!”
Buffy tried to think of any skills she‘d picked up
recently. Hectoring, organizing, hoping for victory – yes, but defeating the First was not on the list.
The night sky splintered as the moon suddenly appeared from behind a bank of cloud and bathed the sea with silver. “Time to go home,” she said wearily. “But thank you for this, Spike. I needed the break.” It was so clean out here on the ocean: clean and empty. She knew the crowded house couldn’t be helped but just recently she’d felt the walls were closing in on her and she couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t understand the emotions that raced through her body.
He watched the sail flapping gently, then filling again as the breeze caught it. “All that girlish chatter getting to you?”
She didn‘t reply. Geez, if only it was the noise the Potentials made that caused her nerves to jangle, her blood to sing as it raced through her veins! She wondered what he would say if she told him the problem that was driving her insane was sitting inches away from her?
“We could always just sail on and on together,” she murmured at last. “Head towards the moonlight, over the horizon and away.”
He turned, startled, and for one wonderful moment the choice was there before them – glowing, real, achievable. Then, in tandem, they shook their heads
“Nice thought, Slayer, but let’s not kid ourselves – you’ve never been big with the running away. Not like me!” He turned from her. “Wind’s dropped, but I reckon the tide will take us into the shore.”
Buffy watched him working for a few moments, tidying the sail away, coiling ropes into neat patterns, then she slid into the bottom of the boat, resting her back against the seat, her jacket pillowing her head. As she listened to the waves lapping against the wooden boards inches from her ear, she knew the gentle noise could easily lull her to sleep if she let it.
She couldn’t remember ever feeling this tired before. Bone weary – that was an expression Giles used sometimes and it was true. Her very bones ached, even her skull felt tender to the touch of her fingers; she felt as if she was being worn away to a Slayer shadow.
Buffy shut her eyes and saw imprinted on her lids, the black shadow figures of the demons that had created the First Slayer. Little stick figures, all pointy elbows and knees, dancing to the beat of a different drum – was that what she was becoming? If she wasn’t careful, would she get thinner and smaller until she slid through a crack in the sidewalk and vanished forever?
No, she was the Slayer. There was no escape for her. Everyone else could vanish, leave her behind – her father, Angel, Riley, even Spike - “Why did you run away?” she said, before she knew she was going to speak, her pebbled words spreading ripples through the calm night.
“You know bloody well why, Slayer!” The reply came as swiftly as a knife between her ribs. “I don’t need to paint you a picture. You were there. That was the whole problem, remember?”
She hesitated, but the words had to be spoken – she needed to know. “Were you running away from me or towards your – “ Buffy hesitated; it sounded weird to say it – “ towards your soul?”
Being careful not to rock the boat, Spike eased himself down so he was stretched out next to her, taking care not to get too close. He knew those days were long gone.
They were both barefoot and Buffy found herself smiling at the sight of their feet resting palely and primly alongside each other. There was something faintly ridiculous about toes. Buffy tried to remember the last time she’d put polish on hers – but that date was lost in the mists of time!
Spike stared at their feet. He smiled, remembering a day when four dusty boots, two big, two small, had stood next to each other on a wooden step. Not touching, but close, so close. But that had been another lifetime ago. “Do we have to discuss this now, Slayer? We’ve all moved on since then. The First – “
“The First! The First! The First! Geez, do I get tired of hearing those words.”
Spike put out a hand to steady her as the boat rocked wildly under her quick, angry movements. “Ok, pet. Don’t tip us into the drink! We’re still a long way from shore.”
“Sorry, but it’s bad enough fighting the source of all evil without everyone discussing it the whole time. Giles, Willow, Dawn, the Potentials – even Xander and Anya! Plans, schemes, moans about the food and the beds and not having enough hot water. It seems as if no one can talk about anything unless they bring The First into the conversation. At this rate, I’ll be bored to death by the name before it gets to kill me!”
“So what do you want to talk about?”
The moon turned Spike’s eyes to silver as he moved his head to gaze at the girl lying by his side. Then the light vanished as a cloud scudded across the sky. “Us?” There was a world of caution and doubt in his voice. “Oh, you mean, will I be there for you in the battle to come or will I run off again?”
Buffy gazed up at the stars above her head. One seemed to be sitting right on top of the mast, brighter than all the rest. She remembered a loving story she’d read somewhere, of a mother who was about to die telling her child that she only had to look up into the sky at night and there would the a twinkling star, looking down. That star would be her mother. Would her mom have told her the same type of story if she’d had the time?
“You went away and didn’t tell me you were going.”
“And you’re conveniently forgetting why, pet.”
Buffy shook her head, not looking at him. “I haven’t forgotten anything. Boy, I was so angry with you, with me, with everything! The mess my life had become. But I didn’t run away. I thought we’d meet, fight; that I’d hurt you. I wanted to hurt you – badly! Then – well, then we would have – I don’t know – but we never had the chance to see what would have happened because you left me! You ran!”
There – the words were said again. And at the end of the day, that was the beetle, the grub that had burnt away inside her mind, had curled up, festering, in her brain. She was used to men leaving her, and although her dreams about Spike had been colorful, shameful and hot, they had never included a scene where he left her – alone.
There was a long silence, broken only by the lapping of the sea against the side of the dinghy as it moved slowly towards the shore on the incoming tide.
Spike leant up on one elbow and gazed down at her. The moon swam out hesitantly from where it was hiding and, for a few seconds, Buffy’s face was bathed in light. He drew in a sharp breath, then reaching over, wiped what might have been sea spray, but wasn’t, from her cheek. “Yes, I ran, Slayer, but remember – rightly or wrongly, I came back.”
“Yes – “ the word was said slowly with a weight of wonder behind it, “yes, you did. Why? You were away from Sunnydale, you had a soul, you could have gone anywhere in the world. Why come back here?”
Spike’s voice was sharp as splinters. “Come on, Buffy. You know what I was like when you found me!”
She turned sideways to face him, only too aware that their bodies were only centimeters away from each other. “Exactly! You were out of your mind. How did you get back to Sunnydale? Why would you want to return to the Hellmouth? I suppose the First was controlling you, even then.”
He remembered – so little. Pain, images of death, blood, destruction – the faces of myriads of people he had killed. Guilt? Yes, of course; it had driven him to the brink of madness. But he didn’t think the First had controlled him then. That had only happened when he returned to the Hellmouth.
“I was drowning,” he said slowly. “Like being caught in a maelstrom of feeling, pulling me under, down into the dark. And I was almost happy to go, Buffy. Believe me – well, you’ve been there, pet, haven’t you? Rest, peace, finished. Ok, there wasn’t going to be any bloody peace for me, but at least I would be finished with this world.”
“So what happened?”
Spike tucked a tendril of blonde hair back behind her ear. “It’s hard to describe, Slayer. It was as if I had hold of a rope and knew if I let go, all would be over. But if I could just hold on, just survive another minute, hour, day, the rope would lead me to safety. And that meant you. I’ve no idea how I got back to Sunnydale; I just clung to that one thought – even if you decided to kill me when you saw me again, I had to return.”
The silence stretched comfortably between them: Spike wondered if she’d fallen asleep but when he turned his head, he realized she was looking at him.
“Did you ever hear the story of Pandora’s Box?” he asked.
Buffy blinked sleepily. Had she dozed off? Her head was resting on his shoulder, her warm feet were entwined with his. “Is it a shop in the Mall?”
“Bloody hell, American education! No, pet, it’s a Greek legend. Pandora was given a box by the god Zeus and told not to open it.”
“But she was a girl and curious and so – “
“Exactly, Slayer! Thought you didn’t know the story! Yes, she opened it and all the evils of the world flew out – pain, pestilence, despair – you name them, they escaped. She shut the lid quickly and one thing remained inside – hope.”
“Do you know what’s really weird?” she said softly. “All the time you were gone, with Willow turning on me, Tara dying, the world changing, I could never believe you’d gone for good. Oh, everyone else told me we’d never see you again, but – I – I hoped – “
Spike pulled her closer. Was that what had made the rope he’d clung to so desperately? Her belief in him after all he had done? “Go to sleep, Pandora. You’ll need all your energy tomorrow. I’ll wake you when we reach shore.”
And the little boat with its hopeful cargo drifted in towards the sullen Californian shore.
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