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Disclaimer: Joss Whedon owns all the characters, which is patently unfair. But at least he shares.
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Spike stood there, staring at his empty wrist as the horror grew in his mind. He had lost it. They were trapped here. He fought his rising panic. Bloody fucking hell. The forest. It must have gotten caught on one of those fucking branches in the forest. His arms were a scratched and bloody mess from fighting his way through dozens of thickets. He looked at Buffy, slumped on the floor where he had placed her. Oh God love, I’m sorry. I failed you again.
He sat down next to her and gently touched her hair. Even in her current state he found her achingly beautiful. “What are we going to do, pet?” he asked quietly. He kept stroking her hair, willing her to respond to him, but she just lay curled on her side, staring into nothing.
After allowing himself a few minutes of near despair, he sat up a bit and took stock of the situation. From what he could see, he had two choices. He could find the amulet, or he could hope that once enough time went by the Scoobies would try another spell to locate them and open a portal. He knew how impatient they were to get Buffy back. He figured that after about 12 hours or so they would probably decide he had failed or something and try again. Their underwhelming faith in him might actually help for once.
Best to sit tight for a little while, I guess. He reached over to Buffy and felt gently in the pocket of his duster for his silver flask. She didn’t even flinch when he came near. He wasn’t sure if that meant she was no longer afraid of him or beyond caring. The flask was about a quarter full of whiskey. He drained it quickly, then slowly poked his head out of the cave. Upon seeing the coast was clear, he scrambled down to the stream and filled the flask with water. He took a quick sip – it seemed clean enough. As long as it wasn’t outright poisonous it would have to do. He returned to the cave and helped Buffy sit up. When he held the flask to her lips she swallowed the water, but made no other sign of awareness.
He took a bandana out of another pocket and moistened it with a little water. Tenderly, he began washing some of the dirt off of her face. There were deep circles under her unseeing green eyes, and a fresh bruise bloomed on her cheek from the guard backhanding her. After he finished, she looked a little more like the Buffy he remembered, but not much.
He was acutely aware of the heartbeat of the demon child within her. “How is it you’re so far along, love?” he wondered, placing his hand on her swollen belly. He could feel the movement within her. She looked and felt like she was nearly full term. How can that be? She only disappeared eight days ago…
Suddenly, he realized what they had all missed. Eight days. More like eight and a half. She was about eight and a half months along. Different flow of time. They had been working under the assumption that she could hold her own for a few days, and perhaps she had. But they had stranded her here for eight months, enduring lord knows what torments. Oh balls. If a day there was like a month here, then he could be stuck here for two weeks of local time before the Scoobies even started to worry.
He looked at the Slayer. She was painfully thin and drawn. Probably had been fed enough to keep the demon’s spawn alive, but no more. He would have to find food she could eat, keep her safe. Gotta find that bloody amulet. But how? How long could he leave her? If some far ranging patrol found her when he was out, she was a sitting duck. Had he rescued her only to have her starve to death? Shit, shit, shit.
Get a grip! he told himself furiously. He took a deep breath. Probably best to stay hidden as much as possible during the day. He could probably build a small fire in the back of the cave. If he used dry enough wood it wouldn’t smoke too much, and they were pretty far away from the fortress. Buffy would have warmth and light at least. Water was taken care of with his flask. Maybe there were some edible creatures in the woods. He would have to work his way back along his trail, carefully searching for the amulet. If he started at the cave and worked backward, he should eventually find it. Unless one of the demons finds it first. He squashed that thought. He would find it. He would do what he came here to do – save the Slayer.
He put his nervous energy to work. He crept out and found a fair quantity of dry wood. After all those years of travel with the rest of the Scourge of Europe, he was pretty good at roughing it when necessary. Not that Darla would put up with roughing it if she had any say in the matter, but he never minded in particular. He built a small fire as far back in the cave as possible. It might get a little smoky, but the ceiling was fairly high, so the air should remain ok. He moved Buffy close enough to get some warmth, but not so close that she would fall into it if she fell asleep. He held her for a moment before putting her down. Buffy you’ve got to snap out of it, love. Dawn needs you. I need you. Please. He planted a light kiss on the top of her head as he set her down and tried to make her comfortable. A wave of sadness broke over him. The Buffy he had known would never let him get so familiar. He felt he would give anything for even a punch in the nose from her, just to know she was still in there somewhere.
He left the cave again. What passed for the moon in this realm was rather dim this evening. Even his vampire vision was hard pressed to see small details. Nevertheless, he moved down the bank toward the stream. He noticed some movement in the twilight along the edge of the water. Creeping up stealthily, he managed to catch what looked like some sort of big, distorted toad. Well, the French eat frog legs, don’t they? Wonder what this thing would taste like cooked?
He figured he might as well try. It seemed like these things were plentiful, judging from the noises, so they would be a steady source of protein for Buffy if they were edible. He was almost grateful for her catatonic state – no telling how a Buffy in complete control of her mental functions would react to being offered a meal of demon toad.
Spike returned to the cave and skewered the toad-thing on a stick. Propping it up on a rock, he roasted it over the fire. It wasn’t the best smelling thing in the world, but he had seen worse. He peeled the skin off one leg after a time and tasted it. I’ll be buggered. It tastes like chicken. Encouraged, he tore some pieces off of the beast and put them to Buffy’s lips one at a time. “Eat, love,” he said. She obeyed, never fully focusing, but chewing and swallowing as he passed her the meat. She ate the entire thing, then seemed to relax slightly. She curled up on the ground, but in a less tense posture than before. Within a few minutes, she was asleep.
Probably the first decent meal she’s had in months. Spike sat next to her, stroking her hair once more. Then he stretched out beside her and closed his own eyes. Get a fresh start in the morning, I guess. As the fire died to embers, Spike drifted off as well.
A low rumble woke Spike many hours later. It took him a moment to realize it was his own stomach. He hadn’t fed in a good 24 hours or more. At this point he realized another flaw in his current plans: there were no provisions for him. The toads, while edible, had nothing much in the way of blood, and what blood there was wouldn’t sustain him for long. Demon blood was a hit or miss prospect – some helped, some just made him nauseous. Plus he really wanted to avoid the demons rather than hunt them. No telling if he could even get his fangs through that thick skin, and their tendency toward kicking his ass made him wary. Well, he had gone longer without eating before. Hopefully he would find the amulet and get them the hell out of there before Buffy started looking like breakfast.
He sat up and rubbed his face. Buffy was awake. She was sitting up, arms wrapped around her knees, just rocking slightly back and forth, staring at nothing. “Morning, Slayer,” he said amiably. “I’ll go see about some breakfast for you, ok?” Buffy just kept rocking.
Spike refilled the flask and managed to catch another toad. He set it to roasting, then turned to Buffy. Wrapping her hands around the flask, he held it to her lips. “Drink up, pet. You can do it.” She mechanically responded, guzzling the water as if she had no idea when she would drink again. As before, he fed her the roasted meat when it was done, and once again she ate it all. All the while, he kept up a steady stream of talk. She seemed calmer, somehow, when he was talking. Probably no one had spoken to her other than to order or abuse her for months. He told her about what had happened in the eight days she had been gone. He chatted about this and that, just giving her something to listen to while he tidied up their space. Eventually she lay back down and closed her eyes again.
“’M going out for a bit, pet,” he said. “Stay here, I’ll be back.” He really hoped she didn’t decide to start wandering. That would lead to nothing good at all. But he had to go search for that amulet. Hopefully, he could get a little closer toward the fortress without being caught.
He spent an hour or two searching the ground, retracing his steps toward the fortress. He figured that if it fell in the stream it would probably sink. The stream was pretty shallow, and the amulet had been heavy metal. But he saw no sign of it. He really had run quite a distance in his desperation to get Buffy to safety. Checking all this ground carefully, without getting caught, was going to be a challenge, to say the least.
After a while he got nervous about Buffy and returned to the cave. She was more or less where he had left her, although she was awake and sitting up. She was curled up again, and shrank away when he entered the cave. “Shh, just me, Slayer,” he said softly. “Spike, remember? Mortal enemy? Drinking buddy?” She stopped shivering at the sound of his voice and relaxed slightly. Somehow she seemed to understand that he meant no harm to her, even if she was otherwise lost in her own world. Spike sat next to her and after considering a moment, stroked her back gently. She didn’t seem to mind one way or the other, so he just kept up the gentle stroking for a while.
“Not sure what happened to you, Buff,” he mused as he rubbed her back. “You seem so lost in there. ‘M gonna try to keep you safe though. I’ll fight those things until I dust to protect you. You know that, right?” She had closed her eyes and rested her head on her knees. She seemed to be enjoying the touch and the sound. Spike continued quietly, “I don’t know if you can understand me. But I love you, Slayer. Don’t expect you to love me back. Don’t really expect anything from you. Just want you to know that.” He lapsed into silence, not knowing what else to say.
He lost track of how long they sat there, but eventually he got up and went hunting for her dinner. He fed her again, gratified to see her wolfing down the food. It did his heart good to try to put some weight on her thin frame. When she finished eating it was nearly dark. He went back out again, venturing a bit farther, still scanning the ground and the stream bed, searching for the amulet. He made it about a third of the way back to the fortress with no luck. Growling in frustration, he returned to the cave.
This time she looked at him when he came in. She was still not talking, but she reacted to his presence. When he lay down next to her, she curled up at his side, like a cat beside its owner. He rolled on his side and put one arm around her protectively. He watched her sleeping for a while. Her tangled hair and bruised face should have made her less attractive. But she was still the loveliest thing he had ever seen. He felt a little guilty, curling up with her when she had no concept of who he was. If she suddenly came to he was probably asking to get staked. But for now she seemed to take comfort in his presence. At this point, he’d take what he could get.
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