"And sight out of blindness"
-- Sidney Lanier
At least it had stopped raining. The ground was still wet and soggy, the tree overhead laden with water that kept cascading down on Spike and Buffy every time the wind blew through its branches...but at least it wasn't raining.
The Slayer lay motionless, a thousand thoughts going through her head as she stared silently up at the night sky -- the sky she had never thought she would see again. Stars glittered as the last of the rainclouds scudded away into the distance, and the trees themselves seemed to shine.
It was beautiful.
And hard to believe. She had never truly thought she would get her eyesight back. Not really. Yes, she had hoped and yes, she had wondered...but she had never really believed. Not deep down. Not on any level.
Spike had though. She turned her head slightly, even that small motion enough to send waves of dizziness coursing through her, and looked at the vampire laying on the grass beside her, his pale body glimmering in the moonlight. He must have believed or he never would have gone through all this. And now that her vision was back, Buffy could see the results of that belief, the scars on his chest that could only have been caused by crosses coming into contact with vampire flesh. Painful contact. And many crosses. Buffy's jaw tightened. What kind of hell had he gone through? Most of his clothes were gone, only the black jeans left, his chest and feet bare. There were more burns on his feet, she could tell, and probably on his back too, if the way he had groaned when he had rolled off her was any indication.
Because of her. Her fault. She should have stopped the trial earlier. Should never have agreed to go there in the first place...
But if she had done that, she would still be blind. Or dead. And...and selfish though it may be...she couldn't say she was sorry. She wasn't even sure she would change things if she could. No, she liked being alive. And she liked being able to see again. Her gaze went up to the stars again then back to the vampire...
...who was watching her now, a predatory, almost possessive look on his face. Their eyes met...and a faint chill shot through her. But it wasn't fear. No, it was almost as if she was afraid...of the fact that she wasn't afraid. She should be, she knew. Spike was still dangerous, despite the implant. He had proven that when he had...when she had let him bite her. Her eyes still locked on him, the Slayer's free hand drifted up slowly towards the wound on her neck.
It hurt, she realized remotely, though the pain was small in comparison with the rest of the agony that was sweeping through her. But now that the passion and desire that had scorched through her like wildfire were gone...her neck just plain hurt. She touched the place tentatively then flinched.
"Quite the collection you've got there." Spike's voice still vibrated with agony, but there was the usual mocking edge to it beneath the pain...and something else altogether. Something that Buffy didn't recognize. She stared at him blankly for a moment, then shifted uncomfortably, closing her eyes.
Quite a collection. It was true. The Master. Angel. Dracula. And now Spike. The Master's mark was barely noticeable, she knew. His bite had been quick and clean, his fangs razor sharp. The same with Dracula. Only a tiny mark still marred her throat where he had bitten her. Angel's though...his scar was jagged and long, the skin as much torn apart as bitten through. Of course, he had been dying at the time, half out of his mind from the poison. Couldn't really expect neatness under those circumstances. And what would Spike's be like?, Buffy wondered. Would it be neat or ragged, large or small...?
'OK. Size so does not matter,' Buffy told herself firmly...or as firmly as she could, given that it was taking a concerted effort just to remain conscious. Shadows kept washing in and out on the edges of her vision, like a dark tide threatening to engulf her. But she wouldn't let them. There was too much to do. She had to get home, and quickly. It was almost dawn. Her family would be up soon, would find her gone. And Spike would go up in a puff of smoke if they didn't make it back before the sun came up...
Buffy opened her eyes. He was still watching her, the hungry look still there.
"Stop that," she said sharply. Or at least, it was meant to sound sharp -- actually it came out sounding tired and pathetically weak.
"Stop looking at me like I'm something to eat."
He grinned wearily. "Hate to break it to you baby, but you are. And very tasty too."
"Yeah...well...just don't go expecting any dessert."
A brief silence fell, then: "Why did you do it, Buffy?"
She blinked in surprise. Whatever she had been expecting from him -- it wasn't that. For a moment the vampire had actually sounded serious, solemn even, no hint of the usual derisive tones in his voice. It was as if...as if he really wanted to know. Buffy's mouth went suddenly dry. She couldn't tell him. Definitely not the whole truth -- if she even knew what that was, anyway. And she couldn't even begin to vocalize the emotions that had flooded through her when she had found herself holding the stake against his chest... She couldn't.
So she evaded the question entirely by countering with one of her own.
"Why did you want me to kill you?"
"Told you. This chip..."
The Slayer shook her head slightly. "No. That's not it." She didn't know how she knew that. She just did.
For a moment they stared at each other in frustration, all the things unsaid hovering between them until the air became thick with tension. Finally though, Spike looked away, turning his head to stare back up at the stars. "Doesn't matter," he said flatly. "Forget it."
No. She couldn't leave it like this. Not after what he had done. Buffy bit her lip, undecided, then finally opened her mouth again. Maybe a half-truth would be enough.
"I didn't want you to die," she said at last. "Not after...what you did for me."
Spike didn't move, his eyes still locked on the night sky. Buffy swallowed then went on gamely. "You saved my life."
He did move at that, turning back to meet her gaze. Something flitted briefly through his eyes, some emotion she had never seen in them before -- and then it was gone, as quickly as it had appeared, and she found herself wondering if it had really been there at all. Perhaps she had imagined it. Even as she watched, Spike's lips were already curling into the wicked grin she was so familiar with, the mocking light back in his eyes. "Yeah, well, don't tell anyone," he said lightly. "Never be able to live it down..."
"Tell me about it," she shot back, trying to hide just how shaken the exchange had left her.
"Still..." he continued, the grin widening a bit. "Can't say it wasn't fun..."
Fun. Not exactly the word she would have used. Shattering. Soul shaking. Unforgettable. Intense. But not fun.
A shudder went through Buffy. That made three times now that she had willingly allowed a vampire to bite her, three times that... Oh god. OK fine, she was the Slayer and her life was strange and bizarre on a multitude of levels, but why did the most intense sexual experiences of her life have to come with her clothes on? With a vampire's teeth in her neck? What was wrong with her? Why couldn't she be happy with a normal boyfriend? She had a normal boyfriend.
Riley. Oh god. She couldn't tell him about this. He would never understand. She wasn't even sure she did. The pull of the attraction between her and Spike, the desire to just reach out for him and...
'La la la, so not listening,' she told herself firmly. 'Got a boyfriend. Don't need Spike. Don't care that he's all sexy and...and sexy. I don't want sexy, I don't want dangerous, and I definitely don't want another vampire. I want human and safe and normal and not sexy. I want Riley."
'OK,' Buffy paused, frowning inwardly. 'That didn't come out quite right...'
"I don't want to talk about it," she said out loud. "And am I the only one who cares that the sun is coming up? And...and where exactly are we anyway?
"Other side of town."
"Great." Buffy shot Spike a quick glance, wondering if he would be able to walk...wondering if she would. But then other images began to flicker through her mind as her eyes ran down the vampire's prone form, overlaying what she was seeing now. Images of what they had done, of what had happened...and Buffy's mouth went dry, her heart beginning to pound even harder. The look on Spike's face -- it was as if his injuries were all that were preventing him from rolling over and taking her here and now. And worse yet -- despite the fact that she was so weak she could barely lift her head off the wet ground; that every part of her was aching unbearably; that she was about to pass out at any moment -- she wanted him too. And he knew it. She could see it in his eyes -- he could probably see it in hers.
In the space of a heartbeat, the air between them was once more sizzling with electricity. And Buffy realized with a sinking sensation that the desire hadn't gone after all. Probably never would. There was a link between them now --and it wasn't going to disappear, no matter how much she might wish otherwise.
Tightening her jaw, Buffy managed to drag her gaze away, shutting her eyes tightly. 'Why me?' she thought despairingly. 'I don't need another vampire in my life. I don't want another vampire in my life.'
But it was too late now.
* * *
In the end, they managed to get to their feet only by hauling each other up then holding onto each other to keep themselves from falling back down. And once more Spike found himself with the Slayer in his arms, her warmth seeping into his cool frame while she clung to him -- and an unfamiliar feeling went through him. If he didn't know better he would almost have said it was...peace. Joy. Or it might have been if every fibre of his being wasn't screaming out in agony until he wanted to grab the stake and put himself out of his misery...
At that moment Buffy leaned her head against his chest.
His burned chest.
Didn't really matter though, Spike decided through the pain. Because he was never going to get a chance like this again, so what was a little torment, compared to having the Slayer in his arms? 'Course -- if she kept leaning on him this much, he was probably going to tip over backward. And he didn't think either of them would be getting up again in a hurry, if he did.
No answer. Had she passed out? Trying to brace himself against her weight, Spike raised one hand and tugged, not gently, at her hair. "Summers! Much as I would love to get horizontal with you again, I don't think this is the time. Or the place."
She stirred slightly, as if realizing what she was doing, then straightened, easing her weight from him. "I really hate you sometimes, Spike," she whispered against his bare chest.
"Only sometimes? Must be improving then. C'mon. Let's get outta here before something nasty comes along and eats us." The vampire took a careful step forward then almost fell, his knees buckling as the fire burning on the soles of his feet became an inferno. "Bloody hell!"
This time it was Buffy's turn to hold him up, her heart pounding with the effort. "Don't you dare," she said through clenched teeth, her fingers digging into his arms. "If you fall over, I'm not picking you up again. Got that?"
Got it. It took a lot more energy and willpower than Spike wanted to admit, but somehow he managed to keep his footing. And, after a short lifetime or two, he even succeeded in standing back up and easing a little of his weight off the Slayer's shoulders. Then they hung there together, unable to move.
"Now what?" she said, exhaustion colouring her voice.
"Dunno. Think you can walk?"
"No. But I will anyway."
"That's my Slayer."
She took a cautious step forward, Spike doing the same beside her. "Will you stop saying that?" she said in tired annoyance. "I'm not your Slayer."
"So the fact that I've got your claw marks down my back from when you..."
"Really, really hate you Spike..."
Continued in Part 15