All About Spike
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Spiegel Im Spiegel
By Fallowdoe

Part Eleven: Dance of the Race

"It's allright... it's-- just stop crying now, love, can you...?"

He reached out tentatively and touched her arm.

She flinched back wildly, screaming anew and burying her face in her hands. He cursed himself silently for the impulse. She burrowed close against the brick wall, nestled into the corner of the dark room. Shadows clung all around the abandoned building he'd brought her to, and it was quiet. But he was still nervous. They were too close yet, and they might have followed-- but he couldn't move her in this state.

"No touching then, allright-- that's allright... just breathe a little..."

He was uncomfortable. He didn't know quite what he should do. She was like a frightened rabbit, pulse racing so fast that she might burst-- kill herself from sheer shock like a wild creature. Her hair fell over her face in long, black strands. The remains of her flowered crown clung in her hair, a leaf caught in a thick tangle by her ear, a few flower petals clinging to the ends where they trailed across her arms.

He was frustrated. She was being impossible, and he had no idea what he was going to do with her.

And she looked up with frightened eyes. They were dark. She looked a bit like Drusilla had when she was crying. And he softened to her a little.

"They might be coming," he said as gently as he knew, "We need to get you moving."

She swallowed hard and looked at him with an eerie sort of sadness. Her voice trembled, a bare whisper, and her eyes were solemn.

"You'd only kill them too..." she whispered, and laid her head against her knee in quiet exhaustion.

"No..." he said softly, "No pet, you're not going to die today."

She looked up again at his face, watched him warily. He stood from her side, losing patience again, pacing back and forth across old, creaking floorboards.

"Why would I go through all that if I was going to kill you...? Lost my lighter and my flask for it, too-- and I was bloody fond of those I'd have you know... my mum always used to say I was too impulsive..."

She still watched him with dread. But her hands had stilled and her eyes, rimmed red, were growing more sober.

"Come on then," he said steadily, responding to the change in her, "We'll need to get moving. I won't hurt you."

"You won't..." she whispered softly, watching his eyes and speaking with a quiet confidence. And there was an uncomfortable silence between them a few seconds, before her brow furrowed and she spoke again.

"But you're--"

"Rakishly handsome, yes," he interrupted, avoiding her inevitable question, "But that's beside the point right now, isn't it?"

And she looked down again, leaned her head against a frail hand, exhausted. She sighed. It was the sound of someone trying to collect herself and finding it impossible. And her hand trembled, and he began to lose the progress he had made with her. Even if there were no more tears. She seemed drained and defeated, and simply shook and trembled with her own scattered thoughts.

He continued to pace, frustrated and confused, while simultaneously angry at himself for that same frustrated confusion. He couldn't keep her with him, and he couldn't get her calm.

"Where can I take you? Where did you live?"

"Before...?"

"No-- I mean, yes-- before they-- before they took you, is there anyone I can bring you to, anyone who would pay you any mind?"

He was desperate for her to say yes. He couldn't care for her, couldn't just take her with him from place to place. The very idea filled him with a dread panic.

"Heorot."

He paused.

"What?" he replied.

"Take me to Heorot... it's near... the elementary school. There are people there. I was staying with them, before they found me..."

Her voice grew more strained as she continued to speak.

"It was so long ago... so long..."

And he realized how long it had been since he'd really spoken with a human-- with anyone, really. How long it had been since he'd been around them intimately for any length of time. Known their fears. Not since the Scoobies, really, had he been familiar with their daily habits. Not since Dawn had anything breathing relied on him.

He remembered her, and the old hollowness rose up in him again. And he looked towards the trembling girl, her bare arms white with cold before him. He took off his duster and offered it to her tentatively. She hesitated a moment, and then took it from his grasp.

"I'm sorry..." he whispered to her, softly.

---

Buffy had fled. Leapt up from the floor like some strange gazelle and burst off into the night. All of them had turned from the body of their friend, shrouded in a discarded jacket, and started at the lightening fast movement. The sound of her feet on the crumbling asphalt filled the air.

And Spike did what he always did. He ran after her.

He bolted off to the right, leaving the group huddled around the body with a heedless abandon. Ignoring the pain swimming through his body as he pushed himself to run faster-- scaling the crackling rifts in the pavement through which the sickly sounds of alien creatures chirped in the night.

And he could see her, ahead, blonde hair flowing behind her, the pale white of her sweater an eerie, glowing blue in the early morning light.

Light. He didn't have long before it would swell into an inferno of sunshine-- but at that moment, he didn't think of it. He just needed to catch her, bring her back.

And he was filled with a dead certainty that if he lost her now, she would never come back at all.

There was nothing but movement. Ash fell into his hair and onto his arms and he was heedless of it. Buffy veered left, scaling the bumper of an old station wagon that had been crushed under a fallen tree. He was gaining on her, anticipated her movement, and cut some seconds off her lead by increasing the angle at which he shifted towards her. The heavy tread of his boot made a strange metallic noise as it impacted with the metal bumper and vaulted him over the rough, unearthed roots of the tree's trunk. In an instant, he was back onto the broken pavement again.

They sped through an alley, full of the bricks of the old, industrial buildings around them. He could smell smoke and hear the flames that were coursing through the warehouses.

They ran through destruction for what felt like an eternity, until it seemed that they had done nothing but this for the whole of their lives. As if she was always running and he was always following, a strange mockery of the ritual of hunting they both knew so well.

But she wasn't Prey. She would never be Prey, even if she fell at that moment into the void of despair that was yawning to swallow her whole. Not Prey. Not her.

And he wasn't a hunter. Not now. She'd seen to that. They were dancing in this desperate race-- and in this dance he was longer Predator. Instead, he was a pathetic bloke who, for several deeply stupid reasons, didn't know any better.

And so he ran. And as eternal as their long race was, it was drawing to the inevitable crisis-- to the end and its decisive moment. He didn't know what he planned to do, but he was gaining-- soon he could reach out to her shoulder, stop her. Beg her to-- to what?

He didn't know. But he wouldn't let her leave, not like this.

And he could hear the flurry of her breathing, fast and crazed. He could hear the sobbing intensity of the gasps, and was certain she wept as she ran.

"Buffy!" he called out to her. He couldn't let up-- had to run faster, pushed his muscles on and propelled himself further as his bones shifted and burned within his chest. If he'd slowed an instant he would lose her forever.

And she faltered. She ran straight through the long maze of alleys and stopped herself seconds before colliding with a concrete wall. She turned around, and he started. Her eyes were cold, remote. She looked at him like she didn't recognize him.

"Buffy..." he said softly, as if her name were something holy. She looked so small, engulfed in her white sweater, standing against the field of stained grey. Her hair was full of dust and ash, and when she moved the powder danced around her and glowed in the early morning light.

And he realized it should have been sunrise, by then. But it simply hadn't come...

He stepped towards her, eyes wide and earnest. They stung suddenly with tears as he looked at her. And he had never forgotten an instant of what happened in that moment. The way the freezing air made her breath a cloud of tremulous mist. The painful familiarity of her features. How she gazed intently at him as though she were confused. Her lower lip, porcelain and delicate, trembling slightly as she stared.

And he was moved. Suddenly and swiftly. And it was as if nothing had happened-- none of it, none of the death or destruction-- nothing was real at all. There was just her.

"Love..." he whispered again, his voice hitching in his throat. She remained still, watching him. A single tear, that had been clinging stubbornly to her lower lashes, fell unheeded down her cheek in a slow trail. It was a sad and fragile moment of connection while the world around them burned.

And he made a mistake.

He reached out and touched her arm, very softly. His fingers trembled but lightly across the soft, knit surface of her sweater.

It was like electricity had been jolted through her. She started, and he pulled his hand back as if he had been burned. Sickly dread filled him and his eyes darted to hers, entreating in the instant before she acted.

She kicked him in the ribs, already broken, and he felt them forced full into his lungs as he flew into the brick wall behind him. Pain coursed through him in excruciating waves as he crumpled to the ground. Blood ran from his nose and he fought with his consciousness, clinging to the tangible feeling of pain, desperate to claw his way up from the dirty asphalt and pursue her once more where she ran.

But he could not move. He could only see the pavement around him as he heard her running away.

---

He waited for the girl to collect herself where she sat, trembling. He remembered how it had been, once, for him, as he fell crumpled and defeated onto the asphalt, beyond caring if something came to rend his flesh. His hands were shaking and the horrible, intense pain in his body was insignificant as he came to realize what had happened, put the pieces together until they gelled and the whole terrible evening had become truly real to him.

Buffy was gone. And she was dead. Dawn was dead. Dead.

He could have stopped it. But he hadn't. He could have stopped Buffy, but he had let his impulse carry him, as he always did. He couldn't do otherwise. It was in his nature, and his nature had destroyed her.

The woman before him brought out the guilt, somehow, in him. The way she sighed and trembled with her fear brought it all back to him.

Lying on that asphalt, in the empty morning gloom, the world he now lived in had become real. And it was in that moment, when he was lost in a strong current of despair, that he had first seen the energy, twining so small and delicate in tendrils through the broken pavement.

It spread, before his eyes, over the earth, and he had watched it with awe. It was pure, and ethereal-- he could see it, but not in the way he saw the rest of the world-- not in the reaction of light and retina. It was like seeing what he could only describe as a pure, ringing sound-- it echoed through his mind like a clear bell tolling. The spiderweb light moved over the earth, but was not part of the earth-- was not part of anything else he could see or know. Distant, illusory-- unreal. And yet more real than anything else had ever been.

And it was there ever since-- even in the room where he sat with this broken, pregnant girl. It twined across the floorboards, danced at their toes, and grounded him with the certainty of its ever present strength.

And he waited for her to calm herself, patiently. He sat in heavy silence, trailing endless paths through his memory as he watched her in her fear.

---

She looked out through a curtain of her own hair. It obscured the dark room in clusters of black strands. The creature sat several feet away, casually, as if it were perfectly normal for them to be together. He'd even handed her that strange leather duster, when he'd realized how cold she was in only her loose, white shift. The leather was old and tired, full of many tears and gashes. He had been through great violence, which was fitting for one of his kind.

He watched her steadily, waiting for her to speak. He was a picture of calm.

And yet he was unconsciously rapping his foot in a fast rhythm against the uneven floorboards. His calm was only skin deep.

"I'm alone..." she whispered, mostly to herself.

The creature seemed to take notice. It looked up from its swiftly tapping boot, and their eyes met.

Its blue eyes were bright with awareness, alive with thought. Its hair fell in careless, soft brown curls around its face. She didn't understand the creature, why it had taken her. She did, though, understand what would have happened to her if he hadn't.

And he cleared his throat, and spoke.

"You're not alone..."

"You..." she said again, her voice cracking again with new tears. She thought a moment of running away, but didn't know where she would go or how she would live if she did escape him.

"You... You don't count," she said, unsure of how to express herself. And he smiled, softly, at that.

"I've been around long enough to know I don't count," he said, his tone strange, sadly ironic, "But I didn't mean me..."

He hesitated, unsure if he wanted to continue. As if he was about to ask a question, the answer of which meant a terrible lot to him. As if he wasn't sure he wanted to hear the answer he would receive.

"Can you see her...?"

"Who...?"

"She's here," he said, "She's all around-- can you see?"

She stared at him in confusion, and he moved towards her. She froze, and he paused, slowing his pace and reaching out for her hand cautiously.

She decided to let him take it, gently, and he laid the palm down against the rough floorboards, moved it slowly across the surface. Guided it in a strange, intricate, webbing pattern.

"There," he said, pressing it against the cold wood, "There... can you see the light, can you feel it there, moving?"

She looked at him again, his eyes were intense, and she shrank back from his touch once more, pulling her hand close to her chest. She had looked at him, before, as if she questioned her safety, and she looked at him now as if she questioned his sanity. A new fear sprung up in her eyes as she responded.

"No..."

He stood abruptly, turned from her, began to head for the door. Avoided her gaze.

"Come on," he said, "You're ready to move. We need to be on our way."

And he walked to collapsed and broken doorway, and waited patiently for her to follow.

---


Continued in Part Twelve: Golden Arches

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