Reviews • Rating: NC-17
Summary: There was no body to bury. There was no funeral. There was nothing but the three rules and the knowledge that a thousand years of torment was nothing compared to a world without her in it. Spike embarks on a journey through the Gates of Hell to rescue the one he loves, but in order to save her, he must risk losing himself.
He was having the most wonderful dream.
“Don't say anything,” she whispered, tightening her grip on his cock. Christ, he was going to melt under her heat. “Let me have this.”
It felt so real. So wonderful. Her scent wafted into his nostrils, spiced with arousal so potent he had to bite back a moan. No, scratch that. He didn't have to do anything but enjoy. Dreams were harmless. Dreams gave him freedom denied by reality. Dreams gave him Buffy without all the rules and booby-traps his mind cast up every time he thought he was close to having her.
Her hand pumped and squeezed, loving him base to tip. It had been so long since he'd been touched. So long since a soft female had curled a hand around his cock. God, he'd forgotten what this felt like.
“Let me remind you,” she whispered. Then her lips were hot on his neck, dotting his skin with sweet kisses. His insides split with light purer than anything he ever hoped to touch. Christ, the strokes of her hand…he hadn't felt this in so long…
“I'm here,” she promised. “I'm here, Spike.”
Spike's eyes flew open, tumbling from a dream. It was real—shit, everything was real. Her small, lethal hand was wrapped around his cock, gifting him with long, languid strokes that both lost and gained confidence with every sweep. She trembled but remained resolute, focused, even under his shocked gaze. If anything, being watched seemed to bolster her.
“Oh, God,” Spike whimpered, hips involuntarily rolling into her touch. “Buffy…”
“I got curious.”
He peeked down at her, which proved disastrous. The sight of her hand around his cock was addictive. One glance and he couldn't look away. It was so unreal. After centuries of dreaming, yearning, after craving what he couldn't have, and suddenly here it was at his fucking fingertips. If it was a dream he didn't want to wake.
“Curious?” he gasped. “You got…”
“It was poking me. I'd forgotten what it felt like.”
He chuckled, ashamed at how nervous he was. “Didn't mean to poke, love. Bloody thing has a mind of its own.”
“I like its mind.” As if to accentuate that point, she pinched the head of his cock and elicited a sharp gasp from his lips. “I want this, Spike. That's…I just want it.”
He'd never heard sweeter words. “Is this gratitude?”
“I don't know,” Buffy replied honestly, squeezing him. “But if it is, let it be. Let me be grateful.”
What weak resolve he possessed completely evaporated. It had been so long and there was only so much a bloke could take. So he nodded and relaxed, resting his head again as she pumped his length. Every second he expected to jar awake from this forbidden dream, but he did not. Her scent was real, the rush of her pulse, the thundering of her heart, the sweet little breaths she took and the way she tentatively met his eyes…as though afraid of something neither could name.
And when he came, it was Buffy who gasped. The moment was hers, as well.
It was the sweetest release he'd ever known.
He hated to admit he was avoiding the woman he’d endured three hundred years to find, but avoiding her he was. There was simply no getting around it, nor was there any way he could avoid the truth of what had happened that morning. Spike could talk a big game, puff out his chest and swear he was doing the right thing, but the fact of the matter remained that the right thing simply wasn’t in his blood. He did right by her, all right, but there was only so much a bloke could take…a second more of Buffy looking at him the way she had after he came and he would have had her on her back.
Everything he’d told her the day before was true, or as true as it could be. He didn’t want gratitude, and yet he wanted anything after having nothing for so long. He also didn’t want her to give herself out of necessity or to ease her conscience. Once upon a time, he would have taken anything she handed him and been grateful for it, and while he wanted her more than he’d wanted anyone before, he couldn’t pretend sex would be enough.
Fuck, he’d told the ghosts as much in the cave. That had been one of the bloody tests; turn down Buffy’s offer to be anything other than what she was. He could have had her body, but that wasn’t the part he wanted. The bot hadn’t satisfied his need to have her—it had just made masturbating a bit more fun.
So he avoided her, which was bloody difficult when she was the only other person in the world—literally. After the rush faded, he’d dressed hurriedly and disappeared into the unexplored upper area of her warehouse, a place unmarked with names and one he doubted she’d visited often in the last few hundred years. The space wasn’t as large as the other place, but he did locate another shower, and after thoroughly scolding himself for not checking here sooner, hopped in and washed the last few days down the drain. He’d lost track of when he’d last showered. Other things had taken precedence to cleanliness.
As it was, cleanliness was next to godliness, and they were nowhere near God.
“I get the feeling you’re avoiding me.”
Spike about jumped out of his skin, which was right embarrassing. The Big Bad didn’t jump, no matter how dusty the title was.
“Christ, pet.” he gasped, whirling around and setting his eyes on the blurry vision approaching from the other side of the shower pane. “Ever heard of knocking?”
She shrugged a shoulder. “If I have, I probably forgot. I’m Brain Damage Girl, remember?”
He softened. “Not damaged, Buffy, just lost.”
“Right.” She shuffled her feet and crossed her arms. “So you’ve been avoiding me.”
“Where do you get that idea?”
“Actually, mainly from you. With the avoidance.”
“I’m not avoiding you.”
“It feels like you are.”
His jaw tightened. He didn’t like being easily read, and in circumstances such as these, a lie was more comfortable than the truth. “I’m not.”
“Is this about earlier?”
“I’m not avoiding you.”
“It’s about earlier, isn’t it?”
Spike looked at her a second longer, shower water washing the last of the shampoo he’d found out of his hair, and sighed hard. There was absolutely no keeping anything from her. If she didn’t pry it out of him, she’d land on a conclusion only she could reach in the first place. The fact she wasn’t too off the mark didn’t help matters.
“Earlier was bloody wonderful,” Spike answered truthfully, shutting off the faucet. “And that’s the truth.”
“I sense a but.”
“No but. It was just wonderful.”
“And not gratitude.”
There they diverged down separate yellow roads. “Buffy—”
“And even if it was, we agreed to let it be, didn’t we?”
Spike huffed. “Can’t rightly trust a bloke to say what he means when you’re stroking his dick.”
“Gratitude isn’t a bad thing,” she replied, voice lowering shyly at his crudeness. “No matter what happens, I’m not going to hate you. And if I did…even if some wonky demon makes me forget everything you’ve done for me, whatever I say or feel won’t erase the good you’ve done.”
He nodded, smiling a half-smile. “I know that.”
“I don’t want gratitude, I want you.”
“I want you, too.”
Spike inhaled sharply. She had no idea how those words affected him. “One taste will never be enough for me,” he replied. “I’ve already had more of you than…if we dance this dance all the bloody way, there’ll be no going back for me.”
“I know. And I know cornering you this morning was unfair.”
His lips twitched. “Right. Terrible, that was.”
“I just don’t want you to avoid me.” She sighed, her blurred head swinging southward. “You’re kinda my only friend in the world.”
There were breaking points, and then there were Breaking Points. This one was the latter. Spike exhaled deeply and slid the shower door open, mindless of his nudity, or the way her eyes widened as she silently, albeit quickly, appraised him. He warned his cock not to stir, but the damn thing had a mind of its own, and very rarely listened to him when Buffy was around. As it was, he’d been semi-hard the entire time her voice tickled his ears. Seeing her cheeks bright and flushed, her eyes deep and aroused…yeah, there was little chance he could walk away from her without a fight.
And Spike wasn’t an idiot. He knew he was in a losing battle. Evading advances from the woman he loved had never been in the brochure, and it was damn well against his nature to try and take the high road. A few hundred years back he never would have made it to the shower for having shagged her rotten all night. Time added perspective, and while it could shape a man, changing him was a bit of a stretch. He knew he’d thought of himself as reformed, changed, more than once, but there were still so many aspects of who he was that remained the same.
“I didn’t mean to avoid you,” Spike replied. It still wasn’t the truth, but it was close enough. “Christ, Buffy, you’re the last person I’d want to avoid…but this morning…I told you last night…”
“And you said I gave you a crumb.”
“Baby, you sold me the bakery. I just want it to last.”
Buffy licked her lips, her eyes darting to his crotch almost against their will. “Me, too,” she said. “But I remember more every minute. I remember things about you that you wouldn’t like, and I remember how I felt. It’s still…it seems so long ago, and I seem…wrong.”
“You weren’t wrong.”
“Well, it seems like I was.”
“We were different people then. For the man I was and the woman you were, you weren’t wrong. Don’t confuse the Spike in your memories with the one standin’ here, kitten. We’re different men.” Spike frowned. “Well, maybe not different…but different enough to know the difference.”
She sighed again; so did he. Then things grew quiet.
“Shower’s yours,” he said at last, moving to pass her. He thought she might follow him into the hallway, but she did not.
Instead, a few seconds later, he heard the splash of water against a worn tub.
Perhaps her letting him walk away meant she understood.
And for all his campaigning, Spike wasn’t sure whether or not that was a good thing.
After finding his trusty pair of jeans, Spike took to scouring their odd living space and waiting for the shower to stop running. He found something he’d set aside what felt like years in the past, though at most it had been three days since his eyes landed on the aged yellow pages a voiceless Buffy had lifted from the cardboard box to make room for pig entrails. The pages had been filled with words scribbled in the same manner as the walls. At the time, barely twenty-four hours ago, they were unreadable. Now it was not. Now, like the walls, they were legible, and he knew what they were.
They were letters.
“Oh, Buffy,” Spike sighed, kneeling to the haphazard pile, brushing the top page aside.
They were letters to everyone. Several to Giles, more than half to Dawn, a few to Willow and Xander, even one or two to Anya and Tara, whom he reckoned received less attention due to Buffy’s not knowing them very well. And there were letters for Spike.
There were also a few to Angel, the earlier ones proclaiming how she’d tried to move on but had never been able to truly love anyone else, and the latter seasoned with maturity that eased the rage in Spike’s chest. Those reflected a more tempered, though at times angry Buffy, who resented the way she’d been treated, resented the fact that the man who was supposed to love her more than anything turned away from her during her greater moments of need. Judging by the density and texture of the pages, Spike estimated a good fifty years or so spanned the time between the early letters and the later ones. If she began writing these within the first few days of jumping from the Tower, the latter letters reflected what a Buffy approaching her golden years would have said. But she hadn’t aged at all; when she was seventy-five, she looked no different than twenty.
She had wisdom with which he hadn’t credited her. She’d said it, herself. If three hundred years could bring him understanding only age provided, she had centuries on him. Buffy was older than he was. Strange bloody thought, but it was the way things had worked out.
The letters addressed to Spike weighed around the same as those addressed to her friends, which surprised him. A few were abrupt, detailing how grateful she was he’d been there in the end for Dawn, and how she wished she had handled things differently. Others were righteous, admitting his feelings for her while adamantly defending her position. There were one or two reflecting secret confessions that she missed fighting with him, and hated it that the Initiative had robbed them of their fun.
The last one must have been right before things started to get really bad. It looked to be one of the newer letters in the stack.
I know it’s going to be you.
Don’t get me wrong, I know the others love me. A lot. And I know the hell I’m going through is…well, it’s Hell, right? But they’re going through a lot, too. I also know time moves differently for me. I mean, we slack off, yeah, but not when someone needs help, and I know the gang wouldn’t have slacked off this long. It’s probably been…what? Days? A week or so? The idea makes my brain hurt…that all this time nothing has happened up there because you guys haven’t dealt with this as long as I have. I know what right now feels like, and thinking that my ‘right now’ and your ‘right now’ are two different things kind of weirds me out.
But I know it’s going to be you. It has to be.
I also know the likelihood of you, or anyone, ever receiving any of the letters I’ve written over the years is slim to none. Having said—or is it written? I think it’s written—that, I need to add that I’ve meant pretty much everything. Maybe not now, but whatever I felt at the moment was what I wrote.
Everything is different now. Things I thought were different. And yeah, a lot of what you did warranted the reaction you got, there were other things I did notice but didn’t let you know I noticed. You really do care about me, for one. I get that now. You’re a guy who emotes big time, and I should know…I’m pretty much the same. Not that I’ll give you a pass for the chaining-me-up thing, which, got to say, isn’t the best way to score a date, but I get the passion that makes you do otherwise stupid things.
Do it again, though, and, well, ashes to ashes, and all that jazz.
But let me get to the point. I know it’s going to be you who gets me out. Like I said, my friends love me, and I know they’ll do just about anything to help, but there’s only one you, Spike, and after what I saw you let Glory do to you to protect me and Dawn…well, I just know. They might send you in, but I know. And I don’t want to think about how hard it’ll be to get to me. I don’t think I died, so whatever’s keeping me here, whatever doesn’t let me cross the river, will want to make sure no one takes me out.
So, thank you. I don’t know if you’ll ever see this or if I’ll even be what you find, but there it is. My thanks…and this: I was wrong about you. If I can even think what I think about you, you can’t be all evil. At least not the way I thought.
There it is. I’m sorry for the things I need to be sorry for. You deserved better from me.
She was real.
The past day and a half, he’d been living in a dream. He’d known it was real all along, but knowledge and understanding were two different things. It was a leap from knowing Buffy was at his side, smiling at him, saying she had feelings for him that weren’t gratitude, and realizing it was true. He’d believed her, fuck he relished every second, but there had been something holding him back. Some thread of a fear that she would slip through his fingers again and he’d find himself at the beginning.
She was real, though, and she wasn’t going anywhere. She wasn’t an illusion; she wasn’t going to blink into the void. He’d been thrown, perhaps, by the similarity between the Buffy who had once lived in his head and the Buffy he could touch, but then, he’d always made his inner voice be Buffy, not just an artist’s rendering. He just hadn’t fully grasped it until now.
He could scold himself a thousand times, reassure himself a thousand times, but nothing measured to truly understanding it.
“I wrote letters.”
Spike stilled. She was behind him again, tickling his nostrils with her sweet soapy scent.
“I wrote letters,” she said again, taking a step forward. “I’d forgotten I wrote letters.”
“Found these in that box a few days back,” Spike agreed, turning. She wore only his black t-shirt, teasing his eyes with her legs and the hint of what waited for him just below the hemline. “Didn’t make sense until you…”
“Remembered. Yeah.” She quirked her head. “Interesting reading?”
“Read a few.”
“All the ones I wrote you, I’d assume.”
“And a few you didn’t.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Evil.”
“That’s the way it works.” Spike smiled softly. Love, Buffy it said. Love, Buffy. “Buffy…sweetheart…”
One of his personal philosophies had always attested words held little power over action, and he couldn’t stand aside anymore and pretend he didn’t want what she was begging for. In a heartbeat, he’d closed the space between them, weaving his fingers through her hair as his mouth crashed against hers. Buffy whimpered, throwing her arms around his neck and melting into him, nipping at his lips before her tongue plundered his mouth. She tasted good, so good—rich and warm, wonderfully female and so real he could barely keep from weeping.
“Buffy…” He wrenched his lips from hers, mouth tearing down her throat. “Fuck, you’re so warm.”
“So alive.” His lips brushed her shoulder, fingers curling around the hemline of the tee she wore. “You really are alive.”
“I love you.”
Her mouth fell open but she didn’t respond. Good. He didn’t want her whispering words she couldn’t mean. Not now. Not yet. Instead, he drew in a deep breath and forced himself to pull away. It was painful but liberating at the same time, breathing in her flushed face, the heavy scent of her arousal dancing off her skin. This was real.
“Dance with me,” he replied, wrapping his arms around her waist before she could think but to respond in kind. And then they were moving together in sync with music that didn’t play, Buffy pressed against him, her hips rolling mindlessly against his hard cock, her hands grasping his shoulders as he moved them in lazy circles. It was soft and profound, and one of the sweetest moments of his life.
The fire between them didn’t fade, it sizzled.
Standing here, holding Buffy, the world around him didn’t seem daunting at all.
“Heaven,” he sang under his breath, “I’m in heaven. And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak…”
Buffy smiled and pressed a hand to his still chest.
“And I seem to find the happiness I seek…when we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek.”
“Spike, make love to me.”
“I know it’s…it’s too soon, but I need…God, I can’t even…I just need.”
“No, it’s not too soon.” Spike kissed her lips and stroked her cheek. Reservations were gone. Gratitude or not, he needed her too damn much to give a damn. She was right—things were different now, and even if he couldn’t have her for always, he could at least have her for now.
Borrowed time was still time.
And if it was all they had, he would enjoy every second.
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