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.
God, silence killed.
Spike had learned long ago that the earth could never truly be silent. Even in the quietest part of night, something living stirred and created sound. Birds. Insects. Wind rolling through leaves. The rumble of a car driving through an underpass. A cat leaping out of an alleyway dumpster. There was always something. Always something—something to remind the world that it was still turning. Something to remind the world that silence was only a blanket for a terrain that never stopped screaming.
He’d never known true silence. Even before he clawed his way to freedom under a mound of fresh earth, he’d heard Drusilla singing in the distance. Murmuring lullabies, calling to him, coaxing him forward. Telling him what to do and beckoning him to join her so they could dance naked in the moonlight.
It had never truly been silent. Silence was where the dead lived.
In the tunnels of Hell, nothing moved. Nothing rustled. Nothing chirped. Nothing lived. The tunnels were absolutely silent, and silence was enough to kill.
“Three days,” Spike murmured, straining against the webbing. “Jus’ three days.”
After having come so far, there was a certain measure of frustration and anxiousness in the knowledge that he was in the last throes. Seconds couldn’t tick by fast enough. His mind turned itself over with image after image of what might await him after the trial was over. If Larry would just shake his hand, tell him he’d done it, and wish him well. If there would be any last attempt to stop him from doing what he’d come here to do.
And beyond that…
Buffy’s personal inferno lay just yards away. He couldn’t see it, but he knew it had to be so. He knew he had to be close. His heart twisted and his stomach clenched, fatigue wearing him down. Strange that he had nothing to do but rest—nothing to do, and yet it wasn’t forthcoming.
He couldn’t rest. He needed rest, but he couldn’t rest.
In three days he would be with Buffy. He would be in Buffy’s Hell, and he couldn’t rest knowing that.
Just three days.
Day three came and went. There was no way of knowing, of course, when exactly the clock turned over the seventy-second hour. He just knew. He knew three days had gone by. He knew he should be free.
He should be, but he wasn’t.
And though his throat ached, it didn’t stop him from screaming.
Even if his voice did nothing but ripple along the cave walls, echoing down an uncaring passageway before dying out completely.
“Hey!” Spike shouted, borrowed strength fusing his muscles and pulling hard against the thin threads holding him in place. Nothing came of it—the web wasn’t loosening, wasn’t relenting, and he wasn’t going anywhere. “Hey! Larry!” He yielded, sucking in a deep breath. “It’s been three days! Three days! Where the bloody hell are you?”
Nothing. Nothing. He didn’t expect anything. Not after hours of being ignored.
Didn’t mean he would stop. He couldn’t stop. He’d served his time.
Buffy needed him.
Buffy was waiting, suffering, burning, and Spike was just a few precious feet from freedom.
And he wasn’t being answered.
Sharp pinpricks scratched at his throat. His eyes watered. His chest ached. Insistent pangs of hunger roared through his starving body, but he ignored it. Ignored it as he did the dying echoes of his cries, as he did the strain in his arms, and just as he did the pain shooting through his legs. He ignored it.
It had been three days and he was still here. He was still hanging uselessly while Buffy drowned in her nightmares.
Three days. It had been three days.
And he was still here.
Consciousness came and went. There were times he thought he slept for days. Weeks. Times when the pain in his body cemented and became a part of him—a part without which he might not survive. His weakened eyes didn’t notice when his skin began to thin. His crippled arms didn’t care when his muscles began to give. Nothing mattered. Nothing but time.
And he had time. He had a lot of time.
Couldn’t be easy, could it. Three days turned into something else. Three days in his world. On Earth. In Sunnydale. Three days there meant nothing to the world below. Three days in Hell might as well be forever.
It could be forever.
Time was a man’s worst enemy.
He just hadn’t realized it before, had taken it for granted as he’d watched the changing generations, the birth and evolution of technology. He’d seen more than he could ever have imagined; horse-drawn carriages turning into motor cars, flying without feathers, the birth of jazz and music without melody. So much had marked the passing of a century; two world wars, and a cold one. The redefinition of racism; concentration camps for Jews and Asians, genocides in countries no one seemed to care about. Scientists discovering how little it would take to blow apart the world, then sending men to the moon to kiss the stars. Walls going up and coming down. Unimaginable human slaughter broadcast worldwide and shared by all through colored tubes. Stamps and envelopes exchanged for printed words without paper.
He’d seen it all, had sat back and watched, not caring very much. He’d watched history unfold and make itself. He’d find someone to eat, turn on the telly, toss an arm around Dru and wait for the next day to arrive, only mildly interested in the disasters man wreaked upon itself.
He’d had time. He’d had so much of it.
And now he had more than he could stand: weeks, months, years. Good lord, years. Had it been years? He didn’t know. Time had no meaning. Time was without shape.
Time was endless, and he had as much of it as anyone ever would.
Hanging. Waiting as his insides rotted.
Waiting for something that didn’t come.
It helped to have her with him…and she was with him. She was always with him.
To see her, all he had to do was close his eyes.
All he had to do was close his eyes and he wasn’t alone anymore. She was there.
“It’s sweet, the way you won’t let go.”
It took a few minutes to realize the sound in the air belonged to a voice. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d heard someone speak. And even after he realized it was a voice, the words themselves were fragmented, torn apart, without logic. He heard himself talk often, though it was never aloud. It was always internal.
He couldn’t risk his voice. It hurt too much to speak.
“Darling, right here.”
His head might as well have been weighed with lead. It rolled uselessly from side to side before the muscles in his neck strained and he successfully lifted it, leaving only the mechanics of raising his eyes. He hadn’t expected to see anyone in the cavern—after all, it had been long enough his mind might have begun playing tricks on him. Or better yet, perhaps it was another false face. Another faux Buffy to taunt his loyalty. To doubt his determination.
Not the one he wanted. The one he needed.
The one waiting.
Spike blinked at the shadows, seeing nothing. And before he could help himself, his jaw fell open, sore from inactivity, and his raspy voice clawed mercilessly at his throat. Whatever he said faded into a hard, crippling cough. His eyes strained but did not water; the fluid in his body drained away long ago. It took a second but he decided to try again, raising his eyes once more to the relentless dark.
“You don’t remember? After all we shared…” Then a woman was there, taking form in the midst of the shadows, materializing from nothing at all. A woman: a pretty woman with eyes as pitiless as the silence. “Well,” she continued, shrugging a shoulder. “We didn’t share much, did we? You didn’t care for me, and God knows I couldn’t stand you.”
He stared at her and waited for his mind to switch on. It had been so long.
The woman smiled. “That’s right, precious.”
You’re not real.
“Of course I’m not real.” She rubbed her belly, her head cocked to the side. “I’m…well, I think I’m in Mexico City, looking for a cure for the disease your grand-dad put in my belly. And you’re here. Just…what? Hanging around?”
Spike just stared at her, lacking the strength to shake his head. Darla. Christ, he’d almost forgotten what Darla looked like. And he knew she wasn’t here—wasn’t with him, but wasn’t in his head, either. His imagination might be vivid, but he certainly wouldn’t have conjured the vision of a relative he could barely stand.
She wasn’t here. And she wasn’t in him.
Darla smiled a soft, nasty smile. “No, sweetheart. You’re not dying. You can’t die when you’re already dead. But you’re not going anywhere, are you? You’re just…here.” She spread her arms demonstratively. “Just here. Waiting. And here’s the truly funny part…you don’t need to be. You could be up there.” Her head inclined just slightly. “With your…would you call them friends? They’d understand. You tried. You failed. It happens every day.”
“Why are you still waiting?”
Spike’s eyes fluttered shut, where awaited Buffy’s face.
Buffy was always with him. Always. When he closed his eyes she was there. Waiting with him. Waiting.
Because no matter how long he waited, she waited longer.
And he wouldn’t leave unless she was at his side.
It was strange. When he closed his eyes the scene often remained the same. The terrain of the tunnel he’d memorized so long ago. As far as his weak eyes could stretch, he saw in the plane of his mind. And most always when he retreated inward, she was waiting for him.
He knew she wasn’t real. He also knew she wasn’t one of them, one of the voices from the cave. One of the agents sent by…whoever, was pulling his strings to get him to give up. He knew because she was the perfect essence of a memory. His memory. She was preserved there for him, kept him company in the midst of his own nightmares. Her face unchanged, her hair just as he remembered, her eyes sparkling with the same warmth he’d known in the last days.
Buffy waited for him when he closed his eyes. When he closed his eyes, he was made whole.
“They’ve started, haven’t they?” she asked when he stepped inside himself.
Spike smiled wearily. “You’re always here.”
She shrugged. “I’m always with you, so yeah. How else do you think you’re gonna stay sane?”
“You keep me grounded, pet.”
Buffy grinned at him, her nose doing that cute scrunchy thing he’d always thought adorable, begrudgingly so or not. “Think I’ve heard somewhere that you’re your own best friend. Guess that’s where I come in.”
“I’ll take you any day compared to what’s out there,” he replied, nodding as though the world outside his subconscious was a place he could take her. As though she would—she could—be with him when he opened his eyes again. “You said they started. Reckon that means you figured they would.”
“No, we’ve been over this,” she replied somewhat sternly. “If I’m not here, it means you figured they would. I can’t know anything you don’t know already. Remember, buddy…this is your head.”
He nodded. “Right… An’ you’re here for me.”
Spike sighed heavily and lowered his head, resignation shuddering through his body. “Figured it wasn’ enough to leave me alone as long as they have,” he said. “Knew they’d up the ante.”
“Yes, you did.” Buffy offered a tired smile, lifting her hair off her shoulders and pulling it into a ponytail. She did that often without even realizing it—fidgeted, busied her hands when she spoke, as though inactivity would render her useless. It didn’t matter that she didn’t have a tie or that her hair would eventually fall back across her shoulders. She needed to keep busy. She always needed to be doing something.
“They had to try,” she continued. “I mean, you’ve been a puppet on a string for…do we even wanna know how long now?”
No, he really didn’t.
Buffy nodded. “You’re not going anywhere, and I think it’s finally getting through to them.”
A harsh laugh rocked his chest. “Let’s not get optimistic here.”
“If they want you to cave, they’re gonna get nasty. We’re okay with nasty, aren’t we?”
Spike looked up, inhaling deeply. Her eyes were perfect, everything about her was perfect. Every last detail, just as he’d committed them; every line on her face, every freckle, every scar which had faded but not healed completely. Perfection. His kind of perfect—and she always had been.
Perfect for him. Spike’s perfect.
And it killed him that she wasn’t real, that she wasn’t with him. Knowing that when he returned to reality—to the place existing outside his mind—Buffy would be gone. She would be gone because she wasn’t here. She was still so far from him.
So far, but if he opened his eyes, he’d see the way he needed to travel. He’d see the path that taunted him. The path he couldn’t walk.
Three days. Just three days.
Three long, long days.
It helped to think of hunger as a disease. Made the pain just a notch or two above unbearable rather than steer him to full-blown madness. Hunger could drive a man insane. He’d seen it. Watched it. Laughed at the misfortune of others as he went on his merry way, drank his fill, and lived his unlife.
Hunger could drive a man insane.
Hunger was a disease. It crippled. It made him weak. Made his body disintegrate. Made his muscles decay.
He couldn’t die. He couldn’t eat.
All he could do was wait.
“Y’know, I went to Hell once.”
Spike’s eyes had been sealed shut longer than he cared to consider. When the phantoms came, he heard them but didn’t watch. It often took days to remember their names, and longer to remember their faces. None of them mattered. The only one who mattered was the one in his head, the one at the end of the tunnel. The one waiting.
Today he decided to be ballsy. Today he decided to open his eyes.
He just didn’t realize what a trial it would be. His skin had faded so long ago, pressing like film against rotted bone. How he did it, he didn’t know. He didn’t even know if he had eyelids anymore. And it didn’t matter.
None of it mattered.
“Yep. I was in Hell. Wasn’t like this, though.”
A male this time. A male Spike knew. He’d been here before. Several times. And each time it grew more and more difficult to remember who he was.
“Angelus,” the figment replied, rolling his eyes. “I figured you’d get it by now. Angelus. Not Angel. Angel’s…I dunno, helping the…puppies or children, or something to that effect. Whatever it is he does now. Vampire detective. A vampire who detects. Not Angel. Angel would be what she sees. You’re a different story.”
“Back to what I was saying before you…” The figment’s jaw ticked, “forgot my name. I was in Hell once. Not like this. Mine was, oh, I dunno, useful. More actual torture. Guess they didn’t think you could stomach that. They left you to do yourself in. But in the meantime, I wonder what I’m doing to her where she is. Now Buffy’s a girl who knows how to make her Hell…worthy.”
Amazing how so much rage could filter through his fragile bones. It would probably render him in pieces had the web not held him together. He’d learned over the last few years that, while memory was a funny thing, it was also subjective. He remembered everything about where he was and why he was here. He remembered the agony after she jumped. Watching her fall through the sky and land nowhere—it was something he couldn’t forget, would never forget. As he wouldn’t forget the contours of her face or the ring of her voice. Buffy was the one thing he couldn’t forget.
The one thing he held on to.
“She lets me have my way with her, you know,” Angelus continued. “You know how many times a guy can rape a girl in the span of eternity? Guess we could find out. After all, this is about her worst fears…isn’t that what you thought? I’d be there, you can count on it. Over and over. Killing her as many times as I like. You’d be there, too, I’m sure. At least I’d think one of her worst fears would be dating you, don’t you? It sure as hell was up there.”
Spike just closed his eyes again, which took almost as much effort as had opening them. If he waited, Angel’s ghost would fade into the darkness and grant him a reprieve. The git would be back, undoubtedly; he always came back. The lot of them did. They took turns. Darla. Angelus. Dru. Even Harm had piped in once or twice. They used different words but said the same thing.
None of them got him to budge. He hung in his prison.
There were times he slept for years, or at least it felt like it. He would fade away and wake up forever later only to find more of him missing. The last time, he felt his hair begin to drift away. When he woke up it was gone entirely, leaving his head feeling as if a thin mess of tissue barely covered his skull.
This was one of those times. He awoke years older. And still here.
And it would take forever to fall back asleep.
There was a demon in front of him. A demon whose name he knew. A demon he did not have to wrestle his memory to recognize. It was the first time that had happened. The first time thoughts did not hurt. Spike knew him. He knew him immediately.
The demon smiled encouragingly. “That’s right,” he agreed, thrusting his arm forward and dragging attention to the glass in his claw. “Blood?”
The disease called hunger reared its ugly head, cracking at his bones and making his stomach tighten to the point he thought it might actually fall from his body. His fangs pierced through what little tissue was left over his gums, pain shocking raw, tender nerves and triggering a silent scream that might well have rattled him to dust had it managed to escape. Hunger. God, he was so hungry.
“I bet you are,” Larry cooed. “Hell knows I’d be. So if you want something to drink, all you gotta do is ask.”
Fuck, it was so hard to remember why. He was sure he’d known at one point. Known why he couldn’t eat. Known why he couldn’t do anything but wait as his body weathered away. It had made sense once, not too long ago. It had made sense. There had been a reason for abstaining. A reason. And even with every corner of his body aching, with starvation carving through his insides, he knew he couldn’t. If it had been important once it was still important. The rules hadn’t changed.
No amount of decay could dull Buffy’s face.
This was for Buffy.
She kept him sane. When he closed his eyes, she was there. She was the reason. She was all the reason he’d need.
All the reason.
A resigned sigh rolled through Larry’s bulky body, and he nodded his defeat. “Suit yourself,” he said with a shrug, pouring the contents of the glass onto the stone, sending a whiff of fresh blood to the remnants of Spike’s taste buds. “Well, I got some good news.”
News. News was a good thing. News had to be a good thing. News meant it was over.
It was over. It was over. Relief swept over him. A tidal wave of pure, unadulterated relief.
It was over.
“Yes,” Larry agreed with a nod. “You did succeed. You survived Day One.”
And just like that, relief fell into something dark and ugly. Something Spike couldn’t wrap his mind around. The rest faded to a dull buzz. He didn’t hear. He understood, but he didn’t hear.
Day One. Day One.
Three days. Three days.
He remembered three days.
“Gotta say, I’m impressed. I really thought you’d cave around, oh, year fifty or so.” Larry shrugged. “Yeah, in case you didn’t have it figured…one day upstairs, a hundred years downstairs. So you got through Day One. Bravo. I mean it, bra-vo.” The guardian offered a nasty grin, wiping his claws and taking a step back. “If you get through Day Two, I think you just might make it. Until then…you can, you know, call if you need me. Otherwise, well, I’ll see you tomorrow, big guy.”
Despair seeped into his bones. Larry faded into the shadows.
Leaving Spike alone.
Leaving him with nothing but her face. Her face which gave him light in darkness.
Buffy. He had to keep his thoughts with Buffy. Buffy.
A hundred years for a day. She’d been gone almost a millennia. A sodding millennia. He wasn’t going to cry foul. Not for three hundred measly years. He could survive. He could survive for her.
God, he hoped so.
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