In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.
The sound waves vibrated over her eardrums, jostling her mind into consciousness.
Her eyelids fluttered open, not in a startled way but like twin butterflies opening their wings for the first time. Darkness surrounded her, and she remained unmoving except for eyes that detected the faintest of light pinging against the textured wall across the room.
A stray band of gold floated over her line of vision, and she started away from the movement, cartilage sliding over bone, bare flesh on her arms scraping over cool stone. Her fingers dug into the softness of the silky substance beneath her.
The patting noises came faster until they thrummed against the inside of her skull like a horde of wasps. Brilliant light flashed throughout the room, but she did not squint against it.
The sharp, fresh scent of water flowed into the room after the light, drawing her up from her place of recline, bare soles closing over cool tiles. For some reason, she didn’t shiver.
She was always shivering.
The soldier used to say that she was a bloodsucker in disguise. She almost snorted. He wished.
She frowned, creases forming between her eyes, lips tugging downward.
Where had that thought come from?
A memory. . . it was a memory.
The fingers of her mind fought to grasp onto the tail ends of the imprint but missed, and she lost the meaning of the memory.
She grounded herself in the present by focusing on the motion of her limbs and the padding roll of her heels and toes over the carpet-bare floor. Her ears and nose were drawn toward the source of the unremitting sounds and smells of what she now identified as rain.
Within moments, she was on the threshold, hands and feet holding her inside the shelter, face tilted up to the darkened heavens. Electricity streaked through the sky, illuminating the rolling black clouds. She drank in the liquid and the energy. . .
. . . and she had another memory. . . of wet bodies sliding over one another. . . of innocence given freely and a soul lost unwillingly.
And she balked, taking stumbling steps back as she had when she first saw the lightning.
This time she didn’t try to hold onto the rememberance of feeling. It was too elusive to hold onto.
Without warning, she recognized another sensation.
Her mouth felt full of sand that had never been touched by fluid, and a sharp ache filled the bottomless pit of her stomach. She wasn’t sure what she thirsted for, but she knew it was for more than just water to hydrate her tongue. The rain could provide that if she wanted.
She pivoted away from the outside world and delved further into the shadowy haven where she awoke. She noticed this time that the whole place was formulated from stone, that only the bed was soft. . .
And there was a door. . . an exit that did not lead into the storm because she could not hear the rain on the other side. Perhaps she would find the way to another room. . . one that contained something to quench her thirst. She licked her lips in anticipation.
Her fingers trailed over the walls, tips finding and memorizing every groove and indention. She would remember something.
She was determined.
Her resolve in itself was familiar but not entirely, so she wrapped her shoulders in it like a coat that didn’t quite fit. She decided to don a wry smile as well, and she found herself feeling warm on the inside.
She reached the door, and her fingers closed over the smooth doorknob in anticipation of what was on the other side. Part of her hoped to find the answers, hoped to uncover the missing piece of the puzzle.
The metal moved against her palm, turning before her wrist twisted. Surprised because she sensed nothing on the other side save the distant raindrops, she moved backward, not stumbling this time. The door came with her, pushing into the small territory that she had already begun to think of as her own.
A dark demon loomed before her, a shock of platinum blazing around his head, his hand reaching out to grab her.
Instead of crying out as she ducked back, a growl escaped her throat, and she dropped to a crouch, hands balling into fists of protection. She knew what she had to do with demons.
He spoke to her in low tones that she did not understand all the while advancing toward her, thrusting into her space. As he came, she felt something almost feral move within her, driving past the urgent thirst. . .
. . . and she changed.
Bones in her skull that had never before moved slid past one another with alacrity, and canines elongated into her lower lip, filling her mouth with a coppery taste that sent her thirst surging forth again, roaring into all of her senses.
The demon’s grip around her wrist startled her out of herself, and he pulled her up until her vision fell across his wide, cerulean eyes. They were clear and bright and contained something she couldn’t quite identify.
“I know you,” came the first words she ever remembered speaking. Her voice was coarse like sandpaper in her mind, and her tongue felt thick.
And for the first time, she understood what he said in reply, “You do, love. You do.”
His fingers relaxed around her wrist, and her tension melted away with his. She blinked, and in the space of her eyes closing and re-opening, something appeared in his eyes. . . something more than kindness.
“There’s a light,” she observed, studying him with new fascination. He was more than a demon. “Who are you? Who am I?”
His thumb caressed her palm. “Give yourself a minute or two to get your bearings, pet. You woke up earlier than any of us expected.”
The need for nourishment pressed past her agenda to know what was happening. “I’m thirsty,” she informed the sort of demon before her.
She spun then and brought her leg around, lashing out in a neat roundhouse and knocking him away from the doorway to her freedom. Another growl came forth as she charged ahead.
The demon cursed behind her and then called after her, but she plunged ahead, driven not by logic but the terrible thirst.
She stopped short on the edge of the covered porch and stared out into the rain. A wave of gray tombstones jutted out of the ground like a gap-toothed grin across the wide expanse of spinach green. Trees canopied parts of the graveyard, and flowers beaten down by heaven’s tears sent their scent spiraling across the heavy air.
She knew this place like the back of her hand. She would come back here after she was sated, but for now. . .
Her ears warned her of his assault before he hit her, but she was helpless to stop him. The grass was soft and wet between her fingers, but she still attempted to use the ground as leverage to throw him off balance. She failed to account for the strength of the arm around her waist and the actuality of how weak she really was.
He flipped her onto her back, and she panicked, feeling the leather of his coat smashing against her palms. This was a memory she did not want to re-experience. Bones shifted again and teeth retracted from her lip as she cried out, not with menace but in terror. She thrashed against him with all four limbs, vaguely catching her panic mirrored in his expression before the rush of cool air signaled her freedom.
In an instant, she was on her feet and running, stride lengthening like a horse’s that had been cooped up in its stall for too long. She heard him racing after her, and just as she reached the cemeteries iron exit, he shouted her name.
With his utterance, she folded in on herself, knees coming to her chin and arms encircling her legs as an incredible warmth was birthed within her. She closed her eyes against the world and tried to contain the emerging heat that started deep in her viscera and spread like rapid fire through her entire body until she felt as if she might split apart at the seams. She was aware of him all around her, holding her, containing her, and as the memories spilled forth into her consciousness, she was grateful for his presence. Tears poured over her cheeks, and sobs wracked her body as the truth came back to her.
They stayed that way for a long time.
She wasn’t sure who moved first to disturb the equilibrium they had formed with one another. She became aware of the sound of the rain before anything else, but this time. . . this time she knew who she was and what she was doing there.
She had a purpose.
Her fingers probed the puckered, tender flesh of her neck, and she smiled. She turned in his arms, her hand going to his cheek that she knew was wet with tears as well as rain.
“Spike,” she whispered, nudging her nose against his.
He was hesitant, keeping his eyes closed against the still present possibility that they had failed. “Yeah, pet?”
“We did it.”
The words hung between them as they pondered the magnitude of their gamble.
After her friends had visited Beljoxa’s Eye and she had learned that her resurrection was the source of the vulnerability around the Slayer line, she and Spike had devised a logical but somehow half-cocked plan to tip the balance of the forces. If the world no longer had her imprint in exactly the same way, they hoped to decrease the vulnerability around her birthright and somehow be able to gain the upper hand with the First Evil.
The only way to do that was. . .
Their mutual laughter, almost joyous, shattered the silence.
“I almost thought I’d lost you,” he admitted.
She smoothed the wet curls off his forehead. “With a little help from Giles and a little magic from the coven in England, you didn’t. I think it’s safe to say I’ve kept my soul.”
He returned her smile through the drizzle. “Thank god.”
Crossing her arms, she sat back on her heels so that she towered above him. “You didn’t tell me it would take a while to kick in.”
He shrugged. “Didn’t know. This has never been done before as far as I know.”
Her senses were focused on him for the moment, helping her shut out the sights, sounds, and smells all around her. “And I had no idea my soul would be so warm. . . or that everything around me would be humming.”
“Thought you knew when I described it in the church.”
She met his gaze then and viewed the soul burning within him. . . the soul she’d seen so clearly earlier. . . even before tonight. She couldn’t resist. Cupping his cheek, she marveled at the concavity of his cheekbones. Leaning down, she brought her lips to his with the same tenderness she’d shown him when she cut him down from the cave wall. The contact was simple, but she lingered in the connection, feeling the warmth of their souls truly touching for the first time.
She broke away with reluctance. . . but also out of inevitability. “You also didn’t tell me that I’d be so thirsty!” she complained, punching him lightly on his upper arm. “Did you at least bring me some blood?”
Chuckling, he chose not to comment on the kiss. Instead, he went with her levity, “It’s all the way back home. . . with the ole Scooby gang and the bloody tribe of Junior Slayers. They’re eagerly awaiting your return, love. Think you can handle them right now?”
Her eyes glinted, and she rose to her feet, tugging him along with her. Facing the gate, she clasped his hand in hers, her still awakening soul sliding around the newborn demon within her. She slipped on her game face even as her stomach growled in protest.
“I’m the Slayer. I can handle anything.”