Dedication: This short series is for Thia for the anniversary of our friendship! *hugs* We’ve been friends for a year now! ;o) The story is also for dear Ami whose deep and thought-provoking poetry inspires me.
There was a world in a distant time
The world of fear, the world of pain
It was part of my life in a picture frame
That I left behind like a summer rain
I’m not sorry for the choices I’ve made
I’m not apologizing for the mistakes too
But I do miss the one that means a lot
And by “the one”. . . I mean it’s you
Now the new days might go by
And the new nights might come still
But you stay in my mind and forever you will
–“Ghostly Lover” by Ami, July 2003
Spike made it out. . . out of that crater, out of Sunnydale, out of the grasping jaws of death.
I’ve never been more certain about anything.
I *feel* his presence before I ever set eyes on him again.
The feeling is sort of similar to gut reaction I used to get when Angel was nearby. . . the nagging prick in my heart that refuses to be extinguished.
Until now, I hadn’t realized that I don’t get that feeling about Angel anymore. He could round the corner right now, and I wouldn’t feel the slightest tingle in warning.
Yeah, I do still *love* Angel, but it’s different now.
It’s the kind of love that’s faded, worn, and used. . . like the cover of a well-read book. . . the kind of love that rouses only sometimes. . . when brown unexpectedly meets green.
In contrast, the emotion that radiates from behind Spike’s unwavering cerulean gaze is almost tangible. . . bright, inextinguishable. . .
. . . like an undying flame. . .
that sears my heart, leaving a brilliant brand that makes me gasp aloud.
Whenever I have thoughts like these, I’m struck by how different Spike and Angel are.
“What’s wrong, Buffy?” Willow asks, rolling over in her bed across the room and dragging a sluggish hand across the white plane of her forehead and brushing a rivulet of scarlet from her blinking eyes.
Silver moonlight is swathing the room I share with Willow. I offer her a smile to cover up the evidence of my sharp inhalation. “Nothing, Will. Go back to sleep.”
Willow’s worried brow smoothes out once again. “You sure?”
“Yeah.” My legs swing over the edge of the bed as if they have a mind of their own. The motel carpet is thick and soft beneath my feet that sink deep and form tiny craters in the fibers as I pad to the door.
As I curl my fingers around the collar of my new pink robe, Willow repeats, “You sure?” There’s a pause as she lifts her head like a tortoise peeking up at me from a shell of blankets. Then, “where are you going?”
“Out for a bit,” I reply, tugging my arms through the encasing sleeves.
“What for?” she asks.
Sometimes I wonder if Willow’s connection with the earth allows her to penetrate minds. . . or if she somehow is adept at blocking out the voices of the masses. Once I had Sunnydale’s stream of consciousness in my brain, and the pain was beyond any reason. . . beyond any form of control. She must have a strong shield because I can’t fathom having to constantly fight the thoughts of everyone in the world.
“Just to get out of my head,” I finally respond.
“Thoughts of Spike again?” She knows me too well.
“Yeah.” At Willow’s lifted eyebrows, I add, “I’ll be fine.” I grip the stake on the counter and wave it a bit at her. “Got my weapon. Got my bathrobe. Safe *and* warm. Who could ask for more?”
“I could ask for safe and warm *in my bed,*” Willow protests, her hand coming over the comforter as if she’s reaching for me, beckoning me to stay.
The lure of warm sheets is tempting. The pull elsewhere is stronger. “I can’t. Not now.”
Willow sighs. “All right. Be safe?”
“Always,” I assure. “We’ll have pancakes in the morning.”
Settling back into blissful unawareness, my best friend murmurs, “Pancakes. Yum.”
A smile momentarily traces my lips.
Then, the night summons, and I react, changing quickly into the outfit I’ve hidden in the brush, so Willow won’t know what I do.
Haunting the streets of Los Angeles in the darkest hours has become my new pastime. . .
. . .my new passion.
When emotions and thoughts fill me to the brim and threaten to spill over into areas of my life I’d rather they not touch, I find relief in fighting evil forces. . . no matter how thin the ranks.
I don’t remember how many nights I’ve been out alone. At first, Angel tried to follow me. . . to make sure I was okay.
In no uncertain terms, I told him to go away.
He didn’t listen.
The second time he interfered, he got an earful of my barely contained emotion. He was interrupting my flow. . . my continuity. I couldn’t handle someone else doing that. . . not right now.
I haven’t seen him since on my nightly journeys. Doesn’t mean he’s not there. . . just means he doesn’t hinder me anymore. . . like a giant anchor. . .
. . . released.
However, tonight is an exception.
I reach my destination, unwavering hand reaching for the door handle ready to swing open Pandora’s box.
Angel glides in front of my goal.
Earnest dark eyes wide and his forehead wrinkling with concern, he speaks, “Buffy, that’s a whole nest of vamps in there.”
Hands fly to hips. “So?” My retort conveys my annoyance quite effectively, I believe.
“You can’t take them all by yourself.”
“I *can.*” I lean closer to him. He smells of the sweet innocence of my youth, and I’m no longer young despite my outward appearance. There’s a certain type of nostalgia in that, but nostalgia isn’t the same as. . .
He matches my move, and I’m reminded that he’s no longer naïve either. “I know why you’re doing this, Buffy, and trust me, it’s not healthy for you. It’s not good for you to dwell in the darkness.”
He *thinks* he knows.
He’s the clueless man at the poker table where everyone knows who has which cards. And he only knows his own hand.
It’s for sure that he doesn’t know mine.
In his mind, he’s comparing me to Faith.
But I’m not Faith; I’m not fighting the odds for the rush of the fight. . . to make myself feel worthy of anything. . . to make myself feel whole.
I decide to tell him straight. “No, no, you don’t know what’s healthy for me. I’ll always love you, but you haven’t known what I need for a long time now.”
His shock at my bold words leaves him as paralyzed as a deer cornered by a wildcat. With the instincts of a predator, I bring my leg solidly up with enough force to knock him aside.
Groaning, he stumbles and re-gathers his balance as I swiftly open the door, enter my target, and shut the barrier behind me. Lighting the torch I’ve brought with me using Spike’s old cigarette lighter, I sweep the room, eyes falling on a nearby chair. Swiftly, I jam the object beneath the door handle, successfully prohibiting Angel from further interference.
The noises I’ve made rouse the sleeping undead, and I whirl back around with my knees slightly bent in ready position. My face is a mask of determination. Now, I will get what I need.
A voice bellows out of the shadows, “Who dares wake us fr. . .”
“From your beauty sleep?” I toss the torch from my right hand to my left and sling forth a stake from my jacket sleeve. Pasty pale vampires begin to emerge and advance on me. “‘Cause well, it doesn’t seem like it’s working very well for you. You tried Mary Kay?”
The owner of the voice smiles wickedly, flashing me a pearly pointy. “Little girl Slayers shouldn’t come looking for trouble. They don’t know what they’re getting into.” The rest of the vampires provide a chorus of mocking laughter that only fuels the energetic buzz flowing over me.
It amazes me how fast word of the Slayers-in-Training-Now-Slayers has spread among the demon community.
“Not just any little girl,” I correct, launching myself at the nearest vampire with a flying kick, staking his neighbor with the non-flaming end of the torch.
For half a second, the demons freeze in their tracks like someone hit the pause button on the VCR.
Suddenly, one of the vampires recognizes me. “*Buffy,*” he growls, trying to make up for the others’ ignorance.
“Right you are. . . Buffy Summers. . . in the flesh.”
My words send a tremor through the throng, and I quickly count ten to twelve heads in the dim torchlight. I have my work more than cut out for me, and I’m thrilled.
Without further hesitation, the fight begins in earnest, and I soon find that I’m earning ownership of the battle. Using every ounce of my strength, I fling myself into the fray, using ratty furniture as sometimes shields and punching and kicking my way through the responding vermin.
The combined power from our preternatural strength bounces off the walls in perfect rhythm, and I deliberately slow down and speed up my movements to draw out the fray. . . to delay dusting them.
They give no sign of noticing, but I know that they’re fighting in vain because I’m controlling every aspect of the fight. Their panic upsurges as they begin to fatigue and as I begin to get the best of them.
This is the part of the exercise that I enjoy the most.
Because in between the disgruntled cries of the enemy and the strain of my screaming muscles, I *feel* his presence. . .
. . . Spike’s presence.
The feeling is distinct from anything I’ve felt before.
I can’t compare the emotion to the sharp ache that came with killing Angel. . . the shocked numbness that came with my mother’s unexpected death. . . the unequivocal acceptance of my own death. . . or the post-traumatic horror of my return from the grave. These events are pale in my mind. . . almost as if they never happened. They’re the kind of memories that remain black and white and gray in my thoughts.
The truth is that when I fight, something comes alive inside me. . . something Spike was always nagging me to embrace.
I never quite understood what he meant. . .
. . . not until that day in the cavern when his light. . . his soul saved the world.
The fight isn’t about darkness or pushing it back. . . it’s about spreading the light.
And that’s immensely easier than fighting the never-ending battle I was fighting to stop the evil. . . stop the night. The night will never end, but it can’t extinguish the light either.
Acknowledging this gives me a freedom I never thought possible.
Embracing the light within myself has granted me a fuel and a fire that I’ve never had and allows me to dance with renewed strength.
And sometimes. . .
. . . sometimes in the sweet oblivion of the tango between good and evil, I find him there with me. . . . I hear the sounds of his grunts and excitement as he guards my back. I see the flash of white-blond in the corner of my eye. I catch a faint whiff of cigarettes emanating from his clothing. I discover him watching me with glowing azure eyes, appreciating the hidden strength of my slight-appearing muscles as I dance for him. . . as I pound and kick and. . . slay.
Then, I offer him a grin as if to say. . . see what I’m doing?
I’m sharing my light.
And each time I fight, I feel myself drawing closer. . .
. . . closer to finding him.
The voices barely penetrate my brain, but I slowly push aside the heavy curtain of sleep in attempt to make sense of the world.
A door scrapes against tile as it is forced open. I open my eyes a slit, and light from the outer world streams inside. Is it already daylight? I decide that I can’t tell.
Footsteps move in the vicinity of where I lay.
A female voice resonates, “You sure she’s in here, Angel?”
Willow. . . that’s Willow.
No one responds to her query.
Another voice. . . distinctly British. . . intones next, “The dreams of Spike are getting stronger?”
“Yeah,” Willow confirms Giles’s words. “They are. She’s going out every night now. She’s been having prophetic dreams about him. . . she thinks. That’s why I started sleeping in the same room with her. They were scaring Dawnie.”
I hear a noise closer to me than the two talking, but I dismiss it. My hand tightens around an object in my palm. I’ve forgotten what it is, but I know it’s important.
“I’m worried about her, Giles,” Willow continues, and for the first time, I notice the flashlight beams panning around. “She goes out and fights these battles and comes home all bruised and bloody and won’t explain what happened except to say that she’s certain Spike was there fighting with her.”
I remember that Giles has been out of the country. He was supposed to get in tomorrow. Or is today tomorrow? My legs draw up involuntarily.
Giles is thoughtful, “I’m not sure what could be causing such vivid. . . for lack of a better term. . . hallucinations. I know she had strong feelings for him, but. . .”
“Maybe she finally snapped. The weight of all the loss and pain. . . maybe it fell on her shoulders when she didn’t have to bear the burden of being the only Chosen One. You know. . . it’s kind of like when she went into herself when she lost Dawn to Glory that time. Maybe she. . . .”
Giles interrupts her, and he sounds as if he’s trying to convince himself of an explanation for my behavior, “She finds safety in the oblivion that she lets herself slip into. I’ve been there myself. . . when I lost. . . someone I love, and I think she’ll snap out of it eventually. She’s grieving.”
Willow and Giles are desperate. They don’t understand that Spike is *alive.*
With each dream. . . with each battle, I almost reach my destination. . . almost grasp his. . .
A hand grasps my calf, and I jolt up with a sharp intake of air, eyes wide.
The owner of the hand has a grim face. “Buffy. Are you okay?”
I open my mouth to let Angel know that I’m fine, but no sound comes out.