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The Edge

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   Buffy was sleeping when the smell started to permeate her dreams enough to wake her. Something smokey and heady, sweet but sort of sickly. An incense, maybe, or... or... a spell....

   It did seem like she was sick, or drugged. She felt mostly paralyzed, but if she fought like a dog she could open her eyes. They would flicker and then flicker back, and someone... someone was in her room... someone....

   “Shh, now, darlin’,” said a voice. A velvet voice she remembered that was tainted somehow in her mind. “What are you doing with your eyes open? Here....” He brought something close to her face, something burning dimly in the pre-dawn light. “Breathe that in, now. We can’t have you waking up fully. We’ve only got a little time here.” Only a little time? Before... before what...?

   Before he had to get back underground. Because this was Angel, the man was Angel, she knew him, she loved him, she remembered him. And he wasn’t a threat, he was Angel, he was....

   But he wasn’t the same anymore. He had changed. He’d lost his soul, become evil, become.... He’d become a killer again. But he wasn’t dangerous. Not to her. He’d never hurt her, right? For the same reason she couldn’t kill him, he hadn’t killed her. He hadn’t. He wouldn’t. He was....

   He was sliding his tongue down her body, while his hand slipped up under her nightdress. And she couldn’t raise her arms....

   She wanted to be confused about what he was doing, but it was so clear to her. He’d taken her before, and now he was taking her again, when she was helpless and paralyzed and couldn’t move. Her breath came tighter and she wanted to fight him off, because no, this wasn’t what she wanted. Not now! She tried and tried again, fighting the stupor, trying to force her body to work, but it wasn’t working... it wasn’t working....

   But it was working. She couldn’t move her body, but it was most certainly working. Because where Angel had found himself, where his tongue was, she could feel it. She felt as he pulled out her tampon, chuckling as it released her interior. Ew, gross, gross, he was after her blood as well as her...? But he licked at the blood, snacking on it, sucking harder and harder on her secret parts and she...

   No. No no no, no, it wasn’t supposed to be like this! This was what she dreamed, but it wasn’t what she wanted. It wasn’t... he wasn’t... Angel wasn’t the same anymore and he....

   Her body didn’t seem to be listening to anything she told it to do. She couldn’t move her arms, she couldn’t close her legs, and she couldn’t for the life of her force the feeling of swelling pleasure out of her body as Angel slathered her with his tongue. She could breathe... but that was about it. And as she breathed a tiny moan escaped with her breath, a grunt, a sigh, and Angel looked up, his chin red with her spillings, and grinned at her through pointed teeth. She saw his face in flickers as she forced her eyes open.

   “Enjoying that, Buffy? Are you?” He shifted over her bed, and he wasn’t... he wasn’t wearing.... He had pulled down his....

   The grunt she gave next was one of pain as he shoved himself inside her, as harshly as he could. She was slick because he’d made her so, but she was still young – too young for this, really – and she’d only done it the once....

   Except it didn’t feel like this had happened only the once. And she couldn’t lift her arms, and she couldn’t do more than moan, and what happened with all those other dreams of this, this, this, as Angel came night after night and stripped her and fucked her and why wasn’t she fighting him, and why wouldn’t her arms work? And he looked so beautiful over her, and then so horrible, his brown eyes yellow, his fine forehead harsh with vampiric ridges, his mouth that she so so wanted to kiss, full of evil fangs, and he pushed himself into her, pulse, pulse, pulse....

   “Are you finally going to remember this?” Angel whispered down at her. “How many nights before it dawns on you that you’ve been mine this whole time?” Pulse, pulse, pulse.... “Drusilla, she thinks it’s cute. Watching me do to you what I did to her. Break you like I did her.” Pulse, pulse....

   “Didn’t have to use magic smoke to quell her body, though. When I came to her, all I had to do was hold her down, night after night. She was easy. So weak and human.... Not like you. But your strength can’t save you. You’re too much in love with me, and you know it.” He ground himself into her. “If you didn’t want this, you’d have figured out how to keep me out before now. You know magic. You know what I am....”

   Pulse, pulse, pulse....

   “You know you can’t keep me out.”

   Pulse. Pulse.

   “You’re mine, Buffy.  You brought me back to myself. You loved me back into what I really am. I’m going to love you right back to what you are....” He was excited now, his voice throaty with passion. “The victim you know you are...!”

   He must have come, then, because he grunted and stiffened, making a move that was almost a dive for her throat. “Not yet,” he grunted through clenched fangs. “Not... yet....” He paused and gasped for a long moment, and then smiled down at her with a look so evil she could swear her heart stopped for a moment. “Must thank you for returning me my patience. Cursed soul couldn’t ever wait for what it wanted.” He licked Buffy’s mouth with his bloodstained tongue. “I know how to draw it out now I’m myself again,” he whispered.  

   Buffy was having trouble keeping her eyes open. She tried to raise her arms again, to shove him off, but he was having none of it, and everything was so still... so heavy... so....

   He left her. His weight left her body, his sounds wandered across the room. The sun was rising, he had to go, and it was over, it was over, so... why wasn’t she glad? She wanted him back inside. She wanted him to finish her. He hadn’t done it right, he’d only taken his and left her on the edge like this... wanting it... not wanting it... hating it, loving it, wanting more, wanting it never to have happened at all....

   In a few weeks she’d wake up with his sketch of her sleeping form on her pillow. It wasn’t until the sketch of her mother that Buffy would finally instigate the disinvite, and keep Angelus out of her house. Forever, she had assumed at the time. Before that he’d still been invited... invited... into her heart, her home, her bedroom. Why had she left him invited, when she knew what he was now...?

   The door opened, he came back to her bed, his weight full beside her, his cool hand on her chest, and the touch was like a spell had been lifted. Her eyes finally opened completely, and she found herself not in her bedroom in Sunnydale in 1998, but in her own bedroom at home, the one she shared with Spike, and the body in the bed beside her was not Angel but her own boyfriend, and he’d placed his hand on her chest, on her breastbone, like he usually did when he woke her, and his cool skin felt great, and she pushed him off roughly.

   Spike held his hands up instantly, looking innocent. “Sorry, love. You were dreaming.” He smiled, his eyes soft and seductive. “Seemed hot. Thought I might step in.”

   She hadn’t been dreaming . That wasn’t a dream, strictly speaking. It wasn’t unheard of, she knew what it was. Sleep-paralysis, Old Agnes, or the Old Hag, a demonish-dream caused by half waking, her body still paralyzed but her consciousness aware. Her mind was scared by being unable to move, and supplied the scary accompaniment to try and wake her properly. As a demon slayer she’d been called in to hunt down imaginary creatures that didn’t actually exist a few times, from victims of this perfectly human and non-supernatural phenomenon. Giles had explained it to her. She’d known about it since her high-school days.

   Which explained half of it. Not the other half.

   Spike had woken her from sexy dreams before, taking well-earned advantage of her mind supplying cheap foreplay and finishing her off with some very satisfying actual sex. She wanted this time to be different... and it didn’t feel different... and that bothered her.

   It bothered her a lot.

   She was really turned on. Just incredibly, her body flushed, her clit swollen, her pussy slippery and almost leaking. Was her period starting? It was about the right time, and the dream indicated it might be. She and Spike actually had negotiated fun ways of working with her cycle, usually after showers and with preparations beforehand. It was kinda cute how he enjoyed it, and so long as she didn’t have to look at it or taste it herself or anything it didn’t bug her. (She was a woman, and a slayer. She was used to blood, even old, impure blood.) But this thing... dreaming of Angel... and not the innocent Angel sex-dreams, but one of the ugly ones. One of the ugly ones, and very real....

   But she wasn’t there now. She wasn’t seventeen, too innocent, and sexually confused now. And Spike was hers, and he was right beside her, and he was hers. All hers.

   She grabbed him by the t-shirt and dragged him closer, pulling him into a kiss. “Mm, yeah,” she said, gripping him hard. “Do it. Do it hard.”

   She flipped him over atop her, and ooh, that was convenient, she’d slept naked. Spike had his pants down quickly and then he was inside her, and oh, good, that was good. She dragged on him, driving him in harder, more fiercely, as she flexed under him.

   “Oh, Christ,” Spike breathed as she squeezed him in every way possible. He was suddenly panting, and he hadn’t had to do much in the way of exertion yet.

   “Harder,” she breathed up at him. “Harder!”

   He wasn’t being hard enough. She put her hands between them, scrubbing at her clit as he filled her, desperate to just get that release already, she had no interest in drawing this out. She didn’t want to be feeling like this in the first place, not with how she’d gotten here.

   Except it felt good.

   Spike was staring down at her, marginally flummoxed, but game. Her hands adding friction had made it hard not to come almost instantly, and when she finally came with a desperate grunt, and he allowed himself to follow suit. That had been lots faster than he’d anticipated. He stared down at her, panting. “Fuck, Buffy,” he whispered.

   Buffy gazed up at him, her face troubled.

   “You okay?”

   “Yeah,” she whispered. “I’m fine. I just....” She swallowed.

   Spike leaned down and nuzzled her face. He would have kissed her, but she subtly turned her head away, still holding him warmly. Instead he whispered to her gently. “What’s the matter, love?”

   Buffy lay there for a moment, feeling the weight of her lover, breathing in his scent, confused by herself. But it wasn’t his fault, this thing in her head. And she had a lead where it might have come from. “I’m afraid we might have botched that spell for Dawn.”

 

***

 

   That “spell for Dawn” had been something Willow had performed the night before, after Dawn came home from one of her classes and started to cry during dinner.

   College was complicated, and she was in a psych class just like Buffy had been. They had been having a lecture on reality and perception, and one of Dawn’s classmates had confessed to the class that she’d been given a diagnosis of schizophrenia the year before. “Before anyone freaks out, yes, I take my meds, and no, even if I didn’t I’m not dangerous. Not to anyone but me, anyway.” The classmate had then gone on to explain that the freakiest part about the disorder wasn’t dogs trying to tell her to kill anyone or anything, or even weird voices or hallucinations of things jumping out at her. It was that she’d gone undiagnosed for almost a year after the hallucinations had started, and for a long time she didn’t know what had or hadn’t been real.

   The voices she’d heard and the things she’d experienced hadn’t been so different from reality, and had often taken the voices of people she knew and was living with. So in many cases, she didn’t know whether someone had said something or confessed something or if she’d just hallucinated it. She had a whole year of her life where she didn’t know whether what she remembered had happened or not.

   As Dawn had explained this story she wept into her plate as she explained, “And she didn’t... know... what... what was r-real!

   Everyone had been a little confused. What was so horrible about that? It wasn’t Dawn’s problem, right? They kept asking Dawn, who couldn’t explain why she was crying about it. “I don’t know, I don’t know!” she kept saying. It was Spike who had finally sussed where Dawn’s horror was coming from.

   “Well, it’s the same as you, innit?” Spike asked Dawn when he’d realized no one had finished eating and come in to see what was what. “I get it. Dawn can’t remember what’s real, either.”

   There had been a loud, “Oooh!” in unison as the penny dropped, and then everyone had stood around in consternation as they tried to figure out what to do about it.

   “Well... I can sort that,” Willow finally said. “Easy.”

   Everyone looked at her.

   “H-how?”

   “Just a spell,” Willow said lightly.

   “Uh... Will?” Xander asked. “This isn’t one of those things where you say something’s easy, and then you do it, and it all blows up in our face later, is it?”

   “No, this one really is easy,” Willow said. “Look, the monks shoved Dawn into our memories, right? That means our original memories are still there, Dawn’s sort of overlaid over the top of them. All I need to do is go into a trance, find the place where all our overlays match, and that’s the point where Dawn got put in for reals. There’s enough of us here who remember Dawn to triangulate a memory point.”

   “A-and I’d know when I came, then?” Dawn asked. “We’d know what was real?”

   “Of course.”

   “There’s no way this could erase our memories of her, could it?” Buffy asked. “Because I want those memories. I love my Dawn memories.”

   “No, I wouldn’t be touching them, just looking at them,” Willow said. “I mean, some other memories might come up, too, because when you shine a light on anything it looks shinier, but mostly we’ll just know exactly when the Dawn memories came in.”

   “Well, we know when it was roughly , right?” Xander asked. “Can’t we just look then? It was about the start of your second year of college, wasn’t it?”

   “Yeah, that helps, but you want to know exactly , right?”

   “Yeah....”

   “So, it would help if you all looked at just about everything you remember. Free associate. The truth will rise up as you do it.”

   “You won’t be reading our memories completely, right?” Xander asked. “I have a few secrets in there.”

   Everyone looked at him, instantly suspicious.

   “Hey, look, no one wants to know my favorite sex position, do they?”

   “Anya already told everyone,” Dawn said with a tearful grin, and Xander blushed.

   “No, only you’ll be looking at your memories,” Willow said. “ I’m just looking for repetitions in the patterns. That good? Everyone game?”

   “What’s this entail?” Buffy asked. “Spell ingredients? Chants? Incantations?”

   “Oh, it’s dire,” Willow said, sitting back down at the table. “Meditation.”

   “That’s it?”

   “That’s it. I barely have to use any magic, I don’t even need a book. It’s just that thing I do when I mind-speak, only I do all of us at once. See? No danger-spells. Someone want to turn on a meditation tape?”

   Xander turned on a CD of ocean waves, everyone including Spike sat down around the table, Willow lit a candle in the center just for something for people to focus their eyes on if they couldn’t keep them closed, and they all meditated on memories of Dawn for half an hour. It was actually sort of fun. Certainly relaxing.

   Buffy had felt Willow flickering through her head now and again, and she kept bringing her mind back to memories of Dawn. Other memories did find themselves cropping up – her mom and dad, memories of Tara or Anya, moments with Angel or Riley, fights with various big bads, Giles, Spike, Xander and Willow, the whole gang, happy moments and silly ones, Thanksgiving or Christmas or Dawn’s birthday, good and bad things, but she mostly focused on the good.

   After a little while Willow said, “That’s it, I got it.” Everyone opened their eyes, Willow turned to Dawn and said, “Dawn? The first memory of you that everyone has came up just after Dracula was in town. Which means everything that happened after that? Absolutely real.”

   And Dawn had smiled. She knew exactly where the cut off was, not just some vague “six months before you found out about it.” All the memories were clear. She knew if what she remembered was real or not, and she could treasure the not-real memories as just bonus gifts of a life. It had made Dawn feel much better.

   And Buffy had been happy for her, her little sister, with all her memories exposed and clear and labeled.

   She had been glad. Until now.