Spike slid on the loose, shifting sand and fell to one knee, putting both hands down to steady himself. As he stood up again he brought a handful of sand with him. Moonlight turned the bleached bone whiteness of it to silvery blue as he let the grains fall slowly through his fingers.
The desert night around him was empty, silent and cold as the grave. For miles and miles there was nothing but the barren expanse of sand.. and yet he could feel eyes watching him.. a beast moving on the very edges of his vision.. constantly just out of his direct sight.. following him as he walked and walked through the night without a single thought about his destination.
Spike stopped and frowned. "Wait up.." He said out loud to the emptiness. "Was that an interior monologue or was it third person…?"
"You're dreaming." Tara's voice said evenly from behind him and he turned to face her.
"That explains that then." He replied and promptly gave up trying to figure it out.
Tara stood slightly above him, on a high flanked sand dune.. her tattered and shredded blood red dress fluttered in a wind that seemed to touch only her. She was the only coloured thing on the washed out and silvered desert plain.. beautiful in a light of her own.
"16 candles..." She stated with authority. "..they're watching them burn as everything fades to…"
"Um.. love? Could you just skip to the point..?" Spike cut in impatiently, not that he had anything else to do. He was just getting bored.
"Curb your tongue, lower being!" She spat viciously, suddenly standing at his shoulder with genuine anger on her face. She slapped him hard. Spike stared at her with shock, and a trace of fear, as she reached out and pushed him. He his fell forward onto his hands and knees but Tara moved quickly and placed her bare foot on the back of his neck, forcing his face down into the sand. "You are my slave and you WILL hear me."
She removed the foot and Spike sat up, coughing sand out of his mouth. He stayed on his knees and watched her warily as she stood, calmly now, in front of him.
"16 candles." She said again. "Time's running out, child. 6.. 5…"
A sharp breeze swirled around Spike, knocking him off balance and flat onto his back. He stared up at the dust storm whirling around him. In the distance there was girlish laughter.
"You could never hope to grasp the source of our power." A voice whispered softly on the wind.
The attack came from out of nowhere.. the beast suddenly upon him and him not yet ready for it. It sliced at his body, raking wounds across his face, arms and chest. Spike grabbed at the creature and used all his might to roll them over so he could see his attacker.
Spike stood watching two creatures fighting on a sand dune. It was hard to tell what they were.. two balls of fury in a primitive dance of anger and pain.. he could smell the blood on the night air.
"Who are they?" He asked the night, not expecting an answer.
"Don't you know?" A voice said next to him. Spike turned to see a man he didn't recognise standing there. The man sighed. "The world's full of big, bad things." He gave a small, ironic laugh.
Spike focused his attention back on the fight in front of him.
He's fighting for his life.. hands clawing at him.. pulling at his clothes.. at his hair.. raw passion.. violence.. he's fighting back with everything in him.. but neither are gaining ground.
"It's me." He said flatly.
"Well, yeah." Replied the man beside him mockingly. "That's not the point. Don't you know who you're fighting..?"
Hands everywhere.. flesh against flesh.. biting kisses.. heat.. desire..
"Slayer." Spike stated flatly from his observational position.
He was in a garden. There was sunlight. Spike panicked and ran for the cover of some nearby trees but realised that he wasn't burning up. Cautiously, he stepped back out into the sunlight… a slow smile gradually curving his face into a wide grin. He raised his arms up, examining them in the sunlight.. reveling in not being on fire. The ring on the third finger of his left hand caught his attention. He studied it for a moment, recognition coming quickly.
Spike grinned impossibly wide, threw his head back and laughed.
As the laughter died down to a chuckle he noticed the creaking metallic sound which was drowning out the birdsong. Curious, Spike followed it.
Spike wandered casually through the garden, looking up at the sun every once in a while and chuckling, until he rounded the corner of a large hedge. There he stopped and watched with a slight frown as Giles swung back and forth on a simple child's swingset.
Giles noticed Spike almost immediately.
"Isn't it a beautiful day?" Spike commented with a smile but Giles just frowned.
"Oh dear." He said, taking off his glasses with difficulty and cleaning them. "This is all wrong." Spike opened his mouth to say something but Giles carried on. "You're late. Far too late to do any good now."
"Doing good wasn't what I had in mind." Spike replied with a smirk.
"No," Giles said with a twisted smile. "I don't suppose it was." He jumped off the swing. "Hurry up then.." He beckoned Spike over. "We'll just have to make do."
"What are expecting me to do?" Spike asked warily as he made his way over.
"Well, get on the swing.." Giles frowned as he told him. "Oh, get a move on.. it's the least you can do."
Spike sat down on the swing.. and just sat there.
"No, no, no.." Giles fussed. "You're not helping if you're just sitting." He moved around behind Spike and started pushing him.
"Hey!" Spike cried indignantly, grabbing onto the chains as the Watcher pushed him higher and higher.
"Come on, put your back into it." Giles instructed. "It's got to be constant or it wont work."
"What wont?" Spike asked over his shoulder and Giles pointed above Spike's head.
Looking up Spike could see that the swinging was making a little model of the world go around. It suddenly reminded him of a music box his mother had given him as child and Spike couldn't help but laugh at the memory.
"Hey, that's neat.." He grinned back towards where the Watcher should have been. He'd disappeared.
Spike shrugged and carried on swinging, getting a surprising amount of pleasure from the simple childish act. He spotted Buffy walking towards him.
"Hey Buff!" He called out happily. "D'you want a go..?"
"What are you doing?" She asked warily.
"What do you think I'm doing?" He countered snarkily. "I'm helping.. "
Spike gestured up at the top of swing, at the model of the world going round.
"But it's daylight.." Buffy frowned. "How are you out here?"
Spike didn't stop swinging.. he just held up his left hand, showing off his ring.
"The Gem of Amara?" Buffy gasped. "I thought Angel destroyed that!"
"I can't believe you gave him MY ring!" Spike pouted petulantly. "That was mine!"
"Would you stop with the swinging already!" Buffy yelled suddenly and Spike felt himself fly off the swing and keep going.
Spike crash landed in the center of a dark wood. Night seemed to have fallen with him. He checked his hand and his shoulders sagged.. no ring.
The wood was thick and getting darker all the time but, with his vampire eyesight, Spike could see just fine. He wandered aimlessly unless he heard a sound and decided to follow that.
Spike finally walked into a clearing and found an adorably cute little cottage with a white picket fence and roses growing around the door. His eyes were offended even more by the sight of Xander, in a pink satin evening dress, chopping wood. He couldn't stop the smirk that came to his face and was about to issue a cutting remark when Xander looked up at him with a cheerful smile.. the smirk died with his words.
"Hey Spike.." He called out, laying down the axe. "You know, you just missed Buffy, but it's okay.. Anya's expecting you.. she's inside plotting to kill me!" He grinned stupidly.
"Is that right?" Spike asked warily. "And you're not worried about that at all..?"
"Why worry?!" Xander grinned again. "That's my Ahn. Just don't tell that I know.. it'd ruin the surprise."
"Okay, Fine." Spike said curtly. "I'll just go inside and help her.. you know, with the plotting and all.."
"You do that, you evil dead person, you!" Xander grinned and picked up the axe again. Spike turned to walk into the house when Xander called him back. "Spike..? What do you think of my dress..?"
"Pink's definitely your colour." Spike replied as he went into the house.
"Thanks!" Xander called out cheerfully.
Inside the house was… Spike's crypt. He frowned when he saw it was empty of all the furniture he'd so recently put in.
"Where's my bloody furniture..?" He asked out loud.
"Probably the Bunnies.." Anya replied deadpan. She was sitting on the sarcophagus to his left dressed in a grey velvet catsuit, swinging her legs back and forth and sucking on a lollipop. "Or maybe the kittens.. they're brutal too."
"Yeah, that'll be it!" He rolled his eyes. "The bunnies.."
The room was suddenly filled with a whirlwind of dust that threw Spike back against the wall. Then Tara was there, her hands on his throat and stake at his chest.. her eyes full of fury.
"You're not listening, puppy." She spat. "I told you to listen."
"I am listening!" Spike replied indignantly. "I'm just not making sense of what you're telling me!"
"Then listen harder." She said as she stepped back and clapped her hands.
Spike found himself lost in the woods again.
"Oh, just bloody great!" He shouted to the night in general. That was when he saw the massed ranks of the bunnies coming towards him demolishing everything in their path. His eyes went very wide. "Fucking hell!!!!" He exclaimed and ran as fast as he could in the other direction.
Spike ran and ran, trying to put as much distance as he could between himself and the army of bunnies.. even though he was kicking himself inside for the stupidity of the whole thing. Up ahead he saw Buffy just standing there unaware of the danger they represented. He went with his first impulse and tackled her to the ground. The bunnies flew over their heads and onwards past them.. this time. Spike stood up and watched them go, in case they circled back. He was puffed, out of breath.. even he knew that was wrong somehow.. but he genuinely felt out of breath.
"Sorry Slayer.." He began hurredly. "Just wanted to stop the bunnies from getting you."
He took a look in the direction they'd gone and decided to give chase, see if he could find out more. He ran off.
"Spike? Spike?! Where are you going?" He heard Buffy call after him.. perhaps she didn't see the bunnies. That was bad. "Do you know the way out of this lousy dream?"
Flash. He was standing by her side again.
"What are you asking me for?" He asked, curious and amused that she was dreaming of him as he was dreaming of her.
"Wah!" Buffy jumped and clutched her heart. She thumped him. "You nearly killed me."
"No, love." He replied seriously. "That wasn't me. I'm the other one."
"I'm starting to think you're the key to all this." Buffy commented bitterly.
"I'm not the key to anything, Slayer." He told her sincerely.
In the distance he saw the bunnies returning, so he pushed Buffy out of their path, seeing her disappear through the floor. He wanted to go after her but the bunny army was almost upon him, so he turned and ran again.
This time, as he ran, the world began to melt around him. Dawn stepped out in front of him. He barely stopped before he skidded into her.
"Hi Spike!" She began cheerfully. "Do you like my dress? I had it made special.. I wasn't supposed to have one." She grinned and plucked at the pink satin evening gown.
"You look gorgeous, nibblet." He told her genuinely. It was true. She glowed against the melting background of colours… they faded to black and white, going grey where they mingled. Dawn remained, pink and shining against it.
"Thanks." She beamed in more ways than just smiling. "Are you real?" She changed subject abruptly.
"What else would I be?" He asked without thinking. Then he got it.. she wasn't real. "Ah.. pet, I didn't mean.."
"S'okay." She told him but he caught hurt in her eyes. "I know. 16 candles." She smiled sadly.
"What is it with these bloody candles..?" Spike demanded, his irritation obvious.
"Blow them out and find out." Dawn told him. "You were right, you know, just now with Buffy. You're not the key to anything. Do you know what you are?"
"Since you seem to be knowledge girl today, little bit.. why don't you tell me?" He traced her cheek affectionately with his fingers.
"It's easy really." She replied. "You're the question." Spike frowned. "You're the 'what'? The 'how'? The 'could'? The 'should'? The 'huh'?"
"And the 'what the hell'?" Tara said from behind him. Spike turned to face her. She was still wearing her blood red dress. She smiled affectionately.
"Am I hearing yet?" He asked.
"You could always hear, William.. you just weren't listening." She smiled again. "You've surprised everyone. No one was expecting you."
"I was always here." He answered, not understanding her.
"That's the surprise." She replied.
"A pleasant one." Dawn added, coming around to stand next to Tara. They linked hands, the pink and red a contrast and a compliment. "Where's Willow?"
"6… 5..." Tara began counting down again.
Spike recoiled from the back handed blow directly to his face. He moved to strike back but his hands were tightly tied behind his back. He looked up, gaped at his attacker and swore under his breath.
Boba Fett stood before him.
"Look.." Spike began. "About the threatening to break your neck.. I didn't mean it okay.. it was a joke to get one up on those losers.. Can't we forget about the whole thing..?"
It was hard to gauge Boba Fett's reaction but Spike doubted he was making any headway with the apologies. Heavy breathing filled the quiet that followed Spike's attempt at making his actions disappear. He turned slowly to face the source of the sound, already anticipating what he was going to see.
Darth Vader stood before him. Spike groaned and threw his head back in anguish.
"Will someone PLEASE get me out of the loser nightmare?!!" He whined.
A light touch on his arm calmed him down and he found himself looking at Buffy, who was wearing a gold metal bikini and had currant buns secured to her head by a red ribbon. Her eyes were wide and filled with tears.
"I love you." She told him softly.
"I know." He replied sadly, aching to take her in his arms and kiss her tears away.
Then he was falling, a freezing cold surrounding him.
Spike blinked. Darkness had descended. He was sitting down.
"Popcorn..?" Xander's voice offered from next to him.
Spike looked around as his eyes adjusted to the new light level. He was sitting in some sort of tiered seating with Xander in the seat beside him. Far down below was a vast stage but only a small part was lit. A tiny pinpoint of light in a vast darkness. He could just about make out Buffy and Willow, wearing identical dresses, standing in the circle of light. Pink satin really didn't suit Willow.
Candles outlined the circle.. eleven dark.. five still burning. What would happen when they were blown out..?
Spike dismissed the thought and concentrated on Xander, who was still pointing a carton of popcorn in his direction. He looked closer and found blood on the popcorn. Looking over at Xander he saw the source.. there was blood on Xander's hands.
"There's blood on your hands.." Spike told him.
"It's only vampires.." Came the off hand answer. Xander smiled at him. They don't matter.." He didn't look at all apologetic as he said. "No offense."
"None taken." Spike replied. "What's happening?" He gestured at the stage.
"Great show, isn't it?" Xander didn't answer the question.
"Shouldn't we be helping them…?" Spike frowned at the boy's inactivity.
"We will.. but not right now." He replied abstractly.
Spike watched as Tara, Willow and Anya joined the group in the light. All the women, while the men sat on the sidelines and ate blood splattered popcorn.
"Isn't it time yet?!" Spike demanded, impatient as always.
"Maybe you should go." Xander answered. "You ARE late already.. just don't make things worse." He cautioned.
Spike got up and began to clamber his way down over the seats. The audience seemed divided.. some helped him find the way.. others tried to stop him. He finally reached the stage and made his way through the darkness.
He arrived on the edge of the light in time to hear Tara say. "The sun's already come up.. but there's still a little time left."
"Where are the kittens?" Willow asked. "Have you seen the kittens, Buffy?"
"You missed it." Dawn said, stepping into the light from the other side to Spike. "They're all grown up now."
"Not all." Buffy said firmly. "I let one get by me. I lost one."
"I would love to take you on." Spike stepped into the light and Buffy span around to face him, throwing a punch at his head. He grinned, getting out of the way before the blow connected. "A Slayer with family and friends." He grinned. "That wasn't in the brochure."
Spike stepped back in shock as Buffy abruptly disappeared.. then things happened rapidly. Willow growled at Spike, then spun to face Dawn and Tara. Anya gasped and fell to the floor. Dawn clutched at Tara and the candles blew out.. to leave pitch darkness.
"Dawn? Tara?" Spike asked into the empty darkness, panic rising in his voice.
Spike sat up in bed, gasping reflexively. He reached out blindly for his cigarettes. Finding them, he pulled one out, lit it and sank back down onto the bed to take many succesive drags. Spike stared at the ceiling, replaying the dream in his head.
"16 candles." A voice whispered in his head.