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Try Not to Breathe

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I will try not to breathe
I can hold my head still with my hands at my knees
These eyes are the eyes of the old, shiver and fold
I will try not to breathe
This decision is mine. I have lived a full life
and these are the eyes I want you to remember. Oh
I need something to fly over my grave again
I need something to breathe
I will not try to burden you
I can hold these inside. I will hold my breath
until all these shivers subside,
just look into my eyes
I will try not to worry you
I have seen things that you will never see
Leave it to memory me. I shudder to breathe.

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Humble, hunkered down, he takes another step out of the
darkness. The inky blackwell of his soul weighs down every
breath. He expects to keep hitting the ground. Over and over
as all the dreaded evil is pounded out of him, one little piece
at a time. He wouldn't be suprised if it took forever then
started all over again with another lashing in the deepest pits
of Hell. He wants to remember. Not the people he has killed
(hundreds, thousands maybe..) nor the evil he has inflicted
("I'll make you feel it!" Buffy...gods, fucking *Buffy* naked
and bleeding on the cold tile floor where he left her last...),
but if there has been any semblance of good or real love in
his life. He thinks a hundred years back to his poor widowed
mother and recalls a tiny woman full of grace and good
humor. Life was full of hugs and her light cinnamon scent
and the faint whisper of goodnight kisses against his
youthful cheek. He closes his eyes and brushes his face
against the well-worn comforter of which he has burrowed
into. And that is when the lovely images come to a screeching
halt, because all he can smell now is Joyce. The humungous
blanket is *steeped* in her scent and he wonders again why
Dawn ever thought to save him. It's something of a disease in
the Summers women, he notes silently. Joyce. Buffy. Dawn.
What did they see in him that was so precious? So worth
keeping? He can't think of a good answer to that and he won't
ask the bit 'cause all she'll do is cast him a dark look. One
that will make him want to shut up forever. He doesn't want
her forgiveness and she isn't giving him *any* slack. The
tension drenched silence filling the car attests to that. They
haven't been speaking much anyway. He holds his breath,
stops the unconscious up and down rhythm of his chest,
giving the impression that he is asleep. He tries not to cry in
her presence. And when he feels it coming on he'll burrow
down into Joyce's blanket and weep to himself. To all the
ghosts that fill his mind. Arms full of half-moon shapes
because of constantly digging his fingernails into the pliant
flesh. A momentary catharsis. If he has nothing else in the
world, he at least has himself to hold onto. Dawn has been
ignoring him for the past two days they have been on the
road, going nowhere. Going down. *Tenth floor: Denial and
retribution. Please step off all those wishing to be saved!*
She takes only the slightest effort to keep him alive, feeding
him cold blood that he wonders how she acquired. Knowing
her klepto past, though, he wouldn't put it past the girl to have
raided the SunnyDale blood bank before departing. He never
asks. Just sits and yearns for peaceful oblivion. In any form.
Yet he wouldn't sleep, even if he could. The pain still gnaws,
stirring up his remaining fragile sanity.

When he sleeps, he dreams of fire.

The only thing bothering him now, besides the incessant
voices and Dawn's endless chain-smoking, is the music
wafting through the car. He doesn't recognise the group. It's
something recent and heavy and not quite melodic. The
singer, in his best estimation, sounds like a human being
flayed alive. He pulls the comforter off of his head and risks
a look at Dawn, his ferryman(woman) out of Styx. The first
thought that comes to mind is that she is, quite frankly, the
*weirdest* driver he has ever known. Not reckless or
inattentive, just *strange*. At the current moment she has
her left leg pulled up and braced against the dash as her right
hand lazily grips the wheel by *itself*. She's clearly never
even heard of "ten" and "two", he thinks. But she never takes
her eyes off the road. Except when shooting a furtive glance
in his direction, maybe to make sure he won't suddenly
decide to jump out the side door or roll down his window to
take another chance with the sun. He has to admire her
initiative, though. She's even had the car windows tinted so he
won't burst into flames when the daylight comes knocking.
Such foresight, such infinite patience. Nothing like her sister.
He's never ridden in a vehicle with the elder sibling, but he
has heard the tales. He could see the tiny blonde Slayer, chest
pressed against the steering wheel because her short legs
could barely reach the pedals. Hands *always* at ten and
two, because it was just her way. Trying to make everything
perfect, which it certainly wouldn't be. Evidenced by the
jerking stops and trepidatious left turns and the screams
coming from the passenger side. It is the first warm thought
he has had for months, if he excludes his previous yearning
to await the sun's celestial kiss. But the things (people, places,
dark dark deeds) he has momentarily forgotten come rushing
back, flooding his synapses until all he wants to do is explode.
He tries to hold it in, hold them down, but the tiniest moan
escapes his lips filling the car with the sound of its sorrow.
They both know what is to come next as his eyes glaze over
and he travels to a world only he can see. The rambling. The
nonsensical chattering.

"There are things. There...are...things. There are more
things...It's-" He turns to Dawn, staring out into her own
nowhere, gracefully still. "And you weren't one of them. It's
wrong." Now gripping his peroxide dipped mane and pulling
in frustrated anger. "*I'm* wrong. I had plans. Plans, but..."
He gazes at the girl with wide little boy lost eyes. "They told
me I was wrong, you know. He was right. *Always* right.
In here. *Always* in here. You better leave, 'cause there's
No. More. Room! No vacancy. They won't have it." He
waves a finger in the direction of what only he can see. "Stop
laughing! No...Stop-- *You* GO TO HELL!"

"Spike!" Dawns voice pulls him back into reality, her next
words muttered through a haze of clove smoke, full of an
exhausted irritation. "Shut the fuck up, will you?"

He laughs an insane laugh because it's all he can think of to
do. That, and dig himself deeper into his "Joyce" cocoon,
biting nails that have already been worn to the nub. It's the
music that gets him angry again and he reaches out an
emaciated hand to turn the volume down. This only succeeds
in making Dawn the angry one, however.

"Hey! I was listening to that!" She risks a long glare in his
direction and uses her left hand to steer while wrenching the
button back up into its original position.

It's all he can do not to break down again. He grits his teeth,
knowing it's not his place to give Dawn orders, but his old
bombastic self emerges as he quietly ponders, "Bit, don't you
have any *soothing* music?"

Her brow furrows in a mixture of consternation and
stubborness as only a teenager's could do. "What the hell do
you have against Guano Apes?"

Spike straightens himself the best he can in his cramped seat,
speaking with mock English gravity. "Nothing if you like
pure shite. Their lead girl sounds as if she's got rocks stuck
in her gob. It's not personal, it's just-"

Dawn sighs and presses the CD eject button, taking the disk
out and placing it back into its visor holder. "Making you
crazy." She glances at his disheveled form once more. "-er."

She pops in another CD and the cramped space is filled with
ethereal chants, barely audible as a beautiful soprano
stretches lyrics out over delicate music. It almost makes
Spike fall asleep, but he starts when his eyelids begin to fill
with a delicious drowsiness. He suddenly realises that
another voice besides the singer's has picked up the hypnotic
tune. Through slit eyes he watches Dawn as she croons
along, slightly entranced by her soulful (heh *soulful*. It's
just everywhere isn't it?) singing. Right hand on the wheel,
she uses her left to trace a lazy pattern in the air. He can think
of nothing more beautiful at the moment, all notions of
badness and rotting fear put aside for the moment. He
doesn't know why she sought him out. Why she sings to
him. Why she comforts him still. She is weaving a type of
magic for him, even though he doubts she knows it. He is
soothed into a half-sleep where all other thought ceases and
only the song remains. He wants it to last forever, this peace.
But she does not allow him to fall. Into the dank recesses of
nothingness. Into deep slumber where the flames would
surely consume.

Her sigh splits the air as he lets a single tear fall. "Maybe
you ought to-" The sentence drops as Dawn screws up her
face, her courage, trying to find the right words.

Spike knows what is coming, has seen it on the horizon for a
long while. *You don't live forever without learning a thing
or two.* But she is hesitating too long and he speaks, fearing
the loss of the moment. "Ought to what?" He spits out the
words, carefully enunciating each one through clenched teeth.

And the floodgates open. Dawn lets out her frustrations, her
own little demon, and he permits the words to sink in. "Own
up. Admit you did some pretty awful things and feel bad for
them, Spike. And then just fucking *forgive* yourself."

He sits in shocked silence. It was the last thing he had
expected to hear from the bloody bit. The last thing he had
ever thought she would grant him: a pardon. But why? Why
after all the gore and evilness and death that followed him
around like an unholy battle shroud? Why after, gods help
him, *Buffy*? Little broken Buffy in the bathroom...Hadn't
she heard the stories? The frightening nightmare tales of
William the Bloody? Hadn't he even told her a few himself?
"God, Daw- you...I need help." And his voice cracks, his
throat having been parched by the arid desert air. For the
slightest second he wonders if he needs to eat, but chases the
nagging thought away.

It must be the breaking point for Dawn, because she slams
on the brakes and veers the car onto the small dusty
shoulder. Spike doesn't move a muscle as the petulant young
woman turns to face him, her blue eyes piercing his. And he
almost begins to believe she can look inside him and *see*
his soul. Her voice is thin, her tone strained. It reminds him
of when she was younger and trying to get a point across.
The sound of someone with years of trying to be heard over
the older and more important. "What the hell do you think
I'm doing here? Why I found you in the middle of fucking
*nowhere*?"

Spike has no answer for that. He bows his head and
whispers. "Don't pity me, Bit. That's all that I ask." But is it
really? his mind asks. And he realises the lie. Not hard to do
when his heart continues to pound with the beat, screaming
out to her: Heal me! Heal me! Heal me!

Dawn laughs, short and gruntlike. He feels that she might
have heard his soul's silent plea when she speaks again. "No,
it's not. And I don't." She looks down at her hands, twisting
the silver ring on her left index finger round and round. She
continues on with the shyness of the sixteen-year old he
remembers best, her voice soft with emotion, full of tears that
wouldn't fall. "You were my best friend, Spike."

Neither of them speak. They let the car fill with silence again.
Spike thinks he should tell her something, if only the words
would form. The jumbled thoughts and strange, distorted
memories sneak slowly back up as dusk fades into moonlit
night. Dawn watches in concern as his body begins to shiver
and he turns away from her, back in his own world. And she
is helpless to do anything more than to return to the lonely
road, stretching out as far as the eye can see. Into forever.