Do not go gentle
(Title from a poem by Dylan Thomas)
They lay like this for a long while. She never moved, apart from the shaking that was raging through her, but he felt her gradually calming a bit; until a while after the crying had come to an end, the trembling finally faded, too. When he just started wondering whether she was still awake she uncurled herself, but didn’t disentangle from his arms. Her head half buried in the crook of his shoulder, her arm resting on his chest, if close to herself, she relaxed against him.
They had never lain like that before, snuggled together. He could’ve stayed that way forever. He didn’t fool himself though; he knew it would be over the second they’d be out of here. But no matter how it had come to it, he was determined to savor every minute while it lasted.
It took a long while for her to speak again, and when she did, he was oddly relieved.
He tilted his head aside to look at her. “For what?”
She swallowed, well aware that she moved in unknown fields here. “For…for staying.”
She was grateful that he stayed with her, when in fact he was willing to die for her. He tried to speak past the lump that had built in his throat. “I wouldn’t leave you alone here. You know that.”
“I guess I do,” she admitted quietly. “It’s more than that, though. You are…you are here, with me. And that is…” She trailed off, apparently not knowing how to go on.
He still understood.
He didn’t answer immediately. Then he just shrugged.
“I love you.”
It was all there was to say, really.
She didn’t reply.
For the first time ever, she didn’t object.
She fell asleep in his arms.
That was another first. They had spent more than one night together, had slept side by side, but never had she allowed them to even touch while sleeping.
It had hurt him, but he had accepted her rules, too glad about getting that much at all.
But this time, she slept in his arms, and he barely dared to move.
At first he only marveled in the feeling of her body snuggled against his, gladly relived the words she’d spoken to him, the way she‘d said them. The gentleness of her voice.
And then she hadn’t objected. She had, for the first time, accepted that he loved her. He hoped that meant that she no longer denied him the capability of feeling something so human.
It maybe even meant she no longer saw him as a thing. Not entirely, anyway.
That was huge.
He wasn’t sure what had changed her mind, though. Whether it was something he had done or not, he didn’t know. He knew, however, that he desperately wanted to preserve her view of him once they were out again. He was aware of course that in situations like this, people tended to alienate with their enemies. Stockholm Syndrome or some rot. And even if she certainly didn’t see him as her enemy any longer, it was still comparable. Yet, he didn’t care where it came from, as long as it didn’t disappear in the real world.
It felt too good to have her seeing him not only as evil vampire with a muzzle. Notwithstanding the fact that the muzzle didn’t take with her anyway.
The thoughts of how everything might change again outside made him wonder how the hell they could get there. They couldn’t stay here forever, and it was pointless to wait for help from outside when the world outside stood still.
Thus the need to act lay upon them.
But what could they do? They couldn’t go in either direction. In one direction there was hell; in the other one was a barrier.
Only that wasn’t exactly true.
There was a barrier alright, but only for her.
I won’t leave you alone.
Yeah, but what if it was their only chance?
You are…you are here, with me. And that is…
How could he even think of leaving her in here, after that?
How the bloody hell could he not?
As long as they were both in here, nothing would ever change. They couldn’t go in either direction together.
They had to separate.
She couldn’t go out, and he sure as hell wouldn’t let her go in.
There was only one option left.
He had to go alone.
Leave her alone.
Thank you. For…for staying.
He cringed, unknowingly pulled her a little closer, as if to reassure both of them that he wouldn’t do that. But he already knew better.
To distract himself he focused on what he would do once he’d be outside. Go to Tara, since Red had sworn off the magic, get her to do a spell to lift the barrier. If she could find a spell for that.
If they even found the portal. What if it closed after he passed through? Would they ever find it again? Or worse, what if it didn’t close after him? From her perspective, he’d be stuck in time like the others were and couldn’t do a thing. And what would happen to Buffy when he wasn’t with her?
The image of the demon that had pushed them inside popped up in his mind. He had the distinct feeling that he knew what kind of demon it was. He searched his memory and eventually figured it out, and all of a sudden, he knew a lot more. And slowly, while his fingers wandered the familiar path to pat on his duster pocket, a plan began to develop in his mind.
He looks down at her again, his eyes skimming over her bound ankles, skipping to her bound wrists; then he squeezes his eyes shut for a moment. He is thoroughly surprised that she hasn’t woken up while he tied her; she must have been pretty worn out. He tilts his head and watches her, her face so peaceful in her dreamless sleep, looking so young. He rarely sees her that way, as the young girl she is supposed to be; that she actually is. But tonight, after she fell apart in his arms, he finds it hard to see her as anything but the vulnerable human girl, and he’s glad that she let him see this well-hidden side of hers.
Pulling her out of that peaceful place she currently is in and confronting her with the cold reality frightens him more than he expected. He knows he can’t let her sleep when he’ll leave; he can’t let her wake up to being alone, let alone bound, without any explanation.
He sighs. He’s not ready yet for her reaction. He lies down beside her, slips his arm under her sleeping form and pulls her close. She stirs, and he holds his breath, hoping for a small postponement. Alas, no such luck.
He can feel the second it registers that something isn’t right. Her eyes pop open and she moves her hands up to get a look on them. She sees the makeshift ties on her wrists, fabric straps he obviously tore his shirt into, and she reels back, almost violently wriggling out of his embrace.
Here it goes.
He winces. “I’m sorry, luv, I had to.” She will understand, once he explained it, right? But when he sees her expression change, his stomach drops. He sees her eyes go cold, betrayal flashing through, quickly changing into disdain. When she speaks, he suddenly feels as cold as her eyes look.
“I knew I couldn’t trust you.”
There’s no accusation in her voice, no anger, no sorrow either; just plain conviction.
It’s what makes something in him snap. Everything that had been there before, her gratefulness, her honesty, the look she gave him, her warmth in his arms - everything fades to nothing. As if never having been there at all. Granted, she doesn’t know the reason for him binding her, but there isn’t even a slice of benefit of the doubt, after everything they shared before she slept. He pushes himself on his elbows, watches her for a few seconds, but there’s nothing left in her eyes.
Hot fury spreads out all over his body, coverage for stinging disappointment. His hands curl to fists, and for a moment he feels the urge to hit her, punch her just like she had punched him with her words; again. He curses himself for being so damn vulnerable to her words. And for falling into the hope trap again and again. He clenches his jaw; he won’t give into the desire to hurt her back, though, because there’s this other part in him that never wants to hurt her, no matter what she’s doing to him. Bloody ponce that part; but strong right now, what with the knowledge that he has to leave her like that, alone, bound, scared. He sits up, rises to his feet then. Stepping a few yards away from her, he brings some much needed distance between them. Slowly he breathes in and out to calm down, to push the pain aside. He doesn’t hit her, but he can’t suppress a bitter comment. “Of course you knew,” he snarls. “That’s what dead, evil things do after all. Wouldn’t want to burst your bubble, honey.”
He feels her hesitating a second, but then she snaps back. “What did you expect? You tied me up, Spike. Last time you had me in shackles, you set your psycho ex on me to kill me! So forgive me if my trust in you isn’t deep enough to not expect a poetry reading when I awake tied up on the doorstep of a hell dimension.”
“Oh, ‘s that so?” He raises his scarred eyebrow at her, and then he smirks. He knows it’s a highly sensitive point to rub under her nose now, but he’s still much too pissed off to care even remotely. “I seem to remember a different scenario of the last time I had you in shackles.” He wants to savor her indignation, letting the smirk widen on his face at the success his little stab is driving home; yet he can’t. He sees familiar disgust flashing in her eyes, and he instantly mentally kicks himself for saying this. It had been a good memory for him, her letting him use those handcuffs on her; and his stupid mouth, which never could wait for approval of his brain, had to turn it into something she would want to forget as soon as possible.
“You’re a pig, Spike. Go ahead; remind me of why I couldn’t be your girl.”
Sod it; she had wanted to forget about it anyway.
He growls in annoyance; that’s not what he wanted, fighting with her now. Rile her up a bit to ease the pain of her distrust, yeah. But fighting her? Not so much. Not with what they had just before, even less when he has to leave her in here where God knows what could happen to her.
He suddenly realizes that he still needs to explain to her why she’s bound. He sighs; it won’t get any easier to tell her, so he cuts to the chase. “Look, I needed to restrain you, because I can’t hold you back from the veil any longer. I’ll go get help outside.”
“You go out?” There’s something in her voice now that makes him looking closer at her; his gaze softens when he recognizes the same fear in her face like earlier. “Why don’t we wait for someone to find us? They will look for me when I don’t show up in the morning, and the portal is still open!”
His eyes close for a second in frustration; he hates that, destroying her hopes. “Slayer. Look outside. Time has stopped there. Reckon it moves on once I go through.” He sees her eyes latching onto the still dark cemetery, and then realization dawns on her face. She lets out an exasperated sigh and turns her head, away from the devastating view.
“I’ll come back. I promise,” he says softly, but she just snorts.
“Yeah. Just like you promised not to leave me alone.”
He stares at her incredulously. “You don’t believe me?” he asks, new hurt coloring his voice. When she just shrugs, it turns into anger. “You’re off your rocker if you think I could let you rot in here. Did you forget about the part where I said I loved you?” He waits a beat, gives her the opportunity to deny not believing in his return; when she doesn’t, he flinches slightly, as if slapped in the face. “You really think I could do that to you.” He snorts disgustedly, not really knowing who it is he’s disgusted with, her or himself. The mixture of pain and anger, for the second time within a few minutes, lets his voice turn harder than he wanted. “I guess, this time you just have to trust me.”
“How could I?” she yells, “Dammit, Spike, you tied me up!”
His eyes flicker to her wrists, then back to her face. “Told you, I had to. I’m sorry.”
She squirms a little, feels the soft fabric give way slightly. “You know how ridiculous a try that is. I’ll be free in no time.”
Spike kneels beside her, fingers the ties around her wrist, concern clouding his eyes. “I know. It’ll slow you down a tad, though.” He searches her eyes, willing her to understand what he’s about to say next. “See, it’s more…symbolically.” His hands move away from her wrists now, taking her hands into his. She tries to pull back, but he doesn’t let her. He needs her with him for this moment; it depends so much on this. “Listen, Slayer. There are people out there who will do everything to get you back.” He ignores her snort and goes on emphatically. “But you have to stay away from the darkness. Once you passed through…I reckon it will be a lot harder to get to you.” He swallows at the thought. If possible at all… “Those ties are meant to remind you to stay strong. If not for yourself, then for those who love you.” He shudders at the thought of losing her; then he realizes that her face has gone harder at his last plea. He remembers her outburst earlier, and as fear grips his heart, his voice becomes urging. “I know you’ve been strong for them for too long. But believe me on this one, you don’t want to be in there. And I know you, pet. You won’t be strong on your behalf. But you’ll do it for them. For Dawn.” I don’t care who you do it for, just bloody do it. Because I need you alive. Please. “Not because you don’t want to fail them, but because you love them.”
He watches her, tries to read her face, but she keeps all emotions out. He heaves a frustrated sigh. He’s pretty sure that she keeps them not only out of her face, and he doesn’t know if she is even listening. He goes on anyway, hoping she understands what he says.
“Look, I think I know where we are.” A flicker of hope scurries over her face; so she is listening. “I remembered that demon while you slept. It’s a Mala’hla demon, and I’m pretty sure that this is a dimension they created for punishing those who don’t behave as expected. As far as I know there’s always a demon guard holding the delinquent on a magic leash, making sure they don’t get away until it’s shoved into the everlasting darkness beyond the veil. It’s why the portal stays open; it closes as soon as the guarding demon left it. Which in our case – will be me.” His gaze drops down for a second before his eyes search hers, his voice getting a note of urgency now. “Humans aren’t supposed to be here, which is why you can not go further. You wouldn’t survive for long.” He pauses, but she doesn’t dignify him with a response or even so much as a glance. He rolls his eyes. “Which is also why you can’t pass through the portal. But I think I found a way. I only have to…take care of something, and then I’ll come back and get you.”
“Great. After unsuccessfully trying for years to get rid of you, you choose now to leave me alone? Tied up no less, ready to be attacked by anyone who wants to? Who says that this Mahatma demon doesn’t come back once you’re gone? I can’t even defend myself like that.”
“I don’t think he will.” Oh God, he so hopes he’s right with this…”I think he doesn’t care what’s happening to you; he only wanted you out of the way. I’m here merely by mistake, because I was there when the thing opened.” He scoots a little closer, gently cups her face with one hand, locking their eyes. “I’m so sorry I have to leave you here, pet. Please believe me when I say I’d much prefer to take you with me, but it doesn’t work that way. You can’t get out…like this. But I have a plan.” He ignores her dismissive grunt. “I’ll come back as soon as I can, and then I’ll get you out of here. I promise.” His eyes are glued to hers, pleading for understanding, forgiveness maybe. But he knows instantly that he’ll be granted none of those when he sees her frightened face harden, shutting out once again every emotion she dared to let in. He straightens a little in anticipation of her answer, but when it comes, it hits him harder than any punch ever could.
“Yeah, and don’t we know how much your promise is worth.”
He freezes. He knows what she refers to. To the end of the world. An expression flits over her face, almost as if she’s shocked about what she just said. She opens her mouth, but he doesn’t give her the time to say more.
He doesn’t think that he can bear to hear it.
He says just one fierce word to stop her. “No.”
He jumps up and storms to the portal. He halts briefly, turns around and gives her a long glance. He sees her eyes boring into him, glaring as if he’s about to hurt her and she prepares herself for fending him off. And then he suddenly gets it.
That’s exactly what this is. As much as he never intended to, he is hurting her. He leaves her. That’s about the worst thing that could happen to her right now. She trusted him. She even begged him to stay. He promised, and she rewarded him with believing in his love for her.
And then he goes and breaks the promise. Leaves her alone when she needs him most. Just like so many people in her life left her when she needed them.
No wonder she lashes out.
He wants nothing more than rushing back to her, swoop her in his arms and never let go again. But he can’t. He has to go; it’s the only way, he knows that.
Still; he can’t leave her like that. He closes the small gap between them and sinks to his knees again. His hand goes up, back to her face where it laid before. He can see it in her eyes; she knows he still leaves. She tries to look challenging, but the tears pooling in her eyes betray the lie.
“Buffy,” he says softly, and then he pauses. There’s so much he wants to say that he doesn’t know where to start. He swallows, fights tears on his own. “Buffy, I’ll come back for you, believe me. Please.”
That’s all he gets out in the end. Finally, after a long while, he sees her eyes soften a fraction. She nods, almost imperceptibly. He takes a deep breath and rises, approaching the portal again. At the same place as before he stops and turns his head toward her. “Don’t go in there.” She doesn’t nod this time, but he can read her look. I can’t promise, but I’ll try. So he nods instead and proceeds to go through the portal.
He’s almost through when he hears her softly calling for him.
He turns again, tilting his head aside questioningly. “Yeah?”
She glares at him. “Tying me up like this…you know I’m gonna kick your ass when I’m free, right?”
A small smile graces his face. “Yeah, Slayer. ‘m countin’ on it.”
Then he turns and steps through the portal. The next second he’s disappeared, and, with a sizzle, so is the portal.
And Buffy is alone.