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Bloody Soul

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Head low, Buffy returned to Spike’s graveyard, knowing she had failed and would soon witness his death. Faith was dead, her body carried away by a passing truck and her blood, which could have saved Spike, no longer an option. As she walked, Buffy could still hear the hate-filled words Faith had flung at her, calling her a slut for sleeping with two vampires, and promising Spike would be in a lot more pain before he finally crumbled to ashes. Unbearable words that had angered Buffy even more, until she had made the mistake of letting Faith escape her in death. A mistake that would cost Spike his life.

She arrived at last at the crypt, and with as few words as possible, she sent Willow and Oz, who had replaced Giles, back home to sleep and rest. They left with a quiet warning that Angel was in the lower level with Spike, and she sighed at the idea of confronting her ex once again. She didn’t hurt as much as when he had broken up with her, but it still was painful to have him around when she was trying to forget him. Why was he even there?

“Because Spike helped me,” Angel answered surly when she questioned him. “I’m returning the favor.”

She bit back the comment that Spike’s help hadn’t seemed to matter to him so far. She was too tired for Angel’s mind games, too tired to try to understand what was going on in his head. And when he said that he was going upstairs because he needed to replace the blood he had offered his grandchilde, she managed not to ask him what had happened. If he wanted to tell her, he could do so without playing cryptic games first.

As Angel retreated to the upper level, she sat down on the edge of the bed, wondering if Spike was asleep, unconscious, or simply had his eyes closed. She received an answer when the planes of his face shifted to the ridges of the demon and he lunged at her, so fast that she only had a glimpse of amber-filled eyes before he buried his face in the crook of her neck.

Surprised beyond words or actions, she didn’t react immediately as her back hit the bed and was even more confused when the bite she expected didn’t come. Lips and tongue caressed her skin, and a small noise rose from Spike, wordless but imploring. He could have torn her throat already, killed her easily, but instead he was pleading, begging for her blood and an end to his suffering.

For a brief instant, everything seemed limpid, and she rested a hand at the back of Spike’s head, pressing him lightly to her throat, giving him permission. Later, she would plead temporary insanity, suggesting Spike had put her under a thrall or knocked her out. But the second his fangs entered her skin, painful but at the same time controlled, her only thought was that this felt right. There was no other word for it.

The first pull on her blood brought her back to her senses, reminding her of the Master, and she mindlessly began to move under him, ready to push him away. She stopped moving as he drew again. The pain was gone, a mere memory, now replaced by a warmth suffusing her whole body. Another pull and a moan escaped her lips, followed by more. Warmth, calm, soft noises, even some kind of tenderness, instead of the endless agitation and fear of getting ready for the Ascension. Some rest, at last.

Her final thought before she glided into blissful darkness was that there were worse ways to die.

*****

It was those sounds that roused Angel’s suspicions, all too clear even tough he was in the upper level of the crypt instead of down there with them. Had he not been helping himself to Spike’s blood supply, he would probably have noticed the scent, too, because it was the rich smell that hit him when he jumped down the ladder hole. Buffy’s blood. And then, the sight threatened to freeze him in fear – Spike’s face buried in Buffy’s neck, her body slack underneath him. With a roar, he threw himself at his grandchilde, pulled him away from Buffy and threw him across the room where he hit the wall hard.

Muttering curses and promises of dusting him after a round of torture, Angel turned back to Buffy, tearing the sheet off the bed and pressing the fabric to her neck to stop the bleeding. The wounds were small and neat, unlike Spike’s usual messy feeding; for that Angel was grateful. Had he torn into Buffy’s neck, she would have been dead already. And she wasn’t. Not yet. Not if he could help it.

With a death glare at Spike, who was now sitting on the floor seemingly horrified at what he had done, Angel picked up Buffy, his gestures careful but hurried. He carried her to the ladder, growling when Spike stood and took a wavering step toward them.

“If you have any sense left in you, you’ll be gone before I come back.”

Spike said something, but Angel ignored him, all his attention concentrating on Buffy’s faint but still stubborn heartbeat.

The journey to the hospital and the following moments were a blur. He almost threatened a doctor, placed a few phone calls, and chased the Mayor away from Buffy, all of them senseless actions when the only thing that mattered was whether Buffy would live or die. If she died now, then leaving her, breaking her heart would have been for nothing; he began to understand Spike’s talk of being by her side to the end. Understanding him, however, didn’t mean that his anger was fading in any way. As soon as the doctors told him and the Scoobies that she’d be ok, he left.

He had a stake in his hand when he entered Spike’s crypt. To his mild surprise, it was not deserted.

*****

One second the world was pure bliss, warm, strong blood flowing into Spike’s mouth, down his throat, healing his body, making him hard. Not just any blood, but Buffy’s, and that made the experience even more powerful to him. The next, he was bereft of his sweet Slayer’s throat and life, and being thrown against a wall.

As he sat up, he shook off the demon visage and tried to clear his mind. What in the hell had happened? How had he come to the point of having his fangs in…

All thoughts disappeared as his widening eyes fell on Angel. And Buffy. An immobile Buffy. Dead Buffy..? No, not dead, she wasn’t dead; he could hear her heart faintly, almost too faintly, but it still was beating. He hadn’t killed her. He only had come incredibly close to killing her. Had Angel not intervened…

Swallowing his fear, Spike stood shakily until he steadied himself with a hand on the wall. He started to walk toward the ladder, following Angel, wanting to remain with Buffy, but a barked order stilled him. Angel was going to stake him. Right now if he kept moving, later if he remained there. If he forced Angel’s hand now, it’d mean that Buffy would receive help just a little later. Maybe too late. So Spike stopped, watched vampire and Slayer disappear up the ladder, and fell to his knees.

Hands against the cold stone of the floor, head bowed, he waited. An internal war was raging in him. If Angel found him here when he returned – and he had all but promised to return – Spike would be ashes. But if he left, ran away like the guilty man he was, he wouldn’t know what had happened to Buffy, wouldn’t know if she was still alive or… or not. He didn’t want to contemplate the alternative, refused to even think for a minute that he had killed the woman he loved. Yet, that was all he could think of.

When the door upstairs was thrown open, Spike still hadn’t moved one inch. He merely raised his head when Angel came down, and managed to ask:

“Is she alive?”

Angel’s gaze burned amber. “She’ll live,” he spat. “But you won’t.”

His grandsire approached, stake raised and ready to strike, yet Spike remained still. He’d come too close to killing her. It was too dangerous for him to remain close to her, but he couldn’t stand the thought of being away from her. He might as well be dust.

“You’re going to let me stake you?”

He raised his eyes to meet Angel’s again, and allowed himself a small shrug.

“Why did you even do it?” Angel asked, and suddenly all the tension seemed to have left his body, replaced by wariness.

“How would I know?” Spike muttered as he slowly stood. “I don’t even remember doing it.”

Even as he said this, a tactile memory came back to him. The feel of Buffy’s hand at the back of his head, pulling him closer, holding him in place once he had bitten. He blinked several times, raising a hand to brush where she had been touching, and wondered if it had been real.

“Why didn’t she push me off her?” he mumbled more to himself than as a question to Angel, and Angel’s answering growl startled him.

“You just said you don’t remember, and now…”

“I don’t! It’s just… like a flash. An impression. I was delirious and I’m not sure…”

Once again, Spike’s train of thoughts took a hard stop. He had been delirious. Out of his mind. Not his fault. Even then, she could have stopped him and hadn’t. Not his fault. Not entirely.

“She really let you do it?” Angel asked, his voice a worried murmur, and Spike didn’t know what to answer.

*****

As she ran for her life, for all of her friends’ lives, through Sunnydale High with the ascended Mayor slithering and hissing on her heels, Buffy’s thoughts were racing faster than her heartbeat, going back and forth between dreams and reality, past and future.

It was because of a dream that she had realized to win she would need to enrage the Mayor beyond the point of being able to think. She couldn’t help wondering if Faith had really been there, or if she had only been a manifestation of Buffy’s subconscious. She wanted to believe it had been Faith. And she was glad, oh so glad, that she hadn’t killed her.

The reality was that they were in the middle of a fight. Outside, the students and a pair of vampires were fighting the Mayor troops. She knew there had been casualties already amongst the humans. She hoped that, when she would come out of the building in a moment, with any luck in one piece and the Mayor a bad memory, all of her friends would still be standing. She also hoped two vampires would still be there too.

The past, right now, was a mesh of images, words and feelings. The feel of her life flowing from her to Spike. Angel’s voice when he had told her he would leave after the fight, without even a goodbye that would be too painful for both of them. Spike’s eyes when he had entered the library the night before, his obvious relief at seeing she was there and fine, his guilt, too, that she had tried to soothe away with a smile. They had never been alone, the gang making a point of keeping an eye on him even though she had told them he wasn’t responsible for what had happened. She would need to talk to him, once everything was over, and that was the future she was thinking of. She wasn’t sure what she felt for him, but she knew one thing – she wouldn’t have let just any vamp feed from her to save his life. So why hadn’t she stopped Spike?

She would find out soon.

If they both survived, she would.

*****

After all these months of knowing the Ascension would come, the fight itself was strangely anticlimactic for me. Maybe because all I had to do was fight a bunch of lousy vamps. Or maybe because all I wanted was to see Buffy safe again, to talk to her, one on one, tell her how sorry I was I had almost killed her, tell her I’d leave town if she wanted me to, or anything else. And all the while, hope for her forgiveness, hope she’d tell me to stay, and maybe, just maybe…

She had smiled when I first saw her after the whole ‘drinking her dry’ bit. It had to mean something. I was living on the hope that it meant something. But to know that, to be sure, we both needed to survive, and find a moment to talk, just the two of us. Survive, when she was playing bait to that humongous demon, and I couldn’t do a thing to help.

At the instant the school exploded, the unscheduled eclipse began to end, and all of us standing vampires made a mad rush to the sewers’ entrance. I fought back to back with Angel down there, and we finished off the remainder of the Mayor’s soldiers together. More things to marvel at. We hadn’t staked each other despite numerous occasions, and now we were actually fighting together. Unlife is full of wonders, huh?

I think he understood I hadn’t bitten her with the intent to harm her, but rather had just acted on instinct, too out of it to realize what I was doing. The real surprise, however, came when he asked me to come to Los Angeles with him, trying to convince me it was for Buffy's safety. If he had said that he had wanted me to work with him, I might have gone; the pull of our blood, of our family, is still strong for me, soul or no soul. As I now know it is for him, however hard he tries to deny it. Strong enough I might have considered leaving Buffy, at least for a while, if I had discovered she was angry about the bite incident. But this? Making it sound as if he was deciding what was best for her once again? I said no and that was the end of it.

We remained there an hour or so, until night fell, him brooding, me smoking. I wish we could have talked. Not friends, no, I don’t think we were ready for that yet. Family yes, but not friends. But it would have been nice to talk. I don’t know. Easy to say in hindsight, I guess.

When we came out, there were fire trucks all around us, and ambulances. We separated without a word, both of us looking for her, but neither wanting to remain together. He found her before I did. When I say found her, I mean, she saw him, he saw her, they shared one of these meaningful looks, then he was gone. All the while, I watched them from where I was sitting on a nearby bench, and told myself that it was truly over between them if they couldn’t even stand to give each other a proper goodbye. The Scoobies reappeared around her, and a smile tugged at her lips as she talked to them. She seemed to be fine and as gorgeous as ever.

And now she was free of Angel.

They all walked in my direction, all of them grinning at each other now that the fight was over, and I began to hope. Really hope. If they came to me, if they talked to me, smiled at me, then maybe they could see past the absence of that bloody soul, past the demon, and see what I could be. Maybe they could accept me as I was. Maybe…

Buffy smiled, and the rest of the world disappeared.

It wasn’t going to be all fluff and roses for us in the months to come – hell, even in the years to come. But I was going to try my best to win her heart. And eventually…