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Breathing Water

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Sometimes, she still dreams about drowning.

She doesn't remember it, of course, that time when she actually drowned. There is just a blank page between the Master pulling her to him and her waking up to the sight of Xander leaning down to give her the kiss of life.

(but she still remembers heaven)

She doesn't remember drowning, only the pain (and heaven), and the disappointment that it wasn't Angel who saved her.

If the others had asked how it felt like, being torn from heaven, she would have told them that it felt like drowning.

(but they didn't and she won't)

Like being adrift at the sea, too tired to swim, every wave just a little bit higher, every moment a little bit harder to keep her head above water, until it's easier to just stop fighting. Like trying to breathe water under the crushing pressure of the ocean.

She isn't quite sure how to fit Spike into this metaphor. Possibly as one of those freaky fish with the big teeth and light bulbs attached to their heads.

Sometimes, she still dreams about drowning, and in her dreams she is sinking again, falling deeper until the cold and the dark are all she has ever known. Some days, she can feel it even when she's awake.

Spike watches her from across the pews, sans light bulbs, but his eyes shining with the reflected light of a soul.

She stares at him, her brain caught in a loop

(Spike has a soul. Spike has a soul. Spike has a soul. Spike has a soul.)

and he's holding her again, pulling her back into the deep, and when he walks to the cross and embraces it, she is paralysed, unable to move or speak.

Spike has a soul.

Bile rises to the back of her throat as the smell of burning flesh fills the air, but she can't move, can't reach towards him and pull him away like she knows that she should. Can't move when he finally lets go of the cross with a sigh and falls bonelessly on to the floor, can't move when his head hits the stone floor with a sickening crack, can't move when his eyes flutter open and he's looking at her again, whispering her name like a prayer.

Then finally his head rolls to the side and his eyes close, freeing her from his spell, thrall, whatever hold he has on her. And she runs. Bolts from the church, hating herself leaving him to die again, for hoping that when she comes back

(and she knows that she will)

she will only find dust.

She doesn't stop until she reaches Kingman's Bluff, the earth there still scorched by both love and hate, much like her heart. And when she covers her ears with her hands and screams, all she can hear is the ocean.