And It Felt Like Breathing

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Down to the wire–hopefully this isn’t too late.  I want to apologise ahead of time if this isn’t up to scratch–its been a long time since I’ve written and posted that I admit I am quite rusty.  Anyway, here goes.  thanks to enigmaticblues  for doing this round, and for allowing me to take part.

Many, MANY hugs and kisses to hollydb for the superfast beta

Set in Season 7–just a moment in time where Buffy makes up her mind.


And It Felt Like Breathing

In one earth-shattering second, it occurred to Buffy that it didn’t seem hard anymore to sit with Spike.  Despite the turmoil that spun in ever-terrifying circles around them, sitting with Spike seemed to be the eye of the storm, and that realisation almost rendered her speechless.  He had moments of stillness now.  Episodes of reflection she’d never before seen in him, but being tortured by the ultimate in evil probably put a new degree of focus on things.  That… and the soul.  The one he went and paid everything to get… for her.

Buffy sighed, the sound seeming deep and unhappy.  Guilt was a heavy burden; she surely didn’t measure up to this kind of gift.

“That’s a sigh with big meanings behind it, pet.” There was no ignoring the disappointment in his voice, the disappointment caused by the belief that the slayer sat with him merely out of misguided loyalty.

 Tears pricked at Buffy’s eyes.  Spike hardly looked at her now, and when he did it was with such amazement that her own soul scorched with the incredible power of his forgiveness. 

 “Wanna walk?”  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, thought Buffy, and she watched surprise flicker in his eyes before Spike again bowed his head and hid himself from her.

 “Nasty beasties out there, luv.  Sure you want to wander off from the brood right now?”

 Sure you want to wander the streets with a beastie like me? That’s what he truly meant, and Buffy’s smile was easy.  

 “No one better,” she admitted as she stood, reaching for his hand and hoping he’d take her offering without that look of disbelief that made her insides twist.

 The Slayer didn’t let go as Spike took the first step, leaving behind the familiar back porch as they slowly wandered into the night.  Spike held on with an agitated grip, wanting to squeeze her fingers tighter but fearing it was time to let go.  She took pity on him and linked their fingers together, blushing at the first solid sign she’d given him—a sign that he was more to her than a responsibility.

 They walked into town, the night silent except for their intermittent conversation.  Nerves sang between them and the fear of admission buzzed up Buffy’s spine.  The fear of rejection—even when she knew deep in her heart that he still loved her—was almost too strong for her to take the risk.  It was a big moment and the Slayer felt it charge the air around her, felt the transparent nerves from the vampire beside her; she made her decision to just go for it—to  spill out her feelings for his ultimate judgment. 

 Two deep breaths and she’d be ready.

 Buffy opened her mouth, and sucked in a shuddering lungful of air.  Exhaled.

 Drew in lungful number two, her chest aching from the pressure of avoidance, and hissed out the air as Spike derailed her carefully timed confession.

 “So, place is a right sorority house right now, in’it?”

 Buffy’s mind blanked, her thoughts shifting slowly from a hopeful relationship-sealing kiss like none they’d ever shared to an unruly houseful of teen spirit the likes of which the world had never seen.

 “Truthfully?” Buffy said, considering her current living arrangements with a crowd of mini-slayer wannabes.  “Only potential I see in those girls right now is the potential to out-mouth Dawn.  Or, hey, to out potty-mouth Faith.  Or eat me out of house and, well, house, ‘cause not seeing much of a home there these days.”

 Spike smirked, letting loose the quietest of mirthful rumbles; Buffy strained hard to hear it.  It didn’t bode well that he didn’t laugh at her jokes, even unfunny ones.  It killed her confidence as surely as the First killed the Potentials, but Buffy was resigned.  This was something that had to be done—a situation that had to be resolved, one way or the other.  She wanted it to be resolved her way, because quite frankly, the other scared her to death.  Too fresh memories of Spike missing, being tortured unmercifully—because when was true evil ever merciful?—was still enough to make her stare long at the ceiling when all the lights were out.  Nights when being alone was the scariest thing imaginable.


 Buffy sighed.  Even Spike was at a loss for conversation; she rued the day he’d lost that particular Spikism—the one that meant he never shut up.

 The silence dragged on just long enough for Buffy to build up her nerve once again, only to have it crashing down the second Spike dived in to fill the void with chatter.

 “So, bet you never thought you’d see the day you had to watch your own back from your mates.”

 Buffy raised a brow, but deep down she knew what he meant.  Her friends weren’t working with her so much anymore.  Sure, on the surface they seemed as straight down the line as ever they were, but she’d be a fool to ignore those not-so-subtle glances they shared when Buffy sidestepped said line to go off on her own tangent.   Like now.  If Giles could see her now the Slayer had no doubts he’d pop some serious blood vessels.

 “I guess we all had to grow up someday,” Buffy admitted sadly.  She never expected a day would come where her understanding of her mission would veer so sharply from her watcher’s.  Where she saw a bigger picture that strongly figured Spike’s support in being elemental to how she could save the world.

 “Some arguably faster than others.”

 Buffy’s thoughts broke and she stared at him, seeing him maybe for the first time.  Spike’s love for her hadn’t always been about obsession. At some stage his love had actually been about acceptance—about understanding, patience and respect.  She had always thought it had been a whacked kind of fixation, as would have any slayer that had defeated him too many times to count—who’d beaten his ass into the ground, who’d protected the Hellmouth at the same time as the Initiative had gone around collaring vamps.  Now she saw that maybe it wasn’t so clear cut—not so random at all.  Maybe he loved her because he just loved her, warts and all.  Maybe he loved her because he saw more of her than any of the others ever could, and Buffy’s appreciation and belief in her feelings fused into a solid wall of right.

 Buffy knew she needed a distraction, or they’d be walking all night with her planning to leap off Safety Mountain but never actually managing the first step.  Spike’s nervous conversation probably stemmed from their still entwined fingers, so Buffy took the only logical trail of thought and decided their physical contact must be severed for the moment.  Reluctantly, she let go, feeling an unexpected pain in her heart at the look of dejection that flashed across Spike’s face before he quickly looked away and Buffy found him once again in shadow.

 She could see his jaw moving, preparing to shoot another mindlessly accurate observation her way, and before thought could foster reason, Buffy took off, running across the first cemetery she encountered like a scared rabbit, her heart pounding and crashing with fear in her chest.  Tonight she meant to bear all, and she would, dammit, or die trying.

 Strangely the night around her was silent, not even the sound of Spike following her to break the monotony of her cowardly departure.  Realising in mid-flight she had to stop, Buffy stumbled over her feet as she spun in a circle, searching for the glow-in-the-dark hair that would expose him no matter how much he tried to hide.

 Spike wasn’t as far away as she’d thought.  Standing beneath a tree, he peered at her thoughtfully, his lips curling around a cigarette as his hands cupped around the flame from his precious lighter.  He resurrected an image of old—of pure, raw animalism. 

 “What’s with the runner, pet?  Somewhere else you’d rather be?  Or you just wanna lure me further away from your over-protective chums?”  His eyes smouldered with sexiness, and Buffy gasped in remembrance, flesh tingling with promise.  He didn’t have to move and she felt drawn to him, like the proverbial moth to the flame, only this time her weakness made her smile.

 Spike’s confidence stumbled when he noticed the twist of her lips indicating something less stressed than he’d expected.  A smiling Buffy was a rare sight and he was the last bloke to know what to do about it—to know what it meant.  His stance relaxed somewhat as she approached, his hand dropping the superfluous cigarette from his lips, hand shaking now that he had nothing left to do but watch, wait and protect his poor mutilated heart.

 “What’s with the sudden prowl?” He stood straighter, alarmed as Buffy slowed to a stop, then began to close in on him once again.  Spike-of-old would have been expecting a split lip round about now, and in deference to his too clear memory, he flinched when Buffy took that final step before him.  The blow didn’t materialise, and when Spike regained enough sense to look at her again, she had the softest, saddest smile on her face that he’d ever seen.

 “I guess it was too much to ask you to forget past hurts.”

 Spike blinked, his bafflement melting into awe as Buffy raised her hand and brushed it against his cheek.

 “Just bein’ a burk, luv,” he admitted sheepishly.  “Don’t mind me.”

 “No. You’re not.”  And in sudden understanding, she confided, “Sometimes I have to remind myself that you’re not hanging out by the tree beneath my window for some nefarious purpose.  Not stalking me.  Sometimes I actually forget you live in my house now.”  Those moments were only brief, and she wasn’t going to tell him that they materialised during fantasies of their more tender moments in his crypt.  Moments when he just saw her and wanted to be whatever she needed him to be.

 “Yeah.”  He cleared his throat and once again aimed a good glower at the poorly kept lawn.  Truth hurt, and this time Buffy wasn’t happy about it, but she had to let him know that their past wasn’t dead, just tethered for when they both had the strength to deal with it.  That didn’t stop the new from popping in and whacking her on the shoulder. 

 The night dragged on, or sped up, depending on how fast Buffy’s thoughts flew through her head.  The presiding one however, screamed at her to just get on with it and put them both out of their misery.  Take a chance and either win or lose this fight—with luck she’d start a lucky streak.

 “Look.”  He did and Buffy swallowed hard, not quite knowing what to do with his intent gaze now that she had it.  She’d always been action girl, and maybe this was the one time she really needed to speak with movement rather than her ill-equipped vocabulary.  Before he had a clue to react, Buffy had taken the last leap of faith and placed cool, eager lips on his.

 Shock kept him still; Buffy persisted for three seconds, then the idea that his lack of response meant that she’d been wrong in her hopes took hold.  Whole body trembling, she began to draw away, gasping when at the last second Spike gripped her arms, looked deep into her soul and hauled her back against his chest.  His lips caressed hers in the sweetest reward she’d ever had for bravery and Buffy whimpered, tears of relief slowly forming behind closed lids.  One hand rose and tangled in his hair, the other curled around his shoulders, making the old leather of his coat creak.  Little bites sent frissons of excitement to her very toes.  Moaning quietly, she relaxed completely in her vampire’s embrace and allowed the kind of kiss she’d never suspected they could share.  Allowed their hearts to mesh without words ever being spoken.

 Time passed over them, leaving them locked in their own moment.  By the time Spike released his lip lock, Buffy tingled from head to toe and she could swear her vision had blurred.  Stolen breath rasped in his chest as he leaned forward, forehead resting against hers.  There was nothing that Buffy could think of that meant more to her than this moment—not the impending end of the world, not Dawn’s unexplainable fascination with ancient Sumerian texts, not Giles’s disapproving stare.  Not even the appearance of Faith could dampen the sense of excitement that came with the first steps into a new relationship.  Whatever waited for her at home could wait, could take a back seat for a change, because more than anything else, Buffy needed this.  Needed Spike.

 “You using me this time?”  His voice was wary but his gaze was strong and penetrated deep into her heart. 

 “No. This time it’s real.” 

 And at last Buffy knew she was breathing.

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