On to the next chapter…
Previous parts can be found here.
“Most truths are so naked that people feel sorry for them and cover them up, at least a little bit.” ~Edward R. Murrow
Spike shoved the limp form off his body without even looking to see what he was pushing at. His head was aching so badly, he wasn’t sure he wanted to open his eyes.
“Oof!” Buffy’s voice was as irritable as he felt. “Spike!”
“Sorry,” he muttered, although he wasn’t sure that he meant it. “Bloody hell.”
“You’re telling me,” she said.
Spike opened his eyes reluctantly, seeing Buffy sitting up, her head resting on her knees. “Are you okay?”
“Give me a minute.”
“Sure.” He pushed himself up off the ground, looking around warily. Then, with a growing sense of unease, Spike said, “Buffy?”
“Is the sun out?”
“What? Yeah. I—” Her eyes flew open, and she stared at him. “You’re not on fire. Why aren’t you on fire?”
“How the hell should I know?” Spike asked. He looked up at the sky, the pale yellow sun glowing steadily in an aquamarine sky. “Don’t think this sun works like ours.”
“Okay, if this sun doesn’t work like ours, where are we?” Buffy demanded, pushing herself to a standing position. The ground was spongy under her feet, and she had to fight to keep her balance.
Spike was a little more careful as he struggled to his feet, trying to ignore the pounding of his head. “Best guess? Another dimension of some sort.”
“But why?” Buffy asked, her voice nearly a wail. “Why us?”
“I don’t know!” he snapped. “I’m as lost as you are, Slayer.”
Buffy glared at him, and then she sighed, breaking eye contact and looking around. “We just need to figure out where to go. There has to be a way to get back to Sunnydale.”
Spike didn’t bother telling her that the people he knew that had gotten sucked into other dimensions didn’t often return.
Okay, no one he knew who had gotten sucked into another dimension had ever come back.
They were definitely not in Sunnydale anymore. The ground cover resembled moss more than it did grass, and the plain was devoid of trees or any other foliage as far as his eyes could see.
And Spike could see pretty far.
Wherever they were, it wasn’t good. His chip would prevent him from feeding from Buffy, but while hunger wouldn’t kill him, it could kill the Slayer. Thirst would do it first, though, and it would do it within days if they couldn’t find a source of water.
Spike didn’t like to think too hard about his desire to keep the Slayer alive. He told himself that it was merely because two heads were better than one, and if Buffy died of something as trivial as lack of fluids, it would mean that he would never get a chance to kill her in a fair fight. One thing Spike could say was that he’d always taken a Slayer in a fair fight.
“We need to find water,” he said. “That should be the first thing.”
Buffy gave him an odd look. “Why?”
“So you don’t die of dehydration,” Spike replied shortly. “Trust me, it’s not a pleasant way to go.”
“I know, but why would that be your first thought?”
“Because I don’t want to see you dead.”
That wasn’t what he’d meant to say. He had meant to reply that he wanted to kill her himself, but Spike knew the truth when he heard it. While a part of him still wanted to see the Slayer dead, a (slightly) larger part of him didn’t.
“Oh.” Buffy’s expression turned speculative. “I forgot about the spell for a minute.”
“Yeah, I did, too.” Spike took a deep breath, testing the air for any scent of water. The air was strangely pure; Buffy’s scent was the strongest, and nearly overwhelming with so few odors in the air. “I think we should go this way,” Spike said, pointing east.
At least it would have been east if they were still in Sunnydale and the sun was near its zenith.
Spike expected her to argue with him. Instead, Buffy just shrugged. “Lead the way.”
They had been walking for hours. Okay, so Buffy didn’t know whether they had been walking for hours or not, but it felt like hours. She was just relieved that she’d worn her tennis shoes rather than her boots. Walking over this ground, for hours, in heels would not have been fun. Somehow Buffy didn’t think that Spike would be a gentleman and carry her.
He’d been amazingly—civil. That was the word. Not quite nice, but not his usual irritating self either. Buffy wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.
She sighed. At least it wasn’t too hot or too cold. The balmy temperatures meant she wasn’t terribly uncomfortable.
“Think we’re getting closer,” Spike announced.
“Good,” Buffy muttered. “Because I’m ready to drop.”
“We get to a water source, you can drop all you want.” Spike sniffed the air again and altered his course a degree or two.
Buffy was shocked when she saw the oasis. It appeared out of thin air almost. One minute there was ground and sky and nothing else. The next minute there was a stand of trees growing tall and wild.
All of the colors in this strange world seemed off. There was the gray-green moss on the ground, the butter-yellow sun, the aquamarine sky. The trees with their purple leaves spreading out like huge ferns. Buffy could hear the sound of water, of birds—even feel a cool breeze caressing her skin.
After hours of the eternal sameness, Buffy couldn’t help but break into a run.
Spike shouted out behind her, “Buffy! No!”
She felt his hand grasp her arm just as she hit the edge of the trees, and then everything disappeared again.
“Buffy? You okay?”
Spike’s voice brought her around, and she blinked, not noticing any appreciable change from having her eyes open to having them closed. “Spike?”
“Yeah. You alright?” he asked, more insistently this time.
“I think so.” She felt his hands help her sit up, and she looked around, seeing nothing. “What happened?”
“Your little stunt got us both dropped down a hole in the ground. Haven’t you ever heard of a mirage? The whole thing was a bloody illusion,” Spike replied, sounding annoyed. “I wanted to wait ‘til you were awake to look for a way out.”
Buffy frowned. “Can you hear that?”
“Of course I can bloody well hear that,” Spike replied. “It’s water, innit? I told you we were getting close.”
“Are we underground?”
“Yeah. Told you we got dropped down a hole,” Spike said. “Here.” Buffy felt him grasp her upper arm, hauling her to her feet with surprising gentleness. “It’s this way.”
“How do I know it’s safe to drink?” Buffy asked.
“You don’t,” he said shortly. “I can’t tell if it’s going to kill you or not, but it smells fresh. You’ll just have to hope it doesn’t make you sick.”
Buffy allowed him to lead her closer to the burbling sound she’d heard. Spike took her hand and put it into the tiny trickle flowing out of the rock wall.
That’s what she assumed was going on, anyway, since she couldn’t see it very well. Her eyes were beginning to adjust, though, and Buffy could just make out Spike’s pale flesh and glowing yellow eyes.
As the water hit her hand, Buffy realized how very thirsty she was, and she filled her cupped hands, drinking greedily.
“Easy,” Spike warned her. “Won’t do to make yourself sick.”
She slowed marginally, not replying until her thirst had eased. “How are we going to get out of here?”
“I don’t know.” He paused. “I really wish you’d stop asking me questions I can’t answer.”
“Does it hurt?” Buffy asked.
“No. It just makes me twitchy. ‘I don’t know’ is as much the truth as anything else.” Spike sighed. “Do you want to stay here and wait while I explore, or do you want to come with me?”
“Come with you,” Buffy said immediately. There was no way she was going to let him leave her down here alone, although she trusted him to come back for her.
The thought hit her then that she trusted Spike.
Not like she trusted her friends, of course. She wasn’t stupid. She trusted Spike to help her get out of this mess, though, and that was saying quite a bit.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be alone in an underground cave, either,” Spike observed. “You filled up, or do you want another drink?”
Buffy took the opportunity to get one last drink. “Let’s go.” There was a moment’s pause as they both considered how best to proceed. Hand in hand seemed like the easiest solution, but that was also rather intimate.
She didn’t argue when Spike took her hand, though.
“You never answered my question.”
“Was the kiss really that bad?”
Buffy had almost forgotten, but the memory came rushing back to her as she followed Spike down a corridor so dark not even his pale skin was visible. The kiss hadn’t been bad. That much was for sure. For a moment, she was tempted to lie—to tell him that it was the worst she’d had.
It didn’t seem quite fair when Spike couldn’t lie, though. Still, Buffy wasn’t above taking unfair advantage. “Was it bad for you?”
His growl told her that he knew exactly what she was doing. “No.”
“How good was it?”
Buffy felt his hand leave hers, and without that contact she lost all sense of direction. “Spike!”
“It was good, alright? Are you happy now, Slayer?”
She felt the hot flush of shame. Spike really had been amazingly civilized to her, and here she was picking at him. “It was good, Spike. The kissing part wasn’t just the spell anyway.”
Silence fell, and Buffy realized that she couldn’t sense him. She couldn’t even hear him. Spike didn’t need to breathe, and he could stand as still as stone and then vanish without a sound. “Spike?”
Buffy felt something cool and smooth slip past her cheek, and she shuddered convulsively. “Spike, this isn’t funny.” Whatever had brushed her face suddenly tightened around her neck. She had time for one muffled squeak, and then Buffy found her air cut off completely.
Even with Slayer strength, Buffy found herself incapable of pulling the smooth tentacle off her neck. She struggled feebly, beginning to see colored lights dance at the edge of her vision.
Just as suddenly, the grip on her neck loosened, and Buffy dropped to her knees, drawing in a gasping breath. She heard Spike snarling above her, and then his hand clamped down on her arm.
Buffy was still trying to catch her breath, even as Spike hustled her on. “What—”
“Don’t try to talk,” he ordered. “Not until I get a look at you.”
She didn’t think she could talk. Her head ached, her throat felt crushed, her lungs burned. Buffy let Spike pull her along, trying to focus on her breathing.
The light that hit her eyes didn’t do anything for Buffy’s headache, and she shut them tightly.
“Bloody, buggering—” Spike broke off his cursing abruptly. “Sit.”
Buffy let him steer her to a hard surface, and she slid down. “It has to be bad if you’re being this nice to me,” she croaked without opening her eyes.
“Shut up,” he ordered, not unkindly. “That thing really did a number on your throat. It’d be better for you not to talk until it’s had a chance to heal.”
As much as it hurt to talk, Buffy was inclined to take his advice. She leaned her head back against the wall, starting when she felt something cool and wet descend on her bruised throat.
“Hold still. It’s just a wet cloth.”
Buffy risked cracking one eye, realizing that Spike had taken off his duster and the red button-down shirt he’d been wearing. She could smell the mineral tang of the water right under her nose, and she realized that he’d wet his shirt and put it around her neck. “Spike…”
“Told you to shut your gob, didn’t I?” Spike asked. “Do as you’re bloody well told for once.”
Buffy closed her eyes again, not wanting to analyze the underlying fear in Spike’s voice. “’kay.”
After a day like she’d had, it was no wonder that Buffy dropped off to sleep almost immediately.
Spike waited to be sure that Buffy was asleep before he began his exploration of the cavern. He didn’t like the way he’d reacted to her near-strangulation.
Spike touched the welts on his face gently, testing to see how badly he’d been hurt. He’d been pissed as hell when Buffy had turned the question around on him, knowing that he had no choice but to answer honestly while she wasn’t under the same compulsion. Spike had broken contact, as much out of a desire for some distance as a need to scare her. His senses were good enough that he had no trouble knowing exactly where the Slayer was, and that there was another water source nearby.
As angry as he’d been, Spike hadn’t meant to nearly get her killed.
He was still a bit stunned over what he’d said earlier, about not wanting her dead. Although he wasn’t quite sure when it had happened, Spike had known it was the truth as soon as the words passed through his lips. Not that he liked her, mind you, just that he didn’t particularly want her dead. There was a difference.
The tentacles had come out of the stone so quickly that Spike hadn’t had any time to fight it off. One had wrapped around his face, and the second around his shoulders. The only good thing about the attack was that Spike was now fairly certain that while he might not be able to hurt humans, demons were fair game.
It was an exhilarating thought.
The cavern was large, about a hundred feet across and fifty feet wide, lit naturally with the phosphorescent rocks lining the walls. There was a spring trickling out of the wall and a large pool bubbling in the middle. There was water for Buffy, but Spike knew he was going to have to find a source of blood soon.
Actually, they were both going to need to eat. Spike wasn’t sure why he was worrying about Buffy. She certainly hadn’t been all that concerned about feeding him in the recent past. Still, he supposed he could justify it by saying that they were going to have to work together if either of them wanted to make it out alive.
Spike’s predatory instincts, sharpened with hunger, allowed him to catch a faint whiff of fresh air. There was an exit to the outside world close by, although everything he’d seen so far indicated that staying underground might be the smart thing to do.
He glanced back at Buffy, considering his options. If he left while she was sleeping, Spike knew she would be vulnerable to attack. At the same time, he might be able to find food, which would put the Slayer even further in his debt.
Something he had every intention of capitalizing on.
Buffy woke slowly, her whole body stiff. She opened her eyes warily, wondering if the previous day’s events would turn out to be nothing more than a very strange dream.
No luck there.
“’Bout time you woke up,” Spike said, his voice holding an edge of sarcasm. He was standing with his back towards her, letting the stream of water from the wall run over his forearm. “Thought you were goin’ to sleep the day away.”
She scowled at him. “How long have I been out?” It still hurt to talk, but she could tell that there had been a vast improvement.
“Few hours,” he replied. “I found food.”
Buffy perked up at that. “Where?”
“There’s an exit close by,” he explained, gesturing blindly at the pile of tiny fruits he’d laid on the ground near her. “Found those growing by the entrance.”
“What about you?” Buffy asked, eyeing the strange fruit suspiciously. There was no way to tell whether it was poisonous before eating it. She couldn’t even make Spike try it first.
“I got something.”
“An animal. Looked like a cross between a pig and a deer.” Spike shifted uncomfortably, refusing to look at her. “I’d have brought it back with me if there’d been any way to cook it.”
Buffy decided to risk the fruit. She was starving, and it didn’t look like she was going to have any other options until they got out of this place. She took a bite of one, quickly finishing it off once she’d gotten past the first taste. It was a little like a strawberry. “So are we leaving?”
“Don’t think that’s a particularly good idea.”
“I think we might be safer here for now.” Spike turned to face her for the first time since Buffy had woken, and her eyes widened. There was a livid bruise across his left cheek, and the arm he’d been soaking looked like it had been chewed on.
“What the hell happened to you?”
“Had to fight something for my dinner,” Spike replied. “Don’t think they’ll come where it’s light, but there are nasties in the corridors between the caverns.”
“What about getting out altogether?” Buffy asked. “Back to the surface.”
Spike shook his head. “There’s no water on the surface. Everything here is underground, from what I’ve seen. We go up, we starve.”
Buffy really didn’t like the sound of that. Spike was talking like they were never going to get back to Sunnydale. “Spike, we can’t stay here. Giles is going to come looking for us, and if we’re underground, they’re not going to find us.”
“We don’t know that.” Spike’s expression was as serious as Buffy had ever seen it, and she didn’t recognize him. With a sinking feeling, the Slayer realized that Spike was worried. Really worried. Like they wouldn’t get home again.
“You’re saying that this is the best place to wait it out.”
“Something like that,” he responded. “Just think that it might be smart to stay where there’s water.”
Buffy frowned. “We’re both going to need to eat. I appreciate the fruit, but it’s not going to last me very long.”
“Tighten your belt then, luv,” Spike snapped back. “Looks like neither one of us are going to be eating real well for a while.”
She glared at him. “I didn’t get us into this mess.”
“Didn’t you?” Spike asked. “I’ll bet you my last fag that those demons were after you, not me, which means that you did get us into this mess.”
“I didn’t ask the demons to send us to another dimension!” Buffy protested. “I’ve never seen them before.”
“Like you aren’t a target just by being the Slayer,” Spike sneered. “You were the one they were targeting. I was an innocent bystander, and now I’m stuck here with you.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “There’s nothing innocent about you, Spike.”
He snarled. “I sure as hell didn’t deserve this. Death, maybe. But not this sodding chip, or the bloody truth spell, or being saddled with you.”
Buffy was pissed off, mostly because Spike could make her angry faster than anyone else she knew, but she couldn’t think of a good come-back. Not when blood dripped down his arm onto the mossy floor, or when his still-damp shirt lay beside her because he’d used it to soothe her bruised neck. Or when she could still taste the fruit he’d picked, apparently at the risk of life and limb.
Okay, so maybe Buffy was just pissed off because she was being forced to be grateful to Spike.
“Fine. What do you want me to say?”
“I want you to say thank you.” Spike sat down on the ground several feet away, still nursing his hurt arm. “And if you’d be honest with me, that would be nice.”
“I’ve been honest with you. How have I not been honest?” Buffy replied, confused.
He snorted. “You only tell the truth when it suits you. The rest of the time, you bury your head in the sand, hoping you don’t have to face reality.”
Buffy opened her mouth to argue, and then she realized that there was nothing she could say, not when Spike couldn’t lie.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/77343.html