Learning to Breathe – 1

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Learning to Breathe
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Well hello there seasonal spuffers! Spring time is here (although it’s actually snowing here today) and with it comes another wave of Spuffy. Personally I can’t wait to get a look at what all the fabulously talented people who’ve signed up have got to offer.

However before I get to enjoy other peoples work I have to contribute something of my own (Still can’t believe I got day one. Argh why do they hate me ;)

Title: Learning to Breathe
Author: bearfacedcheek
Summary: Set in season 6 post Dead Things where things turn out a little better for Spike.
Author’s note: Honestly day one caught me a little on the hop and it was a race to get this finished. Luckily April is a goddess and she turned the proofing around in a day. Big thanks got to her of course and also to the wonderful itmustbetuesday  who makes all this possible. 


She watches the gentle rise and fall of his chest as he sleeps, floats the sensitive underside of her arm inches above his face so that she can feel the slight breeze chill her skin and raise delicate goose bumps on the gold.

She pities the air. Air that can touch him so intimately, can loose itself within him and emerge unchanged. She knows that she does not.

He breathes rarely, in forgetful slumber or reckless passion. He mimics the rhythm of life unconsciously when he is with her more than at any other time, as if some part of him seeks to deceive and subvert her, to lie to her and tell her they are not so very different after all. She is not fooled.

She turns her hand with an eastern dancer’s flourish so that his breath runs like cool water upward through her fingers. A clever trick, this subtle in and out, like living. But the air is too cold, too unchanged by its journey into the very heart of him for this to be real.

And she envies the air for that above all else: because it leaves him unaltered. He has no rushing blood or greedy muscles demanding that it offer up its oxygen or sacrifice itself just to be expelled, depleted and contaminated. It emerges as it entered, cool and unchanged. She does not.

She understands that every moment with him changes her, makes her both less and more than she was. Like the warm rush of her own breath in which he so likes to bathe his lifeless skin, she is warmer now, perhaps, but is she only CO2?

But unlike the air she so thoughtlessly destroys with every breath, she has a choice in this. She comes willingly each day, offers herself up to him like martyr’s penance and challenges him. Reform me. Make me other than what I have come to be.

Because whatever she will be when he is done remoulding her, it can be no worse than what she is now: a lifeless husk of skin, stretched too tight over rock-hard muscle and bone. The skin in which she once fitted so well. She remembers how it was in those days before love and death between them mutilated her, when she was oh so young and the sunlight didn’t burn her eyes, when she did not yearn with bestial passion for the depravity he offers her.

She should go. The world outside awaits her, waits in ambush to demand of her: do not be altered; be always as you were. And how she wishes she could comply, could fit again inside this malformed carcass and simply be—as they desire—Buffy. She will leave in just a moment, easier to go while he still sleeps, to spare herself the judgement of his reproachful eyes when he begs her, “Stay, Buffy,” and the unneeded impeachment of his prideless “Please.”

But she can’t go yet. She’s not ready for the world outside, and his breath captivates her as she lowers her head so that the cool air washes over her cheek. She allows herself a wry smile at the thought that tonight she has worn him out, vampire stamina or no.

She’d felt almost giddy with abandon when she’d come here tonight with Tara’s gentle assurance running on repeat in her mind; “It’s all right if you love him.” True, she’d railed against it, had fallen to her to her knees at Tara’s feet begging for punishment. But the witch had had none of it. “Buffy,” she’d commanded, softly but in a voice strong with the force of her compassion, “get up.”

She’d been at her lowest, looking up, and it hadn’t been so bad. She’d hit rock bottom and there is something comforting about knowing there is no further you can fall. Especially if you still have friends like Tara telling you that it’s ok, and looking at you with love, not judgement.

And if Tara, who surely was the best of all of them, could look at her without reproach and say, “Buffy, it isn’t wrong for you to do what makes you happy,” then perhaps this thing, this messed up, twisted thing of theirs could be something better, because in these barren days this is all that makes her even halfway content.

She’d found herself grinning mischievously as she’d quietly pushed open the crypt door, hoping to catch him unawares, but he’d been there leaning against his tomb, stoney faced and bruised so badly her hand had flown of its own accord to her mouth and her eyes had moistened with regret.

“Oh God, Spike,” she’d murmured in a voice so lost that he’d come to her in a lightening fast moment of forgiveness and raised her chin with gentle fingers.

“Hey, pet,” he’d crooned, and she’d marvelled that even when she had wronged him so badly he was still offering her is boundless comfort. “No worries, yeah, be healed in a day or two.” He’d offered a tentative smile she hadn’t been able to return and tried again. “Come on now, luv, none of that. I know you like ’em: ‘Sexy wounds.’ Your words, not mine.”

She’d let out a huff of mirthless laughter then and he’d kissed her more softly than she usually allowed, and she’d let him because tonight she’d felt a little less like hurting him.


She has not gone. He has lain here now for more minutes than his patience usually allows, feigning sleep because tonight he has no desire to beg her stay, and if he sees her leave all shame and righteousness, he knows that he will beg. Best play possum and save them both the trouble, at least this once.

He opens his eyes a fraction, a tiny slit to look at her, swirling her hand above his face as if trying to gather up his breath. Fascinated hazel eyes focus on first his chest then her hand as if he is a problem for which she cannot reach a solution; perhaps he is.

She moves closer so that her cheek hovers above his face and he can’t resist it. Even though his cover will be blown and she will have to run from him, throwing heartbreak carelessly behind her, he blows a steady stream of chill air across her ear.

Of all the reactions he could have imagined, he would not have imagined this. A girlish giggle that he barely believes can have come from her. She never laughs with him and hardly smiles. The sound is like crack and he finds himself consumed with a need to hear it again. So he blows again, tickling her hairline, and there it is again, a little louder now.

Her head swivels, eyes catching his briefly as they pass, and she presents her other side to him. Another gentle jet of air, just into the sensitive spot beneath her ear. It’s a mindless game but any game with her is magic, so when she turns her head again and her eyes flash amusement as they pass, he can’t resist it. He blows hard directly into her ear.

“Ack!” She rears away from him with a startled cry and turns mock outrage on him. “Spike.” She dishes out retribution with a feeble slap on his bare chest that makes him rumble with laughter. God, she’s playing with him. Like lovers do on lazy Sunday mornings when there is nothing to get up for.

Her eyes narrow and he knows her well enough to know she’s about to strike, but the lightning-fast attack surprises him into stillness and she’s on him, deadly little hands racing circles on his ticklish ribs, making him squirm and swear.

“Little bitch,” he mumbles affectionately as he finally manages to turn over and get her pinned beneath him. She’s so beautiful then, flushed and smiling triumphantly, that he just stops. Stops dead still and holds her eyes until her smile fades and her lips part in soft expectation.

“Buffy.” The low rumble of her name makes her swallow and wet those lovely pink lips of hers, and for all the sight of her is making him hard again against her thigh he’s not ready yet to give up the wondrous new experience of their game.

He tips his head towards her and her eyes flutter shut. Then he pounces, blowing a loud raspberry against the salty skin of her soft neck so that she squeals and thrashes girlishly beneath him.

“Argh!” Not so girlish, though, when she uses a shot of slayer power to fling him across the bed. “That’s it, Mr.” She crawls across the mattress like a predator, lithe and threatening. “You are so gonna get it.”

And then they’re fighting and laughing, rolling together until they’re too tangled up in his sheets and too breathless—her, at least—to continue. She releases him and flops onto her back with a throaty giggle to contemplate the earth ceiling of his crypt.

And though he’s almost choking on the fear he’ll scare her off, he has to ask. “Pet?” She rolls her head to look at him and raises her eyebrows. “What’s got into you?”

Her expression darkens like sudden thunder and she’s up and searching for her clothes with angry, jerky movements. Let her go then; he hasn’t the strength to beg tonight, not with the memory of her playful smile still filling his mind. He flops back onto the bed, one arm flung over his face, just for tonight admitting defeat.

“Spike.” Buffy’s voice sounds strange to him, apologetic and conciliatory. “Sorry.” She gives a tight smile and a shrug that seems to say she can’t help being what she is. “I better get back to Dawn.” Ah, the stock excuse, the little sister who is apparently fine alone—till gone midnight, it seems, but then is in desperate need of parenting. “I’ll see you tomorrow, ok?” And if that hint of making plans isn’t enough to stun him into acceptance, then the fleeting kiss she grazes across his cheek will definitely do the trick. “Bye.” And she’s gone.


Tara’s up when she arrives on her doorstep; she’d swung by on the off chance the witch was still up and about, and the welcome she receives doesn’t disappoint. Fresh-brewed tea and gentle, easy company.

“You see Spike tonight?” Tara asks without agenda.

“Yeah, I went by his place after patrol.” Although it still feels a little strange to be so open, it’s a feeling she knows she could easily get used to. “Surveyed the damage.” Her forehead crinkles at the memory of his battered face. “I did a real number on him.”

“H-he’s ok though?” Tara asks, and for the first time the slayer understands that the witch’s gentle acceptance is not all about her. There is care there, too, for Spike of all the unlikely people. At her silence, Tara ploughs on with forced cheer. “Course he is. S-spike is kinda tough.”

True enough, and as the slayer nods in agreement she feels an unfamiliar sense of proprietary pride, a ‘that’s my guy’ rush that could be thoroughly disturbing or oddly heart warming.

“How about you?” She knows she’s inclined to be a little self-absorbed and Tara hasn’t had it easy recently either. “How’s things? I mean with Willow and everything…” She trails off, afraid that anything she says is sure to sound like best friend propaganda.

“I’m ok,” the witch replies with a crooked, candid smile. “H-how’s Willow doing?”

“Will? She’s great—” She cuts the lie off with a wry shake of her head. “Not so good. But I think you did the right thing. The magic, it’s been… I don’t think any of us knew how far it had gone.” They’re silent then, tense and awkward. “She’s doing better, though,” Buffy offers after a moment. “No magic for a whole week now.”

But Tara’s nod is unconvinced and her eyes so troubled that the slayer is compelled to offer some kind of reassurance. “She’ll make it. She’s strong and she won’t give you up. She’ll fight this and she’ll win, and she’ll do it for you.”


“Thanks, Spike. Nice save.” Her words shock him into stillness, hands caught frozen in the act of brushing dust from his coat. It’s not often his attempts to help her are greeted with anything more than contemptuous derision. Gratitude is not something she hands out too freely, especially not to him.

He feels oddly coy in the face of her thanks and grins sheepishly at her. “You’re welcome, slayer.”

For a moment she keeps her eyes on him; then she gives a quick shake of her head and smiles ever so slightly. “Oh yeah.” She clicks her manicured fingers as if just remembering something. “The guys are organising the oh-so-predictable surprise birthday party for me this Saturday. You should come. Dawn really wants you there.”

He half smiles for moment, but it’s distant and she knows he’s lost in affection for her sister. How had she not noticed all this time how much he cares for her, worrying about her English homework and threatening any boy who’d dare attempt to date her? But then his face closes and it’s like being locked out in winter when the fire’s warm inside.

“Wouldn’t want to impose, slayer.” He emphasises the moniker in a way that makes her prickle. “Tell sweet bit I’ll catch up with her soon. Give her my love, yeah?”

She lets him get about four steps before she’s striding after him, temper flaring. “Damn it, Spike, stop being such a poop-head.”

It’s enough to stop him, to make him look over his shoulder at her with one eyebrow quirked in disbelief. “A what now, slayer?”

Ok, so it might not have been the most imaginative or mature of insults, but it seemed to fit and she’s sticking to it. “You heard me,” she insists with hands firmly planted on petite hips. “You’re a poop-head.

“Come to the damn party, Spike. Dawn wants you there and so do I.” Then she remembers Anya and Xander’s conspiratorial looks. “Besides, I may need some backup. I think Anya’s going to try and fix me up.”

Suddenly she finds trapped between the cold stone of a crypt and a growling vampire. It should be scary but it’s actually kinda funny. “Ooohhh.” She knows her teasing is more malicious than playful. “Don’t tell me you’re jealous.”

He looks like he’s about to scoff. She can almost hear him snorting out some faux casual remark about not needing to be jealous of the pathetic children Xander could provide. Then he stills and fixes his eyes on her, intense enough that she holds her breath for his response.

“Bloody right I am,” he declares in a voice that sounds like an oath of desire. Then he’s kissing her and all that matters is the feel of him and the stone that keeps her standing.


Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/65507.html

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