For rating, setting etc see Part 1.
Heroes in Hell Part 5
When she woke, it was to a wild feeling of panic, though she couldn’t for a moment remember what she was afraid of. When she did remember, she couldn’t make herself look at the mark.
Instead, she lay, clenching and unclenching her fist. Hadn’t the check-in demon said that when the mark faded completely she’d find herself back in the waiting room? Well – in that case, it couldn’t be gone yet, could it? This wasn’t over. She was certain now too that she hadn’t told Spike about the time limit. Maybe when he heard about it, he’d be more amenable?
Even as she thought it, she didn’t believe it – and where was Spike anyway? He wasn’t lying beside her.
She sat up, becoming aware as she did so of the sound of the TV. “Please don’t!” someone begged – those words again – and then there was screaming.
He was sitting in the armchair staring blankly at the screen, his face a white mask of misery. He wore his jeans, which were still damp and muddy at the bottom, but his torso was bare and covered in a rainbow array of bruises. He did look better, though – or at least, both eyes were open. It seemed that even in Hell, vamp healing still worked wonders.
She wrapped the comforter around herself and stole across the floor towards him. He flinched a little when she reached out and touched his cheek but he didn’t pull away from her like he had done last time.
She refused to look at the TV screen. It was there to distract her, she was sure, as much as it was to remind him of his sins- to make her lose faith in him and abandon him. Instead, she caressed his face gently.
“Dummy! What was that all about? Getting yourself beaten up – so not the way to impress me.”
He leaned into her touch as if he craved it, but his eyes remained on the flickering screen.
“Wasn’t trying to impress you – s’ just you drive a man to drink, that’s all.”
“You didn’t go to that bar to drink,” she said, patiently. “You told me yourself, if you want something here you can never find it. No – you wanted to get yourself beaten up and they obliged you because this is Hell and they thrive on your despair. Why did you do it, Spike? Did you think it’d disgust me – make me stop loving you? Because it hasn’t.”
“Don’t say that.” He spoke through gritted teeth. “I know you don’t bloody mean it.”
“You don’t know anything.” Her patience with him – the tenderness she’d felt – was dissipating rapidly. “You’re not thinking straight – like usual.”
Now he spared her a sidelong glance and wonder of wonders, he almost smiled.
“Maybe,” he conceded. “Anyway, you were bloody magnificent as always. Tossers couldn’t stand up to you, armed with all that Slayer righteousness.”
She perched herself on the arm of the chair, blocking his view of the screen, and now he had to look at her. He hadn’t buttoned his fly, she noticed. She could see the soft, pale curve of his cock nestling amongst dark-gold curls at the base of his flat belly.
“They didn’t even seem to notice me at first. Why was that?”
She was still stroking his cheek and he was still leaning into it, like a stray cat that wanted petting. She had a sudden absurd desire to tickle him under his chin – to rub her thumb up and down his throat until he started purring. Did vampires even purr? She’d always thought they must. After all, they roared like lions sometimes and lions were just giant kitty-cats, weren’t they?
He’d closed his eyes. “They didn’t notice you because they didn’t expect to see someone like you there. You weren’t theirs to torment. You’re not one of the damned, Slayer. You shouldn’t even be here.”
“Well, I won’t be for much longer.” The words were out before she could stop them, and now she couldn’t help looking at her hand again. The mark was so faint she could barely see it – just a silvery outline on the skin, like fish-scales, when she tipped her hand into the light.
“Seen sense, have you?” He didn’t even open his eyes. “After all, I’m not one of the righteous, Buffy. Those demons in the bar had no trouble seeing me, did they?”
He looked almost smug as he said it, and his tone was so I Told You So, it was just – oh, infuriating. She shook him a little and at last he opened his eyes.
“Just who the hell are you?” she said, crossly. “Because I’m beginning to wonder if I’m the one being made a fool of here. Are you really Spike, because you sure don’t sound like him.”
He blinked in surprise, on the back-foot suddenly. Then he’d gotten that stubborn look on his face again.
“What’re you on about, Slayer? ‘Course I’m Spike. Who else would I be?”
“See – that’s the question, isn’t it?” She grabbed his hand as it reached for the open pack of cigarettes on the side table, holding it tight in hers. “The Spike I remember would never give up like this. He fought – every day of his life he fought – and okay, he fought mostly for evil, but that’d all changed before he – he died.”
“Bollocks!” he started to say, but she put her finger to his lips.
“I know you think I’m just a naïve little girl, Spike, but I’m not. I do know you were a bad, bad man. I know that when you died in the Hellmouth you’d only just stepped onto the path of righteousness or whatever you wanna call it. But the thing is – you did step on it, of your own free will, and that’s why this abandon hope stuff is all just bullshit. You really and truly don’t belong here.”
She waved her hand in front of his face, showing him how the mark had faded. “That check-in demon guy told me I had until this mark was gone completely to persuade you to come with me. Now – are you coming or not?”
There was a long silence, punctuated by the intrusive sounds of the TV with its daily show of horrors. She watched his white face, his Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat. He bit his lip and she felt a surge of hope.
Then he said, “No.”
Although after all that had happened, she’d been half-expecting it, her reaction still surprised her. Was this what despair felt like? She ought to remember, oughtn’t she? After all, she’d felt it enough times that year when Willow had brought her back from the dead.
She knew she should get good and mad – punch him in the nose, maybe – try to make him fight back. But suddenly she couldn’t. She just knew that she loved him, that she needed him more than she’d ever needed anyone, and he wasn’t coming and she didn’t want to leave without him.
He was staring at her. He looked – kind of curious, like he was waiting to see how she’d react to his refusal. Maybe he expected her to give up on him finally– storm out of here? What would it take to convince him that would never happen?
“Okay then,” she said. “I’m staying too.”
He gaped at her then pursed his lips and frowned.
She felt weird now the words were out – she’d never intended to say them. But they were said now and she’d have to stick by them. So what if the mark faded, she told herself, and she ended up back in the waiting room? She’d just march on through that door again – and again, until he stopped being such a dummy.
Suddenly, he laughed – the full-on Spike dirty snigger that reminded her of too many moments stolen from her life – stolen from Dawn – getting groiny with the nasty vampire in back alleys and crypts when she was supposed to be patrolling. And he had been nasty sometimes, when she’d wanted him to be – whispered filthy things into her ears, done stuff to her she’d never even heard of. But then she’d been nasty too.
When the laughter just went on and on though, and the mocking note in it became harder to ignore, she began to lose patience again. She got up from the arm of the chair, putting distance between them, wrapped her arms round herself over the comforter and scowled at him.
“What? What’s so funny?”
At first, he couldn’t answer her. Instead, he wiped tears of laughter from his eyes and shook his head weakly. Then, as suddenly as he’d started, he stopped – like he was a TV program and someone had switched him off.
“You’re good,” he said. “I’ll give you that – but not good enough.”
As usual, he wasn’t making sense. “Huh? What do you mean?”
He reached out for the pack of cigarettes again, stuck one in his mouth and lit it. His eyes narrowed as he inhaled and now he looked angry.
“I mean that if I bloody want my intelligence insulted I’ll go and talk to Angel. He’s had more practice.”
“I don’t understand!” Her voice came out a wail, which made her want to claw the words back and not have said them, and made him roll his eyes.
“Had me believing you, didn’t you?” he sneered. “Thought you had to be the genuine article after all – driving those demons off in the bar – beautiful you were, like an avenging angel. Pity it was all a sham.”
“But it’s not!” Suddenly she felt at her wit’s end. “Why would you think that?”
He breathed smoke in her direction. “If you can’t see why – just proves my bloody point.”
Then he looked away from her and back at the TV screen, where a Spike she didn’t recognise, with old-fashioned clothes and black shiny hair, like someone had poured a bottle of ink over his scalp, was busy strangling some girl wearing a cute little shell-shaped hat with the girl’s own pearl necklace.
Suddenly – awfully – it seemed there was no more to be said. Nothing was working and maybe this being Hell, it never would. Maybe the check-in demon had known she was doomed to failure and played a cruel trick on her by allowing her to even try?
Buffy thought of the long lines of people at City Hall thinking they were going to be transferred out of here– of Pantsuit Lady with her blood-stained jacket hurrying to the dry-cleaners. What were those things if not cruel tricks played over and over on people who deep down must know there was no escape. Ever.
“Spike –“ she tried one more time, but he ignored her, eyes on the TV screen. She saw the fragile skin around his eyes tighten as he watched. The girl with the pearl necklace was purple in the face now, gasping like a beached fish.
Maybe, by accepting his fate – by putting on the duster every day – he was just being a realist – not letting the bastards win?
She wandered away across the crypt, ignoring the slimy feel of the bare stone under her feet. She’d been stupid to say what she’d said about staying with him, she knew that now – because she couldn’t stay. She never could have. It was impossible when so many people were relying on her and he must know that. Maybe he’d heard the lie in her voice?
She remembered his words to her when she’d come back from the dead, about how every night he saved her in his dreams to try and make up for not saving her on Glory’s tower. Was that how she’d feel about him now – for the rest of her life?
Her chest ached. In fact, everything ached. She unwound the comforter and put it back on the bed. Then she wrestled herself back into her wet clothes and sodden sneakers, trying not to look at her hand as she did so. She didn’t want to see when the mark disappeared.
The very thought made her want to scream – to run to him -shake him and shake him until he saw sense.
“Why is it so different this time?” She hadn’t meant to say anything but she couldn’t help herself.
“Why is what different?” His voice was dull – uninterested; like he’d already dismissed her from his mind. He was looking at her, but only because the TV had suddenly gone dark. It seemed the horror show was over for today.
“I mean, I’ve saved you from Hell before remember? From the cave where the First Evil had you chained up. You believed in me then. Why won’t you now?”
He stubbed out his cigarette in the overflowing ashtray. “Told you – if you can’t understand why, you’re just proving my point.”
His voice took on a yearning note. “In any case, even if I had believed you, what difference would it make? Our moment – hers and mine – it passed. S’gone.”
She wasn’t sure why that was the cue for her patience to snap again, finally and completely. She almost thought she heard it this time – that same elastic band stressed beyond endurance. Suddenly, she was so furious the blood was pounding in her head and her vision had gone all blurry at the edges.
She marched towards him, and whatever was in her face must have been scary because suddenly he looked daunted. He even shrank back into his chair.
“What’s twisted your knickers?” he blustered, as she leant over him, but he didn’t fool her. At last, he was scared of the Slayer – as well he should be.
“Asshole!” A fleck of spittle struck his cheek and she wasn’t even embarrassed about it. He deserved to get himself spat on. “Do you have any idea what I went through after you died? Do you?”
He opened his mouth to speak but she shook her head once and his mouth shut with a snap. He swallowed.
“Of course you don’t ‘cos you’ve been hiding in this hellhole – literal hellhole – being all mopey and stuff – poor little vampire, big bad world wouldn’t cut him a break even after he died for it.”
“Hey!” he began. “That’s not f-“ but she interrupted him. “I’m not done talking.”
She had a full head of steam now and there was no way he was getting a word in until she was finished.
“I tell you I love you, you say, no I don’t – that I still love Angel. Well, you know what, Spike – I do love him, and what’s more I always will – ah-ah! –“ this to him as he tried to get up –“but I’m not in love with him. I’m in love with you, you selfish, insufferable – rude –“Just for a moment, words failed her.
His eyes were fixed on her face now, as if he couldn’t look away, but she grabbed his chin and held it just in case.
“I come all the way to Hell to rescue you – to take you back with me – and what? Is that not good enough for you? Maybe you’re still thinking I would’ve done the same for other people – for Dawn? For Angel? Well, you’re right. I’d have gone to Hell in a heartbeat for him if I’d known how. In fact, I’d still do it – but that doesn’t change the fact that I came here for you.”
“Take it easy, love. You’re hurting me,” he almost whimpered. She gentled her grip but only by a little.
“You had no right to walk through that door – abandon hope! How could you? How could you be so – so – “ Her vision was a lot blurrier suddenly and she realised she was crying – which was exasperating because she hadn’t meant to.
Abruptly, she let him go and backed off. “You don’t believe you deserve to be saved so I can’t be the real Buffy – fine. I don’t know what else I have to do to make you see sense – but anyway, I’m sorry.”
“For what?” He was staring at her, like a drowning man trying to keep his head above the waves.
“I shouldn’t have said I’d stay with you no matter what, because I can’t. People are relying on me, Spike – people you haven’t even asked about – Xander and Willow, Giles – Dawn. They need me, and so do the new Slayers. I have work to do and I’m gonna go do it.”
She couldn’t look at him any more – couldn’t let her last sight of him be the white, tormented face of a man who’d let himself be defeated.
She turned her back on him. “You know what? I’m not gonna remember you this way. Instead I’ll remember the man who held me in his arms and gave me the strength to face down the First Evil. That’s the man I love, and you aren’t him.”
Mind made up, she lifted the iron bar on the door and flung it aside. The door yielded to a hard push, letting foggy night air into the crypt – and then two things happened.
In front of her, Marvin jumped out of the way as the door swung open and then, without missing a beat, he held out a pudgy hand towards her, smiling. “Hey, great to see you again, Buffy. You don’t mind me calling you Buffy, do you?”
And behind her, Spike said, “Hold your horses, Slayer. I’m coming with you.”
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/228008.html