DISCLAIMER: Everything but the plot is Joss'. Too bad.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: The Council has kidnapped Spike, knocking him out at the same time, and Buffy has joined him in his dream to let him know what’s going on…

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Chapter 17: O'er the Dreaming Earth

It was the calmest dream they had ever experienced together. Usually, there was lots of running involved, either chasing or being chased, or fighting of one sort or another, and with the exception of her Slayer dream about the Soul Eaters---because she wasn’t sure windy ghosts counted as another person---this was the first time they had ever been completely alone. “Why’d you pick here?” Buffy murmured, watching as the slight desert breeze picked up some loose brush and sent it tumbling in a twisted dance across the sand. “And you do realize it’s actually daytime out in the non-sleeping world, don’t you?”

She could almost feel him shrug. “Dunno,” Spike said. “It’s not like I usually get a say in the matter. Guess something in me decided it was time for a mini-holiday.” His fingers entwined themselves in the loose curls of her hair. “Not complaining, though. Needed time to sort my head out, and this is as good a place as any.”

“What’s there to sort?” Rolling herself over on top of him, Buffy straddled his hips as she sat up, looking down at the shadowed sapphire eyes as they stared up at the night sky. “Those other dreams?”

“Yeah, and now this whole soul business.” Spike’s hands grasped the curve of her hips and tugged her forward, sliding her just enough so that the outline of his growing erection nestled in the schism between her thighs. “Not that I’ve ever given it any serious thought or anything, but if all this is true, it’s sure as hell not how I would’ve imagined it. I mean, where’s the guilt? How come I’m not goin’ all poncy like Angel did? I got more depressed about my existence after those government guys shoved this bleedin’ chip up my brain.”

Buffy frowned as she contemplated the implications of his questions. “I don’t think it’s the same thing,” she finally said. “Angel’s soul was a curse designed to make him feel bad about who he was and what he’d done. Yours…might not even be yours. And if it’s not, then you’re not even playing with a full soul deck. You’ve got half, and I’ve got half, and maybe my half is the one that handles guiltage.”

“Who says it’s all even steven?” Spike joked. “Maybe my soul is bigger than your soul.”

She ground herself lightly into his now-hardened cock, and smiled. “You may be onto something there,” she teased. “Definitely feels pretty big to me.”

He could smell her in the crisp night air, a mixture of soap, sweat, and the delicious musk from between her legs, and his fingers tightened. “You know what I just realized,” he said. “Neither one of us has had a sex dream since that cleansing ritual.”

Buffy laughed. “Probably because we’ve had so much, you know, actual sex. Kinda puts a crimp into the whole needing-it-while-you’re-asleep thing.”

“But the thing is…doesn’t feel like we’re sleepin’.” With a quick buck of his hips, Spike rocked the Slayer just enough off-balance to cause her to bend at the waist, toppling against his chest. “Feel like conducting a little experiment?” he asked, his voice dark in caramel tones.

“Willow’s the scientific one,” she breathed. “I used to duck out of chemistry every chance I got.” Her mouth lowered, small teeth nibbling at the flesh along his jaw, and she felt his hands steal around to her back, pulling her closer against the stone of his pelvis, her own legs stretching out across the top of his.

“Lemme guess. You were more of a phys ed kind of girl.”

She was on her back before she could blink, pinned beneath him as his mouth descended to lick along the side of her neck, following the vein that pulsed there to the junction of her jaw. As tiny goosebumps erupted along her arms, shivers began undulating from the pit of her stomach, radiating downward through the wetness of her pussy, across the sensitive skin of her inner thigh. “Experiment…a success,” Buffy whispered, air suddenly a precious commodity, and felt his chuckle reverberate against her flesh.

“Who says it’s over?” he taunted. “You said there was no rush for you to go back.”

“There’s not.”

“And seein’ as how I’m the one in immediate danger here, I think you’d be wantin’ to make sure you keep me as happy as possible while I’ve still got time to enjoy it.” He’d meant it as a joke, but felt her stiffen, muscles suddenly rigid. Carefully, Spike pulled away enough to gaze into the darkened depths of her eyes. “What?” he asked.

“Nothing’s going to happen to you,” she said firmly. “I’m not going to let it.”

The corner of his mouth lifted. “I know that,” he said. “I was just kidding.”

“No, you weren’t.”

“Yes, I was.” His smile vanished. “I don’t want to fuss with this, pet. You don’t believe me, just take a gander in the ol’ noggin next time I wake up. You’ll know I’m not lying here. I don’t do that with you. Not anymore.”

“You didn’t tell me about your dreams.”

“That’s different. That was just not telling. Totally different from lying.”

“Like you didn’t tell me when Giles came to warn you about the Council in the first place.”

“For fuck’s sake,” Spike muttered, and rolled off, rising to his feet to stand facing the desert. “I am not having this bloody fight again.” He began patting his pockets, wondering if he had any cigarettes, and, almost as if in direct response with his unspoken wish, they appeared in his hand, his lighter a sudden lump against his thigh.

“How do you expect me to help you if you don’t give me all the information I need to do it effectively?” Buffy demanded, sitting up and watching as the orange flame danced in the air.

“Never asked for your soddin’ help,” he growled. “I’m not some pathetic wanker incapable of doin’ for himself.”

“Which is why you’re now drugged to the gills and just waiting for whatever Travers has in mind for you.” She shook her head. “Just let me do my job, Spike. All that requires is that you be completely upfront with me. About everything.”

He exhaled loudly, the smoke a clean fog in front of him. “For one thing, I’m not your job, Slayer.” His anger was rising, his eyes flashing gold, the sudden use of her title a sure indication of his fury. In a twisted way, he was enjoying the rush of arguing with her. Certainly didn’t feel like some namby-pamby human now. “I’ll put up with you calling me a lot of things, but not that.”

“I didn’t mean---.”

“Will you just bloody well let. Me. Finish.”

The chill of his voice froze Buffy’s veins, and, deliberately, she closed her mouth, pressing her lips together. There was no denying the rage that edged his words, and she realized that she hadn’t seen him this mad since before the ritual. That couldn’t be of the good.

“You and me,” he continued, “we’re partners. In more ways than the physical one. Which, to me, means equal, whether you realize it or not.” Each word was chiseled, aimed directly at her throat, and he found himself crushing the cigarette between his fingers as he spoke. “Now, I know you’re hurting, and I know you’re scared, and fuck knows I’m not exactly singin’ in the rain either, but that doesn’t make me your latest goddamn apocalypse. What it means, is we work together to sort this mess out. To-geth-er.”

She jumped at his slight pause, desperate to get the words out before he could go on. “Spike, I know that. Which is why I think you need to let me know when stuff like the Council thing goes on. I scratch your back, you scratch mine.”

“It’s not a matter of scratching, luv.” He tossed his cigarette into the brush and turned to face her full on. “It’s a matter of you trusting my methods sometimes, even if you don’t like them. I got by for over a century before you ever came along. Think I did that just on my pretty looks?” When Buffy’s head jerked sideways, her hazel gaze narrowing to scan the surrounding desert, he quickly glanced to see what could’ve captured her attention, his own frustration at not being able to finish seething under his skin. “What is it?” he bit at her.

“You don’t hear it?”

“Would I’ve asked ‘what is it’ if I’d the faintest clue what was all of a sudden so fascinatin’ to you?” The vampire’s irritation was mounting, and he stomped closer to her, hoping that the proximity might be all he needed to figure out what could possibly have the nerve to interrupt him when he was on a roll.

“It sounds like…”

And, just as if she had never been there, Buffy was gone.

*************

“Buffy…”

Though the hand was gentle on her shoulder, it jolted her back to consciousness with a heavy thump, and the Slayer opened her eyes to gaze up into Willow’s worried face. “What’s going on?” she murmured, blinking against the dim light of the room as she sat up. “Is Elvis back?”

Biting her lip, the redhead nodded. “But it’s not good news.”

It was no longer just her and Giles in the room. Besides Willow, Buffy could see the white outline of Cortina in the doorway, with Dawn’s huddled form under her arm. She frowned when she saw her sister’s tear-stained face, but quickly returned her gaze to the pair beside the bed. Probably just still crying about Mom, the Slayer thought. Gotta remember to thank Cort for playing surrogate later on.

“Wasn’t he able to track Spike’s scent?” Please, oh please, she thought desperately. Tell me he was at least able to follow the trail. Give me something to work with here.

“Oh, tracking it was just hunky-dory. It was where he tracked it to that makes the news not so hunky, more of the dory.”

Buffy watched as Willow and Giles looked at each other, one of his hands tucked under the opposite arm as he rubbed tiredly at his forehead, and the feeling of dread returned, the pit that had taken residence in her stomach widening into the Grand Canyon. “What?” she demanded. “Just spit it out. I am soooo not in the mood for games right now.”

“The Hound followed Spike and the men who took him to the Cavanagh airstrip,” Giles said quietly. “The trail ended there.”

“They’ve…got him on a plane?” No! she wanted to scream. They were supposed to leave him here so that I can find him and kick their asses for taking him in the first place. Planes meant far away places, like Greece, or England… “You don’t think---?” she started.

“We’re going to find out,” Willow interrupted. “I can get into their logs and find out where they’re headed, but that means going back to Sunnydale and getting my laptop. Which is why we woke you up.” The redhead’s frown deepened. “Did you…talk to Spike?”

“Talk, fight, same dif,” Buffy muttered and skittered across the top of the blanket to jump to her feet at the end of the bed. “He doesn’t know anything. They shoved some needle full of stuff into his neck and he’s been out of it since they snagged him.” She grabbed her boots from the floor and began slipping them on. “Let’s roll. We can talk strategy in the car.”

She was halfway to the door when Willow’s hand wrapped around her elbow. “What happened?” the young witch said quietly. “Is everything OK?”

“Spike happened.” The Slayer’s voice was clipped, her jaw tense, but under the hard veneer, a small glitter of pain reflected in her eyes. “He’s been holding back.”

“Holding back…how?” Giles queried.

She shook her head. “He’s been having these dreams. When I told him about the Soul Eaters, he didn’t even pretend to be surprised.”

“I thought you…shared your dreams.”

“Apparently not all of them.” Turning on her heel, she crossed the distance to the door and slipped her arm around Dawn, oblivious to Cortina as she stepped away to allow the two sisters room. “You up for going back to Sunnydale?” Buffy asked softly. “I’d rather you were somewhere I can keep an eye on you.”

Dawn shrugged. “Sure,” she mumbled, and allowed herself to be guided from the room.

*************

The smoke burned in his lungs, sizzling in silent apathy, and Spike kicked at the loose grit beneath his boot, exhaling a vehement stream that dissipated almost as soon as it hit the chill air. Buffy’s disappearance was hardly a mystery. Someone---Giles, most likely---had woken her up, hopefully with good news. That thought did nothing to lessen the irritation that crawled over his skin, though. Good news, bad news, what the hell difference did it make until he and Buffy sorted out this issue of what being partners really meant?

Somewhere in that beautiful, stubborn, intoxicating, superior head of hers, Spike suspected she still believed herself to be his so-called savior, rescuing him from one catastrophe after another, conveniently forgetting about the numerous times he’d risked his own neck to ensure her safety. Or, if not forgetting, diminishing their importance in comparison to her fucking calling. Pig-headed bint. Too used to bein’ the one in charge. Forgetting there were other players in this little soul game. And he wasn’t just goin’ to sit back and cool his heels while she went and played lifeguard with his sorry ass. Just need a plan, that was all. Something concrete…

“I thought she would never leave.”

The sound of her voice was an ice dagger between his shoulder blades. “Bloody hell,” Spike muttered, and flicked the cigarette away, watching as the red tip glowed too bright in the sparse brush. Not goin’ to look, he intoned silently. Not goin’ to look. But just as in every other time she had appeared to him, there was no resisting the pull, his head slowing swiveling to see her standing at the curve of the hill.

It was perhaps the first time he had never seen her in a dress, but the sight of his almost mirrored reflection only served to remind him that this wasn’t her; it was one of those fucking Soul Eaters deciding to play his mind by looking like her. He stood his ground as she approached, her slender legs looking even thinner in the black jeans, her own black duster draped over her petite form. Even her hair was different, no longer soft and curling, but pulled back sharply from the high cheekbones, the legacy he knew he carried even if he hadn’t seen them for himself in a hundred years.

“Not in the mood for your little games,” he growled, and held his ground. Not goin’ to let her see how she gets to me, he vowed. “I know who you are now.”

“Oh, William.” She sighed, stopping in front of him, one hand reaching up to push back hair that wasn’t out of place. “This isn’t a game. I thought you understood that by now.”

He so desperately wanted to correct her---it’s Spike, damn it!---but knew it was pointless, her use of his human name an affectation designed to drive the diamond tip of her taunts deeper into his flesh. “Doesn’t matter,” he said. “Buffy’s on to you. You’re not goin’ to get her. Not if I have anything to say about it.”

Though he had gazed into the dead cerulean depths time and time again in these little dream jaunts, Spike was still unprepared for the sheer hunger that suddenly gleamed there, her lips curling back with rapacious gluttony as her tongue ran over the tip of her teeth. It was the mimicry of his own mien that rattled him, forcing him to step back, away from her cold touch and even colder words.

“Well, isn’t that gallant,” she murmured. “Foolish and impossible, but nonetheless…gallant.” She followed him forward, matching his every move away with another that would equalize the distance. “You can’t save her. You won’t even be here. You’re the one we desire the strongest. The dark one is just…an incredibly delectable dessert.”

The ravages of his recent argument with Buffy now seemed inconsequential, his desire to protect her consuming his rational thought, steeling his resolve as he planted his boots into the sand, refusing to allow her---it, he reminded himself, not her---to drive him further away. “You won’t get her,” he repeated. “She’ll beat you. We’ll beat you.” Spike laughed, and heard it shatter the air around them. “She knows what you’re doin’. I told her---.”

He didn’t see her move. One moment, she was a black outline against the even blacker sky. The next, she was pressed up against him, one hand around his back holding him indelibly in place, the other wedged between them, its palm pressed to his chest. “You. Did. Not,” she hissed, and Spike felt the fingers from his childhood lengthen, nails honing into claws that pierced his shirt, slicing through his skin, burying themselves in the muscle of his chest.

He couldn’t scream, the pain too exquisite in its crystalline force, and gritted his teeth to bear against it. “Did,” he rasped, and then uttered the one word he’d wished all long to have the nerve to say to her face. “Bitch.”

Her laughter was unexpected. “Oh, I do adore your spirit,” she said lightly. “It’s going to be delightful when you’re one with us,” and with that, her grip tightened, Spike’s blood dripping in maddening rivulets from the heel of her hand onto the ground below.

This time, he could not suppress his screams…

 

To be continued in Chapter 18: Waken