The Mired Path 19/19

Title: The Mired Path
Author: Pricelessspike (Priceless)
Setting: Post Season 12 (Comic compliant)
Rating: PG
Warning: Spike/Other
Word Count: 2200
Summary: In Season 12 Buffy and Spike break up. Spike eventually leaves and this is their first meeting in three years. Plus, Angel needs rescuing.
A/N: Massive thanks to my wonderful betas Stoney and TriBel, if you like anything in this fic, it's because of them. All mistakes are mine, because I can't stop re-writing.

Chapter 19

It took Buffy two days to fully recover physically. Her bones mended and her bruises vanished and a casual observer wouldn’t have guessed she’d been brutally murdered only days before. But under her skin, deep down in her strong bones and perfect muscles, she felt as battered and broken as she’d ever felt. She knew she’d done the right thing by telling Spike to go, but knowing gave her no comfort.

She tried to keep busy by helping around the house and taking care of her nephew and niece. She ran for miles every day, coming back exhausted. She volunteered at the women’s centre and in the evenings, she would patrol, mostly alone but sometimes with Willow or Xander. She’d get to bed around 2am and lay staring at the ceiling, only sleeping fitfully until the alarm went off at 7am.

By the end of that week Buffy realised she could never be busy enough and Spike was always just a stray thought away. She’d lay in bed at night and go over the things he’d said, searching out new meanings in old phrases. She’d berate herself for telling him to go, arguing with herself that she should have fought to keep him. She’d think about making love with him and imagine his passion and his gentleness and how easily he excited her. Her own finger moved between her legs, imagining Spike was the one touching her.

She would look for him during her nightly patrols and she’d tense whenever the phone rang, thinking it was him. Every email was scanned for any news, though she couldn’t bring herself to ask after him directly, afraid of what she might learn. Being constantly on edge was draining and she knew she had to get back to some semblance of normality and that meant going back to Cleveland, if only to box up her life there and decide what she was going to do next.

“I’m going to miss you so much,” Dawn said tearfully when Buffy said she was leaving. She reassured her that she’d be back for Christmas. “Not a flying visit,” Dawn ordered. “You have to stay for at least a week. No, two. You have to stay for Christmas and New Year’s.”  Buffy promised she would.

Buffy was sure that Xander was secretly happy to get her out of the house, but he denied it almost convincingly. Willow offered to go to Cleveland with her, to help her pack up her stuff, but Buffy declined the offer.

“The mature thing is to ask for help,” Willow commented.

“It is if you need help, but I don’t, honestly Will.” She and Willow were closer than they had been in a long time, but Buffy felt she was turning the page to a new chapter of her life and she needed to do it by herself.

She rang Giles, who sounded so happy to hear from her, she felt guilty for leaving their relationship unattended for so long. “Oh Buffy,” he stammered, “of course you must stay with us. We have plenty of room and Liv will be so happy to see you. If you decide to stay, there’s plenty of work to be done. We’re currently contending with Wolfram and Hart. Apparently, one of their employees has broken their ‘in perpetuity’ contract and they’re not happy.”

She wasn’t sure if her move to London would be permanent or just a vacation, but she felt good about her decision. Moving to Cleveland had been a backwards step. She’d returned to a hellmouth because it was a life she knew and understood and it was easy. Moving to London felt positive, a step forward into something new and exciting. She’d rebuilt her bridges and now she wanted to cross them.

She flew to Cleveland the following day and was met by Chrissie, the slayer she shared her apartment with. “Am I glad to see you.” Chrissie hugged Buffy tightly and picked up her suitcase. “There have been sightings of zompires around the Gardens.” She sounded excited because zompires were rare nowadays and not many of the newer Slayers had seen them in real life. It didn’t surprise Buffy that they were seen around the Botanical Gardens, as that was the site of the Cleveland hellmouth.

“It’s like I’ve never been gone,” Buffy joked. She’d already rung Chrissie and explained she would only be returning to pack up her belongings. Even if her move to London wasn’t permanent, she wouldn’t return to Cleveland any time soon. “I’ve got a moving company coming to take my big stuff into storage. I’ll only need to pack the little things, then I’ll be gone. My flight’s booked for Wednesday 2pm.”

“Plenty of time for some zompire dusting,” Chrissie laughed. Buffy suspected Chrissie would enjoy being the lead Slayer in Cleveland and not have to live under her shadow any longer.

Buffy spent the rest of the day packing up her belongings. She had a pile of assorted items for storage, a pile for Goodwill and a much smaller pile of things she was taking to London with her. This was mainly clothes, but also some jewellery and photos, mostly sentimental things. Chrissie had her pick of Buffy’s clothes, and the two girls spent the afternoon giggling at some of Buffy’s fashion choices.

The doorbell rang at 8:30 and Chrissie went to open it, thinking it was the pizza they’d ordered. On the doorstep stood a guy she’d never seen before and he wasn’t delivering pizza. He had white blonde hair and bright blue eyes and Chrissie smiled, as she always did at handsome men.

“Is Buffy here?” he asked in the coolest English accent she’d ever heard.

“And who are you?” she asked, hand on hip but a smile on her face.

Buffy appeared in the hallway before Spike could answer. The two stared at each other and Chrissie looked from one to the other and suddenly felt incredibly awkward, realising there was something between the two that she didn’t fully understand.

She edged past Buffy, giving her a wide-eyed stare and hissing, “We’re going talk about this later.” Buffy didn’t hear her. She saw and heard nothing but the man standing in front of her. She was hyper focused in a way she’d never experienced before. It felt like the world had tilted and she and Spike were the only ones there, everyone else had slipped away.

He spoke, but she didn’t hear him. She put her hand on the hallway wall, steadying herself. She felt dizzy and nauseous and it took several moments till the silence ebbed and she could hear muffled sounds coming from the street and the other apartments. The world had righted itself, and she let her hand slip from the wall.

“Come in Spike,” Buffy said, not sure where she found the words. He stepped into the hallway and closed the door behind him.

She took him into her bedroom, closed the door and leaned her back against it. “I’m not going to make a run for it pet, sit down,” Spike smiled, gesturing to the bed and looking around the room. Buffy moved two boxes onto the floor, and pushed a plastic sack of old clothes into the corner.

“Packing up?” he asked, lifting the lid of a third cardboard box that sat on her dressing table. It contained books, some of them his, ones she couldn’t bring herself to part with. She wondered if he’d recognise them and how he’d feel knowing she’d kept them.

“Yeah, I’ve had enough of hellmouths for a while,” she replied, sitting on the corner of her unmade bed. “I’m going to London.”

“Yeah?” he said nodding, “good for you.” His face had a look of intense concentration and Buffy could tell he wasn’t really listening to her.

Spike paced the room nervously. His hand kept going to the pack of cigarettes in his jacket pocket. Buffy took pity on him and opened the window. “You can smoke Spike, it’s ok,” she said, returning to her spot on the bed. He thanked her, lit a cigarette and took a long calming drag.

“I thought my life was good,” he said, staring out of the window. The sun had set and the evening was warm, yet Buffy shivered and pulled a crumpled cotton throw around her shoulders. He turned to her, his face a mask of sadness. “I was doing the right thing, fighting evil, living quietly. I was trying to prove I could do it without you. But I missed you so fucking much Buffy. It was like I’d lost myself. There’s no me without you.” He walked back to the box of books and took one out, running his hand over the cover.

“I kept them all,” Buffy said, nodding to the books. “I had to keep a part of you, because there’s no me without you either.” She wondered if she sounded foolish, words not being her forte, but the look of bewildered gratitude on Spike’s face made her certain he finally understood how much she needed him.

“I’d seen Connor, but I didn’t know him.” He put the book down. “Well, that’s not true. I knew his type you could say, strong, confident, brave and a bloody know it all. Reminded me of you of course. I can see that now.” He sat on the edge of the dressing table and Buffy still felt the usual jolt of shock at his lack of reflection in the mirror above the table. “I didn’t want to meet anyone else, didn’t want love or romance or any of that bollocks. Not if I couldn’t have you,” he looked down, sounding embarrassed.

Buffy gulped and her stomach churned and she couldn’t sit still. She imagined his loneliness and his need for solace, and she wished to god she hadn’t put him through any of it. She moved to close the window and lean her back against it

“Once he left hospital, I told him about us.” Buffy felt her breath become shallow, still unsure what he was going to say, not sure she wanted to hear. “He was angry. We said some things. He knows I didn’t want it to be like this. He knows I’ve always loved you.”  Buffy could see how hard this was for him but there was nothing she could do. She wanted to go to him, but he looked so despondent she was afraid he’d push her away.

“Connor’s gone with Angel to Ireland,” he said eventually.  “Angel’s showing him where he came from. His Irish heritage.” There was a mocking tone to his voice and he shook his head, as if the idea was ridiculous. “Not been there in three hundred years and murdered his whole family, but ‘Heritage’.” He made it sound as if there were quotes around ‘heritage’ and it made Buffy smile. That sounded exactly like Angel, everything a dramatic aria, nothing small or ordinary.

“When we talked…” he began, but stopped, not able to put his thoughts into words. He sighed and began again. “Connor needs Angel far more than he ever needed me. I think I was just his route to get to him,” he looked down at his scuffed boots, sighed and said unflinchingly, “No, that’s just my pitiful attempt to justify myself. He loved me and I loved him, but we both loved other people more.” He laughed sourly, “Unless that’s more pathetic justification.” He threw his head back and took in a deep breath, letting it go slowly as if clearing his head. He’s so incredibly human Buffy thought. He looked at her, his face set in a determined fashion. “I love you and that’s all there is Buffy.”

She went to him then and moulded herself against him for a moment, then took his hands. She led him to the bed and pulled him down with her. She cradled him loosely in her arms, stroking his back and feeling him shiver from her touch. “If you send me away, if you tell me to go,” he said, wrapping himself around her, “I’ll go. But I won’t go back.”

“I don’t want you to go,” she whispered, her voice hoarse with emotion, making him look up into her smiling, tearful face, “I never wanted you to go.” She stroked his face and he kissed her tenderly, as if she were a fragile thing.

“I will always, always love you,” he promised, “sorry that I hurt you, it wasn’t meant.”

“No Spike,” Buffy shook her head emphatically. “It’s me who hurt you. It’s me who didn’t listen. It’s me who pushed you away. God if I could take it all back…”

“Shush,” he said, his hand slipping under her t-shirt, his fingers drawing patterns on her taut stomach, “it doesn’t matter now luv. I’m home and we can fight about it later.” His questing fingers moved toward her breasts and Buffy didn’t want to fight anymore either.

The Mired Path 18/19

Title: The Mired Path
Author: Pricelessspike (Priceless)
Setting: Post Season 12 (Comic compliant)
Rating: PG
Warning: Spike/Other
Word Count: 2000
Summary: In Season 12 Buffy and Spike break up. Spike eventually leaves and this is their first meeting in three years. Plus, Angel needs rescuing.
A/N: Massive thanks to my wonderful betas Stoney and TriBel, if you like anything in this fic, it's because of them. All mistakes are mine, because I can't stop re-writing.

Chapter 18

Someone was wiping her face and calling her name. She wanted to say, ‘please don’t touch me, it hurts too much,’ but all she could do was moan. She knew she was being carried because it felt so uncomfortable. Moments later they stopped and she was laid on the ground. Something was being wrapped around her neck.

“Buffy, can you open your eyes luv?” She recognised Spike’s voice, and opened her eyes. He looked scared, bruised and was covered in blood.

“My head…” she tried to say, but her jaw was too damaged to talk. She closed her eyes. When she opened them again, it was without being asked. She looked up into his face and saw he’d been crying, there were tear tracks in the blood. She said his name and he looked down at her, he tried to smile but she could tell it was a lie.

“They’re gone for now, but they might be back,” he warned. He was in vamp face and moving as quickly as he could, tripping occasionally as the ground got rockier. She tried to say she’d run away next time, but she still couldn’t talk and her words sounded like dull moans.

“Haven’t seen Angel or Fred.” He talked to sooth himself. She didn’t mind, she liked his voice. “Think they got away… following Angel’s scent… I was worried… so much blood.”

When she next awoke, they’d slowed again and the ground had become steeper. “Spike,” she could form words now, though it was still painful.
“Hello sleepyhead,” he smiled a real smile. “Feeling better?” She could feel fresh scalp growing and knitting together and hoped she wouldn’t have a bald spot.

“Better,” she mumbled. “Teeth growing in.” She studied his bruised face and saw blood had settled in the creases around his eyes.  “How did I survive?” she asked.

“I got to you.” He sounded bewildered, as if he didn’t quite believe it. “I don’t know how, but I dusted the buggers then picked you up and ran.”

She pictured him with the scythe, swinging it above his head and bringing it down on the vampires’ necks. Crouching low he’d swung, cutting away their legs so they fell screaming. He’d been screaming too. He’d been out of control, deranged by fear. She wanted to weep, thinking of him like that. He’d been so frantic, so terrified he’d lose her and she couldn’t help thinking that maybe he had.

“So scared…,” he said quietly and began running again. Her pain was worse when he ran, but she knew he had to. She felt every bump and jolt as he ran over the uneven ground. Her arms and hands too broken to cling to him, but he held her so tightly she knew she wouldn’t fall.

“They’re close,” he said finally. Relief rushed over her and she prayed they’d be in time. She didn’t want to spend one more night here and maybe have to face that horde again. She was too weakened to fight and Spike might not be able to save them next time. She wondered if that was the point, that Spike couldn’t save her, she thought of the terror on his face and knew that for him, hell had been to watch her die.

“Spike, did I die?” she asked, though she already knew the answer.

“Let’s not talk about that,” he replied, a muscle jumping in his jaw. She’d known her death would devastate him, she just hadn’t realised how deep the fear went and how terrified he was of losing her, so terrified he couldn’t even face the truth.

“At least I came back,” she tried to smile, “it’s like I’m haunting you.” She hoped joking about it would make it easier for him.

“It’s started.” She’d never heard him sound so disturbed. “I don’t care if I’m dusted. Already had the ghosts of my victims visit, we had a grand old time. But seeing you hurt… How long will it be before I’m the one hurting you?”
“We’ll be out of here long before then, and even if we aren’t…”
“What? You’ll chop my sodding head off?” He stopped and looked down at her. His face was bloody, his eyes blackened, there were purple bruises along his jaw and Buffy could only wonder where he’d found the strength to pick up her lifeless body and run.

“If I have to,” she tried to smile. “Besides, I came back, so you might too.” Spike looked even more distraught and Buffy wished she hadn’t said anything. She’d wanted him to smile, to see the joke of it. This wasn’t real, they were just pawn’s in some vicious game, which she was sure they’d eventually escape.

“What if you hadn’t come back and I got out of here? What would I tell Dawn?” He sounded so anguished Buffy’s heart ached for him. Some of her fingers still felt broken, but she raised her hand and touched his face. He closed his eyes and began to cry. “I couldn’t go back without you. I wouldn’t want to.” She let her hand fall. He didn’t need her to say anything, he just needed her to live, so she closed her eyes and concentrated on letting her bones mend.

They journeyed in silence for a while until Spike suddenly picked up the pace and called out Angel’s name. Thank god, Buffy thought, they must be near the portal. “They’ve stopped, they’re waiting for us.” Spike sounded elated and Buffy could have cried with relief, but it would have hurt too much. She just allowed herself to be bounded about in Spike’s arms as he sprinted as fast as he could. By the time he slowed, every muscle and sinew ached, but she was so happy to see Angel, Fred and the watch, that she didn’t care.

Fred gasped at the extent of their injures and wanted to dress some of Buffy’s wounds. Spike wouldn’t allow it, there wasn’t enough time. Fred still had the compass held high so Buffy could see the golden lights dimming and the tiny stars fading.

“It must be just here,” Fred said, “we’ve got about twenty minutes.”

“There!” shouted Spike, bolting ahead. Then she saw it, shimmering lights in the gloom. A beautiful circle of reds and yellows, radiating so much heat, it warmed her face. “Go, go,” Spike ordered. Fred passed the watch to Buffy and jumped. Angel put his hand on Spike’s shoulder and Spike nodded. Buffy didn’t know what passed between the two, but they seemed to understand each other. Angel stepped through the portal and vanished.

“You don’t want to be carried, do you?” Spike asked, easing Buffy’s feet to the floor. Although it was hard to stand, she appreciated the gesture.

“As long as you’re here to hold me up,” she leaned into his side and they walked through the portal together.

One moment they were in the silence of hell, the next in Xander’s garage, surrounded by so much noise and chatter Buffy couldn’t focus.  Everything happened at once. Xander lifted her into his arms and carried her through the house, placed her gently on the couch, and covered her with a blanket. Willow began taking off her boots and peeling off her wet socks.

“My foot’s broken,” she said and Willow made a silly joke about it being her left one, but she was extra careful. There was a bowl of warm water and someone was wiping the blood from her face and hands. “We made it,” she said when she realised it was Spike.

“We did at that,” he replied, his eyes shining with relief.

“I should be doing this for you,” she suggested as he wiped blood from her chin and neck. Dawn appeared, and gingerly hugged her. “The baby?” Buffy asked, once Dawn had released her.

“He’s upstairs sleeping, you’ll meet him soon. We called him Michael, and he is such a cutie Buffy.”

Willow bought her a cup of tea and forced her to drink it, saying it would help with the healing. Spike helped her hold the mug as her hands weren’t completely healed. Fred, dressed in a fluffy pink dressing gown after having a hot shower, joined them a few minutes later, then Xander reappeared, carrying several large pizza boxes.

“Yes please,” Buffy said. Spike took a slice and held it while she took large bites. “Spike feeding me pizza,” she laughed, “I’ve had this dream before.” Spike smiled happily and brushed the hair from her face and Buffy thought this might be one of the happiest moments of her life. He couldn’t leave her now, not when everything was so perfect.

There was blood in the kitchen and Dawn had to force him to go drink. Angel had already drunk his fill and had gone for a shower. Spike returned to the lounge, a mug of warm blood in his hand, and asked Willow if he could talk to her in the kitchen. Buffy knew he would be asking about Connor and hoped there was good news. She wished Spike felt he could talk about Connor in front of her. Once again, the weight of her incredible guilt crashed down on her.

When Spike reappeared, he’d washed his face and the fresh blood was helping his bruises heal. “Tell me,” she said as he joined her on the sofa.

“He’s improving. He should be fine,” he sounded guarded and didn’t look at her.

“That’s great,” Buffy said, squeezing his hand as best she could. She hated that talking about Connor in front of her made him uncomfortable. Connor was going to recover and Spike should be happy, ecstatic even, but he was so afraid of hurting her he pretended an aloofness he couldn’t possibly feel. He was denying his emotions because of her, twisting himself out of shape to please her and one day he’d come to resent her for it. He’d come to wonder what could have been with Connor, she was sure of it, and he’d blame her for being selfish, taking what she wanted because she could. She loved him so much but she knew he couldn’t stay.

When Angel returned from his shower, Buffy asked Spike to carry her to the bathroom so she could get cleaned up. He carried her with ease and placed her on the edge of the bath while he ran the water.

“I’ll let you get undressed,” he said uncertainly.

“I think you should go,” she said, gripping the edge of the bath, her voice cracking and hoping she’d be able to get through this conversation without crying.

“Yeah, that’s just what I was doing,” he said, frowning at her. Then he saw the sadness on her face and realised what she’d meant. “Why?” he asked quietly, shutting the bathroom door.

“Because he needs you. Because you love him.” She watched Spike’s face change, first anger then acceptance.

“I love you,” he said, but it sounded such a small thing, a nothing. She had half hoped, half dreaded he’d argue with her and try to persuade her he loved her more. She wouldn’t have believed him and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

“You and me Slayer, we have bloody terrible timing,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck, the strain telling.

“I missed you so much Spike, but I was just being selfish,” the tears came then, and she was grateful he didn’t try and comfort her. “I think I was trying to prove something you know?” she said, gulping back her sobs. She buried her face in her hands, too ashamed to look at him. She heard the door open, then click closed and he was gone.

She took a long bath and crawled into bed. She assumed Spike had told them she was going for a nap as no one came to find her. She could hear them talking and laughing downstairs and she lay listening, wondering if Spike felt as miserable as she did. She heard Dawn and Fred come upstairs, talking about Fred borrowing some clothes to travel in. Eventually she heard Dawn open another portal and Spike, Angel and Fred were gone.

The Mired Path 17/19

Title: The Mired Path
Author: Pricelessspike (Priceless)
Setting: Post Season 12 (Comic compliant)
Rating: PG
Warning: Spike/Other
Word Count: 2100
Summary: In Season 12 Buffy and Spike break up. Spike eventually leaves and this is their first meeting in three years. Plus, Angel needs rescuing.
A/N: Massive thanks to my wonderful betas Stoney and TriBel, if you like anything in this fic, it's because of them. All mistakes are mine, because I can't stop re-writing.

Chapter 17

Buffy left Spike outside and returned to the house. Fred and Angel were still sat by the fire. Angel was holding Fred’s hands and she seemed to be struggling to pull away. Buffy watched them wrestle for a second but felt as if she were intruding so she returned to the open doorway. Spike was leaning against the wall, so she joined him.

“They still at it?” he asked. She nodded. “We’ve got to move soon Slayer,” he said impatiently and she didn’t disagree, but she did have sympathy for Fred, now she knew the evil that was out there. She stole a glance at Spike, who was staring out in to nothingness, and was suddenly certain he’d go back to LA when this was all over. She hoped he’d let her down gently, though she felt undeserving of his tenderness.

Leaving him to his thoughts, she returned to the cottage. Angel was slumped at the table, his head in his hands, while Fred was preparing a meagre breakfast.

“She wants to wait for the next portal to open,” Angel said despairingly, not lifting his head.

“Now the portals have reappeared, statistically some of them should open in daylight,” Fred explained, pouring warmed blood into bowls and putting them on the table. Buffy stared at her in amazement. Fred wanted Dawn to keep opening portals until she opened one that Fred thought suitable. She was crazy. They could be here for weeks, months. This place might already understand what was happening and play on Fred’s fear; anytime a portal opened, the world could go dark. Fred was asking the impossible.

“Statistically?” Spike said gently mocking, “You’re not daft Fred, you know we can’t wait.”

“Spike...” Even though Spike’s tone had been kind, Angel said his name as a warning. He wouldn’t allow Spike to pressure Fred. Buffy moved between the two vampires. The last thing they needed was another fist fight. Fred burst into tears and Angel immediately forget Spike. He moved quickly to Fred’s side and took her in his arms, whispering soothing words.

While Angel comforted Fred, Spike began opening cupboards and boxes, placing the things he found on the table. “Look Fred, be sensible now. We can take a few things with us,” he held up a torn piece of material that could have been anything or nothing, “I’ll carry it safe in my pack. What do you say Fred, shall we be merrily on our way?”

“I know you’re making fun of me, but when you have nothing, the littlest things mean a lot,” Fred said, drying her eyes. Buffy thought how sad and pitiful she sounded and her heart went out to her. She too might feel the same after three years in hell. Dragging Fred from her home suddenly felt such a cruel thing to do.

“Not making fun of you,” Spike said, sounding crestfallen, “I just want to get us home Fred. Don’t you want to go home?” The three of them watched Fred as she appeared to be debating with herself. Buffy wanted to go home, even if that meant losing Spike, but she could see that for Fred, the choice between home and hell had become a difficult one.

“Will you still love me?” she asked Angel, surprising them all.

“How can you even ask?” Shocked, he hugged her closer and kissed the top of her head.

It was Spike who asked, “Illyria won’t change that, will she, Angel?” Spike had understood immediately what Fred had left unsaid. She was scared that Angel wouldn’t want her, once Illyria returned.

Buffy looked at Spike and whispered, “See, smartest man I know.”

“We’ll give you some peace,” Spike said, lifting his backpack on to his shoulder and nodding to Buffy to do the same. The two of them went outside and waited.

Spike flipped over the watch and showed it to Buffy. They had just under four hours to make it to the portal. Her heart sank, there was no way they’d do it. She could only hope that if they started walking, they’d be nearer the next time. “I guess we could wait till it’s light,” she said, “make Fred feel more comfortable? At least we’ll be heading in the right direction.”

“We could,” Spike said, “but if she’s half-hearted she’ll only slow us down. Dawn said these portals won’t open in exactly the same place, and with everything always bloody moving, we need to walk when the watch tells us, or we’ll keep missing them.”

“Poor Fred,” Buffy said sadly, thinking of her being forced into sharing Angel again. “Hope she’s okay in there.” She could hear the couple talking, but couldn’t make out the words.

“Yeah,” Spike nodded, “hard to love two people at a time I expect.” Buffy plucked at a stray strand of cotton on her shirt. She knew they weren’t talking about Angel and Fred anymore.

“Must be,” she replied cautiously.

“Sometimes you feel so empty,” he continued, “you need to be with someone who’s as lost as you.”

“I get that,” she said, understanding that sometimes you’re drawn to the right people for the wrong reasons.

Spike took her hand and turned it over, stroking his thumb over her palm.  She shivered at his touch. “Connor and I, we were both looking for something we couldn’t find. Saw a dream of it in each other. Called it love for want of a better word.”

Was this poetry again, she wasn’t sure. She did know that dreams didn’t sustain and guessed Spike knew that too. Connor was looking for a link to the past and his parents. Connor was a fighter, born with a destiny, she could imagine Spike being drawn to someone like that.

“It’s getting lighter,” he said, letting go of her hand. Buffy didn’t reply, knowing that was meant to end their conversation. Her hand still tingled where he’d stroked it.

The lighter sky and her conversation with Angel must have helped Fred to come to a decision, as she and Angel appeared at the doorway. “We thought about burning it down,” Angel remarked, stony faced, looking gloomily back at the house. He and Fred weren’t carrying much, but Angel had Fred’s box of homemade tools.

“I thought a traveller might come along and take it for their own,” Fred said, thinking of other lost souls.

Buffy stood and took the watch from her pocket and held it out to Fred. “You should have this. You should lead us out of here.” Fred opened it and looked in awe at the colourful watch faces and the bright shooting stars.

“Thank you, Buffy.”

Although it was lighter than it had been, it was still raining fitfully and visibility was low. Spike was in vamp face and could see further and hear more, but there was little to see or hear. Fred walked next to him, the watch held high, she was constantly checking the arrow. It pointed westwards and the four followed it.

The ground began to turn icy and Fred slipped, Spike just catching her before she fell. “There might be a traveller nearby,” Angel said, explaining why the weather and landscape was changing. Buffy pulled her coat tighter around her. The rain had stopped, but none of them would dry in this frozen winter land.

“There are trees up ahead,” Spike called. The others could only make out shadows and Buffy feared at first it was shadowmen coming for her. She gripped a dagger she had in her pocket for comfort. Slowly the ice had ebbed away, but the ground was still hard and cold beneath their feet.

Fred needed a rest and so they stopped and sat for a few minutes. Out of her pocket she took a container, and handed it to Spike. It contained blood, cooled now. It was the breakfast she’d been warming before they’d left. “Shame to waste it,” she said. Spike took a welcome mouthful and handed it to Angel who finished it off.

Buffy was surprised that it hadn’t taken them longer to reach the trees, but assumed they’d moved closer. She was just wondering why they’d do that, when she saw something out of the corner of her eye. It was a flicker, a movement that felt out of place. She’d been wearing her scythe on her back, hooked over her backpack, but now she moved it to the front of her body, where she could hold it. Only other slayers would understand the power she felt emanating from the weapon, how connected she felt to it and how it somehow made her feel stronger.

Spike and Fred stopped and Spike whispered, “Can you feel it?” Buffy nodded and pointed to the trees on her right.

“Angel, take Fred and keep following the compass,” she ordered. He looked at her blankly. “Vampires,” she mouthed. Angel took Fred’s hand and said, “We’ll wait at the portal.”

“If we don’t make it in time, don’t wait for us. Promise me,” Buffy demanded.

“We’ll leave the watch,” he said, agreeing he and Fred would jump if time was running out. They all knew there was no guarantee they’d ever find the watch. Angel and Fred wished them luck and walked westward, leaving them behind. Buffy hoped they could at least hold the vampires off and give the couple time to make it to the portal. Only a minute after Fred and Angel disappeared from view, the vampires attacked.

The first kick seemed to came out of nowhere. The snap of a vampire’s boot to the middle of her back sent her reeling. She grabbed the scythe and tried to collect herself. Another boot hit the back of her knee and she fell forward. Rolling onto her back she struggled out of her back pack, kicking her legs to fend off blows. She could see them now, definitely vampires but she couldn’t be sure how many. She struggled to stand and using the scythe she managed to dispatch two of them. Another punched her hard, the force made her head ring.

More vampires appeared. She staked one and sent another flying. She was struck by a dizzying flurry of punches. Her teeth were rattling and she thought a couple of ribs had been broken.  She couldn’t see Spike anywhere. The vampires were forcing her backwards, out of the trees and to what had been icy ground, but was now simply hardened. Another fist slammed into her mouth and she whirled around, falling into a tree. She kicked out again, but blood was in her eyes and she couldn’t see.

She was hit at the back of the head by what felt like a hammer, the pain was shattering and she thought she might pass out. Five vampires circled her, they were relentless, throwing punches and kicks. She fended them off, dusting two with the scythe, but more kept coming and her head hurt so much. Where was Spike? Another fist hit her above the eye and she staggered further into open land. Then she saw him, still in the trees, surrounded by vampires. She thought she screamed, but it could have been one of her attackers. It could have been Spike.

She went down again, she was tiring, she struggled to rise and the scythe had fallen from her hands. She made to grab for it but her head was throbbing and she was off balance.  She tried again, pushing her attackers away, stabbing at them with her dagger. She managed to get her fingertips to the scythe and swing it as high and as hard as she could. She dusted one and caused two more to fall to their knees. God her head hurt so bad, she felt as if she were underwater and couldn’t think straight…

Then an arm was around her throat, dragging her backwards. Her heels scraping along the ground. She saw her scythe a few feet away, but then it vanished in the mist. She was losing too much blood. She could feel it, trickling down her back and between her breasts. Her face was greasy with it and she could hardly open her eyes.

She didn’t know how long she’d been fighting. Her bones were smashed and she thought her skull was fractured and imagined the back of her head was missing, her brain open to the rain. She could hear Spike screaming her name. She’d never heard him sound so crazed. Then she felt the vampire’s teeth in her neck.

The pain was unbearable. She clawed at its face, but he didn’t stop. She opened her eyes, sticky with blood, and saw Spike. He’d picked up her scythe and was swinging it frantically. He looked mad, his eyes wild. He dusted one then another, then screamed as he swung the blade at the vampire holding her.

The Mired Path 16/19

Title: The Mired Path
Author: Pricelessspike (Priceless)
Setting: Post Season 12 (Comic compliant)
Rating: PG
Warning: Spike/Other
Word Count: 1800
Summary: In Season 12 Buffy and Spike break up. Spike eventually leaves and this is their first meeting in three years. Plus, Angel needs rescuing.
A/N: Massive thanks to my wonderful betas Stoney and TriBel, if you like anything in this fic, it's because of them. All mistakes are mine, because I can't stop re-writing.

Chapter 16

Buffy felt him heavy against her back, his head in the crook of her shoulder, his body pressed against hers.  She couldn’t make out his contours through the sleeping bags, but he felt as he always had, he felt right. She closed her eyes and moulded herself into his body. When she woke again, he’d gone.

That morning she was on edge, watching Angel, waiting for him to change. Perhaps he sensed her wariness because he left the cottage early and didn’t reappear till the evening.  Fred had sent him to find fruit or vegetables. She said he went foraging regularly, it’s how they got most of their food.

Buffy asked Fred if was okay by himself. “He sees things. At first, he used to run back to me, completely convinced he’d killed someone. He handles it better now,” Fred explained.

She had tasked Spike to scrubbing pans and he was sat just outside the doorway trying to avoid the drizzle, a bowl of water between his feet. He was scrubbing one pan at a time, happily sloshing water over the sides of the bowl. Buffy lent against the door and watched him for a while, laughing when he flicked water at her.

It was then she saw it.  The rain fell and through it the land seemed to undulate, and from it grew a shadow. It was moving towards her, deliberate in its step. She couldn’t look away, it was mesmerising in its savagery. She could feel its need for her. It wanted to rip her apart, make her its own, make her a thing. She couldn’t move, it was filling her head with vile tortuous images, each worse that the last and she couldn’t make it stop. She must have cried out because Spike was holding her, pulling her into the house. He and Fred were talking, asking questions that she couldn’t answer.  Fred poured her some foul-smelling tea and Spike kept his arms around her as she tried to drink it.

“I don’t know what it was,” she told them through terrified sobs. “It was a shape, a feeling. I knew it wanted to hurt me. I couldn’t fight it.”

“It’s alright Buffy, it’s alright.” He sounded more panicked then she’d ever heard him, his arm still around her, his hand stroking her arm, soothing her.

They spent the rest of the day in the house, Buffy felt too shaken to venture outside. Fred told her that she hadn’t gone farther than the well in two years, too scared the Pyleans would return and kidnap her. “I used to go further afield,” she said, her voice eerie and unnatural, “but they’d find me and torture me.” Goosebumps rose on Buffy’s arms and she felt suddenly hopeless. If they were trapped here, her life would be spent in a place like this, too terrified to go further than the well every day.

The day passed in short bursts of activity and long hours of nothingness. To relieve his boredom, Spike checked the watch constantly. He’d feed it through his fingers, turn it over, flip the lid open, check the time and then shut it again. It was a dance he did with the damn thing and it drove Buffy crazy. “You keep it then,” he snapped, slamming it down on the table. “Don’t break it,” she’d shouted angrily.

Fred and Spike talked about Wolfram and Hart, Buffy feeling excluded. She began to wonder how close Spike and Fred had been. Did Spike have feelings for the woman? She began to feel jealous and angry and was pleased when Angel returned, knowing Spike would be more reticent in his presence.

They ate a scant meal of vegetables, Spike and Angel shared a bowl full of blood. They were mostly silent, having little of interest to say to each other and no enthusiasm for conversation. Eventually the day ended and Buffy and Spike were alone in their sleeping bags.

“No more shadows?” Spike asked. He was lying beside her, comfortably close.

She shook her head, looking into his worried face. She reached out and stroked the scar above his eye. She thought he might pull away, but he didn’t, he allowed her fingers to stroke his cheekbones, his nose, his chin.  She needed to touch him, feel something real and solid and good, to drive the shadowman from her mind. She rose onto her elbow, closed her eyes and put her lips softly to his.

He moved his head then and she whispered, “Only for now.” Neither of them spoke again. They kissed opened mouthed, wrapped in each other’s arms Buffy felt safe. She was dizzy with him and felt clumsy under his graceful fingers and searching mouth. She pulled him to her, needing to feel his weight pressing her down, holding her still, until it became unbearable. She twisted in his grasp and he opened her wide to taste her sweetness. They moved together, surged and stilled, teased and quickened. She lapped at his body, tasted his velvet skin, sucked and bit those places that had been lost to her. She gathered him and made him gasp. He lifted her hips and wrapped her around him. Afterwards she pushed him away, not able to breathe, the pleasure overwhelming. Then she felt the distance was too great and she pulled him close again. She stroked his blissful face and kissed each eyelid and he ran his knuckles over her breasts and belly. Over and over they met in helpless wanting until there was no more grief, no more loss and no more distance between them.

Slowly he rolled away from her and lay on his back, staring at the timbered roof. She pulled the sleeping bag around herself, and stretched out her exhausted limbs. She refused to feel ashamed by what they’d done, it had been too perfect for that. She’d needed him to help fight the monster in her head, but more than that she simply wanted him. She’d wanted him since the moment he’d left her. She’d spent endless nights dreaming of this, the taste of his skin, his fingers caressing her, his mouth on her body…

“I love you,” he said, as though the words had been unwillingly torn from him. So painful to say, he couldn’t look at her. “I don’t know what to do.”

“This doesn’t have to mean anything,” she whispered, though it meant everything to her. “We’re in hell, we turned to each other for comfort, anyone would understand that.”

He moved quickly, pushing her away so he could see her face when he asked, “Do you love me? Did you ever?”

“More than anything,” she answered truthfully, her blazing eyes never leaving his. “That’s why I didn’t want you to leave, I still wanted you. I always will.”

“You did, did you?” he said scornfully, pushing her away. “Should have let me into the secret.” He lay down on his sleeping bag and flung his arm over his face.

Buffy stared at the same timbered roof Spike had stared at, but it gave her no clues. She wanted him so much, but all she did was hurt him. She put her own selfish needs first, knowing he had someone else. He should hate her, but he still loved her. Round and round and round they went. Why did it have to be so damn complicated?

She must have slept, because she woke up. Something was buzzing, it sounded like distant fireworks going off … The watch! The fire had gone out and there was little light in the room, but finally she found her jeans, rummaged in the pockets and found it. She flicked the lid open and could only stare in wonder at what she saw. Two faces dancing around each other, one cornflower blue telling her it was 04:11am, the other a golden yellow telling her the portal would be closed at 09:15.

She kicked out her leg, trying to wake a sleeping Spike. He grunted at her angrily, but once he saw the watch, he seemed to forget the previous night’s conversations and they just grinned at each other like fools.

“That’s only five hours, not long.” The two of them quickly scrambled into their clothes. Spike banged on Angel and Fred’s bedroom door, “Rise and shine kiddies. The beacon’s afire. C’mon.”

“It’s so dark, do you think it’ll be safe?” She thought of the shadowman waiting for her, and shivered.

“Probably not,” he said, staring out of the window into the blackness, “but we have to try.” Buffy dampened down her fear, knowing Spike was right. Whatever was out there, they had to face it or they’d never escape.
Fred stood at the bedroom door looking at the two of them, shouldering their backpacks, ready to go. “I can’t,” she said quietly, “I daren’t.” She sat by the hearth and began to make a fire. Buffy was too stunned to speak. She turned to Spike, who shook his head, and nodded towards the door, wanting to leave Angel to try and reason with her.

“Fred, we can’t stay here,” Angel said, joining her by the fire. “This is our only chance. We have to take it.” He was crouched besides her, stroking her hair, whispering gently to her.

Spike had opened the door and Buffy came to stand next to him. It was pitch black, there were no stars and clouds covered the moon. “See anything?”

“Nothing,” Spike had vamped out and was scenting the air, “don’t smell anything either.” She was scared of seeing the shadowman again and with Fred dragging her heels, it all added to her sense of unease. She looked back to the couple at the fireside, still deep in conversation, then to the vampire stood beside her, jonesing for a cigarette he didn’t have. She thought this might be her last chance to speak privately to him, so she took his arm and manoeuvred him away from the doorway. He followed her easily.

“We could be home in a few hours,” she said, wondering if he could hear how fast her heart was beating. “I wanted to tell you how sorry I am that I’ve complicated your life. My life is hard, you know cos you’ve lived it and sometimes I don’t deal with things very well, but I love you so much Spike, more than I can say and I know you love me, so we have to work this out. If you can’t forgive me, it’ll hurt, but I’ll learn to accept it. Just know that no matter how sappy it sounds; I’ll always be here for you.”

It was too dark to read his expression and he said nothing. Her heart sank at his silence and she berated herself for expecting too much. There was nothing he could possibly say that would make this right, because someone was going to be hurt, and maybe she deserved it to be her.

The Mired Path 15/19

Title: The Mired Path
Author: Pricelessspike (Priceless)
Setting: Post Season 12 (Comic compliant)
Rating: PG
Warning: Spike/Other
Word Count: 2000
Summary: In Season 12 Buffy and Spike break up. Spike eventually leaves and this is their first meeting in three years. Plus, Angel needs rescuing.
A/N: Massive thanks to my wonderful betas Stoney and TriBel, if you like anything in this fic, it's because of them. All mistakes are mine, because I can't stop re-writing.

Chapter 15

“What the hell do we do?” Spike’s question was met with silence. Fred went back to the fire and warmed one of Dawn’s concoctions, adding a few of their own leftovers, stretching it to feed both herself and Buffy.

“Anyone?” Spike stood and looked at Buffy, who was picking at her nails. He paced the length of the cottage, ran his hands over the walls, picked items up from the shelves, wiped his hand over the glass of the windows and stared out into nothingness.

“Buffy?” he was looking to her for answers but she had none to give. She lifted her worried face and shook her head. Her only thought was of Dawn and what could have happened to stop her opening the promised portal. “Christ.” Spike sat down beside her, “I’m sorry luv, I didn’t think. Dawnie?”

Buffy nodded. She was worried that something had happened to the baby or perhaps to Xander or Joycie. It had to be something serious for Dawn not to open a portal, leaving them trapped in a hell dimension.

“I bet The Bit’s had that baby, ‘eh Slayer?” Spike said breezily, his previous anxiety completely dispelled. He said it as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, and everyone else was stupid for not thinking of it.

“She’s not due till the 28th and I’m sure it’s not the 28th yet,” Buffy replied testily, but could it be possible? She couldn’t quite remember what the current date was, but it made sense that if Dawn were in labour, she wouldn’t be able to open a portal.

“Due dates are incredibly imprecise,” Fred said, stirring their meal in a large pan. “In fact, only 4% of babies are born on the predicted day. Many arrive two weeks early.” She began spooning the food into bowls.

“Bet it’s the baby,” Spike reiterated, “and there’ll be another portal opened any day.” Buffy hoped he was right and there hadn’t been any complications. Joycie’s delivery had been a long one, but she’d been told first babies usually are. Maybe the second one was quicker? “Like shelling peas,” Spike explained confidently, though Buffy knew he had as much knowledge of childbirth as she did.

The women ate their meal, and the four of them discussed what their next move should be. After some debate they agreed that if the issue was Dawn being in labour then they should wait it out for two days. If the watch didn’t signal the opening of a portal after that, they’d start looking for one. The discussions were amicable and Spike and Angel appeared to have made a silent pact to be civil to each other, at least until they returned to their own dimension.

“How come there’s only you here?” Spike asked Fred, as Angel took the empty pots to a make-shift wash stand and rinsed them. “Where’s Illyria?”

“And how have you survived for three years in this wasteland?” Buffy added, not sure she would have survived at all.

“Illyria vanished on the eleventh day.” Fred said, as if telling an epic tale, enjoying having a new audience to share it with. Buffy noted how affectionately Angel looked at Fred as she spoke and how ironic that Angel found happiness in a hell dimension.

“She fought the demons’ day and night when the portal first closed,” Fred continued. “This was mainly desert back then. Not that it bothered Illyria, she’d have fought on any terrain. Her only thought was to destroy the demons. The battle lasted days, but eventually she was victorious. Yay Illyria.” Fred giggled charmingly and Buffy saw that even Spike seemed quite enthralled by her storytelling.

“Then things started changing. Illyria’s powers began to decline and I had to come out more often. Eventually her powers disappeared altogether, then she vanished and I was left alone. The desert started to recede and gradually mountains and caves began to appear. Same with the second sun, it got brighter over time and I realised this place was turning into Pylea.”

Buffy asked what that was and Fred explained, “It’s another hell dimension, one I was trapped in for five years. The Pyleans enslave humans, so when they began appearing, I knew I was in trouble. They started to hunt me like I was an animal. It was pretty terrifying I can tell you.” Although she was smiling, Buffy guessed how scared she must have been.

“At least they had food,” Angel sat down again, seemingly worn out from washing the pots.

“Oh sure, they had food, they grew things and had other livestock, so I only went a little less hungry then I do now,” she patted Angel’s hand. “Then Angel showed up.”

“It took me a while to find her.” Angel took over the story. “I didn’t know where the hell I was. Things move, it’s really confusing. Then I recognised the Pyleans and I knew this had to be Fred’s hell. Guessed she must be hiding in the caves.”

“Which totally spoilt your plan,” Fred interrupted.

“I’d planned on Illyria using her powers to get us out of here, not knowing she’d gone AWOL before I even arrived.”

“Had you researched this place before you jumped?” Buffy asked.

“No,” he said a little sheepishly, “I thought I’d just grab Illyria, maybe help her fight whatever demons were left, she’d open a portal and we’d jump straight back. No need for research.”

“Idiot,” Spike whispered, loud enough for Angel to give him a look of intense irritation.

“Anyway,” Fred jumped in, “the landscape began to change, the meadows became swamps and the Pyleans began to disappear. It was a slow process, but I knew there was someone else here, which gave me hope that one day I might be rescued.”

“So, Angel,” Spike asked brazenly, “is this landscape a particular fear of yours?” Fred put a comforting hand on Angel’s shoulder.

“When I became a vampire, I did what most of us do, I killed my family.” He looked pointedly at Spike, who nodded in understanding and looked a little shamefaced. “Now they visit me. I hear them in the rain and I see them walking the marshlands. My father calls to me while he cuts the turf.” He rubbed a hand over his face obviously distressed. “There’s others too. Not ones I’ve killed, but people I care about.  I see them dying and I can’t save them.”

Buffy felt a wave of compassion for him. She imagined not being able to save the ones you loved, having to watch them die over and over. She realised that it wasn’t only the lack of food, but the horrors he’d seen that made him look so emaciated and broken. “Your soul?” she asked warily.

“It used to disappear,” Fred replied, as Angel seemed in too much discomfort to answer. “He’d go hunting. He’d kill travellers if he came across them. But there’s not many. He’d hallucinate killing others, people he knew. Me, sometimes.”

“Sometimes not an hallucination,” Angel said, his voice low. “Sometimes I’d kill her, sometimes I’d turn her. But she always came back. So did my soul, so I could keep reliving it.”

Spike looked at Angel in horror. Buffy took his hand, trying to reassure him. He gripped it tightly and stared at Angel, who couldn’t meet his eye. Spike understood the enormity of losing your soul and his look of horror turned to one of pity.

“It’s too soon for you Spike.” Fred’s words were chilling, “This place, it’s only just starting to notice you.”

The words sounded so ominous; Buffy felt a wave of fear overtake her. She was confident in her abilities and knew she could overcome most things. But this was an enemy she couldn’t fight with weapons. This was something that could change her from the inside, turn her into a different person. How could she fight something that had so much power over her? How could she protect Spike if he lost his soul? Would he kill her, as Angel had killed Fred, over and over? She wondered what it would feel like, Spike ripping her throat out, revelling in her pain, listening for that final beat of her heart and glorying in her death. Or maybe she’d best him, cut his head off with her scythe and watch him crumble into dust.

“Once the Pyleans began to disappear,” Fred broke into her thoughts, changing the subject to something more mundane, “so did the food. We moved into this house before it sunk into the marshland and taking possession of it seemed to make it ours, so it stood while everything else fell. We’ve planted seeds, but the crops are always poor. Too much rain, not enough sun. Enough to keep us subsisting, but nothing more.”

“But there’s others here?” Buffy hoped the ‘others’ Angel killed weren’t actually real.

“Unfortunately. You might meet them. We call them travellers. They’re trapped here same as us,” Fred sounded wistful. “They bring their hell with them, so you’ll know when they’re on their way. Trouble is, most of them are crazy.”

Buffy thought this place was already making them crazy and they’d only been here a few days.  Hadn’t they? Had it been two days or three? She wasn’t sure anymore, but she was certain she would never stop looking for a portal home.

A little later Fred took them outside and showed them the well where she got the fresh water. She doubted it was all that fresh she said, but she had no way of purifying it, so it would have to do. She spoke so cheerfully Buffy suspected this place had already driven Fred insane. She even giggled when warning them the well moved occasionally, ‘so some days you just gotta go hunting for it’.

When they returned, Angel had moved the furniture against the walls and made space for them to lay out their sleeping bags.  They said their goodnights and Buffy tucked herself into her sleeping bag. Spike sat by the fire a little longer.

“Not sleepy?” she asked.

“Nah. Need a smoke before bed, but I’ve run out.”

“Is that a pun, with you sitting so close to the fire?”

“Yeah, if you think it makes me sound smart,” he smiled.

“You’re already the smartest man I know,” Buffy said affectionately, wanting him to understand how grateful she was that he was here, not sure she could have coped so well without him. She turned onto her side and closed her eyes, expecting Spike to ignore the comment, or make a joke, afraid to make their conversations too intimate. But he surprised her.

“Smartest man you know ‘eh?” He climbed into the other sleeping bag and turned towards her. “Also, the most terrified,” he whispered.  Buffy turned and looked at him, his face a jumble of light and shadow, lit by the last of the firelight. “If I lose my soul Buffy…”

“Not going to happen,” she whispered back. “Dawnie will have that baby and get us out of here tomorrow. Besides, you heard Fred, it didn’t happen to Angel overnight.” Spike reached out and gently stroked her cheek, his hand soft and cool. Unexpected tears pricked her eyes but she blinked them away before they fell.  He withdrew his hand, rolled onto his back and closed his eyes.

Buffy hadn’t wanted to tell him of her own fears; that she might lose her powers, become his endless victim, see ghosts of the dead…

“William,” he said into the half-dark, “good name for a boy.”

Buffy momentarily forgot her nightmares and laughed, thinking of Xander’s reaction to naming his child after Spike. She closed her eyes and turned away from him. She didn’t need to see him to know he was right there with her.

The Mired Path 14/19

Title: The Mired Path
Author: Pricelessspike (Priceless)
Setting: Post Season 12 (Comic compliant)
Rating: PG
Warning: Spike/Other
Word Count: 2100
Summary: In Season 12 Buffy and Spike break up. Spike eventually leaves and this is their first meeting in three years. Plus, Angel needs rescuing.
A/N: Massive thanks to my wonderful betas Stoney and TriBel, if you like anything in this fic, it's because of them. All mistakes are mine, because I can't stop re-writing. The poetry Spike quotes in this chaper is from Catullus 85 by Roman poet Catullus.

Chapter 14

“Who’s out there?” came a woman’s voice, “I’m not scared of you!” Buffy thought the woman, Fred she assumed, sounded pretty scared.

Spike and Buffy were still leaning against the wall of the house. They’d been sat there for two minutes, deciding what their next move should be. Spike made to stand at the sound of the woman’s voice but Buffy grabbed him and pulled him down. Her jaw set and her eyes wide, she hoped Spike would get the message to stay where he was.

“You’re making this worse than it is,” he whispered, his mouth close to her ear. “He’s a vampire, that’s what we do. She’s fine.”

Angel had drunk from her once, to save his life. She had to force him to do it and he’d despised himself for it. Rationally she knew they were in hell, forced into doing the unthinkable just to survive, but seeing Angel drink human blood disturbed her. She remembered Riley in that suck house, a vampire biting his arm. How sordid that had been. She was a Slayer, her life dedicated to slaying vampires and stopping them from feeding from humans and here was Angel doing just that. Something inside rebelled at the idea of it.

“It must hurt, seeing Angel...” Spike’s breath on her neck made her shiver.

“It’s not that,” she whispered, knowing Spike thought her reaction was simple jealousy. “It’s watching him feed, using her as food. I’m a Slayer. It’s wrong.”

“You fed me once,” he said, his lips brushing her ear. She remembered. The guards at the camp had been withholding food and she’d let him feed from her. She’d hated seeing him so weakened, but it had been more than that. Letting him bite her had been a sign of her trust in him, letting him know without words how much she cared for him. Before she could explain that to him, Fred shouted again.

“I know you’re out there, go away!”

Spike jumped to his feet and moved towards the open doorway, leaving Buffy bereft.  Did Spike wonder what they’d do if they were trapped here forever and he too needed someone to feed from? She’d allowed it once, but they’d been lovers then. Was he worried that she wouldn’t allow it again now she’d admitted how sleazy she was by the act? She wished she could tell him that she still trusted him and that for her, nothing had changed.

“Fred, Fred, it’s me,” she heard him say.

“Spike?” Fred gasped his name and called, “Angel, it’s Spike, oh my god it’s Spike.”  Buffy forced herself to join them at the cottage door. Fred let out a yell as she approached, “Oh god Buffy,” and she was wrapped in Fred’s pale thin arms. “Come inside, come inside,” she repeated, bubbling with happiness, pulling them in to the warmth of the cottage.

That’s when she saw Angel. Only now, in the light, could she see what she’d not seen before. Angel had aged, his skin was wrinkled and grey, his body shrunken, his eyes watery and his hands speckled with liver spots. She gasped, shocked by the change in him.

“You’re human?” she asked, looking from him to Fred. No, that didn’t make sense, but she couldn’t understand what she was seeing.

Angel shook his head and looked to Fred, who answered, “Oh no,” in her bright sweet Texas drawl, “Angel’s still undead, still a vampire, but without any of the plus points.”

Buffy had known there must be very little food here, for human or vampire, but seeing Angel’s frailty she realised how hard it must have been for them. Fred must be his only permanent source of food, and she’d been made fragile by his feeding. She marvelled that they’d managed to survive like this for three years, even longer for them. She saw the look that passed between them, saw that Fred would do anything to keep Angel with her. She glanced at Spike, and wondered if she could do the same.

“You came. It’s good to see you.” Angel gave Buffy a wonky smile, a drop of dried blood at the corner of his mouth. She turned and saw a look of fear on Spike’s face, was he wondering if this was going to be his fate too?

“Sit,” Fred instructed, “tell us how you’re getting us home.”

Between them Spike and Buffy explained what had led up to their arrival. Angel sat silently, listening to every word. On occasion Fred chipped in; “I always felt sorry for Eve… Oh Willow, I’ll have to send her a basket … That swamp moves you know, sometimes you can’t step out of the front door… You were lucky in that wood, things live there… Sudden personality changes are a hazard here…”

When Spike mentioned the watch, Fred was eager to see it. She took it from him with shaky fingers. It was obvious she’d not been getting enough to eat, her skin grey and her bones all too visible under her papery skin. Buffy tried not to stare at the bite marks on her neck and arms.

Fred took the watch and moved to the other side of the table, closer to a lamp. She opened the lid and examined the workings. With effort, Angel stood and took a small box from the mantelpiece and passed it to her. It contained delicate homemade tools and with these, Fred began to take the watch apart. Buffy was afraid she might damage it further, and was about to stop her, but Spike put a restraining hand on her arm. He trusted Fred, so she should too.

“So, you work with Connor?” Angel asked, drawing their attention away from Fred. Buffy looked down at her hands, braced on her knees. She had dreaded this moment. She wondered if Spike’s relationship with Connor was simply a way to punish Angel, but hated herself for thinking it.  She needed Spike’s motives to be cruel and deceitful, to believe his relationship with Connor was unimportant, a diversion for Spike and just another way to hurt Angel. That way, she wouldn’t feel so horribly guilty for wanting him so badly, when he was in love with someone else.

“More than that,” Spike replied evenly. Buffy tightened her grip on her knees, there was no way Angel could misunderstand Spike’s meaning.

“You and my son?” Angel asked, obviously shocked, his voice as icy as Buffy had ever heard it. She saw Fred’s head lift and her startled eyes fix on him.

“He was lost.” Buffy heard self-righteous anger in Spike’s voice, “Looking for something. He found me. He could’ve found worse.” The two men were staring at each other, fury on Angel’s face. Without warning he leapt from his chair and swung with what little strength he had. The punch connected, Spike’s head flew back and blood spurted from his nose. He was on his feet instantly, pushing Angel backwards. He crashed into the table, rolled onto the floor and was too weak to rise. It happened so quickly, neither woman had moved. Spike stared down at the starving vampire. “Where were you? His whole life, where the fuck where you?” He turned and stalked out of the room.

Fred moved quickly then, running around the table and helping Angel to his feet. She manoeuvred him back to his chair and wrapped her arms around him. Fred was crying, but looking at Angel, Buffy saw it wasn’t comfort he needed. He wasn’t crying, he was wild with rage. She could tell that if he’d had the strength, he’d have beaten Spike to a bloody pulp.

Buffy left the house without a word and saw Spike stumbling away, cigarette smoke billowing around his head. She ran after him, desperate to console him and desperate to assuage her guilt. She caught his arm and pulled him around to face her.

“Go back,” he shouted angrily, pushing her away.

“Not without you,” she yelled. He looked at her as if she were crazy. “Come back, please.” She grabbed at him again. “You’re a good man. Connor’s so lucky. You’re right to fight for him.” She was pleading, not sure she was making sense. She was overwhelmed by the situation and by her own guilt. She wanted to make it right. Spike loved Connor, she’d seen it in the tautness of his body, in the cadence of his voice, in his violence and now in his melancholy. She knew Spike in love, she’d seen it first hand - she was seeing it again now.

“What do you know?” he spat, “You always take his side.” He pointed an accusing finger towards the house.

“I’m here with you, aren’t I?” she argued frantically, trying to grab Spike’s flailing arms. “Connor needs you. You can’t walk away.”

“He doesn’t know who he is,” he said plaintively. “He tries to have this normal life, but there’s something compelling him. He has to find the monsters. He really is a good man.”

You’re a good man,” she repeated, meaning every word. But as if to make a liar of her, he bought forward his demon face. Buffy, not allowing herself to feel intimidated, took a step towards him. “Spike, you are a good man,” she said again, “no matter what face you wear.” She stared in to the demon’s sour yellow eyes, unable to look away, fearing that if she did, he’d see it as an act of rejection.

“I can’t be what he needs.” Spike finally said, dropping his gaze and shaking off the demon. He lit a cigarette and threw the empty packet to the ground. “I hate and I love. Why do I do it? perhaps you ask; I do not know, but I feel it, and it is torture.”

Buffy recognised it as poetry, but she couldn’t name the poet. She wondered if it were one of Spike’s own, but didn’t ask. He was calm now, seemingly reconciled to the situation, so she gently took his hand and he allowed her to lead him back to the house. On entering, they were met by Angel’s angry glare and Fred’s apologetic smile. They’d obviously come to an agreement, as Angel remained silent.

“We have some food, and blood,” Buffy said, opening her backpack, “we’ll happily share.” She held the containers out to Fred, then pulled out the blood-stained pan, offering it up. Fred took the items from her and busied herself by the open fire.  Once warmed, she poured the blood into bowls and handed one to each vampire. They both mumbled their thanks.

“I’m sorry about what happened earlier,” Buffy began, ignoring Spike’s angry look. He hadn’t intended to apologise. “But you didn’t let Spike finish,” directing this at Angel. “A week ago, Connor was attacked by a demon. He’s very ill Angel. That’s why Spike’s here.” Angel lent forward in his chair, the blood forgotten, a look of horror on his face. “The Watcher’s Council and Willow are working on a cure.” She gave Spike a hopeful smile. “But we need to get you back so you can see your son.”

“We need to move,” Angel’s voice broke. “We need to get out of here. I need to see Connor.”

“The watch,” Fred said quietly, “I’ve examined it and there’s nothing wrong. Whatever the problem with the portal, it isn’t that watch.”

“Then what the hell is it?” shouted Angel. The room fell silent. Angel’s anger was fierce and made them all uneasy. Fred reached out a hand and stroked his head, like a mother soothing a distraught child. “Sorry. Sorry,” he said, rubbing his eyes. Buffy looked away, the emotion too much for her. She thought of Dawn and how broken she’d been when she thought she’d lost her. It had been unbearable.

“It must be something back in our dimension,” Fred said, her voice still quiet but with a new authority. “It’s either the actual portal and some issue with reaching this dimension. But that’s not likely. Even if it keeps moving, Willow has the original co-ordinates, she can extrapolate from them.” She thought for a second or two, then said.  “If you want my opinion?” They stared, her opinion being the only one that mattered. “I think it’s human error. Something stopping your sister opening a portal.”

There was silence while they all considered Fred’s theory. Angel asked, “But what about Willow? She can open portals, can’t she?” He was looking at Buffy, who nodded. Willow could easily open a portal, but Buffy’s mind was on Dawn, what had happened to her? Was she ok?

“The problem there,” Fred explained, sounding increasingly like the scientist she was, “is a design flaw in the watch and compass. Both are magically made to correlate to portals opened by one person. They’re linked only to her. Willow can open as many portals as she wants, the watch simply wouldn’t recognise them.”

The Mired path 13/19

Title: The Mired Path
Author: Pricelessspike (Priceless)
Setting: Post Season 12 (Comic compliant)
Rating: PG
Warning: Spike/Other
Word Count: 1600
Summary: In Season 12 Buffy and Spike break up. Spike eventually leaves and this is their first meeting in three years. Plus, Angel needs rescuing.
A/N: Massive thanks to my wonderful betas Stoney and TriBel, if you like anything in this fic, it's because of them. All mistakes are mine, because I can't stop re-writing.

Chapter 13

“Don’t you ever sleep?” Buffy asked, crawling from the tent and seeing Spike sat by the fire, drinking his breakfast blood.

“I do,” he smirked, “but thought you’d like to know, I picked up a scent.”

Buffy felt a jolt of excitement and joined him by the fire. “It’s faint, but human,” he said, licking the blood from his lips.

“Then it’s not Angel or Illyria?” she asked, biting into a granola bar she’d dug out of her backpack.

“No. But it’s another human being in this dimension. That’s good news Slayer.”

“It is. It’s great news.” She could tell he’d been excited to tell her, and her reaction had disappointed him. “I’m just worried about the watch. Has another portal opened?” She threw her granola wrapper in the fire and took a swallow of water.

“No, I keep checking, but there’s been nothing. Do you want to carry it?”

“No,” she shook her head, “I trust you.”

He lit a cigarette and blew the smoke into the grate and they both watched it spiral up the chimney. Buffy didn’t feel like talking. She’d slept well, but this morning she felt dispirited and worried that having no means of knowing when a portal had been opened, or where, could mean their stay in hell was a permanent one.

“C’mon Slayer,” Spike started dismantling the tent, “let’s get packed up and go find that human, I’m running low on blood.”

Buffy knew joking was Spike’s motivational technique, and she did appreciate it, but really why couldn’t they stay in this house? They could clean it up, build a new roof and just stay. They had forever, because they were never leaving. Plenty of time to make this house a home.

“C’mon pet, let’s get this tent put away eh?” Buffy knew she should help him, but it was so cosy by the fire and they were only going to have to put the tent back up tonight, so it seemed simpler just to leave it standing.

“We’re not getting out of here, so why bother?” She’d miss Dawn and the babies most, but that was a small price to pay for eternity in this idyll. Spike was staring at her with concern. She assumed he was upset at the thought of never seeing Connor again, but she was sure he’d get over that. She’d help him. She reached out and squeezed his hand, “It’ll be okay Spike; we can make this place really nice. You saw what I did to your apartment. For a Slayer, I’m actually quite a good decorator.”

“Christ sakes Buffy,” Spike crouched down by her chair, “what’s wrong with you? We’re not staying here. The witch’ll fix the watch, we’ll find Blue and the ponce and then we’ll be on our way.” He stared into her face, and Buffy stared back, thinking how beautiful he was, as beautiful as this place. Stormy blue eyes, that sexy eyebrow scar and those luscious pouty lips. Eternity in hell wasn’t looking too bad.

Spike left her sitting with her thoughts while he packed their belongings. When both packs were ready, he returned to crouch before her and said with a beaming smile, “I think staying here is a great idea, best you’ve had. Tell you what, why don’t we go looking for some supplies, so we can make this place right posh? We need drapes and rugs and all the fripperies. What you say, you up for gathering supplies?”

Buffy gasped and clapped her hands together. She thought this was a marvellous idea. She shouldered her backpack and followed Spike out of the house. She kept glancing back at the ruin, sad to leave such a magnificent piece of architecture, but happy to know she would be returning soon. All it needed was a lick of paint and it would be as good as new. She had eternity to devote to it and she knew just the wallpaper, the colour scheme for the bathroom, the perfect flooring for the hallway and the softest thickest carpet for the master bedroom…

Spike checked the watch repeatedly. Buffy wondered why he bothered, as he never saw those little golden sparks he said he was looking for. She could tell he was becoming increasingly disappointed so she cheered him up by telling him about all the housewares she wanted to buy and how they could spend their eternity in hell flipping houses. She really didn’t like the way he vamped out and smelled the air every few minutes, but was too happy to allow his constant eye rolling and vamp face to irritate her.

“Buffy,” he grabbed her arm excitedly, “the scent, I know it. It’s Fred.”

“Uh huh,” she replied, no longer concerned about Spike and his scents. Pretty gross actually, sniffing the air and smelling people.

Spike rolled his eyes and looked to the heavens. “C’mon.” He grabbed Buffy’s arm and began to pull her in the direction of the scent. A peeved Buffy pried her arm from his grip. “Will you stop pulling me like that,” she glared. “It’s absolutely pointless anyway, we’re never getting away from here.” Her face softened and she added, “Though I suppose it would be nice to have neighbours, for dinner parties and double dates.”

They strolled on a little further, Buffy refusing to walk any faster, “I want to take in the glory of this landscape, isn’t it beautiful?” At one point they had to stop so Buffy could marvel at some yellow headed weeds that were spouting through the grass.

It took them walking several miles further until Buffy began to regain some of her motivation, and suggested Spike may want to walk faster.  He asked her how she was feeling and she replied, “Weird, like barn conversion had suddenly become my life’s work,” and a few minutes later, “Oh my God,” she grabbed his arm and pulled him to a stop, “you smelled Fred?”

“Yeah,” he nodded, “and she’s getting stronger.”

“What happened to me?” she asked, plucking yellow weeds from her hair. Spike went to remove one that had been tucked into her buttonhole, then seemed to think better of it.

Instead he put an arm around her shoulder and half hugged her, his relief palpable. “I think one of my nightmares came true.” Buffy stroked his arm, hating to see fear in his eyes, “But you’re back. We’re not getting trapped here, you’ll get us home.”

Buffy smiled and bumped him with her shoulder. It was good to know Spike liked her as she was and missed her when she wasn’t herself. He also had complete faith in her abilities to get them home, which pleased her more than she could say. Feeling strangely sentimental she told him, “You’re a good friend, maybe my best friend.”

Spike looked bashful then laughed and said, “Look around pet, not much competition is there?”

Being away from the ruin and closer to Fred, Buffy felt far more motivated. Knowing Spike cared about her and could miss her, filled her with renewed hope. They always did work well together, even as enemies, their fights always energised and excited her. They complimented each other, understood the other’s abilities and made flaws into strengths. She looked at him now, vamp faced, determined to find Fred and prove himself useful.  She wished she could tell him how much he meant to her. He might miss her if she weren’t here, but truth be told, she’d be lost without him; his vampire senses had been a blessing (could one be sacrilegious in hell she wondered), his snarky good humour, his unfailing belief in her and his ability to turn every negative into a positive to bolster her when she flagged. He was a good man.

“I see it,” he gasped, “she’s there.” He was pointing into the distance, and as usual, Buffy saw nothing but grey mist. Trusting him, she followed where he pointed, hoping this place didn’t move like the ruin had. Spike took another swallow of air, “Angel’s there,” he grinned back at her. “The ponce is in there with Fred.” He grabbed her hand and pulled her along.

They tripped and stumbled over the uneven ground for another half mile. Buffy’s legs and back were burning, having never walked so much as she had in these last few days, the backpack so heavy, its straps cutting into her shoulders. They were so close, she didn’t want to stop, she just wanted to reach the house. Spike described it to her as they got closer, “It’s like the ruin, but with roof and walls... There’s smoke in the chimney… Food cooking, Slayer, smells good… There’s blood too, animal…can you see it yet?”

It wasn’t till they were a few feet from the property that Buffy finally saw it. Stone and brick, wood and slate, a strange looking dwelling, seemingly built from mismatched found items. There were windows that let in what little daylight there was, and she saw lamps and candles burning.

“Bloody hell,” Spike swore as he looked into the house. Buffy went to him and stared through the window. Inside she saw a table and chairs and on one of those chairs sat Angel, in vampire face, Fred sitting on his knee. His face was buried in her neck and he was drinking her.

Spike grabbed Buffy and pulled her away. “He’s not hurting her,” Spike whispered reassuringly.

“Does he know we’re here?” She didn’t want Angel to sense them, it felt too perverse.

“No. Only thing he cares about is the blood.”

“Let’s wait until they’ve finished,” Buffy suggested, not wanting to disturb them during such an intimate act and not sure how she felt about witnessing it.

The Mired Path 12/19

Title: The Mired Path
Author: Pricelessspike (Priceless)
Setting: Post Season 12 (Comic compliant)
Rating: PG
Warning: Spike/Other
Word Count: 1600
Summary: In Season 12 Buffy and Spike break up. Spike eventually leaves and this is their first meeting in three years. Plus, Angel needs rescuing.
A/N: Massive thanks to my wonderful betas Stoney and TriBel, if you like anything in this fic, it's because of them. All mistakes are mine, because I can't stop re-writing.

Chapter 12

Spike and Buffy stumbled towards the ruins. Buffy following Spike, as she couldn’t see anything through the dense fog. Spike kept assuring her that it was only a little way ahead, though it felt like they’d been staggering across the open ground for hours.  Although the land wasn’t marshy and she hadn’t had to fight against the mud for every step, Buffy’s shoulders ached from the heaviness of the backpack.

“Stop,” she eventually ordered.

“C’mon Slayer, it’s just there,” Spike excitedly pointed ahead. Buffy put her hand on his arm and he gently lowered it.

“My back hurts, I need to rest.” He nodded with disappointment and helped lift the pack from her back. He placed it on the ground and Buffy sat, opened her cantina and took a long drink of cool water. “Does it keep moving?” she asked, once she was rested. They’d been walking for hours and not getting any closer, something strange was happening.

Spike stared at the ruins, reflected a moment then said, “Possibly.” Buffy would have laughed if she weren’t so tired. “Feels like we’ve walked a distance,” he continued, dropping his own pack and sitting next to her. Without thinking, Buffy put her head on his shoulder and the two sat in companionable silence.

“We should go east again,” Spike said, “trick the bugger.” Buffy’s eyes met his and widened with understanding. He may have been joking, but it was actually a good idea. Walking in a straight line wasn’t working, they had to try something else. They shouldered their backpacks and instead of going north as they had been, they veered off course, seemingly going east.  Buffy began to see the ruins appear out of the mist, so she knew they were finally going in the right direction. They gave the ruins a wide berth, then turned back on themselves and approached from the opposite direction. In less than an hour they were standing at a broken doorway that lead into a derelict old house. The roof had fallen but the four walls and chimney stood.

“After you, Slayer,” Spike said, pushing open the heavy wooden door that was hanging by one rusty hinge. It creaked as loudly as any door ever had in a horror movie, but Buffy wasn’t scared of monsters, so she stepped inside.

There was one large room, gloomy and tumbledown, with a door leading off. The second room was similar to the first, just a little smaller. The roof had rotted and trees were growing over the walls, fallen branches littering the floor. They decided as it was late, they’d make this their camp for the night. Spike gathered up the branches, breaking them into smaller logs and sticks and busied himself making the fire while Buffy investigated their surroundings more closely.

“Look at this,” she called, holding up a large white claw. “Definitely demon which means we’re not alone, and look at these.” She held out two bones she’d found picked clean of flesh.

“Even in hell you can die,” Spike reminded her, tossing the bones aside, but putting the claw in to his backpack. “Memento,” he said defensively, when Buffy eyed him suspiciously.

The wood wasn’t as damp here and the fire blazed well in the hearth. It was a dry clear night, though there were no stars, the firelight gave the room a pleasant homely feel and Buffy felt quite content. They’d found two rickety old chairs, which Spike had dusted down and they sat together by the fire. Buffy stretched her legs out, her toes nearly touching the flames.

“The days are much shorter here,” she said, eating another of Dawn’s concoctions, which Spike had heated on the fire. He still drank his blood cold, wanting to keep the pan blood free for Buffy’s tea. “Or maybe it just changes from one day to the next?”

Spike lit a cigarette and sat relaxed in the chair. She’d not seen him smoke since they’d arrived in this dimension, but expected he’d smoked while she’d slept the previous night. To save embarrassment, she’d already put up the tent and laid out her sleeping bag, leaving Spike’s bag rolled up in his pack. He could join her if he wished, but she wanted him to know that she had no expectations.

“Ever go camping as a kid?” Buffy asked, making conversation and thinking of family vacations she’d taken to Idyllwild and Big Bear as a child.

“No Slayer, that wasn’t a thing when I was a child,” he replied, shaking his head. “Connor went a few times, or remembers going. Didn’t of course.” Buffy knew Connor would never be far from Spike’s mind, though he hadn’t spoken of him very much, he must miss him.

“Like Dawn,” she said, sympathetically. “I remember her first birthday, when she started school, learnt to swim, I remember everything. Getting those memories was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I can’t imagine having a sister, or a child, and thinking the best thing for them is to wipe out everyone’s memory of them. We are our memories, when no one remembers us, then we’re truly gone.”

“Angel remembered. He kept his memories.” Spike looked into the fire, kicking one of the logs with his boot. Buffy wondered if vampires had a natural fascination for things that could kill them, though it seemed the things that usually killed vampires didn’t work in hell.

“Poor Angel,” Buffy sighed without thinking, and was startled by the look of anger on Spike’s face.

“Not poor Angel,” he hissed. “Angel washed his hands of the boy. But he still needed to keep tabs on him. Couldn’t forget his own son, what if he reappeared to mess up his nice life?” Spike spun in his chair, facing her, “If I professed to love someone, I’d never abandoned them, never leave them when they were in torment. I’d never look for a quick fix, an easy way out.”

“There must have been reasons Spike. We weren’t there, we don’t know,” she said calmly, not wanting to upset him, but not believing that Angel would abandon his son so casually.  “Angel came to hell for Illyria, he didn’t abandon her.”

Spike threw his cigarette into the fire with a grunt, sat back in his chair and seethed for a while. Buffy took what was left of his blood ration, poured it into the pan and placed it over the fire.

“Shouldn’t do that,” Spike said petulantly. Buffy ignored him, and when the blood was warm, she poured it back into his mug and handed it to him. She sat on the floor at his feet, leaning against the leg of his chair and stared into the fire.

“What Angel did was wrong,” she said soothingly. “It’s obviously harmed Connor in ways Angel couldn’t have predicted. But when you love someone, Spike, they become your world. But Angel isn’t like you. He can’t love like you, and I think you expect too much from him.”

Spike drank his blood and contemplated her words. “Maybe I expect too much of everybody ‘eh?” he finally said.

“Maybe,” she replied and patted his knee. She wished she could put her arms around him, let him know he was loved, tell him to forget about Angel, forget Connor… He’d be so shocked if she asked him to abandon Connor for her. Knowing he’d push her away, only made her want him more.

She felt him gently twining her hair through his fingers, stroking each strand. She put her head on his knee and closed her eyes, not sure if she were dreaming. He ran his fingertips up and down the nape of her neck and she sighed, thinking she could melt with the pleasure of his touch. Perhaps she did sleep a little because when she opened her eyes again, the fire was low, and Spike was calling her name.


“Mmm,” she said sleepily, lifting her head from his knee, stretching out her arms and yawning.

“No portal luv.” Buffy didn’t initially understand what he meant. He had the watch open in his hand, holding it out to her. She took it and saw it was only a simple watch and compass. No bright lights, no luminous colours. “Dawn said she’d open two portals a day, didn’t she?” Buffy nodded, noting the time was past midnight.

“I’m not worried,” she said, looking up at his concerned face. “It could be a glitch with the magicks, or for some reason Dawn couldn’t open a second portal, or the time differential making things weird. They’ll be working on it, and there’ll be one tomorrow.” Spike’s raised eyebrow meant he wasn’t convinced.

“The watch could be the problem,” he said, taking it from her, “and we have no clue how to fix it.” He snapped the case shut and put it back in his pocket.

“We can’t panic,” Buffy said, more to reassure herself than Spike.

“If you’re not worried then neither am I,” he said, lighting another cigarette. “We’re in hell and no one is more able to survive a hell dimension than a vampire and a slayer,” and with a smug grin, he sat back in his chair and finished his cigarette.

Buffy marvelled at his talent for turning on a dime and finding the positive in the direst of situations. She left him to his smoke, went to brush her teeth then climb into her uncomfortable bed. She was a little worried, she couldn’t deny that, but she was grateful she had Spike here to share the burden. She fell asleep quickly and didn’t wake till she heard Spike calling her name the next morning.

The Mired Path 11/19

Title: The Mired Path
Author: Pricelessspike (Priceless)
Setting: Post Season 12 (Comic compliant)
Rating: PG
Warning: Spike/Other
Word Count: 1600
Summary: In Season 12 Buffy and Spike break up. Spike eventually leaves and this is their first meeting in three years. Plus, Angel needs rescuing.
A/N: Massive thanks to my wonderful betas Stoney and TriBel, if you like anything in this fic, it's because of them. All mistakes are mine, because I can't stop re-writing.

Chapter 11

Buffy stuck her head out of the tent and was pleased to see the drizzle had stopped, although it was still a cloudy and unappealing day. Spike was sitting by the fire, his back to her. “Good morning,” she called, hoping she sounded more cheerful then she felt.

“Morning,” he answered, standing and walking towards her. He crouched before the tent opening and held out her jeans and socks, which were folded and bone dry. “Had to stay up to keep the fire going. Got these dry.”

Buffy stared into Spike’s face, so close she could count every eyelash. He smiled and proffered the clothing to her. Buffy took them from him, her fingers brushing his, and mumbled, “Thank you, that’s good of you,” before quickly disappearing inside.

She doubted very much that Spike had stayed up all night simply to dry her clothes, but even so, he had dried them, folded them and presented them so sweetly she couldn’t help but feel touched. This was the Spike she knew, the one who’d bring her breakfast in bed, sit for hours sharpening her swords and tape episodes of his soaps so he could watch them when she was out. She realised she had a silly grin on her face and the guilt returned. Spike had moved on, he had a whole new life and she’d told him she accepted that, yet here she was getting giddy because he’d done something nice for her. They were here on a mission, not to rekindle some long dead romance. She pulled on the jeans and socks and laced up her boots before joining him by the fire.

“Here,” he said, handing her a mug of tea and a pack of cookies. She looked at him with amazement, not knowing they had tea-making facilities. “The Bit put some tea bags and a pan in my pack,” Spike explained. “All the mod cons,” he said with a grin.

Buffy grinned back, though she had no idea what ‘mod cons’ were. She sat by the fire, drank her tea and stole sly glances at Spike, who was poking at the fire with a stick. “Be careful,” she said, afraid a stray spark may do him some damage.

“Look,” he said, and put his hand over the flame. Buffy gasped and reached out to grab him. “See,” he said, turning his hand over. There was a small red mark in the centre of his palm, but that was all. Buffy took his hand, turned it over and studied it.

“The sun doesn’t dust you and fire doesn’t immolate. Maybe I should try a stake to the heart?” she said jokingly, releasing his hand.  

“Last night… the tent…,” he said, changing the subject and throwing another small branch onto the fire.

“It doesn’t matter,” she interrupted quickly, “I get it.” She really didn’t think she could bear Spike explaining that the last thing he needed was to sleep in a confined space with her. No matter how innocent the situation, Spike would see it as a betrayal of Connor, and though she ached to have him close, she didn’t want to put him in that position.

“We ought to make a start,” she said, throwing out the dregs of tea and handing the mug back to Spike. After brushing her teeth, she packed up the sleeping bags while Spike took the tent down.

“Smell anything?” she asked when they were packed and ready to go. Spike vamped out and smelled the air. She thought there was something quite potent in such an animalistic act. He’d raise his head, take in the scents and savour them a moment, before shaking off the animal and returning to human face.

“Maybe,” he replied, not sounding particularly confident, “if we keep going east, it may get stronger.” Buffy nodded, she had faith he wouldn’t lead them astray. They continued east, staying to the woods for the most part. Although the weather had improved, they thought the wood gave them added protection.

“Buffy, look.” Spike had the watch in his hand. It no longer looked like a normal watch, but the face had split into two, and the two halves were floating over each other. One of the faces was a shimmering cornflower blue and showed the current time, 07:45, while the other was a golden yellow, brighter than the blue and shooting little sparks of light. It showed the time 03:20. They had 7 hours 35 minutes to find Angel and Illyria and get to the portal.

“Look at the arrow,” Spike said. Buffy saw it was pointing to the west, the opposite direction to which they were travelling.

“Dammit, we can’t turn back now.” She turned to Spike, looking for confirmation. He vamped out again, “Still east. Faint. The scent of fire… and cattle, maybe.”

“Sorry Dawnie,” Buffy sighed sadly, “we’ll catch the next one.”  She’d known they wouldn’t find Angel and Illyria quickly, but she couldn’t help feeling disappointed at having to literally turn their back on their escape route. Spike put the compass back into his pocket and they both tried to forget the minutes counting down as they trudged on through the wood. The compass had become an albatross around their necks, a constant reminder of their failure. It added a new level of bleakness to an already arduous mission.

“C’mon Slayer, even roughing it in hell’s got to be better than the SFPD.”

Buffy couldn’t help but laugh, appreciating Spike’s attempts to lift the mood. “It doesn’t happen often Spike, but sometimes you’re righter than you know.”

“So, tell me,” he asked, “was it the polyester uniform that swung it?” Buffy stifled another laugh.

“You want to know for real?” she asked. Spike nodded, of course. “I didn’t know what else to do.” She thought back to those days, the future had been saved and everyone else was making plans. “It’s like you said, everything was changing and I felt left behind.” They exchanged a look of understanding. “Faith thought it was a good idea, that it’d give us something real to do, you know?”

“Oh, so you listen to Faith now do you, well then,” Spike said sarcastically. Buffy kicked out at him playfully and he chuckled at their shared joke.

“I wanted something other than ‘Slayer’, on my tombstone,” Buffy said more seriously. “I wanted to be part of the world.”

“So, why’d you leave?” Spike asked.

“Oh, it was awful,” Buffy said with a grin as Spike rolled his eyes. “Shift work and slaying are unmixy things. And I had to pass a firearms course, and do actual policework. Like, actually arrest human people. That’s not what I signed up for.” Buffy laughed. “You were there, you know, we we’re told we’d be the foundation of a new SFPD Supernatural Crimes Division, but that never happened. Faith disappeared after two months; she couldn’t take taking orders. I was more committed, thought it would get better, so I hung on. Then Giles left, taking Andrew, you left of course, and then Angel.”

“Where’s Faith now?”

“She’s in London most of the time, working for the Council,” Buffy replied. “We talk occasionally. She travels a lot. Dawn told you, she was dating an actor, so you know as much as me.”

“Oh yeah, must have blocked that out,” he said, though she knew he’d been so overwhelmed he’d probably not heard half the things Dawn had said. “So how come she gets a corner office at headquarters while you get a hellmouth?” asked Spike, sounding disgruntled on her behalf.

Buffy had never thought of her situation in those terms before. She suddenly thought she might like to give London a try, it must surely be less stressful than living on a hellmouth. “Giles didn’t ask me,” she said, “he asked Andrew to help him. Faith just turned up there one day and Giles gave her a job.” Buffy thought she might ring Giles when she got home and suggest she spent some time at Council headquarters, just to reacquaint herself with protocol.

“Yeah, I always wondered what was up with that, Giles asking Andrew to help and not you.” Buffy was taken aback by how annoyed Spike sounded. He’d never talked to her about any of this. Maybe he didn’t think he had any right to comment on her decisions after the split? When she didn’t answer he asked, “And what about the Magical Council? What happened to the Vampyr book? Don’t tell me Faith is writing the rules of magic? That would actually explain a lot.”

Buffy didn’t want to admit it, but she felt a tiny bit irritated by Spike’s questioning. He’d made it sound like other people were doing interesting and exciting things, while she was… Well what was she doing? She was living on a hellmouth, slaying vampires, like always. And where was the Vampyr book? For all she knew, Riley Finn was leading the Magic Council. What did Faith do? Was Andrew her sister’s boss? She knew nothing outside of slaying and her job at the coffee shop. For the first time since moving to Cleveland she regretted cutting herself off and not being more involved in her own life.

“When you left,” Buffy stopped walking and turned to Spike, having come to another realisation, “it threw me. You were my safety net, you know?” She was glad he said nothing, she really needed to talk. “I know I’d broken us up, but that didn’t feel real,” she was struggling to find the words. “You were still in my life, and I mean completely in my life. Like you said, I even decorated your apartment. Then you were gone and I knew it was my fault. Then Angel left and I felt adrift. Moving to Cleveland cut me off even more, but it was a way of punishing myself, you know? Like, I’d been so dumb and I was so angry at myself and everyone. Poor Willow especially. So yeah, I felt stuck while everyone else was moving forward, so I changed everything and guess what? I ended up slaying vampires on the hellmouth. Oh irony, thy name is Buffy.”

She stared walking again, not waiting for Spike. Willow had once asked her if moving to Cleveland was a punishment and Buffy had angrily denied it. But she realised Willow had been right. Posting herself to an unknown hellmouth in Ohio, alone and knowing no one, was very much a punishment and she felt stupid for not seeing it earlier. She really was Denialy Buffy. She might try London, or the Magic Council, she might move back to San Francisco or take a round the world cruise, she didn’t know. But she did know if they ever got home, she wouldn’t be staying in Cleveland.

“Thanks…” She wanted to thank him for being a good listener, but he wasn’t walking alongside her anymore. He’s stopped a few feet back, unmoving, vamped out and staring through the trees.  She walked back to him and looked in the direction he was looking.

“See it?” He pointed ahead, but she could see nothing in this grey light.

“What is it?”

“It’s a ruin now, but it was once a house. Can’t smell anything human. C’mon, let’s have a look see.”

The Mired Path 10/19

Title: The Mired Path
Author: Pricelessspike (Priceless)
Setting: Post Season 12 (Comic compliant)
Rating: PG
Warning: Spike/Other
Word Count: 1600
Summary: In Season 12 Buffy and Spike break up. Spike eventually leaves and this is their first meeting in three years. Plus, Angel needs rescuing.
A/N: Massive thanks to my wonderful betas Stoney and TriBel, if you like anything in this fic, it's because of them. All mistakes are mine, because I can't stop re-writing.

Chapter 10

Buffy landed on her knees. It was dark and cold and water was seeping through her jeans. She scrambled to her feet and Spike careered through the portal a second later. The two clasped arms, dizzy with relief at having arrived safely into hell.

Still unsteady on their feet, they looked around, the landscape barren and empty. The sky was a dark grey and the ground marshy, a misty drizzle fell, reducing visibility to a few feet. Spike vamped out, hoping his heightened vampire senses would enable him to see further or perhaps smell life happening somewhere near.

“There are trees over there.” He pointed to the east. “We’d at least get some cover from this rain.” Buffy agreed, so they began to walk in an easterly direction. It was incredibly slow going as the ground was a swamp. The water wasn’t particularly deep, perhaps a foot at its highest, but the mud grabbed at their feet and didn’t want to let go. They had to fight for every step and it was exhausting.

“It’s a bloody Irish bog,” Spike shouted furiously across to Buffy, who was two paces ahead of him. Her slender build was an advantage as she didn’t sink as low in to the mud as the more muscular Spike. “It’s an Irish bog,” he shouted again, and he began to laugh. Buffy turned and held out her hand, thinking he was mired down and needed assistance, but he had thrown back his head and was laughing wildly. Buffy worried he might have already become affected by this dimension and gone slightly mad.

“Are you okay?” she called, struggling to make her way back to him. He was bent double, his hands on his knees, hooting with laughter.  “Spike, are you alright?” She made it to his side and put her arm around his shoulders, not sure what to do.

“Oh Slayer,” he said, still giggling, tears running down his now human face, “it’s a bloody Irish bog. Don’t you see?” She didn’t see and just stared at him, wondering if she should leave the crazy vampire here and try to make it to the woods alone. “Oh Buffy, you must see,” he said, still chuckling to himself, “this is definitely Liam’s hell, it has to be.” He bent down and pulled up a handful of earth, “Look, it’s lucky heather!” and he was off again, laughing uproariously.

Buffy looked at the clump of moss and earth in Spike’s hand, and slowly began to understand what he was suggesting; that this landscape was a recreation of an Irish bog, made real because Angel feared it.  She felt a chuckle rise in her chest. This was Angel’s fear? It was wet and cold and difficult to navigate, but it wasn’t particularly fear inducing.

It took them a minute or two to regain their composure, though Spike couldn’t wipe the grin from his face. They struggled on and every few minutes Spike would begin laughing again. “Bet this bloody rain’s part of it too. Got eighteenth century Ireland written all over it.” This made Buffy laugh, and she had to grab Spike’s arm for fear of falling, as her body swayed but her feet stuck fast.

“But why?” she asked, starting to feel guilty for finding Angel’s fears laughable.

“Don’t rightly know pet,” he replied. “Guess it’s psychological torture. Reminding him of what he wanted to escape from?” Spike shrugged his shoulders. “But who wouldn’t want to escape this?” he asked, wiping rain from his face and looking down at his soaked clothes and peat covered boots.

Buffy looked around her, though could see very little. This had to be a highly exaggerated version of Ireland, which she’d always thought of as green and verdant and spring-like, populated by extras from The Quiet Man. Suddenly she realised, “If this is Angel’s hell, that means he must be nearby. It must mean we’re close.” She looked up to a sky she couldn’t see and offered up a silent thank-you to Eve for giving them the correct co-ordinates.

“I guess it must do Slayer,” he said, “if we’re right about it being Angel’s hell.” But Buffy was convinced.

“Come on,” she ordered, pulling Spike’s arm, sure they were inching closer to the trees and once there, they’d be closer to Angel.

It took another thirty minutes till they managed to escape the bog and plant their feet on firmer ground. Both were soaked to the skin, but only Buffy felt the cold. They decided they should keep moving, but stick to the wooded area to escape the worst of the rain. Spike smelt the air, hoping to find some indication as to which direction they should travel.

“I can smell the peat and the heather and you pet, but no other signs of life.”

“We can’t be close enough yet,” Buffy said, certain they were heading in the right direction.

“Maybe this isn’t Angel’s hell,” Spike said tentatively. “Maybe each hell is separate. And what about Blue? She was fighting an army of demons, and I can’t sense any of them either. Maybe she didn’t make it luv.”

Buffy stopped walking and turned to him, “Call it Slayer intuition or something, but I know we’re in the right place, thanks to Eve, and you’re right about the landscape being all about Angel. I’m convinced this is his version of hell, and he has to be alive for this place to feed off him.” She started walking again, then turned and added, “Illyria’s an Old One, she’s powerful and built to survive. I’m sure she’s here somewhere.” She may have sounded sure, but Buffy couldn’t help wondering why everything here related to Angel. There was no evidence at all of Illyria’s existence.

They walked for what felt like days, but Willow’s watch told them it had only been four hours. Spike had vamped out and smelt the air several times, but still hadn’t found a trace of the missing pair. As the light faded and it became too dangerous to walk any further, they decided to camp for the night. Buffy put up the tent while Spike hunted for wood. Though most of the wood was damp, he found enough to make a small fire. Buffy sat close to the meagre flames and ate a stew-like concoction Dawn had packed for her. Spike sat further from the fire and drank his dinner of cold pigs’ blood. Neither meal was particularly appetising but both knew they had to keep their strength up for what was to come.

“You ought to take your socks off pet,” Spike advised. He’d made a simple stand, out of three pieces of wood that stood over the fire, he suggested she put her socks over it to dry. “Your jeans too,” he added.

Buffy suddenly felt self-conscious.  She was aware of how horridly clammy her jeans felt and she could feel Spike’s eyes on her. She knew she should ask him to look away, but the thought of him watching excited her. She wanted to peel the clothing from her body and for him to see her. She’d move slowly, so his eyes could take in every inch of her flesh. He’d see her dimpled knees, her taut pink thighs and her damp white panties. The outline of her sex shadowed against her wet underwear. She’d have to open her legs to peel the jeans away from her body, and that’s when he’d come to her, push her to the ground, his hand rough between her thighs…

He’d stood and was putting more wood on the fire, no longer looking at her. She felt ashamed and faintly ridiculous. Wasn’t the embarrassment on the porch enough for her? He’d already rejected her once. He’d think she was desperate and sordid. He had someone else, he didn’t want her...

“Buffy?” he called.

“Yeah, sorry. Sensible suggestion.” It was she who turned away from him and quickly peeled off her wet jeans. She was sure hopping around on one foot was the most unerotic thing Spike had ever seen. She handed him the socks and jeans and he arranged them carefully over the fire.  Her shirt was long enough to cover her underwear and she’d put her boots back on, sure now she looked more absurd than sexy. Not knowing what else to do she said she was going to bed.

“’Night,” Spike said, taking her place by the fire, squeezing more water from her socks and smoothing them out before hanging them up again.

“You not coming?” she asked, trying to keep her voice light.

“Not tired,” he replied. “Join you later.” He looked over his shoulder and gave her a friendly smile.

Buffy crawled quickly in to the tent. She’d laid the sleeping bags top to toe, thinking Spike wouldn’t be comfortable sleeping next to her, face to face. Feeling strangely empty she climbed into one of the bags and laid on her back, staring at the tent roof, wondering nervously when Spike would join her.

Eventually she fell asleep, but the hard ground and the strange surroundings meant she woke every few hours. Each time, she realised she was alone. She would turn over and try to go back to sleep. Finally, she awoke and saw daylight shining through the tent. The sleeping bag beside her was zipped and had obviously not been slept in. She sighed at the familiarity of the situation, waking up alone when you don’t expect it never ended well for her.