Part 4: Interlude
Gently, quietly. Carefully. She pulled him closer and rubbed her head along his shoulder, exposing the smooth flesh of her neck. "You have to learn to live with your shadow." She let her tongue laze a wet trail up and down his neck, pulling his taste into her mouth as if he were chocolate, then driving her teeth into his skin. "It's mine, too."
The sound that escaped him at her physical claim was more groan than whimper, and she raised her eyes slowly to stare straight into vivid blue anguish as he pulled away from her embrace. She felt the fear bubble up in her chest as she closed the distance, burrowing her arms beneath his open shirt and jacket. "I won't let him have you."
His hand reached up to touch her face, heart all too human and glowing in his eyes. She read the plea there and shushed him when he moved to speak. Her eyes held his with an earnest look. She understood the pain involved with accepting your darker side. He'd taken her there and back more times than she could count.
Maybe it would be a kindness....
The stake went flying over her shoulder. "I can't--won't--do it. Together you're strong enough to fight."
He'd taught her that. And more, besides. "I'll show you how." Her eyes shone with the knowledge that this was her last, best hope to avoid a repeat of her making all those lifetimes ago, and she pulled back to touch his cheek. "If you want me to?"
She hadn't meant for the question to ring in her voice. She'd reached for the Slayer and found only the woman.
The reality of what she was doing slammed through her body, vivid, painful images of the mansion on Crawford Street flowing like vinegar over open wounds. Her chest felt heavy, and breathing was a forgotten skill until the sound of his quiet voice rang in the night.
"I think I know." Decades' worth of his hesitation and longing filled the distance between them. "This is where I...you..." He dropped his head to avoid her stare and his words were whispers she strained to hear, "...where we dance."
Astonishment tinged her voice at his reminder of her purpose. Even in this state, he played the guide. "Yes. It's what we do." She held herself still, counting the rise and fall of her chest.
The seconds ticked by in silence, and she thought one of them would surely run. Instead, he reached out to touch her shoulder. The rough clearing of his throat halted her thoughts in their tracks. "A man," he began, in the singsong tones of the church, "a man leads the dance."
She felt his pain rather than saw it, and knew she'd make it worse before all was said and done. The words were the faintest of whispers, "but I am not a man. It sees to that." His hand touched her neck. "It has hurt you, could kill you, like the girl..."
Facile answers floated by on the light of the moon, leaving her without words. She shifted to face him, dislodging his hand from her shoulder with an angry swat. "You're wrong. The demon didn't hurt me -- that was *you*. Spike. The man--William." Her voice faded to a shaky murmur. "An out of control demon would have drained me. It was you..."
Eyes dropped, and shame colored each syllable of his answer, "I remember." Anger supported sorrow in his words as he shouted at her, "I hurt you. I did. I held you down, I watched you scream." He began to pace to and fro, his gait wonderfully familiar. As he hit the deepest part of the shadows beneath the tree, he turned to face her. "And I killed that girl tonight. I don't remember it, but I did."
Softly, she denied it. "That wasn't you. He's been here tonight, the monster who can still kill in cold blood, but he's not you. Do you....do you remember what you did when Katrina died?"
She watched him sliding farther away, felt the shame that radiated from his silence, denying that there could have been any good in the hurt and control and abuse they'd piled upon one another last winter.
"Tell me," she said. "Tell me what you did, Spike. Then tell me why you let me hurt you. Why you lay there, crying with your yellow demon eyes and your fangs bared and no chip to stop you?" She shivered at the memory of the all consuming rage, the burning need to destroy, to punish. It was still there, carefully caged. But it was not for him, not any more.
Before he could answer her question with words she couldn't hear, Buffy continued, "You could control it then. And now? It's not so different."
At a deliberate pace, she followed him into the shadows and leaned in, rising on her toes to whisper into his ear, "Let it out to play. We'll dance the night through, and end this game one way or another."