He understands Dru so much better now. It's hard to keep track of things when there's so much going on in your head. He would have been a lot more patient with her if he'd known just how tricky it really was, how - how slippery it all got. There are times when he thinks he almost sees it, almost gets the connection, the sense. But always, it slips through his fingers and leaves him grasping nothing but empty air.
He freezes suddenly, at a sound from one of the ever-changing corners of the room. Room, realm, his own little corner of the kingdom. Halt, who goes there? This is his place, he's the boss here! No interlopers without permission!
Yeah, right, sure. Like he has a say in what happens - in what comes and goes - here. He's not really the one in charge, he never has been. He has no authority, no power of command.
There's another sound - a snatch of song? - and he shakes his head, eyes wide. This could be important, he ought to be making notes. There could be a test, and he might fail. Pay attention, boy!
He gets to his knees and peers into the moving shadows. It's probably going to be Drusilla. He shouldn't have been thinking about her, it's a charm, a spell - like saying her name three times. Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary! Thinking brings it on, it's just asking for trouble. He should know better by now. Don't think, don't remember, don't cry. You bring all of this on yourself, William.
He's never known how to keep a secret, how to keep a thought in his head, how to keep his feet on the ground. He's never known how to keep anything. Anything, anyone.
He closes his eyes and huddles down. He does know to keep his head down at times like these. He's not strong, he understands that. He breaks easy, and it hurts. Hurts his body, hurts his mind. Hurts his pride.
Pride! Oh, there's a false and treacherous god if ever there was one. Pride: honour and self-respect, a sense of worth. Ridiculous! Who did he think he was, anyway? What had made him think he could ever deserve to be other than this? What had made him think he could ever deserve her?
Her. You-know-who, don't say her name. Dru is bad enough, but she is so much worse.
This is what he deserves; this basement, this hell. Cowering with the rats and the shadows. To be left alone with the nothing but the faces of his sins for company.
Drusilla understood sin. She should have explained it to him. Or maybe she did, and he just didn't listen.
He uncurls his arms from his head and risks a quick glance round. There is nothing there. Good, good. Maybe nobody heard him, after all. Maybe Dru is still asleep, still dreaming in the dark. Maybe she is dreaming him.
He jolts, and bites his tongue. That's not Drusilla. A whimper escapes him, and he brings his fist up hard against the side of his head in frustration. Stupid boy! He rolls on his side and curls into himself, tucking his hands over his head. If he can't see her, maybe she won't be able to see him.
"Spike. Spike, I - " A pause, a heavy sigh. He can feel the movement of air as she squats down beside him. It's cold.
Don't look. Don't look. Not this time. It'll go away if you ignore it. It will.
But he can't, of course. Can't ignore her voice. Can't ever ignore her.
He twists his head round, one eye open just a slit. She watches him move, and rewards him with a smile that's tender enough to crush whatever might have been left in his chest.
He waits. Sometimes, that's all there is: a look, a smile, a memory. Sometimes she stays, sometimes she goes. Sometimes she makes him scream.
"Spike, listen to me. I love you. Can you hear me? I want you. You need to get out of here. I want you to touch me. There's something wrong with this place. I need you to fuck me. Spike, can you hear me? Fuck me now, Spike. It's Buffy, Spike. It's Buffy. It's Buffy - "
Concern and lust, all intertwined and coloured with anger. He shakes his head violently. The movement hurts almost as much as her voice, but he doesn't stop. Maybe he can shake his broken brain right out of his ears and end this whole sorry business. That would be good. That would be very, very good.
"No," he yells, right into her face. She flinches, but doesn't move away. She reaches a hand toward him, but he knows he can't allow that. Sometimes her hand touches his skin, sometimes it goes straight through. Warmth and comfort, coldness and horror. Either way, it breaks him.
He scoots backwards on the floor, pushing hard with his heels. "No," he says again, but quieter. "No."
"Okay, I - okay." She looks tired. He wants to hold her, and hates himself for it. He has no right. No right.
He screws his eyes shut and when he opens them again, she's on her feet, looking down at him. Her arms are folded, her body tense.
"I don't know what to do," she says softly, like it's more to herself than to him. He starts to say her name, but he's frightened it might choke him so he just closes his mouth again.
"Coward." Her voice hisses in his ear, inches away, and he jerks his head to the side. She's there, kneeling beside him. She looks just the same - voice, hair, clothes. Perfect. Real. Buffy. But the smile, this time, is feral.
She licks her lips slowly, lasciviously. It twists something inside of him to see her look at him that way. Something that feels bad and good and painful all at once.
"Not real," he whispers, but of course it was, once. He can't forget that - and doesn't really want to. And that, he suspects, is why this thing can torment him. Like calls to like, after all.
The Buffy in front of him passes a hand across her eyes and gives him a helpless look. "I don't know what to do for you, Spike," she says, and he claps his hands over his ears. He doesn't deserve her help, can't believe she would even offer it. This is just as unreal as everything else. Just as much of a torment.
"I know," says the Buffy to his side. "I know what to do." She gets to her feet slowly, sinuously, and runs her hands over her body from breasts to hips. "I know how to make you feel better, don't I, Spike? I've always known how to make you feel good."
He shakes his head. He won't watch this. He won't.
But he does.
"I know what you want, what you need. I know what you want to do to me." She rips open the white shirt she's wearing, exposing her breasts. Her fingers play over the rosy nipples, and she throws back her head in pleasure.
He swallows hard, teeth and hands clenched until it hurts. He embraces the pain, pulling it over him like a blanket of thorns. Anything to block the growing response in his traitorous body. He hunches over, something very like a wail just inches from his lips.
"Spike? Are you all right?"
"Are you hard, Spike? Are you ready for me? You can do whatever you want to me, Spike. Fuck me. Hurt me. Bite me. You know you want to. You know I want you to."
"Spike, should I -"
"Get away from me, get away." It comes out as a scream.
She's showing herself to him, offering herself. He closes his eyes, and it doesn't help. He can still see her, naked and wet. Wanting him, demanding him. Touching him. Her hands on his body, her mouth on his, her tongue on his skin. His doll, his toy, his Buffy. His love. His.
It burned him, she burned him, long before the soul or the cross, and the scars go that much deeper. He doesn't think they're going to heal.
She sighs, and he can no longer tell if it's frustration or desire that he's hearing. He pushes himself further into the corner, not daring to look. It's all blurring together in his head. Fantasy, reality, memory - how is he supposed to tell the difference? How is he supposed to know? She wants him, she hates him, she'll love him, she'll kill him.
"Shit," she says, and her voice is coming from so very far away. "Okay, I'll go. But you need to get away from this place, Spike, do you hear me? You can't stay here."
Behind his eyelids, she slides down his body and takes his cock into her mouth. He screams.
"Fuck me," she whispers, and she's Buffy, she's Drusilla, she's Angelus. She's everything he's ever loved or killed. And he doesn't know how to fight any of them.
When he comes to, he's naked and cold, and she's gone. They're all gone; even the voices in his head are quiet.
There's something wrong with this place.
Well, yes. He had actually managed to work that one out. The big question, of course, is what to do about it.
You need to get out of here.
Well - maybe. Part of him feels like he belongs here; feels like he's come home. Other parts of him are horrified, but they're newer parts and he doesn't feel that he's quite so well acquainted with them. He's not sure they should have the final say.
Spike, listen to me.
And there, of course, you have it. He knows who gets the final say, and it isn't any part of him. It's her. Always has been, always will be, forever and ever amen. He loves her, worships her, and he'll do whatever she asks him to. Drusilla called it a blasphemy, and he thinks that perhaps she's right.
He finds his clothes, and dresses in the dark. The door has moved again, the walls around him having lengthened while he slept. That tends to happen quite a bit. The basement grows, like something organic. He strongly suspects it isn't supposed to do that.
He gropes around and eventually, he finds the door.
And then she's there. "You don't want to go," she tells him, half smiling and half pouting. "You don't want to leave me."
He just stares at her, unable to speak. Unable to deny it. Parts of him like this Buffy a lot better than the other. He chastises them, and reaches for the handle.
She takes a step closer, naked and golden and beautiful. "She can't give you what I can."
Her hands caress her stomach then dip lower, fingers sliding inside. She lets out a long, shuddering sigh, then looks up at him, smiling. "She won't do this for you. She doesn't want you, Spike. Not like I do."
"I know," he says.
As she moves closer still, he turns back to face her. Lifts a hand and watches it pass straight through her cheek.
She regards him calmly. "It won't be any different. She might be real but you'll still never get to touch her."
He drops his hand and nods. "I know," he says again.
He closes his eyes and when he opens them, amazingly, the door is still there. He takes that as a sign.
The handle is cool and solid in his hand. He squeezes it, hard, until the blood begins to run down his palm. Pain is good. Pain is something he understands.
"Buffy," he says, and somehow the door is open and he is on the other side. He looks around. She's not there, but he can wait. She'll come.
His legs begin to give way, and he folds slowly to his knees. High, bright laughter peals out from somewhere behind him. He ignores it.