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Title: Screams
Author: Tania
Rating: PG
Summary: When the chip went off Buffy wasn't the only one that heard the screams.
Feedback: tania@fangedfour.com
Notes: Thanks to Josey making me pull this out of the vault and for a life-saving beta.

The first night the screaming made her cry.

During the long second night it made her angry.

On the third night she cried again.

Now she couldn't decide which was worse, his screams or her own. The walls weren't thick enough to muffle the sounds. Screams pierced the plaster as though it were nothing more than paper. Screams reminding her of not so long ago, the night she summoned the grimslaw demon to the fraternity house. A house filled with blood and terror, and then brutal silence. Nothing but the girl in the closet whimpering and her own slow sobs as she washed torrents of blood from her skin.

He was silent now. Briefly. Taking respite from the voices, or the visions, or the chip, or the soul. There were too many ors left. Too many maybes. No one knew how to help him, not even her. Her. Anya. The human. The ex-demon who should be able to understand his pain when no one else could. She was paralyzed by his sudden silence, but it did not last. There again, more screams, more pain. She tried to fight the tears back for one more night, but it was useless and she let them fall.

***

She was crying again. He could hear her from where he sat chained up in the dark of the Summers' basement. It hurt to hear her. Nearly as much as the pain in his head, the brain-splitting one that left him gagging and gasping. The one he hoped was his soul but suspected, in brief moments of terror, was the chip's death throes. The visions seemed to have abandoned him. Dru no longer came to mock his pain. The Master and Adam had left as well. Alone with the pain. It was what he deserved.

He screamed louder, trying to muffle the sound of her. He heard whispered words. "Let it end", "Let it be over", "Why are you hurting him." Spike didn't know who Anya prayed to when she prayed, but he found himself hoping she would get through to whoever the unseen entity was. The pain rolled behind his eyes again. It started as a dull ache, like the first pressure of a fang then it broke through the skin, then slipped in deep, and shattered his brain. He cried out again. Soon the pain was filling so much of his mind he passed into oblivion. There was nothing but white-hot throbbing, no room for sound or movement, and he found peace in catatonia. A moment's worth of relief before the world returned and built the pain again.

***

Once again throngs of teenage girls had invaded the house. Potential slayers filled every room, chatting and breaking things. They whispered the rumors they heard - she was a demon, he loved Buffy, she had been engaged to Xander, there used to be another witch. The gossip never seemed to end. They came in a wave, eating everything in sight, leaving empty wrappers and half-filled glasses in their wake, and then they were gone again. A patrol, a mission, another potential. She did not know where they went, only that it was peaceably quiet while they were gone, at least for a time.

She walked to the kitchen and poured herself some coffee, throwing in a spoonful of sugar and not bothering to stir it. Opening the refrigerator to get some cream her eyes were drawn to a bottle full of blood. Nice to be in a normal home, she thought. He'll be hungry now too. He had not made a sound for nearly an hour and yet she walked on eggshells. In the back of her mind she knew it was not over, the peace talks before the war. She willed herself to take another glass from the cupboard and pour the nearly black liquid into it. A quick turn in the microwave warmed it just enough to drink comfortably.

Anya took both glasses and headed for the basement door, precariously juggling them to reach the door knob, careful to not splash the hot liquid onto her bare toes. As she descended the stairs she listened for signs of life from below. She heard none, not even a faint rattle of chains. No breath sounds. Happily no pain.

***

Spike yanked away from the wall in his sleep, wrestling with the heavy chains that bound him. His head thrashed from side to side, fighting some unseen assailant, sniffing feverishly at the air around him as he struggled to awaken. Anya stood an arm's length away, hands full, eyes full. Her stare burned into him as he pushed away the bonds of sleep and let the aroma of coffee and blood, fresh and old, tickle his senses. One hand lazily brushing away crystals of sleep sand, his eyes fought to open, eventually fixing a silent gaze on the woman before him.

She mouthed wordlessly for a moment, and then the smile was there. That infectious smile that she seemed able to carry off in any circumstance. Seen as uncaring or inappropriate by the children, he knew why she smiled. He too hid behind false cheer when no one knew better. Nice to see you, we're going to win, no really it doesn't hurt. Maybe all evil things have that smile, he wasn't sure.

"I thought you might be hungry." She offered. "Everyone is patrolling, but just for a while. I mean only a moron would stay out there long enough to actually find those turok'han things, right?" She laughed that pained giggle that could crush, averting her eyes to anything but the chains that bound him.

"Sure they'll be fine." Spike rolled on his side, pressing against the mattress with tired hands until he could rest his head on the harsh cement behind him. The chains rattled together, filling the large room with music that told everyone he was a prisoner here, in this room as much as in his own mind. He took the proffered mug and sipped at the thick, warm liquid. "Thanks."

Anya had stepped away from the cot, just out of reach. She ran a finger around the rim of her glass, letting the steam form a dewy sheen under her nail, still too hot to drink she pressed slender fingers around the side, warming them to the point she had to realease all but the handle.

"So, you've been better for a while." She paused, looking downcast, and then the smile was back. "I'm glad the screaming stopped."

"Yeah, me too." Spike agreed, knowing full well it hadn't stopped so much as ebbed.

"Well, I'll be upstairs if you need anything." Suddenly uncomfortable, she fought the urge to run up the stairs.

"I'll be fine. Buffy should be back soon." Spike saw her body fill with panic, smelled her blood rise in temperature as she inched towards the stairs. He hoped his words would help her relax, but they seemed to have the opposite effect.

"Great." Anya squeaked. "I'll just be up there then. I guess I'll hear you if the chip goes off again."

And there it was, the fear that held both of them in the house. Anya flinched in recoil as though the very mentioning of the chip could make it fire. Regret covered her face as she searched for words to cover the slip, but none came to mind. In lieu of words she took a sip of the still too-hot coffee, pretending it didn't scald her tongue as it coursed over the tender flesh. She bit down on her tongue and placed soft feet on the stairs, tiptoeing over each one, some part of her feeling invisible because she made no sound.

"Anya." Spike called after her.

"Yeah?" She said bending over to peer through the wooden railings.

"I'm gonna be okay. Promise. And when I'm better we'll go out for a drink, okay?" He raised the half-empty mug in his hand. "Give you a proper thanks."

"It's a date." She said, that smile curling in her mouth, for once not looking forced. Once inside the kitchen she sat on the stool and watched the now closed door. It was only a matter of moments before she heard the crash of ceramic on cement, the tell-tale sign that while things may be better soon, they weren't as yet.

And then the screaming started and once again Anya let the tears come, each one dripping off her chin into scalding coffee and splashing droplets of brown liquid onto the counter.

~Finis~

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