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They started off the night on opposite sides of the bed.
In fact, it would have been very difficult to get any farther from each other than Buffy and Spike were when they first fell asleep…which, incidentally, took quite a while. The heavy, tense silence that filled the room, as each tried to pretend they were asleep, while perfectly aware that the other knew they were not, was an almost tangible thing.
Memories of the past were uncomfortably vivid, reminding Buffy of the last time they had lain together like this, when she had asked everything of him…and then stolen his hopes away with ruthless efficiency.
*Tell me you love me…*
*You know I do…*
*Tell me you want me…*
*I always want you…*
*I’m using you…and it’s killing me. I’m sorry, William…*
Spike’s thoughts were captivated by a far different set of painful images. What was she thinking, with him lying like this, in her bed, so near to her? It couldn’t be easy for her; surely she didn’t *want* him here, after…
Spike wanted to get up, to leave, but his first attempt at going back downstairs had made it clear that any such attempt was doomed to failure, especially with Buffy determined to play Florence Nightingale and prevent him from hurting himself any worse than he already was.
When exhaustion finally claimed the vampire first, the effects of the fight he had waged for his life that night catching up with him, both Spike and the Slayer felt an intense feeling of relief, before sinking into a deep and much-needed rest.
On opposite sides of the bed, of course.
At least…that’s how they started out.
Somehow, during the course of the night, their bodies gradually began to respond to the bond that joined them, the bond of shared experience and closeness, no less powerful for the painful nature of most of that experience. Their determination to stay separate simply did not stand a chance, as bodies far too familiar with each other to stay apart for long gradually drifted closer and closer as they slept.
Unconsciously, Spike found himself drawn to her heat, just as she unintentionally sought the cool comfort that she had needed so badly for survival during the nightmare of the previous year.
Well before dawn, though neither was aware of it, they were entangled in each other’s arms, a living memory of a hundred stolen, secret embraces that had been a delirious mixture of pleasure and pain, guilt and longing.
The emotions and desires they both fought so hard to conceal in the light of day, in the presence of the impressionable young Slayers-in-waiting that now filled Buffy’s house, easily slid to the surface beneath the veil of sleep. In the dark, shrouded minds of the Slayer and the vampire who loved her, reality yielded to frustrated dreams which found their release, awakened by the familiar scents, feelings, and unconscious reactions of the other in their arms.
In the harsh light of day, their past faults and failures were glaringly obvious, and seemingly impossible to overcome.
In the depth of their dreams…forgiveness was easier to find.
She had never had him into her bed before.
Cool, trembling hands slid reverently over warm, golden skin, glistening with the sweet exertion of their coupling, as he hesitantly drew her closer to him, craving a physical nearness where he knew that a deeper intimacy would not be allowed to happen.
Of course…he would never have believed that this night would have been allowed at all.
A hundred reckless nights, hurried and frenzied in the candlelight of his crypt, and not one could compare with the sweet fulfillment of this moment…unashamed, unhurried, tender and intimate in a way that she had never permitted before, here in the hallowed place of her very bed. Where usually her touch was harsh and demanding and frantic, tonight, she had been soft and gentle and tender, actually seeming to cherish each moment, each subtle nuance of sound and scent and touch, as much as he always had.
It was far more than he had expected from her.
It was far more than he deserved.
“Buffy,” he whispered, his voice breaking over her name as he felt her yield to his touch again, her back arching as she pressed against him with a soft gasp at the cool contact. “Buffy, love…”
“Shhh,” she cut him off gently, a soothing murmur of warm breath against his skin. “It’s all right…”
In her words, he heard an affection, a soft, silken emotion, that he had never thought to hear from her lips – not for him, anyway. It was something he had longed for, desperately sought to somehow earn, though his ill-advised attempts had always ended in miserable failure; and now, when he no longer held any hope of ever receiving so much from her, here it was…offered freely and without reserve.
It was more than his guilty, broken soul could bear.
“It’s not,” he protested softly with a broken sob, his head bowed against her bare breasts, still heaving as she strove to catch her breath. “Buffy, it’s not all right! It never can be! I’m so sorry, love…so sorry…”
“Hush,” she gently but sternly instructed him, and the feather light brush of her soft fingertips through his damp, disheveled hair set a pleasant tingling along his scalp. “None of that. It’s over and done…and gone. The past is behind us, Spike…and I…I want my future to be with you.”
Disbelieving, he shook his head, cool tears dropping from his face to trickle down across the curves of her chest, sending a shiver through her as she wrapped her arms around him, pulling him into a sheltering, accepting embrace. He longed for it, a part of him gratefully accepting it, even as he half-heartedly pulled away a bit, raising his eyes to search her soft, compassionate gaze.
“Buffy…Buffy, how…? How can you…?” His words trailed off as he dropped his eyes again, unable to look at her as the inevitable painful memories played across her face.
Three gentle fingertips across his lips stilled his anguished question, and her other hand reached to tilt his reluctant face up toward hers. He dreaded to see the truth in her eyes, the knowledge of the things he had done that made him so completely unworthy of her love, and it was all he could do to drag his eyes up to hers as she silently asked him to do so.
She deserved nothing less from him, so he forced himself to meet her gaze, old, devastating images playing through his mind.
*You felt it…I know you did…I’ll *make* you feel it!*
*Spike…what are you doing? Stop, please stop!*
Shame bore down on him like a lead weight, and he fought back fresh tears of burning shame and regret, knowing that she deserved to face him without pity for what he had done to her. He had no right to tears; she had every right to hate him…
“I love you, Spike…”
Blessed, blissful words that he knew he did not merit, and suddenly, with brilliantly glaring insight, Spike knew that he was dreaming…but he could not bear to awaken. If it was a dream, he would sleep forever, if only to hear those words, to embrace them as truth…if even a false truth.
“I don’t…don’t deserve it, love,” he whispered, shaking his head in denial of her love, even as his hands clung to her, refusing to let her go. “I’m so sorry…so…so…”
“Spike…stop,” Buffy urged him with a firm compassion in her voice. “You don’t have to be sorry anymore. I love you…and I *forgive* you, Spike. It’s done…behind us. I forgive you.”
“No buts…I love you…”
Her lips silenced his weak protest with a blindingly intense kiss, covering his mouth and tentatively, searchingly, pressing past the yielding barrier of his trembling lips. Eagerly he returned the kiss, even as tears of relief and overwhelming joy flowed from his eyes, salty drops falling down to mingle with the taste of her kiss…the taste of absolution…
It was his physical release that awakened him.
The room was dark, and all was quiet as he blinked up at Buffy’s ceiling, gathering his bearings again as he gradually became aware of what had happened. He had been…dreaming…about her…and…and…
His eyes widened as he looked down at the place where his hand met his now-flaccid flesh, and he drew in a sharp breath in dismay as he saw the place on the bed between them, and the soft cotton pajamas she wore, which were now damp with his unconscious spendings. Automatically he glanced across the bed at Buffy, expecting to see her awake and aware and utterly disgusted.
She was still sound asleep.
Relief was short-lived, as Spike realized with rising panic that if he could not find a way to somehow clean up the mess before she awakened, then he would only be delaying the inevitable. He started slowly to rise, grimacing when he realized that in his sleep, he had shifted closer to the unsuspecting Slayer, and was now so thoroughly entangled around her that the slightest wrong move could bring her around…and bring an end to the tentatively rising trust she had started to place in him again.
*You’ve bloody well blown it again, mate…can’t ever seem to get it right when it comes to her…*
The blond vampire froze, his dead heart leaping up into his throat as his wide eyes fastened on her face…and he realized with a trembling, queasy feeling of relief that she was still asleep. Her eyes were closed, and she did not seem aware of her surroundings at all, as she mumbled something unintelligible and nestled in closer into his arms.
Spike cringed inwardly as he felt his traitorous member begin to return to life at the brief, unintentional contact the Slayer unknowingly granted it.
*Not now, not now…couldn’t be a worse time than this!*
Spike drew in several deep, calming breaths, struggling with an immense effort to get his body under control as Buffy’s body shifted slowly against his, thwarting his efforts at every turn. His eyes widened in surprise when he suddenly became aware of a sweet, familiar fragrance, realized that the Slayer was growing every bit as aroused as he was…and promptly gave up the struggle for control completely.
*Not a chance, mate. Give it up.*
The painful, confusing, overwhelming awkwardness had vanished the moment they had touched.
Sparks like electric fire coursed through her when his cool, smooth hand brushed against her arm in a soft, affectionate touch; and his eyes locked onto hers with a smoldering intensity that she had done her best to deny for so long…and then, longed for so desperately when it was gone…
…and the softness, the tender warmth, was swallowed up in a fiery intensity of heat.
Magnetized by the electricity that coursed through them both, their bodies came together in the natural dance they had been engaged in from the moment of their first meeting. Strong, hard hands caught her arms and rolled her beneath him on the bed, before tearing the flimsy spaghetti-strap pajama top she wore off over her head and throwing it to the floor.
The low growl of desire that resonated from the throat of the vampire -- *her* vampire – sent a trembling thrill of anticipation through her, as she raised her arms around him, embracing him to her, wanting more than anything just to feel the fire that had characterized their every encounter last year, no less than her shame and confusion had done.
The distance that had risen between them, the cold uncertainty and doubt and awkwardness that she felt every moment in Spike’s presence these last few months, melted away as his cool, firm lips covered hers, hungrily plundering her mouth as his hands locked around her wrists, pinning her to the bed as his body moved to the rhythm of the primal instincts that moved them both.
Desire, passion that had built and built within her to a near-breaking point during the uncomfortable months following Spike’s return, finally found its release as she clung to him, greedily returning his kiss, her hands hurriedly fumbling with his jeans to remove them, sliding them down his legs to smooth her fingertips across familiar planes as her body responded to the pressure of his needy member against her thigh through the thin fabric of her pajama pants.
“Spike,” she moaned as his needy fingers pressed almost painfully into her hips as he tore the loose-fitting pants down around her knees. “Spike…need you…”
“Love you, Buffy…want you so much…” he murmured low against her throat, before blunt human teeth closed on the soft flesh of her throat in a parody of a true vampire’s bite. “Need you, love…”
She drew in her breath sharply as she felt the pleasurably intruding nudge of his swollen erection near her entrance; and she thought she would lose her mind with need when he abruptly stopped. She let out a plaintive moan of desire, raising her head with an effort to meet his eyes, unwilling to see the self-doubt, the uncertainty and fear that she knew was holding him back…that she knew she had placed in those expressive crystal blue eyes.
It seemed that every time Spike looked at her anymore, it was with the fear of being found unworthy, being less than what she wanted…and it broke Buffy’s heart to know that *she* was the one that had caused him to feel that way. Hurt had passed between them in both directions, and she knew that while he had crossed a very vital, dangerous line with her the year before…she had crossed a dozen more of his lines before that.
She found herself afraid to look into his eyes, afraid to see there the regret, the sorrow, the ache for forgiveness…when she knew that she was as much in need of it as he was. She longed for the past to truly be the *past* -- behind them – but it was always there, always a dark, looming presence in the room between them…except here.
“Spike,” she whispered, “Spike, please…please, don’t…”
But her words trailed off as her eyes locked with his, and became lost in the searing heat, the scorching lust she saw in his glimmering gaze, brilliant blue flecked with traces of gold, as every part of him displayed its longing for her. He rose partly up off her for a few moments, revealing her body to his slowly roving eyes, which moved unashamedly up and down the length of her bare form, drinking in the sight of her to his fill.
Buffy felt a wash of mingled desire and satisfaction flow through her at the unabashed pleasure he took simply in looking at her, in touching her so intimately, when during their waking hours, it seemed that even the slightest look or touch was fraught with anxiety and apology.
Because this *was* a dream; Buffy knew that.
But she was far from ready to wake up.
“I’m sorry, Spike,” she whispered aloud, tears obscuring him from her sight as she raised a hand to brush his cheek. “I’m so sorry…I hurt you so much…”
He slowly raised his eyes to hers, his hand rising to cover hers at his face…before locking forcefully around her wrist, his eyes narrowing dangerously as a playful smirk rose to his lips.
“Gonna make it up to me, love?” he murmured, kissing her palm gently, before lightly nipping at the sensitive skin there, his free hand trailing downward to tease her sodden entrance.
Buffy let out a soft gasp as his expert fingers just barely dipped inside her center, before pulling out again to lightly tease the sensitive flesh surrounding it. “Spike,” she moaned. “Spike…don’t wanna…lose this…”
“You won’t,” he whispered, his voice low and enticing in her ear as his touches became stronger, more insistent. “It’s just you and me here, love…just us in this place…and here, the past doesn’t matter…doesn’t even exist…it’s just you…and me…without the bloody baggage, yeah? The ways…we hurt each other…don’t matter…all’s forgiven…”
Until she heard the words from his lips, Buffy hadn’t realized how badly she wanted just exactly that.
“Yes,” she murmured, her voice hoarse and breaking over the pleading, desperate word, and the babbling half-formed pleas that followed it. “Yes…please…forgive me…need you to…”
With a single word, Spike silenced her tearful words.
She froze, scarcely able to believe that all the hurt, all the pain and degradation and the shameful way she had used him could be forgiven so swiftly, all her guilt and shame and confusion and awkwardness dissipating in an instant with his words of absolution. She looked up at him through wide, shocked eyes full of vulnerability and uncertainty, wondering how he could so quickly, so easily forget all the pain she had put him through.
And saw the answer in his eyes.
It had been neither quick nor easy…but he *had* forgiven her.
He nodded slowly over a soft, slightly sad smile, his eyes shining with the brilliance of his love for her, as he finished softly,
“…a long time ago.”
Tears welled in her eyes, as Buffy felt the sweet relief wash over her with the acceptance of his words. They had hurt each other so much…caused so much distance, so much complication, between them…
But it didn’t matter anymore.
Here…they were each other’s, and no one and nothing could come between them.
As her climax found her, Buffy awakened with a choked little cry, her eyes instantly wide open as she gasped for breath, staring up at the ceiling, her body trembling in the wake of the powerful orgasm that had overtaken her in her dreams…though not only there.
She shifted slightly, trying to sit up…and suddenly found that she could not. She glanced to the side, her eyes widening as she realized the reason for her limited mobility…the strong, cool arms of the vampire at her side, wrapped gently around her, holding her close to him.
Even as she registered the surprise of finding Spike holding her in her sleep, she felt those arms tense around her, and felt a sinking feeling beginning in the pit of her stomach, as the anxiety, the awkwardness, threatened to press its way between them again. She couldn’t quite look at him – not yet – but neither did she want to let him go.
Slowly she raised her eyes to his, unspoken questions in her piercing gaze as she stared at him for a long moment, trying to figure out how they had gotten here…and feeling a sharp sensation of pain in her chest at the fear, the guilt in Spike’s vulnerable blue eyes. As she watched, he looked away, breaking eye contact as he cleared his throat awkwardly, immediately withdrawing his arms and beginning to roll away from her onto his back.
“Sorry,” he murmured, his voice trembling slightly. “You were just…you seemed…just wanted to…to hold you…” By the final soft words of admission, Spike’s voice was a barely audible whisper, tinged with shame. “Sorry, love…”
Buffy heard the awkwardness and regret in his voice, felt the wall coming up between them again…and she couldn’t bear it. Not this time. Not after briefly experiencing the way that things could be. Without even realizing what she was doing, she reached out and caught his hand in hers, pulling him back over onto his side to face her.
“Don’t,” she whispered, her wide eyes searching his gaze anxiously for…something… “Don’t be sorry, Spike…please don’t…” She hesitated, her expression softening as she added quietly, with the air of a confession, “I…I’m not…”
He froze at those unexpected words, his eyes narrowing as he took in the strangely open, desperate expression on her face. He studied her closely for a moment, his head tilting slightly as a faint light of hope began to dawn in his eyes. Buffy averted her eyes uneasily after a moment, still slightly uncomfortable with receiving such pure adoration, when she knew she didn’t deserve it. With a nervous smile, she glancind down at the soiled bed between them, the damp spots that now marked both the sheets and her pajamas…from the inside *and* out...and let out a soft laugh.
“Some night,” she remarked quietly. “Huh?”
Spike tentatively returned her smile, drawing in a heavy breath and letting it out slowly with relief at her reaction, as he replied, “Appears so, yeah.”
They were both quiet for a moment before Buffy added ruefully, “We should have known better than to think that we could share a bed without…without…we should have known better.”
Spike raised one eyebrow at her over a teasing smirk as he pointed out, “One of us did.”
“Okay,” Buffy admitted, rolling her eyes with a shy, embarrassed smile. “Okay, so you *did* warn me…”
She stopped suddenly, realizing all at once that the comfort, the ease with each other that she had wanted so badly, seemed to have followed them here from her dreams. And then, she noticed that Spike, too, was giving her an oddly thoughtful look, and seemed as well to be unusually comfortable with the whole strange situation.
“Um…what did *you* dream about?” she asked suddenly, speculatively. “I mean…if you don’t mind my…”
Spike replied quietly without hesitation, his blue eyes sobered as he averted them, swallowing hard, his jaw working with his struggle to repress his rising emotion. Buffy felt her heart go still for a moment at the pain she saw in his expression…pain that mirrored her own.
“That’s funny,” she whispered into the stillness that had fallen between them, hesitating before continuing, “Me too.”
Spike raised his eyes to hers again sharply, taking in the solemn, almost pleading expression in her shining green eyes. He glanced down again at his hand still clasped in hers, his thumb sliding tentatively across the back of her hand as he waited intuitively for her to go on…because it was clear that she wanted to do so.
“It was…it was *wonderful*.”
Spike nodded quietly, fresh tears springing to his eyes, tears of longing, and fear that that longing would never be fulfilled. There was a slight quivering sensation in his stomach, his nerves reacting to the knowledge that although he and Buffy had done things on more than one occasion that he did not even know names for…in some ways, this was farther than they had ever gone with each other.
Just…holding each other. *Really* talking.
And it was what he had longed for, for so long.
“It just felt…like the past wasn’t…like it didn’t exist…”
Buffy continued softly, and there was an underlying fear in her voice, a fear that Spike recognized for what it was – the uncertainty of someone who rarely expresses their emotions in words, trying to do so for the first time in a very long time.
He knew that it could be bloody terrifying…so he kept quiet and let her find her own pace.
“I…I wasn’t afraid…to talk to you,” she whispered, tears sliding down her cheeks as she described her dream. “This…this *weirdness*…this…uncertainty…didn’t exist. We knew what had happened between us, but…but we had passed it, Spike. It was really *over*…and…and we were together there. You know? *Really* together. And…and happy.”
She fell silent, and Spike nodded, swallowing back the hard knot that made his throat feel achy and swollen.
“Sounds familiar,” he murmured after a moment. “Think…think I was there too.” He cleared his throat before remarking, “Nice place.”
Buffy silently accepted that with a nod, shifting slightly nearer to him, her free hand reaching tentatively out to brush lightly up his arm, her eyes lowered but looking up at him apprehensively as she whispered, “Think…think we’ll ever find it again?”
Slowly Spike raised his eyes to hers again, a deep yearning in his solemn gaze, which was a perfect match for hers, as he replied, “If we look hard enough, love…”
When Buffy spoke again, her doubt was clear in her trembling, uncertain voice, though her hand on his arm tightened slightly, betraying her longing to make it more as she reminded him, “It was only a dream.”
Spike hesitated before countering softly, “But… but it doesn’t have to be…does it?”
Buffy looked up at him again, and the depth of longing, of affection and desire and a hundred other confused, mingled emotions in her eyes nearly took his breath away. Her gaze softened, glistening with tears, and he realized that his matching feelings for her must have been utterly obvious on his face…as always. She raised a trembling hand to brush away a tear from his cheek, a tear he hadn’t even realized had fallen, as she gave her response in a hushed, hopeful whisper.
“I guess…that would depend…on us.”
Spike smiled through his tears, relief filling him at the look in her eyes, the softness of her touch, and he knew all at once that although it would not be an easy road, although they were not even necessarily through the worst of it yet…they would eventually find their way back to that place of dreams. His hand rose to close gently over hers at his cheek, as he whispered,
“Well, then…in that case…s’pose it’s already more than a dream.”
They stayed like that, close and still and silent, for a long time, taking cautious, thrilled pleasure in their tentative intimacy. Early dawn found the Slayer and the vampire locked in each other’s arms once more, simply holding each other, silently seeking – and finding – healing for the broken parts they had once left in each other, as memories of vivid, intimate dreams filled their heads, and they gradually made their way toward a long-sought, much-needed – if a bit strange – place of forgiveness.
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