She saw the barrel of the shotgun through the fog in her head.
"What do you want now?"
Watched it move away.
"What's wrong?" A muscle in his cheek twitched.
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Is there something I can do?"
But she barely heard the question over the buzzing. Felt a light touch on her back a few moments later. And she couldn't move. Her limbs were frozen. Her mother's face, so bright with bravery, wouldn't move from inside the wisps of white ice.
It was minutes...maybe hours...when she snapped out of it. When things melted and she could hear crickets and the rustle of leaves. When she realized Spike had almost killed her. When she realized he sat only inches away from her on the steps. She couldn't hear him breathing--because he didn't need to--but one flicker of her eyes to the right and she knew he hadn't moved. That he, too, was trapped...except that he was trapped by *her*.
She wanted to laugh.
My mother might be dying and I might want to die and a dead guy wants me....death is everywhere. It was everywhere and she couldn't run from it. She couldn't slow it down. She couldn't stake it. It wouldn't go away.
"Why didn't you pull the trigger, Spike?" she asked, throat burning with the force of all the tears she'd shed.
He shifted beside her...she heard the creak of leather and his joints. "Self preservation," he said, quickly. Too quickly.
"Liar." She shivered, running her hands up and down her arms, staring out into the darkness.
He didn't answer the charge...he didn't deny it. But there was arrogance in his question. "Why were you crying?"
"Because you disgust me," she snapped, quickly. Too quickly.
"Liar." But he said it with much less assurance than she had.
She even detected a quaver in his voice.
And she turned her head.
His eyes were dark blue, hooded, like they had been in the alley. But now, they were red-rimmed. And his cheeks were hollowed out. His lips devoid of color. He looked broken. And devastatingly sexy. It was enough to make her eyes fill with fresh agony. If death looked like Spike when he'd been crying, it was no wonder she had a secret craving for it. It was no wonder death had a hold on her mom. But it was a wonder that she kept pushing it away. That she could push it down and hurt it and pretend it didn't matter.
Something inside her shook loose. Something insane. Something that made her debate jumping up and running inside. But she ignored the instinct to run. And she leaned forward. "Dance with me."
It was not a request.
He turned, abruptly, so their knees touched. Dark blue turned to silver under the glare of the porch lights. "I told you, Slayer...that's all we've ever done."
"I'm tired of slow," she hissed, wiping at the last vestiges of wetness on her cheeks. "I want it fast."
He swallowed. His Adam's apple bobbed and she counted the seconds before he pushed a response past his lips. "I thought I was beneath you," he reminded, a single dark brow arching...desperately trying to mask how much he'd felt the words.
"You will be."
She was straddling him before he could blink. Her own mind was moving at lightspeed and she ignored the sirens and the cautionary warnings. With her the outside edge of her foot, she kicked the shotgun into the bushes, and then her thighs were closing around his hips. "See?" she whispered. "I'm going to lead."
It was a waltz...and then it was lambada...and then it was slamdancing. Her mouth against his...his hands pushing her away and then relenting and sliding up her back....his cock leaping up against his fly and answering her grinding pelvis. The wound in her stomach stretched and she gasped, feeling the ragged red hole scream. But she pushed it back...pain was just a reminder that she was alive. Spike was a reminder that she could die. And he tasted like tears and blood and smoke. She wrapped five fingers in his hair, holding his mouth to her as she drank up every doubt she'd ever had about him...every killing urge, and with her other hand she worked the zipper of his jeans. Minutes...mere minutes and they would truly be dancing.
Suddenly, his hand closed over hers, stilling her jerky motions. And the cerulean heat of his eyes baked her face. He didn't speak. Maybe he didn't trust himself to. But he set her back along his knees. Putting just enough distance between them so he could move. He slid her shirt and cardigan up, revealing the bandages wrapped around her midsection. The line of his lips tightened. And then softened. And a cry tore from her throat as he lowered his head....he lowered his head and gently kissed the bloodied gauze. He kissed it once. Twice. Three times.
Damn it...damn you, Spike. And now he was leading. In one instant, he had turned the tables on her. Had shaken her up yet again.
When he looked up at her...pinkish tracks of saltwater marked a trail from his long dark lashes to the edge of his chin. And answering trails on her own face followed suit. The dance was slow again.
Death was indeed everywhere. And she knew she would never run from it again. Never again push it down and hurt it and pretend it didn't matter. At least not when it wore his face. Maybe--just maybe--she was "just a little in love with it." Or him.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, not sure what she was apologizing for but knowing she had to say it.
He shook his head. "You're the Slayer." As if that explained and excused everything.
"Yeah...yeah, I am."
She held onto that--onto him--long after the leaves stopped rustling and the crickets fell silent. Until she fully understood what it was she craved. She didn't have a "death wish." She had a Spike wish.
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