A Dream Is A Wish


Mickey M


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Rated: R/NC-17
E-mail: heymickeym@gmail.com
Pairing: Buffy/Spike
Summary: My take on Spike's thoughts up to and during "Afterlife". Spoilers: up through "Afterlife", Season 6.
Disclaimer: Not mine, unfortunately. All credit goes to Joss.
Warnings: Um, I'm not very good with these. Sharp, pointy objects and blood, some violence. Angst/Drama.
Notes: This follows my previous story, "Blood Dreams". Not necessary to have read that, but it kind of sets the mood, so to speak. I gave this an "R/NC17" rating, 'cos I'm not really sure. It has elements that could probably make it either. Me, I'm leaning toward "R", but that's just me.  Many thanks to Linda and boyd for reading through this and pointing out mistakes. Anything remaining is my fault :-) Hope y'all enjoy the story!

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A Dream Is A Wish
By Mickey M

Walt Fucking Disney. Bloody sod-all Cinderella. I remember how the actual fairy tale went, before Walt got his grimy mitts on it. The birds cut their bleedin' feet off, so's to fit into the glass slipper. Betcha won't find that anywhere in Walt's version, eh?

More's the pity.

I'm too angry at first to realize somethin's different, that there's an air of expectancy swirling about. My voice is loud in my ears as I yell out my fear, Dawn's name sharp as blades on my tongue. She's scared me witless, taking off like that, demons all around us. My voice gets louder as I see her coming down the stairs. "I mean it! I could rip your head off one-handed and drink from your brain stem!" I give her the best Big Bad glare I have, but she's obviously not paying one bit of attention to me. Wish I could tell her to bugger off; she's more like her big sis than she'll ever know. A pain in the arse as well as the heart.

Nah. I wouldn't want rid of her any more'n I ever wanted rid of Buffy. At least with the Little Bit toddlin' about, I don't completely wallow in my coulda-woulda-shoulda's. Not completely.

Dawn's eyes are bright; not with the terror I'd expected, but with anticipation. I'm curious, but still furious as well -- what if she'd been hurt, or killed? I have enough remorse over all what's happened; I don't need to add guilt over her death, too. The Slayer's plenty. Got me enough for one bloke, thanks.


"Yeah? Seen the bloody 'bot before. Didn't think she'd patch up s--" I thought it was the 'bot at first, but then I look at her. Really look. And I know. I hear the refrain from Walt's version of Cinderella dancin' through my head as I stare upward, feelin' like I'm caught in some alternate hell dimension of my own. I can't even finish whatever the hell it was I was sayin'. Can't think. All systems on hold, Capt'n. I can't do anything at all but stare, watch her come down the stairs, her eyes meeting mine, holding them. Telegraphing something to me, except my brain's gone south for the winter and the connection isn't meeting.

My eyes flick to her neck impulsively and I have to remind myself last night was a fucking dream. Not real. Didn't happen. Last night, while I was drinkin' her blood and fucking both of us stupid, she was still actually dead. I'm not sure if that's comforting, or not.

I'm gonna go with 'not'.

"She's kind of, um--she's been through a lot, with, uh, death--" Little Bit fidgets, takes in a deep breath, and from the corner of my eye I see her look back at the Slayer. "But I think she's okay." I feel when Buffy's gaze leaves mine, as much as see her eyes shift; she looks down and fidgets with her blouse, fingers plucking at the buttons. I don't look anywhere else -- nothin's gonna pull my eyes away; not even the salt sting I feel. Tears. Bloody, fucking hell. "Spike? Are you okay?"

Dawn's voice is gentle, but I can't answer that, because I don't know what the answer is. Bugger all, she's here. She's back! What the fuck happened?

"I'm--" I suck in a deep breath. I know I don't need to breathe, but speaking requires air moving over the voicebox. Dunno who told me that, or where I learned it, but basically if vamps want to talk they have to move the air in and out. "What'd you do?"

"Me?" She squeaks and stutters at me, an' if I look at her, I'm sure her eyes are about as wide as the proverbial saucer. "Nothing!"

I believe her. Grieving as she was, she'd learned her lesson with her mum. Witchy little redheads on the other hand...I'd bet a gallon of O pos Willow'd done the mojo to bring Buffy back.

A dream is a wish your heart makes...

Bloody hell. Move over, Walt. And got a light, while you're at it?

I catch the scent then that'd passed me by while I was busy being shocked senseless at her appearance: blood. My eyes are drawn to find the source, to seek out the life I can smell taunting me, calling to me. The skin on Buffy's knuckles is broken, bloodied, and I'm pulled into my dream from last night, of my Slayer bruised and bloody for me.

My Slayer. I wish.

I nod toward Buffy, our eyes meeting again. "Her hands--"

"Uhm, I was going to fix them. I don't know how they got like that." I can hear the sympathy and confusion in her voice. I nod.

"I do." I can't break the thread holding us. My eyes, her eyes, and I'm turnin' into a fucking poof here. She looks lost, deep inside herself. I've never seen her look like that before, not even when Joyce died. "Clawed her way out of her coffin, that's how. Innit right?" She nods, almost off-handedly, like parts aren't all online yet.

"Yeah. That's...what I had to do."

I curse Red again, silently. "I've done it myself." Luminous, that's what she is. Eyes brighter'n any moon or sun. "Uhm, we'll take care of you--" I reach a hand out, am almost surprised when she moves toward me. She comes down the stairs like she'd nodded, slow and detached, eyes large and lost. "Get some stuff -- mercurochrome, bandages." I speak partially over my shoulder, knowing Dawn will listen, will give me this minute alone. If she answers I don't hear it. Buffy moves in front of me and sits down, waits while I sit across from her. When I take her hands there's no resistance, no acceptance, nothing. Nothing at all.

I study them quietly for a moment, the demon inside me growling and snapping -- file://Lick the blood off, taste her--// and memories of my dream last night flash again, loud and bright, the Slayer I remember, proud and vicious, bloodied and mine. They contrast violently with the pale, shadowy girl seated in front of me. Where were you, Slayer? What'd they do to while you were gone?

"How long was I gone?"

Her voice is rusty, throaty, hoarse. Sexy, scary...everything and nothing all at once. I swallow hard. "Hundred forty-seven days yesterday. Uh, hundred forty-eight today. Except today doesn't count, does it?" I can't stop the faint stroke of my thumbs across the ravaged skin of her knuckles, all the while shoving my demon down hard. "How long was it for you? Where you were?"


Our eyes meet for a moment and I wince at what I see in hers. It's a fine, fine line between pleasure and pain, between Heaven and Hell, and I think Buffy crossed it. I only wish I knew which way she'd gone...and which one she was in now.


One moment with her. That was all I wanted. Didn't even hardly get that before Red an' the rest of 'em barged in. Stupid gits. Banged in yelling and shouting, crowdin' around the Slayer. Didn't they see the wildness in her eyes? The not-quite-connected look about her? Didn't they smell the grave dust still clingin' to her? And Xander. Trying to convince me 'Willow wouldn't do that'. Oh yeah? Then how come she didn't share? How come none of them shared?

I still can't believe she's back. I want to sing, I want to cry, I want to do a fucking dance on someone's grave.

Instead I'm sitting here, knocking back the whiskey, wishing I didn't feel so...hurt. Betrayed.

Not by the Slayer, but by the soddin' Scoobies. Freaky little witchy-woman, especially. She could've told me. Thought we'd been getting closer, thought the trust was there.

Trust. I snort and play toss-the-bottle, missing the waste bin shamefully. Shattering glass is the only sound in my crypt as I consider the whole trust issue. I don't trust that lot any more'n I could throw them -- well, all right. Bad analogy, that, seein's how I could throw any one of them further than they could throw me. But it's the idea. I don't trust them...and they don't trust me. Which is a piss-poor state of affairs when you sit and think about it, because who's been coverin' who's arses all summer long?

I close my eyes and think about what I didn't want to think about last night, in my dream -- biting the Slayer.

Drinking her.

Killing her.

Biting. Drinking. Chains were in there somewhere, too, and it's gotta be wicked bad, even for me, to think such things about a woman who's been dead for almost five months...and's only been alive again for a few hours.

I flash on the memory of the Slayer, chained downstairs, arms taut as she pulled on them, tested their hold. Telling me the only chance I'd had was while she was unconscious. I was a stupid git, thinking I could make her see reason that way. Wonder if it made things any worse? If she might've accepted me sooner, faster, at all, if I hadn't done that. I'll likely never know.

I have another bottle stashed somewhere; whiskey mixes so well with tears and even if they're not as thick and salty as pure blood I'll drink what falls down, 'cos they're tears for her. I lick my lips and think about what droopy-boy said again, about how it was the best moment in my entire existence, seein' her alive again. An' here I'm thinking all poofy-like, wondering if it's too much to think I felt born-again. Alive, almost.

It was the best moment. With luck I'll see it again and again in my dreams, since that's the only place likely I'll get to see Buffy.


I gotta stop thinkin' about things, 'cos they all seem to manifest in the dream world.

In my dream world, at any rate.

Chains. 'Cept it's not her in 'em, it's me. I'm chained to a wall...I'm guessin' it's a wall. And bugger all, I'm naked. Got nothin' on I didn't have the day I was born, except probably newborns don't come with ragin' hard-ons attached to guilt complexes. At least I don't have to worry about losin' my soul like Angelus...but I could bloody well do without the broodin'. One vamp sighing and mooning over shit is enough.

The Slayer's standing in front of me, watching me. She looks like she usually does, hair all bright, strands of it shining like she has gold woven in there. Only...her eyes look dead. Not the peaceful, all-gone look like when we buried her; this is the Buffy I saw standin' on the stairs last night. The newly-alive, dead-inside Buffy.

God, she's beautiful. And empty. I wish I could fill her, wish I could give back all that death stole.

She laughs at me, a soft sound with her mouth all pouty and sneering that I recognize from so many encounters before, both dream and reality.

"You think I'm empty? You're the one who stole me, Spike."

Me? Bloody well didn't; I tried to save her.

"You didn't try hard enough, though, did you?" She takes a step forward and I realize she's dressed in something black. It looks at first glance like leather, kind of, but it's filmy in places, too, like a night-dress might be. She has a cross looped over her neck and the light from it stings my eyes, makes 'em burn. I can feel tears form and know they leave tracks down my cheeks. It hurts, but it's nothing less than I deserve.

"That's right, you so deserve this, don't you? And if you tried to save me...to save Dawn, you didn't do very well, did you?"

I'm pretty sure I prefer the violent, erotic dream I had last night, to this one. Of course, this is more on with what I usually have...but a bloke has to have a break sometimes, right?

"Pay attention!" She backhands me, making my prick throb and my head ache and I wonder...if she stakes me in my dream, would I cease to exist completely? I smile briefly; that might be the best thing that could happen. "No breaks, Spikey. Bad puppies don't get breaks, do they? Bad puppies get punished."

Bloody Hell. For a minute there, she sounds just like Dru. I look up to check, to make sure. No, it's the Slayer, but...her eyes are dead, though her lips and cheeks sparkle, warmly rosy, like she's a vamp who's just fed. Did she come back wrong? Is she back, truly? Maybe I dreamed her last night, a fever-dream of a man who knows how badly he fucked up.

"Should you be punished, Spike?"

Oi, now we're in familiar territory. Some nights I get asked this and she lets me relive it, do it over, try again. Some nights I save her before she jumps, some nights it's before Dawn gets cut. I nod, knowing my punishment is also my salvation.

She slips a knife out of...somewhere. The dress has gone all filmy now, no hints of leather, just this gauzy black stuff that makes her whole body look like it's in shadows. Her nipples are high and tight under the film, standing out from her body, giving the soft folds bumps where none ought to be. The fabric teases along the lines of her body, giving me glimpses of pale ivory with the faintest hint of sun, all long muscles and lean strength. I shiver, my mouth gone dry at the sight. She's like pure violence and eroticism wrapped into a neat little package. The angel of death wearing a halo of innocence. Her knife gleams in the odd light falling around us and I know, somehow, that it's pure silver. Wonder if it'll hurt more? 'Cept it's not just a knife...I see, just before she presses it to my shoulder, the cross that forms the top of the knife.

Pain sears through me, makes me think I'll combust, makes me wish I would, if it would stop it. Then it stops and I can catch a breath I don't need before the next one comes, on my other shoulder, giving me matching marks. I can smell burning flesh, can feel the heat licking into me, a heat I haven't felt since my death.

I wonder if she felt cold, wherever she was, while she was dead? Or if she was warmer, warmer than the fire bathing me now.

She leans in close and I smell sunlight and grave dust, lilies and roses and her breath washes over my ear, my cheek, moist and warm. "Shallow cuts...shallow cuts. Just enough to get the blood flowing..."

The first one takes my breath away, if I'd had any to lose. It actually burns worse, for all that it's shallow, and maybe that's why. I hear her sing-song words as she slices me and I remember what Dawn told me, about standing on that tower while Doc cut her. She told me she hated feeling weak, hated that she couldn't stop from crying. I know what she meant; I feel that way every night in my dreams.

She cuts me again, slashing across my ribs, one quick cut for each bone, and the smell of my own blood makes me growl, my face vamping as my demon rises. I struggle against the chains when she draws the knife slowly across her forearm, her bloodscent hot and salty, power singing to me across the small distance separating us. "Bad boys don't get treats, Spike," she whispers softly, raising her arm to her mouth. I snarl loudly when she licks at her wound, pink tongue stained a darker red, and my cock throbs in time with the blood dripping slowly down my chest and down her arm.

"Please," oh, I hate this part, bloody hate myself for fucking failing so I have to do this over and over again. I hate that I failed her, that I failed Little Bit. I killed the one good thing in my undead life with failure. The one time I needed to come through more than anything. It didn't matter so much that I got hurt...wouldn't've mattered at all if I'd bought it. Big Bad Spike dead and gone, restin' all peaceful-like deep in a hell pit.

Better me than Buffy.

She cuts me once more and I howl, the pain forcing my demon back down, my human mask slipping into place. My cock throbs hotly, searing where metal touches skin. The blood that runs from me is cold, like drops of melted ice on my skin. I strain forward, my hips nudging gently, fucking the air, fucking myself toward the knife she's holding tantalizingly close. I watch her grasp the blade before she draws the cross down my length then I don't see anything at all as my brain sizzles along with my skin.


When I can focus on something other than the blinding sensation of my skin sizzling and cracking, peeling back in layers, I realize Buffy's bent her head, licking at the still-dripping cuts scattered across my chest. Her tongue teases along each slick line and I can hear her swallowing, the noise loud in my ears, drowning out every other sound in the room. Last night I killed her. Tonight, though...tonight, she's--

Christ, I can't finish that thought. I can't think, period. All I can do is feel, each feather-light touch of her mouth, then the harder, greedier sensation of her sucking at the cuts, and me, I'm drowning in a sea of lust, of the fucking Slayer fucking drinking me and this isn't right, I should wake up, should stop it, but it feels so good. Not punishment any more, it's pleasure, right up there with the incredible feeling of sinking fangs into a willing -- or not-so-willing -- body, of draining the life and heat out of them. This feels just as good. Better, in a lot of ways.

She stops just short of making me come by sucking the blood out of me. I don't realize it at first, too lost in the sensations curling like so much smoke all through my body. Nothin' substantial, more like the haze surrounding me after a pack of smokes. But I feel it everywhere. I look down as she stands up, slithering up my body with a wiggle that would've done Dru proud, and stone cold fear slams into me, practically jumpstarting my heart. Her eyes glow yellow and she's all game-face, vamped out like some sick

I used to dream of turnin' the Slayer, torn between that and killing her, but now...now...

"You did this to me, Spike," her whisper is hot, blood-stained, copper-scented and I feel my own face ache with the change, my demon called by hers. "You did this," she repeats, then draws back before striking, sinking fangs deep into my neck, connecting us in blood and death and heat and lust. I scream and arch against her, my cock exploding though I haven't touched it, can't touch it, no wanking for the bloke chained to the wall, just the Slayer's touch and oh, god, she bloody bit me--


I'm still gasping for air I don't need when I realize I'm awake and the sun's nearly down.

Buffy's out there, somewhere, alive again.

I guess I don't need to be dust in order to be in hell, because it's becoming abundantly clear (as if I'm the slowest bloke on the face of the earth who needs words spelled out in small syllables) I'm here, living it, breathing it, wallowing in it -- and it's got nothin' whatsoever to do with being in Sunnydale and hangin' on the Hellmouth.

No, this is my own personal thing. Doomed to hell when I'm dusted, but living it now, regardless.

Welcome to This Is Your Life, Spike. Here you'll play a daily, nightly, never-ending role in "Let's Fail the Slayer".

You'd think I would've clued in after five months of dreams. Nah, it only took the Slayer vamping out on me in a dream, the night after she was resurrected, to figure it out.

I am so fucked.


My knuckles are throbbing and the scent of blood, even my own all cold and dead, makes me snarl through my laughter and tears. I've spent most of my sorrow and rage now, and so it's hysteria come a-knockin' at my door. I want to smash the walls around me, want to hurt Red for hurtin' me like this -- tho' I s'pose the Scoobies would smirk at me for thinkin' I matter enough that my feelings were considered -- and I want more than anything for this all to be a dream. A long, fucked-up, gotta-be-over-soon dream.

Remember the 'This Is Your Life' bit, mate?

There's rustlin' up above me and while I doubt it's any of the local boys come to call, I grab a sword just in case. Things are different around Sunnyhell now, and not just 'cos the Slayer's gone. Was gone.

Christ on a crutch. It takes me a minute, slinkin' out of the shadows like I'm still Big Bad, to realize it's Buffy. Come to me. She's come here, to me. I stare for a moment, then step forward, slippin' the sword behind me.

Her eyes are--

--so sad. Dull. As if she's seen things she can't ever explain and we can't ever imagine. I step forward, torn between wanting to slink back into the shadows for fear this really is a dream, and wanting to go to her and hold her, like it seems she's cryin' out for someone to do.

Not for the first time, I wish vampire powers included the ability to alter time.

That's it. I'm a soddin' poof, all the way now. Moonin' over things I can't do or change, all for the Slayer. Might as well change m'bloody name to 'Angel' and get on with it.

"Buffy. You should be careful. Never know what kind of villain's got a knife at your back." I give the sword a bit of a toss and move the rest of the way into the open crypt, watching her closely. If she's slept since returning, I can't see it. It's not just that her eyes are dull, it's like her body's been reanimated, but there's no one home.

She gestures toward me. "Your hand is hurt."

You don't know the half of it, pet. I nod. "Hmm. Same with you."


Slayer obviously doesn't want to relive that memory and I can't say's I blame 'er. Of course, what comes out of my mouth? "That Willow's getting pretty strong, isn't she? Bringin' you back. It's hard to get a good night's death around here." I wave toward the chairs -- new, since she's been gone and back again -- and give a little smile. I'm prattlin' on like a bleeding idiot, but I can't seem to make my mouth stop or my brain engage, or anything at all. "You can sit down. Got furniture. Y'should see the downstairs, too. It's quite plummy."

That gets even less response from her, so I give up, head back toward where she's sitting, looking ill-at-ease. Or maybe I'm projecting. She's obviously not come for chit-chat, in any event. But why has she come? What's drawn her to me? We had a...truce, of sorts, before. I don't know what we have, now. I know what I'd like, but I know that, at least, isn't why she's here tonight.

I take the seat across from her, watch her glance around, wondering what she sees now. Memories of my dream scorch me and I imagine I see reproach in her eyes. She doesn't look at me at first, then her eyes follow each small movement I make. I'm torn. I want her here -- God, do I want her here. I'm bloody well beyond glad. But...it hurts to look at her, too. I don't know what to say, to do, how to act. This is the Slayer, but it's also...Buffy. And this Buffy has a wounded, fragile look about her I never thought I'd see. I take a deep breath and release it, wondering if I live long enough, will I still need to do that?

Fuck that. I'm wishin' right now she'd stake me and get it over with. It would have to hurt less than lookin' at her and remembering why she looks like she does.

"I do remember what I said. The promise. To protect her." Her eyes flicker toward me and something inside me leaps in joy. I squash it down ruthlessly; no joy allowed here, not now. "If I'd've done that...even if I didn't make it...you wouldn't've had to jump." Not exactly rushin' in to deny that, is she? C'mon, Slayer, gimme a bleedin' break here. Kill me quick and easy, don't make me suffer any more'n I already have. //'Bad puppies don't get breaks... '// I draw another breath. "But I want you to know I did save you. Not when it counted, of course, but--after that. Every night after that." I wonder if my laugh sounds as bitter to her as it does to me? All those tears I cried, precious blood wasted in sorrow I wouldn't have felt if I'd done what I'd promised to do. "See it all again...do some different: faster, more cleverly, dozens of times, lotsa different ways. Every night I see it."

I wonder, was I hoping for absolution? Forgiveness? A slap in the face? She sits there and stares at me, her eyes a little foggy, still dull and hurting, and I want to get on my knees before her. Hell, I'd crawl, if she'd give it to me. I can't ask Bit for it, 'cos it's different with her an' me. I stay with her, we talk, we're friends, there isn't the...drive to be forgiven. She doesn't blame me for Buffy's death, I don't think. She's never said so and I don't get that feel from her. She's just sad big sis is gone. Or was gone. I hope I get the hang of thinkin' in the present tense again. It's creeping me out to look at her and think 'was' and know it's 'is' again.

"Buffy?" She's sat there, so still and quiet for so long, I wonder again if I've imagined the whole thing. She's a figment of my imagination. Another way to punish myself.

"I should go," she says finally, her voice still faint and rusty. "I didn't--sleep well, last night."

"No? A lot--on your mind, then?"

"I don't know." She sighs and stands, a troubled look on her face. "Just..." Her throat works, her mouth is open, but nothing comes out. I frown, take a step forward, but she shakes her head. "G'night, Spike."

When she's gone I turn and slam my fist into the wall, once, twice, three times. I can hear the bones snapping, the gristly sound of things turnin' pulpy and wet in there, can feel the shockwaves of impact runnin' through my arm, but... I don't feel a thing.


Been a long time since I had to sneak out the back way. I s'pose I didn't have to this time, 'cept I really didn't want to intrude on the Scoobies. I'm thinkin' the more distance between me an' Red right now, the better off we're all gonna be. And the whole thing was just too...smarmy. I can't stand smarm, it makes my teeth itch and my skin crawl. So, out the back door with nary a soul to see me, and I run smack into a big, bright patch of sunlight.

Bloody hell.

Fine. Got me a pack of smokes and a nice spot of shade here, and I'll just wait 'til the sun goes down or the Scoobies go home, and I can make my break. It's nice and quiet out here and I can tilt my head every so often and look at those patches of liquid gold. Makes me think of days long in the past when I could stand in the sun and enjoy the heat on my back and shoulders. Not that we saw the sun a lot in London, but still. It's the thought, right?

The door clicking shut startles me; it seems loud in my peaceful, quiet place. "Buffy." Why'm I not surprised? She and I are linked. I know it. I can feel it. Somethin's connecting us. Maybe the fact that she's much the same as me, now? Oh, sure. No blood-drinking to sustain her, but she's no more alive, really, than I am. Not any more. Fuck.

"Spike, it's daylight and you're--" Could her eyes get any wider? At least today she looks alive. Not...zombied.

I give her the trademark smirk and finish her sentence. "--not fried. Sun's low enough, it's shady enough for me. I was gonna go back inside but I overheard you and the superfriends exchanging a special moment -- came over a bit queasy." She used to wrinkle her nose at me when I joked like that; now, she just kinda looks at me. "Say, aren't you leavin' a hole in the middle of some soggy group hug?"

She takes a couple steps forward and god, she's so beautiful, it makes me ache. How could I not be glad she's back? I'm fairly sure I'd do penance on my knees for eternity, to have this. "Just wanted a little time alone."

Fuck. "Oh. Ah--right, then." It's maybe a dozen or so steps to the end of the building and I run right up against that big ol' patch of sunlight what kept me here to start. I stick one foot forward and pull back when a small puff of smoke rises.

Her voice washes over me. "It's okay. I can be alone with you here."

Dunno if that's a compliment or an insult. Don't want to know. "Thanks ever so." I turn to look at her, hoping she won't notice if my eyes wander. It's not meant to be...well, bugger. Of course it's sexual, but not. I just like to look. It hurts me, but it's a good pain.


Still not all right there. I take a step forward, that good pain searing me, not feeling so good now. "Buff. Slayer. Are you okay?"

She's sitting on one of the cartons, returns my look. "I'm here. And I'm good."

I want her to understand...I want to make amends. I didn't have a bloody thing to do with bringing her back, but I can't be upset now that she's here. I need... "Buffy. If you're in-- If you're in pain...or if you need anything...or if I can do anything for you--"

"You can't."

I take a seat more-or-less beside here -- doesn't anyone ever haul these huge crates away? -- and settle back a bit. "Well, I haven't been to a hell dimension just of late. But I do know a thing or two about torment."

And much moreso lately than she'll likely ever guess at.

"I was happy."

Her voice is gone all quiet-like and I almost don't hear her at first, 'cept I think I'm fine-tuned to her frequency. I turn to look at her.

"Wherever I was...I was happy. At peace. I knew that everyone I cared about was all right. I knew it. Time -- didn't mean anything. Nothing had form. But I was still me, y'know? And I was warm. And I was loved. And I was finished. Complete." She looks at me, then away, and I can't. I have to look at her, horrified understanding dawning within me. More than ever now, I'd hurt Red if I could. Oh, god, would I! "I--I don't understand theology or dimensions...any of it, really. But I think I was in heaven." She looks at me and I can see she knows I understand. "And now I'm not. I was torn out of there. Pulled out...by my friends."

Bloody, fucking hell. For an instant I wish I had the power to send her back. The pain in her eyes, in her voice, is pain not meant to be borne. By anyone. And Hell couldn't hurt as bad as what I see there. Not for the first time, I'm glad I had nothing to do with bringing her back. I was...I am...thrilled to see her. But I'd never have done it. Never.

"Everything here is hard and bright and violent. Everything I feel...everything I touch...this is hell. Just--getting through the next moment...and the one after that...knowing what I've lost." She stands, then walks toward the sunlight. Walks toward a place I can't follow, though I wish with everything I am that I could. I wish I could take this pain from her, buffer it for her. Give her surcease. Her last words float back to me, her voice dull again, but with an edge to it. "They can never know. Never."

I sure as hell won't tell 'em.

I watch her walk away from me and realize there's more of a connection now than I'd realized. I'm the only one who knows her secret. The only one she could trust with it.

The only one.

I never would've wished this upon her, but I can't say I'm unhappy this is turning out not to be a dream after all.

In a world full of living people, of friends and family...she picked me. The dead man.

The End

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