Length: >100,000 words
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine. Only the plot, one demon and the veil are.
Setting: Right after 'Dead Things'
Summary: The night after, all he wants is talk.
The night after, there’s nothing she wants less than talking.
And suddenly they find themselves in another dimension; one that Buffy can’t leave. There’s only one way to get her out. A way with consequences.
The pain that you feel
Hope is a funny thing. It flares up like the blaze of a flamethrower, bright and blinding, making you feel all tingly inside, but it’s vulnerable like a candle in the wind, and it fades away quickly if it doesn’t get enough nourishment.
Hope is what Buffy gave him.
She came for him, and she found him. He knows he wasn’t easy to find; she had to dig deep, hitting and kicking and poking and scratching at his walls of insanity, hurting herself in the process. But she didn’t cave, until she found him. Found him in the deepest, blackest hole he’s ever been in, grabbed him and tore him to the surface, fought hard to hold him there.
But then she left, and as soon as she did, the flame of hope in Spike’s chest began to fade.
For a little while though it still warms him.
The memories tormenting him got a little less prominent the minute he became aware of her presence, for the first time since he left her at the cemetery.
He long since suspected that she didn’t shield him from the memories haunting him then, because those are always there; were there when he held her, too. He doesn’t need to see, feel, hear what he has done over the decades to feel the pain; it’s so deeply etched into his conscience, he’d never forget a single kill. So, whatever happened there, it wasn’t that.
He thinks that maybe her soul, linked to his, helped him deal somehow. He pictures his soul as a newborn baby, not capable of any coherent thought, overwhelmed by the world around it, not capable of anything but crying. And then there was hers, all grown up and experienced, soothing his new soul, singing a lullaby and gently rocking it to calm it down.
Giving him a moment of peace with his memories.
But then the connection was cut, and his soul was left alone with the agony, still poorly equipped to live through this.
He never knew that one could hate, really hate themselves. He knows better now. It’s why he decided not to feed anymore. It’s not even about punishment; he has done so much evil in the past, it simply doesn’t feel right for him to live if all his victims weren’t allowed to. But he knows himself well enough to know he’d never be as strong as he’d need to be to off himself, not as long as she exists. Even with everything he knows about how much she despises him, how much it disgusts her to be with him, he just couldn’t bear the thought of never seeing her again. So he had no other choice than starving himself to dust, if that even works, or hoping she would end his pathetic life.
But then she was there. It took a while to accept that she really was, that the concerned eyes, the gentle voice, the tender hands really belonged to her. It was much easier to believe that his mind was mocking him than to trust his muddled senses. To believe that some higher being decided it to be funnier to prolong his torment, prompting him to feed, than to think she could behave that way toward him, care enough for him to even show up in the first place.
He doesn’t know what it was that convinced him otherwise then. It certainly wasn’t her words, telling him that she was real. It wasn’t even the punch she threw, as much as he knows that it was done for just this purpose. He’s not quite sure, but he thinks it was her eyes that did it, the expression flashing through them just the moment before sending him flying. The bewilderment with just a hint of despair, the disbelief and even a little hurt that he, who could recognize her by her scent even in a crowded room over a long distance, wasn’t capable of telling her apart from a hallucination.
He was angry there for a while, that she apparently didn’t want to fulfill his wish to get killed by her, didn’t even want to leave him be to starve himself. She had always wanted to get rid of him, and now that he wanted to grant her wish she didn’t let him. But then, when she yelled at him, something changed in her face. Something appeared there that he’d never seen before, not concerning him anyway.
He’d seen something akin to this only once. The night he found her on the steps of her porch, crying because her mom was sickly. He’d wanted to kill her that night, but then she’d had this expression on her face, this…helplessness.
This was what he detected on her earlier too, in her face, in her gestures, in her stance. She really wanted him to drink that blood, wanted it so badly that she not only went and fetched it for him, but tried to force it into him, against his resistance. Pleaded with him even.
He remembers a time when he lived for the illusion that, one day, the Slayer could love him. He snorts; he understands now how very wrong he was. She knows him better than anyone, knows exactly what he is. A monster. She told him again and again what she sees in him. An evil, disgusting thing. And she was oh so right.
And yet…Tonight she didn’t want him dead. He can’t comprehend what is different now; for her it’s only days ago that she left him bleeding in the alley. That night she didn’t care the slightest whether he was strong enough to get to his crypt before daybreak or not. But not tonight. Not now, when he finally saw things her way, understood that killing him was the right thing to do. Just then, when he craved her stake in his chest, she refused, as fiercely as she used to resent him. And seeing her feeling helpless in getting him to live suddenly melted something within him. Her tears, the shed and the unshed, fell on the stocks he put himself in and began to slowly undo them.
When the Slayer actively doesn’t want him dead, fights for him to stay alive – what does that mean for him? That he’s worth saving? He doesn’t have to focus on the images in his head to seriously doubt that.
Even if suddenly all those impossibilities in the world would happen like hell freezing over, rivers running uphill and Buffy liking him, even then he wouldn’t deserve to live. Not with everything he’d done.
He has no clue. But he knows that his past haunting him isn’t as agonizing as before, subdued somehow by the warmth the small flame still provides. For the first time since leaving the cave with his soul he thinks that maybe he could learn to live with it. That maybe he’ll find a way to atone.
He doesn’t know if he’ll ever be strong enough, though. Doesn’t know that he’ll ever find a reason to be strong.
He’s not ready yet. But the flame of hope Buffy ignited within him, tiny as it is now, keeps burning in his chest. Even if he doesn’t know what he hopes for, what he should hope for.
She won’t give up on him, she said. You wouldn’t.
“Bloody right, you are,” he mutters, stoking the flame with his words a tad.
But then, as if his victims’ ghosts felt him slipping away, his conscience strikes back. A wave of agony rolls over him almost as powerful as in Africa, sending him to his knees, a shivering bundle.
The wave also rolls over the tiny flame, blowing it out as quickly as a candle in a storm.
Leaving him in the cold again.
Hope’s a funny thing.
Have to send Dawn off to school. Yeah, right. As if her sister needed her to do that. Only when Buffy enters her house and Dawn is already up, munching on her cereal, it occurs to the Slayer that her sister and Willow did just fine without her for the weeks when she was away, and also for the last days when she was back and didn’t care.
“Buffy?” Two astonished faces turn to her, apparently neither of them having even known that she left the house last night.
Her sister’s face closes off instantly when Buffy shows herself in the kitchen; Dawn is obviously not yet prepared to forgive her, neither for wanting to abandon her the night she wanted to turn herself in, nor for not at all caring about her during the last days. Buffy sighs inwardly; it hasn’t been all butterflies and rainbows since she came back from the dead, she knows that, and apparently she made it even worse now. It’ll take some time and effort to make things right between them.
Willow of course is the opposite of Dawn. She almost trips in her haste to welcome Buffy back from wherever she has been, her face shining brightly - too brightly, Buffy thinks. A bright mask complementing her own I’m-fine mask. Telling everyone loud and clear that everything is okay, even when they all know that, in fact, nothing is. She bends over backwards to offer her a coffee, some cereal, a puppy, the whole world. Buffy snorts. It’s just like all those months - Willow means well, but doesn’t really look. Suddenly it occurs to Buffy that maybe she’s just helpless, as helpless as Buffy felt only a few minutes ago; knowing she had to help Spike, but didn’t for the life of her know how.
She knows she should stay here with them for a while; see Dawn off to Xander’s car, giving him a hug while she’s at it, then sit with Willow, drinking a coffee with her, appeasing her worries about herself a little. Tell her about Spike. But she can’t. She’s tired all at once, so tired. She just wants to fall on her bed, pull the sheets over her head and shut the world out.
She excuses herself, mumbling something about having fought with vampires the whole night, not bothering to look whether or not they believe her.
Once in her bed she realizes that her hope for releasing sleep was futile; of course it was. Too much is swirling around in her mind, and the sheets over her head shut out only the light, but not the racing thoughts.
She hears the other girls leaving almost at the same time and turns in her bed. Hears the clock ticking and turns again. Hears the garbage disposal and turns. Listens to the clock, counts the tick tocks, turns again when she loses count at about 400.
After what feels like a whole day, but turns out to be just a little more than an hour she jumps out of bed. It’s futile; sleep eludes her anyway, she might as well get up and do…what? Something distracting her from the whirlwind in her mind? She knows from experience that nothing will work. Whatever she chose, her thoughts would go on circling around the one thing she doesn’t want to think about at all.
Stupid Anya. Why did she have to come to her, send her to Spike? Destroy the oblivion she cocooned in the days before? Only that it wasn’t really oblivion. Even before she knew something was up with him, even then she was worried. Beyond pissed, but still worried. Now she knows at least that he’s alive.
She startles when she realizes that she was relieved finding him alive. Cringes when she recalls the fear she felt in his crypt, fear that dissolved the moment she knew he was there. Not dusty there, but undead there. In bad shape, undoubtedly, but alive. Not willing to feed though. She frowns. He was so thin. Had he been so thin when he rescued her from the demon dimension? She doesn’t quite remember; she was preoccupied with not going to hell. She wonders how long it takes for a vampire to starve himself to death. She recalls the feeling of his bony cheek under her palm and shivers; suddenly the image of the vamp girl feeding on Riley pops up in her mind. She looked more like a skin covered skeleton than a vampire, and she finds that Spike wasn’t that far from that state. She didn’t see it that way earlier because she focused on other, more pressing things.
Panic suddenly surges through her; what if he dies from starving while she tries to catch some beauty sleep? Do vampires dust from starving? She doesn’t know. She dimly remembers that Giles once asked Spike about it, that Thanksgiving years ago, when he, too, hadn’t fed for days; but she can’t recall Spike’s answer.
She just chides herself to stop worrying about him now when she notices that she already put her boots back on. When the hell did she even go downstairs? She doesn’t know and she finds that, screw this, she doesn’t care. She’s out of the house and halfway back to the cemetery before she can decide otherwise.
She makes a slight detour to pass by the butcher’s shop, buying some pig’s blood; she knows he needs a lot more than she brought him last night, and in case he changed his mind and drank what she left behind she’ll have this for him.
Her heart pounds in her chest when she stands in front of the crypt again. This time she doesn’t hesitate though, she just opens the door and enters. But she holds her breath, anxious about what she’ll find this time.
The second she sets foot in the crypt she knows something is going horribly wrong. And then she hears it; noises from downstairs, sounds of furniture thrown against walls, breaking into pieces, snarling and growling. At first she thinks it’s Spike, having a fit. But then she hears the sickening sound of cracking bone, and she recognizes voices in-between the gnarling and grunting. Then, most horribly, a whimper. She never before heard him making a sound like that, but she knows without a doubt that it’s him.
Her stomach drops. But this is slayer business, this is what she’s good at. She’s downstairs with not much more than one leap. It’s dark there, no more candles are giving off their dim light. But it’s daytime, and although Spike had covered the small windows, a little diffuse light seeps in from above, enough to let her see that there are four demons attacking the weakened vampire. She also notes that he doesn’t even bother to fight back, and what the threat of the demons couldn’t, his lack of defense achieves - she’s paralyzed for a second, chilled to the bone. It’s just then that it eventually registers that this is what he wants.
He wants it to end.
A cry that she doesn’t know exactly if it’s in rage or in fear bursts out of her, and then she’s only fists and feet; kicking and punching she whirls through the crypt’s basement, following the demons fleeing upstairs at the sight of a ferociously fighting slayer, grabbing a sword from Spikes weapon trunk and beheading one of the monsters in one fluid move. She’s relieved to see that it’s one of the kinds that just dissolve into nothing with a poof; that way she doesn’t have to deal with a body.
The other three demons have fled the crypt, but she doesn’t care to follow them; the need to check on Spike is more urgent. She races down again, the sound of his cracking bones still vivid in her mind. The memory tightens her throat.
Without the candlelight, it takes a little while to make him out. When she eventually detects him lying on the ground behind his bed, her stomach flutters in fear at his sight. For a moment she is sure that he’s dead, until she remembers that he’d be a pile of dust then. She rushes to his side, her hands trembling when they reach for him.
“Spike.” Her voice sounds strange, constricted, and it’s just when she hears it that she realizes that tears are streaming down her face, have been even while fighting. The knowledge that he wants to die left her completely unsettled, so much so that she can’t even be angry at herself for being so scared to lose him. Everything in her yearns to give him something to hold onto, give him back a piece of his will to live.
He looks terrible, more so than before she left not two hours ago. His face is bruised all over, one of his eyes swelling quickly, the cheekbone underneath probably the one she heard breaking. But it’s nothing compared to what she sees in his one eye that he cracks open when she says his name again, her hands stroking, his chest, his hair, his cheek.
His one-eyed gaze meets hers, and a moan escapes her throat. What she sees there is nothing but tiredness, weariness and disappointment.
He’s disappointed that he survived.
She feels so helpless; she has to do something about it, but she has no idea what. She only knows she can’t let him die, can’t let him leave her. She’s shaking from the urgency to find a solution, and from the overwhelming fear of what will happen if she won’t find anything. A memory leaps at her out of the blue, a memory of a dank alley, of her voice and his. Just let me go…I can’t. I love you.
No. That’s not it.
It can’t be.
And suddenly the fear she felt explodes into something more violent, into rage as overwhelming as the fear was. How dare he make her feel so helpless, make her understand so well all of a sudden why he acted the way he did that night, when she was perfectly content with blaming him for not understanding her? When in reality he understood completely her will to end it once and for all, was desperately trying to find anything to stop her, find something for her to hold onto.
Looking for anything, just to keep her with him.
Just like she’s doing now.
You’re not going in there…
“Don’t you dare die on me,” she yells, and since she can’t beat him for fear of dealing the final blow, she slumps down on his chest, clutching him, digging her fingers deeply into him, shaking with sobs. “Don’t,” a whimper, don’t leave me alone. It’s the only thing she gets out for a long time; once, and again, and a third time, only the one word, never what she really means. She doesn’t know whether he heard it or not, didn’t really say it to him anyway. But then his hand is on her back, shaking too, stroking carefully, as if he could hurt her with his gentle hand. Stroking until the sobs finally recede, stilling on her back then.
They lay like that for a long time, neither of them moving, until her nose catches a coppery scent wafting from his chest and it suddenly occurs to her that she might be hurting him, beaten as he is. She lifts her head to look for injuries, but can’t see enough in the darkness surrounding them. She carefully disentangles herself, whispering, “I’ll be right back,” and rushes upstairs to fetch the lighter and a candle.
When she comes back down, she lights two more candles and sinks to her knees by his side again, only to wind her arms around his chest to haul him up to his bed. He moans softly; she doesn’t know if in pain or in protest, but he lets her pull off his boots anyway. When she begins to tug up his shirt though, he grabs her hand and drags it away.
“Don’t be stupid, Spike. I only want to …”
“No,” he interrupts her softly, his eyes still closed.
But he’s weak. Too weak to assert himself against the will of the Slayer, worried as she is, and determined to do something. She gently peels his hand away from hers and proceeds to lift his shirt. When he again reaches for her hand, she whispers, “Please, Spike, let me.”
He opens his eye and watches her for a second or two, then, helpless against her pleading, he sighs and lets go of her hand, his eye slipping closed again.
When she’s done pulling up the shirt as carefully as she can to reveal his chest she gasps. She is the slayer, she has gone through many fights, has seen a lot of wounds. But rarely, if ever, has she seen a wound like that. His chest looks like it’s been torn apart, as if an animal had dug its claws in and tried to rip big chunks out of it to get to the bones. Again and again.
She swallows. It must hurt like a bitch, and she had clutched him there to keep him from leaving.
“Did those filthy demons do this to you?” she asks, her voice barely concealing her anger. She just begins to contemplate belatedly to try to find them, to kill them for what they did to him, when he slowly shakes his head.
“Not them,” he croaks.
She stares at him, the sense of foreboding creeping through her veins at the view of his resigned face. “Who?” she whispers, not sure if she really wants him to give her an answer to that question.
Not as far as she knows at least.
“They are…too much,” he says instead, “wanted them out.” He says it so softly that she has to strain her ears to catch it. She frowns; is he still with her? He’s making no sense again.
“All of them.”
She still has no idea who he’s talking about, she’s not even sure he knows. For the umpteenth time since she found him last night, her throat constricts to the point of merely letting through enough air to breathe. God, he looks so small, so…defeated. What the hell happened to him?
She wants to patch him up, do something to make him feel better. But she thinks he’s not strong enough right now. So she carefully pulls his shirt back down; she’s tempted to tuck him in until she remembers that he doesn’t get cold. She cups his cheek instead, and she doesn’t know if it’s more for his comfort or for hers.
“You really need some blood, Spike. When I give you some now, will you drink it?”
Could she sound a little more like a petulant child? Geez.
But there must have been something in her voice reaching him, because he cracks his one eye open again, considers her for a minute, and then he nods, just once.
She jumps up like one of those tin toy frogs, fetches the bottle that still lies exactly where she abandoned it before leaving earlier. She helps him sit up a little in his bed, one arm securely wrapped around his middle, careful not to disturb his wound. She is surprised when he glides onto her chest, leaning heavily against her, letting her support his weight, but she doesn’t complain. She lifts the hand holding the bottle, but before she reaches his mouth he grabs it and holds it still for a moment. He breathes in and out deeply, as if bracing himself for the inevitable, then he slips his fingers under her palm, and she understands. He wants to do it himself, needs to maybe. Making it clear it’s what he wants. She’s just not sure who he has to reassure, her or himself.
Again he breathes, and then he brings the bottle to his mouth and drinks.
When she sees tears rolling down his face, she knows who he meant to reassure. And she knows it didn’t work.
He still doesn’t want it.
He did it for her.
Just let me go…I can’t. I love you.
Her heart clenches.
Don’t die on me…He couldn’t. He loves her.
She brushes her thumb over his cheeks and wipes his tears away, while her own drip onto his curly hair.
“Thank you,” she whispers.
He downs the whole contents of the bottle, slowly, with many pauses. When he’s done, she takes the bottle out of his hand and lets it drop to the floor. He opens his eye, looking up at her without saying anything, but he doesn’t need to. Buffy slips her hand in his and feels his fingers instantly closing around.
“I’ll stay,” she says, watching him sighing in relief and closing his eye.
And then, finally, she feels his body relax against hers, drifting off to sleep.
When he awakes it isn’t with a start as was so common for him. It never is these days. It’s more of a slow rising to the surface of reality, until at some point he just knows, this is it. Too blurred are the lines between sleep and consciousness, too similar the nightmares and the imprints in his mind from his past haunting him in wakefulness.
This time though, something is different.
Not that his victims weren’t there, lurking, waiting to pound on him like wild animals. Other than after saving Buffy, they are; sneaking around him, whispering, casting him accusing looks, showing off their wounds; hurting, tormenting, deadly.
They just don’t pound.
Spike lies still, completely still, as if afraid he’d provoke them if he moved, somehow. He watches them, and they stare back. But they don’t pound.
That has never happened before. Sure, there were times when he’d beat them back for a while, claw his way to lucidity, banish them in the background to focus on reality, long enough to do what needed to be done. But they never before stayed away from him without him violently pushing them.
Now they just seem to wait. Not silently, of course not; but quiet enough for him to look closer. For some reason, for the first time he feels strong enough, secure enough for braving this, looking at them.
And for the first time, he does.
He sees a man wearing a hat and a grey suit, and Spike remembers. Even though he looks similar to most of the other men in the fifties, wearing his clothes almost like a uniform - the same kind as all the other office gits wore at that time - Spike knows exactly who this is.
It had been 1952, and they had been in Philadelphia. Spike had never liked that city for some reason, too many Quakers maybe, for his taste, but Drusilla had dragged him there again and again, although she knew about his dislike. Probably because she knew. Unsurprisingly his mood hadn’t been the best, and above all they’d had a quarrel over a stupid thing he didn’t even remember, and he’d stormed out to vent his anger.
When he’d run into that man he hadn’t thought twice; his hand had been on the prat’s throat within a second, pressing his windpipe shut with an iron grip. He’d dragged him around the corner, away from the well-lit street into a dark alley. He’d played a little with him, punched him, kicked him, drank from him, all the while he kept his hand at the man’s neck, pressing and releasing, never giving him time to scream, but letting him suck just enough air into his lungs to stay conscious. Where would’ve been the fun otherwise? He’d reveled in the fear he tasted in the guy’s blood and he saw in his terrified widened eyes, until he suddenly had enough and just quickly drained him dry. He’d tossed him aside like garbage and gone to find someone else to play with, and had never thought of him again.
He feels tears trickle down his cheeks, but he doesn’t move to wipe them away.
He looks at a little girl instead, four or five years old, maybe. She has dark curls cascading over her shoulders, only there’s not much to see of their color under all the blood covering them. Blood that runs down her face, coming from the wound on her head where Dru had cut out a part of her scalp, because she wanted that hair for one of her stupid dolls and wanted it to keep growing, so of course she needed the scalp. He had fetched the girl for her, as a present, because he wanted to see the awe on her face, in the gaze she gave him then.
When his dark princess drank the girl’s blood, the little thing hadn’t known that she was about to die. She had just known that she was in more pain than she’d ever thought possible, and that she was alone, and that she wanted to be with her mother.
They had shagged right beside the corpse.
Spike isn’t aware that he didn’t just think it, but said it out loud, in a choked whimper; not until he feels gentle fingers brush the tears away, and a hand gingerly stroke his hair.
That’s when he remembers that there was something else different to his waking up. He’s not alone; she is here. That’s why he felt secure enough to face his very own demons. Oh god, how can she even be here, with him? How can she stand to be around him, with everything he has done? Can touch him, hold him in her arms?
How can she be so gentle with him?
His eyes fly open and he sits up with a jolt, out of her arms, away from her.
She can’t. She doesn’t know what he did. Well, of course she knows; she read and heard enough to know. But she didn’t see it. She never saw him killing just for the fun of it. Had she known, seen, she never would have come near him.
And she really shouldn’t.
He staggers to his feet, away, away from her. He’s still weak, though, his head dizzy, his legs wobbly; and there she is again, catching him as he slumps down, holding him, sitting him back on his bed.
“I’ve got you.”
Her voice is soft, so soft. And he is weak, so weak, that he leans against her again, even though he knows he shouldn’t. Just because it feels so good being with her, smelling her scent, hearing her heart beating, feeling her strong arms holding him, her soft hand stroking him.
Not to be alone anymore.
“No,” he says, his face wet from tears he cries for the poor git in Philadelphia, for the dark haired girl. For so many others he’s killed and played cruel games with all over the world.
She shouldn’t be holding him. Something as light as her shouldn’t even touch something as dark as him.
Too quiet. He knows it was too quiet.
“Spike?” she asks, warily, clearly waiting for something jumping out of the box.
He breathes in, trying to squirm out of her arms. “Shouldn’t touch…not something so bad…”
God, why can’t he say it right? She needs to understand.
She loosens her hold on him just a little, but enough for him to get his hands up and shove her away. “Too dark for you!” he yells, realizing just now that he didn’t shove her, but himself away, landing on the ground with a thud, his wounded chest and the broken ribs on his back screeching in pain.
She’s silent. When he opens his one good eye and looks at her, she sits on his bed, shock on her face, but also compassion, so much compassion for him.
She shouldn’t feel that either. Not for him.
And then her face changes and the Slayer emerges; determined, ready for battle.
He knows instantly that he lost this one before it even started.
She kneels beside him, hauls him into a sitting position and leans him against his bed. Then she shifts, until she kneels in front of him between his legs. She cups his face with both hands, tilting it up to catch his gaze.
He closes his eye, but of course, he can’t refuse her commanding, “Look at me.”
He looks, and then he listens.
“I don’t know what happened to you, and right now I don’t really care. What I know is that for some reason you want to get rid of me. Yeah, well, too bad. This is my opportunity for revenge, for all the times I wanted to get rid of you, and boy will I savor that. I ought to practice this smug grin of yours, maybe.” She takes a deep breath, apparently not feeling like grinning at all, least of all smugly; then she goes on. “Anyway, I won’t leave you alone quite yet. Those demons probably will come back to finish what they started as long as you’re weak. And no,” she cuts him off before he gets to say something, “I won’t let them.”
He can see her pressing her lips together tightly then, something akin to fear crossing her face. The notion of him wanting them to finish their work obviously still throws her; but she regains her composure quickly.
“What I also know is that you need more blood to get your strength back and heal. Here’s what is going to happen. You will drink some more blood each time that I say so. I’ll stay here with you, and as soon as you are strong enough to walk that far, we go to my place where you can heal properly, without someone wanting you dead. Well, except Xander, of course, but who cares.” She lifts her chin, challenging. “Okay?”
Her eyes are on him, pure steel, willing him to agree. She doesn’t need his consent, of course. If he didn’t accept her suggestion, she’d just punch him unconscious and carry him to wherever she needs him to be. He’s weirdly touched that she still asks for it
He doesn’t understand why she came or why she stays; but he’s grateful that she does. It’s easier when she’s here. Although a part of him very strongly rejects her presence, knowing fully well that by no means does he deserve it; there’s another part that understands that she’s fighting for him - needs to fight for him. And even if he can’t understand why, he can’t let her fight alone. He never could.
It’s the least he can do, letting her help him regain his strength, enabling him to fight his battles alone again. Because ending his pathetic unlife without her consent, that’s out of the equation, no matter how painful it is to live. Bloody ponce that he is, he couldn’t do that; not since she made it so blatantly clear that it’s not what she wants.
All the more since he didn’t let her do it either, no matter how painful hers was to live.
He sighs and nods, defeated, but also a little relieved.
Because instead of giving him what he craved, she gave him everything he needed to keep on fighting.
She’s here, with him.