1. I by yutamiyu
2. II by yutamiyu
3. III by yutamiyu
4. IV by yutamiyu
5. V by yutamiyu
6. VI by yutamiyu
7. VII by yutamiyu
8. VIII by yutamiyu
9. IX by yutamiyu
10. X by yutamiyu
11. XI by yutamiyu
12. XII by yutamiyu
13. XIII by yutamiyu
14. XIV by yutamiyu
15. XV by yutamiyu
16. XVI by yutamiyu
17. XVII by yutamiyu
Disclaimer: The characters herein are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant enemy. They are being used for entertainment purposes out of love and admiration, and not for the sake of profit. No copyright infringement is intended.
For all her previous years of experience, she thought that she’d learned to keep a better hold on her weapons.
Her excuse, however, as she felt the hammer fly out of her grasp and tangle into chains hanging from the tier above her head, was that nothing she had fought previously had the strength of a hell god. That beneath well-styled curly hair and mini-dresses and Prada shoes lay the strength of three slayers, at the very least. And the Dagon sphere had only done so much to weaken her. So really, she thought, no one could blame her for losing her weapon when on the receiving end of Glory’s punch.
‘But,’ her mind quipped as she attempted unsuccessfully to dart around Glory and recover her weapon, ‘her status has nothing to do with your current lack of improvisational skills.’
And it was true. Everything she’d done in the past – patrols, training, Apocalypse-averting – had shown that Buffy Summers was easily able to improvise to get the job done, even in the tightest of situations. And yet she and Glory remained at a stand-still; while neither was landing any deciding blows, Buffy was unable to slip past the hell god and regain the upper hand.
But she was also burning up Glory’s valuable time. And that had to count for something.
//Spike. Can you hear me?//
The voice, while sounding like something he would expect to hear on an older radio, or on the other end of a telephone line, was still clear in his mind; and in a brief moment of insanity, he considered that the source was the tiny engine near where the group had barricaded themselves.
“Yeh,” he murmured. “Loud and clear.”
He could feel the whelp’s eyes on him like he’d lost his mind. Maybe he had. He hadn’t had much of a stellar history with vampires who’d heard voices. Drusilla hadn’t been the picture of perfect mental health, after all.
//There’s someone up there with Dawn.//
He knew. He’d sensed it, just before Red’s voice reverberated in his mind. And although he didn’t know who was atop the tower with Dawn, he was certain it wasn’t Buffy. Which meant that the nibblet was still in danger.
He knew. He just didn’t think Willow did, as well.
“Yeh,” he replied, aware of the increasingly confused looks he was receiving. “Can’t tell who.”
//Get up there.//
‘Yeh,’ he thought. ‘An’ this sodding chip will suddenly decide that barreling through a mob of angry brick-wielding pulsers is for the greater good an’ let me pass.’
//Go.// Her voice became more insistent. //Now. GO.//
Pushing himself to his feet, Spike charged towards the crowd, bracing himself for the inevitable migraine, when he felt the surge of energy mere milliseconds before the crowd parted, allowing him safe passage up the ramps of the tower.
‘Nice one, Red,’ he mused as he continued to spiral his way up the tower.
He didn’t get very far.
In fact, he didn’t know exactly how high up he was. Spike’s progress skidded to a halt when he came across Buffy in an effective stalemate with Glory. His quick eyes darted around and he was immediately presented with three facts.
The Slayer was weaponless.
He couldn’t get to Dawn, not with Glory blocking his path.
But Buffy could.
“Buffy!” he yelled, lunging forward to grab Glory’s hair, landing a few punches as the hell god turned around in surprise. “Go help Dawn!”
Buffy hesitated, watching as Glory recovered and threw a punch directly into Spike’s gut. He felt something tear, and his nostrils flared at the scent of his own blood. He winced, slid a protective arm across his bleeding stomach, and yelled again. “GO!”
The sound of Buffy’s ascending footsteps echoed around him, and Spike threw another punch at Glory before she could follow.
“Don’ think so, sweetheart,” he growled. “Your fight’s with me now.”
Glory grunted in exasperation and grabbed the vampire by the lapels of his duster, sending him flying over her head and across the deck, crashing into the tangle of chains holding the hammer, causing it to plummet to the ground.
“Brilliant,” he groaned, but quickly shot out an arm in a desperate attempt to stop a pursuing Glory from climbing further up the tower. His hand managed to find purchase in the fabric of her ritual robe, and holding on with all his might, Spike released his grip on the chain, the both of them descending to the ground below.
‘Someone’s with Dawn.’
She could sense it, the closer she came to the peak of the shaky tower. And she knew now why Spike had been so insistent on her leaving. Dawn was still in trouble. It was possible for Glory to go through the ritual without letting the Key’s blood herself.
The thought made Buffy shudder, even as she ran. She’d missed it. She was so convinced that the ritual required Glory to let Dawn’s blood that she’d blinded herself to the possibility that someone else could do it for her.
This someone else looked so unlike any demon she’d ever faced that she briefly wondered if her demon sensor had been knocked out of alignment, courtesy of Glory.
“Who are you?” she asked, her body poised for a fight. He turned to face her, and she took a slow step forward. ‘Distract him,’ she thought. ‘Keep him away from Dawn.’
“On second thought,” she added, taking a quicker, more confident step forward, “I really don’t care. All I care about is that you’re about to do something evil with my little sister. And that really doesn’t fly in my book.”
The strange man-thing standing before her grinned, tightening his grip on the knife at his side. “The Slayer,” he mused, and something in his eyes twinkled. “This is a treat. Certainly a night to remember. Not only do I get to help Her Magnificence Glory, but I get to do it in front of the Slayer.”
Buffy gritted her teeth and clenched her fists together tightly. “Stay away from my sister,” she warned.
The demon raised the knife point to his lips and tapped the tip against them thoughtfully as he closed the distance between them. His mouth quirked into a smile, and he replied, “I’m afraid I can’t do that. Tonight’s a very important night.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Buffy countered. “I’ve heard the story, and I’m really not all that interested in converting to the Cult of Saint Crazy. Maybe you should try again next year.”
She didn’t know what happened. All she knew was the presence of the man behind her, the bite of the knife slicing through the sensitive flesh at her side, Dawn’s screams that she was unable to answer.
“That’s too bad,” he said softly, tangling his fingers into her hair. “I didn’t really plan on you being around next year.” And with those words, he smashed her head into one of the metal beams, dropping her as she slumped unconscious onto the ramp.
Both vampire and hell god scrambled to their feet soon after their rough impact on the concrete below. Spike’s eyes darted around in a vain attempt to locate the fallen weapon; without it, he wasn’t sure he had a chance in hell at even touching the beast before him. Not when her violent attention was so focused on him.
‘Don’ have to kill her,’ his mind quipped as his wounded stomach made itself known again. ‘Jus’ have to distract her for a while. Wonder jus’ how much of a beatin’ I can take.’
Glory’s lips quirked into a knowing grin, swiping at the blood around her nose with a less-than-delicate crooked knuckle. “You lost your hammer, sweetheart,” she taunted. “What’re you gonna hit me with now?”
In retrospect, Spike figured he should be more thankful for small favors. Either that, or the usually useless band of humans that the slayer insisted on keeping around her. For no sooner had the words left Glory’s lips than a wrecking ball crashed through the wall next to him, smashing into Glory and sending her flying back a good distance away from him.
“Well,” he replied, raising an eyebrow. “Tha’s a pretty good start.”
She wasn’t down for the count, but the whelp had unknowingly bought Spike all the time he needed. Wandering eyes found the hammer, and he jogged over to it, wrapping his fingers around the handle.
And groaned. He’d forgotten the damn thing was too heavy for him to lift.
“Could use a li’l help here, Red,” he called, frustrated. “Need to pick this bloody thing up.”
The tingling in his arms came as a surprise. He hadn’t really thought the witch would hear him, but as the sensation subsided as quickly as it appeared, he tried lifting the hammer again.
It was lighter than air.
Grinning, Spike swung the hammer to rest on his shoulder, stalking towards the hell god currently struggling to get back on her feet.
“Here, kitty,” he coaxed, closing the distance between them. With every step, blood dripped out of his open, forgotten wound.
Her feet finding solid purchase on the ground beneath her, Glory pushed her curls out of her face and dusted off her robe. Her gaze locked with Spike’s as he approached her, and she readied herself for another round.
Spike hefted the hammer back into his arms and swung, injury momentarily forgotten, taking an almost perverse pleasure in the feel of it connecting with Glory’s jaw. She stumbled back, but held strong; Spike smirked as he realized that she still thought she could beat him.
Not bloody likely.
A second blow, and another, and another, slowly backing Glory away from the tower. With every strike, blood covered the hammer, and somewhere in the back of his mind he realized that not all of it was hers. He was almost disappointed that the hell god was going down so easily.
‘Almost,’ he thought wryly as he prepared for another strike.
He twisted too much at the waist at the next blow, and cried out in pain as the hammer once again made contact with Glory’s face. Shifting the hammer to one hand, he snaked the other down to cover his wound, a misguided attempt to keep his remaining blood inside his body. His neglect had taken its toll, and he was hurting.
“You’re immortal,” Glory tried, gasping to regain her breath. “You should understand my pain.”
Spike shrugged a shoulder, wincing as the action pulled at the injury. “Maybe,” he replied. “But all things considered, I’d rather cause it.”
“You can’t kill me.”
Spike brought his hand back up to the hammer, wrapping a blood-covered palm around the hilt. “I can have fun trying,” he noted, and swung an uppercut to Glory’s jaw.
She was down. Glory was down, and that was all that mattered. Moving as quickly as he could, he straddled Glory and cast the hammer aside, landing blow after blow with his fists. When he felt the protest from his injury, he sat back, assessing the damage he’d caused. He watched as the hell god’s face shifted to that of her human host.
Spike growled in frustration. He wasn’t certain that he could hurt Ben, and he wasn’t entirely keen on trying. Not when he was injured. Not when he could hear Dawn’s screams from the top of the tower and could smell Buffy’s blood, even from such a distance. Not when he caught sight of the Slayer’s Watcher walking towards him, intention burning in his eyes.
Pushing himself to his feet, Spike ran to the tower and forced himself to begin a quick ascent. His wound protested, but he gritted his teeth and continued. Work through the hurt now, take the time to heal later. Later, when this was over and both his girls were safe at home.
When he was nearly at the pinnacle, he realized that the only blood that assaulted his senses was that of Buffy, with barely traces of his own. He had no idea when, but his own injury had already begun to heal, enough that the pain was a bit less with each step he took.
Rallying, Spike rushed to the top tier, scanning the scene before him. An unconscious, bleeding slayer at his feet. Dawn still a bound captive, the faint scent of her blood hanging in the air surrounding him. And a demon he’d taken for dead.
“Doesn’ a fella stay dead when you kill ‘m?
Doc spun around and grinned, rocking on the balls of his feet. “You’re too late, you know,” he stated knowingly. “The ritual is already underway. Her Magnificence is going to win.”
“Ref’s already called that one, mate,” he replied. “Look’s like the match went to the vampire.”
Fury began to burn in Doc’s normally-dancing eyes. “You cannot beat Glorificius,” he countered, as light flashed in the behind him and the sky began to tear. “The ritual has already started.”
In three quick steps, Spike had Doc’s head clamped tightly between tensed palms. “Then ‘m just gonna have to stop it,” he observed, before snapping the demon’s neck and pushing the body off the side of the tower.
Dawn’s call drew his attention away from the fledgling portal gaining strength to further rip through the sky. Quiet tears ran down her cheeks, but she – so much like her sister – made every attempt to keep from breaking, only the slightest of trembles noticeable in her voice.
“It’s too late,” she said, and twisted at her ties. “Let me down. I have to jump. I have to stop it.”
“Can’t do that, Nibblet,” he replied, crouching near the unconscious slayer. “Made a promise to your big sis. Don’ want her to be mad at me for breakin’ it.”
Spike’s brow furrowed in concern as he ran a chill hand down the side of her face before clasping her shoulder to shake gently, as though simply rousing her from sleep. He didn’t know how long she’d been out, but the scent of her blood was no longer as overpowering to him as it once was; the wound at her side was healing. She would be fine, whenever she woke up.
Letting a crooked finger run lightly over her lips, Spike allowed a resigned smile to tug at his.
He would miss her.
Wrapping one arm around her torso, he snaked his hand under her top and pushed it up enough to reveal her healing wound. Uncaring of the automatic reflex of his emerging fangs, Spike ran his tongue up the trail of blood clinging to her side before settling at the source and beginning to drink. When he tasted his first mouthful of her most coveted blood, it was all Spike could do to hold back a pleasured moan. Finally overcome after the first few pulls, he allowed his fangs to graze the length of her injury before setting back to his task in earnest.
He drank from her for ages of stolen time, while around him the portal continued to expand and flow.
His ears perked momentarily at the sound of Dawn’s horrified, outraged screams, but he dismissed them just as quickly, instead focusing the entirety of his attention on Buffy’s heartbeat.
Her heartbeat, and the faint sound of her own moan as she struggled to regain consciousness. She wasn’t entirely there yet, but she soon would be.
He was running out of time.
Spike drew away and ran his hand down the length of her hair. As he felt the muscles in his face shift back to his human persona, he briefly tangled the soft ends in his fingers. “’m sorry, pet,” he whispered, and forced himself to his feet.
Dawn’s eyes were filled with anger, and she glared at him as he approached.
“What did you do to her?” she screamed, struggling in a vain attempt to hurt him. “What did you do to Buffy?”
“Did what had to be done,” he murmured, making quick work of her bonds. “’m not gonna apologize.”
And he would not. There simply wasn't enough time.
Although aware of her own injuries from the ritual, Spike all but dragged the girl over to the recovering slayer, holding her arms tightly, and forcing her to look into his eyes. He was met with nothing but seething resentment, and he felt a twinge of guilt run through his system.
“Listen to me, Bit,” he said, his voice low and commanding. “Big sis is gonna be fine, yeh? But it’s up to you to get her back down to her Watcher an’ the rest. Tell her I figured it out. An’ tell her I kept my promise.” He let go of her arms and drew away, quirking his lips into an ironic grin. “’m gonna save the world, Bit.”
Before she could reply, before she could even think of the words, Spike turned and ran across the platform, leaping from the tower into the growing storm below.
A/N: Please bear with me! All will be explained in due course. Although I've seen many fics regarding an alternate S6 timeline, I don't recall ever seeing one where Spike closes the portal rather than Buffy/Dawn. I found the idea fascinating, and hope you all will ride this one out with me.
Reviews inspire the muse and nourish the soul. If you are so inclined, please leave one.
She’d walked the path a hundred times over, yet as she made her way to Spike’s crypt, she couldn’t remember ever walking towards it feeling…relief.
Anger, certainly, and annoyance; both in spades. She’d even been nervous once or twice – escorting her mother and sister into his protection, thinking for a split-second that he would see right through her Buffybot façade – but she’d never felt even a semblance of relief while walking towards Spike’s domain.
She usually felt it when she left.
She would think on that later, when all was over with and Glory was gone. Only then would she allow herself to ruminate on the ever-changing thing she was in with her once mortal enemy.
And now effectively friend. Ally. She could admit that, at least.
Buffy squinted at the sun’s rays and idly wished she’d brought her sunglasses. For now, she would have to settle for cupping a hand above her eyes and walking through the cemetery gates.
She knocked, waited for a response, knocked again when she was given none. She gently pushed the door open, poking her head in and calling his name. Her eyes found his form as he took a step forward, the demon receding to reveal the face of the man.
“What are you doin’ here, Slayer?”
The tone of his voice held no accusation. Rather, his words were infused with curiosity and confusion, plain and simple. She supposed that it was warranted. After all, she was voluntarily at his crypt with fists down and stake absent.
Buffy stepped into the crypt, closing the door behind her and walking over to perch on the arm of his easy chair.
“How are you doing?” she asked hesitantly, tilting a chin in his direction.
“ ‘m healin’,” he replied tersely, drawing a cigarette from the pack in his duster and lighting it. “You need somethin’, Slayer?”
Again, warranted, but she couldn’t help but flinch. “I just wanted to talk,” she tried.
Spike’s scoff echoed loudly in the crypt. “‘s that right?” he replied, taking a drag from his smoke and leaning against the wall. “And here I thought I’d been granted a temporary reprieve on accoun’ of my injuries.” He blew out the remaining smoke from his lungs. “All right, then,” he continued, spreading his arms, cigarette dangling from his lips. “Jus’ get it over with.”
‘And that’s three for Spike,’ she thought, shaking her head at his words. “There will be no fighting,” she said, relaxing her posture as she sat. “I didn’t mean it that way.”
He stared at her for several moments, as though she’d completely lost her mind, but she could see in his eyes the moment he accepted her words at face value.
“Oh,” he said simply, dropping his arms and resuming his smoke. “Then what’s on your mind, Slayer?”
Buffy laced her fingers together and let them fall in front of her as she leaned forward to rest her arms on the top of her thighs.
This was difficult. The words were difficult. She’d known, walking to his crypt, that to actually speak to him would be difficult, but she figured that the Powers, or whatever seemed to have her back, would somehow magically provide her with all the right words. Instead, she was sitting in a dark crypt laced with the scent of tobacco smoke and something that was irrefutably Spike, at a complete loss for words.
“I told you,” she started slowly, “that I would never forget what you did for me and Dawn.”
Spike’s eyebrow rose as he took another drag from his cigarette. “You did,” he confirmed. “Told me it was real.”
Buffy nodded, gaining more confidence in her words. “It was,” she replied. “It still is. And I think that maybe…maybe I should give you the chance to do that. To be real.”
The eyebrow remained. “You lost me there, pet,” he said, pressing his cigarette butt to the ground with the toe of his boot.
“You’ve…been changing,” she continued, finding a sudden fascination in her hands. “Slowly, but…you’re changing, and I think maybe it’s time to acknowledge that. By trusting you…by having faith in you.”
She never saw the awe and disbelief mixed with distant hope storm through his eyes. Instead, she heard his boots against the concrete floor as he walked to sit on one of the granite tombs spread throughout the crypt.
“You sure you’re not the soddin’ bot?”
A reluctant grin tugged at her lips and she raised her eyes, seeing the smirk on his face. She was grateful; Spike had made this much easier for her, simply by lightening the mood.
“I mean it,” she said, ignoring his remark. “These last few…it’s been…hard,” she managed, the vague nature of her words the only thing keeping her from breaking down. “And you’ve always been there, whether I’ve wanted you there or not. And I think…I think you’re going to stick around.”
“You know,” he interjected, his voice low and insistent.
“You’re right,” she amended. “I do know. So if you’re here, and you’re with us, then we need to start letting you in.”
“Never said I was a bloody Scooby,” he retorted, though they both knew his words held little conviction.
For her part, she ignored his statement, but added quietly, “I never actually thanked you. For what you did. It’s good to know…it’s good to know that I can count on you to keep her safe. Dawnie…she’s having a hard time with all of this.”
It was easier to talk to him when she wasn’t talking about herself. And Spike, with his often-infuriating powers of perception seemed to sense this. He pushed off from his seat and took several steps towards her. “Bit?”
Buffy shook her head and kept her gaze glued on the ground. Moving her eyes, she could just make out the tips of his boots. “She’s insisting that she’s not real. Not human. And maybe she’s not, Spike, but she’s human enough. The monks made her from me; she shares my blood.” She finally looked up at the vampire before her. “I told her that, a while back,” she continued, her lips quirking into a smile at the memory. “Her blood isn’t just this mystical thing. It’s Summers’ blood, above anything else. I can’t…I can’t let anything happen to her. I won’t.”
“’m not about to give her up either,” he offered. “She’s kinda grown on me, the irritatin’ chit.”
Buffy’s lips tugged into a smile and she looked up to meet his eyes. “I know,” she replied. “And she needs your help. Your strength. Dawn, she…she needs you.”
He was crossing a line. He knew it, just as he knew he shouldn’t have spoken the words before they’d even finished leaving his mouth. But he had to know.
This time, Buffy did not avert her eyes. Rather, she held the vampire’s gaze for what seemed like ages. She knew. She knew exactly what Spike was asking, but she simply didn’t have an answer. Not one that she could verbalize, at any rate. She only had feelings, instincts.
She would tell him later. When everything was over and Dawn was safe. Another item to add to her list of contemplations about Spike. For the moment, she took the safe route.
“Dawn needs me, too.”
His shoulders slumped minutely in dejection. But it was enough. Buffy had seen it, and it tore at her insides. And while she had called a ceasefire on hurting Spike physically, it seemed that she could do more damage to him with her words – or the complete lack thereof – than with her fists.
Spike, in a desperate attempt to appear nonchalant, crossed to the mini fridge, intent on pouring himself a mug of blood, heavily laced with something alcoholic. “Glad we’re on the same page, then,” he said over his shoulder. “Guess that means you can bugger off. Sure there’s somewhere else you’d rather be, yeh?”
Her feet were quicker than her awareness, and in a blink she found herself standing behind him. She tried to ignore the tense way he held his frame at her proximity, and instead told the middle of his chest in a quiet voice, “I know what you meant. I just...” She fell quiet. Words had failed her once again.
Spike’s finger was chill against her skin as it crooked under her chin to force her to meet his eyes. “’s all right,” he said, his voice just as soft. He blinked, and dropped his hand, and turned back to rummage through the open fridge. His voice was louder when he continued; an almost forced casualness. “We’ll figure this all out after we beat Glory, yeh?” He turned around, holding up a full bottle of Jack Daniels. “Gonna be one hell of a celebration, pet. An’ if you’re nice enough, I’ll even teach you how to drink properly.”
Despite herself, Buffy shook her head and smiled. “We’ll see, Spike,” she replied, her eyes moving from his face to the bottle and back again. “I haven’t had much luck with alcohol. Bad experience with beer.” Her face scrunched up in remembrance. “Beer bad.”
Spike scoffed as he turned to the fridge, exchanging the booze for a bag of blood. “You jus’ have to try the good stuff,” he countered, before holding up the bag. “Joinin’ me for breakfast?”
“Pass,” she replied. “Blood’s not really part of my balanced diet. But by all means, you enjoy yourself.”
She turned then, and walked across the crypt and out the door, closing it firmly behind her. Something had been set in motion, adding on to the blend of seemingly mundane instances that always managed to irrevocably alter the thing that was she and Spike. That once again, words laced with worlds of underlying meaning had been spoken, throwing her fragile-but-working definition of this thing into a state of complete upheaval, forcing reconstruction.
She took one step away from the crypt. Two. Three. And despite the chaos in her mind, there it was again, that feeling. Relief.
She was pulled into consciousness, but Buffy still refused to open her eyes. She felt fatigued, and just wanted to drift back into sleep. A half-hearted attempt to move her arm proved the action difficult, and she groaned in frustration.
Dawn’s voice. She forced one eye to open, then the other. An unfamiliar ceiling blurred in and out of view, and mere moments passed before she felt her hand being squeezed in encouragement. She rolled her head to the side, her eyes taking in the sight of her very alive and well younger sister.
“Dawnie,” she tried, and her voice rasped from the effort. How long had it been, that her voice was harsh from disuse?
The teenager turned to grab something unseen from the table next to the bed, and suddenly Buffy felt Dawn’s hand behind her neck, inclining her head, coaxing her to drink the water at her lips. Her sips began slow, but soon became greedy as she finished the glass.
Buffy’s head dropped back to the pillow and she turned to face her sister. “Are you okay?” she asked, her voice still harsh, but quickly getting better.
Dawn smiled. “I’m fine,” she replied. “The doctors bandaged me up and kept me overnight, but they said I was good to go this morning. I was just waiting for you to wake up, lazybones.”
Her teasing words belied the tone she couldn’t quite keep out of her voice. She had been frightened. For herself, for Buffy.
“Where is everyone?” Buffy almost feared the answer. Going into the battle, her main priority had been keeping Dawn safe, trusting that everyone else would be able to fend for themselves. Before the battle, she hadn’t given consideration to the fact that they might not all have made it.
“Everyone’s fine,” Dawn assured her, her eyes glued momentarily to the hospital bedspread. Then, “Giles told me to call when you woke up. Said he’d take us home.”
Feeling a bit stronger, Buffy managed to move her limbs in an attempt to assess her body. Finally, she asked, “What happened? Why am I here?”
Dawn flinched. “You…” A pause, then, “You lost a lot of blood. You needed a few transfusions. But you’re okay now.”
Buffy’s brow furrowed. “I don’t remember being injured that badly,” she replied. “That demon-thing stabbed me, but it should have healed by now. How did I lose so much blood?” Her gaze locked with her sister’s, she added, “Is there something you’re not telling me?”
Dawn jumped to her feet, clasping her hands together in front of her. “I’m going to go get the doctor, okay? Let him know that you’re awake, and maybe he’ll let us go home. I know you don’t like hospitals.” And before Buffy had a chance to argue, the teenager was out the door.
Buffy sighed, and rolled her head on the pillow to stare up at the ceiling. Something wasn’t adding up. Something was tugging at her mind, a whisper of a memory, a presence, a voice offering words her fatigued mind could not translate. Something had happened on top of the tower, and despite the obvious fact that Dawn did not want to acknowledge it, she refused to let it go.
A/N: I'm sorry for the complete lack of updates on this archive! I've been remiss in posting here, and I apologize! I'll definitely be adding new chapters as they are written. Hope you all keep up with this!
Reviews inspire the muse and nourish the soul. If you are so inclined, please leave one!
Tara was at the Magic Box when Buffy arrived late the next morning with crossbow and stakes tucked safely in the oversized bag slung over her shoulder.
“Morning, Tara,” the slayer greeted, a bright smile on her face, before walking into the training room and shifting the bag to the ground, preparing to replace the weapons she’d taken the previous evening.
Tara’s brow furrowed as she followed her friend into the training room, closing the door behind her and leaning against it, arms folded tightly across her chest.
“B-Buffy,” she said, “Are you all r-right?”
The smile never faltered as Buffy diverted her attention away from hanging weapons and turned to face her friend. “Right as rain, Tara,” she replied. “How are you doing?”
If Buffy noticed the confusion and disappointment that flashed across Tara’s eyes, she did not acknowledge it. Instead, the witch offered, “You can t-talk to me, B-Buffy.”
A pause. Brief, almost unnoticeable, but it was enough.
“I’m fine, Tara,” Buffy insisted, huffing out a small laugh. “There’s not much to talk about; things are pretty quiet around here.” She placed her hands on her hips. “And come to think of it, it’s really quiet in here, too. Where is everyone?”
Tara wringed her hands together in front of her body, betraying her nervousness. “They’re out patrolling,” she responded.
Buffy raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “Patrolling?”
“W-well,” the witch responded, “more like t-tracking. W-when the portal opened, some demons got loose, a-and they didn’t disappear when…it closed.”
It was fairly evident to both women that the phrase when Spike jumped in had been carefully omitted. Their eyes met briefly, and in Buffy’s was a gratitude that she would never speak. The wound was too new to mention in any sort of casual manner exactly what Spike had done. And in that moment, Tara knew, beyond her own understanding, that when the time came, Buffy would speak to her. But talking was best left for later, especially with the promise of hell demons stalking throughout Sunnydale.
“They went without me?” Buffy asked, somewhat incredulous. “But I’m the Slayer. Slaying is kind of my gig, you know?”
A smile touched briefly on Tara’s lips before she continued. “M-Maybe they thought you just needed a b-break,” she offered. When Buffy’s eyes darkened slightly – their tacit agreement suddenly at risk – the witch quickly added, “I-I mean, you just stopped an apocalypse yesterday.”
An uncomfortable moment, and suddenly Buffy turned back to the wall of weapons, unnecessarily fiddling with each, ensuring they were properly aligned. Remembering the forgotten weapons in the bag she’d brought, Buffy turned back around to grab the crossbow, pausing just long enough to run her fingers over it.
“Yeah,” she finally replied, and her voice was quiet. “Yeah, I suppose so.” She hung up the crossbow and stakes before recovering her bag, slinging it over her shoulder. Clearing her throat, she asked, “Did they say when they were going to be back?”
Tara shook her head. “I think before n-nightfall,” she replied. “You sh-should come back before then. I know they w-want to see you.”
Buffy nodded. “Yeah,” she agreed. “Yeah, I’ll do that.” Her quick smile to the witch was tight and forced, and she made her way quickly to the door of the training room. “Guess I’ll see you later, then.” And before Tara could even open her mouth to answer, Buffy had bolted out of the Magic Box and was halfway down the block.
The knock on her door was soft, the accompanying voice calling her name even more so. When Dawn ignored the request for entry, another knock sounded, this time more forceful and insistent. And her sister’s voice again, a little more stern than she would have thought.
“Come on, Dawnie,” Buffy said. “I’m the Slayer. It’s not like it would be hard for me to break down this door.”
Groaning, as though her movement was the greatest inconvenience in the entirety of human existence, Dawn rolled off of her bed and padded to the door, unlocking and opening it a crack, settling back onto her bed before Buffy had walked a step into the room.
Pulling the chair from her sister’s desk, Buffy sat, her elbows resting on her thighs and fingers laced together, hands hanging loosely between her parted knees. She drew a deep breath, sighed it out, and dove in, hoping that this time something could stick.
“Dawnie,” she began, her voice low, “I think we need to talk.”
“I don’t want to talk about Spike.”
She opened her mouth to respond, but something in the tone of Dawn’s voice lent her pause. A simple, barely-noticeable waver, a slight break on the vampire’s name. The contempt that had laced the teenager’s words only a day before was now replaced with nothing more than trepidation. And Buffy realized that her Watcher had been right; Dawn simply needed time.
Nodding, Buffy continued. “Dawn…we never really got to talk about what’s going to happen now that…mom’s gone,” she finished quietly. “I…after mom died--” The words stuck in her throat a little less every time she said them -- “Giles helped me file paperwork to become your legal guardian.”
The subject had never actually come up between the two sisters, but Dawn did not seem surprised. Instead, she simply nodded her acceptance. “So, you’ll be like my new mom?”
Buffy blinked in surprise before shaking her head. “I don’t want to be.” Before the teenager could retort, she continued, “I’m still your sister, Dawn, and that’s never going to change. But now…things are going to be a little different. And I know it’s going to be kind of weird.” Her lips quirked into a small smile. “I know you never really listened to me as a sister, but sometimes I really need you to listen to me as a mom. I want…I want us to stay together as a family, okay?”
Again, Dawn nodded, but still did not move from the bed. Instead, Buffy rose, placing the chair back at the desk. “I have to patrol tonight,” she said, “but Willow and Tara are coming over to stay with you.” On an impulse, she walked to her sister and ran a hand down the length of her hair. “Is that okay? Or would you rather go to Xander and Anya’s?”
Dawn shook her head in reply, sending Buffy’s hand back to her side. “It’s okay,” she said. Then, more hesitantly, “But…are you okay to patrol?”
Buffy grinned. “I’ve had a lot worse, Dawnie. I’ll be fine.”
A smile began to form on the teenager’s lips, but retreated just as quickly. At least it was a start. Buffy crossed to the door and opened it, pausing only when Dawn’s voice sounded quietly from the bed behind her.
“Buffy…I don’t hate him.”
Her eyes locked on the empty hallway in front of her, Buffy replied just as quietly, “I don’t either,” before leaving her sister’s bedroom, readying to change from the role of sister to that of Slayer.
Rolling her neck in an attempt to loosen the tightened muscles there, Buffy huffed out a sigh as she began to walk home. She hadn’t expected to find much in the way of Sunnydale’s fanged population, and her sweeps of the local cemeteries had therefore been brief and ceremonial. She had, however, managed to slay the demon her Watcher had been tracking throughout most of the day – but not before it had taken her on a sprint through the greater part of Sunnydale.
She hadn’t realized exactly how far across town she’d ended up until the pounding bassline of an unfamiliar song filled her ears, and Buffy raised her head to find that her walk back home had taken her by the Bronze.
The door had been left propped open, and she could see the teenagers of Sunnydale dancing inside, oblivious, as always, to any goings on in the outside world. Walking into the Bronze meant leaving everything at the door, dancing a catharsis under flashing lights and the ever-present smell of alcohol. She could see her smiling, laughing peers, and Buffy suddenly wanted to do nothing more than enter the club and dance the night away.
Taking a few steps towards the open doorway, she paused with a frown. Two things were stopping her from entering the club. First and foremost was Dawn. Her sister as a concept. She didn’t know when it had happened, precisely, but somewhere along the line, Buffy had acknowledged and accepted exactly what it meant to be the Slayer. The people dancing, blissfully ignorant of her nightly efforts to protect them, were becoming less and less her peers and more and more her wards. That she was now the sole guardian of her little sister left even less room for spontaneity. Dawn was expecting her home; she would not stray tonight.
The other, which she was less ready to admit, was that the Bronze held too many memories – too many shadows from her past. Angel still lurked in some dark corner of the club, always waiting for his moment to enter, while she could always find Riley near the bar, nursing a beer while playing a game of pool. And if she listened closely enough, she could hear Spike’s clapping echoing in the alleyway.
Shaking her head, Buffy picked up speed, walking past the Bronze and towards her house on Revello Drive. She forced her mind onto the mundane to keep her thoughts in strict control, running over the lyrics of pop songs she hadn’t heard in years, doing simple arithmetic, even playing an admittedly very easy game of I-Spy.
And they had worked, for the most part, until she’d reached her front porch. Once she reached her porch, she felt the dust of some nameless, forgotten vampire swirling around her, and Spike’s accompanying voice declaring lowly, He won’t get a chance to tattle on us now.
Trudging forward, her hands trembling slightly as she pulled out her key to unlock the door, Buffy pushed the door open and stepped over the threshold into the entryway, her lips parting to whisper in tandem with Spike’s echoing voice, “Presto. No barrier.”
She was broken from her reverie by Willow’s voice calling her name from the kitchen. Buffy locked the door and went to meet her friend, hoping that Spike would not follow her there, and wishing he would.
Dawn was asleep – she’d checked personally, cracking the door enough to poke her head inside the teenager’s room – and Willow and Tara had left minutes before, after reminding Buffy of their impending coffee date.
Pulling on her sushi pajamas, Buffy sighed as she sat on the bed, lost amidst her tangled thoughts and worries. Her talk with Dawn earlier in the evening had gone surprisingly well, better than she had originally hoped, yet the words she’d said had worried her. She’d asked Dawn to listen to her as a mother; and simply put, Buffy just was not ready to step into the role of mother figure for her little sister. She felt that at twenty years of age she was still a child herself.
She had no choice in the matter – Dawn was much too important – but she had help. She was quite sure of that. Giles, certainly, as well as the rest of the Scooby gang. Aside from their group of six, however, there was no one else to help with Dawn; especially worrisome was the knowledge that Buffy was in fact the only one strong enough to protect her sister from the worst that Sunnydale had to offer.
There had been another, but he had jumped to save a world that had not shown him his share of kindness. She could admit that now.
Buffy crossed her room to her closet and rummaged through the hangers, finding the leather duster draped in the back. Pulling it out, she clutched it tightly to her form and allowed Spike’s scent to surround her. For several minutes she stood, unmoving, fingers clinging into hard, worn leather,
She had tried, and she would certainly continue to do so. This morning she had tried her hardest to stay as normal as possible, as though Glory and her aftermath had never occurred; that the events of several days ago had been nothing more than a routine patrol. Tara had noticed instantly, and she hadn’t been around the others long enough to field their reactions.
She had tried, and would continue to do so, because Buffy didn’t know if she could do anything else. She felt strangely disjointed since their battle with Glory, and the only thing she could do was to pretend that everything was as it had always been – was normal – while clinging desperately to the hope that maybe someday they would be again.
Hanging up the duster, Buffy felt something inside begin to ache.
A/N: I wrote and posted a one-shot, entitled “Recalibration.” If you have a minute and are interested in S6 canon Spike and Buffy, then check it out.
Reviews inspire the muse and nourish the soul. If you are so inclined, please leave one.
The early weeks of September always wrought many changes in Sunnydale. The last of the summer tourists finally trickled out of town, while the rest of the locals bustled around trying to reclaim stolen beaches, or flocked to the shopping malls to take advantage of new fall inventory or last-minute back-to-school shopping. Unofficially, the early weeks of September also saw a return of activity from the resident demon population.
Buffy sighed and rolled her head as she shrugged her shoulders in an attempt to loosen muscles tightened by long days working at the Magic Box and even longer nights of patrolling. As she walked quietly through the graveyard, trusty stake in hand, she wasn’t entirely certain if the return to nightly patrols was a good thing or simply an annoyance added to her already-busy schedule.
Semi-frequent summer patrols meant she had a few nights a week of free time, often spent with her sister. But nightly, active patrols meant she had less time to think.
To make matters seemingly worse, she’d lost another member of her motley crew. Sometime in late August – the days seemed to blur together lately, and she was never entirely certain of a precise date anymore – her Watcher had sat her down on the couch in her living room and discussed the current state of affairs.
Buffy had to give him begrudging credit – Giles certainly had presented an ever-eloquent and infuriatingly-sensible argument. He had told her that, after being in touch numerous times with the Watchers Council centralized in England that he would be of better use across the pond, attempting to reorganize the structure and politics of the arcane group. He’d also said something about the possibility of potential slayers, but at that point in time, Buffy had effectively checked-out of the conversation.
Giles – her Watcher, the one who had stuck around – was leaving.
Just like Merrick. Dad. Angel. Riley. They’d all left.
Her mind would never include a certain peroxide vampire in her list while she still had something left.
The night Giles had informed her of his imminent departure was the first night Buffy had taken the beaten leather duster to her bed. Drawing it from the closet like a sacred object, Buffy had allowed herself to slip her arms through the sleeves, pulling the lapels of the too-long duster around her – a habit she’d begun to indulge a few weeks prior. However, Giles’ news had broken an unrealized thread somewhere within her being, and after allowing herself a weak moment, alone, surrounded by the trace of Spike she still had left, she’d slept with the duster draped over her blankets.
The following morning, she’d moved to hang the duster back up in her closet and noticed that his smell wasn’t as prominent as it once had been. She was losing Spike. He would desert her as well, leaving her with only an anonymous, worn and beaten leather duster.
Upon this realization, she finally crumbled and spoke to Tara of her musings and fears she’d developed since the passing of Glory, and admitted – in an entirely roundabout way – her suspicions that she loved the martyred vampire. Tara had simply smiled supportively and offered a friendly ear.
At the farewell party the small group had thrown for the departing Watcher, Giles had pulled his slayer aside in a final attempt to talk business that she had wanted to avoid. Ownership of the shop went primarily to the ex-vengeance demon, but Buffy retained a small amount. Giles had furthermore insisted that Anya add his salary to Buffy’s paycheck – a decree which earned her a glare from the ex-demon at every payday – adding that such actions would certainly keep the social workers away from Dawn, as long as Buffy held up her own responsibilities.
She had tried, and she knew she would always continue to do so. But she had recently begun to feel the strain. Which was why she was almost relieved when Sunnydale began to show signs of increasing lesser-demon activity; for the few hours that she patrolled in the role of Slayer, she didn’t have to think about the messy life-stuff awaiting her at home, or work. All she had to do was concentrate on saving the town. Simple.
As she walked back towards Revello Drive, Buffy wryly thought, not for the first time, that she should keep a slaying scoreboard somewhere in her room, allowing her to tally the number of her victories in comparison to Sunnydale’s resident evil. The few fledglings she’d taken down over the evening – that she’d held back on slaying immediately, simply so she could revel in the fight -- had provided just enough exercise and stress-relief that she had successfully been able to take her mind off of the looming responsibilities awaiting her upon her return home.
The only other thing that could provide such solace rested on a hanger in the back of her closet.
Locking the front door behind her, Buffy trudged up the staircase and into her room, throwing open the closet door and rustling around her clothing, pulling out the familiar duster. She held it tightly against her small frame and closed her eyes, feeling her muscles begin to relax at the mere anticipation of being surrounded by the calm that only this action seemed to provide.
She felt nothing.
Her eyes flying open in realization, Buffy pulled the duster directly under her nose and inhaled deeply. She smelled nothing other than laundry detergent and the floral of her shampoo. Leaning into the closet, she attempted to chase out his scent from there, to no avail.
As she held it between trembling fingers, she realized that the duster had never felt so cold.
Crying out in dismay, Buffy wadded the duster into a haphazard ball and threw it back into her closet before flying down the stairs and out the front door – barely sparing a thought to pull it shut behind her – before she began to sprint across town towards the only place she had left.
Despite the fact that she’d steadfastly avoided it since the battle with Glory, Buffy did not hesitate to burst through the door as though she’d been there only yesterday. She did pause at the steps as she realized that it was dark – none of the trustworthy candles had been lit. She fumbled around awkwardly in her pockets, knowing somewhere in the back of her mind that she had no matches – never carried them – but irrationality dictated that she check, regardless.
The moon poured a small amount of light through the door, but she had been in the small crypt enough to know the hazards to watch out for – she skimmed a palm over the top of the television, feeling her flesh pass through a thin layer of dust – as she headed for her goal: the trapdoor.
Crouching, and feeling around on the ground for the small chain, Buffy finally located it and pulled it with her as she stood before taking her time descending the ladder. Gone was the moonlight, and she found herself cast into pitch darkness as she leaned against the ladder, biting at her lower lip. However, she didn’t need light, and most of her was thankful that she did not have it.
The crypt felt empty. Abandoned. Cold and unwelcoming, as it had never been before. Spike was truly gone.
Somewhere in the recesses of her mind was a list of men which had all summer, until this point, eluded revision. On it, she added Spike, the name of the one who was supposed to have stayed.
As she felt the first tear – denied for so long – slide down her cheek, Buffy made no attempt to stop it.
A descent, and wide eyes and complete silence and scars, both visible and hidden beneath the surface. A hesitant touch, and nothing. The shattering of glass against stone and the faint aroma of a night devoted to drinking that had been halted before it began. Aimless wandering, white and lost, and fuzzy, static mind-noises fading back into melodic sense. Wood and brick splintering and crumbling in an explosion of dust. A warm catharsis of light and sound just out of reach of the dark and silence and cold. The smell of sweat and dueling leather and the feel of trickling blood sliding to land on cold concrete. Fear, and pain, and a firm and unwelcome knowledge of an altered – and unalterable – world. Filth, and fire and pain and tears and a warmth like nothing else had ever been.
He was born to never remember these things, these images of a future in the making, or perhaps a harbinger of worse times long past, though he would forever be burdened by the weight of them.
The night continued and slowly the streets of Sunnydale became quiet. The last of the late-night clubbers had gone home, and the forest’s nocturnal creatures readied to rest, sated after their evening’s activities. It was in this moment of silence that a brilliant light flashed in downtown Sunnydale.
The rickety tower groaned in complaint as it tried to hold up against the violent winds that trailed after the light, but the metal could not withstand such force and began to break and tumble to the ground, beam by beam, landing amidst the stone and brick and dust.
The silence returned, and for several moments there was nothing but the still of the late evening, before a hand pushed its way through the debris and flailed, trying to find solid purchase on the ground below. Once anchored, the hand was soon joined by another, and two arms, hoisting a pale and blonde body into the moonlight.
Silently, he surveyed his surroundings in confusion, running long fingers over one of the collapsed metal beams before staring up into the sky, as though expecting the tower to rematerialize, leaving him with something familiar. As it was, his mind was nothing more than a blurred fog, though he somehow inherently knew it would return in time.
For now, however, his hands wandered amidst the wreckage, searching for something he did not know. His fingers settled upon a tarp, and while he frowned, knowing somehow that it was not the desired object, he wrapped it around his naked form and carefully pushed himself to his feet. He swayed, and caught himself, and took a cautious step, pausing in assessment before taking another.
Left foot, then right. Walking. If nothing else, he could do this.
He shuffled through the fallen debris and padded onto the street, his eyes flickering around at every streetlamp, his body tensing with every sporadic sound of a city settling in on itself. Drawing the tarp more tightly around his body, he dared to quicken his pace, his feet headed for a destination his mind did not know.
His nose soon picked up the sharp aroma of iron, and he felt the muscles of his face move. Everything in front of him blurred slightly before sharpening, clearer than anything he’d ever seen. Raising one hand to his eyes, he skated his touch over his brow, disconcerted by the ridges he found there. His exploration continued down his nose to trace the length of his lips before pricking his finger on an elongated tooth. In his mind’s eye, he could see the red welling up from the tiny injury, and he swallowed convulsively in an attempt to wet his throat while waiting for the blood to flow. Instead, he watched as the wound quickly healed itself over.
Shaking his head and continuing to push forward, he felt the muscles of his face relax, though he felt oddly familiar churnings of hunger pangs deep within his stomach.
He kept walking, for a seeming eternity, blue eyes taking in all of his surroundings but processing nothing. The place was known to him, yet he hadn’t the slightest idea where he was. There had been light, and an impending tempest; he knew that much. And, closing his eyes, he could remember a woman, faceless, with long, flowing, colorless hair. Yes, there had been a woman, he was sure of that, but she had not awoken with him.
His brow furrowed as he tried desperately to regain himself as he walked, yet he was presented with nothing more. He would not find out tonight, and he resigned himself to the path his feet had set for him.
His wanderings brought him to a house he knew, yet could not remember, and the uncertainty and apprehension which had coiled in his stomach began to loosen as he caught sight of it. Frowning at the closed door, he looked around before settling on a large tree next to the house. Abandoning the tarp, he scaled the tree and slipped into the unlocked window that greeted him at the top.
The room was strange, but the scent was familiar, and there was still a light on next to the bed he found. There was an open closet next to him, and his nose picked up on a barely-there trace of blood. Reaching into the closet, he came back with a bundle of black leather, which he slipped into without so much as a question.
Exhaustion flowed over him in heavy waves, and he stumbled back into the corner opposite the bed, sliding down the wall and wrapping his arms around his drawn-in legs. He rested his head on his forearms and allowed his eyes to slip shut.
Completely lost, yet somehow knowing he was safe, Spike allowed himself to sleep.
A/N: ::grin:: As if there was any doubt? I actually really like the way it turned out here. I’m sorry to bombard you all with back-story these past two chapters, but the stage needed to be set so we could get to this point.
And before anyone asks…it’s not amnesia. I’m not that horrid. Just…remember what Buffy was like when she first came back.
::bounces with excitement:: Someone made a banner for Chirality! To be more specific, Mandi made this beautiful and awesome banner! I will envy her Photoshop skills until the end of days, I really will. ::hugs:: Thank you so much!
Reviews inspire the muse and nourish the soul. And I really love them. If you are so inclined, please leave one!
Buffy crossed her arms over her chest as she walked slowly back towards Revello Drive, her head lowered, eyes staring at every shuffle of her feet, penetrating through the sidewalk as though the answer to everything lay beneath the concrete.
Although the days were still warm, evenings in September often brought colder nights, and Buffy felt the chill most sharply on the dried tear tracks that had skated down her cheeks. At the crypt, and after she’d left it, she’d never bothered to wipe away the evidence of her mourning; and though her tears had long since dried, her hands still did not raise in attempt to restore her face to some sort of normalcy.
It wasn’t fair. Buffy actually huffed a pained laugh at the thought; fair was nowhere near the sentiment she wanted. Fair had nothing to do with it. Spike’s complete abandonment – his body, his scent – it wasn’t right. She was used to the men who loved her leaving, but Spike was supposed to be different. He had more than proven that when he loved, he stayed. Over a century of living with Drusilla had shown her that, but it was the two years he’d stayed with her in Sunnydale after he’d gotten the chip – much to her annoyance and, later, relief – which had solidified her belief. It did not make sense that Spike was gone.
She didn’t want to believe it. Since the night of the battle, Buffy had kept a closely-guarded spark of hope buried deep inside of her that Spike – in all his rebellious, anti-authoritative glory – would have found a way back. She knew him, now, knew that he would have fought tooth and nail to be resurrected. If there was any way back into the world, she knew that Spike would have found it.
As long as she had some small part of him to cling onto, Buffy had allowed that hope to live. But the jacket of a dead slayer was not enough. Not without his scent clinging onto the lapels, reminding her that he had until recently filled the jacket.
Buffy kicked idly at a fallen leaf on the sidewalk and sniffed, looking up to find that while she had been lost in her own world, she’d made the entire walk back home. Which was just as well; she wasn’t entirely sure what time it was, or exactly how long she’d spent cloaked in the darkness of what had once been Spike’s crypt, but years spent tracking demons under cover of night had allowed Buffy to fine-tune her admittedly already-primitive internal clock, and she knew that it was nearing dawn.
She stopped halfway up the path to the front door when something caught her eye – a large lump at the base of the tree outside her window. Buffy walked through the grass and crouched to pick up the object, running it through her fingers, feeling the rough texture. A tarp? Where on earth…?
Buffy shot to her feet and dashed into her house, locking the door behind her – and somewhere in the back of her mind chastising herself for not having locked the door before she ran to the graveyard. Her slayer-senses were tingling, but she felt no danger. In fact, the sensation was achingly familiar, though her mind couldn’t quite place it.
Still, a foreign slayer-tingle had never truly been of the good, and Buffy was on full alert as she silently made her way up the stairs, wishing in retrospect that she had a stake tucked away somewhere on her person. Maybe she was getting sloppy.
When she reached the landing, she realized that whatever this presence was had camped out in her room. She furrowed her brow in thought as her hand reached for the doorknob, turning it slowly so as not to make a sound. Whatever this thing was, she wanted to have the upper hand in the situation, and years of experience had taught her that the element of surprise was an invaluable tool.
Buffy pushed the door open with her toe, wincing at the slight creak it made in protest, and slipped into the room. The lamp on her bedside table was still on, as she’d left it, and her first diagnostic sweep of the room revealed nothing. Tentatively, she took a few steps in, and a black lump cornered near her closet caught her eye, and she turned her body and attention towards it.
A black lump, and a shock of platinum, huddled at the wall. And suddenly, she remembered the nature of this specific feeling. What alerted her slayer-senses enough to inform her that the presence wasn’t human – vampire, she realized, now that she was closer -- but not enough to warrant a threat.
No, her mind protested, outraged. This can’t be. I’m losing it.
Trembling, she slowly crossed the room and kneeled down next to the figure, ducking her head to try to catch a glimpse of the sleeping profile. As she moved closer, she breathed in a heartbreakingly familiar scent, one she knew more intimately than she cared to admit to anyone around her.
She shook her head in a desperate attempt to disperse any fantasies, and awkwardly rose back to her feet. She’d been hurt enough. Whoever this vampire was, wrapped in a black leather duster, it wasn’t Spike. Spike had jumped into a raging portal months ago, and had died saving the world.
But she still didn’t feel this vampire to be a threat. And he still smelled of Spike.
The vampire before her stirred, and she suddenly found her gaze locked with a pair of blue eyes laced with confusion. The vampire hesitantly pushed himself to his feet, his eyes never leaving hers, and he pulled the duster close around himself, as much of a protective measure as an attempt to cover his nudity.
They stood, in a frozen moment, his eyes begging desperately for recognition, for acknowledgement, for something. Buffy simply stared, and in a moment she knew, with a clarity that defied explanation, that the vampire in front of her was the genuine article.
Her lips parted and her voice was quiet and rough, but she managed to utter his name. “Spike?”
Buffy watched as the uncertainty swimming in his eyes lifted, and understanding settled in. And she found herself on the receiving end of a look that had become so familiar – such an ingrained part of how she defined Spike – a look of adoration that she didn’t realize exactly how much she’d missed until she’d seen it again.
With a soft cry, Buffy threw herself into the vampire’s arms, unnoticing of the duster which fell back open as his arms rose to awkwardly embrace her. She could feel tears pricking at the back of her eyes and she immediately clamped down on the urge to release them; she had already cried once for Spike, and she did not want to do it again.
Not now that he was back.
Pulling back enough to stare into his eyes again, Buffy smiled, despite herself, and though she made no move to leave his embrace, asked, “Are you hungry? Or…did you want to get cleaned up?” She raised a hand to swipe at a trace of dirt she hadn’t before noticed that marked his cheek. Suddenly feeling a bit awkward, she tried, “I’m sure you want to get…dressed.”
She had expected a leer. Perhaps an eyebrow raised in suggestion. Instead, she was presented with troubled eyes and a grimace, as he released her and pulled the duster around himself again. Buffy’s mouth parted, closed, parted again as she struggled to find the words.
“Why don’t you take a shower,” she managed, motioning absentmindedly towards her bedroom door, “and I’ll go downstairs and fix you something to eat.” Suddenly uncomfortable under his gaze, she passed him to dig through her closet. “I don’t really have any guy’s clothes here, but I think I have a pair of sweatpants that might fit you.” Rummaging around, she finally pulled a pair of sweats out, offering them to him. “It’s…it’s not much,” she said, “but tomorrow I’ll go out and find you some clothes.”
If you’re still here, she thought. If I haven’t completely lost my mind, and you’re not just a figment of my imagination.
She all but pushed Spike, sweats still clenched between his fingers, towards the bathroom. “Dawn’s not here,” she said, “so you don’t have to worry about waking her up.” Realizing the context of the last time the vampire had seen her younger sister, Buffy quickly added, “She’s over at Janice’s for the night. She’s not…um…you know.” Again, she felt awkward around him, something she had never felt, even in the immediate aftermath of Willow’s spell.
She tried not to notice that he still hadn’t said a single word to her.
“So...I’m going to go downstairs and see if I can’t fix you some blood,” she said, suddenly desperate to have some space from him, when for so long space had been the last thing she’d wanted. “And…you come down when you’re…ready.”
Buffy darted down the stairs, trying to ignore the fact that the awkward feeling did not disperse with distance.
Spike let the hot water sluice down his back as he hung his head down in fatigue, bracing one palm on the shower wall in front of him. He watched as dust and dirt dripped into the tub basin, mix with clean water and fall down the drain.
He had awoken confused and lost, and seeing Buffy had brought him back to himself. His memories had come rushing back, and he could define himself once more, at least for the most part. He knew, though he wasn’t quite sure how, that something about him was irrevocably different, that he’d come back wrong.
His brow furrowed, and Spike scrubbed his free hand over his face.
He’d come back.
Logically, it made no sense. He’d jumped to save Dawn, to save Buffy, to save the world, and it had worked – he died knowing he’d succeeded at his aim. And after being rendered to dust in the tempest of the protesting portal, there had been nothing. No dimension – hell or otherwise – that he’d been able to discern; there’d simply been nothing. Like floating. He’d jumped to his death and had woken again underneath the rubble, clawing his way to the top.
Shaking his head to dismiss the memory, as well as the inevitable headache that resulted from too much thinking, Spike straightened and reached blindly for whatever shampoo he could find, uncaring at the moment whether he smelled particularly girly or not. It was as he massaged the suds into his scalp that the possible reason to his disorientation occurred to him.
He wasn’t entirely sure he was still in possession of the Initiative’s chip.
That he had woken up naked – and had later found his duster on the floor of Buffy’s closet – provided at least some indication that his possessions had not died with him; did the same rule apply to the chip the military had hardwired into his brain? When he’d died, had all man-made possessions fallen helplessly to the concrete below?
Was he now free to wreak havoc once again, no longer inhibited by a silicon conscience?
Buffy bustled around the kitchen needlessly, searching every cabinet she could find for blood she knew she didn’t have. Her actions were irrational, and she certainly knew it – she’d never kept blood at home even when Spike had been around – but she had no other outlet for her nervous energy.
The sound of the shower running upstairs had done little to satisfy her nerves; either her hallucination ran much more deeply than she’d originally thought, or Spike really was back. Pulling a mug from one of the cupboards, Buffy paused and chuckled, shaking her head, feeling her nerves begin to calm.
She wasn’t crazy. Spike was back. Hallucinations didn’t tend to be solid when they held her.
Accepting that Spike had truly returned broke the levee of a thousand unanswered questions that had arisen since the day she’d awoken in the hospital just after the battle. She clamped down on them as best she could, sensing that she had time now, time she’d not been afforded after their final confrontation with Glory. She would let Spike speak for himself – if he spoke to her at all.
Buffy poked through one of the drawers by the sink in search of a knife – as she had none at hand, Spike would receive her own blood. She was fairly certain that the chip would be set off if he drank from her directly – no matter how freely she gave her permission – so she would have to let it drip into the mug.
Sitting in one of the chairs surrounding the island, Buffy slid the knife across the inside of her forearm, watching the blood trickle down into the empty mug, and let her mind wander. It amazed her that at this point a year ago she would have balked at the idea of giving Spike her blood – directly from the source or by means of a self-inflicted wound. There was a trust that was required for such actions, and a year ago, Spike simply did not have it. She wasn’t entirely sure that he’d completely had it in the few weeks before the battle when they had both tacitly acknowledged that their mutual rapport had been changing to something new. A year ago, she would have let him go hungry until she had the chance to pick up some pig’s blood. And now she was sitting in her kitchen, watching blood spill from her arm into the slowly-filling mug, marveling at what changes had to have been wrought between them – and in her – to allow her to do such a thing.
Maybe it’s that whole love thing, her mind said, sardonically.
Buffy bit her lip at the thought, and pressed the knife a bit deeper into her flesh, encouraging the blood to flow. She had suspected it earlier in the summer, had all but admitted it during her conversations with Tara, but at this moment, sitting in her kitchen just before dawn, she knew. She knew she loved him, and now that he was back, he needed to know.
She needed to tell him, and the prospect frightened her. Spike had died loving her, but did he still?
The sound of the shower upstairs being turned off dragged her back to herself. Spike was coming downstairs, and she didn’t want him to see her with a knife to her flesh. She knew that he could tell the difference between pig’s blood and human blood – and the difference between human blood and slayer’s blood – but she wanted him to get at least one good swallow before he rejected her outright. If he came into the room and saw her bleeding into the mug, she was fairly certain he would refuse her.
She cleaned up quickly, washing off the knife blade before sticking it into the dishwasher, and tugging her shirt sleeve down over already-healing flesh. She would simply have to be careful. The mug sat, unattended, in the middle of the island. For her part, Buffy leaned against the sink in desperate nonchalance as Spike entered the kitchen, hair wet and clothed in barely-fitting sweatpants that were too big on her.
She smiled awkwardly as he padded across the floor, sitting in at the seat she had occupied not moments before. He did not move to take the mug; rather, his troubled eyes locked onto hers, and his mouth opened and closed in frustration. He wanted to speak, but he didn’t know how to phrase his thoughts.
It’s a start, she thought, shifting. Earlier he didn’t try to speak at all.
Buffy gestured to the half-full mug on the island, saying needlessly, “That’s all the blood I had. I hope it’s...enough. I’ll go out tomorrow and get some more when I get your clothes.” She fidgeted when he didn’t move, and gestured again. “There it is. So…drink up. It’s yummy.”
Spike’s mouth opened in a sigh, and when his voice emerged, it was the sweetest thing she’d heard since as long as she could remember, despite the fact that it was rough from disuse and she had to strain to hear his words.
“Buffy,” he said, “why am I back?”
A/N: Thank you to everyone who has kept up with my little story. I do so love the reviews you leave (and they really do help the muse!); if you’re so inclined, please leave one!
They sat in silence in their respective places, eyes locked, for what seemed to Buffy a heart-wrenching eternity. She finally regained control of her senses – and her voice – and managed to respond to his question with one of her own.
She flinched at the stupidity of her response, but the vampire had thrown her. She had not expected his question, and to be perfectly honest, she had assumed that his return had been by his own actions.
For his part, Spike sighed and looked away from her, staring at – or through – the coffee mug sitting before him. “I died,” he said, and his voice was low and cold. “I died, an’ that was supposed to be it. An’ the next thing I know, I’m wakin’ up under the wreck of that Glory bint’s tower an’ walkin’ over here.” His index finger jutted away from his body to push on the handle of the coffee mug, turning it in place ever so slightly. “I thought maybe Red did some sorta hocus pocus or somethin’.”
Buffy bit at her bottom lip. “I’m sorry, Spike,” she finally managed hesitantly. “I didn’t…I didn’t think about something like that. A resurrection spell, I mean. I didn’t…I didn’t ask Willow to do anything like that.” A pause, then, “And she didn’t mention anything like that, either.”
There were words between them, unspoken, but both heard them clearly. And she wouldn’t have looked into it on her own anyway. Not for him. Not Spike.
“I thought,” she continued awkwardly, “…I thought that you had something to do with it. With coming back. Like maybe you…fought your way back?” She shifted uncomfortably. “I guess I haven’t really thought it out. You’re just…you’re back. That’s all I know.”
Spike huffed out an ironic laugh, and curled his fingers around the handle of the mug. “Yeh,” he said, “I guess I’m back. Came back wrong, but I guess I’m mostly here.”
Buffy’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Wrong?”
He lifted the mug and let the blood inside swirl in circles before putting it back onto the table, reclaiming his fingers from their place around the handle. The tone of his voice became noticeably less cold, now laced with uncertainty. It frightened her; in the years that she had known him, Buffy had never known Spike to sound uncertain.
“You should know somethin’, Slayer,” he said quietly. “I don’ think that chip came back with me.” When she didn’t answer immediately – when he didn’t find himself on the business end of her stake – he continued quickly, “I mean, my duster an’ my kit didn’t come with me when I jumped, an’ I’m not rightly sure that chip did, either. Can’t say I’m torn up ‘bout it, ‘cause I’m not, but it doesn’t mean I’m gonna go tearin’ up the streets of Sunnyhell. Find I don’ particularly want to.”
He seemed to have run out of words, and they both sat in silence for the second time that evening. Finally, not entirely sure what she was going to say, but knowing she had to say something, Buffy spoke.
“Spike,” she started, “it doesn’t matter if you don’t have your chip anymore.”
The words were meant to placate, to assure him that she wasn’t about to stake him – not when he’d come back – but as soon as they’d left her mouth, Buffy was surprised to realize that they were the absolute truth. For so long she’d used the chip as a convenient explanation for the vampire’s behavior, steadfastly refusing to acknowledge that perhaps he’d actually changed rather than simply adapting to his new situation. His death had afforded her the time, distance, and maturity she’d needed to look at the matter objectively and admit that Spike was simply not the same vampire she’d known years ago. He had changed his behavior, begging for her to notice, and she finally had, accepting him with open arms.
Elated at her realization, she pushed away from her perch at the sink and walked the few steps forward to face him on the other side of the island.
“Look at me,” she said softly, and continued when his wary eyes finally met hers. “Before the battle, I told you that we – that I – was going to start having faith in you. To start trusting you.” At his hesitant nod, she added, “I think that…well, I think that this falls under the category of ‘faith.’ I know you’ve changed, Spike, and I don’t think all of that had to do with the chip. And I think you’ve changed enough that you won’t do that kind of stuff anymore.” A smile tugged at her lips, and she said, “I’m not about to stake you, so all I can do is trust that you’re not going to go out and make a smorgasbord out of the people of Sunnydale.”
Spike’s eyes widened as he accepted the truth behind her words, and Buffy placed her hand on top of his, trying to ignore the warm flush that crept up her neck as she added, “So I wouldn’t call your sudden lack of chip coming back wrong. I’d just say that you came back Spike.”
He held her eyes a moment longer before dropping his gaze to their hands and slowly turning his under hers, his sight locked on the two of them resting palm to palm.
“Don’t think that’s what’s wrong,” he said, and the tone of his voice had gone from uncertainty to exhaustion. “Jus’ thought you needed to know.” His fingers twitched under hers in an accidental caress too deliberate to be anything but. “I don’t rightly know what’s wrong,” he continued, “but I know somethin’s not right.” He shook his head in frustration at his lack of words. “Don’t know how to explain it. I jus’…I jus’ feel it.”
Buffy nodded, unaware of her index finger running soothingly across his wrist as she contemplated his words. The motions stopped when she began to speak. “Maybe we could have Willow do a spell?” When he looked up at her with a grimace, she added, “I mean, some sort of…diagnosing spell? Go in there and see what’s wrong, try and fix it…like she did with me?”
“I dunno, Buffy,” he replied. “Don’t much care for magic an’ the like. Always consequences.”
Biting at her lip, Buffy tried another tactic. “Could you at least talk to her about it? She’s done it before, and it worked out fine.” Removing her hand from the top of Spike’s, she twirled in a small circle in front of him, grinning. “I’m living proof.” Nodding decisively, she added, “I know she can help you, Spike. I promise she’s not going to screw it up. She’s really good, you know.”
Seeing her beatific and hopeful face, Spike couldn’t help but feel his lips tug into a smile, and he shook his head in defeat. “All right,” he conceded, “give Red a call an’ we’ll see how much of a mistake I’ve jus’ made.”
Buffy shook her head in turn, but the smile didn’t fade from her lips. “It’s way too early,” she replied, and after a moment her lips tugged into a contemplative frown. “Or late,” she amended, before shrugging. “One of the two. She’s still in bed, and I don’t really want to deal with grumpy and tired Willow. Probably not good for the whole magic thing, either. And besides,” she added pointedly, “you still haven’t had your dinner. Or...breakfast. Or whatever you want to call it.”
And just like that, their easy camaraderie was broken, and Buffy felt awkward around him again. For some reason, she found she couldn’t be in the same room with the vampire while he drank from a mug half-full of her blood.
“So,” she managed, already walking away from him and towards the door, “you just go ahead and have your…whatever meal it is, and I’m going to go close the curtains in the living room. So you don’t go all dusty.” She slipped out of the kitchen before he could say anything in protest.
Spike watched in confusion as Buffy hurried out of the kitchen. He hadn’t the slightest idea what had transpired in the past few minutes that would have changed her behavior so dramatically. In the span of little time at all, she had gone from laid back – and touching him; that certainly had not gone unnoticed – to nervous and fidgety.
And she was nervous. Spike knew it wasn’t because he’d told her that the chip was no longer hardwired into his brain – there had been no doubt in his mind that she would have staked him on the spot if she’d thought he would be a danger to her or anyone else around her. And it wasn’t because of his unannounced – and unexpected – return; she had seen genuinely happy that he was back, which was in and of itself a surprise to him. No, there was something else bothering her, and he wanted to know what.
His stomach rumbled in a reminder that it had not been fed since he’d woken up beneath the rubble, and Spike picked up the mug, mocking a salute towards the sky before tilting his head back and letting the blood flow down his throat in one large gulp.
And he knew why Buffy had suddenly been so nervous around him.
Eyes wide in a combination of fury and awe, Spike dropped the mug back onto the island, pushing himself out of his chair and storming into the adjacent living room, eyes searching for Buffy and finding her pulling away from one of the windows, having just closed the last set of curtains.
Her gaze found his and she tilted her head in inquiry as he rushed towards her. “Spike?”
An arm shot out to grab hers, pushing the sleeve up and encountering nothing but smooth, unmarred flesh. Undeterred, Spike grabbed her other arm and repeated the action, finding the almost-healed scar she’d inflicted on the underside of her forearm earlier that night. He stared at it for several long seconds, transfixed, before running his thumb over the scar’s length in a light and hesitant touch.
“Tell me why, Buffy,” he demanded, his voice strong and insistent. “Why did you do this?”
Buffy squirmed, but made no move to free her arm from his grasp. “I didn’t have any blood in the house,” she replied lamely, hoping he would accept her answer, and knowing he wouldn’t.
“I could’ve waited,” he replied, his gaze finding hers and locking. “You didn’t need to do this…why did you do it?”
Buffy drew a breath, realizing that Spike had inadvertently given her an in. She could confess the love that had been screaming to be verbalized since its actualization earlier that evening. The situation was not how she imagined – she had wanted him to say the words to her again, and she would respond in kind – but Buffy could settle, and improvise.
“Because,” she replied, “I--” Love you. Want you. Need you. “–thought you deserved it.” She flinched at her cowardice, and the action did not go unnoticed by the vampire still holding onto her arm. Quickly backpedaling to explain, she added, “Spike, you…died. For Dawn. For me. To stop an apocalypse, although I don’t really think you’re going to ‘fess up to that one. And now you’re back, and you were…you were so strange upstairs, and you think there’s something wrong with you now, and maybe I thought my blood could help.” A pause, then, “It’s the least I can do. I just…well, not like it’s a huge thing anymore, but I kinda thought that your chip wouldn’t…y’know, let you bite me. But now that you’re all without the chip…” She faltered, and shrugged nervously.
“Don’t like it when you get hurt,” Spike murmured quietly, releasing her arm and letting it fall back to her side. “But I…thanks,” he managed awkwardly.
The two stood in an uncomfortable silence before Buffy ventured, “The sun’s up, and I have some errands and stuff to do…I’m sure you’re tired, right?”
Spike ran a hand across the back of his neck and let it drop back down. “Could use a kip, actually,” he confessed. “Don’ suppose you’d let me use that couch of yours. Promise not to mess it up.”
Buffy contemplated, and shook her head. “Not going to put you on a couch,” she responded firmly, pushing him towards the stairs. “Go upstairs and…use my room.”
Spike spun around quickly, causing her to start in alarm. Awe and confusion warred in his eyes and he said, “Couch is good enough for me, pet.”
Buffy nearly fainted. Pet. Pet. Never thought I’d be so happy to hear him call me that again. Shaking off the swoonage – and forcing herself back into serious-mode – she replied, “Spike, you’ve just come back. The only sleep you’ve gotten was sitting against my wall, which can’t be comfortable…and forgive me if maybe I want to make sure you’re comfortable your first night back.” The confession splashed red across her neck – and thankfully didn’t reach her cheeks – but she prayed that he would not notice, regardless. She pushed him towards the stairs again, this time more insistently. “Go. It’s okay, really. It’s not like I’m using it…errands, remember?”
He tilted a finger under her chin to make sure she looked at him, and asked, “You’re sure?”
She nodded – an awkward movement with his finger still under her chin – and she saw his answering acceptance in his eyes. Spike pulled back from her and began to walk up the stairs; Buffy’s voice stopped him as he reached the landing.
He turned to face her across the valley of stairs.
Buffy’s voice became quieter, almost embarrassed. “I…I don’t know what it was like…where you were,” she said, “but for what it’s worth…I’m really glad you’re back. I…I missed you.”
Shock dueled with astonishment in his eyes, and Spike simply stood in the hallway, stunned. Finally, he pulled back to himself and replied, “Missed you too, pet.”
A/N: I got this chapter written REALLY quickly. I’m still not entirely sure how. More plot coming up in the next chapter, involving Willow and her diagnostic spell.
Reviews? Love them, and they inspire the muse. If you are so inclined, please leave one!
Willow sighed as she hung up the phone resting on the hall table and leaned against the wall, staring at her feet, her eyes narrowed in thought.
Buffy’s phone call had been entirely unexpected, given that it was just shy of eight in the morning; unless there was an apocalypse looming overhead, Buffy had always made it a point never to call before ten. Buffy’s excited voice had been too quick for her to make out any words, and Willow had barely been able to interject with a “hang on a second,” to allow her to punch the hold button and slip out of bed into the hallway, wanting Tara to still get a few hours of sleep.
The phone conversation in the hallway had been brief but unnerving. Spike had returned to Sunnydale. Spike, who was supposed to be very much with the dead and gone, had come back, and was currently residing in the Summers’ home. Spike was back, and apparently he’d come back wrong.
She’d done the spell before, of course; she hadn’t forgotten her foray into Buffy’s mind some months before. The theory was the same – and so was the practice – but Willow held a bit of apprehension at the thought of actually performing the spell. According to Buffy, Spike was far from the catatonic state that Buffy had been in when she’d first performed the spell; Spike could consciously choose to harm her while she was in his mind.
Pausing in thought, Willow shook her head with a huff of disbelief. Knee-jerk reaction. It wasn’t going to happen. If Buffy had thought for an instant that Spike would do something like that, she wouldn’t have suggested the spell. And even if Spike had somehow convinced Buffy otherwise, there was still the chip. That could still count for something if she wasn’t actually in her body. And somehow, Willow had known this, for before she’d hung up the phone she’d told Buffy to bring Spike to the Magic Box after it had closed so that she could perform the spell.
And leaning against the wall in the hallway of the apartment she shared with Tara, Willow’s mind raced with the possibility of other spells.
It hadn’t occurred to her that the dead – even the undead – could be raised. Years of knowing Buffy had proven to Willow that her world view needed to be shifted to live in the shades of gray, but her view on death had consistently stayed in the realm of black and white. A person died, or a vampire dusted, and that was simply it. There was no coming back.
Willow blinked and pursed her lips momentarily as a distant memory prodded at her mind. Angel. Angel had been an exception; Buffy had sent him to hell, and he’d come back. They had always written Angel off as the exception to the rule – the Powers That Be had some sort of plans for him, and had restored him after his death.
Willow shifted in place. It obviously hadn’t occurred to Buffy that the Powers might have had plans for Spike as well, but it seemed to her that the idea held little merit. Angel was a cursed vampire on the path of redemption, and Spike was just…Spike.
So she hadn’t thought of the idea of raising Spike after he’d jumped. But it annoyed her in retrospect that she hadn’t at least considered the idea. She had scores of magic books at her disposal, and probably could have found a spell if she’d only known to look. Perhaps they would have been in the more complex spell books she’d seen shelved in some dusty corner of the Magic Box, but she might have found them eventually. And despite the fact that she had no idea exactly how much power one would have to possess in order to raise the dead – maybe even more so to raise the undead – she knew undeniably that she would have been able to pull it off. And the idea excited her.
She was surprised by the sudden realization that she was angry at the Powers. Not for bringing Spike back, but for not giving her the chance to do it herself.
She hadn’t felt her magic power surge in months, and she was beginning to feel antsy that she wasn’t progressing as she thought she should. Resurrecting a vampire would have achieved that aspiration nicely.
Pushing away from the wall, Willow walked down the hallway and slid back into bed, pulling Tara into her arms and pressing a light kiss to her forehead, knowing that she would not find sleep again this morning, but trying regardless.
Sunlight poured through the open door as Buffy simply stood, gazing at the sight of the undisturbed upper level of the crypt.
Well, she thought wryly, stepping through the door, for the most part. Her eyes fell on the path her fingers had traced through the dust that had collected on top of the television – had it really only been last night?
Buffy was somewhat amazed at the changes the mere passing of a night could produce. Mere hours ago, she’d sat in the lower level, crying for a man she’d thought lost to her, in a crypt that had felt harsh and unwelcoming, abandoned. Those feelings had fled from the sunlight, and the crypt felt like it could be inviting once again, once surfaces were cleaned and candles were lit. There was hope here, and she hadn’t realized just how long it had been missing.
Buffy shifted the strap of the empty duffel off of her shoulder and let the bag fall to the ground, reaching around in her pockets for the lighter she’d bought earlier that morning. As she looked around for a suitably large candle to light, Buffy allowed her mind to wander over the events of the morning.
She’d stayed away longer than she’d needed to. All she’d planned on doing was to run to the butcher to load up on blood for her vampire houseguest, but she’d been waylaid by the supermarket next to the butcher, and had bought half a cart of unnecessary food; impulse buys to help dissuade the underlying nervousness that pervaded every last one of her actions.
As a last minute scramble for normalcy – relatively speaking – she’d awkwardly asked the clerk for a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, pointing towards the familiar box of Spike’s brand. The girl had raised an eyebrow and looked her over before shrugging and pulling the box down from the shelf before grabbing a lighter from the small display at the side of the register and adding both to the tab. The pack of cigarettes had found a home in Buffy’s left jeans pocket; the lighter in her right.
Buffy had returned back to Revello Drive loaded with unnecessary groceries – and if she’d ventured to look at what she’d actually purchased, she would not have been surprised to find a vast array of junk food – and more than enough blood to get Spike through the week. The blood had gone directly into the fridge; the bags of groceries had found a temporary home on the counter before Buffy crept upstairs and into her room.
Her purpose had started out innocently enough – she needed a bag for the clothes she was going to retrieve from the crypt. That mission had altered, slightly, when her eyes fell upon Spike sprawled across the mattress, sheets riding low on his hips, one arm flung over the side of the bed, loosing needless deep breaths every now and again. Buffy leaned against the doorframe, watching him sleep, a part of her amazed at just how tired he must have been given that her presence had yet to wake him – she’d always known Spike’s senses to be top-notch.
Maybe I just don’t register as a threat.
The thought thrilled her; aside from a few touches downstairs, Spike had yet to actually confirm that he’d come back from wherever he’d been still in love with her. That she didn’t know for sure that he would reciprocate in kind made her extremely wary to tell him of her own feelings – but at this moment, seeing him spread out across her bed like he’d always been there, Buffy tapped into some previously unknown fount of courage deep inside of her, and found that she could – and would – tell him.
Tonight, she decided, creeping across to her closet for the small duffel bag she kept there. Before Willow casts her diagnostic spell. I’ll tell him tonight.
She hadn’t been able to resist running a feather-light touch across his cheek before leaving her room, nor had she been able to stop herself from tucking an errant curl away from his face.
As she’d walked out of the house into the bright sunlight and headed towards Spike’s crypt, she had been washed over with a relieved feeling – as though a weight had been lifted, but no words had actually been said. This was right, she’d realized. Telling him sooner, rather than later, and for some unknown reason to her it was important that he knew as soon as possible.
Buffy shifted her thumb off of the lighter and tucked it back into her pocket, picking up the large pillar candle from its dusty ledge and grasping it carefully in one hand, walking back across the crypt to the abandoned duffel bag and hooking her fingers under the carrying straps. She crossed to the open trapdoor – she hadn’t realized she’d left it open the night before in her haste to leave the cold and desolate crypt – and dropped the empty bag to the ground below, somehow managing to climb carefully down the ladder with only one free hand.
She did not know the layout of the lower level of Spike’s crypt as well as she knew the top portion – she hadn’t particularly cared to learn the lay of the land the only time she’d been down here, chained up by a love-struck and ranting Spike – and the first several minutes was spent walking around aimlessly, lighting candles as she stumbled upon them. Should have brought a flashlight, she chided herself, but continued to light candles, regardless.
By the time she’d decided that she’d lit enough candles – and was surprised to find even more that she’d passed by – a low light had been cast on the entirety of the area, and she was able to walk around and pluck up the clothes that had been scattered around the room. She was surprised to find that the entirety of Spike’s wardrobe – from what she could discern – fit into the small duffel she’d brought with her. Three pairs of jeans and a small assortment of shirts, as well as a spare pair of boots she’d found shoved underneath the bed. It would simply have to do.
Shirtless is a good option, too, her mind supplied, and Buffy forced herself to forget about the half-clothed vampire currently laying in her bed. There would be time enough for that later, after she’d confessed her feelings and after Willow had cast her spell. Fantasies could merge into reality, and that suited her just fine. It wasn’t long until dark, and she could wait.
Buffy blew out the candles in the lower level of the crypt, cloaking it in darkness before she hefted the duffel back over her shoulder and climbed up the ladder, intent on going home and keeping herself busy in the vain hope of keeping the image of the sleeping vampire out of her mind.
They walked together in the early evening, side-by-side, quietly but not entirely uncomfortably. Buffy found herself wringing her hands together nervously more than once, and had to fight to keep her arms down at her side, swinging with every step she took; stilted, but not entirely awkward. She counted it as a small victory.
A small part of her had also expected Spike to recognize her fidgeting and to grasp one of her hands in his, to tell her that everything was going to be okay. But he did not. She had ventured several gazes up at his face, and it was evident that the vampire was lost in his own thoughts.
He hadn’t said a word, and he didn’t have to. It was more than obvious to Buffy that he was nervous about the spell. And somehow, she could almost hear the monologue rushing through his mind. He was worried about what changes could be wrought after the results of Willow’s spell were made known.
After all, they still didn’t know exactly why he’d come back.
Biting at her bottom lip, Buffy slipped her hand into his, squeezing when it tensed in surprise. She glanced over at his confused face, and whispered, “It’s going to be okay.”
They continued walking, hand in hand, and she nearly cried out in joy when he squeezed her hand in response, tightening his grip around her hand.
For all her newfound courage, however, when they’d actually reached the door of the Magic Box, Buffy found herself struggling for words. When they stopped just outside of the door, she met his confused gaze with averted eyes and the light caress of her thumb across the back of his hand.
“Spike,” she began hesitantly, and breathed deeply, preparing herself for whatever might happen. “I…there’s something I need you to know before we go inside.” She squeezed at his fingers, wishing in vain that he could read between the lines, could offer her exactly what she needed to make this easier. “I…I told myself that I would…tell you. Before we went inside. To…try and prove to you that no matter what Willow says, if you really have come back wrong…that it doesn’t matter.”
A rush of bravery charged in from she did not know where, and she pulled him forward, rising up on her toes to press her lips to his. Her hand still clasped firmly to his, she ran the other down his cheek, around his neck, let it tangle in the fine hairs at his neck. He wrapped a hesitant and slack arm around her back, providing little more than a barrier in case she happened to fall.
It lacked the passion, the force that she’d always associated with Spike. But she couldn’t back down, not when she’d come this far. Maneuvering their kiss to an end, Buffy retreated enough to whisper against his lips, “I love you, Spike.”
She pulled back to look into his eyes, to gauge exactly what effect her confession had on him. To give him the opportunity to see the veracity in her own eyes, to see the smile tugging at her lips.
She had expected to see the awe. The underlying lust. And in this he did not disappoint her.
But she hadn’t expected to see the pain.
“No, Buffy,” he replied, his voice tight and harsh, pulling his hand from hers. “You don’t.”
A/N: Please don’t hate me.
I need to give credit where credit is due. A huge thanks to Holly for helping me hash out the Willow scene, of which I’m still not particularly fond, and to Mandi, who made another beautiful banner that I don’t think I’ll reveal until after the next chapter or two.
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Spike’s ears were still ringing from the shrieking of his name that only a teenager – and quite possibly only the Bit – could produce. Before he could even open his mouth to reproach her, to make her understand the effects of her voice on his sensitive vampire hearing, he found himself embraced in a grip that could easily rival the slayer’s.
Dawn buried her face in the leather of his duster, but Spike could still make out the muffled, “I missed you. So much.”
A warmth spread over Spike that he hadn’t felt in quite some time, not since long before his jump from the tower. Both of his girls were safe and sound and alive, and he felt stirrings of contentment welling in his chest. It was a testament to just how much he’d truly sloughed off the “Big Bad” image that he welcomed the feeling rather than scoffing at its existence.
Dawn’s teary eyes took his mind off of the fact that someone had royally screwed with him before returning him to Sunnydale. And as with Buffy, Spike felt the need to solve Dawn’s problems before his own, and with a jerk of his head towards his intended destination, grabbled the teenager’s hand and began to walk towards the kitchen.
“Think I need a smoke, Nibblet,” he murmured as he opened the back door and stepped out on the porch, sparing a quick glance at Buffy before turning his eyes back to her sister. “Want to join me?”
Dawn’s gaze flicked over to her sister before she wiped the drying tears from her eyes and nodded in affirmation, stepping outside and closing the door behind her. In the silence of the night that surrounded them, she could hear both the light snick of Spike’s lighter as well as Buffy clanging around in the kitchen for something.
Spike inhaled deeply and blew the smoke into the air above him before fixing his eyes on the teenager. “Everything all right, Bit?”
Dawn blinked in confusion. Standing before her was a vampire who had been dead -- dead-dead – for several months, newly-resurrected, yet standing in front of her, puffing on a cigarette and asking if she was all right, as though absolutely nothing had happened to him.
“I’m fine,” she answered a bit hastily. “I’m…are you? Okay, I mean.” She winced; it certainly wasn’t the best way to address the matter.
Spike drew another puff of cigarette smoke into his lungs. “Bit confusin’,” he confessed, “not really knowin’ why I’m back.” He blew the smoke back out, trying to use the rhythm to calm himself. Internally, he was apprehensive and completely confused by his own reappearance, but he wanted to show nothing but calm collectiveness in front of his Bit. “But don’t worry ‘bout it. We’ve got Red on the case, an’ I’m sure the other Scoobies’ll work on it once they know I’m…back.”
Spike ignored the wry if they know that floated in the back of his mind. Buffy wouldn’t do that to him.
With a minute shake of his head, Spike continued, “But I don’t like to see my Nibblet in tears. Want to know if you’re okay.”
Dawn’s lips pulled into a small smile. Spike had returned and was acting like nothing had happened…and she couldn’t be happier about it. It amazed her just how much comfort she could find in “the same-old Spike.”
“Yeah,” she replied. “I’m fine. Really. I just…I missed you, and when Buffy called upstairs…I just didn’t expect to see you. I’m so glad you’re back.”
As quickly as her smile had appeared on her lips, it was gone, replaced with a furrowed, troubled brow as she thought back on the things she had said about Spike just following his sacrifice.
“He jumped. And I’m glad he’s gone.”
“He was just being nice to me to get close to you.”
She felt guilty. Horrid. How could she have said such things about the vampire who had refused to let her jump into the storming portal, who had saved her life? Who had been at her side when she found out that she was a mystical key, who had done nothing but protect her for as long as she could remember? Certainly, for most of their relationship, Spike had been nothing but the protector. the cool guy to look up to, the guy who could fight demons effortlessly, who could get her out of trouble quicker than she could get into it; but somewhere near the end…he had started to become her friend.
And in some sort of twisted teenaged logic, or perhaps in a moment of clarity, she felt the need to confess to him. If only to relieve her burden.
She shuffled, and kicked at one of the wooden boards of the porch. “Actually, Spike,” she started, staring down at the toe of her shoe, “I think I owe you an apology.”
Spike’s eyes narrowed briefly. “What’s that, Nibblet?”
Dawn looked back up in his direction, but could not meet his eyes. “Right after…after you jumped, and Buffy woke up and wanted to know where you were…I was…” She sighed. She didn’t know how to explain what she was feeling – what she had been feeling at the time. “I said some bad things about you,” she tried. “I was…I was angry at you.”
“‘s okay, Bit,” he replied. “I understand. I left you.”
Dawn’s brow wrinkled with disgust. “That’s not it,” she insisted, and her voice suddenly became quieter. “I was angry at you because I thought you were trying to kill my sister. You just…you drank a lot of her blood, and at the time I didn’t know why, and it hurt to think that maybe you weren’t…”
“Dawn,” he interjected, and the force behind his voice compelled her to meet his steady gaze. “I understand,” he repeated, and as the teenager looked into his eyes, she realized that he really did. And he had forgiven her instantly, because in his mind there had been nothing to forgive.
Taking one large step to close the distance between them, Dawn plucked the remainder of the cigarette out of Spike’s hand and flicked it into the yard, wrapping her arms around the vampire’s waist and hugging him tightly. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “I won’t doubt you again.”
His chest rumbled with his chuckle, and as one of his arms wrapped around her and the other rested on the top of her head, he said dryly, “I‘d like to see that one in writing.” Pushing her away from him so he could look down into her eyes, he added, “Think we can convince your big sis to sign it as well?”
Dawn grinned up at him. “I don’t know,” she replied. “She’s pretty stubborn.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, more than a touch of fondness in his voice. Then, after a moment of silence, he added quietly, “Bit…after I…did what I did…was she okay? I didn’t…did I…” He ran a frustrated hand through his hair. He wasn’t sure how to talk about this – or even if he really wanted to.
After an instant of confusion, Dawn’s eyes widened in understanding. “She was fine,” she assured him. “She…had to spend the night in a hospital, had to get some blood put into her…but she was out the next morning!” she added quickly as she saw the vampire wince in guilt. “It wasn’t just because of the blood,” she said. “Glory and that creepy old guy hurt her.”
“Doesn’ make it much better,” Spike noted.
“Maybe not,” Dawn replied. “But she doesn’t hold it against you. And neither do I.” Biting at her lower lip in contemplation, Dawn finally asked, “Why did you bite Buffy? Instead of me?”
Spike sighed, and let go of Dawn’s arms. “’s complicated, Bit,” he replied, and stepped towards the kitchen door. “Think we’ve left Slayer on her own a bit too long,” he said, his hand closing around the doorknob. “Don’t wanna know what kind of trouble she’s gotten herself into alone in that kitchen.”
Buffy tried not to listen to the muffled voices sounding from the back porch as she sat at the kitchen counter, absentmindedly cradling a cup of rapidly-cooling hot chocolate. The conversation outside was not one she should be privy to, as much as she wanted to believe otherwise, and she consciously made the effort to keep herself from straining to hear what the vampire and her younger sister were talking about.
The walk home from the Magic Box had been awkward – an undesirable tradition between the slayer and the recently-restored vampire, it seemed. The silence between them was unbearable to her, and although she had her hands thrust deeply in her pockets so Spike would not catch sight of them shaking, she fidgeted with them the entire way home, waggling her fingers before curling them up into tight, balled fists.
She had been almost relieved when Dawn had barreled down the stairs and directly into Spike’s arms, and even more so when Spike had dragged Dawn out onto the porch; for the first time since she’d found him in her room, Buffy had been given the opportunity to try and work out the knot of discomfiture that had lay inside of her since the moment she saw him in her bedroom, which had only tightened after his insistence that she did not actually love him. That what she felt was nothing more than misguided gratitude for saving her life, and that of her sister, and consequently saving the world.
What bothered her, she realized as she used a neglected fingernail to pick at a tiny crack in the table, was that Spike had been right.
She loved him now; she was as certain of that as she was of her own name. But back when she’d first begun to have feelings for the vampire – mostly after his death, but she would now admit the presence, albeit slight, of these feelings before the battle with Glory – they had been acknowledged based on little more than gratitude; the vampire had taken a beating to protect her sister, and had quite literally saved the world from Hell. She had never before known the vampire – or any, really, for she wasn’t entirely certain that Angel would have done the same thing, if given the chance – to be so selfless, and it stood to reason that the tender feelings that emerged for him right after his death resulted from his sacrifice and her realization of her misunderstanding of him.
But feelings born from gratitude always faded, and by the time she had finally gone to Tara to speak of her troubles, later in the summer, Buffy had been mostly certain that what she felt for Spike was real, was love; her actions in the kitchen the night before had solidified it for her.
She just had to make Spike believe that what she felt was real.
Buffy supposed it was some sort of poetic justice; Spike had spent close to a year trying to get her to accept his feelings for her, and she had turned him away time and time again, always hiding behind the excuse that soulless creatures were incapable of love. Even now, she was convinced that telling Spike she loved him before Willow cast her spell had been the right thing to do, no matter if he had believed her or not; Buffy had accepted him and his feelings, lack-of-soul and all, and reciprocated in kind.
Now that he had a soul, were things any different?
Buffy sighed and stared into the mug before her, catching the faintest outline of her reflection in the chocolate depths, and swirled the contents around as her image blurred and swirled along. Making the chocolate had been little more than a nervous habit; she had no intention of drinking it, and the thought alone – as well as the sound of Spike and Dawn heading back into the kitchen – made the nerves in her stomach tighten all the more.
Spike groaned and cracked the muscles in his neck as he drew his shirt over his head, dropping it lazily on the floor next to the bed. It was strange being in Joyce’s old room, despite the fact that this was the first time he’d ever entered. Her smell, while faded, was still strongly present in the room, leading him to believe that this was a room that Buffy and Dawn had not entered often after Joyce had died. That Buffy was allowing him to use the room at all was surprising to him, and he had tried more than once to convince her that he was fine on the couch, or in the basement. Buffy, however, would hear nothing of it, and Spike had eventually admitted defeat and trudged up the stairs.
He sat on the edge of the bed and rested his elbows on his thighs, dropping his head between his hands and sighing deeply. He still hadn’t come close to processing the events of the evening, despite the airs he had put on for Dawn, and while both the soul and the magic Willow had found within him were certainly points of contention for him – not to mention the fact that he’d somehow been restored to Earth – all he wanted to do was collapse into sleep and lose himself for a few precious hours.
His plans were interrupted, however, by the hesitant knock at his door. It was Buffy, of course; he’d smelled her lingering presence in the hallway long before she’d managed the courage to approach the door. A pause, another hesitant but louder knock, and Buffy turned the knob and pushed the door open, taking a few small steps into the room, worried eyes cast towards him and picking at the skin surrounding her thumbnail.
“Where were you?”
Spike raised his head and stared at the pajama-dressed slayer before him. This was the conversation he had been dreading since his return – to both have as well as acknowledge to himself – simply because he didn’t have any answers, and generally speaking, that never fared well with Buffy.
“Don’ rightly know, pet,” he responded softly. “One minute I’m jumpin’ into that portal, an’ the next I’m wakin’ up in the aftermath.”
“I think you’re lying,” Buffy replied. Before Spike had the chance to retort, she amended, “Not lying. But I think that maybe there’s something that you’re not telling me.”
Shame and defensiveness warred in his body, and his response of “Like what?” held tinges of both in its tone.
Buffy’s hands tangled in the extra fabric of her pajamas as she asked, “Were you in Heaven?”
He hadn’t been expecting that. In quick retrospect, Spike wasn’t entirely certain what he had been expecting, but he was sure it hadn’t been that.
“’m a vampire, Slayer,” he replied. “Not a lot of room for us upstairs. Goes with the whole ‘ruled by a demon’ bit.” As he watched her shift uncomfortably, he added, “Why?”
Buffy’s lips pulled into a frown, trying to draw something logical from the jumbled thoughts in her mind. Finally, she said, “It’s just…when I sent Angel to Hell, he had his soul. And when he came back, he still had his soul, but he was…feral, I guess. You weren’t. And you…died…without a soul, and came back with one.” She paused, her frown deepening, and added, “I guess I didn’t work it all out yet, but…I just kind of thought that maybe you weren’t in Hell. That maybe…maybe you were expelled from Heaven.”
“Because I’m a vampire.” It was not a question.
Buffy’s eyes trailed to the ground and she shrugged sheepishly. From his position on the bed, Spike watched as she seemed to withdraw into herself, her shoulders hunching closer to her neck. Sighing, he pushed himself off of the bed and stood before her, crooking a finger under her chin to force her to look at him again before resting both hands on her tightened shoulders.
“Wasn’t in Heaven, pet,” he replied. “Wasn’t in Hell, either. I don’ know much about that time, but I know that much of it is true. I can…I can jus’ feel it, right down to my bones. Other than that…I really have no bloody clue. Wish I did; all this not knowin’ is more than a bit unsettlin’.” He paused, and let his thumb trail lightly across one shoulder. “Red’s got that jar full of mojo from my head, yeah? Maybe there’s some answers there. But there’s not a whole lot we can do right now. Let’s just get some sleep an’ we’ll call her tomorrow before the sun goes down.”
Buffy nodded, some of the stiffness leaving her shoulders, and Spike reluctantly let his hands slip from her person. Turning, she walked towards the doorway, but was somehow unable to leave, standing instead inside of the doorframe, hesitant and unmoving.
The air between them was still tense and unsettled, and Spike knew immediately why it was present. He didn’t want to talk about it; not at the moment. He really, truly did not want to. But the worry was still in Buffy’s eyes, laced with a tinge of hurt, and he could deny her nothing.
“Did you want to finish talking about…earlier this evening?” he offered, knowing she would understand the vague reference. He simply could not string together the words “when you said you loved me” without feeling a painful ache in his chest. It hurt enough to know that she did not, and would not, love him; it did not help at all to consciously remind himself.
Buffy turned in the doorway and caught his eyes with hers, and for a frozen moment the rest of the world dissolved around them. Walking forward, Buffy reached out a hand and grabbed Spike’s lightly, giving it a gentle squeeze as she shook her head.
“It’s not the right time,” she replied. “I do love you, Spike, even though I know you don’t believe me. And that’s…that’s okay right now. You have a lot going on, and I want to help. I’m going to help you find out why you have your soul, and why that magic stuff was in your head, and why you’re back.” A tender smile graced her lips and she added, “My feelings aren’t going to change, and I’m not about to go anywhere. Not now.” She released his hand and took a step backwards to the door. “So we’re going to figure all of this out, and then I’m going to try to figure out a way to convince you that I really do love you.”
She hesitated, staring at him with her lips parted, as though debating saying something else. Finally, she closed her mouth and nodded in finality, wished him a good night, and turned and left the room, shutting the door behind her.
A/N: I still feel kind of guilty that I didn’t update this story for five whole weeks. So you all get a longer chapter! Like I said before, we’re just getting started with this puppy, so start to keep your eyes out for how I’m going to change S6!
Thank you to everyone who wished me luck on my epic, three-day root canal. It was…well, it took three days. So it was definitely not fun. But I’m back, and off of the funky painkillers, and ready to keep working on this story!
I do so love your reviews. Please take a moment and leave one!
Forehead buried in his hands and body trembling, Spike sat in tangled sheets, his eyes squeezed shut in a vain attempt to banish the images burned into his mind.
He wasn’t entirely certain that it was common for vampires to dream, but he did, and often; a throwback to his days as William, perhaps. But in over a century of living, he had never been as disturbed by any dream as he had this particular one composed of little more than disjointed fragments.
He had been back at the tower. Glory – or Ben – lay dead on the concrete below, and before him was Dawn, trussed up and bleeding, the open portal raging behind her. She cried for her sister, and suddenly Spike found himself above the fray, helpless and gazing down as Buffy spoke a few words to the untied teenager before turning and launching herself from the tower and into the storm. Screams from one woman and tears from another – two different kinds of pain – before the screams were suddenly silenced, followed moments later by the sickening sound of Buffy’s body landing harshly on concrete.
The portal closed, and re-expanded in the air before him, dragging him inside and depositing him into a world devoid of light. A disembodied voice, unfamiliar and yet somehow irrefutably known to him, and quiet snippets of a conversation he knew had taken place, but did not remember. A burning in his mind, and something being locked away.
Spike dragged his hands down his face, letting them drop loudly to his lap as he huffed out a shaky breath and stared at – and beyond -- the closed curtains in front of him. He remembered now. At least, partially.
It was supposed to be Buffy.
That was what the voice had said. The Powers – he assumed – had told him that Buffy was the one who was supposed to have jumped. That his intervention had diverted actions that were supposed to take place in the future that now never would. But they had sent him back, regardless; once again, a step closer to being more like fucking Angel.
Buffy would have died, leaving him behind, soulless and grieving, but ostensibly still existing, because he’d been sent back. Instead, he had died, leaving Buffy alive on apparently stolen time, and then returned with a soul. Logic declared that at some point in the future – wrought from her sacrifice instead of his – he had gotten his soul.
He just didn’t know why.
It was heady stuff, realizing that one action to have such consequences; that not only had he altered his apparent destiny, and not only Buffy’s – whose life he was trying to save – but quite possibly the rest of the people surrounding her. The burning in his head in the dream, the feeling of sudden loss of <i>something</i>…that had to be the magic that Willow had removed from his mind. He needed her to start researching what it was; what had been so important that the Powers had opted to lock it away deep in the recesses of his mind rather than simply eliminating it completely?
And Buffy. While he was somewhat relieved that he knew the origins of his newly-acquired soul and recently-removed mind block – at least partially – how was he supposed to explain it all to Buffy? He wasn’t even sure that he could manage to explain it to her, as twisted and confused as the sudden onslaught of information was; how could he possibly expect her to calmly accept that he had unknowingly changed her future?
He wasn’t even entirely certain how he’d changed the future; neither the Powers nor his dream had seen fit to let him in on that information. Had he changed it for the better, or for the worst? But he had also come back with his soul; had he changed it at all?
Was Buffy supposed to have stayed dead?
It made no sense to him. Certainly the life of a slayer was more important than that of one of the monsters she was destined to destroy? What was so important about him that he was supposed to remain on Earth, complete with a soul? Christ, was he really expected to follow in the footsteps of his grandsire? He wanted nothing of it; it was bad enough that he shared blood with the wanker.
That still left him with the question of Buffy. Was she supposed to have stayed dead? Surely the Powers That Be would have found a way to kill her between his death and resurrection some months later, if the purpose was to call a new slayer. If Angelus’ rantings in the abandoned mansion years ago had been true, she had already died once and been returned. Perhaps that was meant to have happened again. Did that event somehow lead to the acquisition of his soul?
It gave him a headache to think about it. Juggling possibilities and tangents of time were better suited for the Watcher; Spike was more of an action guy rather than a thinker. Perhaps later he could ask Red about it; she was pretty smart.
Lying back in bed, Spike closed his eyes and attempted to go back to sleep. But that image, that sight, the one he knew would remain burned in his mind for the rest of his eternity, was presented. Buffy’s lifeless body lying amidst the wreckage of the battle’s aftermath. And it frightened him.
She was alive now, he certainly knew that; could hear her breathing in her room down the hall, could hear the slow and steady beating of her heart. But somehow, it wasn’t enough, and before his troubled mind could catch up with him, Spike’s body was down the hallway and sneaking into Buffy’s room.
Silently, he crept to her window and pulled the curtains closed, pausing as she reacted in her sleep to the slight noise before drifting off again. He stared at her for several moments – even sleeping, she was full of <i>life</i> -- before slumping against the wall and sliding to the floor, much as he had the previous evening.
Comforted by the sound of Buffy’s beating heart, he slept.
When she woke, she was certain that she was not alone.
Lying still in her bed, Buffy stretched her senses in an attempt to locate the presence in her room – and silently thanked Giles for being persistent with her Slayer training – before quickly realizing that what she felt weren’t simply vampire-tingles. They were Spike-tingles.
Sitting up, Buffy looked around her room before locating his sleeping form slumped against her wall, his posture almost identical to how she’d found him the night before…only a little more clothed. She pushed down on the feeling of disappointment at the fact and decided instead to concentrate on the issue of his presence in her bedroom.
But as she rose from her bed and walked to stand in front of him, intent on waking him, Buffy found that she could do neither. She hadn’t the heart to wake him – daylight hours were, after all, vampire bedtime hours, and a quick glance at the clock revealed it much too early to ask him to wake up – and as she stared at his sleeping form, she realized that she didn’t particularly want to know why he was in her bedroom. Perhaps it was remnants of the silly and romantic young girl she had once been, but the fact that he was in her bedroom was enough. That he would sleep in the same room as the Slayer – though admittedly not in the same bed – showed a trust that touched her, and further solidified in her mind that Spike, Slayer-of-Slayers, did in fact love her.
It warmed her inside, and it was a feeling she relished above all others.
Dropping quietly to her knees, Buffy carefully moved Spike’s arms enough that she could nestle against his side; she was rewarded for her efforts a moment later when his arms tightened around her and drew her further against his body as he murmured her name in his sleep. Biting at her lower lip to keep her grin from surfacing, Buffy rested her head against his shoulder and closed her eyes.
She wanted to love him. She wanted him to allow her to love him. But for now, this was all she had, and at that moment, she wanted nothing more. She would deal with tomorrow whenever it came.
Willow pushed the heavy book away from her and leaned back in her chair, rubbing at her tired eyes and sighing. She had been reading for – she glanced upwards at the clock mounted on the wall – nearly five hours, and she was no closer to finding out the source of the powerful magic implanted in Spike’s mind than when she had started.
Scrubbing a tired hand over her face, Willow stared at the jar sitting near the edge of her desk. After Buffy and Spike had left the Magic Box, she had stayed behind to run several diagnostic spells on the power sealed away in the jar, attempting to discern its origins in order to find out how best to destroy it. She simply did not want to risk backlash from a magic of this caliber.
So when her diagnostic spells had failed, Willow had put an extra protective ward on the already-warded jar, having decided to err on the side of caution. An action she now recognized as foolish and driven entirely by paranoia. The paranoia and skittishness she had felt earlier in the evening had since subsided, and she allowed herself to think that the wards she had previously placed on the jar were enough. And that just perhaps the final ward she’d placed on the jar was somehow interfering with her diagnostic spells.
That had to be the answer; she’d used a different type of ward at the end than she had before she’d entered Spike’s mind. She simply could not think of another reason; she was too powerful a witch to fail spell-casting.
Rising from her desk, Willow padded quietly over to the trunk at the foot of the bed which held her magic supplies. Sparing a glance at her sleeping girlfriend, she grabbed a few choice items out of the trunk and closed it, snatching the jar off of the desk before sneaking out of the room and down the hall into the bathroom, placing the items on the ground and locking the door behind her.
Willow closed her eyes and drew a deep breath, readying herself to cast the ward-releasing spell.
Willow started, dropping the rest of the recently-used candles back into the trunk. Closing the lid, she rose to her feet and met the inquisitive gaze of her lover, who reached over and switched on their bedside lamp.
“Sorry I woke you, sweetie,” Willow said quietly. “Go back to sleep; I’m coming to bed now.”
“What are you doing?”
Willow shifted. “Just finished some reading. Let’s go to bed.”
Tara’s brow furrowed; Willow’s aura was blurring, and the energy of the room had changed since before she’d gone to bed. Rising, she asked, “You cast a spell, didn’t you?”
Willow sighed. “Just a small one. It’s no big deal.”
Tara’s eyes darted from her girlfriend to the jar resting on the floor by the trunk. Walking over to it, she picked it up and cradled it in her hands, at once overwhelmed by the force she felt emanating from it. Holding it up and away from her, she said, “You did something w-with this. What did you do?”
Willow snatched the jar from Tara’s hands and crossed the room, placing it back on the desk. “It’s really nothing, Tara,” she replied. “I just took off a ward that I had put on it.”
Tara’s lips pulled into a frown. “Willow, there’s a lot of power in that jar. Is it really w-wise to remove the wards?”
“I didn’t remove all of them,” she replied. “Just one of them. It’s really no big deal.” Sidling up to her lover, Willow ran her hands up and down the blonde’s arms, trying to soothe – and distract – her. Pressing her lips to Tara’s and gently pushing her towards the bed, Willow whispered, “Let’s go to bed, baby.”
Tara broke away from the kiss and forced Willow to look into her eyes. “Willow, there’s so much power there--”
Her words were cut off by another kiss. “It’s just the wards, sweetie,” Willow replied, drawing her shirt over her head and reaching for the nightgown she kept near the bed. “Let’s just go to sleep, okay?”
Sighing, Tara nodded. Willow wouldn’t talk about it this evening; she would make sure the subject was addressed the next day. She didn’t like it, but Willow was being unreasonable, and dealing with a stubborn and unreasonable Willow was next to impossible. She climbed into bed and switched off the light, certain that Willow would follow.
Dropping the remainder of her clothing to the floor and pushing her head through her nightgown, Willow let her mind wander. She didn’t want Tara to address the subject of the jar, or her magic, and she didn’t particularly like fighting with her, either.
She would have to remember to buy some Lethe’s bramble from the Magic Box tomorrow afternoon.
Sliding under the covers, Willow drew Tara close to her body, closing her eyes and surrendering to sleep. Across the room, the jar on her desk began to whisper and glow.
A/N: I’m sorry this is so late, everyone. I’ve been swamped with exams, thesis work, and a would-be stalker. Now that I’m done with school (yay!), and all I have to do is thesis work (and I’m well underway with that), expect regular updates throughout the summer (remember when I was updating once every few days?). My writing time has also been divided between this story and my two Art Before Fic challenge stories, so expect those to start posting soon, as well.
I know I’ve left you all without an update for a while, but maybe you could find it in your hearts to review? I love them all!
Spike sighed out a cloud of smoke as he shifted in place and tried not to listen to the voices above him. It was a half-hearted exercise at best; he had always been nosy, especially when he knew that he was the topic of conversation. However, out of respect for Buffy, who had wanted to ease the Scoobies into the realization that Spike was back among the undead, he continued to puff on his cigarette, attempting to distract his senses by randomly picking up and replacing various knick-knacks situated on old storage shelves while letting his mind wander.
It was a noble attempt on his part, which ultimately ended less than twenty seconds after he made the first conscious effort to occupy himself. While he was no longer listening to the conversation taking place above him, his mind wandered to the potential responses of those gathered upstairs.
Red’s was easy; he’d seen her the previous evening. While she’d been surprised, and reserved at first, by the end of the evening, despite everything that had been revealed, she had seemed genuinely happy to see him. The other bird would be much of the same – she and Willow always seemed to be of the same mindset. Anya would welcome him back with open arms and undoubtedly a suggestion of many orgasms to help ease himself back into the routine of being undead. And his Bit couldn’t be happier.
He was even fairly certain how the two sources of questionable testosterone would react. The Watcher – if he ever decided to show his self-righteous arse; a quick breath of air had revealed to Spike that the Watcher’s scent had faded notably from the building – would undoubtedly polish his glasses, stammer an awkward-but-unmeant welcome back to the world of the living – so to speak – before beginning to chronicle what would quickly be blown out of proportion into the opus of the resurrected vampire.
The whelp would cry bloody murder and demand that he be staked.
And if given the choice between the two, Spike didn’t know which he’d prefer. Each seemed a mercy from the promise of the other.
And still, standing idly in the darkened basement of the Magic Box, he could not help but allow an increasingly-lesser part of him pipe up with doubt at Buffy’s actions. <i>If she tells them. If. Maybe she’s decided it’s better they don’t know; maybe you’ll screw everything up.</i>
And another. <i>But she says she loves you.</i>
Dropping the smoldering cigarette end down onto the concrete floor, Spike paused at the thought, the toe of his boot hovering in midair above the dying embers.
If Buffy did tell her friends that he was back -- <i>when,</i> she told them – how much exactly would she tell them? Would she stop with the telling of his return, or would she inform them that they should get used to his presence in her life in a non-slayer-related capacity?
And even if she did tell them that she loved him…would she be speaking the truth?
Spike grunted and thrust his hands into the pockets of his duster, wrapping his fingers around the pack of cigarettes there. This should have been simple. For too long he’d yearned for the day that Buffy would return his love, and when the time finally arrived, he had dissuaded her with words designed to protect his own heart. Not for the first time, he berated himself for saying anything at all; but ultimately, he knew the decision he’d made to be the correct one. He simply loved her too much to let her erroneously believe herself in love with him, especially when all he’d ever gotten from her was disdain.
But Christ, he’d woken up this morning, and she’d been in his arms, and he’d never known such a feeling, and had immediately found that he never wanted to be without it again.
He had meant to leave before she woke to find him sleeping in her room – again – but for whatever reason, his internal clock had failed to rouse him. And perhaps for the same inexplicable reason, he had woken in the morning – a practice virtually unheard of in vampires – to find himself with a generous armful of sleeping Buffy, her heartbeat slow and content, her lips drawn into a barely-there smile of satisfaction.
And he’d watched her. It could have been seconds, or minutes, or even days; time had simply ceased to exist, and the world knew only the two of them, cuddled together on her bedroom floor. And in that time, he’d allowed himself to believe that she loved him – truly loved him, unconditionally – and was genuinely happy for the first time in he knew not how long.
He didn’t want to give it up. Didn’t want to give <i>her</i> up, wanted to tell her when she awoke that he was more than willing to give the two of them a try. But for all he’d once strutted around as the Big Bad who lorded over Sunnydale, both his decision and its supporting courage abandoned him when he felt her begin to stir in his arms. And so Spike, the no-longer-neutered vampire, fell victim to one of the oldest clichés in the book.
He feigned sleep. Not entirely a difficult trick for a man who didn’t need to worry about a racing heartbeat giving him away.
She had been so tender with him; that had struck him the most. Upon waking, Buffy had gently slid out of his arms in a careful attempt not to wake him, and he felt her eyes burning trails on his skin wherever they landed. A moment or two, followed by the soft pressure of her lips on his forehead. Her lips were quickly withdrawn, and he was greeted instead by the light caress of her finger over his lips: an indirect kiss.
And in that moment, he wanted nothing more than to open his eyes and gaze into hers, to find the truth she apparently wanted so desperately for him to believe. But he’d lost his moment when she just as quickly rose to her feet and walked out of her room; he heard her shower running seconds later.
In all, the situation between him and Buffy was an unnecessary mess. He had known the previous evening – or, if he wanted to be completely honest with himself, the instant she’d told him that she loved him – that he would be open and receptive to anything she wanted with him, had known that Buffy would be nothing like Drusilla, but it had been his previous experience with his former dark angel which had him now erring on the side of caution.
And if his unexpectedly-cautious stance on their relationship – such as it was – hadn’t mucked things up enough, that despite it all she wanted to be with him, regardless…he now knew that he had inadvertently meddled hugely in her future. Would her learning of what he knew change things between them?
Because she had to know. There was no question about that in his mind. He just didn’t want to tell her.
Spike’s ears perked at a round of gasps and Xander’s sputtered, “<i>What?!</i>” broke him from his reverie, and he idly cracked his knuckles, beginning to ascend the staircase that would lead him to the main floor of the shop, readying himself for the certain barrage of questions from Buffy’s friends.
It was strange, but they had split up into pairs. Upon seeing Spike emerge from the cellar, Xander had balled his fists and clenched his jaw, glaring angrily at the vampire before storming into the training room, Anya hot on his heels. Tara had been the one to approach Spike, her fingers unconsciously skimming the stem of the bramble tucked into the buttonhole of her blouse as she crossed over to him. And Buffy, keeping one eye on the training room door, had pulled Willow to the side.
“Did you find out anything about the stuff you pulled from Spike’s head?” she asked quietly, hoping that Spike was too engrossed in his conversation with Tara to overhear.
Willow bit at the inside of her cheek as she debated what to tell her friend. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to know why such powerful magic was in Spike’s head, per se; she just didn’t want to lose it. It was difficult for her to explain, especially given the fact that barely twenty-four hours had passed since she’d entered Spike’s mind, but since she’d bottled the magic she’d found there, Willow had begun to feel more powerful, more confident, and upon testing her theory, found that she was able to cast spells with more ease, as though her body was magic itself, and her spells simply an extension of her will. She just didn’t want to do anything that would jeopardize her newfound magic power.
“No,” she replied. “I didn’t…I don’t think I can.”
Buffy’s lips pulled into a pout. “Why not?”
“Because the magic is gone,” Willow lied. “I woke up this morning, and checked the jar to make sure that the wards were still holding up, and I couldn’t feel it anymore. It just…dissipated, I guess.”
Buffy’s pout turned into a contemplative frown, and with brows drawn, she asked, “Can that really happen? I mean, I always thought magic was like energy, and energy can’t just disappear…isn’t that one of those property things?”
Willow’s lip twitched as she snapped quietly, “I think I would know more about it than you!” Pausing as she took in Buffy’s surprised, widened eyes and hands raised in supplication, Willow sighed and offered in apologetic response, “My theory is that whatever it was needed to be in Spike to sustain itself…kind of like a host. Stuck in the jar, there was no host, and it eventually…um, died.”
“Died?” Buffy asked cautiously, not wanting to risk another outburst from Willow. “So it was like some sort of parasite?”
Willow shrugged. “I don’t know,” she replied. “Like I said…it’s just gone. I’m sorry, Buffy.”
The blonde sighed, her eyes traveling briefly to Spike’s still-occupied form. “He won’t like that,” she said, her voice carrying a hint of remorse. Then, “I mean, he’ll probably be happy that it’s gone; he hates magic – no offense – but I think he was kind of hoping that his answers would be there. And I was kind of hoping that I’d have some to give him.”
Willow felt a pang of guilt, and opened her mouth to confess her lie, but the promise of magic power coursing through her veins made her clamp down on that instinct, and instead she offered another quiet, “Sorry.”
Buffy sighed. “Yeah,” she said. “I’m sorry, too.”
Spike’s fingers twitched around the pack of cigarettes in his pocket, and for an instant, he considered lighting one up inside the magic shop, any potential contamination of ingredients be damned – it wouldn’t be the first time, after all – but ultimately decided against it, opting instead to duck outside the front door for his smoke; it was dark, after all, and not many people frequented their little corner of Sunnydale after business hours.
He’d gotten halfway through his cigarette before his eyes settled on the black van parked not a block away. Brow furrowed, Spike stared at the van as he took another puff of his cigarette. There were no heartbeats coming from the vicinity of the van; the only ones near belonged to the Scoobies inside the Magic Box. Yet he found that he could not simply dismiss the mystery van parked down the street.
Stubbing out his cigarette before poking his head through the entrance of the shop, Spike called, “Slayer?”
Seconds later, Buffy had joined him. “What’s up?”
Gaze locked on the van, Spike tilted his chin in its direction, asking, “Did the whelp get a new car?”
Buffy’s brow wrinkled in confusion. “You mean Xander?” she asked in response. “No, he didn’t. He usually parks in the alleyway next to the shop…something about it being safer. I’m not so sure I buy it.” She blinked as she realized that Spike had yet to look away from the van. “Why? Something wrong?”
“Not sure,” he replied, and his voice held traces of desperation and annoyance. “I jus’…it’s daft, but I…I know this car,” he said, before shaking his head in self-deprecation. “’s probably nothing,” he added. “Maybe I jus’ need some sleep.”
Buffy bit at her bottom lip. “You could stay in the guest room again,” she offered. “It’s closer than the cemetery, and there’s still blood in the fridge.” She tried to lighten her tone. “Still a pretty sweet set up, all things considered. Maybe…” Her voice became noticeably quieter. “Maybe you should just…stay.”
Spike was silent. The right thing to do would be to go back to his crypt; blood was easy enough to come by in Sunnydale; it wasn’t coincidence that the butchers were all open later than one would expect. Or he could always buy some of the horridly overpriced stuff at Willy’s. The right thing to do would be to leave the Summers’ house, to give Buffy the distance between them that she would need to help her figure out that she wasn’t actually in love with him.
But he was still selfish. He wanted her to love him; he always had. And after this morning…maybe it wasn’t <i>entirely</i> about gratitude. Buffy was asking him to stay, and he wasn’t about to turn her down.
And if nothing else, if he dreamed of her again…she would be near him. Her sleeping form could provide him comfort yet again. He just had to remember to wake up before her.
“All right,” he conceded, nodding his head. He hesitated, his bottom lip twitching slightly as he seemed to deliberate an important decision. One he apparently reached quickly, as Buffy soon felt his fingers wrap around hers and squeeze lightly. “I’ll stay.”
Their moment was soon broken by the sound of Anya’s voice, calling them to come back into the shop for, as she put it, “something of the greatest and utmost importance.” Although it had immediately become clear to her, upon entering and seeing a clearly discomforted Xander staring at Spike, as well as the suspiciously-absent Willow and Tara, that perhaps she was not an integral part of the important event.
And the van itched at her mind. Normally, she would have paid it little attention – and to be honest, she didn’t think much about it at this moment, either -- but it bothered Spike, and Buffy had quickly learned that if Spike was bothered by something, it was best to check it out.
But when she doubled back outside to make note of the license plate, the van had disappeared.
A/N: I know that by now I probably sound like a broken record, but I am so sorry for the lack of updates…I blame my thesis. It is quite literally kicking my ass. But good news: it’s due in the middle of August, so once that happens, I promise many more updates. But that’s not to say, of course, that I won’t be updating between now and then! I promise at least one more…and hope that it will be more like three or four.
That said…some of you all could help me with my thesis! I need about fifteen British readers and ten American ones to fill out a completely confidential and anonymous survey on fame desire. It takes about 15 minutes, and would be conducted via email. If you think you would like to do this, please contact me – my email address is on my userinfo page.
If you have thirty seconds and are so inclined…please leave a review! They really do inspire my desperately-thirsty muse!