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.

“An’ you?”

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.

“Buffy?”

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! 

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