By the Pricking of My Thumbs... Something Wicked This Way Comes
by Megan & Schehrezade
Authors' Notes: This fic started out with the idea of megan_peta and schehrezade sharing a challenge fic, and then blossomed into what we are about to embark upon. The challenge was from Death-Marked Love.
Shortly after Buffy's death, Dawn becomes increasingly worried about Spike's mental health. After the vampire attempts suicide she decides it's time for action and casts a spell that will make Spike forget that he loved Buffy. Unfortunatley things go awry and Spike wakes up with no memories of Buffy at all. Then the Slayer comes back....
Five nights since they had lowered Buffy into a narrow, heartless and eternal resting place, shadowed by a weeping willow.
Five nights that the Scoobies decisively prevented her grave being showered with vampiric dust on the emerging morning sun.
Five nights since the approaching dawn had stolen their sleep, and left them abruptly and confusingly on the alert for suicidal vampires with shockingly white hair.
Five grieving nights where they all wanted to surrender to the pain that led him to stretch his form along the surface of her grave, alone and welcoming his end.
And finally, five anxious nights where the escalating pressure of the Hellmouth and their own emotional pain threatened to take them all over.
This night Giles and Willow had been chosen, leaving them to reflect in the irony of the allusion to the destiny of their perished Slayer. It held them in determined ‘saving’ mode for the vampire she had almost entrusted into their care with her own acceptance of him as a white hat.
So, loaded down with the important things-stakes, crosses and Scooby devotion-they were off. The trek wasn’t exactly worn, but the flattening grass across the cemetery grounds was fast getting there. Reaching the gates of said resting place, Willow allowed her pace to slow, drawing Giles into a sedate walk to their destination.
“You know he can’t go on like this? Sooner or later he’s going to get by us, or decide on another way of getting to Buffy. I really don’t think Dawnie could face losing him, too. They seem really close now that B…Buffy is d…gone.” Minute lapses in breath caused a stumbling conversation to falter from Willow’s lips, and the almost mention of where Buffy now was brought tears to her eyes. “His grief is so raw, Giles. What are we gonna do? We need him to help us with the patrolling. I mean, even Xander volunteers for suicide watch, so he must value Spike just a little, too.”
Giles watched the redhead, his own throat clogged with emotion. Truth be told, sometimes he wished he could just give up- like Spike had done- and allow the world to fall into havoc. But he felt duty bound to his dead Slayer. And duty was what he found himself cursing every night that he ‘chose’ to beat this path and drag an almost completely broken Master vampire back to safety.
Only so far they hadn’t. They hadn’t managed to do anything but prevent Spike from exploding into tiny dust particles at the arrival of a brutal and unloving morning sun. He slept due to a magically induced peace long enough to rouse again once it was dark, and partook in dulling methods on his trek to the patch of ground that shielded Buffy from the world.
“I really am not sure,” he finally answered. “It isn’t like we actually believed Spike really loved Buffy. He’s a vampire. Such affection for a human is just not written about.” Even he saw the narrow-minded stupidity of his words as they tumbled freely into the cooling night air. They had all witnessed Spike’s possessive nature from the moment he threatened his way into their lives. Maybe that was why they had objected so strongly to the crush. Spike’s ability to lean toward genuine emotion and the lengths he would go to in order to protect those that he cared for- and even more-so, loved- threatened every longstanding belief Giles had been taught and passed onto the Slayer sidekicks. They knew Spike’s feeling could be genuine, but had not seen the bigger picture. Not known the positive that such an obsession could amount to.
Giles stopped alongside Willow and they watched. Watched an inebriated vampire, crippled with grief sob his very dead heart out and toss another empty bottle of jack to the ground. It was a completely miserable sight, and it astounded Giles that no demon had yet discovered their secret death and attempted to take Spike out while he was so beyond ability and desire to protect himself.
Giles shook his head. In some ways they could all be grateful to Spike for allowing himself to break. It gave the gang something to focus on, something to channel their own hot grief into so that the lot of them remained effectual.
“You might as well do the chant, Willow. Let’s get him home.” Watching the vampire drown himself in liquored courage- as his least destructive route to dull the pain- Giles salivated in commiseration. In his mind he spied his own lonely bottles at his flat, and he suddenly just wanted this night over so he could partake in a little misery drowning.
Eum depono reliquum (Put him down to rest)
Suddenly Spike’s tear clogged voice ceased noise and his body slumped over the grave top as if in gentle repose. Willow stepped forward and gathered the formerly discarded bottle of booze, placing it in the knapsack holding a bunch of stakes.
“I think one more of these bottles and I’ll have a full set. I’m gonna take up bottle playing!”
Giles looked at Willow, momentarily startled.
“You’re going to what?” he asked her while scratching the back of his head.
“You know!” She mimed holding a bottle and striking its side with something, but he felt he could do nothing but shake his head in complete incomprehension.
“Jeez, Giles. Like musical instruments. You fill them with different levels of water and hit them with something and play a tune. Easy to see you got nothing but a snobby education.”
He shot her a look of affront.
“I was just trying to make a little with the funnies. Get my mind off the gruesome…okay, babbling not cool.” She stomped her way over to Spike and hunched down next to his prone body. On impulse she took his cold hand in both hers. “We really need to help him, Giles. He can’t keep doing this.”
“There really is nothing we can do, Willow. It just takes time.”
He thought distractedly that the flash he just caught in her eye was fear, but before he could determine exactly why that should be, she had turned away and tried to use her slight frame to heft Spike up off the ground. Giles rushed forward and took up the slack, an unconscious vampire dangling like an oversized puppet between them.
“I don’t think he has much time.”
Her thoughtful statements were often just too much for Giles. Willow had become the thinker of the group- the planner. She had overtaken him as the one who looked out for the troupe of friends- family- his own head often too muddied to care much about who was slipping and who managed to stay on their feet.
It had only been five days after all and none of them had probably chosen a healthy way to deal with the grief. They either pretended it didn’t exist, or sunk so far into continuous bottles of grog to make the cold front imposed for onlookers much easier to sustain. Unless you were Spike, who hadn’t come up from his drunken haze since he landed in the bubble of alcohol the morning after Buffy was discovered broken and gone.
“I think that the minute he moves towards sober, we’re done for. He’ll find another way to go and we won’t be able to do anything about it.”
In a pique of jealousy, Giles crumbled.
“So, why not just let him? If the bloody pillock is so weak, then let him just go. We can’t be doing this for the rest of our lives.” His voice was bitter, but inwardly he kicked himself for his own weakness- for refusing to be stronger about what their needs were. He couldn’t deny that they needed Spike. Hell, if he had to travel down the road of truth, he would have to admit that he would feel a little sad if the blond idiot managed to end his own existence. And further in the background of his mind he could hear her, hear the disappointment in her voice at the unworthy demise of one of her cherished enemies. Well, cherished might be pushing it, but he was sure that near the end, Buffy was lightening toward Spike. She was recognising something in the vampire that Rupert himself had almost hoped for when Spike had first come to them after the chip. An opportunity that Spike verbally rejected when Giles had given him the money for help during his stint as demon. But an opportunity his actions had more and more supported.
So the real answer then, was no. They couldn’t let the vampire dust himself. It would break more than Dawn. It would be the loss of their only supernatural protection against demon threats on the Hellmouth. And- dare he think it- it could well be the loss of something prophetic on a scale much larger than Angel. It could be the loss of purpose.
His spine stiffened and Spike was hauled higher on one side, Willow struggling to hang on to Spike’s other side.
“You are right, Willow. I just don’t know what we can do.”
She nodded her head, somber and accepting of the long moments of quiet.
He nodded, and with struggling pants they continued to haul their load to Revello Drive.
It was the stairs that proposed the largest hurdle. Through his t-shirt, his ribs protruded and Willow felt bile rise in her throat. For the first time in ages she cursed whatever reason he had for deciding to discard the wearing of his trademark coat. It would have hidden some of the sharpness of his bones from her, allowing her a little less nightmare with her sleep. She knew Spike hadn’t fed since Buffy’s swan dive through the doorway of dimensions, and now his frame was ugly in its gauntness. Despite his extreme weight-loss however, he was dead weight to drag up the stairs of the Summers home. And she wasn’t laughing. Oh no, skinny Spike was way too close to emaciated for her liking, and pun not intended, he was gonna dust from starvation alone if they didn’t do something soon.
Collective gasps- repeated every night this routine continued- had greeted them on arrival. Two steps up the stairs and Willow could feel the weakening of her knees.
“Xander? Could you take over? I don’t think I can get him up to Buffy’s room.”
Xander flinched but held his tongue, his feet taking him to Spike’s side without vitriolic comment.
“I see fangless isn’t getting any prettier,” he commented, the uncertain concern tripping off his tongue unawares, like a stalking shadow in the night. “And if he doesn’t bulk up soon, we’re gonna have to book him into one of those power clinics for anorexics.”
The almost mild jibing settled amongst them with ease, all having to face the uncomfortable reality of a ‘savage, evil monster’ killing himself slowly because of his inability to let go of a love that was never shared. Even Xander was sympathetic and, at times, almost frighteningly worried.
The two Scooby men finally bared their burden to Buffy’s bed and, in direct contrast to their previous attitude to the vampire, they lowered him gently before chaining his legs to the bed. They had made a mistake earlier with handcuffs, finding that Spike would resort to knawing at his own wrists to get away, but he wasn’t so proficient with his ankles.
Xander looked at the body on the bed and marvelled that for the first time since knowing Spike, the vampire looked like a corpse. Blue veins were stark against his white flesh, even the shade of his hair blending alarmingly with the sickly and pasty pallor of Spike’s face.
“After the thrashing Glory gave him, who would have ever thought it would be our own little Buffy who’d destroy Captain Peroxide like this?”
They shared a teary moment of commiseration unawares, memories of Buffy fighting the formidable foe flashing through both their minds before eyes once again fell to the man broken by a mortal death. Sense had skipped the border and was hooning down the highway of ludicrous. Xander shook his head at the vampire he didn’t want to understand and made his way out the door and back to the living room. Giles made to follow, then hesitated. His eyes rested on a stake- one of Buffy’s stakes left behind- on the dresser and he crossed to it and lifted it in his hands. His steps slowly moved him to the side of the bed and his eyes locked onto the chest of the black t-shirt. No dwelling on the face, no seeing the tears as his own flowed down his cheeks, no acknowledging anything other than this was a vampire that lay atop Buffy’s bed, completely worthless to them.
He never raised his fist clutching the stake. In numb fingers he let it fall and thump to the floor before swiping sadly at his wet face and apologising to the vampire.
“Sorry, Spike. I guess I’m no stronger than you are. If I were, maybe I could help you find the end you are looking for. But I’m selfish. If I have to hurt, then I want you to as well. All that loved her has to stay here alongside me and hurt. It’s the only way I can get through.”
Lowering his eyes, Giles moved away from the bed, leaving the stake on the carpet, and belatedly followed Xander. Wrapped up in his own guilt and pain, he didn’t notice Dawn sneak from her room behind him and perch herself at the top of the stairs, preparing for another night of eavesdropping.
On his arrival the genial chatter of inconsequence ceased and the group of friends switched to Scooby meeting mode.
Through his sleep he knew what they did. Every night they came to collect him, more prepared since that first night when he fought against them until he collapsed on the grass with blood pouring from his ears and nose and the pain made his head throb. He almost wished they hadn’t come up with a magically induced coma to restrain him; the agony of physical pain went a long way to dulling the ache in his chest. Miles further than the alcohol did, and a lot bloody less expensive. What he didn’t know or get, was why they were pulling the great Samaritan act. He was nothing to them, only tolerated perhaps for his strength and potential babysitting abilities.
But knowing didn’t change much. It wasn’t enough to have him alter his nightly routine. He’d thought about it; find somewhere else to wait for a dusty morning, but the monumental joke of it all was that he wanted to be near her and he didn’t know where else to go.
So, every night he stumbled upon her grave in a drunken stupor and talked. Unburdened his heart- begged her forgiveness for allowing her to die. Screaming at God to play fair and take him instead of her; he was willing to trade. And let’s face it: he was a good trade. Take a filthy ex-murderer off the streets and make him pay in eternal damnation. Give a good girl a chance at life.
But most nights, his broken sobs weren’t enough to distract him from the knowledge that she was probably better off where she was. He had no doubts that she was in Heaven. Where else did a soldier of light retire? He had no clue, and he wasn’t stupid, so that was what he believed. And he knew that if that was where she was, she didn’t deserve to return to this life, to fight and hurt for another indeterminate number of years.
So, he clawed into the earth above, and cried oceans of tears into the grass. And thought that eventually, they would stop coming to get him. But tonight hadn’t been the night. Though he couldn’t rouse himself, he knew that he was back in her room, the scent of her overwhelming his heart. It was bittersweet; the number of times he had been in this room without her knowledge, sucking in the air that she surrounded herself with as she slept. And now he was sprawled out on her bed, the magical numbness of his mind slowly drifting toward the horror of sleep, and the lessening of his pain. He fought against it, not wanting that dimming of his disgrace.
But as he was preoccupied with fighting sleep and the onset of dreams, he slipped and entered that realm. She came to him some nights, offering something, he didn’t often know what. She confused him, more now she was dead and unable to touch him than when she was alive and allusive and contradictory as hell.
Tonight she appeared as if it was that final night. The tears welled as he prepared himself to weather the storm of her disappointment. But it wasn’t that. She stood on her stairwell, inviting him once again over her threshold. He stood at the bottom of those stairs, maybe a metre and a half below her and rested awestruck eyes on her beauty, on her trust.
“I know you’ll never love me,” he’d told her, like a complete wallowing wanker, but he’d known it down deep. Hadn’t she scoffed and fought against that very possibility like the thought was way too disgusting to contemplate? But she had made him feel like a man and he had to tell her that, tell her how important her effect on him to be different had been to him before he surrendered his life in her fight.
This time she repeated her original acceptance of the statement with quiet interest. Instead of turning though- heading away from him in search of weapons- she graced him with the light of her smile. His very being burned as her elemental goodness washed over him, granting a benediction no god could ever bestow. Descending a couple of steps, she paused before him and rested her palm against his cheek. His eyes drank her in, greedy and needy and heartbroken for the reality of her.
He was overcome with her and collapsed in her arms, soaking the front of her top with his savage grief as he grasped her with strong arms intent on never letting her go.
“Never say never, William,” she whispered against his cheek as she bestowed a small kiss to his lips. This one clung to his lips, much like the one after his Glory torture. But this time he knew it was her.
She stood and moved away from him, her hand hovering just apart from his chest before she shared a sad smile with him.
“Soon, Spike. Wait for me?”
He nodded dumbly.
“Of course, pet. I’ll wait for you forever, you know I will.”
But she was gone, and he searched frantically for any sign or scent of where she disappeared to. But again he was too late, and he had no clue yet again, cast adrift. But sweet, blessed darkness claimed him and he dreamed of nothing more.
Dawn sat still and forgotten at the top of the staircase, ears primed for any information gathering that the Scoobies still felt she shouldn’t be involved in. She almost growled her frustration at the recounting of Spike’s recovery tonight- the repetitive nature of his descent into nothingness.
She could understand their concern- they didn’t want her to know how low he had sunk, how desperate they all felt for him. As their conversation turned round and round with no options or suggestions on how to save the errant vampire, she allowed her tears of helplessness and grief fall from her eyes.
Rubbing distractedly at the wetness of her face, she resigned herself to the knowledge that it was all up to her. She was the closest to him, the one that shared his pain almost equally. But also the one that craved his strength back because she felt she was on the edge of something hollow and disturbing herself. She needed someone who wouldn’t be quiet with her, who would share his space and not keep things from her over concern for her age or pain. She needed Spike back, and so far the Scoobies were failing at saving him.
It was up to her.
With determination adding strength to her heart-sore body, she took quietly to her feet and went to her room. What was needed was a plan.
“Oh, Spike. Your gaunt, too tight skin does not make you look sexy. Can I help you?”
That perky, too familiar voice encouraged him in his sleep fuzzy confusion to open his eyes. His dream had receded too short a time ago and he thought for a blindingly happy moment that it was her, his love come back to taunt him with her callous rejections and disgust.
But that plastic, ‘too happy to see him’ smile tipped him off and he suddenly backed as far away from the bot as it was possible with his legs shackled to one end of the bed.
“No. Don’t need anything from you. Get the fuck out of here.” His voice was rising with hysteria, feeling penned and cornered by a pack of rabid dogs rather than an organic bot that only looked like the girl he would love forever. But with the devoted lustiness he had her programmed with she wanted to touch him, and the thought of having those non-real Buffy hands on his papering skin brought instant nausea to his throat.
“But Spike! I can make you feel all better. Willow said that I was here to help. I think she meant for me to kill vampires, but I’d rather be helping you. And it’s been such a long time since I’ve seen you naked.” Her shining lips remained moist and sparkly, and her bouncy hair bounced as she bobbed her head enthusiastically in the wake of his mounting dread. He began to tremble violently, not only disliking where this was going but feeling terrified like he never had in all his existence as a vampire.
She stepped forward and started to unbutton her top, letting it fall from her shoulders as she kicked off her shoes.
“Let me ravish you, Spike. That will fix everything, and you’ll forget all about the other Buffy.”
The top was slipping down her slim arms, the revelation of her skin causing muted choking noises to squash past the huge lump of emotion in his throat. His eyes burned, his hands twitched, and the second before he pounced he started screaming and thrashing like a wild animal.
“Shut up, shut up,” he spat in between pulling on clumps of hair, of kicking violently at her face, clawing at her midriff.
“Fuck off… get out of my face, you bitch!”
The voluble frenzy and screeching brought a rush of feet up the stairs in witness of Spike’s loss of control. They were too late to reassert order, too late to save the bot from being thrashed and smashed and discarded as useless in a torn pile of synthetic skin and electronics. Only once she stopped gasping and moving did the vampire collapse to his knees, the sobs and vampiric growls uncontrollable.
One glance from Giles and Willow muttered the increasingly familiar words to fully calm the vampire and he was once again placed carefully on the wrinkled covers of the bed. As an added precaution, Willow retrieved the handcuffs and restrained him fully.
They all stood around him as he writhed- his game face prominent even in his sleep- none finding the ability to push past the shock of destruction that littered Buffy’s once tidy room. Guilt lay on the edge of all their thoughts, and it wasn’t until Giles cleared his throat of emotion that any of them felt they could force their feet to move.
The group moved almost silently toward the living room, alarm keeping them quiet at first, before Tara took courage and began to stutter what they had all been thinking.
“I-I g-g-guess we w-weren’t careful enough to keep the Buffy Bot away from S-Spike.”
Four sets of eyes met hers and shone with remorse.
“As sad as this occurrence has been,” Giles paused, polishing frantically at his glass lenses while he thought and tried desperately to beat down his rising apprehension, “the Buffy Bot was our only line of defense. Spike really is in no fit state to help with patrolling, so it has become beyond urgent that we find some solutions to these problems. I propose that we reconvene at the Magic Box in the morning and try to ferret out some solutions.”
A round of exhausted nods was his answer and finally the various Scoobies who weren’t already home filtered through the front door and made their way to their own homes. That part of the night to be alone- left to remember and dwell on those that were missing- had finally arrived. Sadness was a condition that they had all fell under, and with the self-absorption of each, there was no one left to bring back the levity needed to get through a comfortable night. A comfy bed and pillow held little actual comfort, and for some, the offer was refused before the chance of utterance.
Willow followed Tara upstairs, switching off lights in the downstairs as she went, and the tears she had kept at bay throughout the stress of the night were finally allowed to be released. Even her silent plans and hopes, causing spells and chants to circle and swirl around in her mind, were not enough to cordon off the swell of melancholy the absence of Buffy caused.
As she moved around the room, dressing and brushing her teeth for bed, Willow closed herself off to the other activity in the room. This was the time of night where she allowed herself to close down, allowed herself to blend with the pain that crushed the whole house, the Hellmouth. It was her time of night to grieve, to let go and be inspired by the depths shown by Spike.
Her head was braced against the pillow, her neck tense against the appearance of Tara by her side. Tears shone in her girlfriend’s eyes as Willow closed herself off emotionally for the day and succumbed to the reality of their Slayerless world. A world that no longer even had the security of the Bot or a Vampire do-gooder in control of his senses. Short moments of doom seemed to settle around the room, and Willow sucked in sharp breaths of air.
And then she closed her eyes and imagined spells that would make everything be good again.
As usual, Dawn had been forgotten. Only the curl of fear causing nausea in her stomach tempered her irritation. They hadn’t noticed, but her door had been open, she’d done the eavesdrop thing and she’d heard. She knew what he had done. The inhuman wails as he destroyed the bot had caused her to leap head first under her pillow for some possibility of blocking the sound. She thought he was dead, had found some other way to make the pain stop forever.
But no. It had been that stupid Bot.
Dawn had heard the graceful pile of junk ascend the stairs, and she felt just as guilty as Giles and the others. It hadn’t occurred to her either to make sure it stayed away from Spike.
What a mess! And now she was cleaning it up. They had all walked out, their stupidity in allowing the bot too close was compounded by the pieces of the dismantled heap of computer chips and rubbery flesh that they left to litter the room.
She’d located one of those extra strong black garbage bags under the kitchen sink, making sure to be quiet and not alarm Willow and Tara now sleeping in her mother’s old room, and made her way back to clean up every piece of the bot she could find. Nothing would be right if Spike woke to find bits of the bot everywhere he tried to tread.
Those moments he woke up- before he remembered the night before and his new mission in unlife- well, they belonged to Dawn, and she was hardly going to let those moments be stolen from her over crappy pieces of robot that wasn’t even real.
After finishing in the room, she quickly kissed Spike on the forehead and headed out to dispose of the garbage bag in the trash. With a short, worried look over her shoulder, she took her first step to the footpath that would lead her away from the house and probably into danger. But the sky was beginning to lighten, and she had a stake tucked into her waistband. No girl in Sunnydale should be without her trusty stake. Or even her trusty sisterly Slayer, if she could help it.
The footpath blurred, but Dawn struck on, determined to make her destination in one piece and retrieve the one thing that would fix everything. Well, maybe not everything.
Actually, not much.
Just one thing.
He was the one thing she could help right now. All the other stuff, the safety of the Hellmouth, she’d leave the solving of that problem to the Scoobies. And hey! If she managed to do this thing right with Spike, she might actually have inadvertently solved the Scooby designated problem, too. He’d be able to help out again.
Buffy would be so proud.
The thought brought her to choked halt. A hand over her mouth stopped her loud sob from reaching extra-sensitive ears and she closed her eyes, squeezed out the remaining tears, and wiped her eyes clear. Her feet struck a steady beat on the path as she pushed herself on.
There. Just up ahead she could see the gate to her destination. Almost falling through in relief, Dawn followed the path through the little courtyard to the place that was Giles’s ‘flat’. With a key she had lifted from Buffy’s old key-ring, she pushed it through the lock as slowly and silently as possible. Pushing the door open, loud snorts and humphs greeted her with the knowledge that her stealth was more than unnecessary.
As she moved cautiously around the sofa to his bookshelves, the toe of her shoe dislodged a bottle of something. Bending, Dawn picked it up before the little remaining contents leaked out over the pristine carpet. The label gave her no real clue what it was, but the smell of alcohol put any confusion to rest. Another tendril of cold misery crept in to strangle her heart.
Almost taken over with a sudden need to leave, Dawn looked rapidly through the names of magic books, picked one and hightailed it back to the door. With one more look back at the man Buffy had considered their real father and his surrender to alcoholic bliss, she opened it and almost ran back home, hanging doggedly to her new possession.
This book would be what fixed everything.
If it all went according to plan.
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