|Regrets...I Had a Few by Schehrezade|
|Chapter #1 - Chapter One|
|Many Many THANKS to Megan for her betaing!|
"If I were to stop saving his life, it would simple things up so much.” Buffy sighed, and stuffed her hands into her pockets and began to head out of the cemetery. She mentally veered away from the tenderness he had shown her the night Willow and the others had left her to dig her way out of her own grave. She didn’t want to be reminded of the claustrophobia that she still suffered from. Instead, she focused on pulling the fledging out of her grave and staking her, all done in quick efficient moves and hauntingly resembling the robot that had replaced her all summer.
Focusing on the tentative friendship that had evolved was also not of the good—the strangeness of her telling him the secret of where she’d been. She tried not to remember the expression on his face the first time she sought refuge in his Crypt. The hope blossoming in his entire being, the excitement and the barely concealed longing in every move and word he spoke to her, the shy abashed glances before his eyes dropped away as if burned by her.
“Yeah, so I kissed him. What’s the biggie? We’ve kissed before,” she muttered to herself as she kicked a rock. Her mind shied away from the memory of soft sweet yummy lips of Spike. “Gahhh…stop with the smoochie thinkage.” Buffy stomped out of the gates and then slid to a stop. She smacked herself in the head for good measure to knock out the repetitive images of the other night in the alley when they had kissed – again.
Buffy came to a surprised halt, almost tripping over her own feet, her hazel eyes assessing the violent tableau in front of her.
The same vamps that worked for the shark-headed demon were now pummelling the stuffing out of Spike, supervised by their boss. She stared in surprise, not figuring that Spike would’ve let any of the goons get an upper hand. Then she blinked at the sight of three arrows sticking out of his back, all spaced around his heart. They must have shot him as he was getting away. Buffy frowned at the cowardly way they’d cornered the peroxide pain in her ass.
“Not so tough when you’re not hiding behind the Slayer’s skirts, are you, Mr Spike?” he taunted as he adjusted the cuffs on his shirt. “You're an odd duck, Mister Spike. Fighting your own kind ... palling around with a Slayer, but you owe me and the debt has to be paid.”
Spike looked up defiantly and spat out some blood at his tormentor. His upper lip was split open and his eyes were swelling shut. He opened his mouth to retaliate and then spotted Buffy’s frozen form; a flicker of warning went through his eyes and he shook his head slightly at her. His confidence that he could get out of this situation was firmly in place; he was a survivor, only reason they’d gotten the upper hand was because they had shot him in the back. Spike rolled his shoulders as best he could in the tight grips of the two no-neck vampires, ready to make his move. But it was already too late.
Before he could say anything or Buffy could move to help, a stake slammed into his exposed heart. Spike’s head dropped down and he stared at it in shock – he had never thought they’d go through with their threats. If he was gone then the debt would never be paid.
“Nooooo…” Buffy didn’t realise she had screamed out until the demon looked round and his minions leapt away from Spike’s body. Fear was reflected in all their eyes as they turned and ran. Spike dropped to his knees, his hand clutching at the stake as he gasped needlessly in panic.
His eyes locked with Buffys’; in that split second, he managed to convey a multitude of feelings. Foremost in them was his love for her, resolute and unchanging despite the way she treated him. Buffy bit her lower lip until it bled. He really loved her, even though he didn’t have a soul.
Spike loved her.
Buffy gripped at her throat, trying desperately to stifle the screams that were surging in her chest. With a rueful smile and her name the last thing on his lips, he disintegrated.
“Hey, Buffy, wake up! I made waffles.”
Buffy groaned and rolled over onto her side, pulling her covers up over her head. Too much perky Willow made her sick to her stomach since she’d come back to Hell. In fact, any incarnation of Willow made her sick. Ever since the big ‘I was in heaven’ reveal in The Bronze, her so-called best friend was always making with the puppy-dog eyes and please forgive me faces. Buffy wanted to shake her every single time she saw her and scream, ‘why – why did you do this too me? Why would you think I was in Hell? I was a Champion, a Slayer and nice person, never mean to small kids and always ate my greens – why would you think I wasn’t in Heaven?’
“Come on, sleepy head, rise and shine,” Willow trilled through the door and then rattled the door handle, but the door was locked. Willow frowned. Her thin lower lip jutted out in a moue of discontent, unhappy that there was yet another barrier between her and Buffy, although this time it wasn’t an emotional one. A flicker of something dark roiled in her eyes and then vanished just as quickly as it appeared. “Okay, I’ll keep them warm. Come down when you’re ready.”
Buffy sighed and flopped onto her back. Something was missing; she couldn’t remember what it was. Then it hit her like a train wreck. She curled up reflexively into a tight ball and shoved her fist into her mouth to stop herself from screaming.
He had died last night. He’d gone and left her.
His last word had been her name and the look in his eyes had put her to shame. Guilt coloured her every thought and breath. He had loved her and she had tried to deny that love. Screaming to all that he had no soul and no soul equalled no ability to love. But then he had loved Dru. He had loved Dawn, he had loved her mom in his own in inimitable way and then, he had loved her.
Buffy lifted her head and stared at the Mother of Pearl box on her bedside table. She had managed to scrabble in the dirt and collect his ashes, cramming them diligently into her pockets and then ran for home. Her feet had pounded out a panicked rhythm as she barrelled through the front door and up the stairs to her room. She’d ignored Dawn’s whiney comments and Tara’s gentle questions, sobs smothering her every breath as she sank to her knees in the privacy of her own room.
Buffy reached over and tentatively caressed the box. She was filled with so many conflicting emotions: anger, pain, guilt, hurt and loneliness, all of them adding painfully to the depression that she’d been zealously nurturing since being ripped out from Heaven. The gestalt of emotions working at tipping her over the edge, Buffy’s hand began to shake and she flipped over and pressed her mouth into the pillow and screamed. Her fists and feet were hammering the mattress as she let herself feel it all – just for a few minutes. It was something she allowed herself to do every morning, just so that she could function through the day.
“Oh hey, you’re up!” Willow exclaimed as she served up another batch of waffles.
“Kinda didn’t have a choice,” Buffy muttered under her breath as she took a seat at the breakfast bar and reached for a cup and splashed in some coffee. Dawn glanced over at her sister and frowned at the latest addition to her wardrobe.
“Hey, that was mom’s!” Dawn gestured at the locket that swung between Buffy’s breasts. “Why do you get to wear it?” she whined petulantly.
“Dawnie, don’t…” Tara placed a calming hand on the sulking teenager’s tense shoulder. Dawn shrugged it off and glared at her silent sister.
Buffy sat hunched, the sharp bones of her spine showing through the t-shirt she’d hastily pulled on, her body curled in on itself as she huddled on the stool. A thin, shaking and scarred hand clutched at the gold locket where she had placed some of Spike’s ashes. She couldn’t explain what had spurred her to do it, but once she had, a smidge of contentedness had filled her aching soul.
“Buffy?” Willow pushed a plate in her direction and dropped two waffles onto it. “Here you go, want some syrupy goodness on those?”
“Sure,” Buffy sighed and cradled the cup in her hands, letting the warmth leech into her freezing fingers. “Thanks.” The food sat there ignored as Buffy sipped at the dark liquid and stared sightlessly ahead. Caught up in her own world-- one where Spike was still around, bugging her and staring at her with those adoring eyes.
“Way with the wordiness, sis,” Dawn sniped. Still peeved about the locket and her sister’s inability to fight her corner anymore, part of her hoped that Buffy would snipe back, anything to show her sister had noticed her. Her initial elation about her sister’s return had faded into confusion and anger with Buffy’s weird behaviour. Even the discovery that she’d been in heaven hadn’t really registered on Dawn’s radar. All she understood was her sister wasn’t the same, and that anger and despair manifested itself in her petty behaviour, skipping school and stealing. All cries for help that no one was able to spot as they were all caught up in their own personal miseries and dramas.
“Are you okay, Buffy?” Tara sat down next to the silent slayer and gently ran her hand over Buffy’s plaited hair. She could see in her aura a blackness that had never been present before. It made her stomach lurch every time she looked at the mute woman.
“No, I have to go…” Buffy leapt to her feet. She wanted to get away from them all. She couldn’t work out why Willow and Tara were still here and in Mom’s room. It bugged her, but not enough to make her care—not yet.
“Wait, you didn’t explain to me why you’re wearing Mom’s locket.” Dawn was now standing, her arms akimbo and an angry glint in her eyes. An image of pure teenage petulance, Buffy mentally shuddered and offered up a silent apology to her mom for any horrors she had inflicted on the poor woman.
It was the last straw. “Fine, you wanna know?” Buffy snapped. She took a step forwards and grabbed Dawn’s shoulders and shook her, her own face red with rage. “It’s all I have left of him.”
“Wha?” Dawn scrabbled at her sister’s wrists, trying to break her hold. “Buffy, slayer strength, you’re hurting me!”
Buffy pushed Dawn away from her and ran past her into the hallway and out of the house. She had to get away – she needed solace from her mind and the memories of the peace that was torn from her. She needed – oh god, she needed him. His surprisingly gentle companionship and friendship that completely belied his Big Bad persona, which he’d offered from that immortal breathless moment he had seen her on the stairs. The look of pure awe and adulation he had bestowed on her still made her throat constrict. The gentle way he had cradled her torn hands, immediately knowing what she had endured and offering his own stumbling form of comfort. The nights that followed – he’d saved her every night. But she hadn’t saved him.
She had failed.
Buffy fell to her knees on the sidewalk, her hand bracing herself on the already sun warmed paving stone, and she retched. The contested locket, so completely precious now, swung forward as her body shuddered under the force of dry heaves. She watched as her nails cracked and split as they dug into the unforgiving cement.
“Hey, miss, are you okay?”
She squinted up through her hair, now hanging over her face. The sun was too bright in her eyes, but a kind face looked down at her. “Here, let me help you up.” The postman reached down and gently pulled Buffy to her feet. The kindly middle-aged man reached out and grasped her shoulders, finally steadying her.
Buffy wiped the back of her hand across her mouth as her other one convulsively clutched at the locket.
“Are you going to be okay?”
She nodded and smiled her gratitude at his concern and kindness before pulling away. His hands were too hot, not cool and soothing like his had been.
“Sorry… thanks.” Her lips failed her intended smile of appreciation, but she managed to walk off with a wave of thanks.Her mind intent on her destination
|Chapter #2 - Chapter Two|
|Buffy sank down in his ratty green armchair and stared sightlessly ahead. All the life in the dusty old place had been sucked out of it. He wasn’t there to fill the air with his constant stream of dialogue; his frenetic energy was gone – the constant moving around, bouncing on the balls of his feet. Even when they just sat there the dynamism of his personality filled the space. Buffy wrapped her arms around her knees and rocked back and forth. |
She was confused. When had Spike gone from a pest to a friend? Buffy dashed the ever-present tears off her face and rested her heated cheek on her knees and stared at the wall. Part of her was ashamed at her mourning and the guilt over her inaction leading to Spike’s senseless death. But another part of her railed at the loss of her one and only confidant, the only one she could talk to since she had come back. She had tried to kid herself at first that she only spoke to him because he didn’t matter to her, and that by telling him it didn’t count. But Buffy realised now that Spike had meant more to her than she had ever realised.
And it had taken him dying and leaving her for her to realise.
He had saved her. Every night since she’d come back, Spike’s presence-- no matter how annoying-- had saved her from crumbling into insanity. He had managed what none of her friends and family had done; he’d kept her sane and able to function.
His face in the alley when she’d told him where she had been. It was indelibly etched on her memory, the horror and dawning understanding as to why she was so lost and his silent support and companionship as she struggled to understand why Willow and the others had done this to her. He had even acquiesced to her demand that they never know.
But they knew now.
Buffy closed her eyes, remembering the other’s faces as she had sung of her longing to return to heaven. She could easily picture the tacit understanding on Tara’s face, the simplistic confusion on Xander and Anya’s faces, the barely suppressed ire on Giles’s and the tears on Willow’s. Buffy frowned at how quickly Willow’s guilt had dissipated, seemingly almost overnight. Instead the usual guilt cookies baked by the bushel, she had begun to pursue Buffy around the house and at the Magic Box with a relentless determination, needing forgiveness--something Buffy wasn’t sure she would ever be ready to give her.
It really made her uncomfortable. Ever since Willow had moved deeper into magic, something at a very basic level had changed in her friend. Gone was the shy intelligent girl from High School and in her place was a woman that Buffy barely understood. In all honesty, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to anymore.
Xander was still Xander. Nothing seemed to change him; the only thing that had developed into something that bordered on mania was his dislike of Spike. Buffy had no idea why, or where that had come from. She shuddered at the guilt that swarmed through her skinny body; she never really did anything to stop Xander’s bullying. She had always hated bullies for as long as she could remember, and by her silence during Xander’s jibes, Buffy realised she was tacit in her complicity. A moan escaped her chapped and chewed lips and she tightened her grip on her shins, trying to twist into an even tighter ball. ‘Bad …I’m a bad person.’
“Dawnie, why did you do that to Buffy?” Tara leaned forward earnestly and offered the teen a smile.
Dawn shrugged and sipped on the large milkshake that Tara had bought for her. All around them everyone in the Mall were going about their business, oblivious to the little drama that was being played out at the small metal table in the food court.
Tara sighed; she was starting to get a stress headache. Nothing in her life had equipped her to deal with the way Dawn was behaving these days. She was swung from being utterly wonderful to the harridan that had driven Buffy out of the house in tears this morning. Both she and Tara were puzzling over Buffy’s cryptic comment about all she had left of him. Neither of them could work out what it meant. Willow had wondered if Buffy had put a picture of either Angel or Riley in the locket, but Tara had felt it was something more immediate than that.
Turning her worries from Buffy, Tara focussed on the teen that was currently staring holes into her and slurping on the chocolate milkshake she’d bribed out of her. “Honey, you need to be nicer to Buffy. She’s been through a lot and you being mad at her for wanting to wear something of your mom’s to make her feel better is not fair.” Tara took a deep breath, secretly amazed that she had managed such a long speech without stumbling over her words.
“It’s not fair, “ Dawn whined. She sat up straight and glared angrily at Tara. “It’s always about Buffy…for as long as I can remember.” Dawn flinched away from the realisation that what she remembered and what she had lived were two very different things. Unbeknownst to the teen, that was the core of her emotional problems. “First, cos she was the oldest and then cos she was the Slayer…no one ever thought about me…I hate her. Why should she get to wear mom’s stuff, huh? What if I wanted it? I hate her!”
“If you hate her so much why were you so upset this last summer?” Tara’s calm query stopped Dawn in her tracks more effectively than the slap the Wiccan desperately wanted to dole out on the girl.
She took a breath and then huffed loudly, folding her arms defensively across her chest and staring truculently across the Mall. Tara was right, but there was no way she was gonna admit it. Dawn exhaled deeply and reached for her shake. “It’s not fair…”
“Life isn’t, Dawnie, it really isn’t, but all I ask is for you to be nicer with Buffy.”
The brunette shrugged, mentally promising herself to go and see Spike as soon as Tara let her go. So she could have a big bitch fest about Buffy at him, secure in knowing that even if he didn’t contribute, he would atleast let her get her poison out before she went home.
Rubbing the back of her hand over her eyes, Buffy stood. She managed three steps before she started shaking wildly, tears welling up and pouring down her cheeks. Buffy stared around the crypt and realised she had been about to walk out and leave everything here. She raised her chin and a smidge of determination filled her red-rimmed eyes. There was no way she was leaving any of his things here in the crypt for scavengers to take. She didn’t care that the others would freak over her bringing his belongings home, Buffy didn’t care – Spike was dead.
Buffy had spent the morning dragging cardboard boxes from the local Wallmart to the crypt, the heat of the day making her t-shirt stick to her back and matting her hair to her neck and throat. She was exhausted, wrung out emotionally and physically, but Buffy’s spine straightened and she pushed the door open with her foot. The coolness of the air in his crypt soothed her overheated body as she dumped the last of the boxes in the corner and flopped in his armchair. okay, luv…’
“I don’t know, Spike. Why did you let them kill you? I need you,” Buffy whispered to the voice in her head. Deep down she knew it wasn’t Spike, but it comforted her to imagine it was.
She smiled at the imagined sound of his chuckle in her head. Reaching down, she grabbed the bottle of water she’d left earlier and sipped on it. Carefully re-capping the bottle, she stood and began the long and heartbreaking task of packing Spike’s life away.
“Spike, you asleep?”
Buffy’s hands froze as she rolled up one of the oriental rugs in the lower crypt, the others already neatly rolled and tied up. She had finally finished packing the boxes and placing them by the door. Her silent sojourn into Spike’s life had been a revelation to her. His journals had been carefully packed together, she wanted them near her. She felt almost voyeuristic when she had glanced through them, but she wanted to read them to get to know all of him. She was sad that it would be after his death that she finally allowed him to get close to her. It was all such a waste.
His clothes were in another box, along with some sketches. The main bulk of his possessions had surprisingly been books of all shapes and sizes. Running a close second was a record collection that she suspected that if Giles were still around, he would’ve wept over them.
Her silent adieu to the peroxided menace was now over. Dawn was upstairs yelling her head off and Buffy realised she was going to have to tell her what had happened to Spike. She didn’t want to; she felt if she did then it was all too real. Until this moment she had existed in a dreamlike bubble of her own, but once she shared the previous night’s events, that bubble would burst.
She dragged the last carpet over to the others and laid it carefully down. Turning around, she dusted her hands off and took in the now denuded lower rooms. It was barren, just like her heart. All the warmth and comfort that Spike had carefully created was leeched out and the coffins that stuck out of the dirt walls haphazardly mocked her with the promises of an endless sleep again.
“Hey, Spike, what the hell are you doing? Why’s all your stuff packed up?” Dawn yelled down. Buffy heard her moving around upstairs and took a calming breath. After the not so cool confrontation that morning, the last thing the elder Summers wanted was another ‘talk’ with her sister.
“Ohhh -- cool, can I have this? I love lava lamps!” Dawn called down, utterly oblivious to the fact that Spike had not replied.
Something resembling a growl escaped Buffy’s throat. She felt oddly possessive of Spike’s belongings and the idea that her sister was pawing her way through the boxes she had carefully packed annoyed her. It registered dimly the about face she had undergone since the moment she had watched him leave her, crumbling to dust. Her entire worldview had shifted in that instant and now she was filled with a poignant regret of everything that they might’ve had and now never would. A wracking sob escaped her tightly controlled body and she groaned.
“Eww – Spike have you got a skank down there? I can hear her! I wanted to talk to you about the beaaatch that is my si…Bu…Buffy?” Dawn squeaked in embarrassment as she froze on the ladder, her eyes taking in the sight of her sister standing in the now empty room.
“Oh my god, what have you done?” Dawn shrieked. “Did you make him leave? Where is he?” Her voice was rapidly reaching supersonic levels when Buffy snapped and did exactly what Tara had ached to do earlier. Her thin hand snapped out and smacked Dawn across the face.
“Stop it!” Buffy cried out, tears of anger and sorrow colouring her voice. She had done something that her mom had never done, lashed out. But Dawn was wearing on her last nerve and after the last twelve hours, Buffy had no patience left.
“You hit me.” Dawn’s eyes were massive over her hand, which was cupping her swelling mouth. “I’m gonna tell mo…” She trailed off when she realised that her knee jerk threat to tell their mom was futile. She was gone. Dawn tried not to cry, and she didn’t want Buffy or anyone else to know about the stain of hurt from her mother’s death that still lingered on her heart.
“Enough, Dawn.” Buffy’s voice held a world-weariness that any mother would recognise in an instant. “Sit down, I need to tell you something.”
For once Dawn was mute and plopped down on a coffin. Buffy stared at the coffin with tear stained eyes. It was the same coffin that she and Spike had sat on while she got drunk and he promised to fix her life. “Oh…” She reached up in what was rapidly becoming a habit and clutched at the locket, the tears swimming in her eyes causing her to miss the narrowing of her younger sister’s.
“Where’s Spike? How come you’re here?” Dawn asked angrily.
“I…Dawn…oh god.” Buffy sat gingerly down next to Dawn and reached over with her free hand and tried to stroke her sisters long hair, only to be denied. Dawn shied away, thinking that her sister was going to smack her in the mouth. A small part of her piped up saying she had deserved it and to stop making her sister’s life hell. Dawn focused on that tiny bit of her conscience and straightened.
Concern filled her eyes. “What’s happened?”
“Spi…he…Dawn, I tried to get to him but they were too fast and then he was gone,” Buffy babbled.
“Gone where?” Dawn asked confused.
Buffy’s hands shook and then steadied as she carefully opened the locket and revealed the small amount of dust she had hidden in it.
“No!” Dawn screamed. “No…no…no…nooooooooo.”
|Chapter #3 - Chapter Three|
|It was a much chastened Dawn that helped lug the boxes home. They had both decided that Dawn would bug Xander into driving them over to collect the rugs and larger pieces that the two sisters couldn’t carry. For the first time in a long while they were on the same page and working together. But Buffy didn’t fool herself by thinking that everything was now all right between them. As much as she loved her sister, Dawn was getting too much for her to handle and Buffy was worried that her baby sister was going to really go off the tracks. |
“Where shall we store Spi…his stuff?” Dawn stared at all the boxes that they had piled up in the hallway. Buffy had already carried the ones with his journals in them upstairs along with one containing his clothes, jewellery and personal items.
“Yeesh, what’s with the boxes making a mess in here.” Willow sauntered out of the dining room slurping from a mug; she paused and prodded one with her sneakered foot.
Dawn watched as Buffy’s face took on a mulish and angry cast to it and hastily intervened. “Buffy, why don’t you take the first shower? I can get these into the cellar.”
Buffy blinked in surprise at Dawn’s unselfish actions and offered a small smile of thanks to her sister as she escaped up the stairs, clutching a box to her chest. Ignoring Willow’s calls after her, she carefully placed it on the floor in her bedroom next to the others and dashed into the shower, leaving Dawn to tell Willow about Spike’s death. Deep down Buffy accepted that it would make little impact on the redhead’s life and she would probably shrug it off.
“Really? Dead? Huh…so why has Buffy brought all his stuff here?” Willow took a loud drink from her soup and tucked a loose lock behind her ear. Dawn watched Willow slouching unconcerned on the couch and she really began to wonder if the redhead had a soul. There was a weirdness to her that was starting to really scare Dawn.
The teen grimaced slightly when Willow slurped from the mug and then licked the rim trying to capture a drop of soup before it ran down the side. There had been not a single ounce of compassion from her over Spike’s dusting. Okay, he and the witch had a shaky start but Spike had fought side by side with her all summer and they had become friends of sorts-- if not companions in arms. Or so Dawn had thought. Maybe something weird happened to her when she did the whole ‘Raise the Buffy’ thing. ‘Maybe she had to give her soul up to get Buffy back?’ Dawn took a step back and squealed when she stepped into Tara’s arms.
“What’s happened?” Tara asked as she took in the mess in the hallway.
“Spike’s been dusted.” Willow dropped her mug carelessly on the coffee table and stood up. “Tara, baby, we have to meet Xander and Anya, remember?”
“Willow!” Tara’s horrified exclamation stopped the Scoobie in her tracks.
“Sweetie, what’s wrong?” Willow cocked her head in confusion at her girlfriend’s unexpected shouting at her.
Dawn burst into tears. She had been teetering on the edge of weeping from the moment Willow had appeared and only the redhead’s casual reaction had stalled them in their tracks. But Tara’s genuine shock and horror at Willow’s callousness had triggered them.
“Oh baby girl, come here.” Willow held out her arms towards Dawn and gasped when the teen turned to Tara and flung her arms around her, babbling about sharks and vamps staking Spike and how Buffy had been too far away to help.
Willow glared at Dawn, pissed that she had made Tara yell at her and that Dawn had rejected her offer of comfort. Willow wanted to yell at the young teen but didn’t dare, not in front of everyone – she could wait.
The warm water did little to ease the chill around her heart. Buffy stood under the showerhead, staring blindly ahead. Her hands automatically soaped her body and shampooed her hair as she tried to think of a way that she could’ve saved him. She was unwittingly copying Spike’s own desperate thoughts, trying to find a way to save him before the vamps had been able to dust him.
‘Maybe if she had moved to the right and slipped through the bushes she might’ve been able to sneak up behind them and pull the goons off him.’
Sighing, she rinsed the conditioner from her hair and turned off the water. Stepping out of the shower, she wrapped her hair in a towel and then grabbed the grey robe she had brought in with her and slipped it on. Buffy reached over and wiped off the steam from the vanity mirror and started at her reflection. Big haunted eyes stared back at her, dark rings adorning them both. She stuck her tongue out at her image, unconsciously mimicking Faith’s own actions in the same mirror. ‘When did I get so skinny?’
She gave her teeth a desultory scrub with her toothbrush and then slipped out into the hallway. Pausing to eavesdrop on the conversation below, she heard Dawn being comforted by Tara and Willow’s voice muttering darkly in the kitchen. Unwilling to go down and face them, Buffy disappeared into her bedroom and Spike’s journals.
It was the worst day of my life. Watching that bastard screwing Dru in front of me. One minute he was handing her the freshly killed heart of a shop girl and then they left. Or so I thought… When I wheeled the blasted chair around the table, followed by that damned puppy, I heard them.
Something in me had to see. So I peered around the corner of the pillar and there she was, skirts up around her ears, legs splayed while her precious daddy fucked her. I hate him. Why is he so determined to destroy me? Why doesn’t she love me enough to say no to him? What did I do wrong? All I have ever wanted was to make her well. That was why we came here, and this is how she repays me? I’m in a wheelchair because of her, and she leaves me to rot as she plays with Peaches?
She leaves me crippled and alone while she screws the poof cross-eyed – why did this have to happen? Venomous bitch and yet, I still adore her. She is tearing me apart.
Buffy pulled Spike’s red shirt around her and tried to get comfortable on her bed. The words that she had read made her heart race and anger fill her. Part of her knew that Angelus and Drusilla had been intimate, but to read Spike’s stark words and heartache brought it all home to her once again. She flicked through the journal dedicated to the entire sorry time of Angelus, her heart aching more and more. At the time she had suspected that they had been sleeping together, but to read in graphic heartrending detail made her ache for Spike. It also sickened her to her stomach. Finally she gave in and closed the leather bound tome and tucked it back into the box.
She flopped onto her back and stared up at the ceiling, one hand resting on her stomach and the other trailing over the side of the bed and caressing the journal’s spines. She could still hear Tara soothing Dawn and Willow slamming out of the backdoor and muttering under her breath, but Buffy didn’t care. She couldn’t, not after letting Spike die. She was starting to lose herself in the mire of depression that only seemed to lift when she had snuck into Spike’s crypt to sit with him. And now he was gone, her lifeline to sanity – she had let them stake him.
Unable to resist, she pulled another journal out of the box at random, curled on her side and flipped it open. His flowery handwriting was so unlike anything she associated with the punker vampire image he’d carefully cultivated. It was from a bygone era, copperplate perfect. Buffy ran a shaking hand over the blue ink and began to read. It was one of the older ones and she was hooked by his flair for storytelling.
The last thing I needed was to get involved in a poker game when Dru had buggered off and I was trying to track her, but I was fishing for info. The last sighting of my wicked girl had been heading into Transylvania and here I was sitting in a dodgy Inn playing cards with a bunch of berks who looked suspiciously like Gyppos.
The ale was piss poor and the smell of my fellow card players was eau de dung mixed in with a whiff of donkey piss. All I can say is, I’m ruddy glad I don’t have to breath otherwise I’d be puking up my toenails and that last border guard I ate-- who had looked a bit too much like Peaches for my liking-- all over their boots. I was digging for any sighting of my sire, and bless her mad little socks, Dru was not a subtle bint.
Buffy giggled as she read on about his search through Transylvania and his subsequent discovery of Drusilla’s whereabouts.
Honestly, I know she’s as mad as a march hare, but it takes the biscuit when I find Dru masquerading as one of Drac’s Brides and lounging around his crappy castle in a see through nightie. Not to say the view of her sublime body wasn’t a sight for my sore eyes, but to smell Drac all over her was almost the final straw. To cap it all off, the mad cow decided I had to win her hand in a mighty duel – according to her the baby imps had told her it was the only way I would get her back. Sometimes I wonder why I want her so much…
“Me too, Spike. I always wondered what you saw in Drusilla the Wonder Skank as well,” Buffy giggled.
Well, we’re heading off to Greece. I’ve always wanted to see the Parthenon, should be good for a giggle. I think Dru is a bit pissed off with me. The mighty duel she was hoping for never really came about. Instead, I spent the night getting off my head on Absinthe and still managing to win Dru back with a Royal Flush. The poncey git gave me a marker for the eleven quid he owed me out of the pot – said he’d be good for it. We’ll see.
Buffy flinched at the knock on the door; she slammed the journal shut and put it away. “Buffy, Giles is on the phone.” Tara’s apologetic tone soothed the agitation the interruption had caused.
“Thanks, Tara.” Buffy peeped around the door and took the portable from her.
“So, Dead Boy is dustville?” Xander grinned. “That’s too bad…Not! I guess we won’t have to worry about him hanging around like a bad smell anymore.”
Anya dished out the meal without saying a word, exchanging a brief glance with Tara and then sitting down next to Xander. She daintily picked at her food, trying to ignore the speed in which Xander was shovelling his dinner into his mouth while talking all the time about how life would be easier without Spike hanging around. Tara sipped at her iced tea, trying not to gag at the sight of the half chewed food Xander was displaying with each word he uttered. She let her hair hang over her face, acting as a sort of shield, and tried to ignore Willow who chimed in every now and then agreeing with Xander. She was more worried about Dawn and Buffy. She didn’t want to listen to the pettiness being displayed, she wanted to get dinner over with and head home to see if she could help out Buffy and Dawnie. She could see that both were badly effected by the vampire’s final death.
She was unsurprised by Dawn’s reaction and only slightly surprised by Buffy’s obvious despair. The blonde wiccan had suspected that a friendship had been brewing between the two warriors since Buffy’s return, but not to the depth that she had realised. Buffy’s devastated face when she had answered the door to get the phone had startled her and all she wanted to do was try and help both of them, but Willow had insisted on going out for dinner. So Tara had reluctantly let her girlfriend pull her out of the house, leaving Dawn to carry the boxes downstairs and Buffy locked away in her bedroom talking to Giles.
Tara was pulled from her worries by the sound of Willow’s voice.
“I mean I get that Dawnie is sad, we all know she had a crush on Spike. But Buffy being all bad moody is just weird.” Willow sighed.
“Well, not really. They were friends at the very least. Patrolling nightly and then there was that drinking night. Giles told me all about it before he ran away to England. And then there was the way we found him in the yard all sad because she was brought back… Oh, and what about the saving her life when Sweet nearly got her to burn to death!” Anya chattered away, listing more and more incidents to explain the closeness of Buffy and Spike, ignoring Xander’s attempts to interrupt.
“Ahnn, you’re making them sound like they were dating or something!” Xander exclaimed in disgust.
“Well, he was very attractive and very much in love with her. And recently she has been so sad and spending so much time with Spike. How are we to know what happened?” Anya shrugged and popped a spoonful of pasta in her mouth and chewed thoughtfully. Swallowing, she added, “Also, she has seemed to want to spend more time with him than any of us.”
Willow’s eyes narrowed at Anya’s final observation. It was bad enough that Buffy had kept the secret of where she had been from her. But the possibility that Buffy and Spike might’ve been closer than fighting buddies really bugged her. She was supposed to be Buffy’s best friend and she should’ve known so that she could organise the others into an intervention. Part of her was glad that Spike was dust, so that Buffy wasn’t under his influence. Willow’s brow furrowed. She needed to see if there was something she could do magicwise to help Buffy forget about heaven, Spike and also to help Tara forget about her worries about magic abuse. ‘As if there was such a thing!’
“Hey, Wills, maybe you could mojo something up to make Buffy feel better?” Xander joked.
“NO!” Tara bolted up from the table, her hands clutching her skirt.
Willow blinked in surprise at the vehemence in Tara’s voice. “Honey, don’t be silly. Sit down; your dinner is getting cold. As if I would do anything like that!” she giggled, trying to cover up and failing badly. The other three saw the guilt in her eyes.
“Xander, Anya, I’m sorry to say this in front of you but, Willow, if you do anything, I will leave you,” Tara promised as she sat back down, flinching away from Willow’s hand.
|Chapter #4 - Chapter Four|
|Buffy, are you coming down today?” Dawn stood at the firmly shut door and sighed. For the last week Buffy had been hidden away in her room. Sometimes she had heard Buffy laughing loudly and then other times she had heard weeping. Dawn was confused and angry; she felt even more abandoned by her sister, who only came out to get a snack or to use the bathroom. Studiously avoiding everyone in the house. Dawn wanted to talk to Buffy about Spike, and didn’t want to do it through a closed door. |
She also wanted to talk to her sister about Tara and Willow. Both of them seemed to be walking on eggshells around each other ever since they had come back from dinner at Xander’s. Sometimes Willow-- who acted all weird and hid stuff when she came into a room, Dawn had found a bunch of dried flowers hidden in the bookshelf which she was positive Willow had hidden there. She had stolen them, crumbled them into a powder then washed them down the drain. She didn’t want to know what they were for, but she was a hundred percent sure that Willow had searched the whole room for them the other night. It scared her. She desperately wanted her sister to protect her.
“Buffy, please, I need to talk with you.” Dawn leant her head on the door and sighed.
Then she fell forward as the door clicked open; Dawn stumbled into her sister’s now unrecognisable room.
It was a study in decadence.
She gasped in surprise as her stunned eyes took in the altered room. The carpets that Xander had grudgingly collected were layered on the floor, the bed was made up with black silk sheets and littered with crimson velvet throw cushions, and the curtains were hangings that Buffy had removed from Spike’s crypt and added to the gothic decadence of the place. It smelled of spices and candle wax.
Everywhere she looked were candles, flickering in the slight breeze her entry had made. Leather bound books were piled on the bedside tables and carefully placed on the bookshelves. It was as if Spike had moved into her sister’s room. “Wow, Buffy when did you…? How?” It was a warm safe haven and the realisation dawned on the younger Summers that it was a sanctuary for her sister. No wonder she hadn’t wanted to leave. She silently wished that Buffy had let her come in here earlier, and now hoped that her elusive sister would let her.
“When you guys were out at school.” Buffy stepped out of the shadows by the window and Dawn’s jaw dropped in shock.
In ten days Buffy had changed. She had become a wraith in her own home, never seen and barely heard by the other inhabitants. Dawn had raged at her through the door at first, then curled up next to it crying for her sister and Spike. After that the apathy had set in and Dawn had sat there silently for a whole night just waiting for her, but her sister had remained in her self imposed dungeon. On the eighth day Dawn had given up and gone about her day to day business, secretly hoping that Buffy would come out. Now she wished that she hadn’t come in to her sister’s room. To see the mess she was in was terrifying to the teen. The only person she had to rely on was falling apart at the seams and there was nothing she could think of to do to help her.
The black t-shirt was Spike’s, she was sure of it, and it hung off Buffy’s gaunt frame. Her hair was stringy and unwashed and her face was pallid with dark circles under her eyes. She looked worse than the night Dawn had found her cowering under Glory’s tower. Buffy’s skinny arms were wrapped around her waist and she shivered slightly. Shifting from foot to foot, uncomfortable under her sister’s assessing gaze. Buffy ducked her head and looked at her toes, which were curled in the silk of the rugs.
“Oh my god, Buffy, what the hell have you done too yourself?” Dawn took a hesitant step forward and then halted, shock making her blurt out the first thing that came to mind. Buffy shied away from her sister and skittishly moved around to place the bed between them. Her haunted eyes peered through her hair at her shocked sibling; she was skittish as a newborn foal.
“I killed Spike…I was too slow and they dusted him, but it was my fault. I should’ve moved faster,” was all she said. Buffy slumped down onto the edge of the bed and reached for a journal. Her hands caressed the hand-tooled cover, ragged nails bruising the burnt umber leather. She had read them all obsessively from start to finish. She had learned all about William and fallen in love with the gentle poet with a heart so fragile and easily shattered by the bitch Cecily. Buffy had cried over his heartache and wished she could go back in time and save him from the cruelty of his social circle. She knew all too well how feral people could be. The Cordelia’s of this time had been pussycats compared to the idiots who teased and tormented William. She had giggled over Spike’s posturing about being bad before he was turned, and was secretly glad he hadn’t been. It added even more depth to the vampire, who she had belatedly realised she could have easily loved.
Buffy had then started on the journals covering his early days as a vampire. First meeting Angelus and the others, it had been fascinating to read about them from Spike’s perspective-- and gross. Freaky kinky sexage aside, Buffy had read between the lines and realised that even then Spike had loved deeply and had been hurt so much by Dorksilla’s screwing around. She had hated Angelus even more for his head games and cruelty. Slowly, as the years had progressed, Spike had evolved from the existence of the gentle poet and fledgling vampire. Her eyes had widened at the discovery that Angelus had hidden from fights, unlike Spike. She also was surprised to read that Angel with a soul had tried to rejoin his family in China. Even then he had been weak.
Spike’s first battle with a slayer had ended in blood and screwing. But she had sensed his respect for the Slayer through his words and his elation of becoming a master vamp. Despite the killing of her kind, she had been excited for him; his ebullience had echoed throughout his words and infected her with his pride. One thing stood out from it all, though. Spike could’ve trashed Angel in her eyes over and over with the information recorded in these diaries and he had never done it, even though he had just cause.
Then with a fascination bordering on obsession, she had read all the journals covering his arrival in Sunnydale and ending with the night before his death. The last entry had carved a hole in her soul that Buffy doubted would ever heal.
“No, Buffy don’t. It’s not your fault.” Dawn sat down next to her grieving sister and wrapped her arm around her sister fragile shoulders.
“Don’t…I don’t deserve you being nice to me.” Buffy tried to pull away from her sister and failed, Dawn stubbornly holding on like a limpet. She was determined to do something to help… anything. She wanted her sister back, not this shadow. “He should be here and I should be dead, it’s my fault. He said it. There had to be a balance and he was the balance, all gone now and I don’t know what to do. Dawnie, what should I do?” Buffy was almost childlike in her grief.
“Firstly a bath, cos damn you’re a stinker, sis,” Dawn teased and pulled Buffy up, not giving her a moment to balk at leaving the room. She kept up a line of mindless chatter about school and Janice as she pulled her sister into the bathroom and filled the tub and got her into the bubble filled water.
Buffy docilely let her sister wash her long hair and rinse out the dirty suds. It felt good to be clean. It had been so long since she had showered-- that day when the two of them had brought the boxes home. Ever since then she had been reading Spike’s journals and slowly falling in love with him. Even with the blood that painted the pages, there had been a sense of the mortal man who had just ached to be unconditionally loved, but who had never realised that dream.
She had read on, entranced as slowly Spike evolved into the vampire who had let a Hell goddess torture him into a pulp, evolved even more into the vampire who had wept over her dead body and then tended her battered fingers and knuckles after she had dug her way out of her coffin. His poetry was not the best, but it was heartfelt and scattered through the diaries of his life and unlife. Adding poignancy and depth to him, he was no longer the Big Bad vampire to her. He was William the Bloody Awful Poet come vampire with a heart bigger than the world—and he’d loved her.
Everything was so different now. She wished it had been before she had failed to save him. But at least Buffy knew now that she really loved him and railed at the unfairness of it all. She was cursed to never be happy in love, so she had created a homage to him in her room and curled in on herself and mired herself in his words – in his hopes and dreams.
“Thanks, Dawn,” she whispered and lay back in the warm water, letting it ease her tension.
“Chicken and Stars, with crackers!” Dawn exclaimed and ran towards the door, skidding suddenly to a halt and turned to face her sister. “You won’t lock me out again, will you?”
Buffy opened her eyes and looked over at the gangly form of her teenage sister and tried to smile. The corners of her lips curved up slightly and she shook her head. “No Dawn, I won’t.” She looked down at her toes, peeking shyly out of the suds and then back up at her sister. “I’m sorry,” she whispered meekly.
The two sisters were curled up on Buffy’s bed, reading Spike’s journals. She had picked one with the least amount of icky stuff so that Dawn wouldn’t be freaked. She was sipping at the lukewarm soup Dawn had brought up for her and while nibbling on the bread Tara had baked she realised how hungry she was. Being so absorbed in Spike, she had let herself almost starve to death.
“Oh my god, did that really happen?” Dawn giggled and pointed at the entry she was eagerly reading.
Buffy glanced down, and smiled. “Yeah, he had on Xander’s shorts and this waaaay hideous Hawaiian shirt. Oh man, Dawn you would’ve peed yourself if you could’ve seen his white knobbly knees. Sooo not the Big Bad!”
Dawn laid her head on Buffy’s shoulder and kept reading.
“I miss him,” she whispered into Buffy’s damp hair.
“Me too, Dawnie…me too,” Buffy sighed.
“Tara tried to talk with me about him, but it was hard. She didn’t understand and I wanted you and you were so sad and hiding. I missed you, Buffy. I loved him.” Dawn blinked her eyes furiously, trying to clear the tears so she could keep reading.
“Sorry baby, but I needed to…”
“I know, you loved him too.” Dawn interrupted when she realised Buffy was faltering to explain herself. Buffy shot her a relieved smile, secretly grateful that whiney brat Dawn was gone and this more serious and kind version of her sister had replaced her. She still felt sick about smacking her. She had promised her mom to protect her, not whale on her.
Cocooned from the world, neither sister realised that the door was ajar and that they had an eavesdropper.
|Chapter #5 - Chapter Five|
|Willow, what are you doing? You promised not to use magic.” Tara clung to the doorframe of their bedroom, clawing at the woodwork, trying to stop her shaking legs from giving out from under her. She stared at the small dried flowers Willow cupped in the palm of her hand over a lit candle. It was the same type that she had found under her pillow and worn as a love token until she had found out her lovers duplicity. |
Willow dropped the bundle of Lethe’s Bramble that she had stolen from The Magic Box guiltily at the sound of her lover’s accusing tones. She had been forced to purloin the small bunch as she still couldn’t work out what happened to her stash. Her shoulders hunched as she turned to face Tara and the betrayal in her lover’s eyes made her blanche. “Tara, it’s nothing, just a…a herb I wanted to use to help me sleep,” she lied.
Tara brushed past her and picked up the dried flowers and pocketed them. Anger and betrayal robbing her of her voice, she desperately wanted to rail at Willow and beg her to stop pursuing the dangerous path she had chosen to walk down. Instead, she spun on her heel and left the room with her heart in her mouth. Crossing the hallway she hammered on Buffy’s door with a clenched sweating fist. “Buffy…Buffy, are you in there? Look, I need you. Please sweetheart, open the door, we need to speak. Willow was trying to hurt you and Dawnie.”
“Tara nooo, don’t. I just wanted to fix it so Buffy and Dawn didn’t remember him.” Willow clung to her sleeve, trying to pull Tara around to face her. So caught up in her denial, her own words betrayed her. “Then everything would be better.” She failed to add her deepest wish, one where everyone loved her and deferred to her.
“Don’t, Willow. I know what you did to me and this is the same flower,” Tara cried out, distress contorting her soft features. “You cannot do this to us. I know what this herb does and robbing us of our memories is wrong. It’s like you’re raping our minds. How could you? After everything that happened.”
“What?” No, honey, I never—” Guilt was reflected in every word she uttered. Willow tried to deny her complicity and faltered when the door opened and Buffy stood framed in it, Dawn behind her staring curiously out at the tragic scene unfurling before them. Her stomach hurt and she wanted to be sick. She’d been caught and now Tara had let her down by telling Buffy.
“What’s going on?” Buffy cut across Willow’s sobs and Tara’s crying, her quiet demand stilling the two women in an instant.
“She tr—ried to steal your memories, o…o…of Spike.” Tara held up the Lethe’s Bramble and dashed the tears from her face with her free hand. “The same way she made me forget I was mad a…about her spellcasting.”
“Hey, that’s the stuff I found in the bookcase!” Dawn exclaimed. She stared at Tara’s shaking hand in shock, missing the flash of pure rage that shot through Willow’s eyes.
Buffy’s body tensed at the implied threat of Willow’s actions. She had wanted to rape her mind of Spike. Goose bumps erupted all over her as she was chilled to the core by the mere thought of all her memories-- old and new-- being stolen from her. She tried to say something but words failed her. Her mind shied away from the fear of losing all that she had discovered about Spike from his own words. The hours spent reading his journals had offered some comfort in the daze of guilt she was immersed in.
“Dawn, what did you do with the flowers?” Tara tried to keep her voice level as she stared in utter horror at Willow.
“I did what Anya does with the icky stuff, crumbled it up and then used running water to get rid of the remains.” Dawn shrugged and then gently laid a hand of her sister’s shoulder. The knotted tension in the muscles that lay under her hand was no surprise, so she gently squeezed Buffy, offering her silent and unequivocal support.
“What?” Willow stared over at Dawn in shock and dismay.
“Good work, Dawn.” Tara smiled reassuringly at Dawn, pleasantly surprised at the younger girl’s initiative and quick thinking.
Buffy laid a hand over Dawn’s and turned her attention to Willow, sorrow etching even deeper lines around her mouth and eyes.
“Willow, why?” she whispered, her voice cracking under the emotional strain. Part of her curled away from the redhead. This was her best friend, the same girl who had been so sweet and shy but who now wanted to control and dominate them all to suit her own ends. Buffy wondered if it had anything to do with Willow being ignored by her parents and as a result, desperately wanted her surrogate family to be shiney happy people all the time. Buffy shivered slightly at the thought of them all being controlled by Willow and becoming puppets to her whims. She looked over at the slender redhead and wondered whether it was safe to have her around Dawn and Tara.
Willow clasped her hands in front of her and stared down at them, unable to meet the reproachful eyes of the three women. A combination of guilt and defiance rose in her in a lethal combination. She jutted her chin up and looked into Buffy’s eyes. “I was trying to fix it so you would be happy…If you didn’t remember heaven and also S…pike, then you would be okay and everything would go back to normal.”
Buffy’s hollow laugh chilled Tara and Dawn to the bone. “Normal? What’s normal? My life hasn’t been normal since Merrick found me in LA and everything changed. Willow, how could you th…” She trailed off, overcome and unable to say anything else.
“Oh, Willow.” The disappointment in Tara’s voice reached the redhead more than Buffy’s impassioned speech.
Great big guilty tears filled Willow’s eyes and she desperately searched all of their faces for understanding or compassion and to her disappointment, there was nothing but cold indifference in Dawn’s face, a shuttered look on Buffy’s and finally Tara’s face was a mask of distress. Something in her hardened. She straightened and looked steadily into Tara’s eyes. “I am not sorry. If I can help her get better with magic, then I will.”
“What about me? How did it help wiping my memory of our fight? Making me forget that about you abusing magic? Did that help me?” Tara’s firm voice surprised them all.
Willow’s mouth opened and closed. She was cornered and unable to summon any form of a legitimate defence.
“Willow, you need to leave. I don’t think it’d be good for any of us if you stayed here anymore.”
You could’ve heard a pin drop after Buffy had finished speaking.
“Xander, I really don’t think I want Willow here. I want to have loud sex and she is in the next room. It wouldn’t be fair…she might feel left out and I don’t have any lesbian tendencies.” Anya hissed loudly into Xander’s ear. They were back in bed after being interrupted a few hours ago by Willow hammering on the door and crying to be let in.
Xander rolled to face Anya and sighed, “Ahn, we are not have the sex with Wills next door broken hearted.”
Anya sat up, folded her arms over her chest and stared down at him, annoyance in every line of her body. “Honestly, you truly are blinkered when it comes to her. You heard what Buffy said. Willow tried to rape hers and the other’s minds – again, and still you are all with ‘ohhh poor hard done by Willow’. When will you realise that she is a magical hazard in the making?” She kicked him with her foot.
“Baby, come on. She’s my best friend. I couldn’t turn my back on her like Buffy and Tara have.” Xander punched his pillow and flipped onto his side, his back facing Anya.
She made a strange strangled noise at his last idiotic statement. “You are dumb, Alexander Lavelle Harris.”
Realising that sleep was something that was a far off, he rolled over and looked up at his disgruntled fiancée’s face. “No way, I got my High School diploma – if you hadn’t been running for the hills you would’ve seen. Don’t call me stupid. Hey, what are you doing, leggo!” Xander pulled Anya’s fingers from his temples and frowned at her.
“I was searching for those blinkers you always seem to wear.” Anya poked him in the chest with her index finger. “Willow is in a bad place and could easily go nuts on our backsides and suck the entire world into Hell to make herself feel better. So remove your head from that orifice you won’t let me stick my fingers in and grow up!”
Xander’s butt cheeks clenched and he sat up against the pillow and crossed his arms. “She promised not to do any magic on us, Ahn, so don’t worry.”
‘Too right she won’t…those Develiian protection wards were not cheap!’ Anya rolled her eyes at his sweet naivety and nodded. “Sure honey, Willow will be all nice and Swiss now, I am very sure.”
“Neutral, non combative. Isn’t that the right words?”
“Sure honey, now come on, lets get some sleep.” Xander pulled her into his arms and tried to ignore the trickle of fear at Anya’s words, tucking the worry firmly away for later freak-outs and over analysis. He missed Giles and wished he hadn’t left.
“Only if you promise to talk with Tara, Buffy and Dawn and don’t make those irritating snap judgements that make my teeth ache. Promise me, Xander.”
Satisfied, Anya curled up against his side and closed her eyes. “I still want orgasms while she is a financial drain on us. You’re a builder, look into soundproofing this room so I don’t scare Willow when I make you scream.”
“Anya,” exasperation coloured his voice.
“Oh my god, what if she’s sitting there listening taking notes? She is sexually repressed despite being a lesbian. I can just see her, taking notes in different coloured pens!”
“Go to sleep Anya, and no I don’t think Willow is listening.” Xander punched his pillow and prayed that Willow wasn’t listening.
|Chapter #6 - Chapter Six|
|Willow had been gone for a few days and the Summers household settled into an uneasy peace. Tara had retreated into herself and barely managed to function. Buffy was still prone to hiding in her shrine and obsessively re-reading Spike’s journals, finding new nuances to Spike that she had never let herself see when he had been in front of her begging for attention. |
She barely ate and only interacted with Dawn. Their relationship was slowly rebuilding and there was less of the teen angst and dramas and a more quiet, mature Dawn. Patrolling had become a distant memory; she had neither the energy nor the strength to fight. With Giles gone, there was no one there to hold her or the others together. Their stabilising influence was currently living in Bath with no intentions of returning.
For the first two nights Dawn had insisted on sleeping with Buffy. The teen had been terrified that Willow might try to do something to her or her sister. But after Anya’s phone call and promise that all of them were safe from Willow’s interference, Dawn had calmed down enough to sleep in her own room again. Leaving Buffy to her silent conversations with Spike and reading her way through the century of experiences that created the vampire she had loved and lost.
“Look Wills, as much as I want to help, Tara doesn’t want to see you. I did ask. Why don’t you try the campus.” Xander sent a mental apology to Tara, but Willow’s constant begging for help was turning him grey. If he wore a pair of glasses he would be polishing them and pinching the arch of his nose.
“Did you wait for her this morning and tell her I was sorry?” Willow grabbed his arm and stopped him from getting up from the research table and escaping to Anya. Her eyes had a feverishness to them that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.
Xander looked down into the thin face of his friend and wondered where it all went wrong. She had been the sweetest girl, ever a cheery point in his otherwise miserable childhood. Always there to pick him up and put him back together after his parents had ripped him to shreds.
Now he was trying to very clumsily put her back together, but he could see the hungry and angst ridden look in her eyes. He was failing spectacularly. Silently, Xander thanked Anya for making sure that they were all protected from Willow's magicks. He had felt her trying to get into his mind several times since they had taken her in and the physical evidence of Willow's nosebleeds had underlined his suspicions. Xander also knew from what Anya had whispered to him in the darkness of the night that Willow had been continuously spell casting on the girls in Revello Drive. It all sickened him and more importantly, frightened the pants off him.
"Xander, did you hear what I said?" Willow's voice had a hint of a whine to it, something she had never had before.
Xander looked down into the sweet face he'd known all his life, and was surprised. She looked haggard, great big black rings under her eyes and lines on her forehead and ridging the sides of her mouth, pulling it down into an angry curve. She looked half starved and ready for a meltdown. He resisted the urge to grab Anya and run for the hills.
Affecting the lopsided smile that was his trademark, he sighed, "Sorry, Wills. I was miles away."
"I asked if you thought Tara might like it if I took over some flowers and asked her out for coffee."
Before Xander could answer, Anya's replied for him, "Willow, I really think you are in denial. Tara is exceptionally distressed by your repeated attempts to manipulate her mind to suit your own ends. If I were still a Vengeance demon, I would be offering her a freebie."
"Hey!" Willow glared at Anya. Her fingers twitched then fell still when she remembered that anything she cast on Anya doubled back onto her with twice the power. She had learned that the hard way when she'd maliciously zapped Anya's heel off one of her shoes so that she would fall. A few minutes later, Willow had fallen head over heels down the metal ladder leading to the prohibited books in the shop. She rubbed her shoulder, the faint bruising there all that was left of her injuries. She'd researched like crazy trying to find out what protection spells had been laid on everyone, and especially why anything she tried backfired on her, and she'd discovered nothing. Willow had exhausted herself trying everything in her power to regain control of the situation and it was beginning to bug her even more than Anya did.
"Anya, no wishing for icky things to happen to my bestest bud." Xander waved a finger at his fiancée and tried to ignore the massive amount of tension in the shop. He was getting tired of being the mediator between them and was not looking forward to the conversation he had planned with Willow.
Anya humphed at him and then made talking gestures with her hands behind Willow's back. Xander's shoulders slumped as he took in the determined slant of her chin. If he ever wanted to see her naked then he had to bite the proverbial bullet, he knew there was no getting away with this.
"Hey Will, wanna go for a coffee and some donutty stickiness?" Xander gave her a sickly smile and tried to ignore Anya doing her dance of nahnahnahImadeyoudoit by the cash register.
Buffy waited for the sound of the front door clicking shut and the house falling silent before she left her room. She and Dawn where getting on fine most of the time, but Tara was a sorrowful presence in the house. Spending her days on the campus studying for her midterms and then hiding away in her room. The tension in the house was a major factor for Buffy's hermit-like behaviour. Well, that and Spike. She spent hours reading and dreaming about what could've been. The constant revisiting old ground and re-writing history was slowly beginning to erode her grasp on sanity and without anything to stabilise her, Buffy was slowly losing herself in a depression of massive proportions.
Her baby sister didn't understand and wasn't equipped to help. Tara was too lost in her own grief over Willow's behaviour and repeated attempts to contact her magically. Xander and Anya had their hands full with Willow, but from the call last night, Buffy suspected that Willow would soon be visiting her parents for a while. Giles was at the end of a phone line; he cared, but there was a distance in his voice that made Buffy hesitate. She knew that he would never understand the grief and pain she carried as a result of letting Spike down. Even as she had sobbed it out that first time he had called, Giles had been almost paralysed with not caring. So she had stopped sniffling at her erstwhile Watcher and turned the topic of conversation to something banal.
She grabbed the pile of post that Dawn had tossed on the hall table and shuffled into the kitchen to find coffee.
"Bill…Bill…Bill...mental note to self, need to find a job to pay these." Buffy threw the utilities bills on the counter and then frowned. Her fingers toyed with the edges of the buff manila envelope that she had come across, her eyes narrowed at the sight of the words Department of Social Services on the top right corner of it. Dropping it on the breakfast bar as if it were burning hot, she turned to get some caffeine before opening it with trepidation.
She cupped the warm mug in her hands, trying to leech some warmth into her frozen skin. The letter lay open next to her shaking fingers. Buffy looked down at the neatly typed letter, her heart breaking even more. She’d broken her promise to her mom. Buffy shivered continuously at the realisation that she was an utter failure and wished that they had left her rotting in her grave. Where she deserved to be. If the others had left her be, then Spike would still be undead and Dawn would’ve been happier.
It was over…it was all over.
They were taking Dawnie away from her.
|Chapter #7 - Chapter Seven|
|Her hands were sweating. Buffy stared around her, trying to get her bearings in the alien surroundings of the municipal building. She didn’t want to be there, but Dawn had messed up big time and she was terrified. Alone and adrift, this was something she knew she couldn’t slay. Bureaucracy – it won every time, she was in a Kafkaesque nightmare. |
She rubbed her hands over her eyes and blotted the insipient tears, and then briskly fluffed her hair around her shoulders. Buffy rubbed them on her skirt and tried to paste on a confident smile. Dawn’s petulant presence to her left wasn’t helping. When she had hauled Dawn out of class for the meeting, they had screamed and shouted the whole trip, Buffy cursing herself for not getting her permit so they could fight in the privacy of the jeep. Instead, they had walked the whole way into town yelling at each other. She glanced around at Dawn and was met with a spiteful glare. Buffy sighed, knowing that Dawn was on the defensive because of her screw up.
Looking away, Buffy tried to find something to distract her from reaching over and strangling her baby sister. All Buffy could see was the demon that was the Kroger monster. The social worker sat at her desk sipping her coffee and ignoring the two girls seated in the waiting area.
“Dawn, keep still. We need to make a good impression,” Buffy hissed at her fidgety sister.
Dawn ignored her and stared down at her hands, she knew all too well what was coming. The letter Buffy received was just one of seven she had managed to hide from her sister. But she had been running late for school and Tara had rushed her out of the house before she could check the mail. Dawn sighed. She was screwed. Some of the letters she had intercepted listed her skipping class, the others about her shoplifting. All of which she had managed to keep from her sister. But now this…and just when they were getting on and Buffy was starting to let her in.
“I miss Spike,” Dawn sighed. She missed the flinch Buffy gave at the mention of the dusted vampire and the tears that collected in the wan face of her sister. She knew that the vampire would’ve probably ripped off her head for being caught shoplifting and skipping school, but he would’ve helped her out. Maybe even worked out a way to stop the Social Services from finding out. Now Dawn was freaked. Buffy hadn’t said what the last letter was about. She’d gotten that pinched look around her eyes, the same one she got when mom died. So Dawn knew it wasn’t good. She felt sick to her stomach for letting Buffy down.
“Summers, this way please.” Doris Kroger gestured for the two girls to precede her into the supervisor’s office.
Buffy leapt nervously to her feet and adjusted her skirt and hair. Giving Dawn a steely glare, she gestured for her to follow. Both girls ignored the sympathetic yet smug look the older woman directed at them.
“Ms Summers, we meet at last.” The director of the department looked over his glasses at the frail looking blonde woman perched on the edge of her seat. “We were beginning to think you were dead!” he joked, missing the startled looks the sisters exchanged.
“Sorry, but as I told your assistant on the phone, the letter I got this morning was the first one I saw.” Buffy reached into her bag and pulled out the crumpled sheet of paper and placed it on the desk nervously. “I spoke with Dawn and she admitted that she took the others and burned them.” Buffy wrung her hands together nervously and looked over imploringly at the man. “Please don’t be mad with her. She didn’t realise.”
“Ms Summers, we all know what teens can get up to if they are motivated, and Dawn was definantly motivated. Her list of wrongdoings would make me go grey if I were family.” He fixed a firm stare at the brunette teen who stared mutinously at him, her arms crossed defensively.
“I know, but surely we can work something out?” Buffy tried to smile but faltered when she saw Mrs Kroger frown. Her heart began to pound and her hands got clammy.
There was a long pause and the supervisor shuffled his papers, unwilling to meet the pleading gaze of the young woman. Finally Doris coughed and forced him to look up. He hated this part of the job. He could see by the older girl’s reaction that she was innocent in this and that only because of her little sister’s stupidity were they even in this situation.
He shook his head. “I’m sorry.”
“But I don’t wanna…pleeease Buffy, don’t let them!” Dawn cried as she wrapped her arms around her sister’s shaking shoulders.
“I…I…ca…can’t, Dawnie,” Buffy sobbed as she cradled her baby sister to her and stroked her hair. She sobbed loudly and stared over at Tara, utterly lost. She tried to explain to her sister on the way back home that there was nothing they could do to change their minds. It was a done deal. She had thought Dawn had understood that she had to be on best behaviour since their mom had died, but obviously the teen had not. Now she was reaping the results of her rebellion. Buffy wanted to throw up. She had failed at the one thing she had promised her mom, to keep Dawn safe. Instead she had died, thinking that would be the one thing she could do to guarantee her sister’s ongoing safe existence. When instead it had led her off the rails, cutting class and stealing. When she had come back, Buffy had tried to communicate with her angry sibling but teen hormones had gotten in the way, and then Spike. ‘Oh god! It had all gone wrong when Spike had died…she had become a hermit and Dawn had needed her…she needed to fix it.’
The quiet girl stood there wringing her hands together and staring at the soggy mess of the sisters with tear-filled eyes. She was totally lost. She had never thought this could happen; all of them had fought so hard to keep Dawn safe from the monsters and Hellgods that they had forgotten about humans. “Buffy, what can I do?”
Buffy looked over that the distraught wiccan and shook her head. “Nothing. It’s out of our hands. They are coming tomorrow and that’s it.”
“I’m so sooorrryyyy…” Dawn cried as she hyperventilated and then dry retched over and over. Guilt filled her and poured out of her. She had messed up big time and there was no way it could be fixed. She didn’t want to go.
“I know But sorry isn’t gonna cut it this time. Why didn’t you tell me? If I had known then maybe something could’ve been done,” Buffy whispered and rocked Dawn in her arms. They were curled up together on the couch, shivering in each other’s arms; Tara sat down behind Dawn and gently stroked her shoulder. She winced at the tension in them, but carried on soothing her.
“I couldn’t. You were so blue and hiding in your room and I know what I did was wr…wrong. I didn’t want you too be ashamed of me!” Dawn whimpered. Buffy gritted her teeth and managed to suppress the impulse to slap her sister for her monumental stupidity. She knew that they were both to blame in some ways, but now there was nothing that could be done. No magical save, no diving head first off a tower to save the day…nothing but the cold hard harsh reality of life.
“Ho…how did they find him?” Tara asked hesitantly.
“Some sort of financial search. It appears the IRS knows more about my dad than his own family,” Buffy replied bitterly. She wondered what her dad had thought when he got the call; he had managed to avoid all his parental responsibilities until now.
“I don’t wanna go. I don’t even know him,” Dawn sobbed.
Tara spoke, her voice firm, surprising the heck out of Buffy. “Well, Dawn, you should’ve thought about the consequences of your actions beforehand. It’s way too late now, sweetie.” Buffy stared at Tara over Dawn’s shoulder wide-eyed. She mouthed ‘thank you’ for voicing everything she had wanted to.
Dawn pulled out of Buffy’s arms and stormed upstairs without a backward look, her bedroom door slamming breaking the silence of the house.
“When is he arriving?” Tara reached over and took Buffy’s achingly thin hand in hers and held it gently. .
Buffy tore her eyes away from the stairs and looked over at Tara with a wobbly smile that faded away almost instantly. “Tomorrow morning. He’s driving down from San Francisco tonight and staying in a motel.”
“Did you talk with him?”
Buffy shook her head. “No, he was already driving. I dunno what to say. Think he wants to take me as well?” she asked bitterly. She knew full well that the only reason he was coming for Dawn was because the government had told him to, otherwise he could face a court summons. That would so not look good at work. She knew that was the only reason he was collecting Dawn and imagined that within days the novelty of being a dad again would wear off and Dawnie would be packed off to boarding school.
Tara tried to smile, but failed. Everything was going wrong. It was getting worse daily and she was starting to lose faith that the goddess could help. The sisters were about to be torn apart, and after everything Buffy had sacrificed, Dawnie had to mess it up. “I’m sorry. Did they say if it was on a trial basis or permanent?”
“Until she’s eighteen.” Buffy curled her fingers around Tara’s and started to weep. She was so tired and now this, everything she loved was being taken from her and it wasn’t fair. She couldn’t cope…it was too much.
“Can you visit?” Tara was grasping at straws she knew, but the distress emanating from Buffy was overwhelming.
“They said it was up to Dad.” Buffy’s doubtful expression told it all.
“Oh sweetie.” Tara took her in her arms and held the shivering Slayer tight.
“I’m sorry.” Dawn rested her head on Buffy’s shoulder. They were seated on the stairs of the porch watching the street for their dad. Behind them stood Tara, Xander and Anya, silent sentinels all in faithful attendance offering their support.
Buffy sighed and wrapped an arm around her lanky sister’s shoulders. The two of them had curled up in bed together and talked all night, Buffy exacting promises that Dawn would behave for their father and that she would keep in contact. Dawn had been subdued and promised anything. She wanted to cry but stopped herself, not wanting their last night together to be a soggy mess of weepiness. She had sat in her bedroom most of the afternoon, contemplating running away. She had wished that Spike were still around, hanging out in his mouldy old crypt so she could sneak out and go talk to him. In the end she had stayed, not wanting to break Buffy’s heart anymore. She could hear her sister crying with Tara and all the recriminations as well. Buffy blamed herself for what had happened and part of Dawn shrivelled and died that night.
“I know, Dawnie. I know,” Buffy sighed. She so did not want this, her dad making an appearance and taking away the only family she had left. A small part of her wanted him to take her too, to make it all better, but from the embarrassed looks yesterday, Buffy realised that her dad hadn’t even asked after her.
“Buffy.” Xander’s voice was subdued as he gestured to the car that drew up to the curb. Buffy had been too busy memorising Dawn’s face to notice. Sighing, she pulled Dawn up and turned to face the car. Her eyes narrowed at the sight of the Mercedes that idled at the curb.
“Looks like dad’s been doing well,” she muttered to Dawn as she picked up the first of her sister’s suitcases. Bitterness filled her at the memory of the pile of unpaid bills sitting on her mom’s desk.
Dawn pulled back, unwilling to meet her father for the first time. She had wanted to for so long, but not like this. Not when he was coming to take her away from Buffy and everyone else. Not when she had messed up so badly that they were separating her from Buffy. She felt dizzy and sick. It was all her fault and there was no changing it now. She wished over and over that her mom had never died and wondered if it was because she was here that Mom had died. Sometimes in the dark of night, the thoughts would clamour around her. Had her arrival and need for Buffy to protect her with her life led to their Mom’s death? It was all about balance, wasn’t it? That was what Spike said-- and so had Anya. For every spell there was a consequence. The monks had used some serious mojo to create her, had her mom’s tumour been the payment for the new life?
Something cold clutched at her heart, magic—balance – Buffy. Dawn looked over at her red-eyed sister. ‘What price would they have to pay for Willow bringing her back?’ Terror etched lines around her mouth and she tried to say something. To warn them that they had to pay the price, but she was interrupted.
“Ms Summers.” Doris Kroger stepped out of the car and stood by the curb fiddling with her paperwork. Buffy glared at her, wondering if she could get away with puking on her shoes or something. If the busybody hadn’t interfered then Dawn would be staying. Buffy wanted to stomp her foot like a child and scream at her. Or at the very least, frighten her into early retirement. But before she could act out her childish imaginings, another door opened and he stepped out of the car in front of her.
“Buffy.” Her dad’s voice hadn’t changed. She looked over and there he was. Time and screwing his younger women hadn’t been kind to him. She hated him for so much, especially for the way his eyes drifted dismissively over her and focused on Dawn.
He was there for Dawn, the pretend sister. Not for her.
|Chapter #8 - Chapter Eight|
|Buffy?” Tara sighed and hammered on the shut door. “Please, honey, I just want to check in with you before I head out.” She tapped on the door again and then laid her hand over it. “Please, Buffy. I want to say goodbye.” Tara strained her ears and heard a shuffling noise. Buffy had become even more of a ghostly presence in the house since they had dragged Dawn crying from her arms. Tara’s stomach tightened at the memory of the sobbing sisters clinging to each other and begging for a few more moments. But their father had been adamant about getting back on the road, so Dawn had been torn from the only real family she knew and bundled into the car. Buffy had stood with her skinny hands plastered to the window, weeping as Dawn placed her hands against them from the inside. |
“Buffy, please…I really need to see you.” Tara rattled the door handle, hoping it would turn. Her head shot up as she heard a muffled thump. “Buffy?” She wrung her hands, hating this sadness that permeated the entire house.
Spike’s death had been the catalyst and she was terrified it was going to get worse for them all. Tara ran her hands through her fair hair and tried to work out how she could help Buffy heal. She knew that the Slayer was devastated; even Xander had accepted that his best friend was crushed by the vampire’s death. But she had no idea what to say or do – it seemed like Xander or Anya were also at a loss. Anya had also revealed to Tara in a theatrical whisper that Willow had moved into her parents and had holed herself up with grimoires and spell books that could make a saint sin.
“Tara, its okay. Go on your field trip, I’ll be fine.” Buffy’s voice sounded muffled and tired. She had been holed up in her room for so long that she had lost track of time. She had hidden herself in Spike’s journals again, obsessively reading all her favourite bits over and over. Trying to glean some happiness from them, but instead, all she could hear was Dawn crying and pleading to stay with her. Buffy shivered and pulled the covers over her head, wishing Tara would just leave already.
“Buffy, please don’t make me kick in this door! You know I will.” Tara tried not to smile at her empty threat. She had a fleeting mental image of her breaking her foot on the door and Buffy having to take her to the ER.
There was a pregnant silence and then a small giggle.
“Was that a giggle I heard?” Tara teased, hoping that maybe she could coax Buffy into a better mindset.
There was a thump and a pad of bare feet on carpet and finally a click. The door swung open, a waft of jasmine from the candles burning in Buffy’s bedroom. Tara slipped in through the door and blinked. Instead of the mess she’d expected, the room was filled with soft candlelight and leather bound books lay all over the floor. She looked over at the Buffy shaped lump under the covers and tiptoed around the journals to get to her.
She curled up next to Buffy’s huddled form, the two of them nose to nose. Buffy’s red-rimmed eyes were massive in her thin face; Tara reached over and wrapped an arm around her and hugged her. “It’ll be okay.” She smoothed the tangled hair off her friend’s face and rocked her as best she could. “I hate that this has all happened. I am so sorry, honey. I know it’ll get better…”
“Will it?” Buffy whispered hoarsely. All she could hear was the disappointment in her dad’s voice. When he had finally spoken to her, all he had said was that she had let him down again. Even The Kroger Monster had been shocked by his attitude. She had even tried to diffuse the tension by mentioning that Dawn was a minor and his responsibility and not her older sibling’s, and Buffy had barely managed not to hug the woman for saying what she had wondered so many times. The social worker had then ripped into him about lack of financial support for the two girls since their mother’s death and that there would be a deeper review into his finances. This threat made the errant Mr Summers blanche and his hands tighten into fists.
Then to Buffy’s utter shock, the woman had winked at her and calmly reminded him that the mortgage needed paying off on the house and that from their minor audits of his finances they had discovered that he could well afford it and that they expected a speedy resolution to that. She had muttered under her breath about how this was the least she could do for the sisters. Buffy had just stared in shock at the plump woman until Dawn burst into tears.
“The goddess will guide us, I know it. Buffy, I wish I could turn back time and change things, but I can’t. All we can do is be here for each other.” Tara smiled lopsidedly at her.
The gentle wiccan spoke, but all Buffy could hear over and over was ‘turn back time and change things’, stuck on repeat in her exhausted mind. She wondered if it could be done. Pasting a weak smile on her face, she tried to focus on Tara’s gentle mothering instead of giving into the impulse of sobbing her brains out. Her Mom was gone, heaven was gone, Dawn was gone, Daddy didn’t want her and Spike…oh god, Spike.
“You still in there?” Tara waved a hand in front of Buffy’s unfocused gaze.
“Yeah…Sorry,” Buffy sighed.
“I’ll be gone until Sunday night. I’ve left food in the fridge. Buffy, please eat, you’re getting real skinny,” Tara begged gently as she prodded Buffy’s empty stomach with an insistent finger.
“I’ll try.” Buffy returned Tara’s hug and then let her eyelashes flutter shut.
“Willow, honey, your father and I are very disappointed in you.”
Willow looked up from the grimoire she was reading in surprise; her mom was home and talking with her? She shifted on the couch and curled her legs up under her and marked the page with her finger.
“Do you have anything to say about this?” The older Rosenberg held out a letter, waving it demandingly under her child’s nose.
“What is that?” Willow took the paper and frowned down at the contents of the letter. A flash of black shot through her eyes and she glanced up at her mom. “Why are you opening my mail?”
“It was re-directed here from your last place, and I thought it was for me. Willow, your father and I spend a lot of money on fees and you are not honouring the agreement. Remember?”
Willow frowned at the less than stellar grades and tapped the sheet with her fingers. It wasn’t as if it were all her fault, she’d been looking after brainsucky Tara – burying Buffy and then grieving for her. Finals had come and gone within a flash of an eye and Willow had barely made it to all of them. She had not studied and had relied on accumulated knowledge She had barely scraped through by the skin of her teeth.
“Willow? Remember we had a non-verbal agreement, we would fund your higher education and you would maintain an excellent GPA. We are so disappointed in you.” Her mother sounded so dissaprroving that Willow was transported back to the time when she’d tried to burn her at the stake for being a witch. ‘Little do you know, how powerful I am now, Mom…betcha would be book burning and tossing me on the pyre if you knew.’
“Willow really, I do think that it’s the same problem as before. That girl Bunny is just a bad influence on you and also this dabbling in being a lesbian. I may have supported your right to choose but now I have to say I am disappointed at the lack of application to your studies. Sex is something that is secondary to knowledge. You have let us both down so badly. You should be ashamed.”
Willow stared at her mother in disbelief; didn’t she know how upset she was? Tara had broken up with her; she’d been kicked out of Buffy’s and then Xander’s and had come in a humiliating circle back home to her parents.
“Willow, you will be respectful to your mother and I and engage in a viable discourse with us.” Mr Rosenberg sat down next to his wife, a united front of disapproval. “We had such high hopes for you, and you have not only let us down, you have let yourself and your tutors down. How are you planning to rectify this situation?” He placed a firm hand on his wife’s knee and stared at their silent daughter.
“Indeed, Willow, we are eager to discuss this with you. Now that you have returned to the nurturing environment of your home, I am sure we can all work together to achieve our mutual goals.” Willow’s mom smiled at her.
She stared at both of them, wondering if they were really her blood relations. The pseudo-psychobabble they used all her life had not been missed since she had moved out, and now she had to put up with again? ‘I think not…’
Willow stared accusingly at the grades on the crumpled sheet of paper clenched in her hand. Her eyes turned into black pools and as she whispered an incantation under her breath, the grades all switched to straight A’s. She then flickered her fingers at the morons who were staring at her and they shivered briefly.
“Now, where were we?” Willow’s mother blinked and leaned forward.
“Congratulating our daughter on her keeping her end of our educational bargain,” Willow’s father replied. They both focused on their daughter and smiled plastically.
“Much better,” Willow grumbled and returned their plastic fantastic smiles.
She was electric. All blonde hair and sassy-mouthed with an arse like a peach. She wriggled it all over the dance floor in that shithole of a club, getting the spotty gits all horny. She’s a corker, that one. Can’t wait to have a good fight with her.
Buffy giggled at the words. She wondered if Spike had any idea then that he would love her? She flipped onto another entry from the same year and ran her fingers over the writing.
Dru had sulked for hours when I got back from that first fight in the school. One of the sodding minions had whispered nasties in her lughole about her ‘Daddy’ being there – sent my girl into a frenzy. But for some reason, I wasn’t bothered. That Slayer had been a right tasty morsel and then her mother had brained me with an axe – got to respect a bint who knows her weapons!
But that Slayer – she was ruddy fast with the quips and her fists. Bit of alright for a mortal. Be a pity to drain her straight off. Might have a good dance or two first, then go for the kill.
Buffy rolled her eyes at the Spikey posturing as a faint smile lingered over his respect for her mom. Seemed like her axe to dumb hard-headed vampire had made a lasting impression. She flipped the page and carried on reading about his headache and how a lump the size of a baseball had popped up. Buffy frowned as a sudden tummy rumble interrupted her concentrated reading.
“Oh…food.” She reached over and pulled on the red shirt that had replaced her dressing gown. She rubbed her face on the collar and inhaled the scents of oak, tobacco and cologne. She padded out of her room and headed to the kitchen, hoping Tara had left something easy for her to heat. The house was dark and so quiet. Buffy sighed loudly, wishing that Dawn were still here. “Miss you so much, Dawnie.”
She sat eating her solitary meal and hating every moment of it. Once the house had been filled with voices and now, nothing. Spike and his explosive entries, smoke billowing out from under his blanket, Dawn and her teen hormones making her voice high pitched and excitable. Willow and Tara chattering away.
“Willow!” Buffy exclaimed and sat bolt upright. “Willow and the magic!” Buffy’s fork clattered on the floor as she leapt up and ran for the phone. “She can fix it – I know she can.”
“Willow? Hi…we need to talk. Can you come over?”
|Chapter #9 - Chapter Nine|
|You want me to do what?” |
Buffy rolled her eyes at Willow. “I want you to help me fix this. I know you can do it – remember what I said before Glory and the Tower?”
Willow’s face blanched at the memory of Buffy falling; her limp dead form was something that still crept into her nightmares and scared her awake. But she also remembered the massive ego boost Buffy’d given her that night; it had been what fuelled her during those dark hours researching the resurrection spell. “I’m your Big Gun,” she whispered.
“Exactly, so I need the Big Gunny magicness that is you.” Buffy frowned down at Willow, astonished by her reluctance. She’d figured the challenge of the spell that she wanted would’ve had Willow in motion by now.
“But you and the others said magic was bad.” Willow stared in shock at Buffy’s sudden change in attitude. She had been so excited when her friend had called asking her over, but now she felt weird and ookey.
Buffy stared at Willow angrily, frustration lines etched over her too thin face. After she’d called her best friend, she’d gone upstairs to wash up and dress for slayage action. There was no way Willow was going to get out of helping her.
Willow looked around the front room trying to see where Tara might be; she figured that her darling wouldn’t know about Buffy’s magical demands. “Where’s Tara?” She so hoped she was upstairs studying or something. She missed Tara so much and when Buffy’d called she had leapt on the chance to come round. Barely listening to Buffy’s voice, she said ‘yeah’ and slammed the phone down. Now she wished she’d listened.
Buffy stood and began pacing back and forth. Willow’s eyebrows shot up in startling similarity to a certain dusty vamp. “Ummm, Buffy, are you okay? You look kinda haggard.” Willow slapped her hand to her mouth instantly, wishing that she could take back her indiscrete comment.
“Gee Willow, I wonder why?” Buffy propped her hands on her hips and cocked her head. She was getting frustrated with Willow’s reluctance. ‘Usually it was a ‘spell? Sure, how many? When? Where? Oh I can fix that with a quick incantation.’ Suddenly it was all with the why? Why? And I dunno’s.
“Buffy? Maybe you should, you know, sit down and chill for a sec?” Willow squeaked around her hands. She realised that what she was seeing in her friend was pure Slayer tainted with more that a bit of desperation. “Shall I get Dawn? Or, oh Tara?” she added, congratulating herself on her sneakiness with the finding out where Tara was without having to ask straight out and embarrass herself.
Buffy’s jaw dropped at Willow’s tactlessness.
Willow shrank back on the couch and stared at Buffy like a rabbit trapped in headlights.
“You’re kidding, right?” Buffy snapped out.
“Huh?” Willow’s face clouded with confusion.
“Social Services got Dad to come take Dawn away,” Buffy growled, her temper rapidly heading for ‘I am gonna shake you till your teeth rattle in your hollow head’.
Willow’s pale face softened in sympathy and she hesitantly reached out a hand towards Buffy. “Oh honey, I am so sorry…” she trailed off, unhappily aware that her words were not enough to ease the gaping of pain that showed in Buffy’s red-rimmed eyes. She folded her shaking hands in her lap and wondered what she could do to help, to get Dawn back home.
“And Tara’s away on a field trip, which is why you have until tomorrow to work this out,” Buffy added impatiently. “We need to do this before she gets back.”
Willow shook her head nervously. After casting that spell on her grades, Mom and Dad, she was feeling really guilty and bad. She didn’t like feeling bad – it made her tummy ache and squishy feelings had made themselves known. “I can’t.”
Buffy’s eyes narrowed. She was so far gone in her grief that she didn’t care. She wanted everything back to normal; it had all changed when Teeth’s goons had dusted Spike, so that was what she was fixing. Then Buffy hoped everything else would fall into place. She eyed the huddled form of Willow with little compassion; it had all drained out of her when Dawn had been torn from her clinging arms. She had nothing left to lose.
“Buffy?” Willow eyed the front door longingly. She wanted to go home – to get away from the hungry desperation that was in Buffy’s eyes and hide under the covers until everything went away. “Eep.” She jerked back as Buffy leaned over, grabbed hold of her forearms and shook her. Her red hair flew all over her face and her teeth clicked together. The bruising force of Buffy’s claw like fingers bit into her soft flesh. Willow pulled against her hold, trying futilely to pull free.
“Willow, you owe me,” Buffy growled, spit flying into Willow’s face.
She looked up at Buffy in confusion, “Huh?”
“Remember Heaven? You with the witchy ‘I’m so right. I’ll get Buffy back’. Pulled me from eternal peace and happiness. Remember?” Buffy snarled. She knew that her melting down and resorting to blackmail was wrong but she was past caring. Everything that had happened to her had led to this; no one would’ve coped with what she had suffered through.
“Buffy, no – don’t.” Willow’s eyes filled with guilty tears. “I’m sooooo sorry.” Her voice took on a nasally whine as she pulled at Buffy wrists.
“Sorry doesn’t cut it, Wills. I need the spell and you so do owe me!” Buffy rasped angrily, giving Willow another good shake.
“No, I swore off the magic. After Mom and Dad I said no more. It’s wrong.”
“Mom and Dad? What did you do to them?” Buffy’s mind raced. It sounded like something she could use as more leverage-- seeing that the whole Heaven thing wasn’t budging Willow. And then her frantic mind latched onto the one thing she knew would make Willow do the casting.
“Ummm, Buffy, you’re really freaking me.” Willow was starting to sweat and the calculating look in Buffy’s eyes made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. She was starting to wonder if Spike’s dusting was as good a thing as she and Xander had initially thought. From the way Buffy was behaving, Willow wondered if Spike might’ve been the one thing that was stopping Buffy from going nuts.
“If you do this for me, I won’t tell Tara you cast a spell on your parents.” Buffy’s offer was chilling. Her voice was icy calm and her eyes filled with a maliciousness that reminded Willow of Cordy in High School. She shivered at the implication of Buffy’s threat; if Tara found out, she’d never forgive her.
“Buffy, lemme go and stop with the scary slayer routine, ” Willow whispered as a real fear took hold in her heart.
She wriggled against the iron hold and felt her skin bruise a bit more. “You’re really, really hurting me!” she exclaimed with a pain filled voice. All the power had fled from her in the face of the assault from her closest friend. Willow’s lips trembled and tears ran down her face.
A small part of Buffy heard Willow’s tears and was sickened, but it was suppressed under the need for something to be done. She needed so badly to take back control of her life, and part of that control had gone when she let Spike die. She was not backing down in the face of a few tears, Buffy was stronger than that. She’d faced so much and fought so hard that there was no way Willow would be able to deny her.
“Ow, you’re hurting me,” Willow sobbed. Her bow shaped lips quivered as she sucked in air to calm herself in the face of the implacable onslaught of Buffy’s demands. Part of her was sickened by the offer Buffy made and another part was tempted.
“Willow, look at me,” Buffy ordered calmly. She loosened her grip slightly so that Willow could focus on her.
Willow sniffled and used her shoulder to blot her face, “Buffy, please let me go, you’re really scaring me now.”
“I will, but only if you do what I asked.” Buffy paused and took a deep breath and then pulled out her final and most devastating bargaining tool. Sending a mental apology to Tara, she pressed on. “If you do this, I’ll help you get back with Tara.”
Before she had finished uttering her false promise, Willow’s hands loosened on her wrists. Her eyes darkened to black and a smile curved her tear soaked lips.
“I’ll do it.”
|Chapter #10 - Chapter Ten|
|Willow glanced apprehensively around Buffy’s room. It was so different; the girly stuff was all gone. Instead, the walls of the bedroom were a deep blue-- almost the same colour as Spike’s eyes, she realised with a start. Candles of every shape and size were littered over every surface and the scent of jasmine was in the air. The lush golden silk sheets were smoothed flat and a deep crimson velvet throw was draped neatly over the foot of the bed. She could also smell dust and leather in the air, but was puzzled as to the source. |
She’d only returned to the house a few minutes ago, having spent the rest of the night and morning searching for the right spell. In the end she had combined two, but gathering the materials for the casting had been hard. Seeing no other option, she’d used the key Giles had given her and broken into the Magic Box, stealing what she needed. Guilt had assailed her the entire way to Buffy’s. Willow had been positive someone could tell she was a big fat thief and had scurried along the sidewalk with her eyes glued to the asphalt.
“What do you need from me?” Buffy stepped in front of Willow and squatted down to look her in the eyes. She was dressed in black leather jeans, chunky heeled boots and a black polo necked sweater. Her hair was pulled back into a neat bun and a leather coat was tucked over her arm. In her waistband were several stakes and a small crossbow swung from her free hand. Willow realised she was dressed in her full on patrol gear, stuff Buffy usually saved for the annual Apocalypse. It suddenly dawned on Willow how serious this was for Buffy.
“I can smell leather and dust,” Willow said. She mentally smacked herself for the stupidity of her remark. She wondered if she was suffering from verbal stupidity.
Buffy’s eyes darted to the ceiling for a moment. She’d decided that Spike’s words and thoughts were much too precious for her to leave for Willow to snoop through, so she had carefully boxed them up and hidden them in the attic. “Guess it’s your books?” she lied.
Willow nodded, completely cowed by the Uber Slayer mode Buffy had going on. “I guess,” she mumbled and fiddled with the rucksack on her crossed legs, unwilling to meet the determined gaze of her friend.
“So?” Buffy leant back on her heels and waited. The hard cast to her face aged her and frightened the frilly heck out of Willow.
“Oh, right ,I guess -- I need to set up.” Willow shifted onto her knees and began to empty the contents onto the carpet. Her hands paused in their task and she looked up at Buffy, her face grave. “You swear you’ll get Tara back for me?”
Buffy straightened and stalked over to the window and looked out into the afternoon sun, nodding briefly.
Willow, thoroughly mollified, continued to empty the rucksack. “The only thing I couldn’t get was a large mirror. I need it for the focus for the spell.”
Buffy moved to her closet door and jerked it open. She curled her fingers round the mirror attached to the door and prised it off. “Is this okay?” She hefted it easily and turned to face the poleaxed Wiccan.
Willow raised her eyebrow and nodded. “Great, can you prop it at the end of the bed?” She gestured with one hand as she assembled the casting circle around her. She pulled out bundles of herbs that were held together with her own hair plaited into twine and laid then carefully at intervals. In-between she placed focusing crystals, quartz and amethyst-- all of which had been soaked in salt water and purified before she brought them with her. The new blue velvet bag of runes--individually carved on shards of a thousand year old Gospel oak-- were laid out in the correct order and position. She had stolen them from the Magic Box and felt sick to her stomach over taking them. She knew Tara had wanted them but had balked at the price. So her taking them felt like a betrayal of Tara’s beliefs and dreams. Her hand shook as she placed Algiz in the main position for her casting; she wanted to use it’s powers for protection against the magics that she would be channelling. Otherwise she was worried she might succumb to the lure. It was too close as it was; the taste was tickling at the back of her throat, calling to her. Willow swallowed over and over, trying to ignore the temptation.
“Buffy, I need some matches.” Willow took a deep breath to calm herself. She placed the four nightlights on the four points of the compass.
“Here.” Buffy tossed the plastic lighter she used for her candles at Willow and set about balancing the mirror.
“Thanks,” Willow muttered distractedly as she lit the four small candles and tucked the lighter into her pocket. Her mind was already beginning to focus on the incantation. A calm filled her; magic was something she was good at and this time she would get Tara with it.
“Where shall I stand?” Buffy rocked on her heels, impatient to get things moving.
“To my left.”
“When will we know if it’s worked?” Buffy moved smoothly into place. She shrugged on her coat and then picked up the crossbow again and stood ready. Her focus was on the top of Willow’s bent head.
“The mirror – it’s the portal. Watch it and when you see the right moment, jump through. I’ll keep it open and you can bring Spike back with you.” Willow concentrated on pouring the grey powder from the hollowed out gourd into four neat piles next to each flickering candle and began to mutter under her breath, blessing the powder and the candles.
Buffy pulled the collar of her jacket up around her neck as the atmosphere in the room began to thicken and take on a cloying feel to it. Magics always made her a little icky, but this time she was all on board the Wiccan train if it got her what she wanted. Everything had been taken from her and now she was getting something back that she needed beyond life itself. Her fingers tightened on the shaft of the bow she cradled in her hands. All those nights imagining how she would save him were finally going to pay off. She had her plan of attack mapped out firmly in her mind. Teeth would die first. She’d realised that he was the one to take out as soon as she got there; the crossbow was saved for him. Vamp on right, and then vamp on left. She knew the stakes she had would be enough as they were soaked in Holy Water and carved with crosses all down the shafts. She’d spent the morning perfecting them as she waited for Willow to come back. ‘Focus on the fight, then get Spike. Don’t let seeing him distract you…focus on the bossman and the goons.’ She chanted the plan over and over to herself.
Let Houros guide me.
I call on his wisdom and power.
Cronos, I seek your power over time and space.
Hear this supplicant’s plea – come and show me the way.
Incantare Incantare – supoidio vaqucht ba man beya.
Willow reached over and grabbed a taper she had laid out next to the circle and lit it using one of the nightlights. Her fingers were steady as she stared straight ahead at the mirror, waiting for it to shimmer. She tapped each pile of sand that was poured on the four points of the compass, East to West – South to North. The sand flared up with a golden glow and a thick greasy black smoke filled the room.
Buffy shifted slightly. It was getting a wee bit Stephen King for her with the black smoke, but it was too late to back out now. She glanced down at Willow and frowned at the sight of her friend’s hair; it was darkening. Buffy shook her head, figuring it was the smoke and missed the black pits in Willow’s eyes.
Cronos – show me the passage of time
Reveal reveal – I need to be shown.
Boaz sho vaqucht boror backwards
Then it began.
A faint mist flickered around the edges of the tall mirror and then it began to move inwards, swirling faster and faster in an anti-clockwise direction. Willow gasped and her head dropped back, her eyes staring upwards and her arms raised as the mystical wind began to move around her. Her face was bathed in an unearthly light and the black smoke twisted and turned in front of her shaking form and then shot into Willow’s gaping mouth. Buffy missed all of this as she stared at the events unfolding in the mirror; the mystical sight of her life on rewind riveted her. All the misery from the past month moving slowly backwards, as if it were being wiped out, the sight filled her with hope, maybe it could all be changed.
Willow had managed to do it. For the first time in weeks, a genuine smile crossed her chapped lips.
Willow grunted as the smoke began to coil through her body, changing her on a basic level. It tingled through her nervous system, making her body sing with power. Her fingers and toes twitched as she let the magicks surge through her. Willow began to pant as pulses of excitement shot from her womb to her nipples and down between her legs. Moisture flooded her panties as the thrill of the power sent a shock of mini orgasms through her. This was part of magic using that very few people talked about, the sexual peaks were so addictive and unlike anything a lover could produce in her body. Her nipples tightened and pressed against the thin cotton of her dress, trying to burn their way through.
Buffy’s nerves tightened as the scenes moved backwards. Closer and closer to the time when she had failed him. Her hands were steady on the crossbow. She was ready.
“Here we go, Wills,” she yelled triumphantly. The image of her running from the cemetery home began to reverse before her very eyes. Slowly the ashes of her Spike began to reassemble and the hand of the vampire who staked him pulled away and downwards, tucking the weapon back in his waistband. Spike was there, she could see him, and he was in the mirror. Excitement filled her and Buffy leapt forward, ignoring the ecstatic moans that were tumbling from Willow’s mouth and the over powering scent of crushed strawberries that filled the air and slowly began to sour.
“You did it! Back in a few.” Hope filled her as she moved forwards.
Buffy leapt through the looking glass and into her own wonderland. A place where Spike was still with her; excitement thrummed through her veins. As she leapt, her heel caught the rune Algiz, the same one Willow was relying on to protect her. It span around, inverting the power around it.
Buffy felt a pricking sensation as she leapt through the shimmering portal. She landed with a thud about three feet to the left of Spike and his captors. She shook her head, disorientated by the sight of her other self standing in front of her. But she pushed it aside, focusing on the fight at hand. There was a twang and thunk as a quarrel was released from the crossbow. It struck the shark headed demon in the eye, killing him instantly.
“One down, two to go,” she muttered under her breath. As she spun towards Spike’s captors, she failed to see the events unfolding in the mirror. The rune she’d knocked out of place had left Willow open to everything she had been channelling. Her hair was darkening to a pitch black and her skin turned ashen with thick black veins snaking their way across it. The swirling image of Willow began to move in a clockwise direction, faster and faster until it was a blur of silver motion.
Buffy moved with incredible speed.
She slipped behind the two goons and before either one could move a muscle, the two stakes she’d created for them dropped down her sleeves and into her waiting hands. Spike stumbled forward and began to cough as dust showered down on him from both sides. A pair of strong arms wrapped around his waist and pulled him upright.
“I got you,” a soft voice whispered into his ear. Her warm breath tickled his senses. His hand came up reflexively and clasped hers. He could see her in front of him and yet he knew she was behind him as well. Both of them were so caught up in each other that they didn’t see the horrific events unfolding in the portal.
“Yeah…Spike, I got you. Come on, time to go home.”
With that, Buffy pulled him with her and they fell through the portal backwards.
|Chapter #11 - Epilogue|
|Chapter 11 |
Buffy stumbled over the threshold, Spike’s arm looped over her shoulder. Her arm rested around his waist, carefully placed to avoid the crossbow bolts the vamp goons had used to incapacitate him. Barely a word had been spoken all the way back; Spike had been uncharacteristically subdued, still trying to work out what had happened. Buffy had been thrilled to have him back and she had focused her entire being on him as they had staggered back to Revello Drive, unaware of their surroundings.
As she helped the unresisting Spike upstairs to her room, Buffy didn’t notice the silence in the house and the sense that it had been unoccupied for a while. All she was focussed on was that Spike was in her arms, undusty and back in her life.
“Huh…weird.” Buffy jiggled her door handle and wondered why her bedroom door was locked. “Wonder if Willow did it before the spell?”
Spike raised his head. “Red’s spell? What the hell have you birds been up to?” He swayed slightly, the loss of blood beginning to weaken him. “It’s got consequences, y’know. Has to be a balance, paying the toll and what all.” He slurred slightly as he slumped into her hold a bit more. “So, what did she do this time?”
“Nothing.” Buffy avoided his eyes and twisted the handle and broke it -- she figured she could get Xander to fix it later. Buffy helped Spike into the room and face down onto her bed. It barely registered in her frazzled mind that the mirror was gone and the spell stuff Willow had laid out on the floor had been cleared up. She mentally shrugged, figuring that Willow must’ve covered her tracks before Tara got home. “Stay there while I get the First Aid box.” She helped Spike further up the bed and vanished out of the room, flicking the light switch on before she left.
Spike groaned into her pillow. Her scent was so faint on it that he wondered if his nose had been bashed when the Teeth’s minions had grabbed him, dulling his sense of smell. Spike gritted his teeth and tried not to scream the house down as the pain ricocheted around his body from the beating and the bolts in his back. His back muscles were throbbing around the arrows and his head ached something fierce. As for the confusion of the grim faced Slayer saving him and the other just fading away as she did, he was flummoxed. Then she brought him back to her place and was being nice to him. He settled on the idea that he’d fallen asleep and was having a nice dream, except the pain in his back reminded him he was wide awake. Spike decided to wait and see what the hell she was up to. He wasn’t about to ignore the gentle touch of her hands; the kiss in the alley had changed everything for him. He loved her and wanted her. Spike grunted as he turned his head to the side and then frowned at the changes to her girly boudoir. It was now somewhere he could be right comfy in.
“Slayer, when did you redecorate?” he hollered.
“When you were dead and I realised that I was an idiot” She reappeared with the First Aid box in her shaking hands. “Spike, a lot happened since I last saw you.” She pressed a finger on his lips and shook her head. “Let me talk while we get you fixed up, okay?”
Spike’s blue eyes were wide and dubious as they stared adoringly up at her; he drank in the welcome sight of her sweet face and frowned at her gauntness. “You given up eating for Lent of sumthing?”
Buffy laughed through her tears at his confusion, he looked like a lost little boy. She dropped the tin box on the bed and shrugged out of her coat. “I need to pull these out.” She gestured at the arrows. Her face apologetic and her hands hesitant, Buffy tried to push the tears aside and focus on helping Spike.
Spike nodded and braced himself. “Go on, m’vamp enough to take ittttttttttt!”
Buffy ignored the unmanly squeal that escaped his lips and grimly pulled out the other two arrows and threw them on the floor. “Sorry…” She rested her hands on his back and felt him panting in pain. “Almost over. We just need to get the duster off. Did I tell you I missed you?” Tears swam in her eyes as Buffy stared at him hungrily; she’d forgotten that Spike wouldn’t be on the same page as her.
“Have you gone completely off you trolley, Slayer?” He eyed her with concern, wondering if the whole heaven and return to the Hellmouth had tipped her over the edge of sanity into Druland.
Then she began to speak, filling him in on everything that had happened since she failed him as she pulled off his duster, briefly lifting it to her face to inhale the scents embedded in it. Placing it carefully on the floor, she carried on her story. Buffy ripped the blood soaked t-shirt and tugged it out from under his torso. ‘Oh, pretty vampire on my bed with the sexy nekid body.’ Buffy’s hands floated over the sleek muscles, avoiding the sluggishly bleeding wounds and instead tickling their way around his sides and pressing against his stomach. Spike’s brain went into overload and he nearly wept; his body automatically pressed into her warm hands and he sighed.
“Spike, they took Dawnie away and gave her to my dad. She cried and cried. I couldn’t help her and now she’s with him.”
Spike gingerly turned onto his side and reached for her. He tucked her thin body half under his and cradled her. He was still in shock at the revelation that Teeth’s goons had dusted him and that the golden morsel of sunlight shivering against him had mourned him. He didn’t know what to say. It was all too much for him to suss out and he needed some time. “Love, hush your tears. Come on, gimme a pretty lil’smile, yeah?” He ignored the soggy snot rubbed on his chest and returned her tentative smile. As he shifted to embrace her, Spike winced.
Buffy slithered out from under him, anxiety colouring her face. “Oh, Spike. I’m sorry. Lemme tape you up.” She reached for the bandages and helped him sit up. “Can you rest your hands on my shoulders?”
“Yeah.” Spike nodded and laid his hands on her slender shoulders. He took a deep breath, sighing as he watched her carefully wrapping his chest up and covering the wounds. “Love, about the Bit …we’ll get her back. She might’ve bollocksed stuff up, but we’ll sort it. I promise.” He shivered as her fingers smoothed the tape down, securing the bandages. She refused to look up, but nodded her head slightly.
Spike tightened his fingers on her shoulders and finally caught her gaze. He gasped at the look of love in her eyes and the trust that beamed out of them. Before she could say anything, his stomach grumbled loudly.
“Sorry…bit peckish, what with the seeping wounds and all,” he muttered, feeling a little foolish and more than a little pissed off with his body for ruining the moment.
“I don’t have anything in the house…oh wait!” Buffy leapt up and began to rummage through her desk draws.
Spike’s head jerked up at the scent of her blood. He smelled it often enough when she was injured on patrol. But this time it was stronger-- his eyes flashed amber and he growled. “Love, what are you doing?”
Buffy turned to face him and held her bleeding wrist in front of her as she walked towards him with a sultry sway of her hips. “Drink me.” Her eyes brooked no dissention from him as she stalked towards him. The intoxicating aroma of her blood filled the room and Spike gulped. He had never in his wildest dreams ever imagined this his Golden Slayer asking him to drink form her.
And he did.
Buffy’s knees trembled under the soft swipes of his tongue and the brushes of his lips against the delicate skin on her wrist. She knelt on the bed and lulled against him as he sipped carefully from the open wound. Spike pulled her tight and rumbled happily as her rich blood began to fill his starved system with its healing power and heady arousal. His fangs dipped in and out of her delicately, as if he were hesitant to bite her but couldn’t resist the lure of her blood. His body shook with purrs of contentment that were muffled against her thin wrist. Buffy shivered all over and curled up in his arms with a happy sigh as slowly all the tension of the last month began to seep out of her.
“Spike, every night I tried to work out a way to save you. I cried over your journals, trying to find you in them and I did. They helped me realise how much I love you. Your words – they saved me.”
Spike tensed slightly at her mention of her reading his words, dreams and poetry, and then relaxed. Of all the beings he had met, she was the only one who he trusted with his private thoughts and hopes. God he was starting to sweat, though. She knew everything about him and yet his Slayer was still here in his arms. He could feel his wounds closing, both the ones in his heart and the ones on his back. He kissed her wrist and pulled away, licking his lips clean. He ducked his head, suddenly feeling shy and busied himself dressing the wound on her wrist before he dared to look back up at her.
“You love me?” Incredulity coloured his voice.
Buffy took a deep breath and nodded, then reached up and kissed him. Pulling away from his soft lips, she licked hers and found she wasn’t grossed out by the faint coppery taste of her blood on his. She ran her fingers over his much missed features, relearning the curves of his cheekbones, finally able to touch him without guilt or worrying about what her friends would say. She could care less about their undoubted disapproval that they would rain down on her, but, it was her life and she was living it the way she wanted to.
She’d sacrificed enough – lost enough, and now she was hanging onto what made her happy. And that was the blond vampire cuddling her to his chest and for the first time since she let him dust, Buffy felt at peace.
“I love you, Sp…” The door crashed open and interrupted their quiet moment.
“Buffy? Spike? Oh my god! How? When? Where? You’re here alive, well you are and he’s not blowin in the wind! Buffster, I missed you…hell I missed you too, fangless!”
Xander stood framed in the doorway with a massive grin on his face. He dropped the axe he was carrying on the floor and rubbed his hands together in glee. “I knew something was up when I saw your bedroom light was on. I swing past every night on patrol to check out the ol’Summers homestead since Tara took Willow for a visit to that coven Giles hooked them up with.”
“Xander? What are you doing here?” Buffy blinked at the sight of him and the axe that was now embedded in her rug. Before either of the two blonds could disentangle themselves from each other and face him, Xander launched himself at them with a whoop and wrapped them both in a bear hug.
“Buffster, I missed you,” Xander sighed.
“Gerroff!” Spike’s body was rigid with shock at the hug from his erstwhile tormentor and butt of his best quips and jibes. Manly touches were not his cuppa – well not since the time that he -- and well there was a reason he called Angel Peaches and there was no way he was sharing with the kiddies!
“Come on, Spike ol’buddy, give us a kiss,” Xander teased he puckered up, then pulled back from the group hug and ruffled the shocked vampire’s hair.
“Xander, are you okay?” Buffy squeaked in surprise from the friendliness that was Xander.
His happiness faded a bit and he sank back on his heels. “Been better, Buffy. Where did you go? What happened? It’s been so long?”
“Long?” Buffy frowned and then really looked at Xander. He had fine lines etched around his eyes and there were grey hairs here and there in his brown hair. “Xander, what happened to you?” The three of them sat facing each other on the bed and the silence was heavy between them.
“You realise I haven’t seen you for almost three years, Buffy?” Xander’s eyes never left her face; he drank her in like a man parched.
“Are you on crack?” Spike stared at the Whelp in shock.
“I wish…would’ve made life easier,” Xander snorted. “What’s the last thing you remember, Buffy?”
“Stepping through the portal to get Spike.”
“Yeah, well something went wrong,” he sighed. “Always did when Willow was all with the magics,” Xander added with more than a slight hint of bitterness in his voice.
“Xander? Where is Willow? You said Tara took her to a coven.” Buffy frowned in confusion. Her hands clutched at Spike’s, trying to anchor herself.
“Yeah, well, Tara got home just after you must’ve gone through. She found Willow all with the not so sexy Queen of the Damned makeover and the magics she invoked all out of control.” Xander stared at the foot of the bed, recalling the mess he’d witnessed. “Hey, where did the mirror go?”
“It wasn’t there when we came back. Actually we didn’t come back here, we were outside Restfield where it happened. Where Spike got dusted.” Her throat tightened at the thought and she felt Spike press against her side, trying to reassure her and Buffy smiled radiantly up at him. “Xander, make with the splainy cos I am starting to freak over here.” Buffy was starting to get really confused.
“Huh, Tara thought that might happen. Something about imprinted memories and returning to where it happened rather than through the portal. I didn’t really get it.” Xander shrugged. “But hey, bonus is the freaky ass swirly mirror is gone! Wonder if it’s back in your closet?” Buffy grabbed him before he could go check.
“Xander focus, where is Dawn? Tara and Willow? What is going on?” She wanted to slap him for taking so long to tell her about her sister.
“Sorry. So Tara got back and managed to get Willow out of the circle. This stinky black smoke was pouring out of her mouth and Tara realised something major had gone down. She could see stuff in the mirror-- you and Spike-- but she didn’t know what to do, so she pulled Willow outta the room.” Xander took a breath and continued. “It was a mess. Willow was magically fried…nada…and she’s kinda different now, slower, you know…so Tara looks after her and the house. We all were waiting for you to come back…Dawnie too. And here you are!” He tugged at the grey hairs, “ And these, well Willow kinda freaked us all out of about ten years of our lives. That and you going missing.”
“Here we are, all back safe and sound.” Spike wrapped an arm around Buffy’s shoulders, instantly aware that the guilt in her was boiling up to a fever pitch.
“Oh my god…Wills, is she okay?” Buffy whispered.
“Believe it or not, she is. I think the magics burning her out actually did her and us all a huge a favour. She’s back to being Wills from before the whole Sabrina stint. She and Tara are good.Willow kept saying you’d be back and that she had faith in you. That’s why we just cleaned up and left everything as it was in here so you would be able to come home to us.” Xander ran the back of his hand over Buffy’s face,savouring the softness of her much missed face and rolled his eyes at the growl that emanated from Spike. “No worries,Vamp Boy. We realised she was yours when she went back to save your scrawny British ass.”
“Really?” Spike couldn’t help but ask.
“Yeah…even I got it.” Xander shook his head and laughed. “Kinda hard to avoid once the girls kept at me. I gets that Spike wuvs Buffy and she loves him.” He giggled at the glower he got from Spike for teasing him and it was filled with joy, stress and relief. “Sorry guys, but I just have to.” He reached over and hugged Buffy and then slapped Spike on the shoulder. “Man is it good to see you both.”
“Xander, you didn’t say much about Dawn – is she okay? Where is she?” Buffy clutched at Spike’s hand, nerves starting to get the better of her. Spike was a solid presence in the mess of her new life and she clung to him.
“She’s good, missed you both like hell. Oh man. Buffy, you would be so proud! She’s studying at Stanford--ancient languages and History. She comes to visit when she can and she’s a knock out!” Xander’s face was filled with glee as he talked about the youngest Summers girl.
“Stanford?” Buffy’s eyes were huge and filled with pride.
“Yeah, she’s turned into a mini Watcher. Anya and I went up to visit her last month. Oh hey, we have to call her!” Xander scrabbled through his pockets searching for his phone.
“Wait, where’s Giles and Anya?” Buffy stopped him. She wanted her first talk with her sister to be private. Her head was spinning. So much had happened. A pang of guilt ran through her about Willow’s fate and she wanted to puke her guts up. She also felt so proud that her baby sister had managed to pull her self out of the mess she had gotten into with the stealing and skipping school and was now at College.
“Giles, well he never came back. He’s in England doing watchery stuff. He sold his half of the Magic Box to Anya and well, we got married.” He flashed his wedding ring sheepishly at the stunned blondes.
“Oh my god! You guys are married?” Buffy squealed. Her eyes were filled with happy tears and she hugged Xander and then snuggled back into Spike’s arms. Her eyes dropping tiredly, she managed to suppress a yawn as her head nodded against Spike’s chest. Xander and Spike exchanged a look and nodded.
“Okay, Buffster. I’m gonna go get Anya. Why don’t you have a nap and then we can all have a catch up.”
Buffy tiredly smiled her thanks up at Xander.
“Spike, look after her.”
“S’all I ever wanted to do, mate.” Spike shook Xander’s hand and watched bemused as the Scoobie practically skipped out of the room. “Bit disturbing that, innit love?” He pointed to the skipping Scoobie.
“Mmmhhh.” Buffy yawned tiredly and snuggled into him. Her eyes dropped shut, the events of the evening finally catching up with her as a faint sigh slipped past her pouting lips. Spike settled back on the bed with a groan. He cradled Buffy’s dozing form in his arms and sighed, content for the first time in years.
“Yeah, love,” he rumbled.
“We’re okay? No regrets?” Her voice was paper thin and worried.
“Had a few…but not anymore.”
It was a brave new world they had come back to, but they would survive the changes. They had each other.