Dust and Dreams
After Giles’ brief on the Harvest, Buffy hurried home and collected as many weapons as she could and as fast as possible. Her aim was to get to the Bronze before the sun even set, to be sure the vampires were not there yet. She had worn clothes appropriate for kicking ass to school, so she didn’t need to change, saving more time. Buffy wrote her mother a quick note and left through her bedroom window just as she heard her mother come in the front door.
She definitely had to have that heart-to-heart with Joyce before too long. Her mother was going to be really irritated with her that she had stayed out all night last night and then sneaked off before she came home. But right now that couldn’t be helped.
The sun was setting as the five of them arrived at the Bronze, and Buffy pulled the fire alarm.
“Everyone out – this way!” Giles called loudly, herding people towards a side door. The others ushered everybody in different directions once they were outside, so the vampires would find it harder to follow than a group of them. Once everyone was out, they closed all the doors, turned off the alarm and started the music again so the vampires would think everyone was still inside.
“And now?” Xander asked Buffy.
“Now we wait.” Buffy checked the time. “They should be here any minute. Just make sure you guys are out of sight, okay?”
It didn’t take long for the vampires to show up. Buffy recognised them as working for the Master, but she knew none of them were particularly strong. The fight was over quickly – all staked, the Vessel with a pool cue. Buffy dusted the ash off her hands and said, “You guys can come out now.”
Buffy realised that she had got off lightly this time. The other apocalypses were not going to be half as easy.
Joyce was still up when Buffy arrived home.
“I’m sorry,” Buffy said before Joyce could even open her mouth. “I know you’re probably annoyed ‘cause I stayed out a long time last night. But I came back at a decent time tonight, so please don’t be too mad.”
Joyce sighed. “I’m not mad, Buffy, just try not to stay out so late on school nights. I don’t want to have to impose a curfew.”
“You won’t have to, Mom. I promise.” Buffy wondered whether it was a good time to have their heart-to-heart, but her mother probably wanted to go to bed. “I’m trying my best to turn over a new leaf, and one thing I wanna do is spend more time with my mom.”
“Really?” Joyce looked surprised.
“Really.” Buffy hugged her. “And I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the direction my grades will take.”
Using memory potion for classes wasn’t cheating, exactly. It just ensured Buffy could spend time she would have spent studying doing something more important, like fighting the undead or working on the timeline for the seven years ahead of her. Whilst getting good enough grades to keep her mother happy, and keeping Snyder from kicking her out of school. Not that Snyder was the principal yet. Buffy hoped he would never be this time round.
Buffy had not had a lot of sleep the previous night, running through the last couple of days’ events in her mind continuously with no room for anything else. Now, with no impending apocalypses for months, she didn’t have to tackle any supernatural occurrences until the cheerleading tryouts. But all thoughts of a restful sleep vanished as, without urgent matters on her mind, Buffy found it drifting towards other things.
Still under the effects of the first sip of memory potion, Buffy could remember every detail of Spike’s death, and it wouldn’t stop playing in her head. She buried her head in her pillow and allowed herself a few muffled sobs, but wouldn’t let herself break down completely. She had to remain in control.
It was hours before Buffy finally drifted into an uneasy sleep, and even then, she dreamed.
Spike was there, beside her, one arm around her as he gazed into her eyes. Buffy, elated, snuggled into his arms, not believing he was really there … But there he was, as handsome as ever, features intact, blue eyes filled with passion. “I love you,” Buffy whispered to him.
His expression changed, his smile fading, and his eyes hardened. “No, you don’t,” he said in a cold voice. “You never loved me.”
To Buffy’s horror, his next words spilled from his mouth in her own voice - words she remembered clearly. “I could never love you, Spike … you are dead inside … I will never kiss you, never touch you, never, ever again … And you wonder why I can never love you?”
“Stop it!” Buffy cried, clapping her hands over her ears. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it -”
“Oh, you meant it,” Spike replied, his own cold voice back. “You meant it so fiercely you did this to me.” His face changed, the area around one eye blackening, bruises sprouting, cuts opening and blood trickling down his face.
“I’m sorry!” Buffy gasped, jerking awake. For a moment, she just thought he had disappeared, before she realised it had just been a dream. A dream turned nightmare.
For several minutes Buffy sat up in bed shivering, the image from the dream all too real, before throwing back the covers and heading towards the bathroom, where she splashed cold water on her face and tried to calm down.
Just because Spike was, technically, alive – well, vampire alive – in this time didn’t make the pain of his passing any less. And now, Buffy thought she was probably suffering a backlog of guilt over how she had treated him. She dried her face and returned to her room. There was no way she was going to get any decent sleep tonight. Desperate for something to take her mind off Spike, she pulled out a pad of paper, a pen, and focused on remembering the months before she had met Spike.
Beginning with the cheerleading tryouts in a fortnight, Buffy drafted a timeline of the next six months, noting every important date and time. It was nearly half past five when her bedroom door creaked open, and she looked up to see her mother standing in the doorway in her dressing gown.
“Buffy, what on earth are you doing? Do you know what time it is?”
“I’m sorry, Mom, I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“You didn’t. Next-door’s cat jumped at my bedroom window again.” Joyce entered Buffy’s bedroom and sat down on the end of her bed. “Honey, what are you doing at this hour?”
“Homework,” Buffy lied, quickly gathering her papers up before her mother could see them. “I couldn’t sleep.”
“It’s a school day,” Joyce reminded her in a gentle tone. “I’m glad you’re doing your homework, but don’t you think it’s time you put it away and got some sleep?”
“I’ll go and make us both some hot chocolate. I don’t think I’ll be getting back to sleep tonight either. Why don’t we see what’s on late-night TV?” Joyce said, standing up to leave the room, but Buffy stopped her.
“Actually, Mom, can we talk? There’s some stuff I’d like to talk about with you.”
Joyce nodded. “All right, I’ll bring the hot chocolate up here then.” She kissed Buffy and said, “Back in a minute.”
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