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Normal Is Just a Word by slaymesoftly
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Chapter Fifteen

"I wish you'd just tell the bloody Scoobies about us," Spike grumbled from the chair beside the bed. "Getting damn tired of Harris' whinging that I'm getting above myself, and acting like I shouldn't be trusted in your bedroom."

"As far as he knows, you probably shouldn't be. It's not like he has any reason to think I'd be okay with you here if I wasn't going crazy every few minutes."

"My point, exactly, Slayer. If they knew you had some reason to—"

"No." Buffy turned her head to the side. "I'm not going to keep arguing about this. They don't need to know how low I sank."

The chair fell over backwards as Spike leapt to his feet, snarling without restraint.

"When are you going to admit—"

"Hey! Hey, hey there, slightly-less-evil undead boy. No yelling at the sick lady. And no breaking of furniture."

Xander's words were light, but his face was creased with worry. He would have had to be blind not to notice the change in Spike and Buffy 's behavior since she'd been stabbed. Learning that when she went away, it was to apparently the same place she'd been while she was dead and in Heaven, had hit him harder than anyone except Dawn. Particularly the news that, aside from her mother and father, the only people from her real life who showed up in her Heaven were the two vampires he disliked most.

He accepted the explanation that only dead people could be found in Heaven because it meant she wasn't completely choosing her two vampires over her closest friends and family. His disgust with her Heaven was just slightly alleviated by the knowledge that she'd chosen Spike - someone he'd at least become used to having around- over Angel when settling on a boyfriend.

Spike now came and went from the Summers' house with even more confidence than he'd shown over the summer. He acted very much like someone with a perfect right to be at Buffy's side; and Buffy, in spite of the loud arguments they often had, seemed not to see anything strange about it. Only the way she had accepted Spike's frequent presence kept Xander from physically throwing the vampire out of the house. But whatever they were currently arguing about seemed to be more serious than usual, and Xander readied himself to physically remove Spike if it became necessary. Which it didn't.

"Either you do it, or I will," Spike said, pushing past Xander and going down the stairs.

"No, you won't," Buffy yelled after him.

"What does he want you to do? You're sick. Even he ought to be able to see that! Do you want me to keep him out?"

She shook her head. "No. I need... I need for you guys to get along." Buffy carefully ignored his question about what Spike had been demanding of her.

"Buffy, you fight with him all the time. Can't I just tell him to stay away? To give you some peace?"

She shook her head again. "He's just worried, Xan. And he's got a right..." Her voiced trailed off as she came as close as she wanted to admitting there was more to her relationship with Spike than the little glimpses her friends had caught.

"We're all worried. But you don't get into fights with the rest of us."

"No," she whispered. "No fighting with you guys. Just Spike."


"What are you saying?" Buffy's voice was shrill and she shrank into the chair, her eyes darting around the room.

"We've consulted and discussed how things worked the last time and we think this it what it's going to take for you to let go."

"To kill everybody I care about? That's going to make me better?"

"Those ties – the sister you know you don't really have, the friends you made up that are nothing like the people you knew here, and the... the vampire that loves you – they're what's keeping you there. They pull you back because you think they need you. If they didn't exist, there would be nothing to keep you in that world."

A flashback to Spike saying, "your family, the Scoobies, they're keeping you here," sent a shudder through her body.

"So," she said calmly, "if I kill everyone I care about in that world, I can leave it. That's what you're saying?"

Dr Swinson gazed at Buffy's dull, expressionless face and backpedaled quickly.

"I'm not suggesting you kill them yourself, Buffy. I understand how difficult that would be for you. But you could stop protecting them, couldn't you? It sounds like it's a very dangerous place... Sunnydale. Surely you could just stop protecting them and allow one of the monsters to kill them?"

"Spike will be protecting them," Buffy said with a certainty that brought a frown to the doctor's face. "He won't let anything happen to anyone – especially Dawn. He'd dust before he let anything happen to her."

"Ah, yes." The doctor nodded. "The vampire. The one that looks like the man who loves you and is waiting for you to get well so that he can marry you. That one you may have to kill yourself."

"I can't," Buffy whispered. "I couldn't..."


Buffy poured the carefully brewed antidote into the wastebasket. In spite of his earlier threat, Spike had just given her the refilled mug and begged her to drink it. She'd taken a few sips, just to please him, but as soon as he'd left the room, she poured it out, and then lay back to mull over her options.

Willow, Dawn, and Xander – it would be easy to tie them up in the basement and let the demon loose. Not only would the demon probably kill them all, there was a good chance that it would kill her too.

"Bonus," she whispered. "I won't have to stake Spike if I'm already dead."


"I'm going to try it," she said the following morning. "I'll let the demon have them and then..."

"It's going to work, love," Will said with a weak smile. "The doctors are sure of it."

"I'm not going to kill Spike," she responded with more firmness than he'd heard in her voice in months.

"It won't be necessary, sweetheart. When that world vanishes, he'll vanish with it. And I'll be here. Waiting for you."

Will had given up being jealous of the vampire Buffy's imagination had created. When she was awake and aware, she meticulously recorded everything that had happened in her other world while she was there and he took those notes home with him every night. He'd had a brief flare of hope when she broke off her sexual activities with Spike, but it was soon clear that the vampire had remained a part of her life in spite of the end of their physical relationship.

His understanding of her relationship with Spike was more thorough than he allowed Buffy to see; and while the things they had done to and for each other sometimes made him shudder, he could also read between the lines to understand how important Spike was to Buffy and to her ability to cope with her life in that world. Knowing that Spike was a version of him gave him some small comfort when he had to leave the hospital – as he so often did – without having been able to have a conversation with her.


Getting Willow to the basement was easy. Her eagerness to get back into Buffy's good graces overcame her normal aversion to being told what to do. And with the duct tape over her mouth, she'd been helpless to save herself while Buffy tied her up. Xander was no problem once she'd clocked him with the frying pan. Even with her aching arm, Buffy was able to get him downstairs and tied up also. Dawn was the only one who seemed suspicious when Buffy began stalking towards her. Something of her intention must have been visible on Buffy's face as Dawn tried to sprint past her.

Tara's surprise visit almost ruined things, but Buffy was able to trip her before she could work enough spells to defend everyone from the demon, now battling a very out-matched Xander.

The more dead not-real people, the more likely I am to be able to stay away, Buffy told herself as she crouched under the stairs.


"Oh God! Oh God. I'm doing it! I'm actually going to let them die!" Buffy's eyes darted around the room, seeing the familiar faces of her parents, Dr. Swinso and Will, seeking reassurance from them.

"It's for the best, Buffy. Surely you can see that?"

"They're going to die. The people who love me, who depend on me, are going to die and it will be my fault. And the Hellmouth! Who will watch the Hellmouth? Faith is in jail; there won't be a Slayer in the world...."

"Please, love... Don't tear yourself up over this. Let them go."

"I can't... I can't leave them to be torn apart by that... thing. Don't ask me to, Will!"

He squeezed her hand in sympathy, the only one in the room who had a true understanding of how real these people were and how much her calling as the Slayer meant to her.

"We're not asking you for anything you can't do, Buffy. We're just trying to make you better." Her father's voice was quiet, but shook with emotion. "We know you can do this, sweetheart."

"What if it doesn't make her better?" Will suddenly demanded from his place at her bedside. "What if she just stays there and has to live with the guilt? I can't ask her to do that."

Buffy's hand clutched his in relief and gratitude. She kissed his knuckles as he faced the outraged doctor.

"Don't be ridiculous," Dr. Swinson snapped. "Once they're gone, there will be nothing to hold her there. It may take a while to rid herself of all the ties that are binding her to that world – but this is a good start."

"She's not just bound by her ties to those people," Will said softly. "She's the Slayer. The Chosen One. She's responsible for that whole world." The reading he'd done in Buffy's journals had given him an understanding of her world and her place in it that the others didn't – couldn't have. His stomach clenched as it suddenly occurred to him that keeping those journals to himself may not have been in Buffy's best interest.

"Exactly," Dr Swinson said firmly. "And the sooner she lets go of that idea, that she could be responsible for an entire world's safety, the sooner she will be able to realize that this is the real world. Getting rid of these imaginary people is the first big step. Once she has removed them, the world itself will fade away."

"And if it doesn't?" Will asked softly. "If she remains trapped there without her family and friends? Without the people who love her? Knowing that she was responsible for their deaths?"

"I love you," Buffy whispered into his chest.

"I know you do," he murmured back to her, low enough that no one else could hear them. "I've never doubted it. I Iove you too. The idea of leaving you there to suffer without your support system terrifies me."

"I have to go," she said, touching his face gently and gazing at him with bereft but very certain eyes. "I can't let them die."

He nodded. "I wouldn't expect any less of you. Do what you know is right, love. I trust you."

"I love you," she repeated. "Someday..."

"I'll wait for you," he promised, tears in his own eyes. "When it's time, you'll be back and I'll be waiting for you."

"Tell my parents I'm sorry," she whispered, slipping out of his arms and into the loose restraints hanging from the sides of the bed. "I'm just not done yet."

She never heard her mother's wail as Buffy's eyes rolled back in her head and her face went slack. Will fell onto her body, sobbing unashamedly until the doctor gestured for the attendants to pull him away.
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