Mya had been pretty excited. Whether that was because Buffy had escaped jail time and possible death or because she’d been pulled out of school was up for debate. Buffy remembered high school and knew the awesomeness of skipping it, so she wouldn’t judge. Besides, she was finding it difficult to concentrate on anything at the moment.
She was sitting in the back of Spike’s car. Spike was driving – autopilot be damned – with his daughter jabbering excitedly in the passenger seat. Willow and Xander had gone back to their hotel with the intention of changing clothes. Court clothes were not comfortable, apparently. Buffy would have agreed but her own clothing selection was severely limited and so she stayed dressed as she was.
Spike had insisted that they would have a barbeque at his house as soon as the sun went down, that way both he and Faith could enjoy it without barbequing themselves. Apparently barbequing was a great British pastime. Buffy had just nodded complacently. Free food was free food after all.
Free, just like her.
It was an odd comparison to make. Buffy was burger meat. Just waiting to be cooked and eaten.
She reminded herself never to think of herself in terms of any kind of food ever again. Unsettling analogy was unsettling.
Buffy didn’t know what to do with herself, really. She had been fairly sure she’d at least serve some sort of jail time. Being relatively free had never even crossed her mind. She needed to think things through. Where would she live? Could she get a job? A normal job? Did she even deserve this?
“Dad, Buffy’s thinking.” Mya said in a scolding tone, eyes staring at her in the rear-view mirror. “Tell her to stop. It’s not right.”
Buffy locked eyes with her briefly before smiling reassuringly. “I promise never to do it again.”
“That’s my Buffy.” Spike smiled to himself.
And then there was this. Spike. She wanted to be with Spike and it seemed as though he wanted to be with her. Were they going to tell Mya today? Would Spike want her to be involved in telling? Would Mya even be okay with it? Things got infinitely more complicated when children were thrown into the mix. Buffy was only twenty two but she’d lived a life and a half and she knew that she tended to get caught up in trouble; it was not the place to bring up a child. Being with Spike would mean being with Mya and she didn’t want to put the girl in harms way. The better part of the last few weeks had been various people telling her how dangerous she was and it was true.
She knew it was normal to have these nagging doubts. She knew that she just needed time and space to think things through but she also knew that it was all true.
And it worried her.
“You promised, love.” Spike said softly, voice bordering on concerned.
Buffy blinked, looking up to meet his eyes in the mirror. “I wasn’t thinking. I was pondering. It’s a whole different thing. It’s more…ponder-y.”
“It’s very Parisian.” Mya noted, trying to inject humour into a potentially complicated moment.
“Right. European.” Buffy agreed, pasting on a dumb-but-sweet smile.
Spike blinked, looking at her for a long moment before switching back to the road, his shoulders rolling in an exasperated sigh. “Sod that. We hate Europeans.”
“Spike, you are European.”
“I am bloody not!” He protested, swerving between slower moving cars. “I’m English. Not in the least bit the same.”
“England is in Europe.”
Mya winced knowledgably. “Never get into this argument.”
“It is not! Not really. It’s sort of…” He was waving one hand around in an erratic and useless gesture. “It’s nearby, unfortunately. But in no way in it. We’re our own nation. Much better. Less pretentious, less hugging, much less air kissing. Paris – pfft; what an over hyped place. Stinks to high hell, too. No, give me London. Give me Leeds. Give me bloody Yorkshire.”
Buffy watched his distaste with amusement. “I’d like to go to Paris. Some day.”
“Well.” Spike said awkwardly. He briefly glanced at her in the mirror, his voice much less confrontational when he spoke again. “You will, then. Knowing you, you’ll probably like it. It’s more of a girl’s place anyway. All those namby-pamby French ponces that women love wafting around the place. Yeah, you’ll like it.”
“I don’t even have a passport.” Buffy said, looking out of the window.
“We’ll get you one.”
“I’m on probation.”
“Well, after that.” He carried on. “You can see Paris. Then London. And you’ll see what I mean. No comparison.”
Mya shifted in her seat. “You’d never let me go to Paris.”
“Did you not hear the part about the French ponces? The day I let you near men like that is the day I’m a jar of dust.” Spike said sternly. “I know what they’re like, bloody squinty-eyed pouty-lipped Europeans.”
Mya snorted in amusement. “You’re assuming it’s the men I’ll be interested in.”
Buffy watched as Spike did a wonderful representation of a double-take to stare at his daughter. She laughed inwardly but decided perhaps now would be a good time to change the subject or at least take the heat away from Mya. “I’ve heard good things about French guys. I hear they’re the sexiest men in the whole world.”
“Ha.” Spike scoffed, looking back to the road. “I think my existence proves the flaw in that theory.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “It’s not going to be an issue, anyway. I’ll never make it to Paris. Or London. Or anywhere but here.”
“Course you will.”
“You know what they say about a Slayer’s life expectancy.”
Spike’s tone turned serious. “Not anymore, Buffy. There are thousands of you now. No need to go out like a martyr.”
“All it takes it one slip, Spike. It was you who taught me that,” Buffy’s eyes were fixed on the rolling road beneath the wheels, her voice flat. “One good day.”
She was acutely aware that this wasn’t really a great topic to be discussing in Mya’s presence and it certainly wasn’t the fun and throwaway distraction she had been meaning to provide to help the girl out. Buffy blinked and looked away, not meeting Spike’s eyes in the mirror as she continued breezily, “But I’d love to go to London. I always hoped to marry Prince William.”
“Oh.” Mya pulled in a breath. “Yeah…maybe not, Buffy. I mean, he hasn’t aged well.”
“King William now, love.” Spike added.
Buffy paused. “Oh.”
It was the odd, small moments like this that kept reminding her that she’d missed out on a huge chunk of what should have been her ‘time’. Obviously there were daily reminders but mostly she could gloss over those and pretend that she’d adjusted. When things like this came out of left field when she wasn’t expecting it; that was when Buffy felt out of place.
“Prince Beckham is a hottie, though.” Mya informed her.
Buffy’s eyes widened, a mocking smile making its way across her face. “Prince Beck–”
“Don’t.” Spike warned.
Buffy decided to do as he wished and let it drop for now. She filed it away under ‘information to mock England and thusly Spike’ – to be released at a later date. Buffy also decided she really should come up with a snappier name for her filing system.
With the easier, less mortality-laden mood restored Buffy went back to staring out of the window and worrying. She’d always been a worrier and her mother had chastised her more than once with the threat of wrinkles. You’ll look old before your time, Joyce had cautioned. Her hand made its way to her face, tracing out the lines that were soon to deepen and increase. Buffy’s gaze slipped to Spike. He was over a hundred and fifty years old and though he looked less carefree than thirty years ago, he certainly hadn’t aged. And he never would.
It had been the same concern she had always had pressing at the back of her mind when she had been with Angel. She wasn’t getting any younger and Spike wasn’t going to get any older. Buffy had no desire to become a vampire and Spike couldn’t become human, even if he wanted to. Which was doubtful.
This particular anxiety struck Buffy as something she probably shouldn’t be fixating on right after winning a murder trial (if there was such a thing as winning one) but her thought process had never been what a rational person would call straightforward. She jumped from one worry to another, clinging to them as others would cling to the good times and humour and, say, sanity. Without a problem, without something to try and fix, what was she? Slayers always have a mission; without a cause they become listless. Buffy was not the sit still kind. She had to have that thing. That thing which motivated her. That thing which, if she were perfectly honest, made her miserable. The Slayer had to be a little bit miserable to carry on. Buffy imagined that were she to look through the Watcher’s Diaries and find a truly content Slayer, by the next chapter something would have been ripping out her throat. Happiness leads to surrender and surrender leads to some demon’s One Good Day.
It was sad and it was so damned twisted but it was her reality.
Something had to be wrong for her to have purpose.
“We’re here.” Spike said redundantly as they pulled to a stop outside his house.
Buffy waited until he pressed the button to release the stupid futuristic seatbelts before opening her door and climbing out. Mya followed suit, stepping out on the gravel driveway and stretching her limbs as though she’d just escaped from prison and not high school. Buffy didn’t dwell on that thought too much.
Spike stayed in the car, opening the window a crack. “Pass me the blanket from the boot, will you?”
His sun cream had long since ceased to be effective. Buffy started around to the trunk, popping it open with ease and yanking a soft plaid blanket out. She noted with amusement he still had some crumbling paper copies of actual street maps. He really was a technophobe when it came down to it. Slamming the trunk closed a little more violently than necessary brought a loudly voiced protestation from Spike but she ignored it as she trudged around the vehicle to pass him the blanket through the window.
Mya started towards the house. “Sweet mother oxygen. The air at this time of the day really is fresher.”
“Pretty sure they have air at school,” Buffy concluded, following a step behind her and leaving Spike to sort himself out.
“Yeah but it’s air heavy with the burden of enforced learning and individuality repression, Buffy.” Mya turned to her as they climbed the steps. “Duh.”
The Slayer smiled. “My mistake. People still say, ‘duh’?”
“I used it in an attempt to make you feel comfortable. I read that the ‘use of colloquialisms from a tourist’s country’ really make them feel at home.”
“I’m a tourist now?”
“A time tourist.” Mya offered, then in a more influential tone and with a flourish decreed; “A tourist of time!”
Buffy glanced at her. “That’s nice. As long as my hair isn’t outdated.”
Mya reached forward and scanned her hand on the door. “Well, we’ll talk about that later.”
The distinct sound of a shotgun being cocked interrupted Buffy as it made it to her Slayer enhanced hearing a second before the door swung open to reveal the gunman.
Time seemed to slow as the barrel of the gun was lifted up to aim level with the girl in front’s stomach but even so Buffy only really caught a glimpse of a faceless figure all dressed in black before she reacted.
She pushed all her weight into a sideways dive that caused her to collide bodily into Mya even as the gun was fired. The shot couldn’t have come from further than three feet away as it sliced through the air to catch Buffy in the side. The force of the shot flipped her around a hundred and eighty degrees and she plummeted down, bypassing the steps, and landing face down on the gravel.
That was when everything seemed to speed up again, only this time it seemed faster than it should. She heard a crack and a deep braying yell from what could only be Spike. She heard fast footsteps on gravel and Mya screaming. She heard the swish and the shut of the front door closing and then the subsequent metal scream of it being ripped off its hinges. Another shot went off. A scream.
Buffy heard a lot of things but she couldn’t see at all. Her vision had gone black, or at least a deep purple, and the spill of her warm blood was tickling against her skin. And, fuck, the pain. People always tried to say that you’d pass out from pain like this; that it’s your body’s defence mechanism. Well, Buffy decided that was bullshit. Either that or Slayers were masochists. She felt every inch of that pain.
Suddenly she was rolling and rolling and her vision swayed into her view and then disappeared again. After a moment she realised she had her eyes closed. Buffy tried to remember how to open them.
She opened her eyes onto bright blue skies and bright blue eyes. Spike was above her, face close and a blanket thrown carelessly over his head. There were tendrils of smoke dancing away from him where his uncovered skin burned. She was semi-confident she could feel Spike holding her hand and very confident she could smell his flesh melting.
The Slayer could hear Mya talking in the background but couldn’t make out what she was saying or to whom. Not that it mattered. Not if she was dying.
“Buffy.” Spike’s voice was panicked and his eyes, not hiding his fear very well either, kept darting down to the blood pool rapidly widening beneath her.
She wondered if he was tempted to bite her. Not that it would matter. The pain was so much it might even be a relief. But she remembered her earlier vehemence not to become a vampire. It was a strange and abstract thought to remember at that moment, flitting through her brain soon to be gone again. Buffy found it suddenly very important to hold onto it as she finally felt herself going.
“Don’t…I don’t want to be a vampire…” she murmured, though it sounded garbled and insane even to her.
And then she went.
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