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Future Imperfect by Lilachigh
Chp 21 Charks
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Future Imperfect  by  Lilachigh
Chapter 21    Charks
The warehouses built around the train station many years ago when the railway was the only way to transport heavy goods had long been abandoned.  Occasionally someone would buy one and try to turn it into apartments or a nightclub but they were too far out of town, too lonely at night because the edge of the Sunnydale cemetery ran parallel with the railway at that point. So the scheme would fail and the warehouses were left to dust and decay, home for the homeless, fast food outlets for vampires and demons.
As the sun struggled and failed to cut through the overcast sky, Buffy walked slowly towards the biggest building, a ramshackle wooden barn whose seasoned timbers had withstood the ravages of the seasons better than its more modern companions.  She knew that Charks had built a nest in it; she’d been going to use them as a good exercise for her local Slayer potentials. Lots of killing in a quick, violent fight.  There should be fifty or sixty Charks – enough to kill her quickly if she didn’t fight back.
She knew that was the only problem she had: ignoring every Slayer instinct she had to stay alive. Today she had to die, become a dead Slayer and so track her grandchildren into whatever world they had been taken to.
Would Spike understand?  She thought Shanny would: if her daughter had been a Slayer, she would have sacrificed herself without a second thought to help her children.  Yes, Spike would, she sighed. He wouldn’t agree with what she was doing, but surely he would understand.
She ignored a little voice that asked why, if that was the case, she hadn’t discussed it with him first.
Willow and Giles wouldn’t understand, but this wasn’t something to put to a joint Scoobie decision. The second she’d watched Joyce and Billy vanishing amongst the ghosts of Slayers past, Buffy had known what she had to do.
She wasn’t scared of the pain: whatever there was would soon vanish. ‘Died twice, third time lucky,’ she muttered, pushing open the door, not trying to stop it creaking loudly as it swung back on rusty hinges. Physical pain she could cope with. But leaving Spike!
 She forced her mind to shut off from that thought. They’d had years more together than either of then would ever have dreamed possible; she had treasured every second of their Shanshued existence. But of course it wasn’t going to last. At the back of her mind she’d always known the time would come when she would be called to give a reckoning for the gift. And this was it. The price for past happiness was Billy and Joyce. So be it.
She hesitated in the gloom of the barn, brushing cobwebs aside that hung like crawling grey nets from the ceiling.  From somewhere came the high-pitched chittering that sent a shudder across her body.  Charks!  Lots of them, the noise made by three rows of  needle-sharp teeth rattling against each other.  Well, she’d wanted to find them and she certainly wasn’t going to be disappointed.
“Hey, Charkies!” she yelled.  “Anyone at home.”
The chittering stopped, replaced by a rustling of scaley wings and feet as the demons gathered together.  Orange and green eyes gleamed here, there, all round her, circling their prey, ready to attack.
She wondered if she could afford the luxury of taking a few with her before she died, then shook her head. Better safe than sorry. Better dead than alive.  “No regrets,” she muttered, walking forward, but knowing she was lying. She regretted not saying goodbye to her daughter, kissing Spike one last time, making him promise not to walk into the sunlight after her, because she was going to get the twins back somehow and he needed to be here to take care of them.
The first Chark – there was always one whose job it was to die to see how strong the enemy was – came flying out of the dark. Automatically her hand shot up before she could stop it and set it screaming and hurtling head over tail into the far wall to crash, dying on the floor.
“That is so not the way!” she muttered and stood with her arms folded, gripping her elbows to stop any defence, but glaring at the heaving mass of demons, determined to face death without a qualm.
The biggest Charks in the front row screamed their attack message and launched themselves towards her. And then the world went mad.  A roaring, yelling vampire crashed through their ranks in full game face, fangs reaching for throats, hands and feet a blur of action as he killed.
“Spike!  Stop!  You must stop!”
But even if he heard her, he was past listening.  She watched, astonished, as her husband reverted to the speed and effortless, fluid killing that she hadn’t seen for years. But sixty Charks was still too many for two fighters, no matter how good they were and as they were surrounded, the demons snapping and snarling, Spike just picked her up in his arms and leapt for the door, kicking out to kill two more as he catapulted them outside, dropping Buffy on the ground and slamming the door shut on slavering jaws.
He yelped as the weak sunlight hit his skin and flung himself across the road into the dark shade of an old, deserted Post Office.
Buffy stormed after him, furious words bubbling up. “Spike! How dare you?  You shouldn’t have interfered.  I have to die. I have to find the twins.”
Spike spun round to face her, vamping back into human face. “No!  Listen to me, Slayer. You are not going to die on purpose.  I won’t let you.  For an intelligent woman, you can be incredibly stupid some times.  And – ” he paused, then interrupted her angry reply with, “I thought we were a partnership, Buffy. That we discussed everything. I’m your husband, not some stranger vamp you’re bedding on a whim! I can’t believe – you just went ahead, planning to die and left me a sodding message on a sodding mirror!  Apart from the fact that I never look in mirrors – vampire, remember? – do I really mean so little to you that you believe you can just wander off to die with just a few words of goodbye. You – you – ”  He stopped and turned away but not before she had seen the dreadful hurt painted on his face like a scar.
“Do you think I wanted to leave you?  I love you!  I love you more and more every day, but we don’t – can’t matter, Spike. The twins have gone. Did you see Shanny’s face?  Oh my god, she’s their mother. Whatever we feel, she must feel it fifty, a hundred times more.  I would do anything, give anything, even my life, to take that look from her face.”
“And I didn’t matter? Not even enough to discuss killing yourself! Well, not so surprising. I’ve always known where I really stood in your affections.”
Buffy blinked back tears. She’d been so sure he would understand, but the vampire who never believed he was good enough for her obviously still lurked under the man she’d been married to for so many years. She took a deep breath: she had to make allowances. Had she acted too quickly? Yes, that was obvious now. But talking it over with Spike would have achieved nothing: he’d never have agreed. OK, perhaps he had a right to be upset, but he didn’t mean what he was saying; when this was all over they would talk it out, banish all these stupid thoughts. But before she could speak –
She spun round to find Shanny and Angel standing a few yards away. And even as she realised Shanny had heard every word she said, she was thinking how weird it was to see her former lover standing there, the sun shining brightly now on his dark blue leather jacket, tanning a face that no longer was pale and interesting.  A vampire who could walk in the sunlight – his share of the Shanshu.
“Mom – you were going to die to get to the twins?”  Shanny’s voice trembled emotion.  “For me?”  She took two faltering steps forward, a ripple of emotion crossing her usually unreadable face.  “For me?” she repeated, as if she couldn’t believe what she’d just heard.
“You mom would do anything for you and the twins, sweetheart. We both would. But I couldn’t let her die. That cab’t be the only way of helping them.”
But Shanny wasn’t listening: Buffy had held out her hand and for the first time in many years, her daughter clasped it tightly, their fingers twining together.
“Well, as your father has ruined this plan, let’s get back to the house and work out something else,” Buffy said and with her arm round her daughter’s waist, the two of them walked away.
Angel stood gazing after them, then turned back to where Spike had slumped down on the ground in the dark shade, wiping orange blood from his lips.
“How close did she get?”
Spike shuddered, seeing the Charks surrounding her, teeth rattling, scales shifting. “Another minute and I’d have been too late.”
“She’s none too pleased.”  Angel flung himself down next to the man who’d shared so much of his life, including the woman he still loved.
Spike shrugged. “Have to live with that, won’t I?  She’s alive. That’s all that matters. We’ll find another way to get to the twins.”
“But will she forgive you for stopping her?”  Angel tried to keep the hope out of his voice but Spike didn’t respond, he was gazing into space and whatever he was looking at wasn’t all puppies and chocolate.  “Well?”
“What? Oh, bloody hell, I don’t know, Liam. More to the point, can I ever forgive her for not telling me what she was going to do?”
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