It was a war that was fought nightly by a few brave but weary souls.
They had been abandoned by their Champion and the Powers had not seen fit to send them another.
So they fought on. They battled in honour of her memory and for the remembrance of those who had fallen. Never once blaming her for leaving, she had lost enough—sacrificed enough and fought long enough. A mother, a sister and also her teenage years to the battle, if they could give her some respite then they would. They were not alone. Others had joined the fight, simple mortals and demons who had no agenda except a good heart and a willingness to do the right thing.
It had been months since they had last seen her, the constant worry and fighting was beginning to wear them down. But they never faltered in their defence of the Hellmouth.
"Yeah, Ahn." He looked up from the stake he was carving with crosses and gave her a tired grin.
"Can we go home soon? I really don't like the idea of being out too late." She stared over at the shop door and then down at her watch. Ever since the fateful day when Joyce, Dawn and Willow had died, a spark had gone out in her eyes. Guilt coloured her every move as she repetitively wondered if her angry thoughts about Willow were the reason that they were all being punished.
"Honey, you know I need to do a quick run through the cemeteries. You go home now and I'll shut the shop." Xander dropped the stake he was working on into the bucket of Holy Water at his feet. It had been Willie’s idea, the bar owner had become a surprising ally in the fight against darkness. He had provided invaluable information on demonic activities and new arrivals. He had also introduced them to several demons who could provide additional information and weapons. So far none of them had offered to help, but Xander suspected a few might if things got desperate. In all his years fighting with Buffy he had only ever viewed demons as the bad guys and it had been a revelation to him how many were peaceful and begin. As well as several being invaluable with advice on weapon making, the soaking in Holy Water had been some wrinkly skinned demon’s suggestion and so far it was working a treat.
Xander notched another protective rune that Tara had taught him into the ebony stake he was carefully carving into a deadly weapon, he was saving that one for the demon who wore his best friend's sweet features. The few times they had come across Willow nowadays a small part of him had hardened, and now he was a very different soul from the innocent goofy boy of a few months ago. He appreciated life a lot more and his love for the twitchy woman in front of him had grown exponentially. His patience with her was now infinite and they had forged stronger bonds between them.
Xander smiled at the glitter of the tiny diamond on her engagement ring as she wrung her hands. He had surprised her with it the other day and her ready acceptance had astonished him even more. She wanted him, no one else, him – the high school clown, the loser –the Zeppo. Her excited acceptance had made him happy and the others who stood with them nightly had been too. It was a spark of light and happiness in the darkness that surrounded them on all sides.
"Xander?" Anya waved a hand in front of his face, drawing him back to the present.
He gave her a lopsided smile, one that was rarely seen these days. "You know how much I love you, right?"
Anya blanched. "Why are you saying that? Are we going to die?" Her voice becoming more and more high pitched with each word uttered.
"You might," a cold voice interjected. "I am feeling kinda hungry and my juicy girl said there might be someone around for me to eat." A frigid wave of terror poured over both the humans in the shop.
Xander’s back straightened at the sight of the elusive vampire that had turned Willow and who they thought killed Dawn—setting in motion the chain events that had tempered them all and revealed hidden aspects of their characters, which most of them could be proud of. The deadly killer had also destroyed their lives and for that he had to pay. Xander stared blankly at the short vampire with dark longish hair and nondescript features. There was nothing exceptional about this vampire, nothing to show the devastation he was causing all over the Hellmouth.
Except…for one thing.
Xander stared at the weirdly coloured eyes of the demon lounging in the doorway of the shop. Both eyeballs were a bright emerald green shot through with pitch-black veins. Something that none of the White Hats had ever seen before. Usually he was hidden away in his lair, delegating the minions to cause mayhem and chaos or, on the odd occasion, he was out he had been wearing dark sunglasses. ‘That can’t be normal…’
All of them had searched for the murderous bastard, but he was always in the background, hidden away from their attempts to locate him. Any spells cast by either Giles, Tara or Anya had been blocked by Willow ’s counter spells. Lately, though, Giles had stopped trying to help and had retreated from their day to day lives, the guilt over Buffy’s losses eating away at him. He was a changed man, and not so much for the best.
Before he could do or say anything to the creator of their misery and altered lives, Xander had the shock of his life.
"Get out of my shop!" Anya exclaimed. She reached under the counter and grabbed a small glowing orb and threw it at the greasy haired vamp that was lounging in the doorway. It shattered on his chest and the vampire fell backwards with a howl of anger and pain. As the tiny ball of sunlight was released on the orbs’ impact with his chest, she nodded happily that her and Tara 's spell had worked. It was the first chance she had had to test the new weapon in the rapidly growing arsenal and it was good. Though maybe a wee bit more sunlight could be harnessed, her quick mind already examining options and wondering if a larger orb would be needed.
Anya clattered angrily across the shop floor on her high heels, scooping up the bucket that Xander had his stakes soaking in. Skittering to a halt she threw the Holy water over him and slammed the door shut with a flourish and locked it. Both of them ignored the howl of pain from behind the closed door.
"Whoa, Ahn, nice going...but my stakes." Xander rushed over and peered out of the door, one hand lazily tangling in her bright hair as he cuddled her against his shoulder. Anya pressed a kiss to his cheek, her pink lips lingering on the scar that Willow had given him the first night she had re-appeared in their lives and caused havoc.
"Has he gone? Did you see his eyes? We need to research. In all my life I have never seen anything like that…also he didn’t dust…all that Holy water an no poofing?” Anya’s bright eyes glittered with excitement and curiosity.
"Yeah honey, research and mucho debating to come, I’m sure. But for now, come help me collect the stakes and I'll take you home. Or do you wanna come with now you're all with the Holy water slingage?" he teased, pride lighting up his eyes.
Anya stared assesingly at the empty entrance to her shop and down at her shoes. "I will need better shoes to clamber through the graveyards. Maybe Bu…I mean, maybe there is something left in the training room."
"Hey, you can say her name," Xander sighed. "I won't freak out every time."
Anya nodded, deciding that discretion was the better form of valour in this instance and refrained from mentioning the missing Slayer and further before disappearing into the training room. Her bravado from earlier spurred her on with a newfound resolve.
The newly engaged couple disappeared off into the sultry warm night, ready and in parts eager to do their bit to protect the oblivious denizens of the town. Anya’s voice echoing behind them as they walked, wondering if Spike had returned from wherever he had disappeared to.
His eyes scanned her naked back appreciatively. The sheet he carefully covered her with earlier had ridden down her smooth skin, exposing it to his eyes. The curve of her hip was making his mouth water. He sighed and reached for the cold bottle that was sweating on the table next to him. Spike took a long drink from it and then cradled it in his calloused hands.
A soft sigh broke his contemplation of the bottle and a rustle of the sheets made him glance over at her. She stirred again and curled up into a tight ball and then stretched out with a little yawn. Spike grinned at the ever so familiar wake up ritual Buffy underwent every night. It had taken very little time for her to adjust her sleep patterns to his.
She was now a veteran napper, curling up like a cat and snoozing whenever she needed it. It had made travelling a lot easier, but slowly her golden tan had faded and her skin had taken on a pale perfection that had made his mouth water. Her long hair was now at her waist and her dark roots were a shocking contrast with the pale gold of the rest of it. But for some reason she had not coloured it, claiming lack of funds and time. But Spike worried that her lack of vanity over her appearance was a manifestation of her grief. A grief he shared and tried so hard to help her through. And slowly they were both getting there.
She had kept them on the move from the night the two of them had left Sunnydale. He had taken her home and watched as she swiftly packed some clothes and mementos of her mother and sister. She had then disappeared into her Mother’s room and reappeared with a file of paperwork. Confused by her actions, Spike had not realised how practical she was being. Buffy'd sold her home within days of leaving despite him begging her to wait.
"Spike?" His Slayer's sleep-soaked voice whispered sweetly across his senses. Making his entire being hum in anticipation of her touch and whispered sighs of pleasure against his skin.
"Right here, love, right here." He rose smoothly and sauntered back to their bed. His nude muscular form was pale in the diffused light of the moon that spilled in through the open French doors of their home. In the distance he could hear the sea pounding against the shore and he felt at peace. Despite all the misery that had been surrounding them for the past few months, he felt content. He had his girl a place to lay his head and a cold beer. What more could a vamp ask for?
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