As always, thanks to Megan for the beta job. Her help is invaluable.
Also wanted to say thank you to everyone who has left reviews for this story. They’ve done wonders for my confidence and I love hearing about what you all think. So thanks.
Chapter 9: Deserted.
Willow lifted a hand to her mouth to stifle the cry of shock. This was different from the two previous scenes; they had obviously been dreams, or more accurately nightmares. However, what was playing out before her now seemed all too real. Buffy’s quiet calls to her mother, the way her voice quivered the final time before she shouted in fear, the eerie silence that enveloped the room.
“Buffy,” Willow called, closing her eyes and wincing when she heard the crack of ribs breaking. “Buffy, this isn’t real.”
“I thought so too.”
Willow was startled by the reply that came from her left because Buffy hadn’t moved from her mother’s side. A second Buffy walked up beside Willow, a pained expression stretched across her face. “What’s happening?”
“She dies,” the second Buffy replied softly. “She always dies. And I can’t stop it.”
“Buffy,” Willow said gently. “Your Mom didn’t die, not like this.”
Confusion flickered through Buffy’s eyes as the paramedics rushed into the living room, lifting her other self away from her mother. “I couldn’t save her, she left me.”
In a way Buffy was right, Joyce did leave her and the slayer couldn’t save her mother. But Willow knew it hadn’t happened this way. For as long as Willow had known her, Buffy had wished for a normal life. She supposed that maybe her wishes were projecting into these dreams.
“Buffy, you need to wake up,” Willow ordered impatiently.
“Riley! RILEY!” Buffy shouted as she tore through the trees towards the field.
“Buffy!” Willow panted as she ran after her.
Willow was standing in the middle of the street as firemen and police officers rushed about, trying to put out the flames that were engulfing --
“Is that the High School?”
Walking through the smoke, dodging city officials as she passed, Willow made her way to Buffy’s side.
“He’s gone,” the blonde murmured with disbelief. “He left me.”
“Who’s gone? Buffy, why are you showing me this?” Willow demanded, her patience quickly wearing thin.
An annoyed sigh broke from the redhead’s lips. “Buffy, Angel is de—”
Rose bushes, in the front yard of a house she didn’t recognize, surrounded Willow. “Oh brother,” she muttered as she tried to scrape through, knowing that Buffy must be here somewhere. The front door swung open and Willow froze.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart.”
All Willow could do was watch as a fifteen-year-old Buffy ran down the path after her father.
“Daddy, don’t go,” Buffy pleaded as she caught her father by a waiting taxi, tears streaming down her face.
“I’ll call soon, pumpkin.”
A pat on the back was all the response Buffy received to the tight hug she gave her father.
“Be good, stay out of trouble.”
Before Buffy could reply, the taxi sped off down the street.
Spike paced the small living room as he waited impatiently for both Willow and Buffy to wake. It had been thirty minutes since Willow had zoned out and disappeared into Buffy’s mind, and as far as Spike was concerned, it was twenty-five minutes too long.
“Stop pacing, you’re making me dizzy,” Malena grumbled.
“Then don’t watch so closely,” Spike retorted.
Hurt flickered through the raven-haired girls’ eyes for a second before a mask of nonchalance replaced it. “Fine, I’m outta here.”
“Malena…” Spike began, halting when he found no words.
The front door to the apartment slammed closed as the young slayer left and Spike winced, hoping the noise wouldn’t wake Tara.
“Buffy, you don’t belong here,” Willow commented from her position amongst the rose bushes, slowly trying to extract herself. “Please, just wake up. Spike’s waiti--”
“You’re right,” Buffy replied. “I don’t belong here. I don’t belong anywhere.”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake!” Willow cried with frustration as she was transported yet again. At least this time she didn’t appear in the middle of rose bushes. No, she recognised her location immediately. Buffy’s basement.
“Buffy, stop running away from me and listen!” the wiccan ordered, pushed well beyond her patience threshold. “You need to --”
Willow gasped, lifting her hands in the air in surrender when a crossbow was pointed at her chest. “Buffy, what are you --”
“No-one will leave any more, I won’t let them.”
With a jab of the crossbow into Willow’s shoulder, Buffy led the redhead toward a door that didn’t belong in the Summers house. Willow paused before it, only stepping through when the prodding continued. “Alright, I’m moving.”
Inside the door there was a small, brightly lit room. It looked almost like a science laboratory: white washed walls, easy clean floors and a loud humming which was likely an air ventilation system. Willow took in everything as she stepped further into the room, coming to a halt when she saw the capsule like containers on the far wall.
“Buffy, what are those?”
“Your new home,” Buffy replied calmly as she jabbed Willow in the shoulder again. “Get in.”
“What? No, Buffy--”
Either Buffy didn’t hear her friend’s pleas, or she ignored them. “No-one will leave me again.”
Willow closed her eyes and chanted three words under her breath, opening her escape route and --
--blinked as she came to.
“Willow,” Spike exclaimed, immediately moving to Buffy’s side to wait for her wakening. When after several long moments passed and there was no change in her breathing or heartbeat, the vampire turned toward the witch with barely disguised fury.
“You didn’t bring her back?” he stated more than asked.
“She’s insane!” Willow exclaimed, completely unfazed by the venomous glare Spike was shooting in her direction. Finding her feet, she stood up from the seat opposite Buffy and quickly put some space between herself and the unhinged Slayer. “She had these capsules and was trying to lock me inside one of them.”
“You spoke to her?” he demanded. “What did she say? What did you see? Is she all right? Is --”
“Enough with the twenty questions, sheesh.” Willow rolled her eyes. “Yes, I spoke to her, not that she’d listen to a word I said.”
“Well, go back in,” Spike demanded bluntly.
“Did you not hear the part where she tried to lock me in a capsule? I’m not going back in her mind.” Willow was somewhat shocked by the twinge of guilt that rolled through her after her adamant reply. And it was persistent, repeated little darts hitting her conscience. Eight months ago she would have done anything to help her best friend. Six months ago relations had deteriorated to a point Willow believed there was no coming back from.
Ashamed as she may be to admit it, four months ago Willow had felt relief at Buffy’s passing. The Wiccan’s life had become simplified beyond expectation, now that the troubled slayer was no longer around. Although her life was now regimented by routine—there was always Tara to take care of—it was almost comforting. Buffy’s death absolved Willow’s obligation to fight back the darker forces in Sunnydale. The slayer was gone and her team—not that they’d felt much like a team those final weeks—was no longer expected to pick up the slack. It was as if someone had handed Willow a get-out-of-jail-free card and the witch had taken hold of it with two hands.
Occasionally she’d find herself wondering about her former friends, both living and deceased, but those thoughts were always pushed away. Not to be thought about. They were her past and the past didn’t matter.
Apparently, all it had taken to unlock more emotive thoughts and feelings about her old life was the forty-five minutes she’d been inside Buffy’s head. Was it really possible that things could change in such a short amount of time? Did she really feel remorse for not offering to do more, to help more, to bring Buffy back?
The walls built to lock those feelings, memories and thoughts away in her mind may have been shaken, but Willow was not yet ready—or willing—to allow them to tumble.
Lips pursed in a hard thin line, she studied Spike intently. Of all of them it was he who had the most reason to turn his back on Buffy, yet he refused. Willow didn’t know whether that garnered respect or derision.
“You’d have to be crazy—or stupid—to want --”
“I’m not leavin’ her there by ‘erself,” Spike interrupted, growing impatient with Willow’s reluctance. If she wasn’t going to help Buffy, then he’d do it himself.
“What do I need to do?”
One moment he was sitting in the chair opposite a catatonic Buffy and the next he was standing in the dining room of the Summers house. Spike blinked as he took a moment to adjust to his surroundings, his senses immediately stretching to find her.
A growl rumbled deep within his chest, his demon taking control of his features when he was assaulted with the intoxicating, yet at the same time worrying, scent of blood.
Without a seconds hesitation, Spike followed the coppery aroma to the living room.
All else was ignored save the shard of glass Buffy held high in her left hand, the intent of what she planned to do with it clearly visible in her eyes.
“Buffy!” Spike shouted in alarm as he dove at her swooping hand, snatching the weapon and slicing his palm open as the glass bit into his flesh. His leap into the air and subsequent landing knocked the pair backwards. Spike hit the carpet with a loud thud before the wall kindly stopped his forward momentum. Buffy had little distance to fall from her seated position but Spike’s dive had enough force behind it to knock her flat on her back, the wind from her lungs whooshing out as she hit the floor awkwardly.
Potential weapon successfully removed from Buffy’s clutches, Spike let out a sigh of relief, which was quickly followed by a groan of pain when a sliver of pain tickled at his ribs. Forcing himself into a sitting position, all concern for himself was abandoned when he heard a gasp and then a wheeze come from Buffy.
“Pe--,” Spike began, thinking better of it a moment before the affectionate moniker passed his lips completely. “Slayer, what in the bleedin’ hell do you think you were doin’?”
A solitary tear tracked down Buffy’s cheeks as breath finally returned to her, allowing her to sit up and lean against the back of the sofa. Shaking fingers reached out for a photograph, drawing it near for examination. Judging by hairstyle and fashion choices, it was circa ’95, pre divorce and subsequent move to Sunnydale. Dawn was sitting on a swing while Buffy pushed from behind, large smiles on their faces clearly displaying the love and affection between the two sisters.
In her distraction, Buffy hadn’t noticed Spike slide down beside her until she felt his cool un-needed breath fan her neck.
“You look happy,” he commented quietly.
A ghost of a smile tried desperately to claw its way onto her face but sorrow won out as more tears were released from her eyes, slipped down her cheeks and dripping onto the photograph.
“Lies,” she murmured quietly.
As if reminding herself of the task she had been busily working on before Spike’s flying interruption, Buffy tore the picture in half, throwing the pieces over her shoulder in her haste to reach for another. The second snap was primed and ready for destruction when cool fingers eased their way over hers and stilled her hands.
“Luv, don’t,” he pleaded. It hadn’t taken Spike all that long to figure out what Buffy was trying to do here. “I know.”
Buffy turned her mournful eyes in Spike’s direction. “Know?”
“This won’t make ‘er any less real. Niblet, she was --”
“A lie,” Buffy interrupted with surprising vehemence. “Monks made her. The monks made Dawn and they filled my head with lies.”
“Monks might’ve created those memories,” Spike acknowledged, pointing to the pile of moving images. “But what you feel, in here,” he continued, a hand removing from hers and hovering over the location of her heart. “This is real.”
A resigned sob escaped Buffy’s lips, the photograph she held fluttering to the floor as she buried her face in her hands. She didn’t object because she knew he was right.
In a manner reminiscent of the night he had comforted her on the back porch, Spike slowly and hesitantly lifted a hand and gently patted Buffy on her back, before slowly curling his arm around her shoulders and tugging her to his side for comfo--
“Step up, step right up, and see this amazing feat,” a male voice bellowed. “Nowhere else in the world can you see this freak of nature.”
Spike gnashed his jaws and growled as somebody bumped him forward in an attempt to get closer. Immediately his senses were on high alert, the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end, every muscle coiled and ready to spring. There was something really wrong with this picture.
The rotund middle-aged man who stood on a packing crate and had the undivided attention of the crowd gesticulated at the curtain behind him, and with a final over-dramatized wave of his hand made his final announcement.
“I give you, the IMMORTAL GIRL!”
If not for the fact he was already dead, Spike’s blood would’ve run cold.
A roar sounded from the crowd behind him as it surged forward when a cord was tugged, unveiling an open door. Spike forcibly pushed through the crowd, shoving his way to the front of the pack and ducking through the open doorway. And then stopped. He was inside the Bronze.
Surprise stalled him momentarily, his eyes immediately scanning the room for Buffy. She wouldn’t have brought him here without reason. He just had to wait. Then her voice cut through the chatter of milling Sunnydalers and all patience left him.
“No, NO! Please, not again.”
The panic, the fear in her voice, filled every fiber of his entire being with rage. The desire to protect her was immeasurable and his response immediate. He had to find her, now. A spotlight lit the stage and it was all the direction he needed. The crowd was packed into the club like sardines in a can; there was no way he would be able to push his way through the throngs.
So he went over them.
Thought faded away as instinct took over. Bending to a half crouched position, Spike coiled his muscles, leapt into the air and flipped up onto the catwalk high above the masses of bleating humans. Excited chatter of the horde below drowned out the clang of his boots on metal as they pounded the skywalk. At a run and with hands outstretched, Spike dove over the railing at the end of the catwalk, tucking before he landed on the stage below and rolling to his feet just as a bound Buffy was wheeled into the light on some sort of trolley.
Sensing the wheeler, Spike’s canines immediately extended to fangs, the bones in his forehead shifting and contorting to ridges as his eyes blinked cerulean blue to vampiric yellow.
The crowd was stunned to silence as the white haired intruder lunged at the other male on stage. Each and every snarl and slap of balled fist hitting flesh echoed throughout the club as Spike made short work of Buffy’s captor, a final punch sending the vampire sailing into the now shrieking crowd.
A tingle at the base of Spike’s neck alerted him to the presence of several others of his kind and quashed any immediate thoughts of vengeance upon Buffy’s former jailor. Knowing he had little time before they were upon him he immediately moved to the slayer’s side and reached for her bonds.
“I’m ‘ere, pet. No-one’s goin’ to hurt you again,” he promised.
“Spike?” Buffy whispered in disbelief. This wasn’t how it happened. He wasn’t supposed to be here. The vampire bit her and then she died and then --
She was supposed to be alone.
“How d’you open these buggerin’ --”
“Mom?” Buffy called. “What are you doing?”
Spike frowned at his sudden displacement. One moment he’d been in the Bronze and the next he was back in the Summers’ living room.
Spike’s attention immediately snapped to Buffy as she walked into the room. “Buffy, pet, you’re all right!” he exclaimed with relief. He didn’t care how they got out of the Bronze, he was just glad she was safe. Carefully avoiding the patches of sunlight that streamed in through the windows, Spike moved toward her.
In hindsight, he probably should have talked more in depth with Willow about what she’d seen before he’d slipped into the meditative state that allowed him to enter Buffy’s mind. A little heads up so he could prepare for what he would be seeing would’ve been helpful. But right now, all that mattered was that Buffy was okay.
However, the relief he felt was momentary when he followed her horrified gaze to the sofa.
“No, Joyce…” he murmured.
He couldn’t hear a heartbeat. The grief he felt was overwhelming as speech fled his capability. She looked almost peaceful as she lay there on the sofa, sunlight filtering in through the wispy curtains. To experience this once was painful enough, to see it again was…
“Wait a minute,” he realized. Something was very wrong with this picture.
There was no doubting that Joyce Summers was deceased, the pallor of her skin and lack of heartbeat and breathing confirming her passing. He took a step closer as a frantic Buffy attempted to perform CPR on her mother.
“Buffy, she --”
Spike turned at the sound of her voice, a quick check confirming there was in fact two Buffy’s in the room with him at present. Obviously this was just a memory, not something her frightened mind had created. But then the scene before him couldn’t be a memory because Spike knew that --
“She’s already dead and there’s nothing I can do to help her,” the Buffy beside him whispered forlornly. “No matter how many times I try, she always dies.”
“Pet, this isn’t right.”
Buffy frowned, shaking off his quiet statement with a shrug. “I found her on the sofa, I know what happened.”
“This isn’t right!” Spike exclaimed. “You’ve got your wires mixed up because --”
Hope or something like it flashed through Buffy’s eyes as she took a step closer to Spike, subconsciously stepping out of the way of the paramedics that she knew wouldn’t revive her mother. “This isn’t real?” she asked hopefully.
“No,” Spike answered, opening his mouth to continue but finding himself interrupted before he could speak.
“Is she not…” Buffy bit her lip. “Dead?”
The dejected slump of Spike’s shoulders was all the reply Buffy needed. Tears ran down her cheeks, her gaze flicking to watch her other self disappear toward the kitchen. “The doctor’s said it couldn’t be stopped, that I couldn’t…” Buffy’s voice broke as she trailed off, even now finding it hard to come to terms with. “I couldn’t save her.”
“No, you couldn’t,” Spike agreed. “I tried to get there but I wasn’t quick enough.” His head dropped in shame.
Buffy frowned. How did he find out when her mother died in the middle of the day? “Spike, the tumor --”
“Tumor?” Spike started. “What tumor, Joyce was bi--” He cut his own words off, refusing to complete the sentence out loud.
“Spike?” Buffy said with a question in her voice, continuing warily. “My Mom was what?”
“Buffy, there was no tumor. Joyce was… a vam… she…” He ran his hands through his hair in desperation as he sought for the right words to remind Buffy of the past, finding none. There was no way to do this gently, and Spike respected the woman Joyce was too much to sugarcoat the truth. It just had to be said.
“When your mother died, Buffy, she was t-turn…” he stuttered, “She was sired by a vampire.”
A/N: Muahahahaaa! I know, kind of an evil spot to leave it. *grins mischievously*
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