As always, thanks to Megan for the beta job. Her help is invaluable.
Thank you to everyone who has been reading - your comments have been excellent.
Chapter 10: Alarm.
“No, NO! You’re lying!” Buffy shouted.
“Buffy, pet, I --.”
Buffy’s fist whizzed through the air, connecting with Spike’s nose and interrupting whatever he had been about to say.
“Bloody hell!” Spike snarled, his hands lifting to touch his nose, expecting blood.
Buffy shrank back from Spike guiltily, her gaze dropping to the floor. She hadn’t meant to hit him. Well, maybe she had but she hadn’t meant to hurt him, not really. She wished she could take the blow back, wished she could rewind the conversation so she wouldn’t have to hear him say those words.
It couldn’t be true. Joyce hadn’t died from a vampire attack; she’d died from a brain tumor. Buffy herself had found her on the living room sofa. Exactly as the scene that was playing around her presented. The loud, intrusive sound of a zipper being drawn closed drew Buffy’s attention from the floor, just in time to see her mother’s golden hair disappear behind the black shroud of a body bag.
Spike cupped his nose tentatively for several long moments before he withdrew his hands. He had expected blood, which was a common side affect of his nose and the slayer’s fist colliding. There was none. Surprise washed over him. Reaching for his nose a second time, he gently pressed two fingers against the tip, squashing it slightly in a test for pain. There was none.
“What the…?” His inspection turned to the palm of his hand, knowing there were several deep cuts from snatching the glass from her earlier. They were gone. He’d felt the punch; it had hit his nose, yet there was no evidence to the fact. He turned to question Buffy, his mouth drying up and throat constricting at the sight of a body bag being pushed out of the room on a trolley.
Both of the Buffy’s were watching on with unbidden grief as the emergency service workers wheeled the trolley, and Joyce, out through the front door.
“I couldn’t protect her,” one of them said, and before Spike could respond, the room went black.
“Riley! RILEY!” Buffy shouted as she tore through the trees towards the field.
“You have got to be kidding me,” Spike muttered as a flash of blonde shot past him and disappeared into the thicket. What was she doing traipsing about the woods after Captain Cardboard? It was his own observation of their current location that had Spike suddenly worried. If she was headed where he thought she was…
Spike broke into a run at a ninety-degree angle, hoping to cut her off before she reached the field. He had to stop her. As much as Spike disliked the ex-soldier, he couldn’t sit back and watch as the slayer fell apart again, couldn’t watch her freeze in battle and lose someone important to her because of it.
Twigs snapped underfoot as Spike forged on through the woods, beating his own path through the darkness. Fleeting glances were thrown to the side as he ran, trying to catch a glimpse of Buffy, but the brush was too thick. Spotting the clearing ahead, Spike made the final dash. Several scratches later he was out in the open of the clearing. And he wasn’t alone.
A helicopter was lifting slowly from the ground, the loud WHOP! WHOP! sound of the rotary blades slicing through the air drowning out everything else. And sitting on one side, was Riley. This wasn’t what Spike had expected to discover, he’d thought --
A flash of blonde appeared from the brush as the helicopter lifted higher into the air.
Mouth open wide, she shouted into the sky, but her call wasn’t loud enough to breach the vacuum of noise created by the propellers. “RILEY!”
Her shoulders slumped dejectedly as the chopper disappeared into the sky.
The street was smoke-filled and civil servants were rushing all over the place. As was habit where tracking Buffy was concerned, Spike inhaled a deep lungful of un-needed breath, hoping to catch the scent of the slayer. She was definitely nearby.
Looking to his left, he discovered the source of the smoke. A fire. And a big one at that. The entire building, the high school, was engulfed with angry red and orange flames. They lapped at the remaining structure that was struggling to withstand the blaze. With a creak and a sigh a hulking exterior wall collapsed, bringing down a large section of the roof with it when the weakened structure could no longer support its own weight. Sparks shot off in all directions and firemen and police officers alike ducked from the small flaming missiles.
The familiar tug of familial bonds tingled at Spike’s neck, a quick scan locating tall, dark and brooding standing off to one side, staring forlornly down the street. A moment’s pause had him wondering why the hulking sod was just standing there amidst all the chaos, a thought which was quickly followed with contemplation of why he’d be present in Buffy’s mind. Not even a second slipped by before he rolled his eyes, both physically and mentally at the stupidity of his own pondering. Angel not being a feature would be stranger, especially considering the last time he saw his sire was when Buffy was --
Spike cut the thought off right before his mind conjured visuals to accompany the painful memories. A smart assed remark rose to the tip of his tongue, Spike more than ready to cut the elder vamp down to size with his acerbic words when curiosity got the better of him. The old sod hadn’t blinked in the minute Spike had been watching him.
Following his line of sight, Spike felt his breath catch in his throat.
Buffy. She wore a similar look of longing, her hair mussed, face and clothing smoke and dirt stained. He recognized the disarray of her appearance immediately. If he were closer he knew she’d smell of sweat, perfume, dirt, and just a hint of arousal. That’s how she always smelled after a big fight. And it didn’t take a genius to know that burning buildings meant a big fight.
As he watched Buffy the confidence, the strength, the passion in her began to slip away, the slayer disappearing and just the girl remaining. The confusion in her eyes became heartbreak and recognition dawned on Spike. This was when… He looked over his shoulder. Just as he’d suspected, Angel was walking away, his large black coat billowing in air as he disappeared through the smoke and his aspect faded into the nothingness of night.
Spike hadn’t been around to witness this event—the shaking of the slayer’s foundations—when it had actually happened. He’d been busy in Brazil trying to convince Dru not to leave him for that chaos demon she’d taken a fancy to. Part of him wished he hadn’t been party to this. Spike was well aware of the love story that had been Buffy and Angel. Hell, he’d mocked them for it each and every opportunity that had arisen. But that was before. Before he’d developed feelings for Buffy. Before he’d watched her life fall to pieces. Before he’d watched her give up. Before she’d died.
Now thoughts of mocking her for dating the brooding family member made him feel queasy.
He wondered if part of her had died this night. Would her life have turned out differently had Angel not left her?
Apparently Buffy was thinking the same thing. Even with the distance between them, he could see the whispered name on her lips, could practically see her heart breaking.
And despite the turbulence of their recent past, Spike felt for her.
First thing Spike noticed was that it was light out. All logical thought fled him as the permanently ingrained fear of sunlight-induced combustion took up residence in his consciousness. Without consideration of consequences he darted forward, hissing in pain and annoyance when the barbs of—he looked down to confirm—a rose bush cut into his legs. The momentary pause to retract himself from their claws was long enough for realization that he hadn’t ignited to set in. Relief followed.
“Definitely should have spoken to Red beforehand,” he muttered beneath his breath before carefully navigating his way from the deadly clutches of the bush.
Current crisis resolved, he took a moment to observe his surroundings. Spike had never been here before, of that he was certain. A large double storey house proudly sat front and center in the middle of—judging by the front yard alone—what was a fairly decent sized block of land. Perfectly manicured lawns and neatly maintained gardens edged a path, which led to a blue painted front door. The house itself was white weatherboard, green ivy crawling up the latticework on the left side of the abode. Shutters painted a matching colour winged all windows, framed even further by the pale yellow curtains that were visible within.
Spike took in everything, absorbed every detail he could. Why Buffy had brought him here he was unsure, but it was obviously important so he memorized everything he could for future reference.
Further examination was halted when the front door swung open, a voice trailing outside before the speaker appeared.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart.”
The man was probably in his mid forties, mousy brown hair beginning to thin on top. Dressed to the nines in an expensive looking suit. Obviously he had somewhere important to go because --
Words and cognitive thought fled Spike’s capabilities. Cheeks plump with youth, long hair tied back in pigtails, bubble-gum coloured make-up and stylishly coordinated outfit all added to the presentation of a very young, yet undeniably delectable, Buffy Summers. If he guessed correctly, she was probably about fifteen.
Only once had Angelus ever spoke of the slayer with anything less than derision, and that was after a long, hard night on the booze. At the time, Spike had ridiculed his fellow demon, laughed at his former partner in crime for falling in love with a slayer. And a teen-aged one at that!
Angelus’s mumbled response did no justice to the vision of youth and beauty before Spike now. For the first time—in a very long time—he actually agreed with something the ponce had to say. A young Buffy Summers was certainly a sight for sore eyes. She exuded innocence in a manner he could easily become intoxicated on.
“Daddy, don’t go.”
The half whispered plea snapped Spike’s attention from admiration of the young girl, to scrutiny. Tears were streaming down her cheeks, nose pink and eyes red-rimmed, evidence this wasn’t a sudden outburst. She’d been crying for some time. And the man she called daddy didn’t even bat an eyelid.
“I’ll call soon, pumpkin.”
Rage and disbelief overwhelmed Spike. Reminders of the hate he felt for Hank Summers post-Buffy’s death were suddenly rekindled and given an added burst of fuel. Heartless didn’t begin to describe the pure selfishness this man presented.
Without even sparing a look at his heartbroken daughter, Hank climbed into an awaiting taxi, calling over his shoulder before it pulled away from the curb. “Be good, stay out of trouble.”
“Buffy…” Spike began then faltered. He knew there was nothing he could say that could make this situation any better for her. In fact, he was pretty sure this was a memory and not something her mind had conjured. The past couldn’t be changed, not by him. So all Spike could do, was watch.
And watch he did as Buffy broke down, collapsing into a ball in the middle of the perfect lawn, in front of her perfect house. Apparently the ‘perfect-ness’ of her life was just a façade. Her expression was one of unconcealed misery, pure untainted despair.
It was heartbreaking to watch.
Her dad left her. Just like Angel. Just like...
Spike gasped in sudden realization. Unexpectedly a pattern had emerged and became clear; what all these dreams, memories, visions were all about.
In one way or another, everyone important in Buffy’s life, left her.
Willow paced back and forth across the living room, her gaze flicking intermittently between Buffy and Spike. Neither had moved, or blinked or made a sound since Spike had ventured into Buffy’s mind at least thirty minutes prior. The longer they were in there, the less likely it was they’d emerge. All Spike had to do was utter three little words but Willow knew that he wouldn’t, not unless Buffy was coming with him.
The prospect of having permanent additions to her sofa was not a tempting one.
She just hoped that whatever Spike was doing, worked. And soon.
The second his surroundings shifted, Spike was on the move. He got it, he understood now; he knew what Buffy was so afraid of. Abandonment. She didn’t want to be alone.
If she’d let him, Spike would ensure she was never abandoned again.
“Buffy?” he called almost desperately. He had to let her know. “Buffy, pet, you ‘ere?”
Being a repeat visitor to this place, it didn’t take Spike long to realize where he was. Buffy’s basement. It was pretty standard as far as basements went, but the smell was what differentiated it from others. Undeniably, indisputably, Summers. Not just Buffy. Down here, Spike could pick out the scents of all three women. Surprisingly, they were much stronger than he would have anticipated, especially considering Joyce and Dawn were --
A jab in his left shoulder alerted him to her presence, her stealth surprising even after all the years he’d known her. It was as if she’d appeared from nowhere.
“Move.” The word was ordered, her tone firm and harsh.
“Not goin’ to argue with an armed slayer,” Spike replied, a grin curling at his lips despite his current predicament. Spotting the new door at the far end of the room, Spike began moving toward it.
It was Buffy who hesitated.
Stopping after a few steps, the vampire spun slowly, keeping his hands visible to her eye, his stance relaxed. Spike wanted Buffy to feel safe, wanted her to see he could be trusted, that’s why he made his posture as non-threatening as possible. With a patented head tilt, he observed her closely. Her outfit was militant, black from head to toe. Hair tied in up in a practical bun and face devoid of make-up—even her natural complexion was lacking its normal vibrancy. She almost looked lifeless, of the un-dead variety.
It made Spike’s stomach churn.
Truthfully, the thought of what sort of vampire Buffy would make had crossed his mind from time to time. Before he’d first met her, when she was a nameless, faceless slayer, all Spike had been concerned with was bagging his third. Adding another trophy to the case. After several encounters with the spitfire, just killing her seemed almost sacrilegious. Buffy Summers was not someone to be fed upon, her body discarded and left to rot. So he’d thought of turning her, making her his childe. Drusilla had put that plan on indefinite ice with threats of leaving him if he so much as looked at the slayer as more than a meal. Funny how she’d ended up leaving him anyhow.
Any thoughts of turning Buffy after he’d discovered his true feelings for her had purely been in cases of necessity. She was undoubtedly a one-of-a-kind slayer, had defied the odds and lasted much longer than even the Council had anticipated, but her life was un-guaranteed. Battles were always going to be around the corner, and one of these days it was possible Buffy would become mortally injured. If it came to the choice of vampire Buffy or no Buffy, Spike knew what he’d choose.
Seeing her like this now made him question the resolve of that decision.
“You goin’ to stand there starin’ at me? Not that I blame you for noticin’ such a fine specimen as m’self,” Spike said almost teasingly. “Or you goin’ to continue what you started? You were right insistent ‘bout me movin’.”
His voice seemed to snap her from whatever thought had been occupying her mind, the confusion fading and a cold harshness returning to take over her features. With a nod and a deliberate lift of the weapon—which Spike belatedly identified as a crossbow—Buffy closed the distance between them.
Spike’s feet remained rooted to the spot until Buffy prodded him again. “Careful, pet, a fellow might start to like that.” The vampire waggled his brows mischievously.
Again Buffy faltered.
With an exaggerated sigh, Spike moved toward the door. Opening it wide, he willingly stepped inside, his eyes scanning the small space. The room was brightly lit and reminiscent of a not-so-pleasant place in his past. The Initiative. Noting the large pod like capsules at the far end of the room, Spike realized this was where Willow had ‘jumped ship’ and scampered out of Buffy’s mind. With strengthened resolve—despite the unpleasant feelings the sanitized conditions brought him—he moved further into the room.
“What are you doing?” Buffy’s voice was whispered, filled with disbelief. She didn’t understand why Spike wasn’t resisting, wasn’t fighting back. Completely succumbing to another’s demands just wasn’t in the vampire’s nature; he always fought for his rights, no matter the scale of the situation. He had yet to make opposition or even attempt to escape. It puzzled her.
Fingers trailing over the Perspex of a capsule, Spike carefully considered his words. If he was going to help Buffy, he was going to need her trust, and for her to listen to what he had to say. It wasn’t likely to be easy.
“How’s this contraption of yours work?” he queried. “Do we go all ‘deep frozen sleep’ or is it more like a cell?”
Buffy blinked long and hard, her mouth gaping when he surprised her yet again. “W-what?”
Spike’s expression softened slightly, but his line of questioning continued. “’Cos I’m not sure how I’d fancy bein’ a frozen pod-like person. Or demon, as it were.”
If Buffy’s jaw could’ve dropped further, it would have. “Why aren’t you fighting me? Why aren’t you trying to leave?” Her voice rose higher as she unsuccessfully tried to hide the desperate disbelief his actions drew from her. “Why are you staying?”
“Because not everyone leaves,” Spike answered simply.
Buffy closed her eyes. She wanted to believe him, she did. But he was wrong. Everyone did leave her. Everyone.
“If you want me to stay, I will. Forever.”
A/N: Hope you liked! Would love to hear your comments.
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