Chapter Twenty-nine (Epilogue)
By the time the two sated and exhausted heroes woke up, it was late afternoon and Buffy insisted that they get dressed before Dawn showed up with the entire Sunnydale crew in tow. She was eating a bowl of cereal while Spike sipped at his second cup of blood when the usual ‘pop’ signaled the arrival of the Key.
Looking disappointed, Buffy said, “I thought you were going to bring everybody back for a visit. Where are they?”
“I had a better idea – I thought maybe I could take you to them. Then you could see Mom, too.”
“Oh, that would be so... Isn’t that a great idea, Spike? Spike? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, Slayer. I know how much you want to see your mum.” His quiet voice and turned back were her only clues that he wasn’t as happy about the trip as she was. “It’s a good idea,” he added, turning around a forcing a smile. “Little Sis is thinkin’, as usual.”
Walking up to him, Buffy slipped her arms around his waist and asked softly, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, love. I’m just being a selfish wanker. Let me get my boots on and we’re out of here.” He dropped a kiss on her dubious face and excused himself to go get his boots.
“What’s going on with him?” Buffy muttered almost to herself.
“I think he’s afraid,” Dawn replied, looking in direction of the bedroom. “He’s afraid you’re going to want to stay there.”
“Could I do that?” Buffy’s eagerness caused Dawn to frown. In the bedroom, Spike froze with one boot in his hand, holding unnecessary breath as he heard the eagerness with which she’d asked the question.
“Would you want to?”
“Well, of course! It’s my home. My mom is there, Willow and Xander, Giles, Angel...” She trailed off as she realized what she was saying. “Spike. He...he would come with me. Wouldn’t he?”
“Why would he want to?” Dawn asked coldly. “Those are your friends – not his.”
Buffy bit her lip, remembering her initial excitement about going to Sunnydale and Spike’s reaction to it. When he came back into the room, boots on and duster in place, she went up to him immediately.
“I wouldn’t leave you here, you know,” she said, staring up at him with glistening eyes. “I wouldn’t. If I could go back, I’d want you to come with me. We could be mated there too.”
He cocked his head and raised one hand to her cheek. “My beautiful, innocent little Slayer.” He shook his head and dropped his hand. “I’m not all souled up like that other git. And if I understand what I heard from Buffy, even the soul didn’t make him anybody’s idea of a fit companion for her. They would never accept me with you – even your mum. She wants more for her daughter than another vampire. If you go back to your old life, there isn’t going to be room in it for me.” He shrugged and turned away, striving for nonchalance, “’sides, I like it here. Got some mates, nice little house, people who think I’m a hero...”
“I won’t go without you! You said we were forever. That’s what you said it meant to...” The tears that had only been threatening now trickled down her cheeks as she flung herself around him. “I won’t go without you. You can’t make me!”
“Bloody hell, love,” he rasped, his own voice choked, “I don’t want to make you go anywhere. I love you, Buffy. Never want to be without you by me side. Never. I thought you wanted to go. Was jus’ trying to make it easier on you, that’s all.”
They clung together, completely forgetting the other person in the room as whispered promises and words of endearment flowed back and forth. Buffy kissed the mark on his neck, sighing when he licked the tiny wounds on her throat. When their mutual reassurances and petting didn’t seem likely to end anytime soon, Dawn cleared her throat, over and over, getting louder each time, until they looked up as if surprised to find her there.
Embarrassed, Buffy disentangled herself from the vampire and stood up straight as she said politely, “I’m sorry Dawn, but I can’t go back to Sunnydale. I won’t leave my mate.”
“Glad to hear it,” Dawn replied wryly. “Since I wasn’t offering to leave you there. I just asked if you’d want to; I didn’t say that you could.”
Dawn sighed and tried not to sound exasperated. “You know how everybody except me had to stay in the portal? Well, that’s still true. I can take you there and let you say “hi” to everybody, but you can’t step out into their dimension. Only I can do that.”
“I knew that,” Spike muttered, embarrassed by his knee-jerk reaction.
“Sure you did.” Dawn rolled her eyes. “So, are we going to do this or not? Everybody is at Buffy’s mom’s house waiting for me to bring you two there.”
“At my mom’s house? I don’t...doesn’t Buffy live there anymore?”
“No, she and Spike have their own place. She’s older than you, you know. And she’s been on her own for a long time. She wasn’t really happy living with Mom like she was still a kid.”
“Oh,” Buffy said dubiously. “I guess I can see that. I’m pretty used to being on my own too. I guess it would be hard to go back to curfews and chores and...”
“Exactly,” Dawn said surprisingly tersely. “You get used to taking care of yourself.” Buffy frowned at her, but Spike, who knew that Joyce had died in Dawn’s dimension, shook his head slightly in warning. Dawn nodded once, then gestured for them to step into her portal. “Let’s go, guys. It’s not like I don’t have a life somewhere else, you know.”
As soon as they stepped into her space, Dawn pulled the portal walls around them and with the now-familiar ‘pop’, they appeared in the Summers’ living room. Buffy unconsciously reached for her mother, only Spike’s quick grab preventing her from crossing the glowing limit to her safe area. Joyce smiled sadly and stepped closer to the portal, studying the unfamiliar face before her.
“Buffy? My Buffy?” She turned to the blonde teenager standing behind her and asked, “Is this what you look like now? This is you at twenty-five?”
“No, Mom,” Buffy said softly. “This is what I look like now. That’s what I used to look like...” She paused and moved closer, focusing on younger Buffy’s neck. “Except I never had any bite marks on that side of my neck.” She stared at her younger self with wide eyes. “You’ve done it already?”
“Good on you!” Spike said, moving up to put his arms around his Buffy. “Made her yours, did you?”
“I’m not stupid, you know.”
The two Spikes exchanged looks, then gave identical smirks. The Spike holding Sunnydale Buffy studied the one standing in the portal.
“She’s put a bit of weight on those skinny bones, love, but that’s your body, for sure.” He continued to gaze affectionately at the Buffy inside the portal while his counterpart looked with unabashed admiration at the Buffy that he’d known first. There was no way of knowing how long they would have stared at the bodies belonging to the girls they loved, had not both Buffys simultaneously elbowed their Spikes in the stomach with matching, “Stop staring at her!”
While laughing apologies and explanations were offered to indignant slayers, Angel, who had been standing quietly in a corner of the room, stepped closer to the softly glowing portal and stared intently at Buffy’s neck. Even with the barrier of the portal walls, his demon could feel the claim between the two blonds.
Ignoring the soft growls coming from the vampire with his arms around her, Angel said plaintively, “Buffy? How could you? Do you know what you’ve done?”
Sunnydale Buffy stepped up beside him and put a sympathetic hand on his arm.
“She knows, Angel.” She squeezed his arm with easy affection. “Let it go. This what the Powers want – for both of us.”
“I’m sorry, Angel,” ‘his’ Buffy said softly, clinging to Spike’s arm where it circled her waist. “It’s good to see you again, but I belong with Spike. I love him.”
The old vampire nodded sadly and walked back to his corner, finding to his surprise that Faith had joined him. A blatant offer of public sympathy was out of the dark-haired slayer’s comfort zone, but she stood close enough that her arm was pressed against his, and he smiled at her gratefully. She gave him a wink and whispered something in his ear that brought a reluctant smile to his face.
Shaking her head at the romantic entanglement her daughters had with the souled vampire, Joyce took over the conversation, grilling Buffy about where she was living, how she was doing for money, what she planned to do about her education and a myriad of other motherly concerns. Buffy did her best to provide answers, counting on Spike to fill in with reassurance every time the responses caused Joyce’s mouth to tighten with worry. When Buffy began getting visibly upset at her mother’s growing concern, Spike tightened his arms around her protectively and said, “I know you’re worried, Joyce. But you have to believe me when I tell you that I’m going to take the best care of her that I possibly can. Your daughter is an amazing woman – gets it from her mum,” he added with a smile. “An’ she was already doin’ alright for herself when I got there. Now she’s got someone in her life who would die before he’d let her be unhappy or needin’ for anything. She’s gonna be fine. And if Little Sis is willin’, she’ll be coming back to visit every once in a while so you can see that for yourself.”
“He’s right, Mom,” the older Buffy said, hugging her mother the way she knew the woman was wishing the younger girl could. “You know how Spike is. He took care of a crazy woman for over a hundred years; taking care of me should be a breeze. They’re going to be fine.”
Trying to change the subject, now that her mother seemed to be temporarily mollified, Winterset’s Buffy pointed to Faith and asked, “Who is she? And why does she act like a Slayer?”
“Nice to meet you too, B, jr,” Faith snarked.
A quick explanation of the way Buffy’s short period of deadness had brought on the calling of another slayer, brought an understanding nod from Buffy and a speculative look from Spike. Noticing the way the notorious killer of slayers was sizing her up, Faith mouthed, “Anytime, William the Bloody,” at him. He gave an appreciative laugh and turned back to listen to the explanation of Faith’s appearance in Sunnydale. Buffy glossed over the reappearance of Angelus, just saying that Kendra had been killed in the line of duty and Faith had come to take her place.
Any more elaborate explanations were interrupted by the arrival of Glies, Willow and a very reluctant Xander. Willow had to be cautioned as she ran at the portal, thinking to hug the girl waving at her from inside it. She stopped just outside and began a rambling monologue about Sunnydale High School and everything Buffy had missed since she left. When she finally paused for lack of breath, everyone sighed in relief, even though Buffy began to ask questions about many of the people that Willow had mentioned.
The gossip session ended when Giles stepped closer, saying with barely contained emotion, “Hello, Buffy. I am so pleased to see that you are well and...well, and alive. We were quite concerned for awhile there.”
“Yep, all alive and well,” she answered cheerily. “But I miss having a watcher,” she added with a soft smile. “It’s just me and Spike, and I don’t think either one of us is very thinky.”
Spike’s indignant “Hey!” was quickly forgotten as the older Brit fixed a hard eye on him.
“Then I propose that the one with the years of experience had best put that knowledge to work and fill the roll of watcher. Do something with that expensive education, Mr Pratt.”
While Buffy looked at Spike with a question in her eyes, the vampire was glaring at his souled counterpart, his anger battling with his disbelief that Spike would have given the watcher that much information about his human self. His only response was a shrug and an apologetic grin from the older vampire. He turned his attention back to the watcher, saying, “I’ll do what I can, but don’t be referrin’ to me as a bloody ‘watcher’!”
“Xander?” Buffy’s tentative smile at her oldest male friend interrupted the laughter that followed Spike’s indignant agreement. She waited for the boy to respond to her greeting.
“Hello, Buffy,” he finally said, his cold glare saying more than words could about what he thought of finding her holding hands with the vampire he’d tried to kill the last time he saw him. He had just barely begun to make his peace with the souled version of Spike with whom the older version of Buffy was openly living. Finding that “his” Buffy was also living with the blond vampire was a blow to which he was still adjusting. “It’s good to see you – even if you did have to bring Deadboy, Jr. there with you.”
“I love him, Xander,” she said, a plea in her voice. “Can’t you try to be happy for me?”
“Don’t be a stupid git,” Spike growled in his ear, pushing him closer to the portal. “Tell the girl you love her enough to want her to be happy. Even the big poof managed to do that,” he added, knowing that the boy wouldn’t want to be outdone by the vampire that he really hated.
Pushing Spike away, Xander smiled and said with as much grace as he could muster, “I’m only kidding. You know me; I’m a kidder. I’m glad you’re happy there in wherever it is. We miss you,” he added, with an apologetic glance at the older Buffy. “She’s not as much fun as you are.”
“I miss you guys, too,” Buffy said sadly. “Every day. But, it’s not too bad there – and hey, big plus – no algebra!”
“They don’t have algebra there? Can I come back with you?”
Xander’s semi-serious request broke whatever tension had been left in the room and soon he and Willow were chatting with Buffy as though it hadn’t been over a year and half since they last talked to her.
It what seemed like a very short time, Dawn was waving her hands, interrupting to insist that she had a life and “a very nice boyfriend who hasn’t seen me for a while” and that she had to return Winterset’s Spike and Buffy so that she could go home. She hugged Buffy, Spike and Joyce, smiled at everyone else and stepped inside the portal.
Joyce reached a tentative hand towards the glowing wall, smiling when Buffy extended her own hand to meet it. Separated only by a softly glowing energy barrier, they promised to stay in touch – giving Dawn letters to send back and forth when she didn’t have the time or energy to transport herself or anyone else.
With final “good-bye’s”, waves and promises to write, the walls closed around the three dimensional travelers and they vanished into the air, leaving Spike and Angel shaking their heads and rubbing their ears. A much sobered, if relieved group sat down to talk about what they’d seen and to share thoughts about how Buffy seemed to be doing.
Leaning back against Spike’s chest, Buffy said softly, “I think they’re going to be just fine. It doesn’t sound like a bad world, now that the Master is out of it. And they have each other.”
“That they do,” Spike murmured. “An’ that’s really all they need.”
The tender moment was interrupted by Faith, who came up to peer into Spike’s face and ask, “Pratt? Your name is really Pratt? No wonder you changed it to “the Bloody”.” Roaring at her own wit, she led Angel out of the house to the accompaniment of Spike’s snarled threats to make her his third slayer.
Dawn didn’t even step out of the portal when she dropped them in their kitchen, saying, “I wasn’t kidding about having a boyfriend. Fortunately, he’s studying to be a watcher, so he understands this stuff; but he’s getting a little testy about me being gone all night two nights in a row.”
With final hugs and another “thank you”, Spike and Buffy stepped out of the portal and waved their good-byes to the dimension traveling Key. Buffy put her hands over Spike’s ears just before the portal disappeared, holding them there until he smiled his gratitude and covered her hands with his own. He turned her hands over, bringing them to his lips one at a time and planting light kisses on each palm.
“She’s a bit of alright, your little sister,” he said. “Those monks knew what they were doin’.”
“It’s all so weird. I don’t have a sister – but I do. And pretty soon there’s going to be another Dawn in Sunnydale. I wonder if she’ll be able to travel back and forth too?”
“Don’t see why not; but she’s not going to be very old when she gets there. Kinda think she’ll need to work her way up to something like dimension-hopping. Don’t forget, ‘our’ Dawn has a coven of witches and seers to work with and help her figure things out.”
Buffy nodded. “Well, I guess if I have to have a sister, she’s a pretty good one to have. I wonder if I’ll get one in this world?”
“We won’t know till it happens, love. This is a whole different place – I don’t think we can go by what’s happenin’ or has happened in Sunnydale. We’re on our own here. Got our own big bads to worry about. Which reminds me,” he said with a grimace, “If I’m gonna take the place of your watcher, I need to start findin’ some books to research this world’s demons and what not.”
“What did Giles mean by “putting that expensive education to use”? Have you been to college?”
The vampire shuffled his feet with embarrassment. “Bloody wanker – can’t believe the other me told him that stuff.”
“So, you have been to college? And your last name is Pratt? What kind of a name is that?”
“Hey, it’s a perfectly respectable English name, I’ll have you know!”
“Uh huh,” she said dubiously. “Well, I’m just glad being mated isn’t like getting married. I like Summers a whole lot more than Pratt, thank you very much.”
“So, you wouldn’t become Mrs. William Pratt if I asked you to?” he asked, pulling her into his arms and nibbling on his marks. “Not even if I asked really, really nicely?”
She shivered at the sensation of his mouth on his marks and whispered, “Maybe, if you asked really, really, really nicely.”
“I just might do that someday,” he whispered back. “Might surprise you with a diamond ring and go down on bended knee to ask you to marry me.”
She snorted, wriggling against him as his hands began to roam her body.
“Like you would ever bend a knee to me,” she scoffed.
“What makes you think I wouldn’t?” His deft fingers were unfastening her jeans while his lips continued to worry his healed bite marks.
“I know you, Spike.”
“Not as well as you think you do, pet,” he laughed, dropping to one knee and pulling her jeans down at the same time. “I’d bend both knees on a regular basis if it puts me here.” He buried his nose in her curls, his rich chuckle at her surprised squeal stirring the hair and causing her to gasp and tremble.
“See, pet,” he murmured as his tongue coaxed more gasps and whimpers from her. “I know you, too.“
He stood up effortlessly, lifting her as he did and carrying her into the bedroom. “An’ we’re gonna know each other even better before I’m done with you.”
“You’re going to be done with me?”
“Figure of speech, love. I’ll never be done with lovin’ you, wantin’ you. We’re forever, Buffy.”
“Forever,” she echoed, sinking onto the bed and shedding the rest of her clothes. He joined her before she had completely taken off her shirt, skimming it over her head and wrapping his arms around her neck. He pressed his forehead to hers and gazed into her eyes.
“Forever’s a long time, love. You think you’re up for that?”
“Anything you can do, I can do too.” She frowned, her wrinkled brow tickling his forehead. “Except for the whole immortality thing, anyway.” Her eyes flew open and her breathing increased suddenly. “What if you don’t want me any more when I get old? What if I still love you and you don’t love me any more when I’m old and ugly? What will I do?”
“You will never be ugly to me, Buffy. I don’t care how old you get. I will always love you, and I will always think you are the most beautiful woman in the world.”
“How do you know I’ll be beautiful?” She refused to give up her worrying, now that it had occurred to her.
“Because I know you, my pet. I know you.”
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