|Story Title:||Miles To Go Before I Sleep|
Miles to Go
We end this ‘season’ with some good news, some bad news, and apparently still miles to go…
Music Referenced: Miles to Go (Before I Sleep) by Celine Dion http://youtu.be/wSfF9NaaQJU
Some photographs courtesy of FreeFoto.com
|Thanks:||Thanks to YOU for reading! Without you none of this would mean anything! Giant thanks also to Anona for betaing this chapter, including her grammatical and punctuation corrections, wonderful commentary, and final review. Also thanks to Capella42 for her insightful suggestions that made the whole story better. All mistakes are mine because I simply cannot stop fiddling right up to the very last moment.|
|Rating / Warnings:||
NC17. Content is only suitable for mature adults. Contains explicit language, sex, adult themes, and other adult situations that some people may find objectionable. If you are under the age of 17 or find any of these themes objectionable – GO AWAY.
Later that afternoon, same day, Sunday, September 11th, 2011:
Spike and Annie worked side-by-side in the garage unloading all the miscellany that had been stowed in the blue recycling bins over the years. Spike generally kept the garage fairly clear and uncluttered – at least the area immediately near his prized Vader-mobile – but the bins had been in a corner, out of the way. They were simply too perfect to resist stashing things in that they ‘might need one day’.
Inside, they found three training wheels ... yes, three. The forth had been bent beyond repair when Dani decided to see if she could jump the curb on her new Huffy Thunder Pro when she was five. That training wheel had taken the full weight of the landing before buckling and sending Dani, and her bike, skidding across the sidewalk.
The memory of it made Spike think of Bess and the first driving lesson he’d given her. She’d purposely sent the Blue Bomber into a spin any stunt person would’ve been proud of. Despite being born over a century apart, the two literally identical twins were proving to be more and more alike every day. That thought filled Spike with a little shiver of fatherly fear as he hung the three wheels on hooks on the wall – ‘Kenzie would need at least two of them later.
There was an old transistor radio. The battery had been left in it and white crystals now covered easily half of it from where the battery had leaked. Annie decided it was useless – it didn’t even have a USB connection port for goodness sakes – and tossed it in the trash before her dad could see it. He might think it was a classic antique or something. She did the same with a Garfield alarm clock whose electric cord had been cut or chewed in two.
“What’s … ‘jock itch’?” Annie asked, holding up a half-empty can of Cruex.
“Never you mind,” Spike growled, swiping the can from her grasp and tossing it in the garbage.
Annie laughed. “I know what it is,” she revealed as they continued sorting through the junk.
Spike cocked a brow at her. “Do ya now?”
“Yep – it’s a fungal infection, like ringworm. It likes to grow in warm, damp spots … like your crotch,” Annie smirked. “Who had it? ‘Cos … well … you aren’t all that warm and you don’t sweat. Ooo … was it mom?” she asked conspiratorially, her eyes wide.
“Don’t reckon that’s any of your concern, Niblett,” Spike replied as he pulled out a Magic Eight Ball. “There it is!” he exclaimed, shaking it up and turning it over. “Been lookin’ for this for ages. Still works, too.”
“What’s it say?” she asked, leaning over to see.
“Says, ‘Little bits who wanna save the world should do more work and less yammering,” Spike told her, holding it up high so she couldn’t see it.
“It does not!” Annie argued, rolling her eyes. “Do you think these batteries are any good?” she asked holding up a handful of AA and AAA Duracells.
Spike crinkled his nose up, then shook his head. “Toss ‘em. Was just keepin’ ‘em for hard times.”
Annie was afraid to ask how hard times would have to be for them to have to try and resurrect dead batteries.
“So,” Spike continued as they kept sorting things out of the bins. “Your mum says you were rather smitten with the … errr … Gertie,” Spike offered, nonchalantly. He’d almost said ‘the fruitcake witch’, but that would’ve been ‘not of the good’.
“Smitten?” Annie asked. “That sounds like we’re getting married.”
“Little bits with dictionaries in four languages rambling around their noggins should know that it also means that she affected you strongly,” Spike defended.
“Oh. Well … yeah, I guess,” Annie agreed. “She’s really … spiritual.
“What religion are we?” Annie asked him as they worked. She’d been waiting for an opening to ask that and he’d finally given it to her.
Spike shrugged. “Reckon my birth certificate says ‘Church o’ England’.”
“But we don’t ever go to church … so what does that really mean?” Annie wondered.
“I reckon it means we’re just heathens, pet,” Spike admitted.
“But … what does that mean?” Annie pressed. “Mom said she went to heaven when she died … but Gertie says she, like, graduated to another realm. Gertie says we reincarnate until we … get it, or do something to move on. So what’s real? What’s the truth? Is there a heaven and hell or just other realms? Is there a God, or are there lots of gods like the Greeks had, or no God at all?”
Spike ran a hand through his hair and blew out a breath. He turned one of the now-empty recycle bins over and sat down on it, urging Annie to do the same.
“’Ere’s what I know for certain, pet,” he began, his tone somber. “We’re here now. Period. Need t’ make the most of it. Not sure what happens next, if anything.”
“Oh, that’s … bollocks,” she scolded him, scowling.
Spike cocked a brow at her. “Not bollocks. I know what happened t’ me; I know what your mum said happened to her. They weren’t the same thing, pet. I had trials … long, bloody painful trials; your mum don’t remember havin’ any trials at all.
“What I’m sayin’ is, could be who you are and what you believe makes a difference in what comes next. Are there other realms? We know there are. Are some hellish and others … heavenly? Reckon so. Do we stay in those realms for eternity when we leave here? Not a single buggering clue. Might we reincarnate? Your guess is as good as mine, pet.
“’Course, all that heaven and hell your mum and me saw could a’ just been some kinda figment our muddled minds made up to explain where we’d been, too. Might not be a bloody thing waitin’ on the ‘other side’. Those other realms we know about could just be … other realities. Not places we go after we leave ‘ere, but places that exist alongside this one. Parallel universes and all that rot. Could be when we die we just bloody die.”
Annie rolled her eyes. “That doesn’t help me at all.”
“Sorry, pet. Told ya what I know for sure: We’re here now, make the bloody most of it.”
Annie crossed her arms over her chest and heaved a heavy sigh. “Do you care if I …” She waved her arms around vaguely at the recycling bins.
“Wouldn’t be ‘ere helpin’ ya if I didn’t think it made a bit o’ sense. Been on this old orb a few years longer than you, pet. Been changed, it has, and not for the better. Can’t hurt t’ try and heal a bit o’ the damage.”
“What about if I want to … go to church or … connect with Mother Earth?” she asked tentatively.
“Long as the connecting don’t involve swapping spit with blathering gits that got their brains between their legs or movin’ to Outer Mongolia, got no problem with it,” Spike assured her.
Annie snorted and rolled her eyes. “Daaad,” she moaned. “You and mom swap spit all the time.”
Spike shrugged. “Yeah, told ya already: we’re heathens. It’s part o’ our belief system. A sacred duty, it is. You gotta be old t’ join our religion … very, very old – ancient, in fact.”
Annie laughed and shook her head. “I don’t think that’s what heathenism is … maybe you mean Hedonism?”
Spike shrugged. “Maybe. Whatever you call it, you’re banned. Not takin’ any new members.”
Annie laughed again. “Ok … Thanks for … talking.”
Spike reached his hand out and laid it over hers where it rested on the blue, plastic bin she was sitting on. He leaned forward so he could look into her big blue eyes. “Anne Joyce, you’re a smart girl. Smarter ‘an me and your mum put together. I know you want answers, and things put in nice, tidy compartments, but I can’t give ya that … not on this.” He shook his head a little sadly. “What you want t’ believe is one o’ those things you’ll have to work out on your own.”
Annie bit her bottom lip and nodded. “It’s ok, I get it,” she acknowledged.
Spike nodded and squeezed her hand gently. “Right, then. Let’s get this world-savin’ mission underway, pet,” he said, standing up.
“Do ya know where you mum wants these put in the kitchen?” he asked, picking up two of the now-empty bins.
“Uhhh … I was hoping you’d ask her,” Annie replied sheepishly as she picked the last bin up and started for the house with it. “Maybe you could … swap spit with her and soften her up first.”
Later that night, bedtime …
Buffy knocked on Annie’s door and dutifully waited for her daughter to allow entry. She thought she should start getting in the habit; it wouldn’t be long before Annie would start complaining about people just barging into her space, about not having any privacy, yada, yada, yada. She would officially be a teenager in just a few months.
“Hey, sweetie,” Buffy greeted her as she stepped in and closed the door behind herself.
“Dad promised that he’d talk to you about the bins – I swear it wasn’t my idea to put them there…” Annie began defending immediately.
Buffy laughed and waved a dismissive hand. “They’re fine,” she assured her daughter. “It’ll just take a while to get used to using them.”
Annie breathed a sigh of relief. “But it’s for the planet – we need to do it for Mother Earth.”
Buffy gave her daughter a patient smile and sat down on the bed next to her. “Right. You’re right … we need to do our part,” Buffy agreed. “Speaking of … Mother Earth …”
“Mom, please don’t start about Gertie,” Annie begged. “I know you think she’s weird, but I really like her. Even if I can’t get this … third eye stuff, I’d like her to be my friend.”
“I know you do, honey. I just want you to … think for yourself. Take advice, ask questions, read books … go to church if you want, but in the end, make your own choices. No one on this … plane of existence or realm or whatever-the-hell this is, knows.”
“Even you…” Annie slid in softly.
Buffy sighed and nodded. “Even me.”
Annie nodded. “Dad already told me that earlier. It still can’t hurt to be nicer to the planet, though. It is the only one we have.”
“Yeah, that's fine … we’ll do our best,” Buffy agreed. “But don’t expect miracles. I’m not growing another garden, eating tofu or bean curd, and we are not getting a cow.”
Annie rolled her eyes. “I know … A cow’s too big. Dad said we could get a goat.”
“What?!” Buffy shrieked, her eyes wide in horror.
“Gotcha!” Annie teased, laughing.
“Oh, you little…” Buffy began, narrowing her eyes at her daughter.
Annie stuck her tongue out at her mom playfully.
“One day your face is gonna freeze like that … then where will you be?”
Annie giggled. “Moooom, I’m not five!”
Buffy gave her daughter a smile and nodded, her voice turning serious. “I know you’re not, honey, but you’re not a grown-up yet either.
“You know, Dawn was still trying to figure out Gertie’s third-eye stuff when she was in college.”
Annie nodded and reached over to her bedside table to pick up an amethyst crystal that Dawn had given her. “I know…” she agreed, turning the long crystal over in her fingers wishing she could feel its resonance. She couldn’t feel anything … other than the sharp edges and smooth planes.
“So there’s no need to try and rush this, honey. Gertie will be there when you’re ready. If you want to go back and visit her before that – just as a friend – I’m sure we can work it out. Don’t push yourself,” Buffy advised. “There’s no pressure.”
Annie snorted unconsciously, studying the crystal.
“Annie …” Buffy continued, laying a hand over the crystal in her daughter’s hand to make the girl look up at her. “There is no hurry – there’s no need to put pressure on yourself. I know you. You think in terms of goals: Read, remember, take test, get an ‘A’ … rinse and repeat ad infinitum.
“This isn’t gonna be like that, honey. This will be a process – probably a very long process. You need to be patient with yourself. No pressure,” Buffy repeated.
Annie’s eyes wandered over the posters on her walls. Almost all of them were places of power – places where ley lines converged. It seemed … destined somehow. But what if it wasn’t? She turned her gaze back to her mom and asked in a very small voice, “What if I can’t do it … ever?”
“It won’t matter,” Buffy assured her. “I know how badly you want to succeed at everything you try, honey – but the truth is: life isn’t like that. We don’t always win every game we play. The point is: we played. We tried. It’s having the courage to try that’s the most important thing.
“When you feel ready – and only then – we’ll call Gertie and start. If you never feel ready, then that’s really fine too. I just want you to know all the possibilities you have, so you can decide which road you want to take. You do not have to do it if you don’t want to, but don’t let fear of failing stop you from trying if it’s something you really want to do.
“There’s no shame in not snatching the brass ring, only in not reaching for it if that's what you really want. Okay?” Buffy concluded.
Annie took a deep breath and blew it out slowly, still turning the crystal over and over in her fingers. “How will I know what I really want?”
“That’s sometimes the hardest thing to figure out. It can be hard to sort out what you think you should do, what you think other people want you to do, what you think is the so-called dutiful thing to do, and what your heart really wants to do.
“Sometimes it’s really clear – I mean like with your languages. You really love learning them and you’re good at it. Those are the easy choices. Sometimes it’s as easy as flipping a coin. In that split second the coin is in the air you suddenly realize what outcome you’re really hoping for – problem solved. Other times you might have to try something first and see if you like it. There’s no rule that says you can’t change your mind if you figure out you’ve made a mistake,” Buffy advised.
“I’d hate to let you all down, though. What if I started trying to learn and Gertie spends a bunch of time with me then I … quit?” Annie wondered.
“No one is going to be disappointed in you, sweet girl. If you try and just don’t like it, it’s fine. All your dad and I ever want is for you to be happy – and, as fruity as Gertie is, I’m sure she’d say the same. Hell … she worries about making sure that cow of hers is all … at peace and content. I think she’d treat you as well as the cow,” Buffy assured her.
Annie rolled her eyes but finally nodded.
“Listen – nothing has to be decided anytime soon, okay?” Buffy concluded. “One day, if you feel like you want to try – fine. If you never want to – fine. Don’t worry about it – just let it come to you. Deal?”
“Deal,” Annie agreed, still sounding slightly unsure.
“Hug on it,” Buffy suggested, spreading her arms out.
Annie smiled, sat up in bed, and leaned into her mom’s embrace.
“I love you, sweet girl,” Buffy whispered against her daughter’s soft, brown curls.
“I love you too, Mom,” Annie replied, her head resting against Buffy’s shoulder. “Even if you do mix pop culture references with Latin. ‘Rinse and repeat ad infinitum’? Really?”
Buffy dropped a kiss on Annie’s head and gave her daughter a quick, hard squeeze. “What can I say? I’m ambidextrous.”
Later that evening…
Spike came into the bedroom after his shower and found Buffy propped up in bed, her journal on her lap. Her face was a study in consternation as she chewed thoughtfully on the end of a ballpoint pen.
“Writing me a love poem, pet?” Spike asked, leaning over to look at what she was working on.
Buffy rolled her eyes. “As if…” she huffed. “You just told me last night that I didn’t have a poetic bone in my body.”
Spike wagged his brows at her suggestively. “Never too late t’ grow one ...”
Buffy laughed and shook her head. “That would be interesting.”
“Or I could lend you mine for a bit,” he continued, running his tongue over his lips and leering at her.
“Now that sounds like a plan…” Buffy agreed, still smiling.
Spike sat down on the bed next to her, looked over her shoulder at the pages in front of her, and sighed. That bloody prophecy bollocks.
“It’s not bollocks…” Buffy defended, even though he hadn’t said it out loud or sent it through the bond.
Spike snorted. “You know as well as I do they change those bloody prophecies all the time. They aren’t carved in stone, Slayer.”
“I know … but it doesn’t hurt to just … be ready – have all the clues, just in case,” Buffy defended.
“Ok, I’ll bite,” Spike punned, smirking. “What’s the latest clue?”
“Something Gertie said: ‘Your final journey will one day be clear. The mother within will show you the path; take heed of her call.’”
“Sounds like a bloody fortune cookie from the Chinese place,” Spike scoffed.
Buffy rolled her eyes but otherwise ignored him. “I just can’t figure out if it means anything or not,” Buffy admitted. “And when she says ‘the mother within,’ does she mean Mother Earth, which she went on about constantly, or my mothering instincts?”
“Thought you said she was a fruitloop…” Spike pointed out.
Buffy sighed. “She is … but she’s also…” Buffy paused and thought about it a moment. “She knew stuff … like she could see part of your soul inside me. She may be a giant, nutty granola bar, but there’s something more to her than that.”
“And you’re worried that she’s talkin’ about your mother instincts ‘cos of what happened in that other world … with the Niblett,” Spike sussed out.
Buffy stuffed the end of the pen back in her mouth and crunched down on it, cracking the plastic. “Crap…” she muttered, tossing the pen in the garbage. “I need to have Anya buy stock in Papermate…”
“Avoidin’ the question, Slayer,” Spike prodded.
“I didn’t hear a question. I heard a statement. There was no question mark at the end, thus – not a question,” she defended, rummaging through the drawer of her bedside table to find another pen.
“Buffy,” Spike began, putting a hand on her shoulder to pull her away from her task. “Listen t’ me, luv,” he cajoled.
Buffy stopped what she was doing and turned to look at him.
“You’re a good mum ... the best. I know, with all my heart and soul, that you’ll defend the bits t’ the death. You’d never knowingly put ‘em in danger. I know that Slayer’s a tricky, self-righteous bitch, but you can take ‘er, pet.”
“Hey! Did you just call me a bitch?” she asked, narrowing her eyes and frowning at him.
“I called your demon a bitch. Can’t deny it, luv,” Spike clarified, quirking a brow at her.
Buffy rolled her eyes and blew out a sharp, frustrated breath. “I hope you’re right … about the taking her part, not the bitch part.”
“Have I ever been wrong?” Spike wondered smugly.
Buffy barked out a laugh. “Only always! You’re a man! Men, by definition, are wrong. Unless, of course, you agree with me, then you’re right.”
“Weren’t complainin’ last night ‘bout me being a man,” Spike pointed out with a smirk.
“Well… you do have your uses,” Buffy admitted with a flirtatious smile.
Buffy reached a hand out toward Spike’s pelvic region but he slapped it away. “I’m insulted. No touching the poetic bone until you apologize,” he huffed. “With a poem.”
Buffy snorted a laugh. “You want a poem? From me?”
Spike crossed his arms over his chest indignantly and nodded sharply.
“Okay… you asked for it,” Buffy mumbled as she turned the page in her journal and retrieved a pen.
She tapped the pen on the page as she thought. “What rhymes with ‘insufferable’? ‘Imbecile’? Does that work? It has L-E on the end…” she mused aloud.
“Better be a nice poem, Slayer, or me and my bone will roll over an’ go t’ sleep,” Spike warned.
“Creep…” Buffy growled as she began to write.
Spike’s a rock
So is his cock
A wicked fock
“Ok, there ya go …” she announced, handing the open journal to him.
Spike looked at her doubtfully as he took the book. “What the bloody hell is that?”
“A haiku,” Buffy explained, grinning devilishly.
“‘Fock’? ‘Fock’ is not a word, Slayer. And haikus are five-seven-five…”
“Free-form haiku,” she asserted. “And ‘fock’ is ‘fuck’ in a Scandinavian or German accent.”
“Uh-huh,” he grunted, shaking his head and trying to fully appreciate his wife’s lack of poetic talent. It suddenly made him feel like his poems were on par with Frost or Yeats.
“Hey – you asked for Poet-Buffy. Don’t blame me if it’s too deep for you. Now, give me my prize,” she demanded, reaching her hand out again.
“You do realize that haikus don’t strictly have to rhyme, yeah?” he asked. “Most don’t … at all.”
Buffy stopped her hand in mid-air and frowned. “That’s just … wrong. Poems rhyme. Everyone knows that! Geez … un-rhyme-y poems are like un-chocolate-y ice cream. Why bother?”
“It’s a good thing I love you, you balmy bint,” Spike rumbled as her hand continued its trek, and her warm fingers wrapped around his poetic bone. He closed her journal and dropped it to the floor.
“It’s also a good thing I’m a wicked fock,” she purred before capturing his lips with hers.
He could only moan in agreement.
Next day, Monday, September 12th, 2011, early morning…
The next morning dawned dark and cloudy. A rolling rumble of thunder woke Buffy from peaceful sleep. She stretched a little before snuggling closer to Spike’s back, spooning against him. A soft sigh purred from her throat as she let her eyes fall closed again, listening to the storm blow over the house, pounding raindrops on the windows, and rattling the foundation with thick bursts of thunder. It would be a good day to stay in bed.
As she lay there in that foggy place between sleep and wakefulness, listening to the storm and holding her husband, words began emerging from the fog. They danced around her mind, dreamlike, for many long minutes. When they finally coalesced into something recognizable, Buffy slipped from the bed and silently retrieved her journal from the floor where Spike had dropped it the night before.
Underneath the haiku she’d written for Spike the previous night, she scribbled the words that had come to her…
the twilight-blue dawn
stirring me from
Buffy pursed her lips and nodded triumphantly. She shot Spike a mental raspberry. How’s that for no poetry bone?
Later that day, early afternoon:
Despite the stormy start, the skies had cleared by mid-morning and a bright autumn sun shone down as Buffy retrieved the mail from the box. The front of the mansion still gave Buffy a bit of a start every time she looked at it. She wasn’t sure she’d ever get used to the ‘Fornicating M&M Hippie Commune’ look, but she had to appreciate its power to keep her safe while going to the mailbox. Mrs. Katz rarely accosted her in view of the bright, bubbling muddle of colors that covered the front of the house.
She walked back from the mailbox, idly scanning the letters and adverts that she’d retrieved. Bill, bill, magazine, junk, junk that looks like bill … bill that looks like junk… God, why can’t things just be simple?
One letter was different though. The postmark was from Huntington Beach; the return address showed it was from her patent attorney: Samuel J. Liston. She tore the envelope open as she entered the front foyer, idly kicking the door closed behind her. Buffy kept walking toward the kitchen as she pulled the heavy stock paper from the envelope and unfolded it with a flick of her wrist and began to read:
Dear Mrs. Summers-Weckerly,
As per your request, after securing a trademark on the name ‘Scrunchie’ and obtaining a United States patent on your invention, our firm has solicited bids from manufacturers, worldwide, who have shown interest in purchasing the trademark and patent.
We have received five bids from reputable companies that we feel are competitive. At this time, we would recommend accepting the offer from the Chinese company: Benan Xuchang. Although their bid is not the highest absolute dollar figure, they are offering cash up-front rather than a payment over time, which we believe will insulate your interests if the success of the product does not meet their expectations or if there is a further downturn in the economy.
Of course, I am available to discuss all options with you or your financial advisor at anytime. Attached is a summary of the five offers and their stipulations. Please contact me at your earliest convenience …
Buffy flipped the page over and quickly scanned the summary of the offers. She froze. The other mail, bills and junk alike, fell out of her hand and fluttered to the floor, forgotten.
“Spike…” she screamed. Well, actually, it was a low, rasping croak. She tried to scream, but she couldn’t – all the air had escaped her lungs.
Buffy swallowed and tried again. Her voice cracked and sounded more like the squeak of a rusty cemetery gate being forced to move after years of neglect. Her knees wobbled under her and she simply dropped to her butt on the floor in the great room, just outside the kitchen.
“Spi…” she tried again but her throat was still too constricted for air to flow through it properly. She shook her head, and cleared her throat. “Spike!” Finally! It came out. “Spike! … SPIKE!” she shrieked.
“What! What is it!?” he demanded, ignoring the stairs and simply leaping down from the second floor in a panic. “Buffy! What is it, luv? What’s wrong?” he asked frantically when he saw her sprawled, seemingly dumbfounded, in the middle of the floor.
He was to her in a second, his eyes scanning the area for an intruder, then raking over her, looking for injuries. “What is it, luv?” he repeated, alarmed, his eyes wide with worry.
Buffy’s throat had closed again. She simply handed the papers to him, looking up at him with wide, stunned eyes.
“What the bloody hell is it?” he demanded again, scanning the papers quickly. His lips moved as he read the first page, his eyes ticking left and right with vampiric speed. Three seconds after he flipped to the second page, he had dropped unceremoniously onto his butt next to her.
“Bloody hell…” he muttered, his eyes fixed on the page and dilated with astonishment.
He finally raised his gaze and looked up at her. They were mirror images of each other: two deer caught in the headlights.
“We’re filthy rich,” Spike muttered at last.
Buffy nodded wildly, still unable to speak, her eyes growing even wider, if that was possible.
“Bloody hell, Buffy! We’re …”
“Loaded,” she finished for him, finally finding her voice.
Spike threw his head back and joyous laughter rumbled from his throat filling the whole house with his elation. Buffy began to laugh giddily along with him, and in a moment they were hugging there on the floor, laughing like intoxicated, maniacal lunatics. And then their laughter was muted by their lips crushing against one another’s in frantic delight. In the next second Buffy was crying joyous tears, and Spike couldn’t stop from crying with her.
It wasn’t as if they were poor before this. The money Spike had won in the Demon UFC tournament had gotten them out of the hole and allowed them to live comfortably. Add to that Anya’s talent for investing, the paychecks they were getting from the Council, and the money they’d gotten for Spike’s part in the FBI submarine mission, and they’d been living pretty well lately.
Even with all that, though, there were some pretty substantial outflows to be considered. They did still have four children to raise and five to put through college, assuming they all wanted to go. Add to that the fact that four of them were girls and, thus, there would presumably be four weddings to pay for, and the money started dwindling quickly. They also had an aging home to maintain and a minivan that had been on its last leg for about a year. None of that would be a problem now. They could send the kids to any college they wanted, their daughters could get married in a style that would make the Kardashians jealous, they could replace that minivan with a stretch Hummer if they wanted to, and a full copper re-pipe of the mansion would be chump change.
“You are bloody brilliant, pet,” Spike murmured to her as he wiped the tears from her cheeks with the pad of his thumb.
Buffy was still half-laughing and half-crying as she leaned her forehead against his. Her chest had suddenly tightened and her tears had turned from happy to regretful just that fast. “I’d give it all up to get those five years back,” Buffy admitted, her tears streaming faster now, interspersed with gasping sobs. “I lost so much … so many memories I’ll … never be able to get back.”
Spike sighed, feeling her pain, and pulled her against him tighter as they sat there on the floor. He rocked her gently as she cried for the five lost years she spent in alone in Hallie’s Wish World, meting out vengeance on Vengeance Demons. It had been that bitch’s wish that had started that whole nightmare for Buffy, and had somehow also deleted Scrunchies from the world. Even after Buffy managed to mostly change things back, some things didn’t revert – like Scrunchies. Until now, anyway.
There had been positives that came out of that hellish time, of course. Bess for one. If not for Hallie’s wish, Bess would not exist. MacKenzie was the other miracle that was created, literally conceived, in that world. Buffy would never give either of them up – she loved them both too much – but she would gladly give every Scrunchie-dollar the Chinese company was offering to get the five years back that she’d lost with her other children.
Spike ‘shushed’ her, kissed her tears away, and held her to him with strong, comforting arms. He rocked her gently, soothingly, for a long while as she alternatively cried and laughed; wept for the losses and reveled in her ultimate victory.
They were still there on the floor when Annie, Dani, Billy, and JJ came bursting through the garden doors after school. The kids knew something was wrong because no one came to meet them at the bus. They’d run all the way home, fearful and panicked.
“What’s wrong!? What happened?” Annie demanded frantically as they all slid to a stop near Buffy and Spike. Backpacks full of books thumped heavily to the floor, and the kid’s chests heaved with the exertion of their run and their fear.
Buffy took a deep, calming breath, swallowed her tears, and wiped her eyes. She picked up the letter that had gotten dropped along the way, and decided to take Dawn’s advice: It’s totally my choice how I react to circumstances.
There really was no use crying over spilled milk; with this money, she could buy more milk … hell, she could buy a dairy. She’d never get those lost years or memories back – no amount of money could do that – but she could keep making new memories with her family, and she’d have to be content with that.
“We’re rich!” she announced in answer to Annie’s question, letting her sad melancholy fade and the giddy excitement return. She waved the letter in the air triumphantly as she and Spike rose to their feet. “Insanely, disgustingly, filthy rich!” she elucidated, gathering her kids, and JJ, in a fierce embrace.
Later that day, early evening…
“So,” Willow sighed in conclusion, “Native American, huh?”
Buffy shrugged, fingering the silver scroll sheath that kept the fragile parchment inside safe. “That’s what Gertie thought,” she agreed. “Probably southwest …”
Annie worked at the research table as Buffy talked to Willow and Tara on the speaker phone next to her, relaying what they’d learned from Gertie about the craftsmanship of the silver scroll that decoded the Gem of Amarra book.
“Of course …” Willow continued, her voice crackling slightly over the phone, “… that doesn’t mean they wrote it. They might’ve just found it and made the cylinder, or the author might’ve found the cylinder and just used it for the scroll.”
Buffy sighed again. They were apparently no closer to translating the language of the book than they had been before she’d opened her mind to the whole nightmare of the Gift-less Universe and remembered the ‘decoder-ring’ that Annie had discovered there.
“But … it’s a place to start, anyway,” Tara interjected, trying to sound hopeful.
Annie came to the end of a page and looked up from her work. She’d decoded about ten pages of the book all-told since her mom had produced it, like magic, from the protected vault at Council headquarters. She knew that Willow and Tara had decoded at least that many, as well. Unfortunately, the language that it was decoded into was still a mystery to them.
As she looked around the great room and research area, letting her eyes rest a bit, she saw Troy and Bess enter through the door that led to the garage. Annie brightened. She’d been waiting to show Troy the treasure she’d found in Dorset. Staying quiet while her mom continued talking to Willow and Tara, she beckoned the couple over as she dug the rock out of her pocket.
“Hey, Bookworm,” Troy greeted her in a whisper, tousling her curls like she was five.
Annie didn’t mind too much, though. Troy was cool … waaaay cool. He was gonna be the next Indiana Jones, only bigger, stronger, and hotter. When he got out of school, he’d ride his motorcycle on dangerous missions with his long, black hair billowing out behind him. He’d make off with the treasures, stealing them right out from under the noses of the bad guys like a deadly ghost. He’d be the hero of the archeological world, keeping the ancient, powerful artifacts out of the hands of the evil people that wanted to use them for bad mojo. Oh yeah, he was waaay cool.
“Look what I found,” Annie whispered back, smiling at him as she handed him the shard of rock with the fossil imprinted on it.
Troy took it from her hand and settled a serious gaze onto her prize. “Looks like Annularia foliage,” he announced. “Probably from the Carboniferoius period. Neat specimen, Bookworm. Where’d ya get it?” he asked as he showed the rock to Bess, who was next to him.
Annie beamed. “Dorset … in England … near Lulworth Cove. It’s really old, right?”
Troy chuckled, handing the rock back to her. “A little … maybe three hundred and fifty million years or so.”
Annie’s eyes widened. “Really? Wow that’s … totally old.”
“Be cool for ‘Show and Tell’, kiddo. Let me know if you want some help researching it,” Troy zoffered.
Annie resisted rolling her eyes. Didn’t he know she was too old for ‘Show and Tell’?
Before she could answer, Bess touched a hand down on the paper Annie had been working on and asked, “How’s the decoding going?”
Annie sighed, setting her prize down on the table. “Ok … but we still don’t know what language it’s in.”
Bess nodded sadly as her eyes settled on the incoherent groups of letters on the paper. Since the Olympics, she’d relinquished the Gem to Spike; it was his, after all. But that didn’t mean she didn’t wish for one of her own. She missed being able to go out in the sun, to feel its warmth tingle her pale skin. She missed being able to ride down the PCH on her bike and see the ocean sparkle like an endless sea of sapphires under the golden rays.
She kept telling herself that she shouldn’t expect such things – she was a vampire, after all. She told herself she should be happy with what she had, which was so much more than she’d ever dreamed of during the first century of her unlife. But, she couldn’t help but feel a little jealous of her brothers and sisters when they blithely headed into the bright daylight to play, taking no notice of the sun that bathed them with its gentle warmth.
Troy put a comforting hand on Bess’ slender shoulder, knowing how much it meant to her. He followed her gaze down and looked at what Annie had been working on. His eyes narrowed and he blinked, then reached down and picked the paper up to look closer.
“What?” Bess asked, watching him intently.
His brows furrowed as he looked over the decoded text, then he looked up at his girlfriend, his aquamarine eyes tinted a shade darker with his intensity. “This … word …” he stammered, brows drawing nearly together as he looked over the paper.
“What?” Bess pressed, trying to see what he was looking at.
“Are there any … pictures that go with this?” Troy asked Annie, ignoring Bess while waving the paper with the decoded manuscript in front of the girl’s face.
When Annie didn’t immediately answer, he clarified, “In the original? Are there any pictures … drawings?”
Annie balked a moment, taken off-guard, but then nodded. “Yeah – the original book has drawings. That’s how we knew it was about the Gem – there was a drawing of it.”
“Can I see?” Troy demanded impatiently.
“Uhhh … yeah – here,” Annie offered, sliding the stack of photocopies of the original book, from which she’d been working, over to him.
Troy dropped down into the chair next to Annie and began scanning the pages, turning them quickly. About half-way through, he suddenly stopped and slapped his hand down on a drawing of a fanged, bat-faced humanoid.
By now Buffy, Willow, and Tara had stopped talking, and everyone was watching – or listening, in the case of Willow and Tara – to Troy in earnest.
“This is Raamar,” he announced confidently.
“Raamar?” Bess repeated. “Is that like … Klingon?” she asked, trying to lighten the sudden tension that suddenly gripped the room.
Troy scowled, ignoring her joke, and shook his head. “No. The Raamar Nation was a tribe of Native Americans who lived near Yuma, Arizona, down near Mexico, along the lower Colorado River.”
“How do you know?” Buffy asked, standing up to come over and look at what Troy was looking at.
“This picture. It’s one of the Raamar’s Great Spirits. And this word here … that Annie decoded, see?” he asked, holding the paper up that the girl had just finished. “It’s the name of the spirit: Aurelius.”
Buffy’s eyes went wide with recognition of the name. “Aurelius …” she murmured, looking at the drawing. “That’s not a … spirit; that’s a … freaking vampire!”
Troy looked at the drawing more closely. “Huh … Well ... if you say so. Ugly SOB. I thought vampires looked more ... human. The legends say it was some kind of bat spirit. A lot of Native American Spirits take the form of animals.”
Annie suddenly became excited and hopeful that they had finally – finally – found the answer. Now they could make Bess her very own Gem. Her dad and her sister could both be protected – both be safe – all the time.
"Really old vampires get ... more batty," Buffy explained, chewing on her bottom lip as she looked at the drawing. "Are you sure about ... this Raamar thing?"
"Yeah, totally. I've seen this same likeness in cave paintings that have been conclusively attributed to them," Troy assured her.
“Oh my God! That’s …” Buffy began, flabbergasted. She started frantically gathering up the papers Annie had decoded. “Let’s go! Let’s go to Yuma and get this translated!”
“Ummm … you missed the key word in there … they lived in Yuma – past tense.”
“Oookay … where did they move? We’ll go anywhere,” Buffy offered.
“You’re not getting it, Mrs. Weckerly. They’re dead. Gone. Extinct. Have been for, like … a century.”
“B-but,” Buffy stammered. “You know about them. So … someone knows the language, right?”
The big man seemed to shrink several inches. “As far as I know, there’s no one alive that speaks Raamar. Until now, I don’t know if we’ve ever even had a sample of their actual language.
“Stories from third parties, some shards of pottery, and a few cave paintings are about all we have on the Raamar Nation. There are a few stories about this Great Spirit Aurelius; he was some kind of protector.”
Buffy snorted out a sarcastic laugh. The vampire Aurelius was their Guardian Angel? That seemed unlikely.
“Someone has to know something,” Buffy contended, waving the papers in the air futilely.
Troy shook his head. “Maybe … but from what I’ve learned in college, they’re one of the great mysteries of America’s indigenous peoples.
“We know where they lived, mostly through stories passed down from neighboring tribes, Mexican folklore, and some accounts from Spanish missionaries. Archeologists have found some remnants of their civilization, but written language? Nothing like that. Most Native Americans don’t have any written accounts of anything. I mean, there was no reason for them to write anything down. If this book is, in fact, Raamar, it would be a truly amazing artifact.”
“Fuck artifact!” Buffy barked, flinging her arms away from her body, papers still in her hand. “How do we get it translated into a real language we can understand?”
“I have no idea,” Troy admitted, cringing away from Buffy’s outburst, defeat evident in his voice.
Bess, who had begun to let hope gain a handhold in her heart, felt tears of frustration and despair sting her eyes. Annie moaned audibly at Troy’s words as the excitement that had begun to build in her deflated almost painfully.
Buffy slumped down into a chair, released the papers, and dropped her head into her hands. She wanted to bang her forehead on the table a few dozen times, but didn’t want to appear quite that crazy around Bess’ beau. “Crap, crap, crap.”
They’d been thwarted at every turn. They’d come so far and yet it appeared they still had miles to go…
**~** THE END **~**
Epilogue, a few days later (because I can’t let my evil muse end it on a downer like that):
Spike yawned widely as he came into the dark house. It was late … really late. He hadn’t planned on staying at The Fish Bowl so long tonight, but he’d been winning and he never quit when he was winning. Well, not until he’d won it all. Not that they needed the money, of course – money wasn’t really the point. The point was winning. This night it had been poker, and he’d cleaned up.
He headed for the kitchen to grab a quick snack of hemoglobin before going upstairs, but was stopped when he found a note atop his favorite mug. The thick stationary felt rich and almost silky in his hands as he unfolded it and began to read…
My dearest William,
I know my poetic bone isn’t well developed, but I think I might have one somewhere. It’s probably small, and I’m sure it’s been broken a few times … probably dislocated, and definitely cracked once or twice. Keeping that in mind, I hope, as you read this, you don’t laugh.
My Vow by Buffy Summers-Weckerly
With miles to go,
Before I sleep,
I hold your hand,
So I can keep,
You by my side,
In my soul, so deep.
With miles to go,
Before I rest,
I press my body,
Against your chest,
With just a whisper,
All my love confessed.
With miles to go,
Before I die,
I hold your heart,
Close to mine,
It warms me true,
When alone I lie.
With miles to go,
Blue skies above,
I thank the gods,
For our love,
Ever present as a,
With miles to go,
I promise thou,
To love you always,
As then and now,
We are forever,
My solemn vow.
Assuming you haven’t fallen on the floor in fits of laughter by now, if you’d like to help me hone my poetic bone, come dance with me in the moonlight. I’m waiting for you …
With all my love,
Spike smiled at her poem, but didn’t laugh. It warmed something deep inside; it was a place only she had ever been able to touch. She could reach in there and kindle that fire so easily that it would’ve frightened him if he hadn’t known that he affected her equally.
She’d obviously worked hard on the verse, dug deep … I mean, resorting to ‘thou’? That’s scraping the bottom of the rhyming barrel. And he should know. It was especially endearing since he was pretty sure, to use the form properly, it should’ve been ‘thee’. But, who was he to criticize? Poetic license, right?
He folded and tucked the note into his jeans pocket and headed for the back yard. He wished he could get a shower before going out there, but it was already late. How long had she been waiting for him?
He stepped outside and saw her immediately. She’d fallen asleep waiting for him. She was curled up on her side lying on a blanket under the nearly-full moon. She’d pulled half the blanket over her body to ward off the chill, and had it tucked up under her chin tightly, like a security blanket. She looked more like a girl than a woman at that moment.
He ambled silently over to where Buffy lay, flipped his duster back behind him, and crouched down next to her. Sleeping under the silver light of the moon, her face looked more serene and beautiful than anyone had a right to. How someone so strong, so ferocious, could look so innocent and vulnerable was beyond him. It made him want to take her in his arms and protect her from anything and everything – forever. He knew she’d never allow it, but that didn’t make the urge lessen in the least.
Despite how quiet he’d been, Buffy stirred, her eyes fluttering open sleepily.
“Sorry I’m so late, luv,” Spike whispered, brushing a lock of hair back from her face.
Buffy smiled up at him and stretched her limbs. Shapely, and quite bare, arms and legs poked out of the cover of the blanket. “It’s ok … just soaking up some rays while I waited,” she teased, her voice rough from sleep.
“Would you be soakin’ … nude, luv?” he asked tilting his head to see down the blanket further.
Buffy smirked at him and sat up, clutching the blanket to her chest and pulling it around her torso. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“Too right,” Spike agreed enthusiastically, still trying to peek down the front of the cover.
“Well, you’ll have to earn it.”
“Will I? And what did ya have in mind, pet?”
“A dance … in the moonlight,” Buffy divulged, standing up. She wrapped the blanket around her like a sarong and secured it under her arms, never giving Spike a peek.
“To hone your poetic bone?” he asked, standing up with her.
Buffy shrugged one bare shoulder.
“If it gets any sharper, you’ll be a bigger sap than me, luv.”
“Did you … like it?” Buffy wondered tentatively, her green eyes flickering up to his hopefully.
Spike bit his bottom lip as he took her in his arms and began swaying slowly under the moon to unheard music. “Loved it, pet. Brilliant.”
Buffy smiled against his chest as they danced. “Well, you may just get to see what’s under the blanket after all, Mr. Weckerly.”
“I’m quite looking forward to that, my dear Mrs. Weckerly,” Spike replied in the accent of his youth. “Thou art a woman after my own heart.”
Buffy giggled. “See? I told Annie you’d like the ‘thou’ thing. It’s like … old-timey and chivalrous and stuff – like you.”
“I am humbled by thy kind words, milady,” Spike continued in William’s accent, his heart swelling a bit more. Apparently she hadn’t actually been scraping the bottom of the barrel for that word, after all. She’d used it intentionally … because he’d like it.
Buffy smiled again and sighed contentedly. “I will, ya know? Love you always.”
Spike turned his face and kissed the side of her head gently as his arms wrapped around her tighter. “I’ll love you forever, too, pet.”
THE VERY END (for now).
That's the end of this 'season', this saga. I hope you enjoyed it!
What's coming up in the future? Troy and Spike will go on a mission together to try and get more information about the creation of the Gem. It will probably be two or three weeks before I start posting that. It will be a short-ish story, basically a lead-in to next 'season'. In the meantime, I'll continue posting the 'Turn Me On' story so there will be something new to read every few days for a while. Thank you so much for reading! I'd love to hear from you - let me know if you are still enjoying the ride, if you have any requests, questions, suggestions let me know! (Email link at bottom of page). All comments are welcome!
Miles to Go (Before I Sleep) by Celine Dion
I would walk to the edge of the universe for you
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