|Story Title:||Miles To Go Before I Sleep|
Will Buffy and Annie’s biggest threat in the Gift-less world be from Spike?
Music Referenced: Faithfully, Journey http://youtu.be/OMD8hBsA-RI
ScreenCaps courtesy of ScreenCap Paradise: http://www.screencap-paradise.com/?cat=3
|Thanks:||To Capella42 for her great suggestions that made the whole story better. Thanks also to u2fan2005 and epd4 for their suggestions, corrections, and help betaing this chapter and to Anona for her grammatical and punctuation corrections, wonderful commentary, and final review. All mistakes are mine because I simply cannot stop fiddling right up to the 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.
Present day, Friday, April 15th, 2011, Gift-less Dimension:
“Papa, no!” Annie screamed. Her judgment clouded by fright and exhaustion, she jumped up from the floor next to her mother and threw herself at the vamp holding a blade to her mother's throat.
When she hit Spike, not with anger, but with fear and desperation, and wrapped her arms around him, it caused his whole body to rock back. The sharp blade pulled away from Buffy’s throat just enough in that moment. Buffy reacted immediately. She ducked under the weapon, swiping at it and grabbing the thin blade of the double-edged sword between her palms. Before Spike knew what had happened, she jabbed the hilt of it back at him, striking him in the chest hard, then she wrapped one hand around it firmly and jerked it back violently, dislodging it from his grip.
Buffy yanked Annie away from Spike with her free hand as she knocked the vamp’s feet out from under him with her legs. Spike fell backwards, landing on the floor with a bang and a crack of his skull against the hard wood. Buffy dove atop him and pressed the sword across his throat. It cut into his flesh as he lay on his back just inside the front door.
“I don’t want to kill you,” Buffy told him, a barely veiled threat.
“But you’ll dust me good and proper if ya have to,” Spike finished as he looked up at her, his arms bent, his hands up in surrender near his head. “Sing me a new one, Slayer. Even after ten bloody years o’ not hearing it, that one’s gone stale.”
Buffy ignored his rambling and stayed focused. “Listen to me now – I know the Buffy from this dimension is dead, but I’m not from here. We got sucked into a portal and dropped into that damn bug pit and all I want is to take my daughter and go home. Then you can go back to being the Biggest Bad; no harm, no foul,” Buffy explained, trying to keep her voice even.
“Right, and I reckon the Easter Bunny and Santa’ll be showing up any minute now, too,” Spike quipped as he sized up the situation and worked on a new plan.
“And in any dimension you remain the most stubborn, pig-headed vampire I’ve ever known,” Buffy groaned, rolling her eyes, but never letting up off the blade at his throat.
They both looked at each other for several moments in silence, each trying to formulate a plan of what to do next.
Finally Buffy said, “Spike, it’s really me. You can’t tell me you don’t remember what I smell like, what I taste like. Taste this,” she offered as she released one hand from the weapon. She held her sliced palm, the one she’d used to grab the blade with, over his mouth.
Her blood dripped from the gash freely and splashed onto his lips and his tongue. It tasted like nirvana; manna from heaven.
“It’s a trick,” he objected even as he licked the drops from his lips, not wanting to miss even the smallest speck of the liquid gold.
Buffy shook her head slowly. “No, it’s not. Blood doesn’t lie and you know it. I’m gonna let you up now. Please don’t do anything stupid, because if I have to choose between you and our … my daughter, I’ll choose her every time.”
Buffy backed off his legs slowly, bringing the sword with her, and stood up near the stairs. She pulled Annie back with her, keeping the tip of the sword trained on Spike. He was still laying on his back, his eyes were closed and, even if they were open, his brown curls had fallen over them like a veil. She wanted to see his eyes. If she could just see his eyes, maybe she could tell if he believed her or not.
Spike’s head was spinning. Between the knot on his head, her blood, her hips pressed against his, and her unmistakable aroma, he was left with a dizzying sensation that vacillated between giddy joy, unbridled desire, and wary suspicion. Finally, he propped himself up on his elbows, shaking his hair out of his eyes, and watched her closely. She moved like Buffy, she talked like Buffy, she certainly felt, tasted, and smelled like Buffy, she kicked his ass like Buffy. Could she really be Buffy? Not some new trick The First was playing on him?
He turned his eyes to the girl at her side. “What’s your name?” he asked, narrowing his eyes and watching the child closely for signs of deception.
“Annie … Anne Joyce Weckerly,” Annie replied solemnly as she hugged her mother’s side.
Spike blinked. His brows furrowed and he looked from Annie to Buffy and back again. “Weckerly?” he questioned. He hadn’t heard that name in … well, longer than he could even remember. Perhaps he was dreaming. That would explain all this – surely that must be what this was, some kind of a dream from which he’d awaken at any moment.
“Who’s your father?” he questioned the girl as he pushed up to a sitting position.
“You are,” Annie offered timidly.
“No – he’s not,” Buffy corrected her sternly, casting a steely gaze at Spike. She watched him closely, trying to decide what to do. His eyes had changed – they seemed ... harder somehow; colder. She couldn't tell if he believed them or not.
Spike stood up slowly, running a hand through his unruly, brown curls. He regarded the two grimy, bloody girls that stood in front of him carefully. The blonde looked exactly like a ghost; it seemed impossible. He’d buried that girl with his own hands over ten years ago. “And who’s your mum?”
Annie looked up at Buffy, confused by why he kept asking these crazy questions. “What’s wrong with him?”
“He’s not our Spike, honey. He’s not your dad. He’s from here; your dad’s still back home. He’ll come looking for us if we can’t get back soon,” she assured Annie, although she wasn’t too sure about when exactly that would be or even how he, Bess, and Angel had fared against the sea demon.
Spike was watching and listening with rapt attention, hands on his hips, eyes narrowed in concentration. He decided to take a different tack; fighting her hadn’t worked particularly well.
“You’re hurt,” Spike observed, slowly moving to the side of the blade that was trained on him and reaching for Annie’s arm.
“I’m ok,” she assured him, as he tenderly turned her arm back and forth, examining the deep gash that she’d gotten in the parking lot.
She felt like a real girl. Smelled, cried, bled, screamed bloody-murder like a real girl … and he should know.
“Needs t’ be cleaned, don’t want an infection settin’ in,” he offered gently as Buffy watched him warily, keeping the sword at the ready.
“Is there any water … bandages … food?” Buffy asked him, lowering the sword slightly.
Spike drew his eyes up from the wound on Annie’s arm and met Buffy’s. The fluttering in his chest returned. Could this really be Buffy? When he’d gone to the cemetery, checked her grave and found it undisturbed, he was sure it was some kind of trick, but now … he didn’t know what to think. And this girl … she thought he was her father? How could that be true in any dimension?
He swallowed hard. There was a cacophony of warning bells blaring in his mind. This was a trick, some kind of trap, the warnings screamed at him. But he hadn’t survived this long, hadn’t become the Biggest Bad in a world of big bads, by listening to his mind. He’d done it as he’d done everything else in his unlife – with his gut, his heart. And the fluttering in his heart was overpowering the warning bells in his brain.
Spike dropped Annie’s arm and nodded slightly. “I’ll … get some supplies. Be back as soon as I can,” he offered before taking a step back, then turning and heading out the door. “Lock the door, stay quiet. More than just vamps out ‘ere,” he advised.
“Spike! Wait!” Buffy called, stepping towards him. Should she let him leave? What if he came back with reinforcements? What if he came back with Dru or ... maybe he had some of those big red-eyed vamps as minions. It could be a trick – a deadly trick. When he turned back to face her, his gaze met Buffy's and for the briefest of moments she thought she saw his heart through the wall of steel he'd erected. She extended the handle of the sword to him. “You might need this.”
Spike looked down at the hilt of the sword, then back up to meet her eyes again. The light fluttering in his chest turned into giant wings of joy soaring within him as he took the weapon from her. The warning bells in his mind turned into a beautiful carillon playing a dulcet, melodious refrain. He dared not speak but simply nodded and turned again, heading out into the perpetual twilight.
Buffy closed and locked the front door, then checked the kitchen door and did the same.
Apart from the fact that all the weapons chests and cupboards were emptied, it looked as if the Buffy that had lived here had simply gone out for a walk and would return at any moment. Dishes, with the remains of whatever last meal had been eaten permanently stuck to them, sat in the sink. A coffee mug sat on the counter with the dry, brown remnants of the coffee still coating the bottom of it. Coats hung on the rack near the front door, a pile of neatly folded kitchen towels sat on the dining room table, waiting to be put away. It all looked vaguely familiar to Buffy and she knew it was due to the dream-like memories that the PTB dropped into her mind from the other dimension.
Sure they were as secure as they could get, she and Annie went upstairs to find some clean clothes as they waited for Spike to return.
Upstairs, her mom’s room looked just as Buffy had left it after Joyce passed. She could never bring herself to move anything, to touch anything in that room after her mother died; not in any world. When she’d let Anya and Xander move into the house ‘back home’, they had cleared everything out and boxed it up for her. Those boxes sat in the basement on Crawford Street for many months before she had the courage to go through them.
Annie pulled Buffy out of her melancholy by asking, “Who’s Dawn?”
“Hmmm?” Buffy questioned, then saw the nameplate on the outside of one of the bedroom doors. A sign beneath it said, ‘Caution! You are now entering the ‘whatever’ zone.’
Buffy smiled sadly and opened the door to that room. “She was my sister. In this dimension, she was the Key,” Buffy tried to explain.
“I didn’t know you had a sister,” Annie told her as Buffy started looking through the dresser drawers in Dawn’s room for some clean clothes that would fit her daughter.
“I don’t … but …” Buffy sighed and sat down on the bed, pulling Annie with her. “You know there are lots of dimensions, right?” she asked her and Annie nodded. “Well, in this dimension, the Buffy that lived here had a sister named Dawn. She was the one created by the monks to hide the Key, instead of you.”
“Why’s dad … uhhh … or not dad but kinda …” Annie’s face scrunched up in consternation. “Why’s he acting so weird?” she finally settled on.
“Things were different here. We weren’t married … we weren’t … we weren’t anything really, I guess friends … sort of,” Buffy stammered, not really certain herself what in this dimension might be different than what she remembered. “That’s why they created Dawn instead of you.”
“Oh,” Annie whispered, looking down at her hands. “So … what should I call him? Spike?”
“Yeah, that might be best. You keep calling him ‘Dad’ and he’s probably gonna just keep freaking out,” Buffy advised.
“There’s blood here,” Annie noticed, looking down at the sheets where they were sitting. “Did Dawn die?”
Buffy and Annie both stood up and looked at the stains on the bed. It wasn’t a lot, but it was definitely blood. “I don’t know,” Buffy answered honestly. Obviously, whatever happened here wasn’t what she remembered.
“Here, let’s see what we can find to wear, ok?” Buffy suggested, changing the subject as she started looking through drawers again.
After finding some clothes for Annie to change into, they went into Buffy’s room and she pulled out some clean clothes for herself.
“There’s blood here, too,” Annie observed, looking at the bed.
Buffy set the clothes down on the dresser and walked to the end of the bed. The pastel comforter that lay across the mattress looked like a funeral shroud; the outline of a body, made in blood, clearly evident. Buffy shuddered slightly. Apparently someone had brought her back here after she died. Probably Spike.
“How do you think you … or she … this Buffy died?” Annie asked, looking at the bed.
Buffy shook her head. “She probably fell or jumped off something very high,” she guessed. Like Glory’s tower, she added to herself silently.
“Like a fire escape?” Annie queried, turning her eyes from the bed to her mother.
Buffy gave her a sad smile and pulled her into a hug. “Maybe … yeah, something like that.”
When Spike returned, Buffy got Annie cleaned up, her wounds disinfected and the long gash in her arm bandaged. After that, Annie changed into some old clothes they had found in Dawn’s closet. Buffy was sure the clothes would’ve been too small for Dawn. They were probably too good or too well liked to be put in the donations or rag box, so they’d been relegated to the back of the closet. They fit Annie perfectly.
Annie lay down on the bed, which had fresh, or at least non-blood-stained, sheets on it, and Buffy covered her up. “Try to get some rest now, ok?” Buffy admonished her. “I have a feeling tomorrow’s going to be another fun-filled day.”
Annie gave her mom a small smile, her features illuminated in the dark by the flickering of a small birthday candle that Buffy had found earlier in the back of a drawer in the kitchen. “Can we go home tomorrow?” Annie asked solemnly. “I don’t like it here.”
Buffy shook her head slightly but gave her girl a reassuring smile. “We’ll try,” was the best she could promise.
“You did so well today,” Buffy offered, brushing some stray hair back from her daughter’s face. “You were very brave. How did you get to be so brave?”
Annie smiled despite all the weariness and pain in her limbs and body from the exertion of the day. “I wasn’t brave. I was just scared.”
“If your dad was here, he’d say that all bravery is is being the only one who knows you’re scared,” Buffy assured her.
“I’m pretty sure the whole world knew I was scared by all the running and screaming,” Annie countered, rolling her eyes.
Buffy laughed lightly. “Well, sometimes being brave is just having the courage to run away. We’re here, aren’t we? That means they didn’t win,” Buffy pointed out.
Annie nodded thoughtfully. “But we didn’t win, either. It was a tie.”
“Yeah, I guess – but now we have more help and tomorrow we’ll get some real weapons. Your dad is gonna be so proud of you getting those fence pickets! You know what he’d say? He’d say you were ‘resourceful, like your mum,’” Buffy copied Spike’s accent badly. “He’d say you were a ‘bitty Buffy’.”
Annie smiled again and nodded. She liked that. She liked the idea that she’d inherited some Slayer skills from her mother and had been able to help in the fight today. A bubble of satisfaction swelled in her chest. After being sheltered for so long under her parents’ wings, Annie had proved today that she could fly. She could hear her father’s voice in her head, despite Buffy’s bad impersonation, and see the pride sparkle in his eyes. “Let’s go home tomorrow and tell him, ok?”
Buffy nodded. “We’ll try,” she offered again as she dropped a soft kiss on her daughter’s forehead. “I love you, sweet girl. Close your eyes now, get some sleep.”
“I love you too, Mom,” Annie replied as she closed her eyes. Despite thinking earlier that she would never be able to sleep in this crazy, scary place, her exhaustion overcame her almost immediately.
Buffy closed the door to Dawn’s bedroom with a heavy sigh, closing her eyes and leaning against it. It had been a long day … a very, very long day.
“Get ‘er to sleep, then?” Spike asked as he waited near the bathroom door.
“Yeah,” Buffy affirmed as she pushed off the door and headed towards him. She wanted nothing more than to walk up to Spike, wrap her arms around him and take comfort in his embrace, but this wasn’t her husband, she had to remember that. Spike, her Spike, would be here to find them soon, she assured herself. If they couldn’t find a way to get back through the portal, he and their friends would find a way to get to them. Then she could have that comforting hug.
“Ready to get you cleaned up?” Spike questioned, cocking a brow at her bloodied clothes.
“I … I can do it,” she stammered, suddenly self-conscious.
“Oh, got eyes in the back o’ your head, do ya? And arms that reach back there, too, I suppose,” he chided her.
Buffy had almost forgotten the wounds on her back from the … something … bats maybe, she couldn’t remember anymore. “What’s a gob of bats called, anyway?” she asked Spike, seemingly out of the blue.
“A gob of bats … is it a flock? Or a bunch or … herd … a pack, maybe?” she questioned as she moved past him into the candlelit bathroom and began cleaning the wounds she could reach.
Spike turned to watch her, leaning on the jamb as she started wiping her skin down with the water he’d brought. She paid close attention to all the scratches and punctures, the deep slice on her palm, and the jagged torn flesh on her neck.
“A colony … or a camp,” he answered. “Here, let me – I can see better,” he offered, taking the washcloth from her hands and cleaning the spots that she’d missed in the dim light.
“A colony,” Buffy repeated. “That sounds so … civilized. Those bats were definitely not civilized.”
Spike shrugged as he gently cleaned the wound on her neck, pausing when his eyes drifted to the marks on the other side of her neck. He reached a finger out and touched the white scar there, which stood out from her otherwise sun-kissed skin. Every vampire’s bite was unique, like a finger print, and there was no mistaking who had created that scar. Spike’s mind whirled. Who was this Buffy that would’ve let him get that close to her? Let him bite her, not just once but many times over?
“You ok?” Buffy asked, pulling him out of his musings.
Spike cleared his throat and nodded. “You’re gonna have t’ take your shirt off, Slayer. Can’t clean those wounds on your back with it on,” he informed her.
“Oh … right,” Buffy stammered, turning her back to him and lifting her shirt off over her head. She could feel him staring at her in the mirror, although she couldn’t see him, and she quickly held her shirt up over her chest, despite the cover of her bra.
Spike shifted uncomfortably and turned his attention to the deep puncture wounds and scratches on her back from the first bat that had attacked her. They stood in an awkward silence for a long while as he cleaned her wounds with the water, dropping her bra strap off her shoulder so he could get them all thoroughly. Then he pressed cotton balls soaked with alcohol onto her raw flesh. Buffy winced as the disinfectant stung her back and Spike muttered a soft apology.
Buffy turned around to face him before he’d finished, and locked her eyes on his. “What happened here, Spike?”
Spike stood transfixed by her eyes. His hand with an alcohol soaked cotton ball hung in midair from where she’d interrupted his ministrations. He couldn’t help but think how much she looked exactly like Buffy … his Buffy. She hadn’t aged a day. It was as if the last ten years didn’t even exist, but the wounds on her flesh contradicted that. The demons ruled; they had for over a decade.
Finally, he sighed, set the cotton and alcohol bottle down on the counter, and ran a hand back through his long hair. “Let’s get you cleaned up, yeah? Then I’ll give ya the whole, tragic tale.”
Buffy nodded and took a small step back, still holding her shirt up in front of her. “I think I can get the rest,” she told him softly. “Thanks.”
Spike pursed his lips together and nodded, stepping back and out of the bathroom. Buffy closed the door and dropped her grimy clothes on the floor, finished cleaning up, and then pulled on clean clothes she’d gotten out of … her room … or not her room, but Buffy’s room. Some other Buffy’s room.
When she emerged from the bathroom, she had all clean clothes and underclothes on and her hair pulled back into a ponytail at the nape of her neck. She wished she could’ve washed her hair, but there just wasn’t that much water.
Spike pushed off the wall where he’d been leaning waiting for her. “You should eat somethin’,” he advised, holding up a can of green beans and a can of creamed corn. Earlier, Annie had eaten the can of chicken noodle soup he’d brought with him.
Buffy smiled softly. “You’re stalling,” she informed him, but he just held the cans up higher and shook them in front of her, silently insisting she choose one.
“Corn,” she finally agreed and Spike gave her a small smile, then brought the demon up and opened the can with his fangs before handing it, along with a spoon, to her.
“Let’s sit, ok?” she offered, waving a hand at the stairs.
“Better to stay up here, luv. Less chance o’ being seen … or smelled, from the street,” he pointed out as he went into the bathroom and snuffed the candle there with his fingers, casting the entire house back into complete darkness. Not only was that safer, but candles weren’t easy to come by.
“Oh … ok,” Buffy agreed, going into her room and sitting down on the bed.
Spike stood in the doorway. He stuffed his hands down into the pockets of his jeans and shifted from one foot to the other, looking down at the floor as Buffy began to eat the canned corn. He’d been in her room many times since … since she’d died. He’d even made secret forays in here before that. But only once had he been in here with her actually in the room with him … and alive. ‘Every time you show up like this, you risk all of your parts, you know that?’ her words from that one night rang in his mind. He looked up at her – she was actually there. Right there. It seemed so strange to have her inviting him into her room now – like they were …
Buffy broke him out his thoughts when she noticed him staring at her … or actually through her, like he was looking through the translucent figure of a ghost. “You okay?”
The room was dark, not even any moonlight graced the un-curtained window. The constant smoke in the air blocked the night sky, just as it covered the sun in the daytime, but he could see her clearly and it gave him pause. Buffy. Buffy was home.
“Sit down. I won’t bite you,” she invited, waving her hand at the bed.
“Right,” Spike agreed, but instead sat down on the floor next to the bed, spreading his legs out in front of him and leaning his back against the side of the mattress.
Buffy sighed and nodded slightly. That would be better … less chance of giving in to the urge to hug him.
She sat back against the headboard as she ate the cold creamed corn from the can. It pretty much tasted like ‘can’ rather than corn, but did fill part of the empty space in her belly, at least.
“So,” Buffy began when Spike didn’t say anything. “Once upon a time in Sunnydale …”
Spike cleared his throat. “Right, then,” he began before launching into a tale of a vamp and a Slayer and her pesky friends and middle-aged Watcher turned shopkeeper in Sunnydale. Buffy had lived some of this story, heard most of the rest – or more accurately had it dropped into her memories, before. Right up to the point of Glory knocking the tower down, that was new.
When he paused, Buffy asked, “So, I know I’m dead, what about Dawn? Where’s she?”
“Back at base camp … that’s what we call it, at any rate. In the old Initiative headquarters, under the university,” Spike explained.
Buffy make an ‘eeek’ face that she didn’t think he could see, but he could actually see her reflected in the mirror that sat on the dresser to the side of the bed, directly in front of him.
“It was the easiest place to defend… no windows, only limited access points,” he explained further, before she could ask.
“And she’s … okay?”
Spike shook his head slightly. “No … she’s … she never … I’m so sorry, Buffy. I swear I tried, I …” Spike’s voice cracked and he swallowed hard, wiping at tears that threatened to fall from his eyes. “She never woke up. She’s alive but – in a coma, I reckon. That’s what the doc we had there for a while said. Couldn’t find anything physical wrong, a mental break, he said.
“I keep hopin’ one day…” Spike continued swallowing back his emotions. “Maybe now you’re here. Maybe if you talk to her, she’ll come back to us.”
“What about … Who else is in your group?” Buffy asked with trepidation, not sure she really wanted to know who did or didn’t make it.
Spike took a deep breath and let it out slowly, pulling his emotions back under control. “Got about thirty people left in our group now – had more at one time, but ...” his voice trailed off and he shrugged. Buffy took that to mean they’d been slowly getting killed by the demons. “Most were strangers, came to us looking for help. Ones that you’d know … uhhh … Harris and Glinda. Red’s wolf-boy Oz showed up ‘bout a month after – he comes and goes though, prefers a solitary life. I reckon you might know geek-boy Warren and his puppy, Andrew… uhhh,” Spike paused for a few long moments as he thought, then finally concluded, “I reckon that’s it.”
Buffy’s brows shot up. “That’s it?! Willow? Giles? Anya?” Buffy asked and Spike shook his head. Buffy closed her eyes and took a deep breath, again reminding herself that this was not her world. “What about Angel and his group in L.A.?” she asked at length.
Spike rolled his eyes. “Peaches came down when it first happened, but he went back to L.A. a long time ago – never came back,” Spike explained. “Shame that,” he added sarcastically.
“So … is the whole world this way or just here? How far have they spread?” Buffy wondered.
“Not rightly sure,” Spike admitted. “Anyone that leaves never comes back – not sure if that means they got out or just got turned into Happy Meals.”
“You’ve never tried to get out?” Buffy questioned.
Spike shook his head. “At first, thought we could fight ‘em back … but there were just too many. Then the doc we had said not to move Dawn, could make it worse, so I didn’t dare it. When the Hellmouth started spewing them uber-vamps out, they started killing off the Otherworld demons. Helped a good bit, that did. Now got no way t’ get out. None of the cars’ll run, petrol is long gone and I reckon you’ve seen how hard it is to move about on the streets.”
“What about a Slayer? Who’s the Slayer?” Buffy asked him.
Spike shook his head. “Don’t know if Faith’s still about or …” Spike shrugged. “Whoever the Chosen One is, she ain’t choosin’ to be ‘round here.”
“I’m sorry,” Buffy offered softly. “I’m … I’m sorry I let you down. I know you did everything you could, Spike.”
Spike shook his head. “No … I … I let you down, Buffy. Gave ya’ my word and …” Spike’s voice trailed off and he turned and looked up at her. “I saved you, not when it mattered, of course, but after that … every night after that, I saved you both hundreds of times, dozens of different ways. I could’a been just a little faster, a little smarter...
“Three thousand, six hundred and fifteen days, Buffy. For three thousand, six hundred and fifteen days I’ve dreamed of saving you. I’ve stayed ‘ere, protected Dawn, fought the demons of the Otherworld and the ones that poured outta the Hellmouth. I turned m’ heart into stone and waited for some miracle to come along. And here you are,” Spike admitted, reaching a hand out and laying it over hers where it rested on the bed.
Buffy blinked tears back and swallowed the lump in her throat as she shook her head. “I’m no miracle, Spike … I’m just … an accident.”
“Sometimes ya gotta take what you can get, pet,” Spike observed, squeezing her hand.
“I can’t stay here, Spike – this isn’t my place. We have … I have a family, friends – people who depend on me back home,” Buffy explained softly.
Spike nodded sadly. “I know,” he admitted. “Does that … do those friends include … me?”
The tears Buffy was trying to hold back burst from her eyes and streaked her cheeks and she nodded, unable to speak.
“And the girl … Anne? She’s … mine? I’m really ‘er father?”
Again Buffy nodded, trying to swallow back her emotions. She knew how hard this must be for him. He’d toiled and fought and suffered with no chance of ever seeing the woman he loved again. Then, in a quirk of fate, she was here! Hope must’ve swelled within him, only to be dashed painfully with the realization that she couldn’t stay. It was like the universe was playing a cruel joke on him, building him up just so it could yank everything away at the last moment; like Lucy yanking the football away from the hapless Charlie Brown.
Her time in the Wish World came back to her. She’d been in that hell for only five years before she’d given up; Spike had been in this one over ten. But, of course, his mission wasn’t complete. Dawn was still alive, in a coma, but still alive. He’d promised to protect her until the end of the world, and Buffy knew that he would – no matter how long that was.
“And … her name …” Spike pressed further.
“Your mother’s … and mine,” Buffy confirmed what she knew he already knew.
“Tell me, Buffy – tell me about your world.”
And so Buffy did. She told him of how he’d helped her defeat Angelus and Acathla and how he’d gotten his soul restored by accident. She told him about Dru dusting and Annie being the Key and a very abridged, Reader’s Digest version of nearly everything since then.
Spike sat in silence and listened, like a child enthralled with a fantastic, dreamy bedtime story because for him, that’s what it was – a dream. In fact, it was more than anything he’d ever dared to dream, it was a fairy tale. Spike’s heart was lifted with joy when she told him of their children and their friends. He honestly couldn’t believe her contention that he was loved and respected by her friends … their friends, or how he’d been accepted into the group. But, at the same time pangs of jealousy stabbed into that elation and weighed heavily on his heart. Why had one Spike been granted such a wonderful gift, practically cast into heaven, while he had been forgotten, left to this dreary existence in the depths of what could only be described as hell on earth? It seemed iniquitous and unfathomable, and again Spike thought that God must have a terribly sick sense of humor.
When Buffy had finished her fairy tale she’d thought of some other questions for Spike. When he didn’t seem to have any questions for her, she forged ahead. “Can I ask you a couple more things?”
“What happened to Glory?”
Spike shrugged. “Reckon she got where she was going. Never saw ‘er since …” his voice trailed off.
Buffy nodded solemnly. “What’s with the smoke?” she asked, waving a hand at the dark window and sky beyond.
“The vamps … the ones from the Otherworld, started it. The fires burn constantly to block out the sun so they can … we can move about during the day,” Spike explained.
“For ten years? What are they burning?”
Spike shrugged. “Smells like tires … not rightly sure. Never actually saw the fires, just the smoke.”
“So, they can dust in the sun then – like … regular vamps? Those Jack O’ Lantern basketball vamps and the bats, too?”
Spike nodded, smiling slightly at her description of the tall, thin vamps from the Otherworld. “Rutilus Diabolus vamps,” he informed her.
“The proper name of the … Jack O’ Lantern basketball vamps, pet – Rutilus Diabolus.”
“Right. Like I said – Jack O’ Lantern basketball vamps. I think we’ll just call them ‘Jacks’ for short.”
Spike laughed lightly. He’d missed her way of looking at the world, even if the world was full of Jack O’ Lantern basketball vamps. “We call ‘em ‘Reds’,” he offered.
Buffy shrugged. “Po-taaa-to, po-taww-to.
“Are the Turok-Han still coming out of the Hellmouth?” she asked next.
Again Spike nodded. “They take it in spells – a bunch’ll come out, we’ll fight ‘em … kill a few. The rest? I reckon they disperse … maybe head for redder pastures. Not much left here for ‘em to eat.”
“Where do you get the water and the food and other supplies?”
“Got a well … a pump that geek-boy Warren ‘MacGyvered’ down in the base camp for the water. There’s an old generator the soldiers left that’s tapped into natural gas – he got that working again. He’s a right wanker, but knows his stuff with all that rot. Surprised really he hasn’t run off – been here since the start, reckon he’s too much of a ponce to dare it alone.
“Thankfully, the soldier boys lived by the Boy Scout pledge – prepared for apocalypse number … whatever this one was.
“We raise some food. The canned goods and other supplies we scavenged from houses, the hospital, schools and the like for a while. Now we have t’ go to the docks and plunder in the holds of the ships that were left there,” Spike explained.
Buffy nodded thoughtfully. She didn’t think she’d ever actually met Warren in her life, but she definitely remembered him as the leader of the … What did they call themselves? The Trio of Geeky Desperation or something like that? She was surprised by his presence in this world and even more by him helping them. Perhaps he wasn’t helping the others so much as himself. That would make more sense.
“You don’t have your chip anymore,” it was more an observation than a question.
Spike looked up at her and shrugged slightly. “Actually do … it’s still floating around in there, it just don’t work anymore,” he told her, tapping a finger on the back of his head. “Started firing willy-nilly one day … bloody painful, that was. Thought for sure I was done for. Wouldn’t stop, just on and on,” he continued. “Geek-boy was able to use some of the equipment down there to disarm it … finally. Took him bloody long enough. Had a soddin’ migraine for a bloody month after that.”
“But you’re still not feeding off humans.” Buffy posed it like a fact, but it was really a question.
Spike shook his head and shrugged. “Outta the habit, I reckon. Don’t smoke anymore, either.”
Buffy smiled. Only Spike would compare not killing people to giving up smoking.
“You probably ran out of cigarettes,” she guessed.
Spike shrugged again. “Yeah, well … still counts as quittin’.”
Spike suddenly pulled his legs up under him and stood up. “You should get some kip, pet. I’ll stand watch.”
Buffy frowned. She was exhausted, but she didn’t want him to leave. On the other hand, she didn’t know how to ask him to stay without it sounding like she was offering him more than she could give.
“You can’t … stand watch here?” she asked hesitantly.
“Best downstairs,” he replied, his tone clipped as he moved toward the door and stepped through. “Good night,” he called softly as he pulled the door closed behind him.
“Good night,” Buffy whispered back to the empty room.
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