|Story Title:||Miles To Go Before I Sleep|
Buffy has a plan to fix things – Spike is the linchpin of it, but will he unknowingly foil their salvation in his attempt to help?
My Sacrifice by Creed http://youtu.be/O-fyNgHdmLI
|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 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.
Tuesday morning, May 10th, 2011, Gift-less Universe:
Buffy awoke to the heavenly aroma of sausage grilling, which wafted through the air, filling the room as if carried on a breeze. With her eyes still closed, she sighed and inhaled deeply as she snuggled down against Spike’s hard chest. She wondered if anyone would notice if they just stayed in bed all day. Surely, between Bess and Annie, they could handle Dani, Billy, and MacKenzie for one day…
Then her stomach rumbled and growled like a grizzly bear’s … one that had just awoken from a six-month long hibernation. Well, maybe they could go down for breakfast, then spend the rest of the day in bed.
Spike’s hands wandered over her back, his fingertips stirring gentle waves of pleasure up and down her warm skin.
“I have missed waking in your arms these long weeks, Avengelyne,” he whispered against her ear.
Buffy jerked awake. She pushed up with her arms, rising slightly from her position still atop him and settling back onto his hips. Reality crashed down around her when she saw the short, brown hair rather than Spike’s normally longer, bleached locks. She had to bite her bottom lip to keep from screaming out with surprise as the half-sleep dream of being at home withered and died behind her shocked eyes.
“Is something the matter, my dear?” William asked with concern at her alarmed look.
Buffy took a deep breath and shook her head, which, along with the rest of their bodies, was still covered by the sheet. “No … everything’s fine. I just … forgot where we were for a minute,” she offered as an excuse, not mentioning that she’d forgotten that he was William and not Spike.
She dropped her lips to his and kissed him softly. She loved William, but at the same time she wished for Spike to be here with her now. Of course, she would never tell him that; the crestfallen look he’d had the night before was one she’d just as soon never see again.
“Indeed,” he agreed. “It is difficult to remember that we are in …” William stopped and tilted his head slightly on his pillow as he looked up at her. “Just where are we, Avengelyne? Is this … where angels go when they … pass? Perhaps it is a test of your faith? Is this the proverbial river you must cross to enter the Kingdom?”
Buffy smiled a little at that and shook her head. “Noooo … I think mostly it’s just hell.”
William gave her a worried look. “Then why are you smiling, my dear?”
“Because I know how to get out,” she announced confidently as she lifted up one edge of the sheet to see if they were still alone in the room. They were.
Buffy slid off William and began searching under the covers for her jeans and underwear, which she was sure had to be here somewhere.
“You do? How?” William asked excitedly as he pulled his jeans back up and fastened them over his morning erection. He would’ve liked to have had time to make love with her before another day in hell got underway … but it was obvious from the sounds and smells coming from the other room that their ‘roommates’ were up and about.
“Spike can fix it. We can use the red goo from the vampire’s dust mixed with holy water and Spike can go back in time and … tell himself how to fix it,” Buffy explained quickly as she found her underwear and jeans and began to wriggle back into them while still staying under the sheet.
“That red goo, as you call it, nearly killed you,” William pointed out.
Buffy shrugged. “Yeah, but it didn’t.”
“And how is it that you’ve come to this epiphany?”
Buffy finally tossed the sheet away, and she and William stood up from their mattress that lay on the floor. “As soon as I find that sausage, I’ll tell you. I’m starving!”
William smiled at her – when wasn’t she starving? He inclined his head towards a door off to the right. “I believe your salvation is in that direction, my dear.”
“Thank you, kind sir,” she intoned before taking his hand and heading off in search of sustenance.
Andrew was firmly ensconced in a small kitchenette. Sausage sizzled in a heavy, cast-iron frying pan and he was just spooning out something that looked suspiciously like scrambled eggs from another pan onto two plates near him.
He gave the pair a warm smile when they entered his little domain. “Hey! Spike was right! He said if I started cooking, that you’d get up. He really knows all about Slayers … he’s amazing! You know, he spent over a century just studying the Slayer mentality and legacy. He really takes that whole ‘know your enemy’ mantra to heart.”
Buffy cocked a brow at him. “Yeah, Spike’s the all-knowing one,” Buffy retorted. “He also knows that I haven’t eaten in God knows how long and any hungry person would wake up for sausage and … are those eggs?”
“I haven’t seen any chickens,” Buffy pointed out suspiciously.
“Powdered … but … we call them eggs. If you close your eyes and don’t inhale, they sort of feel like eggs in your mouth. Just swallow fast.”
Buffy looked at the two plates and asked Andrew, “Have you already eaten?”
“Uhhh … no.” Andrew looked at William and then at Buffy with confusion. “I thought …”
“We’ll need another plate. I’m sure William would want some breakfast to go with his … juice.”
Andrew’s mouth formed a perfect ‘O’, then he narrowed his eyes conspiratorially and nodded slowly. “Riiight … William,” he agreed, knowingly.
Buffy suggested that William get a shower before breakfast. He started to argue, saying he’d had one before bed the night before, but at her pleading look, and the thought of that amazing contraption that rained warm water down without the aid of a fire or hauling it from the well, he acquiesced and excused himself. While he was gone, Buffy had Andrew draw a full pint of blood and put it in a carafe, like juice, for William to have with his meal.
Over breakfast, Buffy explained what she’d figured out in her dream about the Reds’ dust and what happens when it mixes with holy water. She went on to tell William and Andrew how they could use that to astral-project Spike back in time where he could give himself some much-needed advice.
“So,” she asked as she forced down the last bite of powdered eggs and wiped her mouth, “Where is our fearless leader, anyway? Still playing with the dollies in the cabinet?” she quipped, tilting her head in the general direction of the bedroom.
Andrew cleared his throat and stood up abruptly, grabbing the empty dishes and glasses from the table with slightly shaking hands. “They aren’t ‘dollies’! They’re ‘collectable action figures’ and they’re very valuable,” he defended with a sniff.
“Oookay,” Buffy drawled slowly. “Put the attitude down and back away, Andrew. Didn’t mean to insult your … hobby. It was just a joke.”
Andrew turned and took the dishes to the sink, but never answered Buffy’s question, so, she asked again. “And Spike is where?”
“I … wouldn’t know anything about that,” he offered, his back to her. “In fact, I have no idea where Spike is. And … if I did, I couldn’t tell you … because I don’t know,” he continued to ramble nervously as he began to run water over the dishes.
Buffy raised her brows and stared at Andrew’s back a moment as he busied himself at the sink. “Where is Spike?” she demanded in a low, deliberate voice.
Andrew shrugged but didn’t turn around. “How should I know? I mean … who am I? I’m nobody. Spike barely talks to me … I mean … if he went off to rescue your friend from the Reds, he wouldn’t tell me, right? I’d be the last one…”
“What!?” Buffy exclaimed, jumping up from her seat. She covered the few feet to Andrew in three long strides and jerked him around by one arm to face her. “He did what!?”
Andrew cleared his throat nervously. “More eggs?” he asked, his voice cracking like a prepubescent boy, as he reached for the pan that still held some of the powdered, yellow concoction.
Buffy grasped his throat with her right hand and started to squeeze. Her fingers felt much better today. “When did he leave?” she snarled at him. “How long has he been gone?”
Andrew opened his mouth, but no sound came out. He grabbed at her hand and his throat with both of his, silently telling her she was strangling him.
Buffy loosened her grip slightly and Andrew gasped in a deep breath.
“How long ago?” Buffy demanded again.
After a few raspy gasps, Andrew finally said, “Four hours or so… right after you guys … finished.”
Buffy’s mouth opened and closed in shock for a moment. “But we … we were quiet!” she protested, dropping her hand from his throat.
Andrew bent forward and rubbed his bruised flesh. “Vampire hearing,” he explained.
“Hmph! What’s your excuse?” Buffy demanded, crossing her arms over her chest.
Andrew looked at her with pleading eyes. “Jedi hearing?” he offered weakly.
Buffy rolled her eyes and stepped back away from him. “Let’s go,” she directed, turning around and looking at William.
“No!” Andrew insisted, panicking. “I’m supposed to keep you here! If you go, Spike will bite me! He’ll kill me! He said he’d make sure I suffered … and not in a good way!”
“Yeah, well, if I stay, I’ll strangle you for being a little weasel – so, take your pick,” Buffy called back over her shoulder.
Andrew cringed. “You’ll tell him I tried, right? Tell him you tortured me for hours and threatened to disembowel me, ok?”
Buffy rolled her eyes as she left the kitchenette, William right on her heels.
“Perhaps we should wait for him to return,” William suggested as she went to retrieve their weapons.
“If it’s been four hours, he’s probably not gonna return,” Buffy informed her husband. “If he’s still undead, we need to get him back here – he’s the only one that can get us home.” She didn’t tell William everything that was riding on her plan of Spike fixing things – like Annie’s legs; she didn’t think he would be able to grasp it. He couldn’t even fully grasp that Bess was actually … Bess – their daughter.
William snorted derisively. “Our fate is dependent on a hooligan maverick of a soulless vampire with yellow hair?”
Buffy gave a quick glance over her shoulder at William and his shorn locks. If he only knew. “Yep, so there’s nothing to worry about … as long as he hasn’t gotten himself dusted.”
William sighed and cocked a brow at her back as he followed her out of Room 314. He hoped she was right.
Buffy and William made their way onto the Mexican Reefer without being detected by the Reds. They'd only met one sentry on duty and Buffy had taken it out with her scythe before it could sound a warning. It actually was a bit worrisome. Where were they all?
Buffy and William ducked into an empty room that looked like it had, at one time, been the purser’s office so Buffy could try and sense where Spike was on the ship. Unfortunately, having her husband so close made that task much more difficult; the two were identical in nearly every way, including the way their presence tingled down her spine.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath as she tried to concentrate on the difference between them – their souls. She’d felt the difference with the Spike from this world before – his soul was there, but didn’t touch her as strongly as her husband’s. Now she just needed to wade through all the similarities and latch onto that one difference. It was like trying to find one specific grain of sand on a mile-long beach.
While she worked, William perused the discarded papers that were strewn around the office.
“Avengelyne …” William interrupted her after a few minutes.
“Shhh!” Buffy shushed him, holding up a finger but never opening her eyes.
William waited and watched. After another couple of minutes he began again, “I do believe …”
“Shhhh! I have to concentrate!”
William blew out a breath and waited. Nothing happened. “If you’d simply …”
“William! Seriously!” Buffy snapped at him before taking another deep breath and trying to regain her focus.
“Elizabeth, if you’d allow me to finish …”
Buffy spun on him angrily. “Christ, you’re here less than a day and the annoyance that is Spike has already rubbed off on you! What, William? What is it?”
William cocked a brow at her and held up a map of the ship. He pointed to one section on a lower deck. “Brig,” he said simply. “If they’ve captured Bess, they’d likely have her there. If Spike was coming for her, then perhaps he too is there.”
Buffy shook her head and huffed out a breath. “Why didn’t you say so before?”
“I believe I …”
“Never mind – let’s go. It’s more than what I’ve got,” she interrupted him.
There still weren’t many Reds out and about on the deck of the Mexican Reefer today. Buffy still found this worrisome, but she wasn't going to complain ... yet. She did see a several piles of red glitter strewn around, and that told her where at least some of them had gone – it also told her they were on the right track. Follow the sparkling, red road – hopefully, it would lead them to the Wizard, or to Spike, at any rate.
She just hoped they weren’t too late. If he was dust, then the best she could do would be try to go back herself and keep Spike and Bess from going on the mission with Angel. It may, at least, save Annie’s legs. That solution was less than ideal – who knew what untold ramifications that could have, not the least of which being a nuclear disaster right off the West coast. It would also have no impact on the Gift-less dimension at all. Buffy would still be dead here, Dawn would still be in a coma, and Spike would still be with Riley. It made her skin crawl thinking about it … not the dead part, the Riley part.
As Buffy and William reached the fourth landing in the stairwell on their trek down into the bowels of the ship, she heard someone coming down the corridor. She put a finger to her lips and moved to one side of the door that joined the stairwell and the passageway. Then she signaled for William to stand at the ready on the other side of the opening. She could hear them talking – it sounded like at least two. She knew with certainty they were Reds from the hissing ‘S’s on their words, even though she couldn’t actually hear the whole conversation.
Buffy drew her scythe back and William did the same with his sword as they waited. When the first Red stepped through the narrow opening, Buffy swung, slicing the vamp’s head off cleanly. Before its companion could even blink, William stabbed it in its stomach. When the second vamp doubled over in shock and pain, Buffy came down on its neck with her scythe, dusting it easily.
Buffy gave her husband a smile. He may not remember being Spike, but the vampire’s instincts and years of training and battling were still there. He and Buffy still worked and fought together like a well-oiled machine. That gave Buffy more confidence – she hadn’t been sure if William would freeze up in the face of the Reds, despite his claims that he had battled them in the basement on Crawford Street.
“Good job,” she whispered to him.
William smiled and stood up a little straighter, then gave her a little nod. “You, as well.”
“Ok … which way?” Buffy continued in a low voice, hoping maybe William could smell Spike or Bess, or even hear them.
William pointed to a sign in the passageway. It said ‘Brig’ with an arrow to the right.
“Handy,” Buffy whispered as she started through the door. She just hoped William’s intuition … or whatever it was, was right about Bess, and hopefully Spike, being there.
They made their way in silence down the narrow passageway towards the brig. Buffy hoped they wouldn’t meet any of the tall vamps in this small space … fighting would be difficult at best. The moment she had that thought she cursed herself – that was like inviting trouble.
Can you hear anything? Buffy asked him through the bond.
There are at least seven distinct voices ahead, William sent her back. Buffy was glad he was getting the hang of the bond, but the news didn’t fill her with joy.
One is Spike … one is Bess, he continued and that made Buffy feel much better; only five would be hostiles.
They are demanding he return something that was stolen from them … a scroll and a manuscript, William continued.
He’s telling them to … William continued.
Let me guess – ‘sod off’, Buffy interrupted. Or ‘get stuffed’ …. maybe ‘get bent’ … or all three.
Indeed, William agreed, slightly disturbed that she knew this vampire, Spike, so well.
They came up to a heavy, steel door with ‘BRIG’ stenciled on it in big, red letters.
Buffy tried to listen through it to get an idea of where in the room beyond the voices were, but could only hear muffled, indistinct sounds.
Can you tell where they are inside? she sent to him.
William looked at her strangely – couldn’t she tell? She was supposed to be the Slayer, wasn’t she? Perhaps she was testing him, analyzing his abilities; he was new to all this, after all.
Most are to the left, he told her, waving a hand at the wall to the left of the door. Bess is to the right … she’s imploring Spike to simply give them what they seek.
Buffy nodded and took a deep breath as she tried the handle on the door. It wasn’t locked, but the latch made a loud scrubbing noise as it slid out of the door jamb.
Damn it, Buffy cursed to herself. Giving up on the stealth, she flung the door open wide and entered the room with her scythe raised, ready to strike. The door clanged against the wall behind it as several pairs of glowing red eyes turned and stared at her for a moment. The brief moment of surprise allowed her to dust one with little effort, but then the advantage had passed.
William moved in behind her, and Buffy yelled at him to unchain Bess as she continued to move forward towards the four remaining Reds that surrounded Spike. Her eyes scanned the scene quickly. Spike had been beaten badly. He was chained to the bars of one of the cells in the brig. The heavy chain was wrapped around his torso, nearly covering him from armpits to waist. One of his arms dangled uselessly at his side, obviously broken or torn from the shoulder socket. His other arm was covered in angry burns, as if it had been dunked in holy water or perhaps simply burnt with good, old-fashioned fire. His face was a horrific, swollen tableau of blood and bruises. He was upright, but only because of the chains holding him; his feet sagged against the floor, his legs too weak to actually stand.
The Reds that had been surrounding him were all covered in blood – Spike’s blood, Buffy knew without doubt. They also had some injuries, apparently meted out by Spike before his capture, but nothing that wouldn’t be healed in short order.
The four Reds left their captive and surged at the new threat like a wall of massive marble. Their lithe, hard forms moved like the wind as their long arms whipped at her in a blur of sharp nails. Buffy ducked instinctively, sweeping one leg out and swinging her scythe at the same time as the vampires clawed at her.
Suddenly, the massive stone wall crumpled into a tumble of blood and limbs and shrieks of pain. She had managed to slice all four of them across their abdomens, and, although her leg sweep only actually knocked two of them down, the other two tripped over their fallen clansmen, sending them all to the floor in a heap.
Buffy used her momentum and turned in a full circle as she gracefully rose back up from her squatting position like an ice skater coming out of a sit spin.
She brought her scythe around to bear on the tangle of bodies on the floor, aiming for necks, as the Reds struggled against each other to get up and resume their attack.
Another of the beasts burst into crimson glitter and Buffy’s confidence grew. As she raised her weapon for another strike, one of the vamps grabbed her ankle with a clawed hand and yanked her feet out from under her. The Slayer fell to the floor onto her butt with a dull thud that rattled her teeth, but she kept a hold of the scythe and swung at the thin, strong arm that was now attached to her leg. Blood splattered Buffy’s face and torso as she severed the limb from its owner’s body. She was temporarily blinded, reflexively closing her eyes against the spray of sparkling crimson. Before she could force them open again, she was knocked onto her back by the relatively un-hurt Red that remained from the original group.
Before she could fight that vamp off, she heard Spike shout a warning of, “Behind you!” She wasn’t sure if he was talking to her or William – but either way it didn’t bode well; it meant there were more Reds there.
Suddenly, the small room was full of the sounds of battle. Claws and steel clanged, fists met fangs, demons snarled and growled, and cries of pain and jubilation filled the air. The weight atop Buffy was suddenly gone and she looked up through a glittery veil to see Bess standing over her, Spike’s blessed sword in her hand.
“Mom!” she called in surprise and elation, grabbing Buffy’s hand and pulling her to her feet. “There are two Spikes!” she exclaimed as she turned and swung the sword at a Red that was approaching from behind the women.
“Yeah, cool, huh?” Buffy agreed, taking a swipe at another Red that had just come through the door, and dusting it before it had a chance to join the fight. She could see that Bess had also been badly beaten, although her bruises and cuts had started to heal. Apparently, the Reds had been concentrating on Spike in the last few hours.
“Dad’s the one with no hair, right?” Bess wondered as her sword severed the outstretched fingers of another vamp.
“Yeah … the one that’s not chained up,” Buffy told her, as she turned to find William sparring with two of the tall vamps on the other side of the room. “He thinks his name is William, though – don’t call him Spike, it freaks him out.”
“Still? Angel said that would pass,” Bess continued the conversation as if they were sitting in a coffee shop rather than battling giant vampires in the brig of a ship.
Buffy shrugged. “It will … eventually … I think.”
“OI! If you bints would stop yammering and unchain me, I could bloody well help,” Spike called from behind them.
Buffy stole a glance over her shoulder at him. “You can’t even stand up,” she pointed out.
“Still rather not be strung up ‘ere like a side a’ beef,” Spike barked back.
“Can you get him?” Buffy asked Bess. “I’ll keep them back.”
Bess nodded, swinging the blessed sword one more time at an approaching vampire before retreating behind Buffy towards Spike.
Buffy saw William struggling as he fought with two Reds. His moves were fine, but he just had a regular sword, not the blessed one Spike used. Dusting the large vampires was more difficult without the added ‘mojo’ in his weapon. Buffy’s attention was drawn back to the vamps she was fighting for a few moments, then, when she looked back, she saw William dust one of the vampires and relief washed over her. His instincts and fighting skills were perfect – he just needed his conscious mind to untangle the protective web it had woven and remember who he was. It had taken Angel weeks to come out of his regression to Liam; she hoped it wouldn’t take William as long.
The stream of Reds flowing into the brig slowed and finally stopped. It worried Buffy, but she still wasn’t ready to look a gift horse in the mouth. She wondered if that applied to Trojan horses. Wouldn’t it be best to look a gift horse in the mouth rather than have it enter your kingdom full of enemy troops? Who wrote these sayings, anyway?
“Let’s get out of here!” she ordered the group as the last Red floated to the floor, joining the sea of red, both blood and dust, that littered it.
Buffy took the lead, followed by Bess who was supporting Spike with his 'good arm', which was only burned, not broken, draped across her shoulders, and William brought up the rear.
“Is there any other way out other than these stairs?” Buffy asked in a whisper to her vampire cohorts.
Spike shook his head ‘no’.
Bess said, “They’re good at ambushing you – trapping you.”
“Yeah,” Buffy agreed. “Been there, done that … got the pet leeches to prove it.”
“There’s no other way to get to the deck,” Spike rasped out, his voice reflecting the pain that he was in.
Buffy looked at him. He looked worse than he had when he was chained to the bars of the cell. Bess was keeping him upright, but his feet dragged on the floor more than walked next to her. Based on the deep red stains on his clothes he’d lost a lot of blood, and the cuts and bruises she could see spoke of the beating he’d taken. At least he wasn’t dust. Now, if they could just get out of here with him in one piece … more or less.
“I suggest we continue to move, Avengelyne. He who hesitates is lost,” William advised from behind Bess and Spike.
With great effort, Spike turned his head and looked at his doppelganger. “Woulda’ figured you for a ‘look before you leap’ kinda bloke, William,” Spike scoffed.
“Well then you, sir, would be wrong. Andrew may think you a genius, but I remain quite unconvinced,” William shot back scathingly.
Spike snorted and adjusted his position against Bess. “Yeah, well, who’s got the pretty bird fondling their hot, tight little body and who’s back there bringing up the rear?”
Buffy sighed and spoke before William could retort. “Let’s go – William’s right. We aren’t getting anywhere standing here.”
Buffy started up the stairs, then heard Spike curse in pain behind her and turned around. Bess was having a hard time getting him up the stairs in his upright position. His legs were still not functioning well enough to really help her.
Buffy frowned and hurried back down to them. “Here,” she said to Bess, as she leaned down and pressed her shoulder into Spike’s abdomen. “Put him on my shoulder and you take point.”
“I bloody well will not be carried outta here like a ponce!” Spike protested even as Bess loosened her grip on his arm and leaned them both forward towards Buffy.
“Get over it, Spike,” Buffy moaned. “Andrew rescued you from the bug – you really can’t get any more poncy than that.”
Spike snarled a curse under his breath, but didn’t really have the energy to argue or fight with the Slayer…s. Slayers – two bloody Slayers. His reputation was doomed.
With Spike balanced on her shoulder in a fireman’s carry, Buffy handed Bess the scythe. “Give your sword to William: it’s blessed, it works better, I’ll take his.”
“OI! Don’t be slashing the blasted floor with m’ sword and dulling it!” Spike barked at William as he hung over Buffy’s shoulder.
“Perhaps I could slash you and dull your tongue,” William retorted dryly as he took the sword from Bess and handed Buffy his.
“Ok, boys – no one’s slashing anything but Reds,” Buffy chastised them. “Let’s go.”
At the first landing, Buffy paused and shifted Spike on her shoulder. “You need to eat more, your hip bone’s digging in,” she complained.
Spike snorted. “Dreamt o’ hearing that for years, pet,” he replied saucily.
“That is my wife you’re speaking to,” William growled at Spike, rapping the vamp sharply on the head with the flat of his own sword’s blade. “I suggest you keep your vulgarities to yourself.”
“Weren’t too worried ‘bout vulgarities last night, then, were ya?” Spike tossed back. “Tsk, tsk, William. All that dirty dancing right out in the bloody open.”
William began to sputter incomprehensibly, and Spike began to laugh, but the effort turned into a wet cough and blood spattered from his lips.
Buffy began to chastise her ‘boys’ again, but stopped herself when Spike started coughing. “Are you alright? Do you need to …”
“Just keep goin’,” Spike rasped out between gags.
Buffy nodded at Bess and the Slayer-vamp headed up the next flight of stairs, all senses on alert and scythe at the ready.
After ascending three full flights, Bess could see the dim light of the perpetual twilight filtering down from above. They were close. Very close. Of course, she’d been close before.
“They’re comin’,” Spike announced hoarsely as his torso hung down Buffy’s back in the fireman’s carry.
Buffy froze. “I don’t hear anything,” she whispered back.
“Smell ‘em …” Spike explained.
Buffy furrowed her brow and looked at Bess. Bess shrugged. The whole ship smelled like them to her.
“Go! Faster!” Buffy instructed Bess, her voice low but urgent.
Bess went. She ran up the stairs ahead of Buffy, Spike, and William, hoping to at least get to a landing that opened into a passageway before the Reds descended on them. At least there would be some small chance of escape there, unlike being trapped on a landing between decks.
She still didn’t smell them any more strongly than she had, but now she could hear them. Spike had been right. It wasn’t just one or two, either – it sounded like an army of feet pounding toward them. Bess got to a landing that opened onto the main deck and urged Buffy and William on – they could escape! She could see the water just a few yards down the passageway from the staircase. But, before Buffy, struggling up the stairs with the added weight of Spike on her shoulder, could reach her, the view of the water disappeared behind a wall of tall, chalky, red-eyed vampires.
Bess lunged out into the hall, scythe whipping in the air, and tried to drive the Reds back. They hesitated, but didn’t retreat. They hissed and growled and several of them let out a long, shrill cry which, by now, the prisoners had heard all too often.
“They’re … calling … reinforce … ments,” Buffy gasped out between breaths when she reached Bess, readjusting Spike on her shoulder like a sack of potatoes. The other way was clear, but it led deeper into the ship. They’d have to cross the full width of the vessel to find the water again. Buffy was turned around and wasn’t sure which way land, or the gangplank, actually was. She didn’t relish another swim with the leeches, but it was better than the alternative.
“Let’s go!” Buffy urged Bess and William, who were right behind her. Buffy turned away from the approaching army and headed towards the center of the vessel, followed closely by Bess and William.
“That’s what they want you to do, Slayer!” Spike argued. “They’re herding you like a soddin’ sacrificial lamb to slaughter!”
“Yeah, well, I may look like a lamb,” Buffy retorted. “But I bite like a wolf.”
Despite the pain from his injuries, which was intensified by the way Buffy was jostling him on her shoulder with every step, Spike smiled and gave a small snort. “That you do, pet.”
The group hadn’t gotten more than twenty yards down the narrow passageway when the ‘hammer’ part of the ‘anvil and hammer’ military strategy appeared before them.
“Shit,” Buffy cursed under her breath when she saw the other end of the corridor fill with vampires.
“Baaaa,” Spike mocked under his breath. Buffy turned in the narrow hallway and accidentally banged Spike’s head against the wall with a dull thud. “Owww! Bloody hell!”
“Sarcastic sheep need to learn to keep their mouths shut,” Buffy informed him as she opened the nearest door and disappeared inside.
William and Bess followed her quickly, slamming and locking the door behind them. Bess started to push a heavy, metal cabinet against the door. William set his sword down and helped her as Buffy unceremoniously plopped Spike down the closest thing – a long table.
“Florence bloody Nightingale you are not,” Spike complained with a grimace as he bounced a bit on the tabletop, clutching his mangled arm to try and keep it from moving. It didn’t really work, and every time it moved it hurt like a son-of-a-bitch.
“Unless you have something useful to say, just shut up, Spike,” Buffy snarled at him as she began pacing back and forth in the dark.
When they’d darted in, Buffy had gotten a quick look around the room with the light that filtered in from the passageway. It was apparently a small meeting room, with several tables lined up facing a desk in the front. Nearly everything appeared to be a dull grey, covered in ten years of dust. The only real color she had noted was an orange-brown patina on the walls from the pervasive rust that was eating away at the steel. There were no windows or portholes to allow light in. She hadn’t seen a back door, either. Just four steel walls and one door that led back to a corridor full of angry vampires.
“You let her talk to you that way, mate?” Spike asked William, cocking a brow at him.
“I am not an annoying miscreant. She has no reason to speak to me that way,” William informed Spike haughtily, glaring down his nose at his doppelganger.
Spike opened his mouth to retort, but Buffy interrupted him. “Do you have your lighter?”
Spike sighed and dug into the pocket of his jeans, produced the silver Zippo, and placed it into her outstretched hand. Buffy fumbled with it a minute in the dark, but finally got a flame burning. Spike, Bess, and William could probably see alright – she wasn’t so lucky.
Buffy found some bound books in the desk. She placed them in a metal garbage can and lit the edges of the paper with the lighter. The pages didn’t burn well being so closely packed, but they gave off a slight glow. With that light, she could at least see well enough to not bump into the furniture as she paced and chewed on her thumbnail, trying to formulate a new plan to get out of here. Her long, angry strides took her across the room quickly, and she whirled on her heel when she reached the far wall and began back. Her mind raced – she had to get them out of here. It could not end here. She refused to let it end like this, goddamnit!
It didn’t take long before the Reds began banging and pushing against the steel door. The sound in the room was deafening as their assault on the door and the walls around it reverberated through the small area. William and Bess pressed their backs to the filing cabinet that was against the door to try and hold the Reds at bay.
“I can tell you one thing, Slayer – life around you is never boring,” Spike admitted as he slid down off the table and onto a chair. He pushed his shoulder hard against the back of the straight-backed chair, wincing and trying not to scream. There was an audible ‘pop’ when his dislocated scapula became reacquainted with his humerus. Spike’s eyes clenched, as did his jaw, but he choked back the scream that welled up into his throat and blinked back the tears that formed in his eyes, lest he look like a ponce. That was William’s role – he wouldn’t want to upstage him.
Forcing his mind away from the pain, he continued talking. “In fact, if I’m not mistaken, the last time I got bored around you was waiting for St. Vigeous to arrive …”
Spike opened his eyes and looked at Buffy. “Now that was a bloody good time … until your mum hit me on the noggin.” Spike absently rubbed the back of his head – his pride could still feel the sting of it.
Buffy stopped pacing and looked at him for a long moment as he worked his shoulder and tried to get some feeling back in it … well, some feeling other than utter agony.
“That’s it!” she exclaimed. She picked the Zippo up and lit it again. She held it above her head and began looking around the ceiling of the room. On the far end of the room, just behind the desk, she found what she’d been searching for. Buffy flipped the lighter closed and rushed over to Spike. She took his face in her hands and planted an excited kiss square on his lips.
“I dare say! Have you gone mad?” William exclaimed in horror, still pressed against the barricade that was barely keeping the Reds out.
“What’d I do?” Spike asked at nearly the same time, licking the Buffy taste from his lips. He really wanted to know so he could do it again.
Buffy smiled triumphantly as she released Spike. “We are leaving,” she announced as she pushed the desk backwards and climbed up onto it. She worked in the dim light to find two latches hidden in the ceiling. Buffy struggled with them for a few moments – age and rust had made them reluctant to move – but she finally pulled a section of the ceiling down. She lifted the lighter up so she could see. It was perfect! It was an escape tunnel, with a ladder embedded into one side of it, that led to the upper deck – out of the belly of the ship to freedom. They could travel through the escape hatch right up to the deck and … well, escape; hopefully before the Reds even knew they were gone.
Spike watched her and the realization of what he’d said spread across his face in a cocky smirk. “Watch and learn, William,” Spike gibed as he pushed up to his feet … and promptly fell back down onto the chair.
William cocked a brow at him. “I feel profoundly more conversant now,” William retorted as Spike winced in pain and clutched at his legs.
“Sod off,” Spike muttered as blood began to soak through his jeans on the backs of his legs. He couldn’t recall an injury there, but, to be honest, there were periods of time while being interrogated by the Reds that he was, in fact, unconscious. He put his hands back there and felt wide rips in his jeans and gashes in the backs of his thighs. He’d been hamstrung; the tendons there were shredded. There was no way he could walk – not now, not for a good while.
“I do hope you’ve spent more hours on plans to save your Elizabeth than you have on your scathing repartee,” William intoned scornfully.
“You bloody …” Spike began in a threatening growl.
“Enough! Let’s go!” Buffy scolded them. “Pile some more stuff in front of that door and let’s make like a tree and get outta here.”
There were knuckle-shaped dents appearing in the steel bulkhead that separated the passageway from the small meeting room, and the whole ship seemed to be pitching from side to side with the power of the assault the Reds were waging. Bess and William hurried to move the tables and chairs that were in the room against the door and wall to try and hold the demons back a bit longer.
While they did that, Buffy jumped down and began to gather up all their weapons, but William stopped her.
“I believe … that is to say …” he stammered, taking the blessed sword from her hand. William ran a hand over his head nervously, forgetting that he had no curls to actually tug on, and swallowed hard. “I believe I should remain here.”
“What? What are you talking about? Those are vampires out there – they aren’t here for tea, William,” Buffy informed him incredulously.
“I am aware of that, Avengelyne,” William huffed. “They are here for him.” William pointed at Spike, still seated on the chair not far from the door the Reds were beating on. “I, apparently, have some … resemblance to that … man,” he continued, trying not to choke on the words. “Therefore, if I stay, they will believe they have him and will not pursue you.”
“I can see where Spike got his brilliant plan-making skills,” Buffy retorted, grabbing the sword from William’s hand. “No.”
“The wanker has a point, Buffy,” Spike piped up from a few feet away. Buffy shot him a death-ray look. He shrugged but didn’t say anything more.
“Avengelyne,” William pleaded. “Please listen to reason.”
“No, I...” Buffy began, but William continued talking over her.
“You need him to complete your plan. You do not need me,” he pointed out.
“I do need you!” she insisted. “I just got you back! You think I’d just leave you here to …” her voice trailed off and she shook her head adamantly. “No. Let’s go – we’re wasting time.”
Buffy turned away before William could say anything more. She set the weapons on the desk, then jumped up next to them. “Bring him over here – hand him up to me,” she instructed William and Bess, nodding her head towards Spike.
William and Bess got Spike up from the chair, helped him over to the desk, and lifted him up to her.
Spike still could do little with his mangled arm, despite it being back in joint now, and his legs simply buckled when he tried to stand on them. He could feel blood rolling in streams down the backs of his calves and pooling in his boots when they stood him up. Fucking brilliant.
Buffy sent Bess, with the scythe, ahead of her up the ladder while she held Spike upright against her.
Suddenly, the wall of furniture behind them shuddered and shook. William rushed back over to the wall and pressed his back against the barricade to help hold it in place. The steel bent against the onslaught from the increasingly angry mob in the passageway and he redoubled his efforts to keep the furniture from toppling over.
William could hear Avengelyne say to Spike, “I can’t hold you and climb, too. I need you to hang onto my neck without strangling me, ok? Can you do that?”
“Still got one good arm, don’t I?” Spike snapped, as if it were Buffy’s fault he had to be carried out like a ponce.
“Too bad they didn’t cut your tongue out,” Buffy groaned under her breath.
“I heard that,” Spike shot back. “You wouldn’t love me near as much without it, pet.”
“She doesn’t love you at all, you oaf!” William called from his vigil by the door. “Avengelyne, perhaps I should be the one to…”
“No – it’s ok, William,” Buffy cut him off. “I’m not sure what might happen if you two were too close together.”
“I assure you, my dear, I would not harm him … gravely,” William offered sincerely.
“You don’t ‘ave the stones to harm me at all, you namby-pamby, two-bit …” Spike retaliated.
“ENOUGH!” Buffy barked. “I was actually thinking more along the lines of some sort of vortex exploding or the time-space continuum getting … un-continue-y or something.”
Just then, a bony hand smashed through the steel bulkhead. The vamp that had finally breeched the make-shift fortress let out a shrill shriek of victory. Suddenly, more pale hands were yanking and scratching at the small opening, trying to peel the rusted steel back like the lid of a sardine can. The new sound made William turn around to look. He picked a broken chair leg up off the floor and began to hammer at the fingers and hands that were grasping at the steel.
William could hear the group behind him begin to move up the ladder and away from the small room. He darted for the desk and grabbed the blessed sword, which was still there waiting for him to bring it with him up the escape hatch. He stopped a moment and looked up into the dark tunnel. He watched Avengelyne, with Spike draped across her back, making her way up to safety.
The scene was like something from a dream, and for a moment he felt like he was the one clinging to Avengelyne as she climbed through a small tunnel. He could remember her hair … the scent of her, the feel of her as he’d lain semi-conscious over her back, his arms wrapped around her neck. It had been comforting and almost soothing. He’d been weak … injured, perhaps? But her fortitude had given him strength. He closed his eyes and tried to see it, tried to get the image to come into focus. What was that? A memory? A past life? A dream … or perhaps a nightmare?
William’s eyes flew open when he felt himself being shaken, literally shaken, from his contemplation.
“William!” Buffy was standing in front of him, yelling and shaking him by the shoulders. How long had he been standing there in a daze? How long had she been speaking? Where was Spike?
He looked past his wife, up into the darkness of the tunnel – but it was no longer dark. There was light streaming in from above now – the other end of the hatch was open. Bess was looking down at them, her blonde hair backlit, framing her face like a halo.
“William! C’mon – we have to go!” she was admonishing him. The crashing sounds from wall being shredded were growing louder and the screeching of ripping metal filled the air.
William drew in a deep breath and shook his head. “No – you go. I’m staying here,” he told her, his voice deadly calm.
“Noooo. This discussion is closed. We agreed – we’re all going. C’mon!” Buffy insisted as she tried to force him up onto the desk.
“No, you agreed. I did not. You must go. You need him – you need him to fix things. You said so yourself just this morning,” William reasoned with her. “Those vampires will be in here in a very short time. If they don’t find him, they will pursue you. If I am here – they will not. It is quite simple, really.”
Buffy shook her head. Her voice failed her for a moment. “No – you … I need you, too. They’ll … hurt you … maybe kill you. C’mon, William – we have to go now. We can make it!”
William shook his head again and the sound of furniture toppling over filled the air, but neither of them looked away from the other’s eyes. “No – you can make it. You can do it – you and him. Not me. This is where I’m needed. I’ll keep them from following – you go now.”
“No!” Buffy’s eyes shimmered in the dim light as tears of frustration sparked in them. Deep down, she knew he was probably right, but she refused to accept that.
William caressed her cheek gently and touched a soft kiss to her lips. “I love you, Buffy. Let me do this for you … for us. I got the Gem … they won’t dust me, luv.”
Buffy pulled back with wide eyes. “Spike?”
Her husband tilted his head and gave her a small smile of recognition. “Do whatever you have to help him. He can do it – he can save his Slayer, but he’ll need your ‘elp. He loves Buffy … he loves Buffy as much as I do. That love is all he needs to save ‘er.”
“Spike …” Buffy rasped out past her heart, which seemed to be in her throat, as she reached a hand out to touch his face.
Spike closed his eyes a moment and leaned into her touch. He remembered everything, although he wasn’t sure if it was all real. Some he was sure wasn’t; some, like making love with her just a few short hours ago, he was certain was. He didn’t know everything that had happened, but it was clear they were in deep trouble and help was not coming. Buffy had a plan – she’d outlined it for William and Andrew that morning. The linchpin of the plan was Spike … the other Spike. That meant he had to make it out of here, no matter what, and he had to have time to pull off a miracle without the Reds interrupting.
“Come with us now – there’s still time,” she begged him as the tears that had gathered in her eyes spilled over.
When Spike opened his eyes and met hers, Buffy’s hand trembled and her heart fluttered in fear. He wasn’t going to come; she could see it in his eyes. They were the same as the other Spike’s just before he tumbled off the jib and into Bob’s pit: full of love, but steadfast and determined. She suddenly found it hard to breathe and began shaking her head ‘no’, unable to form words.
Spike lifted her hand to his lips and dropped a gentle kiss on her palm. “No, there’s not,” he insisted gravely as he released her hand.
Before Buffy could react, before she could grab him and forcibly haul him up into the shaft, he moved away from her, heading back towards the Reds who were still clawing at the bulkhead, trying to get in.
Her husband stopped a moment and looked back at her, Spike looked back at her. “Get the hell outta here, Slayer. Got me some Reds t’ kill. Don’t need you mucking up the works.”
Before Buffy could say anything more, Spike strode further away, towards the jagged opening the Reds had torn in the wall. He cocked his sword back, getting it ready to swing as he moved. When he neared the wall, he lashed out with the sword, slashing wildly at the hands and arms that were working feverishly to get into the room.
The Reds screamed in pain and, in the low light from above her, Buffy could make out severed limbs and blood falling like demonic rain. A low, satisfied snicker rumbled from her husband’s throat. The rich, velvety sound pierced her heart and embedded itself in her soul. Her husband was back – Spike was back!
His words ricocheted around in her head. They were perfectly reasonable – he was right. With him here fighting the Reds, the vamps would have no reason to pursue Spike … they would have Spike. But she couldn’t just leave him here alone!
She could hear Bess above her, calling down, wanting to know if she should come back. Buffy looked up at her daughter then down at her husband. The Slayer had to decide.
A million emotions and thoughts bombarded Buffy as she stood there, frozen. She thought of Annie: her legs lost, her entire world trampled. Buffy thought of the promise she’d made to her girl – a promise to give her her future back. She thought not only of Annie, but of Dani, Billy, and MacKenzie: if she and Spike couldn’t get home, what would become of them? What of all the prophecies their children would face one day? How could Buffy and Spike protect them from what lie ahead if they weren’t there? She thought of Giftless!Spike and the promise she’d made not only to him, but to the others who had lost so much and given their lives to help her. She even thought briefly of Angel, or more accurately, of his son, Connor, who would be left fatherless if things weren’t fixed; really, truly fixed. No child deserves that; not her children or his.
She knew of only one way to really, truly fix it.
She turned away from her husband as he fought the Reds back. Tears flooded from Buffy’s eyes as she forced her body to climb back onto the desk and then pull up into the tunnel above her. Her heartbeat thundered in her ears. It felt like it would stampede right out of her chest as she climbed up towards Bess, Giftless!Spike, and freedom. She ached all over – not just a physical ache, but an ache that mushroomed up from deep within her soul to engulf her with pure desolation.
Spike, I love you … I love you so much, Buffy sent to him through the bond.
The reply she got was somehow ironically bittersweet. I love you, Buffy. I believe in you, pet. You’re with me, always.
She heard the escape hatch below her click back into place as she clambered up the ladder with a heavy heart. She prayed she could live up to the belief he had in her. He didn’t know what she’d done; he didn’t know about Riley and the other Spike and the dreams, or even about Annie. Buffy was very sure she didn’t deserve his unconditional faith, his love, or his sacrifice. Leaving him there alone, when she’d just promised William that she would never leave him again, served as proof-positive of that.
Oh no! Buffy rescued Gift-less!Spike and Bess but lost her husband in the process! Can Gift-less!Spike do what Buffy had been unable to do? Communicate with his past-self and change history; fix everything? Lots more to come ...
My Sacrifice by Creed
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