Alternate Universe: Unexpected
Story Title: Everything I Own

Chapter Title:


How Do I Love Thee?

Chapter Summary:


Spike and Buffy spend time together in the butterfly-soul paradise, but are things there as safe as they seem?


Time line:

February, 2005



Joshua "JJ" Harris was born on April 21st, 2004

The twins (Danielle, "Dani" and William, "Billy") were born on February 12th, 2004.

Annie was born on February 14th, 1999

Spike and Buffy  were married in  February 1999

Buffy was born January 19th, 1981

William/Spike was turned by Dru in 1880; first came to Sunnydale in September of 1997


All the Potentials were endowed with full Slayer power in February 2003.

Buffy and Spike learned of the other dimensions and got the memories from the 'Rome' Universe in May, 2003.



Music Referenced:

How Do I Love Thee? (Originally by the Shadows)


ScreenCaps courtesy of ScreenCap Paradise:


Thanks: Thanks so much to Paganbaby for her continued support and wonderful ideas. I especially needed her help with this story because of the complexity of it! {{Thanks PB!}}

Thanks also to 'u2fan2005' and 'epd4' for their suggestions, corrections, and help betaing this chapter!!

Rating / Warnings:

SEXUAL SITUATIONS ... oh, uhhh ... and ANGST ...

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.

Friday, February 17th, 2005:


In the butterfly soul garden…


Buffy sat between Spike’s outstretched legs on the white sand at the edge of the lake and leaned back against his chest. She relished the feeling of the soft water lapping at her legs, the warm sun caressing her skin, and his strong arms wrapped around her, holding her tight to him.  They had laid in each other’s arms under the shade of the orange tree a long while, then slowly meandered down the trail to the lake, where they’d swum and laughed and washed all the remnants of the orange orgy from their bodies.


As they sat on the soft, white sandy beach at the edge of the lake they talked of Buffy’s plan … of Doyle and the Oracles, of getting D’Hoffryn’s talisman from Willow’s belongings. They tried to anticipate problems Buffy might face along the way and perhaps alternatives or other options that she might need to try.  Buffy was so relieved to have Spike to at least talk to about everything … his experience as a warrior gave her a perspective on things that Dawn just couldn’t.  Spike didn’t really know Doyle … he had the memory of a brief meeting with 'the Mick' from the memories that had been folded into his from the other dimension, but apart from that, Spike only had second-hand information from the time he spent helping Angel Investigations several years ago. Everything he’d heard from Cordy and Angel about the messenger seemed to support Doyle’s contention that he was a man of his word. 


Spike had never heard of the Oracles and the lovers talked a good while about what kind of ‘trinket’ she should take them, as Doyle had suggested, to show her respect and get their help … would something personal be better or something expensive?  Buffy wished she had the jewelry that Spike had given her in their world … she would gladly trade it all for their life back, but she had none of it – just a plain gold band – from Riley, and her necklace was the cross that Angel had given her the first time they met.  She wondered briefly if Riley knew where the necklace had come from … she guessed that he didn’t.


Buffy couldn’t tell how long she’d been with Spike, the sun never moved in the sky here, but it seemed at least a day, maybe two counting the time in the cave. It seemed odd that she and Dawn could sleep so long … even with the half barrel of wine they’d consumed (well, perhaps it wasn’t really that much), but Buffy didn’t want to kick a gift horse in the mouth – she was happy for every moment with Spike.


She was beyond relieved that they had been able to get Spike out of the hellish limbo he’d been in for the last month. Between that place and the trials, it was a wonder Spike hadn’t lost his mind completely. As hard as they’d both tried before, they had never been able to get out of the cold, red dimension; she wasn’t sure what had made the difference … perhaps the magic and power of the scythe was the key this time.  Buffy felt so much more confident now with Spike here, away from purgatory and the trials, and lucid; if she ran into problems with her plan, she could talk them over with Spike the next time she slept.  It felt good to know that she had him here, even though he wasn’t at her side, it was a great relief to know that she could turn to him for advice if she needed it.


Spike tried to think of any glitches that could pop up in Buffy’s plan … he knew for each one he thought of, there were probably fifty he didn’t, but he had confidence in Buffy, and the longer he stayed in the butterfly-soul paradise, the more hope he had that she would find a way out of this for both of them.  Buffy was a scrapper, she could think on her feet, improvise, and she was as tough a Slayer as ever walked the earth, of that he was sure.  If anyone could fix it, it was Buffy.


The voices of his victims were still screaming at him from the deep, dark corners of his mind – but with Buffy here, he was able to keep them confined to those deep, dark corners.  He knew she couldn’t stay, though, and what would happen when she was gone, he wasn’t sure.  He hoped he could keep his shit together, for her, for their family … so he could be what she needed when she came back, not a babbling idiot – or worse. He hoped that the ghosts that haunted him in the cave were trapped there because he wasn’t really sure how much longer he could take being haunted by all those faces … starting with his own mother and ending with the last person he’d killed in cold blood, Riley Finn.  It seemed somehow ironic to Spike that Riley Finn from their world would be haunting him and, in the new world, he was alive and well and married to Buffy – it was like a win-win for Captain Cardboard.


After talking about everything they could think of regarding Buffy’s plan, the warriors fell silent.  Spike rested his chin on her shoulder as Buffy leaned against his hard chest and they just gazed out over the large, blue lake before them and across it to the green mountains in the distance. They cherished the feeling of their lover’s body pressed against their own – each lost in their own thoughts, each fighting to keep the worry and fear of failure from their minds.  If she tried really hard, Buffy could almost convince herself that they were just on vacation on some remote, deserted island and one of those float planes would be landing in the lake at any moment to take them back home …. Almost.


Spike turned his face so his mouth was near Buffy’s ear and began to recite one of his favorite love poems, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43 …


“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight…”


Suddenly, Spike stopped. Buffy could feel his body tense behind her and his head snap up and scan the calm water of the lake.


“No! …No, no, no …” he muttered as he stood up quickly, pulling Buffy up behind him. “Buffy – run! Run and don’t look back, don’t come back! Just run!” he commanded, his voice panicky, as he pushed her away from the water and towards the path that led back up the hill, away from the lake.


“What!? Spike, what is it?” she demanded, turning her head and looking behind her at the water but seeing nothing.


“RUN!” he screamed at her as he pushed her away again, this time harder. “GET OUT!”


Spike was yanked violently backwards away from her by an unseen attacker – he landed a good twenty yards out in the water of the lake and went under. 


“SPIKE!” Buffy screamed, starting back towards the water. “SCYTHE!” she demanded, and the scythe appeared in her hand as she splashed into the clear water of the lake.


Buffy dove under when the water got thigh high and swam towards the spot that she’d last seen Spike, but she didn’t see him.  She turned in slow circle under the water and finally spotted him, he was fighting against an unseen force, kicking out, hitting, and trying to pull away at the same time.


Buffy couldn’t hold her breath any longer, she had to surface … she quickly gulped air into her lungs when she broke the surface of the water and immediately dove back down. She grabbed onto Spike’s upper arm and pulled, kicking her feet in the water with all her strength to try and get him away from whatever it was that had him, but the force holding him was too strong. She let go of Spike’s arm and swung the scythe in the clear water in front of him, slicing down through what appeared to be nothing, but suddenly Spike was released.  He grabbed her free hand and began pulling her away, back up to the surface and towards the shore.


When they surfaced, Buffy stopped swimming and inhaled deeply then began coughing water out of her lungs that she’d breathed in, but Spike continued pulling her towards the shore – not letting her stop.  Spike dragged Buffy out of the water by one hand as she continued choking and they both stumbled back onto the beach, but still Spike didn’t stop, he continued to pull her quickly across the sand towards the path that led away from the lake.


“What…are…they?” Buffy choked out between gasps and coughs, but got no answer from Spike as he continued to move away from the water with her in tow.


Suddenly Spike stopped and turned around, putting himself between Buffy and the lake. “RUN, SLAYER! Get outta here! You can’t win – just run!” he screamed at her, giving her a hard shove away as he moved past her. Spike threw a hard round-house kick at an attacker Buffy still couldn’t see then followed it with several solid punches in rapid succession. It was obvious by the way his punches and kicks landed that he was actually hitting something ... Buffy just couldn't see what it was.


Buffy caught her balance from Spike’s shove and moved quickly back towards her husband and the invisible demon, scythe at the ready. But, as she got within a couple of feet of them, the attacker grabbed one of Spike’s fists, stopping it in mid-punch, picked him up, and swung him around high over Buffy’s head like an athlete would swing a hammer at a track and field event. Buffy swung her scythe hard and low; she knew she’d hit whatever it was, because it released Spike – unfortunately, the momentum the monster had built up sent Spike flying back out into the lake. He landed with a large splash at least a hundred yards out and went under the water, out of Buffy’s view.


“Motherfucker!” Buffy exclaimed, swinging her scythe a few more times at the air, not knowing if she had hit anything or not or even how many invisible giant demons they were fighting.  Hopeful that she’d at least incapacitated the one that Spike had been fighting, Buffy turned back towards the lake and began running.  She ran as far as she could, until the water was too deep, and then started swimming out to where Spike had gone under, but the going was slow with the scythe in one hand and he was much further out this time.


“SPIKE!” she screamed as she swam, looking around for any sign of him on the surface … air bubbles or disturbances in the water, but she didn’t see anything.  When she got to where she thought he’d gone under, she dove down and looked around for him, staying under as long as she could before surfacing again.


When she came up for a breath, she felt something large and strong start to push her back towards shore, but she still couldn’t see what it was that was attacking them.  She swung the scythe in a wide circle at her unseen attacker and whatever it was that was pushing her stopped, at least momentarily.


“SPIKE!” she screamed again, before taking a deep breath and diving back under the water, swimming down as deep as she could and turning in all directions looking for him, but she still couldn’t find him. Suddenly, she was yanked up out of the depths of the lake and tossed like a rag doll back up onto the shore. She dropped the scythe when she hit the ground and rolled several feet before coming to rest against the base of a large tree.


Buffy screamed out when she scrambled back to her feet as pain stabbed her chest, it felt like several of her ribs were broken, or at least cracked. Doubled over, trying to breathe, and holding her aching ribs, she stumbled back towards the lake, but was hit again before she could even get to the scythe, which was just at the edge of the water, and sent flying back once more. She landed hard against the side of a large boulder that was half buried in the bank surrounding the lake, and she felt and heard her skull crack against it like a coconut.  The world began to spin out of control and she fought to stay conscious as she slumped down onto her back in the sand. She closed her eyes against the spinning and took deep breaths to try and stop the nausea, dizziness, and unbelievable pain in her head, which made her completely forget her broken ribs.




Spike landed in the warm water of the lake and was immediately dragged under the surface by one of the demons he’d come to refer to as “Jeeves” – his personal escorts into the belly of the beast.  He couldn’t actually see them any more than Buffy could, but after so many trips with them back and forth between limbo and the trials, he could feel them, sense them … and in the cold, red world, he feared their arrival more than he’d ever feared anything in his life.


He thought that he’d escaped their reach in the tropical paradise … that he would be able to stay there until Buffy could fix things … that he would be able to remain Buffy’s ‘bridge’, her shoulder to lean on. If he couldn’t fight with her, at least he could offer advice and perhaps take her pain away for short moments in time, but that hope was short-lived – the small fire of hope that Buffy had lit in his soul was now nothing more than a pile of cold embers. He knew now that was just an illusion, a pipe dream – there wasn’t really any hope for him ever getting out of this and back to his family.


He also knew what was coming now … he’d be taken back, back to the cold, lonely cave; back to the voices screaming at him, looking at him with accusing eyes; back to the bloodshed and screams and whimpers that stabbed at his soul; back to the trials.  How long could they last?  He seriously doubted that hell could actually be any worse, and more than once he wished they would just get on with it. The only thing that ever made him glad they hadn’t tossed him away yet were the times that Buffy came to him. Her face, her eyes, her heart and soul … they took away his pain; only she could pull him back from the brink of insanity, only she could heal his soul.


Spike fought against the unseen force that was pulling him down into the depths of the lake with all his strength.  He knew there was more than one of them here and he knew Buffy hadn’t run as he’d told her to, she was as physically incapable of running from a fight as he was, and that meant only one thing, that she was fighting them, which meant she could be hurt or even killed by the oversized chauffeurs to the Powers.  She had no idea what she was up against – no idea of their strength and size – she was outnumbered and outgunned, even with the scythe; he had to get back and help her.


Spike raged against the demon that was pulling him deeper and deeper down under the water of the lake, fighting not just for himself this time, but for Buffy, as well, and for the first time since this all began, he slipped from their grasp.  Spike began swimming back to the surface as fast as he could – he had to find where Buffy was and get to her, help her.  When he broke the surface of the water he turned around in a fast circle as he tread water … then he spotted her on the bank – even from this distance he could smell her blood. 


“NOOOO! Buffy!” he screamed as he started swimming towards her, fueled by fear for her well-being and anger that she’d been hurt trying to protect him.  Before Spike went ten yards back towards the shore and his injured wife, the invisible demons caught him again and with one holding his arms and one his legs, they pulled him back under the surface, back down into the deepest depths of the lake – back to face his worst fears.



 “Spike …” Buffy moaned as she rolled over and pushed up to all fours. She crawled back towards the lake, not attempting to get up; she could’ve sworn she’d heard Spike call her name, but the ringing in her ears and spinning in her head made it hard to know for sure.  She grabbed the scythe and dragged it with her back into the water.  She wasn’t sure anymore where to look for Spike … her vision was blurry and her head was spinning and hurt like a motherfucker … so she just started swimming.  When she thought she was about where he’d gone under, she dove down as deep as she could, trying to find Spike or find something, some clue, that would lead her to him. 


She didn’t know how long she’d looked … it seemed like hours of diving and surfacing and diving down again, but she couldn’t find any sign of him or their attackers, but she couldn’t give up.  The spinning in Buffy’s head was getting worse from holding her breath under the water and the drums beating behind her eyes felt like they would pound them right out of their sockets, but she kept pushing herself – she had to find Spike.  As she dove down again, she lost her grip on the scythe and it fell to the bottom of the lake, out of sight. 


Buffy moaned mentally, What the fuck else!? she thought as she headed back to the surface.  Buffy took several deep breaths and dove back under, kicking her feet hard to propel herself all the way down to the sandy bottom of the lake and the scythe.


About three-quarters of the way to the bottom, she suddenly felt like she was free-falling through thin air. After falling for what seemed a full minute, Buffy landed hard; searing pain shot out from her bruised and cracked ribs, radiated out from the crack in her skull down her spine, and what little breath she had left was knocked out of her lungs.  Even writhing on the floor with her eyes closed tightly against the pain, Buffy knew where she was – back in the cave … back in the cold, desolate, red hell-limbo that Spike had been in since this all began.


Sobs began wracking her body as her adrenaline waned and the realization that Spike had been taken back to the trials set in. She thought he would be safe in the tropical garden – safe from the trials that were slowly driving him insane and bleeding his soul dry, but they had found him. They had found him and dragged him back here, back to the trials, back to his own personal hell.


All the relief that she’d felt upon getting him out of the hell-limbo and away from the trials turned into unbelievable grief and imploded inside her tenfold – overwhelming her mind and body. Buffy lay on her back, holding her head in both hands, and screamed out in anguish – a long, sorrowful scream that filled the whole cave, perhaps the whole dimension, with agony – she’d failed him, she couldn’t keep Spike safe and now they had him again.


The manic-depressive rollercoaster they’d been on just crashed and burned … shattering into a million sorrowful pieces on the cold sand floor of the cave.




“Buffy! What is it? Buffy, wake up!” Dawn exclaimed after being awoken by Buffy’s soul piercing scream. She shook Buffy awake, pulling her sister off of the dry, sand floor of limbo and back to the damp darkness of the wine cellar.


“I’m awake …” Buffy moaned, grabbing her head with both hands to try and get it to stop spinning. Suddenly there was a light in her eyes and Buffy squeezed her lids shut against the pain that the bright light stabbed into her brain.


“You’re bleeding!” Dawn exclaimed, reaching a hand out to touch the gash on the side of Buffy’s head.


“I’m ok,” Buffy assured her, but she didn’t sound ok. Her voice sounded hoarse, weak, and shaky, as if she’d been crying for a very long time.


“What happened?” Dawn asked, lowering the light away from Buffy’s face. “Was it a werewolf again?”


Buffy sighed heavily and tears stung her eyes at the thought of Spike being tortured and tormented at the trials. “No … it’s … it’s a long story – I’ll tell you later. We need to get moving - how long were we asleep?” Buffy asked as she reached down on the ground next to her leg and picked the scythe up, holding it in both hands and feeling its power flow through her.  Buffy let out a sigh of relief as she felt her ribs begin to mend and her head slowly stop spinning and the pounding behind her eyes fade.


Dawn pulled her cell phone out of the pocket of her jeans and looked at it. “About an hour …” she answered.


What?!! Are you sure?” Buffy asked, pulling the phone from Dawn’s hand. She was sure she’d been with Spike for at least two days … perhaps longer, but Dawn was right – it had only been about an hour since they’d fallen asleep.


Tears welled in Buffy’s eyes … for every hour of time in this dimension, Spike was spending at least forty-eight hours in hell-limbo. That meant, over the last month since Buffy had awoken in this fucked-up world, Spike had spent… she tried in vain to figure out how long that would be, but the only answer she could get from her frazzled mind was ‘a really long time’ … even at her best, she’d never be able to figure that out without a calculator, twenty sharpened, number ten pencils, a whole pad of paper, a math tutor, and perhaps an IBM supercomputer.


“What’s wrong?” Dawn asked, seeing the confusion and distress in Buffy’s eyes.


Buffy looked up at Dawn slowly. “Time is moving differently here than … than there,” Buffy explained. “I was there at least two days… at least, but only asleep here an hour …”


“So, for every day here, forty-eight days would pass in limbo?” Dawn asked her.


Buffy looked at her with wide eyes. “Forty-eight days there for every day here?”


“Yeah – there are twenty-four hours in a day, an hour here equals two days there, so one day here is forty-eight days there, two times twenty-four…” Dawn explained with a shrug. “Simple.”


“So how long would thirty days here be in that simple math?” Buffy asked her.


“Ummm … forty-eight times thirty …” Dawn pondered. “Uhhhh, well, fifty times thirty would be fifteen hundred … so take away sixty and you get one thousand, four hundred and forty days…” Dawn figured aloud.


Buffy sat back heavily against the oak barrel at her back and closed her eyes. It was amazing that Spike was in as good a shape as he was … “So, Spike’s been there, like, what, four years?!” she asked Dawn, opening her eyes and looking at her sister.


Dawn shrugged. “Yeah, pretty close.”


Buffy shook her head slowly as that sunk in. Spike had been living with nothing but his ghosts to keep him company for four years … every minute she wasted trying to fix this would mean he spent … Fuck! I hate math! … a long time there.  How long would they keep him there?  Was there a cut-off time … five years? Ten years? Or were they waiting for him to lose his mind completely before sending him on to his final fate?  One thing was clear, Buffy couldn’t waste one more minute in her mission to get him and their family back. One minute for her was … a long time for Spike – a long time with nothing but ghosts for company.


Buffy stood up and wobbled slightly on her feet and her stomach churned angrily … not from the hit on the head, but from the wine she’d consumed earlier.  “Let’s go,” she announced as she started back out the door she’d made in the wall to get into the cellar.


“Do you know which way to go?” Dawn asked, following closely on her heels.


“I haven’t the foggiest idea, but I have to go … we need to keep moving,” Buffy asserted as she climbed through the hole in the wall and went back towards the main tunnel they had been in earlier.






Buffy wished more than once that she had a compass or some way to tell which direction they were going.  She was sure she could’ve navigated from the vineyard to the high school much more quickly if she could tell which fucking direction they were heading, but, as it was, she simply had to try and follow her instincts and hope they weren’t too drunk to give her good advice.  After walking through the tunnels for another hour, Dawn’s foot got caught on something and she stumbled forward into Buffy’s back, sending them both sprawling on the rough floor of the passageway.


“Are you ok?” Buffy asked as Dawn got up off her.


“Yeah … sorry. I think something grabbed my foot,” Dawn explained.


“Something grabbed your foot?” Buffy questioned with concern. “Like a demon or something?”


“I don’t know …” Dawn admitted as they both turned around and Buffy scanned the floor of the tunnel with the flashlight before finding some netting that had been pulled out of the dirt.  Buffy tugged on it and pulled it all the way out of the soil.


“Oh, yes, that would be the basketball hoop netting demon … they’re very tricky, they go through life disguised as unassuming recreational equipment, then BAM! Without warning, they just attack,” Buffy quipped, dropping the offending ‘demon’ back onto the floor. “Let’s keep moving…” Buffy said in a serious tone as she pressed by Dawn and started walking again.


“WAIT!” Dawn exclaimed. “How many basketball courts were there in Sunnydale? How many with netting on the hoops?”


Buffy turned around. “I don’t know … probably a lot.”


“Buffy! Think about it – all the basketball courts in the parks had chains for the net, not…not this string stuff!” Dawn exclaimed, reaching down and picking up the dirty white netting.  “The only ones with this stuff were in gyms … like at schools!”


Buffy sighed. “There were lots of schools, Dawn …” she pointed out.


“Yeah, but this netting jumped up and grabbed my foot …”


Buffy rolled her eyes and let out a long breath, but in a way Dawn was right; Rule Number One: There were no such things as coincidences on the Hellmouth – even if the Hellmouth was closed.


“Ok – let’s keep going, if this is the gym then the library should be …” Buffy started, trying to remember which way the library was from the gym.


“Not the library, Buffy – we need to find Principal Wood’s office,” Dawn corrected her. “It would be … ummm … I think that way,” Dawn said, pointing at the solid wall of the tunnel to her right. “Or that way …” Dawn added, pointing in the opposite direction, also a solid wall of debris.


“Yeah … that’s what I was afraid of …” Buffy muttered. “Let’s see if we can find any more clues … or side tunnels,” Buffy suggested as she started walking again. “I forgot to bring my steam shovel …”


As the girls walked slowly down the tunnel and looked for more clues or passages off the main tunnel, Buffy couldn’t help thinking about Spike … they’d been at this a good hour – that meant Spike had been at the trials or alone in his cave for two days …  Buffy blinked back tears thinking about him huddled in one corner of that cave, trying not to move, trying to block out the pain and the ghosts and the screaming in his head… every hour was two days, every minute wasted was … a long time for Spike.


“Here!” Buffy exclaimed as she came to a small opening down low on the side of the main tunnel – barely large enough for her to crawl through.  Buffy lay down on her stomach, poked her head in, and shone her light into it. There was a steep drop down from where they were and it didn’t get any larger, in fact, it might be even narrower further down …but there was something else. Angel. She could feel him tingling up and down her spine now.


“This is it,” Buffy announced.


“That!?” Dawn exclaimed, looking at the rat hole in the wall of the main tunnel.  “I hate to tell you, sister, but you’re not that skinny.”


“Well, I guess I better suck it in, ‘cos this is it,” Buffy retorted. “Here, you hold onto this for me,” Buffy instructed Dawn, shoving the scythe towards her sister. 


“Maybe we should keep looking …” Dawn suggested. “Maybe there’s another way in.”


“Dawn, listen to me,” Buffy admonished her sister, sitting back on her heels and looking up at her. “If something happens … if I don’t come back out of there in fifteen minutes, you need to get out of here – go find a way out, find the car, and go back to England.”


“NO! No way!” Dawn objected. “I’m not leaving you here!”


“Dawn, if I’m not back shortly, then I won’t be coming back, trust me on this – please do as I ask,” Buffy requested, her voice soft but unwavering.


Dawn swallowed back her fear and objections and nodded her head slowly.  “I love you, Buffy,” Dawn whispered as she felt tears well in her eyes. She felt like she’d just gotten her sister back after so many years of living with a distant and unfeeling Buffy, she finally had her real sister back, and now the chance that she would lose her to the Hellmouth after all was heart wrenching for Dawn.


“I love you too, Dawnie … and Spike sends his love to you.  You’re a smart girl, you’ve grown into a beautiful woman – and we’re all really proud of you, me and Spike, and mom."


Dawn dropped down onto her knees and pulled Buffy into a tight hug. “Please be careful.”


“That’s my middle name…” Buffy quipped as she pressed the flashlight into Dawn’s hands and turned back towards the small opening in the wall.


“You need this …” Dawn objected, trying to give the flashlight back.


“No – you might need it. I’ll be ok, I’m not afraid of the dark,” Buffy replied, slipping her head, arms, and shoulders into the small passageway.  She silently prayed that her hips weren’t any wider than her shoulders as she pulled herself through the tunnel on her belly.


Buffy let out a sigh of relief when her hips cleared the opening and was really glad she wasn’t claustrophobic, because the tunnel was pressing on her from all sides now and it was pitch black. With the downward slope of the tunnel, it wasn’t too hard to pull herself along, except in some spots where her butt got stuck. She could hear and feel her heart beating in her chest and fought the urge to panic each time that happened; she didn’t need the whole thing to collapse on her by pulling too hard or trying to thrash loose.  She would carefully push herself back and try turning her body at a slight angle to get through the tightest spots, that usually worked; once or twice she had to power her way through it, pushing with her toes on the bottom of the tunnel while pulling with her arms and elbows, luckily, each time she’d been able to get through, taking some of the soil and rocks and debris with her. 


Buffy wasn’t sure how far she’d traveled down the small tunnel, it seemed like miles, but certainly couldn’t have been more than twenty or thirty yards.  Buffy put the thought of how she was going to get back up that passage and back to Dawn out of her mind for now – she’d deal with that when, and if, she actually found the amulet.  Suddenly the incline got much steeper, in fact, it wasn’t so much an incline as a straight drop, and Buffy began falling down the shaft head first and gaining speed. She dug her toes into what was now the side of the passage and spread her legs to slow herself down – then, without warning in the pitch black, her head, shoulders, arms, and upper torso were completely out of the restricting tunnel, they were dangling free in space. 


Buffy hung on with all her strength with her legs pressed against the sides of the shaft and reached her hands out in front of her – but didn’t feel anything. She had no idea how far down the floor was or what she might land on – rocks, sharp shards of debris, worse? An image of the pit trap with lots of wooden stakes sticking up (and the requisite impaled skeletons) from Raider’s of the Lost Ark crossed through Buffy’s mind as she felt herself slipping further down out of the shaft.


“Oh shiiit!” Buffy exclaimed as she felt the sandy sides of the shaft come loose and begin to fall, taking her down with it.


Buffy held her breath and braced for impact, but, in fact, she only fell about five feet and had a relatively soft landing in just plain dirt with no stakes or skeletons to impale her.


Buffy rolled onto her back and began to laugh uncontrollably as all the adrenaline and fear that had been building suddenly turned to relief … then her laughter turned to tears just as quickly as all her emotions seemed to crash into each other as they tried to escape.  Buffy took deep breaths and tried to calm her heart and stop the tears as the ‘fight or flight’ feeling within her slowly relinquished its hold and turned her body back over to her brain.


“Are you ok?” Dawn called from above, shining the light down the shaft.


“Yeah … peachy with a side of keen,” Buffy replied as she wiped her face, smearing her tears with the dirt she was covered in and making muddy streaks down her cheeks.


Buffy took a deep breath and sat up, then closed her eyes (she wasn’t sure why, because she couldn’t see anything anyway – habit she guessed) and concentrated on sensing the amulet and Angel.  Not sure what was on the floor of the cavern she was in and not wanting to fall off any cliffs or down any rabbit holes, Buffy crawled on all fours towards where her senses told her the amulet was, feeling out in front of her gingerly before moving.


Finally, after crawling across the floor for several yards, over rocks and other debris, Buffy’s fingers hooked in the chain the amulet was on as she swept her hand over the ground out in front of her.


Buffy snatched it up and felt it with her hands before letting out a sigh of relief. She was starting to think her senses were off … but she had it now, at last.  Buffy started to put it around her neck, then thought better of that and shoved it deep down into the pocket of her jeans before turning and starting back towards the tunnel she’d come down to get here.


Buffy finally found the shaft that she’d fallen through from the small sliver of light still shining down from above and she yelled, “I got it!” up to Dawn and she heard Dawn squeal in delight and “Yay!” echoed down the small tunnel.


Buffy tried to climb back up the passage, but with the last twenty feet of it being basically a mine shaft, straight down, every time she tried to climb up into it, the sandy sides would just give way and drop her back down onto the floor of the Hellmouth.  After her fifth attempt to climb up into the shaft and her fifth fall back to the floor, Buffy screamed out in frustration. She was going to have to find a different way out.


“Are you ok?” came Dawn’s voice again from above her.


“Yeah – I just can’t get back up this stupid tunnel,” Buffy lamented. “I’m gonna have to find another way out.”


“Can you see another way out?” Dawn asked.


Buffy snorted a laugh. She couldn’t see anything; she couldn’t even see her hand in front of her face, let alone another way out. “Not exactly,” she answered dryly.


“Ooops!” Buffy heard from above her as dirt began falling out of the shaft onto her head. “Look out! I dropped the light!” Dawn called down, just as the flashlight fell and hit Buffy in the head.


“Goddamit, Dawn! That was a stupid thing to do!” Buffy scolded as she rubbed her head and picked up the flashlight.


“Sorry, it just fell out of my hand!” Dawn called back down with a smirk. “Can you see another way out now?”


Buffy rolled her eyes, but shone the light around the area, stopping on a pair of steel, double doors a few feet away. “Maybe,” Buffy called back up the shaft before walking over to the doors.


She tried one handle, then the other, but they didn’t budge. Buffy stepped back and kicked hard against one of the doors and she felt it give slightly under her strength. She kicked again, and again … and again. Finally, on the fifth kick, the door swung open with a loud clang. Buffy poked her head through and shone the light around – it looked like a hallway from the school … like the whole hallway had fallen straight down into the Hellmouth, intact, with lockers on each side and even a D.A.R.E. poster still hanging on the wall.  Buffy walked down the hallway and, to her delight, found a staircase leading up.  It wasn’t completely intact, but enough that she could make it up without a lot of difficulty and at the top she found a landing which was bisected by a large tunnel. 


Buffy rolled her eyes and shook her head … it was the tunnel they had been walking in. If they’d just walked a little further (as Dawn had suggested), she could’ve walked down the stairs, through the doors, picked up the amulet and walked back out – like a cake walk in the park.


“Why do things the easy way?” Buffy muttered to herself. “That just wouldn’t be any fun, and Slayers are all about the fun.”


Buffy made her way back towards Dawn, switching the light off before she got close to her sister.


“Buffy!” Dawn was lying on her stomach with her head in the opening of the small shaft that Buffy had gone down. “Buffy! Where are you?”


Buffy walked up beside her and quietly said, “Right here.”


Dawn screamed and jerked up, banging the back of her head against the top of the small tunnel. “OWWW!” she cried, pulling back and rubbing the bump that was quickly forming. “You scared the fuck out of me!” Dawn accused, standing up as Buffy switched the light on.


“Bad word!” Buffy joked. “You owe me a dollar. And you’re still a brat – the light just fell out of your hand … do I have ‘fool’ tattooed on my forehead or something?”


Dawn rolled her eyes as she kept rubbing the back of her head. “I thought you needed it more than I did … and what about a dollar?”


“It’s … it’s something we do with Annie if she says a bad word …” Buffy explained, picking up the scythe from the floor.


“Oh, nice. Your daughter has a potty mouth!” Dawn teased as Buffy turned and started down the tunnel in the direction they had been going.


“So, apparently, does my sister,” Buffy retorted.


“I can curse in ten languages …” Dawn replied, following Buffy. “Va chier, verpiss dich, besame culo, paskudniak …”


Buffy snorted a laugh, interrupting Dawn. “That’s something to look forward to …”


Buffy bit her bottom lip as she walked ahead of Dawn and blinked back tears. Did she really have anything to look forward to? Would she really be able to do anything to put her world back as it was and get Spike and their children back?  She had hope when she thought that Spike would be safe in the tropical soul garden, just knowing that he was safe had taken a huge burden off her shoulders, but she’d been wrong, Spike wasn’t safe. Knowing that he’d be there for her when she needed advice or someone to lean on had lifted her hopes of victory, but those hopes crashed and burned at the bottom of the lake.  The fear, the panic, in his voice when he was trying to get her to run to safety was in such sharp contrast to the sweet honey that had flowed from his lips only seconds before ... “How do I love thee …” his voice echoed in her head.


Suddenly Buffy got fighting mad. She never wanted to see fear and panic in Spike’s eyes again – never wanted to hear it in his voice; it just wasn’t Spike. She’d never heard that much fear in his voice in all the years they’d been together, never. They were breaking him down; slowly but surely they were bleeding his soul dry and shattering his Champion’s heart, and soon there would be nothing left for Buffy to save. Buffy wiped the tears from her eyes and stuffed her hand down in her pocket, pulling the amulet out and looking at it in the light.


“This better fucking work…” she muttered to herself as she picked up her pace, making Dawn struggle to keep up with her.


“Bad word!” Dawn called from behind her and Buffy couldn’t help but snort out a laugh. She would get Spike and her family back or take every angel, demon, messenger, and minion of the PTB down trying … right up to the top.


How Do I Love Thee?

Originally by The Shadows, this is a cover (Couldn't find a good one by the Shadows online) It's an instrumental.



How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..."

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.



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