Chapter Rating: PG13
Chapter Notes: Unlike season six, there will actually be timely
progression through the depression. Just not in this
chapter. In other words: angst alert.
Blood. It was all over her hands. Dripping in great, heavy drops onto the
ground. Dirt or carpet, it was all the same to her now.
Splintering, cracking under her hands as she pushed her way free of her not so
final resting place, the wood drew blood from her fingers. The departed sister
had dabbed it away. It was the blood of the girl who deserved the epitaph
given her, the one who had been replaced.
Dirty, unclean, she could never be his girl. The blood smeared in crimson
swaths across her palms and knuckles. She'd punish him for not keeping up, for
not knowing that the girl he chased still lay rotting in her grave. Maybe he
could wipe it off with the obituaries he'd forgotten to read.
The Slayer doesn't fight humans. Not even when they raise a gun at an
innocent and lock her in a prison of slow hypothermia with creations of science
and man. It's demons she fights, and creatures of dark magics. The girl left
dead would have seen what happened, but not the Slayer. The girl would have
seen whose face the creature rippling with unnatural energies wore. She would
have helped her and stopped the wielder of all that modern and perverse before
his chest ripped open.
That was what she had become. The blood of four was on her hands, and the
stains still appeared in green and white negatives when she closed her eyes.
She'd failed everyone, but blood went beyond simple failure. Blood was a
perversion of her holy duty. She'd been prepared to say goodbye forever to the
ones she'd failed, but it was too much to look at the bearers of the blood that
had spattered across her hands and face. Her mirrors were gone. Her best
friend and the target of her vegeance were silent in faraway hospital beds.
The only one there for her had taken off for parts unknown.
It was all right, though. It was as it should be. Seeing her failures before
her only saddened the girl and distracted the Slayer. She couldn't figure out
why her Watcher would not let her fulfill her duty, but she was sure he would
in the days to come. She'd worked so hard to chip away those weaknesses that
had lead to earlier failures, to latch onto the strength that assured no more
It had worked. It had been her security blanket of ice and detachment, and
with her former allies scattered, no one thought to bring a blowtorch.
But now he was standing there with those glacier-blue eyes in a face cool to
the touch, staring at her with something akin to awe as the greeting forced its
way free of her mouth. He looked so cold and polished, like she felt, but
there was terrible warmth in his words as he said with a trembling voice,
Her shield between girl and Slayer began to melt, and every falling drop
seared to the bone.
* * * * *
"Buffy." Giles finally broke the stalemate that had developed between Slayer
and vampire. He'd looked between them, marveling at the emotions that played
across blue and hazel eyes alike. She had gone so long without showing any,
and he... no, they had all been there before. It was just now that Giles saw
those emotions and gave consideration to the thought that they very well might
Now he repeated her name again, tracing his hand along her arm. She looked up
at him, not with the face of a soldier waiting for orders but that of a
confused, pained child. Seeing that very nearly made him wish he'd never
opened whatever floodgates had just been breached. Buffy had been gone, but
free of anything but mindless determination. If they couldn't save her, then
had he shoved hurt back into what short life she had left?
No, he decided as he got down on his knees before her. His hands found their
way to her delicate one, and he clasped it with all the strength he could
manage balanced with all the restraint he could show. "Buffy," he said yet
again. "Do you see who's come back? They're here to help."
Seeing the shields slam back into place near made him cry out in frustration.
"Spike," he said in a thin voice, "come here." The vampire didn't respond
immediately, so he was forced to glance away and see that he still stood near
the dresser, eyes in motion but feet rooted to the floor. Anya had slipped
out, and Giles was thankful for that.
As the shields solidified even as he watched, Giles realized there was very
little else to be thankful for.
* * * * *
It had been ten minutes by his count. Both the men had let tears of fear and
frustration slip; Rupert obviously thought he'd wiped his away unnoticed.
Spike was sure he'd accomplished as much.
"You're strong enough to come back from wherever it is you're trapped in,
Buffy." Giles ran his hand along the side of her face; she didn't respond
beyond turning away from the touch. He sighed and finished, "You're strong
enough to beat this."
Spike pursed his lips. Idiot. He waited until the man had pulled away his
hand, then grabbed him by the upper arm and pulled him across the room.
Ignoring his outraged protests, he seethed, "Are you blind? She's not strong,
any fool could see that in an instant. She's weak as wet tissue, and she knows
it. If she doesn't see the way back, then all she knows is that she used to be
better than she is and doesn't know how. And she doesn't need you hovering
around like some great mother hen, clucking at her to get over it."
"Then what, precisely, do you expect me to do?"
"Just... talk to her. She doesn't need a pep talk, she needs an anchor.
Needs to remember what this world feels like." Spike looked pointedly at
Giles. "Soon as she comes out of it, she'll start trying things. Running away
from the truth, lying. Anything from facing up to what's ahead of her. Don't
let her. She'll work through them at her own pace, and she needs not to skip
ahead. Needs to build on solid ground. S'what she didn't do before."
Deep-seated disbelief painted Giles' face. Not at the words, but at that he
would be following the orders of a vampire who obviously knew the score far
better than him. "I have missed a lot, haven't I?"
"Yeah, you did." Spike very nearly managed to keep the anger out of his
voice. The great bloody pillock. He did respect the man for a lot of things,
which still surprised him to no end, but leaving Buffy when she needed him very
nearly wiped out that goodwill. At least it'd been from stupidity, not a
desire to hurt her or selfishness.
'Course, he'd left, hadn't he? Unlike the rest, he'd been more than
justified. Justified a thousand times over. And if all those before him
hadn't broke the girl's heart, then he would have been able to do what both of
them had earned without it playing like anything but standard boy-leaves-girl.
He hated to admit it. Hated it with the passion of a thousand fiery suns, and
for a vampire, that was quite a lot. But Giles was the one who needed to talk
to her. He'd tried that for months on end, and look where it'd lead. Buffy
didn't want to hear him. He'd been asked down for one reason, and that was
He'd been useful for all of five seconds. That seemed sadly appropriate.
The weight of his own impotence pressed against his chest. He'd been all
ready to sacrifice himself in a glorious burst of light and flames, but coming
in this room had shown there was nothing but endless night in the Summers
household. Four years ago, he would have laughed at that. Done exactly what
he'd promised his maker and danced on Buffy's grave. God, he made himself
sick. "I'm going to check on Anya," he finally said.
Giles looked angry at that. Spike just laughed once, with it sounding more
like a choked sob than anything. "Yeah, quite the look there, Rupes. Save it
for when I actually take off, which won't be happening any time soon. Buffy
needs someone she trusts to lead her down these first steps, and that's not me.
Let me know when you need the sidekick."
"You broke through, Spike." He turned just before the door to see the Watcher
still holding on to Buffy's hands. She was trembling slightly. "She hasn't
shown anything since they took Dawn."
It nearly wrenched his heart free of his chest to look away from Buffy, but
Spike finally managed to say, "Anya broke through. I just got the hello."
He gave Giles a chance to respond, but no words came before Spike turned and
slowly walked down the stairs.
* * * * *
"So." Quiet was the word, and it faded into the background of the still house.
Spike didn't respond immediately, and only turned to face Anya when he felt up
to conversation. "Yeah?"
"She's really screwed up, isn't she?"
Anger flashed behind his eyes. Blunt. She had to be so damn blunt when Buffy
was so damn lost.
"I can feel it." Anya said it more gently, more quietly. His agony had to be
nearly tangible, and subtleties were finally registering with the demon. "I
can feel all those betrayals that lead her here. It's just pain overlaid on
pain. She used to be happy, didn't she?"
"She... did you know I've loved her for coming up on five years? Came as a
surprise to me, but Dru saw it. Left me for it, because I'd fallen for the
girl who could love my damnable grandsire even when he was putting her through
hell. She was loyal. The girl who made me, who bloody created me to be her
companion left me in an instant."
Anya didn't say anything, just quietly looked at him in a prompt for more.
Had this been how she pulled out wishes before?
"That's who I fell in love with," he finally whispered as he looked back up
the stairs. "I thought I could bring that girl back. But I guess it'd take
someone better'n I could hope to be."
"You love her and you offered to help her however she needed." Anya shrugged.
"If that wasn't enough, I don't think she wanted to be helped. And believe
me, nothing works harder against getting out of a big pit of despair more than
kicking away the ladders."
Spike smiled the tiniest bit despite himself. Metaphors were rare on her. It
was amazing how she could always find something in the bleakest of times to let
him latch on to. He wasn't sure, considering his lack of experience with the
animal, but he figured that had to be a real friend. "Nice imagery, pet."
"Thanks." She rubbed his shoulder. "Anything that's going on, I've probably
seen a thousand times before. Someone's unhappy, and they go to someone else
to make them happy instead of finding the way themselves. It's not gonna
work. Ever. The best thing you can hope for is that the other person gets out
before they're broken down, too."
"That's fairly pessimistic, innit?"
"From what I've seen? It's fairly accurate. I'm just glad we were able to
help each other afterwards."
He sighed and looked up at the stairs. There was something so cut and dry
about her tone that Anya made this all sound more like a puzzle to be solved
than the approaching end of his unlife as he threw himself against the spear-
tipped walls of Buffy's final descent. "So, what do you do with these unhappy
"Grant them a wish to get back at the person who couldn't figure out in time
to get the heck away from them." Genuine regret had tinged that statement, but
it was gone when Anya added, "So you'll probably have to find a different angle
than I did.
"If it helps," she said after a moment, "I think you can do it. You and
Rupert. It'll be hard, but I think you can do it."
Her words wormed their way into his chest and set up a tiny, blossoming point
of hope in the dark mire. Then it was fading away as surely as Buffy had, and
he was shaking his head again and sinking down into a seat at the kitchen
island. He wasn't Drusilla's loyal companion, a much-feared slayer of Slayers,
or even a respected fighter any longer. It was hard to maintain his old
certainly about future success when the old foundations had been chipped away
in favor of ones that no one would approve.
All he knew for certain was that he was a friend to this woman, and now he was
preparing to disappoint her. If he failed, she'd have lost her only friend the
same as he would have.
He nearly bucked out from under Anya's warm hand when she was suddenly behind
him, tracing her fingers along the contours of his chest and sliding them under
the waistband of his jeans. Quickly but gently he pulled them free, curled her
fingers into her palm, and pushed it back toward her side. "I... I can't, pet.
Not any more."
"Oh." She ducked her head down. "Sorry. I should have known. I just... you
"I am sad, pet. Not giving up, not all the way, so don't worry about that."
Yeah, rebel with a hopeless cause. "But not with her right upstairs, and not
with her so hurt...."
"I know." Anya instead wrapped him in a hug, resting her head against his
shoulder. "But it was nice while it lasted."
"Yeah," he said into the curve of her neck. "It was."
Continued in Chapter 19