By Devil Piglet
Disclaimer: All characters of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ are used without permission.
Author’s Notes: This is set post-‘Hell’s Bells’, and while it overlaps some themes of ‘Normal Again’, for my purposes, that events in that episode haven’t occurred.
Feedback: This is my first story posted to fanfiction.net. I’d appreciate reviews: email@example.com.
Part 5: Dreaming
Buffy Summers was dreaming.
Soft, surprisingly soft eyelashes batting against her own. Tongues and limbs intertwined, and that gasp, that special gasp he made right before. When she heard that sound she always forced herself to open her own eyes and look at him because the sight of his face then was so exquisite. His expression would be at once feral and radiant – and despite the frequent violence of their lovemaking, Buffy would feel herself suffused, just for a moment, with something akin to joy.
This time, though, it was different. His face was aglow as it always was, but now there was something behind it. Infinite patience. Serenity. He reclined on the bed in his crypt, cradling her as if he knew what was to come.
She buried her face in his chest. “I’m so scared,” she sobbed out. When had she started to cry? Oh, God, what if –
“You’re safe here,” he said, as he continued to look down at her. “She can’t hear you. These are your dreams, not hers.”
Well, that was startlingly prosaic, after the dream’s promising soft-porn beginning.
Buffy knew that there were questions to be asked but she didn’t want to talk. Not about…that. She just wanted to nestle here forever, in this lovely world of his familiar embrace that would hold her tight and keep the badness at bay.
“I’ve been kicked out,” Buffy explained. “Can I stay with you?”
He chuckled ruefully. “I’m afraid not. You see, I’ve been displaced as well.”
His voice was gentler than she remembered, more cultured. And she could have used a ‘pet’ or ‘love’ thrown in there somewhere, Buffy thought with mild irritation. She was kind of getting dumped on, in a cosmic sense. Her soul, she remembered indignantly, was essentially homeless, and what the heck would he know about –
“Oh,” she said apologetically, as realization struck her. “William.”
He just smiled, but then it faded as movement behind her caught his attention. He hopped off the bed, caressed her one last time. “You’re still in the game,” he told her. “Don’t let her convince you otherwise.”
SShe opened her mouth to speak, to tell him that she really could use his help even though he probably wasn’t as good a fighter as her Spike and since this wasn’t real to begin with she wasn’t going to analyze the fact that she’d just called him her Spike and damnit, these cryptic Slayer dreams did not cut the mustard sometimes, or maybe it was just the fact that she’d dropped out of school because hey, still clueless here –
Then the noxious, choking darkness rolled in again, covering her like an oil slick until she was no more.
Dawn knelt next to Spike.
“Don’t worry,” she soothed. “Soon it will be over.”
He just shook his head. “It’s just…it’s all so messed up. Wrong.”
“Is she a demon?” A heartbreakingly hopeful expression appeared on his face. “I can kill her if she’s a demon.”
“She’s not a demon.”
“I’ve never been so scared in my life.”
“Now you’re exaggerating.”
“I didn’t know there was evil like that out there. I mean…I thought I knew, but…”
Dawn took his trembling hands in hers. “It’s okay. It’s been canceled. This is the last season.”
He exhaled slowly. “Are you sure?”
“I’m sure.” Dawn walked over to the television, where Ally McBeal was having another wide-eyed romantic crisis while dressed inappropriately and practicing law that would get her disbarred in most states. With a decisive click, the screen went black.
Spike sat back on the bed, seemingly drained. Dawn eyed him speculatively. There was something she’d been meaning to ask him, and now that he was all over vulnerable from ‘Ally’ it was her best chance. She crawled up next to him.
“Were you really going to just dump me at Angel’s?”
Spike’s eyes opened and a small crease furrowed his brow. After a week of way too much quality time with Dawn, he should have become accustomed to her non sequitur subject changes. This one, however, threw him.
“I give up. What are we talking about?”
“The first day. You asked me if I wanted to go to Angel’s.”
“Hell, Dawn, you were the one brought it up. I thought you wanted to stay with him.”
“And you would have let me? Dropped me off on his doorstep and waved goodbye? Maybe if I was lucky it’d be at night, and you’d actually get out of the car.”
Spike had probably said or done something recently that warranted this conversation, but he was too tired to figure out what. Which meant almost certainly that he would find himself in this uncomfortable position again someday. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it…God, wasn’t he the poster boy for that truism.
He snorted loudly. “Not a bloody chance. Hand you over to the brooding wonder? The guy who could start snacking on you if he sees a laugh-out-loud episode of ‘Friends’? Oh, but I’m the unstable one.”
Dawn felt a rush of relief at that, followed immediately by guilt. Stupid emotions. How could she be happy about anything, with Buffy still missing? She knew that if it weren’t for her, Spike would be out there now, hunting for her sister. Instead he was saddled with Dawn.
“Guess you got the short end of the stick,” she said, with a vain attempt at lightness.
Spike stared at her again. Maybe it was some kind of adolescent hormonal thing, he thought uneasily. “Now what are we talking about?”
“Ending up with me instead of Buffy. C’mon, I mean…you can’t tell me you wouldn’t rather be –“
“Don’t,” Spike said shortly. “You don’t know as much as you think you do.”
She plucked at the bedspread, seemingly intent on the play of her long fingers over the garish magenta flowers. “Shouldn’t we be out there helping her?” Dawn asked in a whisper.
Shouldn’t we be out there helping her? It was a question he’d asked himself at least twenty times a day since their flight had started. He was alternately tormented by images of the suffering Buffy might be experiencing, and the suffering Buffy might be inflicting on an unsuspecting populace.
He’d spoken with the Watcher about this. He’d found Giles surprisingly good to talk to, someone with whom he could share his otherwise unuttered fear for Dawn, for Buffy. For himself. The older man felt that there was no benefit that could be gained from confronting Buffy before they had more information. Which would be any information, Spike thought in frustration.
Yeah, he answered silently, we should.
Weeks passed, bleeding into one another in their sameness. Drive all night, almost every night. Find the most respectable looking motel off the highway and book a room. They rarely stayed anywhere more than twenty-four hours, just long enough to shower, eat, and fall into bed. Spike had spent much of his unlife traveling, in not-always-commodious conditions. He was accustomed to the pace and the draining weariness of being constantly on the move. He knew it was harder on Dawn. He tried to keep her busy, with books and crossword puzzles and pilfered CDs. It was nothing close to what she needed or deserved. But at the end of the day, he was no more than Spike, the disgruntled, impractical vampire.
Dear Mr. Giles,
How are you? Spike and I are fine. I like where we’re staying now; it’s warm like California but with lots of old buildings, which Spike likes. The people talk weird but since most of my conversations are with you and Spike I think I could get used to it. I wish we could stay here for a while. I’ve been to six states now, and that’s cool but I’m getting kind of thrashed. You wouldn’t believe how many ugly bedspreads there are in the world. I think I’ve seen them all. And if I never sleep underneath a pink stucco ceiling again for the rest of my life, I can die happy.
Thanks for getting me out of my classes. Bet you never thought having connections at Sunnydale High would come in handy. Spike said you fudged (he didn’t use that word) some paperwork that has me on an exchange program to Sweden. He was all worried that I was going to flunk out or something. It’s weird what sets him off. Sometimes I think he reads this stuff on the backs of cereal boxes, or standing in line at the Ralph’s.
We miss Buffy.
I’m so worried that she’s out there somewhere and she needs help and she can’t find us. Then right after that I worry that we haven’t gone far enough fast enough and she’s going to show up at room number 9 of the Stop-Inn with a machete. Do you know where she is? After we heard what happened at the Hyperion Spike stopped telling me that kind of stuff. And I don’t really ask, because of that look he gets on his face.
I have to go. Spike’s always home before ‘The Howard Stern Show’ starts and he said he was bringing chocolate milk and taquitos.
Dawn studied the letter critically as Spike unlocked the motel room door, juggling paper bags. “A little help, here?”
“In a second,” she answered distractedly. “Spike, how do you spell ‘machete’?”
He set the bags down on the rickety bedside table and began unloading the contents. “Writing to the Watcher again?”
She wrinkled her nose. “He actually sent me back my last letter, marked up with a red pen.”
“I know. I got an earful about neglecting the most fundamental aspects of your education in favor of ‘teenybopper rags and abhorrent television programming designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator.’” Spike gave her an appraising glance. “Sound familiar?”
“Oh.” Dawn bit her lip. “I might have mentioned how we’ve been watching ‘Temptation Island 3’.” Note to self: edit this week’s letter. She rose from the bed and joined him in pawing through the groceries. “Ooh! Lunchables!”
“Clever, ain’t they? Couldn’t pass ‘em up. M-A-C-H-E-T-E.”
“Huh? Oh, yeah. Thanks.”
“Just my way of further contributing to the delinquency of a minor.”
Dawn watched as Spike attempted to make himself comfortable on a bed that was too small for him, and peeled back the cellophane covering of a manufactured meat product that he seemed to find more amusing that appetizing. She remembered the past weeks, the stretches of days and nights that he had stayed awake while she slept, or pretended to. She noticed how much thinner he had gotten without a steady supply of blood, and wondered at how he must scramble now to find sources of food in these tiny backwaters they’d been frequenting.
“Buffy would be so proud of you.”
His head whipped around and he gaped at her, stunned. It was almost funny, really.
“What the – what put that thought into you head?”
“Everything. Stuff.” She shrugged. “Well, it’s true.”
“Uh-huh. I think she’d feel about the same Giles does. And there’d be more hitting involved. Kneeing in delicate places, possible staking. That sort of thing.”
“You’re doing what she asked you to,” Dawn persisted.
“Asked me? Was that before or after she tried to turn you into mince? ‘Cause I must not have been listening, what with the all the psychosis in the room. Distracting, that.” He knew he sounded harsh and told himself he didn’t care.
Dawn glared at him, but his moods no longer intimidated her. “Don’t be all humpy,” she said, and Spike winced inwardly at hearing his own slang out of her mouth.
“Before. When Glory was macking on her Dawn-shaped Key and Buffy took us over to your place. Remember? With my mom?”
The too-brief moments of companionship he’d shared with Joyce. The warm feeling that had taken up residence in his gut, at the thought of being protector rather than predator, and the ensuing self-disgust.
“I heard what she said when she left us there. She said you were the only one strong enough to protect us.”
He couldn’t prevent a small smile from breaking through. “I guess she did at that.”
“She couldn’t have planned it better herself, if she’d, you know, been herself…” Dawn trailed off. Silence reigned.
“Do you think we’ll ever see her again?”
Dawn’s small voice pierced him in places he thought were dead and immune. He would happily die for good if it would take this hurt away from her, this raw open wound that festered between them because there was no healing for it. Buffy was still out there, somewhere.
“Yes,” he said, and his words were surprisingly steady to his own ears.
On impulse, Dawn scooted over and threw her arms around his neck, nearly upending the Lunchable tower he was building.
“Watch the biscuits, will you? For crying in a bucket…” He set his construction down and hugged Dawn tightly.
This was still so new to him, this…touching, without agenda or pretense. Marathon shagging with superhuman warrior-women, he knew. Spontaneous hugging, though, put Spike entirely out of his depth. But he loved it, secretly and with the wide-eyed wonder of a child. Dawn’s easy warmth fed an addiction he didn’t know he had.
“You’re going to be taller than me soon, you know that?”
She nodded, her head bumping his chin, and reached across him to retrieve the Lunchable. She began eating it, starting at the top with a triangle slice of rather violently pink ham. “And then, you’re going to try to make me do stuff, like go inside the Del Taco and tell them they forgot the Fire Sauce, and I’m going to lay the smack-down on you, ‘cause I can.”
The mental image that conjured up was so absurd he started to laugh, and Dawn joined him. They fought over the cold cuts and spilled crumbs on the sheets, and instead of watching television they played poker. Two hours later Dawn was asleep, her exhalations probably startling truckers zooming past on the highway fifty feet from their door.
Spike moved the desk chair in front of the door and wedged it there, shut off the cheap lamp that stood between the narrow beds, and closed his eyes.
The bloody bitch haunted his dreams.
He couldn’t stop replaying that night, that final, fateful night. He’d lie there, determined that today, this day, he wasn’t going to do it. And then the loop would start, and he was helpless to do anything but watch. Bloody masochistic, it was, even for Spike, for whom pain and love were hopelessly intertwined.
And the crazy thing was, he didn’t have anything to feel guilty for. Not this time. After Buffy had taken her swan dive off that tower, his punishing mind had been driven by the few moments before – when he’d been within a hair’s-breath of saving Dawn, and instead got beat down by a wizened little gremlin of a guy. Oh, yeah. Major self-flagellation over that one, and well-deserved at that. He’d taken his licks for it, and would have continued to had she ultimately not clawed her way out of the grave.
After that, the words ‘lick’ and ‘Buffy’ had a whole new connection.
Tonight more than ever, he was compelled to re-examine those final moments. Something Dawn said earlier, he was sure. But he couldn’t grasp it, couldn’t wrap his mind around the essential detail that eluded him. Because there was something he was missing. One hundred and twenty-some years provided plenty of opportunity for introspection. His brain was trying to tell him something.
Think, you stupid git! Think!
Waking up. Dawn’s tears. His love’s name, whimpered endlessly, and all the while Spike being afraid for Buffy, when he should have been afraid of her. The panic, the mad rush to take the girl and make her lead him to Buffy. Not fast enough, mate – that clever Slayer was already at his door, smiling in a way he’d never seen her smile before. The kind of smile he imagined others might see on him. It had looked wrong, so wrong, and in that instant he knew that Dawn had been utterly truthful with him. Thank God, Spike reflected now, she’d eventually had the sense to come to his place, rather than –
Whoa. Back up a mo’. Slowly, slowly…
’She just kept cutting me off, everywhere I turned. I lost her just before the cemetery.’ Now that stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. Since when did Buffy lose her quarry? And on a route that was so well-worn by her tiny feet? There was no way she got to the gates of St. Ambrose’s, scratched her head, and tried to figure out where little sister had run off to.
Think, Spike. Hell, pull William out of retirement if you have to.
‘She just kept cutting me off…’
Thank God she’d had the sense to come to his place
‘You’re the only one strong enough to protect them.’
‘You’re doing what she asked you to.’
He sat straight up in bed, realization applying a hot poker to his spine. Oh, he was a stupid git, no question.
Buffy had chased Dawn, all right. Chased her right into Spike’s arms.
Not-Buffy had already worked over the others. No Scoobies to the rescue by the time she got to Dawn. And it was all falling into place, now. How she had left Dawn for last; those precious few minutes so that Dawn could stammer out her amazing, horrific tale. And their final showdown in his crypt. Spike was not so arrogant as to think that he had been destined to win their confrontation. Buffy was nothing if not a ruthless, relentless opponent. But…perhaps destiny had a hand in some of that night.
It wasn’t Buffy working the controls. Once he’d accepted that, it only seemed natural that she had been overtaken completely and utterly. That the old Buffy – the real Buffy – was no longer in residence.
Now he was unsure. No, that swaggering creature that had come for Dawn was not Buffy. Neither was the one who aroused his bloodlust with a few well-chosen words. That was some some rank swill poured into a familiar chalice. But the timing, the sequence of events…it couldn’t be ignored.
She hadn’t been able to break free, so she’d done the next best thing: taken the reins, briefly – milliseconds, maybe – and steered as best she could before the interloper noticed the change in direction.
Oh, my girl, he thought. My dear, sweet girl.
Continued in Part 6: Hands Across America