Sequel to Voices in the Dark; part of The Voicesverse
Summary: And so it ends...
Spoilers: Season 7 AU, takes place after my fic, Voices in the Dark
Distribution: Just talk to me, I'm easy.
Disclaimers: All Joss, all ME, all the time...
Feedback: You betta, you betta, you bet! Would love to hear from you! firstname.lastname@example.org
Author's Notes: When I write a fic, I always experience a deep feeling of depression when I finish. In fact, I have been known to drag my feet to keep from finishing. This time, I planned for it. There will be another coming soon. And in this AU.
Thank you for all the feedback, all the encouragement. This has been a writer's dream, because I've done nothing but put it on paper. In fact, lately, I haven't been able to type fast enough.
Without Chris, Colleen, Kelly and Moose to take turns holding my hand the last few days, the last few months, I would have gone nuts. I hope the story has meant to you what it has to me. 'Cause I can guarantee we won't get anything like it in Season 7.
Shaking her head, she turned over, determined to get some rest. She was so not going to him. It would be dawn in a few hours. That Ian Browne wanted to see her, talk to her. And although she had a raw distrust of anything that smelled of the CoW, she had to admit that they'd smoothed the way.
Or Giles had. He'd been the one who made the call. She missed Giles.
She threw herself on her back and stared at the ceiling. Riley was dead. And she wasn't sorry. Sometime during the night, she had realized that the Riley she'd known died when Maggie Walsh had. When Adam was destroyed. When they'd discovered that he'd had implants and enhancers. The first time he'd visited one of those vamp whores. Whatever had been left of him had slowly leached away, until there was a monster wearing his face. She really couldn't grieve. Not for the monster. She'd grieved plenty for the man already.
Drusilla had just put him out of his misery.
But Spike? Now him she could grieve for. She didn't know why she wanted to grieve, but she did. His distance was something that was still unreal to her. She slammed her palm down on the bed. He was hurting and she didn't know what to do.
Throwing the covers aside, Buffy got up and determinedly headed toward her mother's room. If he didn't want to talk, that was fine. If he did, that was fine, too. Whatever. She just couldn't be in the same house and not be with him.
The lights from the street glowed in the windows of her mother's room. Buffy carefully went over and closed the curtains more tightly. Had he really been that tired? So tired that he hadn't noticed?
Turning toward the bed, she looked at him. His eyes were wide open. She let out a disgusted breath.
"You need to sleep," she scolded in a whisper.
"So do you," he said, pulling back the covers in invitation.
She gladly slipped into the bed, settling back against the mattress, pillows. She made a small noise that sounded suspiciously like satisfaction, even to her.
He gazed at the ceiling, where his eyes had been locked all night. He sighed softly, and turned over on his side, facing away from her. After a moment's hesitation, she put her arm around him, spooning against him. After another moment, she felt his hand enfold hers and pull her arm to his chest.
She wondered what to do with her other arm? Cause it was under her, and it would probably go to sleep and then she'd have to disturb him...
With a barely perceptible move, he shifted and the arm that was next to the bed had its own little spot. She marveled at him. How did he always know what to do? She never did.
"He almost killed you," she whispered.
His body stiffened, then relaxed quickly. Too quickly. "Go to sleep, pet."
She could feel his hard back through her t-shirt. Resisting the need to squeeze him and reassure herself that he was fine, she just pulled him closer to her, wrapping her bare legs in his.
All of her resolve to be patient shattered. "Talk to me. Tell me what you're thinking. What you're feeling. Please. I need to know."
He sighed and pulled her arm further up his chest, nestling her deeper into his back. "Buffy, go to sleep."
No. He wasn't doing this. Okay, so he wouldn't talk, but she couldn't stand the distance. Not up against his body like this. How could they be so close together with him so far away?
Shifting, she crawled over and faced him. His eyes were black in the dark room. For a moment, he looked strange. Unlike himself. Which was just ridiculous.
She put a flat hand on his bare chest, and looked at him with solemn eyes.
"Oh, love..." he sighed. There. Now. *That* was Spike.
Catching the sigh with her lips, she drew it away from him and into herself. She drank him down, daintily, enjoying the soft feel of his beautiful mouth on hers. No reason to hurry. He wasn't going anywhere.
When he finally returned her kiss, she worked herself into his arms with a light twist. And swallowed his groan greedily. God, she'd missed this. Had it only been one day? Just the afternoon before? So much had happened since then. And they'd wasted so much time before that.
Her hand traveled down his chest. Could have been dust, that chest. That mouth. That...
She felt him push himself into her hand. Okay, all parts were working fine. No lasting damage from the chip or Riley or...
Then, coherent thought left her as he fell into her.
The slayer dragged herself out of deep sleep, and reached over. The bed was cold. Which meant nothing, she remembered. Her eyes slowly opened. Okay, and empty. So Spike had gotten up already.
She could almost hear Dawn's feet stomping on the floor downstairs. She rolled over and picked up the phone.
"Got it," she told Dawn.
"'Bout time," her sister grumbled as the downstairs extension clicked off.
"This better be good. I've been saving the world again," she growled, not thinking.
"And quite impressively, from all reports." Buffy sat up in shock as Giles voice came through the receiver. She grabbed her t-shirt off the floor and tried to get her naked arms in it as fast as she could.
"G-Giles!" She had wrapped the phone cord around the shirt when she put her head in the neck. Oh, God, this was hopeless! Why wasn't there a cordless in her mother's room?
"Yes, Buffy, it's Giles," he said amused. "Do you need some time to wake before we attempt to talk? This *is* rather important."
"Hold on. Just let me...do this. Hold on, okay?" Buffy put the phone down and pulled her head back out of the shirt. Untangling it from the phone cord, she carefully placed it over her head and pulled it down as far as she could while sitting. For good measure, she raised her hips slightly and pulled it up under her bare butt. And ran her hands through her hair. There. All presentable.
She picked up the phone again. "Hi, Giles. Riley's dead. And Spike's chip is out. And we've got more than twenty homegrown vampires at the old Initiative headquarters. Any suggestions?"
"Um, yes. I know. But that's not why I'm calling. Ian and the general seem to be doing an admirable job in sorting all that out."
"Oh, good. Glad you approve. Since. You're. Not. Here." The sarcasm in her tone silenced him.
She sat waiting for him to reopen the conversation. Finally, he cleared his throat. Cleaned his glasses, too, probably.
"The reason *I* am calling is to inform you that the Council has taken my last round of recommendations to heart, especially since today's phone conference with the very complimentary Ian. The Council will commence paying you a very generous stipend immediately. Well, generous provided that you continue to buy your clothes on sale, of course," he said in an amused voice.
"What?" Buffy was stunned. Or she was dreaming. Or she was dreaming that she was stunned.
"Take a moment and absorb this, Buffy. Then, call that disastrous nightmare that calls itself 'fast' food and resign your position. As soon as possible. I'll be there in a few days with the paperwork and details."
She was trying to absorb it, but the spongy part of her brain had atrophied from the amount of grease she'd been forced to breathe in. "But Giles..."
"Get dressed, Buffy. Meet with Ian. I'll be there very soon. Even hold your hand, if you think it's necessary. And Buffy?"
"Yeah," she answered distractedly.
"I'm..." He cleared his throat again. "I'm, uh, sorry... about Riley."
"Um, thanks, Giles." It was all she knew to say.
At full pelt, Buffy ran down the stairs.
The living room was empty. "Yahoo?" she whispered. "Hey!" she called out. "Good news! Where is everybody?"
Xander walked out of the kitchen with a bowl of cereal in one hand and a spoon in the other. His mouth was full. "Hey, Buff." He managed to mangle the two words. A stream of milk ran out of the corner of his mouth. His spoon hand came up to smear it across his cheek.
In a moment, Dawn walked out, also clutching her breakfast. "What's the news? And - good news? Even better. Spill."
"What? This is it?" Buffy looked around, disappointed. Pushing past the pair, she poked her head into the kitchen. No one except Jonathan. He glanced up at her, as he munched. Did these guys know how much cereal costs?
Hands on her hips, she turned back to her sister and friend. "Okay, so where is he?"
Xander chewed faster. And swallowed. And choked a little. Dawn hit him squarely in the back. He began coughing in earnest then.
Facing Dawn squarely, she lowered her brows and narrowed her eyes. "Where is he?"
"Took him home," Xander finally choked out. "He wanted to go home and he didn't look so hot. So I found him a blanket and bundled him up. He's at the crypt."
The slayer stared. "'He didn't look so hot'... *you* took him home? In your car?" She looked at him incredulously. "What is this? What did I miss? Major bonding?"
"Well, he looked pretty rough," Xander said, embarrassed. "And he had it pretty rough, and..."
She stared at him in shock, then headed back up the stairs. "Okay, I've got to go. Be back in a few. Dressing now!"
Dawn dazedly watched her run upstairs. "Well," she said sulkily. "I think the big news flash got preempted."
No one was upstairs at the crypt. But Buffy heard quiet voices filtering in from below. She walked to the top of the steps and stood there for a moment. Really hadn't planned to have an audience for this. She shrugged. After all, she was at Spike Central. Home For Misplaced Demons and Friends. She smiled and started down the stairs.
Spike looked at Daniel as he heard her tread. The young vampire put down the olive colored duffle and headed up, passing Buffy midway. She didn't see him shake his head.
"I've got good news," she said smiling. "And you weren't there to hear it, so I brought it with me."
He sat back on the bed, and motioned her over. "So," he said, as she settled there, "what?"
"The Council is going to be paying me. Giles called. Told me to quit my job. Today!" The look on her face was a like a thousand suns. "I *had* to tell you first."
He looked at her curiously. "Why?"
Her eyes dropped to her hands. "Because you knew. When nobody else did." Her voice gained strength. "That it was a bad thing for me. That job, I mean. I remember how everybody else thought it was okay. You know, something even Buffy could do," she said mockingly. She looked back up at him. "You always know. Oh, and by the way, this is also an apology for not listening."
"Well. Yeah." He pushed his hair back. "I do know what's good for you, even if I don't always carry through with it. This time it's gonna be different though."
Buffy was surprised at the nervousness in his eyes. "What do you mean? Spike? What's going on? I..."
And suddenly she realized that there were two duffles, partially packed and lying on the floor. Her eyes widened, then narrowed in anger.
"You want to tell me what's going on here? And it better be a camping trip!"
Spike scrubbed his hands down his face and tried to collect his thoughts. "I was going to come by tonight and tell you. The general and Browne have asked Daniel to help with the Initiative vampires. They won't stake them out of hand." Spike grinned ruefully. "Suddenly, it's not politically correct."
"So Daniel has enough stuff for *two* duffles? When did he hit the mall?" The more he hedged, the angrier she became.
He couldn't sit still any longer. Getting up from the bed, he began pacing. "Daniel is going to look out for their best interests. I'm going with him. To keep an eye on Daniel's best interests."
Eyes hardening, she clipped out the words. "For how long?"
He stopped, hearing the note in her voice and looked at her with trepidation.
"How. Long." she ground out.
Walking over and sitting back on the bed, he reached for her hands. They were cold and stiff. "Buffy love, there's more to it." He took a deep breath. "I wished Riley dead."
She shook her head to clear it. Had she entered a different dimension? "Spike, Riley was hurting you. Hell, I've wished you dead often enough!"
"Not to Anyanka, you haven't."
Buffy's mouth dropped open. Then, she smiled. "Well, you should have heard my wish. The one that got you dechipped. Very threatening."
"Yes. You dechipped me. It was an accident."
"Buffy, I looked Anya in the eye and wished Riley dead. At Dru's hands. I *knew* what I was doing." He got up again, and walked away from her. "Look, the chip is out. And I'm not so different after all, am I? Even with the bloody soul. I wanted the bastard dead and made it happen." He glanced at Buffy. "And I'm not sorry." He paused so she could take in what he was saying. "I'm glad he's dead, and I hope he suffered as his life ran out on that sodding white tile they have everywhere in that cold, dead place."
The slayer looked down at her hands, thrown my the anger in his pale blue eyes. "I'm not sorry he's dead. He's been dead a while, I think," she said softly.
"I need some time." His words were brusque, but his eyes were haunted.
Her head came up. "How much time?"
Sighing, he sat down beside her again. "I didn't take any time when I got the soul. Just hightailed it back here on pure adrenaline. It's been hard, Buffy, but I thought I had it beat. And now this.
"I need to get away and do something else. And think. Think without the look of you distractin' me each and every day. This is constructive. Something I can do. Bully the general, squawk about living conditions and reeducation." He took her hands and stroked them, gazing honestly into her eyes. "I need this. Not as much as I need you, of course. But right now, I need it."
She got up and walked to the stairs, not looking back at him. "You've got your time," she said in a hard voice.
Leaping off the bed, he caught her shoulders before she could leave and spun her around, expecting to see anger and betrayal.
What he saw was eyes filled with tears and a quivering chin.
"Oh, Buffy love..." He reached up an thumbed away the tear that had overflowed from her right eye. He pulled her stiff little body close and felt her give way and melt into him.
"Are you coming back?" she asked quietly.
He pushed her away to look at her searchingly. "Of course, I'm coming back." He looked behind her, around him. "But not to this. Clem can have it. It was a mistake to come back to this. No place to make a beginning. This is a place where things end."
She sniffed. "Ian is bringing your coat. Dawn mentioned it, and they found it."
"Ah." Spike laughed. "Keep it for me then. I won't be needin' to be the Big Bad anytime soon. Just 'shepherd of the people.'"
Buffy looked at him uncomprehendingly.
"Just a saying, love," he said soothingly. "Cheer up. I'll be back soon enough, and we'll see if we can't do a better job of it, all right?"
She lifted her chin and smiled through her tears.
"That's my girl."
Answering the crisp knock, Buffy opened the front door. Rupert Giles slipped past her carrying a valise and a small suitcase. He smelled of airline soap and faded aftershave.
Putting down his burdens, he swung back toward her, ducking his head shyly. He hesitated for just a moment, and then gave into impulse and folded the slayer into his arms. The light wool sweatshirt was an eggplant color and it made her nose itch. She pulled a hand from around him and scratched it with her fist.
Giles reached up and put his hands on her shoulders, pushing her away so he could drink in the sight of her. He looked at her in mock-admonishment.
"Have you quit that terrifying job?" he asked sternly, eyes twinkling.
Nodding, she smiled a little.
He tucked her under his arm and propelled them toward the sofa. "Good, good," he said briskly as they sat. "Horrid place." He grinned mischievously. "Quite gave me the 'wiggins.'"
She laughed then. A little half-chuckle, but a laugh nonetheless. Giles pulled his arm from around her and adjusted his shirt, leaning forward as he rubbed his hands together in anticipation.
"Now. Tell me about the vampires."
Her face crumpled, eyes filling with tears.
"Buffy!" He looked at her in astonished, uncertain of what to do - or of what he'd said to bring about such a reaction. He quickly pulled her to his chest, because that was what you did with a weeping child. And she was definitely crying.
"So glad... you're home," she gasped.
"Oh, my dear." He wanted to reach for his glasses, but his arms were full of sobbing slayer and he didn't have them on anyway.
"Giles, he's gone," she hiccupped.
Her former watcher frowned. "There, there, Buffy." How long had she been like this? Since Riley had been killed?
"He says...he's coming back, but...they never do..."
Giles stiffened. "Who says he's coming back?" he demanded in confusion.
Her sobs stopped abruptly. She pulled away, pushing her hair back and wiping her eyes. She smiled shakily at him. "Oh, Giles, it's such a mess..." She sniffed, and giggled self-consciously, not wanting to meet this straightforward gaze. "I'm sorry. You just got here, and..."
Giles tipped her chin up. "Buffy, dear, I'm here with happy news. The kind of news that can wait. Your unhappiness cannot," he said softly.
She looked down at her toes. "Spike's gone," she whispered, lips quivering anew.
Dumbfounded, Giles cast his mind back to their conversation the spring before and sighed. "Oh, Buffy..." he breathed. He pulled her to him again, patting her back. She was a fragile little bird to have such strength.
And such horrendous taste in men.
"It's all right, dear," he crooned soothingly, ignoring his personal feelings for the moment, as she cried. "Spike will come back. It's what he does. Always."