By Barb Cummings
Sequel to A Raising in the Sun
Dawn detoured around a tombstone and shifted the bag of groceries from one
hip to the other. "You could have left me off at Lisa's." Lisa and
Megan had agreed eagerly that it wasn't necessary to burden Lisa's mom with
excess information about their night out, and had agreed somewhat more reluctantly
to tell Lisa's mother that Dawn had gotten sick and gone home early--Megan
obviously suspected the two of them of being off to have further adventures
of which she was being left out.
took a final drag off his cigarette and sent the butt spinning into the night.
shot him a sideways look under her lashes. Something had unnerved him
there at the end, as they'd escaped the park; he was stalking along, head
down, duster flapping behind him, doing the 'I'm a predatory creature of the
night and don't you forget it!' thing big time--a difficult effect to achieve
while carrying a styrofoam cooler under one arm, even if it was full of pig's
blood, but Spike had had a lot of practice. "I thought we weren't going
to add to my sister's worries."
Spike said, "was before you left the car." He looked down at her and
his voice softened. "Not that we didn't appreciate the hand, Bit, but
if anything'd gone wrong you could have ended up roughly as bright as Harris.
Your chums--they had no idea what they were getting into, did they?
Not the best choice for backup, pet. For bloody stupid planning I'm
bound to make you suffer, and I can't think of anything calculated to cause
more suffering than forcing you to endure your sister's company when she's
good and brassed off."
punched him in the arm. "You really are evil." She stuck her
lower lip out and added in lower but still perfectly audible to vampires
tones, "And if you think enduring Buffy's presence is a good punishment
for stupid plans, no wonder you come up with so many of them."
chuckled, his mercurial spirits on the upswing again. "Pet, I still
don't buy that you could spot a kukri knife in a dark boot and completely
miss the full can of petrol right beside it."
told you, it was behind the cooler!" She wasn't going to live that
one down for quite awhile. "Anyway, it's not my fault you drive
a car that gets, like, three miles to the gallon."
looked wounded. "Twelve, I'll have you know!" As they approached
the crypt he stopped in the middle of the path, frowning, and put a restraining
hand on Dawn's shoulder. "Half a mo'. We've got company."
looked ahead. Tawny golden light poured out through the windows of
the crypt--someone had lit the candles, which meant that the visitor was either
human or some other kind of demon--vampires wouldn't have needed the light.
A darker shape moved behind the iron crossbars of the window. Spike
pulled Dawn off the path and into the shadow of a nearby elm. "See
if you can stay put this time."
glided off towards the crypt, a shadow among shadows, all business now and
infinitely more dangerous-looking for it. Dawn set her bag down and
folded her arms across her chest, tucking her hands into the sleeves of her
sweater against the chill. With all that had gone on already
tonight, she was far more on edge than she liked to admit, and letting Spike
out of her sight was the last thing she wanted to do. She stood on
tip-toe, trying to see what was going on inside, but the angle was wrong and
the candlelight too diffuse to make anything out.
was with great relief that she saw the vampire's pale head re-appear in the
crypt doorway. "All clear, pet. It's just your sis."
great. I was hoping it was only a flesh-eating demon."
Dawn entered the crypt Buffy was hovering beside the stairwell to the crypt's
lower level, arms folded, head down, carefully not looking at Spike.
Spike was setting the cooler down by the refrigerator, carefully not looking
at Buffy. Dawn expected her sister to go into lecture mode immediately,
but to her surprise Buffy just acknowledged her presence with a nod.
her in your bed," Buffy said. "I hope that's OK. Tara's down
there with her now."
problem." Spike ran a hand through his hair and bent to fiddle with
the lid of the cooler. "Still housebroken, isn't she?"
two of them were not looking at each other so hard Dawn wouldn't have been
surprised to see scorch marks in the air between them. Ooh, this was
new. Dawn tried not to stare too obviously as she set the grocery
bag down on top of the mini-fridge and began pulling things out. Buffy'd
said they'd had a fight. What kind of fight left you acting like that?
Buffy'd always claimed that Spike considered a punch in the nose third base.
"Her? Her who? What's wrong?"
Buffy said, her voice flat. "She's--last night, we found Willy the Snitch
wandering around in the middle of the highway, acting like one of Glory’s
crazies. Tonight Willow ran into the guy that did it. At least
I hope so--I’d hate to think there were two of them running around.
Willow has left the building, sanity-wise."
abandoned the no-eye-contact game and looked right at her, startled.
"Would the bloke she ran into be a skinny dark-haired git about so tall?"
He held a hand a few inches above his own head. "Dresses like
Babbitt on a bad day?"
the cultural literacy quiz here, but yeah, that sounds like him."
Buffy rubbed her forehead and pulled her hair back from her face, still avoiding
the vampire's gaze.
Willow going to be OK?" Dawn asked. "Tara can fix her, right?"
don't know. I hope so. Willy recovered, so..." Buffy frowned
at Spike. "How do you know what Mr. Brainsuck looks like?"
a common problem to focus on, the uncomfortable tension between the two of
them dissipated like morning fog. "Harris and I crashed his picnic in
Weatherly Park." Spike knelt down, opened the cooler and began transferring
his blood to the fridge. "Showed up running like Old Nick was after
him. His name is Tanner, he was one of Glory's lot, and he's still got
a whole crew of nutters with him--they pulled a bait and switch on Harris,
got him to go poncing off after a damsel in distress--"
was Buffy's turn to raise an eyebrow. "Followed by his faithful vampire
gave her a dirty look. "Couldn't let the bleeder wander off on his own,
could I? Wouldn't last ten minutes, and you'd skin me for it.
Though in his case, damned if I know what difference losing his mind would
make. From what this Tanner bloke said when he tried his Tibetan memory
trick on yours truly, if he ran into Will by himself, she'll get over it.
Put those biscuits in the crate there, Pigeon," he directed Dawn. He
examined the contents of said crate and held up the remaining bottle of
whiskey with a frown. "Oi, I had two of these in here!" He sniffed
groaned. "I don't have time to explain right now, but it was vitally
necessary." A ferocious light entered her eyes. "This guy went
after you and Xander? Xander's all right?"
bit knocked about. We dropped him off at the emergency room to have
his hands seen to. Anya's with him. And I'm just fine, thank you
ignored him. "Dawn, why exactly are you here?"
was vitally necessary?" Dawn said with a weak grin. She held out a
box of Ritz crackers. "Hungry? We can make peanut butter cracker
They ended up making up a plate full of crackers, cheese and apples to take
down to Tara, Spike grumbling the whole time about not having signed on to
feed the multitudes. Dawn held it carefully in one hand while climbing
down the glorified ladder which served as a staircase to the lower levels.
downstairs was bigger than his upstairs, including the original lower level
of the crypt, several rooms dug out beneath the cemetery, and access to the
tunnels running all over Sunnydale. Though he had indeed gotten rid
of the pile of moldering skulls (Dawn rather regretted the loss; the skulls
had been pretty cool) the atmosphere was still leaned more towards the Addams
Family than Better Homes and Gardens. There was real furniture down
there now, but whenever he'd run into a coffin in the course of his excavations,
Spike had hauled it out and incorporated it into the decor. Dawn occasionally
speculated on whether or not the end tables still harbored their original
occupants, but had never gotten up the nerve to ask.
bedroom was off the main room through a low, irregular archway. It
was a weird combination of comfortable and creepy. The floors were
blanketed with a haphazard collection of oriental rugs. There was a
bookshelf, a nightstand with an old-fashioned pitcher and basin, a coffin-cum-blanket
chest, and a wardrobe which, at a guess, housed Spike's extensive collection
of black jeans and t-shirts. Another coffin or two hung drunkenly out
of the packed earth of the walls by way of decoration. The room was
dominated by a huge old four-poster bed in dark wood, complete with canopy
in hunter green and cream swirls. In the middle of the vast expanse
of counterpane Willow was curled, small and waifish with her auburn hair
in flyaway wisps about her face.
looked up as they entered; she was sitting on the edge of the bed, watching
Willow with a heartbreaking expression. Willow broke into an agitated
wail when she saw Dawn. "Oh, the shining, the shining, come over the
sea with the brightness inside..." She reached out, fingers crooked,
raking the air with both hands. Dawn cringed back. She'd thought
this was all over. She wasn't the Key anymore, she was just Dawn Summers,
dammit! Wasn't it ever going to stop?
don't think it's a good idea, everyone being in here at once," Tara said,
taking the plate with an apologetic look.
circled the bed; Willow had half-crawled, half-slumped over to the side opposite
Tara, and was pawing aimlessly through Spike's pile of bedtime literature,
shoving things under the bedstead at random. "Come on, Will, sit up."
Willow ignored her, and Tara leaned over, took her lover firmly by the shoulders
and pulled her upright. Buffy shot a helpless, guilty look back at the
others. What on earth did she have to feel guilty about? Dawn
thought bitterly. She couldn't stop staring at Willow's slack, horrible,
yearning face. She felt sick to her stomach.
Bit," Spike said, taking her arm. "We'll give them some air."
or no guilt, she was exhausted, and it was a relief to collapse on the couch
in the main room, though it was one of those stiff, fancy drawing-room type
divans and not exactly built for comfort. Spike sat down on the end
opposite and watched her, head on hand. Dawn tucked her arm under
her head and stared across the room at the niche in the wall where Spike
had once kept that pathetic shrine to her sister--the shrine was long gone,
but the niche still had a couple of defiant snapshots tacked up: one copy
of the picture of her and Buffy and Joyce which stood in the Summers' living
room, but mostly a series of goofy pictures of her and Spike making faces
at the camera that they'd taken at one of the four-for-a-dollar photo booths
at Sunnydale Mall. Someday she'd find someone to explain why vampires
wouldn't reflect in anything, but photographed just fine. "So--counting
Willow, how many people have ended up dead or insane because of me?"
snorted. "Zero. Don't recall you holding a gun to anyone's head
and forcing them to suck anyone else's brains out."
rolled over and stared up at the vaulted ceiling, lost in darkness and cobwebs.
I'm fifteen years old, I didn't really exist until those stupid monks
shoehorned me into everyone's memories a year ago, I know that ho-bag
Kirsty is badmouthing me to Kevin in first period history, Mom's dead and
dad never calls, my sister is a vampire slayer and my best friend is a defanged
vampire. "Spike--when do I get to stop feeling like shit about existing?"
leaned back, laced his hands behind his head, and pursed his lips.
"It's been a long time, but I seem to recall that stage lasting from approximately
age thirteen to age twenty-eight. 'Course between you and me, Bit,
I was a bit of a wanker in my breathing days."
happened at age twenty-eight?"
things considered, I don't recommend it as a cure for weltschmertz."
leaned over and pulled an afghan down from the back of the couch, tugging
it over her shoulders. "Get some sleep, pet. Will'll be fine."
Spike was slouched in the middle of the long gold couch when Buffy came
out of the bedroom, one booted foot propped up on the coffin in front of
it, the other folded under him. He was balancing a book on his bent
knee, head cocked back a bit. Spike reading. She was still trying
to get used to that. It wasn't anywhere near as bad as Giles' place,
but once you knew to look for them, Spike had books stashed all over the
crypt--tattered Remo Williams paperbacks and lurid romance novels rubbing
spines with Shakespeare; Dorothy Parker living in literary sin with Hunter
Thompson. They'd always been there, but somehow she'd never noticed
before--before having died.
sister was curled up on the far end of the couch underneath a black-and-red
crocheted afghan--more or less; Dawn's long-legged, coltish body didn't
curl very compactly any longer. Her feet, still in their straggle-laced
sneakers, hung off the couch, and her glossy chestnut hair fanned out over
the arm. She was making a very soft noise as she slept,
somewhere between a snore and a sigh. Buffy,
unwilling to disturb her, walked over as quietly as she could and sat down
beside Spike. His eyes flicked up as her shadow fell over him, then
down to his arm's-length perusal of the book again. He seemed to
have gotten over the impulse to hide it and pretend he'd only been watching
Bob Barker. Not that that would work very well when the television
was upstairs. "How's Will?"
shoulders slumped. "Same old. I wish we knew how long before
we found him Willy'd been hit. It would give us some idea how long
Will's going to be..." She felt tears welling up again. "Oh,
god, the things I said to her! If that's the last thing she remembers
love..." Subdued, Spike closed the book and tossed it over onto the
coffin; it hit the curved lid with a thump and slid off. His hand
hovered just short of her shoulder in that way he had of not quite touching
her. "Haven't exactly been thinking the happiest thoughts about Will
myself lately." His arm finally settled on the back of the couch,
behind her. Still not touching, but the tension in his body was palpable.
mewling noise came from the bedroom, followed by the wordless murmur of
Tara's voice. Buffy shuddered, straightened, and looked over at the
first," she said, rushing the words out. "I'm tired of missing my chances
to say things. If I'd talked to Willow weeks ago and tried to work this
made a small impatient noise. "Guilt runs in the family, does it?
Love, this isn't your fault--"
up, Spike, this has nothing to do with Willow and I want to get this said.
I was out of line last night. Not for wanting you to pay for your own
blood, but for--for--" She stopped, stiff with frustration.
"This is so hard to explain! For trying to--to force you to..."
Spike sat up a bit straighter, head cocked in perplexity. Buffy gnawed
on her lower lip. "I didn't want the reminder," she said at last.
"I was forgetting there, for a minute, who you are. What you are.
I don't want to do that."
flinch was barely perceptible. Buffy cringed. "No! I don't
mean it like--why do I suck at this so much?! I don't want to forget
it because--because I don't want to forget anything about you. Spike,
you've changed. A lot." Enough? God, I don't know..
. "Sometimes I can't believe how much." She swallowed, hands
clasping convulsively in her lap. "But you did it by yourself.
I can't jump in now and make you--"
intensity in his voice was terrifying. "You know I'd do anything for
the problem! It wouldn't be real, don't you see? And if there's
ever going to be anything between us--" (and oh, did his ears prick up at
that) "It's got to be--there can't be any lies. For either of us.
I--the loving me, I know that's big, bigger than I can really--but I can
get love from a lot of places, Spike. You give me honesty, and that's...
Never change that. Never. No matter what else--"
didn't say anything, just sat there, attentive, gaze riveted to her face,
waiting for her to finish. She couldn’t deny, deep down, that it was
a bit of a rush, this power she held over him, the more so because she knew
it left her balanced on a knife’s edge. Spike might be love’s bitch,
but even he had limits, as Drusilla could attest, and there was no guarentee
she wouldn’t push him to those limits, someday. The loa's inhuman voice
rang in her ears. What do you want him to do?
don't have a soul. I can't ever pretend that you do. But you
do have a mind. So promise me something, Spike. About the blood.
In fact, about everything." She drew a deep shuddery breath. "Do
what you think is right. Even if I don't like it--even if I
hate it, even if I hate you. It--it's got to be real, what I see when
I look at you."
sat there for a long time, studying her with those incendiary blue eyes.
At last he sighed. "You don't make it easy on a bloke, do you, Slayer?"
managed a shaky smile. "It's part of my charm."
Harris will trade me for the flower problem."
story." The corners of his mouth twitched. "I was going
to tell you I'd decided to give up the nummy people snacks for good, but
in light of new information p'raps I should reconsider."
stared, floored. "Um."
twitch turned into a grin. "Close your mouth, Slayer, you'll catch
flies. I don't bloody well want to, you know. Imagine living on
oatmeal with all essential vitamins and minerals added for the rest of your
life and you'll get some idea of what the pig's blood diet is like."
He laced his fingers together and rested his chin on his hands, dark brows
knit, obviously thinking hard. "Tell you what," he said at last, "I
won't drink anything that I don't know for certain came from a willing healthy
donor." He quirked an eyebrow. "Blood from Willy's stable of
drunks tastes like sodding turpentine anyway."
studied him in turn. This is Spike, technically evil vampire.
Someone I shouldn't like, shouldn't trust, shouldn't want--and do.
"Okay. That's a decision I don't have to stake you for."
snorted. "Ah, I should have guessed that was the downside to your little
I have to be all with the honesty too." Buffy stared at the cover of
the fallen book, but it was upside-down and the lettering was too faded to
make out anyway. She closed her eyes and let her head fall back against
the crushed-velvet upholstery. There was only a breath between them--literally;
Spike inhaled sharply as her hair tickled his arm, and she felt his ribs brush
lightly against her shoulder. Spike used breath the way a writer used
punctuation, for emphasis, for clarity. Every rise and fall of that
black-clad chest meant something: there were no unneeded breaths. Lucky
her, she had to inhale all the time and there was no way he could tell which
breath was spurred by mere need of oxygen and which from the imperative to
draw as much of his scent into her lungs as possible.
to the attraction, even if only to herself, had probably been a mistake.
Do you think maybe you could go back to trying to kill me on a regular
basis, Spike? It's way more effective than cold showers .
Eyes tight shut, she could still map out the lineaments of his body relative
to hers--nothing mystical or romantic about it, just that around Spike her
Slayer's sense for a vampire's presence grew incredibly intense and specific:
not just 'vamp nearby!' but 'Spike, right here!' It had been that way
with Angel, once. Maybe it would be that way with any vampire she
was around for a long enough time.
wouldn't make the first move; he knew she didn't love him, and that she'd
never act on the desire he'd always known was there. She wouldn't make
the first move; she knew she couldn't possibly get involved with another
vampire, especially a soulless one, most especially Spike. So they
could go on like this forever, dance at arms' length in the exquisite torture
of one another's presence, taunt one another in the desperate hope that one
of them would snap, and somehow the results wouldn't be the other's fault.
Or she could back off, return to a life where Spike was just another thing
out there in the dark, put them both out of their misery.
that the thought of life without Spike in it had all the appeal of day-old
wasn't she supposed to be being honest, here? She didn't love him.
But she was no longer at all certain that she couldn't love him.
no way this isn't going to hurt, is there?" she said softly.
didn't ask what she was talking about--he always knew. "Eventually?
Yeh. But Christ, love, what doesn't, eventually?"
Someone once told me to risk the pain." Buffy leaned over--only an inch
or two, all that was necessary--and closed the distance between them, sliding
her arm behind him, her hand burrowing between the small of his back and
the couch. Every muscle in his torso twitched in response to her touch,
and he let out a long hissing sigh.
done this before. A year ago, with Riley. A lifetime ago, with
Angel. Even once with Spike, under the influence of Willow's mis-cast
spell. She had loved the dead before, and her body remembered what
she had tried to forget in the arms of the living. Familiar, the cool
weight of his arm slipping down to rest on her shoulders, the room-temperature
body next to hers slowly warming with her heat. Familiar, her own heartbeat
sounding the all louder in her ears for lack of any answering beat in the
chest beneath them. Familiar, the sensation of irregular breaths drawn
and held far too long for human comfort, and the faint earthy scent of male
different, the whipcord leanness of his body, the ease with which they fit
together, the way his shoulder was the perfect height for her head.
Different, the contours of his face beneath the blind explorations of her
free hand, the angle of his jaw, the elegant jut of his cheekbones and
the hollows beneath, the scar running across his left brow, legacy of another
Slayer, long ago. Different, the long cool fingers, nicotine-stained,
slightly callused, drifting across her own cheek and
brow. Different, the crisp stiffness of his
gelled hair and the way it sprang into traitorous curls when mussed.
Different, the smell of leather and tobacco, whiskey and shaving soap that
was uniquely Spike.
it felt good to touch him with no ulterior motive, felt as if years worth
of tension were draining out of her through every square inch of their close-pressed
bodies. Buffy opened her eyes, looking up into Spike's face, watching
as astonishment and adoration and lust and (ah, for him too) sublime relief
chased across it, and whatever he saw in her face (and she herself had no
idea what the huge giddy bubble of emotion expanding outwards from her center
was composed of) it couldn't have been too bad. Citrine fireworks burst
and faded in the blue of his eyes, but his features were still entirely human.
"Change," she said.
blinked, customary eloquence fled. "Huh?"
I want to see all of you."
looked at her a moment longer, and then the bones of his face shifted beneath
her fingers, his canines lengthened into fangs and the demon ridges emerged
from his brow, lowering over eyes gone lion-gold. She traced the new
lines curiously. She was unused to seeing him like this; unlike most
vampires, Spike spent most of his time in human guise, but there was a strange,
harsh beauty even in this aspect of him. "There's something I've been
wanting to ask you for a long time," she said, trailing one finger down his
voice was husky. "Yes, love?"
stared deep into those leonine eyes and whispered in a voice as sultry as
she could make it, "Why don't you have any eyebrows in game face?"
exploded in snort of laughter, face melting back into humanity. "Fuck
smiled--the teasing one. "We'll see."
Looking at her as if he wanted to eat her whole.
Looking at him as if she'd like nothing better.
still got stupid hair."
twined her fingers in his own thoroughly disordered locks. "You
dare dis the hair, bleach boy? This means WAR!"
Spike leaned forward, eyes
glittering beneath half-closed lids. "Bring it on, baby." His hands
slid down her back, fingers kneading the muscles along her spine. He
was growling deep down in his chest, a low purring rumble she'd only heard
once or twice before (because really, how often was Spike relaxed and happy
at the same time?) The sound vibrated through her whole body, curling
her toes as her arms locked around his narrow waist and pulled him closer.
Mmmm. Toasty. If this was what a relatively chaste
hug felt like, God help her when they actually got around to the lip action--
waitaminute, lip action? Who says there's going to be--
Willow's--" Tara stopped, hand flying to her mouth, and the two of them broke
apart guiltily. "Um. Awake. Now."
groaned. Buffy whacked him on the shoulder and squirmed out from underneath
him, her cheeks aflame. Tara's eyes were darting everywhere and anywhere
but the couch. "I w-wasn't, uh, interrupting..."
Spike grumbled, "But if you'll sod off for about fifteen minutes I can fix
start picking out curtains just yet." Buffy tugged her blouse into
place. Ego much? Once out of physical contact with the
mind-altering substance that was Spike, the Ohmigod I did what
with who on the same couch my semi-innocent baby sister is sleeping
on? reaction was starting to set in. What, does he think one, uh,
comradely, yeah, that was a good word for it, comradely, hug means I'm just
going to swoon and tumble into his manly arms and--they are awfully nice
arms, all muscley and... Stop that! Spike was just sitting
there and grinning at her, doing that maddening thing with his tongue when
Tara wasn't looking. "I'm going to go talk to Wills, and then I'm going
to take Dawn home, and--"
in-no-way-innocent blue eyes blinked up at her. "Does she fancy a fireman's
carry, or d'you want me to give you a ride?"
"I'll think about it."
do that, love. I know I'll be thinking about it."
glared at him to no effect whatsoever, and beat a hasty retreat to the bedroom.
Willow was Willow again, sitting up in the middle of Spike's bed and nibbling
on crackers and cheese. Tara had stayed out in the other room with
Spike, abandoning Buffy to the mercy of her own good intentions. "So..."
Buffy laced her fingers together on her lap and studied her nails intently.
"You're feeling better?"
nodded, rolling the edge of the coverlet into little curls with one hand
and unrolling it again. "Better in the sense of not completely insane,
yes. Otherwise... pretty brain-fried." She wrinkled her nose and
lifted up a handful of coverlet. "And I think Spike smokes in bed.
I'm going to smell like the Marlboro Man for a week."
thanks to Mr. Possess-and-Run I practically bathed in bourbon. Join
me in a mutual 'ew.'" Though in certain select instances the combination
isn't completely revolting--stop that! "Spike says he ran into the
guy who did this to you. His name's Tanner, or at least that's what
he's calling himself. Spike thinks he's one of the people Glory brainsucked.
There seems to be a whole gang of them on the loose."
That's good, I guess. Or not good. But useful. I-I can’t
remember much after I started to talk to him. It’s all confused until
I woke up here.” Her haunted eyes reflected the candle flames, a muddle
of light and dark. “But I can check the name against the hospital's
admissions records last spring and see if it matches any of the known victims.
Maybe we can find something that'll help us track him down. Plus this
thing that took over Tara--got to be a big clue, right?"
you sure you're up to all that?"
summoned up a wan smile and tucked her hair behind her ears. "The Net
Witch is all good to go."
that's good." Buffy licked her lips. "Will... I just wanted to
tell you..." This was her night for awkward confessions, it seemed.
"About what I said earlier. I'm sorry. Or not for what I said,
for the way I said it--I mean, I was angry about what you did, but I shouldn't
have--I should have tried to talk to you about it before, not--"
it really that awful?" Willow broke in. Her hands had clenched on the
blankets. In the dim light her eyes were the color of moss in deep water,
and her voice sounded husky and smudged, like a bad recording. "Being
back here. Alive. Is it really so bad that you have to hate
me for it?"
don't hate you!" Buffy cried, taking the other woman's hands in her
own. "I could never hate you, Wills, and that's what makes this so--no,
it's not awful. It's not--it's not anything, really. I just feel
so... so flat most of the time. Like I'm living behind glass.
And every now and then the glass disappears and I'm really in the world again,
but the glass always comes back, and the good moments make the rest that much
worse--I can't remember where I was when I was dead. I can't even remember
if I was. There's this huge hole in me, and I can't..."
She trailed off in frustration.
part of the spell." Willow’s voice was small and sad. "I changed
the part of the spell where it says 'the gates of Hell shall open,' 'cause,
you know, pretty sure you weren't in Hell. But mostly the Scroll of
Aberjian was used to bring back people who'd been sent to, well, pretty awful
places. The Raising spell's designed to make the subject forget
the pains of hell, so they're not completely wild and crazy. Like Angel,
when he came back?"
thoughtful of it. So I get to forget the pleasures of Heaven, or the
world without shrimp, or wherever I was?" Buffy sighed. "I guess
it could have been worse."
Willow blew hair out of her eyes. "I could have done something really
stupid, like bringing you back to life inside your coffin. But..."
A pleading note entered her voice. "Like you said this morning, it's
getting better, right? I mean, most of today was good, right?
So pretty soon you'll be fine again."
opened her mouth, but the expression on Willow's face, so full of raw, aching
hope--Please don't tell me I've ruined my best friend's life --killed
the words aborning. "Yeah, Will," she said, very softly.
"I'll be fine."
all, she wasn't really lying. Maybe she would be, someday.
Dawn sat in the back seat of the DeSoto between Willow and Tara, lulled
into a half-doze by the hum of the engine. Occasionally Spike or her
sister, up in the front seat, would make some meaningless comment about the
route home, or getting together with the rest of the Scoobies tomorrow.
None of it was as interesting as the fact that Spike had his arm draped over
the back of the front seat, his hand on her sister's shoulder, and was stroking
the point of her collarbone with his thumb. And her sister not only
hadn't broken his nose but seemed to be scooching across the front seat,
getting closer and closer to him.
got my keys,” Tara said as the car pulled into the Summers' driveway and
the engine rumbled to a halt. She got out and started up the walk
to the front porch, stopping half-way. “Willow, do you need help?”
pried her eyes all the way open and got out with Willow on the street side.
Willow made her way rather shakily around the car, leaning on Dawn’s arm
for the walk up to the porch. There was no weight to her, as if her
ordeal had hollowed her out and all that was left was a Willow-shaped shell.
Dawn felt as if she could have picked her up and carried her as easily as
Buffy could have.
undid the lock and the deadbolt and ushered Willow inside. “Where’s
looked over her shoulder. “Still in the car, I think.” She squinted
over at the car; a vague shape moved behind the blacked-out windows of the
DeSoto. “Buffy?” She hopped down off the porch, walked back over
to the driveway, and rapped sharply on the windshield. “Buffy!
You in there?”
car lurched in place, the shocks protesting, and for a second a hand was plastered
to the windshield. BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP! The blat of the
horn was followed by a muffled yelp. Dawn jumped back as the door flew
open. Spike tumbled out backwards with Buffy on top of him, her hands
clutching the lapels of his duster, engaged in major kissage. Red-hot,
desperate, someone’s-coming-back-any-minute face-sucking. Spike hit
the ground with a thump that would have knocked the air out of anyone who’d
needed air, but neither of them seemed to notice the change in scenery.
Dawn clapped her hands over her eyes. “If you guys don’t break it up
I’m going to need a parental advisory warning for my own driveway!”
drew back with a gasp, her eyes wide and stunned, and looked around, obviously
trying to figure out how they’d gotten from the front seat to the driveway.
Spike folded his arms behind his head and lay there on the concrete with what
was quite possibly the most self-satisfied smirk in the history of the world,
in no hurry to get her off of him. “Um,” Buffy said. “I, uh,
rolled her eyes. “Duh. Are you going to come in or make out in
the driveway all night? Do I need to get the hose?”
sister met Spike’s speculative grin with the Look Of Death, scrambled to
her feet and dusted off the knees of her jeans. Spike heaved a melodramatic
sigh and followed suit, getting back into the car. “See you tomorrow,
Yeah. For the date. I mean meeting. I mean at the Magic
looked more than a little dazed as the DeSoto roared out of the driveway,
to the probable annoyance of the neighbors. “So, uh, Dawn--you saw
tonsil swabbing? Hard to miss.” The situation cried out for a
little more sisterly hassling. But Spike probably needed all the help
he could get in light of the way Buffy's last vampire affair had ended up.
Or heck, any of her affairs. Soul or no soul, Angel had been kind of
a tool--blowing in with some useless, cryptic warning, getting Buffy all
worked up, and disappearing again. Until Buffy’d boned him and he’d
lost his soul and gone on a murderous rampage, anyway. Riley had been
really cool for awhile, but then he’d gone all weird and left.
not what it looks like,” Buffy said. “It’s--something else.”
opened her mouth, looked at Tara, who was still standing saucer-eyed in the
doorway, and shrugged. Buffy was freaked about the whole lack of soul
thing, and maybe she had a right to be--she'd seen pre-chip Spike kill
people, rip their throats out and drink their blood and toss them aside
like used juice boxes. Dawn had only heard a lot of stories.
Of course she'd seen him kill demons and revel in every blood-soaked minute
of it, and if that guy who'd shot Buffy hadn't died it certainly hadn't
been for lack of Spike trying, so it wasn't like she was completely naive
about him or anything, and even post-chip Spike could be seriously scary
when he put his mind to it... but she still liked him better than
Angel. At the best of times Angel'd been stiff as a board with Dawn,
as if eleven-year-old girls were some sort of weird alien life form he wasn't
sure he wanted to communicate with. It had been fun stalking
him and Buffy and popping up from behind the bushes with the perennial cry
of little sisters everywhere-- "Whatcha doooooin'?"
Tara seemed to have gotten her voice back. “Are you sure th-that...”
shook her head. “No. Not sure of anything.”
put a hand on her sister’s shoulder. “Whatever it is, I’m good with
it.” Buffy looked up at her, startled (and how cool was it that Buffy
had to look up at her? Ha!) “I love you, dope. And I really
like Spike. So I want you both to be happy.” Despite noble intentions,
she couldn’t quite repress a snicker. “And you sure looked
like you were happy.”
reason that made Buffy look even more surprised. “I was?” She
closed the door behind them, started up the stairs, and it was only chance
that Dawn was close enough behind her to hear her repeat softly to herself,
Continued in Part 10