All About Spike - Print Version
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By Valerie X
Rated R for sexual situations and political satire.
Takes place after “Gone”.
Ships: Buffy/Spike, George W. Bush/Vladimir Putin. This is what happens when the only television you watch is BtVS and CNN.
“She doesn’t even care.”
Spike popped the last piece of popcorn into his mouth. “That’s ’bout the tenth time you’ve said that, nibblet.”
“Argh!” Dawn put her hands to her head and the couch seemed to vibrate with her scream. “You see how crazy she makes me?”
“I know the feeling.”
Spike moved the empty bowl from where it sat between them to the coffee table. He’d come to their house hoping to catch Buffy before she went out on patrol, but he’d found Dawn sulking alone instead. The last time he’d seen her was when he took her to the hospital, so he figured some quality time with the kid was better than getting kicked in the face...or, other areas of his body.
Dawn pulled her legs up against her chest and rested her head on her knees, looking even more like a little girl than she usually did. “And then it’s like, Hello to the guilt. Because she died for me.” She turned to look at him. “She died for me Spike, and I’m whining.”
Spike shrugged. “’S not like she died just to give herself ammo in future arguments,” he said. “You can still complain. Besides, she hasn’t been herself since she came back. Stuff’s bothering her. Making her...” His eyes moved to the commercials that flickered in front of them. “Making her do stupid things.”
“I guess,” Dawn said sadly. “I just wish she’d talk to me. Other than to say, ‘Are you okay?’” She shifted so that she was sitting curled up against the back of the couch. “The only time she even looks at me is if I’m in trouble. And then once I’m safe, she doesn’t even care.”
“Eleven,” Spike said.
“And then,” Dawn continued, “She acts like I’m just supposed to go to school and be all happy and normal. Like anything is normal! What am I gonna do? Go up to the boy I like and say, ‘Hi! Remember me from Math class? The big glob of energy used for opening portals to evil dimensions?’ Everyone in school thinks I’m the biggest freak on Earth.”
“What you need is a better pick-up line. My personal favorite is, ‘Hello, cutie.’ But you have to do it with the right little seductive smile...”
“And then I’m supposed to feel all guilty that she’s even alive,” Dawn went on without acknowledging Spike. “Because she was happy dead. She was in heaven and at peace and...with mom.”
The tone of her voice caused Spike’s head to snap in her direction. As he watched, her large blue eyes filled with tears, reflecting the deep reds and oranges of the juicer on the television.
“And then I’m jealous,” she whispered. “Cause she got to see mom.”
One of Spike’s eyebrows crept up his face slowly. “The way I figure it, you end up all haloed before your time, and the first thing your mum’s gonna do is give you a good smack.”
“Not gonna kill myself,” Dawn muttered. She looked down at her hands. “Not that it would matter to anyone if I did.”
“Bollocks,” Spike replied. “Who would I watch Dawson’s Creek with? ’S no fun to watch alone.”
When Dawn looked up at him, though her eyes were still wet, he was relieved to see her familiar fifteen-year-old-girl-you-are-so-lame stare. “That’s it? That’s the only reason why you’d miss me?”
“Hey,” Spike defended. “I’ll have you know that watching Dawson’s Creek is a vital part of my life.”
A tiny smiled danced on Dawn’s face. “My condolences.”
“Bitch,” Spike muttered as he turned back towards the TV.
He was jolted away from the excitement of the George Foreman grill by Dawn’s lean body slamming into his. He looked down in surprise to see her hugging him tightly around the chest.
“Thank you,” Dawn said softly. “You always make me feel better.”
Spike patted her on the back a few times before shoving her away. “All right, enough of the cuteness. I have a reputation, you know.”
“For what, bad teen dramas?”
Spike rolled his eyes. “Evil! How come everyone keeps forgetting that?”
“Oh, right,” Dawn said sarcastically. “I was so horrified when you knocked on the front door and asked if I wanted to make popcorn.....What’s that? The Verizon sign?”
“No,” Spike sighed. “It’s an obscene gesture. It means-”
“Gonna teach her how to smoke next?”
They looked up to see Buffy standing just inside the front door, holding a soda in one hand and a crossbow in the other.
“Actually, I was gonna teach her how to be a condescending bitch next,” Spike said with a grin. “But then I figured that you already covered that.”
The glares they automatically exchanged were cut short by Dawn’s hysterical laughter.
“What’s so funny?” Buffy snapped.
“Nothing,” Dawn said through giggles. “It’s just...I feel like I’m living with mom and dad again.”
“Ew!” Buffy jumped as if a spider had just landed on her shoulder. “Ew, ew, and ew, Dawn!”
Dawn shrugged. “Arguing, sarcasm, and threats of violence.” She grinned as she stretched her arms back. “Makes me feel like a kid again.”
“Or rather, a kid now,” Buffy said sternly. “A kid who should be in bed.”
Dawn rolled her eyes as she stood up. “You are so no fun.” She moved towards the stairs but lingered on the bottom one, out of Buffy’s line of sight.
“You noticed that too?” Spike said.
“Spike, feel free to get out of my house.” She said, swinging the crossbow in her hand pointedly.
“I’m here on business, not pleasure,” Spike said. His tongue flickered outside his mouth momentarily and he noticed Buffy flinch at the sight. “Saw some nasties earlier tonight.”
“So you run to me?” Buffy smirked teasingly. “Poor Spike. Did the big demons scare you?”
“No, the big demons were human,” Spike said. “Two guys, standing around the cemetery, talking about how they were going to take over the world.”
“Just what I need,” Buffy groaned. “More lame villains.”
“They mentioned something about meeting later at a tomb, so I figure we still got time to catch up to them.”
“We have nothing to do. I will go find the bad humans myself.” Buffy spun around and started moving towards the door.
“Uh-huh,” Spike said. “And how do you suppose you’ll do that, love? Just walk around and punch everything you see in the graveyard?”
“Sounds like a good plan.”
“Buffy!” Dawn whined.
Buffy turned back and sighed, frustrated. “I told you to go to bed.”
“You shouldn’t go out alone,” Dawn said, her face bent into a frown. “Not if there’s some new big bad in town.”
“And what’s Spike gonna do?” Buffy argued. “Deafen them with his screams of pain?”
“If you go alone I’ll be worried,” Dawn said. “I won’t be able to sleep. I’ll be up all night and then I won’t go to school and then-”
“Fine!” Buffy shouted. “Just go to bed already!” She turned to Spike. “You can show me where you last saw them, but then, I swear -”
“I know, I know,” Spike took his jacket from where he had discarded it on a chair and put it on. “Stay away from me, stay away from my family, stay out of my life, get out of this town, or I’ll stake you through the heart, and I swear I’m not bluffing, just go ahead and test me, you disgusting, annoying, evil, undead pig.” Spike opened the front door and smirked. “See? Don’t even need you for our conversations anymore.”
The cemetery was oddly quiet, Buffy having done away with the more outgoing vampires earlier that evening. As they walked, she fiddled with her weapon absentmindedly and yawned.
“I’m bored,” she said. “Can I stake you?”
One corner of Spike’s mouth shot up in amusement. “Depends on your meaning of that, pet.”
“Argh!” Buffy groaned. “Do you have to turn everything in some sort of come-on?”
“I don’t know,” Spike said suggestively, moving closer to Buffy and brushing his chest against her arm. “Do I?”
Buffy easily moved him away with a solid punch to his ribs. “So where are these stupid apocalypsos you were talking about? Or are these imaginary waste-Buffy’s-time, get-into-Buffy’s-pants demons?”
Spike fished a cigarette out of his pocket and lit it. “Told you, they’re not demons. And like you need an excuse to take your pants off.”
“That’s it,” Buffy said firmly, “I’m dusting you.”
As the continued walking, the only sound was a twig cracking underneath Spike’s boot.
“Trembling in fear, love,” he muttered.
Buffy sighed and brushed a stray bit of hair from her face. She was tired. Not just tired of patrolling, since she’d already been at it for hours that night, but tired of everything. Tired of worrying over Dawn, being supportive for Willow, being happy for Xander and Anya, being a loving parent for the new social services lady, being a firm parent for the teachers at Dawn’s school, and on top of that, on top of everything, tired of having to be the one to get the bad guys and save the world.
Buffy always thought it was funny that she’d ended up going to high school right over the mouth of hell. Not ha-ha-funny, since not much in her life was, but metaphory-funny, since, as a teenager, she’d imagined high school to be hell itself. But now, as she trod through her incredibly busy and yet oddly empty life, she realized that if high school was hellish, then being a grown-up was pure, unadulterated, fire-and-brimstone, depths-of-despair, lord-of-darkness, forced-to-watch-Full-House-for-all-of-eternity hell.
She allowed a glance to the vampire walking beside her. She was even too tired for whatever the hell was going on with Spike.
A different, earlier version of Buffy would have been able to handle it. She could have fought him, screwed him, hated him, liked him, and revealed in the angst of it all, sighing heavily, tossing her deep-conditioned hair, and shedding a single tear without smudging her perfect eye makeup. She could’ve played the tragic heroine well. In fact, she already had. She’d played it right to its tragic end.
And yet, here she was, still going on, when her story was over. The final scene, the big battle, the rising sun, the brave words, and her friends sobbing as her lifeless (and yet still very pretty) body slammed into the ground. The perfect ending.
“It’s just-” she began.
It’s just that I can’t stand everything that used to make me happy. It’s just that I try to be who I was and it makes me feel all itchy and weird, like I don’t belong in my skin. It’s just that I used to be the strong one, and now when I wake up in the morning and realize that I have to put shoes on it makes me want to cry. It’s just that I always feel like crying but I can’t. It’s just that I need to tell this all to someone who it won’t hurt, who won’t look at me with stupid pitying eyes, who won’t make me feel bad about feeling bad, and the only person who can do that is you, but you’re too busy pissing me off to realize...
“It’s just...” Buffy looked up to see that he was staring, waiting, and they’d stopped walking a long time ago. “It’s just that I’m tired,” she said, and she turned away.
“Well, power-up, slayer,” he replied, nodding in the direction of a nearby tomb. “There they are.”
They sat on the ground outside one of the broken windows, leaning close to the cold building to avoid being seen, and listened to the two men talk. One spoke in an even and robust Southern drawl, the other with a gentle Eastern European accent.
Great, Buffy thought, Slayerfest 2002.
“Do you have the sacred stone?” the Southern man asked.
“I have a lot of stones, my love,” the foreign man said suggestively.
There was a moment of silence, and the dull sound of wet smacking.
Buffy looked over at Spike in disbelief. He was trying not to laugh. “Poofters,” he mouthed.
“So you have it?” the Southern man asked again.
“Yes. Now all we need is the Sword of Akdov and we will be able to open the Hellmouth.”
“But remember, we have to do it together.”
“Of course,” the European man said. “Do you forget that we are friends now? At long last, after so many years of being bitter enemies, we are friends.”
“Friends...and so much more.”
The sounds of kissing returned, and Buffy put her head into her hands. She glanced over at Spike, who looked like he was trying hard not to laugh out loud.
“And we can’t open it until after the summit,” the Southern man said when the kiss had finally ended. “It’s vital that the ABM Treaty is inactive when the demons are free.”
“The only anti-ballistic missile I want,” the European man said, his breaths becoming heavy, “Is the one between your legs.”
There was the sound of rustling clothing and low moans. Buffy mouthed, “What are they doing?” to Spike.
“What do you think?” Spike whispered back.
“They could be killing someone,” she said, struggling to keep her voice low. She gestured to the window. “Look and see if they are.”
Spike snorted and stood up, brushing the leaves off his pants and making it clear that he would not be looking. With an annoyed grumble, Buffy leaned over and glanced briefly inside the tomb. Then she grimaced, lept to her feet, and walked away, leaving Spike to scramble to catch up with her.
“Well, aren’t you going to rush in their and get with the killing part?” he asked.
“Ew,” Buffy said. “I have nothing against the whole gay thing, but guys that old should just never be naked. That was beyond gross. And how did that one guy get his legs back so far? You’d think his spine -”
Buffy suddenly stopped walking. “Wait,” she said. “I knew those guys.”
Spike’s eyebrows raised in amusement. “Have a secret yen for buggery, do you?”
“They’re like...famous or something,” she said. “I’m sure I saw on TV once -” Her eyes widened. “Oh my god!”
She gestured back to the tomb. “Do you know who that was?”
Spike shrugged. “If they’re not on the soaps, I’m not much interested.”
“No, you idiot,” she said. “That was George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin!”
Spike’s forehead wrinkled as he considered this. Then he looked at Buffy, who was staring off open-mouthed, and he realized what they had just witnessed.
Buffy got out of the bed and reached for her clothes. She felt the mattress shift as Spike moved to watch her, but she kept her back to him and answered his question before he even had a chance to ask it.
“I have to go,” she said flatly. “I need to be home before Dawn wakes up.”
She stood up and pulled her pants on, then reached under the bed to retrieve her shoes.
“Don’t even start with me, please. I have to go.”
Spike put his arms underneath his head and leaned back against his pillows. He watched as Buffy moved about the room searching for her sweater, careful to avoid looking directly at him.
“She has school,” Buffy continued. “And from what they tell me, she’s been cutting every other day. I need to be firmer with her. I need to be there, every day, and be on top of everything she’s doing.” She tossed aside a lamp they’d overturned earlier in the evening, but the space beneath it was void of sweaters. “I - I need to ask questions, and get to know her friends, and...and...” She sighed and put her hand to her face. “There was another thing. Something else I had to do. They gave me a pamphlet.”
She whirled around, facing Spike finally, and threw her arms up in frustration, seemingly forgetting about her near-bare torso. “Can you believe that? A pamphlet! As if people go into the guidance counselor’s office at school sad and confused and then they’re like, ‘Ooo! A pamphlet! All my problems are solved!’”
She resumed her search, lifting each item of Spike’s clothing, which lay scattered around his near-empty dresser.
“So now I’m the proud owner of all six pages of ‘Pointers for Parenting’, complete with little drawings of bug-eyed teenagers. Too bad they didn’t have the ‘Dealing with your Melancholy Ex-Witch Best Friend’ pamphlet. ’Cause as soon as Dawn’s out of the house, Willow’s moping around in her pajamas, and I get to be Mommy all over again.”
She was facing Spike now, the missing shirt forgotten, her eyes accusatory. “Do you know she doesn’t even eat unless I tell her to? Does that make any sense at all? The girl‘s all grown up, she’s a junior in college, and she could turn me into a frog with a thought if she felt like it. But I have to ask her, ‘Did you eat today? Do you want me to make you something?’ Like she’s two years old!”
She was close to the bed now, glowering down at Spike. “Is this why she brought me back? For moral support? She couldn’t just join a group or read a self-help book, no, she had to raise the dead! And then it’s like, ‘Welcome back, Buffy! We’re so glad you’re alive! Now go get a job and fix our problems and kill the monsters and cook us breakfast so we can live in a nice, happy, perfect little world where we’re so wrapped up in our petty lives that you just get in the way! And where the hell is my sweater?!”
Spike raised one questioning eyebrow at her, and she sat down on the edge of the bed, defeated. “What do you think?” she asked, her voice barely more than a whisper.
“I think it’s upstairs.”
Buffy’s familiar glare returned. “I hate you. I really do. I don’t even know what I’m doing here.
“This is the most messed-up not-relationship ever,” she continued, standing again. She tore through the sheets at the foot of the bed, but all she found was one of Spike’s feet, which she batted away roughly. “But what else am I supposed to do? Go track down Scott Hope, find some regular guy like that, and say...what?” She posed at the foot of the bed, hands on her hips, a big fake smile stretching across her face. “Hi! I’m Buffy the vampire slayer, chosen by the powers that be to fight the evil undead of Sunnydale. Of course, I’m currently sleeping with the evil undead of Sunnydale, and my latest mission seems to be fighting two insane homosexual world leaders. My last boyfriend was part of a government conspiracy who implanted a behavior-modification chip in the current boyfriend’s brain, and he left me because he felt all these stupid male issues with me being so strong. The boyfriend before that one was a 200 year-old vampire with a soul, who left me so that I could have a normal life. Didn’t work out so well, that normal life thing, what with my recent death and resurrection, where I was taken out of heaven - yes, heaven - and with my rebellious little sister being bad mojo transformed human by monks, my best friend being a recovering witch, my other best friend marrying a demon who he met when she was summoned to kill him, and the only person I can talk to is the aforementioned vampire shag-buddy, and no, this one doesn’t have a soul. Oh, yeah - and also - I came back wrong. Wanna go out for coffee?”
Spike’s tongue played on his lower lip as he smiled wickedly. “You realize you just called me your boyfriend?”
Buffy walked around the bed to where Spike lay smug and satisfied, the white sheet just barely covering his abdomen, and unceremoniously punched him in the face.
“I hate you,” she said as she approached the ladder that led upstairs.
“So I’ll see you later then?” Spike said nonchalantly.
Buffy paused with her foot on the first rung and sighed. “Scooby meeting at my house after sundown.” She turned to look at him. “I still hate you.” And she continued up the ladder, until she reached the room above that would provide her with the remainder of her clothing and the doorway that led to the waking world.
Buffy slept for most of the day.
She rushed Dawn off to school half-heartedly, made Willow French toast, called Anya to plan a dinner/meeting, took a pre-cooked chicken out of the freezer, and then curled up in bed, deciding not to move until it was time for everyone to come over. The phone rang a few times, but she ignored it.
When she woke up, she glanced at the tightly-drawn curtains around her windows, and saw that beyond them, it was dark. She vaguely remembered a time when her windows were covered by wispy white fabric, when she slept at night with the rest of the world, and allowed the daylight to seep in unchecked.
As she walked down the stairs, she heard cheerful voices coming from the living room.
“Harry and Hermoine totally belong together, you big freak.”
“Just keep deluding yourself, little bit. We both know the big poof’s only got eyes for Ron.”
Buffy stopped at the foot of the stairs and looked into the living room, where Dawn sat with a book open in front of her and leaned back against Spike, who had one arm draped over her shoulder and used the other hand to gesture to the pages in front of them. A dying knot of flames danced desperately in the fireplace.
“And did I mention the ew?” Dawn said with giggle.
“It’s a boarding school in England. All they do is bugger at those places. Read between the lines, nibblet.”
“Awww, how sweet,” Buffy said, approaching them. “It’s like a Norman Rockwell painting, only with fangs.”
“Have you read these books?” Spike asked Buffy. “They’re filthy. No wonder our leaders are all fruits.”
Buffy rubbed her eyes and surveyed the rest of the room. “Anyone else here yet?”
Dawn shook her head. “Xander called and said he was on his way. Willow went out to get a pie for dinner.”
Buffy smiled. “Mmmmm pie. Now I’m feeling better. Dawnie, you know how to make the ready-made chicken, right? I’m gonna take a shower.”
“Need any help with that?” Spike said without raising his eyes from the book.
“Need a pointy wooden thing through your heart?” Buffy said as she climbed back up the stairs.
Dawn sighed and got up off the couch, placing the book down on the coffee table. “Come on, time to cook. Or rather, time to re-heat.”
The kitchen was clean, too clean, as if someone had put all their energy into organizing the one part of their life that was simple, as if washing down the stove and organizing the cupboards made this person feel that they were accomplishing something they couldn’t accomplish in the other areas of their life. Spike sat on the counter as Dawn fiddled with the oven.
“So this morning I came downstairs and said, ‘Hey, Buffy. Can I borrow three dollars for lunch?’ And she said, ‘Good morning.’ Like she wasn’t even listening.”
“Was a long night,” Spike said. “Big new evil, you know.”
Dawn tore the plastic wrap off the whole chicken and dumped it into a baking pan. “Still. She’s always either asleep or rolling around with some demon.”
“Don’t worry,” Spike said. “She’ll be over it soon. Move on to her next conquest. Maybe the monsters just want to get what they can before it’s over, you know? ‘Cause it’ll be over soon enough.”
Spike looked up to see Dawn staring at him curiously. The doorbell rang, and she was thankfully distracted by the promise of friends and pie.
After dinner, Buffy paced around the living room, her friends gathered around her. Willow looked weary, leaning back against a chair and occasionally closing her eyes. Xander sat on the couch with one arm wrapped around his fiancée. At the other end of the couch, Spike, an unlit cigarette between his lips, was taking locks of Dawn’s hair and braiding them sloppily as Buffy continued.
“And then they said they just needed the Sword of Akdov and they could open the
Hellmouth,” she said.
“Well that’s easy,” Dawn said. “We have to stop them, right? Open Hellmouth equals badness.”
“I could do some research on this sword,” Willow suggested. “Maybe we can find it before they do.”
“Yeah, but then what?” Buffy asked. “It’s not like I can slay them. They’re not demons, they’re politicians.”
“Actually, many politicians are really - ” Anya began.
“Anya,” Xander said softly.
“Well, these two aren’t,” Buffy said. “Spike got the human-vibe, right?”
Spike nodded, his eyes intent on untangling the small knot he had made at the end of his most recent braid.
“Spike, what are you doing?” Xander asked. “You’re aware that you’re not a fifteen year-old girl at a slumber party, right?”
“I’m not?” Spike said with mock disappointment. “Well, now I’m bloody depressed. Thanks a lot.”
“We don’t have to kill them,” Willow told her. “Just prevent them from opening the Hellmouth.”
“And then they leave town quietly?” Buffy said. “Not usually what happens around here.”
“So we capture them,” Willow continued. “Keep them tied up or something.”
“I can’t keep the George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin tied up in my basement,” Buffy said.
“Who’s this Vladimir guy anyway?” Dawn asked.
“God, do they teach you nothing in school?” Buffy snapped.
“So for now we’ll look for this sword,” Xander said. “And you and Spike can keep an eye on them. Make sure they don’t have it.”
Buffy looked at the clock on the wall. “Yeah, it’s almost eleven. That’s what time we spotted them last night.”
Spike nodded, letting his mangled braid fall in with the rest of Dawn’s hair. “We’re off then.”
Everyone began to stand.
“Wait!” Dawn said. She stood and looked at Buffy. “You saw them last night at eleven?”
“Yeah, that’s what I just said.”
“Then how come you didn’t get home until six in the morning?”
Buffy looked around the room. Her friends were waiting for answer too. She noticed that Spike was suddenly interested in his braid again.
“I was patrolling,” she said.
“For like seven hours?” Dawn challenged.
“Buffy, you can walk across this entire town in less than one hour.”
“What am I, on trial?” Buffy cried out. “I was patrolling, and it took time. I had to fight things. I had to kill the...the...” She brushed her hand across her mouth. “The mphnph demon.”
Dawn turned to look at Spike accusingly, not flinching as her hair was pulled from his hands.
“What?” Spike said. “It’s true. I was there. Those mphnph demons are nasty buggers.”
“You two were having sex,”’ Dawn said firmly.
“No!” Buffy said. She took a step back and nearly knocked over a lamp. “No, no, no, no, and no!”
“Dawnie, don’t be silly,” Willow said. “They weren’t...doing anything. They were fighting a...” She looked at Buffy, whose skin was suddenly pink, and Spike, who was studying his fingernails. “A mphnph demon?”
Buffy began walking towards the door. “I have to go find the President now.”
“Oh my god!” Xander shouted. “It’s true?”
Buffy stopped at the doorway and put her hand to her forehead in a pained gesture. “Could we finish this argument later? After I prevent another apocalypse?”
“But is it true?” Anya asked. “Because if it is, Xander owes me ten dollars.”
“I’m not having this conversation,” Buffy said. She grabbed her coat and walked out the front door.
All eyes turned to Spike, who glanced down at his wrist, though there was no watch there. “Oh, look at that,” he said, standing up slowly and backing towards the door. “It’s time for me to...um...not get killed by all of you. ’Night, then.”
The door slammed behind him, leaving those remaining to only stare at each other in shock and confusion.
“I knew it,” Anya muttered. She elbowed her fiancé. “Pay up.”
Slayer speed was apparently getting the best of Spike. He’d run for about a mile, but when he still hadn’t caught sight of Buffy he slowed down to a lazy walk and lit a cigarette.
When he reached the tomb they’d been at the previous night, he found her sitting beside it, her face settled into her habitual frown, her head resting on her hands like a weight. She didn’t look up when he approached, peered inside the window, saw that the tomb was empty, and then sat on the ground beside her.
When she didn’t say anything, he lit a cigarette and concentrated on watching the thick white smoke catch in the wind and swirl against the black canvas of the starless sky. It reminded him of when she’d first come back, when she would visit his crypt or find him outside her house and just sit with him, not saying anything. At first it had rattled him. The Slayer wasn’t known for deep philosophical thought, and he wondered what was going on inside in her head. And then, when she spoke, it was something meaningless, something ordinary, like a story about how she’d tried to save money by blowing out the pilot light in the oven and didn’t realize that the gas was still on until Willow smelled it and began quickly opening windows. Then she’d laugh, in that way that humans laugh when they really want to cry, but it’s easier to pretend-laugh.
“So,” Spike said. “Today when I got out of bed, something wrapped around my foot. Thought it was a snake or a mummy hand or something, and I screamed like a sodding little girl. Ends up it was an invisible sock.” He chuckled softly, but it was only an imitation of laughter, like the ones he was so used to from her.
“Let them hate me,” Buffy said.
He turned to her, but she was still looking straight ahead. “Let them say whatever they want about me,” she continued. “Let Xander never speak to me again, never bore me with his Anya stories again. Fine. Let Willow decide I’m even nuttier than her and move out. Good. I’ll be glad.”
“You know they won’t do that,” he told her. “You know when you get home they’ll be sitting around with tea ready to go all intervention on you.”
Buffy groaned. “Yeah. And Dawn, she’s probably breaking out the glitter right now and making you a Christmas stocking.”
Their smiles lasted only a moment.
“So what do we do about our new big bad here?” Spike asked her.
“Right. Back to being plan-girl.” Buffy stretched out her legs and leaned back against the side of the tomb. “Maybe Will’s right, we should try to capture them. We can blindfold them and keep them in one of the crypts out here and try to figure out how they were going to open the Hellmouth. Then we could destroy the Sword of Akdov.”
Spike nodded. “Sounds like a plan, plan-girl.”
“Go me,” Buffy said without enthusiasm. She looked into the tomb’s window. “But it doesn’t look like they’re showing up tonight. She stood up. “I’ll do a quick sweep and then go do damage control at home.”
Spike stood as well. “Want me to come with?”
Buffy shook her head. “But if you could, gather up some rope, chains, whatever you have that I don’t want to know about, and I’ll start the patrol early tomorrow night.”
“We will start the patrol,” Spike corrected.
Buffy sighed. “Spike, you have a chip in your head. A chip that prevents you from hurting anyone. You’ll be helpless against them.”
“Still, I can cover the area while you fight them. Keep the random beasties away.”
“Like it’s gonna be much of a fight anyway. They’re two old guys.” Buffy shrugged. “I’ll stop by tomorrow then.”
She began to walk past Spike, but he caught her by the arm, noticing that her slayer reflexes seemed to asleep as he pulled her up against him.
And they kissed. Not like they’d kissed before, after a long night of battle and calamity, or after fighting each other until they became too worn down and too turned on to do anything else but screw. This was a kiss out of nowhere, the result of nothing, simply to say goodbye.
Buffy pulled away first.
“We can’t keep doing this,” she said.
“Yeah,” Spike said flatly, honestly. “I know.” And he walked away.
A quick sweep turned into a brawl with a gang of vampires, and by the time Buffy arrived home, the intervention seemed to have dispersed. She checked to make sure that Dawn was safely in bed and then began her ritual of not sleeping.
She would lie down, pull her covers over her body, and then close her eyes quickly, as if to trick herself into going to sleep. Then she would get uncomfortable, toss off her blankets, and lie on her back staring at the streetlamp’s dull glow on her ceiling. Then she would feel a chill, cover her body again, and decide she was going to sleep, whether her body liked it or not. Then she would get up and go to the bathroom, return to her bed, and begin the ritual all over again.
After a few hours of this, she would finally drift off out of utter exhaustion, only to wake up minutes later, her hands clawing at her comforter, struggling to breathe, and gasping out a weak scream. It was always the exact same dream. She went to sleep in her bed and woke up in her coffin every night.
Every night except the nights she’d spent with him.
Spike turned off the television shortly before the sun rose and went down into his bedroom. But he wasn’t asleep for long when the banging of his crypt door opening woke him up.
He sat up in bed, grinning. “Welcome home, love,” he called out. He ran his hand down his bare chest seductively. “I‘m down here, all naked and har -”
But the figure that moved down into the room was very much not Buffy. He reacted instinctively, moving into a fighting position and putting on his vamp face.
The thin, older man standing before him didn’t even flinch.
“Get out of here before I drain you dry,” Spike growled.
“Will you?” The man asked. “Because from what I’ve heard, you have something in your head that would prevent such a thing.”
Spike recognized the accent of the man from last night’s eavesdropping. He moved towards the ladder to try to escape, but was greeted by another man, who was holding a crossbow out towards him.
“That demon computer chip thing was the only smart thing Bill ever did,” the man said with a Southern accent. He nodded to his friend. “Tie him up, honey.” He pulled his other arm out from behind his back to reveal a long knife. “This is gonna be more fun to cut than taxes.”
Much thanks to kreepyk for giving me political material.
Buffy pushed open Dawn’s door and grunted through her sleepy haze, “Wake up.”
Dawn rolled over in bed and squinted at the light. “Why?”
“Because you have to go to school, Dawn.”
“Only on days that aren’t Saturday, genius,” Dawn said. She pulled her blanket up over her head.
Buffy was certain she wouldn’t be able to sleep any more than the two hours that she’d already gotten, so she went downstairs to make herself some breakfast. But breakfast was already done, sitting on the dining room table surrounded by Willow, Xander, and Anya, who stopped talking as soon as Buffy entered the room.
“Morning,” Buffy said. “Gang’s all here, huh?” She sat down at an empty chair and grabbed a plate. “Mmmm, bagels and accusations.”
“Not accusations,” Xander said. “We just want to make sure you aren’t...”
“Depressed?” Buffy offered. “Confused? Angry? Guilty?” She swallowed hard. “Lonely?”
“I was going to say, possessed by a hyena,” Xander finished.
“Xander,” Willow warned.
Buffy slammed a bagel down on her plate. Its muted thump wasn’t quite the point she was trying to make, but her friends noticed it anyway.
“I don’t want to hear it,” she said. “You can think I’m stupid, you can think I’m crazy, and hey - I probably am, but I don’t want to hear it.”
“We don’t think you’re stupid,” Willow said, her voice thick with sympathy. “We just want to make sure he’s not taking advantage of you.”
Buffy scoffed. “Will, I’m the slayer. I could kill six vampires with my hands tied behind my back. I’m not going to let one screw me and then mess with my head afterwards.” She lowered her eyes. “Again.”
Anya shrugged in agreement. “She’s right. It’s not like Spike can hurt her, him being all chipped.”
“That’s true,” Willow said. “If she really wanted him gone, she could’ve staked him a hundred times by now.”
“And if she wants people to talk about her like she’s not in the room,” Buffy snapped. “She’ll let you know.”
“Was the other night the first time?” Xander asked her. “Or have you been hiding this for a while now?”
Buffy stood up. “I am not going to sit here and make you a timeline of my sex life.”
Xander was on his feet so quickly that his chair tilted, threatening to tip over. “Believe me, I’d rather not know what you and Spike get up to. But you can’t go around keeping secrets from us, Buffy. It puts us all in danger.”
“Oh, right,” Buffy said sarcastically. “Thanks for reminding me, guy-who-summoned-the-Broadway-demon-who-almost-killed-me.”
“Guys, stop it!” Willow shouted. “Okay, so we all do stupid things. I know I have recently.”
“I haven’t done anything stupid,” Anya muttered.
“But we have to try to be better about this stuff,” Willow continued. “Especially since Giles is gone. We have to take care of each other now.”
“You mean, Buffy has to take care of everyone,” Buffy said viciously.
“What are you talking about?” Willow asked.
“Something’s wrong? Call Buffy. Buffy’ll handle it. Buffy will always be here for us. This isn’t about Spike. This is about the demands you keep piling up on me. That’s why you don’t want me involved with anyone. That’s why you brought me back in the first place.”
“Buffy, no,” Willow said, her face twisting with sadness. “No, we brought you back because we thought you were in Glory’s dimension. We thought you were suffering.”
“No, I’m suffering now,” Buffy said, her voice breaking as she willed herself not to cry.
Xander reached out towards her but she took a step back to avoid his comforting touch. “It can’t be that bad. If you’re upset, we’re all here for you.”
“We are,” Willow said. “We can help you. However you need us to.”
“No you can’t,” Buffy said, her eyes filling with tears. “There’s no way you can help me.”
“Of course there is,” Willow said, standing. “Buffy, what could possibly be so bad that -”
“I came back wrong!”
The plate Buffy had been holding shattered against the wooden table. As her friends looked at her, shocked into silence, a fragment of the ceramic slid off the table and fell to the floor, breaking into hundreds of tiny blue shards.
“I came back wrong,” she repeated, allowing the tears to slide down her face and her breath to come out in uneven sobs. “You tear me out of heaven, you make me dig out of my grave, you give me a world full of problems to deal with, and you brought me back wrong!”
“Oh my god,” Willow whispered.
“Wrong?” Anya asked. “Wrong how?”
“Whatever it is,” Xander said. “We’ll fix it. We’ll help.”
Buffy put her hands up in a gesture of defense. “I just can’t take this anymore.” She took a step back. “Just leave me alone. Please. Just get out of here.”
She hurried out of the room and up the stairs.
It was about an hour later when Buffy heard a knock on her door. She pulled her pillow over her head and called out, “Go away.”
Dawn’s timid voice came through the door. “It’s me.”
“Oh. Come in then.”
Buffy sat up in bed. Dawn approached her hesitantly, like she would break if she was startled. She sat at the edge of the bed and smiled, trying to look reassuring.
“Gang still here?” Buffy asked.
Dawn shook her head. “Cleared out right after the big arguing. Willow tried to get me to go with her, but I said I’d be okay.”
Buffy put her hand out and rested it on Dawn’s shoulder. “I’m really sorry.”
“No, it’s no big,” Dawn said.
Buffy ran her hand down her sister’s hair. “I just don’t want to make life hard for you.”
“The world makes life hard for me, not you,” Dawn assured her. “So what’s the what? Did they completely freak about Spike being your boyfriend now?”
“He is not my boyfriend,” Buffy said quickly. “Very much not. He’s just...”
“The guy you’re having sex with?” Dawn asked with a disapproving glare.
“It’s complicated,” Buffy said. “It’s...it’s too much to get into right now.”
“Come on,” Dawn whined. “You always act like I won’t understand stuff. But I do! Please.”
The pleading in her voice was so sincere, and Buffy was so tired of arguing, that she relented. “Fine, but I need to get out of this house.”
“I know just the thing,” Dawn suggested cheerfully. “Ice cream. Ice cream makes everything better. And not that dairy-free light ice cream you always buy that turns into foam when it melts. Real ice cream, with sprinkles and syrup and chocolate chunks and tons and tons of sugar. It’s the only surefire cure for boy problems.”
A reluctant smile tugged at the corners of Buffy’s mouth. “How did you get so smart?”
“I don’t know,” Dawn said as she bounced up off the bed. “It certainly wasn’t my genetics.”
“Quit being such a baby about it,” Dawn said. She grabbed the bottle of chocolate syrup from her sister’s hand and proceeded to slather her sundae with it.
“Stop, it’s too much,” Buffy said. She shooed Dawn away from her sundae.
Dawn covered her own bowl of ice cream in syrup and then placed it down on the table. It was a normal Sunnydale afternoon at the Espresso Pump. The place was filled with college students, the tables packed with people Buffy kind of recognized but couldn’t quite place.
“Buffy, you’re supernaturally tough. You don’t need to worry about your looks.” Dawn shoveled and spoonful into her mouth and smiled wickedly. “Besides, you already have a boyfriend.”
“I do not have a boyfriend,” Buffy argued. “I have a...” She let the spoon clatter to the tabletop and slumped down in her chair. “I don’t know what he is. I don’t know what anything is anymore.”
“Well, we’ll figure it out all rational-like,” Dawn suggested. “Give me the reasons why you don’t like him.”
Buffy considered this. “Because he’s Spike.”
“Gotta be a bit more specific than that, Buff.” Dawn licked her spoon and continued attacking her food as she spoke. “Is it because of that time he chained you up and tried to force you to admit that you like him? Cause I asked him about that once, and he told me all about his issues with Drusilla, and stuff that intense has got to mess you up, you know? Is it because of the time when he tried to help Adam destroy the world? Because I think that was all about the chip. He was feeling all useless since he couldn’t kill stuff.” Dawn frowned down into her bowl, finding a spot untouched by chocolate syrup, and reached for the bottle again. “Is it because of the time he kidnapped Willow and Xander? Because I’m sure he wasn’t going to hurt them. Or is it because of the first time he came to town, when he tried to kill you? Because he didn’t really know you back then.”
“Oh my god,” Buffy said. She curled up her arms on the table and allowed her head to fall on top of them. “I can’t believe this is my life.”
“You know what I think a lot of it goes back to?” Dawn offered. “Angel leaving.”
Buffy put her face down and groaned.
“It’s true,” Dawn said. “Big first boyfriend, big first heartache, right? And even before Angel left, Dad left. Then Riley leaves. Then Giles. Add them all up and it equals big emotional abandonment junk. Also, when Angel left, you remember his main reason? He said he wanted you to have a normal life. And it’s like, duh. You never could have that. The minute you found out you were a slayer it was like, goodbye normal life. And now, Buffy, now it’s even more like, forget about it. You died and came back. Normal life has taken the train out of town. But that doesn’t mean you have to be miserable. That means you take your completely not-normal life and you enjoy it in not-normal ways. You have your sister who was created by monks and your best friend who can turn people in animals and back and your not-boyfriend who’s a vampire, and yeah, it’s weird. But you can still be happy, Buffy. Because the people you have, even if they’re not normal, they still love you.”
Buffy looked up, eyeing Dawn curiously. “Dawn...” she said.
Dawn finished her last bit of chocolate-saturated ice cream. “Yeah?” When she looked up, she noticed that Buffy was staring at her stunned, as if in awe.
Buffy’s voice was even and firm. “You have to go to school.”
“Again with it being Saturday.”
Buffy shook her head slightly, as if that would clear her mind. “I mean, on regular days, you have to go to school. I know you’ve been cutting, and I’m not mad, just...When I hear you talk like that, and I realize how amazingly intelligent you are...I couldn’t stand it if your life got messed up just because mine is. I know you think I’m constantly nagging you, but I’m not doing it to torture you, or to make the social worker happy. I’m doing it because...” She looked down into her ice cream and blinked back tears. “You’re better than me, Dawn. You’re smarter and you’re braver, and you’ve lived through so much. And I can’t take credit for it. Everything you are isn’t because of me. It’s in spite of me. In spite of all I’ve put you through, you came through it okay. They made you from me, Dawn, but they didn’t make you like me. I think they only took the good parts. And it doesn’t make me jealous. It only makes me proud of you.”
Buffy lifted her head and wiped her eyes, only to find Dawn struggling against tears herself.
“You didn’t eat your ice cream,” Dawn said, sniffling. “The ice cream makes everything better.”
The hill that overlooked Sunnydale would be crowded by that evening, crammed with cars of horny teenagers. But in the daylight it was near-barren, filled only with the clichéd sounds of birds chirping, the trickling of the sunlight onto the ground as it was alternately hidden and revealed by leaves beaten with breeze, and two older men standing at the edge of the precipice and looking down upon the city maliciously.
“Tonight then,” Vladimir said.
“Tonight.” Bush grasped his lover’s hand, giving it a brief squeeze before releasing it. “With the vampire taken care of, nothing can stop us now.”
“What of the girl?” Vladimir asked.
Bush chuckled. “Some little girl won’t be able to do anything. Don’t worry.”
“Are you sure we should do it before the summit this Spring in Russia?”
Bush rolled his eyes. “Honey, stop worrying. It’ll be fine. When the demons are released, you and I will lead a war against them. The war in Afghanistan was such a success; I have the highest approval ratings possible, and our newfound alliance has made us the most powerful governments in the world.”
“With the world in chaos, all leaders will fall except for us,” Putin said with a smile.
Bush put his hand to the other man’s cheek and stroked it tenderly. “And we’ll be together.”
The house was empty without their mother.
Most of the time, Buffy and Dawn were too busy to think about it, but on Saturday evenings when they had nothing to do but think, the massive structure contained too many rooms that still remembered the constant love and stability the presence of a mother ensured, and mourned its loss.
After leaving the Espresso Pump, they began walking towards home, but discovered themselves moving progressively slower as they neared it. Without speaking the words out loud, they decided to go to Xander’s house, where they found Willow sitting with him in the living room, her eyes red from crying.
Buffy stood in front of them, biting down on her lower lip nervously. “I don’t know how to apologize.”
“I’m the one who should be sorry,” Willow said, her voice breaking as she spoke. “Your whole life is miserable because of me.”
“No, it isn’t,” Buffy said quickly. “See, I’ll never have a normal life, but I don’t need one, because even though it’s not-normal, it’s not-normal in a good way because of all the abnormal people...” She waved dismissively. “Whatever. Dawn can explain it to you later. It’s getting dark now, and we have to get to the cemetery.”
“The cemetery?” Xander asked.
“The plan is to find Bush and Putin and restrain them until we find the sword,” Buffy explained.
“Bad news,” Xander told her. “Will did some checking online. The Sword of Akdov was stolen from the Sunnydale Museum yesterday.”
“Then we have to move fast,” Buffy said. She turned to Dawn as her friends gathered their belongings. “Will you stay with Anya?”
“Fine,” Dawn said with an exaggerated sigh.
“Dawn.” Buffy put her hands on her little sister’s shoulders. “Remember what we talked about.”
Dawn smiled. “You remember too.”
“Don’t worry,” she whispered as she pulled her sister into a hug. “I’ll take care of it.”
“Guys, we have to make a stop at Spike’s crypt,” Buffy continued as she moved towards the door. “He’s going to lend us some chains,” Willow followed her, pulling on her jacket, followed by Xander, who was loading a crossbow. “And I’m gonna have a little talk with him.”
“Rise and shine, dead guy,” Buffy said. The door to his crypt flew open and banged on the opposite wall. “We got places to go, people to kill, and Presidents to tie up.”
“Is he not here?” Willow asked, walking in behind her and surveying the empty room.
“Probably just downstairs sleeping,” Buffy said.
She climbed the ladder into his bedroom, but before she was all the way down, she knew something was wrong. Even without her slayer senses, she would’ve known. The smell of blood was overwhelming.
“Spike?” She jumped down the rest of the way and rushed to the bed. Its white sheets, which had always struck her as remarkably clean for the bedding in a crypt, were stained the deep red of drying blood. Without hesitating she crawled on top of them, her hands shaking as she pulled them slowly apart, looking for dust.
There was blood. Blood and more blood, and when she looked underneath those sheets, yet more blood. But no dust. Then she looked to the floor of the room.
A dirt floor, marred by the scuff marks of a recent fight, where any dust that may have fallen could have been swept up by the stale air, dispersed, all traces of him forgotten. She felt her throat close.
“Spike?” she whispered.
The weak sound had come from the other side of the bed. Spike lay there, wearing only a pair of torn pants, his body more wounds than flesh. Long slashes of dried blood crisscrossed their way across his chest and face, while deeper lesions still bled on his forearms. Spike looked up at her, blinking slowly through bloodied eyes, and smiled as much as his bruised mouth would allow.
Buffy leaned down and kissed him gently.
“If you’re gonna do that every time,” Spike said, his voice strained. “I’ll go get myself tortured more often.”
“I hate you,” Buffy said with a grin. She turned to face the room’s entrance. “Guys! I need you down here!”
Xander and Willow rushed into the room and gasped at the sight.
“My god! Who did this?” Willow asked.
“Let me guess,” Buffy said.
Spike nodded as he pulled himself into a sitting position with difficulty. “The two blokes were here. Said they were going to the Hellmouth at midnight to perform the ritual.”
Xander looked at his watch. “We have plenty of time.”
“Good,” Buffy said firmly. “Cause I’ve had it. Bush is going down. You can gut the standards in the Clean Air Act so that people die because of air pollution from coal burning power plants, you can call prisoners of war unlawful combatants and violate their human rights under the Geneva Convention, you can aid Enron in concealing partnerships to obscure their debts and raise their stock price, that’s fine.”
She took a stake out of her pocket and held it in her hand ominously.
“But nobody messes with my boyfriend.”
Warning: This chapter contains dialogue which may be offensive to those affected by the September 11th attacks. And yes, I know I’m going to hell for this.
After a bottle of pig’s blood and a few bandages, Spike was able to stand and get himself into his bed. He listened to their plan take shape through a haze, drifting off to sleep as Xander suggested explosives and Willow argued that it was a crime to plot to kill the President.
He was shocked into consciousness by the light touch of Buffy’s hand on his arm, her fingers only grazing him, careful not to cause any more pain to his damaged skin. He turned to see her face firm in an expression he’d become familiar with: the I-am-going-to-kill-the-bad-guys-for-what-they-did-to-you look. He’d seen it before, but on those occasions it had been him she was preparing to kill in retribution. In an instant he realized why people like Buffy and her friends chose to fight on this side. It was a lot nicer to be the one she killed for, than to be the one she killed, if for no other reason than to see that look in her eyes.
“We’re going now,” she said.
Spike nodded. “Be careful.”
“Please.” Buffy chortled and rolled her eyes, obviously unafraid of the new villains she was about to face. To Spike, it was the most comforting thing she could’ve said. For a moment she looked like the old Buffy: confident, strong and deadly; the only person he’d ever met who could kick his ass - brutally, repeatedly - and make him love it.
“So,” Xander said as they began to drive towards the old high school. “You are Spike are........you and Spike?”
“I think it’s sweet,” Willow said, smiling at her friend supportively. “A little disturbing, but still sweet.”
“Xander?” Buffy asked cautiously. “Exactly how mad are you?”
“On a scale of one to ten?” Xander replied. “I’d say about...three thousand.”
“That much, huh?” Buffy muttered, pouting. “It’s not that big of a deal, though, I swear. It’s not like we’re getting married.” She threw a pointed look at Willow. “Again.”
They parked outside the dilapidated building and began walking towards it. In the years since they’d blown up the school, the lawn in front of it had turned into a jungle of overgrown grass, unidentifiable rubble, and benches lying cracked and forgotten like the remains of an ancient civilization.
“I mean, what are you thinking?” Xander said. “Someone comes to town for the sole purpose of killing you, nearly destroys the world as we know it, is rendered powerless against their will, reluctantly joins our side, yet shows no remorse at all, and you fall for this person?”
Buffy slowed her pace, letting her friends walk slightly ahead of her.
“No. Wait.” Xander stopped walking, turned to face her, and smiled widely. “That’s what happened to me.”
“Xander, you big doof.” Buffy moved into his outstretched arms and hugged him.
“And as much as I’m loving the touching,” he said. “We’ve got the Hellmouth a-brewin’ in there.”
“Right, two horribly terrifying old guys,” Willow said sarcastically.
Buffy shrugged in agreement. “The only problem I’m gonna have is stopping them without killing them.”
They walked inside the decaying school, careful to step over bits of decaying Richard Wilkins III and Vahrall demon. As they moved towards what used to be the library, they heard two male voices, and Buffy gestured for them to be quiet.
“Did you hear something?” Vladmir Putin asked nervously.
George W. Bush sighed. “Honey, why are you always so jumpy? It’s nothing. There are only two people in the world who could stop us, and they’re both taken care of. I fatally wounded the vampire, and I sent another anthrax letter to Tom Daschle. All our enemies are gone.”
“I know,” Putin admitted. “I am only nervous because we’re finally here. The height of our power, the peak of our love! I fear it will not end well.”
Buffy peered around the corner to see Bush stroking Putin’s face lovingly.
“Do you remember how we fell in love?” the President asked.
Putin smiled. “After your country was attacked, that one morning in September.”
Bush moved closer to Putin, pressing their bodies together. “I activated all our missile defenses...”
“And in the old days, my country would have responded by activating ours...”
“But instead, you just called me,” Bush said, running his hand back through his lover’s thinning hair. “And I knew...”
“That even though we hated each other for so long...”
“Even though I called you evil...”
“In a moment of tragedy, I reached out for you...”
“In my pain, I turned to you...”
“And from the ashes of death, we found love.”
The two men leaned towards each other, their lips parted.
“You know, I can totally identify with that!” Buffy said as she sauntered into the broken down room. “But that’s not gonna stop me from kicking your asses.”
“Stupid little girl,” Bush growled as he hugged Putin close to him. “You can’t hurt us!”
“Why?” Willow said as she entered. “’Cause you’re the President?”
“I’ll have you know we killed a mayor here once,” Xander challenged, coming in behind her.
“No,” Bush said. “Because I brought my entourage. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.” He gestured to two middle-aged men as they stepped from the shadows. “And Pentagon Spokeman Rear Admiral John Stufflebeam.”
“Nice to meet you,” Buffy said, stepping forward. “I’m Vampire Slayer World-Defender About-To-Kick-You-In-The-Face Buffy Summers.”
Her boot connected with Bush’s chin, sending him tumbling backwards. As Putin leaned down to comfort his boyfriend, a kick to the back of his legs made him collapse as well. Xander rushed up to them and began gathering up the sacred stones and sword they would use to open the Hellmouth, as Buffy turned her attention to the President’s minions.
“You wanna run away now or what?” she asked impatiently.
Pentagon Spokesman Rear Admiral John Stufflebeam only smiled, turned around, and bent over.
As Buffy watched, wide-eyed, the backside of the man’s tailored pants morphed into a grenade launcher. She dove to the ground, just narrowly avoiding a bright red explosion that shook the earth and sent rubble crashing around her.
She leapt to her feet to make sure her friends were okay. Xander was still desperately clutching the stones and sword, and Willow was cowering against the wall.
“Hey Will!” She called out. “Remember the whole magic-is-a-bad-addiction thing you’ve been dealing with?”
“Could we maybe forget about that for a minute?”
With a proud smile, Willow raised her hands and tossed a lightning bolt at the four men.
But before it could reach the prone bodies of Bush and Putin, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer leapt in front of them, lowered his bald head, and reflected the beam of energy back towards the three of them.
It struck Buffy in the chest, tossing her body across the room and into a pillar. Xander rushed towards her, but he was pushed back by a cloud of smoke as the concrete collapsed, burying her.
“Buffy!” Willow shouted.
Bush chuckled as he stood up, wiping blood from his face with the back of his hand. “Get the sword!” he shouted to the other men. “It’s almost time!”
Fleischer, Stufflebeem, and Putin began advancing on Xander.
“Will!” he called out, extending the items her way.
“Just kill the boy!” Bush commanded.
Their attack was halted by a sudden downpour of shards of rock, and a dusty Buffy emerged.
“I hate it when I get buried,” she growled.
In one motion she snapped both of the Pentagon Spokesman’s wrists, and then used his limp body to knock the White House Press Secretary unconscious. Her elbow met with Putin’s face, and she lunged on Bush, pinning his arms to the ground and holding her fist above his face threateningly.
“It’s over,” she told him. “It’s too late to do the ritual. Go back to Washington, stop trying to take over the world, and I’ll let you live.”
But Bush only smiled. “It’s not that simple, little girl.” Her glanced over at the crevice in the ground nearby. “In the White House, we have another name for the Hellmouth: undisclosed location.”
Smoke began to rise from the Hellmouth, and the ground shook ominously. Buffy jumped to her feet and rushed to the fissure just in time to see the Vice President emerge, his eyes red and glowing, riding on the back of the six-headed monster she knew all to well.
Buffy attacked the Vice President with her fists while battling off the demon’s tentacles with her feet. When it managed to grab hold of her ankles, she braced her heels on the ground and pounded on the man even more viciously.
“Go back to hell, Dick Cheney!” she screamed.
But she was fighting a losing battle. Even as she pummeled the Vice President’s face into a bloody paste, the demon was gaining ground, simultaneously pulling her inside the Hellmouth while it lifted itself out.
Buffy had heard about those life-changing experiences where one’s mind would go quiet, like a car accident in silent slow motion, but she’d never had the luxury of experiencing anything like that. When she was in danger, she heard every deafening noise: the screams of her friends, the growl of her attackers, and it all went by so fast that she was never sure she was safe until weeks after it was over.
Except now. Now, as her hands squished against flesh and the legions of hell rose to meet Earth, she couldn’t hear a thing. Her thoughts were slow, measured, and sequential. First, that she was sure she’d be able to drive the demon back into the Hellmouth. Second, that she would probably get dragged in there herself. Third, that she was willing to make that sacrifice. But lastly, that she didn’t want to.
She wanted her sister. She wanted her friends. She wanted her annoying, undead, not-boyfriend. She wanted bills and phone calls from creditors and crappy dead-end jobs. She wanted a bathroom that needed cleaning once a week but never seemed to get clean enough. She wanted a vacuum that barely worked and a carpet that clung desperately to hair. She wanted uncomfortable jeans and cheap hair bands that stretched out too much the first time she used them. She wanted love, and hatred, and depression, and emptiness, and stress, and laughter, and anger, and sex. She wanted the world.
So when she’d beaten the monster and the Vice President back underground, instead of falling into the endless depths with them, she found some reserve of strength that allowed her to grasp the side of the stone wall with little more than her fingernails and propel herself to the surface.
Once she was sitting safely on the ground, away from the now-quiet opening in the earth, she slowly became aware of the tremendous amount of pain she was in, and the presence of others around her.
Willow and Xander knelt beside her, examining her injuries and assuring her that she’d be okay. And only a few feet away, George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin were glaring down at her.
“We’ll still do it, you know,” Bush said. “We’ll still take over the world. Me and Vlady.”
Putin nodded. “As long as we are together, nothing can stop us.”
“Whatever,” Buffy said. She allowed her friends to help her to her feet. “Get the hell out of Sunnydale, and I don’t care what you do. Go rule the world, go screw the Attorney General, I really don’t care.”
Putin’s eyes became wide and he took a step away from his lover. “Georgie! Is it true? Are you screwing the Attorney General?”
“What?” Bush sputtered. “N-no. No, of course not, baby. You’re the only one for me!”
“I knew it!” Putin cried out. “I knew it from the way you looked at him!”
“Oh, come on,” Bush pleaded. “What do you expect? Half the time you’re not even around. You’re always out working!”
“I am running my country!” Putin argued. “And I’m always faithful to you when I’m in Russia. I never thought you’d cheat on me with the Attorney General!”
“How else do you think John Ashcroft got the job?”
Putin stormed across the room, oblivious to the President’s pleas. At the exit, he turned and glowered through his tears. “I am never going to take over the world with you again!”
“Fine!” Bush shouted back. “I never really liked you anyway!” And he hurried out of the building in the opposite direction.
Buffy leaned against Willow’s shoulder and sighed. “I hate politics.”
Warning: I’m a total sap for fluffy endings.
Part Five: Epilogue
A week after being brutally tortured by two homosexual world leaders and lying in a pool of his own blood for nearly twenty-four hours, Spike felt good.
He sat at the kitchen table in the Summers’ house, looking over Dawn’s shoulder as she did her Math homework. After a few minutes of staring at the page and tapping her pencil nervously, she groaned and pushed the book away from her.
“I am never going to understand this stuff,” she whined.
“Come on, it’s easy,” Spike said. “You just need to visualize it.” He pulled the book closer and pointed to one of the problems. “Like here. 8x divided by 4 equals 7. Imagine that you have 8 dead humans, and 7 vampires want to eat them. A corpse has four limbs, so how many limbs would each vampire get?”
Buffy only rolled her eyes as she entered the room with a sheet of paper in her hands.
“Hey, pet, what you making for dinner?”
“A phone call,” she replied, tossing the menu towards him.
“Three and a half limbs!” Dawn shouted, excitedly scribbling in her notebook.
“Dawnie, you okay with pizza?” Buffy asked.
“Whatever, I’m just dying for some caffeine.”
“We have soda here,” Buffy said. “I’ll get you some.”
Spike followed her into the kitchen, where he found her sitting on top of the counter, stretching to reach the glasses on the top shelf. He moved right up against her, his hands finding her waist before she had a chance to object.
The motion of his body against hers always made her dizzy. The slightest brush, and all her chosen-one strength and coordination was done for. Especially when she was sitting on a corner of her countertop, and his body was between her legs, and she could tell from the slight trembling in his legs that, at that moment, he couldn’t have fought a drunken garden slug either.
“So no news from the poncy presidents?” Spike murmured against her shoulder.
Buffy shook her head. “Well, I’m sure they’re in the news, but they’re not in town, so things are okay.”
“Really?” Spike asked, pulling his head back so he could look at her. “Things are okay?”
“Well, the bad guys of this week are gone. Now I just have to worry about raising a teenager, getting a job, fixing the washing machine, preventing the next big apocalypse and living in abject poverty.” She smiled. “But...I have this amazing little sister who shows me more love than I ever thought possible, I have great friends who are there for me even when things get impossibly rough, and...” She ran her hand down his arm. “And I have this guy who can just look at me and make me forget all the crappy things in the world. Plus, he can do this really cool thing with his tongue.”
“I am pretty damned irresistible, aren’t I?”
Buffy hit him on the chest, keeping the palm of her hand flattened against him, as if she was going to push him away. “You know, every time I start to like you, you have to go and talk.”
Spike shrugged with mock innocence. “Not my fault that I’m the summit of your existence, love.”
Buffy let her head fall towards him, meeting her hand, closing her eyes, feeling his arms as they circled her, and his body as it moved even closer.
“I hate you,” she said.
“Yeah,” he said softly. “I hate you too.”