1. Thank you for visiting Buffy-Boards. You obviously have exceptional taste. We just want you to know that:
    1. You really should register so you can chat with us!
    2. Ten thousand people can't be wrong.
    3. Buffy-Boards loves you.
    4. See 1 through 3.
    Come on, register already!

A BtVS S7 Rewrite: Fooled by a Sauron

Discussion in 'Introduction To The Watcher Diaries' started by sosa lola, Feb 8, 2017.

  1. sosa lola

    sosa lola Scooby

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2007
    Messages:
    3,859
    Likes Received:
    1,702
    Reputation:
    5,294
    Fic: Fooled by a Sauron
    Setting: S7, right after the episode 'Him'
    Summary: The First is planning to end the Slayer line, starting with Buffy and her friends.

    Thanks wrapped in hugs for @cryptwarmer my dearest beta!




    Chapter 1


    Sunday morning. Not usually the best of mornings, because it followed Saturday night and that dubbed it hangover cure time. But since Xander spent last night fighting off some hell demon with Buffy and getting a nasty cut on the upper arm for his troubles, Sunday morning was retitled ‘glad to still be alive’.

    The glad game kicked the bucket when he realized his bathroom was occupied.

    There he was observing the art of hairdressing, compliments of the former sassy, evil dead and currently souled and insane. The secret to Spike’s licked by a cow coiffure was to empty a gel bottle every morning on his scalp and hair. Fear of hair damage must be no problemo when you were a walking corpse.

    Spike suddenly glanced his way, and Xander waited for the trademark ‘annoyed with Xander and now I’ll cut him open with a sharp one’ remark.

    “Sorry. I’ll be done in a minute.”

    Xander’s mouth hung in a complete state of shock. Spike just apologized for hogging the bathroom. Cows just flew over a frozen hell.

    Disturbing moment was slayed by the ringing of his phone. He shook himself out of his shock and went to answer it. “Xander’s motel for the crazy undead speaking, how may I serve you?"

    "Hey there, Xand." There was a tiny laugh in Buffy’s amused greeting. "Looks like you're in good spirits, so I assume Spike isn’t being a pain?"

    Glancing at the bathroom direction. "He tries. I think he lost his spirit to annoy me."

    There was a quiet pause before the predictable question came, "How is he?"

    He’d gotten used to the concern. Buffy cared about Spike more than she let on. Xander didn't have the will to argue about it anymore. "I don't get to see him much," he answered. "He's usually in his room."

    "Doing the insane thing?" she asked.

    "His insane episodes usually kick in when I'm sleeping, unfortunately."

    She gave a soft laugh. He smiled. "What's he doing now?"

    "Bathroom. Adding shine to his hair with some really good smelling product.”

    "At least some things stayed the same," she muttered, and then came a pause before the other predictable question, "Can you put him on the phone?"

    "Sure."

    He ambled to the bathroom where Spike was making sure his hair stuck to his head like a helmet. "Hey, John Travolta, Buffy is on the phone."

    Spike nodded, washing his hands with water, and then without a comment he slipped out of the bathroom. Just like that. He just walked past Xander without a word. None of the usual vexatious baiting and biting sarcasm.

    Xander felt offended.





    ~*~*~*~





    Spike picked up the phone and stopped midway before he brought it to his ear. Last time they talked on the phone the quiet moments ran longer than their sentences. Did he really want to suffer through pauses of awkward silence?

    But it was Buffy. She wanted to talk to him. Could be important.

    "Hi," he whispered to the phone.

    "Hey."

    As predicted, nothing was said for a few seconds. Spike started to wonder if she had put down the phone. He couldn't even hear her breath.

    "How is it going at Casa Xander?" she asked suddenly in a more cheerful tone.

    "Okay."

    "Good."

    Behold the silence. He wanted to speak, say something, break the heavy tension. He didn't know what to say, didn't think he had the right to say anything to this woman. Not after he had hurt her. It always surprised him when she asked to talk to him.

    "So, uh, see ya around?" she blurted out, sounding beat.

    Feeling a disappointed tug inside, he let out a soft, "Yeah."

    He waited until he heard the abrupt click as Buffy hung up the phone. He caught Xander in the corner of his eyes, standing by the kitchen counter and studying him closely.

    Show was over, he thought in irritation and put down the phone. He walked into his room before the Harris boy made a condescending comment.





    ~*~*~*~*~






    Tossing and turning to the arrhythmic moans and screams that had been attacking Xander’s room all night long. It was the same tune every night, even louder tonight that Xander had an important meeting in the next morning. Groggy eyed with a touch of throbbing headache, Xander struggled to leave his bed and check on Moaning Myrtle over there.

    He found his source of annoyance huddled in the corner of the luxurious closet, head buried in his knees and shivering wildly.

    “All right, Crazy Pants, let’s tuck you in.” He took a hold of Spike’s arm but it was glued to his body. Spike froze when Xander touched him, and then lifted up his mess of a face complete with the leaky eyeholes and the runny nose. He started murmuring some nonsense Xander didn’t care to understand.

    So he hauled up the resisting vamp and dropped him onto his bed like a sack of unwanted trash. He flung the blanket all over the shivering body and tucked the ends under the mattress.

    There. Vamp on mute and all was well with the world.

    All that fuss and getting up and putting Spike to sleep worked up a thirst, and Xander’s throat craved water.

    Fresh water quelled the persistent thirst but did nothing to stop the twinkling stars from running in circles around his head. Xander hoped he could go back to sleep or else he’d aim the wrecking ball at his own crew. Tony would flip out on him.

    Placing the empty glass on the counter, he turned around to head back to his room when a yelp sprung out of his mouth at the sight of Spike standing behind him.

    “Holy heart attack, Spike! What the hell are you doing up?”

    Spike was a few feet away from him, not inside the kitchen area but close enough to set Xander’s heart drumming in alert. Spike was looking at him, mouth set in a thin line and face expressionless.

    “Came for a night snack?” Xander asked, getting a bit worked up. His hand hovered over the knife drawer.

    Spike didn’t do or say a thing though. He just slipped back into his room like a ghost.

    Xander breathed a sigh of relief and gave a headshake. “Creepy.”




    ~*~*~*~*~




    Spike shivered under the blanket Xander trapped him under. It was here, very close, he could hear its soft ridiculing chuckles.

    “Your roommate is a bit on the gullible side, isn’t he?” it said, near to Spike’s head using a voice identical to his own. “He won’t know what hit him, and this time, the axe won’t miss.”
     
  2. sosa lola

    sosa lola Scooby

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2007
    Messages:
    3,859
    Likes Received:
    1,702
    Reputation:
    5,294
    Chapter 2




    Dawn hadn’t been to Xander’s place since they’d dropped Spike there on that fateful ‘I can’t believe I almost’ day of mystical jackets and humiliating fascinations. The Spike situation was a whole cart of maxi-wig. Ugly feelings simmered inside her, and the thought of being alone with him again made her sick to her stomach.

    She wouldn’t have stepped a foot in Xander’s place if it wasn’t urgent.

    “Two hours deciding a name for your stupid email account, Xander,” she griped, staring at the arrow on the laptop screen mimicking the movement of the mouse. “My recently clipped nails are already bird’s claws.”

    “It’s got to be perfect,” he argued, still tapping a finger on his cheek. He was lucky he was sitting on the far end of the couch or she’d have strangled him.

    Xander’s construction company had finally decided to join the modern age; launching a website and demanding every employee who did not have an email account to create one ASAP. Since Xander still lived in the stone age – AKA did not own a computer – he desperately needed a computer savvy expert like herself. No one was more qualified really.

    Though he did admit that Willow was his first choice for help, but there was the whole adjusting to being back home and not doing evil, so Dawn it was.

    “So?”

    “Don’t rush me.” Xander went on with the cheek tapping. “Don’t want my crew having a funny on my expense. I want it to be hip but professional.”

    “Xander, believe me, nothing’s more professional than Xander_Harris@yahoo.com.”

    He pointed a finger. “But is it hip?”

    Dawn pushed her chair back. “You know what, I’m gonna get me a soda.”

    She had to remind herself that Xander used to be a schlub who took extra computer lessons on Saturday mornings in high school. She never realized he was such a computer neophyte.

    Xander made up for his lack of basic information technology with the chocolate land surrounded by carbonated goodness inside his fridge. It was as if she stepped into a grocery store. Their fridge at home was vacant compared to this. There was nothing but Dr Pepper because it sounded like prescribed pepper drink. Buffy’s sense of humor always flew over Dawn’s head.

    She grabbed a Coke and a couple of Snickers bars, and after a thought snagged a Kit Kat, then pushed the fridge door shut. Right then, she was suddenly face to face with an expressionless Spike.

    She gasped, jumped back and her snacks met the hardwood floor. When had he gotten there? Had he been standing there the whole time?

    She blinked at him several times and noted that his posture hadn’t changed. He just stood in the same spot with the same unreadable-face.

    “Did you want something?” her voice squeaked slightly. “I saw a bag of blood. Did you want that?”

    His eyes bored holes into her, and she was on the verge of a panic attack. Just when she was about to squeal for help, he turned around and headed back to his room.

    Dawn released the breath caught in her throat and bolted to the living room. Seconds later, she rushed back to collect her snacks from the floor.

    Xander was sitting in front of her laptop, looking so absorbed trying out different names. Dawn threw herself on the couch and placed the sugary goods on the table. Her mind raced with unsettling thoughts about what just happened.

    Buffy told her Spike was different because of the soul, but… shouldn’t the soul make him less creepy? What kind of differences did having a soul make and why must Spike change because of that? Did it mean that Spike was a different person now? Did it mean that the person Spike used to be without a soul didn’t exist anymore? That everything they had before wasn’t real?

    Dawn wasn’t sure if this was how Buffy saw the situation. Last time one of her vampire boyfriends got his soul back, all seemed to be forgiven. Everyone accepted that the guy who killed Buffy’s teacher and terrorized Sunnydale was not Angel. Dawn never came across a soulless Angel, so while she was told he wasn’t the same guy, she didn’t see it for herself.

    With Spike, there was the whole basket case thing going for him, and the creepy silent thing. If anyone asked her, this soul business was nothing but a pile of pointless hooey. A soul didn’t stop Warren from running around with a gun and killing her family… so would it stop Spike from trying to hurt Buffy again?

    "So what is it like living with Spike again?" Dawn unwrapped the Snickers bar and munched away. She could fish for some Spike-info from Xander. He’d been living with him for almost a week now. He’d probably notice anything strange, well, stranger than usual.

    "Not sure what to say… annoying."

    "Really?” Dawn said with a mouthful, glancing at Spike’s room. “He's mostly quiet."

    "Well, Lacksoul was easier to figure out. This new Spike though… I don't know. He's got the whole annoying mysterious thing going."

    "Yeah, well, be careful.” Dawn swallowed the last bit of nougaty and peanutty heaven and reached for the soda.

    "Always am,” he said absentmindedly, clicking on her keyboard.

    "I’m serious, Xander. I have a bad feeling about him.” Dawn cracked the can open, andboom, her silky, perfectly pampered hair and latest style blouse were soaked in Coke.

    A tiny sad whimper seeped out of her lips.

    Xander winced when he saw her, but then a bright smile promising flowers and puppies lit up his face. “I finally settled on a name for the email.”

    Dawn chucked a pillow at him.




    ~*~*~*~*~




    Xander stepped into Tony’s trailer for a little breather. The new guys were wearing him out with all the questions, he didn’t remember being much of a Curious George when he first dipped into the construction business.

    Taking off his hardhat, he unsuccessfully looked around for an empty spot to put it on. The place was so cramped, and that came from the guy who always declared war on his bedroom, back when he lived with his parents, of course. His bedroom now was spiffy and spotless. Anya’s much cherished influence.

    He lifted the files on the only visible chair and set them on Tony’s cluttered desk. Before he parked his butt, he noticed the list of email addresses among the disorganized papers.

    Xander seized the paper and scrolled down the list for his email. Xander_ALH@yahoo.com. It had a nice ring to it. Tony didn’t think so. He had a blast taking jabs at each email. He even dared to call Xander a terrorist-wannabe because he assumed the ALH was short for Allah. Racism wasn’t lost on his boss.

    “Xander?”

    His head snapped up. “Buff?”

    She was lingering near the closed door with a timid smile on her face. He didn’t hear the door close, did he? She must have slipped in all mouse like while he was reading the email list.

    “Buff, taking a break from guiding and counseling our future youth?” he couldn’t contain the surprise in his voice. Buffy had come to the site once before, but only because of an emergency. She was too busy talking kids out of smoking and drugs to pay a visit. Not that Xander had time for chitchat.

    “Very late lunch break,” she said, her eyes searching around the messy trailer.

    “I’m supposed to pick you guys up in about an hour.” He put down the list and stepped over a supply box to stand before her. “Something wrong?”

    “No, uh…” She took a step back, curling her ponytail. “Is everything okay, you know, with Spike?”

    “He stays out of my way. I stay out of his. Works well for the both of us so far.”

    She wandered over to the chaotic desk, eying the mass of papers in disinterest. “It’s just…I was talking to Dawn earlier and she mentioned something about Spike being weird.”

    Xander frowned. “When did she see Spike?”

    “Yesterday at your place.”

    “I didn’t notice.” He rocked his brain trying to remember Spike showing up when Dawn was around and it came with a blank. “Did he do something?”

    Buffy turned around and shook her head. “No, no. He just… stood there.”

    Something clicked in Xander’s head. “His Silence of the Lambs impression.” What game was Spike trying to pull? For all Xander knew, he could be playing poster boy this whole time to get in Xander’s good graces before doing something incredibly evil.

    “I just… I won’t forgive myself if something happened to you.”

    Xander blinked out of his dark thoughts and noted Buffy’s infamous guilty expression. He pulled up the corners of his lips to his trademark grin. “Nothing’s gonna happen. Chip, remember?”

    She folded her arms around her chest with a halfhearted shrug. “Still, it was my idea for him to stay at your place. I can’t be around him as much you know.”

    Xander’s eyebrows flew to his hairlines. “You can’t?”

    “Not after last year, no.” She approached him, hugging herself tighter and looking extra vulnerable. Xander hated seeing her like this; it was horrifyingly similar to the night he found her in the bathroom, that broken look on her face and the bruised thigh.

    She was very close now, her eyes locked with his, grateful and longing. “But I can always count on you.”

    Xander felt his features softening into a sympathetic small smile. “Hey, whatever you want.”

    She was really close. Closer than she ever was before. Too close. Her lips nearly touched his.

    Lips?

    Xander recoiled back in alarm, knocking down a few supply boxes and landing on his ass. Hey, when did this chair get there? Xander, focus. Frightened eyes regarded Buffy’s amused ones in shock and, well, fright. “Whoa… did not know that’s what you wanted.”

    She gave a cute little head tilt. “Isn’t it what you want?”

    Buffy was being cute. At him? He pushed himself up and walked towards her. “Are you okay? Let me feel your forehead.”

    She dodged his hand and slipped out of his reach, that detested broken expression back at full force. “Forget it. It was… it’s stupid.”

    Xander scratched the back of his neck, really unsure how to feel about this unexpected, overwhelming turn of events. “Gee, Buff, didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. Didn’t know there were feelings to be hurt. This whole thing came out of the blue.”

    “Did it?” She twirled around in offense. “It was building up all summer.”

    Xander searched within his mind again. That day at the mall when Buffy whistled after he tried on a swimming suit for their beach trip, was she coming on to him? Dawn meowed. And wasn’t that a disturbing thought.

    “You didn’t feel it?” her tone was insecure with hurt and uncertainty.

    Xander shook his head apologetically. “I’m not known for my perception skills.”

    “Xander, you’re the only one who stuck by me.” She moved closer to him again, and this time he didn’t react with violent bursts of fear. He remained standing, scared and stunned, but he should get credit for standing his ground.

    Buffy smiled up at him, and Xander never thought he’d ever earn this smile. “You never left my side. I guess I’m just starting to see…”

    “Harris, get your lazy ass out here!”

    Damn you, Tony! He held up a finger. “Hold that thought.”

    Scurrying out of the trailer, he was face to face with the pissed off foreman. “Where the hell have you been?”

    “Inside,” Xander hated the crack in his voice, “Just… taking ten.”

    “Who told you, you could take a break?” Tony’s flaring nostrils promised a world of painfully long and dreary lectures.

    “Just gonna get my hardhat.” Xander sprung into the trailer in a second. “Um… Buff, sorry about that, but I have to get back to…”

    The trashy trailer was Buffy-less. Xander narrowed his eyes at the tiny window and wondered if Buffy had squeezed her way out. At least she wasn’t stuck.

    Could it possibly have been his imagination? He’d probably drifted off and dreamed the whole thing. That sounded way more plausible than Buffy hitting on him.








    ~*~*~*~*~




    Buffy played with the strap of her satchel bag, watching Dawn chatting with her friends near the schools’ front archway. Xander was running late, or so she told herself. She was too anxious to get back home, maybe have a long soothing bath to brace herself for whatever homemade meal Willow was cooking tonight.

    It wasn’t just Willow’s surprise dinner that got her heebie-jeebies out. Having talked to a bundle of troubled kids today, she couldn’t help but think about Spike. Saying two words to him was getting harder each day. She missed the golden olden days when she’d kick his crypt door open and trade shots all night long under his thick oriental rugs…

    She inwardly cursed herself for going there. Bad place to revisit with a boatload of hurtful memories. Give it up, Summers, moving on meant leaving the past behind, and Spike was the dark part of her past. Should focus her attention and energy on the new evil arising from underneath her, which, gross as it sounded, was still a more comforting thought than confronting Spike.

    “What’s up?” Dawn perked up next to her. “You’ve got a ‘hmmm’ face.”

    Buffy shook her head with a smile. “Just thinking.”

    “And it doesn’t take a genius to guess who you’re thinking about.” Dawn got her sarcastic eyebrow up in all its high and mighty glory. She’d always been a smart mouth, but now she was a much taller smart mouth spouting true things. Most of the time.

    “So what if I am?” Buffy asked gently.

    “I just don’t wanna see you get hurt.” The Spike topic tended to get Dawn riled up with worry. Buffy appreciated the concern on her behalf, but sometimes it got ridiculously smothering.

    “I won’t,” she reassured her sister. “He’s… he’s getting better. Less with the crazy, more with the…”

    “Hannibal Lecter-y?” Dawn shuddered. “I don’t know, Buffy, I get a serious case of nail-biting thinking about him.”

    “He just needs time. Getting your soul back should be traumatic.” She sulked. “Or so I hear.”

    “From who?”

    “Angel.” Buffy sighed. “Dawn, Spike is tormented with remorse and guilt over the hundred years of harm that he caused. He’s not a bad guy now. I can feel it.”

    “I hope you’re right,” Dawn said sincerely. “For his sake, too.”

    Buffy smiled. Then they stood there, beat, watching everybody around them getting into their cars and driving off.

    “What do you think Willow got prepared for us tonight?” Buffy asked anxiously, new safe topic to chatter about until Xander decided to show up.

    “As long as it’s not dark and vien-y, I’m up for anything.”

    Buffy gave her a look. So much for safe topic.

    “Sorry. Last ‘Willow is evil’ joke. Promise.”

    Buffy stared at her sister who tried to appear cool with the nonchalant. Dawn took the longest time adjusting to Willow being back. Understandable since Willow tried to kill her on a personal level, which obviously stung more than attempting to destroy the world.

    Dawn was coming around though. She helped Willow get ready for school the other night, and she was sensible enough not to crack insensitive jokes in front of Willow.

    Forgiving could be so hard, but it was something Willow needed to be able to get on with her life.

    Buffy wondered if she could find it in her heart to forgive Spike, but she wasn’t sure she forgave Willow yet.





    ~*~*~*~





    Xander pulled the car over to a stop at the curb. Buffy and Dawn walked towards him, and his heart pounded harder. What happened with Buffy earlier was still fresh as daisies in his mind. He didn’t think she would do any flirting with Dawn in the car, now would she?

    Buffy slid into the passenger’s seat with a bright smile. “Hey, what took you so long?”

    He tried not to look directly at her lips. “I was occupied.”

    “I bet you were,” Dawn said, and she sounded suggestive enough for Xander to blow a gasket.

    “What’s that supposed to mean?” He knocked over his Starbucks cup and it fell on Buffy’s skirt. His heart almost stopped just as Buffy’s face went panic with something scary, then it started functioning again when it appeared his cup was empty and Buffy’s skirt was perfectly stainless.

    Dawn raised her eyebrow. “That you were busy construction-ing?”

    “Xander, you’re so stressed.” Buffy gave him a pat on the shoulder. Her hand on him? Buffy! Not in front of Dawn! Xander would have knocked over something else if there were anything left.

    “Hey, wanna come over for dinner tonight?” Buffy suggested, her bright smile was even brighter.

    The spot on his shoulder where she touched him burned and stung. “You, um, sure about that?”

    “Well, the food is a bit of a question mark, but at least we’ll be facing it together.”

    “Together.” He swallowed. “As in you and me?”

    “And Dawn,” she added.

    “Don’t mind me. I’ll happily munch on last night’s leftovers instead of getting my stomach pumped at five a.m.”

    “That only happened once. After your car accident last year.”

    “Guilt is the secret ingredient,” Dawn pointed out. “If causing an accident resulted to her infamous garbage disposal dish, imagine what ‘was gonna destroy the entire world’ will taste like.”

    “Dawn, what did we say about evil Willow jokes?”

    “Pushing my stomach limits is no joke.”

    Xander’s ears heard their conversation, but his brain didn’t comprehend a word. He was on the verge of a major panic attack thinking of himself and Buffy at an intimate dinner table that she set herself at her house. Flickering candle light shedding a soft glow on her elegant sparkling dress. Her hair all stylish and fancy, her lips rosy and glistening, and getting so close…

    “Xander?”

    He startled when she put a hand on his shoulder. Once more with the hands. Sound the alarm. Buffy getting touchy feely on him in the car with her sister in the backseat? Things were moving way too fast.

    “You’ve been awfully quiet,” she said, concerned.

    Xander tried to ignore the weight on her hand on his shoulder. “It’s nothing, Buff. Work related stuff.”

    She gave a small smile. “So, coming tonight?”

    Xander focused his attention entirely on the road. “I don’t think so. I’ve got to finish a shift schedule for the crew. It’s due tomorrow morning.”

    “Oh.” The load of disappointment in that ‘oh.’ Xander felt kind of bad, but until he figured out how he really felt about this, it was better for him and Buffy to be apart for a while.
     
    cryptwarmer: I'm so glad you're sharing this here! Spread the um...terrifying horror
  3. sosa lola

    sosa lola Scooby

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2007
    Messages:
    3,859
    Likes Received:
    1,702
    Reputation:
    5,294
    @cryptwarmer, thank you! I'll post this in Ao3 when it's done. It'll give me the drive to finish the next chapter as fast as possible.


    Chapter 3

    When it came to college, Willow always played it smart. Every new semester, she’d jump all over a major project before midterms. However, this year Willow missed the beginning of the semester, which meant she missed her chance to seize those early exam-free days, and now she was swamped with essays and tests.

    Her attention was pulled away from the piles of papers and textbooks by Dawn clearing her throat at the door. “Willow, I’ve got this math problem…”

    Dawn held her math book to her chest, her cheeks red with embarrassment. This was the first time she asked for help with her homework since Willow arrived back to Sunnydale.

    Butterflies danced happily in her tummy, because despite the enormous college workload, Willow was glad that Dawn was trying to get things back to normal. It was Willow’s thing; homework, staying home with Dawn, making her dinner. She was the stay at home parent while Buffy went out to patrol or work at the Doublemeat Palace.

    “Sure come on in,” she sounded too enthusiastic.

    Dawn seemed to pick up on it, her smile was very sympathetic. Willow hoped ultimate reconciliation was in the works since she’d sensed that Dawn still had some reservations about her.

    Dawn handed her the book. “Thanks.”

    “How’s your tummy? Still all wiggly.” She realized a bit too late what a fail it was to lead small talk with ‘remember when I poisoned you last night?’

    Dawn grinned. “Next time you’re trying to make amends, stay away from cooking.”

    “Noted.” Willow stared at the math problem Dawn couldn’t solve.

    “Unless it’s your ketchup spaghetti.”

    That snapped her attention from the two boats on opposite banks of a river. She felt her face light up like a child getting praised for getting straight ‘A’s all year by her super busy and neglectful mother. “You mean it?”

    “Are you kidding? It’s plate-lickable. Beats eating greasy Doublemeat Palace burgers any night.”

    There was that one-night last year when Willow got back from a late study-group at the college library. Dawn was in the kitchen, perched on a stool and idly playing with tableware. Buffy had promised to bring home dinner three hours earlier, but Buffy never came home that night, and Dawn was starved. Willow had whipped up a quick bowl of spaghetti, mixed with butter and ketchup, a childhood recipe she and Xander learned to make whenever they had a sleepover at Xander’s house. Willow had made it several times on later nights, but Dawn had been too pissed off at Buffy back then to let Willow know how much she liked it.

    “Isn’t that a cozy picture?”

    Willow and Dawn jumped and gazed over their shoulders at Buffy standing by the door. Buffy’s tone and the cold look in her eyes didn’t sit well with Willow.

    Dawn didn’t seem to notice, flashing her sister a grin. “Willow’s on homework duty.”

    “Willow helping out.” Buffy raised an eyebrow. “That’s a nice change.”

    Willow bit her lip. Did Buffy have issues with her being back as well? She seemed to be all welcome-y and happy before. Unless it was repressed anger, which was so Buffy.

    “Word on the street is that there’s this vampire nest somewhere in Sunnydale. I couldn’t track them.” Buffy slipped into the room, eying the mess on Willow’s desk with cruel contempt. “I was wondering if you could do a locator spell? Maybe conjure up a ‘Paresto’ spell and have them combust in flames with a ball of magical sunlight.”

    “I don’t think that’s a good…” Dawn trailed off weakly, a guilty glance at Willow swiftly transmitted to the floor.

    Willow swallowed, feeling small and worthless. “I’d like to help, Buffy, but I’m not sure I should…”

    “It’s just a little spell, Will. It’ll save me a lot of time and pain,” Buffy said pointedly. “You know, I gotta get up early for work. If I can’t give my spanking new counseling job one hundred percent, who’s gonna buy all the ingredients to the vile dishes you grace our stomachs with?”

    “Buffy,” Dawn exclaimed in shock.

    Buffy would never say something like that to her. But… for years Willow would never have thought that Buffy would sleep with Spike, or that Willow would attempt to kill her friends and wipe out the entire world. Buffy had every right to hate her, all of them did, and she would take it like the big girl she was. She deserved it.

    Buffy’s features softened to an apologetic frown. “Sorry, I’m just a little tired. Day job and night job, big stress-fest.” She rubbed her forehead and tried a smile, and suddenly she was Willow’s old Buffy. “Guess I’ll have to deal with that nest on my own. Same old.”

    A heavy ball rested on Willow’s throat as Buffy sauntered out of the room. It wasn’t fair, Willow knew, she really did, that Buffy shouldn’t face those vampires alone, and she shouldn’t work her butt off to earn a living alone, not when she had her best friend around to help out. Willow was trying as best as she could, but it wasn’t enough. Buffy resented her for that, for bringing her back, for hurting Dawn and everyone she loved, and for her weakness which rendered her useless; the most powerful witch on earth unable to do a simple locator spell without losing control.

    “I don’t know what to say,” Dawn began ruefully, “Yesterday she was on my case for making too many jokes about…” She zipped her mouth. Willow just turned away. The guilt was eating her whole.

    “She’s possessed,” Dawn piped up. “That’s it. It’s hyena possession all over again. Let’s feed the zookeeper to the hyenas.”

    “Dawnie, better get back to your homework,” she muttered with a choked up voice. “You’ve got school tomorrow.”

    Willow tried to read the words in Dawn’s book through the fog of tears.





    ~*~*~*~





    Spike stared at the leather coat on his bed, trying to remember how it ended up there. The garment flexed smoothly as he slipped the coat on, and yet he still had no recollection of why it was in his room. Did it matter? Suppose not.

    Lighter and fags stuffed in his pocket as well as the sum of cash Harris had left on the kitchen counter which Spike saw as an invitation for nicking, and off he went.

    The stench of last night’s leftovers and cheap beer wafted through the living room. Harris was laughing his arse off while watching a daft sitcom, mouth stuffed with microwaved pizza.

    Spike tried to tread to the door before…

    “You’re going out?”

    that happened. He hung his head and pursed his lips, and then sluggishly turned to face Mr. Creosote on the couch there.

    “I don’t have to answer to you.”

    “Don’t flatter yourself,” came out, muffled by the food in his mouth. He swallowed and glared at Spike. “I couldn’t care less where you screw off.”

    “Then why’d you ask?”

    Xander coughed and tipped some beer down his throat. “Can’t a guy make an observation?”

    “Not if he’s a pathetic wanker who’s got nothing better to do than slag a bloke off.”

    “Nothing better to do?” Xander’s eyes burst on fire. “I work my butt off every day to keep a roof over your freeloading ass. Again.”

    The phone rang on cue, and Xander answered it right away. Whatever comeback Spike had in mind died in his throat when he lost the boy’s attention. Getting worked up over Harris? Not very wise. Best way to deal with the git was to ignore he existed.

    Maybe leave the front door open? That would rile him up.

    “Spike! Shut the door on your way out, you son of a bitch!”

    Spike smirked.

    It was short lived because his jaw dropped to the floor at the sight before him.

    “Buffy.”

    She was strutting down the hall in an elegant dress, her hair pulled up to show off the extravagant pearl necklace around her bare neck.

    “Spike…” she stuttered. “I… thought you’d be out already.”

    Spike’s gaze swept over her glossy high heels and up to the shimmering flower clip holding up her hair. “Off to a party?”

    She beamed with lips glistening with lipstick. “No, came to see Xander.”

    Spike squinted his eyes at her. “’Cause he’ll drive you to the party.”

    “No. I’m staying in. Do you think he’ll like the dress?” She twirled, the dress hugged her curves and caressed her skin. She was a vision.

    He snapped himself out of his dazed state. “Who’s going to like the dress?”

    “Xander.” She rolled her eyes like it was the most plausible answer ever.

    “Harris? That Xander?”

    “Do we know any other Xander?”

    Spike eyed her closely. “Buffybot?”

    “Nope. Just plain old Buffy.” She offered him an uncomfortable smile. “I know this is awkward. We were kind of a thing last year, but… things change.”

    He blinked, then stared at her again some more. “Xander?” the tone of his voice couldn’t have been more incredulous.

    “He’s the only guy who was always there for me. He never left my side. Not once.”

    Spike felt the slap of her words sharp on his cheek. The dreamy grin on her lips that followed didn’t help matters. “It kinda started during the summer…”

    He started striding past her. “Spare me the daunting details.”

    “Spike…” she called after him, and like the desperate lapdog he was, he turned to look at her sad, sympathetic face. “I’m sorry, but… he’s the one. I’ve never felt this happy.”

    Spike clenched his jaw. “Yeah, well, bloody congrats, Slayer.”

    He wasn’t there for the apocalypse. That what it was? He was off winning a soul for her, to make things better, but when the chips were down, it was Harris by her side. Not Spike. A sharp stab of anger speared through him and he wished he could rip that soul out and chuck it down Harris’ throat.





    ~*~*~*~





    Xander was too distracted, glowering at the opened front door to hear Willow through the phone. Spike was back to his old roots all right, which Xander should have anticipated once Mr. Hair Gel Combo Smell stopped nabbing Justin Timberlake’s noodle do.

    He should probably push the resentment aside and focus on being there for Willow.

    “It’s okay,” he said gently to his distressed babbling friend. “I’ll swing by tomorrow after work.”

    There was a breathy chuckle of relief. “Thanks, Xan.”

    He smiled when the sorrow left her voice.

    “I would have gone by myself but I…”

    “Hey, willing wheelman here happy to oblige. I love Tara, too.” This would be the fourth time Willow asked him to visit Tara’s grave. The first was expected, but then a pattern had formed. Whenever something upset Willow, she’d feel the need to talk to Tara. There was the time when they failed to save Dawn’s schoolmate and that one-time Dawn made a small comment referring to Willow’s dark phase.

    Something must have upset her tonight. Xander didn’t ask questions. What Willow needed right now was a friend and not someone giving her the third degree.

    “Speaking of love,” she said carefully, “I saw Anya at the grocery store today.”

    He felt a tug at his heart every time he heard her name. “How is she?”

    “Same old Anya. All with the snide remarks.” There was a pause. Maybe Anya said something to upset Willow. “She had a whole cart of chocolate.”

    His heart sagged a little and there came that painful picture of Anya on the sidewalk, streaks of tears on her cheeks. She’d just lost Halfrek, stripped of her powers, betrayed by her own boss and without a friend in the world.

    None of that would have happened had he not asked her to marry him. He’d gotten so cocky that year, everything was going well in his life for once, and he was rapidly climbing up the adult chart. Adult job: check. Adult income: check. Adult apartment: check. Adult relationship: check. What was next on the adult list? Getting married. So Xander had bought the ring.

    “I was thinking of inviting her over tomorrow night,” Willow interrupted his gloomy thoughts with a fantastic idea. “Dawn has a craving for ketchup spaghetti. Thought Anya may enjoy being around friends.”

    That tight knot in his chest loosened and a smile found its way to his lips. “Thanks, Will.”

    “You can come, too.”

    “No, she’ll be weirded out with me around. You girls have fun. Besides I’ll be busy for the rest of the week. Ton of work and what have you…”

    Xander’s tongue got tied in his mouth when Buffy walked into his apartment like a model on a catwalk.

    “Willow, I’ll call you back later.”

    “Not tonight,” Willow warned. “Got my whole ton of work right here.”

    Xander smacked the phone shut before he heard the last of Willow’s sentence. He shot up to his feet and looked Buffy up and down. His jaw slammed on the floor and his eyeballs jumped out of their sockets.

    “Buff! Wanna a ride to some fancy party?”

    She shook her head with a sigh. “Why does everyone assume that? I’m here to be with you.”

    Xander pointed an unsure finger at her outfit. “And you got all dressed up to hang out with me?”

    She smiled the smile that would make the strongest-willed men go weak in the knees. “Something wrong with that?”

    “Well, for one thing; I’m underdressed.”

    “You look more than fine,” said in the most terrifyingly seductive voice he’d ever imagined he’d hear from her.

    “And that’s the other mind-boggling equation; you never saw me as the ‘more than fine’ type before. I was always the ‘less than fine’ guy. The ‘on the plainer side of complete lack of fine’.” Suddenly, he remembered Buffy and the raincoat in the library. Had Any turned on that love spell from high school? ‘Cause that was the only logical explanation to this shammy farce.

    “Well, my eyes are finally open.”

    “What opened them exactly?”

    She swung her hands up in annoyance. “Does a girl have to have a reason to fall in love with you?”

    Xander jolted back as if hit by surges of electricity. “Whoa. Put on the brakes. Don’t run over the confused man.” He stared right into her metaphorically throbbing heart-shaped eyes. “Fall in love?”

    Her face fell. “You don’t believe me?”

    “I don’t believe my ears are functioning at all. Where’s my to-do list? A visit to the ear doctor is clearly in order.”

    Buffy didn’t take that reaction well in the least. “I can’t believe you’re calling me a liar?”

    “I never said that.”

    “Is it that hard to believe that I’m attracted to you?”

    He stared into the hurt in her eyes and calmed himself down. “Well, yeah. Buffy, it’s been years. It’s one big dead horse.”

    “Feelings change,” she insisted. “Mine did.”

    “Mine, too. I don’t see you that way anymore.”

    She tilted her head, not buying it. “Are you sure?”

    Xander’s mind twirled with all the possible possibilities of why this was happening. “You’re not the Buffybot, are you?” Second most logical explanation.

    “I’m not that cheerful.” She crossed her arms over her chest, a challenging glint in her eyes. “Besides, I hate ‘knock, knock’ jokes.”

    “I know,” he said softly. He remembered that painful summer and the Buffybot and how excruciatingly unlike Buffy she had acted.

    Buffy’s face brightened and she moved closer. “See? You know me so well. We’ve been friends for so long. No one is better for me than my best friend.”

    Xander stepped back when she was in his personal space. “Wait, Buff. I can’t… I’ve got Anya and…”

    She tilted her head again. “I thought Anya didn’t want to get back together.”

    “Still those feelings don’t just go away.” He crawled back to the end of the couch and far away from his terrifying friend. “I just… I need time. If this is meant to be…”

    “It is. I can feel it.” She smiled in understanding. “All right. I’ll wait.”

    He watched her leave through the sound of his drumming heartbeat. So, there was the gist: Buffy had feelings for him. She even called it ‘falling in love’, which even with repetition still sounded ridiculous. But, big ‘but’ there, Buffy did the nasty with Spike last year, and if that didn’t blow up the charts of the most ridiculous…

    Wait. Another big ‘but’, hooking up with best friends was risky business. He got a taste of how risky it was in high school. He should probably put a stop to this.

    And then there was the ‘what if’ and it opened a huge can of worms.

    Confusion, hesitation and fear were the ugliest of feelings, and Xander hated feeling confused hesitant and afraid, for they led to standing up the love of his life at the altar. And now an image of Buffy in a wedding dress popped in his mind.

    Through the confusing daydreams, he realized that Buffy hadn’t closed the apartment’s door either.
     
  4. sosa lola

    sosa lola Scooby

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2007
    Messages:
    3,859
    Likes Received:
    1,702
    Reputation:
    5,294


    Chapter 4


    Choosing the perfect movie for girls’ night with Anya was a challenge. Dawn had to make sure there were no triggers. The list of excluded movies was overwhelmingly long: romance movies, chick flicks, action movies about world destruction, thriller movies about demons, any movie with a bunny or a picture of a bunny in them, movies with even a single mention of the word ‘magic’ which meant all Disney movies were out. Dawn settled for the classic Dumb and Dumber. Nothing could go wrong with a silly Jim Carry movie.

    “Buffy, don’t you wanna stick around for girls’ night?” Dawn called up from down the stairs.

    “Can’t. Slayer gotta slay.”

    Dawn trotted to the living room to find Willow standing futilely near the couch with a stamped ‘kick the puppy’ pout on her lips. She clearly believed that Buffy was deliberately avoiding her. But this was ‘girls’ night’ all with the fun and gossiping and laughter. None with the gloomy faces.

    Dawn hoped Willow wouldn’t be triggered by Jim Carry’s character fighting with his best friend in the movie. Though she had already anticipated a disaster because, hello, Sunnydale. Backup plan was sending her new best friend Kim to fetch some double fudge brownie ice cream, which reminded her to prepare cash.

    Dawn walked over to Willow’s hobo bag draped on the back of the chair and searched for her wallet. She noticed the item tucked in one of the inside pockets.

    “Willow, what is this?” She held up an ID card with Willow’s picture on it.

    Willow, who was making sure the VHS tape was inside the VCR, looked over and there was a fleeting deer in headlights look on her face. “Oh, I got a job as an accountant in the college library.”

    Dawn lowered the card with a frown. “What about your midterms?”

    Willow shrugged. “I’ll manage.”

    Something tugged in Dawn’s heart. “Is this about what Buffy said last night?”

    “I have to make it up to Buffy.” Willow pried her guilt-filled eyes away and busied herself with switching the TV mode to video.

    Dawn realized with a heavy heart that the girl time she’d anticipated since they’d rekindled their friendship was no longer in the horizon. “But that means you won’t be around much.”

    “I’ll be back by night.”

    “But you’ll be too tired.” Dawn could hear the whining in her voice but she couldn’t help it. “I like having someone to hang out with when I get back from school.”

    “Here’s a crazy idea.” Willow turned around with a raised eyebrow. “You could hang out with your friends from school. Xander and I were here all the time when we were in high school.”

    “Problem is my friends like their families,” Dawn shot back. Both smiled at each other.

    Dawn sighed and flung herself on the couch. “Guess I’ll just catch up on my reading. If only I could find my book.” She’d lost it three days ago. Probably forgot it under the tree in the schoolyard, her favorite spot to read whenever Kit and Carlos had a class she didn’t share with them.

    Her other favorite place to read was history class. Dawn loved history, the documented fascinating tales of real people doing real things and the parallels with current day situations. However, her teacher was the male version of Miss Kennedy of St. Clare’s. Except his class could not be saved by the thrill of firecrackers bursting through the chimney.

    “I’ll probably be out all night. Don’t wait up.” Buffy’s announcement pulled Dawn out of her thoughts. She could hear her sister skipping down the stairs.

    Dawn glanced at Willow’s downcast face and decided to confront Buffy, who made a big deal about giving Willow a second chance before she did a 180. When did they switch sides in the argument?

    They’d already invited Buffy for their little party, but Buffy was a huge workaholic. You know what they say, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

    The front door swung open before Dawn said a word and Anya, blonde again, staggered in with a large wine bottle. Anya’s somewhat chipper grin fell instantly at the sight of Buffy. “Oh, Buffy, you’re staying?”

    Buffy shook her head, slipping a leather jacket on. “No, duty calls.”

    “Great.” Anya’s chipper grin returned brighter than before and her blonde curls bounced in excitement.

    Dawn didn’t blame Anya for resenting her sister a little. Buffy had tried to kill her, stabbing her through the chest with a sword. Dawn understood, having been sort of in Anya’s shoes last year, but she was on the road to forgiving Willow. The Anya-Buffy thing was recent, it would take Anya some time to warm up to Buffy again.

    After Buffy closed the door behind her, Anya struggled to place the wine on the kitchen counter.

    “That’s a large bottle,” Dawn observed.

    “It’s customary to bring something when invited.”

    “Something I’m not legally allowed to drink?”

    Anya beamed. “Oh, I brought you something.” She handed her a Cola can.

    Dawn flashed a bright smile and accepted her soda, putting it inside the fridge with its Dr. Pepper companions.

    “You know, I should get me one of those,” Anya said, staring at a cell phone on the kitchen counter next to her bottle. “Except I don’t have many people to call, so it’ll be a waste of money.”

    Dawn gasped. “Oh God, Buffy forgot her cell.” She snatched it and rushed towards the door, calling out her sister’s name. She was nowhere at sight.





    ~*~*~*~*~





    Anya didn’t admit it out loud, but she’d had fun with Willow and Dawn tonight. The movie was a horrendous suck-fest, which she assumed was the point. Ten minutes into the movie, Willow put it on mute and they started coming up with their own scenarios by mouthing a made-up dialogue that did not fit the actors’ lip movement. She’d had two hours of fun and not thinking at all about… him, her being human again, or the fact that business was slow; she’d had a total of two customers that day.

    After feasting on Willow’s homemade meal, Anya said her goodbyes with tight hugs and walked out of the house with her wine bottle – Willow was generous enough to let her to take it home.

    The light breeze ruffled the blonde curls she had dyed recently. Anya found comfort in changing her hair color or style whenever she was distressed. When Buffy had died, she started straightening her hair. When Xander had left her in the altar, she went back to curls. When Willow went psycho with revenge, she dyed her hair brown. The latest tragedy was the murder of her best friend Halfrek.

    Twirling a curl, Anya realized that she always went for blonde curls when losing those who mattered to her the most; Xander and Hallie. She hated entertaining that thought because she really didn’t want to see Xander as someone important to her. He was scum walking on Earth, a deceitful, two-faced, underhanded and crooked jackass who weaseled his way into her life with promises of love and devotion and then weaseled out on her most important day ever.

    Yes, Xander Harris was not, and would never be, an important person in her life. Though she’d have to get used to seeing him more than desired since his friends were the only family she had left. And speaking of seeing unwanted people…

    Buffy stepped into the lawn, placing her stake inside her ripped-up leather jacket. Anya took a deep breath – Buffy was not her favorite person right now, but if she wanted to keep having girls’ night with Willow and Dawn she had to learn to play nice.

    “You’re back?” she piped up. “Stopped any major evil?”

    Buffy stopped at the stairs, looking up at her with unfriendly eyes. “Depends. Killed anyone lately?”

    “Huh?” Anya felt genuinely taken aback, the wine bottle almost slipped from her hands.

    “Don’t think just because you’re human now I’ll consider you harmless. I know your type.”

    Anya wrinkled her nose at the whiff of bitch suddenly dominating the air. “My type?”

    “Yeah, one day you’re one of us, next day you choose to be a vengeance demon again and hundreds of people end up being slaughtered.”

    Anya put down the bottle, unable to find the strength to carry it anymore. “I’m not…”

    “And I had to stand by and not do my job because Xander still cares for you, but not anymore.” Buffy’s face suddenly flew up and was right in front of her. “Try anything and you’re dead.”

    The intense hatred in Buffy’s eyes made Anya feel defensive, and despite of herself she put her frustration on one of the only two who were still nice to her. “Really, I don’t see you getting all tough on Willow. Last I checked she murdered two guys last year and…”

    “Two guys aren’t a whole frat house,” Buffy shot back, always there in defense of poor helpless Willow, who could murder them all on a whim and still be regarded as cute as a button.

    Anya tried another hot button. “Yeah? And how many people did your vamp honey murder?”

    “Spike is different. When things got tough, he went and got himself a soul.” Her intense green eyes glistened with contempt. “When things got tough, you sold yours.”

    “I did not sell my soul,” Anya retorted.

    Buffy shook herself. “You joined the bad guys. Stop being so literal.”

    Anya felt a metaphorical punch in her gut. She hated how everyone made fun of how she spoke and behaved like someone on a frigging spectrum. Her heart hurt and she found it hard to breathe. She wanted to stare Buffy down, but her eyes started stinging, and she’d be damned if she shed a single tear in front of Bitchy the Slayer.

    She raced down the steps and darted out of the front lawn, Buffy’s scornful voice yelling after her, “Hey, you forgot your bottle. We have no use for it, but I bet you do.”

    Anya didn’t stop her stride, hating how Buffy preferred to stay outside to watch her pathetic retreat rather than going into her stupid house.




    ~*~*~*~





    The night was quiet. Buffy wondered if she should have skipped patrolling and stuck around for movie night with Willow, Dawn and Anya. She’d have done that in a heartbeat if it didn’t feel like a heavy chore. Things were… improving. Everyone was trying to get things back on track as if nothing bad had happened, but Buffy knew from experience that it was impossible. There would always be that nagging edge between them. They had all hurt each other too much for it to be back to the way it was, and the way it was felt like a million years ago; That time where they were all happy and close – she couldn’t remember, but she was sure it was before her mother’s death, simpler times, beautiful times.

    Perched on top of a tombstone, she observed the area impatiently. She desperately needed the lure of fighting, those brief seconds of not thinking and dwelling.

    The universe hated her. She realized that as dark thoughts began to take place. There she was in a dark cemetery, alone and willing to risk her life yet again, and, where were they? Movie night with the chips and the dip and the popcorn and Anya’s ridiculously large bottle of liquor.

    She resented it sometimes, even in high school, how they got to have fun when she couldn’t. How they had it easier than her. She knew it was wrong to think that way. She should be grateful they were here, right? Grateful for their help. Grateful for bringing her back to this…

    “Don’t go down that road, Buffy,” she whispered to herself. “There lies badness.”

    She should be over this by now. She was back. It was done. She had to deal. And since when being around her family and friends count for a bad thing? This was better than being trapped in some heavenly dimension where… where everything felt right and peaceful.

    She groaned.

    Stop. Just stop.

    She surveyed the cemetery again. Where the hell were those vampires?

    She decided to walk around, walking would distract her. A song maybe? She could sing. She didn’t feel like singing.

    Maybe she’d run into Spike. How awkward would that be? Out of all her messed up relationships, she and Spike were in the worst place of all. They couldn’t even talk on the phone. Strange how last year she could pour her heart to him and now she couldn’t say two words to him without launching into a fit of nervous vomiting.

    She sighed. This was useless. She should probably get back home.

    It would be fun. Just her sister and friends, hanging out, food consumption and gossiping. Gallons of fun. Which was why she was taking the long way home, faltering down the dark alleys and dismal slums of Sunnydale streets.

    Whoops!

    She tripped to the filthy ground over… a body? Buffy inched closer to the dead girl, trademark vamp stamps on her neck. Spider senses caught the presence of a vampire nearby.

    She grabbed her stake and moved towards the disgusting sound of a vampire feeding. She found him by the dumpster, dark shadows blanketing his profile, his neck bent as he sucked blood out of a moaning victim.

    Buffy walked around until she was behind him. She took careful and silent steps forwards and then swiftly grabbed his shoulder and turned him around.

    “Spike?” Heart still with shock, she regarded him with wide eyes.

    He slipped out of her grip and ran away. She was about to race after him, but a weak hand took hold of her leg. The girl Spike had been feeding on pleaded through tears, “Please, help.”

    Buffy stuffed her hand in her pocket, but she didn’t find her cellphone. Great! Now she had to take the girl to the hospital herself. Overwhelming emotions of hurt and betrayal swirled inside her. How could you, Spike?





    ~*~*~*~*~






    Xander drove Dawn to school in the morning without Buffy – slayer urgent stuff as Willow put it. He drove back to the Magic Box before going to work. If anything was going to happen with Buffy, he had to talk to Anya first. There was always this simmering feeling of unfinished business between them. He owed it to her.

    Taking deep breaths, he squared his shoulders and pushed the door to the Magic Box open. The place was eerily silent and empty. Not that Xander minded, he needed to hash things out with Anya with the least amount of distractions.

    Anya’s head popped from behind the cash register to greet what appeared to be her first customer. Her smile dissolved instantly at the sight of him. “Oh, balls! What are you doing here, Harris?”

    “Boy, you’re not in a good mood.” He trudged towards the counter, the tiny smidge of hope that this was going to go well now squashed to nothingness.

    “I had an interesting talk with Buffy last night,” she spat out with a death glare.

    Xander’s heart dropped. “She… she told you?”

    Anya threw her arms in the air, completely infuriated. “Who does she think she is?”

    “Look, Anya, feelings change.”

    “She’s a bitch,” she snapped, pointing an enraged finger.

    Xander’s eyes widened. “No, she’s not.”

    “You’re right. Bitch isn’t enough. She’s a whole list of insults.” Anya was about to count ten slurs with her fingers when Xander realized he did not want to hear her badmouthing his best friend/possible potential future girlfriend.

    “Look, Anya, just because Buffy started noticing me, it doesn’t mean…” he trailed off when he noted Anya’s eyeballs bulge out in alarm. She didn’t know.

    The doorbell jingled as Buffy marched into the shop. “Xander, you’re here? Great. This will make my job easier.”

    Xander tore his gaze from Anya’s stunned face and focused on Buffy’s unkempt appearance. “Buff, what happened?”

    Buffy brushed back a few stray locks off her sweaty forehead. “Have you guys seen Spike?”

    Xander shook his head. “Not after last night.”

    “I went by your place. He wasn’t there.”

    “We had a little spat and he took off. I don’t think he came back. Why? Is he in trouble?”

    Water splashed at them from behind the counter. “Get out of my shop!” Anya roared, firing two water guns at them.

    Xander covered his face, his new suit was getting wet and he had a client meeting. “Anya, quit it!”

    “Get out!” Anya’s voice was a thunder storm, as she continued shooting waves of water at them like a maniac.

    Xander grabbed Buffy’s arm and escorted her out of the shop in a hurry. Outside, Buffy smoothed her wet hair back, a serious glint in her eyes. “There’s no time to waste. I gotta find Spike. If you see him, call my cell.”

    She strode away, and he was about to call after her, until he caught a distressing glimpse inside the shop through the window.

    Anya was crying.
     
  5. sosa lola

    sosa lola Scooby

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2007
    Messages:
    3,859
    Likes Received:
    1,702
    Reputation:
    5,294
    Chapter 5


    His client meeting didn’t go as well as he hoped. Xander’s mind was too occupied thinking about Anya crying inside the Magic Box earlier today. He had hurt her so much last year and he was doing a fantastic job putting a damper on her life this year, especially now that she’d lost everyone who mattered to her. He was glad to hear that the movie night with Willow and Dawn had been a success. Willow was a lot of help this year, being there for Anya every chance she got. She was a true best friend.

    Xander was also trying to be a good friend. Housing Spike when Buffy had asked him took an incredible amount of willpower. The trips to the butcher shop alone were a drag, but Xander soldiered on and kept his promise to Buffy, despite Spike’s frequent screaming and moaning at night, and each new crazy episode got louder than the previous night.

    Xander’s heart skipped a beat when he found Buffy standing in front of his apartment door looking worse than she had that morning at the Magic Box. Not too much with the dirt, but the torn up shirt and the trembling and the eyes red with tears rung the alarm clock inside him.

    “What happened?” he rushed to her side, noting the way she flinched away from his touch.

    “Spike,” she said in a broken voice, hugging herself and pathetically trying to cover up.

    Xander didn’t need to have Willow’s smarts to figure out what happened. His blood started to boil as his veins burst out in his forehead. How dare he? After everything they’d done for him. After Xander took him in and filled his fridge with all the disgusting blood.

    “Where is he?” he said in a threatening tone.

    “I just came to see you… and then he…”

    Xander didn’t need to hear more. He jammed his key into the lock and pushed the door open, striding towards Spike’s room.

    The son of a bitch was in bed, pretending to read a book. He didn’t have his freaking shirt on. Xander punched him in the chin before he could react.

    “How could you?” He grabbed the jackass by the neck and punched him again.

    “What in the bleeding…” Spike didn’t get to finish because Xander drove another punch his way.

    “You had to have another go at Buffy. Last year wasn’t enough!” A tempest of hurt and anger on his friend’s behalf swirled inside him, and he could feel tears stinging his eyes. Buffy, his pillar of strength and determination, violated by this piece of shit.

    Spike jumped out of his way. “I haven’t seen Buffy.”

    Xander fell onto Spike’s bed, glaring at the bastard. “And you think I’ll take your word over hers.”

    “I swear I haven’t seen her.”

    Xander attacked him again, but this time Spike was fast enough to avoid his punch. Xander ended up bruising his knuckles against the wall.

    “I don’t have to take this!” Spike growled, snagging his coat and storming out of the room.

    Feeling livid, Xander suddenly remembered that Buffy was out in the hall. He raced out of his apartment, but neither Buffy nor Spike were there.




    ~*~*~*~




    Dawn had decided to take Willow’s advice and hang out with kids her age instead of her sister’s friends. She and her friends emerged out of the movie theater with fresh new sodas. Dawn was glad for the bathroom trip she’d taken even though she missed the climax of the movie.

    “This Harry Potter flick is better than the first one, right?” Carlos said between sips of his Coke.

    “Are you kidding? They didn’t show Peeves and there was no Deathday party.” Dawn was a major Harry Potter geek. She owned all four books and reread them religiously every chance she got. She was the go-to Potterhead at MuggleNet.

    Kim rolled her eyes. “Let me guess: they appear in the book.”

    “Well, yes.”

    “Dawn, they can’t show every single scene and have the characters say every line in the book.”

    “I know, but…” Dawn caught a glimpse of Spike trudging along the opposite sidewalk, his face a map of bruises. “Hold on a second, guys.” She handed her soda to Carlos and rushed to cross the street.

    “What happened to you?” she called after Spike, wondering how a vampire, spending all his time in a closet, would get so thrashed.

    Spike turned around, a death glare on his eyes. “Ask your sister.”

    Dawn frowned. “Buffy did this?”

    Spike just glared, and then turned around to continue his stride.

    A scary thought popped into Dawn’s head, and she grabbed his arm to stop him. “Spike, did something happen at Xander’s?”

    Spike yanked his arm away from her grip. “That pillock. I’d rather be stuck in a lifeboat with a bleeding tiger than be subjected to his bollocks!”

    “What?” Dawn gasped.

    Spike walked away without looking back. Dawn stared at his retreating back in shock. She felt her friends arriving at her side.

    “Hey, do you know this guy?” Carlos asked, handing her her soda.

    “He looks so beat up,” Kim observed.

    Dawn didn’t answer them. She just realized that Spike had her missing book. She had forgotten it at Xander’s.




    ~*~*~*~*~




    Buffy finally found him. She spotted him slogging through the messy crowd near the Bronze. She didn’t waste a second, striding forwards and pushing people out of her way. She grabbed Spike by the collar of his leather coat and pushed him into an empty alley, an action that ripped a couple of buttons on his coat. He stumbled down on his butt, looking up at her in surprise.

    The fresh bruises on his face and puffy eye startled her for a moment, until she realized he must have been in a fight with a brand-new victim. “So, this soul thing was just an act? Were you lying to me?” She couldn’t help the betrayal edging into her voice. Spike’s confession in the church weeks ago, which felt too overwhelming to her back then, gave her hope for a new beginning for Spike. A reason to help and defend him. But now…

    Spike grunted, pushing himself up. “You got a nerve accusing me of lying.”

    Buffy noticed he wasn’t wearing a shirt under his coat. Did he use his bare chest to lure poor defenseless women into their death? “I saw you last night feeding from those girls. Leaving a trail of corpses behind you.”

    He appeared confused. “What are you yapping about?”

    She couldn’t help but drive a punch to his already beaten face. “Don’t play innocent, you know what you did.” She’d seen him do it. He’d run away when he was caught. How dare he fake confusion?

    Spike wiped the blood from his mouth, his eyes boring holes into Buffy’s. He silently rose up to his feet again, fixed her with a look of hurt and anger. “I don’t need this from you or your stupid lot of friends. I’m out of this town.”

    She grabbed him again and smacked him against the wall. “I won’t let you out of my sight.”

    “Try me.” He surprised her with a punch to her nose. Pain exploded in her face and she swayed a little, attacked by a sharp headache.

    She opened her eyes, holding her throbbing nose, and realized that Spike had escaped again. The tears that stung her eyes were more about the shattered new hope for Spike than the physical pain.
     
  6. sosa lola

    sosa lola Scooby

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2007
    Messages:
    3,859
    Likes Received:
    1,702
    Reputation:
    5,294


    Chapter 6




    The pain in her nose throbbed steadily as Buffy made her way into the kitchen through the backdoor. She was glad when the bleeding stopped though, with the massive amount of blood she had lost, she figured she’d left a trail from the alley to her house. They had better lock the doors tonight; the smell of a slayer’s blood would attract danger, no doubt about it.

    Dawn, who was devouring a pizza slice, jerked on the kitchen stool and tried to hide the box from Buffy’s view, until she noticed her sister’s face. “Buffy, your nose!” She rushed towards Buffy’s side and examined her injury with a timid hand.

    “Did you order pizza when I specifically said not to?” Buffy was still mourning the loss of her favorite sweater. “Besides, weren’t you out with your friends?”

    “Did you and Spike get into a fight?” Dawn went for a subject change, Buffy assumed, but she appeared so shocked and scared that she probably didn’t hear Buffy’s accusation.

    “Why… why would you assume that?” Buffy pulled a chair and sat on it, watching her sister walking around the table to the fridge.

    “’Cause I ran into him.” Dawn brought an ice pack from the freezer and gently placed it on Buffy’s nose.

    Buffy flinched, taking the ice pack from Dawn and pressing gently on the throbbing area. Her mind raced with thoughts of Spike, questions beginning with how and why filled her head. Could it be possible that his chip stopped working? Did he lie about getting a soul? Was it all an act to get her back?

    The sharp pain in her heart overpowered the aching on her nose. She was beginning to trust him, arguing with Xander and Dawn on his behalf. God, she was stupid.

    Dawn handed her an acetaminophen tablet and a glass of water, relieving her of the ice pack. She pulled over a chair for herself and waited until Buffy emptied the glass. “Buffy, you promised you’d start treating me like a grown up. Things are not gonna work between us if you don’t trust me.”

    Buffy was taken aback by the hard tone. Dawn had already expressed disappointment when she found out Buffy had been hiding Spike’s return from her. Buffy had promised to let her in, treat her as an adult, but so far, she couldn’t bring herself to let anyone in.

    “I trust you, Dawn.”

    “Show me.”

    Buffy sighed, placing the ice pack back on her nose. “Spike… Spike has been killing.”

    “But… that’s impossible,” Dawn said. “What with the chip in his head.”

    “I saw him,” Buffy confessed sadly. “I guess all that time I thought he was at Xander’s, he really wasn’t.”

    “Actually…” Dawn began. “I think he was, for a large portion of time.”

    Buffy frowned. “What do you mean?”

    “Remember that Canadian novel I was reading ‘Life of Pi’? I forgot it at Xander’s, and Spike has been reading it.”

    “So?”

    “So, it’s not exactly a short book, and Spike clearly read most of it in the last two days.”

    Buffy still wasn’t convinced. The person she saw in the alley was Spike. He had drained a young woman to her death and almost killed another. If only there was a way to find out whether Spike was lying about his soul or not.

    “Where’s Willow?”

    “She took a late shift.”

    Buffy’s eyebrows rose up in surprise. “Willow has a job?”

    Both girls jumped when the house’s front door slammed open, Xander’s voice yelling Buffy’s name frantically.

    “In the kitchen,” Dawn called.

    He darted inside like a maniac and was by Buffy’s side in an instant. “Are you all right? I called your cell but you didn’t answer, and the house line was busy.”

    Dawn winced. “Sorry, was ordering pizza.”

    “And I…” Buffy spotted her cell phone on the kitchen counter, “forgot my phone again.”

    “Did Spike do this?” Xander nodded at her nose, his voice sounded demanding. Buffy didn’t fail to notice the way his fists clenched to his sides.

    “Don’t make a fuss, Xander. Please.” She knew she could talk to Dawn about Spike, but Xander? She didn’t want to lie to him, not after last year. However, she wasn’t keen on telling him the truth either.

    “I can’t bear the thought of him hurting you again, I just…” his voice choked a little, surprising Buffy and warming her heart as well.

    She rose to her feet and touched his stiff arm tenderly. “I’m the slayer, Xander. Not a helpless little girl. I can take care of myself.”

    He took a deep breath to contain himself, then eyed her clothes… maybe to check for more injuries? Eventually, he stared at her nose again. “Did you take some painkillers?”

    “Just did.”

    “Wait a sec.” He fetched a towel and damped it with water, and then started cleaning her face from the trails of blood. It wasn’t the first time Xander tended to her like that, but there was something uncomfortable about it now. He was too… close. The way he looked at her was a bit intense, too. Maybe she was reading too much into it.

    At times like these, she preferred talking to Willow, who got a job. When did that happen? And why wasn’t Buffy informed?




    ~*~*~*~



    Thirty minutes and her shift would be over. Willow’s stomach growled slightly in demand of food. Dawn had phoned earlier about ordering pizza, she hoped there would be more than a slice for her. She knew Dawn to be a huge pizza junkie.

    “Look at you, putting books in shelves.”

    Willow frowned at the scornful remark, mostly because she didn’t expect it coming out of her best friend’s mouth. Buffy was standing behind her, arms crossed, and lips turned up to a more scornful smirk.

    “Buffy? Hey.” Willow had sensed that Buffy had a problem with her in the last few days. She had naively thought that after their bonding moment in her room upon Willow’s arrival that things would be all right between them. All was forgiven, Willow and Buffy were BFFs again. Life wasn’t that simple. Willow knew very well that nothing she did last year was going to be swept under a rug. Buffy had every right to be upset with her, and Willow deserved all the resentment.

    “Just swung by to see how hard at work you are.” Buffy’s eyes traveled over the pile of books on the table to the couple of books in Willow’s arms. She didn’t look particularly impressed.

    “It’s been pretty hectic.” She’d been eager to help with anything from weeding out old books and replacing them with new ones to working complicated reference questions for a variety of fields.

    “Looks more like a breeze,” Buffy remarked. Upon Willow’s look, she clarified, “C’mon, between you, me and Xander, you’ve had the easiest ride.”

    Completely thrown by this, Willow stammered, “I guess.”

    “So how much do they pay you?”

    “What?”

    “Money. Is it enough to cover the electricity bills?”

    Willow’s eyes widened. “Oh Buffy…”

    Buffy waved it off. “You know what, you don’t have to worry about it.”

    Willow shook her head abruptly, her ponytail swung from side to the other. “Oh, I’ll be glad to chip in.”

    “Too late for that.” There was a derisive glint in Buffy’s eyes. “I needed all the help I could get when I was slaving at the Doublemeat Palace.”

    Willow felt that slap sharp on her cheek and bit her lower lip, something thick and painful balling in her throat.

    “Don’t you think you’d be better off at the dorms, Willow?” Buffy’s tone sounded less disdainful and kind of friendly, but that didn’t ease up the lump that formed in Willow’s throat at all.

    “You want me to leave?” her voice came out choked with tears.

    “Why saddle yourself to a college dropout and a teenager? Don’t you miss the college life? The partying and all the hours to yourself?” Buffy shrugged. “Besides, without you in the house, we’ll spend less on electricity and food.”

    Willow’s vision was becoming foggier and she willed her tears not to slip to her cheeks.

    Buffy inched closer to whisper kindly in her ear, “Think about it. This is for your own good, Will.”

    She was so close that Willow thought she would hug her, except she just whispered, “I love you,” and walked away.



    ~*~*~*~



    Spike walked aimlessly for some time now, cursing his soul and Buffy under his breath all the way to… a familiar playground.

    He just realized he was standing in front of the ‘Welcome to Sunnydale’ sign. He stared at painted letters for a somber moment, scoffing at the part that said ‘Enjoy your stay’. He’d been stuck in this bleeding town for so many years that the idea of leaving seldom crossed his mind anymore. He could have left numerous of times, yet he stayed.

    For Buffy.

    Her name twisted at his heart. There was nothing left for him here. She didn’t want anything to do with him. He should just piss off, never look back, ride his bike to wherever the hell it took him. Problem was, he needed a bike.

    He better go back and steal one – that thought alone sent warning shocks down his soulful spine, already turning into a daft softie. He should probably talk to Clem about this.

    He released a sigh and turned around, and there was Buffy standing across the street.

    “You broke my nose.” She looked mighty pissed. “It still hurts.”

    He clenched his jaw. “What are you doing here?”

    A light breeze passed but not a hair on Buffy’s head moved, even her clothes were a bit too light for a November night. Weather might not be cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass monkey, but it was rather chilly. She didn’t seem to show it though, too busy giving him the stink eye.

    “For all your talk about getting a soul for me, you sure know how to show your affection.” She pointed at her nose. “Either you have an evil soul or you never actually got one.”

    “I did get a soul,” he spit out. The idea of leaving this dump of a town now became irresistible.

    She twisted her lips in ridicule. “Yeah, well, I don’t believe you.”

    “Sod it, Slayer, don’t care what you think no more. Go back to your rosy life and leave me be.”

    “Rosy life?” She glared at him in contempt. “What rosy life, Spike? After all the damage you caused me? After everything you did to me?”

    He swallowed, looking away in shame. “Buffy…”

    “No, you don’t get to talk.” She took a few steps forwards, crossing the empty street. “You knew I was going through a rough patch and you took advantage anyway. You tried to separate me from my friends…”

    “You had already separated yourself from them,” he spat out. “You kept secrets from them, you told me to keep my mouth shut!”

    “You manipulated me,” her voice rose louder than his. “You told me I belonged in the dark with you, that I did not belong with my friends. You said that!”

    He did. He… he didn’t deserve to be defensive. He was an arsehole and he knew it. He fought for his soul to make it up to her, to be the man she deserved. Someone she could count on, someone she could trust….

    Someone she could love back.

    “Buffy, I was a wanker back then,” he admitted, “but I’ve changed.”

    Her tearful eyes glistened under the moonlight, the corners of her lips pulled downward in pained disgust. “You keep saying that, but how can I believe you when I saw you killing again?”

    “Killing who?” He approached, saw her flinch and stopped midway. “Buffy, I haven’t killed a soul since I got mine.”

    “I saw you, Spike.”

    “When? When did you see me?”

    She shook her head. “You better leave town. I don’t wanna see your face again.” She turned around and was about to leave, but Spike couldn’t let her go. Not until he straightened things out, not until she believed him.

    “Wait.” He ran after her and reached to grab her hand. However, his hand went through hers. That made him lose his balance and fall to his knees. He looked up, eyes wide, as Buffy’s body vanished without leaving a trace.

    “Buffy?” he called her name, but there was no response. He stared at his hand, his mind replaying what had just happened.

    His hand going through Buffy’s hand. Her body disappearing into the air…

    Was that a spell gone wrong? Did Buffy turn into a ghost? Or was that…

    From beneath you it devours.

    Something was coming. This was it. That ghost… that ghost wasn’t Buffy.





    ~*~*~*~




    Buffy stared out of the window at the lightening dark sky inviting the beginnings of dawn. Her mind was burdened with thoughts about Spike. Last time she’d called Xander a couple of minutes ago, he informed her that Spike hadn’t returned. She had ignored Xander’s annoying threats to stake Spike the second he saw him as well as his accusatory tone about why she bothered asking about him anyway.

    When Xander was upset, there was no point arguing with him. She just hoped to find Spike first.

    Far in the distant, a dark figure stared at her from the end of the street. Buffy craned her neck to take a better look. It was Spike.

    She glanced at the sky, sunrise was happening any minute now. She pushed her window open and climbed out, not bothering to change her pajamas.

    Once standing in the middle of the street, she searched left and right but Spike was nowhere to be found.

    “Buffy?”

    She startled, whipping her head to find Willow standing on the sidewalk.

    “Will, you’re back.” She walked over towards her friend. “What took you so long?”

    “Sorry about that. I was checking for available rooms at the dorms.” Willow shrugged with a sad smile.

    “What?” The shock Buffy felt could not be described.

    “Look I thought about it,” Willow began. “Guess it’s for the best if I left.”

    “Willow…”

    “You and Dawn are doing fine without me, and yeah, it’s easier if I stayed at the dorms. Closer to work and more hours to study. I’ll be moving out in a few days.”

    Buffy’s lips fluttered in shock and dismay. Willow was leaving? Why? How did things come to this? She became so used to having Willow in the house, keeping Dawn company, doing all the housework and brightening Buffy’s life that she never pictured this day coming.

    She didn’t blame Willow for wanting to leave. She kind of dumped Dawn on her, and Willow needed all the time she could get to catch up on the school year.

    Staring down at her mushroom pajamas, she started to drag her feet towards the house when she noticed Spike standing at the end of the street again.

    He started to run away.

    “Oh, no, you won’t,” she hissed under her breath and ran after him.
     
  7. sosa lola

    sosa lola Scooby

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2007
    Messages:
    3,859
    Likes Received:
    1,702
    Reputation:
    5,294


    Chapter 7





    The First stared at the sleeping form of the Slayer’s younger sister. She lay in vulnerable repose, unaware of the devil hovering inches away from her. Sleep, the lesser death, her face and body were at peace, not a twitch or spasm, nothing but the rising and falling of her chest with each intake of air, such was the depth of her oblivion.

    Always alert, the First never slept, never stopped. That made it stronger than them, for humans needed the recharge, that essential moment of rest. They couldn’t function without hours of pause, and that made it easier to get to them, easier to find them. The First existed around them, inside them, manipulating them into killing one another for millennia. Works of art that depicted spiritual evil were influenced by its existence, most famous being the ghost of Hamlet’s father in Shakespeare’s celebrated tragedy.

    This time the First had bigger plans than mere assassinations. For years, Slayers stood in the way of evil, staving off world destruction with a tiny piece of wood. Last year Buffy Summers’ second resurrection caused an irregularity in the Slayer line. The First was going to use that glitch to wipe out the Slayers for good, starting with the eldest and most experienced.

    Here it was floating near her most prized possession, knowing that it had to move fast. Everything was working smoothly to its favor until the silly vampire had figured things out. The bright sun outside would slow him down before he got to the others.

    The First watched the shadow of the window mullion that painted a cross on the girl’s sleeping form through the morning gleam. A sight that would terrify any vampire, but did nothing to the one floating near the girl’s bed.

    “Wakey wakey, little Dawnie,” crooned the deep throated voice that belonged to her favorite vampire.

    She tensed, the fingers that lay close to her hair fluttered slightly. Her eyelids trembled, and she squinted at the First’s face.

    “Spike?” she whispered in hazy confusion followed by an alarmed gasp. She jolted upwards pulling up the blanket over her exposed shoulders. “What are you… does Buffy know you’re here?”

    The slight head tilt and the smirk agitated her even more. “Does it matter?”

    “You two had a fight last night. The deadly kind.” She narrowed her eyes at the smooth surface of the First’s skin. “Your face seems to have cleared up. Vampire healing?”

    The First didn’t talk, a silent smirk did wonders to a fragile little girl’s sense of security.

    “But… vampire healing doesn’t work this fast. I’ve seen you wear a damaged face for weeks. How…?” Dawn’s voice came out wry, and she pressed the blanket against her chest tighter.

    “Don’t underestimate a vampire’s healing when fed well.”

    “Fed well?” Eyes wide with alarm, she inched back inevitably. “You are killing again?”

    The First approached with an attractive pout on full lips it knew the little girl used daydream about. “You don’t have to be frightened, Little Bit. I would never kill you. Why would I when you love me so?”

    She gaped. “I…”

    “You find me irresistible, right, Niblet?” The voice was seductively low and deep, the kind that used to take her breath away.

    She glanced at the door that was out of reach. The First conveniently stood between her and the door. “Yes, I used to have a crush on you. Not the case anymore.” The last words came out in a nervous quiver.

    The First gave a long, slow headshake. “I don’t see it that way.”

    “What?” A panicked exclaim with a touch of annoyance. “You’re telling me how I feel now?”

    “You Summers’ women, such teases. You say you don’t want it, but deep inside you do. You always do.” The First advanced, about to creep up onto her bed.

    She jerked back and fell to the floor with a helpless yelp. “What are you doing?” she cried, crawling backwards until her back slammed against the wall.

    The First tilted its head again, a small devilish grin gracing the lips of the handsome vampire. “Giving you what you want.”

    “Spike…” she uttered in a small traumatized voice.

    The First made a gesture to take off the leather coat it was wearing. Dawn let out a scared moan and scuttled towards the bed, jumping over it – her foot tangling in the sheets and causing her to fall to the floor on the other side of the bed. She sobbed and crawled to the door, successfully opening it after a few clumsy attempts.

    “Buffy! Willow!” she screamed in fright, footsteps running wildly down the hall.

    The First heard the witch coming to Dawn’s rescue. “Dawnie, what’s the matter?”

    “Spike is in my room. He… he…” the poor girl could barely speak through hiccups of sobs.

    With a final smirk, the First vanished to move on to its next victim.




    ~*~*~*~*~




    The bitter former vengeance demon was in her empty shop’s basement, arranging jars of spell ingredients. Still wearing the vampire’s face, the First tisked in a patronizing manner. “Like walking into a haunted house.”

    She flinched at first before her lips dissolved into an irritated scowl. “How did you get here? Daylight and all.”

    “Never stopped me before.” The First nodded at a dirty blanket draped over a few small supply boxes. “What’s the matter, pet? Business not going as per plan.”

    Her nostrils flared. “Shouldn’t you be crazy at Xander’s?”

    “I would. Your ex is quite the generous man. Don’t see why you won’t take him back. He’s a real gem.”

    She let out a bored sigh and crossed her arms over her chest. “Are you being sarcastic?”

    “Not at all. Though I doubt his hospitality derives from the sincerity of his heart. Just follows Buffy’s orders.” The lack of reaction didn’t set well with the First, so it tried again, “He’d go high and low for her.”

    She scoffed. “Tell me about it.” There. A reaction.

    “Buffy is a bright piece of sunshine. Can’t fault the boy for pining over her.” The First’s words hit home, for a displeased frown furrowed Anya’s eyebrows. “She’s quite the forgiving person, the Slayer. I kill a few bystanders and I still have a roof over my head.”

    That snapped her out of her dismay. “You what?”

    “Didn’t you hear? Spike is back on his toes.”

    Anya looked him over in shock. “But… and Buffy knows about this?”

    The First gave a careless shrug. “Of course, she knows. She saw me doing it.”

    “But how… what about your soul?”

    A menacing smirk lifted full lips. “Don’t remember your soul stopping you from causing chaos since the 9th century.”

    Her blonde curls shook left and right due to the hard headshake. “It’s different. I only curse those who deserved it.”

    “Into giant worms who murder little innocent puppies.” A low ridiculing laugh rumbled down low in the First’s throat. “Yeah, you’re a princess all right.”

    “Buffy went after me,” Anya said in disheartened low tones, realization sunk deep within. “She tried to kill me.”

    “Guess she never really liked you. None of them do.” Satisfied with the way her arms went up to hug her stiff body, the First made its way towards the stairs. “Yours truly, on the other hand, is feeling a bit peckish. The store next door has a young ripe maiden.”

    She didn’t try to stop the predator out on the hunt, too consumed in her own misery. She didn’t even question the possibility of the vampire killing a human with the emasculating chip in his head. Vengeance demons were always a self-centered lot.





    ~*~*~*~*~





    The construction worker walked into his apartment after a long day of work on a Saturday morning. Time for the big finish.

    Xander jumped when he saw ‘Buffy’ in his bedroom in torn clothes and a bruised face. “Buffy… what the hell…”

    “Spike again,” the First whimpered in a broken voice.

    The disturbed look on his face melted into a disappointed grimace. “Look, Buffy, I know you said you could take care of yourself, but Spike is…”

    “He’s got a strong hold on me. I can’t fight him.” The First nodded in agreement with Xander. Now began the guilt trip. “He… he was the one I confided on when… when you guys…”

    Miserable ‘Buffy’ couldn’t say more, eyes downcast, and her arms wrapped around her shaking torso.

    Xander shut his eyes in apparent sadness and regret. A low curse escaped his mouth when he realized how much he had hurt and failed her when he and his friends tore her out of heaven.

    “I couldn’t tell you the truth,” the First went on after a long moment of heavy silence. “If you knew… how happy I was there… I didn’t wanna hurt you.” The First willed the tears of Buffy’s eyes to fall for a better effect. “Spike… he had nothing to do with it. He listened. I could open up to him… and then he took advantage.”

    The First noticed the way Xander’s jaw muscles clenched in defeat and shame, that he’d allow a filthy vampire to touch and harm the woman he highly thought of. “It was like a drug… I couldn’t talk to my best friends, afraid I’d hurt their feelings, and Spike took advantage of that…”

    “No more. He won’t,” Xander interrupted, unable to hear more. “Buffy, I’m sorry for… for everything. Look, I’m here, and he’d never hurt you.” He came closer, but the First took an abrupt step back. Hurt flashed over Xander’s worried eyes, but he didn’t come near the First any longer.

    “Just tell me what I should do.”

    The First stared into those sincere, pain filled eyes. The pure love the young man had for the Slayer was the greatest tool to get rid of the meddlesome vampire.

    “Kill him.”

     
  8. sosa lola

    sosa lola Scooby

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2007
    Messages:
    3,859
    Likes Received:
    1,702
    Reputation:
    5,294



    Chapter 8



    Buffy’s Spidey sense kicked in as she passed the old playground. She scanned the area thoroughly, arousing the suspicion of the parents. She was still wearing her rumpled pajamas. She hadn’t had time to change, too busy chasing a black blanket to the far end of the town. She’d spent the entire morning searching for Spike in the docks. Finally giving up, she decided to head back home.

    “Mommy, look, it’s Eeyore!” a little girl exclaimed, pointing at Buffy’s pajama pants.

    Her mother pulled her away from the ‘crazy woman’ and stalked off. “Don’t look directly at her, dear!”

    Buffy ignored them.

    The further she walked into the playground, the fainter the tingling was. Spike wasn’t in the park, but he was close by.

    She paced back to the spot where she first sensed his presence. She studied the suburban houses that surrounded the park. Her eyes settled on the house nearest to her. Something wasn’t right. The garage door was open…and dented.

    Buffy lifted the door cautiously. Along with a big shiny car, the garage was crammed with wood working and sport’s equipment. She found Spike sprawled across the work bench, deep in sleep. His head was laid back on his folded leather coat. His arms were thrown wide, leaving his chest exposed in all its pale six packed glory.

    Seething with anger, she examined his bruised face, looking for traces of an innocent’s blood on his lips. She hated him, and herself for what it was worth. Gullible. Idiot. Trusting to a fault. Her damn forgiving nature had brought her nothing but pain. Xander and Dawn had warned her endlessly, but did she ever listen?

    Boiling with resentment, she grabbed his arm and flung him to the cold floor. “Get up!” she demanded with a voice hard as steel.

    Spike bolted up in shock, his expression dissolved into one of irritation. “Was I late for the slumber party?” he asked sarcastically, staring at her clothes. His brows knit in sudden realization. “Wait.”

    He sprang to his feet and grabbed her arms. “What the hell are you doing?" Buffy shoved him away, sending him crashing into the tool board.

    Spike gazed at her, wide eyed, from his place on the floor. “Buffy?”

    She rolled her eyes. “No, Betty White. Now would you explain…”

    “You’re not the ghost,” he interrupted, rising to his feet again and trying to touch her arm.

    She pulled away before he could touch her. “What ghost?”

    “The Buffy I saw last night. She was incorporeal. Some ghost is wearing your face and going about chatting up Droopy Harris.”

    “Xander?” Buffy gawked. “I don’t… I never…”

    “I knew it!” Spike poked his finger in the air, wearing a madman’s grin. “I should have known it was a ghost because there’s no way…”

    He didn’t get to finish; Buffy seized him again and threw him into the tool board. She crossed her arms over her chest, scowling down at him. “I saw you killing, Spike.”

    He grunted. “You keep saying that but it never happened!” His hand crept over his heart. “Think I’m gonna add to the body count? Everything I did before the soul haunts me, Buffy. It tortures me. Can’t even harm a fly without regretting it.”

    “The chip would stop you,” Buffy murmured to herself.

    Infuriated, Spike pushed himself up. “The chip?! The bleeding chip! Chip won’t stop me, I stop me. Can’t you get it into your thick head? I’m one of you now. A person by your uptight standards.” He let out a bitter laugh. “But no, the chip will stop me. Okay, Miss Drew, riddle me this: how can I be back on the juice with the zinging bit in my head?”

    “Maybe it stopped working.”

    Spike raised his scarred eyebrow. “How about we put it to test then, eh? Get bloody Harris for an eye to eye and see if I can punch the living daylights out of his monkey face.”

    Buffy stared at the puffed-up eye and the purple area in Spike’s cheek. “Xander did this?”

    “Precious boy ain’t the bees’ knees after all.” Spike approached her with a scornful grin and pointed at his messed up face. “He started the masterpiece and you helped in with the final touch.” He tapped his bruised mouth where she had punched him in the alley.

    Buffy had no time for a lame guilt trip. “Spike, you can deny it all you want, but I saw you sucking blood out of a poor girl’s neck.”

    He released a frustrated sigh. “Maybe there’s a ghost with my face, too.”

    She shook her head. “It wasn’t a ghost. Ghosts are disembodied, and what I saw was physical.” She neglected to add the fact that she was able to touch him as well.

    “Look, there’s a ghost wearing your face and messing with my head.” He looked into her eyes with genuine honesty. “I didn’t kill anyone.”

    She was caught off guard by his sincerity, but didn’t want to relinquish the anger she felt within. He slowly sank to the floor, pleading up with his eyes for her to believe him. “Please. I know you think I’m not trustworthy, but I’m telling the truth.”

    She stared down at him in silent confusion, the ice around her heart beginning to thaw. It wasn’t fair; she was asked over and over to forgive and forget. She’d given Spike the benefit of the doubt and he turned around and spat on it. He’d used up all the chances she was willing to give him, and she was tired of being fooled again.

    “Please,” he whispered, his eyes glinted with unshed tears.

    He was telling the truth, she knew it, but she didn’t want to believe it. She’d been hurt and betrayed way too many times now. Believing in him again felt suicidal.

    She turned away from him and gazed at the unfinished wooden crib in the corner. She should just kill him or send him away for good, be rid of him forever. That was the logical thing to do.

    “You don’t believe me,” he said in a tone that twisted her guts. “If you can’t find it in your heart to, then by all means finish me.”

    She turned around and found him up on his feet, spreading his arms out and baring his chest to her. “Break the leg off that table and do it.”

    Logic. Slayers killed vampires for centuries. That was… logic, how Giles and the rest of the watcher council operated. What made her a great Slayer was following her gut. What was her gut telling her now?

    She took a couple of slow steps towards him. “Say there was a Buffy ghost around… does it tell you to kill people?”

    Their eyes locked, and Spike instinctively lowered his arms. “No.”

    “You don’t remember killing anyone?”

    “I swear. I don’t.” He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. “But I hear voices in my head. A lot.”

    “My voice,” she said knowingly.

    “Yours and others.” He swallowed. “Mine, too.”

    She nodded and turned away again. She was going to take another leap of faith, hopefully she would come out of it alive. “If you screw this one up, you’re dust.”

    She couldn’t see his face or that hint of a smile she knew was on his lips. The moment of silence ended when his confident voice promised, “You won’t regret it.”






    ~*~*~*~





    The night was dark by the time Buffy made it home. She had spent the rest of the day with Spike, hearing him out with an open mind about the voices of several beings that had haunted him for months. Voices that told him repeatedly what a worthless pathetic schmuck he was. The most frequent voices were those dear to him, Drusilla’s and her own; they were the ones that hurt the most.

    Buffy had asked if one of those voices had persuaded him to feed on humans. Spike had denied it, claiming that they mostly talked down on him and insisted that the soul was useless and that he still belonged to the dark. She could remember the way he trembled as he spoke, how scared he was of seeing the ghosts again. She hadn’t made up her mind yet about the ghost theory, but she knew deep down that Spike wasn’t lying.

    She had reassured him as they left the garage that she would do whatever it took to help him. Something bad was out to kill Spike, and Buffy needed the gang to help her stop it.

    The gang was in the living room. The air of solemn silence was disturbed by Dawn’s sniffles. Buffy’s heart stopped at the sight of a miserable Dawn with her head resting on Willow’s shoulder, Anya patting her arm gently.

    “What happened?”

    They looked up at her, Anya’s face darkening in displeasure. “Spike happened.”

    Buffy’s heart sunk at the mention of Spike. Did Spike just deceive her? Had she been too naïve to believe him? “When?”

    “This morning,” Willow informed her sadly, giving Dawn a soft kiss on the forehead.

    This couldn’t be right. She had chased Spike all morning until she found him hiding from the sun in the empty garage. “That’s not possible.”

    Dawn eyed her with shocked eyes. “I’m not lying.”

    “I didn’t say that,” Buffy blurted out defensively.

    “Well, that’s what it sounded like,” Anya bristled with resentment. Buffy and Anya had never been close, but things really went south after Buffy had impaled her. Buffy’s attempt to make up for it by saving Anya from D’Hoffryn’s minions when they invaded her apartment hadn’t been enough. Anya must have known that Buffy had done it for Xander, who in return had agreed to let Spike stay at his apartment.

    “Buffy, Spike has… he tried to…” Willow stuttered in appeared sorrow.

    “No!” Dawn cut her off right away, sounding broken and tearful. “Don’t.”

    Buffy looked between them in dread. “Dawn, what happened? What did Spike do?”

    Dawn’s eyes blazed with pain, but she kept her trembling lips shut.

    “Buffy,” Willow said gently. “I know you have feelings for Spike…”

    “I don’t have feelings for Spike,” Buffy responded reflexively, her eyes not leaving a distressed Dawn.

    “Really?” Anya fired back, standing up to look Buffy directly in the eye. “‘Cause last time I was offing people, you ran a sword through my heart. I don’t see you doing the same with Spike.”

    “What are you talking about?”

    “Buffy, Dawn told me Spike is killing again,” Willow answered in calm tones that contrasted Anya’s.

    Buffy held up her arms. “There’s an explanation for that.”

    “What is it?” Willow asked with the hopeful tone of a best friend who wanted to find a reason to be supportive.

    “I haven’t worked it out yet.” Buffy bit on her lower lip, watching the disappointment shadowing Willow’s face.

    “I’ve got the explanation; Spike gets to do whatever the hell he wants. ‘Cause you two are boinking again.” Anya crossed her arms and raised a challenging eyebrow.

    “I’m not…” Buffy felt outraged. How dare she assume that? Buffy would never think of sleeping with Spike again. Not after last year. She got in Anya’s face and glared right into her seething eyes. “And what the hell is wrong with you?”

    “Nothing.” Anya shrugged. “Question is what the hell is wrong with you? Why aren’t you as worked up about this? Spike tried to hurt your sister!”

    “He can’t hurt her,” Buffy argued. “He’s got a chip in his head, remember?”

    “It didn’t stop him.” Dawn stared up at her in shock and distress, which broke Buffy’s heart because Dawn hadn’t gotten all the facts. If only they would let her talk.

    “Buffy, I don’t wanna gang up on you, but Anya has a point.” Willow rose up, her eyes gentle if a bit disenchanted. “Spike is pretty unstable right now. Maybe we should… chain him up? Until we figure out what’s happening?”

    “Yeah, because chains can stop a mad vampire,” Anya remarked right away, and then turned her angry eyes back at Buffy. “I think Buffy knows exactly what she has to do. She’s just too caught up in her pesky feelings to act like the Slayer.”

    This was getting out of hand, Buffy looked between the three upset faces. “Guys, listen, there’s no way Spike was in the house this morning…”

    Dawn suddenly stood up, the resolve in her face silenced Buffy instantly. “Spike tried to rape me.”

    Buffy’s world crashed before her eyes. Spike tried to rape Dawn! Her lips trembled in shock as she stared into Dawn’s wounded eyes.

    “I didn’t… I didn’t want to say a thing, ‘cause…” she let the sentence hang and swallowed, “Maybe you can forgive that kind of thing. I can’t.”

    “She can forgive it?” Willow’s skeptical question was followed with a gasp. “Did Spike try to rape you, too?”

    “Isn’t that interesting?” Anya’s voice simmered with more anger.

    Buffy’s sole attention was on her sister. “Dawn?” Buffy’s heart burned for her, distraught and enraged that she had to experience something so terrifying. She moved forward to hug her, but Dawn stepped away.

    “Look, you obviously believe Spike more than me. I just…” Dawn’s lips twisted in contempt. “I can’t look at you right now.”

    Buffy raced up the stairs after her. “Dawn, wait, let’s talk about it!”

    “I’m moving out,” Dawn snapped, not looking back.

    Buffy caught up with her and grabbed her by the arm. “What are you talking about?”

    Dawn yanked her arm out of Buffy’s grip. “I’m moving in with Willow.”

    Buffy was completely lost for words. “Are you insane? You can’t move out! I’m your legal guardian. Besides, you can’t move in with Willow. Dorms are for college students only.”

    “Then Anya’s.”

    “Great,” Anya’s voice drifted from down the stairs as she and Willow made their way up. “Business ain’t going well and now I’m saddled up with a useless teenager.”

    Dawn’s eyes glistened with tears. She held up her arms in frustration. “Fine. I’ll move in with Xander. I know he won’t turn me down.”

    “Dawn, I didn’t mean it. You can stay with me,” Anya said in rare tenderness, placing a comforting hand on Dawn’s arm. “You don’t deserve to live with a heartless monster.”

    Buffy rolled her eyes in exasperation. “You, guys, if you would just listen…”

    “Buffy, I’m trying to understand,” Willow said weakly. “But… it seems to me that you’re trying to drive us all away. Except for Spike.”

    “How did you get a stupid idea like that?” Buffy couldn’t help snapping at her. What the hell happened to everybody and why were they all against her?

    “You don’t want me living here, and now you’re taking Spike’s word over Dawn’s.” Willow shook her head in dismay. “You… you still haven’t forgiven us for bringing you back, have you?”

    Buffy rubbed the bridge of her nose, feeling a headache coming up. “Willow, no. I don’t.” She looked at Willow’s sad face wearily. “And when did I not want you to live here?”

    “Last night in the college library. You told me it was for the best that I leave.”

    Buffy’s brows creased in bewilderment. “I wasn’t at the college library last night.”

    “Yes, you were.”

    “No, I…” Suddenly, it dawned on her. The Buffy ghost didn’t just appear to Spike. It was messing with her friends’ heads, too, making them doubt her and turning them against her.

    She ran towards Dawn’s room. Her sister had already started filling a large suitcase with her clothes. Anya arranging her textbooks into her backpack.

    Buffy snatched a sweater from Dawn’s arm and put it on her bed. “Dawn, did Spike touch you?”

    “He was going to get in bed with me.” She shuddered when her gaze landed on the crumpled bed.

    “But did he touch you?” Buffy persisted.

    “Does it matter? He said what he…”

    “Shut up, Anya!” Buffy barked, causing the other woman to flinch. She turned her attention to a perplexed Dawn. “Dawnie, answer me.”

    Dawn sucked in her lower lip, thinking back to the appalling incident. “No.”

    “So, it’s true,” Buffy muttered to herself. Spike was right. There was a ghost wearing his face.

    “What’s true?” Willow asked behind her.

    A ghost that disguised itself as Spike and herself was going around causing chaos in the already shaky Scooby circle. That would explain all the weird behavior going around her. The voices Spike was hearing… the ghost must have appeared as Drusilla to him as well. It could take the form of anyone. She wryly stared at the confused faces in front of her and pinched Willow’s arm.

    “Ouch!”

    Nope, not ghosts. Just her and Spike then, but what did it want? Spike killing again and the attack on Dawn, obviously it wanted Spike dead.

    A petrifying thought snapped into her head.

    If it had appeared to Dawn, Willow and Anya, then it surely must have appeared to Xander. She took a couple of tentative steps back when she realized that Spike was on his way to Xander’s apartment. Xander had no problem trying to murder Spike last year, if provoked, he wouldn’t hesitate to do it now.

    Buffy rushed out of the room, ignoring Willow calling her name after her. She ran as fast as her Slayer speed allowed with one thought swirling in her mind: Spike was in danger.
     
  9. sosa lola

    sosa lola Scooby

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2007
    Messages:
    3,859
    Likes Received:
    1,702
    Reputation:
    5,294
    Chapter 9




    There was a click followed by the creak of the apartment’s door.

    Xander noticed Buffy holding in a startled gasp and gluing herself to the far corner of Spike’s bedroom. He gestured for her to relax, despite the way his hands trembled as he clutched the fire extinguisher.

    The clinking of keys and soft footfalls outside in the living room had Xander on edge. He waited behind the door of Spike’s bedroom, his heart thudding loudly in his chest.

    The footsteps approached and the doorknob turned with a tick. Xander caught Buffy biting her lip in trepidation and felt his own chest close in on itself. He forced himself not to inhale a soothing breath and raised the fire extinguisher over his head.

    The door stirred, groaning at the hinges, but no one stepped in. “Buffy?” Spike’s voice drifted to his ears, surprised and incredulous, falling for the distraction.

    Xander sprinted in front of him and swung the extinguisher over his head. Spike dropped to the floor, unconscious.

    “Oh God,” Buffy whimpered.

    Xander eyed the lifeless corpse, knowing that a strong knock on the head wasn’t enough to silence him forever. He finally released a comforting shuddered breath, letting that adrenaline subside.

    Buffy trembled in the corner, covering her face with her hands. That sight alone was enough to get his adrenaline pumping again.

    “It’s gonna be over soon,” he addressed her tenderly and walked over towards Spike’s nightstand where he had placed his stake.

    The sudden groan caught Xander off guard. Alarmed, he rushed back to the extinguisher resting next to Spike’s shoulder, but a solid hand grabbed his leg and yanked him down. Xander knocked his head against the hard floor, grinding his teeth when the pain detonated.

    Spike’s cry of pain caught in his ears. The chip, he recalled with relief. Spike couldn’t hurt him.

    Spike swayed in his vision as he levered himself on his elbows. “What do you think you’re doing?”

    “What I should have done a long time ago.” He drove a punch to Spike’s already bruised face. “Buffy, the stake!”

    Buffy was still huddled in her place in the corner. Xander had never seen her that petrified and broken before. Damn the son of a bitch! He got on top of Spike and hit him again, this was for Buffy! He lobbed another punch, this was for fooling Xander into thinking Spike could be a decent person.

    “Why are you doing this?” Spike coughed blood. “I have a…”

    “A soul? Yeah, well, a soul means nothing to me, Spike.” He grabbed him by the collar of his coat, looking right into the tiny slits of his swollen eyes. “I had a soul when I tore out Anya’s heart. I don’t give a frig about your stinking new soul!”

    He punched Spike’s exposed stomach with a hateful fist and bashed his head against the floor. “A soul is nothing but a getaway ticket you vamp types use for a clean slate. Your damn soul didn’t stop you from hurting Buffy again!”

    Spike gave a dull headshake and sputtered through blood covered lips, “I didn’t…”

    “Don’t even try to deny it!” Xander barked, sick of the lying, sick of the pretense. “Look at her and tell me you had nothing to do with this!”

    Buffy shook violently, clutching her torn clothes, tears burst forth and spilled down her face.

    Spike swallowed, looking up at him. “Xander, listen to me…”

    “No, you listen! I can’t take this anymore! Had enough of that with Angel.” Xander could feel the sting of tears in his eyes, dark memories he had bottled up inside coming out full force. “Angel had a soul when he knocked me out cold and left me defenseless on the sidewalk. I could have been a handy snack to some stray nameless vampire. But, hey, it’s just Xander, so who cares, right?”

    “Xander…” Buffy’s small voice interrupted his bitter rant.

    He snapped out of it right then, staring in shock at her miserable rueful eyes. “Oh, God, Buff. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…”

    “That’s not Buffy.”

    Xander swallowed the rest of his apology and looked down at Spike. “What?”

    “That’s a ghost,” he said, gaze firm and tone serious.

    Xander nodded skeptically. “Right.”

    “Don’t be daft. Look at her. She’s shaking, isn’t she? Go give her a hug. Comfort her. She won’t let you.”

    “Don’t listen to him, Xander,” Buffy instructed, her voice suddenly steel hard without a trace of sadness or fear.

    “Did she ever let you touch her? Think, Harris. Would Buffy stand idly by and let you kill me? Buffy gets the job done herself. Should know her better than that after all these years.”

    Xander stared at Spike for a moment, his mind took him back to Tony’s trailer at the site when Buffy had showed up all flirty and into him. The way she’d avoided skin contact and how she’d disappeared when he came back after a couple of minutes leaving her there. But… that was impossible. A ghost? But, no. He had taken care of Buffy’s nose in her kitchen last night. The nose Spike had cracked.

    Spike was playing him. Fooling him again. Wasn’t the first time he’d manipulated him for his own sick schemes.

    Except Spike had gotten one thing right.

    “Get the stake, Buffy.”

    She blinked. “What?”

    “He’s right. If he’s gonna die, you should do the honor.” He gave her an encouraging nod, keeping Spike pinned in place to provide her a sense of security.

    Buffy eyed him for a second and then lowered her head, her bangs shielding her face. A long moment of silence passed, and Xander’s fingers numbed on Spike’s wrists.

    Finally, Buffy looked up, and Xander’s heart crept into his throat. Her features were emotionless, the hands wrapped around her now still body dropped to her sides. The shredded material of her torn shirt fell to reveal the top of her chest and part of her breast.

    “Buffy?” his voice cracked with uncertainty.

    A smile rose to her lips, a smile that sent a frosty rush through his limbs. “Early one morning, just as the sun was rising,” she sang in soft dangerous tones.

    Xander, still taken aback by the sudden change in her appearance, stared at her in disbelief. His heart leaped when he heard the rumble of a bestial snarl coming from Spike. He slowly turned his head to stare down at him, and his breath caught in his throat at the sight of gold beaming eyes.

    Spike growled and heaved, catching Xander by surprise when he bucked him off and spun him around. On his back, Xander was face to face with ghoulish rutted ridges jutting over savage yellow eyes.

    Buffy still sang softly in the background, unaffected by the turn of the events.

    “Buffy, help!” Xander gritted out, his wrists now pinned over his head. He tried to hurl Spike off but the vampire was stronger, grabbing his wrists with a crushing force that pried a painful scream out of Xander. The chip, the thought burst into his head again. Why wasn’t Spike howling in pain?

    Chipless feral Spike didn’t waste time, baring his sharp teeth and lunging at him. Piercing knives sank into Xander’s flesh, tearing through his skin. Pain, excruciating pain exploded in his neck, and Xander screamed again. Seven years Xander had survived without being bitten. Buffy and Willow had experienced this before, but neither had told Xander how ****ing agonizing it was.

    “God, stop!” he brokenly pleaded when the fangs dug further down.

    The muscles of his chin trembled with the horrible realization that… this was it. He was going to die. He’d warned them. He’d freaking warned them over and over, but they never listened. Buffy never listened, and now Xander was paying the price.

    His long lashes brimmed heavy with tears as he grew lightheaded from blood loss. His life was being greedily sucked out of his body, one disgusting slurp after another. His hands that used to struggle against Spike’s steel grip grew limp and lay motionless on the carpeted floor.

    His eyelids slid down and sounds faded to a buzzing blur. Worse than the sound of Spike’s feeding was Buffy’s stupid song.

    This wasn’t Buffy, his brain finally caught up with the detail Spike had shared with him before he abruptly decided to kill him. Xander’s anesthetized brain couldn’t make sense of this, but then Spike never made sense. He’d always been a chock full of contractions.

    Feeling his senses lolling, thoughts didn’t matter anymore, and his eyelids grew heavier and were slowly drawing shut into serene blackness. Nothing.

    Nothing.

    Nothing.

    “Xander!” a muffled voice from afar screamed. “Xander!”

    He tried to open his eyes, but his eyelids wouldn’t budge.

    Someone shook his shoulders hard, dampness dropped on his numb cheek. “Xander! Xander!”

    His eyelids allowed a small foggy opening, and in the midst of the blur was Buffy’s tearful face. That wasn’t Buffy, his functioning brain reminded. That was a ghost, Spike had said. A ghost that was shaking life into him.

    For a ghost, she had a helluva grip.

    “Buffy,” he mouthed, unable to produce a voice yet.

    “He’s good as dead. Don’t even bother.” Buffy’s voice, but not from sobbing face looking down at him, it sounded from the corner. Ghost Buffy wore a cruel smile on her lips, her incorporeal legs disappearing into Spike’s unconscious body crumpled on the floor.

    “Who the hell are you?” Buffy demanded through her tears.

    Xander suddenly slipped into darkness. Black.

    Black.

    Black.

    “Xander, Xander, can you hear me?” Buffy’s cry came in a faint echo.

    Xander pushed himself to stay conscious, sensing pressure against the painful wounds in his neck. The first glimpse he caught when he opened his eyes was Ghost Buffy whispering something to insentient Spike’s ear.

    A low growl emanated from the immobile body, and suddenly Spike’s head shot up. He turned around, vampire features slipped over his human guise.

    The song, Xander thought, the ghost was controlling Spike with the song.

    “Spike?” Buffy cried as Spike stormed out of the room at vampire speed. She couldn’t stop him with Xander’s head cradled in her lap.

    “Better hurry up and catch him,” Ghost Buffy said, hovering over them with a scornful grin. “He’s off to finish the rest of your flock. They’re all in your house, right?”

    “What? Spike would never…”

    “Oh, Spike does whatever I tell him.” The ghost threw its head back and cackled. “I’m gonna go now. Don’t wanna miss the show. Especially when he gets to Dawn.”

    Through muddled vision, Xander saw the ghost’s skin roll back and its lips curling horribly. The Buffy illusion twisted inside out until it was a floating ball of flesh, then it vanished out of the room.

    Xander’s hitching breath caught when he felt the cloth press harder against his bite wound. “Oh God,” Buffy said in panic. “We need to call an ambulance.”

    “Buffy, no…” he wheezed. “Run after Spike.”

    “But, Xander…”

    “He’s gonna kill Dawn,” he persisted. “Hurry!”

    Buffy appeared torn, her head turned left and right searching for something. She laid his head on the floor gently and shoved her hand into her pocket. Her cell phone came to Xander’s field of vision. “Take my phone. I’m calling 911.”

    “Buffy, Dawn…” Xander repeated with all the remaining strength he had in his waning body.

    “Here.” She placed the phone next to his ear. “Talk to them. I’m going after Spike.”

    He watched her run out of the room and waited for the ringing to start. It didn’t. Xander glanced at the phone. The tiny screen read 911 but Buffy forgot to press call.

    He fumbled for the phone, but his hand felt pasted to the floor. The effort alone almost made him pass out. He stared at the phone helplessly, feeling his blood flowing freely, now that there was no pressure on the wound.

    It was inevitable. He was going to die. He marveled at the irony of dying, alone, because for the first time in history, a girl had failed to hit “call”. Dread pounded through him, in rhythm with his weakening pulse. He didn’t want to die. He didn’t want to die. He didn’t want to die.

    He was turning twenty-two next month. Dawn had promised an awesome party at their house. Dawn, Willow, Buffy… Anya. This was it? He wouldn’t see them again?

    No.

    With an aching moan, he clawed for the damn cell phone again. Dark spots danced in front of his eyes and breathing became more difficult with each passing second. Dizzy, gasping for air, it was useless. White overtook his vision, the room was dissolving into white.

    Tears slid down his temples to his hair. He didn’t want to die.

    He didn’t want to die.

    He didn’t…
     
  10. sosa lola

    sosa lola Scooby

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2007
    Messages:
    3,859
    Likes Received:
    1,702
    Reputation:
    5,294
    Chapter 10





    Willow sat idly by on Dawn’s bed, watching Dawn and Anya finish up packing the huge suitcase. She didn’t help out of loyalty for Buffy, but the doubts building up inside her created a mountain of uncertainty. Where had Buffy run off to knowing her sister was determined to leave home? Willow wanted to understand. She desperately needed to have a talk with Buffy and get things out in the open.

    She mourned the loss of the old days when Buffy would talk to her about everything. She used to know her friend inside and out and support her throughout everything. Willow liked to believe she still was Buffy’s number one supporter, but Buffy kept truths from her and rarely let her in anymore. It was difficult to be supportive when she knew jack about what went on in her friend’s life.

    Buffy had started cutting them all out after she’d ran away from Sunnydale following the whole Angel catastrophe. It had stunned Willow that Buffy had left without saying a word; it was the first time Buffy stopped speaking to her. Willow had been confused for years, trying to figure out what she had done wrong to deserve Buffy pushing her away. After all, she had put Angel’s soul back for Buffy despite her head injury and had succeeded, but for some reason Buffy didn’t trust her to let her know she was on the run.

    It wasn’t until recently that Willow had discovered why Buffy hadn’t confided in her that summer and after she’d came back. Xander had unintentionally included Willow in his lie. That was why Buffy had lumped Willow in the same category as Xander who was against restoring Angel’s soul.

    Did they talk about it afterwards? No. Swept under a rug as usual. Resentments got built inside for years over misunderstandings because they never talked.

    Things had got to change. Willow would make sure they would.

    “Dawn, this is a mistake,” she said. “You should hear Buffy out first.”

    “Hear her out? Did you see the way she just stormed out of the house mid-discussion?” Anya sneered, slinging Dawn’s backpack onto her back. “Believe me, the day Buffy wants to open up Xander will grow a pair and marry someone.”

    “Who?” Dawn’s weak attempt at carrying her heavy suitcase crashed on her toes. “Ouch!”

    “Guys, that’s not fair. Buffy is trying her best to…”

    The loud slam of the front door downstairs interrupted Willow.

    They stared at each other in alarm. “What… what was that?” Dawn asked nervously.

    “I’ll check it out,” Willow instructed, faking resolve to reassure them. “You two stay here and lock the door behind me.”

    It could be Buffy, Willow thought to calm her raging heartbeat, except Buffy would announce her return. This thing, whatever it was, had slammed the door open and then nothing.

    She’d reached the foyer where the crisp of November breeze required no invite to blow through the open door. Willow warily shut the door and blocked the rustling of the dancing trees, burying the room in tomblike silence.

    Nothing moved, everything was still, and Willow heard no footsteps. She glanced up and down the hallway, lingering a moment at the door she had just closed.

    Her heart skipped a beat when she heard laughter. It was faint, floating from the living room, followed by Mathew Perry’s recognizable voice telling another joke and erupting laughter again. Willow walked to the living room and stared at the TV screen. They hadn’t turned on the TV all day.

    Someone was here.

    Willow’s gut screamed for a spell. Anything to put an end to the chill crawling up her spine and lodging in her throat. No, she didn’t need magic, she was capable of handling this on her own.

    Shrugging off a shudder, she turned off the TV and silence shrouded the house again. Willow swallowed, closing her eyes, trying to catch a sound. Nothing.

    Maybe it was all in her head. Maybe someone had left the TV on before they went upstairs. Maybe Buffy had forgotten to close the door in her rush. The ajar door was probably pushed open by the wind.

    This made sense. Willow felt herself relax.

    She opened her eyes to the sight of Tara’s wide grin hanging only inches from her face.

    Willow jerked back with a shriek.

    Strong hands gripped her arms from behind and razor-sharp fangs stabbed into her flesh. She screamed, blinking back tears of pain and staring at the spot where Tara’s cruel smile used to be.

    She struggled to shake the solid clasp off her arms, knock the vampire chomping on her flesh away with her head. She saw a flash of white out of the corner of her eye. Spike, she thought with panic. How could he…? His chip stopped working?

    There came a loud sound of splintering wood, and Spike was off of her in an instant.

    Willow dropped to her knees, tears trickled down her cheeks and her hand instinctively covered the bleeding wounds.

    “Are you okay?” Anya crouched in front of her, her concerned gaze on Willow’s hand that clutched the painful lesions on her neck.

    “I’ll be fine. I’ll just…”

    A scream trilled from up the stairs followed by heavy objects being banged everywhere. Willow twirled around. Where was Spike? The scream was muffled after a sudden slam against the door upstairs.

    “Dawn!” Willow snapped in alarm, springing to her feet and running up the stairs with Anya on toe.

    She yanked on the doorknob but the door wouldn’t budge. It wasn’t locked, but something large was blocking it from the other side. She fretfully banged on the door with her blood-stained fist. “Leave her alone!” Her yell was lost in Dawn’s frantic screaming. Willow took hold of Anya’s arm and took several steps back, drawing Anya with her. Her friend caught on at once and both of them ran at the door.

    Willow’s shoulder bounced off the wood and an unbearable pain shot through her shoulder spreading from the bite marks. The door still didn’t budge.

    “Magic, Willow, we need magic!” Anya demanded in frustration.

    Willow didn’t even think, already creating a ball of energy with her hands. Something was off, her magic felt weak, maybe it was the blood loss. She still needed to try. Holding out her hand, she shot her magic at the sealed door, wincing as the sudden movement made her neck sting. The lock on the door gave away, and the door opened slightly sending whatever it was holding it shut down with a crash. A familiar angelic voice drifted out singing an unfamiliar song, Tara’s voice, and it caught Willow off guard.

    Anya hurriedly tried to shove the door open, but couldn’t it move it further than five inches. She slipped her lean body in and then yelled out a vulgar curse.

    Willow shook the illusion of Tara’s singing away and rushed into the room. She gasped and took a step back, almost tripping over the huge wardrobe on the floor. She could only see Dawn’s legs rubbing against the mattress, Spike on top of her savagely sucking with hideous gulping noises.

    Willow and Anya tried to drag him off Dawn, but Spike flung them both across the room.

    Willow slammed against Dawn’s dresser and fell to the floor. From that angle, she could see what Spike was latched onto. Dawn’s breast. He’d ripped her shirt in half and was feeding off her breast. Dawn’s face was a mess of tears and snot, she lay helpless and weakly hitting Spike’s head with one hand.

    “He weakened you,” Tara spoke, floating next to Dawn’s bed, nodding at the bites on Willow’s neck. “You’re not strong enough to fight him now.”

    Staggered by what Spike was doing to Dawn, Willow glared at the Tara ghost. “We’ll see about that.”

    Darkness suddenly enveloped Willow, descending upon her as magic flowed around her body. Floods of power within her sprinted to her hand, and she blasted a bolt of energy at Spike, sending him tumbling away from Dawn.

    Dawn’s terrified expression moved from Spike to Willow. “Your eyes!” Dawn whimpered as she cowered from the witch.

    Willow snapped out of the darkness that consumed her and squeezed her eyes shut, trying to regain control. There was a low growl followed by the sickening crack of fist meeting flesh. Anya’s grunt and the thud of a body hitting the floor, was punctuated by Dawn’s scream as Spike’s growls built to a rolling thunder.

    Willow tried to will the dark energy to fade away amid the noise and… the faint singing. Tara’s precious voice floated within the darkness, but it was only a delusion in Willow’s troubled head.

    There were other sounds. The ringing of the phone in the next room. The footsteps charging up the stairs. Tara’s song floating faintly through Dawn’s screams.

    “Dawn!” Buffy’s shout rang in Willow’s ears along with the phone, and a relieved sigh heaved out of Willow’s chest.

    She heard it all, the satisfying music of a Slayer kicking a vampire’s ass; the punching and kicking, the grunts and blows. Soon it quieted down, leaving nothing but exhausted panting and soft sniffles. It was over.

    Feeling her energy dissipating, Willow lifted her eyelids and squinted at the light. Dawn was lying on bed crying her heart out, Anya pulled a blanket to cover up Dawn’s exposed chest. Buffy had Spike pinned against the wall.

    Willow’s heart sped up recognizing the look in Spike’s eyes. Petrified, disoriented, looking around him in terror, his lips trembling in shock. Buffy released him and he slumped to the floor, shaking hard, taking in the scene. A crying Dawn. Willow’s neck. The knuckle marks on Anya’s forehead. The mess of broken furniture all over the room.

    It was a lot of take in. His shoulders heaved and floodgates unlocked. “How did this…? I don’t… I didn’t do it, tell me I didn’t do it, Buffy,” he pleaded in shattered tones.

    Willow felt a tug in her heart, recalling an out of control redhead on the filthy ground, her body shaking with sobs, begging for Buffy and Dawn’s forgiveness.

    Buffy just stared at Spike, unsure what to make of this, but that wasn’t the same cold face that had looked down on Willow last year.

    Tears streamed down Spike’s cheeks as he held on to Buffy’s legs and brokenly repeated over and over, “It wasn’t me. Tell me it wasn’t me!”

    Willow couldn’t really comprehend what had happened, but she understood the shock and horror and grief of someone who has just spun out of control. She tried to take a couple of steps towards Spike’s trembling form holding on to Buffy for dear life.

    Buffy put a hand out protectively, misunderstanding Willow’s intentions. “Will, it wasn’t his fault.”

    “It wasn’t his fault?” Anya snapped in shock, pulling a trembling Dawn to her embrace. “What will it take, Buffy? For him to kill us all until you wake up and smell the stench of his so-called-soul.”

    “Anya,” Willow said gently to the outraged woman. “Would you answer the phone?” That thing had been ringing for God knew how long. Willow had a bad feeling about it, she hoped she was wrong.

    Anya was about to object, but refrained with a curse. She laid Dawn back on bed and brushed one last tear from her cheek with her thumb before walking out of the room.

    Losing the comfort of Anya’s embrace, Dawn glanced up at her sister. “Buffy,” she whimpered, one of her arms was twisted backwards lying uselessly on the mattress. She lifted the blanket with the hand of her other arm, revealing a large chunk of flesh that hung from her right breast.

    Buffy was at her side in an instant. “God, Dawn. I’m here. Shhh. It’s gonna be okay.”

    Dawn rested her head on the nape of her sister’s neck.

    Buffy hugged her and murmured something Willow didn’t hear, not that she was paying attention. She solely focused on the remorseful vampire.

    Willow squatted down next to Spike whose sobs were both ferocious and disconcerting. She touched his violently shaking shoulder in tentative kindness. He blinked up briny tears from bloodshot eyes, his lashes stuck together in clumps. The tears made wet tracks down his face and dripped from his smooth, wobbling chin.

    Without Buffy’s help last year, without her friends’ standing by her, Willow would have lost herself to overwhelming powers she couldn’t control. Spike’s new soul had rendered him traumatized and confused. Last time she’d seen him in the school basement he was completely out of it. She could relate, except for the part where Spike didn’t have friends. He had Buffy’s support obviously, but… Willow could use her experience to lend a hand.

    “Anya?” Buffy’s anxious voice pulled Willow out of her thoughts. She looked at the door where Anya stood, her face white and detached.

    “Xander’s at the hospital,” Anya mumbled in a blank tenor. “His neighbor found him bleeding in his apartment. They say he tried to call 911 but… he passed out before he dialed.”

    “What?” Buffy exclaimed. “But I dialed.”

    “You knew about this?” Anya’s tone was accusatory. “Why didn’t you say anything? Oh, that’s right, because it was your honey who did this! Xander’s dying and it’s your fault.” She hysterically grabbed the wooden back of the broken chair and smashed it on Spike’s head. “You killed Xander!”

    Buffy snatched it from her hands and threw it away. “Anya, stop! It wasn’t his…”

    “Enough, Buffy.” Willow was grateful for the threatening tone that dominated her voice. She yanked her hand away from Spike’s pitifully quivering shoulder, his aggravating sobs almost coaxing the dark veins to come out.

    She rose up and glared into Buffy’s confused eyes. “I’m going to the hospital to check on Xander,” she gritted out in calm, quiet intensity. “Anyone who cares can follow me.”

    “I wanna go,” Dawn said, difficultly lifting herself up with her good arm. Anya rushed to her side with a shirt and helped slip it onto her.

    Despite being drained of blood and magic, Willow walked with determination out of the door, hearing two sets of footsteps that followed her.

    Knowing, but sadly not shocked, that none of them belonged to Buffy.