The sun was up when Buffy awoke. She tried to
shift into a more comfortable position, but found herself pinned beneath the
weight of Spike’s upper body, his arms embracing her and his face buried in the
crook of her neck. Buffy closed her eyes and took in the feel of him. She’d
dreamt of holding him like this ever since she’d lost him, only waking to find
her arms wrapped around her pillow. She slid her hands up his back and to his
shoulders, holding him close and wishing that she could wake up to this every
Spike. Her Spike. Not the one she’d left behind in the Hellmouth, but almost. Buffy’s cheek brushed against his rumpled hair as those stupid tears welled up in her eyes, constantly reminding her that she couldn’t really be happy where she was, not when she knew that she’d just lose him again. Not when she knew that part of him was still missing.
Buffy could’ve loved Spike without the soul, that was something she could no longer deny, especially now as she held him. It wasn’t that she needed a soul to love, but it was his soul. How could you love someone and not want them to have their soul?
Buffy was pulled from her thoughts when she heard voices approaching the crypt. Familiar voices. Her eyes went wide as she realized what was happening and Buffy quickly extracted herself from Spike’s arms, almost falling off the bed in her hurry to reach the lower level of the crypt.
Once downstairs, she stood at the base of the ladder, holding onto its sides with her eyes raised as she listened to what was going on above her. Xander and Anya were there. They were asking Spike if he’d seen Dawn, telling him that they haven’t seen her since last night. Buffy grew worried as she listened, even though she knew that Dawn would be fine no matter what happened, because she would be in the future.
The door closed upstairs and she saw Spike’s feet approaching as he came down the ladder.
He looked surprised when he saw her. “There you are,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone, his eyes belying his relief. “Catch any of that?”
“Dawn’s missing,” she replied, unable to suppress a smile. “What’s new?”
“Could be serious,” he admonished her lightly as he made his way towards the sewer entrance. He stopped midstep and turned to her. “Unless you know what’s going on?”
Buffy shrugged lightly. “I wasn’t around. Remember?”
Spike didn’t reply. He stared at her, looking like he was going to be angry, but the expression disappeared quickly.
“Let’s see if we can find her,” he said finally. “We can make sure that your friends don’t see you, if you’d like.”
“What about Dawn?” she asked. “Can’t exactly hide from her if I find her.”
“Do you really want to?” he asked softly. Buffy shut her eyes with impatience.
“She can’t know I’m here, Spike. No one can.”
“Oh, so that means I’m no one, right? Doesn’t matter at all that I know, does it?”
It used to piss her off when he’d challenge her like this. Now it just made her feel guilty.
“No,” she reassured him, “it’s not like that. It’s bad that you know I’m here.”
Spike glowered at her.
“I mean,” she added quickly, “it’s not like your seeing me matters less than their seeing me, but the damage to time has already been done with you, right?”
“Right,” he said, his eyes lighting up. “So what does it matter if they know?”
“You think you have a point, but you don’t. This is my past, Spike. If I alter it, then I won’t become who I am. They won’t become who they become, and I don’t even know what that means for me. I might cease to exist, or be different suddenly, or the universe could implode?”
“With that kind of logic, the universe should’ve imploded the moment you stepped foot in this time.” Spike frowned. “Why are you here?”
“What?” she asked, thrown by his sudden change of topic.
“Why are you here? How did getting’ stabbed by a demon send you to the past?”
“I really don’t know. All I know is that I’m filling in a hole of my life. Or at least, that’s what this deal is supposed to be until I go back.” She paused. “I think.”
Spike stepped towards her. “Do you really want to?”
“Spike, what is with all the questions?” she asked uncomfortably. “I have to go back.”
“Right. Can’t wait to get back to your lonely little world that you speak of with no fondness whatsoever. Back to where you get stabbed by a demon, and how do you know you won’t just die if you find your way back?”
Buffy swallowed. The thought had crossed her mind. She could feel it in her bones, though, how wrong it was to be here.
“It’s not right for me to be here,” she told him.
“Why? Why can’t you stay?”
“I can’t lose you again, don’t you understand that?”
Buffy felt like an idiot for not seeing that this was where his frustration stemmed from. The thing was, she understood all too well.
They both jumped when the door slammed shut upstairs.
“Spike?” Giles called, his voice muffled by the earth that separated them. Spike looked back at Buffy, his gaze lingering before he walked towards the ladder.
“Coming up,” he called.
Buffy listened at the base of the ladder.
“We’ve found Dawn.”
“I think she will be. She’s got a few scratches on her, but she miraculously survived the night.”
“Where was she?”
There was a long pause, and Giles answered so quietly that Buffy couldn’t hear it.
“Come by and see her later tonight,” Giles continued. “I think she could use your company.”
Buffy joined Spike in the upper level once Giles had left.
“Is everything okay?”
Spike didn’t turn to face her. “Yeah. Bit just got a little scratched up. Not to worry.”
Buffy frowned. His tone was strained, and he wouldn’t even look at her. She walked over to him and placed her hand on his arm. “Hey…”
“She was with you,” he finally grumbled, stepping away from her. “All night.”
“What? No she wasn’t. She…”
She trailed off as it clicked. The other her. The one that was buried six feet beneath a tombstone in a cemetery.
“She stayed out there all night? She knows how dangerous that is.”
“I’ll talk to her about it.”
Buffy closed the distance between them and turned him to face her. She was greeted with watery eyes. “Spike…”
He averted his eyes, ashamed of his weakness. “You’re dead, and then your not, except you still are. I can’t… this is too much for even me to handle.”
Buffy wrapped her arms around him, giving him what she hoped was a comforting hug. She questioned whether or not she’d succeeded until his arms wrapped around her back and he pulled her closer. Spike wasn’t crying, really, but he laid his head on her shoulder and sniffled for a moment before resting quietly in her embrace. Buffy held him and stroked his hair, wishing she’d been kinder to him in the past. She never knew how much he was hurting.
She never allowed herself to see how much he could feel.
Eventually Spike lifted his head and looked into her eyes, and for a moment Buffy thought he was going to kiss her. Her heart sped up and she took a deep breath, waiting for it to happen, and then…
Spike disentangled himself from her and walked over to the refrigerator without looking back.
Buffy deflated as she watched him scramble around for a clean mug and then pour his blood into it. Yick. Two years without living around a vampire made her a bit more squeamish than she used to be.
He stood with his back to her as he drank, and she could tell that he was doing his best not to look at her. Didn’t he just say he couldn’t be without her again? Didn’t he just look her in the eyes like he wanted to…
Buffy wrapped her arms around herself and sighed. Didn’t he just say that it was too much for him to handle? And what does Spike do when it gets to be too much to handle? He acts weird.
“I’m gonna go take a shower,” she announced before disappearing downstairs.
* * * *
Spike lounged on the sarcophagus, one hand resting leisurely beneath his head as the other pulled a burning cigarette from his lips. He watched the smoke he blew upwards from his mouth disappear before glancing in her direction. She was sitting in the armchair with her feet tucked beneath her, a large, open book lying forgotten in her lap as she watched a rerun of Friends. From what it sounded like, it was the one where Ross had a nerdy dinosaur doctor thing and no one was getting dressed on time.
Hey, he was cooped up all day with nothing save a TV with no cable to entertain him. He knew his sitcoms well.
She smiled at some running joke about chicken fat and Spike had to look away. Who was this girl?
She sighed and he quickly looked away, feigning an air of nonchalance as he took another drag from his cigarette. He felt her eyes on him in the next instant, and he wished he knew what was going on in her head. Wished even more he knew what was going on in his.
Spike was happy she was there, and that she was alive. Being around her was such a relief, and this easy—though admittedly somewhat awkward—camaraderie they seemed to have was nice. Different. But at the same time, even though she told him that they were friends, or will be friends, or are friends (he hoped it was the last one), he still felt like there was something else. Maybe it was because he was in love with her, and for the first time that he could remember she was treating him decently when the world wasn’t caving in on them, or maybe there was something she wasn’t telling him.
He’d asked her to tell him how things were between them, and she’d given him the easy answer, although it had been hard enough to pry “we’re okay” from her.
Spike jumped from the sarcophagus and put his cigarette out in one of the many urns littering the place. Buffy looked up at him and he nodded at the book in her lap.
“Find a ride home yet?”
Her eyes bounced guiltily between the TV and the book before returning to his.
“Never pictured you for the research party. C’mon,” he said, tilting his head in an inviting gesture. “Why don’t we find something to kill?”
Buffy remained seated. “How’s that going to help me get back?”
“It’s not,” he replied a bit impatiently. “But it’ll killin’ time. Don’t tell me you don’t want to.”
She looked like she was ready to do just that when her mouth snapped shut. Buffy closed the book in her lap with a loud pop! and rose to her feet. “Just as long as we don’t run into anyone.”
Spike grinned with satisfaction as he took a couple of stakes and a few sharp objects from his weapon’s chest and tossed them to her.
“Don’t worry, love. Hellmouth may be small, but it’s crawling with action all over.”
* * * *
Buffy was almost laughing after patrol, having dusted six vampires in one outing. She and Spike had come across a raising party in Sunnydale Cemetery, which was weird considering it was the oldest cemetery in town and not very many people were buried there these days. The fight had been a long one, not because the vampires had been skilled or very hard to kill, but they’d made it last, continuing to kick and punch when they could’ve gone in for the kill.
She walked back into the crypt hours later feeling invigorated, if not a little uncomfortable. Doing high kicks and bouncing around without any underwear supporting you? Not something she did very often, and now she knew why.
“Think you could make a second run to the house?” she asked, feeling awkward for asking this of him yet again. “I could really do with some underwear. And ooh, socks. Socks would be nice.”
She turned to face Spike, who hadn’t spoken since their fight in Sunnydale Cemetery, and found him frozen in the doorway.
“Dawn,” he sighed, shaking his head. “I forgot all about her. I should… I should go check on her.”
He stepped backwards as if to turn and stopped, his eyes rising to hers. There was so much intensity in the blue that the ease she’d felt after the fight dropped significantly.
She didn’t want to be apart from him, either, but she couldn’t go with him.
Spike seemed to lose some tension in his shoulders and he nodded before turning and walking out the door.
Buffy watched the door for a moment, debating on whether or not she should just stand there and wait until he got back, when she heard a frustrated growl and the smashing of stone from outside. She jumped, startled, her heart sinking when she realized that it was just Spike, knocking over tombstones because of her.
She really wanted to get home now, if only to stop crying.
* * * *
Dawn lay in bed, curled into tight ball on top of the covers. She’d woken up in the cemetery well after the sun had risen, finally making it back to the house by noon to find a very anxious Tara waiting for her. Immediately the witch had engulfed her in a hug and Dawn was overcome with guilt.
Nobody knew what it was like, though. Sure, Buffy had saved the world and they all were grateful for that, but she didn’t die so that the world would keep on spinning. She died so that Dawn would live. How could she go on living knowing that Buffy would be here if she’d never existed? How could she look at all of her friends—her sister’s friends—without feeling like they all resented her for still being here when Buffy was gone?
She knew they did, and she didn’t blame them. Even she resented herself.
But she had to go on living. It’s what Buffy had died for, and she wasn’t going to cheapen that by running out on the others and scaring them. She knew that they all loved her, even though she sometimes had doubts. They couldn’t lose her too.
Dawn didn’t have to turn around to know that he was standing in the doorway. She wished she could say it was a residual Slayer sense, that she could feel him before she saw him, but it was just a regular Dawn sense. She knew without having to look that Spike was nearby.
Which was kind of cool, too, in its own way.
Dawn nodded. She waited for him to come sit by her, but he never did. She sat up and faced the doorway and saw him still hovering, looking very uncertain about what to do.
“You scared everyone today,” he said with little emotion, not looking at her.
“I didn’t mean to.”
“It’s not good for you to run off like that.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
She waited. Spike was going to get mad. No one else had gotten mad at her; they were too happy that she came back safe. But Spike cared more. He would get mad.
Dawn’s brow furrowed. Or not. “So you—you’re not mad at me?”
His gaze, which had been somewhere near the floorboard under her window since he arrived, lifted to hers. “No, pet.”
“But I ran out. To a cemetery. And I stayed there all night.”
“Well, I’m not happy. You’re smarter than that, Dawn.”
She felt like she was going to cry. Again. “I know.”
At hearing the quiver in her voice, Spike finally stepped over to her bed and sit next to her. “Everything’s going to be okay, Nibblet. You just wait and see.”
“I don’t see how,” she said evenly, tears threatening to rise but remaining at bay for the moment. “Not unless Buffy or mom miraculously rises from the dead, things are going to stay the way they are. I’m the only one left.”
Right then something crossed over Spike’s face that she couldn’t quite understand. Was it frustration?
“You’ll see, Platelet. Things’ll get easier.”
His gaze hardened as he stroked her hair, his eyes rising to something unseen over her shoulder.
“Just you wait.”
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