Part 17. Walls Come Tumbling Down
Dawn's fists balled, and she pounded against his chest. The up and down motion, from such a short distance away, combined with the fact she was using the meat of her fist, not the knuckles, let alone getting her shoulders into it, meant she wasn't doing any real damage. No physical damage anyway, the tears in Spike's eyes showed it hurt, nonetheless. If that's Buffy's idea of training her, I'm going to have to give her some tips. Dawn choked out, through her own tears, "But..but, if you've got a soul I can't...I can't. If you've got a soul, it's not your fault, and I have to forgive you, and I know the rules, and I don't understand! How could you, Spike! It was all so simple, and I could hate you, and I could do it, and what I have to do, and how could you do it!"
"Nibblet...Bit...Dawn, I'm so sorry, so sorry, you can't know how sorry I am, how much it hurts, how much I never wanted this."
"You didn't want a soul?" She stopped hitting him, and looked him in the face.
"No, luv, got me wrong. Wanted it; went for it. Got myself totalled getting it, and I'm not losing it: - can't anyway: permanent and all. Nothing but the best for my girls." She snorted. "Sorry, again, shouldn't have said that. Forfeited the right to say that. Know that, and if it'll make you, or your sis, feel even a tad better - go for it."
Spike handed Dawn a stake he must have hidden in the jacket.
He closed his eyes, arms out slightly, and just stood there. Of course if she does dust him, the little bastard'll take my jacket with him. I'd be furious if I wasn't impressed - even if I don't want to be. Wes looked at me. I looked back.
It's not my responsibility anymore. I've done all I can. I've taught them. I've supported them. I did my best. I wish I could have done more; but I've done all I can. It's up to them now. They're adults - hard as it is to believe - except for Dawn. They have to make their own decisions now, even if they don't exactly make the most sensible ones. I can't make their choices for them - even if I'd prefer to spare them the pain I've been through. It doesn't work that way. It never does. Guess I've learnt something too. The children will do what the children will do, but dusting would seem to be a waste - of so many things. But what's new?
Dawn looked at the stake for what seemed like an age - in fact the Bronze Age would have felt short in comparison. She looked at Spike, who opened his eyes, presumably in surprise at being still in one piece. They looked into each other's faces: tears falling down both their cheeks.
She dropped the stake, and threw her arms round him, crying, "I can't. I'm bad, I know that, but I'm not. You've got a soul, and that makes it all ok, but it doesn't, even if that the rules, and I love you, and I still hate you, but I couldn't. I could never...Spike. Why couldn't I do it? Why is it all so complicated? I couldn't. Spike. I can't, and I'm sorry, and I don't understand. I still love you." Spike's arms tightened around Dawn. "Why do I still love you? I shouldn't. You hurt my sister, and you left us, and I trusted you. But it's ok, isn't it? You've got a soul, and that makes all the difference, and you won't ever hurt us again, will you? You won't - you promise? Coz saying right now: can't do this again. I can't...I can't." Dawn cried into his shoulder, and his tears soaked into her hair, as he stroked it.
I picked up the stake, and put it in my pocket. It's not a safe thing to have lying around on the floor, for anyone, but especially with Spike's drama queen tendencies. If Buffy wants to stake him I'm sure she's got a stake of her own - maybe even 'Mr Pointy'. Poor Kendra. What we do to these girls...even if there's no choice. My own poor dear Buffy. I wish I could help. I wish I could tell what she feels, but she just looks in shock right now, and she wasn't too forthcoming over the phone.
The door opened, and Xander came through it. "The Xandman reporting for duty; bearing snacks. Many, many snacks..."
The supermarket bags dropped to the floor, and Xander snarled, "Get your hands off her, you filthy animal!" He glared at Buffy, and continued, "You're allowing that thing to touch Dawn? What's wrong with you people?"
Dawn unburied her head from Spike's shoulder, and looked at Xander. "It's all right Xander. It's cool. Everything's cool. He's got a soul. It's all ok, everything's gonna be all right."
"Yeah, coz people with souls don't, say, shoot people in their gardens, or rape and murder people in their beds. Get away from it, Dawn. Now!"
"Why don't you stop telling people what to do, Xander, and try listening for a change," said Anya, from the sofa. She was looking more herself again, which is reassuring, even if Xander appears to have lost the plot somewhat.
"What...looking to polish another table?" Xander sneered, whilst rummaging in his jacket.
"No, just pointing out a few home truths, not that you'd recognise them if they came up and bit you, which could be arranged." Anya said getting up.
"You like that do you? One thing I couldn't give you, I guess. No wonder you prefer the evil dead!" spat Xander.
"Xander, really, that was totally unnecessary," I said. Well it was, and I really don't like seeing tears in Anya's eyes. It seems wrong somehow. She's made to do silly dances around the cash register, and know strange and wonderful things, not this. And how the irritating, but loveable, boy from the library turned into such an unpleasant bully I wish I knew. Maybe I could have done something to stop it. Because I know he can do better than this.
"No, Giles, so necessary. I'm not letting that thing do another Miss Calender. Not on my watch!"
I could feel my jaw clench, and my blood boil, because that, as the children would put it - just so unfair. "Not going to happen Xander. The soul is permanent."
"Checked it did you? Always thought you English old school tie..."
"Xander, Giles, Anya, everybody, please..." from Buffy looking upset.
"No, sorry Buff. If you can't do your duty, someone else's gotta. Time to take this bastard out - which should have been done years ago." Xander pulled out a stake, and lunged at Spike.
"Xander! No!" screeched Dawn.
Time seemed to slow down. Buffy leapt up from the sofa, heading for Xander. Anya threw herself at him. Wesley moved to push Xander's staking arm away from Spike. Spike stood there, looking stupidly stoic, and accepting of his fate. I shouted at Xander to, "Stop! You stupid boy, look, you need to listen!"
The tone of Dawn's scream changed, and blood dripped from her arm, where Xander's stake had caught it. Spike pushed her away from the melee. I saw Oz looking worriedly at his mate, who mumbled something, and the stake flew into his hand. That took some power - which is interesting. Wesley managed to get hold of Xander's arm, and restrain the boy.
"Oh God! Dawn. Are you ok? I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," cried Xander to Dawn, who was holding her arm, the blood dripping onto the floor.
"Yeah sure, whatever. Like, I'm supposed to trust you, and what you say? Try listening to people sometime! Mike! You, like, saved my life! That was so cool! Thank you so much. But...ouch."
"You hurt my sister, Xander! Nobody hurts my sister. Even you," Buffy stated very firmly, with her hands on her hips.
"It was an accident! She tried to stop me. I didn't mean to hurt her. I'd never hurt Dawn. It was an accident. You're ok: aren't you Dawn?"
"Stake me if you like, but nobody hurts the Nibblet! Never again."
"Stop playing your little games, Xander. People get hurt!" from Anya, who was leading Dawn into the kitchen, to look at her arm.
Buffy joined Anya and Dawn. "The medical kit is in the bathroom." Then her eyes got huge, and she stared at Spike.
Great, now Spike and Buffy both looked green. Xander pulled away from Wesley's arm restraining him, and ran towards a lovely wooden chest. Buffy shouted, "That's the weapons chest," to me.
Oz sat down on it. Buffy and Anya left Dawn to run to Xander. Wesley tried to grab his arm again. It's been some years since I played rugby - school in fact - but you never forget, and I still tackle pretty well. I brought him down, and he hit his head hard enough not to try getting up too quick either.
Oz stood up, and opened the chest. He took some rope out, and threw to Buffy, saying, "Not bondage guy, but thinking we're in need of a time out here."
Anya looked at Buffy, and said, "I'm not playing any more bondage games with him. I'll take Dawn upstairs and fix her arm. Come Dawn." Dawn looked at Buffy, who nodded, so she followed Anya to the bathroom.
While Xander was out Buffy and Wesley sat him on one of the dining chairs. I checked his pupils. Hey, lots of experience of head injuries here. This one wasn't serious, and he was already coming round when Buffy finished tying him to the wooden chair.
"Now if you've all quite finished, I'd like to bring Willow in now." I said.
I hate this. I hate the need to lie to the children. I hate that I can't tell them it's not her. It's a vagrant, brought to a strange country, to give closure, and a grave, to the loved ones of a girl who tried to destroy the Earth. But Buffy, Dawn, and Xander need a grave to tend. They need closure. They'll need to feel she's next to Tara, and that they can visit them both. I wish Oz didn't have to go through this too. I was always fond of the lad. It was so good to have someone to talk to that liked the same music - even if he never did say very much. But he has the same rights. I owe him that. I owe it to all of them. It's my fault, so if I have to suffer, to give them that: I will.
If Spike and Wesley have to bear this additional weight of deceit on their consciences, to give peace to the innocent, they'll just have to live with it. It's hard. It burns away at your humanity; but it's necessary. I know Wesley can do this. We're the same in that way. We'll hate it; but we'll do it. We were never given the choice to be otherwise.
The exact contents of the urn are a sin of omission: so I know Spike can do this. He's pretty good at those - even if he's appalling at bald-faced lying. I've had enough experience of both the old and the improved Spike to know he can do this. He wouldn't be here - in any sense of the word - if I didn't have that confidence. He knows they need the lie, and he'll give it to them. It is the least he can do, after all the damage he's done, and he knows that, just as well as I do. He knows the truth would only do them more hurt, and it's pretty obvious that's the last thing he wants. The lie hurts. I'd love nothing better than to not have to do this. But in this, they are the innocent; and that's what we have to do: protect the innocent - no matter what the cost. And it's huge; but has to be done.
I looked both of them in the eyes. The pain in both was excruciating, but having the burden shared helped. It helped enormously.
Spike said, "Need the company mate?"
Wesley said, "If there's anything...anything I can do."
Xander shouted from the dining room chair, "You're not touching my Willow, none of you are gonna defile my Will - not again. I'm going. I'm not letting you bastards touch her, never ever again. In fact..."
Anya looked down at him, used a tea towel as a gag, and said, "Much better."
Buffy glared at her, but looked weary, and left the gag in for a minute. Then she took it out, and said, "Xander, please. I know you're upset; we all are. But we're all supposed to be here for Willow, not to fight each other. You're only making it all hard, and it's just so hard as it is. Please, please don't make me have to throw you out, or put this back. I need you here. Willow needs you here. I know this is hard for you. It is for all of us. But, please be cool, Xander: for Willow, if not for me, or Dawn - who you are so saying sorry to, by the way."
He nodded, and she smiled at him.
I went outside, and leant against the car for a moment. I needed the break. I needed to get some air in my lungs. I needed the break from all of them. I love them all dearly, but bloody hell, they're draining. No wonder I've got more lines than when I arrived here for the first time - no to mention the scars, mental and physical.
All the drama's stuck another of the songs from the plane in my head - even if it's not my usual taste in music. It's appropriate in the circumstances - the Style Council's 'Walls Come Tumbling Down'. Everyone's walls have certainly crashed down on each other, with a vengeance - even without any help from Anya, in an official capacity.
Ah well, at least if all the poison's been lanced, we've got the worst out of the way.
Quite frankly, I needed this over with. There's a limit, to what I can do, what I can take, and what I can do for them all - and I've come pretty close to that edge right now. God, this was so hard. But... this had to be done. Since this was my responsibility, I had to do it. So, I took a deep breath, opened the boot of the car, and took out the urn.
I brought the urn into the house, and placed it on the table.
Oz took one sniff and said, "That's not Willow. I'd know her scent anywhere. That's not her." The hair started growing out of his face, and his nails turned into talons.
He growled out, "What have you done with my Willow? Where.Is.She."
Continued in 18.The Perfumes of Arabia