By Annie Sewell-Jennings
Sequel to The Waiting Season
Chapter Fifteen: Sinking Ships
Dawn? What are you doing over here? Too late for you to be wandering around. Scare the witches, you will, and you know how terribly uppity and tight-assed they both are.
I left a note. Couldn't sleep. Not with.... Well, you saw it.
Yeah. I saw it. Repaired the robot, did they? Looks good as new.
It's not her.
No, love. It'll never be her.
But when you built it, you wanted it to be her.
That's cause I was a stupid bugger. Thinking I could replace your sis.... She's one of a kind, you know.
I know you're sorry for it.
Yeah. Right sorry I am, too. What of it?
They say that you're a bad man.
Yeah? They still say that? Well, that rather warms the old heart. Give me details.
Spike, stop it. I mean.... What does it mean that you knew that you couldn't replace Buffy with a machine, but they don't get that they can't?
What're you playing at, love?
They're doing all this stuff to protect the town. To protect me. But they don't get it. Buffy was the one who protected us. I mean, yeah, they've slain some vamps and done the whole save-the-town thing, and don't get me wrong, because you've been, like, super-vamp all summer, but....
But we're not her. Yeah. Thought of that a few times, myself. Problem is, she's....
You can say it, you know.
No, bit. I really.... I really can't.
She's dead. And now that she's gone.... What's going to happen to me? What's going to happen when the next big bad comes along and tries to take me away?
Ah, love. Don't worry your pretty head about it. Got your back, I do. Made her a promise. Made myself that same one. Gonna keep you safe, sweetbreads, so you just run on home and snuggle up for the night. I'll check on you in the morning. And don't cry, niblet. Breaks a poor bloke's heart to see a Summers woman in tears, remember?
Tell me you promise.
Promises were made to be broken.
Dully, Spike replaced the phone back on its cradle, and then winced and ran a hand through his hair. Buffy's voice echoed through his head, reverberated like a death knell. Could still hear that twinge in her voice. That little tug that was empty and tired.
"Spike? Calm down, what happened? Are you all right? ... Wait, there was an accident? Is Dawn okay? ... Oh. ... Yeah. Just... make sure Trey's all bandaged up. We'll be home soon. ... Yeah, Spike. I'm fine. Don't worry about me. ... No, Spike. It's not your fault. I'm on my way. Love you."
And it was funny, and it was sad, but he could hear that note of resignation in there. That feeling that this was all she'd really expected. Just another bad deal in the life of Buffy Summers.
This was all she could expect from him.
The boy didn't look good. Didn't look good at all. Trey sat at the end of the table, hands folded in his lap, swaying back and forth and staring into space. Kid looked positively miserable.
"It's all my fault."
Yeah, Spike knew how the kid felt.
But the truth was, Spike really had no idea what he was supposed to do. If he really wanted to admit it, he'd have to say that he'd spent the better part of his life sliding through on charm and a hell of a lot of luck. Granted, some of that luck was better than other parts, but still. And living that kind of life pretty much meant that regrets didn't do a lot of good in the long run.
Spike didn't know how he was supposed to deal with it now that it was rearing its ugly head, and he certainly didn't know how he was supposed to help out this poor sap.
"Uh, right," Spike said. Awkwardly pushed the first aid kit in his direction. "Might want to bandage that up. Bleeding all over the place."
“I’m fine.” Trey did not move to pick up the kit, and Spike realized with a tinge of panic that he couldn’t let the kid bleed all over the dining room table. Fuck. He’d have to touch him. Have to get close to him.
He stood up a little clumsily and sat down in the chair next to Trey. The boy glared at Spike fiercely. “I told you, I’m fine. I’m not the one you need to be worrying about.”
“Well, you’re not going to do the bit a lick of good if you bleed to death,” Spike snapped. “Now, either you clean it up or I’ll do it. And let me tell you, mate, I’m not exactly known for my bedside technique.”
Reluctantly, Trey picked up the first aid kit and got out the antiseptic and began to clean the ugly gash on his forehead. All the while, Spike stared at him. He could smell the kid’s blood from here. Hot and fresh, come and get it. Nobody would have to know, right? Chip wouldn’t argue the point, and Christ, how long had it been since he’d tasted—
Ah, fuck. Fuck all. Couldn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t. Spike abruptly turned his head away and started tapping his fingers on the dining room table. Fidgeting, his old standby. “So, want to tell me what the hell happened?”
“I don’t know what happened. Everything was fine. We were on our way to the movies. Dawn was laughing. And then suddenly, there was this car and it just came out of nowhere, man. Hit me dead on. I passed out, and then—“
Trey suddenly frowned, and Spike arched his eyebrow. “What? Come out with it.”
“There was something…. I could swear, I saw the other driver right before we made impact. And there was something really, really wrong with his face….” He shook his head. “I don’t know. It looked all bumpy. Guess that’s the concussion talking.”
Vampires. Great. Spike winced and ached for a cigarette. Seemed to fit right in with that poncer Drake’s agenda, didn’t it? Torment the Slayer, kick her crazy boyfriend around like a puppy, and then grab her sis for a good spot of emotional blackmail. Fun for one and all. “Well, that’s something, then,” he muttered to himself.
“Can’t believe I passed out,” Trey said. His voice was thick with anger and disgust. “What an asshole I am. If I’d just held on for a little longer, or if I’d been watching the road, or something, then Dawn—“
“Stop it,” Spike said. “Nothing you could’ve done differently. Can’t help that you got knocked in the head. This isn’t your fault. ‘Sides, all that matters is that we get her back, right? So just get yourself together. Buffy’ll be here soon.”
“Buffy?” Trey snorted. “What’s she going to do? We need to call the cops, we need to rally a search party or something, right?”
Oh, right. The boy was new to Sunnydale, wasn’t he? Had no idea the way that things worked around here. Well, Spike wasn’t in any position to tell him, now was he? Still, this was more of a headache than he’d thought possible. Spike reached in his coat pocket and grabbed his cigarettes. Fuck the rules; he was going to go insane (well, more insane) if this kept up. “Right, that’s a good idea. Ring up the cops, let them take care of it. Except that they won’t do squat. Not in this town.”
“So, what? We all just sit around here while Dawn gets….”
“No,” Spike snapped. “We wait until Buffy and the others get home. Then we’ll figure out where to go from there. Not much else we can do.”
“Well, there has to be something!” Trey exclaimed. Spike gave him a wary eye as he took a drag from his cigarette. Boy was getting hysterical. Not a good sign. “I mean, Dawn’s in trouble, and all you can do is sit here and chain smoke! What the fuck?”
Spike leaned in close to the boy and glared at him. “Look, kid. You’re new in town, so I’ll hand you a bit of advice. Sunnydale’s not like other places. Rules work a bit differently here. And when things like this happen, police don’t do a lick of good. Just so happens that Dawn’s big sis knows how to handle these situations, so just cool your bloody jets and sit there like a good boy.”
Trey narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “What do you mean, Sunnydale’s not like other places?”
“Just what I said. Things are different here. And some of those things, you just can’t understand.”
“That’s some bullshit if I’ve ever—“
“Ever hear of vampires, kid?”
Trey burst into laughter. Loud, obnoxious laughter that grated at Spike’s frazzled nerves. “Oh, that’s rich,” he brayed. “Vampires. Bitey things that go bump in the night? Man, I knew you were crazy the minute I laid eyes on you, but—“
“Got bit, didn’t you?”
Trey froze. His hand fluttered to the small band-aid on his neck. “I don’t remember. Don’t remember what happened….”
“Yeah, you do,” Spike said. He gestured at the kid’s throat with his cigarette. “Got attacked, is what happened. Heard the story already. You went running through the cemetery at night and got bit. Ever wonder why that was? Why someone would do such a thing? And wasn’t there something wrong with that person’s face?”
Trey was suddenly very still. “There was something wrong with her face,” he whispered. “And those guys who hit us….?”
“Look a bit like this?”
When Spike vamped out, Trey jumped back in his chair. Eyes wide and huge, full of terror. “What the fuck?” he yelped, and Spike just kept his gaze steady. When the kid tried to look away, Spike’s hand lashed out and grabbed him by the chin. Forced him to keep on looking, buddy.
“See, if they looked like this, then that makes them vampires. Like me. And that means that police can’t save Dawn. Can’t stop them. Only one who can is Buffy. She’s the Slayer. The one and only. And you can tell yourself that all this is a fantasy, some sort of post-concussion hallucination, but it won’t change the facts, boy. Vampires are real. Deal with it.”
And then Spike realized that Trey was trembling, and he had to let him go very fast because suddenly, he felt like absolute shit. Slipped out of vampire face and right into absolute misery. Because the boy was terrified. Petrified of him. And God, he’d just fucked that up. Shouldn’t have told the kid like that. Bloody hell.
“Get away from me,” Trey whispered. “Get away.”
“I’m sorry,” Spike muttered. Winced, took a drag from his cigarette. “I won’t… I won’t hurt you, see? I’m not like the others…. I’m not….”
“No, he’s not like the others at all.”
Surprised, Spike turned around to see Giles standing in the doorway, his head tilted to the side with an odd expression on his face that Spike had never seen before. Not directed at him, at least. Almost like he was weighing something. Figuring something out. Interesting.
And then Buffy walked through the door, and Spike couldn’t help but feel it. Feel that love for her, that old, good love that just rose up inside of him and made it difficult to remember anything existed outside of her. Didn’t matter that she looked bedraggled and terribly tired. Looked beautiful, just like always.
I’ve failed you yet again, love.
Her eyes flicked over the dining room and then she pursed her pretty mouth into a frown. “What’s going on here?” she asked.
“Apparently, Spike was letting Trey in on our little Sunnydale secret,” Giles said.
“I’m sorry,” Spike said instantly. “It’s just…. Well, he wanted to call the cops.”
Buffy snorted. It was a bitter noise that didn’t sound good on her. “Yeah, because that’s always a good idea on the Hellmouth.”
“Hellmouth?” Trey asked uncertainly. He never took his eyes off of Spike, though Christ, Spike wished he would. Something about the way the boy looked at him….
Looked at him like he was a monster, and frankly, Spike didn’t need the reminder.
Giles stepped forward and put a hand on Buffy’s shoulder. “Why don’t you take Spike into the kitchen and fill him in on our new friend? I’ll see that Trey’s questions get answered.”
She gave him a grateful smile, and Giles sat down at the dining room table as Spike stood up. Trey just kept on staring, until Spike looked down at his feet. “Didn’t mean to frighten you,” he mumbled. “Just…. I’m sorry. Really, really sorry.”
Trey said nothing. All that was left was the fear.
It was all that was ever left.
Anya could not stand the quiet much longer.
It was annoying. Everyone had all of these thoughts in their head about Spike and Buffy and that creepy Glaze guy, and nobody was saying anything about it. Instead, they were all just sitting there, reading those boring textbooks like that would do a lick of good about any of this. She was desperate to talk about it. Desperate to make any kind of sense out of this entire mess. And now Dawn was gone and everything looked like it was really going in the crapper, and Willow was just pointing at books and yammering on endlessly about resurrection spells.
Willow furrowed her brow and looked down at the textbook in front of her. “There’s got to be something about that blood of four thing,” she muttered. “He wouldn’t have said it if he didn’t want us to find out about it. Which means that maybe we shouldn’t find out about it, because it’s totally a trap, but then we have to find out and—“
“Stop it,” Xander said. “You’re making my brain hurt more. Besides, we need all the information we can get. Knowledge good. Besides, Dawn needs us.”
That only made Willow frown harder. “I know, I know. It’s just… there are so many spells out there. Resurrection spells in particular. I think I looked through at least two dozen last….”
Her voice trailed off, and all of them sat in silence. Thinking of last summer. When they’d decided to do the impossible and bring Buffy back. Anya looked down at her hands and desperately wanted to say something. Wanted someone to say something. They all had these bad thoughts and guilty feelings about bringing Buffy back from the dead and unwittingly pulling her out of heaven, but nobody said anything. It was like there was a pink Belaim demon sitting in the room and nobody would talk about it, let alone behead it.
Don’t you idiots understand? We have to talk about these things, or else we’re just going to turn into our old, stupid selves. Business as usual isn’t going to cut it.
“Anya?” Willow asked. “There’s a text in the back room that might have some stuff in it. The Book of Gyarhlok. Would you mind…?”
Anya sighed. “I’d be happy to.”
Naturally, the volume had to be extremely old, extremely huge, extremely musty, and extremely on the top shelf. Anya groaned and stood on her tiptoes as she reached for the book. Almost had it….
The book fell down onto the floor with a “thud”, and a flurry of dust rose into the air. Anya coughed and waved the dust away from her face, and when it cleared, there was D’Hoffryn.
She yelped, and D’Hoffryn just laughed. “Scared you, didn’t I?” he teased. “Anyanka. You’re looking good. Love the hair.”
She nodded at him, trying to retain some semblance of cool. “Nice robe. Did Lloyd get that for you? It’s very slimming. Brings out the red in your eyes.”
D’Hoffryn smiled at her. “Why, thank you.”
“So, is this a business call, or are you just trying to give me a heart attack?”
He shot her an amused look. “Business is all we have, Anyanka. You should know this by now. I’m here to talk to you about Martin Glaze.”
Anya rolled her eyes. “Look, I’m not messing with him. He’s a man, and I don’t do men. Well, unless it’s sex.”
“We’re well aware of that,” D’Hoffryn said dryly. He took a step closer to her and gave her a sharp look. “But we’re making a special exception in Martin’s case. He needs assistance. The call for vengeance within him is strong. Stronger than anything we’ve seen since the days of Miss Rosenberg. And he serves a higher purpose than just his own vendetta. He needs you.”
She remembered this. Remembered this from before. Last summer, when Willow came to all of them and brought them her research. Told them what they could do. Strong, powerful, united. They could raise the dead, because it was what Buffy needed.
“No,” Anya said. “I can’t…. Bringing people back from the dead doesn’t help anybody. I know this.”
D’Hoffryn suddenly didn’t look so friendly. The smile stayed, but the eyes changed. Hardened. Grew vicious and malevolent and very, very scary. “You know vengeance,” he said. “Have you forgotten your calling, Anyanka? You asked to be what you were. Philosophy and questions isn’t part of this job. You’re here to serve vengeance.”
“And if vengeance serves evil?” she shot back. “What then? What about the boy you want me to bring back? How does any of this serve him?”
“That is none of your concern.”
“Yes, it is,” she said firmly. “I’ve been there, done that, bought the nifty urn. And all it does is cause pain and suffering.”
“And that’s exactly why you have to help him,” D’Hoffryn said coldly. “Vengeance breeds nothing but pain. You knew this from the startup. And if you find that you can’t do this, then there are others who will. But remember this, Anyanka – you are what you are, and nothing can ever change that.”
With that, he disappeared, and Anya was left alone.
She did not move for a moment. Did not breathe. Then, she calmly smoothed out the wrinkles in her trousers. Brushed a speck of dust from her immaculate white blouse. She bent down and picked up the book, and brought it back out to the others.
She did not say anything after that.
Buffy was so very, very tired.
There was too much to do. Dawn was missing, probably in grave danger, there was a man trying to raise the dead, her lover was losing his mind, and there were all these dishes that nobody had bothered to do and--
Breathe. Just breathe.
Buffy stopped washing the pot out for a second and closed her eyes. Took a deep breath. She had to calm down, or else she was never going to get through all of this. She had to be okay.
And Spike had to stop talking or else she'd go insane.
"....Such a wanker, your man Spike. Lost sight of it, slipped back into old habits. That's all that was, but they keep happening and dammit, I can't figure it out for the life of me, you know? One minute, I'll think I've finally got it all sussed out and then it's yanked right out from under me. Right frustrating, it is, and I'm starting to get sick and bloody tired of getting tossed--"
"Spike, just shut up."
She didn't mean to say it. Didn't mean to sound like that. All sharp and hard, like nails. But it was out there anyway, and the kitchen was suddenly deadly silent. Still, Buffy could hear him. That self-loathing. Despair and guilt. It was too much to feel. Too much to bear.
She loved him too much to see him like this.
Suddenly, she felt terrible, like she'd just kicked a dying animal. She sighed and turned off the faucet. Didn't turn around. Didn't want to look at him. "What happened wasn't your fault."
"Wasn't it? Shouldn't have let her go off with her boy. I should've thought it out better, with that poncy bastard running about and the like. Fuck, I've really buggered this one up."
Buffy turned around to look at him. He sat at the kitchen table, his head in his hands, palms pressed tight against his closed eyes. She sighed and walked over to him. Put her hands lightly on his shoulders. "It's all right, Spike. These things... they happen. Especially in my world. You can't prevent everything, you know? Things just happen."
He didn't say anything, not even when she bent down and kissed the top of his head. It was like there was a thousand miles between them, and she couldn't bridge the gap.
She was starting to wonder if love was going to be enough.
She turned around and saw Giles standing in the doorway. "Willow just called. She says that she thinks she's found something out about the ritual. She and the others are on their way."
Buffy sighed, relieved. "Well, that's one good thing. How's Trey?"
Giles looked past her to Spike. She followed his gaze for a moment, wondering what he saw when he looked at him. "Better," Giles murmured. "He's calmed down a bit. Buffy, why don't you go upstairs and round up some weapons? We'll need artillery."
She glanced in Spike's direction, and saw that he hadn't moved once since Giles came in the room. Worry flared up inside of her. Her hands ached to touch him. She longed to just be able to kiss him and make it all better, but that hadn't worked in years and she didn't have enough faith in kisses, anyway.
"All right," Buffy said quietly, and turned to leave.
She didn't know where she was.
The air felt heavy and dank. Somewhere underground. There was the smell of freshly-turned soil and that warm, sour smell of things better left buried. The cemetery, she thought. Maybe even those tunnels that ran under Spike's crypt. She could hear the distant scuttle of rats, and the constant drip of water. She could see nothing; she had been blindfolded.
But Dawn knew that wherever she was, it was not a good place to be.
She didn't know how much time had passed between the car accident and when she woke up, feeling sick and groggy from whatever sedative they'd slipped her. Her arm was sore, so maybe there was a needle involved. She was absolutely terrified.
There were others; she was certain of that. She could hear them crying. There were at least two other voices, and she wasn't sure if there were more or not. After all, they'd all been drugged, so there could be others, asleep. Rope at her wrists. Rope at her ankles. Blindfolded and gagged.
Fire. There was the smell of burning, the crackle of flames. Two calm, distant voices that were swiftly approaching. Impossible to tell over the others, but it was definitely coming this way. Dawn squirmed in her restraints, trying to wriggle out. Buffy had taught her that. Always test for weaknesses.
It was more than a little discouraging when she didn't find any.
Footsteps approaching, and two men speaking. Dawn stilled herself and listened to what they were saying. "...very effective. I think it's safe to say that she took the bait."
"She knows it's a trap, though," the other voice said. Calm, cool. Silky and strangely unaffected, like the guy had no accent. "She's a funny one. I think it's one of my favorite things about this one. Crafty. Hard to find these days, Marty."
The flat man's voice circled around the room, and Dawn could hear them coming closer to her. She stiffened as his hand wrapped around her chin. So close, so cool. Vampire. Spike had hands like this.
"And here's the kid sister. Hey there, Dawnie."
Yeah, this was definitely a really bad place to be right now.
Continued in Chapter Sixteen: Awakenings