By Devil Piglet
Disclaimer: All characters of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ are used without permission.
Author’s Notes: This is set post-‘Hell’s Bells’, and while it overlaps some themes of ‘Normal Again’, for my purposes, that events in that episode haven’t occurred.
Feedback: This is my first story posted to fanfiction.net. I’d appreciate reviews: email@example.com.
Buffy stared, disbelieving.
She had dishpan hands.
Okay, so maybe in the larger scheme of things lately, this wasn’t top priority. She had recently broken the heart of her evil (Are you sure? her rebellious brain questioned) undead sometime-ally; her little sister was riding the Sunnydale Metro Express to juvenile delinquency; freaking Xander had just left Anya at the altar; and…what else? Oh, yeah: she was flat broke despite holding two very messy and potentially lethal full-time jobs.
But her hands…cracked and careworn, making her afraid to look in the mirror for fear the rest of her would the same…this somehow seemed more devastating now than anything than had gone down in the last few, frantic weeks.
Anything? BadBrain piped up again, and Buffy slammed a dinner plate into the soapy water. The dishpan hands were her own fault, she knew. Buffy resolutely washed her hands each time she dusted a vamp or cleaned a grease trap. Yes, her mother would be very proud. Obsessive cleanliness (Transference issues? BadBrain asked innocently) surely made up for her many screwups with Dawn and the fact that the bank had very nearly foreclosed on the house.
She’d barely scratched the surface of her twenties, Buffy thought resentfully, and what was she doing? Standing over a kitchen sink with a leaky faucet, scrubbing dishes and blowing ineffectually at the wayward strands of hair that kept pushing their way into her eyes.
Might as well put on the faded floral apron, house slippers, and air of suffering and complete the picture. What picture? Hmm…something starring Sissy Spacek as a destitute farm widow, maybe.
Great, now BadBrain was rambling.
BadBrain was very much on her shit list these days, for a variety of reasons. BadBrain complained bitterly about housework; She had little patience for Her friends’ various emotional crises; She cared less every day about staying on the good side of the manager of the Doublemeat.
She kept Buffy awake at night with images of finely chiseled limbs and blue eyes; with the sounds of flesh meeting flesh amid groans of pleasure, and words of love whispered in a sex-roughened accent. She missed him.
She was allowed to admit that, wasn’t she? She’d done the right thing, after all. Sent the bad (in all the right ways, mmmm) bloodsucker packing, taken one for the team and all that. Even if it was a team she was heartily tired of playing on. And he’d made it easy on her, hadn’t he? With his silly scheme (‘I can get money…This place’ll kill you’)….was she just supposed to overlook that?
Like you did for Willow? Who endangered Dawn in a way that Spike never would, not in a million years? Willow’s black mojo almost makes you an only child – again – and she gets to crash in Mom’s old room. Spike has a relapse, and you kick him to the curb with the teary self-righteous act.
Excellent choice, BadBrain concluded. Looks like it’s working for you. (Snicker.)
“Grrrrrrr…” Buffy whirled around, searched for the source of the menacing growl and found that it was her. She shut off the water and peered out the window over the sink. Dusk was approaching. Time to get Dawn settled in and then head out for patrol.
Dawn’s footfalls sounded loud and stumbling to her own ears. She imagined her pursuer could hear the crack of every twig and bramble, every branch that slapped Dawn’s face as the girl fled, terrified.
She’d felt safer, ridiculously, when she’d entered the cemetery, but Dawn knew she was fooling herself. She was being hunted, systematically, by a relentless predator – one who knew this ground intimately.
Dawn willed her feet to run faster.
Spike heard the harsh pants of exertion before they reached his door.
He’d been lying in bed, debating whether or not he had the energy to get up and and scavenge the place for another bottle. He’d been keeping close company with Johnnie Walker Black, and wanted his buddy back for some more quality time. What else to do, anyway? He wasn’t much for sleep these days – it was starting to show, too – so getting pissed was the next obvious choice. Since killing, maiming and exsanguinating were out, at least.
He sniffed the air, hoping to suss out friend or foe. But it was saturated by the stench of alcohol, and he could only detect the faintest whiff of a human nearby.
Someone coming, he thought with uncharacteristic detachment. Let them come. His home was trashed, and the remnants of his love life made the crypt look like Buckingham Bloody Palace. So let the Queen herself come.
Instead it was the Little Princess, tearing inside as if the hounds of hell were on her heels. Dawn burst through the door, long limbs flailing, nearly tripping over her own feet in her haste. Poor kid hasn’t grown into her own body yet, Spike thought in liquor-blurred sympathy. Then he saw her face.
“What’s wrong?” He caught her before she went skidding across the smooth stone floor. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, girl, what’s wrong with you?” Her face was bruised, and her matted hair stuck to small superficial cuts on her face. Identical cuts dotted her bare arms. He didn’t want to think about what the rest of her might look like. The whisky fuzz was wiped from his brain as if it had never been.
“Dawn!” Could she speak to him? She had to speak to him. “Tell me who did this to you. Tell me, sweet. Was it a demon? Some nasty for the Big Bad to take down? Dawn, talk to me…”
“Buffy,” was all she could gasp out. “Buffy, Buffy, Buffy, Buffy…”
Oh, God. Not again. He felt that awful thing in the pit of his stomach, that sick clenching that started the moment he saw Buffy’s body lying at the bottom of a tower amid construction rubble. Not again. “What happened to her? Dawn?”
“Buffy, Buffy, Buffy. Buffy….”
He nearly screamed in frustration. Years with Dru, though, had taught him how to siphon information from even the most incoherent source. He took Dawn’s hand – gently, carefully – and led her to the nearest sarcophagus. With his help she perched atop it, and took deep, shuddering breaths. He waited, about to crawl out of his own skin, and then she spoke.
“She was fine,” Dawn said dully.
“Who was? Buffy?” Dawn nodded.
“She made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner and told me to go study for my Bio quiz. When I went upstairs she was running hot water for the dishes.”
Spike recognized shock when he saw it, and the kid was treading perilously close. He wanted to take her to a doctor, do the smart thing and hand her over to someone who could help her more than a clumsy amoral vampire could. But he had to know if it was safe first.
“Like, an hour later she knocks at my door. Which – Buffy never does that. Hello? And when she comes in, she’s all – all –" Dawn gestured down her body – “covered in blood. Just…covered. And she’s smiling. Oh, God…”
Dawn brought her knees up to her chest and buried her face in the hollow created there. Spike could hear the hitching sobs, the building hysteria. He was still clueless, however.
“She was talking, but not talking, not really…about Willow, and Xander, and Tara. She wasn’t making sense; they were crazy, awful things she said…And she hit me.”
“Buffy hit you?”
“She knocked me off the bed. It hurt. And then she was standing over me and I was kicking at her but she wouldn’t stop coming and she was on top of me and I couldn’t move and I was kicking…I don’t know how I got away but I ran down Revello to Baker and she was right behind me. I ran all over the neighborhood. She just kept cutting me off, everywhere I turned. I lost her just before the cemetery –“ Dawn was babbling, the words pouring out of her like sludge from a gutter. At least that’s how it sounded to Spike.
“Stop talking nonsense,” Spike hissed. “This is some made-up story to get your sister into trouble. Did a boy do this to you? Some little wanker you snuck off with?”
Give me the bastard’s name. We’re going to march you straight back home and then I’m going to sort this out.” He pulled her off the sarcophagus, Dawn resisting all the way.
“I’m telling you the truth!”
“The ‘Bot, then. Got her circuits fried and went all HAL 9000 on you.”
Dawn shook her head frantically. “I thought – but there’s no way. She’s in, like, a million pieces. Willow keeps her in a box underneath the basement stairs. I saw it when I did laundry yesterday.”
Spike pressed white-knuckled fists to his eyes. “No.”
“You’ve got to do something, Spike. Make her right again. Please, Spike.”
Before he could answer, a feather-light sigh echoed off the walls of the crypt. “Once again,” came the sweet, mildly exasperated voice, “there’s something wrong with Buffy.”
Spike and Dawn turned. Dawn cowered behind him while Spike took in the apparition that had appeared at his door.
Buffy wasn’t covered in blood, she was drenched in it. It adorned her skin like scarlet warpaint and made the white gleam of her smile seem unnaturally bright. She moved toward them sinously, all catlike grace and rapacious intent.
“Pet,” Spike said with practiced ease. “Kid sis and I were just having ourselves a little talk. She’s been catching me up on all the news.” Please, Buffy. Yell at me for corrupting your sister, threaten to stake me, remind me how I’m a filthy evil creature that you can never love.
But she didn’t say anything. She merely lunged for Dawn.
Spike blocked her successfully, and then it was time for the rough ‘n’ tumble, so terribly reminiscent of their ferocious shag sessions. Grunts, bodies slamming, the crunching of bones and furniture. Except this wasn’t his Buffy, and he wasn’t sure how this encounter would end.
She was straddling him now, and in his brain, Lust was having a throw-down with Survival Instinct. Buffy sensed it. Giggling playfully, she bucked against him.
“Ready to go?” she asked. “I don’t mind an audience.”
Jesus. He tossed her off him, then stood in the middle of the room, watching her. She lifted herself up cautiously, using the wall as leverage. Soon enough, though, that casual confidence returned, and she ran one blood-slickened hand through her hair. Undaunted, she moved to him again.
“Come on, lover,” she smiled. “Get down with the sickness.”
He stood immobile, rooted to the spot as surely as if she’d nailed his feet to the floor. She moved closer, and despite his growing dread Spike felt every fiber and sinew of his being rejoice at her nearness. BuffyBuffyBuffyBuffy…even his dead blood joined in the singing.
“Talk to me, love. Tell me what’s happened and we’ll – we’ll fix it.”
“Later,” she answered. “First I have to…” She made another grab for Dawn but Spike sidestepped her. He waited, feeling more helpless with every passing second.
“Let me have her,” Buffy whispered seductively, trailing her fingers along his bare chest. “Just let me finish this one little thing –“ she flicked an amused glance at Dawn – “and then we’ll be together. It’ll be so good, Spike, so very, very good. You remember how it can be between us, don’t you?
“And the killing,” she went on. “I know you miss it, baby. I know you crave it like you crave blood. Like I crave you. We can burn this town to the ground. Spike,” she said earnestly, urgently. “Spike, I get it now. I was such a little fool before, so wrong, so bad to you, my baby.”
Spike cocked his head, torn. Encouraged, Buffy continued.
“I didn’t understand how the blood – their blood – pulls at you, pulls ‘til all you can think of is ripping their throats out, watching the life drain away –“ The mania in her gaze flared and then faded, replaced by a a sexy pout. “Baby, don’t make me do it alone.”
He swallowed convulsively.
Behind him, Dawn whimpered.
Spike didn’t recognize his own voice when he finally spoke. “Get out. Turn around now and I won’t come after you. You have my word. But if you try to touch Dawn, I will cut you down. I promise you, on the graves of those other two Slayers, I will not stop until you’re in pieces. Your choice, Buffy.”
The words were like bile leaving his mouth. This wasn’t right, this was all wrong. He should tie her down, beat some sense into her if that’s what it took. He shouldn’t let her leave his sight.
But Buffy was strong; so very, very strong. He could fight her, and maybe hold his own. But he couldn’t protect Dawn at the same time. And that’s who Buffy really had eyes for.
She seemed to be engaged in some sort of internal struggle as she studied him. He waited, fists clenched at his sides and ready to fly. There was a broadsword behind the sarcophagus, he thought to himself, but the axe was downstairs. He’d have to get Dawn on her way, into the sewers, before he and Buffy began their battle in earnest –
“Have it your way, then.” Buffy’s tone was brittle, full of false lightness. “I hope you two are very happy together.” Those eyes, those eyes that were Buffy’s and yet not, locked again on Dawn. “Be seeing you, Dawnie.” Spike turned in time for Dawn’s choked gasp. He wanted to comfort her but now was not the time. He looked back at Buffy.
“Go,” he ground out. She bestowed one more sexy little smile on him, then sauntered to the front door of the crypt and then out to the fathomless night beyond.
When he was sure she was well and truly gone, when she was undetectable to his heightened senses, he let out an unnecessary breath. He rubbed his hands over his face, once, and permitted himself a single brief moment to shut his eyes and rail against the injustice of it all. Then he opened his eyes, blinked away that stinging – it was nothing, dust in his eyes – and walked over to Dawn.
She was shell-shocked, trauma making her face slack and limbs rubbery. “Dawn.” He shook her but she didn’t respond. “Dawn!”
Her head whipped up to stare at him.
“Buffy?” She jerked out of his grasp and began a jerky, blink walk to the door through which Buffy had disappeared. “We have to go after her, Spike, we have to find her –"
He caught up to her, yanking her roughly back from the threshold of the crypt. “Don’t be daft.” He cursed himself as soon as the words were out of his mouth. Gently now, he went on, “We can’t risk it, Dawn. She’s –“ he groped for words. Where was William’s sugary pap now? In the end he settled for brutal honesty. Hell, it always worked with the sister.
“That’s not Buffy.”
They stood there for long moments, Spike gripping her arm tightly, Dawn struggling for control. Then the tears broke, as he knew they would, and she was sobbing violently in his arms as he gathered her up like a limp rag doll. He rocked her until the spasms subsided, then pulled back and wiped the tears from her face as best he could.
“What – what – where’m I gonna….” She trailed off, taking enormous hiccuping gulps of breath.
“We have to get out of here. Out of Sunnydale. Do you understand, Dawn? Do you get that we have to leave?”
He nodded. “I know.”
Continued in Part 2: (No) Vacancy