Always Wait For You – Prologue

This entry is part 1 of 15 in the series Always Wait For You
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It’s my day! Am I the last in this round? *looks around furtively* Whoa! Anyway, without further wasteful babbling, here is my submission for this round. It’s quite a few chapters, so it’ll probably take me a good bit of the day to get it all up, but I promise (just for you, EB) that it is complete and I will have it all posted before the day is over. Behind the cut you will find –

Title: Always Wait For You
Author: Slaymesoftly
Rating: PG13
Medium: Fanfic

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Title: Always Wait For You (completed11/3/07)
Author: Slaymesoftly
Rating: PG13 or mild R
Word Count: 44,2000 + or –
Beta: My wonderful, Always_jbj (who also is responsible for the lovely banner)
Disclaimer: Characters and world by Joss Whedon; no copyright infringement intended and no profit made by anyone.
Summary: Following the theme of “new beginnings”, we pick up ten years after the events of NFA with Buffy in a familiar setting – a graveyard. Things have changed a lot since Sunnydale, but some of them are about to become familiar again…

Always Wait For You

Prologue

She sat beside the body of her dead husband – the man who had fathered her children – and tightened her grip on the stake in her right hand. The cold, immobile face and body were at once eerily familiar and completely strange to her. Gone was the blush of health that came with warm blood pumped by a beating heart. Gone, the sun-kissed bronze that touched his perfect cheekbones. The warm, breathing, loving man she had spent the last ten years with was gone; and in his place was a marble-perfect, but dead body. One that was probably going to rise up any minute, its demon slavering for her blood.

In spite of offers to “take care of it for you” from everyone from an aging Giles to a surprisingly sympathetic Faith, she refused the help, insisting that it was her responsibility. If anyone doubted her intentions, the broken expression on her face was proof that she knew what had to be done and was ready to do it. However, she stubbornly refused to do it before he awoke.

“He deserves a last fight with a Slayer” was all she said when Willow pointed out that to stake his dead body might be easier than dealing with a reanimated version of Spike. “For both of you,” she added, when Buffy shook her head in denial.

As she kept her lonely vigil, scenes from the past seventeen years flew through her brain, the mental images bringing alternating tears and laughter.

“That’s when I kill you.”

“Hello, cutie.”

“I may be Love’s Bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it.”

“Make me the happiest man in the world.”

“Look at that lip. Gonna get it…”

“You know you want to dance, Slayer.”

“I’m drowning in you, Summers!”

“You treat me like a man.”

“Every night I save you…”

“You always hurt the one you love.”

“I’ll make you feel it!”

“Why does a man do what he mustn’t? For her.”

“You’re the One, Buffy.”

“No you don’t, but thanks for saying it.”

“Buffy? Not home then. Prob’ly just as well. Jus’ wanted to tell you – well, guess you know by now …but if you don’t… I’m with Peaches. Think the big pouf might’ve bit off a mite more than we can chew this time, so I jus’ wanted to say… I want to say… Bollocks! Good-bye, Slayer. I love you. You and the Bit. Have a good life, love.”

“It’s me again. I meant it. I love you and I want you to be happy – but not with the bloody Immortal, dammit!”

“Buffy? Am I dead? Is this heaven? Why are you cryin’? An’ why am I…breathing?”

“Me? You’re choosin’ me over the great brooding git?”

“Say you’ll marry me and make me the happiest man in the world.”

“She’s beautiful, pet. Looks like you.”

“What? I am not crying! Jus’ got somethin’ in my eye.”

“No, you don’t look like a whale. You look like my beautiful, sexy, very pregnant wife.”

“Are you sure you don’t want any drugs, love? Not that I don’t admire your fortitude, but I think you just broke my hand…”

“I don’t love him more than her! All I said was he was a fine, big strong boy baby, and…”

“I love you, Mrs. Pratt.”

“Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess who fell in love with an ugly beast…No! She didn’t slay him, you silly goose. She married him and had two beautiful, disrespectful children who don’t know when to go to sleep.”

“I thought they’d never go to bed. Here, you hand me the tools and I’ll put the bloody thing together…”

“Merry Christmas, love.”

“Be right with you, Slayer. Soon’s I kiss the niblets good-night and get my stakes.”

“Got your back, pet. Be careful. Looks like the nest is bigger than we thought…”

“Buffy! Noooo!”

“Get away from my wife! Yeah, that’s right, take me on. Come on, then. That’s right, chase me you bloody wanker. This way, you ugly bugger. Follow me.”

~~~~~

The vampire opened his eyes slowly; the sound of gasping sobs and the scent of tears almost overwhelmed the sound of a human heartbeat and the scent of warm blood. He turned his head to find a woman standing over him, a stake in her upraised arm, her tear-filled eyes staring blindly at his chest. Her hand was shaking, but her grip on the stake was firm as she brought it down in an arc that would have ended in his unbeating heart.

With supernatural speed, he threw himself off the stone slab upon which he’d been lying. The stake sliced through the fabric of his shirt, but missed his flesh as he landed on the dirt floor, confused and snarling. Tears still streaming down her face, Buffy followed him across the sarcophagus, her arm once more ready to plunge the stake into his heart.

With an ease that frightened him, he caught her wrist and stopped the downward motion, pulling her into his chest and wrapping the other arm around her shaking body. As his memories began to surface, he understood where he was and what was fueling his wife’s need to kill him…again.

“What this, then, love? Did you think I wouldn’t be me when I rose? Did you think I could forget you? Buffy? Talk to me, Slayer.”

“Spike? You…you remember? You’re you?”

“You were expectin’ Angelus, maybe?” He felt her relax against him and released her wrist so as to put both arms around her. He held her softly sobbing body against him, rubbing her back with long soothing strokes as he murmured into her ear. “How could you think I wouldn’t know you? That I wouldn’t remember you and the niblets? Don’t you know me any better than that, love?”

“But, you…the demon…your soul…”

“Soul’s gone, love. No denying it. But I didn’t have it when I fell in love with you, did I? Didn’t have it when I spent months mourning for you, or keeping the Niblet safe that whole summer you were gone. I’m still me, Buffy. Man or vampire, I’m still your Spike. Still your husband and the father of your children.”

“How can a vampire be a father?”

“Might have to give up coachin’ the boy’s football team, what with all those sunny soccer fields they play on, but—”

You can’t expect me to let you near my children!” She felt him stiffen, his arms dropping to his sides as he stepped away from her.

Your children? I die, and suddenly they’re your children?”

“Spike. You’re a demon. A bloodthirsty, soulless demon. Surely you can see why…”

His faced shifted, the demon suddenly more than obvious as he glared at her with amber eyes that managed to telegraph a lethal anger and the deepest pain with the same furious stare. The snarl that emerged from his chest had her tightening her grip on the stake and falling into a fighting stance. He crouched, ready to launch himself at the small human threatening him. Buffy’s slayer instincts took over, her tears forgotten as she readied herself for his attack.

For long moments they remained frozen in a timeless tableau – the eternal battle between demon and Slayer. Then Spike’s face and posture relaxed, although he maintained his true face.

“So, that’s how it’s gonna be then, Slayer?” The deeper, more guttural tones of a vampire couldn’t hide the pain in his voice. “Jus’ like that, you’re going to take my family away from me?”

“The vampire that turned you took your family away, Spike. I’m just trying to keep them safe from you.”

The lessons learned after years of listening to Angel and Spike teaching new slayers how dangerous, if stupid, newly risen vampires could be warred with her reluctance to treat the demon in front of her as the bloodthirsty creature she knew him to be.

“You’re the ones who told me how out-of-control fledglings are. You and Angel. That’s all you talk about – how newly risen vampires can’t think about anything except going home and killing their families. You both did it.”

He stared at her, not believing that she would throw the mistake he’d made with his own mother at him as justification for cutting him out of her life. Once again, his body tensed, the demon demanding he kill the woman causing him so much pain. Buffy watched anxiously as he visibly fought for control, not relaxing her stance until he slid back into the human face that was so familiar to her.

“What are you going to tell them?” he demanded. “Are you going to tell them that you staked me? That you killed their father?”

Buffy flinched, her need to destroy his demon fading with her adrenaline. “I…I don’t want to stake you…if you can promise to…to stay away from…”

“You want me to abandon my family. You want me to leave you and the two other most precious things in my life.” His flat voice held no trace of a question, but she responded as though he had asked one. “You might as well stake me, Buffy. Couldn’t hurt any less, could it?”

“Are you telling me that you know you can trust your demon? That you could be around those warm little bodies and not want to taste them? Come on, Spike. You’re the one who’s always said how dangerous fledglings are. That they can’t think of anything except blood.” She lowered her head, avoiding his once again amber gaze. “You told me that they always come home,” she whispered. “You said they always come home.”

He shook his head, blinking back tears that he hadn’t even known he could shed when his demon was to the fore.

“I’d ask if I really look like a fledgling to you, but it’s not worth the effort, is it? You don’t trust me. You don’t trust me to control my demon around my own children.” He whirled on her. “Tell me, Slayer, do you trust me around you? I just had you in my arms. Had your neck right there in front of my hungry demon. Why aren’t you dead?”

She stared mutely, her own eyes filling again.

“I…I trust you not to…I trust you around me. I don’t want to stake you…or to send you away. I just…”

“You just don’t think I have enough self-control to be around anybody else I love.” Again, there was palpable pain beneath the cold, uninflected words. “So, what’s your plan, Slayer? Make me your dirty little secret again and let the world think you staked your husband after he got turned? Let my children grow up thinkin’ they don’t have a father?”

Responding to his harsh words, her back straightened. “My plan was to stake the demon that had taken over my husband’s body. I didn’t expect you to be…so…so you. I thought it would be easy.”

He cocked his head and studied her tight face. “Guess that explains the waterworks when I woke up, then,” he said with as much sarcasm as he could put into his voice. “Tell me, Slayer, if you were so sure it was going to be easy, why were you so blinded by tears that a mere fledgling could disarm you with one hand?”

“It was your body, dammit! It was the body of the man I loved, and I was going to have to make it dust. Of course I was crying. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have done it.”

“Yeah, I think I got that message,” he growled, fingering his torn sleeve. “So, now that you know I’m me and not just some strange demon hauntin’ my body, what are you gonna do?”

“I don’t know.” Her shoulders slumped in defeat. “I didn’t think past dusting you before you could come home and –“

“Before I could come home – to the house I can’t get in without an invite – and destroy everything that matters to me in this world. I can see where there would have been some urgency there. No sense waitin’ to see what kind of a vamp rose from my grave, was there? Just dust him and move on.”

His sudden attack on the stone wall of the crypt frightened her more than his demon’s face. She watched helplessly as he pounded the unforgiving granite until his hands dropped to his sides, blood dripping from ruined knuckles. Buffy cringed at the dead expression in his eyes when he turned back to her, feeling the first flutter of indecision and regret as he spoke quietly.

“Alright, Slayer. Never let it be said that William the Bloody couldn’t tell when he wasn’t wanted.” The irony of his statement would not occur to either one of them until much later. “Jus’ let me see the niblets one last time and I’ll get out of your life.”

When Buffy opened her mouth, a protest already on her lips, he raised a crippled hand. “They don’t have to see me. Just bring them out on the deck for a few minutes. You can do that much for me, can’t you?”

Her head whirled at the way the events of the past few minutes had spiraled out of her control. She had come to the crypt prepared to destroy the demon inhabiting her husband’s body. That the demon would be the same one with whom she had fallen in love so many years ago had not occurred to her. She felt her life twisting into unfamiliar paths as she regained the man she loved and lost him again within a few moments’ time.

She remembered how familiar – how right – it had felt when he cradled her sobbing body and soothed her with touches and words that could only have come from the man she married. Suddenly, the idea of being without him, now that she knew he was still Spike, was worse than the grief she’d felt at his death.

“Spike…” she started, not sure what she was going to say, but unwilling to allow him to go completely out of her life. “I…we could…I don’t want…I mean, you…”

“If you’re tryin’ to say what I think you are, Slayer, I don’t think it’s a very good idea to finish that thought. We’re either a family, or we’re not.”

The look flashing in his amber eyes frightened her more than anything he had ever said or done in all the time she’d known him and she flinched away from the genuine menace she could read there. Shame washed over her even as she bristled in anger, knowing that he had correctly guessed where her thoughts were going. She gave a curt nod of acknowledgement and whispered, “I’m sorry,” before turning towards the door. With her back to him, she said “Be outside the house in an hour. I’ll bring them out with me for a few minutes.”

She just barely heard his “Thank you, love” as she left the tomb, steeling herself for the lies she was going to have to tell her closest friends and family.

~~~~~~

Buffy said nothing about what had occurred inside the tomb, allowing her former watcher and her closest girlfriend to interpret the frozen expression on her face and her red-rimmed eyes however they would. No one thought it strange when she went immediately upstairs to her children, her thanks for watching them while she was gone mumbled absently as she left Giles and Willow to see themselves out.

She stood in the bedroom doorway, watching the way the nightlight threw shadows across her daughter’s face, the defined cheekbones catching the soft light above her shaded cheeks. Her daughter, at age eight, was already a fascinating mix of her father and mother. A poet at heart, with a love of literature and a gift for writing that teachers had assured them was unusual for a child her age, she was also an accomplished gymnast with a strength and flexibility that had Buffy wondering if the girl was a slayer – albeit one with a kind heart and no love of violence.

Unless the object of her ire was her younger brother… At six and a half, Will was a green-eyed, blond, whirling dervish. She smiled down at him, enjoying the way he relaxed so completely when he slept. His agile little body was sprawled across the bed, one leg dangling off the edge, the other bent behind him at an angle that should have been, if not impossible, certainly painful. Although no larger than the average boy his age, he too had a strength and agility that made him sought after by older children wanting his natural athleticism on their side in whatever game was being played. Although he looked more like his mother than he did his father, the irrepressible mischievous streak that colored everything he did made it very clear to whom he belonged.

Buffy doubled over, seized by a physical reaction to the overwhelming sense of how much she loved these children and what she was doing to their father by forbidding him to see them. She had forgotten unsouled Spike’s ability to love – already evident when she’d first met him as an unrepentant killer of slayers, who was willing to do anything to cure the vampire he’d spent over one hundred years caring for and loving. She tried to shake away the sudden memory of how she had made unsouled, unchipped Spike call off a massacre, simply by holding a stake to Drusilla’s heart. Or the way he had endured torture and beating at the hands of a hellgod in order to keep Dawn safe and prevent the pain her death would have caused Buffy.

Only her own desperate and consuming love for the two vulnerable beings that she had brought into the world, and her constant fear that the dangerous world in which she lived would take them from her, allowed her to remain firm in her conviction that their own father could no longer be trusted around them. If her memories were beginning to whisper that she was being foolish and causing unnecessary grief to the very people she loved most, she resolutely closed her mind to them. The all-consuming fear of the consequences if she allowed her faith in Spike to overcome her slayer training, kept her resolve firm even as her heart ached for the man she loved.

Years of living with the man that the Powers had allowed the souled vampire to become, and years of remaining close, if not entirely comfortable, friends with the other Shanshued vampire, had pushed memories of what they had been like before to the back of her mind. Uppermost in her thoughts now was the Council line that she drilled into new slayers with every new class at the academy. Reinforced by Spike and Angel, the new slayers were told never to trust a vampire’s word, that a newly-turned vampire always came home to kill his or her own family, and that the blood lust was overwhelming until the vampire had enjoyed enough years of unlife to develop some control over its demon.

With so many slayers in the world, the number of vampires that lived long enough to develop that kind of control was steadily dwindling. If any still existed, they had learned how to stay below the radar of the Council of Watchers and the lethal young women in their employ. It had been years since Buffy or any other slayer had faced anything but starving fledglings, mindlessly seeking fresh blood. The idea that a vampire was something with which a slayer could have a conversation, or with which she could make a deal to save the world was completely outside their range of knowledge.

Buffy watched her children sleep until her slayer senses tingled, signaling a vampire’s presence. She placed her hand on her daughter’s shoulder and shook it gently.

“Joyce,” she said quietly. “Joy? Wake up, honey, we need to go downstairs for a while.”

Sleepy blue eyes blinked at her until Joyce understood what her mother had said. In spite of the normality of their daily lives, nocturnal visitors and middle of the night trips were not so rare that the children were inclined to argue when asked to wake up. The slender blond girl slid out of bed and pushed her feet into slippers as she asked, “Do we need to get dressed?”

“No, sweetie. Just put on a robe; it’s chilly outside.”

As she spoke, Buffy was awakening her other child, sitting him up and wrapping him in a blanket. Preceded by her daughter, Buffy carried the half-awake boy down the stairs and out to the deck. She sat down on the glider, nestling into the corner cushions and spreading the blanket over both children.

“What are we doing?” Joyce looked around curiously, her keen intellect raising questions in spite of the excitement of being up in the middle of the night. Safely cuddled into her mother’s side and warm under the blanket, she had no fear of the inky darkness hiding the familiar backyard.

“We’re just going to sit here for a bit. That’s all. We’re going to cuddle together and remember how much your daddy loved us and how much we love- loved him.”

At the reminder that her father was gone from them forever, Joyce’s eyes filled with tears.

“How could God take our daddy away?” she sniffled. “What will we do without him?”

“Who’s going to coach my soccer team?” Will asked plaintively, his own eyes barely open as he curled into his mother’s embrace. At six, he didn’t quite understand what it meant to be “dead”, but he did understand that his daddy hadn’t come home two nights ago and that his mommy had done little but cry since then.

“Shhh, Will, honey. I’m sure we’ll find another dad to coach your team. Tell you what, guys – before we go inside and go back to bed, why don’t we send daddy a message? Let’s tell him how much we love him and miss him.”

“Is he in Heaven?” Will perked up and peered into the starry sky over their heads.

“I’m sure his soul went to Heaven,” Buffy was able to say with just the barest catch in her voice. “I’ll bet he can hear you all the way up there if you say it loud enough.”

Always the first to show affection, Joyce tilted her head back and sang, “I love you, Daddy! I will miss you.” She followed up with a two-handed thrown kiss accompanied by the “mwaaa” sound that her father had taught her. She beamed up at the sky as if waiting for a return kiss.

Not to be outdone, Will struggled out of Buffy’s arms and stood at the edge of the deck, shouting at the sky, “I love you, Daddy! I’m going to score lots of goals this Sunday – just for you.” He waited impatiently, then walked back to Buffy. Climbing onto her lap, he grumbled, “He didn’t answer me.”

“I don’t think he can do that, sweetheart,” Buffy said, torn between tears and laughter. “I don’t think it works that way. He can hear us, but we can’t hear him.”

“Oh.” Will burrowed under the blanket again, losing interest in speaking to a father who couldn’t answer him. He closed his eyes and quickly dropped back to sleep. Buffy stood up, holding her son and nodding to Joyce.

“Let’s go back inside, honey. We all need some sleep.”

“Mommy? Aren’t you going to say anything to Daddy? Aren’t you going to tell him you love him?”

Buffy froze. She knew Spike was somewhere behind the shrubbery at the end of the yard. She could feel him, her memory of how his signature differed from other vampires having rapidly returned as she sat outside with their children. She wasn’t sure that she could respond; she felt as though she’d been punched in the gut, and all the wind driven out of her lungs. She stood, Will in her arms and Joyce clinging to her hip, staring out over the yard where Spike had so carefully tended the flower beds he made for her.

“Mommy?” Joy’s voice jolted her out of her paralysis. “Aren’t you going to tell him? Don’t you love Daddy any more, now that he’s dead?”

With a muffled sob, Buffy gasped out, “Of course I love him. I will always love your father.” She put her head back and addressed the darkness above them. “Do you hear me, Spike? I love you. I will always love you. Always…” she finished in a whisper as she felt his signature begin to fade.

Biting back tears, and fighting the urge to leave the children on the glider while she raced after what was left of the man who’d given them to her, she turned back toward the house. Within a few minutes, the children were back in their beds, and Buffy was standing in her own bedroom staring at the kingsize bed that suddenly seemed much too large and empty.

She stretched her slayer senses to their limits, but there was no trace of a vampire anywhere in the vicinity. Dropping her clothes on the floor and stumbling blindly to the bed that still smelled of their latest love-making, she buried her face in the pillow and prepared to learn to live her life without Spike.

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/220517.html

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