In A Yellow Wood (Conclusion, pt 2)
Sand wormed its way into the thin blankets, and the wind moaned off and on in the spires of stone all night long. Buffy slept like a princess on a Nevada-sized pea. Dawn came with the same swift efficiency that dusk had, gold replacing black as the sky split open once more. She woke gritty, groggy, and grumpy, and very glad that there wasn’t much camp to break. Shaking sand out of sneakers, socks, and bag, she washed down her last hoarded bites of hardboiled egg and congealed tunabeans with a swallow or two of water and looked around. Vampire Her had not, as she’d half expected, run off in the night. The tech was seated morosely beside the dead fire, head cradled in his hands. Blossom was perusing the map with a piratical dedication to any spots marked X.
Buffy stuffed her few belongings back into the canvas bag (Wolfram & Hart: For All Your Legal Needs!), hesitating as she picked her clutch. Before she could talk herself out of it, she flicked the wallet’s clasp open, pulled out the photograph of Spike, and marched over to Blossom.
“Here. It’s…I mean, you can have it. If you want. I know it’s not really your Spike, but…”
Blossom gazed down at the photo, her agate-grey eyes flat and shiny as mirrors. She smoothed the crumpled edges across her knee. “I never saw him smile much, that last year.” She sounded strangely forlorn. “He’s not dead. I thought he was for awhile, but hey, Buffy’s wrong again. He’s just… gone.”
Buffy blinked. Spike? Gone? Gone how? Spike didn’t leave. Spike clung. Spike made jumping cholla look standoffish. Leaving was not a Thing of Spike. “What did you say to him?” Because of course she’d said something. Buffy Anne Summers, the only woman in North America who could drive away a romantically obsessive vampire.
“I told him I loved him.” Blossom’s mouth crimped at the corners. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…I’ve made some bad decisions. But I never fooled myself that fucking a monster made him any less a monster. It just made me more of one.”
Buffy was, she decided, too tired to get angry. “Sleeping with Spike can’t make me a bad person. Any more than sleeping with me can make him a good one. And you know what? The sleeping with is totally beside the point. I don’t help him because I’m in love with him. Or even because he’s a good lay. I help Spike do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.”
Blossom’s lip curled, her arms folded tightly across her chest. “Tell me you’d say that if he wasn’t a good lay.”
“God, I hope so!” Buffy snapped. Maybe she wasn’t that tired after all. “What exactly am I supposed to do, according to you? Souling him up isn’t an option. I’ve got three choices: kill him, ignore him, or help him. And if you couldn’t kill him, then I don’t see – ” Her eyes widened in sudden revelation. “You’re not pissy because I’m with Spike. You’re pissy because I don’t hate myself for it.”
“Don’t you dare,” Blossom bit right back. “Don’t you dare pity me. The Spike I knew fought for his soul. He died a good man and a champion. This isn’t him – this isn’t even close to him.” She thrust the photo back at Buffy, hard enough that if her hand shook, it didn’t show. “A Slayer can’t afford to love. Not like that.”
Beneath the anger there was something infinitely sad in her voice, and for the first time Buffy felt a pang of kinship. There was a place inside her head, small and dark and very far away, where she retreated to make the big decisions. The ones about whether to run a sword through her lover, or leave her friend to the Mayor, or let her sister jump off a tower. Something about Blossom’s eyes gave Buffy the feeling that Blossom lived in that place full-time. “A Slayer can’t afford not to.”
She turned away before Blossom could answer. There was no point. They were living in two different worlds.
“That’s it? B. Finn stared at the ends of the earth, arms akimbo. “Color me unimpressed.”
The end of the world, Buffy had to admit, didn’t quite live up to the tourist brochures. The golden dome of the sky swooped down to meet the ruby sand like the rim of a giant inverted teacup. It curved away from them to either side, smooth as porcelain and unpleasantly warm to the touch, until it vanished in a haze of heat and undulating dunes. The ubiquitous obsidian spires were shorter and squatter here, bubbling out of the ground in fat black pillows. In places the volcanic glass poured across the ruby dunes in rippling, semi-translucent torrents of stone.
Buffy gazed up at the dome-wall uneasily, fingers tight on the shoulder straps of her bag. Bubbles was already digging things out of her pack. In a few minutes, they’d be talking to the being who would show them the way home. In an hour or two, maybe less, she’d be walking up the front steps at 1630 Revello Drive. And then… then…
Then she’d have to decide whether or not to keep her baby, and whether or not to kill its father. And not think about the possibility that she’d already made both decisions and just couldn’t bring herself to face them.
Bubbles paced out a circle in the sand, ten feet across or so, and beckoned the tech over. The two of them squatted opposite one another, arranging the six candles equidistant around the circle’s edge. The doll was bound in red string and placed in the center of the circle, the two boxes placed carefully on either side, and the goblet wedged into the sand at its feet. Bubbles poured the pennies into one of the boxes with a worried upward glance of her own. “You’ll need to stand in the circle,” she directed Vamp Buffy. “The ritual’s got to be done while the sky’s changing over – ‘Between light and darkness,’ like the directions said. How long have we got?” she asked the tech.
The tech consulted his watch. “Ten minutes, give or take. It’s not exact.”
“Then we’ll have to be.” Bubbles held out a hand. “Do you have the lighter?”
Sometimes, Buffy reflected glumly, it was undeniably useful that everyone evil seemed to smoke. Other times, like right now, she could have done with a little more virtuous inefficiency. But the tech had the lighter, and the lighter did not have sand in its works, and everything was going off with Swiss-clock precision. If you could call ten minutes of standing around making uncomfortable small talk precise.
For all that they were all on edge waiting, the sky-change caught them by surprise. A pencil-thin line of jet appeared on the dome wall, widening swiftly to a V before anyone could react. “It’s starting!” Bubbles scrambled for her water bottle, splashing a libation into the goblet. Drops plashed on the surrounding sand, staining it a deeper red.
“Showtime,” Vampire Buffy murmured, and stepped lightly into the circle.
Bubbles unfolded the computer print-out of the summoning ritual, took a deep breath, and read,
Hear me, O Dinza, bright Aradia’s handmaiden
Night to her noon, dusk to her dawn.
Guardian of lost things, Keeper of dreams abandoned
Dweller in shadows, Speaker to the dead,
Gatekeeper of worlds!
She snatched up the goblet and tossed the contents down, making a face as if it held absinthe instead of day-old Glacier-Fresh ™. She scooped up a handful of pennies and transferred them from one box to the other.
I have fasted, O Dinza. I have drunk the kykeon,
I have taken from the kiste
and after my labors given back to the kalathos
I stand before you, O Dinza, beseeching your presence
Demiurge of Eleusis, answer my call!
The assembled Slayers stood breathless, the only sound the ever-present wind wuthering through the forest of stone. Oh, darn. It hadn’t worked. They’d have to hike back, and hope they could hold out until Wolfram and Hart cracked the prison from the outside. Which might take days. Or weeks. Or never. Which was not of the good, no siree, but –
A door opened in the sky.
Beyond it, a faint suggestion of vaulted ceilings and guttering lanterns, high walls shrouded in mist and fog and illimitable darkness. Shadows flickered and voices whispered, always just out of sight, just out of hearing. One shadow rose up, deeper and darker than the rest, and sprang to crouch on the threshold. A veiled and skeletal gargoyle figure spread vast cobwebby wings to bar the way. Its voice was the slither of of a snake’s belly across stone. “Who summons Dinza?”
“That would be me,” Vampire Buffy stepped forward, all hauteur – though not, Buffy noted, leaving the confines of the circle. “We want out, and we hear you have an opening. So to speak.”
Stony, reptilian eyes flicked back and forth. “This place was built for things the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart wished to see lost and never again found. It is a lost thing now itself.” Dinza cocked her veiled head, grey tongue-tip lolling wormlike behind grey teeth. “I have no bond with you. Once your bones lie bleaching where no sun rises, I could make you all mine forever.”
“Sounds like a vacation dream,” the vampire replied coolly. “Except that you do have a bond with this duly recognized employee of Wolfram & Hart over here.” She pointed at the tech, who essayed a feeble wave. They didn’t even know his name, Buffy realized. Shouldn’t she know his name? He was kind of saving their lives right now.
Dinza looked the cowering tech over, sniffed, and shuttered her wings. Cobbwebby fragments of something best left unidentified drifted down from her doorway. “Very well. There is a way for you to leave this place. The Arc of Pythias exists across all dimensions, even this one. You will find it nearby, and one among you knows the ritual for its use.”
Everyone looked at Bubbles, who looked less than confident. “‘Knows’ as in ‘Angel told me once how he’d used it to find Cordelia.’ I wouldn’t say no to an owner’s manual.” Her chin tipped up defiantly. “According to Angel, it can track souls across dimensions, but he never said anything about using it to get them back.”
Vamp Buffy sighed with impatience. “Do I have to repeat everything you say to Miss Havisham here, or did she hear that?”
Granite fangs gnashed, but Dinza seemed to have heard perfectly well. “The Arc has many mystical properties. The ability to track spiritual entities is only one of them. If your desire is great enough, it can also reunite you with the soul you seek, wherever it may be.” The demi-goddess chuckled with the dry rasp of stone on stone. “For a price.”
Bubbles and Blossom exchanged wary glances. “Ask her what kind of price?”
“What kind of price?” the vampire parroted dutifully.
The chuckle died away to a gravelly wheeze. “For the lost to be found, one among them must remain forever lost.”
“Can we make less with the cryptic?” Vamp Buffy’s eyes narrowed to suspicious green slits. “Are we talking some kind of sacrificial victim thing?” She pointed to the tech. “Can we use him? Or one of the guards back at the base?”
Tattered wings rattled in a shrug. “If you wish to void the contract and remain here forever, certainly. What great magic does not require sacrifice? As to victims…draw lots, fall upon the weakest among you, or let one step forth of her own will. It is all one to me.”
The vampire’s shrewd gaze swept the half-circle of her living counterparts. “Well, let’s do the math here. Slayers, champions of goodness and virtue, a dozen or so. Vampire, evil and nasty, one. Plus a sympathetic little birdie told me last night that if I stick around here much longer, I have a bright future as mulch. I think it’s pretty clear who gets voted off the island, don’t you?” She rounded on Blossom with a pout. “Did I get the right answer, Professor?”
“I promised to set you free if you helped us.” Blossom met the demon’s gaze, and it was hard to say whose eyes were flintier. “The way I see it, I’ve already kept my end of that bargain.”
“Well, when you put it that way,” Vamp Buffy purred, “So have I. I always did hate algebra. Dinza! Only the dead can enter your realm – can they leave it too?”
The demigoddess’s lips writhed back over her fangs in obscene anticipation. “Few have matched wits with me in my own realm and escaped to tell the tale.”
“Few isn’t none. I’ll take my chances.” The vampire dropped to a crouch, then rocketed upwards in one of those spectacular vampiric leaps. Dinza skittered backwards, out of sight, and for a heartbeat Vamp Buffy balanced on the threshold of the realm of Lost Things, grinning impishly down at them. She blew a kiss to Buffy. “Bye bye, Birdie. Poor baby, she thought she could reach me. It must be the hormores. Just one thing before I go. Before you all get together and plan the shower, maybe you’d all like to know what she’s pregnant with.” She addressed Blossom, all venom and honey. “Guess who let the Shadow Men make her their bitch? Why do you think the adrenal blockers didn’t work on her? Toodles, guys. Have fun deciding which of you gets to die.”
With that, she dove across the threshold. The door slammed shut. Night fell. And above them was nothing but unbroken ebony sky.
No one spoke, or sneezed, or coughed. Even the wind died down. A dozen-odd pairs of eyes swivelled accusingly in her direction, wide and horrified. “You warned her?” Blossom asked, dangerously soft.
“I couldn’t just let you – ” Buffy clenched her fists till her nails bit into her palms. It looked stupid, it looked naive, she knew that. “She’s – she’s us. I thought maybe if I – if there was any way to get through to her – “
“I guess that’s what to expect from someone who let the Shadow Men put that thing inside her,” Blossom snarled. “I bet you even told yourself you were doing the right thing. Wanna try that one out on next guy she sinks her fangs into?”
“That thing was already inside me!” Buffy tamped down a maddening mixture of panic and exasperation. This was going less well with every passing moment. “And every other Slayer since the dawn of time. I just made it an offer to go condo. The Shadow Men had no say in it at all, and all this is so beside the point!”
Blossom’s fist came up, and it was all Buffy could do not to mirror her. “It’s exactly the point. Did you seriously think you could find the tiniest scrap of decency in her? Don’t you get it? This is war, humans and demons, us and them, to the death! She changed sides the minute she lost her soul – do you even know what side you’re on? Why do you think I’m building an army? Do you think I like playing soldiers? I plan on making a difference, a real one!”
“How is that making a difference?” She was shaking with the effort of not slamming a fist into something, anything. “One Slayer against a hundred demons or five hundred Slayers against fifty thousand demons – it’s still the same hopeless old fight! You just took it to a bigger battlefield!”
“Damn right I did,” Blossom said, clipped. “Hopeless or not, someone has to fight it. I read your file – there may not be thousands of Slayers in your world, but there are dozens. And you just ignore them so, what, they can go to the prom? Have a normal life? While you stay home and play house with William the Bloody and your mutant baby?” She inhaled, sharp and hard. “Traitor. You are no part of me. You disgust me. And it kills me that one of us has to – “
“No,” Buffy heard herself interrupt, distantly, as if it were someone else talking. “One of you doesn’t. Find the damned Arc and go home. I’m staying behind.”
The Arc of Pythias wasn’t very difficult to find, even in the dark. It sat fifty yards away in the center of a jagged tangle of black glass, a simple arch of dull silver metal on a pedestal, engraved with vaguely-familiar mystical symbols. There was, in fact, a plaque right beside it, reading “ARC OF PYTHIAS” in several languages. Buffy wondered if it would have been fifty yards away from wherever they’d ended up. It seemed like that kind of thing. It was pretty impressive when it got fired up, too, what with the strobe-y shimmery Dancing With The Stars light show every time it opened a portal. Everyone else was enthusiastic about it, at least. The first few Buffys were already gone.
Some distance away from the Arc, and hence the Slayers, the Wolfram & Hart technician was sitting on a wind-worn slab of obsidian – considering this dimension couldn’t have been around for more than a few years, had Dinza constructed it pre-wind-worn? – the second radio pressed to one ear. “…Forty-eight degrees from parallax.’ he shouted into the speaker as another laser show started up. “Yeah. Near the one shaped like a swordfish. How should I know? That’s your problem. I’m getting out of here. See you in Hell.” In his case, that was probably literal.
He flicked the radio off, and flung it out across the dunes. Buffy sat down beside him and took a sip from her last water bottle. Almost empty. Exactly how long did it take to die of dehydration? A couple of days, she was pretty certain. Enough time to make it back to the compound if she wanted to. There was enough water there that she could die of starvation. Things were looking brighter already. “So what’s your name, anyway?”
The tech scratched his chin. He looked like a Technicolor raccoon. “Knox. You?”
“Figures.” Knox got to his feet with a faintly embarrassed wave in the direction of Bubbles and the Arc. “Well, it looks like your friend’s got that thing up and running. Guess it’s time to say goodbye. Um. No hard feelings about the black eye.”
“Definite hard feelings about the kidnapping and assault.”
Knox managed a sheepish sort of laugh, and limped off as quickly as the sand and a broken rib or three would allow. Buffy contemplated her water bottle. It wasn’t that she wanted to die. Not even slightly. It was just that right now, she didn’t feel as if she had the metal energy to do anything except sit in the middle of a red-and-black desert. Spike had tried so hard, these last few years, so hard against such impossible odds that even his failures left her in awe. Because of him she knew something worthwhile could survive, even when guilt and conscience were gone. She’d seen it. She’d wanted to believe it could survive in her, too. She’d lost that gamble, and she couldn’t blame the rest of her for the general scorn and shunning. To lose Spike, too, over Warren Meers, of all people…
But it was easy not to kill your friends.
A brilliant flash lit the technician’s face as he stepped over the Arc and disappeared, spotlighting the violent patches of purple and blue. If she’d been left alone with Sparrow and Knox one minute longer… and it wasn’t like this was the first time. Ted, Faith, now Sparrow… time and again, she’d gotten lucky. Fate, or friends, or even enemies had always intervened for her. If there’d been no one there to intervene for Spike, was that really his fault?
Of course it was. Just like it would still have been her fault if Ted hadn’t been a robot. The fact was, she just didn’t want to kill Spike. She wanted to make excuses for him, because she loved him. Because she needed him. Because she was having a baby, or not, which might be a demon, or not, and she could no more imagine a life without Spike in it any more than she could grow wings and fly to the moon, which was in fact more likely in a world where magic was a commonplace, and none of that mattered because she was the Slayer, and the Slayer’s job was to kill vampires –
“They’re all gone.” Buttercup was standing over her, her gothy eyeliner streaky with sweat. “They’re all gone,” she repeated. “We’re the last ones.” She dropped to her haunches, hands dangling between her knees, fingers fiddling in that familiar dance that Buffy recognized as Cigarette, dammit!. “You can leave if you want to. I won’t tell.”
Buffy wiped her nose. “But then you’d have to stay.”
Buttercup shrugged. “I’m the bad Slayer, remember? Or at least I was till you came along.” A brief smile lit her sharp-chinned face. “I owe you for taking the heat off. Seriously… if there’s anyone the Senior Partners will think twice about squishing when they finally crack this place open, it’s me. I have friends in low places.”
So tempting. So, so tempting. “Go home before I change my mind,” said Buffy. “Say hi to Faith for me. And renegotiate the hell out of them.”
“Ok. I know better than to argue with myself.” Buttercup straightened, lithe and dangerous. “Look. I haven’t seen Spike since he came crawling back to Sunnydale hunting for a love potion to win his skanky ho of a girlfiend back. Pathetic alcoholic loser wasn’t his best look.”
That was almost smile-worthy. “He cleans up nice.”
“I bet. Just… as bad decisions go, I don’t think yours have been anywhere near the worst, you know?”
“Doesn’t make ’em good,” Buffy murmured, watching herself walk away. Buttercup stepped up to the Arc, raised her hands, and closed her eyes. Images swirled and flickered in the air overhead, elusive and fragile as the rainbow of an oil slick. Buttercup stretched out both hands, yearning; took a running leap – and was gone.
Here she was.
Alone. In a desert.
What exactly had she been trying to prove again?
The Arc’s dull silver gleam was cool against the glossy black sky. With a sigh, Buffy got up and trudged up the dune to the outcropping of stone where it lay. The Arc sat on its obsidian throne, its pedestal fixed into the rock as if it had grown there. Buffy tinked the apex with a fingernail – it was only about a foot and a half tall – and traced the runes inscribed along the loop of metal. She jumped back when a ray of light flashed out beneath her fingers.
“Wait, wait,” she said. “You’re not supposed to work!”
Frantic and shaking, she ran her fingers over the symbols again. Flash flash flash-flash flash. What order had Bubbles said to use again? Alpha/Lambda/Gorgon/Fish-Circle, or Alpha/Labyrinth/Omega/Snake-On-A-Plane? Overhead a disc of light gathered, a shimmering, spinning skin of possibility. Somewhere out there, beneath the pale moonlight. Close your eyes, click your heels, and repeat after me, There’s no place like home…
“Slayer,” a familiar voice hissed. “Lost and lonely Slayer.”
Buffy opened her eyes with a start. “Dinza?”
“I thought you could only talk to dead people. What happened to Vampire Me?”
The grotesque, shrouded head weaved back and forth. “Her fate belongs to her story, not yours. And only the dead may enter my realm, but you will satisfy that requirement soon enough.”
“So you lied. Maybe more than once?” Buffy gestured at the Arc. “Strangely, this thing seems to still be taking orders.”
“On the contrary,” Dinza rubbed her taloned hands together. “You have miscounted. Two remain, not one.”
“What do you mean – oh.” Very deliberately, Buffy held her hands still at her sides, waiting for the insidious little voice in her head – It would be so simple, it would be so easy, it would solve so many problems, no one could blame you, lots of women lose babies this stage without ever even realizing they were pregnant. It didn’t come. “No. I don’t think so.”
“The beauty of this choice, Slayer, is that no matter what you decide, you lose something. And you have lost so much already,” Dinza said, musing. “Certainty. Righteousness. Even your humanity. Traded away piece by piece. To keep what you love, all that you were must be forever lost.”
“Forever lost,” Buffy echoed., and the realization hit her. “So everyone else can be found.. If I’m lost, Lizard Baby gets to be found. And since we come as a package deal right now, if he gets to be found, then… it doesn’t really matter what world I’m forever lost in, does it?”
Dinza threw back her head and screamed, lunging out of the doorway. But Buffy was already on the move, arms spread wide, eyes scrunched shut. Worlds, times, places, faces carouseled before her mind’s eye. One face. One particular face, one particular place, one particular time. Blue eyes and sandy curls, strong hands and killer cheekbones and a wicked grin. Poet and killer, lover and fighter, villain and hero and father now. Not a human soul, maybe, but a heart big enough and a spirit bright enough to serve as a beacon across all the worlds.
Spike. I’m coming home. We’re coming home.
Buffy opened her eyes, and leaped thought the door into air. Behind her Dinza’s thwarted wail cut off, click, and with a jar like the sensation of stepping off an escalator, she was standing on a twilit Southern California street, with crickets chirring and cicadas buzzing and the streetlights just thinking about coming on. Up on the porch, Spike was saying to Willow, “…find every bloody lawyer at Wolfram & Hart who knew anything about this, and kill them. One by one or in lots, I’m not fussy.”
“Or,” she said, hardly trusting her own voice, “We could do something that actually, you know, works.”
She saw the realization sweep over his face like dawn breaking on the best day of your life. Saw the grief and rage dissolve in a vernal rush of joy so great she thought it might dissolve him too, and her with him. And then Spike was leaping to his feet and racing down the front walk to meet her, and she was racing up the front walk to meet him, and she cared about nothing, nothing at all except the fact that he was here and real and solid, and she could wrap her arms around that lean, hard-muscled body and bury her face in those unruly curls, breathe in the smoke-and-earth (and blood, don’t forget the blood) smell of him as his eyes and hands and mouth devoured her. “Buffy, love, you’re all right? That bastard Meers said they’d…they’d…” Spike slid to his knees, cheek pressed to her belly. He was shaking harder than she was. How embarrassing if her tummy gurgled right now. “They’d take the baby for experiments. “
Buffy shuddered and her grip on his shoulders tightened. “I didn’t give them a chance,” she gasped. “I’m all right. We’re both all right. Everything’s all right.”
And for that moment, it really was.
She held on to that moment. She clutched it tight all through the evening and into the night. She held it close while Willow and Spike hustled her inside and showered her with clean clothes and food and bandages and insane amounts of overjoyed babble. Also with an actual shower. She clung to it when the delivery guy arrived, when she was clean and warm (but not too warm) and snuggling close to Spike, with all the Chinese takeout in the universe to gorge on (and no barfy feelings, either; apparently Lizard Baby liked Chinese better than tunabeans, which was a character recommendation right there.) She almost lost her grip when Spike and Willow were trading guilty looks over her head, both of them just bursting to Confess All. But she made it clear she didn’t want to Hear All, and for once the two of them got the message.
If the house was a disaster area, and Warren’s zapping device was a mangled pile of fused circuitry in the living room while Warren himself was nowhere in evidence, well, these things happened in Sunnydale. If there were suspicious rust-colored stains on the front porch, and Willow jumped every time Buffy so much as looked at the door to the basement, she was certain that there was a perfectly reasonable and non-fatal explanation.
If Schroedinger’s Vampire would keep the damn box shut, Schroedinger’s Slayer could keep her stake to herself. Problem solved.
It wasn’t until long after midnight, after Willow had made about six different excuses to spend the night Totally Alone in the basement, and Buffy was spooned drowsy in Spike’s arms (and why was their bed so damp? Don’t ask), that she asked the sixty-four dollar not-a-question: “You killed him, didn’t you.”
Spike was quiet for a moment. “Yeah. You OK with that?”
This was when she should cry. This was when she should sob her heart out, spend all her tears in one massive flood that would leave her parched for the rest of her life. But she only lay still in Spike’s arms, eyes dry and aching. Buffy stared out into the darkness of their bedroom. “No. But…” She drew in a deep shuddering breath. “Why did you kill him?”
“Was gonna let him go, actually,” said Spike, reflective. “Tosser was on the way out the door and everything. Knew you’d want it that way, him being human and all.”
She hadn’t expected that. And felt ashamed, somehow, for not expecting. “What happened?”
“Ah, that was Will’s doing.” He sounded enormously pleased with himself. “She got him talking, strung him along, like. Got him to boasting ’bout how he’d put one over on me, ’cause I cared too much about what you thought to kill him. How such a clever-boots as him was so far above and beyond the reach of any human law, they shouldn’t apply to him at all.” She could feel his grin, sharp-fanged in the dark behind her. “The wanker having thus renounced his birthright, I treated him as the mess of pottage he was.” Callused fingers brushed her cheek, searching for the tears that wouldn’t come, and the cocky arrogance in his voice cracked over something rawer, deeper. “I killed him ‘cos he’d sent you where I’d never see you more, love. ‘Cos he’d snuffed out our – our child, ‘fore I’d ever had the chance to love her proper. If you’re going to take retribution, you’d best do it now, for I’m not sorry a jot, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat, and relish it just as much.”
If Warren had been a demon, and done exactly the same things, she wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Was that, too, something she shouldn’t be OK with? “I’m not going to kill you today,” she said. “No promises about tomorrow, or next week, but today? You’re golden.”
She felt the cool exhalation of breath against the nape of her neck, the soft nuzzle of his lips in the fine fringe of hair. “You’re not the most comforting bird a chap could tie the knot with, you know that?”
“So I’ve been told.” And those were the right words, she realized: Not I can’t, but I won’t. What was the difference between what Spike had done, and what she had almost done? Only that she regretted it, and he didn’t? Or even that? Had she ever really been sorry about sinking that knife into Faith’s gut? She laid her hands over Spike’s, wrapped protectively around her belly. If someone threatened Lizard Baby again, could she be absolutely positive she wouldn’t react with the same savage fury that she’d unleashed against Sparrow? If Spike deserved to die for what he’d done, what did she, who had a human soul, deserve? “Forever lost,” she whispered.
“What’s that, love?” Spike murmured. He was half asleep already, exhausted more emotionally than physically.
“They’re frightened,” she said, a little louder. “Wolfram & Hart. Of me. Or no… not of me. Of us. Not of us in particular, but of what it means that there is an us. Of everything that has to go into making an us. We’re a threat. Spike… I don’t want to just fight a bigger war. There’s got to be a way to fight a bigger peace.” She rolled over to face him, pulling the sheets after her. “What’s a Slayer’s job, Spike, really?”
One slightly bloodshot blue eye cracked open. She suspected it hadn’t been an easy few days for him, either. “Kill vampires? Just a guess.”
“No. No. It’s to save lives. And if I can save more lives by loving one vampire than by killing him…” He was staring up at her, bemused, confused, adoring. If she was lost, then at least they were lost together. “Spike,” she whispered, “tell me I’m doing the right thing.”
Spike reached out and gathered her in, strong arms holding her close, sleepy eyes infinitely tender. “Ah, love,” he rumbled into her ear. “I’m just winging it. How should I know?”
End notes: for those curious about the origins of the Buffys in this story, B. Finn and Buttercup are my own invention. B. Finn doesn’t have much of a backstory other than Buffy catching the helicopter, but Buttercup has her origins in a Buffy/Faith AU I plotted out and never wrote, resulting from Buffy being the one to accidentally kill Alan Finch rather than Faith, and the two of them ending up as assassins-for-hire for Wolfram & Hart. (I will never have the time to write it, so if anyone wants a poor lonely B/F plot bunny…)
Vamp Buffy and Bubbles appear respectively in Backward Glances by harmonyfb and All Dishevelled Wandering Stars, an unfinished B/A epic by evil_little_dog. (Sorry, the latter doesn’t appear to be archived anywhere on the net since geekgirlz-r.us went down. But if you ask evil_little_dog nicely, she may be able to send you a copy).
Blossom, of course, is the star of a well-known and controversial fanfic by Brad Meltzer, otherwise known as Season 8. *g*
If you’d like to know what happened to Spike and Willow while Buffy was in the pocket universe, that story is here.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/469748.html