This is Eurydice72. Apologies for having to use the special poster account. I have a DW account that I created just for this, and though DW is telling me I’m a member of the community, it’s also telling me I don’t have posting access. I’ve been trying to get it sorted out for the past few hours, but since it’s now 3:30pm here in sunny California and my day is 2/3s gone, I figured it’s better to just do it this way than to wait.
So… yeah. This is my first time signed up for this in years, and, well, it’s been interesting coming back to these characters.
I wanted to do something with the theme of this round, but I wasn’t sure how to approach it without doing something I’ve never done before. What I came up with is a multi-chapter plot bunny, of which I have the first two done. That’s what I’m posting today, but I have zero other commitments right now, so this is getting my focus for the rest of the year. My goal is to have it done before 2013 hits.
TITLE: The Faraway Nearby
SUMMARY: Set a week after the end of S5. Everyone is grieving. Trying to rebuild their lives. Trying to forget them. At least, until Dawn goes missing. Then, they only have one goal, and Spike realizes this is his last chance to fulfill his final promise.
RATING: R, for now. It will likely turn NC17 later on.
NOTES: Yes, it’s a WIP. My apologies for that. It’s looking to be about 10 chapters (I think) and since this is all I’m working on right now, I fully intend to have it completed by the end of the year. Chapter 2 will come later today. Subsequent chapters will be at my LJ.
Overhead, the sky stretched for universes, remnants of stars long gone finally finding their way to this meager rock and beaming as brilliantly as they must have done in their own worlds. Summer had yet to grab Sunnydale by the throat, which left temperatures mild, almost soothing, easy to traverse when the sun tucked itself away. One could wait and fight with equal comfort, while the soil from the disturbed graves was still moist and pliable enough to facilitate covering them back up again after the vampires were dust.
These were the nights Giles liked best for patrolling, the sort that kept tempers calm and moods high as they waited for the next one to rise.
It lacked only one thing.
With a sigh, Giles pocketed his car keys. The high walls blocked his view of the cemetery, but the familiar thud of fists meeting flesh dredged up enough agonizing memories to have him yearn for the bottle of double matured Lagavulin he had hidden under his bed long before he reached the gated entrance. It helped that his view through the iron bars wasn’t of Buffy.
Though, considering the grace and fury Spike displayed as he attacked the fledgling, not by much.
Nobody had seen him since they’d dispersed from Glory’s tower the night Buffy died. He’d snarled when Xander had refused to let him be the one to carry Buffy away, but his tear-stained face had dampened the effect Giles was sure he strove for. Though the image of a sobbing Spike hunched over after the fall had haunted Giles’s dreams more than once, his responsibilities in seeing to Buffy and then Dawn had taken precedence. Spike had survived for decades without aid. He understood what death was. Giles had to trust he would find a way to deal with the loss, just like everybody else was discovering.
Spike’s elbow slammed into the other vamp’s face, followed quickly by a roundhouse that sent him flying into the low branches of a nearby tree. One skewered the vampire through the chest. Both Spike and his opponent stopped to stare at the wood sticking out from the pocket protector some well-meaning relative had decided to bury him in. A moment later, both vampire and protector crumbled to dust.
Spike scowled. “Bugger,” he muttered.
When he turned away, his balance stumbled, his upper body lurching sideways before he righted himself. Giles’s eyes narrowed as he followed Spike’s trajectory, though when he spotted the bottle tucked away behind a headstone, he could hardly claim to be surprised.
“Come to scold me, Rupert?” Scooping the bottle, Spike dangled it between two fingers as he drained the rest of it away, never even glancing in his direction. “Hurry it on, then. Got miles to go and all that.”
The iron creaked when he pushed the gate open. “Have you done something I need to worry about?”
His eyes cut toward Giles. The whites were bloodshot, the hollows beneath them a relic of restless days. A pang of sympathy stabbed through Giles, though it was simple to shuttle aside. After all, he greeted a similar visage every day in his own mirror. Grief’s mask was hardly unique. “Don’t I always?” Spike said.
But the words lacked bite, regardless of his blood-stained knuckles and the bruise flowering on his jaw. When he began ambling deeper into the graveyard, Giles quickened his step to fall into pace beside him.
“Who was that?” he asked, mostly to stop the surrounding silence from becoming even more oppressive.
“Nobody in particular.”
“So why were you fighting him?”
“Because someone’s got to keep on the fight.” His glance sideways was derisive at best. “Not like you lot are.”
Because they were too busy trying to keep their world together, he wanted to argue, but shame held his tongue. Spike had a point. He hadn’t thought of patrols in the time since Buffy’s death. The problems with Dawn had consumed their waking hours, keeping her under control, finding ways to keep her in Sunnydale. It worked to distract him, for the most part. However, it had also served to help him forget about other duties, issues Buffy had juggled all the way to the end.
“That will change soon.” He ignored Spike’s contemptuous snort. “But not tonight. I’m going out of town for a few days. That’s why I’m here.”
“Key to the whiskey, then.”
“Key to the whiskey. Unless you’re not locking it up anymore, in which case, just make sure it’s stocked. With the good stuff, mind you, not that dishwater you fob off on Xander. I want free rein.”
“What on earth are you talking about?”
“You want me to flat-sit. That’s my price.”
“Bloody cheap, too,” Spike went on. “The witches are likely to burn the place down before you get back, and you know Anya’s going to make the boy shag on your bed–”
“What? She wouldn’t.”
“Why not? She’s shagged him on everything else you own.”
“Spike.” Ignoring the disturbing images Spike’s assertions suddenly suggested, Giles grabbed his arm and forced him to a halt. “This isn’t about my flat. I need you to watch Dawn.”
The mockery vanished. He didn’t know how it was possible when not a muscle moved, not an eyelash blinked. But one moment, Spike was the avaricious, arrogant arse Giles expected him to be, and the next, the broken vampire who hadn’t even risen from where Xander had pushed him away at the tower regarded him with eyes so solemn, Giles forgot what he’d been trying to say.
“Dawn,” Spike repeated, the single syllable measured in heartbeats, time enough for Giles to regain his composure.
“Yes,” he said. “My flight to London’s quite early, and I’ve no one else to ask. Xander needs to return to work, and Anya has to mind the shop. Willow and Tara–”
“I’ll do it.”
Though it knocked him off-balance again, the quick agreement was exactly what he’d hoped for. “She’s been volatile,” he explained, letting Spike go. “Even more so than when Joyce died.”
“Can’t say as I blame her.”
“Well, she’s a teenager. It’s to be expected.”
Spike cocked a brow, his gaze assessing. “Of all of them, I would’ve thought you’d be the one to actually understand what guilt tastes like. Blinders don’t become you, Rupert.”
“So it’s my turn to be scolded, is that it?” he snapped. “I’m doing the best I can. We all are.”
The smile that came was bitter and ancient. “And yet, none of it can touch what Buffy did, now can it?” He swept past Giles, headed for the front gate. Halfway there, he threw the empty bottle he carried against the tree that had staked his earlier opponent.
Glass went flying.
In the eight days since Buffy’s death, Spike had been to the house on Revello Drive exactly zero times. When his traitorous boots tried steering him there, he nicked another bottle of booze and hit the cemeteries instead. Ending his night wearing more blood than leather was infinitely preferable to getting mired in the memories seeing the Summers’ home would evoke.
Besides, like he’d told Giles, somebody had to do the killing in Buffy’s absence. He had to stake a lot more vamps and take a lot more hits before he’d atone for failing so miserably with a runt like Doc.
He stayed hunched in the passenger seat, his feet propped up on the dash, long after Giles pulled into the drive. The house slept, windows darkened, throbbing at the same tempo of the hearts within. This had been the soundtrack of his survival, even though he hadn’t known it at the time, long hours watching and waiting for answers that had come too late.
But it was different now, the bass line deformed, the melody unknown. For all its beckoning, the house was as lost as Buffy was, and he couldn’t shake the macabre feeling it craved his memories to give it purpose.
It wouldn’t get them. They were all Spike had left.
“You’re welcome to stay out here,” Giles said. “But the sun’ll be up in a few hours, which rather defeats the purpose for your stay, don’t you think?”
“Should’ve stopped off for more beer,” he muttered as he unfolded from the seat. He wasn’t nearly drunk enough to face this.
Giles led the way to the front door. “I’ve set up a cot for you in the basement, and there’s blood in the fridge.”
“That sure I’d go along with it, were you?”
He paused, the key hovering at the lock. “Let’s just say I was hoping for the best.”
Though his last visit had come complete with an invitation from Buffy herself, Spike hovered on the threshold, unable to make that step. It was ridiculous. He knew there’d be no barrier. Giles would hardly bring him all this way just to thwart him at the last moment. A few months ago, sure, Giles might have reveled in torturing Spike like that, but the man who’d watched Spike’s fight cut short by a lucky branch and never uttered a judgmental word about it was not as petty as that. He’d learned something from Buffy’s death, too.
It was just a bloody shame they couldn’t have managed these lessons without her sacrifice.
When Spike didn’t move, Giles hesitated again. No lights were on inside, and that sense of him standing on the verge of the house’s gaping maw, willing to be consumed, rattled Spike yet again.
“The first time is difficult.” Giles’s voice was low, inviting intimacy rather than disturbing everyone who still slept above them. “You’re not the only one who’s been drinking. I keep finding excuses to get out as much as possible because I can’t bear the reminders.”
That wasn’t what Spike was afraid of, though. He was terrified he’d never be able to leave once he entered, too content to wallow in exchange for dissolution.
“I wouldn’t ask you to do this if it weren’t for Dawn,” Giles said. “Perhaps she’ll respond to you better than she has to the rest of us.”
Dirty pool, invoking Dawn’s name, but they both knew it would work. Spike took that first step, then another, head tilting toward the stairs as Giles closed the door behind him.
“Who’d you leave looking after her?” he asked.
“Willow and Tara have been staying here.”
“Yeah, but who’s up there now?”
Giles frowned. “Willow and Tara. They’re in Joyce’s room.”
The argument poised on the tip of his tongue, but Spike held it back for a moment to be sure, listening for the pulses, counting them off as he separated them out. “Someone’s on walkabout, then, because there’s only the pair of ’em now.”
“Are you sure?”
Spike leveled a silent stare at him.
Giles grimaced and brushed past him for the stairs. “Right.”
Spike followed, though his attention was divided between Giles’s assertions and his encroaching dread. At the top, Giles headed straight for Joyce’s room, but Spike slowed, zeroing in on Dawn’s closed door. A scent he couldn’t identify, like soot but sweeter, wafted from the cracks.
The dread disappeared. Sheer panic took its place.
The uppermost hinge snapped from the force Spike used to shove the door open. He skidded to a halt at the sight of the empty bed.
“Spike!” Giles’s angry hiss snapped across the distance, but it was nothing compared to the insidious fear crawling down the back of Spike’s neck. “People are sl…”
His voice trailed off as he surveyed the same shadowed disaster Spike did. Wordlessly, he reached and flicked on the overhead light. In the background, Willow and Tara’s sleepy murmurs questioning what was going on faded into the void Spike’s existence had become. All he knew was the devastation before him.
The smell came from scorch marks encircling Dawn’s bed, the carpet burned away to reveal scarred floorboards beneath. More sliced across the wall behind the headboard, but it was the fresh droplets of blood on the fluffy bedspread that sickened Spike the most. They splattered in an aborted arc, arterial spray gone amok before someone had staunched or controlled its flow.
He could’ve stomached all of it if it weren’t for one specific detail.
Dawn was nowhere to be seen.
The peaty smoke spiraled upward, caught in the draft leading through the circular opening cut into the roof. Soot bled down the stone walls, fading to gray near the floor, but the flames had already ebbed to slight flickers, the brilliance darkening to russet and soon to black as they died. Two men stood on opposite sides of the pit, heads bowed, lips moving in mute prayer. The third knelt next to the dais they’d had waiting and watched the ritual’s conclusion just as silently. His turn would come. Patience would serve him best.
When the last tendril of smoke dissipated, the elders raised their eyes at the same time. Though they dressed in near rags, the same drab shade of the stone, the proud lift of their chins and the brands upon their foreheads elevated them from the rest. No one dared to question their authority. Especially in the wake of both such tragedy and jubilation.
“It is done?” Their conjoined voices reverberated off the octagonal walls, echoes lingering seconds after they finished speaking.
He bent his head in supplication. “It is.”
“Were you seen?”
“No. I followed your orders completely. No witnesses to my presence remain.”
He warmed at the compliment, as simple as it was. His negligence had cheated him from duty once, and though his success could be a harbinger of a change in fortune, he had much yet to do to prove his worth to the elders.
As they abandoned the pit to approach, he kept his gaze on the floor. They stepped past him to flank the dais, their robes pooling around them when they crouched down. Fabric whispered against fabric.
A moment later, a fresh flame sprang from the bowels of the pit.
“Yes,” they said. “You’ve done well. The cut is clean and will heal well.”
He held his tongue. Though he’d known what to expect, drawing blood had been the hardest part of his task. His weakness shamed him, regardless of the purity of his reasons.
A second flame joined the first, and they danced around each other to twist into a single lick. Newly formed smoke started to wind its way up to the ceiling.
“Your part is done,” the elders said. “You may go.”
May was the same as will. Slowly, he rose to his feet, maintaining his deference all the way to the door. He glanced back only once, to see them reaching across the dais to grasp hands over the supine body. Their words followed him as he left.
“Let the exchange begin.”
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.dreamwidth.org/816755.html