And the final chapter. I hope you all enjoyed.
Previous parts can be found here.
“The truth which has made us free will in the end make us glad also.” ~Felix Adler
Giles rubbed tired eyes and considered the ritual again. It had been four very long days since Buffy had disappeared, and he thought they might finally have the answer.
No one had known what to think when Buffy didn’t return from her patrol with Spike. Xander had immediately jumped to the conclusion that the vampire had something to do with her disappearance, but Giles hadn’t been so sure. The chip would have prevented Spike from harming her, and somehow Giles just didn’t think Spike was involved.
They’d done a sweep of the usual cemeteries, and had found a strange blue residue on the ground in one of them. It had taken a day and a half to identify the substance. Giles supposed that it only made sense that Buffy would get herself in trouble on a routine patrol. She did have a tendency to attract strange phenomena like a magnet. Who knew that she would get caught in the Andraseks’ annual ritual?
Well, Buffy and Spike, Giles was assuming, since the vampire hadn’t shown up on his own.
Not that anyone knew much about the ritual, only that it opened a portal, and no one who had gotten caught up in their magic had ever been seen again. That meant that Giles had to figure out where they had sent Buffy—something no one had seemed to know—and then he had to figure out how to get her back.
In the end, Giles had been forced to call Angel for his assistance. Angel had gone to speak with some oracle, who had given him the name of the dimension. Then, Giles had started calling in favors from everyone he knew who might be able to help him create a portal that would not only open in the right dimension, but would open where Buffy was located within that dimension.
It wouldn’t do him any good to create a door if his Slayer was on the other side of the world.
“I brought the supplies, Giles!” Willow announced, coming through his door, a paper sack in her arms. “Are we going to do the spell here?”
Giles nodded. “We’ll have to clear the room as much as possible. It might be better to have more space, but I don’t know where else to do this.”
“I think we’ll have enough room if we shove everything against the walls,” Willow replied, setting the bag down on his desk. “When are we doing this?”
“Immediately.” He put his glasses back on and straightened his shoulders. Giles didn’t want Willow to know how worried he was, knowing that other dimensions often had different timelines. They could get Buffy back moments after she had left for her—or it could have been years where she was.
Willow seemed to grasp that without him saying anything, however. “Time is of the essence, huh?”
They worked in harmony, quickly setting up the protective circle that would act as the portal. Giles didn’t want to admit that he was also more than a little concerned about something nasty coming out, but there was really nothing he could do about that other than to have a weapon at the ready. If all went as planned, they would have the Slayer back, and she would be able to take care of anything else that came through.
Assuming that all went well, that she was in one piece, that she was strong enough to fight.
“I think we’re ready,” Willow said.
Giles glanced at her. Dark circles made her eyes look bruised. He’d finally sent Xander home a few hours ago, knowing that the boy would be more of a hindrance than a help in a situation like this. Willow had worked tirelessly, however, and he knew it would have taken a lot longer to come up with a solution if she hadn’t been helping.
“Right. You might want to stand back, and take the crossbow.”
Her eyes widened, but Willow did as she was told, taking a firm grip on the weapon and backing up into a corner of the room. “Ready,” she squeaked out.
Giles began the chant, speaking the words with little difficulty. Languages had always come easy for him. So had magic, when you got right down to it. Not that he would ever be more than a petty sorcerer, but he had talents that the children didn’t know about.
He preferred to keep it that way.
The circle began to glow, pulsing with light, and Giles could feel the power begin to move through him. He kept his voice steady with some effort, looking at the stuffed pig that sat in the middle of the circle. The general idea was that the personal item would allow the portal to open near the Slayer’s location in the other dimension.
Blue fire streaked the air, and Giles could feel the wind rush past his face. He shut his eyes against the glare and wind, continuing with the spell from memory, shouting out the last word.
The wind and light both died suddenly, and he opened his eyes to see both Buffy and Spike crouched in the center of the circle. Giles only had eyes for Buffy, though, and he quickly assessed her condition, trying to determine if she was hurt.
She was dirty, her clothing was torn and stained, but when she straightened, Giles could see grace and strength in her movements. Physically, at least, she was fine.
He also noted that Buffy’s first concern was obviously for Spike, because her eyes sought the vampire before she even glanced at him. “Spike?”
“I’m good,” he replied, standing.
They were both thinner, Giles saw. Thinner, and somehow more wild—both of them. There was an almost feral light in Buffy’s eyes that he didn’t remember ever seeing before.
“Buffy!” The cry came from Willow as she flung the crossbow aside and went to embrace her friend. “Are you okay? I’m sorry it took us a few days to figure out how to get you back. Giles and I have been working on it non-stop, I promise. Are you really okay?”
“I’m fine,” Buffy said absently, looking at Giles. “A few days?”
“It’s been four days,” he acknowledged. “How long for you?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know. Spike?”
“Longer than that. Four weeks? Five?”
Giles watched their easy exchange, the way they seemed so attuned to one another, and he wondered what had happened. Obviously, quite a bit had changed. “Are you well, Buffy?”
“I’m good,” she said. “Really. Although, I could murder a hamburger. Food was a little scarce where we were.”
“I’ll call Xander,” Willow offered. “I know he’ll want to see you, too.”
Giles didn’t miss the way both Spike and Buffy seemed to stiffen at that. “Yeah, sure, although I don’t know if I’m up for a big reunion scene right now. I really need to get into some different clothes.”
“You got any blood in the fridge?” Spike asked.
“Of course, Spike,” Giles said. “Go ahead.”
Spike and Buffy shared a long look. “Think I’ll take off after that.”
“If you want,” Buffy replied.
“Don’t want to be here when Harris shows up.”
Giles waited until Spike was in the kitchen, heating up his blood, before pulling Buffy aside. Willow was still on the phone with Xander, giving him explicit instructions on what kinds of food would be best to bring. “You’re going to let Spike go?”
“He can’t hurt anyone, Giles,” Buffy said quietly. “He should be able to make his own choices on where to live.”
“What happened, Buffy?”
“Spike kept me alive, Giles,” she said. “That’s what happened.”
“I’m off.” Spike was staring at her, his expression inscrutable.
Buffy pulled away from her Watcher. “Okay. I’ll see you?”
With that, Spike was gone, and Giles saw how his Slayer’s eyes stayed on the door. “You two seem to have reached a truce.”
“We had to,” Buffy said simply. Then she looked at Giles, and a little of the girl he knew came back into her eyes. “So, how bad do I look?”
Giles smiled and spoke the truth. “You look wonderful.” And with that, he did what he’d been wanting to do since she appeared, and pulled her into his arms.
Buffy stared at the ceiling. It had been two days since she had seen Spike, and she missed him horribly. She supposed it only made sense since they hadn’t spent more than five minutes apart over the last few weeks. Even after the truth spell had worn off, their conversations had been more honest than any Buffy had had with anyone.
She’d known immediately when the spell had worn off. They had been curled up in the cavern she’d come to think of as “theirs,” under his duster for warmth. Not that she had really needed the warmth. Buffy knew she would have been fine without it, but she wouldn’t have been as comfortable.
“Did you hate the spell that much?” she had asked him.
“Which one, pet?”
“The one Willow did. You know which one.”
“I—” Spike had stiffened behind her. “Yeah, bloody awful, it was.”
Buffy had known in that moment that he was lying to her, and she’d started to pull away, only to have Spike tug her closer. “No, I didn’t hate it,” he murmured in her ear. “Hated when it was gone. Felt like I’d lost something big.”
“Me too,” Buffy had replied.
She thought that exchange had occurred about three days into their stay, but she couldn’t be sure. The days had begun to run together so that it was impossible to tell where one ended and the next began. Neither of them had a watch, and after a while, Buffy had realized that she didn’t even know how long they had been there, how long they had been underground.
It was a strange to realize that she hadn’t even missed the sun.
When she had asked, Spike had said, “Don’t know how long it’s been. Probably should have been keeping track somehow, but it didn’t seem all that important.”
Buffy swallowed hard. It had been so easy there. There was only her and Spike and staying alive somehow. Her friends, her Watcher, none of them had been there. It hadn’t even really mattered that Spike was a vampire, except that it meant she didn’t have to worry quite so much about him. Buffy could trust him to pull his own weight, and even hers on occasion.
She had missed her friends, of course, and her mom and Giles and showers and real food—but it hadn’t been such a horrible place to be.
Now they were back in the real world, where it mattered that she was the Slayer and Spike was a vampire. Where they couldn’t be together, because it didn’t work that way here.
Not that they were together. At all. Except that they had been, every day.
She missed him. So much.
Willow’s voice breached the darkness, and Buffy winced. “Sorry, Will,” she whispered. “Am I keeping you up?”
The lamp flicked on. “It’s okay. I wasn’t really asleep.” Willow’s concern was evident on her face. “Are you okay? You’ve been…” She trailed off. “You haven’t said much about what happened.”
“That’s because there isn’t much to say,” Buffy replied. “It was just Spike and me, underground, trying not to get eaten.”
Willow sat up, tugging her comforter up around her shoulders. “Was it bad? With Spike?”
“Strangely not,” Buffy said. “He’s actually a pretty handy guy to have around when you need to rough it.”
“Then what’s wrong, Buffy?” Willow asked.
How could Buffy tell her? How could she explain what it had been like to feel, for just a few weeks, that everything was so incredibly easy? Hard, too. There had never been enough to eat, and the bathroom facilities sucked, but it had all been so clear.
There was living, and there was dying. And there had been nothing in between.
“It’s different here, Willow,” Buffy said with a sigh. “It was—it was like taking a really long vacation from my life, and now I just have to get back into the swing of things. It’ll be fine. I’ll be fine.”
“Okay,” Willow said. “But if you want to talk…”
“I know,” Buffy replied.
But Willow wasn’t the one she wanted to talk to.
Spike had found a cozy little crypt with easy access to the tunnels. It was perfect for his needs, although he couldn’t help but wonder if his needs hadn’t changed a bit. He couldn’t help but wonder what Buffy would say, and whether there was any way he could ask her to come here.
Not that she would now that they were back in Sunnydale.
On the off chance that things wouldn’t change, however, Spike had done his poor best to make the crypt comfortable. He’d done this sort of thing for Dru before, and even for Harmony. Spike could survive with very few creature comforts, but he’d do anything for the woman he loved.
Yeah. He could admit it. Spike, Slayer of Slayers, was in love with the Slayer. He could see the irony.
It had hit him out of the blue. They’d been foraging as best they could, relying on Spike’s sense of direction to navigate the dark corridors between the well-lit caverns. They had remained in the first one, even though they’d gradually had to go further and further to hunt for food. On one expedition, they’d managed to find a grove of trees.
Spike had nearly been struck dumb by the strange beauty of that place. Buffy had slipped her hand into his as they had stopped to drink it in silently.
They should have been paying more attention, because it only made sense that in a place like that there would be other living creatures. The thing that had attacked them bore a passing resemblance to a big cat, although the jaw had been all wrong for that. Spike had instinctively put himself in front of Buffy, and it had gone straight for his jugular.
Not that it could have killed him, but getting your throat chewed on was never comfortable.
Buffy had been on its back in the next moment, almost snarling as she wrapped her arms around its thick neck. Spike had gripped it by the muzzle, trying to prevent it from going anywhere while the Slayer broke its neck.
It had finally gone limp on top of him, and Buffy had wrestled the creature’s body off of him, ordering him to stay still. Spike had obeyed, thinking that she had sensed some new danger. Instead, she had simply wanted to be sure he was unhurt before she allowed him to move.
“Are you okay?” She’d asked, running her hands over his arms and chest.
His duster had taken the worst of it, and Spike had smiled. “Just fine, luv. Don’t you worry about me.”
“I’ll worry about you if I want to,” she said. “Hold still. That thing cut your neck.”
That’s when it had hit him. He loved her, and he was seriously buggered.
Now they were back in Sunnydale, and it appeared as though everything was back to business as usual. Not that he’d expected anything different, of course. They’d been in a different world then. This was the real world. This was where they belonged.
Spike just didn’t know why he felt so out of place.
He turned over in his big bed, unable to sleep without the warmth of her body snuggled next to him.
Spike squeezed his eyes tightly shut. He was really, seriously buggered.
Buffy was daydreaming her way through the Scooby meeting. Giles was talking about some big threat, but he hadn’t yet said anything about how she was supposed to kill it. Once he got there, she’d pay attention, but for right now she was thinking about Spike and how she was going to find him so they could go kill the big threat together.
She missed that—killing things together. They’d gotten really good at it.
Okay, killing things and kissing. They were really good at that, too.
It had been the day after that first night they’d slept together, and Buffy had said, “You know, kissing is what got us into this mess.”
Spike had given her a sardonic look. “How so?”
“Well, we were kissing when the demons showed up,” she pointed out.
“Not sure where you’re going with this.”
“If kissing got us into this, maybe it will get us out.”
“No.” He gave her a dirty look. “Look, if you want to snog, say you want to snog, but don’t go giving me some stupid excuse for it.”
Buffy huffed. He always had to make things difficult. “Do you want to kiss me?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” Buffy knew he was telling the truth. The spell was still in effect. “Why don’t you know?”
“Because if you’re goin’ to make up some excuse for why it’s so horrible, then I don’t really want to kiss you.”
“I have never said that it was horrible!” Buffy protested.
Spike looked her straight in the eye. “There isn’t a spell on us. This isn’t to prove some silly theory you’ve got about how the spell made you think you liked getting kissed by me. If we do this, it’ll be because we want it.”
“I want it.”
That’s all it had taken. They had kissed, and done some serious making out, but it hadn’t gone any further than that. Buffy knew that they would have had sex if Giles hadn’t brought them back when he did. Even now she couldn’t help but wonder how it would be.
She was pretty sure it would be good, if the kissing were any indication.
“Buffy!” Giles’ irritated tone told her that this wasn’t the first time he’d tried to get her attention.
“Sorry,” she apologized, bringing her focus back to her Watcher. “What’s up?”
“I was just wondering if you would be so kind as to—”
The door banged open and Spike marched in. “Didn’t mean to interrupt,” he said, his tone snide.
“What are you doing here?” Xander asked. “I thought we’d gotten rid of the Chipped Wonder.”
Every eye was suddenly on Buffy. “What?” Xander asked, a little startled that she’d spoken up for the vampire with a barb that mild.
“Just don’t, Xander. Nobody thinks it’s funny,” Buffy said. “There’s no point to your baiting Spike.”
“There’s every point!” Xander objected. “He’s Spike!”
“He kept me alive for five weeks,” Buffy replied. “So just drop it already.”
Xander actually looked a little chastened by that, and he slumped back down in his chair, muttering a little under his breath. Giles and Willow were both looking at her strangely, and Buffy stood. “What did you need to get, Spike?”
“The rest of my stuff.” He was looking at her, and it was like it was just the two of them again. Like they were the only people in the world. “Few things. Shouldn’t take me long.”
“Do you want to help me kill something?”
Spike went about gathering his things, and Buffy turned back to her Watcher. “So what were you saying about killing this thing?”
“Uh, the usual means should do it,” Giles replied. “I was just saying that you might want company, but it appears that you have it.”
“We’re good.” Buffy gave her friends a bright smile, determinedly ignoring the way Willow was looking from her to Spike and back again with an alarmed expression on her face. They were probably going to freak when they realized that Spike wasn’t going anywhere, and that Buffy didn’t want him to.
“Be careful, Buffy,” Giles warned her.
She smiled. “Always.”
It was a relief to be out from among them, Spike thought. A relief to have Buffy on his right, a familiar presence that he’d missed over the last few days. The world felt crowded now, with more than just the two of them.
“I haven’t seen you,” Buffy commented.
“Didn’t know you’d want to,” he replied.
He heard her sigh. “It’s weird, isn’t it? Being back.”
“Yeah. It is, a bit.”
They walked in silence, the night air cool around them, the stars overhead shining brightly. Spike realized that he’d missed the stars, just like he would miss that strange, beautiful world where the colors were all wrong.
“What are we supposed to do now?”
Spike didn’t bother asking what she meant. He knew, and they had given up lying to one another. Even being back in Sunnydale didn’t change that. “I don’t know. Guess it’s back to normal, yeah?”
“You know what I miss most?” Buffy asked.
“It being easy.” Buffy stopped, staring at him. “It was so easy, Spike. I wasn’t the Slayer, and you weren’t a vampire. It was just Spike and Buffy. Now it’s all different.”
“Why does it have to be different?” Spike demanded. “We’re still us, aren’t we? Still fighting things that go bump in the night. We were a team.”
“We were a team,” Buffy emphasized. “Now—”
“We could be a team,” Spike insisted, cutting her off. “I could watch your back, keep you alive. That hasn’t changed, Buffy. You still need someone watching your back.”
She shook her head, but he could see that she was weakening. “The chip—”
“The chip doesn’t have anything to do with this,” Spike nearly snarled. “What I feel for you.”
Her eyes widened. “Oh.”
“Yeah, oh. You had to bloody well see it,” Spike snapped.
“I didn’t know if it was just—” She stopped. “So what now?”
“What do you want me to say?” Spike asked her.
Buffy glanced away and then back at him, her green eyes luminous. “I want you to tell me the truth.”
“I want you. I can’t sleep without you there. And I want it to be like it was,” Spike said. “I want us to be…”
“An us?” Buffy took a deep breath. “So maybe now would be a good time to tell you that I missed you, too?”
His lips found hers, and it was all so simple, so real, so right. They wanted each other, they made a good team, and they watched each other’s backs.
Maybe it didn’t mean happily ever after, but it was pretty damn close.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/77906.html