Chapter 2: From Grief to Grief
“Love crosses its islands, from grief to grief,/it sets its roots, watered with tears,/and no one—no one—can escape the heart’s progress/as it runs, silent and carnivorous./ You and I searched for a wide valley, for another planet/where the salt wouldn’t touch your hair,/where sorrows couldn’t grow because of anything I did,/where bread could live and not grow old./A planet entwined with vistas and foliage,/a plain, a rock, hard and unoccupied:/we wanted to build a strong nest/with our own hands, without hurt or harm or speech,/but love was not like that: love was a lunatic city/with crowds of people blanching on their porches.” ~Pablo Neruda, “Sonnet LXXI”
“Okay, here’s the problem as I see it,” Lucia began, shoving one of the stacks of books to the side. “We can’t both go back in time and through to another dimension.”
“Right. One direction at a time.” Dawn had worked that out on her own, but she knew how Lucia worked by now. The other woman had a tendency to think out loud. “And since going back in time carries the risk of destroying this dimension, we have to find a different one where Spike is alive.”
“And that, amica mia, is going to be the hard part.” Lucia sighed, rubbing her eyes. “You can’t skip through dimensions without some serious magic.”
“What sort of serious magic?” she asked.
“You need power more than anything else. If you have a friend who’s a powerful witch, she might be successful.” Lucia handed their collected notes to Dawn. “Otherwise, you may be out of luck.”
“I think I might be able to do this,” Dawn said quietly.
“Do you know something that I do not?” Lucia asked.
Dawn took a moment to collect her thoughts, wondering exactly how much to tell the other woman. She hadn’t yet told Lucia about her origins, at least not the part about being the Key, and she knew better than to do so now. No matter how much she trusted Lucia—and Dawn did trust her—that was the sort of information that did not get released to the general public.
“Being on the Hellmouth all those years, I think it did something to me. I may have the power for this.”
Lucia didn’t appear convinced. “What else will you need?”
“Just the spell and the rest of the ingredients.”
“Do you want any help?”
“I’d rather not anybody else watch me screw up,” Dawn admitted. “If that’s okay.”
“But you’ll tell me how it goes?”
“Of course.” Dawn looked around the warm apartment. She knew that Lucia had refused better accommodations, insisting that she go through university with minimal help from her mother. The cracked paint and worn furniture were a testament to that.
But that didn’t mean that Lucia wouldn’t let something slip about the girl who could bring people across dimensions.
“I’m not going to tell anyone,” Lucia assured her, as though reading her mind. “I know who Mama works for. I would not betray a friend.”
Dawn knew that Lucia wanted something, but she didn’t want to come right out and ask, thinking that it might be an insult. “I know. Thanks.”
Now it was just a matter of performing the spell with the power running through her veins, because there was no way she could ask anyone for help. She had to do it on her own, or not at all.
After Dawn’s appearance at the crypt, Spike had made sure to stock up on Jack Daniels. He’d nicked a few bottles from the liquor store, bringing the demon to the fore when confronted by the store owner. He had lucked out that it was a store clerk who didn’t reach for a cross and a stake. So many of them did these days.
Unfortunately, he needed more alcohol to silence his regrets and prevent the dreams. Dreaming was wonderful; waking up, however, was not, and Spike wanted—needed—oblivion.
Spike stumbled out of his crypt, intent on getting a few more bottles to numb the pain, for all the good it would do him.
“It’s about time you showed your face, Spike.”
He stopped cold, recognizing the voice as Orva’s, one of the demons he’d previously helped out in his brief foray back to the dark side. He’d burned some bridges there, and it looked like they were planning on taking it out of his hide.
It wasn’t much of a surprise given that he’d killed two of Orva’s brothers to prevent them from killing Dawn.
“Orva. It’s been awhile.” He turned reluctantly to face the purple-skinned demon.
“You had to know I’d come after you, vampire.”
“I thought you might have skipped town. That witch had your number.”
“Not before I took care of some unfinished business,” the demon growled. As if waiting for that signal, five more Snarish demons emerged from the shadows. Orva bared his gray teeth in a vicious grin. “Let me introduce you to the rest of my brothers.”
Spike realized immediately that he was going to die. He was too drunk to take on six Snarish—although he wasn’t sure he’d have been able to fight six successfully while sober, either.
Snarish were tough, nasty buggers, and they had a tendency to hold a grudge, as Orva was now demonstrating.
But the only thing going through his head was that this wasn’t how he wanted to die.
They all piled on him at once, and Spike found himself buried under the bodies of the six demons, blows coming hard and heavy. He could feel ribs crack, and he fought to get free of the weight.
Catching sight of a gap in the bodies, Spike squirmed out, making a dash for his door. He felt claws seize the back of his coat, and he slipped out of it, desperate to get to the relative safety of his crypt. If he could just get to the tunnels, he might be able to escape.
Spike stepped through the door and into an unfamiliar flat.
“Oh, God.” Dawn couldn’t believe that it had worked. She had been able to get her sister out of the apartment by convincing her to go shopping. Apparently, the word “clearance” still worked, at least when shoes were concerned.
The spell she had found with Lucia’s help hadn’t been a guaranteed success, even with her blood as the power source.
It had been a long shot, and she knew it, but now Spike lay sprawled on the floor, appearing rather worse for the wear. At least she’d remembered to close the blinds, so he didn’t have to worry about the sun.
“What the—” Spike rolled over with a grunt of pain, his eyes opening wide at the sight of Dawn. “Little Bit? What are you doing here?”
“You might want to ask what you’re doing here.”
He frowned. “Nibblet?”
“Yeah, that’s me.” She leaned down to give him a hand up. “Are you okay?”
He stared at her outstretched hand. “I’m not dust.”
“And you’re here.”
“I’m home,” Dawn pointed out, figuring that the trip through dimensions had addled his brain. “Technically, you’re here.”
Spike finally reached out, taking her hand tentatively, wincing as she helped him off the floor. He wavered as he rose, and she realized that he was drunk. She had seen him drunk once before, during the summer that Buffy had been dead.
“Come on, sit down.”
He leaned on her heavily as they moved towards the couch, looking dazed and uncertain. “Are you sure I’m not dead?” he asked.
“Actually, I’m pretty sure you are,” Dawn retorted. “But for you, that’s normal.”
Spike shook his head as though to clear it. “Of course, right. But you—” He stopped, rubbing his eyes.
The door swung open, and Buffy came in with a set of bags. “Dawn! I picked up a pair of shoes for you. I can…”
Buffy trailed off, staring at Spike.
Spike had risen from the couch, staring at Buffy with the same expression he’d had on his face when she’d first come down the stairs, after her resurrection.
Dawn cleared her throat. “Hey, Buffy.”
Her sister’s eyes blazed as she looked at Dawn. “Explain. Now.”
Buffy sat stiffly in her chair, staring at the wood grain on the floor. “So, let me get this straight, Dawn. You opened a portal to another dimension, not knowing what was going to come out?”
“Well, Spike was supposed to come out.”
“Try again, Dawn.”
“You could have killed us all.”
“I knew what I was doing,” Dawn insisted. “I researched the spell for weeks!”
“You used your own blood. How could you know that you would be able to close the portal?”
“I knew what I was doing!” Dawn’s voice was full of righteous indignation.
Buffy glanced at Spike, who was still looking dazed. “Go to your room, Dawn.”
Dawn opened her mouth to argue, then stopped, looking between Spike and Buffy with dawning realization. “Yeah. Sure. I’ll be in my room.”
Buffy took Dawn’s place on the couch next to Spike. “Are—are you okay?”
He looked the same, which shouldn’t be a surprise, considering that he was a vampire. But the missing duster, the burgeoning bruises on his face, the smear of blood along one sharp cheekbone, the dark roots in his hair—all spoke of the passage of time.
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m all right.”
“Hell if I know.” When he looked at her, his eyes were hungry, as though he was a starving man looking at his first meal in weeks. “There were Snarish demons, six of them. They wanted to kill me. I tried to get back into the crypt, and the next thing I knew, I was here.”
Spike swallowed hard. “Last thing I knew, you were dead.”
“Last thing I knew, you were the one who was dead.”
“I don’t understand. What—”
Buffy held up her hand, realizing that this wasn’t getting them anywhere. “Okay. How did I die where you were?”
“You were fighting Glory. You took a header off the tower to save Dawn.”
Buffy blinked. “How long ago was that?”
His brow crinkled as he thought about it. “Dunno. Three years? Maybe more.”
“Didn’t Willow try to resurrect me?”
Spike gave her a strange look. “I heard something about that. Tara talked her out of it.”
Buffy looked away, trying to process the implications. This Spike didn’t have a soul, and they had never had a destructive relationship. They would be starting all over.
And maybe that was for the best.
She turned back to him, seeing the naked longing on his face, and she reached out to him without thinking. Gently, she tilted his face to get a better look at his injuries. He was as gaunt as he’d been immediately after she’d rescued him from the First, and she wondered how long it had been since he’d fed.
He was completely still under her hand, not even breathing, and Buffy understood. She was afraid that he was going to disappear, too.
“How—how did I die?”
Spike’s voice broke the silence that had risen up between them, and Buffy blinked, startled. “Huh?”
“You said—you said I was the one who was dead.”
“You died saving the world.”
She saw the hope flash through his eyes. “I kept Glory from hurting Dawn?”
Buffy realized that he’d gotten the wrong impression, but the hope she saw made her want to lie. How easy would it be, she wondered, to tell him yes? To claim that she’d never died, that he had been the one to give his life?
She knew that it was what he’d wanted.
But lying now would mean more lies down the road, and making certain that others knew the story she’d told him, and kept the truth from him. It wouldn’t be long before her story unraveled. Buffy had enough experience to know.
“No. No, I still died, but Willow and the others brought me back. It was later. You kept the Hellmouth from opening.” Buffy could say now what she hadn’t been able to. “You saved me.”
“But not until after I’d failed you.”
The bitterness in his voice took her aback, and Buffy wondered what it had been like for him, in a Sunnydale without a Slayer. She wanted to ask, but she was a little afraid of the answer.
“Do you need anything?” she asked, allowing her hand to drop. “I don’t have any blood here right now, but I can run and get some.”
Spike moved his shoulders in something approximating a shrug. “Don’t want to put you out.”
“You wouldn’t be.” She wiped her hands on her jeans nervously and straightened her black t-shirt. “I’ll just go, then, and you can get cleaned up if you want to.”
Staring down at his hands, he nodded jerkily. “Yeah, sure.”
Buffy saw the dirt under his nails, and she wondered again at what it had been like for him. Spike had always been very clean, cleaner than a lot of the vampires she’d run across.
“I’ll be right back.”
Impulsively, Buffy seized one of his hands in a tight grip, suddenly afraid that if she left, he would disappear.
As though understanding the gesture, Spike looked up to meet her eyes. “I’ll be here, Slayer.”
She offered him a tentative smile, and hurried out, figuring that the sooner she left, the sooner she’d be back.
The shock of landing in a strange place, with Buffy and Dawn having apparently missed him, had addled Spike’s brains. With the alcohol still in his system, he couldn’t be certain that this wasn’t some elaborate dream.
He definitely wasn’t dead; this place bore no resemblance to any hell he knew.
The shower helped to clear his head, and as he pulled on his grungy clothing, he spared a minute to regret leaving his coat behind. Although, perhaps he could ask Buffy if she knew where it might be in this dimension.
Spike pushed the realization that he’d failed in this lifetime to the back of his mind; he’d made up for it, apparently. Buffy and Dawn were alive, and he’d been dead. He must have done something right for the Slayer to be welcoming him into her home.
Dawn was waiting for him when he emerged from the bathroom. “I like the hair.”
He shoved his hands into his pockets self-consciously. “Couldn’t find anythin’ to use.”
“Yeah, well, we don’t approve of helmet hair around here.”
Spike had no idea what to do with himself. The last time he’d seen Dawn—at least in his own dimension—he’d betrayed her. Granted, Spike had saved her life, but he wouldn’t have needed to if he hadn’t broken his promise first.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“You’re pretty quiet.” Dawn gave him a tentative smile. “That’s a little unusual.”
He felt a hot rush of anger rise to choke him. “You were the one who brought me here. You tell me what you want me to say.”
“Was I still alive?”
“Yeah.” Spike was quick to put her fears to rest. “You were graduating high school an’ everythin’. Last I heard, you were livin’ with Willow an’ Tara.”
“What about you?”
She sounded surprised that he hadn’t been a part of her life, and Spike had no idea what to tell her. “I wasn’t a good influence.”
She snorted. “Bullshit. That’s what they always said, but it wasn’t true.”
Dawn sounded so sure of herself, so sure of him. He thought about telling her how wrong she was, but realized that he had the opportunity to do now what he should have done then. So, instead he said, “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“I guess you don’t have your soul, huh?”
“My soul?” He stared at her in horror. “I got cursed?”
Dawn winced. “No, you asked for it.”
“Why the hell would I do that?”
The front door swung open and Buffy entered, a little less enthusiastically this time. “I got your blood, Spike.” She stopped, staring at the two of them. “What’s going on?”
“I was just filling Spike in,” Dawn said, sounding a little nervous. “You know, I think I’m going to—”
“Do you have a friend you can stay with, Dawn?” Buffy asked coolly.
Spike could hear an audible gulp from Dawn. “Uh, sure. I’ll give Lucia a call.”
“Dawn said I had a soul, that I asked for it.” Spike tried to stay calm, tried to keep the panic out of his voice. Everything was moving too fast, and he didn’t understand any of it. “What the hell is this, Buffy? What the bloody hell am I doing here?”
He couldn’t prevent his voice from rising. After three years of pining after Buffy, of trying to return to what he’d been, he had discovered that he’d changed too much to go back. But by the time he’d made that realization, Spike had broken his promise, and had burned every bridge.
But standing here now, it was as though it had never happened.
“Buffy? I’m going to take off.”
Dawn sounded tentative, as though she expected Buffy to go off. Spike was beginning to understand why. This Buffy looked older, harder than he remembered. He hadn’t noticed it immediately, what with her touching him, and looking at him with wonder in her green eyes.
The Slayer nodded, crossing her arms over her chest—defensively, Spike thought, as though she would fly apart if she didn’t hold herself together. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Dawn.”
When the front door had closed behind the girl, Buffy began speaking. “I’m going to go over this once, because it’s not something I like thinking about, or talking about. What I’m going to tell you, I’m telling you because you’re the only other person who knows all of it.”
Spike sat down, sensing that she needed him to be quiet. “Okay.”
“You don’t have to tell me anything,” Buffy began. “Not unless you want to.”
He eyed her cautiously. “Don’t know that you’d want to hear it, luv.”
“Maybe you’ll change your mind after you hear what I have to say.”
It had been harder to tell Spike the entire story than she’d thought it would. Halfway through, sometime after she’d explained why he’d gone to get his soul—as much as she knew, at least—and before she got into what the First Evil had to do with things, Buffy had had to stop for sustenance.
Spike hadn’t asked for anything to eat, and Buffy had to wonder whether he’d been eating regularly at all—or if he’d been drinking nothing but the alcohol she’d smelled on him right at first.
Judging by his expression, he was completely sober now.
Buffy glanced at the clock, realizing that it was well after midnight, and she was exhausted.
“You should get some sleep,” Spike said, as though reading her mind.
“Aren’t you tired?”
He shrugged. “Vampire, here. Think I’ll be fine.”
Buffy nodded, still reluctant to go to bed. She didn’t want to leave him, and she couldn’t ask him to do what she most desired.
“What is it?”
“How do you do that?”
“How do I do what?”
“Read my mind.” She attempted a shaky smile. “You always seem to know what I’m thinking, even now when…” Buffy trailed off, realizing that he didn’t know her. Spike couldn’t know her, not the way her Spike had.
Spike touched her cheek with a callused finger. “You don’t have a poker face, luv.”
She laughed wearily, looking away, wondering how it was he could still want to touch her after everything she’d just told him. “I guess not.”
“Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it.”
Buffy had to fight back a sob, remembering how Spike had sung of being her willing slave, and how she had used that to her own advantage. “Oh, Spike.”
“Did you really miss me?”
She heard the wistful note in his voice, and Buffy knew that even if it hadn’t been completely true, she would have had the same response. “Every minute of every day.”
“Then ask me to do anything.” He sounded almost desperate. “I want to make it up to you.”
“Make what up to me?”
“I failed you, didn’t I?”
Buffy didn’t think he was just talking about what had happened on the tower, about not being able to prevent Glory from hurting Dawn. And she really didn’t want to know. Right now, she wanted to pretend that everything was fine, that she had the second chance that Dawn had so clearly wanted for her.
“It doesn’t matter now,” she finally managed. “But I was wondering if you’d stay with me tonight.”
Her tentative suggestion caused him to smile, the first real one Buffy had seen on his face in longer than she cared to admit. “I think that falls under ‘anything.’”
She could tell that Spike was trying to sound as though it didn’t matter to him, as though he was doing her a favor—which he was.
She couldn’t help but think that this might just work after all.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/330680.html