Final Chapter of WTIHM

This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series When the Ice Has Melted
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And here it is – the final chapter. My apologies to readers of the prequel who may have been expecting a lot of sex at some point. That wasn’t what this fic was about. It’s possible I’ll revisit this AU Season V and get Spike and Buffy back into bed, but it’s not a priority for any of us right now. :) 

Chapter Nine (9/9)

The few vampires that hadn’t left as soon as Buffy was past their rooms, bolted for the stairs, dragging their confused companions behind them. Spike followed in a leisurely fashion, his ears attuned to the room he’d just left and the loud conversation going on there.

“Are you crazy?” Buffy’s shriek didn’t require vampire hearing to understand, although Riley’s responding mutter would have been inaudible to anyone else.

“Just spending some time with someone who actually wants what I have to give,” he said, standing up straighter and doing his best to seem offended.

“You’re out here getting sucked on. By one of those creatures you keep telling me are evil animals.” She stopped and stared at Riley’s abashed face. “Are you really trying to get yourself turned? Do you really think that’s going to change anything between us?”

“Yes! No! I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. What am I supposed to think when the girl I thought was in love with me spends more time with a vampire than she does with me?”

“Riley…” Buffy’s voice dropped lower, and Spike strained to hear what she was going to say. “I’m…I’m not like other girls. I can’t be. I probably never was, I just didn’t notice how much different I was until I was called. I’m sorry that you got caught up in my attempt to be a normal college student with a normal love life. I guess I should have known better. Spike tried to tell me–”

“And we’re back to Spike.” Riley’s voice was flat and hard. “Let me guess, he told you that you could never be happy with a human – and you just went for it.”

“Well…yeah, he did, actually. But I was thinking more about some things he said years ago – when we were still enemies who hated each other. Spike’s never let me hide from what I am, no matter how hard I might be trying to. He’s always known what a slayer is – or should be – and he has always called me on it when I’m doing something ‘unnatural’.” She shook her head and turned away. “My life has been different from most slayers’, I have family, friends, good fashion sense – but underneath it all, I am what I am.”

“And that is?”

Buffy shrugged. “A killer. I’m someone who kills evil, but sentient beings.” She raised her eyes to Riley’s. “And I’m very good at it. Don’t ever forget that, Riley.”

She turned and walked towards the door.

“That’s it? That’s all you have to say?”

Buffy responded without turning around to look at him. “I made myself clear this morning, Riley. If you keep doing this, you’re putting yourself in danger of being turned. You’re a big boy. It’s your decision.”

Buffy opened the door and walked out, leaving it open behind her. She walked down the now empty hall without glancing into the rooms she passed, ignoring the few humans still getting dressed and trying to figure out what was going on.

Spike was waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs, turning silently to follow her out the door and down the steps to where Gina and Dixie were cowering against a dumpster. Buffy walked up to them, saying through tight lips, “My Watcher wants to talk to you. You’ll find him at the Magic Box,” then she spun around and strode off down the street in the opposite direction.

Spike looked back and forth between Buffy’s rapidly disappearing back and the two puzzled girls. He gave a deep sigh then said quickly, “Go to the Magic Box and talk to the man. He’s fair enough – for a Council wanker. Convince him that you’re harmless and tell him whatever he needs to hear about how you get by. He won’t hurt you.”

He gave them a reassuring smile and pointed towards what passed for a downtown in Sunnydale. “Go on with you. You’ll be alright.”

As soon as the girl vampires had left, Spike squared his shoulders and took off after Buffy, using the lingering scent on the air to follow her until he was once more close enough to see her. He sprinted the last hundred yards, catching up with her in time to match her steps as she marched steadily into the demon section of Sunnydale.

After another minute of silent walking he ventured, “Are you alright? Didn’t kill the big git, did you?”

“No, of course I didn’t kill him. And don’t pretend you weren’t listening. I know you heard me.”

He nodded. “I did.”

They walked on until the buildings started to become more familiar and Spike realized that Buffy had walked through the demon area and was now heading back towards the outskirts of it. Heading, in fact, directly towards Willy’s. Without discussion, they approached the seedy bar and went in, Spike once again holding the door for the Slayer.

Willy’s face paled as he saw them enter, and several of his patrons slipped out the back door leaving their unfinished drinks on the bar. However, instead of threatening him for information, Buffy just walked to a booth, glared at the small demon sitting in it until he jumped up with a “Have a seat, Slayer.” She slid onto the padded bench and said, “Bring me a drink, Willy.”

“Uh…” the hovering bartender stammered. “Could you be a little more specific, Sla- er, Miss Summers?”

“Bring us a bottle of Jack,” Spike said, sliding into the opposite seat. “The good Jack; and clean glasses.”

Willy scampered off to follow Spike’s instructions, leaving the vampire staring at Buffy’s impassive face.

“Gonna talk to me, pet?”

“Don’t feel like talking,” she muttered, staring at her hands twisting together on the damp tabletop. She thought back to the night Spike had told her that she made death with her hands every day. Her eyes flew to his. “I am a killer. I never really felt like one until tonight when I saw how scared of me they all were – and until I admitted it to Riley. The Council can call us “slayers” if they want to, but we’re trained killers. That’s what we are.”

Spike cautiously put one hand on top of hers, gently pressing it down to still the twisting and wringing.

“You’re The Slayer, love. The Chosen One. The one who stands between all that’s good and all that isn’t. You kill because that’s the only way to rid the world of the kind of evil you were born to destroy.” He watched her expression anxiously, not liking at all what he was hearing in her voice.

“Is that why you like me?” she blurted suddenly. “Because I’m a killer, just like you? That’s what you told me, isn’t it? That I’m like you?”

He winced visibly and withdrew his hand, running it over his face to give himself time to think.

“You’re nothing like me,” he finally said, his voice quiet and controlled. “I know it, and you know it. If I said that…” Her glare stopped him. “When I said that, I was trying to get…I was….” He shrugged and gazed at her with an expression that, had he not been a soulless vampire, she would have called ‘shame’. “Was looking to make you weak, Buffy. I wanted you, and knew you wouldn’t allow yourself to be with a soulless creature – even if you… I was just blowin’ smoke in your eyes, hoping you’d not see me clearly.”

“I think I see you pretty clearly,” she said enigmatically.

“Then you understand why I was trying to bring you down to my level,” he said, slumping back in the bench.

There was no answer as Willy returned with a new bottle of Jack Daniels and two relatively clean glasses. He set them down on the table and scuttled back to the bar, hoping it wouldn’t turn out that the Slayer was as mean a drunk as her companion could be.

The bar remained fairly empty as each new prospective customer came in, ordered, and then noticed who was sitting in the back booth. Even the slime-covered demon who spotted Spike and swaggered over to harass him about his gambling debts paled when he saw who the vampire’s companion was. He took one look at Buffy tossing back shots, and immediately began to apologize for bothering them. He left quickly, not noticing Buffy’s giggle of amusement or Spike’s angry glare that the demon hadn’t been afraid of him, but quailed at the sight of the Slayer.

“Laugh it up,” he muttered. “Next time I see that git, I’ll show him which one of us he really needs to worry about.”

“Nice to know that Riley isn’t the only one with masculinity issues about dating the Slayer,” Buffy said, giggling again as Spike’s face became thunderous.

He growled under his breath and glowered for a full minute before shaking his head and breaking out in a reluctant smile. “Touché, pet,” he said, nudging her foot with his toe. “It is a mite hard on the old ego when the nasties are more afraid of a slip of a girl than they are of the Big Bad.”

“So,” she said, suddenly serious and not meeting his eyes as she drew circles on table with a finger she’d dipped in her drink. “Are you going to go running off to get sucked by vamp ho’s now, too?”

He put one hand over hers and stopped her aimless circles.

“I hope you meant that to be funny,” he said, waiting for her to look up and meet his eyes. ” ’cause if you didn’t…”

“I’m sorry,” she sighed. She cast an accusing eye at the amber liquid in her glass. “I thought this stuff would make me feel better,” she complained. “Isn’t that why you drink it?” She downed another shot, following it with the usual full-body shudder. “It can’t be for the taste!”

Spike chuckled and swallowed his own glassful, smacking his lips and rolling his eyes.

“I like the taste,” he said, pouring more into his glass and raising his eyebrow in question. He laughed when Buffy put a hand over her own glass and gave him a horrified “no!”.

“There’s no point in drinking it if it isn’t going to make me feel better,” she grumbled. “It’s like forcing down medicine that isn’t working.”

“I think it’s working,” he said. “You’ve apologized. To me. Clearly indicates that you’re well on your way to being drunk on your delectable arse.”

“I think I’m about to be sick to my delectable stomach,” she said in a suddenly small voice. “Does this place even have a ladies room?” She stared around frantically until Spike pointed to the hall right behind their booth.

“Right there, pet. Can’t guarantee how clean it is, but—”

Buffy leapt to her feet and ran down the hall, shoving the door open as she reached the first restroom. Snarling “get out!” at the very male demon relieving himself at a urinal, she just made it to the first stall before her stomach rejected the alcohol she’d been forcing into it.

After several minutes of retching until she was sure the lining of her stomach was going to come up through her throat, she finally lost the need to bend over and staggered to the sink. Ignoring the fact that it obviously hadn’t been cleaned in a very long time, she ran the cold water over her hands and splashed it on her face until she felt almost normal. She shuddered as she scooped up a mouthful of water and rinsed the foul taste from her mouth. She was still leaning over the sink and scrubbing at her face and mouth with a paper towel when Spike came in the door.

“You alright, pet?”

“I’m drunk, sick, embarrassed and standing in the men’s room of a demon bar. Yeah, I’m just peachy.”

He put a tentative hand on her back and said, “Come on. Let me take you home. You’ll feel better tomorrow.”

When Buffy cocked a disbelieving eye at him, he amended, “Or not. But by the afternoon, for sure.”

“I don’t want to go back out there,” she mumbled.

“No problem, Slayer. We’ll sneak out the back and no one will ever know that you can’t hold your liquor.”

With uncharacteristic meekness, she allowed Spike to usher her out into the hallway and turn her away from the main room, shielding her with his body. They made their way to the back door without seeing anything but a small, fish-like demon that scampered away when he saw Spike’s fangs. The cool night air was refreshing and Buffy was soon feeling more like herself.

The long walk back to Revello Drive was slower than it could have been, with Buffy stopping to yawn every once in while and actually leaning up against a tree once and trying to nap. Although his face couldn’t hide his amusement, Spike eventually scooped her up and began striding towards her home.

“Wha– what are you doing?”

“Getting you back to your own little bed before I have to fight off half the demons in Sunnydale. You think you can just take naps out here and none of them are going to notice?”

“Oh,” she said, loosely draping her arms around his neck. ” ‘k, then.” Her head dropped onto his chest and she began to snore softly. Shaking his head, Spike marveled at how soft and vulnerable one of the earth’s deadliest creatures could seem when she was asleep.

He was all the way to the front door when he realized that he had no way to get inside the house with a sleeping girl in his arms. Growling at himself, he debated kicking on the door until he woke Joyce up versus carrying Buffy to his crypt to sleep it off there. He was relieved of his dilemma when the door opened on Joyce’s frowning face.

“What happened?”

“It’s okay, Joyce. She’s not hurt, just a little…under the weather.”

Joyce sniffed and made a face. “She’s drunk, you mean.” She fastened a hard eye on Spike. “Did you take my daughter out and get her drunk?”

Spike swallowed audibly, but bravely held onto his snoring burden.

“It was her idea,” he said meekly. “I didn’t know she was planning to get pissed.”

Joyce glared at him long enough that he began to look around anxiously in case she had a weapon handy. Finally, she relaxed her shoulders and sighed.

“Fine. So what happened?”

“Don’t think that’s my tale to tell,” Spike said softly as he followed Joyce’s gesture and started up the stairs with his burden.

“Does this have anything to do with that stupid soldier?”

“A bit,” he allowed, then shrugged. “Has more to do with her callin’ I think. It’s taken quite a toll on her life in the past few years.”

“I’m sure it has,” Joyce said as she followed him into Buffy’s room and watched him lay her daughter on the bed. His hand lingered, brushing lightly across Buffy’s face before he remembered that he wasn’t alone and stood up quickly. Joyce continued, “I don’t know how these girls don’t go insane from living like this for so long.”

“Most of ’em don’t live this long,” Spike said, meeting her frightened eyes. “They’re lucky if they last a year or more. Buffy’s an exception, Joyce. She’s different. Special.”

“How long can she keep being an exception?” Joyce’s voice was almost a moan as she accepted the truth of his words. It was something she knew instinctively, but had forced herself not to dwell on.

“As long as I’m alive to keep it that way,” Spike said as he edged away from the bed, his reluctance to leave Buffy there alone visible in every line of his body.

“Thank you for that, Spike,” Joyce said, maneuvering him out the door. “Let me get Buffy cleaned up and tucked in and I’ll join you downstairs. There’s blood in the refrigerator if you’re hungry.”

Taking the hint, Spike went downstairs and shrugged out of his coat, leaving it on a chair in the living room as he passed through on his way to the kitchen. He took out the container of pig blood and poured a mug for himself while he waited for Joyce to come back. When she walked in, he was just taking the warmed blood from the microwave and she waved him to a seat at the counter.

Sitting across from him, she sighed and put her head in her hands. He was instantly alert.

“Head hurts?” he asked, mug of blood forgotten as he rushed around the counter.

“No,” she smiled at his concerned face. “The head is fine. I’m just too tired to sleep, I guess. And finding out that my daughter’s…job…is driving her to drink didn’t help.”

Reassured, he went back to his stool and began to sip his blood.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen often,” he said. “It’s been a bit of a rough patch for her lately, and catching her–” He broke off, reminding himself that it was Buffy’s place to decide how much her mother needed to know about the night.

“So, did Riley get himself turned?” Joyce asked shrewdly.

“Nah. The big git is still human. But not for long if he keeps it up. Slayer can tell you about it.”

Joyce nodded. “Well, I should try to get some more sleep. I just happened to have come down for some warm milk when I heard you on the porch.” She started to leave the room, then hesitated. “Thank you, Spike,” she said softly. “For taking care of my daughter and- and- caring for her.”

“My pleasure,” he mumbled, getting as close as a vampire could to blushing.

“Are you staying here tonight?”

He shook his head. “Don’t think so. There’s no sense doing anything that might bring the soldiers around. I’ll camp out for the day somewhere in Demontown. Tell Buffy I’ll catch up with her tomorrow night, yeah?”

“Okay. Be careful, Spike. I’m depending on you to protect my girls.”

Joyce waved her goodnight and left the vampire sitting in the kitchen finishing up his evening meal.

“Till the end of the world, Joyce,” he vowed, downing the rest of his blood. “Till the end of the world.”

The End

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/378415.html

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