One in a Billion

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“One in a Billion”
PG-13 for one bad word
Takes place soon after “Intervention” in BtVS S5
Note: As soon as I wrote this, I realized that a line or two between Spike and Buffy sounded a lot like an exchange on Xena: Warrior Princess. Hopefully, if Joss doesn’t mind me playing with his characters, Rob Tapert and crew won’t mind either.

Surprises just wouldn’t leave Spike alone today.

First, carried home by two men that hated him, with a blanket flung over his head like a cover over a cage of noisy parakeets. Second, facing a Buffy who was admittedly annoyed with him, but not enough to halt her charade past the satisfaction of her purpose…for a few seconds, anyway.

He sat on the bier for hours, replaying the moment over and over, contrasting it with his dreams, with his hopes, until the shadows lengthened from the dim light in his crypt, and settled to a watchful darkness. Still, in his mind, he saw her golden face moving towards him, a pale ship across the dim, moving back and forth, from the door to him, and back again.

The door of his crypt swung open gently, and Buffy herself slipped in, without the usual announcement of flinging the door against the wall, looking at him curiously on his bier. Seeing the stake in her hand, he was thrown violently back to the upside-down exhilaration of his dream. She just stood there, though, taking in his slumped posture and the hard lines of his mottled face in the grim light.

Seeing his eyes trained on her stake, Buffy stuffed it back inside her grey peacoat, and he realized she must have been patrolling.

“Have you moved at all?”

Well, he had touched his fingers to his lips a few times… “Was waiting for dark,” he rasped lamely.

Buffy knit her brow, staring at him, almost as if she was trying to decide if she should be angry. “You live in a crypt.”

“Yeah.” Gingerly, Spike stretched out his limbs before easing himself onto his feet, and tried to affect a nonchalant limp as he worked his way to a slab set with dozens of the saint-embossed tapers sold in the international foods section of Albertsons. After lighting a round dozen with his pocket lighter, he turned, saw her flinch at the raw sight of the plum-colored expanses of his face.

Seeing his face nakedly, she turned awkward, and he remembered she must have come to him for some tangible purpose.

“Is everything all right? Dawn’s safe?” he asked, trying to speak around a thick tongue. His words broke the silent spell around them, and Buffy once more focused on him, and he saw the purpose back in her eyes.

“She’s fine. I was going to ask you…” she broke off, hesitating, then plunged ahead. “I was going to ask you, when you’re back up to speed, if you wouldn’t mind looking after Dawn. If there’s a time I can’t protect her, I need her with someone who’s got fighting skills.”

“Plus,” she continued, her voice taking on its bright, wheedling edge, her eyes skimming along the candlelight, “she likes you, and I can’t keep her away from here most days…”

“Buffy,” he spoke low, with a note in it that made her spine straighten and eyes snap back to him, “You don’t have to ask. I’ll defend her till the end of the world.”

She stared at him solemnly, a girl with too much loss and too much responsibility on her shoulders to not understand the depth of his promise. Trying to lighten the atmosphere, he broke away first, limping over towards his jerry-rigged icebox (refrigerator sounded far too similar to some of the medical instruments he’d grown up with for him to be completely comfortable with it).

“I’ll take her down to the lower caverns when she’s here,” he ground out, hand on his ribs. “Mutant-hobbits seem to know where I live, but there’s escape routes a-plenty down…ah, shit.” He’d twisted his neck around to look back at her, doubled at the crunch of his shattered ribs, and lost his center of gravity, falling down in an ungraceful heap. Once again, here he was, looking up in profound embarrassment at a woman he loved.

But Buffy either took pity at the sight of his ungainly exertions, or sympathized with a fellow warrior’s injuries, or just maybe…and helped haul him back to his feet, warm little hands firm under the bends of his elbows and armpits. Instead of letting him go, though, he was instantly aware that her hand lingered just a moment or two on his forearm – and she had to be aware of it as well, the way she snatched it back and the way they both became very aware of the nearness of their bodies.

Spike decided that this position was worth a shot, however small the gain.

“I’ve got about a one in a million chance with you, right pet?” He tipped his head, trying to look into her eyes, and saw the reluctance to strike in them, a small victory, a flag of some progress.

“More like one in a billion,” Buffy replied ruefully, gently.

He paused, considering.

“So you’re sayin’ there is a chance?” And despite the gruesomeness of his face, which must make him look like a death’s head, he gave her a full-on, honest grin, no trace of suggestion, just playfulness.

It worked, and the atmosphere lightens, and the short space between them is now comfortable, workable. Cheerful, unhurtful amusement unbolted the shutters from her face.

And there is a chance, he realized. As far off as he is, he has a better chance of catching the sun by running at the horizon. But the glimmer of her eyes sets forth the hope in his heart, adding heat to the warm golden bubble in his chest, and he rushes forward to her light.


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