Happy Halloween, everyone. :)
A single chapter story by beanbeans
Just over 4,800 words.
Set just after the end of the Season 6 Halloween episode “All The Way”.
Thank you, enigmaticblues, for hosting this round.
Lancashire, England, 1920
“Oooh, lookit the little darlings, all prettied up like candy floss. Can I have one, my Spike?” Dru raised a finger and pointed it at a child who was walking door-to-door, singing for sweets and money. “I bet that one tastes like tea and honeycakes.” She pulled her hand back, licking her palm and then each finger in turn.
“No. Sorry, pet.” Spike curled Dru back into his arms, pressing his palms flat against her belly, pulling her tightly against his chest. “You know we’re not supposed to be out here tonight.”
“But I haven’t had a treat in ever so long.” Dru turned in his arms to face him, giving him her best pout. “Please?”
He sighed, pursing his lips. “No, Ducks,” he tapped the tip of one finger on her nose, “there isn’t time enough for us to have treats tonight. We shouldn’t be out at all, and we certainly can’t be out when the night turns.” He glanced skyward, squinting. “It’s almost time.”
Her pout deepened, her tone taking on a whining edge. “Why can’t I? I want to see it.”
He could feel the shift coming, the sensation like a rope tied around his guts, pulling him forward, out into the night; had to get her inside, tucked away in the dark where it couldn’t find them. He huffed, impatient, nervous. “Because if we don’t, you’ll never have another treat again. You know this.”
She whimpered, a child’s petulant sound of protest, but she knew he was right.
He rushed her back to the cemetery, pulling her by her elbow, her long white dress trailing behind her like a fan. When they arrived at the entrance of a particularly large crypt, Dru pulled away, cringing.
“I don’t want to go in there, Spike. Please, don’t make me. I want to be under the stars tonight. I want to see everything up above.”
Spike looked up at the sky, his brow furrowing. “We have to move. Now. Time’s up, love.”
He was dragging her now, pulling her under the archway and into the shadows as he felt the shift happen. She was straining, desperate to get a look, but he held her fast.
He wasn’t going to let it take her.
Before Buffy had gotten to the top of the stairs leading to her bedroom, before she’d heard Giles finish scolding Dawn in his oh-so-familiar reproving tones, she knew she wasn’t staying. Willow and Tara’s whispered argument, just heated enough to be heard as she passed their bedroom door—not so much the words themselves, but certainly the tone—only drove her out faster.
She couldn’t do this. Couldn’t keep slaying; couldn’t watch her sister make the same mistakes of the heart that she had at that age; couldn’t listen to her so-called friends bicker and moan at each other. It was all too much. She wanted…
She wanted peace. Quiet. Release.
She wanted what she’d had, before they had pulled her back.
Failing that, she wanted to get the hell out of the house.
She made a beeline for her bedroom window, opening it carefully so it wouldn’t creak, and shimmied down the trellis to the ground.
The feeling was so familiar, this old routine of escaping, but now there was nowhere safe to go. Not like before, when she’d run to the arms of Angel, away from being grounded by her Mom, toward things that seemed so much simpler, easier, now.
There was no escaping this life, this pain. But she did know where she could find a temporary reprieve.
A quick scan of the park on the way to Restfield revealed that they’d dispatched the baddies for the night; it would seem that, after the earlier rebellion, the rest of the demons in Sunnydale had indeed followed tradition and were taking the night off.
The grass was damp, the air cool. The night was silent and still, except for the sounds of a few chirping insects. As she approached, Buffy was surprised to find that there was no light shining from under Spike’s crypt door. That was odd; usually he was either watching T.V. or had a few candles lit to read by. She stepped up to the door, and with one palm flat on its surface, she pressed it open to peer inside.
Nothing. Spike’s crypt was silent and dark, although the lamps and easy chairs gave away that this wasn’t a typical tomb.
“Spike?” she called out, stepping forward into the dark.
She walked forward, moving slowly to let her eyes adjust to the darkness as the crypt door closed.
When she got to the edge of the hole leading to the lower level, she crouched down, leaning forward, bracing her hand on the stone bier beside the opening.
“Spike?” she called again.
“Down here,” his voice whispered out from below, so quietly that she barely heard him.
“What are you doing down there? What’s with the stealthy-ness?”
His silvery head appeared at the bottom of the ladder, the whites of his eyes shining up at her in the darkness. “Could ask you the same. Thought you’d called it a night?”
She shrugged looking off to the side, her mouth turning down. “I couldn’t sleep.”
Spike watched her for a moment. When she didn’t elaborate, he nodded. “Right. So, uh, you want to come down? I still have some of that whiskey, if you wanted—“
“Noooo, thanks. My stomach’s still recovering from the other night. I think I’ve paid due respects to the porcelain gods to last a lifetime. ”
“Well, I don’t have a telly down here, but you’re welcome to—“
“Wait,” she interrupted, “why are you down there, anyway? How come you’re not up here watching the rest of that creature double feature, or whatever it was?”
He shrugged. “Can’t.”
She waited, but it was his turn to leave off any elaboration.
He grimaced. “Come down here and I’ll tell you.”
She rolled her eyes, but eh, it wasn’t like she had any place else to be. Turning around, she climbed down the ladder to the basement of the crypt.
Spike was standing by the coffin, pouring a drink from his silver flask. Her stomach roiled a little at seeing it again, but she swallowed the churning down. He gestured for her to take a seat on the coffin as he straddled the other end.
“You know what tonight is, Slayer?”
“Christ, doesn’t Giles teach you anything? Yeah, ‘s Halloween, but do you know what this night means to the demon world?”
“Sure I do. Your one night off a year. Demon R&R.”
Spike twisted his mouth into a grimace. “Yeah, ’s supposed to be that, even if those wankers earlier tonight didn’t know it. But do you know why demons take tonight off?”
“Okay, I give. Enlighten me.”
“Ever notice that it’s not just on Halloween that we demons are all quiet like?” Buffy shook her head. “Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, is only half of the night tonight. At midnight, the night turns, becomes All Saint’s Day. Not all Demons Day, but All Saints. ‘S traditionally a day when prayers are sent, offerings made, to help dead people’s souls get to where they ought to go. For all the good boys and girls, that means,” he looked up to find her watching him and listening intently, her face, grim and desperate. “uh… you know. The place all good boys and girls go.” He gestured vaguely skyward, already regretting starting the conversation.
“Heaven,” she replied, her tone low, sad.
Spike cleared his throat, shifting on the coffin uncomfortably. “Yeah. But then midnight comes, right?” He looked toward the ladder that led to the upper level of the crypt. “Which is in about fifteen minutes. Then this night, All Hallows Eve, becomes All Saints Day. ‘S not a day when a soulless demon can afford to be out and about.”
“Why?” Buffy asked in a whisper.
“All the prayers for the redemption of the dead, offered this night? Prayers for the dead who are unclean, who can’t get to heaven because they haven’t been good little boys and girls? Those prayers do their jobs. Make clean what isn’t right. The unclean get polished shiny new and are taken home, to heaven, by the Redeemer. Not a good thing if you’re batting on the side of evil.”
“Redeemer? What’s that?”
“An angel, maybe an archangel. Some higher being, anyway. Can’t say with full authority; I’ve never seen it myself. Tend to make myself scarce when he’s gonna make a showing. Don’t care to get shiny-ed up by the likes of him.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve died and I’m unredeemed, love. All those prayers sent up for the redemption of the heathen are for the likes of me. If the Redeemer sees me on All Saints eve, I’ll likely wind up re-souled, cleansed, and taken to heaven. Sorry, not interested; like my death right here on Earth just fine, thanks very much.”
“You… have a chance to go to heaven, and you’re not taking it?” She stood slowly, staring at him with a mixture of incredulity and anger. “Why? Why would you say no to eternal peace?”
“Already immortal—don’t need eternity now, do I? An’ peace sounds boring, if you ask me.” He smiled grimly, trying to lighten the mood. “Don’t think I could stand all that harp music, anyway.”
She was silent for a long while, long enough that when he looked up and tilted his head to look at her face hidden under her hair, her eyes were brimming. “It’s not boring. It’s beautiful. And I’d give anything to go back. I don’t know how you can just let it pass you by, Spike.”
His voice was soft as he replied, “Told you before. I like this world. There are some pretty good reasons to stay.” He reached for her, but she was wiping at her eyes, sniffling lightly. He let his hand fall back to this thigh.
“Spike? That Redeemer thingy? Does it take anyone who has died back to heaven?”
“You know, hypothetically.”
“No,” his stern tone was edged with fear.
“No, what? No, you have to be currently dead for it to take you, or no, it doesn’t take just anyone who’s dead?”
“Can’t what? I’m just asking a question.”
“Not gonna let you go up there and test it. I can’t.” He drew one leg over the coffin, dropping both feet to the floor. He stood slowly, his feet wide apart, his hands held by his sides, tension visible in his bare arms. He squared his shoulders, as if preparing for a fight.
“So that’s a ‘yes’, then.” She stood too, determination in every muscle. “I’m going now Spike, and you can’t stop me.”
“Try me,” he dared, planting his feet.
“You know you can’t stop me. Can’t hit me. What’re you gonna do, hold me down?”
“If I have to. I’m not letting you go, Buffy.” His tone was deadly serious now.
She hit him in the face, lightning-quick, knocking him to his knees. “You don’t have a choice, Spike.” Buffy stepped around him, headed for the ladder.
His thoughts were racing, trying to find something that would make her reconsider. “Nibblet!” he shouted, pushing back up to his feet. “Think of Dawn.”
Buffy stopped, hesitating. “She was all right before. You, Willow and Tara and Giles all made sure she was okay.”
“Yeah, but we had the Bot to convince the world that you were still here. If you leave now, she’ll get taken away.” He walked around her to stand in front of her again. “Foster care, Buffy. Trouble she was in with those vamps tonight is nothing compared to the treatment she’d get in some of those foster homes. Believe me, I know—eaten enough of those kids to see how badly off they really are.”
She scrunched up her face in disgust. “Giles wouldn’t let that happen. He’d watch over her.”
“Like the way he kept you in line? Like the way he watched over Willow?” Her mouth dropped into a frown. “Sorry love, but for someone called a ‘Watcher’, he seems to do a fine job of muckin’ up the actual ‘watching’.”
She looked so torn, so sad, that for a minute he thought she’d hold off. But then she pressed her lips together, and he could see the look of determination in her eyes. “I can’t. I’m going. Tell them I’m sorry, Spike.”
There was no way in hell he was gonna let her go again. Maybe he couldn’t hurt her, but he certainly could hold her; she was strong, but he was damned persistent when he wanted to be. As she turned toward the ladder and started forward, he grabbed one of her wrists and yanked her back hard against his chest. She thumped into him with a surprised “Ooof,” then spun to face him.
“Let me go.” Her expression was angry, deadly serious.
She wrenched her arm, but he held fast with an unrelenting grip. She lifted her other arm to strike him again, but he grabbed that wrist, too.
“Spike! Stop it!”
She pulled so hard that the momentum toppled her backwards. She landed on her back, hard. He followed her down, his kneecaps smashing on the floor, his stomach and chest colliding against hers as he pinned her wrists to the floor of the crypt. The force of the landing knocked the wind out of her lungs. Gaping like a fish, desperate for air and to get him off, Buffy bucked her hips against his and kicked her legs, but to no avail. After a minute she had to stop, had to catch her breath; he was surprisingly solid and heavy.
But when she looked up, he was staring down at her, his pupils huge and dark. He looked hungry, and not for blood. He was breathing hard too, his jaw working and flexing. He was scanning her face, his nostrils flared… and then his gaze landed on her mouth and his lips parted. His body was so heavy, so hard—so hard!
Her eyes were wide, staring up at him with the same stunned expression she’d worn earlier that night when he’d asked if she wanted a bit of ‘rough and tumble’ with him. Now he knew what she was gaping about; she was toying with the idea that she could be a bad little Slayer with him. Oh Christ, he could do that. He was rock hard now, his face hovering over hers, watching her pupils dilate with—desire? Fear? A little of both? The thought sent a bolt of adrenaline through him. Her flight forgotten, he whispered her name, shifting his hips and starting to lean down…
When he breathed her name, she couldn’t help moving—a little shift of her hips. That felt good.
Wait, what? How messed up was that? Was she really letting Spike stop her from getting up those stairs and back to where she was supposed to be? No way. She knew he wasn’t thinking about stopping her any more, in the way his expression blossomed into awe, all fear and determination gone as he leaned forward, his weight shifting, his eyes closing and his lips parting…
There was her chance.
She bucked hard, bracing her feet on the ground and twisting her hips and legs. Distracted as he was, he was knocked off balance and toppled to the floor beside her. She wriggled free, lunged to her feet, bolted up the ladder and ran toward the door.
“No!” he shouted, his tone panicked.
Damnit, he didn’t want to follow her. It was up there. But he wasn’t going to let her go. Not again, not when he could stop it.
He flew up the ladder in time to see her wrench the crypt door open. Light flooded the space, as brightly as if it were noon on a summer day. In silhouette, he saw her raise her hand to shield her eyes against all that brilliance.
He rushed forward, trying to grab her before she could leave the darkness of the crypt, but she moved before he could get to her. She stepped out into the illuminated night, and he followed, hoping he could reach her before the Redeemer arrived.
He had no such luck, of course; they stepped out together just as the Redeemer flew overhead. They stood on the entry stone to the crypt, frozen in their tracks, too stunned to move, captivated by the beauty and brilliance of the thing.
It was garbed in flowing white garments, it’s face hidden by a deep hood. Balls of white light—the souls of the dead—were rising from the graves to float up under the folds of its long robes as if the thing was absorbing them. Each addition made it glow brighter, whiter. Just as it was passing over Spike’s crypt, the Redeemer stopped in mid-air, hovering like some other-worldly hawk. It turned its hooded head to face Buffy, looking down, its light illuminating her features and casting stark shadows on the ground.
“Take me back with you. Please,” she begged, reaching for its robes.
Spike, watching from the crypt, broke out of his stunned silence at hearing her plea. “No!” he shouted, reaching to pull her away from its reach.
The Redeemer dropped one great, robed arm down, a long fingered hand extending out from under the sleeve to splay its open palm over her head, almost as if it was going to stroke her hair…
And then it passed by.
It didn’t want her. Wasn’t going to take her. She heard its voice, a low, soothing tone, resonating in her head.
“It is not your time, child. I come for the dead, and though you were at peace, you are returned to walk among the living. It is not this night that I come to claim you.”
But then the thing turned its face to look past her. It was looking right at Spike. And it wanted him.
She could feel it, as surely as she could feel that she’d been rejected. She wanted to weep, wanted to beg, was reeling with emotion and despair as the thing pulled away from her…
…to reach those long fingers out and wrap them around Spike’s chest, holding him fast in place. With its other hand, the Redeemer opened its palm to the sky, its fingers curling as if beckoning something to its grasp.
His shout shook her back into action. Her chin jerked up, and she had to shake her head to clear her thoughts. It was doing… something. Something that felt familiar. She knew something was coming, something big. She tried to remember when she had felt this pull before, the pull of something powerful and bright, burning her heart, making tears spring to her eyes. She wanted to close her eyes against the surge of emotions.
‘Close your eyes.’
And then she had it, knew what it was calling—the Redeemer was calling Spike’s soul. She could feel the pull of it, just as she had when Willow had returned Angel’s soul. She hadn’t known what that energy was then, but she certainly knew now. The thing was going to put Spike’s soul back, and then take him with it when it left.
And she’d be alone, with her friends.
Who had ripped her from heaven.
She couldn’t let the Redeemer take him. As much as she wanted Spike to have his soul back, she couldn’t let him go. Not now.
Lunging forward, she grabbed the front of his coat and, with an enormous pull, she wrenched him free of its grasp, knocking them both to the ground. Scrabbling to stand, she grabbed his shirt and hauled him to his feet, too.
“Run!” she shouted, letting go of his shirt to pump her arms as she launched into a furious sprint. “Get back to the house!”
He didn’t need to be told twice; he was right beside her, his feet flying over the ground, his duster billowed behind him. “And then what?” The Redeemer was trailing them, flying fast, reaching for him. He risked a glance over his shoulder and saw it was holding a ball of light in one of its palms: that was his soul? It was cradling the glowing orb, as if it were carrying an egg, fragile and delicate.
Oh, bloody hell.
“I don’t know! More running, less talking!”
When they finally got to the house, Buffy flung the door open. They raced inside and he slammed the door behind her.
“Now what?” he gasped, “That thing doesn’t need an invite. Can’t keep it out if it finds me.”
“Then we make sure it can’t find you.” She grabbed his lapel again and hauled him up the stairs, banging open the door to Willow and Tara’s room. The girls bolted upright, staring at the two of them panting at the foot of the bed.
“Willow! Can you hide him? Do a spell, make it impossible for anything, human or otherwise, to see him?”
Willow blinked and shook her head, trying to clear the sleep from her mind. “What? Uh, I don’t know. Why, Buffy? What’s going on?”
“No time!” Buffy shouted, “Please, hide him. Make it dark. Make him invisible. Make the whole room invisible—I don’t care what you do, just do it. Do it now. It’s coming.”
“What’s coming, Buffy? What…”
Willow was still talking, but Tara took her hand. Interlaced her fingers with Willow’s, closed her eyes, and started chanting.
“Nut, Goddess of the Night, blanket us in darkness. Shield us from sight. Cover us with your blackest night. We beseech thee, let us remain unseen. We offer love and devotion in return for your protection. Hear our plea.”
As Tara began the chant again, Willow joined in, raising their joined hands and looking pointedly at Spike and Buffy before closing her eyes.
Spike looked at Buffy, holding his hand out to her. He saw a flush of pink rush over her cheeks, heard the hammering of her heart in her chest. He could almost read her thoughts as he watched her pupils dilate; she was remembering the feel of his touch, his body pressed against her when he had pinned her down earlier. Finally she took his hand, and the heat of it made him suck in a breath. She looked away from him, was watching Willow and Tara intently, but he could feel her breathing quicken, feel her blood pounding where her palm was pressed against his.
Christ, she was gonna be the end of him. She kept coming to him, trusting in him, treating him like he was her closest confidant. And now she was saving him? Him! The Big Bad! Yeah, he was glad for it, but after what had happened earlier tonight? He wanted more. Had seen she wanted more, too, even if she wasn’t ready to admit it. Could feel it right here, in the beat of her heart against his skin.
If he made it through this, she was gonna have to decide about him, one way or the other.
And then The Redeemer was there; light flooded in, as if someone was shining a spotlight in the windows. Buffy’s fingers were crushing his, his knuckles cracking under her grip, as the Wicca girls’ chant grew louder and louder, faster and more fluid.
Then suddenly it was as if someone had thrown a heavy woven blanket over the room. It knocked them both to their knees, plunging them into near-darkness, but they kept their fingers interlaced. He chanced opening his eyes, and he could make out the light outside the windows, hovering, as if the thing was peering inside to search for him. A glance at Buffy revealed that her eyes were tightly shut, and her jaw was clenched as she held onto his hand crushingly, desperately.
God, she was incredible; he loved her more blindingly, more brightly than that bloody thing stalking him could ever shine.
After several minutes, as Willow and Tara’s chant droned on and on, the light started to move away, slowly fading like a dimmer being turned down, until the room was completely dark. After a few moments, the sensation of weight over them lifted as the spell the lover girls had cast began to dissipate.
Spike watched Buffy as her grip on his hand loosened, but she didn’t let go right away. Even in the darkness of the room, he saw one fast tear slide down her cheek, heard her whisper, “It should have taken me.”
He cleared his throat delicately, and her eyes popped open to find him watching her. She let go of his hand to wipe the tear away quickly.
“Thanks,” he whispered, and couldn’t quite keep the emotion out of his tone.
She blinked, steadying herself, and he realized the lover girls were watching them in the dark. “Thank them,” Buffy replied, jutting her chin at Willow and Tara.
He nodded to the girls, who were still holding hands, looking drained and shaken on the bed.
“What the heck was that, Buffy?” Willow asked in a shaky voice. “That thing was huge, not to mention scary powerful.”
“Redeemer. It was gonna take Spike.” He noticed she left out the re-souling part. “Thanks for helping. Looks like even a little argument can’t hold you two back. That was some major mojo action.”
Tara looked bewildered. “Argument?”
“Nothing, baby,” Willow reassured her, speaking quickly. “You did good! Nut is big time! I didn’t know you could call her…”
Spike rose, not wanting to spend another moment in that room. They didn’t have a clue what they’d done, didn’t know how much darkness they’d called to derail a being of light like the Redeemer. Those witches were bloody scary. Had more power over life and death than he cared to be near for any length of time.
Buffy stood too, thanking the girls again before following him out.
“You okay? It won’t come after you again?” she asked.
He turned on the stairs to look up at her and shivered, recalling that night just a few weeks ago when he’d first seen her on these stairs, newly returned from the dead.
“It’s gone. Has to make itself scarce before daylight, like me.” He peered out the beveled window beside the front door, “Sunrise is coming soon. Best get back before I’m stuck here for the day.”
“Wouldn’t want that,” she replied, but her sad tone didn’t match her teasing words.
He raised an eyebrow, watching her for a moment as she fidgeted, absently brushing non-existent dust from the stair rail.
He started down the stairs, about to go, but hesitated, turning back to face her. “I’m sorry.”
“What?” she asked.
“I’m sorry. Not that the Redeemer wouldn’t take you; not sorry for that. I’m sorry that you’re hurting. Sorry that they did what they did.” He gestured towards Willow and Tara’s room. “If there’s anything I can do…”
She shook her head, looking tired, the circles under her eyes dark.
“You should talk to them. Tell them. They need to know what they did. You saw, tonight. They’re gettin’ stronger. Who knows what they’ll be able to do next.”
“I can’t tell them, Spike. Never.”
Why should she, he thought bitterly? Had him to talk to, didn’t she? Dead men tell no tales. He sighed heavily, disappointed. This had to change, and soon. “Right,” he answered glumly. “G’night then, Buffy.”
She didn’t reply, but simply turned and headed up the stairs toward her room.
Shaking his head, he walked out into the early dawn, the sky lightening to gray at the edge of the horizon. He broke into a steady run, headed straight back to Restfield.
But at the entrance to the cemetery, he stopped dead in his tracks. There, by the iron gates, was an enormous Yak-like demon. Chirago, he thought, though he’d only seen pictures of them. Didn’t know they ever ventured this far north. It was sitting back on its hind legs, its furry mouth open wide, a crown of gold coins around its head and dangling over its ears. The thing was singing, belting out some high-pitched, operatic aria and gesturing dramatically with its hooves. And then it started to dance, making the ground shake under its feet.
Well. Just when you thought you’d seen everything, Spike thought. He smiled wryly. This probably wouldn’t end well. He turned away from the Chirago and started for his crypt again, noting as he lit up a cigarette that his knuckles were stiff from Buffy’s crushing grip. He shook his head, chuckling as he heard the Chirago hit a glass-breakingly high note.
Things were about to get interesting.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/219572.html