It had been less than twenty four hours since he last saw her — since she had allowed him to give her comfort. Spike wasn't sure when exactly he'd see her again. He supposed he could go seek her out, but he had the feeling that she needed time, or distance really, from him.
After she allowed him to hold her, she fell asleep in his arms, comfortable and content. The sound of her and Dawn's combined heartbeats eventually led him into a peaceful slumber as well, and when he woke up in the dark, cool cave, she was still there, in his arms, looking at him.
He wondered how long she'd been awake, and was about to ask her, but once they locked eyes with one another, she pulled away, saying that it was safe to get Dawn home now, and that she needed to check on Willow anyway. Tara was to be released early that afternoon, and Buffy wanted to be there for moral support.
Spike walked her and a half-awake Dawn through the tunnels and back up to his crypt's door. With an unreadable expression on her face, Buffy told him "thank you" before turning away, and heading out into the sunshine. Spike thought perhaps she wouldn't bother to acknowledge what happened last night—how she had let him in.
But then he thought that it was okay. The fact that she let him in in the first place was a true sign of progress. He could be patient—he would see her again, eventually.
Again turned out to be much sooner than he thought.
He was lounging in his easy chair in front of the telly, enjoying a bag of Flamin' Hots with his glass of blood, when Buffy came in, looking worried and distraught. He stood up, swiftly closing the distance between them, concern evident on his face.
"I need your help. Glory knows Dawn's the key, and...we have to leave. We have to leave town."
"So the psycho bitch isn't around right this second?" he asked, noticing how Buffy was much too calm if Glory was literally on her heels that very second.
"No. She got hit by a mack truck, and me and Dawn took off. But I don't know how much time we have before she comes to or whatever, and I don't plan on sticking around to find out. We aren't safe here— none of us are. Hence the fleeing town."
"You...want me to come with you?"
"Well, yeah. I mean...she knows where you are, Spike. If you stay here, you're as good as dust."
Spike swallowed, looking down as he nodded absently.
She cares, he thought to himself.
"What is it you need, Slayer?"
"For starters, a vehicle that can fit all...eight of us. Can you manage that?"
"For you, anything," he said with no humor or sarcasm in his voice.
She nodded solemnly at him, waiting.
"Well, come along, Slayer. We have a vehicle to nick, don't we?"
She followed him to the lower level of the crypt and through the tunnels, unaware that Spike was leading her to a parking garage full of possibilities.
When they found one large enough, and covered the windshield with foil, they drove down the streets of Sunnydale to the front of Xander's building to pick up the Scoobies. Spike was honestly quite shocked at the poor reception he received from the two men of the group. Surely they and the Slayer had powwowed it all out about Buffy using Spike's assistance in their utterly dire situation?
"What's he doing here?" Giles asked tersely.
"Just out for a jaunt. Thought I'd swing by and say howdy," Spike replied, attempting to deflect the attention and overt accusation from the Slayer, and bring it all onto himself.
Come on, Rupes. Lay it all on me, Spike thought.
"Out," Giles commanded darkly.
"He's here because we need him," Buffy answered, looking up from her place at the tiny table.
"The hell we do," Xander retorted.
"If Glory finds us, he's the only one besides me that has any chance of protecting Dawn," Buffy tried to reason.
"Buffy, come on—"
"This isn't a discussion!" Buffy yelled, jumping up from her seat, shocking the hell out of everyone.
Spike wasn't sure who was shocked more—him, or Giles and the boy.
"He stays. Get over it."
Spike couldn't stop the smirk that grew to gargantuan proportions from the pride growing within him at the way Buffy shut down her friends.
It was almost as good as being allowed to hold her all night. In some ways, it was better. Buffy defended him to the people she loved and trusted most in the world. Spike knew in that moment that he was officially added to her short list of trusted individuals.
In spite of the fact that they were all in danger, and trying to avoid yet another apocalypse, he felt pretty damn good.
Could it get any better?
148 days later...
Of course the Niblet would just scamper off in the middle of a dire situation.
Wait until ol' Spike's distracted, and then I can play my damsel in distress routine.
Spike wasn't angry—frustrated and scared shitless would be much more accurate.
Concentrating, he picked up her delicate scent in the air, and followed it, desperate to find her before someone—or more likely something else did.
Judging by the trail her scent had left behind her, Dawn's movements seemed almost manic, an illogical series of zig zags, and doubling back from where she had already been. Was she purposely trying to confuse him—leave him worrying? Spike growled as he continued to track her.
Maybe she's pissed at me for refusing to give up watching—well, babysitting her as she put it. Well, too soddin' bad if she doesn't like it.
Spike had made a promise he had every intention of carrying out. He would watch over Dawn until she was an old lady surrounded by fat, pink grandbabies whether she liked it or not.
Spike's thoughts of Dawn-watching instantly dissipated as he saw where her trail had led—the tower. The ill-fated, wish it had never been built in the first place fucking tower. Only, it wasn't a tower. Not any more. Now, it was just a pile of wood planks and steel beams. Someone broke it down—not that it was all that stable to begin with, being built by crazies or what all.
Spike wished it had been him. It could have been very therapeutic, getting his anger and sadness out on the large inanimate object. His mind wandered off, re-visualizing his powerful Slayer, suspended in mid air, and trapped in a ball of bright, electrical energy as he watched, lying beaten and broken in places he never knew existed atop a pile of bricks.
Should've been me. Should've been...
But it had not been. It was Buffy who had died. She would never again grace him with her divine presence. Spike was surprised at the gentle wetness lingering on his bottom lids. He'd thought he was all cried out. Seeing her motionless form, unable to hear her wondrous heartbeat, at first he hadn’t thought he'd ever stop grieving all that he'd lost. He thought that maybe their one night together could sustain him, could help to ease the pain of it all.
It didn't, of course.
In fact, he came to the realization that it made it all the more painful, to come so close to touching heaven, and then lose it all within the same night. Hell crept in where heaven had once resided, and stayed there.
The pain was nearly unbearable. Almost. He still had...
He had to find Dawn. He had to find her, then shake the living daylights out of her.
Spike was awfully glad he didn't have a heartbeat to fret over, ‘cause it'd have been a mighty shame for him to keel over and kick it from a massive coronary before he could find the remaining Summers, and miss his chance at yelling at her in reproval. Lucky for her (as well as his peace of mind), the trail ended back home on Revello. The Bit was safe.
Her scent was tinged with an earthy smell, and a bit of blood. Spike wondered if she'd fallen and hurt herself on the way up the front porch steps or something, but was relieved that she was home. He would have been more concerned if there was an actual blood trail, but there wasn't, so he figured it couldn't have been much.
Well...good, then. A little scrape shouldn't hurt too much, but hopefully, it'll teach her a lesson about minding me next time.
Spike sighed, dropping his head as he turned the doorknob, wondering if his love for the young girl as well as his fear of losing her in any shape or form would eventually reduce him to ashes.
"Dawn! Dawn, are you there?"
He could hear her moving around upstairs. Unfortunately, she wasn't moving fast enough—not nearly, and his patience wore out.
"I'm here!" she called back down to him.
"Thank God. You scared me half to death...or more to death. You—I could kill you." Spike glared up at her as she descended the stairs with the bot close behind.
"Spike," she said softly, but firmly, staring at him intently. But Spike was so far gone with anger and relief, he couldn't see clearly.
"I mean it. I could rip your head off one-handed and drink from your brain stem," he said darkly.
Spike scoffed, looking warily at the bot. It was hard to look at it once Will fixed it upon Giles' request, saying that it could be used as a ruse for the demon world as well as to Dawn's advantage in order to be able to stay in Sunnydale. What made it even worse was that from time to time, the bot would still come on to him. Willow promised she'd fix it, but it had been months. Spike was sure she was toying with him for some reason or other.
It just really pissed him off that the bot would still do that. It reminded him of everything he didn't have.
"Yeah? I've seen the bloody bot before. Didn't think she'd patch up so..." Spike trailed off at the sound of two heartbeats finally registering in his mind. The earthy scent. The blood. The scent that was purely his Slayer was all there. It was her. She was back.
She was alive.
Dawn was saying something, but he couldn't hear her. All he could hear was the melodious sound of her heartbeat.
"Spike? Are you okay?"
"I'm...what did you do?" he whispered in awe—too shocked to move or think beyond the words "alive- Buffy's alive."
Spike tilted his head, watching as Buffy glanced at him with curiosity as she tried to button up the rest of her shirt, then gave up, instead opting to clutch the two sides together with her bloody hands.
Buffy lowered them at that, putting them behind her back looking uncomfortable.
"Um, I was gonna fix 'em. I don't know how they got like that."
Spike looked off to the side for a moment, as his brain began to fully function once again. "I do. Clawed her way out of her coffin, that's how. Isn't that right?" he asked, looking at Buffy.
"Yeah, that's...what I had to do," she answered softly. She stared at him as he continued to stare at her.
But for some reason, his brain did that whole shutting down thing again, and for a moment, he was fully convinced it was all a dream. But then he snapped back to reality, mentally shaking himself. Buffy needed help, and he would be there for her.
"Um, we'll take care of you. Come here," he said softly. She came down the steps, and relaxed as his hand found its way onto her shoulder. It was obvious that her ability to walk was just fine, but Spike just had to touch her somehow; he had to make sure she was in fact there, and not an illusion his desperate mind created.
"Get some stuff, uh, mercurochrome, bandages," he told Dawn, not even bothering to look at her, and almost completely missing her response of "okay" because his rapt attention was so completely focused on Buffy. She led him into the living room, sitting down on the sofa. Spike sat on the coffee table, facing her, taking her hands gently in his. Feeling her eyes on him, he looked up.
"How long was I gone?"
"Hundred forty-seven days yesterday. Uh... hundred forty-eight today." He smiled at her a bit. "'Cept today doesn't count, does it?"
As she remained silent, he looked over her hands once again before looking back at her. "How long was it for you...where you were?"
"Longer," she answered softly, causing Spike to slightly tilt his head at her, gazing at her in wonder. He absentmindedly began stroking the unscarred tops of her hands with his thumbs as he stared into her eyes.
For the first time in nearly six months, the gnawing emptiness in his gut seemed to drift away until it finally dissipated into oblivion.
And all it took was for the impossible to occur—for the woman that he loved that had been long gone from the world to return to him.
A/N: Okay, so I have no idea when I'm going to update this, although I do where I want to go with it (mostly). Anyway, I have to update WIP, and somehow finish ATWATS, though I'm not sure how. Muse, for whatever reason, wanted to do this first before the other two. Hope you liked ;)
Author's Chapter Notes:
Thanks to DreamsofSpike for betaing :D