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Chapter 19
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Author's Note: I wrote this chapter sometime last fall. A month or so ago I read a short one-shot over on LiveJournal that contained some similar elements to this chapter. It's purely coincidence, I promise (ask my betas if you don't believe me), but I just thought I'd state for the record that if anyone does notice those similarities, we're gonna have to chalk it up to great minds thinking alike.

Betaed by: Goblin_Dae, Science, and Subtilior

Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all recognizable characters, locations, and dialogue belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and the various writers. This is written purely for fun.

DUST: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fanfic by KnifeEdge


Patrol, he called it. Buffy snorted. It was more like Happy Spike Fun Time than patrol. He rattled the cage doors that were drawn over the shops, walked over the benches when they got in his way, and lingered far too long in front of the fountain in the middle of the mall, eyeing the pennies at the bottom and flexing his hand as if it pained him.

The mall was eerie when it was deserted, Buffy decided. For once in her life, she wished for cheesy mall music back – the dead silence was unnerving. The escalators were off and climbing them was disorienting. At the top they almost tripped over a sleeping janitor, his mop in one hand and a bucket of mostly evaporated water beside him.

Spike didn't seem to have a goal in mind. They wandered up and down the galleries, window shopping whenever there were windows that weren't blocked by the security shutters, and listening to their footfalls echo in the dark.

Finally, Spike jerked up short beside one grate, eyeing the interior with a devilish little smirk. Before she knew it, he'd pulled a paperclip out of his pocket and his switchblade from his boot and set to work on the lock.

"What are you doing?"

"What's it look like I'm doing, you dumb bint?"

"It looks like you're breaking into the arcade," she said, crossing her arms in frustration.

"And a kewpie doll for the lady," he said. The lock gave. "Hah!"

With a grin, he rolled up the security gate and stepped into the interior of the arcade. It only took him a couple minutes of hunting to find the light switch and the power switch for the games. Buffy jumped at the rattle and ping as they all came to life.

"Spike, this is wrong," she said.

"I'm not stealing anything. I just want to play a bit. It's not illegal."

"You need money to play."

"Money I've got," he said. He pulled a wad of cash out of his pocket and headed for the change machine.

"Where did you get that?"

He gave a one shouldered shrug. "Had it for awhile. Not like there was anything much to spend it on. Though … uh, you probably don't want to know the details." He slotted a five into the machine and collected his quarters.

"You're right, I don't," Buffy said, picturing the poor person Spike had probably eaten in LA to get the money. Her fists itched. "We're just wasting time, you know."

Spike slid a quarter into a pinball machine and grinned. "Not like we don't have it to waste," he said. "Besides, got to give your miracle time to kick in, yeah?" She started to respond to that, but then bells were dinging, and flippers were flipping, and Spike was shimmying the pinball machine back and forth and swearing. Talking was pretty much out of the question.

Spike, as it turned out, was a pinball wizard.

Bemused, Buffy watched as the vampire racked up the points. The further he got, the more he talked, and when she finally tuned in to what he was saying she had to choke back a laugh.

"C'mon, baby … That's it … Fuck, yeah! Left, left, little to the … Yes! Yes! Thata ... c'mon, sweetheart, little more juice. Hit it! Bloody hell, not ... yes ... yeah, that's my girl, do it for daddy, c'mon ..."

"Where did you learn how to play pinball?" she asked, when he finally killed the previous high score. He didn't even look up.

"Originally? Chicago in the forties," he said. "Course there weren't flippers back then. Then in the seventies, when I was in New York, there was a pub over in the Bronx with an illegal Jacks Open game—"


"Yeah, pinball was illegal in New York 'til nineteen seventy-six, so this must've been seventy-five or so. Anyway, the place was open late, and you had to go down into the bloody basement to play. It used to be a speakeasy, before it was an arcade. Bunch of blokes used to get together, nights. We'd play till the pub closed. Had the highest score there for six months. 'Least till some little bastard named Lostboy beat it. Should've eaten the wanker."

He shook his head.

"He was human?" Buffy asked, confused.

Spike nudged the game with his hip, his thumbs working the buttons at vamp speed. "Yeah, most of them were. Lot of demons don't have the manual dexterity for pinball. Gotta have thumbs. Never go up against a Klovas demon at skee-ball, though. They're all tentacles. 'S a slaughter." The bells on the game dinged.

Buffy was still puzzling over the idea of Spike in a human bar, playing human video games against humans and not getting all snacky. "Why didn't you eat him?"

"Well," Spike said, slamming a hip against the machine. "If I had, I wouldn't have gotten to watch him cry when I beat his high score three months later, now would I?"

Frowning, Buffy leaned back against the side of an upright Mortal Kombat game. It didn't quite fit with her long held belief about vampires, though it did seem like an utterly Spike thing to do. She was beginning to think that Spike wasn't just a freak, but a freak among his own kind, too. She couldn't imagine any other vampire—Angel, her subconscious whispered—hanging around humans solely so he'd have a little pinball competition. For Spike, however, it made a freaky sort of sense. Maybe, like dog racing and soccer, pinball was one of those things worth saving the world for.

He swore at the game a few minutes longer, then stopped, flexing his thumbs. His gaze slid in her direction.

"What's your poison, Slayer?"


He gestured at the surrounding arcade. "Which is your game?"

"I'm not really a video game kinda girl," she said.

"Oh, please. Don't try to tell me you've never played in an arcade before. I know you had to be good at something."

Her back straightened as she remembered. "Well ... there was one game," she said, glancing around. Spike followed her gaze, then laughed.

"Bloody perfect." He held out a quarter. "Bet I'm better at it."

"No way, Spike," she said. "We should go."

"Oh, come on," he said. "One game. That's it. I'm even fronting you the quarter. You'll play, I'll play. And I'll bet you a dollar I can kick your arse into next week."

She glanced from Spike, to the quarter he held out, and then to the game. One game. It couldn't take that long. She'd be a dollar richer, and then they could go home. "You're on," she said, and snatched the quarter out of his hand.

Thirty seconds later, as she picked up the rubber mallet and waited for the first mole to pop out of its hole, she knew Spike was going down.


One hundred and eighteen years ... or was it nineteen? Must be nineteen, since this New Year would mark the end of a millennium—and how utterly, preposterously bizarre was it that William Pratt should have lived (sort of) long enough to see such a thing? In his tenure on earth he'd learned more than he'd ever imagined he would back when he'd been a bookish little ponce clinging to his mum's skirts. He'd seen wars and plagues, traveled to the ends of the earth and back more times than he could count. He'd seen places he'd only read about before, and experienced things that, had he read about them when he was human, he would have dismissed as utter fantasy. He was infamous even amongst his own kind—a warrior, a thief, and a killer.

And he was bloody fantastic at Whack-a-Mole.

Still, he deliberately lost the first game, though it really hadn't taken much. The Slayer was, as he'd thought, damn good herself. After the first game he lost his temper and goaded her into a second game—just so he could win his money back, of course. Jaw clenched, her competitive streak winning out, she agreed, and the next hour was filled with intense competition as two superbeings duked it out over a cheap arcade game with a rubber hammer and mechanical moles.

In the end, Spike grudgingly counted out her winnings—thirty dollars even—then barely managed to constrain his smirk as she pocketed the dosh with a triumphant grin.

"So," he said, trying to remain nonchalant, "what do you plan to do now that you've relieved me of my ill-gotten gains?"

"Gloat," Buffy said. "And maybe buy myself a present, once the spell lifts."

Spike snickered. "And what does the Slayer want for Christmas?"

"You mean other than a big pile of Spike dust?" she asked, all perky smiles and sparkling eyes. Even though he wanted to hate her right then, it was damned difficult. She didn't smile often enough, Spike thought. Then he wondered where that had come from. What the bloody hell did he care whether or not the Slayer smiled?

Even as he watched, though, her smile faded and she glanced away. "I don't ..."

"What?" He frowned.

"I just want this spell to be over. Anything else is sorta, you know, bonus." She wandered over to the bank of power switches and flipped them, plunging the arcade once more into silence and darkness. "C'mon. Let's finish up here and go home. I want to clean the living room and scrounge up something for Christmas dinner."

Spike trailed her out of the arcade and along the gallery, hands in his pockets, and waited patiently—or, at least as patiently as he possibly could—for the inevitable. It didn't take as long as he'd thought.

She paused outside of a shop window displaying some crystal stemware, then stood there for a moment or two, staring into the darkened interior. Amused, Spike watched her hand dip into her jacket pocket where she'd stuffed the cash. Her lip caught between her teeth, she glanced from the window to the security gate, then briefly at Spike.

He raised a sardonic eyebrow and wandered over to have a look himself. With the interior so dark, it was hard to make out anything past the window display other than the Slayer's reflection. His jaw clenched a little as he reached out to touch the glass; a hundred plus years and there were still things he sometimes missed. He'd gone for years without seeing his own face, and he often forgot exactly what he looked like. Not that he really needed to see himself, and cameras were so much more convenient nowadays, but a reflection was something that he was forever denied—and Spike had never learned not to want what he couldn't have.

"Is it stealing if you leave money for it?" the Slayer asked, startling him out of his maudlin mood.

"Some pretty bauble caught your eye, pet?"

"I'm not your pet," she said. "And it's not for me. It's for my mother."

Spike shrugged. "If you leave money for it, then it's not technically stealing."

"Says the card-carrying member of Evil International," Buffy said, eyeing him dubiously.

"Which is precisely why you ought to take my word for it." Spike grimaced in distaste. "Don't see why you'd bother leaving cash when you can just take it. Not like anyone has to know."

"There's probably security cameras," she pointed out. "They'll know."

Spike snorted. "In Sunnydale? Pet... half the stores in this town have cameras just for show. Trust me, they'd much rather look the other way when things start getting hellmouthy. Besides, most of the security companies are run by demons. If I stroll in there in game face, they'll pretend none of it ever happened."

The Slayer blinked. "Really?" she asked. "Well ... that explains a lot."


The sun had mostly set when they left the mall. Only the barest hint of gold touched the sky, so it was safe enough to ditch the sewers.

Spike wouldn't stop grumbling. "I can't believe you made me break into that bloody store for that. Thousands of dollars worth of junk just laying about, but, no, you've got to pay for that piece of shite."

Buffy cradled her prize carefully. "Shut up, Spike," she said, but it felt as if her mouth was on autopilot. There was no heat to it, and—if she were going to be honest with herself—she was actually feeling a little goodwill toward the vampire. He didn't have to spend a solid twenty minutes dealing with the glass shop's surprisingly difficult lock—but he did, just so that she could get inside.

She held her mother's gift up to the street light and watched sparks of light shatter and reform across the crystal surface. It was beautiful, and she knew her mother would love it. That was the reason she'd given Spike for picking the tiny, delicate, crystal snowflake ornament. The other reason—the one she wouldn't tell Spike even if he held his fangs to her throat—was that it seemed like a good omen. Snow had been her miracle last year, and maybe it could be again. She just had to believe.

Spike bitched most of the way home, but Buffy did her best to ignore him. Christmas apparently wasn't that important in the grand scheme of things for demons, or so Angel had told her. But Christmas was totally big in Buffy World, and she knew she couldn't give up. Not now. Especially not now.

Spike's swearing stopped eventually when he realized she wasn't going to play. Instead he stomped along, smoking and kicking at anything in his path, as moody as a little boy. Every so often she'd feel his eyes on her. He'd open his mouth as if he was going to say something and then stop, which somehow got on her nerves more than if he'd been running off at the mouth.

"Okay," she said, coming to a halt near the end of the street. "Spit it out, Spike. Cause you with the not talking? As wonderful as Silent Spike Night might be, I'm not wasting my Christmas miracle on that."

He glared at her, huffing out a blue stream of smoke. "What are you gonna do in the morning?" he asked.

There was something behind his eyes that she didn't like. It looked kinda like pity, and that was the absolute last thing in the world she ever wanted from Spike.

"What are you talking about?"

"In the morning, Slayer. You know, when the sun comes up? You know this isn't gonna happen. You're not totally daft. So what'll you do when—all right, if, the sodding magic of Christmas doesn't break the spell?"

"It will," she said, trying hard to believe it herself.

"If it doesn't?" he insisted, arching a brow.

"I'll deal," she said. "Not that it matters, because it will. And then I can kick your sorry ass out, and you can go somewhere else and stop being my problem."

He laughed at that, but it was bitter. "Oh, Slayer ... I'm never gonna stop bein' your problem. You can send me to the other side of the bloody planet, but you'll never be rid of me."

"Just so long as you leave and don't come back," she said. "Otherwise I'll be introducing you to Mr. Pointy."

"Promises, promises," Spike sing-songed and sauntered toward home.


The night was chilly, not that that ever bothered Spike, but nowhere near cold enough to snow. When they got back, Buffy rushed into the house, nattering on about wrapping paper. Spike, however, sat down on the front step and shook another cigarette out of the pack.

For perhaps the hundredth time since he'd awoken to find her desperately tossing Christmas décor hither and yon, Spike contemplated the drama likely to ensue. And ensue he was certain it would. Whatever was rotten in the sleepy (and wasn't that a laugh) state of Sunnydale, it wasn't something that was going to be fixed with snow and Christmas wishes. He was beginning to think that it wasn't going to be fixed with a bunch of moldy old books and amateur magic, either.

But, for a moment, watching the Slayer twirl her little snowflake, Spike had almost wished it could be that easy. It wasn't just because he was bloody sick of the situation. He'd wanted it, hell help him, for her.

Furious with himself, he tossed his half-finished cigarette down and ground it out with his boot, then realized that that left him with nothing to smoke.

"Bloody hell," he muttered, and lit up a fresh one.

Somehow things had gotten twisted when they used to be so crystal bloody clear. Go to Sunnydale, kill the Slayer, move on. Bing, bang, boom. Only then there'd been the sodding spell, and living with her ...

Spike knew that he wasn't a solitary creature by nature. Oh, he'd gone it alone out of necessity more times than he liked to admit to—he'd never been popular in school as a boy, and he'd been utterly ostracized by his peers as an adult, and then Dru had kicked him out ... well, he'd found Harmony quickly enough and that had taken care of Spike's co-dependant streak for a bit. He didn't like the Slayer, though. Not even a little bit.

Only sometimes, when she wasn't looking, and he wasn't paying attention, he kinda almost did.

Like playing Whack-a-Mole with her, for instance. Who knew he could have so much fun with the Slayer? Not that there were many outlets for fun left at the moment, but it shouldn't have been so nearly companionable. The Slayer was death to his kind, and he was sworn—well, not sworn exactly, more like he'd made it a hobby—to kill Slayers. If the time came, she'd have no compunctions about dusting him.

From inside the house he could hear her rummaging and banging about. It soothed some part of him that needed company close, even if it was company he couldn't stand. She was likely in there, rushing round, getting things ready for the Christmas that wouldn't come. It was pathetic and delusional, and it'd be funny as hell in the morning.

So why wasn't he laughing?

He smoked and watched two cigarette butts burn to ash and dust on the porch steps before the noise quieted down. Eventually, the door opened.


If he ignored her, maybe she'd go away. Then he could be less confused. Or, maybe he could kill her. That'd clear his case of confusion right up, wouldn't it?

Only ... she came out and sat down on the porch beside him and sighed, and he knew that he couldn't kill her. Not tonight anyway. Maybe tomorrow, after all her hopes had been crushed.

Yeah. That's exactly what he'd do.

Angel would approve, he thought, which only served to further sour his mood.

"Pretty," the Slayer murmured. Spike glanced at her sharply. She was sitting on the porch step, about as far from him as she possibly could, and staring up at the night sky.

"What's that?"

She shook herself. "Just... the sky. It's pretty. When it's cold like this the stars look clearer."

"Should see them round the Arctic Circle then." Spike said, without really thinking about it. "No light pollution there, and the sky is so clear. Like jewels strewn across dark blue velvet, and so near you could almost touch them." Buffy shot him a curious glance, and Spike realized what he'd said. "Boring as hell."

"You've been near the Arctic Circle?" she asked.

Spike snorted. "Been pretty much everywhere. Except Australia. Never really got round to it."

Quiet reigned for a bit. Then, almost as if the question were being dragged from her, the Slayer said, "Where would you be, right now, if you weren't stuck here?"


"I'm bored. It's a game. Humor me. Just ... leave the dead bodies out of it."

So he said the first thing that popped into his head. "Brazil."

"You're so predictable," she said, her voice dripping with disdain. "Isn't that where Drusilla left you?"

"Yeah, and I'd be hunting her down, right about now. Unless I'd found her already, of course. And we'd go dancing."


"Yeah." Spike grinned. "They've got these little nightclubs, in the tourist spots. This time of year it's hot, and the clubs are packed, and you can't move without grinding up against a dozen people or more. Everything smells of alcohol and sweat and smoke and those flowers that only grow in the jungle. And you can dance and throw your head back and howl at the moon. Bloody brilliant."

Buffy laughed softly. "Well, if it's any consolation, I wish you were there, too."

They were quiet for a bit, until Spike asked, because there was no way he couldn't: "Where would you be?"

"LA," she said immediately, like the letters had been sitting on her tongue, waiting their turn.

"Predictable," Spike said.

"Yeah, I know. But ... I like LA at Christmas time. It was home for so long and sometimes I miss it."

"You wouldn't want to go somewhere exotic?"

"I figure LA is about as exotic as I'm ever likely to get," Buffy said, her eyes on the stars again. "The Slayer gig kinda comes with a lifetime lease on the Hellmouth."

He'd never really thought of it that way. To him, being the Slayer was something glamorous and unique. They came in so many different packages, in so many places. Wherever she was needed, there the Slayer would be.

For a little while.

Until something like Spike came along and picked her off.

So when the spell finally ended, Spike would pack up his cigarettes and his duster and get in his car and go as far as the road would take him, and Buffy ... would stay here in Sunnydale, and fight, and probably die in a year or three, if she were incredibly lucky.

You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave.

There was some strange emotion clogging his chest. He coughed, hoping to dislodge it, but it lay there, heavy and immovable. God, he was so twisted.

After a while the Slayer got up and dusted off the seat of her pants, then looked down at him. "I know it's early, but ... I'm gonna turn in. I want to be up early so that ... you know ..."

"Yeah," Spike said. "Go on then."

"Are you coming in?"

"I'm not going anywhere, if that's what you're asking."

"Good," she said. For a moment she looked as if she wanted to say something. Then she seemed to think better of it, turned, and went inside. Spike listened to her putter around the house for a few minutes longer before she went upstairs.

With a sigh, Spike flicked away the last of his cigarette and stood. When he went in, he saw that she'd turned off most of the lights—except for the tree, which was still lit up like a strip club. He wandered over, wondering where she'd gotten the deadly thing. There were ornaments strewn all through the tree: glittery candy canes and snowmen and tiny little Santa statues. Some were store bought, but there were a few that had been handmade, probably by a bite-sized Buffy: a little flour dough wreath, a paper ornament done in crayon and glitter and glue, a plastic ball with a slightly faded photo of a little girl with blonde hair and a brilliantly gap-toothed smile sitting on a much-younger Joyce's lap.

Spike fingered it for a moment, tracing the bright grin on the little girl's face.

"Wanker," he said, and turned on his heel.

He paused at the foot of the stairs and listened. Upstairs, the Slayer was humming Christmas carols to herself as she got ready for bed. He reached into his pocket and felt for the wad of cash he still had leftover from their shopping trip.

Then, cursing himself for being ten kinds of an idiot, Spike pulled out the remaining bills, smoothed them out, and carefully put them back in the Slayer's purse, where he'd gotten them in the first place.


Before she went to bed, Buffy went in to check on her mom. She drew the blinds slightly, remembering how the light had hurt her own eyes at first, then went to the bathroom and filled a glass of water to put by her mother's bed. Her throat was gonna be so dry ...

"I miss you, mom. But it's Christmas. So ... you have to wake up in the morning, okay?" Gently, Buffy brushed her mother's hair from her face. In her sleep, Joyce turned slightly into her pillow, her breathing even. Buffy brushed a kiss against her mother's forehead, then got up and tucked her blankets in around her.

"You used to do this for me, when I was little—on Christmas Eve. Remember? You'd say, Santa wouldn't come unless I was all tucked in and asleep ..."

There was no answer.

"Guess I should go to bed, huh?" Buffy said. "Santa will be here soon."

In her own room, Buffy opened the window and looked down at the front porch. Spike must have come back inside. She couldn't see him sitting down there in the shadows anymore ... or maybe he was just being lurky. Even so, the prayer she offered up to the Powers That Be was silent, and certainly not meant for vampire ears.

I know, I haven't always been the best Slayer ever. I complain a lot, and ... I don't always understand what you're up to. But I promise I'll do better, if you'll fix this. Please. I promise.

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