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Chapter 31
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Merry late Christmas (and Happy Birthday to me). I finally, finally, finally had some time to finish editing this chapter, and I thought I'd post it as a belated Christmas gift to you all. Thank you for being so patient with me while I wrestle real life back into submission.

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


When William had been alive, he’d often felt as if he would burst from the emotions inside him. Whether it was embarrassment and shame, or love, or joy, or anger, or fear—they’d all been so near the surface that he’d had a difficult time suppressing them behind society’s polite mask. A gentleman did not wear his heart on his sleeve. He did not express his emotions. He was polite and distant. One simply must keep one’s crust stiff and upper and all that rot.
Every day was a struggle to put a leash on his feelings,  to keep from lashing out at those who hurt him, to refrain from blurting out his deepest secrets to all and sundry. Poetry, finally, gave him an outlet—a way to vent all the things boiling inside of him.
Unfortunately, poetry and his own excess of emotions had led to the Decline and Fall of William Pratt.
Spike knew the party line the Watchers touted about vampires. That the human left behind his or her memories for the demon that set up shop in the body—like moving out of a flat but leaving all the furniture. He’d never bought into it. Not once. Because memories were one thing, but emotions? Feelings? Those were something else entirely. They belonged to the human heart … and after he’d died, they had only gotten stronger.
And harder to control.
If he lost his temper—and William had, underneath his polite mask, possessed a temper held firmly in check by the lovelorn poet’s soul—he was now free to destroy the things that infuriated him. If he hurt—and he did hurt—he could cause pain back a hundredfold. He had no shame, no need for manners, and no one to tell him no.
If in William those feelings had swelled to bursting, then in Spike they boiled over. Dru had told him once that he had a face like a moving picture show—every thought dancing across his features and through the windows of his eyes for anyone who cared to to view. His moods were mercurial and violent, a carnival of lust and glee, and he’d let them run rampant over anyone who might stand in his path.
Until now.
Until this spell.
Until Buffy.
He ought to hate her. Ought to be burning with hatred as hotly as he burned with desire. And he did. Hate her, that was. It simmered just beneath the surface, making him clench his jaw and ball his hands into fists. It made his face itch, he wanted so badly to vamp out and tear into her throat.
And yet … he knew what she was doing. It wasn’t the first time and likely wouldn’t be the last. He’d crossed some unspoken boundary, broken some human rule he didn’t understand, and her gates had slammed closed, denying him entry. He wanted her badly, and he knew she wanted him—though she’d deny it with every breath left in her until they were both screaming toward an orgasm. If she’d just stop torturing them both with her bullshit excuses, they might be able to find a measure of happiness.
If she’d just give him a chance, he knew he could make her happy.
But no. Mustn’t want the evil vampire. Mustn’t admit that he got her juices flowing, or that her little quim got a bit twitchy now whenever he was near. Mustn’t let him into her bed—though she seemed perfectly happy storming into the basement on a near nightly basis and using him to scratch whatever filthy itch she’d managed to work up that day.
Most of all … she mustn’t treat him like a man.
No matter how much he felt like one in her presence.
At least until she reminded him that he was a monster, again.
Spike watched as Buffy marched over to the bed, and carefully unrolled the maps, spreading them out to study. The better to ignore him, he supposed.
“Where do we begin?” she asked, tracing her finger over the map. Her voice was cold, controlled, and when she looked up at him her eyes were, too. Something had closed behind her eyes, some door that he thought he’d been slowly battering open over the last few weeks.
With a nearly human effort, he managed to put a lid on his temper. No point in losing it now. It’d just brass her off more.
“Uh, here, I guess,” he said. He jabbed a thumb over his shoulder at the crevice in the rear wall of the lair “That leads down into the tunnel system, bit further on.” She didn’t say anything when he approached the bed, but he felt her stiffen beside him when he reached out to trace a route on the map with one finger. “Joins up about here.”
“It’s a start.” Buffy rolled up the map. “We’ll need a torch or flashlights or something. I’m not going to wander around in the dark.”
He thought of the walk there, holding her hand, how natural and easy it had felt to have her little palm tucked in his. Less than an hour ago, he’d had that, and now he suspected she’d rather chop off her arm than touch him.
Wanker. Pillock. Poofter. Wanting to hold her sodding hand.
“Right.” Spike crunched through the destruction to the tunnel entrance and rummaged around in the pile of junk there until he unearthed a couple of torches—the mechanical kind. Less chance of getting accidentally flambeed. The batteries on one were dead. He clicked on the other and handed it to her. “You’re sure you want to do this tonight? We could go back, get some supplies and stuff.”
“No. We’re here, we might as well get started,” she said, then gestured with the light at the entrance. “Vampires first.”


The tunnels here were different than the sewers she was used to navigating. The rock walls were harshly hewn and studded with chunks of rock and—here and there—bits of bone that didn’t look entirely human. It wouldn’t surprise her to find that all of Sunnydale was one big burial ground for everything the Hellmouth devoured—human or demon.
Dust clung to every surface and kicked up around their feet. Water dripped somewhere far off. Otherwise there was nothing but silence and the sense that the ground was pushing down on you, burying you beneath its weight.
It became more and more oppressive the further they went.
Spike stalked ahead of her, the line of his shoulders clearly broadcasting his sulk. She found herself watching him, mostly because he was far more interesting to look at than the passing scenery. The light caught in his hair, on the pale length of his arms, and sparked off the silver safety pins that studded his shirt.
He was completely not her type. Sure, she sometimes went for bad boys—but she liked them taller, darker, and handsome in that brooding hero sort of way. Not … ripped and chiseled and short enough to kiss without straining her neck and … with bad fashion sense.
That shirt really did fantastic things to his arms, though.
She shook her head. Dirty, nasty, evil vampire. Grrr. Arrgh. Her sworn duty to kill. Why was that so hard for her to remember sometimes? Twenty minutes ago she’d known it. Hell, twenty minutes ago she could have written an entire book on why lusting after vampires was the worst idea since the return of bell-bottoms.
He wanted to have sex in his ex-girlfriend’s bed. Ex-bed-sex! See? EVIL!
Also, ew.
“What do you want to do, Slayer?”
She jerked her attention back to their surroundings. He’d led her into a small cavern, the walls pitted with openings to several branching passageways.
“You’ve got the bloody map,” he said. “Which way do we go?”
Gritting her teeth to keep from snapping at him, Buffy spread the map out on the uneven floor and studied it under the beam of her flashlight. She found Harmony’s lair, then traced the route they’d followed until she came to the branching tunnels. West would take them under the cemeteries, east would head toward the middle of town and the sewage system, northeast would lead them into town, but close to the old high school.
Spike pointed at the westernmost passage. “There are some demon lairs this way,” he said, tapping a series of caverns. “But it dead ends about five hundred yards from here. Can’t think it’s likely we’ll find your army boys down that way.”
“We’ll come back with weapons and clean them out later. For now, northeast looks good.”
“Back toward town.” Spike arched an eyebrow.
“Closer to home when we’re ready to get out of here,” she pointed out.
“Right.” He studied the map with his head tilted, then glanced up at her. The low light cast his features into eerie relief. He looked nearly as demonic as he did when in game face.
Bad. Wrong. Demon.
Then he shifted, or the light did, and she realized that he looked, more than anything, like a someone lost.
“Northeast, then,” she decided, and rolled the map back up.
The tunnels grew a little smoother further along, as if they’d seen more traffic. The sense of the ground closing in around her grew worse, however. She didn’t like it down here, not at all. After several minutes of strained silence, she couldn’t take it any longer. “So, how come you know so much about these tunnels?”
“Used them to get around, time or two,” Spike said, without looking back at her. “Sewers are more convenient, though.”
“Oh. … So, uh, what do you think those army guys want to study?”
He turned his head back over his shoulder to glare at her, his eyes dark hollows in the low light. “So it’s to be small talk, now, is it?”
“I’m bored,” Buffy said. And kinda creeped out down here, she didn’t say.
He rolled his eyes and clenched his jaw, but came back to walk by her side. Oddly, it made her feel better. “What are we gonna do if we find these blokes? They’re human, right?”
Okay, not so much with the better.
“I—I don’t know,” she said. “I just … feel like we’ve gotta find them. It’s important. Or something. I guess we’ll figure out what to do with them when we do.”
“You think they’ve got somethin’ to do with the spell?”
“I don’t know. Maybe? We’ve looked at everything else, haven’t we?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Gettin’ kinda tired of books.”
“Me too,” she said. Their eyes met briefly, and Spike smiled. It wasn’t his evil grin, or his sarcastic smirk, or his sexy smile. It was the kind of smile you give someone that you have something in common with, a friends-y sort of smile. Somehow, it sent an electric tingle down her spine even so. It was hard to remember, when he smiled at her like that, that he was evil.
Of course, then he opened his mouth again and words came out.
“Do you … Are we gettin’ along now?”
No,” she said. Because they weren’t. They couldn’t afford to. No matter how lonely that left her.
He scowled and kicked at a rock, then hopped on one foot for a moment. “Do you know what your problem is, Slayer?”
“The entire town is in a coma and I’m stuck with Spikey, the wonder vamp?”
“Your problem is that you can’t just let yourself be happy. You’ve got to put rules on it, and conditions. You never just let yourself enjoy bein’ you,” he said.
“Hey, I enjoy me!” she said. “I enjoy me all the time!”
“In the bedroom, under the blankets, with the bloody lights off, sure.”
“What?” Horrified, she came to a halt and stared at him. And there was that stupid smirk of his.
“I’m dead, not deaf, Slayer. I know what you do when you’re trying to convince yourself you don’t need me to scratch your itch,” he said, tongue curled obscenely behind his teeth. “You and Mr. Pointy’s pink latex cousin—I’m bigger, in case you hadn’t noticed.”
She punched him, right in the nose. He just laughed and dabbed at one bloody nostril.
“You … you … How do you know that it’s …? Oh, god, you were in my stuff! I told you to stay out of my room!”
“I did. Lucky guess. Tell me, does it have sparkles or is it one of those semi-realistic ones? I want a good mental image to wank to when you’re otherwise occupied.”
“I hate you.”
“No, you don’t,” he said. He laid one hand over where his heart had once beat. “But thanks for sayin’ it.”


The tunnels began to intersect with the sewer system more frequently the closer they got to town. Buffy’s feet were cold and damp from splashing through shallow water. The air was cold and musty in the tunnels, and cold and wet in the sewers. Every so often her flashlight picked up the gleam of bones on the floor, some human, some not.
Tired, hungry, and more than slightly creeped out, she’d have quit after the first half hour, except she didn’t want to give Spike the satisfaction of being right.
“If I hear one more complaint outta you, I am turning around and heading straight back for the surface, Slayer,” Spike groused after she’d complained for the fourth or fifth time. “Need I remind you that you’re the one who wanted to go spelunking unprepared, and I was all for goin’ for supplies?”
“Just because you’re lazy and don’t want to work—”
“Oi, I am not—”
“Oh yeah? So all that trying to distract me with … sexy stuff was what? Part of your solid work ethic?”
“Just because I don’t want to go off half cocked—”
“No, you’d rather go off all co—” Buffy stopped, frowning, and pointed her flashlight beam down a nearby tunnel. A shiver rippled down her spine just before Spike nearly ran into her back.
“What?” he asked, all traces of snark gone. “What’s wrong?”
“This looks familiar.” She couldn’t quite place it, but something about the section of tunnel was pounding at the doors of her memory, hard.
“You kill a demon down here, before?”
“I …” She took a step down the tunnel, feeling the creep factor writhe up the back of her neck. Goosebumps rose on her arms. “Maybe? I mean, you guys do seem to like dark and dank for your interior décor. Let’s go this way.”
“My spidey sense is tingling.”
That was usually all the reason she ever needed. It wasn’t a full-blown demon-alert tingle. It was something else: a low-grade itch between her shoulder blades  and a warning crawl of flesh that hinted at old power. It was as good as labeling the tunnel with a big, scary sign: “Here Be Monsters.”
Or, more accurately, she realized as she stepped out of the sewer into the vast cavernous space beyond: “Here Were Monsters.” As in: past tense. Because the thing that had dwelt in this literal hell-hole? She’d killed it.
And then bashed its bones to dust.
Behind her, Spike gave a low, involuntary growl that sounded nearly like a purr. “Well, well. What’s this?”
“What does it feel like?” Her flashlight beam played over the uneven floor, the pools of stagnant water, and sharp bits of rock that stabbed down from above. Embedded in the walls, and crumbling in the corners were the rotting remains of what had once been someplace holy—now fallen.
“Power.” Spike stepped past her and looked up toward the cavern’s high, shadow shrouded ceiling. “Old, old power. This joint reeks of it. Bloody hell, Slayer, what is this place?”
They stood on a roughly cut staircase above the main part of the chamber. But Buffy’s gaze was fixed several feet below, where her flashlight illuminated a shallow pool of water. The thin beam barely cut through the gloom. The last time she’d been here, the walls had reflected the flickering light from dozens of candles. From the look of things, they had long since melted to lumpy piles of wax.
Spike started down the staircase, his footsteps vampire-silent in the shadows. Reluctantly, Buffy followed. Most people got creepy tinglies and went in the other direction. Not Buffy. Nope. Shouldn’t have taken that left turn at Albuquerque.
Together they ventured into the middle of the cavern. Its far end looked as if it had suffered some damage in an earthquake: a rock fall had taken out one corner, just beside a gaping chasm. When she played her light over the ceiling, she thought she glimpsed a similar crack several hundred feet above that endless pit.
The library.
If she’d jumped, before, she’d have passed through this place.
“This is the Hellmouth, isn’t it? We’re just under the school, here.” Spike’s head swiveled towards her. His eyes narrowed. “Not thinking about taking a tumble, were we?”
“Feelin’ suicidal again, Slayer? If so I’ve no objections to fucking that thought right out of your head. But maybe we can skip the scary preliminaries and get straight to the shaggin’ this time?”
“Ugh. No. No shagging. Or  …  that other thing. Besides, what would be the point? I’m already in Hell, stuck here with you.”
She turned away, only to trip over something that clattered across the stone floor. A twang, a whoosh, and then an earsplitting howl from Spike told her what it was before she could find it with her flashlight. She froze.
“Bloody buggering FUCK! You’ve already got me by the balls, you don’t need to try to shoot them off—oi, hold up, where’d you get a crossbow?”
He limped up next to her, a bolt protruding from his upper thigh. With a growl, he yanked the bit of wood out, leaving a ragged and bloody hole in his jeans. He kicked the crossbow across the cavern floor, and it plunked into a pool of stagnant water.  “You are hell on a fellow’s wardrobe, you know that, Slayer?”
“It was an accident. I—I’d forgotten …”
“To look where you’re going?”
“No … I’d just … forgotten I’d … left it. Here.”
She could feel him staring at her again, but her eyes were focused on the pool of water.
“What happened here, Slayer? … Buffy? What did you kill here?”
Her throat tightened, clogged with the old fear.
Suddenly she felt sixteen again—she could see the candlelight on the walls, hear his voice, calling her to her death. It didn’t matter that she’d come back, that she’d beaten prophecy and lived. It didn’t matter that she’d pounded the monster’s bones to splinters. For a moment, she was as powerless as if he were standing there once more, compelling her with his eyes and voice.
Strong hands gripped her shoulders and spun her.
Panicked, she dropped the flashlight and lashed out at the voice. Her fist connected with bone and flesh. The light rolled, the light flickering wildly off in the wrong direction, leaving her adversary as just a shadow among many. A fist smashed into her cheek, sending her stumbling over the rocky floor. She lashed out with a foot, connecting with something fleshy. Squinting in that direction, all she could see was a tall, thin shape in black, with a white face and glittering eyes.
Not again. Never again.
She threw herself back into the fight with a vengeance. After a while, however, she realized he wasn’t trying to hurt her so much as stop her. His hands grappled for her wrists in an attempt to immobilize. Disoriented, she kicked out, and he swept her feet out from under her.
“Knock it off, Slayer!”
Her head struck something, a bit of rock, most likely. Pain stabbed through her skull, and her vision went black. Well, black-er. Buffy scrambled backward, desperate to get away, but her right hand met only air instead of stone — and then she was tumbling into cold water.
It was shallow, but slippery and slimy; her hands found no purchase. Coughing, choking, she scrabbled for the edge to pull herself up, but the pain in her head made her dizzy.
Is this how I die the second time? she thought, as she inhaled and got mostly water.
What was it with the world trying to drown her?
Then there were hands grabbing her jacket and hauling her up onto the cold stone floor. Hands pounded on her back. A strained voice near her ear swore and commanded: “Cough it up, Slayer. Fuck. Don’t you do this to me. Don’t you even bloody think about it. Breathe, Buffy. C’mon, sweetheart. Breathe for me. I don’t fucking know CPR, and if I have to wing it I’m gonna cock it up, so would you cough that goddamn water up already?”
It took a moment, and then she did cough, gagging on a lungful of disgusting water.
Spike’s hand—and she knew, now, that it was Spike—continued to thwack her between the shoulder blades. His other hand smoothed the dripping hair away from her face, held it back at the nape of her neck as she heaved and puked up what felt like the entire pool.
“There now,” he murmured. His hands gentled. “There you are. Get it all out. Fuck. Don’t you ever scare me like that. If you ever do that again, I swear I’ll kill you myself. Gettin’ bloody well tired of you trying to off yourself on the Hellmouth, sweetheart. Come on, luv—”
Feeling strength return to her limbs, Buffy shoved at him.
“Stop it,” she croaked through a throat that felt like she’d swallowed glass. She made it to her feet, pushing her hair out of her face again and ignoring his extended hand. Her teeth chattered, clacking together violently.  If she’d been cold before it was nothing compared to how cold she was now. Her soaked clothes felt like clinging sheets of ice. “I wasn’t trying to kill myself—”
“Not what it looked like to me.” Spike stopped a few feet way, crossed his arms over his chest, and glared. “You should get out of those wet things, Slayer, or you’ll finish the job.”
With a snort that turned into a brief coughing fit, Buffy turned her back on him and started hunting for the flashlight. “Yeah, you’d like that wouldn’t you? I’m getting a little tired of you trying to get yourself off on the Hellmouth. It’s sick, Spike.”
You’re gonna be sick standing around in wet clothes. I’m trying to help, here, Slayer.”
“You don’t help!”  She found the flashlight and turned it on his furious face. He squinted against the light, his sensitive pupils contracting to pinpricks in a sea of ice-cold blue. “You just … you don’t help, Spike. The only reason you’re still around is because I let you stay.”
“And because you need me—”
“I don’t need you,” she lied. “I never need you.”
He advanced a step, but she stood her ground. In the light she noticed that he had a black eye and his nose was bleeding. Water dripped down his hollow cheeks like tears. His right pant leg was shiny with blood. He didn’t even seem to register his injuries, and the fury on his face was as cold as she felt.
“Needed me just then, didn’t you, Slayer? If it weren’t for me, your ungrateful arse would still be drowning in a bloody puddle—”
“If you hadn’t knocked me down it wouldn’t have been in it in the first place!”
“You hit me first, you daft bint!”
“You—” But whatever she’d meant to say got lost in a brief coughing fit. It didn’t seem to matter, though. Spike’s temper had finally snapped.  He roared—the enraged roar of a completely pissed off vampire—loud enough to shake dust from the cavern walls.
“I just saved you—”
“I didn’t need to be saved! I would have been fine in a minute—”
“You’d have been dead—”
“Why do you even care? You’ve only ever wanted to kill me! Why didn’t you just leave me there to drown in peace?”
“Because I’m in love you with you, you stupid bitch!
Everything froze but the echoes, which seemed to take an inordinate amount of glee in repeating those words into infinity.
Buffy caught one glimpse of Spike’s horrified face—eyes wide as windows, mouth hanging open as if he had no control over it at all—before the flashlight flickered once in warning.
Then it died, plunging them both into the hollow dark.
For a long moment, the only sound in the cavern was their harsh breathing.
Then, “Oh, god, no. Please, no.”

For the record: NO I have not abandoned this story. Updates are just going to be a little sporadic and far between for a bit. I'd apologize for this cliff hanger but ... 

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