She couldn’t study. She was supposed to be doing a practice test for her online History class. It should have been easy considering how comfortable she was, and the quietness of the atmosphere. The candlelight was dim, but with her acute slayer eyesight she could make out every word without eyestrain.
Buffy groaned. “I can’t concentrate,” she whined.
“Waz that, luv?” Spike glanced over from his own book. It was poetry to her surprise. But it made sense if you thought about it. Spike really was a gentle person when you peeled off the exterior layer.
“The dates keep jumbling up in my mind. Stupid history. Can you fill in this blank? Never forget- what? I’m racking my brain and just can’t think of it. Supposedly it happened in 1944.”
“D-Day,” Spike said immediately.
Buffy slammed the textbook shut. She tossed it to the crypt floor. “I give up!”
Her vampire companion just raised an eyebrow.
“I know I’m spazzing,” Buffy said. “But I can’t help it. My brain is so preoccupied.”
Her green eyes met his. “Promise you won’t laugh?”
He smiled. “Promise.”
“I’m worried. Sometime during this whole Glory thing eight months have gone by. I haven’t given myself time to prepare for giving birth.”
“Doubt a women is ever really ‘prepared’, luv?”
“But-But . . .” She pouted. “So many things could go wrong. I’m not ready. Can I just keep her inside me forever? It’s safer in my tummy anyway. She has a slayer shield.”
Spike reached behind her and began to rub her lower back. She moaned in pleasure, leaning into his touch. Oh, he had magic fingers. If she wasn’t all achy as of late she’d let those fingers do other magical things. More fun things.
“Now you’re being silly,” Spike said.
“Oh, you are just eager to get back to slim and trim Buffy so we can do naughty things,” she only half-teased.
His massage halted. “Won’t lie to you, I’m a horny man. I’d take you now if you’d let me, though. I’d take you no matter what. You’ll always be beautiful.”
Awww. Okay, was she actually tearing up over that? Damn hormones! Buffy leaned over to give him a tender kiss.
Buffy pulled back slightly. “What’s going to happen after?”
“Don’t know if I understand the question, pet. Could you elaborate?” Spike said.
“After Dawnie is born.” Buffy’s face beamed as she said her daughter’s name. The more she said it, the more she fell in love with it. Spike was a genius to suggest it.
“Still a mite confused. You’re going to be a mother, I’m going to be a father, Joyce will be the grandmother. . . “
“That’s not what I mean,” Buffy said in exasperation. “I mean with you. Are you going to stay in this scary bat cave?”
Spike put his hands behind his head and leaned back against the headboard of the bed. “It’s right nice. Why would I have to pack up and move?”
Buffy scrunched up her nose. “It smells, is dark, and ‘had dead people in it’,” she counted off.
“What’s your point?”
“We can’t bring our kid around this place. It’s just not right.”
“I could fix it up a bit. You know, watch those home decorating shows or whatnot,” Spike said.
She laid her head against his chest. His left hand snaked around her shoulders, holding her to him.
“I thought maybe you could come live with us- In the basement.” Really she wanted him to stay in her room but she was scared to suggest it. That would mean a definite commitment.
“You sure your mum would approve?”
“I think she would, yeah.”
He nodded. “Then I’ll consider it.”
She lifted up to press her lips to his again. “Thank you,” she whispered.
Buffy exited the bathroom and almost rammed into her mother. Joyce stepped back and examined her daughter critically.
“Buffy, why are you up at this hour?” Joyce asked.
Buffy gave her mother a shy look. She’d been all over the house these past few hours, restless. “Did I wake you? I’m sorry. I can’t sleep. I . . .” She trailed off, wincing. Her hand pressed against the side of her tummy.
Mrs. Summers took in Buffy’s action. “How often?”
Buffy sighed. “Not very. Now and again for the past couple days. No biggie. I’ve read books. They all say that the contractions mean nothing until they come regularly.”
Joyce nodded in agreement. She took the slayer’s hand. “Come on, Buffy. Why don’t I fix us some hot cocoa?”
“But Mom . . . Aren’t you tired? Go back to sleep.”
“No, dear. I’ll never be able to drift back off with you scampering about.”
Staring down, which would have been her feet if they hadn’t been blocked, Buffy mumbled, “Sorry.”
“Quite all right, Buffy. I don’t have to be at the gallery until at least noon.”
A half hour later Buffy sipped at a mug of steaming hot chocolate. All of a sudden she left the kitchen to head downstairs. Her mother lifted an eyebrow when she emerged carrying an armload of clothing. Buffy NEVER did housework unless pressed to do so. Buffy deposited the clothes down on the kitchen island and began to fold.
“Stop staring!” Buffy said with a laugh. “I was bored!”
Buffy paused. “Mom, what is labor like? I mean, is there anything I should know?”
“Oh, Buffy, you’ll do fine. I’ve seen you read over a dozen books. Nature takes its course anyway.”
“I’m scared,” Buffy confessed.
Joyce walked over and hugged her. “Everybody is scared. Nothing to be ashamed of. There will be doctors to help if anything goes wrong.”
“That doesn’t soothe me much,” Buffy said.
Joyce shook her head. “Dear, you have to get over this hospital distaste.”
Biting her lip, Buffy said,” Can’t help it.” Her cousin died in the hospital. That fact haunted her every time she stepped within its doors.
“You won’t be alone. I’ll be with you. Spike will be with you, holding your hand. And you know he’ll eat any doctor that doesn’t know what their doing.” The last part was said with good humor.
“I know, mommy. Still, I can’t help it.”
Joyce touched Buffy’s hair. “I know.”
The ringing of the phone jarred her awake. Buffy tossed off the afghan, got up, and went to the kitchen to answer it. She knew immediately by Xander’s voice that something had happened.
“Xander, what is wrong?”
He sighed. “It’s Tara. Glory got her.”
There was a span of silence. Buffy gripped the telephone tighter.
“Is she . . .?”
“She’s alive. But . . . She’s different. Her mind is gone.”
Poor Tara. Buffy shut her eyes. The sweet witch didn’t deserve this.
“How is Willow dealing?”
“N-Not good. I think you should come down here,” Xander said.
“All right. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
When Buffy entered the room she was hit with a brick. Nothing could have prepared her for what she saw. Tara’s right hand was wrapped in a cast. She sat on an examining table, dressed in a dotted hospital gown. It was her eyes that struck her the most. There were vacant. There was nothing there.
Buffy hugged Willow. “Will, I’m so sorry.”
“They kill mice!” Tara said in outburst and giggled.
Willow blinked back tears.
Hesitating, Buffy moved toward Tara. She wrapped her arms around the woman. Tara didn’t respond, as if she didn’t recognize the sentiment. Buffy pulled back.
Willow shook. “I’m so scared.”
A little while later a nurse came to tear Tara away from Willow. The nurse assured Willow that Tara only had to stay in the psych ward for a night. Tara went wild as soon as her girlfriend let go of her good hand.
“Stop! Please don’t with your treachery!” Tara shouted. She thrashed her head.
Willow frowned. “Tara, baby?”
The nurse wheeled the chair toward the door.
“I told the cat. And now my mother sits all alone,” Tara babbled.
“I’ll see you tomorrow. I love you,” Willow said.
Tara stretched out her hand. Willow turned around, not able to watch her other half’s exit.
“It’s just for one night,” Xander reminded his best friend.
“A whole night,” Willow said. “I don’t think I can sleep without her.”
“You can sleep with me!” Anya exclaimed.
All eyes focused on Anya. She seemed embarrassed. “That came out a lot more lesbian than it sounded in my head.”
Buffy stepped forward. “You have to rest, Willow. Okay? Right now there’s nothing you can do.”
The expression that passed over Willow’s face made Buffy go cold. It was full of hate.
“Yes there is,” Willow said flatly. She stalked out the door.
Buffy hurried out into the hall. She halted the red-head by grabbing her arm. “You can’t even think about taking on Glory!”
“You saw what she did to Tara. I can’t let her get away with it.”
“No. You ‘have’ to let her get away with it. None of us are a match for her at the moment.”
“Maybe I am. I haven’t really tried,” Willow said. She wrenched her arm free.
“You’re not. I won’t let you,” Buffy protested.
“This is not your choice.”
“You won’t last five minutes. She’s a god.”
Willow shook her head. “Fine. I’ll wait.”
“It’s the only way.”
Willow turned to leave. “Just leave me alone for awhile.”
The only place she felt safe these days was in Spike’s arms. He made her forget the darkness that loomed all around. It was ironic how his cold presence filled her with such warmth. She never wanted to leave his embrace.
“Can I stay here forever?” Buffy questioned.
He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “Won’t hear any complaints from me, luv.”
“I wish I could,” she said. “But Willow needs me.”
“Poor Red. How’s she holding up?”
“Not good. She was looking to go all pay-backy on Glory for a minute. But I cooled her down.”
He looked skeptical. “So she’s not going to do anything rash then?”
“No. I explained to her that there was no point.”
She stepped out of his arms. “What?”
“You - so you're saying that a ... powerful and mightily pissed-off witch ... was plannin' on going and spillin' herself a few pints of god blood until you, what, ‘explained’?”
Buffy frowned. “I told Willow it would be suicide.”
“I’d do it,” Spike softly said.
Buffy’s eyes took in his intense blue ones.
“For you or the bit. I’d do it,” he went on.
“I know,” Buffy whispered. “Do you honestly think Willow’d . . .?”
“Think, luv. If anything happened to the baby because of Glory? What would you do?”
Buffy’s eyes widened. She raced out the door without glancing back. She knew he followed her because she could feel tingles spark the back of her neck. A moment later he met up with her.
“Slow down a bit, Buffy,” he ordered. “It isn’t good to push yourself this late in pregnancy.”
“I’m fine,” Buffy insisted.
No time to concern herself about exertion. Willow needed her ‘now’. Willow might die.
They made it to Glory’s gigantic mansion and burst inside. Glory must really feel confident because there was no security. A loud bang filled the slayer’s ears. She followed it into the parlor. The room was in shambles. Broken glass covered the floor and furniture was thrown around, most busted.
Buffy walked in just in time to find Willow held against the wall. Glory had a large knife in her grasp, prepared to stab her friend. “Know what they used to do to witches, lover? Crucify them.”
Buffy stormed up. She snatched Glory’s wrist. “They used to bow down to gods.”
Buffy head-butted Glory and twisted her wrist. Willow fell to the floor in a heap. “Things change,” Buffy concluded.
Spike rushed to help. He kicked Glory in the face. Then he began to punch her. Glory blocked the blows easily with her hands. Glory managed to throw the vamp over the sofa.
“That witch barely managed to slow me down,” Glory commented. Her gaze landed on Buffy.
Buffy knew she had to get out of there. She was in no shape to take Glory on. Her back hurt and she had a tiny tummy ache. To top it off baby Dawnie was doing gymnastics.
“Thicken,” Willow called. She picked herself up.
The air around Glory began thick, immobilizing her temporarily. Buffy grabbed Willow’s hand, hauling her out. Spike took the opportunity to follow them. The group ran out to safety.
“This isn’t over, witch!” Glory shouted after them.
The next day Buffy sat in Tara’s room. Willow and Tara huddled together on the bed. Willow had constant contact with her girlfriend, afraid to let go. Buffy understood.
Buffy handed a sandwich over. “Chicken-salad?”
Willow raised her hand. “Me.”
“Eggplant, that’s me,” Buffy said as she took another sandwich out of the paper bag.
“What’s Tara got?” Willow asked.
“I made her tuna. Does she like?”
Willow took the sandwich and waved it in front of Tara. She carefully unwrapped it. She smiled.
“Plastic and her six sisters. Six sisters,” Tara babbled.
Willow slid her fingers along the side of Tara’s face. “Let’s just start slow today.” Her attention went to Buffy. “Can I have that?”
Buffy handed over a plastic container of applesauce. She watched as Willow opened it up and spoon-fed Tara. Willow took extra care as she brought the spoon up. Buffy couldn’t help but compare it to the care that a mother gave a child.
“That’s my girl,” Willow told Tara.
“What are you gonna need?” Buffy questioned.
“I don’t know. They gave me a lot of stuff to keep her calm. They told me to restrain her at night but . . . Sometimes she’s fine. She’ll look at me and she’s fine. I can do this. Even if she never . . . She’s my girl.”
Buffy nodded. She cupped her palm over her protruding belly. She wanted to cry over the devotion Willow had over Tara.
“I understand,” Buffy softly said.
Willow smiled. “I know you do.”
Suddenly the entire wall was ripped aside. Buffy and Willow jumped to their feet. Buffy gasped when Glory’s face appeared at where the window used to be.
“I told you this wasn’t over,” the goddess declared.
“No. The place is cracking!” Tara screamed.
Buffy’s eyes roamed, searching for a way out of this one.
Willow touched Tara’s arm.
“Oh, look at that!” Tara gawked at Buffy. Her finger pointed at Buffy’s middle. “How pure. Such pure green energy.”
The slayer took a step back. She held her stomach in protection. Her eyes fell on Glory. The hell god grinned in delight.
“How beautiful,” Tara said.
Buffy felt dizzy. She put a hand out to the wall in attempts to steady her. Oh God, Oh God.
“How cleaver those monks were,” Glory said.
The slayer was one for action. They made decisions quickly and made them without hesitation. At that moment, however, Buffy couldn’t move. She remained frozen, petrified. All she could do was clutch at her stomach, the thin layer of skin that wasn’t enough protection to her child. It’s over. It’s over. It’s over. . .
She never heard Willow chant something in Latin. Or see when the witch held out her hand. Glory was thrown aside into the bushes.
“Buffy, run!” Willow shouted.
Coming out of her daze, Buffy took in the situation. She took flight and sprinted out into the dorm hallway. There were students all over. They glanced up in curiosity as she passed. Some got in her way and Buffy pushed them aside. She made it to the front doors and crashed through. She crossed the lawn, heading toward the road. An uncomfortable clench in her belly made her slow. The sporadic, occasional pains were becoming not so sporadic or occasional. But she didn’t have time to contemplate what that meant. No. She shook her head. She had to keep moving.
As soon as she made it to the edge of the street Glory popped up in front of her. The goddess put her hands on her hips. She stared down at Buffy as if she were a pesky ant that she needed to squish with her heel.
“You can run but you can’t hide. I’ll always catch up,” Glory declared.
Buffy prepared herself for what was to come.
“Any last words?”
“Just one. Truck,” Buffy said.
The semi stampeded into Glory’s form. The goddess flipped and landed on top of it. Buffy took the opportunity to flee the scene. She rushed all they way to Xander’s apartment. It was the closest Scooby haven.
She banged frantically on the door. Her friend opened it and she barreled in, breathless. He held her shoulders, taking in her state with concern.
“Buff, what happened?” Xander inquired.
She leaned into him. “Glory.” It was all she had the energy to get out. He led her to the couch. She collapsed on the cushions.
“We have to get everyone together,” Buffy instructed. “Call Giles. Is Anya at the shop?” At his nod, she went on. “Call her too. And contact my mom. Tell her to pack a bag. Willow and Tara might be there. Or they’re on their way here, I don’t know.”
Xander rushed off to do as she commanded. Buffy leaned her head back and moaned. She was drained and her muscles ached. She didn’t know how much longer she’d be able to hold up.
An hour later everyone was gathered. Buffy stood before them. She felt as if she might collapse but she kept the façade of commander well.
“Honey, what is this all about?” Joyce asked gently from her seat in the recliner.
Buffy stared out the window. “Glory knows about the key. I barely got away. A truck hit her. Couldn’t have slowed her down more than a few seconds.”
“But the important thing is that you are safe,” Giles said.
Buffy spun around. Fire burned in her eyes. “Safe? We've barely been able to manage not getting seriously dead every time we've crossed paths with Glory. Now that she knows that my baby is the key?”
“Piano!” Anya exclaimed.
“Because that’s what we used that one time to . . . Wait, huh?” Xander swiveled. “Ahn, what are you talking about?”
“We should drop a piano on her. Well, it always works for that creepy cartoon rabbit when he's running from that nice man with the speech impediment.”
Giles rolled his eyes. “Yes, or perhaps we could paint a convincing tunnel on the side of a mountain. Let's just keep thinking, everyone. “
“We can’t fight her,” Buffy lowly said.
“Well, not yet. But in a matter of time –“
“No, never,” Buffy countered. “Spells, stakes, or even rocket launchers aren’t going to beat this one. She’s a god and she’s coming for us. So I think let’s not be here when she comes knocking.”
“Run away?” Anya voiced. “Finally a decent plan.”
“That’s not what she meant,” Xander said. “Was it?”
“Of course not,” Willow replied.
“Yes it was,” Buffy said with emotion. “It’s the only thing we can do. She’s going to knock us down one by one until she has me snatched up. And who knows what she’ll do with Dawn then. Probably rip her right out of me.” Buffy’s lip wobbled. She covered her mouth with her hand and fought the stinging in her eyes.
“Buffy, we all understand the severity of the situation, but there must be another way,” Giles said.
She shook her head. “We stay and we die. Show of hands for that scenario?”
The group remained silent.
“Gather only what we need. We’re gone within the next two hours.”
For a moment no one moved. Then they began to disperse. Joyce stood up and approached her daughter. She laid a hand on her shoulder. Buffy jumped at the touch.
“Buffy,” Joyce gently said. “We need to contact Spike.”
Buffy nodded. “I’ll take care of it.”
Buffy knew Xander was sulking. It must be killing him not to throw Spike out of the Winnebago and out into the sunlight. He kept shooting the vampire death glares but somehow stayed good.
Buffy studied the map before her. Where to go? She’d always wanted to see Canada. But was that far enough? Was China even far enough? Somehow she felt like she wouldn’t even be safe on Mars.
Suddenly something ran over her back. She looked over to find Spike next to her. His presence eased her heart a fraction.
“You look knackered, luv. Why don’t you go in the back and rest?” he suggested.
“I can’t,” Buffy said. She looked back at the map. Spike turned her head toward him once again.
“Take a break, Buffy. You need your energy for whatever’s ahead of us.”
A bump in the road made the vehicle jostle. Tara whimpered and Xander groaned. His complexion was greenish and she wouldn’t have been surprised if he spilled his breakfast all over their shoes. She wondered if it was motion sickness that had overcome him or the sight of Spike and her proximity.
“Spike is right,” Joyce urged. “You have to keep your strength up.”
Buffy glanced from her mother to Spike and back again. They were very firm over the matter. She knew she wouldn’t win against them both. She reluctantly got up.
“That’s my girl,” Spike said.
His girl? Her lips twitched.
She went into the back and shut the sliding door. She took in a deep breath. Then she curled up on the tiny couch. She winced as a sharp spasm spread through her uterus. She pressed against the spot and felt that it had grown hard. She whimpered. The sensation eased and she closed her eyes. Eventually she escaped the tornado that threatened to suck her in.
The giggling was musical. Buffy stretched out her form on the lawn chair and moaned in contentment. It was the perfect day. Fluffy white clouds dotted the bright blue blanket above.
“Buffy, you’re going to roast out here if you stay much longer.”
The rich British voice made her turn. She shielded her eyes. He stood on the porch in the shadows.
“Come join us, Spike,” Buffy called.
“Yes, daddy, come join us!”
The little girl was beautiful. Her brown pig-tails bounced as she ran around the back yard. Her blue eyes sparkled with excitement.
Spike hesitantly stepped out into the sun. He came to a halt before Buffy. She gazed up at him and for some reason didn’t question the fact that he didn’t burn. She reached out and took his hand, bringing him down to her.
Things were perfect.
“Kitten?” Spike whispered. He stroked her hair.
Her eyes shot open. Her green eyes landed on his face. He sat beside her on the tiny couch.
“Sorry to wake you. Anya is going to try fixing some lunch. I thought you might be a tad peckish for something.”
Buffy slowly sat up. The air seemed thick, closing in on her. She wanted to go back to her dream world where everything was perfect.
“What do you say? Spam?”
Ugh, spam sounded awful. Consuming anything at the moment sounded awful. She felt sick. She stiffened. No, not again. This time it hit her harder and she doubled over. Spike perked up. He reached over and put his palm over her stomach. His nostrils flared.
“You’re rock hard, slayer!”
His voice did nothing to help her state. She tried to control her breathing as the contraction ran through her. It was the longest one yet. Not a good sign.
“Were you going to let us in on this turn of events?” Spike demanded.
“It’s nothing to worry about yet,” Buffy said.
“Nothing to worry about? You’re in the first stage of labor!”
Oh God! Why did he have to say that out loud? The confirmation made it all too real. She wasn’t ready. She wasn’t ready.
“What were you tryin to do? Hide it?”
She shook her head.
“Were you in denial?” He said this more soothingly. The tone portrayed that he already knew the answer.
Buffy laid her head against his shoulder. “Oh, Spike, this can’t be happening now. Please make it stop,” she begged.
He stroked her hair. “Nothing I can do.”
“Just hold me then.”
He gathered her in his arms. She sighed, snuggling up against him.
“It’ll be okay, luv,” he assured her.
She believed him. She shouldn’t have. Everything pointed against it, but she did anyway.
The sound of clopping horse hoofs thundered into their ears. Buffy shot out of his embrace as an arrow penetrated the wall beside them. So much for Spike’s false claim.
It was like watching a movie. The events passing before her eyes felt distant, as if they were happening to someone else. There were shouts outside and more arrows hurdled through the air. The Winnebago swerved. Buffy swayed and Spike reached out to steady her.
“Come on.” He tugged her out into the main area of the Winnebago. Joyce ran to Buffy.
“What is going on? Who are these people?” Joyce frantically questioned.
“I met up with them before. They’re an army . . .” Her eyes met Spike’s. “Set on destroying the key.”
Spike clenched his jaw.
“We need weapons,” Giles declared.
“Ram them,” Buffy ordered. She held onto the table as Giles drove into the horses.
Scampering came from above them. Someone was on the roof. A sword shot down at them, ripping through the metal barrier. It went back up, only to be jammed down again a second later. Spike acted as fast as lightning. His hands wrapped around the blade. Now was the time for Buffy to enter the fray. She awkwardly climbed onto the table under the hatch.
“Xander, can you lift me up?”
Joyce frowned. “You’re not going out there!”
“There’s no choice. Spike can’t leave the Winnebago, Giles is driving, and Xander looks ready to heave. I have to.” Willow was out of the question since she was busy trying to control an out of control Tara.
“Don’t you dare, pet,” Spike warned.
Buffy ignored the contradictions. She motioned for Xander to help her. He boosted her up through the hatch. It was difficult hoisting herself out with the restricting belly but she managed. She balanced herself on her feet. The knight on the roof saw her. He pulled harder on the sword. The weapon came free and he thrust it at her. Buffy jumped backwards. She kicked at his legs before he could swing again.
The knight went down. Buffy leaned down to pummel him. The sword went skittering across the roof. The knight struggled against her. He got the upper hand and threw her off. She went flying. She landed near the edge of the Winnebago with a thud.
“Hey, leave my daughter alone!”
Buffy’s eyes widened. Her mother stood before the knight, brandished with the discarded sword. “Mom?”
Joyce shrugged with a grin. “It’s not an ax but it’ll do.”
Joyce charged at the knight. He made an effort to get up but Joyce was faster. She stabbed him in the side. He hollered in pain. Joyce took her foot and kicked him over the side. Joyce swung the sword.
“Wow, Mom, where’d you learn how to fight?” Buffy asked.
Joyce went over to help her daughter stand. “It’s a Summers’ trait. And I’ve watched you.”
Just then a horse came up alongside the Winnebago. He tossed up a grapple hook and started to climb up. Buffy and Joyce broke away, preparing to do battle. This knight had a scary looking mace.
“Mom, give me the sword,” Buffy commanded.
Before Joyce could the knight used the mace chain to wrap around the weapon. He tugged it out of Joyce’s clutch. The blade flung off the moving vehicle. They could hear another knight ascend.
Buffy kicked out at the first knight. Then she kneed him in the stomach. He went over the side with a yell.
The next knight held an ax. Buffy dodged it as it came her way. She took hold of his arm and twisted it. She heard a crunch sound. The tightening in her stomach took her by surprise. She let go of the foe and winced. The knight used his head to smash into her. She careened back, ending up on the edge of the Winnebago. She teetered, trying to regain her balance. Joyce rushed over and caught Buffy before she could fall. The rescue was in vain, however. The Winnebago went out of control.
“We have to jump!” Buffy shouted.
“But honey . . . ! You’re in no condition-“Joyce argued.
The Winnebago yet again veered to the side. The women held onto each other.
“Better to jump now than to go kaboom.”
Buffy didn’t wait for a response. She leapt off, taking her mother with her. They landed in the desert below. Buffy cried out on impact. She rolled her body until she came to a stop. She slowly sat up in time to watch the others zigzag and then tip in a cloud of dust.
“Buffy, are you all right?” Joyce questioned.
“Yeah. Are you?” Buffy asked in return.
Joyce limped over. She took Buffy’s hands and pulled her up. Their attention fell to the fallen Winnebago.
The army of knights had vanished. Buffy guessed they fled to regroup and make up a new plan. One thing was for certain: they would be back.
The abandoned gas station was their only option. The place looked pathetic. A rusted pick-up truck was parked outside near the pump. A lone tire leaned against the wall. The group stepped inside, Spike rushing in first. He stomped on his smoking duster. The interior wasn’t any better than the outside, if anything it was worse. The windows were partially broken and glass littered the cement floor. Boards covered the remaining glass. Dust covered the neglected counter. There was also a retched musty smell.
Buffy collapsed on the floor, leaning her head back against the counter. “What, no mints on the pillow?” she quipped exhaustedly.
Spike crouched down in front of her. He took her hands in his, looking into her eyes. “How you holding up, pet?”
“Do I have to be up? Can’t I be down? Down sounds nice right about now,” Buffy said.
Buffy noticed that Spike’s hands were bandaged. Red had soaked through the white cloth. “What about you?”
Spike held up his hands. “Oh, these? Tis nothing. They’ll heal in no time. It’s you I’m worried about.”
“We have another plan, right? One that doesn’t involve pointy knives and a Winnebago?”
Buffy took a deep breath. “We rest here a minute but we have to keep moving.”
Xander came up. “Where?”
“I don’t know!” she desperately cried. “We can’t stay here. It-It’s too close to the wreck. We’re too easy to find.”
“Shouldn’t we be getting you to the hospital?” Spike suggested.
“Is Buffy hurt?” Giles questioned.
There wasn’t time for a response. A fiery arrow shot through a window. It imbedded itself in the wall behind. Xander rushed over and plucked it out. He stomped on it until the flame smothered.
Buffy picked herself up with Spike’s aid. More arrows came at them. Willow helped Tara duck out of the way. Tara wailed.
Anya took a peek outside. “They’ve brought some friends this time,” she said.
“Great,” muttered Buffy. “I’m glad their so popular.”
Buffy dodged another arrow. “Willow!”
“I’m on it!” called Willow.
“We have to do something!” She spotted a vending machine off in the corner. “Here, help me out, Spike.”
The two began to shove the coffee machine in front of the door. After getting it in place Buffy doubled over. “Not again,” she groaned.
Giles watched intently. “Dear lord, are you in labor?”
Joyce took Buffy by the shoulders. She tried to push Buffy away from the door. “You have to sit or lay down.”
Buffy shook her head. “I can’t!”
The boards over the windows rattled as knights beat on them. Buffy shut her eyes and let out a small squeak. If she wished hard enough maybe it would all go away.
An ax hacked at another door. Splinters went flying. A knight crashed through. He rushed at Buffy and punched her in the face. She was knocked aside, ramming into the counter.
Spike lunged at the knight. He punched the guy in the jaw, only to be rewarded by a massive migraine. He held his head and yelled.
Buffy regained control. She whacked the knight as hard as she could. He thrust his ax at her but she was able to block it. Then she smashed him into the wall. He fell unconscious. She sighed in relief. Xander and Spike came over and began to drag the man into the back room.
Another knight crashed his way through. He wore different armor than the others, more extravagant. He held out his sword, aimed at Buffy’s stomach. “The key!”
How did they find out? she wondered. She hugged her middle. She spotted the fallen ax from the other knight. She snatched it up and threw it at the higher ranking soldier. It hit his hand and his sword dropped.
The knight dashed at Buffy. She attempted to hit him but he evaded her fist. He tossed her aside and she hit the wall, sliding down in a heap. He loomed over her with menace. Joyce snuck up behind the knight and used the blunt end of the sword to hit him on the head, knocking him out cold.
“Mom, ever think of taking up weaponry?” Buffy asked.
“Enemies, fall and fly!” Willow shouted. “Circular arms, raise a wall!” She held up her arms.
Energy crackled through the air. Another knight trying to enter bounced back. Commotion broke outside. Then everything fell silent. The scoobies held their breaths and waited. The force field seemed to hold.
“Will, how long will it hold?” Buffy asked.
Willow glanced out the window. “Half a day maybe.”
Buffy nodded. Pain washed over her face. She held her stomach and tried not to signify how much it took out of her.
“Just long enough for you to . . . give birth,” Willow said.
Buffy sagged after the contraction ended. Dread hung over her head at the thought of ‘after’.
Time blurred. It had to have been hours but no one could be sure how many. Buffy’s contractions were full-blast now and they seemed never ending. She hardly seemed to notice the others anymore, so intent on her body’s workings. Spike hovered nearby, uncertain and feeling helpless.
“How long you lot reckon it’s been?” the vampire abruptly questioned the group.
“I didn’t bring my watch,” Xander said.
Willow looked out the window with a pensive expression. “There’s not much time to spare. They’re out there trying to punch a hole through.”
Anya brightened. “Spike, you should have sex with her!”
“Say what?” Xander exclaimed. He spun toward his girlfriend. “There will be no grunting of any kind.”
At that moment Buffy grunted loudly. The noise made everyone turn toward her. Sweat made her skin slick and shiny, and she gave the impression of being drained. For Buffy, the slayer, drained was a sign for alarm.
Xander pointed toward Buffy. “Except from the expected baby having, of course.”
Spike rolled his eyes.
“I heard sex helps stimulate labor,” Anya said.
“Ahn, not helping.”
She pouted and crossed her arms. “Fine!”
“I’m telling you,” Spike said,” Tis isn’t natural for labor to go on like this. She should be pushing by now.”
Joyce knelt next to Buffy. She swept wet hair off Buffy’s forehead. “She’s doing fine.” Then to Buffy,” You’re doing fine.”
The only answer they got was another contraction. Buffy gritted her teeth and got swept up in it. The sight clenched at Spike’s unbeating heart. He hoped it wouldn’t be much longer.
But it was. Buffy eventually got up to everyone’s surprise. Giles began to protest and she shot him the evil eye, which made him back down. Buffy paced back and forth. Anytime anyone neared, bitchy Buffy emerged with fiery vengeance. It drove them all insane, but probably Spike the most of all. It hurt that she wouldn’t let him comfort her.
After much of this Buffy gave in and collapsed in her mother’s arms. Joyce eased her back down to the floor. She rubbed her back as Buffy whimpered.
“How much longer is this going to take?” Buffy spat. It was the first time she had spoken in hours.
“Hopefully not much,” Giles stated. His eyes were dark with foreboding. Spike didn’t like it at all. It meant his worry wasn’t uncalled for.
Spike admired Joyce. Throughout the whole thing she remained calm and murmured encouraging words. Buffy might seem worked up now but he suspected it was nothing compared to how she could have been.
Joyce smiled. “Honey, I need to take a look and see how you’re doing.”
Buffy nodded. Joyce moved to tug down Buffy’s slacks.
“Keep your eyes away, Harris,” Spike warned Xander harshly.
“Yeah,” agreed Anya.
Xander glared. “Like I would.”
Spike snorted. He removed his duster. He laid the material over Buffy’s exposed hips. Joyce gave him a grateful look. He shrugged.
Joyce massaged Buffy’s leg. She lifted the coat and took a peek.
“Can I push?” Buffy asked.
“Do you feel ready to push?” inquired Joyce.
The slayer laughed manically. “How the fuck should I know? I’ve never done this before!”
“Buffy!” scolded her mother.
Buffy looked sheepish. “Sorry, Mom. No, I don’t feel the urge to push. But this is getting me nowhere.”
Another contraction ripped through Buffy. She gripped Joyce’s arm. Joyce tried to mask the pain that the slayer-grip caused. It was nothing compared to what Buffy must be going through.
Tara squirmed in Willow’s grasp. “The shrieking banshees! Make them stop!” The blonde covered her ears.
“Shhh . . . “ Willow soothed. She stroked Tara’s hair.
Joyce sighed. She glanced up at the others. “We’re in for a long and hard labor. She’s hardly dilated.”
Giles took his glasses off. He proceeded to clean them.
“All we can do is wait,” Joyce added.
So they did. The scoobies remained quiet, even Tara. They watched and waited as Buffy strained against her agony. Something had to change eventually. Except it didn’t. The contractions kept coming but Buffy never attempted to push. Spike turned away, not able to take it. He heard his girl moan again and involuntarily spun back around.
Buffy rocked back and forth, holding her stomach. She tried different positions, finding none to her liking. She looked helpless and succumbed by the storm inside her. Things couldn’t get worse, Spike thought.
They did, though. Buffy’s moans turned to screams. Spike rushed over to her side. She wouldn’t even look at him. He clenched his jaw. She hated him.
“I’m sorry,” Spike apologized.
“Spike didn’t do this. It wasn’t his fault,” Joyce said.
“If he never existed the monks couldn’t have done this to me,” Buffy cried.
The words stung hard. They were worse than Cecily’s ‘you’re beneath me’. Buffy wished he never existed. Spike put his face in his hands. He felt something touch his back.
“She doesn’t mean it,” Joyce whispered.
Spike nodded. Still, he wasn’t certain.
Minutes passed and passed, evaporating in the air. Buffy’s outbursts ceased to soft tears. Spike guessed it wasn’t from the contractions letting up. She still flinched every now and then. She was simply too tired to care.
“Something needs to be done,” Giles stated.
“And soon,” Willow said. She gestured out the window. “I don’t know how long my spell will hold.”
Giles ran a hand through his hair. He was at a loss.
“Something’s wrong,” Buffy croaked. “She won’t come. She won’t come out.”
There was a moment where no one spoke or moved as they let that sink in.
“Make it stop!” Buffy begged. “Maybe it isn’t time yet. This is a false labor.” Buffy arched her back. The contraction died and she collapsed back against the counter, depleted. She shivered slightly. She turned her head to address Willow. “Do something, Will. Please! You can stop it!”
“I . . .” Willow bit her lip.
“I can’t take much more of this.” Buffy fell into a sobbing fit. She rubbed her hands over her belly forlornly.
Spike caught Joyce’s attention. He motioned for her to come over so he could talk in private. They went over to the side, out of Buffy’s range of hearing (or so Spike hoped).
Joyce took a deep breath. “She’s not progressing. She should be well into the second stage of labor by now.”
“What does that mean?”
“Frankly I don’t know. My labor with Buffy wasn’t like this. It only took me eight hours. This is . . . This is . . . She may be the slayer but . . .”
Spike closed his eyes. Buffy might give out. He rammed at a wall and smashed his fist through.
Buffy’s distress soaked into Spike’s being. He had to get away. He crept into the back room to hide. He paused to light a cigarette. His hands burned as he attempted to flick his lighter. He finally gave up and put it away.
“She is having difficulties?”
The voice took Spike by surprise. He had forgotten about the knight they had captured. He ignored it.
“Let us hope it prevents the key’s surfacing. Otherwise unspeakable torment will unleash upon us all.” There was a long pause. “You should kill it now while the slayer is defenseless.”
Spike stalked up. He wrapped his hand around the knight’s neck and squeezed. “Don’t you dare suggest such things about my daughter!”
“You are the father? A vampire?”
Sharp knives pierced Spike’s brain. He bared the pain.
Spike went sliding across the floor. He shifted to see Willow in the doorway. She came in and he noticed her eyes had gone black. After a moment they faded to their natural color.
“Did you want to kill him?”
“Yes,” hissed Spike. He breathed rapidly, trying to focus his eyes. “He deserves it after what he said.”
“He’s important, Spike.” Willow narrowed her eyes at the chained man. “What are you? Lieutenant?”
“General,” the knight replied.
Willow crossed her arms. “Impressive. What do you know about Glory?”
“The beast ruled with two other gods. The beast's power grew beyond even what they could conceive. As did her lust for pain and misery. They looked upon her, what she had become ... and trembled.”
Willow’s eyes widened. “Gods afraid.”
“So was her power. They feared she would attempt to seize their dimension for herself, and decided to strike first. A great battle erupted. In the end, they stood victorious over the beast ... barely. She was cast out. Banished to this lower plane of existence, forced to live and eventually die trapped within the body of a mortal ... a newborn male, created as her prison. That is the beast's ... only weakness.”.”
“Kill the man and the god dies.” Willow frowned.
“I could do it. It’d hurt like hell after but . . .” Spike offered.
Willow shot him a look. “Buffy wouldn’t allow it.”
The general chuckled. “You are fools. Sacrifices are required to ensure the safety of others.”
Spike knew the knight’s words were true. His ears picked up the sound of Buffy going through another contraction. He hoped that the sacrifice wouldn’t have to include his slayer or daughter. He made a decision then. If anyone was going to have to be spared it would be him. He was the most logical choice anyway. He was a vampire and had outlived his rightful time. And he would be the least missed.
“Spike, come on. Let’s go see how Buffy is doing,” Willow suggested.
She was doing the same. Still more time went by. Buffy barely noticed the contractions after awhile. Her hands stopped moving but still kept contact with her belly. She seemed to be in a deep mediation or dissociating.
“Is she dying?” Buffy asked suddenly.
No one answered. No one had an answer. They weren’t doctors and had no clue. Buffy clutched her middle tighter. “Someone talk to me!”
Spike got down on his knees. “She’s tough like you.”
“That didn’t answer my question.”
Spike got up and went over to Willow. The witch raised her head.
“Red, I need you to open a door,” he said.
The two ventured outside to face the enemy. Willow waved her hands and a small part of the barrier parted.
“We need you to let us bring in a doctor. We have someone in need of medical attention,” Willow informed.
“Why should we help you? You are the protectors of the key,” a knight said.
“Because that’s the way it’s done,” Spike said. “Don’t you have any honor?”
“We have no honor toward those conversing with vampires.”
“Look here, pillock, we got a bleeding woman in there! You want to be responsible for her death?”
The knight’s expression hardened.
“We have your general,” Willow reminded.
The knight caved. “Very well,” he finally said. “We shall grant you your request.”
Spike felt a weight lift. He returned to Buffy while Willow called the only doctor they could get a hold of. Buffy let Spike touch her this time. He wasn’t fooled to think it was because she welcomed it. She had lost her will to stop him.
It took too long for help to arrive. Eventually it did. Spike studied the man. A sense of familiarity overcame him. He’d seen this doctor before.
Ben, the doctor informed. His eyes swept over Buffy. Spike didn’t like his look. The thought of him examining between her parted legs made Spike sick.
“I was told that her labor is augmented,” Ben said.
Buffy didn’t acknowledge Ben’s presence. He got down to check her state. He prodded around at her womb and nether regions.
“How long has she been in labor?” Ben asked.
“Maybe thirteen hours. Maybe more, maybe less,” Xander said uncertainly.
“And the time before we got here. She never did say when it started,” Spike continued.
Ben nodded. “Her uterus is failing to progress further.”
“What can you do?” Joyce asked.
Ben dug into his black medical bag. He took out a stethoscope and blood pressure monitor. He took Buffy’s vitals.
“I think I can burst the amniotic sac. That should bring forth the process.”
Spike snorted. “You think?”
Ben glanced up. “This isn’t my forte. I don’t deal with births. I was educated in medical school but . . .”
The demon in Spike longed to be brought out. It wanted to threaten Ben into succeeding like with the doctor about taking out the chip. On second thought, that didn’t end well.
Ben revealed a long crochet-type hook with a pricked end. Buffy blinked, coming out of her daze.
“What are you doing with that?” She seemed panicked.
“It’s called an amniohook,” Ben said.
“Uh huh. And what’s it for?”
Ben opened his mouth. Spike spoke before he could.
“It’s going to help you, Buffy.”
Buffy shook her head. “I don’t want that thing inside me.”
“If you want this to end well you have to.”
She sighed and nodded. Ben took the hook and slid it under the coat. The leather blocked Spike’s view but he guessed what was happening. He expected Buffy to be in pain. If she was, though, she concealed it. The hook came out a bloodied mess. Spike stared at it for a moment before quickly averting his eyes. He had more to care about than dinner.
“You all right, pet.”
A moan was all he got in return. Her face scrunched up. The next wave came right after. Her contractions grew rapidly until she only had seconds to spare before the next. Ben muttered comforting words of assurance. Spike suppressed a growl. It should be him down there with her instead.
Buffy clawed at the cement floor. “Can I push?”
Ben spread her legs. He leaned down. When he straightened he was smiling. “You’re fully dilated, Buffy. Go ahead and push on the next one.”
“What do you mean next one? It’s all one big one now,” she panted. She lifted slightly and put all her energy into a push.
“Good. Get ready for another one,” Ben instructed.
This continued. Then Buffy fell back. “I can’t,” she complained. “I’m so tired.”
“Nonsense. You are almost done.”
Spike rushed in. He pushed Ben away and took his place. “Buffy, luv, yes you can.”
“Go away,” Buffy said. “I don’t want you near me.”
He ignored her. “You’ve been through hell and back. You can do this.”
“No, I really can’t. Let me die.”
Okay, tenderness wasn’t going to work. Time to get firm. “You’re the slayer! You’ve fought demons. Deal with the exhaustion and pain!”
He punched her in the face. Her eyes widened in astonishment.
“Spike!” Joyce yelled.
Ben tried to stop the vampire. Spike tossed him aside again. Spike took another swing at Buffy.
“Maybe you can’t do it. Fine. So what? You are Buffy Summers. Die trying!”
Buffy took a moment to breathe. “Ahhh, here comes another.”
“Bloody push!” Spike commanded.
“I will, you . . . you bossy vampire!”
Spike chuckled. Good girl.
She pushed and pushed. She snatched onto Spike’s hand. Ben wouldn’t come near again because of Spike. So the vamp took a look himself. He was rewarded with a brown head. It disappeared but returned as another contraction came.
“I see a head!” Spike exclaimed.
He brought her hand down to touch the small wonder. Buffy broke into tears that soon transformed into relieved laughter. The revelation gave her new jubilance. She put great effort into the next push. The entire head emerged. Spike reached out and took it. Buffy pushed again and the baby slithered entirely out.
Spike held the red, slimy creature. It remained still. Spike gazed at it in horror. His worst fear came into being. He had created death. His throat tightened.
Buffy weakly sat up. “Is she . . .”
Spike couldn’t meet Buffy’s eyes.
“You have to coax it to life,” Ben said. “Hold her upside-down by her feet. Then sweep her mouth out.”
Spike did as told. He took his pointer finger and cleaned the creature’s mouth out. She took in some air. A tiny cry entered the room. Her eyes opened, blue, and she became Dawn. His daughter, his number one girl. His eyes stung.
Buffy held out her hands. Spike gingerly handed the baby over to her mother.
Ben handed over a pair of scissors and some thread. “Tie the string six inches from the baby. Then cut the cord.”
Spike fumbled with the scissors. He made a quick cut after the umbilical cord stopped pulsating. Mother and daughter were free.
The placenta was discarded with little trouble. Buffy leaned back, cuddling Dawn to her chest. She beamed. She may be sweat-covered, her hair tangled, her skin pallid, but she was beautiful to Spike.
“She has your eyes,” Buffy declared. She smiled proudly.
Spike hesitated before lowering to lie down beside them on the hard floor. His arm went around them both, holding them close. They hardly were aware of the spectateing audience that gathered around the new family.
All of a sudden Ben jumped up. He looked around wildly. “You have to let me out!”
Everyone just shared looks of confusion.
“You don’t understand! You have to let me out now!” Ben walked over to the wall. He put his hands up to claw at his head. “No!”
Glory morphed in front of them. Ben is Glory, Spike realized. No wonder he got bad feelings about the bloke. Glory stretched up toward the ceiling. She took in her surroundings, perplexed. Her eyes landed on the dirty baby in Buffy’s arms. Buffy huddled with Dawn.
“Well, what do you know. Little Ben did something right,” Glory muttered.
Spike got up. He charged at the goddess. She knocked him back and he landed into Xander. The two men crashed to the floor.
Buffy crawled with her baby in attempts to escape. She moved with difficulty and in protest. Glory zipped over and blocked her path. Buffy stopped and raised her head. She knew right then that she wasn’t going to get away. She absorbed Dawn’s features hard, fearing it might be the last time she saw them.
Glory swept down and tugged the baby away. Buffy reached out desperately.
Spike chased after Glory into the night. He dodged the bodies that littered the ground that she left like breadcrumbs. The others followed far behind. They left Buffy, a crumpled statue, her eyes glazing over as she sunk down inside herself.
Chaos broke out through the group. Willow wondered if she was the only person thinking rational. But even so, she couldn’t come up with a solution. Buffy . . . She didn’t even seem to be there at all. A shell. The sight made Willow want to shudder.
Joyce knelt before her daughter, now fully clothed. The mother had dressed her daughter as if she were a rag doll. She took the slayer’s thin shoulders gently. “Buffy, honey?” No response. “Baby? Come on,” she urged. The woman turned back with wet eyes. They pleaded up at Willow.
“Try again, Will,” Xander said.
Willow nodded, although she feared it would be futile. Joyce moved aside to let the witch take her place. She gazed into her friend’s empty stare. “Buffy? Can you hear me?”
“This bloody well isn’t doing anything!” Spike stepped forward. “She can’t be . . . brain dead. I mean, she’s still Buffy in there. Somewhere.”
Willow could tell Spike was scared. They all were. But he was the most, she could tell, despite how he fought to hide it. He lost his daughter only a short while ago. What would he do without Buffy as well? He’d be left with nothing. She glanced over at her broken Tara. She knew what that felt like. Well . . . almost. At least Tara would look at her.
She never had a friendship with Spike. She never really thought much about his well-being at all. But now she couldn’t help but have compassion for the vampire as she watched him pace.
“Losing Dawn must have pushed her over the edge,” Giles murmured. His eyes seemed to darken even more as he said this.
A sob escaped Joyce’s throat. “My poor baby,” she whispered.
Spike growled. He charged over to Buffy’s side. He took her shoulders and shook her violently. “Time to wake up, luv. Time to get our little girl back!”
“Hey!” Willow protested.
“We tried that,” Xander said.
“Spike. . . .” Anya intervened.
Spike glanced over. “It’s hardly time to get dainty. She’s endowed with slayer strength.” He slapped her across the face. He hardly flinched from the chip’s fire.
“Is it just me, or is he becoming immune to the chip?” Xander spoke up.
Spike stood up and glared at the other man. “Gotten used to it, yeah. Scared, Harris?”
Xander took a step toward Spike, purpose in his gaze. Willow lifted a hand and pushed him away with magic. “Now isn’t the time!” she said harshly.
The men calmed. Their eyes went back to land on Buffy.
Someone had to take charge. Their leader was gone. Willow took a deep breath.
“All right. First we head back to Sunnydale. Anya's looking after Tara. Xander and Spike, you find Glory. Check her apartment; see if she's still there. Try anything stupid, like payback, and I will get very Cranky. Giles, look through your books and see if you can come up with a plan for saving Dawn.” She plastered her face with resolve. “Everyone clear?”
After a moment Anya raised her hand. “Wh-What will you do?”
“I’ll help Buffy.”
“Now, don’t turn me into a toad for asking, but what about if we come across Ben?” Spike questioned.
“I don’t think Buffy needs a doctor at the moment,” Willow said.
Spike rolled his eyes. “Well, yeah, especially one that happens to be Glory.”
“What do you mean?” Giles asked.
“You know, Ben is Glory.”
The whole group stared at the vampire emptily. He frowned.
“You mean Ben is working for Glory?” Willow deduced.
Spike shook his head. “No. Ben ‘is’ Glory. As in they are one and the same. Are you all stoned?”
“When did this all happen?” Anya said.
“Not an hour ago. Ben turned into Glory before all our eyes. You don’t remember?”
Spike sighed deeply. “Very crafty. Glory must be working some kind of mojo to make everyone forget her presto-chango. But yours truly being a vampire, I must stand immune.”
They simply stared.
“Okay, let me explain again,” he said.
+ + +
Glory clutched at her head. She began to rip out pieces of her blond hair. It wasn’t because of hunger either, it was from the screaming. The kid hadn’t stopped crying since she took her.
“Will someone make that brat shut up!?” Glory demanded. She went over and shook the baby in an attempt to silence it.
One of her favorite minions, Murk, hurried over. “You can’t kill it now, Glorificus. We need it for the ritual. You will be lost in the mortal plane forever.”
She thrust Dawn over to him. He took the squirming infant, almost dropping her. “What shall we do with it, our creamy queen?”
Glory made a shooing motion with her hands. “I don’t care! Just take the thing away!”
Another demon came over, this one female. “We should prepare it for the ritual.”
Glory lounged in a chair. She leaned back and covered her ears. “Whatever, just take it out of my range of hearing.”
The moldy creatures took the confused baby off.
+ + +
Okay, I can do this. I can do this. I can. Willow took a deep breath. She focused into Buffy’s lifeless eyes. She felt herself pull away from the small bedroom. Things shifted and she found herself somewhere else.
Willow stood in the hallway of a house she had never seen before. Pictures hung on the walls. They displayed a happy little girl with brown pigtails and sparkling blue eyes. Willow stopped in front of one that showed her in the arms of both her parents: Buffy and Spike. A family, together, smiling.
Laughter drifted toward Willow. She slowly crept in its direction. It led her to the open door at the end of the hall. She peered in to find a pink and purple children’s bedroom. Dawn lay under a massive amount of blankets. Spike stood near the foot of the bed, and his daughter watched with hero-worship.
“Aunt Willow weakened Glory with her magic. Then your mum was able to have at her.” He parried with a fake sword.
The little girl sat up with interest.
Spike grinned. “I snatched you up before any nasties could harm you.”
Willow fought back tears. In Buffy’s mind she had created a false happily ever after. If only she could have weakened Glory somehow. The barrier spell had taken a lot out of her, though.
“And you tooked me home. Right, daddy?” Dawn questioned with a yawn.
“Right.” Spike bent down to kiss his daughter goodnight.
“And we lived happy ever after.”
“Aren’t they beautiful?”
Willow’s head snapped to the side. Buffy stood beside her, as if appearing from nowhere. The slayer gazed into the room with a ghost of a smile.
“Yes,” Willow agreed. “But, Buffy, you have to come back with me. This isn’t real.”
A moment passed without answer. Buffy hugged herself.
“We need you back home,” Willow went on.
“It’s nice here,” Buffy said.
“I know. But you can’t stay.”
“We need you,” Willow said again.
“What can I possibly do? I already failed.”
“No, you haven’t. Not yet.”
Buffy closed her eyes. “Glory has Dawn.”
“Yes, but you can get her back. If you stay here she will die. If you come back with me there is still a chance to save her.”
A shudder ran through Buffy. “I can’t stand to lose her, Will. I couldn’t handle that. I’ve lost Angel and I’ve died. I got through that, but . . . losing my own daughter.” She covered her mouth.
Willow wrapped an arm around Buffy. “Then don’t let it happen,” she whispered.
+ + +
Buffy took a deep breath and entered the Magic Box. Willow, Anya, and Tara followed in her tracks. Giles stood up from his seat at the table. “Buffy?”
“Are you all right?” Xander asked.
Buffy nodded. “Yeah. I’m all right.”
“Did you know that Glory is Ben?” Xander blurted.
“So I’ve been told.”
She took a quick glance at Spike. His eyes looked unconvinced by her words. She moved on and spotted a bunch of papers scattered across the table.
“What’s all this?” she questioned.
Giles cleared his throat. “Xander and Spike uncovered documents for the ritual. I've read these things very carefully and there's not much ... margin for error. You understand what I'm saying?”
Buffy crossed her arms. “Might help if you actually said it.”
He nodded. He slowly sat back down. He removed his glasses and took a moment before continuing.
“Um ... Glory ... plans to open a ... dimensional portal ... by way of a ritual bloodletting.”
“Yes. Once the blood is shed at a certain time and place ... the fabric which separates all realities will be ripped apart. Dimensions will ... pour into one another, uh, with no barriers to stop them. Reality as we know it will be destroyed, and ... chaos will reign on earth.”
“How do we stop it?”
Giles’s eyes darted away. “Buffy . . .”
“Giles?” she urged.
He forced his gaze back. “The only way to stop it is to kill Dawn.”
I know the Buffy mind part was lame. I’m sorry. I was eager to get on with the actual action part.
Buffy didn’t have time to react to Giles’s declaration. The hairs on the back of her neck prickled. She tilted her head toward the training room. Without a word, she walked out the back door and into the alley. It didn’t take long to find the cause of her slayer alarm firing. The vampire was your average 25 IQ monster. Miraculously, he had no idea what a slayer was. She guessed he must have just recently risen. It was rather refreshing. It wasn’t that she didn’t like a good brawl now and then, but it was nice to know that you would be the one to walk away. She felt lucky every time she escaped an encounter with Glory.
The impact of her situation hit her when she returned to the magic shop main floor. Giles glanced up from the archaic texts before him. He looked greatly tired.
“Trouble out back?” Xander asked.
“Vampire,” Buffy muttered offhandedly. She never took her eyes off Giles. “I guess it would be too hopeful to ask if you found anything while I was gone?”
The watcher sighed. “I’m afraid so.”
There was a long silence.
“Explain it again,” Buffy demanded.
“It is rather simple. . . “
“Explain it again.”
“The key was ... living energy. It needed to be channeled, poured into a specific place at a specific time. The energy ... would flow into that spot, the walls between the dimensions break down. It stops, the energy's used up, the walls come back up. Glory uses that time to get back into her own dimension, not caring that all manner of hell will be unleashed on earth in the meantime.”
“Um, but only for a little while, right? The walls come back up, uh, n-no more hell?” Anya seemed generally frightened. Xander laid a hand on her arm as comfort.
“We can’t kill a baby,” Willow said. “C-Can we? And not when- Giles, it’s not right.”
Tara thrashed. “I have places to be!”
Willow hugged Tara to her.
“Why blood? Why Dawn's blood? I mean, why couldn't it be like a, a lymph ritual?” murmured Xander.
“Because it always has to be blood,” Spike said.
“We’re not exactly talking about dinner.”
“Blood is life, lackbrain. Why do you think we eat it? It's what keeps you going. Makes you warm. Makes you hard. Makes you other than dead. Course it's her blood.” Spike’s jaw twitched.
“Simple math here,” Buffy said. “We stop Glory before the ritual. We still have a few hours, right?”
“Y-Yes. If my calculations are right,” Giles replied. “But, Buffy-“
“I don’t want to hear it!”
“I understand that.”
“You don’t understand!” Tears streamed down Buffy’s cheeks. They blinded her vision until there was nothing but blur. “This is my daughter. A tiny, helpless, little girl. And you’re asking me to kill her. I made her! And now you want me to destroy her!” She shook uncontrollably. Her legs gave out and she began to crumple to the floor. Strong arms came out and caught her. Some part of her brain knew it was Spike. She slumped in his embrace.
“I don’t want anything of the sort,” Giles said. “But if Glory begins the ritual . . . If we can’t stop her . . .”
“Come on, say it!” Buffy spat. “Tell me to kill my own daughter!”
“She’s not your daughter,” Giles softly said.
Buffy froze. Spike gripped her tighter.
“I think now is the time to shut your gob, watcher, before I tear your head from the rest of you,” Spike warned.
Willow stood up. She held out her palms. “Okay, guys, let’s calm down. The ritual hasn’t started yet.” No one seemed to hear her.
“If the ritual starts, then every living creature in this and every other dimension imaginable will suffer unbearable torment and death. Including Dawn.”
“I can’t do it,” Buffy sobbed. “I’m sorry . . . I love you all. . . but I can’t.”
“Okay,” Anya said loudly, a little too chipper. “Everyone is in favor of stopping the ritual before it starts. Let’s figure out how. Any ideas? Times wasting and this is bickering is pointless.” She paused. “Willow. I bet you've got some dark spell a-brewin'. Uh, make her a, a, a toad? Little hoppy toad, we can hit her with a hammer?”
“Hoppy toad,” Tara repeated with a giggle.
“What about Ben? He can be killed, right? I mean, I know he's an innocent, but, you know, not like Dawn innocent. We could kill a ... regular guy.” Xander suddenly looked horrified. “God.”
“I could,” Spike said.
All eyes directed on him.
“What? You all so shocked?”
“Not at all actually,” Giles said.
Spike glared. “Harris was right before. The chip doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. I haven’t gone all homicidal over it, like popular belief would be. I don’t enjoy the kill like I used to. But if need arises. . . “
No one spoke. Buffy silently came to a decision, though. She’d let him. If the need did arise, she’d let him do it. She’d walk away and allow an innocent man to die. If that was the price to have her daughter back, even with the guilt, it would be worth it.
“We don’t have to kill anyone,” Willow said. “All we have to do is stop him-her.”
“Yeah. We get her on the ropes, we just gotta keep her occupied till it's too late,” Spike said.
“Okay, but I’m not hearing enough ideas. She’s a God. Think outside the box,” Anya went on.
“Why don’t you think outside the bloody box!” Spike shouted.
“Yes, Anya, apart from your incredibly uninfectious enthusiasm, have you anything else to contribute?” Giles said.
“The Dagon sphere! It was meant to repel Glory. We have it in the basement. Oh!” Anya raced over to the display case in the shop. “Olaf the troll god's enchanted hammer. You want to fight a God, use the weapon of a God.”
Xander watched Anya with pride. “Smart chicks are hot,” he expressed.
“Well, we have some ideas, if we could actually get Glory on the run, but, um...” Giles stated.
”But, we still have no idea how to find her,” Buffy said. Her eyes were dry now, but she still relied on Spike’s grip to hold her up.
”Big day. Oh, it calls me! I have to be there!” Tara exclaimed.
+ + +
Joyce felt useless. Mr. Giles insisted that she stay at his apartment, since Glory had no notion of its whereabouts. He gave her full reign of the kitchen and television. But the thought of food made her sick, and there was no way she could stop her wandering brain enough to watch a show. All she could do was sit on the sofa and worry. It was like waiting during a tornado warning, standing by for the all clear, fearing that your house might get blown away. But in this case it wouldn’t just be the house, it’d be the entire world with it.
A little while ago Willow called and told her that Buffy had snapped out of her daze. At least that was something to be relieved about. Now the slayer had to face a battle against a powerful hell-goddess. She was in no condition, mentally or physically.
My poor baby, Joyce thought. My poor grandchild.
+ + +
Buffy beat the punching bag with fury. Sweat glistened over her skin from exertion. She’d been at it for who knows how long and yet she wasn’t a bit tired.
“Won’t this wear you out?” Giles’s voice didn’t catch her by surprise. She’d suspected he might show up soon.
“Really won’t,” she replied. She hit the bag again, this time harder. The bag flew off its chain. Oops, she thought.
She turned toward her mentor, her expression hard.
“I’m sure you hate me right now,” he said.
“You know I’ll stop you if you attempt to hurt her,” Buffy declared.
Buffy came over and sat down on the couch. She leaned heavily against the cushions. Giles hesitated a moment before he sat beside her.
“The spirit guide told me death was my gift. I guess that’s what a slayer is about, huh?”
“I think you’re wrong about that.”
“It feels that way. I’ve killed so many demons and vamps. But for once I gave life. This tiny baby was something I created. I can’t possibly destroy her. I’ll watch the world fall down before that happens.” Her lip quivered.
Giles put an arm around her. She shifted so that it became a full hug.
“We’ll do everything we can to prevent her any harm,” he promised.
+ + +
Spike walked behind Buffy in silence. Her pace was quick and she never glanced back to acknowledge him. The only thing she’d said to him all night was an order to follow her to get weapons. He wanted to pull her to him so that he could feel her warmth, but she was in full slayer mode.
His chest ached from the loss of his child. It would be nice to have the comfort that Buffy was still there for him.
They reached the house. She entered, leaving the door open for him to follow. He stepped in to see her going up the stairs.
She stopped, her hand on the banister. “There are some axes in the chest,” she said offhandedly. She took another step.
“Buffy. . .?”
Why was she acting this way? Did she think that he was responsible for Dawn getting kidnapped?
A moment passed. Finally she turned around. “One of us might not make it. You know that, right?”
His eyes enlarged. Oh. He forced a smile. “Always knew I’d go down fightin.”
It wouldn’t be her, he vowed. If anyone would end up dying it would be him. His was the vampire, the disposable one.
“I’m counting on you to protect her for me.”
He answered immediately. “Till the end of the world. Even if that happens to be tonight.”
“I’ll be a minute.”
He nodded. She prepared to continue up. “I know you’ll never love me. I know I’m a monster. But you treat me like a man.” He sighed. “Thanks for trusting me, for letting me in Dawn’s life.”
She turned back. Her face held intense emotion, emotion he couldn’t decipher. She slowly descended down to stand before him. He stared at her with boyish curiosity. She took his hand and pulled him up along with her. She led him down the hall to her bedroom. He expected her to gather weaponry but instead she tugged him to the bed. She lay down and patted the blue bedspread beside her.
He paused, unsure. She gave him a smile of assurance. He stretched out next to her. She leaned over him, her breath hot against his face. She met his eyes, searchingly. He remained still, waiting for her to take action. She kissed him deeply.
“I read up on what you said in the cemetery.”
“When you drank from me.”
“I’m sorry, pet. It was a . . .”
She pressed two fingers against his lips. “Spike, shut up.”
“I understand now. Blood between two people is sacred. I became quite fascinated over the passage about claiming. It said that a claim is the most sacred bond there is.”
“It is,” Spike agreed.
“Good. So, Spike . . . I’d like you to claim me.” Buffy tilted her head and brushed her hair aside.
Spike blinked. What? He sat up slightly. “Buffy, you don’t know what you are asking. Once a claim is made it can never be undone.”
She lightly touched his chest. Her eyes lowered almost shyly. “I know.”
Could she be serious? Had she really read all the details and still wanted it? She’d be a part of him, him a part of her. There could never be anyone else, and if one of them died a part of the other would still remain. All those times she asked him to leave, and now she asked him to stay inside her heart forever.
Spike thought maybe he would burst, since it was surely impossible for someone to feel as much love as he did.
“I know what I’m doing.”
He moved slowly, giving her enough time to back out. He expected her to. But she didn’t. He ran his index finger down the side of her neck and stopped at the pulse point. He lowered to replace his finger with his lips. The rhythm of blood grew fierce, along with Buffy’s breath. Her eyes fluttered closed.
Normally a bond like this was done during sex. He knew that wasn’t possible. Even as a slayer her body hadn’t recovered from the harsh tearing of childbirth. The intensity of the offered warm body before him drove him mad. He couldn’t imagine what further intimacy would have done to him.
He brought forth his demon. He sniffed and smelled the rich liquid under the thin surface of skin. He sunk in and drank greedily at it. Distantly he heard Buffy moan. She squirmed in his clutch. The next thing he knew he was on his back, still gulping in her lifeblood. She straddled him and began to grind into his achingly constricted cock.
Spike’s eyes rolled back. He withdrew his teeth.
“Mine.” He didn’t recognize his own voice. It was deep and husky.
He felt blunt teeth press down on his own neck. Then they bit hard, stinging . . . but in a good way. “Yours.”
Buffy lifted her head. He was surprised to see red staining her mouth. Her wet tongue slipped out and she licked it off. They looked at each other, getting lost.
Buffy shuddered first. It sent him over the edge as well. She slumped on top of him. He rolled them to their sides. He cocooned her with his arms.
“That was . . . amazing,” Buffy panted.
All he could do was groan. Her lips tugged up.
Her heart thumped wildly in his ears. Instead of simply hearing it, however, he could feel it. Almost as if it were his own heart. Wow. Amazing was nowhere near to describing what had happened, was happening.
She snuggled closer. “Let’s pretend.”
“What’s that, pet?”
“That there is no war. That Dawnie’s safe in the other room.”
His hold on her tightened. He couldn’t pretend and he knew Buffy couldn’t either.
What do you think? Oh, thanks for letting me know BTW.
By Heather Martin
Rated – R
Summary- The monks gave Buffy and Spike one night of fake memories. That would have been enough to change their lives. But when you add a glowing key in the form of an unborn baby, well . . . things wouldn’t just change, they would be turned completely upside-down
Disclaimer- Joss Whedon owns Spike’s eyebrow scar, his bleached hair, his crystal blue eyes, his manly arms, his muscular chest, his tight . . . *cough* Too bad isn’t it? But a girl can dream, right?
Spoilers- Starts during Out of My Mind. The entire Season 5, although I changed it tremendously to suit my own purpose
My apologies, guys. First, I was just lazy. Then school started and I had to concentrate on homework. Only one part left, though, and I’ll try to get that out before the beginning of next week.
A new sensation swam over Buffy. It wasn’t something picked up by taste, smell, hearing, touch, sight, or her slayer radar. This was a seventh sense- entirely made up of Spike. It’s hard to describe exactly what Buffy experienced from the claim. It was like a door opened, one that had always been there but without a clearance code until now. The room she entered was full of Spike: memories, feelings, the essence that made him what he was. It was all there, and she fit each part inside her.
She’d never seemed so whole. She wandered if secretly she’d been searching for these ‘Spike puzzle pieces’ all her life. What did this mean? Was it an aftereffect of the claim? Or was it something more? Soulmates came to mind. A secret smile tugged at her lips.
She snuggled into him and he held her against him. The minutes ticked by. Precious time.
“We have to move,” Buffy mumbled into his chest.
He didn’t say anything. Suddenly he sprung up, throwing her off him. It took her a moment to recover from the loss of contact. She pulled herself to her feet.
“Sorry, pet. Thought I should do it fast and get it over with,” he explained.
They walked to the magic box was done without holding hands. Physical contact would have made it unbearable. Buffy entered the shop, immediately switching into slayer mode. She began to hand out weapons.
“Everyone ready to go?” she asked the gang.
“Yes, it’s time,” Giles announced.
Buffy swung the troll hammer. “Let’s set out then.” She glanced at the red-headed witch. “Will?”
Willow nodded. She stepped over to Tara, who was peeking into the display case. “Baby? Is there somewhere you should be?”
Tara straightened. She pointed at them all with anger. “You hold me back! All of you!”
“No one is holding you back,” Willow said softly.
Tara’s eyes roamed over the others. She hugged herself.
“You’re free to go, Tara,” Willow urged on.
It took a moment for Tara to move. She slowly walked to the door, glancing back for approval. Willow smiled in encouragement. They waited a moment before following, giving the mentally lost woman space.
“Everybody knows their jobs. Remember, the ritual starts, we all die. And I'll kill anyone who comes near Dawn,” Buffy said.
It didn’t take long to come across their destination. Tara halted and craned her neck. Buffy took in the tower with trepidation. She caught movement below, along with sparks from welding. The sound of heavy machinery filtered into her ears. Tara continued walking and Buffy had to force herself onward.
Willow’s job came first. She managed to gain short proximity with the hellgod. She grabbed Tara and Glory’s heads. Her eyes went black with power. Tara and Glory hollered as blue electricity crackled between them. All three of them suddenly broke apart.
Buffy’s eyes went to where Willow and Tara landed. She saw them move with relief and turned her attention back to Glory. The goddess picked herself up.
“What the hell did that bitch do to me!?” Glory shouted.
Good job, Willow, Buffy thought.
“She made a little . . . hole. . . I need a brain to eat.”
Buffy stepped out into view. “Why not mine?”
Glory turned. She smiled. “Good idea.”
“Come and get it,” the slayer taunted.
The minions swarmed around Glory. They seemed very concerned over their ruler’s condition. Glory shooed them off.
Glory stood unsteadily.
“Not feeling well?” Buffy mocked. “Here, catch.” She removed her hand from around her back. The Dagon sphere glowed brightly in the night. She tossed it toward Glory.
Glory’s eyes grew large. She reflexively caught the ball. She stared at it for a minute before crushing it. She let the remains fall to the concrete.
“You’re going to wish you never-“
Buffy swung at the goddess with the troll hammer. She’d picked it up while Glory was distracted with the Dagon sphere. The god went flying into the wall of the construction warehouse.
Suddenly Buffy was confronted by shrill crying. The sound stabbed at her heart. Maternal instinct took over. She left the crumpled Glory to make her way toward the stairs that led up to the tower. She stumbled over a pile of bricks. She picked herself up and went on. A minion blocked her way but she easily punched him aside.
She stormed up. Got to get to the top. Got to get to the top. She didn’t look back. Dawn kept calling to her in distressed cries. I’m coming. I’m coming. Hold on, Mommy’s coming. Tears stung at her eyes and her chest tightened. Just before she made it to the ladder that led to the top there was a clang behind her. She turned to find Glory smiling at her. The goddess struck out before Buffy had a chance to react. The hammer went flying in the air. Buffy watched it fall to the dirty ground below.
“What ya gonna do now that I took your toy away?” Glory taunted. She glanced up at the platform. “I don’t think baby has a chance.”
And at that moment Buffy felt defeated. Her knees begged to buckle. She ached all over. She wanted to crawl back into the shell of her mind where nothing bad could happen.
Spike appeared out of nowhere. He tackled Glory from behind. He wrapped his arms around her neck in an attempt to choke her. It was a poor attempt, but Buffy appreciated it nevertheless.
“Get our lil girl,” he grunted.
Buffy moved to comply but from the corner of her eye she spotted Glory shrug the vampire off. He tumbled over the side of the structure. Buffy stopped with wide eyes. She watched as he reached out and grabbed the side, dangling. Buffy should have kept going. Not because her daughter was at stake, but because the entire world was. But Spike had managed to work his way into the forefront of that world. She couldn’t lose him. She made a decision to try and help him from falling. Glory acted faster, though. The goddess took her foot and pushed at Spike’s hands. One gave out and Spike barely hung on with the other. Glory’s entire attention was on the vampire, so Buffy took advantage of it. She kicked Glory away. She kept kicking until the deity lost her balance and fell off.
Buffy hurried over to Spike. She crouched down and held out her hand. Spike swung himself forward to grab hold. She hoisted him up. They shared a meaningful look before turning their gaze downward. Glory stirred and got up with no trouble. She combed fingers through her hair in an attempt to rid herself of dust. She glanced up at the pair of blondes with rage. She spotted the discarded hammer and picked it up.
Buffy squeezed Spike’s arm. “She’s too strong. She keeps getting up like the Energizer.” And now with the hammer . . ., she added silently.
A large vehicle rolled forward. It controlled a giant wrecking ball. The ball swung out at Glory. It sent her crashing through the wall of the warehouse. The engine shut down and Xander emerged from the machinery. He raised his head up to where Buffy and Spike were.
“The glorified bricklayer picks up a spare,” he shouted.
Buffy grinned like the Cheshire cat. She felt new confidence sweep into her. For the first time that night things had tipped in their favor.
“I have to go down and make sure she’s out of order,” she declared.
He nodded. “I’ll get the bit.”
Before parting, Buffy took his hand and squeezed. She raced down the ramp. She yelled a thanks to Xander as she passed. She entered the warehouse, wrinkling her nose at the musty smell inside. Glory lay on the floor, finally incapacitated. Buffy found Olaf’s hammer a few feet away. She effortlessly took it up. She stalked over with purpose. Buffy saw something in Glory’s expression for the first time. Terror. The goddess was absolutely afraid of the small slayer.
Buffy went at it, slamming the hammer down over and over. Blood splattered over Glory’s face. It was a wonder Buffy even recognized the change with all the red that covered the features. But Buffy did. The cheekbones shifted, becoming masculine. Her hand went slack, dropping her weapon.
He coughed, spitting up blood. Oh God. How could he be alive? He was a mere human.
“So she lost, huh?” Ben laughed.
“Tell her it’s over. She missed her shot,” Buffy replied.
She didn’t expect him to tell Glory anything. He was so broken. If he did survive she suspected he’d be paralyzed. But, if Glory emerged maybe all the injuries would mend . . . What would she do then? It would start all over. She wished she had the strength to pick the hammer back up and end it all. Hell, she’d be doing the poor host a favor. But she couldn’t. Buffy could never live with that sort of thing.
She turned to find Giles.
“I’ll deal with it,” he said.
His tone made her eye twitch. What did he mean by that? Was he going to call an ambulance? She shrugged the uneasiness aside. Trust Giles. He was old and wise, and always knew the best thing to do. So she nodded and left.
Buffy heard a familiar moan on her way back to the tower. She stopped dead. No. . . She crouched and turned him over. A giant gash had formed across the side of his face.
“Spike. . .?”
He squinted at her. “H-He pushed me off. Got to hurry. Got to get to her.” He tried to get to his feet but fell in her arms instead.
“Who pushed you off? Who got to her, Spike?” she demanded. Her voice was harsh and loud.
“I thought I killed him. What a stupid git I am.”
Forget it; she wasn’t going to get any coherent answer from him. She moved to put him down to rest but he protested. He gripped her arm hard.
“No, pet, I’m coming with.”
She didn’t argue. There wasn’t time. She helped him up, putting her arm around his shoulders. They walked up the walkway to get to their daughter. She looked up and saw a shadow. Something was up there with the baby. The something Spike had been speaking of. She urged Spike faster despite his injuries. She should have left him behind. When she got to the ladder she abandoned him and climbed up alone.
“Stay away from her!”
The man whirled around. He placed a watch back in his pocket. He smiled. “Times up,” he said. Then the man . . . no, not a man, opened his mouth. A long tongue like a snake shot out. Buffy quickly dodged. The tongue rolled back into his jaws. He got a strange look on his face, as if he swallowed a fly and was thinking ‘mmm, yummy’. How bizarre.
“What a nifty parlor trick,” she muttered.
She barreled at the frog/snake demon man, acting as a battering-ram. He went over the side. Everything froze then. The only thing Buffy was aware of was the tiny infant lying on her back. Her feet kicked and she sobbed with plea.
Buffy swept up the bundle. She smelled the baby’s soft hair, sucking in her scent. Her hands ran over her body, searching for injuries like any mother would. The only thing she found was a miniscule prick on her left foot. Buffy kissed the wound.
“Mommy’s got you, Dawnie. Everything’s going to be all right now.”
And as soon as she finished that sentence the air crackled. Blue electricity swarmed through the night sky. A flying creature materialized, resembling a mean fairytale dragon. Buffy knew then it wouldn’t be all right. She snuggled her daughter close to her heart.
This was it. Well, at least she’d go down with Dawn. Her face would be the last thing her daughter saw. Protecting her until the end.
Buffy wasn’t afraid to die. She never had been a religious person. But she battled monsters from hell everyday, and if you believed in the underworld you were forced to believe in heaven along with it. The only thing that broke Buffy’s heart was that her daughter never got a chance. She knew it was selfish not to care about the other people on earth, not that she didn’t care, but Dawnie was at the forefront of her mind. The girl would never grow up to be in the school play, or go to the beach, or receive her first kiss, or get married. Oh, Buffy wanted so much for her daughter.
The portal grew, taking up most of the sky. It reminded her of the blob from that horror move. Although, this was airborne and electrified. Half of Buffy’s mind accepted their fate, yet another half kept searching for a way out. The slayer fought to the end even if it wasn’t physically.
Dawn squirmed in her clutch. She kicked her feet wildly. Buffy caught the left foot. Bloody trickled down more steadily now. She wrapped her hand around the cut. If only I can stop it, she thought. If I staunch the blood . . .
Blood. My blood! Buffy’s eyes widened as everything fell into place.
Death is your gift.
Buffy knew what she must do. She hadn’t lied after all. Things were going to be okay. She gazed down at Dawn and poured her entire soul into her. You won’t remember, Buffy thought. She told her anyway.
“I love you.”
She prayed to the heavens for the first real time. Let her remember one thing, she begged. Just a glimmer, a feeling. Just the feel of her mother’s love.
Buffy pressed her lips to Dawn’s brow. The baby had stopped crying now. She looked up at her mother with large blue eyes. Buffy could have sworn that she saw understanding there. Buffy prepared to put her down.
“What are you doing, slayer?”
Buffy straightened, still cradling Dawn. Spike. . .
He stood unbalanced, more weight on his left. His right eye was also swollen. His good one stared at her with betrayal. He knew. Somehow he knew. Was it the claim?
“I have to,” Buffy said.
He took a step forward and winced. It must have taken a lot out of him to reach her.
“There has to be another way,” he said out of desperation.
“Tell me what it is.” She was surprised to hear that same desperation in her own voice.
He simply stared at her, lost. She knew that leaving him would tear him apart.
“It is always about blood,” Buffy said. “Remember?”
Buffy walked over and handed Dawn carefully over to Spike. “You promised to protect her.”
“Buffy. . .”
“Don’t make this harder than it has to be,” Buffy whispered. She fought the tears that threatened to spill. There were so many things she wanted to tell him. Three words in particular. But she was afraid they would make things more painful in the end. For both of them.
She stole one quick kiss. Then she spun around as something flapped over their heads. The dragon demon was wreaking havoc. Or was it another one?
Buffy took a deep breath and prepared herself to jump. To face the unknown.
She closed her eyes. She felt him near. He shoved Dawn back into her arms.
“I promised to protect her. I also promised to protect you. Maybe not outloud but . . . I always keep my promises.”
Her resolve broke. The tears spilled down her face. I’m so sorry, Spike. I’m so sorry.
He touched her cheek. His skin was cool but it spread warmth through her body.
“I’m a part of you, Buffy. Don’t forget that. I run through your veins.”
She shook her head. “Don’t do this.”
“Name one good reason why it should be you.”
“It’s my job.”
He snorted. “Try again. I don’t buy that. Being the slayer doesn’t mean you fight all your battles alone. It means making tough decisions and making sacrifices. If anything it means letting me go so you can live to fight another day.”
“Dawn needs a father.”
“She needs a mother more.”
Buffy’s lips trembled. She couldn’t see at all now, her vision was so blurry. There was nothing she could say to convince him not to do this.
“Face it, pet, I’m the better choice. Not many will miss me. Just . . .” He paused. “Just be sure and tell her about me, will you? Tell her what her daddy did? I may be a monster but I made one good decision in my go at it.”
You’re not a monster. You’re the man I . . .
“I love you.”
It was the last thing she had. Her last attempt to change his mind.
“Please stay,” she said through sobs.
The planet stood still for a moment. Buffy’s tears slowed a little so she could make out the vampire standing in front of her. He had his head tilted in that curious manner he was notorious to do. A small smile tugged at his lips.
“Thanks, luv.” He brushed his lips against hers. It was feather-light, a goodbye.
“No,” she said.
“I can go a happy man knowing that. Thank you.”
“No,” she repeated.
He went to the edge of the landing. He looked down at the vortex.
Her voice obtained no response. Buffy’s legs gave out and she crumpled to the floor. She never saw Spike jump because water blinded her again. She felt it, though. She felt something black tug at her heart and rip it into two, fluttering away with one half.
“No. No. . . NO!”
+ + +
Xander was the one to drag her down. She let him without a struggle. Willow examined her with concern.
“Buffy, are you okay?”
When Buffy gave no response there was a commotion.
“Do you think she is in another coma?”
Buffy moved then and they fell silent. She gave the baby to Tara. Distantly, Buffy comprehended the transformation in the witch. She was back to being herself once more. The realization brought no feeling.
Buffy lowered to her knees. She examined the construction site. Miraculously all the demons had vanished, along with the escaped mental patients. There was nothing but debris and dirt. Buffy dug her nails into the dust below her. The remains of Spike were somewhere in this mess. But he was lost to her.
I want to thank everyone for their kind reviews. I’m glad I could bring such an emotional response. Here it is, the last part. I might do an epilogue, but I’m not sure yet.
On the third day Buffy’s tears dried up. They were replaced by complete silence instead. It unnerved Joyce to the core. Where did her baby go? Would she ever get her back? She’d rather see her daughter in a fit of grief than this emptiness. She feared Buffy had retreated so deep inside herself she’d never surface again. Hide away from the pain, that’s what Buffy’s plan was, Joyce guessed.
Everyday Mr. Giles came by to check on his slayer. Everyday Joyce relayed the bad news. Buffy wasn’t improving . . . she was getting worse. Slipping away from them.
Dawn cried out to her mother in need. Buffy seemed not to even hear. Joyce resorted to tending to the child herself.
“Shh, darling, it’s all right,” Joyce murmured.
Dawn’s red face remained scrunched up as she wailed. The poor thing couldn’t find any rest. This went beyond any colic; Dawnie simply was reacting to the aftermath of her turmoil. She could sense the un-rightness of her surroundings. Even though she knew her parents for a very little time, she probably missed their presence just the same.
Joyce rocked the infant until the baby wore herself out. Her cries turned to muffles and finally ceased. Joyce placed the sleeping baby gently into her bassinet. She took a moment to run her index finger down her soft cheek. Then she crept quietly into the hall.
This was the perfect time to go attend an errand. They were running out of formula. Joyce hesitated outside Buffy’s door. She took a deep breath and pushed it open. The room was dark, even though it was mid-afternoon. Joyce opened the blinds at first, but Buffy had only whimpered and rolled onto her stomach to escape the sunlight.
“Buffy?” Joyce called softly.
The slayer didn’t respond. Her eyes stared blankly up at the ceiling. For a moment Joyce pondered whether she should call Giles over to watch the house while she was gone. No, Joyce thought, that isn’t necessary. Dawn is likely to sleep for hours.
“I need to run out and purchase some more formula. I just- I just thought you should know. I’ll be back within a half hour. Okay?”
Buffy was so strong. It ripped Joyce apart to see her so broken.
Joyce bent down and kissed Buffy goodbye.
+ + +
Buffy had rescued countless lives. All of them nameless strangers. But when the one person that mattered came around she couldn’t save him. She always thought of him as being eternal. The one who would never leave. At first he stuck around as a nuisance, but then he wedged himself into her life where she couldn’t imagine it without him.
How could she survive?
She had nothing now. She was all alone. So cold, her insides were turning to ice.
In the background of her misery there was a sound. It grew louder and louder. Stop, Buffy begged. Leave me in peace.
It continued, more forceful.
Buffy’s eyes widened from hearing her own voice. It was hoarse and strained.
“Stop!” she said again with more energy.
She shut her eyes tightly, trying to block out the noise. The sound wouldn’t let her think. Wouldn’t let her wallow in guilt.
I told him I loved him too late. We never got a chance to be happy together.
Buffy groaned. The sound was so distracting.
Mechanically, she sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. She walked toward the cacophony. Before she knew it she stood before the bassinet in her mother’s bedroom. The tiny creature within squirmed around.
Buffy blinked down at it. There was nothing at first, even though Buffy knew there should be. This is my child. My daughter, she realized. I should feel something. Shouldn’t I?
It was when little Dawnie reached up toward her that made the walls crumble. Buffy sunk to her knees.
“I’m so sorry. So sorry,” she murmured to Dawn. “I’m here now. I won’t leave you again.”
She had been wrong. She wasn’t alone. Spike might be gone, but she had Dawn. A little piece of him remained with her.
Buffy’s tears mingled with Dawn’s.
Twenty minutes later, Joyce found the bassinet empty. She hurried to Buffy’s room and found that vacant as well. Frantic, she checked the only other possibility. She gawked in surprise as Buffy cradled her daughter to her breast. The baby sucked greedily, her eyes closed and seemingly the most content since birth.
+ + +
After that, Dawn became Buffy’s world. It was the only way she could cope. She rarely left the house. Her friends grew extremely worried. Willow was the one who decided they needed to take action. Magic taught her that anything can be fixed. So she went to work to find the solution.
A month later, she found it. All the hard research was going to pay off. Or would have, if Tara hadn’t come in to find the witch in an array of black arts books.
“What is all this?” Tara demanded.
Willow tried to look as innocent as she could. She stood up from her cross-legged position on the floor of their dorm room.
“I’m just reading,” Willow said.
Tara stared down at the upside-down pentagram diagram that covered a visible page. She frowned. “This doesn’t look like light reading to me.” She raised her head and crossed her arms. “What are you planning?”
“I’m helping. I’m going to make Buffy happy again.”
“Willow, you can’t play with people like this.”
“I’m not going to poof Buffy happy. I can’t believe you would think that. No, I’m going to take away the hurt so she won’t be sad anymore. I’m going to bring back Spike.”
“Oh my Goddess, Willow! You don’t know what you are about to dabble with. This is dark stuff. Way over your head.”
Willow crouched down and shut the books shut. Then she gathered them into her arms and rose. She glared at her girlfriend.
“You don’t trust me? You think I’m still an amateur! Well, I’m not! I have more power than you could ever dream.”
To prove her point, Willow swept a hand toward the door. It burst open. Willow stormed out, making it bang behind her.
+ + +
Tara loved Willow with all her heart. That was why it was so hard to betray her. She thought about going to Mr. Giles first, but ended up at Buffy’s instead. Joyce welcomed her warmly, directing her upstairs. Tara knocked softly on the nursery door. It took a moment for Buffy to answer.
Buffy poked her head out. She placed a finger to her lips. “Shhh, I finally got her to sleep,” she whispered.
“I have to speak with you,” Tara told her.
Buffy nodded. She quietly stepped out into the hallway and shut the door. “What is it?”
“Maybe we should go in your room. You could sit down that way.”
That got the slayer’s attention. Buffy realized that this was an important matter. She led Tara to her room and they both sat on the bed.
“Buffy, Willow is planning something and I thought you should know. She wasn’t going to tell you and . . .”
“Just tell me,” Buffy said.
Tara nodded. “Willow is going to bring back Spike.”
Buffy’s breath hitched. A million emotions mixed together at once. And for a millisecond hope was one of them. But there was also anger and disloyalty. Willow was controlling her life. And Spike’s.
“She thinks she is helping. She thinks this is the best thing to do. But she doesn’t understand the consequences. What if something goes wrong?” Tara went on.
The hope died completely. Spike wouldn’t be brought back to her. Buffy would make sure of that. It would be playing with forces they didn’t have the right to.
+ + +
Fire flamed in Willow’s eyes.
“You can’t do this. I won’t allow it,” Buffy said.
“What if he’s in hell?” Willow spat.
“What if he’s not?” Buffy pointed out. “He saved the world, Will. Let him rest in peace. Please, for me.”
Willow eventually backed down. Buffy let out a breath from her victory. She should have felt relieved. For some reason all she could feel was longing.
ALMOST FOUR YEARS LATER
1402 days. 1402 days without him. She couldn’t feel her heart beat, but she breathed and that was all that mattered. She kept together most of the time. But occasionally she’d wake from a dream, a dream so real. She’d open her eyes to find that she was the only one in bed. She’d feel so bereft and lost. Dawn was so perceptive, a gift from her father. She knew whenever her mother had a rough night. Her bright blue eyes sparkled up at Buffy with emotion.
“It okay, Mommy. Aunt Tara told me Daddy not really gone,” she said once.
Buffy scooped her daughter up and held her close.
Dawn loved stories. She loved to act out the fairy tales. She was usually the princess, placing a crown on top of her head. She also had fairy wings and a wand that she got out at times. Beyond any fantasy tale, Dawn’s favorites were those of her daddy. They were even more heroic and entertaining than Cinderella or Snow White.
That night, at the end of the 1402nd day, Dawn demanded on another ‘daddy story’. She jumped a little on her bed. Buffy frowned and made her daughter settle down. She had so much energy that night.
“All right, all right. A daddy story,” Buffy said.
She dived in, telling Dawn about the man that was her father. Even events before the chip were told with softness. Buffy cherished every past moment now. Each one was sacred. This particular bedtime story was about the gem or Amara.
“He was so beautiful in the sun,” Buffy told Dawn. “Even though his skin was pale and his hair radio-active, he was gorgeous.”
“Like an angel,” Dawn injected.
A small smile tugged at Buffy’s mouth. “Yes, like an angel.”
Dawn’s eyes fluttered. Buffy leaned down and kissed her cheek.
“Night. Love you.”
Buffy left the room to enter the living room. The apartment was small, but well furnished and clean. They managed on Buffy’s waitressing income. The tips were what got them through. She went to school part-time also, working toward a psychology major. Someday she hoped to be a high school councilor.
Buffy fixed herself some hot chocolate. She plopped in a few tiny marshmallows, a recent addition. She carried her mug into the living room and curled up on the couch with it. Before she knew it she fell asleep.
Banging jarred her awake. She groggily threw off the green afghan and got to her feet. Who would be visiting them at this hour? Her mind immediately thought ‘trouble’. One of the scoobies needed slayer help.
Opening the door, she expected Giles, or maybe Xander. Instead she froze at what she saw. I’m still asleep, she thought.
They gazed at each other without a word. Buffy’s hand moved on its own. It came out to touch his face but halted in midair. She was afraid to find out this was all a dream. That she’d wake up as soon as she touched him. Or he would melt away, proving she was hallucinating. Her arm went limp.
“Are-Are you real?” she stammered.
“Invite me in and find out, luv.”
Oh God, he could talk. She shook and had to grab the door for support.
“Come in, Spike.”
She moved aside, still grasping the door. He hesitantly stepped inside. She remained in her stance, too shocked to do otherwise.
“Buffy . . .”
Her head whipped. She caught him looking at her with that Spike head tilt. Tears stung at her eyes.
She felt him then. He took her into his arms. She slumped into them. He hoisted her up and her face nuzzled into the crook of his neck. He kicked the door shut.
He carried her to the white sofa. He lowered to it, shifting her comfortably on his lap.
“You aren’t disappearing,” Buffy stated.
“Do you want me to?” His voice was full of insecurity.
He smiled. “Good to know.”
She met his eyes. “Why are you here now? After so long?”
His left eye twitched. “How long has it been?”
“1402 days,” she softly replied.
“That many?” He sounded surprised. He did the calculation in his head. “Over three years. Time moves so fast here.”
“Here?” Buffy frowned. “Where have you been?”
He furrowed his brow. “Don’t rightly know. An in-between realm, I gather.”
Her arms snaked around his neck. “What happened to you there?”
He cleared his throat. “Well, turns out I did what no other vampire has done. I became a champion without a soul.” He chuckled. “At least that’s what the big wigs call me. Given my lil heroic plunge they decided I wasn’t suited for the fiery pit below. So they had themselves a trial of sorts to choose where I would end up.”
“What was the verdict?”
Fear coursed through her. What if this wasn’t permanent? What if he came by to say a proper goodbye before moving on? She couldn’t deal with seeing him just to lose him again.
He sensed her trepidation and slid a hand soothingly over her hair. “I’m not Sir Lancelot. I’ve done my share of horror. Far more bad than good. The powers decided I couldn’t enter the pearly gates given my past. At least not yet.”
“Where will you go then?” Buffy bit her lip.
“Already there, luv.”
Overcome with emotion, Buffy sobbed. She roughly kissed him on the mouth. Afterward, she scrambled up and took his hand. She tugged him toward the hall.
“There’s someone else who will want to see you.”
She rubbed his arm. “It’s all right, Spike.” She smiled. “I told her. I promised to tell her how great her daddy was, remember?”
Unsure, he continued. They entered the bedroom. It was exactly like what Buffy dreamed during her coma, girly with pink.
Spike stared at the slumbering child, full of wonder. Buffy knew if she didn’t do something he’d remain there on the other side of the room. She nudged him forward.
“Go say hi,” she urged.
He knelt down at the side of the toddler bed. “She’s so beautiful.”
“Looks like her father,” Buffy said fondly.
“She’ll be four in two months.” She paused. “You know, she isn’t made of glass. You can touch her and she doesn’t chip or scratch or anything.”
The vampire took his left hand up. He brushed a dirty-blond lock off his daughter’s face to get a full view of her angelic features. She suddenly stirred. He turned quickly to Buffy for aid as to what to do. All she did was smiled in encouragement.
Dawn opened her eyes. Blue met blue. It didn’t take long for one of them to take action. Dawn smiled warmly.
Spike’s eyes glistened. “That’s right, kitten.”
“You came home.”
“That I did.”
Her small arms reached out. Spike lowered himself to accept the embrace. Buffy watched the display with tenderness. She longed to come forward and enter the reunion as well. But she dared not move. She couldn’t risk breaking the perfect-ness of it all.
“Will you be here in the mornin?” Dawn questioned.
“Not going anywhere, nibblet,” Spike said. “Never again.”
“Good, cuz I’m tired.”
“Close your eyes then. Daddy will be here when you wake.”
She scooted over to make room on the bed. “Stay?”
He crawled up beside her. She cuddled against his chest with a smile. Spike looked across the room to Buffy, who hadn’t moved. That was all the incentive Buffy needed. She made her way over. She settled on the other side of Dawn.
It would have been a comical sight for any observer. The two adults barely fit on the edges of the children’s bed. Despite being on the verge to tumble off, they shared the most restful night of their existence.
Who knew what tomorrow would bring. It didn’t matter. Whatever it was they had each other to face it with.
Thanks, everyone, for sticking around to the end. I love you all.
Now I’ll get to work on Second the First, sequel to Replay.
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