Dawn cast a worried glance to the back seat of the bus where her sister had sat, eyes closed, curled in on herself and unresponsive for the last two hours. An occasional murmur or whimper, a slight shuddering of her shoulders, were the only visible signs of life. They had all tried to elicit some type of response from her. Even Faith had tried to do something to comfort the pain that so obviously consumed the small blonde. But nothing they did seemed to get through; none of the gentle words or encouraging touches, not even the harshly spoken demands to ‘snap out of it’ had elicited any type of reaction—any indication that she was even remotely aware of her surroundings.
Her tortured mind sought solace in oblivion. Survival instinct alone had driven her; legs pumping, her slayer strength pushed to the utmost limits, she had run—practically flying through the air until she had clutched the cold, hard surface of the get-away bus. Along with the others, she had stared at the huge gaping hole that had once been their home—their town. She had smiled woodenly at those who surrounded her, grateful for their presence. She had listened as in sad, loving tones they had listed missing, the fallen. All accounted for, except him—the one whose loss assured their survival.
“What could have done that?” someone asked.
Not sure, nor even caring who posed the question, her answer came in one quietly spoken word, bringing the reality crashing home as her mind finally caught up with the events that had so recently taken place. As she spoke his name his absence hit her in a wave of agony.
Somehow she found herself back on the bus, the people around her jubilant in their victory, yet saddened by the deaths of those they held dear. None but her mourned the passing of a vampire, none but her felt the keen absence of his company. His strength had been all that had seen her through these last days. His love had been a constant, even when unacknowledged, in her life for years. He was hers and in the last moments of his existence realisation had hit her that she was, and always had been, undeniably HIS.
He came to her then; as he always had in her need. He spoke soft words that only she could hear. Peppered her face with whispers of kisses, gentle hands reaching out to brush her hair from her face. He told her to be strong. He told her she had to stay when all she wanted was to leave, to fly from a world of pain—a world without him in it. He wrapped her close in strong arms and nuzzled against her.
A soft whimper of pain escaped when the more lucid portion of her mind told her this was a dream, that he was not holding her in his loving embrace. That the voice she heard against her ear was not real—that he was gone. The one who never left her, the one who would always be there and would always love her was gone.
“Spike you left me,” her mind whispered.
“No, love. I’m here, pet, would never leave you. Never, Buffy. Never leave you.”
“That’s not true, Spike. I saw you, I watched you burn. How could you leave me? How could I leave you? I should have stayed with you… should have…”
“No, don’t say that. You have to live.”
“I can’t. Not without you. How can I?”
“Have to, love—for her. I’ve seen her. She’s beautiful, Buffy, you have to stay, for her.”
“Who, Spike? Who do you mean?”
“Shush, love. Later, sweetheart. You’ll find out in time. But you have to stay, you must promise me, love.”
“Will you stay with me?”
“Of course I will. I’m always here, I told you that. Now promise me, Buffy. I need you to promise me.”
“I will, Spike, I promise. Just don’t leave me!”
“Never, pet. Never could leave you, love. 's not something I know how to do!”
“Will you hold me, Spike?”
“Hush, my love, I’m here, I’ll always be with you. You need to go now, kitten. Need to eat, an' get some sleep. Have to take care of yourself.”
“Buffy, come on. You have to wake up. Please? Buffy, please!” A hand shook her roughly and she opened her eyes to her sister’s tear streaked face. It was dark out, they had travelled a long way and everyone was exhausted. Looking around, she saw a gaudy neon sign announcing that there were vacancies. She allowed Dawn to guide her off the bus and into the cheap hotel room. A shower, a meal she didn’t taste, and then sinking down into one of the four small lumpy beds in the room that she shared with her sister, Willow and Kennedy.
Sleep claimed her as soon as her eyes closed and once again he was there, whispering his devotion, stroking her face gently and kissing her softly between sweet words of everlasting love.
Over the months that followed, the Sunnydale survivors slowly pieced a life together. A memorial was held for their fallen once they reached London. Words were spoken remembering the young slayers who gave their lives and the former demon whose bravery at the last showed how far her journey into humanity had taken her. Not one of the Scoobies or slayers mentioned Spike, to acknowledge his part in their continued existence would be to acknowledge a debt of gratitude to a creature they abhorred. Andrew had tried on several occasions, only to be ignored or rebuked. Buffy never spoke of him because he was hers, not theirs and she didn’t wish to share him with anyone. She knew no one would, or could, understand why she would mourn for him every waking moment.
She filled her days with as much activity as she could cram into them; helping to rebuild the council, tracking down girls around the world whose powers had manifested themselves when Willow cast her spell—anything to keep busy, to keep the aching, mind numbing pain at bay.
Her nights were spent in his arms; every night he came to her, every night he soothed her dreams with gentle words. Every night they whispered to each other pledges of forever, of an eternity of love. Every night he obtained from her further promises of continued existence. Months passed—each day a chore to be endured, and every night a blessing to flee to.
One night held her a little closer, his gentle words of love held no promises of forever as he told her he had to go away for a while. “Not for long, love. Not for long.” His voice soothed as he nuzzled closer, breathing in the warm scent of her hair, kissing away the tears that traced salty tracks down her face.
“Why? Where?” She clung to him desperately.
“Don’t know, pet. Only know I have to go. Shh, love,
it’ll be alright. Everything will be alright.”