The door opened to its usual ringing accompaniment.
Giles walked over to greet Riley, Xander following closely on his
Riley looked past the two men, his eyes roaming expectantly around
the room before returning his attention to the watcher. “Where’s
Buffy?” She had said she'd be here, so why was he not in
the least surprised by her absence?
Giles wasn’t really sure what Buffy had told her boyfriend,
or for that matter how much she wanted him to know. “Um, she-she
left a while ago.”
Riley’s voice raised incredulously. “What?” With
a resigned sigh he continued his interrogation of the seemingly unconcerned
“That creepy demon woman’s conjuring some kind of monster,”
Xander offered helpfully.
“And you let Buffy go after her? Alone?” For all the time
he had now known these people, he still could not comprehend how they
could be so blasé about the danger that Buffy placed herself
in. Why was he the only one who wanted to protect her?
Giles’ brow creased slightly, frowning at the reprimand from
the former soldier. What his slayer saw in this young man was beyond
him. He attempted to keep the contempt from his voice as he answered
tightly, “Uh, ‘let’ isn’t really a factor
when she sets her mind to something, you know that.” A customer
requiring his services at the register supplied him with all the excuse
he needed to break off the conversation before he said something to
the irritating boy that he may later regret.
Riley turned to Xander in the hope that in him, at least, he may
find an ally. “She’ll get herself killed. It’s crazy.”
“Yeah. Crazy," Xander agreed. "Going off alone, half-cocked,
instead of waiting for much-needed backup ... charging in with a big
old hand grenade ... oh, wait.”
Riley belatedly realised that his actions of the previous night had
wounded the rather fragile ego of his greatest supporter amongst Buffy’s
inner circle, and he winced as he recognised that he would have to
put in a little overtime in order to repair the relationship he'd
worked so hard at cultivating. Right now, however, he did not have
time to deal with Xander Harris’ self-worth issues. “This
“Yeah, it is." Xander couldn’t believe that Riley
didn’t understand what was so blatantly obvious to the rest
of them. "Buffy needs something she can fight, something she
can solve. I don’t know what kind of action you’re looking
for ...” He stared intently at the man who until very recently
he had thought could do no wrong. He was worried about him, after
all this was his friend, and the closest Buffy had come to a normal,
acceptable relationship. He just wanted Riley to understand that he
was there; to help, to listen, whatever was needed in order to help
sort out whatever issue it was that Riley was dealing with right now.
Riley coldly returned his stare, not quite believing that Xander
was actually calling him on his actions. A heartbeat later he dropped
his eyes to one side; he really didn’t have time to get into
a pissing contest with the boy right now.
“Hey, I’m not trying to get…” Xander started.
“It’s cool,” Riley assured him, eager to cut this
conversation short and be on his way.
“You okay?" Xander’s concern, if anything, bumped
up another notch at Riley’s quick dismissal.
Riley nodded reassuringly. “Just a little crazed,” he
answered, hoping that Xander would let it drop so he could get out
of there. Taking Xander’s ‘I hear ya’ as an indication
that he was done with his little lecture, he made to leave, turning
back at the last moment with a defeated shrug. “If, uh, she
needs me...” Not that she ever needs me, he thought glumly
to himself as he left the shop in search of much needed solace.
The insistent ringing broke through the anxious quiet that had marked
the shop for the majority of the day. Giles handed the package to
the customer, offering a tentative smile before turning his attention
to the phone. “Magic Box, your one-stop spot to shop for…”
His well rehearsed spiel was interrupted by a very tired-sounding
“Giles, it’s me.”
“Buffy! You alright?” His relief at hearing her voice
was overshadowed by the concern her obvious weariness evoked.
Buffy snagged an ice-pack from a nearby shelf and allowed his question
to wash over her. Was she alright? Her mom was waiting to have
life-saving brain surgery, her sister wasn’t really her sister
but some sort of mystical key to god-only-knows-what, the super bitch
that she was supposed to be protecting the key from had conjured some
uber-ugly snake-monster thingy and released it on the general populace.
And to top it all off the same unbelievably trashy ho had just thrown
her around, yet again, like she was some sort of rag-doll rather than
the slayer. She hurt from head to toe, and all she really wanted was
to curl up in her mom’s arms, close her eyes and wish this whole
awful nightmare would go away. “No, I’m really not.”
She sighed deeply. “I-I couldn’t stop her. I couldn’t
even slow her down.”
“Where are you?” Giles demanded.
Buffy reached inside her jacket, gingerly placing the procured icepack
on her shoulder before answering, “Sunnydale Memorial.”
At her announcement Giles’ ‘watcher’ took a backseat,
rapidly replaced by the concerned pseudo-father. “Are you badly
hurt? I’ll, I’ll come right over.”
“No. No, I-I just wanted to warn you that that thing she conjured,
it’s loose—it’s a big snake thing. Not ‘Mayor
big’, but it’s pretty lethal looking.”
Giles calmed slightly as curiosity won out over concern. “Do
you know why she raised it?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“I’ll warn the others. We’ll get weapons, we’ll
The watcher’s planing was quickly interrupted by Buffy’s
next enquiry, “Wait. What time is it?”
With a quick glance at his watch he answered her, “Half past
“School’s out. Dawn’s on her way over to you. Giles…”
Knowing that right now the best thing he could do for his slayer
was to protect her sister, he quickly reassured her that Dawn would
be well cared for. “Understood. We’ll keep her safe here
until you arrive.”
“Thanks. And Giles...”
“Dawn’s kind of fragile right now. About Mom; she doesn’t
know how bad it is.”
“We’ll not say a word,” he assured her.
With a tired sigh Buffy said her goodbyes, “Well, my Mom’s
gonna wake up soon, and I should ... be there when the doctors tell
Not knowing what else to say, Giles tried to ease some of the girl’s
worries. “She’s in good hands, Buffy. There’s really
nothing else you can do.”
“Bye.” He replaced the phone on its cradle, wishing not
for the first time that there was some way he could remove some of
the burdens that his dear girl must carry each day. He wondered how
much more difficult it could be if the child in your heart were truly
your own, and decided that he couldn't possibly care more for Buffy
even if she were his own flesh and blood. He could only pray that
Joyce would make a speedy recovery. And that the mystery of the key
and the deceptively harmless-looking woman who sought it out would
soon be solved.
Buffy made her way to her mother’s room, limping slightly and
wincing in pain when she moved too suddenly and jarred her injured
shoulder. She paused outside her mother’s room, steeling herself
to face once more the sight of her mom lying there looking so fragile
and broken. With a deep calming breath, she eased the door open, not
wanting to disturb her mom if she was still sleeping. The sight that
confronted her stopped her heart for a moment; William the bloody
was in her mom’s room while she slept. Her first instinct had
her reaching for a stake, but as her brain caught up with her screaming
slayer instincts she realised that Spike wasn’t threatening
the sleeping woman in any way, in fact he was sitting at her side
talking quietly to her as he held her hand gently in one of his and
stroked it soothingly with the other.
Buffy pushed the door all the way open, and watched with some amusement
as Spike started guiltily, releasing Joyce’s hand and jumping
to his feet.
“Spike, what are you doing here?” She tried to sound pissed
off, but the sight of the Big Bad squirming uncomfortably at having
been caught out being nice was just too much, and her lips curled
With his eyes cast self-consciously towards the floor, Spike didn’t
see the tiny smile that graced the slayer’s lips, hearing only
the accusation in her voice. “Wasn’t hurting her, if that’s
what you’re implying.” He looked up, his predator’s
eyes rapidly noting her dishevelled appearance and the stiff way she
held herself, the scent of her blood tickled his nostrils and the
increase in her heartbeat beyond the normal rhythm that he knew like
a well-loved tune added up to tell him that his slayer was injured.
He sought her eyes, his head tilting slightly in enquiry. “Some
nasty get a piece of you, love?” His tone was soft and quiet,
with some of the worry he felt creeping past his barriers.
Two of his girls were hurt; he could only hope the third was safe.
That’s what they were—his girls. He would never be foolish
enough to let the slayer know that was how he thought of her and her
family, right quick way to a dusty end that would be. That didn’t
change the facts though; Joyce and the Nibblet had, when he stopped
and thought about it, been his for some time. Always treated him right!
Joyce had never treated him like a monster, or some sort of annoying
invalid whose presence was barely tolerated. As for the Platelet,
he knew she kinda admired him, and he liked that, it made him feel
like something more than the neutered has-been he was, and he genuinely
liked her. She brought back faded memories of a long-dead little sister
who'd meant the world to him once—before the consumption had
stolen her away, leaving only himself and his mum in a house all the
more lonely for the ghosts that kept them company. His feelings for
Buffy were somewhat new, but no less intense. That he would gladly
dust for any one of them, was not in any doubt.
That he couldn’t sit around his crypt all day knowing Joyce
was lying here in hospital, was also not in doubt. Having made his
way through the tunnels, he’d arrived in time to hear the docs
give Buffy their verdict, had seen captain-bloody-cardboard head off
with his Nibblet in tow, and Buffy leave to try to find a way to help
her mum. So he’d hung around, snatched a couple of bags of blood
while he'd waited, and then when Joyce had been wheeled back to her
room he'd slipped inside to keep her company and assure himself that
she was okay until Buffy got back with Dawn. Only he hadn’t
expected Buffy to be back so soon, had thought to be gone before she
arrived, or at least out of sight. Now he warred between concern that
his slayer had gone and got herself all beaten up by some big nasty,
and mortification at having been caught sitting there holding her
mum’s hand and talking to her like some great bloody Nance.
He narrowed his eyes and quirked an eyebrow, silently reminding her
that she had yet to answer him.
“It was…” Buffy sighed as the day’s events
once more sprang to the forefront. “Look, it doesn’t matter,
Spike. I’m fine. Okay?” She didn’t know why she
felt guilty for not explaining things to him, but she just really
didn’t have the energy to go into it right now. Remembering
the sight that had greeted her when she’d arrived, Buffy quickly
turned the tables on him. “Was that… were you watching
over my mom?”
Spike’s intent, searching gaze dropped as she once more turned
her attention to him. “Just didn’t want her to be alone,
‘s all,” he muttered quietly, his focus fixed on the floor
in front of his feet. Buffy moved slowly toward the vampire who, of
late, seemed to alternate between being the bane of her existence,
and at times the only one she could turn to—the only one who
came close to understanding the slayer side of her nature. She placed
a hand gently on his arm, the leather soft and supple beneath her
fingers, waiting to speak until he lifted his eyes once more to hers.
Blue eyes shone incredulously as he took in her warm hand resting
on his arm.
“Thank you, Spike. I am glad you were here with her.”
Buffy smiled gently at him, and watched as embarrassment claimed him
once again. He was really quite cute when he was embarrassed; looking
more like an awkward little boy than the vicious, unrepentant murderer
she knew him to be. To be fair, Spike hadn’t killed anyone for
a while now, although that wasn’t exactly through choice. If
it wasn’t for that chip in his head, she had no doubt he would
be back to the whole killing thing tomorrow. Having said that, he
hadn’t hurt her mom, or Dawn when he’d had the chance.
She still remembered the shock of coming home to find Spike sitting
in the kitchen drinking hot chocolate while her mom listened to his
troubles, Dawn peeking in from the next room, shamelessly eavesdropping
despite having been told to go and play elsewhere as it was an adult
conversation. Dawn still hadn’t learned that it was wrong to
Only that hadn’t really happened, had it? Dawn wasn’t
real. So was anything about that memory real? Or was it all just something
the monks had planted in her mind? Buffy smiled to herself when she
realised that it really didn’t matter; she just knew that even
if none of it were real, under those circumstances Spike wouldn’t
have hurt them. He really seemed to like her mom and her little sister;
it was only her that he'd wanted to kill. Somehow, despite the absurdity
of it, that thought was rather comforting. At least she knew that
if anything ever happened to her, there was someone here who not only
cared, but who was strong enough to take care of her family.
“How is she?” She allowed her hand to drop from his arm
as she made her way closer to her mom’s bed.
“She’s doing okay. Tough bird, your mum,” he answered,
pride ringing clearly in his voice. “Heart beat is good and
strong, and her breathing is good. Don’t think she’s too
far off wakin’ up.”
Buffy seated herself carefully on the edge of the bed, taking her
mom’s hand in her own and stroking it softly in much the same
way Spike had been when she’d arrived.
Spike fidgeted for a minute, not wanting to interrupt, then when it
seemed Buffy had forgotten he was there he ventured, “Guess
I should be leavin’ you to it then. Tell your mum… well
just tell her I hope she’s all better soon.” He turned
to leave only to be stopped by Buffy’s quiet words.
“No, Spike. It’s okay. Stay. Mom would want to see you.”
Returning to the seat he had occupied earlier, he sat in comfortable
silence and watched over his girls.
They walked side by side through the rapidly darkening streets towards
the Magic Shop. They needed to fetch the Nibblet back to her mum,
the sun had been down for about half an hour and it was turning into
a lovely clear starlit night. Joyce had been pleased to see them both
when she woke, and their presence had helped her when it came time
to deal with the doc’s news, Spike knew that, but it had been
hard to see her struggling for a moment to deal with the news. She’d
pulled herself together right quick, had to be strong for her daughter.
Spike's admiration for her had risen another notch in that moment,
when she had faced her own mortality and then put on a brave face
for her daughter—her racing heart the only indication of the
stress she was under. More than ever she had reminded him of his own
mum; being strong, putting on a brave face for him, even while knowing
that the foul sickness which had claimed both her husband and her
beloved daughter now had her in its evil grip. After assuring them
both that she was fine, she had asked them to get Dawn for her. She
was still sleepy from the anaesthetic and was just dozing off as they'd
left the hospital.
When they reached the Magic Box, Spike opened the door and waited
for Buffy to precede him into the shop. Giles stopped in mid-yawn
to glare momentarily at him, snapping his mouth closed on the comment
that Spike just knew was dying to come out, and was merely withheld
in deference to Buffy and Dawn’s current situation.
Dawn moved into her sister’s arms, and then surprised Spike
by relinquishing her and embracing him in turn, a quiet sob muffled
as she burrowed her face into his chest. He wrapped unsure arms around
the distressed teen and kissed the top of her head, murmuring reassuringly,
“‘s okay, Half-pint, your mum’s gonna be alright.”
Drawing a deep breath, Dawn nodded against his chest, then pulled
out of his arms to look at both Spike and her sister in turn. “Is
she awake yet?”
Buffy reached out to stroke away the hair that had fallen across the
younger girl’s face. “Yeah. She’s waiting for us.”
“Can we take her home now?”
Buffy glanced at Spike, drawing strength from his silent support.
“We’ll see. Go get your stuff.”
With a quick glance to assure herself that Dawn was out of hearing
range, Buffy glanced from her watcher to her best friend. “So,
any monster reptile sightings?”
Giles looked pointedly at Buffy, flicking his eyes to indicate the
vampire standing off to her side. Buffy momentarily placed a hand
on Spike’s arm and smiled up at him. “It’s okay,
Giles, Spike knows. I filled him in on the walk over here. So…
giant snakes?” Buffy had found herself confiding in Spike as
they’d walked companionably from the hospital, needing to share
her concerns and knowing instinctively that Spike would protect her
sister at all costs, regardless of her origins. He had accepted her
news, never once questioning that Dawn was indeed human now. She was
his Nibblet, that was all he needed to know. How she'd come about
was immaterial to him. That he would help to keep her safe, was beyond
“None,” Giles answered, in tight-lipped disapproval.
Willow fidgeted uncomfortably before piping up, “Tara and I
did a mini-patrol earlier, but biggie snake was nowhere to be…”
Glass shattered as the creature in question burst through the store’s
display window, slithering through the debris to rear to its full
height in front of the store’s temporarily-stunned occupants.
With slow deliberation it slid its gaze over each of them, scenting
the air and reaching out around the room with all of its senses; searching
for the source of the power it had felt pulsing from within the shop’s
confines. In a sudden flurry of movement, the creature surged forward
catching a display case with one arm, toppling it and knocking the
slayer to the ground beneath its weight. It stopped in front of Dawn,
tongue flicking, scenting the air and tasting the raw power the young
girl exuded, its eyes flashed, blazing red in recognition. Dawn’s
terrified screams rent the air as the creature hovered before her,
seemingly entranced by the young girl before it. Before it could move
closer to the terrified teen, a strong arm wrapped around its neck
pulling it roughly back. “Get the fuck away from her,”
Spike growled as he flung the creature into the counter, sending merchandise
flying. The creature turned and fled the shop, slithering past Buffy
as she extricated herself from beneath the toppled remains of the
Xander moved quickly to the traumatised girl. “Dawn, you okay?”
His eyes quickly checking her over for injuries.
“Why was the big snake afraid of Dawn?” Willow mused.
Buffy turned, and without so much as a backward glance flew out of
the shop on the creature's trail, with Spike less than a heartbeat
behind her as he snatched the watcher’s keys from the counter.
“Be right with you, pet. Just don’t lose the damned thing.”
Spike raced off towards Giles’ shiny new car, while Buffy followed
the overgrown snake in an attempt to stop it returning to its mistress.
The chaos and wreckage in its wake providing and easy trail to follow
as she turned on a burst of speed she'd never known she was capable
of, powered by the driving need to protect her sister at all costs.
The screaming of tyres sounded from behind her, and the deep roaring
of a cruelly abused engine. Spike slowed the car as he pulled alongside
her. “Get in, love,” he yelled, gunning the car once more
before the slayer had even finished landing in the passenger’s
seat beside him. “Hold on, pet,” he advised, throwing
the car sideways around the next corner, narrowly avoiding a dumpster
as the creature swiped it with its tail, hurling the object into their
path in an attempt to slow them down.
“Hurry, Spike. We've gotta stop this monster before it gets
back to Glory.”
“Glory? That the bint’s name?”
“That's what he called her.” She glanced at Spike as he
once more manoeuvred the car around flying objects that the desperate
creature flung into their path. “She's gonna know Dawn's the
key if we don't…”
“We’ll stop it. Don’t wo… Fuck! Hang on!”
Spike growled, swinging the car sideways once more, bumping hard up
the gutter and over a newly fallen section of chain-link fencing and
onto the grassy expanse of the moonlit park. The tyres digging deeply
into the soft grass sent the car fishtailing after the snake, rapidly
gaining ground. The desperate creature tried once more to lose them
by turning onto a narrow bike path. Spike followed, driving over the
remnants of a sign as he gunned the engine once more and slammed into
the creature from behind. The vehicle sent the snake-creature flying
into a nearby rock and, without cutting the engine, both Spike and
Buffy launched themselves from the vehicle and were on it before it
could fully recover from the impact.
Buffy pulled Spike’s head into her lap, gently stroking the
curls that had freed themselves during the battle. She raised her
hand and quickly dashed away the tear that had escaped at the sight
of the deep-red pool spreading rapidly across the grass from his prone
body. “Spike. Spike, wake up. Please.” Cradling his head
gently, she stroked the sharp plane of his cheek, pleading softly,
“Don’t leave me Spike. I need you. I can’t fight
this alone.” As the words left her mouth she didn’t know
if she meant Glory, the ongoing exhaustion of being the slayer, or
her mom’s illness—maybe she meant all of it. All she knew
was that she had come to depend on Spike always being there when she
needed him. No, more than that, she had come to want him there. His
presence was a comforting source of strength that she drew on regularly,
most times without even realising it. She knew that more even than
her friends or her watcher, she could depend on Spike to be there,
without question or judgment. He was just there.
She watched the blood seep ever outwards, the deep punctures in his
abdomen failing to close, and knew that he didn’t have enough
blood left in him for his vampire healing to kick in. She didn’t
know for sure what happened to a vampire once every drop of blood
was drained from its body, but she had a fairly good idea that it
would involve a rather substantial amount of dust.
The fight had been going well; they’d had the creature pinned
down against a huge boulder with no means of escape. Fighting in perfect
synchronisation, they had rained blows upon it, each one weakening
the monster until in a last ditched effort it had swung its head rapidly.
Taking Spike by surprise, it had caught him in its massive jaws. Huge
fangs punctured deeply through the vampire’s stomach as the
creature shook its head fiercely, thrashing from side to side while
Spike growled and roared in pain and fury. Finally it had flung him
through the air to land in a broken heap on the grass, where he lay
unmoving until Buffy had finally managed to dispatch the creature.
She'd made her way over to him as quickly as possible, freezing in
horror at the sight of the normally vividly-animated vampire lying
so still as his blood oozed across the grass, each passing moment
sapping more and more of his strength and ‘life’ away
She realised in that moment that she could not lose him.
Before she could question her decision Buffy gently lay Spike’s
head on the grass and made her way to his foot, extracting the knife
that she knew he carried in his boot. She made her way back to his
head, once more lifting it to rest safely in her lap. She closed her
eyes for a moment, gathering the courage required to carry out the
task she had set herself. Her eyes opened and she took in once more
Spike’s face, gentle in repose, boyish and sweet and she wondered
momentarily if this is how he'd appeared as a human. With a deep sigh,
she drew the little knife across her wrist then placed the wound against
his mouth, stroking his hair tenderly with the other hand as she murmured
soft words of encouragement to him. Nothing happened at first and
Buffy was worried that she'd left it too late, that he was too far
gone to return to her; her eyes swam with a fresh wave of tears that
brimmed before being dashed angrily away.
“Come on, Spike, you don’t get to give up on me. You just
don’t.” Her voice dropped to a whisper, her lip trembled
as she breathed, “Not you. You’re the one who never gives
With her free hand she stroked his face gently, marvelling at the
beauty she had only recently allowed herself to see, a beauty which
went so much deeper than his exquisite face.
He had changed so much, but then he'd always been different to other
vampires, different even to Angel. Certainly he was very different
to Angelus. Why was it that this vampire, soul notwithstanding was
able to do the things he did? To love—and there was no doubt
in her mind that Spike was capable of very deep and very real love,
she had seen it when he had looked at Drusilla. To keep his word.
To help her save the world. To come to her for help after the Initiative
had put that chip in his head. Spike had even taken it upon himself
to look out for her little sister, and knowing what he now did about
Dawn’s origins, he had still put his life on the line helping
her protect that self-same sister.
A gentle pulling on her wrist broke her from her reverie; he was feeding,
slowly and gently—but feeding none the less. Tears of relief
tracked down her cheek as she continued to stroke his face and hair,
whispering soft words of encouragement to the feeding vampire. After
a seemingly too-short time, she felt the pulling stop and his tongue
lap tenderly, gathering the last drops of blood as the bleeding slowed
and her slayer healing kicked in.
Consciousness returned slowly, awareness of his surroundings came
in stages, the gentle soothing hand stroking his brow, the scent of
her tears, the warmth of her lap as his head rested comfortably in
it and the taste of her rich, potent blood in his mouth as new strength
coursed through his body. His heart filled anew with a deep abiding
love for his beautiful strong slayer. That she would share such a
gift with him made his heart sing and his throat clog with emotion.
The words he knew he must never say to her fought to free themselves
as his eyelids fluttered open and he stared up into worried green
The words that fell from her tongue astounded him, and he could swear
he felt his heart racing in his chest. “Oh, god, Spike. I thought
I'd lost you. I couldn’t take it if I lost you too.” With
a barely stifled sob, she leant down and brushed soft kisses against
his temple, his hair, and eventually his lips.
Buffy stood at her mom’s bedside. “You want me to stay?”
she asked, not completely sure which response she was hoping for.
“No, I’m fine. I… I think I should ... talk to Dawn
“Okay.” Buffy nodded, a small part of her relieved that
she didn’t need to be there when her mom broke the news to Dawn.
“Oh. Do I have bad hair? I don't look like scary Mom, do I?”
Joyce patted at her hair worriedly.
“No. You look beautiful.” Buffy smiled lovingly at her
mom and brushed an errant strand away from her forehead.
“Okay. Let's do this.” Joyce reached out, placing a hand
on her daughter’s arm. “Stay close.”
“We will.” Buffy assured her before leaving the room
to send her sister in, leaving the door slightly ajar in case either
of them needed her. Strong arms wrapped around her and she turned,
burrowing into the safety of his chest.
“’s alright, kitten. Your mum'll pull through this.”
He raised her chin until she was looking him in the eye. “You
have to believe that, love.”
“I… I know, I’m just so scared.” Nuzzling
back into the comfort of his embrace, she whispered against his chest,
“You’ll stay with me? Tonight, I mean.”
“Always, love. Till the end of the world.”