quinara: Spike drinking from a blood bag. (Spike blood bag)
Quinara ([personal profile] quinara) wrote2015-08-15 12:44 am

Fic: 'I love you' is a thing you say to people who are dying (16/18); hard R

[start of fic and notes]

'I love you' is a thing you say to people who are dying

by Quinara

Season 7. Buffy/Spike. Some Watchers survived, because sometimes people do.

[bodies V]

bodies VI


You have until morning to get everyone out of town.
Sunnydale’s not gonna make it, so you have to get out.
I’m telling you – get out. Now.

The first thing Spike noticed, when he woke up, was that there was a blanket covering his shoulders. It was an odd sensation to wake up to, not his usual. It was nice. Cosy. The second thing he noticed was that Buffy wasn’t there.

This realisation was less cosy. As he looked around the basement, Spike could make out signs of her leaving: his stuff had been raided, it looked like, with various bits and bobs tossed haphazardly between piles. Some of them teetered; some of them were far too short. Buffy’s top remained discarded by the bed, like a beige and cream chiffon bloodstain on the cement floor. Another rag was over by his stuff, a suspicious round ring of crumpled, sprawling white.

There was also, Spike realised, a note in his hand. He read it. When he’d finished, he read it again. On his face, the memory returned of a slow, wet kiss; fingers clenching at his temple; his nose pressed against flesh on its bridge and its side; the air on the rest of him hot and thrumming with tension.

Again, Spike read the note. He felt sick. He hadn’t been sick, of course, in over a century; hadn’t vomited in over a hundred years – but right now he felt like there was a first time for everything.

I love you, he’d said, like a soggy-palmed, naïve fool.

Shaking, Spike scrambled out of bed. His cock and his balls hung freely from his jeans, which were slipped and still slipping down his arse. Managing himself, he shoved everything back where it was supposed to be and nabbed a clean t-shirt from the pile that had been dumped out of his clothes box. His duster was on his arm and his boots were held in his fingers as he launched himself up the stairs, caught in a fit of adrenaline.

“Wake up!” he bellowed as he left the basement, relieved at least that the night was yet thick and heavy beyond the windows. “Everybody wake up!”

He charged around the ground floor of the house, slamming doors and shouting. He fell into the hallway and baulked when the moment it came to climb the stairs, staring up for a moment and seeing nothing but a never-ceasing tunnel towards darkness. The stairs were ridges on the floor like the deadly rocks of a waterfall; the pale plaster slanted sideways, underneath him.

It was a weird time for anything like that to happen, but Spike couldn’t do it, couldn’t go up there, so he continued on his path, too much oxygen roaring into his lungs and into blood that didn’t need it, filling his end with a pounding sense of emptiness.

“God damn you all, where are you? We have to get up!”

He found himself back in the kitchen, his vision filled with the sink and its window. The drainer on the side was empty, because he’d emptied it hours before. He remembered how Buffy had watched him, yet already that image of her felt like a ghost on his consciousness – something unreal compared to the moment he was living in now.

With the sound of no one else waking up, Spike was suddenly struck by the fear that he was in this house alone, with no one to help him and no one to find him. Dropping his things to the floor, he rushed towards the pile of dirty dishes. They were making time on the far side of the basin, free from the congealing water he knew was in the sink, soaking two nasty-looking roasting tins.

“Get up!” he bellowed again, as loudly as he could make his voice carry, before he swept an arm behind the plates and mugs and glasses and brought all of them crashing down onto the floor. The clamour was almighty, ringing and piercing into Spike’s ears, but it wasn’t enough and not everything broke.

Anything that looked too whole, Spike knew he had to pick that up, so he did, flinging anything still breakable at windows, at the walls, at the worktops. His voice was weakening. “Get up!” he cried for the last time.

Oh, hell. He wanted nothing more than for this to be over. For this to be a dream. It had to be a dream.

“What in heaven’s name is going on? Spike, what is wrong with you?”

At the sound of the other voice, Spike spun around. It was Giles, standing in the doorway wearing pyjamas and no glasses. He slept on the sofa sometimes, Spike remembered. He must have stormed straight past him.

“It was you!” Spike shouted at the man, all his thoughts jumbling over themselves. “You and your Watchers and your plans… She’s gone!” he told Giles, brandishing Buffy’s note like a weapon in Giles’ face, halfway and then all the way back across the room. “She’s gone and she’s gonna bring down this town around our ears. We have to get out!

“What…?” Giles trailed off as he took the note, then was silent as he held it far away from his eyes. He blanched as he read it.

“We have to get the witches,” Spike insisted, because it was clarifying, now, what Buffy had trusted him to do. “They need to put out a message. Wake everyone up – make them leave – tell them there’s a gas leak that’s been growing for years and – and a fire on Main; tell them the dam’s coming down.” A plan was forming in his head, a way for them to get through this, but he needed all the others; couldn’t do what Buffy wanted on his own.

It was a lesson from her, Spike was sure of it. Whatever happened tonight, she wouldn’t let them off the hook.

“We need transportation,” Spike’s brain rattled on, his eyes watching how the Watcher’s hands shook and Buffy’s notepaper trembled. “Get Harris on it; the Principal. All of us need to be gone from this place and we need to get up, to get out, to…”

“It’s three-thirty in the morning,” Giles interrupted as Spike’s concentration guttered and vanished into tatters. By contrast, the steel around Giles’ eyes was as sharp as his cut-glass accent. “We have time. We have plenty of time.” Those eyes fell on Spike’s. “You know where she is, don’t you?”

Spike’s hands were trembling. He needed a cigarette. “I know,” he confirmed, because he did. If it was three-thirty, it was possible there was still time to stop this and make it all… “I can’t tell you where she is,” Spike told Giles, cutting into his own thoughts just as violently. “She’s trusting me to…” That was too big a thought; he shook his head. “It’s bad news and she is not fucking around.”

Again, Spike’s vision was swimming. What drew him out of it, unexpectedly, was the rough jolt of comfort as Giles’ hand crossed the space between them and grasped Spike by the shoulder, patted the bone again and let go.

“I won’t ask,” Giles said, as Spike looked back in surprise.

There was no time for waiting, though. Giles immediately turned away, and behind him Spike realised there was a crowd of everyone else, waiting anxiously in the hall.

“Everybody listen to me,” Giles began, his voice loud and clear and strong. “There is very little time.” The silence was a deafening hush that burned on the nerves of Spike’s ears. “There are vital phone calls I must make to the groups at Xander and Anya’s apartments.”

As Giles continued, Spike came closer, his footsteps crunching through rogue shards of glass and china.

“Spike will tell you what to do,” Giles then said, surprising him. Spike looked up and around at the sea of faces. “You will obey without question and we will all survive the night.”

None of them liked the sound of this. Chalmers had her eyebrow raised, looking speccy in her jimjams, so maybe there was someone on side. Nigel and Travers looked resigned, but the rest of them were nursing mutiny. Spike resented all three of those Watchers, for what they’d done, or else he wanted to. He wanted to hate someone – feel something – but it was all distorted and vague.

“That includes you, Kennedy,” was the last thing Giles left, before he vanished towards the phone. Spike’s eyes fell on her grumpy face.

Once upon a time, somewhere if not in this town, Spike had been one of the most wicked, tricky bastards to walk God’s green earth. He’d uncovered the Judge, got duLac deciphered and dug up a massive, fuck-off treasure trove which included the Gem of Amara.

As the initial mutiny died on the faces before him, his audience waiting for their cue, Spike remembered how and he remembered hard.

You better make this worth it, love.

“Right!” he declared, that old well of cold, amoral certainty flooding through his veins. “Red; Althanea,” he began, finding their faces in the crowd. “I don’t care how you do it, but you need every citizen in this burgh up from their beddy-byes and out onto the highway. The rest of you, get dressed and get packed.”


“Is Buffy all right?”

There was a voice in Spike’s head, talking to him. It was Chalmers, he knew, just like it always was.

“Hello, Spike; are you in there?” She sounded annoyed. “Right, I’ll just talk to myself, then, won’t I?”

It was when she turned the tap on that Spike realised he wasn’t actually in any sort of dreamland. There was water gushing into a sink and he was standing in Buffy’s kitchen, staring like a goon after the empty door she’d gone off through to have a shower. One Council witch was bustling in and out of the backdoor with salt and pepper, while Lydia the Watcher was standing in front of the sink like a pissed-off housewife.

She’d got ballsy since she’d been in his head, Spike thought. It was almost a good look.

“What?” Spike asked the back of this Watcher, trying to remember the question. Oh yes, Buffy, his raison de souffrir and most other French terms he cared to think of. “She’s fine,” he told Chalmers’ spinster bun, not caring if he sounded defensive. “Sometimes she gets… Like this.”

If he knew the reason, Spike thought he could be a far better man than he was. Naturally, a part of it was all to do with him, for weeping and sniffling all over her instead of getting on and fucking her the way she wanted, but there was something else going on. He knew it. It was why he couldn’t yet bring himself to…

“My goodness,” Althanea interrupted Spike’s thoughts, hands on her hips as she stared at the greasy counter and the pile of broken chicken carcasses. “That is something of a boneyard, isn’t it?”

“Oh yeah, right,” Spike replied, distracting himself. There were other things to think on. “I was thinking about stock.”


It was minutes before dawn when the earth started to shake. Most of the roads had cleared, the chaos of the evacuation somehow resolving itself as the bottlenecks onto Route 101 gradually drip-fed the denizens of Sunnydale out into brighter pastures.

Principal Wood came by with a schoolbus, already half-full with the girls from Xander and Anya’s places – with Xander and Anya at the front, ready to disembark when the bus pulled up outside 1630.

The doors opened, and Spike wanted to ask. He wanted to know if they’d seen her. It was too risky, of course, to give away her plans to anyone who hadn’t already figured them out, so he didn’t. He knew it was the Hellmouth, though. It was always the Hellmouth. As the first trembles shook the earth underneath them, it was also clear that the first part had been successful.

“Right, you lot,” Spike told the crowd behind him. “On the bus with you.” He wondered if it was the first light of day he could see on the horizon, or else if it was Los Angeles. If it mattered. He’d never got his directions figured out in this town.

All of them were used to his commands now, so eager they were for someone to lead them. Lydia went first and then without question the Potentials were falling up the yellow bus’s stairs, half in order and half like the pack of scared schoolgirls they were. Nigel was stood by the door, nodding as they chattered their way past him; Spike just watched as they ran, grabbing one as she tripped before she fell, setting her right. She didn’t even look around.

Xander, of all people, was fighting the flow of girls, waiting impatiently at the top of the stairs as though he was the teacher ticking them off. He had to duck out of the way as Travers made his path up the aisle.

They should have had a roll call, Spike realised. Buffy would have had a roll call. As the earth trembled again, though, he took a step towards the house and he knew there was no one inside. He took a few more steps to be sure, but the ground shook and Dawn was calling from behind. “Spike! There’s no one in there!”

They would never know, he guessed. Not until it was too late. Such was the price of leadership.

Again, there was a tremor. Spike turned around and herded the last few up the bus steps. Of course, Dawn had a thousand questions on her face. Willow looked drawn from the magic she’d cast, but working through it. Kennedy was sucking a lemon, but she went with the rest of them and Spike hopped into the doorway with his axe and his bag that was mostly filled with stuff for Buffy.

The doors shut behind him, but he could only turn back to their windows, watching the house and trying to shake the feeling they had left someone behind. After all, he knew who it was and she really wasn’t there.

“Tell me this is all really, really bad timing,” Xander said behind him, refusing to take his seat like the rest of them. “This is an earthquake. A California trembler which just so happens to coincide with our need to get out of town and Buffy’s need to not be on this bus.”

“Sod off, Harris,” Spike replied as he let his stuff hang from his right hand, not in the mood for any of this.

The house was pulling away from them. Everything he had ever been in that house, every unwelcome visit, it was vanishing into the night and Spike didn’t know what to do with the realisation. He wanted to go back, to stop the bus and get off of it. He wanted to smoke one last fag under the tree out the front and shag Buffy on the back porch, that place they’d made their own long before the basement. Never marked.

Maybe it wasn’t right to want that, not when all the times they’d had there had been such tender moments, but they weren’t enough. He wanted more. None of his memories were enough.

Buffy, love, why are you dressed as a cupcake?

Oh, William, I was sleeping, but I couldn’t…. I can’t stop thinking about you.

… Really, now? Pray tell.

I think, when you bit me… I think it’s done something to me.

They were at the end of Revello, and it was the last moment, Spike new. Feasibly the last moment among few if Principal Wood didn’t bloody step on it, now that the ground was rumbling rather than resting between its bouts of upset.

I know all the rumours. I know you’ve had girls in France and Spain and Italy and I know I’m only… But the other night you – you said I was special.

She wasn’t a schemer, his Slayer. She thought on her feet. Spike knew as well as he could know that she wouldn’t have planned to abandon him when she did. Of course, he should have seen it coming anyway. It had been in her every touch that she’d been intending to go without him, whenever it was she went back to the Bronze.

The house was going, gone. Spike didn’t shed a tear, but it wasn’t until the bus turned out of Revello Drive that he realised he was leaning on the inside of the bus door, head on his fist and his face practically pressed up against the glass.

“Spike,” Xander repeated behind him, sounding annoyed. “What the hell is going on? Where’s Buffy?”

“She’s not here,” was all Spike would tell him. He banged his fist against the window, once, and turned to face the rest of the gang inside the bus. If the rising earthquake was telling them one thing, after all, it was that Buffy would not be getting on here with them, not until it was all over.

There were other problems to deal with right now, not least the fact that the sun was coming up and very soon he’d be stuck in a glass box without shelter.

“You know how to drive this thing?” he challenged the Principal, barging pointedly past Xander and chucking his gear on the seat behind the driver, axe on the floor where he could just about wedge it between seat legs.

Of course, Robin Wood chose this moment to take the high road, ignoring him while he checked his mirrors. For what? Spike wanted to ask, but he refrained. The bus resolutely continued its trundle down the school route towards the town’s more major roads.

“Spike,” Xander was still yammering on.

“Look,” Spike tried his own pointless conversation again. He was certain now it was the sunrise they were driving towards. Wood’s face in the mirror was a mask of concentration. “I’m sure the accelerator’s capped or whatever, but will you put your foot down?” He tried to tell the man, “We ain’t got long.”

“Goddammit, Spike –”

That moment, the first real quake hit, throwing Spike around the pole he was holding and throwing Xander face-first into the gangway.

“Xander!” It was Anya yelling, her face appearing round the seats like a whackamole. One of the girls near the front started to cry.

Fury snapped through Spike the way it hadn’t in years. “Fucking stay in your seats!” he shouted, waiting for the next shock before he scrambled to help one slightly addled Scooby upright.

So many times in the past few days, Spike had been angry. He’d felt the rage of a soulless demon, crawling up into his veins. Every time he realised how soft he’d become – how much anger there remained to feel. As he grabbed Xander and shoved him into Anya’s waiting arms, he wondered if there really was more violence still yet to find inside him, to rip him through from his chest to his knees.

“Spike,” then it was Dawn talking to him, from the bench across the aisle.

Looking up, Spike realised he was still in the gangway, holding onto the plastic knob on the corner of the seat in front of Xander and Anya’s bench. The bus lurched again, the sound of thunder outside, and Spike was thinking back to a ride in a Winnebago, wondering how long it would take for Harris to throw up this time.

On the other side of the bus, Dawn was rummaging through a lilac backpack, pulling out what was, then, an incongruously ratty-looking horse blanket. It was the sort of thing Spike had once kept stashed in a dozen places around Sunnydale, but with time and his bout of insanity he’d long since forgotten where they all were.

“I knew you’d forget,” she said once she had it free. She pulled her feet up from the floor to her chest, kicking her bag away and turning so she was sat against the window. “You always forget,” Dawn explained, holding out the blanket into the gap in front of the bench.

They were heading east. The window Dawn was sat against was south-facing. It was the second row, so there was the added cover of the front seat – which itself faced straight out towards the windscreen. With a bit of luck, that gap where Dawn’s feet should have been would be in shadow until the time they found other shelter.

“Cheers,” Spike said, not sure what else to say as he took the grunge-coloured fleece from Dawn’s hands. He tucked and shoved himself into the gap, remembering why he hated blankets as he got it ready to throw over his head with a split-second’s notice.

Before he could surrender again to his own thoughts, Dawn was asking him, “Is she gonna meet us?” The bus was bumping and lurching, but it was gradually picking up speed. There was no one else on the road; they didn’t need to brake. “Did she say where we should go find her after?”

“I don’t know, all right?” Spike replied, not seeing much of anything. It was cool and dark where he was sitting: if he shut his eyes he could almost imagine he was still underground. “She didn’t tell me.” It was easier to admit it, now they were moving. She didn’t tell me. “She just left, the way she always leaves.”

“OK,” Dawn replied, leaving it.


The stock was on, and Spike was out for a smoke. The witch Althanea was a nice enough old bird, but the looks she had in her eyes made a man want to wash his hands.

Of course, he’d half forgotten that the other two were out here. What he wouldn’t have given to have Dawn or one the Scoobies instead – people he could make sense of, rather than the head of the Council who had its mission to eradicate his kind. And some bloke from bloody Harrow.

They were talking between themselves in low voices, enjoying the dim California twilight while Spike’s fingers failed to lose their tremor. It wasn’t entirely clear if they’d noticed him come outside, but Spike didn’t particularly feel the need to announce his presence.

“She’s a concern,” Nigel was saying, as though he was used to passing judgement and did it without malice. “Highly skilled, clearly, and motivated for the task, but her respect for authority…”

“Yes,” Travers replied with just as level a voice, “but one might easily call that spirit.”

For a moment Spike froze, wondering if they were talking about Buffy. They couldn’t have known he was there, he decided, because they wouldn’t talk about her like this in front of him. At least, he assumed they wouldn’t. Not that it mattered, really: they had better not be talking about her like this. He’d find the strength to do them both in if they were.

“It’s not always a benefit for the bright ones to meet the Slayer,” Travers continued, at least confirming that they weren’t. Worryingly, it was a relief. “They need goals and her level is rather – unattainable.” Christ, that was almost a compliment. “Of course, Giles thinks otherwise…”

“Oh, of course Giles thinks otherwise,” Nigel interrupted. Spike smirked out into the gloom, not quite relaxed but a little better. “I’m sorry – but, frankly, sir, I’m fed up to the back teeth with both him and Mr. Wood.”

Oh, really?

“And what has the man done now?” Travers replied.

“Well,” was Nigel’s long-suffering response, “if he isn’t going on about the use of school equipment, he’s trying to lure me into conspiracies against our Slayer’s pet vampire. And I told him, she’d have his head – but would he listen?”

That particular tirade brought Spike to a full pause, fag in his fingers and smoke in his throat. Wood was hoping to off him? Well, that was hardly a surprise. But the idea it would be Buffy who would save his wretched carcass? Seriously, Spike thought as he turned in their direction - sod that.


Spike had no idea where they were as time went on, but he damn well saw it when the great, holy flash of white flooded through the bus from behind. The main jet of it went over his head, thank God, but the indirect spill of it was enough to make his skin feel tight and hot and burnt. When he looked at his hands they were pink.

“What was that?” Dawn asked from above him, climbing up on her seat to address her question further around the bus, most likely to Willow who was only two rows away.

With a premonition Spike would later blame on her sister, Spike reached up and grabbed Dawn’s wrist – to pull her back into her seat. “Stay down!” he shouted, just in time for the worst crack of the earthquake yet, which brought screams from two stupid, useless Potentials and a loud crash as the head of a WALK/DON’T WALK sign smashed straight through their window.

The bus was veering round a corner. The sign appeared right where Dawn’s head had been, before falling away from the window to clank down the metal chassis of the bus as they escaped it What felt like a gale came rushing in through the hole in the window, along with the thousand gravel-like chunks of glass that were all over them both.

“Oh god, oh god,” Dawn was saying above the howl of the wind, looking at her hands and the glass she had on her. “What do I do? What do I do?”

“Tip them onto me, sweet, yeah?” Spike told her, watching to see if she was about to go into panic. “I’ve had worse.” Dawn looked at him, frightened as hell, but more than alert. “Tip them onto me,” he repeated, “and then stand up – careful, right? Go sit with Xander and Anya and tell me where the hell we are.”

The bus shuddered again, and Spike knew this was the beginning of the end. The light was a clue if nothing else, and they needed to be on the city limits. Christ knew what they would do if they weren’t, but they needed to be there.

Looking down at him, seriously, Dawn put her arms in front of her and shook the rain of glass gravel into Spike’s lap, where his blanket caught the most of it. Then she took hold of the back of the seat bench again, using her bag to scrub away the glass in front of her as she shuffled down and off of the edge.

Good girl, Spike thought to himself as she kept her head down, riding out every bump and lurch by leaning into the sprung cushions. Fuck him if she loved him; he loved her enough for the pair of them.

Anya was waiting to take her, yammering on as she squeezed up closer next to Xander. He was staring out of their window, looking greener than pondweed. Spike couldn’t see anything useful past him, only sky.

Thankfully, it seemed as though Dawn was happy to act as his eyes. “We’re nearly out of town,” she told him, her expression begging him to tell her that was right. “We’re on the highway, going past the strip mall.”

Spike nodded, not trusting himself to speak. He was covered in glass, on a bus full of people who conceivably hated him, with raw sunshine glaring in through a hole above his head. On the other hand, it was possible they were going to make it through this, if the Principal, who definitely did hate him, he just kept on driving in a straight line.

The town swallowed itself. There was no other way to describe it – but that wasn’t to say that everything vanished, not nearly.

There was a sinkhole where the town had been, starting two hundred yards up the highway behind the bus. Odd things in odd places disappeared into what seemed like nowhere, with nothing but barren desert in their wake. For the most part, though, the surface infrastructure remained, riven and crumbled and broken, but present: roads marking out where the buildings hadn’t fallen over and the trees hadn’t been ripped up.

It took until well past midday, Hell making itself known on the horizon as the tremors gradually ceased. When Spike looked at it, from under his trusty blanket, he thought he could trace the way that they’d come. There was a path there, through the rubble, mostly down the highway where it wound its way downhill. He could get to the school. He could get to the centre.

Really, now that he was looking at the town, as the Welcome to Sunnydale sign fell in, Spike felt so light in his chest that he thought he could make it anywhere.

Everyone was milling around, uncertain what they were waiting for and why they weren’t getting back on the bus. Everyone was hungry. At least the girls were, anyway. The Scoobies and the Watchers were having their own confabs, while Spike stood looking down the path, planning his route.

“I can’t quite believe she did it,” Spike overheard Travers saying. “I was sounding off that night; should have stayed in bed. I can’t believe it.”

“You couldn’t have known, sir,” Chalmers replied, all prim and proper again; either in shock or in closing ranks.

“But look at it!” Willow was already grieving with the others. “How could anyone survive what’s happened?”

“Don’t say that!” Dawn was complaining right back.

Directly behind Spike, another voice spoke up. “Hey,” it said.

It was, of all bloody people, Andrew. Spike didn’t turn around. Honestly, he had forgotten the geek was even on the bus.

Eventually, Andrew’s sneakers appeared on Spike’s right, pointing cautiously to nowhere in the dust. Still beneath his blanket, Spike glanced up. “What?” he asked, annoyed to be distracted.

“Can you tell if she’s out there somewhere?” he asked. “You know, Buffy?” He asked it like he was trying to be sensitive to Spike’s feelings. “Is that something you guys can…?”

“This ain’t a bloody Harlequin,” Spike dismissed, looking back to the remains of Sunnydale. He suppressed that part of him that wished that wasn’t true. “Not your Anne Rice either.”

“But you’re gonna go after her anyway,” Andrew said, like he somehow understood.

This was ridiculous, Spike thought. He was standing there, talking to one of the saddest cases of humanity the world had ever witnessed, when he could be spending his time in the sun doing something much more useful with not so much risk to himself.

“Tell this lot to make camp for the day,” Spike said, making his decision. He turned back to the bus. “Send someone for supplies; the Principal, probably.”

Andrew trotted behind him, presumably taking mental notes.

Spike figured it was for the best. “Tell him to take this hunk of junk,” he continued, climbing up the bus steps to where his stuff was stowed. There was just enough darkness to get his army surplus rucksack thrown around his shoulders, stick his axe in his hands at the edge of the blanket and heave it back over his head. “I’ll be back in the evening, with news if nothing else.”

When he turned around, Spike was faced with Andrew’s sympathetic expression. Quite what the boy was thinking, he didn’t know, but as he barged past him Spike honestly didn’t care.

The first stretch was easy. All right, the slope downwards was steep, but the road was mostly secure, cracked into big enough chunks that a supernaturally coordinated being like Spike didn’t have too much of a problem. It was trickier, of course, to take it at a full enough pelt that none of the others would follow him, but Spike did it nonetheless, gripping his blanket firmly around him and shutting his ears against Dawn’s panicked cries of his name.

Further into town, things got more difficult. Most of the cars were gone, but there were fires burning everywhere. It was too soon for the dust to have settled, and the winds whistling between the burning buildings were churning it up into a fog. The roads that were left were wide enough to cut a secure and obvious route through, but it seemed increasingly absurd, given how dark it was, that if he took his blanket down he would be burned in the afternoon sun.

It was hot, though. Dear Christ almighty, it was hot. Spike had never before been stupid enough to spend a whole day outside, blanket or no, and his arms ached from holding his axe above his head. It didn’t quite make sense that any of his clothes would spontaneously combust when the sun couldn’t get through to burn the thing that was combustible, but nonetheless the burn on his hands from the light swell earlier was only irritated by the sense of sunlight slipping between the weft and warp of the fleece he had overhead.

After an hour or so, Spike was still going down, something like heat sickness churning in his stomach, strain in every part of him. He couldn’t see that much around where he was walking, but the geography of the place had remained thankfully similar enough that he was able to find his way to the school.

When he got there, the site was a mess. In a sinkhole of its own, the school buildings and all its grounds were nothing but dirt and rock and rubble, drained down into a steep, dark pit.

Spike was hardly sorry to see the place go, after the months of misery it had brought him. Nonetheless, the sight brought an even odder feeling to his chest than the heat sickness.

Carefully, he made his descent. He concentrated hard on his footing, not ready to give all this up to the harsh will of the sunshine just yet. Nonetheless, he thought he could see something at the bottom, through the thick dust and murk.

A few feet down, of course, Spike put his weight on a rock that wouldn’t hold him. In a lurching second of self-recrimination, he heaved his blanket around himself, stuck his arms and the axe blade out and tripped, landing on his knee and then his side and then rolling – sliding down the slope. His fangs came out, naturally, and when he hit the bottom he roared. His back slammed into something hard and solid.

Shaking the anger away from himself – generally just shaking – Spike rolled over on the ground. He’d slammed into a white marble statue, it seemed like. It was jagged, like a starburst, or Soviet urban architecture, but it was definitely marble and not concrete. It looked clean and, weirdly, it was covered in golden runes.

As he set his hands on it, they tingled. As he climbed to his feet, though, Spike didn’t give a shit.

It wasn’t a statue, this thing. It was a prison. It was a bear trap, holding up a body by the waist. This body, it was bruised, it was broken and its chin was slumped to its chest. It had bright yellow-gold hair and pearly, creamy skin, the contrast between the two slightly too great for the figure to seem human.

And yet, it was Buffy. A sob came out of Spike’s throat that he couldn’t quite swallow in time. He threw his axe to the ground and reached forward, threw the blanket over both their heads so he could bring two fingers to her neck, right where he’d bitten her before, where the marks were still just about raw.

He should have used his ears, of course. He was a vampire, even as his fangs receded, and Spike was ashamed that he didn’t trust his ears. The world was full of fire, though. It was full of the howling wind. It was full of everything he might have ever wanted.

When he pressed his fingers to Buffy’s throat, they sizzled, burned and blistered like he was touching a crucifix. Spike didn’t care; he waited until he knew and was certain.

She had a pulse. Thump; thump; thump; thump; thump; thump; thump…

That was when Spike pulled his scalded fingers back, curling them into a fist he pressed against his mouth.

After a few seconds had passed, he couldn’t help it. “I told you,” he swore at the side of Buffy’s slumped head, though of course he’d done nothing of the sort. Not quite. There were tears in his eyes and he feared he couldn’t quite hold himself together. “You bloody, aggravating bitch,” he was swearing at her. “I told you we’d survive.”

Spike looked up as far as he could, back the way he’d come. He was weak enough that another sob found its way into his throat, at least two parts happiness but at least one part despair. Because the thing was, of course, that he had no idea how he was going to get them out of this.

“Fuck you,” Spike swore at Buffy again. He leaned in, unable to resist smoothing some of her hair out of her face. His hands trembled; they blistered where they touched her; but God in Heaven she was alive and he could see it on her sleeping face. “Fuck you to hell,” he whispered finally, before he started dragging on one of the runed marble slabs.

It wasn’t long before that was burning his hands as well.


[PART FIVE (survival)]