quinara: Spike and Buffy approaching 'their' tree in AYW. (Spuffy tree)
Quinara ([personal profile] quinara) wrote2015-08-15 01:17 am

Fic: 'I love you' is a thing you say to people who are dying (17/18); hard R

I'm sorry for this mega spamming, but the end is nigh! This, by failures of later editing, is not actually the very last chapter, but it is also sort of the end, because the next chapter is quite short and more like a coda. It will be done!! Thanks to everyone who's taking a look at this...

Oh, and, er, NB the headings again... Also, Spike's mind has a little wander at some point, to a place that happens to be Henry Cary's 1814 translation of Dante's Paradiso, canto XXVIII. Um - shall we go with it?

[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]

PART FIVE (survival)

“I want the First to feel it. I want it to try and suck me in, to swallow me down into the Hellmouth. I want all the evil in this world to taste what I’ve become and I want it to choke on me, so that all of them can live. Every single one.”




Spike wasn’t sure quite what to do when Buffy started crying on him. She’d come downstairs dressed as a wet dream – not his, it had to be said, but he wasn’t complaining – and he’d gone through with her little fantasy, because it was fair enough. He got bored of 1630’s basement more than anybody, and it was hardly beyond him to act as the big bad vampire. It had been getting embarrassing, really, his resistance to her charms, so he was up for anything.

By the time Spike had been having to convince Buffy – of all people – that showing skin wasn’t a bad thing, that she had all the right parts and everything in working order… Well, it had done a bang up job in shoving most other concerns to the back of his mind.

Then, of course, he’d managed to get her settled on top of him. She’d blinked a couple of tears from her eyes, but looked so beatific he didn’t think anything of them. He’d been sat up on his palms and could only look at her, every button unbuttoned and every gather pulled loose, the shoulders of her dress slipping down her arms like a dreamer’s Ariadne, tiny Pre-Raphaelite breasts all half-exposed and wanton.

The shagging had happened, and it had been fucking wonderful. But afterwards Buffy was there with a dress still caught around her wrists and she was crying, clutching his shoulders, while he had her by the back of hers.

There’d been a whole thing earlier, so it was possible the nightdress Buffy was wearing was already covered in his stuff – but it was doomed for more, it seemed, as Spike took the moment to pull her off where he was getting droopy and gather her close in his arms.

“All right, love, come on,” Spike tried to comfort her. Buffy could apparently do nothing but sob, one arm wrapped around his back and the other making like it was trying to push him away, its hand clutching the top of his chest. “Let it out, pet,” he tried as her breath hitched, again and again. “There, that’s it.”

God, he was terrified – shaking like a leaf and not just from how Buffy had forgotten the way virgins fucked. He couldn’t say that to Buffy, obviously, not after she’d done all this just to have him feel manly enough to take her to bed. So he didn’t.

“Thought you were in the moment,” he murmured instead, because he really had, when those first tears had fallen. He’d felt them himself. “You should’ve said,” he finished, kissing her on the cheek, then the lips. “What’s… What’s wrong?”

Buffy kissed him back, thank God, sucking air through her nose instead of sobbing. “Nothing,” she said, in a breathy, shagged-out voice. “Nothing’s wrong. These are happy tears.”

A year ago, with this voice on her and the big, green eyes that were staring right into his soul – a moment before they ducked away, hooded by eyelashes – Spike would have believed her. He would have watched her shake the top of her dress from her wrists, felt her caress his neck and chest like a lover, and he would have filed away tonight for the sagas.

As it was, Spike had done a bit of growing up in his time, so he knew better.

“Sing me a new one, love,” Spike told the girl in his arms. Buffy was squeezing her lips together, as though that would hold back the tears. “I can tell when you’re talking shite.”

She looked at him again, her eyes still wet, but she didn’t cry this time when she cuddled in close. Spike held her as tight to him as he could, pressing his mouth into the top of her hair. “It’s just… Been a while, you know?” Buffy said, as though this truth was an odd thing to be telling him. “All of last year, no matter what we did, we never… And before that, going back… Going all the way back, I guess.”

There were times when loving Buffy was easy enough. There were other times when Spike felt like he would be dissolved in the feeling, like sugar in hot water. This was one of those times, and he tried very, very hard to remain sarcastic. “Don’t tell me the virgin thing was for you,” he said.

“No!” Buffy immediately replied, digging into her dress to fondle his bits. With nails. Again, Spike told himself that sarcasm was the only way. Sarcasm or else silence. “I just,” she continued when he gave up, wriggling. “It’s been a long time since sex was special and I – forgot, I guess? How special it could feel.”

Oh, but then sometimes the words were easy. “You wanna kick up your legs and keep talking?” Spike asked her, pulling away a little. “I really feel like listening to this.” He did, actually.

Again, thank God, Buffy looked up at him. The devil was in her big, teary eyes. “OK,” she said.


Blisters on his hands and tears unmoving from his eyes, Spike looked at her. Buffy was still as a martyr’s statue and there was nothing he could do to get the stone circle away from where it pinned her at the waist.

All right, so he wasn’t a complete idiot. He knew this was the Seal of Danzalthar, somehow born anew from the way Spike had stared at it the last time, tied up and cut into on the First’s whirligig of pain. It was a tribute to good now, more Enya than Pantera, although that was possibly an insult to the thing. The gold runes that gleamed from the marble were illegible, not in any language Spike recognised, which was a fair few.

It was bullshit, was what it was. Spike knew enough magic to know it wasn’t required to be an angel to work with anything holy. He was a demon, of course, so it burned him, but it wouldn’t destroy him outright just to get something working.

The thing was, he just didn’t know what to do. When he looked at Buffy, the blanket over both of them, Spike knew she was in pain. It was possible she wasn’t feeling it, not with what she’d become, but there was pain in her somewhere and it tore Spike into bits. He’d tried everything: yanking on the stones himself, wedging his axe behind them for leverage…

Wait. His axe. Spike looked down at his weapon, where it rested by his feet. He wondered if it could possibly be so easy. With his foot on the haft, he rocked the blade back and forth and remembered, how he’d bled for the previous seal.

At Buffy’s feet, right underneath her serious, worn-out boots, there was some sort of design in the rock. Spike could just see it, between the gaps in the stone. It was golden like everything else, but swirling, captivating. Hardly a goat with its tongue hanging out, but it was a Celtic knot – or some Islamic interlacing thing, like the Alhambra. It drew the eye and kept it, worked that gaze into concentration.

When he looked at it, Spike couldn’t help but think that all this seal wanted was a sacrifice. Of course, a vampire like him wasn’t worthy – he never had been – but it was possible he was better than nothing.

Looking down at the axe blade, Spike figured it couldn’t make anything worse. He gathered his nerve, brought his hand forward and slid it down the curve in front of him, sliced his raw, burnt hand open on the steel.

It hurt worse than many wounds of Spike’s had for a long time, but he didn’t much give a damn.

This is for the Slayer, right? he tried to make the seal hear him, rolling the axe forward with his boot and as he stepped forward. Earnestly now, he squeezed his hand closed and held it over the holy knot, watching the blood drip one drop after another.

It was a demon’s blood, so when each drop hit the design it fizzled, vanishing immediately into a small spark of light. That light burned Spike’s eyes, but he didn’t care, just watched. Gradually, the seal began to glow its own, sharp glow, the golden lines more than bright in the darkness as they illuminated this pit of the old Hellmouth.

As it worked, the way Spike had hoped it would, he’d expected that he would have to jump out of the way of the falling marble slabs. It wasn’t like that at all. As the glow spread from the seal’s central engraving, the white marble seemed to soften, the five points splitting and fanning out into golden-veined petals, like a giant waterlily. They blossomed, unfurling slowly outwards so that Spike was free to slip between them and catch Buffy before she fell, his arms under the pits of her jacket.

Her breath was warm, flowing gently from her nose onto his lips, and Spike knew this was only the beginning. Yet he was beyond grateful as he laid her down gently on the soft bed of this new seal. He had to get his bag off his back. It had his first aid.


She was underneath him the next time she cried, Buffy, so Spike saw exactly when the tears hit her. Right after the first tremble she was shaking, and then she was grabbing him in a way that had nothing to do with how she’d been grabbing him a second ago. Her head ducked into his shoulder and she was sobbing, not making a sound but heaving tears onto his skin.

Spike rolled them over, pretty sure this would be it for the night. At least, he thought, they were both sincerely pliable right now, so it hadn’t been too bad a run for their first innings back on the green. Buffy was squirming right up onto his chest, like she thought she could fit all of herself on there if she just curled up close enough. It was a losing game, but Spike got the idea, gathering his arms around all the limbs of her that were slipping free.

“I’m so scared, Spike,” she breathed eventually, cradling his face. Admitting it. “So, so…” Then she was sobbing again.

If he hadn’t already been on his back, you could have knocked Spike over with a feather. It was a little hard to talk with a Buffy on his lungs, of course, so he kept quiet, holding her closer.

Buffy sniffed, crying but barely making a sound, like these were her very darkest thoughts. “I don’t know how – or if we…” she trailed off, then tried again. “We have to win. I know we have to win – but I… What do I do now? How do we go on?”

As far as Spike was concerned, he knew it would be easy to let her dwell. The pair of them could happily wallow down here until daybreak, having a shag and having a cry until someone needed them. It wasn’t as if he didn’t have a few weepies of his own he would be glad to get off his chest.

The thing was, Buffy expected him to set an example. Spike knew she did. It was the more productive side of their old co-dependent streak. “Don’t talk twaddle, love,” he whispered right back at her, gathering strength. The kiss he laid on her cheek was perfunctory. “You know exactly what you need to do.”

It seemed that Buffy had had more than enough for today, so she shook her head like a child, telling him, “Nooo,” even as Spike rocked them forward and dumped Buffy on the ground feet first.

She stood there naked and wretched, forearms covering her chest as she clutched her hands around her neck. As Spike stood up, her eyes were lit with betrayal, but Spike just reckoned that was his birth right. “Yes,” he said.

There would be pillow talk another night, if he had his way. Aeons of pillow talk that would stretch on forever. For now, though, Spike knew he would live without it, and so he was going to.

Sweeping a hand across Buffy’s stomach, Spike walked past her. Her muscles hitched. He resisted. “You’re going to go upstairs,” he continued, heading for the dryer on the other side of the room. This was what was going to happen. It had to. “You’re going to snuggle down in your own cosy bed.” There was a basket of clean washing sitting on top of the machine, and he had the misfortune to know exactly what was there inside it: exactly what he needed. “And tomorrow,” he finished telling her, “you’re going to get up like it’s any other day in this godforsaken apocalypse, and carry on.”

There. After a brief rummage, Spike found exactly what he was looking for: a pair of Buffy’s normal pyjamas. They were sexy things – a dark green satin set of shorts and a camisole – but they were also the perfect camouflage, even if he did say so himself.

He turned back to Buffy with them, staring down the naked waif look she was sporting.

“But I –” she resisted, refusing to come over to him from where she stood by the bed.

Thankfully, Spike still had his legs, so it was easy to stride back over to her. Buffy watched his cock as he walked, but despite evidence to the contrary he wasn’t always that easy.

When she put a hand on his chest, though, Buffy did get him to pause. “But I’m all sweaty,” she told him impishly, like this was something Spike couldn’t get away from. It was better, at least, that tone of her voice. Glancing down at the pyjamas in his hands, she added, “And you spent so much time washing those.”

He hadn’t, actually. Nonetheless, there was something in Spike that enjoyed these attempts to play him. Dropping the pyjamas on his bed for the moment, he swirled his hands through the bundle of sheets they’d rucked up and came out with the old nightgown. “All right, then,” he told Buffy, bundling the white thing in his hand. No one could resent him one last play.

It was a little worse for wear, the nightie, and it had even more material to it than Spike remembered, but it worked perfectly well as a cloth for cleaning Buffies with. This Buffy squawked as he rubbed her down, skipping from foot to foot as he went under her armpits and down her back and behind her knees and between her legs,. She didn’t put up any more protest than that, but it was funny. Her arms flailed everywhere, never grabbing the same place twice.

“There you are,” Spike reminded her, tucking his mouth as close to Buffy’s ear as he could while he scrubbed. “You’d never shag a vampire, would you?” It made her squeak and blush when he got her right where the most of him was. Really, had half a mind to throw her back on the bed and be done with it, but he settled for a thorough rubdown. “You’re a good little Slayer,” he promised, even as her tits rolled over the side of his hand.

When it was done, Buffy’s skin was pink and flushed all over, her eyes wide and bright like she’d never had anyone dare be so forward. Spike smirked at her, figuring that she could see how hard his dick was sticking up, so it was all a matter of her ability to resist rather than his.

“All clean now,” he said, picking up the satin bits again as he tossed the nightgown aside. “In you go.”

Buffy took the camisole from him with a rather suspicious alacrity, not even complaining when he had her stepping into the shorts before she’d pulled it over her head. Spike should have seen it coming, of course, because once she was dressed the Slayer attacked him, grabbing the back of his head and slamming her face into his.

Worse than this, though – because this was usually the sort of thing Spike could live with – Buffy had somehow got her own hands on his cottony friend. It was like a big, heavy cloud and she wrapped it around his cock, busily wanking him off while she snogged the unlife out of him.

It wasn’t difficult to resist. Spike came in what felt like about five seconds. That was when Buffy pulled away, smirking her own little smirk like the cat who’d got the cream.

Both of Spike’s legs were trembling. It was difficult to keep himself upright and Spike wondered if he needed to. He wondered how Buffy would react if he fell to his knees right there in front of her. “You’re a terrible fucking Slayer,” he accused anyway, unable to keep the neediness out of his voice. God, the want he felt for her…

Blessed be, Buffy came in close again, scratching the back of Spike’s neck with her fingernails. Her smirk resolved into a smile. “And you’re a good man,” she promised, as if he might have been about to spend the night worrying after her Dracula skit.

Pshaw, Spike thought. How little she knew him. There were going to be many, many other things on his mind tonight, he was certain. Somewhat.

“Here,” Buffy added, presumably off the doubt in his eyes. She shoved the now frankly nasty stained nightgown into his chest. Spike looked at it. “Something to remember me by,” she said, ambiguous as ever.

Then Buffy was gone, before Spike could think of anything to say.


The flash of light burned his eyes before Spike had a chance to take anything in. He blinked, and ahead of him Buffy paused, turning around once in the Bronze’s storeroom.

Hmm… There was a voice in Spike’s head, just inside his ear. From the way Buffy looked at him, it was in hers too. That would have incinerated most vampires. Maybe you are different, after all.

“What?” Buffy screeched, turning again to try and find the source of the voice. Spike was mostly looking at the beer on the shelves. Who knew this place had once served London Pride? “Are you serious?” Buffy continued, her focus on what was possibly a more pressing matter. “How dare you?”

Spike caught sight of it then, the dragon. Beatrice. She was perched on a middle shelf in the far corner, all white-gold, gleaming scales and a slithering white tongue. She was about the size of a salamander, maybe smaller.

When lo! as one who, in a mirror, spies
The shining of a flambeau at his back

For a holy dragon, she wasn’t very big, but Spike supposed she didn’t need to be. As she flittered to another shelf – wide, pearlescent wings behind her so bright that Spike couldn’t quite look at them – he tapped Buffy on the shoulder. “Here, Slayer,” he said.

I well remember, did befall to me,
Looking upon the beauteous eyes, whence love
Had made the leash to take me.

Yet I can feel the evil in you. You are ridden with it. How can that be so?

The dragon’s voice burned like divinity. Spike shut his eyes against it, even as he felt the rush of the burning light again – saw it in the red veins of his eyelids. He had to stop thinking about the Divine Comedy. There was no good for him there: if this dragon was anything like the Almighty then she wouldn’t rest until she’d burned him clean through.

“Hey!” Buffy sounded a little panicked, which was sweet of her. “Will you cut it out? We’re not here for Spike, OK? We’re here for me. We want to know…”

You don’t know what you’re here for, Beatrice interrupted, dismissing Buffy immediately.

Spike could feel the dragon working through his mind, digging past every layer of goodness he’d tried to batten down over the bad parts. It was… Well, it was pretty harrowing.

“Will you leave him alone?” Buffy demanded, somewhere far away. Spike had always liked the idea of an angel coming to save him, but it did mean her falling quite a long way. “He passed your test, didn’t he? What more do you want?”

Something was going wrong. Spike could feel his gorge rising, nastiness taking hold of him underneath his tongue. The dragon was purging him out, like she didn’t already know what was hidden down inside of him.

How dare you, Slayer? she began, as Spike realised what she’d found.


It took a while, but eventually Spike got Buffy looking like she wasn’t about to fall into pieces. The pit they were in was deep enough that it didn’t take long for the walls to award them with a clean patch of shade, and from then on Spike was at least able to work without his blanket.

It was all a bit obscene, really: he got his girl’s jacket off and pulled her make-do shirt as high as it would go on her ribs. He left the buttons but undid the ties so she could breathe, and now with every breath he could just about make out the shallow valley between her breasts under the front of the high waistband.

Spike shook himself, pulling bandages and tape from his bag so he could get to work. Most of Buffy’s skin wasn’t broken; it just scalded him to touch it. There were a few cuts among the bruises, presumably from the jagged edges of the seal when it had been the mark of evil. He had no doubt that half her ribs were broken, but he dearly hoped it wasn’t her spine as well. Obviously, he’d been careful, laying her down, but it wasn’t good enough really, and unless one of the seal’s new lily petals was going to play out the full of his burgeoning Thumbelina fantasies, Spike didn’t have anything like a stretcher on him.

That was a worry for the future, Spike decided, drawing antiseptic wipes anywhere that looked like Buffy needed them, then focusing his attention on binding her up.

Her arm was broken as well, Spike realised. “You’re a bloody fool,” Spike told her, looking around for some sort of splint and coming up empty. Buffy’s eyes, of course, remained stubbornly closed, even if her cream-coloured cheeks no longer seemed quite so ashen.

It was going to be the most embarrassing piece of field surgery ever, but there seemed like nothing else for it. Throwing a glance up to the murky afternoon sky, Spike took off his boots and looked at the options in front of him. He had an axe and a crappy pair of round-ended bandage scissors.

“I hope you’re happy about this,” he told Buffy’s Sleeping Beauty form, using both blades in the end to get his soles cut away from the leather above them. The two bits of rubber made a fairly effective sandwich, eventually, to get Buffy’s forearm bound reasonably straight. The stiff bovver-boot leather, on the other hand, was better than nothing, Spike decided, to wrap around her ribs and waist.

It wasn’t doing all that much to stop her bending, Spike decided when he’d finished, feeling the warmth of the seal’s central panel on his feet now, through his socks. Nonetheless, they had a few hours left ahead of them, before Spike had to figure out to get them back to the edge of town. As it was, he figured Buffy would need his duster so he could hold her without burning himself through to the bone.

“Spike! Spike! Are you there?”

Caught entirely off guard, Spike sank into a defensive crouch as he looked up. His hands fell to Buffy’s stomach and arm, to make sure he knew where she was, and it took all of three seconds for him to remember that he’d just spent the last hour avoiding the burning touch of her skin.

“Ow; fuck!” he swore, standing up again as he sucked two fingers into his mouth. He was going to need a serious drink after this.

“Hello? Spike! Can you hear me?”

She sounded far away, calling into the aether like she didn’t much expect a response, but it was Dawn shouting for him. What the hell was she doing here?

Spike moved to the edge of the seal, the base of the petals bouncy underneath his toes. He wasn’t in the mood to climb the side of this pit any more times than he had to, but he could just imagine Dawn trying to get down and ending up breaking her neck.

“I’m down here!” he yelled up into the afternoon, against his better judgement.

Right then, as if to tell him off for being stupid, a small glowy light appeared, just over the slope of the rocks. It wasn’t white or gold, thank God, or any other colour that he was quickly becoming sick of. Instead, it was a zippy and green, bobbing down through the air like a bumble bee.

The thing flittered around his head, no matter how much Spike tried to bat it away. “Bloody… pest,” he swore at it, but that just seemed to make the thing keener. If anything, though, every time Spike hit it his burns felt a little better, so he was glad at least that they had a mutually beneficial relationship.

“Spike!” And then Dawn was shouting at him directly.

When he looked up this time, Spike could just about make her out on the edge of the pit. She wasn’t alone, which he was emphatically grateful for. Willow, he figured out, was standing next to her: she waved. There was someone else up there as well, though, and he couldn’t quite figure out who it was. “Stay there!” Spike shouted at them all anyway. The buzzy magic thing bobbed by his ear. “Don’t try to come down!”

“Is that Buffy?” Willow shouted, as though she was happy to ignore him if he didn’t answer. “Is she…”

Spike glanced behind himself again. She looked pretty ridiculous now, Buffy. Lying on a piece of marble that looked like it belonged in a spa for particularly well-off hippies, she had a big brick of bandages around her right arm, the ends of them betraying that her medical care was courtesy of Dr. Marten and his boots. Her top was all frayed and rucked up and generally ugly on her chest, while she had two random shapes of black leather held to her ribs with yet more bandages. Her eyes were closed and she was frowning, like she knew exactly how much of a fashion disaster she was right now.

“Yes,” he shouted up to others, not taking his eyes off the sight in front of him. Honestly, he’d never been happier. “She’s alive.”

There was murmuring above him – a discussion Spike couldn’t quite make out – and then without warning he and Buffy were both levitating – her poker-straight on her back and him like he was being craned out by a safety harness.

“Now, hang on!” Spike yelped, reaching desperately around him for his stuff. He could see the sunshine where it was still cutting through the air above him.

Thankfully, in a particularly heavy metal rendition of Mary Poppins, Spike’s stuff decided it wanted to come along for the ride too. All his medical bits and leftover scraps of shoe tidied themselves into his bag, which shut and fastened of its own accord. His axe, the one Buffy had given him the night before, if it was only a night – that bounced its way into his hand, handle first. His blanket, meanwhile, did a dance of straightening itself out and extending like a parasol above him, directly into the angle of the sun.

It was times like this that magic seemed like a very handy thing indeed. So Spike thought, anyway, as he watched Buffy float free of the seal that had held her and himself freed from what would have been a seriously nasty climb.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Spike asked Dawn the way he’d wanted to, once they’d reached the top of the pit. He glared at Willow, because clearly she was responsible.

The witch looked away, and Spike looked with her. The remains of the school weren’t looking any better, and he was glad at least that the Principal’s office had had that direct access alley to the front of the school. It hadn’t been too fun at the time wrestling the rocket launcher free from Buffy’s arms, but it meant they were on some of the firmer ground that Sunnydale still had right now.

Still, Spike could be angry, and he would be. He turned his ire back on Dawn. “Why aren’t you safe at the bus?”

Dawn was looking at the ground, kicking a couple of loose concrete chunks. “Willow wasn’t sure she knew the way,” she said, as though it wasn’t the entire truth but Spike was hurting her feelings.

He looked around, taking in a little more of the surroundings. Willow was inspecting Buffy, straightening a bit of his leather on her ribs. That was fair enough. The other figure, who he’d clocked from down below, well, that turned out to be one Lydia Chalmers, who looked grim.

She was nodding to Willow, saying things Spike couldn’t understand with all of her concentration. “Yes, the incantatio is in effect. The blast we saw earlier… She needs stabilising; rest. But she’s done it. She has done it.”

Then she and the witch were guiding Buffy’s body gently forward, away from Spike and into the murk. Not getting themselves burned for the privilege, as far as Spike could see – but taking her away from where he could reach towards…

Was that a golf cart?

Spike turned back to Dawn. She explained, “The others are all trying to deal with this whole Angel situation, by phone mostly…”

Weirdly, she looked eager, like the adventure was only just beginning. Else it was the adrenaline of realising Buffy was still with them. Spike had had that earlier.

“The guys and – and Anya – they’re looking after the Potentials,” Dawn continued, as if she couldn’t get the words out quick enough. She glanced behind her, up the long slope of smoggy town. “And we went looking for supplies,” she said, “but the nearest place was that golf club you always see signs for?” Spike nodded, knowing where she meant. “And the spell had hit that too,” she finished, not quite meeting his eyes. The adrenaline seemed to leave her at that moment. “Or else it was abandoned anyways,” the explanation wound down, “so we loaded up on bar snacks and the food in the kitchens and those mini cans of soda, and then I saw the golf carts and figured there’d be keys somewhere.”

It was a very nice tale, really, though Spike had no interest in hearing what mess Angel had got himself into now. Still, he waited, hoping that Dawn would eventually get round to explaining what the thing was doing here.

“Robin and Andrew took one on the highway,” was what she actually said, still looking past Spike. “To see if they could find more stuff.”

“Dawn,” Spike cut her off, trying to remind her that she was talking nonsense.

“I can’t figure it out,” she then quite suddenly cut into whatever Spike was going to say. Her expression was harsh – her eyes glossy, but clear. “Did you save her?” she asked, a little desperately. “Or are you the reason that she’s lying there?”

With that question shot at him, Spike was the one who couldn’t meet Dawn’s eyes. He looked over to Willow and Lydia again, still grateful for the blanket floating above him. They weren’t talking to him, but maybe there wasn’t need for them to right now.

The golf cart was one of those kinds with the little canopy roof, two rows of seats and a small area for storage at the back. It was incongruously white and cheery in the ruins, the canopy trimmed with green, and in time it had one unconscious Slayer lying on the cushions of its backseat, as glorious and painful to look at as goodness.

“I don’t know, Dawn,” Spike told her, because he didn’t, really. Presumably he could tell her until the cows came home that this had been Buffy’s idea – Buffy’s sacrifice. The thing was, he’d always wonder whether the things he’d done hadn’t had something to do with it, or else if he could have convinced her otherwise, given half a chance. “But she’s alive,” he reminded himself, turning back to the girl. “That’s the main thing.”

Dawn looked as uncertain as Spike felt. The frown wouldn’t shift from her forehead and there was a stubborn sort of downturn to the edges of her mouth. Nonetheless, she stepped towards him and Spike couldn’t not hold out his arm. As they headed off towards the vehicle and their final escape from this place, Dawn accepted the embrace and Spike held her securely to him, round her shoulders.

“So. Did you get any of those mini pretzel things, when you were at the golf place?”

“Duh; obviously. What do you take me for?”

Behind them, the seal re-solidified into stone, coming to peace.

It wasn’t entirely clear to Spike whether the 100cc golf cart, or whatever it was, was more or less efficient than walking back himself. The thing was slow. All right, it was good transport for them all, with its two rows of seats like a jeep and the storage trough in the back where he was sat now, all covered by a prissy scallop-edged canopy. He tried not to think about that though, holding onto Buffy who was at least laid out flat on the rear seats – her jacket just enough to protect his hands. Dawn was the other side of her, wedged between the bench Buffy was lying on and the front pair of seats, like he’d been back on the schoolbus.

No matter how slow they went, though, it never crossed Spike’s mind to complain. Willow’s spell on his blanket yet remained in effect, and that was the handiest thing he’d ever come across. More than that, it was a relief not to do the journey alone this time.

They made it back to the edge of town at a snail’s pace, the electric cart wheezing and groaning as it took them the last few yards uphill. Chalmers’ grip was determined on the wheel, while Willow did a bit of backseat driving. While the Watcher swore and swore in her prim, Watcherly way, Spike could tell she had grown fond of the machine.

And that was true even as the cart puttered to a stop a hundred and fifty yards from the finish line. “Come on, you bastard,” Lydia hissed at it, finally breaking into the classics. Spike had to laugh, and it earned him a glare. They were by all measures back at camp. People were gathering; Xander was running over to them. It was time to get out and walk.

Yet Spike didn’t move. He looked at Dawn, raising his eyebrows in a question. She shook her head, almost smiling, and neither of them let go of Buffy.

Metal crunched as Chalmers yanked the key out of the cart and shoved it back in again. She slammed her hand on the steering wheel three times, producing three hollow thuds from the rubber. Then she turned the key and with a soft, whiny whirr the machine seemed to take the accelerator pedal and discover its last remaining reserve of juice.

Slowly, and then a little quicker, with all the pace and ceremony of a triumphal procession, the rescue mission pootled forward to meet the waiting crowd.

“And will you look at that,” Spike told Buffy, only then forgiving her. He thought he could see a smile start to touch in on her frown; he couldn’t believe it. “We made it.”


[survival II (epilogue)]