Completely AU. There are people who get inside you. That you love, that you get angry with, but they're still your person. The person who, no matter what they ask, and how much you say no, you will end up doing anything for them. Buffy and William have that kind of relationship as they grow up. Is there anything that can change it?
Author's Note: The epilogue may have some twists and turns not to everyone's liking, but there is a happy ending. This story is told in a series of moments, sometimes minutes apart, sometimes months apart, and now even years apart. Page breaks denote the shift in time.
Dedicated to Omslagspapper (cover design), AGriffinWriter, The Darkness Befalls, Sirius120, Rosalea12, Ginar369, Illusera, TieDyeJackson, Jhiz, Kitakana, and You Light The Sky.
Nothing of Buffy belongs to me, except my sincere admiration. However, this story is all mine.
Part XI: Epilogue
There was laughing this time. Not so dire and deep. Joyful. Experimental.
"I can't do that. Only people in movies do that!"
"You have the best balance in the world, you can handle it."
"But then I can't see you!"
"There's a mirror on the other wall!"
"Oh. Bugger." He brightened and swiveled her hips away from him anyway, propping himself up on a pillow. "I can still watch you."
Buffy blushed. She seemed to be riding- nothing. Which was weird because a certain part of her was definitely not normally opened like that. "No, no, can't do it. It's freaking me out."
"Damn." Will sighed but with an easy smile. It didn't really matter.
"Maybe after I get used to it?"
"Whatever makes you happy, Baby. Ooh, video cameras still catch vamps, don't they?"
"William!" She slapped his shoulder, cheeks flaming.
"What? Horny-" he sucked one of her fingers and then slowly changed around it, "vampire."
"More like horny twenty year old." She giggled and retrieved her finger, despite the awesome feeling of him nibbling on her over sensitive tip.
He looked up at her worshipfully, face reverting. "I can't help it. I wanna do everything with you. You're the only one I've ever really loved, and now… you're mine."
For some reason, it made her eyes suddenly flood, and she nodded wordlessly. Meaning "I know. It's kind of the same for me, too."
He spoke Buffy. "C'mere, Luv. C'mere." Pulled her down, cuddled her up, and kissed away her tears. Salty sweet. Like her skin. Like her blood. He growled softly, lustfully. Sensory overload, hunger, and love- a good combination, a combination hard to control.
"You're thinking about biting me." Buffy accused in a muffled voice, hidden in his shoulder.
"I am. A little. Not in the bad way." He admitted easily, kissing her cheek. "But I know a cure for it."
"Actually biting me?"
"I was gonna say fucking you until you explode around me- but I could manage a bite while I'm doing it."
Laughter. Tears. Pleasure. Finally, real pleasure for them both. A physical and emotional match. A contented kiss, and then ravishing began.
"Spike… Spike… Oh, God, Will…" Buffy let him have her, fully take control of giving her what he wanted to give her, to drive her to that explosion. He started gentle, worked his way to so much harder, and yet it didn't hurt. Her slayer muscles welcomed the challenge, squeezing back, sending him into a frenzy in return.
"Slayer. That's my girl, show me how much you like it." He bent down to seize a nipple, felt her hands digging into his scalp and she mewled. "Beautiful Buffy…" He sighed happily, before he moved into her harder, raising her hips from the bed. He heard the hitch of breath, and knew soon she'd let out one long wail, combining his names as he drove her to her a hard, fast, first orgasm. Then settled in for something slower. He smirked wickedly against her, and found her staring back, knowingly.
"This is amazing." He had to voice it.
"Best ever." She had to agree.
Downstairs the door slammed.
"This is awkward." Buffy whispered in a suddenly much less happy voice.
"We'll keep it down." He soothed.
Giles turned up his ancient record player as loud as possible. He should be happy. He really should. Two people he loved most in the world were safe, together, expressing their love for each other after so much heart rending turmoil.
Expressing it loudly. He groaned. "I need sleep, too." He muttered angrily to himself.
"Did you just hear Cocaine?" William asked.
Buffy sat up and stared down at him as he was lapping between her thighs, her moaning and fevered chanting put on hold. "You can hear drugs?"
"No! I mean, actually, I dunno. I meant the Clapton song."
They paused. Yes, loud, skillful guitar playing and the well-known voice were present. "I didn't know Giles ever turned the volume past two." Buffy laughed. Then looked mortified. "He heard us."
"Well... You like when I work my tongue in and-"
"Stop talking!" Buffy hissed, cheeks beet red. "He heard me!"
"An' me." Embarrassment was fleeting for vampires. Sex was natural. Sex with her was beyond natural, it was fated, else why would he be there, still himself, making love to the woman he'd literally burn for from the inside out? Pride was far more evident. "I made you make the noises, I want a bit of credit."
She stared. Then narrowed her eyes. "Rephrase. He heard us. And eventually we have to leave this room. Then he will look at us. At me. And he may even say something."
Spike began to shrug. The old man knew they were going to be making up for lost time. But it was still private. She's mine, and she cares. She's not entirely happy, and hm- I don't quite fancy the idea either. "We have to get our own place." He murmured. "Can you keep it down while we take care of this?" He rose to his knees over her, showing that his arousal wasn't defeated, even if his more bohemian attitudes were.
"I can." Buffy got a wicked gleam in her eye. "Can you?" She pushed him back and slid down him. Her mouth enveloped him in one long glide.
Giles winced and spilt hot tea on his hand as a snarling purr reverberated. Even Eric couldn't cover up that. He sighed, took a couch cushion, and headed to his car to nap.
"Ah. Good afternoon. Did you sleep- well, no. Um. You need - hrm- perhaps a-" Giles greeted the couple late afternoon, trying to put his words delicately as possible.
"We're going to find a place of our own." Will spoke up.
"You- you are?" Giles looked relieved, then saddened, and finished with confusion. "I don't see how that's going to be possible. Right now."
"Other vamps do it." Will avoided mentioning Angel and his basement flat. He never did figure out how the vampire got his money. Saved it up over a few hundred years he supposed. "I still have my job in the fall."
"I still have my dorm." Buffy pointed out. "Will has his. Willow was going to be my roommate, and Oz is living on campus... now that we're all going to the same place, all in dorms- we can just make it work. We'll move people around."
"Move yourselves into a basement level, if possible." Giles eventually nodded at the suggestion.
"We'll get heavy drapes." Will shrugged.
"I meant for the sake of the poor neighbors below you."
"Oh. We- we're really sorry about all the - everything." Buffy squeaked.
"No apologies needed. And now," Giles looked extremely sober, "we will all pledge to never speak of this again. Agreed?"
"Agreed." The couple said in unison.
Giles coughed and looked sideways at his nephew. So changed, but still the same in many ways. The way he sat, the way his eyes always seemed to find Buffy. Buffy who was glowing. Both of them. Glowing. Alive. "Promise me something?"
"What?" They asked as one.
"Don't move too far?"
Silent sentences passed between the lovers, all spoken through the eyes. "Promise." Will grinned.
"Promise not to freak, okay? He's not evil."
"Buffy. My boyfriend turns into a big, shaggy wolf-man three nights a month. I get demons inside not equaling evil. Will won't even look different. Does he look different?" Willow began confidently and finished nervously.
"Not unless he vamps." Buffy moved hurriedly past that part as Willow's eyes widened at the term. "Maybe he smirks more. And he sniffs. It's kind of gross, but I don't think he can help it. It's like when I first got the Slayer-bug. I broke all the drawers in my dresser and an alarm clock in the first month 'cause I couldn't control the whole strength part of the deal."
"Ooh, like when I started practicing magic and I made Mr. Leeman's toupee float?"
"That was hysterical."
"Best study hall ever. Also most embarrassing. Thank God no one else paid attention in there."
"I think she's ready, Luv." Will's voice called through the front door, breaking up the trip down memory lane.
"Right. He also has freaky good hearing now." Buffy stopped pausing on her porch and opened the door. "Go on in." She let her friend pass.
Willow stepped into the house a little more slowly than usual, then smiled. A few feet away, where the hall met the living room, he smiled back. "Hi."
"You... you feel better?" She asked in her perkiest voice.
"Cured. I could run a mile in a minute and nothin' hurts."
"Oh. So that's good." Willow nodded again, still smiling. "Um. Do we still hug?"
"As much as Brits ever hug." He opened one arm, and she slid into it.
Buffy sighed. That was easy. Maybe it'll keep getting easier. Maybe it all keeps getting easier. Or not. I mean, that was like, record breaking easy.
The doorbell chimed. "Oh, Oz is here. Pizza!" Willow ran from his side to the door as if she owned the place, which, after so long as Buffy's friend, she felt like she did.
"That wasn't so bad. I could hear you givin' her the 'brace yourself' talk." William snickered as Buffy filled the place Willow had just left.
"Is she giving Oz one?"
He cocked his head and listened to the couple whispering in the doorway. "I don't think so."
Oz entered, pizza in hand. "Hey, man. Good to see you. You're rocking the pale look. Looks even more goth. I think it could work with the 'musician' sterotype."
"Good point." Will came over and took the box from him, put it on the coffee table, and they smiled. "We'll have to rehearse inside. Or after dark."
"We always do that." Oz pointed out.
"So nothing's really changed."
"Can I see you in fangs?"
"Sure." He changed.
Buffy and Willow looked on, slightly open mouthed. "That's it?" Buffy finally managed to squeak. Both men looked over at her as they were bending to grab slices.
"I'm sorry - should we get plates?" Oz asked.
"Never mind." Buffy's amazed look turned into pure happiness.
Now if only Mom was this easy...
"Mom! I missed you. How was your trip?"
"It was fine, Sweetie. How was your father?"
"Uh- busy." Buffy smiled stiffly.
Her mother nodded, and took it as par for the course lately. "Of course I worried about you the whole time. And Will. I never got a call, so... He's still hanging in there?" Joyce stroked Buffy's hair back and looked at her with tender concern. Losing that Angel character was hard enough. Losing a nice, sweet boy like William? It was a sin.
"He's actually- going to be okay." Buffy said carefully.
"What? That's wonderful!" Joyce exclaimed elatedly. "That specialist in Los Angeles helped?"
"Um. Yes. He doesn't have any pain and he's... Well, the tumors aren't an issue either." Not lying was getting really hard.
Joyce sighed in relief. "Rupert must be so happy! Is he with Rupert now? We should have them over to dinner. We could even hold a little party here, with your friends, Willow, Oz, and I suppose we ought to invite that other man, Mr. Pryce, even if I don't really like him. I guess it would be rude if we didn't." Joyce rattled off plans as she unpacked her carry on, laying out some souvenirs and purchase orders from her recent art buying trip.
"Yeah, maybe. Uh, Mom, listen." Buffy followed after her mother anxiously. "Will's different. Not too different, but he's changed. I want to prepare you for when you meet him."
"Honey. I'm forty years old. I know that when anyone goes through a major life event, fighting cancer, a death, a loss of a loved one- there will be some scars. Inside and out."
"Definitely out." Buffy muttered under her breath. "That's good, Mom. I want you to know something else." She took a deep breath. "I really love Will. This isn't like Angel. I love Will the way adults do- not like the 'first big love' I had with Angel. I love Will in sickness and health, until death- well, death's not going to make me stop loving him. He's my best friend. He's the one."
Joyce's eyes filled, a motherly smile on her face. She could see that. She could see a future for these two. Good kids. From difficult situations. He's stood by her. She's stood by him. "Buffy-"
"He's been there when you haven't. He's been there when no one else would. When you didn't believe that I was seeing vampires, and you left me in that- that place," Buffy stopped with a shudder, slightly pleased to see her mother looked horrified and contrite, "he came to see me. He untied me- because he believed I wasn't dangerous, I wouldn't hurt him."
"They tied you up?"
"Restraints, Mom. You knew it. You signed a release form." Buffy's voice had a slight edge.
"I'm sorry, Buffy. Can you blame me? You were saying things I didn't think were possible."
"Do you believe me now?"
"Good. Then you believe me when I say Will is the guy for me? And he's safe. I know he won't hurt me, no matter what."
"You sound awfully serious." Joyce gave her a supportive squeeze on the shoulder, but did inject a note of caution in her voice.
"Mom. They gave Will weeks to live. I was going to lose him. Now I have another chance. I am completely serious."
"Then I will be, too." Joyce's eyes misted once more. She cleared her throat. "You know, I always thought it was so sad he didn't have his mother with him these last few years. Sometimes he and I didn't get along, but I always tried to be..."
"Be there for him when he needed you? I know." Buffy's own eyes were getting moist. "You were there for his high school graduation. Three tickets per kid, and he gave his third one to you."
"And that horrible scarf I made him last Christmas."
"The awesome cupcakes you made him for his birthday."
"He's the closest thing I have to a son, I guess." Maybe one day a son-in-law. Who knows? They're so young, no matter what she says. Her father and I- we were married straight out of college. I wish we'd ended up differently. Maybe if we'd had rougher times to start, we would have appreciated how good we had it and... Joyce gave one of her sudden, decisive nods, patting her daughter's shoulder. "If there's something you want to do, Buffy Summers, you find a way to do it. I've learned that. You make good choices- these days."
"I make lots of stupid ones, Mom. But they work out okay." Buffy hugged her briefly. "I'll call Will and tell him to come over. I know he wants to see you."
"I didn't tell her."
"That was the whole point of my waiting to come round!" Will hissed.
"Yeah, well, change of plans. I told her a lot of stuff, about how- how serious we are, and how I am not changing my mind about you, and how you'd never hurt me. I did say you went through some changes. She was cool with all that. She said you're like a son to her."
His eyes prickled and stung suddenly. "That's good." He said hoarsely.
"I was thinking we'd just have you come in and see if she notices anything different. She might not even notice. That's my point. You're still you. She shouldn't wig."
"She's going to! She's going to bludgeon me to death with one of her art collection books, and then she'll scream at you for not telling her in the first place."
"You can't be killed with art books. And if she screams, she screams. I don't care." Buffy said staunchly.
"Luv. You look as pale as me." Will called her bluff.
"Shut up and let's go in before I barf." Buffy hissed and pushed the door open, calling, "Mom! Will's here!"
She hugged him tight, told him he looked wonderful, kissed his cheek, gripped his chin and peered in his eyes. Then she announced, "I made some special things for you. We're going to get some color back in your cheeks!"
He ate everything she put in front of him at a dinner that was actually a feast of all his favorite things.
"Joyce, I can't eat one more thing." Three pints of blood before he arrived were helping him avoid cravings, and food in general tasted better than ever. "I'm about to burst." He patted his stomach and pushed his plate away. "You spoil me."
"You spoil Buffy." Joyce teased. "It's payback."
"Well, I'll keep doing it, and you keep feedin' me like that."
"It's a deal." More laughter. "I'm sorry Rupert couldn't come."
"Oh. He had to see Wesley."
"The 'other Watcher'."
"I'm surprised to see you. You rarely come without calling."
"I won't be here for long."
"Come in." Wesley opened the door and welcomed his predecessor into his flat.
"Thank you." Giles entered, shoulders and jaw set, presence commanding. "I'm here to share some good news with you."
"William has recovered, through unorthodox methods. Methods you will not mention to the Council, or you will mysteriously vanish into the Pacific Ocean." Giles announced in a deadly serious voice.
"What? Wait a minute, what methods? What's happened?"
"William has been turned. He has retained his soul- or at least most of it. He hasn't taken a life. He's been safe for over a week, and he poses no threat. Buffy is aware, and she supports him. As do I."
Wesley's lips moved in silent horror, eyes blinking and widening in shock. A thousand questions, gasps, and horrified exclamations finally birthed one coherent thought. "Surely you can't expect me to allow-"
"You can ask Buffy to slay him. She's the Slayer, he's a vampire, it's her job. There are two problems with that scenario. One- she never listens to you. Two-she loves William and will protect him. Three- she will most likely kill you if you try to attack him yourself. Four- I will kill you if you try such a thing. Oh, look at that. I lied." Giles smiled icily. "There are four problems with that scenario."
Wesley swallowed. "If he harms anyone, I cannot sit idly by!"
"If he harms a human, an innocent- I will handle him myself."
"Where is he now? Is he supervised?" Wesley demanded, deflating slightly.
"Buffy's with him. The Slayer is with him. And she loves him, he loves her. Can you ask for any better testament to a vampire's nature?"
"She has done something similar before, you recall." Wesley pointed out drily.
"Are you comparing my boy to that brooding bastard with a curse?" Giles asked threateningly.
"I'm only pointing out there are similarities!"
"Allow me to point out a difference." Giles smiled in a way that was decidedly not sincere. "Angel didn't have an uncle who would dismember anyone who ruined his young life, after it almost ended."
"I hate to let this evening end, but I have an auction to drive to first thing in the morning." Joyce yawned. "Buffy are you staying in, or do you have to go slaying?"
"Patrol, Mom. We patrol."
"Are you patrolling?"
"Maybe. If Spike feels up for it." Buffy bit her tongue. Too late. The slip was out. Her mother noticed.
"Spike? Who's Spike?"
"Me." Will spoke up quickly. "New nickname."
"Sounds like some hard rocker in a motorcycle gang." Joyce laughed.
"Might go good with the band." He chuckled back. Buffy let out a sigh of relief.
"I'll go get my jacket." She looked down at the "impress mom" outfit she was wearing of a summer sundress and sandals. "Actually, I'll go get changed. This is not patrol-wear."
"No rush. I'll help you with the dishes, Joyce. You wash, I'll dry." Will offered.
"I wish every boyfriend of Buffy's had been like you. Such a gentleman." Joyce grinned pointedly at her daughter, but there was no venom in her words.
Buffy rolled her eyes and ran up the stairs, slightly ill at ease leaving the two of them alone together.
Joyce turned back to Will. "I meant what I said." She told him with a gentle smile.
"Some men have no appreciation for beautiful women." He charmed in return, and they walked together to the sink, and stood side by side. "Joyce."
"I- hm," He coughed, and tried to think how to word this delicately, "I think I need to tell you a bit about what I went through."
"You can tell me anything. I'll listen." Joyce patted his wrist as she passed him a dry tea towel.
"You know they... they didn't give me any hope. The docs."
"I know." Joyce shook her head. "It's a miracle."
"You're right. It is. Sometimes miracles come from odd places." He hedged. "Buffy's afraid to tell you that I- what I did."
"She thinks I'm not tough." Joyce laughed once. "She's never raised a teenager."
"I know you're plenty tough. I just don't want you to be disappointed in me. Or mad at her." He swallowed. "After my Mum died, I didn't think I would ever find another woman I'd want to tell my troubles to, want to be proud of me, but- then I found the two of you."
"Oh, William. William, Sweetie." Joyce's hand didn't let go of the plate as he went to dry it. "You're a wonderful boy. I'm very, very happy you 'found' us." She hugged him, for a few seconds longer than she ever had. Long enough to see the scar on his neck, just out of the corner of her eye.
Buffy's voice pierced the sudden stillness. "Mom? Where are my old jeans? The ones with the ripped knees?"
"Check the laundry basket in the hall!" Joyce shouted up the stairs, pulling back, confused. He was bitten before. I remember. The hospital. I remember. He's not one of them. He's so nice. He's so normal. He hasn't changed at all.
He coughed. He could tell something was different in the way she stepped back. "I was sayin', Buffy wanted to just let you see I'm not any different, before she told you that I- I am different now, Joyce."
"No. No." Joyce shook her head sadly, trembling hand going to her mouth, eyes filling with tears for a whole different reason. Not this sweet boy. Not this smart, talented, good, kind boy. "You can't be. Can't be that."
"Can't be a vampire?" He nodded. "I am."
Joyce felt a world of emotions swirl inside her, and she couldn't think clearly. She only knew vampires were bad, that they ruined Buffy's life, that they couldn't be trusted, no matter what. They were dangerous. They hurt. "Leave."
"Listen to me. I'm not evil. I still love. I've never hurt a soul and I- still have mine. Most of it, I think. Anyway, it's not a curse thing, I can't lose it when I'm happy." William pleaded.
"How am I supposed to believe that? I lived through what that other one did to her!" Joyce cried, backing away. "I've seen them! I've seen their hideous faces, and how they killed her friends!"
"Whoa, whoa, what's going on, what happened?" Buffy came flying down the stairs, already knowing the answer to that question, the feeling of what you've dreaded having coming to pass settling over her.
"You knew. You knew he was a vampire and you let him into our home!" Joyce turned accusingly to her daughter.
"Wouldn't have mattered. I don't need invites. Like I said, not evil. No demon drivin' this bus." Will said with a sad smile on his face. "Buffy, I'll wait outside. Joyce- I'll prove it. I'll prove I'm not bad for her. Or to her."
"I was only gone for five minutes." Buffy put her hand to her forehead, pained expression on her face. Wasn't supposed to happen like this, wasn't supposed to happen! "Will, wait! Don't move." She ordered. He froze in mid step, foot slowly lowering as he turned. "Mom- Will's been here for hours. You didn't even notice anything different! It's still Will. "
Joyce bit her lip to prevent the harsh words, that he'd tricked and deceived them, from coming out.
Will spoke. "I had to tell her. I wanted to tell you straight off, only Buffy thought if you saw I was still me, just sort of pointy in the teeth, you would understand."
"Understand? What is there to understand?" Joyce demanded in a slightly hysterical voice.
"That I loved her enough to do anything. That I'd rather live as a monster an' be with her, than die and lose her. And this life. The people in it." His hands reached out, towards each of them, and fell back empty. He squared his shoulders. "I'm still her William. Even if you don't- care for me- anymore."
The maternal heart bled. Half of her warred in favor of the orphaned young man, so sweet, and such a constant part of the new life she'd made in Sunnydale, right from the beginning. The other half recalled in all too painful detail that Angel had become Angelus, and that you could never trust a vampire. Especially once they get what they want.
"Mom. Please. You know him. This isn't me asking you to trust someone with a hundred years of vampire-badness. This is Will. Our Will. Will-with-horrible-scarves-and-awesome-cupcakes Will. Will who saved my life and yours, who got me to try out for cheerleading, who helped me learn to parallel park! You can't turn your back on someone because they suddenly change!"
"And you can't act like nothing's changed when something has!" Joyce fired back, overwrought, and overwhelmed, eyes avoiding the man in the middle of her kitchen, someone she felt so much love for, and now fear of. "How do you know this isn't like the last time? How do you know that once he has- the things he wants from you- he won't hurt you?"
"I'm right here, Joyce." William said quietly. "I can still hear. You want to ask me?"
"I don't know if I'd believe you."
"You did five minutes ago." He controlled the anger building, the retorts he wanted to hurl, about how much he'd forgiven her for in the past. Forgiven her when she'd betrayed Buffy, and Joyce didn't even have the excuse of "changing" before she'd done some horrible things to her own child. He seethed inside, and swallowed the rage as he mentally ticked off all the sins he'd forgiven. Forgiven her for throwing his best friend out, locking her up, never listening... He'd become a literal creature of darkness, and still remained true.
Isn't that bloody tragic?
Demons feel the sadness more bitterly, too. It must be a trade off. Colors brighter, flavors better, anger like lava, sadness that'll drown you. A poet's dream. A heart's torture. Anger simmered. Giving into it would only prove her point if he flew off at her. It's all about proving myself, isn't it? Fine.
"Why don't you give me what I want most, and we'll see what happens?" He suggested in a low, silken voice, forcibly calm.
Joyce instinctively reached for her daughter, only to find her moving away, towards him.
"He's already got me, Mom. It's not about that." Buffy whispered.
"What do you want?" Joyce asked in a tight voice.
"To know you didn't stop lovin' me. It was kinda nice- havin' someone like a mum around."
She froze. Stopped loving? No. No, she loved William. She loved him quietly, from a distance, as best friend's mother's are supposed to do. She didn't stop loving that boy. This monster was not that boy.
"I love William."
"That's me." He looked at her for the first time since she told him to leave. Eyes met.
He has such beautiful eyes. Tear-filled, bright, bright sapphire eyes. His mother must've been so proud of him. What a beautiful boy to have.
There's just one way to find out.
She stepped towards him. Slowly. Unevenly. Looking at him, for signs of trickery, traces of hunger.
She couldn't find any. Just a pale man, with pain on his face, and her daughter's hand clasped like a life line. "William?" She checked.
"That's me." He repeated. "Still me. Always me."
"Then... I love you." She barely managed to get the words out, like saying them was pulling a trigger.
Of a sort.
He moved suddenly, she gasped, and Buffy's breath was drawn in sharply, as was the rest of her, into the powerful, crushing, thankful hug.
She swallowed the scream, and realized what the lunge was. Just relief. That he's not alone. Her arm slowly patted his back.
"You won't regret it. I promise."
"I'd better not." Joyce warned, surreal feeling washing over her as she found herself in an odd, layered hug. "I must be crazy." She muttered.
"You fit in great." Buffy soothed.
"What about your education?" Joyce asked.
"Continuing it. Still paid for, still a ward of a uni employee. Legally, nothin's changed. According to the world, I'm twenty years old, alive, kickin', and registered for two night classes, two online." William submitted to the grilling session with good grace.
"How will you work, earn a living?"
"College bookstore still offering me my old job. Work for three days a week, in a room without windows and in the late afternoon. Not to mention the band. All night gigs. It doesn't clear much after overhead, but hey, it's something. Also-" he looked mildly uncomfortable, "blood's pretty cheap."
"Night shifts. Work inside. People do it, Joyce."
"What about daylight?"
"I avoid it directly."
"What about a family?"
"I have one." He held onto Buffy's hand.
"Yes. He does." Buffy said in a voice that was somehow sweet for him, and steely for their audience of one.
That was the moment that made Joyce decided to abandon that line of questioning.
At least for the time being. She concentrated on something else. "How is Rupert taking this?"
" 'Bout the same as you were- for the first couple minutes. Then he realized I was still me, only paler and pointier, an' he was just damn happy not to be buryin' me. At least, not the type you don't dig out of."
Joyce shuddered. The alternative was terrible. Terrible unless the human face was just a mask, a distorted image of the person they were. His didn't seem to be like that. "I'm glad you're here with us." Joyce murmured, then swallowed as she rose briskly, unable to look at them any longer, unable to have any more of this conversation. "Cocoa?"
"I think you should let me sit in with you."
"What? No. I mean, I appreciate you guys taking turns wolf-sitting, but not in the cage." Oz waved away Will's offer.
"You were tellin' me about learning to control it. That you know it's always in there- not just on the wolf moon." Will lowered his voice. "I know what it's like. Bit of demon to bit of demon- maybe it'd help? If it doesn't, I can get out, no worries."
"I've been digging through the web and some of Giles' books. There's this place in Tibet. Willow and I might go this summer." Oz stepped into the gated off section of a mausoleum, the new safe spot they used ever since the school library blew up.
"Aw, man. What about our relaunch?"
"We can move it up." Oz said easily. "New songs, ready to roll."
"I still think we need a new name."
"I know. Just not feeling the other one."
"It'll come to us."
Spike watched the transformation happen. Watched the wolf rage. He vamped slowly.
"Hi, mate." He gave a grotesque smile. Oz howled long and shrill in return. "You're angry. I get it." The vampire said easily. "The human world's so bloody annoyin' to us. The rules. The manners. But it's the people that make it do-able, right?"
Snuffling. Snarling. Eventual calm. "You hold in a lot. Would do you good to let it out a bit sometimes. In your trademark 'man of few words' style." He gave a crooked, fangy grin. "Maybe the demon would get used to the compromise. No expert. Just saying."
They both inhaled the night air. Giggling females could be heard in the distance. "Idiots." Spike sighed. "Thank God the girls are on it tonight, savin' the bimbos from themselves. What you gonna get Willow for Christmas? I mean, sorry, Hanukkah?"
The rapid, bestial breathing slowed. No answer of course. Nothing human or intelligible. "I was thinking about givin' Buffy a weekend away someplace. Her vacations always suck. Mine, too, if I'm honest. That is, if you an' Red'll mind the Hellmouth for a night?" He chuckled, and something- something almost like a soft snort of agreement, emitted from the wolf.
Spike casually leaned against the bars. No claws sliced his skin. The shaggy form on the other side paced warily a few times, then laid down. "I bought us a snack." Spike winked, reached for his black satchel, and pulled out a thick brown bag. "Daily double." He hefted out a chunk of butcher paper around a thick cut of raw beef, then a quart container of beef blood. "You get the meat, I'll get the blood. Cheers." He tossed it in, and Oz dove on it hungrily. "You're gonna have to tell me tomorrow if you get sick, all right? I don't know how the wolf-human digestive thing works. No offense, but I don't wanna know."
Hours passed. One spoke, one listened. Sometimes, there seemed to be a pattern of responses. But no one would know until the dawn what was really understood and retained. Spike stood reluctantly as the night began to fade. "Dammit. I gotta go, man. I'll be crispy otherwise."
Something seemed to stiffen in the half-wolf, an effort shaking his limbs- and human eyes peeked out for a split second, before the blackness over took them again.
Spike grinned. "I knew you could, if I could. See you at the Bronze 'round eight?"
Maybe he dreamed it, but there may have been a nod somewhere under the fur.
"He didn't change."
"I know. He's just snarkier. And into leather lately. Maybe vampires don't chafe?" Buffy got their sodas, Willow handled the fries. "Anyway, it's January. Are you just getting it, or just confirming it?"
Willow shook her head impatiently. "Will is- you're right he's snarky and he is kinda goth-y lately, but I wasn't talking about him. Oz. Oz didn't change last night."
"What?" The sodas rocked precariously as Buffy barely managed to sit them on the table before she turned in shock.
"Oz didn't change. It was a full moon, but he didn't change."
"He's been using a meditation routine, prayer beads, and following the teachings of this zen-master guy from Tibet- who moved to India and got a website."
"So he didn't change? At all?"
"He still went into his 'cage' and he didn't move. Like, for the whole night. He told me I couldn't talk because he needed to do whole conscious focus or whole body consciousness, I don't remember now. And he was sweating. Not in a sexy way, in a having the flu way."
"I can't think of Oz sweating as sexy, sorry."
"You're not focusing."
"Because I'm in shock!"
"What, your boyfriend can stay not-demony, but mine can't?" Willow's voice took on an angry edge.
"No! No, no, no! Happy shock! Believing you but amazed shock!" Buffy hastily clarified, grabbing Willow's hands.. "Do you think it will work again?"
"I hope so. This was the first time."
"What happened? What changed?" Buffy's eyebrows lowered as she worried. There was no cure for being a werewolf, and Oz had tried for years to protect people from the wolf in him.
Willow shared her friend's concerned look. "A bunch of things, I guess. Oz said- Spike talks to him. When he watches him."
"We all talk to him. We even read him stories."
"I know, but vamp to wolf, it must be different. Oz said- he never tried to find a way to work with the demon. It just overtook him. He didn't remember anything. But now... I guess the demon parts communicate or something."
"I'm also in shock Oz talked that much."
"He talks to me!" Willow laughed.
"I guess he - ooh, here they come." Buffy stopped talking abruptly and grabbed her girlfriend's arm excitedly, watching with shining eyes as the Bronze's lights flickered, and stage lights changed to a dark blue spotlight.
"Appearing for the first time- one of your favorite soloists, and two of the members of The Dingoes Ate My Babies, the Bronze is proud to introduce- Face Value."
"I like it." Willow whispered under the raucous cheers.
"Me, too." Buffy agreed. "Also, our boyfriends are hot."
"Well, duh. They're going to be a huge hit."
"I've found something huge." Giles laid a heavy tome in front of his family as they sat for dinner.
Will raised an eyebrow. "You did. A book. Good for you, Bertie. Look harder and you'll find you've got lots of these 'huge' things lyin' about."
"Ignore him." Buffy elbowed her sarcastic boyfriend. "He's upset because Face Value won Battle of the Bands, best new group."
"Oh, pity." Giles remarked with a similar raise to one eyebrow and sarcasm.
"Yup. There's the family resemblance." Buffy murmured and tried not to find it too unsettling.
"I don't mind the trade offs. I don't." Will protested. "I'm just bummed. Oz and I get the chance to play the opening set for UC's Summer of Rock fest. Which happens to start at noon."
Giles' eyes twinkled. "Have you turned it down yet?"
"I'm gettin' a little liquid courage first." Will looked at him over the mug in his hand.
"You may not need it. I think I've found something that will help." He pointed to the faded text on cracking paper.
"'The Valley of the Sun, hides the Stone of Amara.'" Will read. Read silently and then looked up. "I don't think I ought to go to the Valley of the Sun, no offense."
"Be quiet and drink your blood, you're in a mood." Giles sighed impatiently and turned to Buffy. "I don't know how you live with him. In a single room, no less."
"It's that whole 'love of my life, I would love you alive or undead' stuff." She laughed lightly and both of them peered at the book. "Genuinely not being a wise guy, but what is this place? What's this stone?"
"A ring that makes the wearer invincible. Unable to die. Or be killed. Vampires have worn it in the past. They could walk in daylight. Survive in the sun."
Will's eyes gleamed. "I could- wait, where is this thing? It must be a bloody hot item, every vamp in the world must want it."
"Possibly. If they knew where it was. Or even heard of it."
"So where is it?"
"If I'm correct- it's under the freeway."
"What freeway? Our freeway?" Buffy screeched.
"Sunnydale used to have a valley. They built a motorway through it." Giles' smile vanished. "I shouldn't have gotten your hopes up, though. It's not a guarantee. It's not going to be easy to find. We may not find it ever, but even if we did, we can't guarantee it'll be in time for this opening day event."
"I can do impossible things." Will grabbed the book. "I have amazing people to help me."
"You owe me a manicure." Buffy moved boulders out of the way with a grunt.
"On a sunny Saturday." Will winked and heaved one next to her.
Willow cleared her throat. "Can I help?"
"You are helping, you an' Bertie are supposed to be on route plannin'." Will grunted, reaching another rock-filled portion of tunnel. "If we're not careful, we'll cause a sinkhole."
"Just let me help. Stubborn vampire." The redhead elbowed him out of the way.
"Wicca." Willow corrected, and closed her eyes. Her fingers moved slowly, then faster, kneading the air around her. Rocks began to shift slowly. Pebbles fell, followed by stones creaking apart, rolling effortlessly to the side. A narrow passage opened.
"Marvelous." Giles whispered.
"Nice one." Oz offered his girlfriend the corner of his shirt. "Nose."
"Shoot. Dizzy now." Willow sat down on one of the larger rocks, pressing her sleeve to her dripping nostril. "You can crawl through that, Buffy."
"I'll do it." Will said quickly, worried about what might be on the other side, worried about cave-ins and creepy curses maybe guarding vampire treasures.
"We'll go together." She pulled his hand. "Oz? Can you smell anything dangerous?"
"No poison gasses or anything. No fresh air either. It's a one way." He sniffed.
"Be careful. It's going to be unstable." Giles looked nervous.
"Unstable. That's us." Buffy joked, and slide through the slender gap in the rocks. Will squeezed through behind her.
"Oh. My. God."
"College is paid for. For all four of us." Will gasped. "An' half the bloody freshman class!"
"There must be a thousand pieces of jewelry here!" Buffy blinked around the tiny cavern, filled with enough gold to blind them temporarily. "Which probably means ten thousand stones."
"I hope it's not in a soddin' tiara." Will grumbled and gently lifted such a piece up, and set it on Buffy's head. "My Lady."
"Sir William, the Spike." She draped a heavy gold chain over his neck as he bowed. "Hey- thought. How are we going to test this stuff?"
The flat was filled with bags- book bags, purses, brief cases, garbage bags- all full of the newfound treasure. Oz and Willow sat at the cluttered dining room table with five small but growing piles of things from a larger pile marked "tested."
"Not this one." Buffy took a bracelet and tossed it to Oz.
Will put on a dark red ring in an ornate gold setting.
Buffy winced and squeezed the eye dropper full of holy water over his hand. A burst of steam rose.
"Not this one." Will handed her the ring, and she tossed it to Oz, who passed it to Willow who divvied it into the appropriate pile.
"Perhaps we should stop for today? Your arm is beginning to look like you submerged it into a box of fire ants." Giles was laying out the next assortment of pieces for him to try.
"You could test faster if you put on a bunch of things at once. Then take them off one at a time, work backwards. Less ouchy, if you happen to have the right piece on." Willow pointed out.
"Less painful the other way, too. If it's not on, one drop'll still sting, whether I'm wearin' ten pieces or twenty. " He groaned as Buffy started draping trinkets over him. "I'm really glad I can't see m'self right now." He looked at his girlfriend piteously. "How stupid do I look?"
Buffy rested a gaudy gold broach on his shoulder and kissed his lips swiftly. "Totally ridiculous. It's okay. I think that look works on us."
"Morning." Buffy sat up and stretched. "Did you turn off the alarm?"
"Late night." Will stretched.
"Yeah, but we have brunch with Mom!"
"I don't like brunch. Sounds sissy."
"You write poems."
"Don't you dare 'lose' your ring. You're going, and you're going to say nice things about the egg casserole." Buffy put her hands on her hips and looked down at the tousle-haired platinum blonde beside her.
"That won't work anymore, and you know it." Will flexed his left hand as it came to rest on his ivory torso. The gold band adored the fourth finger, and it was restyled, cut down, the stone atop it seeming a bit too large for a wedding band. "I can't take this ring off now. I'm a married man. People'd talk." He smirked.
"Yeah, and you'd burst into flames." Buffy gave in with a sigh and sank back down beside him. "Fine. Ten more minutes?"
"Nnn." He nibbled her neck. "Not enough time, Precious."
Years and years
"It's bad." Willow whispered.
William grabbed the body, bent wrong and somehow limp against him. "Buffy? Slayer! Look at me, listen to me!"
"Hi." Buffy opened her eyes. "Sorry... party started without... you."
"I'll find them. I'll find them and kill them." He snarled.
"Fine by me." Buffy laughed weakly. "I don't actually hurt. Just cold."
His heart was still but it raced, mind buzzed. Willow was there, looking on, blinking tears out instead of back, probably blaming herself. Who knew where his uncle, Oz, and Wesley had gotten off to, probably after the few remaining members of the vampiric nest they'd been tangling with all night.
She can do it herself.
"Listen to me." He spoke in a soft, stern voice, a voice that ordered her not to slip away. "You're bleedin' inside. I'm gonna take a little, and it won't take much. When I give you my arm, I need you to-"
"No." Buffy murmured.
"No?" He swallowed. He couldn't force this. They talked about it sometimes. They never really reached any conclusions.
But she's my wife. My life. I can't just let her go. "Buffy, please. It's- it's not so bad. We'll have each other. We can make it."
"I don't care if I'm a vampire or not. I used to be afraid of that. Not since you." Buffy weakly smiled and put her cold palm to his somehow less cold cheek. "I can't. If you take a life- the demon wins. The dues. Remember?"
"Luv." Spike swallowed. "I'm not taking your life. I'm saving it. It's spillin' out, and I'm gonna catch it and give it back to you, Baby." He pled. Her eyes seemed to blink glassily and his heart twisted into a tourniquet of pain with every millisecond that passed.
"Not strong. Like you. I would... turn. Turn evil." Buffy shook her head.
He laughed. Laughed and tears popped out and ran down the soot and blood on his cheeks. "You're my strength. You're every bit as strong as me, and more. I fought for you. I held on for you. Can you hold on for me?"
"I would hold... everything for you. But," she licked her suddenly very dry lips, "you were the only one in the world. In time. Not to turn. All the other fledges we've tried to help, to save- none of them..." Her eyes were faded pools, losing their luster, bust still focused on him. "You were a miracle. My miracle."
"No. No, it doesn't end like this." Spike grabbed her desperately, lifting her up, lips to hers, all over her beautiful, pale face. "I'm not your miracle, I was your one damn risky chance, but it took. We took it. Slayer. Slayer, all the things we've ever done... At least take the chance? If you go... I'll know it. The soul can slip into heaven, an' I'll send the body along after if I have to." Then take my ring off and send myself as well. There is no life without her sharing it. Not now. Not anymore.
This pause seemed different. Considering. "Big chance." She wheezed.
"I'll take it. I'd take amy chance for you, and you know it." He swallowed. "What have you got to lose by trying?"
"You." I can't lose him. Not yet. Not yet. Sometimes we have to do the scary things. "Do it."
"What've you done?" Giles was aghast when he came back and found her lying peacefully, blood on her lips, deep wounds in her neck.
"Saved her." Spike had not changed. The life was not "taken" by him, thought maybe it had been finished by him. "Her choice. Willow saw."
"It was." Willow nodded, barely able to speak.
"William, you can't do this for everyone you love who might die! Death is natural. Things must end."
"Not this thing." He stroked Buffy's unmoving cheek. "To lose her and live alone- that would be unnatural. To stay together, that's the only thing that feels right. I don't care how the rest of you see it."
"But you can't always do this!" Giles couldn't deal with this. Grief, shock, worry. Buffy's dead. My daughter is dead. My Slayer. His heart was screaming, and it came from his throat. "You can't do this!"
"I won't!" Spike rose and roared back. "She's my one. One and only time I'll do this. I don't even know if it'll work, I just know," from under the roar, a sobbing wheeze erupted, "we had to try. Oh God, Bertie. Bertie." He fell forward. "What if it doesn't work? What if she's gone?"
He joined him on his knees, pulling his head to his shoulder, his own tears beginning to course, shoulders shaking. "William. Shhh. Shh, William." He comforted, just like he had done so many years ago.
I thought I had to fight you.
I'm a demon. My whole job is to get what I want.
What's that supposed to mean?
I want you. Just like you are. Sunshine and dripping with good. 'Cause that's what we love.
You sound like Spike.
I am Spike. We're just one, him an' I.
That explains it.
He even loves you a bit dim, you know.
Just rest. We don't have to wage a great war, not like he and I did before he woke up and won.
Good. I don't think I'm up for all the fighting. So tired.
Yeah, well, you see a bright light- you stay the bloody hell away from it. Stay in the soft, dark part. Dreamless. When the moon rises, you'll rise. Every bit as beautiful, and a lot more snarky. Like permanent PMS.
What, with cramps? Where the hell is the light?
No, no. No pain. Just the attitude. There was a chuckle. I kinda like you with that attitude, Slayer. Plus, dessert in the offing.
Oh. Ew. Now I know you're Spike.
So you can trust me. Close yourself down, sleep. You'll wake up again. You won't even tear your soul, it'll just... expand a bit. Make some room for me. You'll still be in control. Have been before. You have a little demon in you already, you know.
She was too exhausted to question. But it was Spike. Will. Someone she didn't have to question. She slept.
She rose. Not from a box, from a bed, bathed and wrapped in her own pink silk robe, in the condo she had lived in since she was married, bought with their share of the "Amara money".
She'd never realized it was so amazing. Everything was brighter, more beautiful, even the dust bunnies, the single strands of gray she could see above their bed. Their bed. "Spike!"
"I'm here, I'm right here!" He jumped from the edge of the bed, mug out stretched. "You're here." Please, please, please, please...
She was breathless. She realized she couldn't have gotten her breath back had she wanted to, but now- seeing him through these magnificent new eyes? "You're even more beautiful. Wow."
"Of course it's me! You sent your own demon in, did you really think he was going to try and move me out? I've been really good to him." Buffy snapped. Then paused. "Whoa. He was right about the 'tude."
"Never mind." Buffy reached for him, pushing away what was in his hand, even though suddenly she found it smelled delicious, not revolting.
Spike slid into the bed beside her, wrapping his arm around her tightly. "You feel okay?"
"I don't feel any different. Except for having mega vision. We need to dust more."
He laughed in relief, and concern, trying to still the fear screaming inside him. Her comments so normal, yet so surreal. Like us, I guess. "Hungry?"
"Yeah. But not angry. Not like you were. Ooh, hey, I have all my memories. That's good."
That's normal. It's what else she has that's special. "I think you still have your soul, Pet. Not even pieces, the whole thing."
"I do. He told me I would. It's just bigger. My soul. It - hey, it grew a bulge in it." She laughed and touched his cheek.
"You are my beauty, effulgent. You're mine forever."
"How poetic is that, huh?"
"Perfect for a poet."
She paused. "Is this what you always wanted?"
He paused in return. "No. Before I got sick, I wanted to grow old with you. Die with you. Be buried in a little plot where our grandkids could visit."
Her eyes misted. "After?"
"After... maybe I knew it would be an option. I told you that. Never lied."
"Slayers just run the risk of dyin' young. Stupid thing for the universe to do, if you ask me. Ought to relieve you of your power after few years and pass it on if they're so hot for this 'one girl in a generation' song, then let you live a long, glorious life as a bloody big thank you."
"So you're doing what the universe didn't?"
"That's me. Mr. Universe." He curled his tongue and winked.
Buffy added sudden, extreme lust to the list of differences, right after the great eyesight, the blood craving, and the shorter fuse. Not ordinary lust. Lust like she wouldn't care if it was in the middle of a street lust.
"Slayer likes?" Spike hinted, scooting even closer.
"Even more than before, apparently." Buffy's eyes lit up as they rolled together.
"We should wait." Spike backed up suddenly.
"Okay, who the hell are you and what did you do with my husband?" Buffy demanded.
"Oh, I'm with you on the breakin' in the newly healed body, Pet. It's the rest. Everyone is downstairs, pacin' and prayin'." And Oz is carryin' a concealed stake. If it had to go down, he'd do it for me.
"They can wait." Buffy experienced a rare sensation of putting her own wants first without feeling guilty, or trying to please someone else. Except Spike. She'd be pleasing him plenty.
"If they hear the noises we'll be makin', Luv, they'll think we're fightin' and rush in. I don't want an audience our first time 'renewin' our vows'." He chuckled.
"Good point." Buffy unwillingly sat up. She looked toward the mirror over her dresser. Nothing. "Oh wow. You're going to have to swear to tell me if I have stuff in my teeth or bad hair."
"I'll add it to love, honor, an' cherish." He rolled his eyes. "C'mon. Your mum already threatened to take a fire ax to me. Let's go show her she doesn't need to make son-in-law salad."
Buffy stared at her hands. "I'm pale. I don't know if I've ever been this white. I grew up in Southern California."
"Well, in case you wondered, you look amazing pale. Like an angel, all white and gold, milk and honey. An' you glow. At least you glow to me." He took her hand as they headed towards the door.
She froze. "What if I go crazy? What if I snap and lunge at necks, and they try to stake me?"
"Then I beat 'em senseless, we run, and we move to Tahiti. We could afford it. I'll find a jeweler to cut the stone in half but not 'shatter' it, since Bertie says that'll destroy the power. We'll get you a matchin' ring, an' you'll still have your sun. It'll be all right." He took her hand. "This was a lot to ask you to do." He realized afresh, reading the mixture of emotions in her eyes.
"There are some people you do anything for." She reminded him.
"If we lose everything, we still have each other."
"Then we still have everything important."
"Now who's the poet?" He teased gently.
"Oh, shut up and prepare to fend off my mom." She snarked back.
"They're not that different." Joyce said in amazement, hours later.
"It's a miracle. Incredible." Giles agreed, in the same awed tone.
"How'd they do that?"
"They were brave enough to try the impossible I suppose." He looked around the beautiful home and the beautiful couple now sitting in the kitchen, hands clasped, talking and smiling, rejoicing in the fact that they hadn't lost each other- for the second time in such young lives. "Fortune favors the brave."
"They're talking about us." Buffy could hear them, faintly.
"Are we actually brave? Or really co-dependent?"
"Neither. Remember what I told you? It's not the stupid people, or the crazy people. Not the brave ones or the needy ones."
"The people in love." She remembered. She knew it by heart. "Mine?" She asked with a strange sense of saying much in one small word. She extended her hand slowly, gracefully, as if offering something bigger than the little gesture indicated.
He recognized it. He took her hand and kissed it, fangs emerging to delicately prick the surface and seal the words in blood. "Yours. Forever."
Thank you for reading.