Summary: Buffy comes back, but finds that the world has changed since she left.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Joss, UPN, and the WB own everything. The standard 'please don't sue me' is requested.
Special Thanks: To Haley, Karen, and Jennifer. They help me a lot and everyone that enjoys this story should thank them. And to all the people who review. Hearing from you guys just makes my day.
AN: Okay, I'm done depressing you people for now. Also, I feel I should make something clear about the last story; if it sounded a lot like a mixture of seasons 5, 6, and 7, it was supposed too. That was kind of my way of writing in the cannon in a round about way; you know, kind of like fate. So, now that that is cleared up, on with the story.
Part 1: The Return
She didn't know how she got here - she didn't even know where here was - but she did know that she wasn't afraid. In fact, she didn't feel any fear or doubt or pain. It was like the only thing this place would allow her to feel was peace. She might not have known what here was supposed to be, but to her it was…perfect.
"I know de feelin'," a distinct Jamaican voice said from beside her.
Buffy turned quickly on her heels and found her old slayer comrade, Kendra, standing there. The once hard core slayer had the same peaceful glow about her that the whole place had, and her soft white gown seemed to flow around her. But the one thing that Buffy became fixed on was the gentle, warm smile on the girl's face.
"Kendra?" the blonde slayer squeaked, surprised that her voice was indeed working.
"Hello, Buffy," she answered, the smile never wavering.
Scanning her eyes over her fellow slayer, Buffy waited a moment then stumbled forward and wrapped her arms around Kendra's neck for a tight hug. Surprisingly, the girl, who had once been so stand-offish to the blonde, returned the gesture with a much lighter touch.
"It's good to see you, too," the Jamaican said.
Buffy pulled away first but kept her hands resting on Kendra's bare upper arms. "I thought-I thought I'd never see you again," Buffy said, feeling as if she might cry and laugh at the same time. But the bright smile that had been etched on her face quickly fell when she realized what it meant for her to be able to see the other slayer again. "I'm…dead," she stated in an unbelieving tone. "Aren't I?"
Kendra's smile faded a little, but didn't loose any of its kindness or warmth. "Yes. You died."
The statement hit the blonde hard as she realized what that meant. She was dead. That meant she had left her mom and Dawn again. She had left her friends to protect the Hellmouth. She had left Dylan; she wouldn't get to see her baby grow up or go off to school or get married and have babies of her own. She would never get to see Spike again. Even with the soul, he was still a vampire, and vampires went to hell. With her dying, she was going to miss so much and so many people.
A tear rolled down her cheek and Buffy gave a sniffle as she quickly pushed it away. "I thought you weren't supposed to be able to cry in heaven," she said with another sniffle.
"Ya don't," Kendra agreed. "Dat's why we're not dere."
With wide eyes, Buffy exclaimed, "You don't mean we're in-!"
Kendra chuckled softly. "No. You'd know if you were dere. Dis place," she said, turning away from Buffy and lightly waving her arms about for illustration, "is what is know as De Between, or Limbo if you like. It's de stop-over dey used to use for people on deir way to heaven."
"I don't understand. If I'm dead, what am I doing here?"
Buffy's fellow slayer's smile widened once more before she ordered, "Come with me."
Unconsciously, Buffy began to walk in pace with the Jamaican slayer who was leading her further and further into the whiteness that seemed to completely surround them. It felt strange now that she was moving through it. That peaceful calm was still there, but fascination and the sense of being small were also starting to creep in. From where she stood, Buffy could see no being or end to the bright white that was The Between, as Kendra had called it.
Something began to take shape up ahead, and it looked like a pair of pillars. There was nothing particularly special about them, yet they had a beauty that Buffy couldn't describe. Kendra paused in front of them then looked over at the blonde beside her.
"You see, Buffy, dere's been a mistake made."
Kendra drew in a short breath and let it out quickly before continuing. "Yes. Dings dat were supposed to happen later happened much sooner and dings had to be pushed around to accommodate dem."
Buffy drew her eyebrows together as she considered what the other slayer was telling her. "What do you mean, 'had to be pushed around'? Are you telling me I'm not supposed to be dead?"
Sighing, the Jamaican tried to explain. "Dings were changed, but I don't know why. See, you and de vampire were supposed to stay in Sunnydale and fight Glory. You were supposed to die den for de Key. But you're not meant to stay dead; dere is still more for you to do. De witch was meant to bring you back and de next year was goin' to be one of de worst of your life, but it had some important out comes. De vampire was still meant to get his soul for you and de witch was still meant to go bad and come back. But someding happened and fate had to change and make way for her."
Buffy drew in a sharp breath knowing who had caused the change. "Dylan."
"She wasn't supposed to come until later, when dey felt you were ready to be de mother dey thought you should be."
"Well I'm sorry I'm not the parent they expected," the blonde said insulted.
"On de contrary, dey dink dat you're a wonderful mother, but it still doesn't mean dat dey can just change fate all together. Dey only made one exception for dat. Your mother. She was supposed to die from de cancer, but with you gone, she was still needed to take care of de Key. She is allowed to live now because de child still needs her because you're not dere."
Buffy just stood there for a moment, staring at the woman before her. Kendra had just basically told her that if she would have stayed in Sunnydale, not only would she have died, but her mother would have too. But who would have taken care of Dawn?! Who would have protected the Hellmouth?! Drawing in a deep breath, Buffy realized that Lang had actually done two things that she was grateful for. She had given Buffy her daughter and now, apparently, saved her mother's life.
"Why are you telling me all this?"
"Because you needed to understand what a gift you have been given before we send you back."
The blonde's head snapped up at that. "You're sending me back?"
"Yes. De witch was supposed to do it, but since she no longer has her powers, it is up to us den."
Buffy felt her face start to brighten. She was going back! She was going to get to see her family and friends. She was going to get to see Dylan grow up. She was going to get to throw her arms around Spike's neck and tell him how much she loved him.
"You know, you wouldn't want to go back if dey let you into heaven instead of sendin' you here," Kendra told her. "But dey said dey don't have time for you getting back to where you were before. Dey said you would be needed too soon for dat."
That didn't sit well with the slayer. "I don't understand."
"You will," the Jamaican girl assured her. "Now, to put dings close to where dey should have been, time will have passed since you left. It can't be helped."
"That's okay. I can handle a little jet lag."
"Dere's someding else," Kendra told her quietly. "You won't remember bein' here or what I've told you. You'll know it, deep down, but dey say it will just be easier dat if you don't remember."
"No buts, Buffy," she warmed firmly before stepping forward and giving the returning slayer a hug. Buffy was going to miss her; she had always liked Kendra, but at least this time she was getting to say goodbye. "Now, step through dose pillars and go back to where you belong."
The blonde slayer held on for a moment longer, then pulled away to where the girls were looking each other in the face. "Bye, Kendra."
"Goodbye, Buffy. Take good care of dat little girl."
The soft smile that Kendra had been wearing since her arrival crept onto Buffy's face as she started the way that had been pointed out. "I will."
Cool grays and blues were welcoming the morning sun as he walked along the cliff side. This was really all he could remember from his days in the sun, this single image of the cliffs of Dover that he spent many a morning on during the summers of his youth. He glanced over and could make out the shore of France in the distance, but they would be able to see the English side much better, thanks to the large white cliffs of chalk. Far below, the waves were crashing into one another and the jagged rocks, which were accented by the calls of birds high overhead.
She sat near the cliff's edge, watching the country across the strait that was greeting the sun that had yet to break the horizon. Her wavy blond hair fell softly on her shoulders and back as she held her curled up knees close to her chest. The white, cotton dress hung loose on her, making it look almost like the robes angels wore in Renaissance paintings.
He smiled as he silently approached her from behind, his hands dug deeply into his trouser pockets.
"You never told me it was so beautiful here," Buffy accused, pushing the stray blond hairs that were dancing in the wind behind her ear.
"Glad you like it, love," he said as he came and sat down beside her.
"We should've brought Dylan with us," she mused aloud before frowning deeply at the thought. "No. I guess it was good we left her at home. She probably would have jumped over the cliff or something."
Spike chuckled as he leaned back into the grass and looked out over the strait. "She is a bit curious," he agreed before raising a hopeful eyebrow at her. "Maybe the next one won't be?"
Buffy laughed at him like he had lost his mind. "Next one?! Oh, no, there's not going to be a next one, unless you want to be the one to get fat and have swollen feet and get sick every morning for months. But as for this," she said patting her flat stomach, "it's not for rent."
He continued to smirk at her, knowing full well how much she liked being a mommy. She might talk like she didn't want to have anymore children, but, if she was given the chance, she would jump at it. Of course, he wasn't sure if they could have anymore anyway. Dylan was prophesied, and they hadn't seen anything about another one. Still, it was fun to think about.
She was still laughing softly when she pulled her hand away from her stomach, but the mirth died quickly as she looked at her hand. Spike sat up in alarm when he saw that it was covered in blood, her blood. Buffy looked at him with horrified, bewildered eyes before collapsing backwards onto the dark, carpeted floor of the principal's office. He scrambled across the floor, and lifted her head into his lap.
"Buffy," he said, trying to keep her awake. "Please, love."
"Why didn't you stop him?" she asked in a weak voice. "Why didn't you save me?"
"Sorry won't change it," the slayer bit. "Sorry won't let me see Dylan grow up. It was your fault. You should have stopped him when you had the chance."
With a gasp, Spike sat up straight in bed as the nightmare slowly began to fade into nothing but distorted images and darkness. He hated those bloody dreams, and, at the same time, he loved them. It was easy to understand why he hated them; seeing her die before his eyes still hurt worse than any torture that Angelus could dream up to inflicted on his smart-mouth grandchilde.
But he loved them because, if only for a short while, she was there with him again. He could feel her, smell her vanilla scented shampoo; hell, he could touch her if he wanted. And she always looked so happy, right up to the moment when she realized she was bleeding and they would once again find themselves on the principal's office floor.
He drew in a deep, unneeded breath and squeezed his eyes shut, trying to will away the last of the images. Why did the last one always have to be her eyes, her hateful eyes at his failure?
"Sorry, love," he said to no one as he pulled off the comforter and got up for another day.
Late afternoon light filtered through a thick pair of curtains in the living room while he shuffled to the kitchen. While yawning, he felt his foot come into contact with something soft, warm, and fuzzy that let out a cry from being kicked before a solid black streak took off into the kitchen. Dawn, who was sitting at the table trying to feed a cranky toddler, looked up at the sound just as the cat jumped up into the window sill, turned to Spike and hissed with all its fur standing on end.
"Serves you right for sleepin' in the middle of the bloody floor," the vampire said to the cat before heading over to the cabinet and retrieving a coffee cup. As he poured the black liquid, he went on, "And I wouldn't be hissin' at me, else you'll be findin' yourself sleepin' outside from now on."
"Well, aren't we Mr. Ball Of Sunshine this afternoon," Dawn said, finally being able to shove a spoonful of mush into the kid's mouth. The child then proceeded to spit half of it back out, only for it to be caught by the waiting spoon or bib.
"It's still mornin' for some of us, bit," he pointed out, sipping his coffee. "And what's he doin' 'ere?"
Dawn rolled her eyes as she continued to feed James. "Mrs. Montello had to run to the store and asked me to watch him," she explained.
"And of course you said yes," Spike sighed, placing the coffee on the counter. "I swear, Niblet. Does it look like this is a bleedin' daycare center?"
"Well, with the number of toys Dylan has lying around…" Dawn answered with a smile. "Besides, you know you love having kids around."
"Correction. I love havin' one kid around, mine. I tolerate Harris' spawn and Wolf Boy Jr."
"Oh, please. If those kids ever needed anything, you wouldn't hesitate to help," she accused with a laugh. The young woman suddenly became very interested in the baby before her again as she said, "Speaking of the kids…They called again today."
"Not again," Spike groaned.
Nodding her head slightly, Dawn continued on quietly. "They want to see you as soon as possible."
"Why can't you or the Watcher go?"
"Because they insisted on you this time. They're waiting as we speak."
He drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly as he leaned back on the counter and looked up at the ceiling. This had all the signs of being a really, really bad day.
Collin Williams stood outside of the Principal Wood's office, the radio he had resting on the portable garbage bin blasting the Eagles as he vacuumed up the itchy, cheap carpet. He had been on the janitorial staff for nearly ten years now, not that that was something to brag about. However, when at least two members of the staff die every year under 'mysterious' circumstances, along with a quarter of the school's population, it does say something about his survival skills.
He had one simple rule that he had learned long ago. If you see something strange, turn around and go the other way. Do not investigate it. That only leads to certain death or disappearance. No, the best thing to do was runaway and come back later to clean up the blood or dust or the occasional goo.
"Get over it," he sang, dancing along with the music as he pushed the vacuum across the floor. "Get over it. All this whiny, and crying, and pitching a fit. Get over it."
With his back to the office door, he began to sing along to the next verse, when a strange bright light filled the room for a moment then died. Collin paused as the song continued, wondering if it could have been lightning. The air did smell charged, like it had struck nearby. But wouldn't there be thunder?
Then there was another strange thing to consider. The lightning had come from behind him, from inside the principal's office.
The janitor turned slightly and looked down at the rusty gold doorknob. Stick to the plan, a part of him yelled. It was weird, that means if you look inside, you're dead.
Still, he was always running in the other direction. Just for once, he would like to know what he was running from. What if was nothing? What if it was an electrical surge? If it had been, he really should report it. But he wouldn't know unless he looked.
With a trembling hand, he reached down, took the knob, and turned it. Slowly, he pushed the door open, and peeked inside the relatively dark room. Twilight was the only source of light, but clearly showed a young woman lying in the middle of the floor. She looked like she was in her early twenties, and was wearing a peasant shirt. He couldn't remember the last time he had seen one of those.
The young woman groaned, causing Collin to catch and hold his breath. He considered running for a moment, but she was just some little girl. Hell, he thought he could take her if he had too, but, the question was, did he really want to try.
She lifted her head, and looked around the room, confusion etched on her face. Confusion bleed into panic as her senses came back to her and she began to desperately search for something.
"Spike?" she said, twisting around on the floor. "Dawn?"
Collin shifted the weight on his feet, causing the floor to squeak. The young woman's head shot up to him at the sound, and Collin froze, his hand still glued to the doorknob. They stared at one another, looking as if the other didn't belong.
Finally, Collin was able to push out a sound from his throat. "I'll come back later," he said, before shutting the door and running as fast as he could the other way.
Buffy sat on the floor, trying to figure out what was going on. There was so much she didn't remember, so many things that didn't make any since. Everything from the past couple of days seemed to be jumbling together. She could remember Giles in her kitchen…Oz?...something being wrong with Willow…Dylan…and this intense sense of danger, but nothing clear.
No, that wasn't true. She remembered Spike saying he loved her. Did she say it back? She thought she had.
And where was he anyway? Something told her he should be with her, here, in this office. Why was she in the office again? And where were Dawn and Dylan? And why would she even wonder that? And who was that guy who just ran away?
Buffy pushed herself up off the floor and began to dust herself off when she heard a tearing sound. She grabbed the hem of her shirt and pulled it away from her body. There on the shirt, was a large, clean tare, surrounded by blood. Buffy's heart stopped for a moment as she pulled the shirt away even more, looking for the wound that would surely have caused all the blood. But all she found was smooth skin. This really was too weird. She ran her hand over the skin, as if to make sure that it was alright, then let the shirt fall back over it.
One thing was for sure, she had to find Giles. Yeah. Giles would know what was going on.
Spike leaned back into the uncomfortable seat, playing idly with the letter opener he had found on the edge of the man's desk. The balding man watched him with a degree of disgust and fear, as if he were almost afraid that Spike might jam the dull knife right through his temple. With the amount of contempt he had for the man, Spike's old self would have done just that. This guy just didn't realize how lucky he was to have souled Spike instead of the other.
"Yes, Mr. Summers," he said, his gaze following the knife that was flopping up and down. "I hate to have called you in again."
"From where I'm sittin' you seem to enjoy it quite a bit," Spike bit back, finally drawing the man's eyes up to his. The balding man looked at him hard before the vampire continued. "What did she do this time?"
A sadistic little smirk grew on the man's face, reminding Spike of that little prick that had been Buffy's principal all those years ago. He wondered for a moment whether that Synder fellow had actually managed to impregnate a woman and that this guy was the product of that hellish union.
"She started another fight this afternoon," he told Spike. "With a fifth grade boy."
The vampire groaned from the news. Now, for most people, when they hear that a girl got into a fight with a fifth grade boy, their first concern would be for the little girl. He, however, knew better.
Letting his head fall back, Spike looked up at the ceiling and he asked, "How badly did she hurt him?"
"He has a busted lip, a black eye, and she broke his arm."
"In three places," he added dryly as if it were the continuation of some joke.
Spike looked up at the man behind the desk, the humor obviously lost on the vampire. Part of him was saying 'that a girl' and that he was proud of her, but the other part he had to listen to right at the moment was telling him that a punishment was definitely in order.
"You do realize that we will have to suspend her for at least a week," Principal Marcus finally said.
"A week?! Wouldn't makin' her stay in school be more of a punishment then sendin' her on a vacation for a week?!"
"This is her third fight this semester," the principal said snidely. "It's school policy that the child be suspended. So enjoy this quality time with her, Mr. Summers."
This little troll really was getting too much joy out of suspending her. Yeah. He really must be related to Synder somehow.
"Where is she?" Spike asked evenly.
The principal bobbed his head slightly, holding the evil little grin on his face as he reached over and pushed the button to the intercom system. "Send her in."
The door to the principal's office opened and Spike turned around in his chair. The secretary pushed the door open then stepped out of the way, to allow the seven-year-old girl to come in. She had on her most innocent 'I'm guilty' smile, holding her hands in front of her. Her curly blonde hair that had been pulled back into a long ponytail was falling into loose strands around her face, and there was a new hole torn into the old pair of jeans she was wearing.