"Still Bound" - sequel to "Golden Bands to Bind Them" by BonnieD

Set about a year after "Something Blue". Things have played out close to canon but a little twisted in my Buffyverse due to the close encounter Buffy 'n' Spike have already shared. If events of season 5 are out of order, combined, telescoped, or otherwise rearranged, it's because I needed to do so. Hope you enjoy this continuation of the "Golden Bands" AU.

Special thanks to my very first beta reader, Zyrya, who helped give direction and shape to the story by making me identify my ultimate goal and useful technical advice about the writing itself.

The crypt door opened with a horrible screech of rusty hinges. Spike stepped through, then paused and swung the door back and forth a couple of times. Have to do something about that. Though, come to think, it would make a good alarm so nothing could sneak up on him while he slept. He entered the room, which was dustier and more decrepit than he'd remembered, tossed his bag in the corner, and looked around to see if any of his possessions were still intact: TV - gone; armchair - lying on its side, the stuffing pouring from gaping wounds; books - torn and scattered; candles - long since burnt to nubs. Beer cans, snack bags and condom wrappers littered the floor, and the smell of vomit and human waste pervaded the air. Fucking humans! No better than animals.

He sighed and kicked an empty wine bottle against the wall. Should've expected. Can't go away for months and think you'll find home like you left it. Made him wonder what other changes he'd find in Sunnydale.

************

Buffy walked with her head down, her stake hand swinging uselessly by her side. For once her come and get me 'tude was not an act. Her mind was so far away a bumbling fledge could have taken her. The realities of her new life swirled round and round her brain, burying it in waves of confusion and hopelessness. On her frontal lobe flashing like a red neon light and hitting her like a sledgehammer was the message MOM'S DEAD! MOM'S DEAD! MOM'S DEAD!" A trio of subheadings, 'Dawn's not real,' 'Glory's unbeatable' and 'Riley's gone' flared below it. And unconnected but as a kind of counterpoint to 'Riley's gone' was 'And so's Spike'. She should be grateful for that last. It was the one good thing in her litany of woe, but somehow it didn't feel that way. Annoying as the vampire was, he'd sometimes been useful over the past summer and she'd always been able to count on him to just...well....be there with his stupid, insightful comments and knowing eyes.

But dwarfing all the lesser issues was the irrefutable MOM'S DEAD! that barely allowed her to function. How could she survive without her mommy? Despite Buffy's powers and the apocalypses she'd averted and the demons she'd faced, she still felt like a kid. She wasn't ready to be the grown up; the one who planned the funeral, cooked the meals, cleaned the house, parented Dawn, paid the bills, made appointments, and generally navigated the adult world. And more than the responsibilities, Buffy just plain missed her mother. Why hadn't she told her, 'I love you' once in awhile? She couldn't even remember the last thing she'd said to her mom. She hoped it was something good and not one of her usual flippant remarks.

And now, as if she hadn't had enough major disasters in her life, there was this new, niggling worry, pervading everything. Filling in all the nooks and crannies left in her subconscious after the big issues took their chunk. At this point, it wasn't quite a blip on her radar, but hummed along just under the surface ready to turn from a possible tropical storm into a full-fledged hurricane. Could she be? She could be. But she almost certainly wasn't. Still...

Buffy mentally shook herself. This brooding was getting her nowhere. Constructive thinking was the only way to break loose. Better to think of her work than her personal life. What should she be doing about Glory? And where the hell were all the vampires tonight?!

She lifted her head and took a long, hard look around the quiet cemetery. Nothing in sight, but a sudden prickling at the nape of her neck told her a vamp was nearby. She took a firmer grip on her stake and glided through the night, as silent and deadly as her unseen quarry.

*********

As Spike began to tidy the floor of the crypt, he reviewed his life over the past year, and thought about what had brought him to this point. Obviously there was pre-chip and post-chip involved, but almost more important was pre-Buffy and post-Buffy. Much as he'd tried to deny it to himself, everything changed after Little Red's ruinous will-be-done spell. It was bad enough when he and the Slayer had been convinced that the sex and the share-bear moments were a result of the witch's spell and those bloody H'rassee wedding bands, but when the spell was broken and the rings gone and the feelings lingered, Spike knew he was in trouble.

He'd tried staying out of Slayer's way, but in a town as small as Sunnydale, in the kind of circles they both moved, it was inevitable they'd run across each other again and again. He'd helped the Scoobies out on occasion - for cash, of course. Had mocked and harassed them whenever he got the chance. Had helped that wanker Adam make his bid for Big Bad of the Year in order to get the damn chip out. Spike was convinced that if he could just return to pre-chip state he could get the Slayer out of his blood, out of his mind. That plan had been a big bust.

As summer and fall ground on, he'd been increasingly restless. Fucking Harmony again had only pointed out to him what he really wanted. Closing his eyes and picturing Buffy as he rammed into her stand-in, only made him feel hungrier and angrier than ever. Then came the day of the failed chipectomy and The Dream, when everything crystallized and he stopped lying to himself about his feelings for the Slayer. He'd taken to standing outside her house at night staring up at her window, listening to her moans and gasps as she and soldier-boy went at it, letting his eyes fall closed and picturing himself covering her, remembering what she felt like beneath him, going home just before sunrise more frustrated and lonely than ever.

It all came to a head the night she asked him to tell her about the two Slayers he'd snuffed. He'd watched her disgusted face as he had spun his tale and the reality set in: 'she will never love me.' Of course, she confirmed this at the end of the evening, when he bent to kiss her and she pushed him down: "It would never be you Spike. You're beneath me." She might delude herself they were talking about a fight to the death, but he knew what their dance was really about. That night he picked himself up off the ground, went home and packed a bag, threw that yammering bitch, Harmony out of his way and roared off into the night, pedal to the metal. Time to stop brooding and start getting some perspective. Time for a road trip.

Now, here it was several months later and he was back in Sunnydale....again. The time away had been good for one thing, to prove that he was as obsessive and single-minded as Angel had billed him to the Scoobies. He couldn't get the girl out of his head no matter how many distractions he might pursue. Wherever he'd gone, whatever he'd seen, whoever he'd done, she was still there in his head, haunting him. Finally Spike gave in to the inevitable and came back home. It was either kill her or win her over somehow, and he had a feeling killing her would only make her haunt him more, so....

He picked up the trash bag of empties and broken glass and left the crypt. After dumping the refuse deep in the underbrush of the woods, he decided to take a cigarette break. He climbed on top of the low stone wall around the cemetery, one leg dangling, found his pack, shook out a fag and lit up. Blowing smoke toward the starry sky, he gazed around at his domain of toppled headstones and overgrown graves, and found that he felt....pretty good. He was still alive. Not too hungry at the moment. And though his plan to win the Slayer over was vague to say the least he at least HAD a plan now. Plus, there was the fact of seeing Buffy again...soon! He couldn't wait just to be near her.

*********

Buffy felt the neck-tingling increase. She was getting closer to her target. She stopped still and listened. The tiny pffft of a lighting match and a spark of light near the perimeter of the cemetery caught her attention. A dim figure sitting on the wall, shock of white hair lit by the moonlight....her heart stalled in her chest. "Spike's back," she murmured. Instantly, all her other worries dispersed. What did this mean, 'Spike's back'? Where has he been? Why is he back? Has he gotten the chip out? How do I find out? Will I have to kill him tonight? and (quietly) Can I do it? Yes I can. I've done it before, killed a lover.

A lover?

Spike as "former lover". Huh, she'd never thought of him like THAT before.

The whole wedding fiasco had been buried as deep as she could push it into her subconscious for most of a year. Other than dealing with annulment papers and having to see Spike's stupid face around town, she hadn't thought of any of it...at all. Besides, there was Riley to distract her and delight her and to make sweet, sweet love with. It made it easy to forget that whole crazy interlude and move on. Until she followed Riley one night, caught him getting a suck-job from a vamp, received his ultimatum, then helplessly watched him fly out of her life. Buffy was still trying to sort that one out; she had caught her boyfriend in a whorehouse and HE was the one making her feel guilty for not caring enough? Go figure!

She sighed...again. She seemed to spend a lot of time sighing these days. Okay! Now it was time to test Spike. Find out if the chip was still in place, and screw all these ancient memories. Maybe 'screw' wasn't the best vocab to use given the circumstances. Buffy focused her attention, raised her stake and moved toward her one-time nemesis.

*********** Spike sensed her presence mere seconds before she knocked him off the wall and they rolled over and over across the ground. He lifted his hands defensively as the Slayer straddled him and pummeled his face.

"Fuck, Slayer! Cut it out!" he howled, as he slipped into vamp face and bared his fangs. When she didn't stop, he grabbed her wrists and twisted - hard! Instantly the lightening jolt speared his brain, and he let go of her with a cry and clutched at his head. This seemed to satisfy Buffy. She got up and began brushing grass off her clothes.

Spike pushed himself to a sitting position, and began massaging his aching head. He looked reproachfully up at her.

"Good to see you again, too! Thanks for the tumble."

"Sorry," she replied, sounding anything but. "I had to make sure you were still neutered after your little trip abroad."

A trickle of blood ran from Spike's nose. He sniffed and wiped it on the back of his hand, and was going to have a taste until he remembered Buffy's revulsion last time he'd sampled in front of her. No time like the present to start making a new impression. He wiped his hand off on the grass.

"Well, competent health care is hard to find these days. Couldn't get a surgeon to suit my needs, so I thought I'd come back here to SunnyD and see how the old gang was doing." For the first time he took a good look at Buffy's matchstick-thin figure. "Christ, Slayer, what the hell happened to you? Haven't you heard? The emaciated waif look is out. Buxom and healthy is back in."

Buffy just shook her head and started to walk away. Spike jumped up to follow her.

"What's the matter? Soldier Boy can't afford to take you out for a meal now and again?" His inner voice was screaming at him to shut up, that insults probably weren't the best way to win his lady-love, but he couldn't seem to make his mouth mind.

"Shut up, Spike," she said dully. He could tell right away her heart wasn't in it. Where was the witty comeback? The sharp repartee? Something was definitely up with the girl.

"You depressed, Goldilocks? What happened? Someone run over your dog?"

She looked over at him, pacing along at her side, and her eyes were huge and shimmering with tears. His heart melted.

Now I've done it, he thought. His tone slipped instantly from cutting sarcasm to honest concern. "Buffy. What's the matter? One of your friends buy it?" A hopeful thought occurred. "Finn?!"

Her answer was almost inaudible. "My mom."

"Oh," he said quietly. They walked along in silence for a few paces, while he tried to recall the appropriate human response to a death in the family. "I'm...sorry to hear that. She was a fine woman, your mum. Treated me proper." And as he said it, he realized it was true and that he didn't have to work to manufacture a sad tone. Though he'd only talked with her a couple of times, Joyce had struck him as a lovely person, for a human.

"How did she go?" he asked.

"A brain hemorrhage," she said, succinctly.

"When?" he asked.

"A couple of days after Riley left."

"Oh." Spike managed to maintain the same quiet, reverent tone, though his heart was bursting with delight. One huge roadblock to his Buffy-winning plan had just been swept out of the way like a dam in a flood. The way was clear, all he had to do was jump through a few hoops and he'd have her! Surely the sad little girl needed a strong, manly shoulder to cry on.

Buffy brushed away tears impatiently, squared her shoulders and adopted her usual tough tone, "Look. I really don't want to talk about this with you. You're back. Fine. Just stay out of my way and don't get into any trouble and we can coexist, okay?" She began to walk faster. He had to trot to keep up.

"Hey, I'm being sincere, here! Is there anything I can do to help?"

She stopped and rounded on him, her voice dripping with venom. "Not unless you can bring my mom back, and Dawn already tried THAT! And not unless you know some secret way to vanquish a hell bitch, who's the pain in my ass these days."

"Your little sis took a turn at the witchcraft?! She all right?"

"Oh she's just peachy for a kid who lost her mom and found out she's...adopted...all in one week. She's depressed and angry, that's what she is!" Buffy stormed.

Given her growing fury, Spike thought it best to steer the subject into new waters. "What's the story on the new Big Bad, then? Sounds like she's a spot of trouble."

"I guess you could say that, if you consider an all-powerful, rampaging lunatic a spot of trouble. She's unbeatable." Buffy finished in a small, hopeless voice, "And right now, even if I knew what to do, I just don't have the energy to take her on. Plus there is the usual assortment of minions and a merry band of knights running around causing trouble."

"I'll help you," Spike responded. "Do some asking around and see what I can find out. You don't have to handle all this alone, Slayer."

For the first time she looked him in the eye, held his gaze for almost a full minute. His heart beat faster, or would have, and he tried to look as forthright and dependable as her tin soldier. "I mean it," he added after the silence had drawn out to the uncomfortable stage. He spread his hands wide. "No ulterior motives. No cash."

"And why would you do that?" Buffy asked evenly. "Everyone's got an angle, Spike."

"Honestly, I've got nothing better to do," he answered. "You're in a bind. I've got time on my hands. Maybe you could throw a blood pack my way now and again if it makes you feel better."

Buffy continued to stare at him, weighing his words.

"Besides," he continued. "Since your honey took a powder and I AM your ex after all, I feel a certain responsibility...."

Buffy rolled her eyes, turned, and walked on. "I thought we were never mentioning that again, Spike. It was a mistake. An aberration." He started to follow her, and she waved an imperious hand at him. "Go now. Help out or don't. Whatever. Just don't try to imagine some connection between us that isn't there. That's bordering on creepy!"

Spike scowled, scuffed his boot in the grass, then turned in the opposite direction and headed back to his crypt. As usual, he'd managed to get off on the wrong foot with the girl even when he was trying his hardest. But damn, she looked good tonight, didn't she? All concentration camp survivor insults aside, she was still the finest thing he'd ever seen. And she hadn't outright turned his help down. There would be more chances to make a good impression and he would rise to the occasion every time.

*********

A small smile crept across Buffy's face as she walked toward home. It was the first real smile, not the falsely reassuring ones she offered Dawn or her friends, that had cracked her countenance in weeks. Her heart felt lighter than it had since Riley left when the shit began hitting the fan, piece by piece. It was true, Spike was annoying, but he was strong and resourceful, and those were two qualities Buffy really needed right now.

Her stomach began to rumble loudly just as she passed the Doublemeat Palace. Usually the idea of all that fat clogging up her arteries and settling in her thighs totally grossed her out, but tonight she felt like she could eat a Doublemeat Medley, a biggie order of fries AND a chocolate shake. Funny, she hadn't noticed her clothes were getting loose 'til Spike mentioned it. A ravenous cavern opened in her belly and she followed her carnivorous instincts into the restaurant.

********* Less than 24 hours passed before Spike received his first visitor to the crypt. It was late afternoon when his door flew open and banged against the wall, announcing the entrance of the Slayer and her kid sister. Without exchanging pleasantries, Buffy began making demands.

"Spike, you said you'd be willing to help me, well I've got a big favor to ask. This is my sister, Dawn. You might remember her from the time you and Dru tried to kidnap her and I kicked your asses. Anyway, this hell-god Glory knows where we live now. I have to go deal with her, and I want you to keep Dawn safe. You're the only one who could protect her if..."

Spike examined the girl, who was shifting back and forth from foot to foot, clutching her school bag. Poor kid looked like she was more frightened of him than of this Glory. Well, he'd soon put her at ease. Inroads. It was all about inroads into the Slayer's life.

"Sure thing. The little bit is safe with me." He gestured toward his lone chair. "Make yourself at home, cutie. I don't have any juice boxes to offer, but there might be Doritos around here somewhere." Seeing Dawn still hesitating, he added, "By the way...sorry about that ugly incident couple years back. Didn't mean to scare you. It was just business, you know. Me Vampire - She Slayer, and all. It was a different time in my life, back then. You're safe as houses with the new me."

Dawn glared at him, but she flounced over to the chair and sat down. Then she glared up at Buffy. "Are you sure you know what you're doing? This doesn't seem like a very good plan to me! I mean, Glory's already beaten you up a couple of times and this guy," she gestured at Spike, "looks way too scrawny to protect anybody!"

"Hey, watch it!" the vampire complained.

"Dawn! Please just try to cooperate for once. I'm doing the best I can." Buffy's voice was edged with annoyance and despair. The girl just crossed her arms and dug herself deeper into the armchair, refusing to meet her sister's imploring eyes. Buffy sighed and turned to Spike. She fixed him with her most dangerous Look and muttered, "When I come back for her, she'd better be exactly as I left her, or...."

"You can count on me, Slayer," Spike responded with a nod. "Just do what you have to do, and...be careful, eh? Don't want to be stuck with your sis forever, if you take my meaning."

Buffy turned and left the crypt. Spike turned and regarded the kid with consternation. How was he supposed to entertain her with the TV gone and all? What did one do with a 14-year-old girl, other than kill and eat her?

"You play poker, Little Bit?" he asked.

********** A half hour later, Dawn was raking in another pot of Doritos and gloating over her winnings.

"That's how many in a row, Spike? Three hands? Four?" She giggled.

"Rrrr," he growled menacingly. "Didn't your mum ever teach you not to be a bad winner?" Instantly he realized his faux pas, as the smile was extinguished from her face. "Aw fuck, sweetheart, I'm sorry. I didn't think..."

"It's okay," she answered, trying to sound matter-of-fact. "Sometimes I forget, too. I'll come home from school thinking, 'Wait'll mom hears about what Lisa said to Mrs. Branch!' or something, then I come in the house...and remember."

"I'm sorry," Spike said again, quietly.

"It hurts," Dawn agreed, then added thoughtfully, "Of course, she wasn't really my mother but that doesn't change how I feel."

"Buffy told me about that. Yeah, must've been a bit of a shock to find that out."

Dawn looked at him strangely. "Just a bit," she said ironically. "I kind of went berserk at first. Cut myself to see if I'd bleed green or something! Giles' diary didn't tell me what exactly a Key is made of."

"Mm," the vampire replied noncommittally, beginning to suspect there was more to this adoption story than Buffy had shared.

"I mean, if someone is just a made-up human, do you think they're really real? Like, if Glory does get ahold of me and use me to open a portal, what happens after? Do I just cease to exist? Can I go to heaven and be with mom?" The girl was gathering steam now and Spike let her roll. "Am I a fairytale creature like you? Can someone who's make-believe have a soul? And how 'bout everyone's memories of me? How can that work out so perfectly with everything meshing just right in peoples' heads without there being like an alternate universe or something? And how can it all feel so real? What am I?" Her voice was rising steadily with each question, and Spike was afraid he was going to have to end up doing some hand-holding and back patting to stop her hysteria, when suddenly the door burst open and five, short, brown-robed figures invaded the crypt.

Without hesitation, Spike pushed Dawn toward the ladder to the subterranean room. "Run! Hide!" he hissed, and leaped to his feet ready to tear the little blighters limb from limb. They didn't look like they'd be much trouble. The scabby-faced leader approached him, hands spread wide and said obsequiously, "If you would kindly come with us, sir. The magnificent and bewitching Glorificus requests your humble presence. We would like to escort you to our well-endowed, most resplendent holy one with a minimum of fuss, so if you'll just..." He gestured toward the door. Spike punched him in the face, knocking him across the room. Instantly, the others were swarming over him like a mass of insects...maybe fire ants, because they seemed to be stinging him. Spike dropped like a stone under the assault of several taser blasts that crackled through his body, then lay still.

Jinx pulled himself up, prodded the vampire with one foot, then directed the other minions to truss him up for delivery to their beauteous mistress.

"Shall we go after the child as well?" one of them asked.

"No. Glorificus is only interested in her Key. She could've taken this girl when she was in her home. It is obvious to me that the man is the one the Slayer is protecting, otherwise why would she have come here to warn him right after our mistress' visit? And she brought her sister to guard him as she searches for our fortress."

There was a murmur of assent, and the little servants quickly bound and dragged away Spike's unconscious body. As the door closed, Dawn's head bobbed up from the hole leading to the crypt's lower level. Her eyes were huge and frightened and her white-knuckled fists clung to the top rung of the ladder. Her protector had been taken right from under her nose, what should she do?

"Go find Buffy!" she told herself, then leaped up and set off at a run.

********* Spike regained consciousness when a stinging blow knocked his head to one side. He was hanging from a loop in the ceiling of a posh hotel room, his hands trussed together above his head and his feet barely touching the floor: shirtless, shoeless and alarmingly helpless. He looked up to see his attacker, a gorgeous woman with eyes that told a different tale. One wolf recognizes another, and Spike knew he was in for it. The goddess drew her hand back to deliver another heavy blow, then paused and stroked his cheek instead.

"So you're finally awake, my precious! I've been looking for you a long, long time you know." She leaned in and breathed him deeply. "Funny, you don't smell like I thought you would. In fact...." Her long nail raked his chest and blood oozed to the surface. She ran her finger through it and brought it to her lips. Instantly her face dissolved in a grimace of disgust and she spat it out. She stomped her foot and faced her cowering minions. "This...this...is NOT MY KEY! You imbeciles! What were you thinking? This isn't even human. It's a stupid vampire!"

As she raged around the room flinging things and knocking over lackeys, Spike tested his chains. There seemed to be the slightest give to the iron loop attached to the ceiling. He began pulling slowly, inexorably on his bonds. Glory finally seemed to have come to the end of her rant, because she returned to stand in front of him.

"Unless..." The goddess ran her hand thoughtfully over Spike's shoulder, down his chest and caressed his stomach. "The Slayer was talking with you last night. Maybe there are confidences she shared? Little secrets you might like to pass on to me?" Drawing close, she pressed her red lips against his ear. "I can make this very easy for you, doll. Maybe even...pleasurable. Why don't you tell me what you know about my Key and I'll take you down and make you a little more comfortable, hm?"

"Slayer doesn't confide in me," Spike said. "Look, lady, I just got back in town. Don't know a thing about any of this, so why don't you let me go and we'll forget all about it?"

"I think..." Glory stepped away from him and regarded his hair critically, then began tufting it artistically with her fingers, "not! I'm thinking anyone with a connection to the Slayer is gonna be useful to me. So why don't you just..." she rattled the chain he was suspended from so he swayed slightly back and forth, "hang in there." She gave him a friendly slap on the cheek that about drove his cheekbone into his eye socket, then sashayed out of the room. Spike blinked away the tears that welled up in his right eye and sighed. It was probably going to be a very long night.

********** Buffy had returned to the abandoned warehouse where she'd first seen Glory, and then checked out every abandoned factory, warehouse, store or home in Sunnydale that she could find, but with no luck. "I'm not going to wait around anymore. I'm taking the fight to her," had sounded seriously cool back at the Magic Box, but hours of wandering aimlessly had taken a lot of the wind out of the Slayer's sails. Now she just wanted to go home and put her feet up.

She thought about her decision to leave Dawn with Spike and hoped it hadn't been totally insane. There was no reason to trust him. He'd never done anything for her without being paid and it wasn't long ago that he had helped Adam by separating the gang. It was even a shorter time ago that he had tried to have the Initiative doctor remove his chip. But when she was racking her brain for a safe house for Dawn, miraculously Spike's place was the first that came to mind. Somewhere, bone-deep, Buffy knew he would keep his word - that he would protect her sister even from a goddess. Still she kind of wished she'd had the sense to remind Dawn to keep her Keyness to herself.

"Buffy! Buffy!" a tiny voice screamed. It sounded like it was coming from a few blocks away. It sounded like - Dawn?! Buffy took off at a dead run toward the source.

She turned a corner and there was her sister, wild eyed and sweating, gasping for breath as she ran.

"Buffy!" Dawn threw her arms around the Slayer and hugged tight. "They took him!" she wheezed. "They took...took Spike."

"Who? Who took?"

"Glory's people. Ugly little monsters with big noses and scabby faces. Brown robes. Seriously ugly! They tasered him, tied him up, and dragged him away. Buffy, they think he's the Key!"

"What?! Where were you?" Buffy exclaimed. "Why didn't they..."

"They saw me but didn't think I was important. I hid in Spike's basement 'til they were gone." Dawn heaved a few breaths and clutched at a stitch in her side.

"Good. You're safe then. Glory still doesn't have any idea who she's looking for. She'll probably torture Spike. Thank God he's got absolutely nothing to tell her."

"About me?" Dawn asked in a tiny voice. "Um..."

"Dawn?" Buffy's voice rose.

"Well, Spike said he knew about me! We were having this conversation when the minions showed up and, uh, I had kind of mentioned it 'cause I thought he already knew. It was really YOUR fault. You shoulda told me he wasn't in on the secret. How could I know?!"

"All right. All right." Buffy murmured, tensely. "It's going to be okay. Spike's tough. He'll keep quiet. I'm...sure of it. We just have to find where Glory's holed up and rescue him before he breaks." She looked at Dawn's stricken face. "Don't worry!! It will be okay!" She was amazed at how easily the lie rolled off her tongue, and wondered what in the world had possessed her to leave her baby sister in the care of a conniving creature like Spike. They were doomed!

To be continued...