"Still Bound" - Epilogue or Teaser for season 7 - Whichever

Ending on Buffy's dream sequence was too upsetting for many so here's perhaps a better cliffhanger coda. If I had stuff plotted out, I'd just keep on going, but it's really bad to write without a master plan in place. You can paint yourself into a corner that way. Even this little bit may change as needed.

*********

"Who has the power, Dawn?" Buffy asked, shadowing her sister as Dawn slowly moved toward the newly risen vamp. He was swaying slightly on his feet getting his bearings, scenting the air like an animal, brushing earth from his best Sunday suit with grubby fingers.

"I have the stake," Dawn answered confidently. "He, on the other hand, doesn't even seem to know what he is yet."

Buffy almost smiled at her cockiness. Almost.

"Wrong! He has instinct in his favor. He's a predator and you're a meal," she chided.

Heedlessly, Dawn lunged and drove the stake into the fledgling's chest. Then, both the vampire and the girl stared in surprise at the wood protruding from the front of his no longer white shirt. Blood was pooling around the stake and dripping down the dirty material.

"Oops!" Dawn said. "My bad." She grabbed the stake tighter and tried to pull it back out.

With an angry roar he backhanded her, knocking her sideways into a tombstone, and pulled the stake out himself.

"What the hell is this?" he asked. "Who are you people?" Ridged brow folded into further wrinkles of confusion as he looked from the stake to Dawn laying on the ground, to Buffy.

"Your destiny," Buffy explained as she drove her own stake neatly into his heart.

He exploded into a shower of dust that rained over the pair of them. Coughing and choking, Dawn climbed back to her feet, rubbing her sore shoulder.

"Ugh. Warn me when you're going to do that. I had my mouth open," she complained. "And, really, 'your destiny'? Puh-leaze! You should let me work the quips."

"You do this for six or seven years and still try to come up with something fresh," Buffy said, returning the stake to her pocket and running her hands over Dawn's arm. "You okay?"

"Yeah. I'm fine." Dawn pulled away from her. "Thought I had him," she muttered.

"It's easy to miss at first," Buffy comforted giving her shoulder a final pat. "I've done it myself." She added, "But just remember, it only takes once, one mistake and ...."

"I've got it," Dawn said impatiently. "Buh-bye Dawn. I'll be more careful next time."

The sisters walked side by side through the cemetery and this time nothing but crickets disturbed the quiet.

As they passed the elaborate stone pillars gracing the front of a crypt, Dawn glanced at Buffy's profile.

"Buffy?"

"Mm-hm."

"Do you ever ...? (think about Spike, miss him, wonder what happened to him, wonder if he misses us, wonder if he's dust, wonder if he's coming back, wish you'd never told him to leave) Uh, never mind," she finished awkwardly.

Buffy looked at her sharply. "No. Tell me. The counselor said we need to communicate more ... or better or something so communicate already. What do you want to ask?"

Dawn nodded and drew a deep breath. "You're right, or actually, Mrs. Schlarmin is right. We do need to talk more. I was just wondering if you ever think ..." she paused, "about what it would have been like if the baby had lived. I mean, you never really said anything about it, about what you were feeling. Granted at first Willow was in the middle of a psychic meltdown and then came Tara's funeral and we were all kind of distracted, but then after things settled down you still never talked about it."

She paused for breath. "Baby Jack ... even though you never met him, don't you kinda ... miss him? I do and he wasn't even mine. You've got to be feeling loss and grief and ...."

Dawn's rambling analysis went on, but Buffy had tuned it out at the words 'if the baby had lived.' Did she think of it? Only about a hundred times a day, every single day. And then there were the nights with the glorious technicolor dreams about a future she would never have. How could she have possibly imagined when she became pregnant that it would ever work out? That a Slayer, who by definition lived a violent life with an early death, could bear a child, let alone raise it to maturity.

"Mrs. Schlarmin told you to get me to open up, right?" she abruptly interrupted.

"Huh?" Dawn looked startled. "Well ... yeah, she did say something about the 'sisterly confessional' or whatever. You know how much she talks. I just zone out sometimes. But I do agree with her even if I don't like all her touchy-feely crap. You do need to express yourself, Buffy."

Coming to a dead halt, Buffy folded her arms across her chest and said, "Fine. Yes, it hurts. Yes, I think of him. But nothing's gonna change it so what good is yammering on and on? There! Is that enough 'sharing' for one night?" She resumed walking.

"Does it for me," Dawn answered bluntly, falling in step beside her.

"Good."

They walked a few more paces in silence.

"Want to stop and get a cappuccino? It's getting kind of cold out here," Dawn said.

"Sure."

They headed out of the graveyard, passing through the wrought iron gates and heading toward the shops down town.

*********

In the shadow of a large oak tree at the edge of the cemetery, a black clad figure watched them walk away. A stray beam of moonlight infiltrated the leaves of the ancient tree and gilded his hair and profile silver. He instantly pulled back into deeper shadows like a snail retracting into its shell. Invisible and safe again he watched their figures recede down the street until they were too small for even vampire eyes to see.

(To be continued eventually)

This piece was inspired by watching the real season 7 opener this morning. God, I love poor crazy Spike in the basement. But I don't know how messed up I want my Spike to be yet so for now he's just a figure in the shadows.