The Painting

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Not even the pocket lint, had to hock it for Christmas.

Summary: Dawn sees something shocking in a gallery window.

Reviews: Need em like Christmas candy. Readers rock but reviewers RULE!!

A/N: This occurred to me while I was watching 'Eddie and the Cruisers 2, Eddie Lives'. A painter wanted to paint a portrait of a man the world believed was dead. In this AU Spike still dusted in Sunnyhell but didn't go to Angel. Angel got the amulet from Lindsey after Cordy had a vision. There is no Connor. Angel and co still work out of the Hyperion. Season five of Angel never occurs. This fic may go slowly as I'm not sure how I'll tie it all together, figure I'll just put the fingers on the keys and let it flow. Sorry this is so short, wanted to put the idea out there to see what everyone thinks. Love it? Hate it? Let me know. If the concept sucks I'll remove it and we'll never speak of it again.


She passed the art gallery as she did most days; it was on her regular route home from school. Dawn Summers liked walking past the gallery her mother had worked in because it gave her a sense of home. In the six months since Sunnydale had collapsed into a crater, Dawn and Buffy had settled into their new place in LA. It wasn't far from where they'd lived before moving to Sunnydale. The gallery normally changed the display once a month. There were new paintings in the front window this time.

She paused to admire the new artwork. Her mouth dropped open in shock. The painting prominently displayed was a portrait. The subject was hauntingly familiar. She couldn't be sure but she thought, it couldn't be. The painting showed a bedroom. A chair sitting to the forefront of the room had a black leather duster draped over it. Well-worn boots were lying carelessly on the floor in front of it as if the wearer had been in a hurry to kick them off. She could see a figure reclining on the bed sleeping. It was a man with his face turned mostly away from the painter. A bare hint of a profile could be seen. A scar could just be seen slicing through the dark eyebrow. His hair was medium brown with platinum tips, curls rioting over his head. A muscular arm was draped over his bare abdomen. A sheet covered him from the waist down. The room was painted as dimly lit with a small lamp shining softly on the sleeping form. The thing she found most curious was that the window of the bedroom had heavy curtains completely covering it. The title of the piece was printed on a card attached to the lower corner of the frame.

It read: 'Can We Rest Now?'

Dawn raced the rest of the way home. Buffy jumped when she slammed the door.

"Buffy, you have to come see this! I want to know if you think what I saw is what I thought I saw. Please Buffy you have to come with me." Dawn dropped her backpack on the floor and began pulling her sister out of the door.

"Dawnie, what's wrong?" Buffy followed the nearly hysterical teenager back up the street. After a few minutes they arrived in front of the gallery. Dawn shoved her sister in front of the window and waited for her response.

The petite blond gaped at the painting on display. She paled as she saw the title of the piece. Her mind flashed back to a church. Spike draped over a cross, smoke rising from his body as he asked that question. 'Can we rest now? Buffy? Can we rest?'

"Spike." The slayer whispered just before she fainted.

Buffy regained consciousness slowly. She seemed to be on an unfamiliar chaise. Opening her eyes, she saw her sister looking down at her worriedly.

"Buffy?" Dawn asked. "Are you okay?"

The petite blond nodded carefully. "Where are we?" She looked around.

"We're in the gallery. You fainted on the sidewalk out front." Dawn told her. Her blue eyes closed for a moment.

"That's Spike in the painting, isn't it?" The teenager asked her sister almost tearfully.

Buffy sat up. She shook her head. "I don't know. It looks like him. That's his coat. That's the way his hair was when he was in the school basement. We have to find out who painted it." She got up and looked around for someone who could work there.

A young man dashed forward as he saw Buffy sitting up. He had a cup of water in his hand. He held it out to her timidly.

"Are you all right, miss?" He asked.

She nodded. Her slayer abilities kicking in to revive her faster than a normal girl. Getting to her feet, she sipped some of the water and handed the cup back to the nervous young man.

"I need to find out who painted that portrait in the front window." She stated firmly.

"I'm Trevor. My manager is in the office. I can get him for you. But I need to know which painting. There are three you know." He said.

The sisters looked at each other. Actually they hadn't noticed any other paintings. They seemed to be in a back room, so they moved into the main section of the gallery toward the front window, hoping to get a look at the other paintings. Trevor followed them, hoping to be able to let his manager know which piece the young women were interested in. Moving into the window space, Buffy and Dawn looked more closely at the painting that had caught their attention. Dawn drifted over to a smaller painting on the right. She gasped.

"Buffy." She whispered. "Look." An achingly familiar figure was depicted in the smaller portrait. The man had his back to the painter but was looking over his leather-covered shoulder so he was in profile. A dark eyebrow was arched questioningly. He looked like a predator, a champion, a hero, their vampire. It looked hauntingly like the souled vampire who'd given up his existence to save the world. The piece was not titled like the larger one. Buffy's eyes sparkled with unshed tears as she gazed at the face of the man she'd loved and lost. He'd died believing that she didn't love him. She'd waited too long to tell him.

Dawn dragged her eyes away so she could move over and look at the third painting in the set. This painting was of the same bedroom as the larger one but the man was no longer lying in the bed. He was sitting in the chair with his profile to the painter. They were beginning to get the feeling that he was resistant to having his face painted. He was shirtless, wearing only black jeans and barefoot. He was holding a guitar, his head bent as he listened to the music he made. The leather duster was again draped over the chair. The worn boots were scattered on the floor a short distance away. There seemed to be an air of unutterable sadness in the posture of the man.

Buffy joined her sister in front of the third painting. Dawn pulled her gaze away from the figure in the chair to try to get more details from the rest of the painting. Her eyes widened. Her fingers clasped Buffy's arm.

"Oh my God. Buffy, look." She pointed with a shaking finger to the amulet lying on the bedside table. The same amulet that Spike had been wearing when he dusted.