By Heather Martin
Rated – R
Summary- The monks gave Buffy and Spike one night of fake memories. That would have been enough to change their lives. But when you add a glowing key in the form of an unborn baby, well . . . things wouldn't just change, they would be turned completely upside-down
Disclaimer- Joss Whedon owns Spike's eyebrow scar, his bleached hair, his crystal blue eyes, his manly arms, his muscular chest, his tight . . . cough Too bad isn't it? But a girl can dream, right?
Spoilers- Starts during Out of My Mind. The entire Season 5, although I changed it tremendously to suit my own purpose
I want to thank everyone for their kind reviews. I'm glad I could bring such an emotional response. Here it is, the last part. I might do an epilogue, but I'm not sure yet.
On the third day Buffy's tears dried up. They were replaced by complete silence instead. It unnerved Joyce to the core. Where did her baby go? Would she ever get her back? She'd rather see her daughter in a fit of grief than this emptiness. She feared Buffy had retreated so deep inside herself she'd never surface again. Hide away from the pain, that's what Buffy's plan was, Joyce guessed.
Everyday Mr. Giles came by to check on his slayer. Everyday Joyce relayed the bad news. Buffy wasn't improving . . . she was getting worse. Slipping away from them.
Dawn cried out to her mother in need. Buffy seemed not to even hear. Joyce resorted to tending to the child herself.
"Shh, darling, it's all right," Joyce murmured.
Dawn's red face remained scrunched up as she wailed. The poor thing couldn't find any rest. This went beyond any colic; Dawnie simply was reacting to the aftermath of her turmoil. She could sense the un-rightness of her surroundings. Even though she knew her parents for a very little time, she probably missed their presence just the same.
Joyce rocked the infant until the baby wore herself out. Her cries turned to muffles and finally ceased. Joyce placed the sleeping baby gently into her bassinet. She took a moment to run her index finger down her soft cheek. Then she crept quietly into the hall.
This was the perfect time to go attend an errand. They were running out of formula. Joyce hesitated outside Buffy's door. She took a deep breath and pushed it open. The room was dark, even though it was mid-afternoon. Joyce opened the blinds at first, but Buffy had only whimpered and rolled onto her stomach to escape the sunlight.
"Buffy?" Joyce called softly.
The slayer didn't respond. Her eyes stared blankly up at the ceiling. For a moment Joyce pondered whether she should call Giles over to watch the house while she was gone. No, Joyce thought, that isn't necessary. Dawn is likely to sleep for hours.
"I need to run out and purchase some more formula. I just- I just thought you should know. I'll be back within a half hour. Okay?"
Buffy was so strong. It ripped Joyce apart to see her so broken.
Joyce bent down and kissed Buffy goodbye.
Buffy had rescued countless lives. All of them nameless strangers. But when the one person that mattered came around she couldn't save him. She always thought of him as being eternal. The one who would never leave. At first he stuck around as a nuisance, but then he wedged himself into her life where she couldn't imagine it without him.
How could she survive?
She had nothing now. She was all alone. So cold, her insides were turning to ice.
In the background of her misery there was a sound. It grew louder and louder. Stop, Buffy begged. Leave me in peace.
It continued, more forceful.
Buffy's eyes widened from hearing her own voice. It was hoarse and strained.
"Stop!" she said again with more energy.
She shut her eyes tightly, trying to block out the noise. The sound wouldn't let her think. Wouldn't let her wallow in guilt.
I told him I loved him too late. We never got a chance to be happy together.
Buffy groaned. The sound was so distracting.
Mechanically, she sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. She walked toward the cacophony. Before she knew it she stood before the bassinet in her mother's bedroom. The tiny creature within squirmed around.
Buffy blinked down at it. There was nothing at first, even though Buffy knew there should be. This is my child. My daughter, she realized. I should feel something. Shouldn't I?
It was when little Dawnie reached up toward her that made the walls crumble. Buffy sunk to her knees.
"I'm so sorry. So sorry," she murmured to Dawn. "I'm here now. I won't leave you again."
She had been wrong. She wasn't alone. Spike might be gone, but she had Dawn. A little piece of him remained with her.
Buffy's tears mingled with Dawn's.
Twenty minutes later, Joyce found the bassinet empty. She hurried to Buffy's room and found that vacant as well. Frantic, she checked the only other possibility. She gawked in surprise as Buffy cradled her daughter to her breast. The baby sucked greedily, her eyes closed and seemingly the most content since birth.
After that, Dawn became Buffy's world. It was the only way she could cope. She rarely left the house. Her friends grew extremely worried. Willow was the one who decided they needed to take action. Magic taught her that anything can be fixed. So she went to work to find the solution.
A month later, she found it. All the hard research was going to pay off. Or would have, if Tara hadn't come in to find the witch in an array of black arts books.
"What is all this?" Tara demanded.
Willow tried to look as innocent as she could. She stood up from her cross-legged position on the floor of their dorm room.
"I'm just reading," Willow said.
Tara stared down at the upside-down pentagram diagram that covered a visible page. She frowned. "This doesn't look like light reading to me." She raised her head and crossed her arms. "What are you planning?"
"I'm helping. I'm going to make Buffy happy again."
"Willow, you can't play with people like this."
"I'm not going to poof Buffy happy. I can't believe you would think that. No, I'm going to take away the hurt so she won't be sad anymore. I'm going to bring back Spike."
"Oh my Goddess, Willow! You don't know what you are about to dabble with. This is dark stuff. Way over your head."
Willow crouched down and shut the books shut. Then she gathered them into her arms and rose. She glared at her girlfriend.
"You don't trust me? You think I'm still an amateur! Well, I'm not! I have more power than you could ever dream."
To prove her point, Willow swept a hand toward the door. It burst open. Willow stormed out, making it bang behind her.
Tara loved Willow with all her heart. That was why it was so hard to betray her. She thought about going to Mr. Giles first, but ended up at Buffy's instead. Joyce welcomed her warmly, directing her upstairs. Tara knocked softly on the nursery door. It took a moment for Buffy to answer.
Buffy poked her head out. She placed a finger to her lips. "Shhh, I finally got her to sleep," she whispered.
"I have to speak with you," Tara told her.
Buffy nodded. She quietly stepped out into the hallway and shut the door. "What is it?"
"Maybe we should go in your room. You could sit down that way."
That got the slayer's attention. Buffy realized that this was an important matter. She led Tara to her room and they both sat on the bed.
"Buffy, Willow is planning something and I thought you should know. She wasn't going to tell you and . . ."
"Just tell me," Buffy said.
Tara nodded. "Willow is going to bring back Spike."
Buffy's breath hitched. A million emotions mixed together at once. And for a millisecond hope was one of them. But there was also anger and disloyalty. Willow was controlling her life. And Spike's.
"She thinks she is helping. She thinks this is the best thing to do. But she doesn't understand the consequences. What if something goes wrong?" Tara went on.
The hope died completely. Spike wouldn't be brought back to her. Buffy would make sure of that. It would be playing with forces they didn't have the right to.
Fire flamed in Willow's eyes.
"You can't do this. I won't allow it," Buffy said.
"What if he's in hell?" Willow spat.
"What if he's not?" Buffy pointed out. "He saved the world, Will. Let him rest in peace. Please, for me."
Willow eventually backed down. Buffy let out a breath from her victory. She should have felt relieved. For some reason all she could feel was longing.
ALMOST FOUR YEARS LATER
1402 days. 1402 days without him. She couldn't feel her heart beat, but she breathed and that was all that mattered. She kept together most of the time. But occasionally she'd wake from a dream, a dream so real. She'd open her eyes to find that she was the only one in bed. She'd feel so bereft and lost. Dawn was so perceptive, a gift from her father. She knew whenever her mother had a rough night. Her bright blue eyes sparkled up at Buffy with emotion.
"It okay, Mommy. Aunt Tara told me Daddy not really gone," she said once.
Buffy scooped her daughter up and held her close.
Dawn loved stories. She loved to act out the fairy tales. She was usually the princess, placing a crown on top of her head. She also had fairy wings and a wand that she got out at times. Beyond any fantasy tale, Dawn's favorites were those of her daddy. They were even more heroic and entertaining than Cinderella or Snow White.
That night, at the end of the 1402nd day, Dawn demanded on another 'daddy story'. She jumped a little on her bed. Buffy frowned and made her daughter settle down. She had so much energy that night.
"All right, all right. A daddy story," Buffy said.
She dived in, telling Dawn about the man that was her father. Even events before the chip were told with softness. Buffy cherished every past moment now. Each one was sacred. This particular bedtime story was about the gem or Amara.
"He was so beautiful in the sun," Buffy told Dawn. "Even though his skin was pale and his hair radio-active, he was gorgeous."
"Like an angel," Dawn injected.
A small smile tugged at Buffy's mouth. "Yes, like an angel."
Dawn's eyes fluttered. Buffy leaned down and kissed her cheek.
"Night. Love you."
Buffy left the room to enter the living room. The apartment was small, but well furnished and clean. They managed on Buffy's waitressing income. The tips were what got them through. She went to school part-time also, working toward a psychology major. Someday she hoped to be a high school councilor.
Buffy fixed herself some hot chocolate. She plopped in a few tiny marshmallows, a recent addition. She carried her mug into the living room and curled up on the couch with it. Before she knew it she fell asleep.
Banging jarred her awake. She groggily threw off the green afghan and got to her feet. Who would be visiting them at this hour? Her mind immediately thought 'trouble'. One of the scoobies needed slayer help.
Opening the door, she expected Giles, or maybe Xander. Instead she froze at what she saw. I'm still asleep, she thought.
They gazed at each other without a word. Buffy's hand moved on its own. It came out to touch his face but halted in midair. She was afraid to find out this was all a dream. That she'd wake up as soon as she touched him. Or he would melt away, proving she was hallucinating. Her arm went limp.
"Are-Are you real?" she stammered.
"Invite me in and find out, luv."
Oh God, he could talk. She shook and had to grab the door for support.
"Come in, Spike."
She moved aside, still grasping the door. He hesitantly stepped inside. She remained in her stance, too shocked to do otherwise.
"Buffy . . ."
Her head whipped. She caught him looking at her with that Spike head tilt. Tears stung at her eyes.
She felt him then. He took her into his arms. She slumped into them. He hoisted her up and her face nuzzled into the crook of his neck. He kicked the door shut.
He carried her to the white sofa. He lowered to it, shifting her comfortably on his lap.
"You aren't disappearing," Buffy stated.
"Do you want me to?" His voice was full of insecurity.
He smiled. "Good to know."
She met his eyes. "Why are you here now? After so long?"
His left eye twitched. "How long has it been?"
"1402 days," she softly replied.
"That many?" He sounded surprised. He did the calculation in his head. "Over three years. Time moves so fast here."
"Here?" Buffy frowned. "Where have you been?"
He furrowed his brow. "Don't rightly know. An in-between realm, I gather."
Her arms snaked around his neck. "What happened to you there?"
He cleared his throat. "Well, turns out I did what no other vampire has done. I became a champion without a soul." He chuckled. "At least that's what the big wigs call me. Given my lil heroic plunge they decided I wasn't suited for the fiery pit below. So they had themselves a trial of sorts to choose where I would end up."
"What was the verdict?"
Fear coursed through her. What if this wasn't permanent? What if he came by to say a proper goodbye before moving on? She couldn't deal with seeing him just to lose him again.
He sensed her trepidation and slid a hand soothingly over her hair. "I'm not Sir Lancelot. I've done my share of horror. Far more bad than good. The powers decided I couldn't enter the pearly gates given my past. At least not yet."
"Where will you go then?" Buffy bit her lip.
"Already there, luv."
Overcome with emotion, Buffy sobbed. She roughly kissed him on the mouth. Afterward, she scrambled up and took his hand. She tugged him toward the hall.
"There's someone else who will want to see you."
She rubbed his arm. "It's all right, Spike." She smiled. "I told her. I promised to tell her how great her daddy was, remember?"
Unsure, he continued. They entered the bedroom. It was exactly like what Buffy dreamed during her coma, girly with pink.
Spike stared at the slumbering child, full of wonder. Buffy knew if she didn't do something he'd remain there on the other side of the room. She nudged him forward.
"Go say hi," she urged.
He knelt down at the side of the toddler bed. "She's so beautiful."
"Looks like her father," Buffy said fondly.
"She'll be four in two months." She paused. "You know, she isn't made of glass. You can touch her and she doesn't chip or scratch or anything."
The vampire took his left hand up. He brushed a dirty-blond lock off his daughter's face to get a full view of her angelic features. She suddenly stirred. He turned quickly to Buffy for aid as to what to do. All she did was smiled in encouragement.
Dawn opened her eyes. Blue met blue. It didn't take long for one of them to take action. Dawn smiled warmly.
Spike's eyes glistened. "That's right, kitten."
"You came home."
"That I did."
Her small arms reached out. Spike lowered himself to accept the embrace. Buffy watched the display with tenderness. She longed to come forward and enter the reunion as well. But she dared not move. She couldn't risk breaking the perfect-ness of it all.
"Will you be here in the mornin?" Dawn questioned.
"Not going anywhere, nibblet," Spike said. "Never again."
"Good, cuz I'm tired."
"Close your eyes then. Daddy will be here when you wake."
She scooted over to make room on the bed. "Stay?"
He crawled up beside her. She cuddled against his chest with a smile. Spike looked across the room to Buffy, who hadn't moved. That was all the incentive Buffy needed. She made her way over. She settled on the other side of Dawn.
It would have been a comical sight for any observer. The two adults barely fit on the edges of the children's bed. Despite being on the verge to tumble off, they shared the most restful night of their existence.
Who knew what tomorrow would bring. It didn't matter. Whatever it was they had each other to face it with.
Thanks, everyone, for sticking around to the end. I love you all.
Now I'll get to work on Second the First, sequel to Replay.