Series: We Can Run Away Now They're All Dead and Gone.
Part One: Things Born of Fire
Disclaimer: Buffy belongs to Joss Whedon, not me.
A/N: Thanks you to my betas spikendru, stretfordditto and noandwhere.
48 hours ago.
The legs of the stool squeaked under Giles' weight, as he reached up to the top of the cabinets in Buffy's kitchen. He managed to steady his balance, and stretched his arm further across the dust covered surface. He smiled; it appeared nobody had discovered where he'd been storing his treasure.
Giles began his descent, a box of Jaffa Cakes clutched in his hand. When his feet touched the floor, he tore through the packaging. He took his first bite into the chocolate and sponge; it was pure heaven.
"So, that's where you've been hiding them, is it?" Spike said. Giles took a deep breath, which did nothing to steady his frayed nerves. And, so ends my peace.
Giles got down from his perch; Spike had already turned his back towards him, and missed the glare aimed in his direction. Spike was digging through the contents of the refrigerator. His fingers curled around an open milk carton and pulled it out, then slammed the door shut.
"What are you doing here?" Giles asked. He hadn't planned to speak, but at least his tone was even, no inflection had bled into it, which preserved his dignity. "Shouldn't you be at the high school, preparing with the others?"
"It's daylight." Spike said, and inclined his head towards the back yard.
"That never seemed to stop you before. What on earth happened to that moth eaten blanket yours?"
Spike shrugged, before taking a swig from the milk carton. He stopped mid-gulp, and narrowed his eyes at the label.
"That's for humans." Giles said.
"It's got tomorrow's date on it," Spike sighed, "Wonder if any of us do too?"
Giles had been thinking that too, since Buffy's latest speech. No, it was before that. He didn't feel that any of the girls were ready to face death, but maybe they'd surprise him - Buffy had.
"I was never in the dark as to that," Giles said. "I always knew what I was signing up for."
Spike nodded. "I grabbed that bloody brass ring with both hands; turned out to be barbed."
"No, you've never done anything by halves."
"Could say the same about you. You can be a right ruthless bastard, when you've got to be," Spike said, and took the seat opposite Giles. "Put the blood on your hands, so that she doesn't have to. Always, admired that about you."
"You were a threat." Giles looked down, he couldn't bring himself to mention Ben. He was a sacrifice he still would be willing to make, but a sacrifice nevertheless. Spike inspected his knuckles with intense scrutiny. Giles wondered if he too was looking for the splatters of blood.
"She's not gonna fail."
"I know. Buffy's a great strategist, when she puts her mind to it."
"It's why she always ended up kicking my arse. Not that I was always complaining about that," Spike said, the affection in his tone evident to Giles, although it made him uncomfortable. "I'm just telling it like it is, Watcher."
"Indeed." Giles held the box out to Spike, "Jaffa cake?"
Spike stretched his arm out towards the box. He stopped, his muscles seemingly seizing up. "Didn't inject them with holy water did you?"
"I can assure you, I did not. I know that you like them," Giles exhaled, "I had to eat them all when you moved out of my flat into that dreary crypt of yours. I was seduced by their charms.
"My sympathies," Spike said, and reached for one, "Alright, I'll take your olive branch. Take my pleasures where I can find them." He smirked, goading Giles with the implications of that. "'Cause, I got it figured, I'm the likely candidate for the chop, come tomorrow."
Giles took another bite of his Jaffa Cake. "And, how did you come to that conclusion about your imminent death?"
"Got a shiny trinket, and that's almost never a good omen. I've also got that same feeling, the one I had the night Buffy threw herself off that tower." Spike said as he gritted his teeth.
"You didn't die that night." Giles noticed Spike's Adam's apple bob as he spoke.
"No, something worse happened. I'm going to make sure it doesn't happen again."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"Because, if something does happen to me, I need to know that you're going to be there for her," Spike unclenched his fingers and looked up at Giles. "If, I'm out of the way then you two stand a chance at being pals again. She needs people she can trust."
"And, you think that person should be me?" Giles asked sceptically.
"I'm not saying she hasn't surpassed you, because she has. But, she's forgiven the lot of you, still loves you all. She needs her friends and family.
"I know," Giles nodded, "I'm not doing this for you."
Spike laughed. "Rupert, I know the bloody score. Beside, I can only trust someone, who loves her more than their own worthless hide."
The Scoobies had decided to have breakfast at the local diner, about a block away from their motel. Initially, they'd been lured in by the aroma of sugary and fried foods, and then by the rich smell of percolating coffee. When they had first entered the diner, they'd been assaulted by the strong stench of industrial disinfectant; the tables had been wiped down in anticipation of the morning rush, but so far they'd been the only customers.
Xander was relieved that it was just the five of them. He'd become far too accustomed to having to eat with a dozen or more people. Giles had even agreed to pick up the tab - to Xander's mind there was almost nothing better than a free meal. His stomach didn't seem to agree, however, if the sickening pace it was churning at was a good indication.
He let his weight sag forward against the plastic guard of the pastry counter.
"You okay, Xander?" Willow asked. She put a hand on his shoulder and drew him away from the confectioneries. Xander nodded, which set off a new cluster of headaches in his skull. Willow leaned into his side for a moment, in an almost hug. He wondered if she would have been as sympathetic, if she knew he was hung over. Giles was the only one who knew. Giles had been waiting in his motel room. It had been almost three in the morning when he stumbled in, but Giles had seemed weary of lecturing him on the evils of liquor, and merely helped him into bed. Giles hadn't said anything to the others about the state Xander had been in.
He looked over to Buffy and Giles, who were currently seated at a small table, by the front window of the diner. They were both sipping their coffees in silence, but it wasn't the awkward quiet that had been present during the last few months in Sunnydale. The two were smiling, and Xander exhaled and relaxed. He hated the strain of how things were between them back at the house.
Dawn tapped him on the shoulder, and handed him a doughnut. The oozing jelly had already soaked into the napkin; his stomach somersaulted again.
"You've got to start the day off with a balanced breakfast of sugar and starch." Dawn said.
He rolled his eyes but took the doughnut anyway. He decided he was in need of comfort food—high-calories for the soul, then hopefully some Pepto-Bismol to wash it down with.
"Is that why you've ordered Buffy the leaning tower of pancakes?"
"Uh-huh." Dawn nodded, and tossed a handful of napkins against his chest. He smirked, and followed her over to where Buffy and Giles sat. Willow joined them.
"What are those?" Buffy gaped, as Dawn pushed the plateful of syrup drenched pancakes in front of her.
"They're pancakes. You eat them." Dawn explained, stretching the syllables to the breaking point.
"Did you bring a shovel? 'Cause that's what it's going to take."
"Ha ha ha, your wit wounds me. Now eat." Dawn ordered her.
"You're not the boss of me, I'm the boss of you." Buffy told Dawn, but gave in and took a bite. The other three exchanged amused glances at the exchange; Buffy smiled back at them.
Faith's muscles were still aching, from the battle in Sunnydale, and her ribs were still healing from when the demon attacked at the hospital. She was taking a long time to heal, though sleeping at Robin's bedside in an uncomfortable hospital chair hadn't helped.
She walked along the motel's parking lot toward the school bus. She could see most of the girls were already sitting inside. Andrew's face was squashed against the window; his breathing was slack in a peaceful sleep. She pounded her fist against the glass, and he woke with a start.
Giles pressed a button in the dashboard which opened the vehicles' doors.
"Where's the girl?" Giles asked, he wrenched his neck to the side, trying to see past Faith.
"Yeah, Giles, I'm alright," Faith huffed, "I got no sleep, and a kink in my neck's not going any place soon."
He gave her a look of confusion. She quirked her eyebrows at him and smiled – Giles was too easy to mess with, it almost took the fun out of teasing him. "The girl's fine. She just doesn't want in on the wonderful world of vampire slaying. But, you can always try and convince her when we swing back around for Robin tomorrow."
"No," Giles shook his head, "What, I mean is I'm not going to force her to become a Slayer. I'm not sure that we should be doing that, not anymore."
"Not anymore." Faith repeated. Giles nodded, it seemed to her the oddest thing a watcher had ever said. She wasn't sure how she felt about it.
She took her seat toward the back of the bus; finally she could rest.
"Faith," Andrew clambered up. "What happened at the hospital with the--?"
"My head's pounding; wanna keep your mouth shut a while?" She leaned back and shut her eyes.
"I was only going to ask about that Ukobach demon. I was the one that figured out what it was and--."
"We killed it," Faith said. She shuddered as she recalled the demon; the bastard was intelligent and brutal, the evil had just rolled off it. She still couldn't figure out why it killed that girl and spared her. "That's all your getting little boy, no sound bites or interviews for you to Candid Camera."
Andrew sulked, "Buffy's the better Slayer, anyways."
"Like hell she is."
"Her hair is shinier."
"You're gonna be walking to LA, if you don't shut your mouth."
"I could thumb it," he wiggled his thumb in her face, "Hitch-hiking's my extreme sport; one time I made it all the way to Mexico."
"I could break that." Faith said, getting a wicked gleam in her eyes. "So, you'd better get your hand out of my face."
Andrew shrunk back into his seat. "I'll be quiet."
Andrew sighed, and looked out the window. He wondered what was taking Buffy so long. She couldn't be spending all this time picking out an outfit. It wasn't even like she had that much choice; she only had two outfits—one that was splattered in her blood and another, which someone had picked for her that didn't know her size. It was LA, so of course blood-covered made a better fashion statement than baggy.
He hadn't put his old clothes back on himself. He couldn't; the blood on his shirt wasn't even his own. It was Anya's. It was all that they had left of her. He should have done something meaningful with it, instead of throwing it in the motel's trash.
He saw something flicker out of the corner of his eye. It quickly moved across the car park, a black streak that looked like smoke. It slid, moving fluidly. It darted across the sidewalk and was gone. A shiver ran down his spine.
"If you ask, are we there yet?" Faith yawned, "I'm gonna snap your forearm in two."
It was car exhaust, that's what it was. He closed his eyes, wrapped his arms around himself. He knew it would be a while before he could sleep again.
Buffy's hand hurt; it was still pink and tender, from when she clasped Spike's hand. She placed her palm against the window; the cold night's air still clung there.
She stood alone in the motel room; she really didn't feel like going to LA and explaining herself to Angel again.
She heard Elsa calling one of the other slayers, telling her to check the room to make sure they had everything. They both began laughing about nothing. Buffy knew she'd been young like that once. It felt like such a long time ago; she and Willow certainly didn't giggle like that anymore.
"It really wasn't that long ago." Buffy knew that voice, of course she did. It been kind, and understanding in life. She meet a pair of blue eyes in the glass.
"Not long ago? It was high-school," Buffy sighed, "It was before Willow fell in love, with you."
"And, before you loved him?"
Tara put her hand to Buffy's face, flesh touched flesh, and she knew that the dead that were visiting weren't the First.
"It's all going to be okay, in the end. You know that don't you?" Tara laughed; it was soft, more like a breath than an actual sound. "Right, I don't even know that. But we are all here with you, unwanted by the grave. You have a heart that carries the dead."
"And, I went all literal interpretation with that."
The smile on Tara's lips hurt Buffy to see it.
"Tara?" Buffy asked.
"You're at peace, aren't you?"
"I'm not sure. Are you?" Tara asked, "No, it's not so simple. None of this is. Willow and Faith think they killed that demon. But you can't; you awoke a sleeping giant, now it wants a part of you all. The only way to--."
Buffy's door swung half open. "Buffy, come on it's time to go." Willow called to her.
Buffy shut her eyes. She couldn't look at Tara's ghost and be hearing Willow in the same moment.
"I'll be right there." Buffy called back.
"Okay," The door fell shut.
Buffy opened her eyes, but of course Tara wasn't there anymore.
"Goodbye." Buffy said the word at last.