Chapter 11 – Peace

Spike held Buffy close, drowsily running his hands over her, tracing the length of her back, up and down her arms, over the curve of her hips, loving the warmth of her body, the smooth velvety skin over steely muscle. His caresses slowed and eventually stilled as he drifted into contented slumber. Buffy lay quietly and stroked the arm he had thrown over her. Her mind turned to the Slayer Demon and the many questions she still had. 'Why didn't you ever come out, tell me you were here before Spike and I mated?'

'Now days, the vast majority of humans don't believe in magic and demons, and so they are largely left alone. This wasn't always the case. Fifteen hundred of your years ago, most people did believe. It was a time of great fear and persecution. Anything that was not mundane was at risk of attack. Any intelligent life that was not human was believed to be evil. Witch and demon hunters, dragon slayers, and other killers of the mystical were rampant. Several benign species of magical creatures, some sentient, some not, were hunted to extinction. Much of the antipathy the demon world feels for humankind today originated then, when their harmless brothers and sisters were indiscriminately slaughtered.

'The Council of Watchers, fearing for their slayers' safety, made the decision to conceal my nature. They gave it a top security clearance rating, only to be revealed to each new Head of Council as he took over his position. The one you call the Master killed a Council Head before he passed it along, and the secret was lost.

As they made the decision, they were aware of the danger in having only one secret keeper, but arrogantly believed they couldn't be defeated. They felt that the knowledge that I am a vampire was so dangerous, that it was too risky for more than one person to know, for fear of the secret leaking out and starting a "slayer hunt". Vampire slayers' innate aversion to killing humans would have assured their deaths. The Council feared losing the entire line.

'Had they consulted with me, I would have warned them that lodging any secret with a single man has never worked well. Somewhere along the line there is always an untoward death, and the secret is lost. Despite the risks involved, it always works better to have, at the minimum, a written record as backup. They should have had a mystical one, and an inner circle of human knowledge as well. I have put up with the Council's interference since that time because their original intentions were good. They were trying to protect my little sisters.

'Since the knowledge of my nature was lost, I have found that I cannot reveal myself to my slayer until she is mated. If I do so without her having a mate to support her through the shock of my emergence, she thinks she has lost her mind. Every time I have tried, she has believed either that she had developed a split personality, or that she was possessed by a demon.'

Buffy snorted with laugher over that, then looked worriedly at Spike, fearing she had awakened him. He slept on, oblivious to the momentous attitude changes taking place within her.

'Yes, it is ironic,' continued the demon slayer. 'They can't understand that though they are, in fact possessed, I do not "possess" them, I do not control them. I work only with them, I give them their power. Convinced they are crazy, they become despondent, develop a death wish, and before long, each and every one of them has been slain. I had to start over with a new Chosen One several times. Finally I gave up. Now I wait and watch for my vampires before I surface. With their help, my slayers can accept me. Unfortunately, most of my girls are killed before I find one of my vampires. Of those that I have found, most of my Chosen Ones and vampires have slain one or the other before they can start the dance.

'With William the Bloody, I've had to be cautious. He has always sought out my slayers, but he is far too formidable for most of them to have a chance. William found me two times before you were chosen. He was my favorite in the mists of the past, my Champion. As you know, he is a mighty warrior. As you have also discovered today, he can pull victory out of certain defeat. He almost did it in the beginning. Only by birthing an immense new army at the end of the war, and overwhelming us with vastly superior numbers, was the Order able to overcome us.

'I wanted William from the time he found us during your Boxer Rebellion in China, but poor Mei-Ling was no match for him, even as young as he was then. Several times through the years, he almost found us, and I had to maneuver my little sisters out of his path, knowing that they were not strong enough, or not fiery enough to be his type, and that he would kill them. I had brief hopes for Nicky when he found us. He danced longer with her than he did with Mei-Ling, but in the end he killed her as well.

Strangely, Buffy felt pity for the slayers who hadn't been given the chance to know Spike. 'Why didn't you let more of them try? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad it was me that got him, but still...'

'Buffy, I am well acquainted with both his power and his tenacity. If William the Bloody had found them, they wouldn't have survived. But I was protecting him too. If he became too notorious for killing too many slayers, the Council would have overwhelmed him with sheer numbers, as happened in the mists. I didn't want to lose him.

'You are the first in many years that I have thought might have a chance to take him, and therefore the only one he might be intrigued with enough, to leave alive long enough to start the mating dance. But you were still very young when he found you. I considered trying to hide you from him for a few years, until you were more seasoned, but he came and camped on your Hellmouth and I was unable to do so. He let you live that first night, though, and I started to hope.

'Have you realized that every time he had the opportunity to kill you, he hesitated, stopped to boast or changed his mind, so that you lived? You passed up opportunities to kill him, as well. When you were both allowing the other to escape to live another day, I knew. You were the one. Someday you would be ready for him, and then I could show myself to you. Only you have had the allure for him as well as the power to stay alive long enough, that he fell in love with you. Never feel unsure of your place in his heart, Buffy.'

For a few moments Buffy lay and basked in the demon slayer's words. For the first time in as long as she could remember, she didn't have to wonder when her man would leave her. This one never would. 'What are the odds that I would meet such a rare vampire? And on top of that, that I would catch him rather than kill him?' Buffy realized that she would never have found the kind of love that she and Spike shared anywhere else. That brought Angel to mind. 'Angelus wasn't one of yours,' Buffy deduced. Now she knew why Angelus hadn't loved her without a soul.

'That is correct. Angelus was one of the great ones on the other side. It is fitting that he is trapped in a body with a human soul, forced to fight for mankind.' The demon laughed grimly. 'With any luck, he will live a millennia more in that condition.'

Buffy agreed. Yes, hopefully Angelus would live with that punishment for a good many more years. Angel was a great warrior for the Light. He wasn't her destiny, but she wanted him still here, still fighting. 'You said something earlier about merging. What did you mean?'

'Accept yourself and me fully, and our minds will connect. Before I emerge, I have to limit my help to 'slayer dreams.' Unfortunately, human dreams are so subjective, so obscure that my slayers and their watchers often misinterpret them, sometimes fatally so. After mating, when I come forward, we can communicate overtly. But with the merger, my power and experience will be directly available to you, just as you are accessible to me. We won't have to waste time talking, you'll 'know'. We'll become One in purpose and deed as well as body. We'll be THE SLAYER.' A deep boom echoed faintly in Buffy's head, accompanying the Demon's words.

Quietly Buffy lay and thought about what the demon slayer had told her. Did she want to meld with her, for that matter, did she dare to? Would she still be herself if she did, or would she be submerged in some great Slayer Consciousness? 'Don't be offended, but this is a way scary thought,' she directed to the inner slayer. She felt a laugh, 'No worries, little sister. It's your choice. If you accept the meld, you'll still be yourself, just as I am still myself, but you'll also be more than yourself.'

Buffy contemplated her life since becoming a slayer. She thought of her many experiences, and of the many times she had desperately needed help. In the past, she had felt overwhelmed by her calling, alone in the midst of family and friends. She'd been resentful that she was asked to blindly fight the forces of evil, and had had a desperate desire to live a normal life.

She thought of the many times she had prevailed despite feeling alone; of all the good that she had been able to do. Buffy realized that fighting for the Right was a part of her now. In fact, she'd be devastated if she couldn't be involved in 'world save-age' any more. She felt peace fill her soul. Buffy came to terms with the fact that while she couldn't save everyone, there were many she could. No longer would she be tortured by those she failed to protect. She'd be able to feel thankful for those she did. For the first time she felt happy that she had been chosen to fight for the Light. She was no longer weighed down by her calling and responsibilities. As never before, she felt at peace with herself as a slayer.

As Buffy was able to accept herself, feelings of acceptance for the immortal Slayer within her grew. Her feelings of resistance, resentment, insecurity, inferiority, and jealousy of the demon slipped away. Now she realized that her wish to have a normal life had been a byproduct of her loneliness and fear. In truth, she had never been alone. She had an immensely powerful entity that was always with her; someone who had been through it all many times before, and would help her to take the right path through the coming trials in her life. 'Bottom line, Buffy. You are not alone.'

With that thought, a feeling of fullness and joy passed over her. The deep booming that she had only heard earlier now reverberated throughout her body. She felt whole and complete, and knew that she and the demon slayer were now one in body and mind. Buffy's being was filled with power AND peace, as only a fully integrated, self-aware Slayer could be.

To complete her happiness, Buffy now had her own mate, her own champion. He would stand by her side and lighten the load she carried in life. He would bring her joy and comfort; indeed, he would make her life worth living. She turned to Spike, and wrapping her arms around him, Buffy kissed him awake.

The end