Book Two - A New Life

Title: The Numbers Game

Author: Nimue

Rating: PG

Feedback: Yes, please.

Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Inc.

Summary: This book is the sequel to the Twist on NA series. The beginning of a new arc, or a new season. Basically, I operated on the assumption that the NA series ended with the end of S6 and this picks up at the beginning of S7. They are not really separate entities, but rather a continuation after a duration of time.

The Numbers Game

It was a beautiful night. She could see every star, every moonbeam, every point of light in the late summer sky. She walked slowly, heavily along the path, remembering the steps. There were precisely 442 footfalls from her house to the gates of the cemetery. 62 from the main road to the footpath. 18 from the path to his door. The last 18 were always the longest. 18 steps.

Buffy knocked on the door of the crypt. No answer. She knocked again.

Still silence. Quietly, she let herself in, lighting a candle by the door and taking it with her. Candle was wasting away. Maybe time to get a new one.

"You should learn to use candles in foreplay." She heard his voice. Buffy wheeled around, but it was silent again. The voice was inside her head.

"Spike?" she called out tentatively. No answer. She walked along the wall, trailing her fingers on the cold stone. Walking the perimeter of the upper level. "Spike?" she called again. Nothing.

Buffy walked both levels, her hand connecting with the stone. She could

feel him here. She felt him everywhere. The walls, the doors, the bed, the moon, the clouds, the streets, the alleys, the trees, the bushes and most of all, growing inside of her. A neat little package of comfort and torture.

She finished her rounds. Nothing but stone and furniture and half-burnt

candles. Slowly, she made her way to the bed and sat on the edge, staring at the flickers of the candle flame. The shadows on the wall. "Guess you aren't home," she whispered, setting the candle on the table next to the bed.

There was a pad and pen sitting where the candle now rested. She lifted the pad, turning it in her hands. Fingering the pen like the blade of a sword. Buffy sat the tablet in her lap and ran the pen across the paper, just high enough that the nib did not touch.

"You're a tease, Love." His voice again. Still she spun, searching the

room. But it was only in her head.

Buffy steadied herself, then dropped the point to the paper.

I love you, Spike.

She had written it 94 times. Every night since the schoolyard. Every night she came to the crypt, running her hands along the stone. Checking to see if this was all just a nightmare. Finding out that it was not.

The first night was blurred with panic and fear. She remembered being sick. Rocking in the grass. Forcing herself to *say the words* to Dawn even though she had not believed them herself.

He's gone.

She had bolted from the schoolyard, outrunning herself, chugging on weak and wounded legs to the cemetery. To the crypt. Thinking he'd just gone home.

Maybe he had.

But not this home.

She had walked the walls, calling his name, but he wouldn't answer. She was so angry. He promised he would never leave! She had torn the place apart, but he never showed.

That was the night she discovered the tablet. Only one page had been used. The poem he had told her he had written in Africa. Murderers and Saviors we were. Every night. She cried as she read it. She cried when she was through. It occurred to her that in all the time she had known him, she had managed to admit to almost everyone that she loved the Vampire. But she had never said it to him. Now she would never say it.

I love you, Spike.

She had written it 94 times. 94 nights. 94 lifetimes.

And she would write it every night.

Buffy eased her tired body onto the bed, curling up in the sheets. Curling up inside of herself. It was safer there. There they were together. She wrapped her arms around herself and closed her eyes.

'You know I love you, right?'

'Yes'

'I'll always be with you'

'I'm glad. I don't ever want to be without you.'

Damn my pride, she thought. I could've just said it. I meant it all along. I had known I meant it since Glory. Damn my stupid pride.

'You know I love you, right?'

'Yes. I love you too.'

How hard would that have been?

Buffy squeezed her eyes tighter, willing herself someplace else.... On the couch. He was pressed against her. Basking in the afterglow, as he liked to say. When he told her that he heard their heartbeats and it sounded like rain. Her heart had nearly burst with happiness. Not that she said anything.

Did he even know?

Kate Bush song played over and over inside her mind.

"All the things I should've said that I never said.

All the things I should've done though I never did

All the things that you needed from me.

All the things that you wanted for me.

Oh, darling, make it go..."

She lay there quietly every night. 94 nights running.

What wouldn't I do to go back?, she thought.

Nothing.

Just to say it.

He deserved that.

*****

"Buffy?" Her eyes popped open. It was dark and cold. A candle flickered to life in the doorway.

"Dawn?" she answered. Buffy hoisted her body up onto her elbows. Eight months and counting. There was no denying it now.

"Thought you might be here," the girls said, crossing the room to the bed. She perched on the edge next to her sister.

"Must have fallen asleep," Buffy replied, lifting her hand to rub her eyes and immediately flopping back to the pillows. Slayer abs were not going to be enough to hold her up now. "Ugh," she grunted, stretching out.

"Doing OK?" Dawn asked, rubbing her sister's calves. Buffy purred in

response.

"Considering the wiggly heavy thing that has taken up residence in my belly and the fact that it never stops tap dancing, I'm fine," Buffy responded, her hands planted on the bulge in her abdomen. She was being kicked nearly constantly now. What did she expect considering the parents?

"Angry baby?" Dawn asked, rubbing Buffy's belly and getting an invisible

foot to the palm.

"Very cranky," Buffy answered.

They were quiet for a long time. Buffy knew that Dawn felt him there too. Sensed him everywhere.

"You miss him a lot, don't you Buffy?" Dawn asked. Seemed like the

understatement of the century.

"Yeah," Buffy whispered, feeling the hot tears welling in the backs of her eyes. She willed them back, but a few strays escaped. Dawn brushed them off Buffy's cheeks.

"Come on, Moby Dick," Dawn chided, "time to go home." She pulled Buffy

upright and onto her feet. Buffy tried to think of a clever comeback, but she felt like the great white whale today.

They padded through the crypt hand in hand. At the door, Buffy stopped,

looking around again. "I am home," she whispered to the air. The door

closed softly behind her.

To be contd.