Willow turned to smile at Tara, enjoying the way she teased Dawn. The girl was still growing up, still grieving over her sister. She'd wanted to ease her pain, but erasing her memory of her sister was cruel in the witch's eyes. Tara felt the same, offering to help her raise the girl now that she'd lost the last family member she had in the city.
Xander, Anya, Spike, Tara, and her still remained, but Dawn had lost her sister so soon after losing her mother that the girl would've lost herself had she and Tara not stepped in when they had. She was as stubborn as ever and Willow allowed her to patrol along with them so long as she didn't wander on her own. Often times she paired herself with Spike, but the blond vampire preferred doing things by himself. That's when Willow heard Dawn complaining or saw her rolling her eyes when matched with any of the others.
A month had gone by and Willow still hadn't recovered fully herself. She tried to tell Tara just how much it hurt her, but her lover hadn't felt the same for Buffy as she had. They hadn't gone to school together, gossiping and shopping long before the title Slayer came in to the picture. Tara understood the pain even less than Anya did, much to her surprise.
The demon of vengeance hadn't thought Willow's idea all that bad. Of course, they had drunk quite a bit that night. After nearly losing Xander and Dawn, they'd huddled together, keeping watch over the two as the sun came up. Tara had gone upstairs to bed, asking Willow if she'd go up anytime soon, but the redhead couldn't bring herself to sleep. The pressure of keeping them all together while planning as Giles and Buffy often had was wearing on her.
Anya, unused to feeling down, offered to drink a little with her. She'd wanted to feel a bit of joy again. Seeing the one she loved lying there, unconscious and slowly healing, had made her worry that he'd soon follow in Joyce and Buffy's footsteps. That train of thought along with more liquor than Willow normally drank led the two into conversations that ranged from Anya's fear of rabbits to Willow's desire to bring Buffy back.
After asking the others about how they felt with Buffy's death and seeing the pain in all their eyes as well as their voices, she realized that her plan wasn't that bad at all. Unbeknownst to the others, she began researching items she would need to perform such a spell. She knew how badly it could turn out, but she was certain of her power. The only thing stopping her was her own paranoia of the spells themselves.
Giles was completely against the idea, practically calling her mad for even thinking it. She knew he had reasons for not approving. Various, really, but Willow couldn't keep the gang together for much longer. While their eyes dulled compared to when Buffy was around, she could still see them clinging to the slim hope that she was mature and wise enough to pull them through this.
Even Spike, the vampire who'd hunted them for so long, took Buffy's loss nearly as strongly as the rest of them. He looked as if he'd lost a loved one, and that made Willow wonder why Tara didn't react the same. Buffy hadn't been a stranger, never treating Tara badly, before or after knowing the relationship between her and Willow. Yet all would be better soon, as Willow had found something that would call upon someone of a power far greater than hers.
Smiling, Willow tucked the book inside a small bag along with other items she'd need before heading off to the cemetery. When Dawn asked her where she was going, Willow licked her lips and said Anya had asked her to bring something to the shop for her. It was a blatant lie and it made her cheeks burn, but the end result would help. She would make it up to Dawn, the one girl who needed family more than anyone else. What she didn't know was that a certain vampire followed her.
The blond, while taking a drag from his cigarette, continued to wonder about the redhead witch. For the past week, she'd changed. More agitated, going through more and more books late into the morning. Even Dawn noticed the witch hadn't slept as much, finding her in the living room, awkwardly sprawled as she made her way out the door for school. He wouldn't have noticed if the girl hadn't clung to him so much since her sister's departure.
Buffy's younger sister had the incessant need to talk and often trailed behind him since her elder sister's death. Most times, he didn't listen. He didn't want to remember the golden haired Slayer who'd gone from nearly loving him to pining after the same poof his Sire craved. Even if they couldn't be together, with the fates tormenting them with the end of the world, the two desired to be with each other. It made him sick and angry all at once.
Dawn, on the other hand, wouldn't open up to anyone other than him. Repeated it every week for a month now, looking at him with the stupid vulnerability he wanted to take advantage of, but she would change her tact and then he'd find himself picking locks to random buildings to keep them both entertained. Abandoned ones attracted him most, since she wouldn't go breaking into places at random.
He watched the witch approach the city's cemetery, making him even more curious. She paused to take a deep breath, looking around her before going on. He knew the chit's movements enough to hide behind a tree long before she came to a full stop. Right when he would've resumed pursuing her, his senses alerted him of another's presence.
Instinctively, he turned, fangs bared. There were few who could get this close without him being aware. But then, not concentrating at the task at hand often led to other amusements. Seeing Xander with the crossbow in hand definitely made his lip twitch as he imagined all the ways he could torture the boy.
"What're you doin' here?" Xander called, waving the crossbow with a slightly less awkward motion than he usually did.
"Wandering the graves?" Spike replied, reaching into his duster for his box of stoges. "Is it strange to find a vampire so close to his crypt, at night, alone?"
With a roll of his eyes, Xander lowered his weapon. "Why aren't you at the house or patrolling with Dawn?"
For a moment, Spike wondered if anyone would really miss the human. Mulling over the possible reactions, he exhaled a small cloud of smoke. "Could ask why your demon lover isn't behind you, too, but I don't really care for the answer."
"I'm not in the mood for this," Xander said, turning his back on him. "Can you go keep an eye on Dawn?"
Not bothering to answer, Spike stood where he was, waiting until his cigarette only had the tiniest bit left before crushing it beneath his boot. He glanced at the cemetery before him, wondering if the witch would need protection while out here. "You paired with Red tonight?" At Xander's curt nod, his brow quirked. His curiosity got strong enough for him to want to ask, but Xander simply looked annoyed that he hadn't left yet.
Her lips were moving and even though the distance between them was great, he could smell her tears. Anya stood by her side, Xander slowly making it to them. Not wanting another woman telling him of her pain over the Slayer's death, he quickly made his way towards the boring city. Without anyone following his steps and asking hundreds of questions, he walked to Willie's. For the third time that month, he grabbed two bottles of whiskey and headed to the one abandoned building whose roof wasn't completely falling apart.
Unfortunately, anything more than three hours was too much time for him to go undetected. Dawn was walking down the street with a pensive look on her face. The girl knew him well enough by now to look at the rooftops before checking inside and her eyes landed on him almost instantly, her smile growing wide and causing him to groan as she waved enthusiastically.
In the quiet neighborhood, her words echoed down the street. His response to her delightful greeting consisted of him lying against the roof's tiles. But even the building was against him as they loosened and had him sliding down with as much grace as an unprepared child did when a parent gave them a light shove to go down the slide for the first time.
A lesser vampire would've landed on his bum, confounded by it all. Spike, however, managed to roll as he slid down, managing to not only find more loose tiles, but fall inside the building itself. Curses left his mouth as looked around him. Dust floated in the air, bothered by his abrupt intrusion. The sound of footsteps running up the stairs didn't console him in the slightest. If anything, he grew more annoyed as he rose and dusted himself off.
"Spike!" Dawn yelled, hurrying inside the room where he continued to mutter curses. "Spike, are you ok?"
"No, pet, I'm all broken up over dirtying my duster."
"Oh," she said, coughing as the dust filled her lungs. "That was, uh, pretty cool." He glared at her, fixing his hair as best he could. "Haven't seen a vampire fall through the roof before," she continued, smiling at him.
"Come on," Dawn said, removing a large dust bunny from his shoulder, "it's a compliment. I mean, you rarely see vampires fall inside buildings. They usually just kinda jump in, you know?"
Shutting his eyes to keep himself from throttling her, he counted to two before brushing past her. He hadn't expected that to stop Dawn from following after him, but he was hoping the girl would understand and leave him alone. Then again, his fast pace only made the girl jog to catch up, which didn't affect her mood in the slightest.
"Where're ya going?"
Glancing down at her, he let out a sigh. "Why don't you ever leave me alone?"
"Because," she said, ignoring the pained expression on his face, "I've known you too long and you're always alone."
"I like being alone, lil bit."
Dawn tilted her head, her brown eyes searching his blue ones for a moment. "Nope. You're a real bad liar, you know."
"I know what I like, Dawn." His tone was growing more agitated, but she blatantly ignored it as she often did, walking right beside him as he turned towards her home. "And since you've got school or whatever, you should be sleeping."
"Wait," Dawn said, her eyes widening at the prospect of not having him around. "Why? I'll stay quiet, Spike."
His scoff irritated her more than anything else, but she did nothing more, too busy trying to keep the hurt from her face. As always, no matter what she did or how hard she tried, everyone around her kept looking at Dawn as if she were nothing more than a child.
She knew Spike was way older, but she wanted him to see her as more than Buffy's younger sister. This past month, she'd clung to him more than she should have, but with her feelings skyrocketing from happy to depressed, she figured he wouldn't mind much. He complained about everything, yet his dry comments kept her entertained. Apparently, she'd overdone it if his quick pace was anything to go by.
Once outside her home, Dawn turned to look at him. He was fishing in his pocket, no doubt for the box that held his stoges and she wondered how he failed to notice that she'd had a crush on him for the longest time. At first because of his looks, but now, when she looked at him, she saw how hurt he was and wished he would open up to her the way she had with him. He almost had once. Just as quickly, he'd pulled out the box, switching back to silence as he lit a cigarette, same as he did now.
"Why do you push me away?"
He had his back to her, but paused. Glancing over his shoulder, he shrugged. "Does it still surprise you?" There was a moment where her tears caught the streetlight, shimmering in her eyes, but she squared her shoulders and he smirked. Placing the stoge back between his lips, he said, "Don't worry too much, lil bit, I'll be back for you to annoy me soon enough."
Spike ignored her audible sigh, walking to the closest liquor store for another box of cigarettes. It was nearly two in the morning and Spike was growing increasingly agitated. Not only had he not found the redhead witch doing anything suspicious, Willie had gotten on his nerve and one of the two bottles of whiskey had flown at his head, missing by centimeters. Without anyone around to fight, not even Buffy to aggravate, Spike was wondering what he continued to do here.
Wandering about the empty streets with nothing to kill, nothing to keep him intrigued, he decided he might as well skip town. Sure, the world would end soon, but there were plenty of demons out there for him to kill. Sunnydale, always boring, had absolutely no appeal when something wasn't out to destroy them all.
He knew the sun would rise soon when his skin began to prickle. An inner debate went on in his head. At the last moment, he stepped in front of it, but the driver swerved and the brakes squealed almost as loudly as the passengers inside. Wanting to see the fear on their faces, he approached, only to have Xander roll his eyes while Spike cursed.
Of course, the vehicle looked familiar. Aside from every vehicle in this small city looking familiar, practically living in the Summers' home made the car even more recognizable. The headlights, on the other hand, made them all look ridiculously similar.
"Spike, you nearly killed us. That's not very nice!"
This time Spike rolled his eyes. Anya, ever the one to point out the obvious, struggled out of her seatbelt before marching over to him.
"Mortal bodies, not very indestructible."
"Shame, isn't it?"
"Yes," she huffed, confused by his agreement. "And you can't do that when it's us," she yelled. "You know us and we feed you!"
"I feed myself, ex demoness of vengeance."
"Anya," Xander called, stopping her from going on to one of her rants. "We just need to get home, ok? We'll deal with this later," he added, looking at Spike with something oddly resembling disappointment.
"But he doesn't know!"
"Anya," Willow said, her redheaded self peeking through the back seat, "let's go."
"Fine," Anya conceded, walking back to the car with a pout.
Spike's eyes widened, his undead body frozen as the voice echoed in his ears.
"I'm bloody losing it in this town," he muttered to himself.
Disbelieving, Spike turned and saw a familiar blond head leaning against Willow's shoulder. She looked weak, too thin, her face and clothes caked with dirt.
In an instant, he was by Xander's window, peering in. He stared, dumbfounded, as she blinked her eyes open, cringing as if the light behind him hurt her eyes.
"Alright, vamp, back off."
Realizing just how close he'd gotten to Xander in his need to see Buffy, alive, Spike took a step back. His thoughts went from whirling thousands of questions to absolutely nothing until his eyes rose to meet a certain redhead's.
"You brought her back."
The witch simply nodded. Dimly, he realized how tense everyone around him was. A few moments before, he would have enjoyed their awkward state, but right now, with the Slayer before him, all he could do was join them in the silence.
"Spike," Buffy whispered, her voice sounding very raspy, "is Dawn ok?"
He gave a nod, but her eyes hadn't opened. Clearing his throat, he said, "Aside from following me like a shadow, yeah. I haven't bitten her."
What could've been a smile ghosted her lips as she curled into Willow. Disconcerted by how frail she was, he frowned and took another step back. He was about to turn away, hide in his crypt until night came again when Willow whispered something to Xander. Curiosity kept him in place as the man shifted in his seat.
"Hop in the back."
Brow raised, Spike couldn't have kept the smirk off his face even if he'd wanted to. "Tryin' to order me around now that the Slayer's back?"
"Buffy needs to lie in bed, Spike, so get in already."
Staring at the obtuse woman, he spoke slowly, hoping she'd see why he was acting this way. "I live in the opposite direction of the Slayer's home."
"Well," Willow said, running her small hands through Buffy's golden locks, "you've got an invite for the night."
Suspicion rose and he barely stopped himself from snarling at them. "Why should I trust you?"
"We're offering you a place to sleep, hide from the sun, and you're standing there." Xander shook his head. "Let the vampire roast, Buffy's more important, anyway."
The car's ignition roared back to life. The witch held his stare with her green eyes, tapping Xander on the shoulder with her free arm, not once looking away from the blond vampire. "Buffy wanted him to come."
His hand already opening the door, Spike settled himself inside, not paying attention to Xander whose mood turned foul as he sped off. All Spike could do was stare at Buffy, oddly transfixed. He assured himself it was only because seeing her alive again was so against even his norm that he couldn't pull his eyes away. But as the car pulled in to the Summers' driveway, he knew a part of him was thrilled to have her back. Even if she wasn't his in mind or heart.