Five Words or Less
Author's Notes: Thank you nrdhrd3, SpaztasticalMaiden13, Ashes2Ashes121, randyzoopurple, Secret Slayer, Gothic Saku-chan, ginar369, Vivi H88, TieDyeJackson, Moontan, Obscurebookwyrm (who gave me some amazing critique and suggestions to incorporate in the last chapter), Hercules8, juggling, Da 0122, BeneficialAddiction, and anon guest for reviewing and also EllieRose101 for screaming with happiness via Twitter.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. Lyrics from "I Can't Take My Eyes Off You" by Melanie Doane, which is from the episode "Family", but I didn't feature it in that early chapter so I'm having it now (even though, lol, it's really about a lady singing at her TV). This epilogue is extra fluffy, but after the trauma of the last 280,000 words… I think they all deserve it.
Previously on BtVS: AGriffs is a terrible, terrible sadist and kills off everyone. Just kidding! Even though Doc nicks Dawn, Spike saves the day, sealing her cuts – thus closing the portal because the blood stops flowing – and everybody survives falling off the crumbling tower. Broken bones all around! Also, Giles asphyxiated Ben to death, but none of the Scoobies are aware of that.
Against the backdrop of sunrise, they make their way down the familiar avenues of Sunnydale, some of them shuffling to hold up the wounded, all of them so exhausted that even speaking words of gratitude seems like too much of an energy draw.
"Anybody want coffee?" Willow asks when they draw level with the Espresso Pump, a few steps away from dropping their weapons off at the Magic Box.
"You buyin'?" smirks Spike, his face hidden from the sun by a painting canvas he'd found in the warehouse. One of his arms is around his own broken ribs, and the other is around Buffy's – her hands mirroring him except that Dawn is tucked against her opposite side, the troll-hammer dragging on the ground.
"Um…" Willow checks her pockets and comes up short one wallet. Her eyes petulantly seek out Giles.
"Oh… go on, then," sighs the Watcher, forking over his credit card, wincing a bit when the motion pulls on his side. Willow takes it gingerly – as though it will screech like a car alarm if treated too casually – and then pulls Tara toward the order line of the all-night coffee shop. The rest of the battered warriors slip into the Magic Box and give out a unified sigh of relief, comforted by the familiar headquarters. Buffy lets the hammer clunk to the ground, and Spike balls up the painting canvas and tosses it into a corner.
"Hello money!" Anya gushes, hurrying over to the cash register and hugging it. "I thought I'd never see you again!"
"Quit makin' us laugh," Spike protests weakly as he, Buffy, and Dawn start chortling. "Tryin' to keep my bloody ribs from fallin' out over here."
"Hey, hey," grins Xander, depositing his and Anya's weapons in a disorderly heap. "Have I gotten a genuine Dawnster hug yet?"
The teen slips out from under Buffy's arm and heads for him, and Giles sits down at the circular table with another distinct wince.
"Could fix that up for you, Watcher," Spike offers, noticing.
"I believe you've had quite enough blood for one day, Spike," Giles replies in an undertone.
Buffy frowns, interlocking her arms tighter around her vampire, now that Dawn is being half-embraced, half-wrestled by Xander and Anya.
"Giles… he saved Dawn… saved the world. What were we supposed to do, slap some band-aids on her and hope she'd heal up in an hour or two while the universe was being ripped… apart…"
Buffy's words fade away with a shudder, and she buries her face in Spike's shoulder, taking deep breaths to steady herself. After all this time, these months and months of fear, playing hide-and-seek with a god… we're free…
"It's okay, luv," he murmurs. "Pro'ly all oughta head 'round to the hospital in a bit, get all you lot seen to. Demon Gal an' the good witches might need to be checked for concussions. Tape up your ribs."
"Mine'll be fine. Slayer healing. I'd rather just go home and rest." She traces the partially-healed knife cut that streaks across his cheek and t-shirt. "Did Doc do this?"
"Yeah, but like Watcher said. Blood'll fix me up."
"I can give you more later… tonight," she whispers, leaning in to press her lips to where the gash crosses his cheekbone.
"Mmm… not 'till you're all patched up, sweet'eart…"
"Whoa, too much PDA going on over there," teases Xander from across the room, pretending to shield Dawn's eyes. "Get a room!"
Spike replies with a two-fingered salute behind Buffy's head, then lifts her up and kisses her deeply, her arms locking around his neck.
"How'd you guys get back from the middle of nowhere?" Dawn asks, sitting up on the glass countertop even though Anya points insistently at the 'Do Not Lean' sign.
By the time Xander animatedly explains all that has happened between Dawn's kidnapping and the rescue, Willow and Tara arrive with the doctored-up coffees in two cardboard trays, return Giles's credit card, and distribute the hot beverages around to them all.
"We got Dawn a mocha," the redhead says guiltily to Buffy. "I said for them to only put a half-shot in it, but if you don't want her to have–"
"Oh, go ahead!" sighs Buffy, now seated at the table after re-bandaging Giles's bleeding side. "She's already taller than me. A single cup won't stunt her growth. Does coffee even do that?" She leans back against Spike's chest.
"Dunno, luv. Think that might've been debunked a while back," he shrugs, accepting his own drink. "The worst thing that could happen now is the Lil' Bit bouncin' off the walls all day."
Xander lets out a sudden barking laugh that nearly makes them spill their coffees.
"What?" demands Willow, shuffling over to Giles's side table where he keeps napkins among all his other tea-brewing equipment.
"I just thought of how much the contractor's not gonna be thrilled when he shows up in a few hours and there are huge freaking fault lines all over the pavement," Xander chuckles.
"That's not the worst of our problems," says Giles soberly. "We should consider what's to be done with, erm, the bodies of the Knights of Byzantium. And there's the matter of the psychiatric ward inmates. We should ascertain whether their minds were freed, either when the portal closed or when…" He trails off, his face grim.
"I am so not on crazy patrol today," mutters Buffy. "One post-apocalypse Slayer vacation coming right up. I plan to hibernate in front of the TV and eat whatever I want for at least two days. Then I will help get those people back to the hospital if they need it."
"And have a go at whatever hell-hounds snuck through the portal for the bit it was open," Spike reminds her. "Am I the only one who noticed the soddin' dragon?"
Willow, Xander, and Anya all raise their hands, slightly wigged by the reminder. Tara glances up briefly, but remains quiet, looking penitent and perhaps even ashamed. Concerned, Spike reaches across the table and pats her arm.
"Good to have you back, Glinda."
She raises her head, her soft blue eyes fill of anxiety. "I… I'm s-sorry I couldn't help more, that I was all useless w-while we were running, a-and…"
"Bollocks," says Spike. "You've got as much claim on savin' Dawnie as the rest of us. If not for you, we would've had to go peerin' under every rock in town tryin' to find Glory's new digs. Never would've gotten there in time."
Immediately, Dawn hops off the counter, rushes over, and throws her arms around Tara, while the rest of them nod, equally thankful.
"But hey, if you wanna take a leaf out of Willow's apology book and make us a billion cookies…"
"Xander!" Buffy, Willow, and Anya all scold him, and the carpenter lifts his hands in surrender.
"Could we all go home soon?" Dawn asks over Tara's shoulder. "This dress is itchy."
"S'pose we could take Ben's car," offers Spike. "Think I parked the rusty clunker over at the hospital."
Xander raises a brow. "Dude, you definitely killed that thing's engine. I'd be surprised if it even starts up anymore."
"Got us back in time, didn't I? Time enough to suss out a proper plan?"
"Then don't cast aspersions on my drivin'."
"Guys, your macho-brawl can wait until later, okay?" laughs Buffy. She sips the last of her coffee and tosses it basketball-style into the waste bin across the room.
Once Spike is sheltered under his trusty tarp, the limping and beaten-up heroes of Sunnydale mosey back to 1630 Revello Drive, still hugging each other in inexpressible relief. The moment the front door is unlocked, Spike crashes onto the living room couch with a soft "Oof!", Dawn scrambles around closing all the blinds and then clomps upstairs for a change of clothes, and Giles steps to the telephone.
"Don't take too long, G-man," calls Xander as everyone except Willow and Tara flop down onto other sofas and chairs, the witches moving instead into the kitchen to wash the dust, grime, and whipped-cream mustaches off each others' faces. "I'm dying for a pizza."
"I'm merely ringing up the hospital to set appointments for the girls and see if any of the inmates have been sighted," Giles answers, rolling his eyes. "Buffy, are you sure you don't–"
"I'm sure," she replies, poking Spike until he rotates over onto his back, then scooping up his head to set it on her lap. She runs her fingers through the disheveled, gel-dampened tufts of his hair. "You should wear it like this all the time, handsome," she whispers.
"Like what? Lookin' as though it hasn't been washed in who-knows how long?"
"All spiked and wild, like you. Plus… it sometimes looks kinda like ramen noodles all slicked back."
"Hey!" Spike pouts, but Buffy leans over and kisses him, and all complaints flee his mind. He reaches up to caress the back of her neck with his fingertips, and the Slayer and vampire ignore several throat-clearings from Giles before they finally turn to look at him.
"I thought you might be pleased to know, Buffy, that the patients from the psychiatric ward returned there for some inexplicable reason, and are beginning to regain their sanity. They will be released to their families as soon as possible." He hands the phone off to Xander and sits down opposite to Buffy and Spike. "I reluctantly admit that the absence of your chip proved to be rather advantageous. The escaped patients might have been too indomitable otherwise."
"What is this, the S.A.T.?" Buffy mutters in Giles's direction. "Fire bad, tree pretty, remember? No big words at our victory party."
"Nothin' multisyllabic, then?" Spike smirks, sleepily nuzzling her neck with the tip of his nose. She swats his arm lightly, a bright smile across her face.
Willow pokes her head in from the kitchen, looking thoroughly scrubbed and well-kissed.
"We decided we are gonna make a billion cookies. Any requests?"
"Chocolate chip!" cries Dawn excitedly from the stairs, out-shouting both Giles's soft suggestion of "Oatmeal," and Anya's plea for "Gingerbread!" The teen glares at them both before dashing into the kitchen to help Willow and Tara, and a moment later they all hear relaxing radio music resounding through the main floor.
"Make whatever you bloody-well like, Red," calls Spike, chuckling. He sits up enough to make room for Anya on the couch beside him and Buffy, wraps his arm around his beloved, and kisses her forehead, her hands resting on his chest. She gives a trembling sigh, and Spike tips her chin up so he can see her face.
"You a'right, luv?"
"I… I just can't believe it's over. We really beat her. We saved Dawn. You saved Dawn."
He shudders and hugs her tighter. "Never been so scared like that in my whole existence. Doc knocked me off… an' I was so sure I'd fall… that I'd fail you. You trusted me to do anythin' I could to save Niblet, an' I'd given you my promise that I would. Buffy… knowin' that you love me is the only thing that gave me the strength to hold on to that bloody cable."
She trails her fingertips along his bicep, the muscles beneath her touch still tensed and strained, red stretch-marks like bruises on his skin.
"I meant what I said. You are my gift, Spike, in every way. Not just because of the blood thing."
"I know, pet. I'm yours, always yours."
He presses his lips to her forehead again, their words resounding through his head. Mine… yours… claim words, but a'course she doesn't know that. An' that's nothin' I'd ever push for. Don't need some hyped-up vampire mojo to know this girl's my forever love.
So dear to me, always keep me company…
I can't take my eyes off you
Nothing ever needs to be said
Send your message right into my head…
Batch by batch, heavily laden cookie trays start to fill every available surface of the living room, so much so that when the doorbell rings and the pizza guy hands over the ten boxes Xander had ordered, they end up just spreading a towel over the carpet and eating off paper plates on the floor.
"At last!" Xander grins, sorting through the wicker basket of movies beside the Summers' TV. "A nightmare-free follow up to our end-of-year big battle!"
"Xander! Knock on wood right now!" exclaims Willow sternly, while Spike smirks and pulls the stack of pizza boxes out of the boy's reach.
"So, no pizza for you, then, mate?"
"Give those back, Bleach Boy!"
"I'm serious, Harris. Pizza gives you nightmares," Spike teases. "I'd better eat it all, just in case."
"Did anybody want Snickerdoodles?" asks Tara, arriving with impeccable timing with a fresh tray of warm, gooey dessert.
Five hands shoot into the sky, and Tara replaces one of the empty cookie trays on the coffee table with the new one.
"This is going to be the last batch, I'm afraid," she shrugs. "We're all out of sugar, Buffy."
"They've all been fantastic!" the Slayer gushes, munching an oatmeal raisin from the last set. "You and Willow should come in here and enjoy them!"
"I don't know. W-we might go back over to the dorm and start sorting our stuff, figure out w-where we're staying until we can get a n-new place. Willow's mentioned calling her parents, b-b-but she's not sure if they're in cell range. The last she heard from them, they w-were in the middle of the Appalachian – what?" asks Tara, flushing slightly as Buffy begins to laugh.
"You sillies! You're staying here! The master bedroom is all yours."
"Oh, n-no, we couldn't p-possibly…"
Buffy snorts. "Well, Spike and I aren't going to use it." The king-sized bed in his crypt is bigger anyway. "It's just going to sit there collecting dust. Please, Tara. My mom loved you guys. She'd be happy to have you staying here, and it'd make me feel better about leaving Dawn around when I'm on patrol and stuff."
"Brrffy, 'm nrrt a brrby," Dawn scowls, her mouth half-full of cookie, earning laughs from everyone else.
I choose you over all my past lovers
They have come and they have gone
But I can always turn you on
I can't take my eyes off you…
"Hey! Hey!" Anya yells excitedly, tugging on Xander's arm at the end of the first movie. "Hey! The world didn't end! Honey, give me my ring!"
"Oh yeah!" He grins the brightest smile that any of them can remember seeing for a good long while. "Everyone, gather around. There's, uh, something Anya and I wanna tell you."
He sticks his hand into his jeans pocket and withdraws a small diamond ring, which Anya immediately snatches, slides onto the ring finger of her left hand, and then waves around for them to see.
"Aww, Ahn, it's so pretty," says Buffy, once again tenderly cuddling with Spike on the main couch, her back against his chest. She's almost too exhausted to keep her eyes open now that her tummy is full of pizza and cookies, and her heart so completely at rest. "Good choice, Xand."
"Congratulations," Tara smiles, sharing the love-seat with Willow, both of their sweaters sprinkled with flour dust.
"When are you getting married?!" Dawn demands, knocking over one of the empty cookie trays in her haste to scramble around the coffee table and look at Anya's ring.
"Slow down, champ! We haven't figured that stuff out yet. I just know… she's the girl," Xander beams at Anya. "We promise not to upstage your birthday, if it's any consolation."
Dawn rolls her eyes. "Like you could."
"Xander, I want to go have the-world-didn't-end sex now," Anya announces loudly, and everyone else in the room gives a groan of exasperation.
"Babe!" mumbles her mortified fiancé.
"What? There's no more pizza or cookies. Willow and Tara obviously want to have sex, Buffy and Spike obviously want to have sex, and Giles –"
"Will be leaving before this conversation continues any longer," mutters the Watcher, hastily standing up and lifting his red-stained sweater off the back of his chair. "Buffy, we should discuss the matter of the creatures that esca–"
"Tomorrow!" a chorus of voices interrupts him.
"I was getting to that," he huffs. "At any rate, tomorrow, we shall discuss what steps will be taken against whatever other-dimensional creatures managed to enter our realm, but for now, I'll leave you all to rest."
Casting them a fatherly smile, Giles dons his coat and heads through the front door, and after hugging everyone else goodbye, Xander and Anya follow him. Willow and Tara gather up the cookie trays, carry them into the kitchen, and start washing all their baking utensils. Dawn yawns and stretches her arms, the exhaustion from the terrifying all-nighter finally winning out over the mocha and sugar.
"I'm gonna go to bed, 'kay, guys?" she mumbles, winking at Spike and Buffy. To her surprise, however, Buffy reaches for her hand, pulls her little sister onto the vacant spot on the couch, and lays the brunette's head in her lap.
"Just stay with us for a bit, Dawnie," she whispers, stroking Dawn's long hair around the edges of her face. Buffy nestles back against Spike, who is already asleep again, sprawled out like a lion, his head on the sofa's armrest and one hand gently encircling her waist.
"Does he snore?" teases Dawn with another wide-mouthed yawn.
Buffy sighs, letting her head droop onto her lover's shoulder. He growls, he purrs, he fights, he saves, he heals, he loves… he loves so much…
"I dunno," she smiles sleepily at her little sister. "Whoever stays awake longer can find out."
"You're gonna lose."
"I'll take my chances…"
...Ten minutes later, when Willow and Tara sneak their way upstairs, they tiptoe past two lightly snoring Summers sisters… and one silently snoozing vampire.
I can't take my eyes off you
I can't take my eyes off you
Author's closing notes: This timeline will continue in "As Long As You're Mine", which will be the same general style as "Five Words", a complete canon-like re-write of Season 6. I can promise right off the bat that it will be smuttier. Thank you everyone who has followed, favorited, and especially reviewed. I've loved reading your comments. If you have any suggestions for something you'd like to see in the sequel, please leave a review, and I'll see if it aligns with my ideas or put it in my 'plot bunny' document for future stories.
And now, a sneak peak at "As Long As You're Mine"…
Chapter 1: The Cool of Evening
"I'm s-sure we can work something out!"
The middle-aged man and his wife cringe against the alley wall, the bricks at their backs, hemmed in by two shadowy figures.
"A d-deal of some sort," the wife nods, tapping her husband's watch to urge him to remove it, having already handed her purse over to the frightening shadows. "Anything you w-want!"
"I've always wanted a pony… oh wait, you weren't really talking to me, were you?"
Victims and attackers turn as one to see the young woman only a few feet away – millennia of demon-fighting power packed in a five-foot-four-inch, petite blonde form.
Buffy Summers shrugs, drawing a trusty stake from a back pocket. "My bad. Well, as long as I'm here…"
Lunging forward, she plants her heel into the kneecap of one of the couple's assailants, and he yowls, falling forward into the light of the nearest streetlamp. Human.
"Wow," whispers Buffy. "A mugging. Haven't had one of those in a while."
The other attacker – also definitely human – stumbles back, dropping the woman's purse as he stoops to help his buddy.
"Usually it's blood, and all with the honor…" She continues staring in nostalgic surprise from the confused muggers to the terrified couple, then shrugs and picks up the lady's purse. "Just a good old fashioned mugging, kinda sweet actually."
All four of the others in the alley stare at Buffy as though she's completely bonkers.
"Uh, probably not for you," she reconsiders. Handing the woman her belongings, Buffy gestures to the end of the alley. "Go. Now."
Nearly tangling their feet together in the rush to flee the alley, the husband and wife take off running, and Buffy turns back around as the second mugger comes at her with a switchblade. One perfectly executed block and a quick punch later, he's bouncing off the brick wall and then pinned with one arm behind his back, the knife clattering to the asphalt ground. Buffy twists his wrist and fends off the recovered burglar with a carefully aimed kick.
"Not too sweet for you either, huh? But come on! Rush me! It'll be funny."
A roar straight out of hell makes the injured mugger wheel around with another yelp, coming face to face with a ridged forehead and a shock of gelled blond hair.
"No!" screams Buffy just in time, before her lover can wrench the head off the man.
"Bloody hell!" Spike recoils, human face resurfacing as he assesses the mugger by the light of the streetlamp.
"They're human! Don't kill them!"
"Sussed that out for myself, luv," he chuckles, enjoying the utterly terrified look that remains on the injured thief. "So…" he catches the man by the collar before he can scramble away, "What do we do with 'em? Not just gonna let 'em crawl away? Reckon this one needs a new pair of trousers. Pissed 'imself from fear."
"Ew, Spike, that's gross," scowls Buffy, still holding her own mugger against the wall.
"The nose knows, luv. Just tellin' it like it is. But you're missin' the point. What'll we do with 'em now? Let 'em off with a warnin'? 'We catch you preyin' on little ol' folks again, we put you in our bait traps for the big slimy demons'?"
"We have bait traps now? When did those get in?" asks Buffy, befuddled.
"Oh, yeah," Spike says in total seriousness, hearing the already pounding heart rates of the two wannabe muggers hike up to an even faster tempo. "Watcher just had 'em ordered in. Demon Girl's got them over at the shop. Real shiny."
"Ah," Buffy nods facetiously, the mugger trembling under her grip. "They're the really secure kind, right? It'd be useless if the demon just ate them before we could get there."
"I dunno. So far as I could see, just lots of padlocks but pretty weak bars so the ginormous nasties can just break in and nibble a bit before we rush up an' kill 'em."
"Please! Please let us go!" squeals the man with his arm pinned back by Buffy. "We won't do it again! We swear!"
"Promise?" says Buffy very sternly, channeling Principal Snyder just a little bit.
"Yes! Yes!" stammers the mugger in Spike's grip. "Please let us go!"
Buffy sighs, pretending to be disappointed as she makes eye contact with Spike, who grins licentiously, neither of the muggers able to see his face.
"I suppose we should let them go," she says reluctantly. "We'll just have to find other people to use for bait."
"Oh, oh! Can we use Xander?"
"No! Honestly, I thought you two were starting to get along."
Rolling her eyes, Buffy releases the mugger's arm, and Spike shoves his own captive toward the end of the alley before snatching up the abandoned switchblade and twirling it around in his pale fingers, then slipping the knife into a pocket of his duster. The two men flee for their lives, taking furtive glances back at the bizarre pair of super-strong blonds.
"Nice bluff, with the bait traps," Buffy grins at her vampire.
"Thanks, pet. Can't believe I thought those measly little shmucks were demons," Spike shakes his head at the retreating failed criminals. "You'd think little wankers like that would've been vamped and staked long ago. Ah, well. Bigger fish to fry tonight, eh, luv? Time to scare those hellish dimension-hoppin' whatsits back to the pits that spawned 'em?"
"You're very scary, you know," says Buffy, smiling coyly.
Spike takes a mock bow. "All part of the Big Bad persona, sweets. Gotta keep up appearances, what with this whole white-hat double life I'm tryin' to maintain. Puts a lot of strain on a bloke. Gotta get my rocks off somehow."
"There are other ways," Buffy smiles suggestively. She glances down the alley in the direction of the terrified men's getaway – making sure they're alone – then crosses to Spike and loops her arms around her lover's waist. "You, me, the large fluffy-looking bed in your crypt that we haven't broken in yet…"
"Aw… you're a tease, you know, luv?" he purrs. "Gettin' a fella's motor revvin', only to let the tension marinate a couple-a hours."
She leans up, fully pressing herself to his body, and licks his ear before pinching the lobe in her teeth. "My big bad…"
"Ohhhh… god, pet, so help me, unless you fancy a quick shag up against this bloody wall…"
From the far end of the alley comes a vicious growl, and Buffy and Spike break apart, both of them staring at the repugnant creature. Two sets of blood-red eyes fill up almost the entirety of its face, and its body is a mottled periwinkle-blue underneath leather armor that would have made Conan the Barbarian jealous.
The Slayer sighs, smiles, and pulls a stake out of her back pocket.
"Work, work, work…"
To be continued…