Disclaimer: I do not claim to own, etc…

A/N: Fill for the Fag End prompt: "From the world below, to the world above."

In the eventide, he meets her. Stands there at the end of her walkway, the bridge between the world she tries so hard to belong to and the world he, and everything else, continues to pull her toward.

The sun has settled itself just below the artificial horizon of tall building and imported trees, unthreatening now while it leaves the sky to remain its beautiful summer blue to the west as the dusk gathers to the east.

Behind her, the television casts brilliant colours across the drawn curtains and Dawn's gleeful teenage chatter rattles around inside her skull before falling away, unimportant.

She could turn around now. Her hand is still wrapped around the brass handle of her front door. She could turn around, settle her sword back into the corner behind the coat rack, and go watch movies with her sister. She could eat popcorn and drink tap water because they're pretty much broke and can't afford soda and talk about boys and shoes and James Van Der Beek and just be normal. Prove, or at least pretend, that she belongs there, where the Scoobies want her, in the human world.

Spike offers nothing. He stands there, in the diminishing light and the tiny pale glow of the waning crescent moon, one hand in his pocket and the other idly at his side. He blinks at her through the smoke of his cigarette, waiting.

He stands and waits and the door clicks closed behind her and her shoes thump thump down the steps and down the walk to fall into place at his side. They head into the darkness.

They slip through residential streets, finding their way through the noise of other normal people with their normal televisions and their normal families. The only people they pass are dog walkers and evening joggers, and they all send their slightly curious, slightly wary looks their way. Buffy tightens her hold on her sword.

Spike tosses down his third cigarette at the entrance to Shady Hills and Buffy takes a second to grind it out under her boot.

"So, what'd you do today, pet?" he asks as he coaxes another out of the carton.

"Tried," she says. "Failed."

He nods quietly, understanding, and lights up as he follows her through the gate.

She wants, so badly, to crawl out of this mess and back into her old life, from the world below to the world above, back into what people want her to be. But, really, that's why she can't. Everyone wants her to be okay, be happy, be normal.

And down here, in the dark and the quiet, mixed in amongst the beasts and monsters, with Spike grinning as he slams his stake home, down here she can just be.