Disclaimer: I don't own or profit from BtVS
Thank you so much to ObscureBookWyrm for helping me to make this readable. She's the best!
A/N: I swear, Ted wasn't meant to loiter this long. He keeps lingering like a pervert in a toy store.
A/N: I never really approved of Joyce's 'freak out'in Ted. Family should always come first. Men come and go, but you can't get rid of your brats….Trust me, I've tried. Besides, if you can't rely on family to help you hide the bodies, then who can you rely on?
Thanks so much for your support. Happy Reading to you all!
Buffy didn't keep her promise to Dawn. For more than half the night she stood across from the factory on the rooftop of a neighboring building, watching, waiting and wondering. Why had Spike done what he had? Why not kill Dawn? Why save her? The minion's sacrifice she wrote off as fanaticism. There was no other way for her to explain its actions. Vampires were not altruistic. Her training expressly stated that soulless vampires couldn't love. They couldn't experience loyalty or honor. But obsession was part of their innate make-up. Buffy only had to observe Angelus to prove theory as fact. Spike's minion was obviously obsessed with serving Spike and in his fanaticism he sacrificed himself.
There. The explanation was nice, neat and stuffed in its perfectly labeled box. And she absolutely was not conflicted about it in any way.
But it still didn't explain Spike. Nothing ever seemed to explain Spike. He smoked when he shouldn't even breathe, he laughed with glee instead of screaming in rage, and he loved when there could only be hate festering inside him. Buffy swallowed hard. Buffy knew it was love, because she saw it in his eyes when she held a stake to Drusilla's heart. He loved a single woman for more than a hundred years. Commitment like that took more than love. It took honor and loyalty. It took all those pretty, romantic, chivalrous words that the Council said vampires couldn't experience.
There was no nicely labeled box to stuff him into. He just didn't fit. Part of her wanted to place him into the same box as Angelus. It would be easy to explain his actions with Dawn as obsession with her. To simply believe that Spike wanted Dawn sexually, only sending her away because he couldn't perform, and didn't want to share with his grandsire. But she just knew that wasn't true. Spike was evil. He was the embodiment of chaos, and bloodshed, murder and mayhem were his arts. Yet, for of all of his wickedness, Spike was not a depraved pervert. A dark knight? Yes. A warrior for evil? Absolutely. A bloodthirsty predator? Undeniably. But he wasn't a bad man.
So, why!? The question ran round and round her head until she was dizzy. Why did he not drain Dawn when he had the chance? Why did he save her? Why? Why? Why? She needed answers. She needed to know why he was so different from other vampires. Why he didn't fit into a box. Mostly, she needed to know why he could control his demon, when Angel couldn't.
The waxing moon reached its zenith, and two figures stalked out of the factory, one grim with imposing purpose, the other twining and twirling in the moonlight. Buffy watched until they were out of sight then counted thirty heartbeats before slinking from her hiding place. It wasn't hard to find the open window Dawn crawled through earlier. She dropped down into the empty room, extending her senses. Angelus and Drusilla were gone, but she could sense the signatures of several fledges about the factory. There was one strong pulse of power near the center, where most of the fledges were clustered. She knew innately it was Spike. They had been hunting each other long enough to know the sensation of each other's essences anywhere. She wondered if he could sense her, and if he would alert the others.
She kept her senses open, tracking the fledges in case they started moving towards Spike's quarters. The door to his bedroom was wide-open, and as she neared the portal she could see dark smears of blood trailing over the threshold where it looked like someone had been forcibly dragged away.
She peered cautiously into the room. Most of the candles were knocked over, leaving only a handful sputtering down to the wicks. There was barely enough light to see that the room was empty. She crept inside, softly closing the door behind her. She swept up a thick pillar candle, lighting it on one of the guttering flames and taking it over to the bed. She quickly bent down, releasing a pent up breath when she saw the untouched Igloo cooler Dawn had left for Spike.
She pulled it out, and deposited fresh icepacks inside to keep the containers of blood cool. She didn't know if they were still fresh enough to eat, but it was the best she could do. She replaced the cooler under the bed, and fished out two bottles of human blood she strong-armed from Willy earlier in the evening from her deep coat pockets. She placed the bottles beside the cooler in the hopes that Spike would be able to find them on his own.
She braced her hand on the bed to pull herself from her knees, but instantly withdrew it when she felt something thick and sticky. She looked at her palm, blanching at the dark, viscous stain on her skin. Her eyes settled on the bed linens. The red satin sheets were damp and dark in some places. They were shredded into long strips and bunched near the foot, where it looked like there had been a struggle to pull someone off the bed.
Buffy pressed the back of her wrist to her eyes and swallowed hard. She couldn't think about what was happening to Spike right now. How much pain was being inflicted on him. A hot tear seared the corner of her eye and burned a path down her cheek. She couldn't think like that. Spike was fine. He always survived. Always. He was like a friggin' cockroach. No matter how many times you squashed him he just kept scurrying back.
She choked back her tears, jumping to her feet. A quick search of the room revealed a cupboard with a set of linens inside. They weren't fancy silk ones, but they were soft and clean. She stripped the filthy, bloodstained sheets off the bed, bundling them in a corner so she could take them out and throw them into a nearby dumpster. She doubted Spike wanted the smell of his blood to linger in the air.
She made the bed, smoothing the sheets with brisk sweeps her grandmother taught her. Soon his bed was clean and tight, and looking very comfortable. She righted a small square table, a ladder-back chair, and all the candles. She found his leather duster crumbled on the floor and she shook it out, placing it over the back of the chair where he could reach it easily. She wanted to light the candles for him, but she didn't know when he'd be brought back, and she didn't want them to gutter like the others. Once everything was righted, she blew out the remaining candles before they could cause a fire and carefully made her way out of the factory. She knew she wouldn't be back. She had done all she could for Spike. Now it was up to him to survive.
Buffy quietly pried the window open, assuming Dawn closed it because she had become cold. She eased into to the room with cat-like grace, easily using memory and moonlight to guide her. She shed her jacket, tossing it over the vanity chair before turning towards her bed.
The covers were rumpled around Dawn's narrow hips, exposing her torso, as she lay on her back in complete, unconscious abandon. Her long, brown hair was raked out along her pillow, baring her face, long neck, and shoulders. Her barely formed breasts were small mounds beneath the thin cotton of her nightgown. She breathed and they pushed against the worn fabric.
Buffy's eyes shifted to the shadows beyond the bed. Dark forms were indistinct, but mostly familiar. This was her bedroom, her safe haven from the world. The one place she was sheltered both from the things she hunted every night and the very normal rigors of being a teenage girl. Her room was where she retreated to when it all became too much. She would crank up Britney, sing along to her bubble gum pop and forget everything. She erased the world filled with vampires, her failed love affair, and her constant struggle to equalize her studying, grades and dodging Snyder with her calling to keep the balance between good and evil.
Except she wasn't safe here: something or someone was there, in the shadows, waiting.
The darkness shifted, and a tall figure rose to stand beside Dawn. Moonlight cut a swath across the bed, revealing Ted's dark eyes and white, broad teeth. Panic fluttered in her too tight tummy, forcing squirming eels up her throat. The fear she felt was different than when she thought Dawn might be dead. This fear was more visceral, more wrenching, forcing her breath between her parted lips in tiny, frantic inhalations.
Buffy told herself Dawn was a restless sleeper. Her blankets were rucked around her waist from tossing and turning, not because someone dragged them to her hips. Her hair was swept away from her face from rolling around, not because someone's fingers raked it across her pillow to test its softness. Her tender breasts wouldn't hold the attention of the adult man who lurked silently beside the bed because that would be wrong.
Buffy tried to swallow, but her mouth was too dry.
As quickly as her panic came, it was burned away by a wave of fury so potent it threatened to burst from her skin in a fireball of targeted rage. No one, but no one threatened her sister. Certainly, not this horrible man who was trying to weasel his way into their lives by dominating their mother and pretending to care for their welfare. Her long body grew taut, her tiny hands fisting along her thighs. Her muscles were strung so tight her entire body quivered with the strain of standing motionless.
"I thought your mother and I were quite clear. You are grounded, young lady. I am very disappointed to find you sneaking in and out of the house like a common delinquent."
"Buffy?" Dawn's sleepy voice was like a bullet to Buffy's spine. She straightened with alacrity, her eyes shooting to her sister's supine form.
"Under the bed. Now," she ordered.
Dawn didn't hesitate. There was a hollow thump as she hit the ground and rolled under the bed. Buffy turned her attention to Ted, who watched the interchange with curious bemusement. She could see that he never imagined Dawn would acquiesce so immediately to her commands, but then again, he had no idea how deep their relationship went. He had no comprehension of the protocol Buffy drilled into Dawn's head for the sole purpose of keeping her little sister safe from all threats, both inside the home and out.
"Imagine how much I don't care, Ted." Her voice was silky with underlying menace. Images of Spike hunting her flashed through her mind. They gave her strength. They gave her a template on how to be a truly terrifying threat. How to form her words, how to hold her body, how to tilt her head just so.
Ted stalked around the foot of the bed, trying to intimidate her by his sheer masculinity and size. However, Buffy was a girl who faced death on a nightly basis in the form of monsters far stronger than any human man. She stood her ground, and glared him down.
"You had better care, little girl," he growled.
"What I care about-" Her entire body canted forward, her pretty, pink lips stretched across her straight, even teeth in a vicious snarl. "Is why you are in my bedroom, skulking around my baby sister like a peep show perv."
"I don't care for what you are insinuating."
"Oh, I'm not insinuating anything, Ted," she spat his name like it was a disease caught by deep-dicking whores. "I'm saying. And in a minute I'm gonna be screamin' it from the top of my lungs. You being in my room in the middle of the night oughta give Mom a little food for thought." Buffy ended her threat with a confident sneer, but she wasn't so sure of her mother. Joyce's behavior of late had been more erratic that usual. Buffy was used to their mother's absenteeism in the wake of the divorce, but there had been something more vacant about her lately. Even when she was in the room with them, she wasn't really there.
Ted whipped his hand around her throat, his fingers pressing deep into her windpipe. Buffy stared him down, letting him think he had the advantage for the moment.
"You can scream all you want, but no one will be coming for you or your sister. Your mother's had just a little too much to drink tonight, and is passed out cold. Courtesy of these of course." Ted held up a beige medicine bottle and gave it a little shake. Buffy could hear the rattle of tiny pills. "You know, I think your mother has a small drinking problem. I will have to rectify that once we are married. No wife of mine is going to be a sloppy drunk."
The rage vibrating through her body rushed in her veins, down her arms, and coalesced into her fists. She didn't realize she was throwing a punch until she felt his nose-bone snap beneath her knuckles. She tried not to chuckle when she saw the blood. She was right. He was a gusher.
She knocked his hand away from her throat and stomped over to her door, wrenching it wide open. "Get out, before I throw you out."
Ted pivoted on his heel, dropping his hand away from his nose. He glared at her. The blood running over his lips and chin was wet, shiny and black in the shadows.
"You've been allowed to run wild for too long. It's time you were taught a lesson."
His blunt fingers dropped to his waist, and Buffy could hear the snick of his belt buckle being undone. Suddenly, rage was engulfed in panic. An ice cold sweat broke out across her entire body. He stepped forward and she countered with a step back into the hall. She felt small and weak. She felt like a little girl being stalked by a man.
"No," she whispered through tight, bloodless lips.
He smiled. His broad teeth were white in the moonlight. The sound of leather sliding against fabric was deafening in the stillness of the settling house. He followed her further into the hall, folding the belt in half and cracking it against his palm. His movements mesmerized Buffy, her large, green eyes riveted by every action. When the leather cracked against skin, she jolted back into herself. She was no longer a weak little girl. She was Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.
He reached out his hand, his wide palm and blunt fingers curling around her thin upper arm. She was suddenly aware of how small she was. She was a dainty, little thing, short in stature with small hands and feet, a narrow waist and barely there muscles. So tiny, yet so, so strong. Strong enough to defend herself from demons and vampires every night. Strong enough to defend herself from this horrible man who thought he had the right to come into her home and threaten her family.
"No!" she repeated with ferocity. Her hand snapped up, wrenching his wrist, grinding his thick bones together until he grunted and fell to his knees. She slammed him with two quick jabs to the face, smiling when his cheekbone shattered. She pulled back, intending on telling him exactly to which hell he could go, but the pause was enough for him to lurch forward. He grappled her around the waist, his larger mass propelling her to the floor. Buffy reacted on instinct. She was a warrior. A fighter. She fought for her life each night, and the number one rule to survival was to never let them pin you down.
She grabbed him by the forearms, tucked her feet into his waist and simultaneously thrust with her legs and pulled with her hands, hurling him over her head and straight down the stairs. Buffy heard the snap before she could flip herself over to follow his descent. It was a sound she was intimately familiar with. She heard it most every night of her life. The sound of fragile vertebra shattering.
Prone on the floor, she peered over the edge of the stairs. Ted was sprawled in the foyer, his limbs boneless, his neck twisted awkwardly so his sightless eyes could glare at her. Buffy's breath hitched. The thrumming beat of survival that had swept her along its deadly course trickled and died. A new sense of panic rose up to overwhelm her. It was filled with dread and guilt. It was an acidy sickness in her belly that threatened to crawl its way up her throat and out her mouth in a wave of bile.
A human. Buffy Summers, Vampire Slayer, has murdered a human. It didn't matter that he was an awful man. It didn't matter that he was a threat to her and her family. What mattered was that she used her preternatural gifts of strength, speed, and agility on a man who couldn't defend himself against her. Even at his worst. Even at his most evil. Ted was no match against her. She could have easily subdued him. She could have simply forced him from her home. Instead, she let anger and fear overwhelm her. She killed him because she wanted to do so, and now she was a murderer.
"Buffy?" Her mother called groggily from behind her. It seemed the clamor of Ted being thrown to his death had been loud enough to rouse her from her drug-induced slumber.
"Buffy?" Joyce stumbled closer, bending down to check her daughter for injuries. "Did you trip?"
As she pressed her hand to Buffy's shoulder, she glanced down the stairs. Ted lay in a pool of moonlight, and there was no mistaking the dead stare of his eyes.
"Ted?" Joyce gasped. She hurried down the stairs, kneeling beside him. She reached for him, but pulled back her hands at the last moment. She glanced at him, then back to her daughter who was still staring down at the tableau in frozen horror. In that moment, Joyce knew the worst of what she had feared since her daughter starting rebelling a year ago had come to pass. Buffy's recklessness had finally gotten someone killed.
"Oh, Buffy. What have you done?"
Buffy's haunted green eyes flicked to her mother, and Joyce could see the little girl she used to be. She remembered how she used to laugh and dance around in her bright pink jumper, chasing butterflies at the park, so proud when she went down the big kid's slide all by herself. A lifetime ago her baby had been innocent and carefree. And now… Now, she was a murderer.
"I didn't mean it, Mommy. I didn't."
Joyce felt older than her years. What did I do wrong, she wondered. Did I not love her enough? Did I not pay enough attention? Is this because of the divorce? Or is it me? Am I not enough of a presence in my girls' lives? Joyce glanced through the rounded entryway into the den. She could just make out the corner of the wet bar. Yes. This was all her fault. She had drowned her sorrows in liquor. All of her anger towards Hank, all her depression at being thrown over for a younger woman, her loneliness, her need to have an adult in her life who understood and cared for her. Her desire to be an autonomous person again, not just regulated to title of mother had been strong enough to overlook the flaws in the first man who had shown her real attention since her disaster of a marriage. Instead of seeing to her girls, she left them to tend to themselves while she tried to immerse herself in a state of euphoric emptiness found in a vodka bottle and a mediocre male's attention.
"I know, baby. I know."
She pulled herself off the ground, and slowly made her way to the phone to call the police. She desperately wished she could go back in time and be a better mother, but now it was too late for Buffy.
The 911 operator's voice was like knife blades across her skin. Joyce could already hear the accusations against her daughter building. She could imagine the detectives' self-righteous sneers, the prosecutor's cold-heartedness, and the public defender's laissez-faire attitude. Joyce couldn't allow this to happen. It wasn't too late for her daughter. It wasn't. She robotically gave the information to the woman and hung up the phone despite her protests. She found Buffy and Dawn huddled together against the wall at the top of the stairs. She knelt down in front of them, taking each of her daughters' hands in hers. Dawn's blue eyes were wide and frightened as she silently begged her mother to somehow make it all better again. Buffy's watery green eyes screamed fear, guilt and remorse. Joyce took a deep breath, and squeezed their hands reassuringly.
"When they get here, the only thing I want you to say is that he attacked you."
"Mom, that's exactly—"
Joyce hushed her. "That's all, Buffy. Nothing more, nothing less. You wait until the lawyer comes. I'll take care of everything. Dawn, you say nothing. You didn't see anything; you didn't hear anything. Understand?"
Joyce's penetrating glance fell on Buffy. "Do you understand, Buffy?"
"Yes, Mommy," Buffy whispered.
Joyce tugged her girls forward, engulfing them in her arms. They hugged each other tight, not letting go, even when they heard the approaching sirens.
"Family first. Right, girls?"
"Right," they echoed.
When the police knocked on the door, the Summers women stood against them as a united front.