As Always

Feb 08, 2020 16:49


Story Notes:   My first completed story. Beta-ed by the absolute fantastic Priceless. I can not thank you enough, Pricey! All remaining mistakes are mine.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. First published on Elysian Fields.

When Buffy walks out of the Police Station in Dead Things she leaves Spike bruised and battered in the alley. But she wouldn't be Buffy if she wouldn't come back ...



Buffy bit her lip and flashed her torch across the dirty pavement. She had already walked up and down the alley three times. There was no sign of him. Could be he had already gotten back on his feet and gone off home. He was quite resourceful that way. Always bouncing back even if his head was severely concussed. But she would hate to fail him and inadvertently leave him in the alley where the sun would get to him in a few more hours. She sighed, turned around to walk down the alley for the fourth time and suddenly the beam of her torch revealed a strand of white hair peeking out from underneath a pile of cardboard boxes. Buffy sighed in relief. How canny of him.  For some reason, he must have known he would not make it home, bruised and broken as he was. He must have sought shelter from the impending sunlight underneath those boxes. Maybe it would even have worked. Buffy shrugged and kneeled on the pavement.

Carefully she unstacked one box after another until she uncovered his body, crouched in a fetal position to fit under the leather duster he had pulled over for further protection. Gently she touched his platinum hair before she started to shake him awake.

"Spike! Spike! You have to get up. You can’t stay here. Come on, I'm gonna take you home but I need you to put your arm around my shoulder to help me lift you."

Spike stirred, then licked his sore lips. Once. Twice. Finally, he drew a ragged breath and opened his … eye. The other one was swollen shut.

Buffy ran her fingers through his hair once more and gave him a tentative smile.

"Buffy … luv. You’ve come back. You didn’t turn yourself in." Buffy shrugged, "Strictly speaking, I did. But I walked out when I heard them say that the dead girl was Warren’s girlfriend."

"Warren …? The geek who …" Spike’s voice trailed off as he clutched his hands to his head.

"Hush now. Stop talking, silly. You need your strength to get back to your crypt. We can sort this mess with Warren out tomorrow."

Spike nodded wearily and tried to push himself up.  He groaned in pain but managed to get into a sitting position, resting his back against the wall. Buffy silently watched him struggle, then leaned closer and put her hand over his. "Can you wrap your arm over my shoulder, Spike?" she asked.

Spike had briefly closed his eye but opened it again now, looking at her questioningly "Why are you making such a fuss about me, pet? It’s not like you at all."

Buffy pressed her lips together. "I am not making a fuss. It’s you who's being a pain in the ass. As usual," she said sharply. "I have to go back to the Magic Box to research this Warren situation with Xander and Willow. And afterward, I have to go back and talk to Dawn. She was angry at me too, when I left to go to the police."

"Hmph. At least one Summer’s girl who has half a brain." He endeavored to smirk, then knitted his brows together in confusion, "Why did you change clothes, pet?"

Buffy shrugged, "They got dirt all over them, so I changed them when I got home from the Police Station."

She put a hand on his shoulder, "Come on Spike, don’t drag this out any longer." Buffy got up on her feet, carrying most of his weight until stood on his feet, slightly swaying. Slowly they started to make their way out of the alley behind the Sunnydale Police Station.

XXX

Buffy stopped at the door of Spike’s crypt and touched the wood with the palm of her hand. Spike side-glanced at her, "What’s up, luv? Haven’t we played this already tonight? You standing outside my door, not coming in?"

Buffy gave him a short look and firmly pulled the door open with a creak. Entering the crypt, she scanned the interior then smiled in relief and pointed to hole in the floor, "I'm gonna get you downstairs and into your bed. As soon as you are tucked in, I'm going to heat some blood for you. Do you have some in your refrigerator?"

Spike nodded and slowly followed to the hole leading to the lower level. He hesitated a moment, not sure how he was supposed to get down the ladder with his bones broken and his head concussed. But Buffy moved swiftly as if she knew exactly what to do. She lowered him to a sitting position, quickly climbed down half the ladder and called back to him, "Scoop over the edge, Spike and put your arms around my shoulder. I can carry you, don’t worry".

Spike hesitated again, not sure what to make of this unusual proposition. Finally, he shrugged and lowered his body down the hole, firmly closing his arms around Buffy’s waist and holding on to her. He had no doubt she was strong enough to bear his weight. Still - it was such an extraordinary thing for her to do.

Buffy reached the bottom and gently let him slide onto the satin sheets of his bed. Without any hesitation, she started to untie his laces.

"Slayer, what’ ya doing? Are you off yer crust? I won’t have you take off my boots,” he said wearily.

"Don’t be silly. You have at least two broken ribs. You can’t bend down to fiddle with those knots. They are a tangled mess, by the way. How do you normally untie them?"

Spike gave her an astonished look and kicked off his left boot with the right one and the other boot using his bare foot.

Buffy looked amused, "Yes. Right. I should have remembered that."

She turned to the wall and lit some of the wax candles on the books shelf until the room was bathed in a soft orange glow.

Then she climbed back up the ladder calling over her shoulder, "Stay put. I’ll be back with your blood in a minute."

Back on the upper level, she used the lighter again to ignite Spike's camping cooker. When the flames formed a nice burning cycle she searched for a pot and a knife and took a plastic bag out of the refrigerator. She sliced the bag open, poured the red liquid into the pot and threw the emptied bag aside. She waited for the blood to simmer, pulled back the sleeve of her sweater and quickly drew the sharp blade along her forearm. About half a pint of her blood flowed into the pot before she took a kitchen towel and pressed it to the wound. Soon the blood stopped flowing and she pulled the sleeve back down.

The sound of footsteps on the gravel outside caught her attention. Someone was approaching and quickly.

Her eyes searched the dim-lit room for a place to hide. There really weren’t any options. The upper level had always been spartan. Neither the telly nor the armchair would conceal her and there wasn’t enough time to lift the heavy top off the sarcophagus and seek shelter underneath the skeleton of Ethel or James Hawley. The massive door was already moving on its hinges.  Buffy hurried across the room, ducked behind the opening door waiting for the intruder to enter, then scurried outside like a fleeting shadow just before the door fell shut.

XXX

"Spike? Spike? Are you down there?" Buffy called out loudly. Damn it, he hadn’t been in the alley. He better be here or otherwise, she would really stake him this time for making her feel worried about him. He couldn’t be … he wasn’t ... No. He easily would have held his own if some nasty demon had gotten near him. He wasn’t that badly injured, was he?

Buffy exhaled a deep breath, when she heard him shout back at her from the lower level, "‘M still down here, pet. What’s up?"

She crossed the room and suddenly crinkled her nose. What was this smell? Ugh … burnt blood. She hastened to kill the flame underneath the camping cooker. She took a mug from a rickety table next to the stove and poured the blood in, carefully trying to not stir up the burnt part at the bottom. A blood-stained towel was thrown across the table. Buffy was disgusted but nevertheless used the towel to pick up the steaming mug. The risk of catching a disease from a dirty tea towel was probably lesser than the risk of burning her fingers. Crisis successfully averted she noticed that Spike had also left his lighter on the stove. She grabbed it and stuffed into her jeans pocket.

Climbing down the ladder she observed that Spike must have lit up the candles in the lower level before heating the blood and forgetting all about it.  Buffy felt another wave of relief sweep through her. He couldn’t be seriously hurt if he was still able to move around like this. She put the mug down on the nightstand at his bedside.

"Hey, I just saved you from a fiery death."

Spike looked at her. He was obviously stunned. Okay, maybe she was a bit too chipper considering everything that had happened tonight.  "You left the pot on the gas cooker and forgot about it", she explained. If it was even possible, he looked even more stunned. Maybe he did have a concussion. Just a very slight one of course. Vampire, after all. Was it even possible for vampires to get concussions?

"Blood. Pot. Gas cooker,” she said slowly as if talking to a two-year-old. Then she waved her hand dismissively and said, "Forget it, Spike. Just drink your blood. You’ll need it. I mean … of course, you need blood. It's what you always drink. It sustains you. So, there is no reason not to drink blood now. Not that there is a special reason for it. Just plain daily blood-drinking routine." The part about needing blood had been a slip of her tongue. She eyed him cautiously but he didn’t jump on her lapse at all. Nor did he try to push her into any kind of admittance by her.  That he had been right about going to the police being a stupid idea or about anything else. He didn’t even claim she owed him an apology. She. Him. Of all people! He was eerily silent.

Usually, he loved to run his mouth but tonight he was just sitting on his bed with a furrowed brow and stared into the candle-lit room. Still, deep in thought he lifted the mug to his lips, took a sip and choked on it. He nearly spat the blood over his sheets. "Bloody hell, Slayer. What did you do? You spiked my drink!"

Oh, he really must be joking. There she was being ever so nice to him. The best Samaritan ever. She had not only saved him from burning to death in the fiery hell that would undoubtedly have become his crypt had she not turned off the gas cooker. She had also taken his blood down to him. It was very Florence Nightingale-y of her. And what did she get as a reward for her good deeds? He was being picky because his stupid blood got burnt. "It's not my fault it tastes awful. I tried to keep the charred bits inside the pot. Since when are you so dainty anyway? Just swallow it down and get it over with."

Spike studied her carefully. Suddenly he said, "You changed clothes again."

"Yeah. My other stuff got dirty and muddy while we were figh …" She paused, then added hastily "I changed them, okay? No big deal."

He looked at her for a long time, then asked softly, "When exactly did you change clothes, pet?"

"When I got home from the Police Station. Oh, I haven’t told you about what happened when I walked into the police station. You are not going to believe this."

She broke off at his look.

"You left the Police Station because you found out you the dead girl was Warren's ex-girlfriend."

His words left her baffled. "Did you follow me into the Police Station?" she asked confused.

Keeping his gaze on her face he reached out to the nightstand, took the mug, lifted it to his mouth again and drank in one long swig.

Buffy had a creepy feeling he was keeping something from her. She brushed it aside and stood up. "So … I'll be off then. I have to meet the others at the Magic Box. We are going to …"

"… research the Warren situation?" Spike finished her sentence for her. Buffy stared at him. "Yes, of course. What do you think?"

She turned to the ladder, stopped, pulled the lighter out of her jeans pocket and tossed it to him.

"You also left your lighter upstairs, Spike. I thought you might need it. In case you want to have a smoke."

She didn’t say, "I brought it downstairs for you so you would have it handy if you want to light yourself a cigarette and have a smoke. I did it because I wanted to be kind to you."

She waited for a moment as if to give him the chance to push his luck and try to force her to open up. However, he remained silent and she finally climbed up the ladder. She was already halfway up when she paused and said quietly, "Anyhow, I hope you’ll get better soon, Spike."

The next moment she was gone.

XXX

Spike hadn’t owned a watch since back in his human days. Watches were a status symbol then and he had several of them heavy golden pocket watches on chains, ticking down the seconds. Since he had become a vampire, time was of no importance to him any longer. He was immortal. He didn’t care about the ticking of time. His senses told him when the sun would rise and set in a way that was so much more reliable than any device manufactured by humans to measure time. Now Spike sat on his bed and began to count the seconds.

Forty-seven, forty-eight, forty-nine … bingo! He would have missed the faint creak this time if he hadn’t been waiting for it. Someone must have opened the door at a very low angle. Just enough to allow for a slim person to sneak through. I really should get a lock on this bloody door, Spike mused. The sound of the footsteps above him was muted. She must have taken off her shoes and was searching his crypt barefooted. Silently at first. Soon the sound of her steps became more frantic. Spike chuckled and called out, "You might wanna look down here, luv."

Buffy slowly climbed down the ladder. She eyed the lighter on his outstretched palm with a queer look but her face was inscrutable. "Why would I look for your lighter, Spike?

"See, pet. That’s the thing. This is my lighter.” He pulled a silver lighter from the pockets of his black jeans.

Buffy contemplated him for a moment. Then a smile suddenly lit up her face. "Looks like the game is up, doesn’t it? It's been a while since you caught me red-handed. Though I have to admit that leaving the lighter on the stove was rather dumb."

"Care to fill a bloke in?"

Buffy winked. "Oh, come on, Spike. Give me your best guess."

"I was thinking shapeshifting demon until I had Slayer blood for dinner. It’s been quite a while but it’s not a taste I am likely to forget. Ever."

He searched her face carefully. "I have never heard about time-traveling. ‘Cuz apart from the Doctor that is. But I doubt you came here by Tardis.”

"Since I don’t even know what Tardis is, you are definitely right about that".

"Which leaves you being - what exactly?"

Buffy sat down on the edge of his bed and folded her hands in her lap. "I am Buffy. I am a vampire slayer." Spike raised his eyebrows at her using the indefinite article but remained silent. "I am also traveling other dimensions. It’s nothing to do with my calling. I am doing it on my own and kinda in my leisure time."

"How’s that?"

He knew her eyes would be glistening with tears when she looked up. If it wasn’t for the faint salty scent in his crypt, the grief in her voice at least gave it away.

"I … lost you. Where I come from, you are gone. What happened tonight in the alley … the same happened to … I did the same. And I didn’t go back to check upon him. I left him in the alley."

Spike looked at her with sudden horror. "Holy shit. Are you saying I dusted with the sunrise?"

Buffy shook her head. "No. He made it home alone. He was a survivor. Or at least he once was, back then. Or maybe … I have sometimes wondered about that. Maybe he didn’t make it home on his own. Maybe another Buffy came from another dimension and took care of him and looked after him and he never told me. But maybe not. More likely not. Because, you know, when I told him I loved him he didn’t believe me. He was dying and he thought I was just throwing him a bone. Out of pity. And he told me "No you don’t but thanks for saying it."

Spike inhaled sharply. "Holy crap, that must have been quite a blow, Slayer."

"It was. And it still hurts. But it's not even the worst."

Spike snorted. "It’s not? How can it get worse than that?"

The look in her eyes silenced him. "I think he could have made it out. It isn’t … I mustn’t tell you what happened. Dimension hopping 101. Don’t change any major events. That’s why I can only drag your sorry ass to your crypt instead of stopping myself from beating you at all or maybe even prevent Katrina’s death in the first place. Poor girl. I feel sorry for her. Anyway, I think when push came to shove, he could have made it out if he had wanted to. But he didn't. He had given up hope. On me. On being loved. On being worthy. And one thing I know for sure is he was."

Spike pondered this in silence. After a moment Buffy continued, "It still haunts me today. That he wouldn’t have felt this way, had I come back tonight."

Spike chose his words carefully, slowly. "’S that what ya doing in a nutshell? Coming back and checking on me in other dimensions?"

Buffy nodded. "Yes,” she said in a small voice.

They both fell silent. Finally, Buffy straightened her shoulders and got up. She took the lighter, carefully pocketed it and smiled at him softly. "It’s been nice meeting you, Spike."

He called out to her just as she reached the ladder. "Slayer. Buffy. Wait." She willed herself for composure before she turned around to look at him. He hesitated, choosing his words carefully. "I can’t give you what you are looking for. I can’t be what you need. I can’t be him. Not even for one night. But there is something I could offer you."

Silently she waited for him to continue.

"I could just hold you."

Her eyes widened in surprise and she clapped her hands over her mouth to subdue a sob. When she flew into his arms she was already crying.

XXX

Buffy cursed under her breath. It had been a long night and of course, it was all Spike's fault. At first, he kept her from patrolling by luring her to the door of his crypt.  Then he meddled with the Rwasundi demons and finally, he tried to keep her from going to the Police Station and doing the right thing. He had no one else but himself to blame for … no. He wasn’t to blame for getting beaten up. But she would never have hit him if he hadn’t been there in there first place. There you go. His fault entirely.

And then she had tried to be nice to him because she felt the tiniest pang of guilt although there was clearly no reason at all to feel guilty. No Mister, not a shred of a reason. But she had been nice to him and he had the nerve not to be grateful at all. Instead, he behaved oddly. Almost weird. It had been nagging at her for the last hour or so. Maybe vampires could get concussions after all. Maybe he did have one. Possibly he was unconscious. Which means he was entirely helpless if a demon randomly walked into his crypt and staked him.

A whimpering sound shook Buffy out of her inner monologue. She looked up and noticed she must have been so wrapped up in her thoughts that she had lost track of her whereabouts.  Another whimper startled her. It wasn’t quite a scream but more like a sob. It sounded almost pleading. And it wasn't Spike who was crying. It was the voice of a girl. Buffy went rigid, an ice-cold hand gripping her heart. She had never checked Spike’s claim his chip had stopped working on her alone. She had simply trusted him. Believed his words. What if his chip had been completely defunct ever since? What if he had been killing all the time? What if he was killing someone right now?

Buffy darted to the hole in the ground and gripped the rails, swinging down her body in one swift movement without bothering to use the rungs.

Spike was still lying on his four-poster bed, his back resting against the headboard. Apparently, he hadn't left his bed since she had left him earlier. But he was now holding a girl in his arms. A girl, her hair pulled back in a low ponytail, nestled her head into his shoulder and cried desperately.

Spike raised his head. His soft blue eyes found hers and he gently put a finger to his mouth, silently pleading with her. It took a moment for her until the meaning of his gesture sunk in. Then Buffy reluctantly nodded, turned around and climbed back up.

XXX

The early morning fog was rising over the grassy grounds of Restfield Cemetery as Buffy left the crypt. She pulled a mobile out of her jeans pocket, pushed a few buttons and waited.

"Geez, Buffy. You really freaked me out this time. Do you have any idea how long you’ve been gone?"

"I’m sorry, Dawnie. I got held up. But everything’s fine. You can open the portal. Co-ordinates are just outside Spike’s crypt."

There was just the slightest hint of a quiver in Dawn's voice. Buffy would have missed it if she didn’t know her sister as well as she did.

"One person coming through?" Dawn asked.

Buffy's face - her own face - however, was calm and her voice clipped as she replied, "As always."

She put her mobile away and a gleaming light appeared out of nowhere. Buffy impatiently tapped her foot on the ground, waiting for the beam of light to grow bigger until it formed a sort of an arch and reached the size of a cathedral window but by this time Buffy had already stepped in, been swallowed and was gone. The glowing portal hovered for another second, then folded in on itself and disappeared in a blink.

Buffy slowly rose from the spot behind a tombstone where she had been sitting and waiting.

When she entered the crypt, Spike was rummaging inside his refrigerator. He came up with a bag of blood in his hands and grinned at her. "Stayed to watch the show, pet? She gone then?"

"Yep."

Spike tossed the bag back into the fridge. "So, what brought you back to my humble abode?"

"I can hardly believe I am saying this but I thought you needed looking after. It seems I was wrong." Spike leered at her. "I needed a lot of looking after, pet. Still, do at that." He closed the gap between them. Buffy put her palms on his chest, not shoving him away but keeping him at distance.

"Why do you think she came here?"

Spike’s expression softened.

"I think she is looking for something."

"For something? Or rather … someone?"

"Mhmm … mhmm." The low timbre of his voice resonated somewhere deep inside her body and she felt like a tautly strung violin. Still, her mind wandered back to the other Buffy.

"You didn’t go with her," she pointed out.

Spike did not look as surprised as she had hoped he would.

"No," he said simply and waited. Buffy briefly considered a glaring contest but rather gave in.

"Why not?"

"You are asking me why I didn’t leave this plane for a brighter, shinier world, in the company of a beautiful woman who adores and - may I say it?  - loves me instead of languishing in a damp crypt, yearning for a daft bint who keeps our dirty little affair a secret and would never ever lower herself so far as to look at me with something else than disgust?"

Buffy chewed on the inside of her cheek. "Yeah, I think that kinda sums it up. Why didn’t you?”

His mocking tone was gone and he spoke softly now, "Because she isn’t you. And stupid as it might be, I am in love with you. Not her."

He gently stroked his thumb across her temples. "C’mon now, Slayer. Stop with the frowning. It puts wrinklies on your forehead... She’s gone. ‘M still here." But there was yet something else nagging at her.

"Did she … I mean you and her … did you …?"

"Did what? Cheat on you? With yourself? Now, why didn't I think of that earlier? I could have bedded my second Slayer tonight, pet. Two killed and to f ..."

He stopped himself at Buffy’s warning glance.

"No, we didn’t. That’s all you wanna know? No inquiries about how to avoid the next apocalypse? When to expect the world to end? What shoes to wear next autumn? And most importantly, what happened to my other self?"

"Did she tell you? I mean, not about the shoes. But everything else?"

"Nah. She was disappointingly tight-lipped, pet. She said it’s existential not to mess with the delicate fabric of time or the twisted course of fate or whatever."

"Oh. That feels rather anticlimactic now."

Spike leered again. "I can think of doing something that’ll be very climactic." He lowered his head and she felt his soft and cool lips on hers.

They were already downstairs and he was unhooking her bra when he suddenly said, "Wait. There was one thing she told me."

Buffy waited for him to finish his sentence and for his fingers to proceed. When he kept grinning at her with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, she finally let out an exasperated gasp. "Come on Spike. Stop teasing me. What did she tell you?"

"Don’t trade demon eggs."

His fingertip lightly touched her shoulder blade and followed an invisible trail down the soft curve of her breast. She bit back a moan and asked, "What is that supposed to mean?"

His tongue followed the trail of his finger as he bent over her.

"Haven’t got a clue, luv."

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