Things That Go Bump in the Night by Slaymesoftly

ReviewsRating: NC-17

Summary: Set several years post NFA, Buffy has moved on, is no longer in mourning for her two dead vampires. Then Dawn calls her for some help and she finds something she never expected to.

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Chapter 12

“If you’d just let me teleport, we’d be there by now, you know,” Willow grumbled as she followed Dawn up the hill.

“It makes me throw-up,” Dawn answered. “Besides, this is like my third trip up here this week. If I can do it, you can do it.”

“If I had legs that were as long as I am tall, I could,” Willow smiled as she cast an eye at the much taller girl next to her.

“Not my fault you and Buffy are such shrimps. Here we are. Have you been up here before?”

“Nope. I’m not sure why, actually. I guess Giles must have had somebody else check it out for dark magic. And, hey! I’ve got three inches on Buffy.”

“I don’t think he bothered before this. Nobody was getting hurt, so he didn’t worry about it. And you’re still a shrimp.”

Willow followed Dawn up the steps to the front door. “Well, I can tell you right now that we just crossed some kind of mystical barrier when we stepped on the grass.”

“Yeah, that’s as far as Spike can go.” Dawn opened the door and called, “Spike? Are you up yet? I brought Willow.”

“I’m here.”

Spike appeared at the entrance to the library, safely away from the sunbeams coming in the front door. He stepped back as Dawn led Willow into the room, staring at her curiously as she walked past with an uncertain smile. When she was fully in the room, Willow turned around and studied the vampire ghost carefully. Spike stood still as she walked around him in a small circle, nodding and muttering to herself until she was satisfied.

“Hello to you, too, Witch,” he said, crossing his arms.

“Oh! I’m sorry, Spike! I didn’t mean to ignore you. It’s great to see you – not dead – well, dead, but you know, still here.” She raised her arms, dropping them when he seemed disinclined to hug. “I just got caught up in the magic –and I’ve never been around a real ghost before. It’s kinda…neat.”

“Neat.”

“Yeah. Well, maybe not for you, but it’s a cool kind of energy, all brrr and …and I’m shutting up now.”

She joined Dawn on the couch, sitting next to her and trying to control the urge to stare at the vampire she’d known for so many years. He gave no sign of recognition when he briefly met her gaze before turning his attention to Dawn.

“Did you hear from her?” he demanded. “Where is she?”

“She texted me. All it said was that she’s fine and she’ll be back tomorrow.”

He nodded and relaxed enough to sprawl in one of the chairs.

“Right then.” He turned to Willow. “So, witch-woman, what do you think?”

“There’s magic here. No question about it. But it’s not terribly strong. I can’t do anything about your being a ghost, but I think I can break the binding that keeps you in the house. If you want me to, that is. I wouldn’t do it without your permission.”

“Good to know,” he said, his gaze telling her that he knew more about how some of her spells had gone than he should.

“Um…I don’t know what Buffy told you, but I’m much better now. Honest!”

“I believe you. If you can magic me out of the house, I’d appreciate it. Gets a mite boring sitting around here waiting for something interesting to come to me.”

Willow swung her backpack down to the floor and began to rummage around in it. She pulled out several bags of herbs, selecting the ones she needed and stuffing the rest of them back into the bag. She looked around, noticing the clean-swept fireplace.

“May I use that?” she asked politely. “I have to make a small fire.”

He nodded and she carried her little batch of herbs and other ingredients to the hearth, placing them in a small pile on the bare stone floor. She struck a match, lit the spell enhancers, and began chanting in Latin. When she had completed her chant and the small flame had burned out, she looked up at Spike and said, “Want to try it out?”

He raised his eyebrow and pointed to the heavy curtains over the windows where a small beam of sunlight was coming through a hole in the old fabric. Willow blushed and nodded.

“Oh, yeah. Sorry about that. I guess you’ll just have to wait until tonight. Unless….”

“Unless?”

“Well, you’re not really a vampire anymore, are you? I mean -- you’re a ghost. So maybe you don’t have to worry about stuff like going ‘whoosh’ if you get in the sun. Have you thought about that?”

“Can’t say I have,” he said thoughtfully. “It’s just so much a part of me to stay out of the sun that I never questioned the why of it. Then, when Buffy told me what I am – used to be – it made sense.”

“You wanna try?” Willow was noticeably eager to show him that her spell had worked, so he smiled and nodded.

“Sure, Red. Maybe I’ll check out those broken steps to the garden.”

Dawn and Willow followed him down the hallway to the kitchen and watched carefully as he stepped to the door. He pulled it open and gazed at the bottom step, which was in full sun.

“Here we go,” he said, reaching his arm out past the invisible barrier of the doorway and into the warmth just beyond. His arm easily went through the formerly impenetrable space and into the golden light. In spite of his automatic flinch, nothing happened to the hand that was bathed in the late afternoon sunlight.

“Bloody hell,” he whispered. He took a tentative step on the edge of the board, avoiding the center and the hole Buffy’s foot had left in it. As his whole body passed through the doorway, he moved more confidently, jumping down onto the overgrown path. He turned to gaze with gratitude at the smiling witch and Dawn.

“Thank you, Willow,” he said formally. “I appreciate it.”

“You’re welcome, Spike.” she beamed back at him. “It’s the least I could do.”

The two women stood in the doorway, watching as he moved around his garden, touching a bush here, pulling a particularly ugly weed there and inhaling the scent of sun-warmed vegetation. Although his body was more translucent than it had been while he was in the house, it was perfectly visible. As he worked his way back to them, Dawn felt her phone vibrate. She grabbed it and nudged Willow to show her the message.

“Cmg bk tnt. Dnt wt up.”

“Huh! I wonder what brought that on? I thought for sure she’d stay another day and do some shopping while she was there.”

Spike materialized at her side, causing her to startle and almost drop the phone.

“Don’t DO that!” she squeaked. “It’s rude to be invisible.”

Ignoring her comments, he tried to look at her phone. “Who was that? Who’s coming back tonight? Was it the Slayer?”

“Yes,” Dawn sighed, putting her phone away. “It was Buffy. She must have changed her mind. She says she’ll be back late tonight.”

The smile that broke out on Spike’s face had Willow frowning in confusion.

“I thought you didn’t remember Buffy?” she said, eyeing him suspiciously.

“I don’t. Don’t remember any of you or anything but this house. Why?”

Willow shook her head. “Because the look on your face when Dawn said she was coming back tonight was not the expression of somebody who was expecting a total stranger.”

“Slayer’s not a stranger,” he said tersely. When the two girls just stared at him expectantly, he explained. “She’s been here every day or night since she got to the school, and we’ve…we’ve talked about a lot of things. She’s told me a bit of her history, a bit more of mine, and some of our history together. I feel like I know her. Enough to want to see her sooner rather than later.”

“Oh, you are so totally falling for her all over again!” Dawn’s delighted squeal was echoed by Willow’s murmured agreement.

“She’s made an impression,” he said stiffly. “We’ve agreed to say that I’m—well never mind what we’ve agreed to call what I’m feeling. None of your business, is it? All you need to know is that I plan to meet her at the station and I want it to be a surprise – so don’t go telling her I can leave here.”

“Fine. But don’t blame me if she thinks you’re being controlled by the First Evil or something.”

“The what?”

“Guess she didn’t get that far, yet, huh? Just don’t surprise her by yelling ‘boo’! In case it turns out you can be staked.”

He nodded. “Good point. She already broke my nose once.”

“There you go,” Dawn said with satisfaction. “It’s not good to startle a slayer.”

Leaving Spike to wander around his garden, Willow and Dawn said their ‘good-bye’s and began the walk back to the headquarters.

“Do you think falling back in love with Buffy is enough to bring back his memories?”

“I don’t know, Dawn. The spell binding him to the house was pretty standard stuff – but whatever took his memories is a lot more heavy-duty, and it must have happened somewhere else, ‘cause I couldn’t find any trace of it in the house or on him.”

“Well, if what the coven said is true about it being his ‘unfinished business’ that’s keeping him here, maybe it’s just as well. If he falls in love with Buffy again, they can just live happily ever after the way he is.”

“Um, Dawn? In case you haven’t noticed, life hasn’t very often handed Buffy romantic happily ever afters. I’m just saying…”

“Exactly! That’s why she’s due to get one. And Spike, too. He saved the world. Not as many times as Buffy has, but still… They deserve it.”

“Again, not arguing, but just pointing out that life doesn’t much care what people deserve. It just hands you what you’re going to get. No returns or refunds.”

“Wow.” Dawn peered at Willow, the rapidly deepening dusk making her harder to see. “When did you stop being all ‘it’ll be all right’ girl and turn into ‘Gloomy Greta’?”

Willow shrugged and put her arm around Dawn’s waist, giving her a brief squeeze.

“I’m not trying to be gloomy – just realistic. I hope it does work out for them. But their track record at being happy together pretty much sucks.”

“Yeah. Well, I still say, it’s time for a change.” Dawn’s mouth set itself into stubborn lines, indicating that the conversation was over.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy stepped off the train and gazed around the almost deserted station. She smiled her ‘no thank you’ at the puzzled cab driver, who then gave her a lecture on the dangers that could await a young woman walking alone after dark. Buffy just smiled again and pointed in the direction of the Council Headquarters.

“I’m going there,” she said, waiting for recognition to dawn. While the Council did not advertise exactly how ‘special’ the students at the school were, it hadn’t taken long for the few bullies and thugs in the town to learn the hard way. Word had spread.

“Ah,” he said, nodding wisely. “Enjoy the lovely evening, then, Miss.”

Buffy smiled again and waved, trailing her overnight case behind her as she went out into the cool night. She’d gone only a short way when she realized exactly how cool the nights were becoming, and stopped, preparing to pull a sweatshirt out of her overnight case. Before she could unzip it, buttery soft leather with a silk lining settled around her shoulders. She gasped, whirling around as she stood up.

When she saw Spike standing beside her, grinning at her surprise, she couldn’t speak for a minute. Then she reached out and poked him, laughing with delight when she felt solid flesh beneath her finger. She threw her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly and squealing with happiness.

“You’re back! You’re you again, and you’re still here!”

Lifting her off the ground and squeezing back, he allowed himself to enjoy the spontaneous hug for as long as seemed right, then gently pried her hands off and set her back on the ground.

“I’m the same ghost I was when you left, luv,” he said. “It’s just that your witch friend was able to release me from the house. I can come and go, but I’m no more the vampire you’re looking for than I was before. I’m sorry,” he added, as her face fell. He stroked her cheek gently and repeated, “I’m sorry, Buffy. I wasn’t thinking.”

“No, it’s okay. I knew Willow was coming today. I should have realized—anyway, how else could you have sneaked up on me like that? You were invisible, right?”

She busied herself rezipping her bag, while she fought to keep her disappointment off her face.

“Right.” He shuffled his feet. “Wanted to surprise you, but I didn’t want to be seen loitering around the railway station. All they need is to find out that the ghost can get around town, and they’ll be out with the pitchforks and torches.”

She straightened up and smiled at him. “This works out,” she said with false cheer. “I was going to come straight to your house anyway, before I went back to my room, so it saves me a trip.”

“You aren’t coming home with me now?” Spike made no attempt to hide his own disappointment.

Instead of answering him, she began walking, making no objection when he reached down and took her suitcase from her hand. They walked in silence for a while, Spike letting Buffy choose the way. When it became obvious that she was heading for the Council complex, he sighed and walked a bit faster.

“So, pet,” he said, “does this sudden desire to not be in my company have anything to do with your little visit to the den of iniquity?”

She stopped, turned to face him, then changed her mind and dragged him off the street and into the shadows of a nearby alley. He put down the bag and looked at her expectantly.

“I have something to say to you,” she announced. “And then, after I say it, I have…other stuff to say. So just be quiet and let me talk, ‘k?”

He nodded and leaned against the brick wall, arms crossed over his chest.

“Let’s have it, Slayer.”

“I love you.”

“Excuse me?”

“I. Love. You.” He opened his mouth to protest that he wasn’t who she thought, but she stopped him with a raised hand. “Don’t. Don’t tell me you aren’t you. You are. You just don’t remember. But you’re still you, and I needed to say that. Just in case you--” she caught her breath, then went on, “I needed to say it. Now. When the world isn’t falling down around our ears.” She stared into his eyes, asking, “Do you believe me?”

Remembering what Dawn had said about Buffy’s thinking he had not believed her before, he dropped his arms and put them around her trembling body.

“I do believe you. I wish I could say it back, but I know you wouldn’t believe me if I did. It’s bloody close to bein’ true though. Your sis thinks she sees it.”

“You’ve been talking to Dawn?”

“How do you think I knew when you were coming back? She paid me a visit or two while you were gone. Brought the witch out to see me.”

Buffy nodded and pushed lightly on his chest until he dropped his arms and allowed her to step away. She took a deep breath. “There’s more.”

“So you said.”

“I went to Wolfram and Hart and they said -- well, I’ll have to tell you about your last year with Angel I guess.”

“Sis filled me in a bit. Told me about workin’ with Angel and the battle after we put the big bosses’ knickers in a twist.”

Buffy nodded. “Good. Then, you know that they have all these people who can do stuff, and that they gave Angel the amulet that you wore to close – never mind, we haven’t talked about that either.” She sighed. “I needed to be farther along in your story – but you need to know what I found out now.”

“Jus tell me what’s what, pet. You can fill in the details later.”

“Long story short – they trapped you in the amulet again and the haunting stuff is your punishment for helping Angel against them. Which, as Wolfram and Hart punishments go, is like a trip to the beach – well, the vampire equivalent, I guess. They couldn’t do any torture stuff because the Powers That Be considered you a champion and wouldn’t let them do anything that didn’t have a loophole or that would be too painful.”

“Remind me to thank them,” he said with a grimace. “So, there’s a loophole?”

Buffy sighed and cupped his cheek with her hand. “There is. Hence, the I love you.” She looked around and laughed softly. “Figures we’d end up having this conversation in an alley.”

Spike growled impatiently and she refocused.

“Right. Here’s the thing. It’s what the coven thought. If you get your memories back, and finish up whatever you think needs finishing, you’ll be free from being a ghost. You’ll…move on.”

Spike frowned at her tight face. He could see that she was struggling to hold back her tears.

“But I don’t have my memories, sweetheart. And I have no desire to ‘fix’ anything if it means I’d be leaving you and whatever’s going on here.”

“But, they could come back. Anytime now. I’ve told you so much about your life already, who knows which story is going to click and bring them back?”

“Doesn’t matter,” he said; sudden fear for where she was going with this gripped him. “I don’t plan to go looking for whatever I need to find to move on. In fact, gonna do my best to avoid it. Don’t suppose they told you what it was, did they?”

“They did,” she whispered.

“Well then? What is it? What do I need to stay away from to be allowed to stay here with you?”

She just stood still, allowing the tears to stream down her face until she saw understanding in his horrified eyes. She went up on her toes and kissed him with aching tenderness, then picked up her bag and walked out of the alley, her “Good-bye, Spike” floating back to him.

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