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 25

An hour later, when Willow’s arm had gone to sleep, she finally had to slip it out from under the still sniffling slayer.

“I’m sorry, Buffy, but that arm seriously thinks it doesn’t belong to me anymore.”

Taking a deep breath and blowing it out explosively, Buffy nodded and shifted away from Willow’s comforting embrace. She lay on her back, staring at the ceiling through eyes that, for the first time in weeks, didn’t feel like they were full of sand.

He was gone. He was really, totally, not coming back gone.

This time, when the tears began to leak out again, trickling down the side of her face and into her hair, she didn’t try to stop them. She was completely sobbed out, but the tears that she’d fought for weeks would no longer be denied. She swiped at her eyes and sat up, trying to pretend that the painful lump she’d carried in her chest for the past month was not noticeably smaller. She caught Willow watching her, a small smile just visible on the witch’s mouth.

“If you say ‘I told you so’, I’m going to hurt you.”

“I wouldn’t think of it,” Willow said almost cheerfully.

“I just spent an hour wailing about the death of the man I love. What in the hell is making you so bubbly?”

“That you just spent the past hour mourning for the man you love,” Willow responded. “You have no idea how different -- how…alive you look now. “

“It still hurts!”

“Of course it does, sweetie. And it will hurt. You know that. You’ve been here before. It will hurt, and you’ll cry, but each time it will be a little easier...until one day you’re back where you were before you found him. Back to when you thought he’d been gone for years, and you could remember the vampire who loved you without crying for him. And you could smile when you thought about him.”

“I suppose you think this makes you sound all wise and…wise,” Buffy grumbled, barely suppressing her own small smile.

Willow lowered her eyes and spoke in a more subdued voice. “I had to spend a lot of my time with the coven learning about grieving and how to do it in ways that wouldn’t hurt myself or those around me.”

“Oh, Wills, of course you did.” Buffy scolded herself for forgetting that Willow had also lost someone she loved very much, just after reconciling with her. “I’m sorry – sometimes I just forget that other people have lost lovers, too.”

“Buffy, for the Goddess’ sake, don’t apologize to me about that. Your loss is right now. Mine was years ago. I’m just saying that I know how it feels and that I know it gets better…eventually.”

Buffy sighed and reached for a dirty shirt lying on the floor. She blew her nose loudly and nodded.

“I do, too,” she admitted. “My mom, Angel, Spike twice before already…” She gave a shaky laugh and threw the shirt back on the floor. “You’d think I’d have it down to a science by now, wouldn’t you?”

“I sincerely hope that neither one of us becomes so used to having loved ones die that we get good at grieving,” Willow said, standing up and stretching. “But I’m glad you finally let yourself cry it out.”

She looked at Buffy’s dubious face and continued.

“Spike probably didn’t mean it when he said not to cry, anyway. If I know him, he’s congratulating himself that you really did love him.”

Buffy snorted, requiring her to grab the dirty shirt off the floor again.

“Yeah, that’s what I told him. He’d be royally pissed if he thought I wasn’t missing him – I don’t care what he said about not crying.”

“Exactly. Now, how about you come down to the school with me and we have lunch with Dawn?”

Buffy shook her head.

“You go on. I know you’ve been putting important stuff off, hanging out here to babysit me. Go on back and tell them I’m going to be all right.”

Willow wavered. “Are you going to cry if you feel like crying?”

“I promise.” Buffy held her hand up and swore. “I promise to cry every time I think about him. Well,” she hesitated. “Unless I’m in the middle of a class or something – cause that just wouldn’t work. The girls have to respect me and they can’t do that if I’m falling apart every few minutes.”

“They do respect you. And I doubt anyone would fault you for having a moment every now and then – especially when you’re teaching them to fight and something reminds you. But I’ll let that go. If you promise not to fight it when you aren’t teaching or slaying, I’ll allow you to hold it in when you think you should.”

“You’ll ‘allow’ me, huh?”

Willow nodded.

“Are you speaking as the Council’s head witch?”

“I’m speaking as your best friend,” Willow said softly. “The one who doesn’t want you to go crazy from trying to pretend that something very bad hasn’t happened to you.”

“Oh.” Buffy stood up and pulled Willow into a grateful hug. “You are the best of best friends,” she said, her voice muffled. “But now I think I want to cry again, so maybe…?”

“I’m gone. I’ll check on you after class, okay?”

“Okay. And, Willow…thank you.”

“Hey, what are friends for if they can’t make you cry?”



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

The following evening, after teaching her last class, Buffy joined Dawn in the Council’s dining room.

“I’m glad you’re eating here again,” Dawn said with a tentative smile. “I worry about you up in the old house by yourself. I know you probably aren’t eating without Spike there to remin—Oh, Buffy! I’m sorry. I didn’t--”

“It’s okay,” Buffy said softly. “It’s not like I’m going to forget that he’s not here anymore just because nobody mentions it. And yeah, once I get through wallowing – which, by the way, has not happened yet – I’ll probably go back to eating here a lot. Cooking? So not my thing.”

“Well, I know you’re welcome to eat here whenever you want to. Giles said so. He…we…we’ve all been really worried about you. I mean, I checked on you when I could, but if it weren’t for Willow reporting in every couple of days…”

“I know. It’s just…easier…if I don’t have to be around a lot of people who are feeling sorry for me. You know? I’d rather wallow in private.”

“I…I’d kind of thought maybe…we’d…but that’s okay. You’ll cope in whatever way’s best for you, and I’ll just …cope.”

Dawn had loved him almost as much as she had. The thought pierced the shell of grief that Buffy wore so proudly, and she clutched at her sister’s hand.

“I’ve been a selfish bitch,” she said fiercely, willing Dawn to agree. “I never thought—oh, Dawn. Of course you’re mourning, too. How could I forget that? After Sunnydale, you were the only one who…I am so sorry, Dawnie.”

“No, it’s okay. This was different. I get that. You and Spike were really a couple this time -- I mean, all out in the open and stuff. And you were living together and…and he and I were just beginning to be friends again. I loved him, and I’m sorry he’s gone, but I know the hole in my life is tiny compared to yours. And I have other things to fill it with.”

The reminder that Dawn had a boyfriend as well as close friends within the school, rather than making Buffy feel better, just drove home how dependent she had become on Spike. Just as they had that last horrible year in Sunnydale, when they’d relied upon each other for everything, shutting out the rest of the world and living in each other’s shadow, they’d been completely wrapped up in one another.

Just without the annoying potentials, frightening monster vamps and the First Evil…and with more sex.

Vowing to become more involved in both the school and the lives of the people in it, she smiled at Dawn and said sincerely, “How is Teddy? I haven’t seen much of him since--”

“Yeah, Spike had his usual dampening effect on my love life,” Dawn sighed. “But he’s okay. I told him he just was going to have to get used to having a vampire – or a ghost – glaring at him. At least until he could prove to Spike that his intentions are honorable.”

“And are they?”

Dawn shrugged. “I don’t think either one of us is ready to think about marriage, if that’s what you mean. We need to graduate, figure out where we’ll be working within the Council…we want to stay together, but…” She shrugged again. “We’ll just have to see, I guess.”

Buffy nodded and said, almost wistfully, “That sounds sensible; and so…so normal.”

“Well, yeah, compared to boinking the soul out of a two hundred year old vampire when you were seventeen, sending his evil self to hell and then dating him for another year before he left you so you could be ‘normal’. Not to mention the secret, hyped up Army guy who couldn’t deal with having a girlfriend who was stronger than he was--”

“Okay, okay. I get the picture. Buffy not normal.” Under her breath she muttered, “Lectures on normal from a gazillion year old ball of energy…”

“I heard that, you know,” Dawn said smugly. “I dealt with my Keyness – you’re stuck with being a slayer.”

“Yay, me”

“Oh, you know you wouldn’t give up those superpowers. Just imagine how you’d feel if every time you wanted to punch somebody, you hurt your hand?”

“Feeling that urge right now, actually,” Buffy said, smothering a smile.

“Pffft. Like I’m afraid of you, shrimp.” Dawn stood up to her full height and picked up her tray. “Come on. I want to show you my new blouse before you go home.”

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

As Buffy trudged back to the building that she continued to think of as Spike’s house, she sighed at how much longer and more boring the walk seemed now that there was no ghost accompanying her or waiting for her on the front steps.

“I know it wasn’t this far to the house before,” she grumbled to herself. “And it wasn’t nearly this boring to--” She paused as two vampires stepped into the road. “Okay, boring over.”

“Prepare to die, Slayer,” the taller one said with a thick Spanish accent.

“You forgot the ‘My name is Inigo Montoya’ part.”

“Que?”

“Never mind. What do you want?”

“We are going to kill you.”

“Yeah, yeah, we’ll get to that; but I mean, seriously, what do you want? ‘Cause those thousand pounds and two virgins? So not happening for you.”

“How did she know--?”

“Silence!” the apparent leader hushed his minion. “It doesn’t matter how she knows. It matters only that we have her and that we leave her body in the correct place.”

Buffy rolled her eyes and held up the stake that she had immediately pulled from her coat pocket. Without waiting for a signal to begin, she ran at the still speaking vampire and pushed the stake through his heart. Before his companion could decide if he should fight or flee, Buffy had him on the ground with the stake over his heart.

“Okay, here’s how this is going to go,” she said cheerfully. “I’m not going to stake you right now because I want you to go back to Wolfram and Hart and deliver a message from me, ‘k?”

The terrified vampire nodded dumbly.

“You go back and tell them that they can keep sending killers after me for as long as they want to, and I’ll just keep slaying them. But they need to drop the part about making sure that Spike sees it, ‘cause he’s gone. You got that? Tell them he’s gone. He ‘moved on’ to wherever he was going and he’s not coming back. You tell them that. Got it?”

The vampire looked into her tear-filled eyes that still managed to make his bowels clench in fear and he nodded again, vowing that if he got away from this small town alive he would never go anywhere near a slayer. Never again.

“Okay then. You and I are going to take a little walk to the train station. Just to be sure that you do what you’re told.”

She stood up, yanking the vamp to his feet and twisting one arm behind his back. Even more frightening than the stake in her other hand was the incredible strength in the arm holding him. It was beginning to dawn on him that the girl he’d come there to help kill might not be an ordinary slayer. He had an additional nervous moment when they got to the train station and the struggle Buffy was having with herself to allow him to go free became very apparent.

“I’m going to do just what you said, I promise,” he babbled. “I’m not going to touch anybody, just get on the train and go right back to Wolfram and Hart. I swear!”

Buffy glared at his cowering figure, fighting the urge to just remove him from the world forever. With a final “get out of here” she shoved him towards the train, then changed her mind and threw the stake unerringly into his back. She watched his dust drift onto the tracks, then sighed and began the long trek back to the house.

I guess I can always send them an e mail…”Hey, evil law firm. Spike is out of your reach now. Give it up!”


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

Once again, life settled into a routine – this time minus the love making, verbal sparring, and the occasional loud discussion that had kept it from feeling like a routine when Spike was around. Buffy would have a cup of strong tea in the sunny kitchen when she woke up, then shower, grab a quick snack and head for the Council complex. She divided her time between teaching classes to the newer slayers and consulting with Giles about what areas in the world seemed most in need of their services.

Faith had cheerfully agreed to remain in Cleveland, keeping the demonic forces attracted to that Hellmouth under control. She had become quite good at managing her small group of slayers and Giles was pleasantly surprised at how much she had matured and changed since they first met her so many years ago.

“She’s got her act together pretty good,” Buffy admitted. “I mean, she’s still Faith, and sometimes…but mostly she’s been a really good head slayer. She knows stuff, and she can spot when somebody is having problems or might be heading for some kind of mental crisis. Things like that self-absorbed Buffy isn’t quite so good at seeing.”

Giles shook his head at Buffy’s self-deprecating words.

“No other slayer has ever had to deal with the diverse challenges you dealt with at a very young age, Buffy. When one is going from one potentially world-ending crisis to another, there cannot - nor should there be – any energy left over for worrying about the inner lives of one’s companions. I never faulted you for that.”

He studied her face, wondering if this might be the time to let her know how sorry he was to have failed her so often and to have lost her trust.

“I fault myself for not understanding the emotional drain that events placed on you, and for leaving you to cope on your own. I’m not saying that if I’d stayed you wouldn’t have fallen into a…relationship with Spike. But, perhaps we might have been able to…you may have felt that you could share…perhaps it could have gone better.”

Buffy snorted. “Well, it sure as hell couldn’t have gone much worse – for either one of us. But somehow, I just don’t see myself coming to you to share that I’d jumped Spike’s bones and then couldn’t stop myself from going back for more – even when I knew I was using him and his feelings for me.”

He sighed, knowing that he hadn’t come close to explaining how badly he regretted both the loss of her confidence and that he had not been there to receive it.

“Quite so. However--”

“Giles, you know as well as I do that you would have staked Spike in a heartbeat if you’d had any idea that I was sleeping with him.”

He nodded. “I’m not suggesting that I would have supported such activity – I am saying there was a time when you would have come to me with your…to share with me how lost you were feeling. I abandoned you to deal on your own with a situation that I can barely imagine. Had I been less wrapped up in my own desire to see you become an adult at an age when I, myself, was in open rebellion against adulthood…”

“It’s done, Giles. Over, done and the leftovers have been thrown away. As bad as it was – for both of us – being with Spike is what got me through. He brought me back to life in a way that the spell couldn’t. If you’d been there to prevent that…well, it wouldn’t have been pretty.”

“And yet,” he said gently, “you are once again faced with great loss – not on a par with losing Heaven, to be sure, but a great loss nonetheless. I wish I could…”

Buffy nodded.

“I appreciate the thought, Giles. I really do. But I’m a big girl now. I’ll deal with this and life will go on. Or it won’t; but then I won’t care anymore, will I?” She rose to her feet, not noticing the expression on his face. “Either way, it’s time for me to get home. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She walked out, oblivious to the fear that she’d instilled with her casual “or it won’t”, and to his disappointment that she had chosen not to take him up on his clumsy offer of support. In lieu of providing that support, he reached for the ever-handy bottle in the bottom desk drawer.

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