His Tender Mercies by Enigmaticblue

ReviewsRating: PG-13

Summary: A response to Helga Von Nutwimple's Vamp-in-the-Box Challenge. Wolfram & Hart make a slight error, and bring Drusilla back instead of Darla at the end of Ats S1. Drusilla heads straight to Sunnydale and Spike, and in the process throws a monkey wrench into Buffy's thinking. Oh, and Riley left after "Restless."

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Chapter 20 & Epilogue

Chapter 20: The Key to Everything

"I thought it might be best to take Angel's car today," Wesley said. "We'll have to take the motorcycle some other time. You'll love riding along the coast," he promised, already planning their next outing.

Drusilla merely smiled, her sarong parting slightly to reveal one shapely leg as she got into the car. The slight choking sound from Wesley's direction told her that she'd chosen her outfit exceedingly well. The purple batik sarong was a perfect complement to the tank top she wore, which served as a cover up for her bathing suit. She was cool, comfortable, and enticing.

And Dru knew it.

Wesley climbed into the driver's seat, giving her an inquisitive look. "Do you know how to drive?"

"No, I never learned," Drusilla replied. "Why?"

"Would you like to learn?" he asked. "I could teach you."

Drusilla smiled. "I would like. That would be nice." She realized that Wesley had asked because he wanted to be sure that she was as self-sufficient as possible. He wanted her to feel confident, to be able to be self-proficient-as much as he wanted to take care of her. It was one of the qualities that Drusilla liked best about him.

"Good." Wesley smiled, putting the car into gear. "We'll have to go out soon."

The ride in the convertible, with the top down, felt like freedom to Drusilla. The sun on her face, the wind sending her hair flying in all directions-she had never in her life felt anything so wonderful. She had her eyes closed against the wind, but a smile curved her lips as Wesley's hand snuck across the seat to clasp hers.

"I miss not having you around all the time," he confessed.

Dru's eyes opened slowly, and she turned her head. "It makes the time we are together all the better," she pointed out.

Wesley matched her smile with one of his own. "It does that."

~~~~~

"This is so not fair," Dawn said, her voice perilously close to a whine. "I don't need a babysitter."

Buffy frowned at her younger sister. "This isn't just about you, Dawnie. I want to be sure Mom is okay too. What if she gets sick? Do you really want to be in charge if something like that happens?"

Dawn chewed her lower lip, obviously torn. "No," she finally answered, sounding slightly sullen. "You'll bring Spike back with you tonight?"

"If he wants to come," Buffy replied. "He might have other things to do," she pointed out. "And I doubt he really wants to be hanging out with you."

Dawn's lower lip trembled. "Spike likes me," she shot back. "He understands me!" With that, Dawn whirled and ran up the stairs, her footsteps thumping. Buffy sighed, rubbing her eyes.

"Buffy? What was that about?" Joyce asked, entering the kitchen from the living room. "Is everything okay?"

"It's fine," Buffy replied. She thought it odd that her little sister would echo her own words about Spike, the argument she had given her mom for embarking on a relationship with the vampire. "Dawn's just being-Dawn. I'm supposed to go meet Giles. Willow should be here shortly to watch out for you guys."

"Buffy, I'm going to be fine," Joyce said gently. "The doctor said we caught it early enough, and with the radiation treatments, I won't even need surgery."

"I know," Buffy replied. "It's just-" She fell silent, unsure of how to express her fears. If Drusilla hadn't said something to Spike, if Spike hadn't gotten her mom to take his warnings seriously-who knows when they would have caught the tumor? It might have been too late.

"Why don't you bring Spike over tonight, Buffy," Joyce suggested. "I wouldn't mind seeing him."

Buffy laughed shortly. "You really like him, don't you?"

"Other than the fact that he's a vampire?" Joyce asked. "Yes, I do. I always have."

"Why?" Buffy asked. "You liked him before I did. I just-I don't get it."

Joyce frowned. "I don't really know. I suppose it has something to do with seeing his potential. There's always been more to Spike than meets the eye, right from the beginning."

Buffy sighed, shaking her head, deciding that she was never going to understand. "I'll ask. I think he said he'd be at Giles' today, so I'll see him there."

Buffy was thinking hard on her way over to Giles' apartment. Spike had reminded her the previous day of Drusilla's words, about Dawn being a key, whatever that meant. They were both supposed to meet at her Watcher's flat to discuss what the ex-vampire might have meant, and what they were going to do about it.

The last thing Buffy wanted to consider was that there might be something wrong with her sister like there was with her mom. As annoying as Dawn could be, she was still her sister.

Spike was already there, talking to Giles when she arrived. In an odd gesture, he stood as Buffy came into the room. "Hey, luv."

If Giles noticed the casual endearment, he chose to give no sign of it. "Ah, Buffy. There you are. How's your mother?"

"Better," Buffy replied. "She should be able to go back to work tomorrow. They want to start her on the radiation treatments right away, though."

Giles frowned. "Yes, well, if you need any help, please let me know. I'll be happy to do what I can. Is your father-"

"He's in Spain ," Buffy said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "With his secretary. He hasn't replied to any of the messages I left."

"Said he was a wanker," Spike muttered, more to himself than anything else. Both of the others were inclined to agree with him. "What are we gonna do about the Bit?"

Giles shook his head. "I'm not certain. You mentioned that Drusilla said she was the key to everything."

"Drusilla told me Dawn was the key to the doors between the worlds," Buffy said. "It's just-I remember her telling me this the last time she was in Sunnydale, but why haven't Spike and I remembered this until now? I mean, I could swear I forgot about it till just the other day."

Spike shook his head. "Somethin' doesn't feel right about this whole deal. Don't know what it is, but there's something."

"That's hardly helpful, Spike," Giles said, but his tone was less harsh than his words might have suggested. "I don't know, Buffy. There are several things we might try, of course, but I don't know exactly where to start."

Buffy frowned. "Do you think we should tell any of the others? Not that there's really anything to tell yet, but-"

Giles shook his head, and Spike mirrored his action. "They'd just be runnin' their mouths around the Niblet," Spike pointed out. "No sense in worryin' her or your mum till we know more."

The sense of unreality struck Buffy suddenly. Here she was, concocting a plan with her Watcher and a vampire she'd have sworn she hated until just a few weeks ago. A plan concerning her annoying little sister, and to the exclusion of her friends.

"I agree," Giles said, for the moment deciding not to think about how strange that sounded. "I think we ought to continue looking for something that will help us clarify what Drusilla meant. Of course, we could always ask her to return to Sunnydale. Perhaps she would be able to tell us more now."

"That's not a bad idea," Buffy said. "But I really think we should exhaust our resources here first. I'm sure Drusilla has enough to do in L.A. right now."

~~~~~

Drusilla was moaning in pleasure, the sound sending a bolt of heat to Wesley's stomach. Well, a bit lower than his stomach, really. His strong hands were kneading the muscles in her back, rubbing the suntan lotion in thoroughly. It was the third time he'd applied the lotion, and the liquid was runny and warm from sitting in the sun all afternoon.

Wesley carefully worked his slick fingers under the tie of her bikini top and down around her sides, managing to cop a quick feel while he was at it. Drusilla's quick gasp was reward enough for his actions. While the bathing suit covered everything that needed to be covered, her bare legs and toned stomach had been wreaking havoc on him all day.

He'd wanted to insist they go back to his place as soon as she'd removed her sarong and top. Wesley had promised her a sunset, however, and so they'd had a picnic lunch and gone swimming for a bit to cool off. The sun was just now beginning to descend from its zenith, and it would soon be time to find a vendor for a quick dinner along the Promenade.

"Are you hungry?" Wesley asked.

Drusilla smiled, though he couldn't see it. "For what?"

"You are going to make it quite impossible for me to control myself," he said. "You know that, don't you?"

"Isn't that the point?" Dru asked, mischievously. "You did promise me ice cream."

He frowned. "Wouldn't you rather have dinner first?"

"I think I'd rather have dessert." Her eyes traveled down his bare chest. "Dinner can come later."

He gave her a pleased smile. "Then let's go get ice cream." Wesley pulled on his t-shirt, watching as she put her skirt and top back on.

Drusilla spied him watching her and her lips curved again. It had been a truly magical day. She couldn't ever remember being this happy, even before Angelus. Perhaps there had been moments this wonderful in her childhood, before the visions, when she and her sisters had spent the afternoons playing in the garden.

It was a day like this that made her think it possible to regain some of her lost innocence.

They walked together hand in hand, each of them with an ice cream in their free hand. The double scoops of strawberry and chocolate exploded in flavor and temperature on Drusilla's tongue. Wesley licked at his own cone, trying to keep his eyes off of Drusilla and her obvious enjoyment of her own cone.

He could think of other things she might be doing with her tongue.

They people-watched and spoke idly of unimportant things. Wesley found himself telling her about his time at the Watcher's Academy and of his father. Her quiet acceptance made it easier to say things he'd never thought to tell anyone else.

"Your father sounds like a bully," Drusilla observed. The sun was low on the horizon, but she was focused more on Wesley than watching it set.

Wesley was silent for a moment. "I suppose he was. I-I still wish I'd been able to make him proud."

"Men like that are never satisfied," Drusilla said gently. "Even if you had been perfect, he still would have found fault, because the deficit is his, not yours."

Wesley looked out over the horizon, watching as the sky turned orange and red, setting the ocean on fire with color. "Will you ever be able to forgive Angel?" he asked, changing the subject.

Drusilla followed his gaze. Every sunset was different, and this one seemed more glorious than any other than she had ever seen. It was perfect. "Someday," she replied. "I think I will someday."

~~~~~

Angel frowned as he entered Cordelia's apartment. "Where's Dru?"

"She went out with Wesley," Cordy replied, not looking up from her fashion magazine. "And I doubt we'll see either of them until tomorrow."

Angel slumped in one of her chairs. "I thought we were supposed to go take care of that nest tonight."

Cordelia gave him an annoyed look. "You thought," she pointed out. "Wes told you yesterday that he was planning on taking Dru to the beach. Weren't you paying attention?"

He had been paying attention, actually, but Angel had believed that vampire-hunting would take priority. "I was listening," he grumbled. "I just don't see how dating is more important than fighting evil."

"Maybe because dating makes Drusilla happy, and she deserves a little bit of happiness." Cordy sighed. "Heck, we all deserve a little time once in a while. If Dru wants to have a day at the beach with a guy she likes, just so she can pretend to be normal for a while-I say more power to her."

"What would make you happy, Cordy?" Angel asked suddenly.

Cordelia raised her eyebrows. "Seriously? Other than not having mind-numbing visions and maybe seeing my acting career finally take off? I would love to go out to dinner at a really nice restaurant, get dressed up, and then have somebody else pay for it. That would definitely make me happy."

"Then why don't we?" Angel asked. At her surprised expression, the vampire continued more enthusiastically. "I don't feel like going after a bunch of vampires tonight either, so why don't we go have dinner somewhere. My treat."

"Give me fifteen minutes," Cordelia replied. "I'll be ready." She walked into her bedroom and shut the door behind her, leaning back against it.

It looked like she wasn't going to be dateless tonight after all.

~~~~~

The research party had broken up when Xander appeared. Anya wasn't with him this time, which made the Slayer wonder. Xander and Anya had been pretty much inseparable up until now. "What brings you around, Xander?" Buffy asked cautiously. He was one of her oldest friends, and the Slayer hated being on the outs with him.

On the other hand, Buffy was of the firm opinion that Xander had to learn that she had the right to select her own boyfriends, without input from him. "Your mom said I could find you at Giles'," Xander replied, giving Spike a dirty look. "She didn't say he would be here, though."

"Xander, don't," Buffy said shortly. "I don't care if you hate Spike, but it's not going to change anything, okay?

Xander frowned, obviously not liking Buffy's obstinacy. "Buffy-"

"Lay off, Harris," Spike snarled. "Don't care who you are, you're not goin' to hurt her feelings again. She's got enough to deal with."

When Xander looked like he was going to launch himself at the vampire, Giles stepped in between them. "That's enough, Xander," he commanded. "I've already discussed things with Spike, and we've reached an understanding. Buffy is old enough to make her own decisions, whatever anyone else might think of them."

A harsh silence fell, and all three of the others gaped at Giles as they realized that he had chosen to indirectly support Buffy's decision. The Watcher hadn't planned on doing so, but over the course of the afternoon he had come to a better understanding of Spike's willingness to do whatever was necessary to protect both Buffy and Dawn.

Giles was not keen to lose an ally, especially in the face of the unknown.

"Sorry, Buffy," Xander finally muttered, not meeting the Slayer's eyes.

Buffy nodded tightly. "It's fine, Xander." She looked over at Giles, gratitude in her eyes. "I should probably do a quick sweep before heading home."

"Of course, Buffy," Giles replied. "You should spend time with your mother."

Buffy grabbed Spike's hand and they left together, but not before Spike had given Giles a silent nod of thanks.

Giles turned to look at the now-silent young man. "You do realize that if you continue on this course you will alienate her completely."

Xander scowled, then sighed. "It's just-it's Spike."

"As irritating as he might be, Spike does have certain assets that could be quite valuable," the Watcher said quietly. "I suggest you get used to the idea that he's going to be around for a while."

~~~~~

"We should really get back home," Buffy said, sounding worried. "I don't like leaving Mom for too long."

Spike tugged on her hand. "Just a quick stop," he promised. "Want to show you somethin'."

Buffy decided she didn't want to argue. "Spike-thanks."

He turned to look at her in surprise. "For what?"

"For researching, for being here, I don't know. For all of it." Buffy never had been good with words. She merely knew that she felt a wordless gratitude that Spike was present. It defied explanation.

""s my pleasure, luv," Spike finally replied. "You know I'd do 'bout anything' for you."

Buffy frowned. "I don't get it, Spike. Why do you even like me?"

Spike shrugged. "Does there have to be a reason? Just do." They had reached his crypt, and he pulled her towards the trapdoor that led to the lower level. "Down here."

Feeling a trifle apprehensive, she followed. Although she really did trust him, Buffy wasn't sure exactly what Spike had planned. Her mouth gaped open as she saw what he'd done. "Spike-"

"You like it then?"

The cavern was almost cozy, with the rug on the floor and the large bed. Nothing matched, and Buffy knew that what Spike hadn't scavenged, he'd most certainly stole, but the beauty of his gesture stole her breath away. He'd created a getaway for the two of them-a safe place. "It's perfect," Buffy said sincerely.

He shrugged, obviously embarrassed. "Still needs more work, but I thought it would do as a start. Don't really want to have to worry 'bout the Bit walking' in on us."

"This really is great, Spike," Buffy said, regret creeping into her tone. "I just wish we had time to take advantage of it right now. But-"

"Your mum is waiting, an' so is the Bit," Spike finished for her. "I get that, Buffy."

Spike did get it, Buffy realized. Better than anyone else, this Slayer of Slayers understood that she wasn't just a girl-nor was she just the Slayer. Spike understood the complexities of her life, knew that her life was destined to be short.

For some reason, it was Spike who understood that she had duties as a daughter and as a sister, and he was as prepared to help her deal with those obligations as he was to aid her in nightly patrols.

It made Buffy feel as though she didn't have to shoulder her burden alone for the first time in a long while.

"Then let's go home," she replied. "And maybe once they're asleep, we can sneak out and take that bed for a trial run."

Spike's wicked grin was all the answer Buffy needed.

 

Epilogue

"Gin!" Dawn said triumphantly. "You owe me big time, Spike."

Spike glowered at his traitorous cards. "Bloody hell." He tossed her a bag of M&M's. "I think you're cheatin'."

"If I am, it would only be because I've learned from the best," Dawn replied with a smug grin. She glanced up. "Buffy? Aren't you going to play?"

The Slayer shook her head. "Not right now, Dawnie. Besides, you should be in bed."

Dawn made a face. "I'm not going to be able to sleep," she objected. "I'm too wound up."

"You should try," Buffy said. "The time will go faster if you're sleeping."

The girl opened her mouth to argue some more, but Spike shook his head. "Off to bed now, Bit. Your sister's right. One of you needs your sleep if you're goin' to keep me company on the drive back tomorrow."

Dawn frowned. "You just don't want to lose any more games," she accused.

"'s possible," Spike admitted cheerfully. "I never told you I'd play fair."

To her credit, Dawn went to bed without further complaining while Spike came to join Buffy by the window. Sunrise was still a few hours away by his reckoning-sunrise and the promise of safety. "How much longer?" Buffy asked.

"Not long," Spike promised. "Few hours at most. Sun comes up, an' we'll be safe, accordin' to Dru. You doin' alright?"

"I'm worried about Mom," Buffy confessed. "If Glory finds them, I won't be able to get there in time."

"The witches are more than capable of takin' care of your mum," Spike reminded her. "An' Rupert will look after the other two. Was better for us to split up."

"I know," Buffy replied. It had only made sense for the two of them to guard Dawn, while the others went their separate ways. When Drusilla's warning about the day of reckoning came, there hadn't been much discussion. The two strongest warriors would be needed to protect the Key, and they didn't need to risk anyone else. Willow and Tara had gotten the job of looking after Joyce, who had fully recovered from her illness, the radiation treatments having been successful.

Spike, as usual, had been a godsend. Even Xander had come around after Glory went after the vampire, guessing correctly that the Slayer's boyfriend would know where Buffy had stashed the Key. What the Hellbitch hadn't realized was how stubborn Spike could be, especially when it concerned one of his girls.

Buffy glanced up into his still face as he looked out into the darkness. He had patrolled with her, he'd comforted her when they'd finally discovered the truth of what Dawn was. Spike had been her shadow, her lieutenant, the person she trusted above all others. By his tender mercies, Spike had proven himself beyond all her expectations.

"I love you."

He seemed to go even more still at her side. "I beg your pardon?"

"I love you." Her voice was stronger, more certain.

Spike turned to stare into her eyes. "Say it again," he demanded.

"I love you, Spike."

"I love you, too," he finally managed, and then his lips descended on hers. He'd loved her, and he'd waited for her to say the words. Through it all, he had waited.

It seemed that patience was a virtue after all.


Vamp In The Box Challenge

Requirements :

Setting:  An A/U AtS Season Two/BtVS Season Five, after "To Shanshu In L.A. " and "Restless".
Pairing:  Spike/Drusilla (temporary), Spike/Buffy

Basic Plot Elements :

When Wolfram & Hart tries to resurrect Darla (AtS 1x22, "To Shanshu In L.A."), they discover that they have resurrected Drusilla instead.  Still insane (although now having a human potential to recover from her mental trauma), scared and vulnerable, she flees L.A. for the one person she's sure will protect her -- Spike. 

He notices her slightly-less-craziness and realizes that if he vamps her again, he'll do to her what Angelus did -- leave her trapped in insanity forever.  So, he becomes determined to cure her, then vamp her... only, the more sane Drusilla becomes, the more she turns back into the pious, innocent girl she had been.  See Spike wrestle with ethics!  Wrestle, Spike, wrestle!

When Spike ultimately decides to give up his immortal beloved so that she can be happy as a human, it causes Buffy to finally see him in a different light.

Extras :

1. Still!Crazy!Dru being able to see that Dawn is the Key
2.  Drusilla telling Buffy endearing things about Spike
3.  Drusilla revealing that "Run and catch / Run and catch / The lamb is caught in the blackberry patch" has always referred to Spike, the sacrificial lamb (how much Dru reveals about Spike's death in "Chosen" is up to you) caught up in Buffy (the prickly, painful 'blackberry patch' that wounds him and he can't get away from).

Bonus Points For :

1. Drusilla foreseeing and managing to prevent Joyce's death
2. Cordelia giving Drusilla very Cordelia-style dealing-with-visions advice


The End.

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