Aftershocks, Part 1
by
Zoni

Buffy looked out the window of Willow's room, watching the sun go down.  "Another day in Sunnydale," she sighed, her eyes focusing on the scenic beauty of the sunset.  "Kinda strange, isn't it, how even the Hellmouth can offer something like that?"

The redheaded witch nodded imperceptibly.  "Yeah, I guess so.  Tara and I used to watch the sun set almost every night.  I can't believe..." Willow's voice trailed off, laced with bitter sadness.  "If only I could have seen, Buffy.  I didn't know.  The magic..."

"It's okay, Will.  Things are going to be okay now."

"But, Dawnie.  I could have killed her when we slammed the car into that wall."

Buffy winced, recalling the evening just one week ago when Willow had taken Dawn to her dealer.  She didn't know what else to call him, really.  Willow had a serious magic addiction, and that guy was nothing more than a dealer.  A small shudder rippled through the Slayer as her stomach tightened with the fear of what could have happened.  Buffy struggled to control her anger before speaking.  She knew Willow was tearing herself apart just fine without any help from her friends.  "Yes, Willow, you could have killer her.  You could have killed yourself.  You could have killed some innocent bystander on the side of the road.  But you didn't.  And now you have a chance to start over, to do it right."  Buffy's eyes glistened with unshed tears as she turned back to the window and the coming darkness outside.  "But it's going to be okay now.  You did a stupid thing, but you've learned your lesson."  She wondered, as she spoke the last few words, if she was referring to her friend or to herself.

* * * *

Dawn sat in the kitchen facing the back door, pouring over her history book.  "Stupid teachers.  When am I ever gonna need this stuff, anyway?" she muttered. 

"I heard that, young lady," Buffy said, attempting Mom's stern voice.  "You never know what you'll need out in the real world."

"The real world?  Hello?  Hellmouth.  Doesn't get much more real than this, dontcha think?"  Dawn giggled. 

Buffy gave her little sister a quick hug on her way around the island counter.  "I'm gonna make myself a sundae.  Want one?"

Dawn shrugged noncommittally.  "Nah, not right now.  Brain freeze and memorizing historical facts don't exactly mix."

"Suit yourself," Buffy smirked.  "But if you complain later because I used up all the whipped cream, don't say I didn't give you a chance."

Dawn looked up at the back door and squealed joyfully, nearly causing her sister to drop her freshly made sundae.  Buffy looked up and grimaced when she saw the blonde vampire through the window.  "Stay," she warned her sister as she strode purposefully to the door. 

"What do you want?" she grumbled.  It was then she caught sight of the large gift bag and bouquet of flowers in his hands.  "Listen, Spike, I told you..."

"What?  World doesn't revolve around you, Slayer.  These are for the Nibblet," Spike said with a lopsided grin aimed at Dawn. 

Buffy's face registered shock, anger, disappointment, and embarrassment before composing a mask of indifference.  "Oh, well then.  Come in, I guess."

As soon as Spike sat the gifts on the counter, Dawn launched at him, throwing her arms and legs around him in a huge embrace.  "You came" she squealed.  "I've been bored to tears, and I missed you so much, and I didn't get to thank you for taking me to get my cast, and isn't it so nerdy, they had all these neon colors to choose from but I thought white would be the least geeky but then I didn't know it'd get so dirty so quick so now it looks kinda skanky and..."

"Lil' Bit, slow down. Give a vamp a breather, pet.  I take it you're feeling all up and about, then."  Tenderly he disengaged himself from the teenager, planting a quick peck on the top of her head.  "Now, are we gonna talk the undead to death, or are we gonna see what's in the bag?"  Spike playfully ruffled Dawn's hair.

"Hey, don't do that," she whined.  "I'm not a little kid, you know.  I'm fifteen.  FIFTEEN!"

"Ah, well, that you are, luv.  I s'pose you're much too old for my pressie, then." 

Dawn grabbed the vampire by the sleeve, effectively preventing him from reclaiming his gift.  "Let's not get carried away, now.  Never too old for presents!" 

"Oh, cor, luv, stop with the puppy dog eyes."

Dawn tried unsuccessfully to stifle a giggle.  "You know you love me."

Spike looked down at her tenderly.  "Yeah, well, don't let it bloody well get to your head."  He looked up and noticed Buffy still standing there, hands crossed over her chest.  "Um, well, I guess I better get going.  Places to go, people to kill." 

"But, you don't wanna hang out with me?  I mean...you just got here."  Dawn shot him her best mournful eyes look.

"Bullocks!  I'm a bloody poof, letting you get to me that way.  But I'm afraid the Slayer there'd be none to pleased with my staying."

"Oh, she'd be fine with it," Dawn said, giving her sister a meaningful look.  "Wouldn't you, BUFFY." 

With a sigh, Buffy admitted defeat.  "Who can argue with the puppy eyes?  I'll be up with Willow if you need anything."

Spike's eyes grew angry, a flash of demon coming forth.  "The witch.  The witch is here?  After what she..."

"It's okay, Spike," Dawn said, her brow furrowed with concern.  "She's going to be okay, and I'm fine.  See?"  She lifted up both arms, wincing a little when her broken one went too high.  "Besides, you haven't signed my cast yet.  And we could have hot chocolate.  And I'm studying for a history test and you're so old that even you might know about some of this stuff."

"Is she always this good at flattery, Slayer?" he said with a smirk. 

"No, usually she goes right into the insults and forgets flattery altogether."

"HA HA," Dawn said sarcastically.  "So, are you in?  We have marshmallows."

"I'm such a bloody wanker," he sighed with mock dismay.  "Cocoa and marshmallows and puppy eyes and I go from scary creature of the night to poofter like that," Spike joked, snapping his fingers.  "Care to join us, Slayer?"

"A world of no.  I need to patrol.  If you hurt her while I'm out..."

"Yeah, yeah.  Slow torture, big pile of dust.  Got it."  He rolled his eyes at Dawn, then crouched as if to pounce.  "I'm gonna get all the marshmallows."  With a growl, he rushed around her and attacked the bag, stuffing his mouth full of little white confections.

"Hey, no fair!  You're taking advantage of my weakened condition!"

"Age before beauty, pet," he replied, somewhat muffled by the amount of marshmallows shoved into his cheeks.

Buffy turned on her heel and left the vampire and her sister in the kitchen, grabbing her slaying gear and jacket.  "What does she see in him?" As she closed the door, her mind was whirling with another question.  "Then again, what do I see in him?"

***

Buffy glanced up and noticed Willow's light was out.  Shaking her head sadly, she opened the front door.  Silently, she dropped her gear as she noticed light and voices coming from the kitchen.

"Does not."

"Does, too."

"Does not!"

"Bloody well does, too!"

"You are such a cheater," Dawn retorted with a sigh. 

"I could eat you, you know.  Show some respect for your elders." 

"Hey, I'm probably older than you.  Key?  Remember?"

Spike's voice dropped a little, pain almost imperceptible in his voice.  "Now don't bloody start that again, Nibblet.  You always do that when you know I'm right.  Sore loser."

"Am not!"

"Are, too!"

Buffy couldn't contain her curiosity another moment.  She stepped into the doorway, one hand on her hip while the other tried unsuccessfully to cover her smirk.  "Is this sandbox brawl just for babies, or can anybody play?"

At the sound of her voice, Spike jumped noticeably and nearly fell off the barstool.  "Bloody hell, Slayer!  Must you be all stealthy?  Cause the undead to have a heart attack!"

"Promise?" she teased.  "Duh, Slayer.  Stealthy's sorta part of the whole 'live another day' plan."

Dawn rolled her eyes at her sister.  "Buffy, don't you have something to do?  Somewhere?  Not the kitchen?"

"Trying to get rid of me, Dawnie?  Afraid I'll tell Spike about your little cru..." 

"BUFFY!"  Dawn turned a vivid shade of pink, laughing nervously.  "Um, shouldn't you go check on Willow or something?"

Spike's eyes shot up, flashing with anger.  His demon face came, unbidden, and left just as quickly.  He looked at Dawn tenderly.  "Migraine or not, Nibblet, I'd have hurt her if..." his words choked off, a look of devotion and pain marring his beautiful features. 

"But she didn't," Buffy broke in.  "And everything is going to be okay now."

"Hey Spike," Dawn giggled.  "What do you get when you goose a ghost?"

"Oh, bugger, not another of your riddles," he said with a dramatic sigh.  "I give up.  What do you get when you goose a ghost?"

"A hand full of sheet!"  Dawn broke down into uncontrolled giggles while the vampire moaned as if in great pain.

Buffy realized they didn't even notice her presence, so she quietly made her way up the stairs. 

****

In her room, Buffy sat on her bed and hugged Mr. Gordo tightly to her chest.  A lone tear slid down her cheek, and she brought up a well-manicured hand to wipe it away.  The past couple of weeks had been so hard.  She'd tried to get adjusted to life again, but with Giles leaving, and Willow's magic problems, and Tara moving out, and Dawn getting hurt..."It could have been so much worse" she whispered to Mr. Gordo.  Then her thoughts drifted to that night with Spike, the night when they'd literally brought a house down with their lovemaking.  "NO" she said aloud, then shrank back onto her pillow, afraid to wake Willow.  It wasn't making love, she reminded herself.  It was sex.  No strings, no feelings, no...anything.  Just a really bad moment of passion, a wrong judgment call.  But, the little voice in her head taunted, if it was just a one-time event, with no strings, why all of those kisses leading up to that night?  Why doing it more than once that night?  Why couldn't she stop fantasizing about it?  And why did it feel so right?

****

"She's gone upstairs, Spike.  You can relax now."

Avoiding eye contact, the blonde vampire moved around the island counter to the stove.  "Don't know what you're talking about, pet.  More cocoa?"

"Are there any more marshmallows left," Dawn queried sarcastically.

"Of course there are.  I'm not a bleedin' pig, you know," he retaliated, insulted.  Then he grinned at her sheepishly.  "There's enough for one more cup."

With that, the duo broke into a fit of giggles.

After they'd settled down, Dawn looked at her friend seriously.  "So, are you gonna tell me what's going on with you and Buffy?"

Spike nearly choked on his sip of cocoa, ruining his attempt at calmness.  "Don't know what you're talking about, luv.  Me and the Slayer aren't what you'd call the best of friends, you know."

"Yeah, I know.  But you love her, right?  I know you do.  It's just that, I don't know.  After that night with the accident and my broken arm and stuff...things have just seemed different somehow."

"Well, she loves you, you know.  And I think it probably shook her up right when she saw that smashed up car."

"You're trying to change the subject again, Spike."

"Picked up on that, did you?"

Dawn sighed heavily.  "We're friends, right?  And Buffy is my sister.  And I know I'm only a kid, at least to you guys, but I know when something is different."

"Well, pet, yeah.  I guess things do change."  Spike didn't even try to hide the sadness and frustration in his voice.  "I guess I just have come to accept that she'll always look at me and see a monster and not a man.  Can't really love someone if they don't love you back."

Dawn scooted off the barstool and went to Spike, wrapping her good arm around him.  "It's okay, Spike.  Things will work out somehow."

"Not bloody likely, pet.  Not bloody likely." 

Buffy sat in the shadows at the top of the stairs, eyes glistening as she eavesdropped on the conversation in the kitchen.  If she didn't know better, she'd have sworn his voice was filled with unshed tears.

****

"I love you, Dawn."  She turned, and before her saw a huge tear in the fabric of reality.  The edges crackled with blue light, energy radiating from within.  She ran, jumping into the opening.  Then, she was falling.  There was a flash of pain, and time seemed to stop.  She was so tired.  Opening her eyes in what seemed like an instant, she felt rested.  The light was so bright, she thought it would blind her.  She felt warm and comfortable and safe.  Suddenly, the light was gone.  She was surrounded by darkness, overpowered with a sense of suffocating and fear. Her hands went before her, seeking the light.  She missed the light so badly.  Her hands met with something solid.  Fear overtook her, and she began beating and clawing against the solid mass in front of her.  Her mouth filled with dirt as she kept digging upward, searching for the light that had become so dear to her, battling against the darkness that had overtaken her.  She was overpowered by senses then.  Cold.  Dark.  Loud.  She started to scream, and felt as though her throat would bleed.  Lost.  Over.  Gone.  So much pain.  Overwhelming, numbing, stabbing pain.

****

Buffy sat bolt upright in bed, her skin glistening in the moonlight with sweat.  She'd been dreaming again, dreaming of where she'd been...before.  And after.  She lunged out of the room, stumbling down the hallway to the bathroom.  She barely made it in time to empty the contents of her stomach.  Dawn was by her side then, wiping her brow with a cool cloth.  "Buffy?  Are you okay?"

"Dream."  It was all Dawn needed to know.  She sat and held her older sister, letting the Slayer cry.

****

Spike stalked around inside his crypt, grimacing and mumbling with every step.  "I'm the Big Bad.  I'm gone all soft and poofy.  Love!  HA!  Don't bloody know what that is, do I?  I'm a demon!  A demon!  Not a man.  And I'm not even a bloody decent demon, wot with the bleedin' chip in my head.  Stupid gits.  I'd like to shove their soddin' military boots straight up their arses!"

"Ya know, you really ought to look into anger management training, fang breath."

The vampire spun around at the voice.  "Oh, great, it's the bloody whelp.  Come to make me feel even less than a man, have we?"

Xander shoved his hands in his pockets, suddenly speechless.

Forgetting himself, Spike put a hand on Xander's shoulder in a gesture of comfort.  "Well, mate, you didn't come here in the middle of the night for nothing.  What's up?"

"It's Willow.  And Buffy.  And...everything," the dark-haired young man muttered.  "It was so bad when Buffy...when she was...gone.  And Willow said she could do this spell, and get Buffy out of whatever Hell dimension she'd been sent to...and we really only wanted to help.  But we didn't help.  We screwed up big time.  And now Buffy is back here, and she doesn't want to be, and Giles has left, and I'm about to get married and I barely just got out of my parents house," he paused for a breath, running his fingers through his hair.  "And everything is just...different...and I don't know if it's going to get better, or fixed, or if it's all just screwed."

Spike scoffed, turning to retrieve a bottle and two shot glasses from the cabinet.  "Drink?"

"Beer bad," Xander quipped with a half-hearted smile.

"Could be, but whiskey good."  Spike chuckled as the boy sputtered and coughed at the first sip.  "Still, doesn't explain why you're here talking to the dead man on campus."

Xander raised an eyebrow.  "Humor?  Didn't know you had it in you."

"Ate a comedian," Spike replied, straight-faced.

"Well, Anya's busy planning the wedding, Tara...she and Will split up, Giles is gone and Dawnie's just a kid."  He looked into the blonde's eyes, a mixture of sadness and irony mirroring there.  "You're all I've got."

Spike started rumbling, deep in his chest.  Soon, he and Xander were both wiping tears of laughter.  "Well, whelp, I'd say this is about the most pathetic night I've had in a long time."

****

"Stupid!" Uppercut. "Ugly!" Kick. "Nasty!" Stake. "Vampire!" Poof!  Buffy stood up, shaking the vamp dust out of her hair.  "It feels good to fight," she thought to herself.  "Correction.  It feels good to feel."  Sensing another vampire, she twirled on her heel, stake at the ready.

"Easy, Slayer.  It's just me."  Spike stood with his back against a nearby crypt, one foot on the wall behind him, cigarette dangling from his pale mouth. 

"Kissable mouth," Buffy's wicked inner voice whispered.  "Incredible mouth."

"What's that, Slayer?  Didn't quite hear you." 

Buffy's eyes widened, realizing she must have said that last thought out loud.  "Nothing" she ground out through gritted teeth.  "What are you doing here?"

"It's my crypt, luv.  Just thought I'd come round to see what the commotion was all about."

He looks so damn sexy, her evil side whimpered.  Good enough to eat.  "Go away, Spike."

"Like I said, pet, it's my place." He tossed the cigarette on the ground, snuffing it out with the toe of his boot.  "Why don't you go away?"

"Fine!"  Buffy turned abruptly, starting to stomp off into the night.  Suddenly, she was turned around again, this time by the blonde vampire. 

"Look, luv, I don't know what the hell is going on up in that little bleached head of yours, but we need to talk."

Buffy sighed, exasperated.  "Talk?  That's all you ever want to do!  Talk!"

"Not all, Slayer," Spike retorted, leering.  "Not all."

"Will you just shut UP?!"

"Make me," he smirked.

Buffy launched herself at him, stake tossed on the ground.  She wrapped her legs around his lean torso, holding his face in her hands.  Her warm lips pressed against his cool ones, hot tongue seeking another with which to duel.  Spike's surprise soon gave way to desire as he supported her bottom with one arm, the other hand roaming up and down the soft skin under her thin tank top.  They were unaware of the passage of time, letting their passion carry them.  It wasn't until the sky opened up and began drenching the unlikely couple with hard, cold drops of rain that they broke their embrace.  With shaky legs planted once more on the ground, she reached up and slapped the vampire.

"Bloody hell!  What was that for?"

"Do I need a reason?"  Buffy spit out angrily.

"Listen, you little twit, I've had it.  You run hot one minute and cold the next.  What the hell do you want from me?"

Buffy fought back the tears that sprang to her eyes.  "Something I'll never have" she whispered fiercely.  "Something, apparently, I don't deserve."

Spike was on his knees in front of her instantly, looking into her face tenderly.  "Slayer...Buffy," he amended, using her name, "you deserve everything your heart desires."

With that statement, the wall Buffy had so steadily built began to crumble.  Her legs betrayed her, and she fell into a heap on the wet ground, rain pelting her unnoticed. 

She didn't even notice when Spike picked her up and carried her into his crypt.  He cradled her in his arms as he took her to the lower portion of his home.  Gently he sat her on the bed, and began wrapping blankets around her.  Then he began toweling her soaked hair dry, not saying a word as he worked.

Buffy was unaware of how much time had passed, but almost as an afterthought she realized he was no longer sitting beside her.  She looked around, finally spotting him in a dark corner of the room.  "Spike?"

"Yes, pet?"  He sounded tired.

"Spike, why are you being nice to me?  After the way I've treated you?  I really am a bitch, aren't I?"

He chuckled, sending a shiver skittering down her spine.  "Yes, you are, Slayer.  A royal bloody bitch to the nth degree."

A small smile crept over her face.  "So, why are you being so nice to me?"

"Glutton for punishment, I s'pose."  He sighed in the dark, and she strained to make out his silhouette.  "I've told you before, but you don't believe me.  Not in the mood to be called a liar."

"Do you really love me, Spike?"

The vampire jumped out of his chair as if on fire, demon yellow eyes flickering in anger before retreating to allow his blue ones to come forward.  "Why should I?  It'll never make a damn bit of difference either way, will it, pet?  I'll always be a demon.  I'll always be..." he shuddered, voice wavering, "...beneath you."

Buffy swallowed hard, remembering the night he'd poured his heart out to her, told her about his human life before being turned.  She remembered the hateful thing Cecily had told him.  Worst of all, she remembered repeating those same words.  Later that night he'd come to her house with a gun.  She was sure he'd come to kill her.  But she'd been on the porch, crying because her mother was sick.  And she was the Slayer, and this was one battle she couldn't fight.  Fresh tears sprang to her eyes.

"I miss Mom so much."

Spike frowned, then nodded.  "Me, too.  Joyce was a good woman."

"I'm sorry, Spike.  About all the harsh things I've said."

"Well, to be fair, I have tried to kill you on a few occasions."

She gifted him with a wan smile.  "Yeah, true.  But I forgave Angel when he became Angelus."  She paused when she noted the war between anger and hurt at the mention of his sire.  "So I should be able to forgive you, too.  You're not the same person now."

"I'm not a person at all," he reminded her with a bitter laugh.  "I'm just a monster."

"No, Spike.  That's where I was wrong, and where you're wrong, too.  You have proven time and again how much you care for Dawn, how you're willing to stand and fight with me and the gang.  You saved her...that night."  She touched his cheek gently.  "You tried to save me, too.  But I wanted to go, Spike.  I wanted it."

"If I'd have been quicker, or moved one way instead of another, Lil Bit wouldn't have bled, and you wouldn't have..."

Buffy pressed a fingertip to his lips.  "Shhh.  You did all you could.  You fought hard.  And Glory didn't win.  You could have sold Dawn out, but you never did.  Glory could have killed you, dusted you, but you never gave up.  And when I...when I was gone, you kept your promise.  You took care of Dawn.  No 'monster' would do any of those things, Spike.  You're not a monster.  You're more of a man than you know."

Spike broke eye contact, suddenly fascinated with his shoes.  "But it'll never be enough" he whispered, so silently she almost didn't hear.

"No, Spike, it's always been enough.  It's always been too much.  My father left my mom and me a long time ago, but the feeling is still there.  The fear that promises don't matter, that love isn't enough, that opening your heart and having hope just makes the pain that much worse.  I know that I'm the Slayer, that I don't get to retire and live a normal life...as much as I want one.  I'm going to die.  I probably won't ever get married, or have children, or a white picket fence."  Her voice broke with emotion.  "And I'm so tired, Spike.  I'm tired of knowing...of not being able to fool myself into believing, into having hope."

The vampire took her hand in his cool one, squeezing it gently.  So much pain, and all he wanted to do was take it away from her.  "What can I do, Buffy?"

She looked up, startled at his use of her name.  "Be patient?"

He chuckled softly.  "Forgotten who you're talking to, pet?"

She gave him a sad smile.  "No.  But...I just need some time.  Can you give me that?"

"I've already given you my heart.  I guess some time wouldn't be impossible."

Buffy wiped her tears, smile brightening.  "I thought soulless demons didn't have a heart to give."

He kissed her on the tip of the nose.  "Who knew?"

****

On to Part 2

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