Broken Universe Epilogues
Story by Lit Gal, beta'ed by Velvet Virago
Xander/Spike: Rated PG-13
New Arrival :
Xander tore through the automatic glass doors to the hospital two steps ahead of Spike who had been slowed down by having to park the car. Of course Spike hadn't been slowed down much since he had left the small white coupe sitting half on the sidewalk and half in a fire lane.
"Trista Harris?" Xander demanded at the desk, but the nurse simply continued with her paperwork.
"Well?!" Spike snarled with more than a little demon in the tone of voice.
"Excuse me?" the nurse demanded with an arched eyebrow and then she caught sight of Spike's face, which even Xander would have described as a little scary. Just a little. Like the way an apocalypse was a little dangerous.
"Was she in an accident?" the nurse asked as she began typing letters into her computer.
"She's pregnant. We got a call about an hour and a half ago." Xander cursed the luck that had them out of town hunting down the last of a group of Grox'lar that had tried to challenge the current Master of the Hellmouth. A Master who was looking increasingly frustrated as he bounced on one foot, his hands gripping the edge of the nurse's counter. Xander was just as frustrated, but he had a little more practice in self control.
"Oh yes. Mrs. Harris is on the fourth floor, just check in with the maternity desk." Xander barely heard the end of the sentence as he started his dash for the elevators only to have an anxious vampire overtake him and slam the call button with far more force than necessary.
"Don't break the thing," Xander whispered quietly so that the passing patients and staff wouldn't hear him criticize.
"If those Grox'lar weren't dead, I'd go back and torture 'em for makin' us miss this," Spike snarled, and that brought more than a few strange looks from those passing them in the stark white hall. Xander looked past Spike to an older man with graying hair who had a look of shock and disdain on his face as he waited for the same elevator.
"Young people these days, all hyperbole and exaggeration," Xander quipped with a crooked smile. The man's eyebrows rose even farther.
"Oi, not exaggeratin'. If those wankers aren't bein' careful with Trista, I'll bloody rip their innards out." Spike slammed the wall with an open hand as he ignored the audience, which now included a young woman who was slowly backing away from the homicidal maniac currently hitting the call button over and over.
"His sister's in labor," Xander explained, using their cover story. Trista was his wife and Spike's sister. At least, she was until she recovered enough to give them a name. If she ever recovered enough to give them a name. The chances of her suddenly coming to her senses grew less every day as she remained the passive, silent, affectionate human housepet.
"I'm sure the doctors are taking care of her," the grey haired gentleman offered uncertainly.
"If they want to live, they better," Spike answered without turning around.
"Joyce is there with her. She's fine, Spike, promise," Xander said as the elevator chimed its arrival. Xander stepped to the side to let people out, but Spike remained right in front of the doors, pushing his way in before the people inside could even exit. When Xander finally got in, Spike had already pushed the button for the fourth floor and then planted himself in front of the panel. When the older man tried to reach behind to push another floor button, Spike growled and shifted so the man's arm was trapped between his hip and the elevator wall.
"Hold on just one second," the man argued.
"That's bloody right, you can just bloody hold on because this is now the express to the fourth floor," Spike snarled, and Xander sent up a quick prayer for the soul of anyone on floors two or three who might push the call button and slow them down. As the elevator doors closed, the grey-haired man retreated to the far side of the elevator, his mouth opening and closing in frustration without actually saying anything more.
The man looked toward Xander for help, but he could only give the man a helpless shrug. He certainly couldn't tell Spike what to do, especially not when one of Spike's "family" was in trouble. Hell, he couldn't tell Spike what to do under the best of circumstances, but the idea of Trista being in pain and possibly not even understanding why… Spike wasn't at his most rational.
The doors of the elevator slid open, but not fast enough for Spike who turned his body sideways and slipped through into the hall before the doors could finish. A mere second later, Xander got off into the lobby with white tile floor and white painted ceiling and green walls that reminded him of dried peas. Spike was charging toward the maternity nurse looking very out of place with his punk hair and black duster flying behind him. Xander glanced down the hall in the opposite direction, spotting a figure standing in an open doorway, waiting.
"Joyce," Xander called when he recognized her profile. Spike reversed direction, ignoring the disapproving glare of the maternity nurse, but then Spike wasn't exactly impressing anyone with his patience today.
"She alright?" He demanded loudly before he was halfway down the hall.
"She's fine, Spike." Joyce assured him without batting an eye. "So, stop yelling, calm down, and come sit with your sister." Xander didn't even break stride as Joyce in her ever-calm way warned them that Trista had company.
Spike turned the corner before Xander had even covered half the distance. Almost instantly, an aggravated voice came from the room.
"Who the fuck are you, mate?" Spike growled, and Xander could only hope his lover hadn't gone into game face. Since Joyce only rolled her eyes rather than pulling Spike back out of the room by his ear, Xander assumed that Spike was still at least trying to pass for human.
An awkward silence continued until Xander turned the corner to find a very young looking doctor backed up against Trista's bed, the back of his thighs pressed into the mattress as he tried to retreat from Spike who was standing in the inch in front of him. The room was done in pale shades of blues and greens, with a large double bed and a flowered quilt and a small sitting area with a blue and yellow striped love seat.
The birthing suite was supposed to be a more calming environment for the mother-to-be. However, it was obvious that the doctor was not finding it calming. But then again, Xander supposed that the doctor wouldn't be comfortable anywhere as long as Spike had that expression of murder on his face. Even though his Master was physically rather small, the vamp had a way of making his presence feel overwhelming.
"Spike, Dr. Evans is doing an emergency C-section, and Dr. Tate will be working with Trista," Joyce reinforced her words with a gentle hand on Spike's arm that pulled the vampire back far enough for the doctor to scamper sideways to safety. For one second Xander was sure that Trista had looked up with an expression of amusement, and he smiled in return as Spike finally reached her side, resting his slender hand on her shoulder.
Xander had spent months watching her go from a nameless figure hiding in the corners of the house to silent member of the family, watching them with small smiles or anxious frowns from the floor at Joyce's feet. Now he could see the subtle shifts as her body relaxed. He understood her need to have Spike's strength between her in the world because he himself had needed that for so long. And now, when she was in pain, she needed it even more. He really hoped that some part of her understood what was happening because he didn't want her to think that they were punishing her. He didn't want her in pain at all, but Dr. Evans hadn't wanted to use too many drugs on her when she couldn’t tell them if they made her feel strange or if she was having side effects.
"Xander?" Joyce's voice broke through his thoughts, and he looked over the woman who had become mother and caregiver to his 'wife.'
"Um, yeah?" He asked, watching the doctor carefully hiding behind the woman. He had to admit it was a little amusing, and days like this he did worry that perhaps Spike's sense of humor was rubbing off on him.
"Dr. Tate asked a question," she said in motherly disapproval.
"Sorry, wasn't listening," Xander admitted as he watched Trista's fingers lightly touch the edge of Spike's coat in a timid request for comfort. Spike crooned something softly as he twined his fingers with hers.
The doctor cleared his throat and Xander looked back toward him. "Dr. Evans warned me that she stopped talking after a severe trauma. Will she be able to communicate at all?"
Xander considered carefully before answering. Joyce or Spike could probably explain better, but he was, at least on illegally obtained paperwork, the official husband and next of kin. "She does small things to let us know something is too much, but the attack she suffered... it left her either unable or unwilling to talk. So, one of us needs to be with her all the time." Xander gave the well rehearsed party line.
"Such a shame. She's lucky to have a family willing to take such good care of her," the doctor said as he turned pity-filled eyes to the figure on the bed. Spike had climbed onto the edge of the bed and gathered his "sister" to his chest as he whispered softly and rubbed her arm.
"Right now she's not fully dilated and her blood pressure is strong, so I'd like to wait for the contractions to develop naturally. I need to know, though, if she is having any problems. Her inability to communicate does worry me."
Xander looked toward the bed, knowing Spike would have heard every word.
"She's hurtin', but not anything bad enough to really bother her." He said in a voice with more William softness in it than Spike. The doctor glanced over and then looked back to Xander for confirmation.
"Spike knows his sister better than anyone else in the world, including me," Xander added as he nodded in agreement with Spike's words. After all, Spike's vampire senses allowed him to see and hear things that no human could. However, Xander wasn't about to share that piece of information with the doctor. If he did, Trista wouldn't be the only one in danger of going to the nuthouse.
"If anything changes..."
"I'll bloody drag you back here by your ear if I need to," Spike finished in a voice with absolutely no William-softness at all.
"And he will too," Xander promised as he moved to the far side of the wide bed. Xander climbed in so the three of them were pressed together. Even though Xander remembered what he'd done, Trista never seem to associate him with her rape. Instead she would sometimes crawl, childlike, into his lap or into the bed he shared with Spike. Joyce was clearly her favorite but her fear would drive her to seek out either him or Spike. As the pregnancy had grown closer to an end, Xander and Spike both realized that she needed them more and more. Unfortunately, apocalyptic spells and demon clans didn't always clear their schedules with Spike before launching world-ending plans.
The doctor was still trying to gather his words, his mouth opening several times before he actually started talking. "I'm sure that won't be necessary. It might be many hours before she's actually ready to deliver, and I'm sure that Dr. Evans will be available by then."
Xander wasn't sure whether Dr. Evans would be available by then or not, but he imagined that Dr. Tate was going to do a bit of praying. Tate obviously didn't want to deal with the crazy lady's crazy brother, and Xander didn't blame him one bit. Xander really didn't want to think about what would happen if something went wrong with this delivery: either with the mother or the child. Even though Spike didn't always want to admit it, Xander knew full well that the vampire had a big soft spot for the young woman who had become a part of their life. And even though Xander had absolutely no doubts about how much Spike loved him, it was becoming increasingly clear that, despite his vicious nature, Spike's demon had enough room in his unbeating heart for his entire strange little human clan.
"We have every confidence in you, especially since Dr. Evans personally recommended you," Joyce assured the man, putting a hand on his elbow and gently guiding him towards the door. He didn't need much guidance. As soon as he had a clear shot at an escape, Dr. Tate hurried into the hall and disappeared without a backwards glance. Despite contractions that made her stomach ripple and stole her breath, Trista remained silent, her only sign of pain fingers that would grasp first at Spike's leather sleeve and then at Xander's.
"So, we're in for a wait, and after Spike scared the shit out of the doctor, it's going to be a lonely wait," Xander commented as he looked over Trista and Spike to the open door.
"Oi, show some respect or I'll put you over my knee, brat," Spike threatened.
"What? You need a reason to put me over your knee?" Xander asked mischievously, and that was definitely a smile on Trista's face.
"Boys, while I love both of you, there are things I simply don't want to know," Joyce interrupted them.
"Yeah, stop embarrassin' the lady," Spike ordered, and Xander simply rolled his eyes.
"And I should probably tell you that I called Angel when I couldn’t reach you on the phone," Joyce offered, and Xander watched as Spike's body stiffened before he closed his eyes in frustration.
"Bloody hell," he breathed softly. "Well, the ponce is already comin', so killin' ya now wouldn't do any good," Spike commented with a shrug, but Joyce ignored the threat, settling down with magazine. Then Trista silently shifted, and Spike focused once more on the woman who moved uncomfortably as another contraction hit.
Xander almost wished Deadboy had driven a little faster, and he knew that Dr. Tate would have preferred to have someone distract Spike as the contractions finally started ripping through Trista until she gasped for air and arched her back. Moving her to a delivery room, Dr. Tate looked even more ready to faint than the mother-to-be. Of course, Spike's almost inaudible growling that made the air rumble faintly probably contributed to that.
Despite the doctor's assurances that everything was going the way it was supposed to, every contraction made Spike hover between holding Trista's hand and closing in on the doctor with brittle, jerky movements that looked nothing like the graceful predator who confidently took out his enemies. Xander remained at Trista's other side, whispering the doctor's directions to either push or breathe through the pain. Joyce stood close enough for Trista to see her, and, Xander suspected, close enough to step in if Spike actually did decide to rip off the doctor's head.
Xander nearly giggled with the irony of it. He had fathered the child that caused the pain, but Spike was clearly ready to take it out on the doctor. Spike was the big bad Master of the Hellmouth, and he was not very masterly when it came to one ex-slave's whimper of pain. Joyce had lost her daughter, and yet Trista was in many ways her daughter, about to give birth to one more person who Joyce would have to mother. And considering Joyce already mothered both him and Spike, the woman was doing a lot of mothering.
"Bloody fuckin' hell, 'ow long's it supposed ta be takin'?" Spike slurred so thickly that even Xander had trouble untangling the sounds.
"She's doing fine. Better than fine in fact," Dr. Tate promised, and the man did look more relaxed now that he was dealing with a birth and not focusing on the mother-to-be's insane, bleach-blond brother.
"She's doing great," one of the nurses added, but Spike continued to move uneasily, shifting in place.
"Spike," Xander whispered.
Spike opened his mouth to answer, but a sudden movement between Trista's legs caused the nurses to swoop in on them. One scooped up a wrinkled, red mass of crying baby while another briskly wiped tiny flailing arms and weakly kicking legs. Quick fingers quickly cut the tie between mother and child and began cleaning Trista's bloody legs.
"Whelp inherited your voice," Spike said softly as the wail filled the room, and the harsh Cockney accent vanished under a tone of wonder.
"You have a daughter," Dr. Tate announced as Joyce's hands flew to her mouth and her eyes filled with tears. "And of course a niece," he hastily added as he looked at Spike. The nurses quickly bundled the tiny figure into a crib with clear plastic sides, her body swaddled in green blankets.
"A girl," Joyce said, her hand going out to hold the edge of the rolling crib as a nurse pushed it closer to the bed.
"A girl," Spike echoed. The nurse pushed the crib to the side of the bed, and Spike stepped back so that Trista could see, and her eyes were focused on that tiny moving bundle even as her fingers closed more tightly around Xander's wrist. For his part, Xander stared at the tiny red and squashed nose of his daughter, her thin dark hair lying in a wet mat against her skull, her lopsided head. She was the most beautiful thing in the universe.
"We have a girl," Xander whispered as he looked down at Trista. For one second Trista met his gaze, and then her eyes slipped away, focusing down at the white sheet.
"We need to get her cleaned up and then get mother and baby into the birthing suite," an older nurse said apologetically as she pulled the crib away. Xander had secretly hoped that seeing her child would encourage Trista to speak, demand, show some sign of still having that spirit he'd once seen in her eyes, but she pulled her hand back and curled up into herself as she watched the baby's crib roll away. Some days Xander didn't know what to do. Luckily those were the days when Spike would step in, like now as he guided Xander away from Trista as the nurses finished cleaning her up.
"I can't believe we missed the birth," Cordelia complained as an entire mass of people appeared in the door to the birthing suite. The baby had fed from Trista and now lay on the bed next to her silent mother while Joyce fussed over both of them. Cordelia continued complaining to Angel as everyone spilled into the room. "If you would have driven faster."
"If we'd been in an accident, you might not have ever seen the baby," Angel pointed out in his most logical tone.
"And that would be very much of the bad," Willow added. "We've been downstairs waiting for them since we figured you'd need some time alone. Or not alone in that Spike and Joyce are here, but… you know," Willow shrugged as she gave up explaining herself.
"We know," Tara assured her, an arm around Willow's waist.
"Yes, well this baby does have a larger family than just these four. After all, someone has to teach her which football teams are appropriate to cheer for," Giles added somewhat stiffly. Xander was starting to think that the 'trying to get along even while shooting Spike death glares' Giles was even more annoying than the 'totally avoiding having anything to do with them' Giles, but Spike had made it very clear that Xander would be polite no matter what. So rather than roll his eyes silently or point out that the four of them, Joyce and Trista and Spike and him, were perfectly capable, he simply smiled at the former watcher.
"She has a big family," he agreed without any sarcasm. While he might enjoy the naughty spankings Spike sometimes delivered, he didn't need another butt blistering like the last time he'd gotten sarcastic and snotty with Giles. More importantly, he didn't need the guilt he'd felt at seeing Giles' hurt expression that day.
"A girl!" Cordelia's voice rose in excitement. "I'll teach her everything she needs to know, not that Joyce can't, but sometimes a girl needs someone closer to her own age to teach her how to dress and put boys in their place."
"By the time the bit's old enough to care 'bout that, she's goin' to look at you and see a middle aged bird," Spike pointed out with a nasty smile.
"Yeah, but I'll be a classy, sharp-dressing middle aged bird, which will still put me higher on the ladder than you," Cordelia answered without missing a beat. "So… names. I'm thinking something that has originality… something short enough to be easily shouted by boys who are worshipping the ground she walks on. Maybe Tahlia or Jacy."
"Bloody hell, first boy who worships her ground will be eatin' his teeth," Spike growled, and Joyce laughed outright.
"You may want to keep her locked in a tower and safe from the world, but you won't. It's not what a good parent does," Joyce said as she picked up the baby from the mattress and brought it over. Spike took the child carefully, allowing Joyce to arrange his hands so that one cupped the back of the overly large head and one supported the wiggling body.
"I kinda like Aditi," Willow said.
"Willow and I were looking through some baby name books, and it means free and unrestrained," Tara added quietly.
"Good lord, am I the only one who thinks the child would be teased unmercifully?" Giles asked, and for one second, Xander could see the old Giles who was so often shocked and befuddled by the teenagers around him. Willow just ducked her head, but with a small smile and shrug that told him that she was taking the dismissal much better than she would have even a few months ago when she was still so afraid of making a mistake that she would do anything to avoid getting caught being wrong, or even worse, falling apart when it became clear she didn't know everything.
"Oi, I'd be run ragged tryin' ta kill all the little rugrats who called her names," Spike agreed, and Xander had to admit that he was siding with Giles and Spike on this one.
"I think Beatrix is a nice name. Classic and almost musical," Giles put in his vote.
"Always rather partial to Trudy myself," Spike said.
"I always thought that if I had a child, I'd name her Shannon," Angel said, and from the sudden expression of loss on the large man's face, Xander knew that there was a Shannon somewhere in Angel's past. Probably a dead Shannon, and Xander shivered at the idea of having to carry those memories around everywhere.
"Pet, have you given any thought to a name?" Spike asked. Xander had in fact thought a lot about names even though Spike had refused to discuss them. He'd claimed it was bad luck to be picking the name before even seeing the baby, and until seeing their daughter, Xander had a dozen names floating in his mind. Now he really only had one choice that seem to match the tiny person in Spike's arms.
Xander leaned down and kissed Trista on the forehead. He and Spike had named her too since she didn't have one of her own. "Do you want to name her?" he asked the silent woman. "She's your daughter, so maybe you want to name her after your mother or another family member?" Xander watched as green eyes flicked up at him hopefully, and for one second he held his breath, hoping that she would return from whatever place she went when her eyes grew dark. But the moment passed and she turned her eyes down again.
Xander slowly turned to the others. "In one of the books, there was a name that meant 'precious thing worthy of love,' and that's what she is. She's something precious that came out of a whole lot of darkness." Xander took two steps so that he could stand at Spike's side and push back the edge of the blanket that hid the tiny features. "Everyone, I'd like you to meet Amanda," he said as he looked down into the pale eyes of his daughter. Even though all the books said babies couldn't smile, the corners of her mouth twitched up as she squirmed in Spike's arms. Looking at that smile, Xander decided that some points of light were worth enduring all the darkness.
What's in a Name :
Inspired by Djinanna and her request for domestic fic
Watching Amanda crawl across the floor to the bleach blond man sitting on the floor making little clicking noises with his mouth, I have to think about names. At first, I thought this man's name was Spike, which is a frightening name, and when he first bought me, I followed with my knees shaking. Now I know the truth. The other demon called him William. William means "protector." I remember that from Before. Some things from Before are still fuzzy, but names I know. William fits him better than Spike, and so that's what I call him in my mind.
My daughter uses the coffee table to pull herself up, and then she launches herself toward him, her chubby arms thrown out, and with inhuman speed, he darts forward and catches her with a laugh that makes his blue eyes crinkle shut. Xander who is really Alexander, "protector of men," sits on the couch, leaning forward so that his chest rests on his thighs as he laughs. The two protectors. My two protectors. My daughter's two protectors.
Amanda responds to their laughter by pulling up her knees and then straightening them several times as she makes gurgling baby noises. If her legs were strong enough to hold her weight, she would be jumping up and down, but William is supporting her safely so that only her legs move in that rapid baby motion. I know that image from somewhere, but that's from Before, and I try not to think about Before too much.
Joyce's hand finds my hair, and I rest my cheek on her knee as we watch the boys play. Her name is easy. It means joy, which is a little funny because she's told me all these stories that make me think she hasn't had much joy in her life, but when she does my hair and tells me about Buffy, she tells me that sometimes we have to find joy in what we have and try to let go of the pain of the past. I can't remember what Buffy means. There are days when I feel guilty because I'm glad Buffy is gone because now I'm the one Joyce teaches to make bread while the sunset turns the kitchen orange and red.
Sometimes I think Joyce should be named Ophelia or Sophia. Those mean wisdom. But then again, something tickles the back of my mind, like maybe those women didn't have happy lives, like maybe I know them from Before. So she's Joyce, and sometimes when I curl up at her feet, I think maybe I can make her just a little bit happy.
"You boys are going to spoil her until her she's insufferable," Joyce says in an amused tone that does nothing to discourage either of them, and really I like to see my daughter so very, very spoiled although I would never say so.
"We're just making sure she knows she loved," Alexander says as he gets up from the couch and sweeps down, taking Amanda in his arms and swinging her up into the air until she squeals with joy.
"Aren't we, little one?" he asks as he holds her close, nose to nose. She brings her fat fists up to his cheeks. "Yep, she's just loved," Alexander announces as he brings her over and sets her in my lap. I offer him a small smile as I cradle Amanda in one arm and wiggle the fingers of my other hand until she grabs one in her tiny fingers and holds on tight.
"I think she's getting better," Joyce comments, and I know they mean me. I know they keep waiting for me to talk, but I'm happy now, and if something changes, maybe I won't be as happy. So I just keep focusing on my daughter as I sit between Joyce's legs on the floor.
"Might be. She knows she's safe, and if she wants ta come out, she can," William says as Alexander settles himself on the floor next to his lover so that Joyce is now the only one sitting on the furniture. I watch them curl around each other, limbs tangling on the floor as they both watch me play with my daughter.
"I sometimes wonder if she has a family looking for her," Joyce says as she strokes my hair. Even if I did talk, I wouldn't have an answer for that, but I know why she worries. She's remembering the months of not being able to find her own daughter.
"Could be. Can't rightly say. She might have been born on one of the farms," William points out as he holds Alexander in an affectionate embrace. I know that's not right because I don't think I would learn names on the farms, but I'm not going to say anything.
I'm happy with my daughter and my Joyce and my protectors. In the night, sometimes the dark things from the Before come after me, and I'll crawl in bed between my protectors, feeling Alexander's warm strength curl around me and William's cool power drape over me, and I know that my daughter and I will never go back to the dark place. I worried at first. I worried after I gave birth because they had Amanda. Her name means "precious one" or "beloved." I thought that when they had her, they would send me back to the dark place.
I remember William and Angel coming to buy me from one of the dark things, a thing that whispered to me that I would be food. I almost hoped for that, I hoped for an end. But the men took off the chains and promised to protect me. I was confused, especially when William raged from one side of the van to the other, slamming fists into metal walls until Angel had to overpower him, wrap large arms around William's frame and hold him on the ground as he whispered promises. Now I know William was raging over Alexander whom he had lost. He is Alexander's protector, just like Alexander is his.
But I came home from hospital with Amanda, and Joyce still combed my hair and William still whispered poems to me, and Alexander still told me secrets and now Amanda sits in my lap while I make faces for her. She's my beloved too, but William and Alexander named her, and in a way she's theirs more than mine. Joyce won't let me hold her unless someone else is there because sometimes I forget where I am.
William and Alexander named me, too. Trista. It means sorrow. I think it's kinda funny because I'm not sorrowful any more. I know more happiness now than Before. Even though I don't remember much of the dark things or life Before dark things, I know that I'm happier now.
Amanda pulls on my finger until she can shove it in her mouth, her spit running down to my knuckle, and I know that there's something even more important here. Amanda is happy, and with her two protectors, she has a chance to hold on to that happiness. She has a chance to live without having the shadow of Before haunting her dreams. Knowing that makes me happy. Knowing that, I don't want to get better because I don't ever want things to change. Joyce is right, sometimes you have to let go of the past and just focus on the joy in the present. Sometimes I think I should rename myself Renata. It means reborn.
'Till the End:
This was written before the end of the Broken Universe, but now that I've gotten to the end, I think it's clear that this is the Spike from Broken Revenge.
Angel walked across the damp grass toward his childe. High overhead a hover buzzed, and Angel flinched as the high-pitched sound pierced his head. Spike hadn't flinched or even moved from the stone bench where he sat with an unlit cigarette dangling from one hand. Moving slowly so he didn't surprise Spike, Angel took a seat next to his last surviving family.
"I didn't know if you'd come," Angel said to the night air.
"Oi, always come when the world's ending, don't I then?"
"Yeah, you do," Angel agreed. Since he couldn't think of anything else to say, the silence filled the air between them.
"You think he's…" Spike waved a hand toward the stars, and Angel instantly understood.
"He earned it," Angel said noncommittally.
"He bloody earned the right to live. My boy didn't get that," Spike hissed angrily as he went into game face and snarled at the one enemy he couldn't fight, the one enemy that had taken Xander from him.
"Your *boy* was nearly 200 and a cranky old man before he died," Angel pointed out logically. "You can't fight time… or human mortality."
"He was still my boy." Spike's grief didn't follow any logic, but then Spike's grief never had. A hundred years of grieving hadn't eased the pain at all. That's how Angel knew that this grave would be the first place Spike would visit when he came back to L.A. Angel could feel the pull to comfort his childe, but this time he couldn't. He couldn't comfort Spike, and he couldn't tell Spike what the powers had in store for him. Angel's own grief at the thought of losing his last family nearly ripped him apart, and he masked a near sob under a deep and brooding sigh.
"How are David, Beth and Eli?" Angel asked about the human family Spike still protected. He regretted what he was about to do to them with this plan, but sometimes sacrifices had to be made in order to do the right thing. Xander had understood that.
"Fine. Don't think you called 'bout them, though. Who's the soddin' Big Bad this time?" Spike finally demanded grimly, his grief once again tucked away under layers of defensiveness and anger and violence.
"Hurka demons teamed up with Wolf and Ram's new front man."
"Bloody hell. Thought those bastards were all dead."
"The hurka or the senior partners?" Angel asked curiously.
"The hurka, you ponce. Never will get rid of the senior partners." Spike voice sounded brittle and harsh.
"Got rid of Hart," Angel pointed out.
"Yeah, and how many good fighters went under that time? Didn't even slow the other two bastards down." Spike stood up and started walking toward Angel's car. Angel followed silently since he didn't have an answer to that, although the losses he was about to suffer bothered him more.
"Who's that?" Spike demanded, and Angel looked over to see the small woman watching curiously. She leaned against the brick wall of the cemetery and her eyes went from Spike to Angel.
"The Powers sent her. We aren't going to get through this one without help," Angel said.
"Yeah, right. Like that slip of a girl could help anyone," Spike snorted. Angel looked toward the figure with an unbiased eye, and he had to admit her small frame and short mousy hair didn't exactly strike fear in anyone's heart.
"Appearances can be deceiving," Angel said as he tried not to look at the figure that watched them with morbid curiosity. Angel passed Spike as he got into the car. After several seconds, Spike got in the passenger side.
"Strange bird," was Spike's judgment on the figure that continued to watch as Angel pulled away from the curb.
"You could say that," Angel agreed.
~ o O o ~
The fight had gone better than Angel had any right to expect. Fei-lin had gone under to a trio of vampires, but Spike had ripped a piece of corrugated metal from the construction site office and decapitated all three demons. The Power that Be's representative darted between demon bodies stabbing and slicing with far more skill and grace than Angel ever expected.
With all of the herka and most of the vampires dead, Angel was just starting to think that the Powers had been wrong this time. Then a vampire raised his weapon and trained the laser on the small girl who had brought the message to Angel. The light flashed, and the girl's mouth opened in a silent scream as the scent of burned flesh blossomed.
Intellectually, Angel knew this had been part of the plan. She couldn't exactly start her journey of reincarnation without dying, but seeing her hand fly up into the air and her body start collapsing backwards, Angel froze in horror with his sword half raised.
In the background, Angel could hear someone yell his name, and he started to turn, his body locked in slow motion as a blond streak slammed into him from the side. As Angel fell to the ground, he watched as the fire from the laser cut into Spike's stomach, those wide blue eyes flashing yellow as the demon rose in response to the pain.
Spike continued to fall sideways after hitting Angel, and Angel grabbed for his childe's outstretched hand, desperate to touch him one last time as the laser swept up the stomach and hit the vulnerable heart. As the fire destroyed his heart, Spike's shocked face went grey and then the flesh disintegrated into ashy particles as Angel reached out.
Angel's hand touched Spike's outstretched hand just in time to feel the skeletal fingers slide over his flesh before the skeleton followed the flesh and Spike became a cloud of dust that exploded outward and then slowly drifted down to earth.
"No!" Angel cried out as he fell forward to the cold ground, the ashes of his childe scattered on the ground under him. Angel turned toward the armed vampire, but the killer had become one more pile of dust with Kevin standing over him with a stake and a vicious expression. The wind tickled through Angel's hair, and he felt the ashes still and the cold tears escape his eyes as his demon screamed in pain at losing the last of his clan.
Not even trying to control the tears, Angel pushed himself up off the ground and went to where the Power's representative, the one who had convinced him this was the only way, lay dying herself. Her intestines were visible through the charred and burnt remains of her stomach.
"Tell me again this is worth it," Angel said in a tight voice.
"Hey, I gave up heaven for this," the girl gasped and then shivered in pain.
"Tell me it's worth it," Angel repeated, his pain rising up until he saw the world through the yellowish tint of his demon vision.
"He promised me 'til the end,'" she gasped. "If heaven won't have a demon, we'll have to make Earth work because he's not getting out of that promise."
"Tell me you'll find him, that you'll take care of him," Angel begged. He needed to hear it.
"Every single damn lifetime," she promised with a final hiss of pain as her body fell back against the cold ground.
"Since you gave up resting in peace, I hope you can at least find happiness, Xander," Angel said as he ran his hand over the corpse's eyes to make them close. "Find happiness for both of you."
Written for Shakatany
Amanda crossed her arms and stared at her uncle, who wasn't her uncle, and just how stupid did her family think she was, anyway? He glared back, his blue eyes narrowed to slits and his cheekbones sharpening as he drew his lips together in a scowl.
"No bloody way," he hissed.
"Everyone's going," she countered, and then flinched, realizing just how pathetic *that* sounded about a half-second too late. Uncle Spike knew too from the triumphant way he raised just one eyebrow.
"You aren't just soddin' anyone," he pointed out, "and you're not going unprotected to a bloody sleepover at the school. Kids your age are supposed ta be avoiding school, not sleeping there."
"It's a fundraiser!" Amanda said, her own lips going tight with frustration. "The longer I stay up, the more money we raise for the earthquake victims."
"Like I bloody care," Spike instantly shot back, and Amanda opened her mouth in fury. She *hated* it when he put on this act like he didn't care about anyone. The only person in the world with a bigger heart was her father. Right. Change of tactics.
"Daaaa-aad!" she wailed. Xander leaned on the kitchen counter cutting an apple with a knife and popping the pieces in his mouth. He also looked suspiciously amused.
"I'm so not getting in the middle," he said as he held up his hands in surrender.
"Mom, make them let me go!" Amanda said as she turned and threw her body into a kitchen chair. Her mom glanced up with a small smile and just shook her head slightly. Amanda felt like stomping her foot in frustration, but the last time she'd done that, Uncle Spike had made fun of her for a week, and she was so not going through that again. God, if only her mom would ask, she knew Uncle Spike and Dad would bend over backwards giving her what she wanted.
"I'll tell Grandma you're being mean," she threatened the big guns, and now her father definitely had a look of amusement on his face.
"You better watch out there, Spike. Joyce… she just might side with the earthquake victims." Her father barely kept the laughter out of his voice, and Amanda nearly growled with frustration. She had the world's most annoying family; she didn't care if her friends all thought she had cool parents.
"Fine!" she nearly howled. "You can chaperone, but if just one more of my friends falls in love with you… either of you," Amanda pointed an accusatory finger first at Uncle Spike and then her father, "I will *so* throw up on your shoes!"
Written for Sexymermaid
Spike looked at his lover, the grey hairs just starting to form at the temples of his curly hair, and the faint trace of wrinkles at the corners of his eyes from when Xander would laugh… well, either that or the wrinkles came from worrying about one of Amanda's latest adventures.
Spike adored his surrogate daughter, both because of her independent spirit and because of how much she reminded him of Xander. She had that same loyalty and ability to laugh even when faced with some pretty horrific realities. But as much as he loved Amanda, his feelings for her paled when compared to the overwhelming love he felt for her father.
Xander's mouth hung open slightly in sleep, and Spike reached up and touched the small scar at the left corner where the two lips met. A howler demon had given him that by backhanding him. The thing had been living up to its name by producing a screech that had disabled Spike, and Xander had sailed into the fight without a moment's pause. Spike could count any number of people who he had protected as fiercely: Angelus, Dru, Buffy, Amanda, Joyce, even Giles and Willow. But only Xander defended him with that same desperate abandon.
Spike trailed his finger down to the oval scar on Xander's shoulder. Spike had given Xander that scar: a perfect bite mark that fit just next to the black link collar Xander still wore. Spike still felt a wave of disbelief when he considered how much Xander had surrendered to him. In the past, Spike had lovers and family, but none ever wore his mark or wanted to. None ever put Spike first, and yet this human who he had once dismissed as irrelevant had somehow made a demon feel whole and loved and real for the first time in his unlife.
Kissing that mark gently, Spike let his eyes trail down the strong chest to a jagged white scar just below his left nipple. A hellgod had made that mark, her hands ripping Xander's flesh as Spike had howled in fury. But Xander hadn't begged or pleaded. Even when he couldn't protect himself, he had this elegant dignity that most demons on the Hellmouth respected. In the end, her minions hadn't been able to hold Spike, and he had ripped dozens of them limb from limb in his efforts to reach his mate. Every hit he'd taken in his fight against Glorificus had broken bones, and he might have turned to dust had he not finally beaten her back into a human form and then stolen the blood of her human host, blood still infused by the power of a god. Spike never did tell Xander how close he'd come to a final death. The only thing he had cared about that day was carrying his lover home.
Next Spike touched the round scar on Xander's hip. When Amanda had learned about the demons of Sunnydale, not only had she been far less surprised than Spike expected, but she was also far too eager to get into the fight. Xander often teased that Amanda had more of Spike in her than himself, but Spike didn't agree. Their daughter wanted to fight for the same reason as her father, to do the right thing. Spike had to admit that he just loved a good fight. But the scar had come from teaching Amanda a move with the sword. She had zigged when they were practicing zagging, and Xander had ended up with three inches of steel through his body. But the man hadn't even flinched, telling Amanda she had hit his wallet before sending her upstairs. Spike loved how Xander spared others any little pain that he could take into himself. To this day, the girl didn't know how close she'd come to crippling her father.
"Spike?" a half-asleep voice muttered.
"Yeah, luv?" Spike lay back down, his arm draped over Xander's chest as only one eye only half opened, the other too tired to make the effort.
"Something wrong?" Xander asked as he squinted at the sun still leaking around the edge of the blinds in short rays that highlighted the floating dust in the air.
"No, pet. Everything's right," Spike said, dropping a kiss first on the claiming scar and then on those curved lips. "Go back to sleep."
"I can think of something more fun to do than sleep," Xander suggested in a salacious tone, as his second eye now opened. Spike smiled wickedly as he ran a thumb over his lover's dark nipple. Yeah, there were many things he loved about Xander Harris.
The Slow Path to Fixed
Written for Teryl_brat42
Willow stirred the ingredients in the glass bowl carefully, feeling the tentacles of power reach out as she added the silver pellets to the swirling mass. Willow chanted softly, the moonlight flowing in through the open window, the one that allowed in the breeze that gently stirred her hair.
Dropping another pellet in, she watched as the mixture flashed the red color, the tentacles strengthening until she could feel the power slide past her skin. She began the last incantation, but before she could finish, the kitchen light flicked on, and the tendrils snapped to that power source. Instantly, the bulb exploded, and Willow yelped as she flinched away from the breaking glass.
"Are you okay?" Tara called immediately, and Willow flinched again at the sound of the worry in that voice.
"Um, except for my pride... well my pride and possibly my arm," Willow amended herself as she felt the warm tickle of blood slowly wandering down her arm. Tara didn't say anything, but a warm hand touched her back and nudged her toward the dining room. Willow went without protest as she tried to figure out a way to clean up the spell before Tara could get a good look at the ingredients. With the kitchen light out, she still had a chance.
"I'll be back," Tara said as she helped Willow to a chair, and Willow considered making a Terminator joke, but Tara had ducked back through the archway to the kitchen and the sound of water running meant she wouldn't hear it anyway. Within a few seconds, Tara returned, flipping on the dining room light, and Willow flinched away from the light.
"Oh sweetie," Tara whispered, and Willow looked down to find a shard of light bulb glass embedded in her skin.
"Oh boy, that's not really good in the I wish I hadn't seen that because now it hurts kinda way," Willow said as she resisted the urge to yank the glass out. As deep as it went, she knew it would bleed a lot when she did that.
"Let me get something," Tara said as she hurried from the room. Returning a minute or two later, she had a number of wide leaves, an herbal poultice, a pair of tweezers and a number of towels.
"Ow," Willow reiterated as she looked at her injured arm. Tara pulled a chair up close to hers and took the arm in her hands as she looked at the glass from either side.
"This will hurt," Tara warned her softly, and Willow looked up at those worried brown eyes, and she worried about more than the pain. She worried about Tara finding that spell. She worried about the power that had just whipped out of her control. She worried about the feeling that she had to be afraid because she didn't have enough power to defend herself and the people she loved from the darkness that always surrounded them.
"Um, kinda hurting now, so that's not really a problem," she told her lover. Tara took a firmer hold on Willow's wrist before bringing the tweezers close. While Willow wanted to look away, she found her eyes locked on that glittering piece of glass as Tara closed the tweezers around it. With one sharp motion, she pulled the curving glass free, and Willow yelped as the edges cut deeper. Dropping the tweezers, Tara quickly smeared poultice over the wound before pressing a towel tightly on the wound.
"I think I really need to work on that spell. Too much silver. Or maybe not enough water. I could have added the wolf bane too quickly," Willow babbled. Her spell had those three ingredients, but by mentioning *only* those three she knew she was tiptoeing on the not so good side of lying, but it was for a good cause, and Tara would forgive her.
"Or too much poke root," Tara added. Willow opened her mouth to protest that she would never add poke root to silver, but Tara's knowing expression stopped her within a few stuttered syllables. Tara continued to hold the towel over the wound, and Willow finally quieted.
"I know what I'm doing," Willow finally said as she felt a defensive aggravation rise.
"What *are* you doing?" Tara's quiet, curious words derailed all Willows righteous indignation.
"I just wanted to be able to protect you--protect us," she admitted just as quietly as she looked down to her throbbing cut. Just like always she ended up hurt and Tara had to look after her. She couldn't even protect herself in the kitchen, and how much of a chance did she have to protect either of them. If Buffy couldn't even... Willow stopped that thought knowing the abyss of fear that waited there.
"We all protect each other," Tara said, and Willow flinched at that.
"And if I had more power, if I could protect him, maybe Xander wouldn't have turned to Spike for protection, and maybe Buffy wouldn't have died at all, and maybe I would know what to say to Giles to put things back the way they were. I don't know how to fix this. I don't know how to fix any of this," Willow wailed as she pushed away from her chair, pulling her arm away from Tara and smearing the bloody poultice across her arm.
With tears warming her eyes, she went to the window and looked out on the dimly lit street. She tried to track when she had first lost control. When Xander disappeared maybe. Maybe back when Spike showed up chipped or even when she'd been too slow to put Angel's soul back in place. Which of a hundred mistakes had led to this feeling of despair that sometimes overwhelmed her when she lay in bed next to the woman she loved?
A strong hand circled her waist and pulled her back into Tara's soft body as Willow felt the first tears escape. Tara rested her chin on Willow's shoulder and held on tighter.
"You don't have to fix anything," Tara finally said after minutes of them just standing in the weak light of the crescent moon.
"Yes. I do. No one else is doing anything to put things back again," Willow could hear the childish sob in her sentence, but she couldn't help it. She struggled against this feeling of being pulled under by an undertow that threatened to pull her to the bottom of the ocean.
"There's nothing to put back. Things changes. That tree," Tara nodded out the window to a half-grown oak. A lower branch had bent in a storm and now pointed awkwardly downward, but the canopy shaded a low wooden chair Willow had set up for nice days when she just needed to have a moment of silence in the outdoors, without doors or walls or locks around her.
Tara continued, "it doesn't look like it did ten years ago." Tara hesitated for just a second. "If the only tree you'd ever seen was that spindly sapling, you would look at that tree and see a monster grown out of shape: an ugly, heavy monster of a tree that needed to be fixed."
Willow felt the tears roll faster as Tara traced fingertips over her uninjured arm, each touch feathering over skin reverently. Willow gasped for air harshly as she felt the despair crash into so that only Tara kept her upright: the warm strength at her back, that arm wrapped around her waist, the finger tracing rune patterns on her bare forearm. Willow closed her own fingers around her lover's wrists, desperate to hold on to Tara even when it felt the rest of the world fractured and crumbled.
"You don't need to be fixed," Tara whispered in her ear, her warm breath stirring Willow's hair.
"But I want to be fixed… I want to make all this pain go away… I want to be strong enough to keep this from ever happening again, and I just…" Willow stopped as she realized she just didn't know. "I don't want to feel like this anymore," Willow finally answered, and a sob nearly choked off her words.
"I know, baby," Tara muttered as she tightened her arm around Willow. "I sometimes feel like that too, but we're okay, and every day will get better."
"But the spell…"
"No quick fixes," Tara said firmly, and Willow heard the determination in her voice.
"I don't know if I can do this," Willow admitted softly, feeling like an even bigger failure for the fear and despair and loss she couldn't seem to process.
"You don't have to do it alone. We'll do it together, and when you can't remember feeling good, I'll remind you," Tara promised. Willow shivered as the arm that had held her so lightly now moved, sliding under her pajamas top so that Tara's warm hand explored her curves. When Tara gently kissed the spot just below her ear, Willow shivered like a tree shaken by a sudden breeze.
"Come back to bed," Tara asked, and then her lips teased the earlobe. Willow felt another tremor as Tara nipped at the tender skin.
"I love you," Willow said as she allowed Tara to pull her through the living room toward the stairs.
"I know," Tara answered teasingly. Willow followed with a small smile. Maybe, just maybe, she could do this.
Back to Text Index
Back to Graphics Index