Death's Second Self, Part 3 of 3
Setting: BtVS S5, post-The Gift
Word count: 2197 (this part)
Written for adecadeofbuffy.
Disclaimer: Joss likes fanfic. He said so.
Hugs and smooches to flurblewig for making this better than it was.
Dawn’s timid voice penetrated the drowsy murk in which Spike was comfortably immersed and roused him to semi-consciousness. He opened his eyes with effort and reached for Buffy, who was sleeping next to him.
And found empty space.
He bolted upright, pulling the blanket from their makeshift bed about him and looking around in bewilderment. No Buffy. He glanced towards the window—it was still dark outside, but the softening hues of the sky indicated that sunrise wasn’t far off. Buffy must have woken and scarpered off to hunt; he’d been so deeply and post-coitally asleep that he hadn’t heard her leave.
“Spike?” Dawn crept a few more paces into the crypt, looking apprehensive. “Buffy?”
“Shouldn’t be out at this hour, Bit.” Spike reached for a nearby pair of jeans and slipped them on, then turned to Dawn with a frown. “You know better than that—no telling what sort of monster you might run into.”
“I know, but I heard... they said...” Dawn’s voice faded into a strangled sob. Her face was puffy and blotchy from recent tears, and she shivered in her pyjamas and bare feet, looking small and frail. Spike picked up the discarded blanket and draped it over her shoulders. Willow had been right about her losing weight—she looked like she’d topple under the force of a light breeze.
“I... I couldn’t sleep, so I got up for a glass of milk, and I heard Willow and Xander talking to Giles. They said... they said they saw Buffy while they were on patrol, that she was...” she gulped, unable to finish the sentence. “They said you’d gone looking for her. Is she here?” She raised her eyes to his; the hope in them made his heart ache. “Please—please tell me she’s okay.”
Spike sat her down on the sarcophagus and pulled the blanket tighter around her.
“Steady now, pet. Everything’s going to be all right.” He rubbed her back, trying to generate some warmth and stop her shivering. Christ, it hurt seeing her like this. “I found her. She was here earlier. Don’t know where she’s gone, but I’m sure— ”
They both jumped as the door slammed behind them.
“She’ll be back.” They turned to see Buffy smirking at them in her human face, her lips unnaturally red even in the candlelight. Dawn’s eyes widened; she made an indistinct noise in her throat and pressed herself against Spike.
“All that—” Buffy shot an appreciative glance towards Spike’s naked chest, “—exercise made me hungry. I went out to get a bite to eat.” She licked a few stray spots of blood off her fingers. “Not much to choose from, this time of night, but it filled a hole.”
“B-Buffy?” Dawn shot an anxious look at Spike. “Are you... Spike, is she...?”
“She’s, well, not quite the same, but she’s still Buffy, pet.”
“Dawnie,” Buffy cut in smoothly, moving towards Dawn with her arms outstretched. “Aren’t you happy to see me?” Her smile broadened, and she pulled Dawn away from Spike, off the sarcophagus, and into an embrace. “I know I’m very glad to see you.”
Dawn stood stiffly inside the circle of Buffy’s arms. She looked up at Spike over Buffy’s shoulder, relief and unease playing across her features in equal measures. Spike gave her an encouraging smile.
“There, there, Dawnie,” Buffy crooned. She stroked Dawn’s hair as she always had and leaned her cheek against the top of her head. “Don’t worry so much...”
She drew back, ran her fingertips lightly across Dawn’s cheek, and tugged the blanket down a little.
“...it’ll only hurt for a second.” Her face changed and she plunged towards Dawn’s neck.
“Buffy, no!” Spike grabbed her by the shoulders and jerked her away. Dawn reeled backwards against the sarcophagus. “What do you think you’re doing? This is Dawn.”
“I know who she is,” Buffy grumbled, twisting out of his grasp. “What am I, blind? I told you there wasn’t much to eat this time of night. That little old lady walking her schnauzer didn’t even come close to filling me up.”
She eyed Dawn hungrily and licked her lips. Dawn whimpered; her knees gave out, and she and her blanket slithered into a downy heap on the floor.
“Buffy,” Spike pleaded, stepping between them. “I know you’re hungry, know you’ve got to eat, but... but... It’s Dawn. She’s your sister. You love her. More than anything. You died to protect her.”
“Well, then,” Buffy said, shrugging, “she owes me, doesn’t she?” She tried to dart around Spike, but he caught her and shoved her back again. Dawn disentangled herself from the blanket, scrabbled backwards, and crouched, cowering, behind the sarcophagus, her eyes huge and fearful.
“Buffy, luv, please,” Spike begged. This couldn’t be happening. Vampires and humans, not generally the best of friends, but... this was Dawn. Buffy wouldn’t hurt Dawn. Dawn was everything to her. Hadn’t she made him swear to protect her? “Buffy, you don’t want to do this.”
Buffy eyed Spike thoughtfully. She let her human face reappear, leaned against the crypt wall, and began picking at her nails. “You’re right, Spike, I don't. It was just a joke—I didn’t think Dawnie’d take it so badly.” She gestured in exasperation. “I thought you’d at least get that I was kidding. Sheesh—what do you take me for?” She shot him an accusing look and then returned her attention to her nails.
Spike relaxed and ran his fingers through his hair. Just a joke, then. That was okay—not surprising that a new sense of humour was part of the package.
“Hear that, Bit? She didn’t mean it. Told you everything’d be all right.” He reached for a t-shirt flung over the back of his armchair. “But, Christ, luv, you gave me a turn. Gotta give us some time to get used to the new you.” He pulled the t-shirt over his head, still talking. “There are some things that you just can’t—”
Dawn’s shriek cut him off in mid-sentence. Yanking the shirt down, he saw that Buffy was no longer in front of him—she’d taken advantage of his moment of inattention to grab Dawn and pin her against the wall behind the sarcophagus. Her head was lowered to Dawn’s neck. Dawn sagged in Buffy’s arms, her eyes half-closed and her face growing paler by the second.
With a roar, Spike sprang towards the sarcophagus and cleared it in a single leap. He threw out his arm as he landed; combined with the momentum from his jump, it was enough to knock Buffy several feet away. Spike caught Dawn as she fell and lowered her gently to the floor.
He pressed her hand over the wound in her neck. “Keep your hand there and push down, hear? You have to stop the bleeding.” Dawn’s eyes were unfocussed, but she nodded and did as he said.
He turned to Buffy, who was sprawled on the floor, fingering a new lump on the side of her head, and licking Dawn’s blood from her teeth. Her hair tumbled wildly around her face, giving her a feral appearance.
“What’s the matter, Spikey? Want to keep her all to yourself? Can’t say that I blame you—she is a sweet young thing. But—” She sprang to her feet with feline grace and connected a kick to Spike’s head that sent him hurtling into the corner of the sarcophagus. “—you can’t have her. She’s mine.”
The impact left Spike dazed. He shook his head in an attempt to clear it, grabbed the corner of the tomb, and staggered upright, still between Buffy and Dawn.
“I knew fresh blood was good, but blood spiced with fear—that kind of fear—is fucking amazing.” Buffy leaped forward and kicked out at him again. Her foot hit his ribcage with an audible crack, and he stumbled backwards, tripping over and flattening a spindly side table next to his armchair as he fell.
“I’d offer to share her with you, but, well, not really in the mood. I want it all.”
Buffy turned back to face Dawn. Dawn tried to push herself upright and took a few wobbly steps towards the door, blood trickling through the fingers pressed against her neck. “Buffy, please, no, Buffy, it’s me. It’s me. Buffy, please, I love you, don’t do this!”
Ignoring the painful grating of broken ribs, Spike heaved himself up from the floor and tackled Buffy from behind, wrenching her away from Dawn. They skidded across the floor and ended in a tangled heap with Dawn safely out of reach. For now. Buffy swore and struggled to loosen Spike’s grip on her legs. She was even stronger as a vampire than she had been in life as a slayer—he wasn’t going to be able to keep her away from Dawn much longer.
“Give me a break here, lover. What’s one little girl to you? It’s not like you haven’t killed a hundred of them yourself.” Buffy twisted around and kneed Spike in the chin, breaking his grasp and scrambling to her feet. Spike stretched forwards—fuck, that hurt his ribs—swiped at her ankles and brought her crashing to the floor again.
“This one’s different,” he snarled, throwing his weight onto her legs. “It’s Dawn. No one hurts her. Understand?”
“Of course I know she’s different.” Buffy laughed. “The fact that she’s my sister? That’s the best part! Killing gardeners and wrinkly old biddies walking their dogs—not without its appeal, I’ll admit. But going after Dawn? That’s where the real fun is. I mean, c’mon—just look at her.”
Spike looked. Dawn’s face was slack and wet with tears, the expression in her eyes a mixture of shock, anguish, and terror. She was breathing in short, ragged gasps, and the scent of her fear was overpowering. It wasn’t so long ago that he’d have revelled in her suffering and found her torment an aphrodisiac. But—and a part of him staggered at the realization that there was a ‘but’ to be had here at all—it didn’t work for him anymore. At least not with Dawn. Never with Dawn.
“I finally get why vampires go after those who were closest to them first,” Buffy continued. “Strangers, they’re scared, yeah, but you just can’t get that—” she gestured towards Dawn with her chin, “—unless they loved you before. I bet you did the same thing to your family, didn’t you?”
Spike froze. An old wound deep inside opened up, and he flinched with remembered pain. He looked at Buffy’s distorted face and saw another one, just as beloved and similarly misshapen, in its place; heard again the jeering, pitiless taunts in a voice that had once been tender and kind. He pressed his forehead against the cold stone floor, closed his eyes, and felt a fool. History damn well had a way of repeating itself. And he’d nearly gotten Dawn killed before seeing it.
Buffy wriggled one of her legs free, kicked out at him, rolled away, and sprang to her feet. In a trice, she covered the short distance between her and Dawn and stood behind her, holding the younger girl in a headlock. Spike climbed to his feet and approached them slowly, sliding one hand along the wall.
“Stay away, Spike,” Buffy warned, dragging Dawn backwards with her, “I’ll snap her neck before you—”
His fingers found the door’s handle and he yanked it towards him. The door flew open, bathing the two girls in the light of rising sun. Buffy shrieked and released Dawn in her haste to get away from the burning rays. Dawn crumpled to the floor.
Spike charged through the sunbeam and caught Buffy, twisting her arm up behind her back and pinning her to the wall. He turned his head to the younger girl. “Dawn. Go. Now. Get your neck tended to." His voice was hoarse with renewed grief. “Go. Don’t look back.” Dawn nodded, pushed herself up, and stumbled out the door.
Spike took tighter hold of Buffy and slammed her head against the wall until he felt her muscles go slack, then twisted her around to face him. Her head lolled to the side; she blinked slowly at him, barely conscious. He reached down, picked up one of the broken table legs, and pressed the splintered end to her breast. He closed his eyes, buried his nose in her hair, and breathed in her fragrance, filling himself with it until he felt he might burst. Tears rolled down his cheeks. Her scent was the only thing left of the woman he’d loved. He wouldn’t be able to hold on to that, either.
“I’m sorry, luv,” he whispered, “I can’t let you hurt her. Not now. Not ever.”
He pulled his head back and watched her bewilderment change to disbelief and then dismay, and drove the stake home.
“I made a promise to a lady.”
Her dust floated down over his hands, tiny motes glittering with reflected sunlight. He blew them off and watched them drift silently to the floor. Then he walked over to the door and closed it, returning his crypt to darkness.
She was gone, again.
Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.