Episodes: Bargaining, After Life
Series: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
A vignette from Spike's POV.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is the creation of Joss Whedon.
I crawl out of bed at dusk and head for Buffy's. The subdivisions all look even more the same with their pastels muted into one pale blur. Buffy's house is all roof and shadows under the eaves, different somehow in its sameness. It will always be Buffy's to me, even when Dawn is dust in the grave and Mexicans have taken over the neighborhood. Nice, spicy Mexicans... So I'll linger here, watching over Buffy's house until it falls into the sea - of course the Hellmouth is on the fault-line - and never forget how badly I failed her.
She's not here.
Of course Buffy isn't here. The lady of the house has been snug in her grave for a hundred and forty-eight nights now. Buffy no longer gets up at dusk to guard Dawn from demons or to keep the vampire population of the Hellmouth down to sustainable levels. That's the 'bot's job now.
The reasonable facsimile is out on patrol.
Once it was mine; now it's everybody's favorite substitute-Buffy. Our plastic scarecrow, keeping demons, vampires and the Department of Social Services away - how I hate the 'bot. The bloody thing makes my skin crawl, and that's not easy for dead skin to do. Usually, it requires maggots.
I could stand it, you know, if it would just stop saying all those things Buffy never said. And if it didn't look so hurt that I...don't want it anymore. If it would just shut up and stand there and let the rest of us go on pretending that all's well in Sunnydale...
But all's not well.
The 'bot is on the fritz, and Red can't keep up with repairs. It's not long for this world, my plastic Buffy toy. I will see you again, bloody 'bot, in that place where all dead things with chips for souls finally go.
Much as I respect the witch's talent for 'bot repair (and that's not much), I have a funny feeling that the gig is up. Maybe it's those demon-bikers outside that clue me in. They wake Dawn up, too, and I tell her to stay out of sight. The Hellions are roaring down the street like a flock of crows headed straight for the corn.
The Scoobies are out there somewhere, too.
They've probably all gone to the movies or the Bronze - they were a tad vague about their plans when they asked me to keep an eye on Dawn tonight. Of course, no one thought to invite me along. No one ever invites the vampire. I'm like their crazy old aunt, in perpetual mourning for the Slayer on whose grave I should, by rights, be doing a jig. They'll let me babysit, they will, or save their precious mortal hides, but I'm just another evil dead thing as far as they're concerned.
Well, I don't care for their company, either.
Dawn wants to wait for them, and for the 'bot. I knew someday it would come down to this - will I risk Dawn to save the others? Am I going to do Custer's Last Stand here in Buffy's house, or am I going to get the niblet the hell out of the Hellmouth?
Not a difficult choice at all, when I put it that way.
So I drag her out of the house. We skulk around until I manage to nick a bike, and things are finally looking up. The Scoobies are probably a dead loss, and I don't even want to know what's become of the 'bot. I'll get Dawn out; that's all I promised. I'll take her back to England - we'll stay with Giles over there on the other side of the world from the Hellmouth. Big plans I lay on my stolen bike, the little bit behind me in a football helmet. Big plans, but the best-laid plans of mice and men go oft awry. Oftener, when the metallic and the undead are involved.
Vampires are the worst rubberneckers.
The 'bot is a mess. I haven't seen someone - or, rather, something - drawn and quartered in a long time. That was out of style even when I was alive. Of course you see a lot of this sort of thing when you're undead, but there's something exceptionally pitiful about this scene - poor niblet, kneeling beside the torso, listening to the 'bot's final, senseless words as it rages against the decompiling of the light.
I should be happy to be rid of this plastic Buffy-demon what's been haunting me, in its uniquely chipper way, these past, oh, hundred and forty-eight nights now. But how can I be happy with Dawn practically sobbing over the thing? It was just an illusion, just a dead thing trying to be Buffy to please the people that for some reason it thought were its friends.
It was a damn fine imitation, if I do say so myself.
I pick up what looks like a leg. It's more than time to get out of town - Red, if she's not in pieces herself, ain't undoing this short-circuit anytime soon. But when I tell Dawn so, there's no answer.
The town is a wreck, and I can't find Dawn or the rest of the Buffybot Fan Club anywhere. I've tried the Bronze, the Magic Box, Xander's place - each spot less and less likely, and me getting more and more worried.
I never think to check the graveyard.
I stop back at Buffy's twice, and afterwards I spot the Hellions high-tailing it out of town. I wonder what drove them the hell out of Dodge, but third time's the charm and I forget the demons when I find the lights on at Buffy's.
She answers from upstairs. Thank G--well, I'm relieved. If anything happened to Dawn... Nothing will happen to Dawn. No more mistakes. But why'd she run off? Does she have a boy hidden up there? Drugs? Fattening foods? It's not easy raising a teenager when you're pushing 150 yourself. Luckily, I don't sweat the little things - as long as there are no puncture wounds on her neck, I'm happy.
As if I could be happy.
There's nary a wound on her, so why is she giving me that "don't blow up Spike" look I've come to know so well? She indicates the answer, following her down the stairs. It seems Red has switched from tinkering with the 'bot to full-blown enchantments.
Does she think I'll be angry that they've reassembled the damn thing again? How long does she think it will comfort her in the absence of her sister, the way it once did me? (Well, not quite that way...) But I'm not angry. I'm proud that she's taking after dear old Spike already.
Even as the words come out of my mouth - "I've seen the bloody 'bot before" - I know something is off. I can smell it, hear it, taste it in the air: the brazen tang of blood, so like Dawn's it fooled me at first, the musty odor that clings to graves, the second heartbeat, not fluttering like Dawn's is, but still going too fast, like an infant's.
I look up into her eyes.
I look up at this impossible visitor, this lady of the house who was never expected to be in, ever again, and the ice turns to blood in my veins. I think my heart beats once, twice...ow. Did I think I loved her, a hundred and forty-eight days ago? Did I think it hurt when she died? G--, did I think it hurt when I died? This joy hurts so much more, this miracle turning my heart inside out.
"What did you do?"
Nothing, Dawn answers - she's as much in shock as I am. I see Buffy's hands as she tries to button her shirt. One more stake through my heart, Slayer - you've found a way to kill me over and over again, and never let me turn to dust. You weren't supposed to be the one crawling out of the grave. That's my job.
I sit Buffy down, I speak to her. I understand - who else could understand? Not Dawn, trailing Buffy around the house like a little lost puppy, not the bloody Scoobies, barging in with their loud, guilty voices - is she here? she's here! how is she? - admitting what they did, when any fool can see for himself that they...screwed up. As usual. The living are so bloody self-absorbed. Any fool can see...
She's not pleased to be here.
It takes the evil vampire to notice that their voices hurt her ears, that their joy is twisting like a stake in her heart. My joy has involved the misery of others often enough that I know all the signs. So I take my jubilee outside.
And slam Xander into a tree when he mentions that whole obsession thing. Am I the one who raised my obsession from the dead? I'm not the one who did this to her - her hands bleeding, her eyes damning us all, and idiots like him not seeing a thing. You didn't tell me, but I know what you did - me and Red, and the witch isn't talking.
"Look me in the eyes, and tell me when you saw Buffy alive, that wasn't the happiest moment of your entire existence."
I damn the bloodly clueless living under my breath. Oh yes, seeing her was all that and more - more than the sodding idiot in front of me could ever imagine. But I'm evil, see? I'm undead. I know what it means to hurt the things I love - me and the witch, and she's not talking.
It means consequences.
"Every night I save you."
A hundred and forty-seven perfect plans, but none of them can save you now. Nothing can reach you - you're not there, and you're not here. Where are you, Slayer?
I can hear you praising them for what they did, like a freshly turned vampire thanking the undead parent who doomed her to a perpetual death. I've heard that line enough times - spoke it once, too. All they hear is the happiness they've been begging for all along. Or a close enough facsimile. Damn the living. I feel positively ill.
"I can be alone with you here."
She was alone back there too, lying to the Scoobies, hugging them. She knows that I know; I try to reach her, though I know whatever it is, it's bad, very bad. It's more clawing her way out of graves, more flinching when her best friends talk to her, more of her not wanting to be here, and how can I fix any of it?
"I think I was in heaven."
I should have known. Where else would martyred Slayers go? Didn't I sense, when she died, that we were separated forever? And not because I'm immortal. I'm on furlough from hell, and she's on the short list for heaven. She can't survive here long in the condition she's in now - she's headed back where she belongs.
As much as every moment hurts her, and hurts me by association, it's going to be so much worse when she goes back to one the place I can't follow. She's a ghost out of Dickens haunting me, but it's far too late for William the Bloody to repent. I'm evil, remember? Why doesn't anyone remember?
"They can never know."
Once a martyr, always a martyr, but now she's tying me up at the stake with her. Buffy, Slayer, this burnt offering isn't wanted in heaven. You can lie to the Scoobies, and you can suborn my perjury, but you can't live in hell long and expect to remain an angel. Am I really the person you want helping you stumble through the land of the living?
You've had brighter ideas, Slayer. If I weren't evil, undead and all that, maybe I'd have the strength to tell you to go back to your idiot friends and tell them your dark secrets. Not bloody likely, though - I could never say no to you.
The lady of the house is in.