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Missing Episode Between S6 and S7

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  • Missing Episode Between S6 and S7

    Title: Missing Episode
    Setting: Between S6 and S7
    Disclaimer: Belong to Joss and co.
    Rating: R for the mention of the attempted rape.
    Thanks to lusciousspike, Looli and Marie for the great beta.


    ~*~*~*~*~





    Willow sighed, looking down at her book. She could still hear their whispers plowing exasperatingly deep into her senses. She guessed it was Angie again, telling the new student about how horrible the Rosenberg girl was. It was like high school all over again with everybody thinking of her as a freak, with only two or three students considering talking to her. Angie was the Cordelia of the coven. That was for sure.

    "Willow!"

    She looked up with a small smile. "Hi, Althenea."

    The British young woman grinned at her, dropping her heavy-looking books on the desk. She excitedly sat next to her, grabbing one of Willow's arms. "I've talked to Miss Hartness. She loved it. All my ideas about the Pleiadian spirit con? Willow, are you alright? You look fretful." Althenea looked worriedly at her and Willow sighed again. "You've been into murk territory again, haven't you?"

    Willow tried to deny it but Althenea's disappointed headshake made her look down at her book.

    "Willow, it has been two months."

    "I know?"

    "You should try to focus on the present. The past is dead."

    "Right. I should go back to being all happy peppy Willow and forget how I killed two men without a flinch," Willow retorted. The gasps she heard irritated her, so she looked at the other girls in the room and yelled, "Yeah, you heard me, I'm a killer. Stop with the 'Is that her?' whispering already!"

    The girls' eyes widened more as they withdrew from her. Althenea quickly placed a comforting hand on Willow's shoulder. "Willow?"

    Willow jerked her hand away, glaring at her. "What?"

    Althenea backed away with wide eyes. "Y-your eyes," she tripped over her tongue.

    It took Willow two seconds to understand. She closed her eyes as her head hung tiredly. "Shit," she whispered.

    "It? it's gonna be alright," Althenea said.

    Willow looked back at her, biting her lip at the fear shining from Althenea's eyes. "I gotta go." She headed towards the door quickly, slamming onto Miss Hartness' chest.

    "Willow," Miss Hartness exclaimed. "You're leaving? The lesson will start this instant."

    "I?I need to go," Willow muttered, running outside. She dashed into the bathroom and locked herself in one of the stalls. She sat on the toilet seat, breathing hard, feeling the tears sliding down her cheeks.

    It had been two months since she had left Sunnydale. Giles had signed her into this coven for Wiccans so she could learn about magic from the beginning. It seemed the aim was for her to learn how to control the magic inside her better, but Willow didn't want to control it. She wanted it out of her. She had asked Giles to get it out, but he insisted there was no way for that to happen. She had asked to be killed then, but Giles wouldn't have that.

    So here she was. In this Hogwarts school of magic, learning everything from the beginning. It was terribly boring because she already knew this stuff. It was also frustrating because no one in the class seemed to like her. Only a few students talked to her. Some of them would just remind her of what she had done, while the others were trying to be supportive.

    Sometimes it was hard to keep calm and still. The magic inside her had always controlled her. Only? only Tara knew how to keep her calm.

    Willow hiccupped. Why was she still alive? Why was she still trying to redeem herself? She wanted death. There was nothing to look forward to anymore. There was no Tara to come back to. Willow didn't have the drive anymore. She just wanted death.

    "What about your friends?" Giles' voice drifted into her ears.

    Her friends. Would they accept her again? Back in Sunnydale, in the few days she had spent after her dark phase, Xander, and to some extent Buffy, were the only ones who talked to her. She wondered if they missed her or even thought about her.


    *****


    Buffy enthusiastically checked her beach bag for the twentieth time. Sunscreen, check. Sunglasses, check. Sun hat, check. A Blanket, check. Towels, check. Extra towels, check. Chairs? well, Xander was going to bring those. Better check.

    She grinned at her cellphone. Something this little was very useful, especially to the slayer. How stupid were they not to think of buying one before. Thanks to Xander's new raise, Buffy was able to have her own mobile. She promised to pay him back, and she would, once she found a better job than working at the Doublemeat Palace.

    She pressed number 2 for speed dial. Xander's name appeared on the small screen. It rang for a few seconds before Xander's bored voice sounded from the cellphone, "For the fourth time, yes, I got the chairs. And the beach umbrella and the food supplies."

    "And your bikini?" she asked playfully.

    "Since I've waxed, it'll be a shame if I forgot it. My skin is creamy like vanilla, bay-bee." She grimaced at the bad imitation of Austin Powers.

    "Vanilla, huh?"

    "I've always been called chocolate."

    "Get out. When?"

    "Hey, is it impossible that someone may actually call me that?" Xander's voice rose defensively.

    Buffy pursed her lips. "If by someone you mean you, then no."

    "Touch?."

    She rolled her eyes. "C'mon, Xander, or they'll be out of empty spaces."

    "Well, even though that never happened, except that one time? anyway, I'm about to turn right to your house. So see ya in about two minutes, max."

    "Okay." She hang up her cellphone. Before she could check on her beach bag again, she heard the car brakes from outside. Looking at the window, she saw Xander getting out of his car. She walked toward the front door, yelling up the stairs, "Dawn! Hurry up, Xander is here!"

    "Okay!" She heard Dawn's reply, and before she reached her hand for the door knob, Xander pushed the door open, almost slamming it into her face.

    Buffy jerked back, startled. He looked at her with a worried face. "Did I get ya?"

    "No." She shook her head. "Or else I'd be on the floor with a bump on my forehead. You don't open people's doors without knocking." She glared at him.

    "Sorry, but that's your fault for keeping your door unlocked."

    Buffy frowned. "It is weird that we never learned that lesson after all these years."

    Xander smiled, looking at the huge beach bag in the dining room. "You gal pals are ready?"

    "Dawn!" Buffy shouted at the top of her lungs.

    "Coming!"

    "Hey, before I forget," Xander said, stuffing his hand in his pocket and bringing out a yellow plastic lip balm tube with a gold cap, "I bought you that Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm you asked for on the way here."

    Buffy clutched the lip balm happily. "Dawn!" she yelled with so much eagerness.

    Xander chuckled. "A little too excited, aren't you?"

    "You bet! I have spent all the money I have on this skin-tight one-piece swimsuit? which, I'm wearing under this coat." She sounded her sexiest, just because teasing Xander was fun.

    "Dawn!" Xander roared at the stairs.

    "Alright, alright, I'm here." Dawn came down with annoyance written all over her face. Buffy's eyes bugged out at the bathing suit her sister was wearing. Dawn stood at the top of the stairs, wearing a light blue halter-neck bikini top showing a lot of cleavage. She had a light blue fabric tied on the side of her hip, making it hard for Buffy to see whether Dawn was wearing a thong under it or not.

    "What do you think?" Dawn asked with enthusiasm.

    "Spock, I think I'm in love with Edith Keeler." Xander gaped at her with wide eyes. It seemed he had so much difficulty in closing his mouth, so it hung widely opened.

    "Ew," Dawn cringed, wrapping her arms across her chest in an attempt to cover up.

    Buffy looked up at Dawn with a glare. "Edith Keeler must die," she spat.

    Xander and Dawn turned shocked gazes at her.

    She ignored the stares and pointed a finger at Dawn accusingly. "Where did you get it?"

    "It was Melinda's gift for my birthday," Dawn said defiantly. Her arms were crossed confidently now. She gave Buffy her 'I dare you to say something' stare.

    "Well, now we're establishing that you're never gonna see Melinda again."

    "That doesn't mean she's gonna kill her," Xander reassured, before he looked uncertainly at Buffy. "Does it?"

    She threw him a glare and then looked back at Dawn, who was looking shocked at her. "You can't stop me from seeing my friends. Whatever happened to that stuff you said about treating me like a grown up?"

    "I'm not? it's just? this swimsuit?" Buffy looked helplessly at her sister's cleavage. She elbowed Xander next to her, whispering, "Say something."

    "Uh?" Xander gulped, going up the stairs. When he reached Dawn's level, he looked nervously at her bored features. "Look, Dawnie, this?" He waved his arms franticly, trying his hardest not to look down. "?swimsuit is kinda revealing. Don't you think it's better if you wore something that covered you up a little?"

    "Xander," she said in her sweet Dawn voice, "do you see me as a child?"

    "God no." He shook his head a little too hard.

    "Then don't you think as a woman I should make my own choices?"

    "Uh? yes?"

    "Well, I choose to wear this today. Can you respect my decision?"

    Looking at her serious eyes, Xander was struck by how much her features had developed through the last few months. She looked very womanly at the moment. He blurted out, "Of course."

    Dawn's serious face gradually became cheerful. "Yes!" she squealed, giving Xander a kiss on the cheek before running upstairs to get her stuff.

    He smiled goofily and went down the stairs to meet one fuming Buffy, with her arms on her hips, her foot tapping the floor, and an unimpressed look fixed on her face.

    Xander walked past her, his goofy grin not wavering. "I don't care. I'm the fun parent."

    Buffy rolled her eyes.



    ~*~*~*~

    Theme Song

    Starring:

    Sarah Michelle Gellar
    Nicholas Brendon
    Emma Caulfield
    Michelle Trachtenberg
    James Marsters
    Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg

    ~*~*~*~


    Buffy inhaled the fresh air mixed with the smell of the sea. She and Xander were sitting on their beach blankets, waiting for Dawn to get them some ice cream. She smirked at Dawn's irritated huff while standing behind a very long line. She turned her head to Xander, who was drinking his juice and reading a comic. "So how's the construction going?" she asked.

    He looked back at her, placing the plastic glass on the blanket. "Well, the basement and the first floor are practically done, except the first floor's doors need to be painted, as do some of the walls. And the bathrooms. We're still working on the second floor."

    "I can't believe you're rebuilding the old high school. Haven't you learned anything from the old hellmouth-y one?" she hissed with a good-humored fierce look. She didn't really like the idea of Dawn studying there, but Buffy would not be able to afford sending Dawn to a private school. She wasn't even sure if she was allowed to change districts.

    "Hey, if the mayor wanted a new high school, there's nothing I can do about it."

    "Maybe this mayor is evil too."

    "I doubt it. His armpits smelled." Xander shuddered, remembering the day the mayor made a visit to the construction place.

    Buffy smiled, looking at the teenage girls who walked before her. "You know, putting apocalypses and monsters aside, high school was fun."

    "The lack of responsibility was fun." At Buffy's frown, he stuttered, "Uh? adult life type of responsibility."

    "We used to go to the Bronze all the time," Buffy said, smiling fondly. Her smile started to fade slowly.

    They looked at the kids playing with beach balls when a heavy silence creped over them. Buffy felt her chest tighten while she looked at the teens playing and laughing. Carefree and happy. Just like they used to when they were still their age.

    "Have you talked to Willow?" she asked, running her hand through the sand.

    "After her trip to vain-y land?"

    "After Giles took her to England," she amended inaudibly.

    "I've called a few times."

    "How many?"

    "Uh? from the first night's call to the other call on the very second night since she had left: two," he said as he bowed his head in shame.

    "Oh."

    He looked at her. "What about you? What's your magic number?"

    Buffy looked at him for a second before she looked down, discomforted.

    "So you're a virgin," he confirmed.

    She gave him a look.

    "You know, in the whole Willow phonecalling scheme, I'm pretty much cooler than you," he explained awkwardly.

    "I guess," Buffy admitted seriously before looking down. "Right now I'm not sure if I'm qualified to call myself someone's friend."

    "Hey," Xander said in a soothing voice. "C'mon now, things with Willow are pretty rough. It's understandable not to be in contact with her all summer. We?"

    "Guys," Dawn called, coming over, carrying two cones of ice cream. Each cone was held in one hand. She handed them to Xander and Buffy.

    "Where's yours?" Buffy asked.

    "Well, I'm on a diet."

    "'Cause you're a stick?" Buffy asked with a raised eyebrow. Xander smiled at her.

    "I'll have you know that that giant, yet delicious chocolate cake you guys got for my birthday made me gain half a pound." She pouted.

    "And since I ate half of that cake, I'm guessing I've gained lots of non-regrettable half pounds," Xander commented with a headshake.

    Buffy took a few licks of her ice cream. "How about some exercising? You're kinda lumpy on the tummy."

    "I am?" Dawn exclaimed in horror, looking down at her flat stomach.

    "You look fine," Xander assured in a placating tone, only to wince when Buffy slapped his shoulder.

    "Ow," he yelled, patting the stinging area.

    "You don't hit on my sister."

    "Ew." Dawn shuddered.

    "Hey, that's not an expression you see from a girl with the big crush on the me."

    Dawn rolled her eyes. "Is there ever gonna be a chance you'll forget about that?"

    "No," he replied sullenly.

    Dawn gave another eye roll before her eyebrows furrowed as she listened to a remix of Destiny Child's song 'Nasty Girl.' "Ooooh," she squealed, clapping her hands. "I love this song." She started dancing and swaying to the music, gyrating her hips and running her hands through her hair. Xander looked at her with a tight smile, trying as hard as he could not to look below Dawn's neck. However, Buffy was more interested in her ice cream.

    A teenage boy passed by, but stopped when he spotted Dawn's dancing. He tilted his head, staring at Dawn's lower back.

    "Hey!" Xander shouted at him when he noticed the stares. "Nothing to see here. Now beat it, buddy!"

    The boy stumbled away before Xander finished talking. Dawn regarded the fleeing teen, slack-jawed. She turned angry eyes at Xander. "Why did you do that? He was cute!"

    "Don't you want a guy who appreciates you for your intelligence?" Xander asked innocently.

    "Screw intelligence! That guy thought I was hot!"

    "Watch that mouth," Xander chastised.

    Dawn's eyes were about to pop out of her head from irritation. She looked back at Xander with teenage rage. "It was enough to have Buffy as the annoying parent, now you joined the strict squad?"

    Buffy tossed her cone away and looked at Xander's melting ice cream. "Are you sure you want yours?"


    ******


    Buffy walked around the cemeteries, bored. She was tossing her stake in the air and then catching it easily. "Nice day at the beach followed by boring night at the cemetery," she mumbled, looking around. "And worst of all, no vamps to slay."

    She sighed, walking around. How long had she been doing this? Walking at night, looking for the undead, getting in with the slaying, coming back home before sunrise, trying to catch up on some sleeping, waking up in the morning very tired because of the lack of sleep. When was she going to get a break?

    She shook her head. She wasn't going down this road again. It had been rough coming back, doing the same thing over and over. Nevertheless, she had moped about this for a whole year and now it was time to get over that drama and just accept.

    She snorted. "Like that'll be easy."

    Something behind her moved. She quickly swerved around, taking position, anticipating any attack. Nothing happened. No one was there. She just realized that she entered the forest near the cemetery with all these tress surrounding her. She looked around carefully, trying to pick up any sound. Then she felt it.

    Her heart started beating faster. She looked around, tense. He was here. He was definitely here. There was no sound or movement, but she knew he was here.

    "Spike?" she whispered.

    He was very near, but she still couldn't hear any movement or see anything stir. She didn't see Spike.

    She let out a shuddered breath, walking carefully around. Maybe it was just her imagination, but the feeling was so strong. She could feel a vampire, and said vampire was Spike for sure. Was it just her going crazy? Suddenly, someone grabbed her and spun her around. Her eyes were wide with fear, especially since no one was in sight. But he was here. She could feel him.

    "Spike, I know you're here!" she called, looking around.

    Her heart raced when all she saw was darkness. The forest was nowhere to be seen, but she could feel Spike around still. She didn't hear, see, or smell a thing. But he was here. She was sure he was.

    Suddenly she lost her balance and fell backward. Her hand reached out for something to grab for balance, but nothing was there. She fell down, hitting her back against something solid. She let out a cry of pain, feeling someone in front of her trying to grab her.

    She looked up to meet a pair of angry yellow eyes before she fell to the ground. Someone got on top of her, holding her down. She tried to fight, feeling hands grabbing her face.

    "No, stop, no!" she yelled, twisting to get out.

    Her eyes searched into the darkness but nothing was there except for the eyes. She got onto her stomach and tried to pull herself away, but the weight was on top of her, holding her down, grabbing her arms as she continued yelling and protesting.

    "Stop!"

    She focused on the golden eyes, feeling tears of desperation and horror forming in her own. "Spike, stop, please," she whispered brokenly.

    Her mind traveled back to her bathroom, the robe she was wearing, the tub, Spike's jeans, Spike's blue eyes. Blue eyes.

    She focused on the golden eyes before her. They didn't belong to a vampire. They didn't belong to Spike. With little struggle, she freed one of her hands and shoved two of her fingers into the eyes.

    Suddenly, the blackness faded and she met the dark sky. Buffy sat up looking at the howling demon. It was huge and slick, dirty blonde hairs from the head to the back, spreading to the arms?

    Buffy couldn't observe more before another two demons showed up. She trembled in fear when the darkness started to spread. She got up clumsily, trying to run away. "No!" she yelled, running away from them. One of her legs was experiencing unbearable pain. She was too freaked out to identify which one. Her eyes were firmly closed, trying hard not to see the yellow eyes again. Suddenly, she slammed into someone and screamed, terrified.

    "Buffy."

    She screamed more, trying to get away.

    "Buffy, it's me! Stop fighting!"

    She opened her eyes and Xander was looking down at her with worry. She could barely breathe as she looked up with wide eyes. She could hear her heartbeats, she could feel them racing.

    "Hey, it's alright, calm down," Xander spoke softly, hesitatingly trying to reach for her shoulders.

    It was Xander. Only Xander. No gold eyes. No big demon. No Spike. Just Xander.

    As she slowly moved forward to his open embrace, a horrid sound came from behind. She whirled around, her eyes widening when she caught the sight of the demons.

    "Holy shit!" Xander exclaimed.

    Buffy grabbed Xander's arm and started pulling him away with her. "Xander, c'mon," she yelled, running away, feeling relieved when Xander started running with her. She hissed at the pain in her leg, but didn't stop running.

    Xander's car was outside the cemetery. They quickly and awkwardly got in, and a few seconds later Xander drove away. She didn't even bother to put on the seat belt. She looked back, watching as the car drove away from the gates of the cemetery. The demons didn't follow them.

    She let out a shuddered sigh of relief, turning back to sit upright. Her ragged breaths started to slow down as did her heartbeats. Her back hurt from where she hit that? whatever it was. She couldn't get herself to sit upright, so she just placed her elbow on the car door, with her forehead resting on her palm, her fingers pressed against her scalp.

    "What the hell were they?" she heard Xander shout the question. "They're really large?"

    Buffy couldn't just stay still. She leaned back with both her hands on her lap. She started rocking back and forth, her eyes wide and she barely whispered a word. Xander stopped his nervous babble and she felt him look at her with concern.

    "Buffy, what's wrong?"

    She didn't answer, but kept twisting in her seat, staring ahead. Xander glanced over at her every few seconds. "Are you okay?" he asked.

    She nodded, rocking harder. She desperately wanted to stop rocking, to stop worrying Xander. There was nothing to fear here. Everything was fine. But she still rocked, on the verge of exploding.

    Her eyes focused on the road. The long, very clean, road. The yellow line on the road caught her attention the most because it seemed like it was racing or something. It was like they were moving faster and faster. Suddenly, the car wasn't going in a straight line. The view had changed because Xander was pulling the car over to the side of the road. The car stopped moving, but Buffy kept rocking.

    She slightly shuddered when she felt a gentle hand touch her arm. A small whimper escaped her lips as she was pulled into an embrace. She was about to fight the hands that pulled her before she realized it was Xander. She let him hug her, even if it felt awkward inside the car. The position wasn't really comfortable, but she managed to feel comfortable enough to let her tears fall. She rested her head on his shoulder, feeling his hand run smoothly up and down her spine, in a comforting rhythm. She was safe.


    ********


    Buffy dashed inside her house with Xander close behind. She limped toward the living room, speaking with false poise. "Okay, we gotta find them. Go up and get Dawn, you two are gonna hit the books. I'll go out there?"

    "Buffy, Buff, you're losing it. C'mon, sit down?"

    "No," she yelled, reaching for the weapon chest. "There's? no time to sit down? I-I have to go out. Look for them. I-"

    Xander grabbed her shoulders. "You are gonna sit down." He pulled her out of the room as she reluctantly struggled. Her injured leg hurt her a little, so she let him guide her to the kitchen. He pulled out a chair and pushed her gently to sit. She was about to talk, but he pointed a stern finger at her with a glare that made her close her mouth.

    "Now," he began, "I'm gonna get you a fresh glass of water." He walked to the fridge, getting a bottle of cold water and pouring some into a glass. He walked back to where Buffy sat, handing her the glass. She took it quietly and started taking a few sips.

    Xander brought out a chair for himself and sat in front of her. "Now tell me exactly what happened."

    Buffy placed the glass on the table before she looked at him, unsure.

    "C'mon, Buffy, if we wanna get them, I gotta know what we're fighting," he pleaded softly.

    Buffy closed her eyes for a brief moment. "Okay." She looked at him. "I was at the cemetery and before I knew it I was in the woods."

    Xander nodded.

    "I heard something there and then I felt?" She wasn't sure if she needed to tell Xander about the Spike part. She wasn't sure how Xander would react to it. She bit her lower lip, looking straight at Xander's hands. His fingers were closed on each other, very calm. That reassured her a little, but she knew that when it came to Spike, Xander would just lose his comforting tranquility.

    "You felt what?" Xander asked in a quiet voice, urging her to speak.

    Her eyes focused on his calm hands, deciding to give Xander a chance. Deciding to open a new page to a world where she didn't keep secrets from her friends. "I felt him around," she said, her eyes moving to her unsteady hands.

    "Who?" Xander asked, confused.

    She looked at him with a sad expression. It didn't take him long to guess. His calm features dissolved into the scowl he normally wore when it came to Spike.

    "Oh." He looked down for a bit. "You think he came back?"

    "I don't think so," she said confidently. "I think those demons were doing something." Xander didn't look convinced but she went on, "They had control over my senses somehow. They? they made me relive one of Spike's? not-so-great moments."

    "When he tried to rape you," Xander spoke knowingly.

    She flinched.

    "I-I'm sorry," Xander whispered, looking down, upset.

    She tried to smile, but failed. "It's okay." She looked at Xander's hands, which had had lost their reassuring calmness. "I think these demons did something to me. Made me think and? feel stuff that hurt me. They made me feel Spike hurting me. They made it so real."

    "Are you sure it was the demons' doing?" Xander asked skeptically. Buffy knew what he was hinting at.

    "Yeah, I'm sure."

    "But you said you felt Spike around. Don't you think that maybe he came back?"

    She shook her head. "I felt Spike but I didn't see him. I felt his hands? but I didn't see him or hear him. It's like a real d?j? vu. The eyes looking at me were yellow."

    "Spike's eyes can go yellow."

    "But they didn't at that time," she whispered. "He didn't change into his? vamp-face or whatever you'd like to call it."

    "Doesn't that make it worse?"

    Buffy closed her eyes, annoyed. Yep, it was a bad idea. "Xander, I'm not discussing what happened with Spike now. I just want to get rid of the demons."

    "Okay, okay, I'm sorry. It's just? the thing between you and Spike?" Buffy let out an irritated sigh. "? it's not my business." He bit his lip, looking down, hurt. Buffy's stare softened and she reached for his hand, holding it tight.

    He looked up with a bitter smile. "Buffy, I just wanna help."

    "I know," she whispered. "You are."

    Xander chuckled, looking away, not believing her.

    "You are," she stressed. "Of all the people I know, you're the only one who stuck around, Xander." Xander looked up, his eyes meeting hers. How many disappointments had she gone through, especially with the men in her life? Xander was the only man in her life who hadn't left. The only one who stuck by her side. "Thank you? for staying," she said, feeling the need to let him know how much she appreciated him for that.

    He smiled, holding her hand in his. They looked at each other for awhile, before Buffy broke the stare. "Alright. We need to work on this now." She stood up and hissed at the pain in her leg.

    "How about some sleeping instead?" Xander asked.

    "What?" She looked at him in disbelief.

    "Buffy, you look deadbeat. You can barely walk. I think you need some rest, especially with what you went through tonight. I'm sure tomorrow we'll all be refreshed and ready for research?"

    "But?"

    "No," he said, standing up. "Moi has spoken. It's time for nice little slayers to listen."

    "Xander, someone's life could be in danger right now."

    "And a dead slayer is no good to them," he emphasized, holding her gaze with a strong one. At her sigh, he held her shoulders, walking her toward the stairs. "C'mon, we have to take care of your leg. As I remember, the med kit is still in your room."

    "Mom's," Buffy corrected softly.

    "Because important things are kept in mommy's room?"

    "No? uh, I started sleeping there? recently." She could feel Xander's confusion, but she cherished that he didn't ask why. She, herself, didn't know why. With everything that happened last year, her room was just filled with depressing memories. The warmth of her mother's room soothed her. She needed the warmth because there wasn't any last year. It was all cold, brutal and? empty.

    She hissed again when she pressed on her leg, feeling Xander tense beside her. He let her lean heavily on his body, trying gently to get to her mother's room faster. She smiled at his attempts, thankful that she still had him in her life. After everything that went on between them last year, it was nice that their friendship had become stronger.


    *****


    Xander slowly patched Buffy's leg so that he wouldn't hurt her more than she already was. Then he put everything back into the med kit, while Buffy lay down on her mom's bed. He put the med kit back in the closet and turned to watch her trying to get comfortable.

    "I still think I should go out," she mumbled.

    "Sure, go out, find gorilla demons, get killed while you're at it. That'll save the world," Xander said tiredly, knowing that he sounded a little harsh.

    Buffy pressed her lips together in a pout. "Hey, where's my Xander support?"

    "It'll drop by tomorrow, when you're more relaxed and ready to kick some sloppy demon ass."

    She nodded sleepily, pressing her head to the pillow more. Xander smiled and started walking towards the door, before he stopped. He turned around and looked at her. Her eyes were open and looking straight ahead until she noticed him looking at her. She looked at him, puzzled.

    "What?"

    He rubbed the back of his neck. "I? I'm thinking maybe I should stay."

    Buffy frowned. "You mean sleep over?"

    "No? I meant here. With you. Until you fall asleep, that is." He bit his lower lip, looking down nervously.

    "Oh." He looked up, caught by the look on Buffy's face. He couldn't really define it. "Thank you? for the thought, Xander, but I think I'll be fine by myself."

    Xander shifted uncomfortably. "Yeah, okay." He was about to turn away, when she spoke, "Unless?"

    He turned around, looking at her. She pulled the blanket closer to her chest. "Unless you want to," she whispered.

    He didn't say a thing. He just dragged a chair next to her bed and sat in front of her. She gave him a small smile and closed her eyes.
    Xander watched her as she drifted off. His hero. Small, scared and sad. Nothing like the hero he used to picture her as before. Super Buffy, who was ready to face whatever she came across. The one who was above it all. Perfect, strong, undefeatable. Right now as she slept, Xander could see the real Buffy. She wasn't always brave, she wasn't always right, she wasn't perfect. She was human. She was his human friend with handy superpowers. He smiled fondly, admiring her even more now.

    He looked at the picture of him, Buffy and Willow beside the bed. His eyes lingered on the laughing face of Willow, feeling a painful grip in his chest. How was she doing now? He hoped Giles was taking good care of her.


    *******


    Willow stared motionless at the line between the wall and the ceiling, huddling under the blanket that covered her body from shoulder to toe. The dampness on the pillow under her temple and cheek aggravated her, but she had no energy to flip the pillow to the dry side. Should she be thinking about energy right now? Power. Force. Vigor. The reason she was here, anyway.

    Here. Inside this exaggeratedly, elegant huge room. She had never noticed how stylish the room was, nor did she even give a second glance to Giles' house. The thoughts that had clouded her mind when she first came here were about when she would be executed.

    That never came though.

    Nothing she had expected had happened. She wasn't killed, nor was she punished. At least 'punished' in that old traditional kind of way, because being locked in Giles' house, learning how to drink tea and make it properly was definitely a punishment.

    Great. Now she was joking? She shouldn't joke about this. Not after what she had done.

    Jokes aside, she knew what her punishment was, though. It wasn't like she had expected, but nonetheless it was effective. She had felt it today. Her punishment.

    It was their eyes.

    The eyes of those women in the coven. The way they had looked at her. Fear was there, in their eyes, in their souls. People were afraid of her. All of them. The women from the coven. The council men. Sometimes Giles. They would always be afraid of her. No one would ever feel safe around her.

    Even her friends, once she would see them again, though she didn't know when. But she knew it would happen sooner or later. At the moment, she certainly wasn't ready to face them. It had been two months. Two months since she had last seen them. Two months since she jumped into the dark side.

    "Tara," she whispered brokenly, looking up with newly formed tears.


    *******


    Anya was closing the door to the magic shop when Xander found her. "Anya!" he called, getting out of his car.

    She looked his way and grimaced when she caught the sight of him. "Oh, swell, what do you want?"

    "Hey, Ahn," he whispered. It had been weeks since he last saw her. She was at the Bronze, listening to scorned women, trying to grant them vengeance against their ex-boyfriends. Xander had always wondered why he hadn't mentioned this to Buffy. Why he hadn't tried to stop her. After all, what she was doing was evil. Right?

    "Listen, Harris," Anya started, and he winced when she called him by his last name. "It's midnight and I'm tired, so either say what you want or let me teleport in peace."

    "Right. Uh? Buffy has been attacked by some kind of greeny greasy demons tonight and they hurt her real bad. There were only three of them. Description is blond hairs on the head and the side of their arms? uh, tall and big? really big, Olaffy sort of big, or maybe Bouncing Boy-like?"

    Anya looked at him annoyed through the whole speech. She interrupted his babble, "Great, not only do you insensitively mentioned my ex boyfriend's name, but you actually got the nerve to show up after weeks of avoiding me to ask for research help. Well, take this, Xander Harris, I don't know and I don't care. You want to help Buffy, do it on your own. I don't have time for people who don't give a crap about me."

    Xander bit his lower lip at her angry stare and nodded his head in shame. No matter how much it hurt to hear about him sucking when it came to her from her, he knew she was right. He dejectedly walked toward his car, mentally cursing his insolence. As he opened the driver's door, Anya's nervous voice drifted to his ear, "They're called Cluqux demons. They torture their victims by making all their senses relive their last horrible experience. Make it feel so real. They used to use it on the strong victims to make it easy for them to feed. But the last generation is so lazy; they started using that effect on every prey. "

    "How do we kill them?" Xander asked.

    "Anything sharp through the heart. I'm not sure about stakes, swords seem more effective."

    Xander smiled at her. "Thank you, Anya."

    She shrugged. "Yeah, whatever. That's the last time you and your stupid little friends ask for my help! I'm trying to get my reputation back. You only make me look bad in front of the lower beings."

    Xander nodded quickly, very grateful, before getting into his car.


    *****


    Anya sadly watched Xander drive away, leaving her alone. She sighed, hugging herself while looking at the dark quiet street. After seconds of silence, she glared. What the hell? She wasn't feeling upset about Xander Harris and his little Scooby gang, was she? So what if he didn't invite her to solve whatever problem they were having? It wasn't like she wanted to be there with those stuck up humans who think they know better than anyone, giving her those annoying looks whenever she said something they thought wasn't appropriate.

    Screw them. She didn't care. She had her vengeance, Halfrek as a friend, and the Magic Box? which Xander had chipped in to have fixed, but it was hers. She didn't need them. All she needed was vengeance.

    "Anyanka?"

    Anya whirled around fretfully to find Halfrek standing behind her. "Hallie?" she gasped relieved. "Don't sneak up on me like that."

    "Were you just talking to Xander?" Halfrek asked with a head tilt.

    "What? He? he just came by to ask me to get back together. I rejected him with a great deal of quiet vehemence. Like I'd get back with that jerk again." She let out a loud awkward laugh.

    "Hmmm," Halfrek sounded irritatingly doubtful, with another head tilt to the other side.

    "What?" she asked, annoyed.

    "Oh, nothing," Halfrek answered sweetly. "So, what do you say we head to where Judith is? She just told me some old mother is about to wish justice on her ungrateful son. It'll be fun."

    "Uh?" Anya stuttered. "I'll pass?"

    Halfrek blinked. "Why?"

    "Tonight they'll air My Best Friend's Wedding, and I just love that song at the restaurant."

    "Isn't that a romantic movie?"

    "What? Well, the song is pretty?" Anya started dancing awkwardly while singing, "Forever and ever, you stay in my heart and I?" she trailed off when Halfrek blinked some more at her. "It's a pretty song," she defended weakly.

    Halfrek's lips thinned. "Whatever, Anya, do as you please. I, however, will not miss a chance to see that ungrateful son pay what he deserves. Ta ta." As fast as a blink, Halfrek disappeared after her usual dramatic motion with both arms.

    Anya looked unhappily at the spot her friend used to be standing in, feeling a little confused.


    ******
    Made by Trickyboxes
    Halfrek gives Spike the curse that will change his entire life. Teenage Dirtbag

  • #2
    "So a sword through the heart?" Buffy asked, handing Xander a glass of cold water. It was a hot day. Then again, this was Sunnydale.

    "Anything sharp. Anya thought swords are our best bet," he said, slurping the water. Buffy grimaced at the annoying gurgling sound and looked at Dawn, expecting her to be disgusted as well, but Dawn was more interested surfing the net for information about the demon.

    Dawn looked uncertain. "What is it about inflecting bad memories?"

    "The last horrible experience, Anya said," Xander answered, with a look toward Buffy. She ignored it and concentrated on fanning herself with one of the cooking notebooks. A shrewd look from Xander was the last thing she needed at the moment.

    "What did they make you see?" Dawn asked, leaving her laptop and looking curiously at Buffy.

    Buffy looked at Xander, unsure if she should tell Dawn about it. This time Xander ignored her as he looked with a grim expression at his empty glass. The action alone surprised her. Was that his way of letting her decide what to do without interfering? She considered it a good thing, even though she kind of felt abandoned. Just a little bit.

    "Was it Willow?" Dawn asked with a hesitant frown that made Buffy startle.

    Xander looked like he was about to protest, but Buffy interrupted, "Yeah, it was Willow." Xander gave her a disapproving look but didn't say anything.

    "So this demon makes you see stuff?" Dawn asked, her attention again on the laptop and started pressing on the keyboards.

    "Only thing I saw were demon eyes."

    "But you said you saw Willow."

    "I-I didn't see her. Or? hear her."

    Dawn blinked. "I don't understand."

    "She felt her," Xander said, looking at Buffy. "That's what you told me yesterday."

    Buffy looked at him, grateful. "Yeah." A long look passed between her and Xander, one Buffy couldn't really identify, but she knew he must be angry because she used Willow instead of Spike.

    "Uh? how green is your demon?" Dawn asked all of a sudden, looking at the screen.

    "Greener than The Hulk," Xander answered.

    "And slippery," Buffy chirped.

    "Found it?" Xander questioned.

    "Well, I did find The Blond Hulk," Dawn answered. Buffy and Xander walked around the table and stood behind her, leaning forward to gaze at the screen.

    "Yep, that's it alright," Xander said.

    Dawn looked at the information. "It says exactly what Anya told Xander, but there's something about getting lost into the darkness."

    "What does it say about the darkness?" Buffy asked.

    "You see, hear and feel the last horrible experience while surrounded by darkness. It's the Cluqux demons' way of distracting the victims, making them get lost in that recent experience because it's still fresh in the mind. The victim still fears it. The only way to get free is by destroying the object of your fear, which is the disguise the Cluqux is using to trick you. If someone is completely lost in that memory, the demon can? swallow them alive." Dawn grimaced in disgust.

    "So, that's its way of easy Happy Meal?" Xander cringed.

    "Wait," Buffy said. "Killing the object is not the only way to stop the darkness."

    "What do you mean?" Dawn asked, twisting around to look at Buffy.

    "Doesn't it say anything more about the eyes?"

    "I-I don't know. There's no further information." Dawn looked at the screen, looking around for more info. She looked back at Buffy. "Why are you asking?"

    "The way I got free wasn't because I killed the demon. It was more me plunging my thumbs into its eyes."

    Dawn shuddered. "Ew!"

    Xander swallowed, grossed out. "Uh? so that means?"

    Buffy looked at him. "The Clex demons have sensitive eyes."

    "Cluqux," Dawn corrected.

    "Whatever it is, I'm going to face them tonight."

    Dawn frowned. "What do you mean by that 'I'?"

    "It means minus you two." Xander and Dawn regarded her with narrowed eyes. She knew they didn't like to be excluded or treated as fragile, but she couldn't let them come. Her mind still screamed of the incident she had been through last night, and she didn't want them to face what happened to her. She just couldn't. She sighed and explained, "Look, this thing is really dangerous. It almost got me last night. I'll feel a lot better if I know you two are here and safe."

    "But your leg is still injured," Dawn objected.

    "I'm the slayer, injuries heal fast. Besides, I barely feel it now."

    Dawn was about to protest more, but Xander beat her to response, "Alright, if that's what you want." Dawn gazed at him, shocked.

    "Dawn, please," Buffy pleaded.

    With a last angry stare at Xander, Dawn heaved an exasperated sigh. "Fine," she huffed. "But if you die, no one's bringing you back again."

    "I'll take my chances," Buffy said, smiling.

    Xander looked at his watch. "Okay, I need to get to the site. I'm promised a new promotion." He walked to the front door, grabbing his jacket.

    "How the hell do you get them?" Buffy asked very astounded. Xander had been construction guy for a little over two years. She never expected anyone to get that amount of raises and promotions that fast. "Do you sleep with the boss?"

    "Aw, Buff, I thought you believed in my construct-y skills," Xander said half-offended. After he put on his jacket, he looked at them with a frown. "Besides if I'd sleep with anyone it'll be his daughter, not him, his daughter."

    Buffy had an amused look on her face. "Way to hide that homophobia, Xand."

    "I thought 'fired' is what you get for sleeping with his daughter," Dawn said, looking at Buffy with a fake bewilderment.

    "I don't? I'm?" At their laughing smiles, he glared. "I have work." He stormed outside with a grumble.

    Buffy shook her head, looking at Dawn, who had a wide grin on her face. Buffy raised her eyebrows. "Why are you grinning?"

    Dawn wiggled in her seat in front of her laptop. "This is nice."

    "The heat?" Buffy grimaced.

    "No, this. This is the nicest we've been since mom died."

    Buffy smiled, understanding what Dawn meant. Things had been rough for both of them ever since their mother had died. Struggling with real life along with the Hellmouth-y problems was too much to handle. When her mom was alive, Buffy at least had the adult matters settled for her, and her only responsibility was stopping whatever big bad they were facing and trying her hardest to stay alive. That was actually way easier than the regular adult life stuff, from quitting college, to finding a job, to giving Dawn a nice normal teenage life. She still couldn't get the hang of that.

    Now after all the craziness of last year, things started to go quiet, which was kind of boring. And boring in Sunnydale was actually good. She longed for boring. She hoped boring stuck around for as long as possible. She wouldn't say forever because she wasn't so naive. She knew it would never be boring forever.

    "You, me, Xander. A family," Dawn went on with her happy expression. An expression Buffy would never get tired of. "I don't think we need anyone else."

    She pursed her lips, giving Dawn a teasing look. "Really?"

    "Yeah, maybe we just have to stay this way. Only us three. Oh, and Giles can visit for Christmas and stuff, bringing European presents. I hear that England's Gucci is better than ours."

    "What about Willow?" Buffy asked quietly, almost interrupting Dawn's excited babble.

    And there went the happy expression. "Oh, yeah, well?" Dawn grumbled, looking down with a shrug.

    "Willow loves you, Dawn," Buffy said quietly, stressing on the word 'love.'

    "Yeah, sure, she seemed more interested in getting rid of Shiny Whiny months ago."

    Buffy choked at the nickname, but stopped quickly when Dawn gave her a defiant stare. "Uhm, no, it was... I'm sure it was all the black-veins talking. Willow would never want to get rid of you."

    Dawn shrugged. "Whatever. Right now I'm just happy she's far away from us all, learning how to be good."

    Buffy regarded her with sad features. She didn't want Dawn to be afraid of Willow, she didn't want the trust she always had for her longtime best friend to vanish. However, what happened with Willow two months ago was just too big to be brushed off. All of them were wary of her at the moment. She just hoped that when time was right, they all could look past what happened and have Willow among them again.


    *******


    Willow walked into the class morosely. She stopped in her tracks when she spotted Althenea sitting alone, looking down at her books. With a guilty sigh, Willow made her way to her friend.

    Althenea noticed her and looked up with a soft smile. "Hi."

    "Hey," Willow whispered. "Can I sit?"

    "Of course," Althenea said a little taken aback at the question.

    Willow took a seat next to Althenea. "I'm sorry," she started. "About yesterday."

    "Oh, don't worry about it. It's alright."

    "We're okay?" Willow asked quietly.

    "We already are. Not to worry."

    Willow smiled, relieved, before she looked down at her books.

    "Your hair looks lovely today," Althenea commented.

    Willow looked up nervously. "Oh, I'm not really ready for? uh?" Noticing Althenea's confused look, Willow realized she wasn't hitting on her. "Uh? huh?"

    "I said your hair looks lovely today. You look pretty with a ponytail. You should wear it like that more often." Althenea grinned at her.

    Willow smiled back. "Thanks. I will."


    **********


    Buffy extended her sword, examining its sharpness. Nothing like jamming shiny poky swords into a hulky demon's heart. Should she really use her puns on these demons? She had to keep herself distracted so the demons wouldn't have a chance to distract her. She wasn't sure puns were the way to keep her distracted.

    Her eyes darted at Xander and Dawn who were sitting on the couch watching TV. She headed toward the living room, gazing doubtfully at them. "I'm leaving now," she said. "You two are okay with staying here? No objections about not tagging along?"

    Xander scuffed. "Why would we wanna come along when we're watching?" As Sigourney Weaver appeared on the screen, Dawn squealed next to Xander almost making him daft. "Heartbreakers!"

    Buffy cast a side smile at her best friend. "You wanna watch Heartbreakers, Xander?"

    "Why not? It has Jennifer Aniston, doesn't it?"

    "No!" Dawn cried out, throwing the remote at the table in anger. "The one in Friends is Jennifer Aniston. This one is Jennifer Love Hewitt. God, you're getting to be worse than Giles!" Dawn glared at him. Xander had a deep blush on his face, his eyes looking everywhere but Dawn and her.

    Buffy wondered if Xander was alright. How the hell did he mix up the two actresses who usually occur in most of his Hawaii beach dreams? She shrugged, taking her sword and walking towards the door. "Alright, guys, I'm going out."

    No answer.

    "Guys?"

    Annoyed grumbles answered her, "Yeah, yeah, shhhh, we're watching!"

    She tilted her head in dismissal before she went out. Whatever their deal was, it wasn't time for it.


    *******


    Xander saw Buffy walking away from the corner of his eyes. When she was out of sight, he jumped out of the couch. "Alright, Dawnster, it's time to move."

    Dawn shook her head, getting up and following Xander to the weapon chest. "I can't believe she bought that we'll just let her go there by herself."

    Xander pulled out a sword. "Well, slayerism doesn't require being bright." He handed her the sword.

    She grabbed the sword with a little difficulty. "True."

    Xander chose a bow and an arrow for himself instead of a sword. He winced at Dawn's pathetic attempts at swinging. He looked at her, worried. She didn't seem to get the hang of it well, and Xander himself wasn't that good at using a sword. He was better at aiming an arrow. Dawn stopped swinging her sword and was looking down at it pensively. Xander looked away from her so she wouldn't notice him staring or she would think he was feeling bad for her. If anyone understood what she was feeling right now, it would be him. He started taking out some knives so they could hook them to their legs.

    "Doesn't it bother you?" he heard her whisper.

    "What?"

    "How she sees us?"

    Xander looked at her with a frown.

    "Like a burden or something like that," she clarified.

    Xander stared at her for a moment. Her words bringing back an old pain he was finally over. He wished Dawn never went through that feeling, not when she was an intelligent young woman, whose abilities surpassed his. "Nah," he denied with a smile. "She just cares about us."

    "She promised to train me," Dawn said softly, looking at her sword. "Maybe she wasn't serious about that."

    "Buffy's got a lot on her mind right now. Just give her time," he sounded as reassuring as possible. Getting himself ready, he looked at her with a smile. "C'mon, let's kick some Blond Hulk's ass."


    ****


    Buffy walked in false confidence through the cemeteries with her sword firmly clutched to her hand. Her eyes warily scanned the woods near the cemeteries for any sign of the demons.

    Suddenly she heard a move, and quickly she started singing that Destiny Child's song Dawn kept repeating in the car yesterday.

    She headed toward the sound, humming, "Nasty put some clothes on, I told ya don't walk out your house without your clothes on, I told ya? something about wearing your clothes on and the fact that it's okay for us to wear sleazy outfits because we're superstars and?"

    She stopped singing, or blathering, when she was greeted by two of the demons, swaying as they walked, roaring in anger.

    "Here we go," she whispered.


    ******


    Xander stopped the car near the cemetery. "C'mon, let's get this party started," he said, grabbing his bow and opening the door.

    Dawn grimaced. "That talk is so last century."

    "Well, I was a kid last century." That sounded funny even though it was true. This was the twenty first century and he was a kid in the twentieth century. Mental babble to be stopped! Xander got out of the car, holding his bow. "And so it seems I still act like one in this century." He heard Dawn's snort and smiled.

    They passed the cemetery's entrance and Xander felt the sweat in his forehead, even though it was a cold night. "Okay, like Anya said, they use that darkness to distract us and have us as chew toys. Be careful."

    The cemetery was deadly silent. There was no sound of Buffy or the demons. He looked at the woods nearby and assumed Buffy had already headed there. He walked over there with Dawn close behind.

    "Xander," he heard her say hesitantly.

    "Yeah?"

    "Why did you leave Anya?"

    That was a first. Someone other than Anya asked the question. He had always dreaded this moment. Surprisingly, no one had asked him about it. He never thought the one that would ask would be Dawn, though.

    "It's complicated."

    "I don't understand? I? I thought you loved her." That statement actually slapped him on the face. He did love her. He would always love her.

    "I can't understand why you hurt her like that," Dawn said uncertainly, as if not wanting to hurt his feelings.

    He looked at her face. How could he explain that he tried to do the right thing with a lousy act, yet ended up screwing things up? How could a good intention cause so much pain in the end? Especially since the reason he had left was because he didn't want to hurt Anya.

    "Let's find Buffy," he said firmly, walking a few steps ahead of Dawn. He could hear her disappointed sigh, but he chose to ignore it.


    *****


    Buffy fell to the ground, hard, on her back. She exhaled heavily before doing a reverse somersault and landing on her feet. The minute she stood, one of the two demons launched itself at her. She hit it with an out-to-in crescent kick, and then followed up with a high front snap kick, stunning it. Through all that she kept herself distracted by singing. She was not going into that darkness again.

    Her singing increased when the demon's eyes flashed yellow and the darkness started to surround her. She quickly had overcome her panic and sang louder, punching the demon in the face. She spun with the punch and followed through with a backhand fist. The other demon caught her arm and kneed her in the small of her back. She stumbled, but quickly retaliated with a roundhouse kick that the demon ducked under.

    She quickly slammed a fist at its face, her eyes looking warily at the other demon that approached. Suddenly, Buffy was surrounded again by the darkness.

    "No," she whimpered.


    *****


    Xander walked hastily through the woods, hearing Buffy's nervous singing. He followed the sounds of the fight, hoping to reach the place as soon as possible. His heart skipped a beat when Buffy's singing stopped. "Shit," he muttered, knowing that Buffy must have fallen into the darkness. "Hurry up, Dawn!" He yelled at the girl behind him and quickly ran towards the growling.

    Finally, he found Buffy standing still, her face blank and her eyes focused on one of the two demons, whose eyes were flashing yellow. Two? As he recalled yesterday, they were three. Unless the one that Buffy plunged her thumbs into its eyes died because of the eye loss.

    His heart pounded when the other demon that wasn't hypnotizing Buffy walked slowly towards her, intending to launch at her. Xander jumped toward that demon and attacked. He swung his sword at the demon, who ducked. The demon looked up again growling at him. Xander noticed the lack of eyes.

    What? If this demon was the one Buffy sank her fingers in, then where was the third demon?

    Suddenly, the demon grabbed Xander and shoved him toward the woods. Xander hissed in pain as his back hit the ground. He slowly opened his eyes, finding the demon approaching him with a growl.

    "Dawn!" he yelled. "Help!"



    ******


    The last thing Dawn remembered was hearing a footstep behind her. She had stopped walking to swallow a lump in her throat, when she had heard another footstep, also behind her. Shaking her head, she had looked up at Xander's back, except there was no Xander-back. There was no Xander at all.

    Right then she whimpered as she heard more footsteps. And slowly, the trees around her started to disappear. Now there was nothing but absolute darkness.

    "Dawnie, what are you doing here? 'Cause if you're looking for me, now's not a great time."

    Dawn's heartbeats went faster. She closed her eyes, trying so hard to break away from this upcoming illusion. "Stay away." She tried to sound strong but the waver in her voice betrayed her.

    "Why? So you can run and tell Buffy?"

    No, no, no, no, no, no. Dawn bit her lip, trembling. Go away. Go away. She heard the footsteps approaching her. "No," she whimpered, opening her eyes. Nothing but darkness had greeted her. She tried to run away, but she stumbled, falling down. "No!" she yelled, frightened, feeling the tears form in her eyes.

    "I understand the crying," she heard the voice say wistfully. "You cry because you're human. But you weren't always."

    "Stop."

    "You used to be some... mystic ball of energy. Maybe that's why you're crying all the time, Dawnie. 'Cause you don't belong here. Wanna go back? End the pain? You'll be happier. I'll be happier. We'll all be a lot happier without listening to the constant whining."

    "Stop! Stop!" Dawn screamed, her hands covering her ears.

    "Dawn!" Xander's yell broke into the darkness, making Dawn stop shaking. "Help!" she heard Xander yell again. She let out half-shuddered breaths, opening her eyes little by little.

    "It's time you go back to being a little energy ball."

    Dawn's lips pressed in a thin line, determined. She stood up slowly and clutched the sword in her hand, hearing the footsteps approaching. A figure stood right behind her. "Get out of my life," she gritted out, turning to look at the lean body of Willow, black as ever, except for the eyes. They were gold.

    Willow gave a snake-like smile, and before Willow touched her, Dawn swung her sword at the demon disguised as Willow, making it slice the demon through his chest. Green blood gushed all over, Dawn stepped back, grossed out. "Eww!"

    "Are you alright?" she heard Xander asking next to her. That was when she noticed the darkness disappearing. She looked down at a big green demon, lying dead.

    Her eyes went wide, she grabbed Xander's arm, excited. She pointed at the dead demon, stammering, "I-I, look, I d-did this!!! I did this!" She started jumping up and down. "I killed a demon!"

    Xander smiled broadly. "I thought you killed some of those fake earthy demons."

    "But this one is not fake!" Dawn kept jumping happily. Killing fake demons with Buffy while Willow was about to destroy the world was fun, but what happened just now was her facing evil alone. Maybe she would have made a good slayer if she were one.

    "I killed another one, too. It was blind though, so that was an easy kill," Xander said, sheepish. "Now, c'mon, let's head home." He started walking away.

    "B-but, what about Buffy?" Dawn asked, uncertain.

    Xander looked back over his shoulder. "She can handle herself," he said with a sure smile.


    *****


    Fake Spike walked towards her, his movements unsure, his voice pleading for her to love him, but his eyes? they were gold. They were sardonic and cunning. They were nothing like Spike's.

    Buffy knew the trick by now. These Clinex demons were stupid if they thought she would fall for this again. When Fake Spike stood right in front of her, Buffy pulled all her strength in her punch. Fake Spike howled falling back on his butt, Buffy quickly running towards him.

    She stood above him with a smirk. "Sorry, Spikey-wanna-be, but you gotta go." She thrust her sword in his chest, watching as the darkness started to fade away and Fake Spike transformed into the demon's real body.

    Not waiting for a second, Buffy turned around to face? huh? Where did the other one go? She looked around. The demon had disappeared. With careful steps, she walked around checking for the other two demons she saw yesterday.

    She was struck by the sight of one of them dead a few steps away. She stood near the other body, astonished. How? Who? She looked down at the dead demon, before her senses kicked in again. She could still feel Spike around. She narrowed her eyes. Was it still alive? Pulling out her sword, she shoved it deep inside the heart many times to make sure it was really dead.

    Right after that, she brushed her hair away from her face and looked up at the sky. The full moon looked beautiful. She looked up waiting for the senses to wear off. After a short while, she started walking home.


    *****


    A small, trembling laugh escaped his lips as he watched her walk away. Her hair shining when she stood over there, at the center, gazing up at the full moon. The light shining on her golden locks. It was burning, tearing down inside him. She was still shining as she walked away. Beautiful as sunshine.

    "Will give her what she deserves? will do." He gave a small chuckle. "Spike is gone," he muttered. "Here stands William."

    Spike inhaled sharply, watching Buffy walk away. She didn't notice him around, apparently. He gave a small bitter laugh. He suddenly scowled.

    "There's a bug in my pants."


    *******


    "Honies, I'm home!" Buffy called when she opened the front door, walking into her house. She heard Xander and Dawn's laughter from the living room, acting like they didn't hear her. She raised her eyebrows in amusement and headed towards the living room. There she found Xander and Dawn curled on the couch, laughing at something on the TV.

    "Uh? guys? I'm back," she said.

    "Yeah, yeah," Xander and Dawn said dismissively, too caught up at what was happening on TV.

    Buffy's eyes grew wider. "Just because I can be resurrected doesn't mean you stop caring about my life or death situations."

    "Oh, right, did you get 'em?" Xander asked very casually, and Dawn gave a carefree nod, her attention focused on TV.

    "Yeah," Buffy said suspiciously, looking between both of them carefully. "And it was very easy. One of them actually dropped dead and I didn't even touch it." She noted Xander's squirm.

    "Cool," Dawn chirped, leaning closer to Xander. Buffy narrowed her eyes, gazing at the sneaky twosome, a smile was about to form in her lips, but she held it in place.

    She eventually shrugged. "So how's?" she trailed off when she saw Mr. Bean sleeping while standing on the screen. "Hey, I thought you two were watching Heartbreakers."

    "Buh," Xander stammered, twisting in his seat.

    "I didn't like it!" Dawn exclaimed.

    "You didn't like it," Buffy sounded nothing but cautious.

    "Y-you know, the whole degrading of women and, uh, women using their bodies to? uh?"

    Xander quickly rescued Dawn by interrupting, "We switched the channel during a commercial. And then saw this guy who looked completely like Oz so we decided to watch this? very funny movie."

    "Rat Race!" Dawn exclaimed. "It's called Rat Race." Buffy noticed how Dawn pressed on the info button in the remote to check what the movie was called.

    She eventually nodded. "Okay, make room. I think I wanna watch this Oz-look-alike in action."

    "Oh, he's nothing like Oz," Xander commented, grinning.

    "Is there more soda?" Buffy asked, taking off her jacket.

    "No, Xander drank all of it," Dawn said, raising her eyebrows when Xander threw her a look.

    "Okay, getting more soda." She walked to the kitchen, and then had a sudden need for popcorn. She popped her head out from the kitchen door, about to ask if there was more popcorn. She didn't say a word when she saw how relaxed Dawn was, resting her head on Xander's shoulder. Xander's arm was wrapped around Dawn, hugging her to him. They looked very comfortable and happy, laughing at another scene.

    Buffy smiled, watching them. After a second, she walked towards the fridge. She grabbed two bottles of soda but didn't close the fridge. Instead she stared at the two bottles, her smile growing. Dawn was right. Life this way was nice. The best it could be. She was home, alive and safe.

    "Buffy! Hurry up, Oz is on!" Dawn called for her, excited.

    "Coming!" she called back, closing the fridge and running toward the living room.

    THE END
    Made by Trickyboxes
    Halfrek gives Spike the curse that will change his entire life. Teenage Dirtbag

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