[identity profile] eee1313.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] dancing_lessons_archive
Part eight of eight

Episode Fifteen: Into the Breach

by georgevna, fenwic & eep

***

"Spike!" Dawn yelled up at the ceiling. "It's after nine! We're late!"

He yelled back. "This, from the girl I had to yank outta bed!" Then he barreled down the stairs, running a hand through his wet hair. When he saw her, he stopped. "Is that a new frock? And you're wearing lipstick! Aren't you the pretty Christmas package?"

"Shut up, Spike. We're still late."

"Ya know how long it takes to fill a tub with 99 bottles of water?"

"No," she sassed, "but I know how long it takes to clear out all the bath toys when you're done."

"Just wait till you've gone years without a proper tub. See if you don't get yourself a rubber duckie." He grabbed his coat and checked the pockets. Keys. Cigs. "Oh! Wait."

He ran back upstairs while Dawn folded her arms and tapped her foot.

When he returned, he held a shopping bag full of gifts. Dawn's jaw dropped. "Where has that been?"

He smirked. "Somewhere you never thought to look. Now let's move! We're late and we have to go by the hospital first."

***

Willow dug into her closet. Xander's gift already sat on her desk. She'd overslept and hadn't pulled out the others yet. Buffy, Dawn, Spike, Faith, Giles… Then she went to her dresser and opened the top drawer. She reached all the way into the back and retrieved the smallest box of all.

Willow stared at the gift she hadn't had the heart to return. She took a deep breath, opened it, and pulled out a charm bracelet. A gold one, with a snowflake charm already attached. She'd bought it months and months ago. Over the coming year, she'd planned to mark occasions by adding a heart, a shamrock, a flower... Now what? She put it on, held her wrist up, and watched the snowflake dangle.

I miss you, Tara.

***

Xander entered the courtyard outside Giles's apartment, shouldering an oversized object wrapped in a drop cloth. When he set down his burden to catch his breath, he heard music.

Please have sno-o-o-w
And mistle-to-o-o-e
And prese-e-e-nts
On the tre-e-e.
He smiled. Connie… somebody. An oldie from Giles's record collection. He looked up. Light glowed from the open door.

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams.
I'll be home
For Chrstmas
If on-ly
In my
In my
In my
Connie stuttered. Then he heard a screech, a bump, and a thwack. A moment of silence… A driving beat… Danny Elfman and the boys!

Xander grinned as he reached the doorway, just in time to see Faith whisking off to her room. He followed and found her scowling, twirling around in a velvet dress that she fought to remove. Thick, black velvet, with short sleeves and a skirt that went down to mid-calf. The back of it yawned halfway open as bandaged hands tried in vain to reach the zipper. As if reaching it would do any good. He leaned against the jamb and watched her. She looked like a cat chasing her tail. A pretty, velvet cat - with white paws.

She looked at him as if he'd been there the whole time, then presented him her back. He stood straight but made no forward movement.

"Well?" she said.

He wiped his hands on his pants and stepped into her room. His right hand grasped the zipper pull while the left one hovered, unsure. Then he pinched the dress at the waist and zipped her up.

"Hey!" She turned and faced him. "What are you, clothes-dyslexic?"

"Why are you taking it off?"

"It's… it's…"

"Pretty." He shrugged. "It's kinda pretty. How'd you get it on?"

"Alan and Guido just dropped off dinner."

Xander considered that. "Ah."

"It's velvet."

"Dinner?"

She sighed. "The dress."

He pointed at her. "You're the Velveteen Slayer!"

"I didn't buy it."

"I know."

"I should wear it?"

"Please." Then, "He'll like it that you did."

Silence.

"You look pretty, too," she said.

He laughed. "Thanks. Hey, I've got your mirror."

"My what?"

"Your mirror. Wait, I'll bring it in."

He went out. Faith sat on the bed, confused.

Xander returned, set the mirror down just inside the door.

"How did you-"

"Right before we left the shop. He told me to make sure you got it today." Xander ran a hand along the frame. "Now that's craftsmanship." He looked around the room. "Where do you want it?"

"What?"

"How about in that corner by the dresser?"

"Yeah. Sure."

Xander pushed it into place. "There."

Then they heard a voice. "Hello?"

"Willow!" Xander called as he went out.

Faith looked at her mirror for a moment and then followed him.

"Happy Hanukah! - a week late," said Xander. He went to Willow and hugged her. When he drew back he relieved her of her bag. "Why don't you let me take those for you?"

"No peeking," said Willow. "No shaking, and no bugging me about how big yours is."

He brought the bag to the tree and placed the presents underneath it.

Willow hung up her coat and then looked at Faith. She took in the dress and understood. Black velvet. Classic lines. Flattering cut. Giles must've bought it.

Faith looked at Willow, took in the skirt, the top, the shawl-y/wrap-y thing, and didn't understand at all. She only knew that she was glad to see her.

"How ya doin'?" asked Faith.

"I'm gonna be okay. You?"

"Me, too," Faith said, and meant it.

Xander walked over to them. "Hey, what's with Spike's gift being bigger than mine? And when do we eat? Something smells really good and I'm starvin', Marvin."

"Xander," Willow scolded. "We have to wait till everyone gets here."

He made a face. "What's that? Some kinda weird, witchy custom?"

Willow rolled her eyes, then looked sideways at Faith. "Something does smell good… What're we havin'?"

Faith smiled a proud, hostess smile. "The guys brought over the prettiest dinner you ever saw." She pointed at four pink boxes on the dining table. "Those are pies. Wanna see the rest?"

Xander and Willow felt they must. They followed Faith into the kitchen and squeezed round the oven. Xander opened it with some fanfare and all three bent to peer inside.

At which point they heard giggling from the dining room. Then, "Vam-PIE-re!" and "Oi! Where is everyone?!"

In unison, Willow, Xander and Faith stood straight.

Spike jumped, "Lord, scare a bloke to death."

Buffy and Dawn laughed.

Spike peeked into the kitchen. "What're you three doing down there?"

"What're you doing here?" Xander exited the kitchen and hugged Buffy.

She smiled. "Surprise!"

Willow rushed forward and hugged her too. "How is he?"

"Rupert kicked us out," said Spike. "Told me if I didn't see to it personally that 'his girls' - I assume he meant you, too, Harris - got Christmas, he'd do unspeakable things to me." Spike managed to look indignant.

"Oh yeah?" said Xander. "I might give up Christmas, just to see that."

"Right," said Spike. "Well, I told him that you were in charge of doing unspeakable things to me. Y'know, in light of our new relationship." He winked.

"Get away from me."

Spike laughed.

"Wait a minute," said Xander. "You got all that from 'blink once for yes, and twice for no'? Way to use the force, Luke."

"It's a British thing."

"We're not that late, right?" worried Dawn. "You're already having dessert?"

"You're on time," said Faith.

"Then what's with the pies being out already?" Dawn'd already opened all the boxes.

"Huh?"

"Well… dessert comes last."

Faith scoffed. "Maybe at someone else's poor excuse for a Christmas dinner."

"Speaking of which…" said Xander.

Dawn finished for him. "Let's have some pie!"

***

Fat, happy, and gifted, the gang laid around the living room, admiring the haul.

Buffy sat in the middle of the couch holding up the little black "Chosen" tank top that Faith had given her. From her spot on the easy chair, Faith waited, nervous.

"It's perfect!" proclaimed Buffy. "If I had seen it, I woulda gotten one for you, too."

Faith smirked. "We'll just go back to the mall and clean them out." Then she looked at the jewelry box in her lap. "Um… Thank you. For this. I never had one before."

"Another reason to go to the mall," said Buffy. "We've got to fill it up!"

"Like you need an excuse to shop," said Spike.

He sat next to Buffy, staring at the collection of CDs that she'd spent months compiling. "Clash, Clash, Ramones-" For every band, he planted another kiss on the side of her head. "Velvet Underground, Sex Pistols, Sex Pistols…" His eyes widened as he held one up. "You know how hard it is to find some of these?"

Buffy nodded. "As a matter of fact, I do."

"And the import stores are so bloody small," Spike muttered. "Makes it damned hard to nick any of the good stuff."

"Spike!"

"Kidding."

On the other side of Buffy, Xander sat and stared at the wooden case sitting open on the coffee table. A woodcarving set. He pulled out each tool and examined it at length. He checked the weight, played with the grip.

Faith said, "The guy at the store said that those were the best. I showed him one of your stakes and he said that those can do all that and more."

"Oh yes they can." Xander nodded, grinning at the blade in his hand. "These are the best. Wait till you see the stakes I carve with these babies!" He looked at her. "Thank you."

She blushed. She wasn't used to this, but knew the words for the situation. "You're welcome."

"And thanks for the cool pen set, Buffy." Xander held up another, smaller box. "Now I really feel like mini-Giles."

She smiled. "You're welcome. Faith covered the fight-y side of Watching, and I got the write-y side. Now you can stop using that stupid red pen."

"What red pen?" Faith asked.

Dawn laughed. "Bikini pen."

"Ah." Spike nodded. "That's a good pen."

"No it isn't," insisted Buffy. "It's a stupid pen, and now you can toss it."

"But Buffy-"

Faith was intrigued. "Bikini pen?"

"It's got a picture of a girl in a bikini. When you hold the thing up to write-" Buffy looked disgusted. "-her bikini disappears."

"Yeah," said Willow. "That's a good pen."

"That's it." Buffy threw up her hands. "I give up."

She looked at Dawn and Willow, sitting on the floor on the other side of the coffee table. They played with Willow's present to Dawn. One of those puppies with the bobbing head that you stick in the rear window of your car. Only not just one puppy - five. And not puppies. It was that boy band.

"How can you be my sister and like that music?"

Dawn pouted. "How can you be my sister and… be such a dorkwad!"

"Oh, Dawn," Spike groaned. "We have got to work on your comebacks." Then he smiled at Buffy and nodded.

She smiled back at him and reached into her bag. "Well, if I'm such a dorkwad…" She pulled out an envelope, and waved it at Dawn. "…then these must be *NSync tickets, because only a dorkwad would buy tickets to see those dorkwads."

Dawn screamed, jumped up, hugged Buffy, then Spike, then Buffy again. Then she snatched the envelope and sat back down, staring at the tickets and bobbing the heads on her mini-boy band, singing "Bye-bye…"

Spike leaned in and whispered, "I don't have to go with her, do I?"

Buffy pet his shoulder. "Don't worry, Honey. I'll take one for the team."

"I love you."

"I know."

A large pile of presents remained unopened.

"As the Watcher on duty, I think that I should get to open, er, be in charge of Giles's presents," said Xander.

"As the No. 1 Shop Assistant, I think it should be me," said Dawn.

"As the Slayer who could kick your butts with both hands tied behind- Well, tied I think that you two need to not even think about it," said Faith.

Whump! Everyone jumped and looked at Willow, who'd just opened her Powerpuff girls umbrella and sat grinning.

"It works!" she said. "Thanks, Dawn."

Dawn looked pleased. "You're welcome, Blossom."

"Jeez, Willow," said Xander. "You tryin' to take years off my life?!? Will you please, please close it now? Talk about bad luck."

"You won't think it's bad luck in rainy old London," said Willow.

At the mention of London, Buffy felt a twinge of sadness. Spike noticed and put his arm around her. "S'okay, Pet. They'll be back soon."

Xander and Willow looked up. "Yeah," said Willow. "And maybe you guys can come over for a visit!"

"Yeah," Buffy said without conviction. "We'll see."

"Buffy," Spike began. "Will tells me that you girls studied French."

"Huh?" Buffy looked at him, confused. "Um, yeah. In high school." She glanced around the room. "Why are you all looking at me?"

From under his seat cushion, Spike produced an envelope of his own, and handed it to her. "They're all thinking that you'd better brush up on your Frog-speak. Pronto."

She peeked inside the envelope, then looked at him, speechless.

"Well?" he said. "Your passport's in order, right?"

"Yup," said Faith. "Uh, never mind."

"Well, mine is." Spike flashed a brilliant grin. "So I'm goin' to Paris. For Valentine's Day. And I need a date."

Buffy still couldn't speak. She just looked him with wide, weepy eyes.

"Paris?" he prompted, staring back at her. "In France? Buffy?"

Willow clapped her hands. "And Xander and I are gonna fly out and meet you!"

"Way to steal my thunder, Red."

"You were taking too long," she countered.

Spike sighed, "I was building up to the big fin- Oomph!"

Buffy flew into his arms then, knocking them both to the floor. She rained kisses all over his face while he said "Ow" and "Easy, there." Finally, he wrapped his arms around her and gave himself up to the love.

Dawn grabbed her camera and aimed it at the group. "Okay. Smile, everyone."

They all turned and said as one, "Dawn! No!"

"Merry Christmas!" she sang out as she clicked the shutter.

And a burst of brilliant light exploded into the room.

***

They laughed and talked and bickered and ate pie into the wee hours of the morning.

But right about the time that Xander broke out the videos - including “that Christmas classic: ‘Showgirls’!” - Buffy, Spike and Dawn bid a hasty farewell.

Buffy put the presents in the trunk while Spike deposited Dawn in the back seat.

“She’s getting mighty big to be carried,” said Buffy.

“Getting?” said Spike. “No 15-year-old should get a free ride to the car. But…” He looked at the sleeping girl, then took off his coat and draped it over her. “It’s Christmas.”

Buffy laughed at that.

“What?” He slammed the door, then made an “oops” face and looked in the window. Dawn slept on.

“Nothing,” said Buffy, as she loaded box after box. “I just had one of my you’re-so-very-different-than-when-I-first-met-you moments.”

“Oh yeh? Well so are you. You’re… taller.”

Then one of the presents landed hard. Spike heard glass tinkling and cringed. “Mind the cognac, please! That’s the good stuff.”

“Yeah,” she mused. “For a first-timer, Faith showed a real knack for spreading good will via prezzies.” Buffy closed the trunk.

When they got into the car, she turned to Spike. “Um…”

“I know,” he said, starting the engine. “You wanna go back to the hospital.”

She nodded. “Are ya mad?”

“No, Buffy, I’m worried. You haven’t slept in two days.”

“Oh! Spike, Giles slept most of the day and so did I. Plus, he's got three extra beds over there, remember? And the third one is ju-u-u-ust right!”

“Very funny, Goldilocks.”

“Really, I'm okay. I just wanna be there."

He bowed his head for a second, disappointed. Then he smiled and raised his eyes.

“Come home - just for a little while. Let me heat up a tub full of imported bottled water… Stir in some bubbles… Toss in a… bath toy…”

She blushed. “You know that I-“

“Okay… Forget the bath. Just come home and sleep in your own bed awhile.”

“Wait a second, I will not forget the bath, I’m holding you to that. Just…”

“Not tonight.” He sighed. “But I’m coming for you first thing in the morning.”

“Park in the shade.”

“Thanks for the tip.”

She smiled, grateful.. “I wish he could’ve been with us tonight.”

“I know, Love. Next year.”

“Yeah… Next year.” She watched the houses and streetlights zip by. “Except for Anya. And Tara. And-“

“Buffy-“

“-and a couple hundred other people who were alive just yesterday.”

He gripped the wheel. “Buffy, please don’t-“

“Please don’t what?” She saw nothing now but the mist on the windshield. “Don’t be sad that Xander and Willow are alone?”

“They’re not-“

“Don’t be sad that families all over town are having a sad, empty Christmas? Don’t be sad that Giles… that Giles almost…”

“But he didn’t,” Spike reminded her. “He’s alive and kicking.”

“No. He’s not kicking. He won’t be kicking anything for a long time. And you and Dawn and Willow-“

“We’re all fine. We got lucky.”

“Yeah,” she said, choking on the irony. “How’d I get so lucky?”

He stole a glance at her. “How do I answer that?”

“You don’t.”

Exasperated, he pulled the car over and turned to her.

“No. Really. Do I remind you that we live on luck? And that you - because you can’t live without us - and us - because we’re… us - deserve some good luck now and then? That lives depend on our good luck?”

“What about-“

“Or do I remind you that you’ve had more than your share of the bad stuff? That you’ve lost people. Important people. In ugly, horrible ways. Is that what I should say?

She began to cry. “You can’t tell me not to feel something!”

“No.” God, how do I make her- “No. I’m telling you to feel everything. Buffy, you wouldn’t be the Sappiest Slayer in Sunnydale if death didn’t make you feel sad. Anya. And hundreds of people… But you can still feel happy for who’s alive, right? Thousands! And us. And you. What do those deaths mean - any of ‘em - if you feel guilty for surviving? What does my life mean?”

She faced him, tears running down her cheeks and dripping off her chin.

Spike reached out and nipped a tear dangling off her nose. “I haven’t carried a handkerchief in over a hundred years, but I have got to start.”

She smiled. And then a half-laugh. And another.

“Or…” He touched a hand to her cheek. “I could just do this.” Spike leaned in and kissed her on the nose. Then he kissed her chin, then moved to her cheek, planting a bouquet of kisses, wetting his lips with her tears. His hand moved into her hair and he kissed the other cheek. On the bone that ran under her eye, on her temple, her ear… Buffy closed her eyes and tilted her head back.

Spike growled at the sight of her neck, pressed kisses on the soft skin under her jaw and on down to the pulse point. Then he drew back and looked at her, his hand still tangled in her hair.

“Last night… so many of our nights… are filled with killing and death. It’s what we do. It’s part of us both…”

She stared him, and waited.

“But I love the life in you, Slayer. I always have. So warm and so bright… Sometimes I’m sure I’ll go up in flames, and it feels… wonderful. I love your life. Our life. Please. I know you’re sad, but please… try to love it, too.”

At that moment, Buffy chose kissing him over breathing. She surged forward, taking his face with her hands, his mouth with hers. Her momentum crashed him into the steering wheel and then flat on his back. His eyes widened, then fluttered shut as he moaned and wrapped his arms her.

She pressed hard against him and a shock of white light filled her head. Heat shimmered from the center of her bones, rippling through her blood and shooting out of every nerve ending. She felt his mouth and body respond. Felt him move beneath her, as her hands ran down his stomach and over his hips. More…

She realized then what her body already knew. That the man she had pinned to the seat of his car possessed more life, more energy than any being she'd ever known. She wanted to climb inside that energy - feel it surround her, fill her.

Now. She wanted it right now. “Spike…” Her hands roamed lower.

“Slayer…”

Buffy. Buffy. Buffy.

Her head was spinning, but she heard the voice. It sounded like it came from the other side of very thick glass.

Buffy. Spike. Hey.

Calling them both. Yelling. Then grabbing her shoulder and shaking her and-

“HEY! Buffy!” Dawn leaned over the seat, trying to pry them apart.

Buffy came up for air, stared at Dawn, and tried to remember…

“You guys wanna get a room? Oh. That’s right. You’ve got a room. Wanna go to it?”

Buffy looked down at Spike, who’d just opened his eyes.

“What? Hey. Huh? Oh.”

Buffy sat back in her seat, scowling at the girl. Then the corners of her mouth turned up, her eyes rolled, and she laughed.

When Spike recovered, he too sat up, his expression a mixture of frustration, amusement and deep pleasure.

“Right,” he said finally. “Let’s get you to the hospital.” He started the car and looked sideways at Buffy. “I hope that Giles appreciates what you’re giving up for him tonight.”

“If I told him, he’d probably have a relapse. Besides…” She smiled sweetly. “You’re making the bigger sacrifice.”

Spike opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again and said, “Yeh. Yeh I am.”

***

It had been a week.

The fires burned out. The smoke blew out to sea. The dust settled.

Bulldozers finally razed Sunnydale High and trucks hauled away the debris. Crews filled in the trenches and the holes. They cleared the tunnels and they unsealed the manholes.

Some of the wounded checked out of the hospital and went home. Some didn't.

The funeral homes of Sunnydale operated at maximum efficiency. Cremation remained the order of the day. They could take no chances.

Buffy, Xander, Willow and Dawn attended as many services as they could. They seemed to be a comfort to the people. Giles and Faith received visitors daily. The people seemed to be a comfort to them.

The whole town gathered to say goodbye to Father Emil Sanchez. By candlelight, according to his final wishes. So Spike could come.

Hundreds fought and died in the War Against the Master. Their final resting place occupied a large section of the town's newest cemetery. A modest plaque told the tale, and listed those who were still missing, or - like Riley Finn - left no remains to bury.

No statues or walls marked the area. Just a peaceful fountain and plenty of trees. Xander brought Anya there, finally, to a spot just south of the fountain. Where he could listen to the water fall, and feel the sun on his face.

The weary army spent the days in mourning, remembrance and quiet celebration. So blind for so long, they had finally risen up - and survived to see Christmas. They shopped and gave gifts. They went to church and out to dinner. Any excuse to get together. To tell their stories and to remember those they lost.

For the first time in weeks, they went out at night. And they went back to work.

Jonathan applied to the police academy. Detective Grant went back to his desk. Erlinda Bacani went back to her desk and sealed the deal on Dawn's custody. Mrs. Bacani said, "The girl who saved Sunnydale should get to keep her sister."

"Thanks, Mrs. Banana," said Buffy.

"Oh. You did a good job too, Buffy."

Dawn laughed.

Other decisions got made. Life-changing decisions. Xander and Willow would go to England immediately. Nobody knew for how long.

It had been a week. The last week of a long, hard year.

***

Xander and Willow wanted the night flight to London. It cost $42 more. Each. They booked it.

So well after sundown on January 1st, Spike and Buffy brought them to Sunnydale Metropolitan Airport. They had the whole place to themselves, but chose a spot in the corner of the gate area. Xander sat opposite the girls, while Spike stood by the window and smoked. They waited in silence, looking everywhere but at each other. Willow checked her ticket. Then her passport… her pounds and shillings… her official invitation from the Council… then back to her ticket.

Xander stared at his own passport. He never had one before. The Council had pulled strings to speed up the application process for him. Strings. He caused strings to be pulled. Passports to be given. And wars to be won. Usually that just meant Disneyland, but here he was flying off to Watcherland with Willow. He looked at her. She really needed this. So do I, he admitted. Giles was right about that, and yet… This was all wrong! It was too soon. How could they leave just when the town was- When Giles-

Xander jumped up and looked at Buffy. "Giles-"

"-is gonna be okay," she said. "It's not gonna be easy, but…" She saw Willow's face and switched gears. "Faith is so in charge of him. She made that big stink to get out of the hospital, but now she's there all the time. She's all Florence Nightingale-y. She can even take your temperature!"

Xander pondered that for a second. Then he gave Buffy his Watcher look. "That's great, Buff. We got the tin man looking after the scarecrow. Maybe someone who actually has hands…"

She shook her head. "We do not have- Huh?"

Spike piped up. "Faulty reference there, Watcher. The tin man had hands - it was his heart that was missing. 'Sides, they're in hospital, aren't they? And Little Bit Dorothy's always helping them when she's not at the store. So I think it's okay for the Wizard and Good Witch Glinda to go on to Emerald City"

"But-"

"Xander," said Buffy, "the doctors, nurses, cops, soldiers, donut boys and single moms of this town are looking after the both of them. Alan and Guido even bring them meals. Way better than that hospital crap." Then she thought of something and looked at Spike. "I think Alan has a crush on Giles."

Spike disagreed. "Guido."

"Ya think?"

"The way he fluffs Rupert's pillows when he serves him soup?" Spike nodded knowingly.

"Yeah! That's Alan."

"Nooo. That's Guido."

"The one with the-"

"Shirts? And the weird cumin obsession? I'm tellin' you, that's Guido."

"Nuh-uh."

Spike rolled his eyes and looked at Xander. "He makes a brilliant chili."

"Guys!" Xander held up his hands. "Eyes on the road, please?"

"Sorry."

"Sorry."

Buffy looked at her friends. Everyone knew that they should do this. But Willow and Xander had been fighting it all week. And Buffy knew that if she couldn't reassure them now, they wouldn't go. Willow had already unpacked once today. "Guys. We got it covered. The house-"

"The physical therapy?" asked Willow.

"It'll be weeks before he's ready for that."

Willow frowned. "What about the store? He always does an inventory after Christmas."

"Yup. It's on the calendar." Buffy stopped. "Er, on somebody's calendar, somewhere."

"Buffy!"

"Willow! Kidding. We're doing it on the eleventh. Day after the new Watcher gets here."

Xander fell into his seat. "Yeah, about that-"

"We'll look after her."

"I meant-"

"I know who you meant. We'll look after her. Same as Giles. Xander, she's not the person she used to be-"

"I know that. That's what… I know that."

"-and neither are we. We'll look after her, I promise." She leaned forward, laid a hand on his. "We'll do our job."

"I believe you," he said. "It's just… I've never left before."

"No. You never have. When others went away…" Buffy looked at her hands. "Or ran away… you were always there." She turned to Willow. "Both of you. So now it's time to do this for yourselves." She smiled. "Besides. If I don't put you on that plane, Giles-"

"I know!" Willow raised her hand. "Giles'll do unspeakable things to Spike." The girls laughed.

Spike stepped toward them. "And that's what this is all about, innit, Harris?" He winked. "You wanna watch."

"Yeah." Xander leaned back, relaxed. He knew that everything would be okay now, so he let Spike enjoy his favorite joke. "Definitely time to put an ocean between us, Blondie."

"Oh, go to London already!" Spike took a long drag, then pointed his cigarette at Xander. "And don't forget to use all those words I taught you."

Boarding announcements for the flight to LA cut off Xander's comeback. He stood up and grabbed his stuff.

Willow panicked. "Already?" She turned to Buffy. "I'm not ready! I haven't… I think I left the iron on!"

Buffy laughed. "You're ready. Believe me." Then she stood and pulled Willow to her feet. "Now. You be good."

Willow sighed and hugged her. "You be happy."

"Already am," Buffy whispered. She heard Willow's breathing hitch. "Hey, we're meeting you in Paris in six weeks! It'll be here before you know it."

"I know," Willow sniffed.

Finally, Xander dropped his bag and threw his arms around them both. The three of them whimpered for a moment, then looked at Spike. It took him a second to notice.

"Oh!" He balked. "You'd like that, wouldn't you?"

"And we're done," said Xander, releasing the girls. He and Willow gathered their gear and headed for the door.

"Harris."

Xander turned. Spike went to him, holding up a scrap of paper. "A pub in the East End. Mention my name and get pissed for free!" Then he leaned in. His tone changed. "And a phone number. If you ever need anything outside the Council, you call…" Spike shoved the information into Xander's jacket. "…they'll help."

Xander blinked. "Thanks."

Spike nodded. "Right. Now get outta here!"

"We're out!"

"Have fun, Will," said Spike.

She smiled. "Thanks."

The ticket agent flung open the door, and the roar of the engines filled the space. Buffy rushed forward, gave each of them one last hug before they walked out onto the tarmac. Then she and Spike went to the window. The runway lights glowed blue and amber against the dreary asphalt. They watched Willow's hair whip around her face, watched her laugh and grab Xander's arm. Then the world travelers turned and waved, smiling. Buffy touched a hand to the glass, just as Willow and Xander disappeared into the plane.

"I'm happy for them," Buffy sniffed. "Happy, do you hear me?" She took a quivering breath and blew it out. "Happy. Thank god we killed the last of the supervillains so they could go do this."

'Last'... Spike frowned for a moment, then let it go. Later. Right now, they were safe. When they returned to full strength - and full company - then they would worry about the next big ugly.

But tonight was the first night of a brand new year. After so much loss and darkness, tonight he just wanted Buffy to be happy.

She shivered then, so he put out an arm and drew her to him. She laid her head on his shoulder, and they watched the little plane zip down the runway and glide into the night.

*
The End

Date: 2009-11-02 07:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nmcil12.livejournal.com
Don't know if anyone checks these works anymore for reviews - just have to say how very much I loved your series - One of the best long works I've had the pleasure of reading.

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