DISCLAIMER: The Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters are the property of Mutant Enemy, Joss Whedon, and Fox Studios. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2002 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
I am no superman
I have no answers for you
I am no hero, oh that's for sure
But I do know one thing
Where you are is where I belong
I do know where you go is where I want to be
— Where Are You Going, Dave Matthews Band
"Just take it slow," Buffy whispered. Her voice was everything that Spike had imagined during the long torturous hours in the cave. It was the voice that had kept him sane, that had kept his dreams a haven.
"You came for me."
"Of course, I came for you." Her tone didn't invite further comment. She helped him through the tunnel. He could barely see where they were going; his eyes would soon swell completely shut. When they reached a larger chamber, she stopped in the entranceway and eased him against the wall, waiting to see if could stand unsupported. "We're getting out of here," she said, pointing up.
Spike could just make out a hole above his head. A rope ladder hung down from it. She thinks I'm too weak to shinny up a rope, he thought. As he moved and pain erupted from every part of his body, he realized she was probably right.
She helped him to the rope ladder and as he leaned on her, he heard her take a sharp gasp of breath. He realized she was in pain too and tried to not lean too heavily on her. He saw her wince as she helped him climb. This ladder wasn't just for him: she needed as much of a break as he did. "You're hurt," he whispered.
"Not as badly as you are." She looked up at him. "Not as badly as I might have been if beheading hadn't worked on the Turok-Han."
"I knew you'd kill that sodding bastard."
"Yeah, I beat it." Her voice trailed off as she heaved him the final way out of the hole, into a dirt lot, then pulled herself out slowly.
He noticed that it seemed to take a lot for her to push herself to her feet. She turned and Spike followed her gaze. He could barely make out Xander standing next to a very large cement truck.
"I don't want anything else working in those chambers, Xan." She pulled Spike to his feet gently, then moved him away from the hole.
Xander maneuvered a large spout over the opening to the cave. He hit a control on the back of the truck, and wet cement began to fill the hole.
Spike started to laugh, but the laugh turned into a groan as the movement pulled already wrenched muscles in his chest. "That'll get her attention," he said softly.
"Oh, we'll do more than just get her attention." He'd never heard Buffy's voice more resolved.
Xander looked over, and Spike tensed, ready for the verbal attack that he knew was sure to come.
"Glad to see you're okay," Xander said, and something in his voice captured Spike's attention. He sounded different. Grown up. It was unsettling. "Are you still under that thing's control?" Xander asked.
Spike had the feeling that Xander wouldn't have a problem staking him if he said yes. Or if he said no, and lied. He told the truth, wanted to tell the truth. It was to his credit, after all. "She couldn't break me. And she lost her power over me the more she tried."
"Yeah, the First Evil's big with the talking," Xander agreed as he turned off the hose. He walked up to the cab, talking to someone inside. Then the truck began to move, pulling away. A few seconds later another truck backed into the lot. Xander motioned it back to the hole, then pulled down the spout and started the cement flowing again. It took five truck-loads to completely fill the hole. "You weren't wrong about those dimensions, Buff."
She barely smiled, just stood in silence as he closed off the First's lair. "She won't be using that place again." She put Spike's arm back over her shoulder and started to walk wearily in the direction of the house.
"Wouldn't you rather ride, Buff?" Xander said softly.
She stopped, didn't look up at Xander or at Spike as she turned around and began to trudge to the truck. "Ride. Yes. Good."
She was exhausted, Spike realized. Hurt and tired beyond reason. The last time he'd seen her like this had been during the fight with Glory. She'd pushed and pushed and then...she'd died. He blinked rapidly, trying not to remember the grief he'd felt when he'd seen her body crash to the ground. She had bounced when she hit the concrete blocks. He hadn't thought of that since she'd come back. Hadn't heard the sound of her soft body connecting with hard stone since she'd been resurrected. "No," he groaned.
She stopped instantly. "Spike?"
He forced himself to stand on his own. Swallowed the pain that nearly overwhelmed him as he took a step without her help, then another. He had to fight to keep his balance. But he would not add to her pain. That wasn't why he'd come back. Not why he'd won his soul. "Come on, Slayer. Night's not getting any younger." His voice was a pale imitation of his normal cocky tone, but he saw her smile, the little half-smile where only one side of her lip curled up.
As he took another step toward where Xander waited, he saw Buffy nod, and he felt as if she'd just found him worthy...as if he'd finally passed some test.
It took a long time to walk to the truck. She made it long before he did, but she waited silently for him to catch up, leaning up against the open door of the truck.
His voice was low, so that only she could hear him as he said, "You believed in me." He crawled up into the cab.
"I still do," she said just as softly, pushing him up slightly when his strength faltered. Then she hauled herself up next to him.
Spike leaned his head on the back of the cab and heard Xander say to the driver, "Let's go, Lenny."
"Rough night, boss," Lenny said.
"You don't know the half of it," Xander said.
Spike could feel Buffy's leg against his; there was no help for it in the crowded cab. Her warmth soothed him.
"I'm going to need your help," she said quietly. "You're going to have to heal fast."
"We can have a race," he said, touching his eye gently. It was completely closed but it didn't hurt as much as it had.
"I'll win," she said, no doubt in her voice. He wondered what had happened to make her so much stronger, so much more determined. Was it just that she didn't care any more?
"We've got a bunch of girls to get ready," she continued, "potential slayers. And most of them haven't had any training."
"Sounds interesting," he said.
"I guess. It's crowded in the house. The basement is a training room now."
Nowhere for him to sleep, in other words. "I'll find a corner somewhere," he said softly.
"The couch is mine," Xander muttered.
"We'll work it out," she said finally. "Sleep is the least of our problems."
"You need sleep, Buffy. I can smell how tired you are."
"I'll be fine."
"She won't listen to any of us," Xander said, resignation in his voice. This was an old argument apparently.
"I'm fine, Xander," Buffy said.
"Right," he said, trailing off in a way that made it clear he didn't agree.
She needs to rest. Spike nearly jumped as he heard Joyce's voice, close to his ear, as if she was sitting behind him, which would have been impossible in the single cab. Get her to sleep. Or she'll be too tired.
For a second, Spike wondered if it was the voice of the First, following him back to Buffy's. Then he felt a sense of presence, as Joyce touched him on his shoulder. The pain from where the joint had been dislocated during one of the many torture sessions stopped when Joyce touched him. This wasn't the First. That thing hadn't been able to touch him.
Joyce's voice got closer, lower. Take care of her, Spike.
"I will. I promise," he answered, only barely aware he had said it out loud.
"Huh?" Xander said. "Nice to see he's back to being crazy talks-to-himself guy."
Spike was actually relieved to have nasty Xander back. Made the world seem normal again. And survivable. He ignored Xander and turned to Buffy. "You have to sleep to heal."
"There's no time."
"We have to make time," he reached out and found her cheek more by instinct than sight. "Look at me, Buffy. I need some rest or I'm no good to you. Just a few hours. No interruptions. No disturbances. You need the same. Or you'll be no good to anyone."
"He's not wrong," Xander chimed in.
"I'll be no good to anyone if I can't figure out how we're going to beat this thing yet. I have to think, have to plan."
He shook his head. "Let someone else plan. Just for a while."
He dropped his hand. Tried to let Joyce know he'd tried but she wasn't going to sleep. He heard Buffy yawn and wondered how long before she became too tired to think. Too tired to prevent that crucial mistake he'd told her about so long ago. The First was going to have herself a real good day, if that happened.
But Buffy wouldn't go down alone. Not this time. No matter what happened, no matter how the final battle came, he'd be by her side. And they'd win together.
Or he'd die for her and she'd win.
Or they'd die together.
Spike found that it didn't much matter to him anymore. His path was unknown, but his place was clear. It would be by her side.
He wouldn't have to dream about saving her. Not this time. She wouldn't leave him behind again. He'd help her win the fight. Or he'd die trying.
He laughed then. The movement didn't hurt as much as it had earlier. I'll take care of her, Joyce, he promised again. I'm not much, but whatever I am, it's at her disposal.
An unlikely champion. Certainly no superman. Just a man that wanted to make a difference. A vampire that wanted to make the Slayer's life easier.
Like Angel. God, the big doof would be laughing at him about now, Spike thought as he relaxed against the cab. He quit fighting sleep, let his overtaxed muscles and nerves relax.
Angel was standing in front of him, laughing. Then he turned into Dru. "Did you think you could escape?"
Before Spike could answer, Joyce appeared and said, "Get out." She had a huge sword in her hands, and she lifted it then turned it and slammed the point into the ground between Dru and Spike. She began to glow, shining as brightly as the sun that meant death to Spike. He closed his eyes.
But it didn't hurt his eyes, didn't burn him. He opened his eyes in time to see Dru morph into Buffy, then something else, something that wasn't human.
"You're no champion," it screamed at him, as it turned back into Dru, who promptly exploded into dust.
"You killed it."
"Only here, in your dreams. It's the only place I can keep you safe so you can protect Buffy when the time comes. Sleep now. No one will hurt you, while I'm here."
"I'll protect her," he said as solemly as he could.
"I know you will." She touched him.
All thought deserted him, as Spike fell into a healing, dreamless, and utterly safe sleep.