Timeline: AU, S5. Part 4 of The Key Series, following Spiralling. This is the final instalment.
Synopsis: The spirit guide told her that death is her gift. Death is not a gift. Or…is it?
Author’s Note: As always, thank you A.
Buffy paced as Giles leaned against the counter, the phone to his ear. She kept her eyes trained on him as she paced. He would look up at her once in a while, but for the most part he stared at the book that was open in front of him.
“Buffy? You okay?” Xander asked, gently halting her pacing with a hand on her shoulder.
“Well, my sister was kidnapped by a demon god for purposes that I don’t even want to think about. Someone I trusted to save my lover’s life turned out to be the human host for that demon god…so I brought her straight to the Key. I nearly had a mental breakdown…and probably would have if it hadn’t been for Giles. And now? Now, I don’t know where my sister is or how the Key is supposed to be used…and Giles refused to stay in the hospital….” She took a deep breath and offered Xander a fake smile. “Yeah. I’m okay.”
Xander gave her brief hug. “It’ll get figured out. You know Giles…you know you…”
Buffy gave a nod of uncertainty and pulled from the hug when she heard Giles hang up the phone. She quickly made her way to him, feeling very nervous as she watched him drag his hand through his hair.
“What do we know?”
Giles looked at her and shrugged a shoulder. “Um…well, uh…according to the scrolls, uh, it’s possible for Glory to be stopped.”
When he paused, Buffy stared at him…silently urging him to continue.
“I’m afraid it’s, um…well…” Giles sighed heavily. “Buffy, I’ve read these things very carefully and there’s not much margin for error. You understand what I’m saying?”
She raised her eyebrows at him, her eyes clearly telling him that she in no way understood what he was saying. “Might help if you actually said it.”
“I suppose so.” He agreed, rubbing the back of his neck. “Glory plans to open a dimensional portal. By way of a ritual bloodletting.”
Buffy straightened, understanding quickly showing in her eyes. “Dawn’s blood.”
“Yes.” Giles confirmed quietly. “Once the blood is shed at a certain time and place, the fabric which separates all realities will be ripped apart. Dimensions will…they’ll pour into one another…with no barrier to stop them. Reality, as we know it, will be destroyed…and chaos will reign on earth.”
Buffy was quiet for a moment and then nodded. “Okay, how do we stop it?”
“The portal will only close once the flow of blood is stopped. And the only way for that to happen is, um…” He lowered his eyes and exhaled a deep breath. And then he slowly lifted his eyes back to hers. “Buffy, the only way is to kill Dawn.”
“Fuck that!” Buffy said immediately.
Buffy shook her head, her eyes darkening with anger. “Fuck that, Giles.”
“Buffy…” Giles tried again.
Buffy stared at him. “Pretty simple math here. We stop Glory before she can start the ritual. We still have a few hours, right?”
Giles glanced at the clock and scratched the back of his head. “About five…if my calculations are right. But, Buffy – ”
“I don’t want to hear it.” She turned away from him and rubbed her hand over her brow.
“I understand that, but…”
She turned back towards him quickly, her eyes flashing dangerously. “No! No, you don't understand. We are not talking about this!”
Giles straightened as he fired back at her, just as loudly…just as angrily. “Yes, we bloody well are!”
Xander and Willow exchanged a quick glance. Anya darted her eyes between Buffy and Giles. Spike sat on the edge of the table, a small smirk on his face.
Giles took a deep breath in an effort to calm himself. “If Glory begins the ritual and…and if we can’t stop her…”
When he hesitated, Buffy took a step closer to him. “Come on, say it. We’re bloody well talking about this. Tell me to kill my sister.”
“She’s not your sister.” Giles responded sadly. “If the ritual starts, then every living creature in this and every other dimension imaginable will suffer unbearable torment and death. Including Dawn.”
Before she could stop herself, she placed her hands on his chest and pushed him against the counter. Giles winced in pain and grabbed at his side.
“Then the last thing she’ll see is me protecting her.”
Giles gritted his teeth and narrowed his eyes. “You’ll fail. You’ll die. We all will.”
“I’m sorry.” She said, shaking her head as Giles turned and walked away from her. “I love you. I love you all…but, I’m sorry.”
Giles stopped, his hand pressed tightly to his side and turned back to look at her. “You’d rather everything in existence die? Tortured and…”
“When you say you love us all…” Spike interrupted.
“Shut up.” Giles and Buffy responded instantaneously, not looking at him.
Spike sighed and crossed his arms over his chest.
Buffy’s eyes lowered to Giles’ hand, which he was holding tightly over his abdomen. And for the first time, she seemed to realise what she’d done.
“Oh, god…are you okay?” She rushed over to him, gently prying his hand from his side. “Jesus…I’m so sorry. I’m so fucking sorry. Are you okay?”
He opened his mouth to respond, but then closed it again…his eyes glistened as he looked at her. She slipped her arm around his waist and gestured towards the training room with a tilt of her head.
“Come on…let’s look at that.”
The others watched them leave the room. When the door to the back room closed, Anya stood up.
“Okay, I’m not liking where this is going. So, while they’re sorting through their shit…let’s sort through what we know – and come up with something that doesn’t end with the world dying. Because…hands up if you feel like being tortured and tormented to death by creatures we’ve never imagined before.”
No one raised their hand. Anya gave a determined nod and sat back down.
* * *
“Well, I didn’t cause any of the stitches to pull.” Buffy said softly, placing a clean bandage on Giles’ wound. “Do you need anything for the pain?”
“I can’t take anything, Buffy. Not right now. I’ll push through.”
They were quiet for a few moments. Giles cleared his throat and shook his head.
“I imagine you hate me right now.” He waited until she looked up at him before he continued. “I love Dawn.”
“I know.” She replied, biting her lip.
“But, I’ve sworn to protect this sorry world. And sometimes that means saying…and doing…what other people can’t. What they shouldn’t have to.”
“You try and hurt her and you know I’ll stop you.”
“I know.” He answered quietly. “I love you.”
“I love you.” She whispered, gently stroking her fingers over his bandaged wound. “I don’t know what to do.”
“If we survive this…”
“Giles, don’t. Don’t say anything that you’re going to regret if we make it through this. No weird proposals or declarations or – ”
“I want a family with you.” He interrupted.
“We’ve discussed it before…having a baby. We decided that we would discuss it further once we worked through the Glory situation.” He swallowed and lifted his hand to her cheek. “I don’t want to discuss it further, Buffy.”
“I can’t decide if that was incredibly beautiful or impossibly cheap.”
He furrowed his brow. “I’m sorry?”
“Is that your way of trying to make me see things differently or – ”
“No.” He interrupted quickly. “I’m just saying if…”
“You don’t expect me to make it, do you?”
He clenched his jaw briefly in an effort to stop his tears from appearing, knowing this wasn’t the time for tears. “I’m terrified you won’t. And I’m not really sure what that means.”
“I don’t think I’m going to survive this, Giles.”
He looked away quickly, a tear sliding down his cheek.
“But if I do…I want a family with you, too.”
He lowered his head, allowing his tears to fall freely. There was no point in hiding them, even if this wasn’t the time for tears. She moved quickly, wrapping her arms around him and holding him tightly.
“I love you, Giles. I love you so much.”
“I love you, too.” He whispered, holding her as tightly as she was holding him.
“I’m sorry I pushed you. I didn’t think…” She sniffled as she nuzzled against his chest. “I could’ve really hurt you.”
“I’m fine.” He replied, dropping a kiss on top of her head.
She lifted her head to look at him and gave him the saddest smile he thought he had ever seen from her. He tenderly brushed his fingers through her hair.
“I’m fine.” He whispered.
“We should make love.” She shook her head and wiped the tears from her face. “But, we can’t. It’s possibly our last night on Earth…and we can’t even make love like a normal couple. Xander and Anya are probably having sex…”
“Not yet.” Anya said with a bright grin. “But, soon, yeah. You guys should come out. We have an idea. One that doesn’t involve killing Dawn or getting ourselves killed. It could work. So…come on.”
“What?” Giles asked, more confused than he’d been for a while.
“We have an idea. Come listen and then if you agree…we can all go have sex.” She rolled her eyes as Giles and Buffy both stared at her. “Not together. I’m not sharing Xander with anyone.”
“Well, I feel much better about the scenario now.” Giles replied dryly.
They sat there for a few seconds longer after Anya left. Buffy stood up and reached down to take his hand.
“Come on, let’s go see what they’ve come up with.”
He took her hand and allowed her to pull him up. “We can make love, Buffy. If you want.”
“Could be our last chance.”
“Then we’ll make it work.” He said, lowering his eyes.
She gave his hand a gentle squeeze and led him out of the training room.
* * *
Giles sat at the table, leaning forward with the tip of his glasses between his teeth as he thought. Buffy sat on the arm of his chair, her hand resting lightly on his back…a soft smile on her face.
“It could totally work.”
Giles nodded slowly, working through the scenario that the Scoobies had presented to them. “Yes. It could.”
Anya smiled brightly. “The Dagon sphere is downstairs, with the BuffyBot.”
Spike’s eyes widened. “You kept the bot?”
Giles slowly turned towards him, eyes dark as he stared at him. “For research and possible future use.”
Spike grinned. “Menage a trois…”
“Don’t be a dick, Spike.” Buffy said, staring at him.
“Well, if you two aren’t using it, can I have it back?”
Giles continued staring at him for a moment before turning his eyes to Buffy. “Can I please stake him now?”
“We’ll talk about it later, okay?”
“Oi!” Spike stood up, looking completely offended. “She’s my bot.”
“Are you wanting to get staked, Spike?” Xander asked, folding his hands on top of the table. “Because I’m pretty sure that’s where this conversation is heading quickly.”
“Stake…steak and chips…or fries. Chips…fries…chippy chips…” Tara giggled as she mumbled.
Willow lovingly stroked Tara’s hair. “I think we need to get back on task here. She’s getting more restless.”
Giles nodded in agreement, but lifted his finger towards Spike. “The bot is not yours. You seriously need to move past this. I’m not the person you want to cross, especially right now.”
Spike scowled and shook his head. “Fine. I’m going for a smoke.”
Buffy lovingly caressed the back of Giles’ neck as they watched Spike saunter out the front door. As the door closed behind him, she took a deep breath.
“Okay…Dagon sphere, bot, troll hammer. And a solid plan. You guys are amazing.”
“Can we have sex now?” Anya asked bluntly.
Buffy’s hand stopped moving on Giles’ neck. Anya rolled her eyes.
“Again…not with each other. Separately…”
Giles waved his hand at them. “Go…just…be back in a couple of hours.”
As Xander and Anya rushed out, Willow smiled softly at Giles. “I’m going to take Tara and Spike with me to your place.”
Giles furrowed his brow. “My place? Why are you going there?”
“Back up weapons for us. Weetabix for Spike. Those little butter cookies for Tara.” When Giles nodded, Willow stood up and held her hand out for his keys. “We’ll be back in a couple of hours, okay?”
He handed her his house keys and sighed. “Call if there is any trouble.”
“I will. But, I really think everything is going to be quiet until the ritual starts.”
“Quite right.” Giles mumbled, watching Willow lead Tara outside.
As the door closed, Buffy stood up. She gently squeezed the back of Giles’ neck, causing him to look up at her. She smiled and gestured towards the back room with a tilt of her head.
Giles stood and swallowed as Buffy slipped her hand into his. “You sure you’re not going to tire yourself out?”
She smiled and started walking. “I’m sure.”
He nodded and followed her into the training room. He said nothing as she directed him to sit on the sofa, but he did smile as she carefully slid onto his lap.
“It may not be ideal, but…if this is okay with you…”
He slid his hands up her thighs to her hips. He gripped her tightly as she leaned down to kiss him.
* * *
Buffy breathed heavily as she lowered her head to Giles’ shoulder. “You okay?”
He nodded, his chest heaving as he hands lovingly stroked her bare back. “Mm-hm…you?”
She chuckled, her breath warm against his sweat-dampened skin. “Safe to say, yes.”
They were quiet for a few moments, content to just hold one another as they came down. And then, Buffy inhaled softly and pressed a soft kiss to his shoulder.
“This is how many apocalypses for us now?”
“Oh, uh, well…six, at least.” He replied, sighing as she shifted on top of him. “Feels like a hundred.”
“I’ve always stopped them. Always won.”
He closed his eyes. “Yes.”
“I sacrificed Angel to save the world.” She lifted her head to look at him, waiting for him to open his eyes before she continued.
He opened his eyes and looked at her, unsure of why she brought Angel up at this particular moment.
“I loved him so much. But, I knew what was right.” She said softly, placing her hand on his cheek. “But, I can’t sacrifice you. And I can’t sacrifice Dawn. I don’t know how to live in the world if these are the choices.”
“No one has suggested sacrificing me – that would accomplish nothing.”
“I know. I’m just saying…I’d never be able to.”
Giles furrowed his brow. “I’m not sure I’m entirely following you here.”
“The spirit guide told me that death is my gift. And here I am…being told that the only way we win this after the ritual starts is to kill my sister.” She sat back on his thighs and sighed heavily. “Guess that means a Slayer really is just a killer after all.”
He shook his head, his thumbs tracing small circles above her knees. “I think you’re wrong about that.”
“Does it matter?”
He tilted his head as he looked at her. “It matters a great deal, Buffy.”
She nodded slowly and wiped a tear from her eye. “We, uh…we should change your bandage and get dressed. The others will be here soon.”
“I love you, Buffy.” He whispered.
She looked at him for a moment, her fingers tracing his ear. “I love you, Rupert.”
“This is going to work.” He said with much more conviction than he had felt in days.
“I hope so.” She replied, leaning down to brush her lips across his.
* * *
Giles exhaled a deep, nervous breath as they finished unloading the car. He glanced over at the rickety tower and shook his head.
“Hey…where did all of that confidence you had earlier go?” Buffy asked, rubbing his upper arm.
Giles looked at her and, with no further words, pulled her against him as he captured her lips in a searing kiss. Anya grinned as the kiss deepened. Spike sighed and turned his eyes towards the tower. Willow blushed lightly. Tara rambled about needing to be somewhere. Xander raised an eyebrow as Giles pushed his tongue into Buffy’s mouth.
“We’re all going to die.”
Anya furrowed her brow, her grin fading as she looked at him. “What? Why would you say that? We have a great plan! A plan I was instrumental in coming up with!”
Xander gestured towards Buffy and Giles. “That. That would never happen if we weren’t going to die.”
Anya stared at him in confusion. “They kiss. They have sex. Why would them kissing mean we’re all going to die?”
“They don’t kiss like that in front of us, An.”
Buffy slowly ended the kiss and lovingly stroked the side of Giles’ face. “We’re not dying, Xander.”
Xander scoffed as Buffy looked over at him. He shrugged a shoulder, but said nothing.
“We’re not dying.” Buffy repeated. “But, if the ritual starts…I’ll kill anyone who comes near Dawn.”
“We all know our jobs, love.” Giles said quietly, gesturing towards the troll hammer. “I’ll be right behind you.”
“You’re a killer!” Tara said, pointing at Giles.
Giles turned to look at her, surprised by her sudden outburst.
“I have to go. The night calls to me.”
As Tara walked through the gate towards the tower, Buffy caught Willow’s eye. “Stay close, but don’t crowd her. We’ll follow in a minute.”
Willow nodded. “Don’t kill her until I can bring Tara back.”
“I’ll do my best.” Buffy glanced at the others. “Positions, now. Good luck, try to stay safe, and…I hope I see you later. I love you all.”
She rolled her eyes as Spike grinned.
As they all entered the gate, Buffy grabbed Giles’ hand. He looked down at her, a bag of weapons slung over his shoulder.
“Be careful, don’t do anything stupid.”
“Such as trying to kill a demon god with a troll hammer?”
“Yeah…such as. That’s my stupid thing to do.”
“Be careful, love.” He whispered, giving her hand a final squeeze before releasing it.
And then with a deep breath, he followed her through the gate.
* * *
Buffy crouched down next to Giles, wincing as Willow went flying into a pile of wood. A small smile played on her lips when she heard Glory start questioning her minions on what Willow had done to her. As Glory clutched her head and complained that she needed a brain, Buffy placed her hand on Giles’ thigh.
“Here we go.” She whispered, not taking her eyes off of the god.
Giles nodded silently, watching the BuffyBot taunt the god. His eyes followed the minions when Glory sent them to guard “the girl” – who could only be Dawn. When they gathered around the bottom of the tower, he looked up.
“Buffy…” He whispered.
She looked over at him and then followed his eyes. “Shit. She’s up there.”
“As long as Glory is down here…”
“Does the ritual need to be started by her? Or can anyone start it?”
“I…I’m not sure.” He admitted, lowering his gaze just in time to see the bot’s head kicked off the body. “You’re up, love.”
“Hey, wow! The Slayer’s a robot.” Glory looked around, bewildered. “Did everybody else know the Slayer was a robot?”
“Glory?” Buffy said, gripping the hammer in her hand.
Glory turned towards the voice just as Buffy swung the hammer. Glory flew across the room and crashed into a wall.
“You’re not the brightest god in the heavens, are you?”
“Buffy!” Dawn screamed down at her. “I’m up here!”
Buffy looked over at Giles, who was busy knocking the minions back in an attempt to give Buffy enough time to dispose of Glory. With a deep breath, she lifted the hammer and began to pummel Glory. They traded blows as they ascended the tower.
They were a good way up when Glory hit Buffy in the face, causing her to lose her balance. As she began to fall, she grabbed Glory…pulling her down with her. As they landed, the hammer fell to the side.
Glory stood up and brushed the dust from her dress. “You lost your hammer, sweet cheeks. What are you going to hit me with now?”
No sooner than the words had left her mouth, a wrecking ball crashed through the wall…knocking Glory through a second wall. Buffy shrugged a shoulder.
“Whatever’s handy.” She said, taking off at run and grabbing the hammer.
As Giles continued to fight off the minions, as well as Glory’s victims who had arrived to help the god, Anya rushed over to him.
“We’re going backwards…”
“As long as Buffy can keep Glory down here long enough, it doesn’t matter.” He looked up at the tower. “There’s only a few minutes left to start the ritual.”
Spike looked up and narrowed his eyes. “Someone’s up there with her.”
“Fuck!” Giles exclaimed, taking a step back.
“Yeah, loud and clear.” Spike said suddenly, looking very confused as he looked around. “Yeah, can’t tell who.”
Xander stared at him. “Are you talking to us?”
Suddenly Spike stood up and took off towards the tower stairs. At the same time, Giles turned and ran to where Buffy was still fighting Glory.
Xander looked at Anya. “Um…I think we should just stay here.”
“Good idea.” She agreed quickly, wrapping her arms around him.
* * *
“You can’t kill me.” Glory said, glaring at Buffy.
“No.” Buffy quickly glanced at the hammer in her hand. “But, my arm’s not even tired yet.”
As she began to hit Glory over and over with the hammer, Giles looked up to see Spike fall from the tower.
“Stop it…” Glory groaned.
“You’re a god.” Buffy said, hitting her again. “Make it stop.”
Glory fell onto her back and Buffy wasted no time, smashing the hammer into Glory’s head time and time again. Just as she lifted the hammer for what should have been the last time, Glory morphed into Ben.
“I’m sorry…” Ben moaned.
“Tell her it’s over. She missed her shot.” Buffy narrowed her eyes at him. “She ever, ever comes near me and mine again…”
“We won’t. I swear.” He said, coughing up blood.
“Buffy…” Giles said, placing his hand on her arm. “Spike went up to protect Dawn. He…fell.”
“Shit!” She cried, dropping the hammer and taking off towards the tower.
Giles watched after her, his eyes following her as she quickly scaled the tower. Then he took a deep breath and moved to Ben’s side, kneeling beside him.
“Can you move?”
“Need a…minute.” Ben coughed and wiped a smear of blood from his mouth. “She could’ve killed me.”
“No, she couldn’t. Never.” Giles said quietly. “And sooner or later, Glory will re-emerge and make Buffy pay for that mercy – and the world with her. Buffy even knows that and still…she couldn’t take a human life.”
He reached into his pocket and removed his glasses.
“She’s a hero, you see.” He continued, slipping his glasses on. “She’s not like us.”
Ben furrowed his brow. “Us?”
Giles stared at him for just a second before reaching down and covering Ben’s nose and mouth with his hand. He breathed evenly as Ben fought to breathe. Tara’s words echoed in his mind as he watched the light begin to dim in Ben’s eyes.
“You’re a killer!”
“I’m the Watcher. I do what is necessary, when no one else can.” He whispered to himself.
* * *
“Shallow cuts…shallow cuts…” The demon made a series of small cuts, ignoring Dawn’s cries of pain. “Let the blood flow free.”
“Dawn!” Buffy said, reaching the platform.
“Buffy…” Dawn cried, glancing down and shaking her head.
Her drops of blood were sparking the opening of the portal. And the portal was growing with each drop that fell.
The demon raised an eyebrow as he looked at Buffy. “This should be interesting.”
Buffy walked past him, pushing him over the edge as she made her way to Dawn.
“I’m here, Dawn.”
“Buffy, it’s started.”
Buffy nodded sadly. “Go to Giles. I’ve got this.”
Dawn’s eyes widened. “No. No, Buffy! No.”
“Your blood is my blood, Dawn. I can stop this.” Tears filled Buffy’s eyes. “Tell Giles that I love him, but this is something I have to do. Death is my gift. I understand now.”
Dawn shook her head, grabbing Buffy’s arm. “No! I have to stop it. Look at what’s happening.”
“You need to live, Dawn.”
Dawn took a deep breath and looked into Buffy’s eyes. “This world needs you. Mom needs you. Giles needs you.”
“I swore that I would protect you.”
Dawn smiled sadly. “And you did. But, I’m not really…real. You remember that, right? I’m just energy…the memories you have of everything – they’re not real. You are real. Your role in this world is real. The love you share with Giles is real. I’m just energy…green energy.”
“Dawn – ”
“And I can stop this.” Dawn continued, as though Buffy hadn’t even spoken. “Thank you for taking care of me.”
And then she let go of Buffy’s arm and ran back towards the platform. She smiled as she jumped, even as Buffy screamed her name.
* * *
Giles stood with the others, and a badly injured Spike, at the bottom of the tower. His heart raced as he watched the portal begin to open.
“Fucking hell…” He murmured.
“Does that mean – ” Xander started, stopping when Anya grabbed his arm.
And then they all saw someone jump from the top of the tower. Giles dropped the sword he was holding.
“No!” He screamed.
Willow narrowed her eyes. “That’s not Buffy…”
And then Giles gasped. “What the hell…”
He felt the memories being tugged from his mind. Meeting Dawn for the first time, helping Dawn with her homework, introducing Dawn to Jaffa Cakes, holding Dawn in his arms when she was scared…
The memories were being pulled quicker the closer Dawn got to the ground.
“What’s happening?” Tara asked.
Anya glanced at her, having not realised that Willow had been able to get Tara’s mind restored before the battle. “She’s energy…”
Giles closed his eyes, trying to hold on to any shred of memory he could.
* * *
Buffy ran down the stairs of the tower quickly, tears streaming down her face as she screamed Dawn’s name. And then she felt it…the memories of her sister being ripped from her mind.
“No!” She jumped down the final flight of stairs just as a green light flashed.
Giles ran over to her, pulling her into his arms. “Oh my god, Buffy…I thought I’d lost you!”
Buffy smiled and wrapped her arms around him. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine…we’re all fine.” He whispered.
When he hesitated in his response, she pulled back and looked up at him. “Giles?”
“I…I did what I had to do. To ensure that she didn’t come back…”
He shook his head slowly. “I’m sorry.”
“So, it’s over?”
“It’s over. You did it, Buffy.”
She leaned up and kissed him softly. “We did it.”
She nearly deepened the kiss, but heard their friends talking as they walked over to them. With a sigh, she lowered herself and looked up at him.
“I really love you, Giles.”
“I really love you, Buffy.” He responded with a smile before glancing up at the platform on the tower. “What happened up there?”
“Some weird humanoid demon with a tail was up there. Once I knocked him off, the portal started closing. Pretty anti-climactic, if you ask me. I mean…Glory made it sound like there was this huge ritual thing.”
“Odd.” Giles commented before shrugging a shoulder.
“Way to go, Buffster!” Xander called out, grimacing as both Buffy and Giles stared at him. “Yeah, forget I called you that. But, really…great job up there!”
Giles chuckled softly and then grew serious. “Glory’s disciples…where are they?”
“The monks with the really bad skin?” Anya asked. “They all disappeared. The crazy ones…aren’t crazy anymore.”
Buffy turned her eyes to Tara, who smiled shyly at her.
“I wasn’t crazy anymore before that, though. Thanks to Willow.”
“Good.” Buffy said with a sigh of relief. “It’s really good to have you back, Tara.”
“So…Glory?” Willow asked, holding Tara’s hand as she looked around nervously.
“Dead.” Buffy said simply.
“Does that mean that Ben’s dead too?” Willow asked softly.
Buffy glanced at Giles, who gently cleared his throat.
“Unfortunately, yes. There was no way to avoid – ” He paused as something caught his eye. “What is that?”
He let go of Buffy’s hand and walked over towards a green light. Buffy followed him quickly, with the others right behind her.
Giles knelt and picked up a small green stone, which was glowing brightly. It seemed to pulse as he held it – he turned it to and fro, studying it carefully.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this before.” He looked up and furrowed his brow. “This is directly under where the portal began to open.”
“Maybe you should…you know…throw it away. Far away.” Anya offered, moving to stand a little behind Xander.
Giles shook his head. “It doesn’t feel dangerous. It feels…comforting.”
“Comforting?” Buffy asked, kneeling beside him.
“Yeah…” He handed her the stone. “See?”
Buffy’s eyes widened as the stone glowed brightly for a long moment before returning back to a pulse. “Wow…that’s different. Nothing like the Dagon sphere, but…definitely old and good.”
“Do you feel what I mean about it being comforting?”
Buffy nodded slowly. “Yeah, like…it belongs with us. Not to us, but with us.”
“You’ll need to put it in a box or something, if you’re going to keep it.”
Buffy and Giles both turned to look at Anya questioningly.
She shrugged a shoulder, gesturing at the stone as she continued. “It’s all bright and glowy. No way you’ll be able to sleep with that thing putting off that much light.”
Giles chuckled softly as Buffy slipped the stone into her jacket pocket.
“Can we go home now?” Tara asked quietly.
“Yeah, baby, we can go home.” Willow replied, leaning over and kissing her cheek.
Spike sighed heavily. “I’ll just head back to my crypt then. Alone.”
“Goodnight, Spike.” All six of them said in unison.
Spike rolled his eyes and turned, shuffling away. Giles took a deep breath and stood up.
“Spike?” He called, walking over to him.
Spike turned towards him, a cigarette held between his lips. “Yeah?”
“Thank you for your assistance tonight.” He gestured towards the tower with a nod of his head. “Why were you up there?”
Spike thought for a minute, blowing out a plume of smoke. “I have no idea, mate. I guess I was going up after the demon…pretty sure he had the Key. But, I don’t remember what happened. I must’ve lost my footing.”
Giles nodded slowly. “Are you going to be okay?”
“I’ll heal.” Spike smiled and glanced at Buffy. “Give me a few days and you’ll be threatening to stake me for coming on to your girl.”
“Spike…” Giles grumbled, narrowing his eyes.
“Look, I know I don’t have a chance in hell with her. I know that she’s…” He paused and tilted his head slightly. “You’re going to be a decent tweedy dad when the time comes. I love her, but she’s not my future, mate. So, take her home…have a drink, get a little dirty…have lots of fun.”
He took a drag of his cigarette and grinned. “But, I’ll still come on to her. Just for shits and giggles. G’night.”
Giles watched Spike saunter off, disappearing into the darkness. He jumped slightly when Willow walked up beside of him.
“Everything okay there?” She asked quietly, staring after Spike.
“Actually…yes, I think so. I’m sure that can change at any given time though.” He offered her a smile as he looked down at her. “Good job tonight, Willow.”
“Thank you.” She beamed up at him. “Look…I know you’re still in a fair amount of pain. I can help you with that. You know…if you want me to?”
He thought for a second and then smiled.
* * *
Buffy arched an eyebrow at him as he handed her a drink after she hung up the phone. “You’re encouraging me to drink now?”
He chuckled softly and shook his head. “The aversion of an apocalypse calls for a celebratory drink.”
She took the tumbler and lifted it to her lips. She grimaced as she took a sip.
“How’s your mother?” He asked, quickly downing his own drink.
“She’s fine…sends her thanks for keeping me alive. Again.” She glanced over at the sofa and placed her tumbler on the table. “Want to go sit down?”
He shook his head and pulled her into his arms. “I think I’d prefer to go upstairs…with you.”
She looked down at his side. “We should get some painkillers into you.”
“Don’t need them.” He replied, tilting her face upwards so he could look into her eyes. “Come upstairs with me now, please.”
“What do you mean you don’t need them?”
“Willow.” He answered, taking a step towards the stairs. “Please, Buffy…”
She looked into his eyes and clearly saw the desire in them. She smiled and allowed herself to be led up the stairs.
“You sure you’re okay?”
He stopped on the landing and pushed her against the wall. He stared into her eyes as he effortlessly lifted her, guiding her legs around his hips.
“I can do this right here, love. But, I’d much rather take you to bed.”
She grinned and gave him a nod. “Post-apocalyptic sex has to be pretty amazing, huh?”
He returned her grin and gave her a wink.
Then he lowered her and pulled her up the rest of the stairs with him.
Downstairs, the mysterious green stone continued to glow and pulse in Buffy’s jacket pocket. Buffy and Giles may not remember all of the events of the past year, but the energy…the Key…most certainly did. And it would continue to glow for years to come – there was a lot of energy captured in that small stone.
At some point, the Key might allow certain memories to reappear. Slowly, carefully…
But for now, it was content. Deciding to rest as the post-apocalypse activities continued upstairs.
The Key didn’t need to hear that.
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