Heaven's On Fire
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Heaven's On FireLord forbid, care crawled up my arm
and I killed it right on the spot
For fear it might tear out my heart
And make me love what I do not
The bar was nestled on the outskirts of town, erected between an abandoned row of apartment buildings and a convenience store that had closed down in the seventies. The outside of the small establishment was painted a mind-numbing and eye-jarring red, the color of blood, to attract a certain kind of clientele - the killing kind.
And that was exactly why the bartender, a fork- tongued Prongg Demon, stared at his newest customer with disdain. She was not a demon. Sure, she killed. He would even go so far as to say that she pillaged, but then again, he was biased. She had two strikes against her. She was human. And she was the Slayer. And every night for the last week, she had come in, sat on a bar stool that was almost too tall for her to climb up on, and she drank.
The first night, she'd been accompanied by Spike, who would definitely pay for introducing her to the place, but every night since she had been alone. She rarely spoke, but she would glare down any demon that dared get too close. Her beverage selections had also grown bolder over time. First it was cheap whiskey in moderation. Then it became cheap beer - which was also in moderation. And finally, she was requesting the finest he had.
Naturally, she didn't pay - which was just fine. Prongg kept a running tab and he'd make Spike cover it. Assuming there was anything at all left of Spike when he, and his disgruntled patrons, had a go at him. Slayers just didn't socialize with the enemy and they didn't plop themselves down and drink until they'd had their fill, which tonight was endless for the girl. Slayers were supposed to care and this one just didn't seem to.
Not many of the demons were brave enough to challenge her, considering her reputation, and those who did quickly backed off when she'd simply flash whichever weapon was handy. Sometimes it was a stake, sometimes it was just her look: cold, hard, and dead. And it was enough. They stopped trying to goad her by the third night and simply went about their business.
Which included telling Prongg that his place was quickly becoming like Willy's Alibi Room, and all the creatures who had abandoned that place to come here would soon depart for Slayer-free pastures.
Buffy signaled that she was ready for another shot and Prongg flicked his tongue out, testing the air around her. She was definitely drunk. Even from a few feet away he could taste her inebriation. Technically, and by law, he could have cut her off and sent her packing, but she was the law in this land and he didn't want trouble. So, he filled her glass again and waited for her to ask for anything else.
"What's that in the blue bottle?" she finally queried, pointing a pink tipped finger at the rows of liquor behind him.
"More than you can handle," he told her seriously.
Buffy narrowed her eyes and drained the shot he had given her. "I want it."
"Trust me here, Slayer, that's something for the big guns and not for little girls who like to-"
She lifted the hand that had been in her lap, showing him what appeared to be the bastard child of a dagger and brass knuckles. It wove around her hand, exposing a blade on either side and had thick brass rings that dwarfed her tiny fingers. But she clung to it with authority and the look in her eyes told him she knew exactly how to use it.
He took down the blue bottle and gave her a clean glass, which he filled. "It'll burn, Slayer."
"I hope so." She lifted the glass, gave him a mock toast, then choked it down.
Her eyes bulged, her face went deathly white, and she gagged. The glass in her hand exploded under the pressure she put on it, and every demon in the bar turned to look at the source of the rich and enticing scent of blood. He expected her to fall out in a dead faint as she struggled to catch her breath. Stupid humans.
When she didn't, and decided to concentrate on picking shards of glass from her palm, he moved across the room and addressed Thorn, one of the prickly Veine Demons who also acted as a bouncer. "Do you know where Spike is making his home at nowadays?"
Thorn scratched one of his floppy ears with a gigantic paw. "Heard tell it's over in the cemetery. In a crypt."
"Get him." Prongg glared down the bar at the Slayer, who had tried to slide off the oversized barstool and almost hit the floor. In her haste to try to break her fall, she had taken the stool down with her and crushed it in her iron grip. "Before that little idiot wrecks the place."
Spike flipped the channels on his small black and white television. Thanks to the fact that he had secretly paid the Slayer's telephone bill, he had exactly eleven cents in his pocket. So much for his plans of buying smokes and going to get a beer. He didn't even realize that the Slayer had been having money troubles until he'd seen Dawn using a payphone a few blocks from her house.
She had told him that Buffy had used money from Giles to pay for a plumber and to settle all the existing hospital bills left over from their mother's illness. In the process, she had forgotten to pay for her telephone bill and they had shut it off two days before. Spike had gone directly to the Summers' house, rummaged through the filing cabinet until he found a phone bill, and then went to the night deposit place. They would have their phone back the next day and no one would have to know that he had done it at all.
He sighed when the reception on his television grew fuzzy, then went completely snowy. He stood, pacing across the room to retrieve his duster, and patted down the pockets for any stray smokes he might have forgotten about. The search proved fruitless and he decided he may as well go steal himself a pack. Or two.
It wasn't like he was killing anyone.
He started across the room and then stopped when he heard someone scratching at the door. Grabbing the nearest thing he could find, a baseball bat that had hit more demon heads than balls, he drew back like a professional, ready to hit a home run.
Spike recognized Thorn immediately, as soon as the Veine peeked inside, and he relaxed his grip on the bat. "You were almost taking a dirt nap, mate," he told him.
Thorn grinned toothily, showing razor sharp teeth that were small, but deadly. "Prongg sent me over. It's about your lady friend."
Spike knew instantly that his 'lady friend' was Buffy. "What happened?"
"She keeps coming to the Lair. Gets herself smashed and winds up falling a few times before she gets out the door. So far the demons have left her alone, you know that the clients there are pretty mellow, and Prongg has rules about hurting humans on the premises, but there's always new customers. One might not be too keen on the Slayer hanging around and they'll do her in."
Spike chuckled at the man's ignorance. "Can't do in someone like her. Believe me, I tried."
"She was probably sober at the time, Spike. How's she gonna fight when she's laying flat on her back with the room spinning 'round her?" Thorn held up a finger and rotated it, demonstrating a drunken spin. "You brought her there, my friend. You better unbring her before someone else does it for you."
Spike replied testily. "She's not gonna let some two bit demon take her down."
Thorn leaned closer to Spike. "When I left, she was bleeding. You know the scent of Slayer blood and you know that it's gonna attract everything with a supernatural nose for miles."
"Bloody hell!" Spike growled, pushing past Thorn and rushing out into the night.
Buffy somehow found the lavatory. Lots of smashing into walls and sturdy chests of demons eventually paved the way to a dingy little unisex bathroom with a cracked mirror. All she could see of herself in said mirror was a perfectly arranged head of curls, thanks to Dawn, who decided Buffy would benefit from a new hair style. She couldn't make out her features, only a slash of red where her lips should be and a hint of green where her eyes stared back at her, hazy and cloudy.
Her bladder felt like it had stretched to the point of bursting and she gladly relieved herself on the toilet, which looked pristine. Somewhere, dimly, in the back of her numbed mind, she wondered if demons even used the bathroom, then she recalled stepping in Urgua Demon waste once in her new boots.
The thought set her stomach to rolling and she fought to maintain control of the liquor that was slowly burning its way back up her throat. After several seconds, she won the battle of the bile, and felt confident enough to leave the safe confines of the restroom to wade back through the demonic patrons.
The music assaulted her first. It was heavy metal, something about Heaven being on fire. The beat was good, but it was not the kind of bar where people danced. Through a sea of blurred blobs, she wound her way back to her stool, which someone, or some thing, had been kind enough to replace.
She pulled herself back onto it and picked up her empty glass, turning it upside down. Her pouty face evidenced the lack of amber liquid and she tapped it on the bar.
"Yoo hoo!" she called. "Can I get a refill?"
"You can get down and come with me," came the reply from behind her.
Buffy turned, half slipping off the stool again, only to be caught in Spike's arms. "Easy, luv," he told her softly, relishing the feel of her against his chest. "Are you okay?"
"Never better! Except that the service here is CRAP!" Buffy snapped.
Spike watched her struggle back into an upright position and glanced at the bartender, giving him a look that promised a future encounter. Prongg, never one to turn down a challenge, made his way down the bar. "Keep your human tail out of here, Spike."
"It's a free country!" Buffy chimed in, hiccupping loudly.
Prongg ignored her, concentrating on the vampire instead. "You're already considered a traitor. One word is all it will take and every single demon in this room will let you know what they think of that."
Spike glanced around the room, taking note that several of the demons had keened their pointy ears, listening intently. Normally, he would have engaged and busted hell off its hinges, but the Slayer - she was in no shape to defend herself. The scent of the drying blood on her hand was enough to drive *him* over the edge. No telling how it was affecting everyone else. "Just give me a minute, Prongg."
Prongg turned, grabbing a piece of paper that was tacked on the wall. "This is her tab. Pay it."
Spike took it and his eyes widened. "She can't drink that much! Do you think I'm an idiot?"
"Mostly I think you're paying. Idiot comes in second." Prongg held out a scaly hand. "Ante up."
Knowing that his pockets were threadbare, Spike shook his head. "I'll keep her away. But that's it. I'm not paying for her."
"If she comes here again, you're a dead man." Prongg snatched away the glass in front of Buffy and returned to the end of the bar.
Spike eased himself on the stool next to hers. "Slayer, I think we should go."
"You just got here." Turning, she looked at him through bleary eyes, trying to focus. "Besides, I don't have anywhere to be."
"That's not true," Spike replied. "There are a million other places to be. You could be outside. You could be at home. You could be at the Bronze. You could be on the phone."
"You sound like a Dr. Seuss book, Spike. I could be in a car. I could be in a truck. I could be in a coffin. But my life has to suck!" Buffy sighed and leaned down to pick up her bag. This time she did fall, headfirst, straight down onto the concrete floor. "Ow."
"Are you okay?" Spike hid his chuckle behind his hand.
"Do I look okay?" Buffy asked, staring up at him from where she had sprawled onto the floor. "Are you laughing at me!? I have a stake!"
"Yeah, yeah. Sing me a new tune, Slayer." Shaking his head, Spike bent to help her to her feet, then put the weapons that had fallen out back into the bag. "I'm taking you home."
"I don't need to be taken anywhere and even if I did, I wouldn't go there. I hate it there. They act like - well, they act different." Buffy crossed her arms, scowling at a wayward demon who happened to get too close. "And what are you looking at, Iguana-head?"
The demon puffed up, obviously ready for a fight, but Spike grabbed Buffy's arm and led her toward the door, while she protested, loudly. "Will you keep quiet?" he growled, successfully moving her through the crowd.
Once outside, he held out his hand. "Give me your keys."
"Where's your motorcycle?" Buffy asked, stumbling around as she dug through her purse for her keys.
"I rode here with someone." Spike held out his hands as she produced the keys.
"Then you can ride back home with them." She spun on her heel and started toward her car, but he quickly caught her and managed to take the keys from her. "Asshole," she murmured.
"At least I'm a sober asshole," he muttered under his breath, walking her to the passenger side of the car, where he strapped her in.
As he slid behind the steering wheel, he realized that he was facing a dilemma. If he took the Slayer home, he'd have to answer a million questions. If he didn't take her home, the gang would be beside themselves with worry. Not that he cared.
"Are you just going to sit there or are you going to drive?" Buffy glared at him.
Spike started the engine and pulled out into the road. "Where do you want to go?"
Buffy didn't reply. She stared out the window, watching the scenery flash by. She remained quiet until Spike pulled into a well lit parking lot next to a payphone.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm calling the others. Letting them know you're okay."
She remembered that the phone had been disconnected and shook her head. "Phone's off."
"They're at the Magick Box. They told me they'd have a late night. Still researching that demon thing, are they?"
Buffy shrugged and stared out the window again. People walked in and out of the store, unaware of the dangers around them. They didn't know that a real life vampire was standing a few feet away, talking on the telephone. They didn't know that she had died and come back and died and come back again only to wish she'd never returned. And they didn't know that she put her life on the line every single night so they could have nights like this. Carefree nights of getting gasoline, buying chips and drinks, and listening to the radio too loudly. She hated them all for their oblivion and their love of life.
Spike crawled back behind the wheel and looked at her. "I told them we were tracking a demon and you'd be late."
"What did they say?"
"They said that you're late every night and they're always asleep when you get in anyway. Is going to the Lair a habit now, Slayer?"
"You told me to try on your world. It fit."
"You're going to get yourself killed."
Buffy glanced over at him. "You say that like it's a bad thing." She watched his jaw clench and knew that she'd scored a direct hit. "You also said that all Slayers have a death wish, so don't act surprised."
"I'm not surprised so much as disappointed," Spike told her. He started the car again and headed toward his crypt. "You used to have spunk."
"Yeah, well, I died."
"And to hear you tell it, it wasn't that bad. So stop acting like you're all traumatized and get on with the soddin' living."
"That's what I'm *doing*. Living."
Spike stopped at a red light and tapped his thumbs on the steering wheel. "You're the deadest living person I know," he told her casually.
Buffy unfastened her seatbelt and turned in her seat so she could look him dead on. "And you're the most living dead person I know. Since when are vampires supposed to *care* anyway. Retard!"
With that, she opened her car door and leapt out. Running down a side road and disappearing around the corner. Swearing, Spike gunned the car onto the curb, turned on the flashing lights and killed the engine. He was chasing after her within seconds, calling her name with every other step. "Buffy! Stop!"
Buffy put on an extra burst of speed, thinking if she just ran fast enough, the ghosts that haunted her would lose track of her. She wasn't anticipating running out of road, or slamming face first into the side of a building that signaled the end of the road. With a busted nose that caused her to see stars of pain, and also spilled blood at such a pace that it could give her leaky pipes a run for their money, she leaned over and hurled up every single ounce of liquor she had devoured.
Spike heard her heaving before he was close enough to see her. He grinned despite himself and despite the worry he felt. Served her right, he reasoned. She should know better. He told himself he'd be firm, tell her that she'd better snap out of it before he snapped her out of it, then he'd try to make her mad enough to actually ... snap out of it.
His resolve crumbled when he got a good view of her, though. She was doubled over, blood dripping down her chin as she cleansed her system of all the booze. Instead of pointing out that she deserved it, he moved closer and pulled her hair back, keeping it clear. When he thought it was safe, he tilted her chin so he could see the damage, pressing lightly on her nose to check for a fracture.
"Ow!" Buffy screeched, pushing him away.
"It's not broken." Spike fumbled in his pockets for a tissue, but came out empty-handed. Rolling his eyes at his misfortune, he pulled off his duster, then his overshirt, which he handed to Buffy. He stood watching her mop up the blood with his favorite shirt with a look of disgust. "Are you ready to get back into the car and stop acting like a child now?"
"I am not acting like a child." She pinched the bridge of her nose, glaring at him over the top of the shirt in her hands. "Maybe if your manner wasn't so offensive, I could stand your company and wouldn't have to run."
"Last week you said I was the only person you could stand to be around." Spike pointed out.
"Last week you weren't trying to psychoanalyze me like everyone else. You were just -- you listened is all."
"You can do better than that."
"I was drunk."
"And what are you now?"
"Sick." She barely managed the word before she was doubling up again - turning inside out.
Spike shook his head and leaned against the wall, waiting patiently for her next bout of nausea to end.
When they reached his crypt, Buffy had sobered enough to realize that she felt even worse than before. In between throwing up and the dizziness, she had had the presence of mind to swear to herself, aloud and repeatedly, that she was absolutely never, under any circumstances, going to drink again. She was completely convinced that her stomach had somehow twisted around her esophagus at one point, almost causing her to asphyxiate.
To his credit, Spike hadn't gloated. He hadn't even tried to hold it over her head that he'd seen her at her worst. He had simply stood next to her, patting her on the back until the storm had passed and she indicated that she was ready to go anywhere. Anywhere dark and quiet and secluded. His crypt was the obvious answer.
Once inside, he escorted her to the makeshift shower that Xander had somehow rigged for him. They'd tapped into the city's water system, dug out a special area for the stall, and made a drainage pipe that led straight down into the sewers. It worked like a charm and Xander was quite proud of his ingenious skills. Spike was too.
Spike showed her how to get the water on, apologizing for the fact that the water wasn't heated - Xander wasn't quite that ingenious - and then produced a baby blue toothbrush for her.
Buffy held it in her hand, examining it closely. "This was mine."
"This was mine before - before I died."
Spike nodded. "I took it."
"You stole my toothbrush?" Buffy asked incredulously. "That's so gross! Did you use it? Did you lick it? Oh my god!"
"No, I did not lick it! I just kept it and I ... well, I kept it. And you should use it. No offense, Slayer, but tequila doesn't smell good when it's fresh and it really reeks when it comes back out used."
"And what exactly am I supposed to wear when I finish showering?"
"I'll get you something."
He left her then, returning to the main room to find her a shirt. He settled on an Alice Cooper relic left over from the seventies and laid it, and a towel, on a coffin that had broken free from the wall. Then he sat down on his bed and waited, chuckling when he heard her yelp under the cold water.
It was time that he did more than listen.
It was time that he talked and *she* listened.
Before life, and the fleeting hold she had on it, ended once and for all.
Buffy found the shirt and slipped it over her head, then tried her best to wring the water from her hair on the tattered towel. She was freezing. Nothing worked faster to sober someone up than freezing cold water on a drunken body. After the first ten minutes, she was numb, but now that she was out in the open again, her teeth were chattering like mad.
She used almost an entire tube of toothpaste before she was satisfied that she had chased away the sour taste in her mouth for good. When she walked back into the bedroom area, she found Spike sitting motionless on the bed, staring straight at her. The intensity of his glare caused her to fidget and finger the hem of the shirt, which skimmed her thighs.
She waited for him to say something, anything to break the monotony of his eyes upon her. It was almost as if he were reading her like a book, the way he skimmed her surface. She shivered and he stood, pulling back the cover on the bed. Wordlessly, she crossed the room and climbed in, eternally grateful in that instant for the warmth he was providing her with.
"We have to talk, Slayer."
"I'm tired," Buffy replied with a yawn.
"I don't really care." Spike, who was standing next to the bed, sat down on the edge of it and tried to collect his thoughts. "Do you want to die?"
"Are you offering?"
"God damnit, Slayer!" Spike stood and shoved his hands into his pockets to keep from shaking her senseless. "Why are you doing this? It's like you're giving up!"
"I gave up when I leapt off that tower, Spike. I gave up, I gave in, I gave all of me that I had to give and I don't have anything else left in me. And I didn't ask to be brought back, you know?"
"Who cares whether or not you asked. Here it is. Life. A big old gift that you've been given."
"Death was my gift to give."
Spike, very familiar with what Buffy had been told on her quest, sat down again and leaned closer to her. "You're going to take the word of someone who tried to *kill* you and all your friends?"
"Hello, pot, this is kettle." Buffy smiled sarcastically. "*You* tried to kill me and all my friends so why should I even be listening to you?"
Spike narrowed his eyes. "Because you know I'm right."
"Whatever. Are you finished yet? I'm tired."
"What makes you think I intend on letting you sleep here?" Spike cocked his head to one side, waiting for her reply.
Buffy had no response. She leaned her head back against the headboard and returned his gaze. Several long minutes passed and then she asked, "Why did you come and get me?"
"Because someone had to."
"You could have gotten Willow."
"You honestly want Willow to see you like this?"
Buffy smiled a little. "She should see the monster she created."
"I hardly think you're a monster. And as one, I think I'm a good judge of it."
"I feel like one. A leper. I can't work construction because I'm too strong. I can't work at the Magick Shop because I lack fundamental people skills. And I can't go back to school because we need the money too badly. I'm a complete failure."
"I take offense to that, baby. Monster and failure are not the same thing."
Buffy rolled her eyes at him and snuggled further under the cover. "You know what I mean! I just don't belong anywhere. And I don't know why they brought me back when they knew that I'd face all this stuff."
Spike took a deep, unneeded breath, and exhaled softly. "Because they're selfish. I would have brought you back too, if I'd had the means. You don't know what it was like without you here, luv. If you did, maybe you'd understand."
"Seems to me that everything was going just fine. Tara and Willow certainly had no trouble making themselves at home in my mother's room. They had no problem stepping in and taking control of Dawn's life. And Giles - he had no trouble just packing up and leaving his responsibilities behind."
"What responsibility did Giles have? You were gone."
"So? This is still a hellmouth and everyone still needed him."
Spike shrugged indifferently. "And now he's back. And you're back. And you should be diving right back into life instead of drowning it with liquor."
"Please, this coming from the guy who got trashed over Dru and went crying to my mother. Again I refer to the pot and kettle commentary we had earlier."
"At least I cried out to someone! If we're going to refer to earlier commentary, let me again remind you that you are emotionally *dead*, Summers."
Buffy yawned again, covering her mouth with her hand. When she had finished, she blinked at him several times. "Is being tired an emotion?"
"No," Spike told her.
Sighing, Buffy rolled her eyes. "Maybe I should go kidnap someone like you kidnapped Willow and Xander when you were distraught. Would that make me a better person? Would that help me deal with things?"
"Maybe you should just *talk* to someone."
"Maybe I don't feel like it."
Spike stood, tossing his hands in the air. He was ready to just give up, let her destroy herself. And he would have gladly let her do it if it didn't mean that he would be destroyed as well. "When you're ready - you can come crying to me."
"I'd rather die," Buffy fired at him, using up the last of her energy to make it sound as hateful as possible.
Spike turned and looked at her, watching her sink further down into the pillows as sleep staked its claim on her. For several seconds, he simply watched her, then he moved closer and tucked the cover around her more firmly. Thunder boomed overhead, shaking the crypt walls and the earthen floor.
Spike shook his head. "Not on my watch, baby. Not on my watch."
"She's missing!" Dawn screamed, barreling down the stairs at breakneck speed.
The others, who had been preparing breakfast, came rushing out of the kitchen. Tara reached her first, reaching out her hand to calm her down. "Dawn, w-what's the matter?"
"Buffy's missing!" Dawn cried again. "Her bed hasn't been slept in. Her slayer bag isn't hanging up in her closet and she's not here!"
Giles could tell that the girl was a hairsbreadth away from hysteria and put his arms around her, hoping that the pounding of his own heart wouldn't alarm her further. "Spike called and said they were tracking a demon. And then late last night a storm brewed. If I know Buffy she found shelter and stayed inside. Nevertheless, I'll call Xander and we'll begin looking for her."
Xander stepped through the door with Anya and glanced at them. "Who are we looking for?"
"Buffy's missing," Tara told him in a soft voice. "She didn't come home last night."
Anya rolled her eyes. "You can't just expect Xander to drop everything, namely me, and go searching for Buffy! We had plans! She probably fought some hell-beast, realized that she knew his cousin in hell, and they had a beer somewhere." Off of everyone's look, she added, "What? It happens!"
Willow, who had rushed back into the kitchen to turn off the stove, emerged again, pulling her apron over her head. "Xander won't have to go anywhere, Anya." To Tara, she said, "We'll locate her with the Gorvax spell."
Tara's eyes widened. "G-Gorvax? That should only be done at night. And during full moons."
"I think it'll be okay," the redhead replied, shrugging her shoulders. "We'll need the sage, the chicken feet, and that packet of-"
"Have you lost your damned mind?" Giles suddenly snapped, his arm still around Dawn. "You *think* it'll be okay? You *think*!? Have you no idea of the consequences of magick, Willow? For every spell you do, mystical energy is expelled into the atmosphere. Need I remind you that we are already converged on the Hellmouth? You feed it with every spell you do."
Willow whirled on him, eyes blazing. "I wasn't directing my comments at you. In case you failed to notice, I'm not doing any black magic so there are no consequences."
"Magic is magic," Tara corrected her softly. "Giles is right. Even white magic takes something from the fabric of things ... unbalances it for a while."
"Well, fine!" Willow snapped. "We'll just sit here on our asses and do nothing and *hope* that Buffy is okay."
"I don't think Buffy will ever be okay again," Giles gruffly told her. "You've seen to that. So if you choose to sit on your ass and do nothing further, I think we'll all be better for it."
Buffy, who had stopped on the porch when she heard the shouting, listened to most of what was said. She had slept in Spike's bed, slept better than she had in the days since her return, and had woken only a short while earlier and rushed home though puddle-filled streets. She had hoped that she'd be there before anyone noticed she was missing, but the loud voices inside told her otherwise. She took a deep breath and pushed the door open. Every eye in the room turned to look at her as she quietly shut the door and leaned against it.
"Where have you been?" Giles demanded, still fuming from the words he had exchanged with Willow.
"I got caught in the storm," Buffy told him in a voice without inflection.
"We've been worried sick!" Dawn made a move toward her, but Buffy sidestepped and headed toward the stairs.
Willow noted the hurt look on Dawn's face and quickly said, "Are you hungry? We're cooking pancakes."
With a small sigh, Buffy turned and looked at her friends. She hated the way they made her feel. They watched her every move, questioned everything she did, made her feel like she wasn't living up to their expectations. Most of all, they reminded her how much she didn't want to be a part of their world. Willow, in her blinding orange shirt. The smell of food permeating from the kitchen. Dawn imploring her to be something she wasn't with her big blue eyes. It nauseated her. It exhausted her. And it made her painfully aware that she was the square peg in their world- having been to the other side and seen things they could never hope to grasp. Being a Slayer was no longer what made her different - what she remembered of Heaven set her aside - blinding her to anything that the world could bestow.
Giles held up his hand when Dawn started to speak again. The Slayer had gone completely white, her skin pale and peaked. "Buffy?"
"I'm going upstairs," Buffy replied. She put her hand on the banister and began to climb the stairs.
Willow shook her head, glancing at Tara who shrugged. When Buffy reached the fourth step, Willow called out, "Maybe you could call us next time, Buffy. Dawn was really freaking out and you should-"
"The phone is off, Willow. Remember?" Dawn asked, still watching Buffy.
"Then she should have come home," Willow snapped angrily. "A little rain never-"
Buffy clenched the banister so tightly that they all heard the wood splinter. Willow's words died on her lips as the Slayer turned and looked at her with eyes that were so devoid of emotion that it stole her breath. "I'm sorry my being back from the dead isn't everything you'd hoped it would be, Willow. Maybe you should return me and get a refund."
All eyes fell on her, unblinking, and for the briefest moment, she reveled in their shock. Finally, she forced herself to smile. "Gee, guys! That was more of my post-death humor. You just don't laugh anymore."
When Giles knocked on her bedroom door a few minutes later, Buffy was sitting on the edge of her bed. Instead of waiting for her to tell him to come in, he slowly pushed the door open and peeked inside. She looked so much like a little girl, hugging a stuffed animal against her chest, staring at nothing, that his heart cracked down the middle. He had things to tell her, things that he was sure would hurt her, but things she had to know nonetheless.
Olivia had called him the previous day, imploring him to return to England. He had told her that he simply could not, that Buffy needed him, and that his place was here in Sunnydale. Then she had dropped a bombshell on him. One of the nights they had spent together a few weeks before had resulted in something much unexpected.
She was pregnant.
He was going to be a father.
But as he looked at Buffy now, he knew he already was. And he knew that he was about to break her heart. He stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. "Buffy, we need to talk."
Buffy jumped, clearly unaware that he had even come into the room. "You scared me."
"Where were you just now?" Giles sat next to her. She had dark circles under her eyes and up close, he could smell cigarette smoke and alcohol on her clothing. "Oh, Buffy, tell me that you didn't get drunk again."
"Okay. I didn't get drunk again." She said it quickly, staring down at the floor.
"Now tell me the truth." Giles leaned down a little so he could see her face. "And did you happen to turn inside out again?"
Buffy smiled, weakly, and nodded. "Maybe I'll learn my lesson one day."
"Maybe," Giles replied. "Did Willy give you alcohol? You are only twenty and-"
"And sixteen year olds can score kegs in this town so that doesn't matter." Buffy stood and went to hang her bag in the closet. "But that's not what you wanted to talk to me about, is it?"
Giles studied her closely. Her shoulders slumped, her eyes stayed out of focus, like looking at him too closely would hurt her, and he almost told her that it was nothing, that they'd discuss it another time. But he also knew that she wasn't his only charge anymore. He had a son or daughter on the way. "No, it's not."
Buffy almost asked him if he knew she'd been in Heaven, but she just couldn't do it. "You may as well say it, Mr. Something Face Man." Then she braced herself. Because in her world, men who wore 'Something Face' rarely said anything to make things easier for her.
Giles remained seated, clasping his hands in his lap. "Do you remember Olivia?"
"She came to visit me here in Sunnydale a while back. Before - before you returned. She- we -" he trailed off, looking up at Buffy. She was waiting patiently and he drew upon every ounce of strength that he had to finish the statement. "She's pregnant."
Buffy's eyes widened and she actually felt a small flicker of real emotion - happiness for Giles. But it was quickly replaced when she realized what else it would mean. She would no longer be the biggest priority in his life. "That- that's great, Giles," she finally managed to say. "I bet Olivia is really happy."
Giles frowned a little. Olivia was anything but happy. Olivia wanted him to return to England and be a part of their child's life. Olivia refused to even entertain the notion that she could move to America, to Sunnydale to be more exact, and live on the Hellmouth. Her exact words were colorful, and left no room for compromise. If he wanted to be a father, he would come. And he did want fatherhood - with every ounce of his heart. "She's surprised. We both are."
"Is she coming here?" She heard that her tone didn't hold any pretense of happiness for the couple.
Giles heard it as well and stood. "Buffy-"
"You'll get married, right? I mean, that's the right thing and you're all about the right thing." She turned and looked out the window. "You're going to tell me that you won't really get to be as involved with the Slaying stuff. I understand that. No big."
He crossed the room slowly and laid his hand on her arm. "I'm trying to tell you that I'll be leaving for England tomorrow. She won't come here. I- I have to go."
Buffy spun to face him, her eyes wide. "You're leaving?"
"I can't stay."
"You *have* to stay!" Buffy cried. Fear seized her heart and twisted it. "Giles, I need you. Me and Dawn -"
"You're an adult now, Buffy."
"And I'm still the Slayer! And you're still my Watcher! Don't you remember that I got you your job back? With retroactive pay? And you-"
Giles silenced her with a wave of his hand. "I hadn't anticipated this, Buffy. If you hadn't died, perhaps I would have been more careful, but I wasn't in the best frame of mine and this- this- it can't be undone. Olivia is going to have my child and I should be there with her."
"Make her come here!" Buffy shouted.
"And force a baby to grow up on the Hellmouth?" Giles asked.
"Why the hell not? You forced me to!"
Giles' stood up straighter, ready to fire off a comeback, but he remained calm. "What would you have me do?"
"Give it up. Just like I gave up a normal life. And I gave up Angel. And I gave up Riley."
"A child is nothing like a lover, Buffy."
"I'll never know, will I?" she demanded.
Giles reached for her, trying to comfort her in any way he could, but she sidestepped him. "Please, Buffy, try to understand."
"I understand. I understand that the Buffy Summers curse of running men out of town has now extended to you." She snatched up her jacket and shoved her arms into it. As she stormed out of the room, she added, "I won't even try to act shocked anymore."
Onto Part Two!