Charles Edward Montague
Buffy lurched upright, glancing wildly around the darkened room. Reaching out for Spike she encountered nothing but the tangled, empty sheets of her bed. The cool, silent stillness that enveloped her jarred discordantly with the sounds and images and sensations that continued to echo through her mind. She lifted her shaking hands to her unblemished neck, then to her face, flinching as the still tender burn on her left palm pressed against her damp, salty cheeks and cold, harsh reality struck her again.
Taking a deep shuddering breath, she felt the horror of tonight’s nightmare wash over her. In the early morning half light of her room, Buffy moaned quietly as the agony of her loss hit her once more, this time warped by a dream-twist too soul destroying for her conscious mind to contemplate. The emotional pain rolled through her body, once again leaving her weak and nauseous.
Her heart still racing with fear-tainted adrenalin and despair, Buffy swung her legs over the edge of the bed. Snatching up her robe she threw it on, quickly opened her door and stumbled along the hallway towards the wood panelled bathroom, sank to the floor beside the toilet and lifted the seat.
Minutes later she pushed her hair back from her damp brow and sat up. She pulled herself shakily to her bare feet and wrapped one arm around her still roiling stomach as she reached out to flush the toilet. This was the tenth morning in a row that she had awoken from the endless nightmares to nausea so strong that she had had to hastily dash along the hall to the high-ceilinged bathroom and lean over the old-fashioned porcelain bowl to expel the meagre remains of the previous evening’s meal.
After brushing her teeth and rinsing her face, Buffy treaded softly back down the passage to her bedroom, wary of waking either Dawn or Willow. Five weeks had passed since the collapse of Sunnydale, and three weeks since their relocation to England. She knew that both her sister and best friend were worried about her, but despite their concern she was unable, and unwilling, to shake off the sense of loss and loneliness that had settled over her as soon as their plane had taken off from LAX, twelve days after Sunnydale’s collapse.
Her depression and listlessness contrasted sharply with her initial post apocalypse euphoria. Standing on the edge of the crater that day, while the undeniable evidence of loss and desolation confronted her like clouds of settling dust, Buffy had felt full of a sense of lightness and wellbeing. Even at the time, she was aware that these emotions were utterly out of sync with how she should have been feeling. While her mind was screaming at her that she’d just lost her beloved, her heart just refused to let go of the amazing sense of love and purpose she’d tapped into down in that cavern with Spike.
Leaving him behind should have been the hardest thing she’d ever had to do in her life – the very thought of his final death more devastating to her than sending Angel into Acathla’s Hell, more terrifying than leaping from Glory’s tower. Yet that hadn’t been how she’d felt at the time.
When she’d turned away from Spike and dashed up the crumbling stairs and through the ruined corridors of Sunnydale High, she had still been awash with that awesome sense of total faith and optimism that had overwhelmed her as she held his hand. And as she’d run through the devastation, faster than she had ever run before, leaping higher and further than she would have ever believed possible, the strength and agility of her body had left her feeling invincible, and tingly all over. Even seeing the disintegrating ruins of Sunnydale falling spectacularly into the abyss as she clung to the roof of the bus hadn’t dimmed that warm inner glow.
So minutes later, contemplating her future while staring at the remains of her past, Buffy still felt weirdly full of optimism and excitement. As Dawn asked her what she was going to do next, Buffy had wrapped her arms around her heated body and smiled in anticipation. She’d felt giddy and impatient and utterly on edge, waiting for her life to begin again. The thought hadn’t even really registered in her brain yet, but in her heart she knew. She was waiting for Spike to come for her.
Five weeks down the road, it seemed crazy to Buffy that she had felt like that. Sure, love makes you do the wacky, but that was truly insane. She couldn’t figure out, even now, what had made her feel so confident that Spike would walk out of there, take her in his arms and go all An Officer and A Gentleman on her. After all, look at her track record. Buffy, love and happy endings just didn’t go together.
Okay so Spike was the one who swore he’d never leave her, but no matter how cocky and Big Bad, you just can’t talk your way out of a whole load of burning, mystical sunlight and endless tons of heavy, collapsing Hellmouth can you?
Maybe it had simply been the adrenaline rush of another averted apocalypse and the love hormones finally set loose around her body. It definitely had something to do with that incredible moment she and Spike had shared down in the Hellmouth. But for whatever reason, as she’d stood there smiling sweetly, Buffy and reality hadn’t even been in the same time zone.
Well, it sure would have been nice to feel even an ounce of that happiness now. Instead, over the next few days and weeks, the exhilaration had slowly and painfully seeped out of her, leaving her feeling weak, miserable and heartbroken.
Wearily, Buffy sank back onto her bed. She knew that the range of symptoms she’d been experiencing – insomnia, general exhaustion, irritability, frustration, overwhelming feelings of worthlessness and guilt, and now nausea – reflected her very real and profound sense of grief over Spike’s death.
What’s more, the nightly replays of what had happened that day had grown steadily worse over the last month, until they’d taken on the nightmare quality of tonight’s little feature.
At first the dreams had merely been replays, faithful recreations of that final twenty-four hours. A rerun of their precious last night together and the love and forgiveness they’d found in each others arms and bodies, the horror and seeming hopelessness of the battle down in the Hellmouth and Spike’s stoic heroism as the amulet began to activate. Followed by the big finish, the incredible feeling of warmth and love she’d experienced while holding his hand, her whispered admission of her love and his brave determination to finish the job as he sent Buffy out to safety.
In the beginning, the dreams had filled her with a sense of hope and optimism. She had the first one at the little pit stop of a motor inn they’d pulled into just east of the remains of Sunnydale along the 101.
Giles had dropped the battered bus full of weary warriors at the shabby lodgings and left them there to sort themselves out while he’d driven along the winding coast road to the nearest mid sized town. In the back seat of the rusty old car he’d managed to lease from the nearby garage lay a badly injured Robin, propped up by Faith.
By the time Giles returned from his hospital run, the remaining survivors had sorted themselves out, dished out rooms, showered and changed, and ordered and consumed food from the all-night diner next door. Andrew and the baby slayers had been sitting around in small groups, celebrating their victory, recounting their actions and mourning their losses when Giles arrived. Off to one side Buffy had sat with Willow, Xander and Dawn, too wired to pay more than fleeting attention to their moods.
Willow’s buzz had registered with the equally upbeat slayer, as she chattered on excitedly about her big scythe spell and the awesome magick download still zapping through her veins. Buffy had smiled vaguely and nodded at what she thought were the appropriate times. But her interest, after the fact, didn’t really go much deeper than that.
Xander and Dawn had been weird. They’d sat side by side, his arm wrapped around her shoulder, as she leaned into him, both unusually quiet and withdrawn. Exhaustion, sorrow and regret were etched into their weary faces but Buffy was too high from her Spike connection to wonder why. Her whole body had still felt warm and tingly and strong, totally whole and healed except for the burn on her left palm. When she’d looked down at it, the skin was red and blistered, and still radiating heat. Strangely, it hadn’t really hurt though.
A few hours later, Giles had slid into the booth next to her and informed them of Robin’s progress. The doctors had taken him straight through to surgery, where they’d found that the wound had missed all of his internal organs and the repair was a reasonably straightforward matter. While Robin had been out of danger, Faith had nevertheless decided to stick around and keep him company. Buffy had grinned as she’d wondered how much rest he would get.
“Buffy, I must say, once again I am amazed and humbled by your skill and dedication. I should never have doubted you.” Giles’ quiet confession had been accompanied by an awkward pat on her back.
“I couldn’t be more proud of you. Faith has already given me her account of the events that occurred during the final battle, but when you feel ready, I should like to hear your version, particularly Spike’s role in the destruction of the Turok Han and ultimately the Hellmouth itself. I know you were very close to him Buffy, and I’m sure you must feel devastated at his loss.”
Here Giles had hesitated, squeezing her gently on the shoulder.
“Just know, that we will honour his actions. If there is anything I can do…”
Frowning, Buffy had turned towards him slowly, his words echoing in her head.
“Huh? I mean thanks for the kudos Giles, but I don’t really get what you mean with all the heavy sympathy. And as for Spike, well you can throw him some honourage yourself when he turns up later,” Buffy had replied breezily.