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BtVs - Season 6 - Set during “After Life” A “What If” story, turning one of the pivotal moments the way it could have gone.
In the series, Buffy has been resurrected from the grave by Willow, Xander, Anya, and Tara. Shortly after Spike asks Buffy how long it was for her, the Scooby gang bursts in and Spike leaves. What if the Scoobies had not burst in, interrupting Spike and Buffy’s conversation?
(I am ignoring the “free gift with purchase” demon from the episode.)
I have boldly lifted bits of dialog from "After Life" and following episodes. These show up in red. Footnotes are at the end of each chapter.
For best impact, watch “Bargaining” parts 1 and 2 then watch “Afterlife” to where Dawn says, “I got the stuff.” Quickly stop the show, then read.
He gently took her hands in his.
“How long was I gone?” Buffy asked.
Spike’s words were quiet, careful. “147 days yesterday. 148 today. Except today doesn’t count, does it?” They both glanced at her damaged hands and back in each other’s eyes. “How long was it for you? Where you were?”
He nodded, understanding.
came in with her hands full of first aide materials. “I
got the stuff.”
Spike started to gently tend the tears across Buffy’s knuckles as Dawn stood awkwardly by. “Can I get or do anything?”
Spike saw Buffy flinch at this questioning as she stared at her hands in his. She’s so on edge, I’d better keep Dawn busy, he thought. “Yeah, why don’t you go up and air out your sister’s room?” He looked in the young girl’s eyes. “Change the sheets, make sure there’s no junk in the way,” he quirked his eyebrows for emphasis.
Dawn got it. The Buffybot charging equipment was in there, and the sheets must smell of machine oil. “I’ll do that. Call out if I’m needed, okay?” Dawn took another happy yet worried glance at her sister and headed upstairs.
Spike very professionally cleaned the wounds, picking out a few splinters of wood. “So it was longer?” he asked quietly, not wanting her to close up completely.
“Yeah. Actually, there was no time. It could have easily been forever.”
“Too bad. Things are easier to take when you know they'll end, aren’t they? I haven’t been to a hell dimension of late, but I do know a thing or two about torment.” [ii]
Buffy glanced up at him. “Who said I was in torment?” she breathed it so quietly, he was not sure what he heard at first.
“You weren’t? That’s good.” He tried to keep worry from showing, turning his attention back to her wounds. He wrapped her hands in clean gauze and then busied himself closing up the ointment and packages. In the silence he heard Dawn climb down to the turn of the stairs and sit down just out of sight.
“Spike. Who brought me back and why?”
“I don’t know…” he paused. “The rest of the Scoobies, must’ve been. Four people are needed for the really big spells to work. As for why, I don’t know, Buffy. I guess they thought you were in some hell dimension. You did leap into a door that was opening to one. They didn’t tell me what they had planned. I’m sure they didn’t tell Dawn, either. I knew nothing until I saw you.” Buffy saw a bit of an angry glint in his eye.
“Why would they tell you? They never have included you before… we never…”
“I worked fighting the good fight beside them all summer. I kept my promise and protected Dawn, as I will continue to, as long as you say.” There was a silence between them when Spike did nothing to encourage her to speak.
“Dawn says Giles is gone.”
“He took off this morning, from what Dawn tells me. They kept Giles and me both in the dark about their little plans. As soon as he was gone, they acted. I bet his plane hadn’t even landed in England yet. Neither one of us would've let them cast any spell around you.”
She couldn’t help but feel hurt. “You’re not glad to see me?”
“Oh, Buffy. I’m so very happy to see you and have you here I can’t express it.” He loves me still, Buffy realized and looked down at the bandages on her hands. Spike saw her panic and reined in his emotions. “Dawn, she feels that way too. But the concept of bringing you back feels wrong. I’ve… I’ve thought about it, about how it could be done. But I’d never have… your ending was...”
Glory is gone forever. The world was saved by you, again. Dawn was saved. We all
were. Plus, the thing about magic, there’s
always consequences.” [iii]
sat back on the couch, wrapping her arms around her waist, hiding the bandages,
and distancing herself. She gazed off into a place he could never imagine. Her
speech was quiet, yet steady. ”It was right, Spike. I
was happy. Wherever I… was, I was happy. At peace. I knew that everyone I
cared about was all right. I knew it. Time didn’t mean anything. Nothing had
form, but I was still me, you know. And I was warm. And
I was loved. And I was finished. Complete. I don’t understand theology, or
dimensions, any of it really, but I think I was in heaven. And now I’m not. I
was torn out of there. Pulled out…
by my friends. [iv]
“Suddenly, it was cold and dark. I had to hit and tear and dig. Fight for air. I saw my tombstone. I knew what had happened. The town was empty like the world had ended. Things were burning.” Buffy started sobbing great, wracking sobs.
Spike moved over beside her, took her in his arms, pulled her against his chest on the couch, and held her as Buffy gasped out her tale between sobs. “It was loud and dirty. Then there were demons. They tore me apart. I saw them. I had to hit and to kill with metal…”
Spike speculated the level of the sea must be dropping with the buckets of salt his love was spilling on his shirt. He gently stroked her hair. “Let it go. I’ve got you.”
“I saw… I saw my friends. Willow looked so tired. They were demanding and loud. They stood around me like... like I was unclean.” Her eyes were tight closed as tears welled out of them. “None of them was willing to touch me. They talked about me like I still wasn’t there.” Without being aware of it, Buffy had started pounding on Spike, punctuating her story with blows. “They were proud of what they had done. Expecting me to thank them.” She was punching, smacking, and striking out the anger she couldn’t express with words. “The demons came and I had to kill. I didn’t want to kill ever again. I was finished with that. I no longer had to be the Slayer.” There was a loud pop from Spike’s shoulder, Buffy’s eyes flew open, and she realized what she had been doing. She pulled back to find Spike’s eye swelling and blood trickling from a cut on his lip. “Oh God, Spike, … I...”
Spike just smiled. “It’s okay. I can take it and you need to let it out,” and drew her back to his arms. Buffy tried to pull away, but Spike just held her and murmured until she collapsed back into sobbing, just thumping on his chest now.
“The demons hurt my friends. They hit me, made me bleed. I had to kill several of them. My friends said I was normal because I killed.” She settled down, slipping inside his coat. “I went back up the tower. I was going to… to jump again. But Dawn followed me. It started falling. I had to save her. I couldn’t leave her again. She’s my sister, after all.”
Buffy’s voice trailed off and she fell into a deep sleep, under Spike’s coat, with her forehead against his chest, her arms folded between them, and her legs drawn up. In the quiet after Buffy’s emotional storm, Spike could hear Dawn crying upstairs.
After 20 minutes or so Dawn crept down, her eyes red-rimmed. “Do you need anything?” she whispered, calmly taking in her sister’s pose. Spike gave her a worn smile and pointed at the blanket that was just out of reach. Dawn shook it out and covered her sleeping sister.
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