The Great Divide
Spike could hear Buffy calling him. He ran through the grey corridors, knowing by the tone of her cries that something was very wrong. Another turn down another hall and she was there, tears streaming down her cheeks. He ran towards her, she to him, but both stopped as they ran into an invisible wall. She pounded against it as he ran his hand around the edges trying to find a way through.
She pounded. Pounded.
Spike sat up on the couch. The pounding continued. He realized it was the door to his small basement apartment. He walked to the door and yelled, “Who's there! Trying to get some sodding sleep here!”
He knew the voice. He never thought he would hear it again.
“Spike! Let us in!'
Us? He opened the door. Dawn and Xander stood on the threshold. The boy had his arm around Dawn's shoulder in a very familiar way. “Hey, Spike.”
“Ah... hey?” Spike gestured for them to enter. “What are you doing here? And how did you find me anyway?” Their faces were solemn. “And where's Buffy?”
“Angel,” Dawn said. “Angel told us where you live. And Buffy...” Dawn's eyes filled with tears. “Buffy...”
“Buffy died, Spike.” Xander's voice broke. “She died, and this time she's not coming back.”
Dawn sat on the couch beside Xander, clutching a glass of water she wasn't drinking. Spike sat in his easy chair, his one concession to luxury. “Tell me,” he said.
“We thought you were dead. Buffy thought so. But right after...” Xander's jaw tightened at the memory. “Andrew told us that you had been in LA for years. That you had told him not to tell Buffy. How could you do that to her? All that time,and she needed someone to love.”
“Wouldn't have been me,” Spike muttered.
“It was you,” Dawn said. She dug through her purse. “Here. I found it in her things.” She handed Spike a chunky silver ring, shaped like a skull. “You gave her this.”
Spike turned the ring over in his fingers. “She kept it.”
“You didn't know my sister as well as you thought. Just because she told you she didn't love you doesn't mean that it was true. You should have come to her. You should have found her.”
“What happened?” Spike asked. His soul burned with the pain. He tried not to let it show. “How did she...?”
“She'd been depressed. Things were bad. She had all these Slayers to look after. Kids, really. And once the vampires came out in public and the lying bastards got some support...” Xander thought about what he'd said. “No offense intended.”
But Spike didn't rise to the bait.
“Anyway, she was lonely. She'd tried one relationship and that didn't work out. She thought you were dead and that Angel had gone bad.”
“We know, now. The Government was on her case and she and Giles didn't really get along. She thought he was always taking Faith's side in things. And then we...” He squeezed Dawn's hand. “She said she was happy for us, but I know it freaked her out. There was so much pressure.”
“We were in Washington State by then,” Dawn interjected. “One of the girl's family had a big place in the Cascades and Buffy wanted to come back to the US. But that didn't help. One day she went out walking. She never came back.”
“We found her at the base of a cliff.”
Spike looked at them, anger blazing in his eyes. “Buffy wouldn't. Something happened. Someone pushed her.”
“I want to believe that.” Dawn wiped tears from her eyes. “But she was alone. She didn't tell anyone where she was going. Everyone was with someone else.”
“So,” Spike said. “It wasn't one of you lot. It was something else. She found a demon or something.”
“Maybe.” Xander shook his head. “We couldn't find evidence that anyone or anything had been with her. But if it makes you feel better, it doesn't hurt to think that.”
Spike stared at the ring in his palm. “She's really gone.” He looked up. “Willow...”
“Couldn't do anything. I don't think she would if she could. Not after last time.” Xander got up and helped Dawn off the couch. “Look, man. We just wanted to let you know in person. Maybe I was never your best friend, but I know what you did that day in Sunnydale.”
Dawn gave Spike a hug. “I'm sorry for all the time we lost. Maybe we can keep in touch.” She took a small piece of paper from her pocket. “This is my number at the compound. Call me anytime.”
“Sure.” He walked them the few steps to the apartment door. He was so numb he barely registered that they'd left. This seemed to much more surreal than his dream of Buffy. If only that had been the reality. An invisible wall he could find a way through. But this...
“I can't believe they think that.” Buffy tossed her blonde hair over her shoulder and crossed her legs, balanced on the sofa arm. “I would never jump. Well, okay, once, but that was to save the world, not because I was bummed out. Which I was. Which is beside the point. I was pushed.”
“By whom, love?” Spike sat on his comfy chair, leaning back with a cigarette in his hand. Which was odd, because he knew he'd quit smoking. Did he even have a fag in the apartment?
“Whom? Isn't that who?”
“Nope. Whom. So, who did my girl in?”
“I'm not your... sorry, force of habit. I don't know. I was sitting on a rock, thinking about how much my life sucked, when someone pushed me from behind. Didn't see them, and they didn't say anything. Then whoosh, splat, no more Buffy.” Something started ringing, and she pulled a cellphone out of her pocket and handed it towards Spike. “It's probably for you.”
He woke to the sound of his phone ringing.
“Angel?” he said. “I know. Yeah, I guess I could use someone to talk to about it, even if it's you. Meet me at the Cock and Bull at nine.”
The Cock and Bull was a hole in the wall, some Californian's idea of what an English pub should be. It wasn't much of a taste of home, and Spike knew that Angel would have preferred Flannery's. That's why he always picked it.
But this evening, the bad lighting and cheap ale suited his mood.
“So, you don't think she'd do such a thing.”
Angel rolled the whiskey in the bottom of his glass. “The Buffy I knew wouldn't, not in a million years. I've never known anyone so full of life.”
“I've seen her hit rock bottom, after Willow brought her back. But I don't believe it either.”
“I didn't say that.” Angel downed the amber liquid. “I said the Buffy I knew. But I haven't seen her in a very long time. If Giles, if Dawn could believe it, then I don't know...”
“I do.” Spike looked down at his ale. “Angel, have you been having any... Have you been dreaming about her.”
“Of course I have.”
Spike's head shot up. “You have?”
“I dream about Buffy, about Cordy, even about Darla. It's natural, to dream about the ones we've loved, especially when they're gone. I dream about the good times, about what could have been. I gather you've been dreaming about her too?”
“Yeah, but it's not like that. These dreams are so vivid, it's like she's in the room with me. Like she isn't gone at all.”
“Wishful thinking. You dreamed about her before, didn't you?”
“Not like this.” He noticed the ring on Angel's pinky finger. “That's the ring you gave her, isn't it?”
Angel twisted it with his other hand. “The claddagh. Dawn gave it to me.”
Spike pulled the skull from his pocket. “This one too. I gave it to Buffy a long time ago.” He closed his fingers over it, holding it tight. “It's all we have left of her.”
“That and a few dreams.”
“It's not enough,” Spike said.
“No. It's not.”
Spike sat on the edge of Sam Spade's desk, while Buffy in her Mary Astor suit sat in the office chair. “I think I know why I'm here. I need you to find out who killed me.”
“Or do I need to believe someone killed you because I can't face the idea that you jumped?”
She pulled a handkerchief from her pocket book and dabbed at the corner of her eye. “You don't believe I'm real, do you?”
“I think Angel's right. I think I want this to be real, but it's really just me working out my thoughts and feelings through dreams.”
“Sod that,” Buffy said.
“Don't be silly. Okay, answer this. How come you dreamed about me being trapped before Dawn and Xander came and told you I'd died? Hmm?”
“Piffle.” She got up and walked around the office. “And why this scenario? You don't even like The Maltese Falcon. You think it's too talky. I used to watch it with Mom. She loved old movies.”
“I knew that.”
“No, you didn't. I never told you. This isn't just a dream.”
Spike pulled a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and shook one out. Lighting it, he said, “You aren't a ghost. I've been a ghost.”
“Am too,” she said. “Just because you don't know I'm around you all the time doesn't mean I'm not. I'm getting tired of trying to get your attention. The only time I can slip in so you can see me is when you're asleep.”
“I used to be able to move cups, write on shower stalls and such. I haven't felt so much as a cold spot in my apartment. And if this is real, why aren't you surprised when I say I was a ghost?”
“Because I saw you dying in the cavern. And somehow you came back. Heck, it's more likely I'm alive and dreaming about you. But I know that's not true.”
Spike rose from the desk and stood in front of her. “If you were really Buffy, you sure as hell wouldn't be haunting my dreams. You'd be in heaven. Just like last time.”
“Well,” Buffy took a step closer towards him. “Unlike last time, I was pushed. And I think I can't leave until I find out who did it.”
“We're talking in circles, Slayer.”
“You're right.” She grabbed hold of his suspenders and pulled him towards her, catching his mouth in a deep, heartfelt kiss. When she finally pulled away, he stared down at her, his expression shocked. “Now tell me that wasn't real.”
“I'm sorry, Dawn's not here. Who is this?” Giles thought he knew the voice on the other end of the line. “Is this Spike?”
“Got it in one, Rupert. I need to ask you something.”
“Spike, I'm sorry. I know we've had our differences...”
“You tried to have me staked.”
Giles sighed. “Be that as it may, the circumstances of Buffy's death have come as a great shock to all of us. I wanted to let you know that I'm sorry for your loss. I know that you loved her.”
“More than anything. But I didn't call for sympathy. Dawn said that everyone there was accounted for. But did anything else out of the ordinary, any little thing, happen that day? Anything you can think of.”
“I understand, Spike. You're looking for an explanation. We've all tried. But really, the thought that any of us could harm her is incomprehensible.”
“Even Faith?” he asked. “Dawn mentioned her.”
“Faith was with me. There was nothing. Faith and I were leading the girls in a training session in the yard. Andrew was in the kitchen baking. I know he was there, because Xander and Dawn were in the parlour and could hear him dropping pans and cursing. Young Henry called and interrupted me to say he wouldn't be coming up after all.”
“Henry Willmington. He was a young watcher-in-training who managed to escape the First and had recently contacted me about helping with the slayers. Apparently he was offered a position with a private organization doing charity work and decided that his talents could best be served there.”
“But he knew where you were.”
“Of course. I had given him directions. A shame, because he'd seemed quite eager to help us.”
“Did he say who he was working for instead?”
“No, but... Spike, I've known Henry since he was a child. His parents were both watchers.”
“Right. Well, thanks Rupert. When you next see Dawn, tell her I'll be in touch.”
Spike hung up the phone. That one stranger knew where to find Buffy, but hadn't surfaced when he was supposed to meet her the day she died seemed more like coincidence to him than he cared for.
She was cuddled up next to him on the couch. “Sure,” she said. “Giles friend's son. He was supposed to come and help us, but he canceled.”
“Which is exactly what Giles told me when I called.”
She whacked him on the chest. “Don't start that again.” She shifted and put her head on his shoulder. “It's funny. He called Giles out of the blue; Giles thought he'd died when the other watchers were attacked.”
“So coming to help you was his idea.”
“And then he was the one who changed his mind.”
“And do you find that at all suspicious?”
Spike picked up a bottle of the good stuff on the way to Angel's place. Since Buffy's death, their usual rivalry had been replaced by a camaraderie of grief. He figured that Angel, with at least some background in detective work, might know a place to start in tracking down Willmington. If the watcher wannabe had anything to do with what had happened to Buffy, then Spike planned on dealing with him, soul or not.
But Angel wasn't alone. He was standing in the lobby of his reclaimed hotel, talking to a young man.
“Hey, Spike. Meet a friend of Giles. Henry, this is Spike. Spike, meet...”
“Henry Willmington.” Spike took the young man's hand, then spun him around until Spike's arm was tight around Willmington's neck. A stake fell out of the man's coat sleeve and fell to the floor. “I suppose that was for Angel?”
“Angelus,” the young Brit spat out. “He can't fool me.”
“What the hell is going on?” Angel asked.
“Well,” Spike answered, tightening his grip as Henry started choking, “I'm assuming he was about to stake you, then probably come after me.”
“I'm assuming because he's from a long line of watchers, and we're from a long line of Big Bads. No, my question is, why did he murder Buffy?”
Angel's eyes glowed and his forehead morphed, as he lunged at the young man in Spike's grasp.
The human struggled, his eyes wide with fear.
“Wait a tick, Angel. I want to know his reasons. Then you can kill him.”
Angel pulled back, barely containing his rage. “Are you sure?” he asked, his voice guttural.
“Pretty sure.” He let go of Henry's throat, but pulled the boy’s hands behind his back. “Talk.”
“No, I didn't. I...” Spike pulled up on his arms in a painful yank.
“All right! I didn't mean to. It was...”
“If you say an accident,” Angel growled, “I'll rip your throat out.”
“I saw her sitting there. I pushed her over. But I didn't mean to. I just got so angry, knowing because of her the watchers' council was gone. That my parents were dead.”
“That wasn't her fault,” Spike said, yanking his arms higher.
“It was! Because of her resurrection, the First rose. Because she turned all those girls into Slayers, the council became redundant.”
“Because she took away your power. Because those girls could decide their lives for themselves.”
“No. No... It wasn't like that.”
“But it wasn't spur of the moment,” Spike continued. “You called Giles to say you wouldn't be coming, but you really did show up. You snuck onto the property and followed Buffy up to the ridge. You waited until she was deep in thought and pushed her. Isn't that right? You planned to kill her and then you murdered her.”
The young man was pale with fear. Two of the most dangerous vampires in history were ready to destroy him, and he was sure they would. “Please! Don't kill me! I'm sorry!”
“Sorry!” Angel's fangs grazed the side of Henry's throat.
“Wait, Angel,” Spike said with regret. “We can't just kill him, much as I'm longing to. Buffy wouldn't want it.”
Angel stepped away. “No, I guess she wouldn't.”
“Not for your sake, mind you,” Spike said to Henry, relaxing his grip. “For the sake of our souls.”
Henry had been praying for that ease of tension. He pulled a hunting knife from a sheath on his belt and lunged at Angel, cutting him across the chest. Spike grabbed at Henry's neck, snapping it as the boy fell to the ground. “Then again, she just might agree.”
“Did you mean to kill him?” Buffy asked.
“It was a snap decision.”
“That's terrible!” but she giggled as she rolled on top of him. “Hey, look. We finally made it to the bed.”
“I know this isn't real,” Spike said, pushing back her hair and staring up into her eyes. “But you are so bloody beautiful.”
“I told you,” she said, “I am real. This is real.” She positioned herself, and leaned down to whisper in his ear, “You know this is real.”
As they made love slowly, all his senses, all his emotions, screamed that it was.
Hours later, as she lay curled next to him, her hair fanned across his chest, her eyes filled with tears. “Thank you, Spike. Thank you for setting me free.”
“I can't. It's time to go. But I have to tell you one thing first, and you have to believe me. I'll never really be at peace if you don't believe me.”
“Tell me. I'll believe you.”
“I love you, Spike.”
Whether he awoke then, or whether he had ever been asleep, he couldn't tell. One moment she was clutching his hand, and the next she just wasn't there.
But he knew she wasn't coming back. And he knew one other thing.
“I believe you.”