"Good heavens, what happened? It looks like the apocalypse out there!" The voice rang out through the house, sending the occupants scrambling. Dawn warned Buffy to stay in the kitchen with a stern finger pointing.
"Mom! So glad you're back!" Dawn said cheerfully, and Buffy could hear her guiding their mom to the living room. "Come sit down, take a break, you must be exhausted!" She longed to run after them and throw herself into her mom's arms, but they'd agreed to break it to the older woman gently. Buffy sat on the edge of her seat, poised to run.
Spike squatted in front of her. "Just a mo', alright? Let us do this slowly". She nodded tersely and he left.
In the other room, her mom was not being fooled. "Okay, young lady, what is going on? And why aren't you in school?"
Spike's voice rumbled through the house. "Hallo, Joyce. Been a bit crazy 'round here in your absence. Come sit, I'll fill you in".
Buffy was too on edge to listen any longer. She stood up and paced, suddenly angry again. Why couldn't she do what she wanted? She was the one who'd been dead. She should be the one being mollycoddled.
Her anger fell away as soon as she saw her mom enter the kitchen. "Mommy!" she cried out, and flung herself into her mother's arms.
"Buffy?" Joyce said hoarsely. "Really?"
She nodded against her neck. "Really. Crazy, isn't it?" The two of them were crying, sobbing together.
"Oh, my baby. I can't believe it! You're…" She leaned back and looked into her daughter's face. "I love you. I didn't get a chance to say it before, and… I love you so much!"
"I love you too, Mom. I missed you". Joyce's tears, which had begun to dry up, began in earnest once more.
When they'd subsided, they sat at the table, Dawn and Spike joining them.
"This is… you'd think nothing would surprise me anymore, after living in Sunnydale so long," Joyce said, smiling as she wiped her face.
"T'was a bit of a shock to all of us. Not least of all Buffy," Spike gave her a wry half-smile. She returned it.
Joyce's hand flew to her mouth. "Oh! But the house! And the other… what are we going to do?" She took Buffy's hand. "What do you want to do?"
"Everybody keeps asking me that," Buffy muttered. "How am I supposed to decide? I'm too busy trying to get used to being alive all over again".
Her mother was apologetic. "Of course dear. It's fine. We'll just… I'm sure we can work it out later. Tomorrow morning, maybe".
Buffy didn't answer.
She woke to the sound of voices. She'd faded after breakfast and the reunion with her mom, falling more and more silent until the others had sent her to bed.
"Sleep. You need your rest after… that," her mom had finished lamely.
"Yeah. 'Cause being dead was such hard work. You'd think I'd feel plenty rested," Buffy had tried half-heartedly, but Spike had pinned her with a look.
"Bit traumatic, luv. Especially with all the chaos last night. Come on". And he'd taken her hand and led her back to bed. "You want me to stay?"
Yes. But she hadn't wanted to be needy either. She'd shrugged. He'd climbed into bed with her, making her feel safe once more.
Spike must have gotten up at some point, because now he wasn't here. She looked at the clock. It was early afternoon. The voices below resolved into those of Tara and Willow. She looked out her window to see them standing in front. Spike must have been on the porch, in the shadows, because she could only hear him.
"That's the thing about magic, Red. There are always consequences," he was growling.
Tara twisted her hands nervously, but Willow was defiant. "We saved her from hell, Spike". Buffy held her breath, but he didn't contradict her. "Besides, I'd think you of all people would be glad of what I've done".
"If you thought that, you would have told me. But you didn't. Because you knew. Knew she might come back wrong. Knew you might have to… Ah, sod this. Try to talk some sense into her, Glinda. Before this power trip she's on bites her – and the rest of us – in the arse".
Tara was staring at Willow, obviously not disagreeing with him, but the redhead wasn't paying any attention. "You know Spike, I think maybe it's time for you to leave. Buffy's here to protect Dawn now. You're not needed anymore".
"Not your place to decide, witch".
Buffy could feel the tension escalating even from where she stood. "We're her real friends Spike. You're just convenient".
"Really". The sarcasm rolled off of him. "Real friends might know a bit more about her. What happened to her".
She flew down the stairs as she heard Willow's reply. "You know, I told you I'd hex you if you…" When she wrenched open the front door Willow was fairly crackling with power, dark intent obvious in her eyes, while Tara hung on her arm, trying to turn her away. Buffy inserted herself between the two combatants.
"You touch Spike, I'll kill you," she hissed, white hot fury blinding her to anything but the witch in front of her. "You bitch. Playing with my life like it's just another toy. Do you know what you've done?"
Willow paled and backed away as Buffy advanced, intent on damaging the woman in front of her. "Buffy, I'm sorry, I… It's okay, I didn't mean it".
But Buffy didn't back down. She could hear Tara stuttering something out, feel Spike's grip on her arm. She shook him off. "You'd do better to -". She was cut off as Spike spun her around. "What?" she growled at him.
"Sweetheart. I'm okay. It's all okay. Relax," he said.
The fury whipped itself even higher for a moment, and then burnt out, leaving nothing in its place. She slumped limply and Spike caught her before she hit the ground.
"She hates me," Willow whispered brokenly.
Spike eyed her. He wasn't sure what had just happened, but he wasn't going to be too fussed about anything that took the witch down a peg or two. She was getting downright dangerous.
Tara was trying to get something out. "H-her aura. It's… it changed. To p-pure b-b-black. That's not…"
"S'not right, I'm guessing," Spike said, tenderly holding the unconscious Slayer in his arms. He'd sensed something off about her, but it was gone now. "So, what? She come back wrong after all?"
Tara shook her head. "N-no… it's fading away, so... She was… really angry".
Spike couldn't help but snort. 'Really angry' didn't even begin to describe it. He'd been awed at first, thinking she cared for him so deeply, but it had been something else entirely. Some level of rage that she couldn't control. Something that felt… demonic.
"Wouldn't take it too personally, Red," he said. "She's been through a hell of a time. Don't think she was quite herself".
The shaken witch seemed buoyed by that. "Right. With the… being in hell. Naturally". Spike pressed his lips together, forcing his tongue still. He'd promised.
Buffy began to stir in his arms. "Let's take her in," he said, tacitly inviting the others inside. Her eyes sprang open as he sat on the couch, holding her to his chest.
Lifting her head, she said, "What just happened?"
"You… you don't remember?" Willow asked hopefully.
Buffy pulled away from Spike, sitting next to him so she could look at her friend. "You… were arguing with Spike. Threatening him," she said blackly, and the others inhaled, waiting to see if she became angry again. She didn't. "And then… I don't really remember. I think I got mad," she shrugged, seemingly uncaring once more.
"Little bit," Willow said. "But not a big deal. You kinda fainted. Probably from all the… excitement… from the past day. Lot to handle".
Buffy frowned slightly. "Yeah, I guess". She was quiet now, and Spike wasn't sure that he liked Buffy this way any better. She'd been through too much, his girl, and she wasn't okay.
He'd planned on… taking care of things. Soon. But there was no way he could leave her, not like this.
"You know, it's eerie how quickly this town cleans up after a disaster," Dawn said, carrying in groceries. "You wouldn't know Hellions had been tearing the place up less than 24 hours ago". She cast her eyes to the movie the others were watching. "Aw, come on, not ice skating movies! We didn't miss her that much!" she teased, winking at Buffy.
Buffy smiled faintly, and Dawn came over. "We stocked up on all your favorites – you want ice cream or cookies?" Buffy shrugged, dampening Dawn's obvious good mood. The Slayer forced herself to fake enthusiasm for her sister's sake. She was obviously trying hard to please her.
"You get any Chunky Monkey?"
Dawn smiled once more and brought her a carton and a spoon. "You'll have to fight her for it," she told the others. "We only got one".
Tara and Willow smiled indulgently. "Nah, we're good. We had some just last week," Willow said glibly. "Buffy, not so recently".
Buffy closed her eyes, trying to press back the anger that was threatening to overtake her. What was the matter with her?
You knew she might come back wrong.
Was Spike right? Was something wrong with her? She pushed down the worry and the fear, along with the anger. Stay numb. Much safer. Much less painful.
Staying numb meant not caring much when Dawn and her mom joined her on the couch, snuggling on either side of her. She'd once enjoyed this tremendously. Now…
She ate the ice cream mechanically, faking delight in it and the movie, the company of her loved ones. The feeling of apathy was dragging her down into exhaustion again.
When Xander burst through the front door with Anya, both of them chattering excitedly, her entire body tensed. She wanted to run away, hide in her room, the door shut, Spike protecting her from the toomuch world.
The vampire was out though, on business. Whatever the hell that meant.
Xander and Anya settled themselves on the floor, falling relatively silent to watch the end of the movie with them. When it was over, Xander said, "So, Buff, how's the land of the living treating you?"
"Great!" she said. "All… living… and stuff". She couldn't find it in herself to come up with something clever.
Anya poked Xander in the ribs and he held out a small box. "We got you a present," he explained.
"A welcome back to not being dead gift!" Anya added perkily.
Buffy took it and opened it quietly, then smiled, trying to show gratitude. "Thanks! A cell phone!"
"Yuh-huh, we all have one now. Just like we promised. Next thing on the list is robot doubles for all," Dawn said.
"And all our phone numbers are already programmed in, so you don't have to memorize them. Now, if you have a problem slaying, all you have to do is flip open your phone and call!" Xander told her.
"And we'll come running!" Willow added.
Of course. Because…
"All that matters is I keep slaying," Buffy spat, her voice rising as the black rage overtook her. "That's why you wanted me back, isn't it?" she yelled. "To protect you? Save you, because you're too weak and pathetic to save yourselves? Tell me, is that why you dragged me back to this hell?" She was screaming now, her voice echoing off the walls, the others staring at her wide-eyed.
Xander reached out to touch her arm. She back-handed him, sending him flying across the room, where he crumpled to the ground. "Don't touch me, you pathetic worms," she hissed.
"Buffy!" her mother said sternly, but she ignored her, pushing her roughly back onto the couch without even a glance.
"Do something!" Dawn cried in the background. Willow and Tara joined hands, beginning to chant, but Buffy whirled on them.
"Don't. I warned you. No more magic!" They fell silent, watching her apprehensively. Buffy stood there, panting with the force of her emotion, her entire body strung out, glaring at the witches with a murderous rage.
And then it passed. She put her hand to her forehead. "I'm not… Where? Xander?" she said helplessly.
"I think … Buffy…" her mom tried. "Let's get you… up to bed".
"No!" She shook her head wildly. "I…" She turned to Willow, panicking. "What did you do to me?"
"I… I don't know Buffy. But we'll figure it out, okay? We'll fix it!"
Buffy stared at her uncomprehendingly, then slumped back onto the couch. "I came back wrong, didn't I?"
Spike felt as though he were being torn in two, hearing the agony in the Slayer's question, hidden beneath the exhaustion and fear. His earlier desire to rip Willow's throat out returned in full. He'd walked in in time to hear her tirade, see Buffy deflate and slump on the couch.
He'd gone out to make a call to the Watcher, not wanting Buffy to overhear his concerns, but she'd figured it out anyway.
Giles had already heard about Buffy's resurrection, Willow bursting with pride at the news, but he hadn't been in a rush to return to Sunnyhell until Spike had called him. "Get your bloody arse on the first plane here," he'd said. "Girl needs help, and it's not going to wait on you sorting your affairs out. Willow buggered things up". And Giles had promised. Spike didn't think he could get here too soon.
He shook his head at the frozen tableau. Nobody was moving, all of them afraid to answer Buffy's question.
"You didn't come back wrong, luv," he told Buffy, walking quickly to her and taking her hand. "S'only your emotions getting settled. Not surprising after all you've been through".
He shot the others a look, warning them not to upset Buffy further, and they played along, adding their agreement to his statement.
"I get so angry," she whispered to him as he drew her close, her voice fearful. "I don't know why".
"Have every right to be, don't you?" he reminded her quietly, his need to comfort her causing all else to fade away until there was nothing in the room but the two of them and this moment.
"But I can't control it," she whimpered.
"Give it time," Spike lied. He was fairly certain it was only going to get worse. "You want to go take it out on some nasties?" He didn't know if more violence would work it out of her system, or bring forth the demon he was sure he'd felt inside of her. But they had to try something. She nodded. "Go get dressed for it," he said.
When she went upstairs, he turned to the others. "You'd better figure out how to fix this," he snarled, and then went outside to wait for her on the front porch step, head held in his hands as he cried silently, aching with the fear that he was going to lose her all over again.
He could feel Dawn's approach. "What's wrong with her?" she asked.
"I don't know Little Bit. Resurrection – not something to mess with," he said, wiping his eyes. "We'll work it out, though, don't you worry".
"I think I'm well past not worrying," she replied ruefully. He nodded in acknowledgement. "Spike. Put the ring on. Okay? In case… she decides to take it out on you". He was going to argue, but her scared, pleading eyes convinced him otherwise.
Taking the chain off his neck, he answered, "Good idea, sweet thing. Got to make sure I make it back to my Niblet, yeah?" He pulled her into a one-armed hug and she pressed into him, seeking comfort.
"You promised. 'Til the end of the world".
"So I did. So I did".
He might have made the wrong call. With every kill she was becoming more brutal, more bloodthirsty. "Let's call it a night, shall we pet? Think we got them all," he said to the gore-covered creature next to him. She grunted and hurled her axe at a tree.
"No. This is good. What I was meant to do. Slayer. Killer".
He took a breath. "Pretty sure you've killed the hell out of everything in Sunnydale already, luv. Time to go get some rest. Calm down a bit".
"I don't feel like calming down right now," she grunted, then a sly look passed over her face. Her body shifted, beckoning to him. "Can do other things to get this energy out".
Christ. The temptation. She licked her lips and he forced himself backwards, away from her. "Let's get you home to your mum, luv, she's probably missing you. And bed. Definitely need to go to bed". He was losing his cool, babbling as he backed away.
She cocked her head and her eyes grew lidded. "Anxious for bed are we?" She began to stalk towards him, and his chest heaved, panic making him pant. She wouldn't really want this, he told himself. Can't let her do this. Hardest bloody order of his life.
"Don't need to wait. You could fuck me right here. I know you want to, vampire. Want you to do it too. Want you so bad, my pussy's dripping and aching for you. Hasn't had any cock since yours. You could spread me open, make me yours again".
He'd forgotten to keep moving and she was flush against him now, trying to press him down to the ground with a hand on his shoulder. Bloody hell. This was retribution for all his sins. And if he let her… the list of trespasses would only get longer, his damnation more certain.
He had to get through to Buffy.
Spike stood firm, took her face in his hands and stared into her eyes, letting the strength of his love show through. "Buffy. Sweetheart. This is not really what you want. Let it go".
The intensity of his emotion must have reached her, because she blinked and seemed to come back to herself with a shudder. "Oh, God, Spike! I can't… Make it stop!"
"We will. I promise," he said fiercely. "Whatever it takes".
Even if it meant sending her back to Heaven.