A third thing that happened to make this story possible is that rebcake did an excellent beta, which improved this hastily-written tale no end.
I recommend reading or rereading Not Dead first, but if you don't, the basic premise is that it's been five years since Buffy's been missing presumed dead. Except Dawn knows she isn't missing presumed dead. Her sister is a vampire, and she's with Spike.
Autumn in New York was very different from autumn in Southern California. Like autumn in Chicago, where she’d lived for the first three years after Buffy’s … After. Here they had textbook autumn. Here, the air got crisp, the leaves of the deciduous trees turned a hundred exhilirating shades of yellow, brown, red, orange, and when the sunlight hit them, as it was doing now in Washington Square on a bright day in October, it was magical. Dawn squinted up into the overhead mass of illuminated color, from the bench that had the vantage she liked best: good trees, and the Washington arch on the right, and beyond the trees, the row of sedate old brick rowhouses that were right out of Edith Wharton and Henry James.
Magical, heh, Dawn thought. She could use the word magic now like everybody else used it. It was a metaphor, or a simile, or a sleight-of-hand trick, or it was something Harry Potter did. That was all. She’d left the world where magic was real, left it completely, and she wasn’t ever going to go back there.
She didn’t have to go back, to get this done. This was the paperwork she’d just taken out of her laptop bag, which had come from the lawyer in Sunnydale. Aunt Arlene had helped her find the lawyer, who’d made all the arrangements. She could just sign the papers and send them back via FedEx.
The papers that would declare that, after being missing for five years, her sister, Buffy Anne Summers, was dead.
Buffy had disappeared in early November, and each year since, Dawn had dreaded the return of the day. Dreaded it because it was horrible. And because she’d had to lie about it, lie to almost everyone, and could never tell how much more horrible to her the truth was. And because in fact her sister had not really disappeared, wasn’t really missing—not except right at first—but she was absolutely gone. More gone, somehow, than when she’d just died. When she was just deceased. Before Willow and the others went and brought her back, brought back that Buffy who was sad and unapproachable and full of dread and trouble, and who, in such a short time, had abandoned her again. Abandoned her in the worst way. Ripping from her everything that was Dawn’s—home on Revello, school and all her friends, the Scoobies, her town—and Spike. Spike who had looked after her and let her cry and cried with her.
And yeah, here she was almost five years later doing very well thank you, on the honor roll at NYU, soaking up all the wonderful fun of New York, and she had lots of people from high school and now here who loved her, and she had a home to go back to with Aunt Arlene in Evanston, and life was fantastic.
Except that her dead sister wouldn’t leave her alone.
Dawn shuffled through the sheaf of legal papers, looking for the little red stickies where she had to sign her name. It would be great, she thought, if these papers could do more than get the state of California to acknowledge that Buffy was dead. If by signing them she could get Buffy herself to realize that she was dead to her—that was what Dawn wished for. Then she’d just stop with the emails, and the text messages, and the attempts to trick her into answering her mobile—Dawn never answered calls from numbers she didn’t recognize. In the first year, she’d heard from Buffy all the time, like every day, How are you, are you OK, won’t you please just talk to me, just write me back. At first Dawn had responded—sometimes. She’d email back, I’m OK, don’t worry about me. Aunt Arlene’s OK. It’s fine. But after a while she didn’t even do that. What was the point? Every message from Buffy was just another piercing evocation of the fact that she’d left her behind. Anyway, there was no going back, not to any of it, not to when Buffy was alive, not to Sunnydale, not to Mom. It was all gone. All these attempts just felt to Dawn like another reminder that half her memories were a construct. She herself wasn’t even real.
Since that first year, Buffy had backed off some. She’d email once a month or so. Dawn mostly didn’t read what she wrote.
She signed the last line on the last form, and slotted the papers back into the FedEx envelope.
I know this is so hard for you, Dawnie, Aunt Arlene had emailed her that morning. Harder for you than for anyone. But maybe now you’ll be able to feel some closure. Closure is a silly word—nothing ever closes like that. But you can turn a corner. Everything’s in front of you.
Closure was a silly word, Dawn thought. She was more intent on getting the house on the market, and whether the renters would just buy it, and for how much. That was the kind of closing she could get interested in, the kind that would put money in her pocket. She might not be real, but NYU tuition was.
“Maybe if she sees me,” Buffy said. She was pacing the room, and Spike, in bed, was watching her pace, and wishing she’d stop. “It’s been such a long time, she’s got to be way more grown up. Anyway I need to see her. No matter what happens. I’ve waited long enough.”
“You want to go to New York, love?” Spike said. “We’ll go to New York.”
“Don’t you want to see her?”
“Course I do.”
“We should’ve done this already. Why haven’t we done this already? Years ago.”
“Because you thought it might’ve made it worse.”
“And you thought she’d tell on us.”
“Didn’t like to think so, but she was angry. She didn’t seem any less angry. Anger’s dangerous.”
“You thought she’d miss us, you said it would just take a little while before she’d come around. A little while!”
“Yeah, well … I was wrong.”
What she knew about Dawn, which wasn’t much, came from Angel. Angel didn’t hear from her very often, but she sent him perfunctory notes from time to time, so he’d been able to tell Buffy when Dawn had graduated from high school, and when she’d gone backpacking in Europe after that as a present from Aunt Arlene, and where she was now going to college. But Buffy was barely speaking to Angel, who had plenty of problems of his own. They’d never gone back to LA in the five years since. They’d been a lot of other places. Though Buffy kept talking about it, so far they hadn’t made a home. Every time it seemed like they’d found a city she might like to stay in, and begun to talk about finding a place to settle into, Buffy had found some excuse for moving on.
There was something about it, for all she talked of wanting a home, a home with him, that, Spike thought, put her off. Made her feel vulnerable, made her feel … feelings.
Right now they were in Berlin. They’d left North America shortly after the last time they’d seen Dawn. It seemed less risky, Spike figured, outside of the US, less chance that Willow and the Scoobies might twig to their existence in some deliberate or accidental way. They’d been round the world twice since Buffy was turned. They’d realized pretty soon that they didn’t know each other very well, and didn’t know how little they knew; it had been hard. They’d had some odd times, some uncomfortable times, some frightening times.
They’d done some slaying, but nothing very big or world-saving, because it would be suicide to get onto the radar of the Watcher’s Council. Often they quarreled—or, as Spike thought of it, she’d quarreled, because he never started it and was always glad to end it. She’d even walked out on him more than once, sometimes taking herself off for weeks at a time, not answering his calls, making him wait where he was for her to decide to find him again. Sometimes they’d worked straight jobs for something to do, for routine—he’d tended bar, she’d taught kickboxing and yoga at night at 24-hour gyms, in Hong Kong, in Tokyo, in Dubai, in Copenhagen. When they got bored or needed to move on, they quit. Spike had money, and could always get more; Buffy never asked about it.
The boredom was hard for her. She wasn’t used to it. Wasn’t used to being disconnected from all her people, existing outside of time. Not having a destiny. She didn’t talk much about that, per se. Still, Spike could guess, when she’d be abstracted and irritable, that she was missing those who had been her friends, whom she now had to fear. Missing the old life. Missing, sometimes, though he hated to think it, being dead and in Heaven.
Spike too had forgotten, in those couple of years since the chip and falling for Buffy, how to fill up, not just the time, but the space in his mind, when it wasn’t being given to hatching evil plots and playing wicked games with Dru, or, afterwards, to keeping tabs on his world-saving Chosen One crush.
Everywhere they went, they killed vampires, but he could tell Buffy wondered whether that was enough. Really whether it was, anymore, anything.
“So, we’ll go to New York.” He got up from the bed and went to her, put an arm around her shoulders. When he touched her sometimes, she’d jerk away; she’d been especially hinky and evasive and withholding the last weeks. But now she turned towards him, and laid her forehead against his neck. “Oh Spike. I lead you such a life. Why do you let me treat you this way?”
“What could I do to stop you?”
“You could leave me. You could just … “ she sighed. “Leave.”
“Wouldn’t do that, would I?”
He felt her trembling, and realized she’d begun to cry. She cried so seldom, since the beginning of all this, he couldn’t think when she’d last done so, since their time in Mexico. He held himself still, resisting his desire to take her into a full embrace, lest she pull away altogether. The moment suddenly seemed so fragile.
“No, you’re not the one who leaves. That’s me. I leave. I leave, and leave and—and then there’s no going back.”
“Sssh. We’ll find her.”
“She hates me. Hates us. It would be selfish of me, wouldn’t it, to just show up—? She won’t answer when I write— But I’ve left her too many times. And now I’ve left it too late.” Her voice was shaky with swallowed sobs. She stepped away from him, and turned her back. “Spike, I don’t know how … “
She still kept her back to him, and her shoulders were hunched, she might’ve been ready to draw herself down into a little ball. She whispered into her hands pressed against her face. “I don’t know how much more of this I can do.”
“You are so good to me. And I—you know I try to—but us all alone, it’s … it’s …”
He finished it for her. “It’s not enough. Without your sister.”
She broke out weeping then, and sank to her knees.
He found Dawn easily enough. The first evening after they arrived, after checking in to the Chelsea Hotel—his ninth stay there since 1900, Buffy’s first—he’d gone alone to Greenwich Village, and after asking in vain at the security desk of the first two NYU dorms he tried, was told at the third that he’d be announced, if he’d give his name and show ID. At which point, pretending he’d forgotten something, he went outside again to lurk across the street and wait to spot her. She came out, wearing a down jacket and carrying a laptop bag, close to nine o’clock. He knew her by her walk; she’d cut off the long hair, grown another couple of inches, and shed all her old resemblance to a baby deer. He tailed her easily as she walked through Astor Place and then went into a restaurant called Dojo, which was packed with a crowd of mostly students, mostly in noisy groups. But she wended her way amongst the tables to a small one against the wall where she sat and took out her computer. Spike watched, waiting to see if she’d be joined by anyone.
When she’d sat there alone for twenty minutes, having ordered and been served a sandwich she took occasional bites of while she typed, he made his way towards her. He couldn’t help wondering, as he slowly crossed the big room of closely-crowded tables, if this was going to be one of those meetings he’d remember in later years as fateful and significant. Like that night in Peking at the height of the Boxer uprising, when he’d followed the Slayer into that temple. Or like that night in Southern California when he’d gone to a stupid little suburban nightclub to confront another.
Was his unlife about to change again?
Dawn Summers, five years older, five years apart, had the power to take him down, and Buffy too.
But larger than that, more important by far: she had the power to uphold. To uphold Buffy, and them both.
When he was still ten feet away, something made her look up from her work, and she saw him. He had time to notice how her expression changed, the blandness giving way to sudden recognition, and shock. She pushed back from the table, rose too quickly so her chair tipped over with a clatter, and for a moment she was like her younger self, foal-ishly unsure of what to do with her hands, her feet. Then she straightened up and made fists, and glanced around to get her bearings.
Spike stopped where he was. He wasn’t going to come any further until she beckoned him, he wasn’t going to do anything to block her exit. From where he stood he could pick up the pungent aroma of her sudden fear. He let her see his hands. He said, “Hello, Bit. It’s only me.”
Her breathing, her heartbeat, he could hear and interpret. “Nothin’s happened to her, Buffy’s fine.”
Dawn stared at him, and as abruptly stared around her, as if looking for something concealed, and then back at him. “Buffy isn’t—?”
“Isn’t killed, isn’t gone, isn’t anything. Left her just now, on 23rd Street.”
“Buffy is on 23rd Street?” Dawn said this as if she was reading some foreign language by sounding it out.
“At the Chelsea, Niblet. I’ve always liked it there, though they’re doin’ a fair bit to ruin it, lately.”
“But it still stands.”
“FUCK. What the fuck are you doing here, Spike! You can’t be here!” This came out as a harsh whisper. She didn’t want to attract attention, and that gave him courage, to come a little closer.
“Just want to talk with you for a minute. Come, sit down and hear me out, yeah? Just for a minute.”
Without taking her eyes from him, she groped behind her for the overturned chair, righted it, and sat. After a brief nod from her, Spike came and took the chair opposite.
Dawn was clutching the edge of the table in both hands now, and looking not at him, but at her computer screen. In its reflected light, he saw her more closely: along with the pixie haircut she was affecting a rather elaborate eye make-up, lots of liquid eyeliner that curved up and out at the edges, big earrings, and a tiny flat gold stud that gave off a little gleam near the curl of her nostril. She was like a lot of look-at-me-I’m-in-New-York college girls, but she was also still Dawn Summers, the perpetual kid sister. Coming to love her like a big brother hadn’t been in the brochure either, but there had been times when it had seemed to him like the only part of the whole damn Sunnydale package that had anything bright about it.
“It’s good to see you. More’n good. How are you, Bit?”
She glanced across at him. “This is because of the five years, isn’t it?”
“She’s been keepin’ track. Knew you would be too.”
“I want my money. For the house.”
Spike wasn’t sure how to interpret this, or the tone of her voice. “She thought—we thought—you might be ready for a reunion. So much time having passed, since.”
Dawn’s mouth made an ugly shape. “If she thinks I’m going to share it with her, she can just forget that right now.”
What? Was she talking about the proceeds from selling 1630 Revello?
“I don’t owe her anything. Doesn’t she get that I just want her to leave me alone?”
“Bit, it’s nothin’ like that—we came because—“
“We! You love saying we, don’t think I don’t notice. You sure got her, didn’t you? You won, Spike.” All at once she was in motion, shutting up the computer, stuffing it into the bag, and clamoring to her feet, feeling around in her pockets for money she flung on the table. “I’m out of here.”
“Stop calling me Bit. Stop calling me anything. I don’t want to talk to you.”
He didn’t want to do anything that would get them noticed. He let her get nearly to the door before he followed, gaining the street just as she disappeared around the corner. He caught up with her on the sidewalk near the library, using his supernatural speed to come around so he approached facing her, not startling, not stalkerish. Quietly, he said, “I’ll leave you be now, but just this. You know where to find us now. We’ll stay here a while. You come an’ call on your sister any day you like. Or tell her to meet you anywhere you fancy, an’ she’ll come. All Buffy wants is to see you, see you’re all right. She misses you like blazes. You’re all she has.”
“I’m all she has?”
Spike took a step back from the energy of scorn and pain that scorched the air.
“She an’ me, we’re together, yeah. But it’s you who’s her family. It’s you she loves.”
As he walked back up Fifth Avenue in the bright night, past the lit shop windows, Spike reviewed the encounter. It could’ve gone worse, sure; she could’ve whipped out a stake and done for him, or hollered and gotten him mixed up with the police. But it certainly could’ve gone better. He’d been harboring a fantasy that at the very sight of him—or at most, after a brief little bout of pouting—she’d fling herself into his arms and be his dear little Summers girl again. But it wasn’t going to be that easy.
Buffy had sent him three texts in the last hour: Well? Well? Did you find her? WHAT???? He texted her now, and she replied that he should meet her at the bar at Red Cat.
Buffy, who used to make the most amusing faces after taking swallows from his flask, had since become a girl who liked a cocktail. She’d told him that when she went to bars alone, she would let herself go into elaborate fantasies, about the men she met and talked to there, about what life would’ve been like with them, if she was alive, and could pick someone and have a life with him. Or else she’d fantasize about how a man would taste, and what kind of fight he’d put up, and what he’d look like when she’d drained him dead. I think about killing, she’d told him on that occasion. I think about it all the time, I imagine very elaborate scenarios, I play them out in my mind. After all, I know what it’s like to kill. It’s not so very hard to guess what it is I’m missing. What I crave. Oh, I’m never going to do it. But I refuse to pretend I don’t want to.
He knew enough not to ask her to describe her imagined bouts of violence, or even her imagined forays into some other beating-heart life. He didn’t want to know about either. That was a kind of intimacy he knew he couldn’t have with her. One would break his own heart, and the other … the other had the potential, Spike thought, to send the two of them down some path from which there’d be no return. Because he too still thought about killing. Still missed it.
Red Cat was a posh little restaurant in an old rowhouse on Ninth Avenue, a few blocks west of the Chelsea. It was a pretty room with a nice old 19th century bar, crowded at this hour with well-dressed thirty-somethings drinking pricey wine, and when he stepped in, there was Buffy sitting on the last stool at the short end of the L, with her legs attractively crossed, twisting a martini glass by its stem on the wood surface in one hand and holding the other one against her neck as if she was chilly. Vampires didn’t get chilly, but Spike had learned to notice this pose, and to read its emotional tone. Though every stool was taken and there were other customers standing alongside, she was alone, no one facing her. Spike thought she looked dreamy, her eyes unfocused, far away. She didn’t seem aware of him until he was right in front of her, and laid his hand on her knee.
“I see she didn’t come along. So she said no.”
“Well … “ Spike admitted, “she didn’t say yes.”
“But you saw her? Spoke to her. Did she let you speak to her?”
“For a few minutes, we spoke.”
“She was relieved to know you were alive. That was first thing. Gave me little sliver of hope.”
“But then she wasn’t best pleased to see me, nor interested in settling in for much of a chinwag.”
“What did she say?”
“She looks beautiful. She cut off all that lovely hair, tho’; gone in for a sort of Audrey Hepburn gamine ‘do. Suits her, though. She lives in the dorm on Fourth Avenue, just above Astor Place.”
“What did she say?”
“I think should wait a few days. Wait a few days, an’ if she doesn’t come to you, you can try callin’ on her.”
Buffy gestured to the bartender for a fresh drink. Then she put her hand on top of Spike’s hand on her knee, and leaned a little towards him, and said, “You’re not going to tell me what she said? Was it that bad?”
“Was hard on her, all that happened.”
“Don’t I know that?”
“You do. We do.”
The bartender brought a fresh martini, glanced at Spike. Buffy said, “My friend will have a beer.”
“What kind?” the bartender said. “We have Full Sail "Session" lager from Oregon, Allagash "white" from Maine, Radeberger Pilsner from Germany, Founder Pale—“
“The German one, fer chrissakes,” Spike said. When the man had moved off down the bar, he said, “She’ll need a little time, now she knows we’re here, to think what to do.”
“You said ‘a little sliver’.”
“An’ I meant it.”
“You think it’s going to be all right.”
“I think you’ll get to see your sister. Beyond that … dunno.”
“I appreciate your honesty, Spike.”
I try not to mislead you, he thought. Not to mislead us both. Not anymore.
She seemed disinclined to leave the restaurant, though she wasn’t interested either in taking a table and ordering food. Buffy seldom ate food, and when she did, it was usually candy. Or cheese. She still liked cheese. But when Spike would, from time to time, try to get her to share some spicy, greasy, gorgeous snack he’d bought from a food truck in Mexico City or a street cart in Shanghai, she usually reacted like a splashed cat, or a supermodel offered anything but cigarettes and black coffee.
Why should I want to eat that?
Because it’s bloody good?
I used to think, those times I saw you eat people food, back when, that you were just showing off for us. Angel never eats.
Angel never eats because he’s allergic to pleasure since he got his curse. Believe me, back in HIS day, I saw him put away plenty of big bloody porterhouse steaks, an’ all sorts.
But let’s not talk about Angel.
Agree with you there.
The Bobst library was big and well-lighted and full of people. Dawn felt safe in there. Not, she told herself, as she found a carrel and set up her laptop, not that Spike had made her feel afraid, exactly. He wasn’t going to attack her, not physically. But just seeing him like that had shaken her down to the ground. Down to my soul.
Dawn jumped in her chair.
Her friend Keisha, who had come up behind her, jumped too. “Whoa! Sorry.”
“Oh, hey. Yeah, you startled me.”
When she looked up, Keisha’s eyes widened. “Are you all right?”
“I don’t know, you just look kind of—“
“I think I caught a chill, outside. I should’ve worn another layer.” Dawn thought of telling her friend, telling her—some version of it. It’s the anniversary of my sister’s death. Or I saw someone from back home whom I didn’t want to see, who asked me for something I don’t want to give. But no, no. She wasn’t going to do that. Wasn’t going to start talking. But her mind was racing now, on those thoughts. My sister’s death. Someone from back home. What I don’t want to give.
“Want to get some coffee, get you warmed up?”
“I really have to work on this paper. I’m fine, really. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
When Keisha was gone, Dawn shut the lid of her laptop and laid her head down on her arms. It was coming back to her, like an instant replay: Spike. She’d been sitting opposite Spike, less than an hour ago, right over at Dojo, where she went like three times a week, Spike of all people had just walked into Dojo and talked to her about Buffy.
All these years, while Buffy kept sending those annoying emails, emails in which she’d write vague boring things about cities she was in, cities Dawn so wanted to be able to travel to and experience herself, and which Buffy mentioned as if giving herself an exotic backdrop would make her interesting and forgivable and not dead and not a vampire who had left her, who had left with Spike and forsaken her. Some of her dumbass emails described movies she’d seen, for God’s sake. You should try to catch it, it was good.
But Spike never emailed. Spike didn’t write any PSs on Buffy’s notes, though Buffy always ended them with Spike sends his regards. Regards. What were regards, anyway? Who still used that stoooopit 19th century word, anyhow?
And then tonight, out of the clear blue nowhere, Spike walks into Dojo and calls her Bit and Niblet and wants bygones to be bygones. Wants her to see Buffy.
Everything was always all about Buffy.
It made her think of home, and she didn’t like to think of home. She didn’t like to think of Mom, but you couldn’t think about home without remembering Mom. It was too hard.
And she thought about Xander, who she’d had such a crush on, and who was so nice, and she hadn’t even gotten to say goodbye to him. What was he doing now, she wondered? Was he still with Anya? What were they all doing? She didn’t like to think about it.
Sometimes she was so tempted.
Tempted to track down Mr Giles, and just tell him.
Just tell him all of it.
She felt that temptation right now. He’d like to know, wouldn’t he? He’d like to know, at last, what had happened to his Slayer. The truth. Because when that detective had found her, just a few weeks after she’d moved in at Aunt Arlene’s, and Mr Giles called on the phone, and wanted to know what had made her leave Sunnydale and all about it, of course she’d had to say just what Buffy had told her to say. That one night her sister just hadn’t come home, which he knew. And hadn’t come home and hadn’t come home. And she couldn’t just stay there with Willow and Tara, it wasn’t working out, she needed her aunt, so she went. Why hadn’t she told any of them that she going?, Giles asked. None of them, not even Xander, not even Tara? Not even the people at her school? Well, because it was just fucked up. She’d said that, to Mr Giles, she’d said fucked up, and felt the rebuke in his silence on his phone, and could imagine his consternation at her language, but he didn’t scold her, he just said he hoped she was happy with her aunt, and that he was sorry about Buffy, more sorry than he could possibly say. Of course Dawn knew that. She knew it was true. So she was sorry she’d said the F word to Mr Giles, but she didn’t want to have to talk to him anymore.
But she could call him up tomorrow—it was too late now, it was the middle of the night in Bath—she could tell him, Guess what, I lied, Buffy has been a vampire for five years, she and Spike are international jet-setting vampires, and they don’t want you to know because you’d have them slain.
Dawn packed up and went back to her room. It was near midnight now, but the streets between Washington Square and her dorm a few blocks away were still lively. She liked that about New York, how they didn’t roll the sidewalks up at nine o’clock. Being in a city like this made her feel like an adult.
In her room, she called Angel. She didn’t expect to reach him. It was prime supernatural-crime-fighting time in Los Angeles, he’d be busy. Calling him at all was a real sign of extremis, because she didn’t really feel comfortable with him, and he was a bit scary, but at the same time she knew he’d helped her when she’d really needed help, and believed him when he’d told her he’d always be there for her. Though the reason for that was, again, Buffy.
She wanted her life to be one where the things that happened and the people who were hers, had nothing to do with Buffy. That was the goal.
Angel answered on the second ring.
“Yes. Hi Angel.”
“How’re you doing?”
He sounded preoccupied.
“Is this a bad time? Are you fighting something, or stalking it, or in the sewer?”
“I’m just driving. What’s going on in New York?”
Well, here was her opening.
“Dawn? What’s the matter?”
“Angel, my sister is here.”
Now there was hesitation on his end. And she heard her own voice echo back on her, heard the anguish in it.
“Have you seen her?”
“You saw Spike?”
“Did you tell him where I live?”
“I told Buffy where you go to school.” Angel paused. “You never told me not to tell her.” He paused again. “I kind of assumed, since you told me, that you thought I’d let her know.”
Dawn, who was lying on her bed, pressed her face into the pillow.
“Spike said Buffy wants to see me. They came here from, I dunno, Outer Mongolia, so she could see me.”
“The last time I heard from her, it was Berlin.”
“Berlin. Whatever. Why are they doing this to me?”
Another silence. She could imagine Angel, with his big brow and his severe worried expression, behind the wheel of his fancy convertible on the Pacific Coast Highway, pondering how he was going to get Buffy’s annoying little sister off the line.
“I don’t know why. Buffy and I don’t really talk. No more now than … than we ever did. But if I had to guess, I’d say it’s because she loves you as much now as she ever did. Which was always … always …”
“Always so very much. You’re precious to her. When I saw her, right after your mother’s death … well, she did tell me that she was so glad she had you. That you were, really, all she had.”
“But that’s not true!” This burst out of her like a sneeze, a foul sneeze. “She had—she had all of them, all her friends, and she preferred to die rather than—and then she just wanted to die again. She let it happen. And then she took—“ Dawn stopped. She thought, Oh my God listen to yourself.
Thirty seconds went by.
“Angel? Are you still there?”
“Dawn, what do you need from me?”
“Nothing. Just … I don’t know. Listen, Angel.”
“It’s going to be five years. In, like, a week. She’ll be missing five years, and she’s being declared dead. I signed a bunch of papers about it today.”
“I know. Not that you signed papers, but I know. How many years it’s been.”
“I hate it!”
He was quiet again for a little, and then he said. “Dawnie, I know. I hate it too.”
“Angel, tell me what I should do.”
“Buffy and Spike came to New York? Where are they?”
She let out a sigh. “He said they were staying at the Chelsea Hotel.”
“Well, if you’ve never been to the Chelsea Hotel, then you ought to go and see it, before they renovate it out of existence.”
“So, is this the room where Sid Vicious killed his girlfriend?”
Spike inhaled sharply. “No.”
Buffy laughed. She’d undressed, and slipped into a silk nightdress, and was pulling down the bedclothes. The Chelsea wasn’t the kind of hotel that offers turn-down service. “What, you can tell that by the smell? It was, like, what, over twenty-five years ago.”
“Can tell. You could too, if you’d known ‘em.”
“You knew Sid Vicious?”
“I’m amazed you’d even have to ask me that question.” He was standing at the window, looking down into West 23rd Street. It was nearly five a.m., and except for a lumbering bus, there was little traffic.
Buffy laughed again, a sleepy, low, indulgent laugh. She came up behind him and threaded her arms around his waist. She hadn’t done anything like this in quite a while. They hadn’t made love in twenty-seven—no, twenty-eight days. Spike kept all kinds of mournful tallies in his head. But she’d had five martinis at Red Cat.
“Thank you for going to talk to Dawn. I know that can’t have been easy.”
He drew the blinds then, and turned to her. “You don’t have to pay me back.”
“What, you think I’m only coming on to you out of gratitude?” She smiled. “I want to make some clever bit of sexy wordplay out tit for tat, but it’s not coming to me.” Her face fell. “Oh Spike. You’re so very patient. And I’m so very disappointing to you.”
“Don’t say that.”
“All this time, I’ve known … ” She stopped. Don’t say it out loud, Buffy, she thought, don’t say, I don’t love you enough. At least let him hang on to his illusions that much.
“Come to bed. C’mon.” She grabbed his belt loops, tugged. When he didn’t move, she moved instead, coming in close again, going up on tiptoes. Kissing him was always good, it was just that more and more lately there were times when she couldn’t kiss him, couldn’t touch him, couldn’t even reach her true self. When she got lost in the awfulness of time that kept on moving without her. She wanted love with him, friendship with him, to make that all right somehow, it should’ve done more. It was real, she knew that now, he was real, his devotion was real. So it was just cruel, when she found herself thinking, I’m his and he’s mine because there’s no one else for either of us, and I succumbed to that death wish, that death wish he always knew all about. These thoughts were so harsh, and she knew they were false, and unkind to him. He was a master vampire with thousands of kills in his hundred plus years, but he’d begun to move away from that well before she’d started to take him halfway seriously. So who was she to reduce him to that when she was herself such an imperfect vessel.
The flaw was in her. It had always been there, but now she was undead, it was so much bigger, without the other things to counter it.
She kissed him now, and like the good Spike that he was, he responded; he always responded. He always took whatever tiny thing she managed to offer him and responded to it with all of himself. Now he swung her up in his arms, in her slippery white silk gown, and carried her to bed. Took off his clothes for her, showing he was hard for her already, willing for her. It touched her, how he waited, even so, for her to make the last inviting gesture, before he set a knee on the bed. She made him like that: careful, watchful. She wished it wasn’t like that.
“Sweetheart,” she said, reaching for him. “Do your worst.”
Some hours later they were still twined together, having slept, listening to the roar of the daytime traffic from behind the darkening blinds and drapes.
Buffy moved her hand under the sheet, wrapping it around his cock, just holding it. She knew he liked that. “When you used to want me … back before I went off the Tower … when you used to think about me.”
“Did you ever think it would be like this?”
“I never thought it would be at all.”
“But I mean, how you fantasized it. Me being your girlfriend. I bet you thought it would be more—that there would be more—general hilarity.”
“Spike, I’m sorry I’m so dark. You know it’s not about you, right? I mean …”
His hand came around hers, and lifted it off him, and squeezed it hard. She was lying with her head on his chest, so she couldn’t see his face.
“We have our hilarity,” he said. “We dance, don’t we, on many continents, an’ we fuck, which we’re magnificent at, an’ we go about together an’ see the world, an’ I for one am quite content with our arrangement.”
It froze her, to hear him. She struggled. “What I said, the other day, before we left Berlin …”
“Spike, when I say stuff like that …”
“Don’t listen to me.”
Dawn went to class. She finished her paper. She hung out with Keisha and some other friends. She couldn’t sleep, so she took an Ambien. She did not leave the vicinity of NYU. She didn’t want to think about her sister and Spike in a room at the Chelsea Hotel, waiting for her.
It was all she could think about.
She let a week go by. Though it was more accurate, she thought, that a week hauled itself by, minute by devastating groaning minute, and it didn’t solve anything.
They were still there. They were still waiting for her.
She didn’t get any emails from Buffy. No texts. But she knew. A half hour’s walk uptown, that was all that divided them. And five years. And that betrayal that ate at the edges of herself like acid, that said, over and over in that childish voice Mom left us and then you left me and you were glad to leave me, you loved death more than you loved me.
The bright autumn days of sunshine and crisp air and clear light against the stone facades of buildings, the rows of window glass, gave way overnight to rain. The temperature dropped, and students scurried from classroom building to library to lecture hall with umbrellas and hoodies and jeans damp from the knee down.
She’d sent the papers back. The anniversary of the day—the night, really—that Buffy went out to her death, was suddenly here. It was tomorrow. She said nothing to any of her friends. She was determined to have a day like any other day.
Aunt Arlene called in the morning. “I know this is a hard day, dear, but you know I’m thinking about you all the time.” Aunt Arlene was sensitive, and she’d risen to the occasion of taking in her dead sister’s second child, even though she barely knew her, which wasn’t the child’s fault. Dawn tried always to be grateful, and considerate, and not hold it against her that she sounded like Mom, and could look and move like Mom, but she was so not Mom. “Is there anything you want to tell me, Dawnie? You know there’s nothing you can’t say to me.”
Dawn thanked her. No, she was okay. She had to get to class. She had study group afterwards, and then she might see some friends. You know, the usual student day.
“Well, you take care. Be kind to yourself,” Aunt Arlene said. That was what she always said.
She went to class. It seemed to be a class all about the house on Revello Drive. Specifically about what it was like to come back to the house after school, like usual, and do her homework and get her own supper and wait for Tara and Willow to show up, because they usually came in earlier than Buffy did, and then see them go out again because they did that a lot. And sitting up waiting for Buffy, and Buffy not coming home. She’d spent that whole night, awake and waiting, listening to an album by Buffalo Springfield, because Karl at school had heard them at his uncle’s house and liked them so much that he copied a CD for her. So she’d put it on, this band from a long time ago that she’d never heard of, and let it play on repeat, and somehow it turned into the music she just played every night, waiting for Buffy, who didn’t show up. The first song on the album was called “Go and Say Goodbye”. It got stuck in her head, so that she heard it even when she was at school, even when she was watching TV or talking to somebody,
Is it you don't want to see her cry, is that why/You won't go and say goodbye.
Every night for about ten days, it leeched into her and colored the whole awful lonely time, after which she couldn’t listen to any music, or watch any TV, or do anything to distract herself at all from the horror of her sister’s absence, of Spike’s absence, and of how, though the Scoobies were certainly alarmed, and certainly taking some actions, they also seemed to just go on with their own lives the same as ever.
Then came the day of the phone call, four o’clock in the afternoon after school, Buffy’s voice suddenly there in her ear, telling her, and the whole thing shifted into a different kind of horror.
Suddenly everyone in the classroom stood up and shuffled out, and Dawn came back to the present and saw the clock had advanced by 90 minutes and she had no idea what had happened. She hadn’t written down a single thing.
Continued in part two of two ...