Hold On To Me Part Three

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“Try her again!” Angel told Cordelia. They had tried, unsuccessfully for over two hours to get in touch with Buffy and Spike at the Regency.

“Angel, a hotel like that KNOWS when someone is and isn’t there. I’ve left three thousand messages.” Cordelia had strapped on her heels and chosen a pair of dark gray slacks and a red blouse after an hour’s worth of digging through her closet. Presently she stood securing her hair with oriental chopsticks. “YOU call.”

“She should have checked in by now.” Giles said, glancing at his watch. He and Joyce still sat side by side on the sofa in Angel’s living room but much of the awkwardness had been forgotten by now. The talk had shifted away from Buffy and onto Wesley as they listened to the receiver. “Surely she won’t try to go in alone.”

“Spike would never allow that.” Joyce shook her head. She had no doubt what was keeping them but wasn’t about to say. “They may have just gotten sidetracked.

“Well, we can’t sit here all night.” Doyle stood as the receiver crackled and Wesley told his men to assemble at the back of the factory to plan a trap for the Slayer. “We need to act now.”

The bell in the main room dinged, indicating that the door had been opened and everyone stood. Buffy walked in first and immediately stopped when she saw her mother. “Mom, is something wrong?”

Spike followed behind her, staring at the bill for his new clothes and when he heard Buffy address her mother, he dropped the paper and looked to see if she had an ax. “Oh damn.” He whispered.

“Hi, you two.” Joyce smiled brightly and walked to meet them, clutching them both in a tight hug. “Mr. Giles was coming and I thought I’d tag along.”

When she let them go, Buffy reached up and felt her mother’s forehead. “Are you ill?”

“Just very happy.” Joyce beamed at her daughter, then grabbed Spike’s hand. “For both of you.”

“What is this all about?” Giles asked, coming to stand beside the three people who were acting strange. “Why are you happy?”

“Uh..” Buffy’s eyes widened. “She’s very happy that we’re both…”

“Alive.” Spike answered quickly. “Well, Buffy’s alive and I’m…er…”

“Undead.” Buffy glanced around the room at the curious faces. ”Hey, how about vampire slaying? We need to…kill.”

Angel regarded the way Joyce patted Spike’s cheek affectionately and inwardly screamed. It didn’t take a scientist to put two and two together. He could see it. He could smell it. They had been intimate. Unable to watch them try to cover it up anymore, he said, “Buffy, Wesley knows you were there.”

“What?” She glanced around her mother and shook her head. “That’s like…impossible. I disabled the camera and no one saw me.”

“Apparently you left something behind.” Cordy shrugged. For once, since Buffy had gotten to LA she felt like she looked just as good as the Slayer.

Buffy looked at the floor and thought for several seconds, then yanked her sleeve up. “NO! MY bracelet!” she cried.

Spike moved beside her and took her hand. “It’s fine, baby. I’ll get you another one.”

She shook her head and looked up at him, tears threatening to fall. “But this one can’t be replaced. Ever. You gave it to me for Christmas and...”

“Buffy,” Spike pulled her into a tight hug. “I have to get you a new one anyway.”

She swallowed back the lump and asked, “Why?”

“Well, I want to have something more than ‘To Buffy From Spike’ inscribed on it now.” He kissed the top of her head, oblivious to anyone else in the room.

Giles had raised an eyebrow, Angel was grinding his teeth, and Joyce was beaming. Cordelia yawned and said, “Look. I have to shop tomorrow on a budget so can we go and get this done? I need sleep tonight. I have to be prepared to accept second best and that takes rest.”

Taking a deep breath, Buffy glanced around the room. “What do we know?”

~~

“What do we know?” Asked Leeth, the vampire that Angel and Spike both knew. He stood, wearing a long dark coat and leather pants, addressing Wesley.

Lyle Gorch snorted. “I’ll tell you what we know. That little Slayer is one mean critter. Damn near killed me a million times.”

“Yes, well…” Wesley was leaning against the side of the factory, smoking a cigarette. All the traps had been laid and all they had to do now was wait. “if you fought her and lived it proves that she has weaknesses. A toddler could kill you.”

Leeth snorted and several other vampires who lingered around them tittered as well. Lyle narrowed his eyes and said, “Y’all just wait, You’re gonna see it with your own two eyes. She’s good.”

“We’re better.” Wesley flicked his cigarette butt at Lyle, causing the man to squeal. “She isn’t going to know what hit her.”

“I sure do wish you hadn’t killed so many of the minions.” Leeth said, eyeing what was left of the army. “I doubt you’ve even got twenty men now.”

“That simply means that we’ll work harder. We all know that it’s every man for himself.” Wesley pumped up his chest and stared down his nose at the demons. “Just so long as no one forgets that they’ll be answering to me if they fuck up.”

“Shouldn’t we get ready?” Asked a black vampire.

“We should.” Wesley nodded. “I do hope she’s on her way. Everyone move into position. Oh, if any of you kill her you won’t live long enough to enjoy it. She’s mine.”

~~

Everyone was armed to the max, crucifixes dangled off of Joyce’s neck and Cordelia was sporting a super soaker full of Holy Water. Doyle and Giles both had cross bows and Angel and Spike, both packing stakes, were also wearing brass knuckles. Their vampiric strength was enough to crush a mortal man, but when a vampire fought another vampire, any upper hand helped. Buffy was carrying her Slayer bag and trying not to show how nervous she was.

Spike pulled her away from the group as they huddled in the tall grass. “I want to talk to you.”

“Okay.” She was busying herself with fitting a stake into her waistband.

He tilted her face to look at him. “I don’t want any heroics in there, Buffy. Do not, under any circumstances, take any unnecessary risks. We all know what has to be done and we’re a team. Don’t…”

“I won’t.” Buffy smiled and brushed her lips over his. “I have a lot to live for and we haven’t used the hot tub for sex yet.”

Spike laughed out loud, almost comforted by her brave face. “I love you.”

“I love you more.” She kissed him again and wrapped her arms around him tightly. “Be careful.”

Giles cleared his throat behind them and Buffy broke out of the hug, blushing as she turned. The Englishman nodded toward the factory and said, “They’ve turned off all the lights. I think they know we’re here.”

“Let’s not disappoint them then.” Standing, Buffy led the way. Thanks to the supplies Xander provided they all had bullet proof vests on and each was stocked with an assortment of gear. “Remember the plan. Teamwork. Stay together.”

A look passed from Buffy to her mother and her mother nodded with encouragement. Joyce was fine with this. She had made sure she was an integral part of the slaying business after Buffy graduated and moved onto the college campus. The only time she got to see her kid anymore was when she patrolled with her. She had learned a thing or two and held her own.

“Everyone be careful.” Angel said and they ducked into the open dock doors of the factory.

Buffy slid her night vision goggles on and surveyed the area. Angel and Spike could see in the dark and would notify her of impending doom but she felt better this way.

“I can’t see a thing.” Cordy whined.

“Put on your glasses then.” Doyle whispered.

“WHAT!” She moaned. “They totally clash with these pants.”

"Then take your pants off, at least then you can see." Doyle was nervously glancing over his shoulder at Angel, wanting to make sure that the only vampire behind him was the one watching his back.

"Only you could be a pervert at a time like this." Cordy thumped him on the back of the head. "I can't believe I didn't stay back at the agency!"

"Why didn't you?" Angel interjected. "You know what we expect."

Cordelia spun on her heel and stared at Angel. "The biggest thrill of my pathetic life is choosing toenail polish at the bargain table. This rates up there with real excitement."

“Do be quiet.” Giles whispered. He was scanning the room for himself through his own goggles and didn’t like how calm it was at all.

“Everybody step back.” Buffy said softly. She kneeled down in front of a thin thread that ran across the room and snipped it with a small knife. There was a loud crash and a net dropped directly in front of Buffy. She stood up and shook her head. “I have a feeling that this whole place is going to be booby trapped. Don’t step anywhere that I don’t step first.”

Slowly everyone followed Buffy further into the factory, Angel pulling up the rear. They made their way past the row of offices and were about to head down a corridor when Cordy yelped out and fell. Immediately, she was tugged upside down by her leg; which was hung in a rope. She flailed wildly, punching Giles and Angel until finally Spike caught her. “Hold still!”

“Get me down.” She cried.

“I will! Now hold still!” Spike yanked a knife from his vest and began sawing the rope.

Buffy felt the hairs on the back of her neck start twitching. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the faintest glint of something and slowly turned toward it. Lurking in the corner was a vampire holding a rifle and he was trying to take aim on someone. Casually, acting as though she didn’t see it, Buffy dug her stake out of her waistband and flung it sideways, impaling the vampire. There was a loud screech and the gun clanked to the floor.

Spike paused and glanced at Buffy who shrugged and said, “Would it be cliché at this point to say another one bit the dust?”

He chuckled and resumed trying to free Cordelia. Giles moved closer to Buffy and pointed back the way they had come. “Buffy, there are three vampires back there. I can’t tell if they’re armed though.”

“Stay here. Stay together.” She moved slowly, hugging the wall as she backtracked.

Angel saw her and followed. Buffy paused and he leaned over to whisper, “See anything?”

“SHIT!” She jumped and spun on him, drawing back her stake which he caught just moments before she rammed it through his heart. “What are you doing?”

“Helping you.” He replied, glancing around the darkness. For a moment, he hated himself for not letting her stake him. He couldn't handle knowing that Spike's mouth had touched hers. That Spike had owned her, possessed her in a way that he never would ripped his soul to shreds. “I don’t see anything.”

“Me either. Giles was convinced he did though.” Buffy shrugged and started back toward the others.

Angel caught her arm. “Is this what I left you for? So you could be with another vampire?”

She tugged at her arm but he held firm. “You left me for you, Angel. So you could have a clear conscience. I moved on…just like you wanted.”

“I left you so you could have a normal life!” He practically shouted at her. “Don’t you understand that he can’t give you anything I couldn’t?”

“Ha!” Buffy laughed cruelly. “But he does. He really does.”

Before Angel could reply, the three vampires Giles had seen attacked them at full force, charging into them and sending them both flying. Buffy slammed against the wall with her sore leg and yelled out. Angel landed on top of a table, crushing it under his weight. As one, they jumped to their feet and stood back to back, just like they had done when they patrolled together so long ago.

“Ready?” Asked Angel.

“Aim. Fire.” Buffy replied, launching herself at one of the vampires. He never knew what hit him. The stake she had sheathed up her shirtsleeve worked its way into his chest and he scattered.

Spinning, she saw Angel doing a pretty good job on the two vampires. As he kicked one backwards, causing it to stumble, Buffy threw her stake at it. She swore out loud when he didn’t plume and kicked the stake, angling it so it would nail him in the heart. When he was down, she turned to see Angel brushing dust from his hair.

“You okay?” She asked.

“Do you care?” He shot back, still stinging from her earlier comment.

“Angel..really…this…” She was cut short by her mother’s scream and bolted back through the darkness.

Buffy was vaguely aware of Angel’s presence behind her but all she could think about were the others. The space seemed longer, narrower than it had before. It felt like years until she made it back to where they were. She reached the empty rope that was dangling from the ceiling and shook her head. “Where are they?”

“There’s blood.” Angel kneeled on the ground and looked at the blood spatterings. Someone had been injured.

“Is…is it…”

“It’s human. It’s not Spike’s.” He rolled out his childe’s name like it was poison on his tongue. “I can follow the scent. Come on.”

Together they made their way to the back of the factory and paused outside a doorway. Sobs could be heard on the other side and Buffy glanced at Angel. “What should we do?”

A deep southern voice came from behind them. “Let me help you, lil’ darlin’.”

“Lyle Gorch.” Buffy snarled, squaring off with her old foe. “I’d say it was a pleasure but…it’s not.”

The vampire grinned and licked his lips. “You just get purtier every time I see you.”

“And you’re still ugly.” She replied. “Have you ever heard of Noxema?”

The vampire smiled when Angel moved toward him and held up a black box in his hand. “This here is a detonator. If y’all make a move on me then this place explodes. Now, open up that door right yonder and play nice.”

“Do it, Angel.” Buffy put her hand on his arm. “He’s not lying. They had a ton of explosives.”

Angel moved behind her and opened the door. Gorch grinned. “Angel goes first.”

Buffy swallowed back her fear as Angel stepped through the doorway and was immediately grabbed by two large vampires. Trying not to visibly shake, she stepped in next and gasped. Cordelia and her mother were both strapped to a wall with gags in their mouth and Doyle was being tied to a chair. She stared at Wesley and said, “You want me, Wes. Let them go.”

“Or not.” He replied, eagerly anticipating what would happen now that the long awaited face-off had arrived. “After I’m finished with you, I intend to dine on your mother and let this man watch me turn Cordelia. Then I shall turn him too, I think.”

“And what about me?” Angel growled, his face changing.

“Well, you get to watch and do nothing.” Wesley nodded at a cage in the corner and the men holding Angel shoved him into it. “I think that’s the worst I can do to you. With your nice little soul you will relive this moment again and again and wonder how you could have saved them all.”

Buffy glanced around the room, panic coursing through her. Spike was no where to be seen. Neither was Giles. By her count, there were only six vampires in the room. Gorch was the biggest threat since he had a detonator but there was no way she could take him out without risking that he’d squeeze the trigger before he died. She realized that all their lives relied on her keeping a clear head.

“Bring her to me.” Wesley said to one of the vampires beside him.

Buffy cocked her head to one side. “Is this the part where I act girlish and let you capture me?”

“Every time you resist then your mother gets a broken bone.” Wesley raised a hand and the vampire named Leeth moved menacingly toward Joyce, who began to whimper and tug at the ropes.

“Oh, in that case, I’ll come to you on my own free will.” Buffy walked slowly up the ramp that led to the loading dock where Wesley stood. “Is this how you want it though, Wes? Me doing everything you say? You’re holding something over my head but wouldn’t you rather fight me and defeat me than do it this way?”

“It doesn’t really matter, Buffy.” Wesley replied. “Either way, you die and I rejoice.”

“So it doesn’t bother you to look like a wimp in front of all this people? Admit it, you couldn’t take me out on my worse day and you don’t want anyone to know that.” She laughed at him, really laughed. “Poor Wesley. Always going to be second best. You were a second rate watcher, a second rate fighter and now you’re a second rate vampire using a little bit of book smarts to appear tough.”

Wesley’s fist slammed into the side of her head and she smiled at him. “I’m challenging you, Wes. Right here. There’s nothing but you and me. Unless you're scared. Do these vampires want to work for a coward?”

“Drop your weapons and we shall spar to the death.” Wesley was furious. How dare this insufferable brat mock him in front of his people. “You little twit, you always thought that you were so smart and witty.”

As Buffy took her vest off and laid her weapons down she grinned widely. “I am smart and witty.”

They circled each other like boxers looking for a weakness. Wesley still had the face of a mortal, holding on to the demon until he had to unleash it. She struck first, knocking his legs out from under him and then she giggled at him. “You’re getting awfully dusty down there, Wesley. I suppose it won’t matter in a few minutes…”

He flipped back to his feet and let his face change, showing her his fangs. “When I slip my teeth into your scrawny little neck you will feel my power.”

“If those little sawed off fangs are all the power you have, I’m not worried. What’d you do? Chip them both?”

He howled in rage and brought a kick to her midsection that she deflected. Clutching his leg, she flung him backwards off the loading dock and jumped down on top of him. Slayer and vampire rolled along the concrete floor, slamming into various objects but never breaking their hold on one another. Blood poured from both their mouths and Buffy’s knuckles had cracked open, but she still attacked him with a savagery that surprised everyone.

Finally, Buffy used both her feet to propel him over her head and he landed hard against the cage Angel was in. Angel reached through and held him firmly in place. As they struggled, Buffy wrenched a stake from her pants leg and shoved it into one of the vampire’s nearest her, then drew back at Wesley.

He saw her coming and screamed, “Spike!”

Buffy lowered the stake a few inches and narrowed her eyes. “What about him?”

“If you kill me now you’ll never know how to save him.”

**

Giles was hidden in the air conditioning unit, a decrepit and rusty affair that probably had not been used in the better part of twenty years. When the vampires attacked, he had tried desperately to pull Joyce along with him, but he was knocked unconscious and didn’t remember anything except Spike pulling him along and shutting him away in his current hiding place.

He was still quite disoriented and could feel fresh blood dropping from the gash on his forehead but he was hell bent on finding out where the others had been taken. The venting of the air conditioner allowed him to hear voices somewhere further inside, but the way they echoed and bounced off the metal made it impossible to pinpoint where they were originating. Slowly, and with great care, he crawled through the narrow tunnels.

~~

“Spike?” Buffy narrowed her eyes and looked at Wesley. “Where is he?”

“If I’m not freed immediately you will never know.” The vampire stared at her, trying his best to look feral. “I’ll take it to my grave and you’ll spend the rest of your life wondering what you could have done to save him.”

The Slayer’s bravado began to break. There was no way Spike would have allowed her mother to be captured so Wesley’s men must have done something to him. “Let him go, Angel.”

“Buffy, no! Kill him.” Angel gripped the man tighter, forcing him to cry out as the bars of the cage bit into his back. “Do it, Buffy.”

Wesley squirmed in pain and shook his head. “Do it and he dies with me.”

Quietly, she walked to stand before her old Watcher, physically yanking him out of Angel’s grip. “So where is he?” She asked, raising her stake and pointing it at his chest. “And don’t fuck with me!”

“Such foul language!” Wesley took a few casual steps away and back, whimpering as Buffy matched each one. “Don’t test me, girl.”

“You’re not grasping this. Either you tell me what I want to know or you die!” Buffy slashed Wesley’s cheek with the stake and he howled. “Still doing the woman thing, huh?”

“You bitch!” His fist shot out but Buffy caught it and bent his arm backwards.

There was a loud snapping as his bone came through his skin and he continued to scream. Buffy drew back her foot to kick him when Lyle Gorch and two others attacked her. She hit hard against a metal filing cabinet, causing the handles to embed into her side. With a stunned shriek she collapsed into a heap, trying to still the pain.

Wesley leaned low and smeared her blood all over his hand before he moved away.

Buffy’s momentary pause was all it took for one of the vampire’s to slam his boot into her face. Buffy saw stars, tasted her own blood and prepared herself to die. A commotion out of the corner of her eye caused her to snap out of it.

Wesley was doing something that involved a bright white light, a beautiful jeweled trunk and a foreign language. Dimly, she became aware of Angel screaming at her to stop him before it was too late. She grabbed the vampire ’s foot that was attacking her and shoved him back and away from her. Struggling, she got to her feet and staggered up the platform toward Wesley.

~~

Giles fell from the air conditioning unit and landed on top of a vampire.

He screamed, the vampire screamed and they both drew back a fist.

“SPIKE!” Giles breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that he was unharmed. “Where are they?”

“I don’t know.” Spike shook his head angrily. “The bleedin’ bastards caught me after I pulled you to safety and locked me into this room. I’ve tried to kick in the door but it’s steel or something. And I’m dead if the sun rises. SKYLGHTS! Can’t anyone just stake a vampire anymore?”

“Damn it.” Giles swore when he saw the skylights and dug through his pockets until he found a tissue to mop the blood off of his face. “We have to find them. I could hear their voices from inside the air conditioning unit.”

“Bloody hell, why didn’t I think of that?”

“If you hadn’t thought to put me there then neither of us would know.” Giles patted the vampire on the shoulder. “Boost me then and we’ll have another go.”

Spike nodded and hefted Giles back into the unit, then accepted the man’s hand and pulled himself in. It was cramped and dingy but Spike cocked his head to one side and heard the unmistakable sound of Buffy screaming. “Buffy’s in trouble! Straight ahead.”

On their hands and knees, the two men clawed through the unit as fast as they could as Buffy’s screaming became louder and louder.

~~

“NONONONONONO!!” Buffy had her hands over her ears as the noise became too much to bear. It was all around her, the sounds of ghosts, demons and everything else Wesley was releasing from an ornate trunk. They squealed and moaned and raked their nails…or…talons as it were…all over her body.

Angel watched in abject horror, knowing full well that since Buffy was giving into the fear she could be seized and pulled into the vortex that Wesley had conjured. It preyed on the weak. Wesley had succeeded in opening a spirit box, and in using Buffy’s blood to do it, marked her as their target. They would eventually pull her with them back to the otherworld if she didn't snap out of it.

The memory he had of her breathing into a paper bag in his office left him convinced that she was about to die. And he was about to watch it and not be able to do anything. He stared around the room, taking in the expressions on Cordy and Joyce’s faces.

Then his gaze locked with Leeth’s and the vampire nodded at him and slowly kicked they key to the cage at him. Angel nodded back and tried to grab them but Lyle Gorch intercepted and pointed at Leeth, while he handed the detonator off to a scrawny vampire with acne. “You’re sure ‘nuff in a heap of trouble!”

Angel slammed his fist against the cage repeatedly when Leeth and Gorch began to fight. Then he turned back toward Buffy and began to scream her name, trying to tell her to get to Wesley and stop his chanting.

She heard him, but she couldn’t move as she she saw the Master pull himself from the box and start in her direction.

~~

Spike and Giles kicked through the unit and landed in a heap, right in the middle of Gorch and Leeth’s bloodbath. Neither of the dueling vampires noticed and Giles rushed to free Joyce, Cordelia and Doyle.

“Spike!” Angel yelled. “Get the keys and let me out!”

Ignoring him, Spike rushed to where Buffy was trying to scoot away from an apparition that he couldn’t make out. Before he got to her, she was lifted into the air and tossed across the room. He cringed when he heard her smack against the wall and ran toward her. “Buffy!”

The Master leered in her face and whispered, “It’s time.”

“No!” Buffy kicked but her foot went straight through him. “Please, no!”

Laughing, he floated over her and raised his arms, pulling Buffy into the air again. There was a loud sucking and the demons began to moan, raging against being pulled back into the box. Buffy latched onto a pole with her all her strength as icy cold hands grabbed her legs and arms and tried to pull her with them.

Spike reached her just as she let go and grabbed her hands. “Hang on, Buffy! Hold on to me!”

Giles turned as soon as everyone was freed and gasped. He knew this ritual well. Wesley had called upon Buffy’s greatest foes and the dark forces had created them, releasing them from a box of spirits. To anyone but Buffy, it looked like faceless ghosts. But to Buffy it was her greatest nightmare. “We must silence Wesley.” He cried.

Cordelia rolled her eyes and put her hands on her hips. “Well do it! And I thought that ghosts only got trapped in boxes on television. Ghostbusters, duh!”

“Does anyone have a stake?” Giles shouted.

Joyce felt around he pockets and looked back out at Buffy, who was floating horizontally toward the box with Spike trying like hell to pull her away. It was too much, far too much. She shook her head at Giles and promptly fainted. Giles caught her and sank to the ground. "Do something!” He screamed at Doyle and Cordelia.

“I SWEAR!” Cordy threw her hands in the air and stomped toward Wesley. “If you want anything done you have to do it yourself! HEY MUSH MOUTH!”

Wesley didn’t acknowledge her, he continued chanting and Cordy raised both her eyebrows. “Excuse me? But what happened to your sweet British manners? I spoke to you!”

Spike could feel Buffy begin to slip from him and she screamed again. He gripped her tiny hands in his and cried, “Please! Just a few more minutes!”

Cordy yanked one of the chopsticks from her hair and waved it in front of Wesley. “Want to see what I think of rude old men who can’t kiss worth shit?”

Wesley stopped chanting and stared at her just as Spike lost his grip and Buffy hurtled toward the closing crate. “I can’t kiss…?”

“No.” Cordelia rammed the chopstick through his heart and added. “Even Xander’s hoover technique was better!”

The dead watcher looked down at his chest and opened his mouth, drawing one final piercing scream before he plumed. Cordy shook her head, “Buffy was right. Woman!”

Buffy fell from the air and landed against a table before she rolled off and hit the ground. Spike was there almost as it happened and reached for her. “Buffy, are you okay?”

“NO! Don’t touch me.” She flinched away and crawled to her feet. It had to end. She couldn’t take it anymore. Her body ached in ways she never imagined possible and seeing the Master again had shaken her senseless.

Spike stood slowly behind her and stared at the back of her head. “It’s me, baby. It’s all over.”

Buffy turned to face him and laughed cruelly, hysterically. “It’s never over.”

As if on cue, the scrawny little vampire with the detonator charged her, screaming about blowing them all up and she caught him, wrestling away the black box and shoving him into Spike. She glanced at the device her hand and whispered. “Get out of here.”

“What?” Spike shoved the vampire into Angel, who had just been freed by Doyle. He saw something in her eyes that terrified him. She looked hollow and void of any emotion. He stared at the black case in her hand and reached for it. “Give me that, Buffy.”

“GET OUT OF HERE SO I CAN FINISH IT!” She screamed at him. Her thoughts were jumbled. All she could think about was pain in her head, the fear in her heart and the desire to be free. “Just go!”

“GIVE ME THAT THING!” Spike screamed back at her, walking toward her. “RIGHT FUCKING NOW OR SO HELP ME…”

“Spike…” Angel shoved the pimply vampire into Doyle who shoved him toward Cordy, who staked him. “don’t. Don’t yell at her.”

“SOD OFF, ANGEL!” Spike’s gaze never left Buffy. “Slayer, don’t make me take it, god dammit.”

Buffy began walking backwards and he followed. “Don’t fight me, Spike. I can’t fight anymore.”

“I’m not going to fight you but I’m also not going to let you hurt yourself.”

“I’m so tired, Spike. I’m so tired of this life. It never gets easier.” Her back pressed against the wall and she had nowhere else to go so she slid down it and crumpled on the floor. “I can’t…”

“I love you, Buffy.” Her sobs grew louder and he joined her on the ground forcing her to look at him. “I love you and I can’t live without you so if you are going to do this then I’m going with you.”

“Spike…” She realized what she was doing suddenly and wrapped her arms around him, his touch soothing her completely. Angel moved forward and took the detonator out of her hand but she didn’t notice. “I…I’m…”

“I know, luv.” He rocked her back and forth against him, thanking whoever was responsible for giving him another chance at life with her. “It’s fine. We’re all just fine”

And they were. They didn't detonate the building until everyone was clear and then they all stood together in the distance watching it burn. The fire consumed the entire structure, taking with it the volumes from the Watcher's Council and all of Wesley's rituals and spells. They all knew that something else had burned that night too. Something even more powerful.

The love of a vampire and a Slayer.

~~

Epilogue

One Year Later.....

“It’s all your fault.” Cordelia shook her head angrily and pointed her finger at Buffy. “If you hadn’t given us all that free equipment, Doyle couldn’t have afforded the Vera Wang dress he bought me for that fund raiser and I wouldn’t be so miserable right now.”

“Maybe you should have kept the dress on then.” Buffy grinned at the girl and looked at the monitor on the bedside table. “You’re about to have another contraction.”

“YOU THINK I DON’T KNOW THAT?” Cordelia screamed and grabbed Buffy by the throat. “I’M DYING!”

Three Hours Later......

“So, are you all staying overnight?” Angel glanced around at the Scooby Gang. “You’re always welcome to stay with me.”

“I have work tomorrow.” Xander shook his head. “Anya and I are gonna leave after we see the baby one more time.

“I’m so glad she had a girl.” Willow smiled. “A boy just wouldn’t understand why he had to wear designer dresses.”

Oz chuckled and pulled her into his arms. “You want to stay or go?”

“Go.” Willow shrugged and smiled apologetically at Angel. “Thanks for the offer but I have an early class.”

Kate rushed into the hospital’s waiting room carrying a big stuffed bear. “Has she had it yet?”

Angel smiled at her and nodded. “It’s a girl!”

“Are they okay?”

“They’re fine.” Willow offered her hand. “I’m Willow. You must be Kate.”

“Hi.” Kate gave the bear to Angel and shook the girl’s hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Introductions were made all around and then everyone paused as Spike and Buffy came down the hallway holding hands. He was whispering something in her ear and she was turning a nice shade of burgundy. They stopped walking when they reached the gang and Angel cleared his throat. “Buffy, Spike, this is Kate. Kate, Buffy and Spike.”

Buffy genuinely smiled at the girl who had fallen in love with Angel and made his life more bearable. She could see pride on Angel’s face when he glanced at Kate but most of all she could see his love for her. Buffy shook her hand and said, “It’s nice to finally meet you. I’ve heard so much about you.”

“Same here.” Kate glanced from Angel to Buffy, almost uncomfortably and changed the subject. “Is Cordelia awake?”

“She is.” Spike nodded. “But she’s also in a foul disposition.”

“No honey.” Buffy put her arm around his waist and said. “That’s Cordy’s usual disposition.”

Everyone laughed and Angel and Kate excused themselves to go visit the new mother and daughter. Willow watched to see Buffy’s reaction but her friend was engrossed in a pretty large kiss with Spike. “We’re going back to Sunnydale, Buffy.”

Buffy broke the kiss and grinned impishly. “Sorry.”

“You guys going home?” Oz asked.

Spike shook his head and took Buffy’s hand. “Actually I got us a room for the night.”

An hour later….....

“I can’t believe you got us this room again!” Buffy smiled and flicked water toward him. They were both submerged in the very same hot tub that Buffy had pushed Spike into before she admitted she was in love with him.

Spike had brought a portable CD player out with them and was trying to work up the courage to say what he wanted to say. “Luv? I heard this song on the radio the other day. I thought you might like it.”

“Aww, you thought about me?” Buffy moved across the tub into his arms and kissed him softly as the music started.

~I wanna wake up each morning
With you for the rest of my life
I wanna feel your heart beating
Just get lost in your eyes
You can tell me your secrets
You can let me feel your pain
You can show me your weakness
And never be ashamed~

“I think about you all the time.” Spike leaned his head against her warm chest and listened to her heart. He had grown so used to the sound of it that he honestly doubted he would survive when it stopped beating. She was his anchor, his life.

~Hold on to me when your world's turnin' cold
When it feels like your life's spinnin' out of control
You're hopin', prayin', tryin' so hard to believe
Hold on to me when there's no middle ground
And every emotion is comin' unwound
And you don't know if you can hold on
To your dreams
Baby you can hold on to me

Buffy pulled him even closer if that was possible, wrapping her arms and legs around him. Because of him, because of his constant support and willing arms, she was stronger, better. He held her when she wanted to cry, lifted her spirits when she needed to laugh and allowed her space if she needed it without ever being too far. She didn’t know if anyone had ever felt such a love before.

~I wanna lay down each morning
With you right here by my side
I wanna get drunk on your laughter
And wipe all the tears when you cry
You can scare me with your darkness
You can blind me with your light
Throw your worries out the window baby
On your wildest night

Spike reached around her and took the small box from behind the radio. < This is it. Don’t sound like an idiot. Just ask her. > He leaned back and looked up at her. She was so beautiful that for a few seconds all he could do was stare. When she raised her eyebrow at him and started to speak, he shook his head. “Don’t say anything.”

Buffy nodded at him and he traced a water droplet down her neck with his finger, trying to find the courage he was sure he had. He let his gaze wander back up to her eyes and he found it. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” She smiled at him and started to kiss him.

“Baby! Let me talk.” He grinned when she stuck her tongue out at him and then grew serious. “I can’t give you a lot of things and I’ll never be able to. I’m sure you know that a life with me would be dark and you’d never be where Cordelia is right now. I can’t give you a family.”

“Spike?” Buffy’s heart was threatening to stop beating. Angel had said this right before he left her. “Are you..”

He put his fingers on her lips to silence her. “What I can give you is my love. I can give you my love and my devotion and I can give you my heart. I gave it to you a long time ago but I don’t think that’s enough anymore.” He took her hand and put the box in it. “Open it.”

She looked at him for several long seconds before she opened the small blue box and gasped. There was a small ring with a very large heart shaped diamond in it. “Oh, Spike. It’s so beautiful.”

“To some people, marriage is a piece of paper but to me it’s proof that I found love and held love and was loved in my lifetime. To me, it’s the most valuable thing in the world.” He plucked the ring from the box gingerly and took her left hand. “Will you marry me, Buffy?”

She grinned through her tears and nodded. “Yes. Yes, I will.”

Spike slid it onto her finger, pleased that it fit so perfectly and pulled her into his arms again. Something amazing had happened. A vampire had been given everything his heart desired. He didn’t know what their life would be like, he didn’t even know how long they would have or what the future held.

But he knew that he held HIS future in his arms.

And until the day they died he would love her and she would love him.

~Hold on to me when there's no middle ground
And every emotion is comin' unwound
And you don't know if you can hold on
To your dreams
Baby, you can hold on I said
Baby, you can hold on I said
Baby, you can hold on to me

The End

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Lyrics belong to John Michael Montgomery...not me.

~~