Chapter 7 - The Final
The witches had already been gathered. The Great Seer, Bell, had foretold of the Coming of the Dead. No one knew who they were, where they were heading or even where they would come from, not even Bell herself. But she knew it was soon and so they stood together, took vigil, cleansed themselves with magic and oils, and waited.
Fifty covens, six hundred and fifty witches, male and female, young and old, eighteen countries.
Willow was only one among them, a newcomer, a trainee. She had taken the call from Sunnydale and now she sat in one of fifty circles, all perfectly in synch, ingredients burning and dripping blood, deities called. She felt her brothers and sisters flowing through her, chasing around her veins and consuming her body. The earth was inside her and together, the covens, the gods and the Earth pulled death himself from the ether and held him responsible.
Bell raised her arms and Willow felt all the magics of the Earth whisk past her and channel into the seer.
When Bell spoke and commanded death himself, Willow gritted her teeth and cringed.
‘Dawn!’ Xander stumbled from the ruins of the Espresso Pump. He was trying to not panic, really he was, but a street full of zombies, impending death and bludgeoning his homicidal lover over the head with a percolator tended to short circuit his placidity chip.
‘Heads up!’ he called. ‘The magic is sending the vamps loopy!’
Dawn lopped off a nearby head and turned towards him. ‘Huh?’
‘Spike’s gone murderous.’
‘What, more than normal?’
‘He just tried to bite my face off.’
Dawn seemed to think about that for a second. ‘What, more than normal?’
There was movement from inside the coffee shop and Xander turned and backed away, half tripping over scattered debris. Inside the shop, Spike lifted his bleeding head and growled. Xander glanced around and saw Angel fling open The Magic Box door.
‘Seriously, Dawn,’ Xander shouted, pointing at Angel, ‘stop him!’
But Dawn wasn’t listening. She was on her knees, two zombies scrabbling over her. One of them sunk its teeth into her arm and she screamed.
‘Why do you get to live?’
Xander hesitated and turned back to Spike.
‘Why do you get to live?’ Spike repeated. He pushed himself to his feet and stumbled forward. He was in full game face, which Xander usually found weirdly beautiful, but now his features were twisted, angry and ugly.
‘Spike, it’s me. Stop it.’
‘You don’t know the pain. You don’t know what it’s like.’
‘Correct, and can we keep it that way?’
‘I’m so cold. You’re so warm.’
‘Not all that warm,’ Xander said as he slowly sidled towards The Magic Box. ‘In fact, you’re the one who’s always complaining about my cold feet. And tonight, these babies are frosty.’
‘I want your blood.’
‘Nothing new there.’
‘It’s so warm.’
‘You’re not even going to offer me foreplay, are you?’
Spike snarled and leapt and the two of them crashed to the ground. Spike was strong at the best of times but he was also frantic. His jaws opened wide and just before Spike’s fangs touched his neck, Xander was reminded of the shark he’d seen on a documentary last week.
Xander hadn’t realised he’d closed his eyes until they popped open again at the sound of her voice. Suddenly the pressure on his chest, the fingers like iron vices, and the pinpricks of fangs disappeared. Xander scrambled to his feet. Dawn and Spike rolled across the ground. Spike thrashed in her grip, his teeth gnashing and his voice twisting into an enraged and agonised howl.
‘Xander!’ Cordelia called. She pointed at The Magic Box then quickly gripped her sword with both hands. Her back was pressed to Gunn’s and they were surrounded by furious corpses. ‘He’s attracted to the magic. Don’t let him stop the ritual.’
Xander hesitated. He watched Dawn and Spike struggle. They were locked together in battle and there was nothing Xander could do. The zombies were closing in around them all, and Xander had never felt so hopeless in his life. Well, apart from that incident last month with the ladder and the cat with three legs. And hey, he’d got out of that on his own. He could do this.
Xander sprinted to The Magic Box. The door had shut again and he slammed it back open and ran into the shop. The ritual was in mid flow, Fred and a girl Xander didn’t recognise sitting at the table and Wesley standing with a dead rat in one hand and a gold dagger in the other. The dagger was gleaming as though it was burning hot, white heat, but Wesley was holding on firmly.
In front of them, Angel stood, transfixed, teeth bared and yellow eyes wide. He was panting like he was struggling to draw in breath and Xander could swear he was getting colour in his cheeks. Then Angel ran.
Fred, Wesley and the girl jumped back from the table as Angel threw himself across it. They continued chanting and Wesley kept a tighter grip on the rat and the dagger.
‘Oh no you don’t,’ Xander said, and he launched himself forward. He landed on Angel’s back and the two of them went sprawling to the floor.
Angel had ten times Xander’s strength and bucked him off easily. Xander jumped for a second time and again they fell face down on the floor. Angel was distracted by the magic, desperate to get at it and so perhaps that was why every time he shook Xander off, Xander was able to re-launch and attach himself.
‘You are one squirmy vamp.’
Angel elbowed him and Xander let go and clutched his jaw. ‘If you just broke me, I’m so setting Spike on you later.’
He grabbed at Angel again but Angel was too strong and Xander was so tired. He couldn’t hold on and the sword he was still carrying was hampering his ability to get a good choke-hold going.
Xander looked down at the sword in his hand and then at Angel. Oh, he was so going to pay for this, but the whole world was at stake. His friends’ lives were at stake. Spike’s life was at stake.
‘Sorry, Deadboy,’ he said, and stood, plunged the sword through Angel’s back and pinned him to the floor.
Angel’s scream was piercing, much like the sword that was skewering him, Xander thought. He rolled off and backed away just as Spike crashed through the door, closely followed by Dawn, Gunn, Cordelia and several of the undead.
‘Oh gods, Wes, hurry it up!’ Xander yelled as he ran at Spike and bowled him over. He was good at tackling vamps, he decided. Must be all that fight-training he did. Or maybe something else.
Wesley nodded and looked up at the clock, kept chanting. He raised the dagger.
‘Spike, please stop thrashing about. Hey, Angel broke my jaw, how about that? I bet you’re mad, huh? Go get him. I pinned him to the floor just for you.’
‘I’LL KILL YOU!!’
‘Oh, that’s original. Join the queue, pal.’
Spike flipped them over, pinned Xander by his shoulders and looked down at him with an expression that was equal parts hungry and agonised.
‘Warm,’ Spike said. ‘Alive.’
The room was filled with noise. Fighting, screaming chanting. Spike roared and slipped his hands to Xander’s throat. He squeezed and Xander clawed at him, pushed and pulled. His eyes watered.
‘Wes,’ he croaked. Beside him, Dawn crashed down, her face connecting with the floor with a terrible slap. Her eyes rolled up into her head.
Oh gods, they were all going to die at the hands of walking corpses. This was obviously his punishment for his nightly, daily and sometimes hourly necrophilia. He looked up at Spike, his eyes wide with fear and wet with pain and sorrow. ‘I love you,’ he whispered, and the room glowed gold and then faded to absolute black.
Dawn leaned forward on her elbows and pressed an icepack to her face. The swelling would go down much quicker than on an ordinary person, but a cold compress certainly helped to speed things up.
‘And then Wes went stab with the dagger and all that magic from all those covens found us and the whole room lit up like a fairy grotto. It was beautiful, Dawn. You should have seen it.’ Fred sighed and gave Wesley a sidelong glance. ‘He was great.’
Dawn rolled her eyes. ‘Shame I missed it, what with being nearly dead and all.’
The comment was lost on Fred, Xander noticed, and Fred and Wesley made gooey eyes at each other.
‘What about the rat?’ Dawn asked.
Gunn appeared at the table and held his hands out. ‘Alive and well,’ he said, and deposited the rat on the table.
Fred clapped her hands together. ‘Oh, look at him. So cute!’
‘Thank you,’ Gunn said.
‘Not you, the rat. Hey there, little fellow.’
‘I thought you said Wesley stabbed the rat,’ Xander said from where he and Spike were leaning against the counter. He had to strain to make himself heard and his throat burned with pain.
‘That’s right,’ Wesley said. ‘Twice. Once to kill it and once to channel all the magic out of the atmosphere. Side effect seems to be the little bugger is alive, although who knows for how long.’
Dawn frowned and lowered her icepack. ‘So, that’s a zombie rat now?’
‘Hm, yes, I suppose you could say that.’ Wesley rubbed his index finger over the rat’s head and then snatched it back when the rat snapped at him. ‘Oh dear!’
Dawn grinned. ‘Oh cool.’
‘You all right?’ Spike said, his voice low and quiet.
Xander nodded. ‘Yeah, you?’
Spike nodded back.
‘Do you remember any of it?’ Xander asked.
‘Yeah. Xand, I’m sorry—’
‘No, don’t. Don’t be sorry. It wasn’t your fault.’
‘I know that, but I tried to kill you. Fuck, I tried to strangle you. I couldn’t fight it. It made me forget who I was. All I knew was that I hurt beyond anything I’d ever felt and you were right there, alive, breathing, and I was so angry.’
Xander turned and took Spike’s face in his hands. ‘And none of that was your fault. That was powerful mojo. It took fifty covens to stop it. And yet ...’
‘You fought it.’
Spike shook his head. ‘No, I didn’t. I couldn’t.’
‘Then why aren’t I dead? You could have snapped my neck with nothing more than a twitch. Yet here I am, alive to annoy everyone for another day.’
‘I had no control.’
Xander smiled faintly. ‘You must have, Spike, or I wouldn’t be alive right now.’
Spike didn’t answer, and that was fine. He didn’t need to. They stood together for a few minutes, forehead to forehead, eyes closed and hands gripping each other. Xander silently considered thanking whoever was watching over them, but it would be pointless. There was no divine entity guarding them, helping them. They only had each other, and that was enough.
‘You always look on the bright side, don’t you?’ Spike whispered.
‘Wasn’t always so. But in this case there was one huge silver lining.’
‘What was that, then?’
‘I got to pin Angel to the floor with a sword.’
There was a weird feeling of calm amongst everyone, and Spike suspected it was because very shortly they would be dealing with one hell of a fallout. They’d all faced hellish consequences in the past, but this was the first time Sunnydale was covered in hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of corpses. They were going to have to keep their heads down, but there was plenty they could help with. The town would need volunteers to re-bury the dead.
Spike watched the clock strike three and then slipped on his coat and opened the front door.
‘Where are you going?’
‘Go back to bed, Xand. Just going for a walk.’
Xander padded bare-footed down the last few stairs. ‘Why didn’t Anya wake up?’
‘Honestly? I’ve got no idea. Maybe it’s because she was a vengeance demon. You stay demon for that long, bits of it probably hang around forever.’
‘She wasn’t quite human, you mean.’
‘Same thing, love.’
Spike watched Xander’s expression. He could almost see his thoughts as they played over his features. Xander’s hands clenched into fists and he drew in a large breath.
‘You told us Joyce didn’t rise, either.’
Spike didn’t answer. He kept eye contact with Xander and waited.
‘You lied, didn’t you?’
Spike looked away.
‘Because you’ve all been through enough.’
‘It was a lame lie. Dawn will figure it out.’
‘She’ll work it out if she wants to. This way, it’s her choice. Same as it was yours.’
‘What happened?’ Xander asked. ‘No, wait, you probably don’t want to answer that.’ He frowned. ‘I’m not sure I want you to answer that. Did you ...?’
Spike nodded. He didn’t want to think about what he’d done, what he’d had to do because he couldn’t have walked away and left Joyce that way. She was a good woman. He hoped Dawn would never question it.
‘I’m going to re-bury her,’ he said.
‘I’ll come with you.’
Xander went to move away and Spike grabbed his arm. ‘No, I can do it by myself.’
‘You shouldn’t have to.’
‘It’s not, Spike.’
‘I don’t want you to come!’
‘Why the hell not!?
‘BECAUSE I DON’T WANT YOU TO SEE WHAT I DID!’
Spike’s voice carried around the house and when he snapped his mouth shut, the silence felt too much, too quiet.
‘Hey.’ Cordelia stood at the top of the stairs. She and Angel had returned to the house with them and, without even a word passing between any of them, it was decided they would stay, Cordy in Buffy’s old room and Angel on the couch. ‘Keep your spat to yourselves, unless you want Dawnie to wake up and smell the bullshit.’
She was right, and Spike took Xander’s hand and squeezed it, just like he always did when he was sorry but couldn’t quite say it out loud.
‘We can do this together,’ Xander said.
Xander’s hand was warm and damp with sweat. He squeezed back and curled his other hand around the back of Spike’s neck. Pressing their lips lightly together, he murmured, ‘Let’s not do this alone.’
Spike’s eyes drifted closed and he tasted the coffee Xander had drunk before bed. He didn’t want to be alone. Ever. He held Xander tightly and tried not to think about that. He tried not to think about anything but that moment, Xander in his arms, safe and well, and everyone alive. For now, he didn’t have to be alone.
Dawn and Xander clattered around the kitchen, making dinner for everyone. Once a month someone cooked and everyone else was invited. It had become one of several new Scooby Gang traditions and it was one that Spike usually enjoyed, except for when Cordelia cooked. This month it was Xander’s turn and he was taking full advantage of Dawn’s Mummy phase, where apparently she couldn’t trust either Spike or Xander to do anything by themselves and therefore had to interfere and take over anything trickier than tying their own laces. All because of one little incident. It wasn’t their fault a few measly sausages exploded in the microwave while they were making out (Spike and Xander, not the sausages).
Spike sat at the table and listened to the noises coming from the kitchen. That’s what kitchens were for: noise, family. The cooking part was just a side effect. Spike listened to Dawn and Xander bicker over roasted vegetables and he smiled, then he listened to Angel enquire about timings and receive a sharp ’It’ll be ready when it’s ready! Don’t touch that!’ from Dawn.
‘Damn, something smells great.’ Gunn sat down opposite Spike, and Wesley followed him.
‘Fuck knows what it is,’ Spike told them. ‘Could be anything.’
‘I suppose it’s too much to hope,’ said Wesley, ‘that we’ll be served braised rat for the entre.’
‘Giving you trouble, is he?’
‘Pardon my language, but that little bastard has got on my last nerve. He’s chewed his way out of three cages in the last two weeks. Fred had to design him a special chew-proof cage. And I’m not saying anything about the headbutting.’
‘Fred headbutted it?’
‘What did Fred headbutt?’ Dawn asked. She was wearing a pair of cream-coloured oven gloves covered in frolicking puppies. Very cute, but Spike was interested in what was in the massive casserole dish she was carrying. It smelled like heaven and hopefully wouldn’t taste like shit – or rat.
The others swarmed to the table, and Xander and Dawn brought out dish after dish.
‘You’ve been busy,’ Spike said once Xander had sat down.
‘No, I’ve been bullied. You know, I don’t think Dawn needs any stakes, swords or other pointy stuff when she’s out smiting evil. Just give her a recipe and a wooden spoon and, whoa, she’s one scary slayer. I nearly ran for my life when the gravy went lumpy. That was all my fault, you know?’
He knew exactly what Xander meant. It was the same when it was always Spike’s fault that Dawn could never find her shoes first thing in the morning. Of course that actually was his fault because he frequently hid them.
‘Uh, Spike,’ said Fred, ‘could you pass the ... dish of ... fish?’
‘Those are yams,’ Dawn corrected, and everyone, including Xander, leaned a little farther forward to check.
Fred blushed. ‘Oh course they’re yams. I was just kidding. Aquatic humour.’
Dinner was surprisingly good, actually, if a little random. Spike was sure he detected at least four different cuisines, including French and Japanese. At least it was all cooked, even if some of it was cooked a tad too much. The enchiladas were sort of odd with their tough, black outer shells.
When most of the food was consumed or subtly hidden in napkins, people started drifting from the table. Fred decided after her fish-faux pas it would be best to assist with the washing up. Cordelia made a bee-line for the television and Gunn and Wesley found a prime spot on the sofa. They sat talking quietly, their heads dipped close together. Spike could hear what they were saying perfectly well, but even if he couldn’t he’d be able to hazard a guess by the blush spreading over Wesley’s cheeks.
Spike sat in one of the armchairs, a beer in one hand and the book he was on the cusp of finishing in the other. He grinned around the glass at the hushed conversation he could hear from the dining room where only Xander and Angel remained seated at the crumb-covered table.
‘Listen, about that unfortunate little sword thing.’
‘The unfortunate little sword thing where you shoved it right through my back and into the floor?’
‘That’s the one.’
‘What about it?’
‘I’m, uh, sorry. Sorry I had to do it.’
‘Seriously, I took no pleasure in it.’
There was silence for a moment and Spike honestly had no idea what Angel would say to that, if anything.
‘Don’t worry about it, Xander. You did what you had to.’
‘Yeah, but still ... ouch.’
‘It was necessary. I had to be stopped. Someone always has to stop me.’
Spike could imagine Xander rolling his eyes at this point.
‘You did well,’ Angel continued. ‘I know I can always trust you to do the right thing.’
‘Trust me to maim you, you mean.’
‘No. I just trust you.’
‘Yes.’ There was a long pause and when Angel spoke again, there was the hint of a smile in his voice. ‘So, no pleasure at all?’
‘No,’ Xander said. ‘I wouldn’t want to cause you that much pain. Not anymore.’
‘Welcome. And, erm, this conversation is just between us, right? I wouldn’t want people to think I liked you or anything. Because I don’t. Just like you don’t like me either, yes?’
‘I won’t tell.’
A few moments later, Xander got up from the dinner table and came to sit on the arm of Spike’s chair.
‘I suppose you heard all that, big ears.’
Spike smirked, but his eyes didn’t leave page one hundred and seventy eight, paragraph two. You have read this strange and terrific story, Margaret; and do you not feel your blood congealed with horror ... ‘Ponces. Both of you.’
How’s life in New York? Are you enjoying things at the coven? Are there many lesbians? Tell me everything and, remember, I’m a man who likes details.
I hope you and Tara are doing okay. I spoke to Giles yesterday. He still gets on Spike’s nerves, but then again so does everyone. I think maybe we’ve built a few bridges, though.
Things were pretty bad here for a while. Nothing messes up karma like burying corpses.
I wish you were here, Wills. Not for burying bodies (because you’d be terrible at that), but just because I miss you. No pressure, because I know you need to get well, but maybe we could visit sometime when the Hellmouth is sleeping. Hey, maybe at Christmas! Dawnie would love that. And Cordelia, because of all the shopping.
I also wanted to say thanks, for helping with the spell. I know it was a risk for you. Just, thank you. You guys saved us all.
Anyways, must fly. Got a stake-out and then take-out. Ah, I love Friday nights.
P.S. Love the new email address ;o)
Subject: Re: Hi
Hi! Things are great here. Tara and I are really making progress. Things aren’t perfect and sometimes we fight, but I think we’re really getting somewhere. She keeps me sane, you know? I’m not sure where I would be without her.
We have several lesbians here. Really hot ones. There’s this one girl and she’s got this long red hair and her boobs are magnificent! Tara and I secretly perv over her all the time. Oh, and Xander, our coven has men, too, and don’t tell Spike I said this, but one of them saw a picture of you I have in my room and he said you were totally hot!
I would love to see you, if you can make it . I can’t leave here or I would come to you. I’m not strong enough yet. I don’t trust myself without the coven.
See? Long way to go. They trusted me because they were around me. If I’d slipped and tried to take all that magic into myself, they would have stopped me. It was a risk, but they needed as many people as possible. Kick ass spell though, huh?
Hope you’re okay. I love you.
Spike watched him close the laptop. Xander had a smile on his face, a big one, which meant either he’d been looking at porn or he’d received a reply from Willow. As Dawn was still up and lurking about somewhere, Spike guessed it was the latter.
‘All right?’ he asked, and Xander nodded.
‘Yeah? Everything okay?’
Xander nodded and flopped down onto the sofa. ‘I feel like a snack. What do you think about late night pizza?’
He knew before he’d asked the question that he wouldn’t get much of an answer. Xander could barely understand his feelings himself, never mind explain them to someone else. He let it go. ‘As a matter of fact, I think about late night pizza more than most people.’
‘Great! I’ll see if the Dawnmeister wants some. A little junk food’ll be good for her.’
Xander jogged up the stairs to Dawn’s room, grabbing the phone on his way. Spike listened to Xander’s carefully loud knock on her door. Never sneak up on a teenager. Both of them had learned that the hard way and suffered the resulting twenty-four-hour sulk.
Spike turned on the television and hopped channels. His family was perfect, in their imperfect way. Rufus had gone to extreme lengths to right a wrong, to bring his daughter back, to help her friends who had died before their time. There was nothing sinister about it, nothing evil. It was just a lonely man reaching out.
Once, Spike had firmly believed that the truly dead should stay that way. Now, he was frightened. How far would he go for Xander and Dawn?
‘Hey, Dawn wants just cheese and pineapple,’ Xander said from the top of the stairs. ‘Are we bringing her up wrong? Maybe she’s just slow. I swear, sometimes when she speaks, she goes cross-eyed.’
Xander got a stuffed bunny to the face, and Dawn ran down the stairs and put her hands on her hips.
‘Spike! Tell Xander to stop picking on me!’
‘Tidy your room,’ Spike said, ‘then I’ll tell him.’
Dawn walked back up the stairs. ‘Yeah, like that’s going to work. Nice try.’
‘Was it something we said?’ Xander dialled the pizza place and held the phone to his ear. ‘Yeah, hi, it’s Xander. I know, we’re late tonight. Can we have a large Meat Feast and a medium cheese and pineapple? Yeah, I know, weird. I don’t know what to tell you. It’s her age. Okay, that’s great. See you in twenty.’
Xander hung up the phone and sat back down on the sofa. ‘You look thinky.’
‘I am thinky.’
‘Yeah, me too. Spike ... we’ll start the research, okay?’ Xander shrugged. ‘Immortality. Me. Grr without the fleeing soul and all the screaming.’
‘You don’t have to.’
‘I do. I want to.’
Xander groaned. ‘Don’t make me say sappy stuff.’
‘So give me the CliffsNotes.’
‘Fine. Love, family, forever. There, happy?’
Spike nodded. He wasn’t one for gloomy behaviour. That was Angel’s area. For now, he had Xander and Dawn right next to him, alive and beautiful. He wasn’t going to miss that by sitting in the dark. He was going to enjoy every moment.
‘Happy,’ he said.
Author's Note: That's all folks. I hope you enjoyed. I certainly had fun writing. I'd always wanted to write a fic with zombies, but couldn't find the right occasion. A Grief Counseling sequel seemed ideal!
Thank you, everyone, for reading and, who knows, maybe they'll be more in this verse sometime. Oh, and bonus points to anyone that can figure out which book Spike is reading after dinner with the gang. I promise it's real! ;o)
I'm going to my sister's for our brother's memorial this weekend so all comments will be answered when I get back.
Love to kitty_poker1, the best beta in Spander Land and beyond. Thanks also to literati and amejisuto for their help and encouragement.