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Previous Chapter: Chapter 6
Next Chapter: Epilogue

Spike lay sprawled across the bed, hands laced under his head as he stared up at the… well, wasn’t really a ceiling as such, now was it? The bed was a sort of cubby in the wall with a curtain across it and cabinets both under and above. Cozy, really. A bit like a little cave with a good quality mattress. Lots better than his setup back at the crypt, though he’d been thinking of doing something with the underground area. No chance of that now.

He forced his thoughts away from the crypt to focus on where he was at the moment. The new digs were nice enough. Lots of built-in storage, including a bookcase designed to keep things from falling out during rough seas. The furniture – a comfy chair and a desk with a stool that could be tied to one of the legs – was bolted to the ground for the same reason. The same had been done with the mini fridge, stereo, and the telly.

While most of the wall space was taken up with the storage areas, there were a couple of windows. They’d been shuttered, of course. A double set with all sorts of locks to make sure he wouldn’t end up fried during the day. No doubt the curtain across the opening to the bed cubby was meant to serve the same purpose. All in all, was a right comfortable little place to call his own. Wouldn’t be bad at all if not for the whole most likely dead in seven years thing. He was even free of the pig blood. The Dutchman could afford to keep him stocked in human and even donate quite a bit himself.

Spike sighed and closed his eyes, thoughts drifting to Buffy and that night in her house. As amazing as being given her blood had been, that had been even more so. She’d trusted him. After all he’d done, she’d trusted him back into her life. Into her home.

He’d never see her again. He knew that. At least she was bloody well still alive. What Glory had done to the bot…. It could have all too easily been the real Buffy instead. But they’d all made it through. The entire lot of them. Even him. No guarantee that would have been the case without the Dutchman. Could be that he’d bought himself seven years instead of dooming himself. No way of knowing, really.

And not much point in dwelling on it, he thought, vaguely annoyed. He’d never really been one for second guessing himself. He’d done what he’d done, and now he had to live with it. And die with it.

Bugger this. He’d had enough of bloody self-pity. He opened his eyes and rolled off the bed to grab a beer and jar of blood from the mini fridge. Might as well take the telly for a bit of a test drive, yeah? He’d just settled into the comfy chair when there was a commotion from out on the deck. What the bloody…?

He got to his feet, then froze. He couldn’t quite make out the words, but he distinctly heard a familiar voice. No, couldn’t be her. He had to be imagining things. The Dutchman had a few women in his crew. One of them just sounded like her, was all. He could handle that. He….

The noise from whatever was going on got louder, and he was finally able to make out a few words. She was here. She knew there was no point to it. That he couldn’t be rescued. But she’d come anyway. She’d come for him.

“Buffy,” he whispered hoarsely.

Then he bolted out the door.

 

 

Buffy was alone as she strode down the dock towards the ship indicated by Willow’s glowy light spell. The others had come with her, but she’d left them behind near one of the warehouses. Maybe it had been stupid, but it felt like this was something she needed to do alone.

There were a few people between her and the ship, maybe members of the crew, maybe not. She didn’t really care. She just shoved them over the side of the dock and into the water as she made her way to the gangplank. Then she was across it and on the ship.

For a moment, the crew on deck just stared at her while she stared back. She hadn’t actually planned anything. Not really. Just “get on ship, rescue Spike.” Somehow. Most of the crew looked like they were human, or maybe demons who could pass. Either way, they hadn’t really done anything wrong. It wasn’t like they’d kidnapped Spike or anything. The idiot vampire – her idiot vampire – had gone and given himself to their captain. That wasn’t the crew’s fault.

“Um, miss,” one of them said, slowly taking a couple of steps towards her. He was a big, burly man, and Buffy tensed, ready to fight if it came down to it. Was he going to try to wrestle her down or throw her overboard? She was ready for either. “This is a private vessel. You need to leave, or we’ll call the authorities.”

That… wasn’t quite what she’d been expecting. It threw her a little off-balance, but she could deal. “Yeah, you just go right ahead,” she said, covering the distance between her and the apparent spokesman of the group. She put her hands on her hips and looked up at him. “Never mind the fact that your boss’s new ‘bride’ probably has a rap sheet.”

She was actually pretty sure that he didn’t, considering it was Sunnydale and he was a vampire, but the man in front of her didn’t have any way to check. His eyes narrowed, and his shoulders tensed, telegraphing it as he started to throw a punch. He was fast. Faster than a human should have been, and Buffy barely dodged in time.

Then it was on, the entire crew coming at her as she ducked, dodged, and weaved her way across the deck, dishing out blows as well as taking them. It was almost like a dance. Or ice skating. She moved, muscles working in perfect harmony as they bunched and stretched, answering to her every shifting need. She was really starting to get into it, when a voice suddenly called out for everyone to stop.

“That is quite enough! Everyone to your stations, please. I’ll handle this.”

And just like that, they all dispersed, leaving Buffy to face the Dutchman.

She took a deep breath and slowly let it out. It was now or never. Time to see if her very vague plan would work. “I’m here to rescue Spike.”

Nothing happened. No flash of lightning or mystical noise or anything. Maybe curses breaking just weren’t all that flashy? She squinted at the man. He didn’t look any different. No tentacles, but they hadn’t been obvious before, either. Not until he’d whipped them out and started flinging Glory’s minions all over the place.

“He isn’t in need of rescue,” the Dutchman said with a sad smile. “Spike is here of his own free will. He made a choice with full knowledge of what he was doing. Your actions are not honoring that choice.”

Not honoring that choice…. Was it… was it somehow disloyal to try to rescue Spike in this situation? That couldn’t be true. That was just stupid. Wasn’t it? Buffy backed up a step, uncertain. If rescuing him wasn’t enough to actually let her rescue him, what the hell was she supposed to do?

Before she could figure anything out, Spike was suddenly just there, striding towards her, his coat swishing back with his movements. He didn’t look particularly happy to see her. “What in the sodding hell do you think you’re doing here?”

She took another step back, even more uncertain. Did… did he want to be with the Dutchman? Had he finally just moved on? No, she thought with sudden conviction, remembering how he’d been earlier in the evening. Afraid and in pain and desperate to make sure she knew he wasn’t just walking out on her.

“I think I’m trying to save your sorry butt,” she snapped at him. “In the, uh, sodding hell…. Okay, so, that, like, made no sense whatsoever, but I’m sticking to it.”

His lips twitched into a faint smile as his expression softened. “Going to miss that,” he said quietly, reaching up to gently cup her cheek. “The patented Buffy Summers sense of humor.”

“You don’t have to. Just let me get you out of here.”

He dropped his hand, sighing as he shook his head. “Not gonna happen, love. You saw what being away too long did to me, and that was just the beginning part of it. Just go, okay? Go on and live your life.”

“No,” she said quietly. “I’m not going anywhere. If you stay, then I stay.”

“Are you out of your bleeding mind?” he asked incredulously.

Part of her kind of agreed with him. What the hell was she thinking? She couldn’t just stay on this ship for however long, trying to figure out a way to break the curse. She had responsibilities, including taking care of her little sister. Another part, though…. It just seemed so wrong, abandoning him after all he’d done.

“Maybe,” she said, taking a deep breath. “I don’t know. I just know I can’t leave you behind.”

“You know,” he said through gritted teeth, “picking you up isn’t exactly an attack. Chip won’t care a lick if I lift you up and let you go over the side.”

Her eyes narrowed. He was such a pain in the ass. Why did she want to save him, again? Because he’s your pain in the ass, she reminded herself. Right. Okay.

“I’m staying on this damn ship, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Get used to it.”

He took a step closer to her, and Buffy acted on instinct. She cocked back her fist, then slammed it right into the middle of his face.

“Bloody bitch!” he snarled, staggering back with his hand over his nose. “I oughtta –”

The necklace chain snapped, sending it crashing to the deck. They both stared it in stunned silence. Within a moment, it had crumbled into silvery dust. Buffy looked back up at Spike, then to the sky.

“Seriously? That’s what did it? That is totally messed up.”

“What the…?”

Before Spike could finish his question, a sound drew both their attention, a soft gasp from the Dutchman. He was rapidly aging before their eyes, shriveling up into an old man. Buffy watched him warily, expecting some kind of enraged revenge attack. But… he just gave them that sad smile.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

And then he crumbled into dust.

 


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Previous Chapter: Chapter 6
Next Chapter: Epilogue

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