Buffy didn’t know how long she had been walking. Her mind seemed to be on a continuous loop, Angel’s words mixing with hers. She could clearly see Spike’s devastated face from the night behind the Bronze. Only this time it was a combination of her voice, and Angel’s declaring Spike ‘beneath her’.
It was no wonder he had shown up later with a shotgun, Buffy thought with a watery chuckle. If someone had said that to her, she would have taken them apart, but Spike upon seeing her tears had sat down and tried to comfort her.
“I’m so stupid,” Buffy mumbled as she sat down at one of the poolside tables with a heavy sigh.
“Join the club,” came the resigned reply to Buffy’s declaration. Looking up, Buffy’s eyes landed on Faith’s slumped form.
Seeing the defeated figure of her sister slayer, Buffy realized she had never seen Faith look so small. It was wrong somehow to see her sitting so alone on one of the lounge chairs alongside the hotel’s swimming pool.
In all of the years Buffy had known Faith she had never appeared unsure or even defeated. Somehow in Buffy’s mind Faith was this larger than life figure. Even when they were fighting each other on different sides of the battle, Faith was still strong, proud, and filled with an attitude that screamed defiance.
So to see her looking so frail made Buffy’s blood boil. She didn’t understand it. Even now, when they were on the same side, she and Faith were simply comrades, two fighters fighting the good fight and nothing more.
As quick as it appeared, it was soon gone but Buffy finally understood. A vision of Spike, dejected, his life in ruins around him as she cruelly told him that his feelings were real, for him, flashed through Buffy’s mind.
Faith was like Spike to Buffy. Both kept taking the beatings life handed to them, falsely believing they deserved it, and kept coming back for more. Neither of them ever gave up on the people they cared about, even if those people didn’t deserve them.
“I’m such a bitch,” Buffy groaned as she placed her head in her hands, shame filling her.
“What?” Faith asked incredulously. How the hell had Buffy managed to turn the situation to herself yet again?
“So not what I meant,” came Buffy’s muffled answer. She knew what Faith was thinking. Spike had gotten the same tone in his voice when she did something that completely baffled him.
“Then what did you mean?” Faith asked. “Not that I disagree with your assessment, just wondering is all.”
“Faith,” Buffy said, as she looked the other girl in the eyes. “Drop the ‘Big Bad’ attitude. I saw through Spike’s, and I can see through yours. Granted I usually chose to ignore that bit of insight. Didn’t fit into my nice comfy world of denial.”
“Sorry,” Buffy offered, as she gave a soft chuckle at how her thoughts wondered. “I’m rambling. I know. It’s just I’ve had an epiphany. Now all I need is the parade with the seventy-six trombones.”
“I think you’ve finally cracked B,” Faith said, eyeing the other slayer with a look of suspicious confusion.
“See it’s like this,” Buffy started as she turned in her seat to face Faith. “You and Spike are the nights to mine and Angel’s days. Days turn to nights, and nights turn to days. You can’t have days turn to days, it’s unnatural just as nights can’t turn to nights. Nothing would be right, and everything would go all wacky.”
“B!” Faith yelled. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m sorry!” Buffy blurted out, causing Faith to stiffen. Seeing the defensive look settle over the other girl, Buffy’s face crumbled. “I never apologized to you did I? You tried so hard to make up for what happened that year, and I never once asked you to forgive me. I condemned you, and never let it go. I just expected you to take it, like Spike. I never apologized to him either.”
“Buffy…I….” Faith said, her voice trailing off as her insecurities made her stop talking.
“We were so self righteous,” Buffy said as her tears began flowing in earnest. “Xander, Giles, Willow, and I acted like we were better than you and Spike. Did you know Spike went and got his soul for me? He fought for it, and earned it all so he could be a better man. You, you turned yourself in. Prison couldn’t hold a slayer, but you stayed.”
“I deserved it,” Faith whispered.
“And you deserve forgiveness, just like Spike.” Standing Buffy quickly made her way over to her sister slayer, and knelt before her, grabbing a hold of Faith’s hands. Staring intently into her shocked brown eyes, Buffy continued with her speech.
“Don’t ever let anyone, even Angel, make you think you’re not good enough, because you are,” Buffy said. “You’re a better slayer than me, and Spike is a better champion than Angel.”
“Yes!” Buffy insisted. “Angel and I both walked around like we were better than everyone because the Power’s chose us, and I willingly forgot the Powers chose you as well. Spike, well, he chose to be a champion. Neither you, nor Spike, ever walked around convinced you were superior. Oh you both may have acted like it, but you never really believed it. Now, you both fight because it’s the right thing, not because you have some grand destiny, or because you think only you know what is best for everyone. You two are humble, despite the large egos, and that is something both Angel and I need to learn.”
Sitting on the open mouth of his cavern, Draco looked out over the mountain range that served as the dragon clans’ homes, and also operated as a boarder with King Aneirin’s territory.
The wind blew a gentle breeze along the treetops, and the night sky was clear letting the stars and their constellations shine brightly. The pale light of the moon lit the valley up before the large dragon, casting everything in a soft silvery glow. From the scent on the air, Draco could tell winter’s snow would soon be blanketing the lands around his home. Animals everywhere were getting ready for winter’s long sleep, and it was up to the dragons to make sure none were disturbed.
Normally these tasked pleased Draco, giving him a sense of peace in the cold bitter times ahead, but with war looming on the horizon the Dragon Lord could not rest his troubled mind. The news, and unexpected surprise brought to him by Thal, prevented Draco from getting the rest he needed.
Feeling a gentle warmth emanating from a small area on his side, Draco turned to see the Father, or Spike as he insisted on being called, standing by his side wrapped in warm fur blankets, his hand placed just below the joint of Draco’s wing. His expression was kind, and filled with understanding.
This was not what Draco had expected. The Dragon Lord had known all about the prophecy concerning the Father and the Key for many years, and had built up an image in his mind of how this man would be. But Spike went against every hero type Draco had ever encountered. He did not revel in his status, nor did he lament his position in life. Spike did not think of himself as better than others because of the task fate had challenged him with, he simply accepted them as his duty, even though he had yet to fully believe he was the champion being spoken of.
Draco knew Spike still thought another champion would come along, and take over the position as if he himself were easy to replace.
Still, Spike carried on, and despite his own worries and sleepless nights, the dream-visions concerning Ktulu and his raids were causing Spike to lose sleep, he was still worried about those who were sworn to fight at his side, and those he had promised to protect.
Spike treated all of the dragons as equals, and Draco as a friend, and for the first time in millennia, Draco found himself returning the sentiment.
Hearing a strange voice coming from the road ahead caused Einarr to slow Aldwyn down from his lazy jog. As if sensing his master’s hesitancy, Aldwyn made sure to step softly on the road to minimize the sounds his hooves made.
Coming around the corner, one hand resting on the hilt of his sword, the other holding the reins in a white knuckled grip, Einarr nearly fell out of his saddle.
Before him sat Caius, and with him was a strange man of slight build with alarmingly bright blonde hair. He wore black clothing that was unfamiliar to the General, but his feet had been clad in the flexible leather boots favored by many soldiers. Over all it created an odd picture.
Looking closer Einarr could see the stranger’s blue eyes danced with excitement as he held a seemingly one-sided conversation with the dragon.
“Bloody hell that was brilliant! Next time do a barrel roll. No a noise dive, or better yet do a loop-the-loop!”
“We have company.” Einarr heard in his head as the stranger stopped his excited rambling to turn swiftly in his direction.
He fell into a lose battle stance, bouncing on the balls of his feet. To the passing observer, the stranger’s body language would seem almost lazy, but Einarr could tell by the way his eyes quickly glanced over him, and the area surrounding them this man was anything but lazy.
“General Einarr,” Caius greeted, bowing his massive head in the direction of his old ally. “I would like you to meet Spike. He is the Father of The Key.”
“Father?” Einarr stammered, gray eyes looking the strange man over once more. “I am sorry, but you are not quite what I expected.”
“It’s Spike, mate,” Spike said as he held his hand out to the warrior before him. “And I make a point of never being what people expect.” The rest of his words were finished with a cheeky grin as Einarr accepted the offered hand.
He was surprised at the firmness of Spike’s grip, and he could feel the calluses covering his palm. Small and oddly dressed, this man was a fighter and Einarr could respect that.
“Then Spike it is,” Einarr replied. “As long as you simply call me Einarr. Despite what the Dragon says, it has not been General in a long time.”
“Retired or piss someone off?” Spike asked. The question caught both Einarr and Caius by surprise, and pulled a sharp bark of laughter from the old soldier.
“I believe I ‘pissed someone off’,” Einarr confirmed, a smile gracing his scarred and weathered face.
“Really? Well then, mate, your just going to have to tell me exactly how you did it, and who it was you pissed off,” Spike said with a decisive nod of his head.
“And why would I do that?”
“That way I know who to piss off when I finally meet them.”
Despite the friendly greeting, Spike kept a close eye on Einarr as the three rested along the side of the rarely used road. He also enjoyed the warmth of the sun.
Spike had been pleasantly surprised to find out the sun of this world did not pose a fatal threat to him, and unlike what Angel had told him of Pylea, Spike’s human and demon sides seemed to be in perfect balance.
This world offered him friends and acceptance, and with each passing day Spike began to hope this world could become a home for him.
Still, Spike wanted to keep his guard up. While Draco had quickly become someone Spike gladly considered a friend, the General was still an unknown in Spike’s mind.
Though having Draco speak so highly of the man before they had met had helped ease some of Spike’s anxiety, enough it seemed he was able to doze a bit while the two conversed around him.
“What?” Spike answered, turning his attention back to his companions.
“You were drifting Father,” Draco said. “Does something trouble you?”
“Huh?” Spike asked. Giving his head a shake, Spike let out a rueful chuckle. “Nah, mate. Just got distracted is all. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt the sun on my skin.”
“Why is that?” Einarr asked curious about the world in which the Father had originally come from.
“In his world General, the Father’s kind are not permitted the joy of walking in the sun.”
“Something to do with being undead and damned,” Spike explained with a slight shrug of his shoulders. “Never quite understood it myself.”
“And how is it you would be considered damned?” Einarr asked as his expression took on a look of confusion.
“I’m a demon, a vampire to be exact,” Spike answered, his head hanging in shame. He did not want to see the looks of disgust that would undoubtedly pass over the other’s features.
While Draco might be a bit more accepting than most, Spike was positive once he found out about his past crimes he would surely turn on him.
If anything, being amongst the Slayer and his Grand-Sire in Sunnydale and Los Angeles had taught Spike, it was to know him was to be disgusted by him. Oh sure they would happily use him in a fight, but in everyday life no one wanted anything to do with Spike. Why would this world be any different?
Shocked, Spike looked up, and into the curious eyes of Einarr. Searching for a long moment, Spike could hardly believe this man truly did not seem to understand what Spike knew to be true, Spike was a demon and therefore unworthy.
“I’ve killed people. Innocent people, for fun, pleasure, or just because I could,” Spike answered. “I looked at people as food since that is all they bloody were to me. Gave no consideration to their feelings, or that of their loved ones. I just slaughtered them.”
“And do you feel that way now?” Einarr asked, a strange expression creeping into his eyes, one Spike did not understand.
“No, but that doesn’t excuse what I did,” Spike stated firmly, his voice filled with conviction.
“No it doesn’t,” Draco agreed, and both he and Einarr watched as Spike lowered his eyes, shame dulling their vibrancy.
“I too have killed,” Einarr stated drawing Spike’s attention from his shame. Spike could see the strange look more clearly now, and wondered what memories had caused it.
“But you were protecting people,” Spike argued, not seeing the connection Einarr was making.
“True, but still, a life is a life. It does not matter who, or what that life is. Be they evil or not, when you kill you’re still taking a life, and those lives do not deserve to be discounted simply because they are not looked upon as worthy. Every life is worthy.”
“Even this Ktulu‘s?” Spike asked, eyebrow rising in question. The answer he got was not the one he expected.
“Yes,” Einarr answered looking Spike straight in the eyes. His answer had come without any hesitation on his part, and Spike was left speechless and deeply confused.
“But he’s a monster,” Spike whispered not knowing how to react to Einarr’s beliefs. The unspoken ‘like me,’ did not go unnoticed by either Draco or Einarr.
“That he is Father,” Draco answered. “But that does not mean his life is worth less than ours. It is not up to us to judge who is worthy. That is a task for the Gods only. The world view of man and beast is remarkably limited, despite the life spans of some, when compared to the Gods.”
“I don’t know what to say,” Spike mumbled looking down at his clasped hands. Curiously Spike noticed his hands were shaking and found it peculiar.
So lost in thought, Spike failed to notice the tears felling silently down his cheeks, nor did he notice when Draco wrapped his tail around him, and pulled Spike so he ended up resting against his massive side.
Extending one great wing, Draco used it as a make shift blanket as he laid it over Spike’s shivering form.
Locking eyes with Einarr, both dragon and man kept silent as Spike’s view of himself and the world crumbled around him. Such moments deserved privacy, and they would try their best to give him that privacy while they sat on a clear and sunny expanse of old highway.