Magic Box. Homework. Could it be anymore boring? Dawn didn’t think so. She was almost done, anyway, thank God. Anya had gone to the back of the shop to inventory something, and there was no one in the main area but her. Slowly, making sure that the chair didn’t creak, and that the door to the back room remained closed, Dawn slid out of her seat. Time to see what she could find today.
It was a bad habit, she knew. And a bad thing to do. But.. She couldn’t stop herself. She glanced around the shop, looking for something interesting, and small enough to fit in her jeans pocket. She examined a row of amulets and stones on necklaces. Her eyes froze on a beautiful amulet. The stone was purple, like an amethyst, but if you looked at it long enough, there were other colors swirling throughout the purple, like a dance. She *had* to have it. Keeping her eyes on the back room door, she slipped the necklace off the knob and held it in her hand. It was even more beautiful up close. It had to be something important, and powerful. Maybe she’d find a picture of it in one of the old research books that Giles had left behind when he went back to England, and make it do something later.
At the thought of Giles, she felt a small wave of guilt, and a not so small one of loneliness. He’d left so quickly this time, she hadn’t even gotten to say goodbye. She missed him. With Buffy always out working or patrolling lately, and Willow still upset about Tara breaking up with her, sometimes Dawn felt like she might as well be the only one living in the Summers household. And, to make matters worse, Spike was so caught up patrolling with Buffy, EVERY night, that even he, her best friend, hadn’t been spending time with her. She slipped the necklace in her pocket and walked back to her homework. Sighed. There were times she wished that everyone would just be together again. Like it was before Buffy died. Spike had hung out with her, Giles was still around, and Buffy didn’t ignore her all the time. Now… It was like no one had time for anyone else. No one, except her. No time to be a family anymore. With another deep sigh, she went back to Algebra.
Buffy stood outside Spike’s crypt, debating going in. Sure, he’d kicked her out the other day, but that was probably because he was sore at her for bugging him in front of Xander when she’d been invisible. Yeah, it had been fun, and no, she didn’t feel the least bit bad about it, but still. There was no need for him to get all… bent out of shape. Humph. She’d show HIM cheating. She’d cheat him right through the wall the next time. And there would be a next time. She had no doubt about that. He couldn’t refuse her, after all. He loved her.
She laughed to herself. There was no denying it now. He’d proven that he loved her. More times and in more ways than she could count. Still, it was still kind of funny to think about. She could see why Xander had laughed the last year when she’d brought up the subject. She’d been too busy being disgusted to see the humor in it, but now? It *was* funny. Spike, her mortal enemy, the one person left who hated her with all his being, had fallen in love with her. And she’d never even been nice to him before! And she! Well.. she.. didn’t love him, exactly. Not the way he wanted, at least. But she did care. She wasn’t always sure why, but she cared. Maybe even love/cared, but it wasn’t the same. Still… every time she was with him… He said it. When they made lo- Had sex, he said it. When she left, when she came back. It was always the first and last thing he said to her, whether or not it was always verbal. His eyes could sometimes speak more eloquently than his voice. Or other assorted parts.
Started to open the door and go in. Tell him she forgave him for tossing her out the other day. Tell him that she understood that he’d just been freaked out by her invisibleness. Or, better yet, show him. Yeah. March right in there, pin him to the wall, and give him a good example of just how much she’d forgiven him. But. She paused again. She hadn’t been home much, lately. She’d be at work at the StupidMeat Pukefest, or letting Spike pound her into the floor. Or a wall, or the couch. Hell. The time she’d been invisible was practically the only time they’d ever been in a bed!
Shake it off. Go home, her little internal voice of reasoning said. There’ll be other nights. Spend time with Dawn. See how Willow’s doing. Call Xander and check up on the wedding plans.
Shut up, little internal voice, she snarked mentally. I want Spike now. Home later. Besides. There’s plenty of time to be with Dawn. She’s always around. All of them are.
So is Spike, the voice reminded her.
She didn’t have a response to that. There was time. But then there wasn’t. Never enough time.
Willow was in her room, surfing the net the old-fashioned, magic-free way. She missed Tara. But, progress! Three weeks without one spell. Not even a tiny one to wake her up instead of that annoying alarm clock. She was proud of herself. And knew Tara would be too. They were going out that evening. Not a date, really. Just coffee, and talking. Maybe cuddling later, if it went well. Things were looking up. If only there were more time in the day to do everything she had to do before getting ready.
“Can this get any worse!?”, Xander complained to no one, since he was home alone. “Stupid seating charts. Stupid caterers. Stupid.. stupid.. STUPID EVERYTHING!” He got up, moved to the other side of the table, imitating his bride-to-be. “Of course D’Hoffren has to sit near the food! He loves gruel stuffed bell peppers!”
Walked to the other side of the table, said in his normal voice, “Honey. If D’Hoffren sits there, my aunt will wind up near the alter, and she’s an atheist!”
Switched sides again. “But Xander, if we switch Halfrek and your cousin Celia around, then everyone will be able to see through Blerom’s head! You know he hates that!”
Back to the other side. “Ok. Fine, but now Buffy’s sitting with a bunch of Ewlar Demons, and I don’t think they’ll like her.” He gave up the two sided conversation. “What I need,” he said, speaking to the seating chart. “Is more time. Just a couple more days. God, if I’d known it would be this hard, I’d have sooner invited Spike’s family than mine. Especially since he doesn’t HAVE one!” Ran a hand through his hair. More time. He needed more time.
Giles sighed, reclining in a chair in his new flat. It was.. nice to be back home again. Really. He didn’t miss everyone so badly that it was all he could do not to pick up the phone and- Put it down again. It wouldn’t do to be making international phone calls on a daily basis, now would it? No. Of course not. His problem now was that he just had too much time on his hands. And he was desperately bored. When he was in Sunnydale, he’d always had something to do. Now, it just seemed like all he did was sit around and read. He liked reading, sure, but enough is enough. What does one do when there’s simply too much time?
“Ok.. ” Spike closed his eyes and opened the dictionary, dropping a finger onto a random word. This was a game he’d invented some time ago. He called it the Unliving Thesaurus. Open the dictionary to a random page, point at a random word, and then have to come up with as many synonyms in thirty seconds as he could. He only did it when he was incredibly bored. Like now. Opened his eyes. And the lucky word is… ‘braggart’. Sat down, took a deep breath, and turned over the little thirty second timer. “Blower, blowhard, boaster, braggadocio, bragger, gasbag, puck fist, rodomont, rodomontade, vaunter.” Glanced at the timer. Still time. “Bluffer, blusterer, loudmouth, ranter, raver, windbag!” Ha. Finished just as time ran out. Counted off in his head. Sixteen. A new record. Closed the dictionary and sighed.
He wished the Slayer would come over. He’d sensed her outside, not too long ago, but she must still be mad at him for throwing her out when she was invisible. Well!? He’d had to! She was using him to escape. He had known that. But to feel her, hear her, smell her, taste her, and not see her? It brought home a painful reality. The reality that she’d always be invisible to him. He’d never see her look at him the way he longed for her to. She was with him, but not really there. Surrounding him, but making him hollowed out inside.
His undead heart ached for her. He knew what it was like to dig out from a coffin. Hell, he still had nightmares about it when the sheets got wrapped to tight. But to be pulled from heaven.. Where she’d most likely been with her mum. At peace. Finally. He didn’t pretend to understand how that felt. He just offered himself, hoping that he could some how make at least some of the hurt go away. Maybe he did, and maybe he didn’t, but there was a time in every recovery when you had to stop taking medicine all the time, and just allow your body to finish the disease. Otherwise you become dependant on the drug you use to make the symptoms go away. And he didn’t want to be the Slayer’s drug. He wanted to be her lover. Her mate. He’d tried to say it before, but couldn’t get it out, so he’d rushed on to the next thing he could think of: Keep the drug away from her. So he’d thrown her out.
Now, all he was left with was time. Too much time. And far too alone. Vampires are social creatures by nature. They’re not meant to be solitary. It was never good. He was beginning to miss… well.. everyone. Snort. Even Harris, damnit. Not that he’d ever admit it.
Too much time. He sighed, and picked up the dictionary again. Oh. How appropriate. ‘Lonesome’. Sighed, and flipped over the timer. This one would be easy.
Dawn came home to an empty house, as was becoming the norm. She didn’t even bother hiding the amulet that she was now wearing around her neck. Went upstairs to change. Buffy would be home soon, unless she wasn’t. Willow was out with Tara, which probably meant all night, so scratch that thought. She stood in front of her mirror, examining how the amulet looked on her. The swirling colors were even more beautiful now, she thought. And they made the purple amulet seem to glow. She lifted it without taking it off, rubbing her thumb absently on it’s smooth surface.
She fished her schedule out of her backpack, and looked at the permission slip that was sticking out of it. Huh. Good luck finding someone to sign that before the museum trip next week. She held the slip up, reading about the new Hall Of Ancient Mammals that they were going to have. Ooh. Mammoths, Mastodons, Smilodons, Dire Wolves, Woolly Rhinos. It was going to be so cool, and she was going to miss it, just because her stupid sister didn’t have enough stupid time to sign a stupid paper.
“We always need more time,” she muttered, staring at the permission slip in one hand while still rubbing the amulet with the other. “I won’t get to see the Ancient Mammals, just because everyone’s out of time. Well, I’ve had it with the lot of them. Buffy, Willow, Tara, Xander, Anya, Spike, AND Giles! We’re supposed to be a family, but no one has any time to be one anymore! Screw them. Screw them all.” Her rant died down. With her attention still on the permission slip (how does one go about forging a signature, anyway?), she failed to notice that the amulet now was glowing a purple and gold color, much brighter than before. The images from the permission slip were reflected in the stone. Dawn snorted one last time, then yelled at the top of her lungs, “WHY ARE WE ALL OUT OF TIME!!!”
The amulet glowed extremely brightly, and a flash lit the room. When it dimmed, Dawn, and the amulet, were gone. Simultaneously, an identical flash of light surrounded two women talking in a coffee shop, one woman and one man in a heated discussion, one woman walking determinedly through a cemetery, one man sitting alone in his flat, and one vampire who was just about to open his fridge. When the light faded, ALL of them were gone.
Eight voices shouted in a void, swirling, spinning, multicolored lights flashing all around them. Then, their voices mixed with roars, howls, trumpets and bleats, sounds that no living human had heard for thousands of years. The void and the now totally mixed sounds swirled faster and faster, as if they were in a giant, cosmic toilet and God had just flushed. Faster, faster, smaller, closer together, until finally… It all faded to black. Silence.