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Thought You Should Know (Spuffy Fic)

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  • Thought You Should Know (Spuffy Fic)

    Title: Thought You Should Know
    Summary: Spike writes a letter to Buffy before the final battle in Not Fade Away.
    Characters/Pairing: Spike/Buffy
    Genre: Romance, Angst
    Rating: G
    Warnings: Spoilers for the end of Angel Season 5.
    Disclaimer: I don't own them. Just playing for fun.
    A/N: Banner by Sueworld. Thank you, Sue!





    Buffy,

    I’ve tried so many times to think of the perfect words to say to you. To let you know I was back from the great beyond. To tell you how I felt. I can’t find them. I’ve racked my brain til I was ready to strangle something but they’re never right. There are no words to fully explain what you mean to me. Every word isn’t enough. Not strong enough or powerful enough or beautiful enough. It’s a new torture all its own, to be filled to the brim with so much feeling and unable to express it. So I found myself swallowing these inadequate noises. They were unworthy of you. You deserve better. Always have.

    So why am I bothering you now? Way I figure it, this might be my last chance. I know you’ve moved on. I suppose Andrew told you about my visit to Rome. Pathetic, right? I only caught a glimpse of you, a shimmer of gold, but I could tell you were happy. Finally happy. You looked free the way you were dancing. I’ve always loved to watch you dance. You were never more alive than when you were dancing. I never felt more alive than when we were dancing together. Beauty in motion.


    She walks in beauty, like the night

    Of cloudless climes and starry skies

    And all that's best of dark and bright

    Meet in her aspect and her eyes


    Byron truly was a poncey bastard, but he had a way with words. Better poet than I could ever hope to be. That’s how I see you. A creature of darkness born of fire and sunlight. Dangerous and powerful. Yet the darkness never consumes you. You rule the night. Your inner light banishes the shadows. You conquer and enslave. Makes you warm inside to be near it. And beneath that strength lies your heart. I’ve spent so much time trying to find myself there. Within the warmth of your heart. I think I always knew that’s where I’d find home again.

    Love, don’t mind me. I told you once it didn’t matter how I felt, that I didn’t want anything from you. That’s not exactly true. Hell, it’s complete bollocks. I want. I want so many things from you. But I know I’ll never get them. And you shouldn’t give them to me. But I’d be a fool not to see you for what you are and be staggered by your light. The Slayer. Buffy. All that’s best of dark and bright.

    I wanted you to know how I felt. How I feel. It’s a part of me, the best part. Sometimes I think it’s the only good inside me – the part capable of loving you. It means I’m more than a monster. That maybe someday I'll finally be...

    Bad things are coming, love. And I find myself taking a side I never thought I’d choose. But he who shall not be named needs my help. It’s the right thing to do. And I think you’d be proud. So I’m going to save the world one last time.

    Just thought you should know.


    - Spike
    Last edited by Emmie; 19-03-09, 04:38 AM.
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  • #2
    Title: Thought You Should Know - Chapter 2
    Summary: Spike wrote a letter to Buffy before the final battle in Not Fade Away. It's starting to become a habit.
    Characters/Pairing: Spike/Buffy, OC
    Genre: Romance, Angst
    Rating: PG-13
    Warnings: Spoilers for the end of Angel Season 5 and After the Fall.
    Disclaimer: I don't own them. Just playing for fun.
    A/N: Second Installment.


    Spike stared at the bottle of whiskey on the bar in front of him. He glanced up and noticed his lack of reflection in the mirror behind the greasy bartender. Not that he had to worry about anyone noticing. It was a demon bar. Vampires welcome as long as they paid cash. Or kittens. Huh. He wondered if he should do something about the kittens. He doubted he’d make it out alive if he tried. Demons were funny about kittens. Only the slayer could scare them enough into letting her set their precious tabbies free. Maybe he’d call the ASPCA on the joint. Yeah. He’d do that tomorrow.

    “Feeling lonely tonight?” A raspy voice purred in his ear.

    Spike turned to face the brunette with the pornstar hair and the boobs to match it brushing up against the leather of his jacket. Her smile screamed sex and Spike glanced down at her straining cleavage before looking up to notice her heavily-lined eyes were a hazel-green.

    “What’s that, pet?” He’d forgotten what she’d asked. As fake breasts went, hers were certainly eye-catching. Or they were til he noticed the color of her eyes.

    “You feeling lonely tonight?” Her mouth quirked flirtatiously as she waited for him to answer, stroking his right arm as she leaned in closer.

    Spike shook his head and broke eye contact as he turned back towards the bar. Her eyes unnerved him. Wrong color. No, not the color - he liked the color. They just looked wrong. Shallow, maybe. No, hollow. They looked hollow. There was no light in them.

    The girl pouted for a second then reconsidered her approach. She sat down on the stool to his right and crossed her legs towards him, painting her smile back on. “Wanna buy me a drink?”

    Spike glanced at her out of the corner of his eye then nodded at the bartender. “Jack, give the lady whatever she wants.”

    “I’ll have what he’s having.”

    The bartender’s eyes widened. “You want a whole bottle of Glenfiddich?”

    She laughed a bit nervously. “Make it a shot.” She toyed with the shot glass handed to her then turned back towards Spike. “So what should we toast to?”

    Spike raised the bottle in front of him and tilted it her way before taking a hard slug. “Not much for toasting. Sorry.” The girl’s shoulders slumped as she lifted her glass and downed the shot.

    “So you’re a vampire, right? I heard about this bar from a friend of mine. Says that the non-killing variety of demon hangs out here.” She leaned in closer running her painted fingernail along the collar of Spike’s jacket.

    “That’s what you heard, eh?” Spike eyes narrowed as he looked at her. Vampire groupie. Figures. Stupid cows looking for a thrill with the Big Bad.

    “I hear that vampires have amazing stamina.” Her tongue caressed the syllables of the last word, lingering.

    Spike leaned his head down slightly, his mouth quirking into a half-grin as he scoffed out a breath of air. “People do like to talk, don’t they?”

    “So what do you say? Wanna go somewhere more…private?” Her voice deepened into what he assumed was her sexy-bedroom tone.

    “Can’t. Kinda busy at the moment.” Spike muttered offhand.

    Her jaw dropped in surprise then she looked down at the bar. “Doing what? Writing on postcards?” She reached forward to grab one. “Who’s Buffy? What kind of bimbo name is that? She your girlfriend?”

    “Oy!” Spike grabbed the postcard back, snarling. “Hands off.”

    She raised both hands as she rolled her eyes. “I get it. Hands off. Off of everything.” She grumbled the last line to herself. “I’m Christy, by the way. In case you wanted to know the name of the woman you just rejected.”

    Spike swept the remaining postcards together into one pile in front of him, encircled between his arms resting on the bar. He looked a bit suspiciously at Christy for a few moments. “Name’s Spike.”

    “Spike.” She repeated his name in a dull monotone.

    “Yeah.” He muttered in response.

    “Okay.” She sighed.

    “Right.”

    They both sat facing the bar not looking at each other in silence for several minutes. Christy looked over her shoulder to see if anyone else might be worth talking to. They weren’t. All she saw was slime, horns, flabby skin and creatures with scales. She sighed.

    “So why are you writing to this Buffy girl on multiple postcards? Shouldn’t one be enough?” At least this Spike guy was nice to look at, no matter how rude and grumpy he was. Being hot made up for a lot of character flaws.

    Spike shook his head. “Not gonna send all of ‘em. Like that would make sense.”

    “So what then?” Christy shook her head.

    “Just…” Spike’s gaze unfocused and Christy felt like he was looking right through her.

    “Just what?” She asked frustratedly.

    Spike looked down at the pile of postcards in front of him. “Just making sure I get it right. You know, don’t come on too strong. Don’t say anything embarrassing.”

    Christy rolled her eyes again. “If you’re that worried, why even bother to write it? You’re here torturing yourself over writing some chick a postcard. You realize you’re pathetic, right?”

    Spike closed his eyes and visibly clenched his jaw. Christy looked down at her empty shot glass and then reached across Spike’s arm for his bottle. He jerked reflexively, tightening his arms around the postcards only to relax when he opened his eyes to see her reaching for the whiskey. Christy took a few more shots straight from the bottle, shaking her head after each hit.

    “Whoo! Wow, that is intense.” She looked at the bottle label. “I’ve never been a big fan of whiskey but this stuff ain’t half bad.” She smiled crookedly as she raised the bottle for another drink.

    Spike started chuckling to himself. “Should be good, pet. I paid a pretty penny for it.”

    Christy hiccoughed and then giggled a bit. “Well, it sure does go down nice.” She grabbed the bar with her free hand to steady herself. “So you want me to read it for you? Let you know if you’re being…embla- embarrassing?”

    “Oh, you can read then?” Spike’s mouth dimpled his left cheek.

    “Yes, I can read and, and – shut up.” Christy let go of the bottle to use both hands to brace herself as she wobbled on her bar stool, her stiletto heels grasping for purchase on the stool's foot rest as she blinked dazedly.

    “You really can’t hold your liquor, can you pet?” Spike’s voice softened. He reached to steady her by the arm as he pushed the postcards into the inner pocket of his duster. “Come on, then. Let’s get you home.”

    Christy let him help her down from her seat, holding her arm firmly as she wobbled from side to side in her heels. “We can’t go home. It’s not even…what time is it?”

    “Time to go home, pet.” Spike said as he tossed money down on the bar and led her towards the door.

    “I thought you didn’t wanna go somewhere more private.” Christy muttered as she let him walk her towards the door.

    “Just doing my duty.”

    “Duty?” Christy squinted up at Spike, stumbling slightly as they weaved forward on the sidewalk.

    Spike half-smiled. “Rescuing kittens.”



    An hour later

    Spike stood on the sidewalk looking up at Christy’s apartment building. Once he’d gotten her to tell him where she lived, they'd walked the few blocks to her place only stopping so Christy could vomit her guts out in each passing alley. Her roommate had helped her into bed, inviting Spike to stay for a drink. He’d passed on the offer.

    He reached into his pocket and pulled out the last postcard he’d been working on before Christy bumped into him at the bar. The last one. Pathetic. How many of them had he written? Enough to feel a bit heavy in his duster's pocket. He looked down at the oversized postcard with his tiny script squished together to fit everything he’d wanted to say. He’d even put a stamp on this one, thinking he’d finally got it right. Disgusted, he walked towards the trashcan on the side of the street. Raising his arm up, he clenched the postcard in his right hand prepared to toss it away only to stop and lower it slowly.

    “Bollocks.” Spike muttered angrily. He looked down the street and noticed a mailbox at the corner. He looked back at the trashcan, clenched his jaw and tossed it inside. He stormed off, muttering “I’m not pathetic” to himself as he walked away.

    Half a block down the street, he whipped around and ran back to the trashcan, leaning down to grab the postcard off the top of the rumpled heap. He wiped it off on his jacket, brushing it clean carefully, inspecting it for any offensive damage. Seemed to be alright.

    He looked up the street at the mailbox, straightened his shoulders and strode directly toward it. He grasped the handle of the mailbox firmly, opening it with a jerk and tossing the letter in before he could change his mind. He jumped back, panting.

    Spike nodded. “Right then.” His chest rose as he continued to breathe heavily. “Right. Not pathetic.”





    The Postcard


    Buffy,

    So I made it out okay. Guess that’s obvious. I thought I might as well tell you. Trying to keep it a secret didn’t go so well last time. Bloody Andrew never could keep his trap shut. So yeah, was in hell for a bit. Not exactly what you’d expect. Torture, chaos, demon overlords – well okay, I guess it was what you’d expect. But the thing is it wasn’t really hell. No eternal damnation going on. I didn’t feel like I’d been judged or found wanting. None of that going down when the whole city went down with us in it. Was more an absence of judging. Like being abandoned. Forgotten. I doubt you even realized I was gone. Time had no meaning, right?

    But at the end of the day you still have to get up and continue to fight. No matter how pointless it seems. Or how much you failed the day before. Life is still life even when you’re in hell. Difference is you’re constantly fighting for your right to live. Which hey, I’m used to so no strain there. It was harder on everybody else. I tried to help. Tried to keep them safe. I never really understood how hard it must have been for you that last year in Sunnydale. All those girls who… You lost them but you had to keep going, keep leading everyone. It really does make you tired.

    I think a vacation is in order. Somewhere not too sunny with a nice nightlife. The Vegas strip isn’t too far off. Guess I can avoid the sun easy enough. Might be fun to gamble with something disposable like money for a change. Doubt I’ll be going to the demon casino there – kitten poker just isn’t as fun as it used to be. And who knows? Maybe I’ll figure out where I fit.

    I hope you’re okay. Better than okay. And that you don’t mind me sending you this. I figure if you don’t want to read it, you don’t have to. Angel knows how to get in touch with me, if you needed anything. Not that I think you need anything, but just in case.

    You are okay, right? I just had this weird feeling. Ya know, the kind that just starts to make everything feel not quite right.

    Hope you’re good. And you’ve got someone with you to watch your back.

    - Spike
    Last edited by Emmie; 04-03-09, 09:37 PM.
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    • #3
      Title: Thought You Should Know - Chapter 3
      Summary: Spike wrote a letter to Buffy before the final battle in Not Fade Away. Little did he's been reaching out to the wrong person at the wrong place.
      Characters/Pairing: Spike/Buffy, OC
      Genre: Romance, Angst
      Rating: PG-13
      Warnings: Spoilers for the end of Angel Season 5, After the Fall and up through Issue #23 of Buffy Season 8.
      Disclaimer: I don't own them. Just playing for fun.

      A/N that she thinks you should know: This story loosely follows the comics canon. Buffy was never in Rome as shown in The Girl in Question, but rather leading a new Slayer organization of over 500 members in the fight against evil. The "Buffy" that Angel and Spike tried to visit in Rome was actually a decoy set-up by Andrew to protect the real Buffy and keep her true location a secret. Out of the 1800 Slayers that were activated during Chosen and the 500 Slayers that have chosen to work with Buffy, a group of Slayers led by one Slayer named Simone have gone rogue and have been abusing their power a la Faith in Season 3. Want. Take. Have. In Issue #23, Buffy and Andrew go to Rome to try to gain intel on Simone and her gang, only to be forced into a standoff on the island Simone has taken over off the coast of Italy. Andrew's squad of Slayers ("Italy squad" as he calls them) come to their rescue, but Buffy fails to rein in Simone or remove her from power. Simone's violent acts have brought intense scrutiny on the Slayers from the world's media coverage.



      Rome, Italy
      Nearly One Year after Not Fade Away


      Buffy fumbled with the key as she worked to open her hotel room’s door. As the lock clicked, she pushed her shoulder against the door and slipped inside. The snick of metal as it automatically closed behind her made her blink tiredly as she examined the sparse room in the fading light of the setting sun. Andrew was busy catching up with the Italy squad of Slayers and wouldn’t be ready to leave for Scotland till morning. She’d overheard some of the girls talking excitedly about a night out on the town.

      Night out on the town. How long had it been since she’d went out to party? Her dancing shoes probably had molded over from disuse. Actually, last time she’d danced her shoes were charred Cajun-style from Sweet’s spell. Figures. She couldn’t even dance on her own time – it always had to be to someone else’s tune. Her shoulders shook as they reflexively hunched forward and she crossed her arms to hug her chest. Her trip to Rome had been all about business gone bad. She’d figured that things wouldn’t play out peachy and keen, but she hadn’t expected this. This feeling of failure. Again.

      She trudged forward across the room to look out the window, the fading light casting warm orange and reddish tints on the shingled rooftops and stone encasements. The city felt old. It practically breathed, sighing with each wave of light that passed across its surface. She leaned against the window sill, staring aimlessly out as she watched the yellows and oranges give way to deeper reds and purples, soon to be enveloped by the creeping bluish blacks at the very edges of the sky. Darkness falling. Except it didn’t fall. It greedily ate away at all the bright colors till they retreated beneath the horizon. Running away.

      Buffy turned to push her forehead against the window casing, squeezing her eyes shut as she listened to the transitioning silence of day giving way to night. People were hurrying home to rest only to go out again once the dusk-hour passed. Her eyes flew open to the jarring sound of a woman shrieking from the street below, her battle-ready reflexes relaxing as she saw a tall man with wavy, dark hair release the shrieking woman from his arms to twirl her in a circle with a firm grasp on her hand. The woman laughed as she spun back into him and he bent forward to kiss her.

      Buffy’s mouth opened unconsciously as she watched the lovers’ feverish embrace in the middle of the strata. She leaned forward, unable to look away as the man tilted the woman back, cradling her head in his arms as he deepened his kiss. A ruckus of catcalls forced the lovers apart, laughing as they smiled up at each other. Buffy blinked and looked down, suddenly too embarrassed to watch anymore.

      She swallowed tightly and blindly reached for the shutters, pulling them closed and blocking out the last bits of light in her room. Feeling her way, she bumped into the nightstand by her bedside before letting her knees give way and falling down on the mattress. She rolled to the side and pulled a pillow from beneath the headboard to hug against her chest. It was too early to go to sleep but that’s all she wanted to do now. Just close her eyes and forget. Forget about Simone and her rogue gang of slayers. Forget about the little girl who’d lost her home. The little girl who Buffy had promised to help. And failed. Sure, they’d all made it out alive. But that wasn’t enough. It was never enough these days.

      An entire island full of people had been forced to abandon their homes. All because of a Slayer with a major jones for power. Taking the island was only the most recent transgression in the eyes of the world. Everyone was watching and judging. Slayers were evil. They were dangerous. They attacked innocent people and forced them to run in fear instead of protecting them. The world didn’t know about the Slayers who bled for them every night, who died in battle against the forces of darkness. They didn’t know about the silent heroes. All they saw was the abuse of power from the misguided few. She didn’t know where to begin or how to fix this mess. Andrew had suggested releasing footage of the slayers in action fighting evil, but Buffy had rejected the idea.

      What I do is too important to show the world.

      She still thought that was true. She knew it deep down inside. She wasn’t going to beg the public for a PR pardon when she was needed on the front lines, teaching the girls how to fight, showing them how to lead. There was so much they still hadn’t learned. She had to be there to make sure they –

      A knock on the door cut off her train of thought. Buffy considered ignoring it. Andrew and the Italian squad were the only ones who knew where she was and she so didn’t want to deal with more Slayer business right now. Not when she was so tired. A minute passed and just as she began to hope that her visitor had left, a staccato of raps against the door forced her eyes open.

      She sighed as she leaned across the bed to turn on the bedside lamp, rolling off the mattress to stand upright. Buffy shrugged her shoulders stiffly as she walked forward to answer the door, pausing by the vanity mirror to brush the hair back from her face. She absently touched the shadows beneath her eyes. Oh well, can’t make those disappear without some magic concealer. Where’s Will when you really need her? Turning back to face the door, she stopped with her hand on the doorknob. Breathing deeply as she composed her face into a neutral expression, Buffy straightened her shoulders. Game face on - check.

      Buffy pulled the door open and blinked at the bright light pouring in from the hallway. A woman stood on the other side of the doorway, looking intent and nervous. She stepped back in surprise as if she hadn’t expected anyone to answer her knock. Buffy stared at the young woman quizzically, trying to remember a blond slayer with green eyes from Andrew’s squad. Her face looked strangely familiar but she couldn’t place her. Buffy waited for the woman to speak, but she just stood there staring right back at her.

      Suddenly frustrated and too weary to try figuring out how she knew this girl, Buffy broke the awkward silence. “Yes? Can I help you?” Buffy’s eyebrows rose expectantly, inching even further up as the girl blinked and nervously licked her lips. Rolling her eyes, Buffy waved her hand in front of the girl’s face. “Hello? Did you want something?”

      “Are you –" The girl hesitated, staring at Buffy’s face with eyes wide like she couldn’t look away. "…are you Buffy?”

      “That depends. Who’s asking?” Buffy narrowed her eyes as she took the girl’s measure. Something about this whole set-up just felt off. Her shoulders tensed as she watched the Slayer suspiciously, wondering if Simone had followed her to Rome for Round 2. The hallway behind the girl appeared empty, but that didn't mean much when you were dealing with a bunch of preternatural Slayers trained in stealth. Except the Slayer didn't look like she was dressed for an ambush, but a night out clubbing. Not that Buffy was judging her stylish fashion choices - she'd gone patrolling in skimpier gear in years past. Back when she wasn't in charge of a Slayer army and actually had a social life.

      The blonde girl laughed as she pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. “I’m …” She shook her head before continuing quietly. “I’m Buffy.” She grinned suddenly, her voice gaining strength. “The Vampire Slayer. “

      Buffy’s head tilted to the side as her eyes lost focus on the girl’s face. Did she just say…? “Did you just say…huh?”



      To Be Continued...
      Last edited by Emmie; 20-03-09, 05:36 AM.
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      • #4
        A/N: Special thanks to aisalynn for being an amazing beta.


        Chapter Four



        “Huh? Who are you?” Buffy repeated herself dazedly, shaking her head in confusion.

        “I’m Buffy the –“

        “Yeah, you said that already. But who the hell are you?” Buffy’s voice shook with anger as she clenched her jaw. Her hands tightened into fists as she leaned forward to force the girl to answer. And suddenly it clicked. Rome. Andrew. A girl that looked familiar because she looked a bit like Buffy herself. Even down to the stylish clothes Buffy had been coveting a few moments ago. It was the sort of outfit Buffy would wear if she had a choice, if she’d been living a different life. This girl was the decoy set up by Andrew to provide a cover for Buffy’s secret location. “You’re her. The girl Andrew–"

        The other Buffy was already nodding. “Yeah, I’m her. And you’re…you. Wow.” The girl spoke in quiet awe, eyes wide with amazement. Buffy recognized that look. She’d seen it on hundreds of newly called Slayers’ faces. Like she was Gandhi, Rambo and Barack Obama all rolled up into a cute, blond Slayer package. She was a legend and very uncomfortable with the star status. Even Simone held a wealth of respect for Buffy, though apparently not enough to stop wreaking havoc.

        Buffy’s rigid stance loosened when she realized the girl in front of her wasn’t a threat. As the tension drained away, all the exhaustion held off by the rush of adrenaline and anger came flooding back. She shook her head, trying to find focus. “So what are you doing here?”

        The girl broke eye contact to look down both sides of the empty hallway. “Can I come in?” she asked hesitantly.

        Buffy nodded absently, stepping back to let the girl enter her room. She closed the door and turned to look again at her visitor, taking closer note of her appearance. Superficially, they could have been confused for sisters or even twins. But there were some marked differences. This girl’s eyes were a bright, clear green compared to Buffy’s hazel color. She was a few inches taller than Buffy and not as petite in build.

        The general resemblance was striking though and from a distance Buffy imagined that anyone who knew her would initially be fooled by this doppelganger. Even the girl’s hair was styled to perfectly match Buffy’s in cut and color, though her twin actually took the time to style it so it flowed and curled softly against her shoulders. Buffy found herself throwing her own hair up into a ponytail nine times out of ten. No time to style it in between training sessions, nightly slayage, trips to the future and massive attacks on downtown Tokyo.

        The most noticeable difference in the girl’s face was her nose, straight and rounded at the tip. Buffy resisted the urge to rub her own nose in response. Not that she was still self-conscious about it - she’d gotten over that in high school. She’d totally gotten over it. Buffy bit her lip and looked down, noticing for the first time how pale her skin had become. Her twin boasted a radiant tan, the kind of tan Buffy could only get from a tanning bed nowadays as she spent most of her time in Scotland where sunshine was a rare commodity. Buffy rubbed her arms self-consciously. It felt like looking at a more attractive version of herself.

        Buffy remembered Giles telling her a story about a cave where people were chained and forced to watch the world through the shadows projected on the walls. That there was a place where perfect forms existed, the pure versions of the distorted forms found in the real world. This girl who was pretending to be Buffy had somehow upstaged the real one. It made her feel like she was a broken copy, inferior. Buffy crossed her arms over her chest and frowned. Her stare met the other girl’s eyes expectantly. “So?”

        “I shouldn’t be here, ya know? Us being seen in the same place at the same time? Badness.” The other Buffy started pacing from the window back to the center of the room, skirting around the corner of the bed each time she passed it.

        Buffy watched her twin working up the nerve to answer her question. The girl seemed torn, wanting to speak but holding back. Watching her move around the room with so much nervous energy made Buffy feel her exhaustion even more acutely. She gazed longingly at the bed then back at her energetic guest. Exasperated, Buffy cleared her throat loudly. “Look, whatever-your-name-is. You came here for a reason, right? Not to just do a few hundred laps around my room?”

        The girl stopped mid-walk to look back at Buffy over her shoulder. She sighed dejectedly and sat down on the bed, shaking her head worriedly. “I just don’t know where to start. It’s not like I’ve ever done this before.”

        Buffy’s eyes twitched slightly as she watched the girl cross her arms defensively to hug herself as she sat on the corner of the bed. Her bed. Her jaw tightened reflexively and she started to grind her teeth. Be nice, be patient, don’t snap at her. “Why don’t you start with why you’re here?” Buffy said slowly through gritted teeth and a stiff smile.

        The girl looked up to stare into Buffy’s eyes, a solemn expression on her face. “I have something of yours. Something that belongs to you.”

        Buffy jerked back in surprise at those words, laughing slightly. “It’s not a weapon stuck in block of stone, is it? ‘Cause I already have one of those.”

        The girl laughed. “No, it’s definitely not a weapon. It’s a – ” Her smile faded slowly and her eyes became a bit sad. “It’s a letter.”

        “A letter?” Buffy smiled suddenly. “That’s it? So why the dire? Unless you think the postal service has been infiltrated by evil and needs to be slayed? Which I’m not saying isn’t possible. Just that we kinda have more urgent priorities right now.” Chuckling, Buffy walked over to sit in the chair facing the bed. Her eyes sparkled with restored good humor as she held out her hand.

        The other Buffy looked away and reached into her bag to pull out an envelope. She started to hand it over only to stop and hold it between both hands in her lap, head hanging down. “It’s not the original one. I don’t have that anymore. But it’s a scanned version I uploaded onto my computer.” She looked up at Buffy, then down at the envelope.

        “Okay. Fine.” Buffy stretched her arm out further, palm upwards to accept the letter. The girl handed it over reluctantly and looked down. Buffy shook her head and pulled the folded letter out.

        Buffy - I’ve tried so many times to think of the perfect words to say to you. To let you know I was back from the great beyond.

        Back? No. How? Buffy’s eyes widened in shocked disbelief as she read on, her head shaking from side to side in denial. She began to feel dizzy as she forgot to breathe out, finally gasping when her body forced her to exhale. The words bled together as her eyes watered with suppressed emotion. Her chest burned. A tear slipped down her cheek unnoticed until it dropped onto the sheet of paper Buffy gripped with taut fingers. She blotted at the moisture, frowning as the ink smeared.

        Spike was alive. Or at least he was when he wrote this letter. The way he wrote, he made it sound like his being “back” might not last past the night he mailed this to her. The bed creaked as her forgotten guest fidgeted awkwardly. Buffy’s head shot up.

        “When did you get this?” she interrogated, eyes fierce.

        “It was…” the girl trailed off nervously in the face of Buffy’s intense stare.

        “When?” Buffy demanded.

        “A year ago. Almost. It was back in May. Or maybe June. Around then.” The girl’s voice wavered uncertainly.

        “And were there any other letters after this? Did he write again?”

        The girl shook her head slowly. “I’m sorry.” She looked at Buffy sympathetically.

        Buffy’s eyes widened as she tried to blink back her tears. She struggled to swallow over the knot in her throat. Her body seemed to fold in on itself. She let her head fall forward, her lower lip quivering as she leaned her head slightly to rest on her upraised shoulder.

        The girl’s eyes filled with emotion as she watched Buffy, not knowing what to say. “I’m sorry. I just…I thought you should know.” She finished softly.

        Buffy raised her head woodenly at those last words, nodding slowly as she stared through the girl in front of her. Her expression went blank as she swallowed and blinked involuntarily every few seconds.

        The girl stood up slowly and moved to leave. As she passed the vanity mirror halfway to the door, she turned to look at Buffy one last time. Buffy hadn’t moved. She sat frozen, staring off into space, no expression on her face. The girl turned back towards the door and took a step forward, gasping in surprise as a hand on her arm jerked her to a stop and whipped her around to face Buffy again.

        The girl panted slightly, looking into Buffy’s stormy eyes still wet with unshed tears. Buffy’s gaze traveled over the girl’s face as her grasp on the girl’s arm remained firm. It would have broken a normal human’s arm, but even for a Slayer her grip felt unbearably tight. Buffy opened her mouth, her lips moving as if to speak yet no sound came out.

        “You said… “ Buffy’s voice trailed off as she noticed the mirror on the wall behind them. Her eyes narrowed as she pulled the girl around like a doll so they both stood facing the mirror. With her free hand, Buffy reached out to touch her own reflection then that of the girl standing next to her. They were identical. All the minor differences Buffy had noticed earlier had disappeared. The girl’s reflection looked exactly like Buffy. Buffy looked away from the reflection to look at the girl’s face, turning back to the mirror with eyes wide in amazement.

        “Magic.” The girl whispered softly. She nodded at her reflection. “That’s how everyone sees me now. You’re the only one who doesn’t see the illusion. Except when…” She nodded at the mirror again.

        “Who are you?” Buffy shook her head from side to side, hoping to clear her vision.

        The girl smiled sadly. “I’m Buffy.”

        Buffy continued to shake her head. “No, that’s not your real name.”

        The girl looked away from Buffy to gaze at her reflection. “That’s who I am now. If I forget, if I think for a second that I’m anyone else, I put lives in danger. I am Buffy. That’s who I have to be.”

        Buffy let go of the girl’s arm, letting her hand drop limply to her side. She stood in silence, too stunned to respond. The girl turned to leave again and Buffy suddenly remembered.

        “Wait! You said…you said that you didn’t have the original copy anymore.” The girl turned to look at Buffy, her eyes wary. Buffy swallowed tightly before continuing. “What happened to it?”

        The girl looked down and licked her lips. “It’s gone. I don’t have it anymore.”

        Buffy’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “You don’t have it?” The girl shook her head guiltily. “Who does have it?” Buffy asked slowly, eyes intent.

        The girl’s head hung even lower, her head shaking slightly as she turned to pull open the door. She paused in the doorway and finally raised her eyes to look at Buffy directly. “I gave it away. I don’t know what happened to it after that.”

        “Who did you give it to?” Buffy spoke in a low tone, holding the girl’s gaze without blinking.

        The girl sighed. “Mr. Giles. I gave it to Mr. Giles.”
        Last edited by Emmie; 31-03-09, 07:09 PM.
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        • #5
          Chapter Five


          Buffy sat in the darkened corner, waiting. Her first reaction after learning Giles had kept Spike’s return a secret had been to call him and demand an explanation. Said demands coming in the form of extremely angry yelling. And boy daddy, she’d tried.

          But as it usually happened nowadays, Buffy couldn’t get Giles on the phone. Giles didn’t want to talk to her. Oh, the irony. Apparently, Giles didn’t want anyone communicating with her directly. She’d stewed in growing anger for hours after the other Buffy had left, finding no outlet to vent her rage.

          After the third hour had passed, she’d realized she was glad that Giles hadn’t been ‘available to take her call’. She already knew what Giles would say to her. She could hear his voice in her head saying that he’d done it for her own good. That knowing Spike was alive would only upset her. That there was no future with a souled vampire and he wanted more for her than an unhealthy attachment to a member of the undead. He’d excuse his own sketchy behavior and somehow make her the guilty party for failing to live up to his expectations. The Giles in her head was seriously pissing her off.

          No. She was done talking. She was done with excuses and false truths. And that’s all Giles would give her now. He’d try to placate her and when that didn’t work, he’d guilt trip her by reminding her that her duty was to her Slayers first and foremost. Like she didn’t already know that. Like devoting every second of her life for over the past year and a half wasn’t enough proof that she understood her priorities. Buffy understood sacrifice. She sacrificed her life everyday for the mission. For the girls she’d made into Slayers. Every day she paid the price.

          The price hadn't felt so high before in a long time. What if he hadn’t survived? Was that why he hadn’t written again? Her world would be just cruel enough to bring him back only for her to discover that she’d already lost him again. Stupid world.

          No, she was glad that Giles hadn’t wanted to talk to her because it made her realize what she had to do. It was time to take action and she knew just where to start.

          Voices laughing from down the hall carried through the closed hotel room door. Buffy tensed in anticipation. The door opened after several failed drunken attempts to slide in the key. Andrew stumbled into his room, already half-undressed with his dress shirt pulled out of his slacks, his tie loosened and hanging askew. When he threw his jacket on the floor and started slipping out of his shoes, Buffy decided it was time to put a halt to this very unwanted strip show.

          “Andrew,” Buffy drawled menacingly as she clicked on the lamp next to the chair she lounged in.

          “Sweet bejeesus!” Andrew tripped over his shoes, falling back into the dresser behind him. “Ow!” Banging his head, he flailed about caught in his half untied shoes as he fell to the floor. Rolling over onto his back, he turned his head to find Buffy watching him with one eyebrow raised. “Oh. Hey, Buffy. How is our fair Roma treating the Slayer Generalissimo?”

          “Have a good time tonight, Andrew?” Buffy’s voice held a dark undercurrent beneath her falsely sweet tone.

          Fumbling into a sitting position only to trip over his shoes again, Andrew’s face was flushed from his night out carousing. “Heh. You know what they say about Slayers – all work and no play leads to extremely grumpy Slayers. And extreme grumpiness leads to the Dark side.”

          Andrew’s face screwed up quizzically. “Or it makes you a dwarf in service to a beautiful princess forced to abandon her home because of an evil queen who’s desperately hoping that her Prince Charming will restore her with True Love’s kiss.” Andrew rested his chin on his fist, continuing to ramble in his tipsy state. “Don’t you miss Disney back in the day when they did their old school animation? Back before they sold their soul for the cool new toys. It truly was a Golden Age.”

          Andrew’s gaze unfocused as his imagination carried him away. Buffy’s silence coupled with her calculating stare brought him crashing back to reality. He looked at her uncertainly, crawling up to sit on the bed and face her.

          “You like stories, don’t you Andrew?” Buffy’s gaze was intense and unblinking, her mouth firm.

          “Sure, who doesn’t?” Andrew started fiddling with his cufflinks and accidentally knocked one off his sleeve. He lurched forward, trying to catch it but it fell to the floor at Buffy’s feet. She leaned down to pick it up, examining the silver design in the shape of a light saber. She quirked her left eyebrow and looked back at Andrew with a half-smile. Andrew returned her smile ingratiatingly. Buffy’s upper lip curled to bare her teeth. Andrew bit his lip and gulped audibly.

          Buffy held the cufflink up in front of her, tilting her head to look at it more closely. “I’ve never been a huge fan of mysteries myself. I always go for the romance, action and humor - the Princess Bride-effect. But I think I’m finally starting to see the attraction.” Buffy’s hard smile accompanied her musing tone. “Mysteries are about that moment when you just get it. Everything makes sense and you realize how it all fits. See, I had all these puzzle pieces laid out before me and I didn’t even realize that when I put them together – they told a story. Can you guess what it was?”

          Andrew’s eyes widened and he pursed his lips, shaking his head. He looked at the silver cufflink being casually tossed from Buffy’s right hand to her left and back again. She occasionally paused to roll it between her index finger and thumb.

          “No guesses? I’ll give you a hint. The first piece in the puzzle - LA.” She raised her eyebrows expectantly while Andrew’s face looked baffled. “Not enough? How about this one – Angel. Still not enough? Dana.” Buffy paused again before continuing, jaw clenched. “Still don’t get it? I’ll give you a big one – vampire with a soul.” She sat back in the chair, watching Andrew start to squirm while she fiddled with the cufflink. She smiled tightly. “That’s better. Now is there something you want to tell me, Andrew?”

          Andrew laughed awkwardly. “Well as you’ve heard, my quest to the city of Angels led me to the evil citadel of the Wolf, Ram and Hart where I found myself facing many a harrowing experience. Little did I know that Angel the Vampyre would so boldly challenge my right to guardianship of the crazed Slayer, Dana.” Andrew waved his finger. “Oh, but the Dark One had underestimated his opponent. In the end, the side of Slayerly righteousness won the day…or night since it was dark out. And Angel the Vampyre was sent back to his evil fortress impotent and empty-handed.”

          Andrew smiled like a child expecting a cookie for a job well done. Buffy stared at him, silent. “Erm, though no blows were exchanged it truly was a battle to the death. By glaring. Oh yes, we had a death glare-off royale! For the brooding great one was no match for Andrew, the greatest watcher in all the lan – ”

          Buffy slammed her fist against the table next to her, leaning forward with gritted teeth. “No more lying to me, Andrew. Not to me.” She leaned forward and held the light saber cufflink between her index finger and thumb, pushing down until the metal was a flattened mess. She tossed it into Andrew’s lap. “Understand?

          “So you wanna talk about...” Andrew’s voice trailed off.

          “Spike’s alive. Or he was.” Buffy’s voice caught in her throat. She closed her eyes and clenched her fists tightly. Head bent down, she opened her eyes to glare at Andrew. “Spike came back. And you’re going to tell me everything you know.”

          “Right-y-oh, boss.” Andrew’s voice cracked, a bead of sweat trickling down his temple.

          Buffy nodded stiffly, satisfaction coloring her face. “Good. ‘Cause I’m done playing your games.” She leaned forward, the fire in her eyes holding Andrew in rapt attention. “It’s time you started playing mine.”



          12 hours later
          Rome Airport




          Andrew rapped his fingers against the ticket counter, his entire body humming with nervous energy. The ticket sales agent paused in entering his travel information to glance at him strangely. He smiled in a creepily reassuring way and she widened her eyes behind her glasses, typing faster in order to get the bizarre man away from her post. “Two tickets to Glasgow. Would you like a window or an aisle seat?”

          “Window.” The petite blonde woman standing next to the peculiar American answered automatically. “Please.” She added as an afterthought, looking uncertainly at her male companion.

          The saleslady nodded and entered in the information. “Two tickets for Andrew Wells and…” She looked up at the pair when they failed to answer immediately.

          The blonde woman flashed her perfect teeth in a big smile and handed over her ID for verification. “Buffy. Buffy Summers.”

          “Buffy?” The saleslady barely suppressed a smirk, printing out the two boarding passes and handing them over to the man with the obnoxious manners.

          Andrew grabbed the tickets from the saleslady’s hand and mock saluted. “Mille grazie, ticket lady. Ciao ciao!”

          The pair turned and slowly worked their way towards the boarding gate in silence. Thirty minutes later, they took a seat by the gate and waited. Andrew remained jittery, glancing over his shoulder every few minutes and scanning the crowds. “Buffy.” His mouth quirked after saying her name.

          “Hmmm…” she answered absentmindedly, lost in thought.

          “It’s gonna work out. I can tell. It’s gonna work out great.” Andrew’s chipper voice rose above the general din of the airport boarding area as he rocked back and forth in his seat.

          She looked at him skeptically. “That’d be loads more convincing if you weren’t acting like a kid who forgot to take his Adderall.” She took a deep breath as the flight attendant called all the passengers to prepare to board their flight. “I guess it’s time to face the music.”

          Andrew nodded. “Showtime.”

          They walked towards the gate, slowly moving forward in line as the group boarded the plane. A blonde woman in sunglasses and a dark overcoat watched their progress from across the room. She stood like a silent statue, her arms crossed over her chest. When the attendant finally closed the boarding gate, the woman walked to the window to watch the plane depart, staring as it taxied along the runway and prepared for takeoff. Her breath caught as the plane began to move forward, faster and faster, until it was airborne. She watched it rise into the sky, her heart in her throat, hazel eyes wide behind the tinted glasses. The plane finally disappeared from sight over the horizon and she let out a deep sigh. A smile slowly spread across her face.

          A woman’s voice over the PA system announced, “Now boarding international flight 1630 to Los Angeles…”
          Last edited by Emmie; 22-03-09, 03:57 PM.
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          • #6
            ***Special thanks to Aisalynn and Shapinglight for being wonderful betas for this chapter.


            Chapter 6



            35,000 Feet
            En Route to Los Angeles


            Buffy had always loved flying. The exhilaration of takeoff as her body raced forward within the metal bullet, the struggle to defy gravity in the first few seconds off the ground, the way her ears popped as she was carried up into the sky. The otherworldly excitement as she chased her heart which had already flown high above her.


            She swelled with emotion and feeling in those first few moments only to settle into a quiet, surreal wonder as the plane leveled at its high altitude. She loved the journey as she passed over the world from on high, enshrined in the fragile safety of metal and mechanics, watching cities and towns in their newly miniature scope.


            During the day, she loved passing through the clouds and imagining she could reach through the thick Plexiglas to let the streams of white gossamer float through her fingertips. When night fell, she marveled at the stars that had fallen to Earth to light up the ground below, rivaling the sky in their brilliance.


            Buffy loved the way her heart raced as the plane began its descent, how her stomach jumped and her body instinctively leaned forward in anticipation of the landing. How for a few moments she was between worlds, land and sky, and she reveled in the powerful sensation of being pushed forward while the brakes grappled with the force of the plane's forward momentum.


            She felt giddy after every landing as she returned to solid ground. With each step forward the sensation of flying faded away till her land legs were firmly rooted and her heart settled back into her chest. But the true wonder of sensation ? it stayed with her long after her fall from the sky. In her memory and imagination she could still feel the clouds whipping past her and see the stars blazing within the black canvas of terra firma.


            Buffy loved flying. Or at least she usually did. But this time the race to the sky made her body clench in anxiety and fear.


            What if Spike was dead?


            The sun breaking through the clouds on the horizon didn't inspire wonder but made her flinch as she imagined his ashes scattered on the cavernous stone of the Hellmouth floor. The high altitude didn't lead to pleasant musings about the world below, but made her feel alone and set apart.


            What if Spike hadn't written her again because he'd found someone else?


            She imagined him kissing Drusilla, kissing Harmony, kissing an unknown woman in shadow who clutched at his shoulders as he ravished her mouth.


            What if Spike no longer loved her?


            She imagined him sneering at her, telling her it wasn't even all that good while it lasted and that he'd already died for her once and wasn't that enough?


            Everything Buffy loved about flying had abruptly shifted until the experience was foreign and terrifying. The only constant that remained was her heart. Her heart that had flown up into the sky as it always did as the plane took off. Her heart that she continued to chase in choked desperation. Yet she feared this one time it was forever lost to her. She would chase her heart across the world but never find it again.


            She imagined Spike dead. She imagined him in love with someone else. She imagined him hating her and blaming her for leaving him to die inside the Hellmouth. She imagined so many nightmare scenarios waiting for her at the end of her flight. Everything she imagined was wrong.




            Alystrata Casino
            Las Vegas


            Spike's head smashed into the pavement from the hard fists bashing him in the face. He growled through his fangs and caught the other vampire by the wrists, flipping him over his head as he whipped his shoulders back against the ground. Using that momentum, he swung his legs back down as he kipped up into a standing position, spinning around on the balls of his feet. His snarl fell when he looked at the cloud of dust where his opponent should have lain. He glared at his hunting companion who was supposed to have stayed on the sidelines for the fight.


            Connor shrugged. "Sorry. You were just taking your sweet time. I figured I'd finish him off for you."


            Spike looked up at the sky in disbelief before turning his narrowed gaze on Angel's son. "You know, next time you decide to come a-visitin' Uncle Spike, you might wanna think about giving me some incentive to actually issue the invite. Here's a hint ? don't bogart my kill. I've been hunting that lowlife wanker for the better part of a week and when I finally get him out in the open, you?" Spike growled again.


            Connor raised his hands up. "Hey! Sorry. Won't happen again. It just looked like you were getting your face pummeled, is all."


            "Pfft. I had him right where I wanted ?im."


            "You're right. I see that now. I was wrong. So very wrong." Connor face twitched as he struggled to keep from smirking.


            Spike glared at Connor before bending down to pick up his forgotten stake, shoving it angrily into his jacket pocket. "Didn't ask when you showed up on my doorstep all pathetic looking, but why are you here anyway? Shouldn't Papa Bear be shitting his proverbial brick right about now what with you subjecting yourself to my bad influence?"


            "Nah, Dad's cool with me taking a vacation. Or he would be if I'd told him about it." The smile faded from Connor's face. "I just needed to get away for a little bit."


            Spike sighed and started walking through the charred remains of the casino lobby. Halfway to the door, he turned to look at Connor who stood frozen in place. Spike raised his eyebrows and jerked his head towards the exit, waiting for Connor to start walking forward before he continued on.


            "So how'd you know he'd be here? The vamp." Connor ducked under a fallen ceiling beam as he waited for Spike's explanation.


            "Place burned down about a year ago." Spike looked around at the blackened walls. "Perfect hideout for our kind."


            "But how'd you figure he was here? I've been helping you track him for the past day and his scent was nowhere in the area. No trail to follow."


            "Wasn't him I was following." Spike breathed in deeply through his nostrils. "You smell that?"


            Connor closed his eyes and inhaled. After a few moments, he opened his eyes to look at Spike questioningly. "What? What is it?"


            "That scent. Destruction. Despair. Fear. Death. It's all burned into the walls here. It's irresistible to a demon." Spike's eyes hardened. "The bastard couldn't stay away."


            They walked in silence to Spike's Viper parked a few blocks away from the abandoned remains of the casino. Connor stared at the massive dent above the front passenger tire. He absently kicked at the tire as he waited for Spike to unlock the door. Finally slipping inside, he turned to look at Spike expectantly and nodded in the direction of the dent. "What happened?"


            Spike glanced at Connor while he turned the ignition and started driving back towards home. "V?nrak demon."


            "I had no idea V?nraks were so evil. Going around denting expensive sports cars." Connor shook his head in mock disillusionment. "Petty vandalism. It's just so?petty. Did he at least leave a note with all his insurance info?"


            Annoyed, Spike turned to look at Connor. "It wasn't vand ? don't make me pull this car over."


            "Wouldn't dream of it. Who knows what else this V?nrak did to your car? I'm just praying it'll get us back to your place before it dies on us." Connor settled back into his seat with his arms crossed over his chest, smiling as he looked out the window.


            Spike kept his mouth shut, driving in silence. He stroked the steering wheel with his thumbs, occasionally patting it in a placating manner. Connor looked at Spike out of the corner of his eye, certain he'd heard Spike murmuring ?sorry, sweetheart' under his breath. He decided that would be taking the weird to all new heights and pretended he didn't have superhuman hearing that could discern a pin dropping from 100 feet away.


            Connor turned to stare out the window, hunching down into his seat. He sighed and looked back at Spike. Staring ahead at a scratch in the dashboard, he broke the silence. "Gwen and I broke up. Again."


            Spike turned his head slightly without losing sight of the road. "Sorry to hear that," he said softly after a prolonged silence.


            Connor exhaled loudly. "Yeah well, I should've known it wasn't gonna work. After what she did. We tried, but I guess?" Connor stared down at the floorboard of the car. "I guess once you lose the trust, you can't get it back. I kept waiting for her to stab me in the back like before. To turn on me." Connor squeezed his eyes shut, holding them closed for a few seconds before blinking rapidly. He pushed back hard against the headrest, bracing himself with the reassuring pressure. "The worst part is that I still love her. I just can't stand to be around her. Because of the person I become, the things I think and feel. I don't want to be the guy who's always wondering when his girlfriend is going to betray him again."


            Spike grunted. "'ve been there. A few hundred times with Dru. She'd always wander off, playing around with other demons till she got bored and decided to come home. And I'd always take her back. Always. Managed to convince myself she really loved me and that it was just her being?Dru. But there was always a part of me that knew she'd do it again. Took a long time before I finally learned to stop making excuses for her."


            Connor squinted. "How'd you do that?"


            Spike chuckled painfully. "Fell in love with someone else. As far as easy solutions go, I don't recommend it. The cure was just as painful as the disease. Maybe more." Spike's voice became solemn. "Most definitely more."


            "So you wish you'd never fell in love with this other girl?"


            Spike scowled at Connor. "Don't be an idiot."


            Connor shook his head, his brow furrowed. "Then I don't get it. You said falling for this other girl was worse than being with Dru. Worse than being with a woman that cheated on you, that you couldn't trust."


            "Never said it was worse. Said it was painful." Spike stared straight ahead at the horizon. He continued in a soft voice, musing. "Pain isn't always a bad thing, you know. Pain lets you know you're still alive inside. Pain shows you how deep the feeling goes. You'll never truly know love till you've gotten your heart ripped out from your chest. Heartbreak is part of the way love works its will. Love brings the highest highs and the lowest lows. Love takes you to an all new dimension of pain. Nothing can compare to the ecstasy of a bleeding heart."


            Connor shook his head again, confused. "I think I'll pass on that then. I've had enough pain to last a dozen lifetimes."


            Spike blinked, his eyes refocusing on the road ahead. "Yeah. Guess so."
            Last edited by Emmie; 31-03-09, 07:08 PM.
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            • #7
              Comics Background Info: This story loosely follows the comics canon. Buffy was never in Rome as shown in The Girl in Question, but rather leading a new Slayer organization of over 500 members in the fight against evil. The "Buffy" that Angel and Spike tried to visit in Rome was actually a decoy set-up by Andrew to protect the real Buffy and keep her true location a secret. Out of the 1800 Slayers that were activated during Chosen and the 500 Slayers that have chosen to work with Buffy, a group of Slayers led by one Slayer named Simone have gone rogue and have been abusing their power a la Faith in Season 3. Want. Take. Have. In Issue #23, Buffy and Andrew go to Rome to try to gain intel on Simone and her gang, only to be forced into a standoff on the island Simone has taken over off the coast of Italy. Andrew's squad of Slayers ("Italy squad" as he calls them) come to their rescue, but Buffy fails to rein in Simone or remove her from power. Simone's violent acts have brought intense scrutiny on the Slayers from the world's media coverage.

              ETA: Angel survived the battle in Not Fade Away and the events of After the Fall, but now everyone in LA knows Angel exists and is a vampire just as they know about the demons that walk the streets. He's become a citywide legend.

              A/N: Special thanks to Aisalynn for being an amazing beta.




              Chapter 7




              Hyperion Hotel
              Los Angeles




              Angel sat in his office, staring at the phone and willing it to ring. Connor had disappeared without any word of his whereabouts a few days ago. Angel worked hard to not hover or smother his son, but he knew Connor hadn’t been back to his apartment since he’d broken up with Gwen. Connor hadn’t told anyone where he was going, he’d just vanished. He wasn’t answering his cell phone or returning any of Angel’s messages. There’d been no word of Connor getting into a fight according to Angel’s demon contacts and with his newfound fame anything that happened to his son would make waves. Waves the size of tsunamis. Connor was lying low. Angel wasn’t even sure Connor was still in LA.

              “No news yet?” Nina leaned against the office doorway, her face doing little to mask her concern for both Connor and Angel.

              Angel shook his head, his grave expression never shifting.

              “He’ll be fine. Connor can take care of himself. He’s tough.” Nina smiled. “Just like his dad.”

              Angel looked away and sighed heavily. “Yeah,” he answered softly.

              “Maybe it’d be a good idea to go out. I’ve been researching that case about the random acts of demonic cult activity downtown.” Nina walked to the desk, placing a handful of papers in front of Angel. “Turns out – not so random.” She pointed to the location in the center of the map. “I think we should check it out. So far no one’s been hurt, but that kind of mojo can’t be good news.”

              Angel pushed the papers away. “Have Kate look into it. If there’s something there, she’ll know what to do. Right now it doesn’t seem like much to go on.” Angel stood and walked towards the microwave in the corner of the office. He pushed start and watched the mug full of blood slowly spin inside.

              Disappointed, Nina picked up the papers and walked towards the door. “Yeah, okay. I’ll let her know. Maybe go with her myself.” She paused in the doorway. “I’ll call if we find anything.”

              “Yeah, great. Do that,” Angel said absently with his back to the door.

              The microwave dinged and Angel pulled out the mug, sipping it as he walked back towards his desk. He resumed staring at the phone, unable to think about anything but Connor. Angel knew how painful break-ups could be and he understood the need to get some distance, maybe gain some perspective. What worried him was that apparently gaining perspective for Connor meant leaving town.

              His mug of blood forgotten, Angel continued to stare at the phone as he thought about all the times in the past few months that Connor had come to him for advice about his relationship with Gwen. Angel hadn’t been able to help much. He had over 150 years of experience with Darla, but no experience gained there resembled a healthy relationship.

              And Buffy, well, half of the time he was in Sunnydale he spent trying to stay away from Buffy, the other half trying to drive her insane and eventually kill her. Plus the whole open communication thing was never their strong suit. There were so many horrible things he was afraid she’d find out about him. That the light in her eyes when she saw him, that light would fade away till it was replaced with disgust. Honesty was always a struggle for them. And trust. Love came easily. But the trust…

              Then there was Cordy. Who he trusted so easily. Completely. She’d seen him at his darkest hours and still stood by his side. But they’d never really been together. Not really. Just when things were starting to build towards something more--well, towards something--she was taken away and he’d never really gotten her back. They’d missed their moment and now she was gone. Their first kiss when both of them knew how they felt about each other was their last. A goodbye kiss.

              Angel didn’t know what to tell Connor. He didn’t have any sage advice for how to make things work with Gwen. He’d tried being supportive and saying the right things, but he knew he was falling short. That Connor was frustrated with his inability to help. Angel was used to failing his son, just like he’d been used to failing his father. But every time he tried so hard to do the right thing. Every time.

              Lost in thought, the phone rang three times before the sound penetrated Angel’s brood. His hand shot forward to pick up the phone. “Hello?”

              “Dad? Hey Dad, it’s me.” Connor’s voice came through a bit fuzzily over the bad connection. Angel slumped back into his chair as the tension drained from his body, silent. He smiled as he listened to the sound of Connor’s voice. “Just wanted to let you know I’m on my way back. And I’m bringing someone with me. You might remember him – has a thing for leather, cusses every other word and can’t go five minutes without a cigarette.”

              Angel heard a muffled, “Who doesn’t have a thing for leather, no I don’t and yes I can.” He rolled his eyes. “That’s fine, Connor. Anything to have you home.”

              “Right. I’ll be back soon.” Connor paused. “Sorry I left like that.”

              “It’s okay. I knew you’d be fine.” Angel strained to act reassuring. “See you when you get home.”

              As the line went dead, Angel slowly lowered the phone and looked at it. He smiled as he hung up. Glancing at the mug still full of blood that had now cooled over, he picked it up and downed it quickly. Feeling ravenous, he stood and walked towards the miniature fridge underneath the microwave, bending down to get another bag of blood to heat up. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten. He’d only made the mug of blood earlier so Nina wouldn’t fuss at him like she’d been doing the past few days. He slit open the bag and poured it into the mug, placing it inside the microwave and pushing start. Instead of staring aimlessly at the circling mug, his eyes lost focus as he imagined Connor walking through the door.

              “And here I was worried you’d be too busy to see little old me.” The familiar feminine voice had an edge to it. Angel’s shoulders tensed.

              “Buffy.” Angel turned to find her standing right where Nina had been less than an hour ago. Only Buffy didn’t lean against the door jam. She stood straight and tall with her arms crossed over her chest. Strange how she could stand so tall when she was so tiny. Her hair fell to her shoulders, longer than he’d remembered it.

              “Angel.” Buffy responded automatically, her mouth tight.

              Angel’s eyes narrowed as he stared at Buffy, reading the tension in her face and stance. She looked pissed. Not enraged. More like a cold anger. Icy. Angry Buffy was never easy to deal with. The microwave dinged behind him and he pushed the cancel button to quiet it. “So what is it? Why are –“

              “Where is he?” Buffy’s voice cracked as she interrupted him.

              Angel jutted his chin forward obstinately. “Where’s who?”

              “Spike.” Buffy bit out the words. “Where is Spike?”

              Angel shook his head, disbelieving. “You came halfway around the world to ask me where Spike is?” He raised his hands defensively, annoyed at her accusing tone. “I’m not Spike’s keeper. And I couldn’t tell you where he is because for one, I don’t care and for two, I don’t care.”

              “So he’s alive?” She asked in a small voice, the anger leaking away.

              “Yeah, as alive as any other vampire.” His mouth grimaced. “Thanks for asking, by the way. I’m fine.”

              Buffy’s eyes closed briefly before opening to glare at Angel. “You knew he was back and you didn’t tell me. What? Is it your mission in life to keep me in the dark? To make decisions for me without actually giving me the right to choose? I’m not a teenager anymore. You don’t get to just…just…” Buffy searched for the words frustratedly, stabbing her index finger at Angel each time she hesitated. “Ugh!”

              Angel clenched his jaw. “Let me repeat myself just so we’re clear. I. Am. Not. Spike’s. Keeper. I don’t pass notes for him during study hall. I don’t send out ‘Welcome Back’ party invites to all his friends. I have more important things to worry about than Spike like oh say, stopping the world from ending. Oh yeah, and eradicating evil.” Angel punched the air with his fists. “So sorry if my priorities inconvenienced you. Wait, no. I’m not sorry. ‘Cause the only person who needed to tell you anything was Spike. Go be angry at him.”

              Buffy’s shoulders slumped as she dropped her arms to her side. “Sorry. I just…” She rubbed her temples, exhaustion leaking into her voice. “I’m just so tired. I can’t even tell who’s lying to me anymore.”

              Angel’s face softened and he walked forward to touch Buffy by the shoulder, his hand paused in midair as the front door banged open in the lobby.

              “Dad! We’re back!” Connor’s voice carried loud and clear to the office. Buffy raised her head to look confusedly at Angel. “Dad? You here?”

              Angel cleared his throat and walked past Buffy to stand in the doorway of the office. “In here, Connor.”

              Buffy’s eyes widened. She mouthed ‘dad?’ and stared at Angel, waiting for him to explain. He turned to look back at her and shrugged. “It’s a long story. But yeah, he’s my son.” Angel couldn’t help but smile proudly as he responded.

              Buffy shook her head dazedly, walking towards Angel with her mouth open in shock. “How is that even…”

              Her voice trailed off as she caught sight of bleached blond hair and a black leather coat over Angel’s shoulder as he stood in the doorway with his back to the lobby. Her already wide eyes strained even further. Her breath caught in her throat, only to force its way through shallow pants. Her hands felt numb, hanging listlessly at her side while her feet were rooted to the ground.

              Angel resisted the urge to greet Connor, unable to look away from Buffy’s face as she stared past him. He finally glanced behind him to see Spike handing Connor a broadsword to put in the weapons cabinet. Connor and Spike stood bantering and swapping insults until Spike quieted suddenly, his back tensing visibly beneath his jacket. He turned to stare at Angel standing in the doorway, his head tilted to the side. “Buffy?” He whispered beneath his breath as he shook his head.

              “Who’s Buffy? Isn’t that the girl who you…oh.” Connor quieted as he caught sight of the blond woman standing behind his father.

              Buffy’s feet moved forward sluggishly and Angel moved aside to let her pass. She barely noticed him as she walked slowly towards Spike. She hadn’t thought it would be this easy to find him. She’d expected hours of dragging the truth out of Angel and then more time spent going to Spike. Her eyes moved over him from head to foot, taking in every detail of his being while avoiding his eyes. Her head bowed down to stare at his chest when she finally stood in front of him.

              Was he real? She reached forward to grab his right hand, holding it between her own as she stroked his fingers with her thumbs. His hand. The last time she’d touched him it was here. She remembered the flames burning them both. She felt like the sensation was embedded underneath his cool skin, all she had to do was look for it and she’d feel it again. She held his hand up to her chest and began to intertwine their fingers, her left to his right, making a fist which she clutched to her heart.

              She looked up finally to gaze into Spike’s face, seeing him standing frozen and staring at her intensely, waiting to see what she’d do next. His eyes were transfixed and tinged with wonder. She’d forgotten how he could make her feel just by looking at her. Warm. Admired. Loved. Her lips started to curl into a smile only to fall as her chest tightened unbearably and she gasped out a breath. She squeezed her eyes shut and bowed her head again, continuing to hold his hand against her as moisture seeped out from under her eyelids to fall down her cheeks. She felt his other hand brush against her cheek, wiping away the dampness. She shuddered at his touch.

              “Buffy. Love.”

              She shook her head, unable to respond or let go. He stroked her cheek and her hair, brushing away the tears as they fell. Her head tilted up into his touch but her eyes remained closed. He closed his eyes to match her and leaned forward till their foreheads touched, letting out a sigh that matched her own. He breathed her in, the scent of her, the warmth of her breath, the salt of her tears. He breathed shallowly to match her own rhythm, wishing his heart beat so that it too could move in sync with her motions.

              Each time a soft whimper escaped her throat, his dead heart clenched. He continued to stroke her hair, murmuring endearments and crooning to her. Her tears eventually slowed as her breathing evened out. She sighed and his body followed the rise and fall of her chest. She pushed up with her forehead and pulled back, opening her eyes to look at Spike as he raised his head to gaze back at her.

              She smiled painfully. “Hi.”
              Last edited by Emmie; 07-04-09, 12:52 AM.
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              • #8
                A/N: Special thanks to Aisalynn for being an amazing beta for this chapter.
                Chapter Rating: PG-13





                Chapter 8





                Spike stared back at Buffy, mesmerized. “Hello,” he said softly, afraid to break the moment.

                Buffy raised her free hand to brush at the remaining tears on her cheeks, rubbing them away with her sleeve. She laughed and rolled her eyes. “God, I must look awful. Puffy Buffy isn’t what I was going for here.”

                Spike shook his head, never breaking eye contact. “No. You look beautiful.”

                Buffy’s smile wavered as she bit her lip, her eyes still holding a fragile air. “Liar,” she whispered.

                Spike tilted his head to the side, his smile widening as he reached forward to push Buffy’s hair back from her face. “I’m many things, love. But I’ve never felt the need to tell tales about the God-given attributes of a beautiful woman. Now take your compliment and stop acting like you don’t know you’re bloody gorgeous.”

                An involuntary laugh escaped Buffy and she quickly swallowed it, shaking her head at him. She looked down at their intertwined hands resting against her chest and slowly lowered their joined fist to hang between them. She noticed the absolute quiet of the hotel lobby and swiveled her head to discover that Angel had disappeared from the office behind them and his son – her mind figuratively blinked at the concept – his son was gone as well. She looked back at Spike, eyebrows lowered in confusion. “Where’d they go?”

                “Cleared out right quick. Was the tears, I expect. Nothing scarier than a woman having a good cry.” He looked down at their joined hands. “I’d have gone running, too. If I could.” He grinned openly, tongue curling behind his front teeth as his cheeks dimpled.

                Buffy shook her head playfully, swinging their hands back and forth as she muttered “idiot” underneath her breath.

                Spike’s grin widened. “You know, this is going a lot better than I’d imagined. Thought you’d be right angry with me what with telling Andrew to keep his trap shut. Figured I’d be down on the floor holding a bloody no – ow!”

                Buffy’s right fist connected with Spike’s face, forcing him to fall back from the impact and stretching their joined hands tautly. Buffy pulled Spike back into her with her grip on his right hand, glaring at him while he clutched his nose.

                He looked at her angry expression suspiciously, his voice carrying a nasal quality. “So that’s it, then? We on to the kick the Spike portion of the evening?” He scoffed, dropping his hand from his face to jab his finger at Buffy. “At least you’re predictable, Slayer. I’ll give you that.”

                “What the hell is wrong with you?”

                “What? Other than a bleedin’ nose ain’t nothing wrong with me. I don’t go around hitting people to work out my feelings.” His eyes widened significantly at Buffy before his face fell into a sheepish expression. “Well, okay. I do. But it’s totally different and perfectly right in a completely different context and I’ll have you know that I…I…what were we talking about again?”

                “How you’re an idiot?” Buffy supplied eagerly.

                Spike grimaced.

                “How you kept the fact that you’re back from the dead a secret for over a year?”

                “Pfft. Wasn’t that long. A few months shy of a year at most.”

                Buffy stared.

                “Okay, not really the point. But…”

                Buffy’s raised her eyebrows in disbelief.

                “I had reasons, you know. Very good reasons.” He huffed. “Oh, you’d be impressed.” Spike tapped his temple, nodding. “The thoughts in here. Yeah, very impressed.”

                Buffy stared at Spike, wordlessly expressing ‘you’re an idiot’ with her eyes.

                Spike looked off to the side and opened his mouth, working his tongue from cheek to cheek as he wrestled with his words. “Like for one, can’t top an exit like that. Everybody knows you burn up in a blaze of glory savin’ the world, it’s a bit anticlimactic to just show up again a few months later.” Spike glanced surreptitiously at Buffy, noting her increased glare of death directed at him. “Plus figured it was time to be my own man. Nothing wrong with being a bachelor. Setting out on my own.” He nodded solidly, affirming the notion. “And Angel practically begged me to stay and help him. Poor sod was at a loss and needed me around.” He glanced back at Buffy, seeing her clenching and unclenching her jaw. “And it’s not like you left a forwarding address, pet.” Buffy eyes narrowed to slits. “Not that I’m saying it’s your fault. Didn’t expect you to think up a contingency plan in the event of my resurrection. Though the way our world works, any idiot could see…” Buffy began to squeeze Spike’s fist, causing him to cough and clear his throat. “Right. Well, those are just a few of my very well thought out reasons why I didn’t…you know, tell you.”

                The anger melted away from Buffy’s face, her expression going blank. She looked down, roughly swallowing the knot in her throat. Her grip loosened, letting Spike’s hand drop from her grasp.

                Spike’s body reeled back from the loss of contact, his eyes bereft as he looked at her avoiding his gaze. He looked down to stare at the same spot on the floor that had absorbed Buffy’s attention, opening his mouth to speak and closing it repeatedly before finally working up the nerve to continue. “’Course I forgot to mention the most important reason.” Buffy’s gaze sharpened, listening carefully as she stared at the floor. “Didn’t think you meant it.” Spike watched Buffy’s eyebrows scrunch up in confusion. “There. At the end. When you said you…”

                Buffy slowly raised her head to stare at Spike solemnly. “You’re an idiot, Spike,” she said softly. “Why do I always fall for the stupid ones?”

                Spike half-laughed through his wavering smile. “Couldn’t tell you, love. Doesn’t make a lick of sense. Not worthy to even look at you much less – ”

                Buffy grabbed his shirt and pulled him close till they were face to face. “Shut up.”

                “Right. No more talking.”

                Buffy nodded. “Good.”

                “Brilliant.” Spike tilted his head to the side, gazing intensely into Buffy’s eyes as his face inched closer towards her.

                “Uh huh.” Buffy stopped as her lips gently brushed his, breathing into his slightly open mouth.

                “Hmm.” Spike waited, watching her, afraid to move and break whatever spell held them this close.

                Buffy kissed his lower lip softly before pulling back to move to the right side of his mouth. She pressed a dry kiss on the corner of his lips, holding for a moment then brushing her lips against his and moving to the opposite corner to repeat the caress. She reached up to touch his lips with her right index finger, testing the softness and resiliency as she pressed down gently in the center before brushing his lower lip with her thumb, pressing her soft kiss deeper into his lips rather than wiping it away. She looked at Spike, eyes serious and warm and slightly uncertain. “Can I kiss you?”

                Spike’s eyes narrowed questioningly. “Thought that was what you were doing, love.”

                “I thought I should ask,” Buffy said softly.

                “Stupid question, pet. Always want to be kissing you. And for the record, seeing as you’re being all proper-like, it’s ‘may I kiss you’.”

                Buffy rolled her eyes and pulled him down to her with a strong grip on his neck, kissing him firmly. Her hands looped around the back of his neck as she pulled herself up into his embrace, hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder, feeling the entire length of him with her body. Her body sighed into his, relaxing for a moment only to tense immediately and pull him even closer to her while she rose up on her toes to meet him head-on. Yes, she thought. This. This is what’s been missing. Her stomach tightened unbearably only to unfurl and jump inside her, making her insides quiver.

                Spike tilted his head, deepening the kiss while opening his mouth to duel with Buffy’s tongue. She pulled back slightly and took his lip between her teeth, nipping gently before kissing away the sting. He groaned, his throaty rumble intensifying while his hands roamed her back. His right hand began to play with the hem of her shirt, sneaking up to stroke the skin of her lower back before slowly moving forward to the soft skin of her abdomen. With each renewed note of their battling tongues, his hand inched upward only to be forcibly stopped by Buffy’s grip as she pulled back gasping. She looked around at the hotel lobby and shook her head.

                Spike looked around and shrugged ‘why not’. Buffy pushed his hand out from under her shirt, frowning.

                “Not here, Spike,” she panted. She looked up at the ceiling, wondering where Angel had disappeared to. “Most definitely not here.”

                Spike dropped his forehead against Buffy’s, groaning. “Woman, why do you insist on tormenting me?”

                Buffy grinned, breathing heavily. “Oh come on, you can take it. Tough guy like you. You’re probably just faking so I’ll feel sorry for you.”

                Spike grabbed Buffy by the hips and pulled her into him, his eyes zeroing in on hers as he raised his eyebrow. “Who’s faking?”

                Buffy swallowed, eyes closed. “Okay, not faking. But still kinda milking it for all it’s worth.”

                Spike groaned again. “If you’re not gonna use your tongue properly, stop with the double entendres, pet. Please.”

                “Double who?” Buffy asked as she pushed away from Spike.

                Spike shook off her question. “Nevermind. So where to? I don’t have a place here anymore. A hotel?” He looked around at the lobby. “Another hotel?”

                “Well, that just sounds skanky.” Buffy pouted.

                “You do have a hotel here, right?”

                “Yes, but that doesn’t mean I want to have dirty-hotel-reunion-sex.” She looked up at the ceiling as she whispered the last word.

                “Pet, there’s nowhere else to go.”

                Buffy’s lip jutted out even further.

                “And that.” Spike pointed at her lip. “That’s not helping. Love, you want me to go get a room somewhere? I’ve got the blunt. Just say the word.”

                “No.” She sighed heavily. “We’ll go to mine.” She pouted again and Spike leaned in towards her lips, forcing her to jump back. “Hey! No touching. Not here. This is a no-touching zone.” She waved her arms around herself. “No kissing. No hugging. No caressing of…things. Got it?”

                Spike held his hands in the air. “Got it. Can we go now?”

                Buffy nodded. “Oh yeah. Right now.”


                Buffy’s Hotel
                Thirty Minutes Later


                Buffy and Spike stood at opposite ends of the elevator, watching the lights blink as they went up to the 16th floor. As each floor passed, Buffy let out a little sigh. The air hummed between them. They’d stopped speaking on the ride over to Buffy’s hotel. Buffy’d had trouble not accidentally making with the sexy talk and after the third time Spike nearly drove off the road, she’d decided silence was golden.

                The light dinged at 16 and the doors opened. Buffy turned to meet Spike’s gaze and they stepped out into the hallway, never breaking eye contact. They stood outside the elevator, frozen for several long moments as they looked at each other. Finally remembering herself, Buffy jolted back into motion and started walking towards her room at the end of the hall, Spike following close behind. She paused at the door and started digging into her pocket for the key, raising it to the electronic lock. Spike’s hand caressed her back and she fumbled her grip, dropping the card to the floor. She bent down the pick it up, her hand unsteady as she tried to insert the key into the slot. Cursing, she tried again when the lock didn’t light up.

                “Any time now, love,” Spike rumbled from behind her.

                Buffy scowled at him over her shoulder, turning to make another attempt at unlocking the door. The lock lit up and Buffy turned to grin triumphantly at Spike, only to find him already in motion. He picked her up and spun them both across the threshold, shouldering the door closed. Never one to be left behind, Buffy took advantage of her new position and angled herself down to meet his mouth in the darkness of the room. Her arms wrapped around his shoulders and her thighs gripped his hips as Spike slowly worked his way towards the bed, turning at the foot of the bed to fall back on the mattress.

                “Oomph,” Buffy grunted and sat up to smile, resting her hands on his shoulders as she looked down at Spike’s returning grin.

                His smile melting away, his eyes locked with hers in the faint moonlight shining in from the window. Buffy’s hands relaxed their grip to splay wide on his shoulders and slide down to his chest in a massaging pressure while Spike’s hands simultaneously gripped the hem of her shirt and started pulling upward. Buffy’s hands fell on top of his, helping him pull her shirt over her head, tossing it to the floor behind her without a glance. She shook her head, letting her blond hair fall forward over her shoulders while she grinned down at him.

                “Your turn,” she murmured throatily as she reached for the bottom of his shirt.

                Spike stilled her hands, pressing them against his sides. He traced his right index finger from her belly button to the middle of her chest, his eyes following the motion until he stopped to lay his hand flat right above Buffy’s left breast. His eyes unfocused as he listened to her heart and felt the vibrations of its beat beneath his palm.

                Buffy looked at him in confusion before covering his hand with her own. “What?” she asked softly.

                “Just makin’ sure.” His eyes raised to look into hers. “You’re really here.”

                She smiled. “I’m here.” Slowly leaning down without dislodging their hands, she kissed him. “I’m really, really here.”
                Last edited by Emmie; 14-04-09, 05:25 AM.
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                • #9
                  Chapter 9



                  Spike watched Buffy sleep, his palm cupping her naked shoulder before stroking down her arm with a featherlight touch. He traced the curved line of her spine as she lay sprawled next to him on the bed, her back curled into his chest. His hand would pause when she’d murmur faintly in response to his touch and he’d smile when he recognized her satisfied tone.

                  She’d fallen into a deep sleep, exhausted after hours of them connecting. No other word for it. They’d ****ed each other blind plenty of times before tonight. They’d chastely lain down together speaking volumes without words. They’d never done both at the same time. He hadn’t known they could. Hadn’t known anyone could.

                  Vampires could go a long time without sleep and still function. It just took the right kind of incentive to keep one awake during the daylight hours. And incentive for the past dozen hours or so was most definitely not in short supply. Even after Buffy had fallen asleep, Spike couldn’t stand the thought of succumbing to his fatigue and somehow missing this. Not appreciating the feeling, the fullness inside.

                  Buffy sighed and turned back towards Spike, bumping her head into his chin before nuzzling into his shoulder. Spike laid his left hand on her hip, stroking upwards till he reached the silky skin of her neck and behind her ear. Tracing forwards with his index finger, he ran his finger across her cheekbone and down to her lips, lightly touching the planes of her face as if he was blind and attempting to memorize her.

                  He noted the softness of her cheeks and the even finer softness of the skin beneath her eyes, gentling his touch as he traced the silken skin on the tops of her eyelids. He pushed a fallen lock of blonde hair away from her face and held it between his fingers, weighing its texture and length as he eyed the shiny blond color.

                  “You jealous?” Buffy murmured with her eyes closed.

                  “Hmm?” Spike grunted before looking down at Buffy’s smiling face. “What’s that, pet?”

                  “You jealous I’ve got a better dye job?” Buffy opened her eyes to grin at him, reaching up to play with his mussed bedhead curls. “I could give you the name of my stylist.” She giggled. “We could go in together. Be annoyingly cute and couple-y.” She reached for his hand, turning to lie on her back and hold it close to her face as she examined his bare fingernails. “We could even get your nails done. Black.” She nipped playfully at his fingers, looking at him with a mischievous glint in her eyes.

                  Spike grinned. “Think I’ll pass on the day at the spa. Now if you wanted me to help you go lingerie shopping, I’d be all for getting annoyingly couple-y in public. Probably shock a few prudes but they just might learn a thing or two.” He pulled back his hand to rest over his heart. “’m all about the greater good now or haven’t you heard?”

                  “I think I remember reading that somewhere.” Buffy’s smile faded into a happy sigh as she closed her eyes again. “This is nice. I don’t wanna move. Can we just stay here, not moving, just like this…”

                  “No reason not to, love.” A knock sounded on the door. “Hold that thought.” Spike sat up and reached down for his pair of jeans at the foot of the bed.

                  Buffy touched his shoulder. “Wait, let me jump in the shower first.” She tossed the covers back and walked nude to the adjoining bathroom, winking over her shoulder at Spike as he stared. Another knock on the door had Buffy peeking her head out of the bathroom with her eyebrows raised. “You gonna get that?”

                  Spike shook himself, standing and pulling his jeans up without buttoning them. “Yeah, got it.” The sound of water falling prompted Spike to hurry towards the door with an annoyed scowl on his face.

                  His face fell into one of surprise as he found Connor waiting for him in the hallway. He looked at Connor suspiciously. “How’d you find us?” He leaned in slightly to stare at Connor more closely. “You tracked us here from the hotel? Knew you were good at it, but that’s a tad freaky. We drove over here, took the interstate. Even bloodhounds can’t follow a scent once it gets a fast ride.”

                  Connor reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone, raising his eyebrow. “It’s called a phone. Found out what hotel your friend was staying at. Say it with me now – technology is your friend.”

                  Spike crossed his arms over his chest. “Right, so why are you here? Notice how I keep having to ask you that. It’s ‘cause you keep showing up when I’m otherwise involved. Got things I’d rather be doing to a girl I’d rather be doing. Catch my drift?”

                  Connor grimaced. “Unfortunately, I can smell your drift, too. I’m not here to interrupt your…whatever. Not my business. Dad sent me.”

                  “Oh ho! So Angel sent the heir apparent to break up the party. Well you can toddle on home and tell the broodmaster to sod off.”

                  “Hey, I’m not here for the whole jealous, competitive vampire show. This is business. Dad needs you and Buffy. Some kind of new development with the demonic cults Nina and Kate were looking into.”

                  “What’s that got to do with Buffy?”

                  Connor shook his head. “Dunno. Dad called and told me to come get you guys on the way back to the hotel. I missed the action, too. Still playing catch-up here but the faster you get dressed –” Connor looked pointedly at Spike’s bare chest “ – the faster I get to have fun making evil things go crunch.” Connor glanced down at his wristwatch. “You coming?”

                  Spike shrugged, turning to face the bathroom door with an amused smirk. He raised his voice to ask: “Honey, wanna go kill things?”

                  “Sure! I just need to get dressed and do my hair.” The cheerfulness in Buffy’s voice carried over the sound of the water falling in the shower.

                  Spike squinted, reassessing his plans as he looked back at Connor. “Maybe you should meet us there. Don’t imagine she’s gonna be ready anytime soon. The hair alone…”

                  Connor raised both eyebrows, backing away. “Yeah, meet you there.” Connor turned to leave and paused, looking back at Spike over his shoulder. “You might wanna…” He nodded his head towards the shower.

                  “What?”

                  Connor tapped his nose.

                  Spike chuckled evilly. “Ha, talk about rubbing Daddy Dearest’s face in it. Serve him right. Not like he didn’t do that to me a million times – er, I mean your dad’s a real stand-up guy, Junior. Got a lot of great qualities like…like…” Spike’s tongue flapped in his mouth as he searched for words. “…excellent penmanship. And a not completely hopeless taste in literature. Not a bad hand at drawing though he certainly is pompous about it.” Spike raised his hands placatingly. “Not that he’s pompous all the time. Only most of the time. There’s some quality non-pomp somewhere in there. Never been around to see it myself, but so I’ve heard.”

                  Connor smiled mockingly. “Thanks. I get it. Dad is good, therefore I’m good. My self-esteem is now secure.” He started walking down the hall, looking over his shoulder to retort, “And seriously. Take a shower.” He shook his head, mumbling to himself, “Stupid enhanced sense of smell – worst superpower ever.”

                  Spike watched Connor disappear around the corner before closing the door and turning towards the bathroom, listening to the noises from the shower. He shrugged, shucking off his pants and reaching for the bathroom door. “Can’t blame me if we’re late now, can he? Just following his advice. One shower – coming up.”



                  Hyperion Hotel


                  Buffy jumped onto the landing of the hotel doorway and turned to grin at Spike. “Beat you!”

                  Spike reached past her to pull open the door and slide inside first. “Nope. Doesn’t count till you’re inside. Cheaters never prosper, Slayer.”

                  Buffy scoffed as she walked inside after him. “You should know, Mr. I-cheat-at-kitten-poker. And nobody said it was whoever got inside first. That’s winning by technicality or cheating or something.” She waved her finger at him. “You so did not win. I want a rematch.” She fisted her hands into her hips. “No, I demand a rematch. I have my Slayer honor to uphold. Plus I’m undefeated in the ‘me versus you’ category. It’d be like a sign of the apocalypse – you beating me. Can’t let it happen, Spike. It’s my job to save the world. Face it, you’re going down and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

                  “Never had a problem with you winning, love, and you know I don’t have a problem with going down.” He grinned. “But you lost. Gotta learn to accept it and move on.” Spike patted her on the shoulder.

                  Angel cleared his throat and the pair turned to notice the group of people dispersed throughout the lobby. He glowered. “You done?”

                  Buffy raised a hand to wave as she stepped down towards everyone. “Hey. So what’s the what?” She noticed a girl with brown hair tied to a chair next to the large red circular couch where a redheaded girl was lying unconscious on the cushions. “Okay wild guess here but you didn’t call us over to show us the dangers of forgetting the safe word during bondage fun?”

                  The brown-haired girl moaned, her head lolling forward. A blonde woman with blue eyes and a no-nonsense attitude walked up and smacked her on the shoulder. “Wake up, sunshine. You’re going to answer my questions. Doesn’t matter how long it takes. You hear me?”

                  Buffy looked confusedly at Spike who was staring at the girl tied up in the chair. She turned towards Angel with eyebrows raised. “What’s going on? And who are all these people?”

                  Angel stared at Spike for a few moments before nodding towards the blond attempting to start an interrogation. “This is Kate. She’s an ex-cop and a friend.” His head jerked towards Connor who was sitting on the desk counter. “You’ve met Connor already. Sort of.” Angel gestured towards another blond woman who sat down on the couch and started sponging a wet towel on the unconscious girl’s forehead. “And this is Nina. As for the rest, we’re working on it.”

                  Buffy squinted. “Working on it?”

                  Nina looked up to answer. “Kate and I were following a lead. Some weird goings-on downtown. Rumors about a cult and something to do with vampires. We figured out there was a pattern to where the incidents were happening. Staked it out and –”

                  “Walked into a trap.” Kate interrupted. “Except the trap wasn’t set for us. It was for her.” She nodded at the unconscious redhead. She turned back to the brunette. “And this one is responsible for the set-up. She’s just not feeling very talkative right now.” Kate gripped the girl’s chin and lifted her head up. “You really don’t want to try my patience. Now I’ll ask one more time – what’s your name?”

                  The girl looked blearily up at Kate and sneered.

                  “Her name’s Christy.” Spike stepped forward to stand in front of the brunette who looked at him in surprise. “And last time I checked, the only sort of trouble she was looking for was a good time. Things change, huh pet?”

                  Christy blinked in surprise. “Spike? You know these people?” She started to fight her restraints. “Tell them to let me go. They’re crazy. They attacked me and tied me up for no reason.” She looked worriedly at the redhead lying on the couch who was moaning softly and starting to stir. “And keep that one away from me. She’s dangerous, Spike. She’s a killer.”

                  Buffy held her hands up in the air. “Okay – time out! The more people keep talking, the more confusing it gets in here.” She looked directly at Kate. “What’d you mean that you walked into a trap?”

                  Kate nodded at the redhead who Nina was helping to sit up. “I mean that Christy here pretended like she was being attacked by a gang of vampires in order to lure her – ” Kate pointed at the redhead – “into a fight to help save her. But Christy didn’t need saving. Apparently she’s best buddies with the vampires that were ‘attacking’ her. It was all a show so they could shoot half a dozen tranq darts into…”

                  “Rachel,” the redhead supplied in a rough voice. She looked around the room woozily. “Where am I?”

                  “It’s okay,” Nina reassured. “We’re friends.”

                  Rachel looked around the room, her shoulders stiffening as she glared at Spike and Angel. “Friends? I don’t make friends with vampires.” She reached behind her, looking for something in her back pocket only to start searching around the room with desperate eyes.

                  Connor hopped off the counter to stand slightly in front of Angel. “You don’t like vampires. I get that. But these two are okay. So stop looking for the stake you dropped and sit back. ‘Cause even if you tried, we’d take you down.”

                  Buffy looked at Rachel in sudden understanding. “You’re a Slayer.”

                  Angel nodded. “She’s a Slayer, Buffy. Who’s apparently the new hot commodity in the demon world. Whoever Christy’s been working with has been staging these traps all over the city. The vampires weren’t going for the kill and Christy wasn’t the only human helping them. Almost half a dozen men armed with tranq guns. Kate fired a few warning shots into the air while I grabbed Rachel. They ran. It’s probably the first time things didn’t go according to plan.”

                  “They all got away,” Kate added. “Except this one. I introduced her to my right hook. And if she doesn’t start talking about her friends, I think they might need to get reacquainted.” Kate flexed her fist.

                  “You don’t understand. That thing is a killer.” Christy spat in Rachel’s direction. “Spike, don’t turn your back on her. She’s an animal. She goes out at night hunting vampires. She’s a murderer. A monster.”

                  Buffy blinked. “Okay, I’m still not used to the whole part where the world acts insane-o.” Buffy walked over to Christy. “Vampires are bad. Evil. They kill people. Drink their blood. You get that that’s bad, right? The whole dying part?”

                  Christy shook her head, her eyes wild. “That’s just lies. Lies the Slayers have been spreading for generations. They’re misunderstood. Vampires have been persecuted and forced into hiding for so long. The Slayers are trying to kill off their entire race. If you actually knew what they were like –

                  “Oh, I know what they’re like. I’ve watched vampires kill. Over and over again.” Buffy rolled her eyes. “You really don’t get it, do you? All vampires are into is the kill, the hunt. They want you dead and the sooner the better.”

                  “Right. That’s why you’re hanging out with Spike? Buffy, was it?” Christy laughed and looked at Spike. “This her? Your penpal?” She looked back at Buffy mockingly. “Yeah, I can see how all vampires are so bad. So what’s your plan? You gonna snuggle him to death?”

                  Buffy clenched her jaw. “Spike’s different. He has a soul. So does Angel. Every other vampire out there, better off dust. Slayers are the only ones protecting you. Slayers are good.”

                  “The only good Slayer is a dead Slayer,” Christy sneered.

                  Spike walked forward and swiftly untied Christy, waving away Buffy’s protest. Christy looked up at him gratefully before smirking at Buffy. She didn’t notice his hand swoop down to grab her by the neck and she gasped in surprise as he lifted her up and tossed her against the lobby’s counter. Tightening his stranglehold, he looked into Christy’s terrified eyes and bared his teeth. “You’re gonna talk, pet. Tell us everything you know about your friends. Who, what, where – everything.” His hand tightened on her neck reflexively as Christy tried to swallow. “Won’t stand for any lip. Say one word out of turn against Slayers, you’ll regret it. Understand?”

                  Christy nodded.

                  “Right then.” Spike stepped back, letting Christy fall down to the floor. “From the top.”




                  To Be Continued...
                  Last edited by Emmie; 14-04-09, 08:05 PM.
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                  • #10
                    Chapter 10



                    Buffy reached to pull the stake out of her back pocket, gripping it tightly as she looked at the front door of the abandoned building. The sign hanging above the door read "CARNAGE", the letters drawn in a style that made the red script look like dripping blood. A condemned notice hung on the boarded up door of the main entrance.

                    She scowled. "Always with the condemned buildings. Vamps never wanna hang at the local Starbucks."

                    Glancing behind her, she noted Angel and Kate bringing up the rear. Buffy, Connor and Spike had jumped out of the backseat of Angel's moving car as soon as they'd driven by the address of the club Christy had revealed. Nina had offered to stay behind and keep an eye on their prisoner. No wait, not prisoner. Hostage. Er, not that either. Guest. Christy was their guest. Buffy didn't keep humans hostage. She just sometimes babysat them against their will.

                    "So. What's the plan?" Spike broke the silence.

                    Buffy eyes narrowed. "We go in. Covert. Do a little recon. See how ? "

                    Angel raised his hand, interrupting. "Hold on. Something we need to work out first." Buffy looked at Angel with eyebrows raised. "Everyone follow my lead. Don't just go running off like you three ? " he looked pointedly at Buffy, Spike and Connor "? did just a minute ago. We need to work together on this and no offense, Buffy, but you don't know all the players here."

                    Spike and Buffy rolled their eyes simultaneously at Angel while Connor turned his head away to smirk.

                    Buffy gestured placatingly at Angel. "Okay. You're in charge. What do we do, oh great leader?"

                    Angel nodded. "We go in covertly. Do some recon and see how many we're dealing with."

                    Buffy smiled wryly. "Great plan."

                    Spike snickered, making Angel glare at him before continuing. "Spike and I go in. Get a read on what we're dealing with."

                    "Okay, you had me up to the point where I'm not going in," Buffy interjected. "There could be Slayers in there. I have to ? "

                    "What? Endanger them?" Angel interrupted. "Tip off the vampires that another Slayer's inside? They're hardwired to sense you. You wanna help those girls? You'll wait out here for us till we know the score. This is a vampire cult we're dealing with. Don't you think the two vampires have a better chance of blending in?"

                    "Hate to admit it, but he's got a point," Spike added reluctantly.

                    Buffy raised her hands defensively. "Okay, we'll do this your way." For now, she added silently.

                    Angel and Spike glanced at each other briefly before walking around the corner of the club to look for another way in. Buffy sighed and turned to stare at Kate and Connor, twirling her stake between her fingers agitatedly.

                    "Cool trick," Connor complimented as he watched the stake spinning in her grasp.

                    Buffy shrugged. "You do this as long as I have, you pick up a thing or two."

                    Connor grinned. "I caught an axe being thrown right at me this one time." He raised his hands to imitate grabbing the axe out of the air. "It was pretty cool."

                    Buffy nodded with lips pursed, impressed.

                    "I once arrested a guy for urinating on a poodle. Aren't battle stories fun?" Kate added sarcastically, arms crossed over her chest.

                    Buffy and Connor looked at each other, eyes wide with a trying-not-to-laugh expression on their faces like two kids caught passing notes during class by the teacher.

                    Kate shrugged. "I once shot a perp at over 100 yards away. The force tried to send me in for sharpshooter training, but I wanted to be a detective." She scoffed. "And look how well that turned out."

                    "You still make a difference. You know that. It's not the same, but?" Connor's voice trailed off uncertainly.

                    Kate nodded, smiling slightly. "Yeah, I know. Taking it one day at a time, kid."

                    Buffy exhaled loudly. "God, what is taking so long?" She crossed her arms and started drumming her fingers on her biceps before dropping her hands to her sides. "Screw this, I'm going in."

                    She strode towards the corner only to stop short as Spike and Angel appeared. She smiled awkwardly. "Oh hey, I wasn't?" She looked at Angel and Spike, wide-eyed. "So what'd you find out?"

                    Spike looked at her suspiciously before answering. "Right. Place is packed. Looks dead on the outside and even deader inside. The undead variety, that is. Counted at least fifty vamps, maybe more."

                    "More than fifty. I counted sixty-seven on my first sweep," Angel added grimly. "And that's not including the dozens of humans."

                    Buffy's face fell at the news and she looked down at her stake in disappointment. "Stupid airline regulations not letting me bring my Scythe," she grumbled.

                    "You mean that axe thingy you had back in Sunnydale?" Angel asked.

                    "It's called a Scythe," Buffy corrected knowingly.

                    Angel shook his head. "It's an axe. Scythes have more a ? "


                    "S'not the point," Spike said quickly. "We're seriously outnumbered here and lacking a bluish Old One to even up the odds."

                    "Huh?" Buffy looked confusedly at Spike.

                    Spike shook his head. "Also not the point." He raised one finger to count off, "Outnumbered. Any ideas? C'mon people. Anyone?"

                    "We have to get them separated. We can't go in and hurt innocent people." Buffy hesitated. "Okay, not so innocent. More like misguided. But still, we go in full force and people get hurt. Maybe killed. And I don't have a super-powerful witch here to heal them all."

                    "Huh?" Kate and Connor added.

                    Angel spoke over them. "And if we go in with anything less than full force, we're all dead."

                    "Some of us already are. Wouldn't change much," Spike snarked.

                    Buffy shook her head, eyes wide. "I don't see how we even the odds. Maybe we wait til daytime and ? "

                    "So I get to be flamb?'d to a dusty finish for the fight?" Spike shook his head as Angel nodded in agreement. "Keep thinkin', love. ?Cause I'm voting that not be Plan A."

                    Buffy turned to scowl at Spike. "Well maybe if you'd offer some ideas here, we'd actually get somewhere. Maybe you ? "

                    "Should've called for back-up?" A deep voice broke them apart. Buffy whipped around to look in surprise at the tall black man grinning at them.

                    "Gunn," Angel greeted him with a relieved smile. "How'd you know?"

                    "Got a call," Gunn answered, looking at Kate who smiled in return. "Heard you might need some more fighters." He nodded over his shoulder at the group of young men and women behind him. "Went back to the basics ? old school crew. It's right up their alley, though. Armed and ready to bring on the dust."

                    Gunn nodded at everyone, pausing to look awkwardly at Connor before nodding a greeting. Connor nodded back, shrugging his shoulder slightly in response to Gunn's questioning look.

                    "Came to the right place then, Charlie boy," Spike grinned. "Got so many vamps cramped inside it's practically a fire hazard."

                    Angel looked thoughtful for a moment before turning to gaze at Gunn's rigged up truck. "What are you packing? The usual?"

                    "All my favorites. Why?" Gunn asked only for his eyes to widen a second later. "Ooooh. Yeah, I got it. We looking to light up this joint?"

                    "Looks like. Get ready to use it," Angel ordered. He turned to look at the door of the club. "We still need to separate them somehow?"

                    "I know how," Buffy said quietly. She looked up at Angel and Spike, eyes hard. "Get everyone ready out here." She turned to stare grimly at the boarded up door. "I'm gonna make them come running right to you."

                    As she started to walk forward, Spike grabbed her by the shoulder and whipped her around to face him. "What? You think you're going in alone? Scratch that plan, too. I'm not letting you go all kamikaze here." He grabbed her by both shoulders, shaking her as he spoke. "Not gonna happen, you hear me?"

                    Everyone watched silently, their eyes going back and forth between Buffy and Spike.

                    "Spike," she said quietly, reaching up to gently lift his hands off her shoulders. "Trust me. And be waiting out here for me." Spike shook his head firmly, prompting Buffy to continue in earnest. "I've done this before. Well, not exactly. Kinda backwards actually. But I can do this." She looked over her shoulder at the door and then turned back to Spike. "They want Slayers. So I'm the bait."

                    She lowered her voice to a whisper, looking at him intensely. "I have to do this."

                    She stepped away from Spike and looked at the others briefly. She gazed at Angel for a moment before glancing at Connor, Kate and Gunn. "Be ready." She turned back to look at Spike. "Be right back, promise," she reassured, smiling slightly.

                    She straightened her shoulders and slid her stake into her back pocket, walking proudly around the corner and out of sight. The alley on the side of the club was dirtier than she was used to and she stepped over broken bottles and trash before pausing to look up at a large, open window two stories above her. Okay, that's how Angel and Spike snuck in. Too bad she didn't have those nifty vampire jump-like-she's-flying skills.

                    Looking further down the alley, she noticed a smaller vent window above a dumpster against the brick wall. Walking toward it, she tilted her head and hopped up onto the dumpster. Looking inside, she noticed an empty restroom with several vanity mirrors and the walls spray-painted black and covered in red graffiti. She lifted the window open and turned her head, gritting her teeth as she squeezed through the opening. After squeezing her head through, she slide easily down face first along the wall into a tuck and roll onto the floor.

                    Standing up, she brushed off her shirt and pants, looking back at the small window then down at her body. Measuring her hips with her hands and then raising them up to the window, she pursed her lips.

                    Okay, was there a size tinier than petite? she wondered. Shrugging, she turned to look at herself in the mirror just as two girls opened the bathroom door. Buffy froze. The girls stumbled forward, giggling drunkenly as they primped in front of the mirror, adjusting the cleavage showing in their tight halter tops.

                    The girl to Buffy's right turned to look scornfully at Buffy's jeans and conservative top. She leaned over, head tilted sympathetically. "You're new, huh? Try something red or black next time. The vamps just love it. Especially red. It makes them get all hot." She patted her neck, drawing Buffy's attention to a bite mark.

                    Buffy smiled nervously. "Right, red. Gotcha." Buffy raised her right hand to do a mini-cheer gesture. "Go vampires! They're just the coolest."

                    Both girls laughed, looking at Buffy oddly before stumbling out of the bathroom. The loud beat of music reverberated off the bathroom walls before the door swung shut. Buffy patted the stake in the back pocket of her jeans reassuringly before opening the bathroom door and looking out into the empty hallway.

                    She followed the beat of the music down the darkened hallway, glancing at the graffiti on the walls, reading random words and phrases like "Vampirez Rule" and "Blood is the life". Her left eye started to twitch, her jaw clenching involuntarily. She stopped reading.

                    Reaching the dance floor, she blinked at the strobe lights crisscrossing over the crowd undulating to the heavy metal techno beat. She stumbled slightly as she walked forward, the lower reaches of her back burning. She'd never had an acute sense for when vampires were nearby, but when this many were surrounding her even she couldn't remain oblivious. Her fists clenched involuntarily and she had to stop herself from reaching for her stake.

                    By appearance alone it looked like any other club scene. The men and women were drunkenly gyrating on each other, occasionally stopping to kiss and cop a feel. Except this crowd had added their own specialty to the clubbing menu. Every minute or so Buffy would spy a vampire in game face leaning in to bite their partner's neck, drinking briefly before pulling away to resume dancing, leaving their ?victims' moaning in bliss. Buffy closed her eyes in disgust as her stomach turned.

                    She felt physically sick, overwhelmed and dizzy. A couple bumped into her, forcing her eyes open. She panted and shook her head, attempting to clear the fog. The music began to quietly wind down and she noticed a tall man dressed in a black showman's jacket and heavy eyeliner stand up on the empty stage used for live band performances. He raised his right hand and the crowd quieted, turning to watch him. A microphone lowered from the ceiling and landed perfectly in his grasp. The man grinned, flashing a smile full of brilliant white teeth against his pale skin.

                    He was handsome. Buffy hated that she thought he was handsome. He had that pretty boy hair that was fluffed back into place with loads of gel, but still managed to look windblown. Not that the hair was why she hated him. Well, that was part of it. It was the look in his eyes as he gazed out on the crowd. He got off on this. The humans crawling in, desperate to be food and playthings. Willing meat for the beast.

                    The man pulled the microphone to his lips and rumbled seductively, verging on purring. "It's about that time. I know you've all been waiting for it. Time for the blood. The blood?" He grinned, rubbing his chest suggestively as he leaned towards the crowd. "?of the Slayer!"

                    Buffy grimaced as the crowd began to scream and whistle catcalls. He sounded like Ryan Seacrest. A less ambiguously bisexual, vampiric Ryan Seacrest. He raised both hands, pointing towards the ceiling like he was taking a victory lap and the crowd pushed closer and closer towards the stage, leaving Buffy to stand alone on the far edges of the dance floor.

                    She looked behind her and noted the main hallway that led to the front of the building. She imagined Spike waiting for her on the other side of that boarded-up door. It'd be so easy to slowly back away from the crowd and join them there. A united front.

                    She looked around at the crowd, at the excited faces waiting for a Slayer ? no, just a girl ? to be brought on stage and drained. These people had chosen to be here. They'd chosen to be victims to soulless monsters. They'd chosen to watch a girl die. For fun. They wanted this. They got off on it just as much as the vampires did.

                    Watching them now as they begged to be bitten, as they fawned over the misshapen creatures that fed from them, she felt like she wasn't surrounded by humanity anymore. She watched them offering their necks and then kissing the blood-covered mouths of the monsters that fed from them. Her stomach turned violently.

                    She was supposed to save this? This rabble? She backed away, stumbling until she hit a pillar behind her. She could hear the crowd chanting the name "Draco Draco Draco" and assumed that was the announcer on the stage. She closed her eyes, sliding down against the pillar till she hit the floor, bending to rest her forehead on her knees.

                    She was supposed to save them and all she wanted to do was scream at them that they were cruel idiots. These weren't victims. They weren't helpless, salt-of-the-earth people being attacked in a darkened alley. These people were screaming for a girl's blood to be spilled.

                    She was the Slayer. She didn't judge humanity, she saved it without question. But every time before, she'd always believed humanity was worth saving. Here, now, she couldn't. She felt revolted. She squeezed her eyes shut. Bereft.

                    There was no humanity inside this club of death.



                    ******





                    Chapter 11




                    A gentle hand touched her shoulder and she looked up to find a girl with long brown hair and clear blue eyes looking at her with concern. Buffy blinked dazedly.

                    "Are you okay?" the girl asked. Buffy shook her head in response.

                    The girl pointed at Buffy to stay put and walked towards the bar, slipping behind it only to return a second later carrying a clear plastic cup. "Here ? drink this," she said, handing the cup to Buffy.

                    Buffy looked at the clear liquid skeptically. The girl smiled. "It's only water. You looked like you were going to be sick." The girl rubbed Buffy's shoulder comfortingly. "You gotta stay hydrated when you go out to places like this." She frowned when Buffy continued to hesitate. "Did somebody slip you something earlier? Is that why you're not feeling okay?"

                    A chorus of shrieks made the girl turn towards the stage for a moment, only to look immediately back at Buffy, frowning. "Maybe you should go home. You don't seem like you belong here, ya know?" The girl smiled reassuringly, rubbing Buffy's shoulder and lifting the cup up to Buffy's mouth. "Drink ? it'll make you feel better. Help settle your stomach."

                    Buffy swallowed a few sips of water hesitantly then gulped down the rest. She sighed as she leaned her head up against the pillar behind her.

                    The girl smiled. "Feeling better?" She stood up and held out a hand to help Buffy stand, gripping firmly and pulling her upright. "You should go home. You don't want to see what happens here." The girl looked solemn for a moment before turning to walk back behind the bar, prompting Buffy to reach out to touch her shoulder.

                    Buffy swallowed tightly, shaking off her lightheadedness. "Thank you," she uttered hoarsely.

                    "No problem." The girl smiled before walking back towards the bar at the far wall.

                    Buffy watched the girl walk away, a vulnerable expression on her face. She turned towards the stage and straightened her shoulders, lifting her chin and walking determinedly back towards the edge of the shrieking crowd. Announcer guy was still drawing out the moment, talking about blood and rewards. Figures. Ryan Seacrest always did know how to bleed a moment dry for all it was worth before getting to the main event. She half expected him to say they'd be right back after this commercial by Ford.

                    "You know the drill, how we play the game. Only one gets to drink. Oh yeah, drink deep from this sacred chalice. It's not a right." Draco's voice rumbled menacingly, lingering on each vowel sound and drawing it out like a Baptist preacher gone metal-punk. "Oh no, it's a privilege. You've gotta earn it, kids. So who earned it tonight? Who's the one ?" a drumroll began to sound as Draco pointed his right index finger into the air "? who gets a taste of the finest blood this side of hell. Who'll taste the blood?" Draco paused dramatically before swinging his arm down to point to his right offstage. "?of a Slayer! "

                    A teenage girl dressed in ragged clothes with long, knotted black hair was dragged on to the stage. She stumbled as the vampires pulled her forward, tripping over the heavy chains on her ankles as they grabbed her from under her chained arms. She closed her eyes against the blinding spotlight shining down on her, panting. Her head hung limply, swaying from side to side as they propped her up next to Draco.

                    A dozen vampires began to flank the stage in a perfectly coordinated oval like attendants at a wedding ceremony, six to Draco's left and six to the chained Slayer's right. Draco grinned and grabbed the Slayer by her left elbow, pulling her up against his side as he raised the microphone to his lips. "Who will it be? Who'll get to taste ? " He chuckled evilly and leaned over to lick the Slayer's bruised cheek. "? this prime, oh so fine morsel?" He rumbled a growl into the microphone and the crowd swayed in anticipation.

                    Buffy glared. She looked desperately behind her at the hallway leading to the front door and then back at the crowd of humans draped over vampires in gameface and finally at the dozen vampires on stage surrounding Draco and the Slayer. She had to end this. She dismissed the stake in her back pocket. It wasn't going to be enough for this type of crowd control. She frantically searched around the room and glanced over at the girl standing alone behind the bar. Yes. There.

                    She strode quickly forward and leaped over the bar, grabbing bottles of liquor and lining them up on the counter.

                    "Hey!" the girl exclaimed, reaching to grab Buffy's arm. "You can't just?" Her voice trailed off as Buffy turned to glare at her.

                    Buffy continued to line up full bottles of vodka, gin and whiskey on the bartop. Without pausing, she spoke in a dark tone, "Get out of here. Get out now. You hear me? You don't want to be here for this."

                    The girl shook her head and backed away, running to the back area of the club reserved for employees. Buffy didn't turn to watch, instead picking up a lighter and slipping it into her pocket before jumping onto the bar to face the stage twenty feet away. She took a deep breath and picked up a bottle from the dozens sitting at her feet, listening to Draco's obnoxious growl as he waited to announce the winner.

                    Winner, she sneered. Win this, suckheads.

                    "?and the winner is?" Draco paused again to grin. "?the vicious, the insatiable, the unstoppable ? argh!" Draco yelped as a bottle of vodka cracked him upside the head, shattering and splashing alcohol on the vampires standing next to him.

                    The Slayer standing next to him whimpered as the glass flew past her head to the floor, desperately pushing herself out of Draco's grasp to land sprawled at the back of the stage. The vampires on stage turned to see where the bottle came from but failed to react before more bottles were hurled with perfect precision at each vampire from Buffy's stance on the bar. The crowd watched in shock, unmoved by the spectacle of violence, conditioned to wait and observe.

                    Buffy stopped when she had only one bottle left, opening it to stuff a rag inside the bottle with the tail end hanging out. Glaring at the crowd, she reached behind her to pull out her stake, using the sharp edge to rip open her palm before holding it up towards the crowd. "You want blood. You're so thirsty for it," Buffy yelled furiously. "Come get mine. You want Slayer's blood ? come and get it right from the source. The Slayer."

                    Draco growled as his eyes lit in recognition, the ridges on his forehead rippling as his face twisted into snarl. "Buffy Summers?I'm gonna kill you."

                    "You first," Buffy snapped, reaching down to grab the last bottle while she grabbed the lighter out of her pocket. Lighting the damp rag, she hurled it at Draco, her eyes glinting in satisfaction as it hit him in the chest, the flames from the rag spreading immediately across his entire body. Draco screamed, his body lighting up before combusting into a pile of dust. The dozen vampires on either side of him jumped back to avoid the fire.

                    The vampires on stage stared in shock at the pile of Draco's dust, then snarled at Buffy but made no move to act uncertain without their charismatic leader issuing orders.

                    "Come on! You just gonna take that," Buffy sneered, goading them to attack her. The vampires in the crowd looked at each other in confusion, hesitating. "You're pathetic. Has it really gotten this easy for you? You forgot how to hunt? How to feed without it being handed to you?"

                    She slashed the stake into her palm again, grimacing as she whipped her hand in the direction of the crowd and let the blood splatter freely. The vampires growled as drops hit their faces, the powerful scent of Slayer's blood stroking their hunger, while the humans shrieked in disgust and began to back away towards the stage. Buffy smiled grimly. So much for humans loving blood. Posers.

                    A bulky male vampire on the stage grabbed the fallen microphone resting on top of Draco's ashes, picking it up to growl ,"Kill her," before jumping down into the middle of the crowd and pushing his way towards the bar.

                    The vampires began to move forward en masse, leaving the humans behind in the wake of their blood lust. Buffy backed away down the bar in the direction of the entrance hallway, watching the vampires prowl forward, growling loudly through their fangs.

                    Buffy paused as she reached the end of the bar, flinching as something pinched her in the neck. She reached up and pulled out a dart, glancing across the room at a man in standard Goth gear holding a tranquilizer gun. She staggered slightly as the drugs entered her bloodstream, making her fight to keep her balance. Oh god, she thought dizzily. Time to move.

                    Shaking her head desperately, Buffy leapt off the bar and started running towards the entrance hallway, gasping as darts pierced her in the back. She brushed an arm behind her, attempting to pull out the darts within reach and felt the brush of cold hands wrenching the back of her shirt. Faster, faster, faster, she chanted.

                    Her heart raced as she forced her legs to fly across the floor, straining forward with each desperate stride. Cold hands grabbed at her shirt, her arms, her pants, ripping off pieces of fabric as she refused to let them slow her momentum. As she reached the darkened hallway, she staggered against the wall, bouncing off it as her knees shook from the drugs pumping through her system. The hallway floor tilted in front of her like a shifting tunnel at a carnival but she kept running, forcing one foot in front of the other.

                    So close, so close, keep running, almost?

                    She pushed forward with the last ounce of her Slayer strength as she barreled into the closed door, smashing through it to land on her knees. A burly vampire tackled her from behind, rolling her to the side and lifting her up by the neck as he slid his fangs into her shoulder. She gasped in pain only to scream as the vampire was wrenched away violently and leather clad arms picked her up roughly to carry her away from the doorway.

                    "Now! She's clear!" Spike yelled, pushing her against the brick wall to the far left of the alleyway.

                    Buffy watched dazedly, her vision going in and out of focus, as Gunn lit up a flamethrower and doused the vampires that came running out of the club's entrance.

                    "Oh, hell yeah!" Gunn grinned viciously as he brandished the flamethrower from side to side against the hordes of vamps that were bottlenecked between the narrow entrance door and the wall of fire that quickly turned into disintegrating bodies of dust. He stepped forward through the falling ashes and pressed down hard on the fuel, letting out great bursts of flames to reach the vamps that were attempting to retreat back inside the club.

                    The flamethrower began to wane in its intensity and eventually puttered out. Gunn watched the dozen or so remaining vampires running back inside the club as he lowered the torch.

                    Angel and Connor came up to stand beside him. "Time for us to do the clean-up," Angel said grimly, looking briefly over at Buffy being held in Spike's arms.

                    Connor grinned, pulling out a stake and twirling it roughly. "Let's finish this."

                    Gunn set down the torch and jerked his head at his crew. "Move out! If it's undead, stake it." He glanced awkwardly at Angel. "Er, except Angel. Let's go!"

                    Buffy watched over Spike's shoulder, her entire body going numb as she succumbed to the drugs in her bloodstream. Spike held her cradled in his arms, half-kneeling as he leaned against the wall with her sitting on his bent legs. He applied pressure to her shoulder, alternating between growls as he pulled darts from her back and a comforting rumble when she shivered.

                    "Spike?" Buffy's voice was weak. "Did it work?"

                    "Yeah, love," Spike reassured her, voice tight. "It worked."

                    She leaned forward to rest her forehead against his shoulder, sighing. "I feel dizzy."

                    "S'okay, I've got you." Spike's voice cracked in mid-sentence.

                    Suddenly remembering, Buffy struggled to lift her head up. "The?the Slayer inside?she's?"

                    "Angel's taking care of it. Don't worry. Shhh," Spike crooned.

                    Buffy struggled to stand, trying to move her legs with no success. She clutched at Spike's shoulders weakly, her hands starting to go numb. "I have to?have to make sure?"

                    "Hush now," Spike said gently.

                    She allowed her head to fall back against his shoulder, looking up into his worried face. She smiled woozily, the drugs beginning to affect her mood as the rush of adrenaline left her body. "You?you take care of me," she smiled loopily, her voice high and weak.

                    His mouth crooked momentarily before he flattened it into a severe frown. "I do. When you let me, pet."

                    She closed her eyes, snuggling into the side of his neck. "This is nice."

                    Spike scoffed, hugging her tightly to him. "Is it now?" he asked incredulously, unable to keep a faint smile off his face. "You plannin' on passing out anytime soon, Slayer?"

                    "Uh huh?"



                    ******
                    Last edited by Emmie; 28-04-09, 04:48 AM.
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                    • #11
                      Chapter 12



                      “This is nice. We’re safe here.” Buffy smiled as she looked around the darkened bedroom while resting in Spike’s arms. She eyed the empty comfy chair next to the bed and the vague shadows of furniture-shaped objects in the hazy corners of the room. The space seemed endless and limited at the same time. The unknown mystery of surrounding shadow was comforting, establishing a distance between the outside world and the secret cocooned haven she’d created in Spike’s embrace. She looked at Spike, seeing a blurred impression of blue eyes gazing back at her intensely.


                      “We’re safe as houses,” she whispered, reaching up to cup his cheek. The sensation of touch was amorphous and strange, like she was caught between the point of reaching forward and letting go with no connection in between.


                      Spike smiled slightly, turning to kiss her palm.


                      Buffy breathed deeply and leaned back into his shoulder. “Can’t find us here.”


                      “You know they’ll come looking – can’t help it. They’ll be missing you. Can’t keep them in the dark for long.”


                      Buffy looked at him worriedly then forced a reassuring smile. “No. I made it safe here.” She reached for Spike’s hand and grasped it gently. “I promise.”


                      “I see you, Buffy,” Spike said slowly, waiting for her to look back at him. “I do see you.”


                      Buffy nodded. “I know.”


                      “No, listen to me. I see you. Inside.” He reached up and gestured for her to look behind her. “You’re here.”


                      Buffy glanced over her shoulder and gasped as a black shadow dove at her, slashing her across the cheek.


                      No friends,” the shadow hissed. “Love is pain.


                      Buffy pushed Spike back to the other side of the bed before jumping up to face the shadow that wavered in front of her. “Get away,” she panted. She raised her clenched fists and settled into a defensive stance. The shadow loomed above her and she threw a punch with all her strength but it only passed through the haze. The black mist drifted around her, teasing and taunting as she attacked it futilely. It looped around her body like a snake, up her legs and around her waist, caressing her shoulders and drifting across the cut on her cheek before slowly fading away into the surrounding darkness.


                      Buffy sighed as her shoulders drooped. “It’s gone,” she said as she turned to crawl back into bed. She reached for Spike, settling back into his arms.


                      “Shouldn’t be surprised it found us here. In the dark…” Spike mused.


                      “I like the dark,” Buffy answered automatically in a quiet, detached voice. Her forehead screwed up as she concentrated. “I am the dark,” she added slowly, looking up at Spike as the realization flashed across her face.


                      Spike smiled fondly. “I know, love.”


                      Buffy’s heart clenched and she reached desperately for Spike’s hand, gripping it tightly. Her breathing quickened as she looked around the room, waiting for the shadow to return and attack again. Time passed slowly as she watched vigilantly, an eternity caged within the minutes of pained anticipation.


                      The shadows began to clear as a faint light touched the edges. Realizing the light was coming from the bed, she turned back towards Spike and gasped in shock at the brilliant glow emanating from her hand into his.


                      Spike swallowed painfully. “Buffy,” he said hoarsely. “Let go.”


                      Her grip tightened as she shook her head slowly. “I can’t.” She looked up into Spike’s eyes, horrified. “I can’t let go.”


                      Spike’s body began to convulse, the light spreading until it covered him completely. “Buffy,” he gasped.


                      “I’m sorry. I have to,” she whispered, tears streaming down her face. “I’m the Slayer.”


                      Spike threw his head back, groaning in pain as the light increased in intensity.


                      Buffy whimpered, her grip nearly crushing the bones in his hand. She leaned in closer to look into Spike’s eyes. “I love you,” she said brokenly. “I’m sorry I love you.”


                      Spike face contorted grotesquely as he tried to smile at her. “S’all…all I wanted.”


                      Buffy licked away at the tears that landed in the curve of her lips before tilting her head to gently touch Spike’s lips with eyes closed, holding him still to her until the pressure of his lips turned to nothing and she tasted ashes in her mouth. She opened her eyes wide to see his ashes falling onto the covers of the bed. Her mouth fell as she whimpered brokenly, the disjointed sounds coming closer and closer together until they became one long, horrible keening as she laid her hands in his ashes.


                      “It was only a matter of time, Buffy,” a deep voice spoke to her from the shadows before stepping forward into her line of vision. Angel touched the hilt of the sword sticking out of his chest before looking at Buffy reprovingly. “You knew it was only a matter of time.”


                      “No,” she shook her head.


                      “Come on, Buffy,” Angel said roughly. “Wake up. Time to face reality.”


                      She closed her eyes, sobbing. Angel leaned forward and shook her by the shoulders.


                      “Wake up, Buffy. Wake up!” Angel shouted angrily. “You don’t get to hide in here.”


                      Buffy gasped as her eyes shot open, blinking dazedly against the light streaming in from the window. Angel loomed above her, standing next to the bed and looking concerned. She glanced around confusedly at the strange bedroom decked out in 50’s d?cor before searching the covers desperately, only to find silk and cotton meeting her fingertips. She looked questioningly at Angel. “Where’s Spike?” she croaked.


                      Angel’s brow furrowed before he answered. “He’s following a lead. Christy jumped Nina and escaped while we were taking out the vamp club.” He sat down in the chair next to the bed. “Are you feeling alright? I was going to let you sleep but you sounded…upset. Bad dream?”


                      “Just a dream,” Buffy replied, eyes distant. Sitting up, she touched the bandage on her shoulder and grimaced at the sting. Pulling the bandage off, she eyed the two jagged tears that were healing slowly.


                      “You should start to heal faster now that the drugs are out of your system,” Angel reassured.


                      Buffy smiled politely. “Right.” Sighing, she leaned back against the headboard.


                      “Still tired?”


                      “Is there a word stronger than yes?”


                      Angel smiled. “I think yes will do.”


                      Buffy chuckled quietly before looking at Angel curiously. “You know, we kinda got interrupted earlier. About Connor…”


                      Angel lowered his eyes. “To make an incredibly long story short, Connor’s my son. I slept with Darla a few years ago and wham bam, mystical pregnancy. He was taken from me when he was only a few months old to a hell dimension. That’s why he’s all grown up now. He’s a good kid. Smart. He got into Stanford.” He smiled slightly.


                      “I’d ask how this is even possible but…Dawn. I get it. Ours is a wild and crazy life.” Buffy scoffed suddenly. “Darla?” She rolled her eyes.


                      “It was a low point,” Angel assured her defensively.


                      Shaking her head, Buffy played with the covers as the fog cleared from her drug-induced sleep. She looked up at Angel, eyes intent. “The Slayer inside – did she…is she okay?”


                      “She’s fine, she’s at the hospital,” Angel said comfortingly. “Getting a blood transfusion and anything else she needs.”


                      Buffy nodded, relieved. “Good. And the rest? What happened after I…?” She raised her hand and mimed like her hand was a crashing plane.


                      “We cleared out the place. A few of the people inside had some scrapes and bruises, but nothing serious. It was a good plan,” Angel said solemnly. “Except for the part where you almost died. But hey, who hasn’t come up with a crazy plan like that?”


                      “Speaking from experience? Like say, taking over an evil corporation and helping them do evil things last year?”


                      Angel’s mouth quirked as he raised an eyebrow. “It was a low point.”


                      “You know, that excuse only works so many times. And it didn’t even work that well the first time.” Buffy crossed her arms over her chest, flinching slightly at the pain in her shoulder.


                      Angel shrugged, eyes dark. “It’s the best I’ve got.”


                      “Were you always this cryptic?” Buffy asked, eyes narrowed.


                      Angel looked back at her silently.


                      “Yeah, thought so.” She blinked. “Somehow I forgot.”


                      A minute passed in silence, the two of them avoiding each other’s gaze. Buffy stared down at her hands now resting in her lap, sighing quietly before looking up at Angel. She stared at his face, his broad shoulders, his pale skin. He was still as handsome as ever, though he looked older somehow. Like the past few years had been hard on him as well. The mystery in his dark eyes that she’d found so romantic and tantalizing as a teenager now confounded her. The secrets she knew he was keeping from her, things he was too ashamed to share or just didn’t want her to know.


                      “We really don’t know each other anymore, do we?” she said sadly. The realization hurt her more than she’d thought possible, like something she’d always taken for granted had been ripped out from under her. The affection and warmth she felt for him still lived in her heart, but she finally recognized the distance that stood between them. That had always stood between them.


                      Angel stood up slowly. “You’re tired, Buffy. You should get some more rest.”


                      “No,” she shook her head jerkily. “I don’t want to go back to sleep.”


                      Angel nodded as he walked towards the door.


                      “Angel…” Buffy’s voice wavered. “Thanks.”


                      “For what?” he asked curiously.


                      “For waking me up,” she replied simply.


                      Angel smiled as he closed the door behind him, leaving Buffy alone with her thoughts. She rolled out of bed and stretched carefully, walking stiffly to the adjoining bathroom. Fumbling for the light switch inside, she closed her eyes against the fluorescent glare as she turned on the sink faucet. Bending down, she splashed cold water on her face, gasping slightly at the shock.


                      Toweling her face dry, she eyed the tank top and the pajama pants she wore speculatively. Spike must have gone to her hotel to get her clothes. Or someone must have. She hoped it was Spike because that meant he was the one who dressed her as opposed to the relative strangers she’d just met. Or Angel. Or Angel’s son. Oh god. It better have been Spike.


                      Turning the bath’s faucet on, she watched it run down the drain as she waited for it to heat up properly. She splayed her fingers under the falling water, testing the temperature carefully before flipping the stopper and letting the tub slowly fill with water. Steam began to billow from the hot water, filling the small bathroom and thickening the air.


                      Pulling her clothes off, she glanced at the half full tub before turning towards the fogged mirror over the sink. Swiping away the moisture with her right hand, she appraised herself in the mirror. She looked exhausted. Weary. The bite marks on her shoulder stood out in a brilliant red against the pale gold of her skin. She frowned, fingering the healing tears and wondering if they’d scar the way Angel’s bite had so many years ago.


                      Her body was covered in scars, admittedly fainter than they would be if she had no Slayer healing. But the scars on the surface were starting to build up over the years. She touched her abdomen, exploring the clean-cut scar from the sword blade that had impaled her from behind during the final battle with the First and its army of ubervamps.


                      The memory of Spike turning to ashes in her dream sprang to mind and she flinched. There’d been a time when she’d relished the thought of Spike evaporating into nothing, turning to dust. She’d even craved doing it with her own hands. She fingered the faint bite scar on her neck, thinking of Angel and wondering how her world had so drastically changed.


                      She loved Spike. It felt strange to even think it, let alone say it out loud. But she did. She loved Spike.


                      How was this supposed to work? she wondered.


                      A staccato of raps on her bedroom door cut off her train of thought. She grabbed a towel, wrapping it around her body as she walked towards the door, expecting Angel had returned to check on her. Or even better, Spike had gotten back from his errand. She smiled. He could help scrub her back. Maybe kiss her shoulder and make it all better.


                      Pulling the door open wide, her grin faded into shock. “Willow.”



                      ******
                      Last edited by Emmie; 08-05-09, 11:27 AM.
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                      • #12
                        Chapter 13





                        Buffy felt the room tilt slightly. She crossed her arms in front of her, suddenly very aware that she was naked underneath the towel. Not that it mattered. It was just Willow.


                        Except it was Willow. Who wasn’t supposed to be here, who was supposed to be in Scotland with faux!Buffy and, and… Oh, crappit. Willow looked pissed. She had that you-better-explain-yourself-missy look on her face with a hint of hurt around the corners of her eyes.


                        Buffy clutched the top of her towel and gave a faint smile. “Hey, Wills…um, just let me get dressed real quick.” She stepped back, inviting Willow to follow her into the suite as she turned towards her luggage laid out next to the bed. The snick of the door closing made her shoulders twitch and she quickly grabbed a shirt and jeans to slip into. Oops, and panties. Underwear was definitely of the good. Not that she was using getting dressed as a delaying tactic. She totally wasn’t.


                        “So you having fun? I sure hope you are. I hope this was worth it. So was it? Was it fun?” Willow tossed the accusation bitterly at Buffy’s back.


                        Buffy gulped, closing her eyes before reaching down to slide the jeans up over her hips and beneath the towel wrapped around her.


                        “Are you gonna answer me?” Willow’s voice grated roughly and Buffy jerked her shoulder defensively.


                        Holding the white baby tee to her chest she turned to meet Willow’s accusatory gaze. “Willow, it’s hard to explain. So much has happened. I just had to…” Buffy looked at her imploringly.


                        “You had to what? Lie to your friends? Disappear completely? Run halfway across the world? Send a girl magicked up to look and act just like you to trick us all into thinking you were okay?” Willow’s lip quivered and she dropped her gaze. “Oh, you’re hurt –“ Willow reached forward to touch the bite marks on Buffy’s shoulder only to pull back abruptly, scowling. “Not that I care. ‘Cause I’m still mad at you. Really mad. Extremely, monumentally angry.” She grimaced sympathetically. “Does it hurt?”


                        Buffy absently touched the bite marks before shrugging. “These? No, not really. Not anymore. They’re healing.” Turning, she dropped the towel and swiftly pulled the white baby tee over her head, patting the hem of the shirt into place around the rise of her jeans. Licking her lips, she looked at Willow over her shoulder. “On a scale of one to ten, how angry are you really?”


                        Willow raised an eyebrow, firming her lips and chin into her most reproving expression before pointing at her face.


                        Buffy sighed. “Right. Okay. I can explain.” She fluttered her hands as she looked around the room. “I really can explain. I swear. I…I…” She collapsed back on the bed in defeat. “I don’t even know where to begin.”


                        “How about start with what you’re doing here? Or why you lied to your best friends? More than lied – you flat-out conned us. Well okay, the other Buffy only fooled Xander and Dawn and the other Slayers but…”


                        Buffy looked up knowingly. “She didn’t fool you. I thought maybe…I mean, the Buffybot fooled you that first time.”


                        Willow shrugged. “Yeah, but that was then. Things are different now. I didn’t want to freak you out but ever since we – since I brought you back…”


                        Buffy looked down, eyes going out of focus. “We’re connected.”


                        “Yeah,” Willow agreed softly. Puffing out a breath of air, she continued. “I already know part of it, if that helps. Andrew spilled his guts after I tossed Imposter Buffy across the room and threatened to go all Dark Wicca on him if he didn’t tell us what happened to you in Rome. I would’ve been here sooner except I was out following a mystical lead when your twin arrived.” The last tinges of anger falling away, Willow walked forward and sat down next to Buffy, shoulder to shoulder. “So Spike’s alive and you decided to pull a President Dave in order to take a vacay from the Slayer White House.”


                        “Dave? Obama’s real first name is Dave?” Buffy squinted thoughtfully. “Somehow that sounds even weirder than Barack. Dave Obama.” Buffy shook her head dazedly. “Wait – his last name’s really Obama, right?”


                        “No, it’s a – Xander would totally get me right now. I made him watch that movie all through middle school.” Willow bit her lip. “Buffy, what’s going on? You just left and, well, us being in Scotland I was thinking fairies had grabbed you and left a fetch in your place.”


                        “Why would fairies leave –oh, you said…right, not clutch. ‘Cause fairies wouldn’t leave a purse in my place. What’s a fetch?”


                        “It’s a doppelg?nger the Fae make out of shadow to stand in for the person they kidnap and take back to their otherworld and hey, stop distracting me ‘cause I know you don’t really care about this stuff.” Willow lightly slapped her palms on the top of her thighs before shaking her right index finger at Buffy.


                        Buffy grinned, her cheeks dimpling.


                        “And hey, no acting all cute. You’re not off the hook. You are so far from hookless, missy, you don’t even know,” Willow admonished.


                        Properly chastened, Buffy let the smile slip from her lips. “I just had to. I was angry and upset and I just had to come here.”


                        Willow shook her head. “And you couldn’t have just called us? Let somebody know you were okay? Buffy, you really scared us. And I’m only half trying to guilt trip you here, but it’s true. We were worried.”


                        Buffy looked down, sticking her hands between her knees like a little girl hiding a secret. “I just…I was looking for…”


                        “A bit of cold comfort?” Spike interrupted from the open doorway connecting to the suite next door.


                        “Spike,” Buffy greeted him with a surprised smile.


                        “Spike! Hey, you’re alive. Good for you,” Willow chirped.


                        Spike nodded tersely at Willow, never taking his eyes off Buffy. “So that’s it, then? You decided to put your old tune on repeat?”


                        Buffy shook her head, eyes confused. “What? I don’t – ”


                        “You know, you showed up out of the blue and I didn’t want to question it. So damned happy to see you I didn’t stop to think. Maybe I didn’t wanna know.” Eyes narrowed, he pointed at her sharply. “Keeping secrets again, love? Looking for a distraction, eh? Something you were too ashamed to tell your pet Scoobies about?” Spike grimaced, eyes ice cold as he bristled with anger and bent pride.


                        “Spike, what are you talking about? I didn’t –”


                        “So you’re denying it? Sorry, sweetheart, but I heard it straight from the witch’s mouth. You ran off for a secret, dirty little run-in with yours truly.” He hit his chest with a clenched fist. “I wondered why you never bothered to write back or leave word till now. Wasn’t worth your time, was I? Not until you felt like bringing your dolly out of the box.” He sneered.


                        Willow stood up and edged towards the suite’s main door. “Um, I’m just gonna…” She left abruptly, closing the door behind her.


                        Buffy stood up, hands fisted at her hips. “What’s going on? You just show up and start throwing around accusations like you – ”


                        “Accusations? That’s what we’re calling it, are we?” Spike stalked forward, shoulders hunched forward aggressively. “More like finally getting to the bloody truth! You never were straight with me, love.” He leaned back from her, looking her up and down measuringly. “No, s’not right. You never made any promises, did you? You never lied.” He closed his eyes in self-disgust, biting his lower lip before looking up at the ceiling in despair. “I always fall for it. Always. Girl smiles my way, I bend over backwards.” He looked at her sadly, eyes dripping with regret. “Woulda given you the moon, pet. The moon and all the stars in the bleedin’ sky. Woulda given you everything. Anything.” He tilted his head, eyes vulnerable and sad. “But it’s never enough, s’it? Never enough,” he finished softly, turning to leave.


                        “Spike, no…” Buffy reached forward to stop him, touching him gently by the arm.


                        Spike growled, turning and grabbing Buffy by the arms and shoving her back till her knees buckled against the bed and she tumbled down. Panting, she looked up in shock, struck silent by the waves of restrained violence emanating from Spike’s glaring eyes.


                        “No more games,” Spike snarled. “I’m done being your whipping boy. Your dirty little secret.” A strange calm descending, he raised his head proudly. “Done being used.”


                        “I’m not using you, Spike,” Buffy denied, shocked. “This – us – it’s different. You have to believe – ”


                        “Actions speak louder than words, pet. And yours are screaming something fierce. ‘ve seen it all before. Enough to recognize it.” He shook his head, his mouth twisted bitterly. “Besides, it’s not like you’ve been saying much with words. And when you do, they’re never the right ones.”


                        Buffy’s breath caught in her throat and she swallowed jaggedly. Struggling to breath, she forced her mouth open wide. “Spike…” she fought to bring the words out, terrified to let them be free but more terrified of what she’d lose if she didn’t. “I lo – I love you.”


                        “You can’t even bring yourself to say it, can you? Not say it and really mean it. Not to me.” He stepped back, hands held high in defeat. “I’m just chasing a fantasy, aren’t I? Been holding out hope for over a year that somehow on the other side of the world, you were waiting there for me. Just wasn’t our time yet. ‘Cept it’s never gonna be our time. I’m just the fool, yeah.” He smiled sadly, his eyes burning. He nodded numbly. “So it’s done. We’re done.”


                        “No,” Buffy whispered, reaching up from the bed to him, entreating.


                        He jerked away from her touch. “Go home, Buffy. You don’t belong here. Go home!” he spat before ripping open the suite’s door and storming down the hallway.


                        Buffy stared at the empty space Spike had disappeared from, her hand still reaching out towards where he’d stood only moments ago. She slowly let her hand drop down, numb to the passage of time as she listened to the pounding of her heart and the rasping of her breath. The air felt heavy, like it was pushing down on her and she gave in to the weight and the weakness, falling to the bed with eyes open and still. When her eyes began to hurt from the unbearable dryness, she’d allow a single blink to disturb her frozen pose.


                        Her chest ached and she idly wondered if she’d somehow broken something internally in the fight yesterday. Patting her chest searchingly, she found no surprise wounds or physical injuries. There would be no new scars to mark the surface of her skin. That’s as it should be. All her greatest wounds were carried in her heart. Her mangled, broken, aching heart. Oh. That’s the pain. She remembered it now. She wondered why she wasn’t crying and then decided she must have run out of tears. Or maybe she’d forgotten how.


                        She laid her hand on her heart as if to provide healing pressure for the invisible gaping hole, pushing down hard so the pain would come from the outside rather than from within. A gentle knock on the door drifted to Buffy’s ears and her eyelids twitched.


                        “Buffy? Can I come in?” Willow asked hesitantly.


                        Willow. Willow wanted to come in. Come in where? Where was she? She looked blankly at the ceiling, trying to discern any clues from the spackled patterns.


                        “Buffy?”


                        A warm hand touched her arm and she absorbed the sensation, letting the heat roll through her. She’d never noticed before, but she could actually feel the magic in Willow’s touch. That supernatural sensation of power akin to the tingle she felt when a vampire was near. She only felt it now because she was so still, existing in slow motion, the moments in between action and thought.


                        Magic. Vampire. Supernatural. Slayer. She was the Slayer. She had to move. Slayers didn’t stop because they were in pain. They rode it out. It was her duty. Time to get up now. Get up, Buffy. Get up.


                        “Buffy? Are you okay?”


                        Buffy blinked rapidly, her vision coming into focus. She looked at Willow, noting her concerned expression and smiled reassuringly, the pull of muscles feeling forced and plastic. “I’m okay, Wills.” Sitting up stiffly, Buffy looked around the room till she located her luggage on the other side of the bed. “Just let me pack real quick and we can leave.”


                        Willow looked at her strangely for a moment before nodding. “Okay, I’ll call and make sure the plane’s ready.” She smiled. “I figured you wouldn’t want to teleport since it makes you…you know…” Willow mimed a gagging motion.


                        Buffy collected her bags and nodded. “Don’t worry about it, Will. Fly, teleport, whatev. It won’t make me ‘you know’. I’m sure I won’t feel a thing.”


                        “Right. I’ll just go let Angel know we’re leaving. You’ll be down in a few?” Willow asked over her shoulder as she walked outside the suite.


                        Buffy smiled again, her cheeks straining numbly like a doll moving at will. “Yep. Be right down.”


                        Walking towards the bathroom to gather her toiletries, she frowned as she stepped into the wet carpet leading to the doorway. Opening the door, water sluiced out in waves and Buffy gasped. She’d left the bath’s faucet on. The bathroom was overflowing as she trudged forward to turn off the hot water valve. Standing in the middle of the watery floor, Buffy grimaced at the projected damage she’d done to Angel’s hotel. Maybe Willow could magically whip up a quick fix. Or she could just use some of her ill-gotten money to pay her way out of this problem.


                        “It’ll be okay. I won’t feel a thing.”




                        ******



                        To Be Continued...
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                        • #13
                          Chapter 14




                          Spike hunkered against the roof’s door, waiting for the final rays of sun to recede so could escape outside. He’d stormed down the hall from Buffy’s room towards the main exit only to freeze at the sound of voices in the lobby, turning with a dramatic swing of his duster to make a hasty retreat for higher ground. He’d kept climbing till he found access to the roof and the outdoors. He didn’t immediately foresee the problem with climbing up, he hadn’t thought it through. He should’ve gone back down to the sewers if he’d really wanted out. The sun had him trapped and he’d be damned if he’d walk back down past everyone. Angel had probably heard the entire row. Insufferable, nosy bastard.


                          He pushed his shoulder against the door jamb, glaring at the fading light stealing underneath the doorway into the cramped stairwell. He exhaled loudly. He’d been trapped in this excuse for a hideaway for over an hour. No way out that he could see. Forced to wait.


                          The sun sets and she appears.


                          Except she wasn’t appearing at all. He hoped she didn’t. He couldn’t stand much more of it. Of her. Of the reading between the lines only to discover she wasn’t even speaking the same language and everything she did say was in code, then written backwards and only fit to be read in a mirror. The woman drove him daft. Dafter than Dru and that was saying something.


                          The back of his neck tingled as he felt the night take reign over the sky. The darkness whispered tantalizing promises as it always did. Time to hunt. Time to prowl. He ignored the call. Growling, he violently shoved open the door and stalked towards the roof’s edge. Gripping the stone and mortar, his head hung dejected from weary shoulders. He gazed at the city lights of Los Angeles that blinked and blurred and shone like fluorescent stars fallen to Earth. The lights blurred as his stare unfocused, his eyelids twitched and his shoulders curled in with each punctuated return of his recriminating thoughts.


                          Things had been going so well. That should have been the first sign. Things were going too well. He hadn’t given much thought to it. Just rode the wave and what a wave it was – the things she did to him. More fool him for not thinking to question it. Fool. Him.


                          It seemed like everybody was calling him that these days. There had to be something to it if the whole world was shouting the judgment down at him. He couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment that events started to turn sour, but he knew when they’d started spiraling out of his control. Christy. Why’d he even bother trying to find her? He should’ve let her rot in whatever loser wannabe lifestyle she chose.


                          More fool him.


                          “You really are an idiot, ya know?” Christy sneered from her seat on the couch, holding an ice pack to her bruised jaw.


                          Spike snorted. “Found you easy enough. Bit of advice, pet – when you’re on the run, don’t go where the nasty men following you are sure to find you.” He glanced around her living room. “Love what you’ve done with the place. That a new TV?”


                          “Yeah, flat screen. And so what if you did find me? What are you gonna do?” Christy rolled her eyes. “You won’t kill me. You’re too soft for that.”


                          “There are worse things than death,” Spike said darkly.


                          Christy giggled. “Wow. Scary. I’m so scared right now. Really. You have no idea.”


                          Spike raised his eyes to the ceiling before scowling at Connor when he heard a muffled chuckle from behind him. Connor shrugged, his face twitching as he held back a smile.


                          Spike resisted the urge to snap at him. The boy was supposed to be his back-up, maybe learn a thing or two. It was getting downright embarrassing. “Right, so maybe we won’t kill you or torture you on account of you being human. Doesn’t mean you can’t be turned over to the proper authorities and wh-”


                          “And you’ll tell them what? What crime did I commit? What evidence do you have? Just because certain circles have accepted the existence of vamps doesn’t mean a thing when it comes to the system. And from what I hear, you really don’t want the “authorities” involved. Burn down any buildings lately? Ya know, besides the ones filled with innocent people.”


                          “They were worlds away from innocent.”


                          “So you get to judge them? You get to kill them? Since when?” She managed to look down at him scornfully from her perch on the edge of the couch. Spike straightened his shoulders and lifted his chin in response, standing proud and tall. “I doubt the world needs the captain of pathetic passing judgment on anyone. Ring, ring. The world’s calling, Spike – your application for World Savior’s been rejected but thanks for playing.” She lowered the ice pack to smirk. “Oh and just so that’s clear, the ‘thank you’ part – total sarcasm.”


                          Spike’s shoulders jerked forward and he forcibly held himself back. “Pathetic? I’m not the one offering my neck for suck jobs to any tramp-vamp begging to get off. So how’s it work, luv? You give ‘em a twofer if they ask nicely? Do you polish his knob before or after he drinks you down? Probably before. Wouldn’t want you fumbling around with poor coordination now, would they?”


                          “You’d know about the fumbling part. Written any good letters lately? And hey, it’s good to hear you finally got the girl. Congratulations. Must be great. Reunited and it feels so good, right?” Her eyes widened comically. “Except I heard that she just showed up a few days ago.” Christy bit her lip in mock confusion. “Strange. Could’ve sworn you wrote her that loser love letter last year.”


                          “…’s been not quite a year,” Spike mumbled, nonplussed.


                          “Sure took her a while to pay her true love a visit. Maybe she got really busy. Or broke a nail. I’m sure something important came up. But hey! She’s here now, ready to get wild and freaky, right? And you’re more than ready to help scratch that itch, aren’t you? So all’s well that ends well. Life is just Brady ****ing Bunch perfect with the fickle ho by your side.”


                          Spike smothered a growl, stealing a glance at Connor from the corner of his eye. The back of his neck felt like it was burning. He had no way to counter her. He didn’t know why Buffy had shown up out of the blue. Hadn’t asked. And yeah, the timing did seem a bit odd.


                          He needed to end this. Sadly, the nasty trollop had a point. He couldn’t kill her, torture her or call the cops. Though his conscience wasn’t so much forbidding the first two as Buffy’s firm ‘we don’t kill or torture humans’ stance – seemed to him that was just asking for trouble. A little love tap could do a world of good in redirecting a misguided, most-likely-psychotic sycophant. As for intimidating her back on the straight and narrow…well, could see that wasn’t working especially since all his best intimidation tactics included blunt, sharp, hot and cold objects interchangeably. All of which weren’t allowed. Damn. Time to go. Anything to get her to stop talking about Buffy and his letter in front of the young nipper.



                          He remembered the awkward ride back to the Hyperion, Connor a silent shadow at his side. He’d fobbed off Angel when they’d walked in the double doors, saying the lead had run cold and Christy was long gone. Angel had shrugged it off and moved on. The girl never was that big a priority. Connor had stared at him silently as he tossed out the lies, refusing to counter his story. Spike had avoided looking at the boy, his throat burning as he’d stared at his feet. Then he’d gone upstairs.


                          His head hung lower and he numbly contemplated bashing his forehead against the rooftop’s edge. Maybe he’d jump. It’d been a while since he’d fallen off a building. Physical pain would be a welcome distraction. Maybe he’d knock himself unconscious so he could stop thinking about it. About her.


                          God, that had gone brilliantly. Eavesdropping was never a good idea, especially when he didn’t want to hear something that could be said behind his back but not to his face. Those kinds of confidences always brought a burning throat and a sick stomach. Oh yeah, and shame. Can’t forget the shame. The extra special Buffy-induced shame. The one thing he hadn’t missed since his time in Sunnydale.


                          Hell, her love taps to his nose were nothing in comparison. Nine times out of ten he welcomed her hands on him, even if they were clenched into fists. No, it was probably closer to ninety-nine times out of one hundred. Even when her hands brought pain, there was something there underneath, this sizzle of sensation and connection that made him want to lean into her vicious jabs with the same eagerness he reserved for her passionate caresses.


                          You're in love with pain. Admit it. You like me because you enjoy getting beat down. So really, who's screwed up?


                          Him. It was most definitely him. He was screwed up and hopeless and so damned pathetic he ought to kill himself and end this miserable attempt at existing. Except he couldn’t. He could hear Angel pompously nattering on how Spike was weak and that it was always meant to end this way. He’d be damned if he’d prove Angel right. And the boy. It would set a bad example.


                          “So what’s the plan? You stay up here till the end of time?” Connor drawled from behind him. He’d drifted up silently. The boy had skills. The only physical acknowledgment Spike gave to Connor’s presence was an almost imperceptible tensing of his shoulders. “And when you turn to dust, I’ll put you in an urn in that exact same spot so you never have to move. Or deal.” He paused. “Or respond to a person when they’re talking to you…which apparently is the same as talking to myself so…” Connor turned to head back downstairs.


                          “It was the right thing to do,” Spike murmured, his voice equal parts confidence and uncertainty.


                          “What was?” Connor asked. “Which part was right?”


                          Spike nodded to himself. “It was the right thing to do.” He turned to look at Connor calmly. “Remember how I told you that you can’t keep going back for more, you’ve gotta learn from your mistakes – well, I finally learned from my mistakes.”


                          “Learned what?”


                          “Self-respect.” He locked eyes with Connor, his gaze intense and unblinking. “Don’t ever let anyone treat you like less than you are.” He raised his hand to slash at the air. “Never. You hear me?”


                          “Okay. I hear you. You’ve been heard.” Connor shook his head. “What the hell are you talking about?”


                          Spike growled in frustration and strode forward to stare into Connor’s face, grabbing him by the shoulders to shake him slightly. “Self-respect, boy. Don’t tell me you don’t understand that.”


                          Connor shook Spike off, stepping back to laugh. “Self-respect, I get it. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I know the word. But what are you talking about? Is this all ‘cause Christy decided to be a..well, I don’t want to say ‘bitch’ but…”


                          “’S got nothing to do with that dozy trollop.” Connor raised his eyebrows at the insult, most likely filing it away for later use. “This is about self-respect – ” Connor rolled his eyes at Spike’s repetition “ – and not letting a woman treat you like a bloody doormat. You hearin’ me? Self-respect.” Connor mockingly mouthed ‘self-respect’ in harmony with Spike.


                          “So what’s with the afterschool special? Does Big Bird’s message somehow explain why you dumped all over your girlfriend? Who by the way is currently leaving the country.”


                          “She’s not my girlfriend. Never really was. I was just…convenient.” Spike huffed and pointed at Connor. “Self-respect means you don’t –”


                          “Okay! Enough already. Enough with the word I will not repeat or else I will stake you.” Spike opened his mouth to interrupt and Connor raised his hand in warning. Connor stepped back to look Spike up and down. “Just so we’re clear, the woman who dropped everything, traveled halfway across the world to see you and has spent the past two days in a permanent lip lock with you, barring timeouts for vampire slayage and death club annihilation, this same woman who is not your girlfriend…she did all this because you’re convenient?” Connor squinted. “You sure you didn’t miss the episode where Big Bird explained the importance of prefixes? ‘Cause from where I’m standing, what your not-girlfriend did for you – that’s the epitome of inconvenient.”


                          Spike’s mouth hung open, his eyes alternating between Connor and the starlit sky above.


                          A heavy sigh interrupted their standoff and Angel stepped out from the rooftop’s doorway. “You’re an idiot, Spike.”


                          Spike huffed defensively only to be cut off by Angel’s deadly glare.


                          “There are a lot of things I wouldn’t trust you to do right, William. So many things we’re…you’re not good enough for. But one thing I did teach you was to finish what you started.” Angel looked out at the lights of the city. “Buffy’s gone. She left a few hours ago.” He was silent for a minute, jaw working from side to side. “She was…upset when she left,” he continued in a quiet, matter of fact tone. Turning, he glared at Spike. “You broke it. Go fix it.”


                          “Fix it? Say I’m sorry and beg forgiveness? Come crawling back here with my tail between my legs? You giving out lessons in how to be a sorry sod now?” Spike sneered. Meeting Angel’s unrelenting stare, his attitude slowly melted from his face to reveal a naked vulnerability. “She doesn’t lo –…trust me, it’s better this way.”


                          Angel scowled. “You think I’d be up here if I thought what you were doing was the right thing? The fact that you’re doing it tells me it’s the wrong thing, Spike.” Angel closed his eyes briefly before looking at Spike solemnly. “I can’t fix this, Spike. You can.” He swallowed roughly. “So go fix it.”


                          “I can’t! I can’t fix it, you poncey bastard. Because she doesn’t love me,” Spike growled. “Go on, rub it in. Everybody gets to take a lick. It might as well be your turn.”


                          “I’m not going to try and convince you of what Buffy feels for you. Hell, I don’t want to know. I’ve spent the past two days trying to not think about it. What I do know is this – she came here for you. She came in yelling at me, trying to find you. And once she did…” Angel sighed, clearly reluctant to continue. “You throw that away, all of it…then you really don’t deserve her, William. But I never thought you did.” Angel left the rooftop, disappearing silently down the stairwell into the Hyperion.


                          “So what’s the plan?” Connor broke the silence. “Is there a plan?”


                          Spike blinked, looking up with a new determination lighting his eyes. “Yeah, there’s a plan.” He turned to look at the city lights, drinking in the view with new appreciation before turning to the eastern horizon in the night sky. “Looks like I’m headed to Rome.”


                          Connor gave a slight smile. “Can I come?”





                          ******
                          Last edited by Emmie; 15-06-09, 10:27 AM.
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                          • #14
                            Chapter 15




                            The silence stretched across an ocean. A transcontinental flight of the not-talking and the bad movie that was made to be mocked with her best friend except she couldn’t because that would violate the not-talking rule, a rule she’d been trying to violate for hours but Buffy’s stance was iron firm. Firm and inviolate. Hard as stone. A tough egg to crack. She was just full of witty witticisms today. Too bad no one would listen long enough to appreciate them. Willow had tried to break Buffy’s code of silence with questions and jokes, even resorting to ‘interesting’ anecdotes when she failed to get more than the standard monotone, monosyllabic response from the unexpectedly taciturn Slayer. Nothing worked.


                            She felt like she was stuck in a time-warp at 30,000 ft and trying to pry a complete sentence from her significant other. Except Buffy wasn’t a guitar playing werewolf and this wasn’t high school. And she’d never been on a plane with Oz. And Buffy wasn’t a man, which actually made more sense for her present circumstances but was beside the point. Oh, and Buffy wasn’t Willow’s significant other, though she was significant and technically an ‘other’. Willow was sure that an honest Slayer would check the ‘other’ box on a census form asking her to identify her heritage.


                            Buffy would also have to check the box marked ‘emotionally distant’. Not that there was a box for that. Though it would be sorta neat to have fair warning for these kind of things. Willow looked sadly at the back of Buffy’s head. Buffy had been staring at the clouds passing by for over nine hours. Nine hours. Nine hours of the cold shoulder was officially driving Willow bonkers. She fidgeted in her seat for the thousandth time, accidentally catching the eye of the older lady seated across the aisle who gave her a knowing look before glancing at the airplane restroom behind them. Willow smiled awkwardly, giving an automatic shake of her head before ducking her chin. Clearly her need to have best friend girl-talk had reached the dangerously embarrassing level if she was unwittingly doing the gotta-pee dance.


                            “Buffy?” Willow asked tentatively.


                            “Hmm?” Buffy responded absently, not bothering to turn her head.


                            “You want to…” Willow hesitated. “You want to talk about what happened? You know, with Spike and… well, everything.”


                            Buffy turned slowly and stared at Willow with a blank expression, quickly breaking eye contact and letting her stare go distant. “I’d rather not, if that’s okay,” Buffy said quietly before turning back towards the window.


                            Willows shoulders slumped, her eyes darting about the cabin as she looked for a distraction. Or courage. Or insight. Something. Anything. Two rows up and across the aisle, two teenage girls were giggling as they stared at a cute guy seated nearby grooving to the music on his iPod. Their heads were tilted in secretly as they whispered, their brown and blonde locks mingling while they shared a conspiratorial grin. “I miss us,” Willow whispered.


                            “Huh?” Buffy turned to look at her curiously.


                            Willow swallowed. “I said I miss us. We don’t…we don’t talk anymore. Not like we used to.” She glanced at the teenage girls again before raising a challenging gaze at Buffy. “Not since…”


                            “Since you brought me back,” Buffy finished numbly, staring at the industrial fabric on the back of the chair in front of her.


                            “Right. Not since then,” Willow answered sadly. A long, charged moment passed before she repeated, “I miss us.”


                            Buffy’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully, her forehead scrunching. “It’s not…a lot has happened, Will. I’ve made peace with what you did. You didn’t know I was…” Buffy lips tightened involuntarily. “You didn’t know I was in heaven. And after, the whole trying to end the world thing. You’ve redeemed yourself again and again since then.” Buffy gave Willow a reassuring look. “We’re good, Will.”


                            “But that’s just it! We’re so clearly not good that it can’t get any not-gooder. And acting like we’re okay, that’s just making it worse. I’m tired of this. I’m sick of it. So we’re gonna fix it. Okay?”


                            “Okay,” Buffy drawled slowly. “What exactly are we fixing?”


                            Willow pointed at the empty seat between them. “This. Us. The not-talking and the awkwardness. There’s a clearance sale on distant relations. It all must go.”


                            Buffy looked skeptical. “And how are we doing this?”


                            Willow thought desperately. “Truth or dare?”


                            “We’re on an airplane. What kind of dares could we possibly do that wouldn’t get us arrested for being terrorists?”


                            Willow spied the Flight Attendant’s refreshment cart down the aisle and her eyes lit up. “Drinking game of truth?”


                            “No. A world of no. And also that’s a totally made-up game. Why do we need games to make this…us work?”


                            “’Cause you’re, I mean not that this is your fault, but you’re not that good with the communication parts of life lately. And I, um, I don’t even know where to begin.” Willow bit her lip. “So drinking game?”


                            Buffy rolled her eyes before nodding reluctantly. “But I’m going non-alcoholic here. The last thing I need is a jetlagged Cave Buffy showing up at Slayer Headquarters for scoldings and the judge-y stares. Not that they should even get to scold because I’m an adult and I can go wherever I want and do whatever I want. And Giles was the one who lied first, so he’s the one who needs to apologize.”


                            “So you’re taking the position of ‘He started it’, huh?”


                            “Exactly.”


                            Willow used a mild compulsion spell to nudge the Flight Attendant to come check on them. She would have used the call button on the ceiling, but they just ignored that nine times out of ten. Two diet cokes in hand and two more as back-ups, she turned to Buffy and nodded in satisfaction. “Okay, I’ll go first.” Willow took a sip of her drink. “I…I…”


                            Buffy raised her eyebrows expectantly.


                            “I’ve been blaming you for Tara’s death.” Willow eyes flooded with tears, her throat closing as she struggled to force out the words. “If I hadn’t brought you back, if I’d just checked to see where you really were, then you’d still be in heaven and Tara would be alive.” Tears brimmed and slipped over the edges of Willow’s lower eyelids.


                            “Willow, I –”


                            “No! No, Buffy. I know it’s not your fault and I know it’s irrational and wrong.” Willow raised her hand to wipe the tears off her cheeks. “But that’s why I was gone for so long. Why I’d stayed in South America with Kennedy while you and Xander were setting up shop in Scotland. That’s why I-”


                            “You’re right,” Buffy interrupted in a dull voice.


                            “What?”


                            “You’re right to blame me. I already do,” Buffy repeated, her voice gaining strength. “I figured you’d noticed by now. How everything I touch just…dies. Jenny, Angel, Mom…Spike. Tara was just another person who was close to me that I couldn’t save. Only worse. Tara took the bullet meant for me. I’ve cheated death so many times. And every time I dodge right, death takes someone I love.” Buffy looked at Willow painfully, her eyes shining with unshed tears. “I did love Tara, you know. She was kind and understanding. She was…comfort. Home. I wouldn’t have made it that year after I came back if it wasn’t for Tara. I loved her too,” she finished quietly.


                            Willow smiled. “She was easy to love. She was meant to be loved.” A heartfelt moment passed before Willow vehemently shook her head. “No, it’s not your fault. It was Warren. No one’s to blame but him. Not you, Buffy. Not you,” Willow’s voice grew confidently. She finally believed that now. Having voiced her doubt, that doubt had disappeared.


                            Buffy clenched her fists in her lap, her drink forgotten on the tray in front of her. “Being a Slayer means fighting, constant fighting and danger. And death. Death is on my heels.” She raised her eyebrow as she paused. “Being the Slayer…I tried…” Buffy looked at Willow, her eyes tormented. “I tried so hard to protect you guys. From the darkness. From me. I tried so hard.” She choked back a sob. “But I can’t. I keep trying to push you guys away, but you keep coming.”


                            “Buffy,” Willow consoled her, lip quivering as she reached out to grasp her hand. “You’re not alone. And you shouldn’t be alone. Buffy, it’s not your fault. You can’t control everything. You can’t save everyone. We just…we just do our best. Everyday. And the cool part? We do it together.” Willow squeezed Buffy’s hand tightly.


                            Buffy closed her eyes. “Strong is fighting,” she whispered.


                            “You betcha.”


                            Buffy smiled and gave Willow a fond look. “How do you do that? Stay positive and upbeat in the face of…”


                            “All this angst, tragedy and heartbreak? I think Xander’s country music collection desensitized me at an early age,” Willow joked.


                            “Xander listens to country music?” Buffy exclaimed in surprise.


                            “Only when he’s feeling blue,” Willow assured her.


                            “Huh, maybe that’s my problem. I’ve been listening to the wrong music. I’ve been rolling with the Pop, Alt Rock and R&B when I should have been crying on key to Patsy Cline.” Buffy looked at Willow speculatively. “Got any country on you?”


                            Willow shook her head. “I refuse to encourage the self-flagellation. No music of pain for you, missy.”


                            “This from the girl trying to get me drunk. Yours is a strange moral code.” Buffy fell silent for a moment. “I really screwed up, Will,” she confessed solemnly.


                            “With Giles? Nah. He’ll be fine. Plus he’s in the wrong too so you can both slap each other’s wrists and move on to the make-up hugs.”


                            “No, I screwed up with Spike.”


                            “Oh.” Willow chewed on her lip. “You never answered me earlier, I mean back at the hotel when I first showed up. You never said what you were doing in LA, why you had to go to LA to see Spike and why you lied about it.”


                            “It’ll sound crazy.”


                            “Sounds like my kind of story.”


                            Buffy gave a small smile before letting her mouth fall. “You wouldn’t understand how I could…how I cared…how important Spike was to me. Is. How important Spike is to me. You and Xander. You didn’t see how much he’d changed or why. And I understand. Spike’s hurt you both in the past.”


                            “You mean I wouldn’t understand being afraid to share an important and unconventional relationship with my best friends?” Willow quirked an eyebrow.


                            “Not afraid,” Buffy denied only to stop at Willow’s pointed look. “Okay, afraid. It’s not like you guys weren’t vocal enough over the years with your not liking him. Especially Xander. Mostly Xander.”


                            “Buffy. Tara,” Willow said significantly. “I understand.”


                            “Last time I checked Tara never tried to kill your friends.” Buffy sighed. “I guess I just got so used to hiding everything to do with Spike. And at some point I didn’t want to share it. When I found out he was alive, I just knew I had to see him for it to be real.”


                            “But why send a stand-in Buffy? Why not just tell us?”


                            “See here’s the crazy. If I didn’t tell anyone I was going to see Spike, if I sent someone else to go be Buffy at Slayer Central, then I could go to LA and be… just be Buffy. Not the Slayer. And the craziness of my life wouldn’t touch us. It couldn’t. We’d be…safe.” The corner of Buffy’s lip lifted ironically. “Except it didn’t work out that way.”


                            “The Spike freaking out part? Yeah, caught that.”


                            “That and the not having Slayer stuff follow me everywhere I go. But the lying part. Spike…I don’t know, I guess he misunderstood. He thought I was using him like last time.” Buffy lowered her eyes. “Yeah, not my proudest moment. Months worth of bad moments.”


                            “Do you love him, Buffy?” Willow questioned her quietly.


                            Buffy hesitated before looking at Willow helplessly, almost apologetically. “I do.”


                            “So what are you going to do?”


                            “Do?”


                            “About Spike.”


                            “Uh…nothing?”


                            Willow scowled. “You’re just giving up?”


                            “Will, he won’t even talk to me,” Buffy said defensively. “He kicked me out of LA. And speaking of which, what is it about my exes thinking they can just kick me out of a city? Like they owned it or something, please.”


                            “You can’t just give up! The giving up leads to no smoochies. And trust me, you’ll miss the smoochies.”


                            “Will, he won’t even listen to me. How can I do anything when he won’t let me explain?”


                            “Maybe…” Willow raised her eyes to the ceiling before smiling slowly. “Maybe you should write him a letter.”


                            “A letter?”


                            “See it’s perfect. You get to say all you want to say without him interrupting and distracting you. Perfect solution,” Willow nodded her approval.


                            “And I’ll be getting him to read this letter how?” Buffy asked in disbelief.


                            Willow bit her lip. “Oh oh! I’ll enchant it so that once he touches the letter he’ll have to read it. See? Perfect solution. Damn I’m good,” Willow grinned, her eyes sparkling.


                            Buffy coughed an involuntary laugh which grew into a joyful and high-pitched giggle. She continued to laugh, her shoulders shaking as tears fell down her cheeks. Willow smiled in response at the sound of Buffy’s laughter. It’d felt like an eternity since she’d heard it. Buffy’s laughter eventually quieted and she wiped away the tears from her face, a grin still dimpling her cheeks.


                            Willow watched her give a gusty sigh as she settled back into her chair. Buffy turned suddenly to look at Willow, still smiling and lunged forward across the empty seat between them, hugging Willow tightly as she rested her head in the crook of her shoulder. “I love you, Will,” Buffy whispered.


                            Willow blinked back a sudden rush of tears and smiled, hugging Buffy tightly. “Well, duh.”


                            Buffy laughed and pulled away to wipe her sleeve under her eyes. The plane jerked suddenly and they both looked up as the pilot’s voice announced they would be landing shortly. Buffy smiled and looked at Willow. “This is my favorite part,” Buffy confided. “Well, I like all the parts but this is just extra special.”


                            “What? Landing?”


                            Buffy looked up at the ceiling, almost as if she were looking through it to the sky above. “No, the coming down to Earth.” She placed her hand across her heart like she was preparing to pledge allegiance. “Coming back down is the best part.”


                            “Personally, I like the landing safely part, but that’s just me.”


                            Buffy smiled and, hand across her heart, whispered, “Fortune favors the brave.”




                            ******
                            Last edited by Emmie; 23-06-09, 06:46 AM.
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                            • #15
                              Chapter 16



                              Scotland


                              Buffy glanced at Willow hesitantly before hunching down into the passenger seat of Willow’s car. Well, somebody’s car. It probably belonged to Buffy if it was purchased with Slayer funds. Funds which were acquired through ill-gotten means. Alright, the concept of ownership was getting dicey in her own mind, but that was a whole other bag of grey area to sort through later. She was still grappling with the concept of full disclosure in order to be a good friend in direct correlation to her duty to protect the world.


                              “Will? You know there are some things I can’t tell you, right?”


                              Willow looked at Buffy curiously before returning her attention to the road. “Well, yeah. I kinda figured some things. I mean, if you’re holding someone else’s confidence, you can’t just spill the beans.” Willow smiled good-spiritedly.


                              “Right. Confidences. Or, ya know, Slayer related stuff too. Like talking about things that could change the future.” Buffy grimaced. “Except I’m not sure if changing the future is what I’m supposed to be doing. Or if I’m even changing it by what I’m doing or just making the future happen. Or maybe the future still happens but it’s a different future disconnected from our new future and my god, I think I just broke my brain.”


                              “Buff, have you been watching the Sarah Connor Chronicles with Andrew again? You know last time it gave you a migraine.”


                              “Right, because that pain had nothing to do with Andrew squealing like a teenage girl over Summer Glau. Pfft she’s not even that tough. I could totally take her. And sure she’s pretty but in no way hotter than me. Right?”


                              “Sure. Right,” Willow reassured her a bit too vigorously. “But hey, ask me the same question about Tina Fey and you’re not gonna like the answer. I’ve sworn a solemn oath never to betray the Fey.”


                              “Right. Betrayal. So it’s not…I’m not betraying you by not telling you. Even though I really want to. Even though I think maybe I should. But then I think maybe I shouldn’t because oh, look end of the world.” Buffy held up both hands to weigh the hypothetical decisions against each other in the air.


                              “It might help if I actually knew what we were talking about here.”


                              “But that’s just the thing. I can’t tell you. At least, I don’t think I can. So how can you help me decide what to do if I can’t tell you?”


                              “That question was rhetorical, right?”


                              “Yes. No. I don’t know. Maybe. My head hurts.”


                              “So maybe let it go for now ‘cause we’re here.” Willow nodded towards a manor house ahead as they drove through large wrought-iron gates.


                              “We’re here? Already?” Buffy gulped.


                              “Yep, after nearly 20 hours of travel we’re finally here. Trip go by too fast for you? Should we have gone the long route by steamer boat instead of flying? Maybe rode here by horseback? Or walked. We could have walked.”


                              “God, this is going to be awkward.”


                              “Yep.”


                              “And you said Giles is here? You’re sure? Maybe he left again. ‘Cause he hasn’t been around much at all so it’d be just like him to disappear.”


                              “Buffy, he’s here. I can tell.”


                              “Well, that’s not creepy at all.”


                              “Hey, at least it’s useful.”


                              Willow swung the car to a halt in front of stone steps leading up to large oak double-doors, unbuckled her seat belt and turned to look at Buffy solemnly. “Ready?”


                              “No.”


                              “Okay then,” Willow chirped. “Let’s go!”


                              Buffy slowly climbed out of the car and followed Willow up the steps. “Wait,” Buffy cried out, grabbing Willow’s arm as she was about to open the door. “Just uh…”


                              “Buffy, you’ve faced down some of the scariest evil this world has ever seen. You can do this. Easy. You could do this with your eyes closed, hands tied behind your back.”


                              “Oh great, way to encourage the ‘walking to the gallows’ imagery, Will.”


                              “Come on, Buffy. Time to woman up and get it done.” Willow pushed her gently towards the door. “I’ve got your back. Promise.”


                              Buffy smiled slightly before straightening her shoulders and reaching for the old-fashioned doorknob. She could do this. She’d face down Giles, make him apologize for how he done her wrong and then all would be swell in the land of the Slayers. Everything would be okay.


                              She just had to open the door first.


                              No problem. Just open the door and deal. She could do this. Why were real demons so much easier to face than her inner demons? How did facing her friends become more terrifying than staring down evil?


                              Buffy turned to look at Willow one last time, drinking in her reassuring smile before bracing herself to open the door.


                              “You planning on coming inside or what?” Dawn snarked.


                              Buffy turned around in surprise. “Huh?”


                              Dawn raised an annoyed eyebrow before kicking Buffy in the shin.


                              “Ow.”


                              “What? It’s what you get every time you do something stupid. You should be glad I only save it for the times you’re being a complete dumbass or I’d be kicking you every five minutes.”


                              Buffy scowled. “Since when it is okay to kick your sister? Is this a new rule? Do I get to kick you now? You really don’t want to go there, Dawn. ‘Cause oh yeah, there have been times when I definitely wanted to kick you in the ass and my kicks – they hurt more.”


                              Dawn looked unimpressed in the way teenagers have perfected throughout the ages.


                              “Wait a sec – you kicked me!” Buffy exclaimed.


                              “Duh, I was there. It happened like 2 seconds ago. And again, this is another moment where I’d have to kick you for being stupid if I didn’t have such high standards.” Dawn crossed her arms and gave Buffy an ‘I’m smarter than you’ look.


                              Buffy rolled her eyes and grabbed Dawn in a tight hug. “You kicked me! You! With the normal legs that aren’t hooves or 8 feet long.” She pulled back to look at Dawn in amazement. “How did this happen?”


                              “Oh, you mean the whole curse being lifted? It happened while my sister was running around the world being all self-involved and twitchy.” Dawn dropped her mock-anger and grinned, clearly too excited to share her newly restored self to give Buffy a hard time. “Long story, short. Willow brought Kenny over and well, things just worked themselves out.”


                              “Ugh, Kenny. I really dislike him.”


                              “Well then you’ll be happy to hear I said no to his wanting to get back together,” Dawn reassured.


                              “He wanted to get back together? After he turned you into a Giant and a centaur?”


                              “Oh and a doll. But you missed that part.”


                              Buffy blinked before turning to Willow who was biting her lip to keep from grinning. “Are Thricewise slayable? As in evil? ‘Cause I think there’s an ex out there that needs to be axed.”


                              Dawn harrumphed. “Nice to see the latent protective instincts kicking into high gear. Even though the killing talk – so overkill. It’s over, Buffy.” Dawn pointed down at her normal body. “Witness it being over. And speaking of exes …” Dawn’s voice went quiet. “How’s Spike?”


                              Buffy quirked her mouth. “Not dust.”


                              Dawn grinned teasingly. “So better then?”


                              “Yes, the not being dust is an improvement.”


                              “And you guys are back together?” Dawn looked behind them to the empty car. “Or maybe not…”


                              “It’s complicated.”


                              “Huh, everything with you is complicated.”


                              “Okay, it’s a work in progress,” Buffy added flippantly.


                              Dawn rolled her eyes before sighing. “He’s really okay?” Dawn asked solemnly.


                              “Yes, he is,” Buffy promised. “And I’m hoping…well, maybe you’ll get to see him sooner than you think.”


                              “Cool,” Dawn smiled, stepping back to let Buffy and Willow walk into the foyer. “All the Slayers are out training, but Giles and Xander are in the library working on some kind of battle strategy.” Dawn picked up her purse off the bench and headed back towards the door. “See you guys later.”


                              “Hey,” Buffy called out. “Where do you think you’re going?”


                              Dawn turned around, hands on her hips. “Shopping. Duh. I’ve been stuck wearing the same outfit and then no outfit on the bottom for the past couple months. I am in dire need of retail therapy.” She turned and skipped down the entryway steps.


                              “Nice to see her priorities are in order,” Willow commented.


                              “We should all be so lucky,” Buffy said fondly before turning towards the library’s door down the hall. Buffy walked towards the library and opened the door before she had a chance to over think it, walking inside with Willow trailing behind her. Xander and Giles stood hunched over a desk comparing old demon texts with some computer printouts spread across a nearby table. Buffy cleared her throat.


                              “Buffy,” Giles said guardedly, standing up straight and adjusting his glasses before stepping forward to greet her. “Welcome back.” Xander watched the exchange silently.


                              “Right. Back. That’s it? That’s all you have to say?” Buffy questioned aggressively.


                              Giles sighed. “What do you want me to say?” he asked tiredly.


                              “Oh, I dunno, maybe ‘I’m sorry’? Or ‘I shouldn’t have lied to you again’? Or you could promise to stop interfering in my life, making decisions for me that are none of your business.” Buffy paused, giving Giles a betrayed look. “You lied to me.”


                              Giles nodded with an ironic expression. “I did. But then so did you.”


                              “You lied first.”


                              Giles smiled slightly. “Does that mean I win?”


                              “No! You most certainly do not win. I’m the winner winning here. And you’re the lying guy who has to say he’s sorry and promises never to manage my personal life again.”


                              Giles removed his glasses, rubbing his temple before continuing. “Buffy, when all of this happened - ”


                              “You mean the lying part?”


                              “Yes,” Giles admitted reluctantly with a beleaguered tone of patience. “When I kept Spike’s return a secret from you it was because he was affiliated with one of the greatest evils on this planet. From my intel, it was unclear where his loyalties stood and you had a greater need to be focused here. Leading every Slayer. Spike would have been an unwelcome distraction at best, a heartbreaking torment for you in every other scenario I could imagine. To have him return from the dead only to ally himself with evil? I wanted to spare you that pain. Again.”


                              “Spike’s not evil,” Buffy countered quietly. “And it wasn’t your decision to make. You had no right to just…you had no right.”


                              “I did what I thought best at the time. I was trying to protect you.”


                              “You can’t have it both ways, Giles. Either I’m an adult with all these responsibilities or I’m a child who you get to dictate to. You can’t keep me in the dark. Not anymore.”


                              Giles coughed. “And would, uh, sending an identical twin to take over your responsibilities here while running off to Los Angeles be considered the actions of an adult or a child?”


                              Buffy shrugged. “Maybe I was living down to your expectations.”


                              “Touch?,” Giles acknowledged begrudgingly.


                              “Plus I figured it might be fun to pull a Parent Trap on you. Make a switch, see if anybody noticed,” Buffy joked.


                              Giles looked at her in wonder. “I thought you’d be more angry, not…”


                              “Oh, I’ve had time to process. Trust me, I was angry. Very. But I get why you did it. You were wrong. But I get why. You were trying to protect me.” Buffy scowled. “Don’t do it again. At least, not that way.”


                              “And this would be the understanding adult perspective, yes?” Giles said with a hint of irony. He lowered his voice and continued sincerely, “I’m sorry. I promise never to lie to you in an unfortunate and ill-advised attempt to protect you.”


                              “Damn straight,” Buffy smiled to show she was joking. “I’m sorry I left the way I did. I could have handled things better.”


                              “And I’m simply glad you’re back.”


                              “Strangely, me too.” Buffy looked surprised at the realization.

                              “Yay, now the hugging part!” Willow interrupted excitedly, prompting Buffy and Giles to awkwardly laugh. They both looked at each other hesitantly before moving forward to embrace. Buffy closed her eyes and remembered all the other times she’d hugged Giles. There weren’t many. She could count each occasion on both hands. But each time was memorable and achingly comforting; this time was no different. She suddenly felt safe and forgiven and…home. This had been a part of what was missing here in Scotland. Giles.


                              “Great. Now that that’s settled, I’ve got a lot of work to do,” Xander said distantly before piling up the computer printouts and walking out the door.


                              “Xander!” Buffy called after him, stepping away from Giles to watch him walk away. She turned to look questioningly at Giles who shrugged to Willow who frowned unhappily.


                              “I think he’s still…” Willow searched for her words. “You lied to him, too, Buffy. Only he was working right alongside look-a-like Buffy Roman style. He feels…”


                              Betrayed. “Oh,” Buffy said softly. She hadn’t even thought about Xander. She’d been so consumed with anger at Giles and desperation at finding Spike that she’d never even stopped to think how her Parent Trap plan would hurt him. Xander. Her best friend who’d been by her side for over seven years. The guy who’d kept all her dirty secrets and stood by her through all the hard times of putting the Slayer Organization together. The one who’d stayed with her when Willow and Giles had disappeared. Who’d always been loyal-


                              Buffy looked at Giles abruptly. “Did Xander know? Was he in on it too?”


                              Giles shook his head. “No.”


                              Buffy left the library and went searching for Xander throughout the house. She finally found him in the attic which they’d converted into a rougher version of their command central back at the old castle. He was sitting in a chair staring at a screen.


                              “Can I come in?” Buffy asked hesitantly.


                              “Kinda busy here, Buff. I’ll send you an update when I’m done.”


                              “Right. Update.” Buffy walked inside and stood behind Xander, leaning over his shoulder to read the computer screen. “Whatcha workin’ on?”


                              “Research,” Xander said in monotone.


                              “Research what?” Buffy said lightly.


                              Xander sighed in frustration. “Look, I don’t have time for games right now. Maybe you forgot while on vacation, but we’re doing important work here. So unless you’re interested in helping, I could use some peace and quiet.”


                              Buffy stared at the back of Xander’s head for a minute, contemplating what to say to break through to him. He so clearly didn’t want to talk. She sighed. This situation called for extreme measures. Leaning down, she hugged Xander tightly from behind, grasping her hands together as they met at the center of his chest and pushing her cheek against his back.


                              “Um Buffy?”


                              “Hmm?”


                              “What are you doing?”


                              “I’m helping. This is me helping the fight against evil. It’s a new strategy. What do you think?”


                              “They’ll never see it coming.” Xander’s voice was rueful. She could hear the smile in his tone. “Oh and they’ll win each time we try to defeat them with our Care Bear love stare.” Xander paused. “Are you going to let go now?”


                              “Nope. You’re stuck with me. Sorry, but you’re just going to have to deal with me being around all the time. I’m not letting go,” Buffy promised.


                              Xander gripped Buffy’s joined fists and squeezed gently. “I think I could get used to that.” Buffy squeezed him tighter in response, making him cough. “Oh, Slayer strength! Ease up now.”


                              “Oops, sorry.” Buffy slightly relaxed her hold on him. “I am sorry, Xander.”


                              “I know,” he said softly.


                              Buffy gently squeezed him again and sighed, eyes watering slightly. “I love you. I wouldn’t want to hurt you for anything.”


                              “Ditto.” Xander shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “You are going to let go eventually though, right?”


                              “Nope.”


                              “Even when I go…and you know sometimes I need to…Buffy, come on…”


                              “No way. Learn to deal.”


                              “Well okay, I can’t counter the Slayer strength, true. My sexy eye patch can only do so much seducing of willpower. And I didn’t want to do this. I swore I wouldn’t take advantage of your one true weakness but…” Xander reached back behind him and started tickling Buffy’s ribs, causing her to shake with giggles though she kept her grip firm. Xander eventually gave up, the stretch to reach behind him tiring his shoulders. “Okay, that’s all I’ve got. You win, Slayer. I am defeated,” he said in an all-important voice.


                              Buffy's smile pressed against Xander’s cotton pullover.


                              “Uh Buffy? I’ve gotta go to the bathroom.”


                              Buffy jumped up abruptly, smiling. “And we’re done!”


                              Xander smirked at her over his shoulder. “I knew you were all talk.”


                              Buffy nodded, grinning widely. “I’m equal parts talk and action. It’s part of my charm.” She sat down next to Xander and pulled away some of the papers he was working on. “So what’s the big evil needs putting down?”


                              Xander grinned and scooted towards her until their shoulders touched. “Well, we’ve got this lead…”



                              ******
                              Last edited by Emmie; 27-06-09, 09:15 AM.
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                              • #16
                                Chapter 17


                                Los Angeles


                                Angel walked into his office, shoulders forward slumped with fatigue. He poured himself a cup of coffee, took a sip and spat it out immediately. He didn’t think it was possible, but Nina made even worse coffee than Cordelia. It tasted like lighter fluid. Pulling a bag of blood out of the mini-fridge, Angel poured it into a clean mug, placed it into the microwave and pressed ‘start’. He tentatively sipped the coffee again, grimaced and set it down on the edge of his desk. Glancing down at the daily newspaper, he paused, except world events weren’t what caught his eye. A letter lay on top of the pages, one he opened with a mild curiosity that quickly became a gripping urgency:


                                Dad,

                                Don’t worry. Really, don’t. I just wanted to give you a heads up that I’m going on a trip. To help Spike. Really, don’t worry. I’m not even there and I can tell you’re worrying. I’ll be back in a few days, okay? And hey, maybe I’ll even bring you a present from Rome.

                                - Connor




                                ******


                                Rome


                                “This the place?” Connor asked skeptically.


                                “Yeah.” Spike warily eyed the brass numbers 34 on the wooden door.


                                “You’re sure?” Connor looked at Spike searchingly.


                                “Yeah.”


                                “You gonna knock?” Connor’s voice grated on Spike’s ears.


                                “Yeah.” Oh, he was gonna knock alright. Hell, he’d break down the door. Break through all the bullshit of the past few days and get to the bottom of this. He’d make Buffy admit to some truths and then shag her stupid. That’d teach her a lesson about keeping secrets.


                                Connor let out a frustrated sigh and stepped forward to bang on the door.


                                “Hey!” Spike leapt to grab his arm only to grimace at the loud banging noise as Connor rapped away at the knocker. He glared at the boy. “Well, now you’ve done it.”


                                “What? Knock on the door? Isn’t that what we’re here for?” Connor’s voice rose in exasperation.


                                “I’m here to do a lot more than knock on doors, Junior Broodster.” Spike shrugged. “Just wanted to get what I was gonna say in order before I…”


                                “Manned up?” Connor provided helpfully.


                                Spike growled and grabbed Connor by the scruff of the neck, pulling him in close to glare into the boy’s rebellious eyes.


                                “Um, you two need a minute alone? Maybe you want to come back later after you’ve…resolved whatever you’re fighting about.” Buffy stood in the open doorway, arms crossed over her scarlet dressing robe.


                                Spike dropped Connor, turning to look at Buffy sheepishly. “Buffy,” Spike breathed, eyes intent as he stepped forward to meet her standing in the doorway.


                                “Yeah?” she drew out, eyebrows raised.


                                Spike raised a hand to touch her only to stop as she jerked back defensively. He gripped the doorframe instead. “Buffy, I…ah hell, I’m sorry about what happened. About everything I said and I…I…” Spike tilted his head, eyes soft. “I love you. Forgive me for being a complete ass.” He gave a charming half-smile.


                                “You love me?” Buffy’s eyes were wide in disbelief.


                                “God yes. Love everything about you. Buffy, you’re everything to me. I’d forgotten what it felt like to…” His voice gone soft and intent, he continued, “I’m never more alive than when I’m with you. I’ll never be more alive than when I’m holding you. You make me a better man. You show me all I can be. And I am. With you.” Spike released the doorframe to cup Buffy’s cheek as she watched, entranced and disbelieving. “I know I don’t deserve you. Know I’ll make mistakes, probably screw things up again. But I’ll never stop trying to be a better man. I’ll never stop loving you.” Spike paused, eyes vulnerable. “If you’ll have me, Buffy. Hell, even if you won’t, I’ll love you til the end of the world,” he vowed.


                                Buffy let out a shaky breath, staring at Spike dumbstruck.


                                “So the point of this overblown speech is to say you’ll love her, no? How quaint,” a deep voice mocked from inside Buffy’s apartment. The Immortal stepped into Spike’s line of sight, toweling his dark hair dry and patting his bare chest before tossing the towel onto the living room couch. He reached down nonchalantly to finish buttoning his black trousers. “You’ve come a long way to be disappointed, William. But then you must be used to this by now. Disappointment.”


                                Spike clenched his fists at his side. “What the hell is he doing here?” he snarled, giving Buffy an accusing look.


                                Buffy shook her head, snapping out of her daze to step back under The Immortal’s outreached arm. “He’s my boyfriend.”


                                “I prefer the term ‘lover’, cara mia.” The Immortal looked down at Buffy fondly.


                                “Oh wow,” Connor exclaimed.


                                “As much as we’ve enjoyed this untimely visit, I think you should be going, William. Time for you to go back to your New World. Perhaps find yourself a new woman, eh?” The Immortal squeezed Buffy’s shoulder possessively.


                                Spike closed his eyes for a painful moment. The churning in his gut promised to lay him low. God, he’d been blind. He didn’t think he could be more humiliated than before, but this. His face blank, he stared at Buffy and The Immortal seeing the image of Angelus and Drusilla embracing in his mind. He’d walked in on them, too. No, not again. He wasn’t going to lose the woman he loved to another dark and brooding bastard. He wasn’t going to lose Buffy. Not her. Spike glared at The Immortal’s hand on Buffy’s shoulder, grinding his teeth. He met the Italian bastard’s self-important stare head-on. “No, I’m not going anywhere.”


                                “Spike? Maybe we should go…” Connor suggested.


                                Spike glared at Connor dismissively before turning to look at Buffy.


                                “Spike?” Buffy said, eyes wide. “You’re…” Her voice trailed off and she looked up at the Immortal with her mouth slightly open. She stepped forward again, her voice low and intimate. “Spike, I can only imagine what this looks like. What you must be thinking. But you have to go now. You can’t be here. You don’t…” She looked back over her shoulder at the Immortal. “You don’t belong here.”


                                “Buffy, love, you can’t be serious. This guy? He’s…well, okay he’s ambiguously evil, but still he’s not good enough for you. He’s wrong for you. Hell, I’d rather see you with Angel than this sodding wanker and I’d rather stake myself than see you with Angel.” Spike stabbed in the Immortal’s direction with his index finger then banged his fist into his chest. He caught Buffy’s gaze, entreating her to understand. “Love, I know what I said…I was out of line. Completely. But don’t you think this is a slight overreaction? Running back to him because we had a spat.”


                                “Running back?” The Immortal chuckled. “She never really left.”


                                Spike’s face went blank before he looked at Buffy in confusion. “This true? Were you still with him the whole time we…? You’d always planned on coming back here?”


                                Buffy looked between Spike and the Immortal, mouth open wide. Dropping her gaze to floor, she whispered, “Yes. Yes, I was with him. I am with him.” She sent Spike a tortured look. “I’m sorry. You should go now.”


                                A hand gripped Spike’s shoulder and he jerked reflexively, turning to see Connor giving him a sympathetic stare. “Come on, Spike,” Connor urged. “Let’s go.”


                                “Yes, run along, William,” The Immortal taunted as stood behind Buffy, caressing her shoulders. “You should’ve known better. To even think you could satisfy her the way I can.” He smirked. “But you were ever the fool.”


                                Spike flinched, eyes half shuttered as he clenched his fists so tightly that his knuckles popped. He took in a deep breath before swinging wildly with his left fist, smashing into The Immortal’s jaw as he pulled Buffy to the side with his right hand. “Who’s foolin’ now, you poncey bastard?” Spike sneered.


                                The Immortal buckled under the impact, falling back two steps, but quickly recovering. He rubbed his jaw bemusedly. “Violence. Is this the only way you know?”


                                “Whatever works.” Spike rolled his shoulders and settled into a fighting stance, dancing on the tips of his toes and baring his teeth.


                                “So the plan is to fight over the lady, eh? The winner gets to club her over the head and drag her back to his cave?” The Immortal looked at Buffy curiously. “Do you wish to be won, bellissima? Or shall we let you choose for yourself?”


                                Buffy gently touched Spike’s shoulder, pulling him away from The Immortal to look at her. She unclenched his fists, hesitating slightly as she touched him. “Spike,” she said, shaking her head with an air of sadness. “Go. Please. Just go.”


                                Her weary, almost pitying tone wrenched Spike’s heart in his chest and he stared at her in disbelief. He searched her eyes, looking for something, anything to show that she cared about him. There was nothing to see. No connection, no…she didn’t love him. She really didn’t. His throat closed involuntarily at the realization and he fought to keep his eyes from watering. Bloody hell, not now. The muscles in his face struggled to keep an even expression, to stop from crumpling into an even more pathetic mask. The back of his throat burned and he felt like he’d been gutted and left hollow inside. Spike turned his head away from Buffy to stare dumbly at the wall.


                                Connor firmly gripped Spike’s arm and pulled him back towards the open doorway. “We’ll, uh, just be going now.”


                                Spike allowed himself to be led down the hall and corralled into the elevator without comment. Lost in thoughts of Buffy’s eyes looking at him with pity and her voice telling him to leave, he finally surfaced when Connor pushed a shot glass into his hand. Spike blinked and looked around the room, surprised to find themselves sitting at a table in some dimly lit bar. “Where are we?”


                                Connor shrugged. “Where the alcohol lives.” He nodded at the shot glass in Spike’s hand. “Drink up.”


                                Spike numbly tossed back the shot and dropped the glass back onto the table. Connor grabbed the bottle of vodka and poured him another. “Should’ve bought whiskey,” Spike grunted, lifting the glass to drink down the clear liquid.


                                “Sure. Next bottle we’ll get whiskey,” Connor agreed. He poured them both another shot then raised his glass, tipping it towards Spike. “Women,” he commiserated, swallowing quickly only to cough a bit. He shot Spike a slightly embarrassed look.


                                “Ha.” Spike smiled painfully, nodding at the bottle. “Have another. We’ll get you drinking like a pro in no time.”


                                The next shot Connor managed to swallow without coughing, though he still grimaced afterwards.


                                “That’s better. You’re making progress.” Spike downed two more shots in quick succession. “See the key is to let your throat go loose, just let it slide down easy like.”


                                Connor tried again, finally managing to swallow without coughing or grimacing. He smiled at Spike as he lowered his glass. “Heh, easy.”


                                “You’re a natural, Junior.” Spike smiled proudly for a moment before his face fell again. He reached desperately for the bottle. Bypassing the glass completely, he chugged down the entire fifth of vodka in under thirty seconds. Finished, he slammed the empty bottle on the table and let his head hang low, mouth gaping wide as he panted.


                                “Better?”


                                Spike looked at Connor blearily. “No. Not even close.”


                                “Whiskey?”


                                “God yes.”


                                Three hours and a half a dozen bottles later, Spike was sufficiently numbed. The boy was a good drinking buddy, though Spike had gotten used to drinking his sorrows alone over the years. “Women,” he sneered. “With their shiny, bouncy hair and…shiny…”


                                “Yeah, women,” Connor agreed, head wobbling as he tried to nod but only succeeded in doing a convincing bobblehead impression.


                                Spike scoffed. “Who does she think she is? Just jerk me around like, like she’s the one who gets to say when to say when?”


                                “When?” Connor echoed.


                                Spike slammed his fist on the table. “Exactly. I didn’t say when, so who says she gets to, eh?”


                                “Gwen,” Connor breathed.


                                “No, ‘when’, say ‘when’,” Spike corrected impatiently.


                                Connor thunked his forehead on to the table, moaning a bit before turning to look up at Spike’s face. “Gwen. She used to talk about wanting to Europe… me. Gonna see the world. She was gonna show me…”


                                “Fickle, treacherous cow,” Spike muttered, reaching for the half-empty bottle of whiskey.


                                “Huh?” Connor grunted, eyes closed.


                                “What’s that?” Spike asked offhand before taking a long slug from the bottle.


                                “Huh?”


                                “Exactly. Pfft women.” Spike stared at the bottle, eyes distant. “With their lies. And their eyes. Lying eyes. Yeah, lying eyes that lie right to your face and then stab you in the back.”


                                “Huh?”


                                “Too right,” Spike said, raising the bottle to quickly down the last dregs. He snorted when he heard the faint snoring sound coming from underneath Connor’s shaggy head, reaching over to ruffle his hair affectionately. “Good plan. Get some peace while you can. ‘Cause as long as those…women…are out there…” He swallowed, head weaving from left to right. “You’ll never have a moment’s peace. They’ll torture you, use you up and spit you out.” Spike’s dropped his head onto his forearms resting on the table. “Oh, Buffy. Why?” he moaned.


                                A loud throat clearing prompted Spike to raise his head. He looked dazedly at a man with dark hair in a dapper suit. Well, it looked blurrily dapper, as far as Spike could tell. “You are a Mr. Spike, no?”


                                “Who’s asking?” Spike slurred.


                                “Ah, yes. I think you are. My employer wishes to have a few words with you.”


                                “Well, your employer can sod off. You too. Yeah, you. You go sod off.”


                                “No, I think not, my very drunk friend.” The man snapped his fingers and two large thugs stepped forward. Spike blinked, pushing himself off the table in an effort to stand. No way in hell these bastards were ruining his night of drunken drinking.


                                The first blow to his temple knocked him to the floor. Groaning, he sat up, shaking his head like a wet dog coming in from the rain. As the thug with bricks for fists stepped forward again, Spike glared. The second punch reverberated through his skull, making his vision go black with off-shooting swirls of red dancing across the back of his eyelids for a few moments until the red disappeared completely. Everything went black.



                                ******



                                Los Angeles


                                “Angel?” Nina called, frowning when he didn’t respond. She strolled past the red couch in the lobby and walked into Angel’s office. The shrill beeping of the microwave drew her forward and she opened the door, pulling out a cold mug of blood. “Ugh. The man needs a maid to look after him.”


                                Tossing her purse on his desk, Nina walked back into the lobby and turned towards the stairs. “Angel? You here?”


                                She frowned.


                                “Angel?”



                                ******
                                Last edited by Emmie; 07-07-09, 08:14 PM.
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                                • #17
                                  Chapter 18



                                  Buffy curled into the window seat of the bay window in her bedroom, a blanket tucked snugly around her. She frowned in concentration at the pad of paper resting in her lap, wondering where to begin. Willow had given her a significant look and teasing reminder to catch up on her writing as she’d said goodnight earlier. That was over four hours ago and here she was staring at a blank page. The rejected versions of the letter decorated her bedroom, crumpled paper strewn about the floor. Apparently, her just saying what she was immediately feeling always ended up, in some form or another, sounding like this:


                                  Dear Spike,

                                  I’m sorry. I’m sorry you completely freaked for no reason. I’m sorry you wouldn’t stop ranting long enough to let me explain. I’m sorry you’ve apparently gone insane. And seriously, where the hell do you get off? You’re the one who didn’t contact me for over a year. Almost, over, whatever. A really long time. And then you kick me out? Yell at me to leave? Are you kidding me? So yeah, you can just go be crazy in LA, see if I care. And I don’t care. Go be crazy and insane and alone.

                                  Love,
                                  Buffy




                                  Yeah, it was official. She sucked. She ripped the letter off the pad of paper and crumpled it into a ball, tossing it on the floor to join the other ranty prose. Maybe she just had to get it out of her system and then she could get to the heart of it. Of her.


                                  She sighed. This writing her innermost feelings thing used to be easier. Her diary collection had rivaled Dawn’s at one time. Though the entries had become rarer after becoming a Slayer. And she’d stopped keeping a journal altogether when Angel had lost his soul. It’d hurt too much to look at the words, to read her sucky reality on the page. It somehow made it more real and yet surreal somehow. Like a whole new level of pain. She’d decided it was better not to think about it.


                                  Of course, now she needed to write and she was so completely out of practice that all she was coming up with was word vomit. She pressed the pen down hard on the paper and waited for it to start moving of its own will. Like a Ouija board. The pen didn’t move.


                                  Buffy groaned, leaning back and banging her head against the wall of the bay window. She supposed she could just give up and try to go to sleep. Except she’d tried that during hour two of this adventure of writing failure and had only managed to toss and turn for thirty minutes before starting to scissor kick against the mattress in frustration.


                                  Buffy absently brushed at the condensation collecting on the window. A light fog was beginning to swirl on the grass below. Fog, the lesser known cousin of whom she was more familiar with: smog. She sighed. How sad was it that thinking about smog made her homesick?


                                  One thought led to another and suddenly she was blinking back tears. She hugged herself tightly, wishing someone else’s arms were hugging her instead. Or maybe her mom could run cool hands through her hair and whisper that it would be alright, that she’d always be her little girl and things would get better. The silence of her darkened bedroom made her gasping breaths sound obscenely loud and she tried to stifle the sound. She didn’t want anyone to hear her. She wasn’t allowed to cry or be weak and emotional. She had to be wise and strong. She had to always know the answer. How else would all the Slayers believe in her?


                                  How else would she believe in herself?


                                  Then the words came. Like a message she’d forgotten. A plea. An expression of gratitude. A vow. The words flowed through her and she began to write, her pen hurrying to capture them as they echoed in her mind. When she finished, she carefully folded the letter, hugging it to her chest as she closed her eyes and leaned back into the pillows piled against wall.


                                  Mission accomplished.



                                  ******



                                  “Buffy, wake up!”


                                  “Hmm.” Buffy shrugged off the hand shaking her shoulder and snuggled more deeply into the pillows.


                                  “Buffy.” The voice was loud and insistent. “Buffy, wake up!” And then the shaking started up again, only this time the voice stole her blanket too.


                                  “Hey!” Buffy blinked, looking up to see Willow watching her expectantly. “What time is it?” she croaked.


                                  “Sorry, it’s just we have an emergency situation here.” Willow looked at her apologetically before walking towards the bedroom door. “Meet up at command central and we’ll fill you in.” She paused at the door to look over her shoulder. “And Buffy? Hurry.”


                                  Buffy rolled out of the window seat and stretched her arms above her head. She carefully stepped out of the blanket twisting around her feet, only to have her foot land on a piece of paper lying on the floor. The letter she’d written last night. Picking it up, she looked in the direction Willow had disappeared, thinking about the ‘must-read’ spell. She grabbed an envelope off the desk in her bedroom, stuffing the letter inside as she rushed to catch Willow.


                                  Finding the hallway empty, she headed towards the stairs to the attic on the other side of the second floor. Quickly turning a corner, she came to a halt when she sighted Faith at the opposite end of the hall. Great, just what she needed. A little Faith first thing in the morning went a long way.
                                  Unfortunately. Continuing forward at a less harried pace, Buffy met Faith in the middle of the hallway in front of the attic door.


                                  “Faith.” Buffy stared at her warily, wondering where Faith had been hiding last night. She hadn’t seen her in the manor.


                                  “B.” Faith smirked as she looked at Buffy’s mussed hair and matching pajamas. “Love the PJ’s. Most people couldn’t pull off cute little piggies. Hot pink on hotter pink – brave choice.”


                                  Buffy gave a tight smile. “Right, well, as fun as catching up has been, I’ve got business to take care of.” She walked past Faith, opening the attic door and climbing the stairs. Faith followed, prompting Buffy to stop and stare over her shoulder. “What are you doing?”


                                  Faith’s eyes widened. “There’s a group pow-wow going down. Giles sent for me.”


                                  “Right. Great.” Just great. Buffy turned and hurried up the stairs. Xander and Giles were once again leaning over a pile of papers on the conference table while Willow and Andrew were at the computer terminals.


                                  Giles looked up from the table. “Ah, Buffy. Good, you’re awake.” He nodded a greeting at Faith.


                                  “Yes, my whole two hours of sleep was very energizing. I feel like a whole new me. Only tired.” Buffy fisted her hands on her hips. “So, what’s the big news? I believe Will used the words ‘emergency’ and ‘hurry’.”


                                  “Of course.” Giles glanced at Xander. “We’ve had a bit of breakthrough. Xander’s research has proven most useful and he…” Giles waved his hand at Xander to continue, who’d now taken a seat at the conference table.


                                  “Oh no, the floor is all yours, British man. You do the talking thing. I’ve got this new project which I like to call Caffeination. It involves me not falling asleep with my eyes open.” Xander raised his mug towards Giles before taking a large gulp.


                                  “See this wouldn’t have been a problem if we’d sprung for the espresso machine. All nighters researching with some delicious, steaming brew of caffeinated heaven,” Andrew sighed. “I can still get a good deal on this Italian model – free shipping. All I need is for someone to sign off on the purchase. And to give me back my company credit card.”


                                  “No and no. We don’t need you buying limited edition Babylon 5 collector’s plates or a to-scale model of the Enterprise. Request for reinstatement of buying privileges denied. Again,” Xander shot him down. “You’re just gonna have to ask for them from Santa like everyone else.”


                                  Giles cleared his throat. “As I was saying, Xander has been following reports of missing girls. Slayers. Most were unaffiliated with our organization, inactive in the field. Their families had been reporting them missing only for them appear days later…”


                                  “Dead.” Buffy dropped her arms to her sides. “Drained.”


                                  “Yes,” Giles confirmed. “The reports began to come in about a month ago, but were so infrequent that it appeared to be simply a by-product of slaying. Casualties of battle. An untrained Slayer would have less chance in fighting off a vampire’s attack.” Giles paused, looking away from Buffy. “Within the past two weeks, the reports of Slayers found drained, their bodies dumped, has increased. Xander sent a field agent to examine one of the victims and found bruises around her ankles and wrists. She’d been held in bondage.”


                                  “Damn,” Faith muttered.


                                  “How many?” Buffy asked grimly, eyes distant. “How many girls?”


                                  “That we know of?” Giles met Willow’s concerned gaze before turning back to Buffy. “Thirty eight. There are reports from Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America.” He paused. “That we know of.”


                                  Buffy clenched her fists, unwittingly crumpling the letter in her hand. She looked down and frowned, gritting her teeth as she stuffed the letter into her pocket. “Who’s behind it? We need to find out who’s organizing –”


                                  “I’m afraid there’s more unpleasant news,” Giles interrupted, causing Buffy to look at him warily. “Willow, would you…?”


                                  Willow clicked away at the computer terminal’s keyboard and a video feed began to play on the large monitor hanging from the wall. The quality of the video was poor, but Buffy could clearly see it was of her standing on top of a bar right before she threw a flaming liquor bottle at the vampire on stage. The newscaster’s voice droned over the violent image, “Buffy Summers is wanted by US authorities for acts of terrorism. Sources say she’s believed to be the leader of a terrorist organization working to…” Buffy zoned out, watching the video continue to loop showing her throwing the bottle as her picture from her California Driver’s License flashed on the right side of the screen. Willow paused the feed as the clip finished.


                                  “Whoa. And I thought I knew all the best club scenes in LA.” Faith eyed Buffy. “Isn’t it nice to feel wanted, B?”


                                  “Faith,” Giles chided her.


                                  Faith shrugged, turning a chair around to straddle seated next to Xander.


                                  Buffy stared at her picture on the screen, eyes hard. “Will, can you find out where this video came from?”


                                  “Sure, I’ll just have to hack into the studio’s network and –” Buffy looked at her sharply. “I’ll get right on it,” Willow reassured, turning back towards the computer screen.


                                  “Okay, so while our resident Wicca is hacking away, maybe you could fill us in on the new flame attack strategy, Buff,” Xander said.


                                  Buffy crossed her arms. “There was a group in LA. Vampires and humans working together. They were setting up traps to capture Slayers. Then they’d take them to this abandoned club – ” She nodded at the screen “ –and give the Slayer to the crowd. Like a prize.”


                                  “A blood club,” Giles added.


                                  “Yeah,” Buffy said softly.


                                  “And if what you discovered is in any way connected to the other Slayers’ deaths –”


                                  “Oh, I know it is,” Buffy interrupted. “It…the bruises. The girl I helped rescue was chained up. And they were organized. Careful. I’m not surprised there’s more of them.” She scoffed. “A well-oiled machine. We might not have found out about it if Angel hadn’t…We have to stop this, Giles.”


                                  “We will.”


                                  “Gotta know who to stop first,” Faith jumped in. “We need a target. Can’t kill the snake if you can’t find its head.”


                                  “Buffy?” Willow looked over her shoulder. “I think I found your head. It took a little digging, some dummy servers set up to throw me off the scent, but I know where the video came from.”


                                  Buffy walked over to stand by Willow, examining the screen grimly. “Where?”


                                  Willow hesitated before answering. “Rome.”


                                  “Roma?” Andrew asked, leaning over to look at Willow’s computer screen. “Davvero incredibile!”


                                  Buffy resisted rolling her eyes. “Will. Where exactly in Rome? You have a location?”


                                  Faith, Xander and Giles joined Buffy in anxiously standing behind Willow as she continued typing. “Just a sec. Oh.” Willow paused to look at Andrew. “Well, that makes things complicated.”


                                  “What?” Buffy’s voice was tense.


                                  “Uh, Andrew, maybe you wanna go into your brief about the Immortal,” Willow suggested as she continued pulling up documents that looked like building specs.


                                  “Ah, the Immortal. Truly a mystery among men though he himself is not a man. Or rather, more than a man. A titan among men. A living god-like being who knows no rules but those he wills. And his will is formidable. Formidabler than anyone could ever imagine. A powerful ally to the Slayer cause who…oh, well, considering recent developments, that perhaps needs to be re-examined.” Andrew opened up a word document on his computer and highlighted a portion of his report. He turned to look at the group. “Where was I?”


                                  “Get to the point, Andrew, before I teach your fingers how to bend backwards. Permanently,” Buffy threatened.


                                  “Oh, he’s also Buffy decoy’s boyfriend,” Andrew concluded, eyes innocent.


                                  “You’re telling me the guy who’s responsible for murdering Slayers has been dating ‘me’,” Buffy gestured with air quotes angrily.


                                  “Dating, rendezvousing, taking spontaneous trips to Monte Carlo…rogue agent,” Andrew finished with a whisper.


                                  Buffy slapped the back of Andrew’s head. “Okay, new plan. Everybody mount up. We’re taking this Immortal guy down. Xander, get your team ready. Willow, magical back-up and logistics on whatever defenses this guy may have.” Andrew looked at Buffy expectantly. “Andrew, no talking, just help Xander. Giles?”


                                  “I’ll see what I can dig up from my contacts about the Immortal’s recent activities.” Giles stepped away, pulling out his cell phone as he left the attic followed by Xander and Andrew.


                                  “Good. And that leaves…” Buffy eyed Faith suspiciously.


                                  “Ready to rumble.” Faith jerked her shoulder under Buffy’s watchful stare.


                                  Buffy finally nodded. “Good. Get ready. I’ve got a feeling this guy won’t go down without a fight.” Faith nodded and left the room.


                                  “We’ll stop him, Buffy,” Willow reassured, giving her best sympathetic eyes.


                                  Buffy shook her head. “I can’t believe this has all been happening right under my nose.” Buffy’s shoulders slumped as she sat down wearily in the chair Andrew had vacated.


                                  “You didn’t know about this. Nobody did.”


                                  “I invited this Immortal Jackass into our circle. Okay, Andrew did, but he was speaking for me. And now…” Buffy rubbed her temples. “And here I thought I was only getting girls killed sending them out to fight demons. I didn’t think they’d become targets. That they’d be hunted.”


                                  “We’ll stop him.”


                                  “And then what? What about all those girls that are already dead? Or the Slayers who are just out there waiting to be picked off by an angry mob? We can’t turn back the clock. Slayers are being hunted down and even if we kill the snake, there’s still – People are working with them, Will. People. They think we’re the enemy. How did we get here? When did everything get so…”


                                  “Complicated,” Willow finished. “We take it one step at a time. That’s all we can do.”


                                  “Yeah, you’re right.” Buffy reached into her pocket and pulled out the letter. “When you’re done here, could you?” Buffy laid the letter down next to the keyboard.


                                  Willow picked up the letter, holding it carefully. “I’ll make sure he gets it.”


                                  “Good. Thank you.” Buffy looked down at her clothes and raised her eyebrow. “I’m gonna go change. Somehow I think storming an Italian fortress will go better if I’m not wearing my Miss Piggy pajamas.”


                                  “Probably. But you never know. Maybe the Immortal’s afraid of puppets.”


                                  “Yeah, afraid. Sounds like he hasn’t been afraid of anything in a long time.” Buffy’s eyes hardened. “But he will be.”




                                  ******
                                  Last edited by Emmie; 16-07-09, 05:03 AM.
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                                  • #18
                                    Chapter 19


                                    Rome


                                    Careful hands rifled through his pockets and woke him. His shoulders ached, his wrists sore as they pulled against cold iron. The clink of metal opened his eyes and he saw his lighter, switchblade and lock pick dropped onto a tray in the corner of the room. Spike blinked at the assortment of blades laid out on the tray next to his confiscated possessions. His head lolled forward to get a closer look, squinting at the back of the short, balding man dressed in a dark suit and black leather shoes.


                                    The room was square with three walls of stone and the fourth wall made of iron bars and a cell door. The man in the suit picked up a scalpel and tested the sharpness of the tip with his index finger before returning it to the tray. Spike watched him reach for the small mallet next and swing it in the air, testing its balance and weight before setting it down. The man continued to methodically test each instrument before picking up the leather case sitting at his feet. He left the room without a backwards glance, carefully locking the cell door behind him.


                                    Spike looked up at the shackles around his wrists that led to chains bolted into the ceiling. He tightened the muscles in his arms and shoulders and jerked violently. The chains rattled and he began to swing forward only to be pulled back as metal bit into his ankles. He looked down past his bare chest to find matching shackles bolted to the stone floor. He raised his eyes towards the ceiling. “Oh, balls.”


                                    “Mmmphm,” Connor grunted to his left, hanging from his own pair of chains in an identical pose.


                                    Spike set himself swinging in Connor’s direction, banging into the boy’s shoulder. “Oy! Wake up, Junior. No time for a little shut eye.”


                                    Connor moaned. Spike gripped the chains with his hands, rocking back and forth til he gathered enough momentum to forcefully crash into Connor and send him spinning as far as the chains would allow.


                                    “Ah!” Connor’s bloodshot eyes wrenched open and he glared at Spike as he continued to spin in the air. “What the hell? Where are we?”


                                    “Torture room.”


                                    Connor looked around the room before staring at Spike in confusion. “Why?”


                                    “’Cause they’re gonna torture us.”


                                    Connor managed to glare and roll his eyes at the same time. “But why us? And who?”


                                    “The Immortal. Who else?” Spike shook his head in disgust. “I hate Rome. This always happens to me here.” He shrugged his head dismissively. “Except that one time in the 50’s.”


                                    “Oh god, kill me now.”


                                    “Not gonna be that bad, kid. I’ve gotten out of worse scrapes than this. Just keep your head about you and we’ll be fine.”


                                    “No, really. Kill me now. I can’t take this.”


                                    Spike gripped the chains and pulled himself closer to Connor. “None of that, you hear. We’re gonna make it through this. And then I’m gonna rip out that rat bastard Immortal’s spine and beat him with it til he begs for mercy. Not that he’ll get any mercy. Just want to hear him beg.”


                                    Connor moaned in pain, eyes closed. His face began to turn green and before Spike could even think to lean back Connor wretched all over the floor in front of him. “Oh god, kill me now. My head.” Connor moaned again.


                                    “Ah, right. Guess I forgot to warn you about the morning after, eh? Got a bad hangover, I expect.”


                                    Connor glared at him through one squinted eye. “You forgot to warn me?”


                                    Spike shrugged. “Nothing to be done about it. Just gotta man up and soldier through. It’ll pass in no time…well, maybe a few hours. Though could be longer considering how much you drank. Too bad you didn’t inherit your dad’s vampire constitution. I feel just fine.”


                                    “I can’t decide what I want more – them to kill me first or you. I think you. Yeah, definitely you.” Connor gulped heavily apparently resisting the urge to vomit again. “No, me. Me first. Oh god.”


                                    “If wishes were horses…” Spike murmured. He tested the chains again, closing his eyes to concentrate before giving one great heave. The chains shook violently against the bolts in the ceiling that failed to acknowledge the pressure. Spike tried again and again without success, pulling so hard that the shackles cut into the flesh of his wrists and began to bleed. “Damn.”


                                    “This trip sucks.”


                                    Spike remembered the look in Buffy’s eyes as she told him to leave last night. “Yeah,” he answered, glancing at Connor hanging limply from the chains, face green, skinny chest bare and sweating.


                                    “It pains me to hear you find my hospitality wanting, gentlemen.” The Immortal stood at the cell door, waiting as his servant-torturer in the black suit opened it for him. Spike sneered as he looked at the bastard’s red silk shirt and designer black trousers, his black hair perfectly coiffed and pulled back by a leather thong. Poofter.


                                    “Knew you were evil, you rotten bastard.”


                                    The Immortal raised an eyebrow. “Good and evil. They are just words to show a different perspective. Opposite sides of a coin. I am above this. I see all sides. This epic battle for supremacy over the world – good and evil will destroy each other in the end and who will be left to rule? Me. The only one still standing.”


                                    Spike clenched his jaw. “What’d you do to her? Buffy. She’s under a spell, isn’t she? There’s no way she’d be with you if she knew the truth. No way she could be near you and not know the truth. What the hell did you do to her?”


                                    The Immortal chuckled. “No, no spell. At least, not of my own design. I do not abide magicks. I need no dirty tricks to have my will done. I’ve done nothing to her but offer my company.” He raised a hand to rest across his heart. “And that is all that is needed.” He then touched his temple. “That and a little persuasion. A little romance. I gave her what she most desired, the belief that she is desired and needed. That she is special to one such as me. And that is a great gift.”


                                    “Is making us listen to your douchebaggery part of the torture routine? Or is this just a bonus?” Connor snarked, his head hanging off to the side as he shakily lifted himself up by his chains.


                                    Spike grinned, pressing his tongue up against the back of his teeth. His grin fell into a snarl when Mr. Powersuit stepped forward and punched Connor in the temple. “Leave him!” Spike looked at the Immortal. “You want me, not him. So have at it,” he challenged, eyes sparking insolence.


                                    “What makes you think I have to choose? Are you not both here?” The Immortal glanced at his servant who was examining the torture instruments behind him. “My servants have little tolerance for disrespect. They demand the proper respect be given me as their lord. But I can see you are eager for the torture to begin. This is why you have forgotten all pleasantries, no?” The Immortal stepped back to stare at Spike and Connor measuringly, arms crossed over his chest. “Start with the boy,” he ordered, black eyes cool and unmoved.


                                    Spike caught the faintest smile on the torturer’s face as he stepped forward, a pair of pliers gripped in his right hand. “No! Start with me. Leave the boy out of this, you sodding bastard!”


                                    The Immortal smiled and nodded at his servant. “No, I think not. Besides, this way I can torture you both at once.”


                                    A deep growl began to rumble deep in Spike’s chest and he gripped the chains so tightly that his bones began to ache. As the silent torturer walked past Spike, Spike vamped out and leapt forward to snap his jaws, neatly missing the man’s neck by an inch. The torturer barely flinched, pausing only to look at Spike before coldly continuing forward and forcing Connor’s mouth open.


                                    “Get off me!” Connor struggled and bit the man’s hand, pulling his head back defiantly as the torturer gripped his jaw firmly and forced it open.


                                    “He likes to start with the molars and work his way forward.” The Immortal shrugged. “Personally, I find it all a bit gruesome, but the old ways are often best if a bit archaic.”


                                    “What do you want?” Spike snarled. “It’s not enough to kill us, is it? Just get it over wi- pflah,” Spike spat out the piece of paper that magically appeared in his mouth and looked down to see an envelope fall and land at his feet. “What the…?”


                                    The Immortal snapped his fingers and the torturer released Connor immediately, stepping forward to pick up the envelope and deliver it into the Immortal’s outstretched hand. Spike returned the Immortal’s curious gaze then watched, riveted, as the envelope was opened and a letter pulled out. The Immortal began to smile as he read, the small curve of lips growing into a delighted grin. Finished, he refolded the letter and stepped forward to stand a few feet from Spike, holding the letter out in front of Spike’s face. “It’s for you,” he taunted. “Don’t you want to know who it’s from?”


                                    Spike swallowed roughly, eyes unable to look away from the folded piece of paper. A strange ringing began to buzz in his ears and shoot down his spine as he looked at the letter. “Give it to me,” he demanded, his voice low and shaking. Give it to me give it to me give it to me.


                                    “Hmm.” The Immortal waved the letter in front Spike’s face, making Spike’s eyes jerk back and forth as he followed its progress like a cat watching the birds fly outside through a window. “Oh my, this is quite a surprise,” he laughed. The Immortal lifted the letter high above his head then down below his waist, Spike’s gaze obediently following every turn. “Haha, normally I eschew magic. But sometimes it turns out to be very amusing. Do you want this, William?”


                                    “Yes,” Spike said hoarsely, his entire body straining forward as he stared unblinkingly at the letter.


                                    The Immortal tapped the letter against his chin for a minute before turning and picking up Spike’s lighter off the tray behind him. He lit the flame and held the letter above it. “It would be shame for you to never read this. I imagine not knowing what it says would make the last moments of your pathetic existence truly excruciating.” Spike groaned as the letter was slowly lowered, the flames licking at the bottom corner and turning the paper black. The Immortal quickly closed the lighter shut and blew at the letter, shaking away the charred bits. “No, that would be too quick.” He tapped the letter against Spike’s cheek and Spike leaned towards the letter, mouth open. “Vampires have good vision, no? I’ve always wondered just how good it really is.” The Immortal stepped back a few paces and laid the letter down on the ground, open and facing Spike. “Can you read that?”


                                    Spike strained his body forward, stretching his neck as he tried to read the words on the page. “Move it closer. Closer, please.”


                                    The Immortal smiled. “I think that’s close enough. Alphonse?” The torturer placed the pliers back on the tray and moved quickly to open the door, stepping aside as the Immortal walked through it. “I would stay and watch you suffer, but I have a very busy schedule. You understand and will accept my apologies, won’t you?”


                                    The sound of feet climbing stairs echoed into the torture room, but Spike barely noticed. His vamped yellow eyes squinted as he tried to read the letter on the ground, his entire body fighting to get closer.


                                    “Spike? What’s wrong with you? Spike?” Connor’s raised voice barely pierced the resounding drumming in his head. Read it read it read it now now now now now NOW.


                                    Spike began to growl like a wild animal, fighting against the shackles holding his arms prisoner. He gripped the chains, pulling himself up as his teeth began to gnaw at the metal. Finding no purchase, he began to bite his own wrists like a wolf caught in a trap, desperate to free himself even if it meant losing an arm or a leg. His fangs met the bone of his right wrist and he braced himself for the final crunch, only to notice that his hands began to slip in the shackles from the blood now covering his wrists. Removing his teeth, he began to pull down hard, trying to slip his hands through the shackles’ opening. He squeezed his thumbs into his palms and gave one violent pull, grunting at the flash of pain as bones fractured and he fell to the stone floor.


                                    “Jesus, Spike. You okay? Spike?” Connor’s concern buzzed in his ears, but he couldn’t answer.


                                    Spike lay on the ground panting for a moment before he crawled forward as far as the shackles on his ankles would allow, stretching to reach the letter, metal biting into his Achilles tendons. A desperate finger touched the nearest corner of paper and he pulled the letter to him, careful not to smear his blood over the words as he lifted the page with his broken hands. His eyes pored over the lines, barely registering their meaning as he consumed the letter. After finishing the last line, he slumped to the ground, shaking. The strange compulsion passed and he looked at the letter again, reading it slowly.



                                    Spike,


                                    We always do this. Why do we always do this? How is it possible for us to understand each other with a look and then talk right past each other? Words. I hate words sometimes. Because words lie in ways eyes don’t. Eyes can’t. Or touch. Feeling doesn’t lie. Hearts don’t lie. Deep down. I wish – no, scratch that. No wishing. But I want so badly to be able to tell you how I feel. Because I think somehow you don’t understand. Well, obviously you don’t. It’s probably my fault. I’m not exactly an open book, am I? I guess I forgot how to show how I feel. But I thought you knew how to read me. Maybe you forgot, too. So I’m going to try to tell you. Here we go -


                                    I love knowing you’re standing right beside me even without looking. I love the way you smile at me before you say hello. I love the way you say my name like it’s beautiful and not silly. I love the way you look at me. I love the way you roll your eyes when you find something stupid (even when it’s at me). I love your left hook – sometimes when I’m training I even try to move like you. I love it when you’re being annoying. When did I start to love you being annoying?


                                    I love arguing with you (because it’s not really arguing). I love when you understand what I need without me saying anything. I love how you’re always willing to give me what I need. I love your hands and how they fit mine. I love how my skin tingles when I’m around you. I love how I’m never bored when I’m with you. I love how alive I feel when I’m with you. I love how much I feel when I’m with you. I love your lips. I love kissing you. I love how you make me ramble like right now.


                                    I love how I know you, how you let me know you inside. I love how you know me, how you understand me and still love me. All of me. Somehow you always find me, the parts I don’t want anyone to see. How do you see me?


                                    I love how it’s okay to cry in front of you. That you’ll still believe in me if I cry. That I can still be strong with you while being weak. I love how when I’m with you, I’m not alone anymore. God, I think I love everything about you. Everything except that right now you don’t believe in me. In us. But it’s my turn to fix this, right? To fix us.


                                    I love you.


                                    - Buffy


                                    P.S. How did I do? Do you believe me now?




                                    Spike read the letter a third time, imagining Buffy’s forehead crinkled in concentration as she wrote to him. On the fourth read he counted how many times she’d written the word ‘love’. Twenty-five times. No, wait, twenty-six times.


                                    “Spike? Spike? Spike!” Connor’s yell finally caught his attention and he looked up. “You okay? Your hands. Damn, man. Your hands are busted.”


                                    Spike looked down at the mangled flesh of his wrists and the broken digits of his thumbs, grimacing before looking at the letter in his hand. He smiled through the pain as he tightly gripped the paper. “Was worth it.”




                                    ******
                                    Last edited by Emmie; 29-07-09, 08:37 AM.
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                                    • #19
                                      Chapter 20


                                      Rome


                                      “Can’t believe we’re doing this.” Faith almost sounded disillusioned. Buffy resisted the urge to smile at the irony. “Just so we’re clear, I’m not crossing that line. No matter what you want. I’m not going there.”


                                      “We’re not going there,” Buffy reassured through clenched teeth before sucking down a deep breath to keep from snapping back at Faith.


                                      “We will do what we must. That’s all anyone can ask of us,” Giles added.


                                      “We’re not going there,” Buffy repeated, shooting Giles a reproachful look. She waited till he dropped his gaze in acknowledgment before turning to look at Willow clutching a small bag closed at the top with a drawstring. Her eyes rose to meet Willow’s gaze and she nodded. “You ready?”


                                      Willow's smile wobbled. “I think so. Not sure it’s gonna work though. It’d be nice if we had a Plan B just in case…”


                                      Kennedy cracked her knuckles loudly before smacking her fist into her open palm. “I’ve got my Plan B right here.”


                                      “Everyone follow my lead,” Buffy ordered. “Faith?”


                                      Faith stepped next to Buffy, shoulder to shoulder. “Ready.”


                                      Buffy reached up and touched her ear piece. “Xander?”


                                      “You’re a go. All clear on the street. Wiccans say the illusion is holding. Nobody’s seeing you coming or going. You’ve got an hour tops.” Buffy noted Willow leaning in closer to hear Xander’s voice coming in through her earpiece.


                                      “Then we’ll make it count.” All business, Buffy stepped forward and rapped on the door, listening intently at the soft pad of footsteps. She shot Faith a dark look. “Try not to enjoy this too much.”


                                      “Who? Me?” Faith asked as the door swung open, her hand immediately dropping from its faux-offended position on her chest into a clenched fist aimed at Buffy’s jaw. The other Buffy. The decoy crumpled to the floor, gasping, only to be jerked upright as Faith and Kennedy dragged her back into her apartment. Buffy calmly stepped inside, Willow and Giles behind her.


                                      “Close the door,” Buffy ordered, her eyes never leaving her double as the girl fought against being tied to a heavy wooden chair liberated from the dining room.


                                      “What’s going on?” the decoy panted, her gaze whipping from Faith and Kennedy as they secured the rope around her wrists and ankles before rising to question Giles and then Buffy. “What…what are you doing?”


                                      “We’re here for answers, traitor, so you better spill or…” Buffy tensed, ready to jump forward as Kennedy raised her fist to follow through on the threat, but Faith beat her to it, grabbing Kennedy by the shoulder and spinning her back two paces.


                                      “Settle down, hot stuff. We’re just gettin’ started.” Faith firmly maneuvered Kennedy behind her, staring at Buffy before glancing at the decoy. Faith’s mouth hung open slightly. “Damn. She even does that annoying thing with her mouth just like you, B. Wicked strange.”


                                      Buffy watched Willow spreading her magical supplies on the coffee table in the living room next to the chair where her double sat, tied down, shaking her head in disbelief. Was it an act? Was she really that good at playing shocked and innocent? Giles leaned against the wall in the corner of the room, watching without comment.


                                      “Buffy, please. I don’t understand. Please,” her double entreated. Her clear green eyes pleaded and begged, making Buffy’s gut twist inside. Buffy clamped down on her emotions, her face remote as she crossed her arms over her chest.


                                      “Willow?” Buffy fought to keep her voice neutral as her chest tightened. Her clenched fists dug into her ribs, the squeezing pressure the only movement she betrayed as she stood stock still, waiting.


                                      “Give me a minute,” Willow muttered.


                                      “Please, talk to me. Tell me what’s going on. Why? What are you going to do to me?” Her double’s voice shook and Buffy swore the girl’s eyes were on the verge of tearing up.


                                      “You’re going to talk. Confess every sordid detail. Tell us everything you know about the Immortal. And once we’re through, then we’ll decide what’s to be done with you,” Giles grimly pronounced.


                                      “The Immortal?” The decoy continued to shake her head, her denial constant. “I don’t understand. I’ve been here. With him. We go out, we stay in.” Buffy locked eyes with her double. “I pretend to be you, right? That’s my job.” The decoy dropped her gaze to the floor. “That’s my job,” she repeated.


                                      “Your job is to protect people. We’re supposed to protect each other. Slayers are dead because of you, you twisted bitch,” Kennedy spat over Faith’s shoulder.


                                      “No, I...Buffy, please…I didn’t…I don’t…”


                                      “Willow.” Buffy turned her head away to stare at a spot on the wall behind her double, her gaze blurring.


                                      “Got it!” Willow crowed, turning to grin at Buffy as she rose from her crouch at the coffee table. Willow tossed a faint misty powder on the decoy’s head and clapped her hands, ordering, “Verita vedere.”


                                      “What did you do to me?” The decoy sputtered, shaking her head to dislodge the bits of dust covering her face.


                                      Buffy sighed, her shoulders relaxing as she walked forward to stand in front of her double. “Truth spell. We see each other clearly now. No lies between us. Tell me about the Immortal. Tell me how you helped him. Tell me why.”


                                      “Helped him? Do what? We date. We go dancing. We go out to eat. He took me to the opera once. I kinda liked it.” The decoy let out a strangled sob. “You already know this. Andrew gets reports. I tell him everything." She hesitated. "Almost everything.”


                                      “Almost? What did you leave out?”


                                      The decoy blushed. “It’s private.”


                                      “Not anymore. Answer me,” Buffy demanded.


                                      “I don’t…I don’t want…”


                                      “What you want doesn’t matter. Tell me what I need to know.”


                                      “I don’t…I don’t tell him about when we have sex,” the decoy whispered, blinking back tears. “I don’t tell Andrew about how I feel. How I…how I lo-…please stop.


                                      “Willow, is it working?” Buffy asked.


                                      “Yeah, I can feel it. It’s working.”


                                      Buffy closed her eyes and turned her back to her decoy, glancing at Giles in the corner and shaking her head. Giles strode forward, stepping in front of Buffy as he pulled a folder from underneath his jacket.


                                      Buffy watched out of the corner of her eye as Giles shoved a photograph in her decoy’s face. “You don’t know Amy Walters? Her body was found in a dumpster in Minneapolis.” He let the photo drop to the floor, only to pull out another. “Or Kayla O’Connor. Her body washed up near Bath. The tourists were said to have run away screaming at the sight of her corpse.” Another photo. “What about Lena?” Then another. “Or Rachel?” And another. “Or Kaia?”


                                      The decoy shook her head numbly, staring at the photos of the girls now lying on the floor. “No. I don’t know these girls. Please, you have to believe me.”


                                      “You’re lying,” Kennedy accused.


                                      “No, she’s not,” Buffy countered quietly. “Giles?” She gestured with a nod for him to step back before walking around him to untie her double. Finished with the right pair of knots, she reached across to untie the left and found that Faith had already completed the task.


                                      Standing back to give her double some space, she felt Faith breathe into her ear, “We all done with the torture now?”


                                      Buffy flinched. “It wasn’t torture,” she said in a low voice, glancing guiltily over her shoulder at her double.


                                      “Sure felt like it. And I should know.”


                                      “It was the only way to be sure she was telling the truth. We didn’t have time to-”


                                      “Yeah, sure. Whatever it takes, right? Good to know our side isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty. We got the job done. Go team,” Faith mocked grimly.


                                      “Do you believe me now?” Buffy turned to see her double hugging herself, sitting immobile in the chair. She looked fragile. Broken.


                                      “Yeah, I believe you. We believe you.” Buffy shook off her doubts and straightened her spine, hands fisted on her hips. She needed to focus now more than ever. There would be time for regrets later. “You didn’t know the Immortal was out killing Slayers.”


                                      The decoy shook her head. “It’s gotta be a mistake. He wouldn’t…he couldn’t…”


                                      “It’s not a mistake,” Buffy maintained, her voice hard. “We know he’s responsible. We just weren’t sure about you. Until now. And now that we know, I have one question for you. Are you going to help us stop your boyfriend from murdering innocent girls or not?”


                                      The decoy didn’t answer, just kept shaking her head. She avoided Buffy’s challenging stare, dropping her gaze to the floor that was covered with pictures of dead girls. She reached down and swept them into a neat pile, shuffling them carefully and lifting them to rest in her lap. Her hands folded over the photos protectively, covering the face of a girl with short brown hair and a broken body. She let out a deep, rasping breath. “He did this?” she asked numbly, looking down at the photos. “You’re sure he did this?”


                                      “Yes,” Buffy said simply.


                                      Green eyes met hazel. “I’ll help you. I’ll help you stop him.”



                                      ******



                                      Buffy pulled at the hem of skirt as she waited for admittance into the Immortal’s palazzo. The guard at the gate had shown no surprise at her arrival, merely waved her forward as she drove up to the main doors of the estate. Now she stood at the front door, a smile plastered on her face.


                                      “Wear this. It was a gift. An invitation. He told me I’d always be welcome as long as I wore his ring.”


                                      The decoy’s ring felt heavy on her right middle finger, the insignia carved into the sides shaped like a cross with a loop at one end. She’d seen the symbol before in one Giles’ books. Immortality. This guy was just asking for a beat down. In contrast to the weight on her finger, her dress was the merest wisp of red satin, leaving her back exposed to the warm night air. Her hair fell down in soft waves, her heels propped up high on stilettos. Not her first choice for slaying. At least, not her first choice since she turned eighteen. Then again, nobody said undercover work was easy.


                                      “The palace is a mystical fortress. No getting in or out without the Immortal’s say-so.”


                                      Willow was right. Except it didn’t feel like a fortress as Buffy waited for the door to open. More like a prison. A beautiful prison with a snake living at its heart. She shivered as a cool breeze brushed against the base of her spine. The door opened and a man in a suit bowed and gestured for her to enter. As she crossed the threshold, she felt her ears pop like when the cabin pressure in an airplane shifts dramatically. The magical barrier – looks like she’d passed the first test. The butler smiled and she noticed his tongue was slightly forked at the tip. Not so human after all.


                                      “Welcome, signorina. My master will be pleased at your visit.” He led her to a drawing room to the right of the foyer, opening the double doors and standing to side as she walked past him. “May I offer you refreshment while you await the Immortal?”


                                      Buffy smiled brightly. “No, thank you.” As soon as the doors closed, Buffy rushed across the room, opening the other door that led to a darkened sitting room. She stalked through the darkness, the light drifting in from the windows all she needed to see the obstacles of furniture to be avoided.


                                      “I can’t break in without a magical foothold from the inside. Put two crystals at the front corners of the building and one in the center.”


                                      Reaching inside the cleavage of her dress, she pulled out a tiny velvet bag. How cliché, but it wasn’t like she had any other place to hide it. She hadn’t even been able to hide a stake on her. Not to worry. She’d improvise if things got ugly. Shaking open the bag, she poured a small, translucent crystal into her palm and dropped it in the corner of the sitting room. Not exactly the corner of the building but it would have to do. Loping back to the drawing room, she closed the door behind her and strode towards the double doors leading to the foyer. Her hand reached for the door knob just as it started to turn on its own, shocking her into jumping back. Shit. She hadn’t dropped off the crystal on the other side of the building yet.


                                      “Signorina, if you will follow me, per favore.”


                                      Buffy nodded her assent, clutching the velvet bag with the two remaining crystals behind her back as she followed the not-so-human butler into the foyer and back. Certain the butler wasn’t looking, she palmed another crystal in her right hand before stuffing the velvet back into the cleavage of her dress. With each step, Buffy counted the seconds it would take her to get back to the front in order to place the final crystal in its corner. She’d hoped to have both corner crystals in place before being brought into the Immortal’s inner sanctum which her decoy had conveniently shared as situated in the center of the palazzo. Need to improvise – check. She’d just have to do things backwards. No worries.


                                      The butler paused at another set of double doors before swinging them both open grandly and announcing, “Miss Buffy Summers to see il Signore Immortale.”


                                      Buffy gulped, her stomach jumping as she stepped past the butler to enter the long reception room. The room was rectangular, stretching so far out before her that each step forward began to feel like walking the green mile. She remembered the blueprints Willow had shown her of the palace – that it was shaped like an ‘H’. This reception room must be the center of the ‘H’, with long windows draped in velvet curtains spanning both walls, candlelight fixtures mounted in between each window set and multiple lit chandeliers hanging along the center of the room. Decadence personified and draped in rich reds and purples and blues with gold accents. Yet subdued and Old World at the same time.


                                      “Normally you are more eager to meet me, amore mio.” There. He stood at the opposite end of the room, his back to her as he poured a glass of wine from the side bar flanking the throne behind him. Throne? Oh my god. But it did look like a throne. It wasn’t just a chair to hang out in. The room was designed to intimidate and it was designed well. But Slayers weren’t the jumpy sort. Her hands hung steady at her sides as she continued to walk towards him, putting a seductive swing to her hips when she smiled a greeting.


                                      “Aren’t you happy to see me?” Perfect. Throaty, flirty, confident.


                                      He turned towards her and she caught her first glimpse of his face, stopping dead in her tracks. She was used to handsome men. Angel, Spike, Riley – all hotties. She liked to think she had good taste. But this guy in his black silk shirt partially open at the neck and black trousers perfectly tailored to fall with the long lines of his legs – this guy wasn’t a hottie. Or pretty. Or handsome. Those words were all lukewarm descriptions, each one almost accurate but not enough. He was beautiful. Perfect. Men weren’t supposed to look like him. If they were that pretty, they weren’t supposed to also be strong. If they looked that beautiful, they shouldn’t also breathe out animal magnetism. How were women supposed to resist?


                                      But of course, they wouldn’t resist. That was the point. Her smile widened to hide the gnashing of molars in the back of her mouth. Money, influence, looks and immortality – of course, the guy was evil. Evil and smiling at her. He raised his glass in her direction as she stopped a few feet from him.


                                      “I’m always happy to see you, bellissima.”


                                      “Me too,” a feminine voice added from behind before a violent shock struck the base of her spine, cold metal on bare skin and a shooting electricity that spasmed through her muscles until she fell shaking to the floor. Buffy’s eyes closed as her body curled in on itself, her muscles continuing to shake. A second surge of voltage raced through her body accompanied by a throaty laugh.


                                      “Enough, Christy,” the Immortal chided.


                                      “But it’s fun,” Christy whined.


                                      Buffy coughed, rolling on to her back to look up at Christy grinning above her and holding a cattle prod. Her body still jerking out of control, she forced herself up on to her elbows and glared. Another few seconds of desperate will power and she had her feet planted and ready to stand. Not that she got any further.


                                      A quick blow to the temple sent Buffy flying nose first into the floor. Two violent kicks to her ribs forced the air out of her lungs and she gasped, her eyes tearing up. A pair of black boots walked around to stand in front of her and she opened her eyes to see a grinning face covered in piercings and topped with a pink mohawk.


                                      “Nuh uh. No getting up, Slayer General,” Simone taunted. “You just lie back and take it.”


                                      “Yeah, take it,” Christy laughed, jumping forward to shock Buffy again with the cattle prod. Buffy’s vision blacked out for a few seconds, her tongue hanging like dead weight in her mouth as her body continued to jump spastically against the lush carpet running down the center of the polished wood floors. It didn’t even hurt anymore. Everything in her body was outside her control now. Even the ability to recognize pain.


                                      She could hear the Immortal chastising somewhere in the distance and his smug voice lit a rage inside her. This bastard wasn’t going to win. Get up. Time to improvise. Now. Plant the crystal in the room and then get back to the front. Then the cavalry would arrive. Oh god, where was the crystal? Her right hand felt empty and numb. She’d dropped it. Dropped it in here, in the center. Good. One more to go.


                                      "Once the last crystal is in place, I'll know. Then we'll come a-running."


                                      “Yo…you’re…pathe…thetic…” Her voice shook, no louder than a whisper.


                                      The Immortal answered with a low chuckle. “I do admire your spirit, Slayer. If only you weren’t so easily corrupted. You have been quite the dark horse this past year. Upsetting the balance. Destroying your own moral center. What option have you left us but to remove you from power? You’re far too unpredictable to be left in play. Not that I expect you to understand.” He shrugged. “You’ll be replaced and the world will forget you. Such is the way of things for mortals. Memory is short even within a single lifetime. But have no fear, Buffy Summers, your name will be remembered. Long after you are forgotten, the illusion of you will live on.”


                                      “God, you…really…love the sound… of your own voice…don’t you?”


                                      “What’s not to love?” The Immortal crouched down, cupping Buffy’s chin as he examined her face. “Your time has passed. Where once you inspired great loyalty now you only breed betrayal. You have become impure. Unworthy. The sun will set on your day, Slayer, and rise for another.”


                                      “Sure…” She gritted her teeth as she tried to pull herself out of his grasp. “…and whoever replaces me will end you.”


                                      The Immortal smiled and leaned in to whisper, “No, she won’t.” Letting go of her chin, he held his hand out behind him, inviting a figure to walk out from the shadows.


                                      “No,” Buffy breathed.


                                      The decoy walked towards the pair and ran her hand along the Immortal’s shoulder, caressing him before turning to meet Buffy’s disbelieving eyes.


                                      “Why?” Buffy asked.


                                      Why? What did you expect?” The decoy sneered. “You don’t even know my name.



                                      ******



                                      To Be Continued...


                                      If you liked this chapter, I'd love to hear your feedback.
                                      Last edited by Emmie; 29-07-09, 09:08 AM.
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                                      • #20
                                        Chapter 21


                                        “You arrived quickly,” the Immortal observed. “You had no trouble slipping away? You were not followed?”


                                        The decoy shrugged. “Her people are used to ignoring me.” She pursed her lips, shooting Buffy a glance out of the corner of her eye. “I’m not the real deal to them.”


                                        The Immortal released Buffy’s chin, ignoring her grunt when her head smashed against the floor. He rose and turned to face the decoy. Buffy’s eyes drifted closed and she struggled to keep them open, squinting up at the dark figure of the Immortal. She watched him raise an elegant hand to cup the decoy’s cheek, examining the bruise made from Faith’s fist, musing, “You’re hurt. They hurt you.”


                                        “I’m fine,” the decoy dismissed his concern.


                                        “They hurt you and you come to me,” he continued.


                                        “I belong here,” the decoy breathed.


                                        Buffy grimaced at the sound of her breathless vow. Was it too much to ask that they knock her unconscious so she didn’t have to hear the supervillains macking? She’d wait it out. The tremors running through her body were lessening. Her strength would return soon. She could wait it out.


                                        “Do you? Truly?” The Immortal sounded skeptical.


                                        “You know I do,” the decoy whispered. “You’re the only one who cares. The only one who knows-”


                                        The Immortal moved his thumb to touch the decoy’s lips, quieting her, rubbing back and forth along her lower lip. “Tell me where they are. Nearby, yes? They must be very close. How many? Who has she brought? The witch?”


                                        The decoy nodded. “They’re waiting at the southwest gate. The witch, a few dozen slayers and some watchers. How are you gonna stop them? Willow’s powerful and-”


                                        The Immortal’s grasp tightened around the decoy’s jaw, cutting her off. “You gave her my ring. That was meant only for you.”


                                        “I’m sorry, I didn’t-”


                                        “Can we kill her now?” Christy interrupted, almost twirling the cattle prod like a cheerleader’s baton in unrestrained excitement.


                                        The Immortal’s shoulders stiffened, almost imperceptibly, but Buffy was watching his every move. All she could do was watch and wait. He turned his head to stare at Christy over his shoulder, face remote, eyes cold.


                                        “Well, when are we gonna kill her? What are we waiting for? C’mon, she’s just lying there waiting for it. She’s practically begging us. Hello!”


                                        Without blinking, the Immortal raised an eyebrow and said, “Simone, silence her.”


                                        Buffy watched the candlelight glint off Simone’s lip piercing as she grinned and stepped forward, her fist crashing into Christy’s jaw, crunching bone and flesh in the span of less than a second. Christy’s frightened shriek ended in a muffled gurgling when she landed face first on the runner carpet, spitting blood onto the deep red fibers.


                                        “I think I broke her jaw,” Simone chuckled. “Oops.”


                                        “Does that upset you?” The Immortal asked, staring at the decoy, ignoring Simone’s gloating and Christy’s moaning. “Do you feel it was wrong to strike her?”


                                        “No,” the decoy shook her head. “I…I don’t know how I feel. I’m working on it.”


                                        “You’re working on it? Get with the program, prom queen. Time to play catch-up,” Simone said, cracking her knuckles. She stalked forward, arms crossed over her chest, chin jutted out. “Maybe you’re never gonna be ready. Can’t cut it.”


                                        “Can’t cut it?” the decoy asked. “It?


                                        “Yeah,” Simone sneered, leaning in to stare intensely at the decoy, challenging. “I think you’re too weak to get the job done. If we need anyone to go clubbing or do some fancy shopping, I bet you’re the girl to call. But we’re talking about being king of the mountain here. You just ain’t got it. Weak.”


                                        The decoy was the first to drop her gaze and Simone grinned in triumph. The grin didn’t last long as the decoy backhanded her across her mouth with one hand while lunging forward to pull free the knife sheathed at Simone’s belt. Simone fell backwards, tripping over the decoy’s turned foot placed strategically behind her heel. Standing over Simone, the decoy brandished the blade, her body shaking with an erratic, violent energy. “Who’s weak now?” she snarled, her jaw twitching.


                                        Buffy rolled on her side to face the decoy. “You’re not weak…” she struggled to speak, gritting her teeth. “You’re insane.”


                                        The decoy laughed a strident trilling noise that faded into a sigh, her head bobbing. “Insane?”


                                        Psycho.”


                                        The decoy strolled forward to stand over Buffy, lip curling. “That’s rich coming from you. I am what you made me.” Her mouth hung open, her face blank in expression while her eyes jerked back and forth. She turned the blade around to point at her own chest, her voice breaking, “Look Ma, aren’t you proud?”


                                        Recovering from her fall, Simone jumped to her feet and lunged at the decoy’s back. The Immortal gripped her shoulder and whipped her around to face him, shaking his head. Simone relaxed her fighting stance, unclenching her fists and turning to watch the two Slayers while standing at the Immortal’s side.


                                        Counting each step the decoy took towards her, Buffy gathered her strength, waiting. She kicked out at the decoy’s knee, hoping to drop her to ground and wrestle away the knife. That was step one. Then she’d toss the decoy into Simone and run for the front room. Her kick weakly bounced off the decoy’s leg, barely shaking her. The decoy laughed and dropped her knees to land on Buffy’s shoulders, knocking the air out of Buffy’s chest and pinning her arms to her side. The knife at Buffy’s throat stopped her from struggling.


                                        “Who’s weak now?” the decoy whispered, her gaze piercing Buffy with an unhinged intensity.


                                        Buffy swallowed, grimacing at the blade cutting into her throat. She felt a trickle of moisture run down the side of her neck. Sweat or blood? The knife pressed down harder against her larynx. Blood. Now what? Get her more angry? Push her over the edge? Or wait for her to finish it slowly? Screw waiting, she decided. “You are.” Buffy glared. “Liar.”


                                        “Aw, I thought that’s what you wanted. A liar. Right? And I tried so hard for you. Do you know how many hours a day I spent thinking about you? Thinking ‘what would Buffy do?’ Or ‘what would Buffy say?’ Telling myself that my name was yours. Forcing my mind to blank on memories that were real. Mine. I watched videos of you. How you spoke. What you wore. How you moved. I recreated your life in my mind until I could almost believe it was mine. I pushed everything that was real deep down until I couldn’t touch it anymore.” The decoy ran the blade across Buffy’s throat. “One day I woke up and I couldn’t remember what my mother’s face looked like. Or the sound of her voice. All I could see was your mom – Joyce.”


                                        Buffy closed her eyes at her mother’s name. She wasn’t sure if the pain in her chest was from the broken ribs or the ache that always surged through her whenever she thought about her mom. She resisted the urge to swallow against the sharp edge of the blade and instead opened her eyes. Returning her stare with hawkish intensity, the decoy reached down into the front of Buffy’s dress and pulled out the velvet bag holding the last crystal, gripping it in her fist. Buffy’s eyes widened in response, but she remained silent.


                                        “I gave you everything I had until there was nothing left. And then you…” The decoy reached up to brush her fist against her bruised cheek. “Would you have killed me if you had to? Tortured me? I bet you would have. You’d probably think I deserved it, right? I would have done anything for you. Anything. But now I see you’re not worth it.” Placing the velvet bag in her pocket, the decoy leaned back and raised the knife from Buffy’s neck, gripping it tightly, her arm tensing for the downward plunge. “You were supposed to be the hero,” the decoy whispered sadly, her eyes wet with tears.


                                        Buffy flinched when the knife jerked down, then stopped mid-air. The Immortal gripped the decoy’s wrist, holding her still, whispering, “Shhh, not yet. It isn’t time.”


                                        The decoy nodded numbly, staring past the Immortal with eyes blank. “Right. Time. There isn’t enough time.” Her gaze refocused and her head jerked to stare at the Immortal, her voice now urgent. “They’re coming. How can we stop them? Willow is too powerful.”


                                        “You worry without reason. I have not forgotten the witch. Her power will be weakened inside these walls. The sooner she enters, the sooner her end comes. She is the one who will be forgotten.” The Immortal gave a small smile.


                                        “Forgotten…you mean…?” The decoy paused, waiting for the Immortal’s nod before continuing. “Oh. Good. That’s good. Nothing to worry about then, is there? Everything’s under control.”


                                        The Immortal lifted the knife from the decoy’s grasp and handed it over his shoulder to Simone. The decoy’s hand went limp under his firm touch. He rubbed her shoulder, encouraging her to breathe more deeply. Buffy lay beneath them, ignored, forced to watch. “There is nothing to worry you, amore mio.”


                                        The decoy nodded and allowed the Immortal to help her stand, stepping away from Buffy lying on the floor. Buffy reached up and touched her throat before lifting a weak hand to see it covered in blood. Close. Too close. Turning her head, she looked at Christy lying unconscious a few feet away from her, still bleeding into the red carpet. A wave of dizziness swept through Buffy and she closed her eyes to stop the room from spinning. The sound of footsteps approaching prompted her to squint at two men, probably demons, who lifted Christy and carried her out of the room.


                                        “Simone, see that Buffy is taken down below and secured,” the Immortal directed. “No, amore mio, stay here.”


                                        The decoy shook her head and bent down to retrieve the cattle prod Christy had dropped. “She’s a Slayer. Simone and your servants won’t be enough.” The decoy glared at Simone who opened her mouth to protest. “Two Slayers against one. Better odds. You need me to do this. I need to do this. I need to see her behind bars,” she finished quietly.


                                        The Immortal stared silently before nodding his agreement.


                                        Simone and the decoy hauled Buffy to her feet and dragged her forward, each with an iron grasp on her arms. “Get a move on, you waste of space,” Simone taunted.


                                        Buffy groaned quietly, her head lolling forward to stare down at the carpet. She didn’t have the strength to lift her head even though her neck burned underneath the press of her chin. The decoy was silent, her hand clenching Buffy’s arm in a punishing hold. They passed through a labyrinth of halls, Simone leading the way with a nod to the left or the right. A large demon with glowing red eyes dressed in black unlocked a heavy oak door, revealing a dark stone stairwell leading down below. The demon handed Simone a set of keys and stepped aside to let them pass, closing the door behind them. The faint light from the torches mounted on the walls allowed them to barely see the steps in front of them. Buffy’s toes scrapped against stone as her feet were dragged down behind her in the open-toed stiletto heels.


                                        “Hold her, I’m losing my grip,” the decoy ordered, pulling Buffy down and to the side as she raised the cattle prod and tried to jab it into Simone’s midriff.


                                        Simone caught the decoy’s wrist and growled, “He told me to watch you.”


                                        The decoy dropped Buffy’s arm and punched Simone with her right fist while they struggled over the cattle prod, each trying to push it away from them. Buffy slammed down on the steps and fell forward, tripping the decoy and Simone, forcing them to tumble down the stairs. She heard grunting and cursing and the slap of punches at the base of the stairs. Crawling down the stairs on her stomach, her bare elbows and knees scraping against stone, Buffy hurried after them. At the bottom step she saw Simone struggle to her feet, the bloody knife that had cut Buffy now in her hand. The decoy lay on her stomach at Simone’s feet, a huge gash bleeding on her forehead.


                                        “I knew you couldn’t cut it, bitch,” Simone sneered, kicking the decoy in the ribs as she tried to stand.


                                        Buffy crawled forward onto the dirty floor and felt the brush of metal against her hand. The cattle prod. Fumbling for the switch, she turned it to high voltage and lunged at Simone, hitting her in the ankle before the blade plunged into the decoy’s back. Simone shuddered and fell to her knees, giving Buffy a bigger target as she stabbed the cattle prod into Simone’s side, keeping up the high current until Simone slumped to the ground, unconscious.


                                        The decoy rolled to her knees, gasping, “Is she dead?”


                                        “No. It takes more to kill a Slayer,” Buffy said, rolling onto her back in exhaustion.


                                        The decoy rose to her feet and stumbled over to Buffy, yelping in shock when Buffy kicked her legs out from her. One second later, Buffy was on top of the decoy and had her throat in a chokehold, her arms shaking with the effort of using all her strength.


                                        “What the hell kind of game are you playing?” Buffy snapped. The decoy groaned incoherently, unable to answer. Buffy relaxed her grip and transferred her hands to holding the decoy’s shoulders down on the ground.


                                        “I’m helping you. I had to…” The decoy coughed and rubbed her neck. “I had to make him believe I was against you. So he wouldn’t suspect me.”


                                        “So you’re on my side now? Can you even tell what side you’re on anymore?”


                                        “Yeah, I think so.” The decoy shot Buffy a questioning look. “Can you?”


                                        “Funny. My bloody neck doesn’t make me think I should start braiding a friendship bracelet,” Buffy gritted out. Shaking her head, she continued, “Why change the plan? Everything was going fine until you blew your cover.”


                                        “My cover was already blown. We realized just as you’d passed into the estate’s boundaries. Willow tried to contact you, but the mystical wards kept her out. She teleported me to the back entrance and I called him to be let inside. He already knew it was you coming and not me.”


                                        “How? How do you know?”


                                        “At first, I wasn’t sure. But when I called he knew.”


                                        “You risked my life because you had a hunch? Are you kidding me?”


                                        “It was more than hunch. We knew he’d stepped up his game. Your friend showed up looking for his son and-”


                                        “Who?”


                                        “Uh, tall, dark-haired. His name…I can’t remember, but it’s kinda girly and his hair sticks-”


                                        “Angel?”


                                        “Yeah. Angel was looking for his son and said that he’d been kidnapped by the Immortal and was inside the palazzo. I’d already been trying to figure out how the Immortal could have tricked all of us while I was supposed to be fooling him. Then I realized he knew all along. Things he’d say. The way he’d look at me. And her –” The decoy nodded at Simone. “I’d seen her before leaving here, we passed in the hallway. I didn’t think anything of it. Didn’t connect her to the face on the news, but she’s the one who-”


                                        “Commandeered an island. Kicked all the residents out.” Buffy leaned back, letting go of the decoy’s shoulders. “And if the Immortal is so connected in Italy, he’d maybe have a way to keep the government out of it. Cover it up.”


                                        “The Immortal is the government in Italy. They call it a democratic republic, but it’s all for show. The Immortal runs this country. Everything. He has for centuries.”


                                        Buffy struggled to her knees, bracing herself as she tried to stand, watching in envy as the decoy effortlessly rose to her feet. Apparently the decoy’s Slayer healing was working better than Buffy’s at the moment.


                                        “Can you walk?” the decoy asked, leaning down to grab Simone by the ankles and drag her into the nearest cell. Buffy heard the clink of chains and assumed the punk Slayer wouldn’t be causing trouble anytime soon.


                                        “Yeah,” Buffy grunted, eyeing the decoy as she stepped back into the hallway, a pair of iron keys twirling on the girl’s finger. “Hey, you’re going the wrong way! We have to stop the Immortal!” she called after the decoy when the girl walked deeper into the dungeons and away from the stairs.


                                        “We’ve gotta rescue Spike and Angel’s son first,” the decoy answered over her shoulder.


                                        Spike? ” Buffy gasped, pushing herself up with one hand on the stone wall. She grimaced at the shooting pain in her ribs when she hurried after the decoy, limping into the shadows.



                                        ******
                                        Last edited by Emmie; 24-08-09, 01:01 PM.
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