Summary: Spike wrote a letter to Buffy before the final battle in Not Fade Away. What happens when Buffy finally discovers Spike is back from the great beyond?
Genre: Romance, Angst
Chapter Rating: R for Violence and Adult Situations
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: Special thanks to sueworld2003 for the beautiful banner and to Aisalynn for being a wonderful beta.
Comics Background Info: This story loosely follows the comics canon but reading the comics is not necessary to understanding the emotional heart of the story. A few points to note:
1) 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.
2) 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.
3) 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.
4) Vampires are the cool new thing thanks to a reality TV show starring Harmony in LA (Buffy Season 8 #21). A Slayer saw Harmony and how she would feed off her adoring, sychophantic entourage and decided she needed to be stopped. She attacked Harmony while they were filming, failed and was killed by her own stake. The attack was used to make Slayers into the enemy and show vampires as sympathetic victims.
“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 bridging the divide.
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 and 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 décor 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.
“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.”