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, Blood, Language 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 ladyofthelog for the awesome icon.
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, sycophantic 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.
Buffy felt the earth move and shake beneath her. Her knees wanted to bend. She ordered them locked. The air felt thick around her, slowing her thoughts, making the turn of her chin or blink of her eyes sluggish and surreal. She knew she’d stared at Spike too long when his grin grew with obscene delight, his tongue curling behind his teeth. That tongue. Gah, no.
Avoiding his knowing look, she looked down and frowned at the sword on the floor. Her sword. She bent over and picked it up. The hilt felt solid in her grasp. The weight of forged steel steadied her. Her gaze rose with the pointed tip of the sword to meet his stare. He wriggled his eyebrows in a suggestive manner, tilted his head and grinned again, showing off his perfectly white teeth.
She felt the earth move again. Then she heard it explode.
“What the…?” Spike said, looking up at the ceiling. A distant booming shook the walls. A painting that looked like a Monet (…Manet? she wasn’t good at art stuff) fell to the floor. The lights flickered, recovered for a moment to flare brightly before a loud pop shattered all the bulbs. The room fell into darkness, brief but for the time it took for their eyes to adjust to the faint light given off by the decorative candles throughout the hall.
“Willow,” Buffy breathed.
“Red sure knows how to make an entrance.”
“Let’s go,” she ordered, already striding down the hall and turning a corner. Three demon guards stopped mid-run at the sight of her, pausing to examine her torn dress and bare feet. She could feel the moment they decided she was the Buffy they could attack. Luckily for her, she had no reason to pause, already knowing she could attack them. Lunging forward, she swiped her sword at one guard’s neck while delivering a spinning kick to another demon’s jaw. The sword sliced through flesh, quick and easy, while the ball of her foot collided with rough skin over bone. Both demons dropped to the floor, one dead, the other dazed. She spun the sword in her grasp, catching it on a downward turn and jabbing it into the demon’s chest. He gurgled when the blade pierced his heart then fell silent.
She turned to the sound of grunting behind her and found Spike fighting off a headlock from the third guard. “Spike, stop playing around and finish it.”
He let go of the arm trying to twist off his head and snapped his head back into the demon’s face. “I’m working on it,” he growled, reaching back to snap the demon’s neck to the side.
Buffy was halfway down the hall before the final body had fallen to the floor. Another demon jumped out of a side hallway, a knife in one hand. Her leg snapped up, knocking the blade loose. It spun in the air towards her. She caught it and twirled it in her hand a few times. The demon inched back, hands raised. In mid-spin, she jerked her wrist forward and the knife flew through the air. A second later, she pulled the knife from the demon’s chest and tossed it to Spike who eyed the knife in appreciation. She lifted an eyebrow and said, “Don’t say I never gave you anything.”
“Still warm from a fresh kill. Best present ever.” His smile crooked. “Well, almost best.”
She didn’t respond. There wasn’t time for flirty chit chat. He fell into step behind her. Every turn down a new hallway brought more demon guards out of the shadows. Swipe, slash, punch, kick. She knew the dance so well she could waltz it blindfolded. It always ended the same way. The demon lost. She won. Or sometimes Spike won. Same diff. It all blurred together. The fight pulsed through her, pushing down the pain in her ribs, washing away the shaky daze from the electric shocks. She lost count of the demons they killed. Their number didn’t matter. They didn’t matter. They were obstacles standing between her and him. Guards, minions, drones, flunkies – she’d knock them all down, making a bloody path of bodies leading to the Immortal.
The last demon standing stared at the sea of bodies and ran. She bent to the side, whipping her leg across a side table and kicking a heavy vase forward. It shattered against the guard’s skull. The pieces of porcelain landed around his body on the carpet.
“Gotta tell you. I missed the days you went slaying in those excuses for skirts. Glad to see you going retro, love,” Spike said, eyes devouring the bare tops of her thighs.
“You’re a pig, Spike. And I’m getting the feeling you’re having trouble focusing. Eyes up top, ‘kay?”
“I’m plenty focused. I’m just a good multi-tasker. I can ogle you and slaughter all at the same time.”
“That’s the spirit,” she said, tossing her hair over her shoulder. Carefully stepping through the broken shards of porcelain, she eyed the closed double doors leading the large reception room. The base of her spine tingled.
“Spike!” a voice called from behind them. Connor. At the opposite end of the hall, he stood over the body of a guard, his axe planted in the demon’s back. A look of appreciation passed between him and Spike. A distracting look which allowed a creepy looking, bald man in a dark suit to step behind Connor with scalpel raised. Spike jerked into motion, running forward. The sudden movement was enough warning for Connor to turn and catch the attacker’s wrist. Spike wrenched the other man’s arm behind him, twisting so hard it popped out of socket. Connor kicked the man’s kneecap. Bone crunched. The man fell forward into the blade held up by Connor’s grip on his wrist, the scalpel sliding into his throat.
Four more demons ran into the hallway and attacked. Connor and Spike circled around each other, working back to back to separate them. They had it covered. Buffy looked at the two fighting at the far end of the hall then back at the closed double doors. No time to waste. The boys would just have to catch up.
Her fist tightened on the sword hilt. She strode forward and kicked the doors open. They swung on sturdy hinges and smashed into the walls of the reception room. Her bare feet stalked across the ten feet of smooth marble floors before sinking into the red carpet runner leading to the large throne-like chair. The empty chair. A loud crash had her turning to find the double doors closed behind her. She lunged for them and pulled. Locked. She jerked on the doors. Locked and not budging. Mystically locked maybe. So much for this guy not liking magic. Eyeing the empty room, she wondered when the trap would be sprung.
“Alone at last,” the Immortal’s voice drawled from a distance.
Searching among the shadows, Buffy walked back to stand on the carpet runner in the center of the room. The room was well-lit compared to the outer hallways with torches mounted in between the windows that ran along the length of the side walls. Even without the torches, the large windows would have let in enough moonlight to see without straining. “Alone at last,” she repeated. “So you gonna come out and play?”
“The view is so much better from up here,” he answered, his voice coming from behind her. She turned around expecting to find him between her and the door. Nothing. “I can see it all coming. The bird’s eye view.”
She looked up and found him standing on a railed level that led out to a terraced patio on top of the building. Two sets of stairs flanked the back wall leading up to the landing, something she hadn’t noticed in her dazed exit last time. She saw bright flashes of light explode in the sky behind him, outlining his form in yellows, oranges and reds. Like fireworks. Magic. “Figures you’d like being on top.”
Arms spread wide, he gripped the rail, leaning over to look down at her. “Yes. The higher ground gives many advantages. Most important of all – perspective.”
“So what? You’re locking me in to have a little chat? Shouldn’t you have waited till your guards ran in to take care of your dirty work?”
"I ordered them to lead you here. Alone. They will not disturb us. I thought it time we became better acquainted."
"You asking me out on a date?" Buffy asked. "'Cause I'm already seeing somebody."
"Dating. I have no interest in such a juvenile encounter."
"Good. 'Cause the whole rejection and avoidance dance would have really made this fight to the death awkward."
The Immortal smiled briefly before asking, "Where is she? My Buffy. Does she still live?"
"She's just peachy. Or, at least, she was." Buffy shrugged. "Maybe your goons have changed that by now."
"No,” he countered. “She need only fear death at your bloodied hands. None of my own would dare. She helped you escape, of course. I thought she might. Though I had hoped she'd seen the error of her ways. She is ever loyal. Even to such a cruel master. Cruel and unable to appreciate what is before you."
"Cruel? You mean, like murdering dozens of girls? Hunting them down and tossing them to a hungry crowd like table scraps? Draining their blood and dumping their bodies? Cruel like that?"
"You think death is the ultimate cruelty? Naive child. Cruelty is born in the hands of those who torture the living. Cruelty is born of life. Death is a merciful end. Death brings freedom and necessary rebirth. We should all be so lucky-"
"Yeah, naive and cruel," she interrupted. "That's me. So why don't you come on down and scold me face to face?"
"Your generation is impatient. You rush to feel and know everything. Yet this greed makes you careless. In your mad dash, you fail to truly appreciate what is before you. You wish to know all and, in the end, you know nothing."
"Uh huh. Yeah. Great," Buffy said, bored out of her mind. "More talking."
The Immortal closed his eyes, tilting his head, sensing the air around him. "Your witch draws near. I can feel her magic. So violent. Dark and twisted. Her anger feeds it. And her fear."
"You don't have to worry about Willow.” Buffy hefted her sword up, pointing it at the Immortal. “You'll be dead long before she gets here."
He smiled. "Is that a promise?"
"That's a fact. So are we gonna fight like ever? Or did you just lock me in your evil lecture hall so you could talk me to death? ‘Cause me dying of boredom is a definite possibility right now."
"Yes. Fight. We might as well. Perhaps some good will come of it where none has gone before."
Buffy swung the sword in her hand, body tensing in anticipation. “Come on down, Morty. Let’s play.”
“Will you slay me with your sword of righteousness? Your sword of truth, oh warrior of the people? Except the people hate you now, do they not?”
“Sword of truth? Is that what this is? Boy, is my face red. I’ve been calling him Mr. Pointy 2.0.”
“Your resentful ignorance is delicious,” he said, smiling cruelly. Then he jumped into motion, leaping over the railing, a blur of black and red shadow. He landed in a crouch, rising gracefully to tower over her.
Buffy attacked, slamming the sword forward. The blade slid through his belly and out his back. She kept pushing till the hilt hit flesh then released her hold, stepping back.
The Immortal looked down at the sword sticking out of his chest. Raising one hand, he righted the upturned collar of his shirt. Delicately bending his wrists one at a time, he then straightened the cuffs of his sleeves. Shirt righted, his hand struck out, backhanding Buffy across the cheek. The slap knocked her back a few steps. Shaking her head, she looked up in shock to find him pulling the sword out of his gut. He ran a finger along the gaping wound that quickly disappeared into smooth, healed flesh.
“What the hell?” she gasped.
“Did you think it was just a name?” he mocked. “Names have power, little girl. Names are warning. Names become your reality. You should know better, Slayer.”
She didn't have time to riddle out his cryptic messages. She was too busy ducking the sword slashing over her head. Jumping to the side, she avoided the next volley of attacks, lunging back out of reach. Crap. Note to self – really old guys are good with swords. This guy probably had a sword instead of a baby rattle when he was a kid. However long ago that was. The sword whizzed past her neck, barely inches away from striking her. She felt the breeze from the blade kiss her skin. Way too close. Diving forward, she tumbled towards a side table. Grabbing a heavy silver tray off the table, she used it to block the next swing. The tray bent in her hands, the force of the blow making the bones in her wrist ache. The next strike knocked the tray to the floor. She jumped back, avoiding a violent slash aimed at her chest, only to trip over the fringed edge of the Persian carpet. She fell to the floor, landing on her back.
“I expected more from you,” the Immortal said, touching the tip of the sword to Buffy’s throat.
“Yeah, guess it sucks to be you,” she gritted, careful not to move and force his attack.
“You still do not understand what you have unleashed, do you? You have upset the balance of this sorry world. You refuse to consider the ramifications of your actions.”
“It’s never enough for you bad guys to just try and kill me, is it? You’ve always gotta play the guilt trip card. It’s tired. Get a new approach.”
He planted his foot on her chest and pressed down, watching her flinch at the pressure. He pushed slightly to the right, then the left. She gasped when he hit the break in her ribs on the left side. He smiled and pushed down harder. She felt the break snap wider. Her vision went black for a split-second before coming back into a blurred focus. Bright red spots swam across her line of vision. The blade at her throat forgotten, she grasped his ankle, desperate to relieve the pressure.
“What will it take before you learn the error of your ways?” he asked, leaning the full weight of his body down on her.
Buffy cried out, fighting the urge to slip into unconsciousness to avoid the pain.
“I had heard you were special. I have met Slayers before. Many times. You were said to be a cut above the rest. Unique. Yet you are just as weak as all the other girls. Misguided, fragile, unaware. Easily seduced. Easily manipulated. Easily broken.”
Broken. Not broken. A spark of anger grew, overriding her pain, forging it into an inferno of rage. The sound of glass smashing distracted the Immortal. He looked behind him to see Spike land in a shower of broken shards from the window, holding an axe in his hands.
“Break this,” Buffy snarled, shoving the sword to the side and smashing her fist into the Immortal’s groin. She ripped his foot off her, twisting his ankle and kicking his other leg out from under him. He fell to the ground, groaning. Rolling away from him, Buffy leap to her feet and smiled at Spike. “Hi honey. You’re late.”
“Got caught in demon traffic. Won’t happen again. Promise.” He nodded at the Immortal. “Nice of you to save a piece for me.”
Bending down, she picked up her sword lying next to the Immortal before walking to stand next to Spike. “Now, don’t say I never gave you anything.”
Spike’s grin turned feral. His predator’s stare never wavered from the Immortal lying on the floor cupping his abused groin. “You give the best presents, love.”
She was willing to share this kill. Yeah, it had to be love.