Summary: The monks’ spell to create the Key goes wonky.
Timeline: Season 5 AU
Rating: R for (highlight to view) language, graphic violence and character death.
Word Count: ~14,000
Author’s Note: The beginning dialogue in the prologue is lifted from the BtVS episode No Place Like Home and one line borrowed from Spiral—all the rest is my own. The title is French for “courtly love” or, to be more accurate, a “fine love”. This story is my feminist spin on a chivalric epic. The concept for this story was inspired by discussion with flake_sake where the question was raised: how can a story express a great and abiding romantic love without the sexual expression of love? Fin Amour is my answer.
Thanks: To penny_lane_42 and ladyofthelog for the amazing beta work (banner also by ladyofthelog ). You ladies keep me sane and forever motivated—love, love, love. Thanks also to enigmaticblues for keeping this community alive. ♥
“How are you feeling?” Buffy asks, closing the door to the back room of the RV behind her.
Joyce is lying on the small sofa bench, her cast resting on her stomach, her other arm thrown over her eyes to shield her from the sunlight sneaking through the blinds.
“Better. Still tired, but better.” Joyce sighs and sits up, allowing room for Buffy to sit next to her. Buffy shuffles forward, swaying with the motion of the Winnebago, and sits. “How are you holding up?”
“I’m…” Buffy stares down at her feet. “I’m fine.”
“It’s not your fault,” Joyce says, resting a hand on Buffy’s knee and squeezing.
“I was being reckless and you got hurt. Seems pretty clear to me. I wasn’t thinking. I wasn’t planning ahead. And I let this happen.” Buffy presses her lips together and blinks back tears. “I’m sorry, Mom.”
“Oh, Buffy, you couldn’t have planned ahead for this.” Joyce pulls Buffy into a hug, tugging her head down to rest against her shoulder, then stroking Buffy’s hair. Joyce sighs into her daughter’s hair and kisses her temple. “You have too much responsibility. I see that. Too much to handle all at once. Everyone feels they make mistakes.”
“Except when I make mistakes, people get hurt. People I love. She could’ve killed you,” Buffy breathes, tears overflowing, her fingers clutching at her mom, squeezing tight.
“And I’m right here and everything’s okay.” Joyce brushes away the tears on Buffy’s cheeks. With an encouraging smile, she asks, “So, how’s everyone else?”
“Well, Giles just threatened to stake Spike if he didn’t hand over the wheel. Spike’s idea of driving is trying to run over any car not going fifteen miles over the speed limit.”
Joyce chuckles. “That would explain the nausea earlier.”
“I dunno,” Buffy says, looking around the worn décor of the tiny back room. “These orange plaid curtains make me wanna vomit.”
“Buffy, was it really necessary to bring him along?” Buffy looks away when her mom says ‘him’. “You’re—it’s almost like you’re encouraging him. I just…”
“I’m not. This is not personal. It’s one hundred percent not personal,” Buffy insists. “Spike’s a good fighter. One of the best. And if it gets bad, I’d feel better knowing he’s there to keep you safe.”
Joyce sighs and strokes Buffy’s arm. “And what about you?”
Buffy gives her best reassuring smile. “I can keep myself safe.”
A resounding crash sounds as a javelin slams through the back window, spraying shattered glass around the room.
“Mom, get down!” Buffy shouts, grabbing her by the shoulders and pushing her to the floor. Together, they crawl to the door and slide into the main compartment, closing the door behind them. “Giles! How many?”
He checks the side mirrors. “A dozen, at least.”
“Looks like the Renaissance brigade’s come to throw down.” Spike’s standing in the middle of the cabin, hand braced against the wall. “They couldn’t’ve waited till nightfall for the hijinks?” He notices Willow sitting in the corner, eyes closed, murmuring to herself. “What’s with her?”
“She’s doing a protection spell,” Tara explains, leaning over to watch Willow anxiously.
“What?” Buffy asks, letting go of the blinds she’d been peering through. She turns to look at Tara. “I thought we couldn’t do a protection spell ‘cause we’re moving.”
Tara clasps Willow’s hands to ground her. “It’s dangerous, but not impossible.”
“Oooow,” Willow groans, opening her eyes and wiping at her bloody nose. “That didn’t work.”
“I’m ready!” Anya shouts, holding a cast iron frying pan high above her head.
Xander eyes her choice of weapon skeptically. “Ahn, honey, we’re not fighting Looney Tunes here.”
“Arrgh!” Spike yelps as another javelin breaks through the window to his left and slams into the opposite wall, the broken window letting in sunlight that sears his eyes, forcing him to jump back.
A gloved hand and an arm covered in chainmail reaches through the window, the knight’s helmet following, only to be met by a solid whack to the skull. Anya swings the skillet again with all her strength.
“Take that! And that!”
“Everyone, don’t panic,” Buffy orders, “stay calm and keep your heads lo—”
A sword slices through the ceiling, slamming down towards Buffy’s head, only to be stopped by Spike’s lightning fast reflexes. Buffy jerks around and stares at Spike.
“Now would be a good time for something heroic.” Spike grimaces, barely holding onto the blade as it slices through his hands.
Searching the cabin, Buffy notices the trapdoor in the ceiling, pulls over a chair and gets ready to jump up.
“Uh, Buffy?” Willow says, eyeing Buffy’s pregnant belly. “You’re not gonna fit through that. And even if you did…”
Jumping back down, Buffy rifles through the kitchenette drawers and the storage closet, finally stopping when she finds a shank of rope in the utility closet. “Anya, I need that frying pan.”
“Get your own weapon,” Anya retorts, gripping the skillet firmly with both hands.
Buffy rolls her eyes and grabs the skillet out of Anya’s hand, then threads the rope through the eyelet at the skillet’s handle. “Spike, stop playing with that sword and help me up.”
“Who’s playing?” Spike growls and bends the sword up towards the ceiling till it breaks in two. “Not exactly katana-strength, mate.”
Buffy waits, standing on the chair underneath the trapdoor, then gestures for Spike to turn around and bend over.
“What are you on, woman?”
“I’m gonna stand on you.”
“Harris is right. This isn’t Looney Tunes, it’s the bloody circus!”
“Spike! Less arguing, more doing what I tell you to.”
“Buffy, be careful,” Joyce calls out from her perch underneath the kitchenette table.
“Be back in a few, Mom,” and then Buffy’s rising up out the trapdoor, standing on Spike’s back while he bends over, clutching his coat over his head to keep the indirect sunlight from singing his scalp.
The second her head pops through the trapdoor, a knife is slicing at her throat. She blocks with the flat base of the iron skillet, upsetting the knight’s grip and knocking the blade from his hand. The knife skitters across the roof and falls off out of sight. Undaunted, the knight punches her in the temple and she slams back against the trap door’s edge, her feet slipping across Spike’s back. The skillet drops from her grip and slides off the edge of the roof, snapping the rope taut and jerking her wrist where it’s tied.
“Hold on!” Spike calls, shuffling beneath her. He grabs her feet and lifts her up to stand on his shoulders, his hands grasping her feet to hold her steady. She dodges another punch and catches the knight’s foot mid-kick, twisting his leg and tossing him to the side, watching him slip off the rooftop.
“One down,” she mutters, and starts pulling the rope to get the skillet back in hand, but not quick enough. A knight grabs hold and clambers on top of the roof, holding an axe. Firming her grip on the rope, she yanks it hard and starts swinging the skillet in the air, building momentum before she aims and releases it. The skillet strikes, thunking against the knight’s head—he stumbles backwards, trips and falls off the roof.
Buffy grins only to fall against the side of the roof opening as the Winnebago veers sharply to the left.
“Don’t hit the horsies!” Willow calls from down below.
Then Spike growls, “Hit ‘em harder!”
The Winnebago changes course, careening to the right and Buffy hears the sounds of horses neighing. Seconds later, she sees half a dozen horses halting in the middle of the road and bucking on their hindquarters, tossing their riders to the ground.
Seeing the roof clear, Buffy bends down to peer into the cabin. “Everyone okay?”
A sound of glass shattering, and Giles groans, the Winnebago jerks hard to the right and runs off the road, tires bursting. The vehicle tilts off balance and rolls on its side, metal screeching against the ground. Spike grabs Buffy’s knees and pulls her down into the cabin, wrapping his arms around her and hugging her close as everyone’s tossed around the cabin.
“Buffy?” Spike’s lying beneath her, both hands gripping her arms to hold her up, her belly pressing into his abdomen. His back is braced against the cabinets, the wood paneling now making up the floor in the overturned cabin.
“I’m good.” She nods and pushes herself up, scanning the room, seeing Willow and Tara rising to their feet, Xander holding Anya in his arms. “Mom?”
Joyce climbs out from behind the overturned kitchenette table, a shaken smile and a nod all she can manage. Buffy untangles herself from Spike’s legs, yanks the rope off her wrist and crawls towards the front, climbing through the narrow doorway turned on its side. She finds Giles lying on top of the passenger side window, tossed from the driver’s seat when the Winnebago flipped.
He doesn’t answer so she reaches for his arm, then pauses at the sight of blood staining his shirt. She looks up and sees the front windshield is broken, a hole punched through it by a spear now dangling above the driver’s seat. Her heart stutters in her chest and she falls forward, grabbing Giles’ wrist with one hand, the other reaching to touch his throat—she searches for a pulse, her hands shaking from adrenaline and shock.
She whimpers, “Giles?” and feels the blood rushing from her head.
He doesn’t answer.
“Spike, get the door,” Buffy orders, adjusting her grip under Giles’ armpits. Xander and Anya stumble behind her, holding his legs upright. “Guys, hold him steady.”
She hears Spike growl behind her, then the sound of him kicking the rusty door in and rushing inside the ramshackle gas station a half-mile from where they’d crashed. The sun’s beating down hot, baking the sand till it burns through her shoes. Buffy spies a table inside the main room and guides Giles toward it, waiting for Spike to shove it clear before setting him down.
“Buffy, he needs a doctor,” her mom says, laying a hand on Giles forehead.
“I know. I—Willow?” Buffy turns and sees her friend sitting in the middle of the room, chanting. Confused, she says, “Tara?”
“Protection barrier,” Tara explains. “We can set one up now that we’re not moving.”
“G-good. What about a healing spell?”
Tara stands closer and lays her hands over the wound at Giles’ abdomen. She’s quiet, eyes closed, then says, “If we can stop the bleeding…”
“Here,” Xander hands his jacket to Tara, who bundles it up and presses it down on the wound.
“He still needs a doctor,” Joyce adds. “He could have a concussion.”
“So we’re trapped in an abandoned gas station with an army on our tail? You suck at running away,” Anya says, shaking her head at Buffy.
“No more running,” Buffy murmurs, holding Giles hand. His breathing is shallow, so faint she almost misses it each time his chest rises and falls, but it’s there. “I need a phone.”
The hours pass. Everyone hunkers down and waits. Tara remains standing, chanting and channeling the healing energy of the Earth through her hands, all in hopes of keeping Giles stabilized. Buffy paces, unable to stay still, pausing only to grimace when a sharp pressure reverberates through her belly. She ignores the pain. Too much to worry about as it is.
“We’ve got company,” Xander says grimly, peering through the window. Buffy joins him, standing at his side.
An army of knights stand outside, surrounding the building. A real army. How many? A hundred men? Oh, god. Two men dressed in monks robes stride to the front, rosaries dangling from their hands. They press closer to the protective barrier and begin chanting.
“Wills, how’s the barrier holding up?” Buffy shoots a tense look over her shoulder.
Leaving Tara’s side, Willow walks to the center of the room and sits cross-legged on the floor. She closes her eyes, brow furrowed, and reaches inward. “It’s holding, but it’s not gonna last long. A few hours, maybe less.”
“We’re all gonna die,” Anya says. She’s sitting on a dusty countertop, an empty bag of potato chips clutched in her hand.
“Ahn…” Xander frowns.
“We are!” Anya jumps down off the countertop and stalks over to Xander. “Giles is bleeding like a stuck pig and he’s unconscious and—and Willow’s magical barrier’s gonna fall down and she’ll be so exhausted from keeping it up that she’ll flop over like a limp noodle. Joyce has only one good arm and she’s old and has no fighting experience. Tara feels guilty when she accidentally swats a mosquito, so she’s useless. Spike can’t hit humans ‘cause he’s a neutered puppy.” She points at Buffy. “And Buffy’s pregnant so she’s got a huge handicap to keep her from going all fierce Slayer. And—and she stole my frypan and never gave it back, so I’m completely unarmed.” She pauses in her rant and frowns at Xander. “And you’re mortal and vulnerable to swords with the cutting and the maiming which is just gonna lead to me screaming and doing something stupid to save you.” Anya swallows back a sob. “So we’re all gonna die!”
“Ahn…” Xander pulls her into his arms.
“She’s right,” Spike says, tightening the piece of cloth wrapped around the cuts in his hands.
“No,” Buffy counters. “We’re good, we just have to—”
“What? Wait for the barrier to fall so they can come in and slaughter us?”
“Like stuck pigs,” Anya whimpers into Xander’s chest.
“We need a plan. A diversion. Something,” Spike insists.
Buffy clenches her jaw, riding out another wave of pain in her abdomen. She pushes past it. “We stand our ground and fight.”
“We stand our ground—this ground—and we’ll lose. Can’t win like this, love. You know it.”
“Buffy, you can’t protect all of us,” Joyce says, standing close. She lays a hand on Buffy’s belly. “You have to protect her first. I want you to protect my granddaughter. You hear me?”
“Mom…? I’m not—I’m not leaving you. Even if I could, I wouldn’t. But I can’t—we’re surrounded. No way out.”
“I could make a way out,” Willow says. “A door in the barrier.”
“It wouldn’t work,” Buffy denies. “The second we walked through it, they’d be all over us.”
“We—we could do an invisibility spell. Like w-what I d-did before to…” Tara trails off.
“The ‘see no demons’ spell?” Willow asks. “It might work on a Slayer if we tweaked it.”
“Still works on demons, right?” Spike adds.
Buffy slashes her hand through the air. “No, I’m not leaving you guys.”
“Of course you’re not, Buff,” Xander agrees.
“Yes, you are,” Anya insists, lifting her head from Xander’s chest. “Because they’re all coming after you and maybe if you’re not here, they won’t kill us all. Giles is as good as gone. Who’s next?” Anya finishes on a sob, prompting Xander to pull her back into his embrace.
The accusation twists in Buffy’s gut and she drops her gaze, flinching at the sight of Giles lying prone on the table from the corner of her eye.
Joyce squeezes Buffy’s hand. “You have to go, sweetheart. There’s a better chance for everyone if you go.”
Joyce smiles and squeezes her hand again.
“So,” Spike says, breaking the silence, “When do we leave?”
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