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. ♥
- I John ch IV v 18
They wait until nightfall.
“Hurry up, Slayer.”
“Why don’t I strap a bowling ball to your stomach and see how fast you go on an uphill sprint?”
“Want me to carry you?”
“And that would make us go faster how? Gah.” Buffy stops and bends at the knees, her belly tightening. She pants, breathing through it, waiting for the pressure to fade away.
The sprint takes them a half mile away from the gas station, the army’s bonfire glowing in the distance. Spike stands a few yards off, further up the sandy hill. A moment later, his hands grip her shoulders, causing her to flinch, then she growls and snaps, “Don’t even try it,” when he starts to lift her.
“Either you let me carry you or you get up and move your ass.”
She glares and pushes forward, her flat shoes sinking into the ground, the cuffs of her maternity jeans collecting grains of sand. When she stomps past him, she says, “Happy now?”
They trudge on, up and down the sandy dunes glistening in the moonlight, Buffy pushing in the lead only to stop every few minutes from the tightening pain shooting across her abdomen, Spike then goading her on with insults and impatience. On the crest of a dune, the tightening in her abdomen bursts and liquid flushes down her legs.
“Oh, god,” Buffy breathes, frozen in place.
“What?” Spike sniffs the air. “That what I think it is?”
Hand splayed across her stomach, she groans. “My water just broke.”
His eyes go wide with panic. “Well, put it back. Unbreak it.”
“I can’t ‘put it back’, you idiot,” she snaps, panting.
“Hold it in, then.”
“Are you brain deficient?” Buffy groans, her back bowing as another contraction shudders through her.
Spike scans the terrain then swoops in and lifts her, ignoring her protests as he carries her further down the dune. Down and then up again. Down and up.
“Spike, put me down,” she orders him for the thousandth time, then grabs him by the ear and yanks hard until he yelps and lowers her to her feet.
“We’re not far enough off. Gotta keep moving, pet.” He reaches for her again, but she shakes her head.
“I can’t. I have to lie down. I…” She stumbles forward and he catches her by the elbows, guiding her into the tall grass at the top of a dune. They go further in, until they’re standing in the center of the brush.
Spike whips off his duster and lays it on the grass, then offers his hand to Buffy. She holds his hand and allows him to help her lie down, still panting. The pain isn’t unbearable. She deals with worse every night, but it feels different. Foreign and strange. When she slays, the pain is like a sharp flash. It’s blinding, but the ache immediately numbs and she regains focus. Now, the pain is deep, abiding, pulling her apart—she can’t push past it, she can only bow to it, ride it out and hope for it to soon retreat. This pain refuses to be ignored.
“So you thought of a name yet?”
Buffy slumps back, falling to the ground as her latest contraction recedes. She blinks up at Spike. “Name? No, I…”
“Names are important. Should give her a name that means something. Judith’s a lovely name—means ‘praised’.”
“Look, Spike, I’m just trying to get through this moment,” Buffy grits out. “And when I get through this one, I’m gonna try to get through the next. That’s how this works. I’m making it up as I go. I’ve been making it up ever since I found out the monks stuffed a Key inside me. So no, I haven’t picked out a name. ‘Cause I really don’t care about that right now.”
Spike reaches out, moves to lay his hand on her belly, but stops a fraction’s space from touching her. “Seems a bit unfair,” he muses. “Everyone blaming her for something out of her control. Sorry lot in life and she’s not even born yet. Poor sprog.” He drops his hand at his side and looks at Buffy. “Good thing she’s got her mum to look after her.”
“Nobody said it was her fault,” Buffy whispers. “I just… I don’t know how to do this.”
“Scary, isn’t it? Something primal about it. Completely out of your control. Like falling in love—you lose a bit of yourself.”
“Yeah, scary,” Buffy murmurs, eyes closed.
“It changes you in ways you can’t understand. Can’t predict. Can’t know until it’s done.”
“Maybe I don’t wanna be changed.” She opens her eyes and stares at him, frowning. “Anyone ever think of that?”
“Life never asks—just gives and takes. And we roll with it or we lie down and die.” He quirks his mouth. “’Course, some of us keep rolling with it even after we die.” He cocks his head, listening to sounds in the distance, then moves closer and kneels at her side. “Gonna keep you safe, Buffy. I promise.”
“I don’t need you to save me. I—gah!” Her grip clenches down hard on his fist, her body undulating, riding out the waves of a strong contraction.
“More important battles to be won, love." He lays his hand on her belly, his long fingers knitting into her strained flesh, his touch soothing her. "You seem a bit occupied at the moment, so what’s say I play this round and you get the next?”
She grabs his hand on her belly, squeezing it tight. “You can’t—you can’t fight them. The chip…”
He looks at their joint hands then returns her gaze, solemn and serious. “Can’t not. Comes a point it doesn’t matter what you can do. You do what you have to.”
“Don’t be stupid,” she whispers. There’s tears in her eyes and she’s not sure why.
He smiles, soft, and his gaze is fond. “What other way am I gonna be?”
She laughs, only it sounds more like a whimper, so she squeezes his hands as if to reassure him she’s strong, as if to comfort herself with his own strength. He leans forward, slowly, and kisses her on the forehead, gentle and soft, and she’s surprised to find her chest tight, her eyes overflowing.
“Don’t forget to push, love.”
And then he’s gone. He’s gone and she’s ensnared in another wave of pain—she rolls with it.
The Zippo lighter in his hand sparks and flares. He lights the cigarette dangling from his lips, inhales and throws his head back, sighing. He blows out a smoke ring and watches it rise up towards the stars.
"Been dying for one of these all day," he says, inhaling deeply. A raspy chuckle rises from his chest and he rolls on the balls of his feet, full of restless energy. He surveys the dunes surrounding him and the sandy ditch in which he stands, set in the space between Buffy and the ramshackle gas station. He blows out another smoke ring, then tosses his cigarette to the ground and grinds it under his boot. "Let's see if I can't get your attention."
He gets to work, dragging branches, tall grass and leaf fronds into the center of the basin, piling them high. He lights the dried brush and watches the fire kindle bright, waits until the blaze is fierce before he strips off his shirt. The black is too noticeable against the white sand. He walks off a ways and burrows into the sand, digging down deep, letting the sand cover him.
He watches the fire blaze bright and flicker as the hours pass. He watches the fire and waits.
They come. Of course, they come. Who can resist a beacon in the night?
He rises, silent, the sand washing from his body to land at his feet. He prowls up behind the nearest knight facing the fire. When he snaps the knight’s neck—after, during, before, time blurs caught in the wake of his vampire speed—the shocks scream through his brain, down his spine, a pure agony demanding he shrivel up, demanding he fall and curl into himself, cry and beg and plead for mercy, to be merciful, to just let him be.
He pushes past that instinct to survive. Because that’s what pain is—the instinct to survive, a primal need, an insistent demand to go on existing. The pain warns of death, turn back now, but he’s already accepted death, so he doesn’t heed the pain.
There is no turning back. His survival isn’t the point. Their deaths aren’t the point. He knows only this: they shall not pass.
He becomes the fury of his demon. He becomes the rage. He’s a monster. That’s why she’ll never love him. So he’ll be a monster and she’ll live. That’s all that matters now.
She’ll live, he chants, and you shall not pass.
The pain is brighter than the fire, the first blood drawn sprays onto the sand and stains it a murky red, the blades shine in the glow of moonlight, the chainmail shifts and glints in metallic waves. They surround him. He kills them, screaming murder, eyes bloody from the firing synapses breaking under the strain, a strain he embraces and channels into his fists, his fangs. The firing screams death and his hands deal it.
Ripping out throats, snapping necks, tearing off limbs, twisting and clawing and snarling. He eats them alive, hungry for their death, not their blood. Hungry for more stillness in the night’s air.
They tear him apart, blades piercing his body, stabbing him, everywhere, again and again. The fools never fought a vampire before, he can tell: never bring a blade to slay unless it’s for beheading. Fools, all of them fools.
A blade burns below his right elbow, cutting clean through him, so he rips out the other’s throat with his left hand.
Die, he snarls. Be no more. If no more, you cannot pass. Cannot, cannot, cannot. No more. No more you.
He collapses, the only sound the blood sluicing from mortal wounds not yet cold, blood sinking into the sand. No heartbeats. No more. Blood covers him, surrounds him, igniting hunger, and he licks his lips, only to find the blood is his own, his cheek slashed open and spliced in two. He moans and realizes it’s over as he finally hears his body’s desire to retreat from the pain.
But no, not yet. His right arm hangs limp at his side, a bloody stump below his elbow. He crawls up, crawling up from the sandy ditch he lies in, pulling forward, clawing for purchase, clawing into the sand. Just a little further, almost there.
He grasps a root and pulls himself up the final measure, only to stare at a pair of red stiletto heels sinking into the sand. Color of blood, those heels. Only color in the desert is red.
“Lookee what I found. It’s a vampire.” A vice grip closes around his throat and he groans as gravity pulls on his broken body suspended in air, a hanging fish caught on a hook. “Well, where is it? Where is that Slayer bitch who stole my Key?”
He groans, whatever words formed in the back of his throat quickly drown in the blood filling his mouth.
“What’s that?” She jabs a finger into a tear in his abdomen, digging in, clawing at his insides. “Come on, share. You know you want to.”
His vision goes black, then sparks run across his eyes like reddish purple flecks of dust, and he remembers how to move beyond the pain. He murmurs, waiting for her to lean closer, then spits in her face, watching the blood splatter. He grins as best he can, the mangled muscles of his face telling him at best he’s sporting a lopsided, monstrous smirk. A chuckle builds, rattling in his chest, climbing past her punishing grip on his throat, rumbling across his blood-soaked tongue.
She squeezes his throat, nearly crushing his windpipe, snarls, “Where’s. My. Key?!” then loosens her grip, waiting for him to speak.
“S-sod…off…bitch…” he slurs, still grinning, and curls his tongue against his front teeth, his eyes dancing mockery.
A baby cries in the distance, recognition lights in Glory’s eyes, then her fist crushes his throat. The moment bursts, it all bursts, and he thinks:
Never was monster enough.
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