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
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.
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 flambé’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.