Before the showdown with the Senior Partners in Not Fade Away, Spike sent Buffy a letter saying goodbye, never expecting to survive the fight or ever see her again. But survive he does only to discover there isn’t room in Buffy's new world for long-lost romance. The reunited pair must face deception, betrayal, and oh yeah, a whole lot of people who want the Slayer and her allies dead. Permanently.
Title: Thought You Should Know - Chapter 37
Characters/Pairing: Buffy-centric Ensemble, Spike/Buffy
Word Count: ~4000 (chapter), +100,000 (total)
Warnings: R-rated for violence and language
Timeline: Season 8 comics canon, diverges after 8.23
Thanks: to the incomparable penny_lane_42 and ladyofthelog for their wonderful beta support and to katekat1010 for the beautiful art.
Author's Note: It's been a while, hasn't it? If you need to refresh your memory, I recommend jumping in at Chapter 31.
“So, what now?” Lara asked, adjusting the blue canvas messenger bag hanging from her shoulder and staring out of the corner of her eye at a man walking his Labrador on the sidewalk across the street.
Connor shrugged and hopped up to sit on the trunk, leaning back against the windshield and tucking his arms behind his head. “Find a place to crash, get some food, try to not get shot, wait for Willow to call. You know, lay low.”
He looked cute, relaxed, like he didn’t have a care in the world. Lara envied him. She couldn’t even pretend to feel relaxed right now. She decided going for snark might help calm her nerves. “I’m guessing a five-star hotel doesn’t count as laying low?”
“Missing the lap of Roman luxury already?” Connor teased, then looked embarrassed. “Er, I mean, ‘cause you… not that you were…”
Lara rolled her eyes and decided to change the subject to non-Roman things. She tugged at a lock of purple hair, ducked her head down, and glanced over her shoulder to see if anyone was staring. “If I’d known we were gonna be on the run from Terminator wannabes, I would’ve had you buy the non-radioactive hair dye.”
Connor smiled, carefree and sweet again. “I like it.”
Of course he did. “That’s ‘cause you’re weird.”
“Growing up in a hell dimension doesn’t make you weird. Okay, it does, but I also had a really normal, boring childhood in the suburbs. That’s gotta count for something.”
“Oh, it counts for something, ‘cause having memories of two different lives also makes you weird. I should know.” The moment the words slipped out, Lara wished she hadn’t said them. They’d tasted bitter crossing her tongue. Shaking her head, she put on a smile, planted a foot on the bumper and hopped up to sit next to him. “I guess that means I’m in good company. We can be weird together.”
Connor coughed, lowered his arms and sat up from his comfortable sprawl. “Uh, yeah. Good. That’s, uh, yeah.”
“What?” Lara frowned, confused. “Okay, you’re acting weird in a whole new weird way.”
A loud bang crashed and the trunk door shook beneath them, causing Connor to jump nervously in the air. He landed on the edge of the trunk, slid off the side and slammed to the pavement.
Lara laughed and leaned across the car to stare down at Connor ass-planted on the street. She tapped her index finger against her lower lip, eyes sparkling, and tilted her head to the side. “Is this what you call laying low? Wait, are you blushing?”
She laughed again because he was too adorable with his floppy hair, bright cheeks and chagrined expression. Her laughter dropped and she scowled when the trunk banged and reverberated beneath her. Resisting the urge to roll her eyes, she closed her hand into a fist and punched the metal, hitting hard enough to dent the surface. “Stop it, Spike!”
“Stop sitting on me, you bint!”
Fuming, Lara slid off the car and reached for the trunk handle. “Fine, I’m not sitting on you anymore—why don’t you come out and say thank you?”
When she flung the trunk door open, Spike yelped and tossed his hands up to cover his face. A long moment passed, then he lowered his hands. “Right, sun’s down,” he said, sitting up and climbing out of the trunk. “I knew that.”
“Is he always this annoying?” Lara asked Connor, who was standing now and brushing the back of his jeans.
“Oh, that’s mature,” Spike scoffed. “Talking about me like I’m not standing right in front of you.”
“Always? Yeah, pretty much,” Connor confirmed.
Lara smirked at Spike, happy to have Connor siding with her against him. Spike scowled at her, then stalked across the street, stopping on the sidewalk and staring ahead of him, hands planted on his hips.
“Hey, where do you think you’re going?” Lara called after him, hurrying to catch up and stand beside him. “What are you looking at?”
“A whole lot of nothing,” Connor said from behind her.
“What was the address again?” Spike asked, reaching out and tracing the air in front of him.
Lara frowned. “One—”
“Fifteen B, right?” Spike finished for her. He chuckled softly to himself, then slapped at the air.
“Okay, the creepy mime routine is going at the top of the list of annoying things you need to stop doing,” Lara said, crossing her arms.
“Not mime, pet,” Spike said, shaking his head. “Mailbox.” He grabbed her by the wrist, lifted her hand and rested it flat on the space he’d been examining.
“What? How?” Lara breathed, eyes wide. She felt the flat wood against her palm and traced the shape of mailbox with her fingers.
“Willow must’ve done some mojo so nobody could see it,” Spike explained, his tone nonchalant—though Lara thought he sounded a tad impressed. “Invisible safe house. Doesn’t get much safer.”
“But there’s no room for a house here,” Connor said, eyeing the surrounding property.
“Sure there is,” Spike said. “The magic’s just telling you different. Making it so you can’t see what’s right in front of you.”
“But how can you see it?” Lara asked, staring at the few yards of space in between the two neighboring houses. Connor was right. There really wasn’t space for a house there.
“Not trying to see it. Trying to feel it,” Spike said, eyes closed. He stepped forward, walked a dozen paces out, then ran his hands up and down. “Found the door!” he called back, knocked on the surface and appeared to be searching for the doorknob. “Magic locks, then,” he said, then banged on the door again. “Oi! Open up!”
“Spike,” Lara hissed, glancing at the street behind her. “Shut up!”
Slamming his fist against the door one last time, Spike gave up and stalked back to the sidewalk. He looked frustrated and disappointed, like a kid who’d had his toy taken from him. He was probably pouting because she wouldn’t let him try breaking the door down. She doubted he could have even if he’d tried. If Willow was strong enough to magically hide the house, locking a door was cake.
“Looks like we found the safe house,” Connor said.
Lara snorted at the way he stated the obvious.
Spike sighed. “Except nobody’s home.”
“Back to Plan B, then—we lay low. Let’s get out of here before the neighbors start thinking we’re casing their houses,” Lara said, pushing Connor back towards the car.
Lara glanced back at Spike lingering on the sidewalk and could’ve sworn she heard him whisper, “Where are you, love?”
Shaking off the cold, Buffy adjusted her grip on the rocket launcher, tilting it back atop her shoulder as she climbed over fallen tree limbs and hopscotched through the sodden piles of leaves. It had rained earlier in the day, but she was ready for that. Stylish durable Slaying boots? Check.
The brush opened up into a clearing that sloped down to an empty paved road. The light in the sky had gone dark grey, creeping closer to the deep black of night in the countryside. There was no moon tonight and the haze of clouds kept the stars from shining.
Perfect night for hide and seek.
Up ahead, the road curved under an overhanging bridge of old railroad tracks. The tracks weren’t used anymore—Willow’d checked. It all checked out. This was the best spot. It was all good. No worries.
Her grip tightened on the rocket launcher, her hand tensing by reflex. She knelt behind a bush near the road, keeping the bridge in her line of sight.
She waited. She was good at waiting. Well, experienced. Lots of practice waiting for the bad guys to show. To claw their way out of muddy graves. They’d show and she’d dust. Easy, simple, comforting.
God, she really missed cemeteries. How wrong was that?
“So… truth or dare while we wait?” Faith breathed in her ear.
“Gah!” Buffy spun around, the rocket launcher swinging around to point at Faith’s head.
“Whoa! How about we aim that not at me?”
“What the hell are you doing?” Buffy demanded in a loud whisper. “You’re supposed to be—”
“Keeping the engine warm? Yeah, change of plans. Remember that deal we made about you not bossing me around like your other pet Slayers? I figured you’d forget and still try to make with the orders. Seemed best to let you get it out of your system and just not listen.”
“Oh, great. ‘Cause this plan’s not complicated enough.” Buffy glanced at the empty road out of the corner of her eye.
“Yeah, and I’m here to uncomplicate it. Hand over the rocket launcher.”
“What? No.” Buffy clutched the rocket launcher firmly with both hands. “I don’t have time for this, Faith. We don’t have time. They’re gonna be traveling this road looking for us and—”
“Fine, keep it and give me the knife.”
Buffy lowered one hand to grip the hilt of the knife holstered at her waist. “Get your own weapons.”
“Oh, I brought mine. Always do.” Lifting her hands up, Faith popped her knuckles before tightening them into fists. Then she shrugged and dropped her arms to her sides. “Except they’re not much good for what we’re doing here, so either you learn to share or…”
“You really can’t sit still, can you? Why don’t you go back to riding your—what’d you call it? Sleek machine. You can do donuts in the grass until I need you.”
“No-o, not goin’. Pick your poison”—Faith’s gaze shot from the rocket launcher to the knife—“and give me the leftovers.” She held her hand out to Buffy. “B, you know this is a two-Slayer job.”
The rocket launcher dipped down on Buffy’s shoulder. “You don’t even know how to use this.”
Faith shrugged. “So give me the knife and I’ll work up close and personal.”
“Yeah, except you’re a little too comfortable with that weapon of choice and we don’t need you getting carried away. We’re dealing with people here. Not demons. Your history isn’t exactly stellar in this category.”
Faith laid her hand across her heart and pouted her lips. “Your vote of confidence makes me feel all warm and tingly.”
“Fine,” Buffy sighed and handed over the rocket launcher. “But if you blow me up into a thousand bits, every single one’s coming back to haunt you.”
Faith shrugged, lifting the rocket launcher up to rest on her shoulder. “Wouldn’t hold it against you.” She fiddled with the arming mechanism. “So hit this and boom? Got it.”
Buffy stared at Faith, nonplussed. “The fact that you don’t even need a crash course in how to arm that is making me kinda queasy.”
“Hey, we’re on the same side here. Be happy I’m ace with RPGs.”
“Rocket-propelled grenade. It’s what they call ‘em in action flicks.”
“Oh, I just call it Rocky—uh, -et. Rocket launcher.”
Faith raised an eyebrow. “You got a nickname for the magic dagger Willow gave you, too? Slice ‘n dice?”
“Uh, no,” Buffy scoffed and turned away to watch the road, pulling her mouth into an embarrassed grimace. Crossing her arms, she began tapping a nervous beat against her forearm. Then, frowning, she turned and glanced over her shoulder. “You sure you don’t wanna go back to the car? ‘Cause I’m good here.”
Faith glared. “What do you think?”
“I think that our whole teamwork thing is a work in progress and we haven’t progressed far enough to be at the rocket launcher stage. Maybe we could do a practice run with foam-covered bats. You know, after I take care of this.”
“I need to do this and you need me to do this. So stop pretending like you're invincible. You can't take down these assholes all by yourself.”
Buffy captured Faith’s gaze and stared her down. “This isn’t about vengeance, Faith. Don’t forget that.”
Faith rolled her eyes. “Keep telling yourself that.” She nodded at the approaching headlights peaking over the hill a mile away on the horizon. “Looks like we’re done talkin’.”
“Just…” Buffy hesitated and licked her lips. “Be careful.”
Dropping to her knees, Buffy crawled towards the road, stopping a dozen yards away and lying flat on the ground. She grimaced at the feel of the wet grass sludging against her sweater, moisture and mud seeping through the cotton fabric and sticking to her skin. The rumble of the heavy armored SUVs reverberated through the ground, shaking into her palms and knees. Her fingers clenched down hard on the grass, digging into the soil. Her chest felt tight, her palms slick with dew. She exhaled and watched the cloud of her breath dissipate in the crisp air.
Waiting. More waiting. She was good at waiting. Really. Just a few more seconds—
A light flashed through the shadows behind her, a sharp whistle whirred past her ears and then a resounding boom.
Keeping low to the ground, she turned her head in time to see the crash of stone and steel as the bridge crumbled, blocking the road.
Bye-bye railroad tracks. She should’ve known Faith would be good with the demolition.
Brakes screeched and the three vehicles slammed to a halt in front of the wreckage blocking the road. Staying low, Buffy scrambled towards the larger vehicle in back with the canvas tarp covering the truck bed. She slid underneath and hid behind the back wheel on the passenger side. Her heart pounded, her pulse so loud she could hear it, an angry drum beating inside her ears.
She waited for them to shout, to yell, to panic, but the men inside the truck stayed silent.
Right, trained not to panic. Well, so was she. She wasn’t panicking.
Five soldiers from the two lead SUVs and two soldiers from the caravan truck she lay under dropped to the ground. Or more like fourteen sets of boots dropped to the ground in her line of sight. All the men fanned out in an ever-widening perimeter around the trucks, signaling orders to each other with their hands.
All of them except for one set of boots. One soldier stayed behind. He’d climbed out of the first SUV and was bending down to scan underneath it, pistol locked and loaded. He checked under the second truck next then turned towards the truck Buffy was crouched under.
She held her breath, listening to the crunch of pebbles against asphalt. He stopped beside the front wheel of the caravan truck. She could see the knots lacing up his boots and a knife strapped to his left calf. He crouched down and, with his right hand, aimed the gun towards the front of the truck, then slowly pivoted on his heels, turning in a half-circle until the gun was pointed at the back underside of the truck. Towards the back and right at her. Dead center.
The barrel of the gun was so close she smelled the oil used to clean it.
She froze, staring down into the barrel of the gun as the milliseconds ticked by. Her breath caught in her throat, and she wondered why police felt the need to yell “freeze!” when they aimed their weapons ‘cause her body’s natural response at this exact moment was to freeze. In fact, she might never move again.
Or she could run. Yeah, running was definitely what she wanted to do right now.
…Oh, maybe that’s why they said it.
Her gaze ran along the gun, trailing the commando’s index finger running alongside the barrel, past his wrist and up the black fabric hugging the muscles in his forearm, then his shoulder until finally she was staring him in the face.
The soldier was wearing a headset gizmo for seeing in the dark. Infrared. She couldn’t see his eyes, couldn’t tell what he was thinking. He clenched his jaw and she flinched back, every muscle in her body somehow winding tighter.
He cocked his head to the side, waited a beat, then huffed out a breath and called, “All clear!” as he lowered his pistol and rose to his feet.
Buffy gasped and closed her eyes, feeling her body shake and go loose with relief.
Willow’s ‘no see Slayer’ spell was working. They hadn’t been sure it would work on the magicked up commando squad, but looks like the Good Guys finally caught a break.
Shaking herself into action, Buffy crawled forward and peeked around the tire’s edge. The men were still searching, scanning the grass and the trees.
A crash sounded, glass shattered and landed on the pavement, then she saw the rocket launcher fall to the ground a few yards in front of her.
Faith must’ve thrown it like a spear to get their attention. Buffy should’ve known better than to loan Faith her stuff. She so wasn’t getting her deposit back from the Terrorists ‘R Us for the rocket launcher. Oh well, it’s not like it was reloadable anyways.
The passenger door of the caravan opened, then slammed back on its hinges, and a deep voice ordered, “Alpha Team, move out!”
The hatch dropped open in back and men started jumping out from under the tarp-covered truck bed. Buffy crawled out from under the truck, hugging close to the back tire and remaining crouched down. She grabbed the edge of the tarp roof and peered inside, watching the commandos evacuate the vehicle. Pulling herself up over the edge, she slipped in and sidled up behind the men. When the last commando bent his knees and began to jump out, Buffy grabbed him by the collar, yanked him back and punched him in the throat.
“Uuuggh,” he gurgled, clutching at his neck.
A sharp kick to the side of his knee and he went down with a muffled groan. She shoved him on his back, straddling his chest and capturing his arms between her legs in a vice hold. She yanked off his headgear and stared at him, watching his panicked eyes shoot from side to side, scanning the room, looking right through her.
“Can’t see me, can you? It’s scary not knowing what’s coming for you, isn’t it? Can you even hear me?” She watched his pupils dilate and his gaze focused on where he heard her voice emanating. “Good. Listen up. You make a noise, make a manly whimper, and I’ll end you. Got it?”
Reaching for the dagger at her waist, she began slicing away at the seams of the commando’s Kevlar vest, pulling the protective gear free. She ripped open his black shirt and traced a hand down his chest, searching for the feel of upraised skin. Her fingers traced the scarred lines crossing his pectorals, one line running horizontal across, the other curving in a half-circle. Twilight.
She slashed the dagger across the scar, her other hand slamming across his mouth when he moaned in pain. Lifting the knife, she stared at the blood, then ran the flat edge of the dagger across her bicep, smearing the blood over the Roadrunner tattoo. She felt the blood sizzle across her skin—snap, crackle, pop—and then she waited, her eyes never leaving his. Recognition flared in his gaze, and he jerked under her, trying to buck her off him.
“Don’t!” she hissed, lowering the tip of the dagger to his throat.
Her hand shook, accidentally nicking his neck. She stared at the blood welling up and swallowed, her breath caught behind the lump in her throat. Unbidden, she could see herself pressing the knife down, quick and clean. In her mind, she saw it all and she knew deep down it was their turn to bleed.
Just the tiniest bit of pressure and it’d be over. He’d be over. Whoever he was. Except that was a lie. She knew it. The second she killed him, the second she spilled his blood, it wouldn’t be the end. Once she crossed that line, there was no going back. It would never stop. Her mind was telling her no, but there was a dark whisper inside urging her on.
Blood for blood. A life for a life. Her hand kept shaking.
“Please,” he moaned against her palm.
“You don’t deserve to live after what you did,” she whispered through gritted teeth. “You killed them. All of you.” She closed her eyes and struggled to take in a deep breath. Staring down at him once more, she adjusted her grip on the dagger’s hilt. “What kind of a monster would kill those girls?”
He shook his head, denying her accusation even as he tried to lean away from the knife.
“No? Not you, huh? Maybe you didn’t pull the trigger, but you let it happen. They’re dead because of you. They’re dead.” Her voice shook, her eyes filling with tears she furiously blinked back. “So don’t tell me it wasn’t you. I know what happened. I was there. I saw it." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "This is all your fault.”
Shaking, she raised the dagger, hesitating for a moment before flipping it around in her grip and smashing it against his temple, knocking him unconscious.
Leaning to the side, she climbed off him and fell back on her haunches. Two deep breaths and then she lifted the dagger, staring at the blood shining on the blade’s edge before dropping it to the floor. With numb hands, she pulled the Kevlar vest on and crawled over the commando’s body.
She peered past the tarp covering, checking the view out the back of the truck. Most of the commandos had raced off into the woods chasing after Faith, so she expected a clear getaway while they tripped over their feet running after a ghost Slayer.
Instead, she found herself looking at the hood of that fire-red Ferrari, Faith tapping her fingers impatiently against the wheel. Dumbfounded, Buffy stared, prompting Faith to lift her hand and tap her imaginary watch.
Right. Clock’s tickin’. Gotta get a move on.
Buffy hopped to the ground, opening the passenger door and sliding inside. As soon as the door closed, she blurted out, “You just drove up here? Are you insane?”
“We’re riding under the radar,” Faith said, patting the dashboard where a Speedy Gonzales press-on tattoo decorated the vinyl surface. Shifting into reverse, she began slowly backing away from the caravan truck, careful to not fire the engine loudly.
“Yeah, well, not anymore,” Buffy retorted, wiping her hand over the traces of blood on her bicep and smearing it across Speedy’s huge yellow sombrero.
“Shit,” Faith muttered, watching the commandos running out of the tree line and back to the three vehicles. “Think they see us?”
Buffy reached across Faith and flipped on the headlights. The soldiers racing back to their vehicles started shouting and aiming their weapons at the Ferrari. “Now they do.”
“Yippee kai yay,” Faith said with a grin, shifting gears and letting the car shoot back.
“You are planning to get us out of reverse, right? Right? Faith!”
Faith rolled her eyes and swung the wheel hard right, spinning the car around before gunning the engine again. They raced down a few hundred yards, then Faith eased up on the gas and checked the rearview mirror.
“Why are we slowing down?” Buffy glanced at the speedometer then shot a worried look out the back windshield.
“I don’t wanna lose ‘em.”
“We didn’t. Go faster.”
Faith shot a glance over her shoulder. “Just gonna let ‘em get a taste, gotta make sure I got ‘em on the hook.”
Buffy grit her teeth, buckled her seatbelt, and slammed her foot into the floorboard like she was wishing for her own gas pedal. “Faster, faster, faster, go faster.”
“Like I’m really gonna take driving advice from you, B?”
The windshield shattered, spraying shards of glass on top of Buffy and Faith.
Shaking shards of glass from her hair, Buffy shot Faith a vicious glare. “Can we go faster now?”
To Be Continued...
***To my friends who stuck it out with me, thanks for your support. You're the reason I've never given up. You're the reason I'll always keep writing. Just thought you should know.