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 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 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.
Spike hunkered against the roof’s door, waiting for the final rays of sun to recede so he could escape outside. He’d stormed down the hall from Buffy’s room towards the main exit only to freeze at the sound of voices in the lobby, turning with a dramatic swing of his duster to make a hasty retreat for higher ground. He’d kept climbing till he found access to the roof and the outdoors. He didn’t immediately foresee the problem with climbing up, he hadn’t thought it through. He should’ve gone back down to the sewers if he’d really wanted out. The sun had him trapped and he’d be damned if he’d walk back down past everyone. Angel had probably heard the entire row. Insufferable, nosy bastard.
He pushed his shoulder against the door jamb, glaring at the fading light stealing underneath the doorway into the cramped stairwell. He exhaled loudly. He’d been trapped in this excuse for a hideaway for over an hour. No way out that he could see. Forced to wait.
The sun sets and she appears.
Except she wasn’t appearing at all. He hoped she didn’t. He couldn’t stand much more of it. Of her. Of the reading between the lines only to discover she wasn’t even speaking the same language and everything she did say was in code, then written backwards and only fit to be read in a mirror. The woman drove him daft. Dafter than Dru and that was saying something.
The back of his neck tingled as he felt the night take reign over the sky. The darkness whispered tantalizing promises as it always did. Time to hunt. Time to prowl. He ignored the call. Growling, he violently shoved open the door and stalked towards the roof’s edge. Gripping the stone and mortar, his head hung dejected from weary shoulders. He gazed at the city lights of Los Angeles that blinked and blurred and shone like fluorescent stars fallen to Earth. The lights blurred as his stare unfocused, his eyelids twitched and his shoulders curled in with each punctuated return of his recriminating thoughts.
Things had been going so well. That should have been the first sign. Things were going too well. He hadn’t given much thought to it. Just rode the wave and what a wave it was – the things she did to him. More fool him for not thinking to question it. Fool. Him.
It seemed like everybody was calling him that these days. There had to be something to it if the whole world was shouting the judgment down at him. He couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment that events started to turn sour, but he knew when they’d started spiraling out of his control. Christy. Why’d he even bother trying to find her? He should’ve let her rot in whatever loser wannabe lifestyle she chose.
More fool him.
“You really are an idiot, ya know?” Christy sneered from her seat on the couch, holding an ice pack to her bruised jaw.
Spike snorted. “Found you easy enough. Bit of advice, pet – when you’re on the run, don’t go where the nasty men following you are sure to find you.” He glanced around her living room. “Love what you’ve done with the place. That a new TV?”
“Yeah, flat screen. And so what if you did find me? What are you gonna do?” Christy rolled her eyes. “You won’t kill me. You’re too soft for that.”
“There are worse things than death,” Spike said darkly.
Christy giggled. “Wow. Scary. I’m so scared right now. Really. You have no idea.”
Spike raised his eyes to the ceiling before scowling at Connor when he heard a muffled chuckle from behind him. Connor shrugged, his face twitching as he held back a smile.
Spike resisted the urge to snap at him. The boy was supposed to be his back-up, maybe learn a thing or two. It was getting downright embarrassing. “Right, so maybe we won’t kill you or torture you on account of you being human. Doesn’t mean you can’t be turned over to the proper authorities and wh-”
“And you’ll tell them what? What crime did I commit? What evidence do you have? Just because certain circles have accepted the existence of vamps doesn’t mean a thing when it comes to the system. And from what I hear, you really don’t want the “authorities” involved. Burn down any buildings lately? Ya know, besides the ones filled with innocent people.”
“They were worlds away from innocent.”
“So you get to judge them? You get to kill them? Since when?” She managed to look down at him scornfully from her perch on the edge of the couch. Spike straightened his shoulders and lifted his chin in response, standing proud and tall. “I doubt the world needs the captain of pathetic passing judgment on anyone. Ring, ring. The world’s calling, Spike – your application for World Savior’s been rejected but thanks for playing.” She lowered the ice pack to smirk. “Oh and just so that’s clear, the ‘thank you’ part – total sarcasm.”
Spike’s shoulders jerked forward and he forcibly held himself back. “Pathetic? I’m not the one offering my neck for suck jobs to any tramp-vamp begging to get off. So how’s it work, luv? You give ‘em a twofer if they ask nicely? Do you polish his knob before or after he drinks you down? Probably before. Wouldn’t want you fumbling around with poor coordination now, would they?”
“You’d know about the fumbling part. Written any good letters lately? And hey, it’s good to hear you finally got the girl. Congratulations. Must be great. Reunited and it feels so good, right?” Her eyes widened comically. “Except I heard that she just showed up a few days ago.” Christy bit her lip in mock confusion. “Strange. Could’ve sworn you wrote her that loser love letter last year.”
“…’s been not quite a year,” Spike mumbled, nonplussed.
“Sure took her a while to pay her true love a visit. Maybe she got really busy. Or broke a nail. I’m sure something important came up. But hey! She’s here now, ready to get wild and freaky, right? And you’re more than ready to help scratch that itch, aren’t you? So all’s well that ends well. Life is just Brady fucking Bunch perfect with the fickle ho by your side.”
Spike smothered a growl, stealing a glance at Connor from the corner of his eye. The back of his neck felt like it was burning. He had no way to counter her. He didn’t know why Buffy had shown up out of the blue. Hadn’t asked. And yeah, the timing did seem a bit odd.
He needed to end this. Sadly, the nasty trollop had a point. He couldn’t kill her, torture her or call the cops. Though his conscience wasn’t so much forbidding the first two as Buffy’s firm ‘we don’t kill or torture humans’ stance – seemed to him that was just asking for trouble. A little love tap could do a world of good in redirecting a misguided, most-likely-psychotic sycophant. As for intimidating her back on the straight and narrow…well, could see that wasn’t working especially since all his best intimidation tactics included blunt, sharp, hot and cold objects interchangeably. All of which weren’t allowed. Damn. Time to go. Anything to get her to stop talking about Buffy and his letter in front of the young nipper.
He remembered the awkward ride back to the Hyperion, Connor a silent shadow at his side. He’d fobbed off Angel when they’d walked in the double doors, saying the lead had run cold and Christy was long gone. Angel had shrugged it off and moved on. The girl never was that big a priority. Connor had stared at him silently as he tossed out the lies, refusing to counter his story. Spike had avoided looking at the boy, his throat burning as he’d stared at his feet. Then he’d gone upstairs.
His head hung lower and he numbly contemplated bashing his forehead against the rooftop’s edge. Maybe he’d jump. It’d been a while since he’d fallen off a building. Physical pain would be a welcome distraction. Maybe he’d knock himself unconscious so he could stop thinking about it. About her.
God, that had gone brilliantly. Eavesdropping was never a good idea, especially when he didn’t want to hear something that could be said behind his back but not to his face. Those kinds of confidences always brought a burning throat and a sick stomach. Oh yeah, and shame. Can’t forget the shame. The extra special Buffy-induced shame. The one thing he hadn’t missed since his time in Sunnydale.
Hell, her love taps to his nose were nothing in comparison. Nine times out of ten he welcomed her hands on him, even if they were clenched into fists. No, it was probably closer to ninety-nine times out of one hundred. Even when her hands brought pain, there was something there underneath, this sizzle of sensation and connection that made him want to lean into her vicious jabs with the same eagerness he reserved for her passionate caresses.
You're in love with pain. Admit it. You like me because you enjoy getting beat down. So really, who's screwed up?
Him. It was most definitely him. He was screwed up and hopeless and so damned pathetic he ought to kill himself and end this miserable attempt at existing. Except he couldn’t. He could hear Angel pompously nattering on how Spike was weak and that it was always meant to end this way. He’d be damned if he’d prove Angel right. And the boy. It would set a bad example.
“So what’s the plan? You stay up here til the end of time?” Connor drawled from behind him. He’d drifted up silently. The boy had skills. The only physical acknowledgment Spike gave to Connor’s presence was an almost imperceptible tensing of his shoulders. “And when you turn to dust, I’ll put you in an urn in that exact same spot so you never have to move. Or deal.” He paused. “Or respond to a person when they’re talking to you…which apparently is the same as talking to myself so…” Connor turned to head back downstairs.
“It was the right thing to do,” Spike murmured, his voice equal parts confidence and uncertainty.
“What was?” Connor asked. “Which part was right?”
Spike nodded to himself. “It was the right thing to do.” He turned to look at Connor calmly. “Remember how I told you that you can’t keep going back for more, you’ve gotta learn from your mistakes – well, I finally learned from my mistakes.”
“Self-respect.” He locked eyes with Connor, his gaze intense and unblinking. “Don’t ever let anyone treat you like less than you are.” He raised his hand to slash at the air. “Never. You hear me?”
“Okay. I hear you. You’ve been heard.” Connor shook his head. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Spike growled in frustration and strode forward to stare into Connor’s face, grabbing him by the shoulders to shake him slightly. “Self-respect, boy. Don’t tell me you don’t understand that.”
Connor shook Spike off, stepping back to laugh. “Self-respect, I get it. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I know the word. But what are you talking about? Is this all ‘cause Christy decided to be a..well, I don’t want to say ‘bitch’ but…”
“’S got nothing to do with that dozy trollop.” Connor raised his eyebrows at the insult, most likely filing it away for later use. “This is about self-respect – ” Connor rolled his eyes at Spike’s repetition “ – and not letting a woman treat you like a bloody doormat. You hear me? Self-respect.” Connor mockingly mouthed ‘self-respect’ in harmony with Spike.
“So what’s with the afterschool special? Does Big Bird’s message somehow explain why you dumped all over your girlfriend? Who, by the way, is currently leaving the country.”
“She’s not my girlfriend. Never really was. I was just…convenient.” Spike huffed and pointed at Connor. “Self-respect means you don’t –”
“Okay! Enough already. Enough with the word I will not repeat or else I will stake you.” Spike opened his mouth to interrupt and Connor raised his hand in warning. Connor stepped back to look Spike up and down. “Just so we’re clear, the woman who dropped everything, traveled halfway across the world to see you and has spent the past two days in a permanent lip lock with you, barring timeouts for vampire slayage and death club annihilation, this same woman who is not your girlfriend…she did all this because you’re convenient?” Connor squinted. “You sure you didn’t miss the episode where Big Bird explained the importance of prefixes? ‘Cause from where I’m standing, what your not-girlfriend did for you – that’s the epitome of inconvenient.”
Spike’s mouth hung open, his eyes alternating between Connor and the starlit sky above.
A heavy sigh interrupted their standoff and Angel stepped out from the rooftop’s doorway. “You’re an idiot, Spike.”
Spike huffed defensively only to be cut off by Angel’s deadly glare.
“There are a lot of things I wouldn’t trust you to do right, William. So many things we’re…you’re not good enough for. But one thing I did teach you was to finish what you started.” Angel looked out at the lights of the city. "Buffy’s gone. She left a few hours ago.” He was silent for a minute, jaw working from side to side. “She was…upset when she left,” he continued in a quiet, matter of fact tone. Turning, he glared at Spike. “You broke it. Go fix it.”
“Fix it? Say I’m sorry and beg forgiveness? Come crawling back here with my tail between my legs? You giving out lessons in how to be a sorry sod now?” Spike sneered. Meeting Angel’s unrelenting stare, his attitude slowly melted from his face to reveal a naked vulnerability. “She doesn’t lo –…trust me, it’s better this way.”
Angel scowled. “You think I’d be up here if I thought what you were doing was the right thing? The fact that it's you doing it tells me it’s the wrong thing.” Angel closed his eyes briefly before looking at Spike solemnly. “I can’t fix this, Spike. You can.” He swallowed roughly. “So go fix it.”
“I can’t! I can’t fix it, you poncey bastard. Because she doesn’t love me,” Spike growled. “Go on, rub it in. Everybody gets to take a lick. It might as well be your turn.”
“I’m not going to try and convince you of what Buffy feels for you. Hell, I don’t want to know. I’ve spent the past two days trying to not think about it. What I do know is this – she came here for you. She came in yelling at me, trying to find you. And once she did…” Angel sighed, clearly reluctant to continue. “You throw that away, all of it…then you really don’t deserve her, William. But I never thought you did.” Angel left the rooftop, disappearing silently down the stairwell into the Hyperion.
“So what’s the plan?” Connor broke the silence. “Is there a plan?”
Spike blinked, looking up with a new determination lighting his eyes. “Yeah, there’s a plan.” He turned to look at the city lights, drinking in the view with new appreciation before turning to the eastern horizon in the night sky. “Looks like I’m headed to Rome.”
Connor gave a slight smile. “Can I come?”