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.
The silence stretched across an ocean. A transcontinental flight of the not-talking and the bad movie that was made to be mocked with her best friend except she couldn’t because that would violate the not-talking rule, a rule she’d been trying to violate for hours but Buffy’s stance was iron firm. Firm and inviolate. Hard as stone. A tough egg to crack. She was just full of witty witticisms today. Too bad no one would listen long enough to appreciate them. Willow had tried to break Buffy’s code of silence with questions and jokes, even resorting to ‘interesting’ anecdotes when she failed to get more than the standard monotone, monosyllabic response from the unexpectedly taciturn Slayer. Nothing worked.
She felt like she was stuck in a time-warp at 30,000 ft and trying to pry a complete sentence from her significant other. Except Buffy wasn’t a guitar playing werewolf and this wasn’t high school. And she’d never been on a plane with Oz. And Buffy wasn’t a man, which actually made more sense for her present circumstances but was beside the point. Oh, and Buffy wasn’t Willow’s significant other, though she was significant and technically an ‘other’. Willow was sure that an honest Slayer would check the ‘other’ box on a census form asking her to identify her heritage.
Buffy would also have to check the box marked ‘emotionally distant’. Not that there was a box for that. Though it would be sorta neat to have fair warning for these kind of things. Willow looked sadly at the back of Buffy’s head. Buffy had been staring at the clouds passing by for over nine hours. Nine hours. Nine hours of the cold shoulder was officially driving Willow bonkers. She fidgeted in her seat for the thousandth time, accidentally catching the eye of the older lady seated across the aisle who gave her a knowing look before glancing at the airplane restroom behind them. Willow smiled awkwardly, giving an automatic shake of her head before ducking her chin. Clearly her need to have best friend girl-talk had reached the dangerously embarrassing level if she was unwittingly doing the gotta-pee dance.
“Buffy?” Willow asked tentatively.
“Hmm?” Buffy responded absently, not bothering to turn her head.
“You want to…” Willow hesitated. “You want to talk about what happened? You know, with Spike and… well, everything.”
Buffy turned slowly and stared at Willow with a blank expression, quickly breaking eye contact and letting her stare go distant. “I’d rather not, if that’s okay,” Buffy said quietly before turning back towards the window.
Willows shoulders slumped, her eyes darting about the cabin as she looked for a distraction. Or courage. Or insight. Something. Anything. Two rows up and across the aisle, two teenage girls were giggling as they stared at a cute guy seated nearby grooving to the music on his iPod. Their heads were tilted in secretly as they whispered, their brown and blonde locks mingling while they shared a conspiratorial grin. “I miss us,” Willow whispered.
“Huh?” Buffy turned to look at her curiously.
Willow swallowed. “I said I miss us. We don’t…we don’t talk anymore. Not like we used to.” She glanced at the teenage girls again before raising a challenging gaze at Buffy. “Not since…”
“Since you brought me back,” Buffy finished numbly, staring at the industrial fabric on the back of the chair in front of her.
“Right. Not since then,” Willow answered sadly. A long, charged moment passed before she repeated, “I miss us.”
Buffy’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully, her forehead scrunching. “It’s not…a lot has happened, Will. I’ve made peace with what you did. You didn’t know I was…” Buffy lips tightened involuntarily. “You didn’t know I was in heaven. And after, the whole trying to end the world thing. You’ve redeemed yourself again and again since then.” Buffy gave Willow a reassuring look. “We’re good, Will.”
“But that’s just it! We’re so clearly not good that it can’t get any not-gooder. And acting like we’re okay, that’s just making it worse. I’m tired of this. I’m sick of it. So we’re gonna fix it. Okay?”
“Okay,” Buffy drawled slowly. “What exactly are we fixing?”
Willow pointed at the empty seat between them. “This. Us. The not-talking and the awkwardness. There’s a clearance sale on distant relations. It all must go.”
Buffy looked skeptical. “And how are we doing this?”
Willow thought desperately. “Truth or dare?”
“We’re on an airplane. What kind of dares could we possibly do that wouldn’t get us arrested for being terrorists?”
Willow spied the Flight Attendant’s refreshment cart down the aisle and her eyes lit up. “Drinking game of truth?”
“No. A world of no. And also that’s a totally made-up game. Why do we need games to make this…us work?”
“’Cause you’re, I mean not that this is your fault, but you’re not that good with the communication parts of life lately. And I, um, I don’t even know where to begin.” Willow bit her lip. “So drinking game?”
Buffy rolled her eyes before nodding reluctantly. “But I’m going non-alcoholic here. The last thing I need is a jetlagged Cave Buffy showing up at Slayer Headquarters for scoldings and the judge-y stares. Not that they should even get to scold because I’m an adult and I can go wherever I want and do whatever I want. And Giles was the one who lied first, so he’s the one who needs to apologize.”
“So you’re taking the position of ‘He started it’, huh?”
Willow used a mild compulsion spell to nudge the Flight Attendant to come check on them. She would have used the call button on the ceiling, but they just ignored that nine times out of ten. Two diet cokes in hand and two more as back-ups, she turned to Buffy and nodded in satisfaction. “Okay, I’ll go first.” Willow took a sip of her drink. “I…I…”
Buffy raised her eyebrows expectantly.
“I’ve been blaming you for Tara’s death.” Willow eyes flooded with tears, her throat closing as she struggled to force out the words. “If I hadn’t brought you back, if I’d just checked to see where you really were, then you’d still be in heaven and Tara would be alive.” Tears brimmed and slipped over the edges of Willow’s lower eyelids.
“Willow, I –”
“No! No, Buffy. I know it’s not your fault and I know it’s irrational and wrong.” Willow raised her hand to wipe the tears off her cheeks. “But that’s why I was gone for so long. Why I’d stayed in South America with Kennedy while you and Xander were setting up shop in Scotland. That’s why I-”
“You’re right,” Buffy interrupted in a dull voice.
“You’re right to blame me. I already do,” Buffy repeated, her voice gaining strength. “I figured you’d noticed by now. How everything I touch just…dies. Jenny, Angel, Mom…Spike. Tara was just another person who was close to me that I couldn’t save. Only worse. Tara took the bullet meant for me. I’ve cheated death so many times. And every time I dodge right, death takes someone I love.” Buffy looked at Willow painfully, her eyes shining with unshed tears. “I did love Tara, you know. She was kind and understanding. She was…comfort. Home. I wouldn’t have made it that year after I came back if it wasn’t for Tara. I loved her too,” she finished quietly.
Willow smiled. “She was easy to love. She was meant to be loved.” A heartfelt moment passed before Willow vehemently shook her head. “No, it’s not your fault. It was Warren. No one’s to blame but him. Not you, Buffy. Not you,” Willow’s voice grew confidently. She finally believed that now. Having voiced her doubt, that doubt had disappeared.
Buffy clenched her fists in her lap, her drink forgotten on the tray in front of her. “Being a Slayer means fighting, constant fighting and danger. And death. Death is on my heels.” She raised her eyebrow as she paused. “Being the Slayer…I tried…” Buffy looked at Willow, her eyes tormented. “I tried so hard to protect you guys. From the darkness. From me. I tried so hard.” She choked back a sob. “But I can’t. I keep trying to push you guys away, but you keep coming.”
“Buffy,” Willow consoled her, lip quivering as she reached out to grasp her hand. “You’re not alone. And you shouldn’t be alone. Buffy, it’s not your fault. You can’t control everything. You can’t save everyone. We just…we just do our best. Everyday. And the cool part? We do it together.” Willow squeezed Buffy’s hand tightly.
Buffy closed her eyes. “Strong is fighting,” she whispered.
Buffy smiled and gave Willow a fond look. “How do you do that? Stay positive and upbeat in the face of…”
“All this angst, tragedy and heartbreak? I think Xander’s country music collection desensitized me at an early age,” Willow joked.
“Xander listens to country music?” Buffy exclaimed in surprise.
“Only when he’s feeling blue,” Willow assured her.
“Huh, maybe that’s my problem. I’ve been listening to the wrong music. I’ve been rolling with the Pop, Alt Rock and R&B when I should have been crying on key to Patsy Cline.” Buffy looked at Willow speculatively. “Got any country on you?”
Willow shook her head. “I refuse to encourage the self-flagellation. No music of pain for you, missy.”
“This from the girl trying to get me drunk. Yours is a strange moral code.” Buffy fell silent for a moment. “I really screwed up, Will,” she confessed solemnly.
“With Giles? Nah. He’ll be fine. Plus he’s in the wrong too so you can both slap each other’s wrists and move on to the make-up hugs.”
“No, I screwed up with Spike.”
“Oh.” Willow chewed on her lip. “You never answered me earlier, I mean back at the hotel when I first showed up. You never said what you were doing in LA, why you had to go to LA to see Spike and why you lied about it.”
“It’ll sound crazy.”
“Sounds like my kind of story.”
Buffy gave a small smile before letting her mouth fall. “You wouldn’t understand how I could…how I cared…how important Spike was to me. Is. How important Spike is to me. You and Xander. You didn’t see how much he’d changed or why. And I understand. Spike’s hurt you both in the past.”
“You mean I wouldn’t understand being afraid to share an important and unconventional relationship with my best friends?” Willow quirked an eyebrow.
“Not afraid,” Buffy denied only to stop at Willow’s pointed look. “Okay, afraid. It’s not like you guys weren’t vocal enough over the years with your not liking him. Especially Xander. Mostly Xander.”
“Buffy. Tara,” Willow said significantly. “I understand.”
“Last time I checked Tara never tried to kill your friends.” Buffy sighed. “I guess I just got so used to hiding everything to do with Spike. And at some point I didn’t want to share it. When I found out he was alive, I just knew I had to see him for it to be real.”
“But why send a stand-in Buffy? Why not just tell us?”
“See here’s the crazy. If I didn’t tell anyone I was going to see Spike, if I sent someone else to go be Buffy at Slayer Central, then I could go to LA and be… just be Buffy. Not the Slayer. And the craziness of my life wouldn’t touch us. It couldn’t. We’d be…safe.” The corner of Buffy’s lip lifted ironically. “Except it didn’t work out that way.”
“The Spike freaking out part? Yeah, caught that.”
“That and the not having Slayer stuff follow me everywhere I go. But the lying part. Yeah, Spike…I don’t know, I guess he misunderstood. He thought I was using him like last time.” Buffy lowered her eyes. “Yeah, not my proudest moment. Months worth of bad moments.”
“Do you love him, Buffy?” Willow questioned her quietly.
Buffy hesitated before looking at Willow helplessly, almost apologetically. “I do.”
“So what are you going to do?”
Willow scowled. “You’re just giving up?”
“Will, he won’t even talk to me,” Buffy said defensively. “He kicked me out of LA. And speaking of which, what is it about my exes thinking they can just kick me out of a city? Like they owned it or something, please.”
“You can’t just give up! The giving up leads to no smoochies. And trust me, you’ll miss the smoochies.”
“Will, he won’t listen. How can I do anything when he won’t let me explain?”
“Maybe…” Willow raised her eyes to the ceiling before smiling slowly. “Maybe you should write him a letter.”
“See it’s perfect. You get to say all you want to say without him interrupting and distracting you. Perfect solution,” Willow nodded her approval.
“And I’ll be getting him to read this letter how?” Buffy asked in disbelief.
Willow bit her lip. “Oh oh! I’ll enchant it so that once he touches the letter he’ll have to read it. See? Perfect solution. Damn I’m good,” Willow grinned, her eyes sparkling.
Buffy coughed an involuntary laugh which grew into a joyful and high-pitched giggle. She continued to laugh, her shoulders shaking as tears fell down her cheeks. Willow smiled in response at the sound of Buffy’s laughter. It’d felt like an eternity since she’d heard it. Buffy’s laughter eventually quieted and she wiped away the tears from her face, a grin still dimpling her cheeks.
Willow watched her give a gusty sigh as she settled back into her chair. Buffy turned suddenly to look at Willow, still smiling and lunged forward across the empty seat between them, hugging Willow tightly as she rested her head in the crook of her shoulder. “I love you, Will,” Buffy whispered.
Willow blinked back a sudden rush of tears and smiled, hugging Buffy tightly. “Well, duh.”
Buffy laughed and pulled away to wipe her sleeve under her eyes. The plane jerked suddenly and they both looked up as the pilot’s voice announced they would be landing shortly. Buffy smiled and looked at Willow. “This is my favorite part,” Buffy confided. “Well, I like all the parts but this is just extra special.”
Buffy looked up at the ceiling, almost as if she were looking through it to the sky above. “No, the coming down to Earth.” She placed her hand across her heart like she was preparing to pledge allegiance. “Coming back down is the best part.”
“Personally, I like the landing safely part, but that’s just me.”
Buffy smiled and, hand across her heart, whispered, “Fortune favors the brave.”