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.
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 glanced at Willow before hunching down into the passenger seat of Willow’s car. Well, somebody’s car. It probably belonged to Buffy if it was purchased with Slayer funds. Funds which were acquired through ill-gotten means. Alright, the concept of ownership was getting dicey in her own mind, but that was a whole other bag of grey area to sort through later. She was still grappling with her new mantra of full disclosure in order to be a good friend and how it related to her duty to protect the world.
“Will? You know there are some things I can’t tell you, right?”
Willow looked at Buffy before returning her attention to the road. “Well, yeah. I kinda figured some things. I mean, if you’re holding someone else’s confidence, you can’t just spill the beans.”
“Right. Confidences. Or, ya know, Slayer related stuff. Like talking about things that could change the future.” Buffy grimaced. “Except I’m not sure if changing the future is what I’m supposed to be doing. Or if I’m even changing it by what I’m doing or just making the future happen. Or maybe the future still happens but it’s a different future disconnected from our new future and my god, I think I just broke my brain.”
“Buff, have you been watching the Sarah Connor Chronicles with Andrew again? You know last time it gave you a migraine.”
“Right, because that pain had nothing to do with Andrew squealing like a teenage girl over Summer Glau. She’s not even that tough. I could totally take her. And sure she’s pretty but in no way hotter than me. Right?”
“Sure. Right,” Willow reassured her a bit too vigorously. “But hey, ask me the same question about Tina Fey and you’re not gonna like the answer. I’ve sworn a solemn oath never to betray the Fey.”
“Right. Betrayal. So it’s not…I’m not betraying you by not telling you. Even though I really want to. Even though I think maybe I should. But then I think maybe I shouldn’t because oh, look end of the world.” Buffy held up both hands to weigh the hypothetical decisions against each other in the air.
“It might help if I actually knew what we were talking about here.”
“But that’s just the thing. I can’t tell you. At least, I don’t think I can. So how can you help me decide what to do if I can’t tell you?”
“That question was rhetorical, right?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know. Maybe. My head hurts.”
“So maybe let it go for now ‘cause we’re here.” Willow nodded towards the manor house ahead as they drove through large wrought-iron gates.
“We’re here? Already?”
“Yep, after nearly 20 hours of travel we’re finally here. Trip go by too fast for you? Should we have gone the long route by steamer boat instead of flying? Maybe rode here by horseback? Or walked. We could have walked.”
“God, this is going to be awkward.”
“And you said Giles is here? You’re sure? Maybe he left again. ‘Cause he hasn’t been around much at all so it’d be just like him to disappear.”
“Buffy, he’s here. I can tell.”
“Well, that’s not creepy at all.”
“Hey, at least it’s useful.”
Willow swung the car to a halt in front of stone steps leading up to large oak double-doors, unbuckled her seat belt and turned to look at Buffy solemnly. “Ready?”
“Okay then,” Willow chirped. “Let’s go!”
Buffy slowly climbed out of the car and followed Willow up the steps. “Wait,” Buffy cried, grabbing Willow’s arm as she was about to open the door. “Just uh…”
“Buffy, you’ve faced down some of the scariest evil this world has ever seen. You can do this. Easy. You could do this with your eyes closed, hands tied behind your back.”
“Oh great, way to encourage the ‘walking to the gallows’ imagery, Will.”
“Come on, Buffy. Time to woman up and get it done.” Willow pushed her towards the door. “I’ve got your back. Promise.”
Buffy hesitated before straightening her shoulders and reaching for the old-fashioned doorknob. She could do this. She’d face down Giles, make him apologize for how he done her wrong and then all would be swell in the land of the Slayers. Everything would be okay.
She just had to open the door first.
No problem. Just open the door and deal. She could do this. Why were real demons so much easier to face than her inner demons? How did facing her friends become more terrifying than staring down evil?
Buffy turned to look at Willow one last time before bracing herself to open the door.
“You planning on coming inside or what?” Dawn snarked.
Buffy turned around in surprise. “Huh?”
Dawn raised an annoyed eyebrow before kicking Buffy in the shin.
“What? It’s what you get every time you do something stupid. You should be glad I only save it for the times you’re being a complete dumbass or I’d be kicking you every five minutes.”
Buffy scowled. “Since when is it okay to kick your sister? Is this a new rule? Do I get to kick you now? You really don’t want to go there, Dawn. ‘Cause oh yeah, there have been times when I definitely wanted to kick you in the ass and my kicks – they hurt more.”
Dawn looked unimpressed in the way teenagers have perfected throughout the ages.
“Wait a sec – you kicked me!” Buffy exclaimed.
“Duh, I was there. It happened like 2 seconds ago. And again, this is another moment where I’d have to kick you for being stupid if I didn’t have such high standards.” Dawn crossed her arms and gave Buffy an ‘I’m smarter than you’ look.
Buffy rolled her eyes and grabbed Dawn in a tight hug. “You kicked me! You! With the normal feet that aren’t hooves or 8 feet long.” She pulled back to look at Dawn in amazement. “How did this happen?”
“Oh, you mean the whole curse being lifted? It happened while my sister was running around the world being all self-involved and twitchy.” Dawn dropped her mock-anger and grinned. “Long story, short. Willow brought Kenny over and well, things just worked themselves out.”
“Ugh, Kenny. I really dislike him.”
“Well, then you’ll be happy to hear I said no to his wanting to get back together,” Dawn reassured.
“He wanted to get back together? After he turned you into a Giant and a centaur?”
“Oh and a doll. But you missed that part.”
Buffy blinked before turning to Willow who was biting her lip to keep from grinning. “Are Thricewise slayable? As in evil? ‘Cause I think there’s an ex out there that needs to be axed.”
Dawn harrumphed. “Nice to see the latent protective instincts kicking into high gear. Even though the killing talk – so overkill. It’s over, Buffy.” Dawn pointed down at her normal body. “Witness it being over. And speaking of exes …” Dawn’s voice went quiet. “How’s Spike?”
Dawn grinned. “So better then?”
“Yes, the not being dust is an improvement.”
“And you guys are back together?” Dawn looked behind them to the empty car. “Or maybe not…”
“Huh, everything with you is complicated.”
“Okay, it’s a work in progress.”
Dawn rolled her eyes. “But he’s really okay?”
“Yes, he is,” Buffy promised. “And I’m hoping…well, maybe you’ll get to see him sooner than you think.”
“Cool.” Dawn smiled, stepping back to let Buffy and Willow walk into the foyer. “All the Slayers are out training, but Giles and Xander are in the library working on some kind of battle strategy.” Dawn picked up her purse off the bench and headed back towards the door. “Later!”
“Hey,” Buffy called out. “Where do you think you’re going?”
Dawn turned around, hands on her hips. “Shopping. Duh. I’ve been stuck wearing the same boring outfit for the past couple months. I need retail therapy – stat.” She turned and skipped down the entryway steps.
“Nice to see her priorities are in order,” Willow commented.
“We should all be so lucky.” Turning reluctantly, Buffy walked towards the library and opened the door before she had a chance to over think it, walking inside with Willow trailing behind her. Xander and Giles stood hunched over a desk comparing old demon texts with some computer printouts spread across a nearby table. Buffy cleared her throat.
“Buffy,” Giles said guardedly, standing up straight and adjusting his glasses before stepping forward to greet her. “Welcome back.” Xander watched the exchange in silence.
“Right. Back. That’s it? That’s all you have to say?” Buffy questioned.
Giles sighed. “What do you want me to say?”
“Oh, I dunno, maybe ‘I’m sorry’? Or ‘I shouldn’t have lied to you again’? Or you could promise to stop interfering in my life, making decisions for me that are none of your business.” Buffy paused, giving Giles a betrayed look. “You lied to me.”
Giles nodded. “I did. But then so did you.”
“You lied first.”
Giles smiled slightly. “Does that mean I win?”
“No! You most certainly do not win. I’m the winner winning here. And you’re the lying guy who has to say he’s sorry and promises never to manage my personal life again.”
Giles removed his glasses, rubbing his temple before continuing. “Buffy, when all of this happened - ”
“You mean the lying part?”
“Yes,” Giles admitted. “When I kept Spike’s return a secret from you it was because he was affiliated with one of the greatest evils on this planet. From my intel, it was unclear where his loyalties stood and you had a greater need to be focused here. Leading every Slayer. Spike would have been an unwelcome distraction at best, a heartbreaking torment for you in every other scenario I could imagine. To have him return from the dead only to ally himself with evil? I wanted to spare you that pain. Again.”
“Spike’s not evil,” Buffy countered quietly. “And it wasn’t your decision to make. You had no right to just…you had no right.”
“I did what I thought best at the time. I was trying to protect you.”
“You can’t have it both ways, Giles. Either I’m an adult with all these responsibilities or I’m a child who you get to dictate to. You can’t keep me in the dark. Not anymore.”
Giles coughed. “And would, uh, sending an identical twin to take over your responsibilities here while running off to Los Angeles be considered the actions of an adult or a child?”
Buffy shrugged. “Maybe I was living down to your expectations.”
“Touché,” Giles acknowledged.
“Plus I figured it might be fun to pull a Parent Trap on you. Make a switch, see if anybody noticed,” Buffy joked.
Giles looked at her in wonder. “I thought you’d be more angry, not…”
“Oh, I’ve had time to process. Trust me, I was angry. Very. But I get why you did it. You were wrong. But I get why. You were trying to protect me.” Buffy scowled. “Don’t do it again. At least, not that way.”
“And this would be the understanding adult perspective, yes?” Giles lowered his voice and continued sincerely, “I’m sorry. I promise never to lie to you in an unfortunate and ill-advised attempt to protect you.”
“Damn straight,” Buffy said, smiling. “I’m sorry I left the way I did. I could have handled things better.”
“And I’m simply glad you’re back.”
“Strangely, me too.” Buffy felt surprised at the realization.
“Yay, now the hugging part!” Willow interrupted, prompting Buffy and Giles to laugh.
They looked at each other hesitantly before moving forward to embrace. Buffy closed her eyes and remembered all the other times she’d hugged Giles. There weren’t many. She could count each occasion on both hands. But each time was memorable and achingly comforting. This time was no different. She suddenly felt safe and forgiven and…home. This had been a part of what was missing here in Scotland. Giles.
“Great. Now that that’s settled, I’ve got a lot of work to do,” Xander said distantly before piling up the computer printouts and walking out the door.
“Xander!” Buffy called after him, stepping away from Giles to watch him walk away. She turned to look at Giles who shrugged then at Willow.
“I think he’s still…” Willow searched for her words. “You lied to him, too, Buffy. Only he was working right alongside look-a-like Buffy Roman style. He feels…”
Betrayed. “Oh,” Buffy breathed. She hadn’t even thought about Xander. She’d been so consumed with anger at Giles and desperation at finding Spike that she’d never even stopped to think how her Parent Trap plan would hurt him. Xander. Her best friend who’d been by her side for over seven years. The guy who’d kept all her dirty secrets and stood by her through all the hard times of putting the Slayer Organization together. The one who’d stayed with her when Willow and Giles had disappeared. Who’d always been loyal-
Buffy looked at Giles. “Did Xander know? Was he in on it too?”
Giles shook his head. “No.”
Nodding to herself, Buffy left the library and went searching for Xander throughout the house. She finally found him in the attic which they’d converted into a rougher version of their command central back at the old castle. He was alone, sitting in a chair staring at a computer screen.
“Can I come in?” Buffy asked hesitantly.
“Kinda busy here, Buff. I’ll send you an update when I’m done.”
“Right. Update.” Buffy walked inside and stood behind Xander, leaning over his shoulder to read the computer screen. “Whatcha workin’ on?”
“Research,” Xander said in monotone.
“Look, I don’t have time for games right now. Maybe you forgot while on vacation, but we’re doing important work here. So unless you’re interested in helping, I could use some peace and quiet.”
Buffy stared at the back of Xander’s head for a minute, contemplating what to say to break through to him. He so clearly didn’t want to talk. She sighed. This situation called for extreme measures. Leaning down, she hugged Xander tightly from behind, grasping her hands together as they met at the center of his chest and pushing her cheek against his back.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m helping. This is me helping the fight against evil. It’s a new strategy. What do you think?”
“They’ll never see it coming.” Xander’s voice was rueful. “Oh and they’ll win each time we try to defeat them with our Care Bear love stare.” Xander paused. “Are you going to let go now?”
“Nope. You’re stuck with me. Sorry, but you’re just going to have to deal with me being around all the time. I’m not letting go,” Buffy promised.
Xander gripped Buffy’s hands firmly. “I think I could get used to that.” Buffy squeezed him tighter in response, making him cough. “Okay, Slayer strength! Ease up now.”
“Oops, sorry.” Buffy relaxed her hold. “I am sorry, Xander.”
“I know,” he whispered.
Buffy gently squeezed him again and sighed, eyes watering slightly. “I love you. I wouldn’t want to hurt you for anything.”
“Ditto.” Xander shifted in his seat. “You are going to let go eventually though, right?”
“Even when I go…and you know sometimes I need to…Buffy, come on…”
“No way. Learn to deal.”
“Well okay, I can’t counter the Slayer strength, true. My sexy eye patch can only do so much seducing of willpower. And I didn’t want to do this. I swore I wouldn’t take advantage of your one true weakness but…” Xander reached back behind him and started tickling Buffy’s ribs, causing her to shake with giggles though she kept her grip firm. Xander eventually gave up, no match for her strength and stubbornness. “Okay, that’s all I’ve got. You win, Slayer. I am defeated,” he said in an all-important voice.
Buffy's smile pressed against Xander’s cotton pullover.
“Uh Buffy? I’ve gotta go to the bathroom.”
Buffy jumped up abruptly. “And we’re done!”
Xander smirked at her over his shoulder. “I knew you were all talk.”
Buffy nodded, grinning widely. “I’m equal parts talk and action. It’s part of my charm.” She sat down next to Xander and pulled away some of the papers he was working on. “So what’s the big evil needs putting down?”
Xander scooted towards her until their shoulders touched. “Well, we’ve got this lead…”