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. Still flying unbeta'd so all mistakes are mine - anyone interested in giving it a go would be greatly appreciated.
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.
Angel walked into his office, shoulders forward slumped with fatigue. He poured himself a cup of coffee, took a sip and spat it out immediately. He didn’t think it was possible, but Nina made even worse coffee than Cordelia. It tasted like lighter fluid. Pulling a bag of blood out of the mini-fridge, Angel poured it into a clean mug, placed it into the microwave and pressed ‘start’. He tentatively sipped the coffee again, grimaced and set it down on the edge of his desk. Glancing down at the daily newspaper, he paused, except world events weren’t what caught his eye. A letter lay on top of the pages, one he opened with a mild curiosity that quickly became a gripping urgency:
Don’t worry. Really, don’t. I just wanted to give you a heads up that I’m going on a trip. To help Spike. Really, don’t worry. I’m not even there and I can tell you’re worrying. I’ll be back in a few days, okay? And hey, maybe I’ll even bring you a present from Rome.
“This the place?” Connor asked skeptically.
“Yeah.” Spike warily eyed the brass numbers 34 on the wooden door.
“You’re sure?” Connor looked at Spike searchingly.
“You gonna knock?” Connor’s voice grated on Spike’s ears.
“Yeah.” Oh, he was gonna knock alright. Hell, he’d break down the door. Break through all the bullshit of the past few days and get to the bottom of this. He’d make Buffy admit to some truths and then shag her stupid. That’d teach her a lesson about keeping secrets.
Connor let out a frustrated sigh and stepped forward to bang on the door.
“Hey!” Spike leapt to grab his arm only to grimace at the loud banging noise as Connor rapped away at the knocker. He glared at the boy. “Well, now you’ve done it.”
“What? Knock on the door? Isn’t that what we’re here for?” Connor’s voice rose in exasperation.
“I’m here to do a lot more than knock on doors, Junior Broodster.” Spike shrugged. “Just wanted to get what I was gonna say in order before I…”
“Manned up?” Connor provided helpfully.
Spike growled and grabbed Connor by the scruff of the neck, pulling him in close to glare into the boy’s rebellious eyes.
“Um, you two need a minute alone? Maybe you want to come back later after you’ve…resolved whatever you’re fighting about.” Buffy stood in the open doorway, arms crossed over her scarlet dressing robe.
Spike dropped Connor, turning to look at Buffy sheepishly. “Buffy,” Spike breathed, eyes intent as he stepped forward to meet her standing in the doorway.
“Yeah?” she drew out, eyebrows raised.
Spike raised a hand to touch her only to stop as she jerked back defensively. He gripped the doorframe instead. “Buffy, I…ah hell, I’m sorry about what happened. About everything I said and I…I…” Spike tilted his head, eyes soft. “I love you. Forgive me for being a complete ass.” He gave a charming half-smile.
“You love me?” Buffy’s eyes were wide in disbelief.
“God yes. Love everything about you. Buffy, you’re everything to me. I’d forgotten what it felt like to…” His voice gone soft and intent, he continued, “I’m never more alive than when I’m with you. I’ll never be more alive than when I’m holding you. You make me a better man. You show me all I can be. And I am. With you.” Spike released the doorframe to cup Buffy’s cheek as she watched, entranced and disbelieving. “I know I don’t deserve you. Know I’ll make mistakes, probably screw things up again. But I’ll never stop trying to be a better man. I’ll never stop loving you.” Spike paused, eyes vulnerable. “If you’ll have me, Buffy. Hell, even if you won’t, I’ll love you til the end of the world,” he vowed.
Buffy let out a shaky breath, staring at Spike dumbstruck.
“So the point of this overblown speech is to say you’ll love her, no? How quaint,” a deep voice mocked from inside Buffy’s apartment. The Immortal stepped into Spike’s line of sight, toweling his dark hair dry and patting his bare chest before tossing the towel onto the living room couch. He reached down nonchalantly to finish buttoning his black trousers. “You’ve come a long way to be disappointed, William. But then you must be used to this by now. Disappointment.”
Spike clenched his fists at his side. “What the hell is he doing here?” he snarled, giving Buffy an accusing look.
Buffy shook her head, snapping out of her daze to step back under The Immortal’s outreached arm. “He’s my boyfriend.”
“I prefer the term ‘lover’, cara mia.” The Immortal looked down at Buffy fondly.
“Oh wow,” Connor exclaimed.
“As much as we’ve enjoyed this untimely visit, I think you should be going, William. Time for you to go back to your New World. Perhaps find yourself a new woman, eh?” The Immortal squeezed Buffy’s shoulder possessively.
Spike closed his eyes for a painful moment. The churning in his gut promised to lay him low. God, he’d been blind. He didn’t think he could be more humiliated than before, but this. His face blank, he stared at Buffy and The Immortal seeing the image of Angelus and Drusilla embracing in his mind. He’d walked in on them, too. No, not again. He wasn’t going to lose the woman he loved to another dark and brooding bastard. He wasn’t going to lose Buffy. Not her. Spike glared at The Immortal’s hand on Buffy’s shoulder, grinding his teeth. He met the Italian bastard’s self-important stare head-on. “No, I’m not going anywhere.”
“Spike? Maybe we should go…” Connor suggested.
Spike glared at Connor dismissively before turning to look at Buffy.
“Spike?” Buffy said, eyes wide. “You’re…” Her voice trailed off and she looked up at the Immortal with her mouth slightly open. She stepped forward again, her voice low and intimate. “Spike, I can only imagine what this looks like. What you must be thinking. But you have to go now. You can’t be here. You don’t…” She looked back over her shoulder at the Immortal. “You don’t belong here.”
“Buffy, love, you can’t be serious. This guy? He’s…well, okay he’s ambiguously evil, but still he’s not good enough for you. He’s wrong for you. Hell, I’d rather see you with Angel than this sodding wanker and I’d rather stake myself than see you with Angel.” Spike stabbed in the Immortal’s direction with his index finger then banged his fist into his chest. He caught Buffy’s gaze, entreating her to understand. “Love, I know what I said…I was out of line. Completely. But don’t you think this is a slight overreaction? Running back to him because we had a spat.”
“Running back?” The Immortal chuckled. “She never really left.”
Spike’s face went blank before he looked at Buffy in confusion. “This true? Were you still with him the whole time we…? You’d always planned on coming back here?”
Buffy looked between Spike and the Immortal, mouth open wide. Dropping her gaze to floor, she whispered, “Yes. Yes, I was with him. I am with him.” She sent Spike a tortured look. “I’m sorry. You should go now.”
A hand gripped Spike’s shoulder and he jerked reflexively, turning to see Connor giving him a sympathetic stare. “Come on, Spike,” Connor urged. “Let’s go.”
“Yes, run along, William,” The Immortal taunted as stood behind Buffy, caressing her shoulders. “You should’ve known better. To even think you could satisfy her the way I can.” He smirked. “But you were ever the fool.”
Spike flinched, eyes half shuttered as he clenched his fists so tightly that his knuckles popped. He took in a deep breath before swinging wildly with his left fist, smashing into The Immortal’s jaw as he pulled Buffy to the side with his right hand. “Who’s foolin’ now, you poncey bastard?” Spike sneered.
The Immortal buckled under the impact, falling back two steps, but quickly recovering. He rubbed his jaw bemusedly. “Violence. Is this the only way you know?”
“Whatever works.” Spike rolled his shoulders and settled into a fighting stance, dancing on the tips of his toes and baring his teeth.
“So the plan is to fight over the lady, eh? The winner gets to club her over the head and drag her back to his cave?” The Immortal looked at Buffy curiously. “Do you wish to be won, bellissima? Or shall we let you choose for yourself?”
Buffy gently touched Spike’s shoulder, pulling him away from The Immortal to look at her. She unclenched his fists, hesitating slightly as she touched him. “Spike,” she said, shaking her head with an air of sadness. “Go. Please. Just go.”
Her weary, almost pitying tone wrenched Spike’s heart in his chest and he stared at her in disbelief. He searched her eyes, looking for something, anything to show that she cared about him. There was nothing to see. No connection, no…she didn’t love him. She really didn’t. His throat closed involuntarily at the realization and he fought to keep his eyes from watering. Bloody hell, not now. The muscles in his face struggled to keep an even expression, to stop from crumpling into an even more pathetic mask. The back of his throat burned and he felt like he’d been gutted and left hollow inside. Spike turned his head away from Buffy to stare dumbly at the wall.
Connor firmly gripped Spike’s arm and pulled him back towards the open doorway. “We’ll, uh, just be going now.”
Spike allowed himself to be led down the hall and corralled into the elevator without comment. Lost in thoughts of Buffy’s eyes looking at him with pity and her voice telling him to leave, he finally surfaced when Connor pushed a shot glass into his hand. Spike blinked and looked around the room, surprised to find themselves sitting at a table in some dimly lit bar. “Where are we?”
Connor shrugged. “Where the alcohol lives.” He nodded at the shot glass in Spike’s hand. “Drink up.”
Spike numbly tossed back the shot and dropped the glass back onto the table. Connor grabbed the bottle of vodka and poured him another. “Should’ve bought whiskey,” Spike grunted, lifting the glass to drink down the clear liquid.
“Sure. Next bottle we’ll get whiskey,” Connor agreed. He poured them both another shot then raised his glass, tipping it towards Spike. “Women,” he commiserated, swallowing quickly only to cough a bit. He shot Spike a slightly embarrassed look.
“Ha.” Spike smiled painfully, nodding at the bottle. “Have another. We’ll get you drinking like a pro in no time.”
The next shot Connor managed to swallow without coughing, though he still grimaced afterwards.
“That’s better. You’re making progress.” Spike downed two more shots in quick succession. “See the key is to let your throat go loose, just let it slide down easy like.”
Connor tried again, finally managing to swallow without coughing or grimacing. He smiled at Spike as he lowered his glass. “Heh, easy.”
“You’re a natural, Junior.” Spike smiled proudly for a moment before his face fell again. He reached desperately for the bottle. Bypassing the glass completely, he chugged down the entire fifth of vodka in under thirty seconds. Finished, he slammed the empty bottle on the table and let his head hang low, mouth gaping wide as he panted.
Spike looked at Connor blearily. “No. Not even close.”
Three hours and a half a dozen bottles later, Spike was sufficiently numbed. The boy was a good drinking buddy, though Spike had gotten used to drinking his sorrows alone over the years. “Women,” he sneered. “With their shiny, bouncy hair and…shiny…”
“Yeah, women,” Connor agreed, head wobbling as he tried to nod but only succeeded in doing a convincing bobblehead impression.
Spike scoffed. “Who does she think she is? Just jerk me around like, like she’s the one who gets to say when to say when?”
“When?” Connor echoed.
Spike slammed his fist on the table. “Exactly. I didn’t say when, so who says she gets to, eh?”
“Gwen,” Connor breathed.
“No, ‘when’, say ‘when’,” Spike corrected impatiently.
Connor thunked his forehead on to the table, moaning a bit before turning to look up at Spike’s face. “Gwen. She used to talk about wanting to Europe… me. Gonna see the world. She was gonna show me…”
“Fickle, treacherous cow,” Spike muttered, reaching for the half-empty bottle of whiskey.
“Huh?” Connor grunted, eyes closed.
“What’s that?” Spike asked offhand before taking a long slug from the bottle.
“Exactly. Pfft women.” Spike stared at the bottle, eyes distant. “With their lies. And their eyes. Lying eyes. Yeah, lying eyes that lie right to your face and then stab you in the back.”
“Too right,” Spike said, raising the bottle to quickly down the last dregs. He snorted when he heard the faint snoring sound coming from underneath Connor’s shaggy head, reaching over to ruffle his hair affectionately. “Good plan. Get some peace while you can. ‘Cause as long as those…women…are out there…” He swallowed, head weaving from left to right. “You’ll never have a moment’s peace. They’ll torture you, use you up and spit you out.” Spike’s dropped his head onto his forearms resting on the table. “Oh, Buffy. Why?” he moaned.
A loud throat clearing prompted Spike to raise his head. He looked dazedly at a man with dark hair in a dapper suit. Well, it looked blurrily dapper, as far as Spike could tell. “You are a Mr. Spike, no?”
“Who’s asking?” Spike slurred.
“Ah, yes. I think you are. My employer wishes to have a few words with you.”
“Well, your employer can sod off. You too. Yeah, you. You go sod off.”
“No, I think not, my very drunk friend.” The man snapped his fingers and two large thugs stepped forward. Spike blinked, pushing himself off the table in an effort to stand. No way in hell these bastards were ruining his night of drunken drinking.
The first blow to his temple knocked him to the floor. Groaning, he sat up, shaking his head like a wet dog coming in from the rain. As the thug with bricks for fists stepped forward again, Spike glared. The second punch reverberated through his skull, making his vision go black with off-shooting swirls of red dancing across the back of his eyelids for a few moments until the red disappeared completely. Everything went black.
“Angel?” Nina called, frowning when he didn’t respond. She strolled past the red couch in the lobby and walked into Angel’s office. The shrill beeping of the microwave drew her forward and she opened the door, pulling out a cold mug of blood. “Ugh. The man needs a maid to look after him.”
Tossing her purse on his desk, Nina walked back into the lobby and turned towards the stairs. “Angel? You here?”