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.
A/N 2: Sorry for the delay. Computer troubles meant I had to re-write half of this from memory. Strangely, I think it might have turned out even better the second time around so go figure, huh?
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 curled into the seat of the bay window in her bedroom, a blanket tucked snugly around her. She frowned in concentration at the pad of paper resting in her lap. Willow had given her a significant look and teasing reminder to catch up on her writing as she’d said goodnight earlier. That was over four hours ago and here she was staring at another unsatisfactory page. The rejected versions of the letter decorated her bedroom, crumpled paper strewn about the floor. Apparently, her just saying what she was immediately feeling always ended up, in some form or another, sounding like this:
I’m sorry. I’m sorry you completely freaked for no reason. I’m sorry you wouldn’t stop ranting long enough to let me explain. I’m sorry you’ve apparently gone insane. Again. And seriously, where the hell do you get off? You’re the one who didn’t contact me for over a year. Almost, over, whatever. A really long time. And then you kick me out? Yell at me to leave? Are you kidding me? So yeah, you can just go be crazy in LA, see if I care. And I don’t care. Go be crazy and insane and alone.
Yeah, it was official. She sucked. She ripped the letter off the pad of paper and crumpled it into a ball, tossing it on the floor to join the other ranty prose. Maybe she just had to get it out of her system and then she could get to the heart of it. Of her.
She sighed. This writing her innermost feelings thing used to be easier. Her diary collection had rivaled Dawn’s at one time. Though the entries had become rarer after becoming a Slayer. And she’d stopped keeping a journal altogether when Angel had lost his soul. It’d hurt too much to look at the words, to read her sucky reality on the page. It somehow made it more real and yet surreal somehow. Like a whole new level of pain. She’d decided it was better not to think about it.
Of course, now she needed to write and she was so completely out of practice that all she was coming up with was word vomit. She pressed the pen down hard on the paper and waited for it to start moving of its own will. Like a Ouija board. The pen didn’t move.
Buffy groaned, leaning back and banging her head against the wall of the bay window. She supposed she could just give up and try to go to sleep. Except she’d tried that during hour two of this adventure of writing failure and had only managed to toss and turn for thirty minutes before starting to scissor kick against the mattress in frustration.
Buffy absently brushed at the condensation collecting on the window. A light fog was beginning to swirl on the grass below. Fog, the lesser known cousin of whom she was more familiar with: smog. She sighed. How sad was it that thinking about smog made her homesick?
One thought led to another and suddenly she was blinking back tears. She hugged herself tightly, wishing someone else’s arms were hugging her instead. Or maybe her mom could run cool hands through her hair and whisper that it would be alright, that she’d always be her little girl and things would get better. The silence of her darkened bedroom made her gasping breaths sound obscenely loud and she tried to stifle the sound. She didn’t want anyone to hear her. She wasn’t allowed to cry or be weak and emotional. She had to be wise and strong. She had to always know the answer. How else would all the Slayers believe in her?
How else would she believe in herself?
Then the words came. Like a message she’d forgotten. A plea. An expression of gratitude. A vow. The words flowed through her and she began to write, her pen hurrying to capture them as they echoed in her mind. When she finished, she carefully folded the letter, hugging it to her chest as she closed her eyes and leaned back into the pillows piled against the wall.
“Buffy, wake up!”
“Hmm.” Buffy shrugged off the hand shaking her shoulder and snuggled more deeply into the pillows.
“Buffy.” The voice was loud and insistent. “Buffy, wake up!” And then the shaking started up again, only this time the voice stole her blanket too.
“Hey!” Buffy blinked, looking up to see Willow watching her expectantly. “What time is it?” she croaked.
“Sorry, it’s just we have an emergency situation here.” Willow looked at her apologetically before walking towards the bedroom door. “Meet up at command central and we’ll fill you in.” She paused at the door to look over her shoulder. “And Buffy? Hurry.”
Buffy rolled out of the window seat and stretched her arms above her head. She carefully stepped out of the blanket twisting around her feet, only to have her foot land on a piece of paper lying on the floor. The letter she’d written last night. Picking it up, she looked in the direction Willow had disappeared, thinking about the ‘must-read’ spell. She grabbed an envelope off the desk in her bedroom, stuffing the letter inside as she rushed to catch Willow.
Finding the hallway empty, she headed towards the stairs to the attic on the other side of the second floor. Quickly turning a corner, she came to a halt when she sighted Faith at the opposite end of the hall. Great, just what she needed. A little Faith first thing in the morning went a long way. Unfortunately. Continuing forward at a less harried pace, Buffy met Faith in the middle of the hallway in front of the attic door.
“Faith.” Buffy stared at her warily, wondering where Faith had been hiding last night. She hadn’t seen her in the manor.
“B.” Faith smirked as she looked at Buffy’s mussed hair and matching pajamas. “Love the PJ’s. Most people couldn’t pull off cute little piggies. Hot pink on hotter pink – brave choice.”
Buffy gave a tight smile. “Right, well, as fun as catching up has been, I’ve got business to take care of.” She walked past Faith, opening the attic door and climbing the stairs. Faith followed, prompting Buffy to stop and stare over her shoulder. “What are you doing?”
Faith’s eyes widened. “There’s a group pow-wow going down. Giles sent for me.”
“Right. Great.” Just great. Buffy turned and hurried up the stairs. Xander and Giles were once again leaning over a pile of papers on the conference table while Willow and Andrew were at the computer terminals.
Giles looked up from the table. “Ah, Buffy. Good, you’re awake.” He nodded a greeting at Faith.
“Yes, my whole two hours of sleep was very energizing. I feel like a whole new me. Only tired.” Buffy fisted her hands on her hips. “So, what’s the big news? I believe Will used the words ‘emergency’ and ‘hurry’.”
“Of course.” Giles glanced at Xander. “We’ve had a bit of breakthrough. Xander’s research has proven most useful and he…” Giles waved his hand at Xander to continue, who’d now taken a seat at the conference table.
“Oh no, the floor is all yours, British man. You do the talking thing. I’ve got this new project which I like to call Caffeination. It involves me not falling asleep with my eyes open.” Xander raised his mug towards Giles before taking a large gulp.
“See this wouldn’t have been a problem if we’d sprung for the espresso machine. All nighters researching with some delicious, steaming brew of caffeinated heaven,” Andrew sighed. “I can still get a good deal on this Italian model – free shipping. All I need is for someone to sign off on the purchase. And to give me back my company credit card.”
“No and no. We don’t need you buying limited edition Babylon 5 collector’s plates or a to-scale model of the Enterprise. Request for reinstatement of buying privileges denied. Again,” Xander shot him down. “You’re just gonna have to ask for them from Santa like everyone else.”
Giles cleared his throat. “As I was saying, Xander has been following reports of missing girls. Slayers. Most were unaffiliated with our organization, inactive in the field. Their families had been reporting them missing only for them appear days later…”
“Dead.” Buffy dropped her arms to her sides. “Drained.”
“Yes,” Giles confirmed. “The reports began to come in about a month ago, but were so infrequent that it appeared to be simply a by-product of slaying. Casualties of battle. An untrained Slayer would have less chance in fighting off a vampire’s attack.” Giles paused, looking away from Buffy. “Within the past two weeks, the reports of Slayers found drained, their bodies dumped, has increased. Xander sent a field agent to examine one of the victims and found bruises around her ankles and wrists. She’d been held in bondage.”
“Damn,” Faith muttered.
“How many?” Buffy asked grimly, eyes distant. “How many girls?”
“That we know of?” Giles met Willow’s concerned gaze before turning back to Buffy. “Thirty eight. There are reports from Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America.” He paused. “That we know of.”
Buffy clenched her fists, unwittingly crumpling the letter in her hand. She looked down and frowned, gritting her teeth as she stuffed the letter into her pocket. “Who’s behind it? We need to find out who’s organizing –”
“I’m afraid there’s more unpleasant news,” Giles interrupted, causing Buffy to look at him warily. “Willow, would you…?”
Willow clicked away at the computer terminal’s keyboard and a video feed began to play on the large monitor hanging from the wall. The quality of the video was poor, but Buffy could clearly see it was of her standing on top of a bar right before she threw a flaming liquor bottle at the vampire on stage. The newscaster’s voice droned over the violent image, “Buffy Summers is wanted by US authorities for acts of terrorism. Sources say she’s believed to be the leader of a terrorist organization working to…” Buffy zoned out, watching the video continue to loop showing her throwing the bottle as her picture from her California Driver’s License flashed on the right side of the screen. Willow paused the feed as the clip finished.
“Whoa. And I thought I knew all the best club scenes in LA.” Faith eyed Buffy. “Isn’t it nice to feel wanted, B?”
“Faith,” Giles chided her.
Faith shrugged, turning a chair around to straddle seated next to Xander.
Buffy stared at her picture on the screen, eyes hard. “Will, can you find out where this video came from?”
“Sure, I’ll just have to hack into the studio’s network and –” Buffy looked at her sharply. “I’ll get right on it,” Willow reassured, turning back towards the computer screen.
“Okay, so while our resident Wicca is hacking away, maybe you could fill us in on the new flame attack strategy, Buff,” Xander said.
Buffy crossed her arms. “There was a group in LA. Vampires and humans working together. They were setting up traps to capture Slayers. Then they’d take them to this abandoned club – ” She nodded at the screen “ –and give the Slayer to the crowd. Like a prize.”
“A blood club,” Giles added.
“Yeah,” Buffy said softly.
“And if what you discovered is in any way connected to the other Slayers’ deaths –”
“Oh, I know it is,” Buffy interrupted. “It…the bruises. The girl I helped rescue was chained up. And they were organized. Careful. I’m not surprised there’s more of them.” She scoffed. “A well-oiled machine. We might not have found out about it if Angel hadn’t…We have to stop this, Giles.”
“Gotta know who to stop first,” Faith jumped in. “We need a target. Can’t kill the snake if you can’t find its head.”
“Buffy?” Willow looked over her shoulder. “I think I found your head. It took a little digging, some dummy servers set up to throw me off the scent, but I know where the video came from.”
Buffy walked over to stand by Willow, examining the screen grimly. “Where?”
Willow hesitated before answering. “Rome.”
“Roma?” Andrew asked, leaning over to look at Willow’s computer screen. “Davvero incredibile!”
Buffy resisted rolling her eyes. “Will. Where exactly in Rome? You have a location?”
Faith, Xander and Giles joined Buffy in anxiously standing behind Willow as she continued typing. “Just a sec. Oh.” Willow paused to look at Andrew. “Well, that makes things complicated.”
“What?” Buffy’s voice was tense.
“Uh, Andrew, maybe you wanna go into your brief about the Immortal,” Willow suggested as she continued pulling up documents that looked like building specs.
“Ah, the Immortal. Truly a mystery among men though he himself is not a man. Or rather, more than a man. A titan among men. A living god-like being who knows no rules but those he wills. And his will is formidable. Formidabler than anyone could ever imagine. A powerful ally to the Slayer cause who…oh, well, considering recent developments, that perhaps needs to be re-examined.” Andrew opened up a word document on his computer and highlighted a portion of his report. He turned to look at the group. “Where was I?”
“Get to the point, Andrew, before I teach your fingers how to bend backwards. Permanently,” Buffy threatened.
“Oh, he’s also Buffy decoy’s boyfriend,” Andrew concluded, eyes innocent.
“You’re telling me the guy who’s responsible for murdering Slayers has been dating ‘me’,” Buffy gestured with air quotes angrily.
“Dating, rendezvousing, taking spontaneous trips to Monte Carlo…rogue agent,” Andrew finished with a whisper.
Buffy slapped the back of Andrew’s head. “Okay, new plan. Everybody mount up. We’re taking this Immortal guy down. Xander, get your team ready. Willow, magical back-up and logistics on whatever defenses this guy may have.” Andrew looked at Buffy expectantly. “Andrew, no talking, just help Xander. Giles?”
“I’ll see what I can dig up from my contacts about the Immortal’s recent activities.” Giles stepped away, pulling out his cell phone as he left the attic followed by Xander and Andrew.
“Good. And that leaves…” Buffy eyed Faith suspiciously.
“Ready to rumble.” Faith jerked her shoulder under Buffy’s watchful stare.
Buffy finally nodded. “Good. Get ready. I’ve got a feeling this guy won’t go down without a fight.” Faith nodded and left the room.
“We’ll stop him, Buffy,” Willow reassured, giving her best sympathetic eyes.
Buffy shook her head. “I can’t believe this has all been happening right under my nose.” Buffy’s shoulders slumped as she sat down wearily in the chair Andrew had vacated.
“You didn’t know about this. Nobody did.”
“I invited this Immortal Jackass into our circle. Okay, Andrew did, but he was speaking for me. And now…” Buffy rubbed her temples. “And here I thought I was only getting girls killed sending them out to fight demons. I didn’t think they’d become targets. That they’d be hunted.”
“We’ll stop him.”
“And then what? What about all those girls that are already dead? Or the Slayers who are just out there waiting to be picked off by an angry mob? We can’t turn back the clock. Slayers are being hunted down and even if we kill the snake, there’s still – People are working with them, Will. People. They think we’re the enemy. How did we get here? When did everything get so…”
“Complicated,” Willow finished. “We take it one step at a time. That’s all we can do.”
“Yeah, you’re right.” Buffy reached into her pocket and pulled out the letter. “When you’re done here, could you?” Buffy laid the letter down next to the keyboard.
Willow picked up the letter, holding it carefully. “I’ll make sure he gets it.”
“Good. Thank you.” Buffy looked down at her clothes and raised her eyebrow. “I’m gonna go change. Somehow I think storming an Italian fortress will go better if I’m not wearing my Miss Piggy pajamas.”
“Probably. But you never know. Maybe the Immortal’s afraid of puppets.”
“Yeah, afraid. Sounds like he hasn’t been afraid of anything in a long time.” Buffy’s eyes hardened. “But he will be.”