Title: Thought You Should Know - Chapter 20
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, Blood 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. Feel free to message me.
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.
“Can’t believe we’re doing this.” Faith almost sounded disillusioned. Buffy resisted the urge to smile at the irony. “Just so we’re clear, I’m not crossing that line. No matter what you want. I’m not going there.”
“We’re not going there,” Buffy reassured through clenched teeth before sucking down a deep breath to keep from snapping back at Faith.
“We will do what we must. That’s all anyone can ask of us,” Giles added.
“We’re not going there,” Buffy repeated, shooting Giles a reproachful look. She waited till he dropped his gaze in acknowledgment before turning to look at Willow clutching a small bag closed at the top with a drawstring. Her eyes rose to meet Willow’s gaze and she nodded. “You ready?”
Willow's smile wobbled. “I think so. Not sure it’s gonna work though. It’d be nice if we had a Plan B just in case…”
Kennedy cracked her knuckles loudly before smacking her fist into her open palm. “I’ve got my Plan B right here.”
“Everyone follow my lead,” Buffy ordered. “Faith?”
Faith stepped next to Buffy, shoulder to shoulder. “Ready.”
Buffy reached up and touched her ear piece. “Xander?”
“You’re a go. All clear on the street. Wiccans say the illusion is holding. Nobody’s seeing you coming or going. You’ve got an hour tops.” Buffy noted Willow leaning in closer to hear Xander’s voice coming in through her earpiece.
“Then we’ll make it count.” All business, Buffy stepped forward and rapped on the door, listening intently at the soft pad of footsteps. She shot Faith a dark look. “Try not to enjoy this too much.”
“Who? Me?” Faith asked as the door swung open, her hand immediately dropping from its faux-offended position on her chest into a clenched fist aimed at Buffy’s jaw. The other Buffy. The decoy crumpled to the floor, gasping, only to be jerked upright as Faith and Kennedy dragged her back into her apartment. Buffy calmly stepped inside, Willow and Giles behind her.
“Close the door,” Buffy ordered, her eyes never leaving her double as the girl fought against being tied to a heavy wooden chair liberated from the dining room.
“What’s going on?” the decoy panted, her gaze whipping from Faith and Kennedy as they secured the rope around her wrists and ankles before rising to question Giles and then Buffy. “What…what are you doing?”
“We’re here for answers, traitor, so you better spill or…” Buffy tensed, ready to jump forward as Kennedy raised her fist to follow through on the threat, but Faith beat her to it, grabbing Kennedy by the shoulder and spinning her back two paces.
“Settle down, hot stuff. We’re just gettin’ started.” Faith firmly maneuvered Kennedy behind her, staring at Buffy before glancing at the decoy. Faith’s mouth hung open slightly. “Damn. She even does that annoying thing with her mouth just like you, B. Wicked strange.”
Buffy watched Willow spreading her magical supplies on the coffee table in the living room next to the chair where her double sat, tied down, shaking her head in disbelief. Was it an act? Was she really that good at playing shocked and innocent? Giles leaned against the wall in the corner of the room, watching without comment.
“Buffy, please. I don’t understand. Please,” her double entreated. Her clear green eyes pleaded and begged, making Buffy’s gut twist inside. Buffy clamped down on her emotions, her face remote as she crossed her arms over her chest.
“Willow?” Buffy fought to keep her voice neutral as her chest tightened. Her clenched fists dug into her ribs, the squeezing pressure the only movement she betrayed as she stood stock still, waiting.
“Give me a minute,” Willow muttered.
“Please, talk to me. Tell me what’s going on. Why? What are you going to do to me?” Her double’s voice shook and Buffy swore the girl’s eyes were on the verge of tearing up.
“You’re going to talk. Confess every sordid detail. Tell us everything you know about the Immortal. And once we’re through, then we’ll decide what’s to be done with you,” Giles grimly pronounced.
“The Immortal?” The decoy continued to shake her head, her denial constant. “I don’t understand. I’ve been here. With him. We go out, we stay in.” Buffy locked eyes with her double. “I pretend to be you, right? That’s my job.” The decoy dropped her gaze to the floor. “That’s my job,” she repeated.
“Your job is to protect people. We’re supposed to protect each other. Slayers are dead because of you, you twisted bitch,” Kennedy spat over Faith’s shoulder.
“No, I...Buffy, please…I didn’t…I don’t…”
“Willow.” Buffy turned her head away to stare at a spot on the wall behind her double, her gaze blurring.
“Got it!” Willow crowed, turning to grin at Buffy as she rose from her crouch at the coffee table. Willow tossed a faint misty powder on the decoy’s head and clapped her hands, ordering, “Verita vedere.”
“What did you do to me?” The decoy sputtered, shaking her head to dislodge the bits of dust covering her face.
Buffy sighed, her shoulders relaxing as she walked forward to stand in front of her double. “Truth spell. We see each other clearly now. No lies between us. Tell me about the Immortal. Tell me how you helped him. Tell me why.”
“Helped him? Do what? We date. We go dancing. We go out to eat. He took me to the opera once. I kinda liked it.” The decoy let out a strangled sob. “You already know this. Andrew gets reports. I tell him everything." She hesitated. "Almost everything.”
“Almost? What did you leave out?”
The decoy blushed. “It’s private.”
“Not anymore. Answer me,” Buffy demanded.
“I don’t…I don’t want…”
“What you want doesn’t matter. Tell me what I need to know.”
“I don’t…I don’t tell him about when we have sex,” the decoy whispered, blinking back tears. “I don’t tell Andrew about how I feel. How I…how I lo-…please, stop.”
“Willow, is it working?” Buffy asked.
“Yeah, I can feel it. It’s working.”
Buffy closed her eyes and turned her back to her decoy, glancing at Giles in the corner and shaking her head. Giles strode forward, stepping in front of Buffy as he pulled a folder from underneath his jacket.
Buffy watched out of the corner of her eye as Giles shoved a photograph in her decoy’s face. “You don’t know Amy Walters? Her body was found in a dumpster in Minneapolis.” He let the photo drop to the floor, only to pull out another. “Or Kayla O’Connor. Her body washed up near Bath. The tourists were said to have run away screaming at the sight of her corpse.” Another photo. “What about Lena?” Then another. “Or Rachel?” And another. “Or Kaia?”
The decoy shook her head numbly, staring at the photos of the girls now lying on the floor. “No. I don’t know these girls. Please, you have to believe me.”
“You’re lying,” Kennedy accused.
“No, she’s not,” Buffy countered quietly. “Giles?” She gestured with a nod for him to step back before walking around him to untie her double. Finished with the right pair of knots, she reached across to untie the left and found that Faith had already completed the task.
Standing back to give her double some space, she felt Faith breath into her ear, “We all done with the torture now?”
Buffy flinched. “It wasn’t torture,” she said in a low voice, glancing guiltily over her shoulder at her double.
“Sure felt like it. And I should know.”
“It was the only way to be sure she was telling the truth. We didn’t have time to-”
“Yeah, sure. Whatever it takes, right? Good to know our side isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty. We got the job done. Go team,” Faith mocked grimly.
“Do you believe me now?” Buffy turned to see her double hugging herself, sitting immobile in the chair. She looked fragile. Broken.
“Yeah, I believe you. We believe you.” Buffy shook off her doubts and straightened her spine, hands fisted on her hips. She needed to focus now more than ever. There would be time for regrets later. “You didn’t know the Immortal was out killing Slayers.”
The decoy shook her head. “It’s gotta be a mistake. He wouldn’t…he couldn’t…”
“It’s not a mistake,” Buffy maintained, her voice hard. “We know he’s responsible. We just weren’t sure about you. Until now. And now that we know, I have one question for you. Are you going to help us stop your boyfriend from murdering innocent girls or not?”
The decoy didn’t answer, just kept shaking her head. She avoided Buffy’s challenging stare, dropping her gaze to the floor that was covered with pictures of dead girls. She reached down and swept them into a neat pile, shuffling them carefully and lifting them to rest in her lap. Her hands folded over the photos protectively, covering the face of a girl with short brown hair and a broken body. She let out a deep, rasping breath. “He did this?” she asked numbly, looking down at the photos. “You’re sure he did this?”
“Yes,” Buffy said simply.
Green eyes met hazel. “I’ll help you. I’ll help you stop him.”
Buffy pulled at the hem of her skirt as she waited for admittance into the Immortal’s palazzo. The guard at the gate had shown no surprise at her arrival, merely waved her forward as she drove up to the main doors of the estate. Now she stood at the front door, a smile plastered on her face.
“Wear this. It was a gift. An invitation. He told me I’d always be welcome as long as I wore his ring.”
The decoy’s ring felt heavy on her right middle finger, the insignia carved into the sides shaped like a cross with a loop at one end. She’d seen the symbol before in one of Giles’ books. Immortality. This guy was just asking for a beat down. In contrast to the weight on her finger, her dress was the merest wisp of red satin, leaving her back exposed to the warm night air. Her hair fell down in soft waves, her heels propped up high on stilettos. Not her first choice for slaying. At least, not her first choice since she turned eighteen. Then again, nobody said undercover work was easy.
“The palace is a mystical fortress. No getting in or out without the Immortal’s say-so.”
Willow was right. Except it didn’t feel like a fortress as Buffy waited for the door to open. More like a prison. A beautiful prison with a snake living at its heart. She shivered as a cool breeze brushed against the base of her spine. The door opened and a man in a suit bowed and gestured for her to enter. As she crossed the threshold, she felt her ears pop like when the cabin pressure in an airplane shifts dramatically. The magical barrier – looks like she’d passed the first test. The butler smiled and she noticed his tongue was slightly forked at the tip. Not so human after all.
“Welcome, signorina. My master will be pleased at your visit.” He led her to a drawing room to the right of the foyer, opening the double doors and standing to side as she walked past him. “May I offer you refreshment while you await the Immortal?”
Buffy smiled brightly. “No, thank you.” As soon as the doors closed, Buffy rushed across the room, opening the other door that led to a darkened sitting room. She stalked through the darkness, the light drifting in from the windows all she needed to see the obstacles of furniture to be avoided.
“I can’t break in without a magical foothold from the inside. Put two crystals at the front corners of the building and one in the center.”
Reaching inside the cleavage of her dress, she pulled out a tiny velvet bag. How cliché, but it wasn’t like she had any other place to hide it. She hadn’t even been able to hide a stake on her. Not to worry. She’d improvise if things got ugly. Shaking open the bag, she poured a small, translucent crystal into her palm and dropped it in the corner of the sitting room. Not exactly the corner of the building but it would have to do. Loping back to the drawing room, she closed the door behind her and strode towards the double doors leading to the foyer. Her hand reached for the door knob just as it started to turn on its own, shocking her into jumping back. Shit. She hadn’t dropped off the crystal on the other side of the building yet.
“Signorina, if you will follow me, per favore.”
Buffy nodded her assent, clutching the velvet bag with the two remaining crystals behind her back as she followed the not-so-human butler into the foyer and back. Certain the butler wasn’t looking, she palmed another crystal in her right hand before stuffing the velvet back into the cleavage of her dress. With each step, Buffy counted the seconds it would take her to get back to the front in order to place the final crystal in its corner. She’d hoped to have both corner crystals in place before being brought into the Immortal’s inner sanctum which her decoy had conveniently shared as situated in the center of the palazzo. Need to improvise –check. She’d just have to do things backwards. No worries.
The butler paused at another set of double doors before swinging them both open grandly and announcing, “Miss Buffy Summers to see il Signore Immortale.”
Buffy gulped, her stomach jumping as she stepped past the butler to enter the long reception room. The room was rectangular, stretching so far out before her that each step forward began to feel like walking the green mile. She remembered the blueprints Willow had shown her of the palace – that it was shaped like an ‘H’. This reception room must be the center of the ‘H’, with long windows draped in velvet curtains spanning both walls, candlelight fixtures mounted in between each window set and multiple lit chandeliers hanging along the center of the room. Decadence personified and draped in rich reds and purples and blues with gold accents. Yet subdued and Old World at the same time.
“Normally you are more eager to meet me, amore mio.” There. He stood at the opposite end of the room, his back to her as he poured a glass of wine from the side bar flanking the throne behind him. Throne? Oh my god. But it did look like a throne. It wasn’t just a chair to hang out in. The room was designed to intimidate and it was designed well. But Slayers weren’t the jumpy sort. Her hands hung steady at her sides as she continued to walk towards him, putting a seductive swing to her hips when she smiled a greeting.
“Aren’t you happy to see me?” Perfect. Throaty, flirty, confident.
He turned towards her and she caught her first glimpse of his face, stopping dead in her tracks. She was used to handsome men. Angel, Spike, Riley – all hotties. She liked to think she had good taste. But this guy in his black silk shirt partially open at the neck and black trousers perfectly tailored to fall with the long lines of his legs – this guy wasn’t a hottie. Or pretty. Or handsome. Those words were all lukewarm descriptions, each one almost accurate but not enough. He was beautiful. Perfect. Men weren’t supposed to look like him. If they were that pretty, they weren’t supposed to also be strong. If they looked that beautiful, they shouldn’t also breathe out animal magnetism. How were women supposed to resist?
But of course, they wouldn’t resist. That was the point. Her smile widened to hide the gnashing of molars in the back of her mouth. Money, influence, looks and immortality – of course, the guy was evil. Evil and smiling at her. He raised his glass in her direction as she stopped a few feet from him.
“I’m always happy to see you, bellissima.”
“Me too,” a feminine voice added from behind before a violent shock struck the base of her spine, cold metal on bare skin and a shooting electricity that spasmed through her muscles until she fell shaking to the floor. Buffy’s eyes closed as her body curled in on itself, her muscles continuing to shake. A second surge of voltage raced through her body accompanied by a throaty laugh.
“Enough, Christy,” the Immortal chided.
“But it’s fun,” Christy whined.
Buffy coughed, rolling on to her back to look up at Christy grinning above her and holding a cattle prod. Her body still jerking out of control, she forced herself up on to her elbows and glared. Another few seconds of desperate will power and she had her feet planted and ready to stand. Not that she got any further.
A quick blow to the temple sent Buffy flying nose first into the floor. Two violent kicks to her ribs forced the air out of her lungs and she gasped, her eyes tearing up. A pair of black boots walked around to stand in front of her and she opened her eyes to see a grinning face covered in piercings and topped with a pink mohawk.
“Nuh uh. No getting up, Slayer General,” Simone taunted. “You just lie back and take it.”
“Yeah, take it,” Christy laughed, jumping forward to shock Buffy again with the cattle prod. Buffy’s vision blacked out for a few seconds, her tongue hanging like dead weight in her mouth as her body continued to jump spastically against the lush carpet running down the center of the polished wood floors. It didn’t even hurt anymore. Everything in her body was outside her control now. Even the ability to recognize pain.
She could hear the Immortal chastising somewhere in the distance and his smug voice lit a rage inside her. This bastard wasn’t going to win. Get up. Time to improvise. Now. Plant the crystal in the room and then get back to the front. Then the cavalry would arrive. Oh god, where was the crystal? Her right hand felt empty and numb. She’d dropped it. Dropped it in here, in the center. Good. One more to go.
"Once the last crystal is in place, I'll know. Then we'll come a-running."
“Yo…you’re…pathe…thetic…” Her voice shook, no louder than a whisper.
The Immortal answered with a low chuckle. “I do admire your spirit, Slayer. If only you weren’t so easily corrupted. You have been quite the dark horse this past year. Upsetting the balance. Destroying your own moral center. What option have you left us but to remove you from power? You’re far too unpredictable to be left in play. Not that I expect you to understand.” He shrugged. “You’ll be replaced and the world will forget you. Such is the way of things for mortals. Memory is short even within a single lifetime. But have no fear, Buffy Summers, your name will be remembered. Long after you are forgotten, the illusion of you will live on.”
“God, you…really…love the sound… of your own voice…don’t you?”
“What’s not to love?” The Immortal crouched down, cupping Buffy’s chin as he examined her face. “Your time has passed. Where once you inspired great loyalty now you only breed betrayal. You have become impure. Unworthy. The sun will set on your day, Slayer, and rise for another.”
“Sure…” She gritted her teeth as she tried to pull herself out of his grasp. “…and whoever replaces me will end you.”
The Immortal smiled and leaned in to whisper, “No, she won’t.” Letting go of her chin, he held his hand out behind him, inviting a figure to walk out from the shadows.
“No,” Buffy breathed.
The decoy walked towards the pair and ran her hand along the Immortal’s shoulder, caressing him before turning to meet Buffy’s disbelieving eyes.
“Why?” Buffy asked.
“Why? What did you expect?” The decoy sneered. “You don’t even know my name.”