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, Language 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 ladyofthelog for the awesome icon.
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, sycophantic 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 shadow dropped from the ceiling, covering Buffy in a cold black shroud.
No friends. No one, but the One. Only blood. Death. Alone. Fight alone.
The shadow gripped her throat, sliding up to cup her jaw and force her mouth open. Black shadow siphoned down her throat, choking her, ripping her esophagus raw. Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes. The dark settled in her chest, dripping down into her belly, sifting through her veins. She felt it from the tips of her toes and fingers, from the deepest recesses of her body to the surface hair singing fire on her skin. She was suffocating. Drowning. She stopped breathing and discovered she didn’t need air anymore. Her skin hardened and turned black, like the charred outer layers of an ancient oak rotting from the inside. The oak stood tall and distorted, roots shaken from the Earth, no longer giving life to air, only offering shadows in the forest.
She was death. The bringer of darkness. She was darkness. And it was good. It was right. It was pure.
Let them come. Let them stand against her. They would fall beneath her fury.
She was the Slayer.
“No,” Buffy whimpered, kicking out in her sleep. Her eyes shot open. She panted jagged breathes, hands shaking against her chest. She was curled into a tight ball, clutching a cool arm encircling her waist.
She turned to look over her shoulder and found him in a deep sleep, unmoving. Peaceful. Her bedroom was pitch-black save for the blue light creeping in under the curtains. She slipped out from under Spike’s grasp, walking forward and pulling the edge of the curtain back. The sun was rising. She could feel it roaming beneath the horizon. She pulled the curtains tightly shut. They were a heavy damask and newly hung for her new roommate.
A moment passed, then Buffy leaned over the bed and gently brushed her fingers across his forehead and down his temple. Sighing, she left her room and shut the door behind her. Let him have his peaceful sleep.
The kitchen was huge, foreign and eerily silent. It took her ten minutes to find the coffee and another ten to find the filters. Shouldn’t they be together? The smell of hot coffee brewing drifted up, permeating the air with a heavy earthiness. Logic guiding her, she opened the cabinet above the coffeemaker and found an array of mugs. She chose the simple cream mug without adornment, passing over the novelty mugs covered in cute animals and catchphrases that shouted ‘Numero Uno’, ‘Kiss the Librarian’ and ‘Talk to me before I drink this and I will SLAY you’. She was this close to choosing the last one, but her dark mood was already painted on her sleeve. She didn’t need it on her mug, too.
Coffee in hand, she drifted to the kitchen alcove and sat at the small round table, leaning down to take a tentative sip of her too hot drink.
“Do you want to be alone?”
Buffy gasped, half-choking on the hot coffee burning the back of her mouth. A girl with heavy spiked blades of purple hair gelled to shoot in all directions sat in the corner of the bench seat at the window, her knees pulled up against her chest. She wore an oversized Stanford sweatshirt that hung off her shoulders, the bunched folds pulled down to hide her hands.
“No, it’s okay,” Buffy said politely, looking down at her hands. “You were here first.”
“It’s not like that really matters,” the girl murmured, looking down at her lap.
Looking up, Buffy blinked then squinted. “Lara?”
“Your…” hair is purple “…you’re up early.”
“You, too. Trouble sleeping?” Her mouth quirked. “Yeah, it’s fun, huh?”
A silence fell between them, sinking down to rest heavy on their shoulders, bending their heads towards the floor. Buffy tried to think of everything she needed to say to Lara, apologies and a promise to try harder from now on. The words circled her mind without landing in her voice. Instead, she blurted out, “You cut your hair.”
Lara fingered a purple strand lying against her cheek and smiled. “Yep.”
“Purple,” she supplied, her smile growing.
“Yeah. It’s purple,” Buffy echoed. “…Very purple.”
“You like it?”
“Yeah, I thought you wouldn’t.” Lara laughed. “I think it’s awesome. I figured it’s the last thing you’d do. You seem pretty stuck on the whole California blonde thing. Plus I always wanted to dye my hair a crazy color. Just never found a reason, I guess.”
“And you thought now was a good time to go radioactive fuschia?”
“Why not?” Lara shrugged. “Willow undid the glamour that made me look like you and I thought about going back to my natural color. Except I couldn’t remember what my shade was. Ash brown, golden brown, dark brown, blah brown, too many browns… It can’t hurt to try something new. I might try blue next. Or pink.”
“That’s, uh, drastic.”
“Drastic can be good. Sometimes you just have to start over. Sometimes it all just goes so crazy, you need to go drastic.” Lara pulled on the strand of purple hair, twisting it around her finger. “It’s not exactly a clean slate, but… I’m trying.”
“I… I didn’t realize you knew your way around here. I don’t even know where the nearest drug store is. To buy hair dye, I mean.”
“Connor got it for me.” She picked at the sleeves of the oversized grey sweatshirt.
“Oh. That’s… that was nice of him.”
“Yeah. He’s nice.” Lara licked her lips nervously. “So, how’s Spike?”
“He’s good. Very good. Sleeping. It’s daylight and, you know, vampire, so of course he’s sleeping. Who in their right minds isn’t sleeping right now besides farmers and nurses on third shift? Not that you’re not in your… I mean… Would you like some coffee with way too much sugar?”
“No, thanks,” Lara replied, standing. “I think I’m gonna go for a walk. Get some fresh air. Oh, a delivery guy came a little while ago. There’s a package for you.” She nodded at the desk in the corner where a flat rectangular box sat. “I almost opened it by accident. I guess I got too used to your name. Sorry.”
“I mean I’m sorry, too.”
“It’s okay,” Lara reassured.
“It’s really not,” Buffy breathed.
“It’ll be okay, then.”
“Yeah, it will,” Lara said simply, turning and walking out of the back door, the door shutting behind her quietly.
Buffy stared down at the coffee mug, spinning it lightly in her hands to set the liquid swirling. She lost sight within the whirlpool of dark brown, her head leaning to the side to watch the coffee settle back to an even keel. Pushing the mug away, she moved to grab the package on the desk. She returned to her seat at the table, ripping the perfectly taped seams open. Another smaller box rested within, a letter on top of it addressed in an elegant script to ‘Miss Buffy Summers’.
A twinge sparked at the back of her neck and traveled down her spine. She lifted the letter and turned it over, thumbing the red wax seal engraved with the symbol of a figure-eight. She slipped her finger under the edge and pulled the flap up.
First, I must begin with my apologies. There are many and the foremost being my elaborate deception. Yet I must remind you that it was you who began this game. You who sought to deceive me with your doppelgänger. I thought it fitting to let you slip the noose around your neck and watch it coil ever tighter. I waited for the moment when you would realize your error. That moment never came. And so I took a more active role. Nor is it the one you believe yourself to understand. For, even now, you understand little of what has come to pass.
A man came to see me. A man in a mask. Never trust those who hide their true face. Secrets worn brazenly are married to a ruthless ambition. I know this truth well. Never trust such a man who offers you exactly what you want. The appearance of interests aligning is illusory. A manipulation to cover another agenda. Suspicion, once raised, leads a curious mind to follow. I have many ways of discovering secrets and in following the mask, I discovered secrets that you needed to know.
The tide turned and so action was taken to bring light to your eyes. To shake you free from your silent sleep. The world was changing and you stood still. It was past time you were awakened. The world is turning against you and you wait for what? A reprieve? Understanding is never given to those who live secret lives. You were blind to humanity falling prey to your oldest enemy, the vampire. Humanity and Slayers fell and you would not see. A whisper to Lara that you were in Rome and a suggestive hint. And thus you were distracted and redirected away from your Slayer power games to see the victims falling by the wayside.
The evil spreading is not of my design. I have no thirst to end your line. I have no thirst left in me. You needed an enemy to defeat and lead you back to firmer ground. Have I not given you much in return for bringing me absolution? Merciful death for restoring your vision – it is more than fair.
Look around you. The battle is already being won. The world wants you gone. The game has changed. You are the one who changed it, yet you continue to fight as you’ve always done. You defeated the villain, me, the Immortal, and what has it gained you? Nothing. For the world is against you. How can you hope to save a world that wishes you crushed beneath its boot?
You were easy to manipulate. Do you know why? You have surrounded yourself in darkness. You jump at shadows, mistaking ally for enemy. You have lost your way. There will always be those who seek to misguide you. Remove yourself from their machinations. One honest voice rings out among a thousand liars. Be the clarion call. You must recapture your message. Your mission. Your world. Be the hero the world needs. You are the Warrior of Light. Your righteous fist cannot waver. Strength for strength. You do not belong in my middle ground. It will swallow you whole. When you compromise yourself, you doom humanity.
The end is nigh, Slayer. Will you be ready for Twilight?
P.S. I have enclosed something that belongs to you. My apologies yet again.
Buffy read the letter again, pushing down her automatic resentment and forcing herself to process the words and the meaning behind them. Her gut twisted. It was all another game. That sick bastard. That know-it-all bastard. Folding the letter and stuffing it back into the envelope, she pulled the lid off the smaller box. It was filled with dozens of letters and postcards. Some were short, scribbled messages of “I’m missing you. Always.” or “I saw this and thought of you.” She rubbed her finger across the familiar script. Spike’s handwriting.
Tears slipped down her cheeks as she laid the letters on the table, reading one after the other. She snorted and rubbed away the moisture on her cheek with the back of her hand. Love letters. How Victorian of him. Unrequited love letters. She’d have answered if she’d only known…
First Giles, then the Immortal. People were working overtime to keep her and Spike apart. She saw him sleeping in her bed in her mind’s eye. The joke was on them.
“Whoa, sorry. Didn’t mean to interrupt… whatever it is you’re doing.”
“Good morning, Faith,” Buffy drawled, still looking down at the letters in her hands.
“Morning. I’ll just, uh, let you get back to it.”
Faith pointed over her shoulder, gesturing that she would leave. Faith’s shirt was ripped at the hem, her cheeks smudged in dirt. She’d just come back from slaying. Or partying too hard. No, it was slaying. Buffy smelled the dust on her hands.
“No, wait. Stay. There was something I wanted to talk about with you.” Buffy tilted her head towards the empty chair next to her. “Please.”
Faith sat gingerly on the edge of the seat, her eyes measuring Buffy’s mood and coming away blank and confused. “That’s a lot of letters.”
Buffy smiled inwardly at the attempt at small talk. “Yeah, it is. They took a while to get here.”
“I’ve never been a big fan of letters. If you can’t say it in person, what’s the point? It’s the being there that counts, you know.”
Buffy nodded. “Yeah. Otherwise the message gets lost.”
“Yeah, I guess. If you say so.”
Time to move past the small talk. “What are you doing here, Faith?”
Faith jerked back in her chair, tossing her hands up. “Whoa, okay. I’m here to help. I get that you don’t like me around, but I thought… Is it always gonna be like this?”
“No,” Buffy said, sighing. “I mean, are you staying? Are you planning on staying?”
“Have I worn out my welcome?” Faith leaned forward to glare at Buffy. “You want me gone, just say it. I don’t wanna be stepping on your prissy toes.”
“I don’t want you to leave.” Buffy shook her head. “I just wanna understand why you’re here. What you want out of all of this.”
“What do I want? What do you think I want? I wanna help. Why can’t you just accept that I’ve changed?” Faith sounded hurt.
Buffy closed her eyes and breathed deeply. This was harder than she’d thought it would be. She opened her eyes and asked, “Will you help me?”