Title: Thought You Should Know - Chapter 29
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 steps heading down into the cellar were giving her the creeps. Buffy took a deep breath – her chin rose, her neck straightened. Then she swallowed the lump in her throat. The lump fell heavy, smothering the butterflies flitting in her stomach.
This was a bad idea.
Her feet cautiously searched for firm ground, feeling for each stair’s edge. She followed the path of grayish light trickling in from the upper door which met the faint haze entering the cellar from the half-windows at the top edges where the stone walls sunk below ground. Or maybe the light turned gray once it got inside. It couldn’t have been gray before. The air was musky, filled with tinges of dust, mold and…wine? She spied the bottles of wine in the far corner. Giles must have been ecstatic in a British way that didn’t outwardly show his glee when he found them.
Buffy stopped in front of the door in the back corner. Inside was a storage room, bigger than a broom closet or a small bathroom, but not by much. She pulled an old iron key from her pocket and unlocked the door, pushing it open tentatively. The room had no windows. The light shining across her back outlined her form on the wall in front of her. She squinted, trying to adjust to the darkness in the room. Her shoulders twitched and she quickly stepped forward and to the side, letting the light enter the dark room through the doorway.
Why hadn’t they put a lamp in here? Why hadn’t she thought to bring one with her?
Shackles rattled against copper pipes in the opposite corner.
“You finally came down for a visit. That’s sweet. I didn’t know you cared,” Simone drawled.
“Does that matter to you?” Buffy asked, searching the darkness to better see Simone. “If I care?”
“Sounds like psychobabble bullshit to me.” Simone scraped her head back against the wall, slumping down into the corner. “Why don’t you cut to the chase? You finally got the balls to do it, huh?”
“I’ve had nothing but time to think about it. You can’t let me go. You wouldn’t. Nobody else can handle me, right? Plus you made me. I done wrong and Mom’s gotta bring the beatdown. I’m your problem. And it took you this long to come down here because you didn’t like what you knew you had to do.”
“You think I’m here to kill you?”
Simone’s head fell forward till her chin bumped against her chest. Her hands brushed against the shaved sides of her scalp, gripping the hanging chains overhead that forced her into a crouch in the corner. “Why else would you be here?”
“Maybe you’re right.” Buffy reached behind her and pulled a knife from the waist of her slacks. She lifted the blade up and watched it flash in the faint light from the doorway. “But I have a few questions for you first.”
Simone snorted. “And why would I tell you jackshit?”
“Maybe it’ll save your life,” Buffy said, shrugging.
“Okay. I’ll play,” Simone chuckled, the sound barren of mirth. “What does her Royal Bossiness wanna know?”
“What were you doing with the Immortal? How did you know him?”
“We met. Wrong time, wrong place. For me, at least. I got… I got caught. One heist too many. He bailed me out. For a favor. There’s always a catch.”
“What did you do for him?”
“He wanted a Slayer on the payroll. The money was good. Really good.”
“But what did you do?”
“He called it tying up loose ends. It was just more slaying. I hunted down some demons he wanted out of the picture. And…”
“Well, you had a front row seat for it, didn’t you? Tried taking back any other islands off the coast of Italy recently?” The sharp edge to Simone’s laugh bounced off the walls. “He wanted the island under new management. It was old mafia territory before we took over.”
“You killed them,” Buffy concluded. Her gut twisted at the realization. “You led your Slayers in there and you…”
“Yeah, people died. Some of my people died. My people died ‘cause we weren’t supposed to kill anybody, just strong-arm ‘em. We’re lucky we had really strong arms.”
“Why? Why would he…?”
“I dunno,” Simone said, scoffing. “And I didn’t care. He said I’d get hotwired into the real power around here if I did him a few favors. A guy like that, you believe it. Except I wasn’t expecting you to come sniffing around.”
“But he was,” Buffy said slowly. “He knew I’d show up, that I’d come looking for you.”
“Whatever. Should’ve figured you’d put your nose in it. You just can’t let anyone have fun, can you? Everything’s gotta be done your way. ‘Cause every other way is wrong if it’s not your way.” Simone jerked against her chains, banging her head against the wall in frustration.
Buffy stared at the top of Simone’s head bent down, trying to imagine the vibrant pink of her mohawk in the shadows. She gave up. She still couldn’t see clearly in here. “I read up on you,” she mused. “Bits and pieces at first. But there was enough to get an idea. Where you came from, what you want-”
“Sounds exciting,” Simone interrupted. “And yay, more psychobabble. Why don’t we skip the bullshit reflections and just go straight to the verdict?”
“I like reflections. They’re all… reflecty.”
“That’s ‘cause you’re a vain, know-it-all bitch,” Simone sneered.
“Ouch. You been practicing that line? Might wanna try going with a little more disdain next time. Really put your heart into it. You gotta sell it if you wanna make ‘em run away crying.” Buffy tilted her head. “What? No witty comeback?”
“Yeah, anyways,” Buffy said, raising her eyebrows dismissively. “I read up on you. Your family. Your childhood. You had it rough growing up. Your mom died when you were twelve. Your dad lived part-time on unemployment, full-time on the alcohol. Did he hit you? Your teachers thought he was hitting you, but there wasn’t enough proof.”
“You don’t know me.”
“No, I don’t know you. Not really. I have no idea what your favorite color is though I’m gonna guess hot pink,” Buffy said, glancing at Simone’s hair. “I don’t know how old you were when you had your first kiss. Or what you wanted to be when you grew up. I don’t know all that stuff. The little things that make you different. Special. I don’t know you. Not the real you.” Buffy walked forward and crouched in front of Simone. She unlocked Simone’s shackles and stood up. Stepping back a few paces, she dropped the knife, letting it clatter to the floor in front of Simone. “I don’t know you, but I’m looking to find out. You ready to show me who you are?”
A tense moment passed, Simone’s eyes flicking up at Buffy and down at the knife. She lunged forward, grabbing the knife and jumping up. The tip of the blade touched Buffy’s neck, pressing down without piercing skin.
“You scared now?” Simone snarled, her body shaking.
“No,” Buffy answered calmly, never flinching. She forced her hands to stay relaxed at her sides. She bit back every instinct inside her screaming to grab the knife, twist Simone’s arm and beat her back. Instead, she exhaled. “’Cause I don’t think you’ll do it. You don’t want to, do you? You don’t wanna be a killer. Even though you’re headed in that direction. You don’t want it.”
Simone’s arm shook, her body jerking forward to push the blade while her arm pushed back, resisting. “I fucking hate you, you bitch!”
“I know. You hate me. You hate you. You hate everybody. There’s no one you can count on. You’re alone…” Buffy swallowed, feeling the blade shake against her throat. “Except you’re not. You’re not alone, Simone. You’re not alone. I care what happens to you. I think you wanna be more. And you can be. I believe that.”
“I’m gonna kill you,” Simone said, her voice shaking.
“Go ahead,” Buffy whispered. “What’s stopping you?”
A guttural moan escaped Simone’s throat. She turned and stabbed the knife into the wall, punching the stone before falling to her knees. A quiet keening broke out only to be ruthlessly muffled before it could turn into a sob. Her shoulders heaved.
“You’re not a killer, Simone,” Buffy said softly.
Simone chuckled darkly and looked at Buffy over her shoulder, hands braced on her knees. “You think I can’t do it? Oh, I can, you stupid bitch.”
“Maybe. People are capable of almost anything.” Buffy strained to make her voice soft and understanding. “The difference with you, though, is that you don’t want to. Not really. That voice in the back of your head that you stopped listening to – you can still hear it, can’t you? It’s time to start listening again.”
“So what? You’re gonna be like my Jiminy fucking Cricket? Tellin’ me what’s right and wrong till I’m a real girl?”
“No, I’m not gonna do that. I wouldn’t know where to start,” Buffy said, shaking her head. “I wish I could help you, but I can’t.”
“Fuck you,” Simone spat, her mouth contorting painfully. “You’re just like everybody else. A fucking waste of my time.”
Buffy heaved a breath then bit the insides of her cheeks. “I wanna help you, but I don’t know how. I’m sorry.”
“Save it,” Simone snapped, rising angrily to her feet. “I don’t need you or your goddamn apology. I never needed you.”
“I don’t understand what you’re going through,” Buffy continued. “I can pretend, but I don’t know what it’s like for you.”
“Right, ‘cause you’re so fucking perfect.”
“Nah, she ain’t perfect, kid,” Faith said, leaning against the doorway, arms crossed. “That halo you’re lookin’ at – it’s highlights. Dye job. She’s just as fucked up as the rest of us. In her own special way, of course, but still messed in the head. And don’t let anybody tell you different. Especially her.” Faith looked at Buffy, signaling her with a nod. “I got this.”
After a long moment, Buffy answered quietly, “I know.”
Walking towards the door, she paused to glance over her shoulder at Simone who stood frozen in place, her gaze shifting between Buffy and Faith. She was halfway to the stairs when she heard the first punch. It stopped her in her tracks. That better have been Simone. She’d worked out the plan with Faith and…
That better have been Simone.
Buffy tilted her head back towards the storage room, straining to hear.
“Get off me, you fucking dyke!”
“Don’t flatter yourself, kid. You’re not my type.”
Punch. Crack. The sounds muffled. They must have dropped to the floor, wrestling. Then it got quiet. Buffy turned and rushed back to the doorway. She knew this wouldn’t work. She should’ve known. Why did she think this would work?
She saw them wrapped in shadow and faint light. Faith had Simone in a headlock, kneeling behind her to hold Simone still. Except it didn’t look like a headlock. It looked almost like they were… hugging.
“Now listen up ‘cause I’m gonna tell you a story,” Faith said in a low voice. “It’s about a girl who made some bad choices. Really fucked up choices. She hurt everyone who ever cared about her. She got lost. Lost in the hate and the kill. You have any idea how hard it is to come back from that? Nah, you don’t know. Maybe you never will. That’s the plan, kid. I’m here to make sure you never have to know what that’s like.”
“Fuck you,” Simone hissed, trying to bite Faith’s arm.
Oh, you’re feisty.” Faith laughed, pulling Simone’s head back to keep her teeth from connecting. “Go ahead, let it out. Wail on me. Call me names. I can take it. I’m not going anywhere. You’re just gonna have to get used to me, kid.”
“I’m not a kid.”
“That right? ‘Cause you sure punch like one.”
Simone screamed in frustration and slung her head back, connecting with Faith’s nose. Faith laughed it off and wrestled her down, hugging her tightly until Simone’s arms were trapped at her sides.
“Stop,” Simone sobbed. “Let go.”
“Nah. Not gonna,” Faith said softly. “It’s okay. It’s gonna be okay.”
Buffy backed away, careful to not make a sound. She stopped trying to hear every word as she walked down the hall and up the stairs. Spike stood at the landing, waiting for her.
“How’d it go?”
“It went…” Buffy looked back down the stairs. “It went good. I think it’s good. Faith’s got it covered.”
“Sure sounded like a good time. Why am I always missing out on the action?”
Buffy raised an eyebrow. “You looking for some action?”
“What’d you have in my mind?”
Spike frowned. “Well, that’s not gonna be any fun. He’ll break before I even flash fang.”
“I was thinking more intimidation and persuasion.”
“Why not just ask him? Doesn’t he work for you? You’d think he’d be all about cooperating and sucking up to the boss.”
“Not about this,” Buffy explained. “I made it very clear he wasn’t supposed to do something. I know he did, but… I have to make him admit it first.”
“What’d he do?”
“What’s he always do no matter how many times you tell him not to?”
“Pfft, that list is long. Hell, it’s neverending.”
“Come on.” Buffy walked past Spike, brushing shoulders. “Follow me and I’ll show you some action.”
“The words sound so right and yet…”
“Focus, Spike,” Buffy tossed over her shoulder.
“I’m plenty focused.”
Buffy turned to face him, hands on her hips. “On the plan. Focus on the plan.”
“You haven’t told me the plan. It’s hard to focus on the plan when I don’t know what the plan is.”
“We’re gonna torture Andrew until he squeals. Just go with it. You know you’re dying to break out the Big Bad act.”
Buffy gave him a look.
“Fine,” Spike huffed. “Let’s go.”