Title: Thought You Should Know - Chapter 31
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 uber special thanks to ladyofthelog for the awesome icon and also for being such an amazing beta.
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 Harmonic Divergence). 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 fluorescent glow from the computer screens was the only light in the work room. The sound of laughter played over the speakers, then a girl off-screen cried, “Come on! Where’s the action? I’m looking to make some dust.”
“For a second there, I thought you were hard-up for a date,” a girl with short black hair and brown leather jacket said, laughing.
“Shut up, Corinne,” the girl from before said, appearing on-screen, hair a wild tousled brown pulled back into a high ponytail, her dark red sweater sleeves pushed up to her elbows. “I don’t get dating and patrolling mixed in my head unlike some people I could name.”
“From what I hear, it’s the popular way to go,” Corinne retorted, hopping up to stroll down the stone wall running along the darkened walkway.
“Only if your name starts with ‘B’ and ends with-”
“Ma’am? You were gonna say ‘ma’am,’ right?” Corinne shot a nervous glance at the camera.
“Sure. Of course. I’m a good little soldier.” She jumped behind Corinne and wrestled her down to the ground.
“Jamie! Stop it!” Corinne protested, shoving her off with a laugh. “Stop messing around.”
“Messing around? That’s rich coming from you.”
“Knock it off,” Corinne said, punching Jamie in the shoulder and looking straight into the camera again.
A hand touching Buffy’s shoulder made her gasp and turn to find Giles staring at her in concern, his lips moving. She blinked, then pulled the buds out of her ears so she could hear him. She hit ‘pause’ on the playback for the video labeled ‘Barcelona.’
“What did you say?” she asked.
Pulling out the chair next to hers, he sat down, hands braced on his knees. “How long have you been at this?”
“Uh. A while? Why?”
“Have you eaten anything?”
“Sure. I ate breakfast this morning.”
“Coffee,” she replied, flustered. “It was good coffee.”
“What are you looking for?” he asked, gazing at the array of video playback on the half dozen computer monitors mounted at the work console.
She stared at the screens, shrugging. “I dunno. They hate us. I don’t- I don’t understand how they see us. I thought maybe if I- if I tried to see what they see, but how can they… why?”
“Hate is easy. It’s simpler.”
She turned to face him. “Is it? It doesn’t feel that way.”
He nodded at the screen displaying muted footage of a man being interviewed and passing judgment on the so-called terrorist organization, The Slayers. “For them – in the moment – yes, it is simpler. Hate is visceral. Hate is pure and uncompromising. It doesn’t matter what’s real because all that matters is the fear within. Hate is the violent expression of our innermost fears. There is no logic or reason.”
“I’m kinda regretting all my not paying attention in history class. I suddenly feel the need for some civil rights insight. Normally when someone hates me, it’s ‘cause they’re evil. So I slay them. Problem solved.”
“Only you can’t slay these foes.”
“Pretty sure I can’t. Not even the really evil ones like the bloodsucking media hoes. Except Perez Hilton. I don’t think anyone would mind if I-” She stabbed the air with an imaginary stake in her fist.
“On the contrary, it would be on par with averting an apocalypse.”
“Maybe they’d give me a medal,” she said, hopeful.
“Or a miniature bedazzled pink umbrella?”
“Yeah,” she said, eyes distant, voice soft. “Maybe one of those. That’d be nice.”
He lowered his voice to meet her softer cadence. “It would be.”
Dropping her eyes, she whispered, “I’m glad you’re back. I missed you.” She peered up at him from underneath her lashes.
“And I, you,” he replied, a barely-there smile crinkling the corners of his eyes.
“So were you disappointed it wasn’t porn?” she said, eyes dancing.
“Oh!” With a snort, he reached for his glasses then stopped and lowered his hand. “Ha ha. Very funny.”
“I thought it was,” she giggled, pleasure lighting her smile.
Laughter fading away, a silence fell between them. She turned back to the monitor in front of her and fiddled with the mouse before pulling up a video labeled ‘Rome’ and punching play, leaving the sound muted. A shot of a winding street showed a young woman with dark, curly hair saluting the camera and twirling her stake. She rolled her eyes, laughing at something said to her off-screen. Her lips moved, grinning, as she shot back a retort then turned to walk down the street.
“You should come down and eat something,” Giles chided. “Or you’ll miss supper.”
“I will,” she said, nodding, still staring at the screen. “In a little bit.”
His warm hand squeezed her shoulder and she leaned her head towards his touch, smiling.
“Don’t be too long,” he said, rising from his seat and heading towards the door.
“As long as it takes,” she murmured, watching the girl on the screen.
An hour later, her stomach made a last-ditch gurgling rumble and, wonder of wonders, she heeded it. Shutting down the computers, she pulled out the zip drive on which Willow had compressed and transferred the hours of video. She dropped the zip drive into the top desk drawer, locked it and left the work room.
She nodded a greeting at the two Slayers (Marta and… Jackie?) who watched the security feed in the main room of the attic turned into communications central. The back of her neck prickled as she walked down the steps. They were watching her.
Of course they were watching her, always curious to know what the Slayer in charge was up to – more than curious. She felt their gazes weighing on her. Expectant looks awaiting her orders. Problem was she didn’t currently know which way was up – it made it kinda hard to be the bossiest of the bossy.
Headed towards the main stairs that led to the ground floor and the kitchen, she turned a corner and nearly tripped over Willow and Kennedy caught in a passionate embrace. So passionate that they didn’t immediately notice her. She considered walking by without comment, but her hastily muffled snort of amusement somehow broke through the couple’s lusty fog.
“Oh, hey Buffy,” Willow said, licking her lips and pushing her hair back over her shoulder.
“Hey,” Buffy said, holding back her grin so that only the corners of her lips curved up. “So… how are things?
Anything to report?”
“Things are great,” Kennedy said, slipping her arm around Willow’s waist and hugging her close. “Things were about to get even better until somebody interrupted.”
“Yeah, I’m always doing that what with the walking down hallways that aren’t private bedrooms,” Buffy teased.
“No, no, there was no interrupting. We weren’t, well, I mean…” Willow sputtered.
“Relax, Will,” Buffy said, grinning, stepping around the couple and continuing down the hall.
“Oh, I dunno about that,” Kennedy murmured, giving Willow a flirtatious caress along her hip. “I was planning on getting her wound up even more tight before she got a chance to relax.”
“Yeah, I so didn’t need to know that,” Buffy replied, laughing. “But since you guys feel the need to share, maybe you can share in your room? Just a thought.”
Judging by her friskiness, Kennedy was fully healed from her run-in with the Immortal, but that was to be expected, right? She flexed her ankle as she walked, imagining the heat of Willow’s magic coursing through her. Yay magic.
Trudging down the stairs, she grabbed the banister, using it for leverage as she turned at the base of the stairs to head towards the back of the house where the food lived. Running smack into the door swinging open wasn’t planned. Nope, it was just her lucky day.
“Oh, Buffy! Oh, damn. Sorry,” Faith said, hands reaching forward only to immediately drop to her sides. She grimaced in sympathy. “You okay?”
Blinking back stunned tears, Buffy answered, “Peachy. I had my fingers crossed for another concussion and wouldn’t you k now?” She shook her head and waited for her vision to settle. “Well, looks like you missed knocking me senseless, so go you. Unless you were trying to…?”
“No, not trying. We’re talking accident here. And hey I’ve got a witness,” Faith said, nodding behind her. “Sim’ll back me up.”
“Like she’d even believe me,” Simone said with a snort, rubbing the chafed skin on her wrists.
“Hello, Simone,” Buffy said quietly, ignoring the attitude and giving a small smile instead.
“We were just headed upstairs,” Faith said, jerking her head in the direction of the stairs. “Sim’s gonna get cleaned up. Eau de cellar is played out. We’re gonna upgrade her to something that doesn’t make me wanna hurl.”
“Shut up,” Simone said, punching Faith in the arm without any real force.
“Sounds good,” Buffy said, stepping forward just as Simone and Faith moved to walk by her. They danced awkwardly around each other, shoulders bumping and feet tripping until Faith grabbed Simone by the elbow and pulled her to the side.
“Later, B,” Faith called, leading Simone away.
“Later,” Buffy murmured.
Continuing on, she glanced into the study across the hall and saw Lara curled up at the window seat, staring out at the grounds dimly lit by the moon and stars. Her hands were stuffed into the overly large sleeves of the sweatshirt she’d been wearing earlier, legs pulled up to sit Indian-style on the cushions.
Buffy leaned against the study’s doorway, wondering if Lara had gotten the chance to pack any of her clothes before they’d left Italy. Maybe she needed to go shopping. Dawn would jump at the chance to take her. It’d be good for Lara to get to know the others. To not be alone.
Muscle tensed to move towards her, Buffy froze at the sight of Connor now standing in front of the window. Lara turned to look at Connor, then down at the plate he held towards her. She shook her head at what he offered. He smiled and said something while holding the plate aloft, waving it to tease her. With an eye roll, she grabbed half of a grilled cheese sandwich off the plate and took a bite, raising her eyebrow as if to say “satisfied?”
Grinning in triumph, Connor sat down next to her on the window seat, long legs outstretched, hip brushing against her knee. He rested the plate of grilled cheese sandwiches on his lap, devouring one in three large mouthfuls before digging into another. Lara leaned in closer, watching the half-cut sandwiches disappear off the plate. Her hand inched forward to grab one of the remaining halves, only to be caught by the wrist within Connor’s grip.
He waved his half-eaten sandwich in her face, laughing as she moved to grab it with her other free hand. Holding the sandwich in between his teeth, he wrestled with her, holding her off as she tried to grab more sandwiches off the plate.
“Give me one!” Lara insisted, laughing. “Connor!”
“Ha! I thought you weren’t hungry!” he shot back, avoiding her hand diving forward to tickle him in the ribs. He jerked back, knocking the plate off his lap and upending the sandwiches on the floor.
She gasped. “Now look what you did!”
“Me? You’re the one who got all violent and greedy.”
“I so did not!”
Buffy pushed off the doorway and continued walking down the hallway, chuckling softly in time to the shrieking laughter and shouts echoing from the study. Pushing open the door to the kitchen, her smile turned quizzical at the sight of Dawn and Xander amidst an array of boxes.
“How about guacamole?” Dawn suggested. “You can never go wrong with guacamole.”
“Oh, trust me, you can and have gone very, very wrong with guacamole.” Xander grabbed one of the boxes off the counter. “Now bacon bits, on the other hand, are the topping of choice. They make everything better times twelve.”
“Lame,” Dawn said, grabbing the box of bacon bits out of his hand. “You would so get kicked off Top Chef for being unimaginative.”
“Unimaginative? When you say unimaginative, you do mean edible, right?”
“Are you saying I can’t cook?”
“Oh, you can definitely cook. It’s the whole eating part that keeps tripping you up.”
“Fine, have your lame bacon bits,” Dawn said, tossing the box at Xander and smirking as he scrambled to catch it. “I’m gonna top my grilled cheese with salsa, sour cream and guacamole.”
Clearing her throat, Buffy asked, “Any chance I could get one of those sandwiches, only straight up? You know, without the bacony guacamole hybrid toppings.”
“Sure thing, Buff,” Xander said, grabbing a few slices of bread and spreading butter on each side before pressing bits of cheddar inside and tossing it into the frying pan. “All that researching work up an appetite?”
“An appetite for lame, boring food,” Dawn added, biting into her sandwich and dropping bits of salsa, sour cream and guacamole onto her plate.
“Hey, simple can be good. It’s classic,” Buffy defended, holding a plate forward to catch the sandwich Xander slid off the spatula. The golden, greasy bread crunched in her hands as she lifted it up and took a bite of hot, gooey cheese and bread. Happily munching through a mouthful, she said, “Definitely classic.”
“Hey, that was one of my sandwiches,” Dawn protested, licking off bits of guacamole on her lips and fingers.
“I’m making more,” Xander said, sharing an exasperated smile with Buffy.
“Oh, grilled cheese!” Andrew cried, walking into the kitchen.
Dawn grabbed a sandwich from the pile, spooned salsa, sour cream and guacamole onto the crusted bread and said, “Andrew, try this. You’re gonna love it. Maybe even more than my peanut butter, potato chips and grilled cheese!”
“Grilled Cheese de Mexico,” Andrew said with a tinge of awe, pronouncing it as ‘meh-hee-co’ and admiring the colors on the sandwich resembling the Mexican flag.
“It’s totally delicious,” Dawn said.
“Liar,” Xander said, coughing into his fist.
“Shut up,” Dawn said, glaring at him and bumping him with her hip.
Finished eating, Buffy slipped out the back door of the kitchen while Dawn and Xander bickered over the sandwiches. She smiled at the sound of Andrew’s enthusiastic yummy noises as he ate Dawn’s bizarre sandwich creation, then grinned when Dawn demanded Xander admit she was a culinary genius.
Her sister could dream on – there was no way Xander would ever admit that.
Hugging her arms against the chill in the air, she walked along the stone path winding through the untended gardens, growing wild from lack of attention. Slayers weren’t exactly known for their green thumbs. More like the opposite. They were hardwired destructo girls – world beware.
She followed the path to the small lake on the east side of the property. A slight breeze skimmed the surface of the water, making each crested wave shine silver in the darkness. She shifted on her feet, knocking a pebble into the shallow end of the lake and upsetting the even keel of the waters’ rumblings. Bending down, she picked up another pebble, holding the stone in her hand until it grew warm from her body heat. She tossed the pebble into the air, watching it rise then fall into the center of the lake, splashing upon impact and sending ripples emanating back to the bank where she stood. The water lapped at her feet before settling back into a peaceful lull.
She breathed in the moonlit silence and peaceful waters and for one moment, her mind went blank – free of worries and fears and insecurities. Free of questions and doubts.
And then she wasn’t alone anymore.
“I’m sorry about that,” Spike said, standing close behind her. “About Andrew’s…”
“It’s okay,” she whispered, turning to look at him over her shoulder. “It was funny.”
“Then why aren’t you laughing?”
She shrugged and turned back to gaze off into the depths of the lake.
“So what, is this your place for reflection? Your very own reflecting pool.”
“No, definitely not,” she denied. “ I come here to not think.”
He walked forward and stood at her side, following the direction of her gaze to look out into the waters. After a moment, he muttered, “Don’t see what’s so special about it.”
“The water’s so dark. You can’t see what’s underneath,” she mused. “Do you think…”
“Do you think maybe there’s a monster hiding in there?”
“Your very own Nessie?” he said with a grin.
“Loch Ness monster. Scotland. It’d fit.”
“Oh. No. I didn’t mean a real monster. Though it’d be easier if there was some hellbeast in there. If there was, I could slay it. I’m good at that.”
“You’re good at a lot of things.”
She smiled, eyes warmly meeting his. “I think you might be biased.”
“What? Won’t take my word for it? I ask you, where’s the trust?” He leaned in close. “You’d think all the time’s I’ve called you names to your face, you’d know I’m not one for sugar coating.”
“I trust you,” she said, shivering at the touch of his hand to the small of her back.
“Do you now?” he breathed against her cheek, slipping his hand under the cotton of her shirt, trailing cool fingers up her spine.
She turned, brushing her lips against his, her hands feathering across his chest before clutching his sides and pulling him closer, pressing to feel the slide of skin through cotton and leather. Their lips fused, diving into a kiss of words shared and memories relived, of emotions reignited and vows renewed, of forgiveness and devotion and passion. The passion soon overwhelmed all other expressions, boiling down every finer emotion into need. Need for skin and touch and friction.
She pulled back with a gasp, lungs desperate for air. He pressed his forehead against hers, waiting. Her hands pushed his duster off his shoulders, then grabbed his shirt and lifted it up over his head. He lifted his arms, letting her lead, watching as she pulled her own shirt off and tossed it aside.
“Aren’t you worried someone’s watching?” He eyed the manor behind them. “A junior Slayer somewhere has got her nose pressed to the glass, jaw flapping at the sight of you.”
“There’s always someone watching.” She pressed closer to him, pulling his arms up to wrap around her. “That’s never gonna change.”
Lips met. Hands caressed and teased, exploring surfaces hard and soft, coaxing forth shivers and gasps and grunts that echoed in the silence. Then she fell, dropping down onto the cool grass, his body covering hers, sending her heat back into her. Eyes closed, voices quieted – they spoke through the crush of flesh on flesh, through the knowing of scent and sensation.
Colors burst on the inside of her closed eyelids. She gasped at the feel of his tongue on her nipple, her eyes shooting open, unable to contain the rise pulsing inside her. Then she blinked, confused at the colors exploding in the sky above – reds and yellows and blues and greens. Her breath caught in her too-tight throat, twisting down into her stomach. Her hands clutched his shoulders like a vise rigidly drawn.
She watched the magic in the sky scream a silent siren. She watched the whirring blades of the helicopters pass overhead. She watched the enemy she was sworn to protect attack her family.
She watched her world shatter. All she could do was watch.