Title: Thought You Should Know - Chapter 32
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
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 to ladyofthelog for the wonderful icon. Supreme, heartfelt gratitude to penny_lane_42 for the wonderful beta, her incredible enthusiasm that inspired me to push through and for just being inspiring in general.
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.
Time froze within the gasp of air caught in her throat and for a moment she was struck by how horrifically beautiful disaster looked. Despite all the apocalypses she’d survived and averted, no one had ever told her that when the sky literally falls, it plummets to Earth in the colors of a psychedelic rainbow. One stray beam of reddish orange danced across the night air above her, sizzling as it grazed her cheek, melting into her skin, igniting every sinew and synapse.
Her body snapped into action. Panicked breath on the verge of a whimper punctuated her jerky rhythm. She rolled to her knees and yanked her sweater over her head, shoving Spike to the side as she surged to her feet.
She didn’t hear the rest. She didn’t look back. She just ran.
She ran through the fluorescent sparks of magic that drizzled down from the burst holes in the invisible dome surrounding the manor. Above her, the helicoptor’s whirling blades sent the sparks flying in sprinkler circles to the grass. Slayer speed pushed to the max, she dove through the shower waves falling in the helicoptor’s wake. The colors dropped a curtain over her vision, turning her chase into a blind sprint.
She shut her eyes, ignoring the bright distractions, instead focusing on the feel of the grass beneath her pounding feet. She flashed forward through the drops that bounced off her cheeks and clung to the fabric of her white sweater. The sparks heated the air until it quivered and burned against her skin.
The helicopter hummed far in front of her, pulsating in the sky – she felt its echo ping in her spine and honed in on the signal, letting it guide her forward. She tore up mounds of earth with each powerful lunge, leaping forward like an Olympic long-jumper running at a dead sprint.
Eyes still closed, she collided into a man with the force of a freight train, molding to the hard edges of weapons and ammunition strapped to his body and the heavy Kevlar vest across his chest. Feet knocked off course, she toppled over, rolling with him on the grass. She scrambled upright, unshaken, and snaked over to slug him in the jaw, registering that he was outfitted in black commando gear from head to toe.
“Buffy!” Spike shouted, and she spun into the butt of a rifle aimed at her temple. She deflected with a forearm block, diving under the commando’s sweeping arm to grip him by the wrist and flip him over her shoulder. Wresting the rifle from his grasp, she clocked him with the butt of the weapon before tossing it aside. Two commandos now lying unconscious at her feet. Two down.
“What the hell is this?” Spike yelled over the roar of the choppers’ engine, sliding to a stop at her side and sidling close till their shoulders brushed.
“They found us,” she panted, squinting against the glare of search lights beaming down from half a dozen helicopters surrounding the manor.
“And who the hell are they?”
She shook her head.
I don’t know.
A shot sounded from one of the hovering choppers and a projectile whistled through the air for a split second before shredding through a wall of the garage running along the west corner of the main house. One whistle then two and three and four. The roof of the garage exploded under the impact, lighting up the sky with a blinding white fire that turned red as it burned the oxygen in the air. Bits of stone and mortar rocketed through the sky then fell to the ground, crashing through the glass ceiling of the greenhouse and breaking branches off the surrounding trees.
A fender from one of the SUVs parked in the garage smashed into the ground two feet from where Spike stood. He jumped away, eyeing the sky warily before stepping forward and kicking the fender. “Guess they don’t want us leaving the party.” He snorted. “Or they really hate German gas guzzlers.”
The sound of gunshots fired inside the manor. Buffy jerked out of her daze. She turned her back on the flames consuming the garage. She ignored the helicopters circling overhead. The back entrance to the kitchen was open, the door broken off its hinges and lying half-shattered on the linoleum floor.
Another soldier in commando gear had Xander in a chokehold, pinning him against the kitchen counter. Near the kitchen dinette table, commando guy number two was swinging his fist at Dawn, who jumped back to dodge the blow and tripped over a box on the floor. She landed on her back, hands upraised against the next attack. The commando stood over her, arm pulled back, fist clenched. Just as his muscles released tension and snapped forward, a small hand grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, lifted him up and tossed him across the kitchen. His body flew over the island counter and banged into the industrial steel refrigerator.
“Dawn? Are you okay?” Buffy asked, helping her sister stand while running hands over her arms and carefully touching the bruise on her cheek.
Giving a shaky nod, Dawn joked, “Who thought it was a good idea to invite the Evil Commando Ninjas to dinner? ‘Cause they suck.”
“Spike,” Xander croaked from across the room, fighting to loosen the grip of the commando with tree trunks for arms.
Spike grunted, gripping the commando by the wrists and pulling to no effect. Moving on to Plan B, Spike stepped back and punched him in the temple. The commando flinched and, without loosening his chokehold on Xander, barreled into Spike, causing him to trip over an overturned chair and land on the floor with his boots pointed at the ceiling. Kicking the chair out of the way, he rose to his feet and grabbed the heaviest object at hand – a frying pan covered in grease and bits of melted cheese – and swung it at the commando’s head.
“Too many cooks in the bloody kitchen,” Spike snarled, watching the commando slump to the floor with a feral smirk.
“Sure took you long enough,” Xander coughed, leaning against the kitchen counter and rubbing his throat.
“Sorry you weren’t man enough to save your life all on your own, Harris. Now be a good damsel in distress and say ‘thank you’ or next time I’ll let whoever’s thrashing you knock some sense into that thickheaded noggin before I lend a hand.”
“Guys, where’s Andrew?” Buffy demanded, letting go of Dawn to search the room.
“Sleeping the sleep of the knocked unconscious,” Xander said, nodding at the Sketchers peeking out from behind the kitchen counter. “He freaked out, slipped on some guacamole and hit his head.” He pointed a shaky finger at Dawn. “No more cooking for you, Evil Chef! I should’ve known your crazed recipe would start an apocalypse. No bueno – muy no bueno.”
“This is my fault?” Dawn scoffed. “Get real.”
Then the room plunged into darkness.
“Oh great, they cut the power,” Xander groaned. “Bright side, no more catastrophic cooking creations of badness.”
“Enough!” Buffy snapped. “How many are inside? Did you only see these two or were there more?”
Spike cocked his head to the side, listening to distant sounds. “There’s more. Two doors down.”
Buffy met his gaze from across the dark room, and in their shared look strategies were formed and silently agreed upon before they moved into action. She rushed through the hallway with Spike at her heels only to stumble to a halt in the main living room when her feet slipped in a puddle of blood.
The room was silent. Two Slayers, Leah and Rowena, stood at opposite corners of the room with their heads bowed. Leah clutched a long shard of glass. Rowena held a knife. The large bay window running along the outer wall was shattered – was that how they got in?
A muffled sob drew her attention and Buffy saw one of her junior Slayers, Breannah, crouched over a body in the center of the room, her slight form masked in shadow.
“She’s dead,” Breannah hiccupped. “She’s…” She rocked back and forth, clinging to the girl’s hand, her sobs bleeding together into one long sonorous keening.
Tiffany Marie Cooper. Eighteen years old. 5’6’’. 135 pounds. Blonde hair. From Cary, North Carolina, USA. Hobbies: soccer, classical music (studied violin in high school). Education: accepted to Duke University on a music scholarship; enrollment deferred upon being Called. Still too green for field work. Weak in hand-to-hand combat. Doesn’t trust her instincts. Afraid to use her power. Reluctant to inflict pain on others – even demons.
Evaluation: Needs more training. She’s… not ready.
The training report flashed in Buffy’s mind. She blinked, then clenched her teeth and forced the bile down with a harsh swallow. “Rowena, what happened?”
Rowena avoided meeting her eyes. “They… we… they killed her. We had to.”
“Had to what?” Buffy asked then flinched at the shock from the flashlight Giles carried into the room.
“Dear lord,” Giles breathed in shock at the sight of the bodies lying throughout the room, wounds seeping blood that sunk into the area rug and pooled on the hardwood floor.
A commando lay on the floor to Buffy’s right, his neck wrenched at an impossible angle, his left arm twisted so far behind his back that it hung out of socket.
A commando lay sprawled on the couch, his upper body dangling off the side, blood dripping from his neck.
A commando lay across the window casing, hanging limp, a shard of glass sticking out from the underside of his jaw.
A commando lay on the floor behind an armchair, seemingly uninjured.
Buffy walked forward and knelt at his side, checking his wrist for a pulse. There was none. His body was already turning cold. She ran her hands along his chest and found a break in the weave of his Kevlar vest. Stake to the heart. She glanced at the knife in Rowena’s hand. No – knife to the heart. Slayer strength had forced the blade through the protective gear.
First rule of Slaying – don’t die. Second rule – never stop till they’re dead. Remember, head and heart. Always go for the head and the heart. In the end, that’s all you need to know.
Buffy pulled back the mask covering the commando’s face to reveal the man underneath. He looked young. Maybe even younger than her. He had blue eyes. She squinted in the darkness – maybe he had blue eyes. She ran her hand down his forehead and across his eyes, closing them shut. Nothing left for him to see, was there? Besides, she couldn’t bear to look into his dead eyes anymore. And wasn’t that what you did? When someone died, you closed their eyes. It was only fair that someone got to close their eyes.
“We had to,” Rowena repeated. “Right, Leah?”
Leah dropped the shard of glass in her hand to the ground, hugging her arms across her chest.
“We had to,” Rowena cried. “Leah! You know we had to. Leah…?”
Leah squeezed her eyes shut, shaking her head and biting her lip.
“We had to. We had to,” Rowena whispered, sagging against the wall behind her.
“It’s... it’s okay,” Buffy managed to choke out, standing now, girding herself against the lurch in her stomach at the smell of blood and death in the room. Human blood. Human death. It smelled different. It felt different. “It’s not your fault.” It’s mine. “Don’t blame yourself.” Blame me. “We have to keep moving.” We have to get out of this room. “It’s not safe here.” No one’s safe here.
“And go where how exactly?” Spike asked. “All the cars have been blown to hell and back.”
“I vote for any place where crazy soldier guys aren’t shooting at us,” Connor said, limping into the room with one arm draped over Lara’s shoulder, who was helping him stand with one arm clasped around his waist. Looking down at the bloodstain spreading on his t-shirt covering his left shoulder, Connor added, “’Cause you know those rumors about how getting shot is a blast? Yeah, not so much.”
“Shut up,” Lara said fiercely. “Stop joking about getting shot or I’m going to strangle you.”
“Okay, everyone listen up,” Buffy demanded. ”We have to-”
Buffy? Are you okay? Buffy?!
She grimaced – Willow’s voice felt like a scream stabbing her temples.
We’re… okay. Where are you? Are you hurt?
We’re good. Kennedy and I flew out of there when they shot tear gas into our bedroom. We’re on the north side of the woods. Buffy, you have to get out of there. There’s more coming.
Too many. And they’ve got some serious mojo working for them. They’re immune to my magic. That’s how they broke through the magical barrier I’d put up. And they’re using some sort of technology that interferes with our comms – we’re flying blind here. We need to regroup and figure out some plan of attack.
We’re not attacking. I’m sending everyone your way – can you give them some kind of cover? Stealth mode is beyond needed.
Yeah, I can do that, but-
We fall back.
That blessed internal silence Buffy had yearned for only moments ago now felt like torture when Willow didn’t answer.
Okay. Got it.
Buffy’s eyes drifted back into focus to find Spike staring at her, hands raised to shake her out of her trance. She glared a warning at him. The last thing she needed was someone shaking her when she already felt queasy.
Lifting his hands palms up in apology, he let them drop to his sides. “Tell Red I really hate it when she does that,” Spike rumbled.
“Tell her yourself,” Buffy shot back. She shook her shoulders to dislodge the wiggins and added with a grumble, “It’s not like it’s my most favorite thing ever.”
“Don’t you even care?” Breannah said, spearing Buffy with a tearful gaze of accusation from her kneeling stance. “Tiffany’s dead and you haven’t said anything. It’s like she doesn’t even matter.”
“I care, but we have got to move because there’s more trouble headed our way. There isn’t time to stop. There isn’t even time for this conversation, so listen up,” Buffy ordered. “We fall back. We’re leaving. We are not going to engage in this fight, is that clear?”
“You want us to run?” Rowena sneered.
“No,” Giles interrupted. “She’s ordering a tactical retreat. And where are we headed?”
“North side of the woods,” Buffy directed. “Willow’s whipping up some mystical cover so you won’t be followed.”
“And you will be…?”
“Making sure everyone else gets the memo. Comms are down, so I’m looking to spread the word and get anyone out that Willow might have missed. Go out the back and grab Xander and Dawn and Andrew.”
“Be careful,” Giles said, sending her a look of concern. Making his way towards Breannah, he held out his hand to her and said softly, “We must go now.”
Buffy didn’t wait to see if Giles would persuade her. He had to convince Breannah to cooperate. She knew it and he knew it, which meant that it would get done, no matter what.
Catching Spike’s attention, Buffy sent him a nod then spun on her heels, leaving Giles to guide the girls out of the bloody room. Striding down the hallway headed towards the stairs, she and Spike stepped to the side as nearly two dozen Slayers rushed past them in the direction of the kitchen. Looks like Willow had gotten the message out with her witchy voodoo.
“Who else are we missing?” Spike asked, keeping pace with her as they turned a corner and rushed up the stairs.
“I dunno. But I know what I’m missing and there’s no way I’m leaving without it.”
He snorted. “You women and your shiny ancient weaponry.”
When they reached the communication station in the attic, Buffy entered in a code that opened the heavy, titanium-reinforced steel door. In the center of the armory, the Scythe lay on display. She wasted no time in lifting it from its resting place, letting the grooves of the hilt absorb the heat from her tight grip.
With a satisfied look, she said, “Time to go,” and headed back down to second story level.
“You sure there’s nothing else?” he snarked. “Maybe we forgot to turn the oven off.”
“No, that’s it,” she said grimly, then paused when she remembered the Slayer footage saved on the hard drive back in the attic. “Oh, crap,” she muttered and turned back towards the attic stairs.
“I knew you’d forgotten something!”
From the far end of the hall, a woman shouted, “Buffy!”
She knew what that tone meant. She’d heard that tone combined with her name too many times to doubt it. People only called for her like that when they felt completely out of their depth and wanted her to come and save them, protect them, kill the bad monsters and keep the world safe from evil. And just as she was hardwired to recognize the urgency in the tone, she was hardwired to respond immediately to the call.
Except what she found at the end of the hall wasn’t something she could slay.
Simone knelt inside the door of the bedroom, pressing both hands down on Faith’s bloody thigh. Faith was leaning up against the wall, her eyes barely open. Simone shot Buffy a look of utter helplessness. “I can’t get it to stop. It won’t stop bleeding. I think… I think she’s dying.”