Title: Thought You Should Know - Chapter 33
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 Extreme 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 lovely icon and her beta insights. 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 understand 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.
She dropped to her knees, letting the Scythe clatter on the floor as she squeezed past Simone to lay her hands atop Faith’s bloodsoaked jeans. There was so much blood. Too much blood. Faith moaned at the faint pressure on her wound where Buffy prodded, her eyelids fluttering open for a brief moment before drooping closed.
Spike huffed out a guttural snort and snapped his head back, stepping away from Buffy’s side and backing up until he bumped into the bed post.
“Spike?” Buffy asked. “What is it?”
“Give us a sec,” he panted. He shook his head, forcing all the air out of his lungs with a laborious exhale. Reaching behind him, he fumbled with the bed linens, ripping the cover sheet out from under the comforter and tearing off one long strip. He tossed the makeshift bandage to Buffy, explaining, “Her femoral artery’s nicked. You gotta make a tourniquet or she’s gonna bleed out. Keep the pressure on. Tie it around the top of her thigh – tight.”
“Is she gonna die?” Simone croaked. “She’s not, is she? You can – you can do something, right? Ah fuck, she’s gonna die.”
“No,” Buffy gritted out, steeling herself against Faith’s weak moan as she lifted her leg and tied the bandage, knotting it with a harsh jerk. “She’s a Slayer. She’s strong. She’s gonna make it.” She had to. Crossing one hand atop the other, she pressed another stretch of cloth against the oozing blood from Faith’s inner thigh. “We just have to keep the pressure on.”
Her hands felt slick and hot from the blood soaking through the fabric and turning the yellow sheets-turned-bandages a dark red. But hot was good, hot meant life, and suddenly she wished her hands could push inside and knit together all the tears. She settled for squeezing her eyes shut then looking up at the ceiling, frantically blinking back the burning moisture threatening to swell up and push her over the edge.
“How? How did this happen?” Buffy asked, searching for signs of a struggle in the bedroom, intent on making sense of the senseless.
She noticed a rifle lying on the carpet at Spike’s feet. He stood on the other side of the doorway near the bedpost, frozen, head bowed, eyes closed, shoulders tensed, fists clenched – his body quivered like a tightly drawn bow, contorting into an uncontrolled shudder every few seconds. Slayer blood. It was affecting him – he was trying his hardest to not show it, to not shift to his gameface. She eyed the distance he’d put between them, feeling it stretch their invisible chord. She hated the distance now more than ever.
“That asshole came out of nowhere,” Simone said, drawing Buffy’s attention back to her. “He got in one lucky shot before we even knew he was here.”
“What guy?” Buffy said, searching the room. She noticed the broken window on the wall opposite the open door and nodded at it. “Is that how he got in?”
“Nah. That’s how he got out,” Simone answered with a grim smile.
“Defenestration – only good thing about Prague,” Spike grunted, his voice shaking underneath the bravado. “’Now that’s the real Bohemian rhapsody.”
Spike was shaken. Simone was shaken. She was shaken. They were all trying so hard not to show it. Trying and failing. Fear and uncertainty surged electric in the air, pushing the walls in too close, too tight. Her pulse thumped a frantic beat through her veins, loud enough for her to feel it underneath her skin.
A soft moan brought Buffy back to Faith whose head lolled against the wall and hung limply to the side. She was losing consciousness. And that? That was bad. Reaching forward, Buffy grabbed Faith by the chin and lifted her head. She leaned in close and snapped, “Faith, fight. You hear me? You don’t get to die today.”
When Faith showed no response, she shook her. Nothing. Gritting her teeth, she slapped Faith across the cheek, too light to hurt a Slayer, but hard enough that it would have bruised a normal human being. “Faith.”
“Jeez, B,” Faith wheezed, eyes fluttering open to glare at her. “I can’t even get shot without you telling me I’m doing it wrong.”
She muffled her gasp of relief, then said, voice wavering, “I’ll make you a deal. You don’t die on me and I’ll stop ordering you around.”
“Bullshit,” Faith chortled, her laugh turning into a cough that set her body shaking.
“I swear. But since you’re still being all weak and kitteny, you’re just gonna have to suck it up and do what I say for now.”
“Bossy bitch,” Faith coughed, the corners of her lips upturned.
“That’s the job,” Buffy said, giving her a tight smile, her cheeks aching from trying to keep her face from falling apart. She swallowed a sob and felt it warble in her chest. She knew if she let it loose, everything inside would break down and she just couldn’t. Instead, she reached for Faith’s hand. “It’s gonna be okay. Willow can heal you. You’ll be good as new.”
“Now I know you’re lying,” Faith teased, the strength in her voice fading. “I’ve never been good.”
“Did you miss the part where you’re not supposed to argue with me?” Buffy asked, anxiety bleeding into her voice as she watched Faith’s gaze go blurry and distant. They were running out of time.
“You know me,” Faith murmured. “My attention goes AWOL when you get all preachy.”
“I’ll break it down for you – shut up, don’t die,” Buffy ordered, leaning in and lifting Faith’s arm up to hang around her neck, slipping her own arms under Faith’s back and legs to hug her close, “and hold on to me.”
“All this touchy feely crap is making me gag,” Faith complained.
“Again with the not shutting up.”
Faith’s response was to snort into Buffy’s collarbone.
“I can help,” Simone offered, holding her hands out to search for a place to lift.
“I’ve got her,” Buffy said, wobbling to her feet with Faith in her arms. With her Slayer strength she could carry five times Faith’s weight, maybe more – the real difficulty lay in keeping her balance. She bent her knees and widened her stance to compensate. “Let’s go,” she said, nodding her approval when Simone picked the Scythe up off the floor and headed towards the door. “Spike?”
His eyes opened and connected with hers, stark determination written on his face. “I’ll be right behind you.”
Adjusting her grip and careful to avoid undue pressure on Faith’s wound, Buffy headed towards the door. Every step was made with the express determination to not panic, to not falter, to keep moving forward. That was the plan. That was how they were gonna get through this. She was so busy repeating this mantra to herself that Simone’s hands shoving her back with a shout, “Look out!” caught her completely off guard. She slammed into the wall just on the inside of the bedroom door. Her knees buckled, her body twisting to take the brunt of the fall and let Faith land on top of her.
The rapid staccato of shots fired. Faith moaning as she rolled off of her. Her body curling into a protective shield.
“No,” Faith whimpered, looking past Buffy.
Buffy swung around to see Simone stagger and fall to her knees. She slumped to the floor, the Scythe slipping from fingers gone too limp to grasp its weight. The rat-tat-tat crack and rush of tiny metal bits whooshed past to collide into wood, plastic, glass and flesh – shattering, ripping apart and tearing asunder. Destruction conquering speed and distance, devouring before death even registered in the eyes. Rat-tat-tat crack.
All within an instant. Fast, so fast, too fast.
Hunkering down, crawling on her knees, Buffy reached for Simone’s hand, dragging her out of the line of fire in front of the open doorway. Dark stains were spreading across Simone’s stomach, blood leeching from the torn flesh on the right side of her neck. Buffy knelt in between Simone and Faith, the sides of her legs squeezed in between them lying on the floor.
“I-uh,” Simone gurgled, the flexing muscles of her vocal chords forcing blood to bubble up and drip down her neck.
“It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay,” Buffy chanted, pressing shaky hands palms down around Simone’s neck to stop the flow of blood, her pose an eerie inversion of strangulation. Keep the blood inside, keep the warmth inside, keep the life inside.
Faith’s head lay turned towards Simone, watching, then her hand crawled across Buffy’s lap to find Simone’s, the weight of her arm pressing down on the tops of Buffy’s thighs, anchoring her. Buffy’s gaze met Faith’s and behind the mutual fear, burgeoning panic and sheer helplessness lay a weary resignation.
Grief swam across Faith’s face and left her eyes wet. “Buffy.”
“No,” Buffy said, shaking her head. “No. She’s gonna be okay.”
She pressed down harder on Simone’s neck, hard enough that she could feel the contraction of Simone’s fading pulse shiver inside the carotid artery. The shiver strengthened for one last gust then the vein fell into a death knell. Buffy could feel her own pulse pounding in her ears – its strident beat made the silence under her hands burn. Then rat-tat-tat crack and she saw Spike shooting around the corner of the door with the window-diving commando’s abandoned rifle.
“Spike,” she choked out, glaring at the rifle in his hands. “Don’t.”
“They’re bloody well trying to kill us. They are killing us,” he snapped, back to the wall as a volley of bullets shot down the hall and through the bedroom doorway. “What do you want me to do?”
She lifted her bloodied hands and held them numbly in front of her, repeating, “Just don’t.”
“Fine, shoot to kill is off the menu,” he growled, whipping the rifle around the corner to fire at the ceiling at the far end of the hall. “Cover fire’s only gonna last so long, Slayer. Got any bright ideas?”
“I- I-” She looked around the room then at the window edged in broken shards of glass.
“Grrrawr!” Spike snarled through his fangs, shaking his hand and holding it up to examine the blood now seeping out of his palm. “The fucker hit bone.”
A cylindrical tube fired into the room, banging off the back wall and landing near Spike’s feet. A grenade. No, not a bomb grenade. What was it?
Spike snatched the cylinder up and chucked it back down the hall, ducking down as a blinding light and loud blast reverberating into the bedroom. The force made her ears ring. A stun grenade.
Flashbang, Riley’s voice in her head instructed. When it goes off, the enemy is incapacitated for five seconds. Five seconds without eyes and ears. Five seconds to make it count.
Five seconds was all she had. It wasn’t enough for them to get away. It wasn’t enough for them to run to safety. Not all of them.
Eyes still burning from the blinding glare, she lifted Faith with adrenaline-induced speed and rushed towards Spike. He stood to meet her, eyes widened in confusion, his mouth moving soundlessly underneath the ringing in her ears. She didn’t wait for him to understand her intent, just tossed Faith up in the air and watched in grim satisfaction as he caught her. She pointed at the open window. Realization lit his face and he spun around to dive out the window.
The moment his back was turned, she ran. Not towards the window. Five seconds wasn’t long enough for them to run away, not while carrying Faith. If Faith weren’t injured, if it had just been her and Spike – they could have made it. Maybe. Probably not. But with Faith injured, the soldiers would have definitely caught up with them before they’d gotten a hundred yards from the manor.
If she couldn’t outrun the enemy then she’d run through it. She would be the distraction that ensured escape.
Fives seconds – almost gone. Run faster.
The commandos were crouched around the corner at the end of the hallway. She couldn’t see them, but she knew they were there. She could feel them through the walls. Her feet pounded against the floor and then she was airborne running full tilt up the wall, climbing the flat surface until she ran horizontal to the floor. Spinning around the corner, she flew over the heads of seven commandos who were bent down kneeling, heads bowed against the lingering effects of the flashbang.
Coming down from the centripetal force that had kept her running along the wall, she leapt into a cartwheel spin to land on her feet. She never lost her momentum, just pushed forward, propelling herself harder and faster down the hall.
The soldiers shouted behind her. They were coming. Good. Follow the leader, boys.
The hallway opened up to a railed landing near the main stairs headed down to the foyer at the front door. Marching from the opposite side of the stairs on the second floor, four commandos halted at the sight of her and raised their rifles to take aim. From down below, another six commandos ran up the stairs to meet her.
“Hold your fire!” a commando barked the order from behind her. “That’s the leader. Tranq her! We want her alive!”
Grabbing the railing with her right hand, she leapt up and jumped, flipping down to land in the center of the foyer. Her knees shook from the impact. She tumbled forward, never pausing in her sprint. She barreled through the open front door, soaring over the porch to land on the stone driveway.
Two spotlights scoured the drive, and a stream of bullets peppered the asphalt and stone in front of her. She dug in her heels, leaning back to keep from running into the spray from the machine guns manned in the two helicopters hovering overhead. A few dozen commandos ran towards her from the front of the property, closing in a half-circle around the manor. She fell back, bracing herself on her palms then clawing her way around to run back inside where she wasn’t surrounded, where she could take cover and use her knowledge of the rooms to her advantage.
She was greeted at the doorway by seventeen rifles aimed at her head.
“Hands in the air! Get on your knees!” a commando snarled to her right, shaking the rifle to punctuate his demands.
No way out. Nowhere to run. No way to win. She couldn’t fight them; not without killing someone. She wouldn’t fight them. Just because they thought she was a killer that needed putting down didn’t mean she would stoop to their level. Her hands rose up slowly, palms facing out.
“On your knees, demon bitch!”
She flinched, eyes shuttering. She swallowed her anger, pushing it deep down inside. She had to push it down. It was the only way she could keep her hands from curling into fists. Her knees shook, resisting the command to bend. She wouldn’t attack them. She’d raise her hands in surrender, but they could all go to hell before she’d kneel before them.
“We got ourselves a live one, Commander,” a commando called out, dragging a body by the wrist into the foyer. “Doubt she’ll last long. Gutshot. But hell, I thought she was dead at first till she opened her eyes and looked at me, so who knows what these Slayer bitches can do?”
The commando pulled the Slayer forward, tossing her into the center of the room. She rolled and landed on her back, blonde hair flaring out on the marble floor. Her face turned towards Buffy, blue eyes opening to reveal fear, then a desperate hope at the sight of Buffy standing across from her.
Tiffany. Tiffany Marie Cooper. She wasn’t dead. Oh god, she wasn’t dead.
Buffy shook from the hope flaring inside her chest. The hope she saw reflected in Tiffany’s eyes that begged for her protection. Those eyes shined with hero worship and complete faith in Buffy – that she would save the day. Tiffany lay broken and bleeding, but she still believed. Buffy felt her knees go soft and bend towards the floor. She’d cooperate. Tiffany was more important than her pride.
“She needs a doctor,” Buffy pleaded, raising her hands high in the air. “Please. I’ll do anything you want.”
The Commander strode over to Tiffany and nudged her with the toe of his boot. Tiffany moaned, turning to look up at him.
“We’ve got the leader,” he said. “We don’t need any more dead weight.”
He pulled out his pistol and aimed it at Tiffany’s forehead. The shot hit Tiffany in between the eyes, slamming her skull back against the marble floor.
“Bag her,” the Commander ordered, jerking his head at Buffy.
Staring at Tiffany lying in front of her, blood pooling on the marble floor, Buffy slowly dropped her hands. She saw the blood drying on her palms. Simone’s blood. Tiffany’s blood. Their blood was on her hands. Everywhere she saw blood. Something snapped inside, something snarled primal, and everywhere she saw red.
The commando standing to her right stepped closer, raising the butt of his rifle to knock her in the temple. “I said on your knees, demon bitch!”
She stood stock still, counting the moments, waiting for him to get closer. Rage nipped impatiently at her predator’s stillness. Then she felt the whisper along her spine – now – and surged into motion, crushing his wrist, wrenching him down to his knees. She wrapped an arm around his neck, choking him, and reached for the knife holstered at his waist. He became her human shield. And when he became too bullet-ridden to be useful, she’d find another human shield. Then another and another until there was no one left.
They would all die. She wouldn’t stop until they were all dead.
Buffy whipped the knife up in the air, locked onto the Commander standing in front of her and, aiming for his right eye socket, released the tension in her muscles and flung her arm forward.
A surge of heat flashed through her body and she gasped, shaking out of control. The room began to spin, whirling around her. Shapes blurred as her arm moved forward in slow motion, forcing its way through the air as it turned into an impenetrable mist. She lost hold of the commando under her arm, not because she let go, but because he melted away. The room flashed a blinding white and a howling wind encircled her, burning the moisture from her eyes. Her stomach lurched and she felt bile climb up her esophagus.
For a split second, her body was ripped apart and flung into a million different directions. Then, all the pieces of her snapped back into focus. Her feet were on solid ground. The air was smooth and clear. Her arm moved freely, releasing the knife. She watched it fly forward, straight at Spike’s head, and her eyes widened in horror.
“Ah!” Spike yelped, clapping both hands in front of his nose to catch the knife an inch shy from slamming into his head. “Watch who you’re aiming at, Slayer.”
Panting, Buffy took in the people surrounding her – Spike, Giles, Xander and Willow – before falling to her knees and vomiting into the grass. Forehead pressed into the grass, she blinked back tears before looking up to find Spike’s hand outstretched and waiting to help her stand.
“Sorry about the teleporting,” Willow apologized with a grimace. “I know you said only use it as a last resort, but I’m pretty sure a picture of what just happened is in the dictionary under ‘last resort’.”
Buffy nodded, still too shaken to speak, and took Spike’s hand. He gripped her and pulled, letting her fall into his side and lean against him. She avoided his searching gaze, dropping her eyelids and looking down at the ground.
“But hey, at least we managed to snag your favorite toy with the teleporting fun,” Xander added, nodding at the Scythe in Willow’s hand.
Willow stepped forward and handed it to Buffy. “I didn’t think you meant to leave it behind.”
Buffy’s hand closed around the hilt of the Scythe, her fingers shaking. She nodded again, still unable to push words past the knot in her throat.
“There were more important things to worry about at the time,” Spike added, frowning when Buffy slipped her hand out of his hold.
“Is- is everyone okay?” Buffy managed to choke out.
“No worries,” Willow said. “Faith, Connor and the others are resting. A little healing spell and they were all patched up.”
“Resting where?” Buffy asked, confused. “Where are we?”
“A few miles north of the manor,” Willow explained, nodding at a cabin behind her that blended into the surrounding woods. “There’s a magical refuge here at the base of the mountains. I thought it was the best place for us to regroup.”
“Sure, good…” Buffy murmured. “Good plan.”
“Buffy, are you alright?” Giles asked with concern.
“Can they follow us?” Buffy countered. “Can they find us here?”
“No, absolutely one hundred percent no,” Willow insisted. “I covered our tracks. We’re safe here.”
“Then I’m okay. I’ll be okay.” Buffy nodded. “I – uh, just need a minute. I need to walk it off.”
“Sure, the teleportation spell takes a lot out of people,” Willow said in sympathy. “Even Slayers.”
“Yeah,” Buffy agreed, head bowed. “I’m just gonna walk it off.”
Without saying another word, she turned away from the cabin and walked through the woods, tripping over branches, pausing to lean against trees for a moment before pressing on. She finally stopped when she reached a ledge that dropped off into the valley below. The moonlight turned the leaves of the tree tops a dark blue-tinged green.
In the distance, she caught sight of the manor consumed in flames. They were burning it down. She squeezed her eyes shut, beating back the inward snarl as she imagined them torching her home.
“Those bastards sure know their way around mayhem and destruction,” Spike said, stepping out of the trees to stand beside her. When he slid close enough to brush against her shoulder, she jerked to the side and wrapped her arms across her chest. “Buffy. You alright?”
She squeezed her eyes shut, shaking her head.
“Buffy?” he asked, taking hold of her shoulders and gently turning her towards him. “It’s not your fault. What happened-”
“You’re wrong. That’s a lie,” she whispered, eyes still closed. “It is my fault. They’re dead because I made a bad call. Because of my mistakes.”
“You did everything in your power to keep them safe. You even played your kamikaze bollocks card. Which, by the way, I’m still pissed off about.” He gripped her chin. “Hey, look at me. It’s not your fault. Don’t punish yourself.”
She laughed with an edge of hysteria. “Punish myself? You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Then tell me.”
“I want to kill them,” she said coldly, grasping the Scythe in both hands with a painful grip. “I want to tear them apart. I want them to suffer before they die. I want them all dead.” She looked at him, her eyes burning with hate, lips trembling. Her body shook as she opened her hands and let the Scythe drop to the ground. “Don’t let me. Please,” she begged, her voice breaking. “Please, don’t let me.”
“You would never,” he growled, hands cupping her cheeks.
“I would,” she whispered, shaking in his arms, her hands clutching at his wrists. “I would. I never wanted it before. I’ve never felt this. It won’t go away. I can’t make it stop. Please,” she sobbed, tears streaming down her face. “Oh god, what’s happening to me?”