banner by Selene
Title: Eve of Destruction(12/8/06)
Rating: PG 13
Word count: 12,880
Disclaimer: My version of an alternate ending to AtS season V. They’re still Joss’s characters and it’s still his world. Drat!
Beta by Always_jbj
Summary: Written for the Apolcalypse challenge at Good_Evil. Some Spuffiness and some angst. Third place award.
Eve of Destruction
Spike watched the doors with growing apprehension, waiting for the girl whose presence had just been announced by a panicky main-lobby receptionist to burst in. He knew she would burst in. It was her way.
“I wonder if the watcher wannabe told her about me?” he muttered almost to himself.
Before the man standing next to him could respond, the doors flew open and Buffy slammed into the room, doing a quick scan before focusing on Angel. Her eyes flickered briefly when she came to Spike; then narrowed to the glare that had once driven the First Evil out of her personal space. She pointedly turned her back on him and stalked over to the other vampire in the room.
“Ouch!“ Gunn sympathized, as the cocky vampire, who had become something of a comrade in arms, visibly deflated. “I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that’s a ‘yes’.”
Paying no attention to the other people in the room – although Lorne had also received a second look during her initial scan – Buffy stared into Angel’s eyes intently, searching for some sign that she was looking at Angel and not Angelus. He met her gaze steadily, if a bit impatiently, finally asking, “If you don’t think I’m me, what the hell are you doing coming in here alone?”
“I’m not alone,” was the terse response. “I’ve got twenty slayers sitting in your lobby making your clients very nervous, and another three just outside the door watching Harmony paint her nails. If I think for one minute that Angelus is back, we are going to take you and your organization apart.”
Leaving her perusal of the potted plant in the corner, Illyria glided up to Buffy and cocked her head curiously.
“What is this one who makes threats and feels like power? Not real power,” she added haughtily. “Not like mine; but power no lower being should have.”
“What the hell are you?” Buffy’s incredulous stare went up and down the blue-clad woman, her mind trying to remember what Giles had told her about Angel’s associates.
“I AM A GOD.”
“Great. Good for you. Get out of my way, I’m talking to Angel.” Buffy’s abrupt dismissal brought the expected reaction from Illyria and Spike and Angel moved simultaneously to keep the slayer and the demi-god apart. Buffy threw off the hand Angel had placed on her chest, her eyes narrowing again as Spike put his arms around the blue woman and tugged her gently away.
“Come on, pet. Leave the nasty old slayer alone. You can thump on me if you want to.”
“She is arrogant.”
“I’M arrogant?” Buffy’s angry disbelief was not lessened by watching Spike successfully coax Illyria away from her, whispering into her ear the whole time he eased the god across the room..
Is this why he never wanted Andrew to tell me he was back? This blue skank?”
“What are you doing here, Buffy?” Angel’s tired voice broke into her thoughts. “What do you want from us?”
“I want to know what’s going on,” she said firmly. “The council’s seers said something really big is going on here and that you were responsible for it. I just need to know what we have to kill. Is it you – or is it some apocalypsy thing?”
Angel gave a resigned sigh and gestured to a chair near the large polished desk. “Sit down, Buffy. Let me get Harmony to bring us something to drink and we can…talk.”
“I don’t want something to drink- much less something delivered by Harmony – who, by the way, last time I checked had no soul and was trying to kill people.”
Angel’s jaw tightened. “Things aren’t quite as black and white here as they might have been in Sunnydale,” he growled. “We have to be…flexible.”
“Flexible. That’s what they’re calling it now?” Buffy stood, hands on hips waiting for someone to tell her what was going on.
To everyone’s astonishment, he waved his hand at Spike.
“You talk to her. Take her out somewhere and explain…things.”
There was a tense silence as the two blonds stared at each other – one tight-lipped and angry, the other doing his best to keep any trace of expression off his face as he waited for her response. Finally, with a terse nod, Buffy visibly relaxed. As the tension left the slayer’s body, everyone in the room unconsciously allowed their own tenseness to ebb. Everyone except Illyria, who looked back and forth between Spike and Buffy before insisting, “She does not have permission to take my pet anywhere.”
Before Buffy could say anything challenging, Angel hastily put in, “I’m ordering Spike to talk to her, Illyria. They have my permission to leave.”
While Illyria mulled over the propriety of Angel’s making that decision, Spike quickly moved towards Buffy and, putting a gentle hand against her back, urged her towards the open doors.
“Don’t touch me,” she hissed, as she shook him off. “You don’t get to touch me.”
“Right. No touching. Got it, Slayer.”
Spike kept his voice neutral as he followed her through the doors. He carefully avoided looking at his grandsire, and therefore missed the puzzled frown that Buffy’s vehement protest had sparked. For just a second, it occurred to Angel that he might have made a mistake sending Buffy off alone with the vampire she had told him was “in her heart”. While to the others in the room, it may have appeared that Buffy’s rejection of a simple hand on her back was indicative of a strong dislike for Spike, Angel knew her better. Only when she was hurt was Buffy capable of that kind of irrational anger. And if she was hurt by Spike’s not having contacted her since he got back… Telling himself that he had no time to worry about personal relationships – his or Spike’s – he shrugged and turned back to his employees.
“Well? What are you standing around for? You all know what you’re supposed to be doing. Get to work, people.”
With noncommittal nods, they all went back to their own areas to prepare for the coming show-down, leaving the large vampire to sit behind his desk and brood over the looming battle. He had no doubt that there was going to be a battle at some point. Once the Senior Partners realized what was going on, they would throw everything they had at Angel, and by extension, anyone standing with him.
Buffy and Spike walked to the elevators in silence, her boot heels clicking loudly as she channeled her anger at the vampire into her steps. He followed quietly, his usual swagger barely visible as he took the opportunity to study her without exposing his interest. He noted the new clothes, expensive boots and carefully groomed hair. She’d put on a little weight since the previous year when worry and stress had made her so painfully thin, and he couldn’t help but appreciate the way her body now filled out her expensive clothes.
When the elevators slid shut behind them, she whirled, hands on hips demanding, “Well?”
He just shook his head silently and raised his hand for patience, indicating the camera in the corner of the small room. He winced when Buffy jumped in the air and kicked the offending appliance off the wall and then crushed it under her feet. With a sigh of exasperation, he growled, “That’s not going to help, Slayer. Just keep your knickers on for a bit longer, won’t you?”
“I don’t think that will be a problem,” she snarled back at him, visibly fighting the urge to do more damage to something.
“No,” he responded with uncharacteristic calm, “I don’t suppose it will.”
They rode the rest of the way in tense silence, eyes front and hands clenched into fists. When the doors finally opened in the lobby, Spike shrank back, his vampire senses reeling from the impact of a room full of slayers. There had been no time, while Sunnydale was crashing around him, to make note of the effects on his system of being surrounded by the beings designed to kill his kind without mercy. Now, without the distraction of the amulet, he was assaulted by an irrational fear and he unconsciously stepped behind Buffy as they exited the elevator.
If she noticed his reaction to the slayers, she didn’t say so; only telling them that she was going out for a while and would meet them back at the Hyperion in a while. The three girls who had accompanied her to Angel’s office stepped off the other elevator and the whole group walked out, their hands twitching with the urge to slay the non-human employees scurrying around on the fringes of their vision.
When the area was cleared, Buffy finally looked at Spike again, asking only, “Where are we going?”
He shrugged and began walking towards the door. “Just for a walk, I guess. There’s a park down the street that should be far enough away.”
As angry as she obviously was at him, his heart warmed just a little at the trust she still held. Without complaint or question, she ducked under the arm that he used to hold the big door open for her and began walking in the direction he had indicated. When they’d put several blocks between themselves and the large building that could still be seen in the background, their steps slowed until, with a nod at a nearby bench, Spike said softly, “Let’s talk, luv.”
She startled a bit at his use of the endearment, even though it didn’t sound quite the way it used to when his eyes were as full of the emotion as was the word. Wordlessly, she nodded and sat down on the bench, careful to leave enough room for him to sit without touching her. With a resigned sigh, he settled himself just short of the edge and dropped his hands between his knees, his gaze on the pebbled ground.
When she didn’t ask anything, only looking at him with cold curiosity, he sighed and began. “First off – Peaches hasn’t gone off the deep end. Not the way you think he has, anyway. Can’t say I think he’s completely sane, but he’s not turned evil.”
“And you know that because…?”
“Because I’ve been here for quite a while.” He almost missed her unconscious stiffening at the reminder, and he had to resist the urge to touch her again. “I’ve watched him, seen what he does, how he tries; and, because... he told us what was going on. Won’t say he hasn’t done some awful things recently – but they were necessary. He had to convince the Black Thorn that he was the real deal.”
“The Black Thorn?”
Raising his head, Spike finally met her eyes and began the long tale of what had led them to where they were. He tried to stick to only the things that he knew about first-hand, telling her that “Oxford” could fill her in on what led to the move into Wolfram and Hart’s building. When he had concluded his story of Angel’s planned attempt to bring down the Circle of the Black Thorn from the inside, and what was likely to be the reaction from the Senior Partners if he succeeded, he stopped to let Buffy process the story. She was quiet when he finished; then she surprised him by asking softly, “Do you believe him? Do you believe that he is doing bad things so that he can do more good?”
“Yes, love.” His reply was equally soft and she thought she might have caught a change in his pronunciation of the endearment. “I believe him. He’s planning to take them down and deal with the consequences as they come.”
“Well then,” she said briskly, sitting up straight and clapping her hands together. “I guess it’s a good thing I brought a lot of help, isn’t it?”
“It’s not your fight, pet. I don’t think very many of us are going to walk away from this one – would just as soon not have to count you as one of the casualties.” He thought he’d done a good job of keeping his fear for her out of his voice, but the narrowing of her eyes told him he probably hadn’t succeeded.
“It’s an apocalypse, isn’t it? That makes it my fight. Mine and all those other girls who need to practice those skills we’ve been teaching them.” Her demeanor changed again. “Not that I expect you to know this, but why didn’t he trust me enough to tell me what was going on? Why didn’t Wesley call Giles about it? Why didn’t you tell me? How could you guys want to keep us out of the loop?”
Spike’s eyes hardened. “Do you recall that uppity bint that didn’t want you takin’ me out?”
Buffy’s expression hardened to match his. “What about her?” She allowed no trace of anything but a demand for information to leak into her voice, carefully smothering the surge of jealously that shot through her.
“Her highness there used to be one of the sweetest and most brilliant girls on this planet,” he answered with a growl. “When that god thing started taking over her body, Angel called your precious watcher to ask for help. Don’t know if anyone could have stopped it, but it would have been good to know we’d tried everything. Maybe Red could have mojo’d it away or somethin’. I don’t know. I just know that we asked for help and he turned us down flat. Somethin’ about you not trustin’ your ex now that he was with Wolfram and Hart. So, yeah, we had some issues with letting any of you lot know what was goin’ on here. You’d already cost us too much.”
Buffy skipped past everything else to focus on what Spike had said about the girl who used to be in Illyria’s body. A girl that she realized must have been the “Fred” whom Willow occasionally mentioned as having been a good friend.
“Did you love her?”
“Course, I did. Was the only one who was kind to me at first, wasn’t she? Worked her skinny little arse off tryin’ to keep me out of hell and make me solid. Everyone loved her – Oxford maybe a bit more than the rest of us—”
“So, that’s why you didn’t tell me you were back? You came back and fell in love with somebody else?”
He stared at her, mouth open, eyes blinking rapidly. “What?”
“I’m just trying to understand what’s going on,” she replied, her face as immobile as she could keep it. “I wanted to know what would allow you to hurt me like that – but I guess now I do. You’re in love with someone else and didn’t have the guts to tell me.”
“Don’t be stupid, Slayer.” He looked away from her, thereby missing her rapidly blinking eyes. “I did love her. Just like I love the Bit. But there’s nothing there for you to get your knickers in a twist over. It’s still all about you.” He waited to see if she was going to respond, then sighed and continued. “It probably always will be. Much as I’d like to move on – like you did – I don’t know that I have it in me.”
“Don’t know that I can rightly answer that, pet,” he admitted, eyes still firmly focused on a nearby tree. “Used to change my mind almost every day, I did. Thought that dying a hero might have been the smartest move I ever made and didn’t want to admit that I’d blown it, maybe? I don’t know. Knew you’d moved on and were enjoying life, and I couldn’t see where I’d fit into the new picture. Had myself a bit of a place here, too. First time in a long while that I felt… accepted. Had some mates; had a sweet girl to flirt with; had Peaches to irritate and to fight the good fight with; bad guys to offer a spot of violence whenever I needed one–”
“And you thought I didn’t mean it when I said I loved you.” Her voice was flat, giving no clue as to whether he was right or wrong.
“And that,” he agreed quietly, sliding his eyes to the side for a quick peek at her face.
She just nodded, as though that was the answer she’d been expecting, and stood up. Without looking at him, she said, “We want to help. Tell Angel to let us know when it goes down so that we can be ready. We’re staying at his hotel – I hope he doesn’t mind. It was the only place I knew to go.”
“I’m sure it’s fine, Buffy,” he responded, also standing up. “But I’ll tell him. I’m guessing we’ll end up there too after we do our bits. Kinda thinkin’ we won’t be too welcome at Wolfram and Hart after we finish destroying half their customer base and breaking all those contracts.”
She nodded, then lifted her eyes to his briefly. “Thank you for being honest with me,” she said without a tremor. “It’s good to finally know. And, Spike?” Her lips twitched into a sad smile as she cupped his face with her hand. “Just so you know – I wasn’t lying.”
Her hand dropped and she turned, leaving so quickly that he was still rooted to the spot long after her rapid gait had taken her out of his reach and out of hearing distance.
At Wolfram and Hart, an exasperated Wesley was trying to explain to Illyria why she couldn’t just kill Buffy for taking her pet away.
“He does not belong to her,” she stated with finality. “I do not give her permission to talk with him or to touch him.”
“I don’t believe that Buffy is very interested in asking anyone’s permission… for anything. At least, that has been my experience with her.”
“You know this arrogant lower being?”
“Yes, I was her Watcher for a while – a very short, unsuccessful while, I might add.”
“You watched her? What did she do? Why were you watching?” If anything, the demi-god’s voice had taken on an even more offended tone. If Spike was her pet, Wesley was so much more than that. She didn’t understand why she felt so comfortable in his presence, and she knew that it was sometimes painful for him to be around her, but not understanding it had no effect on her belief that he was hers, even more so than the vampire.
“I’m really not up to explaining about slayers and watchers to you right now. Search your—Fred’s—memories and you’ll get it.” His face settled into the stubborn sad lines that she had learned meant that he did not want to talk to her anymore and she transferred her attention back to the vampire who had just re- entered the room.
“Not now, your royal blueness. Really not in the mood,” Spike growled when she approached him.
“I do not want this “slayer” around here. Everyone is behaving strangely now.”
“Yeah, well, you’d be the expert on that, pet.” Spike managed to grin at her offended expression before he left the open area to find an empty office in which to rest and think about what Buffy had said.
He had just settled himself into the big leather couch in Gunn’s office when Eve strolled in and perched on the edge of the desk.
“Women trouble?” she asked with a sympathetic smile that didn’t reach her eyes.
“Not till you showed up.”
“Hey! I’m just trying to be helpful here. A friendly ear and all that. Somebody who knows the score.”
“Didn’t know there was a score,” Spike said without opening his eyes. “But if there was one, I don’t think a useless bint like you would be keepin’ it.”
“It’s just an expression. I thought you might like to know what Angel has planned for the evening.”
“Not even if his plans include dinner with your blonde girlfriend?”
“Not my girlfriend.”
“Okay. I’ll leave you alone to brood. I just thought you might want to know that he was putting some moves on her. My mistake.“
Without another word, she walked to the door, hips swaying and a small smile on her face.
Her entry into Angel’s office was equally unwelcome, the vampire not even bothering to look up as he said, “Get out, Eve. We’re busy here.”
“That’s not very friendly of you, Angelus,” she purred. “You’d think that now that we’re going to be on the same side—“
“I am not on your ‘side’. You’re an employee, a minion, and I am about to become one of your bosses. So when I tell you to get out, I suggest you take the advice.” To emphasize his point, he glanced up, his eyes now amber and his fangs clearly visible.
Even as she stepped back, involuntarily recoiling from the vampire’s true face, she was shrugging and saying casually, “Fine. If I’m not on your side, then you won’t want me telling you about the way your blonde girlfriend looks at Spike when you’re not around to see. Or the way she talks about him…”
Another satisfied smile on her face, Eve strolled out of the snarling vampire’s office and headed for the elevators; the address of the Hyperion firmly fixed in her memory.
Buffy walked into the lobby of the Hyperion, still maintaining an iron control over her emotions as she concentrated on the mission. She was pleased to see that Willow had begun organizing everyone - assigning rooms, designating a triage area for the inevitable injuries, and arranging for a group of slayers to hit the local grocery warehouse store to stock the bare pantry.
“Looks good, Will. Thanks for getting the ball rolling.”
“No problem. These are good girls – they just needed a bit or organizing…” She paused to study the shelves in the pantry. “Do you think if I color code—“
“No!” At Willow’s disappointed frown, she clarified. “This isn’t really our property, you know. It’s Angel’s. I don’t think we should go around color coding his stuff without permission.”
“Oh.” Willow’s disappointment was short-lived and she perked up quickly. “I suppose you’re right. I’ll just have to think of something else.” She looked at Buffy’s tight face and asked carefully, “So, how did the meeting go? The girls said that you left with…with Spike.”
Buffy nodded curtly. “I got the whole story. I think we need to brace ourselves for another apocalypsy-type battle. Angel’s pissing off some pretty big forces of evil.”
“I meant, how did the meeting with Spike go?” Willow said wryly. “Or are you being avoidy-girl?”
Buffy sighed, allowing her shoulders to slump for the first time since she’d left Spike standing in park.
“I’m being avoidy-girl, I guess. I’m sorry, Willow. I’m just not ready to talk about it right now. I’d rather concentrate on something I can beat up on – like an apocalypse.”
“Okay, well, I’m here if you need to talk. I mean, I’m here, even if you don’t need to talk, but…”
Buffy smiled at her oldest friend. “I got it, Will. And as soon as I figure out what’s going on, we’ll talk, I promise.”
“Maybe I can help with that.” The voice floated in from the door to the pantry and both girls whirled to stare at the sleekly-groomed woman smiling at them.
“Who are you? And help with what?”
Eve strolled into the small room, holding out her hand, which Buffy automatically shook even as she repeated, “Who are you – and what are you doing here?”
“I’m Eve. I’m a friend of Angel’s…and Spike’s.”
“Funny, neither one of them mentioned you…” Buffy ran her eyes over the expensive dress and shoes as well as the insincere smile, and squeezed Eve’s hand a little harder than she needed to.
“Ow!” Eve snatched her hand away, and glared at Buffy. “Just for that, I don’t think I’ll tell you about Spike and Harmony.”
“Harmony?” Willow and Buffy spoke in unison. “Spike and Harmony?”
“Oops! I guess I slipped, didn’t I? My bad.” With another insincere smile, Eve turned to leave.
“What. About. Spike. And. Harmony?”
Eve waved her hand carelessly. “It’s not important. He said you aren’t his girlfriend, so I guess it doesn’t matter if you know.“
“Know what?” Buffy’s teeth were clenched and she advanced on the smirking woman with purpose.
“Oh, you know…” Eve waved her hand around again. “Just what happened when Spike stopped being a ghost. When he was solid again, he was…solid. If you get my drift. The first thing he did was grab Harmony and take her into one of the empty offices.”
She watched Buffy’s face crumple, then smiled again. “It wasn’t to pick up a phone to call you. But, then, you already knew that, didn’t you?”
Willow looked back and forth between the two women, torn between comforting Buffy and causing Eve to grow warts on her nose. Before she could decide, the other woman was gone as silently and quickly as she’d appeared.
“Buffy, I’m sor—“ She stopped when Buffy held up her hand.
“It’s all right, Will. I already got the memo that he had a life here. This is Spike. It only makes sense that it included a woman.”
“I didn’t say it makes sense that he would have shown good taste when he did it.”
“I am so turning him into a toad,” Willow grumbled under her breath. “Harmony, too. Ugly little toads with fangs.”
“Let it go. I didn’t come here for Spike. We’re here to help with the apocalypse. I have to keep my mind on the mission.”
She set her jaw in a way that suggested more conversation would not be welcome and Willow swallowed the rest of the sympathetic words she’d had ready, instead just nodding silently. When the younger slayers came through the door carrying bags and boxes of groceries, she began showing them where to put things and never noticed Buffy’s departure.
After another look around the lobby showed her that all was going well, Buffy went to her room and locked the door behind her. It wasn’t until she was in the shower that she allowed the tears that she’d been holding back since her first sight of Spike to flow. The hot water ran down her face, washing away her fantasies about what their reunion would be like and leaving her clear-eyed and determined.
I don’t know who that bitch was, but if she thinks that telling me that Spike is back with Harmony is going to change the way I feel about him, she doesn’t know me very well. And she doesn’t know Spike very well if she thinks he would stay with that ditz if – when – I convince him that I meant it when I said I loved him.
At the Wolfram and Hart building the following afternoon, the regular employees were preparing to leave for the evening. With so many of their customers being demons and vampires, the law offices ran two shifts – one predominantly human during regular business hours, and a second, mixed human/vampire/demon group that didn’t report to work until the afternoon and stayed on until almost midnight.
Harmony was just sipping her mug of warm blood and trying to decide if she needed to change her nail polish to go with her dress, when Eve strolled up and leaned on the desk.
“Good morning, Eve. Angel’s in a meeting right now.”
“You do know it’s afternoon, don’t you Harmony?” Even Eve had difficulty containing her irritation at the ditzy blonde assistant to the boss.
“To you, maybe. To me and everybody else like me, it’s morning. So, good morning. What can I do for you?”
“Oh, nothing, really. I just thought we’d…chat a bit. I like that shade of polish, by the way.”
“Oh this? Well, thank you. I was just trying to decide which goes best with this dress – the one I have on, or this one.” Harmony held up a bottle of almost identical polish and frowned intently.
Swallowing hard, Eve fixed a smile on her face and asked, “Which do you think Spike would like best?”
“Blondie Bear? Well…I…I mean he doesn’t really care—Do you think I should ask him?”
“Oh, absolutely, I do. He has excellent taste in things like that, don’t you think?”
Harmony scrunched up her face, trying to recall if Spike had ever mentioned or complimented her on anything about her wardrobe, but all she could remember from their time together was his referring to her as a “great piece of arse”.
“I don’t kno—" she began uncertainly, only to be interrupted by Eve.
“I’m sure he would want to help you out with something that important to you. Why don’t you go ask him now?”
“Well…he has been nicer to me lately…”
“There, you see? He’ll probably be happy to have an excuse to see you. What with Angel and that slayer being all over each other…”
“She’s such a slut!” Harmony’s eyes flashed amber at the reminder of which Sunnydale blonde Spike had fallen in love with. “My poor Blondie Bear!”
With a determined look on her face, she marched off to find Spike, leaving a very content-looking woman sitting behind her desk and promising to watch the phones for her.
Buffy’s arrival a few minutes later could not have been timed any better. She had told Angel that she would go out to dinner with him so that he could explain in person what was going to happen and she waited impatiently for him to get out of his meeting. Catching a glimpse of blond hair through an open office door, she walked over and peered in curiously, telling herself that she was not really looking for Spike, but wouldn’t mind bumping into him.
It’s not like I can’t handle it that he’s seeing someone else. Even if it is Harmony. I mean, I’ve had dates – lots of dates. I had a boyfriend, even… for a while. Arrogant prick! Telling me he wouldn’t play second fiddle to a ghost that didn’t have enough sense to stay dead. Hmmm – guess I should have picked up on that clue, huh? That means Morty knew… oh, I am so going to test that “immortal” thing when I get back to Europe!
While her thoughts rambled randomly, Buffy was pushing open the door only to find Harmony holding one hand against her thigh, while with the other she held a small bottle of nail polish to her ample bosom. Spike was leaning close to her, his gaze going back and forth between the tightly stretched fabric on her thigh and that across her breasts.
“I dunno, pet,” he was saying. “It’s hard to say which I like best. Isn’t this something you ought to be asking another wom—”
He glanced up when he felt Buffy’s presence, and was temporarily rendered speechless by the look on her face. A look that she quickly masked as she blurted, “I’m sorry. I was looking for Angel. I guess I got the wrong office.”
“I guess you did,” Spike growled, standing up straight and glaring at her. “The great Pouf’s office would be the one with the double doors – you know, the one you had no trouble finding yesterday?”
For just a second he thought he saw something in her eyes that made his stomach clench. Not since the night that she’d been kicked out of her own home, had he seen that look of despair and resignation.
I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m not letting her go into a battle with the senior partners with that attitude.
Before either of them could follow up on their roiling emotions, Angel appeared behind Buffy, glancing curiously at Spike and Harmony before shrugging and asking, “Are you ready to go, Buffy? I don’t have a lot of time to spare tonight.”
“Right then. You’d best be off, Slayer. You don’t want to keep the love of your life waiting. He’s a busy vamp, you know.”
With a final glare at Harmony, a look that had the other vampire cringing behind Spike as she remembered just what a Slayer’s job is, Buffy drew herself up and met Spike’s eyes firmly.
“The love of my life is dead,” she said clearly before whirling and brushing past Angel, putting as much distance as she could between herself and the two vampires.
“We’re both dead, you stupid bint!” Spike shouted after her.
“I know that!” she threw back over her shoulder as she punched the button for the elevator.
As the doors slid closed, Eve could hear Angel’s plaintive voice asking, “Buffy? What did you mean by that?” and she smiled widely. Her smile turned into outright laughter as Spike charged out of the office, Harmony close on his heels, her plaintive “Blondie Bear? Where are you going?” falling on deaf ears as he hit the door to the stairs. She stopped when she reached her desk, glaring at the woman laughing quietly.
“What’s so funny?” Harmony’s lip trembled as she realized that she had been tricked into thinking that Spike was interested in her again.
“All of you,” Eve said, her laughter trailing off to leave a satisfied smile. “You’re all so easy. It’s pathetic, really.”
“Get out.” The tremor was gone from Harmony’s voice as she remembered that Eve, despite her connection to the Senior Partners, was just an ordinary human. And one no one would miss if she disappeared. Staring hungrily at the pulse pounding in Eve’s neck, Harmony slipped into game face as she repeated, “Get out. And stay away from me.”
“Ah, ah.” Eve waved her finger disapprovingly as she quickly got out of the angry vampire’s chair. “Don’t take out your jealousy on me. I’m not the one trying to take your boyfriend.”
“Spike’s not my boyfriend.” Harmony spoke with sad realization. “He’s just my ex, who is nice to me sometimes because he has a soul now. I think you’re just trying to cause trouble between Spike and Angel.”
“Wow! You totally found me out.” Eve’s sarcasm was lost on the vampire as Harmony sat in her chair and tried to accept the fact that she had contributed to creating trouble between the three champions.
Well, it’s not like I have a soul, she grumbled to herself. I don’t owe them anything. I work for Wolfram and Hart – not Angel. Or Spike. And I definitely don’t work for the Slayer.)
Satisfied that she had not done anything more or less than any reasonably evil vampire would have, she settled back into her chair and waited for the phone to ring.
In a dimly lit restaurant Angel waited impatiently for Buffy to finish her food and let him get back to Wolfram and Hart. He’d given her as much information as he felt she needed about the evening’s planned activities.
“So, you’re saying that after everyone takes down their assigned target tonight, that the Senior Partners are going to be coming after you?”
“And anyone standing with me,” he emphasized. “If you want to take your girls and leave, we-I’ll understand.”
Buffy cocked her head at him in a gesture far too similar to his grandchilde’s to suit him. “Do you really think I would do that, Angel? Leave you and Spike to fight this battle alone?”
“Me and Spike,” he repeated. “So, if it was just me you’d what? Be happy to buzz off?”
She clenched her jaw as she spoke slowly and clearly. “I haven’t missed an apocalypse since I became the Slayer, Angel. And I don’t intend to let an overdose of testosterone poisoning make me miss this one. I’m here. I’m staying here until this is over. You and Spike will just have to deal.”
“I’m perfectly capable of ‘dealing’, but I don’t know what makes you think Spike can. I know how he is. He’s probably out there right now getting himself pummeled into a useless pile of dust – just to prove… well, whatever it is he always thinks he has to prove.”
“He doesn’t have to prove anything to me,” she said quietly. “I just wish I could get him to understand that.”
There was nothing left for Angel to say; the wistful truth in her voice reaching a place he thought he’d protected.
“Buffy….” He steeled himself for what he was about to say. “Spike still loves you. I know it. He knows it. Hell, the whole damn building knows it. “
“Except Harmony, apparently,” she growled under her breath.
“Especially Harmony,” he disagreed. “I don’t know what you think you saw today, but it wasn’t what you think. He tries to be nice to her. I think the soul makes him feel guilty for how he’s treated her in the past. But there is nothing going on between them.”
“Really?” The hope on her face was painful to see and his own soul twinged when he thought about all the times he’d hurt her. “He…they…never…?”
“Well, not after that one time – and she bit him then, screaming at him for thinking about you while he was… um….” His voice trailed off as the hope on her face was replaced with fury.
“So. Eve was telling the truth.”
“Not likely,” Angel scoffed. “And when did you have time to meet Eve?”
“She came to the hotel last night and introduced herself. She came to tell me about Spike and Harmony.”
“And it didn’t occur to you that someone who works for the Senior Partners might be trying to drive a wedge between us? All of us?” he added, remembering Eve’s pointed remarks about how Buffy looked at Spike.
“I don’t even know what a ‘Senior Partner’ is,” Buffy grumbled. “Let alone who works for them. All I know is that she said Spike and Harmony had sex – and now you’re telling me she was right.”
Angel sighed and stood up. “As entertaining as it might be to speculate on why Spike would have done… what he did, I know it had nothing to do with how he feels about you. It’s Spike, Buffy. He doesn’t always have reasons – he just… does stuff.”
“Well, why didn’t he want to come to Rome and do… stuff… with me? Can you tell me that, huh?” She grumbled to herself as she followed him out the door. “Huh? Can you?”
“Maybe because you were too busy screwing the Immortal at the time! How the hell do I know?” The old vampire had clearly reached the end of his patience. “This is not a conversation I want to be having. If you want to know why Spike does anything – ask him. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I’ve got a big night ahead of me. All my people have important and dangerous tasks to accomplish tonight – including Spike. Your temper tantrum over something he may or may not have done with Harmony several months ago will just have to wait.”
Without another word, he strode off down the street in the direction of the Wolfram and Hart Building, leaving a speechless slayer staring after him, her mouth open and her eyes wide.
He can’t… Angel doesn’t talk to me like that. Who does he think he is? And what does he mean ‘all his people’. They’re his people? I am so going to kick his ass when this is all over….
As Buffy’s thoughts caught up to what Angel had been saying, the slayer in her kicked the embarrassed ex-girlfriend out of the driver’s seat and she began running towards the old Hotel.
Tonight. He said tonight. It’s going down tonight. We’ve got to be ready for whatever happens.
When Spike staggered into the lobby of the old hotel, the robe he’d worn to conceal himself hanging off in tatters, he found that Angel was already there, standing over a critically wounded Gunn. Forgetting his own wounds, Spike ran to Gunn’s side, falling to his knees beside his friend and drinking buddy.
“Hey, there, you bloody fool,” he said softly, trying not to see the life’s blood seeping out. “You weren’t supposed to start without us.”
“If I waited around for you two old farts, I’d die of old age,” Gunn responded with a weak grin. “Anyhow, while you’re out there getting yourselves dusted, I’m going to be in here with all the women.”
As he spoke, Spike was rudely shoved out of the way as two slayers brought water and bandages. Behind them, Willow was frowning at the wounded man. Shooting Spike a quick glare, she rested her hand on Gunn’s head and began to mutter in Latin.
“Easy there, Red,” Spike said with a smile. “Don’t be turnin’ my buddy here into a frog or somethin’.”
“I’m trying to keep him from turning into a corpse,” she snapped, before going back to her chanting.
“Right then. No sense of humor. I’d forgotten.” He backed away and allowed the witch and the slayer medics to work on Gunn while Angel watched anxiously.
Illyria’s arrival signaled the end of the small period of respite. She slammed through the doors, allowing a brief glimpse of the furious storm building outside as they banged against the wall. There was just the slightest tremor in her voice as the god informed them of Wesley’s death and of her “desire to do more violence.”
There was no time to mourn as the howls of the attacking demons could be heard approaching.
“Seems you’re going to get your wish, Blue,” Spike said quietly, nodding to Angel as they picked up swords and moved towards the still-open doors. Illyria quickly joined them as they took up positions in the narrow alley beside the hotel. They watched, almost with awe, as the storm clouds opened and demons began pouring out of whatever dimension had been tapped. Angel’s eyes lit up at the sight of the dragon and he nudged Spike before he stepped forward saying, “I want the dragon.”
With a shake of his head, Spike agreed, growling, “Fine, You take the dragon, I’ll take the 20,000 demons on the right and Her Highness will take the 30,000 on the left.”
“Don’t forget to leave some for us.”
Buffy’s voice floated over his shoulder as she stepped up behind him. While he waited for the forces of hell to fall upon them, he could see the other slayers scrambling onto the roof of the hotel and spreading out along the length of the alley. Suddenly, he felt more hopeful than at any time since Angel had asked for volunteers to help him take down the Black Thorn. With a familiarity born of years of practice, Buffy slipped into place on his right and they exchanged glances before launching their attack on the approaching demons.
Long after the vampires had retreated to the safe cover of the hotel, the slayers remained on guard, not sure whether the retreat of the demon army had been caused by the sun’s arrival or whether it was just a temporary lull. As the city of Los Angeles awoke and began to go about its normal business, they finally relaxed and at Buffy’s tired, “Let’s go, girls. Try to get some rest before they come back tonight.”
“Are you sure they’re going to come back?” Vi’s hopeful question was answered with a roll of the prime slayer’s eyes.
“They always come back,” she sighed. “That’s why we slay them instead of just chasing them away.”
“Just like the last time, huh? We can’t stop the apocalypse unless we kill them all?”
“Pretty much. Although last time, I think credit for stopping the apocalypse has to go to Spike and his fancy necklace.”
“I don’t suppose he has another necklace?” was the half-serious response to Buffy’s reminder of who had made it possible for them to escape from the vampire army pouring out of the hellmouth.
“Not that I’ve noticed.” Buffy turned her back and walked to the loading dock and the open door that awaited them there. She really didn’t want to discuss Spike and what she did and did not know about him now. She didn’t even want to think about Spike and how he’d been able to stay away from her for almost a year.
He said he still loves me. But if he still loved me, wouldn’t he have called me? He would have at least told me he was alive and let me decide what I wanted to do about it. Since when does Spike let the fact that I’m with somebody else get in the way of what he wants? I was with Riley when he realized he was in love with me and started stalking me…he didn’t back off then. He knew how I feel – felt – about Angel. He didn’t let that stop him from loving me. He’s lying for some reason. If he still loved me he would have told me he was back.
Forcing thoughts of how difficult it was going to be to spend time in close proximity to the vampire she hadn’t realized she was in love with until it was too late to the back of her mind, Buffy went into Head Slayer mode and began to work her way through the large lobby checking injuries, complimenting a slayer here and there for good work, offering a bit of advice to those who seemed a bit overwhelmed by their first apocalyptic battle and generally making sure that her small army was in the best shape it could be after the night they’d had. She was pleasantly surprised to find that, although two girls had been injured too badly to be expected to go back out right away, only one had been killed. Most of the rest had injuries that were fairly minor and would be well on their way to being healed by the next evening.
After a quick conversation with Angel, she sent the healthy slayers to the third floor to get some rest before the demons came back. There was no question in anyone’s mind that they were going to come back. Angel assured her that the Senior Partners were not going to rest until they had exacted their retribution for what he’d done to their Los Angeles branch.
“So, you mean, if I toss you out the door, they might all go away?” she teased gently.
“They might,” he smiled back at her. “Are you really that mad at me for not telling you about Spike?”
Buffy shrugged. “Probably. But I’m too tired to worry about it now. It was up to him to let me know, and he didn’t want to do it. No sense in my taking it out on you, I guess. It’s not like I would have expected you to buy him a ticket and wish him luck,” she added wryly.
“Would you have expected me to try to keep him from going to you?” His voice was calm and casual, but his clenched hands told another story.
Buffy looked from his fists to his soft brown eyes and smiled her forgiveness. “You might have tried, but I wouldn’t have expected Spike to listen. This isn’t on you, Angel. It’s on him…and on me. I waited until it was too late to tell him—” Remembering who she was talking to, she stopped herself and tried to change the subject. “Hey, this is a first for all of us, isn’t it? Fighting on the same side – all at the same time? These guys don’t have a chance.”
He smiled at her sadly, grateful that she hadn’t finished her sentence and more than happy to talk about something else.
“They sure don’t. You, me, my pain-in-the-ass grandchilde, a god, a witch and an army of slayers. We’ll be done before midnight.”
“Speaking of which….” Buffy rose to her feet and stretched.
“Oh, absolutely. You should get some rest. Did you—have you—do you know where you’re sleeping? Not that it’s any of my business,” he added hastily when she narrowed her eyes at him. “I just want to be sure you got one of the better rooms.”
“I’ll be fine, Angel. I’m going to check with Willow and the medics and then I’m going back to my nice quiet room where I can be alone.”
“Alone. Okay, good, that’s good. Alone is good.”
Shaking her head, she kissed him on the cheek, whispered, “Good night, Angel” and walked off. Neither of them noticed the blond vampire watching from across the room, nor did they see the way his face shut down when Buffy kissed Angel. Without a word to anyone, Spike headed for the basement training room and began to pound the bag until he realized that his arms were too tired from a night’s worth of fighting to have any impact. With a disgusted groan, he threw himself down on a pile of mats and willed himself into oblivion.
Buffy walked into the room she had taken for herself, peeling off her bloody shirt as she entered, only to quickly shrug it back on when she found Eve sitting on the edge of the bed waiting for her.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
“I thought you might need a friendly ear – what with both vampires busy trying to stay undead and not having time for you.”
“Get out of my room before I forget that you’re human,” Buffy gritted out between tightly clenched teeth.
“Well, that’s not very friendly of you,” Eve huffed, moving cautiously away from the slayer.
“I’m not feeling particularly friendly just now,” Buffy growled, her fists visibly clenched. “Especially not towards some Senior Partners flunkie who can’t keep her nose out of other people’s business.”
“Hey, I was just trying to be helpful…” Eve began edging towards the door, suddenly remembering what she’d been told about the slayer’s uncertain temper being the best way to take her out of her game and realizing that causing her to lose said temper could backfire very painfully.
“No, you weren’t,” Buffy said with a sudden burst of clarity. “You were trying to make me leave. Take my slayers and leave Spike and Angel to fight by themselves. You thought I’d get mad enough at them to walk out on an apocalypse. “
“Oops?” Eve’s smile was more fake than usual as she reached for the door handle.
As fast as any vampire, Buffy grabbed her arm and dragged the struggling woman out the door behind her. She pulled her along until they reached the first floor where she paused to ask, “Where’s Spike?” Angel gave Eve a slow grin and pointed towards the basement door. Without another word, Buffy hauled the now quiet emissary from the Senior Partners down the stairs with her and threw her in the door of the training room.
The thud of a warm body landing beside him woke the vampire immediately and he sat up with a snarl. His astonishment at seeing a very frightened Eve lying beside him while an angry Buffy stood over her kept him speechless for several seconds. Eve sat up and attempted to slide away from the vampire who had still not dropped his game face.
“What’s this, then, Slayer?” he asked quietly, his hand snaking out to grab Eve’s ankle even as he raised his eyebrow at Buffy. A deep snarl was all it took to make the now-frightened woman freeze. She looked back and forth between the vampire who she knew only as the office comic relief and the bane of Angel’s existence and the stone-faced woman staring at him.
“This,” Buffy said, jerking her chin at Eve, “is a snake in the grass. Did you know she’s been doing her best to get you, me and Angel so mad at each other that we won’t be able to concentrate on the battle?”
Spike shrugged. “Well, yeah. ‘s what she does, innit? Slither around the office doing the bidding of the Senior Pains-in-the-ass.”
“So, nothing she said to you about me or Angel made any difference to your behavior the past two days?”
“Nothing that your behavior didn’t prove was true.” The pout on his face made it obvious that he had begun to connect the dots and was struggling to save face.
“And she told me about Harmony out of the kindness of her heart, I suppose?”
“Harm? What could the stupid bint have told you about Harmo—oh….” He looked at her hard. “Is that why you went off on me yesterday? You thought I was—we were—Bloody Hell, Slayer! With you in the same city? Are you daft?”
“You did it before.” Buffy’s lip was now creeping out in a pout as she realized that Eve’s poisonous words were still affecting them both. She stopped, took a deep breath and shook herself. “I’m sorry, Spike. I let her get to me. I should have known better.”
“Yeah, you should have,” he huffed, trying to stay angry. He gave it up when he saw her eyes narrow again, giving her an apologetic smile. “Been a bit of a git myself, though, haven’t I? ‘S not like I have a lot of room to talk. Letting her bend my ear about you and my granddaddy instead of just asking you what was what. Shoulda known right away that there was somethin’ rotten in Denmark.” Buffy’s blank stare told him she was completely missing his Hamlet reference and he shook his head sadly. “Gonna introduce you to Shakespeare when this whole mess is over, pet,” he promised.
“Isn’t he like…dead? How can you introdu—oh my god! Shakespeare is a vampire?”
“What? Oh, for the—nevermind, Slayer. I’ll explain some other time.”
“Uh, as entertaining and touching as all this is, I don’t really think I want to watch where you go with it from here. So, I’ll just be going now…” Eve tugged on her ankle in an attempt to break the vise-like grip the vampire still had on it. He looked at her as though he’d forgotten she was there and wasn’t happy to find himself touching her.
“Before I let go of this piece of garbage, pet, do you want to tell me why she’s here?”
“You’re cut up,” Buffy said flatly. “I thought you might like some blood. Fresh blood.”
It was a toss-up which of the two people on the floor was the more shocked and horrified. Eve began to struggle in earnest, little whimpers of fear escaping her throat; while Spike’s demon visibly fought with his soul for possession of the body that was salivating at the very thought of fresh blood. His fingers kept their powerful grip on the woman’s ankle, even as he shook off his demon to meet Buffy’s cold gaze. They looked at each other for several minutes, neither one paying any attention to the now-crying woman trying to crawl away from the monster holding on to her.
Finally, the vampire nodded his head and broke into a smile. “I believe you, love,” he said softly. “You don’t need to try to poison me with tainted blood.”
He released his grip on Eve’s leg, allowing her to scrabble away from him on all fours. Buffy nodded back and let out the breath she’d not even been aware that she was holding. She turned her head to follow Eve’s sidling progress along the wall of the large room.
“What should we do with her then?” she mused, secretly delighted when Eve moaned in fear.
“Give her to the big poof – his soul isn’t quite as poncey as mine – maybe he’ll want to eat her.”
“Good plan,” Buffy said brightly, but making no move to re-capture the woman trying to edge past her to the door. She allowed Eve to reach the door and scramble out before breaking into the laughter she’d been containing.
“Bloody hell, pet,” Spike said with admiration. “You’d have made one hell of a vampire. I’d say the Senior Partners have just lost an employee, wouldn’t you?”
“I hope so.” She sobered immediately. “Do you think I shouldn’t have let her go? She could still cause trouble, couldn’t she?”
“All the forces of hell are lined up against us, love. I don’t think they’re going to need the help of one frightened minion. Her job was to get us all so brassed off at each other that we couldn’t or wouldn’t stand together against them. It’s done. She failed. Nothing to worry about now but all those ugly buggers comin’ back tonight.”
“Did she fail?” Buffy’s eyes searched his face anxiously, looking for some trace of the affection she’d always been able to see there. “Are we okay, now?”
He rose gracefully to his feet and walked over to where she waited, her clenched fists the only sign of how important to her his answer would be. He gently touched the side of her face, sliding his hand down her cheek and tipping her chin up so that she was looking him in the eye.
“We’re as okay as we’re going to get until we have time to talk about what a wanker I was to stay away from you. And, we are going to talk about that, love. I promise you. But now’s not the time. If you want to take a shot at my nose, jus’ to tide you over until we can have a real go about it, that’s alright; but anything else is goin’ to have to wait until we pull my grandsire’s feet out of the fire.”
“I don’t want to hit you,” she said softly. “I just want…” She shook her head. “Another one of those things that should wait, I guess.” Taking his hand, she brought it back to her face and kissed his bruised knuckles. “Why don’t you come back upstairs and get some blood and some medical attention? And then get some rest. I have a feeling last night was just a warm-up.”
His hand tingling from the touch of her lips, he nodded without speaking and followed her out the door and back up the stairs down which he’d come in such pain only a short while before. With a stiff nod, he joined Angel in the kitchen and gratefully accepted a large mug of blood from a marginally friendlier Willow. At his raised eyebrows, she just looked at him, hands on hips and asked, “Harmony?”
“Bloody hell! Is there anyone in this building that meddlin’ bint didn’t tell?”
“You’re just lucky we’re having an apocalypse, mister,” Willow said firmly. “And that Buffy said she needs you to be able to fight; or you’d be sucking blood from houseflies, not a fancy mug.” She continued to glare at him until he sighed and put his mug down.
“I got it, Red. I’m a stupid git and I should be punished; but that’s the Slayer’s job, don’t you think?”
Willow didn’t respond, giving him a look that promised she wasn’t finished with him before moving back to the lobby to make sure everyone had gone to bed. After checking the wards that she’d put up around the large building, she went to her own room for a much-deserved rest.
Spike drank his blood silently, wondering where Buffy had gone, but unwilling to ask his grandsire. The two vampires finished their blood and put the cups in the sink, moving with a silent grace and power that the day’s battle had done nothing to damage. They headed for the stairs at the same time, pausing at the bottom step to exchange glares.
“She needs to rest,” Angel growled, fixing a grandsire’s eye on the other vampire.
“Know that, you git. Wasn’t going to her room. I’m just lookin’ for a more comfortable place to bed down than the gym.”
“There are two beds in my room,” Angel mumbled, refusing to meet Spike’s eyes.
There was a tense silence and then Spike nodded his agreement. “ ‘preciate it,” he said quietly. “Even if I do know you’re only doin’ it to keep an eye on me.”
“Well somebody’s got to,” Angel deadpanned with just a trace of a smile as he led the way to his suite.
The two vampires quickly walked to the waiting beds, shedding their boots and clothes as they did so. Their room temperature bodies had no need of the bedding, but they automatically slipped between the sheets just as they had done as humans. Every window in the Hyperion was covered with thick draperies, which provided not only safety from the sun’s rays, but from any distracting light that might have kept them awake. Spike’s eyes were just falling shut when he heard a strained voice.
He examined all the things his grandsire might have had to apologize to him for, then shook his head and gave up.
“Well, you should be!” He waited until he heard the angry growl; then asked quietly, “What for?”
There was a long silence and he began to think that Angel wasn’t going to answer him, then, with a heavy sigh, the older vampire said, “For Buffy. I knew she loved you. I could see it when she was here – right after you did your hero act and she was just beginning to realize that you were really gone. Not that you stayed gone very long,” he added, under his breath, before continuing, “She was just beginning to grieve and I think she ran off to Europe hoping she could get away from the memories.”
“That’s my girl. Never face an emotion if you can run away from it.”
Spike’s shaking voice belied his light-hearted words and Angel continued quickly. “I should have called her for you; and I should have put you on a Wolfram and Heart plane as soon as you were solid. My selfishness hurt both of you – and for that I’m sorry. I don’t think you deserve her, but it’s not my place to tell her what she should want. And she apparently wants you. Don’t blow it.”
After another long silence, Spike’s voice drifted across the space between the beds. “Who are you and what have you done with Angelus?”
“Go to hell, Spike.”
“Been there – didn’t like it much.”
There was no response and even with vampire hearing there were no sounds to give away that there was anyone else in the room. When he was sure Angel had no more surprises for him, Spike rolled to his side and allowed the much-needed deep sleep to claim him. While his body did its best to heal the night’s wounds, his dreams were full of sunny meadows where a laughing blonde girl ran towards him.
The following night’s battle seemed, at first, almost anti-climactic. The numbers of demons pouring through the rift in the storm clouds seemed noticeably less than it had been the first night, and the dragon did not make an appearance with the initial rush. The small army of slayers spread out again, each girl taking on whatever demons attempted to out-maneuver the two vampires by coming at them from above or from the side. At the other end of the alley, Buffy and Illyria had forged a reluctant alliance as they repeatedly turned away attempts to infiltrate the alley from the rear.
Gradually, there were fewer and fewer pure demons to fight, the denizens of the hell dimension having been replaced by run-of-the-mill vampires. Vampires which the slayers began to decimate, moving from the safety of the brick walls into the open where they could put their athleticism and speed to best use. The air began to fill with dust as the slayer army put a year’s worth of training to good use.
It wasn’t until the slayers had all moved away from the Hyperion in pursuit of the few vampires and demons left standing, that the Senior Partners’ strategy became clear. With the all-too-human girls now in the open, gunfire rang out from groups of black SUVs that had crept up during the battle. The street began filling with dead and wounded warriors that looked much too much like ordinary teenage girls as they began dropping to the pavement.
Buffy’s outraged scream had barely tapered off, when she and Illyria found themselves under the same sort of deadly fire. Ducking back into the relative safety of the alley, they worked their way towards the two vampires, only to see the dragon reappear in the sky. Mouth open and flaming breath preceding him, the dragon flew directly at the two souled vampires. Another heartbroken “Noooooo” came from the remaining slayer as her two vampire loves stood, swords poised and waiting for the inevitable. Buffy threw her sword at the dragon and sprinted towards them, screaming Spike’s name as she did so, only to be spun around from the force of the bullet that found its way into her chest.
With a cry that startled the dragon in mid-strike, Spike flung himself towards the inert slayer, his ears listening frantically for the sound of a heartbeat.
“Don’t you die on me, Slayer,” he begged, even as he was scooping her up and running towards the loading dock door. The door was flung open and a Willow he had never seen before was standing in the entrance. Her hair was billowing straight out and her face was a mask of fury. She took one look at the bodies of the slayers she had helped to train as they lay in the street, some moving and moaning, others frighteningly still, and her eyes darkened until it was impossible to see her pupils. She turned her frightening gaze onto Spike’s anguished face and glanced down at the still figure in his arms. The sound of gunfire could still be heard as the hidden shooters continued to pour bullets towards Illyria and the downed slayers.
Spike’s body jerked as the ammunition being aimed at the open doorway began to slam into him. He sank to his knees, trying to shelter Buffy’s now-lifeless body with his own, and he remained there whispering his eternal love and devotion into the deaf ears of the woman he’d only just found again. He was only vaguely aware that the bullets were no longer reaching the concrete platform upon which he crouched. Willow had halted her perusal of the slaughter going on outside to take in what she saw before her; for just a second, the frightening mask of a powerful and angry witch slipped as she absorbed what the vampire was saying.
“…say hullo to your mum for me, love. I know you’ll be glad to get back to the place you were happiest. You’ve earned your rest, sweetheart. Doubt I’ll be joining you there – but if there’s a way, I’m going to find it. You hear me, Buffy? I’ll find you. I swear it. I love you, Slayer. You knew that, didn’t you? Of course you did. Told you often enough, didn’t I? Did I tell you today? I do, you know. Will forever – wherever this soul of mine goes – it will love you and be yours always. Rest in peace, my love.”
The vampire and the witch exchanged glances – finding themselves in perfect agreement that there would be no attempts at resurrection this time. The world’s longest-lived slayer – the one who had shared her power with an entire sisterhood of heroes – would be allowed to go to her well-earned reward. Spike gently laid her down and, forcing his bleeding body to its feet, he turned to face the alley.
A muffled sound brought their attention back to the immediate situation and they watched as Illyria was struck by one of the bullets that, up until then, she had been able to slip through without harm. With a hiss, the witch threw up a hand and the bullets that were on their way towards the few opponents still standing halted in mid air, then turned completely around and with rapidly increasing speed began to hurtle back towards the very guns from which they had originated. The results were very satisfying, if short-lived, as Spike’s enjoyment of the screams of pain and fear faded when he saw the dragon once again preparing to breathe out onto his grandsire. With a cry that was equal parts anger and grief, the younger vampire threw himself in front of Angel and dove into the beast’s fiery maw, sword first and Buffy’s name on his lips.
With a bloodcurdling shriek, the dragon leapt into the air and exploded into a fireball that continued to ascend until it had burned out. In the sudden silence on the ground, a battered and bloody vampire leaned weakly against the scorched wall of his hotel, while a reformed witch gazed in horror at what remained of the young and brave warriors that had faced everything the Senior Partners had thrown at them, only to be defeated by humans with guns. Even as her eyes darkened again and her face began to change, she saw from the corner of her eye, the blue demi-god striding purposefully towards the large vehicles in which the armed men had been hiding. Blood trailed unnoticed from the shoulder in which the last bullet to reach a target was still lodged.
Ignoring Angel’s request that she come inside and be tended to, Illyria approached the first vehicle, casually tossing the body hanging from the window out of her way. Inside, the only sharpshooter not to have been blown up by his own returning bullets, tried frantically to make his frozen gun work. He was still trying to fight the spell Willow had tossed out when the large SUV was picked up and thrown with unerring accuracy in the direction of the Wolfram and Hart building.
As it began to come back to earth, the scream of its only living passenger echoing down the empty street, a small, feminine figure could be seen running frantically away from it. Not bothering to watch the vehicle as it landed on Eve, Illyria methodically worked her way through the small army of Wolfram and Hart security vehicles, tossing them towards the building like so many pebbles. When she ran out of SUVs, she began walking in the direction from which the demons had come, holding up an imperious hand when it appeared that the portal was going to close before she got to it. She turned and gave one last impassive look around at the devastation and ruin before jumping through the portal without so much as a backward glance at the weary vampire in whose building she had spent the past several months. The portal winked closed behind her, leaving an eerie silence broken only by the moans of the injured slayers.
As Angel began to stagger towards the loading dock and Buffy’s body, Gunn appeared in the doorway, leaning heavily on one of the slayer medics.
“Did we win?”
Angel took a last look at where the ashes of the dragon and his grandchilde had drifted to the filthy floor of the alley, and then bent to pick up the body of the woman Spike and he had both loved.
“I suppose we did,” he said dully as he walked past, handing the body off to a teary-eyed medic. Gunn hobbled back into the building after him.
“So, what now?” he asked as Angel headed for his office and pulled the door open.
“Now, I have to make some phone calls.” He pulled the door shut behind him with great finality.
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For those who prefer their Spuffy with a happy ending, see below the cut for the optional Epilogue which was never posted anywhere as my beta and I felt it takes away from the intent of the story. But it’s happy and fluffy.
Buffy opened her eyes to find herself lying in a sunny meadow, the smell of fresh-cut grass tickling her nose and the warmth of the sun soothing away the few aches left in her body. For several minutes she just lie still, with her eyes shut, enjoying the respite from the bloodshed and horror that she was just beginning to remember.
With a gasped “Spike!” she bolted upright, her eyes scanning the peaceful scene for some sign of the dragon and the two vampires she’d tried to prevent it from incinerating. As she took in her peaceful surroundings, the sounds of birds singing, the complete lack of blood on her once-again intact clothing, she fell back with a muffled groan.
“Great. I’m dead again. And we never even got a chance to—“ She broke off as she felt a faint vibration in the ground. Sitting up quickly, and reaching for a non-existent weapon, she blinked as she saw a man running towards her. The sunlight glistened on his very blond hair, providing an almost halo-like effect.
He slowed as he approached her, speaking her name in a disbelieving whisper – “Buffy?”
She leapt to feet, disbelief and joy fighting for possession of her eyes. “Is it really you?”
He patted himself down, then gave her one of his patented leers. “Feels like me, pet. But I think you’d better check for yourself.”
With a laughing sob, she launched herself at him, carrying them both to the ground with the force of her leap. While he clutched her with the desperation of a man who had thought her lost to him forever, she ran her hands over his face and arms reassuring herself that he was real and, more importantly, there, with her.
Only after she had rolled them over so that she could wrap her own arms and legs around his body, did she notice the glistening eyes that belied his light-hearted comment. He raised one hand and gently ran his fingertips over her face, unconsciously repeating the desperate touches that she had used to assure herself of his existence. There was just the slightest tremor in the hand as he allowed himself to believe that she was really there.
“Am I dreamin’, pet?” he asked softly, his gaze never leaving her face even as he lowered his forehead to rest it upon hers.
“Only if I’m having the same dream,” she responded, tightening her grip at the suggestion that his presence might not be real.
“But—but I saw you die. Bloody hell, I felt it. I’ve never listened so hard for anything in my life as I did for your heart to beat. You were gone, love. I said ‘good-bye’ and then I…” His eyes widened as the memory of what he’d done next came drifting back.
“And then you what?” she demanded. “Why are you here? What did you do, Spike?” Even as she clutched him more tightly, she was glaring at him accusingly, the truth of their situation becoming apparent.
“I…uh…don’t know that I remember exactly what I did next…but I’m pretty sure I took that soddin’ dragon with me,” he finished happily. Realization reached him just as she began to roll her eyes and he frowned.
“So, we’re both dead then?”
“Looks like. Unless you’ve got some other explanation for all this vamp-safe sunlight and lack of apocalypty stuff going on.”
He rolled to his side so that they were facing each other, his eyes boring into hers.
“Right then. Dead slayer – sunshine and clear skies, got that. Looks like it might be Heaven. But what the bloody hell ‘m I doin’ here then?”
“I would guess that helping to save the world two or three times might have something to do with that,” she said with a smile. “Either that, or somebody knew that I wouldn’t go without you.”
“And knowin’ what a stubborn bint you are…”
“Exactly. It was just in everybody’s best interest to send you wherever I was going.” She sounded very pleased with herself and he had to laugh as he nuzzled her neck.
“Coulda been my doin’, you know,” he chuckled. “You couldn’t hear me, but I remember promising you that if there was a way, I would find it and get back to you.”
“Mmmmm,” she murmured appreciatively at the feel of his lips on her neck. “It could have been you, I guess. Even the Powers wouldn’t want to piss off a dragon-killer…”
“So, no more apocalypse, no more evil to fight…what are we going to do to pass the time, Slayer?” He raised his head to quirk an eyebrow at her.
“I was kinda hoping that you would think of something…” she whispered, reaching for the mouth that was barely touching hers. “But if you need some ideas—”
Which was all she managed to say for some time.
The other end.