Title: Marking Time
Author: Night Owl
Written for: cindermom
The Kink: Hurt/comfort
Three other requests: Spike reluctantly biting Buffy (see how I worked another kink in there?), include Dawn and/or Xander in the story, could be set anywhere from Season 5 to Post-NFA.
Up to two restrictions: No character bashing.
Feedback: (Absolutely. Thrilled to have it.)
Spoilers: To play it safe, let's just say all of BtVS and AtS.
Disclaimer: The characters don't belong to me, but I love Joss Whedon & Co. for sharing them with us.
Distribution: Don't have a website or an LJ. If you're interested in archiving, please ask. I'd be more than flattered.
A/N: This is my entry for the Spuffy Kinkathon, brought to you by the awesome BuffyX. I didn't quite finish it in time for today's deadline, darn it, but here are the first three chapters, and I should have all parts posted by next weekend at the latest. I hope it pleases, especially you, cindermom. Thank you for the lovely inspiration.Marking Time
By Night Owl
A strange keening sound was the first inkling Spike had that something was wrong.
Well, more wrong than finding himself back-to-the-wall and hopelessly outnumbered by a hacking, slashing mass of marauding fiends from hell, all of them screaming for his head. That one could have worked out a bit better.
Bruised, bloodied, and fighting for all he was worth, he'd been too caught up in the chaos of battle to keep track of the others. Even if he'd had that luxury, he couldn't see past the crush of demons hemming him in. It wasn't until a high-pitched whine rose above the clamor of blood-curdling screams and iron axes clashing against steel blades that he let himself wonder if Angel had finally slain his dragon.
No sooner had the thought formed than Spike found himself airborne and sucked halfway down the length of the building, arms and legs flailing against an invisible current that had latched on and wouldn't let go. Sailing through the air, he bounced off a tumbling Garnak demon, altering his trajectory just enough to send him careening toward a large metal pipe. It was obligingly bolted to the same brick wall that had guarded his back almost since the battle had begun. A desperate grab and his backward momentum halted with a jerk so hard it dislocated his shoulder.
Spike cursed and bit back a yell, pushing through the pain to tighten his grip on the pipe. It wouldn't have been easy, even without the relentless pull of the invisible force. He'd suffered some serious wounds, at least two of which would have done in a mortal man. Punctured something vital, he suspected, though for him it had only slowed his responses a bit. But now, waving in the air like a leather flag, he felt his strength leeching away even as he fought to retain his hold.
He realized somewhat belatedly that the air around him now pulsated with an unearthly blue glow, growing in intensity with each passing second. He strained to locate the source but abruptly lost interest when an iron helmet smashed into his forehead then spun off toward the far end of the alleyway where he and the others had originally made their stand.
Just then, a flash of something familiar caught Spike's eye. His free hand shot out, fastening around a small, booted ankle, and Illyria's headlong flight ended as abruptly as his own had a moment before. His arm was extended full length, the invisible undertow fighting to tear her away. Spike bared his teeth in fury and defiance at the unseen threat. Illyria's face was hidden from him, and he didn't even know if she still lived, but he had her in his grasp and he wasn't letting go.
Too bad he couldn't say the same for the pipe. He knew it was starting to loosen, even though the groan of rusty brackets was impossible to hear over a horrible shrieking noise that steadily grew in intensity. He'd thought the din raised by the demon hordes had been bad enough, but this was something infinitely worse.
His fingers slipped a bit and Spike realized with sudden horror that he was gradually getting weaker. A tingling numbness in his hands and feet crept inward and upward, spreading through his body, enveloping him in an advancing wave of sluggishness. He strained, desperately hanging on to the pipe and even more desperately to Illyria. Had to hold on. Wouldn't let go. Not even to save himself.
More debris flew by, more demons, too, as the gale-force winds howled around them, but still he clung. For one brief moment, Spike let himself believe that he might have the strength to outlast whatever it was. Then a searing pain roiled through him and Illyria slipped away. At the same time, he lost his grip on the pipe, hurtling backward, spinning end over end toward an unknown fate.
Then everything went away.
The English countryside flew past in a blur of deep greens and mottled browns, but Buffy's brain was too preoccupied to take it all in. As the car hurtled along, she focused instead on the mysterious summons from Giles, wondering for the umpteenth time what had prompted it.
When she'd listened to the message on her answering machine, she hadn't stopped to question it. Even with a scattering of high-profile disagreements and their painful disconnect during those final weeks in Sunnydale, Buffy trusted Giles. He simply meant too much to her for that ever to change. If he wanted her to drop everything and fly to England without an explanation, there had to be a good reason.
Not knowing what the trouble was or how long she'd be needed, she packed a suitcase along with her carry-on bag and left a note for Dawn and Andrew. Forty minutes later, she was on her way to Fiumicino and the first England-bound flight she could catch. True to his word, Giles had arranged everything. With only one flight a day into Bristol, the quickest route turned out to be a 3-hour non-stop to London's Heathrow Airport.
Buffy knew a driver would be waiting for her at the other end, ready to whisk her off to Giles' estate in Westbury as quickly as possible. What she hadn't expected was to see Xander – tan, fit, and still sporting a rakish eye patch – standing in the baggage claim area at Heathrow. When she had spoken to him barely a week before, he'd been fully immersed in running the African branch of the slayer training and special operations program. If something big were brewing, it made sense that Giles would also send for Xander, but how had he made it there ahead of her?
Buffy frowned at the obvious answer.
"How long have you been here?"
Xander's welcoming smile didn't falter, though she caught a flicker of something in his face that left her with an uneasy feeling.
"Well, hey there, Buffy! Great to see you, too! Oh, I'm fine, just fine, thanks for asking. How was your flight?"
Point taken, though he should know she couldn't be sidetracked so easily. Crossing her arms, she gave him the look that never failed to make him squirm. "Long on suspense, short on information. How was yours? Or more to the point, when was yours?"
Behind them, the baggage carousel hummed to life, the first suitcase thudding against the metal surface as it slid off the conveyer belt. Xander's head whipped around.
"Oh, hey, look…the bags are here. That was fast." He smiled nervously. "Better keep a close eye out. Believe it or not, there are unscrupulous people around who like to make off with luggage that doesn't belong to them. And, too bad for us, we're not allowed to stake them. What color is yours?"
"Red. And the question still stands. When did you get here, Xander?"
Smile fading, he visibly deflated. "A couple days ago. But before you ask me anything else…don't. Yes, there are things you need to know, but not here. And not in the car on the way. I promise, you'll find out everything as soon as we get to Giles' place."
She started to protest, but Xander cut her off. "Buffy…just trust me, please?"
She stared at him, seconds ticking by. Then she pointed to the carousel. "There's mine."
Buffy's thoughts returned to the present as the car slowed and turned onto a paved drive, passing through some familiar gates. She saw the turnoff to the compound where recently gathered slayers spent their first months in training. The facility was situated less than half a mile from the sprawling manor home that had been in the Giles family for the last century or more. As the car neared the big house, she caught glimpses of it through the trees. When they rounded the final bend, she could see her former Watcher already waiting on the front steps. Two minutes later, she was in his arms.
"Missed you," she said, giving him an extra-tight squeeze.
Giles groaned with mock protest and pulled back just enough to smile down at her. "Missed you, as well, terribly." He released her and turned to Xander, who was lifting her suitcase and carry-on out of the car. "You made excellent time."
Xander nodded. "Neither wind, or snow, or crazy British drivers can keep me from my appointed rounds. Or something like that." His eyes darted to Buffy then back to Giles. "Anything new?"
"Very little, I'm afraid, but this is hardly the place to discuss it. Let's go inside."
During the flight and the subsequent drive to the estate, Buffy had spent much of her time speculating as to why Giles had summoned her to England. A pending apocalypse topped the list, but she'd also considered a slayer-related crisis, and she'd even hoped a bit wistfully for a good, old-fashioned demon scourge.
That it might somehow involve a blue-haired woman clad in a leather bodysuit and a surly attitude? Never once crossed her mind.
Xander deposited Buffy's bags in the entry hall as Giles moved quickly to the foot of the staircase where the strange woman stood. Halting just inside the door, Buffy waited with raised brow as eerie blue eyes assessed her. If the sneer that formed on the demon's face meant anything, she'd just been judged and found wanting.
"Ah, here you are," Giles observed with strained civility. "I had not intended to call you down just yet, actually, but…well, since you are here. This is –"
"I know who she is. She is the one called Buffy. She is as unimpressive as her name." The woman turned to Giles, head tilting. "Are you certain there is not another?" she demanded. "This one does not seem sufficient to inspire the necessary devotion. I do not think it will work."
Buffy crossed her arms. "Giles…who is she, and can I kill her?"
The woman shot her a disdainful look. "That is extremely doubtful."
As Buffy bristled and the demon sneered, Giles' sardonic voice cut through the rising tension. "While I'm certain we're all fascinated to see the outcome of this riveting display of…I'm not really sure what…I'm afraid we haven't the time. Buffy, this is…an associate…of Angel's. She's here because of an unfortunate situation that has developed in Los Angeles."
Buffy straightened. "Is Angel in trouble?"
"Yes," Giles said quietly. "I'm sorry to tell you, he is."
Buffy stared at him, then nodded. "Okay. So she tells us what she knows and then I kill her."
The demon faced her, nostrils flaring. "Enough. I grow weary of this." She eyed Buffy with contempt, as if the mere sight of her left a sour taste in her mouth, and turned to Giles. "She is a child with meaningless taunts and empty posturing. We do nothing but waste time."
"Hey, I'm not the one who started this. What is your problem, anyway?"
The strange blue eyes swung back to her, the alien appearance emphasized by the ferocity in their depths. "You have caused much grief. I dislike grief."
The glowering disapproval obvious on the demon's face impelled Buffy forward a step. The other quickly moved to meet her but halted when Xander stepped between them.
"Okaaay!" Slapping his hands together with fake enthusiasm, he glanced from one to the other and back again. "Since we're all agreed we're pressed for time, how about we opt for the Cliff Notes version? Buffy, this is Illyria. She's a god. Or, former god. Her powers aren't what they used to be. Don't ask." He held up his hand. "She hasn't always looked this way. You remember Fred, that friend of Angel's Willow mentioned? She died and Illyria sort of sublet the place." The hand shot up again. "I repeat, don't ask.
"Anyway, since then she's been hanging out with Angel and his gang. According to her, Angel only pretended to go along with Wolfram & Hart until he and his posse could take out the big guns…namely, some uber-secret society of really bad guys. This pissed off the even bigger guns, who sent an army of demons out to rain on Angel's parade. Big battle, things looking grim, then Illyria kind of…accidentally opened a portal to another dimension. Apparently, she had a little more juice left than she thought."
Xander's voice softened, his smile fading, and somehow Buffy knew she didn't want to hear the rest.
"Buffy … Angel got sucked into that portal. Someone named Gunn, too. And a whole lot of demons. The same thing would have happened to Illyria, but she was yanked out of there just in time by Willow and the coven." Xander looked at Giles. "Did I forget anything?"
"Oh. Right." Voice grave, he turned back to Buffy. "Wesley didn't make it. I'm…sorry."
The last was directed to Illyria, who stared at him without comment. Buffy looked from Xander to Giles to the impassive woman and squared her shoulders, raising her chin as she drew in a deep breath. "So…how do we get him back? Angel. How do we find him?"
"No." Her tone made it clear she would accept no argument on this point. "How do we get him back?" she repeated.
Giles fell silent, then he nodded to Xander. "I'd like to speak with Buffy alone for a moment, if you don't mind. Perhaps you could escort Illyria back to her room and check on that…other matter?"
Xander nodded. "Sure, no problem." He motioned Illyria toward the stairs. "Your godness, if I might have the honor?"
She stood, haughty and apparently stone deaf..
Giles broke the impasse. "There's little more we can do at the moment, Illyria. We won't act without your knowledge, and we'll keep you fully informed of our progress. You have my word."
It seemed to mollify her. Without further comment, she followed Xander up the stairs. As they moved out of sight, Giles ushered Buffy to a small library off the main entry hall and closed the door behind them. He held up his hand. "To answer your question, Willow and the coven are working on identifying and locating the exact dimension in which Angel and his friend are trapped. Illyria, unfortunately, has not been able to provide us with much information in that regard, so it's a rather time-consuming process, as I'm sure you can imagine. Nevertheless, Willow feels certain they'll be able to narrow it down to a manageable number quite soon."
He pinched the bridge of his nose, head bowed as if he felt a headache coming on. "There are dangers to be expected, of course – not knowing what Angel may encounter there…wherever he is. But there is every chance it's a perfectly benign environment, and believe me, Buffy, when I say we have genuine hope of bringing them back safely."
Though it was hard to resist the urge to rush back to London and hop a plane to LA, Buffy nodded. "How did you know? That Angel was in trouble. Did he call?"
Giles hesitated. "I…had heard from him about another matter, but not about this. The coven's eldest seer notified us of the impending battle, but we didn't have enough notice to reach LA in time. Willow, fortunately, happened to be here reporting on a recent mission to the trans-dimensional plane. She was able to join with the coven in time to teleport Illyria. But, as you already know, we were too late to retrieve Angel."
Buffy was silent a moment, digesting the information, but she knew Giles. There was something else. "What aren't you telling me?"
He cleared his throat. "I beg your pardon?" Though his tone betrayed only mild curiosity, his gaze studiously avoided hers. If his glasses hadn't been out of reach on a table several feet away, he would have been furiously polishing them by now.
She'd managed to stay relatively calm up until now, surprising even herself, but now a heavy knot of dread formed in her stomach. "Giles, you didn't have me come all this way just to tell me you don't know what's happened to Angel. So whatever it is, let's get it over with."
She waited. The silence stretched out, marred only by the quiet ticking of an old clock somewhere across the room. When his eyes finally met hers again, his gaze was filled with warmth and concern and more than a little trepidation. But it was the glint of anger she saw that worried her most.
"Angel is part of it…but you're right." Giles nodded slowly. "There is more."
Crossing her arms, she tried for flippant. "Isn't there always?" Even to her own ears it sounded strained and unconvincing.
Dawn was okay, she knew that. Xander was here and Willow was with the coven. Giles had already told her about Angel. It couldn't be the end of the world again because she knew his pending-apocalypse face by heart and this wasn't it. Even Andrew was safe and sound back in Rome and enjoying his new and mystifying status as a chick magnet. So what…or who…else could have him this wound up?
She froze. Faith. Something had happened to Faith.
"Buffy, I don't know how to say this, but…"
No. He isn't.
She stood there, unable to believe Giles could do this to her. He knew how much Spike's death had affected her, understood how keenly she'd felt his loss. She had mourned him the same way she had loved him, silently and in secret, but Giles knew. He had seen what the others couldn't or wouldn't. So, why…
"Buffy, I realize what a shock this is, and I only wish there'd been time to better prepare you, but I thought it best you not be told over the phone. I –"
"He's not." Her protest grated like a rusty saw on stone. "You know he's not."
He can't be.
"I understand your…reluctance…to believe."
Because if he were, he'd be here.
"But I assure you it's quite true."
"In fact, you can see for yourself."
And I would know. I would feel it.
"He's just upstairs, actually."
But…oh, god. What if…?
"Did you hear me, Buffy?"
The solid warmth of his hand on her shoulder called her back from the place her mind had wandered. She looked up to find him gazing down at her, waiting for some kind of response. Her eyes filled with tears. Only one thing she could think to ask.
TBC in Part 2