Setting: Post-"Not Fade Away"
Pairing: Spike/Fred; some Angel/Nina; some Oz/OC
Summary: Two years after the destruction of Sunnydale, the Scoobies and the Fang Gang cross paths again. Sequel to Reentry and Canis Familiar.
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel canon characters belong to Mutant Enemy.
Author's Note: For readers who aren't familiar with this series of stories, Fred has been resurrected and now shares her body with Illyria. They, along with Gunn, Angel, and Spike, have relocated to a hellmouth near Phoenix, Arizona, where they've been joined by Oz. This series also contains some recurring original characters: Elsie D was introduced in Canis Familiar, and Paloma, Kay, Thu Kheim, Dilip Singh, and Michael Wight were introduced in Reentry. They're another band of "white hats" similar to the Scoobies and the Fang Gang, because with all the evil in this 'verse it wouldn't make much sense for Buffy's and Angel's groups to be the only two in existence. I've made every effort to beat my original characters very thoroughly with the Mary Sue whuppin' stick before letting them wander out onto the pages.
The countryside of Wales is wild and green and lush, with tree limb canopies that almost hide the sky and enfold its roads like thick woolen blankets. Brambles grow there, and vines and briers and low stone walls. The walls are lichen-covered and ancient - they may no longer serve their original purpose, but they are a part of the landscape, and they are not going anywhere soon.
Three women were perched on one of those walls, sitting on their bottoms with their toes barely brushing the ground, in the privacy of the back garden of an isolated house. It was midday, but the sun was obscured behind clouds and seemed determined to stay there. Sheets of laundry flapped on clothes poles, blocking the view from the road. Save for the breeze and the laundry's wet, thin, popping noises, the garden was still and silent. The women murmured among themselves. Their eyes closed, and their hands moved in tandem, making circular motions in the air. The mirror they'd hung from a tree branch near the wall did not reflect any of this; it was too tarnished and speckled with age.
It showed them other things, though.
The eldest woman's eyes snapped open and she squinted at the glass, surprised and mystified. She snatched up the fax letter from her lap and read its contents again - no, nothing here had indicated that there were...
A gasp drew her attention back. The woman on her right was gaping at the mirror now, too, her mouth actually hanging open in shock.
"Remember all the details you can, Sheila," the elder woman whispered to her. "The council will want to know about this."
Rupert Giles' ceiling was leaking again.
Twice already the stupid thing had been repaired, and each time the leak had returned in a new place; today's location was directly over his desk. Fortunately he'd been at the desk at the time, and had shoved the battered piece of furniture out of harm's way and left a small plastic rubbish bin in its stead to catch the drips. He hated it here. Gone forever was the beautiful old Victorian structure that had served them so well, with lovely antique bookcases and warm, mahogany wainscoting. New headquarters was a former hospital and its adjacent car park. The building was big enough and the rent affordable, but it had its downside and that included atrocious plumbing. And it was stale, and spartan, and uninviting, and painted a depressing institution green. They'd hoped to find permanent facilities before now, and get a decent grasp on the names and numbers of slayers, and find watchers suitable to oversee them...
Imagine a world where the slayers outnumber the watchers. Always before it'd been the other way around; lately Giles had begun to appreciate some of the merits of that older system. There was so much to organize now, and so many more people to plan for. Substitute watchers hurriedly pulled in from all walks of life: sorcerers, scholars, psychologists, martial artists. Financial wizards (literally as well as figuratively), to maintain the funding needed to support the new council. Stipends for the slayers for services rendered - that was one of the first new rules that Giles had insisted on - and housing for those who needed it. Weapons. Archives. Around-the-clock security systems. Giles gazed at the dozens of icons on his laptop screen and felt his eyes begin to fog over.
A tap on the door at knob level, and Mr. Yoder from the library department came into the office, a pencil tucked behind his ear and manilla folders wedged tightly under his arm. Like Giles, he was a council "old-timer," although his actual age could have been anywhere from early thirties to middle fifties; it didn't reveal itself in his face, and Giles couldn't recall it either. There was a look about the man of determination and no-nonsense. He crossed the room with a rolling gait, for he was a dwarf. ("No, Pinhead," Faith had sighed at Xander's look of confusion. "A human dwarf. MID-GET.")
Yoder glanced up at the leaky ceiling. "Isn't there a toilet upstairs right over that spot?"
"Yes. There is. Thank you for noticing." Giles slowly and tiredly removed his glasses and began to polish them. Yoder pulled up a chair.
"I've catalogued eight more volumes of the Heemahd Encyclopaedia of Daemon Biology. Togashi's widow found them in a safe that survived when the bringers burned down their house." He slid the pile of folders across the desk to Giles. "There's a set written in English, and one in Japanese. The grammar in the English transcription's not as smooth as our original copy was, but it'll do."
Yoder had only been an assistant librarian before the bombing - not much more than a clerk, really - but he was the sole surviving member of the old council's library staff, and the employee most familiar with the remaining bits of research and resource material, and so under the emergency conditions he'd found himself promoted to Interim Head Librarian. Accustomed to the soft, cultured English accent of Yoder's predecessor, Giles found the man's blunt American voice jarring.
"There's also a treatise available on the black market that sounds promising: The Transmigration of Souls, self-published in 1972.I don't think this one's a hack job; the guy sounds like he really knew his stuff. Even if it is all theory." Yoder tapped his pencil on the desk for emphasis, and then muttered under his breath, "...It would have been nice to have some details from the one person we knew who'd experienced it first-hand..."
Giles felt the heat rising to his face, and tried to will himself not to turn red. "Paul, as I've explained to you before, I was more than a little preoccupied with saving the lives of dozens of girls, not to mention preserving the slayer line AND halting an attack from the hellmouth that threatened our entire world. There really wasn't any time left to devote to a partially-insane vampire who by his own admission couldn't always tell fantasy from reality."
"According to the girls there was a lot of free time. Some of them said you even appeared to go out of your way to avoid speaking to him."
Good lord, the man's like a dog with a bone with this! "He couldn't be trusted! There was no way of knowing when he was under The First's control, and..." Giles drew a slightly shaky breath. "And he attempted to rape Buffy. The girl is like a daughter to me, and fathers and watchers find it hard to forgive men who hurt their girls."
"He tried that after the re-souling, or before?"
"Before...Not that it matters! You've a wife and children; if a vampire attacked one of them, you'd understand why I see it the way that I do." For an instant, before he beat it back down, a horrific memory skated across the surface of Giles' mind.
Jenny. Oh, Jenny.
Yoder was unrelenting. "It was still your duty. You threw away the opportunity of a lifetime, Man! With Angelus's gypsy clan lost, Spike was the only link we had to a way to maybe ensoul ALL vampires! In all of the council's annals there's never been a record of any vampire even wanting to reclaim their soul, much less doing it! And how'd he do it? And where? Out of all those people in that house, not ONE person asked him?"
"We do have a way..."
"Which apparently only works when the soul is close at hand. The only two times Ms. Rosenberg's done it successfully was with Angelus. Who knows; the clan probably designed that spell specifically for him and no one else." Yoder tossed the pencil across the desk in irritation. "We've never been able to make it work on any other vampire." He leaned forward and fixed the watcher with a glare. "And you ignored my question. NO one asked?"
Giles returned the glare with one of his own. "I. Don't. Know."
It was ridiculous to have even been drawn into this discussion. Yoder had already cornered everyone who'd crossed the threshold of the Summers' home that fateful year and grilled them mercilessly, and gotten nothing for his trouble. No one, so far as Giles knew, had spoken to Spike much at all...except for Buffy.
And whatever Buffy knew, Buffy was keeping to herself.
"You're sure it's gone now?" An ashen-faced curator halted midway on the top-floor staircase of a corporate art gallery in Phoenix, Arizona, clearly reluctant to go up any further. He drew back another cautious step as Spike and Fred descended.
"Completely," Fred assured him. "Dead and evaporated."
Their night's work had been the trapping and killing of a small but malevolent gremlin who had taken up residence in the gallery's storage rooms and bitten the ankles of anyone who entered - not a dangerous assignment, by any means; simply time-consuming. It had scurried into hiding at the scent of vampire, and the bulk of their time had been spent in creeping around with a flashlight and a broom handle and flushing the wee beastie out. Now it was morning, and the upper halls and paintings and statuary were awash with natural sunlight. Spike took care to give the skylights and windows a wide berth.
"I want to thank you, on behalf of the entire museum board," said the curator. "I'm not ashamed to admit that we were at a complete loss. We never would have believed that such a thing existed! I can't imagine anything more frightening."
"Oh, me either." Spike glanced toward a collage of parakeet photographs with a jaded eye.
"The director should have your payment in the mail by Wednesday at the latest." The curator glanced at his watch. "It'll be time for us to open soon. If you'd like to have a stroll around the floors while you're waiting for your ride, be my guest. We've got some beautiful pieces." He nodded his gratitude again and walked away in the direction of the elevator.
The stillness in this wing of the museum was almost palpable. Not a sound or motion from the outside world penetrated it. High, white walls whose sleek sameness was broken only by the paintings and by a few shallow, recessed niches with narrow windows; smooth white floor underfoot. The sculptures endlessly, silently, patiently waiting.
"Drusilla used to love to prowl around places like this," Spike commented as their footfalls echoed in the empty air. "She could tell you all the barmy things that the artists had ever thought or done. Didn't read it off the little brochures; just knew by looking at the art itself - who'd been obsessed with doin' his sister-in-law, who was addicted to morphine, who'd lopped off an ear. She liked the avant-garde stuff best. Said some of those blokes knew about colors that nobody could see."
Talk of Drusilla rarely made Fred uncomfortable, although she knew that it ought to - Dru was evil, after all, and a murderess, and had been Spike's lover for more than a hundred years. Wesley had shown her a photo of the vampire once. She'd stared out at them from a studio portrait, circa 1880s: slender and pale, with a round, taut face and thin unsmiling lips and bold, exotic, wide-set eyes, her dark hair carefully oiled and pinned and draped over her shoulders in a few long serpentine curls. She was not a classic beauty, but there was something about her that was sensual and attractive. Come into the picture with me, she seemed to be saying. Fred could easily imagine her waltzing from canvas to canvas down a museum corridor, twirling around in slow, lazy circles, halting to peer into a painting with fascination and morbid delight and whispering her visions to her William.
Somehow they had drifted into one of the alcoves on the west side of the gallery. Fred leaned back against the wall there and murmured a reply. "Well, there are parts of the light spectrum that are invisible to humans, so she was probably right. Although I'm not sure how the artists knew..."
Her words trailed off as Spike reached out and quietly unfastened the top button of her blouse. The loosely-knit material sagged under its own weight and began to slide off of one shoulder. Fred blushed and tried to finish her thought. "Maybe some of them were psychic, too..."
He undid the second button, and both sleeves fell to her elbows and exposed one of her breasts. She gave a little yelp of alarm and folded her arms under her bust to try to pull the blouse back up, but his hand stopped her.
"No." His voice was low and deep, and so firm that Fred obeyed against her better judgement and held her arms still. His grip on her wrist was not tight enough to hurt her, but it was as rigid as iron; she couldn't have covered herself if she'd tried.
He spoke again. "I want to look at you like this." His eyes, blue and sharp as Arctic water, began with her face and trailed slowly down to fix on the bare little breast. Then he lowered his head to it, and she felt warm kisses there.
Light glinted and played on the thin gold chain around his neck; she watched the light dance as her breath grew shallow. When she finally found her voice, it was no more than a whisper.
"...We can't. Anyone walking in here will see us." She felt a sudden strong suck on her nipple. "Spike..."
"It's Sunday morning. Everyone's in church." His words came out muffled against her skin. He placed one final kiss on the soft, plump crevice in front of her armpit, and raised his head once more. The hand that held hers pinioned drew it down to the hem of her skirt, wrapped her fingers around the fabric, and pressed her hand back upward.
Slowly, obediently, with her left arm still trying to support her wayward blouse, she lifted the front of the skirt to just below her waist. She sensed Spike's entire body stiffen, and it was several moments before he spoke.
"I want a painting of you posing like this; looking like this. Sweet. And lovely. And disheveled. And willing. And helpless. And waiting for me."
Hypnotic words. Each one like a single drop of liquid, falling in slow motion with a soft plunk.
We can't...we can't...
She made an almost clumsy effort to move her legs apart. Spike knelt before her and thumbed aside her panties.
And then she no longer cared whether anyone discovered them.
Dust motes swam in the shafts of sunlight in the vast hallway; Fred watched them in an almost dream-like state while the pleasure pooled and pooled. It was so still here; so silent. She turned her face to the window beside her - blessedly shaded from the eastern sun - and gazed at the traffic and people moving about in the street below. If they look up, they'll see us. They'll see me half-naked. See him- OH! - put his finger inside me. Does anyone ever look up into windows? The people in the pictures on the walls seemed to be watching, too; oil eyes, acrylic eyes, portly men in crayon business suits and Impressionist ladies in watercolor dresses. Watching her and her demon lover.
I wonder what they're thinking.
She came with a little cry, Spike's hands on the back of her thighs holding her in place. When she went so limp that she almost fell, he stood up and supported her around the waist with one arm while he unzipped his jeans. He continued to hold her that way as he coupled with her. When he finally spent himself with a hoarse groan, they sagged against the wall and clung to each other.
The entire room seemed bathed in a warm lethargy, squares of sunlight moving silently, imperceptibly across the floor. Under her cheek Fred felt the damp fabric of the vampire's shirt, and his collar bones and shoulder and hardened muscle. She flexed her fingers through his hair and gazed back at the picture people.
Spike recovered first, a bit bleary-eyed but as pleased and sated as a big, lazy cat. "Oh, god, Love, that was...that was delicious." He straightened up, and smiled as he began to adjust their clothing. Then a cloud passed over his face. "I'm sorry, Pet. I got carried away. Didn't mean to strip you naked in public and embarrass you."
He looked so worried now, almost...frightened? He did this sometimes - became convinced that he'd somehow offended her - and she didn't know where it came from. She did know that she wanted him to be happy again.
"You didn't. Well, there was stripping, but you didn't embarrass me." Her mouth broke into a shy little smile of her own; an I-want-to-share-a-secret-with-you smile. "I liked it."
His face relaxed somewhat. "Honestly?"
"Yes! Spike, I'm not a schoolmarm. I like doing naughty things with you."
Now he seemed content again. "Even if it runs up the clothing repair bill? 'Cause I think I may have stretched the hell out of your poor knickers."
She reassured him with a kiss full on his lips and a little whisper. "I loved that best of all."
The grounds of the Council's new home were not much of an improvement over its interior. No plant life of any sort, unless one counted the weeds growing through the cracks in the pavement; nothing but concrete and glass and chain-link fencing. A thirty-five-year-old blight of a building in the industrial north of England, a lifetime away from the C of W's glory days, and now Giles stood in its shadow and watched as Willow Rosenberg emerged from a taxicab and hurried across the car park to him. He opened his mouth to greet her-
"Oh, good. Here you are; all handy and conference periody and coffee breaky, and you're gonna need to cancel...Hi, guys..." Willow paused for breath and forced a calm smile as a cluster of girls walked past them. When they were beyond earshot she dropped the smile just as quickly and gripped Giles's sleeve. "...whatever you've got on your schedule, 'cause this is huge."
"Sit down." Giles nodded toward a narrow ledge running knee-height around the sides of the building. They took seats on it far away from the traffic of the front doors, and Willow dropped a tote bag full of papers at her feet and began to babble again. Her face bore a mixed expression of shock and fear.
"The Wiccan watchers in Wales - wow, try saying that three times fast - who were running a locator spell to find unregistered slayers? Well, this morning they did a scan of northern Mexico and the southwestern United States, and when they checked the slayer in Arizona - the Cambodian-American one whose dad won't let her train under the council - they detected not just her, but what looks like a small hellmouth-"
"And some kind of creature who's giving off vibes that feel a lot like Glory's-"
"Oh, my god-"
"...And two souled vampires."
Giles stared at Willow, dumbfounded.
"Angel and Spike?"
The young witch nodded slowly. "Kinda looks that way. I'm not completely sure, 'cause there was a lot of mystical static when I tried to take a peek myself, but we're all pretty positive that the vampires are both he-males."
Giles shook his head in amazement. "Incredible...absolutely unimaginable. Angel's office complex was destroyed. There's been no sign of him anywhere, nor of Wesley." He fell silent for a moment and then pondered aloud, "I wonder if the Wolfram & Hart organization is behind the mystical interference...if the vendetta they claimed against Angel was merely a ruse, and he's still one of them. If they've somehow released one of Glorificus's cohorts..."
"What about Spike? How could he have survived the cave-in? I mean, yeah, vampire, but the turok vamps were all flash-fried, so wouldn't Spike have been, too?"
"One would think so, but then the dead have been raised before."
Willow blanched and briefly looked away. Then she turned back to Giles again.
"One of us is gonna have to tell Buffy."