Disclaimer: Stargate: SG-1 and all related concepts are the property of MGM, while the character of Spike belongs to Joss Whedon and James Marsters, among other people (Also, the original idea for this story came from Jedi Buttercup's 'An Unexpected Gift', so I don't own it either, although I have put my own spin on things, and have been given his full permission to use his idea)
Feedback: I'd appreciate it, of course
AN: In gratitude for your patience in waiting so long for an update for this story, I give you the second chapter right away, as we see just what happened to Buffy to turn her into the cyborg we saw last time…
AN 2: The majority of this chapter was written by the highly talented Elgin when he had the time to spare- his fight scenes are always of high quality, and considering the scale of what happened here I thought that this scene deserved the best-, but the central idea is mine, and I've added my own touches to the flashback fight; hope you all like it.
The Ghost in the Team
Looking back on that moment, Buffy would never be entirely sure why she decided to listen to her old enemy in that moment when she'd been so focused on staking him. Maybe it was the honest confusion and shock she saw in his face at the idea that she thought he was dead, maybe it was Colonel Carter's comment about 'the Spike you know' and Spike's comment about how he was dead 'here' reminding her of her old confrontation with the vampire version of Willow, maybe it was the strange essence of genuine emotion she'd seen in Spike's eyes as he'd looked at her, an expression that she'd only ever seen in Angel's eyes and found disturbingly lacking in any other vampire she had ever fought in her life...
"What do you mean, you're dead 'here'?" she said at last, sitting back slightly even as she took care to keep her weight on Spike's legs; if he was trying to catch her off-guard, he couldn't do much with his legs pinned down, and she knew she had the advantage in upper-body strength...
"Well... look, Spike told me about an encounter you had with a version of your friend Willow who was a vampire; that did happen to you, right?" Colonel Carter asked, apparently taking up the explanation for Spike (Buffy really wanted to know what Spike had done in any reality to convince anyone to trust him with bodyguard detail for a national hero; this whole thing was just stupid at best).
"You know about that?" Buffy said, uncertain how she should react to that news even as she definitely felt outraged; that experience had been so difficult- for a few hours, she'd been convinced that she would have to stake her best friend- and now Spike was sharing it-
"How the Hell do you know about that?" she asked, looking incredulously at Spike as she focused on the problem of him possessing that knowledge. "You weren't even in Sunnydale when that happened!"
"You told me 'bout it a year or so ago," Spike replied, smiling up at her in a manner that could almost be described as hopeful.
"You were dead by then-!" Buffy began.
"In this world, he was," Colonel Carter interjected, looking at Buffy with a slightly apologetic expression. "I know it's an unusual concept, but this isn't the Spike you... knew; Spike and I come from an alternate universe to this one, where our history diverged from yours around the time that Anubis invaded."
"Uh... alternate universe?" Buffy said, shaking her head slightly in confusion. "That... that means... if your world... are you saying that something different happened to you?"
"Well, they fought off that Anubis bloke without the Stargate stuff going public and you don't have that stupid metal eye thing; I'd call that different, wouldn't you?" Spike said, only to be met with a rapid punch to his face as Buffy glared at him.
"This," she said, indicating the metal where her eye had been, "is no joke."
It might have been three years since she'd lost her eye, arm, and a sizeable portion of her side, but that was the kind of thing you didn't forget...
Spread out before her as she crouched on the roof of the Doublemeat Palace, Buffy could only watch as a beautiful, seemingly peaceful Sunnydale night was ruined by a vista of destruction the likes of which even this town had never seen before.
Tracer rounds and energy blasts flickered through the night. Heavily armed men in black camouflage fatigues ran this way and that, variously firing, advancing, falling back, taking up or abandoning firing positions, radioing in situation reports or calls for reinforcements.
From one side of Reinkemeyer Street, a fire team of four Initiative commandos armed with DEWS carbines bombarded their enemy with blue-silver crackling lightning bolt-like energy blasts; from across the road, a quartet of NID commandos blazed away with what she'd learned were known as 'zat guns', sheltering behind an overturned Humvee. Another Initiative team of four commandos armed with flamethrowers circled around their compatriots' position, took aim and opened up, great gouts of liquid fire washing over the lone enemy, even as she continued coming.
"I am a GOD, you witless maggots!" the being Buffy had learned was called Glorificus screeched. Launching herself into a flying leap, she landed among the NID commando team and ripped the team leader in half at the waist. She then seized another commando and threw him against the nearest brick wall, which partially collapsed under the force of the impact, leaving the battered corpse to bounce randomly and fall to the ground.
"Do you moronic monkeys even begin to comprehend what that MEANS?" she continued to rant, as she backhanded the last two commandos, sending them flying backwards in broken and bloody tangles of limbs. "I am GLORIFICUS! And I want my damned KEY!"
Even five blocks away from the fight, Buffy continued to watch the battle, her body automatically itching to participate, her fingers restlessly clenching into fists and unclenching, over and over again, out of a lack of anything else to do.
Standing next to Buffy, surveying the battlefield through a pair of binoculars, was a grey-haired man with a bedraggled moustache, wearing a set of rumpled green-black-brown woodland-pattern camouflage fatigues, only identifiable as a major general in the army by the silver stars on his shoulders. The name 'Phillips' was displayed over his jacket's breast pocket; his weathered skin and receding hairline betrayed the trials and tribulations of his fifty-nine years, and his fingers bore the nicotine stains of a lifetime smoker.
"Charlie and Echo callsigns, engage immediately!" Phillips snapped out, in a clear voice that was obviously used to being obeyed. "Delta and Foxtrot callsigns are to advance to flanking positions and prepare to enfilade the HST. Golf and India callsigns, stand by to provide fire support on my order. Hotel and Juliet callsigns are to advance to Reserve Position Five-Three and await further instructions. All sniper teams are cleared to engage."
"This won't kill Glory, y'know," Buffy grimly told the general, not looking away from the raging battle as the soldiers standing behind them relayed the orders to the relevant units via the bulky radio sets on their backs.
Phillips was silent for several seconds, watching as a trio of anti-tank rockets struck Glory in rapid succession, the detonations hurling her into the air, before he spoke again. "I guessed as much… but this oughta at least tenderise her a ways."
Lying sprawled on her back, Glory screamed with rage before she picked herself up off the tarmac. Her dress was reduced to shredded scraps of cloth and her near-naked body was scorched and blistered, a few pieces of metal shrapnel protruding from her chest and belly.
"That HURT, you vermin!" she shrieked. "How DARE you stand up to one of your betters like that!"
With that said, she charged the nearest Initiative team; a second later, she began hurling bodies- some still alive, some mercifully already dead- every which way in a fit of pique.
"Phillips, you need to pull your guys outta there!" Buffy insisted; she'd gone along with this plan in the hope that it might make some impact, but so far all that it was accomplishing was getting people killed against a foe they couldn't hope to match. "I'll take it from here…"
An Initiative fire team armed with automatic shotguns opened fire, hitting Glory with a near-solid wall of blazing hot metal shrapnel; an NID team armed with bulky drum-fed M32 grenade launchers joined them, peppering the insane hell goddess with a fusillade of high explosive charges. Another NID team carrying Goa'uld staff weapons ducked and ran from one piece of cover to another, until they were close enough to Glory to engage her, glowing golden plasma blasts striking her head and chest, making her howl in enraged agony and driving her into an even-greater frenzy.
"Remind me again how well that worked out the last three times you tangled with her?" Phillips asked rhetorically, his voice calm and gentle as he glanced at the Slayer.
Buffy grimaced, but said nothing; maybe it was some hero complex she'd developed over the years, but she just hated the idea of other people dying in a fight when she was just as capable of participating as they were…
The insect-like bulky shape of an Apache gunship swept past low overhead, rotors clattering. Tracer rounds streamed from the chaingun mounted under the helicopter's nose and tore into Glory; the hell goddess's screams had a real and agonised urgency to them now. An anti-tank missile that was a couple of feet longer than Buffy was tall leapt free from a weapons pylon under the Apache's starboard wing on a stream of exhaust fumes and struck the goddess in the face.
"Stick to the plan, Miss Summers," Phillips said, shaking his head in a pointed manner. "We'll wear her down, then you finish her off. She's not ready for you yet; my guys still have work to do."
Clambering to her feet and seizing a nearby abandoned car, Glory hurled it up at the gunship. The saloon hurtled high into the air, then dropped down into the sweeping arc of the helicopter's rotor blades which chopped it apart, pieces of shrapnel penetrating the cockpit and crew, spraying the canopy's shattered remnants an arterial red. Nose dropping, the Apache drunkenly lurched to the left, colliding with an office building before it plummeted to the street below and exploded.
"Your guys are getting killed in there!" Buffy protested.
"You think they didn't guess it would go down this way?" Phillips asked, glaring over at her. "This isn't our first rodeo, Summers; this is a war, and just like any other war, we knew that we'd pay a price like this."
Glory abruptly stumbled, reeling to the right as something powerful slammed into the side of her head. Steadying herself, she staggered over to the burning wreck of the gunship, snatched up a piece of armour plating, then threw it like a javelin back at where the shot had come from.
"Sir?" one of the signallers spoke up, voice trembling slightly. "Uh, one of our sniper teams just went off the air…"
"How many more men are you prepared to lose tonight, Phillips?" Buffy asked, glaring over at the general. Not waiting for an answer, Buffy took a step forward and dropped off the edge of the roof; landing in a roll, she smoothly came up onto her feet and took off running, racing toward the sounds of screams and gunfire, hurdling a burning Humvee as she focused on her target. A black-clad corpse flew past her at head height, followed by another that rolled and bounced and skidded its way along the asphalt. Dodging, Buffy then leapt into the air.
"…You're just a mortal," Glory was chiding the feebly-struggling commando she was holding one-handed by the throat; in a seemingly delicate motion, she squeezed, snapping his neck as cleanly as a professional hangman, then cast the body aside. "You couldn't understand my pain."
Further ranting was cut off as Buffy leapt through the air once more and hit her opponent feet first, striking the hell goddess in the face with a powerful force.
"Then I'll just have to settle for causing it," Buffy said grimly as she hit the ground and shifted into a combat stance as she got back to her feet, leaving Glory groaning in agony from where she'd fallen to the ground.
"Ugh… and of course the Slayer turns up," Glory sighed as she struggled to stand up again, clutching at her evidently aching face as she looked Buffy over with a scathing sigh. "God, don't you have any taste at all? Your wardrobe is an abomination against nature."
Buffy lashed out, kicking Glory in the gut to leave her gasping for oxygen once again as she returned Glory's earlier scathing look. "At least I dress appropriate for the occasion; jeans and a jacket that I don't mind too much getting blood and guts all over if it comes down to that." The Slayer followed up with a roundhouse punch that snapped Glory's head around to one side and knocked her down again; Glory coughed and retched, and blood and a couple of teeth flew from her mouth. "Whereas your line of hooker-wear… Oh… dear… me."
Glory's hands flew to her mouth, fingers probing the newly-bleeding gums.
"You… you can't DO that!" she shrieked in horror.
"Don't care," Buffy grinned, cocking her head to one side. "Just did."
"But I'm a god! And you're just a puny little Slayer!" Glory howled, kicking out at Buffy's legs and dropping her flat on her back on the tarmac. "This is so totally not fair! You're cheating!"
Buffy log-rolled away from Glory even as the goddess swung a fist in an over-arm strike at her head; Glory screamed in pain and irritation as she ended up punching a crater into the asphalt instead.
"Nope," Buffy riposted, as she and the hell goddess leapt upright again, the Slayer falling into a ready stance before swinging a punch at Glory's head with her left fist. "I'd say I'm winning."
"Oh, yeah?" Glory snarled. "Win this!" Ducking and seizing Buffy's outstretched arm, Glory flexed her fingers and squeezed with all her might. The goddess's face contorted into an ugly rictus, a delighted gleeful grin, as she snapped the bones in the Slayer's upper arm and sadistically ground them together, eliciting an agonised shriek from the Slayer. Glory's grin grew still wider, and she slapped her left hand against Buffy's chest to give the Slayer an inhumanly powerful shove away from her, sending Buffy flying off her feet until she collided with a wall some thirty yards away, then dropped to the ground.
Groggily shaking her head and looking up, Buffy saw that Glory, now running toward where she'd fallen, still clutched something in her right hand.
Something long and thin.
Something with a hand at one end, the fingers still weakly twitching at random.
The hell goddess hadn't relinquished her grip on Buffy's left arm.
Blazing hot adrenaline and a potent cocktail of hormones exploded in Buffy's brain as she looked down and saw the great river of blood gushing like a geyser from her shoulder. Liquid fire ran through her veins, and she held her breath to keep herself from exploding. She felt stronger with each passing moment, bursting with energy she desperately needed to burn off. Awkwardly, a little unbalanced, she clambered to her feet before charging straight at Glory.
Buffy balled up her remaining hand into a fist, drew it back, and then swung it at Glory's face with all her might.
Buffy felt as if she were moving in slow-motion, a howling battle cry- red and raw and primal- ripping forth from her throat. She felt invincible, riding a wave of courage and desperation and insanity.
Glory's cackling laughter, deranged and disturbing, rang in Buffy's ears even as the deranged hell goddess raised the Slayer's severed arm. Gripping it by the wrist with both hands as if it were a Louisville Slugger, Glory brought the arm swinging towards the left side of the Slayer's head even as she continued to charge towards the goddess.
Buffy's fist collided with Glory's nose, raw power and momentum driving it still directly onwards; in the exact same instant, pain exploded through Buffy's face as what had been her arm struck her, the tissue surrounding her left eye immediately beginning to swell as blood spilled from broken capillaries. The orbital socket was shattered beyond all hope of repair, the eyeball ruptured, the cornea dislodged.
Blinking and exerting all her might to withdraw her fist despite the powerful suction that resisted, Buffy saw Glory staggering back; the goddess's face had caved in completely from the force of the blow, the top of her skull sagging to partially cover the newly-made gaping cavity that ran nearly all the way through her head. The knuckles of the Slayer's right hand were split and coated with blood and brains, shards and splinters of bone protruded from the flesh of Buffy's battered fist…
…and then the goddess toppled backwards to the tarmac. Blood and gristle spilled across the blacktop from her shattered skull, bone fragments whirling along in their wake. Her left foot- bare and burned- twitched twice, and then was still.
Buffy could hear nothing except the deafening sounds of her own breathing and the hammering of her heart. Initiative and NID commandos lumbered toward the victorious Slayer and her fallen foe, each stride and gesture seeming to take an eternity to complete.
Mad exuberance gripped Buffy, a wild sense of danger and excitement. The very last trace of her fear was swept away on a sea of adrenaline and hormones and red raw power surging and fizzing through her bloodstream, and she threw her head back and laughed with the sheer vitality she possessed. The stars above had never seemed quite so dazzlingly silver, nor her eyes so preternaturally sharp; looking down again, she could make out every last pore and follicle on Glory's ruined head in graphic detail. She stood over the dead hell goddess, blood still geysering from her left shoulder, her left eyeball all but destroyed, the left-hand side of her chest partially caved in, and howled her triumph to the world.
Suddenly, like a towel falling from Buffy's eyes, the adrenaline wore off. What felt like all the pain in the world instantly flooded into her body.
The Slayer didn't even scream; she just collapsed…
"Where did you get crap like that, anyway?" Spike asked, his voice drawing Buffy back to the present as he looked at the limb uncertainly. "I mean, it looks a bit like the kind of crap I'd expect to see from Adam-"
"Probably because the same people were responsible in both cases," Buffy said, looking at the limb that she'd grown used to over the years; her sense of touch was limited compared to what it had been, but the new arm could deliver a punch at least as well as the old one, and some of her new eye's functions weren't to be sneezed at even for someone with vamp-like night-vision.
"Hold on; the Initiative gave you that thing?" Spike yelled, looking at the arm incredulously. "After all the crap-!"
"In a world like this, we need some of this crap," Buffy said, glaring firmly at the vampire, moving her metal arm so that it was in front of Spike's face, the fist clenching to emphasise her point. "That's why I staked you."
"You staked him?" Sam said, looking at Buffy in surprise; she'd been so lost in her memories she'd almost forgotten that the older woman was there. "But... according to the timeline in our world, didn't he have that chip in his head when our worlds diverged? You'd decided back where we come from that you wouldn't kill him because-"
"And those reasons applied when I knew the rules of this crap," Buffy said, staring firmly at Sam; the woman might have saved the world, but that wouldn't let her off for being stupid enough to trust Spike of all people. "But then aliens start showing up posing as gods, and the rules of the game changed; I might have been able to tolerate you pulling that crap with Adam because it worked out in the end, but that wasn't enough any more."
"Hold on; you're not going to-!" Spike began.
"Why shouldn't I?" Buffy asked, raising her remaining exposed eyebrow; clearly Spike had realised what she was here to do. "You're the same person-"
"He has a soul," Colonel Carter said.
"What?" she said, looking over at Colonel Carter incredulously, trying to push aside the memories of the only vampire she would always spare, the vampire who'd vanished after Anubis came and never been heard from since…
"Spike has a soul?" she repeated; she couldn't believe that she'd heard that properly. "SPIKE?"
"Long story..." Spike said, shrugging slightly as he looked at her, a slight smile on his face despite still being pinned to the ground.
"What matters is the simple fact that you can't kill Spike, Miss Summers," Colonel Carter said, her gun now out of its holster and actually aimed at Buffy's face. "I don't know who you're working with now- those parts aren't exactly something you just can just wander off after receiving-, but what you've said suggests that you came here on your own, and I won't let you kill my teammate; no matter what his counterpart did in this world, he's proven himself back in our reality more than once, and he does not deserve to be staked because of something he technically hasn't done."
For a moment, Buffy simply glared back at the older woman facing her, a gun still pointing at her head as she kept Spike immobilised on the ground with her flesh arm, until she finally released him and stood up.
"Fine," she said, staring resolutely at Spike as he got back to his feet. "But just make this clear; I don't know how you're doing the sunlight thing, and I don't particularly care so long as it's restricted to you-"
"Which it is-" Spike began before Buffy held up her hand and glared at him.
"Again, I don't care about that," she said, still glaring firmly at him. "All I care about is confirmation that you are not going to kill, maim, feed from, torture, or otherwise do anything that would cause harm to any innocent people- and that includes giving vampires useful information, by the way-, or I will come back and stake your ass. Clear?"
"As a bell," Spike confirmed, smiling slightly awkwardly at her.
"Good," Buffy said.
With that, she raised her arm and launched the small grappling hook that was one of the many built-in tools she'd requested be added to the arm when it was first built- if she was going to get a new arm, it was going to be a better one than its predecessor-, latching on to an upper ledge and flying upwards out of sight, leaving Colonel Carter and Spike looking up after her as she vanished over the roof.
She still wasn't entirely sure if she accepted the story she'd just heard, but it seemed to fit the facts, and she already knew that she wasn't going to have any luck going after Colonel Carter's bodyguard while Colonel Carter was the current 'flavour of the month'.
But once that changed...
A part of her was going to enjoy the chance to stake Spike again.