Title: Buffy A Vampire Slayer
Author: Blue Chance
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters, but they're not doing much these days so I didn't think anyone would mind if I played with them for a bit.
Summary: Post BtVS "Chosen" and AtS "Not Fade Away": They saved the world again and again, you'd think they'd be allowed to rest… you'd think. A new take on the mythical Buffy season 8.
Story Dedication: I hereby dedicate this to the great Joss Whedon. You created these characters that I love. I can only hope to do them the kind of justice they deserve.
Author's Note: I've made no secret of my dislike for Buffy as continued in the comics. I was angry about it for a couple of days, but why be angry? You see, the pen is indeed mightier than the sword… but it's also mightier than crap season 8 writing. We deserve something better, I think. I don't know if I'm the person for the job, but I'm certainly equal to the task. I only ask that you forgive the glaring deus ex machina close to the beginning of the story. It was a necessary evil. As for the story itself, I'm scaling it down from where Joss took it. We're going home, guys, and we're bringing the scooby gang with us.
I'm testing the waters with this first installment. If all goes well, I'll be writing a full season complete with character development and a broad story arc. You'll see the beginning of it here already. I know where I want to take these characters since I've had about 7 years to think about it. Feedback would be immensely appreciated, if not completely bloody worshipped.
One last thing that I feel is important to say: The Buffyverse is a house divided. Not brother against brother or father against son, but Spike fans versus Angel fans. I don't think it's any great mystery which side I come down on… but for this enterprise, I'm treating both characters with respect. Angel's just as integral a character to the Buffyverse as Spike, and I'd be remiss if I didn't use him in such a capacity. I'm trying my hardest not to be biased, and am trying to write as closely to the spirit of the show and the original characters as I can get.
I read this aloud to my brother – complete with voices and accents. He said it was like having the show back again, if only for a few minutes. That was probably the best compliment I'd ever gotten for one of my pieces of work. I hope the general consensus agrees.
Buffy A Vampire Slayer
Season 8, Act I
"Let's Go To Work"
MAY 20, 2003
"What are we going to do now?"
The question lingered in the air with so much promise… so much potential. Now they knew what they could do with potential. It wasn't just a notion or an idea. It wasn't just dormant and idle… it was kinetic and changing, and sparking in to life all around them. It was real. It was painful, and sometimes… God, sometimes it was so hard, but it was there. The choice. The freedom. The potential to live life to it's fullest. The potential to change the world.
Staring out over the hole in the world that was once Sunnydale, with the winds of change blowing through her hair, and the sun on her face… Buffy smiled.
Later, hours later, when the shock wore off, she would cry.
May 19, 2004
Los Angeles, California
"Let's go to work!" Angel said with a kind of manic determination as the pouring rain beat down upon him and the last remaining remnants of his team. In the back of his head he knew that this was probably it. The end. Fred was gone. Wes was gone. Gunn was dying. The enemy was numerous, and they were only four. This was suicide… but then, they'd all known that. None of them had planned on surviving this.
Angel swung his weapon wildly, cutting deep in to the first creature that approached him. Then the three behind him did as he had said, and went to work. There was never even a moment of hesitation… not even with Spike and Illyria completely without defense, and Gunn bleeding profusely through a wound they all knew was mortal.
The four of them fought. Waves of demons crashed upon them, and all Angel could think was, did it matter that they were going to die? No. It just mattered that they kept fighting.
"Personally, I prefer this!" Spike yelled from somewhere deep within the tempest. "Going out like a man instead of a jewelry box!"
Angel couldn't help the smile on his face, even as one of the things he was fighting concurrently along with two or three others had shoved something like a talon in to his stomach. He made quick work of ridding it of its head, and went on fighting.
They all did.
And then it happened.
A bright blue flash of light that engulfed the ally… lighting up the night as though it were day. The demons that had been rushing from all directions were all frozen, suspended in time it seemed.
The three men turned to look at the only woman among them, and they all stared wide eyed as Illyria held her arms out wide from her body – the light that surrounded them appearing to be flowing out from her every pore.
Then the light was gone. The demons were gone.
Illyria crumpled to the ground.
Angel was the first to speak.
"What the hell was that?" He asked as Gunn collapsed against some crates in the corner, either because he was relieved and tired or because he was about as close to death as someone could be without actually being dead.
For his part, Spike merely stared at all around him – seeming to be quite dumbfounded as to what had just taken place.
"The last of what I had left in me." Illyria answered Angel's question, and it seemed not without a little difficulty.
"Where did they go?" He asked, searching around. He couldn't believe this. Could it have been that easy?
"Back." She responded. "Back where they came from."
"For how long?"
Suddenly an echoing clapping sound filled the alleyway, followed by an irritating and familiar laugh.
"Well, bravo!" Spike said, gesturing toward the blue form on the ground. "Didn't know Blue had it in her!"
"But this can't be—" Angel started, but was interrupted by Gunn.
"What?" He asked. "A miracle?" He slumped a little more, and Spike's smile disappeared from his face as he went to assess the damage done to his friend. "Because that's what it damn well looks like to me. I'd be clapping, too… If I could feel my arms."
Angel took several steps forward, smelling the air, trying to feel the situation rather than understand it.
"A miracle?" He asked to himself. Okay. A miracle then.
But with how long of a shelf life?
June 25, 2004
Dawn walked slowly through the ancient cemetery, the darkness having become a bit overwhelming in the last hour. Her hand fiddled nervously with the stake at her side as she looked around, wondering why last night – when she had agreed to do this – hadn't been so dark. At least, she didn't recall it being as dark.
"Sure," She said to herself. "I'd love to patrol, Buffy. What could be more fun than freezing to death in the middle of a…" She looked around. "Very creepy graveyard on a Friday night?"
In a way, this felt very familiar. Graveyards. Cold. Dark. She had been used to this before… at home. When things had been a little simpler. Well, no. Things had never been simple, had they? Maybe when she had been a little girl, before Buffy had been called to be a slayer… but Dawn hadn't even existed back then. Not really. So, in actuality – this kind of thing had always been her life.
"Must be my lucky day…" A deep voice growled from behind her. Dawn spun around, not quite startled. The man who stood before her was shorter than she, and skinny. Also, he was covered in dirt – which would have given him away as having just crawled out from his grave and therefore as a vampire even if it hadn't been for the ridges in his forehead and the yellow in his eyes.
Dawn suppressed a smile, as she brought her stake up.
"What? You've been dead for a few hours and already can't tell the difference between night and day?" She asked.
The demon smiled.
"Is that going to matter much when I'm snapping you in half?"
The thing lunged at her, but before it had time to gain any distance – it exploded in to a puff of ash before her eyes.
Buffy stepped out from behind a headstone, stake still raised. Dawn smiled.
"Guess he wasn't so lucky." Buffy said.
"I'd be lying if I said being the bait wasn't fun sometimes," Dawn said as she dusted the ash away from her clothes. Buffy crossed her arms over her chest with a look of amused disbelief in her eyes.
"This coming from the girl who was trying to pawn off bait duty to the new slayer who couldn't even speak English?"
"I was just trying to help. You know, get her in to the thick of things."
"Right," Buffy said, turning around and walking away. Dawn followed her. "Kind of like when dad pushed us in to the deep end of the pool when we were little."
"Which my paralyzing fear of water has nothing to do with." Dawn said defensively. "Anyway, speaking of English… that was the third vamp this week who spoke it. Any idea why?"
Buffy stopped and looked around.
"Tourists." She said with a frown. "They're easy targets."
"Yeah, but…" She shrugged her shoulders slightly. "Have you noticed all the new vampires in general lately? I mean, not that there ever seemed to be a lack of them before, but…" Buffy took a deep breath.
"I know." She said. "A lot of new vampires being sired lately." She looked down, shaking the stake she held in her hands. Dawn could see that there was something troubling coursing through her head. "I think something's going on."
Conakry, Republic of Guinea
"Something is definitely going on!" Xander exclaimed, holding out an empty box of fruit loops in front of a room full of training slayers. Some of them had the courtesy to glance in his direction, but most of them did not. "Look, there has to be a line drawn in the sand somewhere!" He continued.
The phone rang.
Xander gestured with the box toward the girls who still were not paying him any mind.
"I'm going to answer that, but then we're all going to sit down and have a household meeting about how the word 'personal' doesn't actually mean 'for everyone'."
The eye-patched man shook his head, walking out of the training room and in to a long hallway where the phone hung on a hook on the wall.
"Hello?" He answered, tossing the cereal box aside.
"Xander?" He recognized the voice before it had a chance to tell him who it was.
The man felt a smile creep over his face as he leaned against the wall.
"General Buffy herself?" He asked. "To what do I owe this very unexpected and very welcomed surprise?"
"Well, death. You know."
Xander laughed a little at the irony.
"It's like going home again." He answered her.
"Tell me about it." Buffy said from the other end. "Look, we've noticed something weird going on over here."
"Extra siring-ey action?" He asked.
He could hear Buffy sigh.
"Knew I could count on you."
"You know, I have this fantasy that one day you'll call me just to say you're in town and want to go out for coffee. I call it my coffee-fantasy."
"Does your coffee fantasy include hot chocolate? Not so much a fan of coffee."
"Next thing you know you'll be telling me there's no Santa Claus." He said, and then switched gears in the next breath. "Have you talked to Willow?"
"No." She answered. "Her and Kennedy are still in Hawaii. I didn't want to bother them without being sure." She paused. "Are we sure?"
Xander turned so that he could see through the door that led to the training room where the slayers he was responsible for huffed and puffed away. He didn't want them to be sure, he didn't want there to be something bad enough going down that Buffy had to contemplate bringing the scoobies back together, but he had known for a few days now that bad was brewing. He had felt it. His slayers had felt it. He sighed.
"We're sure." He answered.
Lanai, Hawaiian Islands
"We're sure." Willow spoke in to her phone. She had been stuffing clothes haphazardly in to a suitcase when it had started to ring. Somehow she knew it was Xander before she even flipped it open. "We've felt something was up for a couple of days now." She switched her phone to her other ear, holding it between her head and shoulder as Kennedy threw her some toiletries to be packed away. "But I wasn't completely sure until an hour ago."
"Why, what happened an hour ago?" Xander asked.
"We had a vision." She answered, a little uncomfortably.
"Yeah, Kennedy and me."
"'We' as in, the both of you?"
"Yeah, it… happens sometimes when… during… when things are… when we're connected."
A silent beat.
"Connected." Xander repeated, seeming to think the word over, and then seeming to understand. "Connected! Oh, got it. Say no more. Well, actually… say more, but about the vision, not the connecting."
Willow rolled her eyes a little as she sat on the edge of the bed.
"There was nothing… visible about it." She said. "It was more like a feeling. A sense of knowing something that hasn't happened yet."
"Something bad." Xander said, more than asked.
"Something bad." Willow repeated.
Xander took a deep breath.
"Well, we've dealt with bad before."
Willow's forehead furrowed as Kennedy came to sit beside her, taking her hand in her lap. She looked the younger girl in the eyes, a feeling of cold dread washing over her.
"Xander," She said. "I think this might be worse."
Buffy lay wide eyed and awake staring at the ceiling of her bedroom. She should have been getting some rest. She knew she had a very long and tedious day ahead of her, but she couldn't sleep. Things had been rough in the past year; she wouldn't deny it to herself. Her and Dawn had to uproot their whole lives to travel across the globe in search of new slayers. New recruits for their army. Mostly the girls accepted their new roles, sometimes they didn't. When they didn't, it was never easy. Those were the hardest days.
Now, something was coming. Something had been coming, and they'd all felt it. Every single one of them… and they'd all been too scared to be the first to say it, the first not to pass it off as anything more than paranoia. These girls, this army, they had trained with vampires and the odd demon here and there, but Buffy was afraid that most of them were unprepared for how bad things could get, and how fast control could slip from their hands.
Some of them knew, of course. Shannon. Rona. Vi. They knew. They'd seen it before. They'd lost friends to it before.
God, this couldn't be happening again. Not so soon. Hadn't they been through enough? Hadn't they changed the world enough? Hadn't they beaten back the bad guys enough? She didn't want anyone else to sacrifice their lives to push back against something that was just going to keep coming and coming.
So many people dead… and for what? Did any of it really make a difference? Had giving all the potentials their full strength really made a difference? Or did she just change a lot of girls' lives against their will and without their consent? Would any of them have wanted this if they had had a choice? She knew if someone had come to her when she was fifteen and told her that she could either be a slayer and endure a lifetime's worth of pain and misery every year, or just carry on being a normal person for the rest of her life, she would have chosen to be normal and never thought of it again. No one would choose this. No, it had to be chosen for them.
She'd chosen for them. She'd chosen for all of them.
And now, if this thing was as bad as it seemed, who knew what these girls were going to have to go through.
She had hoped with Spike's death, with Anya's death, with the deaths of all those girls, that her and hers had given up enough for this fight. Too much, even. Far too much.
But that was never the case, was it? The world would ask for everything you had and then when you gave it, it would just ask for more. It would always ask for more. Enough didn't exist, because nothing was ever enough. There would always be wars to be fought, and evil to push back. No one would ever win, but God they would lose.
So much loss…
Buffy closed her eyes tightly and tried not think of that now. She had to try and get some sleep.
That's when her phone rang.
Buffy opened her eyes, and reached for the device.
"Hello?" She answered.
Buffy's heart skipped a beat as she sat up in her bed, and quickly switched on her lamp.
"Angel?" She said, not asked. She hadn't seen or heard from him for over a year. Andrew had been in L.A. for a couple of days to track down a new slayer… when he came back, he had acted a little strange, but then Andrew was a little strange, so she'd thought nothing about it. He hadn't brought any messages back or any word. Then, about a month ago, she had heard that Wolfram and Hart had taken their operation elsewhere – as in out of Angel's hands, and any number she had known of his had been disconnected. She had been worried, scared for him… but she knew that it was something she had to push out of her mind. Angel could take care of himself, just like she could take care of herself.
But now he was on the phone, and she was sure he wasn't calling just to say hello.
"How are you, Buffy?" He asked, almost awkwardly.
"We know each other better than this." She said. She could almost hear is smirk on the other hand.
"I guess we do." He said.
"But for the record?" Buffy asked. "Letting me know you're not dead every now and then wouldn't be the most unwelcome thing."
"I'll keep that in mind."
Buffy took a deep breath.
"It's bad, Angel." She said.
"I wouldn't be calling if it wasn't."
"That wasn't actually a question."
Buffy had to smile ironically to herself. Here she was talking to the love of her life, and of course it was only because there was quite possibly another apocalypse looming ahead of them. Such was her life.
"Any idea of what the big bad this way comes is?"
Buffy creased her forehead and listened silently.
"You destroyed the hellmouth last year. That tipped the cosmic scales in a big way. Maybe too big-"
"You're telling me I did this?" She interrupted him.
"No. We did this." A pause. "You don't know what happened in LA, do you?"
Buffy was taken off guard by that question. He seemed confused as he asked her, as though there was something that she could not possibly have been unaware of, yet still was. Her silence must have been answer enough for him, since he continued without a word from her.
"Look, what I'm about to tell you is an abridged version of a much longer story." He said. "We took out the members of an evil elite order that called themselves The Circle of The Black Thorn'. We killed all of them, and the senior partners of Wolfram and Hart took it personally."
"Personal enough to send an army of demons after us in a back alley."
"A what of huh?"
Demon army in LA? No, she would have definitely heard something about that.
"Thousands of them, Buffy."
Buffy's head spun.
"Angel, how the hell—"
"I think the answers to any questions you ask me at this point will just confuse you more."
She shook her head.
"What happened to the demon army?"
"God intervened." Angel said, but then went on. "Well, a god."
"What? There's a god now?"
Angel took a deep breath, more out of frustration than necessity, Buffy knew. It was like a man trying to explain the plot of a movie to a person who'd already missed the first act.
"It turns out we had someone powerful enough on our side who was able to… push the army back to where they come from. She had enough power to do it once, and only temporarily."
"This was a month ago. We were hoping for more time… but it doesn't look like time is in the cards for us."
No, it never was, was it?
"So what you're telling me is—"
"We've fought back evil for years, over and over again… but it let us fight. All we've been doing is playing a game, tipping the scales back and fourth. No one was ever meant to gain the upper hand. We've done too much this time… and it's tired of us now. It's hell, Buffy… and it's coming for us whether we're ready or not."
Flight 4315, Rome to LA
"Hell?" Dawn asked from her aisle seat on the plane headed for LA. Buffy had gotten her and Dawn a ticket, and had told the slayers to be ready to follow. There hadn't been any time to explain, not even to Dawn. She'd asked a million questions on the way to the airport, but Buffy had mostly ignored her. Now they were in for a marathon long flight, with nothing but time for questions and answers. "He actually used the word 'hell'? You sure he didn't say 'hell-like' or 'hell-ish'?"
"It was a hell conspicuously devoid of suffixes." Buffy answered, staring blankly out her window at the clouds.
"Just because some vampire's gotten extra sirey, now hell's breaking loose?"
"The vampires aren't causing it." Buffy answered, then looked at Dawn. "They're just a side-effect."
"So what are we going to do?"
Buffy took a deep breath.
"I don't know, Dawn." She answered truthfully.
"And what's in LA that's going to help with the knowing?"
"Angel." She said quietly. "And everyone."
"Everyone?" Dawn asked, sitting up in her seat. "As in… everyone?" Buffy said nothing, and Dawn sat back. "This really is bad, isn't it?"
"That's what I keep hearing."
Flight 2332, Conakry to LA
Xander sat wedged between two rather large passengers, fumbling nervously with his complimentary bag of peanuts.
"It's like they don't want you to open them." He said, slapping the bag around in his hand. One of his portly companions shifted in his seat, grumbling something about always being sat next to the annoying ones. Xander might have said something in retort, but he was too busy with his peanuts. Really, he was too busy with his unbelievable anxiety.
He was going to see them again. Buffy, Willow, Dawn. He was going to see them all again for the first time in, God, what had it been? A year, maybe? It might as well have been a decade. He'd put so much distance between him and Sunnydale, and everything that had happened in Sunnydale, that he wasn't even sure he was the same man that he had been before.
And he knew… he knew this was going to hurt.
Mostly, when he was awake, he was able to keep his thoughts occupied with his newfound quasi-watcher status. He found new girls and gave them the whole rap about destiny and then he took them back to what he lovingly referred to as HQ and started in with the training. Mostly, after a while, they trained themselves. They trained each other. Xander was more or less just their connection to the slayer. The slayer.
Did Buffy know they still called her that?
Yeah, when he was awake he had a lot to keep him busy. When he was in bed, though, that was when Anya's face came to him the most… and when he couldn't push it out of his mind. God, he couldn't think about her right now.
Peanuts. Damn these peanuts!
Seeing the gang again was going to reopen all kinds of old wounds, and he wasn't entirely prepared for it.
"You think they'd give you a little pair of scissors or something." Xander complained. Suddenly the fat man who had been annoyed by him earlier grabbed the bag out of his hand and held it pointedly in front of his face as he ripped the top of the bag off with ease. He handed the peanuts back to Xander, who only stared open mouthed.
"'Tear here' isn't a suggestion." The man said before turning to his side with some effort, and away from Xander.
Xander closed his eyes and leaned heavily back against his seat as Anya's name drifted again through his thoughts. His heart began to ache in that old familiar way, and he almost laughed to himself.
No, he thought as he massaged his hand absently over his heart… "tear here" wasn't a suggestion.
Flight 425, Hawaii to LA
"Are you okay, baby?" Kennedy asked, pulling Willow away from her thoughts as the two made their way from Hawaii to Los Angeles on the first flight that was available to them. Her face was filled with lines of worry and her forehead appeared to be permanently knit together in a frown.
"Don't I look okay?" She asked, trying to smile. Kennedy took her hand.
"It's going to be all right, you know." She responded. Willow squeezed her girlfriend's hand in a reassuring kind of way, but it was more ironic than it was anything else because Kennedy was the one trying to do the reassuring.
"It's just…" She took a deep breath. "I haven't seen them in a long time, and – is it going to be awkward?"
"Some kind of unnamed bad is heading toward us full throttle and you're nervous about seeing your friends?" She asked.
Willow turned to look out from her window.
"Things are so different now." She answered quietly, solemnly. She leaned in to Kennedy's hand as the younger woman took her chin and gently turned her back to face her.
"The thing about coming back to people you love?" Kennedy started, placing a soft kiss on Willow's lips, and then looking her in the eyes. "No matter how much things have changed, it's never that different."
Los Angeles, California
Buffy dropped her duffle bag at her side with a light thud. The apartment was small and dimly lit. Brick walls painted green, red couch. She could see the whole apartment from where she stood. The bed was in more of a nook off to the side of the living room, rather than being in a bedroom. There was a small kitchen, and a door to the right of it, which must have led to the bathroom. On the whole it was pretty somber and bare, but at the same time… uncharacteristically lived in. She couldn't put her finger on exactly why this didn't seem like the kind of place Angel would stay, but she thought it anyway.
"You've done a lot of nothing with the place." She said, picking up an Xbox controller and turning to Angel. Dawn sat down on the couch behind her, looking around, but not saying anything. Buffy didn't blame her… this was a lot to take in.
"The apartment's not mine." Angel said ambiguously. Buffy looked around again, feeling something very familiar as her eyes roamed over the things that were scattered around. Before she could examine the feeling closer, Angel spoke again. "When will the others be here?"
Buffy looked at him.
"Soon." She answered. Angel glanced over at Dawn, Buffy realized, for the first time. He probably had the memories just like the rest of them, but he'd never actually physically met Dawn until now.
"Buffy," Angel started seriously, pulling her off to the side just a little. "There's something you should know before the others get here. This isn't how you should've found out, but there's no time to ease you in to it now."
Buffy's heart, if it was possible, sank even lower. He'd already told her that hell was getting ready to release itself all over the world… what could he possibly have to tell her now that could put that look on his face? She was so engulfed by this thought that she didn't even think to look when she heard the door behind her open and Angel's gaze drifted toward it.
"Oh my God." Dawn said. Buffy creased her forehead and turned around.
Buffy's jaw went slack as cool blue eyes met wide ones.
"Spike?" She asked.
There were probably a thousand reasons why this shouldn't have been happening. A thousand reasons why this was impossible… and at least half of them were the fact that Spike was dead. The kind of dead that didn't allow for appearing suddenly and without warning in darkened doorways. Dead. Spike was dead. He'd been dead for more than a year. She'd dealt with that. She'd accepted it. He couldn't be standing in front of her, staring at her as though they hadn't even been apart a day. Yeah, thousands and thousands of reasons why this wasn't happening when it was – and she'd sort through every single one of them in turn once the room stopped spinning.
"Hello, Cutie." He said.
Buffy began to laugh.
Then Buffy passed out.
"Hello, cutie?" Angel asked with not just a little irritation in his voice as he and Spike lifted Buffy on to the couch, Dawn having vacated her seat the moment Spike had stepped in to the room. "What the hell was that?"
Spike looked as though he might have flipped his grandsire the V sign if his hands had not been full at the moment.
"What was I supposed to say?" He asked.
"You weren't supposed to say anything." Angel responded with exasperation in his voice and demeanor, the two standing straight and staring at each other angrily. "You were supposed to wait out in the hallway until I broke the news to her. That's what we agreed on."
"Yeah? And how was I supposed to know you hadn't told her yet, you great and unimaginable poof?"
"By the fact that she'd just stepped inside the apartment, you trigger-happy moron!"
"Oh, it's moron now, is it?"
"No, it's always been moron. You were just too much of a moron to notice."
Dawn stood off in the corner watching the exchange with a bevy of emotions welling up from deep inside of her. Firstly, it had been hard enough to see Angel again. She had a lot of memories connected to him, and not many of them were pleasant ones. Her heartstrings were taut and easily plucked in his regard. She had expected the pain from seeing Angel. But this? This she hadn't been prepared for. How could she have been? God, it was-
"Spike?" She hadn't meant to say it out loud, but her voice cracked as she did. The two vampires looked suddenly in her direction, and both of their faces melted instantly in to something like regret – though it looked differently on each of them. On Angel it was more like a stoic kind of sympathy. On Spike it was… what was it?
"Dawn." He said almost cautiously. He had never really called her Dawn. It felt uncomfortable coming from his tongue, and it sounded strange. He didn't like it. They had been close, he and the bit. They'd been like brother and sister. Or father and daughter. Or something else entirely different… okay, maybe there weren't really words to describe what his relationship had been with Dawn, but it had been strong and it had been deep. He'd loved her almost as much as he'd loved anything, and now to see her again and call her anything other than "love" or "pet" even, it just seemed too damned formal.
Especially with the way she was looking at him. God, that look was going to break his heart.
"How?" She asked, seemingly unable to form any other word in her mouth as her eyes glazed over with tears. She took a step toward him and her leg buckled beneath her, but she was in Spike's arms before she was able to touch the ground.
"The hows can wait." He said tenderly, lifting her back to a standing position. She stared him in the eyes, clearly trying to understand what was going on.
"I think Buffy passed out." She uttered, maybe not even knowing she was speaking.
Shock. Is that what this was? Shock?
Spike nodded slowly.
"Yeah." He said, knitting his forehead. "Let's not take after big sis, and get all acquainted with the floor, all right?"
"God, this is just perfect." Angel said from behind them. Spike inclined his head in the other vampire's direction, still steadying Dawn in his hands.
"Well, what did you expect?" He asked, turning back to Dawn and finishing his sentence under his breath. "With you at the sodding helm."
Judging by the annoyed laugh as he knelt beside Buffy, Angel had still managed to hear.
Dawn stared speechlessly at Spike now, words escaping her completely.
"I know this is hard for you to take in right now." Spike said, gripping her a little firmer by her upper arms as she started to slip. "I wish it could have been different, but there was no time to plan a grand entrance. This is all we get."
"All we… all we get?" Dawn whispered nearly incoherently.
"Spike." Angel said, standing up. "One of us has to stay here with them."
Spike let Dawn go and turned to face Angel completely. Like they were two helpless little damsels that the pointy haired git had to ride in on a white horse to protect! Angel didn't know them like he did. These women were strong. They could take anything thrown at them. He'd seen it time and time again. From both sides.
"I think I know these girls enough to know that they can take care of thems—"
A thump behind Spike alerted him to the fact that Dawn had, in fact, decided to "take after big sis" after all. Spike clenched his jaw and looked up at the ceiling.
Buffy woke up to a ceiling and periphery she didn't recognize, and a throbbing in her head that she did. That was the sweet feeling of waking up from being knocked unconscious, except it wasn't really sweet. Also, she didn't remember being in any kind of fight just now. What had happened?
Angel had picked her and Dawn up from the airport, oddly enough, in a car. She didn't know what she had been expecting, but him picking her up in a car like some kind of… normal person, it was just weird. They hadn't said much during the drive, but then she hadn't expected them to. There was too much shared history and baggage for it really to be that easy. Last time she'd seen him he was backing off in to the shadows like some anti-hero… now he was driving a black convertible with the top down like a movie star. She guessed LA did that to people.
LA also, as it turned out, brought vampires back from the dead and—
Buffy sat up suddenly, her head spinning. She looked around the small space, but her eyes quickly fell on the form that sat quietly in the corner of the room in a dining chair.
"Are you real?" She asked, and it seemed like a lifetime ago that she had asked him that same question before. Spike sat forward out of the shadow on his elbows, and his face suddenly came in to view. Sharp lines and high cheekbones, eyes as cold as ice, and an expression that said… absolutely nothing.
"I guess it would depend on your definition." He answered her plainly.
Buffy swallowed, her mouth going dry.
"Angel went to fetch your pals from the airport." Spike said, not waiting for her question.
"Dawn?" She finished.
"Laying down." Was his answer as he gestured toward the bed to her right. "Such is my effect on Summers women."
Then there was a loud silence between them. Deafening really, to the point where Buffy had to close her eyes tight just to try and ignore everything that was assailing her senses at once. She still wasn't entirely sure this wasn't some kind of dream, and if it was… if it was, mostly she just wanted to wake up.
"I didn't know how to tell you." His voice drifted up past her ears, and somehow it was worse than the silence. She opened her eyes and looked at him again.
"Tell me what?" She asked, genuinely confused. She could see Spike's throat constrict as he swallowed.
He didn't answer her.
"Tell me that you're alive?" She asked, tilting her head a bit.
"Well, yeah." He responded, quite ineloquently.
The vampire was silent. With each passing second, Buffy was becoming increasingly certain that the length of time he had been back more than likely trumped the amount of time he'd been gone.
"Long enough." Was all he said.
So he'd been back pretty much the whole time. Buffy laughed a little.
"I want to be angry." She said through clenched teeth. "Or sad, or happy. I want to feel something about this, but I don't feel—"
"Buffy?" Dawn's voice called from the bed. Buffy was up in an instant and at her sister's side in the next. She sat down next to her on the bed. Dawn looked at her, confusion written as plainly on her face as if it had been scribbled there with magic marker.
"Spike…" She said. Buffy nodded.
"How is it possible?" She asked.
That was a really good question.
"I don't know."
That wasn't such a good answer.
Dawn sat up and looked around.
"Where is he?"
Buffy heard a door open and then click back shut.
"Gone." She said.
Dawn's gaze fell to nothing in particular, as she seemed to try to piece everything together. Her eyebrows were knit in an almost angry looking frown. She looked back at her sister.
"What is going on?" She said, throwing her legs over the side of the bed that Buffy wasn't on, and standing up. She stared accusingly. "Did you know he was back?"
Buffy smiled a smile that was more of a grimace.
"Right," She answered. "Because I really wanted to say hello to the ground in there."
Dawn's face softened a little, as she seemed to remember what had happened.
"You… fainted." She said.
"Yeah, we can start a club."
"I fainted?" She asked.
"Hence the waking up in a strange bed."
"Yeah, I was wondering…" She said, and then sat back down heavily. Then after a moment: "Buffy?"
Buffy took a deep breath, and looked at her sister expectantly.
"That's what I keep hearing."
Then she heard something else.
There was a burst of noise, people – several of them – coming in loudly through the door of the apartment. Buffy was up immediately and standing in the living room. She didn't have time to really register what she was seeing; she only had time to react.
"Xander!" She cried, as she helped Angel walk a bruised and bleeding Alexander Harris to the couch. Willow and Kennedy followed hurriedly behind, shutting the door when they were inside. Buffy kneeled in front of him.
"What happened?" Dawn asked frantically.
"We were ambushed." Angel said, opening a chest in the corner of the room.
"Feels just like old times." Xander said, wincing even as he spoke. Buffy smiled weakly for him, loving him as much as she ever had in that moment. She stood up and looked at the others.
"Ambushed by what?" She asked, settling quickly in to slayer mode.
"Vampires." Angel answered as he tossed her a stake from the chest and pocketing a couple for himself.
"They know, Buffy." Willow said, and all the ominous implication of just what exactly "they know" meant hung heavily in the air.
"We have to get out of here." Angel said, closing the weapons chest.
"What?" Buffy asked. "We just got here."
"We can't stay in this apartment. It's not safe. We'll have to…" He trailed off, looking around. "Where's Spike?" He asked, irritation obvious in the way he put his hands on his hips.
"Spike?" Kennedy asked in confusion, then looked at Willow. "Did we know another Spike?"
"Oh, Spike's alive." Dawn offered matter-of-factly. "Well, not alive, but—"
"When did this happen?" Willow asked, looking suddenly very confused.
"Look, you all have questions." Angel interrupted, walking over to the door and opening it. "But they wont be answered here, and they wont be answered now. Now we have to go."
The scoobies, together again, began to file out of the apartment, Xander clutching to Buffy for support.
"Spike." Buffy said to Angel as she stopped next to him for a moment in the doorway.
"You know Spike…" Angel said, and he followed Buffy when she moved out in to the hallway. "He'd find us even if we didn't want him to."
Dawn was the last out in to the hallway. She turned and shut the door behind her, and then to herself mumbled,
"Welcome home, team."