Title: Buffy the 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.

Author's Note: Wow. It's been quite a while. This past year has been… well, let's just say life changing. I haven't really had time to work on this, but I've also really lacked the motivation. Recently, though, I've really hated the idea of just leaving it. I did have a lot of the story plotted out, and it was so much fun to write, so I finally decided to jump back in. It was a little slow going at first, but I'm excited about where this is headed. I hope this is a good first chapter to ease back in to the story with.

So… Here it is, after a more than a year; the next chapter of Buffy A Vampire Slayer.

Buffy A Vampire Slayer

Season 8, Act IV

"You Are What You Read"

Pasadena, California

Huntington Library

Buffy walked cautiously through the Huntington Gardens, her black hood pulled up over her head. Willow had done a quick cloaking spell, but the cameras still made the slayer nervous. The very last thing she needed right now was to be the lead in for news at 11.

"I'd call that a safe distance she's keeping from us, wouldn't you?" Spike asked, gesturing toward the slayer.

"She doesn't trust us." Was Angel's response.

"Can't say I blame her."

"No, but that doesn't make it helpful."

"She doesn't help us, we help her. Way it's always been." A beat. "I don't see why I had to get the frou-frou cherry wood stake." He mumbled under his breath.

"Are you kidding me? Wood's wood." Angel responded, unable and unwilling to hide the irritation in his voice after having spent an hour in the car with the bleached moron.

"Easy for you to say, Mr. Mahogany."

Angel rolled his eyes, and stopped to turn to Spike.

"Fine. You want to trade? Let's trade."

Spike kept walking, shrugging his shoulders stubbornly.

"No, forget it. Whatever."

Angel began walking once again, shaking his head. The two vampires continued along in silence for a few moments, before Angel took a deep breath.

"Not that I care, but what's bothering you?" He asked. Spike looked at him, confusion evident in his knit eyebrows. "I know this is more than cherry wood. Even you aren't that petty…" He paused, and Spike raised his forehead. "Maybe you are."

Spike looked away.

"Sod off." He said almost half heartedly.

"Suit yours—"

"It's just that," he interrupted, sparing a glance at Buffy to make sure she wasn't listening. "It's the bloody windows."

Angel cocked his head a bit.

"What are you talking about?"

"The windows. The great big, SPF 1000 windows. At Wolfram and Hart." A beat. "They gave something back to us for a little while."

Angel looked forward.

"They gave us an illusion. We were never more a part of that world when we could see than we are now in the dark."

"No, but… at least I could pretend to be a part of it."

That really was the difference between him and Spike. The younger vampire still held on to this world, when Angel knew he was a part from it always. He couldn't pretend, and he didn't even try.

"Hey, would you two chatty Cathies mind shutting up back there?" Came Buffy's harsh whisper. "Covert operation, remember?"

The two vampires looked sheepish.

"You got us in trouble." Angel grumbled at his blonde companion. Spike was too busy about to retort with some colorful words to notice that Buffy had stopped before he walked headlong in to her back. She stepped forward, her body barely registering what had happened.

"Buffy-" Spike started. Buffy held out her hand.

"Shhh." She said. Spike and Angel took their cue and became instantly more alert.

"I hear it, too." Angel said quietly.

"Someone's crying." Buffy spoke after a few moments.

After that, a few things happened in rather quick succession of one another. Buffy noticed the girl with the big black hood, and the big dark streaks of makeup running down her cheeks as though she'd been crying for hours, but was unfortunately only able to manage a widening of her eyes before a weird blast of white light filled the surrounding area. She found herself on her back and disoriented for a few moments before the light dissipated, and the crying had stopped.

"Wha… what the hell was that?" She asked, pushing herself up on to her elbows. Angel was doing the same thing about three feet away from her.

"Witch." He responded. Buffy groaned, closing her eyes for a moment as she sat up completely and pressed her hand up against her forehead.

"Buffy…" Angel said, a grave tone in his voice. Buffy took her hand down and looked at him, though realization hit her before he spoke his next words. "Spike's gone."

Palos Verdes, California

"It was a trap." Angel said with his head resting in his hands as he sat forward on an armchair in the sitting room. The others were scattered about the room as well, Buffy standing up against the far wall. Most eyes turned to her, except for Illyria who glared quietly at Xander from her chair.

"What would they want with Spike?" Willow asked.

Buffy didn't answer.

"Back up the question train a little bit there, Will." Xander said. "You say 'they' like we know who 'they' are. Who are 'they'?"

"Buffy," Dawn said, coming to stand next to her sister. "What if he's dead?"

Buffy looked her sister in the eyes.

"What if?" She asked in a sort of defeated tone with a sort of defeated half shrug, and half shake of her head.

"We're not just going to sit here and do nothing…" It could have been a question, but it wasn't.

Angel was looking up now at Buffy, too.

"You're right." Buffy responded to her sister, but was looking at the undead man sitting a few feet before her. "We got the book. We'll start there."

"Is it in Latin?" Willow asked.

Buffy let out a small and not amused puff of a laugh as she kneeled down to her feet and picked up the book. Standing up straight, she handed it over to the witch whose face turned in an immediate expression of confusion as she began to leaf through the pages. Kennedy leaned over to see what the problem was, and her face perfectly mimicked that of her girlfriend's.

"What is it?" Xander asked.

"It's…" Willow shook her head, then looked up at him. "The pages are blank."

"Blank?" Dawn asked as she and Xander gathered around Willow and the book.

"Blank." Buffy repeated.

"It's got to be magicked." Willow said.

"I'm not sure what we expected from the book of nothing." Buffy said, putting her head up against the wall.

"I'll work on it." Willow responded, leaving the group and heading toward the dining room. Kennedy and Xander followed, but Dawn went to stand in front of her sister again.

"How do you feel?" She asked.

"Dawn, I don't know how I feel about Spike being back, let alone how I feel about him being gone again."

"I mean, the nightmare? You didn't get a lot of sleep last night. You look tired."

Buffy looked at her sister.

"Oh." She said, then nodded after a moment. "No, yeah. I feel tired."

"Whatever it was that took Spike," Angel started, standing. "They knew we were going to be there, and they only wanted him."

"… So, what do they want with him?" Dawn asked.

Buffy took a deep breath, and didn't direct her response at anyone in particular.

"Choo choo goes the question train."

The lights came up, and all Spike could see was empty white spice. The only thing that alerted him to any sense of direction was gravity, and the fact that he could feel that he was on his back. He took a few moments, trying to stave off the disorientation, and stood slowly to his feet.

There was nothing. It looked like the room, if this was a room, went off forever in every direction, and it was all just bright white… emptiness.

"Oy," he said almost nervously, and then raising his voice, "Is this any way to treat your guest?" There wasn't much of an echo, which was… strange? Spike didn't know if that was strange or not.

"We have brought you here for one reason, and one reason only."

Never had the term "we" seemed to be so appropriate. It was as though a thousand voices had spoken the words at the same time, in perfect unison. Men, women, children… whispering, screaming, speaking normally. All of it, all at once.

Spike tilted his head back, closing his eyes. Mostly this was just frustrating.

"I'm guessing it's not for a quick afternoon tea, then?" He said nearly monotonously, and then brought his head back down.

"Would you like some tea?" It, they, asked. Spike furrowed his forehead, when out of the corner of his eye he noticed something. Turning slightly, he saw that there was suddenly a tray with tea and cookies on it.

"Okay, that's weird." He said after a moment.

"Or would you prefer something else?"

A moment later, there was a tap on his shoulder. He whirled around, startled, only to see a very pretty girl with a very pretty smile on her face, her head tilted as she offered her neck to him. He took a step back, shaking his head.

"No." He said.

"What about me?" One voice asked from behind him. One very familiar voice. He swallowed, and turned slowly to face the speaker.

"Buffy…" He said. She looked confused, but beautiful… wearing some strange uneven skirt with a tight sweater and a pair of brown boots. Not, he pointed out to himself, what she had been wearing when he just saw her not ten minutes before.

"Don't you want me?" She asked. It wasn't her, of course, and he knew it wasn't her, but it was a damn good copy. Time had been very unkind to him in regards to his feelings for her, and he just wasn't sure that he could resist even a fake Buffy that was offering herself to him.

"… You know… I do, Love." He said quietly, his dead heart seeming to constrict in his chest.

"I love you, Spike." Fake Buffy said.

Spike screwed his eyes shut tight.

"Make it go away." He said through clenched teeth. After a few long moments, Spike opened his eyes again to find that he was again alone in the great white expanse.

"Now." He said, shrugging his shoulders a few times to loosen his neck up a bit. "I'm pretty well done being tossed your balls of yarn, so I'm going to ask you some questions, and you're going to answer them. First, what the hell is this place, second, what the hell are you supposed to be, and three… why, why, the hellam I here?"

"You are here for one reason, and one reason only." The thing answered.

"Great. Right then. That answers exactly none of my questions."

"This place is not a place. We are everything, everyone, and every time. You are here for one reason, and one—"

"Reason only." Spike finished along with the voices, nodding and holding his hand up in a "yeah, I got it" gesture. "… You're not hearing me, are you?" He yelled. "What is the bloody reason?"

"Buffy!"

Buffy lay on her side on top of the blankets on "her" bed when she heard her name called. She sat up, and in the next second Dawn was at her doorway.

"Buffy, the book…" She said. "You need to see this."

Buffy walked in to the dining room where everyone had gathered, except for Illyria who was still tied up in the other room (though Buffy was beginning to wonder if it was because she wanted to be for some reason, as Angel had made it pretty clear that the woman had strength).

"What is it?" She asked as she moved toward Willow, who looked down at the book, at the far end of the table. In fact, they all looked down at the book.

"It's…" Willow turned it toward Buffy, whom it took only seconds to gain the same stricken look on her face as everyone else in the room.

"Spike?" She asked as her eyes scanned over the words.

The lights came up, and all Spike could see was empty white spice. The only thing that alerted him to any sense of direction was gravity, and the fact that he could feel that he was on his back. He took a few moments, trying to stave off the disorientation, and stood slowly to his feet.

There was nothing. It looked like the room, if this was a room, went off forever in every direction, and it was all just bright white… emptiness.
"Oy," he said almost nervously, and then raising his voice, "Is this any way to treat your guest?" There wasn't much of an echo, which was… strange? Spike didn't know if that was strange or not.

"We have brought you here for one reason, and one reason only."

Never had the term "we" seemed to be so appropriate. It was as though a thousand voices had spoken the words at the same time, in perfect unison. Men, women, children… whispering, screaming, speaking normally. All of it, all at once.

Spike tilted his head back, closing his eyes. Mostly this was just frustrating.

"I'm guessing it's not for a quick afternoon tea, then?" He said nearly monotonously, and then brought his head back down.

"Would you like some tea?" It, they, asked. Spike furrowed his forehead, when out of the corner of his eye he noticed something. Turning slightly, he saw that there was suddenly a tray with tea and cookies on it.

"Okay, that's weird." He said after a moment.

"Or would you prefer something else?"

A moment later, there was a tap on his shoulder. He whirled around, startled, only to see a very pretty girl with a very pretty smile on her face, her head tilted as she offered her neck to him. He took a step back, shaking his head.

"No." He said.

"What about me?" One voice asked from behind him. One very familiar voice. He swallowed, and turned slowly to face the speaker.

"Buffy…" He said. She looked confused, but beautiful… wearing some strange uneven skirt with a tight sweater and a pair of brown boots. Not, he pointed out to himself, what she had been wearing when he just saw her not ten minutes before.

"Don't you want me?" She asked. It wasn't her, of course, and he knew it wasn't her, but it was a damn good copy. Time had been very unkind to him in regards to his feelings for her, and he just wasn't sure that he could resist even a fake Buffy that was offering herself to him.

"… You know… I do, Love." He said quietly, his dead heart seeming to constrict in his chest.

"I love you, Spike." Fake Buffy said.

Spike screwed his eyes shut tight.

"Make it go away." He said through clenched teeth. After a few long moments, Spike opened his eyes again to find that he was again alone in the great white expanse.

"Now." He said, shrugging his shoulders a few times to loosen his neck up a bit. "I'm pretty well done being tossed your balls of yarn, so I'm going to ask you some questions, and you're going to answer them. One, what the hell is this place? Two, what the hell are you supposed to be, and three… why, why, the hell am I here?"

"You are here for one reason, and one reason only." The thing answered.

"Great. Right then. That answers exactly none of my questions."

"This place is not a place. We are everything, everyone, and every time. You are here for one reason, and one—"

"Reason only." Spike finished along with the voices, nodding and holding his hand up in a "yeah, I got it" gesture. "… You're not hearing me, are you?" He yelled. "What is the bloody reason?"

"Will… what the hell is this?" Buffy asked. Willow shook her head and took the book back.

"I don't know. The book was empty, and then all of the sudden this… it's just writing itself. I don't know what it is, or what it means, but I think…" She trailed off. Buffy looked at her.

"What?"

Willow took a deep breath.
"I think… that that wherever Spike is, that this is happening to him, and I think it's happening to him right now."

"We cannot tell you the reason." The voice answered after several minutes' silence. Spike was now sitting on the backs of his legs, keeping his eyes closed as much as possible. The white, the empty space, it was somehow just as bad as being in a dark room with no light, and it was certainly enough to make a grown man dizzy after a while.

"And why is that, mates?"

"Because they have our book, and it's not time for them to know yet."

"Book?" Spike asked.

"Whoa…" Willow said.

"Okay, that's creepy." Dawn started. "Anyone else vote for creepy?"

The room was still for a moment before Xander slowly raised his hand.

"It is happening right now." Angel said.

"But why is it written like that?" Kennedy asked. "It's so weird, it's like…"

"Like a story." Willow finished.

Buffy said nothing.

"Yes. Our book. The book you were searching for before we extracted you."

Spike blinked.

"Okay, I'll get to this 'extracted' business in a minute, but who's they? You said they have the book. "

A long pause.

"From what we understand, they are your friends."

"Uh… huh. And what does this book say? Why can't you tell me why I'm here?"

"Because they are reading this as we speak."

"Oooooh." Spike let out, suddenly a bit more annoyed than he was a moment before. "Isn't that just perfect." He looked around, and put his hands around his mouth to amplify the sound. "Hello out there! Wish you were here!"

"Spike, there is one very important thing that you must understand." The voice said ominously.

"Oh yeah? Like the fact that I'm inside a sodding book? I got it, thanks."

"No, Spike." The voice seemed to warn him without saying much at all. He stood still and listened. "You must understand that your friends cannot help you."

"Will…" Buffy said worriedly. "What kind of magic is this?"

Willow had no answer.

"And am I in need of help?" Spike asked, chewing on the inside of his lower lip.

"That is irrelevant. They cannot help you. What happens now has always been meant to happen. What is written in our book cannot be unwritten."

Spike's face hardened.

"I don't respond well to cryptic."

"Also irrelevant."

Spike looked around uselessly once more, and then let out a couple puffs of air that were sort of like a laugh. A slow, knowing smile spread across his face.

"You know what I think?" He asked. "I think you're using me to send a message. Well, what happens if I do… for example… this?—"

The words abruptly stopped appearing on the page. The collective breath of the room was held for a few moments.

"What's happening?" Dawn asked.

Buffy frantically flipped through the pages.

"He stopped it." She answered.

"Yeah, but how?" Angel asked warily.

Buffy grabbed the book and snapped it shut.

"Willow, I need you to come with me." She said.

"… Where are we going?" The redhead asked.

Buffy bit down before answering.

"We're going on a witch hunt."

TBC