Five Words or Less
Author's Notes: Thank you randyzoopurple, Gothic Saku-chan, ginar369, juggling, Hercules8, kse93, nrdhrd3, Nat-Nat360, Da0122, TieDyeJackson, Jedi SteelWolf, pryde23, Obscurebookwyrm, pie, Mirandaannew, and SpaztasticalMaiden13 for reviewing!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. This chapter adapts scenes from "Weight of the World" and "The Gift", both script and transcript quotes, also a slight bit from "Smashed". Lyrics from 'Devil May Cry' by The Weeknd, from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack. Find it on youtube, put it on repeat, and enjoy.
Chapter notes: angst and smut. Blame the smut scene for why this chappie took so long to update. And I'm truly sorry about the magic candle… but I've been planning this love scene for ages and forget that the last six episodes of season 5 happen in like 1 night. LATER: Yeah, to be honest, this chapter is mostly smut. Sorry for anyone who was dying for a plot-heavy chapter.
Previously on BtVS: Ben is Glory, and only Spike seems to realize it. Buffy's in a fugue state, and when Spike investigates Glory's place, he finds no trace of her. He and Xander go to Doc's apartment for information, only to learn that the old-man-demon also worships Glory. They run him through with a sword and steal the 'Box of Tarnis', and then Spike aids Willow in drawing Buffy out of her guilt-induced coma.
Chapter 41: The End of the Night
They traverse the few blocks to the Magic Box in somber silence – Buffy and Spike walking in front with hands entwined; Willow, Anya, and a jittery Tara tailing them. The shop door opens with that familiar, homey yet obnoxious jingle, and the five of them join Giles and Xander around the circular table.
"Are you alright?" asks the Watcher, his eyes inspecting Buffy's face with all the tenderness of a loving father.
"Functioning," she replies. Not 'okay', not 'alright'… not until I save Dawn… "What about you?"
"Likewise, thanks to an exorbitant amount of painkillers."
"Did you find the ritual text?"
"Uh, something like that, yes." Giles indicates the chest Spike and Xander had stolen from Doc, its contents – peeling scrolls covered in pictographs and cramped scrawl – now unfurled on the table.
Xander reaches over and taps Buffy's arm to get her attention. "Did you know… Ben is Glory?" he announces, as though sharing the secret recipe to Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Buffy manages a small smile. "So I'm told." Her gaze returns to Giles. "What do we know?"
"Well, um… according to these scrolls, it's possible for Glory to be stopped." He pauses, but Buffy's insistent look spurs him to continue. "I… I'm afraid it's, um… Buffy, I've read these things very carefully and there's not much… margin for error. You understand what I'm saying?"
"Might help if you actually say it," she murmurs, anxiety knotting her stomach. But she can control it now, can hold her fearful guilt at bay and no longer let it cripple her into catatonia. Her grip on Spike's hand tightens slightly.
Giles sets both his mug of tea and his glasses on the table, then raises his eyes to Buffy's. "Um… Glory plans to open a… dimensional portal, by way of a ritual bloodletting."
"Yes. Once the blood is shed at a certain time and place, the fabric which separates realities will be ripped apart. Dimensions will pour into one another with no barriers to stop them. Reality as we know it will be destroyed, and chaos will reign on earth."
"So how do we stop it?" asks Buffy, her terror continuously mounting the longer Giles delays the final details, the answers to the most important questions: when, where, and how do we stop Glory.
"The portal will only close… once the blood is stopped." Another pause, another glare from Buffy, and Giles inhales with a bit of a shudder. "A-and the only way for that to happen… Buffy, the only way… is to kill Dawn."
A gasp thick with shock cuts across the room, the vampire and all the young adults staring horror-struck at Giles. Willow slides onto the bench, pulling Tara along with her, and grabs at the notes the Watcher has scribbled, as if the scrutiny of a second pair of eyes can counteract his conclusion with a more hopeful one.
"We can't kill Dawn," blurts out Anya. "We're trying to rescue her. You must have the wrong scrolls. Xander, you and Spike had better go back to that old demon's apartment and steal more things."
"Honey…" Xander can't even form a full sentence, just pats his girlfriend's arm, hoping to quiet her.
Spike is the first of the group to shift his gaze from Giles to Buffy, whose cheeks are white, her eyes wide with dismay as the delusions that her guilt-spawned coma had solidified in her mind come crashing into her reality.
He tries to give her hand a comforting squeeze, but her fingers shake free the moment he moves.
"I… I n-need air…" Buffy stutters, almost stumbling for the back door.
"Luv, do you want me to–"
"Just give me a moment…"
She drops her black jacket on her way to the door, her breath obstructed by the knot in her windpipe, and holds the back of her hand to her forehead, smudging the sudden clamminess from her skin. Gulping against the noxious taste in her throat, she lays her temple against the doorframe… and pauses…
Two voices reach her through the thin wood from the back alley outside the shop, one frightened, one threatening. A simple enough set of sounds that any other girl might overlook and walk away… but not the Slayer. Swallowing, she grabs the door handle, twists, and pokes her head out into the alley.
Sure enough, a burly vampire ominously steps closer to an out-of-breath college student, and both faces turn towards her at the squeak of the door's hinges. She forces her mouth into an innocent smile.
"Hey, what's going on?"
"Help! Run! Call the police!" squeals the college kid, backing a few more steps away from the vampire, but with nowhere to run except the brick dead-end of the alleyway.
"Get outta here, girl," the hulking vampire grunts, only glancing briefly at her before he continues toward his victim.
Buffy steps out from behind the door, taking easy-going steps towards the pair. Neither the terrified student nor his aggressor notice the redness around her eyes.
"You guys having a fight? 'Cuz you know, fighting's not cool."
The vampire gives her an eye-rolling glare, and the student cowers against the bricks, staring at Buffy as though she's insane.
"Get out of here!" he pleads again, confused when she continues approaching.
No…" The demon curls back his lip in a leering smile – one that on Spike would have looked seductive, but on this monster the grimace just seems tacky. "No, if she wants to stay, I don't mind a little appetizer."
Buffy walks nearer, still maintaining her laid-back smile.
"Have you ever heard the expression, 'biting off more than you can chew'?" she asks, and the vampire gives his head a bewildered shake. "Okay. Um… how about the expression 'vampire slayer'?"
"What the hell are you talking about?" he snorts, absolutely no recognition or fear in his fiendish expression.
"Wow. You've never heard that one…" Buffy blinks. "Okay… how about 'Oh god, my leg, my leg'?"
Tired of her relaxed taunting, the vampire rushes Buffy with a feral growl. She dodges, throws a lightning-fast punch into his face, and then kicks his knee, the crunch of breaking bone echoing over the cobblestones.
"Oh god! My leg!" The vampire crumples, clutching his knee and grunting in pain.
"See, now we're communicating," Buffy smiles down on him.
Enraged, the vampire struggles back up to a standing position and shoves Buffy back into the side of the Magic Box, then reaches for her throat. She ducks around his hand, throws another punch, cartwheels around him, and kicks straight between his collarbones so that the vampire smacks into the brick siding. Evading his backhanding strike, Buffy wrenches a shard of wood off an abandoned packing crate and circles, just out of range of the demon's fists. As the student cowers out of the way, the vampire bears down on Buffy with heavier punches, but her kicks keep him at bay until he swings his arm back for a heavier punch, leaving his chest and heart exposed.
One smooth strike of her makeshift stake, and all that remains is a pile of ash on the ground. Straightening up again, Buffy brushes a few splinters and dust flecks off the sleeves of her white thermal.
"Wow…" she ponders thoughtfully. "Been a long while since I met one who didn't know me." She gives the rescued boy a quick glance. "You should go home."
Squaring her shoulders, she starts walking back to the shop's back door, her anxiety securely chained down once more, overcome by the rush of her calling.
"H-how'd you do that?" stammers the college student.
"It's what I do."
"But you're… you're just a girl," he whispers, sizing up his savior and trying to reconcile what he had just seen to what he'd been told all his life – that monsters aren't real, that the things that go bump in the night are solely in his imagination.
"…That's what I keep saying," murmurs Buffy, slipping in through the back door of the Magic Box.
It won't be in vain
To swallow all your pain
And learn to love what burns
And gather courage to return…
"Something going on out back?" asks Xander as she reenters. The Scoobies are still gathered at the table, ensconced in books and papers and magical artifacts, anything that could possibly help them in their dire situation. Spike leans against the ladder to the library balcony with a cigarette between his lips, and everyone else is too stressed to complain about the smoke.
"Just a vampire," Buffy mumbles, crossing her arms to ward off the chill of fear emanating from the others. "Anything?"
Giles slides another page of cramped notes across the table to Willow and then rubs his sore side with one hand. "Nothing you want to hear. Th-the ritual is, um…"
"Explain it again."
"Buffy, there's nothing new to–"
"Go though it again," she barks, eyes steely, gazing only on Giles despite the nervous glances of her friends and lover. Willow rubs Tara's shoulder as Giles peels off his glasses and rests them on the open Book of Tarnis.
"For Glory to return to her own dimension, the living energy – the key – must be channeled, poured at a specific time and place, with all attendant ritual, of course," he murmurs, synthesizing the information they gleaned from General Gregor and the newly acquired scrolls with the original data procured from the reluctant Watchers' Council. "The energy flows in the certain spot, the walls between dimensions break down. Glory departs our realm, not caring that all manner of hell is unleashed on earth. The text suggests earthquakes, monstrous creatures, the very laws of nature bending out of their norm… gravity, electricity, perhaps even the properties of water… It will be utter chaos."
"Um, b-but only for a little while, right?" Anya interrupts. "The walls come back up, uh, no more hell?"
"That's only if the energy is stopped," Willow whispers grimly. "A-and now that the key is human… is Dawn…"
" 'The blood flows, the gates will open. The gates will close when it flows no more'," Giles reads straight from one of their latest scrolls, then reluctantly lifts his gaze to Buffy again. "When Dawn is dead."
Buffy closes her eyes with a shudder and tries to disguise the fact that she's wringing her hands by popping a few of her knuckles. The tension that had fled her body over the course of the short fight in the alley is now back in spades.
"I have places to be!" Tara squeals grumpily. Her shout makes everyone seated around the table jump slightly, and she curls up into a pouting ball in a wicker chair beside the table, her arms around her knees.
"Why blood, though?" inquires Xander, gesturing at the mess of parchment. "Why Dawn's blood? I mean, why couldn't it be, like a… a lymph ritual?"
" 'Cause it's always got to be blood," Spike sighs. Xander rolls his eyes.
"We're not actually discussing dinner right now."
"Blood is life, lackbrain!" the vampire insists. Not rocket science here, people. "Why do you think we eat it? Makes you warm. Makes you hard. Makes you other than dead." His eyes drop to the scuffed toes of his boots, and he draws in the last lungful of nicotine before stubbing the butt out on the ladder railing. "Of course it's her blood."
"Pretty simple math here," says Buffy, her soft but determined voice earning everyone's immediate attention. "We stop Glory before she can start the ritual. We st-still have a couple of hours, right?"
"If my calculations are correct, she has to… to begin the ritual just before dawn," answers Giles.
"Before Dawn what?"
"He means sunrise, pet," Spike mumbles, leaning out from the ladder so he can check the clock hanging over the register. Ten past three… so sunup's gotta be in roughly three hours… bloody hell, only three hours… this is the night that wouldn't soddin' end.
"Oh. Right. At dawn."
"But Buffy–" Giles begins, but the tone of his voice is enough for her to anticipate his argument – that Dawn isn't really her sister… that if it comes to that, she has to pick saving the world over saving the teenager.
"I don't want to hear it." Staring anywhere but at her Watcher, she takes a few stressful steps toward the table.
"I understand that," he tries again, "but–"
"No!" Her eyes are mint green fire, a glare that could melt steel. "No, you don't understand. We are not talking about this."
"Yes, we bloody well are!" Giles yells, surging to his feet. Nervous glances pass between Xander, Anya, and Willow, all three of them stunned by the insensitive outburst. Spike also rises, warily gazing from the angry Englishman to Buffy.
"Come on. Say it," the Slayer whispers, her tone a deadly dare. "We're bloody well talking about this. Tell me to kill my sister."
"She's not your sister," murmurs Giles, ashamed of himself for the words passing through his own lips.
A muscle twitches in Buffy's jaw. "No? Isn't she? You honestly think that if she dies the world goes back to how it was before? All the memories created by the monks will just poof, be gone? Because if that's the best piece-of-crap advice you can come up with – 'Get over it. She's not your real sister' – then you can march your ass right back to the hospital and stay there. I love Dawn. She's a part of me… of Mom…"
Love will lead you to your gift… Death is your gift…
She stops speaking, sobs constricting her throat. A few months ago she would have stormed out of the shop rather than openly weep in front of her friends, but the emotionally draining events of the past week have given her a strange confidence in showing vulnerability, a reprise for her humanity to peek through the Slayer side's stoic façade.
Willow hops up and hurries over to Buffy, comfortingly squeezing her arm. "We'll save her. We will. Don't have another coma, okay?"
Buffy snorts tearfully, almost a giggle, and Giles winces but continues on in the same quiet, coaching tone, as if by repetition he can change her mind.
"If we cannot stop Glory, and the ritual starts, then every living creature in this and every other dimension imaginable will suffer unbearable torment and death… including Dawn."
"Then the last thing she'll see is me protecting her," replies Buffy, unmoved.
"You'll fail. You'll die. We all will."
"SIT THE HELL DOWN, WATCHER!"
Giles doesn't even have time to turn as Spike's hand clamps down on his shoulder, shoving him back onto the bench. Everyone around the table gapes, one thought piercing into everyone's minds. The chip?
"You shoved me!" splutters Giles.
"Gonna do a lot worse if you don't shut your trap. Buffy says we're savin' Dawn, we're damn well gonna save 'er. Well, 'cept you. You're stayin' right here."
"What?!" The vein in Giles's temple looks just about ready to burst.
"Injured. You'll just get in our way," Spike retorts with a snarl.
"You can't stop me!"
Giles springs back up and clocks Spike, who reels and then growls lion-like just shy of the Watcher's face, liquid gold flashing in his blue eyes.
"Stop it!" orders Buffy, and her furious voice makes the rage in Spike seemingly evaporate. He lifts his hands to shoulder height and takes a large step back from the table, but Giles finally clues in on the exorbitant shock he felt at the vampire's clearly aggressive stance.
"He just shoved me!" he points accusingly at Spike, as if anyone has the slightest doubt to whom he's referring. "Why didn't his chip go off?"
Buffy doesn't even pause for breath before she answers. "He hasn't had the chip since Glory captured him. She ripped open his skull when she tortured him, and tore it out."
The air in the magic box is like solid ice. Everyone stares at Spike, the only exception being Tara, who giggles and whispers "Secrets, secrets" to herself. Willow covers her own mouth, remembering in distinct detail the copious amounts of blood that had coated Spike's neck when they'd rescued him, and then her eyes dart to her mumbling girlfriend. Same thing, really. Glory's nasty fingers, hurting our partners' brains…
"I'm… I'm g-glad you're okay, Spike," she says, her whisper carrying clearly through the dour room. "Th-that your brain didn't get… you know."
His mouth softens from its tight-lipped frown into a tentative grin, and he bows his head to the witch.
"Thanks, Red. Means a lot."
"Wait… so you were faking when you just smacked my head and went all…" Xander holds his temples and pretends to experience an electric spasm, mimicking Spike's reaction on their way out of the hospital.
"Yep. An' it was worth it," Spike smirks.
"You… fangy jerk," huffs the carpenter, but his voice carries no real malice. Like Willow, he recalls how terribly injured Spike had been when they'd found him in Glory's apartment. A guy who can take getting stabbed and cut up and having hellgod fingers probed through his brain, and still not squeal on Buff and Dawn… Xander finds himself suddenly at ease, with a sense of real respect for the vampire seated beside him.
"Do you mean to tell me," Giles finally blusters, "that we've had a master vampire on the loose for nearly a week and you never bothered to tell me?"
"Aw, you flatter me, Watcher," grins Spike. "Though technically, bein' chipped never stopped me from bein' Master of Sun–"
"Buffy! Answer me!" insists Giles. She gazes into his face for another long moment, refusing to back down at his look of shock and near-betrayal.
"Yes," Buffy finally mutters. "The chip is gone. We're not discussing this anymore right now. We don't have time and I'm… I'm too tired…"
"She's right," says Spike, leaning on a rung of the ladder again, intentionally putting more space between himself and the obviously uncomfortable Watcher. "Gripin' isn't savin' Dawnie, an' nor is havin' a tiff 'bout somethin' that's already happened."
"Yes!" Anya blurts, her cheery voice alarmingly loud. "All in favor of stopping Glory before the ritual? Suggestions, ideas? Time's a-wasting. Uh… Willow! Could you do a spell, make her a little hoppy toad? Then we can hit her with a hammer?"
"Tee hee, hoppy toad," giggles Tara from her chair.
"What about Ben?" says Xander, jabbing his finger at their notes. "He can be killed, right? We could kill a… regular guy…" He stops, realizing the sheer horror of what he's saying, that they could kill an innocent person, that they could play God and decide who lives and dies.
"I could do it," Spike whispers, his eyes on his shoes, too ashamed to meet the gazes of the humans. "Got a century's worth of blood on my hands. Not like one more innocent death can damn my soul any more than it's already damned. Little twist, little snap, off with his head."
Giles gives Spike a long, somewhat puzzled stare. "That is… well, that is a morbidly noble offer… but, um, it's doubtful he'll surface again this close to the ritual. We should expect it's Glory we'll be dealing with, and of course her numerous followers. It's entirely possible that Glory herself may not be essential to actually performing the ritual, merely supervising her minions conducting the… procedure…"
"Should we m-maybe join essences again? Make Buffy the super-Slayer?" Willow meekly suggests.
"That worked against Frankenbot, but to kill a true god… I don't think it'll be enough," Buffy sighs. "Not to mention the Spirit of the First Slayer was pretty pissed."
Xander gives a little shudder of agreement. "It was, like, 'Head straight for the nightmares. Do not pass Go. Do not collect two hundred dollars'."
"We could still try a piano," Anya says brightly, making half of the table's occupants smirk helplessly and the other half just look exhausted.
"Ahn, Babe, enough with the piano, okay?"
"We've just gotta get 'er on the ropes, keep her an' all her little scabs occupied until after the window for the ritual," Spike shrugs, anticipating no other alternative beside fighting. "I mean, there's only the one time she can do it, right?"
"Okay, but I'm still not seeing enough ideas," Anya prompts, channeling all the enthusiasm of a motivational coach. "She's a god, so let's think outside the box."
"Why don't you go think outside the bleedin' box?" mutters Spike.
"Yes, Anya, apart from your incredibly un-infectious enthu–"
"The Dagon Sphere! When Buffy first met Glory there was that magical glowy sphere that was meant to repel Glory! It's still in the basement, and Ooh!"
All gazes swivel to Anya, who hops up from the bench and hurries over to the display case with Olaf the Troll God's enchanted hammer.
"You want to fight a god, use the weapon of a god."
Buffy joins her and easily lifts the magical sledgehammer out of its case, testing the heft of the massive weapon.
"Yeah… I like this. Thanks."
"Here to help. Wanna live," Anya beams back. "And I knew a hammer was a good idea, even if we don't turn her into a toad."
"Elements off these strategies may be of use," Giles nods, giving a broad encompassing sweep of his arm to include them all, even Spike, "but we still have to determine how to find her."
"Big day!" Tara keens. She sways in her chair, pulling at the window blinds, trying to see through the pitch black night air. "Oh! It calls me! I have to be there! Big day!"
Buffy and Willow exchange a knowing glance, and then the Slayer sets down the hammer and rubs her head, her renewed anxiety spawning a fresh headache. As if experiencing a daydream, she sees Dawn in her mind's eye, huddled in a corner with tears on her cheeks, praying her sister is coming to her rescue.
"I'm… gonna go a round with the bag," she mumbles, turning around towards the training room before any of them can see her floodgates burst again.
To faces in the crowd
Faces in the crowd will smile again
And the devil may cry
The devil may cry at the end of the night…
The bag in the training room definitely isn't fabricated to Slayer specs. Even through her wrap-gloves Buffy can feel the reinforced canvas ripping as she punches, creating micro-tears in the bag shell that leak little trickles of sand down to the floor. After a few solitary minutes, she hears the training room door open softly and pauses in her routine… well, not so much a routine as a torrent of angry fists.
"You sure you're not going to tire yourself out?" asks Giles, stepping slowly into the room as though gauging her level of wrath.
"I'm sure. How much time do we have?"
"Roughly two and three-quarter hours before the sun rises. Best leave it to the last moment. If we go in too early and she takes us out, there's no chance of getting her to miss her window."
"Then we wait."
One final punch sends the broken bag skittering across the wood in three separate sections of canvas and spilt sand. Buffy watches the parts slide on the ground, stretches her arm, and turns toward Giles.
"I imagine you must hate me right now," he murmurs, inspecting her solemn face. When she gives no reply, he dares to take another step toward his surrogate daughter as she unwraps the bindings around her wrists. "You know I love Dawn, Buffy. She… both of you… you're like the children I never had."
"But," he hangs his head regretfully, "I've sworn to protect this sorry world, and sometimes that means saying… and doing… what other people can't. What they shouldn't have to."
Her eyes harden. "If you try and hurt her, and you know I'll stop you."
"I know," he sighs, sinking onto the faux-leather sofa against the wall. He rests his elbows on his knees and removes his glasses while Buffy wanders over and joins him.
"This is how many apocalypses for us now?" she asks with squinting brows.
"Oh, uh, well… six, at least… feels like a hundred."
"I've always stopped them," murmurs Buffy, memory after memory of averted disaster skimming across her mind. "I sacrificed Angel to save the world, even though I loved him… I did what I knew was right… But I… I don't know anymore, what's right. I don't know how to live in this world if these are the choices, if everything just gets stripped away… I just wish… I wish my mom was here."
She rises from the couch, steps toward the door, pulls her white thermal back on, and rubs away the water in her eyes with the heel of her hand.
"The spirit guide told me that Death is my gift," she mutters, halfway turning to face Giles again. "Guess that means a Slayer really is just a killer after all."
"I think you're wrong about that," whispers Giles.
"It doesn't matter. If Dawn dies… I'm done with it. I'm quitting."
Before Giles can stand and join her, Buffy slips out of the training room. She reenters the customer area of the shop just in time to see Willow hand Spike a knobbly-looking candle and gently squeeze his arm, her face a sad smile.
"I-it only w-w-works in a small room so m-make sure all the doors are closed, no weird leaks."
"Dunno how to thank you, Red. You call in a return favor anytime, a'right?"
"Um… where are Xander and Anya?" Buffy asks, peering around the room.
" 'Looking'for the Dagon Sphere," Willow says, capping the first word in air-quotes. "They went down to the basement."
"Good… they should get to… good."
Buffy stares down at the floor again. There isn't time… but… She sneaks a glance at Spike… god, I want him so badly...
He seems to read her desperate thoughts in her melancholy smile, and in the corner of her eye she sees him pocket the lumpy candle.
"Um, B-Buffy," says Willow shyly, "I kinda cleaned out most of the weapons here when I… you know… s-so maybe you should g-get some from your house. And, um, Spike could go with you, I guess. 'Cuz he can carry heavy stuff, er, not that you can't carry heavy stuff, 'cuz you have super Slayer strength and–"
"Sounds good, Wills," Buffy interrupts. "We'll grab some weapons. Spike?"
They stride out, back into the pitch black streets that they'd crossed less than a half-hour before. Buffy's pace is aggressively fast, and Spike remains close on her heels, resisting his longing to reach for her hand… for fear that one touch of her will be too much for either one of them to handle.
Faces in the crowd
Faces in the crowd will smile again
And the devil may cry
The devil may cry at the end of the night…
The front door isn't even locked, and they're barely across the threshold when Buffy clamps a hand around Spike's wrist, so tightly that her nails form crescent indents in his skin.
"Buffy... what are you doing?"
Without answering, she half-drags him up the stairs. She shudders at the sight of the bathroom door – and the bloody vision her coma had imprinted on her – and immediately turns left into her bedroom, drawing her leather-clad lover along with her.
"Hey. Look a'me, Buffy. Look. At. Me," he repeats slowly when her flooded eyes remain fixed on the carpet between his feet after closing the door behind them.
"We don't have much time."
Tears spill out of her eyes. "We d-d-don't have much time," she repeats shakily. She pulls him toward her by his belt and starts unbuckling it as she kisses his neck, still too afraid she'll burst into unceasing sobs if she meets his gaze.
"Love, just listen to me… Buffy…"
She shakes her head against his collarbone. Her trembling fingers succeed in loosening the cinch at his waist, and she tugs the belt out of its loops and tosses it on the floor, the buckle clunking dully on the carpet. She thumbs his jeans' button loose and is just about to yank down the zipper when he holds her hands out of the way.
Her streaming eyes lock on his, her tears almost enough to make his resistance completely crumble.
"Don't… d-don't you w-want me?" Because two of the three other men I've slept with didn't want me a second time...
"A'course I want you, baby. I love you. I always want you," he murmurs, his voice husky. "Just… we do have enough time, don't need to rush this. Look…"
He reaches into his duster pocket and pulls out the long, lumpy candle Willow had given him. "Red said she was savin' it for exam week at university, on account of it bein' such a hassle to enchant. It… it slows down how you perceive time in the room where you're burnin' it, to a twelfth of real time. Fit a whole hour into just five minutes."
Buffy stares at the candle with widening eyes. Time? Extra time? Extra time alone with Spike… on what might be the last night before the universe shreds into pieces?
"Did… did Willow say how long the candle could last?"
"In real time…" Spike swallows. "She reckoned 'bout an hour, give or take."
"An… an hour… so… twelve for us?"
"That's right, pet."
Her lip trembling, she falls forward against his chest, hands reaching around to hug him tightly, clutching his shoulder blades.
"Twelve hours! Oh god! We could… I c-could sleep! I could shower! Oh my god, I haven't had a shower in like three days!"
Spike chuckles, tangling his hands in her hair and kissing her forehead. "Gotta let me light the blasted thing first, Goldilocks."
"Oh… right… I, um, I heard Willow s-say it had to be a small room, with closed doors… l-let me check the window."
Releasing him, she rushes around to her bedroom window and verifies that it's fully sealed and locked, while Spike clears a space on Buffy's vanity desk, sets up the crooked candle, and affixes a flame to the tip, laying his silver lighter down beside the magical pillar of wax.
"What'cha doin' pet?" he asks in surprise, turning to spot Buffy stuffing a rolled-up towel under her doorframe.
"Willow said no leaks, right? I'm preventing leakage."
"Clever. I've lit it up. Feel… feel any different?"
Buffy stands, glances around her bedroom – more disheveled than usual, thanks to her week of chaos – and takes a deep breath.
"I don't know. Is there someway to tell if it's working?"
"Willow mentioned there'd be… oh, look, Buffy. The candle…"
From the glowing tip of the wick, a string of golden light descends down the wax, swirling into coils over the lumpy knobs in the stem, until it finally reaches the base. A small plume of sparks, almost like miniscule glittering confetti, bursts from the flame and floats down, dissolving in the air surrounding her desk.
Buffy gives the quietest of sad chuckles.
"What's the matter, luv?"
"I just thought of what Tara's say right now if she'd seen that. 'Pixie dust'."
"Yeah… sure looked like that, didn't it. Must be workin' then. Do you…" He looks nervously at the floor for a moment, the candle's soft glow silhouetting his marble cheekbones. "Do you want to sleep first, or…"
She steps toward him, doing her best to arrange her face in a coy smile – as much as possible considering the tears still making their way stubbornly out of her sore eyes. If I could just stop crying… if I could just fall into his arms and forget what I've got to do… forget my calling… forget my own name… and think only of him…
"I… I'm not that tired yet, actually."
"Mmm…" The soft noise escapes him just as her head bumps against his chest, warm forehead against cool neck. "That so, luv?"
"Yes so. I… I need you right now, Spike."
"I… need… you…"
She roves her lips along the edge of his t-shirt collar, draws her fingertips up his torso until she finds his duster lapels, and lifts them, slipping the leather off his shoulders. He shrugs to help her, his own hands drifting to her waist once his coat is on the carpet.
The light will shine through the rain
And heaven will hear them call your name…
He lets her hair loose from its rubber band, his thumbs working soothingly down the back of her head. She raises her arms around his neck, damp lashes brushing his cheek as her eyes close.
"Spike… please, I don't want to wait. Not tonight. Please just undress me right now. Please."
Spike rubs her shoulders, recognizing the barely-bridled hysteria in her voice, the strange blend of lust and frightened begging. And though he wants her more than anything… he hesitates, sliding his hands down her back at a deliberately slow pace. His fingers reach the hem of her white long-sleeved thermal and separate it from the layer of shirt underneath. Pulling the thermal over her head, he inspects her. Black t-shirt, black jeans, kickass boots. His twin.
"Hey… We match, luv," he smiles.
Buffy stares down at herself and then at him, her jaw shaking so much that Spike can hear her back molars grinding.
Without warning she breaks down sobbing, and he holds her up before she can collapse all the way to the carpet. He cradles her in his arms, his lips kneading between her brows, her fast-flowing tears splashing on his throat. He's suddenly aware of how thin and hard she's become, so different from their morning of passion only days ago – her shoulders a little bonier in his hands, her skin drier, muscles as tense as stretched cables.
"Buffy… sweetheart, we're gonna save Dawnie. It's gonna be a'right… I promise, baby…"
"Maybe," she chokes out. "Maybe not. Maybe we'll be too late."
"Maybe I'll die."
"I won't let that happen, Buffy." Because God help me, I'll rip the whole soddin' world apart, storm the gates of hell to get her back…
"Maybe you'll die, Spike," Buffy cries, pulling back to stare at him, as though to etch his face in her memory. Tears continue to stream down her cheeks, her voice cracking and breaking. "Maybe Glory will finish what she started, and take you from me. D-death is my g-g-gift…"
"No, my dearest. I'm not leavin' you…"
"I want you. I want all of you. I want you so badly, it's like I'm on fire."
Her arms shove outwards, breaking his relaxed hold around her, and she yanks his shirt up and over his head an instant later. She runs her fingertips down his ripped chest and chiseled abs, pausing on the glaring blot of purple bruises on his ribs from Glory's punch earlier that night.
"Months and months, and I've barely gotten to touch you. I want to memorize every inch of you. I want to remember the feeling of you inside me. I want your taste on my tongue and your voice in my ears, your hair in my hands and your hands all over me. If… if you're gone tomorrow night… and I'm alone… th-then I have to know you well enough to fool myself, and dream of you…"
His eyes are wet too, water glistening off his long dark lashes, and she arches up on the balls of her feet to kiss one of his cheekbones, catching the salt flavor on her tongue.
"Spike… oh god, Spike… I can't do this. I can't take it anymore. It's like I'm already dying inside…"
His hands are strong despite his shaking voice, gripping her shoulders firmly. She can't go feelin' that! Can't have her death wish, can't weaken herself with these thoughts, let the hellbitch get that one good day. Not this girl, not my girl, not ever.
"I c-can't help it. I'm so broken… I can't fix it, fix anything…"
"Dammit, Slayer! You're gonna live! You're gonna kill that bitch an' send 'er back to hell!"
"You don't know that!" she shouts back, sobbing out the words. She shakes her arms free and grabs at his neck, hauling him against her before he has time to blurt out a reply. Their kiss isn't pretty or gentle; it's a hungry clashing of lips and teeth and tongues, a miniature skirmish she's determined to win, as if the outcome of this passion-driven wrestling match will determine the result of the battle against Glory.
With one arm locked around his neck, imprisoning him, her other hand rakes down his torso, nails leaving angry red lines in their wake. He groans into her lips, a tiger-like growl that drives her mad with renewed need to have him buried in her.
This would be so much easier in a skirt. She undoes her pants and shoves them down her hips, trying to shimmy out of the tight denim.
"Help me," she begs, throwing her head back as his arm bends her back and his lips carve a line of suckling kisses down between her clothed breasts.
He drops to his knees, hands grasping her hips, kissing his way down to her belly. She stabilizes herself with the desk chair so he can yank her jeans down to her ankles, and she steps out one leg at a time, stripping down her underwear as well. She yanks him upright again before he has the chance to get his mouth on her clit. Just knowing that he wants that is enough to soak her, and she's afraid the touch of his wicked tongue will set her off too early.
Kissing him blindly, she reaches for his fly and this time tugs the zipper down with a sharp shhkk. Her hand dives into his jeans and grasps him, pumping once to spread the bead of precum down his length.
Gasping raggedly, Spike stumbles into the wall between the desk and her closet door, and Buffy pursues, clutching him close to her, nearly puncturing the drywall to get her arm around his neck. He grasps below her hips and lifts her up, wrapping her legs around his waist, his fingers like fire on her skin. Her hand fights its way between them to line him up, and then she slams down, almost whimpering in relief at the feeling of being filled.
And home will feel like home again
Corruption will fill your brain…
"C-clothes," she gasps, her hands desperately threading into his hair. "St-still t-t-too many clothes…"
"Yeah," he grunts, one hand remaining at her hip – so agonizingly close to where they're linked – while the other moves shakily up her back and under her t-shirt, popping open her bra clasp. "Oh, Buffy… Buffy, I love you…"
She nods with another tearful catch of her breath, pulling up just slightly and then sinking until he's deep in her again. He turns them around, pressing her into the wall so he can wrest her top over her head and then peel the straps of her bra off her shoulders. Bowing her against the wall for leverage, he rests his head on her chest and anchors his hands at her hips again, lifting and lowering her at the rhythm she'd already set, angling her so his pelvic bone grinds her nub with every movement.
"So hot, baby… Burn me just like that, Buffy, ohhh god…"
She screams, her head dropping forward onto his shoulder, hands clinging to his neck as waves of pleasure wrack her body. Her motion tips him backward, knocking him onto his back on her bed, and he gives a strangled kind of roar as she lands on him. Eyes lock above panting lips just barely brushing, and she resumes their needy pace, barely missing a beat.
Faces in the crowd
Faces in the crowd will smile again…
"Spike… ohh… Oh Spike!"
He groans in her ear, his voice tremulous and smoky, and spins them around once her second bout of spasms fade, pulling them both up to the center of the bed. Once he gets a pillow under her head, he kicks his jeans off his calves, kneels over her, and eases back into her welcoming warmth. Her arms wrap around his neck, pulling his torso down to press against her chest.
"Not squishin' you, am I, luv?"
"No. Wanna feel you, close as I can… feel nothing but you… oh Spike…"
He kisses her cheek, but otherwise his face is tense with concentration, intent on delaying his own impending climax for as long as he can, caring only to prolong hers.
"Gonna… gonna go a bit slower this time, baby, a'right?"
"Are you tired?" Buffy asks, skimming her hands down his muscular back and feeling sweat beading up on his warming skin.
"Nah, just… Mmm… tryin' to hold off a while."
"You don't have to hold off. This isn't about me. This is about us."
"It is all 'bout you, baby. God knows it's always been 'bout you. You're my sun, the source of light and life of my 'ole world. Castin' a glow on your moonlit monster."
"My moonlit man," she corrects him, kissing his hair as his mouth brushes over her breasts and rolls one pebbled nipple around with his tongue. Ohh… this is why calling him 'boyfriend' never seemed to fit. Yes, he can pull a boyish innocent face when he's being all cute, but underneath he's all man and poet and fighter to the bitter end. My man. My lover. My Spike…
"My Spike! Mine! Yes!"
It's the mine that triggers him, hips thrusting deep, a gasp shuddering from his throat as he spills his seed inside her. Buffy moans in contentment, squeezing tight around him, her own orgasm still coursing through her body.
"Ohh… yes, Spike… Spi– wha?"
He pulls out the moment he's soft enough to escape her clenching inner muscles, then crawls backwards down her body, trying to get his arms underneath her legs. She shrieks when his lips and tongue touch down between her shaking thighs.
"Oohh! Wait, you… c-come back…"
She tugs on his hair until he looks up… and his eyes tell her everything, how desperately he wants to keep her riding the surges of her pleasure, how worshiping her is his true satisfaction.
"Don't you like–?"
"I do! Just want you closer. Come back, love."
"I know, silly vampire. Just come here and kiss me…"
And the devil may cry
The devil may cry at the end of the night
Faces in the crowd
Faces in the crowd will smile again
And the devil may cry
The devil may cry at the end of the night…
This may be the most blissful part yet, Buffy realizes, just holding him, hands tangling in his hair or stroking languidly across his powerful shoulders, her legs coiled around one of his thighs. They exchange noisy, wet kisses, passionate moans slipping between their barely parted lips, neither of them caring how wanton they sound. The bed creaks as Spike gently rocks against her, one thumb drawing lazy circles on the swell of her breast.
"My beautiful Buffy… so warm. Love how warm you are, sweetheart."
"For you. Hot for you."
"Chuffed to hear it, baby." He rotates his hips a bit, adjusting so his renewed hardness can slide along the outside of her soaking slit.
Mmm… vampire stamina…
Buffy lifts her legs around his waist again, trembling with bliss as she pulls him in.
They will parade upon your victory
They will parade upon your victory
You'll put a smile upon their faces
The world will be yours for the taking
The story you birth will be ageless
Just learn to love pain and be patient…
They're lost in their consuming need for each other, both trying to concentrate so hard on the pleasure of the other that they barely save any thought to themselves. Stretching... burning... so full... so tight... so perfect...
"Now you!" Buffy gasps, clutching the muscles of his shoulders, her sweating cheek against his. For the first time in her life, she can honestly say she's lost track – both of the time and of how many times she's spiraled into rapture around him.
"I… I can keep goin'," he groans, the tendons in his throat straining like steel ropes.
She cups his face and tilts it so she can kiss him, mouth slurring fiercely over his and then siding across his jaw to his neck, laving the spot she knows will quickly trigger him into ecstasy.
"Buffy!" His head jerks away, trying to get out of her reach, but she just bites down on his collarbone instead. "Oh god!"
"Yes, Spike.. With me, Spike… Say you love me!"
"I love you… I love you, baby… I – oh!"
And he can't hold back. He plunges into her blazing channel and she traps him in squeezing Slayer muscles, wringing him until he's empty. He sags over her, breathing in little moans, lips pressing weakly against the side of her throat.
Buffy strokes his spine, blissfully exhausted in a way she'd never quite felt before, never to this great extent at least. She glances at the softly flickering candle, which looks to have burned down about halfway… and yet her bedside clock still reads a quarter past four in the morning.
"If we live through this, I'm never letting you out of my bed."
He chuckles hoarsely, gradually propping his elbow against the mattress so he can raise his torso.
"Are you… are you cold, pet?" he whispers when he can gasp in enough air to form words.
"No… maybe…" Kinda hard to tell when I'm all boneless and my skin is singing fireworks. "Only a tiny bit. Stay…"
"Couldn't move if you paid me, luv. Jus' tryin' to find the blankets. Think we may have knocked them onto the floor."
With a little stretching, his fingertips find the sheets, and he flops over onto his back, tucking Buffy against his side. As he covers them both with the blanket, she buries her head in the crook of his neck, her body half-draped over him.
"How will we know when to wake up?" Buffy whispers, tracing her palm down the smooth marble expanse of his chest, wondering if it's the last time she'll ever have the chance.
"I'll keep watch, luv."
"But I want you to sleep too."
"I will. I'll kip when you're in the shower."
"But that'll only be… oh. Magic candle? Leave a bit to light when I go in the bathroom?"
"Mmhmm." His lips coast across her forehead. "Go to sleep now, baby."
"I love you, Spike."
His hands squeeze gently, cradling her, and his returned whisper of, "Love you, Buffy Summers," is the last thing her consciousness registers before she drifts off in her dead lover's arms.
Faces in the crowd
Faces in the crowd will smile again
And the devil may cry
The devil may cry at the end of the night...
True to his word, Spike rouses her when the candle is down to a fluttering stump, and though the clock insists only a half-hour has passed, Buffy could've sworn she's gotten the better part of a full night's sleep. They restrain themselves to a few heavy-eyed kisses, and then Buffy peels herself away, grabbing some clean clothes from the closet. She kicks the bunched-up towel to the side of the doorway and twists the handle. There's the faintest gust of pressure as the door open, but it's enough to fizzle out the candle on the desk.
"Promise you'll get up to re-light the candle, okay?"
She waits for him to swing his lean legs out of the bed, then closes the door and steps across the hall to the bathroom. Once the water warms, she takes her time, rubbing heat back into her love-sore muscles. After what she hopes is more than ten minutes, she bundles up her hair in a towel, dries her body, and gets dressed, then tiptoes back to her bedroom door.
He sleeps as though in death, beautiful and pale, long slim limbs tangled all up in her sheets, and it breaks her heart to have to wake him. The candle is completely burned through, just a puddle of wax, the remaining wick just a black ember, a wisp of smoke drifting toward the ceiling. That relieves her guilt the faintest bit, but at most he couldn't have gotten more than three hours of magical sleep during her shower time.
Kneeling on the edge of the bed, Buffy smoothes back his hair from his forehead, his gelled spikes turned to ringlets by her combing fingers during their lovemaking.
He stirs, one eye opening, flashing a sliver of blue.
"Hey, luv. Mmm… smell all flowery... lavender and vanilla, right?"
"Your own personal Slayer cocktail," she smiles. He sits up and nuzzles against her neck, breathing deep. Her hands cross behind his back, kneading gently, surprised by how quickly his body has cooled back to room temperature.
"Need anythin' else before we go, pet?"
"Just the big weapons. Most are in the chest by the TV. Plus the ones in here."
"Yeah. Shouldn't bother with the small stuff. Couple'a good axes should hold off Glory's mates while you take on the lady herself."
"We're not all going to make it," she murmurs against his bare shoulder, her eyes tightly closed. "You know that."
"Yeah." Bloody awful to think 'bout, though. Don't exactly peg Glory's monks as top fighters, but if she's got all the hospital crazies backin' her too, someone's bound to get clubbed with a blunt object. An' we're already short one powerful witch, an' Watcher's injured… odds lookin' less an' less in our favor… Sickenin' to think of who we might lose. Red, or Demon Gal, or Watcher… hell, I'd even miss Xander. Chums all 'around now.
"I'm counting on you… to protect her."
" 'Till the end of the world. Even if that happens to be tonight."
Faces in the crowd
Faces in the crowd will smile again
And the devil may cry
The devil may cry at the end of the night
Laden with the Slayer's choicest weapons, Spike and Buffy return to the Magic Box just in time to watch Anya and Xander – both looking a little tousled – emerge from the basement and hand Giles the luminescent gold ball.
"Here's the Dagon Sphere," Anya announces, even more jittery than usual. "It was very hidden."
"Looks like we weren't the only ones doin' the horizontal tango," Spike smirks, whispering in the back of Buffy's ear. She deposits their retrieved arsenal on the counter and hurries over to Willow, throwing her arms around the redhead.
"Thanks, Will. The candle… thank you so much…"
Willow hugs her back. "Much better than using it for silly finals. Glad it worked."
"Like a charm, cutie," Spike winks, lounging on the ladder again.
"So…" Back to business now. Less than two hours to defeat a hellgod, rescue my sister, and save the future of all dimensions, and just in time for breakfast. "Have you got anything for me?"
"Some ideas," shrugs Willow. "Well, notions… or theories based on wild speculation. Did I mention I'm not good under pressure?"
"Will, you're the only person that's ever hurt Glory at all. You're my best shot at getting her on the ropes, so don't get a jelly-belly on me now. What about those spells you've used on her before?"
"I'm guessing she's figured out some counter-mojo, since she already knows we must be coming. I… I do sort-of have this one idea. I've mostly been looking into ways t-to help Tara. I-I know that shouldn't be my priority."
" 'Course it should, Red," murmurs Spike, and Buffy nods, generating a grateful smile on the witch's face.
"Well, I've been charting essences, mapping them out. I think… if I can get close enough, I may be able to reverse what Glory did. Like, take back what she took from Tara. It might weaken Glory, o-or make her less coherent. Or," she bites her lip, "it might make all our heads explode."
"Buffy," Giles beckons her over, holding up the Dagon Sphere. Buffy gives Willow's shoulder a squeeze of encouragement before she and Spike move up to the counter, where Xander is picking through their stash of swords and axes.
"Since Buff's already called dibs on Mjolnir, I'm looking for something in a broadsword," he informs them, pulling out a two-handled blade.
"Just don't be swingin' that thing near me," grins Spike, choosing a crossbow.
"Hey, I happen to be a–"
"A glorified bricklayer?" the vampire teases.
Xander pauses, seemingly preparing a mighty comeback. "I'm also… a swell bowler."
"The gods themselves do tremble."
"Guys," Buffy cuts their banter short. "We on schedule?"
"Yes, it's time," says Giles, arming himself as well. Buffy picks up the enchanted troll-god hammer as Willow helps Tara up out of her wicker chair.
"Tara, baby? Is there somewhere you should be?"
The blonde witch stares around at them all with slightly glazed eyes, shoulders cowed in fear, still wearing her star-and-moon-patterned jammies.
"They held me down," she pouts.
"No one's holding you," says Willow gently. "It's the big day right? Do you wanna go?"
Eyes flitting suspiciously around, Tara starts shuffling towards the Magic Box door. With one final step to go before she reaches the threshold, she turns to face Giles and points straight at him.
"You're a killer. This is all set down…"
She totters along again, and the rest of the Scoobies stare from her back to the Watcher, all completely bewildered.
"Stay close but don't crowd her," instructs Buffy. "We'll follow in a minute. Remember…" She swallows, wishing she didn't have to burden them all with such an ultimatum… but she does. "Remember, if the ritual starts before sunrise, we all die… And I'll kill anyone who comes near Dawn."
Nodding, Willow slips out the door after Tara, and Buffy exits immediately after, checking the street for signs of early trouble. The rest of the group start to follow suit, Giles and Spike bringing up the rear.
"Not exactly the St. Crispin's Day speech, was it?" the vampire smirks.
"We few… we happy few," Giles quotes the poignant lines from Henry V, holding an axe in one hand and rubbing his bandaged side with the other.
"We band of buggered," Spike chimes in, twisting the line only a bit as he marches out through the threshold, a bag full of weapons slung over his back.
The night is surprisingly warm. Tara leads the way, picking at her arm cast, her steps a little shambling but moving in a determined direction. Willow remains ten or so steps behind her, with the remaining fighters following closely. When their guide pauses and turns her gaze to the sky, Buffy copies her, and her chin drops at the sight of a winding tower of haphazardly erected steel, surrounded on three sides by an industrial yard and warehouses.
"Shpadoinkle," gapes Xander. "Uh, guys… was that there three days ago?"
"Nope," Anya confirms.
"Glory must need height for her portal brew-ha-ha," mutters Spike. "Fingers crossed that the whole mess comes tumblin' down before she can work her evil mojo, eh?"
"Unless Dawn's up there," says Buffy soberly, walking a few more steps forward until she's beside Willow. "Will, you're up."
"Need anything?" asks Giles, the rest of the group now level with the redhead.
"Could use a little courage," Willow sighs.
Spike ducks his hand into his duster inner pocket and offers her his silver flask, earning a smile.
"The real kind, but thanks."
Her eyes take on a swirling dark intensity, and she continues pursuing Tara, while the others split up into their pre-appointed groups – Xander rushing to the nearest crane, Buffy heading for the left side of the fence, and the others clustering to the right.
Inside the compound, Tara finally manages to rip off the shreds of her cast and picks up a brick, compelled to find a weapon, though why she can't seem to remember. A rough hand on her shoulder suddenly spins her around, putting her face to face with a testy Glorificus.
"You!" she spit out, shaking Tara's shoulder slightly. "What are you doing here?"
"She's with me."
Appearing at their side, black-eyed Willow threads her fingers into the hell-goddess's skull, doing the same to Tara, and an arc of magic energy courses through her arms from Glory into the pajama-clad blonde. As though a bomb bursts in the midst of them, all three women hurtle backwards in three different directions, the flash of brilliant white-blue light momentarily blinding all the crazies. No sooner does Glory land but her flock of flunkies rush over and help her up from the concrete ground.
"Glory! Oh Glorificius!"
"What the frickin' hell did that bitch do to me?"
The minions glance at each other, and it's almost possible to see the words "Should we tell her about her hair?" forming in their pea-brains, but they turn to her hastily and stammer compliments and reassurances. Glory staggers to her feet, looking rather punch-drunk.
"She… made a little… she made a hole… Uugh, I need a brain."
"Oh! Take mine, oh groove-tastic one!" the nearest monk demon grovels.
"I said a brain, you worthless dirt," she huffs, one hand trying to hold in the dizziness, stop her remaining brains from spilling out of her forehead like a bowl of noodles. "Big day. I got… places to be. Big day. Need a brain."
Glory's eyes slide all over, and then settle, a smile brimming across her face at the sight of the Slayer.
"Well… I guess I could use yours."
"Okay," says Buffy defiantly, her arms holding both the Dagon Sphere and the colossal troll-hammer behind her back, out of the god's eyesight. "Come and get it."
To be continued…
Author's notes: Will the Scoobies save Dawn? Will canon and/or non-canon character deaths occur? Will Spike and Buffy have more sex? Will the devil actually cry at the end of the night? Will AGriffs sit her butt down at her computer and write the next chapter quickly? Tune in next time to find out!