And I’m not quite failing miserably, although it might be close… My intended SS entry is five completed chapters in to a probably six or seven chapters. So, I’ll post what I have today (perhaps a couple of chapters now and more when I get to the land of broadband in a few hours) and hope to have those last chapters finished by the next/last free-for-all day. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll just post the link to my journal and website where those last chapters will be found when they’re completed.
To make up for it, I’ll post a link to my current wip, the theme of which really fits the theme this round as well as, if not better than, this one. Operating on the assumption that there are people reading here who may not be reading Spuffy anymore and won’t have seen it. It’s long, so no obligation to read it as a SS entry – just throwing it out there because so many people have contributed more than one, relatively short, unfinished fic. :)
So, here are the Prologue and Chapters One and Two of Together Again It takes place in some non-specific future well after the events of season eight comics and in no way related to them except for a couple of quick references to events there. I don’t think knowledge of that season is necessary as I’ve tried to provide enough information to explain the references without going into the whole plot arcs that led up to them.
The first time Andrew mentioned Spike in front of her, Buffy had just returned from Romania and the hellmouth there. She thought he was reminiscing, speaking about Spike as if he’d just talked to him yesterday. Then Giles said something to one of the slayers about meeting with Spike when she got to Cleveland, saying that he would ‘fill her in’ on the situation. Rather than let Giles know she’d overheard, Buffy walked away, her brain whirling. She’d heard the rumors, of course. They all had. An unnaturally blond vampire, fighting on the side of slayers. He would show up, participate in the fight, perhaps save a girl’s life, then give a wave and disappear. But they all assumed Spike had just become a slayer version of an urban legend. An imaginary creature that showed up whenever a slayer was in trouble.
It seemed that somehow, while Buffy was in Romania, he’d gone from legend to actual undead warrior with whom Giles, at least, was in contact. She hadn’t seen or heard from him since he’d been thrown out into the sun during that last fight with Twilight. She’d hoped his bugs rescued him, but was too busy to watch. When he didn’t show up after things settled down, she’d mourned him for a third time, and gone about the work of training and recruiting slayers. Life was fairly peaceful for years, and then…
Suddenly, a year ago, the world’s hellmouths had become very active – all of them. And Buffy had taken a squad to Romania at Dracula’s personal request. When she protested that he was probably the one causing all the terror and death, Xander stood up for his former master, employer, and totally unexpected friend.
“I know how he comes across, Buffy, but that’s just his public persona. Don’t you remember Japan?”
She frowned, remembering how, when they’d all seemed to lose their strength and abilities, including him, Dracula took command and reminded them of who he’d once been. Vlad the Impaler hadn’t had superpowers when he defeated his enemies and protected his country from the encroachment of the Ottoman Empire. He had only his own innate ability to fight, his refusal to quit, and a single-minded and bloody approach to strategy. It was enough then, and it had been enough for Tokyo. He took charge of that battle and carried the slayer side to victory. She also remembered his insistence that Xander be allowed to remove the head of the vamp that killed his girlfriend, saying honor required it. And then he’d let Xander do his mourning in the privacy of his castle in Romania.
A castle that, until recently, had been a popular tourist attraction, bringing a great deal of money into a remote and impoverished part of the country. Until a crack in the small hellmouth under the town’s burial ground allowed out demons and vampires that terrorized both the tourists and the townspeople. Tourism quickly fell off and the area was sinking back into poverty.
Among the demons roaming the area was at least one Turok-han, which had set itself up as guardian of the hellmouth — making it impossible for Dracula to get into the area to close it. He could hold his own against the other feral vampires released, but a Turok-han seemed to be beyond him. Hence the request for Buffy and her scythe.
“Drac thinks a lot of you, Buffy,” Xander said as he pleaded the case that she travel to Romania and offer assistance. “He asked for you specifically.”
So, off she’d gone to the wilds of the Carpathian mountains to come to the aid of the world’s most famous vampire. Dracula, aka Vlad the Impaler, Prince of Wallachia, and the most famous vampire in the world, had asked for a slayer to help him protect his people. She showed up with her scythe and a small squad of experienced fighters.
“Thank you for coming,” he said, bowing over her hand. Instead of the flowing robes he’d worn when she first met him in Sunnydale, or the elegant suits he’d favored while they were fighting the supervamps, he was now dressed in what appeared to be soft leather pants, an ordinary, if luxurious, fabric shirt, and a leather vest. Clothes suitable for fighting. His long hair was held in a low braid down his back. He looked much more the competent warrior than the effete creature she’d been expecting.
“Yeah, well. You helped us when we needed it, so…”
He nodded and smiled. “And a slayer’s sense of honor and obligation is almost as great as my own.” He gestured toward the people streaming into the courtyard of the castle. “You and your companions are welcome to shelter here for the night, along with my countrymen.”
“Thanks – but we’ve got the run of this nice inn in town, so we’re good. Anyway, if we’re fighting vamps and demons, we’ll need to be out there where they are, won’t we?” She stared at the people still coming up the hill. Those near the rear seemed to be hurrying. “Not to be rude or anything, but why the hell did they come to you for safety? Isn’t that not really in their best interest? How many of them don’t make it out in the morning?”
He drew himself up to his full height and glared at her. “I am their prince. It is my sworn duty to protect them. Under the current circumstances, bringing them into my compound is the only way to do that. They are safe here while I go out to do battle every night.”
Buffy eyed the castle windows where she could see pale faces peering out. “What about your ‘brides’? Do they go out to fight too?”
“No. They remain here.”
“And they don’t eat anybody?” Buffy scoffed.
“Only those who request it. They take only from willing donors, who are always able to walk out the next morning. My brides get what they need, the donors get what they want. It is a fair trade.”
“You’re running a bite house!”
“I prefer to view it as a quid pro quo situation,” he said with an offended sniff. “My brides provide a measure of safety against other vampires, and my castle walls against the demons. Those who choose to, may provide sustenance to their protectors, knowing they will not be killed. It is working out nicely.”
Buffy just shook her head. “So, if that’s working so well, what’s the problem?”
“The problem is that my people cannot go about their normal business for fear of losing their lives and possessions. That lovely inn that you are staying in should be full of tourists this time of the year. Eager to spend their money on souvenirs and tours of Dracula’s castle. For many years, tourists have been a source of income for us. Now, they are afraid to come to my beautiful mountains. You have closed a hellmouth before, I would like you to help me close mine.”
“Don’t you need it? For, like, energy or something?”
He shook his head. “I need only to be near it often enough to renew my energies. That does not require it to be open, only accessible. It needs to be closed, and right now it is guarded by an extremely ugly, uncouth, and unreasonable version of a vampire.”
“A Turok-han,” Buffy said, hefting her scythe. “They come from hellmouths.”
“And I believe you have defeated one?” He eyed her scythe appreciatively. “With this unique weapon?”
“Nah. I didn’t have the scythe then. I had to fight him the old-fashioned way. I used a piece of wire to pop his head off.” She grinned to herself at Dracula’s sudden hiss and wide eyes. “The ones I killed with the scythe were a lot easier.”
“I suddenly do not feel so embarrassed at having lost my own feeble attempt to control you.”
Buffy let her grin show. “Yeah. Buffy doesn’t do control very well. Ask the Council of Watchers… oh wait, you can’t. They’re gone. It’s the Council of Slayers and Watchers now.”
They watched as the last of the humans from the area straggled into the castle and the gate was closed. Dusk settled over the heavily forested countryside and wolves began to howl.
“Seriously?” Buffy raised her eyebrows at him.
He shrugged his embarrassment and mumbled, “It is expected. My pets are trained to howl when the sun goes down. Those that are left, anyway.” He frowned. “These uncivilized creatures from below have taken a toll on them also. So few remain, I’ve had to bring the cubs into the castle to keep them safe.”
“Okay. So we’re doing this for money and puppies, then.” Buffy stretched and looked around. “I’m going back to the inn to get my squad. Do you want me to leave one here?”
He shook his head. “My brides are surprisingly able to take care of anything that tries to enter the castle. I’ve taught them all the rudiments of sword-fighting and then….”
He cleared his throat. “One of them may have been a slayer. Taken many centuries ago, but she retains much of what she’d learned before she….”
“Before she succumbed to you?”
“Yes,” he said simply. “Times were different then. I was different. I would not do such a thing now.”
“Un huh,” Buffy said, remembering when he’d attempted to add her to his harem when she was only nineteen.
He smiled at her. “Such a wonder as you, it was beyond my capability to resist.” She just narrowed her eyes at him and he hastened on. “It seemed like an excellent idea at the time. After all, you’d fallen in love with Angelus…” When Buffy continued to glare at him, he added, “It was, as you say now, worth a shot.”
“You know I sent Angel to hell on the point of a sword when I was seventeen, right?”
“Yes. Such devotion to duty and strength of character… ah, you’d have made a truly worthy mate for Vald Tepes, Prince of Wallachia.” He looked wistful for a moment. “But, your desires lie elsewhere, do they not?”
“None of your business,” she growled. “Now where do I find this hellmouth and the ugly guy guarding it?”
Pulling on what appeared to be armor made of heavier leather and picking up a sword, he gestured for her to precede him down the hill. “We will meet your little army of slayers and banish these foul creatures tonight.”
It had actually taken more than one night, and the loss of one slayer, but Buffy did manage to take out the Turok-han using her scythe to behead him while Dracula’s swordsmanship kept him too busy to notice her approach. The slayer squad killed as many demons and vampires as they could find, herding many of them back to the spot in an ancient cemetery where the hellmouth gaped open. As soon as she felt they’d pushed as many demons as they could back into the hole, Buffy nodded at one of her girls who threw a small object into the opening. There was a short wait, while everyone covered their ears, and then the ground shook and began to collapse.
Unlike when Sunnydale fell into the hellmouth there, this collapse didn’t even extend to the edges of the cemetery. Buffy and her squad stood at the entrance to the graveyard and watched to be sure nothing else was getting out, but it seemed to be plugged pretty well.
“What do you think?” she asked the satisfied-looking old vampire standing off to the side. “Are we done here?”
“I believe you have fulfilled your mission. Yes. There will be clean up of course. Random vampires and demons that did not make it into the mouth, but the main source of danger is past. I will have my people construct a permanent cover for the area.”
“Well, it’s almost morning, so I think we’ll head back to the inn to sleep for a while. I can give you one more night to help with cleanup, but then we have to get back. Little hellmouths are popping up all over the place and we’re staying pretty busy. Got to say, though, yours is the only one that rated its own Turok-han. Only two or three really big hellmouths have had those show up.”
He nodded. “Once it was obvious I was not going to allow the escaping creatures to feed upon my people, it seemed they felt more was needed. However, I feared it was not the only one finding its way into the world. I believe we are facing, perhaps not as great a world-wide contagion as what we witnessed some time ago, but a definite event.”
“I’d kinda hoped we’d put a stop to that when we defeated the first evil and then sent Twilight packing. I’d hate to think it’s another awakening of evil.”
“I suspect it is more of a last gasp. We may be witnessing the last throes of whatever it is that wants to rise into our world. But it will still require vigilance and fighting to force it down for good. You may call upon me if necessary, but I suspect you will be able to handle this yourself… with the proper assistance.”
Buffy waved her hand at her girls, now walking away in the direction of the town. “I have plenty of good assistance.”
“I was not referring to your army of small female warriors,” he said as he turned to go back to his castle.
Buffy stared after his retreating back, frowning in confusion. Then she shrugged and followed her girls for a day of well-earned rest.
Once she’d realized that not only was Spike alive, but he really had been fighting his way around the US assisting slayers where and when needed, she marched into Giles’s office and sat down. Suddenly, Drac’s parting words – “Please give my regards to William” – made sense.
“Good morning to you too, Buffy,” Giles said with an annoyed frown.
“It won’t be a very good morning if you don’t have a really good reason for not telling me Spike is alive and you’re in contact with him.”
“Ah. It was, in fact, one of the things I expected to share with you later today. I thought you might want to rest for a few days before going off on another mission.”
“Spike is a mission?”
“No. He is not the mission. But he will certainly be a part of it.”
“So, if he wasn’t, you weren’t going to tell me?”
Giles frowned. “Of course I was going to tell you! Do you not trust me at all?”
Buffy just stared at him until he sighed and looked down.
“Fair enough, I suppose. The truth is, we didn’t know until a few days ago that he was anything but a rumor. A slayer from the Cleveland hellmouth contacted Andrew, who gave me a phone number to use. I spoke to Spike only briefly as he is recovering from some grievous injuries, but if his reports are correct… and I’ve no reason to think they are not… there is a situation developing rapidly around the Cleveland hellmouth. Similar to, if not as bad as, the one in Sunnydale. As a corollary to that, the smaller hellmouths around the world – or around the United States at least – seem to have quieted down. We have them all under surveillance, but there has been little activity there. It seems to be concentrated in Cleveland now. Our resident slayers had also mentioned the increased activity, but it wasn’t until recently that we understood the gravity of the situation.”
“Evil’s last gasp?”
Giles frowned at her. “Why do you say that?”
“It’s what Dracula said. He thinks it’s a last attempt by the First to break into this world. And it hasn’t worked so far because it’s weak and we’re still here fighting.”
“That actually makes a kind of sense…. it would explain the cease of activity at the smaller sites. That didn’t work, so it is throwing all its resources into the only remaining large hellmouth.”
“So, what’s it doing that makes this a bigger deal than any of the others? And why does it need me?”
He sighed heavily. “For one thing… Faith is dead.” He waited for that to sink in.
Buffy found herself short of breath. While she and the only other original slayer had never become close friends, to some extent because they were usually needed in separate places at the same time, she had become accustomed to the thought that there was someone else in the world who understood at least parts of her life. She exhaled sharply.
“It seems she and Spike—” Buffy didn’t hide her gasp. “That they were ambushed by a large group of Turok-han. The numbers would have meant nothing if they had been ordinary vampires but—”
“But these were ubervamps.”
“Indeed. The other slayers came to the rescue when they realized what was happening, causing the remaining Turok-han to run into the hellmouth, but it was too late. They found Spike’s unconscious body lying on Faith, holding his hand over a gaping wound in her back. She was gravely injured, but insisted they bring Spike in the ambulance with her. She said he… he had saved her life. As it turns out, that was a bit optimistic. While he may have prevented any further injury, she had bled too much already and did not survive until they reached the emergency center.”
Buffy nodded. “And Spike?”
“The emergency personnel assumed of course, that he was also dead, and allowed the slayers to take him away for ‘burial’. He regained consciousness a few days ago and requested the Cleveland slayers contact us.” Giles gave Buffy a sympathetic smile. “He did ask for you, but you were still in transit from Romania, so he spoke with me.”
Buffy nodded. “I’ve been back for a day and a half now.”
“If I understood the situation correctly, he is still gravely injured and had only the strength to take the one phone call. They are quite hard-pressed at the moment and the infrastructure is crumbling around them. Communications are difficult, even when they have the time. The request was for reinforcements, food, medical supplies, and other support.”
“What other support?”
“I believe that to be you, Buffy. Both Spike and the slayers remaining seem to have an unshakeable faith in your ability to turn the situation around.”
Buffy shut her eyes briefly, remembering how Spike’s words had given her the courage to go after the scythe that ultimately was instrumental in saving the world so many years ago.
“I guess it’s a good thing I haven’t unpacked then,” she said, abruptly. “When do we leave?”
“Tomorrow morning. The plane will have to land in Pittsburgh, but there will be vans waiting to take you to Cleveland. With luck you will be able to drive all the way into the city.”
“We can’t fly into Cleveland?”
“Apparently not. The news organizations are referring to it as an ‘unexplained weather event’ and advising people to stay away. The Army seems to have established a perimeter since I spoke with Spike, but they are not venturing into the city.”
When they rolled up to the outer suburbs of the city, they found barricades across all the main roads and military guards telling them they couldn’t go in. Buffy was getting very close to having Willow just put everybody to sleep for a few minutes, when soldiers began saluting a man striding toward them.
“Buffy? Is that you?”
“Stand down, men. If she wants to go in there, I’m sure she has a good reason.” He turned to Buffy and gave her a stiff hug. “You do have a good reason, I hope.”
“Well, we hope so. We know what’s going on, and probably why, and we’ve already got fighters in there.” He nodded that he knew there were already slayers in the city, saying he was glad to hear they were alive and able to call for reinforcements.
“So, you’re the cavalry?”
“Yep. No bugles or horses, but riding to the rescue.”
“We heard… I mean, I saw, from a distance… But he seemed to be fighting with the girls, not against them, so…”
“Spike’s here. I know. And yes, he is fighting with the girls. Has been since before we knew this was going to be such a big thing. He’s already closed one hellmouth all by himself – I’m hoping he won’t have to pull this city down around his ears this time.”
“Okay. Well, you know then. Go on in… and good luck.”
Buffy nodded. “If we can clear the way to the hellmouth, I might send somebody back for something that will make a big boom if/when we toss it in there.”
“Anything you need, Slayer,” Graham said, ignoring the shocked expressions on his men. “In fact, take this. You can just tell us what you need and where you need it.” He handed her a small communicating device. “That should come right to me. And, Buffy?”
She raised an inquiring eyebrow.
“Those… creatures… they don’t survive a rocket launcher.”
“Good to know,” Buffy said with a grin. “Don’t suppose you have any extras?”
Graham signaled to one of his men who stared at him incredulously. “She won’t even be able to pick it up. Never mind fire the fu—dammed thing,” he protested. At Graham’s stern, “soldier….” he sighed and reached into a nearby truck for a weapon that was almost as long as Buffy was tall.
She took it from him with a smile, thanking him and putting it over her shoulder. Holding it in place with one hand, she ignored his gasp and thanked Graham before she placed it in the van. She nodded for one of the other girls to take the heavy box of ammunition for it from the still disbelieving soldier. When that was also stowed away, the girls all got back into the vans and drove through the now-open barricades.
They had an address for the GPS, and directions from one of the Cleveland slayers, so it took very little time driving the empty streets to reach the hotel the slayers were using.
“Pretty nice,” Buffy said as she got out and greeted the leader of the small squad of slayers remaining.
“We couldn’t stay in our house,” the other slayer, Rachel, explained. “It’s too close to the hellmouth and those damn vamps were keeping us awake – pounding on the door and rattling the windows. Plus, we couldn’t get very far if we did go outside…” She squeezed her eyes shut. “Faith… she shouldn’t have gone out by herself. That was the rule. No less than two slayers, preferably more.”
“But she had Spike.”
Rachel, nodded. “She did. She said if she couldn’t stake it, he’d just gnaw it to death. They were laughing when they left.” She looked at Buffy with stricken eyes. “I took girls after them. But we didn’t get there in time… and the hospital is so far away now…”
“It wasn’t your fault, Rache. Nobody expected you to be responsible for two adults who’ve spent their entire lives being reckless.” She took a breath. “So, Spike is okay then?”
“Okay might be probably a little too… He’s not dust. And he’s awake. He’s eating and he can stand up… for a few seconds at a time. He sat up long enough to talk to Giles and tell him about Faith, and then he went back to bed for another 24 hours. He lost a lot of blood too, and whatever they hit him with…. his head doesn’t look real great.”
“Are you explaining why he isn’t here to meet us, or warning me what he’ll look like if I go to him?”
Rachel sighed. “Both, I guess. He’s better, but he’s a long way from being healed. And he looks it.”
“He heals from the inside out,” Buffy said without thinking. “Where is he?”
Rachel pointed down the hall. “He has the last room on the right.”
“Okay. Thanks. Just tell the girls where you want them, and where they can put the stuff we brought.”
Leaving Rachel to take charge, Buffy squared her shoulders and walked down the hall to stand in front of the door behind which the vampire she’d thought out of her life forever was healing. She took a deep breath and raised her hand to knock.
“Come in, Slayer. It’s not locked.”
The voice sounded just like it always had, if missing the extra warmth she expected to hear. She pushed the door open and entered slowly to find Spike sitting on the edge of the bed, holding one hand to his side. The coolness of his vocal greeting and his obvious lack of interest in any physical one made any thoughts of a happy reunion vanish.
“How are you?” she said, frowning when he didn’t look up. She could see that one side of his head had a small dent in the middle of an unhealed wound.
“I’ll be alright soon.”
She rolled her eyes at the non-answer. “Don’t push yourself. We just got here. We can take over for a few days until you and your… the other… slayers have had time to rest.”
He nodded. “Reckon the girls could use some time to heal too.” He raised his eyes to hers for the first time since she entered the room. “I’m sorry about Faith. Know you weren’t each other’s best friends, but that’s a loss that has to hurt. I tried to save her, but … I didn’t.”
Buffy flashed back to his confession years ago that he saved her every night in his dreams, and understood what was underlying his lack of interest in seeing her.
“I know you tried. It wasn’t your fault. We’re slayers. Sooner or later we all die.”
“Not on my watch,” he growled. “It’s not supposed to happen when I’m around to prevent it.” He slid back on the bed and put his legs up, his hand never left his side.
Buffy narrowed her eyes at him, but instead of asking what was wrong, she said,
“You can’t be everywhere, Spike. We lost a girl in Romania last week. Do you want to take the blame for that too?”
He sighed and slumped back against the headboard, shaking his head. He leaned it back and shut his eyes. “Right you are. Can’t be everywhere.”
“When we’re done here, we’re going to have a conversation about how you could be anywhere without bothering to let me know you were alive. I suggest you heal up. It might not be a fun conversation for you.”
He gave a soft huff of laughter. “Don’t doubt it. But there’s things you need to know.”
“I don’t want to know them. Not right now. Maybe not ever.” For just a moment her stoic expression broke down, but she quickly snapped it back into place.
She threw her hand up. “I don’t want to hear it. Maybe when we’re done here.”
To her surprise he didn’t argue, just nodded his head. “Probably for the best.”
She turned to leave the room. “Do you need anything?” she said over her shoulder. “More blood? Pain killers? A bandage?” She stared pointedly at where he was pressing against his side. “We brought a lot of supplies.”
“You brought blood?” He raised a skeptical eyebrow at her.
“Well… no. But I could go get you some if you—”
“I’ve got plenty, Buffy.” His voice softened briefly into the tone she was more used to hearing. “The girls raided a hospital’s freezer for me. I’ll be ready to get back into it in another day – two at the most.” Almost as quickly as it had appeared, the warmth was gone and the hardened soldier was back.
“Okay. Then I’ll just go… do things.”
“You do that. I’ll be here.”
“You’d better be,” she muttered as she pulled the door shut behind her. “You’d damn well better be.” She couldn’t see the small smile as he closed his eyes again.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/559852.html