Title: Imperial, Chapter 5: What Doesn’t Kill Me
Pairings: Buffy/Spike (Willow/Oz, Xander/Anya)
Length: ~21 K (this chapter: 5644)
Timeline: Prologue S3, the rest S4, this is an alternate reality world in which things didn’t go quite the same for Buffy at the end of S2
Warnings: Character Death, Violence (including gun violence), Sexual Situations
Summary: Buffy returns to Sunnydale in order to take down the Initiative and find her chosen mate, she’s just a little different than when she left. My love letter to heroic bloodshed movies (Think: Mi:II, Wanted, The Matrix). This one’s for fun!
Notes: The Initiative is bigger and badder than in canon. Beta’d by Gort and 13Lilies. Response to a challenge on Elysian Fields by Sharade.
Chapter 5: What Doesn’t Kill Me
Eyeliner and cigarettes
-Lady Gaga, “Paparazzi”
The elevator door opened onto a disappointingly empty hallway. Spike strode out and the Empress followed in his wake, the others more slowly behind them.
“Let’s see if we can get someone’s attention,” she suggested.
He squeezed off a short volley, the bullets harmlessly making holes in the ceiling.
A squad of soldiers emptied out of a newly opened doorway, surprise on their faces and guns pointed at the intruders. A few more men jogged up from further down the corridor.
“Drop your weapons and no one gets hurt!” Buffy yelled.
A bullet smacked into the floor at Xander’s feet, making him jump backwards with a frightened cry. The report echoed sharply in the enclosed space.
Emboldened, the soldiers started firing.
The Empress threw up her hands and the air between her mate and the incoming projectiles thickened. The bullets slowed, then stopped, plinking as they dropped to the floor. Only one made it through, catching her Watcher’s ear and leaving a bloody track.
White hot anger pumped through her veins. “Now, Spike.”
The vampire raised the barrels of the Uzis and Buffy dissipated the barrier. His vamped out as he sprayed the trapped soldiers with bullets, the casings raining down on the hard cement. Spike emptied both guns in seconds. Striding forward he threw away the spent firearms and drew his pistols, but there was no one left for him to shoot.
“She bloody well told you not to fire,” he sniffed, kicking the limp arm of a dead commando.
Inside the room the first squad of soldiers had exited were multiple banks of monitors and what was clearly an intercom.
The Empress quickly gave her friends and her mate instructions that had them poised to move as soon as she gave the word. Luck seemed to be with them as the monitors showed mostly empty spaces inside the Initiative. The planned diversion had worked far better than she had hoped.
She picked up the microphone for the intercom. “This is her Imperial Majesty Buffy Anne Summers. Slayer of Sunnydale. Queen of Itharca. Defender of Sa’sermin. Dutchess of Nihelm and Abrasax.” She glanced up at her mate, who was making a ‘get on with it’ gesture. “Empress of all Hileem. If you are a soldier of the Initiative, put down your weapons and leave. If you remain, you will die. If you are a demon enslaved within this facility you will be set free. Leave this place and the hellmouth immediately, harming none within my territory.”
She straightened and nodded at Spike. He took off down a corridor to monitor that her instructions were being followed. Willow settled at a computer monitor and began to work on opening cages. Oz stood behind his girlfriend, nervously clutching a gun taken off one of the dead commandos.
Buffy returned to the corridor with Giles, Xander, and Anya. Both men carried bags packed with explosives. A third bag remained with Willow. The Empress retrieved a pistol from a soldier’s belt and handed it to Anya. “Watch Xander’s back.”
“Um, sweetie,” Xander squeaked, eying his girlfriend as she clutched the weapon. “You do know which way to point that thing so nothing bad happens if it accidently goes boom, right?”
“Hey!” Fire snapped in Anya’s eyes. “I’ll have you know that I am quite a good marksman.” She raised the pistol, sighted, and fired. Several yards down the corridor the door to a maintenance shaft swung open, the lock destroyed. Anya lowered the pistol and clicked on the safety. She admired the gun in her hands. “It is nice that I don’t need to ram a new ball and powder down the barrel for it to work again. Do you think I could get one in pink?”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “You two head into those maintenance tunnels and start doling out the explosives.”
“Come on honey!” Anya trotted towards the door she’d shot open, Xander trudging less enthusiastically after her.
“I suppose it’s our turn now.” Giles was looking at Buffy expectantly over the top of his glasses.
The Empress glanced briefly in the direction her mate had gone, wanting to catch up with him, but he could take care of himself and her Watcher would need help.
“Yes,” she intoned. “I do hope not all the humans decided to run away. I could do with some amusement.”
The red emergency lights that’d blinked on when Willow cut the main power cast everything in hellish shadows. Spike prowled down the corridor. The glass fronted cells on either side were already open and empty.
His nose twitched.
It seemed there was still at least one occupant. He inhaled again. It smelled human, female, and very frightened. What the hell had the soldier boys been up to? He followed the scent, finding a young woman with dishwater-blonde hair cowering in a corner.
“Don’t hurt me,” she whispered through dry lips. She was thin, wrapped in nothing but a filthy hospital gown.
Spike slipped his guns back in his pockets and held his hands up. “No worries. Just want to get you out of here.”
She tried to press herself further into the corner. “I’m not stupid.” She looked up, eyes defiant. “You’re a vampire.”
“You got me there.” He leaned against the wall and pulled out a pack of smokes. He kept his eyes on the girl as he lit one. “What about you?” He blew a stream of smoke in her direction.
“I’m a witch.”
A smirk stole over his face. “Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” The girl just glared at him. “Well, Samantha, I’m part of the rescue party. Not planning on draining you. You seem a bit on the anemic side anyway, yeah?” He waved the hand with the cigarette in her general direction. “Not to mention my lady would get right annoyed with me if I started biting every blubbering tart I came across. Up to you, if you don’t want to be here when this place blows sky high I suggest you follow me.” Spike took a last drag on the fag and dropped the butt, grinding it out under the heel of his boot.
The girl braced her dirty bare feet under her and stood. “My name’s Tara.”
“And I’m not blubbering and I am certainly not a tart!”
“Whatever you say, Samantha. Let’s get out of this Roach Motel.” He sauntered out of the cell, after a moment the sound of her bare feet slapping on the tile as she followed him could be heard. He grinned. Smart girl.
There were no other stragglers. He burst through one set of double doors, then another, the witch scurrying along behind him. Finding himself in a small lab, with multiple sets of doors leading who knew where and a second story that had a metal balcony running its length, he paused. He needed to get Samantha back to the others. Because they’d care about what happened to her. Not him. He was a vampire. He’d much rather rip her limb from… oh, who the bloody hell was he kidding? Spike glanced at the girl, who had her arms wrapped tightly across her middle and was refusing to look at anything besides the patch of floor she was standing on. His chest heaved with a loud sigh. Obviously this whole ‘being mated to an Empress that was also a Slayer’ thing was going to have some side effects.
Now, where was Buffy? The question had barely formed before he just knew. Well, that was handy. “This way, Samantha. Not much further.” He held a hand out to usher her along. The girl had barely taken a step when a bullet ripped into the lab bench next to her. Her feet faltered as her head turned to look at the hole. Spike grabbed her gown and pulled her to the floor. “Keep your head down.” The pistols were already back in his hands and pointing in the direction the shot had come from.
Tara was lying curled up the floor. The unseen soldier fired twice more. Both bullets went wide, but the girl gave a muffled shriek and crawled quickly to the vampire. She pushed herself against his leg and wound her arms tightly about his knee. It’d take more time to shake her off than it was worth. He did smile a little ruefully that he’d gone from potential murderer to security blanket in her mind.
There was another shot, and this time he pinpointed the shooter’s location. As Spike aimed his own pistol he became aware that he was about to have a lot more company. “It’s about to be a party in here, Samantha, you just stay right where you are. I’ve got eighteen bullets, should be enough to take care of these tossers.” He spared a glance at the terrified witch. “Count with me.”
Resettling his aim, he fired. “One.”
Tara’s soft voice echoed his a second later. “One.” He could hear the thud of a body hitting the floor and smelt the coppery tang of blood. The scent was all wrong, like cheese in a can, after the rich elixir of what flowed through his mate’s veins.
The thumping sound of rushing boots and the click of safeties’ being released filled the small space. To Spike’s delight he found he knew where each of the soldiers were, their heartbeats like homing devices. Another side effect? A feral grin split his face. The pistols in his hands started barking as he aimed with barely a conscious thought. “Two. Three. Four. Five.”
The ski-masked commandos barely had a chance to return fire. There were a few poorly aimed shots before a bullet from Spike’s guns found each of the soldiers’ heart or brain.
They’d all been on the second level so far, easy prey. “Six. Seven. Eight. Nine.” Spike could hear Tara repeating each number as she clung to him like a vine. The spent casings clinked as they hit the concrete.
The swinging doors behind them burst open and Spike was barely able to wrench the witch out of the way as machine gun fire tore up the floor where they’d been standing a second ago. “Ten.” The commando went down. Spike debated making a grab for the MP5, but there couldn’t be much ammo left after the track the idiot wielding it had laid down. Absently, he raised one pistol and fired behind him. “Eleven. Twelve.” Tara’s voice shook, but was clear.
Two squads of five soldiers each piled in from opposite directions. The vampire was squeezing off rounds before the doors had even had time to shut. The pistols were hot in his grip. “Thirteen. Fourteen. Fifteen. Sixteen. Seventeen.” Spike ducked down next to Tara, their backs against the solid side of the lab bench. He’d taken out two commandos from one squad and three from the other.
“One left,” he told Tara, holding up the gun with the bullet in it and tossing away the spent pistol.
Her eyes were steady as she rested a hand on his wrist. “When I say to, stand up and fire it towards the side with the three guys, okay?”
The vampire nodded, his head cocked as he listened to the commandos advancing on their position.
The witch let go of his leg and took several deep breaths. “Now,” she commanded. He stood, the witch at his side chanting under her breath. He aimed at the nearest soldier and fired. Instead of entering the man’s head at the angle Spike had been expecting the bullet tore through the side and kept going, into and out of the eye socket of a second soldier and thwacking into the chest of a third. The three men went down nearly simultaneously.
Spike and the witch ducked back down as shots from the two remaining commandos hit the lab bench over their heads.
“That was bloody amazing, Samantha. You’re a hell of a witch to curve a bullet like that.” Spike shook his head in amazement. Tara tried to smile, but it was strained. The vampire briefly touched her wrist. “It was you or them. Don’t feel bad for trying to stay alive.”
She nodded, looking down so her tangled hair covered her face. “Now what do we do? Without a weapon?”
Spike laughed. He put a finger under her chin and tilted her head back up until she was looking at him. “Did you forget the vampire part?” He brought the demon forward and Tara gasped, leaning away from him. He smirked at her. “I always have a weapon.”
The two remaining soldiers were nearly on top of them, just on the other side of the lab bench. With a growl, Spike rose and vaulted the table, the spent pistol spinning in his hand so he could smash the butt of the gun into the commando’s temple. The guy collapsed forward and Spike caught him, using him as a shield as the last soldier emptied an entire magazine in the vampire’s direction. The soldier’s eyes were wide with fright as his finger continued to click the now useless trigger.
Spike dropped the dead body he was holding and sprang at the soldier, grabbing the fool’s head and twisting until the man’s neck snapped with a satisfying crunch. The vampire waited a few moments, but the only human he could sense now was the witch. Human mask back in place he returned to Tara and helped her up. She was shaking but she let him lead her out of the room without a complaint.
A few more twists and turns through thankfully empty corridors and labs and Spike found his Empress and her friends.
“Tara?” Willow asked, running to hug the blonde witch.
“You know her, Red?”
Willow nodded. “She was in my Wicca group.” Tara was leaning against the redhead, sobbing quietly in relief.
“Samantha here’s the real deal. You two birds should have a lot to talk about.” With that he dismissed them both from his mind as he sought out Buffy. She was standing across the room, hand on her hip, discussing something with her Watcher. Spike went to stand at her shoulder. The Empress didn’t turn to look at him or stop her tirade as she explained to Giles that all the demons that had been freed were to be offered 24 hours’ safe passage from Sunnydale. However, as he settled in at her side, her hand left her hip and sought his. Their fingers interlaced and Spike relaxed, happy to be where he belonged.
The Empress was contented with the fact that all the members of her admittedly very small army had left for safety, along with the girl Spike had rescued. She no longer had to worry for them. Her mate waited patiently while she tracked the progress of her friends on the security cameras until they had left the compound. With a sigh of relief, she turned to her mate. With the humans gone he’d let his demon out, and was tonguing one fang while he watched her with naked hunger in his eyes. Her pulse quickened. All that strength and intensity were hers.
Sooner or later he was going to figure out that he had a great deal more power over her than he would ever expect. The duffel with the remaining explosives was at his feet, but she casually toed it out of the way so she could run her hands over his chest. His mouth slanted over hers and he tenderly cupped her head in his palms. His tongue invaded her mouth, rolling around hers and brushing over her blunt teeth. Buffy started to lose herself in the sensation.
“Well, well, isn’t this cute.” A cold, heavily accented voice bit out from the door to the control room.
Buffy spun to face the intruder and Spike snaked an arm around her stomach, pulling her against him. “Kendra,” he whispered.
A tall, dark skinned girl was standing in the doorway, stake in hand, her feet apart in a fighting stance. The other Slayer. Buffy couldn’t remember anything about her except that the authorities had thought she’d been the one to hurt Kendra and somehow that’d led to the truce with Spike.
The Empress fixed the girl with a hard stare. “My sister Slayer, this place is at an end. Leave now before it is too late.”
Kendra tightened her grip around the stake. “It is you that will find it is too late!”
Buffy glanced up at her mate, eyebrow raised. He chuckled. “It turns out pithy quips are not Slayer standard issue.”
Kendra took a step towards them and Buffy started to raise her hand, intending to swat the girl like a fly, but her arm trembled and she paused.
Spike caught her about the wrist. “Don’t, luv. There’s no need. Keep her busy and I’ll set the last charges.” He frowned. “Is there a detonator?”
“I’m the detonator,” Buffy said flatly, eyes on the other Slayer.
“Ah, right.” One arm still around Buffy he leaned over and snagged the handles of the duffle, swinging it up onto his shoulder. “Kendra,” he sounded like he was about to sit down for tea with the girl. “What are you planning to do with that toothpick?”
“I will plant it into your unbeating heart.”
Fear for her mate choked the Empress. Behind her Spike muttered: “That’s what I thought you’d say.” His arm disappeared from around her. Buffy flew at Kendra, knocking the girl out into the hallway. She landed heavily and the stake went skidding across the floor. Buffy used her power to levitate it and hurl it against the wall of the corridor, where it disintegrated to nothing but splinters.
There was fear on Kendra’s face for a second, but then her features hardened again as she prepared to attack. “Traitor,” she hissed.
“What? Because I broke your toy?” Buffy braced herself.
“Because you fornicate with the dead!”
“Undead!” Spike’s voice echoed down the hallway from where he was setting up one of the explosive devices.
Buffy pursed her lips. “That is kind of an important distinction.”
“I see no difference!” Kendra yelled and came at Buffy with a vicious series of kicks and punches. The Empress easily dodged and countered, giving ground so that they were steadily moving down the hallway. Buffy avoiding hitting Kendra as much as possible, attempting to remain defensive. As an Empress she was far stronger than the girl and could easily take her out with one solid punch, but Spike had been right, she had no real desire to kill the other Slayer.
Eventually they worked their way into the cavernous main room of the Initiative. Spike was moving from pillar to pillar, planting the last of the bombs. Buffy’s long blonde hair was whipping around her head and shoulders as she ducked and blocked Kendra’s increasingly desperate attacks.
“Okay, last one is done. We can get out of Dodge now. Time to end this, your Grace.” Her vampire was standing by the rail to the pit where many of the experiments had taken place. He didn’t appear to be contemplating the atrocities committed on him in that hideous dungeon, in fact…
“Are you watching my ass?” She aimed a high kick at Kendra’s head that the girl was barely able to avoid. The other Slayer was getting tired.
Buffy laughed. She caught both of Kendra’s fists in her palms and sent the girl stumbling backwards. The Empress shifted her face to that of the Slayer inside. Kendra looked up and her eyes widened. “Stay where you are!” Buffy said, her voice low and rich with authority. She glanced at her mate, his eyes were heavy lidded and he reached down to adjust himself in his jeans. He was too easy.
With one clawed hand the Empress pulled Kendra to her feet. The girl whimpered. “Didn’t they tell you?” Buffy cocked her head to the side. “All that Slayer power? It’s demonic in origin. Which means that since I am the Empress, you have no choice but to obey.” She snuck another glance at Spike. He was smiling and had a hand in one of the front pockets of his jeans. He probably wasn’t looking for his keys.
She refocused on Kendra’s frightened face. “Take your Watcher and leave Sunnydale. This place is mine.”
“Freeze.” A tough female voice rang out, echoing in the large room
The Empress dropped Kendra, who cowered at her feet. Buffy spun, her eyes landing on a middle-aged woman that had a gun at her mate’s temple. Spike was pressed back against the railing, his hands empty and held out wide.
“Sorry, luv,” he muttered.
“Who are you?” The Empress’ voice was a lash.
The woman sneered. “Maggie Walsh.”
Buffy recognized the name from the information her Watcher had briefed them on about the Initiative. “This was your place.”
“Is my place,” the woman spat. She dug the gun harder against Spike’s temple. The Empress growled, but her mate caught her gaze and winked one yellow eye at her.
Her fear fled. Of course her vampire had a plan. “Don’t hurt him,” she whimpered, taking a step to the side. “I’ll do whatever you want.” She took another step, forcing Walsh to turn her head slightly away from Spike in order to continue watching Buffy.
“Halt,” Walsh snapped. Buffy did so, though every cell in her body protested. This woman thought she knew power. Her kingdom was tiny, her authority useless with no subjects. “Kendra, on your feet.”
The other Slayer shook, but didn’t move.
Walsh looked annoyed. The gun moved slightly away from Spike’s temple. “Kendra! I said: get up!” The girl still didn’t budge.
The Empress took one more sideways step and laughed.
Walsh turned more, glaring at Buffy. The gun wavered further from her mate’s head. “Listen to me you demon wh-“
Spike roared. The muscles of his arm stood out in high relief as he reared back, braced himself against the railing, and rammed his claws into Walsh’s back. The gun clattered to the floor. The woman’s eyes rolled up into her head and Kendra screamed. Spike twisted and yanked his hand out of Walsh’s body. Gore-smeared fragments of her spine stuck out from either side of his clenched fist. With his other hand Spike grabbed the toppling body and sent it over the rail to crash into the pit below. He threw the piece of backbone so it landed next to Kendra. “Run, little girl,” he snarled.
Kendra’s wide eyes looked to the Empress.
“Go now. Do as you’ve been told.” Buffy waved her hand in dismissal and the other Slayer took off at a dead run, heading towards the back entrance.
The Empress whirled around as her mate grabbed her, his lips landed on hers and he kissed her passionately. Her hands went around his shoulders as he dipped her slightly backwards over his arm. Buffy felt like she was flying.
After a few moments they reluctantly parted.
“How’re we getting out of here?” Spike asked, smoothing down her hair and running his claws lightly over her bare shoulders.
“Up the elevator shaft.”
“Power’s down to the backup of the backup. It’s going to be a hell of a climb.”
She bit her lip. “That’s not at all what I had in mind.” The Empress nodded towards the elevator doors. “Can you force them?”
Her mate made short work of the heavy metal doors. Obviously her blood was doing wonders for him.
She walked inside the elevator car and pointed up. “We’ll be taking the express route.”
They climbed up through the emergency hatch in the top of the car and the Empress readied her magic. It sung over the taut metal. Her mate secured one arm tightly about the cable and the other around her, his claws digging slightly into her hip as she looped her arms about his neck.
He pressed a brief kiss to her mouth. “I feel like bloody Errol Flynn,” he chuckled.
She had no idea who he meant but she smiled anyway and knew just what to say: “But you’re so much better looking!”
He grinned around his fangs and nodded that he was ready. Her power sliced through the metal and the counterweight started its descent, yanking them sharply heavenward. Spike let out a whoop, laughing as they flew upwards. His duster billowed and flapped around them. The Empress had to concentrate, stopping the ascent just as they reached the open elevator door in Lowell house. With a push off of the back wall of the elevator shaft with one foot, Spike swung them through the opening to land gracefully on the carpet.
‘Wouldn’t mind a second ticket for that ride.” He was grinning ear to ear. “And would you look at that? It was behind the sodding mirror this whole time. Right clever of them if you ask me.” He was examining the edge of the mirror. “Sealed so well even I couldn’t smell anything off.”
“Come on.” She gently pulled at the sleeve of his coat. Obediently he followed her out into the night, lighting a cigarette as they walked on the gravel path away from the frat house. The Scoobies were waiting for them at the end of the path, silhouetted by the lights from the dorm’s parking lot. “It’s time,” she announced and a feral smirk turned up the corners of her mate’s lips.
Behind them there was a series of muffled thumps followed by a much louder bang as the Initiative and Lowell House turned into a pillar of flame.
The tweed of Mr. Giles’ jacket was rough under her fingertips as Joyce nervously brushed her hand back and forth along his arm.
“Joyce.” The Watcher stilled her hand by resting his over it. “I really do need you to be prepared. She might be in her guise as the Slayer and there’s a good chance she won’t recognize you.”
“And,” Joyce hesitated. “You said she’s married?”
Giles sighed. “More or less.”
“Do you know anything about the guy?” Joyce’s fingers were still twitching. She was having trouble understanding this. Her baby wasn’t dead, but she’d been somewhere else for a much longer time than had passed here in Sunnydale. Mr. Giles had declined to say where or exactly how long. And now Buffy was here for a visit and she’d married some guy.
“You might as well just come out and say it G-man, I don’t think Buffy’s mom needs that sprung on her on top of everything else.” Xander was sitting on the hood of a blue sedan, picking at the frayed hem of his jeans. His girlfriend, Anya, was sitting next to him.
Joyce’s mouth dropped open. “Sprung on me? What would you be springing on me? Rupert Giles you answer me this instant.” She couldn’t imagine what he would be trying to keep from her.
“Mrs. Summers.” The Watcher squeezed her hand tighter. “I don’t suppose you remember your rather brief interaction with one William the…uh, Spike? He usually goes by Spike.”
“The vampire I saw my daughter with at the house right before she disappeared?”
Mr. Giles blinked owlishly at her. “She brought him to the house?”
“Yes…oh! My heavens, are you saying that’s who she married?” It was too much. Mostly she remembered bleached hair and leather. And wasn’t he English? Since when had Buffy liked foreign boys?
“Technically her Slayer demon mated his vampiric demon, and-“
“He’s a vampire! Is he going to hurt her? Drink her blood?”
Mr. Giles made a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat.
Willow put a hand on Joyce’s shoulder. “They’re actually really cute together, all snuggly bunnies.” Anya yelped and hid her head against Xander. “At first it was more like he was her servant. He followed her around and sort of worshiped the ground she walked on. Now he does that, only with less kneeling and more time trying to suck her tonsils…yeah, they’re great together.”
“He saved me,” Tara said quietly. Oz was supporting the poor girl with an arm around her waist.
Oz tilted his head towards Lowell house. “There they are.”
Joyce put her hand over her mouth. Two figures had exited the frat and were striding towards them. She was straining her eyes, trying to make out her daughter’s face when the night turned to day. A pressure wave buffeted them as the ground vomited up flames. When she could see clearly again her eyes first fell on the leather clad form of the vampire, the ridges of his face thrown into stark relief by the orange fire. His dark coat fluttered behind him and beside him was…
Buffy! It was her! But her face, it was all flat planes and harsh angles. Her eyes seemed to glow. Only it didn’t matter. It was still her baby. Joyce had let go of Mr. Giles’ sleeve and was running towards her daughter.
The Empress cared little about the destruction happening behind her. It was a thing done. She wanted to return home and sort out the problems that would have cropped up in her absence. Her quarters were Spartan, a warrior’s room rather than that of royalty. It was time for that to change. A huge bed with soft sheets, perhaps a j’ashak skin rug in front of the fireplace. Her mate’s fair complexion would look lovely against the dark fur.
From the group ahead of them a figure detached itself and was hurrying towards them. Beside her Spike halted. She stopped as well, looking up at him. “That’s…Slayer, I… your Grace…” She glanced back at the human coming to them and it was as if six hundred years evaporated in an instant.
“Mom!” She shook off her Slayer face as the woman engulfed her in a hug. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Spike take a step backwards and she shook her head. ‘Stay’ she mouthed to him. He stopped, a funny smile on his face. Buffy closed her eyes and wrapped her arms more securely around her sobbing mother. “I missed you, Mommy. I’m sorry.”
When at last they pushed away from each other Buffy looked over at her mate. He was still standing there, vamp face and cigarette gone. She tugged her mom over to him. “Do you remember Spike?” she asked, suddenly shy.
“ ‘Lo, Joyce.” He raised a hand like he was going to rub the back of his neck, then awkwardly stuck it out towards her mom instead.
To Buffy’s great relief her mom shook it and smiled warmly at him. “Hello, Spike. I hear you’re now my son-in-law.”
“Well…I suppose that’s one way to look at it.” His eyes desperately sought Buffy’s. She shrugged.
“Don’t worry, I don’t have an ax.” Joyce linked her arm with Spike’s. “Yet.”
Buffy giggled. Poor Big Bad, of everything he’d faced that day, it was her mother that scared him silly.
She trailed after them to the parking lot, ash raining down around them. As she walked under a streetlamp there was a flutter of wings. A white bird took off, swooping down low above their heads before disappearing into the night.
It was nearly dawn. Now that her mission was complete the Empress had insisted on returning to her home dimension as soon as possible. All the Scoobies, along with Joyce and Tara, were arrayed around the living room in the Crawford Street Mansion.
Buffy had initiated the process that would open the portal to take them back to her home dimension. Spike wasn’t sure exactly what he was going to find on the other side of that portal, only that he had nothing to fear as Buffy’s mate.
He rocked back on his heels as he watched the Empress say tear-filled goodbyes to her friends. It’d been gut wrenching to listen to her explain that she couldn’t stay, that she would become a danger to them as eventually her need for control, for power, would change the entire world.
As he watched her and her mother clinging to each other he spoke up. “Can’t you at least write back and forth?”
“How?” Buffy asked, her brow crinkled.
“I don’t know that part,” he admitted.
“Oh!” Willow stood up. “I think I’m having an idea!” She grabbed two decorative metal bowls off of a nearby end table and handed one to Tara. “We can link them.”
The blonde witch’s eyes lit up. “Just give us a few!”
“I promise to write once a year.” Buffy told her Mom.
Joyce frowned. “That’s not very often.”
“The time difference.” Buffy laughed. “I don’t want to snow you under with paper.”
A hand clamped on Spike’s shoulder. The vampire looked up into the Watcher’s watery eyes. Giles took off his glasses and squeezed the bridge of his nose. “Spike…I…take care of her for me.”
“I will Watcher. I will. Can’t stop you from worrying about the girl, though, can I?”
Giles smiled ruefully. “I suppose not.”
The witches ran back in the room just as the portal started to crackle to life. Willow shoved one of the bowls into Buffy’s arms and Tara handed the other to Joyce.
The Empress smiled at her friends and held up the shiny bowl. “If there’s an apocalypse, write me.” She held out her hand to Spike, and he intertwined his fingers with hers. Buffy gave a last wave to her friends.
Hand in hand with his mate Spike walked into the glowing portal, towards a future he couldn’t begin to imagine, but that he couldn’t wait to experience.
To Be Concluded
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/553151.html