Title: Setting Up House (18/22)
Setting: Season 6, AU after “Gone”
Word Count (this part): 3513
Summary: What if the second social worker actually paid a visit to Buffy and Dawn after the incident in “Gone,” and Dawn and Spike convinced Buffy to set up house with Spike? (Eventually, it’s a bit of a crossover fic with AtS.)
Thank you: Extra special thank you to enigmaticblues for beta-ing the final chapters of Setting Up House.
Dedication: This story is written especially for aimeedee, who believes in me! I also dedicate this to _sin_attract, inxsomniax, zarrah04, indiana_jane_, jenniepennie, roxyw, ghostgirl13, lilith77, eyesthatslay, musing_mia, sweet_ali, and Aydin.
Chapters 1-15 can be found on here on AO3.
Sixteenth, Be Honest with Your Ex… and Yourself
Seventeenth, Be Civil to Uninvited Guests… Within Reason
Eighteenth, When Company Becomes Too Much, Strategize to Get Rid of Them
The battle is long. . . long because we don’t know how to fight the multiple Mr. Helmundes.
But we do fight.
The golems are a strong, seemingly never-ending sea of bodies, and the sound of metal on metal rips through the air, causing it to almost crackle with electricity. Somehow the golems, though supposedly made of clay, are far from lumbering and slow, and the tempo of the fight is as fast as any night of patrol in the Sunnydale cemetery.
Wesley and Gunn somehow maneuver Fred over to a pile of magic supplies she’s somehow gathered up, and she’s mashing herbs or some other ingredients together in a stone pot.
Angel is awkwardly covering Cordy and Connor, and his efforts to somehow throw one golem crashing into three others coming up the stairs is thwarted by four more pouring out of some unseen hiding place upstairs.
Lorne is back to back with Faith who is manhandling two or three to Lorne’s one who seems to be barely swiping at the green demon because Lorne is dodging and weaving like he’s dancing some crazy tribal dance.
Xander and Anya are fighting efficiently with Anya taking little jabs with her knife while Xander whirls and ducks and somehow manages to protect his fiancé while landing blows. Watching them, I feel a surge of pride for my friends.
Meanwhile, Spike and I fight together in perfect synchrony as if we have been doing this dance forever. One golem leaps on his back, and Spike stumbles at the weight but slams his attacker into the wall so that his grip is loosened, and then, he spins and jabs the sharp end of his quarterstaff into the golem’s belly.
The golem groans but doesn’t fall and manages to swing his sword at Spike’s head. Spike hustles away and responds with another blow of the staff into yet another golem rushing from behind, knocking the golem toward me. I land a solid roundhouse kick to the golem’s chest and use the push off to flip over a third golem and shoot him with the crossbow. The arrow dives into his back and blood soaks his clothes, but the damage doesn’t slow him down, and he reaches back to snap the wood with his fingers.
“Damn,” I shout as another golem rushes up behind me. There are too many. Lucky for my Slayer instincts, I jump just as he swipes at my legs, but he lands a blow on my lower back that sends me sprawling.
“Buffy!” Spike’s shadow falls over me in a second, twirling and batting back golems until I can regain my feet.
As I stand, I see that Angel’s carrying his son and descending the stairs with golems in tow, and Cordy has recovered a sword from the enemy, a sword which she is very successfully using against her fair share of golems.
I’m impressed. Angel must have taught her something because I recognize the moves. He taught me the same ones.
I decide that I want a nifty sword, and using my ineffectual crossbow, I slug the golem that has just sent Spike reeling. The aftershock echoes down my arm, but the golem drops his blade, which I snag by the hilt before metal hits the floor. Tossing aside the crossbow and putting all my strength into my movement, I swing the sword at the golem pulling Spike up by the collar of his duster. I take a chunk out of the clay man’s shoulder, and somewhat to my surprise, crumbles of dirt roll over his shirt to the ground instead of blood.
The sound of the detritus against the tiled floor magnifies in my mind over the din of the fighting, shouting, grunting, and barely perceptible chanting. I barely notice the injured golem turning to me and dropping Spike so that he lands in a crouch. Spike calls my name, but no sound reaches my ears.
The sound of an avalanche of dirt and rocks overwhelms my senses, and the world abruptly tilts sideways, my senses filled with the taste of damp earth and the scratch of my fingers against satin. My heartbeat stumbles and picks up speed until I feel like it’s going to rip out of my chest, and my mind is swathed in a confusing mass of paralyzing fear and panic.
Somewhere inside of me, a little voice thrusts forth. . . you know what this is, Buffy.
Then, a familiar touch fills my hand, and I feel fingers push between mine. A whoosh of wind, and his voice sweeps past the din of the flashback, “Buffy, love, come back.” The tone is rushed and urgent but warm and strong. His breath bathes my ear in safety. . . and I’m reminded that every night he saves me.
And the room rights itself, my senses all realigning with reality, and I re-grip the sword handle without much time to think about what just happened. I see a flash of blue and a streak of platinum blonde before I sense him behind me. We’re back to back and surrounded by golems. The fight together is so familiar and easy that I allow myself to find my voice. This grounds me further.
“What’s with the chanting?” I ask as Spike parries swinging arms. “And the smell?” I wrinkle my nose.
I spin and slice into a golem’s exposed thigh and catch Spike’s reply, “Fred. Burning something. She’s casting some spell. Not sure. . .” Spike ducks as a golem sword sings over his head, “what for.”
“Assuming something to help us, I hope?” The air is temporarily knocked out of my lungs as a golem who has lost his sword decides to take a running charge at my chest.
“Better be ‘cause it looks like we’re not getting a leg up anytime soon.”
As soon as the words leave Spike’s mouth, the electricity flickers, winking on and off in hesitating bursts. A crackling sound rushes all around us, and the walls of the hotel vibrate, violently rattling the furniture and light fixtures above. The fight abruptly quiets to a hush, and Fred’s magnified voice rises above the cacophony in rapid fire syllables. . . syllables in a language I don’t recognize.
I glance at Spike and he shakes his head between flashes. I’m not slipping back into. . .
Then, the lobby lights snap back on in unflinching brilliance.
All sound ceases.
I blink past the brightness to view my friends turning to face their opponents, weapons at the ready.
The golems have all slowed considerably, moving in slow motion like we’re watching a film frame by frame. Everyone neatly sidesteps their opponents and gathers closer to one another. Clothes are rumpled and askew, and flesh is torn, and spilled demon, human, and golem blood is evident. A few of our band are limping, but otherwise, we are intact.
I hear Gunn’s relieved tone between the heavy breathing of exertion, “Nice one, Fred.”
Golem threat delayed, I search quickly for Baldy. His sidekick is cowering behind a large potted plant, and in a very un-Wesley-like move, Wesley strides over, grabs him by the scruff, and hauls him out.
“Where is Anthony?” he growls.
So Baldy has a name. Huh. Wouldn’t have pictured that one.
The shaking young Watcher shakes his head and desperately shrugs his shoulders. He doesn’t know.
A small squeak of alarm darts across the room.
Anthony is behind Fred, one arm tight around her midsection pinning her arms to her sides. His other holds a knife to her throat, the blade glinting in the light. He shoves her forward toward the pot of magic stuff she used for the spell. “No one move, or I’ll slit her throat!” To show that he means business, he presses the blade into her skin, and a small line of scarlet red blood forms on her fair skin.
In my peripheral vision, Spike and Angel move forward, drawn by the sight and probably smell of Fred’s blood being spilled. Gunn and Wesley look especially alarmed.
Angel gently passes a now whimpering Connor to Cordelia and raises a hand like he’s trying to calm a panicked vampire victim, “Hold on. We can work something out. No need to harm Fred. She’s innocent here.”
Anthony lets out a short barking laugh. “Innocent? She’s interfering with Council business. . . interfering with the world’s very survival with her little spell here. Now, she’s going to break this spell, and we’re going to go about our business. The business of putting things right. . . things that others shouldn’t be messing with.”
Anya and Xander shift uncomfortably behind me.
A loud crack resounds, the gong of metal on bone, and Anthony’s body crumples to the ground.
Holding her throat, Fred hastily scoots away to reveal a slight, hooded figure standing where Anthony had been. Her hood has settled back, and her long, ebony hair falls in thick waves over her shoulders. Hanna tosses aside the giant frying pan she’s used to knock Anthony unconscious. The metal clatters against the ground, and her grin is grim and determined.
She shrugs, no longer cowed. Her British accent is clear as she says, “Didn’t like him much anyway.”
“Where’d she get the frying pan?” Xander side-whispers.
Cordy responds in kind, “Hotel kitchen.”
“Who *are* you?” Faith asks.
Hanna nods, expecting the query. “I’m a witch. Mr. Giles sent me to help. . . well, under the guise of helping the Council. . . at least these two anyway. I belong to a coven in England. . . a coven Mr. Giles knows quite well. He, um, has a relationship with one of our. . . . Well, she sent me, too. I’m all filled in on what’s been going on, and my specialty is inter-dimensional travel and animation or reanimation as it were.”
I narrow my eyes. “How do we know you are who you say you are?”
“Ah, yes, Mr. Giles said you would ask.” She rummages in the pocket of her cloak and pulls out a folded paper. “Here.” She proffers the note, which Gunn snags and hands to Wesley.
After a few seconds or reading, Wesley nods, still staring at what’s written on the page. “She’s legitimate.”
“Can you tell us what to do with these guys?” Lorne casually sidesteps a slow swing from one of the golems and gestures up and down at him.
She grins. “Yes.” She lifts an eyebrow at Wesley. “You were close earlier. There isn’t a parchment that contains the animation spell, but the spell is written on their forehead.”
Gunn squints and studies the closest golem’s brow. “Um, I don’t see anything.”
“Right.” Hanna furrows her brow, and raising her hand, she mutters something under her breath.
A small glowing light flickers and dances over the golems’ foreheads, the air shimmers, and dark letters appear.
“Huh. Nice.” Spike is impressed. “Now what?”
Wesley knows. “Once the writing is revealed like so, you simply erase everything but what means ‘death.’”
Hanna nods. “Correct. That should work.”
“But what do we do with all the bodies?” Anya queries.
“They should dissipate,” Hanna assures.
“All right then! Let’s get it done,” Lorne gestures at Faith, who snags and pins the closest golem’s arms. “Er, this isn’t exactly in English.”
Wesley hurries over to read what’s written. “Right, erase the first letter. The remaining letters are ‘death.’”
Lorne rubs a finger over the golem’s forehead, and one Mr. Helmunde promptly crumbles away.
One clay man down.
Spike and I meet each other’s eyes, and he nods.
We get to work.
* * *
Xander corners me as everyone is packing up to head to Sunnydale. Well, everyone except Angel, Cordy, Lorne, and Gunn who are staying in L.A. to take care of Anthony and the other Watcher whose name as it turns out is Jonathan. Wesley, Fred, and Hanna are coming with us to perform the spell that Wesley discussed earlier. Not shockingly, the spell has to be performed at the hellmouth.
“So, can we talk?” Xander is earnest. Somehow being outside in the dark away from the flurry of activity in the hotel is calming.
I shift one of Anya’s boxes against my hip as Xander tucks his into the car. I knew this was coming. Glancing around, I realize we’re alone outside for a moment. “Sure.”
Xander reappears and shoves his hands in his back pockets, his brown eyes firm. “You know I don’t approve. Far far from it.”
I know this. “Yes. I do.”
“I trust Spike about as far as I can throw him.”
I nod. Tell me something I don’t already know.
He looks me straight in the eye. “And I care about you. . . a lot.”
“You’re been through more than your fair share of crap in your relationships and had more losses than I can count. We all have at this point. . . you, me, and Willow. You haven’t always handled things the best, but well, neither have I. . . neither have we.”
I almost can’t believe how frank Xander’s being. Maybe the battle we just fought helped him more than just react. “So true. . . we’ve all been through a lot.”
“And maybe it’s just cause we all almost died in there, but I’m realizing that no matter what choices we make, we’ll still need each other.” He hesitates and looks so sad that I want to hug him. “Look, Buffy, I can’t tell you how sorry I am for what we. . . for my part in bringing you back fr. . .” He stops, bowing his head, and I realize that he can’t say that he pulled me out of heaven. . . that the magic that he, Willow, Tara, and Anya used is the cause of all our current troubles.
I put a hand on his arm. “There’s nothing that we can do about that now. It’s done. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.”
His relief is palpable. “I just don’t want to lose you to. . . I can’t lose you again.”
He’s referring to Spike. “You won’t. I know that I can’t convince you that he’s different now.” He gives me look. “But he’s not going to consume me. I’m not going to let him.”
Xander is unconvinced, but that’s okay. “You’re just in a vulnerable state right now, and he’s taken advantage of that. I hate that you and Willow are hurting.”
“I’m feeling stronger, Xander, and part of the reason is because of Spike.” I don’t feel like filling him in on all the recent flashbacks and nightmares. No need to make him feel worse. Besides, things are getting better on that front. . . as long as I have Spike.
Xander shakes his head, and I can tell he is trying not to say something he’ll regret. “I don’t like it, but I won’t lose our friendship because of it.”
“And you’ll tell me if you think you’re losing me? Tell me if you think I’m losing myself?” I don’t add the because of Spike part.
He takes the box from me and shoves it in the car. Something topples over, but he ignores it. “Of course. Don’t expect me to be best pals with him or to be really nice about it all the time. Can’t let Spike think I approve. . . . And I reserve the right to help put a dusty end to Spike if he hurts you, Dawn, or anyone else I care about.”
“People hurt each other when they care about each other. Kind of comes with the territory. Part of the whole being human thing.”
“True, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t be protective of you. I will always be protective of you and Willow. You’re my girls.” He pauses and glances back at the hotel to make sure no one else heard what he just said. “Don’t tell Anya. She might become a vengeance demon again and wreak havoc on me. And yes, I realize that my fiancé is an ex-demon, so I don’t have much room to complain about your romantic choices.”
“What do you think about Angel and Cordy?” I can’t help but change the subject.
“Don’t even get me started!”
We grin at each other. Xander holds out his arms, and I embrace him. His hug feels good. I didn’t realize how much I needed my friend until right about now.
The direct apology was nice, too.
Come to think of it, I’m not the only one who’s been avoidy.
* * *
The goodbyes are like a wedding receiving line at a reception with all the Sunnydale folks moving slowly from one person to the next.
Lorne is up first, his injured face and hand patched up from the fight. He briefly embraces me, his green cheek atop my head. I barely hear his whisper, “Give him a chance, chickadee. I don’t believe you’ll regret it.”
I smile up at him. “Thank you for our. . . chat.”
He salutes me with two fingers. “Anytime. And if you ever need a hand with detangling someone’s motives, let me know. I’m happy to listen to their tune.”
“Where were you a couple of months ago?”
“Ah. I heard about Sweet and the singing.”
“H-how?” I wonder how much the demon world knows about my big revelation about being in heaven.
“Run across him before. Thinks he’s all sophisticated and better than the rest of us in the musical magic realm. He doesn’t really appreciate music beyond the pyromania of it all. Well that and some secret revelation. Whoopdeedoo.” Lornes twirls a finger mid-air and inclines his head at me. “There’s a *lot* more to it than a short lived high like that.”
I can’t help but grin. “I can imagine.”
Cordy’s next in the group. Perched on her hip, baby Connor coos and sucks on his fingers. He studies me with wide, curious blue eyes as I approach. The eyes must be Darla’s, and I still see a lot of Angel in him, not just in how he looks but in how quiet he is. . . how observant. I gently stroke his soft cheek and then give Cordelia a big hug. It’s my turn to whisper, “Take care of him for me.”
Cupping the baby’s head and bouncing him a little, Cordy nods sagely at me. She knows I’m talking about Angel. “Will do.”
“He’s beautiful.” I’m referring to the baby this time.
Cordelia looks at Connor in adoration. “He is.”
“It’s good to see you.”
“Next time, longer chat?”
“Definitely.” She is thoughtful for a moment and tilts her head in Xander’s direction. “Take care of him for me.”
She gives me a little smile then, and I can tell she is happy here in L.A., probably happier than I’ve ever seen her. Maybe it’s the baby and maybe it’s Angel, but somehow, I think she needed to get away from Sunnydale to find herself.
Speaking of Angel. . . he’s standing over to the side, chatting with Anya, hands in his pockets. She backs away when she gathers that I’m approaching, leaving me with my first love. “Hey.”
“Hey.” His earlier anger has slipped from his voice, and he is tender with me again.
We regard each other. I’m unsure quite what to say.
We speak at the same time.
“So. . .”
“Be careful .”
I’m not sure what he’s referring to and decide it’s probably multiple things in my life. “I’ll try. Can’t promise anything. You, too.”
He smiles, but the smile is tinged with sadness. He nods, pauses, and then says, “I don’t approve. You know that, but. . .”
“You’ll dust him if he hurts me. Got it.”
“He’s taking advantage of you since you came back from. . . since you’re vulnerable.” Agitation is creeping back into his tone.
First Xander, now Angel. . . well, Angel two or three times now. The same speech is getting more than a bit old and tired. I hold up my hand.
Angel changes tacks. “And I’m here if you need me.” He doesn’t add the when-things-go-wrong-with-Spike piece, but I understand.
Since hugs are flowing freely today, my arms find themselves around him. Somehow we don’t need to say anything else, and somehow I know things have irrevocably changed between us.
With that, I wave a goodbye to Gunn and turn to find Spike staring at me with naked emotion on his face, feelings that I know everyone can see. As he studies my face, his expression transforms from hurt into one of understanding, and his shoulders visibly relax. The smile in his eyes doesn’t touch his lips, but I beam at him, my fear at what’s coming next momentarily forgotten.
With affection, I intentionally brush my arm against his as I pass him by, following Anya and Xander through the broken doors and into the night.
We’re going home.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/522554.html