Fic: “Shortcut” (3/3) by Moscow_Watcher [R]

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Shortcut
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SHORTCUT

Author: moscow_watcher
Part 3. In which our intrepid hero saves the world, dies, resuscitates and finds his destiny.
Genre: comedy
Rating: R
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Joss – everybody but brothers Gorch whom he gakked from Sam Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch”.
Timeline: “The Wish”, Cordelia’s alternate reality.
Summary: What if Spike was there too?


Part 1. In which our intrepid hero frees Angel, meets Buffy and saves Angel’s soul.
Part 2. In which our intrepid hero outsmarts the Master, gets a taste of Buffy and acquires a soul.

 *~*~*

Angel was furious.

Darla, Harris and that bitch Rosenberg had managed to escape. Willy the Snitch told him that that bastard Spike, accompanied by Buffy, went to slay the Gorch gang. Angel followed their trail to the Bronze, watched the show for a while and left when the tightness in his jeans became unbearable. He spent the rest of the night dusting random vamps and imagining Spike at the sharp end of his stake.

He didn’t want to return to the library. The thought of seeing Spike’s smug face was unbearable. Even the prospect of spending the daytime in some abandoned building and leaving for Los-Angeles immediately after the sunset sounded much better. The only thing that bothered him was Buffy. He had to warn her against that smug bastard. Yes, just give her several words of advice. As to Spike…

Walking down the dark school hall, Angel pondered on his further actions in regards of Spike. To break his legs. To sprinkle him with holy water. To chain him to one of those big trees that grew in the school yard and let the sun do its work…

He heard distant voices and quickened his steps.

“…now I know why men avoid you like plague!” Cordelia’s voice was full of contempt. “As soon as you’re around, they’re in trouble!”

“Men? He’s a vampire. And I’m a vampire slayer.”

“They should call you a vampire layer!”

The first thing Angel saw when he entered the library was his childe, curled on the couch, his cheeks wet with tears. He looked so utterly miserable that all Angel’s sadistic plans evaporated.

“Getting a soul had nothing to do with sex!” Buffy snapped. “It happened afterwards. We were just talking. And suddenly that skank appears out of nowhere and grants him a soul.”

Cordelia snorted. “You think I’m what, a moron? In my universe Angel lost his soul after you had sex with him. In your freaky universe Spike got his soul after you had sex with him. Do you notice a pattern? Vampire soul status always changes after sex with you!”

“Except I had sex with Angel and nothing happened to his precious soul… Spike, sweetie, please, don’t cry!”

Angel sighed. He has to do something to stop it, pronto. Either knock the bastard unconscious, or… There was an almost full bottle of bourbon on the circulation desk. Thank God for small favors.

“Angel!” Cordelia exclaimed. “Are you okay? I was afraid she’d turned you into a puddle of snot too”.

“Angel!” Buffy exclaimed. “What the hell it is with you vampires and your stupid souls!”

Ignoring them, he uncorked the bottle and shoved it in Spike’s face.

“Drink!”

The bastard was amazingly cooperative – unlike Giles who tried to protest. But his feeble attempts to separate Spike from the bottle proved to be utterly unsuccessful, so all Giles could do was watching wistfully as his bourbon disappeared down Spike’s throat.

“Sometimes lack of breath is a useful thing,” he huffed. “Actually I wanted to do a relaxation spell on him…”

Angel shook his head. “Bourbon’s better. Unlike magic, it doesn’t have consequences. Hangover doesn’t count.”

Spike half-laughed, half-sobbed. “Trust an expert, Watcher. Peaches had been drowning himself in alcohol and his own snot for a hundred years… ow! That hurts, you bastard!”

Angel rubbed his fist. “Good.”

Buffy pulled Angel away from Spike. “Don’t hurt him.”

“Sorry – forgot it’s your privilege. Don’t worry, he’ll get better soon.”

Sonofabitch was already getting better, basking in the girls’ attention. It was unfair. Maybe if Angel had Buffy and Cordy fussing around him, making him comfortable on the couch, covering him with his duster and asking worriedly if he was okay, he, Angel, could have adjusted to his soul in a moment too.

He retreated to Giles’ study in search of another bottle. God, he so needed rest. A couple hours of sleep before leaving that damned place for good. But as soon as he relaxed in Giles’ chair, Buffy slipped into the study and plopped into the chair across him, elbows on her knees, hands cupping her chin.

“Are you angry?” And, before Angel could reply, she went on. “You have no right to be angry. I know Spike’s an ass, and all, but he helped us. I had to save his life.”

Angel looked at Buffy incredulously. “Save his…”

“He was wounded with a poisoned dagger. Viper’s berry. The only thing that could save him was the Slayer’s blood…”

Angel sighed. Should he tell her that viper’s berry couldn’t kill vampires? That it only paralizes them for a couple of days? Would it change anything?

“…and then we got carried away.” Buffy looked at him anxiously. “Will you help me?”

Angel blinked. “Help? You?”

“Uh-huh. You have to tell me everything about the souled vampire’s way of life. How he’s supposed to feed? I don’t want him to feed on rats. How do you get blood to eat?”

She was dead serious, Angel realized. She really wanted to take Spike under her tutelage.

“Is he a pacifist now?” she went on. “Is it politically correct if I invite him to patrol with me?”

Angel barked a laugh.

“You haven’t the least idea what you’re getting yourself into.”

She furrowed her brow. “He has got his soul because of me – I’m responsible for him.”

He chuckled bitterly. Now he understood what Whistler had meant when he said that the Slayer would need his help. But how to convince her that hooking up with Spike is a bad idea? Maybe tell her about his habit of leaving his boots on any surface, including tables and TV sets? Or about his habit of flicking TV channels for hours on end? About his love of soap operas? His smoking in bed? No, the last one would raise too many questions…

He raised his head as he heard Cordelia’s steps. She looked resolute and inspired.

“Hey, guys,” she said. “Does Hollywood exist in your dimension?”

“Yes,” Angel said warily. “Why?”

“Is it still situated in Los-Angeles?”

He nodded. “Cordy, it’s not safe there. LA is crawling with demons and vampires.”

“That’s okay. Spike can protect me.”

“What?”

“Los-Angeles is a city of many opportunities,” Cordelia explained patiently. “A souled vampire can reinvent himself as a sexy bodyguard of a rising movie star. Or, if my movie career won’t pan out, we can open a detective agency together.”

“Don’t even think about it.” Buffy crossed her hands on her chest. “Spike will go with me to Cleveland. He needs a strong Slayer hand to keep him on the side of good.”

“What?” Cordelia exclaimed. She nodded at Angel. “One souled vampire isn’t enough for you?”

He coughed. “Actually… I’m sorry to disappoint you both, but Spike will stay with me. I’m his sire and I know how to cope with soul stuff, since I went through it.”

“What a freaky dimension,” Cordelia murmured. “You really care about Spike, Angel? Because in my universe you’re all about Buffy.”

Buffy snorted. “Cordelia, you’ve got caught in your own lies. You said that me and Angel – we can’t have sex.”

“Oh, you absolutely can’t. The last two years you successfully competed for the title of the most miserable person in Sunnydale.”

Buffy sighed. “Don’t tell me that in your dimension I’m a virgin.”

“No, you did the nasty. Once. On your seventeenth birthday.”

“And?” Angel murmured, torn between curiosity and disgust.

“Apparently, you were very happy. You unleashed Angelus, he killed a lot of people and then decided to end the world. Willow managed to return his soul, but it was too late. Buffy had to send him to hell to avoid an apocalypse.”

Angel shuddered. “What a horrible universe you came from.”

“She’s making it up,” Buffy declared. “It can’t be true. Willow Rosenberg? The Master’s right-hand-man? No way Angel would sleep with a soulless vampire.”

Angel managed to keep his composure. He only looked away.

Cordelia rolled her eyes. “In my world she’s not a vampire. She’s a regular student who dabbles in magic… which is hardly regular, sure, but that’s beyond the point. And she didn’t sleep with Angel. Why did you think that she slept with him?”

Buffy knitted her brow. “Those soul transfers – don’t they always happen during sex?”

“I guess not.” Cordelia shrugged. “Willow used an orb and some fancy spell – and it worked. Apparently, sex is a typically Slayer way of dealing with vampire souls.”

Angel decided not to pursue the topic. “So, like I said, Spike stays with me. He needs to adapt to his soul.”

“And then?”

“Then we’ll go to Los-Angeles. Together,” he added hastily, noticing that Cordelia has perked up. “We need to find Drusilla. She’s our… um…”

“I know who that psycho is,” Cordelia interrupted. “Why don’t you just forget about her? Like I already said, Los-Angeles is a great city for pretty boys with supernatural abilities.”

“We need to help her,” Angel said. “She is very sick. We have to decipher the rituals in the Du Lac codex and then we’ll go to her…”

Cordelia furrowed her brow. “The ritual? You don’t need to decipher it. The cure for your wacko is…”

“Where is Spike?” Giles appeared in the doorway, disheveled and concerned.

Angel felt his stomach knot. “Isn’t he sleeping on the couch?”

Giles shook his head. “He’s disappeared.”

***

Of course, it was all Spike’s fault.

Buffy had planned to nap for a couple of hours. Then she’d planned to have a little shopping spree and maybe even watch a movie in the local theater. Instead of it, she had to deal with Spike’s disappearance.

She tried not to panic. Spike could have snuck out to Willy’s for another bottle of bourbon. Or maybe he needed quality time for brooding alone – judging by Angel’s behavior, it was typical for souled vampires. Silly, pathetic bloodsucker. She wasn’t worried about him at all.

She heard steps behind the door and leaped on her feet. Spike would so pay for spoiling her day!

Her heart clenched when she saw Angel enter, alone, Spike’s duster in his hands.

“I found it in the boiler room,” he said, throwing the duster on the couch. “I checked – there is a trapdoor that leads to the sewer system. The smell is strong – whoever it was, they only kidnapped Spike a few minutes ago. I can easily trace them.”

Giles pinched the bridge of his nose. “It could be a trap.”

“I don’t care!” Buffy exclaimed, reaching for her crossbow. “We have to save that moron before it’s too late!”

“We have to be prepared to save that moron,” Giles countered. “I have a couple of ideas but I have to check my sources.”

“He’s right,” Angel said. “The Master’s minions could have kidnaped Spike to lure all of us into a trap. If we all die there, we won’t help him. Don’t get worked up, Buffy. If they wanted to kill him, he’d already be dust. Try to get some rest.”

Buffy was sure she wouldn’t be able to relax. But, as soon as she dropped down on the couch and covered herself with Spike’s duster, the smell of leather, tobacco and bourbon made her head float. She closed her eyes and lost herself in strange, disturbing sensations. Somebody unbearably blond and blue-eyed kissed her neck, stroked her hair, shook her shoulder…

“Mmmm… Spike…”

She opened her eyes. Angel quickly withdrew his hand.

“Buffy, wake up.” He looked grim. “Giles has news.”

His expression left no doubt that the news was bad. Giles was gloomy too.

“I presume they kidnapped Spike because they need his blood. If my apprehension is right, they want to restore the Master. There is this bit in the Yerrell codex – to do a successful revivification ritual of a master vampire, you need his bones – which they have – and the blood of the closest person, someone connected to the vampire.

“Spike was close to the Master?” Buffy shuddered. “Tell me it’s not what I think.”

“It’s not what you think,” Angel said quickly. “Close – as in “standing close to the Master when he was destroyed.”

Buffy felt better – but her relief was short-lived.

“There is more, I’m afraid,” Giles said. “After a successful revivification a Master vampire becomes practically invincible. Only direct sunlight destroys him.”

“What?” Buffy leapt to her feet. “We have to stop the ritual ASAP!”

“But it could be a trap,” Cordelia reminded.

“Or both,” Angel added. “They could prepare a ritual and a trap at the same time.”

“I don’t care! I have to save Spi… I mean, to stop the stupid ritual.”

“She’s right,” Giles sighed. “We have to stop it at any cost. I go with you.”

Cordelia raised her hand. “I’m with you. I know how to use a crossbow.”

Buffy stuck a stake under her belt and nodded.

“I’m ready. Angel, lead the way.”

Spike would so pay for this. For depriving her of good sleep. For making her roam in stinky sewers, rats squealing under her feet. For feeling helpless and desperate at the thought that he could be sacrificed in a stupid ritual. He would be paying, and paying, and paying, in all the positions of Kama Sutra… Okay, maybe not all of them… She’d agree on the most popular, as long as he was okay. Please, dear Powers that Bitch, if you really exist, let him be okay… Let this moron survive long enough so that she could kick his pallid vampire ass.

When the foursome arrived at the basement of a church a quarter of an hour later, Buffy was very angry. Her mood didn’t improve when they hid behind the dilapidated pew and she saw an altar with the Master’s bones on it, a group of vampires in front of the altar – and above it…

A big wheel hung above the altar. Spike, shirtless, was tied to the wheel and Darla was painting a magic sign on his forehead.

“You stink of virtue,” she scolded him. “Your soul is disgusting.”

“Nobody’s perfect, luv.” Spike groaned as she pinched his nipple viciously. “I’ll never forget how attached you were to your oh-so-souled Peaches. I bet you were attracted to The Immortal because of the forbidden fruit of virtue. Admit it, you were turned on when he boasted about his one hundred and fifty years spent in a Tibet monastery. As for the Prince of Lies…”

“Don’t you dare talk like that about my men…” she hissed and grabbed a stake.

“Your men? I happily let you have two old buggers with shrunk sticks and balls – the more so since both are dead. But Angel has never been your man. You had to share him with Dru, with me…”

Of course, it was all Spike’s fault that Buffy gasped, stumbled and almost fell. Angel steadied her, but Darla and the other vampires heard the noise and rushed to the pew.

“I hate Spike!” Angel murmured as Darla launched herself into him, knocking him into the wall.

Buffy rained punches on her opponents furiously, happy to channel her anger, while Giles and Cordelia held their own against confused Xander who was trying vainly to understand why Cordelia was so pissed at him.

“You’re the most worthless member of the black leather boys club!” she screeched. “The trapezoid silhouette of your jacket is so eighties! And your pearl chain? Totally lame! And the white wife-beater? You’re pathetic, you know?”

Xander, dazed by her sartorial insults, parried her blows absently. “Look at yourself, silly vampire bait,” he murmured.

Buffy didn’t notice Willow sneaking to the altar and didn’t hear her reading the incantation. Only when she cut Spike’s chest, Buffy heard his indignant cry and rushed to the wheel.

Too late. His blood was already spilled on the bones. Shit. Buffy flung Willow away and cut the bonds that tied Spike to the rim. He fell into her embraces like a rag doll.

“You came,” he murmured, and she felt her eyes stinging. Stupid eyes.

“Dammit, Spike, you’re such an ass! I hate you!” She sniffled. “The next time you get drunk try not to be kidnapped, okay?”

And then the earth trembled.

Buffy looked up. The Master loomed over them like a rock. An obnoxious, gloating rock in need of a dental plan.

“Oh, shit. Spike, wait here. I have to deal with this creep.”

The Master laughed and his laughter echoed in thunder.

“Come to me, little girl. Time to teach you a lesson.”

“You know what, freak? I’ve had too many vampire lessons in the last 24 hours.” Buffy swung a pole-axe and hit him in the chest.

The Master roared furiously and charged at her. She sidestepped him and he crashed on the floor. Spike unceremoniously kicked him in the ass.

“You will pay for your insolence, Spike,” the Master screeched. “Every new generation of vampires is even more arrogant than the previous one! I’ve said it for the last thousand years and nobody listens!”

Buffy came at him in a hail of blows pushing him toward the entrance. Her body sang as Spike joined her, alternating blows and barbs. Stunned by their double impact, the Master started to retreat.

“Giles! Cordy! The door!”

They rushed to open heavy metal doors. The sun was already up and its light made the Master hiss in disgust. Buffy and Spike almost pushed him outside, in the sun – but Spike couldn’t go further and Buffy alone wasn’t strong enough to propel him outdoors. She punched and kicked him, but the Master held his own.

“Help me, dammit!” she barked.

Spike swore, stepped back and dashed forward, leaping at the Master, tackling him, using his momentum to send them both into sunlight…

“Spike!”

Buffy gasped as both he and the Master turned into dust.

***

“Buffy, you can’t just leave like this. I need your report. It’s an unprecedented case in the history of The Council – a vampire getting his soul back after sex with a Slayer…”

Buffy quickened her steps.

“Buffy, don’t you understand how important it could be? If we could figure out the mechanism of the re-ensoulment, maybe we’ll be able to reproduce it outside of the sexual context…”

She stopped so abruptly that he almost bumped into her.

“I told you, Giles – I don’t know how it happened! And I’m sure that this kind of outrage could have happened only to Spike! Because that moron always asked for trouble. Stupid, disgusting bloodsucker”.

She sniffled and turned away. Giles coughed, embarrassed. He couldn’t stand seeing women cry. Why couldn’t he hug her and tell her that she’s an amazing woman and she’ll absolutely find a man worthy of her, without that pesky sun allergy?..

She blew her nose angrily and sighed. “Bye, Giles. Try not to die.”

He watched her walk away until she disappeared around the corner. He knew he would be missing her. He was already missing her. With a heavy heart Giles made his way back to the library, vaguely hoping that Angel and especially Cordelia had left too, so that he could put the events of the last 24 hours on paper without any distractions.

“…you know, Angel, a person who enjoys drinking alone is the first sign of alcoholism.”

The scent of bourbon was so strong one didn’t need vampire sense of smell to notice it. Giles entered the library and quickly assessed the situation: half of his last bottle empty, Angel brooding and Cordelia playing the role of the shoulder – or, rather, a bosom – to cry on.

“It’s over, Cordy,” Angel murmured. “The Aurelius clan, once powerful and feared, all but ceased to exist. I can’t believe I killed Darla with my own hands… and now I’m the last one. Spike is dead. The Master is dead. Dru is crazy, she won’t live much longer without Spike. I can’t believe he bit the dust. He seemed indestructible…”

Cordelia stroke his hair. “Shhhhh… You know, Angel, I never thought you’d be so sad about Spike’s dusty end.”

“He was an annoying bastard, Cordy, but he was family. It’s so unfair that he’s gone now when he got his soul back. I feel like a part of me is gone with him. I wish he’d be back and call me Peaches again…”

“I always wanted to ask why he called you Pea… Hey, what is it?”

Spike’s duster on the couch started to glow. Cordelia shrieked when the glowing portal spat out a woman with an ugly demon face.

“Wish granted!” she announced.

Cordelia gasped, grabbed the cross and pointed at her. “I know you! You’re Anya, my classmate. It was you who sent me to this freaky dimension… Don’t even try to deny it! I remember that Spike took your trinket and put it into the pocket of his duster!”

Giles rushed to the duster, but Anya was quicker.

“Nobody grabs my pendant with dirty human hands!” She put the trinket on her neck and looked around in disgust. “I hate the place you created, Chase. The local Slayer is a nymphomaniac, the local vampires are whiny neurotics, and the local demons waste their nights playing rabbit poker…”

“Totally agree,” Cordelia said quickly. “I want… no, I – wish – to go back to my own dimension!”

Anya beamed. “Wish granted!”

Giles blinked. No, it wasn’t a hallucination. Cordelia and the demon woman have disappeared. The probability of delirium tremens could be excluded – he’d drunk nothing but tea for the last 24 hours. Maybe it was for the best that Cordelia went where she came from. Now the only person he had to deal with was Angel – who was staring, his mouth open, at something behind Giles’ shoulder.

“Peaches… what the bleeding hell?”

Giles spun around. On the steps of the stairway, sat Spike – rumpled, utterly miserable, but in one piece.

“The old bugger got dusted?” he asked, wincing. “Where’s Buffy?”

“Buffy left for Cleveland,” Giles said warily. “What happened to you, Spike? Where have you been?”

“Nowhere! I felt like I was disintegrating, fading away – then I suddenly sit here, my head splitting. Worse than hangover!”

“Recorporealising is a bitch,” Angel murmured, staring at Spike incredulously.

Spike groaned. “I can’t understand how that slicker Dracula could get dusted and coalesce again that many times without a headache! The prat was definitely using some magic!”

Giles snickered despite himself. “I’m afraid, yours is a case of magic too. Angel expressed a wish to have you back, and he did it in the presence of a vengeance demon, hidden in the pendant that you, Spike, took from Cordelia. Which begs the question of whether you had accidentally wished for a soul in The Bronze.”

“Oh, bleeding…” Spike grabbed his head in pain. “I’m such an idiot!”

“Pity I don’t have a tape recorder,” Angel said.

“I’ll take that as a ‘yes'”. Giles sighed ruefully. And he was already composing a memo mentally. A memo about the necessity for creating an affiliation of The Council to study the influence of The Hellmouth on the aberrations within the vampire population, based on his sensational discovery of Slayer sex being the crucial element in re-ensoulment and de-souling… Prat.

“Hopefully hangover and recorporealising are fixed with the same medicine.” Spike grabbed the bottle, and Giles got more proof that the lack of breath was a very useful thing. It was his last bottle, but, at least, it was an interesting experiment and he could later use this tidbit in a thesis later, if he ever manages to write one…

Spike shook his head and smiled.

“Thanks for the cure, Watcher. Now all I need is Buffy’s address in Cleveland.”

“I guess my bourbon helped.”

Spike nodded. “The thought that the bourbon was yours worked miracles. So, the address…”

“You can’t go to Cleveland,” Angel said quickly. “We have to find a cure for Dru first.”

Spike’s smile waned. “Oh. I forgot that we have to decipher Du Lac’s rituals… What are we waiting for, then?”

“We can’t decipher them,” Giles said. “The rituals could only be decoded with the cross of Du Lac. I’m afraid Cordelia Chase has taken the cross with her to wherever she went.”

“Dammit. Once I’m gone, the girls run away. So, what do we do?”

Giles hesitated. Maybe it wasn’t a particularly good idea, but, given that these two had souls…

“I’d recommend you to look for the cure in the Russelheim compendium. The only existing copy is kept in Watcher’s Council’s Headquarters in Cleveland, but I know a couple of Watchers who are open-minded enough to cooperate with vampires…”

“Wait a sec!” Spike exclaimed and got to his feet. “You said ‘Cleveland’? See, Angel?”

“What?”

“I have to go to Cleveland. To Buffy.” Spike beamed. “Like somebody says, it’s my destiny!”

“Destiny, your little sarcastic ass,” Angel said. “Tell her she’s the bravest woman on Earth, falling for a moron like you.”

Spike smiled dreamily. “That’s my girl.”

“You hurt her – I’ll personally stake you.”

“Uh-huh. Keep on dreaming about sticking your manly stake into my lily-while ass…”

Giles realized he was smiling. Life went on. Life, full of surprises.

Maybe if he persisted he’d be lucky enough to witness the prophesied reunion of three true champions, after all.

P.S.

Xander Harris inhaled deeply and passed his cigarette to Willow Rosenberg. “So, the two of us against the whole world again?”

She looked around, took in their surroundings – sewers, debris, squeaking rats – and snickered. “Yeah. Like in high school.”

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/385001.html

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