Fic: The Gift (1/3)

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Well, it looks like today’s my day! I’m sharing a new fic I’ve written. I’m posting part one now; the rest of it will be up later today. I hope you enjoy it.

Title: The Gift
Author: Salieri
Rating: R
Pairing: Spike/Buffy
Summary: A Christmas story.

This story takes place five years after the events of Not Fade Away. Buffy was reunited with Spike shortly before the final battle. Author’s notes will be at the end of the final part.

Once upon a time, there was a girl who stole the heart of a monster.

She was brave and forthright, as every good hero should be. At the cost of her own life, she fought the demons and battled the forces of evil. Even when burdened by her own fears and doubts, even with the weight of the world resting on her thin shoulders, her goodness shone as brightly as any star. She was full of love, and the power of her love helped the monster become a man. She was his purpose, and he was her strength.

They fought side by side in the final battle, and together they wrought a miracle. The soul of the monster — the soul that should never have existed — harnessed the power to save the world. And even though they were parted for a time, they were never truly separated. Death itself could not keep them apart.

The monster was returned to the world, and he continued to fight the good fight. He was reunited with the girl, and together they did battle against the armies of darkness. In the end, he was rewarded by becoming a real boy. The monster became a champion, and the champion became a man.

If this was a proper fairy tale, it would end here with a happily ever after. But their story had never been a fairy tale.

***

Spike stared up at the lights of the flat that he’d shared with Buffy for the past two years. Night had fallen, and the glow of the lamps behind the thick glass was a cozy contrast to the bitter damp of London in December. He could see a shape silhouetted behind the thin curtains, and then Buffy’s hand as the curtains were twitched aside to allow her to peer out. Spike gave a twisted smile.

She could feel him coming. Somehow, impossibly, she could still feel him coming.

Five years had passed since the Hellmouth collapsed, four since the near destruction of Los Angeles. He’d been reunited with Buffy after a disastrous trip to Rome, and she’d been there for the final battle against the Black Thorn. She’d also been there for the fulfillment of the Shanshu prophecy.

Humanity, as it turned out, was a bitch. Dealing with the abrupt changes in himself had been one of the hardest things Spike had ever done.

Against all odds, they’d been together ever since. They’d fought, they’d argued, they’d thrown punches, and on more than one occasion each of them had stormed out and vowed never to return. And through it all, they’d loved each other as hard as possible. They spent some time in Los Angeles before returning to Rome, and then moved to London to be closer to the rebuilt Council of Watchers. As the oldest living Slayer, Buffy represented a near-mythic figure to the young girls around the world who were just discovering their powers. She was still The Slayer, the first among many.

At least, she had been until three months ago. It all ended, as these things usually did, with a demon.

Buffy had been on a routine training patrol through London with some of the young Slayers when they’d been set upon by a trio of Galaxhar demons. None of the girls had been seriously injured; the demons had focused all of their attention on Buffy, and before they were killed, one of them had managed to slice open Buffy’s hand with an intricately carved knife.

Buffy had shrugged off the injury, which seemed relatively minor at the time. The wound had healed quickly, leaving behind a thin white scar, and for several weeks Spike forgot all about it. And then he noticed that something about Buffy seemed… off. She grew clumsy, banging her shins on the coffee table and collecting bruises that wouldn’t heal. Her aim was off; books that she tossed ended up on the floor instead of the desk. One night she dissolved into tears when Spike, to his surprise, found himself able to easily overpower her during their usual roughhousing. He’d spent that night on the sofa listening to her sob herself to sleep. She hadn’t allowed him to comfort her. The next morning, he’d gone to talk to Giles.

It turned out that Spike wasn’t the only one to notice the gradual change in Buffy’s condition. Although she had tried to hide it with an uncharacteristic focus on research instead of training, her altered abilities hadn’t escaped Giles’ notice. She’d managed to deflect his concern with talk of a flu that had been going around, but Spike’s insistence that something was wrong was the final straw for Giles. When Buffy reported in that day, he ordered her to get a physical and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

She wouldn’t talk to Spike for a week after that.

Spike had spent the next twenty-four hours with his heart in his throat, imagining all kinds of diseases, supernatural and otherwise. When the tests came back, they showed that Buffy was a normal, healthy girl. Completely normal… and completely human. Her Slayer abilities — her enhanced strength, quick reflexes and rapid healing — were simply gone, as if they had never been there.

It was Giles who finally traced the cause to the attack Buffy had suffered several weeks before. They dug up the knife from Archives and sent it in for further tests. After extensive research (including threatening the life of more that one underworld informant), it was determined that the Galaxhar were mercenary demons hired by a clan of vampires whose leader Buffy had dispatched seven years ago — a leader who had been such a pathetic fighter that none of them even remembered him until Giles consulted his diaries. Unbeknownst to them, the clan had sworn their eternal revenge. Spike had to laugh at the bitter irony of it all. Not even Angelus had been able to best this Slayer; instead, a ragtag group of wannabe Big Bads had had the unholy luck to stumble upon a fiendishly clever way of dispatching the Slayer for good.

As Giles explained it, the knife was laced with a simple poison that was similar to the concoction he’d used to rob Buffy of her powers for the Cruciamentum test so many years ago. The drugs should have worn off weeks ago, but one of the Council’s mystics discovered a subtle curse attached to the knife that kept the potion intact in Buffy’s body. Even the most powerful witches at the Council’s disposal hadn’t been able to remove the curse that stole her power. She was unharmed in any other way, but she had no way of accessing the mystical forces that had been at her disposal ever since her calling. It was a diabolically clever plan, one that the Council hadn’t yet found a solution for.

The next month was a nightmare. As Buffy came to terms with her changing condition, she alternated between forced cheerfulness and fits of depression. She insisted to everyone that she was fine — that she was looking forward to a vacation, and hadn’t she always wanted to have her normal life back anyway? Spike knew she was lying; he recognized the coping mechanisms as the ones he had used when trying to deal with the sudden reappearance of his humanity. To his complete lack of surprise, Buffy avoided him, as though she sensed that he knew the truth. He tried to give her the space she needed, until one night she stumbled home with a shattered wrist and a deep cut to her leg. She had been trying to patrol on her own. After she was released from the hospital, they’d had one of their biggest fights to date.

Spike had been at his wits end. He’d tried to talk, he’d tried to listen, he’d tried to give her space. Buffy wouldn’t accept his comfort or support, and with every day that passed, she’d sunk deeper into her depression and they’d drifted further apart. In desperation, he hit upon a plan. He knew it was a long shot, and chances were it would fail as spectacularly as most of his plans seemed to. But he simply couldn’t accept the hollow shell of a girl Buffy had become. He swallowed his pride and contacted Angel for help.

He hadn’t wanted to tell Buffy that he had a possible lead on a cure, so he’d simply told her that he was going to L.A. for a little while to help Angel with something. She’d simply nodded in acknowledgement, and the distance in her eyes broke his heart. That night he’d cried as he made love to her one last time.

It was only much later that Spike realized that Buffy’s acceptance had actually been resignation. Despite everything they’d been through together, at some subconscious level she’d expected him to leave her once her powers were gone. He kicked himself for not realizing it at the time.

It was Angel who reluctantly provided the information that allowed Spike to access the Powers that Be. Fueled by his anger and pity, he’d raged against them, demanding to know why this should happen to their chosen warrior. Something about him — maybe their amusement that such a lowly creature would demand their services — seemed to interest them. He couldn’t care less what unfathomable reasons were behind their actions. The most important thing was that he’d been able to strike a bargain with them.

When he was returned to this realm, Spike discovered that, during his moment with the Powers, six weeks had passed. Buffy had been leaving increasingly frantic messages with Angel, who had been doing his best to reassure her that Spike was fine. The final one, from three weeks ago, simply said, Spike, please come home…

Spike took one last look at the lighted windows of their flat before exhaling a stream of smoke and crushing the cigarette beneath the sole of his boot. He was finally home. It was now the day before Christmas, and he’d come to bring Buffy a present. Like every gift, it had come at a price. He could only hope that she’d be able to accept it.

Right. Time to see how the story ends.

Part Two

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/7864.html

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