Hello, my fellow Spuffy readers! I’m so excited to have my posting day here at Seasonal Spuffy Round 20! *does a happy dance* Thanks to the mods and everyone for making this community possible. I *heart* all of you so much! Here’s to another 20, yeah? :P
I have one completed fic (this one) and the first part of a second fic (Chapter 1 of “The Anniversary Gift”) for your diversion and entertainment today. The rest of the second story will be posted on one of the remaining free-for-all days.
Title: Those Three Little Words
Word count: ~3500
Setting: Mid-episode towards the end of “Chosen”; canon-compliant.
Rating: R for violence, etc. consistent with the TV show.
A/N: Not fluffy. (“The Anniversary Gift” is the fluffy one.) But if you’ve watched “Chosen” to the end, well, it’s like that, only… not exactly. ;) I kind of agonized over this story, reeeally not sure how it’ll be received. Little nervous about that. Early draft beta’d by the wondrous All4Spike, before I altered it significantly in the last 48 hours. So, all errors my own, with too many lattes partially to blame.
Feedback: Yes yes yes, please! Oh, pretty please? (Okay, putting away that latte, now…)
“Buffy, Come on!”
The urgency in the voice cut through the rumbles of the crumbling cavern. That was Faith. And amidst the debris that rained from the shattering roof above, pinned in place by the force of his soul, Spike felt relief flood his body. He was good, and the good in him was currently turning thousands of Turok-Han, an army of evil, to dust. And if Faith was calling for Buffy, then the baby slayers—they’d all got out. There was yet time for Buffy. She was going to make it. Bloody brilliant.
“Go on, then!” he said, just before a jolt of mystical force coursed through his body and rendered him breathless.
He wanted vamps dusted, didn’t he? Well, he could cross that off his list. Except mystical amulets didn’t have a problem with throwing the baby out with the bathwater, or in this case, the soul-having vamp champion with the ubervamps.
He didn’t quite trust the words that rose up in his throat then (no, he was not going to bloody break down with a tearful goodbye), so he went for lightening the mood instead. “Gotta move, lamb. I think it’s fair to say school’s out for the bloody summer.”
As last words went… Well, he wasn’t one to care about last words. You lived, then you died. He did neither with an eye on posterity. Vampire, so the redemption he sought and fought for was not so much in the eyes of God. He’d long gathered all his hope and put it in the one girl in all the world. Going down fighting for her cause, against the worst of his kind, was poetic justice.
The earth shook as walls folded onto themselves. Ear-splitting howls from dying Turok-Han filled the cavern. Naturally, Buffy refused to budge. All that time lying in each other’s arms without a single word, and now she wanted to talk.
“Spike! Come with me. You can still—”
“Not yet, love. I gotta finish this.”
He couldn’t—he couldn’t listen. Surely she’d got a speech. The one she’d told the Bit from atop Glory’s tower had been immortalized by his nightmares—such heartbreak and wisdom out of the mouths of babes. No. She was going to live. No speech necessary.
And if she thought he needed false promises, delusions of survival… Nah, they were way past that, the two of them. Over the years they’d fought and fucked, stood together and made a team, lost control and almost danced to their mutual destruction. They’d broken each other, broken apart, only to come together once more to be made whole in each other’s forgiveness, in each other’s support, in each other’s arms. Those last nights had showed him that. There was nothing more he needed from her—
And then, he felt it: the warmth of a mortal sun he hadn’t basked in in over a century. No, not the burning rising from the depths of his soul to consume him whole. But from his out-stretched hand where she had intertwined her fingers with his, both engulfed in flames.
He saw the fire mirrored in her eyes, an intensity he didn’t want. Not now. But he couldn’t not meet her gaze in return. Felt as if he’d watched her for a lifetime and more, stalking and hunting in the beginning, hot-headed for Slayer blood. Then watching, just watching, the way one studied a curio with intrigue, amusement, confusion. Until that had turned into a stalking of a different type, of an obsession born of his blood (and not about hers), a literal thirst turned metaphorical. Until even later, after real change had taken root, and his purpose had crystallized, and watching her had grown into watching over her. A vamp protecting a Slayer. An insanity, a perversion even his insane, perverse sire couldn’t understand, couldn’t withstand.
And it all led to this moment, where he got to play the savior and watch her move on, with her life, without him in it.
He watched her, and she…glowed.
Then she did something she’d never done with him, something he’d wanted so much it’d been haunting his dreams.
“I love you,” she said, voice full of quiet conviction as the world crumbled around them.
* * * * * *
Someone with a cocky confidence would’ve answered differently, but for Spike, forever Love’s bitch, no response was possible to those three little words other than an eager reaffirmation. The long and winding, Turok-Han-laden road down which this would lead them, he couldn’t see past the first bend. But they’d be together, right and proper. And God help him, he couldn’t stop himself.
“Love you, too, Slayer. But your timing stinks. You really ought to—”
Something clicked in Buffy then, like he’d uttered the magic word, and before he knew what was happening, her hand had let go of his to yank, hard, on the chain around his neck.
For a brief moment he felt his essence pulled along the arc the thrown amulet was traveling toward the bottom of the pit, a raging meteor burning a trail of destruction. Then the connection was severed, the amulet’s glow fading before it hit the remaining ubervamps, and he was left standing next to Buffy, gasping hard.
“Come on! Up! Through the seal!” Buffy’s hand sought out his, and while his eyes adjusted to the darkness that enveloped them sans the illumination from one burning soul, Buffy seemed to know exactly which way to go.
His body felt like a sheet of broken glass held together by tape, but for the remainder of his unlife he would follow wherever she would lead, so he grabbed a long-sword that glinted, cool and sharp, from amidst fallen bodies at which he didn’t want to look too closely, and allowed himself to be pulled by the hand and ran.
Did she get a boost in mojo out of the Witch’s spell just before the battle? The hallway down which they ran, hand in hand, was being swallowed by the open mouth of Hell so rapidly it felt as if they were treading water, but she had no trouble matching his speed.
They’d have to dig their way out of the sunken building eventually. But the upside? With any luck, dropping an entire high school on the First Evil’s army would be enough to bury it alive.
The earthquake subsided, pointing out the flaw in his plan. In the quiet that emerged, a feral growl echoed through the battered walls. He skidded to a stop and turned to Buffy. “What say you we give the surviving uber-uglies a warm welcome?”
Buffy spun a stake in a tight arc and caught it, readying her stance. “All the way from Hell. We owe them as much.”
The Turok-Han were built for power and endurance, not for speed or agility. Giving chase was not among their strengths, which gave Spike and Buffy the rare luxury of time, to strategize, to stage their battleground, to lay in wait to ambush the ambush. They chose a stretch of relatively undamaged hallway around a blind corner, gated by a wall of rubble and a narrow passage through which the enemy would be forced to emerge slowly and without cover, while affording them a protected, unobstructed view of oncoming danger.
The first Turok-Han, already unsteady on his feet, went down in two seconds flat. Followed by the next. Side by side, back to back, Slayer fighting with a home-made stake and Spike fighting with fists and fangs and the occasional flash of sword—you couldn’t get more classic than that. Punch, kick, jab, leap, roll, jump, twist, slice, stake. One by one they picked off the Turok-Han that’d been in pursuit. Champion or not, this was the kind of fighting he preferred. Nothing like the rush of tearing a vamp’s head off and feeling it disintegrate into powder in one’s hands.
Spike shook his fist loose after punching a menacing Turok-Han in the mouth and shattering his victim’s teeth, relishing the act of spilling his enemy’s blood, feeling more in his element by the minute. Behind him, Buffy was taking on two ubervamps at the same time, playing them against each other, turning the strength of their powerful bodies into a weapon of mutual defeat. Slayer was doing all right.
He got in the uber-ugly’s face. “Did you a favor, really. See that you’ve been neglecting dental—”
With a roar, the enraged beast leapt on him, sinking his jagged tooth stumps into Spike’s jugular in a savage bite, and beginning to suck. Sputtering, Spike swung their tangled bodies around to bash his opponent’s head against the wall, while his fists rained a torrent of blows on the ubervamp’s midsection. The beast held fast with a vice-like grip, his powerful jaws locked on Spike’s neck, what left of his canines sinking deep into muscles and soft tissue.
It hurt like a bitch, and finding himself unable to make a sound, he felt around for something he could use as a weapon.
With the ubervamp still clamped onto his body, Spike turned into the direction of Buffy’s voice, left hand shooting out automatically to snatch a flying projectile out of the air. It was a stake, slick from battle, point worn dull but no less effective, and he drove it home in one decisive plunge.
As bone and flesh turned to ash, the pressure melted away from his neck.
“Ta, love,” he coughed out.
He tossed Mr. Pointy back to Buffy, who caught it with her foot in a roundhouse kick that directed it to pierce through the hearts of two vamps sneaking single-file through the rubble.
With the immediate crisis averted, Buffy had dashed to his side before the stake hit the floor, one hand nudging the shirt collar off his shoulder, the other walking a path gingerly up his neck along the perimeter of his gaping wound, her fingertips warm with sweat and light as spider silk. She winced. Not a pretty sight, he gathered. She asked, concern pouring out of her voice like honey, “You okay?”
He wasn’t, but what would be the sodding point of confirming the grim truth without a chance at recourse? The scent of power and Slayer blood and adrenaline and blood from too many bodies added up to a heady mixture that made him dizzy, made him worry for her. The soul had robbed him of the ability to dismiss deaths around him with a free conscience. What Slayer didn’t know was that his guilt was made extra tangible by his hyper vamp sense of smell. The dead would rot, but it was the guilt that reeked.
He tried to shrug all casual-like, but it smarted enough that he let slip a grunt of pain. Which she noticed, all piercing reproach and trembling lower lip. But he’d always been stubborn, so he unclenched and diverted her fingers that’d been mapping out his future scar to his lips instead, and covered them with ardent kisses. “No need to mollycoddle me, pet,” he drawled. “You know vampires. Oral fixation goes with the family.”
That coaxed a smile out of her, even a little color on her cheeks. So she remembered. Well.
“Hmm.” She studied his face, her gaze lingering a second longer on his lips. “Can’t say I see the family resemblance. Thank God.”
Spike surveyed the spread before their stronghold. The closest beastie was still outside strike range, creeping forward in an apparent attempt at inconspicuous but dragging a metric tonne of crunching debris beneath his clumsy body. They’d got it under control.
Sod it. His arms snaked around Buffy’s waist to bring their bodies flush, his cool despite the exertion, and hers hot from battle and something else, too. He dipped his head to meet her lips (paying no nevermind to the strain in his neck), and she bloomed against him, her breath torrid, the tip of her tongue velvety and tantalizing between lips that tasted of salt and pomegranate lip-gloss. Oh, but her eyes…they promised him the world.
Except, time and place and all that. And the jacket she’d torn into make-shift bandages and tied mercilessly around her waist—the one that’d once matched the color of her blush—was now deep with a patch of maroon. So he schooled his expression to hide the fire in his eyes, and said, “How you holding up, love?”
“Eh, it’s a thankless job,” she said with feigned boredom, picking up the stake lying in a layer of dust and thrusting it into the heart of a suicidal, charging ubervamp in one smooth move. Then she turned to him, eyes bright and earnest, and said, voice low and fervent, “But I’ve got you.”
Kicking the creeping vamp hard in the chin and sending it to crash against a bank of lockers, he said, “You really have.”
To which she added, soft as a prayer but fierce as a promise, “And you’ve got me.”
It’d be another hour or two before he figured out it wasn’t going to be enough.
* * * * * *
It was hard to pin down when a battled shifted, like the tide turning. Always, there were signs in hind sight. As in when her last stake fractured. Or when he, eager but misjudging the strike angle, applied too much force to the sword, and the tapered tip snapped. Or maybe it was when the banter between them dwindled, each too focused on survival to engage in wordplay. Or perhaps it was when the straggling survivors they’d expected of the Turok-Han swelled into an army. Still an army. After all that’d been said and done.
Definitely when the realization hit Spike that he’d made a terrible mistake. The Champion was supposed to wager his life in his chosen challenge, and he’d deserted his post for what? A chance at domestic bliss with the Slayer? Oh, but he’d doomed them both.
She was supposed to get out. She would’ve, had he stayed to finish the fight. Fulfilled his mission as the trinket-wearing, soulful Champion: more than a human, yet dispensable. Just obtuse or devoted enough to walk willingly to his own death. Just enough of a fool for love.
He held the sword horizontally, edge out, and shoved a line of Turok-Han back with all his strength to afford himself a breather. A chance to lay out his case. “Buffy!”
She turned to him in an instant, a rebar in hand. “Yeah?”
He hurled a brick at a vamp behind her, a skill honed to perfection thanks to all those sleepless nights fretting about the First Evil while under the watchful suspicion of the Watcher, until both had succumbed to a game of darts, or ten. A dust cloud erupted.
“Go. Head for higher ground. Look for stairs. Windows. Sunlight. Places where the rubble may be weakest. You need to get out before sunset, love. Regroup. Find the baby slayers and the Watcher. Gear up for Round Two.”
“What? No!” She said automatically, without a hint of hesitation, already turning back to making vamp shish kebab.
Another brick, another vamp. This one she’d been fighting, and had injured. That did it.
“Hey! Plenty of vampires to go around—”
“Exactly! Buffy, love, look around. We’re not going to make it. But you can. It’s still light out. As long as we get you into sunlight, you’ll be safe. They can’t give chase aboveground.”
“You mean,” her voice wavered, hand sliding down the rebar that threatened to topple. “If I leave. If I leave you.”
It took a moment for Spike to kick free from locking elbows and clawing hands before he could answer, his voice thick through fangs. “I’ll hold ‘em back. Slow ‘em down. Should give you enough of a window to—”
“What happened to ‘I’ve got you’? What happened to ‘We have each other’? What kind of man says goodbye right after he says ‘I love you’? And what kind of…” Her voice broke. She lanced an ubervamp with her rebar and her fury, and flung him like a ragdoll. “What kind of woman deserts her lover?”
The Turok-Han kept on coming, slow but steady, even though the cracked hallway floor was already slick with dust.
“The ones with a mission! Slayer! You named me your Champion. That’s what we are,” he said, staying in gameface to bite back the tears that stung his eyes. “Come on!”
He pulled her back into a retreat, turning down the hall where in one spot a blazing shaft of sunlight pierced through the wall of rubble. He faced her. “Together, we have an apocalypse to avert. A world to save.”
Buffy was shaking her head vehemently. “No! I know this talk! I’ve sacrificed enough for this world! Why can’t the world save me for once?!”
“Oh, Buffy. But I am—saving you. Allow me, just this once. All right, love?”
He recognized the moment she sealed her fate, when, instead of making good her escape, she laced her fingers with his, looked up to meet his eyes with defiance, and said with the finality of an obstinate child, “I am not! Leaving you! I love you!” Her words echoed in his mind, down the hall of the sunken school, towards the swarm of vicious, advancing Turok-Han.
* * * * * *
How long had Spike waited, with bated non-breath, for her declaration of those three precious little words? Fate was a right bitch, to turn his desire against him, and fulfill his wish in a direct stab to the heart followed by a vicious twist applied to the knife’s handle. It was to be some final torment, that the woman of his dreams, Buffy Anne Summers, Slayer among slayers, would bestow her long-withheld love on him and end up immediately paying the ultimate price.
The realization burned, and when he nearly doubled over from pain, with only Buffy’s hand, interlocked with his own, to steady him, he caught sight of the cursed amulet hanging heavily from his chest.
And he understood.
Not a final torment. A final gift.
There were those who believed that death would be preceded by the passing of one’s life before one’s eyes. He’d hoped his wouldn’t be, not exactly anxious to relive a century of carnage and bloodshed from this side of the soul. Not too keen about the impending final judgement, either. The movie montage of his time on this earth would not be a kind cut.
So he thanked his lucky stars that, as it turned out, his moment of clarity that slowed the procession of time did not recount his past sins, but instead, permitted a glimpse into the future—her future—that could be secured at the low cost of merely his own.
Buffy had such a look on her face now, gazing up to his. Soft and determined, full of love and hope, glowing with youth and brilliant potential. “I love you,” she’d said, and he knew it to be true.
It made him smile.
Even amidst shrieks of uncountable ubervamps dissolving into uberdust. Even as the ground groaned. Nah. Especially as. If you saved the earth a lot, this was downright romantic.
He knew exactly what he had to do. Now if he could just resist the titillation of her voice echoing ad infinitum in his mind: i love you i love you i love you.
“No you don’t,” he told her, told his Buffy, his golden Slayer. “But thanks for saying it.”
Her eyes flashed with something dark, and she opened her mutinous little mouth—to offer a retort, no doubt, but an earthquake rocked them both, and he pushed her away.
Gently, but with all of his strength.
“Leave the cleanup here to me. It’s your world up there. Now go!”
She hesitated for a moment, but he was done listening.
He couldn’t watch when she backed away, her soot-covered heels (only Buffy would’ve spared a thought for fashion during preparation for a fight to the death) shuffling into a run up the stairs. And then she was gone.
He’d hardened his heart to say whatever it would take to get her out. He was relieved more wasn’t necessary.
So maybe he did care about last words, but only with her, for her.
The energy that continued to pulse through his body in an imitation of a heartbeat, imitation of life suddenly flared, the searing agony leaving him little room for conscious thought. But he knew Buffy was safe, and the world would be too, just as soon as he finished wiping out those undead demons, upholding life’s triumph over death. Bloody Champion here, after all.
Laughter bubbled up in his chest, spilling forth from his mouth. In the blinding light the world melted around him, and he was dissolving, too, becoming one with the light.
Until all that remained was Buffy’s three little words, freed from the confines of his mind. Her eyes incandescent, her voice like honey, the untold promises of her fingers interlocked with his own.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/559157.html