AKA as the day to post for dummies like me who had their posting date wrong… Moving along, and wishing all my fellow Americans a very happy ritual sacrifice with pie, here are seven chapters of my intended entry for this anniversary round at Seasonal Spuffy. I hope to have the last one or two chapters completed in time for the next free-for-all date. Still debating about the other fic (the one that ate my brain and made it harder to work on this one). I think I’m going to post it on the sb-ashtray, but we’ll see. I may make it a second offering here. Can’t decide…
Anyway, moving along, I’m posting this two chapters at a time to save my download allowance.
I can’t believe I posted all this and forgot to mention that abelina has taken time from her own writing to run an extra set of eyes over these chapters for me. Needless to say, she is not responsible for whatever tinkering I may have done to them after she saw them. Thanks, Abs! :)
Post NFA – Set very loosely in the LA of After the Fall comics. All you really need to know is that Angel and Spike survived the demon army the Senior Partners threw at them. When that didn’t work, the Sr. Partners encased the city of Los Angeles in a dimensional bubble, which allowed the demons to quickly take over the city. Humans are rapidly becoming an endangered species, although some of those unable to find hidden shelters are being kept as slaves before being killed. Angel and Spike work to save as many of them as they can. Because the comics at IDW wandered around a bit, I’ve decided not to worry about “canon”, it’s just too complicated. So, I’ve borrowed the setting and mention of a dragon, but that’s it. Don’t look for specific demon lords or events. This is my story set in that world.
When You Need a Job Done Right, Send a Slayer
season: future after NFA
rating: eventually R, but don’t look for a lot of sexy times.
“What do we know about that mess in LA?” Buffy had her hands on her hips as she stared at Giles. She tried to keep her face blank and curious, but she was pretty sure the suspicion and anger were bleeding through her carefully controlled expression.
Giles sighed and reached for his glasses and his handkerchief. Buffy wasn’t interested in his stalling tactics, snapping out, “They’re fine. Nice and clean. I can see your shifty eyes just fine through them.”
“If the next words out of your mouth aren’t going to be ‘I’m sorry, Buffy. I had no idea Spike was alive and with Angel.’ you can just spare me the gory details. I don’t want to hear your excuses; just tell me what’s going on now.”
“We don’t really know,” he said so carefully she could tell that he was wondering if he’d failed one too many times to trust her judgment about the vampire she’d thought burnt to a hero’s death. “It seems that Angel was trying to take down the Black Thorn from the inside.”
Giles fixed his sternest look on her, and Buffy responded with an expression she hoped relayed her complete disinterest in his opinion. “And?”
“And, in the process of earning their trust, he committed some less than… honorable acts. I had no reason to trust him, or any information that came from anyone there. Most especially with his now being the CEO of an evil law firm… But then, you already knew that, didn’t you? Weren’t you the one who told me to be cautious, that he may have lost his soul again? You didn’t trust him either.”
“I’m talking about the vampire I do trust. And you damn well know it.”
“He chose to remain with Angel,” Giles said stiffly. “I had no reason to trust him either. Since he hadn’t contacted you, I had to assume he was no longer interested in fighting at your side.”
Buffy’s flinch was impossible to hide, but she pushed on. “Wouldn’t that have been information I needed to have? If Spike had lost his soul… which, by the way, he didn’t have when he first started helping me… you didn’t think that would be Important for me to know? What if he’d shown up here and I—”
“If I’d had any information that indicated he was on his way to see you, I would certainly have shared my concerns. But I didn’t. He seemed quite content to remain in LA with Angel, enjoying the perks of working at an evil, but very successful law firm.”
She took a deep breath before responding.
“But they don’t work there anymore, do they?”
He cleared his throat, clearly uncomfortable with the turn the conversation had taken.
“No. It would appear that they do not. It would also appear that there was a final battle in which the, understandably angry, Senior Partners, threw everything they had in the way of a demon army at Angel, Spike, and whomever was left of their group.” He sighed deeply. “It would seem that Wesley did not make that final battle, although he was responsible for—”
“Wesley is dead?”
“Yes. As I’m sure Faith has told you, at some point in his… search… for himself, he became a demon hunter on his own, and then was recruited by Angel and added to his small group of assistants. He died bravely, attempting to remove a powerful sorcerer, and was avenged by the creature calling herself Illyria.” He frowned. “I’m not clear exactly on how or why an Old One would have found itself in Los Angeles, let alone fighting against the forces of evil.”
“So, they pissed off a bunch of old evil guys and had a big fight. Which, I’d like to point out, might have gone in another direction if we’d had a squad or two of slayers there to help out…”
Giles pinched the bridge of his nose. “In retrospect, perhaps that would have been a good idea. However, at the time I had no—”
“This is not the “I-used-to-be-a-Watcher”s council. It’s the Slayers and Watchers Council. How could you even think about making a decision about what fights we were needed for without consulting me?”
“Or me.” Faith had come through the door just in time to catch what the conversation was about. “There were people there I… I owe. Especially Angel and Wes.”
Buffy watched impassively as Giles stared at them – the world’s two oldest and most powerful slayers, both clearly furious with him. His fear was obvious. Either one could have killed him with one punch. In spite of their power having been shared with so many others, rather than becoming weaker, they had continued to get stronger until there were very few demons left that would be a match for either one of them – never mind both at the same time.
He slumped back in his chair. “You are quite right. I made decisions for you that were not mine to make. I am very, very sorry. Not just because that may have caused the loss of… people… who were important to you, but because I have probably eroded whatever trust I may have managed to recover in the past year.”
“We need to fix this. The seers told me that LA is pretty much cut off from the rest of the country. Some kind of major mojo of a glamor is keeping out everybody who wasn’t there when things went bad, and without creating any curiosity or panic about it. That’s some powerful spell casting, if that’s what’s happened.”
Giles nodded. “I am still getting reports myself, but it does seem to be the case that there has been no actual communication with anyone from inside the city limits.” He stared at them intently. “Which means, we have absolutely no way of knowing if Angel or Spike, or any of their companions are even still alive. You could be going to rescue people who are already beyond your help.”
Both girls gaped at him, Buffy finding her voice first as Faith was busy muttering curses. “So, what? You’re saying we should just leave an entire city full of – just in case you forgot – human beings trapped in a demon-infested hell on earth?”
He sighed. “No, I suppose when you put it like that—”
“What other way is there to put it? Do I want to find Spike and save his skinny ass so I can kick it for not letting me know what was going on? Damn right, I do. And if I can, I will. But even if I knew for sure he and Angel were dust, I’d still want to try to save whatever’s left of the city I was born in!”
Buffy was breathing hard and shouting by the time she finished, but her face was surprisingly calm. The cold stare she settled on him was meant to be more frightening than a more angry, hands on hips stance or a glare. Giles bowed his head and shut his eyes. Buffy nodded, accepting his acknowledgement of what was clearly another nail in the coffin containing what used to be a loving relationship.
“Right then,” he said softly. “What will you need? Our resources are at your disposal, although I would prefer that you not pull all our experienced slayers from the field—”
“I want the plane, at least forty girls, food, water, and credit cards — in case we have to hang around outside the city, weapons – including some firepower. We don’t know what we’re going to find or be facing. Probably ought to have a witch or two with us. I think Willow was friends with one of Angel’s people – some guy named Fred?”
“Fred is a girl,” Faith put in. “Genius-type, just like Willow, only more about the science than magic. I met her a couple of times. Seemed like good people. I think Wes might have had a thing for her.”
“And what is your plan?”
“Get in. Slay everything that isn’t human and get out.”
“It may not be that easy,” Giles said, frowning as the two slayers high-fived each other.
“Easy is for wimps,” Faith said. “We’re taking slayers with us.”
“Make it happen, Giles,” Buffy said as she followed Faith from his office. “I want to leave tomorrow.”
In spite of Buffy’s words, it was another three days before they had collected all the supplies, weapons and slayers they needed. But they were finally in the air and on their way to Los Angeles.
The first sign of trouble was when the pilot came back to tell them that for some reason, he could not get clearance to land the big jet at LA Airport.
“I’m just getting a runaround about where and when we can set down. They want us to land at Ontario.”
“Fine. Land there. We’ll find another way into the city.”
The slayer in charge of communications quickly sent a message to the Council employee who was to meet them, alerting her to the change in plans, and to Giles so that he could make whatever arrangements needed making at the new airport.
When permission had been received for the plane to land at much-busier than normal Ontario airport, and Buffy and Faith had shepherded their slayers off the plane and through a very brief customs set up in the airport’s out of the way area for private jets, they collected their bags — including the weapons that a nod from the supervisor to his astonished workers assured were whisked through without question –and walked out to the parking area. They were looking around for the promised transportation when a dirty bus pulled up to the curb and the door opened.
“Ms. Summers? Ms. Lehane?” The driver was a middle-aged woman who seemed annoyed that they were there before her. “I’m to take you to the edge of the event area.”
“Event area?” Buffy stepped up into the bus and gestured for the girls to begin loading.
“That’s what we’re calling it. Nobody really knows what the event was… just that nobody can get in or out of the area.”
“We’ll just see about that,” Buffy muttered, exchanging looks with Faith.
“So, waddaya think?” The witch studying the scying bowl in front of the mystical barrier into the city gave Faith a glare, before going back to her bowl. She frowned, then sat back and gestured for Buffy and Faith to take a look.
It took the two slayers a moment to orient themselves to what they were seeing – humans in chains held by demons walking openly down the street, vampires walking freely in the oddly dim light at high noon. As they watched, a dragon swooped down and bit the head off the demon at the front of the line of humans. In the confusion, a black van roared up and in front of their eyes Angel and Spike leapt out and began helping the humans into the van. While the dragon held off other demons with flaming breath, the two vampires that had been presumed dust jumped back in, pulling the doors shut behind them as the van took off, scattering demons and vampires in it’s wake.
The witch waved her hand, erasing the scene, and smiled at them.
“Well, now you know what it’s like there. And that there seems to be a resistance….”
“Yeah, Buffy. Looks like both your vamps made it through.”
“And now they’re trying to clean up their mess,” Buffy said, nodding. “Guess it’s time for the cavalry to arrive.” She smiled her thanks at the witch. “Jeannie, do you think we can get in?”
“Molly and I are working on something. A spell that might make a small enough opening that it won’t be noticed. I’m not sure we can keep it open all the time, though. We may have to do something else.”
“Okay. Well, let us know when you think it’s ready.”
“So, what’s the plan, B? You kick Blondie’s ass and I kick Angel’s? You can’t have them both, just so you know.”
Buffy sighed and nudged Faith with an elbow. “I don’t really want them both. I’m just glad to see they’re alive – so to speak – and haven’t gone all evil on us.”
“Just so we’re clear, which one are you planning to beat up?”
“Oh, it’ll be Spike. I’m just not sure if I want to kiss him and then beat him half to death, or beat him half to death and then kiss him. I guess I’ve got time to decide.” She smiled. “Either way, Angel’s all yours.”
Faith smacked her fist into her hand. “I can’t wait.”
They were quiet for a few minutes, then Buffy said, “Do you think we could have prevented this? If we’d known? If we’d been here with a couple squads of slayers….”
“I dunno, but I think your honey and his know-it-all grandpa have to take as much of the blame as Giles. They could have told you Spike was here, and you’d have coming runnin’ in time to find out what was going down.”
“Oh I know. Believe me, that’s one conversation neither one of them is going to want to have. But once Giles knew….”
“Once he knew – about anything – he should have told us. He needs a reminder that he isn’t a watcher anymore and we make our own decisions.”
“So, this is our way in?” Faith stared dubiously at the three-foot-in-diameter circle swirling in front of them.
“That’s the best we can do. You’ll just have to bend way down to get through it.”
Jeannie smiled at them. “On the plus side, we’ve been able to locate the general area that the vampires seem to disappear into, and we can set this up to open in that area.” She frowned. “If we get lucky, someone will be able to watch through the scrying bowl so you know what to expect on the other side. It’s going to take both Molly and me to keep the portal open for you.”
“So we won’t be able to get back out?” Buffy frowned and exchanged looks with Faith.
“We can keep the scry bowl open pretty much full-time, and follow you in that. Give us a signal when you need or want to come out, and we’ll open the portal again.”
“Or if we want reinforcements?”
“Or that. You’re not taking everyone then?”
“Not this time. We need to find out what’s going on, who the bad guys are, how to find them… stuff like that. We’ll take just enough girls with us to make it a bad idea for anything nasty to try to interfere. When we want the rest of the squads, we’ll give you a signal.”
“What kind of signal?”
Buffy and Faith snickered and at the same time said, “Help!” They were still giggling as they went to pick a squad to take with them.
“I guess we should come up with something more senior slayerish than ‘help’,” Buffy said with a sigh.
“Yeah. We need something we can do without sound, and probably more than one. One for ‘Get us out of here!’, a different one for ‘Send more slayers’.”
“And one that means ‘It’s on. Send everybody,” Buffy said. “Too bad none of us speak sign language.”
“Abby does. She’s the deaf girl, remember?”
“Former deaf girl. Can’t she hear now?”
“Yeah. When she got her powers, she got her ears back too. But she knows sign language. She can teach everybody a few simple signs to use.”
“Great idea. Let’s talk to her before we tell everybody what’s going on.”
“So, that’s the sitch. The portal is small and it can’t stay open, so Faith and I will take a few girls through with us and try to find out what’s going on and what or who we need to kill. The scry bowl will stay focused on us as much as possible, so you will know what we find.” Buffy gestured to the embarrassed girl standing next to Faith.
“Abby here is going to teach us all enough sign language to be able to communicate if we need to. Please pay attention – write it down if you need to.”
Buffy pulled Abby up beside her. “You’re on, Abs.”
Blushing and nodding, Abby took a deep breath and began to speak, signing as she did so. “I hope you can all understand me,” she said as clearly as she could. “I still don’t speak very clearly, but I’m getting better.”
Murmurs of “You’re fine. I can understand you.” came from the group of slayers watching her. Only one girl said, “What did she say?” and she was quickly shushed by her neighbors.
Abby held up her hands. “If you see anybody in the scry bowl doing this” – she made a very understandable gesture with both hands – “it means they need to come out. Tell Jeannie or Molly right away.”
“If they do this” – she made an “okay” gesture with one hand – “It means they’re fine and you should just keep watching. This” — she made another very easy to duplicate gesture holding up fingers – “means we need to send more slayers, as many as fingers held up. And this—” she threw both hands in the air “—means send everybody and bring the weapons.”
She looked around the room. “Does everybody get that? I’m not trying to teach you sign language tonight, just give you some easy to use signs so that no matter who is watching, or who is communicating, everybody knows what is being said.”
Buffy stepped back up beside her. “Thanks, Abby. Does anybody have any questions? I suggest you practice among yourselves for a while. We’ll be going in soon and we’re taking Suzie’s squad with us. Angela, your squad is on scry bowl duty. Somebody should be monitoring it at all times. The rest of you, make sure the weapons are ready to go, and that you’re fed and rested.”
Buffy and Faith stood watching the portal grow from a tiny hole in the air to the much larger one they’d seen before.
“Okay, ladies. With a little luck, we’re going to be stepping out into a relatively safe area, but keep your eyes open. You’ve all been briefed on what the two vampires we’re looking for look like. Anything that doesn’t look like either one of them is dustable. The dragon’s an unknown factor. It seemed to be helping them out before, so we’ll treat it as neutral or friendly until we know otherwise. Let’s go.”
Buffy bent down and pushed herself through the portal, hitting the ground on the other side and rolling away as another girl came through right behind her. Faith came through last and they all watched as the portal winked out of sight.
“Make a note where it was,” Faith said, pointing to the now empty space. “What else is here, and how close.”
“Do we have to be here to go back?”
“Probably not. But if they can’t open it where we are for some reason – like a horde of demons waiting to go through – then this might be the safest place. We hope not. But if they see us with a group of humans, they’ll probably try to open it right there so we can send them all out. But we don’t know.”
The well-trained slayers formed a circle and surveyed their situation. To the left of the spot they’d come through the portal was a dumpster, overflowing with trash. To the right, was the burnt-out hulk of a car. One look inside had them retreating from it.
“Gross! There’s a burned up body in there.”
“Probably won’t be the worst thing we see here. Just keep together and lets see if we can find where Spike and Angel hide when they aren’t rescuing people.”
One of the girls pointed at an old building that a first glance seemed deserted. A closer look showed footsteps in the dust of the loading dock facing the alley they were in. Buffy frowned at the familiar looking building, but Faith headed right for it.
“It’s the Hyperion. I’d recognize this old loading dock anywhere. Makes sense they’d be holed up in here.” She jumped up onto the loading dock, only to bounce off an invisible barrier. “What the fuck?”
“It’s got magical protection? That doesn’t sound like Spike or Angel.”
While they stared at the building, searching for some sign that it might contain vampires, they saw the door begin to open. All eight slayers fell into fighting stances, stakes or swords at the ready, and waited to see what would emerge from the seemingly empty building.
Spike stood there, frozen, staring at Buffy, then shook himself and turned to yell back over his shoulder. “It’s nothing. Just Slayers one and two come to call. And they brought a few friends.”
He was shoved aside as Angel opened the door the rest of the way. “What the hell are you—” He halted, staring from Buffy to Faith and back again.
“Surprise,” Buffy said cheerfully. “Are we going to be invited in?”
“Uh, yeah, of course. You’ll have to be-” Spike still stood by the door, only his mouth moving. Angel had yet to say anything, blinking slowly as if just waking up.
Faith rolled her eyes and walked as close as she could get to the barrier. “Well, is one of you two assholes going to invite us in? We’re feeling a little exposed out here.”
“Oh… sorry. Of course, of course.” Angel stepped back and said, “Come in, Buffy, Faith, umm… other slayers.”
Faith leaped onto the loading dock and shook her head. “Suzie, Amy, Sam, Julie, Annie, Grace. Repeat it, idiot.”
When Angel had stumbled through all the girls’ names and they had all joined Faith on the platform, Buffy took a last look around, made an OK gesture toward where the portal had been and then jumped up herself.
“Ok, lets get inside,” Angel said. “And then you can explain how you got here.”
Angel held the door while Faith led the squad inside and waited for Buffy to join them. When she didn’t follow immediately, Faith shrugged and mouthed “good luck” at Spike as she stepped inside, leaving the door ajar.
Buffy was staring at Spike with a combination of disbelief, longing, and fury. He took a deep breath and said, “I can explain—”
“If I let you live that long,” Buffy said, whirling to follow her slayers into the building.
“Right. If you let me live that long.” Spike sighed and followed her in, closing the doors behind him and putting a bar across them.
“What’s that for if you have a barrier?”
“It’s kind of a reverse barrier. Keeps demons and humans out, but a vamp could walk right through it. We learned that the hard way.”
They faced each other again, staring into each other’s eyes until they reached some sort of mutually acceptable conclusion. Buffy’s lips twitched as Spike’s expression faded into one of the soft smiles he used to give her when no one else was around. Without giving away how affected she was at seeing his emotions so clearly, she turned away, saying, “As soon as we’ve kicked whatever butts need kicking to get this city free, your ass is the next one in line.”
“Looking forward to it,” he said, risking a light touch on her back. “I missed you too.”
“Hmph!” Buffy twitched, then leaned back into his hand just enough to keep him from pulling away. “That’s kinda what I meant.”
“Was hoping it was,” he said, moving close enough to whisper in her ear. “Didn’t think you’d be that brassed off at me if it wasn’t.”
She whirled to stare at him, not backing away when that put them face to face, but instead moving closer to hiss at him, “FYI, you asshole, even if I’d been lying when I said I loved you – which I wasn’t, by the way – I still would have grieved for you, just like I did for Anya and all the girls we lost in there. In what universe would it have been okay for you to let me think you were dead too?”
He stared into her suddenly damp eyes as long as he could, then dropped his head, saying, almost too softly, “None.” He looked down between them for seconds, waiting for her to move away; when she didn’t move, he pulled his gaze back up.
“I… I wish I could find a way to tell you how sorry I am, Buffy. I wish I had some excuse that isn’t going to sound like a load of bollox. But I don’t. I was stupid, and a world-class wanker, and in no way do I deserve your forgiveness or your… affection. I know that.”
Before she could respond, Faith called out, “Hey, can you two make googly-eyes later. You know, like after we figure out what we’re doing here?”
With a guilty start, Buffy turned around. “This isn’t over,” she growled, once more the general. Spike remained uncharacteristically silent as he followed her into the hotel kitchen where everyone was standing around.
“Sorry, everybody,” she said. “Letting personal stuff get in the way. It won’t happen again.” She felt Spike’s rumbled growl behind her, but ignored it. “So, Angel, what’s the sitch?”
Shooting a glare at Spike, he said, “Faith tells me you have a portal that we can send people through.”
“We do. Can’t leave it open, but we can open it when we need it. And we have more slayers waiting on the other side.”
He nodded. “Right now, the best thing you can do for us is open the portal so we can send all the people we’ve managed to rescue back through it. It’s getting really crowded in here, and it’s hard to keep this many people fed.”
“How many people?”
Angel looked at Spike who shrugged.
“Last time I counted, we had almost 200. That doesn’t include the ones we brought in yesterday, though.”
“Whoa! Okay, we’re going to need more than just sign language to set that up. One of you girls is going to have to go back and tell them what’s going on. We need to know the portal will be ready before we take anybody outside, and that it can stay open long enough to get them all through.”
Julie raised her hand. “I’ll go. Should I bring more girls back with me?”
Buffy shook her head. “Let’s get the people out of here first, and figure out where we need to fight. Maybe bring back some big sheets of paper and some markers so we can communicate a little better? Rather than sending somebody back and forth all the time? Ask Jeannie if she can keep the scrying bowl focused on that loading dock unless we ask her to follow us somewhere. That way, we can leave messages without getting outside the barrier.”
“Sounds good, B. I’m going to take Julie back outside. Don’t lock the door on me.”
“I’ve got it,” Spike surprised her by saying. He followed Faith and Julie out of the kitchen without looking at Buffy again.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/531318.html