Even Champions Need a Home – 1

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Even Champions Need a Home
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Title: Even Champions Need a Home
Author: Slaymesoftly
Rating: PG13
Disclaimer: It didn’t happen this way, because the man who owns these characters didn’t write it. But he said I could. :)

Summary: It’s the summer before Season VII; Buffy is led to Spike and told he is a champion that she must take care of until it’s time for him. She’s dubious at first, but very glad to see him again. Important conversations are had, as they should have been, long before he goes up like a candle.

AN: Although, this was written for Seasonal Spuffy, I started it based on a banner that I liked at a “fic for banner” community – may have been WriterCon UK, I don’t remember. Anyway, it turned out that someone else had already chosen that banner and I didn’t want to share (lol), so I chose another one and tucked this idea away. But I wanted to tell the story, so I brought it out and tried to bend it so as to at least approach the “Humor” “Hope” themes of this round. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, and since we all know the ultimate ending, can’t really be hopeful in the long-term; but at this little point in their relationship…

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This gorgeous banner, as was the original one, is from my wonderful beta, Always_jbj, who is multi-talented. Aren’t I lucky?

Even Champions Need a Home

Chapter One

“You miss him, don’t you?” Dawn’s voice held an accusatory tone that Buffy just wasn’t in the mood to hear.

“What if I do? It’s none of your business.”

“You’re mooning over a soulless demon who tried to rape you, and you don’t think it’s my business?” Dawn’s voice rose as she got into her subject. “You carried on a sleazy affair with him all last year that you couldn’t even tell me about, you were so ashamed of it, and I’m not supposed to care that you obviously want to start up all over again?”

“Since when do you call Spike a ‘soulless demon’? And I never told you he tried to rape me—“

“You didn’t have to. We all know what he did.”

“Xander.” Buffy’s voice was hard and cold. “I guess that explains the ‘soulless demon’ remark from the girl who used crush on Spike so hard she couldn’t see straight.”

“At least my eyes were opened before he got a chance to hurt me.”

Buffy whirled on her sister. “If you believe that Spike would ever, ever do anything to hurt you, you’re…you’re even dumber than you look!”

Without another word, Buffy left the house, storming down the street without a clear destination, but knowing that she had to get away. A small voice in her head was suggesting that instead of getting angry at Dawn, she could have quietly explained that the situation was a bit more complicated than Xander had indicated. She told the little voice to “shut up” and continued walking, resolutely turning her eyes away from the gate to Restfield Cemetery.

She still checked Spike’s crypt once or twice a week when she patrolled there, but she’d long since quit expecting to see him. She and Clem had settled into a quiet understanding that when Buffy wanted to spend some time in the crypt, he would go out for snacks, returning only when the dark interior told him that she had left. His tentative question about whether she wanted to talk had earned him the first Slayer glare he’d ever received, and he quickly decided he never wanted that look turned his way again. So he hadn’t mentioned that he thought he’d seen Spike slipping through an alley several weeks ago. When, after a couple of weeks, the vampire hadn’t shown up to reclaim his crypt, Clem decided that he must have been imagining things and was very glad he hadn’t mentioned it to the Slayer.

After walking most of the way through Sunnydale, Buffy finally decided that the only thing that was going to take the edge off her anger was to slay something, and she headed for the nearest graveyard. Luck was with her as she came upon a small group of vamps clustered around a new grave, clearly waiting for its inhabitant to rise.

“Is this a private party, or can anyone play?” she chirped, mentally chiding herself for the lameness of her quip.

“It’s private,” one of them snarled without even looking at her. When one of his more alert companions began to poke him, harder and harder as Buffy continued towards them, he finally lifted his gaze from the still-undisturbed grave in front of him.

“Slayer.”

“Vampire.”

“Get her, boys!”

By the time he finished speaking, two of the “boys” were drifting away and Buffy was punching the remaining one while she alternately pretended it was Spike, Xander or Dawn. By the time she drove a stake through the bewildered vamp’s chest, she had worked off enough anger that she was able to shrug when she realized that the leader of the little gang had run off. She sat down on a nearby tombstone and waited for the new one to rise – which he did very soon, not even making it out of the ground before she turned him to dust.

“I guess Spike would have said that wasn’t very sporting,” she mused, staring at the dust falling back onto the barely disturbed grave. “But he’s not here, so, hey, bonus points for not making a dusty mess on somebody else’s grave.”

With a sigh that there was no one around to appreciate her humor, she allowed herself to admit how much she missed the latest man that she appeared to have driven out of her life. Unlike Xander and Dawn, Buffy was more than aware that she had allowed Spike to work himself into the frenzy that led to his attack on her, and that she hadn’t stopped him when she should have. By the time she had realized that he was seriously planning to physically ”show” her that she loved him, he had already gone so far beyond what was acceptable – even between them – that her final ugly words were unnecessary. His face said everything about how he felt about himself. She couldn’t even claim to be surprised when she took Dawn to his crypt and found that he had left Sunnydale.

Even as she told herself that it was good that he was gone – that they were not good for each other – she accepted his desertion with the resignation of someone who had never had a man stay by her when things went wrong. If there was a small trace of relief that he had only left town and not dusted himself, she smothered it under her self-righteous anger that he would take the easy way out and leave, rather than to stay and face her.

With a small sigh for what was past, she turned her feet towards Revello Drive, determined to go home and talk it out with her sister.

“““““““““““““““`
The following evening, Buffy patrolled with little enthusiasm. As usual, the Hellmouth was quiet during the summer months, the small group of vamps she’d met the night before being the first action Buffy had found for weeks. So, when a strange, funky–smelling, almost human-looking demon began strolling beside her, she didn’t look at him with her normal suspicion.

“Go away. It’s summertime and I’m on vacation.”

“The Slayer doesn’t get vacations,” he responded without missing a beat.

“So, you’re here to be slain? Happy to oblige…”

She shot out one arm and grabbed him by the throat. She listened to his frantic gurgles for a few minutes, watched his bulging eyes and waving hands, and cocked her head at him. With a shrug and a harsh laugh, she released his neck and continued walking. She had several minutes to enjoy her solitude before he caught up with her, his hand rubbing his throat protectively.

“Can’t take a hint?”

“Oh, I got the hint, Slayer. Loud and clear. Just my luck, I have to answer to somebody even crankier.”

“Crankier than me? Hey! Would you come home with me and tell my sister that you know someone like that?”

“You’re kidding, right?” he said uneasily.

Buffy gave the patented Summers eye roll. “Why, no, I’m not kidding. I always invite disgustingly dirty demons back to my house to meet my little sister.” She smacked him on the side of the head, knocking him into the side of a building and pinning him there with her glare. “Tell me what the hell you want and then get out of my boring life. Now,” she added, in case he hadn’t understood clearly.

“I’ve been trying to,” he mumbled, hastily changing to “yes, ma’am” at her growled, “What was that?”

“The Powers That Be have sent me to Sunnydale to tell you that you need to find their champion. He needs help, and you’re the only one who can save him.”

“Find their champion? Angel’s in trouble? Why didn’t you just say so, you moron? Where is he?”

“Not Angelus.” He shook his head. “There is another…”

“Another? The Powers have another champion? And he needs me? Sheesh! Can’t they pick on somebody else? How did I become the keeper of the champions?” Buffy waved her arms around, sounding more annoyed than she actually was. At least she now had something to do. Something to brighten up her boring, lonely summer. “All right. Where is he? And who is he? How will I know if I’ve found him?”

“You’ll know. It might take you a while, but you’ll figure it out. They have faith in you.”

“Faith in me. Great – faith? Yes. Information? No. Typical!”

“I’m…um…just going to…to go now. That was all I was supposed to do – just tell you to find the champion and to help him.” He started to slink away, only to be pulled up short by Buffy’s hand on his collar.

“Ewww – when was the last time you washed your neck?” she said, making a face, but not relinquishing her hold. “And where the hell do you think you’re going? You’re not leaving until we find this so-called champion. So get over that idea.”

“But…but…”

“But me no buts, buddy…” She paused to appreciate her alliteration, then continued, “You’re not leaving until we find this so-called ‘champion’ and figure out what exactly I’m supposed to do with him. It is a him, I take it?”

“I guess so,” he muttered rebelliously. “Never heard of a woman being called a ‘champion’…” One look at Buffy’s narrowing eyes and he hastily added, “Unless she was a slayer, of course.”

“Right. So we have to find some guy who is supposed to be the Powers’ next champion…and then what? Give him the good news and tie him down so he can’t escape his fate?”

“Uh…well, they did mention ‘helping him’, so I’m not sure if—“

“Figure of speech, Pigpen. I’m not really going to tie anybody up and force him to be a champion. If he wants it, fine; if he doesn’t, he can complain to the PtB. The line forms behind me.”

She started walking again, making no attempt to slow her gait enough for her new companion to keep up.

“So where does one go about finding a champion – especially one who doesn’t know that’s what he is?”

“Well,” he hesitated, then plunged ahead, “where did you find Angel?”

Buffy’s brow creased as she tried to remember the first time she saw Angel. “I think he found me,” she finally answered. “Came to give me some kind of cryptic advice or something…or maybe he helped me out in a fight…something like that.”

“Maybe all you need to do is get into a fight, then,” he said cheerfully. “Yell, ‘help, help’ and the new champion will come running.”

She just glared at him until he turned away.

“Fine, if you don’t want to do that, why don’t we look where you would least expect to find a champion? Someplace only evil things would go. Got someplace like that around here?”

“There’s the Hellmouth…” Buffys said reluctantly. “But it’s underneath the new high school. I don’t think…”

“Hellmouth. Right. Now that I think of it, it seems to me that they did say something about a hellmouth. What was it…? Something about getting their champion out of it “until it is his time”. He retreated from her lethal glower. “What? I just remembered it. It’s not my fault it didn’t sound important.”

“If this turns out to be a wild goose chase, I’m going to make it your fault,” she said, grabbing his collar again. “Let’s go, Pigpen. Let’s go find this “champion” who’s so lame, he needs my help.”

“My name’s Harry.”

“Whatever.”

Buffy approached the newly finished school building with mixed guilt and trepidation. She tried to tell herself that the students would be grateful to her for blowing up the old building and giving them this nice, shiny new one, but she couldn’t help peering over her shoulder as though Principal Snyder could have survived being swallowed and then blown up with the snake that ate him.

It would be just like him to haunt the place and try to expel me for blowing it up. “Miserable little weasel…”

“Hey! I’m cooperating here. Can you lay off the name-calling?”

“Huh?” Buffy blinked at the insulted demon, then realized that she’d spoken aloud. “Oh, I didn’t mean you – I was thinking about the man who used to be the principal here. He didn’t like me very much.”

“What a shocker,” the demon muttered, earning himself another cuff on his ear.

In preparation for the planned opening of the new school in a few weeks, the building was unlocked and lights were on as workers ran in and out finishing last-minute touch-ups and painting. They easily entered through an open door, dodging men carrying paint cans and drop cloths, and Buffy headed unerringly for the fire stairs. She opened the door and nodded for the demon to go first.

“After you, Pigpen. Maybe you’ll get another flashback and remember something useful – like where in this warren of rooms and hallways, a “champion” might be lurking.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy stared at the stairway leading to the old basement and sighed heavily.

“We’re going to have to go down there, aren’t we?” she asked rhetorically, ignoring the demon’s “Duh!” and pushing past him.

“Well, there’s no way a champion is hiding anywhere up here,” the recently renamed Pigpen pointed out unnecessarily. The level of activity on the upper floors was too great for anyone to have hidden away in one of the rooms.

They had been walking for what seemed like hours, first through the newly constructed parts of the basement, and then into the debris-filled older areas. As they approached the actual location of the Hellmouth and Buffy pushed open the door into that room, she said firmly, “I’m giving this ten more minutes and then I’m–”

“Bingo.” The whispered comment from her companion shocked Buffy out of her complaint. Her eyes followed his awed stare until they encountered the half-naked vampire flinching away from the opened door.

“Sp-Spike? What are you doing here?”

She walked towards him slowly, taking in the fearful look on his face and the bleeding cuts on his chest.

“And what happened to you?” she asked more softly, raising a tentative hand towards his chest. “Why are you hiding down here?”

“Hurts,” he said, pointing to his bare chest and clawing at the fresh wounds marring the smooth skin there. “Tried to take it out, but it won’t.”
He raised anguished eyes to Buffy. “Hurts,” he repeated, before retreating to a nest that he had obviously made for himself against one wall.

“Well, stop pawing at it!” Buffy’s sharp tone was all it took for the vampire to cringe into a whimpering ball, cowering against the rock wall. She bit her lip, but couldn’t bring herself to apologize; instead, she approached him again, intending to coax him into standing up.

“Wait, Slayer.” Harry’s voice was suddenly less deferential than before. “Let me see him.”

“What’s to see? It’s Spike. He’s not the champion. I don’t know what he’s doing here, or why he’s acting so weird, but–”

“Let me.”

Harry stepped closer to the wary vampire and studied his chest and face. Spike never looked at him or acknowledged his presence, keeping his eyes firmly focused on the blonde girl standing by and tapping her foot. When she continued to fidget impatiently, he squeezed his eyes closed, muttering to himself.

“Beneath her. Not worthy. Know that. Mustn’t hurt the girl. Not for me. Never for me.”

While Buffy watched, embarrassed at Spike’s babbling and hoping that Harry wouldn’t understand what he was talking about, the demon leaned forward and stared intently into the vampire’s damp eyes. An expression of awe came over his face, and he backed away, shaking his head.

“Whoa!”

“Whoa? What, whoa? It’s Spike. He’s not a ‘whoa’, he’s a…”

“He’s a vampire with a soul,” Pigpen said, still backing away. “An’ it looks like this one went and got it put in on purpose.” He pointed at the gouges on Spike’s chest and continued, almost to himself, “I think he might be having second thoughts about it, though.” He moved close again, flinching when Spike went into game face and snarled at him. “Easy, fella. I’m not gonna hurt you…”

In his eagerness to get closer to Spike, he accidentally brushed against Buffy, causing her to stumble. Immediately, Spike lunged at him, fangs and claws bared. Buffy’s hand on Spike’s chest sent him cowering to the floor, vampire mien gone, replaced by a mournful human’s apologetic face. He shrank back away from the touch of her hand.

“Mustn’t touch. No touching.”

Buffy knelt beside the muttering vampire, her hand suspended over his cowering body.

“Spike?” she said softly. “Spike, it’s me, Buffy. What happened to you? Where have you been?”

“Away. Gone away. Africa.”

“Africa?”

She raised puzzled eyes to the still awe-struck demon beside her.

“Do you know what he’s talking about? Why would he go to Africa? What could he do there that he couldn’t do here?”

Without actually answering Buffy, Harry shook his head, whispering softly to himself. “I thought that was just a legend. Nobody ever told me it was real…”

“What was a legend?” Buffy’s impatience was making Spike cower even further into his corner, and without taking her eyes off the whispering demon, she put a soothing hand on the vampire’s arm, stroking it softly.

“There’s this old story, about a really ancient demon that lives in a cave somewhere in Africa. If you can survive his trials, he’ll grant your wish – whatever it is. They say the only reason there isn’t some demon ruling the world right now is because it’s so hard to find him and those few that do never come back out of that cave.”

‘What’s that got to do with Spike? I’m sure he didn’t make a wish to find himself living over the Hellmouth and eating…” Her gaze fell on the small bones littering the floor, “rats,” she finished, unable to hide the disgust in her voice.

“I think he wished for his soul.” Harry’s voice was still soft and full of awe. “He passed all those tests and asked for his soul.”

He turned his eyes on Buffy. “I think you’ve found your champion, Slayer. I suggest you take good care of him. This is one very special vampire.”

The demon turned to go, making it almost to the door before Buffy recovered her voice enough to snap, “Where do you think you’re going?”

“I’m done. Told what to look for, helped you find him, what else do you want from me?” His voice took on a whiny tone. “I want to leave now.”

“First you have to help me get him out of here,” Buffy said firmly. “And explain to my friends what you just told me about the soul.”

“They won’t believe you?” He couldn’t hide the surprised interest in his voice and Buffy glared at him.

“It’ll go over better coming from you,” she finally admitted. “They think I’m a little…biased…when it comes to Spike.”

“Interesting…Heaven’s Chosen One’s own friends don’t trust her judgment. Might be worth sticking around here for a while after all,” he added with a grin as Buffy’s face darkened.

After much coaxing from Buffy and encouragement from Harry, Spike consented to try to follow them out of the basement. He alternated between scolding himself for touching Buffy, and clinging to her hand like a lost child. They were at the foot of the stairs, looking up towards the new building overhead when Spike suddenly froze and cowered again.

“No! No! Not real. A trick. Trying to trick me…” He struggled to pull away from Buffy’s hand, staring intently at something neither she nor Harry could see.

“Help me!” she demanded, holding on the frightened vampire as best she could.

Very reluctantly, the demon took Spike’s other arm and between the two of them they began to pull him forward. Harry looked over his shoulder in the direction that Spike was still staring and shuddered.

“Let’s get out of here, Slayer,” he said through clenched teeth. “I’m not sure what’s spooked him, but I’m feeling something…something very__”

“Evil,” Buffy interrupted. “Yeah, I got that. My slayer senses are going crazy. There’s something here – something besides us and a crazy vampire.”

Half-dragging and half-carrying the protesting vampire, they made their way up the stairs and into the well-lit hallway above. Hissing at Spike to “stand up and act normal!” Buffy smiled her best cheerleader smile at the workmen who were staring curiously at the pretty blonde girl and the two very scruffy and strange looking men with her. Hellmouth born and raised, the foreman quickly called their attention back to their work, allowing Buffy and her two companions to pass unmolested. He gave the grateful slayer a small salute when she mouthed “thank you” to him as she tugged Spike towards the exit.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Now what?”

Buffy hadn’t stopped moving until she felt that they’d put a respectable distance between themselves and the unseen, but clearly there, evil that had haunted the basement. She watched Spike carefully, noting how he was visibly relaxing with each long stride away from the Hellmouth. When she was sure that he wasn’t going to tear away from them and run back to his lair in the basement, she stopped.

“Now we go to my house,” she said in response to the Harry’s question. “There’s nobody there but my sister, Dawn. We’ll try to fill her in and maybe we can get Spike to speak to us.”

“I can speak!” Spike said indignantly. “To be or not to be, that is the question,” he declared in a voice that carried down the street. “Et tu, Brutè! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”

“Speak intelligently,” Buffy said with a sigh. “You know, like a sane person?”

“Oh.” He subsided immediately. “Well, you didn’t say that, did you? Not sane, you know. Crazy as a bed bug, I am.” He seemed almost proud of the fact that he wasn’t sane, saying conversationally, “Did you know that there were bedbugs down there? Tasty little critters, but not much to them. Left me a bit peckish.”

“Bugs. Wonderful. As if the way you smell wasn’t a good enough reason to throw you in the shower when we get home.” The rest of his rambling sentence finally registered and she asked sharply, “What have you been eating? Are you hungry?”

“No,” he said hastily. “Haven’t been feeding. Wouldn’t do that. No feeding. It would be wrong. Can’t make me. Won’t!”

He was becoming visibly agitated and Buffy rolled her eyes but said soothingly, “It’s all right. Nobody’s going to make you eat. I just thought maybe we should get some blood on the way home.”

“Home? I’m going home?” He looked around in bewilderment, then began to pull in the direction of his crypt.

“Not there, Spike.” Buffy tried to soften her tone when he cringed again. “Not that home,” she said more softly. “We’re going to my house. I need to find out what happened to you.”

 

Chapter Two to follow

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/251242.html

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