Here in the Mountain time zone, it’s still a decent hour, but I’m sure some of you are wondering who the slacker with April 16 was. It’s been a doozy of a day – my best friend broke up with his boyfriend of three years today – so I could sure use some feedback as a pick-me-up. :) Also, this means that chapters 2-5 of this fic didn’t quite get done, though they are all undergoing the editing process. You’ll see them on free-for-all day. I hope you enjoy my offering; I’m so awed to get to post next to the shining lights of awesomeness that are in this community. Oh, and Happy Easter!
Title: More Conversations with Dead People
Summary: Immediately post-Chosen. No matter how hard you fight, you can’t destroy the source of all evil.
It had felt, for a moment there, like she’d had her life back. Like everything was open in front of her and the wearing forces that had been grinding on her since she’d crawled out of the ground were beaten back and now… What was it people said? The world is your oyster? Maybe more like, the world is your oy-store. Congratulations, you prevented the Apocalypse. Welcome to the wide, wonderful world of personal grooming, first stop manicurist.
And then reality hit. Trapped on a schoolbus with a bunch of teenaged girls bleeding all over the fake leather seats on a road to nowhere in particular, first stop shitty motel. It wasn’t even sunset when they’d pulled up, which was supposed to be in the contract there somewhere. And it wasn’t even restful. An afternoon and evening spent bandaging up the bloody teenagers and raiding defunct snack machines was not exactly a hero’s just reward kind of thing. Any minute now it would happen. Something would happen. But huddled there, on a bed with a really offensive paisley spread that had definitely seen better days, Buffy had to wonder why she always lived through the middle of the fairy tale and then came to a screeching halt well before the “happily ever after.”
That screeching halt was a real problem. Now that it was over, now that everyone was safely away from the crater and as bandaged as they were gonna get, now that there was nothing left to do or fight… Buffy’s hands wound into the comforter and gripped, white-knuckled, as it started to hit. Almost too much to process, all they’d lost; it was so much easier to focus on the physical, the way her gut heaved with the sobs, the way her nails gouged her palms even through the damn paisley blanket. It was easy to get wrapped up in it, so wrapped up that it took her a minute to notice that the door was open.
Oh, God, if any of them saw her like this… Buffy sucked in two calming breaths, then dragged herself upright. Sure enough, somebody was lurking outside the door frame, too far away to make out in the dark. It figured. Not a second’s peace, even on a day like this and with a whole motel to spread out in. “What is it?”
“That’s all I get, then?” It couldn’t be… It sounded like…
The figure shuffled forward into the light spilling from her room door and there was Spike, Liberace amulet and all, looking no worse for wear. Buffy stared for a second, reached slowly in his direction. Then she was up, and across the room somehow and her arms were open to catch him up…
And then there was a balcony railing rammed into her gut. Buffy wheezed and pried herself off the iron railing, setting her shoulders. He didn’t… He wasn’t… He’d been in the doorway, unless he’d stepped aside… Maybe he thought she was coming to hit him, maybe he was afraid she was going to knock him down, maybe her smudgy eyes had just thrown off her depth perception and this would be good for a laugh in a couple of seconds. She just needed a second to catch her breath and then she’d turn around and oh, Spike… Just a second to catch her breath and then…
When she turned, he was leaning on the door frame, a cigarette dangling from his fingers, mouth curled up in a half-smirk. “Missed me, I take it.”
Buffy bit her lip. Something was very wrong here. “Your soul?”
“Burned to a crisp and now I’m back to killing puppies, kittens and the occasional small child, yeah.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Your cigarette…”
“Taking up the filthy habit, are we?”
“No,” she said, inhaling deeply once more to make certain. Not a whiff. “It doesn’t smell like a cigarette.”
“Bloody American brands…”
“No.” Buffy shook her head, narrowing her eyes. “It doesn’t smell at all.”
“Glad you’ve got used to ‘em, pet.”
Then she was moving with a blur of slayer speed to pin him – it, whatever it was – to the wall. This time, she was wide alert when Spike blinked out of existence, stopping just in time to avoid smashing into the doorframe.
“Pity,” Spike’s voice drawled from behind her. “I was hoping you’d biff it.”
Buffy whirled, senses honing in on the figure in front of her. No telltale vamp tingle. “What are you?”
“A Cancer, baby.”
Buffy stalked forward, eyes fixed on Spi… whatever it was. “What. Are. You. His ghost?”
Spike snickered. “Oh, that’s rich. A little flashing light and an impact crater, and you think you’ve got rid of me.”
Buffy’s hand snaked toward him, almost involuntarily. So very like him…
“Nah, pet, you can’t get rid of me and I’d of thought you’d know it. One vampire flambé is hardly enough to usher in eternal goodness and light.”
Buffy snatched her hand back, spine stiffening. This was just a little too cruel. “The First. God, I might have known.”
“You might have. Never had any trouble before but then, it has been a long day.”
“Ah, you’re starting to sound like that brat of a sister.”
“It always got us to leave, didn’t it?”
Spike – it – smiled then. No, not smiled. Leered at her. Oh, it was good, this thing. Suppose it made sense, root of all evil, but how did it know about that thing Spike did with his tongue – not that one, it would catch the thought and make this even worse – the thing, where he plastered it against his top teeth and looked at her all slanty when he was about to say something lascivious. Back in the day when he’d done such things, instead of looking at her with melted eyes.
“Miss him like this, don’t you? Did you ever wonder why I waited so long to come for you?”
“Mmmm. Big girl.” And there was the tongue again, this time making its slow way across his mouth, and the way he – it – was looking at her made her flush on instinct. “Scream, then. Holler for one of your friends. If that’s the right word these days. And of course they’ll say they believe you, that I’m still around, but they’ll all be dead sure that you’re just a little bit grief crazy and a little bit too self centered to let them alone with their own grief.”
Buffy tightened her jaw and stared him –it, God, it – straight in the eye. She had to stay cold, like freezer-burn frigid, to make it through this conversation. Don’t think about it. Like whattsherface in Gone with the Wind. Think about it tomorrow. “I said, get out.”
“Well, you’re a regular one-note wonder,” it drawled, sounding so painfully like him that her stomach clenched. Gone, she told it. He’s gone. “And here I thought you’d have something to say to me like this. Maybe, finally, three teeny little words?” And it grinned, so hard its face stretched. “Oh, wait. Been there, done that, haven’t we, pet?”
Years, years, of building iron self-control, and it was still so hard to keep still in front of it. It had taken a real, conscious effort not to turn her head, break eye contact somehow. But the way his –its – eyes lit up let her know that she must have done something, flinched somehow, and now there would be no escaping it.
It stalked across the room and draped itself on the door frame, hooked its thumbs in its beltloops so its splayed hands displayed its crotch. A familiar move, that, but the First seemed to be taking its Spike moves from several years back. Her throat closed, a sob suddenly on the verge of escaping. That… it must have been the last time the First really knew him.
It must have been able to sense something wasn’t right, stepping a little closer, grinning wider than ever. “Since you’re a self-indulgent creature, I imagine you’ve been playing those words on loop through your head for a while now and thinking. You aren’t too creative, at least not about anything but killing, so I imagine it’s the standard garbage. He didn’t hear you properly, maybe, or he was just being noble and trying to get you out of there. Maybe your overwhelming self-obsession has even dredged up the memory of all of those other men who fled as soon as you told them you loved them. Maybe you shoved him into that category. But you’re afraid that he was right. Maybe you don’t love him because maybe you can’t.”
Buffy jutted her chin out. “Been there, done that, got the desert prophecy. Now, I’m about out of patience with amateur psychology hour. I suggest you get the hell out.”
It cocked its head and Buffy was overwhelmed by a visceral memory of Spike, tilting his head when he was really, really listening, looking at her with sparkling eyes. “Now, sweetheart, that’s no way to talk to a fella who’s dropped by to wish you well.”
“Could hardly skip town without saying hello to my latest, greatest vessel, now, could I?”
Buffy blew out a puff of air, skimming a hand over he hair. “You know, if you’re going to be all non-corporeal, you’d better at least be good at playing Freud.”
It sauntered forward with liquid hips, strutting just like he’d used to when he still thought to impress her with machismo. What was wrong with her, that seeing this made her miss it, just a little, in place of the broken-down, quieter souled version she’d just lost? “Baby, I don’t need to play. Seems to me somebody’s in a bit of denial.”
Buffy stared into not-Spike’s grin. “Listen, could you just finish whatever nonsense it is you’ve come to say…”
“Maybe it isn’t denial,” it said thoughtfully, squaring off in front of Buffy. “Maybe it’s sheer stupidity. I heard the little girl took a little trip into a nice, black box and found out where she came from.”
“Again with the what?”
Not-Spike ran a hand through its hair, sighing. “You are a stupid thing. Not long back, you went and found out where Slayers came from, now, didn’t you?”
“And while there you found out that you’ve got a big, nasty demon inside you. And further, you decided you were too good to take any more of it in.” It grinned over at Buffy and she stared back, hands propped on her hips. “Not so many words now, hey, pet? I suppose you realize what it is you’ve done, then.”
“What, you mean other than destroying your army and closing the Hellmouth?”
“Yeah, pet, you’ve done me one better. I was going in for the murder, but you seem to like it a little bit more… prolonged.” Not-Spike curled his tongue to touch the roof of his mouth, eyes smoldering sex. “Mass murder? Simple but effective. Mass rape… Now that’s a new one, ducks. Hats off to you.”
“I don’t know what you think you’re talking about…”
“Thousands of girls ‘cross the world, all filled up with demons they didn’t ask for, or want, probably can’t even identify…”
“It’s a gift…”
“Right,” it said, chuckling. “Because it’s been such a picnic for you. And you were so eager to go back for seconds when those shamen were offering. Harmless, right. Fun for the whole family, these demons.”
Buffy stared at the First, stomach churning. It couldn’t be right, it just didn’t make sense…
It grinned, the delighted grin Spike got only when he was about to really kick something’s ass. “No comeback, Slayer? I’m shocked. I’m sure you’ll have plenty of time to think of pretty excuses.” It chuckled, slipping into a shrill falsetto. “‘It’s different, because we’re sharing the Slayer power instead of burdening one girl.’ ‘It’s different, because we’re women and not big nasty men chaining up poor helpless girls, because it’s never rape when a woman does it.’” Buffy sucked in a sharp breath at that, and not-Spike jerked its chin. “Sorry, luv, did I hit a sore spot there? He was a vampire, pet, and demons like it rough. Oh, but you’d know all… about… that, now wouldn’t you?”
Buffy took a deep breath, pulling back into a fighting stance. Maybe she couldn’t hit it, but she could sure as hell try. “I think we’re done, here.”
“Sorry, pet. We’re done when I say we’re done.” It stepped back, lounging against the doorframe. “As I was saying before we got so delightfully sidetracked, there’s a reason I came for you now.”
Buffy shook her head and marched through the door, Spike’s form popping out of existence as she neared it. But there it was, parked on the tv set, black denim-clad legs swinging with manic energy. “Now, now. But I understand. Familiar situation, and all that. It was always easier for you to talk to him when you were in bed, wasn’t it?”
Buffy perched on the edge of the bed, stomach in a knot. She pasted on a smile. “And again I say, get out.”
“Now, luv, don’t go stealing my chance to be a James Bond villain. I have something to say, here.”
“Well, I’m tired of listening.”
“I don’t think you will be. I can tell, you know, how much attention you’re paying to this shape in spite of yourself.” Spike flickered and was gone, replaced by a wall-eyed preacher, this time coated in the black blood that had run all over his face just before he’d been sliced. “Your dead lover. A real live wire. Happy, and gay, on the road to redemption – that is, until you beat him senseless a couple times and teased him ‘till all the good got crushed out of him.” Caleb dipped his head. “Thank you for that.” It smiled, its teeth outlined in black ichor. “You think you loved him the other way, but the old one, the lively one – he makes you boil. I can tell, little girl. Don’t try to hide it.” Caleb flickered and Buffy was left staring into her own face. “And that – that’s why you’ve been seeing so much of me lately. A weakness in the Slayer line, hmmm? Did you stop to think for one second that you’ve been that weakness for, what, six years now? Dead as a doornail then up you pop, after a second Slayer was called. Hell, you crawled around for more than a year after the second time you were raised. And then, I came around. Now, why wouldn’t I come earlier, if your resurrection was the weakness in the Slayer line?”
Buffy yawned elaborately. “Awfully fond of your own voice, aren’t you?”
“This one’s a bit grating, actually.”
“Oh, ha ha.”
“Let me slip into something a little more comfortable.” Spike was back, lounging against the wall, one hand toying with the hem of his t-shirt. “You lot go listen to bloody giant eye, and you think you’ve got the answer. A weakness in the Slayer line because of your resurrection? Please. You could have poked ten holes through that if you’d thought on it for a second.”
Buffy snorted. “This is so… Well, lame. We beat you. And you and me? Not so much on chatting terms.”
“I’m trying to tell you something, luv, and I think you’ll wanna hear it. You – you’re the weakness in the line. Not because you’re alive when you shouldn’t be. No, Slayer, you’re the weakness because of what you are – what you’ve become.”
“I got tired of this, like, yesterday.” Buffy brushed past the tv and into the bathroom, slammed some toothpaste onto the yellow plastic courtesy toothbrush and started in on her teeth.
“Mmmm, a kinky one. Never thought you’d like to talk to him in the bathroom, luv, not after all the fuss.” Buffy spat viciously in the sink and turned on the water, focusing on the splashing noise instead of his – its, it wasn’t him – voice. Don’t listen to it, don’t think, and it’ll just. Go. Away.
“Guess I’ll just have to come a little closer, then, pet,” it purred in her ear. “Don’t think I don’t know this turns you on.”
Buffy jerked around and strode out of the bathroom, dropping back onto the bed. Just don’t listen to it, or think about it, just stay focused on the moment…
“Miss me?” not-Spike said, legs open atop the tv set. “You know, I knew it would be good but you – you surpassed my wildest expectations. I could never have expected such spectacular fallout.”
“Did anyone ever tell you that your bedside manner…”
“Listen, pet, shut up. I’m nearly as tired of you as you are of me. But I’ve got something to say if I’m gonna play by the rules, and it’s a lot easier for me if I do. See, if you’re gonna be my vessel you have to know you are, and you have to know why.”
“I will NEVER be your anything,” Buffy hissed, quiet and deadly.
“Too late, luv. That ship sailed long ago. You’ve been corrupt for a good long while, and now you’re doing my work.” Not-Spike’s grin widened, exposing sharp teeth. “Just think about how long it’s been since you were really fighting the good fight. Where among your merry little band of misfits can you find someone who hasn’t tried to end the world, or at least killed a few innocent people? You know, I think you were thick enough to imagine that winning by any means necessary still kept you in the good guy column. So much the better for me.” Buffy yawned again pointedly; the First grinned. “Having trouble paying attention, luv?” Spike – no, not Spike – reached up and pulled off its shirt, began toying with his nipples idly. Buffy bit her lip and half-closed her eyes, disgust and attraction and shock fighting a pitched battle in her stomach. “Now that I know I’ve got your attention… Consider yourself informed. I know you won’t take direction, but you’re a regular prodigy all on your own. You just think about that as you start to get stronger over the coming weeks. That strength? Coming straight from me, luv, and by using it you acknowledge that you’re workin’ for me now.”
“Never.” Her voice was impressively firm, considering the much steadier than she felt. All of this – what he’d done – and still, it wasn’t over. Happily ever fucking after.
“Too late, luv. This little chat’s sealed the deal.” He- it – grinned and pulled one hand away from his nipples, resting two fingers on his bottom teeth. The tongue – oh, god, the tongue – curled out over them, Spike’s mouth spreading in a slow grin. “Don’t leave now, luv. I’m just staring to get comfortable,” it drawled, hand traveling toward its jeans. Buffy stared, frozen, for a moment, then sped out of the room. Too much, too much, just too much… She made made it halfway down the rickety stairs attached to the balconies before stumbling. Stupid blurry vision, stupid tears. It was just too much.
What the hell was she supposed to do now? Who was she supposed to tell? Certainly not a half-recovered Willow, or a grief-mad Xander. God, if Willow heard the truth about her latest, whitest spell… It’s not like they had the resources to research anything here, anyway. The books were either in the mail or at the bottom of a crater. No sense talking to them. Not like she could, or had, for a while now. No, she could only talk to… She shuddered, the thought of that evil thing wearing his body, looking his look, overcoming her. God, it even tainted her memory of…
No time to wallow, not now. Maybe Giles… Her jaw tightened at the thought. Who was to say this thing wasn’t just blowing smoke, just trying to psych her out and stop her from messing with whatever plan it had up its non-corporeal sleeve?
“I have to be sure,” she whispered. Giles it was. She could almost feel the ice-cold Slayer veneer set up as she stood up, ramrod straight, and headed for Giles’ motel room.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/102889.html