Title So Rudely Interrupted
Author brutti ma buoni
A/N Also contains London, Dawn, Giles, a Bad Dragon, rogue Team Angel and a bleakish AU post-Chosen and NFA. Thank you to my flist who voted for a significant proportion of these elements to appear, and apologies as always to quinara for what happens to the dragon.
In a lot of ways, London was a good city for Buffy Summers. Shopping and mass transit, two of the most essential needs of this particular Slayer’s life. Also, good communications, in case Buffy felt this was the year to rejoin the worldwide Slayer mission. Or, you know, visit Dawn in D.C. And an infinite number of old monsters, keeping her busy, day to day. Keeping the Slayer hand in, or however Giles would put it.
Not that he would, these days. He was as pensioned-off as Buffy. They met up, sometimes, small cafes in Marylebone, mostly, carefully near to Paddington so Giles didn’t have to get too much London on him, or Bloomsbury, because the BM and the university never quite stopped being home for Giles. Buffy ate a lot of inferior baked goods, and enjoyed the rise of the better kind of coffee in these areas, in the ten years they’d kept up this ritual. Connection, but not intimacy. Slayer and Watcher, but not Council, not mission. Just a few hints for Buffy from Giles’s research, on new threats arising in the 32 boroughs of Greater London, and a heads up on which of those might attract the attention of the Council.
Those days, Buffy stayed at home.
This day, which was not one of those, she was out looking for an alleyway off Gower Street, in the depths of the university of London’s reworking of the map. Damn colleges, chopping up the landscape. Building works and scaffolding everywhere, and she kept being driven off the pavement into depressing little coned walkways, road surface rough and gritty underfoot. There was mist, turning almost to drizzle, as the light faded too early this February afternoon. So much normality.
There were steps behind her. Heavy and measured. Boot-wearing, which meant nothing much. Students in boots were un-rare in the extreme in this area. But these steps tripped something in Buffy’s hindbrain, something atavistic. Danger. Memory. She was poised to spin, reaching for her stake, all the instincts working just as they should, when the steps slowed.
“You want Waters Yard, you’re one block over, Slayer. Other side of Senate House.”
The voice was so familiar she couldn’t immediately put a name to it. Buffy didn’t speak to many people now. But he came to stand under the orange glow of a streetlamp, and she couldn’t mistake him. He’d let the hair grow out, no more bleach. He was smiling, kind of. Her fingers tightened on the stake.
“Hey, Buffy,” said Spike. “Still got a soul, don’t be killing me, okay?”
She struggled for breath for a while. He waited. “What the hell are you doing here?”
He shrugged. The same familiar, lithe movement. He hadn’t aged, obviously. Looked younger than her, now, she thought. Or maybe it was just that she felt so old. “Had a tip for you. But you’re obviously on it, already.”
“And you just show up, after ten years-“
“Ten years, nine months and a day,” he interrupted, voice roughening. “Not that I’m counting.” It echoed in time, that sentiment. Not that she had been counting, either.
“You just show up, lurk, give me some kind of tip about a prophecy I’m already on. Wear your stupid long coat. Vanish into the shadows, leaving me-“
He smirked at her. “Summers, your issues are showing.” Which, obviously, and was why she’d stopped herself. “’M not Angel, love. The lurking has a purpose. And we need to talk. But you’d better get over to Walkers Yard first, yeah?”
“Obviously. Got to do my Slayer duty.” She paused. “Uh, you know where it is, right?”
So they walked, silently together, to the demon birthplace in the alley round the back of Heals’ department store, and Buffy slew the infant demigod beside the packaging depot. Spike watching. “Still got it, Slayer,” he said, admiring. “Thought you might have gone off a bit, what with being middle aged now.”
The thing about not being twenty one any more? “Fuck you,” said Buffy, easily, and moved off.
“Buffy- Slayer,” he scooted after her, sounding serious. “We need to talk. You know a place?”
“Not any place I want to take you,” she spat. Trying for angry. Practising how it should feel.
He chuckled. She’d forgotten how annoying he was, especially how he enjoyed her being angry at him. Angry, independent, violent. He liked them all.
She’d really missed that. Which was unhelpful.
“Fair enough, love. Come to the Rising Sun with me, eh? Neutral territory. Or, I suppose, more on your side, given the name. But it’s a clear fifteen hours till sunrise.”
The pub was full of students (obviously), but he found them a nook, shouldering his way through the disregarding mass with a full pint in one hand and Buffy’s wine in the other. The wine was (obviously) awful, but she’d never got the taste for bitter, and ordering Bud around Spike was presumably still the start of a long, tedious lecture about fine hops that she didn’t have the stomach for now. Even for the nostalgia value.
“We need to talk?” she said, trying not to wince as the full acid of the alleged pinot grigio hit her tonsils. “Talk, then.”
He ducked in close, which she wanted to object to, but his first words weren’t ones that university of London students were well-placed to hear, so- “Slayer, there’s a dragon after me. After us all. We need your help.”
So many questions. The first one, “What?” was followed up pretty fast from Buffy with, “Who’s we? Dragon? How do you- Wait, what?” And then she stopped, in the face of Spike’s patient look.
“Starting from the beginning? Something went wrong, ten years back. But you know that.” She nodded. Very wrong. Wrongest of wrong. “When we brought hell down on Los Angeles, we knew what we were doing. Didn’t expect to get out alive. And we didn’t. You know that too.”
She nodded. Couldn’t speak. Remembering the scene at the Council. ”We have to help them!” Shaking with rage, as face after face said, “They knew what they were doing.” “We have to prioritise.” “Wolfram and Hart are not on the table right now.” “Buffy- We’re not going to send half our warriors to certain death to save your two undead exes.” She had walked out. Giles had come after her, speaking regrets, but she’d brushed him off. He’d been the only one, and maybe that was why eventually he’d been the one that she chose to be her conduit back to the Council. And maybe that was why he too had left, or been left, in his turn. Maybe.
Spike slurped at his pint, traces of white froth on his upper lip and bitter on his un-breath as he continued. “But we lived, in our way. Nine months of hell, and we were reborn. Or, that’s how Illyria tells it, and who am I to argue?”
Buffy shrugged. “And?”
“And nobody knows how we got out of hell. Now, Angel has experience with this kind of deal, said it probably meant we had a higher purpose, shiny destiny waiting, whatever. But I personally have only ever been resurrected through the intervention of someone evil with a cunning plan, so I’ve been a bit on edge ever since, you know?”
She nodded, wordless. Remembered Angel, animalistic, returned from hell to her teenage dreams, purpose renewed. And Spike, on the phone saying, “Slayer? I’m alive. Ish. Gonna come for you when this is done.” But he never had, and, eventually, she could take the hint, okay? The part where he was sucked into hell, sure, you don’t call, but the silent ten years after? That part was cold.
He nodded at her, and she wondered what exactly was all over her face, remembering. “So, been hiding out, mostly. Keeping an eye over my shoulder. Waiting to find out what, exactly, is after us. And now we know. It’s a dragon.”
“There’s no such thing as dragons,” said Buffy, on pretty firm ground. This was definitely one she’d covered with Giles, more than once.
“Not here,” Spike agreed. “But there could be. Plenty in that hell. There was one in the dimensional rip when Dawnie went off bang, daresay you remember-“ Yes, they both did, and for a second, eyes met in remembering that time. At least, Buffy realised, she’d known exactly why she’d been resurrected, and by whom. Maybe she’d underestimated how comforting that could be, “And another dragon came for us, first thing when old Wolfram and Hart decided to take us down. We killed it. But it made a space for dragons here, or so Illyria says. And now one has decided we’re the way through.”
“Please tell me you’re not growing a dragon inside your head,” Buffy said, abruptly. The whole Cordelia-deal still freaked her the fuck out, honestly. “Or, you know, elsewhere.” He definitely didn’t look pregnant, and getting a dead man to gestate a dragon egg seemed a stretch, but-
Spike scoffed at her. “Oh, fuckssakes Slayer, don’t be an idiot. It’s in another dimension. Wants us to open up a rift, let it in.”
“Why would you do that?”
It wasn’t technically possible for Spike to turn pale, but Buffy would swear he did it anyway. “Because if I don’t, it’ll send me back.”
Buffy lived south of the river these days, in an area Giles persisted in thinking of as a terrifying gangster wasteland, but was actually fully of hipster types disappointed that them moving in had raised all the house prices enough to drive away the gangs. Not disappointed enough for them to spend their money anywhere other than artisan cold-brew coffee bars and Peruvian tiger milk joints, but eh, who said hipsters have logic.
She didn’t want Spike there, not at all. But somehow, there he was (via the central line, change at Oxford Circus for the Victoria, if you were counting, and try not to be surprised that Spike would own an Oyster card – “What?” he’d said, off her look, “You expecting me to eat a cabbie every time I want to get around? Still got that soul, did I mention?”). In her space. Her small, unimpressive space.
“Nice place,” he said, looking out over the dirty high street, the one Chinese takeaway resisting gentrification right across the road. The filth on the window glass probably didn’t escape him, either. But he didn’t outright smirk, so Buffy chose to overlook the snark. Also the three packets of blood Spike took out of a deep pocket and shoved into her fridge like he was a guest. Like he was staying.
“You were telling me about dragons,” she said, stony-faced.
“Yeah. ‘M supposed to have collected the ingredients by now,” Spike said. “We’re all supposed to be doing a thing. Wes has to find spells, Gunn’s training a warrior squad, Angel’s on some quest for a mystical weapon, Illyria’s enquiring at the Deeper Well if any Old Ones can help with the wording – seems like they had a bunch of dragons, way back-“
“Wait. The others are doing this?”
“Not willingly, love. But their reckoning is we keep up a façade and try to kill the dragon the second it comes through.”
“And you’re not down with that?”
He rolled his shoulders, looking out of the window once more. The orange glare of lights lit his pale skin oddly. She’d forgotten how weird it was, the non-reflection of the vampire. That was why she was still staring at him. Yeah.
“Slayer, I’m not a moron,” he said.
“Sure, you’re way smarter than all the other guys,” she said, fast as reflex, and she knew he was smiling into the window’s darkness. No need to see it.
“I had a look at the spells, checked with Wes. We’re pretty sure it’s a one-way spell. Portal opens, doesn’t shut. Might just be dragons coming out. Might be all of hell. But even just dragons is a load of Do Not Want by my reckoning. And anyway, like I say, I don’t have a good track record of being resuscitated for noble doings. I don’t want to do what I’m told by someone in exchange for a resurrection I never bargained for.” He got his lighter out of his pocket. A new one, but still heavy silver. Spike style. He flicked it absently, making no move to find a cigarette.
“But if you don’t, back to hell.”
“Yep, that’s the deal.” He watched the wavering flame a while longer, then snapped the lighter shut. “Or, I thought we could look for another way.”
“And I’ll help because?”
“Because you’ve been there for portals opening from hells before, and you know how that goes. Because you’re guilty as hell about not coming to our aid last time. And because you’re the only one that tried, Slayer.” He paused, and swallowed. “Buffy? I need your help.”
She slept badly. Aware always of the twitchy, grumbly vampire trying to make the best of her couch, even through the firm closure of her bedroom door. Wondering how the Brixton sewers were set up, and if Spike was going to be stuck in her apartment all day. Wondering if Spike had stayed away only because he was afraid that whatever fished him from hell might come knocking, and not wanting to bring that on Buffy (except, see how he’d dropped back into her life when that actually happened, so, not really). Wondering how you killed a dragon before opening the portal to let it through, or how you saved heroes from hell if the dragon that rescued them wasn’t disposed to keep them out. Or what the Council would do, if anything, to help.
At least the last one was easy to answer. No way was she going to the Council. Giles, maybe, but no more than that.
She said that, in the grey light of a sleety 11am. “It’s just me, and Giles, if we can talk him round. You don’t get the Council on your side.”
“No kidding,” said Spike, firmly. “We made a few enquiries, way back. Became very clear they manage risks like us by despatching us to hell ahead of schedule, these days. Lovely bunch, your Slayers turned out.”
She closed her eyes. “They were scared. Too many Slayers, not enough Watchers. Nobody who knew how things should go. They work in squads now, never go out alone. Handle what they can, get in witches to damp down the rest. Someday, they’re gonna run out of witches, but I guess they know that.”
“And kill the risks, when they can,” Spike added. “They won’t run out of weaponry anytime soon, I’m assuming.” He slurped from a cold blood bag, not even bothering to complain at the dead taste. So he’d changed, and that shouldn’t be a surprise. Not after so long. “You sure Rupert won’t turn us in?”
“Not really,” she said. “It’s a risk you’re gonna have to take.”
Spike had money, and the number of a cab company that sent round a car with tinted windows, which Buffy made a mental note to investigate, later. So they made it to Paddington station, caught a dusk train to Bath, and left London behind. Giles met them at the station, complaining about the parking and the traffic, and Spike chatted back at him like they had only met last week. Car talk. Giles looked older, she noted. Every time she saw him now, like he was fading out, though he wasn’t old enough for that, dammit.
Giles’s stupidly huge, cold house was just as unwelcoming as Buffy remembered. Heavy drapes at every window at least promised Spike some security. A huge cross just inside the threshold, though… that reminded them all of Sunnydale, and of decisions about risk management in the past that almost saw Spike killed by his supposed allies. The Council’s new way with souled vampires wasn’t actually that new, nor out of the blue. Giles bit out, immediately after inviting Spike in, “I suppose I should say that it’s good to see you, Spike, but to be truthful, I’d hoped we had seen the last of you. You must admit you tend to bring trouble in your wake.” Apparently the social mask only lasted for the purpose of giving him a ride. Now for the truth.
“Wouldn’t deny it,” said Spike, easily enough. “Not just my trouble this time. And acquired in a noble endeavour, I think we can agree.”
“Noble but foolhardy,” Giles pointed out. That had always been the Council view of Angel’s (intended) last stand. “And, as we see, full of bad consequences for the world.”
“Yeah, well, we got emotional,” said Spike, rolling his shoulders tiredly, and casting a look at the cross, like he expected it to jump out and burn him. “But that’s a long time ago, Giles, and we wanted to do something meaningful before we went out. Spect you remember what that was like?”
Giles’s lips thinned. He said, “Tea?” in a voice which a non-Brit might struggle to identify as cold fury, but which Buffy could now interpret perfectly.
Boy Brit bonding, Buffy heard. And she could drink milky tea now without flinching, so whatever. If it got them past this crap.
Giles listened to the situation pretty much silently. He polished his glasses a couple times, but nothing that really signalled Distressed Watcher to Buffy’s mind.
“Right. I can see your dilemma, of course.” Spike jerked his head impatiently. It wasn’t that hard, clearly. “The key would seem to be that the dragon still has some kind of hold over you. Indeed, over all your companions. Has that link been diagnosed?”
“Spike,” Giles was definitely looking tetchy now. That was probably good. At least he was engaging. “The dragon couldn’t send you to hell unless it had some ongoing hold over you. And I can’t believe Wesley didn’t think to check it was more than an empty threat. Perhaps I should talk to him-“
“No!” Spike almost shouted it. “No, don’t.” He looked bone-white in the soft electric light. Bone white and scared.
“Spike, I assume they don’t know you’re here. But I really don’t understand why.” Giles looked over his glasses, severely. “I think you’d better enlighten us.”
Spike sighed. “Oh… Rupert, it’s not like it was, years back. There’s been a lot of helping the helpless under the bridge since then. People get tired. Get strained. They see the one way to do something, they don’t let much get in the way. They’re planning on getting this dragon through the portal, and killing it. And anything that follows it. Or anyone that gets in their way. Till they drop.”
“Are you seriously telling us-“ Buffy burst out, ignoring Giles’s annoyed glance “-they’ve gone rogue?”
“Depends on what you call rogue,” said Spike. “But, do they have a plan? Yep. Is it an insane plan? Yep times a thousand. You’d be amazed what the fear of hell can do to you. Especially when it hangs over you long enough, and you think you see a way out.” He sighed, not very Spike-like. “Makes you a different person. Saw myself going the same way, more than likely. It’s why I came to you, in the end.”
He was looking at Giles, but talking to Buffy, all too clearly. She tried not to show she understood that. This conversation maybe needed to happen, but somewhere else, and without Giles.
Spike continued, “So, yeah, the dragon holds our souls. The physical thing, the soul itself, is the thing. Kept them in hell when she sent us back. We can’t do magic across dimensions to fix that. None of us has that power. Wes looked into it, thought they might be in one of those sacred jar jobs-“
“Muo Ping? But those are only used for fully-extracted souls.”
“Rupert, do I look like a soul-jar expert? It’s Wes’s best guess, since Angel didn’t go Angelus on us, that there’s this soul-tug between us and the dragon, that she’s got some lien on our souls. And there’s got to be a physical object holding them, because magic needs an anchor. Which means it can be broken, fire, sword, whatever works. But you can’t do that through a portal. So-“
“So you would need a witch to go to hell to break the container and/or fetch the souls back.”
“Yeah.” Spike was looking down at his knuckles, running the fingers of one hand along the fingers of the other, cracking joints occasionally. Not looking up. “Bit short of volunteers, there. And Wes tried, but he came back-“ Crack, crack, pop. “Burned.”
Dragonfire burns. Oh. The room was very quiet, apart from the fire in the grate. It had looked cosy until now. Now, Buffy watched the flames with some horror.
“Very well. So it isn’t simply a matter of breaking a mystical link at a distance. I suppose that would have been far too simple.” Giles took a swig of tea and flinched. “Ugh, stone cold. Buffy, I don’t suppose-“
“Christ’s sakes, Rupert, she’s not your waitress,” Spike said, suddenly angry. “Also, unless there’s been some kind of miracle on Piccadilly, she wouldn’t know how to brew up-“
“I’ve lived here for ten years,” she said back. Said? Shouted. “You think I’ve never met a guy who taught me how to make tea? Among other things.” It was a crude weapon, and she used it deliberately. Making it sound like lots of men, or some that mattered. Maybe still did matter. Not the two she had met, used and thrown away in the past bleak decade, before deciding there was a logic to solitude.
“Well, this is all very unamusing,” said Giles, standing up. With an effort, Buffy noticed. He really wasn’t moving as freely as she would have expected. Older than he should be. As if magic and fighting demons and getting repeatedly hit over the head were sapping his lifeblood. “But I for one would find this easier with more tea, and so I am going to make some, in the absence of courtesy from my younger guests. Oh, all right, much older guest, Spike, not that one would ever know it. Please bring your mugs if you’d like some too.”
They shuffled after him, briefly united in trivial shame.
As the kettle boiled, Giles said, “Generally speaking, these things can be resolved by magic, or violence, or both. Your dragon, Spike, is it a chivalrous beast?”
The kettle steam billowed, the automatic cut-off popped, and he started to pour hot water into tea-bag-ready mugs.
“Uhm, I guess so.” Spike, sounding dubious. “It talks, and does deals, and whatnot.”
“Good. Then one might, hypothetically, open a dimensional rift to speak with it, and then send through a champion, assuming one could be found, and have that champion duel to free up a captive soul?”
“Hypothetically, maybe. Doubt you’d find such an idiot, or have a guarantee the dragon would play ball when he popped up in its domain, or that you could make such a rift without throwing us all into hell, but-“
Buffy already had her cellphone out. “Dawnie? Could you come to visit Giles, please? We need you.”
She hung up. Looked at Spike’s hanging jaw, at Giles’s calm, if resigned, face. “Sorry, what were you saying?”
She wouldn’t ever get used to Dawn with a pixie cut, was Buffy’s first thought. It suited her, so well that strangers now sometimes gave her admiring looks that basically said, “Congratulations on your everything.” But Buffy always expected Dawn to have hair longer than her own. It had been that way since she was ten.
“Little Bit,” said Spike, sounding wary. “Been a long time.”
“Yeah. Whose fault, exactly?” said Dawn. Her hands smoothed the bulge of her belly.
“All married and settled down, then?” Spike said, awkwardly.
“Nope,” Dawn smiled at him. Not bothering to explain. Not that Buffy knew the situation, either, though Dawn seemed happy enough with whatever it was.
The Victorian gentleman that still lived within Spike did a double-take, visibly. The Spike that lived outside him now just laughed. “Quite right, kid. Glad you’re looking well. Any reason your sis invited you to drop by?”
He didn’t mention that it had taken Dawn five minutes to arrive, nor that she had done so without visible transport.
“I’m a living universal portal-opener,” said Dawn. “Turns out, you can control a Key if you know how. We’re finding it pretty useful, these days.”
“You can’t tell the Council about this,” Buffy said, sharply. The ‘we’ stung, even though Dawn never mixed up her family ties with her work ones, these days.
“Do I ever?” Dawn rolled her eyes. Spike laughed again. Giles frowned, obviously.
“So, we need you to get me into a hell dimension to challenge a dragon for Spike’s bonded soul, that he left linked behind when he got out.” Buffy was trying for impressive. She really should know better. This stuff was Dawn’s normality now.
Slight yawn. “Sure, whatever. Will it take long? Only I have prenatal yoga at eight. It’s very relaxing.”
Spike’s calm amusement dropped abruptly. “What? Isn’t it all a bit more complicated than that?”
There was a mirror behind Giles and Spike, but Spike wasn’t impeding Buffy’s view of herself as she and Dawn turned their heads, synchronised, to stare at him with scorn. “Why would it be complicated?” That was Dawn. “You were in this place, your soul is linked. All I need is a marker. That’ll do it.”
“Just like a sniffer dog,” Spike shot back, false-admiringly. Oh the familiarity, Spike rubbing up wrong against the person trying to help him, jagged and irritating. Right. “But I didn’t hear the Slayer signing up to be my champion. Can do it myself.”
“Don’t be an idiot, Spike.” Giles sounded weary, “Why else did you come asking for help? Because you knew Buffy would offer it, I’m quite sure. And there isn’t a chivalric beast I’ve ever met that allows someone to save themselves. It always has to be another willing sacrifice.”
Buffy reached behind the couch to find Giles’s major weapons chest. “You put it so nicely,” she said. “But, yep. There’s always a combat, there are always trials, and it’s never yourself you’re fighting for.”
“Not how I remember it,” Spike said. “Not last time I went up for a soul. Coming with you, you idiotic woman, no arguments.”
She really didn’t want him along for the ride. Better not revisit old memories. But, “Whatever.” Argument wouldn’t win against Spike. Indifference stood a better shot. “Anything to keep you quiet.”
He looked hurt then, which felt more than weird. She didn’t aim to hurt Spike. Not usually. But maybe she’d lost the knack. “You got that scythe around? Would come in handy on a mission like this.”
“Yeah, no,” said Buffy, trying to shut that down.
Dawn said, flatly, “Buffy isn’t with the Council. They have the scythe. Don’t go there.”
Buffy hefted a large axe, a medium sized sword and a good length of chain, dragons, for the strangulation of. “I think we’ll be okay.”
“Of course, if you should happen to see any Muo Ping-alternatives knocking about when you’re there,” said Giles, faux-casual, “You could smash them and we could try to draw all the bonded souls back through the portal, and no one would have to kill a dragon or similar unpleasantnesses. Just a thought.”
Spike snorted, unflatteringly, but yeah. Point taken, Buffy thought.
“’Kay, Dawnie, get us started?”
Dawn walked over to a bare bit of flagstoned floor (they had had portal incidents before, and Giles did not appreciate the impact on his soft furnishings). “Have fun with the dragon, guys,” she said, and stabbed herself in the finger with a needle. Light glowed, and grew, where the blood dripped.
“Fuck,” said Spike. “That’s- That’s exactly how I remember it.” Well over a decade, now, but no one who saw it would ever forget the white light, so pure and bright. So doomed.
“Yeah. Old times, huh?” Buffy held out her non-axe-carrying hand for him. “C’m on. Dawnie has yoga.”
Through the portal, it was hell. Darkness, check. Flames, check. Demons, check. Chains, screams, dragons… the usual. Buffy tried not to let her breath turn shallow.
“Greetings,” said a voice. A large voice. Booming. Dragonish.
“Wotcha,” Spike said, offensively. “Come about my soul.”
“And you brought a champion to fight for you? How amusing.”
“I brought a Slayer, you moron. See how you feel like laughing soon.”
Buffy sprang before he’d even finished talking. Spike was shouting something about having to hammer out terms, but she didn’t pause to listen. Testing the dragon’s lower scales. Belly, shoulder joint, throat. Good vulnerable spots. The axe bounced off them all, denting only itself.
“I think you’ll find you need a weapon a little more mystical than that, champion,” said the dragon. There was a smugness to the voice which Buffy disliked. She ran, leapt, and got a purchase on its scaly upper arm, scrambling up and over the joint onto its back as fast as she could manage. Pinning a sword between scales to give her some grip.
“Spike, you see anything?”
“Looking, looking,” said Spike, and added, “Whoa, fuck!” as the dragon let out what was probably the first of many fiery blasts. He jumped and rolled out of the way securely enough. Still Spike. And Buffy had to distract the dragon, surely, while Spike looked for some mystical soul-jars. Killing this creature looked like too big a task. She hacked at an ear, raising sparks, and turning its aim a little. Good. Sensitive areas.
There was dragon blood on her hands, burning like acid. Not ideal.
She climbed up, dragging on the now-ragged ear. Stuck the axe into the ear-hole in passing, but that didn’t do a lot. The dragon’s eye was close, now. Eyes were good. But she needed the sword, and right now she was standing on it, the only steady non-dragon foothold she had.
Okay, well, axe time. She swung, and the dragon blinked, but she sliced enough of the eyelid to make it shriek and shake its head.
“Got them!” Spike shouted. “Or, I think so.” There was a smashing of pottery, and Buffy took another swing. No eyelid this time, just squishy eyeball.
“You have your soul back?”
“I always had it, you idiotic woman, just needed to free it from bondage, you know? Pretty sure that was it. Feeling a lot less- Fuck me!” Another belch of fire, and a roar from the dragon, angered and in pain.
“A lot less bonded,” Spike finished. “You okay up there, or need some company?”
“Depends,” said Buffy. “Do we need the dragon dead? Because it could take a while.” Some matter from the dragon’s eyeball was dissolving her blade. She was definitely going to need that sword soon.
“Dunno,” said Spike, “Forgot to ask, didn’t we? Just to be on the safe side, though?” He threw something up to Buffy, safe on the dragon’s newly blinded side. It was sharp, pottery. Part of a soul jar, presumably. At least it might not dissolve in acid.
She wrenched out the axe, and plunged her arm into the wound, pottery shard-dagger in her hand.
The dragon screamed, and thrashed, and the fire in its belly went out. Suddenly, the hellspace was much darker.
Buffy jumped clear as the dragon started to thrash. Probably dying? “I don’t want to stick around to find out if that did it,” she shouted.
“With you,” Spike confirmed. He was already right by the glimmerings left by Dawn’s portal. “Hope little sis didn’t get bored waiting for our call.”
“Dawnie?” Buffy shouted. “Open sesame right now?”
Sometimes, it was useful to have a blood connection with a living portal. Kind of cut down on the interdimensional communication issues.
The portal opened. Spike and Buffy dove out, unfortunately followed by the dragon. Dawn snapped the portal shut asap, but a good portion of the dragon head got out ahead of that.
“Uh,” said Buffy, looking at the mess. “The good news is, it doesn’t have fire?”
“Bad news, it doesn’t do a lot for Rupert’s décor,” Spike responded. “Any chance you can just shove it back in, Slayer?”
The dragon’s working eye opened, flickered, and closed. The head seemed to sag and slump. “Well, thanks so much for my dead dragon head,” said Giles, sounding a tad tetchy. “I suppose we’ll have to hack it off or something.”
“You have a chainsaw?” Spike sounded interested.
Buffy walked away. She could hear Dawn following. “Shouldn’t you stay? They might need you to close the portal.”
“Portal’s closed,” said Dawn, cheerfully enough. “Something dies in your portal, that’s pretty much it, dimensional travelwise.” She arched her back, trying to ease some unknown discomfort. “Y’okay?”
“Meh, dragons.” Buffy looked at her arms, covered in goop and burns. “I should wash.”
The kitchen was closest, so she sluiced down in the sink. Her skin was already paling down from bubbling burn-red tissue. Yay Slayers. Always healing.
“I really wasn’t asking about the mission,” Dawn said, settling herself onto a hard kitchen stool. “Spike. Back in your life. Are you okay with that?”
“He’s not,” Buffy said. “Not really. Just needed a warrior saviour type. And some Watcherly know-how. And a portal goddess, obviously. Now he’s done.”
“You really think that?” said Spike. Which, Buffy needed better Slayer instincts, really. Slayer hearing, too. Getting careless around Spike wasn’t necessarily a recipe for doom, but general keeping-up-the-guard was always a good idea for a Slayer. “Buffy, spent ten years trying to get a monkey off my back. Told you I’d come for you, when we were done with Wolfram and Hart and the end of the world. Well, we’re done. Thanks to you, admittedly. But I’m here. Come for you, if you want me.”
“Did you just leave Giles to clean up a chainsawed dragon head in his hallway?” The words were stupid, but she was walking toward Spike in a way that had nothing to do with practicalities. It was a small kitchen. It did not take long.
“Nah,” said Spike. “Left the Watcher trying to find the key to his chainsaw. Poor senile old fool.” He reached out, and put one hand lightly on her shoulder. “‘ll help clear up the bonemeal and whatever later on.”
Buffy found her hands reaching out to sit, lightly, on his chest. “I’m a washed up Slayer. A renegade. I have no money and no plans.”
“Have you met me?” said Spike, getting his second arm around her. “Souled vampire. Outcast of my tribe. Recently dragon’s bitch. So redundant the prophecies won’t have me. Never stopped thinking about the girl I left behind, though it’s been more time than a sensible man could ask anyone to wait. Even a forever love.”
“I’m just gonna-” said Dawn, the goddess of portals, making like a portal goddess and getting out of there without disturbing the pair blocking the doorway.
Their mouths met.
After a while – probably a long while, but who knew? – there was a dry little cough, and a Watcher’s voice said, “Well, this is all very touching, but someone still needs to saw up this dragon skull, and someone else should really put the kettle on again-”
They separated. Reluctantly.
Giles was looking at them with considerable weariness. “I suppose this was inevitable, wasn’t it? Well, all I can say, is that you likely deserve one another. But Spike? Buffy may not have the power of the Watchers’ Council behind her these days, but please don’t think nobody will care if you let her down again. We have done quite enough comforting Buffy over you, these past years.”
“Oh, god, shut up,” said Buffy, quietly. Because, how embarrassing could he get? And the ice cream binges and tears had dried up after not so very many years, thank you. She had been fine. In a grim, pale, nothingy sort of way that she’d almost forgotten was bad, till now. She looked at Spike, directly, though. “I lost my old life because of you.”
“Could say the same for you, love. But willingly, in my case.”
“Willingly here too,” she said. “I couldn’t ever stay with the Council after they let you down.”
Their mouths met again. Giles sighed, and discreetly went to get busy with the chainsaw.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/504206.html