Sorry this is intruding into someone else’s day, but it won’t be by much, as I haven’t put my watch back to GMT yet, and if I did it right now, it would still be the 26th. Just.
“We look like an army.”
Buffy looked from one bitty Slayer to another, then at Dawn and Xander. Everyone was dressed alike in black combat pants and flak jackets. All were armed to the teeth.
After all, it wasn’t some vamp they were facing, but a genuine, bona fide hellbeast, intent on ending the world in a fiery ball of chaos. If one weapon didn’t kill it, maybe another one would.
Or maybe not. Could be that something more mystical was needed. Which reminded her…
“Meet me by the elevators,” Buffy told Kennedy. “Xander and me’ll go check on Willow.”
Kennedy just gave her a look. “Sure. And while you’re about it, pull her head out of her ass, will you?”
“Er…” Buffy watched Kennedy do a smart heel-turn, like a real soldier, and tell the bitty Slayers to ‘head out.’ Maybe it was best not to say anything.
“You shouldn’t have told Ken we look like an army,” Dawn hissed in her ear. “It’s gone straight to her head.”
“What is with those two anyway?” Buffy asked, as they headed back down the corridor towards the library. “Willow’s pretty clear it’s Kennedy’s fault, whatever it is, but I don’t think Kennedy agrees.”
Dawn grimaced. “They have this thing. Willow didn’t stop talking about it for the whole of our trip. Not even in the dimension without shrimp. I’m trying to be neutral, okay?”
But Dawn shook her head. “They have to work it out for themselves.”
Buffy frowned. No way she was letting that stand. “You’re telling me later.”
She opened the library door, but then staggered back, choking. “Hoo-boy! what is that smell?”
From inside the room, Giles’s voice called, “That would be hair of the dog. Literally, in this case.”
Buffy risked a peek inside. Giles was standing near the fireplace, arms raised, mid-conjure. A huge blaze was roaring up the chimney, the flames a sickly greenish-yellow. Dark smoke wreathed the ceiling. The horrible smell was everywhere.
Spike’s hench-vamp, looking nauseous, like he’d drunk some bad blood, was standing nearby, holding an old-fashioned fan, and wafting the stinky smoke towards Willow, who lay groaning on the couch.
“Ooh, my head!” she wailed.
“Just keep breathing,” Giles snapped at her, not at all sympathetic. “And you -” addressing the hench-vamp -“don’t stop fanning.”
The hench-vamp looked all kinds of conflicted, but he did what he was told.
“It’s okay.” Buffy marched up to him and tore the fan from his hand. “I’ll do that. You can go help his majesty. Tell him I sent you.”
The hench-vamp gave her a look like the one he’d given Spike, though with less of the adoration, and a lot more of the loathing. Then he bowed, and hurried from the room.
“Whatever you say, my queen.”
Buffy kept wafting the smoke towards Willow until the door shut behind him. Then, she let the grin she’d been suppressing slide into place.
“Yes!” She punched the air. “Did you hear that? I’m his queen.”
“Awesome!” Xander’s face split into a answering grin. He held up his hand, palm outwards. “Gimme five, Buf. Only not too hard,” he said, hastily, as Buffy aimed her hand at his.
“Sorry!” Buffy peddled back on the Slayer strength just before their palms collided.
“Weird,” was all Dawn said.
“Yes,” Giles agreed, still in the same snappish tone. “Very odd indeed. Are you feeling any better, Willow, because this really is very unpleasant?”
Willow just groaned.
Buffy had the impression Giles was vastly irritated to have been jolted out of his nice cosy evening in front of the fire, with a book and his favourite tipple. Any minute now, he’d be complaining about the lack of consideration on the part of certain hellbeasts.
Sure enough, “Bloody thing might have waited till tomorrow,” Giles growled. “Then there’d be no need for this…this…” He indicated the smoke and the fanning, looking sour and out of sorts.
Buffy gave him a fond look. Yeah, crusty and upset by change. Giles really was getting old.
“How’re you doing, Will?” she asked, after a while. There hadn’t been any groaning for a whole minute at least.
“Okay,” Willow said. Her voice was wobbly, and she still looked a little green, but she managed to pull herself upright and give Buffy a shaky grin. “Hey, Dawnie.”
Dawn huffed. “Some role model you are.”
Willow looked stricken. “Bad me. I’m so sorry.”
“Yes, yes,” Giles interrupted. “I’m sure we’ve all done the same at some point. That will be enough fanning, Buffy, if you please.” He turned to the fire, and declaimed, “Exstingue.”
At once, the fire flickered, and began to die down, while the smoke clouds thinned and dispersed, along with the stench.
“So, what’s the sitch, bitch?” Willow sing-songed, then clapped her hand over her mouth. “Sorry. Think I’m still a little drunk.”
Buffy opened her mouth to explain, but Dawn was there first.
“The sham marriage thing hasn’t worked. The apocalypse is still on schedule. We’re gonna go up on the roof – us and Spike’s vamps – and impress the world-destroying demon with our united stand. Maybe it’ll just cave.”
Willow eyed the crossbow Dawn was holding. “Hope you’ve got the safety on that thing, Dawnie, and yeah, maybe it will.” She didn’t sound like she believed it, though.
“Very unlikely,” Giles muttered. “I always knew this ridiculous charade was a big mistake.”
Willow gave Buffy a look, as if to say, I agree.
The subtext, Buffy supposed, was that she’d been meant to make it not a charade. Well, tough.
Right now, what with the ‘thing’ with Kennedy, she wasn’t sure how much relationship advice from Willow was worth anyway.
“Either way,” she said, ” we should motor. The others are waiting for us.”
Willow held out her hand. “Help me up?”
Buffy grabbed her arm and yanked her to her feet. “Get it together, Will. This could be a bad one.”
Willow only rolled her eyes. “Aren’t they all?”
“We’ll take the stairs,” she said.
The fire door swung violently to and fro in her wake, as she shooed her squad of bitty Slayers through it. Their boots clattered loud on the concrete.
Willow frowned, then sort of slumped, looking miserable. Not a good sign.
The elevator doors swished open, and Buffy bundled Willow inside. She backed her into a corner.
“Okay, just what is going on with you two?”
At once, Willow had gotten that stubborn look on her face, than which there was nothing more stubborn on earth, and most likely any other plane of existence.
“I don’t wanna talk about it.”
Buffy glanced over her shoulder, at Xander and Giles, who were looking anywhere but their way, and at Dawn, who just looked bored.
“We’re about to go into the biggest fight of our life since the last one, Will. I don’t want you all distracted because you’ve fallen out with your honey.”
The stubborn look only got stubborner.
“I have not fallen out with her. She’s fallen out with me.”
Behind them, Dawn snorted, in a way that clearly said, “Yeah, right,” and the look turned a little defensive.
“She’s the one who won’t admit she’s wrong. Even though she totally is. If we’re gonna have a baby, of course I should be the birth mom. I mean, it only makes sense, right? I’m way more nurturing than she is.”
“Er…” Buffy stared at her. She glanced at the others again, in time to catch Dawn rolling her eyes, Xander taking great interest in the elevator ceiling, and Giles muttering, quite audibly, “Oh, dear lord!” and reaching for his handkerchief and glasses.
“Giles!” Buffy snapped. “Not the time.”
Just at that moment, the elevator juddered to a halt, and the door swung open on the hushed tenth floor corridor.
“What kept you?” Kennedy said. “Vamps’re waiting for us by the door to the roof terrace.”
She fell into step behind Buffy, still studiously ignoring Willow. “Looks like it’s hell out there.”
The atmosphere wasn’t too great inside either, Buffy thought. Right now, fighting a world destroying hellbeast seemed preferable.
But when she stepped out onto the terrace, she changed her mind. It really did look like hell. Except that she’d always thought of hell as a fiery pit in the earth, and this was more like a fiery hole in the heavens.
As she watched, a fireball about the size of her head whizzed past and smacked into the side of a nearby building. Also, were those dark, spiky things with way too many teeth clouds, or were they some sort of shadow demon?
She dodged as a fiery arrow hit the terrace nearby. Shadow demons. Check.
“This doesn’t look good.” Spike’s voice in her ear, shouting to be heard above the noise of the storm.
His hench-vamps were cowering in the shelter of the building – not that Buffy could blame them. This was no place for the flammable – but Spike himself looked to be in his element again.
His white hair stood up in a shock on his head, full of static. He was wearing black jeans and a black tee –
–and damnit, Summers, he still looks good in that duster.
“Gone for the retro look, huh?” she said.
He grinned, like he was enjoying himself enormously. “Seemed like the right thing to do.”
She gestured at the chaos overhead. “How do you wanna play this?”
He eyed the shadow demons with their fiery arrows. “Dunno. Fight fire with fire, maybe? Either way, it’s too hot for comfort out there for my lot. You deal with this bunch, and if anything you can punch, kick or bite turns up, leave it to us.”
“You got it.”
Buffy waved her people forward, as Spike retreated to bark orders at his.
“Take ’em down, Xander.”
Xander fetched her another salute. “Yes, ma’am, Slayer, ma’am.” He aimed the flamethrower at the shadow demons and let rip.
Liquid flame sprayed across the lowering clouds, which began to boil and bubble. A moment later, they were glowing a fiery red. A moment after that, they burst into flames.
Flames, which the shadow demons gathered up in great handfuls and shaped into yet more arrows.
“Damnit!” Xander turned off the flame and stepped back. “Maybe not such a good idea.”
“Agreed.” Buffy jumped back, pulling Xander with her, as more fiery arrows rained down.
And was it her imagination, or were the shadow demons laughing?
“This is no good,” she said. “We’d be better off with a water cannon.”
“Yeah,” Dawn said. “This sucks. All that time wasted learning to be a pyromancer, now I don’t even get to use my mad skillz.”
“Or maybe you do,” Willow cut in. “Giles, help me conjure Neptune’s Fury.”
“What?” Giles looked aghast. “I hope you know what you’re doing, Willow. That spell could have disastrous consequences if you’re not careful.”
Willow pouted. “‘Course I know. This’ll be very focused. Okay, let’s chant. One…two…three…”
“Oh dear lord!” Giles muttered again, but he began chanting dutifully.
“Get a bloody move on!” Spike’s voice, from out of the thunder. Buffy looked over where he was standing, hench-vamps around him in a sullen huddle. Was it Buffy’s imagination, or were they looking more and more mutinous.
Gotta do something to impress them, damn quick.
The chanting stopped suddenly.
“Go for it, Xan.” Willow indicated the flame thrower.
Xander frowned, then shrugged. He directed the flamethrower at the shadow demons again, but this time, instead of flame, a jet of water shot out of the nozzle, so strong that the recoil almost sent Xander flying backwards. Buffy caught him just in time, and between them they directed the spray at the sky.
A shower of fiery embers fell all around them.
“Your turn, Dawnie,” Willow called.
“Batten down the hatches!” Xander yelled at Buffy, over the sound of gushing water and hissing steam.
The terrace was littered with fireballs, turning to charcoal as they sputtered and died in puddles.
“Yeah.” It was hard to keep her mind on the task of taking down shadow demons when the tattoos wreathing Dawn’s upper arms were writhing and twisting, like smoke. The fate of the school cat kept coming to mind.
“Oh boy,” Xander said. “Will you look at that?”
“I’m looking, I’m looking.”
Buffy gazed in wonder as the whorls of tattoo-smoke, instead of bursting into flame, like usual, turned into graceful, whirling waterspouts – waterspouts that spun upwards, faster and faster, growing into huge tornadoes of water that scattered shadow demons left and right, carrying them off into the sky.
Then they were gone, back into the fiery hole that spawned them.
“Holy fuck,” Dawn said, in a flat voice. She was staring at her arms as if she’d never seen them before. “Had no idea I could do that.”
Willow put her arms around Dawn’s waist and hugged her. “Silly you. What’d I say about elemental magic?”
Dawn’s eyes widened. “Of course. I forgot. The four classical elements are all connected. If you can control one…”
“…you can control the others,” Willow finished for her. They grinned at each other.
Xander had turned off the flamethrower. An ominous silence fell, except for…
Buffy stared. Was that a helicopter?
She ran to the edge of the parapet and looked over. There it was, hovering at a safe distance from the action – if there could be such a thing with the apocalypse imminent. On its side, the helicopter bore the logo News International. Some guy was sitting in the open door, pointing a camera right at her.
Buffy marched across the roof to where Spike stood, surrounded by his hench-vamps. They gave way before her, looking scared out of their wits, which gave her some idea what her face must look like. Spike seemed a little nervous too.
“Something wrong, Slayer?”
“You called the press?”
“Oh,” he said. “That. ‘Course I did. No such thing as bad publicity, is there?”
She glared. “They’re civilians in the line of fire.”
He raised an eyebrow at her. “It’s the apocalypse. All civilians are in the line of fire. Speaking of which, here comes the second wave.”
Buffy turned, just as a horrible sound, like a thousand hyenas laughing, filled her ears.
“Uh-oh. That looks bad.”
From the rent in the sky, an army of flying things was hurtling their way, all gibbering and whooping and waving weapons. As they drew nearer – which didn’t take long – you could see their nasty pointy tusks and green scaly skin.
“Right.” From somewhere inside his duster Spike drew a big, shiny sword. He shook his head, and suddenly Buffy was looking at a monster, yellow-eyes, lumpy forehead. His mouth opened in a fangy grin. “Looks like it’s our turn.”
He turned on his hench-vamps. “Any of you lot feel like killin’ something?”
At once, faces both handsome and ugly turned bat-like and mean. The hench-vamps roared their approval.
“Hey, not letting you have all the fun!”
Buffy signalled to Kennedy, who nodded and led the Slayers forward. Xander, meanwhile, stood guard in front of Willow, Dawn and Giles, who were cooking up some new mojo between them.
Buffy couldn’t help the feeling of satisfaction as she drew her own weapon and leapt to meet the first flying lizard demon. They were a team, damnit. A good one.
After that, things narrowed down to the usual stab-behead-move-on that fights usually narrowed down to, except that the number of opponents seemed never ending. The roof terrace grew slippery with blood – mostly gloopy, green demon blood, which was good, but there was some human (or possibly vamp) red mixed up with it.
Buffy ducked as a barbed sword swung way too close above her head, then stabbed upwards into demon guts. A veined wing, like a bat’s but huge, shaved past her face, and a lizard-y tail took her knees out from under her. She fell, with the demon’s dead body on top of her.
“Eww!” She tried to kick the thing away, but she couldn’t get leverage.
“Buffy!” Kennedy’s voice called from across the roof. “Where the fuck are you?”
“Down here!” She raised her arm to protect her head as a vamp, its fangs buried in a lizard demon’s neck, nearly stomped on her.
“Watch what you’re doing. Bloody idiot.”
A cold hand grabbed hold of Buffy’s arm and hauled her out from under.
“Lying down on the job, Slayer?” Spike gave her another fangy grin. “That’s not like the woman I remember.”
A moment later, they were fighting back to back, while the battle ebbed and flowed all around them. Balls of werelight zinged overhead, courtesy of Willow and Dawn.
Buffy saw Kennedy take a hit, and retire from the battle with her arm dangling at an impossible angle. No time to see how Willow reacted to that. No time for anything, except slash, hack, destroy.
But – strange to say – she was having fun. The most fun she’d had with Spike since… well, maybe ever. There’d been times back in Sunnydale, in the old days, when he’d had her back, sure, but this was different. They were so well-matched, it was like he was her shadow.
Or her dance-partner.
And the number of lizard demons was fewer. Their corpses were piled up in heaps. Vamps were tearing them limb from limb, Slayers were gutting them like chickens.
At last, silence fell, except for the ever-present sound of the helicopter.
“Heads up, Slayer,” Spike said. “Time for the main event.”
If you squinted, it seemed vaguely man-like, but from other angles, it looked more like an octopus, or a giant squid.
Tentacles were definitely involved somewhere.
And it was huge. More and more of its body slid out of the rift, but there still seemed no end of it.
“So this is it, then,” Spike said. His voice was shockingly loud in the after-battle lull. “The apocalypse.”
“Yeah.” Buffy was counting on her fingers. “I think this’ll make my twentieth.”
Spike laughed. “Like bloody buses, aren’t they?” He tilted his head. “What’s up with it, d’you s’pose? Seems a bit hesitant for a world-destroying hellbeast.”
“Huh. How about that?”
Maybe it was Willow, Buffy thought. She’d seen similar beasties – okay, maybe not quite so big – turn tail – if they had tails – and make like Usain Bolt at the very sight of Willow. But the scary witch in question had her back to the action – probably dealing with Kennedy’s broken arm – and the giant-man-squid-thing wasn’t looking her way anyway.
At least, Buffy didn’t think it was. Hard to tell with all those tentacles around what might possibly be its eyes.
But no. It wasn’t looking at Willow. More like at her and Spike.
That was the moment she realised that Spike and she were holding hands. When the hell that had happened, she had no idea, but the hellbeast seemed pretty fixated on it.
Buffy looked around the terrace at their battered forces. Slayers and vamps had gotten mixed up together during the battle, and though they weren’t exactly slapping each other on the back like best pals, they weren’t trying to kill each other either. She even saw one vamp haul a fallen Slayer to her feet, and sort of nod in acknowledgement when she gave him a frosty thank you.
Buffy looked at the hellbeast again. It was leaning its elbows or nearest equivalent on the edge of the rift, staring down, as if it wasn’t sure whether or not to climb out any further.
She turned to Spike, who looked back at her with laughing eyes and a big grin on his face.
“You thinking what I’m thinking, Slayer?”
“Ah, shut up!” she growled. Then, she grabbed his head, surged upwards and kissed him hard on the lips.
His mouth opened in surprise, and she darted her tongue inside it.
He hasn’t been smoking, thank fuck. I can deal with the taste of whisky.
She took her time exploring the inside of his mouth, and then he returned the favour. He was still a great kisser. His hand, meanwhile, was going on a little journey of exploration, down her back, drifting past her hips, then stopping short just before it got too personal.
“God, Slayer,” his breathed in her ear. “I love you. Love you so fucking much.”
Somehow, she wasn’t sure how, he managed to go on kissing her while he said it.
Her heart leapt in her chest at the words, which he totally must have felt, because he froze suddenly.
“That is… I mean…”
She captured his mouth again. “Don’t remember saying you could stop.”
There was a sound in her ears – two sounds, in fact. It took her a moment to focus on anything beyond Spike’s mouth and the way certain parts of him were moulded to certain parts of her, but after a while, she realised it was cheering.
Oh, and that damn helicopter had come an awful lot closer.
“What the hell…?”
She tore her mouth away from Spike’s and looked up into the glare of the helicopter running lights. It was side on to them, just feet away on the far side of the parapet.
“Thanks, your majesties,” the guy with the camera called. “Got some great shots there. Enjoy the rest of your evening.”
The helicopter began to move away. “Oh yeah,” the guy called. “Thanks for saving the world too. Bloody brilliant.”
“Looks like we finally convinced the sodding thing.” Spike still had his arm around her. He pointed up into the sky, which was just like any other London sky at night – kind of hazy and starless, and threatening rain.
Of the hellbeast and its harbingers, there was no sign – except for the demon corpses scattered around the roof terrace, of course, but Buffy had a feeling the Walsingham employed a first rate clean-up team.
The cheering had been her own people and…well, not-people, all of whom looked glad to be able to retreat to their own sides of the roof now the danger was over and just eye each other with barely concealed hostility once more.
Buffy turned back to Spike. “Did you mean it?”
For a moment, the blank, bland look almost slid back into place, but then he gave her a rueful nod.
“‘Course I bloody meant it. You’re the one, Buffy. Told you that ten years back. Nothing’s gonna change that.”
“But…” she began.
He shook his head. “Later, yeah? That is…” he hesitated -“…if you want there to be a later?”
She nodded. “I do.” Then she glared at him. “Don’t think you’re gonna sidle your way out of this one, mister.”
“I wasn’t…” he protested, but she’d already turned her back on him. “We should get back to the party.”
She didn’t wait to see what he did next, just made her way over to where her own people were waiting for her.
Willow and Kennedy were nowhere to be seen, she noted, and Dawn looked awful smug, which was probably a good sign.
“What’d I tell you?” she said to Xander. “Lamest. Apocalypse. Ever.”
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/484555.html