A quick punch to the nose. A kick to the side of the ribs. Bounce back, then dart in for a punch to the gut. Back off again, letting the confused fledgling recover for a bit. Buffy knew she shouldn’t be doing this, toying with him instead of just staking him, but she needed the fight. She needed to work out the rage and fear and horror.
They’d been trying to help and…. She choked back a sob and head butted the newly risen vampire. She couldn’t get it out of her head. She needed it out of her head.
A twisted version of Mathias Pavayne, turned from kindly old friend of Giles into a horrible, sadistic monster. He’s curled around Spike’s naked form, touching him, telling him he’s evil and belongs in hell.
“Stupid, sexy, brave vampire,” she growled as she hit the fledge over and over.
“If… you feel that… way… about me,” the confused vampire panted out, “why do you keep… hitting… me?”
“Not you,” she snapped, shoving him to the ground. She held him down with her foot and grabbed his arm. Twist. Pull. Snap. Riiiip. She tore his arm off. What the…? She stared stupidly at the arm in her hand for a moment, feeling sick. She was the vampire slayer, not the vampire torturer. She couldn’t believe she’d….
“What the hell is wrong with you?” the vampire managed to shriek out among his horrified caterwauling.
The noise made her head hurt and reignited her rage. Without even thinking about it, she smacked him with his own arm. Huh. That worked nicely. She hit him again.
“Damn it, Spike,” she snarled, using the arm to beat the vampire. “Why do you always have to do the right thing at the wrong. Damn. Time?”
Fury, fear, pride, frustration, sick horror…. She’d felt all of those things while watching the projections Willow had created of what Spike was going through. The sight of him making his clothes appear again, holding his head high with confidence, and then giving up his chance to be solid to save someone without any hesitation. She’d been so proud of him, but she’d also wanted to hit him. To shake him and beg him to just go through the damn “hell” portal.
Even their backup plan – a corporealization machine so he’d at least be solid – had been ruined. All because the amulet had twisted things, and Spike was a selfless idiot who always tried to save the girl. Even when he was being fragmented, and the girl in question was a representation of his cleverness and feminine side.
She continued whaling on the screaming fledgling. She imagined it was Spike and hit harder. Then she imagined it was Mathias, and guilt was added to the emotional stew that was Buffy. God, the poor man had done his best. It had been the amulet that had twisted his actions into something rapey and horrifying. They’d had to sedate him after Willow had managed to free him from the tiny pocket of itself the amulet had shoved him into.
She wanted someone to blame. Someone to take her anger out on. It’s my fault, she thought. I’m the one who gave it to him. It’s all my fault. She’s taken the stupid thing from Angel and…. Angel. Angel had brought that thing to Sunnydale and hadn’t protested much about being sent away. Not really.
With a scream of rage, she beat the fledgling into unconsciousness, pretending he was Angel. She beat him for all of the times he’d led her on. Beat him for all of the times he’d broken her heart. For all of the times he’d abandoned her. She beat until the… the thing he’d become was barely even undead, and then she kicked him in the head. It caved in, and she lost her balance as she tried to hit a body that had exploded into dust.
Damn it. She hadn’t been ready yet. Goddamn vampires. They always left you before you were ready. Buffy dropped to her knees and cried.
Buffy felt numb and floaty as she walked into the Hyperion. The stairs started getting closer, so she assumed she must be moving. That assumption was proven correct when she literally ran into the person-shaped object suddenly in her way. She blinked and the person-thing became a Kennedy-thing. Not really an improvement.
“What exactly is your damage?” it demanded.
Damage? What was her damage? She stared at the Kennedy-thing without saying a word. It wanted to know what the damage was? Constant betrayal from every corner but one. That was the damage. Her one support undermined at every opportunity. That was damage, too. That support basically in a coma while his soul – that he’d gotten for her – and consciousness were locked away in his own personal version of hell. That was the biggest damage of all.
Buffy shoved Kennedy out of her way and continued towards the stairs.
“We can’t just stay here,” Kennedy insisted. “If you aren’t going to step up and lead, then I will. We should get out of here. Go to the Council Headquarters and see what can be salvaged.”
Buffy turned, finally actually focusing on the other woman. Her glance flicked across the lobby to the collection of former potentials – now slayers – milling around uncomfortably.
“The war is over,” she said quietly. “We ‘won.’ Do whatever the hell you want. I don’t care.”
She’d already started up the stairs when that irritating voice sounded again. “What about Willow? Can she do whatever the hell she wants, or are you going to keep her here just because you don’t have what it takes to put down your undead cuddle buddy?”
There was a sudden crunch, and Buffy found a chunk of loose railing in her hand. Huh. How had that happened? Weird. She let it drop and kept going up the steps without answering. Willow was helping. That was what Willow did. She “helped” and did the “right thing.” Even if that “right thing” was screwing everything up or helping to kick someone out of their own damn house.
Giles came out of his room just as she reached the top of the stairs. He looked at her hesitantly, as if he wanted to hug her close and pet her hair while he whispered that everything would be alright. Part of her wanted to let him, but the rest didn’t trust him. He seemed to realize that.
“Ah, Buffy? Angel called. He requested a meeting with you at his office in the morning. He, uh, has supposedly found some information on the amulet that may prove useful.”
Angel had information? Oh god, she didn’t want to deal with Angel right now. She wasn’t sure if either one of them would survive it.
“Don’t worry,” Giles said gently. “I’ll take care of it.”
She studied him for a long moment. He’d been trying, this past week. She’d give him that. And unlike some of the others, he’d never suggested just dusting Spike.
“Yeah, okay,” she said, turning away from him.
She went down the hall to the room Angel had said she could use when he’d given them permission to stay in the hotel. She could hear a quiet voice apparently talking to itself in the room. Was Willow trying something new? She should be resting. Buffy frowned and opened the door. Willow couldn’t help if she wasn’t rested.
“… ‘and that’s a wild creature! I suppose he’s so tame because we’ve been kind to him.’”
Not Willow. Dawn. She’d put the amulet on Spike’s chest and was curled up beside him on the bed, one hand resting on the gaudy gemstone. She was holding a book in the other and had been reading in a passable British accent.
“It-.” she paused, seeming a little embarrassed. “It’s Rikki-tikki-tavi,” Dawn said, sniffing back tears. “He… uh, he used to read it to me while you were…. Dead.”
Buffy stared blankly at her sister for a moment, then grabbed her nightgown out of the closet and went to the bathroom to change. Of them all, Dawn’s betrayal had hurt the worst. She’d given up her life for Dawn, multiple times, if you thought about it. She’d lost her life as a single child. She’d put aside her own grief and needs when their mother died. Then she’d given her actual, physical life so Dawn could keep hers.
And she’d been repaid with betrayal.
Buffy sighed and washed her face. It wasn’t that simple, though, was it? Dawn had finally told her about the encounter with the FE. She won’t choose you. Dawn had spent her entire short existence being abandoned in one way or another by multiple people. Maybe she’d decided it was time to be the betrayer for once instead of the betrayee.
It had been a dumb and hurtful reaction, but Buffy couldn’t honestly say she’d never stomped all over someone else when she’d been confused. She’d done it to Xander after her visit to her father that first year. He’d brought her back to life when Angel couldn’t, for some reason. Instead of being properly grateful, she’d…. She’d been a heinous bitch, honestly. And then there was Spike….
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She couldn’t fully forgive Dawn. Not yet. But…. She left the bathroom and climbed into the bed, curling up against Spike’s other side. Her hand reached out to cover Dawn’s on the amulet.
“Keep reading,” she whispered.
It was a pretty little gem of a building, wasn’t it? Windows everywhere, shining light onto all of the white interior. You could almost believe it was the office building version of a fairytale castle. All it needs is a bloody unicorn prancing about through the lobby, Giles thought cynically. He knew this place for the poisoned lolly it truly was.
Wait, was that…? Giles watched in bemusement as what he was certain was a kirin demon was led across the lobby on a leash. He shook his head and made his way to Angel’s office, introducing himself to the vampire’s personal receptionist. Her eyes were a little too wide and her skin tinted just a shade too blue, but she was mostly able to pass for human. A rocali demon, he thought. It was a good choice for a receptionist. They could read surface thoughts. He kept his pleasant and focused on the reason for this meeting.
“I’m Rupert Giles. Angel is expecting a… an associate,” the word stabbed at his heart, but he couldn’t claim any other relationship with Buffy right now. Not honestly, “of mine. I’ve come in her place.”
She studied him for a moment, then picked up the phone to call Angel. Harmony as the receptionist hadn’t been the only departure Spike’s hellscape had taken from reality. While Angel was the CEO and Wesley did run the magical research division, Fred’s science division dealt almost exclusively with forensics of one sort or another while Gunn oversaw both the group of private investigators on retainer and the corps of bodyguards Wolfram & Hart kept on hand for their clients. Lorne was in charge of HR and client morale, which wasn’t far off from what he did in Spike’s hell world.
“Mr. Giles,” the receptionist called out. “Mr. Angel will see you.”
Giles thanked her and went into the office, feeling the same bottled rage he did whenever in Angel’s presence. He still dreamed of her. His Jenny, lying dead in his bed when they’d only gotten each other back. The First Evil in her form, whispering about how you could never really trust a vampire, especially one who claimed to have a soul, yet still seemed to essentially be the same creature.
For his part, Angel didn’t seem any happier to see him. The vampire was standing near his desk, glowering broodingly, as it that was the least bit impressive. “Where’s Buffy?” he asked.
“She’s the most senior slayer,” Giles replied coolly. “She hasn’t the time to be running about at your beck and call. Whatever information you have can just as easily be given to me.” His eyes narrowed. “Unless of course, this was all a ruse. If so, I shall have to inform her that you most definitely can no longer be trusted.”
Angel pressed his lips into a tight, white line, then grabbed a folder from his desk and thrust it towards Giles. “Here.”
He nodded brusquely and left the office without another word. He made it all the way to the main lobby before he was stopped.
“Mr. Giles, wait!” a female voice called out. He turned to see what was an oddly puppyish humanoid lizard in a pink dress suit. She held out a stack of papers.
He frowned at the demon and the papers. “Who are you? What is this all about?”
She looked away, then back at him. “I’m Penelope Kshrask’lar. I’m Mr. Angel’s personal lawyer and legal expert. When something’s not… right, I get a feeling – comes from being a balance demon. I’m sure it was just a mistake,” she said earnestly, her long tail wagging. “These papers were meant to be in the folder about the amulet.”
Giles’s eyes narrowed as he slowly took the papers. A mistake, hmm? It could have been…. But honestly, he wouldn’t put it past Angel to pull something like this. “Ah, thank you, Ms. Kshrask’lar.”
She nodded and scurried away to meet up with Angel’s associate, Gunn, whom she seemed quite pleased to see. Were they…? Giles shook his head. Thinking about the love lives of mostly strangers may have been a nice distraction – that had honestly been part of the appeal of watching Passions with Spike back in the Sunnydale days – but it was none of his business. He stared at the papers in his hands. He had to look through this… and then deal with the possibility that what was in them might break his slayer’s heart all over again.
Giles stared at the papers spread across the hotel room desk. Good lord. The information here…. It made so much sense. Some of it had already been obvious to Buffy. Some of it though…. Buffy would not be pleased to hear about it.
For himself, though…. He sighed in defeat and took off his glasses so he could press his hands to his eyes. He had to come to terms with the differences between Angel and Angelus being a flaw in Angel… and not one in Spike. If what he was reading was true – and considering Angel had tried to keep it secret, he was fairly certain it was – then the younger vampire was quite a bit more extraordinary than he had given him credit for…. And it was time to stop blaming an entire species for what one monster had done to the woman he’d loved.
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