Pairing: Spuffy more than anything.
Summary: Vampires are creatures of two halves.
Notes: The characters in this belong to ME et al, not me. And, while this fic could've come out better (I didn't manage to work out how in time), I've loved this challenge, so thanks for setting it!
“I always wondered how the Aztecs felt,” Dawn said, out of the blue and looking off into the blood-red sky.
“What’s that, pet?”
She didn’t turn around, and the red sun made her hair gleam. “I just wondered, you know? How… how it could possibly feel to watch the sun go down and not be sure it was gonna rise again the next day.”
He didn’t want to point out that she wasn’t watching: the sun was behind her, behind him and behind the entrance to the stairwell that was the only thing providing him with any shade.
He edged to the left, drawing his hand along the painted wood of the door to the brickwork. A strange curiosity had risen within him, and with its urgings he peered around the corner he came to, staring straight into the sun. It was falling, a dark and angry globe pulled down into the Los Angeles skyline. He hadn’t looked at the sun for long enough to acknowledge its appearance in a long time, but it was not how he remembered it. It seemed older, more tired.
It was an odd relationship you had with the sun as a vampire. Very odd. Like that of comfortable enemies, forever sniping away at each other with no true animosity. It was different now, of course. The sun seemed to be too bitter and remote to burn him, though it had never looked more fierce. He himself felt too old to stand and let it.
He swung back to the shade, skin barely warmed. “Some vamps reckon we can feel the sun, you know,” he told Dawn’s blackening hair. “At night, I mean. Reckon we can tell how near the dawn is.” She turned at her name, eyes beginning to look owlish in the dusk.
“D’you think you can? Feel it?” Her eyes were set on him, never drifting to the sun behind.
He shrugged, noncommittal. “Just nerves, I always reckoned – that antsy feeling you get when you know something’s coming.”
“What about tonight?”
He opened his mouth to speak, but said nothing. There were no words, none, to describe the slowly stretching, languid malevolence that unfurled like dark peace inside of him, or the promise that filled the chilling air.
At last she smiled, sadly. “Yeah,” she said. “I know. It’s why I can’t watch.”
Buffy looked furious, eyes alight as her blood pumped around her veins: gushing life. There was something else there though, some hurt not many people knew to see. He saw it, and, as her words thundered, he felt it in their bittersweet, hollow core. “You ripped a hole in this dimension and tried to plug it over with a Band-Aid!”
“I’m sick of this.” Angel took a step forward, the clop of his posh shoes sounding hollowly from the Hyperion floor. Spike couldn’t see Angel’s face, but since there probably wasn’t any expression there it hardly mattered. “You think you can just come in here and tell us how to fight this thing? We’ve dealt with the Hellmouth for years without your help and we do not need it now.”
Buffy, as she always did when backed into a corner, lashed out. “There never even was a Hellmouth in LA before you opened it!”
If Angel was sick of this, Spike was sodding chronic. They’d been here three days now, going over the situation again and again, Angel and his people and him on the one side, Buffy and her people on the other. Angel didn’t know what he was doing, but refused to cede control, and Buffy was dealing with it using every ounce of tact and diplomacy she had at her disposal. Which, to be honest, wasn’t much.
He’d never signed on for this. Just one final, glorious battle – that was all he’d wanted. Not years of trailing after Angel with a gang of outcast demons (who had fewer morals than he did), trying to defend a crackpot decision they’d realised was a mistake a day after they’d made it.
He couldn’t be doing with it anymore.
With a sigh, he did what he’d been wanting to do for days. He strode to the front of the group, stopping at Angel’s side but ignoring him.
“Buffy.” He caught her eye. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t seen her in so long; typical, that they’d meet like this. The pictures he had on his phone really didn’t do her justice. “What d’you want us to do?”
She smiled at him, and at last the bloody fight looked like it might have an end.
The sun had gone and all the remaining light came from electricity: from the cars, streetlamps and shop signs of a city now about as chic as dog shit. The glow pushed up past their rooftop and groped, grasping, at the sky above – it was all so very Tower of Babel, so very human.
“So, uh, some joke of Buffy’s, d’you think? Putting us on the same team?”
Xander looked different. The eye-patch was the same, but the other eye was harder, sharper. His skin was darker and fractured by scores of lines, marking out the passed hours of his life. He was so removed from the boy Spike had known that there was nothing to feel towards him.
The reply rolled from Spike’s tongue. “Probably punishment for waiting a year and a half to tell her I was alive.”
“That’d do it,” Xander agreed.
There was a silence, filled by Dawn and some Slayers murmuring not far away. Spike lit a cigarette. His exhaled smoke looked much like Xander’s steaming breath, but it wasn’t the same. No warming blood ran round Spike’s veins: he was as cold as the night air, and so was his breath.
“Got a question,” Spike said. “If she’s punishing me, why’re you here?”
“Well, uh, that’s a funny story.” Xander grinned, which really wasn’t something Spike was used to – another difference. “I got married – last spring – but I, uh, kinda forgot to tell anybody about it.”
“Ah.” Another silence. Spike peered past Xander to where the portal could, apparently, open. Absentmindedly he asked, “What’s she like then?”
“This bird of yours.”
“Tanisha?” Xander’s silence was something that Spike could recognise at least. Verbalising emotion – it was bloody hard. “She’s – amazing.”
Spike focussed on Xander’s eye. Weakness, there was definitely a weakness there. “Right,” he said, and let his eyes wander over to Dawn and the Slayers.
“She’s here, actually. With Giles and Willow. She thought if the world was gonna end she might as well get to know a couple of my friends.”
“She helping with that counter-spell?”
“If we need it.”
Grinding his fag end into the gravel Spike nodded slightly, in acknowledgement.
“So, uh, you and Buffy.” Xander scratched his cheek, not looking at him. “What… how’s that go these days?”
Spike snorted. “God knows, mate.”
“You’re here,” she said, with a surprise that sounded somewhat feigned. “Uh, still.”
“Well, yeah.” He couldn’t help but smile. “Haven’t given me an assignment yet, have you?”
He eyes flicked briefly to a pile of dustsheet-covered boxes, then back to his. “I figured you’d stay with Angel’s people.”
“Yeah, maybe.” Finally she grinned. “OK, so I want you on the roof with Dawn and Xander, and Gen’s team.” From the distance between them, maybe five or six metres away, she looked like she was blushing. “I guess I was kinda hoping we could say ‘hey’.”
The Hyperion’s lobby was very empty with just the two of them. He didn’t mind, he just noticed, and wondered, in the back of his mind, where Angel could have gone. It was still light, just about.
The silence drew him back to Buffy and he looked at her, noting the way she favoured her left leg slightly when she stood. She had to have been wounded recently, or seriously less so. “Been a long time,” he said at last.
“Yeah,” she agreed. “It’s funny, you know. I talk to everyone on the phone and on the internet, but seeing all you guys in person… it’s like everybody’s changed and I never even noticed.” She frowned. “No, it’s not that, it’s like – now, you’re all flesh and blood again. Real people and not just constructs of my mind.”
With her words he wanted to touch her, to make her real for himself. He approached, close enough to touch, but he didn’t reach out.
She definitely blushed this time. He felt a bit embarrassed himself. “Sorry,” she said. “I’m babbling away here about stuff that should probably stay inside my head.”
He wanted to say, ‘Babble away,’ and stand there listening. Instead he settled for, “So,” and something that might have been a laugh. A nearby column was convenient and he leaned on it. “You reckon that if we wait it out it’ll be all right?”
Buffy’s blush faded. She took a breath, smoothing her hair back. “Well, it should be better anyway. If nothing ruptures tonight we should be OK for another – what was it? – five hundred and forty-three years.”
“That precise?” He felt his mouth quirk. “I’m gonna hold you to that, if I’m still around.”
She met his smile. “Really.” Was she starting to relax? “And what’re you gonna do if I’m wrong?”
“I’ll… do that thing.” Bollocks, what was the word? “Hold a séance, or what all. And annoy the piss out of you.” Not the wittiest thing he’d ever said, but he’d come close to resurrection and that really wasn’t funny.
Her eyes sparked. “A séance, huh?”
“Buffy?” a voice called, and suddenly she was looking past him, frowning. He turned, to see some Slayer standing in the doorway. “Are you coming?”
Buffy’s eyes fell back to his. “We’ll discuss this later,” she said. Her words were grave, but her eyes were full of mirth. She walked past, and out of the Slayer’s sight her fingers found his hand, squeezing it for a moment before they drifted apart.
It was impossible to pinpoint the moment when time stopped, but it did. Time stopped and the night continued. By the time one of the Slayers’ watch made it ten o’clock in the morning they were sat in a campfire circle, weapons in the centre around another Slayer’s enchanted black flames, which, near-invisible, emanated and odd, steady warmth. He hadn’t a clue what the Slayers’ names were.
All of them, the Slayers, were starting to get on his nerves. It didn’t help that he’d wasted his last smoke trying to get a light off the fake fire. Dawn and, more surprisingly, Xander seemed to appreciate the sombre mood the situation required, but the Slayers were still wittering on. The one on his right was particularly irritating.
“…I mean, we face stuff everyday that no one else could ever understand,” she said, vapid and arrogant. “You know, like six months ago when we fought that demon that wanted to raise an army of gremlins?”
“I thought they were called G’haem’ns?” another one drawled, with self-satisfied sarcasm.
“Whatever. It’s just, like, we saved Brittany from some crazy demon army and not one Frenchy is ever going to say thank you. They’re never even going to know it happened. Only –”
“Several hundred of us…” came the mutter.
“– us few will ever know. And that’s a burden we have to bear.”
“Oh yeah, I definitely agree…”
All his unlife, he’d respected Slayers. Wanted them dead and their blood pouring gloriously down his throat, but respected them all the same. For these, though, he felt nothing but contempt.
No, he realised, it was more than contempt, it was anger. It was hot, slicing anger that made him ultra-sensitive to the nuances of their sickening, self-congratulating voices and the gravel that pressed through his coat and his jeans. It was anger that demanded some sort of release, some sort of violence.
He hadn’t felt it grow, but it was there. Mindless burning anger, without aim, without proper reason. He wanted them all… dead, even that mousy one opposite him who hadn’t yet made a peep.
He stood up, leaving the circle and retreating to the other side of the roof. It was colder there and the cold leached the warmth out of him, though not the fire.
Girly footsteps crunched up the gravel behind him.
“Piss off, Dawn.”
She came up to his side. “You can’t blame them, Spike.”
He wasn’t sure that he did, but he latched onto her soft antagonism, focussing his hate on her. “I bloody well can. Ignorant, silly little bints don’t have the first bloody –”
“Don’t you think its better this way?” Her voice rose. “That their lives are the worst they can imagine? That they don’t have to worry about fighting, night after night until they die? That they can live...”
Vile words streamed from his mouth. “You know the first Slayer I offed? Chinese girl – couldn’t’ve been more than, what, fifteen? Sixteen?” He could sense Dawn recoiling, and he revelled in it. “I’d already taken my first bite, got her blood draining out of her, hot and wet, dripping over my hands like warm milk, and what does she say? No ‘oh my God, my life sucks so bad’, none of that. She just wants me to apologise to her fucking mother!” He hated the light-stained sky. “Course, I didn’t – couldn’t give one shit about her whore of a –”
“What the hell has gotten into you, Spike?”
He skidded round. Dawn had gone – served her right – and in her place was Xander and his one eye, pinning him down.
He snarled against the invisible restraints, face changing. “I’m an evil bloody demon, what d’you sodding think?” He could hurt Xander. He hated Xander. Hadn’t he always?
“I’ve seen worse,” came the steely response. Spike snarled again. “You gonna kill someone with those teeth?”
“Maybe.” Spike grinned, stalking forward, watching for the inevitable rise. “Probably. One of the Slayers smelt like a virgin – think I’ll start with her.”
Xander, the bastard, shrugged. “You could, but you’d be wasting your time. She’s gonna be dead in a few years anyway.”
“Might as well have a bit of fun then.” Spike leered, but he’d lost some heart.
Another shrug. “Your call.”
Spike didn’t even know the Slayer he was supposed to be talking about.
He shook off his face. The fury was still there, but he didn’t hate anyone enough to use it. Not really.
“Not sure quite what’s going on,” Spike said, frowning and looking at Xander through slanted eyes.
Xander eyed him warily for a few more seconds, before relaxing. He sighed. “It’s something to do with the solstice.” Something in Spike rebelled at being labelled. He kicked it down. “Tanisha said something wacky was going on – her horns were itching.”
Spike raised an eyebrow. “Horns?”
Xander rolled his eyes – obviously this had been asked before. “She’s half Mganye demon. Anyway, she said something was happening, making her feel more demony. It was like – she said it was like she was having, uh –” He coughed. “PMS or something.” Xander adjusted his eye patch, clearly embarrassed.
Spike nodded, striving for calm as he forced his gut to submission. It was a long time coming.
“Hold on,” he said at last. “Are you saying I’ve got PMS?”
He was alone when the dragon’s head appeared, struggling and shrilling from the sky. He could imagine the body, great but impotent, frozen in the aether like Dante’s Satan.
The stairwell door stood open at his side. Though dawn was coming, it was still away; the real Dawn was already down the stairs. More of the dragon appeared, its neck rearing back and its terrible shoulders butting through the invisible wall. He held a sword and a crossbow, the last of the weapons. They still held vestiges of heat from the Slayer’s fire.
A second’s thought, the killing impulse, and he cleaved the head from the emerging body. It fell to the ground, followed moments later by the rest of the neck and the top of the torso, severed and cauterised by broken magic.
It was then he realised dawn had come, and he was burning.
He dived through the door and down the first flight of stairs, tossing the sword to one side. Rolling out of the light he wrenched off his coat and smothered his hands and face with it. The flames died but the heat remained, searing his skin.
The rush of the kill, vampyric adrenaline, made him feel warm, practically alive. He sat against the wall, breathing without respiring.
Sometime later someone came pounding up the stairs. He turned his head towards them and saw that it was Buffy, golden hair flaring out behind her.
“Thank…” She scraped to a halt by his feet. He looked up at her, wanting to touch her but hindered by his seared hands.
She crouched at his side, tucking hair behind an ear and hovering her fingers close to his. “What happened?” she asked, her brow marred with a line of concern.
He waved vaguely at the nearby patch of yellow. “Sunlight.”
“Oh.” Taking her hand away from his she settled herself on the floor. Edging backwards she shuffled close and he accommodated her, wanting nothing less. He coiled his arm around hers, still keeping his hand free, glad for the soft warmth of her skin – his was fading.
He sensed, rather than saw, her nod. “What about the sword?”
He looked past his feet, as she was. The sword lay on the ground, crusted with drying blood. It was going to be hell to get clean. “Dragon,” he said.
“Huh.” They fell into silence. Eventually she asked, “D’you want to go downstairs?”
He shook his head. “Not yet.”
“OK,” she said, resting her head on his shoulder. He could feel her warm pulse, softly echoing through his body, giving him the will to get up and act.
For the moment though, he rested, content to have her. They sat a while longer, and watched the patch of light brighten with the new day.