Title: Smoke (3/3)
Setting: AU AtS S5
Summary: The world’s gone to peace. The ghostly, not-so-dynamic duo of Spike and Lilah team up to save it.
A/N: I began this last year and here it ends, very very very belatedly. Linky links to Part 1 (Ghost) and Part 2 (Soul). (Can also be found on FF.net)
Part Three: Spirit
Lilah Morgan had a mother. In the old world, this mother had Alzheimer’s and often said very bad things to Lilah Morgan, who was used to that sort of thing by now, in and out of work. In this new world, this mother was exactly as she was before Alzheimer’s, except that she was a follower, like everyone else, of Jasmine.
This, Jasmine felt, should have made Lilah Morgan infinitely grateful to her, ghost or not.
It did not.
Lilah Morgan was not noble. She had no lofty ideals of freedom, nor any kindness beyond that of any other Wolfram and Hart employee. She was no charity, no mercenary, no hero (or anti-hero. She resented the term). Still, she had begun the team (it had started with her recruitment of Spike, after all) that was, for this period of time, the white hats.
Because what she was was selfish. Conniving. Resourceful.
“Child, all is well. This is a situation we can remedy, and with time to spare.”
Her plan? Done and done. Buffy might not succumb, but that did not matter.
“Listen,” Jasmine said. Lilah could almost feel the united spiritual energy as information was communicated through the hive. Jasmine smiled. “So you see,” she said, now turning to Lilah and Spike, “your little gambit has failed, and it is because of us that Buffy can survive. Why don’t you stay and see the show?”
She felt the familiar webs of transportation magic entangle her; the shop blurred and sharpened into a dark clearing. It was, of course, the entrance to the Deeper Well. The faceless followers ducked into the doorway in an orderly fashion. Jasmine and the Slayers hung back. “You first,” said a blonde, brandishing a dagger at them with excessive menace.
Angelus leaned against the moulding trunk of the tree, unruffled and bored. Fred exchanged a glance with Lilah (camaraderie with Winifred Burkle. How… nice) and together they passed under the doorway. Lilah shot a look a Spike, who reluctantly followed after. If Angelus wanted to put on a petty show, so be it. He could stay out there all night in his pretend freedom.
As soon as they emerged from the narrow, ducking corridor into a small stone anteroom, Spike seized her by her lapels and held her against the wall. Vampires were so predictable. At least he didn’t have her by the throat this time.
“You infected her!” Spike said, hands shaking. “What the hell are you playing at?” Behind him, Fred was already setting off. They weren’t much of a team, were they?
“You infected her,” Lilah said coolly. “You threw it. Besides, she’ll be fine—”
“Before you say the ends justify the means,” he said in a low voice, “let me remind you that it didn’t work. You got that thing in Buffy’s body, and yeah, she’ll be okay. So you failed.”
Funny how neither of them free minds doubted Jasmine’s words. “Do you really think this is the best place, or time, to discuss my plans?”
“I don’t care about what’s convenient for you, what’ll fit into your bloody timetable…”
She glanced over his shoulder at the next corridor, where the others had already moved on, and then at the damp, steep passageway they had just come from. “You hear them, don’t you?” Lilah said. “There’s never a time. We’re never alone. They’ll know if we’ve been naughty or nice.”
“No,” he said, eyes hard. “Tell me. Now.” His grip tightened.
It seemed he was eager to see if ghosts could be bruised. She wasn’t particularly inclined to find out. “A prophecy,” she said. “That’s what it always boils down to, isn’t it?”
He released his chokehold. “Was blood back in SunnyD.”
She snorted. “That’s what the Partners wanted. Blood. They like a good bit of bloodshed. But I deviated from their plan—disobeyed, really.” She allowed herself a small smirk. “Illyria, it said, could only be released once the Devourer was fated to end. So I planned to bring about that consequence.”
“What does that mean, fated to end?”
“Ate by its own means and devices/Bound by name/Into dust. The exact phrasing, at least in the translation I obtained. Seemed to indicate self-destruction. So I forced the hand of fate, by making the side effect happen.” She spoke quickly, still wary of being interrupted or overheard. “Releasing Illyria meant taking it from the sarcophagus, not necessarily allowing it to emerge into the world.”
His eyes flickered to the entrance. Could he hear the distant approaches of the others? “So your plan’s succeeded, no matter if Illyria is drawn back.”
“There was something else in the prophecy, wasn’t there?” he said shrewdly. “Something that made you take this plan instead of following orders?”
“Suffice to say it was also prophesied that Wolfram and Hart would be brought down. And with its fall—in this world, at least, and for a short time—it could only release me from my contract. No Hell. No death. Just a wandering spirit enjoying retirement for the rest of eternity.”
Something quizzical drifted across his face as he studied her. Then he lifted his shoulders in a slight, amused shrug, seeming quite content. The details, she surmised, wouldn’t interest him, nor would he understand them without context. Still, it seemed he couldn’t leave without the final word: “I wouldn’t anticipate enjoying retirement. I know where you live.”
She should’ve been satisfied that her part was complete, but she couldn’t help thinking that she was missing something. Paranoia from perfectionism, she decided. She had followed her own designs, and the Partners knew. She tried to swallow down the unease.
On her very first day at Wolfram and Hart, fresh from checking her mother in for a permanent room at the clinic after dark, foggy circle-days, she was rather more brash than shrewd. You got guts, I’ll give you that, said her superior, ash falling from his cigarette, but you’ll need smarts to get through this. That, and a little thing called self-preservation. It seemed at the time to be a bottom-feeder-type thing to say, yes-man talk, but back then, even with the stories, she hadn’t really known Wolfram and Hart.
So she learned. She grew wary even as she grew cocky and thus even more dangerous in her ruthlessness, the loss of her humanity. (Loss sounded so accidental. Shucking?) Instead of guts, she got spirit—not the peppy kind, but the fiery, almost heroic strain. It was another way of saying rash, another way of saying blind, but mostly, it was the way she won the wars.
Hero stuff, see?
She heard Angelus’ voice come echoing down the entrance. This was no time for insecurity. So she put on the hero stuff that saw her through her villainy, and walked on.
His stomach was still bleeding out. He’d wrapped a bit of cloth from his shirt around it, keeping the pressure on, but the blood kept seeping out, like his body couldn’t keep the life in any longer. The physical pain of it was bearable, even welcome. His attention was largely elsewhere.
She looked bad. It hadn’t more than ten minutes, but already she had dark circles and dry, thin skin, cracked lips, an unsteady walk. He’d seen her look like death; this was pestilence. I did that. I must’ve been bonkers, listening to Ms Evil Incorporated. There were other people supporting her, like she was too weak to stand on her on already. Suddenly she turned to looked him right in the eye; he turned away and looked over the railing of the walkway.
Catacombs. Winding passages of stone and grit, the stench of death, the towering piles of sarcophagi just like the one that housed the Old One now in Buffy; this Deeper Well was the place where immortals (true immortals, not the undead) came to die. But as dark and as black as it was, a soft white light grew from between the stacks of coffins, diffusing out in a way that made it seem like the heavens were below and showering softly down on them instead of creeping up.
“It’s like a hole to the other side,” came a cracked voice from beside him. Strangely, he had not noticed her creeping up to his side. Fred met his eyes. “Coz it’s day in New Zealand, see.”
“What, like a hole in the world?”
“If you want to get poetic,” Fred said. He really, really didn’t.
At the entrance, he saw Lilah stepping in with her smart suit and office heels, looking as cool and implacable as always. He must be losing his edge if he hadn’t even rattled her. (He was still labouring under the delusion that he had some semblance of an edge.)
“That took a while,” Fred said. “Between you coming in and her coming in. We could probably measure her cool-down period with that.”
They both turned back to the white hole.
After a while, Spike said, “So you’re actually a hero. The human. White hat represent.”
“Guess so,” she said. “I’m the hero.” She laughed down to the coffins. “Saving people. Winning. Walking the plank.” She shrugged. “Humans, we’re rather fragile.”
He snorted. “So who were you, before?”
“A physicist. And before that, a cow.” Right. Still kind of crazy. “And you?” She beat a tattoo on the wooden railing with her palms and looked at him expectantly.
“Human, I s’pose,” he said. “Doesn’t matter now.”
“Exactly,” she said, striking out a decisive thump with both palms to emphasise the word. Then she looked back out to the abyss. “We’re just terrorists now.”
That bothered him, somehow. The words, the tone, some combination of both… He felt riled and shifted to face her fully. “Maybe you’re right. You’re no hero.”
“Take a joke,” she said.
Maybe it was the fact that all the Big Damn Heroes were missing—Buffy, Angel, anyone bombastic and heroic, really—that made him pontificate. “You’re not even a survivor, or a proper specimen for the last human being,” he said. The Summers flashed through his mind; he’d no doubt what they’d be like in a last living capacity. “You got no… human spirit.” He recalled his first sighting of Fred, the last human, the last hope, but now as he saw her unconcern… It brought him back to something he’d rather not remember.
“Angel is your grandsire,” Fred said. “You got the useless demotivational down pat.”
Spike felt a stab of annoyance at her indifference. “You sound like you don’t care. Well—don’t you have people you care about back there?” he said. “Anyone you love or even bloody hate, anyone you know. Anyone who cares about you, actually, because clearly you don’t give a bloody damn about them anymore, since the world’s so-called ended.”
“The world has ended,” Fred said, now sounding a bit more heated. “And you don’t know anything. What I did, what I tried. Don’t push your attachment issues onto me, Spike.”
“You get hit, you get useless,” he said. “You’re so used to being a cow that you’re that when danger hits.”
Her eyes flashed from behind her glasses. “Wonderful, pseudo-insight from a pseudo-human. I have my reasons. I have my issues. I have my experiences—all of which you know nothing about. So stick to your own game. This ragtag bunch of freedom fighters? Not a team. I don’t work with Lilah or Angelus, and you—you don’t even have a soul!”
After a moment, he walked to the opposite side of the bridge.
He felt her eyes on his back. She said, “I could still be fighting if you hadn’t decided that Lilah Morgan was suddenly a reliable partner. I could have escaped before you escalated the situation. Now look where we are.”
“She’ll be fine,” he said, mostly to himself.
“I’m not worried about her,” came Fred’s reply. He marvelled at the thought. “You just don’t get it. You talk about love and people and her, but never about the world. Yet here you are acting the big hero.”
“I don’t pretend to be one!” he shouted. But then, he’d been loud and self-righteous, so maybe that was enough. His wound throbbed harder than ever. He clutched at the sash of cloth, tightening it in his grip.
He heard quiet footsteps approaching from the other end. “I have the spell prepared,” said a voice from the far end of the walkway. He turned his head. It belonged to a man with a squarish face framed by shoulder-length dark hair, clad in battered, dull armour. He had a forehead to rival Angel’s.
“Wonderful, Drogyn,” Jasmine said in that mellifluous voice. “We should begin, then. But first, refresh my memory…” She closed her eyes. Spike felt the hairs on his arms rise. A second later, Jasmine opened her eyes and there was no more laughter in them.
“So what’s going on, Drogyn?” said Angelus, who had been walking along the platform and was by now a little way in front of Spike.
Drogyn’s lips thinned. He clenched his hands into fists. “I prepared a spell to wrest Illyria back into its sarcophagus, but a Champion is needed to perform it.”
“Very cooperative,” Spike noted. “Why’s that?”
He didn’t expect anyone to respond, but Angelus picked it up. “Yeah. Why’s that, Drogyn?”
Drogyn gritted his teeth. “I cannot lie.”
“Gag him, someone,” Jasmine said, obviously referring to Angelus. The warlock from before, Darren, followed through immediately on that command and Angelus suddenly looked and sounded a lot more like Angel. “Now, a Champion…”
Jasmine frowned, lips pressed together in annoyance. It was a strange expression to see on her face. Spike very nearly smiled at it.
But then he glanced over at Buffy, sitting slumped against the stone wall, and looking paler and sicker than she’d been only moments ago. After a few seconds, she looked straight at him, and this time he didn’t look away, searching her wan face, her blank eyes, watching her tremble.
“Jasmine, we should perform the spell as swiftly as possible,” Drogyn said.
“There is the slight problem of a Champion,” Jasmine said. “I hate to ask, but is there no other substitute or solution? The term, archaic as it is and so, so flawed, is rather specific.”
“I’m afraid not,” Drogyn said, sounding exceedingly regretful. “It is specific.”
Jasmine’s voice echoed loudly in the cavern, in the morgue-silence. “I’m going to ask a question. How many Champions do you see in this cavern, Drogyn?”
“Unfortunately,” Drogyn said, “only one.”
It seemed impossible that there was even a single hero in this room.
There was a thunderous crack and the entire chamber shivered and groaned. Buffy sucked in a breath as she was jolted against the hard, rough rocks. Sand and pebbles showered down from the roof like the hard patter of a storm against the floor, casting flecks of shadow against the walls that were bathed in the core’s white light. There was a burning smell, hot and acrid, like a ball of lightning. Something was coming from above. Spike himself was only half-standing, arms draped around the sharp railings of the walkway.
“The Ram,” Jasmine said with something strange in her tone.
Spike’s eyes immediate went to Lilah, all things Wolfram and Hart, who was looking both smug and shaken.
Fred had the same thought. “They’re looking for you, aren’t they? You brought them here!” she yelled, glasses askew as she steadied herself against the railings.
There was another shake, like someone had picked up a stone globe Deeper Well and, as a child would, shook it wide. He was crouched on the ground now, one hand stretched above his head and curled around the railing, the other flat on the floor. “There’s no time,” he said over the creaking. “Let me—let me do it! It’s me, isn’t it?” How that was possible he did not know, but there was no more time to deliberate. Even Angelus looked incredulous as Jasmine beckoned in response, as Spike rose and ran to her and Drogyn, as, with another good shake, the doors that led even deeper in the Deeper Well were swung open.
“In there,” Drogyn said, his usual deliberateness giving way to urgency, “you will perform the spell—there are instructions there—to draw Illyria out of Buffy and into her sarcophagus. But beware—there is a reason a Champion is needed for this.”
“What do I have to fight?” he said.
“Perhaps not fight as you might imagine,” Drogyn responded, “but face whatever comes through.”
That was a load of foreboding. There were questions still he could ask, some simply to annoy the Keeper, but there was no time. Spike only gave a sharp nod, cast a final glance behind him—Buffy wilting against the wall still, Lilah considering the rainy ceiling, Angelus and Fred staring after him with inscrutable expressions—and ran into the chamber ahead.
In the City of Angels, a woman stirred. Her eyelids fluttered as though she was struggling to pry them apart, but in actuality had all but forgotten that she had eyes. There were, however, outside forces working to wake her. They had been all summer.
Now, they succeeded. Cordelia Chase opened her eyes to a dark room in a dark world, just in time to feel a tremor shake the foundations of the city.
Images she had seen in her long coma now ran through her mind. They were visions of the prophecy that Lilah Morgan had pored over with her inexpert eye, the uncut cinematic.
The city was empty. Only she would witness the fall of LA, victim to the Partners’ rage.
“Temper tantrum,” she said in a hoarse, barely-there voice. “You know you’ve already lost. Get over it.”
In all honesty, he had expected his mother, never mind that he’d already faced her when he rid himself of the trigger. Buffy was also a definite option. Drusilla. Cecily. Even Angelus.
He did not expect Angel, and certainly not when he had not even begun the spell.
Heavy stone doors swung close behind him. It crossed his mind that it might be a trap, that he had, once again, trusted highly suspect sources. He knew, though, that the vision was Angel and not Angelus in the same way he had known when he encountered Angel for the first time in Sunnydale. Angel didn’t even pretend this time. “What are you doing here?” Spike said.
Angel was standing between him and the urn that contained the ingredients and instructions for the spell. “I must be your test.”
“You are testing,” Spike said, “but not really Big Boss material.”
“No,” Angel agreed. “I’m Champion material. I’m the hero. So what are you doing here?”
Ah. Spike tried to walk around Angel to get to the urn, but it was like there was a mirror all around it; no matter how he turned and repositioned himself, Angel was always directly in front of it. He sighed. “I asked first,” he said petulantly.
Angel dipped his head slightly, and shadows ran up his face. “Because we both know that we’re our own greatest judges,” he said. “Because we know what monsters we are, even if others forget. You’ve had blood on your mouth just hours ago.”
“Your point?” Spike said. “What exactly is the test?”
“I spent almost a century drowned in guilt for my crimes, and every second of the next decade in repentance,” he went on, long-winded bastard that he was. “You know the feeling. Except you were more with the snark and less with the endless pools of guilt.”
“Hey, that’s not—”
Angel looked at him baldly. “You know the score,” he said, pausing to let him think it over before saying, “But anyway, as little as you know about redemption—”
“—I know it’s impossible to get—”
“—and therein lies the trial,” Angel said with a strange, wry turn in his lips. “You never tried for redemption like I did, because you know there’s no point trying. So tell me: why should I let you perform the spell, killer?”
‘Killer’, accurate though it was, was hardly the worst name he’d been called, but it carried the point across well enough; a Champion was needed to enact the spell, so a Champion he would have to prove himself. But—“Since you’re only a figment of my imagination, why don’t you just let me on through?”
“Because you’re not letting me,” Angel said, which sounded like a load of rubbish. “You don’t have to convince me you’re worthy. I’m not real. You have to convince yourself.”
Oh great. Well, he’d always thought he was pretty good at self-justification. This should be no different, especially since he had no soul to bog him down in regrets. Except… now that he thought about it, while he could weasel his way into justifying his actions, he couldn’t actually elevate them to the title of Champion, and when he did it was with his usual brand of sarcasm.
“Harder than it sounds, isn’t it?” said Angel, who evidently didn’t take well to being ignored.
But back in the cave, hadn’t he put himself forward? Hadn’t he somehow known that he was the one Champion in the room? Process of elimination, that, he thought. The room was full of sheep, and Angelus wasn’t bloody likely now, was it? But there’d still been Fred; for all his anger at her indifference, she was still human, had still fought alongside Angel… No, it must have only been his arrogance and desperation that had spoken in the cave.
“Well,” he started, knowing that this wasn’t the right answer but trying anyway. “Well, I’m here, aren’t I? Drogyn sent me in. So how can this be the test for Champion if he already knows I’m one? Seems a bit pointless, don’t it?”
“Oh, so if Drogyn said it, it must be true,” Angel said with a mocking edge.
“No. He tells the truth as he sees it. You know that, that’s why you can’t even convince yourself on his good word that you’re the Champion.”
“Well, Jasmine said so too,” he said, “and she’s kind of omniscient. So.”
“He said, she said,” Angel said. “You clearly don’t think so, or you’d have passed the trial by now.”
Buffy said it. You remember that night, the amulet… She said it. He must’ve… He had believed her, hadn’t he? …Had he? But even if he had, things changed since then—his soul, the blood bath… “Would she say the same now?” he muttered.
“You’re looking in all the wrong places,” Angel said. “If she did, would you believe it?”
When it came down to it, was that the same thing? Was that his problem, that he spent so much time avoiding making any high and mighty labels for himself that he only ever accepted it from others—her? But that sounded a lot like modesty, and modest he was not. And even then, clearly he didn’t believe it now. Not after everything.
Maybe it was more like dodging responsibility. Call yourself the bottom of the barrel and you never have to doff the white hat. But he had tried, he had tried to get to the top, tried the white hat on, tried his soul on.
Yeah, that sounded good. Soulless Spike went off to get a soul.
Then he’d lost it and murdered a bunch of people.
Going off track, going off track—Well, not like his reasoning before had seemed so promising—
They had been trying to kill him. And they weren’t people, really, but meat puppets. …The same sort of meat puppets he was trying to save by ridding the world of Jasmine. And honestly, it wasn’t just the massacre that made him not-a-Champion—
But no, he couldn’t think like that. He was supposed to be convincing himself that he was a Champion…
“I can’t,” Spike said, frustrated. “This is a bloody stupid trial! You can’t be a Champion just by talking yourself over!”
“Try,” not-Angel said, as infuriating as the real Angel. He must have a good imagination.
“First off, I’ve got no soul. Fred got it right; I don’t give a bloody damn about the world, ‘cept that I’m in it,” Spike said, pacing agitatedly around the room. “And hero-types, they don’t do that. They do selfless.”
“Not to mention the whole vampire thing,” Angel said.
“Yeah. Yeah! I’ve killed, done worse than that, really,” Spike said. “Scourge of Europe, tortured people, killed real Champions—those Slayers—killed when I had a soul, even, and—and my worst—to Buffy…” He swallowed, looking down at the ground. “There’s no redemption for all that. No forgi—”
“—but she did,” Angel said. “Not about all the other things, but she did say that night that she forgave you.”
“I mean, I don’t deserve…” he trailed off. He looked askance at Angel and frowned. “But forgiveness, that’s not really a thing you can deserve, is it?”
The part of him that projected Angel shook its head.
“And it can’t have to do with me, right?”
Angel shook his head again. “She forgave you,” Angel said. “It just happened. It’s just there. You didn’t forgive yourself, and you know you can’t, anyway.”
“Yeah, I do…” Spike said, still frowning. “Not for anything.”
“And no one’s about to forgive you for your kills, or for the worse things you did.”
“’Course. Neither can I,” Spike said slowly. “They didn’t, but there was still someone who did… And that’s it, isn’t it?”
“You don’t earn forgiveness. You just get it, doesn’t have to be from everyone either…” He was looking at the ground again, eyes unfocused. “And you don’t earn the title of Champion.”
“You just get it?”
“No. Yes. Others give it,” Spike said. “You’re wrong—or I was wrong, right?—it is about what people say. You can’t be a Champion in a vacuum, only to other people. So if they’ve all said I’m the Champion, I’m their Champion…”
What’s the difference?
“All the difference in the world,” he whispered and looked up.
Angel was gone.
“He got in?” Cordelia said to no one in particular. She was doing that a lot. “First it’s vampire Champion, now it’s soulless…” She’d learned to roll with the punches.
Spike would handle the things on that end, then. (She still found it weird that Spike was the hero of the piece.) She could give a bit of a hand, though. That was why she was in a magic shop now, the ingredients for the soul spell at hand.
It wasn’t for now. But the moment Jasmine was gone, the danger passed, she would do the restoration. Angel would be back… And she was finally back now, and Angel would be back… She knew he’d be coming to LA to deal with the Partners next.
But that was to think on for another time, to imagine that long overdue meeting. For now, she had to concentrate on Spike. She might have no problem getting Angel back, but Spike? The Powers had said nothing about him, but then she wasn’t just someone to answer to the Powers. That also meant that she didn’t—well, honestly that she didn’t know if he was worth a damn soul, but she was generous (she was!). So maybe the question was if he would want one?
Spike had the curious case of being tortured without a soul—prone to the same mistakes over and over, and unfortunately very capable of feeling the brunt of them. She imagined it would be a relief for him to get it back, if relief could be felt with crushing guilt. A rock and a hard place indeed. But the soul was freedom to choose, and Cordelia thought Spike would prefer that over anything.
It was settled, then. Two soul orders, soon as possible, no waiting.
Well, just as soon as he’d taken care of Jasmine…
Buffy was being carried by someone. Carried gently, but even the most gentle step would sway, and with all the tremors, it was a painful journey. People were talking.
“How do we know if he’s succeeded?”
“Don’t talk to me.” A slight pause. “He’ll have to come out to do the final—ah, there he is. It’s worked, then.”
“Come, we must place her directly beside the tomb. Anything between Buffy and the tomb will be infected otherwise.”
“But this isn’t the original tomb, is it?”
“Don’t ask me questions!” The same sort of pause as before. “No.”
“So how come—”
“—It can fit more than one. It will be more unstable, but it is only a temporary measure. I will appropriate them later.”
She was being lowered and felt her back come into painful contact with something hard and smooth and icy cold. She let out a sound of protest as the hands let her weight rest on the hard surface completely; now she was stretched out uncomfortably, painfully, on the slab.
Quick murmurings, sprinkles of dust… She nearly fell asleep under the hum of magic and her own pain, but something kept her awake. She felt a hand tug at her hair. Painfully, always painfully.
Then clamour and noise, loud and too loud and louder even, more than shaking—
When she came to, she could not tell how long she’d been unconscious. In truth, she’d not lost much time. And she was alone—nothing sapping at her strength, and no Jasmine. Jasmine’s presence, though, had already been gone for a while; her control had fled as Buffy deteriorated. But now Buffy had her strength back… No more Illyria and still no Jasmine…
There was no time to feel the pang of loss. In the terrible mud of Illyria, the pain of loss had fought with the pain of cooking organs, before everything just numbed to pain. Now, she could feel the tearing emptiness again, behind a dam that seemed fit to burst, but she pushed it aside. (She could do that. She’d had practice, with a heaven far above Jasmine’s.)
So now she looked. Jasmine’s body was on the ground. Everyone was moaning and raging… They too had felt the loss. More than ever, she felt like joining them.
“Buffy,” Spike said anxiously. He moved into her line of sight. “Are you okay?”
It was a serious question. “What happened?”
He knew better than to press her. “I took her hair,” Spike said. “I needed hair for the spell, hair from the vessel. So that was you… and her, because I needed to stop her too.”
“How did you know it would work?”
“I knew,” he said. “I had no bloody idea how the spell worked, but there was a prophecy that promised the outcome. So I took the risk. Bound her into the same sarcophagus as Illyria. Hope they have fun fighting it out.”
Buffy stood up then, finding her legs happily stable.
He smirked. “You realise you’ve been the damsel for this adventure?”
“Don’t get used to it,” she said. “You realise you’ve been the hero?”
“I will never get used to that,” he said.
She wondered if he had a soul again. She didn’t ask; she wanted to see if she could tell. “I have,” she said. The image of him with blood on his mouth—but with everything else, he had been the hero. …She’d better be able to tell. “But next time, let’s swashbuckle together.”
They rode off into the sunset. There, they found Cordelia and LA in a swirling mass of Hell—
That’s the next adventure. Rest assured, they did it together.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/483284.html