Here it is at last, part one. This fic started its meagre life as a promised epilogue eighteen months ago (ish), and after drowning in the watery depths of my incredibly wet brain, it was finally dragged unconscious to the shore by a certain literati who had just devoured Grief Counseling and then emailed me with a page full of feedback and the need to know her newest boys would be okay in the future. I replied, 'Of course they're okay! Haven't you read the epi--? Oh. Yeah, sorry, I forgot to write it, didn't I? Hmmm. It matters not, for I shall write it now, and it shall be done with a smile on my face!' Or, more realistically, 'Oh bugger, I've thought about it and I can't stop thinking about it and now I'm going to have to write it. Nuts.'
It started as a little ficlet, a separate story of its own because I'd left it too long to tack an actual epilogue onto the main fic, then as I began to pick up Xander's character again, envisage Spike's cocky swagger and Angel's withering looks, I started to feel the love that had drawn me into the fandom in the first place. Several months later, my little ficlet is now a full-size 30,000 word fic. BTVS is the only fandom in which I have written prolifically, and I fear there is a reason for that. Buffy, for me, feels like home. It's comfortable, it's a world where anything can happen, it's full of distinctive characters who have enormous depth. Add in recreating the comedy that featured in every single episode of Buffy, and you've got fanfic worth writing.
It may have been a while since you guys finished reading the original Grief Counseling story so here are a few little reminders:
Buffy and Anya died in the fight with glory. Willow wanted to bring Buffy back using the Urn of Osiris, but Xander, who was still grieving for Anya, had serious issues with bringing back his dead friend. He went to Spike and together they fought Willow. Much angsty stuff followed and, with Dawn, the pair end up with Angel and the gang in LA. Slowly, they fell in love (Not with Angel!). More stuff with Willow. Dawn became the next Slayer. A decision was made that the LA crew were needed more in Sunnydale so everyone upped and moved. Happy ending? You wish. The shit hit the already shit-covered fan when a team of super-army-vamps moved in and threatened the town. A vamped up Riley Finn was behind it and in a terrifying (in my head, at least) climax Spike is staked (kinda), Xander is bitten, the Summers' house burns down and Dawn lands in a dumpster and swallows a cabbage. Wesley, Gunn and Fred are a
Obviously, feel free to re-read the actual 190,000 word version written by myself and amejisuto which I hope is much better than I've just made it sound.
And now, on to the fic!
Title: Untitled, because I can't think of anything suitable. Suggestions most welcome at any time.
Rating: NC-17 for smut, language and violence.
Summary: The Hellmouth has been quiet while Spike and Xander rebuild their lives, but after two local sisters disappear from their graves in unvampish circumstances, things rapidly go from mildly disconcerting to apocalypse in just 12 days. And the enemy? They're angry, they're in agony, they're everywhere, and they're deader than Spike and Angel put together.
Beta'd by the fantabulastic kitty_poker1. Thank you, hon!
Also mucho thanks to my wonderful partner in fic-related crime, amejisuto, for all her help, and to my darling literati for giving me a big nudge to write this sequel and for re-designing the community with a new look complete with banner and icons and for re-reading the original fic TWICE and providing me with a page full of notes and pointers to keep me on track because I couldn't remember most of what Ame and I had written.
The witches had been waiting. The Great Seer, Bell, had foretold of the Coming of the Dead. No one knew who the dead were, where they were heading or even where they would come from, not even Bell herself, but she knew it was soon and so they stood together, kept vigil, cleansed themselves with magic and oils, and waited.
Now it was time.
Fifty covens: six hundred and fifty witches, male and female, young and old, from one end of the globe to the other.
Willow was only one among them, a newcomer, a trainee. She had taken the call from Sunnydale and now she sat in one of fifty circles, all perfectly in synch, ingredients burning, blood dripping and deities called. She felt her brothers and sisters flowing through her, chasing through her veins and filling her body with sweet heaven every time she drew breath. Their souls were inside her and together she, the covens, the gods and the Earth wrenched Death from the Ether.
Bell raised her arms and Willow felt all the magics of the Earth hiss past her and channel into the seer. The hairs on her arms stood on end and her stomach rolled.
When Bell spoke, raised her golden dagger and commanded Death himself, Willow felt sick.
12 Days Earlier
The sword spun in the darkness. A curved blade of solid steel slicing the air – arc after arc. Beauty in motion. Power at the turn of a wrist.
The sword sliced Spike’s cigarette in half.
Xander jumped back, his sneaker catching on a tombstone and the sword faltering dangerously in mid air, losing its confidence along with its wielder. Spike winced until Xander got it under control.
‘That was my hand you nearly lopped off!’ Spike said.
‘Sorry about that. You’d have grown a new one easily, right? Cheaper than getting a manicure. No?’ Xander offered a guilty chuckle.
‘Just as easily as you’ll grow a new arsehole when I shove that bloody samurai sword up it.’
Xander clutched the hilt of the sword and pulled it protectively towards himself, as though the sword mattered more than his rear end. ‘It’s a Katana, and she doesn’t like being threatened.’
Spike lit the stub he was still holding and wondered what he’d been thinking when he’d suggested everyone choose a weapon and study it, learn its history, its weight and size, its intricacies, its uses and moves that only an expert would know. He’d regretted it the moment Xander had pulled the sword from the weapons chest, held it aloft and vowed to defend Eternia from the evil forces of Skeletor, whoever the fuck that was.
Xander seemed to be studying him, considering, plotting. His eyes were slightly narrowed and his head tilted just barely. ‘I could kiss it better,’ he suggested.
Spike sniffed and stood a little straighter. ‘All right, then.’ His lips twitched. ‘But you also nearly lopped off my –’
‘Hey, guys, over here!’ Dawn appeared from behind the Croucher family crypt and waved. ‘Check this out! Slayer senses are ring-ting-tingle-ing!’
They started walking towards her, looking around as they went. If any vamps were planning to jump out and shout boo or try to tear Dawn’s throat out, it would be now that she’d announced herself to the entire state.
‘Twins,’ Dawn said once they’d arrived at her side. She pointed to two freshly dug graves. ‘Mercedes and Ferrari. What were their parents thinking?’
Xander shrugged. ‘At least they weren’t obsessed with bathrooms.’
‘Loo and Latrine,’ Spike said.
‘And their brother, Oxy-Flush,’ Xander added.
Spike nodded. ‘It’s got a certain ring to it.’
‘You think they’ll rise?’ Dawn asked. ‘I kinda want to see if they’re as blonde as they sound.’
Making fun of the dead was fine by Spike. He was dead and everyone made fun of him. He suspected it was actually a way for the others to deal with the horror and pain of death, the hurt it left behind and other such nancy details.
The three of them elected to stay close to the graves. There were no other fresh ones in the south end of the cemetery and Angel and Cordy were patrolling the north. Dawn was convinced red-painted nails were going to burst through the dirt at any moment. Spike wasn’t so sure, and he was right.
Dawn hadn’t quite got control of all her Slayer senses yet. It was fair enough considering she’d been a Slayer for little over eight months, but Dawn was impatient and hard on herself. She’d put Buffy high up on a pedestal and reaching her was almost impossible.
Several hours later she went to bed, muttering to herself.
‘Is it wrong to wish the Cadillac sisters would rise again just to make Dawnie happy?’ Xander asked. He pulled his t-shirt over his head and Spike lost the next three sentences. ‘Are you even listening to me?’
Spike wet his lips and stared, tracing out the lines of muscle on Xander’s arms and chest, his newly forming six pack and tanned skin. Xander had been working out and sparring and it showed.
‘You know,’ Xander said, much louder as he neared. ‘Next time I’m going to ask for a kitten or a garden hose or something and it’ll be all your fault for agreeing because I just happened to take off my shirt.’
‘Take off your trousers and I’ll give you a whole basket of kittens.’
They wrinkled their noses at each other.
‘Is it just me or did that sound Old Man Pervert?’ Xander asked.
‘Forget it.’ Spike reached out and tugged Xander onto the bed. He latched onto his mouth and kissed him until Xander declared his brains were leaking out of his ears. When he pulled back, he was pleased to note the flush on Xander’s cheeks and the excited thump, thump, thump of his heartbeat.
Xander flipped them and stripped Spike of his shirt, ran warm, damp hands over Spike’s dry chest and bit his shoulder. He unzipped Spike’s jeans and engulfed him in one quick manoeuvre.
Impressive, was Spike’s last thought before he was lost in warmth and his elbow hit the headboard with a loud thunk. ‘Oh fuck.’
‘In a minute,’ Xander mumbled. He swirled his tongue, gripped Spike’s hips and took him in deeper.
Xander Harris gave the second best blow jobs ever. The best being a prostitute from Prague sometime in the last century. Xander was still learning so second best was definitely saying something.
Spike tried to hold back, to make it last. He lifted and dropped his hips slowly and closed his eyes to block out the image of Xander sucking him off. The sight of a wet mouth around his cock was always enough to set him off and with Xander it was worse. Tousled hair, dark begging eyes, glistening lips. So beautiful.
Damn it! Spike gasped and came.
‘I do not have begging eyes!’
The others looked up from their respective activities around The Magic Box and Spike wisely chose to look like an innocent bystander.
‘I don’t want to know,’ Cordelia said, and got up to make her way to the training room where Angel and Wesley were designing and arguing about a new training program for Dawn. No doubt Cordelia would take Angel’s side. She usually did these days.
Dawn sighed dramatically and twirled her hair around her finger. ‘Bored now,’ she said, and for some odd reason that sent a shiver down Spike’s spine.
Xander groaned. ‘Don’t say things like that, Dawnifer. Now it’ll get busy and demony.’
‘Beats sitting on our butts.’
‘My butt would disagree,’ Xander said. ‘My butt is quite happy where it is, thank you, comfortable and relaxed.’
‘I’m just saying.’
‘Well, don’t. What with the world nearly ending last month and last week, I’m all apocalypsed out.’
Dawn pressed her thumb and index finger together. ‘Not even a mini-apocalypse? I want to practice my All or Nothing Death Cry.’
‘How about The Water’s Too Hot Bath Cry instead? Much less death and there are bubbles.’
Dawn nodded, looking thoughtful. ‘I do like bubbles.’
‘There you go, then!’
Dawn was right, it was quiet, but generally evil creatures of the night tended to be subdued after a near apocalypse. Even Spike felt quite sleepy. Although if Xander called him ‘cute and dozy’ one more time, he was going hide his X-Men figures. Or at least hide the only two he had left. The fire had destroyed the rest, along with the house. Everything they owned now, they’d bought in the last six months.
Thank Lucifer for insurance, Spike thought later as he turned the key and let himself, Dawn and Xander into number 1630 Revello Drive later that night.
The whole house had been re-built, top to bottom. It wasn’t all that different to the original house except some of the rooms were a different shape where one had been built smaller to make another bigger or a wall had been altered to make more space. The furniture was blander than it was before, cheaper, bought from end-of season sales and second hand, but the windows were made from necrotempered glass so that Spike could walk around in the day without barbequing himself. And after the house was built and decorated and all essentials had been bought, they splashed out on the luxuries. Just a few small things. Forty-eight-inch telly, surround-sound stereo, a couple of cuddly toys.
The house was still home, but it was different. No-one mentioned that it was probably better this way, although Spike suspected they all thought it was. He just wished he could replace all the photographs Dawn had lost, all the sentimental reminders of Buffy and her mom.
‘I’m going to check my mail,’ Dawn said, and jogged up the stairs. She was expecting an email from Tara.
And Xander was expecting one from Willow. The two of them emailed once a week and Xander always got a little bit twitchy around the time Willow’s was due, as though he thought she would either forget him or turn evil again and send him spam about penis enlargement.
Willow and Tara were with Giles in New York, working with a local coven. Willow had her little slips now again, which included accidentally melting every red car in the street one day when she’d had cramps. But to be fair, she was trying, and it was an uphill struggle. But that was four months ago and she’d come on in leaps and pirouettes since then.
Xander was hoping they could visit New York at Christmas time. Spike was probably going to agree, but only because he wanted to see snow again.
A couple more days passed peacefully enough, aside from Wesley shutting his foot in a car door and Fred hyperventilating over a physics paper.
But of course it couldn’t last and Spike almost laughed when, the next night, under the backdrop of a full moon and a dog howling in the distance, the Cadillac sisters’ graves were found disturbed. Empty.
‘Oh noes,’ Xander said.
‘I knew it!’ Dawn gloated, jumping up and down.
Gunn peered into the two holes. ‘What?’
Spike frowned and crossed his arms. He’d felt nothing. Slayers weren’t the only ones with heightened senses. Older vamps, more experienced and stronger vamps, masters, could sense another of their kind like a cat smelled meaty chunks in gravy. A vampire’s skin tingled and their brains buzzed as a force tilted their world until they faced their foe, their challenger. But when Spike had stood in front of the two girls’ graves, he’d felt nothing.
Dawn jabbed him several times with a pointy finger. ‘See? I told you. There was just something vampish about the whole thing. Vampness in the air. Maybe you’ll believe me next time.’
Spike was tempted to stamp on her glee, but she looked so happy, so content. And maybe he was wrong.
‘I’m not wrong!’ he hissed to Xander across the bed.
‘I am not shushing! You shush! I’m telling you, vampires didn’t crawl out of those graves.’
‘Why? Because your hackles didn’t go up? Well, maybe Dawn’s got bigger hackles than you.’
‘She bloody hasn’t!’ Spike argued before he realised he was arguing about something stupid. ‘Did you notice the grave?’
‘Yes,’ Xander sighed, sitting on the bed with his back to Spike. He pulled off a boot and tossed it into the corner. ‘It was six foot deep and oblong. For a change.’
‘Don’t get in a snit.’
‘You bloody are.’
Xander sighed again and pulled off the other boot. This one he dangled by the laces but didn’t throw. ‘I just think you should have argued the point with Dawn instead of letting her think she was right. Because if she is wrong –’
‘– if she is wrong she’s going to look completely stupid because she shouted it around and gloated.’
‘What was I supposed to do, then? I didn’t want to upset her, poor mite.’
Xander rolled his eyes, an annoying habit he’d picked up from Spike. ‘What you should have done, was not go to Angel.’
‘I wanted a second opinion.’
‘Then you should have asked me. I am widely experienced in dark matters, thank you very much. No need to keep running to Grumpy Smurf. Anyone would think you had a crush.’
‘I don’t,’ Spike said, very firmly. Xander’s tone had bordered on sulky, so Spike walked around the bed and sat next to him. ‘Untidy grave, Xan. Vamps go straight up, no messing. Cigarette butts all around, like someone was waiting.’
‘A sire knows when the time is right. They don’t hang about. There were enough cigs scattered about for several days’ worth.’
Xander looked at him, his expression defeated. ‘Do we have to tell Dawn?’
Spike shrugged. ‘Suppose not. Could do a little investigating ourselves, see what transpires. I could tell Angel to keep quiet.’
Xander nodded. ‘He’s do that, right? He’s not exactly the talkative type.’
‘Exactly. And no-one else knows.’
‘Right.’ Decision made, Xander went downstairs and fetched the laptop.
‘What the bloody hell are you doing?’ Spike asked, eyeing up the computer lead trailing across the bedcovers.
‘Research. The last thing we want is Wes or anyone else getting involved. Research boy is me. Just give me a few minutes and we’ll get all the information we need on our missing bodies. Then we can have sex.’
Several hours later, Spike nodded off to the sound of clattering keys
A sex-deprived Spike was a grumpy Spike. Nothing was going right. He couldn’t find any socks that matched; the shower was too hot; he’d tripped on a loose piece of carpet, got annoyed and made the tear substantially worse; and over-microwaved his packet of blood. There was nothing worse than getting congealed blood-skin wrapped around your canines. And now, to top things off, he was stuck talking to a brainless college bimbo who giggled like it was a form of punctuation.
‘So, like, they were way popular. It was such an awful thing.’ She giggled and batted her eyelashes. ‘Someone said they’d been cut into a thousand pieces with a sharpened ruler. Is that, like, true?’
They’d been hit by a car so, no, it wasn’t true.
‘They have any enemies?’ Spike asked, ignoring her stupid question.
‘Probably. I know I do. It’s because of our popularity. People are so jealous of our looks and clothes and money and—’
‘You know this isn’t high school, don’t you?’
Maria Swanson squinted. Either she needed glasses or she was confused. ‘It’s college,’ she said. ‘Isn’t it?’
Spike was saved from having to answer by an overly cheerful-looking Xander. He stopped in front of Spike, a wide, rictus grin stuck on his face. ‘Apparently they let anyone in these days. I should have applied.’
Spike turned him around and they walked away and headed for the campus’ northern exit.
‘I could have majored in Cosmetics,’ Xander continued. ‘Although one good thing did come out of this.’
‘Enlighten me. Please.’
‘I got chatted up.’
Spike growled at him. ‘For the sake of whoever did the chatting, don’t tell me the rest of that story.’
UC Sunnydale’s intake of students wasn’t particularly high this year, something that probably had a lot to do with all the mayhem and slaughter of the previous year. There were only thirty students in the twins’ year and Xander and Spike had spent the evening tracking them down and interviewing them. Spike had wanted to do good cop, bad cop but he’d made the mistake of insisting on uniforms and lots of sex afterwards.
So instead they’d spent their evening running after a load of students who, in Spike’s not-so-humble opinion, were scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Now they were on their way to the Espresso Pump in town, where the boyfriend of one of the twins worked part-time.
‘Cordy is so much better at this than us,’ Xander complained, slamming the car door behind him.’
‘She’s more threatening,’ Spike agreed.
‘Hmm. You could vamp out.’
Spike shook his head. ‘She’s still more threatening. I feel sorry for Angel.’
‘Yeah, me too. His hair is weird and getting weirder by the day. It’s almost a hat now. Deepest sympathies for him about Cordy, too.’
They grinned at each other and Spike was struck by a flash of something warm and comforting, and it definitely wasn’t coffee. It was coming from inside and for just a second he thought he felt his cold skin heating.
Oh god, he was having a soppy moment. He cleared his already clear throat and turned away. Behind the counter stood a tall, dark-haired boy of about eighteen.
‘That’s got to be the boyfriend,’ Spike said, and then he glanced around for any other employees working tonight. There was just a grey-haired man bent at the waist, using a mop that looked just a little too short. ‘What do you think?’
‘Not unless she had a mop fetish,’ Xander said too loudly, and the mop man looked up along with several customers.
It was time for more eye-rolling and then Spike tugged Xander to the counter.
‘What can I get you?’ the boy asked.
‘Two coffees to go,’ Spike said, ‘and an explanation.’
‘An explanation,’ Spike repeated, ‘about why you killed your girlfriend.’
The boy reacted with shock, his mouth falling open like a surprised guppy and his eyes bulging like the underwater pressure was too much. It was exactly the same reaction as the other twenty or so people Spike had accused tonight.
‘Right, Felix, is it? You lot have got some bloody funny names. What’s wrong with John or David?’
‘Uh, I, uh …’
‘Do you know why anyone would want to kill Ferrari or her sister?’
Felix, still recovering from what was probably a mild stroke, stuttered again before he answered. ‘R-Really, I don’t know. They didn’t have any enemies.’
Spike had been alive for a long time and he had a lot of tricks up his sleeve for smoking out liars and deceivers. One of the best ways was to give them a shock and then fire questions at them.
‘They have many friends?’
‘Piss off any lecturers lately?’
‘Owe any money?’
‘Only on credit cards.’
‘You spend on their cards, Felix?’ Xander said, seizing a potential motive. He pointed at the boy. ‘Did you spend up to the limit and then refuse to pay it back? Did you get bored with Ferrari when she had nothing left to give you?’
‘Did you kill her because she refused to ask her daddy for an Amex? Did you baulk at the interest rates on her current card?!’
‘NO!’ Felix backed away, his back hitting the cappuccino machine behind him and his cheeks burning red. ‘What do you want from me?!’
Spike put his palms flat on the counter and leaned forward. He bared his blunt teeth and spoke low and clear. ‘Two. Coffees. To go.’ He stood up straight and put his hands on his hips. ‘This boy slow?’ he asked Xander.
They finally left Felix looking confused and dishevelled, a sweating wreck in the middle of the shop.
‘We don’t seriously think he did it, do we?’ Xander asked when they were in the car. ‘Felix looks like he could barely kill a mood, never mind two girls. He probably can’t even drive. Are we sure it wasn’t an accident?’
‘We suspect everyone. Even idiots like that.’
‘You think everyone is an idiot.’
‘Only an idiot thinks like that.’
Spike’s pocket started to sing a jolly song from The Sound of Music, something about goatherds. He cursed Dawn into hell and pulled out his cell phone.
‘Which one? Right. Be right there. No, I won’t speed.’ Spike hung up the phone. ‘Ponce.’
‘Angel?’ Xander asked brightly.
‘Yeah, he’s got something for us.’
‘I don’t like the sound of that. Not in any way.’
Spike drove slowly and carefully and only thirty miles per hour over the speed limit and parked haphazardly in front the main entrance to Fair Haven Cemetery. It was a dark night, the new moon and the stars hidden by cloud. He could still see everything fine enough, but had no complaints when Xander switched on his flashlight.
‘Over here,’ Angel called. Actually, he didn’t call at all. Angel had a weird talent for using a quietly flat tone that could still travel across five hundred yards.
Spike sprang over several headstones to reach him first while Xander took the more careful and respectful route.
‘Got another one,’ Angel said. ‘I don’t feel anything.’
Spike looked down at the messed up grave, the mounds of earth, the splintered coffin, the deep scores where fingers had tried to claw their way out over and over again. He toed the loose dirt with a shiny steel toecap. Something pale and brittle tumbled through the debris. ‘I don’t smell vamps.’
Xander appeared at his shoulder, his face eerily bright compared to the rest of his body where he held the flashlight up below his chin. ‘Your nose powers still freak me the hell out.’
‘What can you smell?’ Angel asked, ignoring him.
Spike glanced down as Xander’s beam lowered to the grave.
Angel nodded. ‘Me too.’