Bogwitch (bogwitch) wrote,

Fic: Working My Way Back to You - Chapter Twenty-Six - A Hard Choice

Sorry, later than planned due to a heavy rewrite then a reshuffle due to a plot flaw spotted by the reliable myfeetshowit.

Working My Way Back To You

No characters were harmed in the making of this fic. They do not belong to me, but are the property of Fox Entertainment and Mutant Enemy.

Summary: Spike/Buffy. Post-Chosen, Post Hellbound. What did you think the First Evil was doing after the closure of the Hellmouth? Knitting evil jumpers?

Thanks to myfeetshowit for her beta as usual.

A brief recap of events...

Spike was resurrected by Angel, Wesley and Fred in Wolfham and Hart using a mysterious disc that remade him from the matter of the universe. The only problem was The First was stuck in his body with him. Captured by Bringers, Spike and The First were separated and both head to England to get to Buffy. Once there no one quite seems to realise they are dealing with two very different entities wearing Spike's face...

in the woods where they came face to face with The First who took control of Spike's mind to play with him a bit. It also revealed that it plans to sacrifice Buffy in order to release the Old Ones from the Deeper Well and bring on a new demon age. Spike and Buffy flee, only to run into the The First's army, a mix of Bringers, vampires and dead that have risen from their graves. Some of these, those who weren't buried in hallowed ground, manifest as dark and dangerous wraiths that fill Buffy with dread. Our heroes take shelter in the only place they can find to defend - the church.</i>

It was The First’s sheer gall that Angel couldn’t take.

As if it really was the vampire whose face it wore, it smirked at him and slipped an arm around Buffy’s waist. From Spike the possessiveness in that gesture would have been enough to stoke Angel’s fury, but the sight of The First holding Buffy to its side as if it belonged there caused the bubbling magma chamber of anger that had been rumbling inside him during the flight to England to swell and erupt to the surface, exploding in a thunderous roar as he vamped and launched himself at the usurper.

Helplessly swept up by Angel’s momentum, the entity was ripped from Buffy like a sapling uprooted by a pyroclastic flow stripping a mountain valley of forest. Its body slammed into the wall behind with such force that the wall shuddered, cracking the plaster and dislodging a priceless Gainsborough whose subject, until a moment before, had serenely overseen events with a noble silence

The painting swung ominously on its fixings before it clattered to the floor and flopped shamefully face first onto the carpet. But Angel couldn’t care less about the fate of the painting. He clamped his fingers around the fake Spike’s neck with a bruising grip, the same rough hold that had claimed so many innocent lives by his hand. Pressing his face in close to the entity’s, nose to nose, he snarled, “Don’t move.”

Buffy was at Angel’s side in an instant. He kept his eyes of the fake Spike, not risking looking away for an instant unless it pressed its advantage, even as Buffy grabbed his arm and tugged.

“What are you doing?” she yelled, her anger blazing as brightly as his own, its heat evident in the screech of her voice and the tremble in her fingers curled around his arm.

Angel shoved her aside with his free arm, redoubling his grip on the impostor’s throat. He pulled it up off its feet and held it at the end of his long reach. “Buffy, I’m sorry. Trust me on this. This isn’t the Spike you think you know.”

“I tried to explain!” Willow appeared at her friend’s side so quickly Angel suspected magical assistance. “They wouldn’t listen!”

“Perhaps I’d–” Giles offered, stepping forward to intervene, but Buffy cut him off with a swipe of her hand and a gesture for him to stay back.

By now The First was flailing helplessly, its feet scrabbling to find the floor as it struggled. “I’m not—“ it gurgled as it tried to speak through the compression of its windpipe.

“Shut up,” Angel hissed at it. “We know who you really are.”

“Angel,” Buffy pleaded. “Listen to me. Spike isn’t The First!”

A small piece of his heart broke to hear the desperation in her voice, the love; the love that had once shone so much for him but now burned for another; for Spike of all vampires. And the hurt was all the worse for the mockery The First was making of it; but whatever Buffy thought she felt, Angel wasn’t fooled by The First’s fakery. “Wesley, the binding spell. Now!”

At the summons, Wesley strode in from the hall. An intricate chant of precisely accented Latin flowed from his tongue as he recited a spell from the pages of a large, ancient book. The chant tied knots with words, tight half-hitches of arcane verse weaving into a golden shimmering rope that burst from his outstretched hand, binding The First in a tangled lasso of sentence and phrase. The entity struggled, but for all its efforts, it only bound itself more tightly until the only movement it could make was a furious twitch in its jaw.

Angel relaxed, just a little, loosening his hold but not relinquishing it. The spell, Wesley had assured him during their flight, was a strong one, and Angel wished wistfully that he’d known about it all those times past when he’d wanted the real Spike to shut up. However, Wesley had made it clear that while a spell of this kind might be effective enough to bind anything for a short time; it was too weak to hold such a powerful force as The First for more than a few seconds. Angel just hoped it would be long enough to apply their real plan.

The slow constriction of the golden rope brought Angel enough time as it bound to really see Spike’s carbon copy up close. It was amazing; every detail complete in reproduction; from the scimitar cheekbones, to the impertinent leer that curved on its upper lip. Even the scar slashing through its quirked brow was perfect and correct. It was hard to believe it wasn’t Spike staring back at him with that ever-present challenge in his eye.

Buffy had seemingly given up on breaching the wall of Angel’s determination and she turned desperately to Wesley instead. “If you don’t end this, I will stop you.”

Angel glared at her, willing her to see the danger she was facing. “Buffy, no!”

For a brief moment Wesley hesitated and he looked up from the book, but the set line of his mouth hardened. “I’m truly sorry, Buffy.”

As Wesley picked up the chant again from where he’d left off, Angel noticed Buffy’s brows knit as her eyes narrowed, her already dark expression blackening further.

“Just stop a second!” she snapped and, before Angel could warn her, she stepped into the path of the magic rope.

Cut sharply from its target, the incomplete spell fell apart and the golden cords frayed and split into a bucking tail of delicate filaments. The flailing ends snatched ineffectually at Buffy’s body for a long moment unable to attach or find purchase, before disintegrating into soft, fey motes of light that faded slowly like firework sparks.

“Keep going,” Angel growled at Wesley dangerously, ignoring the pretty lights.

Wesley tried to pick up the chant again, but now the flow of the spell was broken. Anxiously, he started flicking back through his book to the beginning of the incantation.

Angel turned back to The First. It was grinning at him.

“Piss off,” it spluttered. “Take your great hands off me.”

Angel released his grip and The First crumpled to the floor. He hadn’t meant to let go, but his hand didn’t seem to want to obey orders. Not his orders anyway. He headed for the door.

Wesley looked up from the book in surprise. “Angel?”

Angel stopped, realising what he was leaving the room for no reason of his own. The fury inside him started to boil again as he released that The First could command him do anything, even to ‘piss off’ if it liked. Its power over the dead was annoyingly potent even now stuck in a body of undead flesh.

Channelling all his fury and frustration, he threw off The First’s command to leave and lunged forward to grab it again; reaching out to haul it up by his collar. But this time Buffy intervened, smashing her fist into his chin with the full sledgehammer power of her wicked right hook. She looked as surprised as everyone else as Angel’s body tumbled backwards into a small occasional table stacked with decorative china.

“Everyone just stop!” she shouted as he hit the floor in a heap; the crash of the antique crockery smashing beneath him almost drowning out her words.

Everyone went quiet and Buffy stared down at Angel with her angriest scowl.

“Buffy,” Wesley said softly in a calm and soothing voice. “I can only imagine was you’re feeling, but this Spike, it’s not him.”

“What?” she tore her glare from Angel and fired it at Wesley instead. She held it there for a long moment before turning it onto Giles and Willow in turn. “Did you guys all get the same memo?”

“Perhaps I can explain?” Giles offered again and Angel admired the man’s persistence – and his courage.

“Yeah, about time,” The First grumbled, wiping the spout of the teapot off its jeans.

Angel shifted, his face melting back into its human features as he tried not to crunch the remains of the fine porcelain as he moved. “Giles, I think—“

The fake Spike flipped to his feet and rubbed his sore neck. “Yeah, maybe next time you should just listen. I’m not The First, you stupid git. The First is out there in the woods, doing whatever it is The First does.”

Angel looked helplessly at Buffy. “But…”

She crossed her arms, pointedly not apologising. “We know about The First. I’ve been here, fighting it. For days! So here’s the Cliff Notes: there are two of them: Spike and The First. The First looks like Spike now, but this…” She gestured to the Spike standing beside her. “This is the real deal.”

Willow nodded her agreement as she offered a hand to help Angel up. “I know it sounds sorta strange, but it’s true. Giles and I saw them both.”

Angel took her hand and scrambled up. As he brushed himself down, he tried to regain some of his lost dignity. Damn The First and its control over him…

But this Spike wasn’t The First after all.

Angel stared down at his traitorous fingers. Astounded, his mouth tried to form words, but his mind failed to supply it with anything to say until he turned back to Spike; the real Spike. “What did you do?” he asked quietly.

“What? Nothing!” Spike glowered. “Don’t bloody blame me.”

Angel looked down at his hand again as if it would somehow reveal all the answers this time, but it wasn’t telling. “You did something,” he said, confused. “One second I was holding you the next I just… let go.”

Buffy eyes flicked between the two vampires. “Huh? What are you talking about?”

Angel ignored her and waved an accusing finger at Spike. ““Hold on. You told me to let go. And I did.”

“Yeah, that’s right.” Spike’s sulk broke and his face brightened into a slow grin like a dawning sun breaking over the horizon. There was a wicked glint in his eyes that made Angel wonder if they had all been wrong and Spike was still evil after all. “Pinch yourself,” Spike said. “Do it hard.”

“What?” Angel immediately pinched his arm without thinking. “Ow! You… You made me do that!”

Spike opened his mouth to say more but Buffy stamped on his foot. “Don’t even,” she warned.

Wesley coughed. “I think I’ve figured out just what is happening here. Spike, when you were split from The First, it retained some of your essence, it’s only reasonable to assume that you retain some of The First’s power in return.”

Spike’s brows crinkled as he tried to work that out. “What?”

“Of course!” Giles exclaimed as he caught on. “The First can command the dead to its will. It appears that Spike may have er… inherited that particular skill.”

Buffy’s eyes flicked to Spike as she frowned. “That would have been very useful to know last night.”

“I didn’t know,” he protested, with an innocent shrug.

“How could this happen?” Willow asked, settling down to sit on the arm of one of the ample chairs. “I mean, Spike isn’t The First and he doesn’t seem to want to do any other Firsty things.”

“I believe it was the process we used at Wolfram and Hart to reconstruct Spike’s material body,” Wesley explained. “When we made him solid again, we rebuilt him from the essence that was caught as a ghost.”

“And that matters, how?” Buffy asked.

“At the time we didn’t know that what we had was Spike and The First. Somehow it seems that we remade them both as one being. However, because what we created cannot be destroyed, only unmade, when the servants of The First tried to free their master from Spike, they couldn’t quite remake it as it was before. Parts of each have remained with the other.”

“The First really got the crap end of that deal.” Angel grumbled, crossing his arms and brushing off Spike’s indignant hey! Angel sighed wearily. “Is anything else we should know?”

“Yeah, you’re a right—” Spike suggested.

“So,” Buffy interjected diplomatically, even though her expression was anything but. “What can we do about The First? I’m open to any suggestions, people.”

“Well,” Wesley started. “We might have some ideas. Angel and I, we formulated a plan with Giles…”

“Plan? You have a Plan?” She whipped round to Giles. “And you knew?”

Giles nodded solemnly as he sank back into his large, comfortable chair. “Yes, Buffy. I am aware that Angel and Wesley have figured out a solution to our problem with The First. But I’ve hardly had the time to discuss it with you.”

“Well?” she asked, impatiently. “What is it?”

Wesley patted the book in his hand. “This book contains the answers to many of our questions. Including rituals we can perform to detain and incapacitate The First Evil.”

Giles brightened when he saw the book. “Good Lord, Is that the Codex Tempus Mormundi? I thought that had been destroyed during the Reformation!”

“Patently not. I was able to acquire the volume from a dealer in Los Angeles. It appears that Wolfram and Hart can command a quite substantial discount.”

“Can we please save Book Club until later?” Buffy huffed.

“Yes, of course,” Wesley glanced at Giles, who nodded his approval for him to continue and he quickly turned his attention back to Buffy. “We cannot destroy The First Evil – in whatever form it takes – but we may be able to disable it; remove its influence as it were.”

“How?” she asked, joining the drift to settle.

She took Spike’s hand and led him to the couch, defiantly meeting Angel’s eyes for a brief moment, daring him to protest the arm that settled across her shoulders. Provocative and heartbreaking as that gesture was, Angel chose to say nothing. This wasn’t the right time to knock some sense into her head.

Oblivious or just ignoring the tension, Wesley replied, “We may be able to trap it.”

“Trap it how?” Spike asked doubtfully.

Angel fidgeted. This was probably unfair, but right now he didn’t give a shit. He drew the amulet out of his pocket; the huge jewel at its centre caught the firelight as it twisted on its chain, sending dapples of benign flame spiralling around the room.

Spike flinched, recoiling instinctively. “You can get that bloody thing away from me!”

Angel slipped it back into his pocket without a thought.

Buffy squeezed Spike’s hand firmly. “I won’t let you wear it again,” she reassured him and Angel swallowed his groan.

“The First was incapacitated as a conscious force as long as it was held inside the amulet,” Wesley continued. “We cannot take the First out of the world; it is part of its very fabric, but we can remove it from directly exercising its will.”

“We can put in back into the amulet.” Angel told them, pausing to let the revelation sink in as he rubbed his sore chin. “I’ll take it back with me. Wolfram and Hart has the facilities to hold such things indefinitely and I have some of my own scores to settle.” With that he caught Buffy’s eye and she looked away regretfully.

“Would that mean that there was no evil in the world anymore?” Willow grinned. “Nothing left to fight? No more apocalypse fun?”

Giles shook his head and Willow’s smile faded. “The very fact that the First Evil is called ‘The First’ would intimate that there are other forms of evil out there. Removing The First from dominion over this plane won’t stop them.”

“And what about the Bringers?” Spike asked. “Can’t say I want to meet them again.”

“I imagine they will carry on as they always have,” Wesley said, unconsciously swiping a loving hand across the book he still held. “If we imprison the First, it will always have agents in the world that will attempt to bring about its release. I feel though, that leaderless, they will be simple enough for the Slayers to handle. At the very least we can curb the First’s interest in Buffy.”

“The First used the power of the Hellmouth to manifest—” Giles tried to add, but Buffy overrode him.

“The Hellmouth is gone. Spike closed it for good, right?” The hope in Buffy’s voice was palpable.

“Yes, indeed. And that should have been the end of it, but what happened to Spike allowed The First to reappear in a different guise. One we may still be incapable of fully comprehending.”

Okay.” Buffy was thinking. Angel could almost see her working through the plan tactically, searching for the flaws.

“We would only be trapping the conscious part,” Wesley urged her. “The aspect of evil that makes its plans. Even if we were to try, we couldn’t banish evil altogether.”

Buffy sighed, finally giving in. “This seems like a plan. But what about Spike if part of The First is still inside him?”

Spike sat up. “Yeah, how are you going to get that thing out of me?”

Giles looked at Angel who looked at Wesley, none of them willing to dare to breach the silence.

Eventually, Giles removed his glasses and began to polish them. Again it was down to the watcher to say the unsayable and again Angel silently thanked him for that. “Buffy—”

Despite his efforts, Buffy caught the weighty tone. “I’m not going to like this, am I?”

Giles put his glasses back on. “No. I’m afraid you won’t.” He took a deep breath and glanced at Spike, obviously picking his words carefully, but Spike said nothing. Instead, he stood up slowly and turned his back on them, deep in his own thoughts.

“I’m afraid to entrap The First we would have to trap all of it,” Giles said solemnly, as if reading out a death sentence. “To do that it is entirely possible the process would also capture Spike.”

“Bugger that.” Spike started pacing the room. “If you think I’m going back in there, you’ve got another thing coming!”

“I knew there had to be a ‘but’ to this!” Buffy got up after Spike and tried to calm him with her touch, but she was just as furious. As Spike stilled, she turned her venom back onto Giles. “No. No! I can’t do this again. We’ll have to find another way.”

“I’m sorry, but what we have seen here today only underlines the importance of what we have to do. We don’t have any other viable options.”

“Didn’t you hear me? I said no. N. O.”

“We have to find a solution, Buffy, one that will put an end to this war for good and this is the only option we have.” Giles met her stare defiantly, a battle of wills Angel remembered so well. Eventually, Giles removed his glasses and wearily rubbed at his eyes. “I would give anything, Buffy, to not put you through this again. But you are aware; as are we all, that the battle against evil is made of sacrifices. Each one of us has given more than we can afford over and over. I know that this is not easy—“

Spike snorted. “Says you. You’re weren’t the one fried extra crispy.”

“Frankly, Spike,” Giles snapped, his frustration with Buffy vented at the vampire instead. “I thought it was a fitting enough ending for you.”

Angel caught Spike’s arm before he could reply, yanking him back as a warning; but Buffy was doing enough shouting for the both of them.

Giles gave Angel a curt nod of thanks, then returned his attention to the angry slayer. "I know you will never listen to me, but I would urge you to allow us to put an end to this saga, once and for all. However much you might wish it to be different, a vampire is not a man, Buffy. Spike remains a demon - a demon re-animating a long dead body. He might have a soul, but that demon is essentially evil and will always remain so."

"You're right; I won't be listening to you!” she yelled. “I’ve lost everyone I have ever loved and I’ve already lost Spike once. I… I can’t do it again. I just can’t.”

"Buffy, think about the consequences. The world—“

"I've thought about them. And I don’t care.”

Spike shrugged off Angel’s hold. “Buffy–“

But Buffy was too preoccupied with her verbal gunfight with Giles to hear him. “If you won’t find another way, then I will. I've had enough of worrying about what everyone thinks. I. Have. Feelings. For him. I won’t—“

“Buffy!” Willow snapped her fingers. “Totus exsisto quietis! That’s enough. All of you.” Everyone fell silent once again, all subservient to the spell.

Angel was thankful the look Buffy shot back at Willow was not aimed at him. She didn’t need words to convey how vehemently she disliked their plan.

But Willow paid no attention to her. She looked at Spike sadly. “You wanted to say something?”

Spike nodded, swallowing hard and squaring his shoulders proudly. “I’ll do it.”

Tags: spike/buffy, working my way back to you

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  • Eurovision

    I voted for Finland before you ask. For the audacity. You had to. And coz I worship the god of rock. Yeah. I don't believe I just typed that. .

  • Euro-vulsion II

    Turkey won. Well that was my second choice, after Belgium, who were second. Can I call 'em or what? UK came last. Ooops. Deserved it though, the…

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  • Eurovision

    I have voted for Estonia and Iceland. .

  • Eurovision

    I voted for Finland before you ask. For the audacity. You had to. And coz I worship the god of rock. Yeah. I don't believe I just typed that. .

  • Euro-vulsion II

    Turkey won. Well that was my second choice, after Belgium, who were second. Can I call 'em or what? UK came last. Ooops. Deserved it though, the…