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 work again.
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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. Now they need to get rid of The First before it comes through on its promise to sacrifice Buffy to open the Deeper Well. Spike has volunteered to be returned to the amulet, taking The First with him, but Buffy isn't very pleased about that. They argue, ergo sex ensues. Meanwhile, Willow has been working out the mechanics of the spell she needss to do. It is agreed they will do it at a stone circle called The Dancers. Buffy is still not happy...
Buffy seemed to be thinking and was not liking the conclusions she was coming to. "What if next time the amulet releases you, it's the future and everything has changed?” she asked Spike quietly.
Spike stared at the floor. "I'm not coming out again, pet. We'll see to it."
Buffy didn’t look reassured, but she gathered herself and addressed the group. “Okay. So how do we do this?”
Even from where she was kneeling by the pentagram, Willow didn’t fail to notice the defiant glint in her friend’s eye as Buffy made her declaration. Buffy didn’t fool her for a second. She had seen that look too many times before, when Buffy had made up her mind and was through with trying to argue her case against her friends. It was Angel back from Hell. It was Dawn’s life against the possibility of Glory ending the world. It was Spike all over again. And no matter what anyone else decided, Buffy had already skipped the tricky discussion part and had said to hell with anyone else’s opinion. The Slayer already knew what she fought for and it wasn’t what they were debating.
Willow hoped Buffy knew what she was doing. She trusted Buffy's instincts, and had done with her life, over and over, but she knew as well as anyone how much love could cloud a girl’s judgement and make her do crazy, crazy things. Buffy didn’t look as if she was about to do something irrational though, even if, as Willow suspected, it was unlikely she had any sort of plan in mind; but Buffy’s belief that there was another way might just be enough on its own.
Because more often than not by doing her own thing, Buffy stumbled over the right answer anyway. If anyone could find a way out of this without sacrificing Spike, Willow knew it was Buffy, she was a hero and she could find the solutions the rest of them couldn’t see – if she didn’t get herself killed in the process.
Distracted by Buffy’s question, and seemingly unaware that Buffy was going to ignore everything he said whatever he suggested, Giles glanced out of the tall, elegant windows at the sky, iron dark and blackening with evening above them. “The Dancers aren’t far from here,” he announced, turning back to the room. “The sun is close to setting now; we’ll set out in an hour.” He looked at Wesley, who nodded his agreement. “Wesley and I will help Willow start the ritual for the spell and Spike will wear the amulet.” Giles held out his hand and Willow dropped the amulet into his palm. “The spell should then pull The First and Spike back into the stone.” He rubbed his forehead, betraying a little of his concern. “For good this time.”
“And there’s really no other way?” Buffy asked, confirming that against whatever decision she’d made.
Still oblivious to Buffy’s subterfuge, Giles looked at Wesley for an answer.
“We could destroy The First’s altar,” Wesley offered with a shrug. “That would delay its plans beyond the equinox.”
Giles nodded. “But unfortunately we would only be winning the battle. Today we could actually win the war. The First will undoubtedly try again and many more lives will be lost. And still we would be left with the same answer. It would better for all of us if this were dealt with tonight, Buffy. We all have other duties to attend to elsewhere and I, for one, do not wish to remain here indefinitely. Besides we can’t risk you entering the Well. It is exactly where The First would want you to be.”
Buffy looked rebellious, her disobedience ever closer to the surface. She ignored Giles and focused her attention on Wesley instead. “Could I wear the amulet?”
“Buffy, no!” Both Spike and Angel said together before he could answer. They stared at each other as if they’d both just remembered that the other existed. Neither bothered to conceal their loathing of the other. Willow took the opportunity to scramble to her feet and move somewhere safer.
Spike started towards the other vampire, promising trouble if Angel wanted some, but Buffy grabbed his arm angrily. “No! Leave him!”
Angel, for his part, shrugged off the challenge as if Spike was no kind of threat and pushed him out of the way. “Buffy,” he pleaded, “don’t even think of doing this.”
That made Buffy even angrier, her eyes flashing she drew her brows together. “Why not? Maybe I want to. Maybe I want to decide for myself.”
“Don’t throw your life away over this, over him.” Angel waved at Spike dismissively. “He’s not worth it!”
“Hey!” Spike protested as he tried ineffectually to free his coat from the pinch of Buffy’s fingers.
Buffy didn’t let him go, but otherwise Spike might as well have not been in the room. “And who are you to judge?” she spat back at Angel. “Like you’ve been Mr Perfect.”
“Yeah,” Spike’s scowl was quickly replaced with a smirk as he sensed an opportunity to further infuriate the other vampire. “And you know, I’ve had the most bloody brilliant day of my existence and my soul hasn’t stepped in to ruin it.”
“You smug bastard.” Angel went for him, but Buffy was faster. She yanked Spike out of the way and placed herself between the two rivals. Her firm hand on Angel’s chest shoved him backwards none too gently.
“Hey! I am not going to let this pissing contest interfere with what we need to do,“ she snapped. “I’ve made my choice, Angel. Deal with it.” She glared at both vampires and they both backed down. Angel settled moodily back into his chair. Spike moved away and took a sulky position against a wall. Once they were quiet, she turned back to Wesley. “Well? Can I?”
“I doubt it would make a difference,” Wesley said softly. “The First is inside Spike, a part of it is woven into his very being. I doubt they could ever be separated now.”
Giles cleared his throat and placed a loving hand gently on her shoulder, offering the only comfort he could. “I suggest we reconvene in an hour. Buffy, I am truly sorry.”
That was that. The decision had been made. No one dared look at Buffy.
For her part, Buffy said nothing. Willow saw her hang her head and swallow before lifting her chin and looking at Spike for a long moment, eyes teary and longing. Then, without further comment, she turned and left the room.
“Buffy!” Spike launched himself off the wall, ready to follow.
Willow held out her hand and quickly reached out with her magic, slamming the door shut just as he reached it. He pulled on the doorknob with all his strength, but the door did not give.
Defeated, he rounded on Willow, jaw set. “Let me out,” he snarled, angry and prepared to vamp out if necessary.
“Spike,” Willow steadied him with a calming hand on his, “maybe this is a best friend moment.”
Spike didn’t seem pleased, but he cooled down. He stepped aside, giving Willow a look that told her that he was well aware of what Buffy was up to as well. “Go on,” he shrugged ruefully. “The slayer won’t listen to me. Never has.”
Willow thanked him with a small smile, casually flicking her wrist towards the door. It popped open and swung wide at her command.
“Neat trick.” Spike looked at the door and snorted. There was some humour in it at least, but the look he gave her as she left was deadly serious. “Make sure she doesn’t do anything daft, Red.”
Willow didn’t know if she could promise that, but she’d try.
Buffy was nowhere to be seen by the time Willow let the library door click shut behind her, but it wasn’t difficult to work out where she’d gone. She found Buffy at the bottom of the Grand Staircase, getting ready to leave. She glanced at Willow as she pulled on her coat. She didn’t seem in any way surprised she’d been followed.
“You won’t stop me,” she said, sliding her arm into the other sleeve and pulling out her ponytail. “And I can’t tell Spike I’m going. He’d stop me with that weird First power thing.”
Willow doubted that. She didn’t think after all that had happened he would force his will on Buffy again. “He wouldn’t do that unless he had to. But Buffy—”
“Will, I can’t let this happen,” Buffy interrupted as she started to gather up her weapons. She picked up her trusty axe and tested its weight. “I can’t. He fought so damn hard for… for, us. For there to even be an ‘us’, and I don’t feel as if I fought at all. It’s my turn to try.”
“I know what you’re going through” Willow sympathised, handing Buffy a torch. “You have to do this. I understand that, I would do it too, but what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know.” Buffy took the torch. She smiled as she looked at it as if it was something she had forgotten, then slipped it into her pocket. “All I know is that the Well is the last place The First will expect me to be so that’s where I’ll go. I guess I’ll figure something out.”
Willow nodded and bit her lip, really, really hoping that Buffy knew what she was doing. “I won’t stop you. But I can give you this.” She rummaged through her pocket and offered Buffy the small piece of aquamarine crystal. “It will keep your head clear. It’s a longshot, but…”
Buffy nodded and took it. Then she threw her arms around Willow’s neck. “Thanks Will. You’re the best,” she whispered into Willow’s ear. “Do the ritual. If I fail, then we’ll need to finish that spell. I just need to buy a chance. For Spike. Tell him…tell him I’ll see him later.”
And with that Buffy disappeared through the door into the night.
If Spike knew one thing about Buffy, it was that whatever his plans were, however noble or justified he thought they were, or even just plain wicked as they might have been a long time ago, she would find some way to scupper them. It was a habit, he conceded, which in hindsight, had saved him from making some right royal mistakes and he had many reasons to be thankful for many of her interventions, but her tendency to leave a perfectly decent plan in ruins was no less annoying every time she did it.
So, when Willow finally returned alone from wherever it was she’d followed Buffy to, he was in no way surprised. He didn’t need to be told what Buffy was about to do; he took one look at Willow’s expression of evasive worry as she slipped back into the library and he knew.
He pushed off the wall, determined to go after the silly chit and put this all back the way it was meant to be. “Where is she?” he demanded, not sparing Willow any of his annoyance.
“She’s gone.” Willow looked up at him, all innocence and worry and powerlessness; a convincing performance if he hadn’t known she was a bloody powerful witch capable of destroying the world or stopping a bloody-minded slayer from doing something stupid if she felt like it. Spike didn’t have the time for this crap, Buffy could only have gone if Willow had let her go and he’d be buggered if he’d just let Buffy do that.
But it was Giles who asked the obvious question before he could. “Gone? Gone where?”
Willow looked back at the door, as if she could see through it to where Buffy was heading. The nervous glance was as telling as her words. “She’s gone to the Well.”
Damn her, Spike thought, his fears confirmed. He’d been trying to do the right thing for a change, taking one for team, saving the bloody world and she wouldn’t even let him do that right. “Brilliant. Soddin’ bloody fucking brilliant.”
Angel rose from his chair, joining Spike to crowd around the young witch. “So what do we do now?” he asked with an edge to his voice that indicated he was every bit as annoyed as Spike was, but containing it by forcing down by his worry.
“We go after her! Bring her back,” Spike waved an arm pointedly at the door. “Make the bint see some sodding sense.”
“No,” Willow said firmly as Angel looked like he was about to agree with Spike.
Spike gave her his best menacing stare, but she didn’t flinch. How times had changed. “What do you mean ‘no’?”
Willow gave him her patented resolve face; she was not going to be messed with. “I mean we leave her. She doesn’t want you to have do this.”
Spike snorted. As usual, this was all about what Buffy wanted. “So she thinks giving The First what it wants is a top idea, then?”
“She’ll find another way, she always does.”
“That’s very optimistic of you, Willow,” said Giles, critically. “Has she any idea of how to do that?”
Willow bit her lip, chagrined at least.
“I thought not.” Giles straightened. “But I’m afraid we really don’t have the time for a rescue mission. I suggest we carry on as planned. The best way we can help Buffy now is to do the spell.”
Spike was appalled. “You can’t just let her walk in there!”
“I think Buffy is misguided,” Giles conceded, “but she may have a point. I doubt The First will be expecting her to just show up at the Well and she may at least be able to take its attention from our purpose.”
Spike’s anger erupted. He glared at Giles, then at Willow, at Angel, at Wesley. “You’re all barmy.”
“Spike–“Angel started, not getting far as Spike shouted over him.
Spike jabbed a finger at each of them in turn. “If you think I’m going to let her do this, you can forget it.”
“The decision has been made.” Giles soothed.
“Not by me!”
“Oh, shut up.” Giles rubbed his temple. He nodded at Willow.
“I saw that!” Spike backed away, a victim of enough wayward spells to not want to get entangled with any more. “You are not doing that to me!”
“Fine with me,” Giles sighed.
Spike didn’t see the punch coming. One moment he was venting, pushing out his frustration with Buffy as anger at her friends and their funny ideas about what was right, the next, Giles’ fist was coming straight for his face. It connected with his chin with more force than he expected and he was falling…
Falling into blackness.
Buffy was so very glad Willow had remembered to give her the torch.
Night had not brought a break in the clouds, nor had the steady drizzle that pattered onto her raincoat showed any sign of stopping. With the moon blocked by the heavy blanket of nimbostratus and the village lights as dead as its residents, the night was like a fog of blackness that the torch could barely penetrate.
At first, she’d tried to preserve her night sight, keeping the torch off and navigating the footpaths by whatever light could break through the murk, but soon the soft, welcoming glow from the Retreat windows was far behind and the night closed in around her.
No one had specifically mentioned where the Deeper Well was, beyond the vague descriptions of ‘in the woods’ or ‘at the top of the hill’ but Buffy had known before she’d slipped out that she would find it easily enough. The First wanted her there; it would guide her.
Sure enough, something drew her back to the scrappy strip of woodland that clung to the rolling hills behind the village, an uncanny tug in her gut compelling her to follow the track that skirted the edge of the field next to the tree line. The track wasn’t a made up path like the footpath, more an access route for farm vehicles through the stubbly crop to the gazing land higher up, but although it was rough and uneven, it was wide and unploughed, if somewhat overgrown. During her explorations she’d never thought of going this way; it led away from the houses in the forsaken hamlet into the countryside and she’d dismissed the rolling tree-lined hills as too wild even for a vampire army to rest up. There was little out there that vampires would want; she knew from experience they were urban creatures that liked their comforts and an easy food source. Camping out in the rough was not top of a vampire’s to do list.
She picked her way up the soggy, rising ground, using her torch to find a safe route through the long wiry grass in the hope that she didn’t turn her ankle again. Following the line of the hedgerow and the shallow ditch that screened the woods from the field, she trudged on, seeking a gate or a stile, even a break in the hedge. Eventually, after finding nothing but banks upon banks of nettles, the beam of her torch found the remains of an old wooden pallet that had been wedged into a gap where the hawthorn had thinned.
Even without the call to the Well tying up her insides, it was clear this was the way she was meant to go. A closer look found that the barrier had been broken through; the rotting wood torn down; smashed and trampled into the ditch by many feet. The remains were easy to clamber over, forming a rickety bridge over the mud into the trees beyond.
The woods themselves were quiet, too still and silent to be quite right. The hush once again watchful; no birds sang, nothing living rustled the undergrowth, not even the wind or the rain rustled the thickets of trees, but still Buffy felt as if many eyes were on her, guiding her progress, a silent escort making sure she got to where they needed her to be. Let them, she thought. This wasn’t a secret assault after all; she wanted The First to know she was coming.
She had just stuck out along the path when a voice hollered out of the dark, “Who goes there!”
Previous parts are here.