|Best Supporting Actor
||[Feb. 26th, 2011|11:35 pm]
It had been dark for about an hour, maybe longer. Faith, pacing restlessly before the entrance to what had been the Hellmouth, turned her face up to the sky. Scanning the heavens yet again, she spotted the lights of an approaching aircraft. She had spotted other such lights during her vigil. They’d all raised her hopes, only to dash them minutes later.
She didn’t know what they were going to do if Spike didn’t return in that ridiculous airship of his. The troopers had bugged out early on, leaving the slayers stranded. At least they’d left the tents….
She checked the lights again. Were they coming closer? It seemed that way. She watched them. Yes! The lights were getting brighter. Some winked out as the ship banked into a turn.
About damn time.
She ran to meet the ship as it came in for a landing. Other slayers had noticed it too, and gathered nearby. That did not make her happy. The girls knew about Giles’ death, but not whose hand had dealt the blow. She had to find a way to tell to Spike the news, without the others overhearing. She was afraid of what they might do if they found out; they didn’t know Angel the way she did. How could they possibly understand?
Dramatically back lit, Spike rode the ramp down as it settled to earth with a muffled thump. They arrived at its base almost simultaneously. In happier times, she might have been impressed, or at least amused, by the flashy entrance.
“About Goddamn time!”
Faith turned to deal with the slew of slayers first.
“Get yourselves organized, climb aboard and settle in. Our chariot awaits!”
The girls sent up a ragged cheer, but their hearts weren’t really in it. They hadn’t so much won the day, as survived it.
“What? You were just gonna leave us here?”
“Well, no, but –“
“Look, I need to talk to you, and what I have to say isn’t for general consumption. C’mon.”
They started towards the encampment.
“To answer your question, everything. Giles is dead and whatever had hold of Angel made him do it. He’s damn near catatonic and Buffy’s not much better. Plus, Willow’s freaking out ‘cause the magic’s all gone.”
“How much do the others know?”
“Enough. I’m hoping to keep Angel’s name out of it until I’m sure he won’t end up getting dusty.”
“Oh, God, Buffy…”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m taking you to her now. Look, you got cold storage on that tub?”
“First off, HMS Summers is not a tub, but yeah it’s got cold storage. There’s also a holding cell for Angel. It was meant to keep him in, o’course, but it should do as well to keep the others out. He’ll be safe enough in there.”
“Good. Once the girls are all settled, we can sneak him aboard with them none the wiser.”
They stopped a couple of yards from a tent at the far end of the encampment. The tent was lit, and he could vaguely make out three seated figures inside.
“Buffy’s in there. Dawn and Xander have been with her. I’m gonna go see to the girls, then check on Angel.”
He reached into his pocket, and drew out a little blue plastic disk.
“Here,” he said, holding the poker chip out to her. “Give this to one of the bugs. Tell him what you’ll need, an’ he’ll see you get it. They may seem like nothing so much as a gardener’s worst nightmare, but they’re good in a crisis.”
“Thanks,” she called back as she took off towards the ship.
The threshold rule requiring an invitation didn’t apply here, but Spike thought it the better part of valor to knock before entering. Still, he was a little surprised when Xander answered the door. For a moment, the boy looked like he’d just tasted something unpleasant, but he moved aside readily enough.
Buffy sat in the center of a cot, head bowed. Dawn sat on her right, leaning into her shoulder and holding her tightly. Dawn looked up at him. Buffy didn’t. He met Dawn’s gaze and held it for a long moment. At last she nodded, and he took Xander’s place on Buffy’s left. He laid a gentle hand on her shoulder.
She looked at him then, and his heart sank. He’d seen that expression often enough after her resurrection. Silently, he cursed Angel and Giles and the PTB for taking her back to such a bad place, and himself, for his inability to prevent it. She reached out and grabbed his other hand, squeezing it with near bone-crushing force. He was distantly aware of Dawn dropping her hold on Buffy and rising from the cot. Then she and Xander left without saying a word.
They sat in silence for a time. Then, finally, Buffy drew in a deep breath. Haltingly, she began to speak, quietly pouring out her heart, all her doubts and fears. Understandably, she spoke little of the actual event. Finally, she confessed, “…so I don’t know…what to think…how to feel…”
“I’ll do whatever I can to help. You know that, right?”
“Yeah, I guess. It’s just, nothing’s ever gonna be the same. It’s all such a mess,” she choked back a sob. “God, what a mess.”
“Shhh, Love. We’ll set it right, so far as we’re able. Not sayin’ it’ll be quick or easy, but we’ll do what we can. First things first, we take Giles home an’ see he gets a proper send off.”
He started to rise from the cot. She still had hold of his hand. Faced with the choice of letting go, pulling him back, or getting to her feet, she stood. Together, they went out into the night.
Heading for the ship, they met Faith as she guided a floating skid in the direction of the Hellmouth.
“That time, is it?”
“Not what I wanna be doing, but it needs doing just the same.”
Spike noticed Buffy looking at the skid. She stared at it hard for a moment, then looked toward the mouth of Hell. Squaring her shoulders, she laid a hand on the skid’s guardrail.
Taking her hand in his own, Spike shook his head.
She looked at him, giving him the same hard stare. He met it squarely.
“You remember the way to my cabin, yeah?”
“It’s yours. Get cleaned up, get some rest, food. I could join you there, after…If you’d like.”
“I’d like that…the joining.”
It took her a moment to realize what she’d said. He could see her blush in the light of the skid. He couldn’t hold back a fond smile. She gave him a small, rather wobbly smile in return.
Letting go of his hand, she took herself off, and he turned to follow Faith. They walked in silence until they reached the entrance to the cave. Faith stopped and rounded on him.
“There’s someone you’d rather be doing, so what gives?”
“Didn’t think you’d mind the help. ‘Sides, you’re not the only friend Angel has here.”
“I thought you hated Angel.”
“Huh! Show’s what you know. A nice, clean hate’s way too easy. This bastard’s family.”
She had to laugh. She knew the feeling all too well.
They went down into the cave. Faith pointed Spike in the direction of Giles’s body. She caught a glimpse of Angel in the skid’s headlight. He was huddled against the back wall of the cave, as far away from the opening (and the body) as he could get. She crossed over to him.
“Angel. Hey, it’s me.” She spoke soothingly, reached out to stroke his hair. He didn’t respond.
She tried again, and again, but he’d gone deep. A few minutes later, she heard Spike come up behind her.
“Get up, ya wanker!”
Angel looked around, his eyes not quite focused.
“Get up! Else we leave you here to rot. Serve you bloody right, too.”
Faith got the distinct impression Spike would’ve kicked out at Angel physically, if she hadn’t been between them. Maybe that’s what he needed. Still, she didn’t think she had it in her. Hoping Spike’s verbal ‘kick’ was enough, she reached out and took Angel’s hand.
He looked down, actually seeing their joined hands. Then he looked into her face.
“Please tell me your other hand’s holding a stake.”
“Damn. How else could you put me out of my misery?” He ended that sentence with a meaningful look, not at her, but over her head. As if he was looking past her, at Spike.
“An’ what are you then, without misery? It’s only that what makes you such a tragic figure, really. Otherwise you’re just a vain, selfish, craven, pretentious bully who enjoys making other people suffer for your sins.”
Faith looked back at Spike.
“That’s one hell of a bedside manner you got there, Doc.”
“Seems to be workin’.”
He had her there. She turned back to Angel, helped him get to his feet. She could feel him tense as he caught sight of the skid and its burden.
“Maybe you should go ahead of us,” she said to Spike.
“Yeah, all right.” His voice was harsh with disapproval, but he went back to the skid and fiddled with the controls for a moment. He spared Angel a last look over his shoulder, expression cool, eyes stormy. Then he took off after the skid, as it rose up and floated away.
Spike kept his senses open for Faith and Angel’s presence behind him. It seemed unlikely, but the notion Faith might hustle Angel away couldn’t be totally discounted. Once they got back aboard ship, he’d turn the skid over to one of the bugs, and make sure Angel got where he was going.
Alerted by the poker chip, a trio of bugs waited for them at the head of the ramp. One of them stepped forward for the skid. Before making the hand off, Spike asked, “The Slayers?”
“Good.” He gestured to the skid. “Precious cargo.”
“You see to this, then we head out, bound for England.”
“Yes, My Lord,” it replied, then turned and headed off with the skid.
Spike paused, watching it go with a muttered, “So long, Rupes.” Then the other two bugs fell in behind them as they made for Angel’s special accommodations.
Spike tapped out a code on the keypad (011981) and the door swished open onto a short hallway. Another door at the far end opened onto a padded room. Angel went in without any fuss, and looked around.
“This never would’ve held…me.”
“It wasn’t so much the room itself, as magical dampners, mostly. Otherwise, nothing you could tear from the walls, no sharp edges, reinforced walls and door.” Spike shrugged. “Wasn’t quite sure what to expect, really. ‘Cept there was that fight with Whore-ificus. Don’t worry, the little girls with their pointy sticks can’t hurt you.”
He turned to Faith. “Unless you’re plannin’ to stay awhile, I’d suggest you get settled in with the rest.”
They turned to leave. Then Spike whirled back, black leather flaring out around him, and leaped up into the air to unleash a kick that connected solidly with Angel’s temple. Angel went down like a sack of flour.
“That wasn’t really necessary, you know.”
“As captain, I believe it’s for me to decide what is or is not necessary on this ship, thank you. That was vitally necessary, and long overdue in the bargain.”
Upon entering his dimly lit cabin, Spike became almost instantly aware of two things. First, that Buffy was sitting in the middle of his bed. Second, that she’d ditched her dusty duds for one of his t-shirts.
She was resting her head on her knees, which she hugged to her chest. She looked adrift, all alone on that big bed. She also looked tired, and unutterably sad. She looked up at his approach.
“I didn’t think you’d mind, about the shirt.”
“Not at all.”
Trying to behave as if a half-naked slayer on his bed was nothing to get excited about, he took off his coat and laid it aside. Then he sat on the edge of the bed to remove his boots. He became aware of movement behind him. When he sat up again, Buffy was near enough to put her arms around his neck. She rested her hands on his chest, and closed the short distance between them to press up against his back. He shut his eyes, savoring the moment. It was, in a way, like slipping into a warm and fragrant bath. As they had in the tent, they just sat for a while. Eventually, Buffy shifted again, sliding her hands over him to maintain contact as she moved to sit beside him.
“Angel was set up. Whoever, or whatever, put this in motion, they’re still out there. We may have thrown a spanner in the works, but I doubt it’ll slow ‘em down for long. They were throwin’ around some serious mojo, after all.”
“As to the details – we can only guess. Guesses, even lucky or educated ones, are only gonna get us so far. We need to know more, and it won’t be an easy dig. My job now, I s’pose, what with Giles gone, and Willow distracted.”
“Plus, it might be better if we didn’t seem so friendly-like. Let ‘em think we’re startin’ to splinter.”
“Ok. We’ll need a plan, for the going forward, and the more you know, the better the plan. But here’s the thing - right now, I’m more concerned about right now. No thinking, no planning. I just want to get through what’s left of today.”
She stood up suddenly, grabbed the hem of the shirt she wore, yanked it up over her head, and tossed it aside. Now she was before him, wearing only her panties. His gaze faltered for a second, but with a heroic effort, he jerked his eyes back up to meet her own. She knelt on the bed then, astride his hips.
She leaned in close and whispered in his ear, “This is not a test.” Then she pulled away again, just far enough to look in his eyes. “This is an actual emergency, and there’s only one man who can save me now.”
Spike slid back, just a little, without breaking eye contact. He was clearly looking for something there. She didn’t flinch or look away as she once might have. Instead, she caught her lower lip in her teeth. She seemed to have forgotten how to breathe. She was bearing (nearly) all to him, and found his stillness unnerving.
Finally, he tipped his head back, letting his eyes drift shut. His nostrils flared as he took in a deep, Buffy-scented breath. She reached out to touch his face, to stroke her thumb over his lip. He opened his eyes. He took her hand, and pressed a kiss to her palm, then another to the inside of her elbow, a third to the juncture of her neck and shoulder. Then they were kissing; deep, velvety kisses; kisses that left them both gasping.
His hand found and cupped her breast. She leaned into his touch. His thumb traced gentle circles around her nipple. It tightened in response. Buffy rose up on her knees, to bring her breasts level with his mouth. He kissed one and then the other, licked and suckled and teased them both in turn.
His other hand moved further down, to push at the waistband of her panties. They quickly joined her t-shirt, wherever it had gone. His shirt followed. She rained kisses over his face, down his throat, and over his chest as he massaged her clit.
Their hands met at his belt buckle. He undid it as she reached for his fly and freed him from his confinement. He rose to meet her hand. It burned like a coal against his sensitive skin. He let out a low moan as she ran her hand up and down his length, then gave him a gentle tug ending in a slight twist. He stilled as she sank down onto him. She had him where she wanted him, and she gripped him tightly for a moment before they started moving together with a sense of calm, deliberate urgency.
As they moved, and sensation took over, Buffy felt her burdens gradually fall away. She knew they’d still be there in the end, waiting for her. She’d pick them back up, not much choice there. Only they’d seem a little lighter, thanks to this man. She was relieved to find that the world hadn’t lost this little bit of magic.
“Right…here,” she panted, quickly followed by, “Ooh, right there.”
Ultimately, Buffy found her release in a warm, gooey rush, with Spike letting go soon after. It left her in a strange place. It was a place where, despite the general awfulness of the day, she suddenly wanted to laugh, or shout, or bust out singing like Madeline Kahn. She marveled at the feeling, how it bubbled up to fill the hollow, aching void of grief and loss inside her.
When she was able to speak again, she told him with quiet intensity, “No one else makes me feel the way you make me feel.”
Tilting his head like an inquisitive bird, he quietly asked, “An how’s that?”
She blinked, as though the word had popped out of her mouth without going through her brain first. She frowned in thought for a moment, then nodded, once; sharp and decisive. “Full,” she repeated. Spike didn’t have anything to say to that, but she could tell he was pleased.
She yawned, hugely.
“Don’t be. A day like this was bound to catch up to you sooner or later. Get some rest. I should go talk to a couple of people, see what can be done.”
“Sure, but not just yet. Ok?”
He shook his head. “’Ok’ she asks.”
This time her smile wasn’t so wobbly. She kissed him again, then got up, walked around to the far side of the bed, and climbed in under the covers. He retrieved his shirt from the floor and proceeded to set himself to rights. He stayed on the bed with her, resting his hand on her knee, until she fell asleep. Then he jammed his feet back into his boots, donned his coat, and set out to find Faith.
Faith was, presumably, in the lounge with the other Slayers, so that’s where he went. The space was actually a converted cargo hold, and the bugs had done a brilliant job with the make-over. Sure, they knew about stuff like plumbing and refrigeration, but showers and hot meals were relatively new concepts to them. He’d provided them with drawings and technical specs he’d found online, and they’d done the rest. He specially liked the little chairs that folded out into beds.
Facing the prospect of a roomful of agitated Slayers, Spike decided a bit of caution was in order. Rather than striding into the place like he owned it (although technically he did, sorta), he stopped just inside the doorway. Heads started to turn his way. There was some not unexpected muttering, then the crowd parted and Faith sashayed toward him.
He cocked his head toward the door. “A private word, if I may.”
She followed him out to the corridor, waiting until the door whooshed shut behind them to speak.
“Didn’t expect to see you again so soon. What happened? She call out the wrong name?”
He gave her a cool, sardonic look. “Figure I know where that’s comin’ from, ducks, so I’ll let it go this time. Was gonna go check on Sleepin’ Ugly, thought you might wanna tag along.”
She closed the distance between them, suddenly coming over all coy, “I’d like that, the joining.”
He snorted. “Too bloody right you would.”
Then he swung off down the corridor in a swirl of black leather. She quickly fell into step beside him.
“Must be nice,” she said in a too casual voice, “having your own private grief counselor.”
“I’m just sayin’. Not like she’s the only one hurting here.”
“Never said she was. But you know how she can get, takes it all so bloody serious, an’ always ready to accept more’n her fair share of blame if things should go pear-shaped. Has a bit of a martyr complex, she does. Prob’ly what drew her to Angel in the first place. Losin’ Giles would’ve been bad enough, but now, it’s like she’s lost ‘em both.”
“So she’s gonna write him off? Angel isn’t lost, not for good. He just needs help to find his way.”
“Told you before, you’re not the only friend Angel has here. Buffy’s not the kind to stop carin’ altogether, and I know how it is to need forgiveness. But here’s somethin’ you’d best keep in mind: outside help’s only gonna take him so far. Buffy’s fought for him in the past, even pleaded with Giles on his behalf, and look where it’s gotten her.”
“At least she’s got you to kiss it and make it better.”
“Need I remind you that makin’ things better for Buffy wasn’t always at the top of my to-do list? She’ll get through this ‘cause she is who she is. So will you.”
“Damn. It’s not enough you’ve got that pretty face and a killer left hook?”
He gave her a sly, sideways glance.
“Interestin’ historical fun fact: the first English translation of the Kama Sutra was privately published in 1883. Three years after I was turned.”
They found Angel slumped in the far corner of his cell. He looked up as they entered. He gave Spike a sullen glare. Spike merely arched a brow in response. Angel’s gaze faltered. Then he looked to Faith, as if seeking a change of subject. He should have known Spike wouldn’t let him off the hook so easily.
“Well, well. Look whose returned to the land of the unliving.”
“Please…just… go away.”
“’Please’ is it? How the mighty have fallen.”
“Come to rub it in, have you? Reeking of…her.”
“Least we weren’t on display like a couple of zoo animals. Buffy is sleeping now, in case you wondered.”
“That’s good to know, but I can’t think of her. It hurts too much.”
“Oh, woe is you.”
Spike looked at Faith then. “Pity you lost your whip, kitten.”
“Forget the whip. What you guys need is a tape measure.”
Spike laughed. “Pet, we’ve known the answer to that question for well over a century. Isn’t that right, Liam?”
“I’m bigger around,” Angel grumbled in reply.
Spike rolled his eyes. “Yeah, you’re thick alright. Might as well have the word ‘dupe’ tattooed across your enormous forehead. Add ‘patsy’ and ‘stooge’ while you’re at it. There’s room enough.”
“Hey! I wasn’t the only one under the influence.”
“No, but you did the most damage.”
“I wasn’t myself.”
“Really? So who the devil were you then? What name does this evil twin go by, an’ how many others are there?”
As he had no answers, Angel could only shrug.
“You need to get yourself sorted, Gramps, sooner rather’n later. You’d do best to start with Angelus, I’m thinking. He’s always with you, whether you’re willin’ to admit or not. He loves pain, and if he can’t hurt anyone else, then he’s gonna hurt you, gonna make you hurt the ones you love. He’s a cunning s.o.b. what’s known to hold a grudge, and you’ve denied him for far too long.”
“You think you’re so smart.”
“I’ve got a piece of parchment to prove it.”
Angel shot him a skeptical glance.
“Well, not the actual piece of parchment, as such. More like there’s a record of it in some dusty old ledger. Still, you don’t even have that.”
“Fine. I’ll think about what you’ve said. Now will you go?”
“’Misery loves company.’ Isn’t that what they say?”
“Nobody’s that miserable.”
Spike schooled his features into a look of comically exaggerated surprise.
“Didja hear that? Angel made a funny! There really is a first time for everything.”
“I’d like to stay,” Faith said to him, able to get a word in edgewise at last.
“Up to you, pet. So long as your belly’s full and your bladder’s empty.”
“I’ll be ok.”
“Right, then. Guess I’ll just toddle on back to my cabin.”
Spike was gratified to find Buffy still asleep. Moving quietly, he stripped off his things and got into bed. She seemed to rouse a bit.
He reached out to stroke her hair.
“Yeah, Love, I’m here.”