"For a pair of really old vamps, you'd think they'd have figured out how to do with the hidey by now."
That earned her a sigh from the other end of the phone, and Buffy could almost hear Giles polishing his glasses.
"Be that as it may, Buffy, you must remember to be careful; what they lack in subtlety, they make up for in danger. I wish I could have accompanied you, but-"
"-You had to deal with the whole evil warlock thing. Don't worry, I got this. Besides, if your leads are anything to go by, this should all be over soon and I can get back to Sunnydale, where everyone speaks nice and simple English."
"Are you still having trouble picking up German? That's worrisome; Slayers are supposed to have superior language skills. Perhaps we should work on that when you return…"
"I'm fine, Giles, no need to go all study-mode. I just don't like how it feels in my mouth."
"How it feels…?" Another sigh. "Very well. Keep me informed of your progress, and please consult with me before you engage them. There are hundreds of artifacts with healing properties, and we still don't know exactly which it is they're looking for. They very well could be in search of a weapon instead."
She couldn't hold back her snort.
"You haven't seen Spike; he couldn't hold a sword, much less a big scary magic thing. Shocking he isn't in a wheelchair again. Wonder what messed him up that bad…"
"Yes, well, stay alert and be safe. I await your next communication."
"Copy that, Captain." The line went dead, and Buffy slid out of the phone booth and started back to her inn, silently lamenting that her jaunty little salute had been lost on her Watcher. The cheerfulness of the little village, however, easily pushed through her dramaticism and brought a smile back to her face.
It was hard to imagine that something as dark as Spike and Drusilla was hiding among the colorful flowers and cobblestone streets. Everything oozed charm and comfort, and she was tempted to forget about the vampires, dodge Giles's calls, and just stay here forever.
'Too bad they speak German.'
In fact, almost everywhere she'd been had had the same effect. She almost wanted to thank the vamps for taking such a wild, indirect journey because it meant she'd practically gotten a European vacation. Sure, there were the few odd stakings here and there, but overall it had been almost peaceful. The thought alone made her uneasy; 'relaxing' for Buffy usually meant something ominous. Still, she was determined to enjoy it while she could.
Her feelings of goodwill toward the vamps were decidedly not a thing anymore, and hadn't been since they'd made her leave the little village with its cozy inn in favor of the dark, foreboding forest. She hadn't even had a chance to buy camping gear, instead being forced to grab a blanket and load up on granola bars; at least her Slayer immune system meant she hadn't needed those gross iodine tablets for water. Giles would have fainted if he could hear the swears she'd been practicing for the past day and a half. She invented a new one for her collection as her hair snagged on a branch for the hundredth time.
'I am so going to kill Spike and Drusilla.'
Her ears strained for any hint at their location, and were rewarded with the faint sound of voices and snapping twigs. She could only hope they were too distracted to be listening to her was well. Though she was certain she wasn't making that much noise. Then she picked up on something else, and for a moment she thought it was a stream or other such running water before it became clear that the sound was that of many deep, overlapping voices.
Buffy pulled up short, crouching at the base of a tree despite her distance from them. She'd known that there was a chance the vampires would be meeting up with someone else, but they didn't play well with others so she'd discounted it as unlikely.
'Great move, Buff.'
She played with the hilt of her sword at her shoulder as she thought.
'There are definitely a lot of them, and, if the voices are anything to go by, they're probably pretty big. I could try to rush them now, but I can't go that far that fast without them hearing. I wish I could call Giles; this is why I need a cell with an international plan. But what would he say? Recon. Of course. Already Buffy, time to put on your sneaky shoes.'
A heavy mist had settled into the forest, and that combined with the low light gave her the perfect cover to creep from tree to tree. She kept on the balls of her feet, careful with her placement of them, but still every stray sound made her flinch. She took a steadying breath; if they missed her footsteps, they'd surely hear the thudding of her heart.
Finally she came to the edge of a small clearing, filled with wildflowers surrounding a wooden altar. At its base stood her quarry in deep conversation with a horde of… dwarves? That was certainly not what she'd been expecting. Maybe the vamps were threatening them into surrendering the talisman that protected their forest home? It was a nice thought, at least. She carefully ditched everything but her sword, which she silently slid from its sheath. If all went well this would be over in a minute.
She steeled herself and stepped into the clearing. And, whoa. The place thrummed with so much magic it almost made her skin buzz. Unfortunately, in the second or two that it took her to adapt to the feeling, Drusilla had crossed the clearing and was almost upon her. She thrust her sword, the blade blocking the vamp's claws with a satisfying clang and almost sheared them off, sending her backing away with a hiss. Beyond, the dwarves drew short knives and bared rows of sharp, shark-like teeth. Buffy barely had time to curse her luck before Drusilla was back on her. As she flashed her blade against the vicious flurry of blows, she dimly registered someone shouting something in German about protecting a book. She chanced a glance past her adversary to discern an ornate book resting on the altar and was rewarded with a slashed shoulder for her effort. The minutes dragged on as she whirled and dodged, cutting a path through the throng until her back hit the altar and she was able to keep everyone a sword-length away. She used one hand to grasp blindly behind her, only to feel nothing but smooth wood. There was a flash of peroxide blonde at the edge of her vision, and Buffy maneuvered her way around the structure, occasionally giving warning jabs, until she was confronted with a battered Spike clutching the tome, eyes narrowed as they appraised her.
"Give me the book."
"Like hell." He sneered.
They stood for a moment in a stalemate, and Buffy took the opportunity to fully take in his condition before she struck. He stood in a stoop leaning heavily on his right side as his entire left side and arm was bandaged. A long gash marred his face, and a yellowed patch covered his right eye. Buffy feinted to the right, and as he turned his face to follow her movement she brought her knee up and into his bandaged side. He dropped like a sack of rocks, howling, and she hurried to stand over him with her sword poised at his throat. Fear flashed through his good eye, pure, unbridled terror, and she couldn't bring herself to press her advantage. The forest froze, all eyes on her and Spike as he wheezed beneath her. She slowly reached down and pulled the ancient book easily from his weak grasp, making deliberate eye contact with Drusilla.
"What is this?"
The vampiress merely glared.
"You're going to tell me what this thing is for, or William the Bloody is going to get a little dusty."
"It's a spellbook."
The soft voice sent shivers down her spine.
"And why do you want it?"
"It's got a spell, to heal Spike. Stop his hurting."
Buffy replaced her sword with a foot resting gently on Spike's neck and flipped open the book, drawing heated murmurs from the dwarves and making Drusilla shift.
'There's something in here they don't want me to see.'
The writing was in german, and she could only decipher so much of it. Most of its contents seemed to have something to do with harvests, divinations, and other such mundane topics, but her audience grew increasingly agitated as she neared the middle. She flipped to another page, this one containing an illustration of the clearing and its altar, and there was an abrupt stillness. Almost none of the words were familiar, though she recognized 'death' and 'power'.
"What is this spell? Why are all of you acting so weird about it?"
When Drusilla remained silent, she pressed a little harder on Spike until he groaned.
"It takes away power. The caster can even choose to kill, if they want to." She bit out.
Something about the words on the page seemed to capture Buffy's focus, refusing to let her gaze wander away. Removing the power of the dwarves and vampires would be very helpful, and making them harmless appealed more than killing them all, which she'd certainly have to do to escape otherwise.
She was muttering the foreign words before she realized what she was doing, and the buzz of magic on her skin increased tenfold. Wind picked up, whipping her hair around and stirring the flowers into a living rainbow. Something cold rushed through her, and Drusilla and the dwarves pressed forward. Buffy's skin crawled, and suddenly she didn't think the spell was such a good idea, but she couldn't stop her mouth from forming the words on the page. Panic rose through her, and with it a wave of nausea, and then she was rising, her foot leaving Spike as she floated into the air.
A blue glow began to emanate from her body, and she tried to throw the book, but her fingers wouldn't release it. The glow brightened, and with it came a faint feeling that sent stars across her vision. She felt like ice was flowing through her veins, and her limbs began to feel impossibly heavy. Black crept at the edges of her vision, and the last thing she saw before it overtook her was blonde hair.
Spike caught the Slayer easily as she fell, her body delightfully light in his newly-strong arms. The role reversal wes delicious; he could crush her now just as easily as she could have crushed his neck only moments ago. The book dropped at his feet, and a dwarf scrambled to pick it up, but he ignored it as he cradled the body, careful not to cause unintentional damage, and moved to the altar. He lowered her onto it, arranged her limbs, and withdrew. A clear, thick liquid immediately seeped from the altar's edges, and, rather than dripping down toward the flowers below as he expected, it began to rise, creating a viscous wall around the Slayer. Then it flowed to create a ceiling, and she was hidden from view for a second before the liquid hardened and lost its opacity. The shallow rise and fall of her chest was the only hint that there was life within the glass coffin.
Slender hands wrapped around him to caress his chest and he felt breath on his ear. The echo of living and human nearness, though he was well aware it was merely a reflex, sent a sense of longing welling up inside him that he brutally forced down.
"Spike," Drusilla purred. "I taste power."
He reached behind him to pull her around and into his arms, flexing just because he could.
"I feel power, Ducks."
"The Slayer gave us a pretty gift. She gave us her sunshine."
One of the dwarves - Gitmin? - approached them.
"Healing worked, now we test second purpose?" He said thickly.
Before Spike could answer, the small creature had pulled out a dagger and plunged it into Spike's shin. Or, at least, he tried to; the blade shattered on contact, and Gitmin - might as well call him that, who cares? - gave a hearty chuckle. As Spike examined his unmarred skin with delight, the dwarf turned to Drusilla.
"Now you get us flesh, yes? We have deal, we hunt?"
"Mmm, yes, we can hunt," She turned to him. "Stay here, Spike? I'll bring us something yummy."
He almost argued, insisting that he go too, but something made him bite it back. He wrote it off as an urge to get out of his bandages and bloodied clothes.
Soon he was alone in the clearing and busied himself doing just that. He relished the feeling of standing unhindered, skin free from grimy bandages. He smoothed back his hair, wishing for some gel, and found himself gazing at the Slayer. It seemed wrong, almost gross, somehow, to see her lying prone there under the glass when she was usually so full of energy and spunk. The image of her tearing through the dwarves and holding her own against Dru rose unbidden in his mind, and as soon as he swatted it away another took its place, this time of an earlier fight. He growled.
'I don't need a bloody replay of Blondie's Greatest Hits.'
Still, he now he couldn't help himself; it was interesting to reflect on how she'd grown since they first met. She'd been so small back then, so inexperienced and immature. She certainly couldn't be called immature anymore…
'Oh god no.' He leapt away as if the coffin was a crucifix, a stinging pain in his hand and his head swiveling wildy about to ensure he was still alone. 'That's- That was- I don't see Buffy - the Slayer - like that! It's- Ugh!'
He made a sound halfway between a huff and a laugh, rolling his shoulders.
'It doesn't mean anything. It's nothing. Just because Bu- the Slayer's a nice little piece doesn't mean shit. Be hard not to see it. I'm just bored. Nothing to do, that's it.'
He resisted the impulse to look at her again, turning his focus instead to the source of the stinging in his palms. There were little smears of blood on them, though the skin was unbroken. He sniffed just to be sure; the blood was his. He furrowed his brow, then clenched a fist hard enough to feel a sting. Sure enough, his nails made little crescent-shaped cuts that were already healing before his eyes. In the back of his mind he registered the distant sound of approaching dwarves and vampire, but continued his examination.
"We've been lied to, Pet." He said as the clearing filled and Drusilla deposited a small body next to him. Her eyes roved over his hands in distant concern before she gave an airy wave in dismissal.
"Spell needs finishing Spike. Slayer needs to give us the rest of her sunshine."
"And how do we do that?"
Another dwarf waddled up - maybe this one was Gitmin? - brandishing the spellbook.
"You got Slayer to incant spell, give power. Now you take rest power. Eat heart."
Spike's eyebrows shot up.
"I'm sorry, what? How's that supposed to help anything?"
"We still hurt each other and ourselves now, but no one hurts us when we feast. Come on, Spikey. She's almost dim."
"Ah, uh, yeah. Of course. So we just… wake her up?"
The dwarf gave him a strange look.
"It's just, shouldn't we give her a fighting chance?"
"Enough fights," Drusilla whined. "You take her. Third Slayer."
"Yeah. Yeah. Alright." He swallowed and stepped up to the glass.
'Why do I feel so off about this? The bitch did it to herself, being stupid enough to let us lure her here and believe Dru's lies,' The memory of Buffy's strategic knee to his injury sent a phantom pain through his side. 'No, not stupid, but naieve as hell.'
For a split second Spike hoped he would be able to focus on his own face as he leaned over her, but his reflection was just as absent as it had been for the last few hundred years. Instead, he was forced to stare down at her, features smooth and unaware of what was about to happen. She remained helplessly still as he balled a hand in a fist, Dru cooing at him about revenge from his side. She didn't so much as flinch as he shattered the case, sending sparkling shards raining down on her. He could hardly reconcile the strong woman he'd faced off against countless times before with the one before him.
"Do it." Dru hissed.
"Don't rush me." He hissed back, and maneuvered himself until he was right over the Slayer's body, hovering over her chest, and ran a finger from her collarbone down to her heart, brushing aside the glass. The vision of her easing the pressure of her sword away from his neck, hesitance and mercy in her eyes, flashed through his mind as he bared his fangs and leaned down.
He wasn't sure what was happening, he just knew that the sight of her under him was suddenly too much for him to bear and he had to screw his eyes shut against it. It was like a string was pulling him insistently forward, until his lips met soft skin, his chest warmed, and he heard two simultaneous gasps.
Buffy had no idea what was happening, but she was pretty sure she had to be dreaming. It's the only thing that made since, since the last thing she remembered was that creepy German chant and a blue glow, and then her chest felt strangely warm and her eyes had fluttered open to find Spike's - Spike! - lips pressed to hers. She gasped, and vaguely heard someone else do the same.
"Mmmph!" She pushed ineffectively at his shoulders, arms shaky and somehow both heavy and light.
Spike's eyes flew open and he froze, gaze locked on hers until she shoved at him again and he jerked away, hand flying to his mouth. Over his shoulder Drusilla had vamped out and was looking decidedly not pepped up. That looked ominous enough for Buffy to take the hint, and she struggled to get her body to obey her commands and rise into a combative stance.
She'd barely wobbled into place before Drusilla collided into her, knocking her back off of the altar to hit the ground hard. Before she could react the vamp had her by the throat, slamming her head down. Buffy gasped for air and clawed at her hand, but Drusilla ignored her, tilting her head for a moment before using her fingernail to pierce the skin over Buffy's heart, digging it in excruciatingly deep. She twisted it, and a scream tore its way out of Buffy's throat.
Tears gathered at the corner of her eyes, and she blinked rapidly to see past them, abandoning her assault on Drusilla's hand to lash out at her face. A shadow fell over them and darkness crept into her vision again.
Then the pressure was gone, and Drusilla was gone, and there was a cloud of dust coating the flowers around her, and Spike was standing there looking as surprised as she felt with a sharp stick clutched in his hand. She struggled to prop herself up on her elbows, and Spike took a half-step forward, stopped himself, and retreated a few feet.
"You dusted her." Her voice rasped, and she cleared it, wincing at the raw feeling. "Why?"
"I'm not sure. I just… She was going to kill you, and I panicked."
That didn't make any sense. But, neither did Spike kissing her. How long had she been out?
"Spike… You know who I am, right? Buffy? The Vampire Slayer? Not that I'm not really, really grateful, but usually you want to kill me."
"Yeah…" He trailed off, seemingly at a loss.
While he lost himself in his own world, Buffy felt her neck lightly, and grimaced, then traced the cut on her chest made by Drusilla. She was pleased to find that it was already shallower, and that she was feeling stronger and more stable.
'Good, Slayer powers are up and running again. Though why they were gone in the first place...'
She returned her attention to Spike, who seemed fearful to come any closer. It didn't seem fair to drag him away from whatever it was he was doing to cope - he had just killed his sire, after all, despite her being an evil bloodsucking demon - but Buffy was still just so confused. She wasn't even sure if she should be talking to him, but he wasn't making any move to kill her, and he definitely looked well enough to do it now.
"Spike, um, what happened? While I was out, I mean. And I guess before that, too. And maybe a little bit after."
He still seemed out of it, eyes unfocused, and he answered in a steady, emotionless voice as he stared into space.
"We knew you were tracking us, Dru and I, so we took you all over to tire you out. See, I got messed up and she came across this invincibility spell while lookin' up a way to heal me. But it needed a Slayer, so we got your attention and came here. Let you think you got the drop on us, guided you to the fancy book and the right spell, then you did the work. Gave up most of your power, were out like a bloody light; couldn't stop it once you started. That weird glass thing came up around you, and we find out the spell worked, but we can still hurt each other until we eat your heart. So, I broke the glass and made for it, but," He paused, an inscrutable expression on his face. "I kissed you instead. It was like something took hold of me. Then I got all warm and it happened again, 'cept this time it was mostly panic and before I knew it I- I killed Dru." He buried his face in his hands. "Oh god, what did I do?"
For her part, Buffy was almost completely sure now that this was a dream. Though it'd be a pretty weird one, even for her. She stood, dusting herself off, and scanned the area. No dwarves, just shards of glass and flowers and- what was that? She crouched next to the altar, carefully brushing aside the glass to uncover the spellbook.
'Maybe this can give us some answers.'
She flipped through until she found the page with the clearing on it, but it was still just as indecipherable as before.
"Hey, do you know much German?"
Spike slid his hands down his face a little to peer at her with a miserable expression.
"Little rusty, but I used to be fluent. Why?"
"I'm hoping this thing comes with an explanation or something," She motioned with the book, and he strode over. She suspected he was eager to take his mind off Drusilla.
"Not much on this page. Let me look through the others." He examined it for a while, and Buffy set about rearranging and cleaning her gear until he made a noise in the back of his throat.
"What? What is it?"
"It's got to do with the spell. I can't tell the exact translation, but it says something to the tune of two destinies that are intertwined involving themselves in the ritual, and their souls - no, maybe it means hearts - being bonded through a kiss," He made another strange sound, and if vampires could get paler then he definitely was. "It says that neither can live if the other dies."
Buffy felt her heart skip a beat.
"I need to call Giles."
Author's Note: Thank you so much for reading! I was hit with this idea out of nowhere, and I knew I just had to write it out. I'm planning on this remaining a one-shot, but I could be convinced to continue it if anyone had particularly strong feelings and/or it gets a lot of love. Let me know what you think!
Much love, Miss Luxe