Summary/Notes/Disclaimer: See Part One.
Shoutouts: Thanks to all of my beta-readers on this one: The Redemptionista fic group, adjrun, and Ehann, and to AurelioZen for hounding me to keep working on this.
Part Five: The Last Night of the World
"And what would you know about how Earth was then, Jess?" Spike asked.
"I know what you told me."
It didn’t take much persuading to get her to talk. Jessica knew what she was up against. Here, she wasn’t the spider -- she was the fly. She put up a brave front, but her constant fidgeting and her big, brown eyes betrayed her fear. She had exactly one chance for survival, and that was to tell them what she knew.
"When did the vampires arrive on Mars?" asked Major Ellison.
"I don’t know."
"Jessica," Buffy warned.
"I don’t! They didn’t give me their whole history. They just gave me a job to do."
"And what job is that?" the Major asked.
Jessica looked at her hands.
"Answer the question!" he shouted.
Jessica jumped, clearly startled. Buffy’s heart went out to her. She couldn’t help it. She kept having to remind herself that the girl sitting in the chairwoman’s seat was a vampire. No matter how young and innocent she looked, no matter how much she reminded Buffy of her sister, she was still the enemy. Before that, she was a Slayer. She knew the stakes, even if she was too young to fully understand them. Not that it mattered to the Powers That Be if their Chosen One was too damn young to take on the responsibility, or that Jessica clearly hadn’t been ready. It wasn’t fair.
It’s never fair, Buffy reminded herself.
"What was your job, Jessica?" she asked.
Jessica hugged herself, and shrugged. "Why should I tell you? How do I know that as soon as I tell you what you want to know you won’t dust me?"
Buffy sighed. She recalled a certain other vampire, sitting in chains in a bathtub and asking the same question. She’d thought he was the enemy, too. Of course, at the time, he was.
"I asked her that same question meself once," Spike said, as if he’d read Buffy’s mind. "And I’m still standing."
"I promise you, Jessica," Buffy said, "nothing will happen to you if you cooperate."
Jessica glared up at her. "What kind of Slayer lets a vampire live?"
"The best kind," Spike said. "Obviously."
Buffy hopped up on the conference table and sat facing Jessica. "Okay. Let’s start from the beginning. How did you … what happened? How did they get you?"
"They got Edith first," Jessica said.
"Her Watcher," Spike clarified.
"It took days for me to find her," Jessica continued, all matter-of-fact. "They tortured her. But she didn’t tell them anything. Then they captured me. I fought, I killed as many as I could, but …"
"You were outnumbered," Buffy said.
"Yeah. And the vamps were just better than me. Stronger. Anyway, they used me to get Edith to talk. She told them everything. All about how you guys were planning to invade Earth. Then they--"
Her voice hitched. She stared at her hands, folded in her lap. Buffy studied her. Did Jessica still feel something for her Watcher? For her former self?
"Then they made Edith watch while they turned me," Jessica said. She looked up at Buffy, her features transformed. She smiled, a toothy, demonic smile that held no trace of the humanity Buffy thought she’d seen. "Then they gave her to me. My first meal. Best I’ve had yet."
"You little …" The Major raised his hand to strike her, but Buffy grabbed his arm.
"I said nobody will hurt her if she cooperates," Buffy said.
The Major jerked his arm away. "You’re going to just sit there and let her talk like that?"
Buffy sat up straight and looked him in the eye. "Do you want to take over? ‘Cause I'm sure this'll go a whole lot faster if we wig every time she tries to bait us."
Ellison sighed, and glared at the young vampire. "Proceed," he said. "Find out why she was sent here."
Buffy folded her arms and looked at Jessica. "Well?"
"They wanted me to get the mission specs," Jessica said. "And some codes."
"For the computers. The crackers couldn’t break in."
"Bloody hell," Spike whispered.
Buffy looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
"If they got into our computers, they’d control everything, including life support. Here and on Mars. All they’d have to do is enter a single command and suffocate what’s left of the entire bloody human race."
"Damn," Buffy said. "Can’t let that happen." She looked at Jessica. "Did they really think you’d be able to get in here and do all that without getting caught? Jeez." She shook her head. "Vampires sure haven’t gotten any smarter in the last few hundred years, have they?"
"It was a good plan," Jessica said. "It was a pretty safe bet that Spike would carry me in if I played sick. That would get me past the guards and the detectors. After that I’d just have to stay out of the infirmary and make sure there was always someone with me to get me through the doors. I could have done it if it wasn’t for you."
"They don’t know about me?"
Jessica shrugged. "Edith and I didn’t know about you, how could they?"
Buffy nodded, then looked at the Major. "What else do we need?"
He glared at Jessica. "That’s enough."
"Okay," Buffy said. "We’re done here." She got up and started for the door. Spike fell into step beside her. "I guess this means our big plans are gonna change," she said.
"Count on it," he said.
As they reached the door, she heard the Major issue an order: "All right. Dust her."
Buffy spun around in time to see a guard aiming a stake rifle at Jessica. The girl looked at Buffy, her eyes all hatred and accusation.
"No!" Buffy rushed towards Jessica, but she was too late. The guard fired, and Jessica crumbled into dust. Buffy jumped the guard anyway. She disarmed him and knocked him out of the way, then turned the gun on the Major, shoving the barrel against his throat. "I said nothing would happen to her."
"We were done with her," the Major replied.
Buffy threw down the gun and grabbed the Major by his collar, shoving him backwards onto the table. "I promised her that she would be safe!" she shouted. "How dare you?"
"How dare you make deals with the enemy?" he shouted back.
"Spike wouldn’t be here today if I never made deals with my enemies, deals that I honor. And neither would you! None of you would’ve even been born if it wasn’t for him! Should I have just staked him as soon as I thought I didn't need him anymore?"
"That was your job, Slayer. If you couldn't do it then, why should I expect you to do it now?"
Buffy jerked him up by his collar until she was right in his face. "My job is to protect humanity from the forces of evil. If making deals with vampires will help me do that, then I make deals with vampires. Is that understood?"
"What you better understand, Slayer, is that we’re at war. You can’t afford to make promises."
Buffy held him for a moment, eyes locked with his, fighting the urge to knock him into next week. Finally she asked, "Who’s leading this mission?"
The Major’s gaze faltered, and he grimaced. "You are."
Buffy nodded. "Then follow my orders. Don't question them." She dropped him back on the table and stormed towards the exit.
Waiting by the doors, Spike smirked, his eyes full of approval. "That’s showing him who’s boss," he muttered as she approached. "I’d lay odds he won’t be forgetting your name anymore."
"Summers!" Ellison barked.
"Those are good odds," she said as she turned around.
"We move out tomorrow." He didn’t look at her as he spoke, instead picking up the gun she’d thrown on the floor and inspecting it for damage. "Watch for the new mission specs to be uploaded to your vid goggles tonight." He laid the gun on the table and looked her in the eye. "Be ready, Slayer."
She tossed her hair over her shoulder. As she turned and walked out the door, she said, "I’m always ready."
"I’m not ready!"
"Yes you are," Spike told her. "You’re as ready for this as you’ll ever be."
"But there was supposed to be another week," Buffy said. "We had a whole ‘nother week to come up with some amazing, unbeatable plan. Now I don’t even have time to read the new mission specs."
"It’s a long trip to Earth. You can study them on the way." He tried to make his voice soothing as he ran his fingers through her hair. She was still reeling from the day’s events. Hell, they both were. Especially the interrogation. Buffy still fumed about it hours later as she stretched out on her sofa, leaning back against Spike.
"Bastard," she muttered. "He can just take away my week, and he can break my word? Who the hell does he think he is, anyway?"
"He thinks he's in a position to decide these things," Spike said, hugging her to him. "Or he did, till you set him straight."
"But didn't he learn anything from history? From you?" She laid her hands over his and intertwined their fingers, pulling his arms more tightly around her. "I mean, what if I'd never made a deal with you, or if I didn't keep my end of the bargain? You'd be an antique pile of dust, and the Council never would have made it off the planet in time."
"Maybe," he said, "but the Major had a point. I mean, don't get me wrong. The bloke's a complete tosser; but she was the enemy. We can't afford to take prisoners right now. 'Sides, dusting her, letting her live ..." his jaw tightened along with his voice. "Either way, the real Jess is just as dead. Thanks to me."
Buffy sat up straight and turned to face him. "What happened to Jessica is not your fault."
"Isn't it? It was my idea to send her to Mars. I sent her there to train, but I also sent her there to be safe." He concentrated on a spot on the coffee table. "Bloody lot of good it did her."
"But you couldn't have known what would happen to her there. You're not responsible for that, any more than you're responsible for what happened to me."
Spike looked at Buffy as though she'd just slapped him. Felt like she did. But when he saw the bewildered look on her face, he softened. She had no idea. How could she?
"But I am responsible for that, pet." He laughed, short and bitter. "If you think about it, this whole sodding mess is my fault."
"You counted on me to protect Dawn, and I failed."
"You didn't fail. You kept your promise. You kept it better than I ever imagined."
"I mean that night. Up on the tower. I didn't keep her from getting cut."
"But you couldn't get to her. None of us could."
He shook his head. "You didn't see, 'cause you were otherwise occupied with Glory. But I got up that tower. Doc -- the old guy? I fought him. If you can call it that. I tried to keep him away from Dawn, but ..." He closed his eyes and squeezed them tight, trying to shut out the memory. He could still see her face so clearly, the terror in her eyes right before he was pushed off the platform. "The bugger was just too fast. I mean, he was just an old man, right? I was overconfident, and I underestimated him. He made short work of me. And then Dawn ..."
He realized he was breathing, short, shallow breaths, and he was trembling. This was the thing that terrified him most: having Buffy find out how much he'd failed her. This was his holy confession of his greatest sin, the only crime for which he felt pure, gut wrenching guilt; and Buffy was his confessor, his judge, the only one who could possibly absolve him. The one he couldn't bear to tell about his crime.
He swallowed, and opened his eyes. But he couldn’t look at her. He fixed his eyes on a coaster on the coffee table as he continued. "Well, he cut her. She bled, and the portal opened, and you had to jump. And the hellmouth was left without a Slayer, and the vampires got so organized that they were able to take over the world. And now Jessica's dead and we've got one night left before all bloody hell breaks loose. All because I wasn't strong enough or fast enough to keep from getting my ass kicked by a little old man."
For a moment, she said nothing. He closed his eyes. He could feel it all coming undone. He’d said too much, and she hated him again.
"Spike, look at me." When he didn't comply, she cupped his chin in her hand and turned him to face her. "Open your eyes and look at me."
He did. He forced himself to look her in the eye. He owed her that much, at least; but he was totally unprepared for what he saw there. They weren't full of disgust or accusation. Her eyes held nothing but love. His own eyes began to tear up.
Buffy took his face in both her hands and kissed his forehead. Then she pulled him down until his head lay on her breast, and held him as he cried. She gently rocked him back and forth, stroking his hair and wiping his tears as he released three centuries worth of pent up guilt, grief and shame.
"I know you tried," she said after he'd cried himself out. "You did everything you could do. It wasn't your fault, Spike. I chose to jump. I think ... I'm pretty sure, actually, that I was meant to jump off of that tower."
"Because it makes sense," she said. "A couple of weeks before, I went on a -- well, I guess you could call it a vision quest, out in the desert. I met my spirit guide. I know that sounds a little hokey, but--"
"No," Spike said, "I've read about the ritual. Never done it, of course, seeing as how all the deserts are back on Earth. So, it worked? What'd your guide say?"
"Well, for one thing, she told me I should forgive." She caressed the back of his neck. "I'm pretty sure she was talking about you."
Spike closed his arms around her. "I think I like this guide of yours. What else did she say?"
"That death was my gift."
"Okay, maybe I don't so much like this bird."
"I didn't care for that part, either. I thought she meant the death I bring to demons, that she was saying I'm a killer; but ... "
Spike looked up at her. "But?"
Buffy took a deep breath. "But she was talking about my death." She smiled at him, but her eyes were sad. "It was my gift to give. To the world, to Dawn ... to you. Spike, I was supposed to die that night. Nothing you could've done would've changed that."
Spike sat up and looked at her. "Well that's obviously bollocks," he said. "I mean, here you are, right? You didn't die."
"But I did, originally. I'm only here because the Council and their time machine changed history. I'm not supposed to be here."
"Rot," Spike said. "You're right where you're supposed to be. You're where you're needed. Maybe ... maybe that's what the Powers intended. Maybe you were supposed to jump in that portal so you could be brought here."
"Maybe," she said. "The point is, I was meant to jump." She reached over and wiped the remaining tears from his face. "So there's no sense beating yourself up about it. About me, or about Jessica. It's all just part of the Slayer package."
Spike suddenly felt utterly helpless. All of his promises, all of his vows to keep her safe ... they were all pointless. It was out of his hands. He reached out and tucked a fallen lock of hair behind her ear. She was so beautiful. Not just her face, but everything about her. Her courage, her strength, her sense of humor. She was so alive. She was his life. Even in death, she'd been his reason for being. The promise he'd made her had been his sole reason to go on. What would he do if ...
"I can't lose you again, Buffy." It came out as a whisper.
"Hey," she said, "I'm not that easy to kill, remember? You know what you told me, about the Slayers you killed, about why they lost?"
He looked down at the carpet as he nodded.
Buffy cupped his cheek and turned him to face her. When he did she graced him with an enthusiastic kiss. She broke it off and gave him a challenging look. "Do I look like somebody with a death wish to you?"
In spite of himself, he smiled. "You look ready to take over the world."
"That's the idea," she said, pushing him back on the sofa.
He tangled a hand in her hair at the base of her neck and pulled her to him, crushing his mouth against hers. He’d never needed her as badly as at that moment. To taste her, to smell her, to feel her weight on top of him, to be surrounded by her warmth.
He almost whimpered as she pulled away, but she sat up and pulled her top up over her head, then dropped it to the floor. Spike reached for her, but she stood and finished undressing. He took the opportunity to peel off his own shirt, and then she was on her knees before him, straddling his lap. He cupped one of her breasts in his hand and watched as his touch caused pleasure to dance across her face. After a small eternity he circled his arm around her waist and took her other breast in his mouth. A thrill shot through him as she gasped and held his head there. She said his name, repeated it over and over. Each time she said it her voice increased in need, until finally she pushed him back onto the couch.
She locked eyes with his as she leaned over him, and a thought occurred to him. A dreadful thought, one he couldn’t afford to be thinking, though he knew she was thinking the same thing.
This could be the last time.
Buffy dropped her gaze to his mouth, and kissed him. This time their kiss was fueled not just by love and need, but also by the knowledge that each kiss they shared could be their last. Spike wrapped his arms around her and held her to him, afraid to ever let her go. He was reluctant to release his hold as she started to sit up again.
He moved to sit up with her, but she shook her head, gently pushing his shoulders back to the couch. As she sat up she slowly smoothed her hands over his chest and stomach, caressing each line and contour as she worked her way down to his waistband. She unfastened his pants and tugged them down enough to free him. He watched, amused by the myriad of expressions that flitted across her face as she lowered herself onto him, until the feel of being wrapped up in her overwhelmed him. He gasped and closed his eyes as his hands reached out to clutch her to him. She began to rock, slowly at first, and he heard himself moan as he began to move with her in a perfect rhythm.
This was their dance now. God, how he loved it.
How he loved her.
A smile played across Spike’s lips as his eyes moved back and forth beneath their lids. Must be a good dream, Buffy thought, studying him as he slept. God, he was beautiful. How come it had taken her so long to notice? The sharp symmetry of his cheekbones and strong jaw line were softened by a perfectly shaped, almost feminine mouth -- though, she considered with a smirk, there was nothing feminine about the way he used it. Long, dark lashes curled against his pale cheek, and she knew the intensity of the blue eyes hidden beneath those lids -- eyes that had always seen right through her. For someone who supposedly didn’t possess a soul, he sure had a lot of insight into hers.
Closing her eyes, she remembered the first time he’d said he loved her. She hadn’t believed him. She’d honestly believed him incapable of any true, positive emotion. Of course, in her defense, he’d seen fit to chain her up in his basement for the occasion -- not exactly the ideal way to show a girl you love her. Even so, she felt ashamed as she thought of all of the sacrifices he’d made since -- for her, her family, her friends -- of all of the punishment he’d endured, all because he dared to love her.
How could she have ever thought him incapable of love?
The look of contentment he wore warmed her heart, and she wished for a way to make it last. She reached out and ran her fingers through his hair, a tumble of short, soft curls framing his face. His roots were starting to show. Anne had said that he bleached his hair again just before Buffy’s arrival, so he would look familiar to her. She smiled at the thoughtfulness behind the gesture, but she kind of wished he’d left it alone. She’d never seen his natural color before. She feared she may never get the chance.
It’ll all be put right.
Buffy didn’t tell Spike about that part of her dream. She wanted to. She knew she should, to prepare him for what would come; but he’d looked so lost at the mere thought of losing her again, she just couldn’t bring herself to mention it. She hated this. Dying didn’t scare her, not anymore; but not now, not when the two of them had finally gotten their act together. She didn’t want to leave him. Her first "death" had ravaged him, had caused him to endure three centuries’ worth of torture. She feared the next time would destroy him.
She would do what she could to make sure that didn’t happen. Placing a gentle kiss on his forehead, she got up and pulled on her clothes. Paper. She needed paper. She looked around the apartment, knowing she wouldn’t find any. Paper didn’t exist anymore. She sighed in frustration and put her hands on her hips. How the hell was she supposed to write a letter without any paper? Her eyes fell on the stack of Watcher’s diaries on the kitchen table. She picked up the last one, and flipped past the final entry. "Sorry, Giles," she whispered as she tore out a blank page. She sat down at the table, then sighed. No pen. Maybe she should just give up this notion and go tell Spike about her dream. She started to get up when she remembered seeing a ballpoint between the pages of one of the journals. She opened them up one by one, shaking each until finally her prize fell out onto the table. With a satisfied smile, she picked up the pen, and started to write.
The explosions started before she could finish.
Spike’s eyes flew open. What the hell was that?
"Buffy?" he called as he sprung to his feet.
"In here," she answered from the kitchen, and he sighed in relief. She came out, clutching a folded piece of paper. "What was that?"
"Dunno," he said. A second blast rocked the building, almost knocking them both off their feet. "But it can’t be good."
As he got dressed, a voice came over the comm system. It was Major Ellison. "All hands: We are under attack. Repeat: We are under attack!"
"Shit!" Spike said. "Not now."
Without a word, Buffy disappeared into her bedroom, and came back carrying a stake rifle and a blaster. "Which do you want?"
"I wondered where those had gotten to," he said, taking the blaster from her and strapping the holster around his thigh.
"You know me," Buffy said. "I like to be prepared. You ready?"
"Yeah," he said, shrugging into his duster as she started towards the door. The paper she’d held earlier lay on the coffee table with his name scrawled across it. He glanced at her, but she had her back to him. No time to ask her about it, and definitely no time to read it. He picked up the note and put it in his pocket, then followed his Slayer into the fray.
Continued in Part Six: Past Perfect