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Fire & Lies

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***
When Buffy wakes up, it isn’t sudden. A slow creeping of consciousness as she feels her body move towards being fully awake. Her limbs feel loose and confortable, and she’s aware of being in total darkness, surrounding her like velvet. It is comforting in a very primal way, almost cocoon-like in its tranquillity. Yet… something deep inside is urging her to move, like a whizzing ball of energy deep inside her gut. It wakes her steadily piece by piece.

As she comes to with increasing inches, she is aware of a deep gnawing at the back of her throat; it’s a burning, terrible hunger. Or is it thirst? It’s hard to discern, beyond the fact that it overwhelms her enough to wake fully, and open her eyes.

It’s completely dark still, but Buffy’s awareness seems to expand beyond her sense of sight. It’s almost like she can perceive the small space in which she is lying, and a dense lack of much sound beyond. It’s fully bizarre but somehow having this sense still feels right. She’s at ease where she is, apart from the fire in her throat, but the energy inside urges her to wake up. She’s hesitant at first—she’s so amazingly comfortable remaining still—but it becomes more and more insistent, until she finally begins to move. It’s just a curling of her fingers and toes to begin with, but soon she’s feeling around, confirming what her previous perception told her before.

It’s when she’s feeling the soft satin over hard wood that some instinct in her realizes that she’s in a coffin.

It’s also at this point that she begins to panic. She tries to cry out, but she feels like there is no air in her chest. She begins to hyperventilate, trying to get as much air as possible into her body, but it feels fruitless and doesn’t offer any relief to the panic gripping her. There’s not enough space to balk any movement or escape, and the turn from feeling as safe and secure as she was when waking to terror is leaving her dizzy. Or is that just the lack of air?

Buffy’s frantically tearing into the satin lining of the coffin, her fingernails scrabbling at the varnished wood underneath. The smell of sandy earth and the pine of the wood is overwhelming, as well as the acrid tang of something else, heady and dangerous. She tries to scream, but her chest still feels empty, like her lungs have collapsed on themselves and her voice dies in her throat. There is no room to kick or punch through the wood above her, so she begins to pound it with the sides of her fists, trying to slam as hard as she can, willing it to break.

When it does, she is greeted with a face full of dry earth, which smells overwhelmingly like hot sun and desert sands. It fills her mouth, choking her more, working its way into her nose as she tries to dig through it before she suffocates.

There are very few thoughts going through her head in those moments as Buffy digs her way free: the feel of the dirt under her fingernails; the painful scrape of wood as she worms through the splintered gap; and the utter terror as she kicks up, instinctively towards freedom.

It feels like an age before her hand reaches empty air, but when she does she stretches with renewed fervour towards the sky, first one hand and then the other, blindly fumbling against the cool, freshly turned earth. She kicks harder, panic lending her even more strength than she could have thought possible.

When she breaks the surface she gasps, her lungs finally filling with the strain of unused muscles. It’s when she’s lying panting in the dirt, half sobbing, that she realizes it’s bringing no relief.

She also realizes that she is not alone.

Two polished, black shoes are next to her, and she follows the leather-clad legs all the way up to a face that she knows so well it makes her heart hurt.

‘Hello, lover,’ says Angel, blowing out a cloud of smoke, as he flicks away his cigarette, smirking down at Buffy.

‘Angel?’ she whispers, blinking away the dirt that is caught in her eyelashes. ‘What are you doing here? Why am I…? I don’t understand.’ Her thoughts feel burnished and bright, but she is having a lot of trouble remembering things with much distinction from before she woke up, and it feels disturbingly foggy when she tries to recall what brought them here.

Angel throws back his head and laughs. ‘You seriously just crawled out of your own grave, and you’re asking me that, Buff? Some Slayer you are.’

‘I don’t understand,’ Buffy repeats weakly. The panic is rising to choke in her throat again at Angel’s words and she can’t place why. Overwhelmed, she feels like crying. ‘Is this a nightmare?’

Angel moves to crouch down next to Buffy, his shoes digging into the soft dirt she’s still sprawled in, face close to hers. His smirk takes a vicious edge. ‘I could make it one, if you like, sweetheart. Just for you.’

Something in his tone and the endearment rankles Buffy and, despite the fatigue in her muscles which thankfully appears to be swiftly dissipating, she rolls away from him and rises fluidly to her feet, more smoothly than she can remember being able to do, fists ready.

Something about Angel isn’t right and she watches him intently, trying to place what is wrong. It makes something deep inside her lurch towards him. It isn’t the love with which she is so familiar, but rather a preternatural pull. It scares her.

Angel raises an eyebrow. ‘You gonna fight me, Buffy?’ He stands up as well, slowly stepping towards her. He isn’t smiling anymore, but his eyes are still glimmering with mirth. ‘You gonna fight your honey, Buff? I’m the only one to help you. I’ve helped you more than you could know.’

‘What have you done?’ she says, shaking her head, trying to rid the cotton wool from her thoughts. ‘What have you done to me?’

Angel’s grin widens as his eyes narrow cruelly. ‘Look harder, Buffy. Use your senses a little better. Hell, look up.’

Keeping en guarde, she does just that, looking up to see what it is he’s talking about. It’s night, she’s surprised to see, and the moon is hanging fat and gibbous in the sky so bright in makes her eyes water. They’re not any place she can easily recognise; it must be out of town as they’re surrounded by desert hills, and she can’t see a road. Everything is illuminating brightly, but in hyper colour, in the weird way it sometimes gets for a bare few minutes at twilight on late summer nights. There’s a tinge of a violet colour Buffy can’t place in the white paint of an unfamiliar, beat-up workman’s van a short way off behind Angel, and the same colour glimmers in the dust that is still suspended in the air, kicked up by their movements. Something about where the moon is and how the ground smells tells her that it a few hours before dawn—enough for the earth to have cooled and a chill to taint the air, but not enough that the sun is anywhere near rising. Somehow the smells around her are telling her the same thing, but she’s not sure how, or why she knows this. It’s a kind of instinct from the whizzing energy inside her, and that’s terrifying, but entrancing.

She must’ve zoned out staring at the dense net of stars which are so bright out here, because she becomes aware that her hands have dropped and Angel’s gripping her shoulders, saying her name over and over.

She shakes her head slightly. ‘Huh? Sorry I’m not… Angel, I feel wiggy…’

He laughs, but not pleasantly. ‘Well, you’re certainly weirder than any fledge I’ve ever seen. You completely lost it looking at the sky, and you haven’t even tried to go for the van trunk yet, or attack me like I would’ve thought.’

‘Why would I – ? What’s in the – ’ she begins, but as soon as Angel draws her attention back to the van, she becomes immediately aware of a pervading scent emanating from the vehicle. It’s salty, and rich, and pulsating. No, wrong word, she thinks, her eyes widening. It’s beating.

With a quick snap of her wrists she breaks Angel’s hold, and is on the van, ripping off the back door before she’s even conscious of moving.

A young co-ed is tied up with duct tape in the back, a deeply bruised head wound indicating that he would not be far from death regardless of what was intended to befall him tonight. Buffy can see his sweat-soaked shirt, his long brass-blond hair curling at the nape of this neck, the dirt and blood that is ingrained and crusted down half of his face. He probably wasn’t knocked out when Angel grabbed him, but maybe he struggled too much, or made too much noise. In this moment, Buffy doesn’t care.

A distant part of her is probably screaming that she should care, that she would care, under normal circumstances, that something has been done to her that is not normal and that she somehow needs to fight this. But a greater part of her is entranced with the network of thumping fibres she can almost see within this boy, with the savoury, thick blood she can hear, smell within him, perfuming the air with umami and fire.

She doesn’t look back at Angel when she drags the boy out of the boot of the van by his collar like he’s weightless, driving her teeth into his neck and tearing through sinew and tissue, and gulping against the heady flow of pure divinity leeching from his body.

She’s lost in that moment, in the lifeblood of this human boy, the whizzing ball of energy inside her gut roaring to life and drowning out every doubt or fear that has driven her since she woke. There is nothing but her teeth and the sweet, hot slide of blood down her gullet.

She’s gnawing on his neck by the end, an unholy power in her sucking every last drop from the body beneath her clawed fingers. When she finally drops him unceremoniously to the ground she looks across to Angel who’s leaning against the van, watching her with an undisguised predatory gleam in his eyes.

//

She doesn’t look like any vampire that Angel’s ever seen. Her skin’s the colour of aged bone, death killing her previous tan, and her eyes are the bright, threaded yellow-gold common to their race, but the colour has eclipsed the entire sclera, leaving a pinpoint pupil, constricted like a cat’s in too much sun. More than that, though, her eye shape has changed, becoming more elongated and feline. Deep blue-black bruising bleeds in a web-like net from her eye socket, almost following a mask of the underlying bone structure instead of the usual ridges that form the brow of a normal vampire, eclipsing where her eyebrows once were. The effect is alien, but ethereal. When she opens her mouth to snarl at him instinctively through her mass of bleach-blonde hair—which is a much ashier, grey-blonde than he remembers, even under the dirt—he sees that her blood-stained teeth are a strange ivory colour tipped in black; much like her fingers which, at the moment, are still pointed with needle-sharp tips.

She’s beautiful.

‘You couldn’t do anything easy, I see,’ he says, pushing off the van to pick up the body of the student, slinging it over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, walking back to the grave from which Buffy’s just emerged. It took a lot of effort to pinch her such a nice coffin, and she’d completely trashed it. Oh well—he’ll forgive her. The effect worked, after all, and was all very dramatic. It was the sort of gesture that made him feel more like himself, after all this time.

She’s following him warily, slowing coming back to herself as the bloodlust loses some power over her facilities. It clearly doesn’t dissipate, as the demon—or whatever she is—hasn’t yet retreated into her human shell. Angel continues to talk as he grabs a shovel from beside the grave, and starts digging. ‘It took you nearly four days to rise, Buff, I almost thought I’d for-real killed you, or that you were some kind of freak that wouldn’t rise. Happens to some folk, y’know, they just don’t wake up. Dru would always rave on about their souls fighting the demon for the body, but who knows? All kinds of bogus ramblings came out of that schitzo’s mouth. She once told me I would turn into a puppet man and that Spike would cut my strings—boy did I give it to her that night –’

Buffy blinks slowly, trying to process what Angel’s talking about. ‘You’re… not Angel,’ she says slowly in an almost-monotone, interrupting his rambling.

Angel stops digging, and leans on the spade, dipping his head with concession. ‘Not really. Add a U and an S on the end, baby.’

She frowns, trying to focus through the hazy blood-filter that’s still lowered over her vision. ‘Angel…us?’

Angelus finger-guns at her with a wink and starts digging again. ‘My better self. It’s been a while, but it’s fabulous raising hell again. Stuck buried under layers of angst and self-flagellation is not my idea of fun. That fucking whiner is not how I want to spend eternity.’

‘How did this happen?’ She’s looking at her hands, slowly opening and closing her fingers, entranced by her blacked claws, a slight sneer across her bloody mouth.

Angelus assumes she’s talking about herself, not his re-awakening as his superior half, but he can’t tell if she’s fully cognizant again, or if she’s simply just dicking with him. ‘I turned you,’ he says, ‘Obviously.’

She looks up very quickly, eyes narrowing. He can tell something is going through her head, though he can’t pinpoint exactly what. ‘I know that,’ she spits out a second later, ‘But I don’t remember it. What happened?’

Angelus side eyes here. ‘You’re serious? You don’t remember?’

She swallows heavily, frowning as she still examines her elongated fingers. ‘I don’t know what I remember. Black, mainly. Pain. The men with sticks and rope.’ She looks up at him suddenly, eyes looking ghoulish in the dark of the night, and Angelus cocks his head in puzzlement.

‘I might be many things, Buffy-cakes, but I have a perfect memory. There was no sticks, and no rope, and I certainly wasn’t in a sharing enough mood to bring friends.’ He smirks. ‘I mean, I could probably wrangle up some rope if you’re feeling frisky, b—’

‘Vashedatzs, tz’eruskzt haalvfarshakn’ck!’ Buffy rasps, seizing him by the throat. He has no idea what she’s just said, but it certainly isn’t any language he’s ever heard and, even though Spike was always the more gifted polyglot of the family, Angelus is still pretty good with at least recognising most demon languages. He swears, trying to grab at Buffy’s wrists, but it’s like being pinioned by steel beams for all the good it does. She isn’t tall enough to raise him off the ground just from her arm alone, but he is surprised she hasn’t crushed his neck with the force she’s putting into it. It’s a little alarming, to say the least. He grapples emptily for freedom; while he’s not in any danger of choking to death, he’s rather partial to having a working neck for things like talking and drinking the lifeblood of virgins.

And then, quick as she’d grabbed him, Buffy lets go and staggers back, her demon retreating and leaving a pale, scared looking teenage girl swaying on unstable legs. She’s gone full-one-eighty, and looks as just as confused and helpless as she did before she ate the co-ed.

‘Buffy!’ Angel admonishes (and he ignores the way he can barely rasp out his words—he’ll heal soon), ‘I’m all for kinky shit, but there’s kinky and then there’s damaging and I’m the only one who’s allowed to do the permanent maiming, lover!’

As Angel advances on her she moans—in fear or unhappiness Angel can’t tell—and slides to her knees in the sandy earth.

‘This can’t be happening, this is a nightmare—a nightmare demon oh, God, I’ve been cursed by some horrible nightmare demon, oh, God, Angel’s gonna kill me I can’t…’ she’s whimpering, inconsolable as Angel moves to loom over her.

Buffy on her knees—now that’s a pretty sight, Angel thinks, and tells her so, smirking lasciviously. Buffy shuts her mouth with a snap and only looks up at him with watery doe-eyes, and it brings him back to the special time he had with Dru in those early days. With a smile he scoops her up in his arms, bridal style, and he’s pleased when she doesn’t so much as twitch—she’s gone as limp as a life-sized doll-version of Buffy, complete with silence. That mental image was doing all sorts of naughty things to his groinal region, and it’s with regret that he tries to suppress Angel Jr. There will be time enough for that later, once they’re out of this desert and back in the comfort and style Angel loves to love. Deserts were dramatic sure, and convenient for disposing of bodies, but there were certain places of his anatomy where sand did most certainly not belong, thank you very much, and he did not want to contend with getting horizontal out here and risk it.

He folds Buffy into the front seat of the van, and finishes up with the grave of Buffy’s first meal while she sits in the van, silent and still as the corpse she is.

He wasn’t sure what was going to happen with his weird and newest little Childe, but he knew he was going to enjoy it, and he couldn’t wait.

After all, it wasn’t like the line of Aurelius was known for its stability, anyway. Buffy would fit right in.

Chapter Text

Chapter Two – Playing Passive

Becoming a vampire isn’t as clean, or as swift as those books the Watchers kept would make out. Death did interesting things to an individual’s sense of self—for it was certainly preserved, not completely erased by the newly-created demon, as Spike knows those books claim. A vampire’s demon, after all, isn’t some already-existing entity summoned from the ether to inhabit some previously-human body; it’s a creation born solely from that person themselves, new and sparkling, a human-demon hybrid that was declared somewhere centuries ago to be called “vampire”. Separating the demon-self and the human-self is pointless, despite what that prick Angel had liked to think; those separated parts weren’t “parts” at all, but one entity, total and whole—vampyre compleát. Turning, as Spike’s hidden poetic depths would describe it was, rather than what the human books would say, more like a refiner’s fire; concentrating and reducing down someone’s personality traits, purifying both good and bad, until all the traits remaining are brilliant, and intense beyond measure.

Of course as it always happens, the good parts of a person’s self usually just fall by-the-wayside, when the demon-self takes control. It is always so much easier to fall into the chaotic sense of power vampirism brings, Spike muses. He had always figured it was probably why young childer where so prone to flame out and perish so quickly; emerging from the grave, so burnished and bright, and feeling so very invincible was heady mix—he knows from experience—and ‘twas as effective as blinders on a coach horse for him. Only the truly clever—or those with an attentive-enough sire—make it past the first year, he had roughly guessed. Bloodline strength also plays a part, he had learned; Spike himself had turned numerous fodder for various exercises in power play, and while only a drop of blood was sufficient to turn, it made a weak vampire. The more blood given, the older the sire, the very intent with which one was created, all that had an influence on the risen vampire, and so too did who they were in life. Spike reckons it was the same deal with human children—you get some traits from your parents, some from your further ancestors, and some things just simply random twists of fate that make you the person you are.

Bitterly, Spike remembers that it was Angelus who’d taught him that last fact. Spike had mourned his grand-sire, the Vampire-That-Was; not that things had ever been rosy between them, but things were just betterback then, before the Great-And-Stupid-Re-Ensouling. The four of them, a Whirlwind of beauty, danger and power; the perfect balance to each other; completely civilized in their incivility, and while they were dysfunctional as all hells, it was like nothing else, back then.

It was only to himself that Spike could ever admit that he did indeed miss his grand-sire, close to love as they ever would get—though he suspects Dru had perceived the same notion from him, thankfully never bringing it up. The reality was that Liam, flawed as he was with self-importance and his own special brand of crazy, had simply been so much a better Sire than Dru, bless her. He loves Dru dearly still, more than the moon and stars, no doubt, but while she can intuit your deepest secrets, her practicality has always been incredibly limited. Even blinded by love, Spike can’t deny that he is pragmatic above else.

After all, one didn’t become a Master Vampire at the age of barely a century without being truly talented. That was all down to him, he thinks with no small measure of pride. He and his wicked princess; the talented two, them against the world, painting their red swathe and consuming the world.

It’s not simply a case of arrogance either, though Spike knows he is that: it’s simply fact. A beautiful fact, he happily continues to milk for all it was ever worth.

Just as Spike is talented, so too is it fact that Drusilla Lambert herself had possessed many gifts in life, whether she liked it or not. One lesser known gift, one that those bloody Watcher diaries never knew (or perhaps, never saw fit to include as important), was that in death her already beautiful voice had become hauntingly pure and beguiling, a sweet lie in contrast to the danger her slight body held.

It’s honestly Spike’s favourite thing, and he remains ever-entranced by her, even a hundred years later. Drusilla had been religious in life, he knows, though she has never talked of it much—coherently, at least. However, living with someone for decades upon decades, the small slivers of information in their actions and passing comments has built him a largely complete picture. Spike figures there isn’t a thing he doesn’t know about Dru, apart from what she Sees, and the how.

It’s this reason, too, why he knows that Liam had been a conniving braggart, even as a human; that quality had only bloomed into full-blown arrogance and creative viciousness in death.

Saying this, Spike, though knowing he is naturally drawn toward affectation—and flowery, emotional excessiveness—has no desire to self-evaluate what his death had borne in his own personality. He has built his new self very tidily, and is very happy to maintain his own violent and terrifying reality. He is William the Bloody, and he indulges that inclination to cause mayhem and incredible violence, even if that tendency is not quite as native to him as Angelus’ own brand of ferocity. He is damn good at what he does, and he reminds himself that he is most certainly not pretentious.

No. Not in the slightest.

Right now, it seems, he is nothing but violence, at least in his mind; his damn spine has been broken and he can’t even feel his feet.

He’s so filled with rage he could scream.

And yet… Spike knows himself to be smarter than this. So he’s been playing passive, been watching, and waiting, until this less-than-glorious return of Angelus heralds something more useful to allow him out of this damn fucking chair.

 

*

 

Dru’s singing again. Spike can make out the words with perfect clarity from across the courtyard, as he watches her dance in the moonlight.

 

Alas! and did my Saviour bleed?

And did my Soverign die?

Would He devote that sacred head

For sinners such as I…?

 

Her arms twine toward the navy-blazing sky; they’re pale against the lucent waning moon, the sheen of night highlighting the blue veins he can see beneath her skin as they move in time with her silvery soprano.

 

Was it for crimes that I have done,

He groaned up on the tree?

Amazing pity; grace unknown

And love beyond degree…

 

He could write poems about the slope of her shoulders, the glossy camelthorn-brown of her hair as it falls across them in a broken curtain and shines in the balmy California night. Indeed, he has: endless cramped-text poems squirrelled away in the small moleskine he keeps in the banded-wood lockbox which comes with them where-ever they go, that box in which he keeps those secret memories that he won’t ever admit. Drusilla is his white-armed Nausikaä; wearing nothing but a lacy black slip which gleams dully in the dark, he can admire her every shape beneath the silk. The sight of her soft breasts under sheer fabric truly does a lot to assuage his ever-present anger, the impotent anger which has been seething under his skin ever since his accident.  He knows he should resent her, for she is vibrant and alive, where he is pained and infirm—he, a Master Vampire!—but he cannot begrudge her, not even a whit. Truly, he thinks the only reason he was so injured and unable to heal by the collapse of the pipe organ in that thrice-damned church was because he had been making Drusilla nearly drain him every night, in hopes of helping her regain strength. Childe’s blood was not ever so potent as Sire’s so his hope was vain, but he had needed to try.

He has given her everything, and yet he still cannot be mad at her—only mad for her.

 

Well might the sun in darkness hide,

And shut its glories in,

When God, the mighty maker, died

for his own creatures' sin…

 

She stops with her last note hanging in the air, cocking her head to the side, eyes wide and glazed as she stands in silence, but almost vibrating with that strange energy that overcomes her when she Sees.

‘What is it, pet?’ he murmurs, knowing she can hear him. He would that he could rise and clasp her lithe form to his own body in comfort but hecan’t, and the effort of restraining himself and his limited strength is painful.

‘Daddy… Oh, Daddy… He’s come to the party, back with the best tea-maid in the county… Oh, but he’s got her, the tow-headed bright-light girl. Why,why has he got her?’ Spike can tell she’s rapidly getting distressed,  and wheels himself across the cobbles to grasp Dru’s hands as she sways, but he can’t stop her talking. ‘Why would he do it? Why her? She’s too bright—too bright, too wrong, he’s digging and digging, and finding the wrong treasures in amongst the pretty desert flowers that bloom in the darkest of nights…’

The words tumble out in a jumbled string, and Drusilla’s started crying now. Spike cups her face as she slumps, looking down at him. He’s trying to soothe her, but it’s not working very well; not that it ever does when she gets worked up like this. ‘Oh, Spike… Why is he doing this now? Messy, messy, messy with the lines, and the hours, they’re not listening to the changes, and the song is wrong, it’s wrong… oh Spike….’  

Drusilla’s weak sobs are interrupted by the crawling sensation in between Spike’s shoulder blades: his grandsire is approaching. Dru can feel it too, as she falls onto Spike’s lap, sniffling into the crook between his shoulder and chin. There’s something else following Angelus, though, and they can both feel it, some odd energy…

Something is off.