Summary: Faith and Spike's friendship is at a rocky point. They're both determined to put their quarrel aside when they're assigned to a mission together, but the threat won't let them ignore it.
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Boss Whedon and his merry band of Mutant Enemies.
Notes: This continues a Spike/Faith series I was working on, but the first four stories I wrote for it were all in 2009. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Here are the links to each one:
This one picks up a few weeks after #4. So, why did it take six years to write five thousand words? As usual, I have no excuse, but I'm glad I finally got this out there. I can't honestly say if I'll continue. There are definitely other stories I would like to tell in this 'verse, but I'm not going to start anything else until I know for sure where it's going.
I still love Spike and Faith together just as much as ever, though. Part of what got me moving on this again (the last five hundred words or so took longer than all the rest) was the way the comics have given up on Spike. It would have been great to see his character develop enough to make relationship choices that we could root for. Fix it with fanfic...
Missions in Cleveland usually followed a set pattern: disturbance, research, a lead, a plan, a team sent in to gut open whatever had caused the disturbance. This time, most of the middle steps had been dropped. Faith would never have said so, but she liked it better this way. She was usually left out of the middle steps anyway.
The call came when she was struggling with the laundry, a chore that she wouldn’t mind except that the settings and dials on the machines continued to mystify her. She knew they had something to do with all of her white panties coming out tinted pink last time, but couldn’t figure out what, and was happy enough to be pulled away from it, whatever the reason.
The reason turned out to be Dawn, calling with some very explicit directions on how to reach the disturbance, and precious little about what she was supposed to do once she got there.
“We don’t know what it is,” the teenage war chief had said grimly. “There were reports of some unnatural lights and bursts of energy, so we know it’s mystical, but we’ve never heard anything about Detroit being a hotspot before.”
“Not all of the uglies like to advertise.” Faith didn’t mean to sound crabby, but it had just occurred to her that she wasn’t going to be around to switch the laundry into the dryer, and it was going to get stiff and stinky if it stayed wet all day. She knew that much, at least.
Dawn’s voice was heavy with sarcasm, her dislike for the Slayer left without cover. “Thanks for the tip, Faith. Half the city just got flattened by this thing. Are you going to go check it out?”
Faith rubbed her eyes and combed her hand through her hair. “Yeah. On it. Am I looking for survivors?”
“No deaths reported yet. It was the abandoned half. The address I gave you was a parking garage, and now it’s kind of an...ex-garage.”
“Do you need anything? I can put a team together, but—“
“No. Just send one after me if I don’t call you by midnight.”
Faith and Dawn had been working together closely for months now; Faith knew that she was past suspicion, but had no illusions about gradually moving into forgiveness. Dawn was Buffy’s sister, loyal beyond logic and without need for reconciliation with anyone outside her family group. She was also too smart to think she had to feel bad about it.
Faith was soon dressed and ready, the back seat of her blue Ford Mustang was full of weapons, and she was standing in the hall outside of Spike’s basement apartment. She kept up a rhythmic knock until he appeared at the door wearing a crumpled pair of pants and nothing else. He saw who it was, registered some faint surprise, and then said, “Call to arms?”
“I need to get on the road ASAP, but if you wanna come I’ll hold out til the sun goes down.”
“Bugger that.” He swung the door open wider, then turned back into the apartment. “I just need five minutes. Open up your boot.”
Faith looked down at her feet, bewildered, and then shrugged and followed him in. The crumpled pants were now on the floor, and the sound of drawers being opened was coming from the bedroom, which he had also left open. She sat down on the arm of his black couch. “What do you need my boots for?” she called.
“Your boot, pet. Rear compartment. Assuming you have a vehicle and we’re not just hitching all the way to...where are we going?”
She relayed the information that Dawn had given her as Spike emerged from the bedroom, dressed neatly in his characteristic black and red. He grabbed his duster from a peg by the door and swung it over his arms, then grabbed a blanket from an adjacent peg and looked at Faith expectantly. She raised an eyebrow. Well, if he wanted to do it this way, that was his business.
For the first two hours of the drive, Faith was content in her solitude, imagining the scope of what they were going to face. It would be nice if they could just destroy it, and save her from having to talk to Dawn again and ask for backup. When the sun sank below the horizon, she considered her options. She didn’t have to let Spike out of the trunk. He would be fine until they reached the destination, and she could always claim that there hadn’t been time to stop.
In the meantime, Spike had found a more-or-less comfortable position in the trunk and napped until he felt the car pull over. He made no comment as the latch clicked open and Faith gestured with her head for him to get out, just put himself in the shotgun seat where he supposed she wanted him. After a few miles, Faith began to get annoyed with him in spite of his relative silence. He was leaning back with his arm draped over the door and his fingers tapping along with the old-school rock she had playing on the radio, looking for all the world like he was enjoying himself.
“What’s your problem?” she burst out when her patience for the tapping was gone. “This isn’t a goddamn road trip. This is a kill-or-be-killed deal and we’re going into it blind.”
“I know.” He pulled his hand back into the car and raised an eyebrow at her. “When did you get so old?”
Faith scowled. “Just shut up and let me drive.”
He shut up and let her drive for about five minutes, during which they followed a long and unsightly exit from the highway to an industrial area with not much to see but a few cars sitting forlornly in lots. No cars at all were on the road. Faith turned up the music.
Spike turned it off. “Tell me what’s got its claws in you, pet. I don’t feature another thirty miles of testy neo-punk.”
“I’m not testy. I told you. We’re on a mission and I’m trying to focus. I didn’t even have to take you along, alright?”
“D’you want me to thank you, then? Will that put us right? First sign of life I’ve seen from you in a dozen nights, and turns out it’s to make a red shirt of me. Well, cheers, you’ve got my unfailing bloody gratitude. If we’re still alive for the ride home I’ll put in my best of efforts to be unconscious, so you won’t have to speak to me then, either. But in between here and there, pop out of it. I can’t be fighting the devourer of slums and you at the same time.”
Faith’s grip on the steering wheel tightened visibly, and the car obeyed the surge of anger coming from her foot to the gas pedal. “I’m not fighting you. You’re a sidekick. And you’re lucky, ‘cause you don’t wanna see what would happen if we were fighting each other for real.”
“I bloody well do, Slayer.”
The car didn’t swerve, stop, or slow. Faith was awash with rage, the fiery energy that she had only ever been able to soothe if she had something to hit. Spike needed to be punched and she needed to punch him, but the car couldn’t stop. More important business was waiting on the horizon, and she wouldn’t indulge her own needs before it was resolved. She wouldn’t. She wouldn’t.
“So what’s your excuse?” she snapped instead. “You’re gonna act all offended because I don’t come around to chat anymore, but you got nothing to say about vacating the indentation your ass made on my couch? It’s been like two weeks since I even saw you on my patrol route.”
Spike glowered. “You took back my key.”
“You cast the disinvitation spell!”
Faith twitched, remembering. “Yeah, uh. Actually I didn’t. Y’know. Ran out of garlic.”
“You missed the fork.”
He held up a sheet of paper with Dawn’s directions scribbled on them. “Turn around. You were supposed to take a left at the fork. And if you chase people off your doorstep it’s your own sodding fault if they don’t come back, and everyone knows that except for maladjusted harpies like yourself.”
“Dammit,” Faith exhaled. She wheeled the car into a tight U-turn. “Look, you can come back and hang at my place if you want, long as you quit whining about it. I’m not mad. You’ve got hang-ups about sex, whatever. You’re not the only stud in the barn.”
“No, just the best one. Not to mention the sourest grapes on the vine.” His tone was facetious, but there could be no doubt: the taunt was deliberate. He had found something she wanted, and he was keeping it from her.
Outside the sky was turning blacker. There should have been stars, but the sky was too polluted. “I should’ve left you in LA,” said Faith.
“You should’ve left me in the boot, pet, spare us both.”
“What...what is that?”
Spike leaned forward and peered out the windshield. There was a dull red glow illuminating the settlement that stood directly in their path. The ordinary scattered lights of a city in the distance were absent, leaving the unnatural tint to stand on its own like a misplaced second sunset. “First guess? Our destination.”
They parked at the edge of the red haze, conveniently located at what could only be the abandoned sector of Detroit. Faith looked around for a destroyed parking garage, and found she couldn’t tell how much of the damage to the buildings around her was new, and how much was just urban decay. “Can you see anything?” she asked Spike. “Hear anything?”
“Not much more than you can. Let’s have a look, shall we?” Without waiting for an answer, he began to stroll toward the nearest shell of a building. It had most likely been a factory of some kind; now it was a few burnt walls surrounding a large worthless space.
Faith selected some gear from the car and followed, leaving about ten paces between them. Thus, she had an excellent view of Spike’s back as he swaggered into the wide-open doorway and was immediately knocked back and crumpled to the ground. Faith didn’t hurry to his side, but when she reached him he was still cursing and rubbing his forehead. “There’s sodding residents in there is what,” he snapped up at her. “Keep smirking, that’ll help.”
“Well, there’s no wicked clear sheet of glass here,” said Faith, feeling around the doorway. “So I guess you’re right. Probably just a bum or two. I’ll go talk to ‘em.”
Spike sprang to his feet. “Now just hold a moment. There could be an army holed up in there with a trained pack of hellhounds. I’m not about to let you just -”
“Good point,” she conceded. “Quick, stop me.” She stepped inside and threw him a goodbye salute without pausing.
She needed her flashlight as soon as she was inside, but the narrow beam of yellow light through pitch blackness was still preferable to the ugly red sky outside. As expected, the inside of the factory was empty and decrepit, and she wasn’t sure if she would be able to find any occupants even if they were at home. “Housekeeping,” she called out. “Anyone in here?”
There was a grunt and rustle from somewhere in the vicinity, and Faith switched off the flashlight and stood still to listen. “Y’better run fer it,” wheezed the voice of an old man. “They’s big panthers in here and they ain’t lissen when I call ‘em off...”
“Oi!” yelled Spike from the other direction. “Slayer! You’ve had long enough in there, let’s move it along!”
Faith smiled, feeling a sudden and completely inexplicable warmth for both of the disembodied voices complaining at her. “It’s alright,” she reassured them. “I’ll take my chances with the panthers.”
“You’ll be sorry if he’s not as cracked as he’s playing at,” Spike persisted. “Could be a warlock, see. They’ve got familiars.”
“I en’t no warlog, I’m an auctioneer,” wheezed the stranger, and Faith stepped softly toward him. “One dolla, one dolla, gimme two dolla...”
By the time she reached him, her eyes had adjusted enough to see his outline huddled against the far wall of the factory, with a few of his meager possessions spread out around him. She crouched at his side, keeping her movements respectfully casual but without any attempt to conceal the sword strapped across her back. “How long you been living here, pops?”
“Ninety-five years!” he answered promptly. “My name is Herbert Hoover and I am an auctioneer. I ain’t got no hat or I’d tip it for th’ young lady. You be warned o’ them panthers in here, un’erstand?”
“Yeah, sure thing. Good to meet you, Herbert. I’m Faith.”
Spike’s voice rang through the factory again. “Charmed, pleasure’s all mine, we should do this again. Let the old coot alone, Faith. He wants a drink, not a roommate.”
Faith sighed, but couldn’t deny that the old man seemed to perk up at the mention of a drink. “Hey,” she said gently. “Could you do me a favor and invite my friend in? Otherwise he’s probably not gonna shut up.”
“Well any friend of a pretty girl is a friend o’ mine, that’s right.”
“That’s great,” said Faith. “Just say ‘Spike, come in’.” Spike didn’t yell again, but he managed to sigh so loudly that Faith could hear it from inside.
Herbert Hoover grunted and shifted his weight. “Spike, I had me a dog named Spike, died ninety-five years ago...”
“A’right,” Faith allowed. “Never mind him, just tell me what the scene’s been like ‘round here. You have any idea what it was that painted the town red?”
“Yeah,” said the old man, and Faith leaned closer as his voice dropped lower. “Was a lady.”
Now they were getting somewhere, she thought. “What kind of lady?”
“SLAYER!” shouted Spike as if in answer, and Faith sprang to her feet and ran for the exit before the word had stopped resounding against the factory walls.
“We’ll catch up later,” she called back at Herbert Hoover, not slowing down to make sense of the confused grumbles he was making in reply. Spike waited for her to come through the door and then took off running himself, making her work hard to keep his pace.
“What?” she grunted with one short breath, and he caught her eye and then pointed, striking out and above with his whole arm before letting it fall as they kept running in that direction.
“Saw something. Human-shaped. Plus an explo-- there you are.”
Faith staggered. The explosion had come without warning, right where he was pointing, right when she was looking there. She recovered and caught up to Spike in a few strides, but soon he was slowing, having reached the building on whose rooftop the action had taken place. They both jogged up to the giant brick structure, searching for access to the top, but there were too many doors and no ladders.
They stopped short in front of it, just seconds before a rumble began from inside; a massive, prehistoric sound, like the gears of the earth being turned within a box. Faith took a tiny step closer to the wall, frowning in confusion, but as the volume of the noise increased, Spike grabbed her suddenly and shoved her back into a run. Dust began rising from the brick building, and its walls crumbled down, starting at the top and falling into each other. By the time they turned around to look, the remainder of the walls was short enough to jump over.
“This is big,” Faith coughed.
“This is sentient,” Spike growled. “Monsters don’t arrange implosions right before the only four eyes for miles around. Monsters just want to wreak some fun.”
Faith nodded absently, scanning the clay-red horizon, and then cursed. Another building was going down, too far away to harm them and certainly too far away for them to interfere. “She’s laying a trail. She wants us to chase her.”
“She, is it?”
“That homeless guy said it was a lady.”
Spike rolled his eyes. “Right, let’s trust him with the intel.”
Faith didn’t leave herself time to get into another squabble with him. “Fine. Enemy of unknown gender is laying a trail. Are you coming or not?”
“Wait. Let’s get the car. It’s just over there.”
“Good, you get it. One of us should stay on foot.” She started jogging in the direction of the cloud of dust.
He sounded angry when he shouted after her, “Anything to avoid me, eh?”
She shouted back, “It’s called strategy, asshat!” and then gave all of her attention to sprinting, the straps of her sword tugging rhythmically at her shoulders. The roads weren’t laid out to give her a straight path to the building, but she could pick out alleys and shortcuts easily, thanks to the lack of cars or greenery cluttering the landscape. The most difficult part was keeping her destination in sight, since the dust was settling and soon she wouldn’t be able to instantly identify that building among all of the others that looked just like it.
Her breath didn’t hold out for the entire distance, either. She slowed to a walk, looking up and around her as she did, hoping for some sign of her quarry that wasn’t a herald of more destruction at the same time. The silence, she noticed suddenly, was a little too large. Spike must have abandoned the plan.
Nothing happened when she stood before the crumbling structure she had sought. It was definitely the right one; a few bricks were still dislodging themselves and clattering down the remainder of the walls, but if the “lady” had deliberately led her there, it apparently wasn’t to spring a trap. Faith stepped back and looked up again. The red tint to the sky had darkened; she didn’t think it was her imagination. A pair of crows cried out from the top of the dilapidated yet whole building across the street from the broken one, and then she could see the birds everywhere, perched quietly on ledges and rusty fences.
Faith suddenly felt very alone. That was fine, she told herself, she was used to being alone. She wasn’t used to feeling it, though. Not when it was literally true. She drew her sword and turned in a slow circle. So this was vulnerability.
A faint silhouette appeared on the roadburned horizon, and advanced toward her in stop-motion bursts until it became recognizable as a human form. The crows all took to the air at once, shrieking, and when they dispersed there was a woman a stone’s throw away, blue hair streaming behind her, frozen eyes fixed on Faith without expression. In another instant she was inches away and giving a contemptuous flick of her hand, and Faith was thrown off the ground and into the nearest building.
She fought to keep herself from blacking out, but she knew instantly that she had lost her sword, and that even armed she would be at the lady’s mercy. A name came into her mind, too - Illyria - but that was no help. Whatever her name, the lady was gone, her sudden departure marked with a brief maelstrom of shockwaves coursing through the ground.
Faith moaned and opened her eyes, wondering if hours had passed, wondering if she was already dead. Red clouds swirled around her, and new explosions began erupting in a vast ring, with herself in the eye. In the distance, the factory where she and Spike had begun their exploration went down in a puff of dust. Faith thought of Herbert Hoover huddled in the corner with his imaginary panthers, and felt ill. Where was Illyria? What was that sound?
Both questions were answered as her own car zoomed past her, and the red and blue shape of Illyria appeared for a microsecond before collapsing underneath it, and again when she stood up in its wake showing no discernible injury. The Mustang screeched and wheeled around at the crossroads just ahead, and before Faith could make sense of the scene, it was headed back to run over Illyria a second time.
The car was stopped, both doors flung wide open. Faith struggled to her feet, wincing but finding no dead body parts. She cast a glance around her for her sword, but the search was cut short when she realized that Spike was being extracted from the driver’s seat, held by the throat in one of Illyria’s hands. Faith could see his ridged brow and bared fangs as Illyria lifted him over her head and considered him, and then finally he was dropped on the hood of the car and Illyria regained her regal pose in the middle of the road.
Spike, finding himself free to move of his own accord, shook his face hard to bring back his human features. “Right from the extreme violence to the name-calling stage, I see. Every fight with you is like a bad breakup, pet.”
“You do not refer to me as your pet.”
He jumped from the car to face her standing. “I’m not above a bit of name-calling myself. Go on, then. You didn’t bring me out here to behave nicely.”
If Illyria decided to kill him right now, nothing was going to stop her. Of course, there had never actually been a time that that wasn’t true, and he was still alive, so he might as well stick with this approach.
“No.” Illyria stood inches from him, somehow appearing to look down her nose in disdain in spite of her diminutive stature. “I require help.”
Baffled beyond his own ability to express, Spike let his fighting posture slacken. “Thought you’d never figure that out.”
“Wesley’s death caused me pain. It has not ended. I am trapped in this world and grieving, as a mortal does.”
Spike considered the potential effects of grief on an Old One. “So you took up recreational demolition. That’s fair, everyone says to express yourself in whatever way feels natural to you--”
She slashed the air with a hand, and he didn’t know exactly what happened, but he stopped talking and sat down on the hood. “This is not expression,” she rebuked him. “This expired dominion is to be cauterized so that it will serve as my citadel. I must learn to exist in this place, in this body. I use Fred’s memories as guidance. She understood that love would cause her to feel sorrow, yet she chose to love Wesley even so. Why?”
Too many memories, from every part of his life and unlife, bubbled up at her words. “That’s a bloody good question actually,” he replied, “but I can’t answer it.”
“You can.” Illyria took a handful of his shirt collar and hoisted him back to his feet. “I wish to form another emotional connection. You will be my lover.”
Spike let out a stream of curses as he pushed her off of him, well aware that he was only able because she was letting him. “Lover?” he spat. “You lured me out to this rubbish bin because you want my sodding bloke bling?”
“Your body will be necessary for our relationship. Fred desired Wesley physically as well as intellectually. Her needs will serve as a model.”
It was useless to try to reason with her. It was useless to try to resist her. So that left...what? Reasoning with her deserved another try. “You’ve got a better chance of turning yourself back into Fred than you have of turning me into Wesley, Blue. Find a nice young man to court. We’ll all be better for it.”
She tossed her head, eyes blazing. “There is no other candidate. Humans perish too quickly. Vampires cannot forge altruistic bonds. My consort can only be you.”
Spike held fast, standing squarely. “First lesson in love,” he said. “No.” He tried not to think about how she was going to take refusal. “Anyway, if you’re set on a vampire with a soul, why not kidnap Angel instead?”
“Angel is unsuitable. He has already entered a monogamous relationship.”
Before Spike could question the logic behind this apparent dealbreaker, Faith called out, “So has Spike.” Scarcely believing his ears, he turned around and saw her standing where she had last fallen, unarmed and battered but showing no sign of surrender.
She stumbled wearily over to Spike and threw an arm around him. “He loves me,” she said. “I love him. You’re never going to really have his heart even if you kill me and force him to stay with you forever. So don’t try to come between us.” She cupped his face in her hand and kissed him hard – passionately, he would have said if he could have felt sure that he had any idea of what was going on. There was never any option but to play along, but when he kissed back, he didn’t think it was his brain that had made the decision.
“Sucks, doesn’t it?” said Faith to Illyria with unnerving calmness. “You finally figure out what you want, and then you find out you’re never gonna get it.”
Incredibly, Illyria seemed uncertain of how to react to the show they were putting on for her. “At what point did you cleave to him?” she asked suspiciously.
Faith had another prompt reply while Spike would have still been floundering. “The Battle of Los Angeles,” she said, and brushed back her hair to reveal the scar that he had given her that day. “I gave him my blood. Saved his life. We’ve been together since then.”
Strictly for the purpose of keeping up the act, Spike stroked his fingers through her hair as she spoke. He was pleased to feel her press her body to his in response, and he hugged her closer and kissed her brow, just for the sake of appearances. “Second lesson,” he told Illyria. “Piss off.”
Looking back on it later, Faith remembered those frigid blue eyes narrowing slightly, but everything that happened after that was hazy at best. She knew that Illyria must have struck her in anger, and possibly attacked Spike as well, although if so, he recovered before she did.
She was sitting on the sidewalk, held up by Spike, who was leaning against a wall to support them both. Just yards away, she could see the gruff headlights of the Mustang still waiting in the same spot where Spike had pulled up in it, and her mind managed to make sense of all the cues and understand that she was safe.
“Did I pass out?” she asked, blinking back into full consciousness.
Spike shifted carefully to release her from his arms. “Just for a tic.”
Faith scrubbed her hands over her face. The sky was still tinged with red, but it was beginning to fade, and she could tell they still had a few hours before dawn. “How about you drive this time,” she said.
"Thought I'd have to beg you for that. Ready when you are. I checked in with Dawn, told her we were done here.” He stood and offered her a hand, which she ignored.
"Done? The hell did Illyria go?" She struggled to her feet on her own, wondering irritably why she'd had to make some kind of statement out of standing up instead of just accepting a little help.
"Not here, and we're alive. Quite a show of personal growth, innit?"
Faith wanted to cry. She settled for anger: "She killed a harmless old man. She's on the loose and just as dangerous as ever and we didn't do jack shit to stop her."
She began hobbling over to the car, but he swiftly moved to block her path. "You did. I was good as gone there, Slayer. I'm a bit knocked down from my frequently publicized hubris and I'm not sure how long it'll last, so I want to say this now: I've been a cad brushing you off, and I'm sorry if I hurt you. Any man or monster ought to count himself lucky to be propositioned by a woman like you."
“Then I guess you’re out of luck.” Faith rubbed a hand over her face. “Jesus Christ, Spike. This isn’t where you get your second chance. I already wasn’t that desperate, and nothing about tonight made me any hornier.”
It was not the hardest rejection that Spike had ever experienced, but it was harder than he had been prepared for, and he was left momentarily unable to formulate a response beyond, “I wasn’t...” He hadn’t undertaken the apology lightly, and after what they had just been through together, her dismissal of it felt like outright betrayal.
She sidestepped past him and made for the passenger’s seat, but changed her mind before opening the door and addressed him again with the hood of the car between them. “Just tell me one thing,” she said, tossing her hair away from her neck and pointing to the scar. “What does this mean? And don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. I made you bite me and you said I didn’t understand what that meant, and then you never said another damn word about it. If you really wanna patch things up, I deserve to know if I kicked off some kind of schlocky vampire blood bond crap.”
Spike paused, then nodded. “Right. You deserve that.” His eyes dropped to the ground, watching his own boot scuff the pavement. “Not sure how to say this. There’s a side of me I never would sign off on you seeing, and that’s what you saw that day. I made up my mind once to never bite the neck that feeds me, not even if Buffy pulled her trademark savior trick. Then here comes you just like it’s your business if I live or die. Truth is, I was afraid. I couldn’t afford to owe anyone else my life.” He finally managed to look her directly in the face. “About your blood, Slayer, I’m grateful. But you can rest easy: it doesn’t mean anything.”
Rattled, Faith broke eye contact and finished getting into the car. She stared out the window as Spike put the car in gear, and Detroit was behind them by the time either of them said a word.
The radio was off, and the roads were clear once again. He had no difficulty hearing her voice at a near-whisper: “Spike. Stop calling me Slayer.”
He exhaled audibly. “Cheers. I’ll do that, Faith.”