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Together Again by slaymesoftly
Chapter Two
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Chapter Two
Once she’d realized that not only was Spike alive, but he really had been fighting his way around the US assisting slayers where and when needed, she marched into Giles’s office and sat down. Suddenly, Drac’s parting words – “Please give my regards to William” – made sense.
“Good morning to you too, Buffy,” Giles said with an annoyed frown.
“It won’t be a very good morning if you don’t have a really good reason for not telling me Spike is alive and you’re in contact with him.”
“Ah. It was, in fact, one of the things I expected to share with you later today. I thought you might want to rest for a few days before going off on another mission.”
“Spike is a mission?”
“No. He is not the mission. But he will certainly be a part of it.”
“So, if he wasn’t, you weren’t going to tell me?”
Giles frowned. “Of course I was going to tell you! Do you not trust me at all?”
Buffy just stared at him until he sighed and looked down.
“Fair enough, I suppose. The truth is, we didn’t know until a few days ago that he was anything but a rumor. A slayer from the Cleveland hellmouth contacted Andrew, who gave me a phone number to use. I spoke to Spike only briefly as he is recovering from some grievous injuries, but if his reports are correct… and I’ve no reason to think they are not… there is a situation developing rapidly around the Cleveland hellmouth. Similar to, if not as bad as, the one in Sunnydale. As a corollary to that, the smaller hellmouths around the world – or around the United States at least – seem to have quieted down. We have them all under surveillance, but there has been little activity there. It seems to be concentrated in Cleveland now. Our resident slayers had also mentioned the increased activity, but it wasn’t until recently that we understood the gravity of the situation.”
“Evil’s last gasp?”
Giles frowned at her. “Why do you say that?”
“It’s what Dracula said. He thinks it’s a last attempt by the First to break into this world.  And it hasn’t worked so far because it’s weak and we’re still here fighting.”
“That actually makes a kind of sense…. it would explain the cease of activity at the smaller sites. That didn’t work, so it is throwing all its resources into the only remaining large hellmouth.”
“So, what’s it doing that makes this a bigger deal than any of the others? And why does it need me?”
He sighed heavily. “For one thing… Faith is dead.” He waited for that to sink in.
Buffy found herself short of breath. While she and the only other original slayer had never become close friends, to some extent because they were usually needed in separate places at the same time, she had become accustomed to the thought that there was someone else in the world who understood at least parts of her life. She exhaled sharply.
“What happened?”
“It seems she and Spike—” Buffy didn’t hide this gasp. “That they were ambushed by a large group of Turok-han. The numbers would have meant nothing if they had been ordinary vampires but—”
“But these were ubervamps.”
“Indeed. The other slayers came to the rescue when they realized what was happening, causing the remaining Turok-han to run into the hellmouth, but it was too late. They found Spike’s unconscious body lying on Faith, holding his hand over a gaping wound in her back. She was gravely injured, but insisted they bring Spike in the ambulance with her. She said he… he had saved her life. As it turns out, that was a bit optimistic. While he may have prevented any further injury, she had bled too much already and did not survive until they reached the emergency center.”
Buffy nodded. “And Spike?”
“The emergency personnel assumed of course, that he was also dead, and allowed the slayers to take him away for ‘burial’. He regained consciousness a few days ago and requested the Cleveland slayers contact us.”  Giles gave Buffy a sympathetic smile. “He did ask for you, but you were still in transit from Romania, so he spoke with me.”
Buffy nodded. “I’ve been back for a day and a half now.”
“If I understood the situation correctly, he is still gravely injured and had only the strength to take the one phone call. They are quite hard-pressed at the moment and the infrastructure is crumbling around them. Communications are difficult, even when they have the time.  The request was for reinforcements, food, medical supplies, and other support.”
“What other support?”
“I believe that to be you, Buffy. Both Spike and the slayers remaining seem to have an unshakeable faith in your ability to turn the situation around.”
Buffy shut her eyes briefly, remembering how Spike’s words had given her the courage to go after the scythe that ultimately was instrumental in saving the world so many years ago.
“I guess it’s a good thing I haven’t unpacked then,” she said, abruptly. “When do we leave?”
“Tomorrow morning. The plane will have to land in Pittsburgh, but there will be vans waiting to take you to Cleveland. With luck you will be able to drive all the way into the city.”
“We can’t fly into Cleveland?”
“Apparently not. The news organizations are referring to it as an ‘unexplained weather event’ and advising people to stay away. The Army seems to have established a perimeter since I spoke with Spike, but they are not venturing into the city.”
When they rolled up to the outer suburbs of the city, they found barricades across all the main roads and military guards telling them they couldn’t go in. Buffy was getting very close to having Willow just put everybody to sleep for a few minutes, when soldiers began saluting a man striding toward them.
“Buffy? Is that you?”
“Stand down, men. If she wants to go in there, I’m sure she has a good reason.” He turned to Buffy and gave her a stiff hug. “You do have a good reason, I hope.”
“Well, we hope so. We know what’s going on, and probably why, and we’ve already got fighters in there.” He nodded that he knew there were already slayers in the city, saying he was glad to hear they were alive and able to call for reinforcements.
“So, you’re the cavalry?” he said, taking in the three vans full of weapons and slayers.
“Yep. No bugles or horses, but riding to the rescue.”
“We heard… I mean, I saw, from a distance… But he seemed to be fighting with the girls, not against them, so…”
“Spike’s here. I know. And yes, he is fighting with the girls. Has been since before we knew this was going to be such a big thing. He’s already closed one hellmouth all by himself – I’m hoping he won’t have to pull the city down around his ears this time.”
“Okay. Well, you know then.  Go on in… and good luck.”
Buffy nodded. “If we can clear the way to the hellmouth, I might send somebody back for something that will make a big boom if/when we toss it in there.”
“Anything you need, Slayer,” Graham said, ignoring the shocked expressions on his men. “In fact, take this. You can just tell us what you need and where you need it.”  He handed her a small communicating device. “That should come right to me.  And, Buffy?”
She raised an inquiring eyebrow.
“Those… creatures…they don’t survive a rocket launcher.”
“Good to know,” Buffy said with a grin. “Don’t suppose you have any extras?”
Graham signaled to one of his men who stared at him incredulously. “She won’t even be able to pick it up. Never mind fire the fu—dammed thing,” he protested. At Graham’s stern, “soldier….” he sighed and reached into a nearby truck for a weapon that was almost as long as Buffy was tall. 
She took it from him with a smile, thanking him and putting it over her shoulder. Holding it in place with one hand, she ignored his gasp and thanked Graham before she placed it in the van. She nodded for one of the other girls to take the heavy box of ammunition for it from the still disbelieving soldier. When that was also stowed away, the girls all got back into the vans and drove through the now-open barricades.
They had an address for the GPS, and directions from one of the Cleveland slayers, so it took very little time driving the empty streets to reach the hotel the slayers were using.
“Pretty nice,” Buffy said as she got out and greeted the leader of the small squad of slayers remaining.
“We couldn’t stay in our house,” the other slayer, Rachel, explained. “It’s too close to the hellmouth and those damn vamps were keeping us awake – pounding on the door and rattling the windows. Plus, we couldn’t get very far if we did go outside…” She squeezed her eyes shut. “Faith… she shouldn’t have gone out by herself. That was the rule. No less than two slayers, preferably more.”
“But she had Spike.”
Rachel, nodded. “She did. She said if she couldn’t stake it, he’d just gnaw it to death. They were laughing when they left.”  She looked at Buffy with stricken eyes. “I took girls after them as soon as we realized they’d been gone too long.  But we didn’t get there in time… and the hospital is so far away now…”
“It wasn’t your fault, Rache. Nobody expected you to be responsible for two adults who’ve spent their entire lives being reckless.” She took a breath. “So, Spike is okay then?”
“Okay might be probably a little too… He’s not dust. And he’s awake. He’s eating now and he can stand up… for a few seconds at a time. He sat up long enough to talk to Giles and tell him about Faith, and then he went back to bed for another 24 hours. He lost a lot of blood too, and whatever they hit him with…. his head doesn’t look real great.”
“Are you explaining why he isn’t here to meet us, or warning me what he’ll look like if I go to him?”
Rachel sighed. “Both, I guess. He’s better, but he’s a long way from being healed. And he looks it.”
“He heals from the inside out,” Buffy said without thinking. “Where is he?”
Rachel pointed down the hall. “He has the last room on the right.”
“Okay. Thanks. Just tell the girls where you want them, and where they can put the stuff we brought.”
Leaving Rachel to take charge, Buffy squared her shoulders and walked down the hall to stand in front of the door behind which the vampire she’d thought out of her life forever was healing. She took a deep breath and raised her hand to knock.
“Come in, Slayer. It’s not locked.” 
The voice sounded just like it always had, if missing the extra warmth she expected to hear. She pushed the door open and entered slowly to find Spike sitting on the edge of the bed, holding one hand to his side.  The coolness of his vocal greeting and his obvious lack of interest in any physical one made any thoughts of a happy reunion vanish.
“How are you?” she said, frowning when he didn’t look up. She could see that one side of his head had a small dent in the middle of an ugly unhealed wound.
“I’ll be alright soon.” 
She rolled her eyes at the non-answer.  “Don’t push yourself.  We just got here. We can take over for a few days until you and your… the other… slayers have had time to rest.”
He nodded. “Reckon the girls could use some time to heal too.”  He raised his eyes to hers for the first time since she entered the room. “I’m sorry about Faith. Know you weren’t each other’s best friends, but that’s a loss that has to hurt.  I tried to save her, but … I didn’t.”
Buffy flashed back to his confession years ago that he saved her every night in his dreams, and understood what was underlying his apparent lack of interest in seeing her.
“I know you tried. It wasn’t your fault. We’re slayers. Sooner or later we all die.”
“Not on my watch,” he growled. “It’s not supposed to happen when I’m around to prevent it.”  He slid back on the bed and put his legs up, his hand never left his side.
Buffy narrowed her eyes at him, but instead of asking what was wrong, she said,
“You can’t be everywhere, Spike. We lost a girl in Romania last week. Do you want to take the blame for that too?”
He sighed and slumped back against the headboard, shaking his head. He leaned it back and shut his eyes. “Right you are. Can’t be everywhere.”
“When we’re done here, we’re going to have a conversation about how you could be anywhere without bothering to let me know you were alive. I suggest you heal up. It might not be a fun conversation for you.”
He gave a soft huff of laughter. “Don’t doubt it.  But there’s things you need to know.”
“I don’t want to know them. Not right now. Maybe not ever.” For just a moment her stoic expression broke down, but she quickly snapped it back into place.
She threw her hand up. “I don’t want to hear it.  Maybe when we’re done here.”
To her surprise he didn’t argue, just nodded his head. “Probably for the best.”
She turned to leave the room. “Do you need anything?” she said over her shoulder. “More blood? Pain killers? A bandage?” She stared pointedly at where he was pressing against his side. “We brought a lot of supplies.”
“You brought blood?” He raised a skeptical eyebrow at her.
“Well… no. But I could go get you some if you—”
“I’ve got plenty, Buffy.” His voice softened briefly into the tone she was more used to hearing. “The girls raided a hospital’s freezer for me. I’ll be ready to get back into it in another day – two at the most.” Almost as quickly as it had appeared, the warmth was gone and the hardened soldier was back.
“Okay. Then I’ll just go… do things.”
“You do that. I’ll be here.”
“You’d better be,” she muttered as she pulled the door shut behind her. “You’d damn well better be.”  She couldn’t see the small smile as he closed his eyes again.
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