Cross posted to sickchicks and my regular journal.
Hell Is In the Details – Chapter 15 – Flesh and Blood
With a final push, Buffy got off the chair, wiping her hands on her skirt.
Angel couldn’t help but yell, a look of panic in his eyes as he waited to dust.
Buffy’s stake pinned him to his padded leather chair. The business end poked straight through the muscle and bone of Angel’s shoulder into the other side of the chair, with the remainder sticking from his chest approximately three inches above his heart.
She was in full Slayer mode, and not to be denied. “Angel, if you move more than a quarter of an inch, I can guarantee I have another stake with your name on it – and this time, I won’t be playing games.”
Wesley threw the door open, a crossbow trained on Buffy before he walked through the door. “Step away from Angel, Miss Summers. You shan’t be allowed to harm him.”
“Can it, Wes,” Buffy spat, without looking in his direction. “As long as he sits on his ass in that chair, he’ll get to unlive another day. Now, get me Charles Gunn.”
Wesley hesitated, clearly torn between leaving his friend and boss alone with the apparently crazed Slayer, and getting additional backup. He looked to Angel for guidance.
Angel grimaced, clearly in pain. “Go get Gunn. I don’t know what the hell she wants with him, but since I’m stuck here for the moment – humor her.”
“Smart move, Angel,” Buffy growled, pacing in front of the desk like a lioness observing her downed prey. “I’ll give you a chance to tell me just what the fuck is wrong with you. Try and pull anything or call in backup, and your dust will be settling on their shoulders before they reach you.”
“Can I pull this thing out of my shoulder while we ‘talk’ about whatever it is that’s got you upset?”
Buffy glowered. “Have I made my point about you staying right where you are?”
“Not gonna move a muscle, lover.” Angel glared at her and reached for the stake. He grunted through the pain, as he grasped the end of the stake, pulling it through both padding and muscle, blood slowly oozed from the wound left as the wood exited his shoulder.
The office door opened – Gunn entering first, nodding to the Slayer as he moved into the room. He was followed by Wesley and – Harmony? At the last moment, Lorne squeezed into the room, sidling over to stand by Gunn.
Angel looked disgusted. “Need an audience for this, Buffy? I thought you liked to do your staking alone.”
“You know? I’m gonna reconsider my offer. No more words from you unless I ask you a direct question.” Hands on her hips, the Slayer glanced around the room, sizing up potential allies. “Harmony, what the hell are you doing here?”
“Well, Wes said you went all postal and staked Angel, but he wasn’t dust. And then he went to get Charles and Lorne showed up,” the nervous vampiress babbled. “And I’m just here to help if I can. It’s like, my job to help, you know?”
“Fine, as long as you… wait a minute. Just who are you here to help?”
“Um… whoever wins?”
The Slayer shook her head. “Enough! Go sit down, Harmony, and just keep out of the way.” She glanced back at Angel.
“I asked you a question before. Do you remember it?”
Angel smirked, infuriatingly calm. “You asked me a lot of things, Buff. Wanna try being specific?”
Buffy wanted nothing more than to wipe that smug expression from his face, but decided restraint was the better part of valor for the moment. His questions could wait.
She turned towards her audience. “You’re all somewhat familiar with Spike’s past regarding Angel, and the whole Scourge of Europe thingy, yes? All baddest ass vamps that roamed the continent, killing and drinking their way through history until Angel got cursed with his soul for chowing down on the wrong entrée.
“And I don’t have to repeat Angel’s business here in Los Angeles, since you’ve all lived it. What I want to know, Wes,” she said, staring at the former Watcher, “is how much your boss has told you about Spike since you’ve been working together.”
“Well, about William the Bloody,” Wes murmured, “not all that much, exactly. That he’s Drusilla’s get, for one. And he’d tortured Angel over the Gem of Amara. Pretty much nothing else after he’d been neutered by that Initiative chip and forced to work with you for cash and sustenance.”
Eyes cold, emotions held in check, Buffy asked one final question. “And do you know where Spike is now?”
Without hestitation, Wes replied. “Last I heard, Angel said he’d gone on to seek his fortune elsewhere. They’d done nothing but fight like cats and dogs ever since he arrived at these offices.”
Buffy looked over at Angel, who’d finally realized the direction of the fishing expedition she’d been on earlier.
She turned back to Wes. “I suppose you don’t know that the last time I saw Spike, he was burning to ash at the bottom of the Hellmouth – making sure the Uber Vamps were all dusted, and everyone still alive made it out safely. He wouldn’t leave with me, you know. I tried to get him to go when all the vamps were dusted, and the walls were coming down around our ears. He made me go, saying he would stay to do the clean up.”
Buffy took a deep breath, trying to keep her emotions under control. “And that for the past year, Angel has helped me get through my grief at losing my equal in battle. A vamp who fought by my side night after night for no other reason than I asked him to. A vampire who fought for and won back his very soul.”
A low murmur ran through the room as the news of Spike’s soul made the rounds. A soul? When did this happen?
Wesley Wyndham-Pryce drew himself up to his full height, and turned to face Angel. “Surely this cannot be, Angel? Two vampires with souls? It would have come to someone’s attention. For a demon to actually seek out and fight for a soul is epic!”
Angel looked at the man he once considered his closest friend, his expression calm and unbothered. “Ooops? I never thought it was important; it was only Spike, after all. Considering he was gone in two days, it wasn’t worth mentioning.”
“Are you insane?” Gunn stormed across the room, banging both fists on the desk in front of Angel. “You tellin’ me you knew Spike had a soul and…?”
Lorne pulled the angry man out of the line of fire. “Whoa, buckaroo. Back off and leave the big guy to the little woman.” When they were no longer the focus of attention, the green-skinned demon silently motioned for Gunn to control himself.
Harmony, of course, had her own two cents to chime in. “Ewww, so now not only is he a Slayer loving freak – he has a soul, too? What is it about the Slayer that turns strong vampires into mush?”
Wes looked baffled. “Angel, I don’t understand how you could keep such information to yourself? Why did you let Spike leave? Surely the two of you could have worked out your differences, and become a formidable team against the evil we fight on a daily basis.”
Buffy decided that enough was enough. “Yes, Angel. Tell me, please. Why did you let Spike leave? Did it slip your mind that I might have wanted to know he’d risen like a phoenix? Did my crying on the phone for hours at a time not remind you how I’d mourned for my… companion for weeks after I’d gone to England?”
“Yo, Blondie! Head’s up!”
Buffy looked towards the back of the room, just as Gunn tossed something her way – catching it on the fly. A quick look at the object in her hands, and she knew things were about to heat up. She placed the bag with the receipt and silver ring in front of the annoyed vampire.
“Would you mind explaining this to me, lover? Why do you have one of Spike’s silver thumb rings?”
~Keep calm, she can’t possibly know anything.~ Angel smiled. “Simple, really. If it is his, at all. It probably just fell off his finger and the housecleaning staff left it on my desk. How can you be so sure it’s Spike’s?”
It was Buffy’s turn to smile – unpleasantly. “You know that Spike and I had had a long standing sexual relationship, right? I mean, you claimed to have smelt him all over me in Sunnydale.”
Angel looked very uneasy. “Yeah, well, it’s not something that fills me with joy to think about. Still doesn’t tell me how you know that’s his ring.”
“Sorry, baby. I’ll explain. Spike was rather… shall we say, imaginative. He could have me screaming in less than a minute flat with the help of that very ring, so I’ve got to tell you – I could identify it blindfolded. Have, in fact. Many, many times.” Ha! Stuff that in your pipe and smoke it, buster!
There were two vampires and four humans in attendance. Buffy’s smirk graced the only closed mouth in the office.
“Ooops! Was that just a little TMI for the crowd? So sorry.” Her peripheral vision registered Angel’s movement behind her. One smooth move behind her back and a flick of her wrist later, a spare stake was embedded in the chair, next to Angel’s head.
“Did I not make myself very clear about the whole not-moving thingy before? Besides, my little party’s just beginning.” Buffy removed the ring from the plastic bag and placed it on her middle finger. It was a bit loose, but she gained some measure of comfort knowing it was out of Angel’s possession for good.
She removed the receipt from the bag. “Okay, back to lawyery mode. I feel I’ve established the identity of the ring’s proper owner – now it’s time to move on to the next item. This receipt says you delivered some sort of property to a place called Dante’s, and it was signed for by a… Pret? It makes me wonder what the hell it was that you delivered.”
Focus, Buffy – don’t let this get away from you “I mean, in the short time I’ve been back with you, I’ve seen you delegate everything from chairing meetings with important clients to picking up your dry cleaning to your little minions. They hop and bow and scrape for Angel, the King of Wolfram & Hart. Why would you take the time to hand deliver something worth what? A dollar?”
They stared at each other from across the desk, neither combatant giving an inch in their battle of wills.
“This would be a lovely time to actually say something, Angel,” she muttered. “You wanna tell me just what kind of a place Dante’s is? ‘Cause if not, I can always get someone to help you out.”
Angel glowered. This certainly didn’t bode well for him, but maybe – if he got really lucky - she was just blowing smoke, and he’d come out of this with just his dignity slightly frayed.
“It’s been awhile, Buff,” Angel mused, making an arrogant play of checking over the receipt. “Dante’s… let me think. Oh yeah, Dante’s. A demon club with a strict no-humans policy. The owner and I knew each other way back in the day… and I was just repaying an old debt. The money was just token – making it legal. No biggie, baby. I got rid of something I didn’t want, and he got something he did. Don’t tell me you’re coming down on a fair trade now, are you?”
This time, the scuffle from the back of the room was Gunn, restraining a visibly angered Lorne.
Buffy seethed. How could he be such a callous bastard? He had to know how close he was to being exposed, and yet he sat there playing to the crowd, so sure of himself.
“Um, you guys?” Harmony raised her hand, desperately looking like she had something to say.
“Not now, Harmony. Can’t you see we’re in the middle of something here?” Wes snapped.
“Fine,” the vampiress sulked. “Just don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.”
Lorne walked over to Buffy. Handing her the framed document, he whispered, “I think it’s time, cupcake. The crowd is growing restless, if you catch my drift.”
Buffy nodded, gripping the frame tightly in her hands. She took a deep breath, stilling within herself, ready to confront Angel head on and forever destroying the remnants of their once perfect love.
“How can you sit there, you sanctimonious bastard, and lie to me?” She slammed the frame down on his desk, shattering the glass. “How could you stand to look into the faces of your friends and tell them Spike walked out of here of his own free will?”
Okay, so maybe a bone-shattering injury would accompany that tattered dignity, Angel thought as he recognized the document and his signature. “You’re sticking your nose into things that don’t concern you, Buff,” he made one last attempt. “How I run my life and deal with my friends is none of your business. Anything I did was legal and above board, according to vampiric Lore and demon laws.”
Buffy threw back her head and laughed – a truly ugly sound, much to the amazement of everyone in the room.
“So, because you stuck to the letter of the Lore, you think your actions are justified? You sold a member of your own family – if not by flesh, then most certainly by blood – and you’re okay with it? How dare you,” she seethed. “What gives you the right to play God with another soul?”
Angel grabbed the shattered frame and stood. “This gave me the right,” he spat, waving it around, spraying shards of glass in all directions. “I owned his ass lock, stock and balls. I’d had enough of his shit and exercised my rights as his Sire. He’s gone now, surely dusted long ago, so there’s really no need for this melodrama, Buffy. Get over it.”
Emotion juddered through Buffy’s small frame as she ranted on: “You fucking bastard. You mean to tell me you sold him, walked away and never checked up on what happened to him? Couldn’t even be bothered to confirm his third death?”
Pause. The room waited to hear Angel’s answer.
In the silence, a scuffle was heard in the hallway, diverting everyone’s attention to the door swinging open and revealing a newcomer to the proceedings – lounging against the door jamb, dressed as always in leather and black denim, with his familiar smirk in place.