Many, many thanks to sangpassionne, evilmaniclaugh and last but never least willa_writes. It's not exactly beta'd yet... but any glaring errors will be fixed tomorrow.
Cross posted to sickchicks and my regular journal.
Hell Is In the Details – Chapter 18 – Call to Judgment
Buffy knew she wasn’t being fair to anyone by refusing to go upstairs and explain. Lorne knew she was upset… hell, she was sure people heard her yelling in the next county… but Spike? He’d heard every word of her side of the ‘conversation’ and she wouldn’t put it past him to have heard some of Giles’ as well. Damned vampire hearing.
She could feel Spike’s energy vibrating throughout her body; the little niggle at the base of her neck and the slight cramp in pit of her stomach – the frequency uniquely attuned to him as opposed to the garden variety vampire that let her know he was nearby.
Calm down, damnit! God, she so needed to kill something right now – take the edge off. Maybe go for a run… but not before going upstairs. Buffy collapsed into the recliner in Lorne’s office – grateful to be alone with her thoughts.
The rest of the conversation with her ex-Watcher was uneventful, in that there were no more raised voices or derogatory remarks. After faxing him a copy of the talisman, Buffy filled him in on the events of the past week, from feeling ‘off’ in Angel’s presence, to Lorne’s little surprise, to finding out the level of Angel’s deception and treachery – ending with the cryptic dream, starring Anya, of all people.
As convoluted as it all was – even she could see the connections shimmering like a spider’s web… Anya, with whom Spike had sought comfort in after she, herself had cut him loose that last time. Who had sought comfort in Spike after being left at the altar. Anya, who once pulled her aside after a particularly bitchy Scooby meeting and told her to fuck him until she was raw and stop pussyfooting around – that vampire refractory abilities were not something to be denied, and she so needed many orgasms to soften her disposition.
Buffy smiled softly to herself. Anya had really cared for them all in her own blunt way. She was the one who spotted Spike’s shiny new soul, when everyone else was oblivious. Anya actually looked at people and spoke her heart, much like Spike – and had been castigated for it – much like Spike.
Death holds no dominion – something that should have been embroidered on a t-shirt and handed out at every Scooby meeting. Was Anya really back from the beyond, or just in her dream? Did it actually matter? The talisman was the first time something had manifested itself after a dream – usually it was just all cryptic and vague.
Realizing it couldn’t be put off any longer Buffy clutched the talisman in her hands and went to face the music.
He was already yelling as she approached the door. “What the bleedin’ hell did that ponce say to you that had you screamin’ loud enough to wake the dead?” Spike’s eyes flashed glitter-bright flecks of gold amidst the blue.
“Oh, you know,” Buffy said, clambering onto the bed to sit opposite the very angry vampire, “same old, same old. Actually, his first reaction to finding out you were all phoenix-boy was to tell me he was Queen of England.”
Spike snorted. “Knew he was a dodgy old queen. So, what’s the deal with the dream? Heard you screamin’ from that hours ago. I wish…”
“Don’t you dare!” Buffy leant forward, clamping her hand over his mouth. “Gods, Spike… don’t say another word. No wishing whatsoever. The whole Slayer dream was brought to me by Anya, in vengeance mode.”
“Demon girl, huh? She an’ Harris ever get back together? Were workin’ rather hard on it, usin’ my cot as a trampoline before…”
The look on Buffy’s face brought him up short. “Chit never made it out of the Hellmouth,” A soft statement of fact.
“Andrew said she was so brave – that she died saving his life.” She sighed, acknowledging once again that she couldn’t protect everyone. “I know you… cared for her. ~Awkward much?~
“Luv, I cared for everyone by the end. Bloody hell, even the little boy and the whelp. And I swear I’ll drain you if you ever tell him I said such a thing.”
“We don’t make threats about draining slay…” Buffy wasn’t angry – her response had been pretty much automatic. However… it made her think. “Spike, how are you feeling? Legs any better?”
Curious as to the direction Buffy’s conversation had taken, he humored her. Spike flexed his legs to the best of his ability, noting the slightest of improvements. “Well, pet, the legs don’t hurt much anymore. All that human’s been good for somethin.’ S’just I won’t be any good in a fight unless I can stand the bugger to death.”
Buffy brought the talisman into view, her brow wrinkling as she thought things out. “Does this look familiar to you?”
Spike turned the disc over and over in his hands, feeling distinctly uneasy the longer he held it. “Looks like a coat of arms, pet. An’ I can feel somethin’ pourin’ out of it – makes my fingers itch. Got some major mojo attached to it.”
“There was this whole garden/flower theme thingy going on in my dream… and I know I was afraid of killing the flowers. Anya gave me a book, and said it would help me, but I had to read it. I – I woke up with it in my hands.” Clearly worried, she said, “Spike, I’ve had lots of cryptic shit come up in my Slayer dreams before… but I’ve never had something actually manifest when I woke up.”
“Why you called Rupes, innit? An’ to tell him his favorite vampire’s back? I take it he weren’t extolling m’virtues, what with all the yellin’ an’ fussin’ you put up?”
She nodded. “I told him everything, once he calmed down. Angel, you, yesterday’s confrontation and the dream. And I faxed him a picture of the coat of arms thingy from Lorne’s little office downstairs. He promised to check it out. Even as far as contacting the Coven to see if there’s magicks involved. Just waiting for a call back. Do you think you’ll be able to control yourself for a conference call?”
Affronted, he turned the most innocent blue eyes her way. “M’not the one to cause trouble, luv. Leastwise, not these days. An’ if it concerned you, I’d bloody well do my best to keep things calm. I’d never put your safety at risk.”
Buffy smiled, knowing that for the truth before he’d spoken. “I know, Spike. It’s one of the few things I can count on.” She took a deep breath, knowing that what followed was likely to be met with an angry refusal. “We need to talk about your physical condition, and the fact that it’s taking so long for you to heal. I think I can help, if you’d agree.”
Head cocked slightly, eyebrow raised, Spike purred, “Mmmm, pet. Gonna give me a rub down? Make sure m’muscles get all that individual attention they crave?”
“Spike, cut it out. I’m serious.” Buffy’s smile belied her harsh words and tone of voice. “I have a feeling this talisman is the harbinger of something so not of the good. Important, but scary.”
“So’m I, pet. Wouldn’t hurt to get ‘em massaged. ‘Specially by someone who isn’t afraid to put her back into it. As for the talisman… it feels familiar – like it knows me. I don’t like it.”
Firming up her resolve, the Slayer cut to the heart of the matter. “That’s it, then. If we’re both weirded out by it, it doesn’t bode well. And I’m really unhappy that something big is coming up with you in not in top form. Human blood is helping you and it’s not working fast enough. Only thing I can come up with is a Buffy cocktail. You’re gonna have to drink me.”
“No! No way!”
“Don’t you understand, Spike? You have to get your strength back. It’s the only way I can think of, and I’m sure it’ll speed thing up. You need to get your legs back under you, now!”
“Have you lost all your marbles, you silly cow? You think I’m goin’ to sink my fangs into you when I’m weak and not sure of my self control?”
Buffy stamped her foot on the ground in utter frustration. “What the fuck is wrong with you stupid vampires? Does my blood stink or something? I thought Slayer blood was supposed to be all yummy gotta have me some.”
Spike stared at her, incredulous. “You’ve jumped the tracks, pet. Must’ve if you think I don’t want to taste you.”
“Then what’s with the denial boy routine? I had to beat Angel until his demon took what I…”
He grabbed her by the shoulders, bringing them nose to nose, his demon to the fore. “Do not compare me to that plonker,” he growled. “To know that he drank from you fills me with a rage, luv. To know he almost killed you is what keeps you safe from me. I. am. not. him. I won’t hurt the girl – not anymore”
Buffy pulled back, looking deep into his amber eyes. How odd, she thought. so much devotion shining through that leonine face. How had she ever mistaken him for an emotionless beast? She reached up, gently stroking his brow ridges, watching his emotions play across his face as he closed his eyes and leaned into her touch.
A phone call jarred them both out of the moment. Lorne came upstairs. “Hey there, kiddies. Sorry to interrupt, but there’s a Mr. Giles is on the line. Says he’s got some important news for you both about your dream and talisman?”
Taking the receiver from Lorne, Buffy motioned for him to have a seat, then hit the hands free button. “I’ve put you on speaker phone, Giles. Lorne and Spike are listening, too. So, what’s the sitch with the talisman?”
“Yes, well good evening, all. We’ll start out with the talisman, shall we? It's medieval. A coat of arms, perhaps – to be presented when going before the Cahair Binse, as they were known. Roughly translated that's…”
Spike interrupted. “Chair of judgment.”
“Quite right, Spike. Also known as The Tribunal. Have you heard of it?”
“Yeah, I’ve heard of ‘em. An ancient court to settle grievances.” He gasped, as realization struck. “Bloody hell. That explains the itchy feeling I get with the talisman. Don’t tell me they’re convening the Tribunal on my account?”
“Oooh, that would explain why Anya was in my dream. Someone must have made a wish for vengeance…” Buffy paused; trying to remember who the idiot was that might have voiced a wish out loud. ~Shit – raise hand; smack self about the head repeatedly. Idiot present and accounted for, Sir!~ Um, guys? I’m pretty sure I figured out two things. One, Anya is more than likely alive and working as a vengeance demon again on some plane of existence, and two? I think I made the wish.”
The sound of Giles cleaning his glasses could be heard distinctly through the speaker.
“Buffy, haven’t you learned by now that wishing brings nothing but trouble? Could you possibly recall what you wished for? It would go far in explaining what we’re to expect in the very near future, if my informant is correct.”
She closed her eyes tightly, trying to remember her exact words as she left Angel’s office yesterday. “I think I said something to the effect of ‘I wish Angel would understand just how wrong what he did to Spike was.’ I mean, he was so nasty as I was leaving – telling me I’d ruined his life. He just didn’t understand why everyone was so upset at what he’d done.”
“Are you sure, dear, that you didn’t mention anyone else in your wish – that it was specifically aimed at Angel’s actions towards Spike?”
“Positive, Giles. I was sorta focused girl at the time.”
“Oh balls.” Spike dropped his head into his hands, knowing for certain that his unlife was about to get dragged into the issue. “Watcher, you mind tellin’ me what’s got your knickers in a twist over the Slayer’s choice of words?”
“I’ve spoken with Wesley Windham-Pryce. He’d apparently left Wolfram & Hart temporarily over this whole issue, and was quite willing to help with the research. Angel’s appeared before the Tribunal before… as someone’s Champion. He’d inadvertently murdered the original choice, and ended up taking their place – winning his battle. The rub here is the Tribunal’s definition of justice is not as ours. There is usually a physical battle, and the survivor is deemed the winner. It seems as if the Tribunal is rather arbitrary in meting out justice. Life or death of an individual doesn't exactly matter – just that there is a victor.”
Lorne was agitated. “Are you telling me that Spike is going to be forced into combat against Angel? It’s signing his death warrant. Where’s the justice in that?”
“There are other forms of ‘combat,’ or competition as it were. In the event that a fair battle is not possible, their lives are taken into account. The ‘combatants’ are judged one against the other, and the one found wanting is usually executed on the spot.”
Buffy groaned, “What have I done?”
“S’alright, luv.” Spike reached out for her hand, entwining their fingers. “You’ve done nothing wrong. S’bout time the world learned that Spike’s a better vampire than Angel ever was. I’ll be fine,” he said, silently hoping he’d best Angel for the first time in comparison. He had the distinct feeling that Buffy would take his third death rather personally.
Giles cleared his throat. “Look, our knowledge of the Tribunal is metaphysical, at best. Outside of Angel’s previous experience, which I would suggest is moot due to different circumstances, we have no clue as to what will actually take place. What I do know for certain, is that the talisman is linked to the person the Tribunal is called for.”
“Which would explain why I get the tinglies when I hold the bloody thing.” Spike picked up the metal disc, feeling the magicks itch crawl through his fingers. Staring at it intently, he said “This time, it’s personal.”
At the incredulous stares from Lorne and Buffy, Spike said, “What? Second hunk of mystical junk comes my way – this one has its jaws set specifically for me.” The slight twinkle in his eyes gave away his awareness of the Spielberg reference.
“So, Rupes…,” Spike continued, “can you tell us when and where this whole judgment deal is goin’ down?”
Giles hesitated, no real facts to guide the way. “All that’s written is from the appearance of the talisman to the rising of the Tribunal; it’s no more than a day’s time. The minimal timing is unknown. I suggest going for a walk outside this evening, and they will rise at their whim.”
Buffy realized her dream was the final item on the agenda. “Giles, I’m guessing after your explanation of the Tribunal that the dream is pretty self explanatory. The whole ‘canceled parade due to rain’ translates into a difficult trial for Spike… which could possibly end with his third death.” She glanced at Spike, a soft smile gracing her lips.
“And the whole ‘gardening/brown thumb’ bit is me worried I’m gonna mess things all up, and again, Spike might die. I think I’m noticing a pattern here. This thing is big scary, they don’t play favorites, Spike gets judged against Angel and if he loses, they kill him.
I don’t have a clue as to what part I play in it all, but I’m scared to death I’m gonna fuck it all up and Spike will die.” Buffy rubbed at her temples; the headache forming hurting her eyes. “There has to be something I can do about this, Giles. Thanks for your help, and if you come across anything else, please call me. You said it yourself, time is of the essence.”
“I’ll do what I can, dear girl. Be careful.” Giles sighed, and almost as an after thought added, “And Spike, good luck,” before breaking the connection.
Lorne went to his own room, leaving the Slayer and the vampire slightly shaken. Both knew Spike faced a battle for his very unlife once again… this time the skirmishes had already been played out – it was just left for the judges to dissect and compare: Spike against Angel.
Buffy broke the silence first. “So, picking up from where we left off, Spike… you need to be able to do more than stand on your own two feet. You need to be able to walk. Time is closing in on us and we can’t be caught with our pants down.”
Oh, if that eyebrow could talk. Which it could, and Buffy tried so hard not to listen to what it was saying.
“I hate this, pet. I don’t want to hurt you. My demon needs so much, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to stop before taking too much.”
“Look at me, Spike. I’m no longer a little girl. My strength has increased over the years, and I’ve always been able to overpower you. Trust me, I’ll stop you before things go too far. Do you trust me?”
“Do I what?” The vampire was stunned. “Do I trust you? The question should always be: do you trust me?’ I’m the monster here, luv.”
Buffy looked deeply into his blue eyes, just a little bit heartbroken that after all he’d been through, he still considered himself to be an untrustworthy monster.
“I’ll say this once, slowly and clearly so even a retardo-vamp wouldn’t misunderstand my meaning. I trust you Spike… with my life. Now drink,” Buffy said, holding out her wrist.
Spike gathered her into his arms, pulling the petite blonde onto his lap. Raising her wrist to his lips, Spike pressed soft kisses in a line to the crook of her elbow, where he licked the crease once, twice… before dropping his human mask, and sliding his fangs ever so gently into the soft skin. Wrapping her bent arm around his face, he was surrounded by her scent, suckling gently; as close to heaven as he was ever going to get.
Smoothly retracting his fangs, Spike poked at the wounds with his tongue, pushing and prodding to encourage a little more blood flow, thoroughly enjoying the feel of flesh parting around his fangs and fresh from the source blood in his mouth. Freely given Slayer blood – his mind boggled.
He knew he could give in to sensation so easily. The warmth of her body against his, the delicate twitching of her thighs as she pressed down against his hardening length – the delicate ball peen hammer effect of her arousal filling his nostrils. Surely this was not the wisest of decisions either of them could have come up with.
And then she moaned.
A low, deep throated sound that shot straight through to his balls, causing his grip to tighten on her arm and around her waist. Spike bucked up against her, grinding his hardness into her bottom with a painfully delicious friction while she rode him as she had that first time, pushing down against him until he swore he could feel every fold and every pulse of her clit against him. Like going home again.
Buffy’s free hand played in the soft curls at the nape of his neck, tugging and stroking with equal measure. She could feel the pressure of his suckling increase as the wounds began to close, knowing that he would refuse to bite her again to keep them open.
The bed rocked against the wall from the force of their movements; both of them so close… Spike felt his panic rising even as they came. Fear of looking into her eyes and seeing that god-awful hollowed out self-hatred he’d seen far too many times afterwards made him nuzzle Buffy’s neck then cling tightly to her, listening to her calming heartbeat; afraid of what he might see.
Buffy slowly recovered, basking in the afterglow of the bite and frottage. She’d fully anticipated getting off on the bite, and was sure it was one of the reasons Spike had been so hesitant to accept her offer. After all, both were unsure of where they stood with each other, considering last week Buffy thought Spike was dust, and Spike? Poor thing had been in no condition to think of anything.
Touching her lips to his head, Buffy whispered, “Spike… you don’t need to hide. I’m fine, and so are you. Look at me, please.”
Spike raised his head, blue eyes anxiously seeking hers for confirmation of what he heard in her tone. His relief was palpable. “Oh, what you do to me, delicious Slayer,” he crooned. “What you’ve gifted me with. I could…”
With that, he scooped Buffy up into his arms, and bolted from the bed, twirling her around in a mad and joyous dance.
Buffy grinned, ruffling the ecstatic vampire’s hair so that he resembled nothing less than a giddy five year old at six in the morning on Christmas day. “Guess I’ve finally done something right by you, Spike. All that lying down just was seriously giving me the wiggins.”
“Feels so bloody good, luv. I’ll never be able to thank you enough for givin’ me back to myself.”
Holding a pretend mic to her face, Buffy asked: “William the Bloody – you’ve just gotten your scrawny ass out of bed after slacking off for the past week. What are you going to do now?”
“Bloody well take the hottest shower I can!” Spike laughed, tossing Buffy on the bed and running into the bathroom.
Everyone converged in Lorne’s livingroom at ten o’clock that evening, figuring it would be best to present a united front to the Tribunal should they decide to show themselves. The briefing was just that… brief. The actual demands of this ‘trial’ were unknown, but while the risks to Spike were potentially fatal, the risks to those in attendance were unknown.
All heads turned when Spike and Buffy appeared at the top of the stairs. As Buffy descended in the normal fashion, Spike gracefully leapt over the banister in time to catch his Slayer’s hand as she stepped off the landing.
“Nice move, dude!” Gunn was impressed. The difference between the catlike grace of the vampire standing before him and the decimated shell he’d carried out of Dante’s less than a handful of days before was mind boggling.
Harmony remained quiet. Relief over Spike’s improved condition did not allay the stress of the past day weighing heavily on her mind.
“I think we need to motor, cats and kittens.” Lorne was overjoyed at the vampire’s renewed vigor, simply conveyed by a quick squeeze to Spike’s shoulder before continuing on. “This is gonna be big, and I don’t want to explain to the landlord why the house has been torn apart. Wes has his cell phone with him, and will meet us wherever we end up.”
One by one, they filed out of the house and into the night.
They walked – no destination in mind – silently moving away from well populated areas. As if it had been planned, they stopped in front of a chain link fence.
“You know this is as cliché as it gets, don’t you?” Buffy stood, hands on hips, facing a fenced in abandoned lot. “It’s all ‘ooooh, empty lot – wonder what’s gonna happen?’ written all over it.”
Lorne laughed. “I’ll take some of that action, sweetie. After all…”
A loud rumble filled the air as the ground began to shake. Suddenly, three stone thrones rose up from the ground behind the fence, occupied by mysteriously cloaked figures. A sonorous voice called out: “Who bears the token and calls forth the Tribunal?”
Before moving forward, Spike felt a warm press of lips against his cheek, and a whispered “Good luck, tiger. Just remember to keep your wits about you and your mouth shut unless asked a direct question.”
Anya?He gave Buffy one last look and moved towards the fence, placing the talisman on the ground.
A second figure calls out. “And where are the other parties involved in this dispute?”
The clomping of horses’ hooves turned the crowd’s attention to a strange sight. Two horses approached, each carrying a knight in full armor and a handcuffed prisoner; Angel on one horse, Pret on the other.
“All parties are now present and accounted for. The Tribunal is now convened. William the Bloody, we call you before this Court to be judged for your past, present and possible future existence – to judge you worthy of the Justice the Slayer wished for you against the vampire once known as your Sire, Angelus of Aurelian Order.”
The senior Judge stood, voice loud enough to rattle the chain link. “William the Bloody, formerly of the Aurelian Order, spawn of Angelus, cast out by Angelus… who will speak for you? Is there one amongst you who will speak on behalf of this Orderless vampire?”
Heads turned once more. Striding forward, fury blazing from her blue eyes, was Dawn Summers.