Beauty Effulgent

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Fading by uberaeryn
Part Four

In the end, finally, Angelus screamed.

He screamed and wept in pain and rage; cursing, calling out to unknown powers in languages even Wesley hadn’t heard before, causing darklight shimmers and trails of backwards magic to ripple throughout the cellar, and several times both Spike and Wesley had been ready to bolt, both in unfamiliar territory and both terrified at what they felt, saw, heard.

It had seemed, on those occasions, that Angelus was on the very verge of leaving Angel’s body and becoming an entity all his own, and just the thought of it frightened Spike more than anything he’d ever encountered in his too-long life.

Angelus free, loose in the world.

Spike shuddered.

And Angelus swore, glowering at Spike through blackened eyes and blinking back blood that dripped from a cut on his forehead, that Angel was dead, and that the rest of them were next.

Spike almost believed him. Almost.

Finally, when it seemed nothing else could be gained, Wesley had tranquilized Angelus in order to tend to his many wounds. Wesley’s face was ashen and drawn and Spike could feel the grief and anger and frustration pouring off him; but still he had left Wesley to clean up the mess Spike had left and had lumbered slowly up the cellar stairs, toward Illyria, hoping to leave the smell of piss and shit and sweat and blood and fear behind but knowing that it would always linger.

It would be with him always, the things he had done.

And especially the fact that, at one point, when Angelus had bellowed and had tried to humiliate him over and over again, he had come very close to enjoying it; the slicing, the pain, the blood . . . It was all still there. Soul or no soul, love or not, he hadn’t changed, he thought, not completely.

He sighed, his body shaky, and then Illryia grabbed him by the arm as he moved by, fingers like steel. “He is strong.”

He stood, waiting, but she said nothing else, simply dropped his arm and returned her gaze to Angelus.

Yeah, strong, Spike thought as he climbed the stairs wearily. Too strong. Forever was and forever shall be.


The door to Giles’ study was open, and he could hear raised voices, Buffy and Giles, for the most part, punctuated by the sporadic and vehement comment from Willow, and he sighed and looked down at himself. Covered in Angelus’ blood and spit.

He stalked in anyway, chin raised, trying to appear defiant but not really succeeding, and was immediately set upon by Buffy.

She was knotted up tightly, brittle and about to break, and her eyes were . . . well, he’d seen those eyes before, when she’d told him he was evil, wrong, nothing, not worthy of her or anyone else, just a thing, an evil thing.

And I am, aren’t I? he thought.

“Was this absolutely necessary, Spike?” she bit out through clenched teeth.

“Dunno,” he mumbled, too tired to fight about it. “Don’t know nothin’, anymore. Ask your Watcher.”

He turned to Giles. “Someone needs to help Wes,” he said. Giles looked at Xander, who rose from the couch slowly, eyes flicking between Spike and Giles.

Say it, Harris, just say it and be done with it, Spike thought, but Xander left without a word.

“Spike, did he say anything? Give you any information we can use?” Giles asked.

“And is he still alive?” Buffy snapped, glaring at Giles and Spike in turn.

Spike shoved past her and again raided Giles’ liquor cabinet, noticing that the thing had been restocked. He took a bottle of whiskey for himself, not asking, but Giles gave him a nod of permission anyway.

Be damned, he thought. The Watcher understands.

He moved to the center of the room and surveyed each of them; Giles strung bow-tight and still whispering Ripper, Buffy angry and frightened and self-righteous, Faith stoic and sad but not judging, and Willow . . .God, Willow. Earth, maiden, mother, love and light, all pain was her pain and there had been a lot of pain tonight. Before he could stop himself he reached out tentatively with one hand and she took it without hesitating, delicate fingers holding him tightly in a warm, soft grip.

. . . so sorry, so sad . . .

. . . I know . . .

He wasn’t sure if he’d actually said it and if she actually heard him and answered, but that bright, golden-green warmth enveloped him again and he closed his eyes and allowed himself a second of comfort before facing the others.

“He’s hurt but he’ll live. Talked a lot, mostly about how he was gonna kill us all.” He paused and took a swig of whiskey. “He’s strong. Stronger than I’ve ever seen him and he’s . . . he’s tapped into something else, something stronger. Spoke words and the air changed and I’ve never been so fuckin’ scared in my life.”

He watched as Buffy’s eyes widened.

“You’ll have to ask Wesley for the details; I was busy doin’ . . . other stuff.”

Again he felt the gentle pressure of Willow’s hand, grounding him, holding him. He squeezed back . . . it’ll be all right, came the whisper. . . and then he stumbled out of the study, to the foyer and through the front door, and then he fell on his knees in the bushes and threw up until he passed out.


He pressed his face into the dew-cooled grass, breathing deeply, wanting this, just this, the grass and the dirt and the wet and cool and, in spite of humanity’s efforts to foul it, the utterly pure smell of it all, and his fingers clawed at the ground, as if he worked just hard enough he could sink underneath it, where he should have been put rest to many years ago, to sleep under it. Become it. So clean, baptized by the earth.

He felt a hand at his shoulder.


He groaned. God, no, hadn’t he had enough for one fuckin’ day?

“Spike, come on. Sit up. I need to talk to you.”

He rolled over on to his back, staring up the night sky, stars and moon made hazy by thin clouds.

“What do you want, Slayer?”

He heard a sharp draw of breath at that. Hadn’t called her that in a while, and it meant that they were not lovers and not friends and she should say what she had to say or he would kill her.

At least, that’s what it had meant back then. Now, it just meant that he was tired, so fucking tired . . .

“All right, then, just listen for a sec, okay? I don’t like what you did. I thought that wasn’t you, anymore, Spike.”

“Just doin’ what the Watcher said to do.” He ran his hands through the grass, making them slick with dew and then rubbing the damp cool across his face.

“Since when do you take orders? From anyone?”

He laughed bitterly. “Were you not payin’ attention the past couple years I was in Sunnydale?”

“That wasn’t you taking orders. That was you playing along until something more interesting popped up.”

He sat up suddenly, shoving his face into hers. “You listen to me, now, Slayer,” he snarled. “Yeah, I had my own reasons for doin’ what I did, but at the end . . . the soul thing was for you, if you’ll recall,” he said, pressing one palm flat on her chest and shoving her backwards, so that she sprawled back on the ground on her elbows, glaring at him. “And everything . . . everything that came after was for the right of it. Yeah, I’m a self-centered bastard, was before the soul and still am now, but when things start to go down, I do the right thing. You were fuckin’ there, Buffy, holdin’ my hand and lookin’ at me like I was the big hero. You saw it, saw what I was willin’ to do when push came to shove. And don’t ask me why I bother, ‘cause it sure as fuck hasn’t earned me a damned thing, but when it’s time to fight, I bloody well fight. For the right of it.”

She stared at him for a long time before finally speaking. “Then why the torture? That’s last resort stuff, Spike, we had plenty of other options . . .”

“NO! No, we do not! We’ve gone straight past options and full-tilt into last resorts! He’s so strong, Buffy, I felt it, and whatever he’s got planned I’ve no doubt he’ll pull it off! And Angel is still in there, just watchin’, lost and . . . fuck, Buffy, is that really what you want for Angel? Him hitchin’ a ride while Angelus slices a bloody trail through everyone Angel loves? Watchin’ while Angelus fuckin’ wins? Is it?”

“Of course not,” she whispered.

“Well, then? Got any other suggestions?” he snapped.

She shrugged helplessly, and suddenly the anger was gone and he fell back on to the grass and covered his eyes with his forearm. He could feel her watching him but he ignored her, and focused instead on the smell of the earth.

“You’re right,” she said suddenly.

He put a hand to his ear. “What’s that? Are my ears deceivin’ me? Is the Slayer admittin’ she’s wrong?”

She sighed. “Yes. I am. What you did in Sunnydale, and then fighting alongside Angel in L.A and now working so hard to get Angel back. . . . William the Bloody is really gone, isn’t he?”

He almost laughed. She didn’t know the half of it. “Yeah, he’s gone. But that don’t mean he didn’t leave a few things lying about the place, things that I could use if I had to.”

They both were silent for a while, and then there was the swish of longs skirts and Willow was there, sinking to her knees gracefully alongside Spike.

“Camping out? I could build a fire. We could make s’mores!” she said eagerly, teasing, and Spike smiled slightly in spite of himself and Buffy snorted.

Spike jumped when he felt Willow take his hand, but then he squeezed it tightly.

, , ,
it’s time , , ,

. . .scared . . .

. . . they need to know . . .

Giles and Wesley walked slowly across the grass to join them, ignoring the damp and sinking to the ground, Wesley rubbing at his face with his hands.

“Okay, Wes?” Spike asked.

“No. Not at all. But I’ve survived worse; I did die, you know,” he said wryly.

“Well, so did I,” Spike said matter-of-factly. “Twice.”

“Shit, that’s what I was gonna say,” Buffy huffed, and Giles hid a slight smirk behind his hand. “Now I’ve got someone who’s matched my record. At least nobody’s beaten it, yet.”

“Let’s hope no one does,” Giles said, hint of a smile in his voice. “Now, what’s this all about then, Willow?”

She looked at Spike, waiting, encouraging, reassuring.

He hesitated, hands trembling, and then he grabbed Buffy’s hand and slid it underneath his t-shirt and pressed it firmly over his heart.

“Whoa, hey, Spike, no touchy-feely sex things, that’s all over . . .” She stopped abruptly and cocked her head to the side as if listening.

She slowly raised her eyes to meet his. “Oh, my God . . .” she whispered.

“Yep,” he said, voice shaking as she took her hand away. He fumbled for his cigarettes and lit one, inhaling deeply.

“I’m a real boy, now.”


Bloody hell!” Giles spat, covering his face with one hand.

“What? How? Why didn’t you say anything?” Buffy demanded. “I should have sensed it . . .” She trailed off, looking off into the distance at nothing, thinking. “Actually, I think I did, just didn’t put the pieces together. Your fighting, slower and weaker. You’ve been slower to heal . . .”

“Yep. Not to mention the fact that I’ve forgotten the high maintenance a human body requires. And my reflection? That was a shock. Even better-lookin’ than I remembered.” He smirked.

“Very funny, Spike!” Giles snapped. “Do you have an explanation for this? And why was I able to feel it from Angel but not from you?”

Spike sighed. “Hid it. Used Angel or whoever nearby as camouflage, hiding the heartbeat, the breath.”

Wesley said nothing, simply stared at the ground. Spike suspected he’d already known.

“Why? And how?”

“Hid it because . . . because it’s a weakness, and I’ve got Angel to worry about and some very nasty baddies after the both of us . . . And how? Dunno. Must’ve happened sometime during the battle; after the vision or whatever the hell it was I had of Angel?”

“Do you remember anything?” Giles asked.

“Nothin’. Just woke up like this.”

“The prophecy or the powers . . .” Wesley murmured.

“Somethin’,” Spike said, and then felt the tension he’d been holding from hiding his secret release its grip on his body, and he sighed and lay back in the grass again. “But it’s like I’ve got a little vampire left over. None of my senses are as strong as they were but still stronger, I think, than your average little human. And the fightin’, still there. Not as fast or as strong, but still there.”

“You should have said something,” Giles said.

“Yeah, probably. Too late now, though, ain’t it?”

Buffy frowned. “Giles . . .”

He sighed and rubbed at his forehead. “Dear God, don’t tell me there’s something else.”

“Well, um, yeah, there is,” Buffy said. “In my dream, the dream about Angel and the wolves . . .”

“Dammit all to hell, Buffy, if you tell me that you left something out I swear to God I’ll take a strap to you! Eight bloody years, Buffy, you know better than to keep things from me by now!”

She blinked. “Take a strap to me?” Then she grinned. “Like to see you try.”

Giles threw up his hands in surrender. “That’s it, I’m leaving,” he said in exasperation. “Going to the Caribbean and leaving you all to your fates.”

Wesley smiled slightly at that. “I doubt that you will, Giles. Once a Watcher . . .”

Giles glared at him and then at Buffy and then sighed. “So? What vitally important piece of information have you left out this time?”

She scowled at him. “I didn’t even really remember it until just now, when I touched Spike, and it like, triggered it, this one image. Those dreams are always so hazy and so crowded with tons of . . . crap, sometimes it’s hard for me to separate the important parts from the not important parts.”

Giles crossed his arms. “Well?”

“Well, the reason that Angel went down under the black pack was that . . .” She paused and took a deep breath. “The reason that the black wolves took Angel down was because the white wolves stopped trying to protect him.”

The hair on the back of Spike’s neck rose. He wasn’t sure he wanted to hear the rest of this.

“Why did they stop?” Giles asked quietly.

Buffy looked at Spike. “Because it was like they gave up on Angel, and they moved to protect Spike instead.”


Part Five

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