Summary: Illyria and Eldre Koh stage an intervention. 2,400 words.
A/N: This is my seasonal_spuffy ficlet, posted and written just under the wire, so I apologize if it’s a bit sloppy. This is a comics!fic, but as I’ve only read one issue (the first Billy issue) since #10 (when Spike left), its adherence to comics!canon is liberal at best. I basically took some elements I had heard about from previous issues or knew were in the pipeline (e.g., Illyria) and ran with them.
“Wait! Stop!” Buffy slowed to a halt, but the hammering of her heart only seemed to increase. In her peripheral vision she saw Eldre stop, but she didn't look at him. She was too busy scanning the warehouse in the distance, trying to make out in the dark any sign of Illyria or the zompires or- worse. Whatever it was that had made Illyria text:
Zompires and unknown creature at Siphon's warehouse. You are required.
Yet again Buffy cursed the hellgod’s antipathy to talking on the phone. Texting normally worked fine as a method of communication, given how terse and straightforward she was to begin with.
This was not one of those times.
If they'd been talking, Buffy might have been able to wring more details out of her. As it was, Illyria hadn't responded to any of her multiple reply texts or voicemails.
You are required. Buffy's stomach flipped. From Illyria, that was practically begging for help.
She knew she should have argued harder when Illryia said she would keep watch over Severin's previous hang-outs. If the god lost her powers or died, it would be all her fault-
“We need a plan,” she said, forcing herself not to think about that possibility. “If Severin's here or if the unknown creature is even worse, Illyria could be in a lot of danger and we could be walking into a trap. We need to sneak up on the place.”
“No,” said Eldre. “I don't like that plan.”
Before she could so much as blink, he was running again, full speed, toward the warehouse. She bit back an automatic, indignant shout and took off after him. What was he thinking? Was he trying to get them all killed?
Unwelcome memories of his betrayal at TinCan were surfacing when a figure stepped out of the shadows around the warehouse. Buffy recognized the regal profile immediately. A second figure joined Illyria, moonlight glancing off pale hair-
This time Buffy jerked to a halt, almost stumbling. Was that- how-
She was too far away to hear what he said, but there was no way to mistake Eldre's greeting to Illyria and her companion as anything other than affable.
Buffy walked the rest of the way, stalling, not sure what was going on but starting to suspect that she should be annoyed; that was easier said than done when something that felt a lot like (very stupid) butterflies were careening around her midsection.
She felt marginal relief when she reached them and saw from the look on his face that Spike was just as stunned as she was, that he hadn't been in on...whatever this was; but it faded quickly when she realized that while he didn't look disappointed to see her, he didn't look pleased exactly either.
“What is this?” he demanded before she could, and whirled on Illyria. “I thought you were in trouble!”
“You said you needed help!” said Buffy.
“I said I required you. I did not say I needed your help. Either of you.” The hellgod looked from one to the other and gave an unmistakably haughty sniff.
“Yeah, but for you that's practically begging for help,” Spike growled.
“That's Illyria-speak for- what he said.”
She looked at him, involuntarily, and found him staring back. Both pairs of eyes flew apart.
“Well, you said you needed help when I got here,” said Spike, grumpily but a little subdued. “You said there was a monster to track.”
“I said your assistance would be of use,” said Illyria. “And I lied.”
Buffy snorted. “Obviously.”
“Why am I here?” said Spike, and Buffy couldn't keep from noticing how determinedly he was not looking at her as he spoke. “Apparently I'm not required.”
“You are," said Illyria. "The slayer missed you.”
Buffy let out a noise that could only be called a squawk. “I did not!”
The look on Spike’s face in the second before he wiped it clean was such that if anyone else had caused it, she would have punched them.
“I- that's not what I meant!” said Buffy. “I did miss you! But I didn't- I wasn't involved in-“ She waved her hand at Illyria and Koh. “This.” She paused, willing her voice to decrease its frantic pitch. “I missed you. I mean, of course I missed you. We're, you know, friends, and you were gone for a long time, and you didn't even leave a Star Trek communicator thingy-mabob so we could keep in touch, 'cause I don't know about your plan, but AT&T doesn't cover space. But I didn't miss you like, like, need you to come back at the drop of a hat. I was fine.”
She forced a laugh. Still high-pitched. Maybe even higher. Maybe a little hysterical-sounding. Dammit.
“She was pining,” said Eldre.
Buffy yelped. “I was not!”
“It grew tiresome,” said Illyria. “Hence, our deception.”
“I was not pining!”
“You were. We verified,” said Illyria. “Your strange and puny minion, the one who insists on telling me every time we meet that I look like a comic book character come to life, as if a pathetic figment of human imagination could ever equal my glory, told us you were pining, and we looked it up in the Webster to confirm our understanding of the term.”
“I thought it was a tree,” said Eldre, almost apologetically.
“I'm going to kill him,” said Buffy. “And you mean the Web.”
“If I want your correction, slayer, I shall demand it. I mean the Webster.”
“I believe it was Merriam-Webster,” said Eldre, in an undertone.
Illyria hesitated. “I care not. The relevant matter is the slayer's intense yearning.”
“Pining,” said Eldre, nodding.
“There is no intense yearning!”
“You obviously have poor memory, slayer. That or you do not understand the words and should look in the Merriam-Webster yourself. You frequently mention him when he is unnecessary to the conversation.”
“I do not.”
"You do,” said Eldre. “You often bring him up in conjunction with trusting me. When your friends and family warn you that I might betray you again, you always answer that everyone deserves second chances. You say, 'Think about Spike. I trusted him, and that was one of the best decisions I ever made.'”
“You said that?” Spike gawked at her for barely a second though before spinning toward Eldre. “Wait, you betrayed her?”
“I- I never said-” Her cheeks burned painfully, but the way Spike’s face fell- again- hurt more. “I m-may have said that. Once or twice.”
“Frequently,” said Eldre. “And with longing.”
“There was no longing!”
“You tended to ramble and bring up specific examples of your past heroic deeds undertaken together,” said Eldre.
“All right, fine, I think you've made your point. I might have missed-“
“We have not made our point. I will inform you when our point is made.” Illyria paused a moment to let this sink in, expression as frosty as her hair, before continuing. “You also bring Spike into conversation with me when it is wholly unnecessary. Your interest in our past association is more acute than warranted. Take, for example, your insistence on knowing whether or not we had fornicated.”
She was not looking at him, she was not looking at him-
“It was an innocent question! I was just curious.”
“It was jealousy. We confirmed it with your minion.”
“Okay, seriously, I’m going to kill him.”
“I would object to that,” said Illyria. “He has his uses. Regarding the fornication, you were relieved when I said we had not.”
“There was no relief. Fornicate with Spike all you want!”
Even not looking at him, she saw his scarred eyebrow shoot up.
“Or d-don't,” she stuttered.
“You also talk about him when we are sparring or hunting,” said Eldre. “You prefer his methods and his companionship.”
“No, I- I like you all equally.”
“Then why, four nights ago, when I adequately dispatched a zompire, did you insist on showing me a specific kick Spike had once used to great effect? Why do you expound upon the times you and Spike-” He made peace signs with his fingers and waved them in the air. “‘Thought outside the box,’ in a manner clearly designed to encourage us to do the same?”
Buffy opened her mouth. Nothing came out.
“And when you and the human law enforcer were fornicating and he accompanied us on patrol, you often corrected his technique and referred to Spike’s as an example,” said Illyria.
She couldn’t keep from darting a glance at Spike; he no longer looked nearly as bemused.
“We were told that after your relationship with the enforcer ended, you said you wished you had a partner who shared your ability to fight, like Spike.”
“Let me guess,” growled Buffy. “My minion.”
“Your sister,” said Eldre.
“The vampire is better suited to you as a fighting partner than either the enforcer or us,” said Illyria. “You break Dowling and Eldre too easily; I break you too easily.
“Besides talking about him at unnecessary length and frequency, you also look for him at every opportunity.”
“You pay extra attention to men with hair of the same hue. You stare at them longer than is necessary and often with an expression of regret."”
“That is ridic-”
“When you see human aircrafts in the sky you wonder if they are Spike's ship,” said Eldre.
“That's called a joke,” said Buffy loudly. “And I've only done that once or twice.”
“Nine times in my presence alone,” said Illyria. “And the frequency increased after you ended your relationship with the enforcer. Three times before and six after. Do you impugn my memory?”
“I’ll impugn all of you,” Buffy muttered.
Illyria stared at her for a moment, eyes narrowed, and then said, “In conclusion, your pining was tiresome. The Nitobe and I decided to do something about it.” She paused. “Our point is made.”
Nobody spoke. Gazing from under her lashes, Buffy was able to see that Spike was staring at his boots. She didn’t know what she wanted to see on his face- delight? hope?- but the anxiety he couldn’t hide put her stomach in knots.
Illyria and Eldre were both staring at them expectantly. The silence was almost worse than the speech-ifying.
“Perhaps their reunion will be more enthusiastic without our presence,” Eldre finally murmured.
“Perhaps,” said Illyria. “We will leave you now. My pet, it is pleasurable to see you again. I look forward to subjugating you as I used to. Slayer, I shall see you tomorrow at our usual appointed time.
She lingered for a moment, as though accepting tacit acknowledgment, and then nodded to Eldre and began walking away. Eldre followed. Only when they had disappeared into the darkness did Buffy manage to clear her throat.
“I-” She cleared it again, forcing herself to look at him; well, at his nose anyway; no direct eye contact. “I’m sorry about- that. I didn’t know…I’m sorry they dragged you back here. You were probably busy. And everything they said was- greatly exaggerated.”
“I understand," he said, much too readily.
Take it back. Take it back, take it back, take it back-
“How did Illyria contact you?” she said instead.
He blinked. “Uh…she had a device. Communicator of some sort. It came with the ship. She was with me when I met the bugs. I’d forgotten she had it.”
“She could have mentioned that,” Buffy muttered. Her cheeks warmed when he raised an eyebrow.
Part of her wanted him to prod her about it, but instead he said, “So…you and Dowling?”
“He seemed like a-” For a second he seemed to grimace. His tone was sincere, though, if reluctant, when he finished, “Good guy.”
Buffy swallowed. “He is a good guy. But it, uh, didn’t work out.”
“No, don’t be. I- did you…meet anyone?”
“Yeah. Didn’t last.”
It stung, the fact that he’d been with another woman; that he had tried to move on. She knew she had no right to be hurt, not when she’d done the same with Robert, but- well- it did hurt.
And it made her feel not a little possessive and, maybe, not quite as (scared) uncertain.
She licked her lips, willing herself not to blush and already knowing it was a lost cause. “Before…it might not all have been exaggerated.”
His gaze jerked to hers, eyes wide. His Adam’s apple bobbed convulsively. His voice was hoarse when he spoke.
“You know I…I mean, I felt- not that I was- but- I- I missed you. Too.”
Her stomach swooped up, as though she were approaching the apex of a roller coaster. She waited, trying not to hold her breath.
He took an unnecessary breath. “So…how have you been? How’s slaying? How’s the nibblet?” He glanced at the warehouse behind them. “The Siphon turn up again?”
Her stomach fell, but not in the pleasant, ride-of-your-life kind of way. “Yeah. It was more bark than bite this time, but we’re on the lookout. Dawn’s fine. And slaying…it’s good. We have some new guys helping out. A lot’s happened while you were gone.”
Spike nodded, seeming unsurprised. He looked around again, and she told herself he wasn’t doing it just to avoid looking at her. “It’s weird to be back.”
She bit her lip. “On Earth?”
“Oh, I guess. Meant here, though. I just love revisiting places I almost died."
It was the opening Buffy hadn't realized she was searching for. She took a deep breath. “So...you wanna take off?” He looked affronted, and she realized how that had sounded. “I mean...do you want to go somewhere else? Want to...” Her heart leapt into her throat. “Get coffee?”
He stared at her for several seconds, long enough for her cheeks to heat and her hands to grow sweaty. This was a mistake. He was over her. Maybe she could play it off, tack on a 'just as friends'-
“Coffee? This time of night?” His tone was carefully neutral. "Isn't that, uh, not normal?”
Her insides tingled in a not unpleasant way. She bit her lip to keep from grinning like a fool. There wasn't a reason to grin- not yet- that is-
“It's all relative,” she said, aiming for breezy. “Besides, it could be decaf. Or something else entirely. There's a 24-hour diner nearby. Pancakes, waffles. Anything you could wa- well, not blood.”
She would have frowned if a smile hadn't started to spread across his face.
“I like pancakes,” he said, and a feeling of warmth shot through her. “Lead the way.”