Thanks, yourlibrarian, for your prompt beta-reading and infinite patience!
Title: That Good Night (part 12 of ?)
Rating: NC-17 (barely)
Pairing: Spike/Xander, ensemble
Continuity info: This is the sixth story in the Fragments 'verse, fitting in immediately after Before the Time of Dawn.
Summary: A couple of years post-NFA, Spike is human, and it isn’t working out so well. He and Xander are currently in Sao Paulo, where Willow has just had a baby and a new vampire problem is looming.
Warnings: This story will get dark at times. Definitely angsty, h/c with lots of hurt. Character death will most definitely be threatened, and I'd rather not say what comes of it (though if you're terribly worried, ask me privately).
Previous chapters [here].
This update is about 2000 words; the total length now stands at about 40,000.
If you’d like email notification of updates, please let me know either in comments or by email at shadowscast at yahoo dot com.
I hope to bring you the next chapter in less than a year! (Woohoo, setting the bar nice and low!)
Gabriel was smaller than Buffy remembered. That must be the difference between standing in an alley with a knife and lying in a hospital bed. He was curled up on his side, awake, staring into space with a sullen glare. He didn’t acknowledge Kennedy and Buffy until Kennedy yanked the privacy curtain around the bed, cutting the three of them off from the ward. Then he muttered something under his breath. Kennedy raised an eyebrow and said something that made him roll his eyes.
“Hey, translation for the Portuguese-impaired?” Buffy prodded her.
“Right,” Kennedy said, impatiently. “So far we’ve established that I’m a cunt, and he’s a nasty little beast.”
Buffy flashed a conciliatory smile in Gabriel’s direction. “Could you try being nice to him so maybe he’ll talk to us? Just, you know, an idea.”
Kennedy grimaced. She said something else to Gabriel, and he snarled a response. The information-getting plan did not seem to be going well.
Stuck listening without understanding, Buffy watched Gabriel as Kennedy persisted in questioning him. His arms were scrawny, with scabbed elbows; his shaggy black hair needed some serious lather, rinse, repeat. She guessed he was homeless.
She tried to imagine what it would be like to be that young, lost and alone. She couldn’t, really. Even when she’d been a teenaged runaway herself, the closest she’d come to roughing it had been a few nights in an L.A. youth hostel.
“Tell him I can give him a home,” she said abruptly.
Kennedy gave her a startled, puzzled look. “What?”
“If he’ll tell us what Carlos is up to, tell us where the nest is, then I’ll take him back to Rome.”
“Are you serious?”
“Sure.” Buffy thought fast, justifying the plan in her own mind as she spoke. “The Council’s all set up with the residential school for new Slayers. No reason he couldn’t live there too. He could train as a Watcher. Andrew would love to have a protégé.”
Kennedy looked supremely unconvinced. “What makes you think this kid would want to be a Watcher? Last night he looked ready to join the fucking vampires.”
“Just try to make it sound good,” Buffy said. “It’s gotta be better than what he’s got now.”
From the tone of Kennedy’s voice as she addressed Gabriel again, Buffy guessed that she wasn’t trying her hardest to sell the idea. The change in Gabriel’s expression gave Buffy hope, however. He said something. Kennedy turned back to Buffy. “He says he wants a gun.”
Gabriel’s eyes were fixed on Buffy now; he knew who he was negotiating with. He was trying to look tough, Buffy thought, but he looked so young. “He can have a gun, sure. If he goes back to Rome and trains as a Watcher.”
“I don’t believe this,” Kennedy muttered, but she repeated the offer for Gabriel; Buffy could pick out the word “Rome” in the middle of the unintelligible sentence.
Gabriel smiled like he’d just been offered an ice cream cone. “Okay!” he said, looking right at Buffy. “Okay.” He held out a hand like he wanted her to shake it. She reached out and sealed the deal with a firm handshake; Gabriel beamed, and Buffy grinned a little herself.
“This may just be the worst plan you’ve ever come up with,” Kennedy said.
“Not even close,” Buffy assured her. “Now, ask him about Carlos.”
Now that they had a deal, Gabriel chatted easily. “Carlos is building an army,” Kennedy translated. “All children. Street kids, mostly. Gabriel says the kids want to get vamped. He and his friend did, anyway. Carlos promises them power like they’ve never dreamed of. He promises them the chance to kill the police, to kill everybody they hate.”
“Oh God. How many of them are there?”
“He says hundreds. I think he doesn’t really know. We caught him before he could join up.”
“Where are they?”
Kennedy relayed the question, but Buffy didn’t need to wait for a translation of Gabriel’s answer.
“Can you believe it?” Buffy asked as they left the free clinic. “After all that, the nest is in the exact place we were going to look for it yesterday?”
“At least now we have a better idea what we’re facing.” Kennedy waved down a cab for them. “What are you going to do about Gabriel?”
“I’ll have to talk to Giles about making him some travel documents.”
“You’re seriously going to bring him to Rome?”
“Well, I said I would, didn’t I?”
Kennedy shook her head in a you’ve lost it, girl, kind of way. “He’ll run away. Hopefully before you even get back to him, so he’ll save us all the trouble, but more likely he’ll wait till he gets to Rome and then run off with the first weapon he gets his hands on.”
“No he won’t,” Buffy said. “I’m giving him a home—a place to belong.”
Kennedy made an exasperated little noise, tapping the cab’s window with her fingernails. “Okay, never mind. The important thing is, we need a plan for attacking Carlos’s gang.”
“Oh, do we ever. Gabriel was probably wrong about the number of vamps, but I bet the group we dusted last night was less than half of them.”
“Our fighting strength is down to me and you. Oz and Willow are out of it.”
“And so are Spike and Xander,” Buffy agreed. “But hey, these mini-vamps aren’t as strong as the normal kind. We could probably take, like, ten each if they don’t see us coming.”
“But there might be more than that. And I bet Carlos and his inner circle will be closer to full-sized. Maybe we should call in reinforcements?”
Buffy shook her head. “The longer we wait, the more time they have to vamp more kids. And besides ... I’m not sure if reinforcements would be such a good idea.” To Kennedy’s quizzical look, she explained, “The rest of the Slayers are younger and newer than us. Fighting vamps that look like kids gives me a serious wiggins. I don’t know how many of the girls could handle it.”
Kennedy conceded the point with a nod. Buffy thought she’d maybe won her over a little with that you-and-me-versus-the-other-Slayers bit. It was true though—except for Faith, who was somewhere in Siberia, Kennedy was the closest Buffy had to a peer.
“So we’re it,” Kennedy said. “Okay. We’re going to need one hell of a good plan.”
Sadly, a good plan did not pop out of the shadows and throw itself at their feet on the way home. So they explained the situation to Xander and Willow, who were hanging out in the living room with the sleeping baby.
“Oh, God,” Willow said, “Those poor kids.”
Kennedy sat down beside her and put an arm around Willow’s shoulders. “Yeah, well, it’ll be poor us if we don’t stop them.”
“Maybe you should do some proper recon first,” Xander suggested. “Get a better idea of the layout, the actual numbers.”
Buffy shook her head. “It’d be hard to get in and out without being noticed.”
Xander looked thoughtful. “If you could find a choke point, like a doorway or something, the two of you could hold off a whole lot of vamps.”
“That might work, if we had some way to drive them out of the building,” Buffy mused. “Like, if we set it on fire—hey, could we just set the building on fire?”
“Too dangerous,” Kennedy said. “The buildings in the favela are all crowded together and flammable.”
“Besides, what if there are kids in there?” Willow said. “I mean, other recruits like Gabriel who haven’t been vamped yet?”
Buffy groaned. “I hadn’t even thought of that!”
“If they’re anything like Gabriel, those kids can take care of themselves,” Kennedy said. She didn’t sound terribly sympathetic.
Willow gave her an appalled look. “They’re children!”
“What we need is some way to take out the vamps without risking any civilians,” Xander said. “Think maybe we can get our hands on a blessed tanker truck? Flood the place with holy water?”
“Hey,” Buffy perked up, “That’s a great idea!”
Xander spread his hands. “I was joking. Where the hell would we get a tanker truck, to start with?”
“Oh, oh, I know!” Willow said. “I’ve been working on this sun ball spell...”
“Not that again,” Kennedy groaned. “Honey, you’ve been working on that spell for, like, years. It doesn’t work.”
“No, seriously, I almost had it last time.”
“Is this the same spell you were working on back in Sunnydale?” Buffy asked, tugging at vague memories of long-ago planning sessions. “The one where you use your light spell to make real sunlight, full of vitamin D and vamp-dusty goodness? That would’ve been so awesome. If it ever worked.”
“It will work,” Willow said. “It’s been done before. I found an old wizard’s notes in the attic of the Rome offices last time I was there. I just didn’t have time to finish working out the bugs before I got pregnant.”
“Bugs,” Kennedy repeated. “Like a sunburn over 95% of your body?”
Willow made a pshaw noise. “I’m a redhead from California. I laugh in the face of sunburn.”
Kennedy’s skepticism didn’t faze Buffy much. Experience said that if Willow thought she could do something, then she could. “Can you have it ready by tomorrow?” she asked.
“Are you kidding?” Kennedy said, moving protectively closer to Willow. “We have a new baby, remember? Willow’s a little busy.”
“There’s one of her and six of us,” Willow said to Kennedy. “I have to feed her, but if the rest of you take care of everything else, I’ll have time. I mean, if you have any better ideas, I’m right here with my ears.” She paused a moment to make her point, and then nodded. “All right. I nursed Tara right before you two got home, so she should be good for another couple of hours. If anybody needs me, I’ll be in the carport.”
Spike and Oz got back a little while later. Buffy awkwardly averted her eyes as Spike went straight to Xander and gave him a kiss. Unfortunately, this left her with a clear view of Kennedy’s affectionate greeting of Oz—only a hug and a kiss on the cheek, but knowing what she knew now it made Buffy blush.
“How did it go?” Xander asked immediately. He seemed to be asking Oz as much as Spike, but Oz just gave a little shrug.
“The nice lady doctor gave me a new prescription for meds,” Spike said. “Should help.”
“And some tests,” Oz added.
“She seemed to have a perverted interest in my blood, but it’s all right, I made sure I could see her reflection in the window,” Spike said.
“What do you mean?” asked Xander, apparently missing the joke that even Buffy had caught.
“Shh, luv,” Spike petted Xander’s cheek, “It’ll all be fine.”
“Where’s Willow?” Oz asked.
“Outside, working on the sun ball spell,” Kennedy said, sounding resigned to it.
“The one that never works?”
“She says it’ll work this time.”
“Okay.” Oz went over to the bassinet. “How’s Tara?”
Kennedy smiled. “Sleepy. Adorable.”
Buffy watched Oz and Kennedy just gaze into the bassinet and glow for a while. When it started to get weird, she turned to Spike and Xander, but they were gone. She heard their bedroom door closing.
Lonely. That was what she was feeling. She swallowed, smiled, and said, “I’ve got to call Giles and make the arrangements for Gabriel. I’ll be in the kitchen.”
Kennedy and Oz didn't even watch her go.