Thank you to enigmaticblues for running this festival of Spuffy, and slackerace for the quick beta work. (And always thanks to rabid1st, just 'cause.)
WARNING: torture and disturbing imagery
Standard disclaimer: The characters aren't mine, just the story.
Blurb: "How is a vampire who won't talk like an apple?"
The change came upon him in its usual blinding rush.
When he was suppressed, he wasn't aware of time or space. He was barely aware of his existence. Which was just as well. The few times he'd been able to press his consciousness forward enough to see what Glory was doing with his -- her -- their body, he'd been sickened, horrified to be walking around -- however passively and unwillingly -- inside that. Beyond the discombobulation of being in a shorter, curvier, and freakishly strong female body, he could feel the ugly mire of her diseased mind against his own, a caustic and catastrophic being of unimaginable power and malice. The humans and other... things... she interacted with had no idea. In this dimension, her malevolence outstripped her power by a factor of god.
He hadn't been able to assert himself in a long time. She was getting stronger, and ever since she'd discovered she could brain-suck people to retain her hold, he'd been out the driver's seat for days at a time. The hospital had warned him, and eventually put him on probation over his missed shifts. Who knew how long he'd been out this time, whether he still had a job --
All these concerns vanished as his eyes and optical centers became his own again.
She'd killed someone. He couldn't tell who it was, but it was -- had been -- a human being.
Looking around frantically, he registered that her minions were nowhere to be seen. They must have fled from her rage.
Frantically, he wiped the blood on his hands onto Glory's fancy dress, then tore it off and barreled into his own small room. Clothes, clothes... on him, and into a duffel, and stuffing the bloody dress into a pocket, and not touching anything, can't leave any prints...
Creating a few more crazies in this town was one thing, shove 'em out the door and no one the wiser. When the numbers had started to get out of hand and raise questions, he'd summoned the Queller. But now she'd gone and committed murder in their home. He had to get out of here.
Xander came huffing down the hall outside Glory's apartment as Buffy exited, winded from running up the stairs behind her. "Did he squeal?"
Buffy shook her head, not meeting Xander's gaze. "He didn't talk."
She made a distracted 'see for yourself' gesture. Xander shouldered past her into the apartment.
She heard a gag. A muttered, "oh Jesus."
He reappeared beside her, pale and shaken.
She gave a sad half-smile. "Kinda obvious."
"Jesus Christ," Xander repeated, reduced in his horror to parroting the profanities of his parents' drunken fights. "Oh holy fuck." He hunched over bracing his hands on his knees, breathed deep and fast.
Buffy wasn't sure if it was nausea, tears, or total freak-out he was fighting back. She'd had to choke down bile when she'd seen what Glory had done to Spike, then turned her back and fled.
For having felt so disconnected that she'd gone on a spiritual quest, she was feeling plenty of things since she'd returned from it, all courtesy of this damnable vampire. First she'd wanted to murder him for the violation of creating and using her sexbot twin. One might have said she'd wanted to flay him alive.
Only Glory really had.
Now her emotions were in tumult, awe and gratitude swamped by stunned horror.
When she thought she was under control, she ventured back into a room transformed by atrocity. Glory's palatial apartment had become a dungeon worthy of the Spanish Inquisition; the prisoner, one conscience-less, perverted, lovesick, heroic neutered vampire.
He hung there like a carcass on a hook in a butcher shop, less human than human remains, an exquisite atrocity of gore.
It reminded her of prints in Giles' books, blood-soaked paintings of victims of Vlad the Impaler.
Looking up at him, she made a snap decision. They had to leave.
Spike might be able to survive this, but none of her other friends could. To have done this to him, Glory must have seriously come to the end of her patience. Buffy didn't know where the god had gone, or why she'd disappeared for days and weeks in the past, but they couldn't wait around for the next time she decided to torture one of Buffy's friends for fun and profit.
Glory hadn't gotten her answers, but they still had to get out of town. Today.
In short order the rest of the Scoobies arrived and had their own horrified reactions. "Oh god" seemed to be a recurring theme, as did nausea. Willow kept gulping and stammering. Tenderhearted Tara seemed to be on the verge of tears. Even Anya, who must have seen (and done) worse in her millennia of vengeance looked disturbed and frightened.
On seeing him, the blissful 'bot chirped, "Yuck!" Apparently, without his skin, Spike baffled her visual recognition algorithms.
Giles, of course, was among the quickest to compose himself. Almost immediately, he drew her aside.
"Buffy, have you considered just -- " he trailed away.
She gave him a blank, uncomprehending look.
"It might be a kindness."
She seemed to draw in and gather herself as she understood. Then on a breath, she expanded. "I can't, Giles." She waved his next words away before they were spoken. "I know. But Glory did this to him, and I can't -- can't finish her work."
Eyes back on the barbarity before them, Giles' curt nod indicated only understanding, not agreement.
She opened her mouth to promise that if, after he regained consciousness, Spike asked her to, she'd end it for him. Then closed her mouth. She couldn't promise that. She knew he could well ask, and the mercenary Slayer in her balked at killing -- even in mercy -- an ally who had proven his value so spectacularly.
And another part of her simply didn't want to countenance the the idea of Spike not being in the world. With him currently doing his best impersonation of The Visible Man, all her usual arguments about Spike being her strongest fighter were, for the foreseeable future, moot. But the idea of him being gone -- never again watching her sister or watching her back, giving her insight or giving her lip -- hurt her in a region suspiciously close to her heart.
An hour ago, she'd been ready to kill him. Not just because she was sure he was betraying her sister, but because his cattle-prodding, robot-building shenanigans had convinced her that his occasional impersonation of a person was a substance-less fraud. That he was, at heart, a mercurial trickster who didn't know the meaning of love, or loyalty, and was all the more dangerous because he thought he did.
Well, his literal heart wasn't quite on display -- Glory hadn't cut that deep -- and literally, it was quite still. But figuratively it beat all around them, filling the room, the building, everywhere her eyes could see, remonstrating and reproaching her with its true nature.
Spike could love.
And in the face of that reality, nearly as earth-shaking as his mutilated state, she couldn't -- simply couldn't -- wipe him and it away. It would be too much like erasing the inconvenient, uncomfortable -- and wow was it uncomfortable -- reality of his love and sacrifice.
[Continue to Chapter 2]
A fic of mine from a previous round, La Meilleure Revanche, has won Best Angst Het at the Absence of Light Awards. Assuming someone here nominated me, thank you very much!