Spoils Of War
by Minim Calibre

He's waiting in the wreckage of her living room when she returns to the house.

"Tell me how to kill him." Flat voice, no preamble.

She doesn't have time for this. The girls are waiting, Giles is waiting, the end of the world is waiting, but not for long. It never waits for long. She raises weary eyes to his, ready to tell him as much, but freezes when she gets a good look at him.

Thin has turned to downright gaunt, and he's aged a decade in the handful of years since she saw him last. There are shadows under his eyes and bruises fresh and old on his cheeks so she can't tell what's from exhaustion and what's from injury.

When a minute or more passes and she still hasn't answered, he speaks again. "Tell me how to kill someone who wears the face of a loved one, Buffy. Tell me how you did it; I need to know."

Laughing or crying, one of the two, seems to be the right response, but she can't manage either. She can't be hearing this, not now, not with what she's up against. "What happened, Wesley?"

"Angelus happened. I trust you remember what that was like."

And she realizes that she knew it the moment he opened his mouth. There's a how and a when and maybe even a who missing. She doesn't want to find them; it's bad enough knowing the what.

"Fire, stake, beheading, forced ingestion of Holy Water in a pinch. You know all this, so why are you here? I can't help you, not now." Maybe not ever.

"You're the only one who can. You're the only one who's had to do it."

There's no easy way to answer him. If there was, she'd tell him what he needs to hear and go about her business. She never thought she'd have to tell a Watcher how to kill a vampire.

A Watcher.

Well, ex-Watcher, if she wants to get technical, but right now, pretty much all of them are ex-Watchers. At least this one's still breathing, even if he looks like death warmed over. She wonders if he knows just how lucky he was, getting canned.

"You want to know how to kill him? Fine, I'll tell you, but I need your help with something."

"Buffy, I have an apocalypse on my hands and Angelus loose in Los Angeles. I don't even have the time it's taken me to come and ask for your help."

"And I have an apocalypse on my hands, a few scared potential Slayers hiding out at an undisclosed location, and the First trying to kill us all where we sleep. The world's ending. What else is new?"

Something's gotten through, and she sees him go paler, revealing still more bruises. "Where are their Watchers?" Calm, quiet words, the kind of calm that means hysteria is waiting around the corner. Shit.

"Dead. Council HQ blew up."

She's not prepared for his reaction, for seeing his knees buckle and his arms reach into nothingness looking for something to grab hold of. She manages to get to him before he falls and helps him to one of the less-damaged chairs. Hopefully it will hold his weight, not that there's much of him for it to hold.

Belatedly, she realizes he probably had friends who were killed in the blast.

"Family, actually." She must have spoken out loud, either that or what she was thinking was written in huge letters on her face. Family. She should have known.


"Don't be. He wasn't much of a loss. Besides, I've been dead to him for some time." But he's shaking, whatever blood was left in his face has drained from it, and the words sound more like he's trying to convince himself than like he believes them.

"Wesley?" He looks up at the sound of his voice, lost and bewildered. She needs to snap him out of it if he's going to be any use to them, any use back in his part of the end times, but she can tell harsh won't work, not right now. "When did you last eat?"

His brow furrows as he puzzles it out. "I found her last week. I'd just had a sandwich--chicken and lettuce on brown bread, because that was the only thing left at the only establishment open." Enough blood returns to his face for it to flush slightly. "But it didn't stay down, not after I found her. He wrapped her in plastic and left her for me to find." A bubble of humorless laughter escapes his lips. "Quite thoughtful of him, really."

"You haven't eaten in a week?"

"Four days."

"When's the last time you slept?"

"Last night." Before she can feel relief, he continues. "For about twenty minutes."

She does some rapid calculations. They still have a couple of hours before sunset. "You need to eat, and when you're done eating, you need to sleep."

When she realizes he's too shattered to even nod, she goes to the kitchen and searches for something edible. They cleared out most of the food when they went into hiding, but she finds some stale peanut butter and staler bread. In his state, she doubts he'll even be able to taste it, so she makes a couple of sandwiches, sets them on a plate, and grabs a glass of water for good measure. She's right. He chews and swallows, but the food might as well be cardboard for as much as it registers.

After he's finished, she pulls him gently to his feet and leads him upstairs to her room. Helps him get his shoes off and get under the comforter. He's asleep almost as soon as he's horizontal. And almost as soon as he's asleep, he starts thrashing, struggling against something or someone.

This is ridiculous. She needs him rested and lucid, and a couple hours spent trapped in nightmare country isn't going to get him any closer to either, as she knows from bitter experience. Knows it the same way she knows what will work.

G-d knows, it won't be the worst sacrifice she's ever made.

She strips quickly, efficiently, and crawls into the bed. It's easy enough getting him undressed: he wakes up when she's got his shirt tangled around his chest and helps her get the rest off. No words, just frantic hands and needy kisses from dry, cracked lips followed by hard, urgent sex. She wonders if he's even aware enough of his surroundings to know who he's with.

While he sleeps, she dresses and gathers the last of the weapons and supplies from the chest--they're what she came here for in the first place. She puts them in a duffel bag and sets them next to the door so she can grab them when it's time to go. Makes a list of things they need researched to send with him to Los Angeles. Half an hour before sunset, she wakes him.

"You want to know how to kill him? Don't think about him, about what he means to you. Focus on what will happen if you don't kill him, on all the people you love who will die because of him. It'll be easier for you, because he's still Angelus, but that doesn't mean it will be easy." She hands him the list. "Here's everything I can think of that we need answered. My cell number's on the bottom. When you're done in L.A., call it."

He nods. As he puts his clothes back on, she can see that the injuries to his face are minor compared to the rest of them. She reaches into the duffel and grabs a length of bandaging. "Sit down," she orders. He complies, and she binds his ribs, then pulls his shirt back down.

"Thank you." A lot of meaning in two terse words, some bad, some good.

"Go," she tells him. "Do what you need to do."

When he's gone, she grabs the bag and lets herself out of the house. She hopes she's done the right thing. They're going to need all the help they can get if they want to get through this.


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