Journeys Part Two: Awakenings
Sequel to Journeys; part of Journeys Series
Just do it.
Tara’s hand reached out, but she immediately snatched it
Ask Buffy or Dawn to help
you. You know Buffy would be willing to help as soon as she gets home. Or you
could drag Dawn off the phone now, for that matter. Neither one of them would
mind. Maybe you could just ask one of them to take over the whole job.
Do you want someone else
going through her things? Another part
of her argued.
So just do it.
Tara forced herself to reach for Willow’s moss green
blouse. The one with the delicately embroidered Celtic Knots on the sleeves. It
had looked so good on her…
Tara firmed her lips and pulled it off the hanger.
“Remember to let me do the talking, Slayer.”
“You’ve reminded me three times
in the last five minutes.”
“Yeah? Guess I’ve seen how well
you take direction.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Lead on,
Spike grasped the door handle.
“‘m jes’ sayin’ – it’s not Willy’s, and we don’t know what to expect. Anyone in
there harkens on to you being the Slayer, there could be trouble.”
“You mean I can’t announce it
like I usually do when I walk into a room full of demons?” Thinking she may
have done just that at some time in the past, Buffy hurried on before Spike
could remind her of the specifics. “How many demon bars are there in Sunnydale,
This was the third one they’d
visited in the last two hours as they tried to get information on the
Vpastus’zyn demon that had attacked Dawn. They should have skipped Willy’s altogether,
and the second place they’d tried had also been a total loss. Unless you wanted
to count the unforgettable experience of seeing those two KaraphXionin demons
having sex on one of the pool tables. Buffy still wasn’t sure if there had been
two males, two females, one of each, or… Did some demons have more than two
sexes? Because that could explain some of the, um…
“Hard to say.” Spike’s words interrupted
her train of thought, and it took her a moment to figure out if he was
following her musings on the KaraphXionin demons or if… “They can come and go
in the blink of an eye.”
Oh yeah. Demon bars. Number of.
“Sadly, I know you mean that
Spike pulled the door open and
held it for her. As she moved past him to step into the bar, he leaned close.
“They have five separate sexes, love,” he said softly. “I’ll explain all the –
ins and outs – of it later. Maybe demonstrate some of the more interesting
bits, too; make sure you’re absorbing the knowledge.”
Buffy gave him a ‘look’, but he
only smirked in return. “We both know you tend to get more out of ‘hands on’
teaching methods than you do from lectures,” he said. The smirk intensified. “Even
if you do seem to enjoy the – talking.”
Since she couldn’t think of a
quippy reply, and wasn’t sure she’d be able to get one out without squeaking like
Dawn on caffeine even if she could, Buffy made a show of getting down to
business by studying the crowd.
‘Tuck’s Place’ as the sign
outside had named the establishment, was probably only about half the size of
the main floor of the Bronze, and if trendy, high class demon bars existed,
this was not one of them. The bare wooden floors were rough, and unless you counted
the fact that the vinyl covering them was torn in somewhat coordinating
patterns, the bar stools didn’t match the chairs surrounding the tables,
anything else in the bar, or each other. The bar itself, though, was made of
beautifully carved oak, and looked like an antique that had been treated well
over the years. It was busy, too, surrounded by a large, noisy, diverse, and apparently
very thirsty demon crowd.
We’ll get some information
here, Buffy thought.
Spike seemed to agree. “Looks
promising,” he said.
His eyes were making their own careful
sweep of the crowd, and she knew he was speculating on where trouble, if it was
going to come, was most likely to start up. A few patrons were studying them in
return, but for the most part, they were being ignored.
Spike inclined his head toward
the juke box. “Why don’t you check out the music, give me a few minutes?”
Buffy nodded. She knew that, in
the past, she would have ignored, and probably resented, Spike’s suggestion,
but she was coming to understand that he was much better at this pumping for information
thing than she was. Not that he was completely subtle, but since she totally
sucked at anything even approaching subtle, he definitely had the edge on her.
He understood the demon mindset better than she ever would, too.
Less than fifteen minutes had
passed when she first noticed it. She’d flipped through the cards of musical
selections on the old fashioned juke box; had concluded that demons seemed to
like the same music as the average Bronze crowd, and was wondering if that
should worry her or not, when her senses went on alert. There was an
undercurrent; a wave of some kind of awareness running through the
Buffy straightened up, cocking
her head as she tried to pick up snippets from the various conversations taking
place around her.
“Can’t be. Too short.”
“I’m telling you, that’s
“…think the stories…”
“…only a vamp. Tainted blood.”
“Like you’re so pure, Moia-skin.”
“Every vamp with fangs and
wrinklies makes the same claim soon… … mean a thing.”
“And a master.”
A pause. “Early night for me.
“Yeah, let’s go.”
“…the blond one.”
“… kills his own kind. And
ours. Should be…”
“… said he killed seven
demons in ten seconds flat …”
“They say he’s…”
“Who the fuck says that?
They’re just a figment… paranoid…”
“… take a chance on that?”
“…should challenge him. Up my
“For once, just take my
advice and stay the hell out of his way. Street cred doesn’t mean fuck-all when
Buffy turned slowly toward the
bar, careful not to attract any attention. What the heck was going on? Short.
Blond. Vamp. Why was everyone muttering about Spike? She didn’t like the
quiver that ran along her nerve endings. Up my street cred she could
handle, but if there was a problem here, some mob-type explosion of demony
violence, the odds were going to be majorly stacked against them.
Maybe they should have an
Her eyes sought out Spike.
They found him.
She blinked. Stared. Blinked
He was – posing.
He was posing.
With the bartender.
He. Was. Posing. For. Pictures.
With. The. Bartender.
luv.” Spike accepted the cup of blood from one of the assistant bartenders, a
very pretty little Zyrya demon, who’d introduced herself as Coquine. Stacked
too, he noted, and proud of it. His eyes lingered appreciatively on her amply displayed
Tuck told him. “I remembered.”
wished he could. He’d obviously been here before and had made some kind of
impression, one that hadn’t left the bartender swearing to kill him if he ever
darkened the doorstep again. But he didn’t have a bloody clue when it had
happened or just what that impression was.
for a Vpastus’zyn demon,” Spike continued their earlier conversation. “Got word
someone hired one of the tossers to take me out. Thought I’d get there first.”
huh? Pretty rare in these parts.”
‘m hoping that’ll make this one stand out a bit more.”
to stay inconspicuous when you’re that big and ugly,” Tuck agreed, and
something in his tone had Spike’s eyes narrowing. This bloke knew just where
his quarry could be found.
kept his voice casual. “Wouldn’t know, personally, being neither, but you have
Tuck called to the other assistant bartender. “Get me those invoices that need
she asked, her tone incredulous. “Kinda busy here.”
now,” he growled. He looked back at Spike as the Marala demon
disappeared into the back room. “Help,” he said, obviously expecting Spike to
understand his labor problems.
nodded, even though he’d never run a business. Eaten his share of businessmen,
he supposed, but it wasn’t quite the same thing, was it? If dealing with
employees was anything like dealing with minions, though… His expression became
a favor to ask,” Tuck went on.
scarred brow rose.
bartender nodded toward a wall behind the bar plastered with pictures of himself
posing with a wide variety of demons, some rather well known. “You mind?”
hell… “You want a picture of me?”
information for you… Tuck might just as well have said it out loud.
returned with a clipboard of paperwork and her boss scribbled away on several
things while Coquine, who apparently served as the official Tuck’s Place photographer,
fetched a camera.
turned out Tuck was definitely a bloke with his ear to the ground. And he
became right chatty while the camera was flashing.
stop back and autograph these next week, right?” Tuck asked.
kept the distaste off his face with an effort. He was working hard to convince
himself that the humiliation of being on display this way was worth it when he
glanced to Coquine’s right and saw his Slayer watching. Arms crossed, head
tilted to the side, grim expression. Oh, yeah, she was brassed off good and
proper, which, generally speaking, tended to make her a bit unpredictable.
with you in a minute, pet.”
brilliant, you wanker. Could hardly have taken a worse tack, could you? But if
Buffy would just give him another minute or two, he could probably get the
names, bios, and, quite possibly, the security codes, if any, of every power
dealer in town. Information it might be handy to have.
Go with me on this, love. >> It had worked during their debriefing of the
bit, hadn’t it?
glared. She was damned good at it, too.
eyed her speculatively. “You the Slayer?”
head turned slowly, dangerously, in his direction. Her expression didn’t change,
but Tuck didn’t appear in the least intimidated. “You wanna be in the pictures
think ‘no’ is not a strong enough word.”
one?” he wheedled.
would sooo be OneTwoMany.”
bartender was looking Buffy up and down, and Spike could practically see the
thoughts bouncing about in the fellow’s brain. When his eyes went to the
dartboard and back to Buffy, Spike almost groaned. Time to head this disaster
off at the pass.
a mo’,” he excused himself. His hand curled around Buffy’s upper arm and he
drew her aside, bending to speak to her privately.
the hell do you think you’re doing?” she hissed.
think I’m trying to get information.” He bit out the response and turned
away from her in a swirl of black leather. Stupid bint should know he was
working the situation.
doesn’t like to be ignored,” Spike explained to Tuck, man to man.
bartender’s eyes ran over Buffy’s slim body again as she strode rigidly back
toward the jukebox. They lingered on her ass.
don’t like to ignore her either,” the vampire went on. “And just so we’re clear,
I don’t much like it when other blokes don’t.”
quickly rearranged his face, and Spike took advantage of the moment.
about done here?” he asked.
He dismissed Coquine wordlessly. “You’ve been good for business,” he said. “I
pay my debts.”
Spike’s eyes swept around the room one more time, but he knew it would be
fruitless. The place wasn’t arousing any memories at all. Neither was the
barkeep. But if he felt he was in his debt, Spike was smart enough to take
advantage of the misconception.
a sharp motion, Tara folded down the top of the last box.
Damn you, Willow. Damn you.
I will not cry.
She lifted the box and carried
it into the hall where she added it to the pile. Xander was going to pick them
up sometime tomorrow and deliver them to the Rosenberg’s. Sheila Rosenberg had asked, quite pointedly, that the
rest of them not stop by.
I will not cry.
I’m too angry. In fact, I’m
******* furious. And I have every right to be.
Tara went back
into the bedroom she had shared with Willow since
Buffy’s death last spring and started packing up the redhead’s books.
it turned out, did not sit well with him.
was one thing to have been heard of – bit of a reputation, a touch of notoriety,
could be a good thing, but this…
flirting… Well, he could probably live with that. Tuck’s fawning, though, and
that of a few others, the nods aimed in his direction and the whispers behind
was bloody revolting, and he’d had more than enough.
eyes were locked on him as he crossed the room to her side, and he tried to
read them. He couldn’t quite gauge her mood, though.
go,” Spike leaned toward her to make himself heard over the blare of the
go kill something,” he yelled back.
course the jukebox chose that moment to go silent, and Spike’s voice carried
clearly into every corner of the bar.
reaction was immediate.
a – being – everyone in the bar moved, like a retreating wave, away from them,
clearing a pathway to the door. A wide pathway.
again!” Tuck called out, as Spike pushed the door open. The vampire saw Tuck’s
eyes sweep the crowd, making sure he had their attention, and he had a pretty
good idea what words were going to be coming out of the bartender’s mouth
before they emerged. “Slayer – you’re welcome, too, if you promise to behave
explosion of noise following his words was only slightly muffled by the heavy
wood of the door as it closed behind them. The din continued as the blonds stared
at each other.
a soddin’ clue, Slayer,” Spike said. “So don’t even ask. “
hard expression in her eyes changed to something even less desirable. “Oooh,
Spikey!” she swooned. “Can I get your autograph? Will you pose for a picture? Pretty
please? With a cup of blood on top? And the little woman, too?”
jealous!” he burst out. The best defense and all that rot…
rolled her eyes. “Pleeease…” She started down the sidewalk.
fell into step beside her, arranging another smirk on his face. “Didn’t want your
autograph, did they?
had walked half a block before she answered. “At least Mr. Spike Fan wanted my
picture…” she grumbled.
to make copies for the dartboard, pet.”
Affronted, Buffy swung toward him.
figured his patrons would pay a tidy sum for a picture of the Slayer to put
over the board before a game. Before the word ‘no’ left your lips, he was
probably halfway through working out a whole new scoring system, too.” Spike’s
expression gentled. “You’re the Slayer, love. To that lot you’re the Big Bad.”
A pause, then, “I am?”
biggest,” he assured her. He closed the distance between them and slid his
hands onto her hips. “You’re the boogie woman mummy and daddy demons use to scare
their tykes into toeing the line.”
She looked suspiciously pleased now, and Spike grinned. As soon as Buffy caught
the smile, though, her expression changed. “I mean, eeeww.”
he drawled out affectionately. “I knew that’s what you really meant.” He leaned
down to brush a light kiss against her mouth. “Let’s go.”
sighed with ‘sacred duty’ resignation when he released her. “Where’s the next
lit a cigarette, looking down the dark street. “Few blocks that way,” he
indicated the direction opposite to the one she’d taken with his chin. “Seedier
face puckered with distaste. “Seedier? There’s seedier?”
he elaborated. “There’s always seedier.” He tilted his head, eyeing her weary
expression with sympathy. “Had enough, love? Maybe we should head over to Teague
Why? Is there a slightly less icky demon hangout there?”
that I know of. Few hiding places, though.”
bloke – Tuck. Slipped me an address while the bint was clicking away with the
The Slayer’s weary expression
faded and a gleam of anticipation came into her eyes. “Yeah? Is this address going to lead us to something big and hairy with an
unpronounceable name that tried to eat my sister?”
“If we’re lucky.”
She drew back from the box with
a kind of revulsion.
Magic is not evil, Tara reminded
herself, staring at the books and binders, at the small arsenal of herbs and
other items that could only be considered ingredients. Not in and of itself. Its
how it’s used or abused, the forces that are called on to perform it, sometimes
the intent behind it…
Her eyes squeezed shut.
No, magic was not the problem.
The problem was Willow, and her desire to control all of them. Tara honestly
believed that Willow had started this slide with good intentions. She had
wanted to spare herself and her friends from pain. But somewhere along the way,
she’d forgotten the ‘and her friends’ part of that desire. The desire to protect
had darkened into the desire to control and manipulate. And what her friends
wanted for themselves had begun to matter less and less and less.
There’s no way, Tara thought, that I am having these things delivered to Willow’s
house. If Willow was determined to continue
down the destructive path she’d chosen, she was going to have to do it without
any help from her.
Twenty minutes later, having
box of supplies in a larger box and under some long unused camping gear – the
Summers’ women had camped??? -- Tara finished the spell to shield the box from detection. Willow was strong,
and could probably break through the wards if she tried, but some precautions
were better than none.
Even as she climbed the stairs, Tara felt a
reluctance to leave the box where it was. Perhaps I should go through it, she
thought, see if there’s anything there I should know about, something that
could help Willow…
But she just couldn’t. Not now.
Not yet. Maybe… maybe soon.
But not yet.
Right now she didn’t much feel
like helping Willow. She was still far too hurt and angry.
can something this big and stupid looking move so fast?”
“Dunno. You could check with
Angelus or Soldier Boy, though. Might be willing to share their personal
insights into the condition.” He paused, anticipating her response, but Buffy
ignored the jibe. “Gotta say, though, if our girl out ran this thing, I’m
“Me, too. Oh, god, bleeaaaeck! I
totally know why this thing has no nose. It probably cut it off hoping it
wouldn’t have to smell itself.”
The scent of curdled milk
overlaid something deeper and even more revolting, and the combination was
nauseating. He could see his Slayer was trying to avoid gagging.
Buffy landed a solid kick to the
demon’s midsection. “This is officially the most disgusting demon we have ever
“Haven’t killed it yet, pet.”
Spike clobbered the big hairy thing with the side of his axe, sending it
“We will,” Buffy stated. “And we
could have just then if you knew how to use that axe. Lesson the First, fang
boy. The sharp cutty part gets aimed toward the neck.”
“Wouldn’t wanna kill it too
fast,” he protested. “I haven’t had a good fight in days.” As the Vpastus’zyn
demon worked to regain its footing, Spike swung the axe again, neatly slicing
off one of its fingers. The creature roared. “Besides, I wasn’t sure if you
were done trying to question it.”
Buffy yanked a piece of pipe off
the wall of the alley where they’d finally come upon their prey, and leapt
forward to try to take advantage of the demon’s pain. She missed twice before
connecting with its upper back as it tried to dart to the side again. “Since neither
one of us can understand a ‘ugh, ugh’ it says, I don’t see any reason to keep
it alive. Unless you know someone who speaks ‘grunt’.”
“Not off the top of my head. “
He kicked out at the demon’s head as the Slayer’s blow sent it to its knees.
His boot caught it just under the chin, and its head snapped back. “We need one
of those Universal Translators.”
“Star Trek? Kirk? Spock?”
Buffy’s jaw dropped. “You
watched Star Trek?”
“Well, yeah,” he shrugged. “Had to.
Dru thought Dr. McCoy was the reincarnation of her father. She got all
irritable if we ever missed an episode.” As soon as ‘V’ clambered to his feet,
Spike delivered two more kicks. The demon
careened into the Slayer, smearing something unspeakable onto her jeans from
the hole where its finger had gone missing. “‘Course
she didn’t understand schedules, so she thought we should be able to tune in to
‘Papa’s New Life’ whenever she felt the urge.” He rolled his neck, and adjusted
his grip on the axe. “Cancellation hit her hard.”
Buffy slugged the demon back
toward Spike, and brushed at the goop on her thigh. “You’re kidding, right?”
“No. She was glad he was having
such an interesting time of it, doing so much traveling.”
“He was a doctor, not a tourist,”
The demon set up an otherworldly
wailing and spun in a series of circles. It seemed to be winding up for
something, and when it was done spinning, it lowered its head and charged at
Buffy. She dodged, but wasn’t quick enough to avoid the attack altogether. Some
horny protrusion on the demon’s forearm caught her on the shoulder, shredding
the sleeve of her jacket. She checked out the damage to her outfit before
narrowing her eyes menacingly on the hairy monster.
Spike recognized her tone. The
Slayer’s clothing was taking a beating, and she had decided it was time to end
the dance. He swung his axe, making sure the ‘sharp, cutty part’ was correctly
aimed, and neatly severed the demon’s head from its body.
“Eeeww.” They both jumped back
as streams of putrid puce pus shot from the headless neck and splattered onto
nearly everything in sight, including them. The stench was unbelievable.
“Bloody hell. I may have to cut
off my nose! Gaa… I thought it smelled bad when it was alive.”
Buffy looked up from surveying the
pus covered leather of her pants. Her eyes widened in exaggerated dismay, and
he could see the laughter in their depths. “You mean… “Dramatic pause. “‘Its
– dead, Jim’?”
roar of the motorbike caught Giles’ attention, and he moved to the window to
glance out. It was barely evening, but the time of year brought darkness early,
and only the illumination cast by the porch light and the nearby streetlamp
allowed him to see anything of the scene outside.
He’d left them sparring at the
Magic Box, and they’d promised to arrive at Revello Drive within the hour to
meet up with Anya, and later, Xander. When he’d gone out to his car, though,
he’d caught a glimpse of Spike’s motorbike parked in the alley, and he’d
suspected that they were only waiting for him to leave before going for a ride.
Giles had given up wondering how Spike sometimes managed to get the bike about
during the day, chalking it up to one of the many mysteries of the Hellmouth.
He’d long ago come to the conclusion that a great many things happened in
Sunnydale and to its inhabitants that would never be adequately explained to
his curious mind.
“I love it,” Buffy had told him when
he’d first noticed that she and Spike had
taken to riding it quite frequently and had mentioned it to her. Her eyes had
lit up in a way he hadn’t seen since her mother’s death. Perhaps longer.
“If you’re going to be
riding, I feel I should point out the merits of helmets…”
“Not a chance,” Buffy
interrupted. “The wind in my hair – it’s one of the most wonderful… I want it –
Giles found himself smiling. The
wind had certainly been in her hair tonight. It was wildly disarrayed, and she
stabbed a hand at it as she slid off the back of the bike, laughing a little.
Had he seen her laugh since she’d returned? Giles wondered. Lighting a
cigarette, Spike climbed off after her and leaned easily back against the bike,
expression amused, as he listened to whatever it was she was saying. Giles
watched as the vampire raised a hand and made his own attempt at smoothing her
hair. Buffy made no protest, accepting his touch.
When she turned toward the
house, Spike snaked an arm around her, and Giles could clearly see his hand,
spread familiarly over her abdomen as he tugged her backward toward him.
His breath stopped.
There was nothing groping or
obscene about that hand. But the widely spread fingers, the casual, intimate
familiarity, told him far more than a much more explicit display of passion
would have. For some reason, Giles had always found that particular touch –
that of a man’s hand splayed over a woman’s abdomen, over her womb, perhaps?
– one of the most personal, the most truly intimate ways a man could
touch a woman.
Buffy’s response to the touch,
the way she leaned back into him, even if it was only for a moment, told him
Dear Lord. Oh, dear Lord…
They were lovers.
Cleaning his glasses didn’t ease
the racing of his mind in the least, but he did it anyway.
He didn’t want to act rashly. He
needed to give this some thought, to look at it from all angles. So much had
happened in the last year, so much had changed. He needed to explore this
development in light of those changes, and calmly decide what, if anything, was
to be done about it.
Then he could both react
and act appropriately.
Well done, Giles, old man, he told himself. You might, to someone with little
intelligence, pass for rational.
The door opened, and the two
blonds came in.
“… told him to sod off.”
“You’re late!” Dawn called out,
appearing at the top of the stairs.
Buffy glanced into the dining
room before grinning triumphantly at her sister.
“Are not!” she said. “We are here.
Ahn is still calculating. Therefore, we are on time. Possibly early.”
The teenager folded her arms. “I
thought you said you had to work out.”
“We did! We were.”
“That is sooo motorcycle hair.
And,” she went on, “Before you try to tell me you just rode over here from the
Magic Box, let me clarify: That is sooo
out-of-town-going-way-over-the-speed-limit motorcycle hair.”
Buffy’s hands flew to her head.
“Is it that bad?”
The Slayer dashed up the stairs
to repair the damage, and Dawn, mission accomplished, sauntered on down.
“Hey, pidge,” Spike greeted her.
“You’re smelling less eeeww.”
“Bloody well better be.”
“Did you hear, Giles? Buffy and
Spike got that gross demon that I conked over the head with that lamp. You
know, that Vasput… Pavust…”
“Yeah, that one.”
“When was this?” Giles asked.
“I was in bed when they came in
but the smell woke me up. That was a first. I mean, strange noises,
demons in the house, yeah, been there, done that, but stinko alarm clock? New.”
“You’re certain it was the same
“Well, it wasn’t wearing a sign
that said ‘I attacked your girl’, but, yeah, we’re sure.”
Dawn bit her lip, and Spike
tugged on her hair. “It was the same one, luv. Didn’t I tell you this isn’t
their normal range? Not likely to be more than one of them hanging about town.”
Dawn seemed reassured.
“Anyway,” she continued her
tale. “They were just covered with this purplish-red crap, which I sooo don’t
want to know what it was. Buffy made her usual knock-down-anyone-who’s-in-her-way
dash for the shower while Tara and I tried to help Spike get all the goop off
his coat.” Dawn widened her eyes. “I think I heard her swear.”
“Tara?” Giles asked in surprise.
Dawn nodded. “Maybe more than
once,” she added with awe.
“You sis told me swearing isn’t
allowed in this house,” Spike inserted. “Doe Eyes better watch her mouth. She
could get in trouble.”
“Oh, god, yeah. With mom,
swearing was instant grounding material. If you were dumb enough to get caught.
Which,” she gloated, “Buffy was.”
“How could you distinguish a
swear word through all the gagging the good witch was doing?”
“Well, it didn’t help when you
told her Buffy was probably hungry and asked her if she could ‘whip something
up’. I thought she was gonna hurl on the spot.”
“Speaking of hungry…” Spike
moved off to the kitchen.
“God, he can be so gross
sometimes,” Dawn said. “A total guy.”
Buffy came back down the stairs,
looking somewhat less disheveled, and went straight to the answering machine,
where she listened to a couple of messages.
“Dawn? Didn’t I have some blood
in here?” Spike called out a minute later. Sounds associated with rummaging in
the refrigerator could be heard.
“Top shelf, back left.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Not here though.”
“Are you sure? It was there this
morning.” Dawn rose and went into the kitchen to help him look. But apparently
she too was unsuccessful. “Tara cleaned the refrigerator this morning,” Dawn
said. “Before school. I think she was up half the night and was looking
for things to do. And, ah, she’s been a little, you know, distracted. Maybe she
threw it away by mistake, or maybe she tossed it if she thought it was spoiled.
Does it? Spoil, I mean.”
“Well, yeah. Hard to tell with
pig’s blood, though. Tastes spoiled even when it’s fresh.”
“Eeeww.” Dawn could be heard
making gagging noises and stumbling in an exaggerated fashion around the
“Very funny, pidge. Now c’mere.
Give us a taste of mystical key blood.”
“Just a taste. C’mon, I’m
“Ha! Like I care. You’re not
getting anywhere near my neck, fang boy.”
“Thought you liked me.” Spike’s
pout could be heard.
“Tell you what. I find you
dying, suck away. Until then – suffer.”
“An ill-weather friend, then.”
“I could make you some mac and
cheese,” Dawn offered.
“I’m hungry, not bloody insane.”
A pause. “You got any of those frozen hot wings?”
More refrigerator sounds. “Viola!”
“I know, Blondie. I was being
“Well, knock it off and pop them
in the microwave.”
“Do I look like a maid?”
“No. But you look like the smart-arsed
kid that needed help getting started on that DaVinci paper last night when I
stopped by to pick up your sis.”
“Do you expect payment every
time you help me?”
“You’re such a dork.”
“Right. Hop to it, bit, or I’ll
be on the verge of starvation, and then your neck will be fair game.”
More noises, leading to a shriek
of laughter from Dawn, and then, loudly, “Okay, okay. I give. Uncle, uunnncle!”
Buffy, who had the phone tucked
against her shoulder as she made notes on a pad of paper, glanced up at the
sound, smiled, and shook her head with a sort of distracted and amused
Stomping sounds came from the
kitchen, followed by the beeping of the microwave being programmed.
Five minutes later, Spike came
into the room with a plate of wings. Dawn accompanied him, and sat casually on
the arm of his chair. Every few minutes, she would snatch up one of the tiny
pieces of chicken and eat it.
Standing silently alongside the
fireplace, Giles observed them all, taking everything in. His brain had been
whirling with his new knowledge of the deepening relationship between Buffy and
Spike, each cell seeming to tug him in a different direction.
He knew Spike loved her, knew
the vampire loved Dawn as well. No matter how convinced he had been of the
inability of soulless vampires to feel love, his experiences with Spike had
changed that. Perhaps it was just Spike. Perhaps the blond was an
anomaly; perhaps there was something unique about him that made him
capable of love, a capacity that did not run to the rest of his kind; Giles
didn’t know. But Spike did love, of that he was certain.
He’d been terrified for his
wonderful girl and for his Slayer when she’d first come back. The memory
problems, the nightmares, the silent solemnity of her, had driven his fears for
Buffy. Her seeming inability to take change of anything had fueled his fears
for his Slayer. She had constantly deferred to himself or to Spike, a state of
affairs that Giles felt simply couldn’t continue without dire consequences.
With the return of her memories
that night of the mass amnesia, Giles felt she’d also regained some sense of
her responsibilities as the Slayer. The instincts that he’d felt were still
missing had seemed to kick in with the first big challenge she’d faced after
that – the attack on Dawn. It hadn’t really occurred to him until the next day,
but Buffy had very much taken on a leadership role that evening, making
decisions rather than looking to himself or to Spike for guidance as she’d been
doing since her resurrection.
Since then, the rate of her
recovery had seemed to escalate. Occasionally, he caught glimpses of her that
were so much like her old self… the one that had never really reappeared after Acathla,
that he would catch his breath. There were still problems, still long silences
and a drawing into herself that worried him, but those glimpses made him smile,
and gave him a sense of hope.
Was Spike instrumental in any of
that? Giles felt that he must be.
Since her return, Buffy had
spent a great deal of time with the vampire, far more, he thought, than any of
the others were aware. The discomfort and detachment she seemed to feel around
her old friends didn’t extend to Spike. He’d listened to them while they worked
out, had many times noted the ease with which they talked; about demon threats,
about Dawn, about random nothings. They bickered, asked each others opinions,
bickered more, and worked hard. He’d never noticed any sexual byplay or
innuendo between them. He had, however, heard Spike sharing some pieces of his
past with her, occasional comments that revealed bits of himself, something
Giles' own time with the vampire had led him to believe didn’t often happen.
Giles turned toward the
fireplace, looking with brooding eyes into the empty grate, his mind replaying
the interactions between Buffy and Spike, between Spike and Dawn. There was no
doubt those two got along famously; the genuine caring between the
vampire and the teenage girl was obvious. And oddly, it no longer seemed – odd
– to him.
His brain might be tugging him
in many different directions, but one thought overrode everything else.
I can’t, he thought. I can’t intrude on this – on them.
This is the happiest I’ve ever
seen Dawn or Spike, and Buffy has a contentment about her that I just can’t
disturb. I can’t do anything to take that away from them – from any of
And I won’t.
It might not be a well thought
out, rational decision, but the peace that Giles felt inside when he reached it
went a long way toward reassuring him that it could well be the right
He knew he’d think about the
situation more, knew he’d remain guarded, knew too that he’d debate the pros
and cons of a romance between these two volatile warriors often, but for now…
He lifted his head and turned
back toward the others.
Buffy hung the phone up and
reached for the small pile of mail sitting next to it. Her eyes flickered to
her sister and the vampire.
“Are those actually edible?” she
asked, looking at the mass of orange meat with something approaching fear.
Spike’s mouth curved wickedly as
he extended his thumb to her. “Taste?” he purred out.
Buffy’s eyes attached themselves
to Spike’s thumb, and Giles tried to interpret the expression on her face. But
when some sense seemed to alert her to the fact that he was watching, and she
blushed and jerked her eyes away from the extended digit, Giles decided he
really didn’t want to know what she’d been thinking.
“Um, no thanks,” she muttered.
She ducked her head, and started sorting through the mail.
“Pity,” Spike shrugged, and
leaned back in his chair, his lips pursing. “You might find it – delicious.”
His drawl was low and intimate, and Giles found himself having to suppress a
roll of his eyes at the blatant sexual innuendo threaded through it. So much,
he thought, for no obvious sexual byplay. Had this been going on for some time?
Had he just been oblivious to it?
Could he be again?
Buffy’s eyes returned to Spike
just long enough to deliver a Death Glare, and the vampire gave a brief bark of
“There’s food in this world that
is not fruit or yogurt, Slayer. “ Spike told her, his tone more serious.
“A fact of which I am well
aware.” Buffy’s eyes gleamed lustfully, but this time her expression had
nothing to do with Spike or, thankfully, with his thumb. “There is also
chocolate,” she continued. “And it comes in lots of calorie fest forms,
complete with a wide variety of nut choices.”
“Hands off,” Spike reprimanded
Dawn, swatting at her fingers with a tiny drumstick as she reached for the last
piece of chicken.
But the teen distracted him with
a smile and swooped it up anyway, darting into the kitchen with her prize.
“Tomorrow night, Slayer?” Spike
glared after Dawn. “We are taking the bit out for a meal that involves meat.
And you will eat, too. You burn up thousands of calories a day, and you need
more than chocolate bars.”
“Yogurt is very healthy! So is
“It’s a question of balance.”
His eyes ran over her. “You’re skin and bones.”
“You can never be too thin,”
Buffy said lightly.
“Yeah, love, you can be.”
Buffy’s head came up and she
frowned, seeming to come to the realization that he wasn’t just giving her
grief in order to amuse himself.
“I’m not too thin,” she
protested. His snort had her eyes swinging to Giles. “Tell him.”
“Ten pounds,” Giles said firmly,
glad that Spike had brought up a subject that had been weighing heavily on his
mind since before her death. Buffy was far too slender, and he was deeply
concerned about it. When he compared her thin little body to that of the girl
who had moved to Sunnydale six years ago, his concern only deepened. “I’d feel
less concerned if you’d agree to gain ten pounds.”
“Ten pounds!” She made it sound
like fifty. Then, “Less concerned? There’s concern? You’re concerned?”
Spike rose and walked to her,
lifting her arm. He wrapped his fingers around her wrist, and as she watched,
slid them up her arm, showing her how far up he could go without breaking their
“I…” Buffy frowned. Her eyes
lifted to Spike’s, flickered to catch the almost identical expression in
Giles’, and returned to Spike’s. He tilted his head to one side, his expression
steady and serious. “Can we get Prime Rib?” she asked at last.
“Oh, at Brandi’s?” Giles
revealed his enthusiasm for the decision, the food choice, and his desire to go
along. “If you invite me to join you, I could be persuaded to make it my
Buffy smiled with approval, her
eyes darting over her shoulder toward the dining room. “The picking up of the
bill is definitely of the good.” She raised a brow toward Spike, seeking his
“Dawn?” he called out. “You like
“Oooh, yes,” she practically
skidded back into the room, her tone as rapturous as her words. “They have the
best desserts in the entire world. Cheesecake, and pies, and oh, god, Buffy, do
you remember that thing with the cream cheese and the blueberries? Mom about
died for that.”
“They have meat and vegetables?”
Spike asked with disgust, reseating himself. Miss Kitty Fantastico jumped into
his lap, and he began stroking her absently, sending the cat into contented
“Oh, yeah, that crap, too.”
Spike bumped his head against
the back of the chair. “Brandi’s it is.”
The whirring sounds of the
calculator had been constant, and when they stopped, it took a few moments for
them to take in the meaning of their sudden cessation. Every eye in the room
turned toward the dining room as Anya emerged, a pile of papers in one hands,
and an extremely long tape from the calculator in the other.
“Finished?” Giles asked.
“Yes,” Anya said. She seated
herself on the sofa and made note of one or two final figures. Then she looked
up, straightened her shoulders, and assumed a professional expression. “Well,
the bad news is, you’re not rich, and aren’t likely to be any time soon.” It
was obvious Anya was genuinely sorrowful about this unfortunate state. “And the
financial situation? It’s not terrific,” she said bluntly. “But it’s not as bad
as it might have been, either. Your mother had the incredible foresight to take
out life insurance on the mortgage, and if you can keep up with the property
taxes, the house is secure.”
“Woo-hoo!” Dawn whooped. She was
perched on the arm of Spike’s chair again.
“Perhaps Dawn should go to her
room,” Giles suggested to Buffy.
“Hello? Sitting right here!”
Giles shifted uncomfortably.
“Yes, quite. I apologize,” he said to Dawn. Any effect the apology might have
had was negated, though, when he turned back to his Slayer. “Do you want her
here for this?”
“Yes,” Buffy assured him, over
her sister’s muttering. “Dawn has informed me several times over the last year
that she’s old enough to deal with some of this ‘grown up stuff’.” Buffy smiled
at Dawn’s beam of happiness. “And if money is going to be tight, I want her to
hear it from outside sources, so that I don’t come off like the Wicked Witch of
the West if we can’t buy something.”
“I think Willow’s already
taken on that role,” Spike murmured to Dawn, who snickered. Their byplay earned
them both another Death Glare from Buffy, which they took in stride.
“That’s quite clever,” Anya smiled.
into a film that’s made its mark on popular culture. I believe they have
t-shirts that read ‘Don’t Make Me Get My Flying Monkeys’. Maybe we could get
one for Willow for Christmas. I’ll mention it to Xander.”
She made a note in her well used
day planner as everyone in the room stared at her; their faces stamped with
almost identical expressions of disbelief. No one was quite brave enough to
“The income you get from Dawn’s
Social Security check each month will easily cover phone, power and water.”
“That should be her money, for
college.” Buffy objected.
“It’s perfectly legal to use it
for her support,” Anya said. “And you may need it. Perhaps you could come to
some agreement where the money is split, and some is put away each month for
college. Remember, there’s federal grant money for education as well, and I’m
sure Dawn will qualify for some of that. Tara could probably tell you a little more about the
application process and what you can expect. I know her family isn’t helping
out with her college funds at all.”
Anya went on for another five or
ten minutes without pause. Assets, debits, funds needed, funds available. Giles
listened carefully, his worries over the financial situation of these young
women easing as Anya went on. No, not rich, and there would be precious few
luxuries, but Joyce had planned well. Perhaps, Giles thought, the realities of
living on the Hellmouth, not to mention the special -- circumstances – of her
own family, had convinced her that it would be wise to do so.
He felt rather as if a cloud of
some doom hovering over the Summers household had blown off, and he noticed
that his breathing seemed easier.
By the time Xander arrived, Buffy's eyes had long since
glazed over with the incomprehensibleness of it all. She was sure the
information Anya continued, and continued and continued, to impart was
important, but all she’d really wanted to know was the bottom line; Do Dawn
and I have a home? With food in it? And maybe a phone? Once she was assured
of those things, the rest ran together, and dribbled into the ‘Too Much
Information of a Type I Can’t Retain Anyway’ part of her brain. She knew that
sometime tonight, probably while she was asleep, it would dribble right back
out of there, and into oblivion.
Xander’s arrival, therefore, provided a welcome distraction,
and had the bonus effect of bringing the financial discussion to an end.
Unfortunately, he didn’t look
like he was in a very good mood.
is she?” Buffy asked.
don’t know,” Xander’s face was dark with anger. “I wasn’t allowed in the
house. Mr. Rosenberg was kind enough to watch me unload Will’s things and place
them in a neat pile in their garage, though. I felt like he was using x-ray
vision on every box, wondering which one held the bomb.”
didn’t see her at all?”
I saw the curtains fluttering at her window like some scene in a horror movie
that’s supposed to be spooky, but that was as close as I got to finding out if
she was even in the house.”
Buffy had been hoping – what? That things would be better, what else? She could
feel the tension that had blown any on the back of the motorcycle beginning to
coil inside her again.
ran past them toward the door, her backpack slung over her shoulder.
you there! Running girl!”
are you going?”
yeah.” Buffy remembered the permission asking over breakfast. “Pam? I thought
you were going with that Suzy Skirl girl?”
exhaled noisily in disgust. “If you mean Sue Salouri, Pronunciation Queen,
she’s coming, too.”
rose from his chair, frowning. He was still holding the cat, though, which cut
into the intimidation factor. “You’re not walking?”
exaggerated sigh. “No. Pam’s mom, Mrs. Roberts – you remember, you met her at
the art show – is giving us a ride. There – and back.” She tacked on the
last before he could ask.
the paper on DaVinci? You got the outline we did?”
The blare of a horn cut off further questions. “Gotta go. Be back after the
library closes! Bye!”
door slammed loudly in her wake. Buffy winced.
you leaving, too?” Xander asked. Buffy looked around to see that Anya had
picked up her coat and purse. He glanced at the Slayer. “I thought there was a
tired of Willow meetings,” Anya pouted, ignoring Buffy’s nod of confirmation.
“And I have shopping to do.”
the reception decorations.”
That gave Xander pause, and Buffy smiled inwardly. By now, they’d all
discovered that it was unwise to get between Anya and anything wedding related.
She was approaching the upcoming nuptials with a single minded determination
and an eye for detail that frankly terrified everyone around her.
squared his shoulders. “Nothing pink,” he said bravely as Anya pulled on her
fiancée went still, her arm partially thrust through a sleeve, and eyed him
agreed,” he plowed on. “Light, medium, dark, hot or pastel.” He glanced at
Buffy. “Did I miss anything?”
relented. “Nothing pink,” she agreed, kissing him lightly. “Good night,
you, Anya,” Buffy remembered to say. “For your help with the bills and um, all
that other stuff.”
smiled happily. “Thank you for asking! It was fun!”
eyed the neat stacks of paper, some of them half a foot tall, which covered
every available inch of the dining room table and shuddered. What. Ever.
opened the door, but before going out, she glanced across the room toward
Spike. Her voice was warm, pleasant. “Goodnight, Spike!”
blond frowned, obviously confused at being singled out for a personal
goodnight, but he nodded politely.
Xander’s eyes fly between his wife-to-be and the vampire, Buffy repressed the
urge to whack him on the back of his head. They did not need any further
dissention in the group. They had enough to deal with already.
help me clean all that stuff of the table?” she asked him. “I think Ahn’s done
with everything, but just in case, I thought you might know how she’d want it
by type – mortgage, utilities, insurance, food, clothing, miscellaneous. Then
cross-referenced by billing date.”
shrugged. “I’ll do it.
only took them a few minutes. When they were finished, Buffy replaced the
centerpiece her mother had made.
Tara coming down?” Xander asked.
she’s out,” Buffy said. “I think she’s still finding it really hard to talk
about any of this. And cleaning out Will’s things sort of took its toll, too.”
Buffy smoothed her hand over the table, her fingernail finding a groove in the
grain of the wood and tracing it. “Did… did you know Will dropped out of
guess that’s a ‘no’,” Buffy said.
semester is almost over! She just dropped all her classes? Now?”
Tara told me this morning after breakfast. I guess one of their professors
asked her about it yesterday.”
was sort of my reaction, too.”
mentioned that we might expect to see Willow withdraw
from the group, which is common enough when one has been dealing with unnatural
powers. Willow’s behavior the last few days seems to bear that out. She may
also enter a rather lackluster stage, displaying little interest in anything.”
long will it last?”
haven’t a clue.”
good, but I think I’ll prefer Lackluster Willow to Sparks of Electricity
holding out for Normal Willow. If she feels the urge to bake cookies, and look
really, really sorry, that would be a plus.”
friend, Caia, whom he’d called for help when Willow had first returned to
Buffy’s crackling with power, had promised to look into the subject of power
dealers and the effects of various kinds of demonic power on humans. Power
dealers seemed to exist in some type of demon underworld, and rarely came into
any contact with humans, in whom they had little interest. In her research,
however, she had come across another Englishwoman, a Lady Anne Murchison, who
had some limited knowledge of the subject. Unfortunately, neither could
contribute much, and none of what they had learned was good.
seems to count for little. The only prerequisites for the job are greed,
ruthlessness, and the desire and ability to manipulate on a large scale.”
who’s willing to experiment with lots of different kinds of power and doesn’t
much care how many of his clients die while he’s at it is gonna rise to the top
of his profession bloody fast, too.”
phrased that a bit differently, but I believe that was the impression she got
do they get these ‘jobs’?” Buffy asked. “Are they chosen somehow, then trained?
Who chooses them?” The words sent a familiar tingle of curiosity through Buffy.
‘Are they chosen somehow? Who chooses them?’ She’d often wondered the
same things about herself. In her opinion the background and history of the
Slayer line lacked big time in specifics.
shrugged when the others turned to him. “Dunno.”
they use headhunters.” Xander looked around at the unsmiling faces. “Sorry.
Willow worry has severely affected the funny.”
don’t know that how they get their ‘jobs’ matters at this point. We have more
serious things to think about. Caia’s acquaintance only had knowledge of two
humans who’d had dealings with these creatures. The first died on her second
visit from an influx of power from a D’Ebcoh En demon. She said the other
probably wished for death often before it finally claimed him.”
I wanna know why?”
turned out none of them did. The explanation included words like manipulation
and blackmail, and the imbibing of the client with power known to be deadly to
humans, then withholding the antidote unless certain services were performed.
Once the dealer no longer had any use for the man, he’d simply stopped
providing doses of the antidote, which needed to be taken on a regular basis in
order to sustain the man’s life. Power dealers didn’t just love to deal in
power, they loved to wield it. And with as much cruelty as possible.
if stuff like this is known about them, why would anyone…? I don’t get it.”
rather like Spike and Anya said that first night. There are always going to be
those who think they can beat the odds, that they can outwit the
dealer, get what they want, and walk away free and clear. Knowingly doing
something reckless or dangerous is a fairly common human practice. Apparently
demons indulge in it as well.”
if Will keeps going to this guy…”
will, undoubtedly, be dire consequences.”
looked at Buffy. “I hate when that happens.”
Vacation Spot of ‘Dire’’. It’s the motto of the Sunnydale Department of
this person – this Lady Anne – Anne? Miss Murchison?”
You There, Titled Person?” Buffy suggested.
Did she have any ideas what a human might have that one of these guys would be
interested in?” Xander went on. “Did this one who popped up on the street one
night in front of Willow – all understanding -- just want someone to
jerk around? Or – does Will have some kind of power that these guys would
shifted in his chair, and Buffy glanced toward him. Her gaze lingered to study
him more carefully. He’d been almost completely silent since the meeting had begun,
and he hadn’t once tried to catch her eye, which was highly unusual.
don’t know,” Giles said. “Certainly, Willow has power. She’s proven that more
than once. Whether it’s the type of power that would interest others… “ Giles
removed his glasses and tapped them on the table. “We could speculate forever.
We need to get some concrete information, and I’m afraid that means we’ll have
to find the dealer Willow met with. Question him. Did anyone hear Willow use a
name? Something we can go on?”
you think you can locate him?”
gonna get much out of him,” the vampire muttered.
Buffy asked. “Are these guys really good at keeping their mouths shut?
Because…” Her voice slipped into a really bad German accent. “… ve half vays…”
necessarily.” Something in Spike’s tone had Giles looking at him sharply.
–? Oh.” Giles rolled his eyes, and gave a huff of annoyance.
Buffy was confused by their exchanged looks.
killed him,” Giles announced with a sort of offhand exasperation.
frowned at Spike. “You did?”
aromatic friend from last night? He met up with our girl at Rack’s place,
didn’t he? So I decided to pay the bloke a visit, see if he had any idea if
this demon went after Dawn deliberately, or just thought she looked like the
tastiest morsel in the waiting room.”
She knew her fear could be heard in her voice. It hadn’t occurred to her that
Dawn might have been anything but a chanced upon victim, and they sooo did not
need any demon, Hellgod, monk, knight, or anything else, for that matter,
focusing on her sister again.
claimed it was a random attack. Didn’t have a thing to do with him.”
–“ She tried again. “Did you believe him?”
I guess I did.”
you get anything else out of him before you, er…”
his heart out,” Spike filled in with some pride.
made a ‘eeeww’ face.
liked to hear to himself talk, but what he had to say didn’t amount to much.
Implied Red had stirred up some powerful forces, and that he’d been asked to
keep an eye on her, maybe help her make the move over to the dark side.”
by whom? Stirred up interest where?” Giles asked.
we can’t ask him now, can we?” Xander jibed.
had a big mouth. Liked to throw threats around.”
looked at him, at his tight expression, and at the fist that was lying clenched
on his thigh.
threatened Dawn, didn’t he?” she asked, and Spike’s eyes swung to hers, their
one threatens my girls.”
sudden explosion of hostility in the room caused Buffy's body to jerk in shock.
and Dawn are not ‘your girls’.” Xander grated out. “They are never
gonna be ‘your girls’.”
words seemed to hang in the air.
are a dead man walking and they are –“
him, Buff. “
mouth opened, but nothing came out. She felt distinctly ill.
had been glaring at Xander, but he suddenly yanked his head to the side,
touching stormy blue eyes to Buffy’s frozen face. His face went cold and he
I’ll go have a smoke,” he said.
down,” Giles ordered, his eyes focused on the table. When Spike didn’t comply
immediately, Giles raised his head, fixing him with grey eyes every bit as icy
as the vampire’s voice had been. “Sit. Down.”
looked like he wanted to attack something – or someone – but he obeyed
ends,” Giles said. “Now. We have work to do; work that is far more
important than any hostility between the two of you and whatever is causing it.
Xander has been a part of this group since the beginning. His loyalty to Buffy
and to Dawn is beyond question, and equally, his contributions to Buffy's work
are beyond measure. You need to respect that.
Spike’s help with Buffy’s training and patrolling has been incalculable since
her return. She was quite badly out of practice, to a degree that could have
been extremely dangerous to her. Further, I’ve come to learn that his demon
knowledge is much greater than I could have hoped, and could prove extremely
valuable to us. You need to respect that.”
cannot ask that the two of you become fast friends, but I will insist
that the juvenile sniping and name-calling the two of you have spent years
perfecting not start up again. Foolishly, I had thought circumstances might
have helped you to move past it, but I can see that I was mistaken. If you must
refrain from speaking to or looking at one another in order to maintain some
semblance of civility, please do so.
he finished, slipping his glasses back on. “Let’s get back to business.”
strained = Understatement, Buffy thought a few minutes later.
and Xander looked equally sullen, but it seemed that Giles' intervention had
gone a long way toward easing the coiling nausea in her own stomach that had
flared up along with Xander's temper.
hated this, this – hostility -- between Spike and Xander, this
dissention. She hadn’t seen much evidence of it since her return, but she was
afraid that had more to do with a lack of opportunity than with any easing of
the longstanding dislike between the two. She’d been annoyed by arguments between
her friends in the past, but this overwhelming desire to hurl was new.
if you were surrounded by peace for hundreds of years…” Dawn had
offered as a possible explanation when they’d talked about the feelings of
revulsion Buffy had experienced when feeling anger. Strangely, and thankfully,
this sort of tension didn’t seem to flare up when she was dealing with demons.
It was only here, among her friends and family…
Giles' lecture would do some good, she thought, before snorting inwardly. Yeah,
that was likely. We’re talking oil and water here, Buffy. But damn it, like
Giles had said, they didn’t have to be friends. Exactly. But couldn’t
they get back to that ‘I don’t like you, but let’s have a beer and shoot a game
of pool, anyway’ relationship stage?
went on calmly, as if nothing had happened. He often amazed her.
is dead, and we won’t be able to learn anything from him about his partners.”
He glanced at the vampire. “You do believe these partners exist, am I right?”
Spike perhaps, acted rashly, and that’s unfortunate. However, it’s done. On the
other hand, Willow’s reaction upon waking the other day led me to believe that
she wouldn’t hesitate to seek the fellow out again at the first opportunity, so
his death might be best for her and us in the long run.”
this is a good thing?” With obvious reluctance, Xander seemed to consider that.
“I guess… maybe it is, isn’t it? I mean, Ahn and – Spike -- said a human
couldn’t find a dealer on her own; that a dealer would have to find her –
invite her back or something. Right?”
found her, Xander. The other dealers will, too.”
must agree with Spike. We know that someone else is ‘interested’ in Willow.
Since this mysterious someone used a power dealer to approach Willow before,
they could use that same avenue again. “
more than that, Watcher. Red’s had a taste of power. Seems to like it, too. She
might not be able to find a dealer without someone helping out, but if she
drops a few words in the right ears, the dealers will find her. Especially –”
she mentions she’s close to the Slayer.”
Xander sat up straighter. “Blackmail, manipulations, performing services…
Oh yeah, I can feel the good times a-comin’.”
looks were exchanged around the table. As everyone contemplated the possible
ramifications of the situation, the hostility still lingering in the air
“We’re going to have to take
steps to protect Will, even if she doesn’t want it, and even if it’s from
“We could chain her up,” Spike
suggested. “What?” he went on, off their looks. “It’s a highly effective method
of keeping trouble prone people out of trouble.”
“Don’t see why you’re so opposed
to it, pet. Watcher could send Red back to sleep and we could –“
“N. O. Look it up.” She paused.
“We’re going to have to take all these dealers out.” Her eyes widened a little,
and she turned back to Spike. “That’s why you wanted to try to locate a few of
these places tonight, isn’t it? You knew we’d have to go after them.”
“Considered it likely, yeah.”
two of you aren’t planning to go after these power dealers alone, are you?”
Giles asked. “I was under the impression some of them employ considerable
We’re just doing one of those renaissance thingies.”
Giles corrected automatically.
one of those.”
“Even though the locations
shift, not all of them jump about every hour, or even every few days. We’ll try
to get two or three locations, maybe get
some information on what kind of security we might run into. Then tomorrow
night – if we have to – we can all go in.”
“If these places are hopping
around town all the time, how will we ever know if we’ve gotten them all?”
“Oh, we can find out,” Buffy
assured him. “Spike has sources.”
“Don’t go there, Slayer.”
Giles’ eyes betrayed his
curiosity, and Buffy ignored the vampire’s warning.
“We stopped in at a demon bar
last night. And, Oh. My. God. Blondie has, like, a fan club there.”
Spike glared at her before
sliding his eyes to Giles. “Don’t ask.”
Buffy stood up. “Are we done?”
she looked to Giles. “If I’m going out again tonight, I think I’ll get
something to eat first.” She twisted a little as if testing the emptiness of
her stomach. “I’m feeling all hungry.”
Giles smiled. “Good. Make a
sandwich. A big one,” he added as she walked into the kitchen. “And have a
glass of milk, too.”
A big ‘no’ to the milk. Gonna be a few days before I can get past the bad
come along,” Xander offered. “Maybe I can help.”
light tone drifted out to them. “Oh, not tonight. Spike and I can handle it.”
groaned inwardly, Xander frowned, and Spike smirked.
know you don’t care for Spike, but he really has been of a lot of help in
getting Buffy retrained.”
attack of hunger had spread to the rest of the humans, and, after the Slayer
and Spike left on their ‘renaissance mission’, Giles and Xander had picked up
the dishes scattered around the living room. They were still doing the washing
up in the kitchen. Giles didn’t know if bringing this subject up was a good
idea, but then, he had been known to behave in a less than cautious
manner at least once or twice in his past.
trained without him for years. She doesn’t need him. We don’t need him.”
he needs us,” Giles suggested.
we should care about that – why?”
Watcher sighed, and the sound seemed to anger Xander.
a killer. He’s tried to kill us, has plotted against us. He stalked Buffy, and
still seems to have some fixation on her. I just don’t get why you suddenly
seem willing to overlook all that.”
not that sudden. I’ve spent a lot of time with him since – the summer.
Patrolling, researching, playing chess…”
could play chess too.”
was somewhat taken aback. “I didn’t know you played.”
I don’t. But I could. If Spike learned, I’m sure I could stumble through, too.”
frowned. “I – alright. The point is, I believe Spike has become someone we can
Xander broke in.
takes time,” Giles acknowledged. “But to a degree, yes.”
washed the last plate and handed it to the Watcher.
just don’t get why things have to change.”
turned to look at the younger man. Oh dear… This was an entirely different
kettle of fish.
things always change. Change is, perhaps, one of the few constants in
doesn’t have to be that way.”
find it inevitable. It’s apart of growing up, of living. You have a job now
that occupies a lot of your time. Tara and, one hopes, Willow, when she
comes to her senses, will graduate soon. Their careers might take them to
another part of the country. You and Anya are about to be married, and your
life with her will become more and more the focus of your life. That’s as it
married doesn’t mean I’ll abandon my friends.”
don’t think ‘abandon’ is the right word. Friendships can remain strong even
across time and distance. High school friends rarely spend most of their lives
experiencing the same degree of togetherness they did in school. It’s just not
realistic. And Anya has every right to expect to be put first in your life.”
I’ve seen friends fall apart. But its not gonna happen to us. We’ve been
through too much together.”
apart and growing apart are not the same thing. There are people I feel very
close to even though I haven’t seen some of them for several years. I still
consider them very good friends.”
gonna happen to us,” Xander repeated.
could be incredibly stubborn, and in some cases that stubbornness irritated
Giles. But the Watcher also knew that that very stubbornness was one of the
things that made Xander so loyal to those around him, which was one of his most
endearing traits. That stubbornness was also a contributing factor in Xander’s determination
to work beside the others. Many young men in his situation, when faced with the
supernatural and growing powers of those around him, would feel increasingly
frustrated with their own lack of same.
for the most part, Xander seemed to have avoided that pitfall, and appeared to
be quite satisfied with his life. He enjoyed his work and his friends, he was
engaged, and planning his wedding. For a boy that had come from the rather
unfortunate home-life Xander had come from, he seemed remarkably well adjusted.
was likely that that home-life also had some bearing on his disquiet about
change within the group. The Scoobies had been not only his friends; they had
been his haven from a youth scared by alcoholism and abuse. Even without
superpowers, within the Scoobies Xander had worth. Perhaps he was wary of
losing his place in the group, of being replaced, as it were. By anyone.
That that person might be Spike would just make the situation that much
more unpalatable for him.
and Xander had long been the two most important men that could be said to be a
part of the Summers household. Xander had filled the brother role, to both
Buffy and, after a rather lengthy prepubescent crush on the little girl’s part
had abated, to Dawn as well. But, unless he was blind, Xander was probably
becoming more aware of the deepening relationship between Spike and ‘his
girls’. It was also quite likely that he had noticed that neither of those ‘girls’
seemed to be objecting to the vampire’s growing role in their lives.
about losing his place could well be the most important aspect of Xander's
hostility toward Spike. That wasn’t to say that Xander's concerns about Spike
and his trustworthiness were baseless.
all, everything he’d said about the vampire was true. Spike had tried to
kill them, had, in fact, killed thousands, he had behaved in a less than
sane fashion with Buffy, he had worked against them…
own feelings concerning Spike had changed gradually, over the course of many
months. Xander had not been a part of the conversations between Watcher and
vampire; he hadn’t been privy to some of the insights Giles had been granted
that had helped him to see Spike differently.
for the most part, Spike was either silent or snarky around the other man. Certainly,
Spike had never made any attempt to befriend Xander. Nor had he shown any
desire to acknowledge him as more than an annoying appendage of some sort to
Buffy and Dawn, someone he was forced to tolerate if he was going to be a part
of the girls’ lives, and so did, but barely, and with the greatest reluctance.
were a lot of changes going on in Xander's life right now. Buffy was quite
obviously not quite the same as she had been before her death, Willow’s behavior
was certainly a cause for concern, and he was taking on the adult role of
married man… It would be normal for him to want to hold on to the safe things
in his life, to not want to lose anything, or, as he may look at it, anything more…
come along. Maybe I can help.”
not tonight. Spike and I can handle it.”
unthinking words and her lightly dismissing tone had perhaps been the worst
response she could have made tonight to Xander's offer of help. Spike's smirk
had just rubbed salt into the wound of feeling unneeded.
think there was much he could do to change Xander's attitudes toward Spike's,
er, demonhood. Giles was still working through a few of his own issues in that
area. Most effective for him had been learning to see Spike as an individual,
trying to ‘judge’ him, if that was the right word, on his own current actions,
rather than looking at him simply as a ‘vampire’ and not attempting to see
beyond that. To do that, he’d had to get past years of council indoctrination
and scholarly studies. If he’d managed to succeed, even in part, perhaps there
was hope that Xander could learn to do the same.
there were always things he could do to help Xander feel that his place in the
group was secure, that he was appreciated, needed and cared for.
young man turned in the doorway. “Yeah?”
you really want to learn how to play chess, I’d be happy to teach you.”
“Willow tried once,
years ago,” Xander admitted.
older now,” Giles said. “More patient, I should think. And I’m quite a good
teacher. I taught a good number of the fellows in my house at school.”
be patient?” Xander asked.
younger man smiled. “I’d like that.”
voice was hushed.
sleep?” Spike asked casually as she climbed out her window, pulling her
comforter out after her.
didn’t sound too pleased about it.
I heard you floppin’ about like a fish out of water.” She’d been tossing for
nearly two hours now. She usually fell asleep easily, and now that she wasn’t
having as many nightmares, she didn’t often wake.
word picture there, fang boy. Thanks.”
of those fish with long fins,” Spike placated.
would you wanna be named for that wanker?”
snorted with laughter. She wrapped her comforter around her and settled in next
flippin’ freezing out here. How do you stand it every night?”
eyed her. California girl. Thin blood.
thought. It led him to thoughts of his Slayer’s blood, not thin at all, but
thick, rich, and powerful. And so long absent from his mouth. His forced his
thoughts back to Dawn.
it doesn’t bother me, bit.”
and Buffy kill stuff?” she asked, making conversation.
An opportunity had presented itself, and they’d taken out the first of the
power dealers, a M’Lgm-Misa demon that had laughed at them right up to the
minute Buffy had run a rapier through its guts. “You want a blow by blow? Or in
this case –”
arm flew up and she placed a hand over his mouth. “Stop right there,” she
ordered, and he grinned behind her hand, nipping at her fingers playfully. Dawn
laughed and snatched her hand back.
wish we could see stars from here like we can in the cemetery. They’re never as
glanced at his Slayer’s window. “You wanna head over there?” The two of them
hadn’t taken off for an all night adventure since Buffy had come back.
eyes followed his, and she gnawed on her lower lip for a moment, clearly
tempted. Finally, reluctantly, she shook her head. “Not tonight. I have that
annoying interruption of life called ‘school’ tomorrow, and I should at least try
to stay awake during my classes. How about for our Friday date?”
it was too cold to spend your nights lookin’ at the stars.”
yeah, but I’ll bring a sleeping bag. Stay cozy. You want me to bring one for
look informed her of the stupidity of her question.
Dawn tossed her hair. “I was just asking. Rein in the sarcastic. “ Her demeanor
changed and she peeked a couple of looks at his face as she pulled at a loose
thread on her comforter. “We could, um, buzz around on the motorcycle for
awhile before getting down to some serious stargazing…’
sis would skin me alive,” he said.
Like she hasn’t threatened you a million times before,” she dismissed. “It
never stops you. I’ll borrow a helmet from someone.” She shifted. “Oh, god,
I’ll end up with total helmet hair.” Her eyes, wicked now, went to his blond
locks. “We’ll be, like, twins!”
gonna start on the hair again?”
You’ll see the light before long. I have faith in you.”
comfortable almost silence between them was punctuated with single words or
short phrases muttered out under her breath, and spaced out for effectiveness.
babes’ll like it.”
laughed when he cuffed her gently on the back of the head, reminding her that
she’d said she wasn’t gonna start on the hair, and stopped razzing him.
had grown accustomed to Buffy’s occasional and, for the most part, silent
companionship on the roof at night, but he knew Dawn was allergic to lack of
sleep and he figured her presence suggested she had Something Important to Talk
About. It wasn’t long before she got around to it.
um… All that money talk… Did it sound okay to you?”
like you’ll do fine,” he assured her. He may have done well with languages and
history in school, but numbers had always bored him, and he’d tuned out a lot
of what Anya had said. The Watcher, though, had looked pleased and relieved, so
he figured that meant things would be okay.
Good.” She paused. “Really?”
touched her hair. “Yeah, bit. No fancy trips, and I doubt you’ll be lookin’ for
real estate in Beverly Hills, but yeah.”
of that adult crap really sucks,” she said seriously. “I’ve um, started looking
soon, isn’t it?”
That financial aid stuff Anya mentioned – does that work at any school?”
probably be better off asking Tara or Buffy that, but I think so.”
The private art schools are gonna cost a fortune – with housing, like $ 30,000 a
year. Probably more. And I have a feeling that’s only if you don’t wanna eat.”
much?” Spike was genuinely shocked. He never paid attention to things like
So I’m checking out which UC campuses have the best art departments.”
set on art them?”
yeah. Not much chance of that changing. It’s like my dream, ya know. How about
looked a question.
ever think about writing?”
cocked his head to the side. The question remained.
you say that’s what you wanted to do?”
turned, looking out over the lawn. “That was more than a hundred years ago.”
Writing hasn’t gone out of style has it? And you haven’t got anything better to
do, do you?”
of evil to get up to, pet.”
snorted in derision. “Right. Evil’s just oozing out of you.”
every pore,” he affirmed.
rolled her eyes and shook her head slightly. It was a moment before she spoke
could write evil books.”
turned to look at her pointedly. “You wanna run that by me again?”
books. All blood and stuff. Big sellers right now.”
can’t stand that Anne Rice crap.”
her then. How about Laurell K. Hamilton, or Tanya Huff, or, um, there are some
more. I just can’t think of their names. Lots of stuff with ‘Blood’ or ‘Dark’
or ‘Night’ in the title.”
any good?” Spike asked curiously. Not that he’d admit it to anyone, but he
tended to read biographies and non-fiction historical texts. Few paperbacks
sitting about, maybe even a hardcover or two, with lovely bloody covers would
probably lend his crypt some atmosphere. Coffee table books, he thought they
think anyone in this house would let me read something like that? Vampires and
sex and stuff?”
– got ‘em tucked away under your mattress, then?”
smirked. “Under the extra pillow on the top shelf of my closet.”
grinned back. “That’s my girl.”
loan you one,” she promised, leaning her head on his shoulder. “I think it’ll
be kinda nice to leave something behind when I die,” Dawn said quietly after
another comfortable silence.
Spike demanded. He didn’t like the shot of horror that went through him.
“You’re fifteen. Shouldn’t be talkin’ that way.”
and I live in Sunnydale, where, every year, the graduating class compares their
mortality rate to previous classes. I think everyone here thinks about dying
young. It’s just one of those things they don’t talk about.
Buffy died – you know what I wanted?”
confiscated a lot of her clothes.” It had been painful, at times, to see her in
frowned in annoyance, and he could see this was something serious she wanted to
wanted her diary. And no, not for stupid boyfriend details and junk like that.
I wanted it because it was something she wrote. Something she sort of –
created. It was the same with mom’s stuff. I wanted to keep the pots she threw
when she was in high school, and the sketches she did of me and Buffy when we
were kids. You know, before the divorce, mom used to draw quite a bit. She
didn’t have time afterward, ‘cause she had to be working all the time.”
touched her hair again. It had become his trademark soothing gesture with her.
“I didn’t know that. Your mum never said.”
She used to dream about being an artist, but she figured the closest she would
ever get was managing the gallery…”
loved that place. You know that. Aside from worryin’ about you and your sis,
your mum was pretty happy with her lot in life.”
I – I know.” Dawn cleared her throat. “But knowing what I wanted to keep from
mom and Buffy made me think about it. You know, about leaving something
personal behind. I’m still mad at myself for burning my own diaries when I
found out about being the key.”
she sounded disgusted with herself for the rash act of destruction, but she’d
mentioned the diaries more than once over the summer, and he knew how upset she
was about destroying them. Talking about them had sometimes led to tears. She’d
had mementoes tucked into the pages of those diaries; ticket stubs, programs
from ice shows, the menu from the restaurant her dad had taken the family to on
her seventh birthday... Dozens of things. Not to mention the diaries
themselves, filled with funny things her mom had said, details of the latest
round of trouble Buffy had gotten into, her worries about her parents marriage,
and… All gone, she’d sobbed one night. Just like her family.
are all that really matter.”
you have a lot of memories of your family?”
didn’t answer for a long time. “Some,” he finally admitted.
wanna tell me about them?”
drawn out silence. “It was just Mother and me when Dru turned me.”
slipped her hand into his.
father – I didn’t know him, really. I was young when he died. He was crossing
the street in London to buy some flowers for my mum. She was…” He paused. “A horse
bolted, a wagon went out of control.” He’d been six years old, walking down the
street with his father, holding his hand. They’d seen the flower cart, smiling
together about how his mum loved flowers, and his father had told him to wait
while he popped across the street to buy a small bouquet to cheer her. She was
in the last weeks of pregnancy, and feeling very worn out. Five minutes later
his father had been dead, the purchased daisies strewn about the cobblestones
near his body. Even after more than a century and a half, the image remained as
clear to him as Buffy’s face.
pulled his hand out of her hold, and lit a cigarette. He looked out over the
– I’m sorry. I can see you don’t want to talk about this,” Dawn offered
quietly. “I shouldn’t have asked.”
okay, bit. I don’t think about them much.” His voice was clipped. But after
taking a long hit off his fag, he went on. “I had two younger sisters, twins.
They were born just a few days after my father died. They died, within a few
weeks of each other, not long after their twelfth birthday.”
without his father, the house had been full of laughter while the twins were
there. After they died, from some wretched fever that could probably be cured
with a pill that cost less than a dollar today, the laughter had stopped. In
the house, and in his soul. He hadn’t really realized it until years after he’d
been turned, but their deaths had changed him deeply, had made him withdraw
from the world, from those left around him, and from himself. He’d tried
desperately to close out the ugliness of the real world, and he’d sought refuge
in studying, in literature, and, he winced inwardly, in poetry.
minute or two passed before he spoke again. “They had beautiful blue eyes. Like
wrapped a hand around his arm, and this time he didn’t try to pull away. “Yeah?
I bet, really, they were like yours,” she smiled at him, and the mood
you think of me as your sister, don’t you?” she asked. “It’s okay, you know, if
you do. I kinda like it.”
he said thoughtfully. Actually, he viewed her more as a daughter. He didn’t
have one bloody idea why either, or even when exactly he had begun to feel that
way. But over the course of the summer, his feelings for his girl had gone
through a series of metamorphoses, and ‘daughter’ seemed to be the final form.
He’d always figured she’d be happier with the ‘friend’ or ‘sister’ designation,
since ‘daughter’ could put all kinds of parental barriers on their odd
relationship, so he’d never told her.
said she could kinda feel mom when she was in heaven. But that they really
weren’t together…” Dawn’s shoulders lifted and fell. “I thought they’d be
theory on your sis is that she was in some kind of holding pattern.”
eternity. Hundreds of years isn’t long at all. Sooner or later, she and Joyce
would’ve hooked up, pidge. ‘m sure of it.”
you think, you know, you’ll be able to feel your sisters? Be with them?”
twisted inside him. He looked away. “Not in the cards for me, pet. You should
I guess,” she murmured. When she spoke again a moment later, her voice was only
a breath of sound. “Maybe you’ll be able to feel me, and then neither one of us
will be so alone.” He wasn’t even sure if she was aware she’d spoken the words
so that he could hear them.
he asked quietly. “Bit, wha’d’you mean?”
Dawn just shook her head and didn’t respond. He couldn’t let that go.
know you’ll be in heaven with your mum and your sis. I’m thinkin’ it’s all
arranged already.” He made sure his voice sounded offhandedly certain. Now he
was the one trying to lighten the mood.
maybe,” Dawn agreed. She shrugged, dismissing the subject and changed the topic
to her friend Aimee’s new dog, which Dawn was convinced was possessed. Did
Spike know any way she could test out that theory?
she climbed back in her window a few minutes later, though, and crawled into
bed, he noticed that her breathing didn’t even out for a long time. He spent
most of what remained of the night smoking and staring at her window.
Continued in Chapter Sixteen