Sequel to Two Days; part of The Voicesverse
"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and good will shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness. For he is truly his brother's keeper, and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers..."
Buffy muted the movie. She'd seen it time and again, and that was her favorite part, but tonight she just wasn't in the mood for massive amounts of bloodshed. Not unless she was doing the shedding. Now the only sounds were the ticking of a clock, and the intermittent snores of the sleeper on the sofa.
She was definitely out of sorts. Even seeing Pulp Fiction again wouldn't help. Frustrated with a night on patrol with nothing to show for it, but a couple of fledglings Dawn could have dusted half-asleep, she frowned slightly at the sight that greeted her.
There lay Jonathan Levinson, wrapped in the new chenille throw she'd gotten on clearance. She leaned over and flicked on the lamp right beside his head. Startled, his hands flew to his eyes. They watered slightly in response to the unwelcome light. "Hey," he said, rubbing them.
"You call this keeping watch?" she asked rhetorically.
He squinted at her guiltily. "Sorry," he mumbled. His voice gathered strength. "But it's not like the guy goes into people's houses or anything."
She snorted at the weak argument. "Oh, and you know that... how?"
Sitting up, Jonathan continued rubbing his left eye, like some little boy who had been wakened early from his nap. "Gee, did you have to turn on that light? Blind here," he complained.
At the lack of apology, he grimaced in remembrance of what she'd been doing all night. "Didn't find anything?"
"Would I be this pissed off if I had?" she growled, throwing herself back into a chair.
He considered his answer carefully. "Maybe."
"Well, I didn't."
"There's some kind of moon rhythm thing that goes with serial killers." Jonathan informed her earnestly. "I saw it in a movie once."
"Isn't it bad enough that I have to know that *only* sterling silver kills Fyarls? Or that chaos demons drip mucous from their antlers? Or that Polgaras have a hidden shish kabob skewer?" she complained, voice rising slightly. "I slay *vampires*! That's the job title. Except 'Whoops! Forgot to tell you, Buffy, you kill demons, too!' And now *you* want me to get all researchy on moon cycles for serial killers?" She threw up her hands. "This is *nowhere* in the manual! Not that I would know, of course. Because. Giles. Didn't. Give. Me. One!"
Watching Buffy with the same cautious fascination he would reserve for a pit viper, Jonathan folded the throw neatly and set it on the sofa, as he slowly got up to sidle toward the front door.
"Where are you going?"
He almost jumped at her tone. "Um, home. Cause, well, you're here now, and..."
Letting out a sigh, Buffy waved Jonathan back to the sofa. "It's okay. All done. Just needed to do the vent thing."
"Oh. I thought you were working yourself up to a dismemberment, or something," the man said facetiously, as he placed a hand on the doorknob.
"Jonathan, sit! It's late. Just stay here. I'd hate to find you painted on the west side of the house in the morning," she said dryly.
The man gulped once and was back on the sofa in a shot, knees up, throw back in place around his legs. "Okay," he squeaked. Chagrined at the tone of his voice, he cleared his throat. "I guess I can stay."
Tired as he was, Daniel couldn't have rested if he'd gone to his quarters and blown off his new sleep schedule, as he had the night before. He'd dumped the police information into several compressed files, scrambled, and emailed them separately to the slayer's new secure inbox.
He'd been waiting ever since. Waiting for an acknowledgment, any acknowledgement, that they'd been received. Finally, he'd checked to make sure they were there, by accessing her box remotely. They were. It was just that no one had opened them. He'd started to call - twice - but he didn't have orders to do that, and it felt like an excuse to hear Dawn's voice anyway. Finally, he'd caved and called the Sunnydale project facility to talk to Spike. Who was already there and gone. Spike, who hadn't seen fit to communicate with him, let alone tell him he was there, what was going on...
Angrily, he kicked at his commander's desk. Instead of the sore foot he'd subconsciously expected, the desk tilted as the screws tore away from one corner of the particleboard and Formica. Daniel's vampire reflexes engaged, as he caught the edge before it spilled its monitor and piles of hard copy to the floor.
And there he stood. Great, he thought. The leg had been part of the desk, and now the whole thing was cracked, completely unstable. This was like the day he'd broken his sister's Barbie Dream House in a fit of pique. He stared unbelievingly. Hadn't kicked it that hard, had he?
Sighing, he realized he couldn't hold the desk up and get the monitor off, because of the wires that were attached to the CPU under the desk. And even if he did, the papers would slide down to the floor, totally disarranged. And Spike did have a filing system. Well, sort of.
He balanced the desk with one hand and reached for the intercom button on the phone. Wondered whom he should call. He felt stupid. There were 'things' going on and he was dealing with a busted desk.
Unbidden, Dawn's face burned across his brain, fear in her eyes, but chin held high, all defiance. Daniel took a deep breath, trying to steady himself, and push down the welling anger. What was he doing stuck here playing babysitter, anyway? Babysitting a bunch of vampires and a broken desk!
Grabbing it with both hands, he slung the whole workstation into the wall, as sparks and papers flew. The thump of the monitor was strangely satisfying.
As was the jagged hole in the sheet rock wall.
Buffy finished her shower and put on a sleep shirt and drawstring bottoms. The night had been frustrating as hell, but she'd survived it. And tomorrow, she'd know more. Because she was sure that Spike wouldn't let her down on the police reports.
Once again, she wished for Willow. Xander might think she was coming back any day, but Buffy had talked to her. Heard the vagueness in the witch's voice when she was asked about returning. Buffy suspected that Will had found someone there, maybe the same someone in the coven that was helping her control and use her powers.
She stared at the ceiling with a frown. And where was everybody, anyway? Where were the myriad types of demons that inhabited Sunnydale because of its closed entrance to the Hellmouth? Buffy had seen a couple of cowering vamps, and that was all. What? She was wiping them all out? She'd killed enough over the years, except...
"How many of my kind reckon you've done? A thousand? A thousand thousand? And we just keep comin'."
She could hear Spike's voice, the tone of it, as if it were yesterday. He'd been right, of course. That was what they did. Just kept coming.
So where the hell were they?
A smile played around her mouth as she slept. Dreaming, she watched a tendril of smoke drift up from the tip of his cigarette in fascination, hazing the sharp blue of his earnest eyes. He loved her. He said he loved her, and there was no pain in it.
The smell of burning tobacco penetrated her brain. She pinched herself, wondering if she was still asleep or awake. Looking over at her slightly open window, she caught her breath. If it was a dream, it was a dream. Go with it.
She pushed the window up and slipped out onto a thick tree limb. Hadn't done this in years, since before her mother knew she was the slayer. Seemed a lifetime ago.
Which it was, she thought, hitching her leg over the windowsill.
As easily as she had as a sixteen year old, she slipped down the tree, feet finding the safe spots by rote. The glimmer of a blond head reflected the light from the street. It took her a moment to remember to be surprised. After all, tree equaled Spike.
"Something magic in a night like this," he said, eyes still trained on the house. She watched him raise a lit cigarette to his lips and draw on it, cheeks hollowing momentarily. "All sharp smells and sounds..." His voice trailed off.
"You're here. But what are you doing outside?"
"Thinking. Rememberin'. Life used to be so simple." He spared her a look and caught the shadow of amusement in her raised brow. "Well, 'death' did anyway."
Spike turned and gazed at the street. He took another drag off the cigarette in his hand. "Feels like home under this tree."
"The cigarette butts certainly have squatter's rights." she quipped, a little nervous at his thoughtful demeanor, and reaching down to pick up one. "Know how many of these I've picked up? Just so mom wouldn't notice that we had a vampire on watch?"
"Hundreds?" he commented disinterestedly.
"Thousands," she assured him. "A thousand thousand," she echoed. "And they just keep comin'."
Not rising to the bait, he threw his head back, looking up into the branches searchingly. "My tree, you know."
"I know," she said quietly.
He sighed. "No place on earth as peaceful as right here. Made love to you under this sodding tree."
She smiled softly at the memory. "Come inside, Spike."
"Can't stay," he said, shaking his head. "Got to get back."
"I was asleep," she stated. "Dreaming."
"What woke you?"
"That, I think," she said, indicating the lit cigarette.
He dropped it and ground it out with his boot. "Sorry."
"I'm not. And you didn't have to put it out."
"It was just for remembrance, anyway. Didn't really want it." He looked at her quizzically. "Want to patrol?"
"Is that code? For want to talk? Cause I think you need to talk."
He sighed deeply. "Imagine you think I'm a right bastard. Well, you're not far off. So much ridin' on this, love. Seems beyond me sometimes. Feel like I'm smothering in it."
"Then stop trying so hard," she snapped.
His eyes narrowed.
"You're shutting yourself off. Which is a 'me' thing, not a 'you' thing. So start talking, you dumb vampire. But I'm not standing out here in the dark in my jammies!" Her face was mischievous, elfish, in the dim light.
"Look, I can see what you're trying to do here. But the 'not talky' thing is so not you. Now come on."
Without another word, she turned and headed back to the tree under her window and shimmied up, taking the branches like a monkey. As she reached her window, she looked at him. Shrugging, Spike strode toward the tree and followed her trail up. When he reached the level of the room, her blonde hair swung forward as she leaned out the window, waiting. Hesitating, he looked into her eyes. She stepped back as he took a breath and climbed in. His eyes lit on her bed and on the bound report lying there. He smiled wryly and picked it up.
"Tell me about them," she said softly. "The things that aren't in a file somewhere." He saw her sit on the edge of the bed, inviting him to join her.
"Well," he said, sitting down. "Rodriguez has a weak left..."
Buffy giggled. "That's a start. What else?"
"And Matthews and Jeffries? They're a couple."
Buffy's eyebrows knit in remembrance. Nodding finally, she said, "I can see that. So that's in the plus column. What else?"
"It's bloody killing me being away from you."
Smiling, Buffy got up and walked over to the dresser. "So. You want a drawer or something?"
"I can clear this one out," she explained as she redistributed everything in the upper right drawer of the chest.
The corner of Spike's mouth turned up in a smirk. "Normally, I'd say 'yeah.' I think. Don't remember anyone asking outright before. But we can't be makin' a habit of this. Need to stick close for awhile."
Unperturbed, she laughed and threw herself onto the bed. "I could come there," she said wickedly.
"Oh, yeah," he grumbled. "'Slayer's doing all night patrol. In my pants.'"
"Fine. Just go on, then." She crawled under the covers, and stretched out, turning on her side with a sigh, and looking up at him from beneath her eyelashes. "I'm going back to my nice soft bed, while you go play soldier with the boys."
His answering chuckle was almost a growl. "You bloody beautiful bitch," he whispered, leaning over and placing a kiss on her throat. "Being back here is gonna play hell with my schedule," he said, as he pulled back the sheet to climb in after her, still dressed.
"Nope. No street clothes in the bed," she said haughtily, pulling at his jacket.
Laughing, he undid the tie on her bottoms. "No clothes of *any* kind."
He watched as the vampire's cold blue eyes swept the shadows, but he didn't retreat. Let him come.
Nostrils flared as he caught the scent of the woman - all sunlight and warmed grass. He hated the swing of her ponytail and her sharp eyes, as she came down the tree. Hard, sharp eyes at war with the little girl hair.
Soft voices, soft looks. Soft, both of them. Guttable.
The girl would die. Simple enough to kill a girl, even this one. Especially one stupid enough to make invitations to shadows in her front yard.
She was interesting, though. The image of splitting her open as he tore out her throat made him hard. But he could wait. There were other things to do first. Amusing things. Things that would have made Mother clap her hands in excitement. The girl would be last of all. He could wait, unless she interfered.
It wasn't about her, though. He would take it all away from his brother, piece by piece, thing by thing, until there was nothing left. Poison Cerberus at the Gate. Then, Rip off his Head.
At least, that was what he'd been told...
They'd finally passed out of earshot. Even his. And not deigning to follow them up and hear more - more weak whining of his brother to the girl - he set off again to hunt. Let them have their moments of time. It would make the ending sweeter. For him, anyway.
Bile rose in his throat as the nausea hit him. His brother chose that over Mother. Deserved to die, yes, but deep suffering first. He would carve him out like a pumpkin and fill him with hopelessness. Snatch them all away, one by one. Gift wrap them and return them, red and dripping. Carry away the children, his weak brothers, and sacrifice them to Mother's pleasure. It was all one to him.
But not tonight. Tonight was for small game.
Slipping through the night, he wallowed in the darkness, clad to blend into the pitch of the night skies and the darkening shadows.
He'd fed tonight, yes, but it had been unsatisfying. The thing better than drinking it was watching it fly through the air, only to be stopped in mid-flight by solidity. Stucco or brick were best...
The trees whispered as a light breeze stirred the branches. Moving on, he approached the edge of the university grounds.
He'd go slow, choosing just the right one, watching over time, before painting his message on the walls. Have to stifle the impulse to draw her blood neatly through dainty holes in her neck, her wrist, so that he could derive the greater satisfaction.
Dream of paint on the canvas, and dark strains of red chords accompanying the screeching music in his head.
She could smell the bacon as she floated down the stairs. Then, she heard the sounds. A snore stopped her cold in the living room, though. Looked like Jonathan had stayed over.
She sped up as she heard her sister's voice amid the sizzle of cooking bacon. She hadn't eaten at all last night. Had never even gotten up again. Her mouth watered in response. Which was purely Pavlovian, she thought triumphantly. Too bad she's already taken that test.
"Well, if it's a prophecy, then he's not a serial killer. Right?" Buffy asked.
Dawn stepped into the kitchen and was greeted by the sight of a barefoot and shirtless Spike in front of her sister's new lap top, hair still wet from... the shower?
Even squickier was the sight of her sister, in slippers and a bathrobe, with surprise! Even wetter hair.
So, already two showers this morning, or... ugh! Just one?
She realized Spike's eyebrows were raised in greeting, as he slid a platter of pancakes toward her. "Mornin', Bit. Bacon comin' up."
"This is too weird!" Dawn blurted out, sitting down heavily. "Shirtless Spike and Bathrobe Buffy *and* breakfast?" She tugged at her camisole, as the strap slipped slightly. "And what are you doing here, anyway? Not that I'm not glad. Cause I am," she said hastily.
"Checkin' on the base. Makin' sure it's up to spec." The half-lie came off this tongue easily. "And my shirt's in the wash. Big Sis insisted."
"I can put on my jacket if you like..."
Dawn rolled her eyes. "That's okay, fashion victim. I'll just try to survive the traumatic sight of you and my sister being all cozy in the kitchen at 7 a.m."
"Thanks ever so," he said dryly, as he returned his attention to the laptop.
"Although my schoolwork might suffer..." she warned.
"This is the only thing I can thank the Doublemeat for," Buffy said as she turned toward Dawn with a plate of beautifully crisped bacon. "Perfect bacon every time. Even though what they used wasn't exactly bacon..."
"Oh, ewww! Stepford Buffy! Way too domestic here!"
Buffy's voice was droll. "Well, if you call having coffee and reading over the autopsy report and looking at the gori-icious crime scene the picture of domestic - well, yep. That's us. All Grant Wood American Gothic."
Discomfort and fresh bacon forgotten, Dawn jumped up and came up behind Spike to look over his shoulder. "Oooh. It *is* words!" She squinted. "It is 'words', right?" She reached over to tap on the screen. "What's that one?"
"Cerberus," Spike answered. "Legend has it that it's a three-headed dog that guards the gates of Hell."
"Yeek. That's gross," she said as the smell of breakfast reclaimed her attention. She wandered back to her chair.
He smirked. "Well, I've never met one, but it seemed to be a kind of a watcher," he explained. He frowned in thought.
"Like Fluffy in Harry Potter?" Dawn asked, as she put peanut butter on her pancakes.
Spike's eyes widened and darted to Buffy's.
"Watcher?" she echoed.
Sighing, the vampire shook his head. "Bugger. Can't be that. Too much of a reach."
Mouth full, Dawn gestured with her fork. "Well, maybe there's more. Were there words where the other girls were found?"
Her question landed with a thud. Spike looked embarrassed, Buffy vaguely uncomfortable. "You haven't even checked, have you?" Dawn crowed accusingly. "Yay me! Oh, yeah, oh, yeah..." she chanted.
"Okay..." Buffy commented as she looked at the vampire. "That was a big old boo-boo."
"Wasn't thinkin' straight," Spike growled. He brought up his email. "Daniel might still be at the office." He looked at the Summers sisters. "I need the names of the other girls. Save time."
"Madeleine Waters and Sondra Lane," Dawn answered excitedly.
"Been on your mind a bit, Nibblet?"
"Well, it seemed so unHellmouthish."
"Right. Need to look over your choice of private reading material, I reckon."
Dawn stuck out her tongue at him. "As if." She looked down and saw Spike's hands race across the keyboard, typing with only two fingers. The page filled with words.
"Wow," she said admiringly. "You type *fast*!"
Eyes glinting in amusement, Spike grinned at her. "Been practicin'."
"Hello? Vampire," he reminded her.
"Uh, that's to Daniel?"
Spike nodded, biting his lower lip as he concentrated on the body of the email. There were a lot of things they needed to know. Personal information on the girls, autopsy data, crime scene photos...
"Tell him I said 'hi.'"
Spike stopped typing and slowly looked up, face expressionless. Dawn gulped and dug into the mound of food on her plate.
By the time Xander arrived, Buffy's hair was dry, and Spike was dressed in a freshly washed shirt and boots. Jonathan was stuffing his face with the pancakes and slivers of bacon that remained.
"See you couldn't stay away, Soul Man."
"One more day away from your shining face was a day too long, Harris."
"And so go the Days of Our Lives... or in your case, Un-Lives."
Jonathan watched the exchange with the same absorption that a tennis fan would accord Wimbledon. After several more insults were lobbed back and forth in the air, Spike let out a breath.
"Bottom line. You with me on this?"
Xander's open mouth closed. He glanced down at his feet, then at Buffy. Finally, he looked back at Spike, whose eyes were matter of fact, and as clear as blue glass. The man nodded slowly. "Yeah."
"Right, then," Spike said mildly. "Here's what we've got..."
The cave was dark and quiet, though the morning outside was bright and sunny. It reminded him of Mexico.
Nice memories of Mexico. He'd left her there until his return. Until he had what he needed to be everything she wanted.
He'd seen two girls last night. So hard to choose...
Maybe he wouldn't.
Xander inched toward the hallway, where Spike was on something that looked like a "gee'd-up' cell phone. Eavesdropping unashamedly, he tried to catch the thread.
"I'm sorry. God, I'm so bloody sorry, Daniel, but I can't have you away." There was a pained look on the vampire's face.
Xander leaned closer, trying to hear more. Spike listened quietly, face still.
"No." His response was flat. "Just send in First Team." Spike's voice was tight. Xander sensed trouble in Vale.
"Sorry, Fledge, need you there," Spike's voice was regretful, but firm.
The vampire's face went stony. He listened, lips tightening even more. Buffy made an exasperated noise, as she realized Xander was listening in and pushed past him.
Her slayer picked up a tinny "Bullshit!" from the phone.
"I need 'em trainin'," Spike said in exasperation. He looked at Buffy and shook his head.
"Then, bring in a Navy Seal!" he yelled into the phone. "I'm there, Spike."
"Don't make me give you a bleeding order!" Spike's voice was rising in frustration.
"Don't bother! Won't obey it anyway!" Daniel eyed the old, little-used filing cabinet in the corner. Wonder how big a hole that would make in the wall?
Why didn't Spike get it? He should, if anyone would. There was no way Daniel could stay in Vale. Not now.
"Spike... what's wrong?" said Buffy quietly.
The vampire put his hand over the phone. "That Madeleine bird. She's... the ex. The... fiancé..." Spike said quietly. "He's head up. Wants to come back. Now."
Xander's jaw dropped. He'd forgotten Daniel had had a life before undeadness. And Spike was the voice of reason? He shook his head. It was all too weird for him.
Buffy nodded in understanding. "Just tell him to come on." Xander nodded, as if anyone cared.
"He's a loose cannon," Spike said stubbornly.
"Oh, and you're not? Who charged back into town last night over one phone call? What would you do? If you were in his place, what would you do?"
Daniel slammed down the phone without a twinge of remorse. The receiver split at the seams. The fledgling was shaking with anger and shock. He'd never felt so helpless, not even when the doctors were filling him with vampire's blood on the operating table.
He'd been a good little soldier, preparing to fight the good fight. Had finally reclaimed himself in this sequestered little world of darkness. And now, all of a sudden, the real world - the world that *used* to be his - had slammed back into him with all the subtlety of a terrorist's bomb.
Should have stayed in Sunnydale. He'd been keeping an eye on her, protecting her, watching out for her, as best he could. And now she was dead.
With sick fascination, he looked again at the pictures of the place where she died. The blood. He'd read the autopsy already. There was a dark hole where a sick nausea ought to be. He felt dead.
He laughed grimly. He *was* dead.
Quickly making a list, he fired off orders to ready First Team for its premiere field exercise. There was no way he was staying here. Didn't care what Spike said. If he'd been there, she would have been safe. Safe to finish school, meet someone else, have babies. All the things he wouldn't do now.
He put his head in his hands briefly, trying to push away the image of her open smile. Of the damned Irish setter who used to sleep with her.
The bastard had killed Maddie's dog, too. She'd been out walking the stupid dog, and the son of a bitch had killed them both. He'd read the report. The son of a bitch had cut them up. Cleaned them out. And written on the wall of the rickety house she shared with her two roommates in her blood.
No way in hell he was staying in Vale...
"What's wrong with you?" Xander was almost yelling. "You know he has to come back! You'd come back, right?" The man sat down heavily, shaking his head. "I'd die if something like this happened to Anya. And to be stuck where I couldn't go after him?"
Spike sat down heavily on a kitchen chair. "We need to move on the relocation. Can't do it with both of us here."
Taking the chair across from the vampire, Buffy tried to catch his eye. "Call it a trial run," she suggested. "You're bringing in First Team. They can help get everything squared away at the old base."
"So you're off schedule," she said dismissively. "Since when had *anything* here been convenient, or worked out like we planned?"
Xander nodded in agreement. "Bring 'em here, get 'em patrolling. They'll catch the guy. Then, you have troops that know the lay of the land when you bring in the rest."
"When did you get all supportive?" Spike asked dryly. "And are you volunteering to play 'scout?'"
Shrugging, Xander smiled self-deprecatingly. "I does what I cans. And Jonathan's in the know. Right, Jonny?"
"God, don't call me that." Jonathan swallowed quickly and spoke up. "And yeah, I'm in, too. Whatever you need."
"All right, then," Spike said nodding. "But it would be better if he stayed there. I'm not backing off that."
"Don't hold your breath," the man mumbled.
"Not in the habit of it, Harris."
While the fledgling vampires of First Team and five techs whispered quietly, Daniel stared at the wall of the cargo hold, as images of maize-colored hair glinted in the sun.
Her schoolbooks were spread around her, but her laptop was closed. She dozed on her stomach, arm under her head, lying in the late afternoon sun.
Periodically, Daniel would look up from his manuals to stare at her, as the light breeze lifted tendrils of her hair and laid them softly on her sun-flushed face. Her dog was off sniffing at the trees - and any other dogs that might come along.
She was so beautiful. Not model-pretty - more interesting than that. She had a crooked smile that made her seem as if she was looking at the world with a quirky sense of self. Which she did.
Planning to go to law school, her studies were tangled up with every moment of her day. School time, work time, quiet time, Daniel time. Her mind was constantly racing, turning everything over and over, and examining flaws and parallels. Even when she was crying over some 'chick flick' she'd dragged him to.
She liked Wagner and Natalie Merchant. Nina Simone and Stone Temple Pilots. She liked action movies and horror flicks, dramas and parodies. She ran five miles a day, and worked out three days a week.
Sometimes, when school was too much, and the physical and mental exertion floored her, she'd take two days off, watch "Lifetime," and eat popcorn and fat-filled ice cream.
She loved her mother, her dog, and Daniel. Hopefully, not in that order.
The wall of the plane came back into focus as Daniel chin set. Shaking the image away, he tried to calm down by taking a deep breath and letting it out. The oxygen didn't mean anything, but the gesture seemed to help.
Spike would ship his ass right back to Vale if he saw any reason to at all. So he wouldn't give him a reason. He'd be calm and do his job. And if he got a chance to get his hands on the murdering bastard that slaughtered Maddie...
He'd drain him dry.
Continued in Chapter Five