Notes: Some dialogue lifted and altered from No Place Like Home.
Disclaimer: Not mine, no money, etc.
She trailed her fingers over his skin, and watched as her feather-light touch made him shiver, made his firm muscles tense and relax. Grinning, she glanced up at him, caught sight of his dancing blue eyes, then dropped his gaze to let her mouth follow the path her hands had mapped out, kissing his chest, licking at his flat nipples, nipping at his abs.
She loved the paleness of his skin, the way it was cool against her heated cheek…
Buffy was starting to wonder if there was such a thing as an off-switch for the insanity in her life. Because I’d really like it to stop now, please.
Just worrying about her mom alone would take up 110% of her time if she let it. Add to that the normal madness that was contending with Dawn, and now dealing with Riley’s fragile ego, and there wasn’t much time left for the usual weirdness that was her life.
Never mind this thing my head is doing to me with Spike.
Last night’s dream kept creeping up on her at the oddest moments, and she couldn’t help but think it was some carry-over from the glowy ball she’d found. And that would be a great theory, ‘cept, oh, yeah! That wouldn’t explain the dream I had before I found the sphere. At least Giles is in research-mode… as much as he can be with the store. And I suppose I should be grateful I haven’t seen the bleached blond pain in my derriere since he tried to get the chip out… in the flesh, I mean. In the cool, sexy… gah!
And the repeated encounters with the crazy people at the hospital did not reassure her in the slightest. I’m not crazy. Really not. It’s okay – maybe – to notice that Spike is hot. It is not okay to entertain any thoughts about him. Especially those kind of thoughts!
Forcefully, she shoved those thoughts aside, relegating the dream from last to the part of her mind marked “Egypt” and tried to focus on the real problems.
Namely, her mother’s worsening headaches. Buffy was completely convinced that someone – some demon, some monster, some thing – was doing this to her mother to get at her.
Times like this, I really hate being the Slayer, she thought. But I’m really gonna love it when I can kill whoever – or whatever – it is that’s hurting my mom. Because nobody messes with my family.
It was hard to explain her fear to Giles and the others, because they didn’t believe that her mother’s illness had a mystical base. But eventually, Giles – and surprisingly, Anya – did give her a ray of hope in the tirer la couvature trancey thing.
As Giles was packing up the sand and incense that was required, the thought hit her. She could have Riley help her. Maybe this would help him get rid of the idea that she didn’t need him now that he was completely Joe Normal again. All right, so… pouring sand and lighting incense, not so much to do, really, but… maybe he’ll see I really do need him?
That strange twinge of guilt that had been her constant companion since Riley’s surgery grew. I’ve been kind of ignoring him. We haven’t even fought since the running away and hiding part of that day. But he’s still recovering. He’s not ready to go out on patrol… and thus, not ready for arguing. Right?
Despite her wondrous ability to see only what she wanted to see most of the time, she was able to see that for the excuse that it was – and it was one that wasn’t going to work too much longer. Riley needed to prove that he could still hold his own when he helped her patrol, and she…
I need to protect him now.
The idea made her pause, and, reflecting her thoughts, she stopped walking, the plan to return to her house to perform the spell momentarily forgotten. I mean, I worried about him before, but I also knew he’d be able to more or less protect himself. Now… well, he’s not clueless like the rest of Sunnydale, but he still isn’t going to be able to protect himself like he used to, not really. I’ll need to keep an extra sharp eye on him… Her heart sank a little at that. Riley’s not gonna like me playing mother hen over him when he’s all recovered…
Then she made up her mind, jaw firming with resolve. Well, he’ll just have to get used to it. She turned her steps toward home once more.
Somehow, though, on the way, she started to wonder if it would be worth the awkwardness with Riley if she were to ask Spike to patrol with her, all the while ignoring the way the thought made her insides shiver with anticipation.
Wigged out did not even begin to cover this.
At first Buffy had thought the trance had been a bust. There was absolutely nothing to indicate her mother’s headaches were malevolently mystical in origin. Then she’d noticed the pictures.
Every picture that had Dawn in it had just kind of flickered in and out of existence – no, just Dawn did. Dawn’s room with all her stuff alternated with a space that was clearly used for storage. Dawn herself…
She’s just lucky that Giles called when he did. Otherwise…
She just couldn’t believe that she could have so much rage toward her sister. Or… the thing that looked like her sister.
Is Dawn the evil that the Dagon Sphere is supposed to protect against? That thought made it difficult to open the door; she wanted to stay and make sure the thing that looked like Dawn didn’t hurt her mother.
Once outside, her senses started to tingle, warning her of the presence of a vampire. At the end of the walk, she looked up and down the sidewalk, and saw a shadow crowned with moonlit white, almost at the end of the block and walking away.
For a moment, everything froze. Do I really want to deal with the weirdness that is suddenly going on in my head with Spike on top of everything else?
The urge to simplify answered with a firm No! However, some of her part of her mind whispered logically that maybe the best way to get over this… whatever it was she’d dreamt up was to hang around him and prove to herself again that he was both unrepentantly evil and immensely annoying.
So maybe that was what made her call his name, what made her quicken her pace to catch up with him.
If it was something else, she really didn’t want to know.
Spike paused at the sound of her voice. Smoke curled around his head and his cigarette glowed as he drew on it. “Slayer,” he acknowledged, his voice as stiff as his posture. “Look, I’m just walkin’… not up to any nefarious nastiness…”
“What?” She frowned at him in confusion. “Uh…”
“Not doin’ anything you need to bust my balls for.”
“Eeeww.” She wrinkled her nose. “No… busting. It’s just…”
“No?” He seemed to perk up a little at that. “You promise? ‘Cause I’m quite fond of my nose the way it is…”
She rolled her eyes, and the words came out automatically. “Shut up, Spike.”
Immediately, he glared at her, but said nothing, sucking on his cigarette again. See? she thought, almost triumphantly. Annoying. And if I just wait, he’ll be evil, too. “C’mon.” She grabbed his arm and started walking. “I’ve got something to do and the more I think about it, the more vamp vision seems useful.” As long as I can keep from dusting your irritating self, she thought, and tried not to pay any attention to just how insincere that thought was.
He stumbled after her a few paces – perhaps in surprise – before balking and jerking away. “What? Oh, no. You haven’t paid me for the last time…”
“Yeah, and you didn’t actually help the last time, either.” She planted her hands on her hips and gave him her fiercest scowl.
He gave her that smug little grin he seemed to have patented. “You can’t blame a vamp for tryin’.” He dropped the spent end of his cigarette and mashed it out under his boot.
She rolled her eyes again. Guess there’s only one way out of this… “Whatever, Chip-boy. If you come with me, you can actually earn the other half of that stack of bills.”
His smirk grew even wider. “Slayer, you say the sweetest things.”
By the time they had arrived at their destination, Spike was certain something was wrong with the Slayer. She practically hadn’t said a word at all since he’d agreed to go along with her and she’d told him where they were going, and his attempts to goad her by sniping had been met with a distracted order to shut up.
It was kind of unnerving. Bloody hate waiting for the other shoe to drop, he thought, glancing at her out of the corner of his eye.
The Slayer was lost in thought, her expression troubled. She strode along as quickly as she ever did, but it was clear she was on autopilot.
But before he could fathom just what it was that was weighing so on her mind, they reached it – one of the cavernous warehouses in Sunnydale’s industrial area. “This it, Slayer?”
In an instant, she snapped out of her thoughts and glanced around. “Yeah, this is it. The gate was open last time, though,” she added with a frown.
“Last one over is demon bait,” Spike said, grinning as he threw himself at the chain-link fence. An instant later, the fence rattled next to him as the Slayer started climbing as well.
They landed on the other side at about the same moment, and the Slayer flashed him a grin. “I win,” she announced cheerily, and made her way over to the steps leading up to the warehouse door.
“An’ just how do you figure that?” Spike demanded, trailing after her in spite of himself.
“You had a head start.” She wrenched off the lock and opened the door.
He raised his eyebrow. “So bloody what?”
From somewhere – probably the same place she hid her stakes – the Slayer had pulled a torch. “Ssh!” she hissed, waving one hand at him, but still grinning. “You wanna let the bad guys know we’re coming?” The flashlight glared to life, leaving him blinded.
But it was her words that left him blinking in shock. Since when am I not one of the bad guys? The very thought was almost enough to send him slamming back out the door.
Almost. But the Slayer had sought him out – as she had only a few days ago – and hadn’t punched him in the nose, and that went a long way toward… well, not furthering the hatred he had for her. Besides, hanging around with the Slayer promises to be more fun than anything else I was gonna do tonight. At least there’s the potential for a little violence. Maybe she’ll get her arse kicked where I can watch?
That thought made him lope after her wearing a smug grin.
He caught up with her before she reached the far end of the warehouse. “Seen anything?” she asked quietly, flicking her torch beam into the corners.
He snorted. “Might be helpful if you actually mentioned what you’re searchin’ for, pet.”
He didn’t have to look at her to know she rolled her eyes. Then she said, “The other night on patrol… I was here and found a glowy ball. Today, the night watchman from here was in the hospital and he was totally insane. Giles made with the research, and said the ball was called the Dagon Sphere, and that it was supposed to protect against some unspeakable evil. So…”
“So the Watcher needs some clue as to what the big evil is.”
“Yeah. ‘Cept I don’t think there’s anything here.” She swung her light around again, illuminating a door in passing.
“Looks like there’s another floor. Stairs, anyway.” Spike opened the door to the stairwell and let her pass through before following. She gave him a puzzled glance, but started up the stairs.
The second level seemed to hold little more promise than the first, then he really started to notice the smells tickling his nose. He stopped, nostrils flaring, and tried to make sense of it.
“Hush a moment,” he ordered softly, and was surprised when she fell silent. After another deep breath, he nodded. “There’ve been people here… ‘least a couple. Girl wearin’ perfume and a bloke. Think they might still be here. I can smell blood and a hell of a lot of fear.”
“Where? And eeeww.” She wrinkled up her nose again as he indicated the direction. “You can smell all that?”
“Vamp senses, pet. It’s why you wanted me along, right?”
“Sight, yes. Smell? Big eew.” She paused, flashing her torch around the ruined section of wall they’d just come upon.
Spike frowned. A great slab of dented steel lay on the floor, the edges sheered and torn, as if something had pounded on it until it just gave way. “Don’t much like the look of that,” he muttered. The scuffing noise of her footsteps warned him he was talking to himself. When he glanced up to see what she was doing, on the far side of the hole where the steel door used to hang, she was already untying – or untaping? – a man from the chair to which he was bound. The window beyond was, surprisingly, still intact.
The man’s coarse brown robe marked him as a monk of some kind, as did the tonsure in his hair. He had been severely beaten – the olive tone of his skin couldn’t hide his pallor or bruises – and his labored breathing, slightly raspy, said clear as day he’d suffered some grievous internal injury.
“Don’t worry,” he heard the Slayer saying. “We’ll get you out of here…”
Just then, Spike heard something, some soft sound behind him, and turned. All he saw was a blur of blond and red before he was flying through the air. The impact against the concrete wall snapped at least one rib, and as he crumpled to the floor, he felt dust and flakes of shattered concrete flutter down around him. He struggled back to his feet, vision going in and out of focus, and dazedly wondered how deep an imprint he’d left in the wall.
Just then, the Slayer copied his recent mode of flight, sailing through the air, then sliding across the floor and right into the wall. Their attacker – a woman in a red dress, of all things – made some noise about invading her privacy, even as she advanced on the Slayer again. The Slayer was still trying to shake it off and climb back to her feet.
Anger suddenly roared to life inside him, and he swung a hammer blow at the back of the woman’s head. Anyone that strong just isn’t human, no matter what they look like, he thought, and still hoped that the chip wouldn’t fire. But the blow connected and the woman – demon? – staggered forward a step, just long enough for the Slayer to get in a kick to the side of her head.
Grinning now, Spike bounced a little, taking aim and letting fly with a kick of his own, hoping the weight of his boot behind it would knock her out. But the bint caught his leg and twisted, mouthing off about how it wasn’t very nice to just attack someone. He gave a deep, guttural cry as the pain and pressure built up in his knee, and he thought she probably would have broken his leg right off if the Slayer hadn’t backhanded her with a closed fist. The bitch stumbled back a pace, letting him go, and he limped away from her as quickly as he could.
Strangely enough, he found himself standing side by side with the Slayer, and told himself his pride wouldn’t let him retreat any further.
“Spike, take him and get out,” the Slayer commanded, never taking her eyes off their insanely strong opponent. “I’ll be right behind you.”
“Don’t think you can take her on your own, pet,” he responded, his voice low. The monk was behind them, feebly moving away from them and the woman, toward the far wall, and the window that tempted them with escape.
“Believe me, I know.”
He flicked his eyes toward her and saw her face was grim, and blood trickled down the side of her temple. Before he could say another word, though, the Slayer lunged forward, aiming her fists at the woman’s chin. They never connected, and Spike heard her groan even through the crash of her impact against the wall.
As if they had practiced this a hundred times, he had started moving as soon as the Slayer had. He spun and scooped up the monk, grabbing him underneath his arms. Together, they lurched forward, Spike’s injured knee threatening to give way with every step.
“Hey! Hands off my holy man!” The woman’s strident voice rang out behind them, but they were already at the far wall.
“Hang on, mate,” Spike muttered before spinning around and smashing through the glass back first. Then they were falling. Before he could even draw breath to shout, his already-abused back struck the asphalt. He had to bite back a cry as the pain lanced through him.
For a second he just lay there, trying to get past the agony of his rib and now other possibly broken bones, the monk unmoving on top of him. Then, with a groan, he pushed the other man off him and started the long crawl to his feet. His knee nearly gave out completely as he pulled the monk upright as well. “C’mon… Slayer will have my dust if I don’t get you somewhere safe…” He managed a few steps, dragging the monk with him. But he was a dead weight – or at least a dying weight, Spike thought blackly – and they had only gotten as far as the fence before the man fell to the ground.
Behind him, he heard a tremendous rumbling crash, and glanced up in time to see a cloud of dust poof out the broken window. An instant later, there was a loud thud accompanied by a muffled cry, and he saw the Slayer rolling across the asphalt. She teetered unsteadily to her feet and shook her head as if dazed. When she saw them, he could have sworn her face relaxed into something like relief. And then she was hurrying toward them.
“What are you doing?” she scolded, kneeling down by the monk as she spoke. “We gotta get outta here… like now!”
Spike laid a hand on her shoulder; no way could he crouch down without his knee giving a blistering protest. “Slayer,” he said, his voice just barely audible, “he’s not gonna make it.” The man’s heartbeat had been weak and erratic since they’d tumbled out the window, his internal injuries aggravated. He’d heard the sound often enough to know. Then, as the knowledge made her eyes cloud up, he nodded at the building. “You off her?” he asked, his tone already admiring, without even knowing if it was deserved.
She shook her head, and reached out again for the monk. “C’mon…”
“My journey is done,” the monk said, pain evident in every word. Spike was unsurprised at his thickly accented English. “But yours is not. You must protect the Key.”
“Yeah, okay, we will, you just gotta show me…” Again, the Slayer tried to pull the man up; again he just shook his head at her.
“The Key… it is a… portal. It opens the door…”
The Slayer took a breath to say something, but Spike squeezed her shoulder to stay her. When she looked up at him, a protest on her lips, he shook his head.
“It is… energy. For centuries… my brethren protected it… kept it from the Abomination.” His eyes flicked tellingly toward the warehouse. “It was without form… but then the Abomination found us. We had to hide it… we gave the Key form, molded it flesh… made it human… and sent it here, to you.”
Throughout the monk’s halting speech, the Slayer had growing paler, and Spike was wondering what she was thinking. When the man had finished, taking a shallow, shuddering breath, she whispered“Dawn,” and her eyes were impossibly wide.
The monk nodded, giving her a serene little smile. “Yes.”
Spike was rocked back on his heels. Does that mean the Slayer’s brat sister… isn’t really her sister? Isn’t… real?
And how the bloody hell did she already know?
“You put that in my house.” The odd timber of the Slayer’s voice brought Spike out of his thoughts, and he stared at her. She was trembling, her words full of anger… and fear. It was something he’d never seen or heard from her before.
“We knew… the Slayer… would protect…” The monk trailed off.
“My memories… my mom’s…”
“We built them… so she would be yours.” The Slayer opened her mouth again, but the monk coughed, choking on the blood and air bubbling together in his lungs. “You cannot abandon… So many will… die if you do…”
“You can’t… I didn’t… I… I don’t even… what is she?” The Slayer had forgotten he was there, Spike knew; she never would have let him see her this vulnerable otherwise. It was only then that he became aware of the grip of her hand on his own; she held onto him hard, her fingers trembling.
Maybe she hasn’t forgotten after all…
The way that thought warmed him was… strange.
“Human. She is human… and helpless. She is an innocent… and she needs you.”
“She’s not my sister.” The Slayer’s voice was quiet, but Spike could see the lone tear trickling down her cheek… and he felt a pang of sympathy for her.
Again, that peaceful smile. “She doesn’t… know that.”
Then, with a cough and a gasp for air, his eyes went glassy, and he sagged into death. After a moment, Spike reached out his free hand and closed the monk’s eyes, and couldn’t explain why.
At his movement, the Slayer let go of his hand like it was on fire. She tried to glare at him, but couldn’t hide the way her eyes still glistened with tears. “Oh, God,” and though she didn’t finish, Spike could
hear all the ways that thought completed itself in her head.
“Hold on, now,” he said, before she could speak again. “Before you go leapin’ to any conclusions…”
“What’s to conclude?” But the fact that her voice lacked her usual conviction in his evilness – and that she hadn’t reached for a stake – belied her words. Maybe he could still escape from this without being staked.
“Look, pet, anything that’s called the Abomination by those in the know is not lookin’ to win friends an’ influence people… an’ let’s not forget she swung at me first.”
She snorted, the merest hint of a smile playing around her mouth. “Like that’s all it would take…” She trailed off, looking down at the monk’s lifeless body. “How can I trust you, Spike?” she asked, and there was a pleading note in her voice. “I mean, just a few days ago…”
“That was about gettin’ the chip out, which, yeah, I really want. But…” Then it struck him with all the force of a lightning bolt – if she trusts me, she won’t kill me, an’ if I let her trust me… maybe…
He didn’t let himself finish the thought, but he knew, knew that he had been aching for some kind of company and that, more than anything else – because what he’d tried to tell himself earlier was just rationalization, pure and simple – was the reason why he’d gone along with the Slayer.
“Slayer… I know you’ve got no reason to believe me. But remember, I like the world. Even now, even though I can’t fight you, an’ can’t be a normal vamp, I’d still rather have it be like this than be Hell on earth.”
The Slayer looked at him, comprehension dawning in her eyes. “You think that she’s…”
“What the Watcher was on about when he told you about your glowy whatchamacallit? Yeah. An’ no, I’m not gonna run to her an’ tell her that your li’l sis is this Key. She damn near pulled my leg off.”
Again, it looked like the Slayer might be trying not to smile. “All this to get out of a staking?”
He smirked at her. “When I say I like the world, pet, I mean I like it with me in it, chip an’ all. Even if Harris does make me wish I could bite him sometimes.”
“Not the way to be all reassuring,” she retorted. Then she bit her lip. “But… you’ll help me?” she whispered. “You’ll help me protect Dawn from her?”
“Long as it keeps the world spinnin’, yeah. I’ll do my best, anyway.”
She glanced at him and nodded, and gave him a tiny smile. “Good.”
And for some reason, that smile made him feel as warm as any amount of blood had ever done.
Continued in Chapter 3
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/209602.html