Author: abelina (Abby)
Title: Calm the Waters
Chapter: 1: Always the Gentleman
Word Count: 2350
Summary: It must be spring, because there’s an apocalypse brewing. Spike and Buffy go on a mission to find the final artifact needed for the ritual to end the world, so they can destroy it before it’s too late, only things go a little bit awry.
Setting: Season Five, sometime after Intervention but before Tough Love, in a bit of an alternate reality.
Rating: NC-17, eventually
Notes: Written for seasonal_spuffy, fall 2010 round. Sorry, I had hoped to have more of this done but life doesn’t like me right now. Just one chapter today, possibly two if I can get my crap together, with the rest to be concluded on my journal. Self-beta’d, so if you see any errors please let me know so I can fix them.
Calm the Waters
Always the Gentleman
Buffy tapped her pencil on the notebook propped up against her knees and swept her eyes around the room. None of the others noticed, with all of them bent over books, reading intently or jotting down notes with the soft scratching of lead over paper. Even Dawn, sprawled out on the floor behind the research table, plugged away at her homework without protest. Buffy sighed, glancing at the clock and then at Giles who had paused in his reading, brow furrowed, glasses caught up between layers of t-shirt as he unconsciously cleaned them. After far too many hours spent in research mode, Buffy had long exceeded her patience with reading and sitting around and doing precisely nothing.
She sighed again, not quite able to rein in her displeasure. They had to have found something by now, and whether or not it was anything useful, she didn’t care as long as it got her out of this chair and outside doing something about it. Giles glanced up from the page he was studying—which, she realized, was not an old, moldy book, but today’s newspaper—a familiar hint of affectionate impatience showing in the squint of his eyes.
She stilled her pencil, and the squint lost a little of its stuffiness.
“Buffy, that young doctor you spoke of—Ben, was it?” Giles held the paper out to her, thumb at the corner of a fuzzy black and white image of the man in question. “Look here.”
More reading was not what she wanted to do just now, but she took the paper from Giles anyway and skimmed over the article, eyes widening as she read.
The pedestrian killed in a hit-and-run accident two weeks ago Tuesday has been identified as Dr. Benjamin Magnus, an intern at Sunnydale Memorial Hospital. His remains were difficult to identify, the Coroner’s office stated in their press release, due to his lack of ID and unusual circumstances. As reported in the original article, witnesses say that Dr. Magnus was wearing women’s clothing when he was struck by a city bus, leading the police to begin their investigation in an entirely different direction from where it finally concluded.
Dr. Magnus has only resided in Sunnydale for the past few months…
Buffy looked up at Giles, a little ache blooming in her chest for yet another needless death. Giles’ eyes seemed to soften, as if he only just realized where her thoughts were likely to wander with this kind of subject matter.
“Read this last part,” he said, pointing to the passage with the arm of his glasses.
The body was stolen from the Sunnydale morgue last night by a group of unidentified individuals wearing robes.
“They were short, but strong,” reports the night janitor, who tried to stop the theft but was outnumbered by the bandits. “There was something not right about them. They looked kind of like evil hobbits. I think they belonged to some sort of cult.”
The Sunnydale Police were unable to substantiate the janitor’s claim. According to Sgt. John Abraham, “We have ruled out the possibility of gang involvement, and feel certain this matter is simply a case of straight forward, though gruesome, troublemaking.”
Anyone with any information about the crime is asked to contact the Sunnydale Police Department’s Special Crimes Division.
Buffy set down the paper and met Giles’ eyes again. “Evil hobbits? That sounds like—”
“Glory’s minions,” Xander said, looking up from his book. “Think this Ben guy was related to Glory somehow?”
“While ‘evil hobbit’ could easily constitute a description for a number of unsavory demonic types, it would seem rather likely, yes.” Giles placed his glasses back on his face. “I intend to look into it, once our immediate concerns have been addressed.”
“Glory’s been silent too long as it is,” said Tara.
Buffy glanced toward Dawn, who she knew was listening. Though Dawn had her pen to her paper, it wasn’t moving, and she held her body unnaturally still. Buffy stamped down the urge to ask Dawn to go work in the training room so she couldn’t listen. They had agreed, in the days after Glory had kidnapped Spike that if Dawn went to school and did her homework, then Buffy would let her get involved with research and Slayer-related discussions.
“I kind of expected her to lick her wounds a bit after we stole Spike back, but it’s been three weeks,” Buffy said, setting her untouched notebook down on the table atop the newspaper. “I keep thinking this Oompa Loompa thing is just Glory’s way of distracting us from what she’s really up to.”
Giles’ desire to roll his eyes at her verbal butchery all but whacked her on the head, and she suppressed a smile. She would never tell him that she had stopped trying to learn the tongue-twisty names years ago just to hear his little frustrated sigh and note of veiled impatience when she got a little creative with her wording.
“I can assure you, Buffy, that the ritual of Oma’pa Oula has existed with its own sordid but well-documented history for a number of millennia,” said Giles. “And has been performed with varying success countless times since then.”
“So if it’s been done before, what’s the big deal?” asked Dawn, moving from her prone position to sit cross-legged. “I mean, obviously the world’s still here, right?”
Giles opened the book in front of him to a page he had marked. “The difference, Dawn, is that this time, eleven of the twelve requirements for full completion of the ritual will be present in Sunnydale at the next full moon. And the twelfth— ”
“Ooh! The Cross of Anwyrn, right?”
“Yes, Dawn. The twelfth item, the Cross of Anwyrn, is rumoured to have been hidden somewhere in this area after the last failed attempt at completing the ritual sometime round the year eighteen-sixty.”
“So if the demony cult guys find it—”
Giles nodded. “Then I suspect we shall soon find this dimension to be somewhat uninhabitable.”
“Which leads us right back to having no idea where the cross is with less than a week to stop the ritual,” said Buffy, standing and letting Dawn take her chair.
“And unless we can find a spell that will penetrate the defenses around the other physical items,” said Tara, “Destroying that cross is our only hope of stopping it.”
The door chimed and Spike slipped inside the Magic Box. He met Buffy’s eye and nodded, and she nodded back, still not quite used to this new, albeit conditional acceptance of Spike’s presence. It was somewhat more than tolerance of him lurking just outside the group but something a little less than being glad to see him. He’d earned the lurking privilege, she had no doubts about that, but Buffy didn’t quite know what to do with him now that he was officially classed as a non-enemy.
The others mostly ignored him, used by now to his arrival sometime after sunset. Only Dawn waved an enthusiastic hello.
“Niblet,” he said, hopping up to sit on the counter.
Buffy wandered over in his direction, noting that the last of the bruises had faded from his face. “Find out anything? You were gonna ask around…”
“Not much,” Spike said, pulling a crumpled piece of paper from a pocket inside his duster. “Just this.”
He held it out to her and Buffy took it. “Is this for real?” she asked, head snapping up to look at him after a quick glance at the roughly-drawn map. “Giles! Look at this.”
Giles eyes flicked over the paper and back to Spike. “How trustworthy is your source?”
“Not in the least,” Spike said. “But it’s better than the nothing we’ve already got.”
“I don’t like it,” said Xander. “Could be a trap.”
“Yeah, it could, but we’re getting exactly nowhere with these.” Buffy swept her arm to indicate the piles of books and scrolls covering the table. She looked back at Spike to find him watching her intently in that way he did that always left her stomach squirming in discomfort. “What’s your take on this?”
He blinked and cocked his head slightly, as though he were trying to decide whether or not she had really asked his opinion. “I’d say we’re running out of time.”
Buffy nodded. An uneasy chill crept up her spine at the thought of taking this map at face value, but Spike was right. They weren’t exactly overloaded with options, and if Spike could get a map, so could the cult intending to perform the ritual.
“We’re going tonight,” she said, turning away from Spike to avoid seeing his reaction to the news that she was taking him with her.
“As much as it pains me to say this, Buffy, Xander has a point,” said Giles. “At the very least, we must consider the possibility that the T’Sangii Cult could follow you.”
Buffy dug her fingernails into her palm to ward off her growing irritation. “Consider it considered. I’m not changing my mind.”
She took the map from Giles and studied it a little closer. An X marked a cavern, or maybe some forgotten underground chamber that supposedly hid the Cross of Anwyrn. According to the map, one could access the chamber by following a series of tunnels that began somewhere in the area of Adam’s former lair.
“ Spike?” He was at her side in an instant, but she resisted the urge to meet the eyes she could feel boring into the side of her head. “Can we get to these tunnels from the sewers?”
After a moment’s study of the map, Spike replied, “Yeah, I think so.”
“Good.” Buffy tucked the map into her jeans’ pocket and turned to Giles. “You guys find me something useful about this cross thingy. What it looks like, how to destroy it. Spike, we’re going for weapons.”
Buffy moved quickly toward the door before the others could chime in with their opinions on the stupidity of her plan or their hopes of going with her. Spike, her faithful shadow these days, was right behind her, closing the distance easily with his longer strides once they reached the street.
“There’s sewer access in the Magic Box’s basement,” Spike said as he came up beside her. “Anyone watching won’t have a clue we’ve gone underground.”
“Great. Kudos to the sewer people.” Buffy heard the irritation in the shortness of her voice, remembering too late that she was going to try to be a little nicer to Spike since he had nearly gotten himself killed to protect Dawn’s secret.
He didn’t seem to notice, though, just nodded and kept up beside her. That fact sat unsettled in her gut, squirmy and obtrusive. She was annoyed at herself for even caring about it, and Spike for making her care about it in the first place.
“Thank you,” she said, trying again, even though she couldn’t take all the snippy out of her tone, not when she was approaching battle-mode. “For the map.”
Spike shrugged, looking nonchalant, though Buffy noticed the way he was trying not to smile. “Said I’d help, didn’t I?”
The question was, why did he want to, except she already knew the answer to that. Even if she didn’t want to know it.
“Yeah,” she said, turning away, unsure what to do with a Spike who refused to brag.
Maybe he wasn’t quite sure about all this either, because the rest of the trek to Buffy’s house passed in a strange sort of quiet filled with a million things left unsaid. Whether they were hers to say or his, Buffy hadn’t a clue. All she knew was that her changing opinion of Spike was turning out to be more of a hassle than she needed right now.
Spike raided the weapons chest while Buffy changed clothes and grabbed a few smaller items from her room. The streets were mostly empty on the way back to the Magic Box, which made carrying the swords Spike chose to bring a little less of a chore.
As expected, Buffy had to fend off a number of concerned suggestions and well-meaning offers to join her and Spike on this hastily-planned mission.
“If you want to help, keep working on some other way to stop the ritual,” Buffy said, already heading toward the basement stairs. “We can’t put all our energy into getting this cross.”
Giles’ brow furrowed. “I still think you’re taking an unnecessary risk, Buffy.”
“What? Going now, or…” She followed Giles’ eyes as they flicked toward the vampire beside her. “Because the thing with Glory wasn’t enough to show he’s got our back? We’ve been over this, Giles. ”
She stared hard until Giles turned away. “So we have.”
Buffy sighed. Giles’ concern stemmed only from his love for her, but that didn’t make it any easier to handle. “If we aren’t back in—” She glanced over at Spike, hoping he’d have an idea of a realistic timeframe.
“Better give us twenty-four hours,” said Spike.
“If we’re not back here by this time tomorrow, turn the research party into a search party,” Buffy said, squeezing Giles’ arm. “But you won’t need to, ‘cause we’ll be back, cross a-swingin’, so stop with the worrying, okay? You’re giving me an ulcer.”
Giles’ lips turned up in a hint of a smile. “All right, Buffy. Until tomorrow, then. Spike—”
“Save it, Rupert, you heard the lady.” He hefted his sword and tossed his head toward the basement door. “After you, Summers.”
Buffy nodded to her friends and endured a last-second hug from a suddenly teary Dawn, then started down the wooden steps, Spike right behind her.
Between the two of them, they moved a couple of shelves out of the way, exposing the sewer entrance.
Spike lifted the cover and swept his arm toward the hole. “Ladies first.”
“You would say that,” Buffy said, wrinkling her nose at the smell wafting up as she started down the ladder.
“You know me, Slayer,” Spike said as his booted feet appeared above her. “Always the gentleman.”
>>Contunued in chapter two
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/422021.html