I got posting access, yay!
And here’s chapter 2…
TITLE: The Faraway Nearby
SUMMARY: Set a week after the end of S5. Everyone is grieving. Trying to rebuild their lives. Trying to forget them. At least, until Dawn goes missing. Then, they only have one goal, and Spike realizes this is his last chance to fulfill his final promise.
RATING: R, for now. It will likely turn NC17 later on.
NOTES: Yes, it’s a WIP. My apologies for that. It’s looking to be about 10 chapters (I think) and since this is all I’m working on right now, I fully intend to have it completed by the end of the year. Chapter 2 will come later today. Subsequent chapters will be at my LJ.
“And you’re sure it’s not D’Hoffryn?” she asked Anya for what felt like the millionth time.
Getting Harris and his girl to the house had happened within moments of discovering Dawn was gone, the witches alert as soon as they realized what they’d slept through, Giles on the warpath about botching simple jobs. Everyone now congregated around the room, dread kept at bay by their clusters of proximity. Even Spike had come off his perch on the window sill to edge closer, though he rationalized it to himself that it was just to get a better look, not for any kinship he might’ve felt toward them. If it wasn’t for the lack of Buffy, it might’ve been like any of the meetings she’d called those last few days.
Except it wasn’t. And never could be.
Anya’s annoyance at having to repeat her response yet again echoed in her voice. “I’m sure. Surprisingly enough, D’Hoffryn does not have a monopoly on portals.”
This runaround was getting them anywhere. “Why are you lot ignoring the obvious?” Spike jerked his chin toward the wall. “Picasso’s been hanging out with the chain gang.”
All eyes turned toward the emblem burned over Dawn’s bed. It didn’t exactly match the tattoo the Knights of Byzantium had worn, but the differences were slight enough to be negligible, an extra swirl around the top, the flames at each side thicker and longer.
“There’s only one problem with that,” Xander said. “Field of nightmares ring a bell?”
Spike shrugged. “Looks like it was just a flesh wound.”
“But this doesn’t make any sense.” Willow’s attention had shifted to the blanket and the blood. “Glory’s dead. Even if some of the knights survived, why would they still want to hurt Dawn? She’s powerless.”
“Well, not completely,” Anya said. “She’s still a key.”
Tara shook her head. “Keys unlock specific doors. Glory’s dimension is shut tight.”
“She could be a master key,” Giles mused. “That would explain the blood, as well as why she’s not actually here.”
“How’d they close it back up again, then?” Xander asked.
Spike rolled his eyes. “Obviously, they locked it from the other side, you git. Question is, how do we get her back?”
“How do we even know she’s still alive?”
Anya’s question was the one nobody else had dared to utter, though it had been all Spike had thought about since seeing the empty bed. Had he failed Buffy already? She’d asked him one thing, to protect Dawn, but though he’d promised for always, he’d been too much of a coward to even come see the girl in the time when she might need him the most. His selfishness had won again. Instead of Buffy suffering for it, however, this time Dawn had.
“We have to assume the best,” Giles finally said. “Our priority now is to find her.”
“Besides,” Xander added, “if all they were interested in was a little helter skelter, they wouldn’t have taken her, right?”
As far as straws went, it was good enough for Spike.
From how quickly everybody stirred into action, it was good enough for the others, too.
At Willow’s request, Xander fetched scissors from the kitchen so she could cut a swatch from the blanket with the blood on it, while Anya began writing down the list of supplies they’d need to determine the portal’s origin. Tara and Giles went outside to see if they could find any traces of the magic there, leaving Spike to twiddle his proverbial thumbs until Xander had finished his task.
“Welcome to the waiting room of my existence,” Xander said, leaning against the dresser next to Spike. “The magazines suck, but the sheer boredom makes it oh so worth it.”
“Just until we find the wankers.”
Xander frowned. “And what do you think you’re gonna do when Willow does track them down?”
“Whatever I have to. Important thing is to get Bit back.”
“I would’ve thought the important thing was not to have your head explode. Not that it wouldn’t be funny to see Spike go boom, but you’re more useful to us with a head than without.” He paused. “Mostly.”
Spike gritted his teeth. It was one thing to offer to watch over Dawn because she might actually need him. It was something else entirely to be forced to do it because Xander didn’t want to be inconvenienced out of time he could spend shagging Anya.
But Xander did have a point. He was bloody useless in a knockdown-dragout against the knights. The chip would fire, and that would be the end of the match. At best, he could be a distraction while the others did the heavy lifting.
Sidelined. Again. Useless without even getting the chance to try. The story of his unlife.
With a growl, Spike shoved the vanity chair out of his way as he stomped toward the door. Xander’s “Hey!” and Willow’s squeak went ignored.
He found Giles at the bottom of the stairs, arguing with Anya about the list she’d compiled. “Goin’ out,” he barked without pausing.
“What?” Giles’s head whipped around to follow his trail, the rest of him joining in a moment later to chase Spike onto the porch. “You can’t just walk away in the middle of a crisis.”
“I’m not.” Without breaking his stride, he pulled out the keys he’d nicked from Xander’s pocket. “I’m driving.”
“And what purpose does running away serve?”
Regardless of Giles on his heels, he didn’t stop until he reached Xander’s beater on the street. “It doesn’t. But neither does sitting around, waiting for Red to send me on a donut run.”
He slammed the door, kicking away a crumpled McDonald’s bag from the footwell that sent a pang of nostalgia through him for the good ol’ days with the Desoto. Another era, more years gone, changes all around whether he liked it or not. When Giles poked his head through the window, Spike waved him off, as much because he was starting to get annoyed by his persistence as it was he didn’t want Giles to see any more weakness than he already had.
“I’m not scarpering off,” he repeated. “But while you work out your mojo, I can check around, see if anyone’s heard more on these knights.” He glanced at the sky. It felt wrong that it was so clear and calm when the rest of the world was not. “Got a few hours ’til I have to worry about freckling. Might as well make the most of ’em.”
“And what if we need you before you get back?”
Spike shook his head. Pointless question. He was surprised Giles could say it with a straight face. Throwing the car into drive, he pulled away from the curb. His sole satisfying moment came when Giles had to skitter back to avoid getting hit.
The streets of Sunnydale taunted him at every corner. He’d been a wreck about landmarks after he’d lost Dru, but it was different this time. Buffywas Sunnydale. The polished veneer, the secrets within, the strength unbeaten. In his mind, the two couldn’t be separated. The best he could hope for was turning it into a blur. Beating down demons with fangs and fist, blood and bruises, dancing at the center of the ring to take on any new contenders.
Absently, he sucked at the broken skin on his knuckles, wishing yet again he hadn’t been so lucky with that tree. The fights needed to last. He had to wash the world in adrenaline before he drowned in a veil of tears.
Willy’s was first on the list to check. Even at this hour, there’d still be a lot of traffic in and out. In spite of what he’d said to Giles, he didn’t think he’d find anything useful, but at least he’d get a beer from it. It was easier to pretend he was being useful if he wasn’t surrounded by those involved in the actual doing, too.
When Spike sauntered in, Willy looked from the other end of the counter and nearly vaulted over in his rush to get to the door. “Not a good night, bucko,” he said, blocking the way. “I got special guests in the back. I don’t need no fights tonight. I’m still finding pieces of that zhahwarl you scrapped with last week stuck to the ceiling.”
The night after Buffy died. He almost hadn’t made it back to the crypt before the sun came up.
“Can’t a fella stop in for a pint if he’s got a tickle?” he said.
“Your tickles have a tendency to shut me down for repairs. Go find a liquor store to bust up instead.”
Spike clicked his tongue. “Driving away customers. Not good for the bottom line.” Over Willy’s shoulder, he spotted a familiar lump at the end of the bar. “Tell you what. Lemme just have a chat with Clem there, and then I’ll be on my way.” If there was any gossip to be heard, Clem was the one to have it. Spike could take comfort in knowing he’d hit the most likely source as quickly as possible.
Willy glanced dubiously behind him. “Just a chat?” he echoed.
Willy guffawed, but stepped out of the way, returning to his spot behind the counter. Though he cut one last look in their direction when Spike slid onto the stool next to Clem, he did the wise thing and refrained from commentary.
“Spike! Where’ve you been? The game’s not been the same without you.”
The sheer exuberance in Clem’s voice was manna to Spike’s spirits. No matter who Spike killed–or didn’t kill–Clem always treated him the same, always glad to see him, never uttering a mean word. Spike had latched onto Clem’s poker games mostly for that.
“Been busy,” he replied. Which was true, but felt like a lie at the same time.
“Was that really you who set the RV dealership on fire?” Clem grinned. “Dude, that was a work of art. Truly.”
Setting off the alarms in the manager’s office had been the only way Spike could buy enough time to get the Winnebago for Buffy off the lot. He hadn’t found out until he came back that the fire he’d started in the rubbish bin had turned into the RV inferno.
“Next time you do something like that, lemme know ahead of time,” Clem was saying. “I’ll sell tickets for the show, and we can both clean up.”
“Might be a bit. Right now, I’m on the lookout for some blokes who were hanging around town a while back. Called themselves the Knights of Byzantium. You hear anything about them recently?”
Clem frowned, his gaze sliding sideways as he mulled it over. “You mean those Ren faire guys I kept bumping into?”
His nerves leapt, though he did his best to keep cool. “They’re the ones.”
“Dudes had serious control issues. I accidentally ran over one on Main Street, and three of his buddies pulled their swords on me.”
“Had.” Past tense. Not good. At least he could take satisfaction in knowing Clem’s bumping had been literal. He just wished Clem had a bigger car. “So you haven’t seen them around lately.”
“Not for a couple weeks. I figured they gave up on whatever it was they were looking for and went back to their own dimension.”
“How’d you peg them for not being local?”
“I didn’t.” Clem pointed a finger down the bar. “Willy did.”
At the mention of his name, Willy looked up, then looked back down even faster when Spike zeroed in on him. “Oh, really?” Spike drawled. He hopped off the chair and stalked closer.
“Just chatting,” Willy babbled as Spike approached. “That’s what you said.”
“That’s what I said, all right.” He leaned across the bar. “So chat.”
“What more do you want? They came in looking for information. All I got was tit for tat.”
“It’s the tat I’m interested in.”
“You’re going to be disappointed, then. They’re just your run-of-the-mill, mission from God fanatics. They didn’t even order anything. All I got for the bother was this.” He disappeared beneath the counter for a second, re-emerging with a sheathed sword cradled in his hands. At the sight of it, phantom aches sliced through Spike’s palms. “They picked a fight with the wrong Fyarl demon. I took this as payment for the clean-up.”
Spike tilted his head to get a better look at the hilt. Runes decorated every inch, too orderly not to be purposeful. He recognized a few, but the rest were gibberish. If he could read even a little, though, Giles and Willow would have no problem translating the rest.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” Willy said.
Spike straightened. “What?”
“I know that look. You can’t have it. It’s not for sale.”
“Who said anything about buying it?”
“You’re not taking it, either. One of my guests is here especially for it.”
“Oh, let me guess,” Clem chimed in. “That slod demon, right? He said he was a collector.”
Spike’s initial disappointment about the sword sharpened at Clem’s words. “You got a slod demon here?”
“Sshhh!” Willy hissed. “Keep it down, will you? He likes his privacy.”
“Oh, I’ll just bet he does.”
He’d known only one other slod demon in his century-plus existence, a fussy git in Italy who’d run with the Immortal. He and Angel had always suspected the slod to play some part in the wanker’s longevity, but they’d been run out of town before they could find any proof.
And now one was here. Someone with magic powerful enough to keep death at bay.
Stopping pain from a chip firing would be a walk in the park for him.
“This slod demon…” He affected more nonchalance than he felt. Steve McQueen would be proud. “He in your game?”
“Sure,” Clem interrupted, ignoring Willy’s protestations. “You want in?”
“Maybe for a few hands.” The first glimmer of hope he’d felt in eight days began to flicker deep within. “Something tells me my luck might finally be changing.”
Giles bit the inside of his cheek and continued to stir the oil on the stove for Willow’s spell. Actually, Xander was the only one who was discussing it. He’d been ranting about his missing car ever since Spike’s hasty departure. “He’s trying to help.”
“Until he remembered Buffy wasn’t here for him to impress.”
“Xander!” The oil splattered over the edge of the pot, catching on the lit burner. Flames sizzled high and yellow, and Giles jerked his hand back to avoid getting burned. “Damn it,” he muttered, reaching for a tea towel.
“What’s going on in here?” Willow said at the doorway.
Xander pointed at Giles. “He did it.”
“I did no such thing.” He daubed the spilled oil, being more careful about staying away from the flame. “Are you and Tara ready?”
Though she still looked doubtful nothing was wrong, Willow nodded. “Anya’s arguing about where to sprinkle the oil, though. She says we’re going to blow up the house if we do it too close to the original rift.”
“No, you’re going to blow us all up!” Anya shouted from the other room.
Willow rolled her eyes. “See what I mean?”
“Nobody looks good in a million pieces, you know!”
“Xander, make her stop.”
The throb that had started at Giles’s temple when they’d discovered Dawn was missing was now a stampede across his eyeballs. “Perhaps you should listen to her,” he said, anything to get them to stop bickering. “She does have more experience in these matters.”
“She’s never reverse-engineered opening a dimensional rift before.”
“Technically, neither have you.”
“Thank you, Giles! I’ll start moving everything downstairs!”
As Anya’s footsteps bounded up the stairs, Giles sighed and moved the pot off the stove. “I suggest you find a way to work with–”
Anya’s shriek pierced the air.
Xander was the first to bolt, nearly knocking Willow over in his rush to get to the stairs. Giles followed her and Tara, but as he reached the bottom riser, the thick scent of smoke choked in his throat. All three began coughing, though he could see no evidence of anything burning.
“If something blew up, it’s not my fault,” Willow said, her voice muffled from where she’d thrown her arm over her nose and mouth.
“Uh, Giles?” Xander called, already upstairs. “You have to see this.”
The pair stood outside Dawn’s bedroom, staring through the open door. The smell that had gagged them on the stairs was stronger here, but whatever had captured Xander and Anya’s attention was more compelling than the need to block it out.
“What is it?” Giles asked. Xander pointed, directing his gaze inward as well. All the air expelled from his lungs as he breathed, “Oh, dear Lord.”
Because there on the bed, where Dawn had been just an hour earlier, was a sleeping Buffy.
To be continued at my LJ…
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.dreamwidth.org/817028.html