Hero’s Reward 5/12

This entry is part 5 of 12 in the series Hero's Reward
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A/N: Some portions of dialogue from “Dead Things” by Steven S. DeKnight

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Chapter 5, Live With Pieces Missing
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Giles had been up all night looking at the notes Willow had taken on her botched ritual. He had managed to piece together the sequence and form enough conclusions to prevent any sleep for a good week to come.
“Oh dear Lord!” Giles sat down hard as he read the words scribbled by the amazingly powerful Witch he had failed to mentor. “She bloody well made a mess of this!” He stared at the words ‘warrior of the people’ and shivered. “The Slayer is the warrior part. It’s no wonder Buffy is feeling disconnected! The way this is worded merely added to the interruption in the ritual. It would be a bleeding miracle if Buffy weren’t completely fragmented! How much is still in flux, that is the question.”

“So the witch DID make a muddle of it after all,” Spike’s voice, spoken so quietly still managed to startle Giles. “Figured there was something wrong. Fixable?”

“I’m not sure,” Giles admitted. “I’ll need to so some tests, some research, and more magics than I would wish. I believe Buffy is mostly intact, but it is possible that some elements that make up the whole didn’t return with her. This would explain her behavior.”

Spike thought about those months that first time and shuddered. No wonder she had been so filled with violence, so unable to love. She must have eventually returned to normal at some point or learned to function without those bits. Come to think of it, that last year had shown Buffy to be emotionally cut off from even her friends. At the time he had chalked it up to the FE and the impending apocalypse instead of a continuation of the problems she had upon her return from death. He had no idea what she was like after the hellmouth fell. Still, the Buffy he knew would never have been cuddling and partying with the bloody Immortal if she HAD been all right. She had even blown off the Great Poof there in Italy and that wasn’t like her at all!

“I shall have to cancel my return ticket and see about a permanent place to live, it would seem. “ Giles began making a ‘to-do’ list for his return to Sunnydale. “I daresay Anya will be less than pleased at this turn of events.”

“Should never have left her, Watcher!” Spike remembered the toll his leaving had taken before and while he glad that wouldn’t be repeating, he still resented the fact that it would have happened without his intervention. “What did you think would happen with you not here to do your job? Buffy’s strong and her instincts are good, but aside from dumping even more weight on the girl, you left her without the benefit of your education, you bloody berk! The daft buggers wasted days researching a frost monster with an appetite for diamonds! Witch got it in one when she called you blind. What did you expect with you gone, puppies and ice cream? Girl’s ready to collapse; witch is ready to go world class big bad; carpenter’s bloody useless. All that worth havin’ your tea made proper?”

Giles looked suitably chagrined in spite of his desire to deny the vampire’s charges. So far this evil creature had managed to address the very issues that a proper Watcher would have caught immediately. He felt a failure, just as he had when Buffy died. “I let her down again. You are quite right. I thought my failures as her Watcher got her killed and that I’d do her more good to both get out of her way and refresh my own training back at headquarters. All my good intentions seem to have worked against her instead.” Spike stared in shock at the humbled Watcher. Giles sighed deeply and did the right thing, “I cannot believe I am saying this, much less that it needs saying, but thank you, Spike, for taking the initiative here. Had you not pointed out what should have been obvious, I have no idea how badly things might have gone.” He looked at Spike with a tiny bit of the old suspicion left in his gaze. “I have no idea what you expect to gain from all your help where Buffy is concerned and have no doubt there has to be an ulterior motive, but still I am grateful.”

“The only thing I want is for Buffy to be happy and whole. Know you don’t believe me, but I love the girl.” Spike closed his eyes in frustration.

“I accept that you may believe yourself capable of loving her. I wouldn’t count on her returning your feelings, whatever they may be, however. Buffy will not lower herself to consort with an evil and soulless creature, even if she may have cause to feel gratitude.” Giles looked the vampire clearly in the eye as he made these pronouncements. It had been bad enough that Buffy had fallen in love with a souled vampire, but it was unthinkable that she might so much as dally with one only an electronic appliance away from mass murder. “Do not think that you are making me a champion for your suit by being so helpful. You are completely unsuitable for Buffy. She deserves much better than a damned creature such as yourself. Buffy is of the light and there is no place for darkness with her. Not now, not ever.”

The harsh words made Spike angry until that last part hit him and caused his guilt to scream in agreement. He clearly remembered his manipulation on the balcony of the Bronze that first time around. “But you always end up in the dark,” he had whispered in her ear, “with me.” He had even rubbed salt in that wound further by pointing out her friends below and offering a vague threat of revelation along with an indictment of their relationship, “What would they think of you if they found out? All the things you’ve done? If they knew who you really were?” He had tried to drag her into the dark with himself rather than join her in the light! Giles might be an insufferable prig to not understand that he DID truly love Buffy, but he was right: Buffy deserved better and she surely did not belong in the dark.

Giles looked at the vampire, puzzled at the wafting emotions playing over the creature’s face. The expected anger had been replaced with something that looked, much to Giles’ confusion, mightily like shame.

“Got the legal bits figured out for getting that money to Buffy,” Spike abruptly changed the subject. “Figure we can disguise it as a trust set up for her to be released on her birthday. Lots of people come into an inheritance on their twenty-first. Might want to put that on your list of tasks to do since her big day’s only a week away.”

“As to that matter, I think I have an even better idea. Buffy asked me just this morning about the proceeds from the sale of her mother’s gallery. In truth, I had quite forgotten all about it until she asked.”

“What DID happen to it? I seem to remember Joyce havin’ a pretty impressive inventory,” Spike narrowed his eyes in suspicion. Really, this lot had truly muddled Buffy’s financial affairs badly.

“That’s just it,” Giles sighed, “No one thought to do anything with the bloody place. I’ve arranged for an appraiser to meet me there later to see what can be done with the pieces she had on hand. Once the back rent for the gallery itself is settled, there should be a sum to add to what you are offering.”

“I might want to drop by, make sure you get a fair estimate,” Spike growled.

“I doubt that will be necessary,” Giles began.

Spike looked up with a gleam in his eye and nearly shouted, “Brilliant! Yeah, you do that Watcher. I think we can add a few pieces while we’re waiting. Remember that tomb where I found the imaginary Gem of Amara?” Giles nodded. “Well, there were plenty of gallery worthy pieces of bling there to add to the pot. This all works out and Buffy’ll never have to do a thing except patrol and look pretty well into old age! Might even keep the Bit in boy band CDs and lip gloss.”

With that, Spike turned, tossed his trusty blanket over his head and headed into the sunlight. He had a present of his own to arrange and some nerds to eliminate before they killed an innocent girl and tried to lay blame on his Slayer.

~~~

Meanwhile at Nerd Central, plans were afoot.

“Couldn’t we have at least gotten a lair with a view?” Andrew was whining again and driving the other two crazier by the minute.

“We’re on the lam, you moron, it’s not like we have a choice.” Warren swatted the youngest of the trio on the back of the head as if to knock some sense into him.

“Yeah! If you hadn’t caused the Slayer to go poof, we wouldn’t have to be hiding in Warren’s mom’s basement, dorkwad,” Jonathan added.

Warren was tinkering with a small device as the other two bickered. “Look, you losers, we’ve got much bigger fish to fry, so shut up and let me concentrate. This is delicate work here.” He lay down his tools and turned to see his companions in crime in a hair pulling fight over an old Bee-Gee’s record. “When you girls are done touching each other, the cerebral dampener’s ready to be charged.”

Andrew let go of Jonathan’s hair and pulled free of the older boy’s grasp. “This is soooo cool. It’ll be like when Cameron Hodge kidnapped Storm, Rictor, Wolfsbane, Warlock and Boom Boom and turned them into mindless mutant slaves on Genosha!”

“This isn’t the X-Men, numb nuts! Besides, that stopped being cool after Claremont quit writing it. This is the real deal, coolness all in one small silver ball and a dash of demon musk gland.” Warren took a plastic bag out with a foul smelling glob of indescribable yellow goop inside and sprinkled it while Jonathan chanted something in Latin. Light and smoke caused the ball to glow and spin slightly as Jonathan’s hand issued smoke.

“Gentlemen, the dampener is operational!” He pocketed the ball and grinned wickedly. “With this little beauty we can make any woman our willing sex slave. Let’s go shopping.”

They headed out to select their prey.

~~~

Spike had two boxes of jewelry and antiques before the appraiser had arrived at Joyce’s gallery. When the inventory she had left behind had been totaled and added to the stash provided by Spike, both of Buffy’s protectors were well pleased. There would be no need for Buffy to enter the work force, now or ever. Indeed, there would be no need for Giles to hector the Council to do the right thing by the girl. She would be well provided for, even if she were to live to a very old age. Dawn’s future was secured as well.

“No need for you to even touch that account,” Giles suggested.

“Got no reason to use it. May as well just add to this pot. Can always make my way without the dosh,” Spike reasoned. “This way there’ll be plenty even if every friend of the Slayer’s decides to leech on her good nature for the rest of her life.” It rankled that Willow had not offered so much as a spell to fix the pipes, much less contributed any money to the household all the months she had lived at Revello Drive.

The appraiser left, having arranged for a proper auction of all the items on hand. Giles then turned to the vampire and began, “I think there may be a need for me to leave town for a short while after Xander’s wedding. I need to check some avenues regarding the mess Willow has left in the wake of that ritual. There is a shaman who owes me a favor and may hold the key to setting Buffy right again.”

“Long as she knows you’ll be back. Girl can’t take people she loves leavin’ all the time.”

Spike bit his lip and offered, “Look…not likely she’ll care if I disappear for a bit. Want me to go see this shaman for you? You stay here and make sure Buffy gets some help dealin’ with the other problems she was havin’ before she took that header off the tower?”

Giles scoffed, “He is not likely to deal with a filthy demon!”

Spike refused to let Giles see how the words had wounded. ‘Never be good enough in his bloody book, no matter what I do or don’t do.’ “I can shower first,” he smirked.

“I told you earlier that your recent assistance will not lead to a path to Buffy. There is nothing that can change that situation.”

“Don’t expect it would,” Spike said sadly. He remembered how singularly unimpressed Giles had been with his having fought for a soul the last time around. He also remembered how the Watcher had been less than pleased to find out that he had returned after burning up in the hellmouth. In the Watcher’s mind, even his immolation to save the world hadn’t burned away the guilt of a century of bloodletting.

~~~

The bar was filling with customers just off from work. The clientele was upscale and the nightly search for Mr. Perfectly Fine was beginning. Not a woman gave Warren the first look as they scanned the likely objects of girlish fantasy.

In the van, Andrew and Jonathan watched the monitor and slobbered at all the possibilities.

Andrew had noticed a bartender who looked like he’d been working out and mused, “We can really have anyone we want?”

Jonathan was more interested in a tall, redheaded woman with a skirt slit to the thigh. ‘I could always use a stepladder,’ he thought.

They were riveted to the images of the possible love slaves passing before Warren’s camera and didn’t notice the door of the van wrench open until the imposing figure in black was already at their backs. “Thought I recognized this rolling rat trap. You two idiots watching computer porn?”

Andrew paled and trembled as Jonathan backed as far into the corner as possible. Spike smashed the communications console before either could tip off their fearless leader that they had company of the undead variety. “Now I’m thinking we need to have a friendly chat while lackbrain is in there being ignored by all the ladies, whaddaya say?”

“S-s-s-sure, Spike, what’d you want to talk about?” Jonathan prayed the warmth he was feeling in his trousers was merely sweat. The vampire was in demon face and that didn’t bode well. This was far worse than when he had threatened the Fett!

“Your little crime spree is over.” Spike’s hand shot out and stopped Andrew from slithering towards the open door of the van. “Over. Now you get to decide if you want to be blushing brides at Folsom with Lex Luthor there or if you want to have a chance to save your scrawny arses instead.”

“You’ve got nothing on us!” braved Jonathan.

Spike laughed ruefully. “Let’s see…one missing diamond, one frostbitten guard, a fairly sizable stash of money that’s likely got serial numbers on file from the bank… Are you starting to have your memory working yet? No? Hmm. Well, the police have already been to Mears’ cellar and have it already. Game he’s playin’ right now’s likely to add rape to the charges, maybe even murder. You want part of that, it’s fine by me, but if I were you I’d start spillin’ my guts to the cops now, turn state’s evidence and cut my losses. You clue them in to his little dating game and set up a sting and you might even get off with probation.”

Suddenly he had their undivided attention.

~~~

Tara dropped Dawn off at home but hadn’t gone far down the sidewalk before she heard Buffy call to her softly.

“Tara, it’s really good to see you again.”

“Good to see you too, Buffy. You look better, more at peace. I hope you know how sorry I am that we acted without thinking.”

“I know. Well, I know you’re sorry anyway. I don’t think Willow’s quite ready to admit it might not have been her brightest idea.” Buffy felt bad bringing up Willow’s continued intransigence regarding the use of magic. She claimed to be staying away from it, but Buffy knew Willow was still going out evenings and meeting with Amy, and that had to be a world of bad news.

Tara squirmed and ducked her head in misplaced shame. “Um, I don’t think I can stop her, Buffy. Even leaving hasn’t made her see what she needs to do.”

“I know. It’s not your responsibility, Tara; not mine either, really. Willow’s a legal grown-up and one of the smartest people I know. Somehow she has to know she’s making bad choices.”

“Choices!” Willow’s voice broke through. “You think I chose to see my best friend die? You think I chose to have her mad at me because I didn’t want her to suffer in some hell dimension? Okay, so you weren’t in one, but how was I supposed to know that? I’ve only ever tried to make things better for you, for everyone, and no one appreciates the pressure that puts me under!”

Buffy looked at her wide-eyed, amazed at her nerve. “You wanna talk about lack of choice? The only choices I get are what toothpaste to use or what to wear and both of those are getting to be smaller choices each day. You think it’s a picnic going out every night since I was fifteen to get my ass kicked by big nasty demons? I didn’t ask to have to save the world once a year or more. I didn’t ask to have all this responsibility dumped on me. I didn’t get to choose a life that includes Social Security. No one gets that I’m not supposed to have the shelf life of a bag of Cheetos. I’m supposed to show up every night and kill the nasties so YOU can life a long life filled with choices. Then, when I finally DO hit that expiration date, I don’t even get to stay in peace because of one of YOUR choices!”

Tara placed a consoling hand on Buffy’s trembling arm and furrowed her brow. “Maybe it would be better to try to talk about this calmly.”

“Sorry,” Buffy shook off Tara’s hand while glaring at Willow, “Can’t choose to chat right now. I have to head out and kill some more monsters before they take away all your freedom.”
Tara watched sadly as Buffy stalked off towards Restview cemetery.

“Headed off to the great bleached wonder again. She’s been spending all her free time with the evil undead.” Willow snorted in disgust.

Tara looked at her former girlfriend in confusion, “I thought you kinda liked Spike? Willow, why are you so angry?”

Willow turned her head slightly and was grateful for the dark of night. She had a feeling her eyes weren’t their normal lovely shade with all the anger she was feeling. She could feel it fuel the power within her. “He interferes. I know he’s manipulating Buffy. No way would my best friend still be mad at me without someone telling her what a bad friend I am. The only one I know who would do that is the same one who turned us all against each other once before!”

“I really don’t think Spike would do that now, Willow. You remember how good he was all summer with Dawn and helping us. He saved all of us at least once.”

Willow used all her self control to disguise her rage. “You’re right, of course, sweetie. I just overreacted. It’s making me all jumpy, going cold turkey this way–you know, with the magic and all. You’d be really proud of me.” She smiled sweetly at her love. “Did Buffy mention that I helped get her all visible again without so much as one spell?”

“Dawn told me. I haven’t really talked to Buffy much until just before you came out.”

“Hey! Next week is Buffy’s birthday. I’m going to throw a party for her. Please say you’ll come. Absolutely no pressure, but I know she’d want you here; I sure do.” She looked up at Tara through her lashes, blatantly flirting.

“Well…maybe…it is her birthday, after all.”

~~~

The sting was nearly perfect. Katrina had followed Warren’s every command with zombie-like obedience, proving the information from the two bumbling budding criminals was not as insane as it had first sounded. The officer who took the confession from the duo wondered why they both were constantly looking over their shoulder as they detailed the brief yet peculiar crime spree they had enjoyed.

They watched in amazement as the geeky boy ordered the lovely woman about. “You should never have left me. Say it!”

“I should never have left you, master,” she dutifully replied in monotone.

“Tell me you love me,” he smirked and reached for his zipper.

“I love you, master.”

The police prepared to move in.

“I love you too, baby. Get on your knees.”

As the door burst in, Warren missed Katrina reply, “Yes, Warren.”

Suddenly, the basement was alive with activity. Police were wrestling Warren to the ground and reading him his rights as Katrina was shaking off her stupor, looking about her in awareness at last. “What the F —? What did you do to me, you creep?” She began to cry. “You’re sick! I’m going to make sure you get locked up for this, then we’ll see how YOU like getting raped!” She collapsed on the stairs as Warren was led to the police car waiting outside.

“Miss, we’ll need your statement at the station,” the officer said kindly. Lucky for you, this jerk’s former pals clued us in or it might have turned nasty for you.”

“Yeah, I feel REAL lucky,” she muttered.

~~~

Buffy didn’t kick in the door to Spike’s crypt. In fact, once she got there, she began to feel slightly unsure of her welcome. Things had become so strange with the vampire lately that she didn’t know if he would want to hear about her latest row with Willow.
She thought back to a conversation the last time she had come here to seek the calm she only seemed to feel in his presence.

“Do you even like me?” The look on his face had been so desperate, so hopeful.

“Sometimes,” she had admitted after a long pause. It was strange but she had to admit that she really did like him. He was nothing like she had thought, nothing like any other vampire she had ever taken the time to know, nothing like…‘no, not naming names,’ she insisted. He had been nothing but kind and helpful to her, even before she died. Really, from the time Glory had beaten him to a pulp, he had been beyond reproach. She had finally come to see that what he felt for her must be love, in spite of what the supernatural authorities seemed to think about it. It didn’t seem right to take advantage of his feelings this way, always going to him, taking from him and offering nothing in return…nothing that he wanted anyway.

She didn’t know WHAT she felt for him. She felt something. Lust, for certain. Attraction, sure, if she were honest with herself, she had found him attractive for a long time. Somehow she knew that was just not enough. For once it wasn’t just about her. He deserved better from her. ‘Maybe I should stop dumping on him like this.’

Still, he had said he wanted to help her adjust and listening to her daily dramas was part of it. She rested her palm on the door and tried to decide if now was a good time to start respecting Spike’s privacy and actually knock.

Spike stiffened and put the mug of blood down mid-sip. He could sense her before she even reached the door. When Buffy didn’t kick in the door and barrel in as usual, he moved swiftly and softly to the door and for once didn’t draw unnecessary breath. She was there, he could feel her. His hands rested on the door in a caress as if it were her warm flesh rather than aged wood. He could hear her rapid heartbeat, smell her delicate scent, hear her shallow breathing, and he yearned for her as time stood still.

With a sigh, Buffy turned and rushed towards home and the safety of continued denial.

This time Spike knew there would be no dead girl to push Buffy off the edge into manic rage, no desperate trip to the police station and nothing for her to regret the next morning. This time he had fixed things the right way and not just been around to try to dispose of a body and become a target for all her anger and fear. He’d saved the girl, maybe even saved HIS girl too. This time he had gotten it right.

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/261407.html

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