Seven Stages to Clarity Chapter 5

This entry is part 5 of 9 in the series Seven Stages to Clarity
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Chapter 5
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A/N “Checkpoint” (written by Jane Espenson and Doug Petrie); “Blood Ties” (written by Steven DeKnight). Buffy’s birthday is January 19, 1981, according to Joss, even though “Blood Ties” aired Feb. 6th.

 

Just what Buffy needed–as in not! Travers and a group of Watchers from London were coming to add the little bit of misery that her life was lacking at the moment.

“It seems they’ve found some information that may help us out,” Giles tried to sugar coat it.

“News about… Glory?”

“So it would seem. It is rather remarkable that they have managed to find information that was non-existent merely a week ago when I was going through their library there.” Giles suspected that there was quite a bit of information kept on a “need to know” basis and out of the hands of Watchers and Slayers.

“I still don’t want them back in my life, Giles.” Buffy sat at the round table amidst her friends there at the Magic Box and sighed in frustration. “They have a bad habit of trying to kill me when they show up in my town.”

“I can assure you that killing you is far from their minds this time.”

“Can you?” She really hoped Giles was right. There were enough threats at the moment. “Glory came by my house today.” The gasps came from all sides.

“Good Lord! Are you unhurt?” Giles hadn’t noticed any injuries.

“I’m fine. She wants her Key and threatened to start killing people close to me until I give it to her.” She looked resigned. “I guess I’ll have to put up with the Tweed Breed invasion if they can help me take her out before anyone else does get hurt.”

Xander suggested, “We need to find this key thing before Glory does, is my guess. Anyone got a clue where to start?”

Buffy and Giles looked at each other, obviously uncomfortable. “I think it’s time we told them, Giles. If Glory is planning on a killing spree, they need to know what we do.”

“There’s knowing? I mean knowing that we don’t know?” Willow sounded hurt.

“We didn’t want anyone to become a target by knowing anything, but it looks like you’re targets anyway.” She took a deep breath and began the tale. “Okay, guys, here’s the deal. It’s all about Dawn.” Buffy knew it was going to be a long conversation. After all, even she and her mother were having trouble reconciling that all their memories of Dawn, good and bad, were not real.

~*~

Buffy considered all her options; there weren’t many, really. She had to keep her mom and Dawn safe and that meant from the Council as well as the crazy bitch that seemed to defy everything Buffy used against her.

She was tired of merely reacting. She needed to start planning. “Mom, pack a bag for a few days for you and Dawn.”

“Where are we going and why?”

“It’s not safe here just now and I can’t be here twenty-four/seven. I need to know you’ll be okay, with someone who can protect you.”

Joyce pondered that. “From this Glory?”

“Yeah, and maybe the English Inquisition too, but I’m not sure about them. That’s the trouble, I’m never sure of them.”

“Where are you taking us?”

Dawn hugged the newel post and trembled a bit. Glory had scared her more than a bit and seeing Buffy scared made it worse. “Is she going to try to kill us?”

“She can try,” Buffy began, but on seeing that only alarmed the others further, decided to change tactics. “No. She can’t. I’m making sure of that and you have the whole gang of us working on how to nip this in the bud. No reason to worry, I just want someone I trust to watch our backs so I can deal with the Council guys and not worry.”

“So where ARE you taking us?” Joyce sincerely hoped Buffy wasn’t thinking about Angel. She really didn’t like him one bit and feared that Buffy put far too much faith in his innate goodness.

“To Spike. I know he lives in a crypt and all, but it’s kind of homey in a way and I know he cares about you two enough to make sure you’re safe.”

That was a bit better. Joyce wasn’t sure about living in a cemetery, but she did know that Spike wouldn’t let them down. “Are you sure he won’t mind houseguests?”

“I haven’t asked yet, but I’m sure.”

“I think that’s an excellent choice, and knowing Spike, I don’t doubt he’ll make us as comfortable as possible. He’s still got that old world streak of hospitality,” Joyce nodded. “He’ll protect us.”

Dawn was more than a bit excited. How COOL to spend a few nights in the cemetery with the neatest vampire she could ever imagine. She could pump him for all kinds of stories about his ‘Big Bad’ days. “Spike likes me. I’m sure he’ll be glad we’re there. I bet he gets lonely all by himself.”

Now there were words Buffy had never attached to Spike. Hospitable. Lonely. She had a flash of Spike bowing in a courtly manner over her mother’s hand and letting Dawn cuddle during a movie. Somehow it didn’t seem as impossible as it might have a short while before. Maybe all the patrols together had shown her a little softer side of Spike. “Just like Sears.”

“What’s that, dear?”

“Seers…you know, to find out what they might, um…see about this whole Glory thing. Yup, that’s what I need to look into.” Buffy didn’t want a lengthy Spike discussion just before going over to ask him a favor.

~*~

Spike leapt from the top of the sarcophagus, barely avoiding the ray of sunlight that come in with the Slayer and her family. “Oh, it’s the Slayer. For a second there I was worried.” He looked at Joyce and Dawn in puzzlement. “So having a family outing, are we?”

Buffy walked up to him, close enough to touch. It was all he could do to keep himself from putting his arms around her, she looked so vulnerable. It had become harder and harder to keep his real feelings for the Slayer from showing lately. They had been spending a larger amount of time together watching each other’s backs on patrol and getting along rather well.

She was suddenly nervous. She had been fairly certain he would help, but now faced with actually asking for a favor she wondered what her other options might be. It hadn’t been that long ago when they had been at each other’s throats. “I need your help.”

Spike was startled. The Slayer had been nicer to him of late, less caustic, but actually asking for something all polite-like was another thing. “They didn’t put a chip in your head too, did they?”

Buffy was startled at his response. “No, why would you even think that?”

Spike shrugged. “Just not used to polite askin’ from you yet. No insults in a long while and the old Buffy just demanded things or threatened. Makin’ sure you’re yourself, that’s all.”

Buffy didn’t want to take time to explain the change in her thinking regarding chipped and ex-demons at this time. “I’m serious. I need you to look after them,” she motioned to her family standing with bags in hand in the doorway.

“That’s a boatload of manly responsibility to come flying out of nowhere. Why me?” He swallowed and looked at two of the only three humans he actually cared about and hoped he wouldn’t disappoint.

“You’re the only one strong enough to protect them. The Council is here with information about Glory, and I don’t trust them either. I can’t be everywhere at once and I have to know they are safe.” Time to admit a few things. “I know you’ll do everything you can to protect them. I trust you.”

That was new. As chuffed as it made him to know he had finally earned the Slayer’s trust, it also scared him a bit. Things too good to be true usually turned out not to be.

“So? Do I have to look elsewhere?”

Spike walked towards Joyce with his most genial smile. “Ladies, come on in. Haven’t exactly got a set-up that’s human-friendly, but we can put something together.” He gestured around the crypt. “Basic kitchen and den here with working microwave. Naught but blood in the fridge, but we can pick up a few things when the sun goes to a more vamp-friendly place. TV works and I finally got that cable hooked up.” He smiled at Joyce, who grinned in response.

Dawn had already sat down in the one armchair and was flipping through channels. “You’ve got porn!” Joyce grabbed the remote and powered it off while blushing brightly.

“Um… yeah, about that…” Spike stammered. “Bachelor flat here, not used to anyone else touchin’ my stuff.” He leveled a glare at Dawn that frightened her not one bit.

“Dawn, you know better than to be disrespectful,” Joyce chided. “This is Spike’s home and you will treat it the way I raised you.”

“’S okay, Joyce. Bit’s used to getting’ her way ‘round me. Likely my fault she’s manners to let.”

Buffy watched the interplay and felt the tightness in her belly ease. They were going to get along just fine. “I’ll bring some groceries and other stuff you’ll need after I stop in at the Magic Box. Anything else you need, let me know.” She looked directly into Spike’s eyes. “And thank you. Really, thank you.”

“No problem. Just gettin’ ready to watch a bit of Passions. Won’t mind the company,” he looked pointedly at Dawn, “long as they keep still while the show’s on.”

“OH, Passions! Did they get Timmy out of the well yet?” Joyce and Spike had bonded over a shared love of the wacked out soap months before.

“No, but he’ll be fine. All the witch has to do is sew him back up and he’ll be good to go.”

Buffy had to grin in spite of all her worries. Spike was truly a unique vampire on many fronts. “Well, I’ll just leave you to your TV madness then.”

They didn’t even notice her leaving, having settled into companionable silence, eyes glued to the TV screen.

~*~

Travers had closed the Magic Box and thoroughly intimidated everyone by the time Buffy arrived. There were six other Watchers still going over and touching everything in the store as if they owned it.

“Miss Summers, good to see you again,” Travers said in a voice filled with ennui and a stony face that underscored his insincerity.

Buffy didn’t bother to answer. She knew she would choke on any greeting that smacked of actually being happy to ever see any of them again in her lifetime.

“Well, let’s get to it then,” Travers motioned to the desk where he had a few unopened files and a briefcase. “We are ever willing to assist our Slayer in the performance of her duties and have all the information available on this Glory here.” He smiled at her. Buffy thought it was rather like seeing a snake smile. “Of course, we must make absolutely certain that the Slayer is in proper condition to receive this information.”

There it was. ‘Carrot on desk and stick firmly in hand’ was Quentin’s favorite position. “We’ll begin with physical assessments and then we’ll deal with your strategic planning and general knowledge later.” He motioned for his Watchers to disperse. Three of them headed out, while the other three went to the training room, evidently to prepare. “Meanwhile, some of my team will begin their questioning of your…ahem… associates.”

“What?! You have no right to bother my friends or come testing me. I’ve been guarding the Hellmouth just fine ever since I quit and I don’t owe you any demonstrations. I do my job just fine and you know it. You don’t have the right to come in here and mess up Giles’ business either.”

“Of course we do, and a great deal more. In fact, if you insist on fighting us, we’ll arrange to have Mr. Giles deported within the day. He’ll never set foot in this country again.” He was positively gleeful knowing he had them all over a barrel. “Perhaps you’re used to idle threats and sloppy discipline,” he looked right at Giles, “but you’re dealing with grown ups now. Am I making myself perfectly clear, Miss Summers?”

“As a bell. I know who and what I’m dealing with.” Buffy was furious but unable to think of a thing to stop them from getting what they wanted.

“Shall we begin then?”

Travers headed for the training room with Giles and Buffy trailing. Buffy took the opportunity to whisper to Giles, “Can he really do all that?”

“Yes, I fear he can indeed. They may only seem good for bureaucratic busy work, but they do have unimaginable power politically on an international scale.”

“And they know just what it would take to make me give in.” Buffy put a fond hand on Giles’ arm just as they entered the training room. “I can’t lose you, Giles.”

“Thank you.” He was more touched than he could say, especially as useless as he’d felt of late.

They began a training exercise that proved nothing other than Buffy’s lack of knowledge when it came to Japanese names for fighting positions and moves. She let it go on a while before she began to hate looking like some newly called Slayer not quite up to snuff. “You know what? I’m gonna have to do this my way, guys.”

She then proceeded to kick major butt. She was poetry in motion and never missed her target, even while wearing a blindfold. No one needed to instruct her in where to place her feet in any language. Her feet were all over a suddenly frightened Philip the Watcher. The cracked ribs she gave him were only a plus.

~*~

Joyce was looking a bit tired and Spike recalled how short a time had passed since her surgery. “Need a bit of kip, pet?”

“I am a bit tired, but I won’t put you out. I think Buffy plans to bring by some camping cots later.”

Spike grinned and winked. “Show you both a little secret, but you have to promise not to tell.”

Dawn perked up at once. Secrets from a vampire? Secrets kept from Buffy? That had to be worth seeing. She SO knew that Spike liked her best!

“Got a downstairs to this little set-up. Regular two story flat here.” Spike lifted the trap door that no one had noticed and motioned them to join him. “I’ll go first and light it up a bit. Mind the ladder!”

Joyce was impressed. “Wow, this looks homey.” She took in the brass queen-sized bed and other bedroom furniture, the shelves crammed with books and the makeshift closet. There was a reclining chair near the single floor lamp. A side table held a lamp, but mostly it appeared to be candlelit by choice.

Spike moved a curtain on the wall across from the bed. “Got a bit of a rigged up shower through here. Only cold water at the moment, and no other facilities, I’m afraid, but good for a wash up. It’s kind of a work in progress. If you need other facilities, there’s the caretakers cottage not far off. I’ve got an arrangement with the twit; I don’t eat him and he lets me have free access. Course, it helps that he doesn’t know he’s safe unless he gets magicked into a pig.”

Spike’s talk of his diet had ceased to bother Joyce the more she had come to know him. It seemed to be important to him that everyone remember the power he once mastered. “It’s lovely!” The oriental rug under her feet reminded Joyce of the one her grandmother had back in Indiana.

“This is SO cool! Buffy doesn’t know about this?” Dawn was poking around looking at everything.

“No one does. Can lock the trap from here and stay hidden from unwanted company.” He pointed to another curtained area, “Got access to the sewer system there, sort of a back door. This is the main reason I picked this place. Easy to protect, watch my back. Now watch yours.”

“Thank you again, Spike.” Joyce was honored that he’d shown them his private sanctum.

“Why don’t you have a bit of a nap then. Has to be a tirin’ day with the upheaval and all.” He turned down the comforter on the bed. “I’ll make sure no one bothers either of you. He looked at Dawn. “Keep your mum company, yeah? And no pokin’ in my personal stuff either, Bit!”

Joyce nodded. “That comes from me too, missy. No snooping in Spike’s things. I’m sure you have homework with you if you don’t want a nap.”

“Got music here too.” Spike tossed a Walkman into Dawn’s lap and pointed to the collection of CDs on a shelf. “Listen to all that you want, but no touching the vinyl.” He wasn’t chancing losing any more of his precious collection. Harmony hadn’t gotten the whole lot when she decided to burn his stuff.

They all started at the sound of banging from above. “Sounds like we’ve got some visitors. I’ll nip up and check it out. You two stay down here and keep quiet.”

Spike carefully replaced the area rug covering the trapdoor before he opened the crypt door to find a contingent of Watchers all holding crosses and weapons.

“Well, what brings you lot here? Got a feelin’ you’re not here for the neighborhood watch meetin’.”

The female was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. The two men pointed their weapons and looked like they were on a hair trigger as well.

“We’re from the Council of Watchers and we need to ask you a few questions. We mean you no harm,” the woman replied.

“Figured you looked like COW’s.” The woman looked affronted. “Think they must clone most of you Watcher types. Stand out in any crowd.” He stepped aside and motioned for them to enter. Actually it was rather refreshing to have anyone actually knock and await an invitation. It was also invigorating smelling the palpable fear rolling off all three of the wankers. Chip or no, he still had it, in spite of what Buffy’s crew seemed to think.

“We have it on good authority that you help the Slayer from time to time. Is that so?”

“I pitch in from time to time. Get a spot of violence, save the day, all that rot.”

“I’d think you’d want to kill her! You’ve killed Slayers before.” The woman was furiously taking notes.

“Eternity gets boring doin’ the same ol’, doin’ what’s expected.” He grinned. “Bit of a rebel. ‘Sides, some of us evolve. So you’ve heard of me, have you?” Nice to know his rep was intact.

All three Watchers nervously fingered their weapons as Spike crooked a brow in amusement.

“I, um, wrote my thesis on you.” The woman looked at him as if she’d love a more in-depth…well, not chat precisely, but acquaintance at the very least.

Now that thesis was one piece of Watcher information Spike would love to get in his hands. They had much misinformation in the books Giles had in his library, especially regarding himself. He wondered just how the bint had collected her information and what her conclusions about him had been.

The questions continued and Spike chose to answer truthfully. No point in playing games at this point. Slayer was treating him right and the last thing the girl needed was more trouble from the likes of this trio. There was a time when Spike could have used this situation to all sorts of advantage and played havoc with them all, but since he knew his heart, those days were as much in his past as any information the lady Watcher had in her thesis.

~*~

Buffy was late. She’d delivered some groceries and a dinner of fast food to her mom and Dawn and by the time Buffy and Spike had set up the two cots in his surprising lower level, she realized that the appointed time to meet with the Watchers had already passed.

Dawn had pouted a bit when Spike escorted Buffy downstairs. Her little sister had already made herself right at home. Now they had enough comforts to withstand a few days hiding with the amazingly accommodating Spike.

Travers had given her an exact time to come in for the non-physical portion of this exercise in futility they insisted upon before coughing up the information they claimed to have on Glory.

Buffy had talked to Willow and Xander earlier and knew that the British Plague had been asking all kinds of questions about her and her methods of slaying. She had a feeling that it wasn’t going to go well, and arriving late was guaranteed to put the old goat in a bad mood. He loved to flex his power where she was concerned and tardiness had to be a big black mark in his book.

Just a block from the Magic Box, she was stopped cold by a guy who looked like he stepped out of ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.’ Only she would bet it wasn’t Kevin Costner beneath that chain mail. He had even brought friends, friends with swords.

She easily took out his buddies and knocked the sword out of the first knight’s hand, pushing him to the ground. “Okay,” she ripped the mail mesh from his face, “Let’s see just what you are.” No, not Kevin, but definitely human, even had a funky tattoo on his forehead. “Or who you are.”

“One soldier in a vast army.” The knight glared in defiance.

“What army?”

“The Knights of Byzantium, an ancient order, and now your enemy.”

There were Slayer enemy armies now?

“You work for Glory?”

“You dare think we would align ourselves with the beast? You are truly mad.”

“And this from the one trying to kill me.” Buffy was sick to death of all the variables that kept popping up with this whole Glory business.

“No, we were fools, three alone. But if it takes a hundred men, we send a hundred men, and if it takes a thousand, we’ll send a thousand.”

“Why?”

“As long as you protect the Key, the brotherhood will never stop until we destroy it and you, so says the Lord. You are the Slayer and we know what must be done. Kill us and let the legions follow.” He lifted his head a bit to expose his neck, clearly expecting to be killed.

“I don’t think so. Listen, Kevin, tell your legionnaire buddies to back off. The Key is safe and off-limits to all of you, and Glory is toast. So just get back on your horsie and ride out of my town while you still can, got that?” She got up off the puzzled knight and continued her way to the Magic Box, swinging the sword she had taken from him.

Lots of food for thought went with her. She was so tired of all the games. There was a blonde bimbo to kill and a sister to make safe. She was really sick of being jerked around as if she wasn’t the obvious one to do those things, along with all her other Slayer duties. Even those now dead monks had known it would be the Slayer having to fight this fight when they sent Dawn to her. When push came to shove, it always boiled down to the Slayer in the end.

Travers looked pointedly at his watch. “You’re late.”

“Yeah.”

Giles noticed the sword and smudges of dirt on her light-colored coat. “Was there an attack?” Buffy nodded.

Travers clearly had no interest in what had kept her or who had attacked the Slayer. “We can begin the review at last. We’ll skip the more obvious questions.” He pulled out a thick pile of papers.

Buffy slammed the sword down on top of them. Epiphanies were good things, she decided.

“There isn’t going to be a review. No review, no interrogation, no questions you already know that I can’t answer. No hoops, no jumps, no pony tricks.” One of the Watchers started to sputter indignantly, only to draw Buffy’s ire. “No interruptions.”

She began to pace, but not in nervousness. “I’ve had a lot of people talking to me the last few days. Everyone is just lining up to tell me how unimportant I am and I’ve finally figured out why.” She narrowed her eyes and leaned over the table at Travers, “Power. I have it and they don’t, and this bothers them. It bothers you.”

She didn’t spare a glance to anyone other than Quentin Travers as she continued. “Glory tells me I’m nothing. She could squash me in a second, but the thing is…she didn’t. She came to my home and talked, she made threats and left. She needs something from me and that gives me power over her.

You guys didn’t come all the way from England to decide whether I was good enough for you to let me back in. You came to bribe me to let you back in, to give your jobs and lives some semblance of meaning.”

The Watcher named Nigel started to interrupt again. “This is beyond insolence–.”

Buffy grabbed the sword from the papers and neatly tossed it across the room into the wall directly next to his head. She hadn’t blinked.

“I’m fairly certain I said no interruptions.”

The Scoobies sitting on the balcony were grinning, as was Giles. Buffy was majestic to behold, the Slayer in her full glory.

“You’re Watchers. Without the Slayer, you’ve got nothin’ to watch except BBC. You don’t guard the Hellmouth or stop the annual apocalypse. You can’t stop Glory. You can’t do anything with the information you say you have except maybe publish it in the ‘Everyone Thinks We’re Insane-O’s Home Journal’ So…,” She glared at Travers again. “Here’s how it’s gonna work. You are going to tell me everything you know about Glory and then you are going to go away. You will contact me if and when you have any further information about Glory. The Magic Box will remain open and Mr. Giles will remain here as my official Watcher, reinstated at full retroactive, salary from the month you fired him. And I will continue to work with the help of my friends as I see fit.”

One of the more timid watchers ventured a comment. “I don’t want a sword thrown at me, but you are talking about civilians, children, and a vampire.”

Buffy looked up at her friends and smiled for the first time. “We’re talking about two very powerful witches, a thousand-year-old ex-demon, and a vampire who has already helped stop a couple of apocalypses, not to mention has my back on patrol.”

Philip with the cracked ribs broke in, “And the boy? No power there.”

Buffy gave him a dismissive look. “The ‘boy’ has clocked more field time than all of you combined. He’s part of the unit.”

A chuffed Xander whispered, “I’ve clocked field time!”

“You may all be very good at your jobs. The only way we’re gonna find out is if you work with me, like the Council is supposed to. Well, Quentin, are you understanding me?”

Travers cleared his throat. “Your terms are acceptable.”

“Fine. So about Glory…what kind of demon is she?’

“That’s just the thing. Glory isn’t a demon at all. She’s a god.”

~*~

Dawn was beyond wigged. Every time she walked into a room, everyone shut up or acted weird. The only one acting normal was Spike.

She and her mom had moved back home after the Council guys went back to England. Whatever they had to say had made Buffy really serious and quiet. Dawn just wished they would stop treating her as if she were a kid.

“I’ll just stow my kit in the basement and get out from underfoot, yeah?”

Spike and Buffy had decided it would be easier to have Spike move into the basement for a while to keep an eye on the ladies while she went about the business of making plans to get rid of Glory. Taking supplies to the cemetery was bound to attract notice had they continued to stay there.

“I’ve picked up several containers of blood and put them on the bottom shelf of the fridge,” Joyce pointed out. “I wasn’t sure of your favorite, so I got both pig and beef.”

Spike grinned rakishly. “My favorite’s off the menu, pet, but either’ll be fine. Thanks for thinking of me.” He could get used to being treated well. Of course, Joyce had always been a decent sort.

The couple of days spent in enforced company had confirmed Joyce’s opinion that Spike was far more human than even he realized. She had watched his interactions with Dawn closely and could easily see the genuineness of his feelings for the young girl. She wondered if Spike had been an older brother in his human life. He certainly fell into the role easily enough.
She had also noticed the way Spike looked at Buffy when he thought no one was watching. His heart was clearly visible there in his eyes. Not long ago the idea of a vampire in love with her daughter would have bothered her more than a bit. Coming as close to death as she had recently, though, had caused many a change in her viewpoint. None the least was to finally look at Buffy’s life for what it was and what it was not.

Buffy was not normal and her life was not going to be either. Even if she could find a human male able to accept her strengths and duty, none of them could help extend her life, could not fight at her side without being a distraction. Buffy was not normal, but she was extraordinary. She required a partner every bit as extraordinary as she was. Joyce had come to see that Spike might be that very one.

As for the grandbabies she yearned to have, well, there was always Dawn. There was also adoption should Buffy wish it. Not every woman gave birth after all. Tara and Willow weren’t likely to reproduce without outside assistance and yet they were perfectly matched. No, Joyce had looked eternity in the eye and come away with an altered mindset.

Once this whole business with Glory was finished, she’d have to work on getting Buffy to see Spike in a different light. She already had made some progress, but mid-crisis wasn’t the ideal time to promote a love match. All in good time.

~*~

“I’ve thrown everything I’ve got at her and she just shrugs it off,” Buffy lamented. She didn’t want the gang to see just how worried she was. Demons were one thing. Some were a bit harder to kill than others, but in the end, they all fell. Glory was a god. How did anyone kill a god?

Giles was the only one to share Buffy’s concerns. Even though they didn’t speak of it, they could see it in shared glances.

“From what the Council’s been able to discover from the book of Tarnis and other sources, Glory and two of her brother hellgods ruled over one of the more seriously unpleasant demon dimensions.

“There are more than one?” Tara looked disconcerted.

“Oh, there are thousands of demon and hell dimensions, all different.” Anya grinned and nodded. It was nice to offer information without being told to shut up. She was feeling a bit more like part of the group now, instead of just the money-counting girlfriend of the comic relief.

“Anya is correct. And those thousands are all pushing on the edges of our reality trying to find a way in.” Giles had been surprised to find all that Anya seemed to know and then felt a bit foolish for not utilizing her earlier. Really, what had he been thinking? This was an ex-demon and one who had actually been to many of those dimensions that the Council had only a vague belief existed.

“Sometimes they don’t want in so much as want to exile others here. This really isn’t a very demon-friendly world. There are lots of places that make this dimension look like a kind of hell to them.” Anya nodded sagely.

“Yes, Anya, why don’t you use your memories and resources to see if you can pinpoint the one that gifted us with Glory. Perhaps if we learn why she is here we will be better able to know the best way to proceed.” Giles handed the girl a small selection of books he had available.

“I seem to remember some rumor about a civil war in one dimension where two brothers kicked their sister out. She was looking at taking over as supreme power. Maybe that could explain Glory, and it fits with what the Council found in their book.” Anya picked up a book and frowned. “I wish Hoffy and I were still on speaking terms, because he’d know right away. I think he plays poker with one of the brothers every Friday.”

Willow smiled at Tara and revealed what they had been working on. “We haven’t worked out all the bugs yet, but if we get it done we might be able to just whoosh her into another dimension, even if it isn’t her own.”

Buffy nodded. They were on it now. She had been right, Glory was toast. It was just a matter of time. Now if they only could be sure they had the time needed.

~*~

Great, another birthday. Buffy kept waiting for the other shoe to fall, as it always did. It was like fate was always trying to remind her of how short her lifespan was to be with all the bad luck that came on her ‘special’ day.

Wrapping paper was everywhere and the gifts had began to pile up; so far nothing demony except for the presence of Spike.

“Oh, it’s beautiful! Thank you, guys,” Buffy held the summer dress up against her and twirled a bit.

“We thought you’d get lots of crossbows and other killy stuff, so we figured ‘less killy, more frilly’.” Willow was grinning from ear to ear.

Anya grabbed the dress from Buffy. “Oh, it IS lovely. I wish it was mine!”

Everyone gave her one of ‘those’ looks, but no one told her to shut up for a change. Then Anya seemed to realize how inappropriate her comment had been without anyone correcting her. “Oh, like you weren’t all thinking the same thing.” She put the dress on the box sitting on the coffee table.

“I’m fairly certain I wasn’t,” Giles stage whispered to Xander. “I’ve got one just like it.

Buffy reached for the next gift on the pile. The long flat box had no tag. She opened it to reveal a lovely antique necklace with delicate gold filigree surrounding a small stone that looked a bit like a ruby, but not quite”

“It’s a garnet. Your birthday bein’ in January makes it your birthstone. Supposed to help healing and enhance strength, endurance and vigor. Since it’s your stone, it should help protect you.” Spike looked a little embarrassed.

“It’s beautiful, Spike.” Buffy was truly touched by both the gift and the thought behind it.

“Yeah, who’d you steal it off of?” Xander still wasn’t on the ‘Go Spike’ team, even if he had backed off a bit lately.

“He didn’t steal it!” Dawn glared at Xander. “I saw it in his room with a bunch of old stuff.”

“Dawn!” Joyce gave her the mom look. “You weren’t supposed to snoop around in Spike’s things. We were his guests.”

“We will talk later,” Spike promised Dawn with a stern stare. “Bit’s right though. Was part of my family stuff I’ve kept, not nicked.” He turned and headed for the back porch. “Think I’ll do a quick patrol, give you the night off.”

“Thanks, Spike, for the gift and for covering.” Buffy rewarded him with a smile that warmed him to the core.

“Here, open mine!” Dawn thrust a scrappily wrapped package in her sister’s lap.

“It’s not gonna explode, is it?” She unwrapped what turned out to be a lovely picture frame covered in seashells with a picture of Buffy and Dawn taken a few years ago.

“It’s when we visited Dad that summer in San Diego. Remember how we went to Sea World and the Wild Animal Park?” Buffy nodded. “You threatened to take me over to Tijuana and leave me there.” Dawn pretended to pout. “I put the shells on it myself. We picked them off the beach.”

“I remember.” Buffy couldn’t believe memories so clear and real could be so false. She could almost feel the sand and smell the salty ocean breeze. She clearly remembered the popcorn at the zoo and all the laughter. She wondered if their dad had false memories of Dawn too. You couldn’t tell it by his contacting either of them.

Joyce was smiling at both her girls. She had made peace with the idea that Dawn was new to their life by just ignoring the fact. Memories were memories, and who knew what reality was anyway? Dawn was there and hers and she loved her as much as she did Buffy and that was all there was to it.

Dawn noticed all the squirming bodies around her and felt that nagging feeling again that something was going on around her that no one would speak of when she was around. “Don’t get all movie-of-the-week on me. I was just too cheap to buy a real present.”

“Thank you, Dawnie, this is perfect.”

“Cake?” Willow leapt up and headed for the kitchen. It was hard to watch Dawn and Buffy and not let on about the secret.

~*~

Giles was pouring another glass of wine as Buffy fixed yet another soda for her mother and herself.

“It still seems like there’s a lot you don’t know about this. I mean, is she dangerous?” Joyce knew her baby couldn’t be evil but being a ball of energy did sound ominous.

“I assume you’re talking about her existence rather than her intentions,” Giles guessed.

Buffy looked out the door and down the hall, noticing that Dawn was eavesdropping as usual. It was getting to be a bad habit.

“Exactly,” Joyce started to continue, only to stop at a glance from Buffy.

“Dawn? What are you doing in there? Party getting too boring?” Buffy called.

“We need plates.” She grabbed a small stack from the dining room table and walked off.

“Maybe she’ll think we were talking about Glory?” Joyce asked hopefully.

Dawn put the plates down with a bit of a clatter, “Why does everyone start acting all weird when I’m around?”

Tara looked a bit worried. “Dawnie, I remember how it felt at your age. It seems that everyone and everything is just a bit off.”

“I’m not an idiot! I know you’re talking about me!” Dawn accused.

“No, we weren’t,” Xander floundered, looking for a cover-up.

“We were talking about sex,” Anya offered.

Dawn turned to her mother, who had just returned to the room, “They were talking about me, just like everybody is.” She stomped up the stairs in a huff.

“Well, that went…” Buffy sighed. “About like you’d expect on my birthday actually.”

~*~

Dawn climbed out her window and shimmied down the trellis to the back porch. She had seen Giles hiding something at the Magic Box earlier and was fairly certain whatever it was held answers. No one was talking to her, so she really had no choice but to find out on her own.

“Goin’ somewhere, Bit?” Dawn yelped in surprise at seeing Spike standing right behind her.

“Geez! Lurk much?”

“Just back from patrol. Looks like just in time too. Not safe out here for a morsel like you,” Spike frowned. He’d have to keep better tabs on the Niblet since it seemed she was one to slip out the window just as her sister had always done.

“I’m fact finding. Everybody’s hiding stuff from me and I’m sick of it.”

“And you need to do this during prime vamp time why?”

“Well, it’s at the Magic Box and they’re always there except at night. Hey, you wanna come steal some stuff?”

Oddly enough, he didn’t. Magic was best left alone and everything they sold there was for magic. Wouldn’t hurt to pick up a bit of Burba weed, though, and keep the Bit on some kind of leash at the same time. “Yeah, all right.”

He picked the lock with the ease of years of practice. “Girl with a mission, eh?”

“Buffy’s not the only one with missions.” Dawn walked straight to the counter and began to prod under the register as if looking for a catch. “I think there’s a book with Giles’ notes. He was standing here writing, and when I turned around it was gone.”

There was a soft click and a hidden drawer popped open. “Here’s something. Uh…’Tarnis, Twelfth Century: one of the founders of the monks of the order of Dagon. Their sole purpose appears to have been as protectors of the Key.”

Dawn looked up at Spike. “That’s the thing this Glory is looking for, I think. She came by to threaten Buffy a few weeks ago and was going on and on about some key that she thinks Buffy has.”

“Wasn’t that ball thing Buffy took off some monk when this Glory bint first showed up called a Dagon Sphere?”

“Don’t ask me, I’m the mushroom in the room, kept in the dark.” Dawn read on aloud, “The Key is not directly described in any known literature, but all research indicates an energy matrix vibrating at a dimensional frequency beyond normal human perception. Only those outside reality can see the Key’s true nature.” She shook her head in confusion. It was all Greek to her. “Outside reality? What’s that mean?”

“Seers… blokes with second-sight, mostly. Psychics like Dru was or even just your run-of-the-mill loonies. Sounds powerful, whatever it is.”

Dawn continued, “The Key is also susceptible to being detected by necromanced animals, especially canines or reptiles.” Dawn got a faraway look on her face as she remembered her many encounters with crazy people, her mom’s weird reaction when in nutty-mode and the giant snake. She was beginning to get a hinky feeling, like ants crawling up her spine. The book dropped from her hands and Spike picked it up before the place could be lost.

Spike frowned and continued reading, “The monks possessed the ability to transform energy, bend reality. Blah, blah, blah…” He looked at Dawn and tried to nudge her out of whatever put her in the funk that had overtaken her. “Good Lord! Giles writes as dull as he talks, doesn’t he?”

Dawn continued to stare into space, fighting off the feeling that she had just stumbled onto the meaning of life… her life at any rate.

“They started work, but the Council her suggested to us that they were interrupted, presumably by Glory. They obviously did manage to accomplish the taste.” He looked more closely at the cramped writing. “Accomplish the task. They had to be certain that the Slayer would protect it with her life. So they sent the Key to her in human form, in the form of a sister.”

Dawn looked like she might pass out. It couldn’t be true! She couldn’t be some made-up thing! She knew things, remembered things, loved people. That had to be real!

“Huh, guess that’s you, Niblet.” Spike sounded a bit awed. “Always did know you were special.”

~*~

It was too much. Most teenagers felt different, not quite real, but to find out you really ARE those things was more than Dawn could bear. They had to be wrong. The Council was wrong a lot of times, weren’t they? And Giles was too; Dawn remembered lots of times when he was wrong.

Even Buffy was wrong a lot. Like the way she didn’t trust Spike for a long time or listen to Anya’s cool stories.

They were wrong again and she’d prove it!

Buffy looked into the hallway in horror. There was Dawn holding a large knife in one hand while blood ran down her forearm.

“Is this blood?” Dawn looked dazed. “Not creepy energy stuff. Blood, right?”

“Dawn!” Buffy rushed to her side and took the knife from her, then pressed her shirt onto the slice, trying to stem the flow. “What did you do?”

“It can’t be me. I can’t be this Key thing.” She looked at Buffy in shock, “I’m not a thing, am I? I’m your little sister, a pain in your butt.”

Joyce had arrived at her side too. “Oh, sweetie, NO! What’s this all about?”

Dawn could see it on their faces, all of them, even Buffy’s friends. The only one who had been as shocked as she was had been Spike. This was old news to all of them. “What am I? Am I real at all? Am I anything?” She began to cry.

Joyce’s heart broke for her. Dawn was so young and at that awkward age anyway without finding out you weren’t even human and all your memories and feelings were false. It wasn’t fair!

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Buffy sighed. “We were going to. It just…”

Dawn looked up in anger. She had known secrets were being kept but hadn’t thought them to be so devastating.

“We thought it would be better if we waited until you were older,” ventured Joyce.

That was a new thought. “How old am I now?”

“You’re fourteen, sweetheart, you know that.”

“No!” Dawn shouted, “I mean REALLY. When did the monks make me?”

“Six months ago,” Buffy admitted.

“So I’ve only been real for six months? I’m just a key, a thing, everything about me is made up.”

The Scoobies had all filtered out with sheepish looks and more than a little concern, so the only ones there were the Summers women.

“Dawn,” Buffy tried to placate the girl she loved as if she were her own, “Mom and I know what we feel. We care about you, worry about you.”

“You worry about me because you don’t have a choice. They made you feel what you do. I’m your job; protect the Key, right?”

Buffy wiped at the now drying blood. “I worry because my SISTER is cutting herself.”

“Sure you do. I’m not real. Why don’t you just hand me over to that Glory and get it over with?” Dawn began to cry. “Just leave me alone!” She ran up the stairs and slammed the door behind her.

“How did she find out?” Joyce was horrified. They should have broken it to her gently. Dawn had the right to know.

Spike spoke from the shadows of the kitchen, “Bit broke into the shop and poked around ‘til she found the notes your Watcher had on this Glory bint.”

“And you know this how?” Buffy glared daggers at him.

“Went along, didn’t I?” He ducked his head, knowing he was losing ground as he spoke, “She was determined to go. Caught her sneaking out her window. Figured it better to go along with her, keep her safe from the oogly-googlies. Had no idea what she was lookin’ for or what she’d find, did I?” It stung that they had kept this important piece of information from him.

“How could you let her find out like that?”

“You askin’ me or yourself, Slayer?” Spike was hurt. He’d been good enough to babysit, never knowing how very precious Dawn was to this Glory thing, how important it was to keep her safe. He had thought Buffy was starting to really trust him and now he saw that was just as fake as all their Dawn memories. “Not like I knew she was a mystical glowy key thing. Didn’t exactly keep me in the bloody loop, did you?”

“We didn’t tell anyone until the other day. I would have told you when I got you alone. We thought the fewer people who knew the better, but that didn’t work too well, did it?”

“She shouldn’t have found out like this,” Spike pointed out. “You didn’t think you could keep the truth from her forever, did you?” From the look on Buffy’s face, it seemed that she had thought exactly that. “Maybe if you’d been more honest with her in the first place you wouldn’t be in this mess now. Ease her into it a bit so it was less a shock.”

“How do you tell someone they only popped up a few months ago, but they’re older than dirt?” Buffy was suddenly feeling as old as dirt herself. “Add to that the fact this Glory wants to grab her and twist her in some kind of mystical lock. How much could a fourteen-year-old handle, Spike?”

None of them had an answer to that, it seemed.

“Look, I’m sorry I blamed you.” Buffy’s shoulders drooped. It had been so easy to slip into old patterns. “I’m glad you were there watching out for her. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner too.”

“Gonna be rough sailing ahead, I’d wager.” Spike looked up towards the closed door with the weeping teenage Key inside.

~*~

Rough sailing didn’t begin to cover it. Joyce was beside herself. She’d tried every weapon in her mom arsenal and nothing worked. Dawn was determined to shut herself off from anyone and anything that resembled the life she now knew was a construct.

So far she had received calls from every one of Dawn’s teachers about her acting out in class. The principal was threatening to suspend her for the rest of the year and that would mean summer school.

Buffy seemed to think they should let Dawn have some space, but Joyce wasn’t sure that was the answer. No matter what Dawn’s origins, she was also a vulnerable child who had just had everything she thought she knew and felt ripped away. She had to be feeling far too alone already without them giving her any more space. Joyce wanted to love the pain away, but Dawn didn’t let her near.

“We can’t just let her sit up there all alone.” They discussed it for the millionth time.

“She needs time. We can’t force her to be all right with this.” Buffy sounded so sure.

“So your solution is time? Just leave her alone and hope it all works itself out?” Joyce knew Buffy was good with denial–they all were–but just ignoring a problem never solved it.

“If I were her, I’d want a bit of time right now. I wouldn’t want my mother and sister coming at me from all sides.” Buffy always dealt with emotional trauma by shutting herself off, so it would make sense that Dawn would too. “Besides, you know she has been downstairs to hang out with Spike, so she’s not totally alone.”

“I thank God for him and that Dawn still has someone she trusts to talk to. It’s because he didn’t know either; he didn’t lie to her like we did.”

Truth be told, Buffy had been a bit jealous of the bond she saw between the vampire in the basement and her little sister. “I wonder what they talk about?”

“I doubt she’s talking about the important things.” Joyce wished she was actually, if it would help. “Her school called again today. She was suspended. I talked them into making it only a short one though.”

Dawn was sitting on the stairway listening. That was the only way to be sure of anything around here, sneak or eavesdrop. No one was just honest with you, except maybe Spike. He never pushed either, just listened or talked about other stuff.

“She yelled at a teacher. Buffy, the things she said! She never used language like that before.”

“She probably feels like she can say or do anything right now, that none of it matters. She’s not real and we’re not her family. We don’t even know what she is.”

Dawn stiffened in shock. So they didn’t love her after all. It was all pretend to make her feel better, to make sure they kept the Key with them and safe from the hellgod. She fled to her room again, tears rolling down her face.

It was all fake! Every like and dislike, every memory, all of it, just like her. She ripped posters from the wall in a frenzy. Down came Tobey Maguire and James Van Der Beek, joining Ashton Kutcher in the trashbin. All the Britney Spears CDs and posters, ripped and smashed, joined them. The Backstreet Boys ticket stubs and CDs weren’t spared either. All fake! Did Keys even like music? She looked at her diaries, years’ worth of them, all as unreal as she herself. She began to rip pages out, throwing it all in the trash. This was the stuff of a fourteen-year-old girl, not some glowing thing. She sobbed in misery.

Joyce had jumped up at Buffy’s harsh words. “How can you talk about Dawn as if she were a thing?”

“I’m not!” Buffy was horrified that it had sounded that way. “I’m just saying that’s probably how she feels right now.”

“Well then, we’re just going to have to show her it isn’t true. She needs to know that she is still part of this family and that we love her.”

“It may not be that simple. We can’t fix this with hugs and kisses and a bowl of soup. She has to know the truth, what she is, where she came from. She needs something real to hold onto.”

“Our love for her is real,” Joyce pointed out. “What she needs is a mother and a sister, not the Slayer.”

Her mom was learning, but still didn’t fully get it. “The Slayer is the only thing standing between Dawn and this god from the bitch dimension who wants to shove her in some kind of lock and give her a good twirl.”

The argument was interrupted by the sounds of a smoke alarm going off.

“My God! Buffy, what’s Dawn done?” Joyce looked around the trashed room while Buffy put out the fire in the trash basket. All the things that were Dawn’s favorites looked to have been stuffed in and burned.

“Where is she?” Buffy was furious. “That’s it! She can’t be allowed to just do stuff like this. Doesn’t she have any clue of how much danger she’s in already without…”

“Buffy,” Joyce pointed to the open window, “I think she’s gone.”

~*~

Catching up with Spike while he patrolled wasn’t easy. He was thorough and covered much of Sunnydale. The rest of the gang were checking out the downtown area and near the school, but Buffy figured it would take more than just good eyes and ears to find her truant sister.
“Dawn! Dawn!” Buffy was frantic. She had been gone for a couple of hours, hours when Glory and her scabby minions had time to grab a frightened girl.

“Yeah, that should do it,” Spike snarked. “Niblet scampered off to get away from you. She hears you bellowing and she’ll pack it in the opposite direction.”

Buffy stopped yelling and walking. “You were so right. This is all my fault. I should have told her. Mom was right too; we should have made her see that we love her for her.”

Spike sighed. Human emotions were so volatile. “Look, she probably would have skipped off anyway, even if she never found out. She’s not just a blob of energy, she’s a teenaged hormone bomb. Which part is screwing her up most right now?” He grinned. “Spin the bloody wheel. You’ll find her, just in the nick of time. It’s what you hero types do.”

Buffy gave him a look filled with hope and gratitude. “Think so?”

He nodded firmly. “You’ll find her.”

The gang caught up with them with nothing to report.

“She wouldn’t have left town, would she?” Tara asked. She had run from her own home once and knew well the desire to just be away from all the hurt and confusion.

“I doubt it. She hasn’t been getting her allowance in a while because of trouble at school.” Buffy looked at the sky as if answers could be found there.

“Lots of nasties out at night besides Glory,” Spike reminded them.

“We should check the hospital,” Buffy agreed.

~*~

Dawn had wandered aimlessly through the streets of Sunnydale. She stepped into the path of an ambulance at one point and remembered what the journal had said about mental patients. Maybe one of them could help her discover just what or who she was. She headed for Sunnydale Memorial.

The patients had raved all the stuff she had heard before, calling her a thing and showing fear. All but one, that is–one patient had clearly called her the Key.

“What am I?” Dawn stood nervously beside the man’s bed.

“The Key.” He didn’t look at Dawn and seemed to be talking to the ceiling. “I found it. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

“Please,” Dawn pleaded. “Where did I come from? Who made me? What am I?”

“Destroyer!” Dawn jumped back at the accusation. “Cracked bones, the sun bleeding into the sky! The Key is the link and the link must be severed, such is the will of God. Such is the will of God.” The man’s eyes were wild with religious fervor, as well as madness of another kind.

“No!” Dawn began to shake and back out of the room in terror. She backed into the intern named Ben who had helped with her mother not long ago.

“Hey,” Ben grabbed the girl’s shoulders and steadied her. “You’re Dawn, right? Joyce Summers’ youngest? Is your mom back in the hospital?”

“No. No mom, no hospital.” Dawn was in a state of shock, so Ben steered her towards the on-call room. Something was really wrong. He led her to a small table and chairs and got her to sit.

He left her long enough to go to the counter and fix something comforting. “Here you go, two steaming cups of chocolatey goodness. Couldn’t find any marshmallows, sorry.”

“I don’t like them anyway. They’re too squishy.” She was struck with another memory. “When I was five, Buffy told me they were monkey brains and I–” but that wasn’t right either. Nothing was.

“Dawn, is your mom okay? Is that why you’re here?” She hadn’t answered earlier.

Dawn’s voice was bitter. “My… ‘mom’… is just fine.”

“Can I call your sister?”

“I don’t have a sister.”

Oh, that Ben could understand! A blow-up between siblings. “You two had a fight, I’ll bet. It’s okay, I know how that goes. I’ve got a sister too and there are lots of nights I wish she didn’t exist either.”

“It’s not Buffy, it’s me. I’m the one that doesn’t’ exist,” Dawn sighed. “I’m not real. I’m a nothing. A thing some monks made so Glory couldn’t find me. I’m not real.”

Ben nearly fell over with his chair. “You’re the Key?!”

Dawn seemed to notice the intern for the first time. “How do you know about the Key?”

Ben was panicking. “GO! Before she finds you. Don’t ask how she knows, but she always does. Go quickly.” He began to pace. “You don’t understand; you’re a kid. If you stay, she’ll find you and she’ll hurt you.”

The man began to morph into a female form before Dawn’s terrified eyes. Glory suddenly loomed over her. “Hello there. I know you!”

~*~

The gang spread out in the hospital looking for any indications that a young girl had been brought in or had come in on her own. They had been told in the ER that no one matching Dawn’s description had come through as a patient.

At least she hadn’t been attacked!

While they regrouped and tried to think of where else she might have gone, they overheard a commotion from down the hall. A guard had been found with his head nearly torn off.

“Glory!” Buffy deduced. They all headed in the direction of the noise. If Glory were around, and so was Dawn, they had to move quickly.

Spike pointed down a hallway. He’d picked up Dawn’s scent. She wasn’t alone.

~*~

“Okay, small talk’s over. I’m in a bit of a crunch here, so let’s cut to the chase.” Glory had dragged Dawn into a consultation room and pushed her against a table. “Your sister has my Key and I want it. It’s mine. Do you know where she’s squirreled it away? Ten words or less.”

Dawn tried to keep the nervousness out of her voice and failed. At least Glory didn’t seem to notice how close she was to that very item. “I’m not sure. What does it look like?”

Glory gave a dreamy sigh and patted her heart area. “Well, the last time I caught a peep, it was a bright green swirly shimmer. It really brought out the blue in my eyes.” She smacked the table next to Dawn. “But then those sneaky little monks pulled an abracadabra so it could look like anything now.”

Buffy and the gang burst in at that moment. “Get away from my sister!”

“We were just talking about you.” Glory advanced on Buffy, while Dawn ran to get behind her elder sister.

“Conversation’s over, hellbitch.” Buffy punched Glory, then followed up with a couple of kicks, finally smashing the god into the lighted x-ray wall.

Everyone else tried to stay out of the way as the two supernatural beings fought. Spike moved stealthily behind Glory and pinned her arms against her sides. Buffy took the opportunity to land multiple blows in Glory’s face while Spike held her steady. It was almost too easy.

“Thought you said this skank was tough,” Spike taunted. Mistake! Glory threw Spike off her as if he were a mere mortal, sending him flying across a table and into the far wall.

Giles loaded the crossbow and fired, but the arrow merely bounced off the now angry hellgod.
Buffy continued her assault and Xander tried to get an advantage with a prybar, only to find himself tossed with Giles into a heap not far from Spike’s unconscious body.

Willow and Tara were quietly chanting in some foreign language unnoticed by all.

“Time to start with the dying!” Glory grabbed the tire iron Xander had dropped and turned towards a cowering Dawn. “Starting with the whelp.” She threw the tire iron like it was a sword, but Buffy was faster, throwing herself in the path of the flying metal.

“Dawn!” Buffy collapsed, the metal hitting her in the upper chest near the shoulder.

Glory began to bear down on the Summers sisters, ignoring anyone else and walking between the chanting witches. As Glory passed them, they both tossed glitter over her, covering her like a child’s Christmas card.

“You got this mess in my hair! You little…” She turned on Tara as Willow clapped her hands and shouted, “Discede!”

With a poof and small snapping sound, Glory disappeared as Willow fell to the floor in exhaustion.

Everyone was standing and conscious again looking at the witches in amazement.

“Teleportation spell. Still working out the kinks.” Willow wiped a bit of blood from under her nose.

“Where’d you send her?”

“Don’t know; that’s one of the kinks,” Tara supplied.

“Not here, that’s all that matters for now,” Spike pointed out.

“Indeed,” Giles pushed his glasses back in place and faced Buffy. “I’ll call your mother and let her know you are on the way.

Buffy put an arm around a willing Dawn. “Okay. I need to get my sister home. Mom’s been frantic. Come on.”

Dawn stopped on the threshold. Something niggled in the back of her mind, “Wait! Ben. HE was here. He was trying to help me. He…” She stopped, unable to grasp the memory. It was all a blur. “I think he might have left before Glory came. I can’t remember.”

“It’s okay. You’ve had a bad couple of nights. Don’t worry about it. We’ll thank him next time we see him.”

“Is Mom mad about the whole fire thing?” Dawn sounded nervous and young.

“I think you’ve got a get-out-of-jail pass on account of all the trauma.”

“Really?” Dawn sounded relieved. “Okay, good.”

“Sure you didn’t get hurt, Bit?”

“I’m fine. Buffy’s the one with the prybar in her shoulder.”

Spike looked over the wound and satisfied himself that nothing vital had been hit and Slayer healing would do the trick. “Let’s get you both home then. Fix you up and let everyone get a bit of kip.” He looked at Buffy closely. “I’ll stay up and make sure we don’t have to deal with a repeat tonight.”

“You sure? She knocked you out, Spike.”

“I’m a vampire, love, I can take it. ‘Sides, creature of the night here, only natural to be up and on the prowl.”

“You know, I could get used to having you around if you keep this up,” Buffy teased.

“Fine by me.” He winked to make light of it, but inside his long dead heart began to sing. It may not be all he dreamed of, but it was a start and a good start at that.

 

Again, apologies for not having it complete by today but it will ALL be here (with links) on July 1st. Thank you for reading.

Kathleen

 

Edited Nov 11, 2010… okay I missed that date, but continue to next chapters here.

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/402545.html

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