By Estepheia and Marcee
Part 20 - Picking up the Pieces
*He's gone,* she thought. *Gone.* She sniffled a bit. *And we never got to tell anyone about our engagement. I didn't get to pick out my dress or flowers. I didn't get a party or presents.*
Dawn and Maeve took some time to try to comfort her with words like, "He's not dead" and "We'll get him back". But nothing got through.
*Gone.* The word resounded in her head, hollowly. Already she felt empty, as if part of her was missing, that part which gave her direction and purpose. What would she do now? Who was she to rely on now? *Who will hold me and have sex with me?*
That thought started a whole new barrage of tears. *What if he's trapped someplace in between? What if he's just stuck there and can't do anything? That would be awful! Or..or..even if he made it to 1880 - what would they do to him there? Oh Xander! Will I ever get a piece of mail addressed to Mrs. Xander Harris?*
Eventually, they left her alone to grieve and stood over Tara as she quietly tended to Willow.
The redhead remained prostrate in the circle where she had fallen. Several minutes had passed since the portal closed, yet dark blood continued to seep from her nose. Tara caressed her lover's face with a damp paper towel, murmuring to her, cajoling her to awaken. Spike was smoking. *To hell with the rules,* he thought, *Out the window they go...along with Xander.* He took another look at where Harris' things remained and at the sobbing ex-demon. *Not like Anya's in any shape to complain about the smoke.* He knew he was being callous, but it still infuriated him that they had ignored his warnings. He watched as Tara tended to the witch; the others looked on with grave expressions.
Dawn was antsy, her foot vibrating with excess energy. "What are we gonna do?"
"It's okay, Dawn," Tara answered. *It's hard to be convincing when you don't even believe your own words.*
"But Willow. I mean, this is bad."
"I know, Dawnie," was all Tara could muster in response. She turned to face the girl and saw desperation in her eyes. She stood and took Dawn into a tight embrace. "Really, Dawnie, we'll be okay. We'll work this out."
"Why does she think she's so all-powerful anyway?" Dawn asked angrily, pulling away from Tara. "She should know if...she should have known she couldn't handle it."
"Dawn..." Tara said quietly. Dawn looked away from her for a moment, and when she turned back, there were tears in her eyes.
"But what if she never wakes up?"
"She will," Tara murmured, stroking the girl's hair. *Oh please, let her wake up.*
Then Tara suggested, "Do you want to see if you can find a blanket for her?"
Dawn gladly agreed. Anything to take her mind off the circumstances.
*I didn't even get to tell him how happy he makes me.* Anya was lost in her heartache. *He was trying to protect me. This is all my fault! Why did this have to happen? I didn't mean to fall in love. I knew. I knew how horrible love turns out. I should have seen this coming.*
Dawn glanced down at Willow as she walked through the broken circle. She noticed blood still was oozing. Then she stumbled over Xander's shoes.
"W-we should call Giles," she stammered. "This is really, really bad."
"We should call an ambulance," Spike suggested, and took a long drag.
Tara shook her head, "No. Willow will come out of it." *I hope. The hospital is too scary to consider right now. We need Mr. Giles.* She was back on the floor next to her love and looked at Maeve, then Dawn, with wet eyes. "But we should call Mr. Giles," then, through clenched teeth, she added, "Now." She was fighting tears. *I'm so sorry, Willow. I should have stopped you. I should have seen this coming.*
"How could you?" Giles exclaimed, after seeing the aftermath of the spell. "How could you go behind my back..." he wasn't yelling at anyone in particular, he was just yelling. Then, more to himself, he began to mumble, "I can't believe..." He approached Willow. "...dangerous magic..." He leaned over the comatose girl. "How could you be so irresponsible?" He grabbed her wrist to check her pulse. "...what on earth were you thinking?" But inwardly he berated himself. *How could I be so trusting. I knew she was overconfident, reckless even. I should never have left them. I should have seen this coming.*
"I told them, Rupert," Spike said melodramatically. "I warned them. But does anyone ever listen to me?"
Giles held Willow's face and turned it from side to side checking for any other blood.
"Who cares what the vampire thinks? His opinion doesn't matter," Spike mimicked.
"How long has she been out," Giles asked Tara.
"Almost a half hour," Tara answered. "She's never been out this long before." There was a hint of alarm in her voice. "I thought she'd come out of it soon, but now I'm not so sure. I haven't moved her. Just elevated her head and watched her breathing."
"Anya?" Giles looked at the table she was slumped at. "Anya?" She didn't move. "Anya - where is the hartshorn?"
There a was a brief pause.
"Basement. Third compartment from the left," she mumbled her response without lifting her head. *My fault.*
"Dawn?" Giles asked.
"I'll get it." She hopped up, and then looked at Giles. "What is it?"
"It's a powder. Like a baking powder. We should be able to use it as smelling salts."
Dawn nodded and immediately ran downstairs.
"I said, `we should wait and do the starry alignment bit'," Spike continued his rant. "Let's see, what was it Willow said? `I can handle it.', `I know what I'm doing.'"
"That's quite enough, Spike!" Giles shouted. He stood abruptly and stomped over to the surprised vampire. "I've had enough of you!"
"What'd I do?" Spike backed up against the wall as the angry Watcher approached.
"You let them do this!" Giles was getting louder, and closer, his face mere inches from Spike's. "You knew better. You were the adult here. You could have stopped them and instead you stood by and watched. You watched," he growled, "as these children risked their lives. You watched with that offensive smirk on your face as they put themselves in inconceivable danger!"
"I..." Spike tried.
"You what?" Giles interrupted, growing increasingly agitated. "You leaned casually against the wall smoking your cigarette? Why Spike? Why'd you let them do this? Were you bored? Nothing around for you to kill? You knew what would happen! You knew!" he shouted. "It must be really gratifying for you, to be able to say `I told you so' when you didn't do a thing to stop this!"
"No, I..." he tried again.
Giles slammed his hand against the wall next to Spike's head, cutting off whatever it was Spike was about to say. "I imagine you stood by and made a few standard snide remarks. Then you delighted in skewering a demon or two. Am I right so far, Spike?" There wasn't even time for the vampire to attempt an answer. "Then Xander disappeared. I'm certain you found that supremely amusing. Did you have a good chuckle? Was there a clever remark to accompany your sneer?"
"Giles," Dawn tried to end the confrontation. She held the bag of hartshorn up.
Giles tilted his head and narrowed his eyes - eyes that bored straight into Spike's brain... or at least, that's how the vampire felt in this situation.
"This is how you get your kicks, isn't it?" Giles asked him, seriously, his voice low and menacing. "This is like one big soap opera to you."
"Giles!" Dawn tried again, with more force. She was looking at Spike, trying to make eye contact, wanting to somehow give him her moral support but the vampire wasn't looking at her. He held the Watcher's gaze for a moment, then dropped his cigarette and ended the staring contest under the pretense of stamping his boot on it.
Giles turned his attention to the girl holding the bag of white powder.
"Thank you, Dawn," he said quietly.
Spike straightened his duster, ran a hand through his already mussed hair and stalked to the training room to get away from the scene.
Giles took the pouch and sprinkled some of the powder onto his fingertip. He kneeled next to Willow and waved his powder-coated finger just below her nose. On her second inhale, she coughed slightly, took a deeper breath and her eyes snapped open. She immediately tried to sit up, but Giles held her down, pressing gently on her shoulder.
"Stay there, Willow," he said. *How could she do this? Draw upon these powers?* He shook his head, *There will be further consequences.There are always consequences in the wake of this kind of magic.* His own dealings with Eyghon had taught him that.
The girl laid her head back down on Tara's sweater and closed her eyes. "Ow," she moaned.
Tara squeezed Willow's hand reassuringly.
"Will she be okay?" Dawn asked.
"It is quite possible that she is suffering from a concussion. We should watch her carefully. Perhaps get her to a bed. I suppose she should see a doctor, too." Giles was rubbing his forehead in contemplation.
"And Xander?" Dawn prodded.
"Yes, of course. We'll have to get to work on that immediately." Giles stood and moved away from Willow. "Keep her still, Tara," he ordered.
He walked to the wall where he had just finished verbally battering Spike and leaned back against it. "Dear god, first Buffy and now Xander," he mumbled. He took off his glasses and squeezed the bridge of his nose. "Very well, we'll have to go about this rationally. It won't do us any good if we were to fall into some kind of unproductive panic." He replaced his glasses and began restoring merchandise to their respective places. *Order, we need some kind of order. After that we can concentrate on the immediate problems.* He returned a tattered book to its shelf, collected shards of a broken container, then approached the table where Anya was still seated. He righted a chair and sat down in it, burying his head in his hands. He suddenly felt very old and tired. He only needed a moment to gather his wits, then he'd take charge as usual. Just a moment...
With the Watcher currently out of commission, the witch - sick, and Anya, still a crumpled mass of anguish, Maeve decided to find the only person she thought she might be able to get through to.
"I'll be right back," she said to Dawn. The girl nodded.
"Spike," Maeve said quietly as she entered the training room. He was standing near the window, in shadow, watching the sun set. He didn't turn toward her.
"Spike, this was not your fault. I know that you know that."
He didn't respond. He just stared at the glowing pink ball from his place in the darkness.
"We have to do something," she said.
She waited for a response she knew she wouldn't get.
"I know you care. I know these people are not only Buffy's ties..." She let that sentence remain unfinished.
He looked at her. At Buffy's face. She looked concerned. Open. Genuine. *How many times can I see her face, and not really see her?* First it was her, the real Buffy, the Slayer. *She got under my skin the first time I saw her.* Then it was Faith. *Slayer muscles, yeah right.* He smiled at that memory. Then the bot. *What was I thinking?* And now Maeve. He looked away from her. *S'Not the Slayer that I miss, not her body, not her face.* He turned his gaze back toward the window. *I miss that irritating, self-centered girl that comes with the package. And we're nowhere nearer to gettin' her back...*
There was pain in his expression. He wanted to talk, to spill. But he just couldn't bring himself to do it.
"You're the Slayer," he said quietly. "You do something." There wasn't much conviction in his tone. "I'm just a vampire. I'm evil."
Maeve thought he sounded tired. She approached the window. Standing next to the vampire, she watched the sun fall below the horizon. She was bathed in its remaining luminescence. The sharp distinction between the glowing Slayer and the silhouetted vampire was surreal. They watched in silence.
"Xander could be in real trouble," she said finally.
She began picking at the tape that covered the cracks in the window pane. "And Buffy is still trapped there."
The sun was almost gone. Only a sliver of light remained. Spike's gaze was fixed on it.
"I am sure she misses everyone terribly."
She spoke quietly, without looking directly at him.
"I am sure she misses you." And then she whispered, almost inaudibly, "If I ever get back home, I know I will."
When Spike was finally protected by the complete darkness of the room, he spoke again.
"How are we going to get Xander back? Don't even know where he is."
"We know when he is," she answered.
"Will's hurt. She won't be able to work any mojo any time soon, I'd guess."
"Is Tara not a witch?"
"There's a thought."
"What did Giles have to say after..." Spike paused, "After I...left."
Maeve could hear the sadness in his voice. "He had nothing to say," she answered. "I believe he is in as much pain as you."
Spike stifled a mirthless laugh.
"Xander is trapped in 1880, in his own body. Without clothing, no less. He could be in serious danger," Maeve reiterated.
Suddenly, Maeve felt Spike move toward her. She tensed. But then she felt him grab her hand and began to pull her back toward the shop. He strode valiantly toward the others, dragging Maeve behind him.
"Tara," he said. "You have to send me after him."
"I'm not letting you go by yourself," Cordelia remarked.
"Let? Now it's a matter of allowing me to do things?" Angel answered as he tossed a change of clothes into a duffel bag.
"Yes. I will not allow you to go without me."
"What if I have a vision?"
"Gunn, Wes and Fred will all still be here. You guys can handle it without me," Angel answered.
"Yea, but...but what if it involved you? Or..or Buffy?" She really wanted to go to Sunnydale with him.
He shook his head, "No, Cordelia. I'm not going for a friendly visit. This isn't about saying `hi' to the gang. I want to make sure Buffy gets back and they're going to need my help."
"Why? They didn't ask for it," she told him matter-of-factly.
He shoved a few formidable looking weapons into the bag. "Look, Cordelia, I'm going. You're not." He slung it over his shoulder. "Be nice to Wesley."
"I don't care what you say. If I want to go to Sunnydale, I'll go to Sunnydale. I'll call a cab if I have to. A cab YOU'LL be paying for." She folded her arms across her chest and set her jaw.
That settled it. Angel knew he wouldn't win this one.
"Fine, but I'm leaving now."
"Certainly not," Giles responded vehemently. "We cannot risk any more..." he was going to say `lives', but changed his mind. "We cannot risk any possible time paradox. This is already completely out of hand."
"And with Willow hurt..." Dawn trailed off, forcing back a fresh siege of tears.
They had moved Willow to the couch in the training room where Tara was looking after her. She was gradually becoming more alert, but was still in a lot of pain.
Spike looked at Maeve, silently requesting back up.
"Tara has power as well, correct?" Maeve asked.
"This is not something we can simply dive into," Giles said. "It takes planning and research and time."
"Time is something we don't have Rupert," Spike interjected. "Xander does not know where he is, in a time period he knows nothing about! I remember - I LIVED there. I can help him. And then you can bring us all back."
"I lived there, too," Anya said. She was still sitting at the table, but her tears had since dried up. "I could go. I could go find him."
"It's too dangerous for you, Anya," Maeve said and approached the wearied ex-demon. She rested her hand on her shoulder and said, "Spike can do this. I know he can."
"What can Spike do?"
Everyone turned to look out of the broken store window toward the source of the new voice.
"Hi guys," Cordelia said.
"Oh bloody hell, who invited the SuperPoof?"
Angel walked in behind Cordelia. "Good to see you too, Spike."
Continued in Part 21 - House and Home