RATING: Series NC-17, this part PG-13
SPOILERS: I started this series after Gone and it’s AU but spoilery in general for S6. We’re pretty much to the plain old AU part now.
DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Don’t sue.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: It gets a little weird here, Buffy is unconscious and the scoobies have to figure out what’s been going on around Sunnydale. The ‘puter ate the original chapter 5, and this is only the first half of the grand finale. There’ll be one more part as I painstakingly recreate the work…
DISTRIBUTION: Please ask my permission first, just so I know where it's headed. This is posted along with the rest of the chapters at http://www.geocities.com/cxyzjacobs/btvsfic/chrisindex.html
FEEDBACK: Yes *please*! firstname.lastname@example.org
Part Five: Reminded
Chaos erupted into the room as four of its inhabitants burst into speech at the same time.
“What’s wrong with her, Spike?” Dawn demanded as she sat up, ramrod straight.
“You! You've hurt her... We told you to leave. Tonight you go the dusty way,” promised Xander, crossing the room to confront Spike.
“Spike - y...you’re glowing. What happened?” wondered Tara.
“How did you? But I..." started Willow before slumping down into her chair.
“The blood of the mother,” finished Anya. “I knew it.”
Xander reached the vampire and came up short. He couldn’t attack while Spike was still holding an unconscious Buffy, and the moment’s pause was all he needed to process what had just happened.
“Wait just a gosh darned minute here,” he said as he turned to face the four women. “You knew--all of you. You should have been as surprised as I am that..."
He turned again to face Spike. "Would you put her down?! I’m all dizzy from trying to figure out whether to stake you or yell at these four first.”
Spike cleared his throat, “Harris. Sit down. Worry about staking me later. Right now, we have a bigger problem to deal with."
“And you,” the vampire said, gesturing at Willow as he headed for the training room, “Get over yourself. Your guilt didn’t help before, it isn’t helping now. You and Glinda over there better get to digging in your books. She has blood lust, or something like it, and it’s connected to that thrice-damned spell you used. Tonight two human vandals almost found that out. . .”
Buffy moaned softly in his arms, reminding Spike that he was still holding her. His frown of concern deepened, and he quickly stalked from the room.
Tara watched intently as the vampire carried the Slayer to the training room. The glow she’d seen when Spike first arrived was flaring again, all red and purple around the edges, green and rose nearest his body. It wasn’t purely Spike’s aura, though. A ribbon of purple, surrounded by a muted, muddy red and black, pulsed as if alive between the two of them, the only brightness touching Buffy’s murky personal aura--right where her soul should have been, but wasn’t.
What’s going on here?
-- -- -- -- -- --
Quiet re-asserted itself in the room with the vampire’s departure. No one knew what to say first.
Xander shifted in his seat, watching Willow climb the stairs to retrieve the books on Egyptology. “How could you lie to me, Anya?” he asked her.
“It was really very easy,” she replied matter-of-factly. “You didn’t want to know.”
“Besides,” added Willow, returning with an armful of books, “you would have done that knight in shining armor thing again. That always works so well...”
“Like you’ve got room to talk about plans that work so well,” he returned. “Blood lust?”
Willow had the grace to look ashamed of herself, but answered him nonetheless, “Another great example of ‘you didn’t want to know’,” she said. “None of you did. When Buffy left, everybody just expected me to take over, to solve the problems and find the answers. Just like she always did. So I found one. I knew I would suffer the consequences,” she said, scratching her wrist. “I just didn’t think she would have to suffer them, too.”
“Truthfully,” she asked. “Would you change anything if you could? Would you send her back?”
The question hung, suspended in the atmosphere of the room as they considered their answers. Guilt of a dozen varieties crossed their faces, and the tone in the room changed from anger and resentment to worry.
Tara was the first to speak. “It doesn’t do any good to worry about what’s already done,” she said. “Now we have to find a way to fix it. There’s something in her aura . . .and his.”
“Giles had an idea,” said Dawn. “I called him today. She was all out of it at home this afternoon, and I called to tell him about Spike and how freaky she’s been acting. He wasn’t too happy...”
“You called Giles?” Anya asked with a worried look on her face. “He can’t come back. Not now! The shop is mine now.”
“I don’t think he’s coming back,” said Dawn, “But he said something sounded familiar and he had to do some research. I’ll bet he finds something that will help. He doesn’t know about this blood lust thing, though. Is that why she’s patrolling so much?”
“Maybe, but blood lust is something that vampires normally get, not humans” Tara said absently. “Giles said something sounded familiar? What exactly did you tell him, Dawn?” Tara wondered as Willow picked up the phone and began to dial.
Dawn blinked, and then it all came out at once. “Well, you know. Just that Buffy’s still all ‘not-here’, worse now than before. I told him that Buffy and Spike were doing it, but they’re not any more, and now she’s patrolling all the time again. And that she misses him terribly. Spike, I mean. Well, Giles too. But… Oooh. And I told him that Spike has this pain bond thing with her now. He didn’t really say much back. Just all ‘Umm. Well.’ and ‘I see’. I could practically hear him wiping his glasses...”
“The what bond?” Tara interrupted.
“The pain bond. You know – that thing that lets Spike feel what Buffy’s feeling? I guess he’d be following her around even without that, but...Oh. I meant to tell you about this earlier.” Dawn’s face was crestfallen. “I did it again, didn’t I?”
“Pain bonds? Blood lust?” questioned Xander. “When did David Lynch start directing our lives? And what’s Spike doing back there with her anyway? Am I the *only* person who remembers he’s a vampire?”
Dawn gave a little snort and turned on her hero. “Xander, get over it. He loves her. What, exactly, is so wrong about that?”
-- -- -- -- -- --
Moving the weapons out of the way, Spike lay Buffy carefully down on the mat. He looked around the room for something like a blanket, but finding nothing, he removed his duster.
This’ll do for now. But where are you, luv? I didn’t hit you that hard.
He arranged the coat over her still body, then sat down. Gently, as if she could break, he lifted her head and shoulders onto his lap, forming a pillow of his body. With wonderment in his eyes, he stroked his thumb against the line of her jaw, stopping at the point of her chin. The connection between them was palpable despite her unconscious state, maybe because of it.
The pain in his head had dissipated, only to be replaced by a strange buzzing that affected his vision as well as his balance. Spike dropped his hand onto her chest and leaned back against the pommel horse. Closing his eyes, he hummed an unnamable tune that seemed to calm the vibrations, and waited. When the darkness claimed him, he welcomed it, sliding into its warm embrace and bidding farewell to consciousness.
Worlds they cannot understand. I’m coming, Buffy.
-- -- -- -- -- --
Darkness surrounded her, but it was not cold. A warm mist permeated the air. Buffy sat up, looking for something familiar, but it was difficult to see. She wasn't in the cemetery any longer.
The silence of this place was eerie, and she couldn't see anyone or anything. But she felt something, a presence. It seemed non-threatening, even familiar. Slowly, she stood up, trying to get her bearings; suddenly, the darkness became all encompassing, and even more familiar.
"Who are you?" she called into the mist.
"You know who I am," echoed a disembodied voice.
Confused, Buffy tried again. "Why did you bring me here?"
"You know why," the voice replied. "The answers are within us. Seek them out. You cannot cross into the fields again; you must accept your gift."
“Gift? My gift is Death. Been there, done that. Twice, even. Enough with the freaky riddles; can't you at least turn on the lights? I have to see if I'm going to find anything."
"The answers lie in darkness," it answered. "The light blinds you. Death is your Gift. You must accept it."
"Remember what is precious. Memory is the key," the voice urged. "The hole widens, and manus is twinned. You must find the balance and stem the flow. "
Bewilderment suffused Buffy as the darkness closed in around her, comforting her, making her safe. Loving her.
Awareness faded to nothingness.
-- -- -- -- -- --
“Give me the title of the book again,” Willow said into the phone. “Vehicles of Consciousness: the Concept of Hylic Pluralism, Poortman. Got it. I think I know where that one is. And The Book of the Dead, Egypt-flavor? Okay. Anya should have everything else we need in stock.”
Willow paused for a moment, listening to Giles. “Yes. I understand… Giles, I’m so sorry. Of course we’ll call you when it’s done.”
Willow hung up and turned to Tara with unbearable sadness in her eyes. “I made this mess, and I can’t even help clean it up. How will I ever make amends?”
Tara regarded her with steady eyes. “You’re already forgiven, Willow. But you have to find a way to forgive yourself.”
-- -- -- -- -- --
Standing in the doorway of the training room, Tara watched the energy move around the still form of the vampire asleep against the wall with Buffy in his lap. Light and color danced against their absence, snaking tiny flashes all around them.
How is it that I never saw this before? Seeing the two of them together, it’s obvious.
The cord was the key – it should be clear and bright. Giles had been partially right. The energies flowing along the connection between them were of a sexual origin, opened by Tantric energies flaring when the soul-wounded Slayer and the heart-wounded vampire connected on a root level. But the channel itself, that was not sexual. The deep purple glow indicated a much deeper connection.
No question of it: the ritual couldn’t happen without Spike. This was definitely going to complicate matters. Tara squared her shoulders and walked over to shake them awake.
Continued in Part Six: Puzzles