RATING: Series NC-17, this part PG-13
SPOILERS: I started this series after Gone and it's AU, but spoilery further on into S6. You can safely assume that this is taking place between the end of Gone and the beginning of OaFA.
DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Don't sue.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I give up, it's still not finished, though I really do know how it ends. . . Here's part 7. Warning, this is strange and definitely AU. There's nothing in canon that supports my little theory. I still like it, and hope you do too.
DISTRIBUTION: Wherever. Please ask first, though. This is posted along with the rest of the chapters at http://www.geocities.com/cxyzjacobs/btvsfic/chrisindex.html
FEEDBACK: Yes *please* Whether it makes you happy, sad, glad, or mad, I wanna hear about it. email@example.com
Part Seven: Acceptance
“Fatal Attraction. That was a good movie,” said Anya. “Glen Close had a real talent for vengeance - and I love it when bunnies get what they have coming!”
Dawn just shook her head, a wry smile on her lips. Not even married yet, and they acted as if they were ready to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. When they weren’t busy hiding in their food, anyway. Amazing, really, the amount of comfort they seemed to find in eating. Dawn wondered briefly how two such innocents had ever found each other. They seemed to live in different planes of reality, but somehow it worked. Maybe it *was* the bunnies.
“Guys,” she began. “It’s getting awfully late. Should we go see what’s keeping them?”
“I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know,” Xander chanted as he reached for the cheese and crackers. “If I pretend it’s not happening, will it all go away?” he whined through a mouthful.
“Not likely,” said Willow, returning from the training room. “Hiding out in the food isn’t going to help you, Xander. There’s no way that tux is going to fit if you keep on at the snack foods this way. Denial is an unhealthy state, you know,” she finished with an ironic twist to her lips. “And it’s not going to get you out of your part in this, either.”
“Ignorance is bliss,” Xander intoned. “A really, really wise man said that, you know.”
“To each his suff'rings: all are men,
Condemn'd alike to groan;
The tender for another's pain,
Th' unfeeling for his own.”
The British accent lilted across the room as Spike entered behind Willow and alongside Tara. “You really sure you want to go there, Harris?” questioned the vamp, with a smirk on his face. “Old Thomas didn’t have such a peachy outlook on life . . .”
“Shut up, Spike,” said Xander, straightening up and pushing the plate of cheese and crackers away. “I don’t need lectures from a vampire on the misery of the human condition. Is she awake yet?”
“Not yet,” Willow said as she rummaged around to find smelling salts. “As soon as I find these. . . Aha! This’ll do the trick. I’ll be right back, with Buffy. Xander, will you give Tara the rundown on the ritual so we can get the wording worked out? And Spike, if you have anything you need to, you know, take care of. . . ? Now’s the time.”
Spike stared hard at Willow, absorbing the implications of her statement. The set of his jaw tightened, and he ducked his head a bit as he said, “Back in a bit, then,” and swept out of the shop, duster flapping
-- -- -- -- -- --
“Buffy. Buffy!” Willow shook her friend’s shoulders and waved the small tube of salts under her nose. “You have to come back. Now. We need you. . . ”
“Wha..huh? Willow? How’d you. . . ” Buffy struggled to sit up and orient herself. “How’d I get here?” she asked. “This isn’t the cemetery.”
Willow stretched out a hand to smooth the hair back from Buffy’s forehead. “You were on patrol. Spike brought you here. Do you remember what happened?” she asked softly.
“I finished my shift early,” Buffy replied, rubbing her eyes and straightening up. “Lorraine said it was my turn. I wanted to do patrol early tonight--there were a few vamps in the cemetery. Nothing unusual. I dusted a couple, and then I saw. . . ”
Her words trailed off, and her eyes grew wide in horror as the memories came flooding back. “Oh my God. . . they were. I almost. . . And Spike. He was there. Where’d he come from?” Buffy’s voice quavered with a swirl of emotions - fear, anger, guilt. . . helplessness. “How did he know that I was. . . that I needed help?”
Surprise at her own thoughts crept into her tone. “And why would he help me now, after all I’ve said and done?”
“Shhhh,” soothed Willow, wrapping her arms around the now sobbing slayer. “It’s going to be alright. We’re going to fix this. I promise you. This time, we aren’t going to lose you.”
When her uncontrollable shaking began to lessen, Buffy whispered, “There’s more, Will. After I was knocked out, I went. . . somewhere.”
“Somewhere?” questioned Willow. “What do you mean? Tara said she thought you might be traveling because of all the energies that were flaring. Did you have a dream?”
“It wasn’t exactly a dream. It was more like a vision. Except I couldn’t see anything. This voice - it spoke to me. And I thought I felt something familiar - but I couldn’t see what it was.”
Willow sat back on her knees, a small frown appearing on her lips. “What did the voice say, Buffy? This could be important if you were in the ether - you’ll have to go back there in the ritual Giles said would help you.”
“It was more mumbo-jumbo, Will. It repeated that whole ‘death is your gift’ business - like I don’t get *that* already. Told me I couldn’t go into the fields again. And it said something about plugging up holes and ‘manus’ being twinned. What does that mean? What does it have to do with what’s wrong with me?” Buffy’s shaking had stopped, but the light of understanding in her eyes was slipping away.
Willow’s eyebrows nearly touched her hairline as her words sank in. Excited, she said, “It means we’re on the right track! Come on, Buffy, we’ll finish talking in here,” she said, extending a hand to help her friend to her feet. “We have work to do. You have to explain this to the gang, and I need to talk to Tara about the words.”
-- -- -- -- -- --
Spike opened the door quietly, wondering what he’d find upon re-entering the Magic Box. The sight that greeted him was both beautiful and frightening: she was pacing the room, stalking back and forth from stack to stack, like an animal caged. Such beauty and grace - but not quite right. The attitude was primitive, and threatening. The softness and generosity of spirit he knew to be a part of Buffy seemed overtaken by ferocity and focus.
He hoped they knew what they were about - the price for this kind of magic was invariably high, but the pain in the price depended greatly upon the intentions of those using the power. Scanning the room, he saw Willow, Tara and Anya gathered around the counter, heads bent over books and papers - working furiously at something. Xander and Dawn sat talking at the table, Dawn gesturing furiously at Buffy and then Anya, as if making a point, Xander looking exasperated and worried by turns. There was only love and concern in the room, and the powers knew - his motive was clear. If a price had to be paid, he was determined to pay it.
As Spike closed the door with a small click, a hush fell over the room. The electricity in the air was almost tangible - popping and crackling so that even those who couldn’t see it felt it. Buffy stopped her pacing and turned to stare at Spike. Standing perfectly still, each of them eyed the other. Wariness predominated in their expressions, but there was more. No one could miss it - the depth of love in his face was unmistakable, and colored with a despair not dissimilar to that which haunted Buffy’s predatory look.
Taking a deep breath and lurching forward just a bit nervously, he broke the stare. “So are we ready, then?”
“Whaddaya mean ‘we’, kemosabe?” asked Xander. Before Spike could answer, though, a book came flying out of Anya’s hand, crossing the room to strike Xander in the forehead. At just the same moment, Dawn grabbed his ear and yanked downward hard. “Ow. Ow. Ow. Okay. All right. I get the point,” he conceded. “What I meant was: what are we supposed to do now?”
“That’s better,” muttered Anya under her breath. Aloud, she said, “We’re almost finished with the chants. You and Spike can go set up for the ritual in the training room.”
Tara picked up where Anya left off. “Dawn, why don’t you and Buffy go make a pot of tea with the chamomile.” She turned to Buffy to explain, “We need you to be as relaxed as possible, Buffy, and you seem a little, umm, distracted.”
Buffy tilted her head to one side and gave Tara a curiously blank look, then slumped against the nearby bookshelf, eyes glazed over.
“She looks relaxed now,” commented Anya. “Maybe we can skip the tea?”
-- -- -- -- -- --
“After you,” Xander snarked, waving Spike through the door. “I don’t want you behind me.” They exchanged a hard look, then headed into the training room to clear the floor for the night’s work. They worked silently side by side until only the pommel horse and the punching bag remained to be cleared.
“Y’know what your problem is? You need to grow up,” said Spike as he began to disconnect the punching bag from its rope and move it to the side. “We’re on the same side in this, whether you want to acknowledge it or not. Once upon a time, you considered my help worth having, but I guess it was different when you needed me to stay alive, huh? It’s not the fact that Buffy wants me as has your knickers in a twist. It’s that you’ve got issues with your bird being a vengeance demon, and you’re taking them out on me.”
Xander grunted as he leaned in to shove the pommel horse back against the wall. Having accomplished his task, he brushed his hands off and turned to face Spike. “We’ve had this coming for a long, long time,” he said as he rolled up his sleeves. “Too bad you really can’t do anything about it, now, isn’t it? And none of the girls will stop me this time,” he smiled. Advancing on the vamp, he commented further, “I might not get away with staking you, but I can get away with working off a little aggression.”
“Yeah, go ahead, you stupid git,” said Spike. “If it gives you your jollies, go right ahead. I’m not going anywhere until Buffy is safe,” he finished as he ducked Xander’s first punch. “Might be a little tougher than you thought, eh? And did you stop to think,” he said, circling around to avoid the next attempt to land a blow, “that I might just . . . ” Spike looked just a little uncertain as he swung with his right fist, landing a blow squarely on Xander’s nose. “. . . hit you back?”
“Ow! That . . . hurt! Me?” Xander stopped dead in his tracks, regarding Spike with a mixture of curiosity and fear in his eyes. Backing away quickly, he stuttered, “But. But. But y-you. The chip - they said. It was. . .”
Spike watched Xander’s retreat with amusement in his eyes. A small grin played across his lips as he said, “Consider yourself honored. The first to know the chip stopped working - ‘less you’re a demon, too.”
Xander fell back onto the floor, catching himself with his arms just in time to prevent a truly ignominious pose. Staring, he watched Spike move slowly closer to his position on the mat.
“It’s funny, that. Didn’t know it for certain myself until just now. That funny buzzing in my head. . . can’t explain why, exactly, but I thought it might have some effect on the silicon conscience. . . That and what Dru said. But I owe you thanks for the proof, Harris. Couldn’t have found a better way to test it out if I’d planned it.”
Spike stopped a good yard away and looked straight at the flummoxed carpenter, sincerity mixing with the amusement still present in his face. “You can hit me now, if you still want to,” he said quietly. “I won’t hurt you, you know. Seems I could have any time I felt like in the last few weeks. Buffy’d kill me if I hurt you - but that’s not even it. There’s something. . . different. I thought I’d have to fight the urge to kill, to feed. I’ve been such a very long time without my happy meals on legs. But it’s gone. Well, for doughboys like you, anyhow. Instinct’s as sharp as ever when the darkness is present in a body. . . You want some help getting up?” Spike extended a hand to Xander to help him up.
Xander considered his options for a moment, briefly wondering how long it would take him to make it to an exit. Finally, after a long pause, he took Spike’s hand and pulled himself to standing.
“You gonna say something, or should I run for my life?” asked Spike with an uncertain grin.
Floored by the very idea of having a civilized conversation with *Spike* about anything, Xander didn’t answer straight away. “Something.” he finally said, rather stupidly. As his brain began to recover, he continued, “I think the desire to hit you has fled somewhere south of the border. But I really *don’t* understand this. Your chip doesn’t work! Why don’t you want to kill me? Are we like your pet humans? You’re a little attached, so you don’t want to eat us?”
“Now a fellow just might find that insulting,” said Spike, “if he expected intelligence out of you. Why would you think being a vampire means free will is nonexistent? Oh just forget it, Harris. Go get the girls and tell them we’re ready.”
Continued in Part Eight: Reconstruction