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Part one of two

Episode Twelve: Fractures

by fiona
Weapon by Matthew Good Band
Never Give Up On Me by Jann Arden
(Buffy & Spike)

Author's Note: Thanks to the beta-babes for all your wonderful help and suggestions. Special thanks to cousinjean, hold-that-thought, fenwic and adjrun for talking me through some of the more difficult parts. Also to Abby20 who helped with the initial plotting and little_bit who made a request that inspired one of the scenes. Finally, thanks to the readers who have been very patient with the long pause between updates and who only recently started baying for my blood.

The paperwork never ended. Looking back, Quentin remembered a time when the job was more about battling the forces of evil than budgeting air travel for the next annum, but the memory was very dim indeed. Though to be honest, he couldn't say he missed the fieldwork. It didn't provide the same security that working at Council Headquarters did. And it had a tendency to be a tad messier, as their recent trip to Sunnydale more than proved.
Wading through another batch of requisition requests, he nearly sighed in relief when he heard his secretary's voice crackle through the intercom. "Mr. Travers, Mr. Bellingham and Mr. Kim here to see you."
"Send them in Miss Worthing." Quentin rose as he depressed the intercom button, straightening his suit, and brushing off any lint that may have collected. The heavy oak door to his outer office swung open, and Magnus and Myong strode in, frowns affixed on both their faces.
"Gentlemen, please, have a seat." He waited for them to sit before settling into his high-backed chair. "You both look quite grave. I hope nothing is seriously wrong."
A look passed between Magnus and Kim before the former leaned forward, concern etching his face. "Quentin, ten minutes ago we received a call from Lydia. It's quite unpleasant."
Unpleasant. Yes, that was the word that he most associated with the small town on the Hellmouth. "Pray tell, what has the Slayer done now? Started shagging another vampire? Or has the other one killed another public official?"
Another uncomfortable look. "No, it's more serious than that. She's succumbed."
It took a moment for the meaning to penetrate. "Who has? Buffy or Faith?"
Myong spoke, his soft voice heavy as the velvet drapes covering the office windows. "Buffy Summers. Lydia believed she had gone mad, but then realized her symptoms are synonymous with the Slayers' Crisis. We fear that if we do not move quickly she may become a liability."
"Of course. We'll leave for Sunnydale at once." He couldn't help the grimace that spread over his face at the prospect. Returning to the Hellmouth so soon after leaving was the last thing he wanted to do. But duty was duty. At times, it was all he knew.
He looked at Magnus. "Mobilize the primary containment team. I believe they're in Oxnard, correct?"
Magnus nodded. "Good. Have them leave for Sunnydale immediately. Myong," he said, shifting his gaze to the other man, "inform Flight Crew B that we wish to leave for California within the hour." He regarded both of them. "I ask you to be discreet, gentlemen. We don't want to risk any of Giles's friends within these walls alerting him before we get there. Or his friends outside of these walls, either. Though Lydia did inform us of the problem, I don't believe she can be trusted to keep our arrival to herself. It will need to be kept from both her and Harris."
Myong nodded and left, but Magnus paused at the door. "Containment? Why aren't we sending wetworks? That has been standard procedure in these instances."
"Giles knows us, Magnus. If he discovers our presence, he'll be able to detect the intent of any team we send. Getting near the Slayer would be impossible if he thinks we're going to harm her. We need to separate her from him. Then we can decide what to do."
"I understand your desire to keep this trip quiet, but I assure you, Lydia's loyalty lies with the Council. If I ask her to keep this to herself, she will."
"Seven years ago, I would have said the same about Rupert Giles. I've learned not to take anything for granted."
Magnus nodded, and turned to head out before pausing once again. "Perhaps we should bring along Niamh as well. Her powers could be useful on this trip. Particularly if things get out of hand."
Quentin could feel a grim smile tugging at his cheeks. "And, considering the Slayer we're dealing with, the possibility of things getting out of hand is quite likely." He nodded. "Ask her to join us. It would be a comfort to have someone of Niamh's talents along for the trip."
He watched Magnus retreat, fully this time, before sitting back down at his desk. He had to admit, it didn't come as a great shock. Buffy had always been independent, to the point of being mutinous, and that was the quality that was consistent within all the girls who had succumbed in the past. But, though it wasn't a surprise, it was … disappointing. Despite her many faults, Quentin had come to respect Buffy.
It would be a shame if she had to die.
Hank Summers knew two things about himself: he was smart and he had power. When it came to business he always knew what to do and always had the power to get it done. Always.
So faced with his present situation, he wasn't precisely sure how he was expected to act or what he should be doing. His eldest daughter, the Chosen One (but actually One of the Chosen Two) had seemingly lost her mind and attacked his youngest daughter, a mystical Key who could open portals between dimensions and who apparently didn't exist prior to the fall of 2000. The youngest was now being sequestered in L.A. with his older daughter's 130-year-old vampire boyfriend who, despite being soulless, still managed to love both of Hank's daughters. And now his daughters' friends - a werewolf, the other Chosen One, and three members of an ancient organization that made the CIA look like the Columbia Records club - searched the town for her while he sat in a magic shop listening to her best friend (who just happened to be one of the most powerful witches in the free world) try to find a spell to locate her.
The Golden Gate Bridge had nothing on the suspension of his disbelief.
Add to that, he volunteered to help. Mr. Giles sent him a bewildered look, no doubt wondering what he could bring to the table, but in the end, asked him to research what was harming Buffy. He seemed to understand better than any of the others that Hank needed to help. Nothing was worse than the feeling of impotence he'd felt since this whole thing began.
Unfortunately, the feeling of powerlessness hadn't gone away. It turned out Hank wasn't very good at research. Mainly because he was having a lot of trouble not scoffing at the books in front of him. Ghosts, mummies, elves, demons, monsters - the books were all filled with descriptions of each and despite what he had already seen, Hank was having trouble buying any of it.
"Oh, flirking shnit!" Willow's voice carried to him from the back room.
"Is there a problem?" Hank called back. Last time she had sworn a minor explosion followed.
"No. Well, not a ka-boom kind of problem. Just a non-working spell kind of problem." She entered the main room just as the front door opened and Mr. Giles, Lydia and the werewolf came in. "Any luck?"
All three shook their head. Giles took off his glasses and cleaned them. "We followed several olfactory leads that Oz picked up, but the trail always came up cold."
Oz looked up at Willow. "How about you?"
Willow shook her head. "The thing with location spells is that they pinpoint a person's life energy, their chi, not their physical presence. That's why it's impossible to do them on vampires. But Buffy's chi is muted right now by whatever the First Slayer's spirit is doing to her and the First Slayer doesn't have life energy what with being dead for thousands of years and all."
"So, basically, what you're saying is, you're no closer to finding my daughter than you were when we started." Hank realized he sounded like a jerk, but he couldn't help himself.
Mr. Giles's eyes slid coldly towards him and Hank suddenly got, and not for the first time, the impression that perhaps this wasn't a man who should be trifled with. "How did your research go? Did you find any leads into what is wrong with Buffy?"
Hank threw the book in his hands down on the table. "How could anyone find something in this? It's all nonsense and fairy tales. Of course I couldn't find any leads. And you knew I wouldn't be able to. It was just busy work so that I wouldn't do the smart thing which is call the police."
"Actually, we've already been told." Hank peered up to see a man his own age entering the shop with Faith and Xander.
Giles also looked up. "Ben, this is a nice surprise. How have you been?"
"Better than you, I hear." The man walked over to Hank and stuck out his hand. "Ben Grant. Sunnydale PD. You must be Buffy's dad."
"Oh, pardon me." Giles stepped forward. "Hank Summers, this is Lieutenant Grant."
Finally, someone who might actually be of help. "Lieutenant Grant, what are you doing to find my daughter?"
The lieutenant looked sideways to Xander and paused before answering. "Mr. Summers, you have to know that in a case like Buffy's, we would be useless. Even if we were able to find her, the force is not equipped to deal with her. Plus, I think it would be best to keep this as quiet as possible. If the towns people were to find out that Buffy was incapacitated, they might be inclined to panic." He paused and looked at Faith. "No offence."
She shrugged. "None taken."
"So you're not doing anything?" Hank huffed.
"Me and another officer will patrol the graveyards. We've got tranq guns in case we come across her, but we won't engage her. We like our internal organs where they are. But if we see her, we'll trail her and call in the cavalry." He tipped his head to indicate Xander and Faith.
Sighing loudly, Hank rolled his eyes. "Then I'm back to my original question. How are we going to find my daughter? Do we even have any leads?"
Faith hopped onto the front counter and faced Hank, her face grim. "We found a couple more demon corpses. One at the Bronze and one near the highway."
"The locator spell is still a no-go," Willow said. "I think the First Slayer must be close to completely taking over Buffy. I'm not even getting a blip anymore."
Faith jumped off the counter and began pacing around the room. "Looking for her isn't doing much good either. Truth is, we could be five feet from her and wouldn't know. B knows this town inside and out. If she doesn't want us to find her, we won't."
"Therefore," Lydia reasoned, "we need to find a way to draw her out."
A silence fell over the store.
"Uh, guys," Oz spoke up. "I have an idea."
"Dad said he called ahead and had food put in the fridge," Dawn prattled on, pointing at a door in the dining room. "I'm going to stay in my room so that means you can either stay in Dad's room which probably isn't your cup of tea or in Buffy's. You know where everything is, right?"
He nodded. The Little Bit hadn't stopped talking since he'd gathered himself together by the side of the road. Not that he blamed her. One of her guardians tried to kill her earlier in the day, and the other could barely keep from bursting into tears. If anything he was amazed that she managed to keep it together as well as she had. The word "wreck" couldn't even begin to describe his state of mind.
"So, I'm gonna go to bed if you're okay," she continued. "This has been a really long day."
He nodded and followed to put her suitcase in her room before shouldering his duffle bag and heading to the bedroom at the end of the hall. He'd been in here before. After Dawn's accident, he and Buffy had slept in this room for a month off and on.
God, the room still smelled like her. Not just her shampoo and hand lotion. Buffy herself. Her tears, her sweat, her very essence flooded every corner of the room.
He kicked off his boots and lay down on the bed. When he closed his eyes, he could almost pretend that she slept beside him. This would all be a bad dream and in a second she would roll over and curl into his side. Snuggle up to him and press a drowsy kiss into the back of his neck.
It was a dream. Only a dream.
His hand had just begun to reach out for her when a small noise brought him back to reality. In the next room, Dawn was sobbing. Very muffled, she obviously thought that by crying into her pillow she would escape his attention, but definite sobs. Silly girl.
Padding to her door, he knocked softly before entering. She snuffled and wiped her tears quickly, attempting to plaster a smile on her face.
"Well, I'm a right git, aren't I." Spike sat on the edge of her bed and reached out a hand to stroke her hair out of her face.
"What? No." Dawn shook her head so violently he thought she might knock some teeth loose. "You've been great."
A laugh escaped him. A grim laugh, but a laugh nonetheless. "Thanks for that, but you're lying and you know it. I've been a selfish wanker and it's going to stop tonight." He dropped a kiss on her forehead. "We're going to get through this, Dawn. I promise."
She sat up and let her fake smile drop. "What if they can't figure out what's wrong with her?"
"Your sister's got three Watchers and a mighty powerful witch trying to fix her. Somehow I think they'll do all right."
"I didn't want to leave her, either." With her head bowed and her hands worrying the edge of her quilt, she looked about ten years old. He saw the tears dropping onto her blanket and though he didn't think it possible, his heart broke just a little bit more.
"I know, Nibblet. I know." He pulled her into his arms and rocked her gently. "It won't be forever. We'll be back with Buffy before you know it. And until then we'll just muddle through."
Night was better. Quiet. More demons. Light not so harsh. Other voice faded at night. No doubt. No regret. Just the kill.
Few demons. Must kill all demons. Two escaped. She would find them. She would hunt.
Senses stretched out, searching. No vampires. But… there! Just a tingle, but she felt it. Demon. Must be slayed.
Be quiet, approach carefully. Demon might hear. Demon might sense.
Werewolf. Quicker than her. Better senses. But not as strong. And in distress. Tied. Bound to a tree.
Kill it.
Xander couldn't decide which felt worse: watching wolf-Oz struggling against his bonds or knowing that unless they kept their proverbial phasers set on stun, Buffy could slip in and kill him right in front of them.
"This was a very bad idea."
Faith continued her scan of the area. "It was pretty much the only idea. And Oz seemed okay with it. Hell, he damn near insisted."
"What if she gets by us?"
"She won't."
Somehow he wasn't convinced. "But what if - "
"Xander, chill." Faith glanced at him before resuming her watch. "We're twenty feet away. Red's on the other side with her immobilizing spell. Giles, Lydia and Grant are behind the bench with the tranq guns. He'll be fine."
The words had barely left her lips when a flash of blonde whipped by them. By the time Xander managed to move, Buffy had driven Oz against the tree with such force that Xander flinched.
Faith dashed forward, Xander trailing her. She almost reached Buffy when a dark blur knocked into her from the side. Faith and her attacker both tumbled to the ground, grunting as the wind was knocked from them. Xander went down too, unable to avoid their flailing limbs.
Giles barked, "Stay down!", and two seconds later a tranq dart embedded itself in the tree an inch from Buffy's head. That got her attention and she paused in her attack on Oz to look around.
Faith and her attacker scrambled to their feet as two more people in black came onto the scene. All five lunged for Buffy who decided to run rather than risk capture, everyone heading for the woods on the other side of the park.
"Viscare!" A flash of blue emanated from Willow's hand aimed at Buffy. Until one of the morons in black got in the way and froze in their tracks.
At the edge of the woods Faith dove and tackled her fellow Slayer. The two tussled on the ground. "Damn, B! Ease up, I'm human!"
Xander ran along side Giles and Grant, the latter hefting his tranq gun. Faith pulled Buffy off the ground, both struggling, but Faith with the upper hand. She turned Buffy so that Grant could get a clear shot. Grant aimed, pulled the trigger and -
Buffy grabbed one of the men in black and put him between herself and the dart. The dart hit his neck and he immediately began to fall. Buffy used his momentum and threw the man into Faith, knocking them both down.
Before anyone else could react she disappeared into the woods.
"God damn!" Faith shoved the unconscious man off her and leapt to her feet. "What the hell happened? Who are these guys?"
Xander's first thought was Initiative and as he and Giles approached the remaining men, he felt sure he would find one of Riley's cohorts under the masks. However, when the one standing man unveiled himself, it was Faith who recognized him. "You." She infused a lot of venom into that word.
Giles seemed to recognize them as well. "I should have known."
"Known what?" Xander felt extremely out of the loop.
"Council," Giles spat. "Meet their incredibly incompetent containment team."
Several hours and about fifty huffed, evasive responses later the Council contingent assembled within the Magic Box having been summoned as soon as they stepped off of their plane. Quentin sat at the table, looking for all the world like an imperious overlord deigning to mingle with the commoners.
Giles's first impulse was to smack that smug look off of Quentin's face. However, he knew that would get him nowhere, satisfying though it may be. Besides, beating up Travers would only delay the search for Buffy. His desire for her safety far outweighed any malevolence he felt toward the Council.
"Tell me Quentin, is there a reason you didn't tell us you were on your way? I understand that I am no longer privy to Council information, but I would have thought Lydia and Xander might have been informed of your arrival."
Giles noticed Hank sitting in a corner, silent for once, wide eyes darting from person to person, obviously unsure as to what the hell was going on.
"We mobilized our team as soon as we heard that the Slayer was incapacitated," Quentin lied smoothly. "We left immediately after that."
Giles barely refrained from snorting. The rolled eyes got away from him. "And calling from the airport, or better yet, from London, never occurred to you?"
Bellingham, sitting with Lydia, spoke up. "After receiving word from Lydia, we thought it best to move as quickly as possible. There wasn't time for pleasantries."
"No, of course not." Giles stalked behind the counter. Faith sat on it, her eyes never leaving the containment team.
After a tense moment, Lydia cleared her throat. "Perhaps we could put all that aside for now and concentrate on the matter at hand. Buffy's still out there and she needs to be brought in. Mr. Travers, does the Council have any information on Buffy's condition? I remember reading about it in the past, but I can't recall what the solution was, or even the cause."
"A solution has never been found," Quentin provided. "And while there have been many theories as to the cause, that has never been determined either."
"Well, thank you for that. You're certainly a font of information." Giles knew he was being a bastard but wasn't concerned with it. The entire Council, from Quentin on down, could go sod themselves for all he cared.
Xander interjected nervously from next to Faith. "Well, if you'll excuse me for asking then, Sir, why are you here?"
"We wished to assist you. That is all. The well-being of both our Slayers always comes first and foremost with the Council." Giles felt a rage building in him at these pretty lies. A rage that had become a familiar feeling anytime the Council dropped in for a visit.
"Your assistance caused us to lose the best chance we had at capturing Buffy. Not to mention the great pains and dangers we took in trying to find her." His gaze fell to Oz who quietly retreated to the back room. They took such a risk, and to have the Council come in and bollix everything up… "I think we can do quite well without your help."
Bellingham leaned towards Lydia, murmuring her name and gesturing subtly to Giles. Contrition immediately cast itself over her features and she cleared her throat. "While the team's arrival did come at an inopportune time, I'm sure they didn't mean to cause any harm, Rupert." He started to argue the point, but she held up a hand, silencing him. "I really think it's best that we discuss finding Buffy."
Willow brightened in the corner where she stood with Niamh. "Ooh, I might have found a solution for that. Faith," she asked, pausing Faith's attempts to see if looks actually could kill, in this case, the containment team, "did you manage to tag her?"
"Yeah. Broke that vial just before I tackled her and got the stuff on her hands at least. Probably her clothes and hair too. And all over me." She held up her hands which looked slightly shiny in the light.
"Nosforge root?" Niamh inquired.
"Uh-huh! It came to me when we were getting ready to go look for Buffy. Just in case we didn't catch her, as long as we could get some Nosforge on her, then I wouldn't need a location spell to track her - I could just track the herb." Willow practically glowed with pride.
"Wonderful," Quentin remarked. "Then I suggest that our containment team go out and find Buffy immediately and bring her in. Then we may discuss what's to be done with her."
"What's to be done…?" Giles couldn't even fathom what Quentin thought there was to discuss. "Discussion or not, there's one thing you should know: I will not let you within ten feet of that girl. So you can just sod off."
"Rupert, you really have no say in the matter."
A moment of silence before mayhem broke out.
"I have no say! I've been that girl's guardian - " "Well, you're no longer - " "Maybe we should all just calm down - "
"Everyone, just be quiet!" From Willow who stood on a chair. "Since I am the only one here with the ingredients needed to finish the spell, what I say goes. And this is what I say: everyone is going to go home now. Everyone," she repeated, when Giles started to protest. "Faith will get some sleep because I don't think she has in the last two nights because," she added, seeing Faith ready to disagree, "she's going to need her full strength to take down Buffy. Then she and Xander, along with your team," she added for Quentin who looked like he wanted to argue the point, "will go and find Buffy tomorrow morning. Once Buffy is safely with us, then we can discuss ways to help Buffy. All right?"
The room fell silent. Only Hank responded, nodding mutely, still looking baffled by the whole thing.
"Alrighty then. I'm taking that as agreement. So you should all get out now."
No one moved.
"Out!" Willow yelled, and Giles found himself being herded out of his own shop along with everyone else. But just before the door closed behind him he felt a hand grasp his own. He looked up to see Willow smiling at him and felt reassured.
Come what may, they would get his girl back.
Now that the British sarcasm had been holstered and the fighters had dispersed, Willow found herself alone in the Magic Box. Or, almost alone. She'd seen Oz slip into the training room midway through the ruckus and hoped he hadn't left.
She entered the back room quietly and watched for a moment as Oz tried to tape his ribs. Buffy must have walloped him harder than he let on. A nasty purple bruise was already forming and he winced as he tried to pass the tape behind his back.
"Need a hand?"
Oz's head shot up in surprise. Well, as much surprise as Oz could emote. "I thought everyone left."
"Everyone did." She took the tape from his hands and uttered a short incantation before finishing what he started.
"Healing spell?"
"Not really. There aren't any healing spells that, you know, heal. It's one of those thingies that magic can't effect. Circle of life and all that Disney stuff. But it should ease the pain a bit." She tied up the ends and patted him lightly on the back. "All done."
"Thanks." He reached stiffly for his tee-shirt, which she helped him into, then tossed her a grateful smile. "Remind me never to piss off Buffy."
"You need to leave town." The words were out of her mouth before she even realized it.
He looked at her, calm and slightly curious. "That was… abrupt."
"I know. I'm all blurty. But I mean it. You need to leave." She went to the first aid kit and began cleaning things up.
He joined her and stopped her busy hands with one of his own. "I'm fine, Will. Couple of bruised ribs. That's all."
Well, had she really expected him to agree right off? "What if she attacks you again? You got injured when everyone was there to stop her. What if she finds you alone? What if she'd found you back here just now by yourself? She could kill you and none of us would even know. She could kill you, Oz."
"But she didn't. Tonight was the third night of the cycle. The werewolf will be dormant for another month. And you still need me here." He took one of her hands and held it. "I need you to know that I won't leave again."
"Oh, Oz." She hadn't even been thinking of that. "I know. And even if you did leave again, it wouldn't be the same. But Buffy might sense the wolf even if it isn't that time of the month. And if you stay, and something happens to you, I'll be so mad, I might kill you myself."
"Okay. But how you will find Buffy again? You might still need me to help."
"We have another way." She set her face into a frown. "See this face? You know what face this is."
He chuckled. "Resolve face."
"Darn tootin'. And I'm resolved that you pack your bags and go on vacation. We'll call you if we need you. And the moment we fix Buffy, you'd better come back."
"Deal." They walked towards the back door where Oz had parked his van.
"Do you know where you'll go?"
"To see a friend."
Man, Faith hated this. Bad enough she was forced to hunt her friend, but the fact that she had to do it alongside Weatherby, Smith and Collins, the very goons who tried to kill her once upon a time, was like pouring lemon juice into the wound. Or whatever the analogy was supposed to be. She knew there must be a term to describe it. Irony or fate or something like that, but all Faith could think was that whoever ran things on a universal scale had a very sick sense of humor.
Xander wasn't making things much better. He watched her like she was a ticking time bomb. Which she understood. Precedence had been set in the past. But she wasn't going to explode. That's what they wanted. The Council. Their thugs. An excuse to take her in, too. She refused to give them a reason.
She couldn't let Buffy down like that.
"That map of yours workin'?" Weatherby punctuated the remark by casually spitting on a nearby tombstone. "Or are we just gonna go in circles all bloody day."
"The map is working fine," Faith managed through clenched teeth. "But Buffy's on the move and its kinda hard to anticipate where she'll head next."
She paused to check the map. Xander stepped behind her and peered over her shoulder.
"What do you think?" she asked him. "Could she be heading for the docks or for the north-end warehouses?"
"Warehouses," Xander decided. "There was some talk last month of some Pei-shar demons stopping there in their migration. Maybe a couple decided to stay."
Collins harumphed in agreement. "Would make a sight more sense than looking in a graveyard in broad daylight anyway. Or has the Boy-Watcher here and ruddy Rupert not taught you the basics yet?"
She glared at him. "They've taught me plenty. Mainly not to pay attention to grunts like you."
Xander apparently had concerns of his own. "Boy-Watcher? I'm her sidekick? If I'm anyone, I'm Alfred. Or Commissioner Gordon."
Weatherby sneered, but his tone was begrudgingly dutiful. "I'm sure Collins didn't mean any disrespect, Mr. Harris. He forgets himself occasionally."
Faith ignored all of them and looked down at her map again. Buffy's little dot was indeed heading for the warehouses. "Let's go. If we move quickly, we might be able to beat her there."
Well, beating her there had been optimistic. Their first clue was the dead Pei-shar sprawled outside of one of the abandoned warehouses. It's head faced the wrong direction and a fist-sized hole in it's sternum spilled gray entrails.
"Oh God." This from Xander who still stared in horror at the corpse.
"What's this, then?" asked Weatherby, nudging the dead demon with his shoe. "One a them demons you've been talkin' about?"
Xander sounded like he was going to hurl. "They're non-violent. The worst thing they're guilty of is snacking on the occasional tabby."
"Come on," Faith said, gently. "Map says she's still inside this building."
They entered cautiously, wary of how Buffy might react. It took a second for Faith's eyes to adjust, but once they did, she wished they hadn't. The demons hadn't had a chance. It looked like they had playing Tomb Raider on their PlayStation when Buffy had descended upon them. Bugles were scattered across the ground, gray with blood.
Faith could hear her breathing. She was panting with exertion. Faith took a deep breath and closed her eyes, focusing on the breath of her fellow Slayer. She opened her eyes and looked straight at Buffy, huddled against a wall, eyes wide with horror.
Oh, God. She had prepared to fight the Slayer, to take her down. She wasn't prepared for this.
"B? Is that you? Do you know who I am?" Faith approached cautiously. Buffy shrunk into herself, tears falling rapidly. She drew her knees into her chest and began to wrap her arms around herself when she stopped. She held her arms out in front of her, swiping frantically at the blood that covered them.
"Buffy?" Xander's voice just behind Faith startled both Slayers and Buffy scuttled backwards on her hands and knees.
"What's a matter with her?" Collins asked from about ten feet back. Buffy retreated even faster.
"Xander, get them out of here," Faith hissed.
"No. Buffy…" Xander shook his head.
"I can handle Buffy, but I need you guys to get out." Faith followed Buffy who had come to a halt when she hit a corner. "B? You need to come with me now. We need to take you back to the Magic Box so we can make you better. Okay?"
Faith reached for her, but Buffy shied away. She tried again and this time managed to gently get a grip on Buffy's arms. She pulled her to her feet and carefully led her to the door, trying to ignore Buffy's cringes every time they stepped over a dead demon.
She led her out into the sunshine. Buffy's eyes narrowed, not used to the light.
"Okay, I've got her. Let's - "
A whistling sound cut her off. At first she thought Buffy had turned primal again, but a second later Buffy slumped in her arms. "What the…"
"What did you do?" Xander stalked towards Smith and was angrier than Faith had seen him in awhile. "You didn't have to do that, she was coming peacefully."
"She could have turned again at any moment," Smith sniffed. "I was just protecting our safety."
It was then that Faith noticed the tranq dart in the side of Buffy's neck.
Liar. He'd enjoyed it and Faith could tell. She knew. Xander advanced on the man and Weatherby and Collins came up behind their co-worker.
"Xander!" Faith called him off. Xander returned, eyeing the trio warily. "I want to beat them into next Tuesday as much as you do," Faith said softly, "but let's get Buffy cured first, okay?"
Xander glowered, but nodded. Then, his face shifted and he chuckled.
"What's so funny?" Faith asked, suspicious.
"Nothing," he said, sobering. "Just, look how far you've come when you're the level head and I'm the one aching to break bones."
Not as far as you think. Faith attempted a watery smile. "Let's go back."
Xander moved as if to take Buffy from her arms, but Faith shook her head and pushed him away.
"No. I need to do this." She would carry Buffy all the way. Because she knew Buffy would do the same for her.
Golden skin. So soft. Especially the parts that never saw combat. Lying next to her, brushing fingertips along her abdomen, delighting in the goosebumps that trailed in his wake.
"Love your belly," he whispered. "Exquisite, soft, pretty belly."
The next thing he knew he lay on his back, an insulted Slayer straddling him, glaring down. "Soft?" she inquired in the tone that let him know he'd better tread carefully. The tone that could lead to a week on the spare room bed.
"Soft skin, baby," he clarified. "You know your entire body is toned to perfection." He gave said perfection a lustful leer, which earned him rolled eyes as she slid off his body to lay next to him, propped up on one elbow.
A mischievous smile painted her lips as she mirrored his earlier actions, running her fingertips along his stomach. Lovely, warm fingers lazily petted and stroked him. He didn't even realize he was moaning until she giggled at him.
"Looks like the big, bad vampire likes to have his tummy rubbed."
He threaded a hand through her hair. "Love anything that involves you touching me."
"Like this?" She dropped a kiss down on his lips.
After a moment he broke away. "Indeed."
"And this?" Her mouth moved down his jaw, nipping at him lightly, before nuzzling his neck.
"God, yes."
She continued to nip and suck at his neck. "Do you love me, Spike?"
"More than anything, my darling." God, what she was doing to him…
"Stay with me forever?"
"Always be with you. Oh, God, Buffy."
She straddled his hips and lightly ground against him. "Never leave me?"
He tried to draw her down for a kiss. "Not ever, my love."
A blow to his face caught him off guard. "Liar," she spat.
"What?" he asked, unsure of what to do with himself. "No, Buffy, I'm telling the truth."
She stroked his cheek, gently, but a malicious tone underscored her words. "O, that deceit should dwell, in such a gorgeous palace." Her stroke turned to a slash, drawing blood from his cheek.
"Buffy, I would never lie to you." When he tried to reach for her, she pinned his wrists above his head.
"You said you'd never leave me. That was a lie. Didn't take much to get you to run either." Her face twisted with anger and distrust. "You're just like all of them. First sign of trouble and away you ran. You don't love me. You don't know what it is to love."
She was right. He left her. Just like all the rest. "I'm sorry. I thought it was what you would have wanted," he whispered.
"To be used up and tossed aside? You don't deserve love."
If he could have argued, maybe he would have. But everything she said was true. "I'm sorry."
"You like everything I do to you, baby?" she cooed. "How about this?"
Her fingers, which minutes ago had brought him such pleasure, now dug into his chest. She plunged her whole hand in, digging, squirming around bone and tissue to find her prize. He screamed in pain.
"Ah, here it is." She pulled out his heart, black and unbeating. "Stop fussing. It's not like you use it."
He thrashed beneath her, trying to throw her off. She held him down with her free hand. "It's not like you haven't done the same to me, lover. You know what they say. Turnabout, fair play, that whole song."
He was about to protest when he felt something sticky drip down his arm. He looked to his hand and realized it held a heart in it. Still beating. Then he saw the gaping hole in Buffy's chest. His stomach roiled. Not that, anything but that.
He closed his eyes. Couldn't look at her any longer. Thought he was going to be sick. What have I done? "What the matter, Spike?" Her laughter echoed in his mind. "Can't face the truth?" The laughter became louder and louder, drowning out everything…
Spike sat bolt upright. Where? Hank's apartment. Living room. Looked to be mid-day. Dawn. Where was Dawn? A few more cobwebs cleared from his mind and he remembered her asking to go shopping that morning.
He realized the racket came from the door. Must be the Bit. She was none too subtle when her arms were loaded with goods.
"Spike, you okay? You in there?" Well, unless the Bit had gone and bought a sex-change, that wasn't her.
He threw open the door, and the rest of his sleep haze fell away.
Oz lowered his hand. "Hey."
The bell over the shop door jangled, jerking everyone out of their thoughts. Lydia looked up from the tome she was reading in time to see Quentin, Magnus, Myong, and Niamh step through the door. Hank and Giles had half risen before they saw who it was and sank back down in disappointment, Giles muttering an epithet under his breath.
Quentin ignored him and sat down at the table. “Are they back yet?”
Giles seemed intent on ignoring the whole group, leaving Lydia to answer. “No, Sir. We’re not sure when they’ll be back.”
“Soon, I imagine.” Magnus came to sit beside Lydia. “We received a call from Collins five minutes ago saying that they had captured Miss Summers and were en route to this shop.”
Relief overwhelmed Lydia. She noticed the tension in Giles’s shoulders easing as well. “That’s wonderful news. Isn’t it, Rupert?”
“Yes. Of course.” He exchanged a smile with an equally relieved Willow.
At that moment the door opened and the retrieval party entered. Both Hank and Giles rushed to relieve Faith of Buffy, Giles reaching her first. He carefully lifted Buffy into his arms and gently laid her on the table as Willow cleared the books out of his way.
“Is she all right?” Hank asked.
Faith rolled her shoulders and cracked her neck, glaring at Smith. “She’d be a lot better if John Wayne here wasn’t so trigger happy.”
“She was herself, coming along on her own, and he decides to stick a tranq dart in her neck, ‘just in case’.”
“Well,” Lydia ventured, “perhaps it was for the best. She could have turned feral at any time and your finding her could have been all for naught.”
“See?” Smith crowed.
Lydia felt a frisson of uncertainty as Faith pinned her with a glare. “Who’s side are you on?”
“Faith.” Giles tone held a note of warning, but Lydia noticed that he glowered in her direction as well.
“The important thing is that she has been captured.” This from Quentin, with the air of a parent trying to diffuse a quibble between children. “We can now decide what is to be done with her.”
“Don’t you dare speak of Buffy as though she were a wild animal, you pillock. And nothing will be ‘done with her’. If you think I would leave her in your care, you’re even more delusional than I thought.”
“Rupert, be reasonable. How do you expect to help her?”
“I have my own suppliers. You needn’t think that the Council holds all the mystical resources in the world.”
Lydia could see that Giles was letting his pride get in the way of helping Buffy. “But they do have the most extensive collection.”
“Excuse me?” Not only did his eyes fall on her, but she could feel everyone else staring at her as well.
“Let’s be honest, Rupert. If we wish to help Buffy, using the Council’s library is our best option. They will have everything we need, and if we go with her, she will be perfectly safe.”
For a moment he just stared at her. He said nothing, but his expression clearly screamed, ‘Judas’.
He addressed Quentin. “We wouldn’t have to bring Buffy to use the Council Library. I could simply send Lydia or Xander.”
Quentin offered him an indulgent smile. “Are you sure you would trust them to do the research? Of the three of you, Rupert, you have far more experience in using the Council Library and in cross-referencing the annals. Besides, if the Crisis is at all time sensitive, then it would behoove you to have Buffy along and you know it.”
Magnus rose and stood beside Lydia. “Rupert, more than anyone here, I realize how protective you feel. I watched over Lydia for many years and would be loathe to send her into any situation where I felt she might be in danger. But you must understand, we only wish to help Buffy. Nothing will harm her if she comes to London.”
Feeling warm from Magnus’s words, Lydia smiled at Giles, trying to show him that she knew Magnus was sincere. But the look Giles cast back chilled her to the core. It was filled with contempt and, though she could not understand it, pity.
A moan came from Buffy. She slowly began to awake.
Hank leaned over her. “Buffy, Honey, how are you?”
Buffy’s eyes shot wide open and she tried to scramble away from him, but the sedative remained in her system and all she managed was a slight crawl.
Both Willow and Xander also tried to approach her, but she seemed scared of them as well.
Giles, however, had more luck. She seemed cautiously trustful of him and allowed him to sit next to her. After a moment, she let him close enough to rub her back soothingly. Lydia noticed pain in Hank’s eyes as he watched the pair. Giles spoke in low, calming tones to Buffy, and though Lydia knew the First Slayer had control at the moment, apparently something within her, be it Buffy or something else, was calmed by Giles’s presence
Then, ignoring Lydia completely, he turned to Hank, Willow, Faith, and Xander whom, Lydia noticed, had all drawn closer Buffy. He gestured to the Scooby portion. “I need to speak to you three alone. Let’s go into the training room. Hank, will you stay with Buffy?”
Hank nodded, and the other four went into the back room.
Watching them leave, despite Magnus lending an encouraging pat to her shoulder, Lydia never felt so alone.
“Well, what are your thoughts?” Giles addressed the group.
He could see the tension rolling off of Faith. “I don’t trust them.”
“I’m with Faith,” Xander said. “Their vibes are not of the good.”
She looked deep in thought. “I don’t trust them, but it’s not as if we have a smorgasbord of choices, here. I’m not sure how extensive your sources are Giles, but I’ve seen the Council Library and if there’s anything in the world that can help Buffy, it would probably be in there.”
“I’m forced to agree.”
“Giles?” Faith’s face filled with fear and uncertainty.
“It’s not just the library,” Giles explained. “It was something Bellingham said. ‘Nothing will harm her if she comes to London’. I might just be paranoid, but I think he might have been threatening her life should we keep her here.”
Xander frowned. “You don’t actually think they’d try anything, do you? Not with all of us protecting her.”
“I don’t know,” Giles admitted. “But the truth of the matter is, I do need to go to London, and I won’t be able to concentrate unless I know Buffy is near and safe.”
“So we all go,” Faith agreed. “And she won’t ever be left alone.”
“No, I need you and Xander to stay here and look after the Hellmouth. Demons have a sixth sense about these things and the moment it is left unattended they’ll be coming out of the woodwork.”
“But then how are you going to protect Buffy? You’re not gonna take her to the Council HQ every day. ‘Cause that’d just be dumb.”
“A friend of mine owns a flat in London. It’s nothing special, but he doesn’t use it very often, and it’s at my disposal should I ever need it. I’ll stay there with Hank and Buffy and have Willow cast a protection spell on it.”
“What kind of protection spell?” Willow asked.
“Encompassing. No magic, except by you, and no violence.”
Willow nodded. “I’ll have to look up a few things, but I think I can get that ready in a couple of hours.”
“Good. Then unless someone has any last minute objections, or has miraculously thought of another, better plan, I think I’ll inform them that we will accompany them back to London tomorrow.”
No one looked happy, but they all reluctantly nodded in agreement.
Giles went back into the shop with the Scoobies at his heels and everyone’s eyes, Buffy’s included, turned to him. He turned away from Buffy, unable to look at her with what he was about to say.
“We’ll be ready to leave for London in the morning.”


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