~~ Chapter six ~~
Willow stirred, the sound of footsteps outside her door too clumsy to ignore. When she looked over Giles was in a deep sleep, his eyelids fluttering rapidly. She hated that she'd been lying to him. She hated keeping secrets but she knew it had to be done. He'd never approve. But once he saw the results of her actions he'd come around. She was sure of it.
She slipped out of the bed, surprised that it was already 8 in the morning. Though she wasn't sure what time it was that Giles finally found his way to bed, she knew it must have been late because she was still awake at one and he hadn't been to bed, yet. She decided to let him sleep. If nothing else, she was giving her conscience a break - if she didn't have to see him she didn't worry so much about keeping the truth from him.
She showered and changed quickly and when she finally made it to the kitchen she found Faith eating alone at the table. “Hey,” she said in lieu of a more emotional greeting.
The Slayer responded the same way. Tension? Maybe a little. Maybe a lot.
Just as Willow was about to make some small talk Xander and Dawn entered the room. “I see you two are catching up,” Xander said.
“All caught up,” Faith said and shot Willow a knowing look. It seemed they would have to agree to disagree without actually ever discussing anything. They were both ok with that. For now.
“Giles give you the 4-1-1?” Dawn asked.
“Every detail,” Faith said. “You got any coffee? I know things are scarce, but…I need some caffeine.”
“Yep,” Xander said and took her mug from her. He was busy for the next few minutes making breakfast for the rest of the gang.
“So, Faith…what's the plan?” Dawn sat down between Faith and Willow at the kitchen table. It was a large table, big enough for eight to fit around, though they often used it more for tactical briefings rather than family dinners.
“Yeah, we start killing stuff. We burn down lairs. We do it big and loud – no hiding out here during the day. We go in, torch the place, take their weapons,” she said.
“We've tried that,” Xander said.
“Not my way we haven't,” she said.
“What's different about your way?”
“Hostages,” she said. “This place have a basement? Someplace we can lock them up.”
“Yeah,” Dawn said, skeptical.
“Fine. Tonight we round up the lackeys and torture them for the next ten days. The guys who think they're tough shit always have lackeys. If they're vampires we burn them with sunlight and holy water until they're so disfigured they won't even be recognized until they speak. If they're demons we have Wes figure out what hurts them and then we do it big.” She stood up and looked around. “We're gonna take back this town, one block at a time if we have to. If you think you can't handle the gruesome stuff, find another way to help.” She walked over to Willow. “Your magic strong enough to hold the prisoners if we can't find the right supplies to hold them by force?”
“That won't be a problem,” Angel said as he entered the room. He could hear the conversation through the door – love those vampire senses. He had an entire dungeon beneath the mansion that nobody knew about. He'd had it bricked over years before Giles and the others started using it for headquarters, years before he'd even left for LA. “I'll take care of it,” he said. Somewhere inside, in the deep, dark chasm that the demon Angelus always occupied, he felt a genuine, diabolical happiness at the thought of torturing things again.
“Good,” Faith said. “We need help. You guys got any friends anywhere we need them here. Send out the bat signal if you have to,” she said, “I don't care if we have to go to Cleveland to pick them up.” She looked around at their faces, every pair of eyes fixed on her. It felt good. She felt like she was needed. And respected. “Is there anybody left in town who can help?”
“No,” Xander responded quickly, conflicting with Dawn's “Yes.”
Willow looked at the two of them. “No, Dawnie,” she cautioned.
“I'm not a child, it's Dawn. And, yes, Faith there is someone who can help.”
“Dawn,” Angel started...
“Look, you can all sit here and brood all you want but there's some serious shit going on out there. He can help,” she said.
“He won't,” Willow said. “And we don't even know whose side he's on.”
“He will,” Dawn said and grabbed a jacket from the back of one of the chairs. “He's strong, stronger than any of us. And I know what side he's on – he's on my side. If I ask him he'll help. He promised Buffy.”
“I don't want him anywhere near here,” Angel said, “He can't be trusted.”
Dawn looked him in the eye and did not back down from him. “You have until sundown to get over your issues. I'm going to get him.” She stormed out of the room.
“What was that all about,” a sleepy Giles asked as Dawn rushed past him.
Everyone but Faith answered in unison, “Spike.”
~~ Chapter Seven ~~
"You, of all people, should be against this. You know he can't be trusted, why would you let her bring him here," Willow said.
"Love, in case you haven't noticed, we're out of options," Giles said. "This town is no longer fit for human occupation. Soon the soulless will outnumber us five to one and the world will belong to them," he said and added softly, "As if it doesn't already."
"We're talking about Spike," she said and moved closer to him. "He's one of them."
"I know," he said.
"Blond guy...fangs?" She was trying to jar his memory.
"I remember," he said.
"William the bloody...tried to kill each of us at some point in our shared existence," she finally sat in his lap.
They were alone in the study trying to figure out what was in the box Giles and the others had retrieved the day before. Inside the box was a small, round, glass orb that looked like the one she'd used to return Angel's soul when Acathla opened. But it was smaller and had an orange mist floating around inside. It could have been any one of a million things - magic, someone's soul, something poisonous, who knew. But from the amount of protection that surrounded the thing, Giles assumed it was powerful.
"Yes, William the Bloody...he was chained to the bath in my flat for several months recounting, verbatim, each episode of Passions he'd seen." He looked into her eyes and took a deep breath while his hands settled comfortably - one around her waist the other on her thigh. "I'm well aware of the situation. But his demon has been immobilized."
"The chip? What if that chip stopped working? It's been like...eight years, we could be opening ourselves up for more danger which, in case you haven't noticed - we do not need any more of." Something suddenly clicked in Willow's brain. Spike would be a distraction. He would certainly keep Giles busy and occupied so that she and Xander and Dawn could work in private. She backed off nonchalantly, allowing Giles to rationalize the point once more.
"I would never put you in harm's way. He's a vampire, yes, but...I truly believed he loved Buffy. And even though Dawn swears she hasn't been in contact with him since Buffy's death I don't believe her. She trusts him. And he loves her like a sister. He'll help us all to keep his promise to Buffy to protect Dawn. And now my promise to you, love...if there's any sign of his return to vampiric normalcy I'll run him through myself." He raised an eyebrow and smiled at Willow. "Scout's honor," he said.
"You know that only means something if you were an actual boy scout."
His eyes twinkled when she smiled at him. In a moment the two of them were giggling like a couple of old school chums. Something suddenly changed him, some realization of their situation must have floated in on a breeze and quietly touched him because his smile faded and the moment turned somber. It took Willow a minute to realize that Giles wasn't feigning forlorn and helpless, he was truly full of emotion.
"Giles, what is it...what's wrong," she asked in a shaken voice.
"What's happened," he asked in reply.
"What...what do you mean?" She stroked the side of his face tenderly.
"What's happened to us. To all of us? I've tried to protect us all but I failed." He looked into her eyes and apologized. "I'm so sorry, love. You were so young and bright and beautiful and I denied you the life you were meant to live."
"You're scaring me," she whispered, tears in her eye.
"What was it like, Willow...what was it like when Buffy was alive...when the Slayer guarded the gate...when the hellmouth was protected...tell me," he said. "Do you remember?"
She wanted to tell him that she remembered. She wanted to tell him that she, in fact, remembered and longed for that time so much that she was determined to bring Buffy back to life to make the world right again. Would Giles believe her if she told him she'd been working on the spell? Would he chastise her? Would he allow her to go through with it if he really knew? But she said nothing, her body frozen with the fear of revealing her secret to him.
"I can barely think back that far, love. We've been fighting, living among the dead, stepping over fetid bodies for so long that I can't imagine what it was like to take a breath of fresh air into my lungs while we stood in the sun. I know your perfume used to make my head spin but I can't for the life of me remember the feeling," he said, holding her tighter to him. "Can any among us remember?"
She leaned forward and kissed him softly. When she pulled away, more than a minute later, Giles began to cry uncontrollably. He'd never shown anyone but Willow this kind of emotion. He held her tighter as he buried his face in the space between her shoulder and her neck. "I remember," he whispered, moved by the spell she'd just woven between them.
"I know," she whispered back, the memories she had just recalled for the both of them still lingering in the air around them. She was tingling, her fingers buzzing with energy as she held him.
When he composed himself he looked into her eyes. "You shouldn't waste your magic on me."
"It wasn't a waste," she said and kissed him again.
~~ Chapter eight ~~
“Slayer, huh? Thought you were dead,” the demon said, "You a ghost or somethin'?"
“The other one's dead,” Faith said, “I'm alive and I'm real…” She moved closer to him and looked into his eyes as they stood in a dark corner at Willie the Snitch's place. Faith couldn't believe it was still open after all this time and she couldn't believe that this beast was so stupid. Just goes to show - a little flirting goes a long way. “Wanna feel?” She was flirting with him to distract him and gain its trust. Seemed to be working, too.
“Sure,” he said. He was over six feet tall with a giant horn protruding from his forehead. Though he was mostly an olive green color his hands were the color of flesh. The color of, but not the consistency of - they were scaly and dry, like a lizard.
The beast reached forward accepting the Slayer's invitation, but before its hand made contact Faith produced a double-edged battle axe and sliced it off at the wrist. She swung the axe again and the blade tore through bone like it was butter. She quickly ripped the demon's head off and threw it through one of the high blacked-out windows and threw the other half of its carcass threw another window. Sunlight streamed in and dusted five or six vamps instantly. She grabbed a vamp that was cowering in the shadows next to her and held a stake to its heart. "I got a message," she said, now that she had the attention of the entire room. Faith was using the vamp's shoulder as a resting mount for the rapid-fire crossbow she'd picked up in her travels. It was a handy little gadget. One she planned on making her new best friend. Say hello to my little friend. Using the vamp as her shield, she walked dangerously close to the sunlight. She was taunting him, stalking around the edge of the light as if they were walking a balance beam. "This town is mine. I suggest you all find someplace else to go because the Hellmouth is closed to new business. Tell your bosses and masters that the Slayer's back in Sunnydale." She turned her attention to the vamp that was writhing in her grip. "Did you think I was gonna use you as an example?"
"Uh-huh," it managed to eek out.
"Gosh, now I feel bad," she mocked before she threw the vamp into the center of the room into a puddle of sunlight. She quickly pulled the trigger on her crossbow and shot the vamp and then took aim at several of the larger beasts in the room. She backed her way out the door as she shot all around her as if she was Van Helsing. Once she was halfway up the steps she threw a grenade down into the bar and took off running. She knew it wouldn't kill everything inside, but that was fine - she didn't want them all dead - she wanted to send a message. Message received...loud and clear.
Dawn looked around the crypt for a clue as to where Spike might have disappeared to. Though she had told the others she hadn't seen him since the night Buffy died, Dawn had, in fact, been in contact with him often. Until the last few months, that is. She'd been so busy with Willow and Xander trying to bring Buffy back to life that she never made the time to see Spike. There were other reasons, too. And there were too many complications in her life, too many secrets. Spike was just one more thing that confused her.
His lair was usually barren - no books, no magazines, no furniture. He'd been living that way for years - sleep all day, rise at dusk and stay up just long enough to win some money to bribe the boys at the blood bank with. But there were times Spike went weeks without fresh blood. His depression was constant but his despondence came and went. He'd tried to kill himself but he was too much of a coward. Couldn't do it. Ponce.
She was surprised to find several books strewn about the crypt. There were text books that looked like they came from a library and there were antique hand-written manuscripts. Dawn looked closer at some of the older pieces and noticed a familiar inscription - Grismay. What was Spike doing with the sorcerer's writings? Grismay was one of the most powerful men who ever lived and his treatise on reanimation and raising the dead got him killed. Killed, dismembered and eventually his remains were burned on several continents. Though his diaries were not in the collection Dawn found in Spike's crypt, a lot of the information she found was about raising the dead. Was Spike trying to bring Buffy back?
Dawn made her way over to a stack of newspapers in the corner. There was something marked with a red circle, probably blood. When she looked closer at the writing her heart sank - she knew where Spike had gone.
~~ Chapter nine ~~
"We have to stop him. He won't know what to do...he could ruin everything. He could open a portal to a hell dimension and things could get even worse around here. If he gets that diary we're finished." Willow was pacing, Xander and Dawn were sitting on her bed.
"His crypt was full of stuff like this. He wants her back...it all makes sense," Dawn said while she was sorting through some of the things she'd brought back from Spike's lair.
"What does," Xander asked.
She didn't want to tell them about the conversations she'd had with Spike the last few times she'd seen him. Though he'd been depressed since Buffy's death, things had changed in him recently. Changed so much, in fact, that Dawn was almost frightened of him. He'd turned into a raving lunatic. Down inside she knew he'd never hurt her, but...he was powerful and he was in pain. "Nothing," she dismissed, silently chastising herself for allowing her guard to slip.
"Not nothing," Xander said, "Obviously it's something. What makes sense?"
"Fine, I've seen him, ok? I've been talking to him since Buffy died but hiding it from you guys because I knew you wouldn't understand. He's been fine up until now but a few months ago he started acting weird," she said, awaiting Xander's backlash.
But it never came. He tried hard to control himself. "Weird how," he said, trying to hide the fact that he was seething.
"He just started to withdrawal, you know...keep to himself. He didn't want to talk to me about Buffy or anything, for that matter. I warned him not to do anything stupid and he told me to get out, that he didn't need me telling him what was obvious...that was about two months ago," Dawn said.
"Two months? Spike's been ready to blow for two months and you didn't warn us?" Xander could no longer hide his anger. "You're putting us in danger, Dawnie, and we already have enough. You should have told us, you don't keep things like this to yourself."
"I know! I was just," she couldn't find the words.
"Xander stop," Willow said, "This isn't helping." She wasn't sure whose side she was on, but she knew more infighting would be bad. They had to stick together. They had to work together.
"I tried to..." Dawn paused, searching for the right words, "I thought I could take care of it myself," she said.
"Guess it didn't work," Xander added under his breath, almost an insult.
"Ok, enough!" Willow stood between the two of them and addressed them both. "Spike's going to get the journals, but he can't do anything without the amulet. Now let's just relax and think about this," she said.
"Think about what," Faith asked from the door. How long had she been standing there? Had she heard anything? Had she heard everything?
The guilty trio eyed one another, each hoping someone would chime in with a good lie. "Spike," Dawn finally said.
"What about him?" Faith casually strolled into the room. "I thought you were going to get him."
"I am," Dawn said. "But he's not in town. He..."
"Left," Xander added nonchalantly. "He left town."
"Right," Willow added.
"Why?" Faith asked, kind of suspicious.
"He probably got bored...and tired of all the fighting. He's so strong that it probably wasn't even a challenge for him anymore," Dawn said. "But I know where he is," she added.
"Great, let's go. Sun's almost down," Faith said, nodding toward a window. "If Giles is ok with it, I'm in."
Willow and Xander looked at each other with wide eyes, hoping they could get out of this. Her conscience was working overtime. If Faith finds Spike and he... it only took a second to realize what a great diversion it would be. If Faith found Spike and told the others about his plan to raise Buffy then he'd take the fall. Willow could bring Buffy back to life secretly and pretend she had nothing to do with it...that Spike must have planned in advance for her return. "Yeah, Dawn, you can't go alone, it's too dangerous...why don't you take Faith to find Spike."
"Are you sure," Dawn asked.
"Yeah, Will, you sure," Xander asked.
"Absolutely. Giles and Angel and the rest of us can handle things here tonight. Go and find Spike...see if he's willing to help us.” She turned her attention to Faith. "He means nothing to me. If you think you can't trust him...stake him." There was no way Willow could lose, here. If Faith brought Spike back, she'd have the journals. If Faith killed him, Willow knew Dawn would bring the journals back anyway.
“This morning you were ready to stake him, now you want his help,” Faith said suspiciously. “What changed?”
“Nothing…I just realized that the more help we have the better. With you back and our swingin' new plan of action in motion...I kinda feel rejuvenated. And besides, Dawn trusts him, so…” Willow shrugged.
"I've been in jail a long time...wanna know what I learned?" Faith locked eyes with Dawn, asserting her Slayer power over them all. "Keep your friends close...and your enemies closer."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Dawn asked.
"Just that having Spike around can't be bad. If he's on our side, great...if he's not..." she shrugged and raised an eyebrow to Dawn.
"He is," Dawn said. But was she sure of Spike's allegiance? Only time would tell.
~~ Chapter ten ~~
Giles lunged fast, sword outstretched and pointed at a Fyarl demon. Oh, the memories that were flowing through his mind: racing through the streets with Spike in his Citroen and scaring Professor Walsh...his Slayer, Buffy, looking into his eyes and finding his soul there before she almost killed him. And even though Ethan Rayne was part of those memories, it never even occurred to Giles that Ethan may have sent the Fyarl beasts this time. "I've got this one," he shouted, silencing his own memories as he sliced through bone and took out the demon in front of him.
Willow was cornered by two others. She was chanting a spell that was barely audible. But Giles knew...he knew she'd set them ablaze within the minute and he didn't bother to run to her rescue. When did she stop needing me, he wondered. Had she ever truly started?
"A little help, here," Angel shouted. He was trying to fend off five, maybe six at a time.
Giles and Xander ran to his side and soon, after a blur of motions, the room was still.
"So, let's see...flock of seagulls, gaggle of geese, pride of lions...I'm going with den. Den of demons," Xander said.
"How about crapload?" Willow said. "Giles, this is getting out of hand, we should retreat for the night. Faith's little 'message' earlier really pissed off the underworld. Dawn and Faith and Spike will be back by sundown tomorrow, we should wait for reinforcements."
"You're right," he said as he looked around. This raid had produced nothing useful for them. Sure, they eliminated another nest , but they didn't find any supplies or information.
"Uh...guys," Angel said.
"What is it," Giles asked.
"We were supposed to..." Angel didn't get a chance to finish.
"Take prisoners," Xander said, cutting him off, "Dammit. I knew we forgot something. Damn Faith and her fancy new plan," he joked. He never even noticed that he'd made a joke...it had been so long he just assumed the funny was gone.
"We'll just pick one up on the way home, Restfield's full of strays," Willow said and led the way. Though she was wondering how Dawn and Faith were doing she decided not to bring the subject up. The less she had to lie the easier her life would be. For now.
"Door's open," Faith said and shrugged as she poked her head inside and looked around.
"Let's go," Dawn said, motioning inside.
"What makes you think Spike's here again?" Faith asked. She'd never really gotten the answer she wanted though she'd asked several times.
Dawn had never really given her an answer. She had been saying she'd heard it through the grapevine since they left Sunnydale. She wondered how much longer she could work the vagueness. "I just know, ok. Don't ask again."
"Fine," Faith said and stepped inside with Dawn closely following.
They were in the front room of London Bridges Auction house, a mansion that had been converted to accommodate a business. There were two people in the corner of the room looking over items in a glass display case with a sign above it that read "Grismay's Estate Lots 1-14." There were similar displays around the room, each clearly marked and equally protected.
There was a large archway that led to a wood-paneled hallway just ahead of them. It was majestic and had the feel of an old theater complete with a red, velvet curtain dividing the room from the hallway. As Faith was about to step through the curtain a figure breezed by her. She did a double take, her mind trying to grasp that a demon had just walked by her nonchalantly and nobody else in the room seemed taken aback by it.
She instinctually threw a punch but a hand reached out from behind the velvet curtain and stopped her mid-swing.
"Now, now," the man said in a British accent as he came into view, "We'll have none of that...this is a place of business. All are welcome here."
"You wanna keep that hand I suggest you remove it from my arm," Faith said calmly and with a smile. The demon hadn't even noticed she'd thrown the punch and was, in fact, already gone by the time she'd turned her attention to the man who had stopped her.
"Faith, no," Dawn cautioned. She knew he was more powerful than Faith could have guessed.
"Thanks, Dawn, but I think I can handle Monty Python here," she said and tried to break free. She was stunned to find she couldn't. His hold on her was strong.
"Dawn?" He said, looking the younger girl over. "No, it can't be." He was holding a struggling Faith at bay with very little effort. "My God...you were just a little thing, all legs and teeth and long, brown hair...look at you now," he said like a doting uncle.
"Forgive me if I neglect to reminisce with you, Ethan," Dawn said. "But whenever you showed up in town, things went from bad to worse…not exactly hugs and puppies, those memories."
Faith was pretty much unable to do anything while she listened to their exchange. She was trying to figure out who this guy was. Ethan. Doesn't ring a bell, she thought. She wasn't surprised. After all, it could have been any one of a thousand big-bads that had passed through her old haunt.
"Oh, come on, it was Sunnydale. My presence was barely a blip on the radar screen in that godforsaken town." He turned his attention to Faith. "You know I'm trying to run a business here. If you would just stop struggling and seething I'd let you go...even though I'll miss the feel of your power coursing through me."
Faith opened her mouth to respond but Dawn cut her off. "She'll be fine. Let her go, Ethan."
“I can speak for myself,” Faith chimed in as Ethan's grip on her loosened. What did he mean by that comment? Feel my power? If it had been five years earlier she would have thrown a tantrum and beat the crap out of him. But this Faith had grown, had learned a lot about herself in prison. If she were an existentialist she'd say she'd found herself. But she settled for the former. Learning is good.
“I've got some business to attend to, please excuse me,” Ethan said. “Feel free to browse. There are some lovely pieces in the jewelry offering. Grismay was known for his love of diamonds. He believed their power went beyond healing and he used them, instead, for virility. He would grind them into a fine powder and mix them with rose petals to create a sensuous bath that he shared with all of his lovers.” He looked deep into Faith's eyes. When he was sure he had her attention he added. “None nearly as exquisite as you, I'm certain...his lovers or his diamonds.” He kissed her hand and smiled before he turned and headed for the front door to greet the crowd that had begun filtering in.
Faith pretended to ignore Ethan's comment, but down inside she was tingling. Not really my type, but... How long had it been? Too long . “Ok, first of all, who the hell is that guy? And second, do you really expect to find Spike here? At an auction? Doesn't exactly scream Vamp if you ask me.”
“Well, I don't expect him to be here bidding on things, he's not the buying type – more the stealing type…but I do expect to find him here lurking,” Dawn said. “And that ‘guy' is Ethan Rayne.”
“Oh, yeah, Halloween guy…and band-candy guy – now that is something I'm sorry I missed. Giles and your mother all teenager-y,” Faith said. “I bet Joyce really rocked it out, huh? Lemme guess - Joni Mitchell?”
"Juice Newton. Whoever the hell that was," Dawn said. She was lost, for a moment, in the memories of her childhood...of the days she spent with Buffy and Willow and Xander. When she accessed the band candy incident the tiny smile that had formed only a second prior quickly faded. “Not really one of my fondest memories,” Dawn added.
“S'ok.” So, Dawn said, “She was kinda fun…for about ten minutes. Then she just gave me the wiggins.”
“Ok, so…now what,” Faith asked.
“We wait,” Dawn said.
Dawn didn't want to let Faith in on the counter-mission – bring back Grismay's journal without anyone knowing. Either buy it or steal it…whatever it took. “Not sure,” Dawn said. “Let's grab a seat.”
Faith raised an apprehensive eyebrow but followed as Dawn took a program from a basket on the wall and made her way inside.
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