Chapter 18: Juvenile Disputes.
It was just after sunset, and Buffy and her friends had assembled in the living room to discuss their next plan of attack. When Buffy and Giles had explained to the group earlier about the properties of the missing dagger, and Buffy’s theory behind it’s theft had set them all on edge. Right now, they were waiting for Angel and Spike to arrive so that they could inform them of the new developments and figure out what they should do next.
As had happened previously, Willow had stopped by the haunts of both vampires to inform them of the meeting, not that they wouldn’t have shown up anyway. Once again Spike was surprised by his inclusion but he tried not to make a big deal out of it. Willow saw right through his nonchalance.
The dynamic of the group had shifted recently. The previously accepted opinion of Spike being a scheming, no-good, evil vampire whose only interest was in snagging Buffy, was waning. He had demonstrated time and time again over the last few weeks just how much he cared for Buffy. It was not just an obsession to him. Willow and along with her, Tara, had begun to accept Spike more for who he was. The way he had protected Dawn when he was kidnapped by Glory, the desperation he showed at the hospital when Buffy was comatose, and the determined way in which he had instantly taken off into the night when a threat was made against Dawn, again, were all testament to the change in him. Willow knew that there was an unspoken trust between Spike and Giles, even though Giles would loath admitting it. And as for Xander, she had noticed a change in his reactions towards the bleach blond vampire as well. Willow just hoped that Buffy would see what everyone else was beginning to notice.
Spike was a good man.
The front door to the Summers house opened and Angel breezed inside, instantly making his way to Buffy who was immediately relieved by his arrival.
Willow frowned. Considering what Buffy had told her at the Magic Box earlier on about Angel’s reason for being in town, she was surprised at how happy she was by his appearance. Sure she understood that Buffy worried for his safety, so was she. Willow was glad that Angel was all right; but there was something about the way he had been behaving over the last few days that had her feeling a little off. He was being even more broody, even more monosyllabic than usual. Something was up, she was certain of it. She just couldn’t put her finger on what. It was almost as if he was hiding something. That combined with the fact that he had known about Darla’s existence the entire time and not told them, worried her. She just hoped that Buffy didn’t forget about that too soon…
“Sweetie, is everything alright?” Tara asked looking at Willow with a concerned frown.
“Everything’s fine. Just thinking is all. You know me and my mind.” Willow said tapping the side of her head for emphasis. “It never stops whirring.”
Tara nodded after a moment, accepting Willow’s answer. The pair walked arm in arm into the living room, joining everyone else who had assembled there.
“Shall we get started?” Buffy suggested when the pair found a seat beside her on the sofa.
“Shouldn’t we wait for Spike?” Willow pointed out the blond vampires absence. “I’m sure he’s on his way.”
“No we should get started. We can fill him in later.” Buffy said dismissively.
Willow nodded once. If Buffy knew that it had been Spike that had rescued her in the graveyard, she believed her friend would not be so quick to exclude him like that. But it wasn’t her place to inform Buffy of that. If anyone should do that, it should be Spike.
Spike walked into the dimly lit bar, eyes scanning the crowd before he made his approach to the bar. He wanted answers, and he wanted them now.
He had been on his way to Buffy’s house when he had overheard talk from a group of fledgling vampires about the Master. They were talking about his coming, that the day he would arise was nigh, and a whole lot more pompous garbage just like it.
He had trailed them to the Alibi Room, giving them a few minutes to get settled inside before he entered. They were sitting in a dark corner, huddled around a table and from the animated way in which one of them was speaking they were presumably still talking about the ‘great one.’
Sparking up a cigarette as he sauntered over to the bar, he inhaled deeply, drawing the nicotine into his lungs as if it was life’s blood. He saw the nervous way in which Willy twitched as he approached, and he liked it. It was nice to know that some people still feared him in this town, even if he was a little light on the evil these days.
“Willy.” Spike said with a hard stare as he inhaled another long drag, closing his eyes for a second as he did so. “Willy, Willy, Willy.”
“Spike! Buddy! Pal!” Willy said with a little too much eagerness. “What can I do you for tonight? A nice big glass of fresh, warm O+?”
Spike’s lips curled up into a snarl as he reached across the bar and yanked Willy forward by the collar of his shirt. “Why drink from a glass when the taps right in front of me? Not good to taunt a hungry vampire Willy, mentioning blood like that…”
Willy gulped loudly, his hands rising in the air in an action of surrender. “Y-you can’t bite me.” he said unconfidently. “The chip it will --“
“Hurt like hell for a couple of minutes, but it might be worth it.” Spike finished for him, his tongue running over his upper lip as he eyed the bartender’s neck.
“No! Please! Don’t!” Willy pleaded, clenching his eyes shut as he cowered in fear. “I’ll do anything. Name your price. Just don’t eat me, please.”
Spike held onto Willy for a moment longer before releasing him, the bartender sighing audibly with relief.
“Spike… man…” Willy said with a shake of his head. “You scared the be-jesus out of me.”
Ignoring Willy, Spike turned around at the bar and leaned back against it, propping himself up with both elbows. “What can you tell me about that lively bunch of posers?” Spike questioned over his shoulder.
Willy followed Spike’s line of sight to the bunch of vampires who were laughing and talking in one of the darker corners of his bar. “Them?”
“Yes them.” Spike growled in warning, letting Willy know he wasn’t to be messed with.
The greasy haired bartender considered playing innocent, but knew that Spike would not only see right through it, but he would probably smell the lie on him. The vampire was incredibly perceptive when he wanted to be. “Have you spoken to Harris lately?” he asked.
“The whelp?” Spike asked, a little perplexed. “What’s he got to do with them?” he asked as he turned back around at the bar so that he now faced Willy again.
“The boy came in askin’ questions a couple of days ago. He paid me a fee and I gave him some info about the happenings in town.” Willy clarified.
“I heard you got punched.” Spike drawled sarcastically.
“Yeah, well, maybe there was a disagreement about the sum.” Willy lamely covered, unconsciously raising a hand to finger his nose as if it were still hurting. “Anyway, I gave him some info about…”
Willy trailed off, leaning in closer and whispering. “About the Master.”
Spike’s expression became that of being bored and he cocked an eyebrow as he spoke. “And? Heard all this. I’m related to the pile of dust.”
Willy’s left eye twitched in surprise. He hadn’t heard that before. “Really? He as big and bad as they say he was?”
“Willy…” Spike growled for the second time.
“Right. Info. Got it.” Willy said as pointing in acknowledgment. “The group down there are the ones working for whoever’s running the operation in bringing the old guy back from grave.”
“You wouldn’t happen to know any of the particulars of this resurrection spell now would you?” Spike suggested.
Willy looked around the room nervously before nodding his head. “I heard mention of blood. The slayer’s blood. And some mention about some gem. The gem of Omaro, Amaroo.”
“Amarra.” Spike filled in.
“That’s it!” Willy said, nodding his head vigorously. “Have you heard of it before?” He asked curiously.
“Yeah.” Spike muttered as he turned and walked towards the exit. “I’ve heard of it.”
Giles had just begun to fill in Angel about the details of Dagger of Cortanzine when a loud stomping noise came from upstairs then slowly descended the stairs.
“WHY do I have to stay upstairs?” Dawn’s whine echoed towards them before she reached the living room. She stood their, eyebrow raised and pouting as she made a show of folding her arms across her chest.
Buffy sighed in frustration. “Dawn, please. Can you just go back up to your room? We’ll be finished soon and I’ll come get you.”
“But I can help!” She insisted. “I can look in Giles’ dusty old books, or fetch things for you… or, or make coffees?”
Angel couldn’t help but smile at the young girl’s enthusiasm. She just wanted to spend some time with her sister, but Buffy was having none of it.
“Just go back upstairs.”
Dawn resisted the urge to stomp her feet in annoyance. “If I was going to be ignored why couldn’t I just go to Janice’s?” she sulked.
“You’re not being ignored.” Buffy exhaled noisily. “You just can’t be here, in this ROOM here for this conversation. As for Janice’s I need to know that you’re safe, that you’re close by so I can keep an eye on you.”
“You don’t trust me. That’s it, isn’t it?” Dawn snapped.
“Giles, would you talk to her please?” Buffy begged.
“Dawn --” he began.
“Forget it.” The younger Summers said as she walked back up the stairs in a huff, stomping on each and every stair. A door slammed upstairs and Willow cringed when she saw the irritation in Buffy’s eyes.
“Buffy, she just feels left out is all.” Willow excused.
“I know, but I don’t have time for this right now.” Buffy said as she massaged her temples. “I need her to be safe, so I need her here. But at the same time I don’t want her being involved in any of this.”
“We know Buff.” Xander said with a half smile.
“Perhaps you could bribe her with sweets?” Anya suggested, eyebrows rose almost comically as she posed her suggestion.
“Ooh! Or maybe a trip to the mall?” Willow added excitedly.
“Movies, I vote movies.” Xander said with a broad grin.
Giles shook his head with amusement. “Let’s get this back on topic shall we?”
“Sorry.” Chorused the young adults in the room.
Spike flicked the third cigarette butt on the ground and crushed it with the toe of his boot at the end of Buffy’s driveway. He couldn’t believe what he had just found out tonight. It completely blew the whole Master resurrection scheme out of the water.
The Gem of Amarra no longer existed.
So whoever put that part of the story out there had ruined the whole thing. And Spike had bets on Jake being the culprit. Bloody ponce…
He began walking up the drive when he heard a noise coming from the side of the house. Eyes narrowing in suspicion he moved to the left side of the house and walked down beside it, keeping flush against the building and safely hidden in the shadows.
There dangling half out a window and clinging onto the ledge for dear life; was Dawn.
Spike relaxed back against the house and watched with amusement as she reached for the branch of a tree that was growing beside the house and quickly climbed down it, dusting herself off when her feet found the ground.
“And where do you think you’re off to niblet?” he called from the shadows.
Dawn shrieked in surprise before clamping a hand over her mouth when she realized that the others inside might hear her. Standing a little taller, her nose sticking up in the air she put on an air of bravado. “What’s it to you?”
Chuckling Spike pushed off from the wall and took a few steps towards her. “Your big sis know you’re out here?”
Dawn glared at Spike at the mention of her sister. “Like she cares! She’s having a meeting which I’m not invited to.”
Spike was a little taken aback by this statement. So much for being included… he thought to himself, before he shook it away. He was late. Very late in fact. Of course she would have started the meeting by now.
“She does care.” Spike said confidently. “You’re all she bloody worries about.”
“Ha!” Dawn scoffed. “Like you’d know!”
“Like I bloody well wouldn’t!” Spike retorted becoming irate. “Why do you think she was in the --”
He stopped himself before he said too much, but Dawn’s eyes instantly widened. “In the where? What are you talking about Spike?”
“Nothing.” He covered. “We should get you back inside.”
“No!” Dawn snapped. “Not until you tell me what you were going to say. And don’t lie to me.”
Spike looked at Dawn thoughtfully for a moment. He thought Buffy would’ve told her by now. It’s what he would’ve done. If his family were in trouble, he’d want them to be aware of it. Not ignorant and more likely to get themselves into trouble by sneaking out of windows in the middle of the night.
“In the cemetery. When she got hurt.” Spike said quietly.
Dawn shook her head in disbelief. “No. She was just patrolling. And how would you know anyway…”
She realized even before she finished speaking. “You were there!” she said in hushed tones. “It was you wasn’t it? Not Angel. When you came to the hospital the next night you were all limpy and bruised.”
He looked at her for a moment, wondering how she could figure it out yet Buffy couldn’t. He nodded in confirmation.
“It was my fault?” Dawn asked softly, her eyes watering up with tears.
“No pet it wasn’t. Someone was threatenin’ you and your big sis was just trying to find out what was going on.” Spike explained.
“It was my fault.” Dawn repeated. “She was out there, because of me. Trying to keep me safe.”
“And WHAT a great job she did of that.” A voice called from the shadows.
Dawn and Spike turned in the direction the voice came from, seeing a group of five vampires approaching from the front lawn, headed by Jake.
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