Back on the Horse.
Chapter 21: Back on the Horse.
The rest of the night had progressed with little conflict. Xander and Anya had taken Buffy’s room; Willow and Tara had taken Joyce’s. Dawn had offered to share her bed with Buffy who had appreciated the offer but declined. There was no way the two of them would be able to fit into the single bed. So Buffy took the couch again. Giles had taken the other sofa in the living room without complaint, even though it was obviously not the most comfortable sleeping option.
Spike and Angel had been banished to the basement shortly before sunrise with blankets and pillows, their bickering echoing upstairs until Buffy had closed the door on them. They could sort out their own sleeping arrangements between themselves.
Night had passed and it wasn’t until it was well into morning before anyone in the house stirred, Dawn being the first.
Tip-toeing quietly passed the other bedrooms she had crept her way to the stairs and slowly descended making as minimal noise as possible and snuck into the kitchen. Opening the fridge and frowning at the lack of variety, she removed a carton of juice and a few jars of condiments she busily went about making some toast.
It was Saturday, which meant no school for Dawn, something she was immensely pleased about. Pouring juice for herself, Giles and Buffy, she pilled a carry tray with the drinks and freshly cooked toast and carried it into the living room.
“Rise and shine!” she greeted cheerfully as she placed the tray on one of the chairs someone had occupied last night during the meeting.
Buffy stirred in her sleep, as did Giles, the smell of the warm toast enticing them to rouse from sleep. Buffy sat up first, rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she stretched, pleased at the lack of pain that movement caused her abdomen. Lifting her shirt she peeled back the bandage, which Giles had been replacing for her, and was pleased to see that the wound had sealed completely, the edges a bright pink indicating the scar was healing.
“Eeww Buffy that’s gross.” Dawn said with a wrinkling of her nose.
“Sorry.” Buffy mumbled apologetically. “But hey, healing!” she said pointing to her scar.
“Healing?” Giles repeated as he followed Buffy in sitting up, picking up his glasses from the side table beside the sofa he had been sleeping on and slipping them on. He blinked a few times as his vision adjusted then looked to Buffy, noting the bandage, which she held in her hand. “I would presume that your wound is getting better?” he asked hopefully.
“That would be a big yes.” Buffy said with a nod. “I may even be up to going on patrol tonight.”
Giles frowned at that. “Do you think that is wise?” he asked. “With Darla intent on making your life as difficult and unpleasant as possible, perhaps you should hold off on patrolling until you’re at your full strength.”
“Giles I’m fine.” Buffy huffed impatiently. “No more pain, and good with the healage.” She said pointing to her scar again for emphasis. “I can’t leave this town unprotected another night, which it is. If it will make you feel any better, I’ll take Angel with me.”
Giles expression relaxed at that but now it was Dawn’s turn to frown.
“Angel?” she repeated, barely managing to keep the screech out of her voice. “What about Spike? He’s of the vampire super strength variety as well you know.”
Buffy pursed her lips at her sister’s obvious disdain at her choice of patrolling partner. “I know that Dawn.”
“Didn’t Angel and Darla have a thing way back?” Dawn pointed out with a determined look. “Isn’t Angel at risk of being hurt, or worse if he goes out?”
“Angel can take care of himself?” Buffy pointed out, scowling at the mentioned of Angel’s relationship with Darla. She realized that Dawn brought that up on purpose to hurt her. Even though they were no longer together, it still wasn’t a pleasant reminder. Refusing to think about that, she focused on the more happy knowledge that he had dusted his sire once before.
“And Spike can’t?” Dawn cried with frustration. “Why are you so determined to treat him like he’s nothing?”
“Dawn I --“
“Whatever.” Dawn said flippantly, waving off whatever Buffy had been about to say and storming out of the room after she snagged her glass from the tray. “Enjoy your breakfast.”
Buffy sighed. Dawn just didn’t understand. She was trying to keep Spike safe, and by keeping Spike safe it would ensure that Dawn was safe. Her sister knew that she had been in the cemetery that night because of her, but she knew nothing about the prophecy regarding the two of them. And she was determined to keep it that way.
It wasn’t that she worried any less about Angel’s safety; she was concerned. But his safety wasn’t linked to Dawn’s like Spike’s was. And Buffy couldn’t take that risk.
“I just wish this was all over.” Buffy said as she rubbed at her temples.
“I know.” Giles said quietly.
The day flew by rapidly, research filling the bulk of it with the group of friend’s only taking breaks to eat and use the restroom. So far they had come up with nothing new. Zip. Zilch. Nada. And it was more than a little discouraging.
The vampires continued to sleep the day away, much to the annoyance of Anya who wanted to know why they were allowed a reprieve from book duty yet she wasn’t.
“AHA!” Xander exclaimed when he thought he’d found something. “Oh no, wait…” he read on, the disappointment on his face coming that his ‘aha’ had been downgraded to a ‘na ah’.
“This is pointless.” Anya pointed out, gaining the attention of everyone seated in various positions of discomfort around the room. “We’ve found nothing.” She huffed. “Why can’t we just speak to a higher power, make them give us the information.”
“Ahn, please.” Xander scolded. “If it was that simple don’t you think that Giles --”
“Why didn’t I think of that?” Giles interrupted.
Anya smiled proudly, promptly closing the book she had been reading. Xander shook his head in disbelief.
“You mean to tell me we can actually do that?” he asked. “And we’ve been reading these books why? On the phone Giles, lets ring these bad boys up now and find out what we can.”
Giles’ lips pursed as he quirked an eyebrow annoyance. “There isn’t a hotline we can dial.” He said as if pointing out something that should have been plainly obvious to the boy. “There is however a conduit in Los Angeles that might be of some value.”
“LA.” Buffy said blankly. “We going to be needing someone to be physically there for this?”
“Yes.” Giles said with a nod. “I shall ring Wesley immediately. Perhaps he has had some luck.”
Buffy nodded and watched as Giles left the room to make the phone call. She sighed; closing the book she had been trying to read through and placed her elbows on the table, resting her chin against her palms. “I don’t think I could have read another word.” She said with a groan when Giles was out of earshot.
“Me neither.” Willow said with a vigorous nod. “And I’m a book geek of the old school kind.”
Buffy laughed at that, looking up at the mantle to see the time on the small clock sitting between framed photographs of herself in happier times, with her mother and Dawn, and one with her father as well. It was starting to get late and sunset was fast approaching. Time to start preparing for patrol. “Will, can you lower that vamp alert spell for me?” she asked.
Willow understood what she wasn’t saying. Apart from the fact that it would give everyone a splitting headache for the time it took Buffy and Angel to cross the lawn, but it would also wake up everyone in the neighborhood. Everyone including the other vampire who was currently sleeping in the basement. With a quick nod to her friend she began preparing to take down the spell.
With that sorted out, Buffy lifted herself from the sofa and excused herself to go take a shower.
Downstairs in the basement Angel stirred from sleep, his eyes blinking a few times as they adjusted to the dim lighting. The curtains were drawn on the small windows which even when unshielded offered minimal direct sunlight. Lifting himself from the cot that he had slept on he slid his shirt over his arms, which was followed by the black leather jacket that he had worn the previous night.
Once dressed he climbed the stairs from the basement up into the kitchen he closed the door behind him. He and moved towards the sounds of speech he could hear coming from the living room.
“Morning.” He greeted.
“For you maybe.” Anya replied. “Afternoon for us.”
Willow laughed at the look on Angel’s face before saying hello herself. She knew of Buffy’s plans for the evening for patrol so took it upon herself to inform him. “Buffy’s just changing, she will be down soon for patrol.”
Angel’s brow creased with worry. “Is she sure that’s such a good idea? How is her wound healing?”
“Fine.” Giles filled in. “It’s scaring over so it shouldn’t be too long now until it is completely healed.”
Angel was relieved to hear that. “She’s not going alone is she?”
“No.” Giles shook his head. “She plans on taking you with her.”
A small smile spread across the vampires face at this piece of information. Deciding he should arm himself in preparation he moved over to the weapons chest and removed a couple of stakes and slid them into his pockets, also retrieving a small battle-axe.
The stairs creaked as Buffy made her way downstairs, dressed in a pair of comfy sweat pants and a black form fitting tank top that she regularly wore for patrol. Upon moving into the living room she saw Angel awake, and armed, having obviously been alerted to the fact that she would be requesting his presence on patrol.
“Hi.” She said quietly.
Angel’s smile faded slightly when he saw the pensive expression on her face. He had thought that by requesting his presence for tonights patrol that she had possibly forgiven him for his with holding of information. That appeared to have been wishful thinking on his part.
“You ready?” he asked her when she had selected had placed a few weapons in a carry bag and slung it over her shoulder.
Buffy nodded, addressing Giles before she left for patrol. “Watch out for Dawn.”
Giles nodded in response, watching as Angel and Buffy left the house and hoping that their patrol would pass without incident.
Darla eyed each of the vampires before her, wanting them to clearly understand the objectives of tonight’s ambush.
“Get the vampire. That is all. No one else is of concern at present. Everyone understand?”
A chorus of yes replies found her ears and a satisfied smile slithered across her face.
Dawn crept towards the basement and opened the door, wincing at the squeak from the hinges. Waiting a few moments to make sure that no one had heard, she opened it a little wider and slipped inside and slowly descended. She got half way down before she spoke.
“Spike. Spike are you awake?” she called in hushed tones, partly so as not to alert anyone upstairs, and partly so that she didn’t startle him if he were still sleeping.
A grunt came in reply to her question. Reaching the bottom of the stairs she flicked the switch for the other half of the room, the space flooding with light immediately.
“Spike wake up.” Dawn said with a little more impatience when he flung a hand over his face to block the light. “It’s after dark.”
Spike’s eyes blinked open and he regarded Dawn with suspicion. “Bit, what are you doing down here?”
His eyes scanned the room and he found it empty apart from the two of them. Angel had obviously made his way upstairs already. Eager to be near Buffy… he thought with a snort.
“It’s after dark.” She said, looking over her shoulder at the stairs, paranoid that someone was going to come searching for her.
Her glance didn’t go unnoticed. “Why do you keep looking at the door niblet?” he asked with a frown.
“I’m not supposed to tell you.” She said as she bit her lip. “But I thought you would want to know.”
Spike’s frown deepened. “Know what?”
Panic instantly began to fill him and he leapt to his feet, finding his shirt and quickly slipping it over his head, glad that he had slept in his jeans last night, otherwise Dawn would have copped an eyeful. “Is it Buffy? Is she okay?”
“She’s fine.” Dawn assured, a smile gracing her face at Spike’s concern. She knew she was right in telling him. His distress proved it. “She’s out, patrolling.”
“Patrolling. By herself?” Spike asked, his frenetic movements slowing.
“No.” Dawn replied quietly, looking around the empty basement as if pointing out the obvious.
“Angel.” Spike bit back.
Dawn nodded in confirmation.
“Well sod that. Peaches is the one with the bloody threat against his life.”
Grabbing his duster he slid it over his shoulders and roughly pulled his doc martins on and marched towards the stairs, Dawn trailing close behind.
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