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Out of the Shadows by Aurora
Chapter Twenty: The Terrified Elephant in the Room
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Chapter Twenty: The Terrified Elephant in the Room

“It just doesn’t make any sense.”

The Slayer paced the downstairs dining room, her Watcher and Wiccan best friend watching on as she anxiously attempted to reason the First’s latest defensive strategy.

“I do agree it would appear that the First is guarding something at the vineyard,” Giles concurred with Buffy’s initial assessment.

“What do you mean ‘appear’?” the Slayer inquired, the gears in her head still turning.

The Watcher exhaled noisily. “It could very well be a ploy, Buffy. Some ruse to pull you away from this safe haven we’ve established, giving the First, or any of its minions, free reign to a house full of Potential slayers.”

Buffy nodded thoughtfully at the possibility, though she didn’t think it was the case. “Let’s face it, Giles. The First could wipe us out at any moment if it really wanted to, especially now that it’s got Caleb doing Its dirty work,” she countered, brow furrowed in contemplation. “There’s something more here. Something we’re missing.”

The room grew silent as its occupants took a moment to mentally work through their latest dilemma, brainstorming any probable explanations, or better yet, solutions.

The silence permitted the sounds of the morning’s activities to filter in, interrupting their concentrations. Spike’s barking commands emanated from the back porch, having stationed himself there for the SITs’ training session. Faith had joined him to assist with the girls’ form since the vampire was limited to the shaded areas of the backyard.

The noncombatant Potentials were being educated by Dawn and Andrew in the front yard. It was mostly an impromptu lesson on protection spells and a debriefing on Caleb, information which Willow had already conveyed earlier to Buffy after her research yesterday into the Preacher’s shady past.

The only other sound that could be heard was the occasional cling of a sword or clatter of a stake to the floor as Xander quietly organized the night’s arsenal. There weren’t any idle hands in the Summer’s house. Well, except maybe Anya, wherever she was skulking about.

Willow flipped through the pages she had printed off the internet, rereading them for the zillionth time. Before her were articles on unexplained murders, random abductions, and a consistent description of a preacher impersonator supplied by local authorities. She had managed to trace his crimes back through the last decade, but was unsure as to when he became involved with the First. The consensus at the table was that it could have only been recently that this alliance had been developed.

Though it didn’t give them much to work with, Willow’s findings did warn them of this new foe’s adaptability and cunning. It wasn’t just brute force they were fighting against this time. There was a sick twisted mind behind the henchman’s undoubtedly strong exterior. This was only speculation though. They didn’t have any firsthand knowledge of Caleb’s strength but it was a safe hunch. The bad guys were always stronger, but her and her friends had always been smarter. Now they weren’t too sure they would be able to play that card in this round of the game.

“He just seems so…icky,” Willow remarked as she glanced down at a newspaper article describing a town’s local police search of a suspect in the homicide of a teenage girl, said to be impersonating a man of holy orders. The description of the victim left the Witch with the shivers.

“But that’s all I’m getting from reading these,” she exasperated, lifting the pile of articles up in the air for emphasis. “I think I need to do some more sleuthing.”

Giles pulled off his glasses from his face. “What about police records?”

Willow perked at the suggestion. “I could try hacking into the system.”

“Really getting back to those roots, huh, Will?” Buffy said with a grin.

The Witch shrugged. “I think techno-savvy Willow would be more helpful in this situation. If we can get the unfiltered version of Caleb’s rap sheet, maybe we can trace back his steps and see how they connect to the vineyard.”

“Go for it,” Buffy agreed, glancing toward the kitchen, a sigh escaping her lips. “I better get outside. You guys keep digging around.”

Heading into the kitchen with the intention of taking over Spike’s training session in the backyard, Buffy paused when she heard her Watcher call her name.

“Buffy, could I speak with you for a moment?” he asked, his voice somewhat strained.

Immediately concerned by his apprehensive tone, she spun to face him. “Giles? What’s wrong?”

He regressed slightly at her show of worry. He didn’t want her frighten her, but he felt that she needed to know.

“I…uh…Are you sure this raid on the vineyard is so prudent?” he asked, hoping he could somehow eventually segue way into what he really wished to tell her.

The Watcher didn’t want to carelessly unload on his Slayer the knowledge that the demon spirit that had invaded her body weeks before, an episode which she had bravely overcome for everyone’s benefit, would finally consume her. He didn’t want to bring up the fact that the emergence of this latest player in the game was bringing them closer to the prophecy, to the fulfillment of Buffy’s projected demonic possession.

Buffy exhaled loudly at the inquiry. “Here we go again,” she grumbled. “No offense, Giles, but I’m getting kinda tired of being on the stand for making this decision. I already got cornered with the moral third degree from Xander and Dawn at breakfast. It’s not like I want this. You and I both know it has to be done. So whatever reasons you might have to not be onboard with the plan, just keep them to yourself.”

Giles balked slightly at his Slayer’s abruptness. He also was somewhat disconcerted by her fatalistic attitude. Maybe he should keep his concerns to himself. If Buffy was already losing hope before her first battle against Caleb, revealing her impending possession would be utter sabotage for the mission and, worse yet, for the Slayer’s dwindling morale.

Then and there Giles decided that he would wait until Buffy returned from the raid to inform her of Althenea’s ominous foresight. Once the Slayer had the security of knowing what she was up against, he would tell her. It wasn’t what he wanted, and it tempted fate assuming this wasn’t his only opportunity, but it was for the better.

Giles nodded in acquiescence. “Old habits die hard,” he lamented, giving her a tired smile.

Buffy’s hardened demeanor melted into a bashful grin. “Guess it’s hard turning off Watcher mode, huh?”

Giles sighed. “Unbelievably,” he muttered as he patted her on the back, turning back to the living room, leaving the Slayer to her duty.

Her second attempt to the backdoor was again
dissuaded when a large commotion came from the front door. Dawn was struggling with an armful of groceries.

“A little help,” the teen called out from behind the paper bag curtain.

Buffy rushed over and took most her sister’s load. She had asked Dawn to scavenge any provisions she could from around town. The Slayer figured that it wasn’t really stealing since most of Sunnydale had been abandoned, including the local grocery store. “Where’s Andrew?”

“Here,” he grumbled, his arms full of boxes of female sanitary products. Dropping them on the floor with a huff, he glared at the two sisters. “This is a total violation of the Geneva Conventions!” he declared. “I am a prisoner of war who is being unjustly tortured!”

Buffy let out an amused chuckle. “First off, Andrew. For you to be a prisoner of war, you would have had to have fought in a war. You’re more a prisoner of annoyance,” she clarified.
“Secondly, you’re free to go whenever you’d like. The First’s over using you and if it’s really horrible staying here, by all means, leave.”

The ex-Trio member whitened at the notion of being ostracized from the Summers’s sanctuary so close to an impending apocalypse.

Defeated, Andrew nodded in surrender. “Fine. But can I not be errand boy for Tampons again? That’s just cruel.”

“Fine,” Buffy agreed, still amused. “Anything else to bring in?”

“Anya’s coming in with the rest of the stuff from the pharmacy,” Andrew said, staring down at the boxes of Tampons, really not wanting to pick them up again.

Taking pity on him, Buffy pushed the groceries she had taken from Dawn into Andrew’s arms. “Help Dawn take these to the kitchen,” she ordered. “I’ll deal with the girly products. Wouldn’t want you to catch any cooties.”

Relieved beyond belief, Andrew traipsed after Dawn, struggling with the heavy load of bags. “Dibs on the Twinkies!” he called out after her.

As Buffy picked up the colorful packages from off the floor, Anya raced through the front door, nearly knocking the Slayer over.
“Where’s Andrew?”

“Gee Anya, thanks for the offer, but it’s fine, I got it,” Buffy sarcastically greeted, balancing the boxes in her arms.

Oblivious to the Slayer’s derision, Anya rummaged through the plastic bag she had in her hands. “Why would we need athlete’s foot cream?” she asked, pulling out the offensive bottle. “What kind of First Aid station am I going to be able to put together if the doofus can’t even get usable ointments?”

Buffy was surprised by Anya’s level of commitment to her newly given task. The Slayer had figured that they would need ready First Aid when they returned from the raid on the vineyard. She had asked Anya to fully stock the house with the necessary drugs and bandages. Apparently foot cream wasn’t on the former demon’s list of necessities.

“It could come in handy,” Buffy replied in passing, dismissing the other woman’s zeal.

“Andrew’s in the kitchen,” she said as she made her way to the upstairs washroom to replenish their stockpile of feminine products for a house full of teenage girls. ‘All in a day’s work…’

Anya huffed as she marched into the kitchen, ready to berate Andrew’s choice in medicated creams. The sound of Xander’s unexpected voice made her pause in the hallway, grounding her feet to the floor.

“So what’d you guys manage to scrounge up?” he asked Dawn and Andrew as they took inventory of the pillaged food.

“Twiffinkies,” Andrew said through a mouthful of yellow snack cake.

Dawn passed him a pack of hostess cupcakes. “Mostly nutrient deficient sugar bombs. The produce smelled pretty funky.”

Xander gratefully took the cupcakes. “I guess we’ll all be on sugar highs tonight. Wonder if that’ll give the Potentials an edge,” he wondered out loud. “Well, before they crash anyway.”

“You’re going tonight?” Dawn asked, troubled by the news. “I figured it was too dangerous…”

“Buffy isn’t still too sure about Wood and they needed another body, so I volunteered,” he explained, his nonchalance unnerving the teen even more.

“Xander, this isn’t like helping Buffy patrol,” Dawn began to argue, not liking the idea of her surrogate big brother risking his life so unnecessarily. “And weren’t you against the idea in the first place?”

He shrugged off the girl’s distress. “It’s going to happen no matter what I think, Dawnie. Might as well make myself useful,” he countered. “It’s not like it’s my first day, you know. I’ve helped Buffy fight tons of evil, including a hell god if you do recall.”

“And look how well that turned out,” she countered under her breadth, staring up at Andrew as he returned her uneasy gaze. “Maybe you should stay back with us. Help guard home base.”

He shook his head. “Thanks for the concern Dawn but I’m going tonight.”

The sound of something crashing to the floor pulled everyone’s attention to the hallway. Anya was standing there, fists clenched and tears brimming, tubes and boxes of First Aid products strewn about her feet.

“You coward.”

Xander blanched at the sight of her. “Ahn…”
Without another word, she stormed off, heading for the front door.

“Anya, wait!” Xander called out, discarding his untouched cupcake as he chased after his former fiancé.

Andrew swallowed his mouthful of cake loudly, watching the soap opera transpire before him. “Man I wish I’d had my camera,” he lamented.

Dawn sighed sadly and then smacked movie making geek on the back of his head. “Help me put this stuff away,” she said resignedly, hoping somehow Anya would find a way to convince Xander to stay home with them tonight.


Anya was halfway down the street when Xander finally caught up to her.

Grabbing a hold of her arm, he managed to get her to stop. “Ahn, can you just hold on for a second?”

Spinning around, she furiously pushed him away. “Why?” she hotly inquired. “Why should I listen to whatever dumbass explanation you might have for going out and getting yourself killed tonight?”

“It’s not like that,” Xander defended.

Anya crossed her arms, her unconvinced glare still in place. “Oh no? So this has nothing to do with us?”

Xander vigorously shook his head. “No. Of course not. Buffy needs my help.”

Anya scoffed at his statement. “Whatever you need to tell yourself,” she cynically replied.
“Know what I think?”

Xander didn’t respond, knowing the question was rhetorical. If he didn’t know, Anya was sure as hell going to inform him.

“I think you’re just running away from the responsibility of having to decide. You’d rather play the odds and let fate make the decision for you,” she continued, her voice shaking with frustration. “You’re a coward, Xander Harris.”

Xander stared at her, wanting both to strangle and console her in the same instant.

“You have no idea what I’ve been going through since you forced that ultimatum on me,” he shot back. “I don’t need your self-righteous guilt trip right now, Anya.

“As much as you like to think it, you are not at the center of the universe. I am not ready to make that decision yet and because time isn’t on my side, the apocalypse keeps getting closer, whether I’m ready or not. I would be going tonight with or without the fate of our relationship on my shoulders. So can you just please cut me some slack?”

Biting back further tears, Anya nodded, head hung as she stared miserably at the ground. “Is it so hard? Am I so horrible that you’d rather go up against a stabbing maniac than rush back into another relationship with me?”

Xander remained silent. How had he reduced this once proud and confident ex-vengeance demon, the renowned destroyer of men, to this wilted, empty broken shell of a woman?

Suddenly, anger ignited inside of him, but whether toward Anya or himself, he wasn’t certain. The sight of her so vulnerable, so hopeless, made him upset. Xander found his body moving of its own volition, his arms reaching out for her, a hand lifting up her chin.

Anya jolted at the unanticipated contact, halfheartedly struggling against Xander’s hold. She stopped when his lips pressed firmly against hers. Surrendering to the feeling of being connected to Xander once more, Anya sighed when he deepened the kiss, all her previous worry and animosity vanishing in an instant.

Breaking apart, panting, he locked eyes with her, his gaze conveying the promise he couldn’t articulate with words.

Anya’s eyes widened in surprise, understanding that this kiss wouldn’t be their last.

Regrettably pulling himself away, Xander kissed her palm before turning back to the house.

Anya watched silently, the unbidden tears gliding down her warm cheek as she held back the urge to chase after him.

Without a word he had promised to come back to her.

Watching him step back into the Summers’s home, never once having glanced back at her, Anya felt an ember of hope rekindle. She only prayed that it wouldn’t be extinguished that very night.


Buffy placed the last box of Tampons under the bathroom sink.

Catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror, she sighed at the bags under her eyes. Her lack of sleep the night before had left her looking a little ragged.

“Prisoner of war? As if,” she mumbled aloud, shaking her head at Andrew’s claim to maltreatment as she splashed some cold water on her face. “Andrew’s the one committing crimes against humanity with just his presence.”

“Too right, luv. A bloody sadist.”
Startled, Buffy jumped at the voice. Glancing behind her, she saw Spike leaning against the bathroom door frame, a smirk on his face.

“Jumpy, pet?”

The Slayer smiled. “Didn’t see you,” she explained, pointing to the mirror. “And I guess I no longer register you as threatening since my Slayer senses didn’t make a peep.”

The vampire’s brows rose at the underhanded insult. “Not threatening, huh?” he asked, sauntering closer to where she was.

Buffy kept her chin up in impudence, with a grin still plastered on her face. “Not in the least bit scary.”

Spike stepped forward, until his body was flush against hers, forcing her to lean back on the bathroom counter to maintain eye contact. Placing his hands down on either side of her, he lowered his mouth until it was mere a breath from hers.

“’m still the Big Bad, luv,” he huskily whispered, emphasizing his point with a soft thrust of his hips.

Buffy gasped at the feel of the hardness pressing against her hip. “Prove it,” she dared, eyes glazed with lust.

A low growl emanated from Spike’s lips. Grazing kisses along her cheek, he brought his mouth to her neck, nipping lightly at the soft scar that marked her skin.

Moaning, Buffy wrapped her arms around his neck, drawing him closer to her.

Pushing himself against her in response, Spike forced Buffy to sit on the counter’s edge, drawing her legs around his waist. Feeling her grind against him, he abandoned her neck and captured her lips in a desperate kiss.

Spike wasn’t sure what had instigated this little romp, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to stop it. He didn’t know what nightfall would bring and he wanted this moment, this small reprieve to be with Buffy. He had come upstairs looking for just that, but not necessarily expecting it to get so hot and heavy. All he had wanted was some alone time before obligation and sacred duty took precedent over all else.

Spike had spent the last night contemplating his current situation. He couldn’t shake the feeling that Buffy’s dependence of him was bordering on unhealthy, dangerous even. The little spat they had had concerning the Reverend and Buffy’s subsequent unraveling had unnerved the vampire to the core. He hadn’t gotten a wink of sleep because of it.

That morning had been a different story.

Buffy had awakened with a mission, focused and proactive, delegating tasks and debating strategy. It was like the Slayer was back in business, her warrior batteries recharged after the tactical quandary her late night recon with Faith had unveiled.

The gut wrenching fear and self-loathing over weakening Buffy, for spoiling her with love and devotion had eased during the debriefing over breakfast. Her frustration over Caleb’s contradictory actions and her fervor to solve it had given him enough fortitude to push aside his worries, but obviously not enough to absolve them.

Pulling away from her lips, Spike rested his forehead on hears, waiting for Buffy to catch her breath. “Sorry, luv. Didn’t mean to get carried away,” he rasped.

Panting, Buffy shook her head. “Don’t be sorry,” she countered in a whisper, peppering kisses along his jaw. “Impending fight’s got me all needy.”

Spike tensed at her confession.

There it was again, her neediness. It probably wasn’t what she meant but he couldn’t help but jump to those conclusions.

Her small, hot hand, however, slipping below his black cotton shirt, drawing a searing trail up his cool stomach, reassured him her need for him at that very moment was all physical. Spike wasn’t sure if that was better or worse than any sort of emotional reliance, but at least it was familiar, an evil he knew all too well. Especially with the woman currently caressing his neck with her lips, stoking a fire he had thought long ago smothered to red coals.

It was a blaze that he kept in check every night with Buffy pressed against him in her bed, one he knew couldn’t risk to burn out of control. It was what they had promised each other, to salvage what was little left between them after that same inferno had almost incinerated them completely. Having Buffy so willing and in his arms was truly testing Spike’s level of commitment to that promise. He might have gotten his soul back but he was by no means a saint.

Casting all doubts aside, Spike threw caution to the wind. He was tired of worrying, fed up with his soul and how it shifted his conscience into overdrive. He felt as though all he did now was mull over every nuance of the Slayer’s psyche or feel guilty for every misstep. He just wanted to do anything without a litany of thoughts accompanying his actions. In that moment, Spike just wanted to be.

A low growl left his lips as one of his hands roughly clutched Buffy’s hip, his mouth crashing against hers, their tongues dueling. The Slayer responded in kind, her grasp on his waist becoming rougher, her nails piercing his skin. The unexpected sting had him gasping involuntarily, permitting Buffy a few seconds of reprieve for a few breaths of her own.

Suddenly feeling severely restricted by excess clothing, the vampire clutched at the black fabric on his back and yanked his t-shirt over his head, tossing the unwanted garment aside. Buffy’s hands instinctively flew to his chest, gliding against his alabaster skin until they settled around his neck, drawing him closer to her as she snaked her legs higher up his waist.

Buffy’s lips were devouring his once more, her tongue relentlessly battling against his own, her desire so strong it filled the space around them in a heavy fog. The smell of her was suffocating and Spike relished its flavor as he drowned in it.

The sound of a belt buckle coming undone shattered through the vampire’s euphoric state. Spike could feel her hand grazing against the hardness below the denim, her fingertips so close to touching the sensitive skin.

Though his body screamed to his very core for even the slightest caress, his mind and his heart knew this was all wrong.

Suddenly it all came crashing down on him. As much as he wanted the freedom of reckless abandon, he knew that luxury would come with too high a price. One he knew he would pay dearly. Bare-chested with Buffy about to cross a point of no return, the vampire knew it was all too much, too soon, and under the wrong sort of apocalyptic circumstances. A recipe for Slayer regret the second it was over.

“Buffy, luv, s-stop,” he huskily stuttered, too soft for effect.

The Slayer’s lips continued on their unrelenting assault of his own. He could feel her one hand tightening its grip on his arm, the other clasping his ass, locking him in place, trapping him in her desperate embrace.

“Buffy…pet,” he gently implored, trying to snap her out of her stupor.

An attempt to gently pull away resulted in a rough tug back.

“Buffy…Buf—” he continued to beg only to be silenced with another suffocating kiss.


Reacting in desperation, he pushed her back with a sudden jolt, placing some distance between them.

“STOP!” he asserted, his shuddering voice sounding much louder than he had intended in the close confines of the bathroom.

The force caused her to brace herself on the bathroom counter. As though snapping out of some trance, the Slayer blinked several times, breathing heavily as she stared at the space between them, as though she wasn’t certain if what had just happened had actually transpired. Her gaze finally landed on Spike’s undone belt, which caused her to instinctively reach for her own disheveled clothes. She was too ashamed and scared to look him in the eye.

Spike cleared his throat, snatching his shirt off the floor and pulling it back on. “I better get back downstairs,” he said, refastening his belt, unable to fight the urge to flee.

“Left the girls with Faith and the Principal,” he explained. “They kept throwing mooneyes at one another. Needed a break was all.”

Buffy nodded, still unsettled over her behavior.

Ignoring the pit of the stomach feeling that what he had just experienced was the Slayer’s emotional dependency manifested physically, Spike pushed through the awkwardness and placed a kiss on her forehead. “See you in a bit, pet,” he lamely reassured. “I’ll have the troops ready in a few.”

“Okay,” she whispered, looking down at the floor.

Without another word, Spike treaded lightly out of the room, vying for the basement instead for some required moments of solitude. The Potentials were as ready as they were ever going to get. He needed to get his head together before setting off on some suicide mission to blindly fight an enemy that they hadn’t even met.

“Bloody unlikely,” he said out loud as he went down the stairs, knowing he wouldn’t be able to shake the doubt and the guilt.

How could he have let this happen?

In all honesty he knew how. The dam had finally cracked and when presented with temptation, Spike had been too weak to deny it.

Now he was left with the remorse for having instigated Buffy into something neither one of them was clearly prepared for. Not to mention a growing uncertainty he couldn’t shake concerning their future. Spike couldn’t help but wonder if they would ever reach a point where sex could just be about sex. When was everything going to stop being so bloody so complicated?

Collapsing onto the creaky cot in the basement, Spike released a long groan.

“Maybe after the apocalypse,” he sullenly surmised, covering his face with his hands, wishing he had brought with him his trusty leather duster, along with the flask of whisky he kept in one of it’s pockets, seeing as how it was being of no use to him currently in the Slayer’s room.

Meanwhile, still in the upstairs overcoming her shock, Buffy slid off the bathroom counter. As she turned to face the mirror, she was taken aback by her reflection. Straightening her shirt and fixing her hair, Buffy’s mind raced, trying to figure out what the hell had just happened.

One minute she was kissing Spike and the next she was almost assaulting him. It was like she couldn’t control herself, as though all of a sudden she needed that connection so badly. Despite their decision to wait, to take things slow, Buffy had been willing to throw it all way just to forget for a while.

Recognizing how history had almost repeated itself at her own volition, Buffy began to fight back tears. She didn’t doubt Spike had seen right through her. It was why he had stopped it, to save her from herself.

Pushing the shame down inside, the Slayer inhaled deeply. She didn’t have the time for self-pity.

She paused momentarily at the door. Glancing over her shoulder, she scanned the empty bathroom. It was just another regretful memory to associate with the seemingly innocuous room. This time around, however, she was the cause of the hurt and confusion. This time around Spike had been the victim.

With that in mind, she quietly headed down the stairs, wondering if she had finally gone too far. She couldn’t help but feel that she had once again thrown her relationship with Spike off its delicate balance. This time though, she feared it would never regain the same equilibrium.

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