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Future Imperfect by Lilachigh
20 The Gift
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Future Imperfect   by   Lilachigh
Chapter  20    The Gift
“Dad!  Listen! Will you please tell Mom that I’ve got to call David and tell him the twins are missing!  She says there’s no need to worry him yet.  She’s crazy. And they are my children; she has no right to tell me what to do.”
Spike felt the wave of emotion hit him as he walked into the family room.  His daughter was standing, hands on hips, eyes blazing, looking more like Buffy when angry than she had ever done before.  He glanced round for the Slayer but she’d obviously beat a strategic retreat. “I don’t see what David can do, sweetheart,” he began…
“Oh yes, and all you clever demon and vampire experts are really getting Joyce and Billy back quickly, aren’t you!  David is their father.  Just being here – well, he might make a difference, somehow. And I need him. I need someone on my side.”
“Shanny, my dear, we’re all on your side!” Giles sounded concerned: he looked exhausted, the time difference beginning to bite.  Sitting at the head of the table, books and documents spread out around him, he tapped the pristine page of his new notebook with a freshly sharpened pencil.  “The sensible way to proceed is logically, one step at a time. List all our knowledge, collate our facts, come up with a plan and work out a sensible, safe approach.  Buffy’s right, this time.  David is a great guy, but not, perhaps, a great help in these special circumstances.”
“But we don’t even know what the circumstances are!”  Shanny crumpled suddenly as if all the fight had been drained out of her. She swayed and Spike reached out to catch her, but Angel was faster. Not aging did make a difference to a vampire, Spike thought bitterly, watching as his daughter was half carried to a sofa and lowered gently onto it.  He’d never worried about that part of the Shanshu he’d been given.  He wanted to grow old with Buffy, walk into the sunrise the day after she died.  He knew he wasn’t as fast as he had been, but until Angel moved to catch Shanny, he hadn’t realised how slow he’d become. And he was terrified.
“Willow and I are going to research into every aspect of these ex- Slayers, although I have to admit that I have never heard of them being seen before, except for the First Slayer, of course.”
Willow looked up from the desk on the far side of the room where she’d plugged in her laptop. She looked tired.  “Shanny, I know being patient seems impossible, but we are trying all we know. And I’ve sent messages to every coven I can think of in case someone, somewhere comes up with a different idea.”
“I’ve got contacts.” Angel sounded hesitant but patted her shoulder, trying to be positive.  “Not sure how many of them are still alive or even if they’ll be willing to talk to me since the Shanshu, but I’ve sent out a request for help. You just have to be brave a little longer, Shanny. We’ll find the twins and bring them home safely. I promise.”
Shanny raised her head from her hands and wiped her fingers slowly down her face, as if eradicating all outward signs of emotion.  Spike shuddered. There, once again, was the blank-faced girl he’d known when she was sent back to America from Europe, all fire and anger pushed so deeply inside that to an on-looker, she seemed cold and heartless.
She licked dry lips. “So, you agree with Mom? That I shouldn’t tell David, even though he loves the twins to distraction. I didn’t expect anything else from you. I can’t remember a time when you disagreed with anything she said. ”
Spike wanted to cross the room and hold her so tightly she could never leave his side again. But Angel was still sitting on the sofa, one big hand on her shoulder.  All he could do was say, “It would drive him half mad with worry, sweetheart. Let’s be honest; this part of our world is incredibly hard for normal people to understand. And Giles and Red are right, there is nothing he can do.”
“This is all Joyce’s fault,” Shanny said suddenly.  “I know she’s only a child, and not a normal one, but she knows the difference between right and wrong and when she’s being deliberately naughty.  She won’t listen; she refuses to behave and now she’s taken my Billy with her, somewhere…somewhere…”
“Of course it isn’t Joyce’s fault! Personally I pity the poor Slayers who’ve been landed with those two,” Spike said dryly.  “Whatever they needed a child for, they would have been in for a nasty shock when Joyce turned up.”
“Spike thinks they came for Billy, not Joyce,” Angel explained when the others looked puzzled.
Giles pushed his spectacles up on top of his head. “Really, that’s interesting. But Billy has no powers, does he?”
Spike flung himself down into a chair, wondering if growing old always meant you were tired when you hadn’t slept all night.  “Well, Rupert, if you don’t count being able to read minds and control people’s thoughts, then no, he doesn’t!”
Shanny jumped to her feet and prowled round the room, straightening pictures on the walls, picking up ornaments and putting them down in a neat line. “Oh Dad, you’re just imagining that. There’s nothing wrong with Billy: I’d have noticed. Believe me, I’ve grown up with enough demons and vampires and people with weird powers not to recognise that in my own son.”
Spike shrugged; this wasn’t the time or place to argue with Shanny. He could tell she was just holding herself together. For all the expressionless face, he could only guess how she was feeling.  He accepted that Joyce’s powers were showy, exciting and weird but the ability to change how a person thought, that was heavy and dangerous, especially when it was a power wielded by a small boy.
Spike got to his feet. The atmosphere in the room was so oppressive, so full of dread and despair. He needed to find his wife and feel the power of her love helping him to cope with the sense of helplessness he was experiencing.  He took the stairs two at a time and pushed open their bedroom door, expecting to find Buffy. But the room was empty.  Spike frowned – she wasn’t in the bathroom, and a quick check told him she wasn’t anywhere else in the house.
He stared out of the window. The sun was edging up but heavy clouds were swinging across the sky from the west giving a dull, overcast day.  There was no sign of Buffy in the yard and their old car was still in the garage.  A coil of unease twisted sharp teeth in his stomach.
As he turned, he caught sight of a blur on the dressing-table mirror.  Red – for danger. Red - for blood.  He read the words written in lipstick. She’d been in too much of a hurry to find a pencil.  “I’m sorry. I’ll always love you.” 
Downstairs, Shanny was sitting back on the sofa, head to head with Angel, talking in whispers.  She looked up, alarmed, as Spike burst into the room.  “Dad! What’s wrong?”
“Where did your mom go, Shan?”
“Mom?  Oh, she said she was going out.  To patrol, I suppose.  I mean, my children are missing, but she’ll never give up patrolling, will she?”
Spike bit back his angry retort.  “It’s too light for vamps to rise.  I don’t understand.  What exactly did she say when she left?”
Shanny shook her head. “I…I…didn’t really listen,” she stammered, scared at his expression.  “She always patrols, doesn’t she. I can’t remember a day when she didn’t go kill something!”
Willow glanced up vaguely from the screen she was studying.  “Are you looking for Buffy?  She said – ”  She ran her fingers through rough red hair and frowned, “Something about a nest of Chark demons and that you would understand she had to do it. That it was a Slayer thing.”
“Chark demons!”  Spike, Giles and Angel all spoke at once.
“How many?”
“On her own?”
“That’s incredibly dangerous. She should know better than that.”
But Spike was already at the door, snatching up his leather coat, throwing it over his head. 
“Wait! William! It’s too light outside for you. Let me go.”  Angel was at his side, his face grim.
“Dad, I don’t understand. What’s wrong with fighting Chark demons?”
Spike couldn’t reply. Angel’s hand was tight on his arm. He took a deep breath and tried to smile at his daughter. “Stay here with Giles and Willow. I won’t be long. I have to bring your mom home.”
His long stride took him into the front yard, Angel still at his side. “Do you realise what she’s doing, Liam?” His voice was harsh, almost unrecognisable.  “Charks. A whole nest. That could mean fifty – even sixty of the filthy things.  I didn’t even know there was one locally!  She never told me.”  He groaned. “Yes, bugger it, she did!  A couple of nights ago.  She was saving them up as a challenge for the local young Slayers to take out. But there’s at least six of them.”
“So, ok, Charks.  She knows how dangerous they are. Buffy’s ever shirked a fight. Perhaps she just wants to fight something, kill, destroy. She’s a Slayer. You know what that means. They get off on the blood and death.”
Spike shook his head wearily; Angel had never understood Buffy.  Faith, well, yes, the rush of killing was like wine to her.  Spike knew that if he had met her in the Sunnydale school all those years ago, she wouldn’t have fought him without weapons. She would have gone for the kill, every time. But Buffy was different. She was a Slayer, she still had a mission, even if had been diluted by all the new girls.  But it was the mission that was important, not how you achieved it.  Death was her gift.  As true today as ever it had been.  A gift she gave and accepted in equal part.
They reached the road and stood, sniffing the morning air for traces of the woman they both loved. Even with the coat draped over his head, Spike could feel a certain warmth on his skin.
 “We have to find her. Fast!  Go up to the woods. I’ll check in town.  We haven’t got much time. She’s got a good headstart on us. Which is what she wanted, of course. God, how didn’t I see that she would work this out.”
Angel frowned. “I don’t understand. What has she worked out?”

“That dead Slayers have taken the twins. So she needs to be a dead Slayer.  She doesn’t want to kill the Charks. She wants them to kill her!”
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