“What?” Dawn demanded. “Why are you... why are all of you staring at me?”
“You’re not real,” Willow said in awe. “I mean, you’re real now, but you weren’t real. You just....” She shook her head. “But I remember you! When you were in elementary school and.... Wow. That is some heavy-duty magic.”
Dawn stared back at Willow, then shifted her gaze to Buffy who was looking at Giles rather than Dawn.
“Giles? What the hell? Dawn’s my sister.”
“Let’s all just pause for a moment and do some deep-breathing. Yes, it appears that we may have been magically manipulated into remembering Dawn from years ago when Buffy first came to Sunnydale. It also appears, that those memories have been implanted somehow, and that her actually appearance in Sunnydale was only a few months ago. Coincidentally, around the same time that this Glory person – who we now all know Spike watched turn into a human – came to Sunnydale looking for a “key” that she is quite sure Buffy is keeping from her.”
He paused and waited for the unbelieving chatter to die down before continuing.
“I will contact the Council again, in light of these new developments, and with luck, they will have information for us. Um... and perhaps Spike will have found one of the minions and been able to convince it to.... Well. He may have some information for us this evening as well.” He turned to Buffy, who had walked over to Dawn and was trying to reassure her that she was very “real”.
“I also have some books here that we can consult. Now that we have a name to put to the... creature. But, I think we must consider the possibility that Dawn’s appearance is somehow connected to this ‘key’ for which Glory is searching, and it would not be wise to allow her to go out without some form of protection.”
“My life is over...”
Ignoring Dawn’s moan, he added, “I will handle the research for the time being. I suspect Buffy and Dawn will be hoping to spend some time with their mother this afternoon and evening.” He gave Buffy an odd look. “Please remember what Spike said about Ben. We can hope he was mistaken, but if not....”
“If not, I don’t want him around Dawn until we know why she might be connected to the key.”
“All right. Here’s the plan. I’m going to take Dawn to Spike’s crypt...” At the stares she said, “He’s the only one besides me who can have a shot at kicking Glory’s butt. She’ll be safe there. And I want to talk to him about this Ben/Glory thing. When I asked Ben about Glory, he freaked, so there’s definitely something going on there. And he’s in the same place as my mother, which is more than a little disturbing....”
“That can’t be good,” Tara put in quietly. “I mean... if he’s....”
“We can stay here and help Giles research.” Willow smiled at Tara when she nodded vigorously. “And then we’ll all meet at the hospital later to see how your mom is doing. I’m going to call Xander now.”
“No need,” Giles said. “Anya is coming in shortly to help me with the inventory. We can tell her then.”
“That’s settled then. I’m taking Dawn to Spike’s and... and then... I don’t know.” She sighed. “I’m pretty much okay, wound-wise, but not quite 100%. I really don’t want to have to fight Glory again if I can avoid it. I guess we should grab some snacks on the way to Spike’s. I’ll call you guys from the hospital in a few hours and let you know if Mom’s up for company.”
After swinging by the grocery store and getting some things to eat and drink, as well as a People magazine for Dawn to read if she got bored, Buffy led the way through Restfield to Spike’s crypt. This time the outside door was ajar and she and Dawn just slipped through the opening as the interior door opened. Peering behind it, Buffy smiled at Spike who was holding it for them.
“Thanks. Those doors would have been a little tricky with all these bags.”
“You’re welcome, Slayer. Hello, Bit. To what do I owe this visit, and why do you come bearing gifts?”
“Um, actually... I guess I should have asked you first... but... see, here’s the thing...”
“The Bit’s not quite as old as we think she is,” he said with a smirk. “Got that memo when the spell kicked in. Did it work on whatever else was going on that kept Glory’s secret?”
Buffy nodded. “Yeah, it did. I need to talk you some more about that before I go back to the hospital.”
“So, what’s in the bags?”
“Oh, um, that’s part of what I wanted to talk to you about. See... the thing is, these weird guys in the crazy ward were all yelling at Dawn about they had to destroy the key, and they know what she is, and crazy stuff like that. And then when we figured out that she got here... I mean not that we don’t all remember all about her from when she was little, but it looks like something or somebody gave us all those memories and—”
“And she got here about the same time you tried to save that old monk from slutty superwoman?”
Buffy sighed. “Yes. So, obviously Dawn is somehow a part of this missing key thing, and I need a place to hide her from Glory until we know more about what’s going on.”
“Mi casa, su casa, love. You didn’t need to ask. Wouldn’t let anything happen to the Bit, even if you didn’t ask.” He smiled at Dawn who was looking distinctly uncomfortable and annoyed with all the conversation about her. “And the bags?”
“Food. Snacks and stuff to drink. You can’t even imagine how much Dawn can eat in a day.”
“Hey! Not all of us exist on lettuce and yogurt! I’m a growing girl!”
“Here, growing girl, put your stuff away in the fridge.” Buffy handed the rest of the bags to Dawn, snatching out an apple for herself as she did so. She glanced up at Spike as he was watching Dawn make herself at home in his ‘kitchen’.
“Thank you,” she said softly. “I owe you one.”
“Don’t owe me a thing, Slayer.” He r leered at her. “But if you want to demonstrate how grateful you are....”
She laughed and pushed him away. “Behave yourself. My little sister is here.”
“So if she wasn’t here...” He raised a hopeful eyebrow.
“She is,” Buffy said, walking to the couch and sitting down. She took a bite from her apple and grinned back at him. “So you’ll never know.”
“Never’s a long time,” he said, settling onto a chair.
Dawn came back, chewing on a sandwich from the deli section. “So, what’s the plan. Don’t I get to see Mom?”
Buffy sighed and leaned her head back. “I don’t know. When I see what Giles has found out, and I see Ben again, I’ll figure it out. I don’t think you need to be around those crazy people they keep bringing in. Mom would never forgive me if I got you hurt by bringing you to the hospital. I wish you had a phone,” she added, turning to Spike.
“Tell you what, Slayer. When it’s finally dark, I’ll take the Bit with me and drive to there. She can wait in the car until you tell us what’s what. That way, no one will see her unless you think it’s safe. And she’ll be with me, so nothing can happen to her.” He looked at Dawn to see if she was all right with the plan and she nodded. “Let’s say about 7:30. We’ll be in the parking lot, as close to the building as I can get. And we’ll wait for a half hour. If you haven’t shown up yet, I’ll bring her back here and....”
“And stay here with her,” Buffy said before he could decide to come looking for her. “I need to know she’s safe, Spike. Even if something.... even if I’m busy fighting something somewhere. I need to know she’s safe.”
He growled, but nodded. “I need to know you’re safe,” he said. “That bitch has her scabby little minions looking for you. The hospital where she works when she’s pretending to be human isn’t my idea of a safe place.”
Buffy rose to her feet. “All right. I’ll head back to the Magic Box and see what Giles has found out. Unless there’s some really, really good reason why I can’t, I’ll meet you in the parking lot at 7:30.” She waved to Dawn and walked to the door with Spike.
“Be careful, Slayer,” he said, too low for Dawn to hear. “And if the tin soldier wants to use big weapons on the superslut, let him do it. Don’t let your need to not be needy get in the way of hiding behind some firepower if that’s what it takes.”
She peered up at him. “Who are you, and what have you done with Spike?”
“Not sayin’ you have to get all girly and snog him for being a hero,” he growled. “Just saying use whatever weapons you’ve got – even if it’s an overgrown—”
“You should have quit while you were ahead,” she said, her smile putting the lie to her words. “And, news flash, I’m stubborn, not stupid. I’m the girl who took out the Judge with a rocket launcher, remember?”
He laughed. “Seems like I did hear about that. Old Angelus was beside himself.” His expression darkened. “Although he was pretty chuffed that you didn’t stake him.”
“I got over that,” she muttered.
“Know you did, love. Wasn’t criticizing.”
She raised her eyebrows at him.
“Well, maybe a little... but if you’d dusted him then, I never would have had a reason to make that truce with you, and look where that got us.”
She snorted and shook her head as she walked out the open door. “See you tonight.”
“Yes you will.”
Buffy arrived at the Magic Box to find Giles in a state.
“Well, the Council has come through... in a sense.”
“And it appears that ‘Glory’ or ‘Glorificus’ as they called her is a... god of some sort. Not here,” he added quickly. “But in her own hell dimension. Apparently she was trapped here and has been trying to get home for millennia.”
“Why doesn’t she just leave? I’d be happy to open a door for her.”
Giles sighed and sank into his chair. “Ah, that’s the crux of it. Please sit down.”
“Buffy, sit down... please sit down? Uh oh. This is not of the good.”
Giles waved his hand to Anya and the two witches. “Perhaps everyone should hear this at the same time—Ah, Xander. You too.”
The newly arrived Xander greeted Anya and joined them at the table.
“Hey, the gang’s all here... well except for Spike, but he’s not really—”
“Spike’s taking care of Dawn,” Buffy said.
He frowned. “Because she can’t take care of herself? I thought she’d be at the hospital with your mom.”
Giles interrupted to point to a chair. “If you will join us, we can bring everyone up to speed.”
He sighed. “Well, inasmuch as we now know that Glory – the strangely powerful woman who Buffy tried to save an old man from some time ago – is actually a... god... from a hell dimension. She has been trapped in our dimension for a very long time, but is constantly seeking to go home. For many hundreds of years, a group of monks has hidden the “Key” she requires to open the portal that will make it possible for her to go home. And as the portal may only be opened once every thousand years, she didn’t try to get it from them... until now.”
“Why now? And wonderful,” Buffy said, rolling her eyes.
“It seems the time is almost right for the portal to be opened, if she has the Key. If she fails, she remains trapped in our dimension for another thousand years.”
“So, what’s the problem? Good riddance, right?” Xander looked around the table and could tell from the expressions on their faces that there was more to the story. “Okay.... what don’t I know?”
“The most important thing at the moment, is that opening the portal will not only allow her to go home, but will permit other beings from that rather unpleasant dimension to enter our world. There is, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, no way to open or close the portal without using the Key. We have no reason to think Glory would take the time to pull the door shut behind her, so it is important that we prevent her from opening that portal.”
Xander turned to Buffy. “Why does she think you have her Key?”
Buffy shrugged. “Apparently that old monk I tried to save passed it on to me somehow. Might have been that glowy thing I picked up outside the warehouse, but I haven’t seen it since that night. We just don’t know how or what it is, so I can’t do anything about it.”
“There is more,” Giles said, getting the focus back. “The Council is researching the exact date that the portal will be available, but we can assume from Glory’s increased activity that it is nearing. Her minions have been very active lately and they are focusing on Buffy’s activities. Also, Glory is only able to maintain her form through sucking mental energy from humans. Hence the sudden increase of mindless patients in the psych ward of the hospital. When she is low on energy, she reverts to her current human form... which, according to Spike, is one of the doctors at Sunnydale hospital.”
“It’s Ben,” Buffy said. “He knows something, and if he’s really Glory....”
“Then she knows whatever he knows,” Willow finished for her. “Oh, this can’t be good.”
“Well, right now, all Ben knows is that I’m the Slayer – which, Glory already knew from our little... disagreement... when she first showed up here. As long as that’s all he knows....”
“I believe there to be something else we should consider,” Giles said. He gazed at Buffy and sighed. “I doubt very seriously if it is a coincidence that the monk asked you to guard the key the very same time that Dawn appeared in your life. A perfectly normal girl who didn’t exist until just a few months ago.”
“What are you saying? We already know she must have something to do with—”
“Buffy, what were the men at the hospital shouting at her? Think about it.”
“They said they knew who—what she was and... and that the key needed to be destroyed... they were trying to.... No. No, that’s impossible. Dawn is my sister. Period. End of story.”
“If the monks wanted to be sure you would take good care of the key, what better thing to do than make it a member of your family?”
Buffy was shaking her head in denial, even as she was remembering how odd it sometimes seemed to have a sister. And yet, how close she felt to Dawn at other times...
“I think it’s something you have to consider, Buffy,” Giles said gently. “I’m not sure how we can know for sure, but I will continue to research the matter. In the meantime....”
“In the meantime, Dawn is with either me or Spike, all the time.” Buffy stood up. “I’m going to go see my mom now. I’ll call you from the hospital if she’s up for company... or if there’s a problem.”
“Um... Buffy, if this... god-person... is a human sometimes, how is Spike going to help?”
Buffy shrugged. “If she tries to hurt Dawn while she’s human, one of us will make her sorry if Spike can’t do it. But if she’s being Glory....” She shuddered. “I’m not sure even Spike and I together can win that one, but we’ll sure make her wish she’d stayed in her hell dimension.”
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