Credit for the fabulous beta job goes to the lovely Megan.
Chapter 7: Lost.
Buffy’s heart skipped a beat as Spike’s mournful words repeated over and over in her mind. “Dawn died the same night Buffy did, Dawn died the same night, Dawn died, Dawn died, Dawn died --”
It couldn’t be possible; Buffy closed the portal when she’d jumped off the tower leaving Dawn standing safely behind her. All logical thought fled her as Buffy’s brain tried, and failed, to comprehend the bombshell she had just accidentally overheard. Grief was deprived of the opportunity to appear, roughly shoved aside by denial that quickly constructed brick walls in her mind to block the inevitable pain.
Hearing a sharp intake of breath was all the notice Spike needed to realize that they weren’t alone in the room. Buffy…
Leaping to his feet and startling the pair seated opposite him, Spike dashed towards the spare bedroom, coming to an abrupt halt at the kitchenette when he spotted her.
Buffy was frozen in place, eyes glazed and unfocused as she stared into the nothing before her.
“Buffy,” Spike whispered.
Malena joined Spike at his side, a frown stretching across her face as she looked at the robotic-like stance of the girl before her. It was as if someone had hit the pause button. Lifting a hand in front of Buffy’s face, Malena waved it back and forth, the unfocused stare not breaking. After a few failed attempts the brunette tried clicking her fingers, but that didn’t seem to work either.
“Should we slap her?”
Nicolas gasped, aghast at the suggestion. “Dear lord, no, we mustn’t do something so drastic.” To be truthful, the watcher was just at a loss of what to do as Malena was, but somehow he thought violence wouldn’t work. “Spike?”
The vampire’s eyes roamed over Buffy’s face, a sinking dread filling him when he realized he’d seen this on her before. Before Glory had snatched away her sister at the gas station. When she’d been catatonic, lost, trapped inside her own mind.
The helplessness that he’d felt earlier that night was nothing compared to how he felt now. He’d tried shaking her, hitting her, cursing at her to wake from the trance-like state. And nothing had worked.
Knowing there was nothing he could do without Willow’s assistance had Spike questioning his usefulness. The demon in him cursed the chip in his brain—if not for the pain the triggering of it would cause, Spike would go to the witch’s house and drag her, regardless of her complaints, to where she was needed.
Because right now Willow was needed here.
“We need Willow,” Spike voiced with annoyance.
If the Guardian had been human, Demetrius would likely have been pacing. Precious moments were ticking away and for a being that wasn’t personally affected by time, it was a frustrating experience. Never before had a slayer been taken from them and returned to the world of man. But that wasn’t the worst aspect of this situation, not by a long shot. Not only had one Miss Buffy Summers been removed, stolen from her deserved place of rest, but she had also been returned to a world that was not her own.
Demetrius couldn’t imagine a worse scenario.
“I come bearing troubling news.”
Demetrius and Persephone turned their attention away from the looking place, focusing on the third of their kind, Dave.
“Troubling? Regarding the One?” Persephone fluttered about like a frightened mother hen, concern for the missing slayer growing with each moment that passed where no answer for her path to return was found.
“I’m afraid so.”
“Can she return, or not?” Demetrius demanded. A millennia of being responsible with providing safe passage for the fallen slayer’s had obviously had an effect, strong displays of emotion were not something the Guardians were typically known for.
“How? What needs to be prepared? Shall I contact the Powers?” Persephone’s delight upon hearing their charge could return was obvious, relief causing the Guardian to miss the pensive tone in Dave’s voice.
“She has to die,” Demetrius realized.
Delight swiftly turned to dismay as Persephone began to comprehend the choice words of her fellow Keepers. “A slayer would never consent. This Slayer would not forfeit her own life so as to escape.”
“Are you certain?” Dave asked. “The true fallen from this world chose death willingly. Can you be sure the missing One would not do as such and mirror her other self?”
“Of course we’re certain,” Demetrius blustered. The One, this Buffy Summers, the girl torn from them, she was a fighter. She’d sacrificed herself for love, choosing her death over her sister’s. She was noble, and she was brave, and she was not the type to take her own life so recklessly. “Returned to the world for less than a night and already she has slain. A lesser girl would have given up.”
“There must be another way,” Persephone insisted.
Dave didn’t know if it were possible, but if here was another way, they would find it.
Jaw clenched with barely restrained anger, Spike dialed the number for the second time this evening. He thought it was fruitless. Willow had shown no interest, no concern for Buffy’s well-being before and he seriously didn’t think the redhead was going to listen to a stuffy Brit watcher she’d never had a full conversation with before. But Nicolas had been adamant.
After Buffy’s suspected condition had been explained to Nicolas and Malena, it had become increasingly obvious that if it were Willow who had coaxed Buffy out the previous time, then she was the obvious choice of who should be doing it again this time.
“She won’t agree. Not with Tara, she won’t --”
“Just give the girl a chance, Spike,” Nicolas suggested. “She might surprise you.”
Snorting derisively, Spike handed over the receiver and immediately returned to the sofa where he had carried and placed Buffy just moments earlier.
She was lost, trapped inside her own mind.
Spike sat down beside the frozen Slayer, monitoring her face and stretching out his senses so the moment something changed, he would be aware of it. Helpless didn’t begin to explain how he felt.
“Ah, good evening, Miss Rosenberg,” Nicolas greeted. “Nicolas Thompson speaking. I was wondering if we might acquire your assistance. As you may be aware --”
Spike listened intently, yet never taking his eyes from the blonde-cum-brunette before him.
“Yes, I am aware of your partner’s condi--”
Exhaling an un-needed breath, Spike waited for the inevitable.
“I’m sorry to bother you.” A frown passed Nicolas’ face as he continued, his disdain obvious in his tone of voice. “I was under the impression Miss Summers was your friend. Obviously I was mistaken. Goodnight.”
Spike’s childish side felt like saying ‘I told you so’, but the words died in his throat. It wouldn’t help Buffy.
Nicolas explained the conversation and just as Spike had expected, Willow had been unwilling to leave Tara’s side. A second of silence stretched into minutes as the trio considered other possibilities. Willow wouldn’t leave Tara’s side, but she hadn’t refused to help.
Realization stretched across Spike’s face. “If we can’t bring the witch to Buffy…”
“Take Buffy to her,” Nicolas completed, catching on to Spike’s plan.
“Thompson, I need your car.” Spike’s stood up abruptly, an expectant look on his face.
The watcher paused for a moment, hesitant about handing his keys over to the vampire. But the determined look in Spike’s eyes told Nicolas that he wouldn’t be taking no for an answer. Fishing around in his pockets, the small set of keys were soon recovered and held out in an open palm.
“I’ll come with,” Malena announced.
“Malena, perhaps Thompson should --” Spike began only to be cut off by the raven-haired girl.
“After his snarky-ness on the telephone, do you really think she’s going to want to see him?” Malena questioned.
“But you have other responsibilities and --” Nicolas countered.
“Nick, Spike, I’m going,” Malena interrupted with determination. “Spike, you’re not exactly Mr Popularity with the Sunnydale demon underworld. Do you even know what the price on you head has reached recently?”
Laughter gurgled in Malena’s throat at the intrigued lift of Spike’s brow. “If it gets any higher it might be worth cashing in myself,” she teased wickedly. As quickly as it had appeared, the joviality left her expression. “Seriously, with your bleached head and rabid taste of music, combined with Nic’s dodgy old car, and --”
“I’ll have you know --” Nicolas began, his arguments halting at the glare from Spike.
“And with Sleeping Beauty here,” Malena pointed to Buffy, who was still staring off into space, “in the backseat, you’ll be a walking advertisement for the demon population. Take me along, and you’ve got Slayer backup.” Malena smiled proudly, confident in herself and her reasoning.
Spike would have to be stupid to turn her down.
“I’ll have a Slayer with me,” Spike automatically replied.
“Ah, but a conscious one can be so much more… useful.” Malena lifted a brow, almost daring Spike to argue. When his confident exterior faltered she knew she’d won. “Excellent,” she continued excitably, snatching the car keys from Nicolas’ outstretched hand.
“I’ll fetch some weapons,” Nicolas suggested. “Just in case.”
“It is decided,” Dave announced.
Persephone nodded in agreement. The three had moved to the looking place to observe the Slayer in the unknown world. She did not belong there and they would find a way to restore her to her rightful resting place. It had been undecided on how the Guardians should go about their research.
If the One managed to exist in this world with relative ease then they would keep their distance. This approach however, was dependant on the Slayer remaining ignorant of the differences between this world and her own.
On a superficial level, this Sunnydale looked completely different to the one she knew. That wasn’t what worried the Guardians. No, it was the differing of relationships between those close to her, and the reality of mortality.
It wasn’t likely that the death of her sister—in this world—was something that would be able to be kept secret for too long. And the knowing of this information was likely to cause an adverse reaction in the Slayer. One look down to the world had confirmed their suspicions.
They had to contact the Slayer and inform her of her predicament.
And it was Demetrius’ ability to travel the ghost roads that was going to allow them to do so.
The Guardians may not be able to descend to the many Earth dimensions, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t pass on information if necessary. Demetrius made regular trips to the ghost roads in an effort to convince the fallen slayers who walked them to ascend to their rightful resting place. These repeated visits had allowed the Guardian to strike up a friendship of sorts with the girls.
And a slayer with unfinished business, a girl who felt she had not yet completed her services, who still strove to serve a higher purpose, was the perfect choice for a partner in their efforts.
The Guardians were going to contact Buffy Summers.
They just hoped the unfamiliar face and ghostly status of their chosen accomplice didn’t startle her.
Once the weapons were collected and stowed in the car, there was nothing left for them to do but depart. Apprehension built within Spike, just like a soda bottle that had been shaken repeatedly right before the top was unscrewed.
Mixed thoughts filled him, adding to his uncertainty. His head told him not to bother, that Willow would likely slam the door in their faces. Gut instinct told him this was risky. Traveling about town with a good-as-unconscious Slayer in the backseat of the car was just like ringing a dinner bell for all the vamps in town to come get their taste. Spike unconsciously growled at the thought of another vampire getting within ten feet of his Slayer.
Then there was Spike’s heart. His heart demanded that he help Buffy, no matter what.
Being someone who was constantly guided, no, make that ruled by his emotions, Spike went with his heart.
Most of the nervous anxiety pushed deep enough to ignore, Spike approached the unmoving Slayer. Head tilted to the side in contemplation, he took a moment to gaze at her, noting how not even catatonia managed to quash her beauty. But then where matters of Buffy were concerned, Spike’s opinions were always biased.
One thing he did discern and could not ignore was just how lifeless her eyes appeared.
When Spike had first come to Sunnydale all those years ago, he’d been enthralled with the creature before him, was fascinated with an intensity that bordered on obsession. He devoured each and every piece of information he could gather with a voracity that rivaled Darla’s insatiability for pain and violence.
Over time, Spike liked to think he’d become an expert where Buffy Summers was concerned. Of the myriad of expressions and emotions that decorated her face, Spike knew each and every one. They were catalogued in his brain, like a collection of photographs that were regularly examined.
Originally, the thoroughness of his research could be amounted to just that, thorough research. She was prey and he was the predator. The more you knew about your intended target, the better. Over time, the research had changed from a clinical gathering of information and become more. First fascination. Then it became obsession, to kill and then to possess. Finally came passion. Desire. Adoration. Love.
It was love that forced him to stay by her side, fighting for her, willing to die for her, history be damned. A weaker man would’ve left, never to return, if he’d suffered at the hands of his beloved the way Spike had. But he didn’t.
Spike knew each and every one of Buffy’s expressions. Looking at her now, seeing nothing, it was almost worse than seeing her die. It was like she wasn’t in there, that the girl before him was an empty shell.
And he wanted the girl back.
Even if it meant she’d turn around and break his heart all over again.
The world was a better place with Buffy in it, and if he had anything to say about it, that’s just what was going to happen.
“All right, love,” Spike whispered quietly as he knelt before her. “Time to go for a little car ride.”
With a gentleness that wasn’t often seen, Spike lifted Buffy up in his arms, cradling her against his chest as he carried her out of the apartment and towards the car.
Rutherford Sirk reclined in an overstuffed sofa, a stack of papers precariously balanced on the armrest beside him as he looked over the books. Completely absorbed in his work, the older gentleman almost didn’t hear the light tap on the office door. Almost.
“Come in,” he called out, his thick upper-class British accent clearly conveying his annoyance. Interruptions were something he was accustomed to in this line of work, but that didn’t mean he liked them.
The door opened with a creak, a short, timid looking young man peeping around the corner. “We have a high roller, high spender, big…” The young man inhaled deeply to calm his nerves. Although he’d been working in the establishment for several months now, he still hadn’t gotten used to his boss nor the services they provided. It just seemed… wrong.
“We have a wealthy client in tonight, Sir.” The young man’s gaze dropped to the floor. “He’s offered to pay a lot of money.”
The mention of cash was enough to draw Sirk from his paperwork, an intrigued lift of his brow the only change of expression. “Oh? Any special requests?”
Nodding, the young man quickly explained the client’s wishes. “He would like to film, Sir. A feeding.” Another deep breath was inhaled again. “And to keep the body.”
“Really?” This caused a surprised smile to tug at Sirk’s lips. A client filming a feeding session was not entirely out of the ordinary. Keeping the body, however, was not something that had been requested before. “And the client is a regular or an out of towner?”
“New. Haven’t seen him before.” The young man had to fight the urge to hurl at the imagery his words and knowledge of the patron’s wishes created. “Also, he’s human.”
Sirk stood carefully so as not to disturb the stack of paperwork, strolled over to the cabinet behind the broad mahogany desk and bent over to retrieve the bottle of port from inside it. Pouring a generous amount into a glass tumbler and drinking it quickly, Sirk considered the possibilities.
Removal of bodies was strictly against policy. Unless of course the body in question had been commissioned for turning, in which case the sire retained it, for a sizeable sum of money. A human client requesting the purchase of the deceased was unheard of.
After all of his years in the business, first with the Watcher’s Council and more recently as owner and manager of ‘The Reliquary’, a Wolfram and Hart built and financed establishment, you would think Sirk would’ve seen it all. Apparently not.
His stationing in Sunnydale was not without purpose. Wolfram and Hart had plans for the final apocalypse, the battle of all battles that would bring forth the destruction of humanities reign of control over the world. Power would be returned to the demons and once more creatures spawned from hell itself would roam the Earth.
The time had come to pick sides and Sirk had chosen his. He preferred to be on the winning team. Without a doubt in his mind he knew he was. The Watcher’s Council, the Slayer and a few handfuls of do-gooder demon hunters were going to be no match for the power and might that was Wolfram and Hart. They had demons on their payroll the Watchers back in England thought to be long extinct.
The equilibrium between good and evil was no longer so balanced. And soon the battle would come.
Sunnydale was the lynchpin. Once the Hellmouth fell, LA would soon follow, then the entire west coast. It was just a matter of time.
So Sirk was doing his bit in preparing for the battle, which funnily enough involved running a club for the demon population. The venue had proved in recent months to be quite profitable.
And while the prospect of a substantial payment was tempting, Sirk couldn’t with confidence allow it. Not with the buyer being an unknown.
“Kindly explain to the customer that while filming is most certainly permitted—for a fee—removal of the corpse, is not.”
The young man nodded and turned to exit the room, halting when his boss continued to speak.
“Oh, and Jonathon. Bring me a summary of the takings for the evening, would you?”
A/N: And the plot thickens…
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