Big thanks go to Megan for the fabulous beta job. *squishes*
Chapter 8: Recruiting.
The streets were as quiet now as they had been when Spike first led Buffy to the watcher’s place. It didn’t sit well with him. Just mere months ago a chipped vampire could barely wander a few blocks without some sort of demonic interruption. Now, it was like the demon population was scared. What of, Spike couldn’t be certain. However, he knew for certain there had been less ‘fatal dog attacks’ or ‘gang members on PCP’ reports on television. Perhaps it was time to pay an old… acquaintance a visit.
Malena’s gaze flicked to the rear view mirror, a scowl plastering her pretty face at the scene she observed. Ms Catatonia was practically sprawled across Spike’s lap. She knew better than to speak under her breath, having learned very quickly just how perceptive Spike’s hearing was. But that didn’t stop her from mentally cursing the blonde-cum-brunette female who was currently the sole recipient of the vampire’s attention.
It just wasn’t fair.
What did this girl, this Buffy, have that she didn’t? Malena was aware of the effect she had on men, an effect which had been beginning to affect Spike before the dead slayer returned from the grave.
One night, when Spike had been wallowing in a bottle of whiskey, he’d come to her, knocked on her door in the middle of the night. Malena had led the obviously drunk vampire into her apartment after granting him access with an invitation. Dressed in a black negligee and a sympathetic smile, Malena consoled Spike as he grieved, rivers of tears tracking down his face and onto her shoulder causing her skimpy night wear to cling even more to her heated flesh.
After almost thirty minutes of weeping he’d finally began to calm somewhat, only then noticing the lack of clothing she wore. There’d been a mini break through that night.
If she closed her eyes and imagined, Malena could still picture the expression of lust that had flickered through his eyes.
Then he’d passed out.
When morning came and Spike woke, discovering the pair of them curled on Malena’s tiny sofa, his arms wrapped loosely around her waist, any headway she’d gained disappeared. Apologies for inviting himself over when he was in ‘such a state’ spewed from Spike’s mouth, much to Malena’s disappointment.
Refusing to acknowledge his apologies, Malena had calmly informed Spike that he had nothing to be sorry for; she was his friend and would always be there for him if he wanted to talk. Or… she’d thought, her mind filling in the blanks with plenty of colourful ideas of what or could—and hopefully would—be.
When she’d lifted herself from the sofa she did so with devious intentions, purposely stretching her arms over her head in a way that caused her slip to ride upward. It was a blatant test—and tease—on her part to see just how much drunkenness had influenced the lust she’d seen in Spike’s eyes pre-passing out.
She informed him that she’d be taking a shower and suggested he watch some television until she returned. Throwing a smile over her shoulder as she pointed toward the remote, she caught him looking at her, the upward trail of his eyes suggesting he’d noticed the extra exposed flesh. Malena still remembered the thrill she’d felt. Spike may have been grieving but he was still a man, and he’d noticed her obvious… qualities.
The pair had patrolled together on a more regular basis after that night. And Malena paid extra attention to her appearance, purposely choosing outfits that clung to her body and highlighted her curves in all the right places. The extra consideration didn’t go unnoticed either, several times Malena catching the vampire studying her. Spike still had his relapses with the bottle, but there had been progress.
And now it was all shot to hell.
“We’re almost there, Spike,” Malena informed as she turned the vehicle onto the street Nicolas had directed her to, a large block of flats coming into view.
Spike tore his gaze away from the huddled girl at his side, meeting Malena’s stare in the mirror and offering a half smile in response, oblivious to everything other than the tiny girl curled in his lap. He just hoped Willow could, and more importantly would, help.
Nicolas sat at his small writing desk, the staccato tapping of his pen against the wooden surface echoing throughout the small apartment. It was after midnight in Sunnydale, which would make it a little after 8am in London, a perfectly acceptable time for a telephone call in watcher circles.
Decided, he discarded the pen and picked up the telephone, dialing the number and waiting somewhat patiently for it to connect. A few unanswered rings had Nicolas hesitating over his decision but before he could end the call, someone finally answered on the other end.
“Good morning. Nicolas Thompson speaking,” he introduced, hesitating slightly before continuing. “I was wondering if Quentin Travers were available.”
Willow had just settled down for some mindless late night television, a Bicardi on the rocks resting in her hands when there was a knock at the front door. Annoyed by the disruption, she considered ignoring it, but when a knock sounded again she lifted herself from the armchair with an exasperated sigh. If she didn’t answer the door and the person kept knocking they’d likely wake Tara, and Willow was looking forward to some peace and quiet.
“Coming,” she grumbled as she padded over to the door, quickly drinking her liquor and placing the glass on one of the small bookshelves on her way.
Shock didn’t quite cover what she felt when her eyes found the three standing at her doorstep.
It was Spike. She hadn’t expected to see him tonight, especially not after their conversation earlier. More shockingly, however, was the slight girl he cradled to his chest. Short brown hair, green shirt… Buffy. Willow’s jaw dropped with disbelief.
She’d chalked up the telephone call from Spike as another one of his drunken episodes. And when Nicolas had called she’d pushed it away as well. Willow knew Spike had come to think of the new watcher as a friend, and friends went along with other friend’s stories. The redhead didn’t need someone to point out how stupid that seemed now; proof was staring her right in the face.
“Spike, what…” she trailed off, words failing her.
Her gaze flicked to the new slayer who was standing off to one side, irritation marring her pretty features as she looked anywhere but at the couple next to her.
“I didn’t know. I thought --”
“We need your help,” Spike interrupted gruffly. He tilted his head toward her, indicating his desire to enter.
“Oh, of course. Come in.”
Spike swept passed the wicca, her invitation dropping the invisible barrier blocking him from entering, and scanned the room for somewhere suitable to place Buffy. Spotting a sofa pushed against a wall in one corner of the room, he quickly moved toward it.
The gentleness of his actions was not missed by Willow, and judging by the petulant frown on the raven-haired slayer’s face, Malena had also noticed the care. With a wave of her hand, Willow ushered the younger girl inside, closing the door behind her.
Then she stopped again.
Willow had no idea what to do. Buffy was back from the dead. Really back, her eyes couldn’t refute it. How should she feel? You would think she’d be glad, relieved, or even happy… but apart from the shock of the situation, she felt nothing.
They hadn’t been friends, real best friends, in a long time. Things had changed between them before her death, and much had changed in Willow’s life since then.
For one she was no longer in school. Tara’s meds weren’t inexpensive. During the day, Willow worked from home on her computer, earning enough to support the pair yet not enough to afford luxuries.
The Wicca was practically a recluse these days.
With Tara’s mental frame of mind reduced to that of a child’s care of Glory, Giles’ up and leaving Sunnydale and returning to London, Buffy and Dawn dead, the once close-knit circle of friends was all but obliterated. And then Xander…
While she might not like Giles’ decision to leave when he did, Willow could admit, begrudgingly, she understood why. The Council had wanted him to stick around in Sunnydale, to protect the Hellmouth now there was no longer a Slayer to do the job. And for a while he had. Giles had been cleverly guilt tripped by none other than Travers himself, reminded of all the good his slayer had done.
“Carry on her legacy, protect this town. She would want that.”
It was a ploy, Willow knew it and she was sure Giles did as well. But it didn’t stop it from working. Giles had remained in town, each sunset going out to patrol. And every night when he returned, he collapsed on his sofa with a bottle of scotch and drowned his sorrows. Rupert Giles was a broken man after Buffy and Dawn died, despite all that had transpired between them in the weeks leading up to it.
The decision to finally leave Sunnydale had been a swift one. The Council were sending a new slayer to town with her watcher and Giles was informed he was to provide backup and research support for the new team.
Giles left on a plane to England that very day.
Willow pushed the thoughts out of her mind, not wanting to dwell on the past even though it was currently sitting on her sofa. Beginning to doubt the intelligence of allowing a vampire into her apartment, Willow quickly made her way toward the bleach-haired demon. “Spike, I told you that --”
“Red, she’s trapped,” Spike interrupted. He was not going to just let Willow toss them back out into the night. If he had anything to say about it, the witch was going to help Buffy. And if then she wanted them out of her house, so be it.
“Retreated into her mind. She overheard us talking ‘bout…” His words trailed off in memory of his own still aching hurt at losing the Niblet.
“Her dead sister,” Malena finished with a roll of her eyes, turning on her heel and disappearing into the kitchen before Spike could comment to her bluntness.
“Like the night Glory nabbed…” Spike ran his fingers through his hair, the previously tamed curls springing free as the gel loosed in his hand. “So do your mojo, wake her up and we’ll be out of your hair.”
Willow lifted a brow. “You’re in no position to be making orders, Spike.”
“And I’m tellin’ you I ain’t leavin’ till you do it.” Spike folded his arms in front of his chest, his glare daring Willow to argue with him.
Pursing her lips in resignation Willow, nodded her consent. “It may not work, but I’ll give it a try. But as soon as it’s done --”
“We’re gone,” Spike promised.
Nodding again, Willow turned around and moved toward the pine chest that sat beside the bookshelf. Lifting the lid she removed several short, fat candles and a box of matches.
“I’ll need quiet,” she informed as she placed the candles on the side tables on either end of the sofa Buffy was sitting on, and on the coffee table before it.
Spike nodded his understanding, leaning up against a wall to observe.
Wheeling over the chair from her computer desk, Willow sat down opposite Buffy, inhaling deeply as she mentally prepared to enter the slayer’s mind. One moment Willow was focusing intently on Buffy’s face, the next her eyes glazed over.
Willow inhaled sharply as the surroundings of her apartment disappeared in the blink of an eye, immediately replaced with what looked like the Summers dining room. She had wondered if the loop Buffy was stuck in would be the same one as before, but already there were differences.
Glass shattered, the noise startling the Wicca. Cautiously, Willow walked from the dining room and toward the living room where the sound had originated. The redhead gasped at the sight she found.
Blood… everywhere. Buffy’s blood.
Deep cuts ran the length of her forearms, red oozing from the wounds like a tap. Wounds like that, Buffy should feel something, pain, weakness, anything. But the slayer appeared oblivious to her life pouring from her veins and staining the carpet.
Buffy was sitting cross-legged Indian style on the carpet, surrounded by piles and piles of… photographs. Gone was the short brown hair, re-replaced with the long blonde tresses that flowed down her back in waves. Her clothes were different as well. A simple shirt and flowing skirt, an outfit that would have been quite pretty had it not been soaked in blood. This was the Buffy Willow had known.
“Buffy, you’re trapped in --”
“Lies,” Buffy whispered, as if she hadn’t even heard Willow speak. She reached for a small wooden photo frame, punching in the glass and removing the photograph, ignorant of the new cuts that formed on her knuckles. “All lies.”
The Slayer’s face crumpled as she fought back tears, her hands making short work of tearing the picture to shreds. Shoulders shaking with barely restrained emotion, she reached for another.
“Buffy, what are you doing? You need to stop hurting yourself.”
Without looking up, Buffy destroyed the next snapshot, answering Willow as she reached for another.
“Monks made her. The monks made Dawn and they filled my head with lies.” A stray tear trickled down her cheeks as she destroyed another, throwing the pieces over her shoulders. “She’s a lie.”
A whimper of desperation tore from her lips as she fought to destroy the evidence. “Willow, help me. I can’t… I’m not fast enough. She keeps coming back.”
Willow frowned in confusion. She didn’t understand why Buffy was so desperate to destroy the pictures. Mindful of the pooling blood, Willow dropped to her knees, tilting her head to the side to examine a picture. Except it wasn’t just a picture. Photographs didn’t move. The images before her played like a videotape and if she listened hard enough she could even hear sound. Talking, laughter, music… These weren’t just photographs.
They were memories.
“Buffy.” Willow spoke in an authoritative tone, hoping to get through to her former friend. “Buffy, you can’t destroy these, not like this.”
A keening wail was the only answer as Buffy collapsed into a heap on the ground.
“Step up, step right up, and see this amazing feat,” a male voice bellowed. “Nowhere else in the world can you see this freak of nature.”
Willow didn’t recognize her surroundings, but the curled moustache of the portly man before her and the large tent that rose behind him suggested she was at the circus. Masses of people stood behind her, each person stretching their necks to catch a glimpse of whatever was inside the tent.
Why would Buffy’s mind lead her here?
“I give you, the IMMORTAL GIRL!”
With a roar from the crowd, Moustache Guy tugged on a cord and opened the tent.
The crowd surged forward and Willow found herself being pushed along inside the entranceway, even as she struggled to remain still. At the first opportunity she darted down one of the aisles of seats. After taking a moment to collect her composure, Willow began scanning the crowd for Buffy, but there was just too many people. It was then she realized her actual location.
“No, NO! Please, not again.”
Willow would recognize the voice anywhere. Her eyes darted to the stage as a spotlight shone a beacon toward it.
Arms and legs splayed out in an ‘X’ shape and secured with manacles to a stand steel frame, was Buffy. She was wearing what looked like an old Hessian bag, which fell to just above her knee. A shudder rolled through Willow’s shoulders at the sight, her voice momentarily held captive by her shock.
“Buffy!” Willow shouted, her cry swallowed by the roar of the crowd as a carefully shrouded person carrying a black bag stepped into the light.
The bag was placed on the ground and opened, the owner removing several items attached to cords from within. Little white circles were attached to Buffy’s skin, each connected to the next with a thin wire, which in turn connected to a small machine that was fitted to the frame. A red light flashed once and the crowd instantly went silent as a thump-thump noise began echoing throughout the small club.
“And now, for a demonstration.”
Understanding washed over Willow. The freak… the Immortal Girl… it was Buffy. And they were going to –
A quiet cry of pain was the only noise Buffy uttered as the previously hooded man wrapped her in his embrace. Slurping filled the room, freezing Willow to the spot as she watched Buffy grow weaker and weaker, until her eyes fluttered shut.
The steady thump-thump slowed with each passing second until the shrill beep alerted the crowd her heart was no longer beating.
Tears filled Willow’s eyes. She’d just watched Buffy die, again. A vampire had fed upon Buffy, and the crowd…she…had done nothing. Her consciousness reminded her that it was a dream, that this wasn’t real, that it was a figment of Buffy’s mind. But it felt real. She felt… loss.
The crowd began to whisper amongst themselves as the shrouded man stepped away.
“This is the coolest,” a voice to Willow’s left spoke. “I knew this chick in high school, and I knew there was something weird about her.”
Before Willow could snap a retort, a beep sounded throughout the room. Several people gasped, others held their breath. A second beep sounded a few seconds later and the crowd began to murmur. Willow’s own breath caught in her throat as she waited.
Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump…
Buffy’s heartbeat sounded through the club, her eyes blinking open as the crowd erupted into cheers and shouts of wonder.
Relief flooded Willow. “Oh, thank the goddess.”
Without a second thought the wiccan began pushing through the crowd. She was going to take her friend out of this place if she had to levitate everyone in her path to --
Willow once again found herself in the living room of the Summers house. For the third time in a row she found herself gasping in shock at the scene Buffy’s mind presented for her.
Joyce Summers was lying on the ground, eyes glazed, lips tinged blue, her skin the sickly pallor of death. You didn't need a doctor to know what was wrong.
“Mom?” Buffy whispered. “What are you doing?”
A/N: And the plot thickens! Sorry for the delay guys, RL kinda kicked me in the butt. I’ve got more written and ready to send to the beta though so it won’t be as long between updates this time.
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