Chapter Five- The Message
“Hey lil’ Bit.”
Dawn scrambled to shut the door behind her, pressing her back against it with her eyes still wide in disbelief. “Spike, what the hell are you doing in Buffy’s room?”
Spike sat up and threw his legs over the side of the bed, ready to boot if need be. “I…uhhh…was just…waiting for Big Sis. Uhh…you know, to talk shop,” he lied badly, irritated at how he had once been really gifted in the art of deception. Stupid soul.
“Talk to Buffy? At 7:15 in the morning and in her bed?” Dawn plainly doubted, giving him the patented brassed-off Summer’s look.
“Yeah,” Spike replied, wishing she would just accept his piss-poor excuse of an explanation.
“You know what Spike? You wanna lie to me, that’s fine. I guess I was stupid to think that things would ever go back to the way they were before,” Dawn venomously spouted, turning her back to him abruptly to leave.
“Nibblet, wait!” Spike called out, which made Dawn stop in her tracks. “I did stay here last night.”
She spun around at his words, her face in complete confusion at what he was admitting. Naturally, she blurted out the first thing that popped into her head. “You and Buffy are doing the nasty again, aren’t you?” she asked, clearly disappointed in both him and her presently absent sister.
“No, Bit. I swear. It was just sleeping.”
“So you and Buffy just spent the entire night, alone and in her bed innocently sleeping?” Dawn reiterated, still not fully convinced
“Yeah, we did,” a voice called from behind her, making her jump in surprise.
Dawn turned to see a freshly showered and robe donning Buffy. Dawn must have been so thrown by Spike’s admission that she hadn’t noticed her sister open the door and sneak right up to her. “Buffy, what’s going on?”
Walking past Dawn and into her room, Buffy gave the vamp the same reassuring smile she’d been giving him the past few days. “Spike’s here because I didn’t want him sleeping in the basement.”
Dawn stared at Spike, then glanced at Buffy and then turned back again to the peculiarly quiet vampire. As she inspected their appearances, looking for validation to Buffy’s claim, Dawn noticed that the two of them simply remained in awkward silence, keeping their gazes away from her scrutiny. Being a teenager herself, Dawn recognized the blushing we’ve-so-been-caught looks both her sister and Spike were wearing. She wasn’t sure whether to roll her eyes at them or to let go one of her trademark squeals. “So, are you guys like back together?”
Their responses came out simultaneously; surprisingly it had been Buffy who had voiced the ‘maybe’, not Spike.
The room became suddenly very quiet as the vampire stared up at Buffy, in pure amazement.
Seeing as how Spike appeared to have been suddenly struck with an unexpected fit of catatonia, Buffy took it upon herself to explain things to her sister. “We don’t know Dawn. It’s…”
Yet, before she could get out all the details, Dawn cut her off. “Complicated,” she finished, having heard that phrase a billion times in the past year alone. “But there’s a chance right?”
Buffy nodded as Spike still remained mute.
A loud “Eeeee” permeated through the silence and Buffy found herself almost tackled to the ground by her little sister. “This is sooo cool,” she giggled. Then out of nowhere, Dawn broke from her gleeful merriment to kick her sister in the shin.
“Owww. Hey!” Buffy yelped.
“It’s about time you two legitimately hook up! There was enough angst coming from the two of you this past year to suffocate a roomful of Potentials,” she joked, pulling away from her sister and heading toward Spike, who was still staring into space. Dawn snapped her fingers in front of his face. “Earth to Spike!”
Awakening from his stupor, Spike stared up at Dawn as though he had forgotten she had been there all along. Sitting down next to him, Dawn took his hand and squeezed it. “I knew it was only a matter of time,” she whispered. “But do anything to her and I’ll make good on my waking up on fire promise.”
Spike simply nodded at her half-serious threat.
“Ummm…If we’re done here and if you guys don’t mind, I kinda need to get ready for work,” Buffy mentioned quietly.
“Sure thing, pet. We’ll just get out of your hair. Let’s go Nibblet,” Spike said, quickly pulling on his boots and duster.
Dawn followed him out of the room, walking through the hallway and down the stairs in silence. Spike had noted that Buffy hadn’t told Dawn to keep what she had seen to herself. Hell, she hadn’t even tried to cover it up.
Once in the kitchen and opening the fridge, Spike poured himself a cup of blood and popped it into the microwave. Maybe he wasn’t going to have to wait too long for her to tell everyone about them. He smiled. There was now a ‘them’.
Ten minutes later, Buffy walked into the kitchen as primped, polished and styled as ever, in a professional quasi guidance councilor sort of way. She poured herself a cup of coffee and headed out to the backyard where the girls had started their training session. Quickly saying a few hellos and giving Kennedy a couple of key instructions, she went back inside, calling out to Dawn to hurry her butt up before Xander arrived to pick them up. Too wrapped up in the pre-work routine, an unexpected voice caught her by surprise.
“You didn’t have anything to eat, pet,” Spike said, stationed at his spot, leaning against the door frame.
“God Spike! You scared me. You know, Angel used to lurk,” she said, giggling.
“I do not lurk! And what is it with you Summer’s women comparing me to Tall, Dark and Forehead?”
Buffy giggled some more. “I can get breakfast at school. No need to worry about me,” she said walking toward the front door, giving him a peck on the cheek as she passed him by. She could have sworn she saw him blush, even if it only lasted for a millisecond.
“I’ll see you after work,” the Slayer said as her farewell.
Spike smiled, watching as Buffy met up with Dawn at the front door and stepped out at the sound of Xander’s horn.
“I am no better than the poofter,” Spike declared, thankful that no one was around to hear him.
The day had been uneventful. Buffy had had barely any students come in to see her and the ones that did had to be directed to other school personnel who were better suited to help them with their predicaments. It seemed as though students at Sunnydale High had little need of guidance that day. A little nagging voice at the back of Buffy’s mind told her it was most likely the calm before the storm but she pushed it away. Man, was she ever bored. Finally, to Buffy’s content, when the last bell of the day had rung she had nearly knocked over three students as she dashed out of the office.
Opening the front door, Buffy was strangely pleased to find the house in its usual busy chaos. The girls were training in smaller groups, alternating between Kennedy and Anya, giving the former better one-on-one instructions and allowing the latter time to inform them on basic demonology. Just like Buffy had instructed.
She spotted Willow and Xander at the dining room table, decked with laptop, books and donuts. “You guys started without me? Not that I’m really complaining; you know, research not really being my forte and all.”
“Hey Buffy! I got home from classes early today,” Willow explained, never taking her eyes off the computer screen.
Xander smiled. “Did you know being the boss means you can take the afternoon off? Who knew?”
“Thanks. I really appreciate it,” Buffy said, taking a seat next to Willow. “Any luck?”
“A whole lotta nada,” Xander answered, slamming his book shut. “It’s hard to find anything on the First cuz, you know, predates the whole written word thing.”
“Sorry Buffy. I’ve checked out my usual hunting grounds and nothing on the First or even on the creation of the Slayer.”
“Great,” Buffy said, deflated.
“Hey, c’mon Buffster. We’re not giving up just yet,” Xander reassured.
“Yeah. We’ve just skimmed the surface,” Willow added.
“Alright. But I guess I’ll check on the girls,” she said, making her way upstairs.
After changing into one of her comfy black track suits, Buffy peeked into Dawn’s room to find her sister buried in homework.
“Hey Dawnie. How was school?”
Dawn pounded her biology textbook with her fist and glanced up at her sister. “Just peachy. Stupid Krebs Cycle.”
“Science blues?” Buffy asked upon seeing the frustration marring her sister’s brow.
“Majorly,” Dawn affirmed, but quickly dropped her school woes to focus on more pressing matters. “So, you see Spike yet? Being away from him all day must have been tough,” she teased.
“No, not yet. I just got in,” Buffy admonished.
“Funny, I would have figured you’d have made a b-line for the basement the moment you got home,” Dawn commented.
“He’s probably sleeping anyway. You know, daytime equals vamp nap time,” Buffy said.
“But he’s not asleep,” Dawn added.
“Oh? And how would you know that?” Buffy asked, crossing her arms.
“Can’t you hear it?” Dawn answered, gesturing to her open bed room window that overlooked the backyard.
Perking her ears to any possible noise, Buffy could hear commands coming from outside. Well, that wasn’t anything new. It was only when she heard a familiar baritone voice that her eyes grew wide with shock. “What the…? That dope’s gonna get himself killed!” Buffy shouted as she bolted out of Dawn’s room. What was Spike thinking, being outside in the daylight? She sprinted into the kitchen, threw the back door open and nearly slammed into the moronic risk taking vampire.
Ignoring Buffy’s not so elegant entrance, Spike called out another order as he paced the shaded back porch. “Punch block combo!”
Buffy watched as the girls did the maneuver. They appeared to be improving. She looked over at Kennedy who was surprisingly writing down notes. Then she heard Spike again. “Alright ducks! Much better this time ‘round! Molly, good follow through, but block higher! Amy, don’t drop your shoulder! Kristen, feet wider apart! Okay now, one more time! Punch block combo!”
Buffy couldn’t believe her eyes. Here was Spike, Slayer of Slayers, actually training girls who might never even be called. She knew that he knew she was there, but he didn’t take his eyes off the group as they performed the same maneuver. Kennedy made her way over to Spike and whispered something to him which made him nod in agreement. When the girls completed the combo, they stood there in attentive stances, awaiting his evaluation, and hopeful for his approval. Buffy still couldn’t believe this was actually happening. How did he manage to get them to focus like that? What had he done that her rousing speeches hadn’t? At that point she didn’t really care since it was working.
Turning his back to the group, Spike gave Buffy a dazzling yet humble smile that only she was permitted to see, as to not diminish his newly established air of authority. “What do you think, luv?”
Buffy grinned. “I think that if you ever scare me like that again, I’ll push you out into the sun!”
“‘m alright. Once afternoon hits, backyard’s pretty shady,” Spike reasoned. “But putting aside my presently non-dusty nature, care to share what you think?”
Sobering a little, Buffy walked length of the back porch with Spike at her side, both inspecting the girls. In a clear voice, one above normal volume to ensure that all the Potentials heard her she announced, “Well done! They seem to be improving. Need more work though. Nowhere near where I want them to be.” Turning back to Spike, Buffy asked him in a whisper, “How long have you guys been at it?”
“At least three hours with this group. ‘bout three hours with the other group before the switch over,” Spike answered back quietly.
“They’re pretty synchronized and that’s great, but you know what real fighting is like. A demon’s not just gonna stand there the whole time while you try to pummel him. They’re gonna need more experience. So tomorrow I wanna start sparing sessions with them; you, me and maybe Kennedy. Knocking them on their asses just might be what they need,” Buffy said, in deep thought. “Let them break until nightfall, and then we’ll take the more ready few for patrol.”
“So what, take the kiddies to the good ole cemetery?” Spike inquired.
“For tonight. And I want to get them started on proper weapons training. We’ll have to fit that somewhere in the training schedule,” she replied, allowing herself to rightfully fall into her role as leader.
“Sure thing, Slayer,” Spike said as he turned towards the still waiting group of girls. “Okay, break time kids! Meet back here at dusk! Some of you lucky few‘ll be joinin’ us for patrol tonight!” And with that, the girls relaxed and trudged silently into the house.
When the last girl had ventured through the back door, Kennedy approached the now more casual vampire and Slayer. “Here are the notes, and I wrote down a few suggestions along with them. So if I’m done here, I’d like to go see Willow,” the senior Potential said as she handed Spike the notepad.
Spike simply nodded, indicating she had his approval to go. Reading through the notepad, Spike didn’t see the once again astonished look on Buffy’s face. “Spike, how the hell did you get Kennedy to play secretary?” she asked.
“Was kinda easy, actually. Just pointed out a few things, is all,” he stated, still flipping through the papers.
“And those few things would be?”
“Well,” Spike began, flapping the notepad shut. “I simply told the bint that she was gettin’ a lil’ too big for her britches.”
“Oh God, Spike, you didn’t get into the whole death wish thing, did you?” Buffy asked, jumping to conclusions.
“No, but I did say that her whole cocksure mini-slayer routine was gonna do her in. And I should know; killed two of ‘em didn’t I? Told her as much. Also pointed out to her that she wasn’t even technically chosen yet. Kept her gob shut since,” he explained, giving Buffy a smirk that was reminiscent of the old Spike.
“So what started all of this?” she asked.
“Wasn’t doin’ much else, pet. Couldn’t sleep so I figured I could at least help out,” he replied, eyes trailing off to look at the expanse of the backyard.
“You do a lot more than you realize,” she stated.
“If you say so, but this keeps me busy,” he countered, hoping she wasn’t going to tell him to back off.
“We better plan out the patrol. I want every girl coming with us to get equal attention and practice,” she added, heading toward the door.
“Buffy?” Spike said, praying he wasn’t making a mistake by saying what he was about to say.
“Yeah?” Catching a glimpse of him, Buffy turned back around to face the vampire. In the short amount of time she had looked away, Spike appeared to have suddenly transformed into someone she rarely saw. The bad-ass-second-in-command persona had crumbled away, leaving behind a very confused and vulnerable man standing before her.
“Spike, what is it?”
“This morning, luv. What you said to Nibblet. Did you mean it?” he asked, the hope so clearly visible in his ice blue eyes.
“About us being together?” Spike nodded at her question. Buffy sighed. “When I said there was a chance…” Buffy reflected on her response to Dawn’s earlier question.
“’S alright if you didn’t mean it. Spendin’ the night together ‘probly jumbled your senses, ya know? Maybe you weren’t thinkin’ straight and at the time ya thought it was the right thing, but it’s okay if you changed your mind. Me bein’ there might have made you wanna say yes, so I would understand if you really didn’t. And…” Spike rambled, only to be cut short by Buffy.
“I meant it, Spike.”
“So what now, luv?” he asked.
Buffy made her way over to him, taking his hand in hers. She really didn’t know what she was doing, stopping herself from thinking and allowing heart guide her for once. Locking her gaze with his, she slowly leaned in until their lips were nearly touching. Buffy slowly lifted her free hand and with a feathery touch, outlined the contours of his cheek, eventually cupping it tenderly in her palm.
“You sure this is what you want, Buffy?” Spike’s voice croaked with fear and need, feeling as though he would go insane if she didn’t bridge the gap.
It was then that she pressed her lips against his. It was a gentle and sweet caress, unlike the harsh, selfish embraces they had shared in the past. At first Spike was still a little stunned by her unexpected move, but quickly drew into her kiss. It had been so long since he had tasted her but he had never forgotten how sweet she actually was and how warm she felt in his arms. More than the fighting, more than the shagging, this was what he missed the most. Kissing his slayer.
Buffy eventually drew up enough courage to draw her tongue across his lower lip, seeking permission to enter. Spike eagerly allowed her to explore him, and in doing so, was rewarded with a thankful moan. Her tongue slid against his slowly and teasingly, but this time without the usual battle for dominance that had always tainted their past embraces. The pace of the kiss was slow, neither one of them wishing it to end. Grudgingly pulling away to breathe, Buffy looked up into his eyes, now nearly black with desire, and lovingly stroked his cheek with her thumb.
“I’m sure,” Buffy said before resting her head against his chest. Spike instinctively wrapped his arms around her, drawing her closer to him.
That’s when he spotted over her shoulder the back door wide open with Xander and Willow standing in the doorway, eyes widened in shock. Spike loosened his grip on Buffy. He didn’t know how much they had seen but he knew now that there was no going back.
“Luv,” Spike whispered into her ear, “you might want to turn around.”
Buffy instantly tensed the moment she realized what Spike was implying. In painstakingly slow motion she pivoted around out of Spike’s embrace, to find her two best friends staring at her.
“Buffy, what’s going on?” Willow asked. Buffy glanced back at Spike, who seemed to be anxiously awaiting her decision.
“I guess there are some things I have to let you guys in on,” Buffy admitted nervously.
“You might wanna start with explaining what the hell you’re doing with Captain Peroxide…again?!” Xander asked.
Buffy really wasn’t surprised at Xander’s bewilderment. If anything she had expected a far worse reaction. “Spike and I are…together,” Buffy stated carefully.
“Buffy, are you sure this doesn’t have anything to do with you being a little demony? Ooo, maybe it’s that demon heart stuff. Maybe it’s attracted to Spike’s demon and you’re misreading it as feelings,” Willow said, sounding like the unsure girl Buffy had known in high school.
“I know it’s not. Coming back out of that dimension made me realize…”
“What?” Xander interjected. “That you love him? Give us a break, Buffy! You know this,” he said waving his hand at Buffy and Spike, “isn’t love. Am I the only one who remembers what happened the last time you two decided to be ‘together’?”
“No, you’re not,” Buffy replied, getting annoyed. “And this is nothing like last year. God, Xander, you walk in on us the moment after I tell Spike I want a relationship and what? Just naturally assume that I’m reverting back to old habits. That I haven’t learned anything since last year? Give me a little credit, alright?” Buffy took a calming breath before she continued. “I have no idea where this thing with Spike’s gonna go, but I have to try. I want to try,” she finished.
“So you guys aren’t sleeping together?” Willow asked sheepishly.
“NO!” Buffy and Spike simultaneously responded.
Willow seemed to be put at ease by the news but Xander appeared to still be a little bitter. “Xander, I didn’t tell you guys because Spike and I are still figuring things out,” Buffy tried to explain as she walked toward her friends.
Defeated, Xander’s shoulders sagged in reluctant acceptance. “I just don’t wanna see you hurt, Buff,” his once infuriated tone now turned to one of concern.
“I won’t. We’re not repeating the past and I want to keep it that way.”
Xander only nodded as he gave Buffy a hug. “I guess I owe Andrew twenty bucks then,” Xander stated as they pulled away from one another.
“We had this silly bet going. I put twenty on Wood and he put twenty on Spike. Ergo, I’m out of twenty bucks.”
“You guys are now betting on my love life?” Buffy said as she pretended being outraged, smacking Xander lightly on the arm.
“Well, it was that or bet on how many times Anya uses the word orgasm in one day. You’d be surprised, it’s still pretty high,” Xander replied chuckling.
“So, what was so urgent that you guys had to interrupt us?” Buffy asked still smiling, but quickly frowned when she saw the look on her friends’ faces.
“I kinda have to show you,” the witch admitted. “I found it on the net.”
Buffy and Spike quickly followed her friends into the dinning room where Willow had set up her computer. Buffy gazed at the screen. It wasn’t the usual type of web page one encounters when surfing the net. It didn’t have any pretty pictures, ads or, hell, it didn’t even have any colour; just black lettering on stark white background. She noticed a notebook with a translation written out in pen beside the laptop. Buffy read it ahead of Willow’s explanation and knew that it was their first real breakthrough, even though its vague words petrified her.
“There’s this message. There’s no name or links to find out who posted it. It doesn’t even have a home page. I think there’s some definite magic involved because it’s like this thing came out of thin air. And before you ask, I tried to use a few spells to trace it but they’ve all come up short,” Willow said as she sat in the chair in font of the computer. “The message itself could be a warning, or an answer to a question. It’s kinda cryptic, which with our experience is never good.”
“Well, what does it say?” Spike asked, not liking the way things were progressing.
“It’s in a rare Sumerian dialect. Lucky for us Giles left behind one of his books on uncommon ancient languages. Anyway, it says ‘She and spirits will unite, but in slumber they will remain. Only to be awakened when her lifeless blood kills the Tainted One. Its power initiated by the wielding. The source will find its end.”
The room was dead silent when Willow finished reading the prophetic message. They all remained speechless, unsure if they truly understood what they had just heard. It was Xander who first voiced a bit of confusion. “So, uh, is it just me, or did anybody else pick up on a ‘Buffy’s gonna die’ vibe?”
“We don’t know that. You know how these things are. They’re never really what they seem,” Willow stated.
“Let’s hope not. I’m getting really tired of dying,” Buffy joked receiving grim faces as her only response.
“Okay, let’s go through it logically. Obviously the spirits gotta be that demon mist that possessed Buffy. And it kinda explains why you don’t feel any different because it still got to be awakened,” Willow deduced.
“With my lifeless blood,” Buffy added.
“How does that work? I mean, how can it be awoken and be useful if Buffy’s not of the living?” Xander asked, deeply concerned.
“I’m not of the living and I’m still useful,” Spike said, not liking where this line of discussion was headed.
“Oh my god, do you think that the only way to unleash the power is for Buffy to be turned?” Willow asked.
Xander suddenly jumped out of his seat, glaring furiously at Spike. “I knew you’d be the end of her. I knew keeping you around was going to get us all killed. And now, there’s this mystic message telling us I was right all along!” Xander spouted, walking up to the vampire. “Pat yourself on the back, Spike. You might actually bag yourself your third slayer.”
“Xander!” Willow reprimanded, shocked at his insensitivity to the situation.
“Step off, whelp. I might play nice but don’t got the chip any more to stop me,” Spike warned, refusing to be intimated.
“Xander,” Buffy called to her best friend. Seeing the desperation in her face, the brunette stepped away and sat himself back down, his eyes never leaving the notorious William the Bloody.
“Let’s not jump to conclusions,” Buffy said. “What I wanna know is who the hell is this ‘Tainted One’?”
“And it says you’re gonna wield something. That’s probably important too. A weapon maybe?” Willow wondered.
“Not to mention the ending of ‘the source’. But the source of what? The source of my powers?” Buffy said.
“Maybe it’s the source of evil, luv. Ya know, the First?” Spike guessed.
“I hope so,” Buffy responded. “This is so much worse than one of my slayer dreams.”
“So we just keep at it then?” Willow asked feeling a little disheartened.
“Don’t really have a choice, but I have a feeling its not gonna do us any good. Like every good cryptic prophecy, this one’s not gonna make any sense until it’s too late,” Buffy replied. “I better go and prep for patrol.”
Spike watched as the slayer left the room, in obvious need to distract herself, but leaving him in the unfortunate presence of her two best friends.
“You’d think I’d actually hurt her like that? Turn her into something she’s worked so hard to fight against?” Spike asked, sensing Xander’s gaze boring into the back of his head.
“Yes, I do. You might have a soul, Spike, but you haven’t proven yourself trustworthy,” Xander stated. “Not to mention the fact that the trigger’s still active and you weren’t so against turning people when you were under the First’s thumb.”
Pivoting around, Spike’s eyes narrowed when they met Xander’s. “Listen, you git. Get it through that thick skull of yours. I’d never hurt her. Rather be burned to a cinder than to see her cry. Get that, whelp? I. Love. Her.”
“You had a funny way of showing it when you tried to rape her. Or did you think we’d just forget all about that?”
Spike turned his back on Xander, ready to follow after Buffy. “No,” he answered. “Why should you? I know I haven’t.” With that said, the vampire made his way into the hallway.
“Xander,” Willow said, sounding as though she was about to scold him.
“Look, Will. I know we’re supposed to support Buffy in whatever makes her happy, and I know I seemed like I was okay with it, but I’m not. Knowing what that message says, how can I possibly root for them? She’s putting herself in danger every time she’s near him. I wish I could drop my suspicions about him, but I just can’t,” Xander prattled on.
“You finished?” Willow asked slightly annoyed.
“What’s with the hostility, Will?” Xander inquired, seeing Willow’s flustered expression. “Just stop being a goober-head and come look at this for a second,” the witch ordered.
Xander scooted his chair closer to the redhead so that he could actually see what she was talking about. He peered over at the translation written in the notebook, his gaze focusing on the area of the paper where Willow was rapidly tapping her index finger. “Well, what is it?”
Before answering Xander’s question, Willow searched Giles’s text, frantically flipping through pages as she followed her hunch. Upon finding the page she had been looking for, the witch quickly glanced at her notebook, checking and double checking her translation. With sudden comprehension of what she had just discovered, Willow let out a sheepish squeak. “Ooops.”
“Ooops? What ooops? Ooops is never good, Will. What are we ooopsing?”
“I think I might have accidentally made a little booboo in my haste to translate the message,” she explained.
“So, what did you misinterpret?”
“I…I don’t think it’s Buffy’s lifeless blood that kills the Tainted One.”
“Why do you say that?” Xander prodded.
“See this word here,” Willow said as she pointed to the computer screen. “I thought it meant ‘blood’, but it actually means ‘life’. The two words are kinda really similar so I mixed them up and when I fixed it, it totally changed the context of that part the message.”
“Out with it, Willow,” Xander said impatiently.
Taking a deep breath, the witch continued. “It’s not ‘her lifeless blood’ but ‘the lifeless life’ that kills the Tainted One.”
“What does that mean? It makes everything sound a hell of a lot more cryptic,” Xander commented.
“Think about it Xander? Who do we know who’s lifeless yet living?”
Xander paused to think. “No! You must have made another mistake. There’s no way.”
“No, I didn’t. Spike’s not gonna hurt Buffy, he’s going to help her.”
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