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Three for a Secret... by Lilachigh
Chp 6 Empty
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Three for a Secret by Lilachigh

Chp 6 Empty!

The silver locket lay on the table at the back of the Magic Box. Willow had placed it on a piece of black velvet and the engraved metal gleamed dully in the light of several tall candles the witch had lit and set in a circle around it.

Buffy stood with her back to a shelf of books, watching as the preparations continued for unlocking the locket. Anya and Willow, unwilling partners, scurried around the shop, producing and discarding different ingredients, checking the charm in the book over and over again, arguing about exactly how many pickled mistletoe berries there might be in a spoonful.

Arabella and Spike were sitting on the bottom step of the stairs leading up to the off-limits gallery. Their heads were close together and although Buffy couldn’t hear what they were talking about, she had the feeling that she was being mentioned because both vampires looked up at the same time and four blazing blue eyes flashed across the room at her. Spike suddenly stood up and walked across to her.

“Are you certain about this?” he asked quietly. He looked tense; Buffy could see the strain on his face, the way his hands were clenching into fists before he thrust them into his duster pockets in an effort to keep himself under control.

“Yes, of course,” she replied. “But, Spike, we don’t know what’s going to happen. I mean, it’s years and years ago. Even if Hope is still alive, she won’t – can’t – be the little girl you saw back in England.”

Spike rocked back and forwards on his heels. “So what are you saying, Slayer? That if she comes back – wrong – you’ll kill her? Is this a warning?”

Buffy flinched. That wasn’t what she’d meant at all. OK, Spike was a vampire, but, hey, chipped and helpless and recently they’d got – well – close. As odd as it seemed, she didn’t want him to be hurt. At one time she’d have said vampires didn’t have feelings that could be bruised, but she knew now that she was wrong. And she could only imagine how he would feel if some – thing – appeared through the portal. And that ‘thing’ was Hope, his half sister.

“No – wait – Spike – that’s not – ”

“Buffy – I couldn’t let you destroy her.” His voice was taut with pain. “I wouldn’t want to and the chip won’t let me, but I’d try to save my sister.”

“Spike – ” she tried to interrupt, then there was a swift movement and Arabella was at his side, the fluffy white sweater and big round glasses making her look sweet and unthreatening.

“William – don’t be cross with Buffy.” The English girl’s voice dripped concern. “She’s only doing her job. She’s the Slayer. You know what that means as well as I do. We’re here on her sufferance – well, I’m sure I am. And I’m grateful to her for giving me the chance to help you find Hope. I’m sure she’ll stand back and let us do what we can for the child.”

“Spike, listen, I’ve no intention of – ”

“Buffy – we’re ready!” Anya looked up from the table and beckoned imperiously.

“Yes, we need to act now,” Willow added. “Some of these ingredients are very unstable.

Buffy cast a frantic glance at Spike, but he was no longer looking at her. Arabella was pulling him gently across the room to where Willow and Anya were waiting.

Buffy followed them, feeling deeply unhappy and apprehensive. Spike had misunderstood her completely – or else Arabella had spun him a story that he’d believed because his beloved cousin had said it. And she couldn’t understand why that was upsetting her so much.

“Right, everyone sit and hold hands,” Willow said. Buffy sat between Spike and Anya. Arabella was on his other side with Willow and Anya completing the circle.

Spike’s hand felt as cold as normal. Buffy squeezed his fingers, but there was no reply. She glanced sideways at him, but he was staring fixedly at the locket.

“We’ll sort it out, Spike,“ she murmured. “I promise I’ll – ”

“Shssh,” Willow said and dropping Anya’s hand began to throw the ingredients into a copper bowl. A weird orange smoke began to curl lazily into the room. Then Anya picked up the locket, and lowered it into the mixture.

Willow linked hands with Arabella and Anya, then began chanting, slowly at first, then faster and faster. Buffy could hardly hear the individual words, but the sound made her head ache. She felt her brain was about to explode and for a few seconds thought she could hear all the thoughts in the room –

“Will it work? It must work?”

“Who was Xander with last night? He smelt of perfume. I’ll kill him if he’s cheating on me.”

“God, a sister! My sister. God, don’t let Buffy kill her. I bloody well won’t know what to do if she does.”

“I’ll get him yet. William will be mine!”

Buffy shook her head violently as the pain grew worse. She could see that everyone else was suffering.

“Don’t break the circle!“ Anya yelled as a violent wind began to blow from somewhere. Willow was thrown away from the table, Spike grabbed his cousin and Buffy and held them fast as all the candles were snuffed out and with a loud bang, the copper bowl broke in two and the locket fell onto the table top.

Buffy struggled free from Spike’s grasp and stared around, expecting to find – what exactly? The shop lay there just as before, full of the weird and wonderful objects Anya loved to sell. There was no whirling magic portal, no splitting of the heavens, no other dimension.

“Oh – well, that’s very disappointing.” Anya smoothed down her tousled hair and frowned at the broken bowl. She reached over and handed the locket back to Spike. “It looks as if that charm didn’t work.”

Spike peered at the locket, then ran his finger along the clasp. With a click, the locket opened. Arabella gasped and leant forward to look.

“Well?” Willow said, picking herself up from the floor and dabbing at a bloody nose.

“It’s empty,” he said quietly and held it out to her.

“Spike, I’m so sorry,” Buffy began. “Perhaps there’s another charm. Another way of getting to her.”

Spike shoved the locket deep into his leather coat. “Good of you to worry, Slayer,” he said. “But I reckon this was our one chance.”

Arabella reached out to touch his cheek, her blue eyes glazed with tears. “Poor William. Oh, I feel so bad about this. Perhaps if I’d told you sooner we could have found a charm that worked. Dru might have had some good ideas. Or perhaps I shouldn’t have told you at all. Div’vid didn’t want me to. I should have listened to him.”

Spike smiled wearily at her. “Don’t fret yourself, Bella. You did what you thought was best. I’d rather know about Hope than not. I won’t give up, though. There must be some sodding way - ”

“That was just what I was saying,” Buffy broke in. She was beginning to get annoyed at Spike for blanking her in this way. He was supposed to love her, for god’s sake! Why didn’t he trust her? She’d promised not to stake Arabella at the anniversary party and she’d kept her word under enormous provocation. So why didn’t he believe her now when she said she wouldn’t kill Hope if she came back as a demon – or worse?

But she knew. Of course she knew. The English girl standing so close to her cousin they were almost not breathing the same air, was constantly dripping poison in his ear, drop by drop.

Buffy found herself wishing violently that she had staked Arabella when they first met. Dusted her, got rid of her weeks ago. And she still didn’t understand why she was so angry at Spike. She didn’t love him. What did it matter if he didn’t trust her?

“Is it all right if I open the shop now?” Anya asked briskly, brushing the remains of the spell off the table into a rubbish bin. “I’m sure I can hear customers outside, waiting to spend their hard earned money in here.”

“And I’ve got a lecture in half an hour,” Willow said wearily. “I’m sorry, Spike. I don’t know why it didn’t work. Perhaps there weren’t enough of us round the table. If you like, I can round up Xander and Dawn and we can try again.”

Spike shook his head. “The locket’s open and empty. I think that tells us everything. Perhaps it never was the key to finding Hope. Knowing Darla, she could have lied through her teeth, just to impress Arabella. Or just to make trouble. I know that’s what I’d have bloody well done!”

“Er – Buffy – ” Anya was at the door, she’d swung it open and was standing, gazing out. “I think perhaps you’d better come here.”

“Why – what’s the matter – is it – ” She stopped and gasped. Outside should have been the sunlit street of Sunnydale, But it wasn’t there. Instead there was a deep emerald green forest, trees stretching as far as she could see. Bright pink butterflies flitted through the branches and blue and yellow parrot type birds darted through the air.

Buffy couldn’t move until she felt Spike’s hand clasp her shoulder and she turned her head to see her eyes blazing down at her. “Well, Slayer, it certainly isn’t Kansas!”

To be continued

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