Note: Thanks to my beta t_geyer for her unending patience, perseverance and support.
SECTION 1 - CHINA IN YOUR HAND
It was a flight on the wings
Of a young girls dreams
That flew too far away
And we could make the monster live again
Oh hands move and heart beat on
Now life will return in this electric storm
A prophecy for a fantasy
The curse of a vivid mind
Don't push too far
Your Dreams are china in your hand
Don't wish to hard
Because they may come true
And you can't help them
You don't know what you might
Have set upon yourself
China in your hand
(T'Pau, Album - Bridge of Spies)
Thursday, May 16th, 2002
"You all phoned out, then, love?" Spike asked from Buffy's bed, where he was lounging, fully dressed apart from his boots and socks.
"Mm-hmm. Graham and Riley apparently paved the way for me with Social Services and the school, but I guess they're not omnipotent so I actually had to arrange myself for Reverend Hamilton to come over here instead of us going there. You?" Buffy moved to the bed and slid easily into the vampire's waiting arms.
Spike nodded. "I.D.'ll be here by this time tomorrow morning UPS. You ready to turn in?"
"Nearly. I'll just check on Dawn again and then I'll get ready."
"Save you a trip?" Dawn stood in the doorway dressed in a pair of short pyjamas that exposed the dressing on her thigh. She nibbled gently at her lower lip. "I was wondering if maybe I could sleep in here with you?"
Buffy's eyes flicked to Spike but she answered without hesitation. "Of course, you can. Can't she, Spike?"
Spike's support was unstinting, even if his disappointment was apparent. "Goes without saying. I'll just grab some stuff and get out of your hair."
"I meant can I sleep in here with both of you," Dawn made the vampire pause as he reached the closet where Buffy kept the spare bedding.
"You used to hold me till I'd go to sleep last summer." Dawn pushed her advantage.
"Yeah, pet, I know, but that's just it. You went to sleep. I didn't. And I was dressed and on top of the covers. And I'm gettin' a mite too used to sharin' the bed with your sister for that. God only knows where my hands would wander to when I'm half-asleep, never mind anythin' else."
The vampire looked askance to her sister, but when the slayer shrugged he knew he was lost. Shifting back to his previous position on top of the covers, he pulled the corner of the duvet aside, in an invitation to Dawn to join him.
The smile that Buffy gave him as she paused before leaving the room would have been sufficient reward. The mumbled, almost inaudible "love you, Spike," from the duvet-swathed form in his arms, was pure bonus.
When Buffy returned, teeth brushed, face washed and dressed for bed, she wasn't overly surprised as she slipped under the covers, curling against her sister's back, to find them both already asleep. She reached across to wrap her fingers around Spike's forearm, so that between them they formed a barrier between Dawn and the outside world.
"So, what happened last night?" Anya asked, having finished instructing Wesley on the use of the various forms the shop used.
"We found Dawn. We brought her back and took her to the hospital."
"That's it. No big fight to get her back?"
"No. Sorry to disappoint. She was already free when we found her."
"But she's okay. I mean, when Xander and I found Tara's note, this morning, it said Spike had the antidote. So, she would be okay?"
"Why don't you try ringing the hospital? Tell them you're a friend of the family and see what they say?"
"You're hiding something." Anya pounced.
"Yes, I am but I honestly don't think it's my position to tell you," Wesley demurred.
"Piffle. If Tara had woken us up before she left, or if Xander had remembered the password for the barrier spell so we didn't have to wait for it to wear off, we would have been at the hospital, instead of some uptight English guy they barely know."
"Be that as it may, it doesn't change my feelings on the subject."
"Maybe I will just ring the hospital." Anya almost threatened.
"You do that. I'm going for my lunch." Wes pulled his jacket and helmet from under the counter.
"It's only twelve o' clock."
"And since you're not paying me by the hour and the only point to my being here is to become sufficiently proficient with shop routine to hold the fort for one day, that would make a difference how?"
"You can't just take a two-hour lunch break. It's unethical and bad for business."
"Don't worry," Wesley replied as he pulled open the shop's front door. "I was actually planning to take a two and a half hour lunch break, possibly longer."
Wes fired up the bike and after making a couple of stops at the mall he turned and headed for the hospital. When the receptionist informed him that both Dawn and Brandon had been discharged that morning, he used his cell phone to call Revello, but after the events of the previous night, it wasn't too much of a shock to find the phone had been unplugged.
He tried Tara's cell, feeling ridiculously relieved when she replied.
"Hi. I was just calling to see how Dawn and Willow were."
"Well, you know Willow, not even a mega headache could keep her away from classes and Dawn and the others, I think, were just going to crash until it was time for their visitor."
"But the antidote worked?"
"Sure. Dawn was a bit the worse for wear, but just from the whole experience. The doctors were pretty confident that they had dealt with the poisoning."
"I guess that explains things. Look, tell them I'll ring this evening to see how everyone is."
"Sure, but you might catch them before I get in. Will and I were planning on staying late to work on our projects at the library."
"I'll just take my chances then. Bye."
Wes checked his watch. There was still over half an hour before he was due to meet Marie for their... was it a date? He turned the bike toward Revello. Stopping outside 1630, he pulled a pen and a pocket notebook from his jacket pocket. He scribbled a note and then slid it under the front door, leaving the bunch of flowers and the more girlish of the stack of magazines he had bought at the mall in the shade of the front stoop.
Then, he leant against his bike to survey the property opposite in the light of day. Someone had already been out and boarded up the window that Spike had smashed his way through. The paint was a little faded, but not peeling and at first glance, the woodwork looked sound. It could probably benefit from some routine maintenance. Nevertheless, it was a decent size. Wes was also willing to bet that if he put in an offer to lease the property, bearing in mind that it had now been on the market and sitting empty for four years, that he could probably get it for less than he was currently paying for his apartment in LA. He jotted down the name on the mailbox and the name and number of the realtor before turning back towards the centre of town.
"Xander? Wesley's hiding something. Something to do with Dawn. He kept telling me if I wanted to know how she is I should ring the hospital, but they just said she had been discharged earlier this morning. And no one's answering the phone at Buffy's. And he just walked out when I tried to find out what was going on and he said he was going to take two-and-a-half hours for lunch. He can't take that long. And why should he know what's going on with Dawn when you're practically family and he won't say?"
"Ahn, honey, take a breath." Xander sighed into his cell phone. "What exactly did Wesley say?"
"Well, I said he was hiding something."
"And he more or less admitted it, but he said something like he didn't see that it was his position to tell us. What does that mean?"
"Just what it says, honey pie. Look, I'll swing by Buffy's when I finish work and see how Dawnie and Wills are doing. Wes just doesn't want to put his foot in it by saying something that maybe Buffy or Dawnie would want to tell us personally. I'm sure that's all it is."
Xander didn't catch the next thing Anya said as the phone fell from her hand with a clatter.
His voice sounded tinny as it came from the earpiece of the handset, but Anya's attention was focussed on the man who had just walked into The Magic Box.
"Hello, Anya," he said in his smooth, educated accent. "Or do you prefer Mrs Harris, these days?"
His words seemed to break through Anya's shocked veneer and she ran across the floor to throw herself at him. "Giles, you're back!"
"So it would appear," the watcher answered, his amusement plain in his voice, as he dropped his bags and his arms enfolded the slight form of the young woman.
"You can make Wesley tell us what's going on when he gets back. You have seniority, don't you?"
Giles looked down at the woman with a wry smile. He hadn't been back on the Hellmouth for five minutes.
"If you mean that I'm older than him, yes, but since neither of us are in the council's employ, I doubt I can make Wesley do anything by any means short of physical violence. And from what I heard about Faith's attempts at torture I'm not sure that would work particularly well either.
Now, why don't you stick the kettle on and make a pot of tea and then you can tell me why I would want to?"
After several shouted hellos and Anyas failed to re-attract his wife's attention, Xander tried shouting money a few times instead. When that didn't work he pressed the button on his cell that would end the call.
Spike threw himself repeatedly against the cell's glass front, uncaring of the electrical charges, which jolted through his body at every attempt. Instead of a corridor and an identical row of cells facing him, he looked down on a view of the pit. As he watched impotently, the white-coated doctors had Dawn's upper body strapped down to a cold steel table. Her feet were strapped into a set of stirrups, her body from just below the collarbone to mid thigh draped in a green surgical sheet that hid what the men and women did to her from Spike's view. Just the same, every agonised look in those blue-grey eyes tore at his heart, even from fifty feet.
"Spike, stop it. You'll hurt yourself." As he rebounded off the glass again a small hand caught at his arm. "It's like this. You just have to believe."
Slowly Buffy reached out a hand toward the glass. Electricity arced and crackled but didn't come within six inches of the point where her hand passed through the clear surface. Her wrist followed then her forearm. As her bicep was swallowed by the barrier, she reached out to Spike with her other hand. "These cells are for monsters, Will. If you believe in who you are they can't hold you. You don't belong in a cage. You belong with me. You belong with us." Spike was mesmerised by the gentle words the slayer spoke. His gaze locked on hers, still awed and amazed by the love that shone from her greenish eyes. He didn't even realise that he was free of the cell until she tugged at his arm, yanking him towards the pit. Before he matched his pace to her own he had to look back at the seemingly impenetrable glass wall behind him, still unable to comprehend the miracle that his woman's faith in him had wrought.
"No!" The cry brought all three of the bed's occupants from their sleep.
Dawn's eyes were bright with unshed tears and Spike pulled her to him as he stroked her hair and whispered soothing words.
"Shhh, pet. It's alright. You're home now. Everything's going to be alright."
Dawn pushed herself forcefully away from his arms. "No. No, it's not okay. I'm not okay. Do you know what she did to me? Do you understand? You swore that you would die before you let someone hurt me. You swore." Her words died away to be replaced by sobs.
Buffy's arms wrapped around the tearful teen, but her eyes were fixed on the horrified face of her fiancé. Dawn was simply acting out, but her words couldn't have hurt the vampire any more had they been chosen with that specific purpose in mind. Buffy could see the pain on his face clear as day. Then, he rolled from the bed and picking up the orbs and his cigarettes, he left. Even when he was no longer in the house, she could feel his pain and his regret, as she was sure he could still feel hers.
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