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
Spike cocked his head and listened as he heard the car draw to a stop nearby. When he confirmed that the footfalls were moving toward the Summers' house, he abandoned his current chore of scraping the paint from the windows of the DeSoto to make his way around to the front of the house. He knew he had to intercept the visitor before they could reach the front door, or more importantly, the doorbell.
Even as Xander reached for the door handle, Spike called out in a voice he hoped wasn't loud enough to carry up to Dawn's room and disturb his girls, getting quieter again as he got closer to the carpenter. "Wouldn't bother. Should be locked. Finally managed to convince Buffy that leaving the door open to all and sundry, while it may occasionally save on the replacement bills, wasn't really the best idea in the world."
Xander's eyes narrowed as he replied, trying the handle anyway. "I get it. All and sundry meaning me."
"No-o-o. All and sundry including you. There's a difference."
Spike fished in the front pocket of his jeans to pull out a key for the door, waiting for the young man to step aside so he could open it.
"If you're lookin' for Red or Glinda you're out of luck 'cause they're supposed to be workin' late at the library on some project or other." Spike pushed the door open and stepped through. "Point of fact, unless you want to grab a beer and keep quiet while I catch up on Passions, you're out of luck all round, I'm afraid."
Xander followed the vampire in, protesting as he did so. "But the hospital said that Dawn was discharged. She's got to be here."
Spike shifted, whether intentionally or instinctively to block the stairs.
"You're not listening, Special Ed. I didn't say they weren't here. I just said if you wanted to see them you'd have to shut up and wait."
"What do you mean wait? Wait for what? Dawn hasn't had a relapse? You haven't had to get the doctor out, have you?"
"No... No doctor. They're just busy. Like I say, if you want to see them, you'll have to wait or come back later." The tightly clenched muscles in Spike's jaw left no doubt as to which of the scenarios he would prefer.
"How much later? And what do you mean busy? What are you trying to hide?"
"Bugger all." With two words Spike managed to convey his disdain for the Scooby's insecurities. "But if Buffy or Dawn had wanted you to know what they're doing, they've had more than ample opportunity to tell you, so I can only assume that they don't want you to know."
"So you're not hiding anything. I guess, in that case, you told us all everything there is to know about what happened to Dawn last night?"
Spike's temper flared in defence of his adoptive daughter. "No, I bloody didn't, and I don't bloody intend to."
Xander nodded his head as if coming to a realisation. "I know what you're up to, Spike. Calling meetings at demon's houses, bringing in your biker, English, leather-wearing sidekick. That's why he gets to know about Dawn but none of us do. You've always wanted to break us up and when that didn't work you're just replacing us, instead. We're being supplanted by a bunch of demons and English guys and your harem. You just want it to be all your friends telling the slayer what to do. That's why we didn't get invited to LA until it was all but over."
Spike's jaw had literally dropped open halfway through Xander's tirade, but it didn't take him long to recover. "Have you listened to yourself? I have never met such a self-important, paranoid wanker in my life." 'Mostly because Angelus was never that paranoid,' he thought to himself. "Does it even occur to you that we might simply not be telling you every detail of every last trauma Bit endured because it is simply. None. Of. Your. Business? I know and Red knows because we were the ones who found the evidence. The only person I told was Buffy and if her or Dawn chose to tell Wes, or if he overheard anything at the hospital, then I'm glad he's not shouting his mouth off. It shows he has some respect for other people's privacy, which is a damn sight more than I can say for you.
And as to replacing you so that my friends can tell the slayer what to do. If, by that, you're saying that you and Red have been using Buffy like some sort of trained dog for the last six years, then I'd really like to hear what she thinks of that.
And I suspect the reason you weren't asked to LA until it was all but over is that chances are Buffy didn't ask anyone in Sunnydale for help to begin with. I suspect that unlike you, the others actually decided for themselves to come help out when they heard what had happened, so if you're feeling left out about it then I suspect it's all your own fault."
"Enough!" Buffy's voice carried down from the upstairs hallway, where she, Dawn and Reverend Hamilton now stood. Neither man had any idea how long they had been there. Xander gave an audible gulp as he saw the minister in his distinctive garb, his eyes seeming to lock onto the man's dog collar in horror.
"Spike, just back off... please. Xander, you leave or you wait quietly with Spike for another hour. Those are your only two options. Didn't you listen when he told you we were busy, or were you too busy letting your demon paranoia take over your mouth to use your brain? And in future maybe you could call."
"What? No, I just wanted to see Dawnie and make sure she was okay."
This time it was Dawn herself who replied. "No, Xander. No, you didn't. You were just feeling sorry for yourself because someone else knew something you didn't. Boo hoo. So Xander felt like the odd man out. Well, does it make you feel any better to know that she taped me down to a table and stuck some thing inside me and then jacked it open nice and wide so she could have a good look and check everything was in working order? Does it?
Does that make you feel like a big man? Maybe you and Anya can use it in one of your little role-play sessions." As soon as her pain stopped providing fuel for her mouth the teenager broke down in tears. Xander stared at her tear-stained face and would have given anything to take back his shouted words so that she wasn't hurt and he could have remained in ignorance.
The minister cleared his throat. "I think those of us who aren't family should leave now, don't you?" He looked at Xander, who belatedly realised that the wooden banister was making cracking noises under Spike's fingers and the eyes that stared angrily at him were golden and not blue.
"Yeah... yeah... I guess so." Xander backed the few feet to the door, afraid that if he turned his back on the vampire that he would miss the moment the demon's control snapped. In his present state, Xander was sure that the vampire would happily beat him through the pain.
As soon as Xander was out the door Spike practically flew up the stairs to wrap himself around Dawn's back, so that she was held securely between him and Buffy.
The minister placed a gentle hand on Buffy's shoulder. "I'll just fetch my Bible and then I'll let myself out. Why don't you call nearer the time to confirm whatever arrangements you want to make for next week?"
None of the three people remaining really noticed when he let himself out, and neither did the young man who sat outside in his car with his head resting on the steering wheel.
Spike teased the puffy-eyed teenager as he and the two girls lounged across the youngster's bed.
"I could give him a great big snog and then bite his tongue out. That would shut him up a bit."
Dawn's mouth twitched upwards slightly despite herself. Her voice still held a gentle tone of reprimand as she voiced her disapproval. "Spike, you're an engaged man. You're not meant to 'snog' anybody but Buffy ...though I would love to see the look on Xander's face if you tried."
"Okay, scratch that one. I could rip his balls off. It's meant to work with cats, makes them less territorial and prone to get in fights and stuff."
Dawn giggled. "Yeah, then Anya would rip off yours. Don't think she'd be very keen on being married to a dud."
"Hmm, good point. Doubt Buffy would be thrilled about it either."
Now that some of Dawn's earlier good mood had been restored, Buffy decided it was time to intervene. "Don't you think it's about time you two stopped discussing which bits of my best friend you could remove by various means?"
Spike looked at Dawn's alarm clock. "We've only been at it for ten minutes. We could keep it up for hours yet."
"Yeah? Well, me and Dawn have got more important things to do." Buffy picked up the bottle of silver nail polish and indicated Dawn's unfinished manicure.
"Makeover time, is it? I guess I better scarper before you pair have me looking like Tammy Faye Bakker." With a last stroke to Dawn's hair Spike rose from the bed. "Just shout if you want me."
"As if!" the teenager replied, but the look in her eyes said otherwise. "Back to work, vamp boy. You know it's not that long until my sixteenth birthday, and I need to be able to see what I'm doing if I'm going to learn to drive before Buffy."
"Y'know a man can only be pushed so far, Bitlet."
"I know, and the rest he does because he loves us."
With a quick growl the vampire left the room, letting Dawn have the last word, just because he could.
It was half an hour later when the sound of the phone had Spike dashing into the kitchen with a shout of, "I've got it." After only a few brief exchanges Spike replaced the phone in the receiver before heading upstairs to pass on his news.
"That was the watcher. Wanted to know if it was okay to come over later, so I told him he might as well come over and stay for dinner as eat on 'is own. That okay with you two?"
"I kinda thought it would be just the three of us tonight," Dawn sounded disappointed.
"Well, if you want I can ring him back and say it's a no go. And I guess that idea I had about seeing whether Brandon's dad would let him come over if I picked him up would be a non-starter as well." The vampire gave a theatrical sigh. "I'll just go let him know that the Summers household is not at home to visitors this evening."
"Did he say what he wanted?" Buffy asked, sounding concerned.
Spike gave a quick shake of his head. "Just that he had some news."
"It's probably just another Apocalypse." Dawn snorted derisively. "Big news. Get with the dad calling already."
The vampire raised an eyebrow. "Number one, I had a feeling you might want to make the call. Number two, it's still school hours, so if he got someone else to look after the kid and went to work he won't be there. Number three, I am about to nip out and buy a few beers and some extra bits and pieces for dinner. And number four, I am not your unpaid servant, whatever you might think."
The last point seemed totally lost on Dawn, however. "Ooh, can you get some more cookie dough mint fudge, and some diet seven up. Oh, and some chocolate would be good, or maybe some chocolate ice cream? Something chocolatey anyway."
Spike turned on his heel and began to walk away. The last thing he caught before Buffy closed the bedroom door was Dawn's anguished cry of, "heyyy, I wasn't finished yet!"
A couple of hours later Spike was busy in the kitchen when the doorbell rang.
"Buffy, pet, can you get that? It's probably our dinner guest. I've kind of got my hands full."
Buffy's eyes widened in surprise as she pulled open the door. Her joy and surprise were both evident in her voice as she said his name before, with a welcoming smile, she wrapped her arms around the man's neck and hugged him until he was gasping for breath.
Her cry was closely followed by a small crash from the kitchen and a much louder, "bloody hell!" Seconds later, the vampire appeared in the living room doorway.
"Spike!" Buffy berated him as she clung to Giles' arm. "You let me think you were talking about Wesley."
Her fiancé nodded his head toward the open doorway, from which the distinctive sound of a large motorbike engine could be heard for a second or two before it was cut off.
"That would be because I was talking about Wesley. Guess you better set an extra place at the table, pet.
So?" He turned to Giles. "Two watchers at one time? I guess this means it really is an apocalypse."
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