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
"So who exactly do you think she's going to try to summon?" Giles asked Spike.
The vampire turned on him irritably. "Do I look like the bloody watcher in the pack? I thought that was what you were here for? Better yet, ask demon bint. She's been to half these places. Probably used to go to the same bloody parties as half the things Red might conjure up... Or maybe Tinkerbell'll know what's in the books they've got between them.
All I know is the so-called Master's meant to have tried the like after that earthquake, an' before they managed to send the bugger back where it came from the Brotherhood of Aurelius found themselves short a couple of dozen flunkies, Darla not included, unfortunately. Mind you, he was a soulless, evil , arrogant sociopath rather than just an amoral one, so at least he had an excuse.
Bit, go get dressed and when you've done that, come back down and bring your cell and an overnight bag, just in case. Quick as you can. Reckon as we're goin' to have to see if lover boy's okay with a change of venue."
"Right, Giles, Wes, you get The Magic Box." Buffy fell into organising mode. "We'll drop Dawn off and then head for Willow's parents.
Anya, you're at yours, right? I can't think of anywhere else in town itself that we need to check and Giles can let him and Wes into the shop. So, if you can call Tara back and bring her up to date with what we think and then stay there for just now, you're not too far from either the campus or the town once we have a definite location."
"Buffy, if you're right, anything that would do what she wants..." Anya told the slayer, knowing that she was asking to get her head snapped off. "It's going to want a sacrifice in return. That kind of magic can change someone. If you do find her she may not be the Willow you know."
"Thanks, Anya." Buffy answered, too calmly Anya thought for her to have fully absorbed the import of what she had told her. "We'll be in touch."
"Okay, guys. More bad news. Anya says the spell would need a sacrifice. I'm guessing you guys all know more about the significance of that than I can tell you."
"Not so much, pet." Spike gave her an uncomfortable look. "Won't bother her half as much this time as it did the first time around."
Buffy and Wesley both looked shocked. Giles, Spike noted, did not.
"Willow's done this before?"
"I suppose I can't say for certain, but you tell me anywhere you know where you can buy the blood of a pregnant doe? I mean, reckon there's quite a few folk of the fanged variety would pay for a delicacy like that but I've never heard tell of anywhere sellin' it. What about you, Rupes? You heard tell of anything like that, bein' in the trade an' all?"
"No, Spike. You know I haven't."
Spike shrugged. "Like I said, second time'll be easier, an' if she thinks she can take that back along with everything else, she might not even think twice."
"You say that like she won't be able to." Buffy asked her voice concerned.
"You know they say there's no such thing as a free ride, pet. If you're talking about magic you can take that and double it. Actually, depending on the school of thought you can either triple it or multiply it by seven. Whatever stunt she pulls, it'll come back on her."
"Then we've got to stop her before it gets that far." She looked over at the two watchers. "We're waiting for Dawn. What's your excuse? Call us as soon as you have a location."
Buffy and Spike drove away from Brandon and his father's house having promised, if possible, that they would be back to pick up Dawn at ten, otherwise they would call to let her know what happened and pick her up at seven the next morning.
"It was for me, wasn't it?" Buffy asked as they pulled away.
Spike shrugged. "What other spell of hers d'you think I'd bother to check out?"
Buffy sighed. "All the lines she's crossed with her magic. They're all my fault, from putting Angel's soul back to ritual sacrifice. They've all been for me."
"Pet, the way I recall it, you were restin' happily up in heaven. You didn't ask her to do what she did... And if you want my opinion, that whole crock about thinkin' you were in hell was just a smokescreen Red put up t'con the others into goin' along with her.
I dunno, maybe by the time she got around to actually doin' it she convinced herself as well. Thing is, are you tellin' me a witch as smart as Red couldn't have found a way to check? Are you tellin' me someone that bright couldn't figure out that dyin' for your little sis and the rest of the world would get you a ticket to heaven, even if you hadn't been an angel all along?" He gave her a flirtatious grin, trying to lighten the mood just a little.
"In my book Red brought you back for one reason. She thought bein' the slayer was this great important destiny. Well, two reasons. Anyway, when she got left to run things she found out the difference between goin' with you on an odd patrol and fightin' the demon's night after night and she didn't want to carry that responsibility any more. She did it for her, not for you.
Y'know at the time I didn't get why Red didn't grieve, not after the first couple of days. Guess she just couldn't take it, so she was plannin' on bringin' you back almost from the start. It was always all about her, pet.
Don't you think that if she'd done it for you she'd have been there for you when you came back? Or that if she was worried about you that they'd have helped out on patrols to give you time to readjust? Or that maybe she could have paid a bit of extra rent and got an upgrade or something instead of a whole new laptop?
I know you hang onto those bloody 'best friend' labels. I'll even admit with Harris he had good reason to be a bit preoccupied, an' when all's said an' done if I got staked tomorrow it'd make me feel better to know he'd be around for you, even if I can't stand the prick. All the same, it seems to me that the person who's actually been your best friend for the last year, is the one you don't bother givin' the title to. An' Red gets the credit, but I doubt she's done anything to suit anybody but herself in a bloody long time."
Silence filled the car and Spike began to think he'd overstepped the mark. Just the same, the fact was whatever else came of this night's events, the only way that Willow and Tara would still be a couple at the end of the night was if Willow succeeded in her goals and no one but her was ever any the wiser. This time, if Spike had any say in the matter, it would be the aggrieved party who got the support of her friends not the person who he considered was as guilty of rape for what she'd done to Tara as Sam was for what she'd done to Dawn.
Seconds ticked by and the overly tense muscles in Spike's jaw ticked along with them. Then, Buffy's fingers brushed against his face. In her touch, he could feel her regrets and her reluctance but also her understanding and her acceptance.
"You're right. Last time this all fell to pieces, we none of us treated Tara as well as she deserved. I hope when this is over that she'll choose to stay with us. Either way, I put Willow's feelings over Dawn's after the car wreck and I told myself she'd get over it. After this though, I just don't think Dawn's ever going to feel secure living in the same house as her. I'm not entirely sure I wouldn't feel the same even if I didn't have Dawn to consider. I think she has to leave."
Spike pulled the car over in front of Willow's parents' house and turned to take Buffy's face in his hands.
"It's your house, love, and whatever you decided I wouldn't interfere, other than maybe to express an opinion, but I want you to know that I understand this was a hard decision for you. I'm proud of you for making it and I agree with you one hundred percent."
Buffy's eyes were bright as she looked up into his. "That's just it. It should be hard, but you know, it's kind of not. Sometimes it's like I don't know her at all. Sometimes she scares me."
Spike pulled her into his arms, holding her close and under cover of the embrace, his light-fingered left hand slipped the orbs from his own pocket into Buffy's.
"Sometimes she scares me, too, love," he whispered in her ear. "Sometimes she scares me, too."
As they pulled apart, Buffy looked the vampire in the eye. "You know, you make a lot bigger shield to hide behind than I do, and we still don't know what Travers is up to."
"I'm still only worrying about staking, beheading, fire and sunlight. You could get hurt a whole pile of other ways."
Buffy sighed. "I suppose I'm just lucky that you waited till after sunset to be all chivalrous."
Spike gave a snort of amusement. "Chivalrous is one thing, pet. Suicidally stupid is another. Speaking of which, let's go see if the red witch is making a parental visit."
Giles unfurled his arms from around Wesley's waist, giving the bubble gum pink helmet the same disgusted look as he took it off as he had when Wesley had first passed him the monstrosity. 'I knew I should have got a hire car,' he told himself.
He found that the motions of opening up the store were no longer second nature to him. He had to think about which keys to use, and fumbled through fitting them to the locks. Once inside, everything was much as he remembered, however. Between the two of them they quickly found the relevant spell book and started pulling the required crystals and powders from the shelves.
"Do you really think we can do this in time to stop her?" Wesley asked the older watcher.
"Stop her turning back time, or stop her summoning something powerful enough to kill us all?" Giles asked.
Wesley looked the older watcher in the eye. "You know none of us believe that she can actually summon something that powerful and have enough power left to make it obey her."
"I'll assume you meant the latter, then. Prophecies can be thwarted, but... in this case, I have my doubts about it happening quite so conveniently," Giles explained even as he arrayed the spell components as shown in the book.
Several minutes later, Giles snuffed out the latest conflagration to take hold on the magic shop's Sunnydale street map. The paper sheet looked as if it had long been owned by a group of particularly careless stoners, but only the latest "spliff burn" was of interest to the two watchers.
"You ring Anya," Wesley suggested. "I'll call Tara. Whoever finishes first can get Buffy."
"Let me just ask one little tiny question here, Giles." Anya spoke in her best 'Are you all complete imbeciles?' voice.
"I get the whole talking her out of it idea... but what exactly am I meant to do if I get there and this thing is already chewing on her bones?"
"Well, in that case, I would say you have two options," the sentence became more laced with sarcasm as the watcher continued. "You either run, or if you prefer maybe you can die just a little sooner than the rest of us."
"There's no need to snap. I just wanted to know if you had actually made any plans for that eventuality.
I shall go now and steal Xander's car keys and drive illegally to my inevitable doom."
"Anya," Giles tried to interrupt but the former demon was on a roll.
"When Xander sobers up tell him I said I love him too." With that somewhat melodramatic exit the line went dead.
"You know, Bunny, I'm sure my husband will be able to tell you where we put all that stuff of Willow's when we converted her room into a study, but it's so nice to see you again. Willow said that you'd got engaged last time she called. I assume this must be Mike.
How is your mother? We never did get around to doing lunch after that whole thing at the town hall. You know, I really meant to call her but everything was just so hectic, and with Willow dating that rock musician we were so worried about her." She cast a worried glance at Spike's coif as if she were suddenly wondering whether such a style was possible for someone who wasn't in a band. "Why don't I get you both a soda? I'm sure Ira will be home in a couple of minutes and he'd be so disappointed to miss you."
"Really, I think we should be going. Maybe we can find a pet store that's open at one of the out of town malls or something. It's just when the heater blew, Willow said that all the bits for her fish tank were packed away over here and that it would tide us over till we could get to the store." Buffy raced through her cover story again. "'Cause the fish might get cold... at night... because it's colder then than during the day."
Buffy had never been so pleased at the prospect of facing a hostile demon, as she was when her phone rang and Wesley told her where to find the redhead.
"We, em, have to go. That was my little sister, well, her date actually," she amended when Spike's raised eyebrow intimated that the timbre of Wes's voice had probably been heard by Willow's mother. "They've, um, broken down and we need to go pick them up. So we have to go... now."
"Okay, dear. Well, if Ira knows where that heater is should we drop it across for you?"
Buffy tried to think of a good excuse for the house being empty and failed. "Why don't you do that?" she replied with a false smile instead.
As they opened up the DeSoto again, Spike passed Buffy ten bucks. "You're right," he told her. "I didn't think anybody could suck that bad at the undercover stuff."
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