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
"Xander, honey," Anya called, as she pushed open the apartment door. "I've brought a friend to meet you."
She turned to whisper to Evie. "He seemed kind of down when I got in. He doesn't normally drink, but I didn't quite get time to work out what was wrong, what with having to go look for Willow and everything. And the extra weight's kind of a recent thing."
"I'm assuming he's mortal, too?" Evie half-asked and half-commented.
"I plan to grow old with him," Anya announced proudly.
Evie gave a grin. "It could be arranged. I could give you a preview if you wanted?" Her eyes travelled to the still unconscious form of the brunette in the middle of the floor.
Anya tilted her head to one side and considered. "Nah, I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise. I'll take my chances."
The former vengeance demon leant over her husband's slumbering form and blew into his ear. Xander's hand came up and brushed at the area like a dog scratching at fleas. Anya leant over and shook his shoulder before kissing his cheek.
"Xander? Wake up, cookie-face. There's someone here to see you, well to see me really, but you can't just lie in the middle of the floor."
"Ahn?" Xander groaned. "I don't feel so good."
"Well, you wouldn't, hon, not after half a bottle of bourbon. I'll get you some water but you've got to sit up. We've got company. Once you meet Evie if you still don't feel so good you can go to bed."
Evie cleared her throat. "Annie, are you sure you don't want me to do my little post-party trick?"
Anya looked from the demon to her husband. "It might be an idea. Xander, you know how you feel real bad. Would you rather feel like this for hours or would you rather feel like you're really going to die for about five minutes and then be better?"
"Hon?" Xander looked at his wife as if she were talking a foreign language.
Anya rolled her eyes and started again. "Evie, my friend, can make you feel better quicker... but, she can't make you suffer any less. So basically all the after effects you'd get over the next day or so, they'd be... condensed. You see?"
"Not the brightest star in the sky, is he?" Evie asked.
"He's better when he's sober... well, a bit." Anya defended him.
"Hey, sitting right here. Well, lying right here, actually. Ahn, honey, why does your friend look like an extra from Babylon 5?"
Anya arched an eyebrow. "Xander, you spend your whole life on the Hellmouth and you still believed that all those extras were people in make up?"
Comprehension finally dawned and Xander jumped away from the Evie as if she was about to bite him. "D-demon!" Then, he noticed Anya's less than amused expression and forced himself to smile at their guest. "Of course, obviously a friendly demon, who is your friend and not going to kill us."
Evie grinned. "How big an us are you talking about? I mean, you and Annie are pretty safe, but your little witch friend could be dying right now."
"Evie!" Anya reprimanded. "Don't tease. Xander's not very good at reading demon folk. He'll think you mean it.
I know it's theoretically possible but Willow would have to be really stupid-."
"And what she did tonight wasn't? Bet she puts another ten or fifteen years on the clock before she stops trying to magic it away."
Anya gave an irritated toss of her head. "Like I'm just going to throw away money."
Xander sobered up in an instant, though that didn't prevent his brain from feeling like it was being crushed in a vice every time he moved his head to look from one woman to the other.
"What are you talking about? Did your friend hurt Willow?"
"Relax," Evie replied. "She's totally uninjured, and if she gets her life in order the effects are entirely reversible. If on the other hand she continues to misuse her power, she'll age herself into an early grave."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that your friend is lucky I'm the one she chose to summon up. Most people who could do what she wanted would rip her apart for having the nerve to do such an insulting summoning."
Xander levered himself into a standing position, only to discover that he didn't tower over Evie as he'd expected. Instead, he still had to tilt his head back to look her in the eye.
He couldn't help but think how much her eyes reminded him of Meg Foster's even as he demanded a clearer response, enunciating each word with as much menace as he could give it when part of his brain was telling him how close he was to a truly remarkable cleavage.
"What did you do to my friend?"
"I taught her a lesson. I linked her ageing to her moral decay. As she becomes more corrupt she'll become physically older."
"But Willow isn't corrupt."
Both women snorted their disbelief. "I told you before that when the quiet ones get a whiff of power they just run wild. All Evie's done is put the brakes on."
"I can't believe you." Xander turned on his wife. "You know what Willow means to me and you bring home someone who's done some sort of spell on her and expect me to make friends with her."
"Technically, it's a curse. And you expect me to be friends with Willow even after she manipulated Tara's memories so that Tara would stay with her and have sex with her. At least there's a reason other than pure selfishness behind what Evie did."
"Actually," Evie admitted, "I was mostly just pissed at the whole ruining my night off and thinking I'd want some stupid puppy. I guess I just spent too long as a mischief demon to go straight for the kill."
"Willow was going to give you a puppy?" the carpenter asked, confused once more.
Anya sighed again. "Willow was going to ritually sacrifice a puppy."
"No, I'm not listening to this. Willow wouldn't do that."
Evie caught Xander's gaze and held it. "You want to see what your Willow would do? Let me show you what your Willow would do."
Xander's eyes glazed over as Evie chanted once more in the demon tongue that she had used earlier. Anya watched as her husband's expression turned to one of horror before Evie passed the palm of her hand in front of his eyes and he blinked several times before shaking his head as if to clear it.
"It's lies. Willow's not like that. It's just an illusion."
Evie shrugged. "An illusion, yes, but an illusion based on what would have happened if things had gone to plan for your little witch tonight. And what could have happened after that.
Annie, I think I'm going to cut this visit short. You know how to get a message to me. If you want to arrange something for another time maybe the two of us can do something." The demon stepped forward and Xander noticed as she took hold of Anya by the shoulders that despite his perception earlier she wasn't more than a couple of inches taller than his wife. She placed a gentle kiss on each of Anya's cheeks before she disappeared, leaving Anya to glower at her husband.
"I'm going to go see what your friend did to Willow," Xander announced, pulling open the dresser drawer to look for his car keys.
"Fine," answered Anya. "Go see your little witch, but you won't get far without these." She pulled her hand from a pocket, letting his keys dangle from her fingertips. She walked into the bathroom, slammed the door behind her and locked herself in.
Xander didn't have a clue what he should do when the sound of sobbing reached him from the other side of the door.
"What should we call it?" Buffy asked sort of skipping backwards so that she could face Spike as she walked.
"Isn't that Bit's job if it's meant to be her mutt?" Spike asked.
"We can make suggestions. I like Byron."
Spike gave a snort of amusement. "Well, I reckon given our luck the 'mad, bad and dangerous to know' quote would probably be appropriate but that was Lord Byron, and your little stray just happens to be female."
"Oh..." Buffy sounded disappointed but this quickly passed. "Ew! Gross, Spike. Sniffing doggy sexy smells."
"You know, seeing as you forced me into tracking her, it's not like I could just not pay any attention."
"Alright. Hypocrite Buffy. Can you tell if we're getting any closer?"
"Trail's still fairly old, but a dog that age, it's probably scarpered like the blazes and then curled up for a kip because it's knacked itself."
Spike grabbed at Buffy's arm just in time to stop her tripping over an exposed tree root. "Watch you don't drop that bloody tub." The vampire indicated a large Tupperware dish that the slayer was carrying. "Bad enough cookin' for two hours to give the stuff to a dog without droppin' it before we even find the mutt." He took the container from her hands and placed it on the ground before pulling her close.
As Spike's lips neared her own Buffy teased the vampire. "It's just some stinky old beef casserole."
Spike nibbled gently at Buffy's lower lip before responding. "That is not some stinky old beef casserole. That is prime steak cooked in brown ale, and if we hadn't had to race off before I got time to add the finishing touches it would have been Flemish carbonnade of beef."
"Phlegm-y, carbonised beef? How appetising." Spike was captivated by the laughter in her eyes. His hands came up to cradle her face as he made to kiss her again and his love for her arced through her whole body like a massive power surge. She felt revitalised, as if with this man beside her she could do anything.
Buffy opened her mouth in a low moan as the sensation flowed through her and Spike's mouth covered hers in a passionate but tender kiss. Buffy was unable to prevent the swell of her own feelings of love and desire from engulfing both of them, nor did she want to do so.
When he finally drew his head back, Spike scooped his woman into his arms and spun her round until her laughter reached the sky.
"You are insane," Buffy told him as he finally slowed to a halt, letting Buffy slide down his body as he returned her to her feet.
"Uh-huh," conceded the vampire, "but only when it comes to you." Buffy made no attempt to move away from the circle of his arms. In fact she pressed against him until something hard ground into her hips.
Her tongue flicked out to moisten her lips before she asked in an arch voice, "Is that half a set of manacles in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"
"Both," Spike answered in a huskier voice than his normal. "Now, unless you want me to drag you into those bushes over there, we'd better go find that mutt."
"Well, not that I would mind... but Dawn is waiting. And who knows what could happen to a poor defenceless puppy on the streets of night-time Sunnydale?"
He scooped the container up from its place on the ground and passed it to her. "Let's make this quick, then. You never know. We might squeeze a minute or two for ourselves once we round up all the waifs and strays."
"Yeah, like anything we can do in less than a couple of hours doesn't leave us both just wanting more?" All the same her free arm slipped around Spike's waist under his coat, her thumb hooking onto his belt loop so that it was anchored firmly, and Spike wrapped an arm around her shoulders to hold her near as they set off once more at a slightly brisker pace.
They were almost back at Stevenson Hall when Spike announced that the dog was nearby, hiding in the bushes.
"Near enough?" Buffy asked.
"Probably... Won't hurt to try, and I'd rather not crawl round on my hands and knees trying to drag the thing out."
Buffy opened up the Tupperware dish and set it on the ground a few feet from the bushes. Soon a snuffling could be heard nearby and then a canine nose appeared from under one of the nearby shrubs. The nose was followed by a head and shoulders and the dog regarded the pair suspiciously, though it was patently interested in the tub of food.
Buffy picked up the container and began to move very slowly toward the wary pooch, holding out her hand so that she could get her scent. Spike held back, knowing that some dogs were spooked by the scent of vampires.
He waited until the dog was completely out from under the bush and wolfing down what had been intended as dinner for five before he slipped the chain he carried from his pocket. At one end of the chain was a wrist cuff and at the other was a large metal ring that had once been used to fix the bindings to a wall or floor. Buffy had pulled apart the first link of the other chain that had until recently graced the hoop, thanks to the orbs. Now Spike let a loop of chain drop through the ring to form a crude, bulky, but hopefully effective improvised choke chain. He passed it to Buffy who managed to slip the noose over the dog's head whilst she was busy trying to lick the last of the gravy from the dish.
The dog looked up, obviously hoping for more, but when Buffy simply took the time to rub behind her ears and pet her she seemed content to stay there, trying to lick any bare flesh of Buffy's that came within reach of her mouth. Spike moved forward, holding out his hand to the beast, who sniffed it curiously before deciding that it, too, needed a coating of dog spit.
The vampire grimaced and rubbed his hand on the dog's coat to dry it off a bit.
"See?" Buffy asked triumphantly. "She might only be an adopted Summers woman but she was bound to like you."
Their new four-legged friend trotted after them quite happily until they got within a block of the clock tower at which point she sat down, began to tremble as if the temperature was sub-zero and refused, even when the chain pulled tight around her neck, to move another inch. Finally, Spike had to pick her up and carry her to the car, with her struggling all the way to get out of his arms.
"Whatever Red was up to before we got there, she certainly had the poor bugger spooked as hell. Don't know what the mutt's going to make of being in the same house as her."
"We'll just have to see." Buffy shrugged. "I guess if it's too bad we'll have to move her to Giles' hotel or something."
"Are we talking about Red or the dog, pet?" Spike asked as he pushed the dog into the back seat of the DeSoto and slammed the door shut before she could make a dash for it.
"What kept you guys?" Dawn was sitting with Brandon on a swing that hung from the front porch of his house, her bag at her feet. "You're twenty minutes late."
"We had to find something," Buffy answered. "Check out the back seat of the car." A wet nose was pressed against the newly-cleaned glass.
"A dog? You guys have got yourselves a dog?"
"Actually, I was thinking that you might want her. Of course, you would have to walk her before it got dark and clean up any mess she makes and stuff like that. Otherwise, I guess we'll have to take her to the pound tomorrow."
"The pound? You can't do that. They put dogs to sleep there."
"So they do." Buffy's face cracked into a grin. "I guess that means you want to keep her, huh?"
A suspicious look crossed Dawn's face, and she looked from one of the pair to the other. "What brought this on?"
"We'll tell you when we get home. For now, why don't you say goodbye to Brandon? We'll wait in the car."
She pulled an obviously reluctant Spike away from the younger couple. As they got back in the car the vampire mused, "I wonder how you'd go about training the mutt to growl at him every time he kisses her?"
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Why bother training the dog to do it when we've got you?"
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