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Fumbling Towards Ecstasy by TalesofSpike
Chapter 4.04
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Note: Thanks to my beta t_geyer for her unending patience, perseverance and support.


I love the time and in between
The calm inside me
In the space where I can breathe
I believe there is a distance I have wandered
To touch upon the years of
Reaching out and reaching in
Holding out and holding in

I believe
This is heaven to no one else but me
And I'll defend it
As long as I can be
Left here to linger in silence
If I choose to
Would you try to understand?

(Sarah McLachlan, Album - Fumbling Towards Ecstasy)
Thanks also to Emma for suggesting this way back
when I started FTE, even if it did take me three
months to follow through.
Hope she's still reading.

Chapter 4.04
Sunday, May 19th, 2002

"Spike?" Tara bent over, trying to look the vampire in the face. "I'm going to put this pendant round your neck. Okay? It's an agate. It has protective properties. I know it's not your normal style, but..."

Tara fastened the delicate gold pendant with its orangey brown banded stone centre around the vampire's neck. "Tomorrow there's a working I can do to make its protection more potent, but I need sunlight for that, so for now we'll have to make do."

Spike managed to nod his acquiesence. "Anythin's worth a-." The vampire doubled over the sink, another bout of nausea hitting him in midsentence.

"Isn't there anything else we can do in the meantime?" Buffy asked, obviously frustrated by Spike's renewed incapacity and her own inability to do anything to combat it.

"I've already tried the only other protection spell that I had the components here to do and it doesn't seem to have helped any. If I can get the ingredients I can do that trance to see spells thing and then we'll at least know who or what is causing it. Maybe we can do something to stop them."

"Then call Giles at his hotel and get him to bring whatever you need from The Magic Box!"

Tara looked uncomfortable as Buffy snapped at her. "I don't know if Giles..."

"Giles will do whatever needs doing. He's part of the team, and if he decides that Spike isn't worth saving then he's turning his back on all of us as far as I'm concerned."

"I'll call him," Dawn volunteered. "Will he know what to get?"

"He sells the stuff to people. He should!" Buffy snapped.

"What's going on?" Wes demanded as he pushed through the door that Dawn had left ajar. "Dawn said it was an emergency." The former watcher was still pulling a sweater over his head as he made his way into the living room. He stopped dead when he saw the vampire stooped over the sink, still throwing up blood, though to those who had been there since since the beginning of the nausea attack it seemed that it might now be waning.

"What on earth?" the man looked on amazed at what he saw. "I didn't think vampires ever got sick."

"We're thinking curse." Buffy went into command mode. "Spike says he's seen it done before, but only using voodoo, and the people he knew who were capable of it are long dead. This is the third time it's happened in the last two days. First time, it was only stomach cramps. Earlier this evening, he was ill but didn't tell anyone at the time, and now again. Whoever is behind it, they're escalating the attacks. I'm betting on this Wood guy. From something Spike said earlier, I'm guessing his money's on Willow. Or we could both be wrong and it could be someone Quentin's hired. Could be Giles' wonderfully vague warning coming to fruition. Tara's done everything she can with what she has, but Dawn's calling Giles to get him to open up The Magic Box and bring some things. Is there anything to be gained from you being here while this is going on, or can you go pick up Giles from his hotel, take him to the shop and then bring him back here?"

"I think between you, Spike, Dawn and Tara I should be able to get all the eye-witness reports I need. Try to keep note of how long the bouts of sickness last for and whether they're getting worse or better... I haven't brought my car keys. I'll have-."

"Grab Spike's. They're on the hall table. It'll be quicker. Dawn! Tell Giles that Wes is coming to pick him up." Buffy turned back to the stricken vampire, her arms wrapping ever so loosely around his waist as she pressed against his back, only to draw back and touch a hand to her face and look down at the damp patches which showed on her robe.

"Spike, did you know that you're sweating? You're burning up."

Unwilling to speak, the vamp gave a gentle nod.

"Did this happen last time?" Another nod. "The time before." This time the vamp managed a soft, "No."

She enfolded him once more in a careful hug and whispered against his back, "We'll find a way to stop this. We've got Giles and Wes and Tara. We'll..." She paused, seeming to consider something. "Dawn, try calling Lily's place. There might still be people around from the party. See if you can get hold of Marie and then bring me the phone, okay?"

"If anyone had told me... even two years ago that Buffy would be pulling two watchers out of their beds to get them to help Spike of all people, I would have told them that they were completely barmy," Giles muttered as he pulled book after book from the shelves, trying to find the elusive one with Cloutier's spell.

"Malachite pendant?" Wes asked, pulling said item from a tray of multi-coloured stones which had been prepared ready to be worn on either a leather thong or a chain. "And if anyone had told me that Buffy could look as happy as I've seen her over the last week or two, I would probably have said the same to them."

Giles considered for a moment, wondering if he would ever be recompensed for the items, but then shrugged. If Wes was right about Spike making Buffy happy it didn't matter. "I don't suppose it will do any harm. See if there's anything else lying around that you think might prove useful." He stopped searching through the book shelves long enough to look at Wesley questioningly. "You really think Spike is in love with her? It's not just some obsession that will completely slip his mind the next time Drusilla waltzes into town and crooks her little finger."

"Drusilla is dust, Giles, and a large part of the reason for that is that even when he was under a spell where he had no memory of his relationship with Buffy, the bond between the two and his mark on her throat was enough to make him abandon his sire in favour of someone he remembered only as his adversary. What they share is uncanny from a purely emotional standpoint. As a watcher I have to say that seeing them in combat together is incredible. They know each other so well, it's as if they think as one."

Giles snorted. "You wouldn't say that if you heard the pair of them arguing."

"So they bicker a little. Then, they kiss and make up. It lets off steam and lets Spike convince himself that he hasn't gone good in his old age. There's never any lingering bad feeling. Everything is out in the open or it will be as they get to know more about each other's pasts. I have absolutely no doubt that the two of them care deeply about each other, or that Spike also has feelings of a familial nature for both Dawn and Tara. Though I suspect he wouldn't actually care for the term, I would say that Spike is as much a Champion as Angel. He's also far better suited to the role of consort, if you will. Spike will happily do Buffy's bidding, play second fiddle even though he is formidable in his own right, which isn't to say that he won't make his opinion known if he disagrees with her. Angel is happiest when he's at the centre of things. He does not conform well to the role of subordinate. If Angel had been the vampire who was here rather than Spike, I wouldn't have given it six months before he left her for some noble reason he made up. Buffy has become an extremely resourceful, self-possessed individual. Angel needs to be needed. He wants to be revered by the women in his life. However much Buffy may love Spike, or may have loved Angel, she doesn't ultimately need either one. Spike can cope with that. Angel would never have been able to.

Strange as it may seem, I think..." Wes paused as the shop's phone rang, the answering machine intercepting the call on the second ring. "That's probably her ringing to tell us to get a move on."

Spike tried to calm Buffy slightly as she put him to bed in her mother's old room. The bed had been pulled into the very centre of the room, to allow Tara to draw a protective circle around it. The ring of scented oils was indistinguishable by sight on the carpet's pattern, but the scents of primrose, lime, lavender and sandalwood were heavy in the air. "Look, I'm fine now," he insisted.

"Yeah? Then how come there was more sway than swagger to how you made it up the stairs? I was walking right behind you, remember. I could see you clinging to the banister trying to look like you were fine for Dawn. Well, I don't know if she bought the act, but up close and personal, I didn't. You're still burning up and you're starting to look like an extra in a George Romero film."

"But at least I stopped throwing up while I still had something to throw up this time, so that means I kept some of it down, so that's an improvement."

"Honey, no offence, but if this is the new improved Spike, I prefer the original formula."

"Pet, bottom line... It's not pretty but it's not directly life threatening. I have faith in you guys. You'll fix it, and you've already got Marie ringing round her contacts in Miami. Maybe she'll come up with something, and Tinkerbell's still tinkering, even though she should be either back in bed or hittin' the school books. You've got two of the Council's brightest, least the two that were bright enough to tell the Council to go stuff themselves. You're the crack team that sends all the bad guys packing, though technically I'm not entirely sure where you would actually place this particular bit of magic on the good - evil continuum seein' as how it's aimed at the Evil Undead. I'm a long, long way from being a goner. Maybe I'm not really in the mood for a bit of rough and tumble right this second, but as you told me once, 'I'll live'."

"You better, buddy, or I'll come hunt you down wherever you end up and sue you for breach of promise or whatever they used to call it. We've got a binding verbal contract for us both to be in that church on July twentieth, and I'm not letting you off the hook, even if I need to visit another hell to fetch you back."

"It's a nice thought, love, but even though I'm sure I'll end up payin' for my many and varied sins sooner or later, I've got no intention of bein' first to quit the dance floor."

"Just keep it that way, then." Buffy pressed a kiss to his damp brow, noting the dark circles under his normally vibrant eyes. "I'm going to go check to see whether they've come up with anything or if they're still not making with the progress. I'll be back soon."

"Stay... They're just getting ready to try that 'tirer la couture' thing. I kinda got the impression that would take a few hours."

"Well, it did when I did it. Maybe they're quicker at getting trancey."

"Come to bed, love. They'll come find you if there's any news and I can't sleep without you any more. Besides a rested slayer will kick butt so much better when they do find out who it is."

"You're just laying on the charm so that I come to bed."

"Is it working?" the vampire asked with a cadaverous shadow of his normal teasing smile.

"Yeah..." Buffy crawled onto the bed and climbed underneath the covers curling close enough to the vamp to stroke his hair back where it stuck to his forehead. "It always does, doesn't it?"

"I simply feel that perhaps your energy isn't as focused as it could be right now, with the break up, and that it might be better if Wesley or I were to perform the actual trance. It's very-."

"Giles, I understand what you are saying and if we didn't need to know soon who is doing this and exactly how they're doing it, I would even agree with you, but we do need to know, and given what Willow had to say on the subject of Spike the last time she was here, I think I'm the only true magic-user who can and will do it. I don't mean to be rude about you guys and I know in a pinch you can pull it off, but really you're more book guys whereas I'm practical magic girl.

How often do you meditate, Giles?"

"Well, that's beside the point, and for all you know either one of us could spend half the day, every day, in a trance."

"Only when someone mentions some rare old book, and then there's the whole drool thing. It could take you hours to reach the required level of consciousness. Do you really want to sit in the lotus position for that long?"

"I'm not as decrepit as you-."

"Giles!" Wes looked up from his appraisal of the spell book they had brought back from the magic shop. "Perhaps I might make a suggestion?"

"Well, what is it, man?"

"I've had a look through the spell, or trance. So far as I can tell there would be no adverse effects if one were to be roused from the meditative state before the process were completed, and if as you say, Tara's energy may not be sufficiently focused, I believe that she would simply fail to reach that higher state of consciousness required. I don't believe there is any risk.

In short, I believe it would be advantagous if we were all to attempt to perform the ritual. If one of us meets with success, they can rouse the others from their meditation or if they feel they require corroboration they can let the other two-."

"Three," Dawn stated flatly in a tone that should have warned anyone about even thinking of arguing with her.

"Dawn, I..." Giles tried, nevertheless.

"He just said it wasn't dangerous. This is our family, Giles. Buffy is going to want to be with him, but if this has a hope of working, the odds have got to be better with four trying, than with three. He would do anything he could to help me. It's time he learned it's a two-way street." Tara nodded her agreement, and Giles finally conceded total defeat.

"So how do we do this? One big circle for all of us, or four little ones?"
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