SECTION 4 - ELSEWHERE
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
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.
Sunday, May 19th, 2002
Willow preceded the group into the house and Buffy took care to position herself between the bitter witch and her Watchers. Willow seemed to be helping them but Buffy didn't want to take any chances.
"I guess you're not in your old room, then?" the blonde asked.
"What gave it away?" Willow countered sarcastically, as she pushed open a door on the corridor that ran through from the front door to the kitchen. Pulling a cord to put on a light, she led the way down a set of cold, concrete steps into the house's basement. Looking around the cramped room, Buffy could see that much of the room's content had been hastily stacked against one of the walls, making barely enough room to accommodate the witch's old bed and desk. "Maybe it was the fact that mom told you she'd converted my room into a study when you came snooping round the other night, huh?"
"Actually, I'd kinda forgotten, or at least I thought if you moved back in they would shuffle stuff round again."
"Well, you thought wrong."
"Willow..." The blonde shook her head, at a loss for words. "Really, if the situation were different I'd love to sit here and let you vent and get whatever is bothering you off your chest, but right now I need to know what's going on with Spike. He's really ill and I'm scared I'm going to lose him and you seem to know more about what's going on than any of us."
"The mighty Slayer reduced to begging-," the witch drawled before Giles cut her off.
"Willow, this behaviour is-."
"Yes, Will, if that what it takes, I'll beg." Buffy overrode the oncoming lecture. "If that is what it takes I will get down on my knees and beg you to tell me what's wrong with Spike." To Giles and Wesley's shock, she matched gestures to her words, kneeling on the cement floor.
"Buffy..." Willow's facade of indifference cracked at the sight of her friend humbling herself in a way she should never have needed to and her tears fell like the first trickles of water seeping through the cracks in a dam before it disintegrates completely. "Buffy." the witch took her friend's hands and pulled her from the floor to a sitting position on the bed, taking a seat facing her. "I don't know. I'm sorry. I just don't know."
"Hi," Tara's greeting betrayed a certain nervousness. "It's Tara. We met last night. I didn't get you up, did I?"
"Not yet. The phone's next to the bed. What time is it?"
"A little after nine."
Bee groaned and pulled her quilt with its broderie anglaise cover back over her somewhat tousled head but kept the phone to her ear. There were whole mornings when the Barbie pink of her bedroom walls was too much to bear.
Rupert gave a small "rowl" in protest at being woken by anything other than breakfast before he settled back on the pillow opposite Bee's. "This isn't just about going out for a drink or helping you prep for your Art History, is it?"
"No, sorry, it's not. I need some help on the research front. So far, I haven't been able to come up with anything here and I wondered if perhaps you might have any books over there that might help."
"That watcher isn't there, is he?"
"Giles? Not at the moment... No."
"And it's really urgent? It couldn't wait until... say noonish?"
"Spike's been poisoned. He's hallucinating and running a fever. He's lost a good deal of his body weight overnight and however much we feed him it doesn't seem to help. I can't find an exact match for his symptoms in any of the references we have here, and Wes has gone with Buffy to check up on a lead so if he has any others we can't get to them."
"Give me the address. I'll be there in half an hour with any books I have that might help."
Bee pushed the duvet back and padded to pull open the room's white curtains which did little to block the morning sun in any case. Picking up a pencil she scribbled the slayer's address on the inside cover of a sketchbook that lay on a table. Rupert followed her, brushing in between her legs until she opened the fridge, removed a braised chicken breast she had prepared the previous evening and sliced it up to go in his bowl.
She threw aside the black knee-length nightshirt she'd been wearing, tossing a pair of slacks and a tailored blouse on the bed. By the time Rupert had finished his breakfast she was dressed, wearing her trademark red lipstick and black eyeliner and had a stack of half a dozen books, ready to take with her. She jingled the metal on the strap she held in her hand and Rupert trotted over, waiting patiently at her feet as she made her final preparations to leave before he stalked downstairs at her side.
Rogue backed away as Buffy lay down on the bed. The dog kept her head down low, her growling more pronounced than ever and as she shuffled back her hindquarters nudged the fevered vampire further away from his mate.
"Shhh, you dumb dog!" The slayer held out a hand toward the growling bitch as if to let her sniff it and check her scent, but it did nothing to calm the beast, who backed away further, torn between her apparent fear of the woman on the bed and her need to defend her master. Buffy still wore the boots and jacket she had donned for her trip to Willow's, not even bothering to take them off before she made her way to Spike. "I'm not going to hurt him.
Will, you don't look good. How do you feel? Did the blood help any?"
"Right here, baby. I'd give you a hug, so that you could feel that it's me but your new girlfriend seems a bit jealous this morning."
"I'll get rid of her." Spike tugged at the dog's collar, but in his weakness, for every inch he pulled her back the dog struggled forward another so he couldn't shift her from her self-appointed guard post. "Sorry, love."
"It's okay. Nothing matters except making you better and I have to say you don't look any better."
"Sorta think that's a bit of an understatement, kitten."
"It's the blood. You need something stronger."
"Buffy!" The vampire's tone held as much exasperation as he could muster. "I already told you..." Spike's eyes changed to swirls of gold as his anger brought on the change to demon form that in his debility he was unable to prevent.
"Wait! Not me. Just listen... You can smell it, can't you? She's just the other side of that door, changing the dressing on her leg." Buffy nodded toward the bathroom, smiling like the cat that got the cream when Spike responded with a feral growl. "You said it sings. Her blood calls out to you to take it. She's made from me you said. It's not like you'd be hurting a real person. She's just a part of me, like an extra limb or something. Just slayer blood in human form. She doesn't even have a soul..."
Spike struggled to regain his human form as his hands reached up to cover his ears. For an instant as he shook his head in denial, he managed to shrug off the ridges that had risen on his brow. Mere seconds later, they returned.
"...Only real humans have souls. There's no way those monks could give her one. All she is is an extra bit of me. If you won't do it for yourself, then do it for us. We should be free. You could show me the world while I'm still young enough to enjoy it. New York... Europe... Asia... a never-ending honeymoon. We could have it all if we didn't have to play mommy and daddy. She's stealing away my youth, just like she killed mom. They made her live and mom paid the price. The cosmic scales had to be balanced. I'm a slayer. There's almost no hope that I'll survive long enough to see her through college. We're never going to be able to have time for ourselves. If you don't do this my whole life is going to be used up looking after her..."
Buffy dripped one poisoned thought after another into his fevered brain, using just enough truth to stop him from being able to come up with a convincing argument against her.
"Perhaps you could tell us what exactly you do know, then," Giles suggested softly, taking over as Buffy seemed to have been stopped in her tracks by Willow's denial.
The onetime redhead looked slightly embarrassed as she watched her questioner through her eyelashes, gauging his response to her reply. "When Xander brought me over to pick up my stuff, I sorta listened in on what you were all saying inside... even after we left. I guess I was feeling... well... victimised. I was sure that you were all going to be talking about me behind my back, so I listened in... When you were talking about this guy from Willy's..." she clarified, noting their lack of comprehension as to what she was implying.
"I guess I probably wouldn't have bothered too much about what you were saying, but there's not a lot to do down here of an evening and I was bored. I guess it sort of let me test myself as well. I mean it wasn't much of a description but I managed to find your guy just the same." For an instant a look of pride settled on Willow's face before she saw the disapproving look both the former watchers treated her to.
"It wasn't all magic." The witch tried to justify herself. "He was mentioned in the council minutes and stuff. That's how I found his address."
"You have access to Watchers' Council minutes?" Wes interrupted, sounding slightly concerned at the apparent breach in security.
"Not the Watcher's Council. Sunnydale City Council. Robin Wood is Snyder's replacement. When the High School re-opens, he's going to be the one in charge. According to the minutes I read, his contract began early, to give him a chance to recruit the staff he needs over the summer. What I don't understand is how he managed to get the job, considering I can't find any record anywhere of him ever having got so much as a teaching certificate."
Buffy blanched visibly. "You mean I'm supposed to send my sister to a school where the principal has a grudge against my family?"
"Well, I guess with Spike helping out you could send her to Miss Porter's..." Wes suggested.
"I'm not sending my sister to some girls' school. She's a kid, not some proto-Watcher."
"Buffy... Perhaps for now we could hear the rest of what Willow has to say."
"There's not much more to tell. I thought I'd check the address from the council's HR records. They have him listed as staying at a motel not far from the centre of town and I thought he might have moved on. So just in case maybe he had found something more permanent I figured I should check it out. I was hoping if he was still there and he'd been going round bars checking up on Buffy and Spike that I'd see him when he was coming back. As it turned out I guess he'd been having a quiet night in. I'd almost given up when he decided to go for a midnight stroll." The witch shrugged. "I figured there could only be one reason why he would be visiting all the butchers' shops and packing plants when they were all closed for the night, but I couldn't risk getting close enough to see what he was doing."
Willow looked Buffy straight in the eye as she finished speaking. "I know since we started college we haven't been as close as we were in high school. I mean, Spike pulled all our strings back when he sided with Adam and we all said we were going to work things out and make things better again, but then with your mom and stuff and then... And well, me and Spike, not exactly best buds... especially the last couple of days, but it's not like I could ignore what he was doing. He Wood he, not he Spike he. And it's not like I could pick up a phone and warn you either. I suppose I was still ticked at Spike, too, so I didn't want you to know I sorta helped him. I mean Spike. I didn't help Wood. I mean with the making the blood go off so Spike wouldn't drink it.
It was only later that I realised whatever he was doing, it might not be the first time he had tried it."
Dawn had just finished taping down the fresh dressing on her leg when the shrill chirp of the phone had her dashing into the room now occupied by her sister and her boyfriend. Snatching the handset from its cradle without so much as a glimpse in the direction of the bed, she couldn't prevent her voice from betraying her anxiety and impatience.
"Buffy? Is that you?"
"No," a rich male voice replied. "I'm guessing by now that you've got one sick vampire on your hands. If you want to know what's wrong with him I suggest that he comes alone to 1570 Maple. You've got a hour and if anyone else interferes you'll never find out what's wrong with him... At least, I suppose you might eventually, but by then it'll be too late for him."
"1570 Maple. One hour. Him. Alone." The words were immediately followed by a sharp tone. Dawn looked at the receiver in panic as if it could provide an answer to her dilemma.
A squeaky mattress spring made Dawn turn as she called Tara's name. She stared straight into a pair of golden eyes from less than a foot away and the Wiccan's name died on her lips.
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