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Fumbling Towards Ecstasy by TalesofSpike
Chapter 4.16
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Sorry, I could have sworn that I posted and checked this twelve hours ago... but since it isn't coming up, I guess either I can't have or there's been some sort of glitch.

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 4.16
Sunday, May 19th, 2002

"Where's Buffy?" Wes asked as he made his way into 1630's living room.

"And hello to you, too, Wesley." Xander let his hangover show.

"She's changing into some dry clothes," Dawn informed him. "Couldn't get Miss Stinky to go for the shower though. She said she had to be ready to move as soon as Tara and Giles tell her where she's headed."

"I doubt that there's going to be any rush to action on that account. Tara and Giles are indisposed. I think the location spell had some unexpected side effects. We're on our own. So I guess we're going to have to rely on good old fash-."

"High school construction site. Everyone that's coming, grab a weapon and MOVE!" Buffy flew down the stairs so fast her feet barely made contact with the boards.

"...Or Buffy could come up with a location out of thin air," the Englishman suggested even as he grabbed an axe from Buffy's weapons chest.

"Wh- How?" Xander stammered.

"Weapons. Cars. Now."

Wes was already pulling the front door open and jogging for his vehicle before Buffy could get there. Anya had decided that she was weapons monitor and was passing out swords and axes to all, though she hesitated briefly before passing a weapon to Dawn. In less than a minute she pressed the last sword into Xander's unresisting hand and pushed him out the door.

Brandon and Dawn were already climbing into the DeSoto and the only evidence that Buffy and Wes had ever been there was the set of tyre tracks in the middle of the street.

"Not that I want to sound like Xander... but how?" Wes asked as he negotiated the shortest route to the site of the former high school, which considering Buffy used to walk it in less than ten minutes was a pretty short route.

"Wood hasn't realised that when he picks a fight with one of us, he picks a fight with us both. As soon as the adrenaline kicks in I can see what he sees, hear what he thinks. I think with him. He's at a construction site. That pentagram we saw is there. It's got to be the Hellmouth. Spike's trying to keep him away from the thingy. He knows we're coming, but he's weak, the walls are covered in crosses and the only thing he can do is try to keep Wood so mad he forgets what it is he wants to do and keeps pounding on him instead."

"I guess we're crashing the gate then?" Wes put his foot down as they approached the chain link fence, aiming the centre of the car at the point where the gates were held shut by a chain and padlock. "Brace yourself. Maybe we should have taken that extra few seconds for seat belts."

Wes thanked his lucky stars that the chain was the first thing to give and that the car's airbags didn't go off. The two gates swung apart with enough momentum to bounce back, close and then half open again, but by then Wes and Buffy were already making their way along the muddy track to the main structure.

Buffy twisted her head, comparing her view of the sun with Spike's until she could tell which way the vampire was facing. "We're looking for a room at this side of the building. Dirt floor, so it's a fair bet to say basement. The room he's in has a roof. The rooms that way and that way don't." She pointed first to her right and then ahead of the car before Wes pulled to a stop with a handbrake turn. Buffy stepped out of the car to find herself standing next to a gap that at some point would house a window. She pulled herself easily through the high opening before grabbing Wes's hand to help him through. "Neat driving, Wes. Gonna give me some lessons?"

"That, I think, would be an unequivocal no," Wes answered, following Buffy with his axe in hand as she dashed through the skeleton of what would once again be a high school.

"So... what's this really about, then? Is it about the big bad vampire killin' yer mum, 'cause newsflash your mum was never gonna make it to your fifth birthday. We fought. We drew. We fought again and I won." Spike managed to maintain a sneer right to the end and then his lungs, long disused except for talking and drawing in smoke, forced him to cough up mouthfuls of blood while the larger man rained metal reinforced punches on his ribs, and Spike took another couple of blows to the jaw while he kept his face turned into the corner. Buffy and Wes were already in the car.

Not that a couple of punches in the mouth were enough to keep Spike quiet even if almost every sentence was punctuated by him coughing and spitting up blood. "Or are you coming after me because you're still pissed that you just didn't mean enough? After that first time in Central Park, she could've upped stakes and headed for Philadelphia, Jamaica, bloody Brixton even, any number of places where no one would pay her a second glance, where her poor misfit kid could grow up to be normal, to fit in. She could have said she'd done her part, she was going to retire and look after her son. Instead she came after me. That's not my fault. Yer mum was a slayer." On Hadley and heading this way.

"Half of it comes natural and half of it that bloody council brainwashes into 'em if they give 'em that chance. But she believed that claptrap about doing what you can and then the next one takes over. She believed that there was only one way to stop having to look after some accident of a brat whose dad had long jumped ship, if she ever knew who he was. She was sick of wiping your nose all day and then kicking vampire butt all night. Between you and the hunting she couldn't have a proper job, she didn't even have a friend that would look out for you when she did her patrols. You and the slaying were her life but you weren't enough to make her want to live." Two more minutes. Another hundred metal edged punches. Spike gripped the wood at his hand, crushing it until it cracked along the grain as he spoke, but Wood was too far gone to notice an extra plume of smoke, too far gone to do more than pummel Spike's bruised form as the vamp just refused to be silenced.

"She was just waiting for it to be someone good enough as come along that you an' her Crowley would blame whoever did it rather than know the truth. She quit. She gave up. Suicide by vamp. She could've staked me back then... if she'd wanted it enough. I wasn't better than her. I wasn't stronger than her. I wasn't faster than her. I just wanted it more." Spike's agile fingers pried the cross free from the wall, not quite loose enough to fall, but where he could grab it if he needed it.

"She wanted to die, she wanted to know how it felt, this sensation she meted out every day to my kind and more than anything she wanted it to be over... She could have run and taken you with her. Millions of people just get lost every year... but she chose death, just so some poor ginger-headed bint from Anchorage that was still in pig-tails and braces could take over. Your mom might as well have killed the poor bitch herself. Don't think she lasted any longer than the bloody Northern Lights they get up there before there was another chosen one being all chosen." At the gates an' Bob Vila was gonna have a bitch about that given half the chance.

"An' you got stuck, not only with bein' the only black kid on an overprivileged block but with having to explain at every football match and parents day who the pasty-faced English guy was. Bet half the kids you knew assumed he was your real dad but was too ashamed to admit it. How'd that work out for you?

And where was your real daddy? Did she even know? Hell, there was times we were rolling round that train it was more like wrestling than fighting and I swear... you know when a woman's so wet you can smell it?"

Wood stepped back, swinging into a spin-kick that Spike knew would break his neck if he let it make contact. Somehow, Buffy loaned him the strength to make the block. They saw it almost in slow-motion, the way Wood's leg came arcing round, the way Spike reached out, the shattered cross burning deeper into his palm even as Wood's momentum drove the splintered point through the inside of his thigh and out the other side.

And she was here. His golden angel.

"You fucking bastard." Wood dropped to his knees struggling to remove the wood from his leg.

"I wouldn't be doin' that if I were you." Spike nodded toward the man's hands. "'Round about now, that bit of wood is the only thing that's stopping your entire blood supply from droppin' out through your femoral artery. You pull that out and you're good as dead, so unless that death wish of your mum's is hereditary, I suggest you leave it well alone. An' just to set the record straight, I might not have known my dad any better than you knew yours, but he did have the decency to wed my mum before he kicked the bucket, unlike some."

"You're lying." Wood kept trying to work the cross free.

"Sorry, mate. Was a bit early for photos but I've seen the certificate. Even used to go to the same church when I was a kiddie, though I can't say I blame you if you find that hard to believe."

Buffy stepped up behind the man, Wes to her right. "I think he meant about the bleeding to death, Spike, not the bit about your mom and dad being married."

"Well, I thought one warning on that was pretty good of me, considering."

"I do feel that was rather generous," Wes concurred on that point.

"Nice of you to drop in, love. And you brought good company."

"I would have been here sooner, if your directions had been better."

Dawn appeared in the doorway at the far side of the room, Brandon just behind her. "I would just yank the thing right out, personally. I think anyone that would pick on a puppy deserves to bleed to death in the dirt."

"You know, if being human doesn't work out for you, Dawnie, you would make a wonderful vengeance demon." Robin swivelled on his good leg to see Anya in the other doorway, soon to be joined by a panting Xander.

"Now I know that thing wasn't on the plans. And if I haven't made it clear enough before now, when I start work on that basement, bleach boy, you stay away from all the tools and building materials or next time you could hurt someone."

Buffy walked around the wounded man as Xander spoke, slipping an arm around Spike's back and pressing the orbs into Spike's hand. Those in the room who had yet to witness what happened when someone picked up the orbs watched the purple lightning sizzle through the pair in amazement. The mystical electricity seemed to symbolise their scintillating symbiosis. Spike rose to his feet with a new strength, his demon features melting into those of his human counterpart.

"You got this, honey? Or should we take over?" Buffy asked.

Spike turned in toward Buffy, damaged fingers tangling in her hair heedless of the strands sticking to the liquid that seeped from his burns. His lips opened and, uncaring of their audience, he lowered his head to meet Buffy's own. He tasted her sweetness and her strength, savouring everything that made her precious to him. Finally, lifting his head, he stared Robin Wood in the eye. "I think , for now, this is over. I think, our friend here is going to take his little DIY accident to the hospital and I think when he's been patched up, he's going to hand in his resignation and leave town. I know if I see him in this town again that he will die."

"There's a slight flaw in your plan," Wes pointed out. "So serious a wound may well require days in hospital. I believe by the time he concludes his stay, his resignation will be unnecessary. Mr Giles, I believe, has ensured that much."

"Even better. As to the rest, I assume I was correct?" Spike pinned Wood in place with an angry ultramarine glare.

"I don't owe you anything."

"No, you do, actually." Loosing his hold on Buffy's hand, he grasped the lapel of the coat that Wood still wore and pirouetting around him he swept it from the man's shoulders and wrapped it around his own in one fluid motion.

"That coat belonged to my mother," Wood argued.

"Yeah, funny enough I was aware of that... but I earned the right to wear it and I still wear it now, even though I've had plenty of opportunity to replace it ...because I respect your mother. I respect her as a worthy opponent, in a way that your actions make it obvious you're incapable of understanding. She would be disgusted to have a craven poisoner as her supposed successor. You would make her sick.

Right now..." Spike gave a self-deprecating bark of laughter. "I'm a damn sight closer to carrying on where she left off than you are. I'm not the one that was plannin' on summoning up whatever that oversized Alchemy trinket summons up. Maybe, I'll keep tabs on what you're up to. Maybe, some day, if you ever turn into the man your mother would have wanted you to be, you'll find a little something in your mailbox."

"You can't-."

"I'm done bein' polite." Spike's hand hovered over the cross that impaled Wood's thigh. "Get the hell out of our town. Then, stay the hell out of our town because if you ever come near me or any of my family again the first thing I will worry about is protectin' them an' next time I won't make any allowances for what happened with yer mum 'cause you don't deserve any. An' the same thing goes if I hear about you gettin' your jollies with a repeat of this on some other poor bugger."

Wood snorted. "You won't be doing anything. By the time I get out of hospital you'll be dead. If the poison doesn't run its course one of these guys will finish my job for me. You-."

Wes's cool tones cut across Wood's rant, just as Spike's hand gripped the cross, over the top of Wood's own, briefly twisting it within the wound until Wood screamed. "Spike will not be dying any time soon, neither will Buffy and none of us are going to feel any need for revenge because you haven't backed us into the corner that you think you have." Spike's eyes flew to the watcher's face, hardly daring to hope until Wes gave him an infinitesimal nod to let him know that this was no bluff. "Even if you had, might I suggest that we would be more inclined to lay the blame at your door rather than Spike's, which would make you the one in danger of retribution. However, your information is erroneous. We have the means to cure Spike's poisoning without endangering the life of anyone else. Now, I suggest that you stop whining and leave in the next ten seconds or I might be tempted to pull that cross out myself."

Buffy shifted from Spike's side for the first time, her hand hovering over the kneeling man's head, clearly frustrated by the fact he had no hair to grab until she decided to make do with an ear. She pulled his head back roughly, forcing him to look into her eyes so closely he could make no mistake about whether she meant what she had to say.

"I'm a slayer, Mr Wood, not a killer. As a rule, I let human justice take its course for human crimes. I make one exception to that rule. If someone threatens those people I consider part of my family I will do whatever it takes to keep them safe. Spike is part of that family and if you try to hurt him again I will beat you so far into the ground that they won't bother with the gravediggers, they'll just hold a service and cover you over... and no one here would stop me." Buffy put enough of a swing into releasing her grip that the man fell face-forward into the dirt and lay there. "Xander and Brandon will help you to your car."

Wood finally realised that there was nothing he could do that would gain him an ally. No chinks in the group dynamic that he could exploit. He was alone and just when he needed her, his mother had returned to the grave. He called out to her, as Xander and Brandon each took an arm to escort him, not unsympathetically, from the building to where his car was parked alongside the trailer that was his temporary office.

As Xander helped him into the car the younger man had some words of his own to say. "Spike, he used to be everything you think he is and I never will like the guy. I never will forget the things he's done... but my best friend is in love with the creep and he worships the ground she walks on. He looks out for her and he makes her happier than I've seen her in a long, long time and you should know happy isn't a huge part of the whole slayer gig. For that alone, I have to side with Pierce Brosnan, in there. Maybe, some day, after she's gone, he'll go back to how he was before and if he does, I'll look you up and help you hunt him down myself. Doesn't change the fact that until he does, he sure as hell isn't my friend... but he is family, with everything that goes with that.

Are we clear?"

"I'm all the family my mother had."

"Then, maybe like Spike said you should worry less about how she died and more about the life she wanted you to live." Xander closed the car door and rejoined Brandon before the pair watched the silver car make its way down the track, turning in the direction of the hospital when it reached the gates.

Xander and Brandon headed back down to the basement, only to find the others making their way back upstairs.

"We better go, Xander. Wood might not stick to his part of the bargain about that being a DIY disaster," Buffy told him as she walked upstairs, Spike's arm around her shoulder. "...And we better take care of Captain Gullible, here, before he goes up in a ball of flames, not to mention checking on Tara and Giles."

Xander shook his head. "You guys go ahead. If the police show, I spotted the gate was open and I was checking for intruders. In the meantime, I have the urge to reappropriate some of the concrete we were going to be using tomorrow for the foundations of the science building to make sure that if that thing ever sees the light of day again, then it's a long time coming."

Wes reassessed his former opinion of the construction worker. "Do you need any help with that?"

"Nah, it'd be harder to explain away if anyone else is here. Non-union workers are a big no-no. I've got it covered."

Dawn's eyes met those of her former infatuation. "You're still a jerk," she told him, "and I don't forgive you, yet... but this helps."
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