*squishes* to Megan for the beta!
Thanks to: Tash, vladt, Verda, Elizabeth Anne Summers, duke6665, Shadow, Tamara and kim for the reviews!
A/N: Sorry for the delay guys, hope the wait was worth it.
Chapter 15: Failed.
Under normal circumstances, the sight of Nicolas tearing into the room—bed hair and bleary-eyes included—would’ve been cause enough for Spike to burst into laughter. However, being woken by the terrified screams of a recently back-from-the-dead slayer put an instant freeze on any mirth he may have felt.
“Buffy,” Spike murmured gently. “Buffy, luv, it was just a bad dream.”
Buffy shook her head adamantly, unblinking eyes trained on a particular spot in the room.
Nicolas was equal parts confused and concerned. The shouts that had awoken him from slumber were earnest with fear. His young boarder was petrified; her shoulders trembled in an almost violent manner. Something had frightened her enough that she folded in on herself. The somewhat relaxed manner with which she’d held herself a few hours ago had disappeared completely. Curled in a ball with her arms wrapped around her knees—which she’d drawn close to her chest—she eyed the room suspiciously. Spike’s presence was surprising. The watcher had assumed once Miss Summers was settled, the vampire would himself have retired for the night, at his own lodgings.
Being privy to the ins and outs of Spike’s feelings—confessions fuelled by alcohol on most occasions—in regards to the former dearly departed on many a night, Nicolas knew full well the extent of the vampire’s affections. Though the subject of more intimate relations had never been broached in conversation, the watcher was aware—thanks to the diaries of Rupert Giles—of the sexual liaison his new charge had partaken with another undead, the once formidable Angelus. Nicolas was not naïve; he understood the vampire had been in possession of a soul at the time. A soul meant he could feel and express human emotion; it gave him a conscience, which to a degree made him almost human—if you could forgive the lack of heartbeat. After their coupling, the soul was torn away and Angel reverted to Angelus.
The diary pertaining this information was not from the official council diary of Rupert Giles, but from his personal writings, the small leather bound journal Nicolas stumbled upon when clearing out the apartment for redecoration. He kept the information to himself. The tale was halted suddenly, as was common when a Watcher loses his charge. The writings of his colleague in the last few weeks before her death were possibly the most enlightening. Rupert Giles noted a change in his Slayer, both in her appearance and behaviour. Unfortunately the details were scant, almost as if he were trying to hide something. The Council sanctioned pressing former active watcher’s for minutiae, but it was a right Nicolas refused to execute.
The entries in this private diary made the contradiction that was Spike, all the more… contradictory. No soul restrained his demon. An experimental behavioural modification implant was behind the incapacitation of his baser instincts. This explained his inability to feed upon humans. Yet this in no way made clear Spike’s human like, emotional responses and behaviour. Spike could love, yet he had no soul, which according to his employers was the prerequisite for exhibiting emotion. He was an enigma. In fact, if Nicolas were to make an observatory judgement about the vampire, he would suggest that Spike loved Buffy with his entire being, demon included.
Nicolas was unaware if Spike’s feelings for the slayer were reciprocated. However, if on the off chance they were, history dictated the possibility of a carnal evolution of their relationship. Miss Summers had slept with a vampire before—something that was actually quite common, not that the Council advertised it. What was stopping her from bedding a second? He considered himself more forward thinking than his colleagues, but this was not something he thought he could abide, at least not in his guestroom.
“Thompson, awake in there?”
“Sorry?” Nicolas apologised, his face turning beet red when he realised he’d missed whatever Spike had said. He felt embarrassed that consideration of his new charges’ personal life was the reason for his inattention. It was a detail that could be mentioned at a later date, and was not something he particularly wanted to prolong his contemplation of.
Spike’s nostrils flared once, clearly highlighting his annoyance. He understood that Nicolas had been roused from sleep, but so had he. “Go back t’ bed,” he dismissed. “You’re no good to her half asleep.”
“Spike, if Miss Summers needs --”
“I can handle it,” Spike interrupted.
Nicolas pursed his lips. The vampire had made his intentions of remaining with Buffy very clear. “Perhaps I should handle this, and you should return to your place?” he suggested firmly.
A whimper escaped Buffy’s lips and it was the confirmation Spike needed to know this was exactly where he should be. The look he directed at the watcher was steely.
With a sigh of surrender, Nicolas acquiesced. “I’ll be upstairs if you need me.”
Spike nodded, watched as the watcher left the room and then turned his full attention to Buffy.
“It was just a dream,” he assured soothingly.
One second she was in the darkened bedroom, the next she was back amongst the grey. The familiarity of her surrounding should have soothed her, however all it did was make her feel worse. Jenna felt like a failure. Not only had she frightened the sleeping slayer but she’d also managed to fail to deliver any part of the message Demetrius had asked of her. The moment she stopped concentrating on her task the minimal strength she had that was keeping her in this world slipped and she was thrust back onto the ghost roads.
“I scared her!”
Jenna paced up and down a stretch of nothing. She’d failed. This Slayer needs my help and what did I do? I panicked. Demetrius put his faith in me and I messed up.
Thoughts of Demetrius only made her feel worse.
“I’m sorry, Dem.” Her voice was whispered, the words swallowed up by the silence of the roads.
Buffy shook her head adamantly. “Not a dream.”
Before Spike could question what had frightened her, Buffy curled herself into his side and clutched at his shirt. The heat from her flesh was searing, a stark contrast to the normal room temperature of his own. As the length of contact stretched on, his body leeched more and more of the warmth. It was funny how a little borrowed heat could almost make a vampire feel human. He could easily become accustomed to this.
Putting Buffy’s needs above his own longing, Spike slowly extricated himself from her embrace. “Buffy, if it wasn’t a dream…” The sentence hung in the air between them. Spike’s gaze was a mixture of many different emotions, the most notable concern.
The way his eyes could express so much feeling, so many human sentiments—simultaneously—made Buffy feel so small. Her teenage heart had once been filled to capacity with love for another. Those feelings paled in comparison to what reflected from Spike each and every time he looked at her. He was the demon, the soulless creature, yet somehow he managed to communicate more emotion with one patented look than anyone Buffy had ever known. She doubted she even had the capacity to feel that much, let alone show it. What astounded her most was how Spike could care so much even though each and every time he’d tried to verbalise those feelings before her death she’d shot him down. Ignored him. Mocked him. Hit him.
Yet here he was, offering an ear to listen with and a shoulder to lean against. Spike was a better person than she was.
Very easily could she use that shoulder. However, Buffy knew herself better than she would admit out loud. To accept too much from Spike could cultivate bad behaviours from her past. If Buffy relied on him too heavily she might take advantage of the kindness he was presenting. After everything Spike had done for her; trying to save Dawn and keeping her friends safe the night of the fight against Glory, finding and taking care of her when she returned from the grave, rescuing her from her own mind, the last thing Buffy wanted to do was fall into old habits.
Life in Sunnydale had changed, drastically, and it was going to take some getting used to. Spike would be there for her but Buffy was determined not to exploit him.
One night to be helpless was all she would permit herself.
“It was nothing,” she lied. Not giving him a chance to argue, Buffy repositioned to lie down upon the bed. A tug of Spike’s hand brought him down with her.
Spike wanted to press, knew that she wasn’t being truthful, but didn’t have the strength of will to dispute her response. Not when she willingly curled against him. She might not want to talk, but the insistence in her pull on his hand told Spike she wanted him to stay with her.
How could he say no to that?
Daylight was not far off but neither had slept near enough. He would let the conversation of what frightened her drop for a few hours and urge her to talk when both of them had rested. Spike closed his eyes, allowing himself to relax, basking in the warmth of Buffy’s skin.
Jenna wiped at the invisible tears on her cheeks before she turned around. Demetrius had returned for her. Or maybe he’d never really left in the first place. Either way he was back.
“I didn’t… couldn’t… she…” Jenna sighed, frustrated that she’d worked herself into such a state that the capability to form coherent sentences had apparently abandoned her. With a deep breath she tried again.
“I didn’t pass on the message. When the Slayer woke and saw me she was frightened. Either this one’s never seen a ghost before or my hairstyle is really outdated.” The feeble attempt at a joke was accompanied with a half-hearted chuckle. Try as she might to remind herself she was new to the whole walking amongst the living thing, Jenna couldn’t shake off the sense of failure. She was a slayer – and slayers didn’t leave missions incomplete. Because when that happened, people were hurt—or worse, they died. Jenna had to get back out there.
“I need to try again, I have to help her. She needs to know that her situation is temporary, that you are here and will help her soon and --”
“Calm yourself, Jenna,” Demetrius soothed. “Her predicament is not of your hand. She will be returned to her rightful resting place and you will help her. But not now.”
“But she needs to know!”
“And know she will, when you’ve had opportunity to recover the strength you will require to pass through again.”
Jenna’s shoulders slumped in resignation.
“Until then we will wait.”
“You’re not going to leave?”
Demetrius shook his head.
Tremendous relief washed over Jenna with the small acknowledgement. So long as she had Demetrius with her she might as well school herself on her sister Slayer’s history. The more Jenna knew, the more she would be able to relate to Buffy.
A picture of the scene she’d interrupted when she’d passed through the door rose in her mind. There was something about her male companion that buzzed at the back of Jenna’s mind, a sense of familiarity that she couldn’t place. An invisible blush rose on her cheeks when she remembered her appraisal. The appeal of the nameless man was obvious and visceral. And the way the pair fit together, curled in each other’s arms suggested they were more than acquaintances.
“Dem, tell me more about Buffy.”
“Which Chosen is your inquiry in reference too?”
Jenna went bug-eyed. “There’s more than one? When you said she was not of my world I assumed you meant she no longer belonged here. Are you saying that there’s more than one of her?” The pitch of her voice rose as realisation struck. “Is there more than one of me?”
Demetrius paused as he became conscious of his mistake. He could fabricate the truth, lie to Jenna about the reality of Buffy’s situation, but it was not in his nature to withhold information if questioned. The question had never been asked so he’d never publicised. Over the last three decades he’d come to consider Jenna a friend. Something he’d gained from observing humans for the entirety of his existence was that friends, true friends, didn’t hide the truth, despite the possible detrimental outcome.
Jenna sucked in a deep lungful of breath. A million questions flew through her mind; how many other selves were there, was she a slayer in every life, was she still alive in other worlds, did she ever find love, have a family, was the battle between good and evil ever won? But the one question, the one that was by far the loudest and most pertinent to the current situation was the one she asked.
“Does she know this is not her world?”
Demetrius smiled slowly. Any concerns over Jenna’s ability to handle this secret and to further assist in rescuing Miss Summers disappeared instantly.
“No. Which is why we need to make contact.”
Jenna nodded, completely in agreement with Dem. “If I am to help her I need to be able to prove her existence in the other world, to show her the differences.”
There was a boundary; a line where any information Demetrius passed on to her would no longer be public record. To prove to Buffy that she was on the level, that she was not just some meddlesome sprite trying to complicate her readjustment to life, Jenna was going to need to know more personal details. Delving into the other slayer’s personal life was not something Jenna would revel in, but it was necessary so that she could successfully complete her mission to assist the lost girl.
“Tell me everything.”
Before the first rays of sunlight filtered through the thin curtains and into his modest one bedroom apartment, Jonathon was up and out of bed. Sleep had been restless and shallow, his mind constantly going over the bombshell he’d overheard the day before. He remembered the cavalier way his employer had spoken the night before, sending shivers up his spine.
“Buffy Summers? Wasn’t she the slayer who—yes, of course. I’ll make arrangements tomorrow evening. I’ll have the remains shipped back to the LA office.”
The remains… He shuddered again. Like she was a piece of meat, something unimportant. Nothing. Jonathon knew what it was like to feel like nothing and he believed he’d known Buffy well enough to know that she was something. It was because of her that he still lived. In his mind it was because of her that he and most of the senior class survived the more supernatural influences in high school. Without Buffy Summers, Sunnydale would’ve been devoured by the great big Mayor snake.
Going about his morning routine autonomously—straightening the bed, showering, dressing and brushing his teeth—Jonathon couldn’t redirect his thoughts for more than a few moments.
His boss was going to be responsible for denying his hometown of its hero, something he couldn’t just turn a blind eye to. Something had to be done. The question was… what?
Rutherford Sirk arrived at ‘The Reliquary’ half a day earlier than he was required, a fact he was none too pleased with. Saturdays were busy, a mix of local regulars and out-of-towners filling the club to maximum capacity within an hour of the doors opening. They catered to all sorts: demons, vampires and warlocks. So long as they had money none were refused entry. They saw the club as a quiet, discrete place to fulfil any fantasy or yearning—a place that satiated all types of hunger, sexual or otherwise.
Vampires wanted humans to feed from? No problem. Ever since the assisted demise of the slayer who’d once protected these streets, finding and restraining potential feeders was easy. With no one to protect the streets, snatching the more invisible members of society from the street—those who would not be noticed missing—was like stealing candy from a baby. The arrival of the new slayer complicated matters somewhat, but she had proved easier to deal with than they’d expected.
Sirk—via W&H—financially supported two separate organizations. One was a group of thugs—both human and demon in race—who were responsible for capturing ‘new blood’. The second group formed the ‘Night Time Protection Squad’. The NTPS provided protection for the Sunnydale denizens from the evildoers in the night, for a fee of course. Anyone who paid their dues was considered off limits.
This racketeering was what funded ‘The Reliquary’s’ quieter business transactions. If the many visitors to the establishment knew the true purpose for the Wolfram and Hart funded enterprise, Sirk doubted the clientele numbers would be so high.
Providing meals or sexual opportunities to local, interstate, international and inter-dimensional visitors was not the clubs’ primary purpose. The business was a front.
Clients were implanted with a synthetic property in the flesh of their left wrist—or what could be considered an arm for some demons. The small metallic device was not a ‘VIP identifier’ as each and every customer was told, or informed. It was like a switch or detonator; a control that when activated would result in a complete neural shutdown.
Each drop of blood, of alcohol, of any liquid that was consumed by a patron was laced with an active ingredient. The more often a demon frequented, the more potent his or her dose would become.
Thousands had passed through its doors since ‘The Reliquary’ had opened for business. The day that the switch would be activated was the day the Senior Partners would be making their attack.
Complete annihilation of any individual standing opposed to the greater plan for this world. Total domination of the entire West Coast. It would take a large-scale attack to accomplish such a feat.
And what would be better than your very own army of mindless foot soldiers?
Locking his office door behind him, Sirk approached the bookcase on his back wall, reached for a book and pulled it back. A secret door slid open. Not the most original set-up, which is why it was genius. No one would ever suspect that beneath the club they were preparing for war.
A/N: Hope you liked it, looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
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