Chp 11 Choices
Three for a Secret
Chapter 11 Choices
Buffy and Spike had just crested a hill when they heard Arabella scream. Loud and clear, aching with pain, the sound sliced through Spike’s mind, childe calling to sire. He reacted without thinking, plunging down the steep slope, vaulting rocks and jagged holes in the ground, Buffy at his heels.
They found Arabella sitting on what looked like a rock to Spike and a gentle grassy mound to Buffy, nursing her hand against her chest. She looked up at Spike, tears trembling on the edge of her big blue eyes. “Oh, William. Thank heavens you’ve come. I’m so sorry!”
“You’re hurt,” Spike snapped, reaching for her hand and inspecting the black burn in the middle of her palm.
“Oh, that’s nothing, nothing at all. I can bear the pain of this – ” she faltered to a stop, stretching out her other hand towards Spike and Buffy bit her lip to stop herself clapping the performance.
“ - but I can’t bear the pain of knowing I’ve failed you.”
“What burnt you?” Buffy asked.
Arabella shot her a sideways glance and Buffy could see a flash of irritation, swiftly hidden. When she spoke, her voice was soft and repentant. “It was the pendant. The - the gold one.”
“The one you never told us about!”
“Buffy!” Spike sounded hurt and Buffy thought grimly that if he didn’t let go of Arabella’s hand in the next few seconds, she would cheerfully stake both of them.
The silence lengthened. Spike stared into his cousin’s eyes. So deeply blue, so beautiful. You could drown in those sapphire depths. In her eyes he could see little glimpses of a past long gone, of a family, friends, a life he’d happily discarded. He’d always thought Arabella was his last link with that life. His blood, his childe and every instinct in his body was urging him to trust her. She was family, in both senses. How could she hurt him? Why would she hurt him?
But – he glanced at Buffy. The Slayer didn’t trust Arabella. She never had ever since they’d first met at that bloody awful party. And not because she was the Slayer and Arabella was a vampire. It was more than that. On some sodding deeper level he knew he didn’t truly understand, but had to accept if he loved Buffy, which he did.
He’d laughed at her, told her she was imagining things. That OK, Arabella was fond of him because she was family, that was all. He’d wanted, desperately, to believe that his cousin was the same beautiful, kind, delightful girl she’d been when he turned her all those years ago. He’d stupidly wanted to hang on to a picture of what he thought was true – that he had a cousin, a childe, who truly cared for him.
He tried to remember what the bloody stuff was that miners dug up out of the ground, thinking they’d struck gold, made their fortunes. He knew it had a proper name but fool’s gold was what most people called it. He was beginning to think his belief in Arabella over the years was a good example of that.
So, he had to make a decision – trust his past or his present? Well, there wasn’t really a choice, was there?
He’d forgotten one thing over all these years, he realised now. Arabella was a vampire first, his cousin second. And he had to deal with her, because she wasn’t the only link with the past. There was Hope.
“Bella, Buffy’s right. You showed me the silver pendant, told me how you’d stolen it from Darla, so why not tell me there were two?”
Arabella sighed. “Oh William, I know I should have done. Don’t you think I blame myself? I’ll never forgive myself if this has ruined your chance of discovering what happened to your little sister.” The crystal tears trembled on her lashes and trickled down her face.
Buffy watched, fascinated. When she cried, her nose went red and her skin went blotchy. Arabella looked like a porcelain angel.
“I never lied, except I stole both the pendants from Darla. The silver one opened the doorway to this dimension, but she gave me the impression that the gold one would show exactly where Hope was. But I wasn’t sure! You do see, William, don’t you? I didn’t want you to be disappointed. I thought if I kept the gold pendant a secret, I could follow where it lead, discover what had happened to Hope and then let you know. I just wanted to….” She gazed up at him, lips trembling. “I just wanted to soften the blow if it was bad news.”
“Why did the pendant suddenly burn you?” Buffy asked.
Arabella shook her head, sighing dramatically. “I don’t know. Perhaps I was getting very close to the secret it holds.”
“Where is it now?”
A trembling hand pointed towards a big patch of scarlet and yellow flowers. “In those rocks somewhere.”
Spike followed her direction. “You mean in all that long grass?”
Buffy felt her patience begin to ebb. This world was beginning to get on her nerves. Grass to Spike, rocks to Arabella, flowers to her – jeez, for all she knew they were all wrong and it was a great patch of chocolate chip ice-cream they were gazing at!
Spike was searching through the long grass in a desperate attempt to find the locket, but the tough strands clung to his boots and the dust he kicked up filled the air.
“Stand still!” Buffy commanded at last. “You’re crushing everything into a pulp.” She sank onto her hands and knees and began to feel through the red and yellow flowers. Suddenly she gasped. Right in front of her outstretched hand stood two tiny chipmunks and they were holding the chain of the pendant between them.
Slowly she curled her fingers round the still warm links of the golden chain but the chipmunks didn’t run away.
“This is seriously weird. Spike can you see what I’m looking at?”
She could feel his breath on her ear as he bent over her. “Bloody hell, pet. It’s caught round a giant snake! Don’t pull the pendant away. It might be deadly.”
There was a rustle and Arabella peered over her other shoulder. “There’s no snake, William. What are you talking about? It‘s just a jumble of old rocks.”
“OK, now back away, both of you,” Buffy snapped. She was determined to discover exactly what was going on. That they all saw this world in a different way was obvious, but this was something else.
Before, the animals, birds, butterflies, insects she had seen - and always, she realised, in pairs - had never interfered with what she was doing. But these chipmunks had actually helped her to find the pendant. That was mega odd. She could accept that she saw Disney like creatures everywhere, but not that they were involving themselves in her world.
She passed the still warm gold pendant back to Spike who hadn’t moved an inch. He was guarding her back, as she knew he always would. His hand clasped her shoulder but then, to her annoyance, Arabella immediately placed her hand on his arm.
Buffy tried to ignore them both. Still kneeling, she stared down at the two little animals, whose bright black eyes gazed back, intently, urgently, as if determined she should do something, say something, be something…
Whatever they wanted, she knew instinctively that it was important and only she could make it happen. For the first time since they‘d arrived in this world, she didn’t brush the creatures away, but slowly, very slowly, she reached out, with her hands and mind. And as her fingertips touched the chipmunks fur, her mind reached a barrier that shimmered and distorted and finally broke.
She was inside and the most incredible feeling ran through her body! Warmth, joy, desire, fulfilment, safety and the knowledge that she was loved. She felt she was falling into a cloud of bright happiness, and as she fell, she realised that Spike and Arabella were there with her.
* * * *
Anya and Div’vid toiled up a steep, grassy slope, deep in conversation.
Their plan to divide this world into saleable plots for holiday home building purposes was coming along nicely, although Anya was weary of the constant rain and didn’t quite believe that people would prefer to live here instead of Florida when they retired.
But Div’vid seemed quite happy with her rough financial breakdown of costs and, after all, it couldn’t go on raining for ever. Perhaps this was just the monsoon season here, wherever here was.
“You know, Div, we have to give this world a name,” she said enthusiastically. “If we’re going to sell land, then we’ll have to advertise it. We need something snappy, catchy.”
“True.” The seven foot, emerald green Frovlax considered the problem. “We’ll need to make a list. I was wondering if our best bet would be to sell the land only to the demon market. There is a growing demand for holiday homes somewhere different. Demons are getting so tired of Disney World and Las Vegas. And, after all, is it going to be difficult to explain a world like this to humans?”
Anya sniffed. “Well, I’m human now, of course, and I don’t find it a hard concept to grasp, but you may well be right. If I try and tell Xander that there’s a universe which will appear differently to whoever’s living in it, he’ll freak out. But I shall enjoy selling to demons. They are always so more practical about money.”
She stopped and turned as she realised she was walking several yards ahead of Div’vid, talking to thin air. He was standing on the path behind her, his great cow head raised, scenting the air. He looked puzzled and as worried as a Frovlax could look without resembling a wildebeest.
“What’s the matter?”
“It‘s my Arabella.”
Anya felt a frizzon of guilt run through her. It wasn’t that she’d forgotten Arabella, more that she had become so close to Div’vid – in a purely business sense, of course – that she’d let it slip from her mind that they were supposed to be tracking the vampire girl.
“Is she OK?”
Div’vid staggered and Anya realised his beautiful emerald colour was fast turning to a muddy eau-de-nil. “She isn’t here any more!”
“What! You mean…you mean…she’s had an accident? She’s dead?”
Div‘vid shook his head in bewilderment. “No, Anya. She’s not dead. At least, I don’t think so. She’s just not on this world at all any more. She’s gone, vanished as if she never ever existed!”
To be continued
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