orchidluv (orchidluv) wrote in bloodclaim,
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Nothing the Same, Book 4, Ch. 12

Nothing the Same, Book 4
Chapter:  12/?
Pairing: S/X, established relationship
Rating: PG13 - NC-17  Individual chapters will carry specific warnings.
Feedback & concrit: yes, please
Disclaimer: don't own them, never will, just playing with them
Spoilers:  Primarily season 5, but anything from Season 1 on.  
Summary:  sequel to Nothing the Same , Books 1 - 3
Previous parts here

Chapter Twelve

Xander sat beside Spike as the vampire fell back to sleep again.  Spike was already looking better and he fervently thanked whoever made the rules that vampires healed so quickly.  The deep bruising and swelling on his face had gone down enough that Spike could open his eyes and no longer had to squint through puffy slits.  The fact that the bruising was still present spoke volumes about the strength of the woman who’d beaten him.  It took a lot to give Spike those kind of bruises.  Off hand, Xander couldn’t remember a previous fight that had left Spike looking like he’d gone ten rounds with Muhammad Ali.

He smiled, knowing what Spike would say to that comparison - that Ali wouldn’t have been able to touch him, much less be able to do any damage.  He could almost hear Spike bragging about how he would have been snacking on the heavyweight champion before the audience had time to take their first bite of popcorn.

The smile faltered and he sighed.  Spike already sensed that he wasn’t telling him something and, knowing Spike, he was going to be pushing for Xander to talk the second he woke up again.  And he still had no clue what to do, or who to tell, or how much.

Out of all of them, Dawn had the most right to know what the monk had said.  And there were just as many, if not more, good reasons why she should never be told.  Buffy and Joyce were as much victims of this whole mess as Dawn.  The monks had not only made them guardians of something that, if not dangerous itself, at least attracted danger.  They’d messed with their memories in the most cold-blooded way Xander could conceive of:  convincing them that the changeling that had been planted in their home was their own flesh and blood.  

He couldn’t tell Giles, because Giles thought of Buffy first, and probably keeping the world safe as a close second, and Xander didn’t know how he’d react to the idea that Dawn was a powerful, dangerous thing, not a person.  Giles had a streak of ruthlessness in him that might allow him to hurt Dawn if he saw her as a threat to the Slayer he’d sworn to protect.

It was hardest to decide whether he could tell Spike.  Not because he didn’t trust Spike, but because Spike simply didn’t think the way humans did.  He would never intentionally do anything to hurt Dawn, or Joyce, but he didn’t always understand human angst and insecurities.  He remembered the way Spike had blurted out the news to Joyce that Buffy was the Slayer.  Granted, Spike hadn’t really known Joyce then, but he simply hadn’t seen telling her as a problem, or something that needed to be handled delicately.  Joyce had ultimately taken it better than either of them had had any right to expect, but it had been a close thing.  If Spike decided that Dawn should know what she was, he’d just tell her, regardless of what anyone else thought.  And maybe telling Dawn was the right thing to do, but Xander couldn’t help thinking that it would tear her apart in a way she might never recover from.

Of course, lying to Spike wasn’t a great option, either.  Relationship issues aside, he probably wouldn’t be able to get away with it.  Damn vampire lie detector abilities would catch him out immediately.

Before he could make up his mind about what to do, he needed a lot more information than he had right now.  About the Key, about the Dagon Sphere, and even about the woman who was probably connected with both of them.  

And that gave him the first useful idea he’d had all night.  If there was one person in town more likely than anyone else to know about an “ancient primordial evil”, it would be Mr. Okolo, the nearly-immortal, half-Teer’ah demon.

Decision finally made, Xander checked the time.  It was barely noon and Spike would be safe, holed up here in the mansion during daylight hours.  Xander could leave, pick up a fresh supply of blood, talk to Mr. Okolo, and be back well before sunset.

Scribbling a quick note just in case Spike woke before he returned, Xander propped it up on the table beside the bed and headed out of the mansion.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Twenty minutes later, Xander climbed the front steps to the suburban house and knocked on the door, feeling a little guilty because he’d never come here directly before.  It seemed rude somehow, like he was flouting necessary formalities by not calling ahead and arranging an audience.  But this was an emergency and besides, the fewer people who knew he was asking questions, the better.

After a long moment, the door opened in response to his knock and Xander found himself face to face with Mr. Okolo.  “Mr. Harris,” he said in greeting, his face showing no sign of surprise at the unexpected visit.  

“Hi, Mr. Okolo.  I’m really sorry to just drop by like this, but I could really use your help.”

“Please come in.”  Mr. Okolo inclined his head in welcome and pushed the door open further, gesturing for Xander to come inside.  The tall, slender demon led Xander into the living room and apologized for not having refreshments ready for him.  As he had on the other occasions he’d met Mr. Okolo, Xander found himself talking more slowly and formally than he usually did, assuring him that no refreshments were needed, especially when he’d been so discourteous himself as to show up without warning.  Something about the half-Teer’ah just seemed to call for the manners of an earlier time - like the Jane Austen movie Dawn had dragged him to once.  

And that comparison distracted him completely, making him wonder if he’d really seen the movie because Spike and he sure as hell wouldn’t have gone to see an old fashioned romance without a spot of blood in the entire thing.  And that just made his head ache as his mind tried to cope with the paradoxes inherent in the idea that everything he remembered doing with Dawn wasn’t real.  How could he remember the plot of a movie he hadn’t ever actually seen?  

He really hated people messing with his mind like this.

Mr. Okolo was waiting for him to speak, hands folded together and an air of limitless patience about him as if he could wait for decades if that was what his guest needed.  Xander gave himself a shake, once again pushing aside his confusion and worry, and forced himself to focus on why he was hear.  

“Mr. Okolo,” he began picking his words carefully.  “I learned about something last night that may have implications for the whole town, and I wanted to ask if you had any information about it.”

He explained about Buffy finding the Dagon Sphere, and about the woman and the monk, and the monk’s cryptic words about a Key that was energy and a portal, that it opened doors, and how many lives depended on keeping the Key safe.  He admitted frankly that he was worried about anyone finding out they were trying to find out information about the Key.  The only thing he left out was Dawn, and that the monk had said that they’d transformed the Key into a human being.

“Mr. Giles researched the Dagon Sphere,” he concluded, “but all he’s learned so far is that it’s designed to protect against an ancient primordial evil.  Frankly, after the Mayor and the Initiative, I don’t think this town is up for another one of those.  I’m hoping you might have heard something that could help us figure out what’s going on.”  

Mr. Okolo was silent for a long moment, considering his words, then shook his head slightly.  “I do not recall having heard of either the Dagon Sphere or a mystical Key, such as you describe but it may be that my family has heard of it.  I agree that the matter is something that should not be ignored and will ask them to look into this for us.”

He rose, signaling the end of their conversation.  “If you return in two days, I will be able to tell you if my family knows anything.  I assure you, except for my family, I will treat this as confidential.”

Xander thanked him profusely and left, feeling a little better that he’d at least set things in motion to find some answers.  Knowing what the Key was and what it was for would hopefully make it easier to decide if anyone had to know about Dawn or if he could keep it secret.  And if Mr. Okolo stumbled over the information about Dawn, Xander trusted him not to spread it around.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Xander had been playing with the first aid kit again, Spike discovered when he woke up towards sunset.  Sometime while he’d been asleep, Xander had bandaged his calf, covering the hole that was still nearly through and through from the feel of it.  He’d also wrapped a light, supporting bandage around Spike’s forearm, apparently with the idea that the nearly-healed break needed the support.  

It was actually kind of cute the way he fussed over Spike when he was hurt and Spike wasn’t about to admit it, but the bandage on his arm would help remind him that the bone wouldn’t be a strong as normal for another day or two.  He’d once re-broken an arm because he’d forgotten that same fact and gotten into a bar fight with a N’reltekk before he was fully healed.  He won the fight, but it had been annoying to have to wait for the bone to heal a second time in the same week.

“Hey.”

He looked up at the quiet greeting and saw Xander standing in the doorway, smiling at him.

“You’re awake.”  

“And you’ve been out wandering,” Spike noted.

“Mmm.  Got some more blood,” Xander told him.  “It’s fresh, do you want some?”

“Wouldn’t say no to fresh,” Spike admitted.  Before Xander could move, he threw back the sheet and sat up, swinging his legs around and standing.  

“Are you sure you’re up to that?” Xander asked him.  Spike gave him a reassuring smile.  

“Nearly good as new, luv.”  

An exaggeration, not a lie, he told himself.  He could still feel every place on his body where that bitch had hit him; a distant throbbing of pain that he refused to acknowledge or cater to.  The swelling had gone down faster than the bruises were fading, and Spike scowled, sensing the still visible damage as he did.  He was going to have to come up with a story for the Court, that was for sure.  No way was he going to admit he’d had his arse kicked by a skank like that one.
   
He followed Xander up the stairs to the kitchen, having to favor his injured leg slightly but otherwise able to conceal his discomfort from his sharp-eyed lover.  Grateful for fresh blood, not re-heated frozen, he drank three bags while Xander sat across from him, watching him with frowning intensity.  

Tossing the last bag into the sink, Spike asked him bluntly:  “What aren’t you tellin’ me, luv?”

“The monk talked to me before he died,” Xander admitted.  “A lot of what he tried to tell me didn’t make sense, but he kept talking about a Key and that it needed to be protected.  He said a lot of people would die if it wasn’t kept safe.”  He repeated the monk’s words, struggling to recall them as accurately as he could.  “I think he was sending the Key to Buffy, because she’s the Slayer and the best person they could find to protect it, but he died before he could say much more than that.”  

“Lot of things’ve gotten lost because someone died before passin’ on the secret,” Spike commented, watching Xander closely.  “Slayer know anything about this?”

Xander shook his head.  “I don’t think so.  The monk said he was supposed to do something.  Warn Buffy, I think.  But it didn’t sound like he had done it.”  He looked away for a moment, then back at Spike.  “I went to see Mr. Okolo this afternoon.  He hadn’t heard of either the Key or the Dagon Sphere, but he’s going to ask his family.”

Spike raised his scarred eyebrow in surprise.  “Why go to him?” he asked curiously.

“I told you what Giles said about the Dagon Sphere, didn’t I?  Created to repel an ancient evil, and all that?”

“So you figured an ancient demon might know about the ancient evil.”  That made sense.  “Good thinking.  He able to tell you anything?”

“No, but he’s going to ask his family and let us know if they’ve heard anything about any of this, including the crazy lady.”    

Spike watched his Claimed with intent eyes.  He had the feeling Xander wasn’t telling him everything.  He wasn’t lying - Xander never had learned how to lie without giving himself away - but he wasn’t above holding things back, especially when he thought it was in Spike’s best interest in some way.  He considered pressing Xander on the issue, but decided to let it go for now.  His boy was exhausted and it might be nothing more than him feeling guilty about not saving the monk, or some such rot.  His boy had gotten better about not fretting over things that didn’t matter and couldn’t be changed, but he still spent way too much time feeling guilty about things.

“Spike?”  Xander’s question snapped him back to the present.

“Yeah, luv?”

“Giles wanted to ask you about the woman.  Are you up for it?”

Spike rolled his eyes.  That was the problem with working with a Watcher.  They always wanted reports.  He hated discussing fights he hadn’t won but it looked like this time he would have to.  “Tonight,” he said firmly.  “After you get some sleep.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Giles winced as he saw the bruises still liberally coloring Spike’s face.  “Spike, I’m terribly sorry.  I had no idea that investigating that building would be so dangerous or I would never have asked you to go so casually.”  

Spike shrugged, amused by the Watcher’s squeamishness.  Xander had argued with him the whole way over to the magic shop that Spike should stay holed up at the mansion for another day.  That he should just call Giles and didn’t have to report in person, but there was no reason for him to lie around Angelus’ mansion.  

Despite having more or less appropriated the mansion, staying there still felt uncomfortable.  Somehow, the house remained stubbornly his Sire’s, no matter how many changes Spike made to it.  Now that he and Xander were using the magic shop to work out, they rarely used the mansion and it felt even more like he was staying in his Sire’s territory.  In any case, the mansion was for emergencies.  It had been almost 24 hours since he’d been injured and he was itching to know if the Watcher had learned anything about his opponent.  He owed her a rematch.

“Nothing to worry about, Rupert.  Been hurt worse for less reason,” was all he said, deliberately making light of his wounds.  

Giles looked a trifle taken aback, either by Spike’s casual dismissal of his injuries or the rare use of his first name.  “Yes,” he said, obviously not quite sure how to respond.  “What can you tell me about the woman who attacked you?” he asked instead.  “I’m afraid Xander’s description was too vague to be useful.”

“Not much.  Lousy fighter, attitude like a cheerleader on a bad acid trip.”

Even Xander looked at him curiously at that description.

“Good enough fighter to kick your arse, though,” Ethan Rayne commented.  Spike glared at him, pleased to see the Chaos Mage wince and step back as he did.  He might have given the man permission to be in town, but he hadn’t given him permission to get mouthy with his betters.

“Had no more fighting skills than you’d find in a schoolyard bully,” he said flatly to the Watcher.  “What she has is power.  She’s strong and, near as I could tell, nothing I did harmed her at all.  Bitch spent more time complaining about damage to her shoe than anything else I did to her.”  He glanced around at the circle of blank faces and rolled his eyes.  “She got blood on it when she skewered me with her heel,” he explained.

He could see the others working through the implications of that.  “How strong would you estimate she is?” Rupert asked.

“Least two-three times my strength,” Spike admitted.  “Maybe more.  Still,” he added cheerfully, he’d been thinking about this longingly as Xander had caught up on desperately needed sleep.  “Didn’t have weapons with me.  A good axe might even things up a bit.  Can’t hit much if your arm’s been chopped off.”

The blonde witch looked faintly sick but didn’t say anything.  She’d need to toughen up a bit if she was going to survive in this town, Spike thought, amused.

“Xander said the building collapsed,” the Watcher asked and Spike nodded.  

“We did a bit of damage to the support columns, that might have caused it.  She kept punching them instead of me,” he remembered with satisfaction.

He could tell that that description gave them an idea of what they were dealing with.  No Slayer could bring down a building just by punching through a concrete column.  Admittedly, no vampire could do that either, but this woman was going to take something more than a straight-out fight to bring her down.

Rupert began prattling on about the research he’d done and how he’d gotten nowhere - big surprise there - while the others debated the meaning of it all.  Waste of time, he thought, they didn’t have enough information to decide piss all.  

He listened carefully as Xander repeated the information about the Key for the Watcher’s benefit, listening to every nuance of his boy’s tone and studying his body language as he spoke.  Xander was glossing over any questions about the location of the Key, hurrying on to the part where he’d asked the demon to help research the thing - Spike thoroughly approved his Claimed’s decision to go to the Teer’ah demon.  If anyone knew anything, it was bound to be a family that had been around since the dawn of time.  

Xander was hiding something, something that was keeping his boy tense and shuttered, though he was hiding it well, and Spike felt a wave of anger sweep over him.  From the sound of it, Xander knew where the damn Key was and, knowing Xander, had promised not to tell anyone.  Spike cursed silently.  Xander took that kind of thing so fucking seriously.  Instead of letting them help him hide the bloody thing, he’d feel duty bound to keep his promise to the dying monk and deal with it on his own.

Screw that, Spike thought.  He’d give Xander a day or two to come around, then he would explain to his Claimed exactly how stupid it was not to ask for help when he needed it.

If that bloody monk had given the fucking Key to Xander, he was going to find monk’s body, resurrect him, and torture him to death all over again just to show him how a real expert did things.  

~~~~~~~

Buffy came through the door of the magic shop, interrupting their fairly useless speculation about the woman and the Key - none of which had come anywhere near the truth, Xander was relieved to note.  He’d ultimately decided he had to tell them the bare minimum facts, because it would look too suspicious if he didn’t and then had to broach the subject later, after Mr. Okolo had gotten back to him, for example.  Still, Buffy’s arrival was a welcome change of subject.

She entered like a woman on a mission and swept them all with a quick glance.  Other than the Ethan, who she frowned at but otherwise ignored, it was just Xander, Spike and Tara in addition to Giles in the Magic Box.  

“Buffy, what are you doing here?” Giles asked.  “You’re supposed to be taking the week off and spending it with your family.”

“I was, but something happened,” Buffy told him.  “I have an idea about what’s making my mom sick.”

“Have you spoken with her doctors?” Giles asked.

Buffy shook her head impatiently.  “They won’t find anything.  What’s hurting her - it’s supernatural.”

“What do you mean?” Giles frowned and closed the journal he’d been jotting notes down in about the blonde woman.  Xander exchanged glances with Spike, wondering what she was talking about.

“The night watchman who found the Dagon Sphere?” Buffy looked around and they all nodded.  “He went crazy - like overnight.”

Giles cast an uneasy glance at the drawer he’d stored the sphere in, which Buffy correctly interpreted.  

“It won’t hurt us.  I had it on me all night before bringing it here.  But this guy, he saw things... he said things.”

“Such as?” Giles prompted.

“He said they’ll come at me through my family.”

“Who will?” Giles asked.

Buffy hesitated.  “I don’t know... yet. But whatever touched this guy, it made him see through what the rest of us are seeing. He knew someone’s hurting my mom and they’re trying to get to me.

“Ah, letting a crazy person diagnose health problems, there’s an idea.  What was I thinking, going to doctors all these years,” Ethan muttered.  Everyone ignored him except Buffy who shot him a hostile look.

“Was your mum there at the time?” Spike asked sharply.

Buffy shook her head.  “No, I saw him at the hospital when I went to get mom’s prescription filled.”

Xander frowned at the mention of a prescription.  He hadn’t heard that Joyce was taking anything.  Granted, they’d never made it over to the house to check on her last night.  He exchanged worried glances with Spike, resolving to ask Buffy about it as soon as they could.

Giles looked like he was trying to humor her without looking like he was humoring her.  “It’s possible, but still... the ramblings of a madman aren’t much to go on.”

“It’s a start.  We need to find out who’s making my mom sick and how.”

“Then what?” Xander couldn’t help asking.  

“Then I hunt them... find them... and kill them.”

Xander raised his eyebrows but didn’t say anything.  Spike looked like he agreed wholeheartedly.  Tara’s eyes widened and Ethan muttered something about paranoid adolescents but Xander noticed he pitched his voice low enough so neither Buffy or Giles could hear him.  He had to admit, Ethan had a point this time, the whole thing sounded pretty farfetched, like Buffy was grasping at straws.  On the other hand, this was the Hellmouth and anything was possible.

Buffy looked up at the book alcove overhead.  “So, where do we start?” she asked.

“Start?”

“How do I figure out who’s doing what to my mother.” Buffy explained, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.  

Giles looked absolutely blank.  “Well, it would help if we had some idea where to begin.  But without knowing either the spell, or the caster, or even if…” he didn’t finish the sentence but it was clear he was skeptical about the whole idea.  

Buffy looked around at the others but Xander just shrugged helplessly and Tara shook her head, indicating she had no ideas.  

“I wonder…” Giles began, sounding as if he was trying to recapture a half-forgotten memory.  Buffy watched anxiously as he slowly removed his glasses and polished them with his handkerchief, his eyes on the far wall as he thought.  After a long moment, he slipped his glasses back on and focused on Buffy.  “The only thing that comes to mind would be some sort of spell to reveal other spells.”

“You can do that?” she asked eagerly.

“Well, I can’t, but historically the spells do exist.”  He looked dubious.  “It’s not an easy spell, only a handful of sorcerers have been able to do it.  There was one in particular…”

“Cloutier,” Ethan supplied when Giles’ voice trailed off, “amazing powers and quite the ladies man.  Very good with trances.”  He smirked.  “I wonder how frequently he used his skills to persuade a reluctant partner,” he added speculatively.

“You know him?” Buffy asked hopefully.  “And - ewww.”

“Cloutier lived in the 16th Century,” Giles told her.  “Ignore Ethan’s insinuations,  Monsieur Cloutier was a devoted husband and an extremely well respected sorcerer.”

“Oh.”  Buffy waved off the extraneous information.  “How does the spell work?”    

“Well, all spells leave a trace signature.  It’s just not perceptible to the human eye. Cloutier was able to put himself into a trance state where he was able to see that trace signature.  In this case, for example, it could manifest itself as a cloud of mist around your mother.”

“Or a hand choking her.”

Xander bristled at the relish in Ethan’s tone, even though he knew that Ethan did it just to annoy people.  Still, this was Joyce they were talking about.  

Buffy looked determined.  “Okay, so I’ll do what he did.  I’ll go home, get trancey, and I’ll see what’s affecting my mom.

“Just like that?” Ethan asked, obviously amused.  “You think you can just put yourself into a mystical trance state any time you want?”

“Yes, Buffy,” Giles agreed reluctantly.  “The Sorcerer Cloutier was legendary.  His skills at achieving higher states of consciousness were…”

“Better than mine?” Buffy interrupted him grimly.  “Unless anyone has a better idea…” she glared at Ethan who held up his hands in denial.  

“Don’t look at me.  Trances are for boring people who want to get in touch with themselves and all that rot.  I have much better things to get in touch with than myself.”  The look he shot Giles was pure leer.  Giles ignored him.

“Giles, you’ve had me doing all those concentration drills. This is important, I’ll just make it work.” Buffy told him earnestly.

“You know, it’s only in films that the heroine can accomplish something just because she tries hard enough,” Ethan pointed out scathingly.  “You have no more chance of successfully performing that spell than your average housecat does.”

“Ethan, if you don’t have anything useful to say,” Giles began, exasperated.

“As a matter of fact, I was about to point out that you do have a trained witch of considerable power on tap, who has a much better chance of succeeding than your Slayer does, Ripper.  However, if you are not interested in my suggestions…”

He didn’t actually finish and Xander suspected it was because there wasn’t much he could do other than leave town and for whatever reason, Ethan was sticking around this time, longer than he ever had before, showing up at the Magic Box almost daily.

Giles and Buffy stared at him for a moment, then both turned their heads with identical slowness to look at Tara, who stared back at them, wide-eyed and uncertain.  

“He’s right.  Tara, do you think you can do the spell?” Buffy asked.

“I-I don’t know.  It sounds pretty advanced.  I’m n-not sure I’m strong enough,” she began, looking incredibly nervous at finding herself the center of attention.

“I believe you are strong enough,” Giles told her.  “And there is no chance this could harm you or anyone else,” he continued reassuringly.  “It’s one of those spells that either works or simply doesn’t work.  I’ve never heard of anyone trying it with any adverse consequences.”

“You did good last year with the spell against Adam,” Spike said, to everyone’s surprise, breaking his long silence.  He’d been listening intently to everyone, more worried about Joyce than he was willing to admit.  

“Tara, I promise I won’t be upset if this doesn’t work, but he’s right, you have a much better chance than I do.  Please?” Buffy asked quietly, just this side of begging.

Xander could tell that Tara was going to agree.  Like Spike, he’d been listening without saying much up until now, because magic was so not his strong point, but he had a growing sense of panic as he thought through the implications of a spell to see other spells.  He didn’t have to know anything about magic to realize that a spell to create a person out of nothing, and which must have affected the memories of half the people in town, had to be big time mojo, and would probably leave a huge signature of the kind Giles had just been talking about.  What if, in doing the spell they saw something about Dawn that told them she wasn’t real?  He had no idea if the spell they were talking about would show anything, but a spell intended to reveal spells sounded like it might put a big spotlight on someone created by magic.  

He couldn’t let anyone find out that way.

He heard Tara agree to try the spell and cleared his throat to catch the others’ attention.

“Buffy, I can’t do anything to help you on the magic front,” he said in what he hoped was a casual, no-big-deal tone.  “But I’m assuming that anything involving trances and concentration is better done without any distractions.  Why don’t Spike and I take Dawn out for pizza while you guys are doing your trance thing.”

Buffy threw him a grateful look that made him feel like a heel.  “That would be great.  You have no idea how hard it is to get homework done with her around, much less a big spell that calls for serious concentration.”

“Operation Distract Dawn is a go at your word.”

Spike gave him a peculiar look and Xander reminded himself to tone it down.  The falsely hearty tone was making his vampire suspicious.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Slayer!” Spike called peremptorily, then caught himself.  “Buffy,” he said more quietly, “need to talk to you a minute.”

She was consulting with Glinda, gathering supplies for the trance spell, and the witch shooed her away gently, saying she could do it by herself.  Xander looked up from the newspaper, where he was looking for movie options that Dawn and Spike could both live with.  He nodded, indicating he knew what Spike intended asking, but looked back down at the paper, obviously intending to let Spike handle the questioning.

“What is it, Spike?” Buffy asked impatiently as he led her to the back room where they could talk privately.

As he turned to face her, she started in surprise as she apparently noticed his bruises for the first time.  “What happened to you?”

“Fight,” he said brusquely.

“Oh,” she said vaguely.

That worried him, more than anything she could have said.  The Slayer might frequently be completely oblivious when it came to the emotional state of others but she had a predator’s instinct for the physical – weakness and injury were things she noticed, and a fight that had caused Spike’s injuries on her turf was something she ordinarily would have been very interested in.  He almost hoped her distraction had something to do with the soldier, because otherwise it meant she was worried enough about Joyce to lose her focus entirely.

“What’s going on with Joyce?  What’re the pills for?”

She frowned at him for a minute, then shrugged, seeming to decide that he didn’t mean any harm.  “They’re pain pills.  Her headaches are getting worse.”

“What’s wrong?” he tried to sound sharp but suspected his worry came through from the way the Slayer relaxed, leaning against the wall and letting her own frustration and worry show.

“We don’t know.  The doctors keep saying they can’t find anything wrong.  They’re running tests, but they haven’t found anything yet.  That’s why I think it might not be medical.”  She gestured vaguely towards the front room and the preparations going on for both research and the trance spell.

Spike just nodded.  When he didn’t say anything else, the Slayer shrugged and walked back to the front room, leaving him there, lost in thought.

He’d give Buffy and Glinda time to do the spell, see if the problem was mystical and not medical.  If the spell didn’t tell them anything…

Actually, he didn’t know what he’d do.  But he was not losing Joyce, not if he had to threaten every doctor in town to get results.

~~~~~

*A/N - Bits of dialog borrowed from the episode ‘No Place Like Home’


TBC
 
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