orchidluv (orchidluv) wrote in bloodclaim,
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Nothing the Same, Book 4, Ch. 25

Sorry, little holiday glitch in my weekly posting schedule, so this chapter is a week late.  I'm back on track now, with the next part half done, so (fingers crossed) I'm hoping to go back to two parts a week for at least a while.  Thanks for your patience everyone.

Nothing the Same, Book 4
Chapter:  25/?
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
WARNING:  THIS CHAPTER CONTAINS EXPLICIT SEX
Previous parts here

Chapter 25

“So, how did it go when you brought her home?” Xander asked, watching with more than idle interest as Spike rapidly shucked his clothes.

It was a much better show than the one he’d been watching twenty minutes ago.  He’d passed the time waiting for Spike to return sitting on the couch, restlessly channel surfing but completely unable to focus on anything he ended up watching.  Instead, his ears had been tuned to the outside stairs, listening for Spike.  When the welcome sound of Spike’s familiar steps climbing the stairs had finally come, he’d snatched the door open, peppering Spike with anxious questions about Dawn, which Spike had answered reassuringly.

Yes, Dawn was fine.  Yes, she’d calmed down and gone home, just like he’d said she would.  No, Dawn wasn’t going to do anything crazy.  Yes, he was sure that Dawn was going to be ok with the news that she wasn’t quite human.  His questions had fallen into silence eventually and Spike had pulled him into a hug, suggesting that they would both feel better after a shag.

He really liked the way Spike’s mind worked.

Heading for the bedroom, Spike had already begun pulling his clothes off but Xander wasn’t quite ready to move on, curious about how Joyce and Buffy had handled Spike’s refusal to bring Dawn home until she was ready.

“Slayer yelled at me, Joyce told her to put a cork in it.  Then they both made a big fuss over Dawn,” the vampire reported, tossing his shirt over a chair, his hands already undoing his belt.

Xander’s eyebrows went up skeptically.  “Joyce told Buffy to put a cork in it?”

“’s what she meant,” Spike insisted.

“So Dawn’s ok?” he asked again, admittedly for about the twelfth time.  Spike stopped with his jeans half undone and looked at him seriously.

“Yeah, luv.  Niblet’s strong, she’ll be fine.”

He could tell that Spike believed what he was saying, but he was having a hard time believing that Dawn had dealt with something this big in just a couple hours.  “We are talking about the person who set fire to her room, right?” he reminded Spike, climbing onto the bed as his lover sprawled out on the mattress.

“Just letting off a bit of steam, nothing to worry about.”

Xander shook his head.  Only Spike would describe arson as nothing to worry about.  Not that Dawn had really intended burning the house Dawn, but it had scared him badly that she’d destroyed her journals.  She’d been keeping a diary for years - sort of… or at least thought she had…  Anyway, the journals existed and it worried him that she’d torn them up and burned them.  Of course, maybe the idea of ever re-reading them since they chronicled things that hadn’t actually happened had freaked her out as much as it still sometimes did him, thinking about the intricacies of the memories that had been given to them all, but still, it was like she was rejecting the only life she’d always known.

Shaking off his whirling thoughts, he straddled Spike, still fully dressed, his weight resting on his knees as he bent down to kiss his lover.  “We should probably keep an eye on her for awhile,” he said quietly, “just to be sure.  It’s a lot, Spike, and humans aren’t as adaptable as demons.”

“We’ll keep an eye on her,” Spike promised, pulling him down for another kiss.  “Be alright, luv.”

For long moments, they did nothing more than kiss, mouths moving slowly and sensually against each other, tongues darting and playing, Spike’s hands buried in Xander’s hair, holding the dark waves back from his face as he bent over Spike, his upper body pressed against Spike’s bare chest, his muscular legs warm and tight against Spike’s sides. 

Xander pulled back finally, sitting up so he was perched on top of Spike’s hips, a mischievous smile on his lips as he began to slowly unbutton his shirt, lingering teasingly over each button.  Spike smirked up at him, wriggling a little beneath Xander’s weight to rub his erection against the worn softness of Xander’s jeans.

“Bit faster wouldn’t kill you, luv,” he suggested.  He laced his fingers behind his head and lifted his scarred eyebrow challengingly.

Xander finished unbuttoning his shirt but made no move to take it off, letting the halves hang open, giving Spike only glimpses of his tanned flesh.  “Got a surprise for you,” he purred and bent to kiss Spike again, his hands running up Spike’s arms, caressing the flesh and closing around his wrists.

~~~~~~~

Spike let Xander dominate the kiss, enjoying the feeling of his Claimed’s big calloused hands wrapped around his own wrists, pretending to pin him down so Xander could ravage his mouth unchecked.  He rocked his hips upwards, loving the friction against his aching cock. 

He would never make the comparison out loud, but these times when Xander took the lead in their lovemaking reminded him of Drusilla on those nights when they had clawed and bit each other in frenzied passion.  Not that Xander ever went as far as Dru sometimes had.  It hadn’t been uncommon for his dark princess to leave deep, bleeding wounds, wounds that afterwards, lying sated and content beside him, she would drink from, her tongue bathing and savoring each wound in a way that left him aroused all over again.

Xander never shredded his flesh during sex but he’d long since figured out that Spike found a touch of pain almost unbearably erotic and often marked Spike with his blunt human teeth and nails, giving him the taste of pleasure and pain entwined that his demon found so arousing.

Spike let his head fall back with a groan as Xander abandoned the kiss, his mouth drifting down along Spike’s neck, tracing the blood vessels with his tongue, then closing his teeth in a sharp bite that came just short of breaking the skin.  He worried the skin for a moment, pinching it between his teeth as Spike sucked in an unneeded breath and arched in pleasure beneath him.

Xander lifted up and released one of Spike’s wrists, stretching across him towards the edge of the bed.  Spike took advantage of the opportunity, mouthing at the flat brown nipples as they brushed by his face.  Xander chuckled, fumbling at the bed-side table for a moment, then settled back down over Spike’s hips, his brown eyes laughing down at Spike as he took hold of both wrists again.

He felt the chill of metal against his right wrist and looked over just in time to see Xander snap a handcuff closed around his wrist.  He raised an eyebrow as Xander shut the free end of the cuff around a portion of the bed frame.  “Kinky, luv.  Where’d you get the cuffs?”

“Ethan,” Xander said matter-of-factedly, as he reached over and snapped a second pair around Spike’s left wrist, again closing the free end through the frame of the bed.

“Figures.  Randy old queer.”

“Look who’s talking.  You’re like a hundred years older than he is.”  Xander said absently, running his hands with tantalizing slowness down Spike’s arms towards his chest.

He could easily break free of the handcuffs, but he was curious to see what his boy was up to.  He lay still, watching as Xander began running his hands over Spike’s smooth cool flesh, exploring the lean muscled form as if it weren’t as familiar to him as his own.  Spike arched his back as Xander bent down, teasingly nipping and lapping at first one nipple, then the other, little jolts of sensation shooting through him as Xander’s teeth closed on the sensitive nubs, biting hard enough to cause Spike’s cock to jerk as the pain sent pleasure shooting through his body. 

Spike was almost purring as Xander worked his way slowly down his body, worshipping every inch of his chest and abdomen as he went.  He was hard and ready, his body twisting and writhing as he sought more sensation by the time Xander finally reached his goal, his lips mouthing down Spike’s abdomen towards his eager cock. 

Xander sat up abruptly and Spike cursed, bucking his hips upwards encouragingly.  “Too soon to be takin’ a break, luv,” he said.  “You were doin’ fine.”

“Just fixing the sheets a bit,” he said with mock solicitude, “wouldn’t want you uncomfortable.” 

To Spike’s disbelief, Xander proceeded to do just that, pulling up the top sheet so that it covered Spike to the waist.

“Going the wrong way there, pet,” he couldn’t help pointing out.

His boy looked at him from under the tumbled fall of his bangs, his dark eyes sparkling with wicked amusement.  “Patience, luv,” he said mockingly.

“Fuck, patience,” Spike growled.

Xander laughed at him, then bent his head and began mouthing at his cock through the sheet.  Spike could feel the warmth of his breath even through the fabric and his cock was straining against the cotton separating it from Xander’s mouth, struggling to break free, wanting the feel of that warm heat surrounding him.  He swore as Xander dragged his tongue along the bulge under the sheet, teasing him unmercifully.

For long moments, Xander did his best to drive him out of his mind, ignoring Spike’s demands to get on with it, for Xander to touch him, mouthing and licking at his crotch until the fabric was damp from both saliva and pre-come and Spike was bucking his hips restlessly, the handcuffs rattling against the headboard as he strained against the restraints.

Xander sat up again and shifted so he was sitting directly over Spike’s hips, staring down at him with a mocking smile.

“Oi!  Finish what you started,” Spike complained, arcing up against him.

“I thought this would be a good time to discuss the fact that I couldn’t reach you for -” Xander ground his hips against Spike’s “Two. Bloody. Hours.”  He emphasized each word by rocking their hips together so their erections slid against each other. 

“Cell phones are for humans,” he said, glaring up at his Claimed. 

“Apparently so are orgasms,” Xander threatened.

“You wouldn’t dare,” he growled, shifting into his true face and glaring in yellow-eyed outrage at his Claimed.

Which, of course, was exactly the wrong thing to say.  Xander leaned closer to him, not coincidentally pressing harder against his aching cock as he did so.  “Nothing else seems to be getting the point across.  I figure a spot of torture is what’s called for.”

Normally, Spike was all for torture, but not when he was on the receiving end.

He snarled and exerted his full strength against the handcuffs.  The metal bands around his wrists held but the links of chain snapped, unequal to the task of confining a Master Vampire.  Fast as lightning, he grabbed Xander and flipped the two of them over in a tangle of twisted sheets.  He released Xander just long enough to reach down and rip the sheets away from them.  Xander’s startled laugh was almost drowned out by the noise the cotton made as he carelessly shredded the fabric in his quest to be free of the confining cloth.

His hands made short work of Xander’s jeans, yanking them off and flinging them to one side, exposing Xander’s eager weeping erection.  He fisted his hands in Xander’s long hair, kissing him savagely as their bodies strained together.  Teeth clashed, tongues dueled and he gloried in his Claimed’s eager surrender.  Unable to wait, he freed one hand and reached between their bodies, coating his fingers with the pre-come flowing from both their cocks. 

He pushed Xander’s legs over his shoulders and reached between, plunging two fingers inside, loving the way Xander gasped as he was hastily stretched.  Eyes closed, head thrown back exposing his neck with the veins throbbing tantalizingly just beneath the surface, Xander was lost in sensation.  Spike worked to open him, feeling the tight muscles yield to his probing fingers, as he circled and scissored his fingers inside his boy’s hot silken channel.  He felt Xander’s slight jerk as his fingers found the prostate gland and he deliberately brushed his knuckles against it, loving the way Xander groaned and shuddered beneath him, his breaths coming in harsh pants.

He pulled his fingers free and positioned himself, forcing himself to move slowly and not just plunge inside as he wanted to.  He pushed inside slowly, relentlessly, feeling the muscles give way slowly to let him in.  Xander’s hands were urging him on but he held his pace, knowing that Xander was only minimally prepared and not wanting to push the pain of penetration beyond what his boy would find arousing.  He could feel the tight muscles fluttering around his cock and the sensation was pure bliss.  He was encased in tight velvet heat, clasping him tight and massaging him and it was all he could do to hold back.

He rested for a moment when he was fully seated, giving Xander’s body time to adjust, ignoring his Claimed’s incoherent pleas to get on with it, to just fucking move already.  Bending his head, he lapped at Xander’s skin, letting the taste of sweat and pheromones and the unique flavor that was Xander fill his senses.  Slowly, infinitesimally, his hips began to move, withdrawing and thrusting in tiny movements that gradually increased in speed and power until he was plunging in hard and fast, pounding deep inside, hitting Xander’s prostate with every thrust as Xander thrashed beneath him, his cries of pleasure filling the room.  

Spike bent down and buried his fangs in Xander’s neck, Xander’s sharp scream sounding in his ear and he stiffened and came, his cock spurting between their bodies, his ass clenching around Spike’s cock pulling Spike’s own orgasm from him in a burst of exquisite pleasure.  His mouth filled with his Claimed’s blood, his cock milked by the tight convulsing muscles, Spike barely remembered to lift his head in time to avoid draining his Claimed.

He licked soothingly at his renewed Mark, pulling his softening cock out of Xander’s hole, and rolled the two of them away from the wet spot, wrapping himself around his boy’s heated body.  For a long moment, he listened contentedly as Xander’s breathing and heart rate gradually slowed to normal, his ear pressed against his boy’s back, his hands stroking softly over his boy’s tanned skin.

“That’ll teach you,” Xander murmured, his voice slurred with sleep and boneless satiation.

Spike chuckled, the sound little more than a quiet rumble of content in the room.  “Yeah, luv.  Taught me good.”

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

Raised voices in the front room distracted Xander and he half turned, glancing back towards the door leading into the shop.  Spike took full advantage, sweeping Xander’s legs out from under him and dropping him to the mats. 

“Hey, no fair,” Xander complained.

“Keep your mind on the opponent you’re fighting, luv.  Worrying about what’s happening somewhere else gets you killed.” 

“Not in the shop during a sparring lesson,” Xander grumbled but Spike could see his boy had taken the critique seriously.  Xander nearly always fought opponents stronger than himself and needed to keep his mind on what he was doing to stay alive.  It was a point Spike spent a lot of time reinforcing, given Xander’s tendency to worry more about everyone else’s wellbeing than his own survival. 

He put out a hand and pulled Xander to his feet.  “Somethin’s got the Slayer in a tizzy,” he commented, following Xander into the front room.  After the initial exchange of excited words, the voices had died down to murmurs but the intense emotions were still there.

Buffy was explaining something to Rupert, keeping her voice low and a wary eye on the customers browsing in the shop.  She had Joyce and Dawn with her and that put Spike on alert.   While Dawn often dropped by after school for an hour or two, Joyce rarely came to the shop.  His eyes swept the room, noting the two overnight bags dropped by the door and Joyce’s anxiety.  Dawn had her over by the shelves, pointing out various items to her, but Joyce’s worried gaze remained fastened on her daughter and Rupert even as she tried to be calm for Dawn’s sake. 

“Guys, what’s going on?” Xander asked.

Rupert cleared his throat.  “Tara, would you mind watching the register for a few minutes?” he asked.  Tara looked up and nodded agreement before turning back to the customer she was helping, who was curiously examining a carved wooden statuette.  Buffy beckoned Joyce and Dawn to join them in the back, then shut the door to the shop firmly behind them.

“Glory was at the house this afternoon,” Buffy announced.  Spike froze, his eyes going immediately to Dawn.  “Dawn wasn’t there.  I stopped by after classes and found my mother offering Glory tea,” she explained grimly.

“Well, it’s not like I knew who she was,” Joyce said, with surface calm.  “I just assumed she was a friend of yours, Buffy.  She seemed a little rude but not dangerous.”

“Niblet?” Spike asked, biting back the curses that rose to his lips as he realized that none of them had had the brains of a hr’ashlek demon or they would have described Glory to Joyce and Dawn so they would recognize her if she showed up at their door.

“I was at Janet’s.”  Dawn sounded almost disappointed that she hadn’t met Glory.  “I always miss the good stuff.”

“It wasn’t good,” Buffy said sharply.  “She threatened to kill mom and everyone else I know if I don’t turn over the Key.”

“She knows you have it?” Xander asked anxiously.

“She’s guessing,” Buffy told him.  “But she seemed pretty convinced that I either have it or know where it is.”

“Makes sense,” Spike said.  “The monks wanted to protect the Key.  You’re the strongest human in town, so you’re the most likely person to be guarding it.  Not like a bunch of monks are going to trust a demon enough to turn the Key over to one.”

“Buffy, what do you want to do?” Giles asked.

“I need to get mom and Dawn out of town.  Like tonight.”

“No,” Dawn said heatedly.  “I’m not leaving my friends.”

“Dawn, it’s the safest way.”

“Is it?” Joyce asked quietly.  “Buffy, if you go with us, Glory is bound to wonder why you’ve suddenly left town and taken us with you.  And if you send us away without you, you won’t be there to protect Dawn.”

“Hello.  Isn’t anyone listening to me?  I said I’m not leaving.”

“Dawn, you’ll do as we say,” Buffy told her.

“You’re not the boss of me!” Dawn snapped, her eyes flashing. 

“Why don’t we all just calm down and think this through,” Giles suggested. 

“Giles,” Buffy said emphatically.  “Mom and Dawn can’t stay here.  Glory knows where they live.  I have to get them somewhere safe.  If Dawn had been home…”

“Would Glory recognize her?” Xander interrupted as Buffy trailed off, unable to voice her fear.  “I mean,” he glanced apologetically at Dawn, “if she sees Dawn, will Glory know she’s the Key?”

That was the fear behind Buffy’s panic, Spike realized.  And the reason she was wanting to bolt.  “Doubt it,” he said before she could answer, and shrugged when the Summers’ women all stared at him.  “Stands to reason.  Monks knew who they were hiding the Key from, after all.  Be a bloody stupid way to hide their precious Key if Glory could bump into her at the mall and know instantly that Dawn’s what she’s looking for,” he pointed out.

“We can’t take that risk.  Who knows how good the spell is?” Buffy insisted.  “Getting them out of town completely is the safest thing.”

“Be a mite conspicuous, bundling everyone up and leaving town together.” Spike said judiciously. 

“What are you talking about?”

“Oh, please.  Think your Watcher is going to let you leave without him?  And what about the rest of us?  Glinda, and even Rayne?  Think Glory won’t torture anyone left behind for information?” 

Buffy’s eyes widened, and she looked at Giles and Xander helplessly.  Spike pressed the point home.  “Would leave a trail a blind human could follow, if you go caravanning across the landscape with everyone you hold near and dear.”  He met her stare with a raised eyebrow.  “Running isn’t the answer.  It gets you on your own, no resources, no safe house, no plan.” 

“We’ll drive halfway across the country and set ourselves up somewhere far, far away from the Hellmouth and Glory,” Buffy said after a moment.  “We’ll be safe in the middle of nowhere.”

“Stop thinking like a human, Slayer,” Spike said bluntly, shaking his head in exasperation.  He couldn’t help wondering if Buffy was thinking about taking refuge with her toy soldier.  “Dawn’s not a witness on the run from the mob, who can just change her name and hide out in the Midwest.  Use your head.  Glory hasn’t been able to find the Key when she’s living in the same town as Dawn.  That says the monks did something more than just create memories of her.  Says she’s hidden  from detection somehow.  The spells they worked are powerful, about the most strongest mojo I’ve ever heard of.  Think about it:  everyone who encounters Dawn who would know you had a kid sister, or Joyce has a daughter, has memories of her.  People who wouldn’t know about her, don’t get the instant memories.  Spell that sophisticated took a hell of a lot of power to work.”

“You think they borrowed power from the Hellmouth for the spell,” Giles said in sudden realization.

“Stands to reason, don’t it?  How do we know the spell will keep working once you take her outside the Hellmouth’s range?”

“It won’t matter then, no one will know Dawn or any of us away from here,” Buffy said impatiently.

“And what if the mojo that’s keepin’ something as powerful as Glory from realizing Dawn’s the Key when she’s standing in your house breaks down as well?”

Buffy shot a horrified look at Dawn.  “Oh, my god.”  There was sick realization in her voice.

“Buffy, he’s right.  We can’t take that risk.  We just have to bluff it out here.” Joyce said quietly.

“Not such a bad place to make a stand,” Spike commented.  “Got resources and friends here.”

Dawn had been listening silently, looking frightened but trying hard to hide it.  Joyce put an arm around her, giving her a comforting squeeze.  “We need a plan, Buffy,” she told her daughter quietly.  “Just getting into the car and running away isn’t the answer.  If we decide that leaving is the safest thing to do, then we need a plan.  Otherwise, we’re just running blindly and we’ll be easy to follow - which makes leaving a wasted effort.”

Buffy took a deep, steadying breath.  “Ok.  But the two of you can’t stay at home by yourselves.  What if Glory comes back?  She said the next time she and I met, someone I loved was going to die.”  From the slight hesitation, Spike suspected she was editing the threat somewhat for Dawn’s sake.  “If you’re not leaving, then I’m moving home,” Buffy said firmly.  “I’ll drop out for the semester - just until Glory’s taken care of,” she said when Joyce opened her mouth to protest.  “I can re-enroll next year when everything goes back to normal.”

“Buffy, maybe we should talk about this a little before you make such a drastic decision.  I don’t want you to do anything rash.”

“This isn’t rash.  It’s about protecting you and Dawn.” 

I know, and I appreciate it, but Dawn and I don’t want you disrupting your whole life trying to take care of us.”

“It’s not disrupting my whole life, it’s one semester.  My classes aren’t the greatest this semester anyway,” Buffy said, with an attempt at humor.  “It’ll be easy, I’ll just tell them you’re recovering a little slower than you thought and need my help at home.”

“Does that mean you’ll do my chores?” Dawn asked hopefully.

“In your dreams,” Buffy told her.

“It might be wise to set something up now, just in case,” Giles said.  “A safe house, if you will.  Somewhere you can always go in an emergency and where you can find each other.”

“You can use the mansion,” Xander offered, and all three women turned to look at him in surprise.  He glanced at Spike and got an approving nod.  “You’d still be in town but at least your name’s not on the mailbox.  You aren’t connected with it.  As long as you’re careful about being seen, Glory wouldn’t find you there.”

“Angel’s mansion?” Dawn exclaimed.  “That’s great, Buffy says it’s a really cool house.”

“Drafty and overdone,” Spike told her dismissively.  “But it’s got no sewer access so it’s as safe as anywhere in this town.”

~~~~~~~

In the end, Dawn and Joyce decided to stay home for the time being, keeping the mansion for emergencies.  Xander volunteered to get the house ready, in case they actually had to use it.  Buffy would talk to the administration office about quitting school for the semester - Joyce had insisted she find out how it would affect her ability to re-enroll and her grade point average before doing anything irreversible.  It was obvious the home visit from Glory had rattled them both badly, which Xander sympathized with and understood.  Other than the zombies at the beginning of their senior year, Xander didn’t think anything had attacked Buffy in her home.  And Glory had threatened Joyce and Dawn personally, as people Buffy cared about, not just because they happened to be there. 

He’d broached the subject of telling Tara and Ethan about Dawn, pointing out that they were going to figure it out anyway, especially Ethan who made a practice of lurking and listening.  Buffy hadn’t been ready to hear it though, insisting that Tara would be safer not knowing and stating flatly that she wouldn’t trust Ethan to know the truth under any circumstances.

Xander had been a bit surprised that Giles hadn’t defended Ethan, but he’d simply agreed that it wasn’t time yet.  Fortunately, Ethan had been gone on one of his mysterious errands when Buffy dragged her mother and sister into the store.  For someone who didn’t seem to work, or do anything other than spend time with Giles and poke around in other people’s business, Ethan found a lot to keep him busy.  It wasn’t unusual for him to disappear for a day or two, always refusing to explain afterwards where he’d been or what he’d been doing.  Xander was pretty sure he did it just for effect:  for all he knew, Ethan was innocently visiting his grandmother, but Buffy regarded his unexplained absences with deep suspicion - which was probably why Ethan refused to explain them.  Buffy’s unflagging dislike and distrust seemed to amuse the chaos mage.

Of course, Xander thought with a suppressed grin, it was possible that this time Ethan had just decided to prudently absent himself in case Spike hadn’t enjoyed the handcuffs. 

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

It felt like they were all holding their breaths for the next couple of days but, once again, Glory didn’t follow through.  She didn’t return to the house on Revello Drive, or the Magic Box, and gradually, they all relaxed again.

It was driving Giles crazy the way she vanished off the face of the earth between appearances and he had been driving himself relentlessly, reading his most obscure texts, desperately seeking any explanation for why such a powerful being would only show herself intermittently.  He had come up with all sorts of theories about power drains and partial manifestations, and transdimensional fluctuations, all of which - as Ethan so acidly pointed out - were complete supposition and largely useless.

Buffy withdrew from her classes and moved back home.  Giles, Xander, Tara and Dawn had gone to her room on Saturday to help her move boxes.  Despite the joking and laughter, Buffy had an air of melancholy.  Watching her survey her empty room one final time under the pretext of  ensuring she hadn’t left anything behind, Xander’s heart ached for her.  College had been Buffy’s shot at a normal life.  Despite demon roommates and a government operative boyfriend, she’d been able to recapture some of her pre-Slayer life.  She had friends who didn’t know she was the Slayer, had attended parties that didn’t involve mayhem beyond what was normal for drunken college kids, and most of her professors had tried to educate her, not kill her. 

She’d sighed quietly and turned to leave, manufacturing a cheerful smile for Xander.  He pretended he hadn’t noticed anything, throwing an arm around her and offering to spring for pizza.  She’d accepted with a grateful smile and, by the time they got down the stairs and rejoined the others, she had been arguing with him amiably over whether pineapple was an acceptable topping.

She’d been restless since then, patrolling more than usual, and spending her days hanging out at the magic shop talking with Tara, training with Giles, and exchanging barbed insults with Ethan.  Rather than spend time at the house alone, Dawn now came to the magic shop every afternoon after school, unless she was at a friend’s house - no one wanted to risk her being alone at home if Glory made a return visit.  Xander and Spike also began to make daily trips to the shop.

It felt like they were suspended in limbo, waiting to hear from the Council or the Coven, waiting for Glory to make a move, waiting for a shoe to drop.  When it did, it wasn’t one they’d been expecting.

 Giles hung up the phone but didn’t move, sitting staring into space for a long moment. 

“Mr. Giles?” Tara asked quietly.  “I-is everything alright?”

He started, then looked around, realizing that everyone was staring at him.  “Yes, quite alright.”  He looked at Buffy.  “It seems the Council of Watchers have decided to pay us a visit.”

“They’re coming here?” Buffy exclaimed.  “Now?  No.  Tell them to give us the information over the phone.  Why do they have to come here?”

“I assume they believe the information is too sensitive to be trusted to a phone call,” Giles said.  “They didn’t explain, just said to expect them soon.”

W-what’s so bad about them coming here?” Tara asked, looking around the group, puzzled.  “Aren’t they good guys?  I mean, Watchers, that’s just like other Gileses, right?”

“Yeah, they're scary and horrible,” Buffy told her.  Giles raised his eyebrows and Ethan let out a quiet huff of laughter. 

Ethan never really attended the meetings.  He just hung around the shop during the meetings, pretending to ignore them, listening to every word, and occasionally contributing sarcastic remarks. 

“They can appear a bit ... well, hard-nosed, but, essentially, their agenda is the same as ours:  they want to save the world and kill demons,” Giles tried to explain, somewhat unconvincingly.

“There’s a good goal.”

“Sorry, Spike.  I meant…”

“Please.  Like those wankers could kill me anyway,” Spike told him, offended by the very suggestion.

“Giles,” Buffy said urgently, reclaiming his attention.  “I don’t want them to come here.  I don’t trust them.  Make them not come here.”

“They’re probably already on their way,” Giles told her.  “Quinton Travers is heading up the delegation.”

“The guy who tried to kill me with that crazy test?” Buffy asked incredulously.  “Great.”

“Chances are he’s not planning on killing you this time,” Spike told her cheerfully. “But, you never know.”

“Gee, thanks, Spike,” Buffy said dryly.

“Buffy, I know you don’t want them here, but if the Council knows something about Glory, her agenda or her origins, then,” Giles gestured helplessly, “then maybe it will help us get a grip on what we’re dealing with.  Right now, we’re fighting blind.  We need to know anything they’ve learned.”

Buffy sighed.  “I know.  I still wish they’d just call.”

“They can’t intimidate you nearly as effectively over the phone,” Ethan said. 

“Intimidate?  Who said anything about intimidation?” Buffy asked crankily.

Ethan just smiled, like he knew something the rest of them didn’t.  “Just a thought.”

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

*A/N - Bits of dialogue borrowed from the episode ’Checkpoint’


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