A New Life by badgervamp
Summary: Post Chosen, Buffy is left to deal with the aftermath of the Final Battle. Spike is gone and she has to make a new life for herself. But how can she move on when he’s still with her every night.

This fic has been nominated Round 30 of SunnyD Awards for Best: New Author, Angst, Drama, NC-17, Pairing Conventional, Post-Series Fic. Squee!
Categories: General Characters: None
Genres: Action, Angst, Romance
Warnings: Adult Language, Sexual Situations
Series: A New World
Chapters: 26 Completed: Yes Word count: 61381 Read: 28188 Published: 04/08/2010 Updated: 04/16/2010

1. Chapter 1 - Inferno by badgervamp

2. Chapter 2 - Rapture by badgervamp

3. Chapter 3 - Conviction by badgervamp

4. Chapter 4 - Abandonment by badgervamp

5. Chapter 5 - Resurrection by badgervamp

6. Chapter 6 - Communion by badgervamp

7. Chapter 7 - Revelation by badgervamp

8. Chapter 8 - Genesis by badgervamp

9. Chapter 9 - Confirmation by badgervamp

10. Chapter 10 - Rebirth by badgervamp

11. Chapter 11 - Vision by badgervamp

12. Chapter 12 - Pilgrimage by badgervamp

13. Chapter 13 - Hope by badgervamp

14. Chapter 14 - Illumination by badgervamp

15. Chapter 15 - Ecstasy by badgervamp

16. Chapter 16 - Contemplation by badgervamp

17. Chapter 17 - Purgatory by badgervamp

18. Chapter 18 - Crusade by badgervamp

19. Chapter 19 - Judgment by badgervamp

20. Chapter 20 - Enlightenment by badgervamp

21. Chapter 21 - Sacrament by badgervamp

22. Chapter 22 - Nirvana by badgervamp

23. Chapter 23 - Grace by badgervamp

24. Chapter 24 - Benediction by badgervamp

25. Chapter 25 - Consecration by badgervamp

26. Chapter 26 - A New Life by badgervamp

Chapter 1 - Inferno by badgervamp
Author's Notes:
This fic has been nominated in Round 30 of SunnyD Awards for Best: New Author, Angst, Drama, NC-17, Pairing Conventional, Post-Series Fic. Squee!
‘A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them.’ Carl Jung


The ground shook as Buffy turned towards the sound of Spike’s voice. Peering through clouds of dust and falling rocks she saw him, spotlighted by a beam of sunlight, bathed in its deadly radiance. There he stood, head flung back, pinned in place like a fallen messiah, crucified on a shaft of pure, golden light, all the while generating some sort of freaking laser show.

Terror shot through Buffy’s core as Faith screamed at the remaining girls to get out quickly. Dodging both the dust and the debris of the disintegrating Turok Han and the collapsing cavern, Buffy pressed her hand over the gash in her abdomen, gritting her teeth against the pain as she darted towards Spike.

God, he was glowing, his skin almost translucent as the light poured out of him, through him. Her beautiful vampire! He was hers, damn it, and she wasn’t going anywhere without him – heroics or divine purpose be damned. She’d make him toss off that treacherous amulet and come with her.

But then she looked at him, really looked at him, ‘seeing’ him for the first time, in the way that he had always ‘seen’ her. And she got it. She could see how important this was to him, to finish this himself. It terrified her, but she had to trust him. She knew he’d never willingly leave her. And he could do it right? He could do the ‘clean up’ and they’d meet up outside. He’d always managed to make it through before, of course he’d make it this time.

Trembling with fear and love and pride and acceptance, Buffy stretched her hand out towards Spike’s. Now, more than ever before, she had to let him know how she really felt. Belatedly, regret washed over her. Regret that she hadn’t realised earlier how very deep and real her feelings for him were. Regret that she hadn’t found the courage to share those feelings with him.

She’d wanted to tell him last night. She’d tried to force the words out while they sat on his cot and he’d held her in his arms communicating his support and belief in her and she her trust in him. She’d longed to say the words as they’d looked deeply into each other’s eyes before leaning into a soft, achingly sweet kiss.

The words had been on the tip of her tongue when that kiss turned passionate and swept away any remaining hesitations as swiftly as they’d torn away one another’s clothes. It was all she could do to stop from whimpering her feelings as Spike had gently, almost reverently pushed into her core. She’d barely kept from screaming them out as their desires ignited and their bodies ground and thrust together hungrily, dancing as never before. And later, as they lay wrapped in each other’s arms, naked limbs entwined, sharing tender caresses, she had all but spilled the words alongside the affection she pressed lightly upon his cheeks, his brow, the strong column of his neck with her tightly sealed lips.

So yes of course, in a myriad of ways she’d told him exactly what he meant to her, with her eyes and her hands and her body. But as always, she was ‘not so good with the words’ girl.

But right now, as their fingertips touched, the feelings surged through Buffy with an utter sense of inevitability. All at once, her love for this man, this vampire, her one-time enemy, and now her greatest ally, her soul mate, seemed impossible to contain. She was overwhelmed by an intense flood of emotion so strong and true that it seemed incredible to her that she hadn’t spent the last days, weeks, months or even years declaring her love for him to any and all who would listen. Yet the only one she really needed to tell was the amazing man standing before her.

Stepping forward, she pressed her palm against his. At once flames erupted from their clasped hands. An electrifying, tingling warmth spread up her arm, radiating throughout her, stimulating and restoring muscle, bone and fibre, galvanizing every cell in her body and setting her very essence ablaze with an astonishing feeling of strength, acceptance and profound happiness. She drew in a deep steadying breath, never feeling more alive than she had at that moment.

Buffy gripped Spike’s hand more firmly, his touch and heat lending her courage.

“I love you,” she said simply, letting the emotion emanate from her eyes and face, from her heart, as the words finally flowed from her lips. She watched Spike’s reaction as he took in her words, his eyes briefly widening in astonishment before delight and devotion suffused his countenance, lending him an intense, passionate focus as his dreams were finally answered. At that moment, Buffy knew everything would turn out fine. Somehow, they would both survive and tomorrow or next week, whenever, they could begin their life together.

Spike’s body seemed to glow more brightly as the dazzling beams of lethal light emanating from his chest radiated wildly around the cavern. Buffy’s gaze remained locked with his, their fingers firmly entwined while beneath her feet the ground shuddered violently. The dust-laden air reverberated with an ominous rumble and creak as the rock walls and ceiling began to shatter and fall.

Then time seemed to halt, and Buffy watched in confusion as Spike’s expression transformed from loving amazement to dazed uncertainty. He clutched her hand anxiously as his body trembled and jerked against the pulsing light. As if awakening from a dream, he blinked rapidly and shook his head, glancing frantically around the chamber before once again settling his gaze upon her. She frowned as he returned her apprehensive consideration with a look of cold detachment, no remaining trace of affection evident in his face. A deep chill crept over her as his aloof demeanour shifted to aversion and then to scorn.

With icy disregard he looked down at her, “No you don’t, but thanks for saying it… bitch!”

Buffy froze in horror and disbelief. She tried to step back, but he gripped her hand more tightly and threw his head back, laughing cruelly as the flames, burning now with a cold, unholy light, leapt higher between them. Fear and bewilderment washed through her as she struggled to release herself, fought to release him from whatever had Spike in its grip.

“Spike, what are you doing? You’re hurting me. You can’t mean this. Please, Spike I love you. Please, baby, lets get out of here.” Buffy begged desperately, the tears running down her cheeks.

“Well pet,” Spike said quietly, “the thing of it is, this little bauble of Peaches’ has done a right job on old Spike. You know, I could feel my soul, it really was there. But the bloody light show did more than just sting, Buff. Seems like it burnt the buggering soul right out of me. And guess what it took with it? Suddenly I feel cured of my pathetic romantic yearnings for the Slayer. No more gutless lap dog shenanigans for me. Oh no! The Big Bad is back and he’s ripe for the hunt.”

Once again he laughed, then jerked her towards him. Horrified and heart broken, Buffy stumbled into his arms. But this was no loving embrace. Trapped against his burning chest, she moaned as the light began to sear its way through her body. Writhing in agony, she barely heard the words Spike hissed into her ear.

“Guess I’m gonna bag me my third slayer after all pet. You smell so delicious, full of fear and despair. Don’t worry, it’ll soon be over. Its finally time for Spike to have his one. Good. Day.”

She heard the sound of bones shifting, and then viciously he struck, sinking his teeth into her neck, ripping and tearing wildly before gulping noisily, draining her life greedily. Finally he pulled back and grinned at her, his demon face leering drunkenly, her blood smeared across his mouth and chin.

Throwing his head back once more, howling wickedly, the blaze within him flared brighter, hotter. Before her eyes the light began to burst through him, consuming him, searing away skin and flesh, muscle and bone in a matter of seconds, till only his laugh remained, echoing in her ears. Dizzy and nauseous from blood loss and now unsupported, Buffy sank to the ground as the fire in her belly burned her from within. Holding out her hands, she watched them start to crumble before her as she opened her mouth to scream…

Chapter 2 - Rapture by badgervamp
‘A lie will easily get you out of a scrape, and yet, strangely and beautifully, rapture possesses you when you have taken the scrape and left out the lie.’
Charles Edward Montague

Buffy lurched upright, glancing wildly around the darkened room. Reaching out for Spike she encountered nothing but the tangled, empty sheets of her bed. The cool, silent stillness that enveloped her jarred discordantly with the sounds and images and sensations that continued to echo through her mind. She lifted her shaking hands to her unblemished neck, then to her face, flinching as the still tender burn on her left palm pressed against her damp, salty cheeks and cold, harsh reality struck her again.

Taking a deep shuddering breath, she felt the horror of tonight’s nightmare wash over her. In the early morning half light of her room, Buffy moaned quietly as the agony of her loss hit her once more, this time warped by a dream-twist too soul destroying for her conscious mind to contemplate. The emotional pain rolled through her body, once again leaving her weak and nauseous.

Her heart still racing with fear-tainted adrenalin and despair, Buffy swung her legs over the edge of the bed. Snatching up her robe she threw it on, quickly opened her door and stumbled along the hallway towards the wood panelled bathroom, sank to the floor beside the toilet and lifted the seat.

Minutes later she pushed her hair back from her damp brow and sat up. She pulled herself shakily to her bare feet and wrapped one arm around her still roiling stomach as she reached out to flush the toilet. This was the tenth morning in a row that she had awoken from the endless nightmares to nausea so strong that she had had to hastily dash along the hall to the high-ceilinged bathroom and lean over the old-fashioned porcelain bowl to expel the meagre remains of the previous evening’s meal.

After brushing her teeth and rinsing her face, Buffy treaded softly back down the passage to her bedroom, wary of waking either Dawn or Willow. Five weeks had passed since the collapse of Sunnydale, and three weeks since their relocation to England. She knew that both her sister and best friend were worried about her, but despite their concern she was unable, and unwilling, to shake off the sense of loss and loneliness that had settled over her as soon as their plane had taken off from LAX, twelve days after Sunnydale’s collapse.

Her depression and listlessness contrasted sharply with her initial post apocalypse euphoria. Standing on the edge of the crater that day, while the undeniable evidence of loss and desolation confronted her like clouds of settling dust, Buffy had felt full of a sense of lightness and wellbeing. Even at the time, she was aware that these emotions were utterly out of sync with how she should have been feeling. While her mind was screaming at her that she’d just lost her beloved, her heart just refused to let go of the amazing sense of love and purpose she’d tapped into down in that cavern with Spike.

Leaving him behind should have been the hardest thing she’d ever had to do in her life – the very thought of his final death more devastating to her than sending Angel into Acathla’s Hell, more terrifying than leaping from Glory’s tower. Yet that hadn’t been how she’d felt at the time.

When she’d turned away from Spike and dashed up the crumbling stairs and through the ruined corridors of Sunnydale High, she had still been awash with that awesome sense of total faith and optimism that had overwhelmed her as she held his hand. And as she’d run through the devastation, faster than she had ever run before, leaping higher and further than she would have ever believed possible, the strength and agility of her body had left her feeling invincible, and tingly all over. Even seeing the disintegrating ruins of Sunnydale falling spectacularly into the abyss as she clung to the roof of the bus hadn’t dimmed that warm inner glow.

So minutes later, contemplating her future while staring at the remains of her past, Buffy still felt weirdly full of optimism and excitement. As Dawn asked her what she was going to do next, Buffy had wrapped her arms around her heated body and smiled in anticipation. She’d felt giddy and impatient and utterly on edge, waiting for her life to begin again. The thought hadn’t even really registered in her brain yet, but in her heart she knew. She was waiting for Spike to come for her.

Five weeks down the road, it seemed crazy to Buffy that she had felt like that. Sure, love makes you do the wacky, but that was truly insane. She couldn’t figure out, even now, what had made her feel so confident that Spike would walk out of there, take her in his arms and go all An Officer and A Gentleman on her. After all, look at her track record. Buffy, love and happy endings just didn’t go together.

Okay so Spike was the one who swore he’d never leave her, but no matter how cocky and Big Bad, you just can’t talk your way out of a whole load of burning, mystical sunlight and endless tons of heavy, collapsing Hellmouth can you?

Maybe it had simply been the adrenaline rush of another averted apocalypse and the love hormones finally set loose around her body. It definitely had something to do with that incredible moment she and Spike had shared down in the Hellmouth. But for whatever reason, as she’d stood there smiling sweetly, Buffy and reality hadn’t even been in the same time zone.

Well, it sure would have been nice to feel even an ounce of that happiness now. Instead, over the next few days and weeks, the exhilaration had slowly and painfully seeped out of her, leaving her feeling weak, miserable and heartbroken.

Wearily, Buffy sank back onto her bed. She knew that the range of symptoms she’d been experiencing – insomnia, general exhaustion, irritability, frustration, overwhelming feelings of worthlessness and guilt, and now nausea – reflected her very real and profound sense of grief over Spike’s death.

What’s more, the nightly replays of what had happened that day had grown steadily worse over the last month, until they’d taken on the nightmare quality of tonight’s little feature.

At first the dreams had merely been replays, faithful recreations of that final twenty-four hours. A rerun of their precious last night together and the love and forgiveness they’d found in each others arms and bodies, the horror and seeming hopelessness of the battle down in the Hellmouth and Spike’s stoic heroism as the amulet began to activate. Followed by the big finish, the incredible feeling of warmth and love she’d experienced while holding his hand, her whispered admission of her love and his brave determination to finish the job as he sent Buffy out to safety.

In the beginning, the dreams had filled her with a sense of hope and optimism. She had the first one at the little pit stop of a motor inn they’d pulled into just east of the remains of Sunnydale along the 101.

Giles had dropped the battered bus full of weary warriors at the shabby lodgings and left them there to sort themselves out while he’d driven along the winding coast road to the nearest mid sized town. In the back seat of the rusty old car he’d managed to lease from the nearby garage lay a badly injured Robin, propped up by Faith.

By the time Giles returned from his hospital run, the remaining survivors had sorted themselves out, dished out rooms, showered and changed, and ordered and consumed food from the all-night diner next door. Andrew and the baby slayers had been sitting around in small groups, celebrating their victory, recounting their actions and mourning their losses when Giles arrived. Off to one side Buffy had sat with Willow, Xander and Dawn, too wired to pay more than fleeting attention to their moods.

Willow’s buzz had registered with the equally upbeat slayer, as she chattered on excitedly about her big scythe spell and the awesome magick download still zapping through her veins. Buffy had smiled vaguely and nodded at what she thought were the appropriate times. But her interest, after the fact, didn’t really go much deeper than that.

Xander and Dawn had been weird. They’d sat side by side, his arm wrapped around her shoulder, as she leaned into him, both unusually quiet and withdrawn. Exhaustion, sorrow and regret were etched into their weary faces but Buffy was too high from her Spike connection to wonder why. Her whole body had still felt warm and tingly and strong, totally whole and healed except for the burn on her left palm. When she’d looked down at it, the skin was red and blistered, and still radiating heat. Strangely, it hadn’t really hurt though.

A few hours later, Giles had slid into the booth next to her and informed them of Robin’s progress. The doctors had taken him straight through to surgery, where they’d found that the wound had missed all of his internal organs and the repair was a reasonably straightforward matter. While Robin had been out of danger, Faith had nevertheless decided to stick around and keep him company. Buffy had grinned as she’d wondered how much rest he would get.

“Buffy, I must say, once again I am amazed and humbled by your skill and dedication. I should never have doubted you.” Giles’ quiet confession had been accompanied by an awkward pat on her back.

“I couldn’t be more proud of you. Faith has already given me her account of the events that occurred during the final battle, but when you feel ready, I should like to hear your version, particularly Spike’s role in the destruction of the Turok Han and ultimately the Hellmouth itself. I know you were very close to him Buffy, and I’m sure you must feel devastated at his loss.”

Here Giles had hesitated, squeezing her gently on the shoulder.

“Just know, that we will honour his actions. If there is anything I can do…”

Frowning, Buffy had turned towards him slowly, his words echoing in her head.

“Huh? I mean thanks for the kudos Giles, but I don’t really get what you mean with all the heavy sympathy. And as for Spike, well you can throw him some honourage yourself when he turns up later,” Buffy had replied breezily.

Chapter 3 - Conviction by badgervamp
‘The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.’
William Butler Yeats

The sudden silence had forced Buffy to stop and glance around at her friends. Willow, Xander and Dawn had all been staring at her, looks of shock, confusion and pity on their faces. She had turned back to Giles only to see him polishing his glasses before looking up at her once more.

“Buffy, Faith made it quite clear. She believes that it would have been impossible for Spike to survive either the effects of the amulet or the destruction of the Hellmouth. Denial is a common enough response to grief, but sooner or later you will have to accept that Spike has gone, and begin to move on, both figuratively and literally.”

Buffy had sat there, feeling shocked and confused, but not one bit shaken in her utter belief and confidence in Spike’s survival and return to her. However, looking at her friends and family once more, she had known that she just didn’t have the energy to explain or convince them. With calm dignity she had excused herself, pleading tiredness and a serious need to clean up.

Once she’d made it back to her and Dawn’s room and showered and changed, exhaustion had in fact hit her. Although still light outside, she had collapsed onto one of the twin beds and fallen quickly into a deep sleep.

The first dream had visited her that evening. Lying on top of the worn bedspread in that dingy little room, Buffy’s subconscious had taken her through every event, every action, every word spoken to her or by her. As clear as a 3D movie screening before her eyes, she had not only seen and heard, but also felt everything that had occurred over the last 24 hours.

Some parts had been shocking, some painful and terrifying, however everything, including Buffy’s own personal highlights, had played clear and true; once again she’d relived the night in the basement making love with Spike, the incredible experiences that had happened when she and Spike were connected in the Hellmouth and the love that they felt for each other.

Buffy had slept soundly through the night, unaware of the hotel door quietly opening and then closing, or her sister tiptoeing into the room and preparing for bed. Neither had she heard Dawn’s quiet sobbing as she’d mourned the loss of Amanda and the other S.I.T.s, dear quirky, brave Anya and especially her beloved guardian and big brotherish pain-in-the-butt, Spike.

When Buffy woke up the next day she’d felt refreshed and optimistic. She still felt warm and tingly and loved. There was a whole big world out there ready to take on. And as soon as she had Spike by her side, take it on they would.

Looking back now, Buffy knew her loopiness must have driven everyone crazy. After breakfast she’d insisted on being driven back to the crater. She’d half expected Spike to show up at the hotel during the night. But his non-appearance didn’t put her off. She had been prepared to wait it out for as long as it took, sure that he would sense her very presence, that she would be able to draw him to her like a siren.

She had of course considered going down into the devastation to shift rock and debris searching for him. But one look across the vast crater had eliminated that option from even her whacked out mind. Any reminder of the town of Sunnydale had been obliterated, every house, every building, every tree upended and buried beneath endless piles of jagged rock. No sign of civilization remained anywhere in that colourless, desolate wasteland. But she’d known, without a single doubt, that he was still out there somewhere, every cell in her body humming in response to his presence.

And so she had sat and waited, replaying in her head over and over the precious moments that she’d shared with Spike, and enjoying the faint echoes of the ‘heatwave’, as she’d come to think of it in her head, that she could still feel tingling in her blood. As the day had worn on and no sight or sound of Spike appeared, her confidence remained unbroken. Even as the heat of the sun faded, signaling the approaching dusk, and shadows had begun creeping like malevolent fingers across the shattered rubble and discarded fragments of so many lives, she had calmly packed up her gear. When Xander had arrived in the rental car to pick her up, Buffy had simply walked to the edge of the crater, sent Spike her love, and let him know she’d be back in the morning.

And so the pattern of her days began. With hindsight, she knew the others must have been merely humouring her by tolerating this daily pilgrimage. The fact had been they probably hadn’t really known what to say to her, and most of them had either been recovering from the battle themselves or beginning to talk about, plan and arrange what would happen next.

Buffy, camped out by the crater on her own, had been totally unaware of these happenings and quite oblivious to her fellow survivors. Each morning someone had driven her back to the ruins. She had taken water, some food, a blanket and a small beach shade, purchased from the garage, so that she’d been able to shelter from the warm spring sun.

Just after dusk she’d be picked up again. Back at the hotel she’d eat, shower and go straight to bed, escaping back into her little dream world. She had barely spoken to anyone over the first three days, not because she’d been annoyed or upset, but simply because she’d been so wrapped up in her own mission. It was like she’d been holding her breath, waiting for Spike’s return to start breathing again.

So it had come as an enormous shock when at dusk on the third day, Giles, duty chauffeur that evening, had informed her that he was leaving the following morning. Apparently there had been endless meetings and phone calls, negotiations and arrangements until a tentative plan had been drawn up. The entire group had voted, and everyone was packing up and flying out to England to set up a central base. From there, they’d each be assigned different tasks, some longer term and some on a needs only basis.

Giles would fly out first, taking Xander with him. They were to begin the task of organizing finance, accommodation and resources. The remainder would join them a week later. He had been determined to rebuild the Council of Watchers into a bigger, better, safer and more democratic organization than before. With a gleam in his eye, he had explained how much there was to do, but how he was looking forward to the challenge.

Buffy hadn’t known what to say. For the first time, she’d felt a sense of unease as she realized that Giles, Faith and the new Slayers, even Dawn, Willow and Xander, had been all making plans for the next stage of their lives, while she’d held herself in limbo, not prepared to move on without Spike. She’d turned to face Giles as they pulled into the hotel car park.

“But what about me Giles? I can’t go anywhere until I find Spike.”

Giles had sighed, turned off the engine, and removed his glasses.

“Yes Buffy, we’re all well aware that you need a little more time to, ah, wait for Spike. But we do need you with us. Further more, many of us, myself included, could not conceive of not having you in our day-to-day lives. Dawn needs you, and I, well you are not only my Slayer, you are like a daughter to me.” At this he had paused and polished his glasses before returning them to his face.

“But if you need a little more time, then Dawn and Willow have offered to stay on with you for a couple of extra days.” At this he had reached out and gently laid his hand on top of hers. “I know this is hard for you Buffy. We want to do whatever we can to make this time easier for you.”

Her eyes had filled at that, and she’d mumbled her thanks before turning and stumbling out of the car. As she’d shakily shoved her room key in the lock, she’d felt the first tears trickle down her cheeks. She’d pushed open the door and stepped inside, standing there trembling and panting as the tears began to pour down her face. Then she’d heard a noise from behind her, a gasp, and suddenly she’d been drawn forward into Dawn’s gangly arms and embraced from behind by Willow.

At that she’d lost it, shuddering and weeping as she’d finally acknowledged her fears. For the first time she’d felt cold, all of her Spike warmth melted away. She’d shakily sat down between the two girls, and told them, in fits and starts, exactly what had happened down in the Hellmouth. The retelling had been a bit disjointed, and she’d left some of the more personal details out, but uncharacteristically for Buffy, of the events and the emotions, she’d held nothing back.

“You should have seen him. I mean I know he likes to be all Big Bad and everything but he, he was just so beautiful, so amazing. And I don’t know what happened when we joined hands but it was like nothing I’ve ever felt before.” Buffy had laughed and cried as she’d rambled on. Her face glowing with love and pride she’d said softly. “I know you guys don’t get it, but I really love him. I’ve got to get him back, I’ve got to.”

Emotionally exhausted, she’d let the two other girls help her into bed and had fallen into an uneasy sleep. That night the first change had taken place in her dream. This time, as she’d stood in front of the bus, looking out over the remains of Sunnydale, she’d been able to hear him calling her name, begging for help. She’d turned to look at the others, but no-one else had heard anything. They’d all climbed back on the bus, waiting patiently for her as she’d paced frantically alongside the edge of the crater, listening helplessly to his cries for help, listening as he screamed her name.


Chapter 4 - Abandonment by badgervamp
‘Never self-possessed, or prudent, love is all abandonment.’
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Retying her robe, Buffy sighed and quietly made her way along the corridor of their third floor wing and down the wide staircase to the ground floor. The huge country house was quiet and cool in the early morning. Who was she kidding, the temperatures in England, even half way through June, hadn’t managed to climb much above ‘pleasantly warm’ since they’d arrived.

Silently, she made her way to the back of the house and into the large, well equipped kitchen. The kitchen staff would be arriving soon to prepare the day’s meals for the ever-increasing number of residents and guests of their new home. In the meantime, coffee and a few plain crackers should settle her stomach. She quickly made her coffee and carried it through to the large dining room, settling into the antique carver at one end of the long table.

Wearily, she pondered last night’s dream again, shuddering as she recalled the vicious ending to this one. Over the last month, since the dreams had begun to change, she’d spent a lot of time trying to work out what they meant, if they were in fact prophetic Slayer dreams, or just reflections of her own subconscious memories and fears. She hadn’t really said much about them to anyone yet, at first because they were very personal, more private than other dreams, like a refuge to her almost, one she didn’t want to share. And then, as they had changed, she’d felt the others might think her still loopy, when on the surface she seemed, if not better, then at least more in touch with reality.

During the day she had, for the most part, let go of the notion of Spike’s survival and eventual return to her. But the dreams, they still shook her up. Each morning, since the first changes to the script, she’d woken up breathless, still gripped by them, struggling to separate her dream experiences and what they meant from the reality of this new life in England. Even back in that little hotel room in California that had been true.

She still remembered how the echo of Spike’s desperate cries for help had jolted her harshly awake, despair instantly flooding her conscious mind, crossing over from her dreamscape into the waking world. She’d lain there, panting wildly as she’d glanced across the dimly lit room, mourning the loss of blind joy and confidence she’d awoken to each previous morning. It had still been very early, Dawn fast asleep. Quietly, she’d showered and dressed, then slipped over to the diner for a coffee. Giles and Xander, both eating cooked breakfasts, had looked up as she’d pushed open the door. Giving them a quick wave and a tentative little smile, she’d stepped over to the counter to order coffee and a muffin before joining them.

“Hi guys. You’re up early.”

“Yes, well, our flight leaves from LAX in four hours. With the drive ahead of us we’ll need to leave soon so we can get checked in on time,” Giles had explained. “Faith will drive us down and then stop and check in on Robin on the way back. They’ll be able to release him in a day or two.”

They’d talked briefly of their plans and arrangements, pleased that Buffy was taking some interest in future developments. She had been mildly curious, but after the previous night’s dream, she was desperate to get out to the ruins again. She’d managed to talk Giles and Xander into leaving a little earlier, and after dragging a reluctant Faith out of bed, they had all headed back towards the ruins of Sunnydale to drop Buffy off before turning around and beginning the drive south to Los Angeles.

The farewell at the crater had been brief but emotional, both men hugging her tightly and telling her to take care of herself and that they’d see her in a week’s time. Faith had told her she’d be back to pick her up that evening, and then they were off, and she was left there alone. She’d gone straight over to the edge, straining her ears to see if she could hear anything other than the whisper of the breeze sweeping in from the ocean and her eyes to see if she could see anything other than the fields of gray rock and debris. But there had been no movement, and nothing but the sound of the wind.

Each day from then on had been much the same. Spike continued to cry out for help in her dreams, but there remained no sight of him in the waking world. She’d begun to dread falling asleep at night, her slumber now haunted by Spike’s pleas.

As the others had prepared for their departure, organising passports and visas, shopping and packing and contacting any remaining family and friends, Buffy had slowly become more despondent. She hadn’t known what to do, how to help Spike. She’d got Willow to try a locator spell and she’d even rung Angel to see if he could tell her anything about the amulet, but neither attempt had turned up any information. It seemed almost as if he was really gone, but she still hadn’t been ready to accept that then.

And then Day 10 had rolled around, the tenth day since the defeat of the First, the tenth day since the collapse of the Hellmouth and the ruin of Sunnydale, the tenth day without Spike, since his disappearance.

The night before the dream had changed subtly. This time Spike had begun to cry out for help as soon as she left him. She’d paused at the top of the stairway and glanced back, listening to the panic and despair in his voice as he called her name. Just as she’d thought about turning back, he’d begun to radiate, bright flames breaking through his luminous skin until, in only seconds, he’d glowed first red, then white hot, before exploding into a cloud of dust before her eyes. In her head his last word had echoed on… “Buffy!”

Shock and terror had dragged Buffy from sleep that morning. She had not once, up until that point, conceived of Spike’s demise, unshakeable in her belief in his survival. After her heart rate had calmed down and her breathing had returned to normal, she’d sat there, propped up against the headboard, trying to work out what the dream meant. Was it a lie, simply a nightmare, conceived of her deepest fears and given birth by her frustrations and growing doubts. But it had started so much like the other dreams that she’d soon begun to question those as well. Were they also a product of her sub-conscious, no more than wishful thinking? Had she been fooling herself all along? For the first time since the Hellmouth’s collapse Buffy stayed in her room, too confused and dismayed to race out to the crater.

So it was later that morning, as Faith, Robin, Andrew and the new Slayers had clambered onto the school bus, waving their farewells before setting out for LAX, that Buffy had stood in the shadow of the Hotel, panic clawing at her. She had taken Giles’ extension, but that only gave her two more days, time had almost run out.

As soon as the bus pulled out of sight she’d jumped into the rental car, tearing down the road, now desperate to get to the site. She had felt anxious and frustrated to the point of tears. She knew it wasn’t logical, but she hadn’t given up faith that Spike would pull through. Still, the endless waiting, the lack of anything concrete, and now the questions about the dreams themselves were taking their toll on Buffy. By the time she’d arrived back at the hotel that night she’d been exhausted, aching all over and utterly distraught.

Dawn and Willow had gathered her up, cleaned her, fed her, held her and talked to her. They’d quietly let her know that it was time to starting letting go, to never give up on her love for Spike, but to let him rest in peace. She’d sobbed and sobbed, her heart broken as she’d begun to accept she might never see him again. She’d slept fitfully, fragments of the dream playing in her head and awoke feeling tired and depressed.

That day, their last full day there, all three girls had driven out to the remains of the place they had all called home. It was still early when they arrived, and apart from the sleek black limousine that had sped away from the crater’s edge as they pulled up, it had been quiet and peaceful. They’d stayed all day, chatting, reminiscing, keeping one another company as they’d said their farewells to those that they’d loved and lost in Sunnydale – Jesse, Jenny, Kendra, Joyce, Tara, Anya, Amanda and Spike.

It was a sombre little group that had returned to the hotel that night, packed up their meagre belongings and checked their passports and tickets. They’d turned in soon after dinner, needing to be well rested and up early for their trip to the airport.

Despite the emotional day, Buffy had slipped into a deep, refreshing sleep, and for the first time since the battle, she did not dream. At first light, they had stacked their luggage by the door, and driven back to Sunnydale for a final farewell. Willow had performed a simple blessing, designed to let all who must remain in Sunnydale rest peacefully. Quietly, they had climbed into the rental car and driven back to the hotel.

The shuttle was already there when they had arrived. Buffy had dropped the girls off so they could carry their luggage to the shuttle and hand their keys back to the front desk while she had returned the rental to the garage. Walking quietly back to meet the girls, she had tried to weigh up how she felt. Exhausted, anxious, a little achy and very, very sad. But she’d also felt okay, strong even, and ready to leave Sunnydale behind.

Without fanfare the three girls had hopped into the back of the shuttle. The driver pulled smoothly out of the car park, and the first part of their journey to England had begun. Buffy had sat between Dawn and Willow, all three girls silent as they’d contemplated what had taken place in their lives and what was to come next. After a while, Buffy had drifted off to sleep, and once again the dream had floated through her subconscious,

The ending had been similar to the latest version, except that this time, before he had incinerated, he had turned his head to look up the stairs at her. More than begging for help, this time he had accusingly asked why she was leaving him behind.

“No, Buffy, no. Don’t leave me. Why are you leaving me? Please don’t leave me behind,” he’d screamed before spontaneously combusting, leaving behind only ashes and the echo of his cries.

“Spike, noooo,” Buffy had called out. Opening her eyes she had realised she was slumped against Dawn’s shoulder, tears dampening her cheeks and heart pounding madly. She’d quickly jerked herself upright, scrubbing her hands across her face as Dawn wrapped her arm around Buffy’s shoulders.

“It’s okay Buffy, it’s just a dream. We’ve just arrived at the airport,” Dawn had tried to console her.

‘Just a dream,’ she’d thought. ‘Little do you know!’

Buffy had smiled weakly at Dawn as the shuttle had pulled into the drop zone. She’d stepped out of the cab feeling lost and panicky, but tried to calmly breathe her way through it. But at the airport, all through the check-in, luggage, ticketing and passport procedures, Buffy had felt steadily worse. Her heart was pounding; she’d felt dizzy and weak. Spike’s accusations kept echoing in her head.

Suddenly, she’d felt that she shouldn’t be going anywhere; she’d got it wrong, she had to stay. Spike was still out there somewhere waiting for her to find him and rescue him. He needed her; he was relying on her. She’d looked around her, thinking about how she could get out of there.

Dawn and Willow had started to look at her with concern in their eyes, and she’d been vaguely aware of the two of them speaking quietly and urgently between themselves. They’d been in the boarding queue by this time, when Willow had pulled her a little to one side. Standing in front of her Willow had taken both her hands in hers and looked carefully at her.

“It’s alright Buffy, just relax, you’ll be fine. Dawn and I will be right beside you,” she’d murmured soothingly, squeezing Buffy’s hands once more.

Thankfully, she had started to feel calmer, even a little sleepy. Quickly, they’d got their boarding passes and got on the plane. They’d sat beside each other, with Dawn nearest the window and Willow by the aisle. Buffy had felt calm but confused, like she’d forgotten something. But as the plane had taken off, she’d felt another jolt of anxiety.

She’d turned to Willow, chewing her lip.

“I think maybe I made a mistake. I think I need to go back Willow. Spike’s still out there somewhere.”

“Shush,” Willow had crooned, squeezing her hand gently. “It’s alright Buffy, just relax. We’ll sort it all out when we get to England.”

She’d calmed down for a while, but the following eleven hours had been a nightmare for Buffy, and no picnic for Dawn or Willow either. It hadn’t taken long for Buffy to realise that Willow was adding a little something extra to her comforting words, not that she’d minded really; just a little dose of witchy Prozac. But the further they travelled away from California, the greater her anxiety and agitation became. As it grew, it had become harder for Willow to calm her. The effort began to drain her.

By the time they reached Gatwick, the three girls had been absolutely exhausted, both Buffy and Willow on the verge of collapse as Giles met them at the arrivals gate. It had been a very discouraging start to their new life in England.

Chapter 5 - Resurrection by badgervamp
Author's Notes:
Sorry - lots of exposition in this chapter.
‘Nations, like stars, are entitled to eclipse. All is well, provided the light returns and the eclipse does not become endless night. Dawn and resurrection are synonymous. The reappearance of the light is the same as the survival of the soul.’
Victor Hugo

Buffy had spent the next four days in bed. She hadn’t even been aware to begin with where that bed might be. She’d slept a lot of the time. Although the dreams had continued to haunt her sleep, and doubts continued to gnaw at her, she’d slowly begun to feel stronger. Her sister had brought her breakfast each morning on a tray, Buffy pecking at it unenthusiastically while Dawn sat beside her, prattling away about the progress Giles and Xander were making in establishing the new Council.

Giles’ priorities on reaching England had been to re-build the Council of Watchers, to establish a safe haven for all of the new Slayers and to search out any information about what having so many Slayers might mean to their future. In fact he saw these goals as woven together and of equal importance. He realised the new girls would need to be quickly located and identified, then offered support and training in a secure environment. It was critical that they were helped to adjust to their new powers and reach their potential. To do this Giles knew he would need to gather and utilise any and all Council resources that had escaped Caleb’s destructive reach.

Luckily, not all of the Council employees had been in the Central Office when the explosion ripped through the building. Various personnel, from secretaries to clerks to junior Watchers and even two members of the Senior Board had been away from the office that day, whether sick, on leave or at some meeting or appointment elsewhere.

And of those that had been at work, several hardy, and extremely lucky, souls had survived, trapped and injured in the rubble, but eventually rescued. A few, of course, had taken the opportunity to walk away from Council employ for ever, some of the older survivors retiring and a few administration personnel finding employment in less risky fields. Yet all up, nearly 40 assorted staff from Central Office remained, ready to carry on their work once new offices were set up.

Safe also were the Watchers in training. The Watcher’s Academy was a small elite college, set in the rural town of East Grinstead, only 30 miles south of London on the A22. The land and buildings had been purchased and founded in 1609 from funds bequeathed to the Council by the recently deceased Head of Council, Thomas Sackville. The tutors and their students, some 24 young men and women had been spared the First’s annihilation. Young and fit, they were nevertheless none of them out of their training and all without any real experience.

Giles was of course the oldest surviving Watcher on active duty, and clearly the most experienced. The First’s minions had exacted a heavy toll on the Field Watchers scattered around the world. Many of course had survived, but most of them were younger graduates themselves, often on their first assignment. Several were still traumatised by the violent deaths of their protégés; traditionally potentials survived the waiting years, studying and training alongside their Watchers until they were either called or the end of their teens knocked them out of contention.

But those that were fit and able were keen to be part of the new organization. Giles had also considered contacting several Watchers he’d known over the years that had resigned, often because of a clash of philosophy with the previous Board. Wesley Wyndham-Pryce immediately came to mind.

Personnel then, although seriously depleted in terms of experience, were available. Next he needed to find somewhere to set up the Central Office and a property on which to establish the new Slayers’ Academy. The old offices had been situated in Chancery Lane, in the heart of London’s Legal District. Unlike many tenants in this highly desirable commercial area, the Council had actually owned both the building and the land. The building itself had been fully insured and the claims were already being processed. But rebuilding could take a number of years.

In the meanwhile, a decision to set up temporary offices in one of London’s less expensive suburbs, possibly south of the Thames River, would not only save money but also allow them to re-establish immediately. Giles had contacted several well-known commercial property realtors while still in California. By the time he and Xander had touched down at Heathrow, they’d had a list of some half dozen possibilities. Before the end of their first week in London they’d selected a suite of offices in Bromley, signed a two-year lease and had organised the surviving office managerial staff from Central to get the premises ready for a return to business in a week’s time.

Finally, Giles had needed to find a suitable location to establish the new Slayers’ Academy. He required a property that was large enough to permanently house the Hellmouth survivors as well as the staff needed to run such a place, and potentially board hundreds of slayers while they were put through their initial instruction. It needed to be situated close to the London offices but be in a remote setting that would ensure privacy and the extensive grounds needed to accommodate large groups of young women on training runs and exercises. Access to conference facilities and a fitness centre were also important considerations.

Inside of a week full of numerous phone calls, further meetings with realtors and financiers, and rushed trips around the Sussex countryside, Giles had managed to sign an agreement to purchase Ashdown Park Hotel, an extensive country house and estate located in Wych Cross, only ten minutes drive from the Watchers’ Academy in East Grinstead, and half an hour from Gatwick Airport.

The buildings and grounds were luxurious and with over 100 bedrooms and suites, it would be easy to accommodate a large number of slayers. Its well-appointed meeting rooms and fitness facilities made it an ideal choice. It would be ready for handover in just under two weeks and would initially need little in the way of conversion. The only thing it would take was money – millions of pounds in fact.

But, as Giles had long suspected, the state of the Council’s financial resources was very, very healthy indeed. The organization was after all very old and had employed over the years members of many of England’s oldest and wealthiest families. It had become common practice over the last three or four hundred years for retired Watchers to bequeath quite considerable sums of money or extensive property or investment portfolios to the Council on their deaths.

One of the largest departments within Central’s office had been their financial division, charged with the responsibility of managing the Council’s investments and administering the payroll of all Council employees and the expenses involved in running such a large international organization. Thankfully, both the chief accountant and his secretary had been attending a meeting with investors in the City the day of the blast. Their survival had meant that financial matters had remained largely unaffected.

Within days of the explosion at Central, Giles had arranged pretty much unlimited access to funds in order to locate the surviving potentials, transport them to Sunnydale, and house and feed them at Revello Drive. Those funds had also paid for the living and transport expenses of the survivors since the Hellmouth battle. And at a hastily organised meeting comprising the two surviving Board members, four other senior Watchers and Giles, called on the day after he and Xander had landed, he had been granted interim Chairmanship of the Council. Giles was now the Head Watcher.

Buffy, of course, had known none of this, wrapped up as she was in her own misery. By the time she, Willow and Dawn had joined the rest of the crew living at the modest Hotel in East Grinstead, Giles had been rushed off his feet. He had already secured both properties and put managers in charge of both projects. He had officially appointed Xander as the Director of new Slayers’ Academy. His first responsibility was to get Ashdown ready for Slayer occupancy in under a fortnight. Initially this required little beyond converting a dozen of the larger suites into bedrooms and living space for up to four singles, maximising space for the crowded days ahead – a task which perfectly utilised Xander’s organisational and constructional skills.

Giles had put Willow in charge of organising the research centre at Ashdown, with Dawn as her assistant. The two girls spent the next two weeks ordering and arranging furniture, computing and copying equipment, purchasing and storing basic magical equipment and ingredients and unpacking and shelving the precious volumes, compendiums and grimoires of a magical or supernatural nature, some from Giles’ own home collection, others rescued from the ruins of either the Magic Box, or Central’s offices.

Andrew’s responsibility was to set up a comprehensive security system, complete with close circuit cameras, wireless alarms and motion detectors. The basics were already in place but he was charged with upgrading it to a more extensive system.

Faith and a still semi-convalescent Robin were in charge of the training rooms. The hotel already had an impressive array of exercise rooms including a well decked out fitness studio, a sauna, massage room, spa and pool. Their main focus then was to set up and damage–proof the gymnasium with training mats and gear, and order and arrange secure storage for a range of weapons fit for an army of warriors.

Kennedy and the other young slayers were asked to organise and furnish the new slayer suites. They had to purchase 48 single beds and the appropriate bedding and coordinate these with the décor and furnishings in each of the twelve suites. It was time for the girls to shop!

This meant that Buffy had been left very much on her own over the following fortnight. Dawn popped by each morning, and Willow often dropped in at night to share some success or other from her day. Kennedy and Vi had even turned up one afternoon, asking about her preferences in colours and fabrics and mattress firmness.

Of Giles and Xander she had seen very little at all, except for brief visits on the weekends. She had still been bothered by the dreams at night and by the constant yearning hunger for Spike’s presence during the day. She’d felt empty, part of her missing. Although she felt his absence so keenly, she still couldn’t accept he was really gone. In some ways he still hadn’t felt ‘gone’ but maybe that had been because of his desperate nightly pleas.

She’d taken to going for long walks each afternoon, out into the countryside surrounding East Grinstead. As she walked Buffy had tried to keep her mind clear, not yet been ready to start too much soul searching. But she had felt that it was time for her to begin to join the land of the living again.

Chapter 6 - Communion by badgervamp
‘I live to hold communion
With all that is divine,
To feel there is a union
'Twixt Nature's heart and mine;’
George Linnaeus Banks

With that in mind, Buffy had sought out Willow that evening. Giles had been nowhere to be seen, but Willow had suggested that she could start coming to Ashdown with her and Dawn to help set up the research centre. Buffy had actually laughed out loud at that, her first carefree moment since she’d arrived in England. Buffy and research – they really weren’t mixy!

Buffy’s first view of Ashdown Park had taken her breath away. She’d been unprepared for the size and quiet dignity of the property. The beautiful 19th Century sandstone and tile country house stood serenely nestled in parklike grounds amid the lush green folds of the Ashdown Forest. The main building itself was large, but beautifully complemented the impressive historic gardens in which it was set. And walking through the big wooden front doors, Buffy had felt a feeling of peace and security settle over her. The big, old English building had felt like … home.

To a small town So-Cal girl like Buffy, wandering through the rooms of the house felt like walking through a museum. The reproduction style furnishings, fabrics and light fittings were opulent and ornate. Yet somehow the house seemed warm and cosy and welcoming, like it had been waiting for a huge group of super strong young women to move in.

The feeling of belonging had helped to further strengthen and stabilise Buffy’s emotional state. And it had been great to get out of the hotel and start mixing with others, even if it was mainly just Dawn and Willow at this stage. She and Dawn had worked on cleaning, sorting and shelving the many boxes of books, while Willow was busy researching protection spells that could be set around all three Council buildings. Giles wanted to ensure that nothing like Caleb’s handiwork could ever happen again.

Then, on Buffy’s third day at Ashdown, Willow had asked if she and Dawn would like to accompany her for a day trip over to Devon. She’d wanted to spend some time with the coven she had stayed with last year, going over the finer details of the spell she was working on. Buffy had thought it a good next step in her ‘return to normal’ programme, so had nervously agreed. It was a three and a half hour journey to Devon, so they’d needed to set out early the next morning.

Mornings had never been a good time of day for Buffy, even worse since the suckiness of waking up from angry, begging Spike disintegration. However, that morning the alarm had pulled her out of the dream just as she and Spike had connected, hands ablaze, staring into one another’s eyes. She’d awoken with a huge smile on her face, feeling safe and cherished. Despite feeling a little nauseous, it was a much happier, more positive Slayer that had showered and donned jeans and t-shirt that morning. After she’d grabbed a jumper and a quick bite to eat, Buffy had been good to go, joining Willow and Dawn down at the front door to wait for their transport.

Matthew Morris, one of the third year students from the Watchers’ Academy, a tall, handsome, dark haired young man, had agreed to drive them. Willow had already met him, and after she’d carried out the necessary introductions, they were ready to set out. They were using a late model sedan, one of several vehicles Xander had leased for the use of Ashdown’s new residents.

Buffy had settled into the back seat with Dawn, feeling serene and almost content. They’d eagerly watched the towns, small villages and beautiful English countryside flash past them as Matthew drove. The landscape was stunning, so green and lush, sectioned off by flowering hedgerows and dotted here and there with strange shaped rock formations. It was such a contrast to the dry, coastal terrain of the West Coast that for a moment she had been overwhelmed by an attack of homesickness.

The journey had seemed to pass quickly and just on 11 o’clock they’d pulled into a country lane just outside the little village of Hatherley in North Devon. Minutes later Matthew had parked the car outside a two-storey sandstone farmhouse that was surrounded by various barns and sheds and a small cluster of stone cottages. Standing at the front door of the farmhouse stood an attractive older woman, her long burgundy coloured hair spilling over her shoulders in waves, a warm smile lighting up her face.

Stepping out of the car, Buffy had followed Dawn over to the cottage. Willow had torn across the yard, throwing her arms around the woman. She’d turned to back to face the two sisters as they’d reached the door.

“Buffy, Dawn, I’d like you to meet Althanea Goodrich. Althanea, this is Buffy and Dawn Summers.”

Althanea had smiled at them, peering closely into their faces before taking one each of their hands into hers and saying, “Welcome to my home. Please come in and make yourselves comfortable. You too, Matthew. It’s nice to see you again lad. I was sorry to hear about your father. He was a good man and didn’t deserve to go in that way.”

“Thank you Althanea. It’s nice to be back here. You’re looking as scrumptious as ever woman. We miss Father, of course, but Mum is slowly adjusting. I think he would be most sad about missing out on all of the changes that Rupert is putting in place. These are exciting times for the Council and I think Dad would have been at the forefront of it. It’s just a pity that the Council had to be blown off the face of the earth before we could start to bring the organization into the 20th Century let alone the 21st,” Matthew had chuckled wryly.

Althanea had led the four of them into a cosy sitting room. After several cups of hot, sweet tea and scones, smothered in home made jam and thick clotted cream, Althanea had asked Matthew to show Dawn and Buffy around the farm while she and Willow worked on the spell. The members of Rede Coven ran the farm and produced crafts and produce for the local markets. Quite a number of the coven members lived and worked on the farm itself, so Matthew had spent the afternoon introducing the girls to various people who happily demonstrated their skills and showed their wares to the girls.

Matthew had seemed to be looking for someone, but it wasn’t until they had reached Althanea’s kitchen door that he’d called out to a young girl walking across the yard, before excusing himself and dashing off to meet her. Buffy had followed Dawn inside back to the sitting room to join Willow and Althanea, who had just finished up their work. They were treated to a delicious afternoon tea, and then it had been time to set off home. The four women made their way out to the car. Matthew was leaning against the car chatting quietly with the girl he’d called out to before. As they’d drawn nearer, Althanea had laughed.

“Ah ha young Matthew, no wonder you so kindly offered your services today. Buffy and Dawn this is my oldest granddaughter, Rowan. Willow I’m sure you and Rowan remember each other. I see you’ve been keeping Matthew entertained,” Althanea had teased.

“Whatever Grammy,” Rowan had grinned cheekily. She was small, similar in height and build to Buffy herself, with long thick dark hair and pale skin. She had greeted Willow warmly, then turned to say hi to Dawn before facing Buffy. She was probably only a year or so older than Dawn, but Rowan’s deep brown eyes seemed older than time. She’d stood looking intently at Buffy before taking a step forward to grasp Buffy’s hands.

“It’s-it’s an honour to met you Buffy.” Rowan had faltered. “I hope we will get to work together in the future. Take care of yourself and don’t lose heart. Believe in your dreams,” she’d said more firmly. With that she’d stepped over to her grandmother, murmuring quietly in her ear, before walking around the car to where Matthew stood.

Buffy had been frozen to the spot, warmth and hope surging through her body. Neither, Willow nor Dawn, had heard Rowan’s message and were busy thanking Althanea and climbing into the car, leaving Buffy standing there on her own. Then, Althanea had been standing right in front of her, holding her hand.

“Buffy, my granddaughter tells me that you are blessed. She reads auras and can tell that you are troubled. But ... I think we shall need to speak further. I shall see you on Sunday. Rowan and I are travelling up to Ashdown Park to help Willow with the protection spell. Maybe we shall get a chance then. I think it may be very important.” Althanea had smiled gently then stepped back so Buffy could enter the car. After a final round of farewells they were off.

Buffy shook her head and stood up. She carried her cup and plate through to the kitchen and popped them into the dishwasher. She felt much better now, the nausea settled and the desperation of her nightmare melted away in the light of day. As she climbed back up the stairs, hurrying to catch the bathroom before any of the others woke up, she wondered again about Althanea’s message and Rowan’s advice.

She had of course seen both of them since, when they travelled over to help Willow perform the protection rituals. The Sunnydale crew had moved into their beautiful new home the previous day. But, although Althanea and Rowan had also stayed at Ashdown, preparing and performing three rituals in two days, two of them at dawn and the other at dusk had exhausted the two women, especially the older Althanea. At Ashdown and at Sackville, the spells were tied to four large trees standing in the grounds of each property, chosen so that if connected, they would form a substantial perimeter around the buildings.

They had used the spirits and energies of the trees to tie the spell to the Earth, Willow, Althanea, Rowan and Giles each laying their hands upon their tree and mentally connecting to one another so they could chant the words of the ritual simultaneously. The ritual itself was based upon a simple house blessing, but modified to extend its range and exclude the use of any ill intent, either consciously or sub-consciously, by either friend or foe, anywhere within the perimeter. Once set it was designed to draw its energy from the Earth, making it very powerful and capable of sustaining itself as long as the trees stood.

There were no trees around the Bromley offices, but the foundations were fortunately made of natural stone. They had performed that ritual at first light, luckily observed by only a few early morning risers, who must have thought it odd to witness a person standing at each corner of the building, hands pressed against the stone blocks, eyes closed as they chanted quietly.

Following this final ritual, Matthew had driven Althanea and Rowan straight back to Devon. It was their home and Althanea in particular had needed the quiet tranquillity of the countryside to help restore her energies.

Buffy had been disappointed, but sympathetic. She was unsure though when she would see either of the women again, and impatient to hear what they had to say. The second half of the week had sped by as they’d settled into their new home.

Buffy quickly showered and changed. Giles had dashed in last night looking tired but excited letting them know that he’d set a Council meeting for this morning at 10 o’clock. He had big news and wanted to share it with everyone at once. Buffy just hoped it wasn’t too apocalypsy!

Chapter 7 - Revelation by badgervamp
‘Dream is not a revelation. If a dream affords the dreamer some light on himself, it is not the person with closed eyes who makes the discovery but the person with open eyes lucid enough to fit thoughts together.’
Michel Leiris

Giles cleared his throat and looked around the room, instantly drawing the attention of those around him. They had set up in the Lady Brassey Meeting Room, the furniture arranged much like a lecture room, with several dozen padded chairs set up in rows all facing a central point near the front. With four padded chairs to each section, and spare ones lined up against the back wall, the room was capable of accommodating a large group of people. Which, Buffy thought, was lucky considering the crowd present.

She was seated in the central front row, along with Dawn, Willow and Kennedy. When they’d entered the room, she’d been surprised to see Althanea, Rowan and Matthew sitting in the front left hand row. She’d smiled and waved before taking her seat. To her right sat Faith, Robin, Xander and Andrew. Rona, Vi, Shannon and Chao-Ahn and the remaining seven Hellmouth Slayers sat in the chairs behind held her. A large number of men and women, ranging in age from twentyish to oldish, none of whom she recognised, sat in the back two rows.

“Yes, well, first I’d like to very warmly welcome everyone here today,” Giles announced, quickly getting to business. “This is the very first meeting of our new combined Council. We have not yet settled upon a suitable name for our organization, but the Council of Watchers is, I believe no longer an appropriate designation. We must come up with something that will more accurately reflect the composition and objectives of our organization today.” At that, there was a smattering of comments from around the room, mostly in accordance with Giles comments, but several naysayers complained loudly.

Giles didn’t allow the hubbub to heat up into anything resembling a genuine commotion before he calmly, but assertively resumed his address.

“Yes, we have a proud history, but in the space of a few months the ground has shifted beneath our feet, for some of us quite literally. But we must adjust, and adjust we will, for as always, the world, whether they know it or not, relies on all of us to keep it safe. Maybe we’ve been forced to change through circumstances beyond our control, but we were way past due for change anyway. Let us now do so in a measured, intelligent, democratic way and together create an organization that will protect the world from malevolent supernatural entities.”

‘Boy,’ Buffy thought, as she tuned out, ‘Giles is sure getting into the speechifying these days. He’s gone all Head Watchery.’

Buffy stared into space, reminiscing about Giles’ various speeches over the years, all the times he’d told them off and lectured them, and all the times they’d ignored him. Well look at him now. She was really proud of him. Even if she wasn’t listening to whatever he was droning on about.

Buffy tuned back in as Giles called two men forward to the front of the room and introduced them. Both of them nodded greetings to colleagues around the room as they stood beside Giles. Gareth Robson looked to be in his forties, with thinning brown hair and a round face. He walked slowly and carefully as if protecting an injury but smiled openly at the crowd. Ashton Hurst was younger, possibly in his late twenties and looked around the room nervously. He was thin and tall, with sandy coloured hair and glasses. He quickly pulled out a laptop and sat down at a side table quietly fiddling with the connections, while Robson sank down into a chair beside him. Giles got ready to speak again.

‘Oops,’ Buffy thought, ‘looks like I’ve missed something here.’

“When Buffy and Willow forged their plan to activate all of the potentials, I was reminded of a passage I had seen several years ago in the Pergamum Codex. At one time I believed it referred to Buffy and Kendra or more possibly, Buffy and Faith, as the references are to ‘Slayers’ and ‘Chosen Ones’. However, the use of the term ‘Legions’ could hardly refer to two Slayers. Also, as no specific time frame had ever been attached to the prophecy, I put it aside at the time.”

At this point Giles nodded to Ashton Hurst, who brought a passage of writing up onto the screen. As Giles continued to talk, Buffy read the words set out there.

The Days of the Chosen Ones.

‘And a time shall come to pass, when Slayers walk the earth, using their powers to beat back the Scourge of Amroz. The battle will be long and hard. Victory shall only be theirs if the Legion of Chosen Ones stands strong, lest the fading of their new powers signal sure defeat and the beginning of the End Days.

“As I lay in bed the night before the Hellmouth battle, I tried to bring these words to mind. I began to consider whether or not Willow’s spell could very well be activating the Legion of Chosen Ones that I’d long wondered about. When the spell succeeded and the First was defeated, my speculations began to gather momentum and an intense need to investigate this possibility took hold of me.

So, despite my many and varied responsibilities on arriving in England, one of my very first tasks was to collect all of my own resource materials from my home in Bath. Once I had a chance to sit down and look at this passage again, it seemed clear that we have indeed created that long prophesised Legion.” Giles strode back and forth at this point, clearly excited about his discoveries, while little pockets of conversation buzzed around the room.

“Given the nature of the text, and the acknowledged accuracy of the Pergamum Codex, it was obviously vital that further research be carried out quickly. I set Robson and Hurst onto it immediately, and they began the task as soon as the Bromley offices opened for business. Robson had been storing the huge numbers of books, compendiums, scrolls and artefacts that had been salvaged from Central Office in a warehouse near his home, many of which, stowed away in vaults in our subterranean library section, had survived the explosion completely or mostly intact.” At this point Giles paused, took off his glasses and addressed his audience sincerely.

“It took a lot of time and effort, and several dead ends, but on Friday Robson rang me, excitedly sharing his discovery with me. Robson, Hurst and I have spent the whole weekend completing the translation of this prophecy and interpreting its message. If correct, it provides us with a vital task to perform.”

At this point Gareth stepped forward, as eager and excited as Giles was.

“This passage is a translation of a text that has survived through time as a single papyrus scroll. Written in hieratic, it is almost 5000 years old and is possibly itself a translation from an even older Sumerian version. The text had, over many years of scholarship, been largely translated. But recent events coupled with Giles’ interpretation of the Pergamum passage have provided us with the final clues needed to complete the translation.”

Robson nodded to Hurst, who opened up the next page in their presentation. Up on the screen the page read ‘The Song of Sagaria’.

“The Council have never really considered this text a Slayer prophecy, as we have always assumed Sagaria, the central character of the passage, to be a female witch or warrior, possibly a Slayer, but undoubtedly of ancient times. The text was thought to describe events long past. But Giles’ interpretation of the Legion of Chosen Ones, triggered a memory of this scroll.”

Once more, a new page came up on the screen. The passage was a long one, and the room was quiet as the occupants focused on trying to read and make sense of it.

The Strength of bold Sagaria
Shall arise once more that night
Her gifts, they shall be twofold
When wielded by the White
Her Daughters will awaken
Sharp and true shall be Her bite
And victory will be with them -
The Legion of the Light
Sagaria’s Daughters shall arise
Answering the deadly call
Light shall cleanse the fields of Evil
The abyss will tremble, crack and fall
But Her gifts will slowly falter
And the Legion start to dim
Unless the Three together
Can seal Her powers in
Both Parents mighty warriors,
One Dark, the other Light
And the Child they share together
Begotten on that night
All Three must stand together
‘Fore the ending of the year
And claim Sagaria theirs.
Lest the Legion disappear.

There was silence as everyone tried to interpret the words. Buffy, Faith and the other Slayers largely appeared confused. Giles stepped forward once more.

“The key to unveiling this prophecy came with Willow’s discovery that the weapon uncovered by Buffy bore symbols that, when translated, referred to it as a Scythe.” At this point Hurst’s finger’s darted over the keys of the laptop and up popped a split screen, the Song or Sagaria still displayed on the left while a slide show of photos of the Slayer Scythe began playing on the right.

“In truth,” Giles continued, indicating the screen, “it looks little like a traditional scythe, so we considered investigating the term scythe more broadly. Perhaps it referred to the Scythian race rather than the farming implement. The Scythian peoples of ancient times were a nomadic warrior race who made and used weapons like these in battle. Their name for these weapons was sagaris. Suddenly it occurred to us that Sagaria was in fact the Slayer Scythe itself, a weapon so ancient and powerful, that the people who forged it and prophesised the role it would one day play, had named it and endowed it with divine properties.”

Giles paused as he let everyone read through the text again with this knowledge in mind.

Faith folded her arms as she called out, “So Giles, who the Hell are these Daughters supposed to be?”

“Actually we believe that the two terms, Sagaria’s Daughters and Legions of the Light are interchangeable. Both refer to the new Slayers, all those activated by the essence of the Scythe, by the power of Sagaria. So it appears that Willow’s spell was foretold eons ago.”

Excited murmurings once again broke out around the room as various groups worked on unravelling more of the powerful text. Buffy felt the tension begin to run through her body as certain phrases started to become clear to her. Willow was almost leaping out of the seat next to her.

“Okay,” Faith interjected once more. “So Willow goes all White Witchy and wields our girl Sagaria. That wakes up all the mini slayers. I get that bit. And I suppose the abyss is the Hellmouth right?”

“Oo, oo, and the cleansing light bit is Spike and his laser show isn’t it?” called out Willow, oblivious to the clenched fists and shaky breathing of the girl beside her.

Dawn leaned forward excitedly. “And Sagaria’s gifts are the Slayer upgrade and the total kick ass rockiness of the scythe itself,” she yelled as she slashed through the air with her hand.

“Yes, yes, thank you to the peanut gallery in the front row here,” Giles grumbled affably. “Those aspects of the prophecy became rather straightforward once we realised who, or should I rather say what, Sagaria was. Indeed the entire first half of the Song has already come to pass, with quite astounding accuracy. However, the section that gave all three of us concern were the lines that spoke of Sagaria’s gift faltering and the Legion dimming. It appears that if we cannot stabilise the effects of the Scythe spell, then the activation will wear off and all of the new Slayers will lose their powers.”

Chapter 8 - Genesis by badgervamp
‘O my true love, hold me.
In your every inch and glance is the globe of genesis spun,
And the living earth your sons.’
Dylan Thomas

Shocked silence filled the room as Giles finished his prediction. Many of the new Slayers looked dazed and confused.

“So great leader,” Andrew enquired, “what does that mean for the New Girls on the Block? Are they going to get like Legionettes Disease, and waste slowly away?”

“Oh do shut up Andrew,” Giles scolded, while Kennedy and Rona threw him dirty looks.

“We think the passage seems to infer that all of the new Slayers would simply lose their Slayer abilities, possibly slowly over the course of a year. However they would likely be left with the enhanced strength and agility that they had originally as Potentials,” Giles offered.

“And where would that leave Faith and me?” Buffy asked calmly.

Giles came over to the centre of the room and stood beside Buffy as he spoke directly to her.

“We believe that you and Faith would remain Slayers Buffy, the only two Slayers. Neither of you are Daughters of Sagaria as your Slayer powers were not activated by Willow’s spell. Consequently, neither of you, strictly speaking are members of the Legion of the Light. You would of course have all the resources of the new Council at hand. But as the only two active Slayers it would have to be business as usual for the two of you.”

“Okay Giles, that sucks, maybe for both the new Slayers and the old, ‘cos it kinda takes away their choices,” Willow said thoughtfully, “but its not all with the world endage is it? And maybe, oh I don’t know, just maybe things should go back to the way to the way they were. After all, good intentions and all, but the spell did muck with the natural order of things.”

“Willow, I’d be inclined to agree with you. In fact, Gareth and Ashton and I all considered that as an option. But, there is one compelling reason we can’t do that. Ashton can you throw the Pergamum prophecy back up there?” Giles paused while the page changed on the screen.

“Look at this bit here,” he indicated. “See it states that to defeat the Scourge of Amroz, then the Legion of Chosen Ones must stand strong, lest the fading of their new powers signal sure defeat. If the New Slayers lose their Slayer status, then there will be no Legion and if we tried to create a Legion using every potential we could find, they still would not be strong enough; we’d lose. I don’t think we have any choice here. We must not only work towards making the spell permanent, but we must also set about finding and training every new Slayer that we can. We have no way of knowing when this battle will take place, but we will need to begin preparing for it as soon as possible.”

“Woooo, Giles, back up that little yellow battle bus a bit. How do the Slayerettes earn their permanent Slayer merit badges. It’s got to be more than doing a good deed each day huh? Unless its babysitting duty!” Xander winked.

“Yes Xander, thank you for that colourful interpretation. But the solution does indeed seem to do with an infant and his or her parents. A child that according to the prophecy was conceived the night before the battle, and whose two parents fought in the battle itself.”
Buffy’s heart seemed to catch in her chest as talk broke out around the room, particularly in the front two rows where speculations were being hurriedly made and discarded. Giles intervened quickly.

“Now the following discussion, of necessity, will be of a rather personal nature, I hope that no one will be offended if we ask all of you who were not in Sunnydale the night before the battle to please retire to the Stafford Room next door where refreshments will be served. We will inform you all immediately of any relevant information as it arises. Gareth, could you please show them the way.”

As people filed out of the room whispering excitedly, Althanea came across to Buffy. She put her hand on Buffy’s arm and leaned in, speaking quietly but clearly, “I think my dear child that I shall have to catch up with you later. We have much to discuss, of undoubted importance. Rowan and I are staying the night. Willow knows where our rooms are. Please come and see me later this afternoon.”

Buffy felt heat spread over her chest and up her neck as Althanea looked at her, squeezed her arm once more and walked out. Turning to face Giles again, she watched as he pulled a chair over to the middle of the room and sat down. He seemed to take a moment to compose himself, fiddling with his glasses before sitting up to address them.

“Yes, right, shall we begin then? Firstly, I must admit that the thought that any of you were, um, how shall I put it …” Giles stuttered.

“Getting busy? Making whoopee? Knocking boots? Bumping uglies?” Xander interrupted enthusiastically.

“Oh Good Lord, Xander, this is difficult enough as it is without you enlightening us all with your impressive mangling of the Queen’s English. Now, would you just shut up? As I was saying, I find it hard to believe that anyone in that house was involved in carnal relations the evening before an apocalypse.” Giles glanced up for a moment and was alarmed by the number of red faces and wistful expressions that graced the front row of the room.

“Right! Well! Obviously I missed the sign that read ‘Den of Iniquity – Vacancies available’. I feel quite left out now. Was anyone not partaking of sins of the flesh that night? Don’t worry that was a rhetorical question. I think we need to get back on track. Given the limited number of male candidates and my own very sorry lack of action, there seem to be only two candidates for father of the year. This is more information than I have ever wished to know but Xander and Robin, did you both engage in sexual relations that evening?”

“Yeah, but not with each other G-man. I’m sorry but you’re just not my type Robin,” Xander deadpanned.

“Yeah well I think I’ll survive,” retorted Robin.

“Hey Xander, I don’t think you should be rejecting Robin quite so quickly,” Dawn interrupted. “ I seem to remember you announcing a little change in orientation last year.”

“Oooh yeah, that’s right. You asked me to ‘gay you up’. I’m still not sure how to take that?” Willow frowned in good humour.

“Uh, and hold on a minute,” Andrew spluttered. “Haven’t you missed someone out? I’m a man too you know. How do you know that I wasn’t having sex that night?” he added indignantly.

“I think Giles meant sex with another person, not just yourself geek boy,” Xander teased, relieved that Andrew’s outburst had taken the focus off himself.

“Eeeeewww,” screeched Dawn. “Thanks a lot Xander. Now I’m stuck with the visual.”

“Would you all just shut up and take this a bit more seriously. Now, you two, I assume that your partners were Faith,” Giles glanced at Robin, “and Anya,” this said more gently as he looked at Xander. Both men nodded, Xander with tears in his eyes.

“I’m sure Anya would have made a wonderful mother Xander. But it is obviously not she that the prophecy speaks of.” Giles turned to face Faith.

“Hold your horses there, Big Chief.“ Faith folded her arms defensively. “What are you looking at me for?”

“Faith is it possible that you could be pregnant? Could you tell us with any certainty that your not?” Giles pressed.

“Well anything’s possible I guess. I mean I’ve been pretty busy lately, and what with the apocalypse and all I might have lost track of things, but I don’t think I’ve got a bun in the oven,” Faith scowled defensively.

“Faith, just listen for a minute. The prophecy states that both parents are mighty warriors. Well that certainly describes you Faith, and Robin did fight in the battle. It then states that one is dark and the other light. Now if we took that literally, it could be referring to your skin colouring. It’s the best fit we’ve got.”

“And if this is happening, I’ll be right by your side the whole way.” Robin took Faith’s hand and squeezed it gently.

Faith was clearly unhappy, but she put on her cockiest smirk and looked up at Giles.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever G. We’ll deal.”

“Thank you. In the meantime, as you can see here,” Giles indicated towards the side table, “I took the liberty of purchasing several home pregnancy kits. Please take one Faith and let me know the results as soon as possible. Thank you everyone. We will meet again at 10 am tomorrow and review all the facts. There’ll be research to do, and tomorrow night I think we should start some patrolling. I’ll do a run into London, so let me know who’s interested.” Giles dismissed them and went over to talk to Faith and Robin.

Buffy had sat through the entire meeting without saying a word. But her mind had been going at a million miles an hour. For the first time in five weeks she felt absolutely calm and very, very determined. As they walked through the door, Willow turned to her and said, “It must feel great that you’re not prophecy girl this time, Buffy ‘cos you always get stuck with the doom and the gloom. Unless maybe you feel left out, in which case shame you didn’t get all groiny with the Principal, huh. But …” Willow was prattling away when Buffy grabbed her arm and pulled her to one side.

“Willow, shut up and listen to me for a minute. I mean it, don’t say a word, or a noise, or anything. Now, I want you to go back into that room and get me one of those testing kits.” Willow’s eyes almost popped out of her head and she was about to ‘eeeek’ when Buffy quickly shoved her hand across her mouth.

“Try and do it without anyone seeing you, but if someone does question you, tell them it’s for one of the baby slayers, but you’re not saying who.”

“But Buffy …” Willow started to say when Buffy turned her around and pushed her back towards the Music Room.

“Meet me up in my room. Don’t tell anyone and use resolve face if you have to,” she hissed.
Chapter 9 - Confirmation by badgervamp
‘In the case of news, we should always wait for the sacrament of confirmation.’

Five minutes later, Buffy was sitting on her bed, chewing her bottom lip when there was a knock on her door. She dashed over and opened it just a fraction. Willow and Dawn were standing on the other side, both with cheesy grins on their faces. Willow held up a box labelled ‘First Response Early Result’ like a peace offering.

“Sorry,” she grimaced, “but she ambushed me. But at least no one else saw me,” she offered lamely.

“Just get in here both or you.” Buffy snatched the box out of Willow’s hand and dragged both of the girls inside, slamming the door after them.

“Oh my God Buffy, what does this mean? Do you really think you could be pregnant? And who’s the father? It can’t …”

“Dawn, just shut up for a minute and let me try and read these damn directions,” Buffy frowned as she turned the box over and tried to decipher the simple instructions.

“Oh here, give it to me. It’s not rocket science you know, you just have to pee on the stick.” Dawn looked at the front of the box and squealed. “Oh good, it’s First Response. That one works at any time of day,” she muttered, pulling a foil package out of the box. “Now you just have to take the cap off, hold it like this and pee on that bit. Wait for three minutes and …”

“Dawn how do you know all this? Wait a minute, I really don’t want to know.” Buffy plucked the stick out of her sister’s hands, stuck the cap back on and marched out of the room. Willow and Dawn took one look at each other and headed for the door. Before they could get there, Buffy popped her head back in the room and glared at them.

“Stay there you two, I can pee on my own thank you very much.”

The two girls sat down on the bed, too confused and excited and worried to do or say anything. Time seemed to drag, and it was more like five minutes before the door opened and Buffy came in, stick in hand and frown on face. She looked up at them and shrugged.

“I was so sure,” she said, “but no blue cross only these two pink lines.”

“Oh my God, Buffy, you dumbass,” Dawn jumped up, “two pink lines means positive. See look at the box. You are, you’re pregnant.”

“Language, Dawn,” Buffy replied automatically before stopping. “You what? Oh! Oh!” She peered at the diagram Dawn had thrust at her and then sank down onto the bed, her knees all wobbly. “Oh my God, I’m pregnant.” Tears filled her eyes as she sat staring at the stick.

Willow, still sitting on the bed next to her, reached over and put her arm around Buffy’s shoulder. “Are you alright Buffy?”

Buffy looked up and a smile slowly broke out over her face. “Yeah,” she said. “Yeah I think I am. Although …” At this she stopped and bit her lip, frowning thoughtfully.

“Okay, okay, but Buffy. Who? How? When?” Dawn started badgering her sister again.

“Right, right. All will be revealed shortly. It’s quite a story I think and I’m still trying to figure bits of it out for myself. But first things first. It’s two o’clock and none of us has eaten, and I’m starting to feel quite weak and nauseous again. Dawn can you nip down to the kitchen and get Cook to put together a tray for us. Just some sandwiches and maybe some cakes and a few of her cookies, or biscuits, whatever she calls them. After all I am eating for two now,” Buffy grinned at her sister.

“And Willow, can you call a mini meeting for this afternoon. Just Giles and Xander. Oh and Althanea and Rowan too, I was supposed to meet with them anyway. See if you can find out if Faith has taken her pregnancy test yet. If she has, then get her and Robin to come along as well. Tell everyone to meet us in the parlour at 4 o’clock. It’s smaller and the other girls don’t tend to use it much. Then both of you meet me back here in 40 minutes. I’m going to have a little nap.” She grinned once more and lay down as the girls backed out of the room and quietly pulled the door shut.

Two hours later, Buffy sauntered into the cosy little parlour and walked straight to the front of the room. She felt well rested and excited and her tummy was behaving itself now that she’d fed it.

Giles and Xander were already there, both looking very puzzled. Althanea and Rowan were also present; the older witch sitting in a comfortable armchair with her granddaughter perched on the arm. They both grinned encouragingly at her and Buffy swore she could see a twinkle in Althanea’s eyes. Dawn and Willow, who had come down with her, joined the two men on the couch. Last to come in were Faith and Robin. Faith sauntered in boldly, but Robin looked stiff and ill at ease. Buffy was about to begin when Andrew scuttled into the room.

“Andrew, you weren’t invited. Was he?” Buffy turned to ask Willow.

“While I didn’t tell him,” Willow responded quickly.

“Andrew, get out.” Buffy shouted.

“Okay, okay. So I know I wasn’t on the guest list, but I’m here in an official capacity. Umm, I’m representing the Council, recording all of your glorious and tragic stories for prosperity. ‘Cos don’t forget there’s that prophecy thingy with the singing and the sword. And I could write down notes, if I could just find my pencil and some, ah, paper. Hey maybe I could get a special badge made and …”

“Shut up Andrew. Just sit quietly over there. And not a word. Or a camera.” Buffy looked around the room and took a deep breath. “Okay, let’s do this,” she said. “Faith do you have the results of your pregnancy test?” she asked the dark Slayer.

“Sure B,” and she threw the testing stick on the coffee table. “I’m free and clear. Like I told you, no bun in this girl’s oven,” she boasted as they all peered at the single pink line, clearly displayed in the result window. But as she sat down next to Robin she allowed him to wrap his arm around her back, leaning into him in an uncharacteristic display of vulnerability.

“Okay, well I guess that makes this a little easier,” Buffy said as she pulled out her own plastic stick. She carefully placed it on the table next to Faith’s and stood back. Willow, Dawn, Althanea and Rowan all grinned at her encouragingly, the two Devon witches not showing any surprise at all. Faith and Robin looked at each other and frowned, and Robin embraced the dark slayer more firmly.

Giles and Xander both sat there with their mouths wide open and utter confusion on their faces.

“I don’t understand Buffy, whose test is this?” Giles spluttered in his most paternal tone.

“It’s mine Giles,” she said quietly, sliding her left hand down over her stomach. “I should have guessed earlier,” she shrugged. “I’ve been throwing up every morning for the last week and a half. It’s just that I thought it impossible. I’d never even considered it before. But at the meeting this morning, I just knew. This is the child Giles, the one in Sagaria’s Song.”

“But for that to be true, you would have had to conceive this pregnancy the night before the Hellmouth and who …” Giles stopped there. He and Xander looked at each other then back at Buffy.

“No Buffy,” shouted Xander, leaping up, “it better not be that asshole of a vampire. My God, don’t tell me you’d even think about letting him touch you again. It makes me feel sick to even think about it. How could you?” he snarled.

“Shut up, Xander,” Dawn yelled at him. “You don’t know how she felt about him, how she feels about him still. And you don’t know how they were together. None of us do really,” she added looking up at her sister and reaching out for her hand. “But he’d changed and he was a good man. And he was my friend too. I wish I’d told him that while I had time.”

“Well, I’ll admit that he did seem to care for you Buffy, and he did come in very handy in that final battle. But I must agree with Xander. To have slept with him is really going too far. I thought you would have had more sense. I’m disappointed in you.” Giles proclaimed.

“Stop right there. I am more than disappointed in the pair of you, I am totally and seriously pissed,” Buffy yelled at the two men. “My God what is the problem here? Is it that I slept with a vampire?” She stormed up and down the room, glaring at the two men. “Or is it that I’m in love with that vampire? Maybe it’s that I’ve mystically conceived a baby with that same vampire. Or maybe, just maybe it’s that if I don’t give birth to said mystical baby and somehow resurrect said vampire father, it might just be the end of the freaking world one day soon. And that’s the real world not the sad fricking little world you two are living in,” she yelled.

“Look, I love both of you, like a father and a brother, but I am absolutely and utterly in love with Spike, and you’d better deal with it and help me find a way to bring him back or you may as well say ‘goodbye Buffy, hello Apocalypse!’”
Chapter 10 - Rebirth by badgervamp
‘Change is the constant, the signal for rebirth, the egg of the phoenix’
Christina Baldwin

As Buffy sat down, the room erupted into clapping and cheering, the four women and Andrew all giving her a standing ovation. Even Faith looked over at her wryly and mouthed ‘Go girl’ across the room.

“I suppose Buffy,” Giles confessed, “I have been looking at this through a father’s eyes instead of a watcher’s, and sadly the so called Head Watcher left the building all together. I’m prepared to put aside my personal misgivings in order to focus on the prophecy. I’m very sorry my dear if I’ve upset you. I hope you’ll forgive me.” Giles said sincerely.

“Thanks, Giles. That means a lot. But in the long term I want the fatherly support as well as the watcherly help. After all you are going to be a Grandad.” Buffy teased him.

“Ah right, so you are.” Giles mused. “Xander what about you? Don’t you have something to say to Buffy?” he prompted.

“I suppose so,” Xander muttered reluctantly. “I’m not happy about it, and I don’t think I ever will be.” Buffy frowned at him. “But I’m sorry I yelled, and I’m sorry I insulted you. I’ll try and keep my opinions to myself from now on,” he conceded. “Best I can do, I’m afraid.”

“Well I guess it will have to do for now,” Buffy conceded reluctantly.

“Right, well, we seem to have established that Buffy slept with, uh had s-sex with Spike the night before the Hellmouth battle. Correct?” asked Giles

“Yes Giles, Spike and I made love the night before the battle,” Buffy confirmed, glaring at Xander as he began to open, and then shut his mouth.

“Ahem, quite. But Buffy, how can this pregnancy test be correct? It’s one thing to sleep with a vampire, but quite another to get pregnant to one. Vampires cannot father children, as they are not capable of producing sperm. The test result must be incorrect. Perhaps we should get you to take another,” Giles suggested.

“Giles you haven’t been listening. I knew I was pregnant before I took the test. Maybe only half an hour before, but subconsciously I think I’ve known for a while. I know my own body Giles. I’ve been throwing up every morning for the last 10 days, I haven’t had a period since a fortnight before the battle and my breasts are getting a little tender,” she mused. “I would’ve worked it out some time this week anyway. The prophecy reveal just sped things up. I have no doubt. I’m pregnant. It’s Spike’s baby. Get with the programme.” Buffy folded her arms and plumped down in the armchair, eyeing Giles and Xander assertively.

“Well we’re with the programme,” enthused Willow as Dawn nodded eagerly beside her, “we’re even all bandwagony. But what I don’t get is how this happened. I mean if Giles is right and vampires don’t have any, well um s-seed, then how did Spike get you pregnant?”

“Well, first of all I think Giles is wrong, and I think it would be fair to say that he doesn’t have any first hand experience of this, and well I, um I do.” Buffy admitted a little sheepishly.

“Oh, no.” Xander groaned, dropping his face into his palms. “I really don’t want to hear this.”

Buffy ignored him as she chewed her lip thoughtfully. “Well it’s always seemed to me that vampires do produce sperm, they certainly produce semen.” At this Xander groaned again, even more loudly, while Giles removed his glasses and began polishing them vigorously. Robin, sat rigidly in the armchair next to Giles, jaw clenched tightly. The rest of the occupants leaned forwards in the seats, listening intently.

“It’s just that,” Buffy continued thoughtfully, “those sperm are dead, or at least undead.”

“Oh God, save me from undead vampire tadpoles,” Xander mumbled into his hands.

“I somehow feel certain that you shall never have to be saved from undead vampire tadpoles Xander,” Giles consoled the man beside him wryly.

“And now you’ve absolutely doomed me. I won’t be able to patrol now without freaking out about running into some overexcited vampire who finds me a nummy treat and …”

“Oh will you two shut up,” Buffy yelled at them. “Mystical pregnancy, fading powers, possible world endage! Could we get back to business?” She settled back down and looked around the room. “I’ve really only told Dawn and Willow about what happened in the Hellmouth. I know you were there Faith and saw what was going down but that was only up until a point. When the amulet activated, Spike called my name. I ran over to him and he was all lit up, with sunlight pouring down onto him then channeling out of the amulet and around the cavern. It wiped out most of the Turok Han in only seconds. I reached up and grabbed his hand.” She took a deep breath before continuing on.

“Flames erupted from between our linked hands as we gazed into one another’s eyes.” At this she stared down at the scar on her hand. “I felt a wave of heat, tingly like electricity, but much more pleasant, surge up my arm and throughout my body. It felt incredible, like a great big jolt of life, physically and emotionally. It was the most incredible sensation I’ve ever experienced, like absolute love and life all rolled into one. The whole time Spike and I were gazing into one another’s eyes, fire still leaping from between our palms. It felt like both our hearts and bodies were totally connected. I told him I loved him,” Buffy paused as sighs and sniffles came from around the room.

“Its sooo romantic,” Andrew said dreamily, “just like Han and Leia.”

“Or Westley and Buttercup,” offered Dawn.

“Or Rose and Jack,” added Willow, “but maybe that’s too close for comfort,” she grimaced. “Okay, boat and iceberg, but big old necklace, hot sex before the end, great big, apocalyptic sinkage and heart breaking romantic sacrifice.” Willow’s musing generated another round of sighs and nods of agreement.

“So what happened next Buffy?” Giles asked thoughtfully.

“Well next the stupid poophead vampire says ‘No you don’t but thanks for saying it’. Aaarrgh! I mean I’ve just opened up my heart and we’ve been all mystical and connecty and he says that! Never mind the apocalypse, I really should have kicked his butt right there.” Buffy complained indignantly.

“And yet, so noble,” Andrew declared before blowing his nose.

“Yeah, I hate to say it, but I actually agree with Andrew. Spike probably just wanted to get you out of there, Buffy. He wanted you to live,” Dawn consoled her sister.

“So Buffy, are you proposing that the heat generated by this amulet, through your connection with Spike, somehow caused your pregnancy,” asked Giles, excited now despite himself.

“You know, just before the amulet powered up, one of the Ubies made himself a Buffy kebab. He stuck his sword right through my gut. Now I know I’ve got Slayer healing and all, but Giles, by the time Spike let go of my hand, my wound was completely healed. And as for all that running and jumping I did to catch the bus, I may be fast and strong but I would never have made it if not for that heatwave. It was like some kind of mystical battery that got all jump-starty on me. If it could heal all my wounds and re-energize me, then why couldn’t it re-animate Spike’s dormant sperm, get all the little deeply deposited wrigglers wriggling again. From that point on, good ol’ Mother Nature takes over and voila, you’ve got one mystically pregnant, vampire loving, prophecy linked Slayer reporting for duty.”

“Good Lord Buffy,” Giles shook his head humbly, “Probably a little more detail than I would wish for, but I think your hypothesis actually has some merit. I feel embarrassed to admit that I’ve been rather hasty in my dismissal of your gut instinct, if you’ll pardon the pun. From now on I shall try very hard to leave my ‘stern but doting father’ hat off and put my ‘sharp, analytical watcher’ hat on. I rather suspect you’re about to tell me that my conclusions about the prophecy are also invalid.”

“Well I guess the only bit you got wrong was who the parents were. I think your interpretation of the Dark and the Light Warriors may have been a little shallow Giles. I don’t think the prophet was referring to skin colour. Spike is a creature of the Dark and I’m a warrior of the Light. No offense Faith and Robin,” Buffy nodded at the silent couple, “but ‘The Parents’ are Spike and I.”

“That’s cool B.,” Faith shot back, “like I’ve always said, me and brats don’t mix too good anyway.” Robin, sitting on the chair behind her seemed to be radiating some sort of negative emotion as he ground out “Fine,” through clenched teeth.

“If your interpretation is correct Buffy, and I am very much inclined to think it is, then we are left with an even larger problem,” warned Giles. “If the Father is unable to claim Sagaria alongside the Mother and the Child, before the first anniversary of the Hellmouth Collapse, then the new Slayers will lose their powers anyway. And if we cannot field a Legion of Slayers, we will be unable to defeat the Scourge of Amroz and before you know it we’re booked in for another apocalypse.”

“Well then Giles,” Buffy said calmly, “you’d better get all of your new Watcher minions with their noses to the grindstone, or whatever you have over here in England, and help me find my vampire.”

“You still think he’s alive don’t you?” Willow asked Buffy.

“Well not alive exactly, ‘cos hello, vampire. But not gone either. I don’t know how exactly, but I can still feel him. And then of course there are the dreams.”

“The dreams? You know Buffy, it really might have been helpful if you’d shared some of this information with us earlier,” Giles shook his head.

“Yeah sorry about that Giles, but you haven’t exactly been around. And anyway, I really haven’t been ready to share until just this last week. I’ve only just considered that my dreams may have been Slayer dreams over the last few days.”

“And it gets worse! How many of these Slayer dreams have you had?’ Giles asked impatiently.

“Um, only at least one every single day since the Hellmouth collapsed, so about maybe 35 or so.” Buffy muttered sheepishly.

“Oh for goodness sakes. What were you thinking? Did you two know about this?” Giles glared at Willow and Dawn.

The two girls glanced at each other quickly and shrugged.

“Well n-not really, Giles, n-no,” Willow stammered. “I mean we knew she was having bad dreams back in California, but not since we arrived in England. We’ve been so busy and …”

“Look can we just move on. All of the dreams start the same – a faithful, technicolour reproduction of the last 24 hours in Sunnydale, but you’re only getting the highlights package. I can see, hear, feel and even smell everything that happened around me. The first few nights that’s all I got – repeats of ‘The End of Sunnydale – The Untold Story’. But after a few nights it changed. First I could hear Spike calling for me from the crater’s edge, then a few nights later, he started begging me not to leave him just as I ran out of the cavern.” The room was absolutely silent as Buffy recalled her dreams.

“Oh Buffy, no wonder you wanted to spend every minute of every day camped out next to the crater,” Giles said sympathetically.

“By the time we flew out, dream Spike was furious, angry at me for leaving him behind.” Dawn and Willow gasped as they realised what Buffy had been going through during that horrible plane flight.

“Since we’ve been here, he alternately begs desperately or throws angry accusations at me.” Tears were streaming down Buffy’s cheeks now. “And it’s really taken me until today to realise that those dreams aren’t just my guilty conscience playing mean tricks on me. I think somehow he’s been calling out to me all along, wanting me to come and find him, needing me to save him,” Buffy was openly sobbing by now. “Please Giles, I need you, I need all of you,” at this she looked around the room, “to help me find him. Not just to fulfil the prophecy, but for me, because I love him, because I need him,” she slid her hand back down over her stomach, “because we both need him.”

Giles quickly dashed a hand across his eyes, pushed his glasses back on his face and cleared his throat. “Of course Buffy, we’ll do what ever we can to find and bring him back safe. But I’m not really sure where to start. Maybe a locator spell …”

“Rupert dear, if you don’t mind me interrupting, I believe that’s why we are here.” Everyone gaped in surprise at the speaker. “Rowan and I have our own story to tell,” Althanea offered calmly. “Unless I’m very much mistaken Buffy, we’ve been sent to help you bring your vampire home.”
Chapter 11 - Vision by badgervamp
‘Eyes that last I saw in tears
Through division
Here in death's dream kingdom
The golden vision reappears
I see the eyes but not the tears
This is my affliction’
T.S. Eliot

“Well then, where shall I begin?” Althanea pondered. “As many of you know I have dedicated most of my adult life to living wisely and well and in harmony with Nature. My life has been guided by Wiccan principles and I have tried to develop and share my gifts and abilities in ways that would better the lives of all I met. I was lucky enough to meet my beloved late husband Stefan through a coven I joined during my University years.”

“Our eldest daughter Celeste was a beautiful girl,” Althanea smiled wistfully and squeezed her granddaughter’s hand. “From a young age it was clear that she had the sight, and she would delight all her friends and family with funny wee stories of people dressed in old-fashioned clothes or the little girl who used to live on the farm before us. Her father and I had already been practicing our spiritual beliefs for some years by that time, and we had just established Rede Coven.

The years passed quickly and Celeste grew up into a stunning young woman, bright, funny and confident. She was always keen to try new experiences, see new places, meet new people. One of the new people she met while living in Crawley was a young lad by the name of Rupert Giles,” she smiled in Rupert’s direction. “Rupert was attending a small private College in East Grinstead that seemed to specialise in a strange assortment of subjects. One of his best mates there was a handsome young Scotsman by name of Alastair McNair, nicknamed, like many Scotsmen, Mac.

Well, before long Celeste and Mac had fallen in love. Six months later they were married, with Rupert standing up as their Best Man. Mac graduated from the Academy and was sent to work at the Central office and within a few years Celeste was pregnant. They were so happy. They’d come down to Devon for the odd weekend, and sometimes Celeste would stay for a whole week while Mac went back to London.

During one of these stays Celeste began to tell us of the visions she’d been having. They had only started after she’d got pregnant, and would come to her on the dream plane. She’d begun a journal to record all of the details of these dreams, and sketch certain images that had featured strongly. She felt a strong connection to these events and somehow felt her child would also be connected.

Two months later Celeste gave birth to a gorgeous wee girl, our precious Rowan here. For two years the young family were so happy. Then, one Sunday evening, as they were coming to pick up their little girl from her Grandparent’s farm where she’d stayed the weekend, a lorry hit their car. They were both killed instantly. We were all devastated, but life had to go on as we suddenly added Rowan to our two youngest children still living at home.” Althanea paused here to wipe her eyes and take a sip of water.

“I know this is a long involved story, but it’s just so that you know how much a part of our family history this involves. From a young age, Rowan too showed many of the gifts her mother had had. Once, when she was four, she found her mother’s dream diary in a drawer in my room. I’d kept it when we collected all of Celeste and Mac’s belongings, and had myself read the accounts recorded within many times. On this day Rowan had been playing in my room and found the journal. Of course she couldn’t yet read at that age, but 10 minutes later she came trotting out, pointing to one of the sketches and saying ‘Look Grammy, it’s from my ‘nigh-nighs’ – the term we used to describe her dreams. Buffy, I’ve brought that journal here with me today. It’s almost twenty years old but we’ve looked after it carefully. I’d like you to read it.”

At that, Rowan hopped up and brought the black leather bound dairy over to Buffy. The soft worn leather was warm in Buffy’s hands, bringing to mind leather she’d felt beneath her fingertips before. She looked up to see Dawn and Willow standing before her.
“Do you mind?” Willow asked as she pointed to the padded arm of the chair.

“No, that’s fine. Come on and join me you two,” she offered as she settled back in the chair. All three girls peered at the book as Buffy opened it to the first page. Quickly they began to scan the neat, cursive script in front of them. Then, as one, the three girls gasped.

“Oh my God!” Buffy exclaimed.

“This is unreal,” Dawn seconded as Buffy turned to the next page and they began reading again.

As the girls read, their furious scanning and page turning punctuated by gasps of amazement and disbelief, the room filled with quiet chatter. Giles had gone over to speak with Althanea, checking the details of the bits of family history he didn’t know and offering sympathy and comfort for those bits he did. Rowan, noting her seat taken had thus gone over to chat with Xander. They had met for the first time last week and she was rather intrigued by the one-eyed warrior.

In the other corner, Faith and Robin sat, drawn close together and whispering quietly to each other. Andrew was the only one up on his feet, wandering around from seat to seat trying to pick up on people’s conversations until he was told to get lost.

Finally Buffy cleared her throat. “I’d like to ask if I could borrow this for the next few days so that I can read it more thoroughly, but I’ve skimmed through it enough to tell you that this journal contains a complete and detailed account of the battle at the Hellmouth. It’s not in any particular sequence, and is written from a range of viewpoints, including my own and Spike’s. It includes descriptions and sketches of things like the scythe, the amulet, mine and Spike’s linked hands. All of the details are correct to a tee.”

“Bloody Hell,” Giles muttered, while Xander, Faith and Andrew gasped in disbelief and Robin just shook his head.

“It also describes the heatwave and the emotions involved in our connection. And it describes a part I didn’t get to see – Spike standing his ground, laughing in the face of death before being consumed by the flames and disintegrating. But not into ashes, no, into a little cloud which then gets sucked into that damn amulet lying on the ground of the cavern.”

“So Spike got sucked up by a mystical dust buster,” Xander chortled before noticing the annoyed glances directed his way. “What? I thought it was funny.”

Rowan, still sitting next to Xander, raised her eyebrow at him, shaking her head slightly. She waited for him to mumble “Sorry,” before turning to face the room.

“Actually the amulet is the key to Spike’s whereabouts and to his return” the young witch addressed the others shyly. “But before we get into that I’d like to tell you my part in all this. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always dreamt of the Battle. Listening to Buffy describe her experiences was like listening to somebody else read out a story that I’d written. But of course Buffy is the writer herself, I’ve just read the story over and over so many times …” Rowan reminisced fondly. “And I can tell you, that as a young girl, as a teenager, even today if I am honest,” she grinned coyly, “that dream provided me with what I consider the romantic ideal. While other little girls based their romantic dreams on fairy tale or movie couples, mine were always centred on the ‘lovers’ as I came to call them. I had an added advantage however, not only have I always been able to watch that amazing love scene, but I’ve always been able to feel their emotions too. Their love for one another is absolute,” she added dreamily, while Buffy’s cheeks flamed red.

“I’m sorry if this sounds voyeuristic Buffy, its never felt that way to me. I’ve always felt more part of the story rather than just an observer. You cannot imagine how it feels to actually come face to face with you. In a way, you and Spike are my oldest, my most beloved friends. I’ve spent more time with the two of you than anyone else in my life except Grammy, and Dadda when he was alive.” She took a deep breath and continued.

“So meeting Buffy last week was startling to say the least. Something hit me as you walked across the yard towards the car, but I couldn’t understand what it was. As I grasped your hands, the familiarity had washed over me and I realised I was standing in front of and holding the hand of a legend, my own fairy tale heroine. And in that flash I could sense so much about you Buffy,” Rowan said, looking directly at the astounded slayer. “I could sense your sorrow, your longing, your guilt and confusion. But I could also sense the new life within you. And Buffy. Through you, I could sense Spike, only faintly and far away, but he was there. We’re going to find him Buffy.”

Buffy was weeping openly now, tears flowing down her cheeks as a tremulous smile graced her lips. Willow and Dawn, still sitting either side of her, clasping her hands, were also rather misty eyed.

“Do you really think you may be able to locate Spike, Rowan?” Giles asked.

“Oh yes Giles, I am absolutely certain of it. You see for me, the dreams didn’t stop at the collapse of the Hellmouth. I’ve seen how the story goes on, what happens next if you will, and I’ve seen how the story ends. No little girl is going to choose as her heroes a fairy tale couple that doesn’t get a happy ending. Don’t worry Buffy, we have a way to go yet, and some danger ahead, but you’ll rescue your prince and you’ll get your happily ever after. And I guess that means the world won’t end either huh?” Rowan grinned.

“Well maybe not, at least not until next time anyway,” Xander agreed wryly.
Chapter 12 - Pilgrimage by badgervamp
‘The ripest fruit first falls, and so doth he.
His time is spent; our pilgrimage must be.’
William Shakespeare

Giles called the meeting to a halt at that point. Although they were all excited and eager to discuss how to go about finding Spike, it had been a long day and everyone was tired and hungry. Giles dashed off to ring Robson, while the others drifted off in twos and threes. Before taking her Grandmother up to their room to rest, Rowan had slipped quietly over to Buffy. The two women looked at one another then moved into a hug. As they stepped back, they both smiled then moved apart.

Buffy had taken Celeste’s dream diary up to her room and had read it from cover to cover. She was astounded and thrilled by how accurate, how detailed and how deeply emotional the descriptions were. She fell asleep clutching the leather bound journal, and slept well throughout the night. Instead of the normal dream, she experienced little cameos of the most loving and empowering sections, a sort of highlights package. She awoke feeling strong and positive and ready for action.

After a quick breakfast, the group met again, this time back in the Lady Brassey Room. Most of the chairs had been pushed back against the walls with only about a dozen laid out in a large circle. Kennedy was in attendance this time, as well as Gareth Robson and Ashton Hurst. Robin however was missing. He’d caught up with Buffy before the meeting, wishing her all the best but explaining that he could not bring himself to have anything to do with the rescue of the vampire he hated so deeply; it felt too much like a betrayal of his mother’s memory to him.

His bitterness unsettled her initially, but she soon forgot about it as Giles got ready to address the group.

“Okay straight to business,” he began. “I’m sure you have all heard about yesterday’s astounding revelations. Through mystical means it appears that Buffy and Spike are to be the parents mentioned in the Song of Sagaria, with Buffy’s pregnancy confirmed yesterday afternoon. Both Rowan McNair and her mother before her are connected to this prophecy and through their visions we believe that Spike is still alive, or at least exists somewhere, trapped inside the amulet he wore at the battle.

Rowan believes she can help us find Spike so that we can rescue him. Shortly, she is going to perform a spell to locate Spike. But before that happens, I’d like to lay out the plan that Xander, Robson and I have come up with. We will be splitting into two teams.” Giles moved over to the whiteboard and drew up two columns, writing names in the columns as he continued to speak. “Willow, Xander, Faith, Kennedy and myself will accompany Buffy and Rowan on the ‘Spike Search and Retrieval Team’. The remainder of you will stay here, training, patrolling and researching.”

“No Giles, that’s not fair, I want to go with Buffy too,” Dawn immediately protested. “There’s nothing special for me to do here.”

“Actually, Dawn, that is where you are wrong,” Giles appeased her. “You are instrumental in helping with one of our most important goals. We know that the scythe spell activated slayers all over the world. Although the Bringers killed many of them, Willow and I still think there are hundreds, maybe thousands of girls out there who now have Slayer powers. If we are to have any hope of defeating the Scourge of Amroz, it is essential that we begin to find these girls and bring them back to Standen to begin their training. Using the essence of Sagaria, a good witch should be able to isolate and locate the particular energy signature that each Slayer generates. Althanea has offered to begin this task, but she needs you Dawn to help channel the energy.”

“Dawn,” Althanea spoke softly, “Giles has already shared some of your story with me. Your energy is still very strong; you glow with it. I think that if you would remain behind with me and help me with this task, we might also begin to investigate ways for you to learn to control and use your abilities. I think you may play an even more vital role by your sister’s side in the years to come.”

Dawn looked stunned by this news, but smiled shyly at Althanea and nodded her acceptance to Giles.

“Good. Now, I’ve asked Robin to stay and organise and train the patrol groups. We’ve asked the other girls to meet us at 10 o’clock to run through their roles. Robin will put them into small squads of three or four. Each squad will have an experienced Watcher such as Robson or Hurst and a trainee Watcher like young Matthew Morris attached to them. Andrew and I have spoken about his starting at the Watchers Academy next month, so he too will join one of the teams. You can use the vans and do day trips or possibly even overnighters if you’re heading further north or across the channel. Don’t take too many risks, but I want to see the accounts of plenty successful slayings by the time we return.”

The four men concerned nodded their agreement at Giles.

“Right now for the main item on today’s agenda. Rowan is going to explain what she needs to begin the ritual.”

“Hi everyone,” the tiny witch began. “I’ve never really practiced in front of an audience before so I hope everyone can be quiet so I don’t get too distracted. This is going to be pretty similar to a regular locator spell, but we are going to use Buffy and Sagaria to channel and focus Spike’s energy.”

While Rowan had been speaking, Willow had cast a salt circle, Xander had passed over the Slayer Scythe he’d retrieved earlier from the vault in the Weapons Room, and Dawn had given Willow a pile of maps. When everything was ready, the three girls stepped into the circle and sat down. Buffy held the scythe in her right hand and clasped Rowan’s hand in her left, her scar already tingling. Willow completed the circle, unlinked to the others, but holding the pile of maps in her hands.

When everyone was quiet and the three girls were settled, Rowan began chanting in a low voice.

Spirit of Ancient Sagaria
We beseech you to hear our call
One of your Warriors calls forth your guidance
To seek out her mate
Show us that place
Where he may be found

Sagaria briefly flashed its golden glow and the warm light seemed to pulse through Buffy and into the young witch. Rowan’s head dropped back as she fell into a trance. Willow laid the full world map on the floor in the centre of the circle. Still in a trance, Rowan lent forward, her hand hovering over the map. She hesitated before moving her hand to the left of the map and touching her finger to the west coast of the U.S.A. She lifted her hand and Willow quickly pulled the map out, replacing it with a more detailed one of the States on its own. Once again Rowan’s hand moved to the left side. Her index finger drifted up and down along the Californian coastline, hovering over Sunnydale before stabbing down onto the centre of Los Angeles.

Rowan slowly came out of her trance, opened her eyes and turned to Buffy. She squeezed Buffy’s hand and smiled.

“He’s not on this plane, Buffy, but I was able to follow a strong, bright thread of energy connecting the two of you. He is, as we suspected, trapped, possibly in another dimension. But the portal that connects our two dimensions was easy to find. If we can find that, then we can find Spike.”

“Right everyone, it seems that the Retrieval Team is on its way back to L.A,” Giles leapt up eagerly. “Those of you on the team get packing, clothes and passports. I’m off to book our flights for tomorrow morning. Althanea and Dawn, I suggest you spend some time connecting and aligning yourselves with the Scythe’s signature. It will be travelling to LA with us tomorrow so this is the last chance you’ll get for a while. The rest of you may stay for the following meeting. Thank you Rowan, Buffy, Willow. I’ll see you later.”

As Giles dashed off to the library to book their flights and the Team members slowly filed out of the Brassey Room, over 5000 miles away in Los Angeles, on a small, round mahogany side table in a dark room, the glow of a clunky golden amulet slowly faded.

“So,” a breathless, raspy voice pondered, “the hunt finally begins. Bring it on.”
Chapter 13 - Hope by badgervamp
‘Through love, through hope, and faith's transcendent dower,
We feel that we are greater than we know.’
William Wordsworth.

As the plane touched down in L.A., Buffy felt the tingling in her palm start up again. She was tired from the long flight, but excited and enthusiastic about the task that lay ahead. For the first time since they’d left L.A. she felt like she finally had her Slayer mojo back. She felt strong, assured, in control and filled with a sense of purpose and hope. Last night’s dream had shifted again, in the best way possible. This time, as she’d left the cavern, Spike had turned and called out to her,

“I’ll be waiting for you pet. Come and find me.” His beautiful face had glowed with trust and confidence in her before he’d turned back to finish off the Hellmouth. She’d awoken immediately, leaping out of bed, eager to be on the road. It was fortunate that Giles had managed to book early flights or she would have driven everyone around the bend with her impatience.

Matthew had driven them to the airport the following morning. In the interest of trying to be more with the sharing, Buffy had told everyone about her dream shift. They had all agreed that it was an encouraging sign and it started up some discussion about whether Spike could be aware of their intentions, making the dreams psychic or whether the dreams were merely symbolic Slayer dreams.

That discussion had lasted throughout the trip to Gatwick, during check-in and for a while after the plane had taken off. After that, most of the team had dozed during the flight, but Buffy had been too excited and keyed up to relax. Even the few special research texts she’d borrowed from Ashdown’s library couldn’t hold her interest. She kept picturing the look of love and amazement on Spike’s face when she found him.

Coming in to land at LAX, the plane had banked into its final approach. The familiar sight of the Los Angeles skyline had overwhelmed Buffy with a sense of nostalgia. The light of the setting sun slanted through the window, washing the sky clear with a pastel palette of lilacs, pinks and peaches, throwing the dark silhouettes of steel and glass towers and feathery palm trees into stark contrast. From a distance, the city looked beautiful and benign but in order to rescue Spike, Buffy knew her crew would be forced to confront the mayhem and malignancy that lay beneath LA’s shallow face.

They were standing near the luggage carousel in LAX, Giles and Xander in charge of spotting their luggage and the custom made leather case that contained the Scythe, when Buffy heard a voice call out Willow’s name. She turned around to see the redhead dash over and embrace someone. As she pulled back Buffy could see that it was Oz. She made her way over to them, adding her own hug when she got there.

“Heard about Sunnydale. Bummer. Glad you guys made it out. The others?” Oz asked in his usual laconic way.

“Well Xander and Giles and Dawn all made it out okay. But Spike didn’t, or actually he did but we didn’t know. Anyway that’s why we’re here. It’s all a big story,” Willow babbled, “but basically we’ve come to search for him and to rescue him.”

“Hmm, weird, rescue mission for a vampire.” Oz raised one eyebrow in a gesture, for him, of shock.

“Oh no, Spike had changed. He had a soul, and he was good and he saved the world. He and Buffy were in love with each other and she’s having their baby,” she said, all before taking a breath.

“Okay, big changes. Need help, remember wolfy senses here, here’s my number. I’ll be in town a week or two. Nice seeing you Willow, Buffy.” With that he swung his bag over his shoulder, picked up his guitar case and sauntered off.

“Wow that was a coincidence huh?” Buffy smiled at Willow. “Hey, look at you, you’re all flushed and glowy. Hmm, you’re still keen on Oz aren’t you?”

“No, of course not.” Willow protested, “I mean I’m with Kennedy now, a-and hello, gay! It’s just that he’s still so cute and I think there was still some sparkage,” she mused wistfully. “Anyway looks like the boys have got all our gear. Let’s go.”

They stepped out into the warm L.A. night, caught a shuttle to a downtown hotel and got settled into their rooms. Rowan was sharing with Buffy, the two girls keen to try another locator spell now that they were in L.A. Once everyone had unpacked and ordered room service, they made their way through to Buffy and Rowan’s room. Willow had the salt and a large map of L.A. with her and Giles the scythe with him.

They set up quickly and confidently, the three girls taking their places and beginning the ritual within minutes. Rowan’s hand hovered uncertainly over the map, her browed furrowed in concentration as she tried to make the connection. Minutes went by before finally, she placed her whole palm in the middle of the map, and sagged wearily. Opening her eyes, she looked around her.

“I’m sorry guys, but I couldn’t get through.” Rowan frowned. “There’s some sort of powerful ward blocking the way. Someone’s using major, major mojo to shield us from Spike’s energy, thick, dark magick. That someone doesn’t want us to find him. All I can tell you is that the magick emanates from somewhere in the downtown area. I don’t even know what direction though,” she apologised.

“Not to worry Rowan,” Giles soothed, “It makes our job a little more difficult but not impossible I’m sure. It might be possible to isolate the sorcerer’s signature and use our contacts here in Los Angeles to try and identify him. Buffy, tomorrow we shall have to contact Angel. He and Wesley may be able to help us. Now everyone get to bed and get a good night’s sleep.”

Flattened by this sudden, unexpected disappointment, the others quickly left their room and Rowan and Buffy got ready for bed. They chatted for a while, both trying to think of any magickal practitioners they’d heard of in the area, but Rowan had never been to the States before and Buffy usually let Giles or Willow take care of the research side of things. Having reached a dead end, they headed off to their beds.

Buffy read through the dream journal again. It seemed to relax her and fill her with optimism. When she finally settled down to sleep, the dream came to her quickly. Spike’s love echoed through her heart as she stood linked to him, the heat flooding her body with life. They clutched one another’s hands more tightly as they both looked down towards her belly. Spike looked back up, his face glowing with pride and astonishment.

“It’s time to go kitten.” He looked over his shoulder anxiously. “I’ll be waiting for you, but you’ve got to be careful. He’s very powerful and very dangerous. Don’t forget, I love you Buffy. I love you…”

Buffy’s eyes snapped open, and as she looked around the hotel bedroom, and a sense of determination settled in her empty, slightly nauseous tummy. After a quick breakfast, the rest of the team trooped back into her and Rowan’s room while Giles made the call to Angel. The phone number they had only relayed a recorded message, explaining that Angel Investigations was no longer in operation, but that they could reach any of the members of the A.I. team by ringing the following number.

When Giles dialled that number he was shocked to hear that he had been connected to the offices of the Wolfram and Hart Law Firm. He hesitantly asked to speak to Angel, only to be informed by the rather annoying voice of the receptionist that he was in a meeting. Then the receptionist had politely asked if she could connect him to anyone else and had happily done so when he’d asked for Wesley.

“What the bloody hell is going on there Wes?” asked Giles, incredulous at the former Watcher’s seeming betrayal. “Batting for the evil team now are you?”

Wesley had assured him that that was not the case, but preferred not to discuss it over the phone. Giles knew they needed help but he refused to enter the premises of the evil Law Firm, and asked Wesley if he and Angel could meet them at their hotel that afternoon.
In the meantime, Giles suggested that Willow contact Oz. Kennedy had scowled at that suggestion, but if it came to an out and out hunt, physically scouring the whole of central L.A., then the more bodies the better. Willow tried hard to control her excitement, and then her confusion at her excitement, before she rang. She made the call short and sweet and Oz was happy to come by that afternoon as well.

Just after 2 p.m. Buffy was awoken by a knock at the door. She’d had a little nap after lunch, having worked out that she could keep the worst of her nausea at bay as long as she ate regularly and was well rested. She dashed through to the bathroom to freshen up while Rowan answered the door. When she came out to the lounge, Giles and Xander were there, along with Angel and Wesley.

Angel looked up when she stepped into the room and stood immediately, coming straight over to her.

“Buffy, it’s good to see you. How are you?” he asked quietly.

“I’m good. I mean things have been tough but they’re getting better and as soon as we find…” Buffy paused, uncertain how to break the news to him.

“Sooo, remember when you talked to me about the cookie thing,” Angel began hopefully, “well I wondered whether you could stay here in L.A. for a while and we could spend some time working on your baking,” he grinned. But as he stepped in closer he looked down, cocked his head to the side and frowned. He was about to speak when a knock on the door signalled the last of the arrivals, Willow, Oz, Kennedy and Faith.

“Look who I found outside,” Willow nearly squealed, her efforts to curb her Oz enthusiasm a total bust. Kennedy frowned darkly as she stomped into the room.

“Come in everyone. It’s nice to see you again Oz,” Giles said as he shook the young man’s hand. “Find a seat. Some of you might have to take the floor I’m sorry.”

Buffy quickly turned away from Angel and went to sit on the floor beside Rowan and Xander. Giles had introduced Rowan and Kennedy to Angel, Wesley and Oz. Before he disclosed anything about their mission, he wanted to determine what side of the fight they were on. Angel had quickly explained how and why they were running Wolfram and Hart now, and assured them he was trust worthy.

Giles felt very unconvinced by Angel’s story, sensing there was more to it than his explanation covered. However, they definitely needed the resources and help that Angel and Wesley could provide, no matter that those resources came from Evil Incorporated. Still he felt that the less that Angel and Wesley knew about their search, particularly the prophecy, the better. And if he could keep Spike’s name out of it, that would be preferable.

“Alright Angel, it remains to be seen whether or not you can prove yourself trust worthy, but we shall give you the chance. We need some information, quickly and reliably,” at this he paused, considering the souled vampire again. “We need to know anything you can find out about the amulet you gave to Buffy in Sunnydale, where it came from, what it’s properties are, where it might be now. And secondly, we have encountered a powerful magickal field, being used to block our attempts to locate … someone missing from our team. We’d like you to find out, if you can, the names and addresses of any and all magick practitioners, sorcerers, witches, warlocks in the Los Angeles area.”

“Los Angeles is home to many powerful warlocks and sorcerers. Many of them are human such as Magnus Bryce or Lucien Drake or any of the Order of the Kun-Sun-Dai, while others like Sahjhan are demons. It really would help if you could let me know what this warlock is protecting and why,” Wesley pointed out warily.

“I’d rather not disclose that at this stage,” Giles fenced. “If you can help us without any of your … um colleagues finding out, then I’ll be happy to tell all.”

“Suit yourself then,” Wes allowed as he stood to leave. He paused at the door, turning to face Angel who was crossing the room. “Actually the amulet was acquired by Angel initially. Where did you get it from Angel?”

“Lilah Morgan gave it to me as part of the Wolfram and Hart deal,” Angel admitted. “I’ve got a file on it somewhere back at the office. I’ll dig it out and get Wesley to check both the amulet and the sorcerer info out when we get back.” He strode towards the door, stopping next to Buffy on the way.

“Can I please speak to you in private? Now,” he added brusquely as he put his hand on the small of her back and steered her out the door.

“Angel, I really think that …” Giles began before Buffy interrupted him.

“It’s okay Giles. I’ll handle it,” she grimaced as she stepped out into the hallway.

Angel led her several yards down the hallway before stopping and turning to face her.

“So when were you going to tell me Buffy? Were you just stringing me along in Sunnydale, playing me like a schmuck?” When Angel paused, Buffy stalled for time, not sure of what it was he thought he knew, and not wishing to reveal more than she absolutely had too.

“I’m sorry I didn’t say anything Angel. I didn’t want to hurt your feelings,” she offered vaguely.

“Did you think I wouldn’t be able to tell? Well think again,” he ground out, his fists clenched by his side. “I know you’re pregnant Buffy, I can hear the heartbeat. So who’s the lucky chap then? Anyone I know?”
Chapter 14 - Illumination by badgervamp
‘There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.’
Anais Nin

Suddenly Buffy could feel her own temperature rising as she put her hands on her hips and glared at Angel.

“Look here,” she shouted, “you were the one that walked away from me, the one that wanted me to have a life. Well I just might have a chance to do that if we can complete this mission. And no, I’m not going to tell you who the father is until he knows himself. I’m sorry if you got the wrong idea in Sunnydale, but my heart belongs to another. Go home Angel, there’s nothing for you here,” she yelled before stopping and turning back to him. “Oh yeah, and thanks for helping us out with the info,” she added awkwardly.

Buffy walked the few yards back to her hotel room, where she met Wesley standing by her door.

“Well this is going to be a very unpleasant ride back to the office,” he grimaced as he nodded farewell to her, then followed Angel down the hall to the elevators.

As Buffy stepped back into the room, she was greeted by the sound of Xander in full rant.

“Well I don’t like it. I don’t trust him and I don’t trust his evil empire either. We’re asking for trouble having anything to do with Angel,” he argued.

“Look Giles, Xander’s right,” Faith stated. “Maybe not about Angel, cos on his own I’d trust him fine. But that Wolfram and Hart deal! I’ve had dealings with those guys before and they’re not only evil but they’re players with a capital P. If the amulet came from Lilah Morgan then you know it’s got to be trouble. That woman is a total bitch and she’s been after Angel for years. I can’t understand why he’s done it but Angel’s made himself a deal with the Devil.”

“Yeah,” Buffy sighed sadly as she shut the door, walked back to her seat and sat down again. “The whole thing seems totally freaky. And on top of that, I already have to deal with a jealous, angry ex-boyfriend. And that’s before he’s even found out that I’m in love with Spike, that the baby I’m having is Spike’s, that the reason for our mission is Spike. When he hears about that he’s gonna totally flip.”

“I do agree with all of your concerns,” Giles said “but we don’t seem to have any alternative at this stage.”

“Maybe, while we’re waiting we could just get out there and hit the streets anyway. You know, ask around, see if we can suss out any magickal users. We could check occult book shops and magic suppliers or-or any demon bars,” Willow suggested, getting excited as she considered the possibilities.

Everyone agreed to that suggestion so in small teams they hit the streets. However none of their subtle enquiries or witchy sensing turned up anything. The locals either didn’t know anything, or if they did, they were reluctant to say. A heavier hand would have done nothing but tip off the sorcerer involved.

As dusk settled over L.A. they returned to the hotel wearily, disheartened by their lack of progress. Buffy was just swiping her card key through the lock when she heard the phone begin ringing in her room. She pushed through the door quickly and dashed over to snatch the receiver up.

“Hello,” she panted into the phone.

“Ah, hello, Buffy?” she could recognise Wesley’s voice on the other end of the phone.

“Hey Wes,” she replied. “What have you got for us?”

“Well, rather a lot actually. I must say that what I’ve uncovered is rather intriguing and more than a little unsettling. I’d rather come over there to share this information with you. I could be there in half an hour if that suits you,” Wesley offered.

Buffy accepted, and 29 minutes later when he knocked on the door of her suite, it was to find the whole crew assembled much as they had been when he’d left earlier in the afternoon. He wasted little time, launching straight into his findings.

“It appears that the Amulet was acquired by Wolfram and Hart about two months ago,” Wesley began. “I’ve done a fair bit of digging on this amulet and it turns out that it is one of the legendary Amulets of Atar. In the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, Atar was represented by fire, both burning and unburning, and also visible and invisible. Fire was worshipped as an agent of ritual purification and one of the central means by which judgment could be passed and cleansing attained. Zoroastrians called this ‘ordeal by fire’. Passing this test would allow the participant to achieve spiritual and physical strength and wholeness and attain truth, love and life through enlightenment.” Wesley paused waiting for the excited murmurs to fade.

“The Amulets of Atar were fashioned from gold and contained mystical symbols and designs. Their purpose was twofold. First to extend the purification ritual beyond the wearer and secondly to elevate the wearer to the plane of enlightenment after they had passed through the ring of unburning fire.”

“So do you think it at all possible.” Giles interrupted thoughtfully, “that this ‘ring of fire’ could refer to some sort of portal?”

“Hmm, I guess it’s possible,” Wes pondered. “Why do you ask? You know you’ve never really said what happened in Sunnydale. Was this amulet somehow involved in the closure of the Hellmouth?”

Giles looked at Buffy, who nodded at him before he began. “Wesley, I am going to be quite frank, none of us trust Wolfram and Hart at all, and we cannot understand why either Angel or yourself have made this decision to work for them. If you think that you can change things from within then I believe you are fooling yourselves. We also feel divided on whether or not we can trust Angel himself. We are grateful that you’ve spent so much time helping us and we’d like to disclose the full story of our mission to you. But before we do so,” Giles looked at Wesley, with a serious expression on his face, “we will need your absolute assurance that none of this will get back to Angel or anyone at Wolfram and Hart.”

Wesley paused, looking thoughtful, before he responded to Giles’ request. “Well of course, you have my assurance, that goes without saying. And I think I shall also need to take extra precautions when carrying out any research or enquiries related to this project. It seems that Wolfram and Hart are going to be quite heavily implicated in this whole affair. Now more than ever, I think I must be privy to what the facts of that affair are.”

So they sat and explained to Wesley everything that had happened right from Spike’s role and the events that took place in the Hellmouth, to the research that Giles and his team had uncovered in England about Sagaria and the Legion of the Light, through Buffy’s dreams and the conception of her child and Rowan’s role in the prophecy. Wesley asked questions along the way, expressing astonishment or concern as befitted the story; all the while the gleam in his eyes steadily grew as he began to slot together parts of the tale they were telling with the puzzle pieces that he himself held. Finally they explained how Rowan’s locator spell had been blocked since they’d arrived in L.A.

“Right, well, that certainly is an amazing story. I can’t believe I’m saying this Buffy, but we’re going to get Spike back for you so that you can prepare for the birth of your baby together. Then we can get this prophecy sorted and another big evil kicked into touch.” Wesley rubbed his hands together as he prepared to get down to business.

“Everything you’ve told me about the effects of the Amulet Angel gave Buffy point to this indeed being one of the famed Amulets of Atar. And given Rowan’s visions and Buffy’s dreams, plus the results of the original locator spell, I must concur, it seems that Spike continues to exist somewhere, either on this plane or another. But whether, as Rupert has proposed, the Amulet acted as a portal to another plane, one perhaps of enlightenment, or whether Spike is somehow trapped within the Amulet itself, then it is clear that finding the Amulet is the key to recovering Spike.” Wes became more animated as the connections lined up in his mind.

“But wouldn’t the Amulet still be lying at the bottom of that cesspit we lovingly refer to as Sunnydale?” Xander queried.

“Not necessarily. In fact I’m quite certain it has been recovered, more than likely by mystical means rather than physical, and undoubtedly quite soon after the collapse. The parties concerned would probably have only waited a week or two, just long enough to assume that grieving relatives or nosy reporters would have drifted away.”

Willow bit her lip and frowned as she listened to Wesley’s speculation. Something tickled the edges of her memory but she couldn’t drag it forward into the light.

“Okay, so the key to this mystery is the Amulet of Atar. Now, the firm’s Accounting Department runs like a tight ship. I was able to find out from their records exactly when the Amulet was acquired, from whom and how much was paid. Interestingly the amulet was obtained from a business associate of Wolfram and Hart’s, an associate who also happens to be on the list of local practitioners of the dark arts. But for the Amulet he was paid very little, particularly when you consider the almost priceless value of the artifact itself alongside its astonishing powers. I have been considering the idea that perhaps the sum represented a rental fee rather than an outright purchase, in which case ownership of the amulet would then revert back to the sorcerer himself.”

“Oo, oo, oo,” Willow interrupted. “I’ve been trying to remember something and it’s finally come to me. Buffy, Dawn and I spent some time together out at the site a day or two before we left the Sunnydale crater to fly out to England. Just as we were arriving that morning, a big black limousine was pulling away from the crater. I remember thinking at the time how weird it was ‘cos it looked very expensive and shiny and kinda outta place next to the dusty crater and they sorta squealed out of there as we pulled up. I tried to look inside but the glass was all darkened and I couldn’t see anything and they were going pretty fast. It was definitely weird, don’t you think so Buffy?”

“Um, well,” Buffy’s forehead crunched up in concentration and she bit her lip. “I can only vaguely recall that. I kinda had other things on my mind at the time,” she shrugged. “Sorry.”

“No, that’s fine Buffy,” Wesley assured her. “Willow, can you remember any other details about the car itself, or the exact date and time you saw it.”

“Well the date’s easy, cos it was the day before we flew out, so the 31st May and it was early, about eight in the morning I figure. And I know I looked at the license plate, but after all these weeks I can’t remember it,” Willow admitted disappointedly.

“Hmmm, maybe, if you were to be placed in a meditative state, you’d be able to recall the plate number,” Wesley mused. “Meditation is an excellent way to reach a state of deep relaxation where you can often focus your mind on a particular action or event.”

“I’ve worked on self-meditation techniques,” Oz volunteered. “Could help.”

“Yes, thank you Oz. Perhaps if you and Willow could go and find a quiet spot shortly then you could have a go at recovering that number. It may be merely coincidental, or it may prove crucial in helping us trace where the amulet is now. In the mean time I’d like to find out a little more about the warlock who provided Wolfram and Hart with the amulet.” Wesley paused before recounting his recent findings. “Looking back over the Law Firm’s records, it appears that the firm has used this sorcerer frequently. In fact, he received an astronomical amount of money for services rendered less than two weeks after the acquisition of the amulet, on the same day that Angel accepted responsibility for running Wolfram and Hart. I’d very much like to uncover what service he provided that required such a large payment.”

“Do you know this warlock’s name?” Giles inquired.

“Oh sorry, did I not mention it before,” Wesley looked around the room. “His name is Cyvus Vail.”
Chapter 15 - Ecstasy by badgervamp
Author's Notes:
Woo-hoo - finally some action. Buffy's getting down.
‘Where the world ends
The mind is made unchanging, for it finds
Miracle, ecstasy, the impossible hope,
The flagstone under all, the fire of fires,
The roots of the world.’
William Butler Yeats

Giles had decided to call it a day after that. Xander went off to pick up pizzas while the rest of the team broke up into small groups, keen to discuss the information Wesley had divulged.

Buffy and Rowan had borrowed Willow’s laptop and were looking up anything they could find about Atar. The two girls were excited and intrigued by the articles they found, the concepts and descriptions so reflective of Buffy’s experiences and Rowan’s visions. They sat together reading, comparing ideas and considering the implications their new knowledge would have on Spike’s whereabouts and rescue.

Willow and Oz had gone through to her and Kennedy’s room so they could try some self-meditation. It didn’t take long for Oz to get Willow to relax enough to slip into a meditative state. Although she wasn’t able to single out that particular memory, they both felt pleased at the progress they’d achieved so quickly and Willow promised to practice again that night.

Giles had drifted over to Wesley, eager to find out any extra information about Cyvus Vail. In turn Wesley wanted to know more about both of the prophecies. It wasn’t long before they wandered down the hallway to the room that Giles shared with Xander so that the Watcher could dig out a copy of the prophecies and also show Wesley the scythe.

They were both keen to try and fill in some of the missing pieces of the puzzle, and Giles couldn’t help but consider how much more he enjoyed working with Wesley now than he had all those years ago in Sunnydale, and whether the ex-Watcher would be interested in joining their new organization. Giles began talking about his hopes for the new Council and the progress they’d made so far in rebuilding, subtly, or so he hoped, baiting the hook.

Faith had taken Kennedy under her wing. Although their upbringings had been as removed from one another as you could possibly get, she sensed a lot of similarities in their underlying personalities. Kennedy’s brash over confidence seemed to Faith to thinly veil a mass of insecurities. She could clearly remember the confusion and frustration she’d felt at discovering her unique gifts and abilities were already shared by someone who seemed to do it better: slay better, make friends better, earn more respect.

Faith had made her peace with those feelings now, but her journey there had been a hard and bitter one, one she hoped Kennedy could avoid. At Faith’s suggestion the two girls made their way down to the hotel gym so they could work off some of their energy and in the younger slayer’s case, some frustration. A few circuits and some light sparring and Faith knew they’d both feel better.

The two Slayers were the last to make their way back to Buffy and Rowan’s suite. Xander had already been back for a while, and everyone sat around munching on pizza and sharing plans and ideas for rescuing Spike. Buffy smiled at her two Slayer sisters as they grabbed their slices and came to sit on the floor beside her. Oz had left earlier, due to play in a gig with a group of musos he’d met in Seattle. Kennedy’s humour was much improved on noticing the bass player’s absence, and she was content to listen to her girlfriend chatter on about her meditation experiences.

Faith had plonked herself down next to Buffy, ripping into a pile of pizza, ravenous after her workout. Buffy looked at her colleague enviously and a little nervously.

“You know Faith, I’ve just realised that I haven’t trained or fought or done much of anything since Sunnydale. That’s almost six weeks of nothing.”

“Well you’ve had a heap of stuff on your mind B.,” Faith commiserated. “You’ve had it tough, so give yourself a break.”

“Yeah, but that’s the trouble. I’ve given myself a huge break. I’m probably so unfit.” Buffy chewed her lip anxiously. “I’m worried about how I’d cope if we have to fight this Vail guy. Shit I could so get my ass kicked.”

“Well for a start I think you’re totally underrating yourself. You’re still the one B.” Buffy looked up sharply at this but Faith was staring into space. “You know I’ve thought about this a lot since Sunnydale, and even more over this last week. I mean I know I got these mad skills and I’m pretty much always bitchin’ keen for a fight. But you’ve just got that extra something. Maybe its instinct, maybe its that you back yourself, but whatever it is you’re the number one, the top dog. And I’m okay with that, as long as I get to be your second in command Slayer wise. That Kennedy’s an okay kid, but she ain’t getting my spot.”

Buffy smiled and shook her head, but Faith continued on.

“We’ve got your back anyway B. In fact you can just sit back if you like.”

“Look I really appreciate that Faith, but I wanna be in the thick of it, in fact in the front of it. I mean he’s my guy and I guess I wanna be able to fight for him. God knows I did little enough of it while he was al … well you know, before the Hellmouth,” Buffy finished glumly.

“Wow girl, this is the real thing huh?” Faith asked in amazement.

“Oh Faith, its like I can’t breath without him here. All these years he’s been this pain in my ass, getting in the way, being rude and smart and annoying. But he’s always been there and for most of the last three years he’s always been there for me. And now there’s this great big hole where he used to be. And my heart aches like all the time. The only thing that’s keeping me from flying into a million pieces is the thought that in a few days time I can find this warlock and seriously kick his ass and make him give me my boyfriend back,” Buffy growled.

“Okay, if that’s what you want, then its you and me, down in the gym, tomorrow morning. I’m gonna put you through your paces. You’re gonna to be aching and calling me every kind of bitch, but we’re gonna get you ready to kick some serious sorcerer ass.” Faith grinned and punched Buffy lightly on the arm before she jumped up to grab the last piece of pizza.

Wesley wished them all a good night, assuring them that he’d be back mid morning with as much info on Vail as he could find out. Giles followed him out, heading back to his room for a quick nightcap before he turned in for the evening. Willow, Kennedy and Faith all wandered off to their suite, Willow keen to try her meditation techniques again before she and Kennedy turned in. Buffy wanted to ring Dawn so she went through to her room, leaving Rowan and Xander still deep in conversation.

The two brunettes had been sitting and talking with one another every since Xander had arrived back with the pizzas, so intent on their discussion that when Buffy called out goodnight, they seemed surprised to see that the room around them had emptied out.

After catching Dawn up on their developments and Dawn sharing all the progress that she and Althanea had made, Buffy had passed on her love, wished her sister good night and collapsed into bed. One minute she was sliding between the cool sheets, her head sinking into the plush pillows and the next she was wrapped up against Spike’s cool body, her head cushioned by his shoulder. His lips grazed her forehead as his fingers skated along the contours of her spine.

She lay half astride him, her belly resting on his hip and the thigh of her splayed right leg pressed against his semi-hard erection. The abundant wetness and pleasant, deep-seated ache of her sheath indicated the nature of their recent activity. Buffy lazily opened her eyes, and realised they were back in her basement, entwined on the cot in one another’s arms, the night before the battle. She smiled as she felt Spike’s cool spendings trickle from the mouth of her pussy, aware at that moment that his emissions, deposited high in her belly would give rise to their child.

She remembered the regrets she’d had in the Hellmouth about not letting him know her feelings earlier and decided to fix that now – dream or not. Buffy tipped her head back and looked earnestly into Spike’s beautiful blue eyes. She smiled shyly at him before taking a deep, steadying breath.

“You know I love you don’t you?” she said quietly.

Spike’s eyes widened in delight and he smiled back at her. Drawing her back into his arms he held her tight and whispered, “ Oh pet, you don’t need to say that. It’s enough to be able to make love to you and to have you lie here in my arms. And I know you’re fond of me. Maybe one day you really …”

“Oh you stupid, pig-headed, blind vampire,” Buffy yelled at him, pulling back far enough that he could read the lines of frustration written across her face. “This is that ‘one-day’. In fact it has been for quite a while. Spike,” her voice softened as her eyes glistened, “I love you, I do. How can I not, when there is so much about you to love?”

She brought her fingers up to gently trace his scarred eyebrow and stroke the sharp plane of his cheek. “This gorgeous, expressive face that is so dear to me.” She leaned forward to gently kiss his eyelids, “these eyes that have seen everything I do and always look out for me,” she ran her thumb across his plump bottom lip, “this mouth that lets me know when I’m right and when I’m being a bitch and always how much I’m loved,” she smoothed her hand across his shoulder, sketching the contours of his biceps, “these arms that have fought for me and protected me and held me close,” her hand curved round his arm and trailed over his chest, pressing firmly over his left breast, “this heart that has loved me without ever giving up on me,” her fingertips ghosted down across his rib cage, pausing at his hip before continuing down the side of his thigh.

Buffy slid to her left, drawing her splayed leg back from Spike’s groin, dragging her fingers lightly back up his thigh and across his abdomen towards his lengthening cock, gripping it firmly as she looked up at him once more, “and every inch of this beautiful body of yours, that has sheltered me, and strengthened me, that has filled me with more pleasure than I could believe possible, that has gifted us with a new life, all of this makes up the man I love.”

“Buffy, my sweet Buffy,” Spike whispered, as he gazed at her, the look of longing and hope and adoration blazing bright across his face. “Do you really mean it? Tell me, tell me again.”

She gazed at him, finally dropping every one of her defences, so that he could read the look in her eyes, see how much she adored him, worshipped him, cherished him, and loved him. With her heart open wide she told him, “Spike, I love you, now and forever. You are the one.”

“Oh God, Buffy. My Slayer, my love.” He rolled her onto her back, drawing her tightly against him as he kissed her lips passionately, hungrily. “I love you, I love you so much,” he muttered as he began to blaze a trail of hot kisses across her face and down her neck, licking and sucking his way over her chest until he closed his cool lips over one of her aching nipples.

“Spike, please,” she begged him, his mouth continuing to tease her breasts as his hand drifted down her body, tangling in her curls, before thrusting one finger, then two deep into her core. “Please, baby,” she gasped as she dragged his head back up, attacking his mouth with her own, “I need you in me, now.”

Spike pulled back, looking deep into Buffy’s eyes as he shifted his weight to his right arm. Reaching down with his left hand, he took hold of his rigid shaft and positioned the head at Buffy’s wet opening. Their gazes locked together as he slid deep into her heat.

“Oh God! Oh Spike! Oh yes, yes baby, yes! Oh Spike! Oh I love you, I love you Spike! Oh yes, yes!” Buffy moaned as she twisted her legs around Spike’s hips, shimmying her butt up off the bed and slamming herself up into each thrust of his hard cock.

“My Buffy! My Slayer! I love you kitten, I love you my sweet, sweet, Buffy!” Spike punctuated each declaration with a chorus of adoring kisses set to the rhythmic beat of his pounding hips. He leaned forward on his elbows, his fingers threading themselves through Buffy’s hair, shaking and groaning with passion as his lips danced wildly down her neck, latching onto the tender skin that quivered in time with the beat pulsing just beneath its surface.

Buffy panted as Spike nipped, licked and sucked the delicate skin of her neck and slowly dragged her hands away from his pumping butt muscles, where they’d been conducting the rhythm and tempo of their dance. Without hesitation, she slid them upwards, her left hand splayed across Spike’s shoulder blade, her right pressed against the back of his head, holding him firmly in place.

“Oh fuck Spike, please, please do it,” she gasped, locking him in the cradle of her body.

“Oh Buffy, Buffy, my Buffy, mine,” he panted just before she heard the whisper of his face shifting, and felt a sharp tug as her skin gave way beneath his gentle fangs. His body stilled as he drew one, two, three mouthfuls of her precious essence from her neck, then swiped his tongue over the wound and pulled back to stare deeply into her eyes. “My Buffy, mine,” he continued to echo as he rapidly began thrusting his hips forward, surging deep within her, groaning as he erupted into her core.

Buffy reached out, caressing the bony ridges of his demon face. “Take my heart Spike, it belongs to you. I’m yours Spike, yours!” she screamed as her orgasm exploded through her body, bursting into a myriad of colours and sensations in her brain, before all faded to black.
Chapter 16 - Contemplation by badgervamp
‘A day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search of truth or perfection is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life.’
Lewis Mumford.

Buffy awoke with a start and squinted in the early half-light of pre-dawn that filtered in through the tinted windows of her hotel room. Her heart thumped loudly and she lay panting for breath as the warm flush of arousal played over her skin. The folds of her sex lay swollen and moist between her thighs and the sensitive skin of her nipples was puckered tightly. She lifted her fingers up to the right side of her neck, softly stroking the smooth, unblemished skin that covered her thumping pulse. ‘Wow!’ she grinned, ‘now that’s what I call a dream!’

The sound that had pulled her from sleep reverberated once more through the room, and this time her pleasure-addled mind deciphered it. Someone was knocking on the door of her suite.

She dragged herself out of bed, threw on her robe and dashed out to the lounge. She pulled open the door to find Faith standing there, one hand on her hip and her eyes checking out the time on her watch.

“Get a move on B. I thought we were going to start this training session nice and ear …” Faith’s voice trailed off as she raised her eyes to take in Buffy’s sparkling eyes and dishevelled appearance. “Damn girl,” she smirked, “you got some luscious little honey hidden away in your bedroom?”

“No, of course not,” Buffy muttered, heated blood staining her skin red once more, this time from embarrassment. She tried to straighten her hair, pressed her thighs together and pulled her robe tighter around her. She glanced up to see Faith standing there, arms folded, right eyebrow raised, smirk firmly in place and knew she wasn’t going to get away without coming up with an explanation.

“So, spill!” she said. “We’ve got all day, and I’m not giving up till you tell me what’s the what.”

“Um, just, just, you know,” Buffy stuttered, “a, a n-n-nice dream.”

Faith narrowed her eyes and then grinned once again. “Oh, I get it. Had yourself a little vampire loving with your dream honey did you?” She chuckled and shook her head. “Damn B. You and the vamp sex! Well it must be good judging by the state of you. Almost makes me wanna take one out for a test drive. Hmm, I wonder if Angel would be interested in the bridesmaid seeing as the bride’s found another groom?”

“Faith, you can’t do that,” Buffy hissed as she dragged the dark haired Slayer into the suite and shut the door.

“Whoa, touchy, touchy. Okay, okay. Five by five B. I won’t go near your ex-honey if you still have feelings for him. Anyway, seems a bit too like history repeating itself for my liking. Although, I have to say, greedy!”

“No it’s not like that. I can honestly say that I don’t have any feelings like that for Angel anymore,” Buffy declared. “No, I was thinking about the fact that one, you’re with Robin now. And two, don’t forget that pesky old curse of Angel’s. We’ve got enough problems without sending an invitation for Angelus to join the party. Other than those little issues,” Buffy tipped her head to the side and chewed her lip; “I’d totally say go for it. In fact I think you two would be good for each other.”

Faith scowled. “I wasn’t looking for your blessing or anything,” she grumbled. “Hurry up and get ready. Suddenly I feel very in need of a work out.”

Buffy laughed and dashed through to her room to throw on some sweats and a tank top. She carried her trainers through to the lounge, quickly sliding them on and lacing them up, before following Faith out the door and over to the elevators. The morning sped by as the two young women did a few circuits then moved onto the mats to spar. Just after nine Kennedy appeared, eager to escape the full on research jamboree that was developing upstairs.

Wesley was due soon but was going to call into the offices first to pick up any information on Cyvus Vail and look up the licence plate number Willow had come up with. After leaving Buffy’s suite last night, Willow had had a hot bath, then crawled into bed in her pyjamas to try one more session of self-meditation. She’d quickly slipped into a deeply relaxed state, only stirring briefly when Kennedy joined her in bed. Willow had woken Kennedy just before 2 a.m. with the news that in her sub conscious she’d revisited the farewell day at the Sunnydale crater, and she’d not only spotted the limousine, but also stared at and memorised the licence plate number, then woken herself up and written it down.

It had taken some effort for the two girls to get back to sleep and the Willow had been awake again by 6.30 so she could ring Wesley at home before he went into the office. Willow had been up and bouncing around since then, but Kennedy had tried to go back to sleep for a couple of hours before finally giving up and settling on a workout instead.

From then on the three Slayers rotated through one on one sparring workouts. Both Faith and Kennedy were mindful of the senior Slayer’s pregnancy, and avoided any kicks or blows to her abdominal area, but other than that it was full on, all out fighting. By 10.30, when they decided to call it quits, Buffy was exhausted. She was hot and sticky and it seemed she had more aches in her body than she had muscles.

Tired, but buzzy, the three girls set off back upstairs. All three showered and dressed before joining the research squad. Wesley had been there for about an hour, and he, Giles and Willow were eagerly crosschecking information from various texts, the Internet and Wesley’s contacts in LA. Buffy, Faith and Kennedy slipped into the room within minutes of Xander and Oz, who’d been out on a donut run.

The girls set about making drinks and the whole team sat down to take a break and share all the information they’d gleaned so far.

“Right, it seems that we can confirm Wesley’s initial speculation that Cyvus Vail is involved in this affair.” Giles began, while the others munched on the sweet, doughy treats. “Wesley was able to uncover that the licence plate number Willow remembered,” at this he nodded approvingly at the red haired witch, “belongs to a vehicle owned by Wolfram and Hart.” Gasps and angry murmurs erupted from Xander and the three Slayers who were hearing this for the first time.

“Furthermore,” Wesley took up the story, “the limousine in question, driven by a Wolfram and Hart employee, was dispatched to the residence of one Cyvus Vail at 10 pm on the evening of May 30th and was returned to the car pool at 10 am the following morning.”

“So Wolfram and Hart and Vail are working together on this?” Buffy asked.

“Well, given the financial transactions that took place, plus the transport provision it certainly appears so, although we already suspected that was the case considering that it was Lilah who provided Angel with the amulet in the first place.”

“So this woman Lilah works for Wolfram and Hart. Wouldn’t that make Angel her boss?” Buffy asked Wesley curiously.

Wesley stared at Buffy, absolutely speechless as incredulity, amusement, sorrow, embarrassment, and finally regret rolled over his face like waves in a storm, smashing into one another, stirring up this usually stoic man until he was forced to turn away from them. Silently he stood, head down, hands clenched by his side as he strived to compose himself. When he turned back his face was calm once more, leaving no sign of the currents that might lie beneath the surface.

“Let us simply say,” he rasped, “that Lilah Morgan is an ex-employee of Wolfram and Hart, who is presently contracted to work for the Senior Partners as their sometime liaison. She has from time to time provided me, us, with somewhat dubious, entirely unreliable information.” Wesley paused as Giles handed him a glass of Scotch, correctly reading that the younger Englishman would benefit from its soothing effects. Despite the early hour, he quickly tipped the glass back, consuming the entire contents before continuing to share his evidence.

“But, in regards to the amulet, I have no doubt that Lilah’s role would have been wholly official. For some reason the Senior Partners wanted the Amulet to be used in the battle against the First. They could not have foreseen that Buffy would choose Spike as her Champion; perhaps they assumed that Angel would use it. Whatever their intentions, it appears likely that the amulet has been recovered and that either the Senior Partners themselves or Cyvus Vail are in possession of it.”

“So Vail is the key to this?” Faith asked softly. “Where do we find this guy? I’m ready to kick some warlock butt.”

“Well Faith I can certainly tell you where Vail resides. But I don’t think it will be as simple as ‘kicking warlock butt’,” Wesley said. “From the information I’ve uncovered, he is a pretty high level warlock, with connections to a whole network of sorcerers on the West Coast. He is very wealthy and very, very powerful. He has had some sort of ongoing relationship with Wolfram and Hart for years now, including a recent, very expensive transaction. We are going to have to develop a very carefully thought out approach to countering his magic abilities. Apart from taking out the Kith’harn demons that he uses as bodyguards, this battle promises to be more of a magical nature than a physical one. And as much as I know you’re going to dislike this suggestion, I think we’re going to have to bring Angel on board too.”

Buffy scowled. Faith caught her eye and nodded in sympathy. She knew the younger slayer would understand how she felt, not just the desire for action, but also the absolute need to be at the forefront of Spike’s recovery, without Angel’s sanctimonious interference. And there was no way Buffy was gonna just sit around and twiddle her fingers while the mojo mob got to ride to the rescue.

Without pause Buffy quickly rose to her feet and strode decisively over to where Giles was sitting. She stopped beside him and silently scanned the faces of the people in the room.

“Well it seems like you guys have phone calls to make and all sorts of planning to do. We obviously can’t just wander in there all angry and revengy, knock this Vail dude around and demand our amulet back. No, there will need to be research and plotting and much grave discussion and debate. Not really my thing.” Buffy shrugged. “So if you don’t mind me, I’m in serious need of a new Slayer outfit. Giles,” with this she thrust out her hand towards him, palm upwards, fingers wiggling determinedly, “you’re the big boss man now, you must have some form of access to the formerly corrupt Council’s coffers. A credit card, traveller’s cheques, cold hard cash, whatever, I’m in need and its about time the Council coughed up for past services rendered. Hand it over buddy.”

“Buffy, I don’t really think that this constitutes proper use of Council resources,” Giles frowned disapprovingly as he polished the spectacles in his hands.

“Really? Well just consider it a tiny fraction of the back-pay they owe me for all of those years working for them for free.” She looked at his dubious expression and then went in for the winning shot. “And anyway, you know that if I have to stay here at research central, I’ll just get bored and restless and wander around whining at everyone and getting in their way.”

“Oh well, when you put it like that I suppose it would be good for you to get in a little bit of … retail therapy? Is that what you call it? You’ve been through a lot lately and if it will help get you in the right frame of mind for this mission…” Giles folded like a house of cards and reached into his pocket to pull out his wallet. “Just don’t spend too much Buffy,” he grimaced as he slid a piece of plastic into her hand.

“Hmm,” Buffy muttered as she glanced around the room, alighting on the envious expressions of her two sister Slayers before flicking her head at the two girls. As her fingers closed triumphantly on the credit card, she turned back to Giles and grinned sheepishly. “Thanks Giles. I really mean it; it’s just what I need. I’ll just grab my two, uh, fashion consultants and we’ll get outta your hair.” With that she swept out of the door, closely followed by Faith and Kennedy.

The remaining crew stared bemusedly at the door until Giles refocused their attention with his throat clearing. “Right people, shall we get back to it?”
Chapter 17 - Purgatory by badgervamp
‘If I have to spend time in purgatory before going to one place or the other,
I guess I'll be all right as long as there's a lending library.’
Stephen King

The demon’s lifeless body flew across the room before sliding to a halt atop the polished red and white tiles. The clatter of heels on marble heralded the entrance of a pair of brand new, stylish and rather expensive boots. Their owner stalked into the dark room until she reached the dead centre. She stood there, legs astride, arms folded, a murderous expression on her face as she glared at the frail warlock seated before her.

“Ahh. Miss Summers,” Vail gasped, “did you kill all of my guards?”

“Oops. Were they your guards?” Buffy smirked. “Funny, ‘cos they were so friendly and welcoming, I thought they were the reception committee. Up until one of them spilt some of his icky demon blood on my new leather pants. So not cool. I had to reprimand him for that, and then his two buddies got involved so… yeah… there was a thing and next thing you know, dead demons! I mean guards. My bad!”

“I should have given them the day off,” Vail sighed as he adjusted his oxygen line.

“Yeah well. You live and learn,” Buffy shrugged. “So, let’s cut to the chase. You’ve got something of mine and I want it back,” she growled menacingly.

“Now, now, now Miss Summers let’s not be like this. If you are referring to this interesting artifact…” Vail paused as he lifted up his frail arm. Light danced along his palm and the amulet shimmered into view, dangling from his gnarled fingers. “Then you are sadly mistaken. The amulet belongs to me I assure you, and I’m not in the habit of relinquishing my property willingly.”

Buffy shrugged, grinning as she stepped forward, preparing to snatch the disc out of the old demon’s bony red hand. “Yeah, well you know what they say about possession being…” She frowned as she slammed into a solid barrier and rebounded backwards two steps.

“You may be the Slayer, my dear,” Vail cackled breathily, “but your strengths have little value here. My house, my rules! Home team advantage, as they say.” He snorted spitefully as the amulet disappeared, then grunted as he flicked his wrist towards Buffy. She was instantly flung across the room like a discarded rag doll. Her back slammed into the wall and she slid dazedly to the floor.

Frantically Buffy scrambled up, her hand straying automatically to her abdomen. Her back was a bit stiff but otherwise she seemed fine. Still she’d have to be more careful from now on. Time to play hardball.

“Well that was a bit ungracious Mr Vail. No wonder you don’t get many guests in this dingy old place if that’s the way you’re gonna treat them,” Buffy snarked as she dusted off her leather pants and sauntered back over to the warlock’s throne. “Still that’s okay ‘cos I invited over some friends of my own. Hope you don’t mind, but the more the merrier, as they say.”

With that Buffy stuck her index finger and thumb in her mouth and emitted an ear-piercing whistle. Footsteps echoed in the hallway, then in strolled Angel, Wesley, Giles, Faith, Willow, Xander, Kennedy, Rowan and Oz. They took up places behind and to either side of her, Angel and Wes to her left, Giles and Willow to her right and stood there menacingly.

“Ah, such interesting company you keep my dear Miss Summers. Quite a mixed bag you have here and powerful too. Mr Giles, ” Vail inclined his head in the watcher’s direction, “I see you’ve been busy refashioning that archaic old organization you used to hold so dear, into something more… post-modern, shall we say. I wonder what old Quentin would think of such an eclectic band of merry men?” In reply, Giles merely lifted one eyebrow sardonically.

The warlock quivered and his eyes gleamed as he turned to Willow. “Well, well my dear Miss Rosenberg. This is truly an honour. Yes, I can feel your power from here.” He rubbed his hands together covetously. “The question is to what ends will you use all that delicious power? You’ve crossed that line before dear; you know how seductive it can be. Just drop me a line if you’re interested, and I could hook you up with some of the best dark practitioners in the business.”

While Vail continued to stare at her calculatingly, Willow clenched her fists by her sides and gritted her teeth. She dropped her head down and closed her eyes, breathing in deeply. Slowly she lifted her head back up then opened her eyes. Looking Vail directly in the eye, she paused then smiled at him disarmingly. “Thanks, but don’t hold your breath.”

Vail scowled momentarily but quickly gathered his wits before moving his gaze upon Angel. “Ah, the new CEO of our local branch of Wolfram and Hart. It’s fascinating to see you here Angel, although I must wonder whose interests you’re representing at the moment.” The vampire scowled at him, but said nothing.

“I was expecting our paths to cross shortly anyway; this is just a little earlier than I had planned. But where are my manners? Welcome Angel. It’s wonderful to meet you. It’s always important to connect with influential business associates. Networking, you know!” He shrugged self- deprecatingly.

Angel took a step forward. “You’re no business associate of mine Vail,” he growled through clenched teeth. “But while we’re the subject of business, I think I’m entitled to dispute ownership of that amulet you’re claiming. I believe Wolfram and Hart purchased the charm from you several months ago. We would be happy to pay a recovery fee to offset the expenses involved in finding it,” he offered bluntly.

“Oh, ho! Good try Angel. But you won’t get it that easily. The payment was a service fee only; use of the amulet, not it’s outright purchase. The artifact itself, quite beyond it’s mystical properties, is priceless. There is no way I’d consider letting go of it for the paltry sum I was paid.”

“So the extremely large payment you received three weeks ago was unrelated to this matter?” Wes enquired.

“Ahh, one of your minions Angel?” Vail sneered in Wes’ direction. “Look of an ex-watcher about him too if I’m not mistaken.” The sorcerer dismissed Wes to turn back to Angel. “No, that particular payment was for a quite different matter altogether. Something quite memorable you might say, although some people would have no memory of it at all. It could be very awkward if the wrong people were to suddenly remember things best left forgotten.”

Angel froze as Vail’s gaze bored through him. The evil old wizard licked his thin lips and rubbed his hands together, cackling with glee at the tension he could see in the vampire’s eyes. Nevertheless Angel played it cool. Taking an unneeded breath to calm himself, he stood his ground.

“Is that a threat Vail?” he asked quietly.

The sorcerer just smiled thinly; content to take the points he’d just scored.

“Ahem, excuse me, but aren’t we getting off topic a little bit here?” Buffy tapped her boot impatiently. “I don’t know what you two are going on about, but can we just deal with one issue at a time?”

Vail’s gaze flicked back to the Slayer and he nodded slightly. “I do apologise Miss Summers. Where are my manners? I didn’t even give you a chance to introduce the remainder of your friends.” His eyes darted along the row of people spread out around the back of the room. “Still,” he waved his hand contemptuously, “they appear to be of little importance anyway. A bunch of would-be slayers, curs and nobodies is my guess. Charmed I’m sure,” he added facetiously.

“And so, to business. You wish to acquire an item that is in my possession. I, however, am disinclined to relinquish this item.”

“Well we don’t exactly need to keep the amulet,” Buffy countered disarmingly. “We just need to, er, borrow it for a short time.”

“Yes, I’m sure. You are interested of course in the whereabouts of your associate, the young vampire. No doubt, you are also interested in his safe retrieval.” Vail paused, pursing his lips in consideration as he stroked his chin with one bony finger. “However the problem with that is that I am just as interested in keeping him where he is. Out of harm’s way so to speak.”

Buffy quivered, overflowing with mixed emotions – elation to hear Vail basically confirm that Spike was still alive (well undead) and fury that she couldn’t just snatch the amulet from him right now. The anger won as she went to take a step forward. Wes stilled her with a gentle hand on her arm.

“Why would a warlock be so interested in Spike’s existence? Surely he is of no consequence to you?” he asked calmly.

“I’m not inclined to reveal my secrets to you minion.” Vail stared fiercely at Wes then closed his eyes, seeming to look inwards. When he opened them it was to frown at the Englishman, with something that looked a little like respect, a little like fear. “Hmm, maybe I’ve underestimated you Mr Wyndam-Pryce. It seems our paths may cross in the future and… I am uncertain of the outcome… for either of us!”

Wesley looked confused but quickly rallied himself and pressed on. “Your ability to manipulate and restructure time and reality is well known Mr Vail.” Wes inclined his head graciously, much to the old warlock’s approval before continuing. “Surely this vampire can not concern a sorcerer of your skill and experience.”

“Ah ha ha. You lay it on a little thick dear sir, but still points for your approach. Ah well, I shall concede a little information in return for such geniality. Courtesy after all is to be rewarded.” Vail shuffled around in his seat, adjusting his oxygen line before beginning his explanation.

“Of course I’m sure you all realise that the Senior Partners intended to catch quite a different prize in their mystical little net, a much bigger fish to be sure.” He grinned as he glanced towards Angel who was grinding his teeth in fury. “And if not the granddaddy fish himself, then even the Slayer would have been an acceptable alternative,” Buffy and Giles gasped at this, “affording them suitable bargaining power. However, they had not considered the blonde vampire’s capture. He was of no consequence to them and not regarded as adequate collateral given the enmity that was known to exist between he and Angel. And in any case, an alternative opportunity had since arisen, providing them with all the access to Angel they required.” Vail smirked, delighting in the vampire’s obvious unease.

“They were quite uninterested in young William’s existence I must confess, not even bothered enough to retrieve the amulet from the ruins of Sunnydale. But as I mentioned before, that amulet is priceless and I don’t discard valuable possessions lightly. Its retrieval was of little bother to me. I believe I glimpsed the arrival of these two young ladies,” he waved his arm in the direction of Buffy and Willow, “but was sorry that I couldn’t stay to properly make your acquaintance. Once I returned home, I had to decide what course of action to take.”

“I considered simply releasing the vampire,” he raised his eyebrow at Buffy whose lips were pressed together tightly while her eyes gleamed with moisture, “or even turning him loose in the belly of the beast.” At this he grinned at Angel maliciously. “What a lovely ‘Welcome to the Firm’ gift that would have made. Oh yes, quite delicious. The return of a long lost enemy Angel, bound to your side. Even if one of you didn’t manage to dust the other, it would at least have provided a heady distraction.”

Vail shrugged at Angel’s lack of reaction then continued. “Before I acted, I decided to check out all the possibilities. In line with my temporal abilities, I can often get glimpses, just flashes mind, of potential pathways that lie ahead. Let us just say that I didn’t like the end journey of one of the pathways that began with William’s arrival at Wolfram and Hart; for either myself or my circle of… friends. It left a bad taste in my mouth,” he wheezed loudly before clearing his line again.

“Well in that case I have the perfect solution for you old man,” Buffy bristled, stepping forward again. “I’ll just take the amulet off your hands. Once we’ve released Spike we’ll whip him out of the country, nowhere near Angel, nowhere near Wolfram and Hart. Problem solved, free of charge. And we can get out of your hair.”

“I may have considered that a few weeks ago. But then I found myself wondering why the Slayer was so worked up about finding this little trinket. Why did one vampire merit so much time and effort?”

Buffy flinched slightly; only noticeable to Vail because he was watching her so closely. “He’s a colleague, a friend, a champion; he saved us all,” Buffy avowed.

“Hmm, undoubtedly all true, but still there’s something I’m missing and I pride myself on knowing all the facts.” Vail probed further.

“He is very dear to me,” the Slayer whispered, “I care for him deeply.”

“Closer, I’ll grant but there is still something hidden.” The warlock squinted at Buffy and then at Angel who had been grinding his teeth furiously. He sucked on his lips, intrigued by what lay beneath the surface, before waving his arm dismissively. “Oh well, I suppose we must all have our little secrets. It pays to hold your cards close to your chest in mixed company. But it is this mystery that made me decide to search for any complications in William’s future that could impact on me.”

“And?” Giles asked cautiously. “What did you see?”

“Well it’s not an exact art by any means,” Vail growled, “very tiresome indeed. The future in regards to William the Bloody was veiled to my eyes. Still, I get a feeling…”

While the warlock sat pondering the possibilities, Buffy had casually crept closer to his chair. He looked up just as she grabbed the front of his tunic, yanking his oxygen line out as she jerked him towards her. He gasped, scrambling to reattach the tube while she glared at him.

“As fascinating as this might be, I’m sick of all this talking. I’m more of an action type of girl and I’m ready for action. I want that amulet and I want it now, and just in case you get any funny ideas, I’m not letting go of you until I get it.”

“I don’t think I really care for your attitude Slayer,” Vail wheezed as his yellow eyes flashed with venom. “I believe its time we evened up the playing field, don’t you?”

He flicked his free wrist out to his left and a group of six heavily armed Kith’harn demons appeared, crouched and ready for combat. Then, with a muttered incantation, he froze Buffy in place, still clutching his robe, and re-erected the protective barrier around himself; this time with the Slayer trapped inside alongside him.

“Game on,” he hissed.
Chapter 18 - Crusade by badgervamp
Author's Notes:
Now some action of the other kind
‘The thirst for adventure is the vent which Destiny offers;
A war, a crusade, a gold mine, a new country,
Speak to the imagination and offer swing and play to the confined powers.’
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Buffy’s warriors stood frozen for less than two seconds, before the sound of Willow’s voice calling out the incantation, “omnis securis aperio” jolted them all into action. Each of them ran to their positions as weapons appeared in the outstretched hands of those designated to fight. Faith, Kennedy, Xander and Oz quickly made their way over to where Angel and Wes had already engaged two demons apiece. The two slayers split one of these off each and Xander and Oz took on the final two.

Buffy liked to talk a good game, but the truth was that the three guards stationed out the front had been ambushed not by her alone, but by all three slayers. With the element of surprise on their side, the three cute, seemingly harmless girls had made quick work of the unwary, tusked demons. But the Kith’harns inside were quite a different matter. These six were strong, well trained and pumped for action – a deadly combination.

Xander, Oz and Wes were all experienced fighters but it was acknowledged that without any supernatural strength, they would be no match for these lethal fighters. Their role was to provide a defensive block, allowing time for Angel and the slayers to take on and dispatch of the demons one at a time. All six of the warriors wielded heavy battleaxes, weapons considered to be both strong defensively, yet also tough enough to be able to hack through the tough hide of a Kith’harn.

They had entered Vail’s property seemingly unarmed, Willow’s spell designed to call on their individual weapons with a single command. Each axe was attuned to the warrior who carried it. If dropped, it would instantly vanish, unable to be retrieved by an opponent and used against its wielder. But it could also be called upon at any time simply by the warrior reaching out his or hand and uttering the command ‘meus securis aperio’, and there it would once again be, ready for use.

And those weapons were certainly now being put to good use. Xander and Oz fought together, protecting one another’s backs as they blocked, ducked, leapt, swerved and took the odd swipe at the two demons they engaged. Wes had immediately drawn his opponent away from the main bunch, giving himself room to use the extra reach of his long arms and legs to his best advantage, slashing and jabbing at the Kith’harn when he wasn’t trying to avoid the demon’s powerful and aggressive punches.

Meanwhile, the main body of the fight had quickly spread out. Kennedy’s demon had grinned at her before using his superior height to reach over the top of her weapon. He had grabbed hold of her shirt and tossed her across the room. She’d landed hard then rolled several times before beginning to quickly scramble to her knees as the Kith’harn approached. While still partially crouched the demon had come at her again, kicking her in the chest as she struggled to rise and dragging her up to punch her in the face.

Kennedy spun around, blood trickling down her face and rolled over to a sitting position, panting with the effort of the fight. As her opponent stalked towards her, she glimpsed Wesley to her right, being shoved up against the wall. She turned back to her own battle as the demon reached down to grab her again. She quickly seized his upper arm, pulling him towards her. He fell forward and she used his weight and her feet, planted heavily on his chest, to tip him over her head. As he slid across the floor behind her, she flung her legs forward, quickly kipped up onto her feet and stalked over to his dazed form.

Angel and Faith were having a slightly easier time of it. Working back to back they were able to protect each other while using their enhanced strengths to pummel the two Kith’harn they faced. Powerful punches and head kicks had sent the demons flying and well-aimed slashes had left them dripping blood from various parts of their bodies. Each time their opponents had staggered back more slowly, defended themselves more sluggishly.

Then, in one smooth movement Faith had side kicked the Kith’harn bearing down on her, corkscrewing him through the air before he landed, flat on his back at her feet, while Angel had delivered a violent uppercut to his opposition, bringing him soggily to his knees. Almost simultaneously, the two warriors finished the demons off, Faith by bringing her battleaxe down cleanly across her foe’s neck and Angel by dropping his axe and grabbing the weary guard’s head in both hands, twisting it brutally until he heard the loud crack of Kith’harn neck bones. The two fighters paused; looking down at the bodies sprawled on the floor in front of them, before turning and grinning at one another delightedly.

“Wicked!” Faith yelled, throwing herself into Angel’s arms. The vampire whooped and grabbed her, swinging her around, then released her slowly so she slid down his tall frame. The thrill of the battle still pounding through their bodies they stood, panting, almost touching as they stared at one another. Faith swayed forward slightly and Angel had inclined his head just a fraction more so that their lips were only inches away from each other.

Suddenly, a yelp from Xander interrupted them, and they each shook their heads, immediately and sheepishly aware of both the battle around them and the actions they had been on the edge of taking. Stepping back Angel took an unneeded breath and shoved his hands in his pockets. “Yeah, well, um,” he mumbled awkwardly, “we’d better get back to it… I mean the fight.”

Faith laughed. “Sure big guy. It’s all five by five. But I think we need to… talk sometime,” she smirked, before sprinting across the room in Wes’ direction, dragging off the demon that had the ex-Watcher up against the wall by his neck and kicking and pummelling him. Angel watched her in bemusement before turning back to help Xander and Oz with the two Kith’harn attacking them.

Buffy, in the meantime, howled and screamed, aware that she was missing out on all of the lovely violence. Unable to move her arms, legs or body, Vail had however left everything above her neck in perfect working order. And she was using those faculties to the best of her ability, given the frustration she felt at not being able to simply punch him in the face.

“Let me go you red, wrinkly, balding old creep,” she hollered at the wheezing sorcerer, who was busy reattaching his line. “And not only do you look bad, but I bet no one’s ever told you that you, “ she screwed up her nose, “smell kinda musty. If you let me go I’d be happy to freshen you right up.”

“Just relax Buffy. May I call you Buffy?” Vail fawned, while trying to wriggle back in his chair as far as he could given that the Slayer’s immobile hand was still attached to his tunic and her body was frozen in place a little more closely to his than was comfortable. “I thought it would be nice to have a little chat, get to know one another better. Your connection with the vampire Spike intrigues me. What is it about your relationship that eludes me?” he mused.

Buffy gritted her teeth and answered the warlock’s enquiry tersely, “As I said before, we’re friends and colleagues. We’ve known one another for years. He works alongside me.”

“Yes, yes. As you’ve mentioned. But there’s still something more, something you’re hiding. I wonder if…? After all its not unprecedented, you’ve been emotionally involved with a vampire before.”

“Why don’t you just do that temporary thingy, the pathways to the future deal?” Buffy asked impatiently, and with just a wee bit of curiosity.

“As I think I mentioned things in your direction are vague. Lots of flashes, possibilities, but the central pathway is somehow blocked. Yet it seems clear that your destiny and that of William Pratt are inextricably linked to this central pathway,” Vail pondered, almost to himself.

Buffy’s eyes widened at the mention of Spike’s real surname before she let out a surprised chuckle. Vail, taken aback by the unexpected response, glanced at her warily before continuing his musings.

“All I’m really interested in is how William’s survival and release effect me. It’s so tiresome that I can’t get a fix on it. I thought it possible that you could enlighten me further, but…”

“So are you going to kill me now or are we still just making small talk?” Buffy interrupted.

“Oh,” the sorcerer exclaimed in surprise, “I wasn’t intending to kill you Miss Summers. I simply need to understand what…”

At this moment two things happened in the room that brought an immediate halt to their discussion.

As soon as Willow had released the battleaxes, she, Rowan and Giles had moved together in front of Vail’s chair, focused on dissolving the barrier around he and Buffy and releasing the Slayer from her immobility. They knew, given Vail’s renown, that they would more than likely be called upon to perform such services and that this would be their major role in the confrontation. Although none of them were armed, they each had their own form of protections in place.

To break another sorcerer’s spell, it was necessary to know the exact spell they had used in the first place. Vail’s spells were cast almost effortlessly, and without spoken command, using only hand and body gestures to enact them. This alone was testament to his enormous skill and power. Without knowing the base command, countering the spells would be little more than guesswork. But Willow and her team were up to the challenge.

With Wes’ help and resources alongside their own extensive knowledge, they had spent the last two days researching every type of freezing and barrier spell known in this dimension (and more than a few inter-dimensional ones as well). They took a third each of the spells and learnt counter commands to them. Breaking Vail’s magic would now simply be a matter of trial and error.

Each of the three, standing shoulder-width apart, began to hurl counter-commands at the barrier. Giles had the least power of the three but this wasn’t about power, just selection. They were waiting to feel just the smallest crack or vibration in the barrier as it reacted to each invocation. When they found the right command, they would link together and use this along with their combined powers to push through Vail’s protection.

Behind them the fighting continued. Kennedy had managed to get a few good punches in on her opponent while he’d been lying on the ground, but when she went to deliver the killing blow with her axe, the Kith’harn had whipped out his right arm, grabbing the shaft of the weapon before the blade could touch him. He used the slayer’s momentum against her, flinging both the axe and the attached warrior over his head. His intention was to not only ground the girl but hopefully gain possession of her weapon as well. Confusion danced across his tusked features as the slayer sailed over his head, releasing the axe, which then… just vanished.

He shook his head and glanced around in bewilderment, slowly rolling over onto his hands and knees. His distraction proved his downfall as a solid boot slammed into his chin, sending him flying onto his back. He felt the same boot connect several times with his ribs and head. Lying there dazed, the last thing he heard was the girl’s voice muttering some indecipherable phrase, and the last thing he saw was that damned axe coming down towards him.

Wes, in the meantime, had been battling his own demons, both literally and metaphorically. He’d held his own admirably for a while, mainly blocking, but getting in the odd punch or kick. At one stage he’d managed to use a leg sweep to bring the Kith’harn down, but he hadn’t been able to take advantage of this before the demon was up again and running full tilt at him. Using his superior weight and speed, the beast had dropped his shoulder, catching Wes in the ribs before slamming him into the wall.

Wes heard a cracking sound and felt a sharp pain in his chest. Agony vibrated up and down his back. The Kith’harn stepped back, snarling at him and let Wes slowly slide to the ground. Bringing his leg back the demon just missed kicking the ex-Watcher in the head as he rolled quickly out of the way. Instead he reached down and grabbed Wes by his shirtfront, swinging him around until he was back up against the wall. The Kith’harn slid his hand up until it circled Wes’ throat, and lifted him up so his feet dangled off the ground.

Wes hung there, fear paralysing him more effectively than his slowly depleting oxygen stores. Flashes of some unrecalled past terror flitted through his brain and his body shut down, the axe slipping from his hand. Black spots began to dance across his vision and still he couldn’t bring himself to do anything to respond, couldn’t force himself to fight for survival. Just as the darkness began to cover his sight, the pressure was released and he dropped to his feet.

Hunched over and leaning against the wall, he coughed and wheezed, tears streaming down his face as he drew in great gulps of precious air. He straightened up to see Faith slamming punch after punch into the Kith’harn’s face and abdomen as she taunted him. Wes caught her eye and she nodded at him, grinning madly. He muttered the words that would grant him his weapon and shifted his grip so that his right hand lay just below the blade and his left was on the lower handle.

Still panting, he stepped up behind the henchman. Without pause he swung the axe over the demon’s head, drawing it back towards himself until he held the shaft rigidly against the creature’s neck. Placing his boot in the Kith’harn’s lower back for purchase, he pulled the axe even further in, grimacing as he heard the demon’s windpipe pop. He counted to twenty, then dropped its lifeless body to the floor.

Across the room Angel had quickly drawn away one of the two demons Oz and Xander were holding off, leaving one for them to deal with. They immediately changed their moves from defensive to attacking. Using their height differential they leapt forward as one, Oz hacking at the Kith’harn’s legs with his axe while Xander ducked and dived, throwing fake punches and slashes at the mercenary’s head and chest, confusing him and throwing him off balance.

His arms up in a defensive position, the demon was unable to see Oz’s sturdy boot coming up from below until it slammed solidly into his unprotected groin. He hunched over reflexively, hands covering his damaged demon gonads. Xander quickly moved behind the Kith’harn, lifted his axe over his head and brought it down with all of his might, sinking it deeply into his opponent’s back, instantly severing his spinal cord. He and Oz looked at each other over the top of the demon’s body, slapping out a high five before pulling one another in for a quick, macho, one-armed hug.

Scattered around the room, Vail’s henchman lay dead. Angel circled the only remaining live specimen. They’d each taken a few good shots at one another. As the other five warriors made their way back to the middle of the room, Xander and Oz sauntering, Kennedy limping and Wesley leaning heavily on Faith’s shoulder, Angel delivered three devastating hammer punches to the demon’s head. Disorientated, the Kith’harn could do no more than stand there stupidly as Angel let loose with a powerful roundhouse kick. It caught the demon square in the chest and he went flying back across the room.

Just as his unconscious body smashed into a cabinet set against the wall, Willow felt the quiver in the barrier that they’d been patiently seeking. It came in response to Rowan’s last command. The redheaded witch glanced at her two companions and they moved closer together, linking hands as she nodded at the younger girl. Rowan called out the words to the counter command again and they threw their combined powers at the barrier.

Directly behind them the five victors stood silently watching Angel who was stalking towards the fallen Kith’harn, determined to finish the job. The demon was slumped at the base of the wooden cabinet, which was slowly tipping forward. As the cupboard fell its doors popped open and its contents, including a pottery urn began to slide off the interior shelf.

Angel reached out to catch the tumbling urn just as Vail’s protective barrier dissolved. The slight whooshing noise alerted the sorcerer to the intrusion of the outside world. In the middle of his sentence he paused, his eyes drawn over Buffy’s head to the only movement in the room, to a sight that shot terror through his feeble hearts. He instantly released the Slayer, pushed himself shakily to his feet and cried out across the room to Angel, at the very moment the vessel landed in the vampire’s hands.

Chapter 19 - Judgment by badgervamp
‘Ample make this bed.
Make this bed with awe;
In it wait till judgment break
Excellent and fair.’
Emily Dickinson

“Careful Angel, don’t drop that urn,” Vail’s rasping voice cut through the silence of the room.

Startled, Angel looked up before grasping the urn more firmly. He slowly straightened up and turned to face the warlock. Everyone else froze, their eyes darting backwards and forwards between the vampire and the warlock.

“What’s the matter Vail?” Angel inquired casually, “You look scared. Worried I’ll drop your precious heirloom or is it that you’ve got the ashes of some dearly departed demon kin in here?”

“More like a live demon than a dead relative,” Vail responded cautiously. “You know Angel, I’m surprised you haven’t recognised that urn. It contains an old enemy of yours. I believe you’re responsible for his present abode.”

Angel glanced at the vessel in surprise. “Sahjahn?” He turned to Vail for confirmation. At the old warlock’s brief nod he frowned and questioned further. “So what’s it doing here? It’s a little morbid don’t you think? Or is it part of some weird mint condition, limited edition, demons trapped in a vessel collection?”

Vail smiled wryly. “Hardly,” he retorted. “In fact I prefer my mortal enemies dead rather than trapped. It’s far too fragile a vessel for my liking. After all accidents can happen,” he indicated the half toppled cabinet and the dead demon wedged at its base, “and urns tend to break.” He shuddered dramatically before waiting for Angel’s reaction.

In the meantime, Buffy, who had taken a step back after finally being freed from the immobility spell, had looked down to see Sagaria, her Slayer scythe, gripped firmly in her right hand. It had materialised from out of the ether, where it had been waiting patiently since Willow’s initial command, waiting for its mistress to be free to receive it. Buffy looked down at the weapon with something akin to fondness. It was a beautiful implement, strikingly fashioned and perfectly balanced. It not only felt right in her hand, it seemed to imbue her with wisdom and courage, and a little more patience than she normally had.

She was standing a little behind Vail and to his left, just out of his peripheral vision. Half listening to the conversation between Angel and the old warlock, she silently moved to her right and forward a step until she stood directly behind him. She relaxed slightly, feeling Sagaria humming in her right hand, waiting for some signal to indicate whether she would need to act. Willow stood with Giles and Rowan just beyond Vail, and the witch, catching the Slayer’s subtle movements looked up and caught her eye. She delicately raised one eyebrow in Buffy’s direction and nodded her head, almost imperceptibly, in encouragement.

From behind Vail, Buffy couldn’t see the way the sorcerer’s eyes followed Angel’s every movement and widened in alarm at the casual way the vampire had the urn hooked under his arm. But his rigid stance clearly communicated the degree of tension running through his body. He was watching Angel, who appeared to be having a silent conversation with himself.

Seemingly unable to mask his anxiety in any way, Vail called out once more. “Please Angel, a least hold the thing more firmly.”

Angel paused, looking up in surprise, before shrugging and nonchalantly sliding the pot to his chest. “Interesting that you should use the term ‘mortal enemy’. Makes this guy pretty serious business I guess. But the thing I’m wondering is, if as you say you’d rather this guy deceased than bottled, then why not take advantage of a room full of strong, skilled warriors. I’m sure,” at this he glanced around the room, “we’d be happy to offer some sort of trade off. Say one dead demon in return for an Amulet?”

“No deal,” Vail spat out. “Whilst I appreciate your generous offer, the only person capable of killing Sahjahn is not currently present. It’s a prophecy,” he waved his hand dismissively, “a tiresome thing really. On that matter you and I will have to converse further, but this is neither the time, nor…” he gazed around them, “a private enough setting.”

“Hmm, so we seem to have a stalemate,” Angel summed up. “Or… I could just open this urn up anyway, wait till Sahjahn kills you, and then take the amulet. Everyone okay with that?” Angel raised his eyebrow at Vail as murmurs of assent and approval echoed around the room.

Vail bristled with anger; allowing his outrage at Angel’s threats to, temporarily at least, override his fear. “I wouldn’t play that game if I were you Angel. Don’t forget I’m a very powerful warlock, able to manipulate time, able to reconstruct memories. But I can also restore them should I wish. Do you know what I have here Angel,” he said quietly, holding out his right palm, using his left to produce a shimmer of light that morphed quickly into a small ornate box. The edges and corners of the box were wrought from gold, and illuminated from within; it gave off a bright, pulsing glow.

“This is an Orlon Window Angel. It's a fascinating little spell. It allows warlocks such as myself to see the past as it once was. You have to be careful with it, though. If it were to break around someone whose mind had been altered,” he waved his hand near his head, “then all his old memories would come rushing back.”

Angel eyes widened in shock as comprehension set in. He glared at Vail and started towards him, one arm still wrapped around the urn.

“Careful, Angel.” Vail lifted the cube a little higher, preparing to throw it to the ground. “I don’t think you can really afford to threaten me at the moment. I guess we have another stalemate.”

Angel paused, unsure of what to do next. The others stared at one another in confusion. What had just gone on here? Angel had had Vail on the ropes, and now, because of some strange glowy box, the vampire seemed on the verge of capitulation.

“Angel, what is he going on about?” Wes called out uncertainly. “Why are you even entertaining this idea of backing down? What’s this Orlon Window to us? Nothing surely. Don’t give in to his threats.

“You don’t understand Wes,” Angel murmured disconsolately. His head was down and his shoulders drooped, a picture of defeat. “I have to do what’s right here.”

“Well luckily I don’t have that problem,” Buffy piped up. She stood pressed up against Vail’s back, the cube in her left hand and the razor sharp, curved blade of Sagaria pressed up against the warlock’s neck. His red skin was paper-thin and already a narrow stream of blood dripped sluggishly from the point of contact.

“Don’t move an inch,” the Slayer hissed in the old demon’s ear. “This steel would slide through your neck before you can even blink. Drop your hands down by your side and stand still.” Buffy had finally slipped into ‘take charge mode’ and she was revelling in it. “Willow, a dampening spell if you would.” The witch nodded and cast one at Vail immediately. “Angel, bring that urn a little closer. Faith, could you come back here and take over the role of persuader.” She grinned at her sister slayer as Faith came forward and seized Sagaria’s handle up near the blade, maintaining a steady, even pressure on Vail’s neck.

“Right now, Judge Judy’s in session” Buffy declared as she stepped into the sorcerer’s line of sight, the Orlon Window grasped between the fingers of her right hand. “I don’t know what this cube thingy is all about, and I pretty much gather that nobody else does either except for Angel. So, I wanna suggest that you and Angel sort that drama out later. Today is about me and my vampire.”

She started strolling back and forth in front of Vail’s wheezing, trembling form. “I’m already super pissed ‘cos you made me miss out on all this lovely demon killing,” she swept her arm around the room, “and when I miss out on the violence, I get a little antsy. On top of that I’m hormonal and pretty wound-up about whether I’m gonna get my man back or not.”

Vail’s eyes widened at this but otherwise he didn’t move.

“Yes, that’s right, Spike’s my man. So now you know.” Buffy ignored Angel who was grimacing painfully at her last statement. “I might be the Slayer, but besides that, I’m just a girl in love whose missing her man desperately. And you Mr Vail are the one who’s keeping him from me.”

Giles winced as Buffy’s beseeching tone fell just a shade short of whining.

“So, this is the way it’s going to go.” The slayer sent Willow a look that had the witch quickly conjuring up a quill and roll of parchment with which to record the deal. “I’m going to give Angel this Orlando’s Window thingy and he’s going to look after it… ah-ah,” Buffy interjected as Vail was about to protest, “just for the next couple of weeks until you and he get together and sort your memory problems out, or whatever. Capiche?” She glared at both parties, not satisfied until they each indicated their assent.

“Okay. In return, Angel will drag the dead henchman out of the way, straighten up the wonky cabinet and gently place the urn back in the cupboard. Okay?” This time Vail and Angel consented more rapidly.

“Then, you are going to conjure up the amulet and hand it directly to me. No spells, no funny business.” At this the warlock scowled deeply and was about to object when Buffy lifted up her hand to stay him. “And I will kindly ask Faith to remove my beautiful scythe from your scrawny neck. Our business will be concluded and we will be on our way, leaving you to recuperate and…” she waved her hand at the bodies scattered around the room, “tidy up in peace.”

Vail was obviously still not happy with this deal, which saw him losing, at least temporarily, possession of two very valuable items. However he could see that he didn’t have much choice over the matter. Miss Summers had him over a barrel.

“Now, not that I don’t trust either of you, but I took the opportunity to have Willow make up three copies of the deal. She’s gonna read the terms of the exchange out once again and all you have to do is voice your agreement and you will be signed up and magically bound to the contract. That means Angel, you can’t knock the urn over on the way out or sneak back in at any other time to do so, and you must meet with Vail to sort out the issues between you and return the cube. Vail you can’t hand me the wrong amulet, or make it inaccessible or obliterate us as we walk out the door. And I promise to return the amulet as soon as I’ve finished with it.” Buffy nodded and reluctantly the other two nodded as well.

As Willow read out the contract, Xander, Oz and Faith, in the spirit of détente, dragged all the demon bodies from around the room and left them in a neat pile near the back wall. Wes and Kennedy had taken the most punishment during their fights and were content to just stand, nursing their injuries, while the other three worked.

Finally the terms had been read out and agreed to by Buffy, Angel and Vail, and each signatory had received their own copy.

Xander had already straightened the cabinet out when he removed the Kith’harn’s body. All that remained was for Vail to conjure up the amulet and the exchange could begin to take place. Buffy had been very calm and decisive while she ordered everyone around, but now, at the moment of truth, she suddenly felt her heart pounding and the back of her neck was damp with moisture.

All of the occupants of the room turned to focus on Vail as he once again held out his right hand, palm upwards. Gasping quite alarmingly, his feeble body shaking with the effort of standing for so long, he wriggled the fingers of his left hand and slowly the amulet flickered into view. Suddenly, there in Vail’s wrinkled palm it lay, its gold surface gleaming softly in the dull light of the room. Buffy gasped and reached out for it, tears filling her eyes as her fingers wrapped around its solid presence.

She snatched it up desperately, staring at it as it lay in her hand, before clutching it to her chest and lifting her head to nod at Faith. The brunette slayer quickly removed the blade from Vail’s neck, then graciously helped the frail old demon back to his chair, where he slumped exhausted and shaken.

The amulet still pressed to her chest, Buffy wandered dazedly over to where Angel stood next to the cabinet. She stopped in front of him and he looked down at her intently before sighing and shaking his head. Even though he’d been told of it last night, he still couldn’t believe it, Buffy and Spike! Resignedly, he turned away, carefully placing the urn on the shelf and gently closing the cupboard doors. He turned back to Buffy, who handed him the Orlon Window.

He frowned as he considered the light filled cube, terrified of the destructive power this pretty little Pandora’s Box could unleash on his life. He’d already noticed the looks of suspicion and confusion coming from Giles and the rest of Buffy’s crew and he could almost feel Wes’ eyes boring into him from across the room. What would they think if his actions came to light? This whole situation could end up requiring major damage control, but all he could think about, all he could care about, right now was how this would impact on Connor. Whatever happened down the road, protecting his son was his prime concern.

Buffy watched a myriad of emotions flit across the normally stoic vampire’s face. Some deal was definitely going down with Angel at the moment, but he was a big boy and she had too much on her own plate not to trust that he could deal with his own shit. She felt the now warm metal of the amulet pressing into her left breast and turned back to address the old warlock.

“Look Mr Vail, I’m sure this wasn’t exactly how you saw things going down,” Buffy offered diplomatically, “but when you make your own bed … and on the bright side, at least no one got killed.” She paused, remembering the big pile at the back of the room and the other three bodies tucked inside the front door. “Or at least no one that mattered?” she winced awkwardly.

“Yes well thank you Miss Summers. I’ll be sure to pass on your sympathies to their loved ones.” Vail replied breathlessly, his body still trembling from his recent ordeal. Nervously he stroked the wound at his neck before adjusting the flow of his meds.

Buffy grimaced and bit her lip. “Um, sorry?” she offered. “Look we’ll get out of your hair now, but before we go, do you think you could do me one last favour?”

Vail raised his eyebrows at that one, obviously astounded that the Slayer had the temerity to describe their interactions in such innocuous terms and incredulous at the thought that she would seek to squeeze even one more drop of blood out of him. Then he sighed and shook his head as a resigned chuckle burst from his thin lips. He had to admire the girl really, she had hutzpah; he’d give her that all right.

“Of course Miss Summers.” Vail inclined his head. “How may I serve you?” he added facetiously.

“Oh well,” she muttered, slowly drawing the amulet away from her chest and holding it aloft. “Its just that I was wondering, how do I get this thing to work?”
Chapter 20 - Enlightenment by badgervamp
Author's Notes:
I doubt anyone's interested in either a history lesson or any research on eastern mysticism, especially at this point in the story. But if you want to check out the links later, just click on the words - Scythians and Atar
‘Everyone has a spirit that can be refined, a body that can be trained in some manner, a suitable path to follow. You are here to realize your inner divinity and manifest your innate enlightenment.’
Morihei Ueshiba

Buffy slammed the door behind her as she stormed into her suite. She was beyond pissed off. A whole day of researching ways to activate the Amulet and what had they got for their efforts? A big, fat nothing, that’s what.

It had been just after midnight when they’d arrived back at their hotel from Vail’s place. The old warlock had been no help in uncovering the mystery of the amulet, just shrugging his shoulders and muttering that opening ancient portals wasn’t exactly his field of expertise, and that maybe she should consider contacting the Senior Partners. His sly grin told Buffy nothing and she was still unsure whether his lack of cooperation stemmed from a genuine lack of knowledge on the matter or whether it was his little attempt to get back at her.

She’d suddenly been too tired to press him further. Considering they’d achieved their target without serious injury to any of their party, it was a rather subdued group that wandered out of Vail’s apartment. They’d all stood there uncomfortably for a minute or two, Xander and Rowan murmuring to one another, basking in their individual successes, Willow hovering awkwardly between the injured Kennedy and the stoic Oz, Buffy staring into space in a daze, Angel shooting her broody glares and Wes and Faith sending Angel weird, thoughtful little glances. Finally Angel and Wes strode off together tensely and the rest of them leapt into the rental van they’d parked by the curb.

They’d dropped Oz off at his B and B, and ten minutes later had pulled into the parking garage of their hotel. The ride in the lift had been almost silent and the decision to delay any research on the Amulet until the morning unanimous. Wearily they’d stumbled to their own suites, barely mumbling ‘good nights’ before they’d slipped inside and hit their individual beds.

Despite her exhaustion, Buffy had lain there, unable to relax enough to drift off. The amulet had still been clasped in her right hand; she hadn’t let go of it once since plucking it from Vail’s palm. Giles had offered to look after it for her, but there was no way she would’ve even considered letting go of it.

Finally, she’d drifted off to sleep, still clutching the charm to her breast. When she’d awoken in the morning, curled up on her side, it was still pressed against her, both of her arms wrapped around it. A huge grin had lit up her face as she’d remembered the night’s dream. No Hellmouth, no terrified pleading or angry accusations, just total unconditional love.

The first thing she’d seen when she’d opened her eyes on the dream plane were Spike’s beautiful blue eyes, staring at her with utter love and adoration. He’d taken her in his arms, wrapped himself around her so that every part of their bodies was touching. After gently kissing her head, her forehead, her eyes, her nose, he’d whispered lovingly in her ear, “Thank you sunshine. Thank you so much. We’re nearly there my golden girl. I’ll be with you soon.”

He’d kissed her again and then pulled her back towards him and snuggled together they had drifted off to sleep. All night long, every time she’d stirred, it was to the sensation of being enveloped in Spike’s loving arms. Unsurprisingly it was one of her most restful nights of sleep ever and she’d been in an awesome mood when she woke up.

The others had wandered in slowly in dribs and drabs over the morning. After a late breakfast and several retellings of the highlights of the night before, they’d finally settled down to work. Oz had rung Willow to let them know he wouldn’t be by until the afternoon, and Angel had sent his apologies with Wes. The man himself had arrived mid-morning after attending to business in at the office and picking up all the books and documents he could find on either the concept of atar in general and the Amulets of Atar themselves. He’d come in slowly, walking very stiffly and still obviously feeling the effects of his broken ribs and various cuts and bruises, including a rather spectacular one around his neck.

They’d quickly settled to work, Willow and Rowan on their laptops and the others with various books, documents and photocopied pages. They’d quickly established, as Wes had alluded to days earlier, that atar described the Zoroastrian concept of divine illumination. In earlier times it had been seen as a vehicle of judgement, with fire capable of detecting guilt. Over time, Atar became deified and incorporated in the Zoroastrian hierarchy of angels and a cult of fire developed, where fire was worshiped as an agent of ritual purification. These ceremonies took place in special sanctuaries or fire-temples.

Information on the Amulets was harder to come by. All they’d been able to uncover was that the charms were created in order to provide a focus during an adept’s quest to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Later amulets often incorporated a fire altar, but the earlier ones were usually fashioned in the shape of the sun as a more primal representation of fire and were set with crystals or gemstones.

Buffy had found this all pretty fascinating, but it was of no practical help in releasing Spike from the amulet. By early evening she’d had to get up and go for a walk. She’d been stuck inside the hotel all day and was beginning to get frustrated and restless. As she’d strolled along the busy city thoroughfare in the twilight, she’d found herself once again stroking the amulet through her jumper.

After she’d woken up that morning, she’d slipped it over her head, preferring to feel it against her skin. Giles was horrified when he’d found out, furious that she’d put herself at risk of ‘instant immolation’ as he’d termed it. She’d felt too silly to tell Giles, but later she’d confessed to Faith and Rowan that wearing it somehow made her feel more relaxed, more accepting, more focused on the outcome.

She’d wandered back to the hotel again in time to meet up with Xander and Rowan in the lobby. They’d just been out on a food run and had a large box each containing cartons full of Chinese take out. Back up in the suite they’d all tucked in to the delicious food, and chatted happily, mainly about the day’s research but also about random stuff too.

Buffy had felt pretty content really, a full stomach, the company of her friends and the warmth of the amulet against her skin. She’d made a quick call to Dawn to let her know the amulet retrieval had been successful, then turned in for the night.

Another night of bliss had followed, wrapped up safely in Spike’s arms. Just on daybreak he’d woken her with gentle kisses pressed all over her face. He’d pulled back to look at her and whisper lovingly, “Get ready sunshine. I know my golden girl can bring me home.”

Buffy’s eyes had fluttered open; awake this time for real. The amulet lay around her neck, her right hand clutching it firmly. She’d frowned as she’d tried to recall Spike’s words – something about getting ready, sunshine and home. Sweet but a bit cryptic she thought.

Feeling a little gloomy she’d headed down to the gym. Halfway through the first circuit she’d started to feel better when she’d hit the skipping station. Jumping up and down, the amulet had started to bounce around, flipping up in front of her face, banging down onto her breasts, becoming both a nuisance and a pain. She’d tried tucking it into her bra but it had worked its way loose within three skips. Buffy had shrugged and given up, removing it and pushing it into the pocket of her sweat pants.

Once she’d been unencumbered her workout went well. But she’d felt herself getting more and more pissed off and frustrated about the Amulet’s non-responsiveness as she completed each station. Finally she’d given up and stormed back upstairs. Coming in to find her suite once again overrun by her friends hadn’t helped her mood any, hence the door slamming.

They all looked up, startled by her violent entrance. She looked at them apologetically, mumbling something about how the door had slipped. Taking a few soothing deep breaths she wandered over to the balcony. She hadn’t been out there once since they’d arrived and a bit of fresh air and solitude sounded good about now. Just before she reached the floor length drapes she thrust her hand in her pocket. Immediately her fingers closed around the whorls and ridges of the amulet and she drew it out and threaded the chain over her head. A feeling of purpose and excitement began to flood her body as she grabbed the drapes and pulled them open.

The brightness of the early morning sun blinded her for a minute. The path of its ascent lay directly in front of her, framed by the silhouettes of two tower blocks. A shaft of its golden light hit her directly, bathing her in its warm radiance. She stood there for a moment, eyes closed, arms outstretched, enjoying the gentle heat.

Suddenly a bright flare of incandescent light seemed to penetrate her eyelids and she felt the heat of the amulet through her sweatshirt. She stumbled back a few steps, knocked off balance by the blow to her chest. Looking down she saw a dazzling beam of light emanating from the amulet.

“Oh shit, oh shiiiiit,” she yelled as the light continued to pulse and glow. The others had all leapt up by this stage and were gathered around her, although not too close. Xander was calling out suggestions in a panicky voice, Willow was getting ready to try some sort of spell and Faith was standing shaking her head, muttering “Damn B, this is not good.”

Buffy was frozen, unsure what to do. She was just thinking about carefully lifting the chain off her neck when the amulet began to give off a slight smoky pall, almost as if something within it were on fire. Before she could even react, the smoke thickened and began to swirl in front of her. It was pouring out of the amulet now and Buffy could see flickers of light whirling around in the twisting cloud.

The smoke continued to build until it became a dense, spinning mass, revolving fast enough to throw out a warm blast of turbulence, blowing back everyone’s hair and buffeting their clothes. The amulet, once again silent and non-glowy, hung harmlessly against Buffy’s chest. She stared, entranced by the maelstrom, watching the sparks of light dance in the whirlwind like slivers of molten fire.

Slowly, the patterns of light and dark began to change, coalescing together in the centre of the cloud, solidifying into a dense form. Gradually, that form began to take shape; the fragments of smoke, or maybe dust, beginning to collapse inwards, attaching themselves to the shape, until the awestruck observers could begin to make out the silhouette of a figure. A familiar tingle danced down the nape of her neck and Buffy gasped in horror and in hope, as that figure grew steadily more solid. A skeletal trunk balanced on two bony legs, arms outstretched in protection, head tilted back.

The mystical debris continued to spiral inwards, dark and light, like pieces of a puzzle, building something new? Something known? Layers of muscle reattached themselves to the figure, bundles of tissue and flesh. As organs and nerves were re-established, so too was sensation, and the means to express it. A hoarse, pissed off scream began to ring out from the centre of the melee.

Still the twister held, but almost entirely depleted now as the final elements raced towards their destination. Pale ivory formed a thin coat of skin and hair, and black, a covering of fabric – leather and cotton. Tears trickled down Buffy’s cheeks, tears of empathy and excitement and her nails cut into the palms of her hands. Around her she could vaguely hear murmurs of recognition and Giles’ “Oh dear God.”

He was almost entirely intact now; just the finishing touches to go. At last the final piece of flesh was locked into place and he stopped screaming. Released from his rigid mannequin-like pose, he slumped over, panting heavily. But not for long! He quickly straightened up, glancing around wildly, looking very agitated and disorientated.

“Spike,” Buffy called his name softly, lovingly, “Spike, you’re home.”

“What? What?” he grunted harshly before the gentle words registered in his panic stricken brain. He stilled himself, still panting lightly and screwed up his face in concentration. “Buffy?” he asked hesitantly.

“Yes baby, I’m here.” Buffy spoke in a quiet, soothing voice as she slowly stepped towards him. “You’re home now and you’re safe.”

She now stood directly in front of him, smiling up into his still perfect, still beautiful face. His pale unblemished skin gleamed in the light; his gorgeous eyes that same flawless shade of sapphire. She wanted to throw herself into his arms, but although he was calmer he still looked pretty confused and kind of spooked. His eyes swung around the room wildly before coming back to focus on her.

“Buffy,” he repeated, “you’re Buffy.”

“Yes Spike, I’m Buffy. You were… gone and I missed you so much but now you’re back and I’m never gonna let you go again. I told you but you didn’t believe me, and then you were gone and…” she hiccuped as tears began to fill her eyes.

“Buffy? Pet?” Spike interjected, slowly dawning comprehension and wonder colouring his expression, “You missed me?”

“Oh my God, Spike, of course I missed you. Were you not listening in the Hellmouth when I told you that I …” She paused in confusion, looking down to check her body language. Left hand on hip – translation ‘What the hell?’ right foot tapping impatiently – translation ‘Now I’m pissed off’ and right finger poking his chest – translation ‘What were you thinking?’ Oh shit. She looked up at Spike and then down again. Right finger sunk right through the middle of his none too solid chest more like it. On the verge of hysteria, she wondered what the translation for that would be.

Spike, confused by her silence looked down to see Buffy’s hand buried in the middle of his chest. Startled, he tried to grab her arm to pull it out, only to see his hands pass right through her wrist. He waved them back and forth a few more times before looking back at Buffy.

“Bollocks!” he said.

“Yup,” she thought, “that’s the perfect translation.”
Chapter 21 - Sacrament by badgervamp
‘The spiritual virtue of a sacrament is like light; although it passes among the impure, it is not polluted.’
Saint Aurelius Augustine

Giles and the others hadn’t heard Spike and Buffy’s quiet conversation and her position had blocked their view of their little ‘hand in the chest’ moment. So as they warily moved closer to the pair, their voices held only excitement and awe, tempered by a little bit of caution. Spike eyed them back, a little uncertain himself.

The Watcher himself was at the vanguard, welcoming Spike warmly (if a little stiffly) and muttering about how truly unprecedented it all was and how he must record all of Spike’s recollections.

Red was almost bursting with excitement, leaping up and down and fluttering her fingers in greeting as she called out “Hi Spike.”

Faith looked him up and down, grinned widely and said in a sultry voice, “Still looking wicked hot Blondie.”

The bitchy wanna-be, Kennedy he remembered, was lurking in the background. Even she had a semi-friendly look on her face and nodded at him in greeting.

Spike looked to his right and noticed a cute, young brunette standing next to Xander, looking at him curiously with a shy grin on her face. The Whelp himself just stood there shaking his head, whether in anger or amazement Spike couldn’t say. His mouth was opening and closing as if he was trying out and discarding various quips. Finally he shrugged and grumbled, “This really brings new meaning to the term undead.” At the brunette’s nudge he gritted his teeth and added, “Yeah, um, welcome back Captain Peroxide.”

Buffy hadn’t moved from her spot in front of Spike. Now the round of greetings were over, they were once again staring at one another intently. She reached up to stroke his cheek, pausing nervously before attempting to make contact. She could sense heat beneath her palm, but as her fingers alighted on what should have been the solid surface of Spike’s skin, she could feel nothing. She eep’ed and jumped back in alarm when she noticed her fingers had sunk into his face a little. Embarrassed and distressed, she turned to stand by his side instead.

“Ah Giles, I think we have a problem here.”

“Er, right, could you be more specific Buffy?” Giles queried as he neared the couple nervously.

“Seems I’ve come over all ghostlike,” Spike volunteered. “Not that I’m not right grateful for being released and all, but I’d prefer to be a little more substantial,” he added before passing his hand through the Watcher by way of demonstration.

“Good Lord,” Giles yelped as he stepped back in fright.

“Holy shit!” Xander exclaimed from the side, where he’d caught Spike’s waving display.

The others darted forward curiously and following further ghostly demonstrations from Spike, were all discussing his disembodiment and how to correct it. Willow, Rowan and Giles were particularly excited, offering numerous suggestions and deliberating over a range of causes.

“Oh God,” Xander groaned at Spike, “I guess now you’ll want us to turn you into a real boy. Gee thanks, phantom menace, I can see another research party coming on. Maybe we should just hold a séance.”

Spike scowled at him and pushed his way through the noisy throng surrounding he and Buffy. He walked right through the couch and over to the main lounge area where he began stalking back and forth, muttering to himself.

Buffy dashed after him, dodging the furniture gracefully until she stood directly in his path. He was striding towards her, focused on some internal debate. For a moment it seemed he might pass right through her unawares and she braced herself for the impact, or lack of it. But at the last second he pulled up short so that he stood facing her, staring intently into her hazel eyes.

“Hey pet,” he mumbled. “‘M sorry about this,” he sighed as he waved his hands around his own body. “Really didn’t ‘spect our reunion to go quite like this.”

“Hmm,” she grinned. “Neither did I. But it’s nice to hear that you thought we’d have a reunion.” She paused uncertainly. “You know I meant what I said down in the Hellmouth, I do love you,” she said earnestly.

“Yeah Buffy, I do know,” he acknowledged tenderly, his incorporeal palm hovering over her right cheek. “If I hadn’t believed you then, I’d certainly get it now. Ahh, the way you look at me kitten, I can almost feel my heart pumpin’. And yeah I also know I’m a ‘stupid, pig-headed, blind vampire’ but even I’ve gotta take note when you hit me over the noggin with a cricket bat,” he grinned.

Buffy frowned as she tried to remember when she’d used that particular insult. She shrugged her shoulders blithely. As something else occurred to her, the questions began tumbling out. “So Spike, do you know where were you? What was it like there? How did you get there? Did it hurt?” she babbled excitedly.

“Whoa pet. Take it down a notch.” Spike tried to calm her down while Willow, who had wandered over to join Faith, Rowan and Xander, all of whom were sitting on the lounge suite in front of the couple, began to giggle.

Spike raised his eyebrow as he glanced at their growing audience, then turned back to address his girl. “First off, getting’ there hurt like the buggery. I burned up all right, I was consumed by a fiery blaze and that bit wasn’t much fun. But the place I went to, well it wasn’t Hell. I was surrounded by light,” he paused as he self-consciously rubbed the palm of his right hand. “It was … somewhere amazing. Enlightening.”

“Wow!” “Fascinating!” and other assorted gasps of astonishment and acknowledgment rose from the seats around them. Spike shook himself as he became aware of his surroundings once more – Buffy’s loving face listening intently and the interested attention of the other occupants of the room. “How long was I gone?”

Buffy grinned at his question. “Forty-two days yesterday. Forty-three today. Except today doesn't count, does it?” She frowned and bit her lip coyly. “Did you… think of me while you were gone?”

“Oh pet, I never stopped. You were the first thought on my mind when I came to, and the name on my lips as I felt the dragging just before I ended up here. All through the spiritual experience I was undergoing in that place, my love and truth and wisdom led me back to you. You’re the one Buffy!” They smiled at one another tenderly, both of their eyes a little over-bright.

As Buffy listened to Spike’s declarations of love, she instinctively rubbed the strong prickling sensation in her left palm, gently massaging the scars with her right thumb. “But did you maybe dream of me, or of us, or talk to me and stuff?”

“Yeah, felt connected to you pet, if that’s what you mean?” He raised his eyebrow, affecting a vigorous bout of nodding from Buffy. “It was like I was dreaming at the back of myself, dreaming of you and things we’d done together, just chatting or holding you, sometimes just calling your name. But all the while I was awake and aware and having this whole spiritual enlightenment drama. Weird.”

Still kneading her hand, she glanced down when movement caught her eye to catch Spike doing the same thing to his right palm. Her sudden, sharp intake of breath pierced the silence of the room as she realized the significance of their dual actions. Her eyes darted back to Spike’s a split second before he raised his own, wonder and adoration gracing his face as he had arrived at the same recollection.

Slowly they each raised their palms. The tingling sensation grew stronger as their hands drew closer together. Slowly and carefully, taking account of his insubstantial form, they threaded their fingers together. As their palms made contact, a bright flare of ethereal fire burst from between their clasped hands. The tingling from her palm spread up her arm, radiating outwards until the warmth spread through her whole body. Gazing into Spike’s eyes, seeing the look of wonder on his face, she could tell that he was feeling the same thing. The heat opened up pathways for the light to follow, and it moved along their limbs like liquid lightning, until the luminosity pulsed gently throughout their bodies, engulfing them both in a warm halo of brilliance.

“Holy shit!” Xander declared. Exclamations of wonder and awe followed and more than a few sentimental sniffles resounded around the room.

“Is Spike becoming more solid?” Willow pondered out loud. “Buffy, can you feel Spike’s hand?” she called out excitedly.

Willow’s question jolted Buffy out of her reverie, and focusing on their clasped hands she found it was true. She could feel Spike’s palm pressing against hers, more solidly when the light pulsed and less so as it dimmed, but nevertheless tangible beneath her skin.

Spike looked down at her in wide-eyed exhilaration. “Bloody hell. I can, I can feel you Buffy. And it feels amazing.”

She turned her head and nodded at Willow enthusiastically. “Yeah, I can. But he’s not totally hard, just semi.” A chorus of shrieks and guffaws broke out around the room and Buffy blushed as she realized what she’d said.

Spike looked down at her in amusement and winked, whispering “I’m always hard for you baby. Just you wait till I’m back in working order and I’ll prove it to you.”

She ducked her head, grinning shyly before glancing up at him coquettishly and mouthing, “Promise?”

Spike growled in lust, suddenly even more eager to become re-corporealized. He continued to stare into Buffy’s eyes but called out to Giles and the gang. “So come on people, chop chop. What are you doing to bulk me up? Get with the research why don’t you.”

“Hold on Billy” Faith called out as she leapt up, the nickname earning a scowl from Spike. “I’ve got an idea. Giles, where’s Sagaria?”

“Stowed away in the safe in my suite. What are you…?”

“Its just a thought,” she shrugged, “But its worth a shot. Can you go and get it?” Giles dashed out of the room and along the corridor. “I was the last one to see these two down in the Hellmouth. I stood at the top of those stairs that lead down into the cavern waiting for Buffy. When I peered back down, they were standing just like this. Except for one thing.”

“You’re right,” Rowan leapt up and circled the pair slowly until she stood beside Faith. “They did look exactly like this.”

Spike frowned in bewilderment at the brunette’s confident declaration, sure that he’d never set eyes on her before.

“There is only one thing missing,” Rowan continued.

“Sagaria!” Faith, Rowan and Buffy intoned in unison.

Just then Giles walked back through the door, scythe in hand. Behind him trailed Angel, Wes and Oz who had arrived for their scheduled mid morning summary and research session. The three newcomers came to a sudden halt just inside the door, unprepared for the appearance of Spike or the vision of he and Buffy standing linked together, shimmering softly. Angel growled resentfully at Spike’s stance, but reined himself in as he noticed Giles stepping towards Faith, Buffy’s weapon in hand.

Faith smiled at Giles’ concerned expression as she reached for the axe. “It might work Giles. Like a sort of energy boost.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Its worth a shot anyway.”

He nodded and passed the scythe over. As she turned and began to walk towards the blonde couple, the axe began to glow gently. Faith stood next to the linked pair, on the far side from their connected hands. Staring into the head Slayer’s eyes, she smiled warmly and held out the ancient weapon, its light pulsing more strongly now. Buffy nodded and reached out, her right hand grasping the shaft just above Faith’s. For several seconds both slayers clasped the warm wood as instantaneously, a bright flash of light burst from the amulet still hanging around Buffy’s neck. A wave of heat knocked Faith back, the light that had coursed through her body slowly fading as she sat stunned on the carpet.

Buffy and Spike were still linked, Sagaria clutched in Buffy’s firm grip, but the amulet lay dormant again and their light was slowly dissipating as well, leaving them both unharmed and Spike solid once more. They gazed deeply into one another’s eyes, bound together by their love, before Buffy dropped her axe on the carpet, squee’d in delight, and leapt up into Spike’s arms.

He caught her effortlessly, his hands clasping her ass as she wound her arms around his neck and her legs around his hips. Their audience, who had been holding their collective breaths in nervous anticipation, exploded in a cascade of noisy celebration as the two champions leaned into a passionate kiss. The girls sighed in envy and delight as the kiss deepened, while Giles, Xander and Angel made sounds of discomfiture, annoyance or resentment.

Buffy and Spike were oblivious to the reactions around them, still consumed by their ardent reunion. They continued to kiss and embrace one another and whisper declarations of love and joy, unaware that their friends had begun to quietly steal out of the room. Eventually, it was the silence that alerted them to the empty room, as the door closed gently behind the final departee.

Spike grinned wildly at his Slayer, twirling them both around in a dizzying circle. “So kitten, are you ready to find out if I’m totally hard yet?” he smirked wickedly. Buffy squealed in glee as she slid down Spike’s thighs, grabbed his hand and started dragging him towards her bedroom.

“Just one thing pet,” Spike looked around in confusion, as Buffy pulled him down onto the bed, “If everyone else has gone, then how is it I can hear more than one heart beat?”
Chapter 22 - Nirvana by badgervamp
‘Nirvana or lasting enlightenment or true spiritual growth can be achieved only through persistent exercise of real love.’
M. Scott Peck

Buffy lay wrapped in Spike’s arms. She felt totally sated, a little achy and absolutely blissful. They’d spent the last two hours getting… reacquainted, and what a lot of ground there had been to re-familiarize themselves with.

Of course the majority of the time had been spent rediscovering one another’s bodies, mapping out every plain, every summit, every basin, every ridge; memorizing the topography by touch and taste; sensually re-traversing the terrain of one another’s erogenous zones. For the first time ever, they made love to one another openly, giving voice to their passion and devotion, sharing their emotional joy and physical pleasure.

He’d almost distracted her with his very important and highly relevant question about the extra heartbeat. As her hands had trailed down his chest towards his belt, Buffy had had only a split second to decide whether to answer him then and there or put that discussion off for later. The touch of his wicked tongue, tracing a path down her neck, had settled the matter by default. No contest! Guh!

They’d begun by tearing one another’s clothes off in a ravenous hunger before melting, naked, into one another’s arms, desperate to connect skin to skin. Buffy had sunk down onto the bed, bringing Spike with her. He’d lain prone upon her, every part of him touching every part of her, his hands smoothing her arms and shoulders, his tongue savoring her mouth, her jaw, her neck; his grinding hips stirring her senses, heating her from within. All the while declarations of love and sighs of lust had fallen from their lips.

When Spike had finally pushed his way into her, Buffy was dripping wet and already on the verge of bliss. He’d thrust hard three times which took her over the edge. Feeling Buffy’s muscles contract sharply around his cock had been enough to set him off as well and only half a dozen strokes later Spike was coming. His warmth had flooded her, and she had come with him, climaxing together in a red-tinted haze of rapture.

Despite this euphoria, for Spike, the intensity of their coupling had been easily eclipsed by the subsequent, simple experience of lying alongside his love, legs entwined, fingertips dancing gracefully over one another’s arms and sides, gazing into one another’s eyes as they’d exchanged tender kisses and whispered words of devotion. Nobody had ever looked at him that way before, she’d made him feel precious and worthy and totally irreplaceable.

For Buffy, lying next to Spike, her equal, her mate, made her feel safe and unburdened and utterly treasured. Finally, after weeks of waiting to exhale, she could breathe again. In his arms, his palm cupped lovingly over her lower abdomen, she was home.

Slowly their kisses and caresses had grown more fervent and the gentle embers of their afterglow had ignited anew, roaring into a sudden, glorious blaze. This time, they had spent longer, taken their time to build the pleasure, through peaks and plateaus, until they’d finally screamed out their completion.

They had drifted in and out a light slumber, until a polite but insistent rapping on the bedroom door dragged Buffy from her blissful reminiscence. She slipped out of Spike’s relaxed embrace, wrapped and fastened her robe around her naked form, and checking that he was left decent by the drape of the sheet, tiptoed over to the door to crack it open.

Faith stood there, smirking gleefully while trying to peer past Buffy into the room.

“Shit B, you’re goddamned glowing!” the brunette exclaimed enviously, as she shook her head in wonder. Buffy beamed back at her openly. Her eyes were clear and bright and radiating pure contentment.

“I can’t explain how amazing… its not just the sex, although the sex… but the love… and the connection, its… its…” Buffy’s voice drifted off dreamily as her eyes lost their focus. “Oh Faith, I’m so happy I could burst,” she squealed, uncharacteristically bouncing on her toes before throwing herself into her sister slayer’s arms for a joy filled embrace.

Faith returned the impromptu hug awkwardly, a virtual stranger to such simple expressions of friendship as this. But slowly and insistently, a timid sense of delight began to filter through her natural feelings of discomfort, flooding her with a mixture of wonder and longing, as she stood enveloped in her friend’s arms. Buffy’s euphoria was infectious, and the simple act of sharing it with her made Faith suddenly yearn for more… what she didn’t know – friendship, intimacy, a love of her own, maybe all three, but her very being was unrestrainedly crying out for things she’d never even dreamed of.

Faith stepped back, drawing in a deep shaky breath. Buffy grabbed her hands, squeezing them convivially. The two girls stood, hands linked, eyes sparkling as they grinned at one another, one unrestrainedly, the other somewhat wistfully.

“You look fantastic B,” Faith remarked earnestly. “You really are glowing girl, practically radioactive. The vamp loving certainly puts a sparkle in your eyes. And if it was up to me, I’d leave you and your honey in peace for as long as you wanted.” She dropped Buffy’s hands and shrugged apologetically, “But Giles is getting super jittery. He keeps pacing up and down then stopping with his head on the side as if he’s listening for something. Then he seems to realize what he’s doing, whips his glasses off, polishes them hard out and then yells at us. We can’t take much more. And Angel is just as bad, muttering unflattering things about Spike under his breath and whining that Buffy must be under some sort of spell. He doesn’t seem nearly so hot when he’s whimpering like a kicked puppy,” she mumbled to herself.

Buffy raised her eyebrow in mild interest at that last statement, but decided not to comment. “Alright,” she grinned generously, “I wouldn’t want to subject you to anymore Giles-fretting or Angel-whining torture. Give us ten minutes to shower and dress and we’ll get the show on the road.”

“Sounds good,” Faith sighed in relief, “but no showering together alright, cos I’m staying right here and I don’t want to be exposed to your groinyness,” she bit her lip enviously. “Do you want a snack? You’ve missed lunch so you must be starving.”

Buffy’s tummy rumbled and she nodded hungrily. “Oh and Spike must be…”

“It’s cool B,” Faith interrupted. “Oz has already been out and picked up some blood. You go and get ready and I’ll be all June Cleaver in the kitchen.” She blinked and shook her head in self-incredulity as Buffy finger waved and slipped back inside the bedroom.

Twelve minutes later a clean, dressed Buffy strode back into the lounge, this time linked hand in hand with a doting Spike. He was grinning in delight and seemed somehow younger and less aloof than the vampire Faith had got to know in Sunnydale. He finally dragged his eyes away from Buffy as they reached the kitchen and glanced over at the brunette slayer, smiling warmly at her.

“Hey Faith,” he greeted her openly and stepped forward to quickly embrace her. “It’s great to see you.”

“Whoa!” Faith gazed at Spike in shock, “What was that? You’re …”

“Yeah, we’re not sure yet,” Buffy shrugged nonchalantly, “One of Spike’s upgrades we think.” She glanced at her lover who just smirked in pleasure. “Oooh, pizza,” she squealed as she spotted the food laid out on the breakfast bar.

Faith had nipped next door while Buffy was showering to assure everyone that the super duo were on their way. She’d grabbed two bags of blood and the leftovers from lunch, using the microwave to prepare the mini feast. Now she watched in amusement as the two blondes gulped and guzzled their way through their snacks (Spike consuming a large slice of pizza as well as two mugs of blood) before they all set off down the hallway towards Giles’ suite.

The room was silent as they stepped through the door, its occupants holding their collective breaths. The wide range of expressions indicated an array of reactions to their intimate stance and firmly linked hands, from Rowan and Willow’s obvious approval through Wesley’s fascination to Giles’ concern and Angel’s dark scowl.

Giles cleared his throat and slid his glasses firmly back into place, taking stock of himself as he rose from his armchair. “Welcome back Spike. Its um, good to see you. I apologise profusely for interrupting your um, ah, recovery time,” he blushed and reached for his glasses again before steeling himself and continuing. “However it is critical that we determine the circumstances and location of your hiatus in order to establish if your return is indeed permanent and that your previous status is uncompromised.”

“Huh?” Buffy, Xander and Faith all uttered at the same time, looking at Giles in confusion.

“What he means pet,” Spike uttered affectionately to Buffy, “Is he wants to know where I was, what it was like there, whether I’m back for good, and if I’m as undead as ever. Oh, and whether I’m still all souled up I’d wager.”

“Yes well, that’s essentially the gist of it,” Giles added impatiently, “And I’m sorry if it’s inconvenient, but as I’m sure Buffy has explained, your existence is rather vital these days.”

Spike turned to Buffy, eyebrow raised in question as he shook his head at her mischievously. Turning back to Giles he smirked unashamedly and boasted, “Nah, we didn’t quite get down to sharing those sort of details. Bit busy with other types of communication.”

Buffy could hear Angel’s low growl from across the room as Giles rubbed his forehead briskly. She squeezed Spike’s hand and whispered “Behave,” in his ear to dampen his amused chuckle.

“Right then,” Spike continued, “Best we get ourselves comfy and exchange notes.” He glanced around the room, noting a short, dark-haired guy, the Wolf boy he realized with a start, vacating an armchair for them. He tugged Buffy’s hand and they made their way over to the seat. As Faith perched herself on the arm of Angel’s chair and Giles and the young wolf made themselves comfortable around the room, Spike settled into the empty chair, pulling Buffy down onto his lap. Neither of them could bear to be out of contact with one another.

“Okay, guess I should start at the beginning. When the bauble went off it certainly hurt like a bugger but at the same time it felt great. The light seemed to pour into me and channel out through my soul. Scary shit but made me feel strong and invincible, with a bonus that I was killing everyone of those ugly Turok Han in sight. Then Buffy was there, holding my hand an’ telling me she loved me.” Spike locked eyes with the girl on his lap, stretching out his right hand to her left, once again feeling the heat, this time emotional rather than physical, flare between them.

“Knew you were telling the truth pet. Could feel your love burning through my body, caressing my heart.” He spoke directly to Buffy, but although his voice was quiet, it carried to every corner of the silent room. “Felt so good kitten, but I had to get you outta there. My turn to save you; be the hero and all that rot. So I denied your love and sent you away.”

Silent tears had filled Buffy’s eyes as Spike moved forward to touch his forehead to hers. “Love you Buffy. Know you love me. Never gonna leave you again,” he whispered solemnly. Sighs filled the room as he reached down to place a gentle kiss on her lips then pulled her into his arms.

The loving scene had done a good job of dispelling any lingering doubt about Spike’s feelings. Even Angel could no longer deny the sincerity and depth of the blonde vampire’s love for the Slayer. It didn’t mean he had to like it though.

Spike cleared his throat and continued on, “Could feel my body start to incinerate after Buffy left. Didn’t hurt though. Know I’m gonna sound like a poof, but it was like my soul was singing with joy; felt like my heart was gonna burst with happiness. Was yelling and laughing like I was in some sort of rapture; knew my body was disintegrating but it was like I was standing on the threshold of another, well not another world, but another plane of existence. A kind of Nirvana!” he murmured self-consciously, “And I couldn’t wait for my body to drift away so I could cross over.”

“Oh my God,” Buffy gasped in despair, “I pulled you out of Heaven. How could I, after …”

“No pet,” Spike interrupted firmly, her hand still clutched in his. “Wasn’t like that, not like Heaven.” He paused, carefully considering his description. “It was more like an experience than a place. It was Light and Divine Fire.” His voice had taken on a reverent tone and his expression was serious as he began to recall everything that had occurred. “I know some of you won’t believe this,” he glanced over at Giles and Angel and Xander, “But it was like a religious experience, one of spiritual enlightenment.” He paused again, struggling with the feelings of awe and astonishment that continued to envelop him that he should have been chosen to undertake such a process.

“Actually Spike,” this came from the tall, quiet Brit across the room, one of Angel’s crew Spike recalled, “Nothing of what you’ve said is unbelievable to any of us. Astonishing, even shocking perhaps, that the recipient of such an experience could be one such as yourself, a vampire. But we had suspected from our research something of this manner had occurred. All that remains is for you to provide us with the details.”

“Right then,” Spike nodded self-deprecatingly at the eager faces that surrounded him, including Buffy’s who was stroking his hand and looking at him in awe. “On with the tale then. Being consumed by that blaze was like undergoing a fiery test, but one that I somehow knew all the answers to.” He had subconsciously slipped into a more refined and solemn mode of speech. “I wasn’t scared or confused at any stage. It felt right, like I was exactly where I was supposed to be, going through something I was born for. The Light and Fire flowed through me and around me, filling me with physical and spiritual strength, wisdom, truth and love with serenity. My soul was incandescent with joy,” he shook his head again in amazement, “And I felt pure, cleansed, free of sin, all my evil deeds wiped away. Which, yeah, I know, considering …”

A broody Angel had glanced sharply at Spike during this last statement, muttering darkly about cleansing bubbles and enviously considering the opportunities he had missed.

“How long were you there for?” Buffy asked in wonderment, her question completing their earlier exchange.

He shrugged calmly. “It could have been but a moment or it may have been endless eons. Time was totally irrelevant. It was utterly peaceful and my mind seemed to expand to take it all in. I floated in that perfect Divine Light, filled with tranquility and strength, endless knowledge and passion, truth and boundless love.” He gazed at Buffy lovingly, “And my love for you echoed strongest of all, across time, across space, across dimensions. I always knew you’d bring me home Buffy, that we belonged together and that finally I was worthy of you.”

There were a few teary eyes and wistful expressions around the room as the two lovers embraced and kissed once again. Xander snuck Rowan’s hand into his as he smiled down at her bashfully. Willow, seated next to Kennedy, with Oz seated on the floor at her feet shook her head in confusion as she felt both of her companions subtly lean into her. Angel, busy once again contemplating his own navel, looked up suddenly, right into Faith’s wickedly glittering gaze. She winked at him as she slowly ran a sharp fingernail down his bicep.

Wes and Giles, oblivious to the racing hearts and increased sexual tension in the room, interrupted the little love fest with a string of excited questions.

“So were you consciously trying to get home, back to Buffy as it were? Could you sense the child as well as her?” Wes asked in measured tones, exactly as Giles burst out impatiently with “Do you still feel enlightened and pure? Are you even a vampire anymore?”

They turned and eyed one another sheepishly before grinning ruefully and turning back to Spike.

“Hold your horses Holmes and Watson.” Spike’s voice cut sharply through the chuckles, underlined as it was by a note of confusion. “All good questions I’m sure but what, what the hell was that bit about a child?”

His voice had risen in a high little quaver as all eyes turned to look at Buffy in surprise.

The girl in question blushed and bit her lip nervously as she glanced up at Spike. “Ooops?”
Chapter 23 - Grace by badgervamp
‘Infuse your life with action. Don't wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen... yourself, right now, right down here on Earth.’
Bradley Whitford

Giles leapt to his feet in disbelief. “Buffy, I can’t believe you didn’t tell him. I can understand waiting for the rest but this at least you should have shared immediately. And that’s the father in me speaking, not the Watcher.” He shook his head in disappointment.

“No, no I was going to, in fact he asked or at least wondered,” she babbled, “But then we got, um, kinda distracted…and really the heart beat thing could have been either…” she tailed off, heat staining her cheeks as she pressed back into Spike’s side for comfort. He wrapped his arm around her shoulder, drawing her into his arms, hiding her embarrassment from the room while simultaneously smirking at everyone, particularly Angel, over the top of her head.

“Its alright kitten. I already know, kind of, in an intuitive way.” His hand moved down to settle on her belly. “But wanna hear it from your lips pet. Tell me why and how.” Spike soothed Buffy adoringly.

She gazed back at him, unwavering in her connection as she placed her own hand over Spike’s, pressing his palm gently against her abdomen. “Its true Spike, we’re having a child. The night before the Hellmouth,” she reached up with her spare hand to stroke his cheek, “We made a baby together. And the why is easy Spike – because I love you with all my heart and soul. Although I’ve only just found out myself, part of me knew all along. I just couldn’t let go of you, couldn’t give up on you. Maybe somehow the baby kept us connected cos I dreamt of you every night.” She graced him with a gentle smile and leaned in so he could place a tender kiss upon her forehead. “As for the how, best we can figure it was the amulet and maybe Sagaria too.” She shrugged casually, quite unconcerned with the mechanics now she had her man back.

“So the heat wave jump started my little swimmers did it?” Spike smirked delightedly while from the other side of the room he heard Xander groan, “Oh no, not this again!” Suddenly the reality of the situation hit him and his wide-eyed gaze drifted down to where his large hand still lay protectively splayed across Buffy’s womb. Blocking out the room’s other occupants, he focused on Buffy and the life they’d created within her. Delightedly he looked up, his glance locking with hers as he broke out into a silly grin. “I can hear her… his… the baby’s heartbeat,” he said reverently.

Buffy and Spike sat there beaming at one another, wrapped in a warm cocoon of bliss, amazed at their own cleverness and good fortune in creating a child. Everyone else sat quietly exclaiming over Spike’s revelations. Meanwhile, Giles politely gave the happy couple a little time to themselves to share the excitement of their news, although he still thought it irresponsible of Buffy not to have told Spike earlier.

But, as if to make up for her oversight, it was the Slayer herself who resumed the show and tell session with a fascinating little piece of information. She had a quick whispered conversation with Spike then cleared her throat to gain everyone’s attention. “Actually we think the amulet did something a little more far reaching than just a temporary jump start.” She paused while everyone looked at her expectantly. Faith nodded smugly, privy to at least part of this next little bombshell. Buffy chewed her lip and shrugged, “Spike’s kind of body temperature now, as in live body temperature, not dead. Um inside and out.” She looked at her lover questioningly and he nodded in affirmation.

The shocked silence was broken by an excited explosion of exclamations and questions as everyone tried to work out Spike’s status. Unobserved by most, Angel’s previously sour expression transformed into one of absolute dismay as he stuttered, “The, the Shanshu. He’s, he’s…” before stumbling to a despairing halt.

Wes however, who’d caught the vampire’s shocked reaction and could decipher at least one of the words he was muttering, threw Spike a quick question. “So you’re human then, alive?”

“Nah wouldn’t go that far mate. Can still fang up fine, just a bit warmer now s’all. Well that and the heartbeat.”

The room erupted once again, everyone clamoring for details until Giles cleared his throat loudly. “Perhaps Spike it would be best if you could specify all of your current ah, features and abilities. Then we should share the Song of Sagaria and the Pergamum’s Days of the Chosen Ones prophecies with you, which if I’m not mistaken Buffy has also failed to mention as yet.”

“Will do my best, but guess I don’t rightly know myself what I can do yet.” Spike replied honestly. “Still a vampire, in as much I still need blood to nourish me, although that pizza before tasted better than I remember and went down a treat. Demon’s still inside me too, but seems quieter, almost content, as if it got all cleansed as well. Best I can figure, it’s as if my demon’s residing in a live body now instead of a dead one, like the Fire was a super defibrillator and the formally deceased William Pratt is now back among the living. And the soul’s in the driver’s seat for sure, only much more confidently so. Feel strong, powerful, not just physically although that for certain, can’t wait for a rumble to try out my skills, but also spiritually. Like connected or centered or something. Hard to explain, but just an absolute sense of being, of oneness.” He rubbed his hand over the nape of his neck self-consciously before Buffy squeezed his hand in support.

“Maybe it sounds like a bunch of mystical shit, but I feel enlightened, saturated with wisdom and truth. Don’t mean I’m a saint or that I won’t stuff up now and again, but I can see things now or sense them or just know them. I’ve come back for a reason too, a purpose, this Sagaria stuff no doubt, but also for Buffy and our child.” He gazed at her dotingly, pulling her hand to his chest. “My heart beats anew my love, it beats with love for you. Hah,” he laughed, “Well there you go, filled with endless, ageless wisdom I may be, but still bloody shite as a poet. Still, the sentiment is sincere luv, even if the delivery is a little weak.” He kissed the tip of her nose before turning back to his audience.

“So my heart is ticking away alright, a mite slower than the average person’s but probably no slower than the average 130 year old. Don’t need to breathe but, though I don’t think that’ll stop me – never have managed to break that old habit. Warmer than I used to be, maybe not quite normal human temp, don’t know? Might well have a bunch of other advantages as well – feels like it. Fire for instance, somehow don’t think that’ll pose the normal problems it does for vampires after what I’ve been through, but who knows. S’pose I’ll have to sort things out as they come up.”

Both Giles and Wes had been riveted by Spike’s disclosures, and Willow and Rowan seemed pretty rapt as well. Buffy could see he was in for a big Q and A session. She was quite happy where she was, but she could see Xander and Angel getting pretty irritated with all the Spike attention and the two other slayers were getting antsy. Outside it was still light, but the approaching dusk was slowly leaching the summer sky of its brilliance and down on the street, the shadows of the tower blocks crowded out the sun’s radiance.

Suddenly Buffy’s tummy rumbled and it echoed hollowly across the room, signaling an obligatory food run, and a perfectly excusable escape clause for the restless natives. In honour of Spike’s return, Buffy opted for spicy food, ordering tacos and fajitas. Everyone else followed suit, and shortly Xander, Oz and Angel headed out for food, while Faith and Kennedy dashed downstairs for a quick workout.

This gave the remaining groupies a chance to quiz Spike further. Wes and Giles were debating some possible mystical role that they thought Spike might or might not have fulfilled and most of the questions they framed were designed to prove or disprove such a theory, depending on who was asking. Willow was more interested in the spiritual and emotional insights he’d gained.

Rowan had sat quietly in the background until Buffy called her over. She was eager to meet Spike in person, but a little overawed to be finally face to face with her childhood romantic hero. She smiled shyly when Buffy introduced her, then stood by self-consciously as the older girl detailed Rowan’s abilities and her role in locating and rescuing Spike.

The vampire’s blue eyes twinkled in genuine appreciation as he took both of the young witch’s hands in his. “Well luv, it’s a pleasure to meet you. S’not often one gets to meet a real live angel, leastways one that doesn’t wander around in a broody snit all day.” He winked at Rowan disarmingly. “Hope I can live up to all those dreams you had of me. Doesn’t seem right, a young, innocent girl like you dreaming about a right sexy bloke such as myself. Hope I behaved myself in these dreams of yours.”

Rowan blushed furiously at Spike’s flirtatious banter, while Buffy slapped him on the arm and told him to behave himself. Giles soon called their little group to order again and with still about 20 minutes before the others were due back with the dinner he began to lay out the details and implications of the two prophecies.

Surprisingly, Spike became totally focused on Giles’ discoveries, frequently offering his own theories and possibilities in a serious, measured manner. The rich, deep timbre of his voice rumbled through his chest as Buffy lay snuggled in under his arm, in a light half-sleep. With such a serious theme bringing out the scholar in Spike, the room was awash with cultured English accents. Apart from his proximity, it was hard, in her half conscious state, to tell the three Englishmen’s voices apart. Adding Rowan to the tally, she and Willow were seriously outnumbered she realized sleepily.

Buffy could sense how chuffed he was that he was an integral part of such a crucial prophecy, and that his foreseen role was right by her side, along with that of their child. It seemed to give him more confidence in himself, and even though he knew she loved him, maybe he felt that the Song of Sagaria validated their relationship in the eyes of people like Giles and Willow. She tried to follow their conversation, knowing how important it was, but wrapped up in Spike’s arms she felt so warm and tranquil and safe, that she relaxed to the slow, steady thump, thump of Spike’s new heartbeat and the deep drone of the men’s voices and drifted off.

The dull thud of the door shutting and the sudden flurry of noisy feet and excited voices, the smell of spicy beef and salty French fries and the tender caress of Spike’s lips against her forehead gently roused Buffy from her little nap. She buried her face deeper into his chest, snuggling there for a few more seconds, just listening to the bustle, relaxed chatter and humorous anecdotes of her friends. She felt Spike tense up as footsteps approached and something, a mug she guessed, was placed on the side table.

“Thought you might be hungry. Or thirsty.” Xander offered guardedly.

Buffy could feel Spike’s chest muscles bunch up as he tilted his head to the side, and could just imagine his eyebrow lifting up in deliberation. She held her breath, waiting to see his reaction to Xander’s tentative overture.

He paused and then let out a little breath. “Yeah, thanks mate,” he responded judiciously. “Am a bit peckish.”

“Well,” Xander paused awkwardly, “Rowan’s plating up some fajitas and tacos for Buffy. Could get you the same if you like Mexican?”

“Sounds good. Ta.” Buffy grinned at such a circumspect conversation between the two former adversaries. Neither was exactly renowned for thinking before they opened their mouths, so she really appreciated the effort they were both putting in to avoid pissing the other off. As Xander wandered back to the kitchen, she gave Spike a little squeeze and lifted her face up for a kiss.

“Heard that did you?” he asked gruffly. “Little eavesdropper!” His gentle kisses belied his terse words.

“Couldn’t help it,” she grinned unabashedly, “With the sound of you two serenading one another to the accompaniment of a stringed orchestra, there’s no way a girl can sleep.” She giggled delightedly at his gobsmacked expression, deciding to press just a little further. “Besides I was worried I’d have to jump out of the way. Sounded like the two of you were about to throw yourselves into one another’s arms.”

With that Spike looked fit to burst, and Buffy squealed and leapt into the air, dashing over to Willow, who was carrying a heavily laden plate of food, and sheltering behind her. Spike sauntered over menacingly, growling at her fiercely. Poor Willow was trapped between the cat and the mouse, plate held high. It didn’t take Spike long to catch Buffy and subject her to an intense round of tickling.

Finally, after several snarky comments from Xander, some extended broody glaring from Angel and some suggestions to ‘get a room’ from Faith the couple ate their dinner, chatted with their mates and finally escaped for the evening. Rowan came with them. After offering to move in with the other girls she was keen to get her stuff then rather than risk ‘interrupting’ anything later.

As soon as Rowan had gone Spike took both of Buffy’s hands in his and tugged her gently towards them. They stood perfectly still, staring deeply into one another’s souls, letting their eyes communicate their boundless love for one another. Buffy had never felt this way before. To love completely and be utterly loved in return, without fear, without guilt, was beyond her experience or understanding. But it felt so amazingly right that she couldn’t imagine anything better than this feeling and this moment.

As for Spike, he had never really been loved by anyone, not in a romantic sense. Dru had tried her best, in her own way, but her heart and her head had both been too fractured, too scattered to give him even a fraction of what he craved. But the emotions emanating from Buffy were so powerful, so incredible, that for a moment he felt overwhelmed and his confidence faltered. A little part of his old self-doubt filtered through and he shook his head in disbelief that she could love him so deeply; sure for a second that this must be some sort of cruel trick.

But just as quickly he banished those thoughts, and taking a deep, steadying breath he stepped closer, suddenly absolutely sure of what he needed, what he wanted to do. He looked down into her shimmering green eyes and what he saw there filled him with a calm confidence.

“Buffy, I love you more than life. You are my heart’s desire, my soul mate, my best friend. We have been through so much together, good and bad, and all I know is that we belong together. Everything in my life, everything that I am exists because of my love for you. Now we are going to be a family, something much bigger than just the two of us, charged with a life for which we are responsible and have been blessed with. And I want to be by your side, every second of every day for the rest of our days. You’re still the one Buffy. Will you be my one?”

Buffy was shaking. Glistening pools of emotion filled her eyes and overflowed, leaving silvery trails across her cheeks. She gripped Spike’s hands tightly, her heart hammering out a chorus of hopeful anticipation as she gazed up at him solemnly. There was no doubting his sincerity as he caressed her face with his beautiful, azure eyes, but had she got his message right?

“When you burned up, I waited for you to come back to me,” she began softly. “I couldn’t believe you were really gone and despite everything I felt certain I’d see you again soon. But then days turned into weeks and I slowly started to lose hope. I began to think that that was it for us, that I’d never even get the chance to see you again. I missed you so badly, I felt numb most of the time, like I was only half alive.” She panted lightly, as her eyes reflected the pain of those memories. “And now you’re back and you’re asking me to …” Her courage failed her and her words dried up.

“Yes Buffy,” Spike, by contrast, was utterly composed and self-possessed, “I’m asking you to live with me, love with me, raise our child with me, stand by my side forever. I’m asking you to be my wife. Just say yes, and make me the happiest man on earth.”
Chapter 24 - Benediction by badgervamp
Author's Notes:
A bit nervous about this one - hope its hot without being too porny!!
You’re gentle quiver, praise be to the pleasure giver,
A sermon of his sweet love is now delivered, unto thee
I give all of my heart, holy words from a loving heart, sweet
Kisses a benediction that’s only the start, in the sight of god
Sweet lovers we art…
Andrew Mark Wilkinson

“Oh, Spike! Of course it's yes! Yes,” she screamed, throwing herself into his arms and wrapping her jean clad legs around his hips. “Yes, yes, yes, I’ll marry you.” She was laughing and crying, pressing kisses to his face.

Spike let loose with a huge whoop and twirled them both around in excitement. His eyes were shining with pure joy and an enormous grin covered his mouth. Buffy leaned in, crushing her lips eagerly against his, feeling once again that unexpected warmth as their bodies pressed together. Before long their kisses turned passionate and Spike, his view partially obstructed by Buffy’s kisses, began stumbling towards the bedroom, eager to express his love for her in a more comfortable setting. And without all the clothes!

He nudged open the bedroom door and strode over to the bed, dumping Buffy down on its surface. She laughed as she rebounded up and down then squealed as Spike prepared to launch himself on top of her. She rolled quickly just as he landed on the mattress beside her, but with a single bounce he was up and sprawled across her. He growled at her playfully, licking her neck as he pinned her hands above her head. She was giggling and gasping, trying to squirm away from the vampire who was attempting to unfasten her shirt buttons with his teeth. He’d managed to get three undone when Buffy steadied herself, took a deep breath and pushed him away a few inches.

“Time out, time out,” she teased.

He gave her a puzzled little look then dove back in for another button.

“No, no, Spike. Stop.”

Her voice was playful, unhampered by fear or disgust, but the phrase itself and their body positions triggered a dark recollection in Spike, and he froze as the nightmarish memories flooded his senses. He clenched his teeth and rolled off of her and into a slumped position on the edge of the bed. Buffy could hear his harsh panting and see his shoulders shaking and suddenly she understood what had caused his overreaction.

She slowly edged to way towards him, reaching her hand out towards him, stroking his back soothingly. “Hey baby, I’m fine. Its alright, nothing to worry about.” She leaned into his back, enfolding him in her arms, crooning softly into his ear.

Slowly, he straightened himself up and reached behind him, grabbing her arm and pulling her around to sit on his lap. Spike wound his arms around Buffy and tilted his forehead down to touch hers.

That night, in the bathroom, when I – when I – tried to force you to –“

She leaned forward, pressing her fingers against his mouth, determined to stop his words and eliminate any lingering guilt he was experiencing.

“Don’t,” she whispered. “Just don’t mention that night, baby. It’s over. Done.”

“No pet, we’ve never really talked about it properly, and I think we should,” Spike said firmly. “You can’t know how sorry I am for that night. Course I’m sorry I hurt you, but it wasn’t the actual physical harm I regret the most. Wasn’t right I know but was how we communicated for so long. Hell, hitting the Slayer, even holding her down, is a bit like shouting at a normal girl. Know you can roll with the punches pet, that’s not what got to me. Instead I stole something so bloody precious from you – the trust you were slowly developing in me. You were so battered emotionally, so reluctant to put your faith in anyone. And there I was, one of the chosen few, maybe the only one at the time that you knew you could depend on, and my actions that day ripped that away from you.” Spike was shaking his head remorsefully.

He closed his eyes, feeling her forgiveness in the press of her fingers against his lips. Spike felt an aching tightness at the back of his throat and his eyes burned. He lifted his head, gazing deeply into her eyes. “Know you’ve forgiven me kitten, that much is clear. But need to know that you’re not holding onto any grudges, that nothing will come back to haunt you. Need to set the matter to rest.”

Buffy startled in astonishment. “Who is this new improved vamp? No brooding, no angst, no interminable guilt trips. Wow, enlightenment has done wonders for your disposition,” she teased him cheekily.

“Oi you, I don’t brood. M’not Peaches,” he snapped proudly, “And guilt’s a wasted emotion if you don’t learn anything from it. Learnt my lesson pet. Would never do anything again to destroy your trust in me.”

“Well good. Cos I’d kick your arse if you tried it. We could sit here for the next hour apologising for all the horrible things we did to each other and I’m just as guilty as you, if not more so. But personally I’d rather get on with the loving.” Buffy twisted around in Spike’s lap, adjusting her legs until she sat astride him. She reached her palm out to cup his cheek. “I love you Spike. You are loved, you are forgiven and the past is behind us. Take my hand,” she slid her palm lightly down his shoulder and arm to grasp his hand, “and walk by my side into our future.”

Buffy’s eyes gleamed softly, swimming with tender adoration. Spike stared down at her, amazed anew at this incredible woman that loved him. He cupped her head in his hands and drew her lips to his. He softly, almost reverently, pressed his mouth against hers, but within seconds their hunger for one another transformed the gentle caress into a fiercely passionate kiss.

Spike moaned as he parted his lips and felt Buffy’s small agile tongue thrust into his mouth, stroking his tongue and the insides of his cheeks. He pulled her closer to him and groaned again as she ground her pelvis into his rapidly engorging shaft.

Slowly, and reluctantly Buffy put her hand on his chest and pushed herself away from him. “The reason I was trying to stop you before was cos I was gonna get you to ring Dawn, let her know you’re back among the living.” She panted dazedly, her pupils dilated with desire. “She’s gonna give both of us hell if she finds out we didn’t ring right away.” She paused before shrugging. “Too bad,” she giggled, “payback for all that whiny brattishness I’ve had to put up with.”

Drunkenly, she swooped towards his lips once more, her momentum knocking Spike backwards onto the bed as she hungrily fastened her mouth to his. Buffy wanted to be able to take this slowly, woo Spike, serenade him with her love. But, while her lips and tongue set out a slow, smouldering rhythm upon his cheeks, his brow, his jaw, his throat, between them, Buffy’s impatient fingers tapped out a more urgent beat, tearing open his shirt, pushing his t-shirt upwards so that she could stroke and squeeze the clean, warm plains of his heaving chest. Using both hands, she clutched the bunched up fabric firmly and dragged him upright as she sat up astride his lap. The sweet tenderness of mere minutes ago had exploded into blazing lust as Buffy hauled both shirts over Spike’s head at once and tossed them onto the ground.

The vampire sat there, dazed and aroused, as his hot little minx walked her fingers back down his chest, flicking his erect nipples and grinding her hot crotch into his throbbing erection while smiling wickedly at him. Biting her lip, she shoved him backwards so that he lay stretched out on the mattress beneath her. Slowly and playfully, drunk on the power of his passion for her, Buffy crossed her arms in front of her body and grabbed her top. She drew it over her head and quickly reached behind her to unclasp and pull away her lacy white bra.

Spike gasped at the vision before him. Her breasts seemed larger than he remembered them, and the nipples darker, an early effect no doubt of the pregnancy. But what blew him away wasn’t just her gorgeous body, but the lust and confidence she exuded as she looked down at him, teasingly squeezing those luscious mounds and rolling the elongated nipples between her fingers and thumbs, licking and chewing on her bottom lip, all the while rubbing her damp slit against his jean clad cock.

Figuring it was about time he took back a bit of control, Spike pulled her into his arms and rolled them over. Laughing delightedly, Buffy lay sprawled out beneath him, her golden hair spilling across the covers. Her tangled his fingers in her soft tresses as he closed the distance between them, kissing her warm, teasing lips, reverently, longingly, hungrily. She groaned as he scattered kisses down across her jaw to her throat, pausing to languorously lave her pulse point before trailing down to her right collarbone and beyond to the tantalising slope of her breast.

Beneath the swollen flesh, Spike could hear Buffy’s breath hitch and the staccato beat of her heart surge in anticipation. He brushed his cheek lightly and lovingly against the taut bud, eliciting a strangled whimper from her. Turning his head, he locked onto Buffy’s gaze, her pupils huge and glistening as she watched him lower his lips towards the puckered flesh. She bit her lip as he extended his tongue towards her aching nipple, flicking it once, twice, three times, before drawing it deeply into the recesses of his hot mouth. At the same time he reached across and cupped her other breast, plucking the nipple between his fingers, tugging and pulling on it lightly.

“Aaahhh, Spike,” she moaned, as she squeezed her eyes shut in delight, clutching the back of his head and holding him to her as she bucked her pelvis up against his tight abs. “More,” she panted, as he trailed his burning tongue across to her left nipple, bathing it with the same powerful pleasure, suckling at it with a breathless, wondrous intensity. Buffy groaned as he suddenly abandoned her breasts and began to nibble and nip his way towards her abdomen. Again he caught her gaze, his hands slipping down to her waistband to unfasten the button and zip, as his wicked tongue began circling the firm flesh around her navel, then thrust deeply into the opening.

Buffy gasped loudly, and began pushing and pulling at Spike, unsure of what she wanted, just that she needed more. Suddenly her sat up, kneeling between her outspread thighs. The cool breeze that drifted in through the drawn curtains caressed the saliva-dampened skin of her breasts and belly, making her nerve endings quiver in promise. Spike grinned at her reaction as he grabbed hold of her jeans and thong and tugged them down her thighs. Eagerly, he shuffled backwards off the bed, dragging her pants with him as he went.

He stood at the bottom of the bed, entranced by the vision spread out before him. Buffy lay there, naked and highly aroused. She had drawn her feet up a little away and with her knees slightly parted her glistening lips were plain to see. Spike was mesmerised as he began to unbuckle his belt and unzip his jeans. As he pulled his trousers open, his erect cock sprung out and he grasped it firmly with one hand while he used his other to help peel his denims down off his hips. His beautiful girl lay writhing on the bed, running her hands up and down her torso and thighs, shimmying her hips as she groaned impatiently.

Still stroking his aching prick with his left hand, Spike cupped and squeezed his ball sac with his right as he toed off his boots and kicked them and his discarded jeans away. Slipping back between Buffy’s legs, he shuffled forward, his thick, pulsating erection dripping pre-cum as he slid his hands down the steep slope of her thighs.

“Ahh, pet, you’re so gorgeous, so hot, so awesome. How I love my sexy little Buffy. Are you ready for me kitten? Show me how hot you are baby.”

Buffy whimpered again, opening her legs further as she thrust her pelvis up and down, desperately seeking something to grind against. Spike reached out for her, sliding two fingers against her soaking wet slit, slipping his thick digits into her dripping heat.

“Oohh, fuck pet, you’re saturated. Is this for me kitten?”

Spike didn’t wait for her response, her incoherent groaning answer enough. His fingers still buried in her tight channel, he leaned forward, his tongue reaching out to sink between her swollen lips and swipe a broad stroke across her engorged clit. Beneath him Buffy began to whine and thrash. He laid his right arm across her hips to hold her steady and slowing started pumping his fingers in and out of her slick core. The pointed tip of his tongue continued to flick and strum against her button before leaning into her further, sucking the pulsating nub into his mouth. At the same time he curved his two fingers up, rubbing firmly against the ridged, elevated surface of her sheath.

Above him, Spike heard Buffy’s breath hitch as the muscles in her pelvis clenched down tight against his invasion. He upped the ante, suckling and stroking more fiercely than before, jamming his saturated fingers through the tightly clenched tunnel of her cunt, greedily feasting upon her burning clit. Suddenly the silence erupted into a crescendo of noise and a torrent of fragrant liquid as the Slayer came hard. Keening wildly, Buffy arched her back and locked her legs rigidly around his head, as her hot, sweet spendings flooded his greedy mouth.

The moment stretched out as Spike continued his vigorous thrusting. An expression of awe flooded his face as he tenderly licked another mouthful of Buffy’s bountiful cream from her vulva and gazed along the length of her now totally relaxed body. He knelt up, once again grasping his hard shaft with one hand and using the other to lean on her thigh for balance as he shuffled forward.

Buffy opened her eyes, checking out the incredible sight between her legs. Spike’s lean body gleamed in the light of the room. He smirked at her, stroking his up-standing cock with one hand while he licked her juices off his other hand. A small tremor of after-pleasure ran down her spine. Never breaking eye contact, he leant forward, pushing his stiff penis down so that he could align it with her wet, tingling entrance. Involuntarily, she thrust her pelvis forward, her body desperate to feel his breadth once again.

“Are you ready for more pet? Does my naughty wee kitten want my big cock in her?”

Buffy whimpered, gritting her teeth to hold back her impatient retort. She willed her body to relax, determined not to beg as she gave him what she hoped passed for a nonchalant shrug.

Spike just chuckled and pushed his way into her wet heat. His world stopped, his senses tapered down to just touch and sentiment. Surrounded by her intense heat and driven by the surging pulses of deep emotion rolling through his soul, Spike could do nothing but pant and pause, for fear that his climax would arrive too soon. Despite their two earlier sessions that morning, this union seemed somehow more connected, more profound, almost overwhelming in its intensity. And his demon was roaring for more.

Slowly, cautiously, Spike began to pump in and out of Buffy’s slick haven. Opening up his senses again, he looked down at his love, his every wondrous feeling reflected in her rapt expression. He felt his newly beating heart thump loudly in his chest as she reached for him, pulling him down to lie along her body, joined flesh to flesh, soul to soul. Their lips met on a sigh of acceptance and recognition, gentle and sweet even as their bodies moved frantically below them.

He felt Buffy pull back slightly as she turned to murmur softly in his ear. Her warm breath fluttered against his neck, sending a frisson of delight dancing down his spine, but it was her words that immobilized him. Her words and what they meant.

“I still want more Spike. I want your demon too,” she whispered beseechingly as she threaded her hands through the curls at the back of his head, pressing him lightly and lovingly against her neck.
Chapter 25 - Consecration by badgervamp
The light that never was, on sea or land,
The consecration, and the Poet's dream;
William Wordsworth

Spike’s demon roared in triumph and he was barely able to repress the fervent need to shift faces. But he had to be sure. Grappling with his control, he pushed himself up enough to look into her eyes.

“Do you know what your asking Buffy? Are you really sure?” Spike could hear the hope and desire in his voice clearly, embarrassed that the request made him sound like a callow youth.

Buffy smiled up at him, her radiance lighting up the room, as she reached up to cup his cheek.

“Of course I do Spike. I love you and trust you with my life, all of you. I want us to feel as close to one another as we possibly can. I’m not asking for a mating bond … for now. But this we can do tonight, and I think we should. I’ve already promised you my hand in marriage and this is just another type of betrothal. So, what’s the matter Big Bad? I mean, look at my poor neck? All bare and tender and exposed, all that blood just … pumping away.” Buffy giggled playfully as she turned her head, running her finger up and down her throat.

“Yeah, yeah very funny. At least you don’t have me chained up in your bathtub. But this is different anyway pet, this isn’t about feeding, it’s about connecting. I just want to be sure. Are you ready to really let me inside baby?”

Buffy’s unmistakable look of love was answer enough. With that Spike set his hips once more in motion, heightening their physical pleasure and emotional euphoria as he increased the speed and intensity of their coupling. He could feel that familiar tingling begin in his testes, but it seemed more deeply set this time, radiating from the very depths of his pelvis. He could hear Buffy’s respiration and heart rate rocket as the muscles of her quim began to tremble and clutch at him. The time was right and he leaned in, pausing to kiss her passionately before bringing his demon forward.

The light of adoration and acceptance continued to shine in her eyes, undimmed by Spike’s shift, the blaze of lust unquenched. He nuzzled his face into her throat, whispering ardent words of love and promise. Tenderly, he licked and suckled the skin stretched tautly over the thrumming pulse in her neck.

Spike’s fangs slid gently, reverently, into the soft flesh of Buffy’s neck and suddenly the rich ambrosia of Slayer blood flooded his mouth and his senses, two, three delicious mouthfuls seasoned with love and belonging. As he swallowed he felt her internal muscles squeeze him in long throbbing pulses, triggering his own release. Dazzling light and white-hot heat exploded within him, as pleasure arced from both ends of his body, fangs and cock, and a current of bliss surged through every nerve. A blaze of warmth radiated from his chest, reminiscent of the amulet’s activation.

Beneath him, Buffy was experiencing her own little electrical heatwave, as a flash fire of ecstasy raced along her neural pathways. Spike’s tongue lapped the last drops of blood from his mark on her neck and once again flames leapt between them, this time figurative but no less intense than the inferno that had enveloped them down in the cavern. Buffy could feel the flames licking along her moist skin, caressing her body, surging through her bloodstream, and she felt bright, blazing, eternal. The inferno consumed and cocooned her in its warmth.

The heat of their joining continued to flare brightly for what could have been seconds or might have been eons, enveloping them both in its rapturous embrace. They were held in breathless, endless rhapsody, until slowly, gently, the flames abated, and the intense pleasure of their union died down to a soothing smoulder.

Shuddering, Spike collapsed on Buffy and limply rolled over, bringing her with him so her head nestled on his chest, and her loose-limbed body lay half sprawled across his. She lifted her chin and gazed into his beautiful eyes, sharing a look of wonder and deep, abiding adoration.

“Wow,” the Slayer said, further thought or speech beyond the reach of her deep fried brain cells.

“Yeah,” the dazed vamp concurred.

“Is it always like that, with the big, flaming, orgasmic awesomeness?” Buffy asked.

“Never! Leastways not in my experience, nor in any tales I’ve ever heard told. Something special that I reckon. Extraordinary, divine, almost… sacred,” he paused, before adding quietly, uncertainly, “Well it was for me anyway.”

“For me too, sweetheart. It wasn’t just incredible on both the physical and emotional levels, there was definitely something almost religious about that. But then you know, look at us, we’re all mystically pregnant and spiritually reunited, and now engaged and blood linked. I think our souls or your Fire Gods or maybe the Powers or whatever approve of our union. So we got the upgrade package, with complimentary ‘Oh My God’ freebies.”

Spike chuckled as he reached down to snag the covers lying crumpled at the base of the bed, drawing them over their rapidly cooling bodies. He wrapped himself around Buffy again, wanting to feel the touch of her silky skin against his, and enjoy the gentle rhythm of her heartbeat as it echoed through his body. They lay there, arms and legs entwined. Spike could hear Buffy’s slow, regular breathing, a signal that she was almost asleep. But her comments had made him a little introspective, and he wanted to share his thoughts with her before she drifted off.

“I don’t know if I like the idea that we are nothing but puppets in the hands of the puppet masters.” Spike’s deep voice, a more cultured version that seemed to fit his contemplative mood, rumbled through his chest, the vibrations resonating through Buffy. “I’d like to believe that we are all the agents of our own free will. After all, ‘It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.’ But whatever brought us to this moment pet, the two of us here together, loving and bound to one another, whatever brought us this child that we share, whether by our own actions wholly or through some outside intervention, I cannot be anything other than utterly grateful.”

Buffy pressed a soft, sleepy kiss to Spike’s chest, and he had just reached over and flicked off the light switch when a soft, glowing light and a curious humming sound came from the lounge and a sudden gust of air gently blew the bedroom door shut. The disturbance was followed by a few seconds silence, before a muffled voice rang out, “Oops!”

Buffy and Spike looked at one another then leapt out of bed, Buffy pulling on the robe she’d left lying on the floor that afternoon, and Spike dragging on his jeans. They turned the light back on and tumbled through the door into the lounge, looking disheveled and shagged out, but just below the surface they were both on full patrol alert.

Buffy’s eyes flicked around the room. There were a bunch of papers lying scattered on the floor and … a pair of jean clad legs draped over the back of the couch? She stalked around to the front of the couch, Spike at her side, where she encountered an upturned…

“Dawn? What? How? Where?”

“Oh hi guys. Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. Its true, its true, you’re really back,” upside down Dawn squealed, at a pitch more suited to dogs than humans… or hearing enhanced vampires. Awkwardly, she tumbled down off the couch before clambering to her feet and launching herself at Spike, a sight to behold as the gangly teenager was now almost as tall as the vampire.

“Welcome back Big Bad.”

Spike hugged her briefly, bewildered as to whether he should be feeling chuffed or annoyed at Dawn’s unheralded and inexplicable appearance. He decided to go with chuffed; there’d be time enough for recriminations later if it came to that. Having made his mind up, he embraced her warmly before gently settling her back on her own two feet.

“’S good to see you too Bit,” he said gruffly.

Buffy on the other hand had no such dilemma, and she started letting Dawn know all about it before her feet even hit the ground.

“What the hell do you mean by turning up like this? How did you get here? Did you fly out on your own? You shouldn’t be flitting around the world by yourself. My God, anything could have happened. And who picked you up from the airport? I hope you didn’t catch a taxi by yourself. And while we’re at it, how the hell did you end up upside down on the couch?”

All the way through Buffy’s rant, Dawn had just stood there, arms folded, eyebrows raised, calmly listening to the fuming Slayer. Spike stood beside her, an amused glint in his eye, but otherwise wearing nothing less than a very impressive poker face.

Finally, big sister wound down, planting her hands firmly on her hips as she waited for some answers.

Dawn turned to Spike, seeking out his support with her puppy dog expression.

“No way Niblet, you’re not dragging me into this one, you’re on your own. Anyway, I’m kinda wonderin’ ‘bout the answers to some of those questions myself.”

But rather than acting remorseful, Dawn beamed in delight.

“Well the why’s easy, to see you, you big doofus, of course. Which reminds me by the way, I’ve got a bone to pick with both of you.” Dawn’s whole demeanour changed as she moved to the side so she was facing the two of them.

Startled, they shifted so they stood shoulder to shoulder before Dawn set off on her own tirade.

“Could you not drag yourselves away from one another for long enough to pick a phone up and ring me? Oh no! Two minutes is all it would have taken, but could you spare me even that much time out of your busy shagging schedule to let me know that the man I’ve always considered my cool big brother is back from the great beyond. No you couldn’t! Unbelievable! I had to find out from Willow.”

Buffy elbowed Spike, glaring at him as she whined. “See, I told you we should have rung. I knew she’d be pissed. But you just had to distract me didn’t you.”

“Hold on a minute little Miss No Willpower. You were the one that attacked me and you were the one that blew off the phone call. I don’t think I should be taking the blame.” Spike paused as something occurred to him. “But hold on a minute, something’s not right here. If Willow rang you, that couldn’a been more ‘an two hours ago! So how the hell did you get here?”

“Oh, yeah, that. It’s a cool, cool, cool, cool story. Its just so…” Dawn took a breath as she noted Buffy and Spike’s body language “cool. And I didn’t come on my own. Althanea came with, but I left her next door and just popped over here on my own, which was super cool except for the whole… upside down… thing…”

Dawn decided to quit while she was ahead. Or at least not too far behind. Buffy and Spike just stood there, arms folded, eyebrows raised.

“Anyway, I think Althanea might be able to explain things a little better, so maybe we should just pop, I mean walk, next door to Giles’ and they can just um, explain things.”

“I don’t know what the hell you’ve been up to Dawn. And its 11 o’clock at night and I’m only wearing my robe. And I wanna be snuggled up in bed with my man – I mean, our first night back together! Damn it Dawn! And I’m tired and I’m pregnant and I’m hormonal and I really, really would have liked the world to have left me alone for just one night. Too much to ask obviously! So I guess we’d better this sorted out now. Go next door and tell Giles we’ll be over in a few minutes.”

Buffy stormed through to the bedroom leaving Dawn and Spike standing there. Within seconds they heard the shower turn on and then the bathroom door slam shut.

Spike turned to gather a slightly shell shocked Dawn into his arms.

“It really is wonderful to see you Bit, but do you have to get yourself in such pickles? You’ve really set big sis off this time. Never mind, lets get this sorted. Buffy will settle down once she knows what’s going on with you, and I’ve got her into bed for a good night’s sleep. Do you want something to eat? Don’t know if Buffy’s got anything in here or not.”

“Not unless you’ve got pancakes or waffles hidden away somewhere. I’m starving and its breakfast I’m wanting, after all it’s only seven in the morning back in England. Actually Giles was getting something together for us so I’ll just pop back next door and wait for you there.”

Mention of British Standard Time had really confused Spike, but he let her go and went through to throw on a shirt and boots just as Buffy came in from the bathroom. She made short work of dressing and they headed off next door, both impatient to uncover Dawn’s mystery.

As they opened the Watcher’s door, unlocked to facilitate their expected entry, they heard Giles’ exasperated tones.

“Well, that’s the best I can do I’m afraid Dawn. They don’t serve breakfast at 11.00 at night and you’re lucky to get any room service at all at this hour.” His tone softened and he asked, “Another cup of tea Althanea?”

The couple’s entry interrupted the Wiccan’s response, but in a short time, everyone was seated and replete, ready for the big share. Xander, Rowan and Willow were present, but due to the late hour and the long tiring day, but Faith and Kennedy were absent. ‘Probably asleep,’ Buffy thought enviously.

Dawn began her story slowly, with frequent helpful interjections from Willow and Althanea. Spike was totally in the dark, but Dawn’s explanations reminded Buffy that Althanea had been helping her harness her Key energy to identify and locate other newly activated Slayers.

“Its so cool Spike. Althanea’s worked with the Council in the past and she knows how to identify the slayer signature. To people like Althanea, it’s kinda like a radio signal and she can tune into the energy frequency that Slayers give off. Just before the team took off last week, we spent some timing just holding Sagaria. If we’d had her back in England we could have used her like a radio transmitter, just send out the signal, then identify where the signals bounce back from – those would be the Slayers. But we didn’t so Althanea had to like, borrow some of her essence to make do. Then I’m kinda like an amplifier, boosting the signal with my Key energy, so we can pinpoint the slayers’ whereabouts. We’ve found like 75 already. So you guys have to go round them up when we get home.”

“You know Bit, that’s fascinating really, and kinda disturbing to the vamp in me, but what’s that got to do with your little surprise visit,” Spike growled impatiently.

“Okay, okay so that’s the other side of what we’ve been doing. We’ve been working on finding out what else I can do – you know, see if I have any super powers, cos Althanea thought that the Energy inside me just needed to be harnessed, and we needed to work out what I could do with it and how to do it safely.

And I have got powers and actually, there’s nothing to it. I just have to think about where I want to go, leak a little blood and hey presto, I’ve got my own little personal portal!”

“What,” Buffy leapt up and dashed over to Dawn. “You’re opening up portals now. Do you know how dangerous that is?”

“Actually Buffy,” Althanea interjected, “there’s very little danger in it, provided Dawn knows exactly where she’s going, and that she controls the blood flow so that the portal size is contained. We started with very small distances, just one side of a room to the other, then one room to the next. And we only used the portals as windows to start with, until I could be sure that her control was sufficient to ensure consistent stability and durability of the pathway. She’s a fast learner, but I made her practice for a whole day before I let her step through one.”

“But, I don’t understand, how come you can bleed and open up portals and not tear down whole dimensional walls and end the world? Wasn’t that what we’re supposed to stop Dawn from doing?”

Buffy had directed this last question at a very uncomfortable looking Giles, who, after some hesitation, pushed his glasses up his brow and turned to her.

“Yes well, but that would only occur at a certain junctions in time, and only with a specific ritual. So undoubtedly safe, although knowing the child’s clumsiness, one has to wonder. I have long pondered Dawn’s possible abilities since Glory’s defeat, but I’ve had neither the time nor the opportunity to examine them. However, I think you’ll find that Willow and Althanea are both rather more knowledgeable in regards to Dawn’s status than I.”

“So now you can what Dawn? Teleport from room to room? I suppose that’s okay as long as you don’t land in the wrong place, like with your foot in the toilet. How funny would that be? Oh my God, is that how you got into our room, how you ended up arse over head on our couch? Oh Dawn, too funny, thank God you’re not up to longer trips yet, you’d probably end up stuck on a desert island or stranded in the Himalayas or floating around in the sea.”

Buffy was very amused by her little scenarios and was chuckling to herself for a while before she became aware of the awkward silence in the room. But that, and the lack of eye contact finally convinced her that she’d missed something. Dawn’s tense expression confirmed it.

“Dawn Summers, how did you get here?” she asked in a very quiet, controlled voice.

“Um well, Althanea and Willow and Giles checked all the calculations and once you’ve got the exact co-ordinates or the signature of the person you want to contact, it literally takes only like 30 seconds to make the portal, check you’re in the right place, step through and close the door. Easy, really, a no-brainer. Safer than air travel.”

Buffy frowned and shook her head resignedly before heading back to sit down next to Spike. “I guess if this is an ability we can utilize for good, and we can ensure Dawn’s safety and the safety of other’s traveling with her, well then okay, you’ve got my reluctant blessing.”

Everyone let out a sigh of relief at the peaceful resolution.

“And anyway,” Buffy muttered, “I guess sending you to your room is pretty much beside the point now.”
Chapter 26 - A New Life by badgervamp
Author's Notes:
OMG - well this is it folks, final chapter of my first ever fanfic. Thank you so much to those of you who have joined me on this nerve racking adventure, especially All4Spike, Cordykitten and Magnus374 whose regular and encouraging reviews have forced me to finish the last three chapters in one week!! (but no school work done by me - o- oh)
Much of this chapter sets the scene for the next story in this series, so apologies if you find exposition at this stage a little odd. the next book is largely plotted and researched, but not a single word written, and I'm a slow writer.
Let us be easy and impersonal, not forever fingering over our own souls, and the souls of our acquaintances, but trying to create a new life, a new common life, a new complete tree of life from the roots that are within us.
D.H. Lawrence

The cool English breeze had picked up, pressing its way around the edges of the drapes and casually drifting into the darkened room. Buffy shivered and Spike shifted quickly, dragging the crumpled bedcovers up over them and wrapping his arms around his sleepy girl. The last two days had been a whirlwind of action and it was hard to believe they were actually here, lying together in this lush, generously proportioned suite in what was, for now at least, home.

Their arrival at Ashdown had come at the end of two exhausting and action filled days.

Buffy had awoken the morning after Dawn’s arrival and had run straight to the bathroom, hunger and tiredness from her broken night bringing back her nausea in full force. Spike was immediately right there with her, stroking her back, holding back her hair and murmuring comforting words as she’d thrown up the previous evenings take out.

She’d collapsed in tears and started wailing that he’d probably leave her now he’d seen how hideous she was in the morning. Spike had just hushed her, gathered her in his arms and held her till she’d calmed down. Then he’d gone about running a bath for her, making her a cup of sweet tea and whipping next door to Giles’ to rummage up a few plain digestive biscuits to settle her tummy.

Once Buffy had bathed, dressed, eaten and had a good long dose of patented, soothing Spike-balm, it didn’t take her long to get her Slayer stance back on. And while gentle hugs and reassuring words were just what she’d needed, a quick trip back to the bedroom would have been even more appreciated, but they’d both known there was too much to do.

Next door, everyone was up, eating breakfast while trying to sort out who would take care of what over the next 24 hours. Tickets needed to be booked, bags needed to be packed, accounts settled up. There was a noisy debate going on about whether there was enough time for Dawn and Althanea to try and locate any local slayers while they were there. Giles was on the phone to someone in regards to documents and passports and visas.

Spike’s earlier appearance had alerted the crew to Buffy’s morning sickness, so when they’d entered the room, there was a lot of fussing over her, Willow and Dawn in particular keen to make up for lost opportunities. Althanea, as the only parent in the entire group, confirmed that the routine Buffy had developed over the last week was the advice she would have given – plenty of rest and small, regular meals.

Before they sat down for their own breakfasts and while everyone was gathered together, Spike and Buffy had decided to make their announcement. This time around they wanted to share everything with everyone as soon as it happened.

“So guys,” Buffy began, taking Spike’s hand in hers as they stood side by side in the early morning sun. “We’ve got something we’d like to share with you.”

A nervous, but proud Spike took over. “Last night I asked this beautiful, strong, courageous woman if she would marry me. And I’m very much delighted to report that she said yes.”

Cheers erupted from around the room, but before anyone could descend on them, Spike held up his hand in appeal. “I know things are done differently these days and I don’t exactly need to ask for permission to wed Buffy, but hey, I’ve waited 120 years to get engaged so I’d like to do this properly.” Everyone laughed at that as Spike wrapped his arm around Buffy’s waist.

“We’d like to ask Giles, Bit, in fact all of you – you’re her family, we’d like to ask for your blessing.”

They held their breaths, but they didn’t have to wait for long as Dawn’s squeal rang out.

“Oh my God yes, as long as I get to be a bridesmaid.”

Giles was next, his hug for Buffy and handshake for Spike firm and genuine.

“I know I’ve had my reservations about you Spike, and justifiably so in the past,” he said, “but even I can see, and at least this time round I can see, just how much you love her and how happy you make her. I wish you both all the best of happiness. You have my blessing.”

From then on they were inundated with words of blessing and engulfed in hugs of congratulations. Willow was bright eyed and babbly, Xander more affably resigned than anything, relaxed enough to joke about their previous engagement.

Althanea and Rowan were teary eyed at the sight of their long held fairy tale come to fruition. Kennedy was polite, if a little off hand, but the surprise was Faith, who stood in front of Buffy for a moment before awkwardly throwing her arms around her in a fierce hug.

So the tone was set for the day. Upbeat and enthusiastic, they continued making plans as everyone finished breakfast. One of the critical tasks related to the surprising announcement that Faith had made earlier.

Giles had mentioned the day before that they needed to look at setting up branches in various hotspots around the globe. He thought Los Angeles would be appropriate given the current level of demon activity, the vacuum created by the cessation of Angel Investigations and, no matter the new management, the ominous presence of Wolfram and Hart. Despite Angel and Wes’ best intentions, Giles considered the Law Firm needed careful monitoring.

However, what none of them had expected was Faith’s offer to head the branch up, stating that she thought she might like to stick around, just to keep Wes and Angel in line. Buffy was stunned, and surprisingly a little saddened, at the thought of the dark slayer’s absence from her day to day life. Over the last few months they’d grown closer, and she’d come to see a side of the younger girl that she recognised and understood – the tough exterior constructed to disguise inner insecurities and fears in much the same way that Spike used his Big Bad persona to hide his own vulnerabilities.

But Faith was determined, joking that she was better off on her own, not being much of a one for the ‘group’ thing. Privately, Buffy disagreed, thinking it more likely that this would give her an opportunity to have a break from Robin.

So Giles, Faith, Kennedy and Xander had spent much of the day checking out rentals. They’d wanted to find an apartment with at least two bedrooms and a big area to train in. After looking at a whole range of horribly expensive or very shabby properties, they’d come across an abandoned dojo in Koreatown, just off Wilshire. The area seemed a little rundown and shifty, but the building itself was serviceable and well lit and Xander had pronounced it structurally sound. The rental was very reasonable, unsurprising considering the circumstances of the vacancy.

There had been no sign of the tenant for over two months and the landlord was desperate to re-lease the property as soon as possible to cover some of his lost income.

The second floor rooms comprised a large training room with an office space and a small apartment at one end. Best of all it was fully equipped, the training room decked out in mats, the living quarters furnished with lounge and bedroom furniture, and the tiny kitchen containing the basic equipment. With very little effort, they could convert the office into a third bedroom. All they would need to do is box up the poor owner’s personal effects, buy new bedding for Faith and she’d be ready to move in. Giles signed the lease just before the close of business that day.

Willow had also had her day planned out. Wes had promised to introduce her to some of the little, out of the way occult shops that he’d come across over the last four years. She was hoping to pick up a selection of less common, harder to source magical ingredients and maybe uncover any obscure second hand reference texts or grimoires that they could use to top up the library at Ashdown. And best of all, it was Willow’s turn to use the Council credit card. Rowan was keen to accompany them and in the afternoon they were meeting Oz for a late lunch. Hearing this, had confirmed Kennedy’s decision to hang out with Faith.

They started off at some of the better-known stores like Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, Bohdi Tree Bookstore and the spectacular Panpipes Magickal Marketplace, all over in the Hollywood area. The two girls had a blast, sorting through the more mundane, everyday books and supplies to uncover the odd treasure.

Finally they’d headed to Book City. It was an old store that had been operating in downtown LA for over 50 years, but had recently come under new management, apparently, Wes had mumbled, due the death of its previous owner. The new manager knew little of the occult world and was keen to get rid of many of the more arcane magickal texts and artifacts as he could.

Willow certainly took advantage of Council plastic as she went crazy, buying up a huge portion of their stock of rare and antiquarian books on Eastern & Western Philosophies, Occult, Psychical Research, Folklore, Mythology, Qabalah, Secret Societies, Witchcraft, Divination, Mind Sciences and Ancient Sites and Prophecies. Some of the texts were extra copies of ones they already had at Ashdown, but most were volumes she had only heard of in passing, two of them, exceedingly rare, had even made Wes start to salivate.

They’d also acquired a wide range of obscure charms, trinkets, and relics and a selection of unusual crystals and stones, most of which Willow knew nothing about other than they had each given off a powerful magickal signature, picked up on by either Rowan or herself.

After having exhausted themselves on such a strenuous retail workout, they’d set out to meet Oz at Barefoot, a cute little café bar that his band had played at. It was a relaxed and enjoyable time, and Willow had finally had to admit to herself how much seeing Oz again meant to her, a feeling that was reciprocated judging by the way his twinkling eyes followed her every movement.

When, at the end of the meal Wes had reluctantly announced his need to return to work, canny Rowan had asked if he minded dropping her and their purchases off at the hotel as she wanted to check on her Grandmother. It had given the two old friends time to talk privately and sort out whether they wanted to stay in contact, and in what context.

Buffy and Spike’s main task for the day had been to return the amulet to Cyvus Vail. In many ways she was loath to do so, concerned that it may still have an important role to play in their lives. But she had signed her own copy of the contract, and besides she didn’t want to do anything to complicate whatever was going down between Vail and Angel.

She’d also considered going on her own, anxious about exposing Spike to Vail, considering the degree of interest the sorcerer had expressed in the vampire. But she’d known even before she suggested it to him that Spike would veto that option, determined not to leave her side again, particularly in threatening situations.

So instead she’d decided that they would be on their best behaviour, take a conciliatory approach and demonstrate their gratitude for Vail’s role in Spike’s safe return. Of the experiences of enlightenment Spike had undergone, or his actual whereabouts during that time, they would say nothing.

Thus, it was a very polite and gracious couple that arrived at Vail’s residence, respectfully enquiring whether they might see the sorcerer. The guards, who’d reacted immediately to the name ‘Buffy Summers’ and were all well aware of the damage she could do, argued briefly amongst themselves as to who would take the message through to Vail, all equally keen to be out of striking distance of the Slayer.

In few short minutes they had been escorted through to Vail’s inner sanctum. The room was just as it had been three days previous, minus the dead Kith’harn. The old warlock sat on his chair, nervously fingering the tube that ensured his continuing existence.

“Welcome Miss Summers, to what do I owe this pleasant visit?” he rasped.

“Well, I have something of yours I wish to return,” Buffy said, holding the amulet out to Vail as she slowly approached him.

The sorcerer cordially accepted the charm and thanked Buffy.

“I must say Miss Summers, your integrity has surprised and delighted me. Most unusual for a deadly adversary. On the whole, I must confess to having... well if not enjoyed, then at least been entertained by your style. And who is this young man, not your young vampire surely? I detect another heartbeat.”

“Actually Cyvus, this is Spike. He is a vampire, but he has always been different to other vampires.” Buffy purposely kept the details to a minimum.

“Hmmm, fascinating. What an interesting specimen you are William.”

Spike frowned as Vail closed his eyes and seemed to be muttering to himself.

Suddenly his eyes popped open again, and he shook his bony old head in what looked like confusion and awe. “Argh, I can get little from you other than fire. Something else, but I cannot pick it. Oh, and of course your love for this one here.” He inclined his head in Buffy’s direction. “Otherwise, too many possibilities to choose from. Hmmm, I think your slayer is correct Mr Pratt. You do seem to be an uncommonly rare sort of vampire. Well I will not keep you. You have much to do I see. Tell Angel I look forward to our meeting next week.” He grinned, his yellow teeth bared to them.

At that point Buffy and Spike made good their farewell. They were meeting Angel for coffee. It had been Angel’s suggestion. He wanted to be able to speak to the two of them alone before they left. Buffy was almost as nervous about this meeting as she had been about the one with Vail.

They’d ordered coffee, and a selection of sandwiches and cakes for Buffy as soon as they got there. While they waited they’d told Angel how the meeting with Vail had gone and Angel had confirmed his appointment with the sorcerer the following week, but he wouldn’t say anymore on that front.

The boys had seemed to be playing nicely, so before they had departed Buffy had shot off to the bathroom. Immediately, Angel had pounced.

“Look, Spike, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking over the last 24 hours. When you first came back all I could think about was how I’d been cheated out of being by Buffy’s side, that it should have been me wearing the amulet, having all my sins redeemed, hearing my heart beating and standing in the sun.

But when I thought about Buffy carrying my child, I knew that wouldn’t work. Making love to Buffy would have brought forth Angelus, and he wouldn’t have been up for any amulet wearing, world saving gig. Minus the love making, other events might have come to pass, we’d still have beaten the First, I might have even undergone Atar’s Fiery Test, who knows on that score. But the child wouldn’t have been conceived, so in the end the prophecy would have failed. What I’m trying to say is, perhaps you’re the right vamp,” he gritted his teeth and shook his head, “the right… man to be by Buffy’s side. Doesn’t mean I like you, but I concede you the right to be in her life.”

Spike couldn’t believe his ears. Part of him, the William part, was thrilled to get even that scant praise out of Liam. But for the most part he was just incredulous and pissed that the big, arrogant poof thought he even had the right to make those sort of concessions. And he was pretty sure Buffy would feel the same way too.

He was about to tell Angel where to get off when he noticed Buffy coming out of the Ladies, and came up with a better plan. He stood up and reached for Buffy as she drew alongside him, pulling her in against his side and wrapping his arm around her.

“I’m glad you feel that way Liam, because we have a bit of news to share with you, don’t we pet?”

Buffy glanced at her fiancé, glee enlivening her sparkling eyes. She raised her brow in question, before granting him approval with her amused nod.

That had been a fine moment, Angel’s look of petulant ill-humour at the news of their engagement only outdone by Buffy’s look of mischievous delight. And when Spike had run his finger casually over the new bite on her neck, Peaches had just about blown a gasket. That had certainly shown the condescending bastard!!

By evening, everyone had made it back to the hotel. Dawn and Althanea, who had spent a successful day on Slayer Search duty, had put together a great meal for everyone from Langers, a little deli around the corner. They’d all eaten and shared their news, chuckling at reports of Angel’s reaction and congratulating Faith’s crew and Willow and Rowan on their successful outings.

Buffy had had a much better morning the next day, her mild nausea attended to quickly and efficiently by Spike. They had to be at the airport by 11.00, so it was all hands to the deck getting packed up, particularly boxing up all of the books and artefacts that had been purchased.

They’d made it to the airport in plenty of time, having already farewelled the portal hopping Dawn and Althanea at the hotel, and checking their safe arrival via a quick phone call. As Giles had handed out tickets, Spike had been chuffed and more than a little bemused when the Watcher had handed him an authentic looking birth certificate, passport, visa and even a driver’s licence. He was even more staggered when he checked the details and found his actual birth name and details. Even his date of birth was correct, albeit 123 years later.

Giles had simply shrugged and confessed that Vail’s disclosure of William’s surname had kindled his interest, and it hadn’t taken too much research to uncover the details of a young Englishman of that name who had disappeared in 1880. The passport had been one of the first tasks he’d organised when Spike had materialised, contacting one of his Council associates and passing on the details to create the documents.

Caught between gratitude, astonishment and a touch of irritation that his carefully concealed life of poncedom had been so easily uncovered, Spike had done little more than mumble his thanks. Giles, having perceived the vampire’s embarrassment, had grinned and told him to call it a welcome back gift.

And so, before he had known it, they’d been on the plane and in the air, wending their way towards a whole new set of adventures. The long, oddly comfortable flight for a vampire used to cargo class, the landing at Gatwick as the first light of dawn flushed the eastern sky with a thin rose coloured stain, a return to the homeland he never thought he’d ever see again in the light of day, the airport welcome, bizarrely by Dawn and Althanea, and the 40 minute drive down to Ashdown, had all taken place in a blur, so many new experiences for the vampire who had lived so long, but who had spent so much of that existence in the shadows.

His first sight of Ashdown, gracious and elegant in the bright morning sunlight, had touched something deep inside him. An intense feeling of home, of belonging had washed over him. Buffy’s hand had tightened in his and he was surprised to feel moisture gathering in his eyes. The van had wound its way up the driveway, the young Watcher driving it, pausing as it drew level with a massive old oak tree, before continuing on to the large columned entrance way.

The enthusiastic reception from Andrew and the surviving Hellmouth Slayerettes, the nervous greetings from various Watchers and a tour around the new Slayer Academy, Buffy by his side every step of the way, had created a welter of emotions to cascade through his soul. Overlying them all had been Buffy’s unwavering love, excitement and happiness. That he was the cause of such joy still seemed so very incredible.

Now, as this day drew to a close, she lay entwined in his arms. He held her close, his outstretched palm cupping her flat belly, reaching out to sense the precious life cushioned inside. The tiny heartbeat was still faint, but its steady rhythm beat a determined tattoo beneath his hand. Tears pricked his eyes as the inexplicable reality of such a miraculous event really sunk in for the first time. A new life, one of their very own making.

His tongue trailed a slow path up her neck, his lips dropping words of love and devotion into her ear, and she sighed in drowsy pleasure. Pure happiness welled up in Spike’s heart. Out of the ashes of despair, Buffy’s love, her tenacity, her faith had brought him home. Whatever the future held, they would face it together.
End Notes:
Thank you so much for reading. Even if you're finishing this several years after I posted it, it would still be great if you could leave me a review to let me know what you thought of it. And don't forget to try the sequel - A New Day
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