Things That Go Bump in the Night by Slaymesoftly

ReviewsRating: NC-17

Summary: Set several years post NFA, Buffy has moved on, is no longer in mourning for her two dead vampires. Then Dawn calls her for some help and she finds something she never expected to.

Author's Notes: Written for WriterCon UK and inspired by a lovely banner done by teragramm, which I will put up if I can figure out how. lol Much needed beta help from rahirah, Eowyn, Always_jbj and Just Sue.

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Chapter 1

“What do you mean, it’s haunted?”

“Haunted. You know, ghosts, spooks, ‘Boo’?”

“I don’t do haunted. I slay things. Solid, easy to see and hit, evil things.”

“You don’t have to DO anything about the ghost, Buffy,” Dawn whined. “Just go with me so I can prove I spent the night there.”

“With a bodyguard,” she teased.

“Well, yeah. I’m not completely stupid, you know.”

“Explain to me again why we’re doing this?”

“It’s part of my Watcher training – well, unofficially, it is. It’s a tradition -something we all do before we graduate. I have to show that I can deal with supernatural beings on my own. Like being a gazillion year old key and living on a Hellmouth most of my life isn’t enough…” Dawn muttered under her breath.

“Yeah,” Buffy agreed. “I’d say that ship pretty much sailed as soon as the monks decided that a whiny teenager was a good place to hide a Key.” She smiled to take the sting out of her words.

Dawn made the obligatory offended face, and then laughed. “Yeah, I tried to tell them that, but they were all `You weren’t really old enough to appreciate the forces, and your sister was protecting you. And everybody, does it.’”

“Which, of course, I wouldn’t be now – protecting you, that is.” Buffy smiled, then sighed. “Dawn, I don’t want to sound like I don’t want to help, but if you’re supposed to do this on your own…”

“I tried it on my own,” she mumbled, turning away and becoming very interested in the pattern on the rug.

“What? Wait – you’ve already been there? On your own?”

“Well, not exactly on my own. We…we’re allowed to go in pairs, so I went with one of the other watchers-in-training…”

Oh? Who did you….Dawn. Did you and Teddy go together?”

At the mention of her boyfriend, Dawn sighed and gave up on the idea of sparing Buffy any details.

“Yes. Teddy and me. We went up there last weekend. Everybody says it’s no biggie – the ghost doesn’t really hurt anybody, and he even talks to people sometimes. I figured we’d be fine. It’s not like I’m a slayer…”

Filing the question of what she meant by “not a slayer” under something to ask later, Buffy said firmly, “Okay, tell me exactly what happened.”

“Okay. Well, we went in, and just like everybody says, for a while nothing happened. We walked all around the house – which was in pretty good shape for a haunted house – and then we got bored, so I started calling for the ghost.”

“You called the ghost? Have I taught you nothing?”

“I was bored! And, anyway, he didn’t answer. Not a peep out of him. It was weird. I mean you would think he would have said or done something… ghostly, right?”

“Okay, so nothing happened? Why wasn’t that the end of it? Why do you have to go back again?”

“Well, you have to stay until daylight, and we…that is…we didn’t.”

Buffy raised an eyebrow and waited while Dawn shuffled her feet and looked uncomfortable. When she wasn’t offering any more information, Buffy cleared her throat pointedly.

“Okay, I just want to remind you that I’m a grown woman. Okay? And that you were boinking Angel when you were seventeen…and okay, bad choice for example, but—“

“Get to the point, Dawn. You and Teddy were what? Making out? Humping like bunnies?”

“Somewhere in between,” Dawn admitted. “We were on this comfy couch in one of the downstairs rooms and….”

“And…?”

“And suddenly Teddy was yanked through the air and thrown against the wall. The couch was flipped upside down, the doors were slamming and there was a really nasty snarl coming from somewhere.”

“So, you ran?”

“Duh!”

“And now you want me to go back with you. Why? So you can boink your boyfriend while I hold off the ghost?”

“Yes. No! I mean, I want you to come back with us - me, but there will be no boinking or…anything.”

“Damn right there won’t,” Buffy grumbled, then remembered that Dawn was twenty-one and entitled to have a love life. “Not while I’m there, anyway.” She relaxed and sat down, gesturing to the other chair. “So, why do you think seeing you and Teddy set the ghost off?”

“How do I know? Maybe it’s his favorite couch or something…All I know is he went nuts, and he’s not supposed to do that with watchers. He’s just supposed to try to scare us.”

“What does he do with not-watchers? Slayers, for instance.” Buffy’s question made it obvious that she hadn’t forgotten Dawn’s slip earlier.

“Well, I really think you should talk to one of the slayers--” At Buffy’s sudden frown, she hurried on. “But I’ll tell you what I know.” She took a deep breath and began. “Um…well, if a slayer goes in, the ghost gets more…physical. Like he’s really angry that she’s there…or he’s testing her, maybe. Who knows? If he beats her too easily, he smacks her on the butt, throws her out the door and tells her to ‘go home and tell your bloody watcher that you aren’t ready.’ Or something like that. I don’t know if anyone’s ever actually beaten him, but the ones who put up a good enough fight get better treatment.”

“Which would be?”

“If they can give him a decent fight, he just pats them on the head and says, ‘You’ll do.’ and walks them out the door.”

“The ghost walks them to the door? Like he lives there?”

“Uh, Buffy? He does live there – or not `lives’ there, I guess – but anyway, it’s his house.”

“Whose house?”

“Some old British guy who’s been dead forever, I think. Giles knows more about it. Who the house belongs to.”

“Okay. So, this ghost guy does typical ghosty things if he has watcher trainees staying there; but if it’s a slayer, he what – becomes solid enough to fight her?”

“Something like that. You really ought to talk to some of the slayers. They’re the ones that have seen and touched him.”

~~~~~~~~~~

“Hi, Julie, is it? I’m Dawn’s sister, Buffy? And I--”

“Oh my god! THE Buffy? Like, Buffy the first vampire slayer?”

“Um …no, not the first. Maybe the last? Well, except for Faith, cause she’s, you know, almost as old as I am.”

Julie continued to stare at Buffy with what could only be called hero worship in her eyes until Buffy couldn’t stand it any longer and turned away.

“So, um…yeah, anyway, the thing is, Dawn says that you’ve been to the ‘haunted house’ – and I SO cannot believe that the Watcher’s Council is calling that old place ‘the Haunted House’, Buffy huffed indignantly before going back to her subject. “Anyway, you’ve been there and--”

“Yeah, I was there. For all the good it did me,” Julie muttered.

“Can you tell me about it?” Buffy tried to sound patient and kind, remembering that Dawn had told her that Julie was one of the ones kicked out with instructions to “Get better before you come back”.

Julie hunched her shoulders and gave a large sigh.

“Yeah, all right. I guess I – it’s not like everybody doesn’t already know anyway.”

She stood up straighter and looked Buffy in the eye.

“I went to the house, by myself like everybody else does, and at first it was fine, you know? I walked around and checked it out, looking for the ghost or a stray vampire—“

“Vampire?”

Julie nodded. “Everybody says the ghost won’t let any vampires in, but you know, if the house is owned by a dead man…”

“That’s good thinking, Julie. It never hurts to be cautious.” Buffy smiled encouragingly when Julie beamed at the words of praise.

“That’s what I think!” she said excitedly. “So, I had my stakes with me and I was twirling one of them and then—“ Her voice trailed off, the excitement fading quickly.

“Then?”

“Then suddenly, I wasn’t twirling it. It was just…gone. Floating in the air on the other side of the room.”

“The ghost?”

Julie nodded. “I knew right away that’s what it had to be. He laughed at me, and tossed my stake back. And then he…” She shuddered at the memory. “He was behind me, right behind me. I could feel his cold breath on my neck. He laughed again and grabbed me. I couldn’t move, even to use my stake.”

“So, he grabbed you? He was solid then? You could see him?”

“Not then, I couldn’t. But I could feel him. He was solid and his hands were cold.” She shuddered again. “Then he let me go, pushed me away and said “Let’s see what you’ve got, luv”.

Buffy couldn’t suppress a wince. Five years since she’d watched Spike burning up the First Evil’s army, four since she’d heard about his resurrection and second demise helping Angel battle the Senior Partners, and she still got a twinge of melancholy whenever something or someone reminded her of him. Pushing the ache away, she nodded her encouragement.

“So, you had to fight an invisible man?”

“No. When we started fighting I could see him. I couldn’t see him, see him. Like I couldn’t tell you what he looks like cause he kept fading in and out and he was all covered up – like a ninja or something. But I could see him. He was just really, really fast and I don’t think I hit him even once.”

She looked at Buffy apologetically. “He laughed at me again, and I got really mad.”

“And then what? You clobbered him, right?”

“Uh, no, I just kinda…flailed around yelling at him to stand still and then he…”

“He…?”

“He knocked the stake out of my hand again, grabbed me, picked me up and threw me out the front door.”

“No pat on the butt?”

She shook her head, sounding disappointed. “No, he didn’t even do that. He just told me to go home and not come back until I knew what I was doing.”

“So, you left?”

Shaking her head, Julie whispered, “I sat down in the yard and started to cry.” She glanced at Buffy, but the older girl’s face was a careful study in sympathy and curiosity, so she continued. “And then the weirdest thing happened…”

She looked back at Buffy and said, “The ghost was handing me a handkerchief. I couldn’t see him, but it floated right up to me and I heard him. He said ‘Slayers don’t cry, they get even. Now stop snotting and go learn how to fight. I want to see you back here in six months.’ “

Buffy stood up and patted the other girl on the back. “Well then, I guess you’d better do what he says, huh? Thanks for talking to me, Julie. I appreciate it.”

“Are…are you going to fight him?” Julie’s expression was a mixture of awe and envy.

“We’ll see. He might not be quite as ready to start something with an experienced slayer.”

Buffy gave a smile that could almost have been called feral, as she waved her good-bye and left the room.

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

After she’d talked with one of the slayers that had been escorted to the door with a “well done, pet”, and smothered another pang of what she no longer thought of as grief, she went looking for Dawn.

One of the reasons she had spent so little time at the new Watcher’s Council headquarters was the fact that, at first, she’d found it too hard to be around so many people who spoke in ways that reminded her of Spike. If it wasn’t the accent itself, it was a turn of phrase or a casual endearment that kept his memory sharp and painful. Time, however, had worked its magic, and she was now able to visit England regularly without having to psych herself up for it. She was actually looking forward to fighting this ‘ghost’ and pushing his pet names right down his throat.

After all, I fought and beat Kralick without my powers – and I was only eighteen then. This guy is toast….”

It took only a second for the memory of her Cruciamentum to send Buffy flying down the halls towards Giles’ large, book-filled office. She threw open the door and took a second to enjoy the way he jumped, his pen flying out of his hand as he did so.

“Dear Lord, Buffy! Is something wrong? Are we under attack?

“I thought this was the new and improved Council?” she demanded. “You know, the one that takes care of its slayers? Not sets them up to be killed or …” she remembered what the ghost did with the girls who fought him, and lowered her voice, “humiliated by some tame ghost.”

He didn’t need the angry and disappointed look on her face to help him understand the connection she had made, and he winced before nodding in apology.

“It’s not the same thing, Buffy,” he was quick to assure her. “The…creature… whatever it is, doesn’t hurt the girls – not badly. Sometimes their pride is a bit ruffled, but that just usually makes them work harder.” He studied her angry face and continued, “I don’t send them out there. This is something that the girls themselves came up with once they discovered that it would fight them. I will admit that I haven’t tried to stop it…. But if I weren’t certain that they are in no real danger from it, and that it helps them to become better slayers and thereby possibly saves their lives, I would not condone it. It‘s become a badge of honor for a girl to be beaten by the ‘ghost’ and escorted to the door with his praise ringing in her ears.”

“What about the ones that beat him? What do they get?”

“That has yet to happen to the best of my knowledge. It –he- appears to be quite the skilled and experienced fighter. No one has beaten him – the goal is for a slayer to hold her own long enough for him to tell her she’ll `do’.”

“I see.” Buffy’s face gave no indication of her thoughts, but the new head of the Watchers Council had know her for too long to be fooled by her calm demeanor.

“Buffy, I don’t think-- I really would like you to reconsider--- This is not something that you want to fight.”

“I don’t? Since when can you read my mind, Giles? And, just so you know… I do want to fight it – him. I want to know that these girls are safe.”

“Really, Buffy…” Giles took off his glasses and began the familiar avoidance behavior that made her smile in spite of her impatience.

“Giles, what aren’t you telling me? What do you know about this ghost?”

“I don’t know anything; nothing more than anyone else does. The ghost does not speak to me, nor does it communicate with anyone except the trainees and slayers. However…” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, Buffy. I don’t want to… I have my suspicions, but that’s all they are – suspicions. I don’t think sharing them with you would be in your best interest. Some things are better left…”

His warm gaze made her relax and she nodded.

“Giles, you know how I feel about being kept in the dark ‘for my own good’, right?” She gave him a wry grin. “You wouldn’t be doing that to me now, would you?”

“I suppose I am,” he admitted, somewhat unnecessarily. “But it’s only because you seem to be doing so well these past couple of years and I don’t want to stir up old memories or feel--“ He quickly swallowed the rest of his thought.

“Giles,” she said gently, “I’m in a good place. Okay? Yeah, I still miss him occasionally, but I’m not going to fall apart just because you have a ghost who uses words that remind me of Spike. If I was going to fall apart every time somebody called me `luv’ or `pet’, I’d have to stay out of England forever.”

“We don’t see you all that often,” he pointed out.

“Well, that’s because I’m…busy. I’m busy doing stuff and being other places, and…” She met his understanding eyes and shrugged. “Okay, yeah. At first I just couldn’t deal. But I’m fine now. No major missage. There’s a little Spike-shaped spot in my heart, but it doesn’t hurt anymore. I’ve moved on, gotten on with my life. I appreciate your concern, but I’m fine.”

She nodded her head for emphasis, and stood up. “And I’m going kick major ghosty butt, just to prove it.”

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

As they approached the large, dark house, Buffy frowned.

“This is such a cliché. I mean, sheesh! Big, dark, gloomy – doesn’t this ghost have any imagination?”

Dawn shrugged. “I guess it’s where he lived when he was alive. It was probably pretty posh, back in the day.”

Buffy squinted through the gathering gloom and rolled her eyes.

“Maybe. If he had a whole team of maids to keep it clean and a gardener to keep all the bushes trimmed, and…” She looked around again, noting the neatly mowed lawn and shrubbery. “Hey, who do you think is taking care of the yard now?”

“Maybe he has ghosty maids and a ghosty gardener?” Dawn looked around curiously. “I didn’t think about it, before, but it is pretty clean in some places.”

“Some places?”

“Yeah. I mean the front hall and the main downstairs rooms? All cobwebby and dusty, like you’d expect. But the library? And in the kitchen? Not so much. It’s almost like it’s pretending to be a deserted mansion.”

“Which,” Buffy said with a wry twist of her mouth, “it pretty much is, if this thing actually lives here all the time and doesn’t just show up for company.”

“Huh,” Dawn said. “I hadn’t looked at it like that. If he lives here, we’re pretty much trespassing. No wonder he throws the slayers out and tries to scare off the watchers…”

“Well,” Buffy pushed the unlocked door open. “If he doesn’t want company, he ought to lock his door.”

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