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.

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Chapter 2

They entered the dusty hallway, which, as Dawn had said, was liberally festooned with cobwebs and the accompanying spiders. All of which, Buffy was glad to see, were staying near the high ceiling and safely away from potentially deadly feet.

Dawn led Buffy on a chatty tour of the rooms that she and Teddy had been in on their last visit, showing her the big kitchen and the library in which someone had put the couch right-side up again and picked up the books that had been flying around.

“I wonder who did all this?” she mused, surveying the room and trying to remember what it had looked like when she and Teddy had run out.

“If the ghost could wreck it, I guess he’s able to put stuff back,” Buffy muttered, concentrating on trying to sense anything supernatural or dangerous. There was just the faintest tingle on the back of her neck to indicate that there was something in the big house besides the two of them.

They toured the second floor, poking into the various bedrooms and marveling at what a large house it was.

“I guess back then they had really big families,” Dawn said, having counted at least six bedrooms, not including the small rooms over the kitchen that she and Buffy had concluded were servants’ quarters. The flashlight they were using, which Dawn insisted upon calling a ‘torch’ to Buffy’s great amusement, was only able to illuminate small areas of the rooms at a time so they quickly became bored and headed back downstairs.

“Why don’t we stay in the room where he pitched his fit? That way, he can find us easily.”

“Yeah, all right. Maybe we can find a good book to read until he shows up.”

While Dawn replaced the torch with a battery-operated lamp, Buffy wandered around the room examining the titles of the books. She noted idly that the books were not very dusty, nor were the shelves, or the table tops in the room.

“Uh, Dawn?” She waved her hand to get her sister’s attention. “This room looks like it gets used. A lot. Maybe you pissed him off because youwere on his favorite couch. If he can be solid when he wants to, he probably sits in here and reads.” She peered at the dimly lit shelves and added, “Poetry, apparently. Most of these books are poetry.”

Dawn wandered over with the lamp to look at the books.

“Spike used to have some of these,” she said without thinking. “He liked poetry. Did you know that, Buffy?”

“Yes, Dawn.” Buffy’s response was terse, but calm. “I’m very aware that Spike liked poetry. He…he used to read it to me sometimes when we were too tired to—“

“So don’t need to hear the rest of that sentence.” Dawn held up her hand. “I’ve already got the visual, and it’s disturbing enough.”

“I thought you were all grown up now?” Buffy teased.

“I am,” she huffed. “But somehow the idea of you and Spike…it’s like imagining my parents doing…stuff. You know?”

“Your parents!”

“Well, if my parents had been a girl only a few years older and really my sister and her much older vampire boyfriend who was really more like an older brother to me except when he was being all protective and --”

Their eyes met suddenly, the light of the small lamp catching the identical thoughts.

“You don’t think…”

“No. No, I don’t think. It’s a coincidence, Dawn.”

She nodded vigorously. “Of course it is. What else could it be?”

“Exactly. It’s not possible.”

“Of course not.”

They walked to the couch, looked at it, and by mutual consent, sat down in the two matching chairs.. Nothing moved, there was no sound except the normal groans and creaks of an old building. When she’d been quiet as long as she could, Dawn looked at Buffy’s tight face and asked softly, “Do you still miss him?”

Buffy sighed and leaned her head against the back of her chair.

“I’ll always miss him,” she said quietly. “But I’ve learned to live with it. I don’t…I don’t cry any more. Or get all upset if somebody calls me `pet’ or `luv’. I’m fine. He was a hero – not once, but twice. I just hope he got his reward for saving the world.”

Dawn nodded in agreement. “So do I,” she said softly. “He earned it.”

“He did.”

~~~~~~~~~~~

When several boring hours had gone by without any sign of the ghost, Dawn suggested, “Maybe he won’t come around me if there’s a slayer here. Do you think I should go into another room?”

“No,” Buffy said, standing up and stretching. “I’ll go. I’m getting antsy anyway.” She grabbed the flashlight and turned it back on. “I’ll just go exploring. Scream if you need me. And stay off the couch!”

She left the room and began to search the house for areas they hadn’t yet seen. The flashlight cast its light ahead of her as she walked through the halls and rooms on the first floor until she found a locked door just off the kitchen. She examined it closely, then yanked hard, popping the old lock open. With a satisfied smirk, she pointed the light down the exposed wooden stairway.

After checking the railing and the first few steps for stability, she began her descent, slayer senses alert for any trace of vampires or other cellar dwelling creatures. When she reached the bottom and shone the light around the room, she gave an audible gasp.

Rather than the dusty basement she had expected to find, she found herself standing in what was obviously someone’s bedroom. She turned on the lamp sitting upon the nightstand, and flicked off the flashlight while she gazed around the room.

“Looks like the ghost likes his comforts,“ she muttered, touching the plush covers on the large bed. The stone floor was covered with soft, expensive looking oriental rugs, and the furniture was solid and well polished. There was a book of poems on the nightstand, along with a small notebook and a pen.

The large wardrobe was empty, only a pair of boots taking up space in the bottom, and a coat that she refused to touch hanging from a hook. The brick walls were covered with hangings of rich fabric, providing the look of one of the upstairs bedrooms, minus the windows and dust.

Buffy’s stomach clenched as she realized how much the cozy room resembled the lower-level bedroom in Spike’s crypt once he’d cleaned it up and decorated it. She backed slowly away from the bed, forgetting, in her haste to get out of there, to turn off the light. She ran up the stairs, shutting the door behind her and hoping the owner wouldn’t notice the broken lock.

He’s a ghost. He probably just walks through the door…I hope.

A nearby kitchen chair provided some much needed support while she tried to control her breathing and talk herself out of the unwelcome and unaccustomed flare of hope that had sprung to life. She concentrated on breathing in and out and slowing her heart rate until she felt that she had herself under control. Refusing to go running back to Dawn with wild ideas that would only result in disappointment for them both, she resolutely trudged up the back stairs to explore the second floor and the attic.

Dawn, meanwhile, bored with waiting for the ghost to show up, had dozed off in a chair. When Buffy returned to the library, Dawn was sleeping soundly, serene in the knowledge that her sister would handle any ghostly violence that might occur. Giving an annoyed sigh, Buffy curled up in another of the big chairs and tried to read one of books lying on the table beside it.

Before long, her eyelids drifted shut and she catnapped as much as she could and still remain on guard. A warning tingle on the back of her neck brought her to abrupt alertness, to find the dark figure of a man leaning over Dawn. Buffy’s attempt to move towards him silently failed as he clearly heard her and whirled around, beginning to fade out before her eyes.

“No! Wait! Don’t go,” she pleaded. “We won’t hurt you. I promise.”

The response was a disembodied laugh and a sneered, “Know that, don’t I?”

Rubbing her eyes, Dawn sat up and stared at Buffy.

“Who are you talking to? Is he here?”

Buffy nodded dumbly, unable to take her eyes off the last spot that she’d seen the ghost. She was so focused on trying to see something other than the clearly visible books on the other side of the room that she almost missed the increasing tingle and slight movement of the air that meant something was behind her.

Almost, but not quite. Buffy hadn’t survived as long as she had by ignoring her body’s signals; she ducked, fell to the floor and rolled away from the invisible fist that cut through the space where her head had been. She came to her feet in one fluid motion, gesturing to Dawn.

“Go outside,” she ordered. “Wait for me there.”

“No! Maybe I can talk to him.”

“Do as the slayer says, Watcher.” The cold, disembodied voice floated to them from another part of the room, clearing the way between the couch and the door.

Buffy had turned to follow the sound of the voice, noting from the corner of her eye that, despite her protestations, Dawn had bolted for the door as soon as she thought she knew where the ghost was standing. Taking a deep breath, Buffy closed her eyes and extended her senses, pivoting slowly as they told her that the ghost was moving around her in a circle – just out of reach.

When he faded back into sight and threw a kick at her stomach, Buffy was ready, spinning her body away from the kick and into a leg sweep of her own. Before she could take advantage of the ghost’s off balance leap away, he had recovered and was bouncing on his toes – once again a safe distance away from her.

“What are you doing here?” the ghost demanded abruptly.

“I thought we were fighting. Wasn’t that obvious?”

“What’s obvious is that you’re no half-baked slayer-in-training. Can feel the power in you, can see it in the way you move. Why’d you come here to harass an old, harmless ghost?”

Keeping her eyes on the still-visible ghost and maintaining her own relaxed but ready stance, Buffy replied, “That ‘harmless old ghost’ almost killed my sister’s boyfriend, and scared her half to death.”

“The girl who just left – she’s your sister?”

“Yes, she is. Just your luck you decided to break bad on a slayer’s sister. I’m kinda touchy about anything hurting Dawn.”

As they spoke, Buffy could see him becoming more substantial – the formerly semi-translucent body now appearing to be as solid and real as she was. She took the opportunity to study the ghost – noting his height, weight, probable reach and the fluidity with which he moved. Nothing else was visible; his head was covered with a black mask that left only small holes for his eyes, and his body was completely covered in black clothing, a tee shirt, long sleeved over shirt and black pants.

“Like what you see, pet?”

The smirking voice and the words brought an involuntary gasp. A gasp that didn’t go unnoticed by her opponent. He prowled closer, hoping to take advantage of Buffy’s temporary loss of equilibrium, but he misjudged how she’d been affected by his words.

Rather than losing her focus, anger flared throughout her body that this unnatural creature could seem so much like the vampire she knew was dust long since blown from the streets of LA into the southern California desert. With a cry of rage, she attacked, landing two hard blows to his face before he could recover and backhand her away. She rolled with the hit, returning to the fight in time to catch him with another hard fist before he began blocking her punches and driving her back with his own flurries of short, sharp jabs.

They traded blows and kicks for several minutes, Buffy uncharacteristically silent as she determined to shut the ghost’s mouth for good. For his part, the ghost, once he got over his surprise at her speed and strength, seemed to be reveling in the fight. He laughed aloud when she knocked him down, barely rolling out of the way in time as she threw herself upon him. He rolled back quickly and tried to pin her to the floor, but Buffy was already recovering and she met his chest with her feet, propelling him over her head and into a bookshelf.

His muttered, “Bloody hell!” as the books tumbled down around his shoulders, brought a reluctant smile to her face and she couldn’t resist snarking at him.

“Looks like you’ve found some good books,” she said, tossing several more at his head. “Maybe I should just leave you to it and come back some time when you’re not so…wrapped up in them.”

With a roar, he leapt to his feet, shedding books as he did so.

“Some of those are priceless, you ignorant bitch!” he growled, prowling towards her with deadly intent.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Did I mess up your poetry collection? My bad!”

Buffy readied herself for his attack, but to her surprise, he stopped and cocked his head in a motion that was all too familiar for comfort .

“Who are you?” she whispered, finding herself unable to breathe properly for a second.

“Who are you?” he countered. She felt that he was staring at her, but it was hard to see his eyes through the small holes in his mask.

“I’m Buffy. The Vampire Slayer.” She stared back, alert to any sign that her name meant anything to him.

“Buffy. THE Vampire Slayer? Then who are all those other bloodthirsty little bints keep comin’ in here to bother me?”

She blushed. “Sorry. I spent a long time as the vampire slayer; sometimes it’s hard to remember that there are more of us now.”

“Thought you were a bit older and more experienced than those wannabes,” he said. He looked her up and down. “Helluva fighter you are,” he admitted, the admiration in his voice clear. “Don’t know when I’ve had so much fun.”

“I think I do,” she whispered, shaking her head when he twitched with surprise.

He waited, but she refused to say anything else, beginning to back out of the room and in the direction of the front door.

“Hey!” he said indignantly. “We aren’t done here yet. Where are you going?”

“I have to check on Dawn,” she said quickly, proud of her ability to think while everything inside her was screaming for answers.

“That’s your sister? The watcher-to-be that I scared off?”

Buffy paused in her retreat. “Yes. Why did you do that? You could have killed Teddy.”

His demeanor changed from deadly predator to embarrassed blusterer to indignant homeowner with a very short series of changes in body posture.

“Well, they were about to shag on my couch!” He raised his head quickly. “You need to watch that girl. That wanker was going to take advantage of her. You should be thankin’ me, not coming into my home and trying to beat on me!”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “That girl is a grown woman. And that ‘wanker’ is her boyfriend. What business is it of yours what they do?” When he snorted, she added, “As long as they don’t do it on your furniture, I guess… Still none of your business, really. You could have just done something scary, you know. They would have stopped and probably left the house. Why’d you go all Horrible Harry Homeowner on them?”

“Don’t know,” he admitted. “Jus’ saw that wank – that boy on her and….I don’t know…” He was silent for a second, then raised his head again. “Tell her…tell her I’m sorry, alright? Didn’t mean to hurt anybody.”

“Why don’t you tell her yourself?” Buffy gestured towards the front hallway.

He shook his head and turned away. “Nah. Let her hear from you. Let ‘er think you beat it out of me.”

Buffy sniffed, but turned to walk out and join Dawn outside under the slowly lightening sky. As her hand turned the knob on the big wooden door, she felt the air stir behind her, and without thinking, she threw her fist back and felt it smash into what could only be a nose. A bloodcurdling snarl sounded in her ear and she whirled, stake in hand, but she saw no one.

“You broke my nose.” The voice came from several feet away and now sounded more aggrieved than angry. She relaxed slightly and tried to hide her smile.

“You shouldn’t sneak up on people.”

“I’m a bloody ghost. It’s what I do.”

“I’m a slayer. Breaking noses is what I do.”

“Wasn’t goin’ to do anything to you,” he grumbled, his voice slightly muffled. Buffy could picture him holding his hand over his broken nose.

“Then what were you doing?”

“Was jus’ walkin’ you to the door. I wanted…wanted to ask if you were comin’ back, is all.”

“No smack on my butt?”

“Didn’t beat you, did I? Got no right to smack your arse.”

“No `you’ll do’?”

“Know you’ll do. Have done, I suspect. More than once.”

“Then why should I come back?”

“Want to fight you again. Outside, where we can move.”

“You can leave the house?”

Buffy’s surprise was clear. She watched, fascinated, as he gradually faded back into sight. As she’d suspected, he was holding one hand to his nose. Before he could answer, she asked another question.

“How can something so…unsubstantial get a broken nose? Can’t you just fade out and not have to worry about your body parts?”

Instead of answering her, he cautiously approached until he was only a few feet away. He tilted his head again, but this time Buffy was able to control her wince as she waited for an answer. He raised one hand as though to touch her face, but dropped it before she could finish raising her own hand to block any potential punch.

“Want to know all my ghostly secrets, do you, Slayer? Wouldn’t that be more the watcher’s field? All you need to know is that, good as you may be, you can’t beat me.”

“Afraid to tell me your secrets?” she said, squaring her shoulders and giving him one of her best glares. “Cause you know that I can beat you.”

“Come back,” he said, beginning to fade out again. “Fight me again and I’ll tell you everything you want to know.”

He disappeared and Buffy’s senses told her that he was fading. Within a few minutes, she could feel nothing but the same little hint of a presence in the house that she’d felt when they first arrived.

“I’ll be back,” she whispered as she opened the door. “You can count on it.”

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