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 3

She stepped out onto the front porch and looked around for Dawn, finding her sitting on the steps ands twisting her hands together anxiously. The watcher-to-be jumped up when she heard the door close, whirling around and asking, “Well? Did you kick his ass? Is it safe to go in now?”

“I think it’s safe,” Buffy admitted. “But I didn’t kick his ass.” She smiled to herself and then added, “I think I might have put a big dent in it, though.”

Dawn sighed as they began the walk back to the Council headquarters. “I guess this isn’t going to count as spending the night, is it? I wonder if I can get points for going twice?”

“Considering that you’ve had to run out both times, I’m gonna go with ‘no’,” Buffy said, bumping her with her hip.

“But this time you told me to leave – and so did the ghost!”

They walked in silence for awhile, then Dawn asked, “Did you ask him why he tried to kill Teddy, or were you too busy putting dents in his ass?”

“I asked him, but he doesn’t know.”

“He doesn’t know? He throws a tantrum, tries to make my boyfriend one with the wallpaper, and he doesn’t know why he did it?” Dawn’s voice was shrill and for just a second, she seemed to be seriously considered going back to yell at the ghost.

“That’s what he said. It has to do with…whatever you and Teddy were doing…but he doesn’t know why it made him so mad. That’s his story, anyway.”

They walked a little farther, approaching the Council grounds just as the sun’s rays lit up the metal roof of the gymnasium. Dawn grabbed Buffy’s arm before they reached the gates, and, in a voice that made her sound much younger than she was, she asked, “Was it…did he…” She paused, not sure of what she even wanted to ask. It wasn’t necessary.

“Dawn. Spike is gone. He dusted twice. Yeah, this ghost says Spike-like things, and he’s…” She stopped, squeezed her eyes shut and took a deep breath. “There are some similarities.” Her eyes flew open again to stare into Dawn’s with fierce determination. “But it isn’t Spike. It can’t be. He didn’t know me. He didn’t know you…It’s not him. Don’t start thinking like that. Don’t get your hopes up.”

“Are you talking to me, or yourself?” Dawn asked with a twisted smile. When there was no answer, she shook her head and continued, “Maybe he didn’t know us, but he knows the difference between watchers and slayers. And he’s obviously protective of them—us. How can you not want to check this out?’

“I didn’t say I wasn’t going to check it out. I’m going to be all over the researchy stuff as soon as Giles wakes up. There’s no way that he’s been letting his watchers and slayers sneak up there like they do without knowing everything he can about what’s living in that house. He knows more, and he’s going to tell me what he knows or I’m going to…”

“Good morning, Buffy, Dawn. You’re up early.”

“We haven’t been to bed yet.” Buffy stared pointedly at Giles, waiting for him to notice that they had been entering the building, not leaving it. She wondered briefly if he had heard what she said, but then gave a mental shrug.

If he didn’t, he soon will. I’m not leaving his side until I have some answers.

“I see,” was the non-committal reply. “So you chose not to heed my advice, I take it?”

“Did you really think I was going to?”

He sighed and gave her an affectionate smile.

“Not really, but one can hope…” He made note of the determined look on her face and gave another resigned sigh. “Shall I assume that you have met our resident ghost?”

“Met, fought, promised to come back and fight some more…what else do you need to know?” Buffy’s chin stuck out and her eyes dared him to argue. To her surprise, he just shook his head and gestured towards the dining hall.

“Shall we get some breakfast, then and talk about this over a nice cuppa?”

He allowed Dawn and Buffy to precede him into the dining room and waited until they were all seated at a remote table before breaking his silence. He took a sip of his tea, smiled and exhaled with contentment.

“Ah, good, well-brewed British tea. There’s nothing quite like it to begin one’s day.”

“Except for good old American, heavily caffeinated Starbuck’s special,” Buffy said wryly, stirring her mug full of sugar and coffee. “Especially for those of us who haven’t had any sleep yet,” she added, reminding him of the subject at hand.

“Yes. Quite. Well then, you say you met the ghost and fought with him? How did that go? I don’t see any cuts or bruises, so I’m assuming you won?”

Buffy gingerly patted the side of her face where the ghost’s original backhand had reminded her not to get complacent.

“Not won, so much as brought him up to speed on what it means to fight an experienced slayer. We sort of…tied.”

“I see. And you intend to go back and fight him again?”

“Yep. Not done with him yet. And, anyway, he asked me to come back.” She fixed Giles with a hard look and said, “Now, quit pussyfooting around and tell me everything you know about this ghost – starting with who he is.”

The man who had been such an important part of her life since she was in her early teens sighed again and reached for his glasses. Buffy’s hand stopped him before he could take them off.

“They’re fine,” she said with a forced smile. “Nice and clean.” Her voice cracked just the smallest bit. “Just tell me what you know.”

He nodded, dropping his hand to the table and tracing the handle on his cup.

“Very well,” he said quietly. “I’ll tell you what I know – which is very little, I might add.” He raised his eyes to hers. “I was not lying to you, Buffy. I know next to nothing about this ghost.”

She waited, tapping her fingers impatiently.

“However,” he admitted, “I do have some suspicions, and I have done some research.”

“Giles…”

“Yes, well, let’s recap, shall we? What do we know about Spike’s appearance and subsequent time at Wolfram and Hart?”

“So, we are talking about Spike, then?” Dawn couldn’t contain her excitement.

Giles shook his head emphatically. “No, Dawn. We are talking about some sort of…entity…who appears to have some of Spike’s characteristics and, for lack of a better word, personality. This entity dwells within a building that may – or may not – have belonged to the family of William the Bloody.”

“Well, that’s nice and unambiguous,” Buffy grumbled at the same time that Dawn squealed, “That settles it, then!”

Giving Buffy a smile of appreciation for her reluctance to jump to conclusions, he said sternly, “It settles nothing, Dawn. The records are unclear – the house appears to be still owned by someone in the Pratt family. However, we have not been able to track down who that is, or exactly what relationship he may have to the original owners. Obviously, he would have to be a great grandson or grand nephew or some such—“

“Or,” Buffy cut in, “he could just be a vampire who’s been around since the 1880’s.”

“He could,” Giles admitted quietly. “But then, why would he be unable to recognize anyone that he knows? Most particularly…you.”

“Okay, let’s go back to what Spike was doing with Angel at Wolfram and Hart. What do you know about that?”

“Little more than what Andrew told you after the…the final battle. We know that Spike’s… essence…”

“His soul,” Buffy said firmly.

“Very well, his soul, was somehow contained within the amulet that he wore when he---”

“When he saved the world and defeated the First Evil.”

Glaring at Dawn for her interruption, Giles continued through tight lips.

“…when he saved the world and defeated the First Evil’s army.”

“Was that so hard to admit?” Buffy asked, trapping him with her gaze.

They had long since mended the rift created by Giles’ complicity in Robin Wood’s plan to kill Spike. However, they had tacitly agreed to disagree on Spike’s motives for saving the world. The old watcher was willing to admit that Spike had been genuinely, and with frightening intensity, in love with Buffy; and that his devotion to her had led him to acts that were completely foreign to a vampire’s nature. However, in spite of the final battle between Angel’s small group and the demon army that the Senior Partners had sent after them, he steadfastly refused to accept that Angel had not cooperated with the forces of evil.

The fact that Spike had chosen to remain with Angel in Los Angeles, rather than return to Buffy’s side, indicated – in Giles’ opinion – that there was a stronger bond between the two old vampires than anyone had known. And that Spike’s devotion to doing the right thing had more to do with his chosen leader than to any desire to fight on the side of good.

Their eyes battled over the table, hers demanding he accept what she knew in her heart was true – that Spike had not come back to her right away because he had been willing to risk another death to help his grandsire fight evil in ways that didn’t involve slayers. His eyes reflected his inability to believe in the complete redemption of either vampire, while still acknowledging that they had given their lives in an unwinnable battle brought on by their defiance of the Senior Partners and the destruction of the Circle of the Black Thorn.

The silent war might have continued even longer had not Dawn grown tired of what was, after all, an old argument.

“Can we get to the part that we weren’t there for? You know, the whole ‘coming back as a ghost’ thing?”

Breaking the staring contest, Giles nodded.

“Indeed. All we know – and this is almost all from what Andrew was able to glean when he went there to pick up Dana - is that the amulet had turned up some time later, in an envelope addressed to Angel. When he opened the envelope, the amulet fell out and Spike materialized out of it. He was visible, but not corporeal, and for some time he seemed to be slipping away as he had little control over when he was there and when he wasn’t.

“There was some sort of issue with a former employee or ancient spirit – I’m not clear on that. I do wish Wesley had thought to forward his journals and notes to me before he—“

“Giles! Focus!”

“Right. Sorry. At any rate, when the issues with the malignant spirit were resolved and it was made corporeal and captured—“

“If it could be made corporeal, why couldn’t Spike?” Dawn interrupted, but before Giles could answer, Buffy held up her hand.

“Oh wait. I know this one.” She sent Giles a triumphant look. “Spike gave up his shot so that the evil ghost wouldn’t kill…what’s her name…the scientist.”

He surrendered with good grace. “Yes. That is indeed the story. Spike could have become corporeal at that time, but he did not do so, choosing instead to push the other, less benign ghost, into the spot.”

“So that they could save Fred.” Buffy’s voice brooked no argument.

“Yes. Now, if I may continue…” They nodded and he hurried through the rest of what information the council had pulled together from Andrew’s reports, council spies within Wolfram and Hart’s organization, and other semi-reliable sources in and around Los Angeles at the time.

When he had completed as much as he could tell them – much of which they already knew anyway – he sat back and waited for the inevitable questions.

“Let’s recap, shall we?” Buffy said in a cheerful imitation of his own accent. “Spike and Angel did not turn to the dark side, they pissed off some really big evil guys and ended up fighting –by themselves.” The sudden chilliness in her voice and face reminded him that this had been another roadblock to their reconciliation – the fact that he’d known about the pending battle and had not told her or tried to send slayers to help. “And no one actually saw what happened to any of them. The only bodies they found were Wesley’s and that other guy – Gunn.”

“Deceased vampires do not leave bodies, Buffy.” His voice was gentle, but sure.

“They don’t pop out of ugly jewelry after they’ve turned to ash and been buried under a whole town, either,” she shot back. “Ever since he put that thing on, Spike started inventing whole new ways to surprise people.”

Giles nodded and patted her on the hand. “He did. He has had a remarkable life – lives – deaths – One hardly knows how to identify them. However, he was not a ghost at the time of his last disappearance. He was solid enough for Dana to have cut off his hands. We can only assume that he was therefore, solid enough to be staked or slain in some other fashion by the vast army ranged against him.”

“But,” Buffy prepared to argue. “What if he wasn’t? Corporeal enough, I mean. Or, suppose that amulet just grabs his soul every time he…dies? And spits him back out as a ghost of some sort?”

“Even in the unlikely event that could happen—“ he held up a hand to prevent her protest – “why on earth would it have reconstituted him here? In England? And within walking distance of the new Watcher’s Council?”

“What was here first?” Buffy challenged. “The house belonging to the Pratt family or the Council? Seems to me that I remember when you bought this place. You were all excited that you’d found this old school campus that we could use for training slayers and watchers.”

“Point taken,” Giles grudgingly admitted. “We came to the house; it did not come to us.”

“Exactly! So, if the amulet or whatever is controlling it, decided to send whatever was left of Spike someplace far away, why wouldn’t it pick a house that maybe belongs to him? In his home country?”

Giles had no answer to that, other than to mumble about coincidences and fate and wishful thinking. When Buffy pressed him to ask why he hadn’t worked harder to find out who really owned the house, he reminded her that he had a rather large organization to put back on its feet and that delving into who owned the other properties in the area had not been on his priority list. Only when the students at the school had begun using the house as their own little rite of passage had he thought to look into it at all.

By that time, enough slayers and watcher trainees had interacted with the ghost that he felt no urgency to know more about it. It had not harmed anyone and seemed to be serving a useful purpose in weeding out those slayers who were not skilled or confident enough to be out on their own.

“Come on, Giles,” Dawn wheedled. “Weren’t you even curious? Didn’t you want to meet the ghost?”

“I did meet the ghost,” he said shortly. When they waited expectantly, he looked around quickly to see if anyone else was listening. “He was quite rude. He told me his home was not open to the public, that I was obviously too old to be training as a watcher and not pretty enough to be a slayer, and he threw me out the door.”

“Threw you? As inthrew you, threw you?”

“Yes. I was quite happy that I had gone by myself and there was no one to witness my humiliation. I have made no attempt to return.”

“So, what made you suspect it might be Spike then?”

Giles shrugged uncomfortably. “I readily admit that I do not know Spike as well as either of you. However, he did live with me for a short while, and when you were…gone…he and I shared more than one bottle of good scotch. Between what the girls have reported of his behavior and speech, and the few minutes that I was exposed to his temper, I must admit to noticing an eerie similarity.”

“Well, there you go.” Dawn stood up. “It’s probably Spike. We’ll go back tonight and make him admit it. I’m going to catch some sleep now.”

Buffy waved her hand, too interested in what Giles had admitted to bother speaking.

“Will you do this for me?” she asked, searching his face for some sign of how he would feel if it did turn out that the resident ghost was Spike or some version of Spike. “Will you try to find out exactly who the owner of the house is?”

“And what will you be doing?”

“What he asked. I’m going to go back and talk to him some more.”

“It’s morning, Buffy. Ghosts aren’t about in the daylight.”

“Neither are vampires, Giles. But that never stopped Spike.”

She grabbed her tray and deposited it in the slot on her way out the door. However, instead of turning to go outside again, she made her way to the room they had assigned her and collapsed on the bed.

I’m just going to shut my eyes for a minute. Don’t want to look all baggy-eyed Buffy for the ghost.

~~~~~~~~

Buffy awoke several hours later, blinking in confusion when she realized that she’d slept in her clothes, then sitting up quickly as recollection set in. She jumped from the bed and quickly showered and got redressed. As she blew her hair dry, she wondered what she was doing and what she expected to find when she went back to the house. Although she refused to give in to Dawn’s certainty, she couldn’t deny the flutter in her pulse every time she thought about the ghost.

“Get a grip, Buffy. Even if it turns out that there is some portion of Spike’s personality or mind trapped in that house, there’s no guarantee that it’s really him. Who knows how many souls that amulet has swallowed? For all I know it’s the ghost of some other British-speaking, snarky, martial arts expert, Dawn protecting, Buffy fighting...”

Telling herself to “shut up”, she quickly applied some mascara and lip gloss. She slipped the gloss into her pocket, stared at her stake and then, with a resigned sigh, placed it at the small of her back. She ran downstairs, grabbed a banana and an apple from the table in the dining hall and left before anyone could offer to accompany her.

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