The dark-clothed woman spun around and thrust her stake into the chest of the undead creature she had followed to the cemetery gates and, with an astonished look, as if it did not realize the game was over now, the creature turned to dust. The huge crucifix that hung from the woman’s neck was swinging, but soon re-established its equilibrium. The night had been calm. After years spending her nights like this despite a having full time job, it seemed surreal somehow that she had ever had moments of fear on a dark city street at night, with steps sounding from the sidewalk. Slaying was routine, as was sleep. Something one did because it must be done. She still felt energetic and young, though the first digit on her birthday cake had turned from a two to a three some time ago. It had not plunged her into a crisis. She had accepted her fate a long time ago. Her secret she could not share.
She enjoyed the silence of the night, the only time of the day she was not surrounded by foreign voices talking so fast it was hard to understand, even after years spent in Italy. She passed the grave of the unknown poet in Rome’s international cemetery and read the English inscription.
HERE LIES ONE WHOSE NAME WAS WRIT IN WATER.
She felt a little better. She loved Italy. No one could live in the Eternal City and not succumb to its charms. Yet the price for being here meant separation from most of her friends and her sister who had one by one returned to the States.
Buffy Summers decided to call it a night and head home.
She slipped through the door to her apartment, trying not to wake the sleeping man on her sofa. She heard his breathing and touched him gently. His skin felt warm, it was good to have a living, breathing partner at her side. The children of the night still belonged to her life, though she could hardly believe now she had been dangerously close to two of them once. It seemed ages from her present life.
He turned around and murmured sleepily, “Hard night?”
“No,” she replied in a low voice, “One, two newbies, that’s it. You needn’t have waited for the end of patrol. Hope I didn’t wake you.”
He shook his head. “I was still awake. You know I can’t sleep properly till I know you’ve returned safely. Just wish I weren’t a guest at your apartment.”
Buffy tried to avoid this debate now. “You’re always welcome, you know that perfectly well. You have every right to see yourself as more than a guest, you’re my friend.”
David sat up to look at her. “Friend? Thought we were more than that.” He gently touched her face.
Buffy pulled away. “David, please.”
“You know what I feel, so don’t play, Buffy. You said you needed time, but I can’t wait forever.”
Buffy sighed. “No, not now, it’s three in the morning, don’t start a discussion at this hour. You know my attitude.”
“One and a half years, and still not even a discussion,” he grumbled and turned to the other side.
The Slayer left the room.
Buffy knew she had offended him, however, it was still a difficult subject in their relationship. When she had met David one and a half years ago, he had been a colleague, nothing more. It had taken the perseverant Londoner a few weeks to persuade her to go out wit him. Her first date in years. She had wondered how they could have so much in common — until she learnt who he was. She quit her job, rejected talking to him and deleted his messages on her answering machine when he had revealed the truth. He was working for the newly established Watcher’s Council, assigned to propose she return to slaying; she was supposed to teach the new slayers, to watch over them. Buffy had no intention to resume the dangerous business she had got a taste of for seven long years, and by no means she was ever again to be the puppet of a few of aging, stuffy Englishmen who had no idea what was going on in the real world. She needed no Calling in her life, no Council, and no Watcher either. Until the evening in the dark alley, when she had met one of the guys she had gone to school with. They had been surprised at the unforeseen meeting, what a coincidence it had seemed, what was he now? a lawyer, oh, really? she would never have thought so, and was he married? no, well, she wasn’t either, had he heard of any other old classmates?, no, he was so involved in business.
Having resigned from slaying and suppressing her powers with the magical drugs Willow provided for her, she had not recognized him as a vampire until he was at her neck. David had watched her from the shadows and come to her aid, he had finally staked the vampire, but a dangerous skull trauma and extreme loss of blood resulting from the fight had led doctors to put him into an artificial coma. He had survived with lots of luck. She had watched the whole fight, and had been unable to help. Ridiculous. The Slayer-weak, without instincts, without power-watching an undead, who had been a failure in high school, killing people, and she could nothing about it.
That was the moment she had changed her mind. She had become a full Slayer again and David had been her Watcher ever since and, later, her companion. He knew white magic like no one else she knew, he used both ancient handwritings and computer technology and with the same skill, her sister adored him, her friends envied her, but he was dreaming of a small house with a white fence around it and their statistically perfect one and a half children running about the garden. Yet it was not her dream.
Too close were the nightmares.
Sam and Riley were sitting at their usual table at the Odyssey, their favorite bar, with Agent Grant, a newbie. A live band was playing, as usual.
The lead singer of the band threw her necklace down into the crowd. A young woman caught it and put it on.
Riley’s hand wandered to his barely visible communication device. “Target detected,” he told the other team.
“What about the necklace?” Grant whispered.
“For the Odyssey, it’s a kind of free advertising,” Sam explained, “Whoever catches the necklace gets all drinks for free this evening. For the vampires, it’s a game. Has also to do with a free drink,” she added with bitter irony.
“Shouldn’t we act now?”
“No, it would only cause a panic. And if she took it off now, it would only raise suspicion. We can’t use too much attention yet. Let’s just keep an eye on her; she mustn’t leave the club with a stranger.”
Riley agreed. The girl got back to her table, sweating from the dance. “Isn’t it great, I’ve just heard I’m getting all my drinks for free tonight,” she said enthusiastically. Sam and Riley exchanged looks without saying anything. Apparently, the girl didn’t notice she seemed to draw the attention of several people at neighboring tables. She was busy with her first free cocktail, when someone addressed her. She turned around to see a handsome young man.
“Are you going to sit here just penetrating the air with your stares, or are you here for dancing?”
As he led the smiling girl to the dance floor, admiring and jealous looks from the other tables followed them.
Sam, Riley and Grant were watching as the vampire led the young woman from the Odyssee.
“HST activity, let’s move,” Sam stated briefly, and then rushed out of the club, followed by Riley and Grant.
“The necklace suits you,” the vampire said soothingly. “It’s the color of your eyes.”
The girl smiled. “Thanks.”
As he bent down to kiss (or bite) her, he was interrupted. He looked up to see they were surrounded by a gang of vampires.
“Hello, Jack,” their leader said.
“Gonzo. What do you want?” was the sharp reply.
“To cut a long story short and waste neither your time nor mine, I didn’t come for you. Surrender your prey and we let you pass.”
The girl did not like the sound of this. There must have been a dozen of the gang near.
The vampire thought he had not understood correctly. “You are asking ME to surrender MY prey to YOU? Are you mad? I’ve won the necklace game; she’s mine, that’s the rule.”
The other vampire waved at his minions, they encircled the couple. “This is not about the game. Leave the girl to us and mind your own business.”
“Listen, Gonzo, I have won the prize and I won’t let someone take it who has chosen a pseudonym from the Muppet Show.”
“Then you’ll have to fight.”
Jack hated to admit it, but the demands of this fight were beyond his abilities. His enemies were simply too strong and too many. Gonzo and some of his minions were trying to overrun him, the others were chasing the girl.
Gonzo managed to throw him off and rushed towards the girl. He reached for her neck.
“Not so fast,” he suddenly heard a voice.
The government unit attacked. The younger vampires were not a challenge, especially not to the experienced agents like Sam and Riley. As Gonzo noticed his advantage was disappearing, he did the only sensible thing in his situation: he ran.
“Were they… vampires?” the girl asked, shivering.
“I’m afraid so,” Grant said gently. Grant quickly made sure the girl was okay, then she asked Riley: “What the hell was THAT?!”
“I have no idea,” Riley admitted. “They wanted him to surrender his prey, isn’t that ridiculous?”
“It’s untypical,” Sam said, deep in thought. “Normally, there is a code of honor among vampires, one doesn’t steal another one’s prey, especially not if there was a fair competition, like in this case. The necklace game follows a simple rule, first come, first served. I don’t know what’s come over Gonzo that he broke it. Everyone, especially the ancient ones, accepts the rule. ”
“Well, not tonight,” Sam said. “For some reason, it was very important to Gonzo to win the prize tonight. Important enough to show up with an army and break two codes of honor, the rules of the game and not to kill one’s own kind. He was prepared to take the girl even if it meant killing one of his kind. But why?”
“As long as I can remember, this has never happened before during a necklace game. There’s always been envy about food, especially such a prestigious one, but no sane vampire would act like Gonzo did,” Riley said, shaking his head.
The girl still shivered a little. She did not like being referred to as ‘food’. Yet something had come to her mind she had to share with the others. “Have you considered that it might not have been me Gonzo was after?”
“What do you mean?” Grant asked.
“When you showed up, he said something like he had known you were after it, too. What could he mean by it?”
“That’s a damn good question,” Riley replied and pocketed the necklace. “Let’s get this to the lab and let our researchers have their way with it.”
“…what I’m stressing is that Angela Carter inverts the gender roles. It is not the classical male hero of the Gothic Novel of the 19th century that rescues the innocent female beauty from the fangs of a charismatic, but purely evil villain in the tradition of Stoker’s Angelus… uh… sorry, of Stoker’s Dracula. Carter’s heroines are women: a fragile, but deadly Countess Nosferatu that lures a naive blond cyclist into her castle. Observe how cute he is: He says, ‘I shall cure her of these nightmares’. As if he was from Iowa. He does not realize what she is, as men have for centuries not realized what women really are. Well, time’s up, thanks for listening, and don’t forget to buy my book.”
Polite laughter accompanied Willow’s closing words. She gathered her script pages and was about to leave the auditorium, when one of the students suddenly raised his hand. “Excuse me, professor. I have a question.”
Willow looked up. “Sure.”
“I’ve read your book, Every Woman Is A Slayer, and I still don’t get it! I thought this lecture was on feminist literature! What do you mean, every woman is a slayer? Whom or what does she slay?”
Willow smiled enigmatically. “It’s just a metaphor. Every woman has her killer’s instincts, her secrets. I’d recommend you read it once more under this aspect, and if you still have questions or comments, please come and see me during my office hours.”
The student did not seem enlightened, but at least satisfied.
Willow enjoyed this job. Her guest lecturing at the University of Rome gave her an opportunity to spend time with her best friend, whom she hadn’t seen a lot in the past few years. Will closed her filofax. She had to hurry if she did not want to miss the dinner. She had been looking forward to the evening. She and Kennedy were seeing Buffy and David. It was the first time they had the chance do this; one of them was always busy. She had seen Buffy several times when she visited London, they were in touch, but she had never met the mysterious man her friend was spending so much time with. The year before, Buffy had first mentioned the name of a new colleague she was dating. It had been a shock to hear Buffy was in the slaying business once again, but Will was extremely curious, for Buffy had scarcely looked at any man in years. Well, at least this time, her admirer was not 200 years older than she, and as far as Buffy had told her, he used mirrors and had no particular interest in her blood group.
“Willow, Kennedy, this is David, my new… Watcher.”
Watcher, David thought bitterly, not boyfriend, Watcher. He tried not to show his disappointment. “Hi, nice to meet you.” Then he noticed a crystal on a thin silver chain around Willow’s neck. “I’ve never seen a rose quartz as clear as this one; will you use it in a protective spell?”
Willow’s eyes widened in surprise. “Buffy never told me you were interested in magic!”
David turned to Buffy. “You should’ve introduced us earlier, luv!”
Willow could not refrain from staring at her friend’s companion. The clothes he wore, the way he walked, the sound of his voice, his accent. Did the Slayer realize how much of Angel and Spike were in David? And was he, himself, aware of it? Had she told him?
Kennedy had surely noticed that fact as well, but obviously she chose to ignore it.
“Buffy, may I have a word with you?” Willow pointed towards the ladies’ room.
Buffy followed her. What was Will going to tell her? Did she disapprove of him? The door fell closed behind them.
“What?” Buffy asked. “You want to talk about David. What do you think?”
“Well, he’s… nice,” Willow said helplessly.
“Buffy, does he know?”
“What do you mean?” Buffy asked, her face like petrified.
“Come on, his dark hair goes straight up, he’s wearing a silk shirt, there is a scar about his eyebrow, I didn’t miss out on that pair of stunning blue eyes, and I did see a long black leather duster when we passed the wardrobe!”
Buffy stiffened up. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“He looks like Angel’s and Spike’s illegitimate child!” Willow blurted out.
“No, he doesn’t,” Buffy protested, realizing for the first time there was some truth in the observation.
“Have you never looked at him? And he does sound a bit Cockney, doesn’t he?”
“Coincidence,” Buffy replied.
“Sure. He’s rather pale, too, isn’t he?”
“He’s not an outside person, he works with computers, and he has many indoor hobbies, for example he reads a lot, and he…” she stopped abruptly.
“He draws. Am I right?” If looks could kill, I’d drop dead now.
“That’s ridiculous,” Buffy said, “Let’s return to our table. Talk to him, and you’ll see how far-fetched the comparison is.”
“All right. But, anyway, David deserves the truth. Don’t play with his feelings.”
“I’m perfectly honest with David!”
“But you haven’t told him. About Angel and Spike.”
“Of course not!” Buffy hissed, “Should I have said, ‘Sorry, David, our relationship must be platonic because I’m still in love with my ex, who happens to be the Scourge of Europe, who I can’t have sex with because he’s gonna get evil and murder all my friends, oh, and, by the way I’m not over my other ex yet, I’m sure you’ve heard of him, William the Bloody? Great idea.” Buffy headed for the door.
Willow blocked her way. “Are you? Still in love with them.”
“Of course not.” I am in your system now. You’re going to crave me the way I crave blood.
David stopped the car and turned off the engine.
“It was nice to offer you’d take me home so I don’t have to drive,” Buffy remarked, “But I haven’t drunk enough not to see we’re not there yet.”
“I want answers.”
“Why did you introduce me as your Watcher?”
“That’s what you are.”
“When are you finally going to let me into your life? It’s wonderful being with you, but you’re not at home at my apartment, and not in my world either.”
Buffy shrugged. “I’m a Californian girl, and I sometimes miss my home. Can’t you understand this?”
“Buffy, don’t you see it hurts? I mean, you make me meet your family and friends, and everyone adores me but you.”
Buffy paused for a moment. “That’s not true,” she replied. She embraced him and her lips briefly passed his with a hurried kiss. “I just need some time and space for myself.”
David swallowed hard. Then he started the engine again and took her home.
Buffy closed the door of her apartment behind her. To distract herself from the unpleasant little discussion, she went for her computer to check her e-mail.
One from Sam. She still hardly believed civilisation had finally hit Iowa. Sam told her about the latest problems with the kids.
Another one from Dawn. Had Buffy gotten her the pashmina scarf? Of course she had.
A third e-mail. Obviously from the root mailhub. Were there any problems? Buffy opened the file – and froze:
I MISS YOU, LOVER.
This was definitely not from the root mailhub.
Buffy shivered as she opened another e-mail and froze:
I MISS YOU TOO, PET
Buffy tried to trace the mail back, but she soon found it was futile, as it had been sent over several anonymous servers.
“Very funny, Will,” she said aloud, trying to convince herself that her friends were playing a trick on her. “You almost had me going there.”
She picked up the receiver and dialled her friends’ apartment. Willow’s voice did not sound tired at all, so she had been awake still. “Hey, Buffy, what’s up?”
“I got your e-mail,” she replied.
There was a long pause at the other end of the line. “Which e-mail?” she finally asked.
“Oh, come on, you needn’t pretend you’re surprised, I know you can use anonymous servers. Don’t you want to annoy Sam a little?”
There was background noise, as if Kennedy had entered the room.
Kennedy took over the receiver. “Hi, Buffy, surprise you’re calling! I don’t know what you and Will were just talking about, I had a shower, but one can’t even leave this woman alone for a second! She’s over at her computer again.”
Buffy smiled with satisfaction. She had known.
“But it’s no use,” Kennedy added, “She’ll need a new motherboard.”
“What?” Buffy asked, not trusting her ears.
“Yeah, sad but true, she’s been trying to fix it for two full days, but it won’t even boot. Buffy, what’s wrong? You’re not saying anything. Buffy? Hello! She’s hung up. Just like that. What did I say wrong?”
Buffy was angry with David. He must somehow have dug up her past, and now he was tormenting her with it. But if he really thought he would get away with it, she would prove him how wrong he was. Lying in the dark, with frustration and anger concerning her Watcher, she fell asleep.
Buffy lacked orientation when she woke. She opened her eyes and looked around. This was not her apartment. The place was pitch dark except for a circle of candles around her. Magical symbols were scattered all over the floor.
“It worked!” she heard an enthusiastic cry.
Then she saw the familiar face of a witch. “Willow,” she said with surprise.
“Buffy! I’m so glad to see you!” Willow rushed into the magical circle and embraced her. “I had hoped I’d be able to bring you back, but I wasn’t sure it would work.”
Flabbergasted and reluctant, Buffy returned the embrace. “Nice to see you too, Will, but why am I here? And where exactly is HERE? I just remember falling asleep….”
Willow regarded her with a compassionate look. “Yeah… he can be a bastard. But we’ll forget about it, now you’re back. Oh, and in case I didn’t mention, of course we’re back in L.A.”
Buffy was a little confused how Willow could know about David and their row, but the probably had looked into a crystal ball, read her mind or simply been observing the tension between them. The slayerettes had always done a good research job, after all.
Again, Willow embraced her. “You are needed here, Buffy,” she said gravely.
Buffy nodded slowly. Another end-of-the-world-problem. Buffy sighed. “Okay, you need another slayer once again. But couldn’t you just have given me a call before teleporting me with a spell?!?!”
Willow gently caressed her cheek. “Poor girl. I’m sorry, I should have known the spell would confuse you, no wonder. Would you like a little rest before I take you to Faith?”
“Thanks,” Buffy replied. So Faith was back as well. The situation must be bad if Angel considered it necessary to call on an army.
Willow handed her a stake. “You’re gonna need this. They are everywhere. It’s become almost a rebellion, we definitely need another Slayer. Angel told Faith just the other night he feared to lose control of the situation.”
At the mentioning of the name, Buffy felt a sudden chill. Yes, he was here. She could sense him.
Willow looked at her with an estimating gaze. “You’re gonna need something else to wear, I brought you here in your nightdress. Follow me, my bedroom is right here, we’ll get you something from me or Kennedy.”
Buffy still wondered a little about the pleasant outfit Willow had borrowed her. Good to know the witch had become more daring in the past few years, her clothes used to be either hopelessly old-fashioned or from the Winnie the Poo collection. Now the Slayer was wearing a black velvet blouse with lace along the sleeves, and a long tight black velvet skirt, which fell wide about her ankles. She followed Willow through the large building which was completely unfamiliar to her. “Where are we?” she asked.
“It’s the new headquarters,” the witch explained, “Angel had it built shortly after you were gone. It is a huge apartment complex in the style of the mansion he owns, classical inventory, but state-of-the-art luxury technology. He thought it appropriate we not be too far apart in case of emergency, with all the vampires and demons around. It’s become worse than ever, they are a pest, thinking they could rule the world with their sick ideas.” A shadow fell over Willow’s face.
Buffy put a comforting arm around her shoulder. “I had no idea it was that bad.”
Willow looked at her with hope in her eyes. “Now you’re back, it’s you, Faith and Angel, just like old times. The whole gang is still here, everyone’s waiting for you.”
Buffy could not suppress the question that interested her most. “So they’re together?”
Willow stopped abruptly. She put her hands reassuringly on Buffy’s shoulders. “That does not change the fact he needs you.”
Buffy felt a pang. Faith and Angel. Of course, Faith would never make him happy. That was why he could shag her without so much of a bad conscience, Buffy thought bitterly.
Willow shrugged. ” But let’s leave it like that, it doesn’t matter now. There are other people who are dying to see you.”
Then she led her down the corridor.
The hinges of the large oak wooden door were creaking as the witch opened the way to one of the apartments.
“Hi, anyone home?” Willow called into the emptiness.
One of the side doors leading to the back rooms opened.
“Stop that noise!” Spike’s angry voice was heard.
Buffy had to smile. Time passes, but some things never change. Involuntarily, she felt her heartbeat speed up. She had known – thanks to Andrew’s inability to keep his big mouth shut – that Spike had returned from the dead, but they had never met since. Buffy only wished she would have had time to prepare for this particular encounter.
Shortly after, the vampire appeared in the living room, wearing nothing but a towel around his crotch. His hair was messed up, but apart from that, he didn’t look any different. “Buffy,” he said softly, “Welcome home, pet.”
Without a word, Buffy stepped forward and embraced him. She was surprised how much it felt the natural thing to do. His skin felt cold, the way she remembered it, and his scent was still unchanged. She resisted the temptation to run her fingers over his bare chest and reluctantly backed away. “How’ve you been?”
“Oh, great,” he said, “Apart from the fact that certain people—” he glared at Willow — “never call before they enter someone else’s quarters. Believe it or not, Will, there are some people who do have a life.”
Buffy turned her eyes from his perfect body and blushed slightly. “I didn’t mean to interrupt your shower.”
Spike looked straight at her with a playful smirk around his lips. “I wasn’t in the shower, luv.”
Willow giggled. “So you’re telling me you have the nerve to have a woman in there on an important day like today, when you knew I was to bring Buffy back?”
Buffy felt a smidgen of jealousy. Spike had someone else?
Spike yawned. “If I were to take account of every spell you’ve been trying, I could as well enter a convent!”
Now Buffy giggled. If there was one thing she could not imagine for the very life of her, it was Spike as a monk.
Spike caressed her cheek. “You alright?”
Buffy nodded. Despite the evident emergency situation, she smiled and said: “Feels good to be back on American soil.”
Spike looked at her compassionately. “What do they speak there?”
Buffy was puzzled. What did he think they spoke in Rome? “Italian, of course!” she replied.
Spike looked at her in a strange way. “Y’know, that makes kinda sense. Bloody Dante wasn’t that stupid, after all.”
Buffy meant to ask him if he was pulling her leg, but was distracted from noises coming from next door.
“Spike, who is it?” they now heard a female voice from what apparently was the bedroom.
“It’s Willow and Buffy, dear,” he replied.
“Oh! So the spell worked!”
According to the noises, the woman in the back part of the apartment was hurrying to get dressed and greet the guests.
Spike picked up a very thin satin nightdress and threw it through the open door. “Try this one!”
Then the door opened, and the woman entered the scene. Spike closed one arm around her waist possessively. The nightdress hardly covered her skin, and her neck showed two almost invisible marks which seemed quite fresh. Her long, floating hair was still in disorder, and though it was now dyed in a color that was no darker than Spike’s own, Buffy recognized her face at once.
“DAWN?” she asked in disbelief. She felt the urge to kick Spike’s ass if this proved to be what it seemed. Of course, Dawn had been off age for a few years now, yet this did not mean she had to approve of this. Buffy resisted the impulse to kick ass now and ask questions later.
“Hi, Buffy,” Dawn said.
“You here? What did you do to your hair since…? And you and… SPIKE???” Buffy stuttered. Then she regained her composure and looked at her sister demandingly. “Tell me this is not what it looks like.”
Dawn shrugged. “It’s exactly what it looks like.”
“You have a boyfriend! What about Andrew? You must tell him!”
Dawn just laughed. “What would Andrew be supposed to say?”
Buffy’s eyes went wide open. “You mean… he KNOWS?”
“Of course he knows!” Dawn turned to Willow. “What’s wrong with her? If I remember correctly, she wasn’t such a prude before?”
Buffy was shocked. She did not consider herself a prude, but this was definitely of the category ‘What you’ve never wanted to know about your sister. She had had no idea Dawn and Andrew had an ‘open relationship’.
Dawn seemed bored by the whole situation. “I hate to interrupt your chattering,” she declared, “But, personally, I’d suggest we’ll see you later. You see, we’re… busy.” Dawn’s lascivious laughter made Buffy feel sick. She willingly left to the corridor with Willow.
“How can Andrew tolerate this?” she finally burst out.
Again, Willow gave her a pitiful look. “You’ll soon feel better. There seem to be some things you do not know about your friends. You haven’t exactly kept in close touch for quite a while, people are changing. Don’t take this too seriously, Andrew doesn’t mind either. Spike has some very special talents, but Andrew too has something Spike does not.”
“Yes,” Buffy murmured, “For example, a reflection, a pulse…”
However, she was not given much time to recover from the first shock. Spike, now wearing black jeans and his usual leather duster, hurriedly put on over his bare chest, came running after them. He caught Buffy’s arm.
“Hey, listen, pet, I didn’t want you to see that, I’m sorry.”
Buffy glared at him. “No need for explanations,” she said coldly, “my sister is an adult, she has to take responsibility for her actions.” She tried to shake off the pictures in her mind of what these actions might look like. Buffy took a deep breath. “And you and I have never had a relationship, so you can do as you please.”
Spike shook his head and looked at her with his irresistable baby blues. “Guess we were both lonely without you. So, what were the two of you just doing?”
Buffy was a little relieved. At least Spike seemed to be as always.
“I’m showing Buffy around,” Willow said, “She’s still a little confused because I brought her here with a spell, and she has never been in these surroundings before.”
Spike showed understanding. “I see. Well, maybe see you at dinnertime.” He looked at Buffy. “Or later on.”
Buffy blushed deeply. “I don’t think so.”
“Dawn’s with Andrew tonight, isn’t she, Spike?” Willow asked innocently.
Buffy avoided to look at him.
“Oh, okay,” he just said, “Then there’ll be more time for Sunday.”
“You’re setting up a schedule with Dawn and Andrew?” Buffy asked, now really shocked, “Something like, she’s with Andrew on Saturdays, and with you on Sundays?”
“You’re not feeling well, are you?” Spike replied, concerned for her well-being, “I didn’t mean Sunday.”
“You haven’t forgotten about Sunday, have you?” Willow asked.
Buffy decided not to inquire any further. She had to see Faith. Something was wrong here, and the other Slayer was bound to know. “I’d like to see Faith now,” she suggested.
“Right,” Willow agreed, “I’ll ask her if she will see you now. Just wait here, I’ll be back in ten minutes.” The witch hurried away.
Spike said good-bye and disappeared through a dark staircase that seemed to lead to the cellar, whistling a tune that made the Slayer nervous.
Buffy was left alone in a totally unknown building with her thoughts. These were people whom she thought she knew, and now did not know at all. Sure, her contact with Willow and Dawn had not been too frequent, due to their respective jobs, but they were definitely acting strangely. Though she was still angry with David, she decided she would call her Watcher and ask him to take the next flight. She would feel much less uneasy. And what was Spike up to? She hesitated. Willow had said she would be gone for ten minutes. Buffy could not resist the temptation to follow him downstairs.
Faith was watching her sleeping mate beside her. His sleep was restless, as often. He threw himself from one side to the other. What would she give to make things easier for him, but his past was something she could not cure him from. She gently ran her fingers through his hair, then over his chest, over every inch of the body she adored so much. The times she could not feel him, not touch him, seemed so far away. His eyelids moved rapidly. He was dreaming. Then he suddenly sat up straight in the bed, his eyes flew open, he screamed.
She embraced him and rocked him in her arms. “It’s okay, my dark angel, it was just a dream.”
“A nightmare,” he whispered. “Faith, I wish these pictures would not flash before my eyes again and again, they never stop… if I ever do such things again…”
“It’s what you were, not what you are,” she soothed.
His dark eyes implored her with all sincerety. “Faith, if I should ever do these things again, if I should ever become like that again… promise me you’ll drive a stake into my heart.”
“Don’t say that,” Faith commanded, “I don’t want to hear that.”
“You must,” he insisted, “You’re forgetting I’m a vampire.”
“No,” she said, “I know you’re a vampire, but I would never reproach you. You’re not like the others. Now, tell me your dream, will make you feel better.”
Buffy hid in the darkness of the staircase. This was not a cellar – it was a dungeon, with cells.
Spike fumbled for the keys. “Have you missed me?”
Buffy risked a glance.
In the cell, there was a scared, blond woman who pressed her frail body into the farthest corner of the room. It took Buffy a moment to recognize her. That was impossible! She was a vampire Buffy had dusted in her freshman year at UC Sunnydale after the bitch had almost broken her arm!
“I asked a question,” Spike stated.
“Yes,” the girl whispered, her voice shaking with fear and nearly failing her.
Buffy noticed with astonishment that the girl was a vampire.
“Yes, master,” Spike corrected. He sounded like a complete stranger, a tyrant, someone to be afraid of. “How are you today, Sunday? You look pale – well, that’s what you usually look like, don’t you. Come here, Sunday. Don’t be shy.” He stepped towards her, bent down and unlocked the iron chains around her wrists. Buffy could see her feet were still chained to the cold stones.
“No,” the girl pleaded, “Please, don’t.”
“What?” He smiled sadistically. Then he put on rubber gloves and took a tiny vile from his coat.
Sunday began to cry silently, begging him to leave.
“You must understand,” Spike said, “My other mistress is with one of her… toys, and you don’t want me to be lonely, do you.”
Sunday’s face was full of terror, anticipating pain, agony and approaching death, but not being granted the mercy to die. She seemed to accept the inevitable.
Slowly, she let the rags that clothed her slide down to the floor, resting about her ankles, the chains preventing her from tossing them aside.
Buffy was a vampire slayer, true, and she had seen many things that did not make her feel mercy for a demon, however she pitied this girl with all her heart, and had an intervention not meant giving up her hiding, she would have been happy to teach Spike manners. But, as things were, she didn’t dare move.
Spike washed his gloved hands with the content of the little vile.
The vampire girl he had called Sunday began to whimper.
Then he approached her and touched her skin.
Sunday’s skin seemed to burn from the inside, she screamed so loud Buffy thought her heart would break. Holy Water. As if abusing her was not enough, he was torturing the other vampire with Holy Water.
Buffy had seen enough. Disgusted, she turned away and fled from the cellar, not stopping her run until she had reached the corridor in which Willow had left her.
She struggled for her self-control not to vomit. You could say a lot against Spike, but that bastard was not the man she had appreciated for so many years. And the poor little girl was by no means a threatening child of the night, she was a prisoner of a sadist, and what was worse, a sadist who was fucking her own sister.
She had to find out what was going on here. Like a guidance in dark night, her eyes fell on a sign: “TO LIBRARY.”
The library! She felt relief there was something like a library here, books to research, and, even better, for sure a Wesley she could ask, someone who would help her and let her call David.
She resumed her running and pushed the door open.
“What the hell…?” The man in the library was not to be seen. He stood behind a huge bookshelf, the spaces between the books showing his eyes.
Buffy calmed down as she caught his gaze. Rupert Giles.
“Can’t I be undisturbed for five minutes?” He finally recognized her. “Buffy!” he rejoiced, “So Willow’s been lucky! We can use any help we can get.”
“Giles,” she exclaimed, “Thank God you’re here! Something’s going on here, people behave strangely, and…”
“Slowly, slowly,” he said, “I was just preparing a few things for a little ritual, detecting some vampires. Sit down, I’ll be with you in a minute.”
Buffy let her body fall into a soft armchair. Everything was safe now. Spike and Dawn had obviously lost her mind, but Giles seemed as reasonable as Willow, so they would deal with whatever problem there was.
“Can I offer you anything?” Giles asked from behind his books.
“A cup of tea, if you don’t mind,” Buffy said.
Giles paused. “Oh. I’m afraid I don’t have any tea.”
Buffy frowned. “I did not think I’d ever see the day you wouldn’t have any tea, Giles.”
Giles stepped out from behind the bookshelf. He was dressed in a crude leather jacket with blue jeans, a gun hanging from his waist. “If you’d like a bourbon, or… and, by the way, I can’t remember who last called me Giles. Sounds like my great-grandfather. You know I prefer Ripper.”