therapeutic thump

i like your moxie, sassafras!


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long Buffy fic: "Two-Part Invention" (part 1)
the arch of the eyebrows gives it away
innie_darling
Summary: What happens when Buffy's dreams contradict a prophecy?
Story Notes: Sort of season 5, but I'm seriously messing with the timeline here. The whole Riley surgery thing never happened – and he's still a commando. Professor Walsh was killed under mysterious circumstances and the Initiative's numbers greatly reduced, but Adam never happened (and the First Slayer spell didn't either, but if it did it would require more than a gourd). Oz's return never happened. Giles owns the shop. Spike loves Buffy (she doesn't know) and he's told her about killing the two slayers ("Fool For Love") but the last scenes (Dru's revelation, the attempted kiss, the two of them on the porch) have not happened. Dawn has a new crush on Spike ("Crush") and also a lingering one on Xander ("Real Me"). Buffy's with Riley. Joyce is not yet sick, but Buffy's living at home anyway. Harmony's gone for good. Tara's still in the background. Glory/Ben is nowhere around and none of the Key complications have yet arisen. Dracula never showed up in Sunnydale. And the only Angel spoiler is for the episode "I Will Remember You" – otherwise, nothing on Angel ever happened. Oh, and Spike's crypt has a sliding door. Trust me, it'll be clear when you start reading.



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A pair of four-inch stiletto heels encased her small feet. Slender, strong legs balanced perfectly on them, carelessly revealed by the short, emerald-sequined minidress she wore. Long bronze hair hung in provocative disarray down her back. She pivoted, finding him instantly in the crowd by the light glinting off of his glasses - //Giles, get with the program and just get some contacts.// She didn't know the song she was about to sing, and yet she wasn't at all nervous; these people watching her were in for a treat. His mouth never moved, and she couldn't really see his eyes because of the reflection from his glasses, but she knew that somehow he was giving her the words of the song, saving her from humiliation in this cheap karaoke bar. She opened her mouth to sing, realizing too late that her song was a duet, and she was alone on the stage, swallowed by the hot spotlight, trapped by the cigarette smoke and expectations of the bar's patrons. When the music started, however, a male voice chimed in: "Turn around . . ." He wasn't singing, really; it was more like he was speaking as if he had a melody in mind. It was Spike, perched on a stool that looked like the seat of a poet at a coffeehouse. He was in the shadows, tucked in the corner of the stage. She didn't need to look at him to know that two cigarettes dangled from his lower lip, and that he was waiting for her to sing her line: "Every now and then I get a little bit lonely, and you're never coming round." She gave it all she had.



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She awoke in a panic, feeling not dread but considerable embarrassment. //What a bizarre dream! What was with my tacky, tacky dress? And what's with the big 80's love-theme?// She frowned, remembering that she hadn't been alone, but unable to summon up memories of who else had been there. Suddenly she had an image of Spike smoking two cigarettes and speaksinging around them. //What the hell?// And then she grinned, the grin of an impish girl just out of her teens, the grin of a daughter who'd discovered an episode in her father's past that he'd sooner forget. //Giles knew that song! Ooh, he's got some 'splainin to do!// Predatory smirk still on her face, she snuggled into the blankets on her bed and fell back asleep.

Her dream had left her without any signs of fatigue, and she was bright-eyed ("Turn around, bright eyes" she remembered suddenly) and chipper when she ran into Willow the next morning. She related her dream as if it were the best joke she'd heard in some time. The two girls came giggling into the Magic Box, determined to unearth a little more of Giles's closelyguarded past . . . or at least to discover why he knew the words to "Total Eclipse of the Heart." They entered the store together, the picture of innocence, and effortlessly cornered Giles. The Watcher looked up as they came towards him, enjoying their rare good-humored ease; quite a bit had been thrown at them lately, and he wished he didn't have to be the one to stop their smiles. "Hey, Giles, does the name 'Bonnie Tyler' mean anything to you?" Buffy asked as Willow snorted in laughter next to her.

He frowned, momentarily distracted. "'Bonnie Tyler'? Oh, you - you mean the singer? The one who sang that god-awful song? Something adolescent and pretentious . . . 'You are my eclipse,' or some such nonsense . . ." he broke off as Buffy and Willow exploded into laughter in front of him, clutching each other just to be able to stand. He sighed in good-natured exasperation, waiting for the explanation.

"Are you sure you hated the song, Giles?" queried the witch.

"Yeah, 'cause it seemed like you knew it awfully well," Buffy chimed in, grinning up at her Watcher. She lost her beat when he refused to question her, forcing the information out of her with only a raised eyebrow. "I . . . I had a dream last night that I was, um, at a karaoke bar, and I had to sing that song, and you were my teleprompter, sort of." As he continued to look rather balefully at her, she stumbled a bit more, lamely concluding, "I guess you had to be there."

In response, Giles turned slightly to face Willow, the interrogation clearly not over. "Oh, no, I wasn't there," the redhead faltered, "in, in the dream bar. I wasn't wearing a spangly dress and stiletto heels. It was just you and Buffy and Spike."

"That sounds like a fascinating combination, Buffy, and yet I might have an even more intriguing topic to discuss with you," Giles replied, waiting until Willow had scurried off before leaning into the slayer, murmuring, "at least tell me I wasn't the one in the dress and heels." Buffy shook her head, biting back another smile, and turned her full attention to the man in front of her.

"Buffy, I've had a warning that a bad time for Sunnydale - yes, another one - is coming soon. It was cryptic, to say the least, but it seems to have something to do with the weather. I don't have anything more specific, and I don't know quite how to prepare for some vague meteorological danger, but I think some extra focusing and meditation exercises would not come amiss."

"Giles, I've seen this X-Files episode. The culprit is the geeky weatherman."

"Buffy, do take this seriously. It came from the Council of Watchers."

"But don't they hate us? Maybe they're just yanking your chain."

"No, it seemed to slip out accidentally when I was on the phone with Thomas yesterday. He's never lied to me, and I'd like to think we're still friends despite my . . . rocky relations with his colleagues. Something bad is coming."

"Then let's go train." There was a spring in her step.


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"God, it's muggy!" Buffy snapped, frustrated that she had to keep blinking to keep the sweat out of her eyes as she patrolled the cemetery. //I hope none of these vamps thinks I'm trying to bat my eyelashes at them.// She was alone, something that wasn't quite the norm these days, and she missed being able to banter with an ally as she did her job. But Riley was visiting family over fall break, Xander had yet another night-shift job, and Willow had looked like she was ready to pass out from heat exhaustion before they had gotten very far from Revello Drive. Something flashed in the corner of her eye, and she pirouetted to see three vamps fanning out to catch her from all sides. She smiled her best Mona Lisa smile, inviting them to their doom. She dispatched two of them almost instantaneously, but the third was elusive. He was quick, almost graceful, and she admired the way that he moved, used to seeing only lunging, awkward undead. He spun sharply just as she closed in and she found herself face-to-face with a fourth vampire. She pulled an extra stake out of her waistband, and the fourth foe was dusted with a swift lefthanded blow that caught him just as he raised his arm and ran at her. She was shoved by the graceful vamp, and the stake was knocked out of her right hand as her wrist smacked against a headstone. Lying flat on her back, she raised one foot and caught him in the gut as he charged at her, and his momentum and her strength forced him over her head in a demented parody of the "airplane" games she'd played with Dawn when they were little. As he sailed over her, the stake in her left hand caught his heart. But before he turned to dust, her shoe had gotten caught in his belt buckle, and her leg, pulled too far from its normal course, snapped just below the knee. It fell stiffly in front of her, the end of the bone straining to break through her skin, and her back arched for a moment as the pain hit her. It didn't last long; she passed out almost immediately.


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Spike could smell sweat and vamp dust in the air as he strolled through the graveyard, and he headed toward the mingled aromas, knowing he would find the slayer there. He was surprisingly content for someone that had been forced by a dream - a very good dream - to realize that he was in love with his mortal enemy; he supposed the weather had something to do with his ebullience. It didn't affect him or his kind, but it had sent the rest of the Sunnydale population scrambling for their air conditioners, leaving the streets empty of those against whom he was harmless. He could take on anybody he met on the streets these days, and have a good fight, no chip interference. He finally felt like Big Bad again, and it was a welcome release.

He strode along briskly, leather duster stinging sharply on his jean-clad legs as he moved, and nearly fell over the slayer, lying unconscious next to a headstone engraved with too many words. Bone peeked out of her shin, and she was completely helpless. He sighed, too many thoughts running through his mind to make any sense. //I wonder who did this to her? How come they didn't come back to finish the job? Big Bad saving the Slayer's sorry hide. Damn, if I'm going to save her, couldn't she at least be aware of it? I can't believe how light she is. Doesn't she eat?// He scooped her up and headed for her house.

Joyce met him at the door, standing aside so that he could move past her with his precious burden. Spike marched into the den, heading for the long couch. He was so intent on not jostling her leg unnecessarily that he laid her down awkwardly. Her legs were straight, but she was bent slightly at the waist, her left shoulder edging off the couch, one long curl of her hair touching the carpet. He straightened her out as best he could and turned to face her mother. She pointed with her chin to the kitchen and put the kettle on. He wrapped his hands around a mug of hot chocolate and she seated herself next to him, clutching a glass that was more ice than iced tea.

"I wasn't there," he said, answering her silent question. "I'm thinking she got four or so vamps - there was a lot of dust - and one of them managed to get close enough to hurt her. I don't know how exactly her leg was broken, but with her healing powers, I'm sure she'll be right as rain soon enough."

Joyce sucked on ice chips and watched his face as he talked, noting that he hadn't answered the question she really wanted to ask. So she put it straight to him. "Why did you help her? Your truce is over, isn't it? I know you can't hurt humans because of your chip, but that doesn't mean you have to help, does it? Or is it some sort of Good Samaritan chip?"

"No, that's not it. I . . . I don't know. It just seemed wrong to leave her where any old beastie could get her, no skill necessary. She's known for being the best slayer in memory - and some of us have very long memories. I couldn't just let it end for her because of a bone that'll heal in forty-eight hours. Plus this way I get marshmallows." He grinned cockily but endearingly at her, suddenly not wanting to meet her eyes.

"If you come by again tomorrow night I'll make you another cup of cocoa," she offered out of the blue. "Buffy can be a bit much when she's bed-ridden, and I'd appreciate all the help I can get in keeping her distracted."

"Certainly. I'll be by after sunset. Night, Joyce."


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"Beware of geeks bearing gifts!" Xander proclaimed cheerily as he, Anya, and Willow marched into the air-conditioned Summers den the next evening. He was carrying a videotape, Anya was clutching a finger puppet, squishing it out of shape, and Willow held out towards Buffy a pint of chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream.

"Dawn! Spoon!" Buffy bellowed, awkwardly shifting her legs so that there was a bit more space on the couch. "Thanks, you guys. This is really nice. But I'll be up and about tomorrow probably."

"See, Xander, she doesn't need us. Let's go home and have more sweaty sex. This is your only night off," Anya jumped in.

Willow rolled her eyes at Buffy, who merely shrugged and whispered, "Even this is better than the Bonnie Tyler replay that's going on in my head." Willow's eyes gleamed conspiratorially and she went to the kitchen to dig out a spoon for Buffy.

Clutching it, she went to the foot of the stairs and called out, "Dawn? Do you want to come watch a movie with us?"

"What movie?" Dawn shouted back.

"I don't know, but Xander picked it out, so . . ." Willow was cut off by the pounding of eager feet on the steps. Dawn appeared just as her mother pushed open the front door.

"Hi sweetie. Look who I brought home for some hot chocolate and to keep Buffy busy so she won't drive us crazy."

Spike's sleek head appeared over Joyce's shoulder and he grinned at Dawn and Willow. "Oi, Platelet, how's school? Any teachers I need to eat?"

"As if you could."

"Hey! I was bein' nice, not even mentioning what the humidity's doing to that nice smooth hair of yours." Dawn stamped off towards the den, leaving the other three to follow.

Willow held the spoon out to Buffy. The tip of the slayer's nose was dark brown; apparently she'd been licking the inside of the carton's lid, too impatient to wait for a proper utensil.

"You're looking lovelier than ever, Slayer," Spike said sardonically, and Buffy's eyes widened at the sight of him standing next to her mother as if he were family.

Xander jumped up to protest Spike's presence, but Joyce stopped him with a look, and calmly asked, "So that's six of us for dinner, plus Spike? How does pizza sound? Xander, why don't you put your movie in? I'll phone in the order."

"What did you get, Xander?" Buffy asked, trying to alleviate the tension in the room. Willow seemed okay with Spike's presence, Anya seemed indifferent, and Dawn seemed almost . . . excited by it. It was only Xander who seemed to have Spike stuck in his craw. He cleared his throat, gamely ignoring the vampire.

"I got Little Shop of Horrors. I thought it would be fun to sing along, and you know, be twelve again."

"Really? Does this movie somehow make one seem younger than one really is? Is there a youth-granting demon released by the movie?" Anya wanted to know.

Buffy ignored the questions and simply said, "I've never seen it. It sounds like fun. Pop it in."

//Who knew that Spike could sing?// Buffy thought. He'd been silent early on, clearly unsure of how much of a friend he was supposed to be; watching Xander and Willow enthusiastically sing the parts of Seymour and Audrey, he'd relaxed, realizing that they didn't care that he was part of the audience. His eyes widened a bit when Willow let out a perfect Audrey squeak, right on cue. The witch flashed a grin at him as he remarked, "Nice stuff, Red. I always thought that squeak was added in later." So he was loose and nearly carefree when Audrey II finally began to speak, and he jumped right in. He got an extra kick out of sliding his eyes Xander's way as he recited the plant's lines: "Must be bloooood. Must be freeeeeesh." But he didn't really want to spoil the mood, and he'd noticed the protective frowns the Niblet had been shooting his way, so he gave up on oblique threats and simply sang along.

Buffy was taken aback, noting that his voice, while clearly untrained, was clear and strong, with just a bit of rough smoker's edge to it. //So he can sing - why didn't he in my dream?// She told herself to just let it go, and sank back among the cushions and listened to her friends sing merrily along. Spike was especially good at "Mean Green Mother from Outer Space."


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They were all a bit surprised when Spike got up abruptly just before the final confrontation between Seymour and Audrey II. "Spike? Is something wrong?" Willow asked.

He grinned at her, "Nah, Red, I just don't like this ending. The original's better. And it's time for a smoke anyway." He walked out to the porch, fished around in his pockets, and sat down, inhaling the hot smoke. His mind wouldn't let go of the songs, and as he hummed them to himself he remembered Buffy's surprised smile. And thinking of her smile made him remember that dream he'd had, the one where they whispered words of love and desire to each other. His grin faded, leaving him alone with his lonely thoughts. He was saved from total depression by the arrival of the delivery boy.

He beckoned the boy to follow him and led the way into the Summers kitchen. He stopped abruptly, blocking the pizza boy's view and path when he saw Joyce sitting at the kitchen table with her head in her hands. "Joyce? Buffy being that much of a pain?" he awkwardly halfjoked, noting even as he spoke the fine lines of strain at the corners of her eyes, the way she held herself stiffly, as if she were bracing against something.

"No, I'm fine. . . . Just an on-again, off-again headache," she tried to reassure him, surprised by the concern he clearly felt.

"Ma'am, that's twenty-five ninety-nine," the delivery boy impatiently broke in.

Joyce nodded weakly and handed him three ten-dollar bills from her worn leather purse. Spike inched closer to her, stopping only when he was close enough to murmur. "Can I get you anything? Water? Those little pills?"

She smiled faintly and said "Water. Buffy knows where the aspirin is."

He nodded, closed the door behind the delivery boy, and then strode into the den, saying firmly, "Slayer. Get off your behind and show me where the aspirin is kept."

She looked up at him, not catching the emotions running under his words, and smiled haughtily at him, "Why? Is the chip giving Spikey a boo-boo? Anyway, hello, my leg is broken."

"I'll bet you can stand on it by now. Now move, and get the pills! Your mum's not feelin' so hot."

She hobbled off the couch, testing her injured leg, smiling slightly when it held underneath her, and led the way up the stairs to the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. She was disconcerted when he followed closely behind her, hesitantly helping her climb; it was even stranger when she realized she was alone in all of the mirrors, surrounded only by tile and chrome. She rummaged quickly, and he snatched the bottle out of her hand as soon as she held it out. "Calm down, Spike," she said. "It's just a headache, isn't it? She'll be fine in a few hours." He didn't bother to answer as he disappeared, and she was left to make her own way downstairs, no strong arm around her for support.


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Dawn sat on her bed, diary on her lap. Her favorite pen was in her right hand, and she flicked the feather that crowned it back and forth over her cheek while she considered her next words. //Spike is so cool. He can't do anything to any of us, but he still seems to mean all of his threats. How does he have so much self-confidence? And how does he dye his hair that wicked color if he can't even see himself in a mirror? I wonder what Xander would look like with bleached hair . . . no, that would just be weird and wrong. And sad. But maybe it would be enough to make Anya stay away from him. What was up with that finger puppet she brought? It just hung on her finger like a blob. She doesn't even know how to have fun. I bet she thought playing with it would make her break a nail. I wonder how Spike gets his nail polish so neat. Is he still dating that stupid ho who pulled Xander's hair? What is up with guys and not-so-hot blondes?// She snorted, dismissing Anya and Harmony with a toss of her long dark hair. She started to get up off the bed, then remembered that she couldn't play music or watch any more TV because of her mother's headache. She lay on her stomach and turned to a blank page. Frowning in concentration, she began to write a poem about the two men who'd been in her den that evening. //They just can't stay away from me// she thought, wishing it were true.



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Spike stalked back to his crypt, his strides lengthening with each step he took. The sting of the duster on his legs was oddly satisfying. Joyce's headache had unnerved him, shattering the ease that had been blossoming inside of him as he sang along with a silly movie. //Calm down, mate. It's nothing to do with you. Medicine's advanced quite a bit since your day. She'll be fine.// No matter how many rational, soothing words he offered himself, he couldn't forget the sight of Joyce's face or the too-familiar mask of pain that covered it, just as it had his own mother, over a hundred years before.

At the door of his crypt he paused and walked over to his car, opening the trunk and pulling out two heavy packages. Once inside his lair, he unplugged the television and hooked up the record player. He lifted the needle, but his hands were still trembling slightly from worry. At least they'd been steady enough when he'd opened the aspirin bottle and shaken out two dark pink pills onto his palm. He made an effort to control himself, and finally placed the needle carefully in the first groove. The soothing strains of Bach's French Suites filled the crypt as he pushed aside the soft, warm blankets, lay down on the cold stone bed, and closed his eyes.



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"Buffy! Get up, sweetie!"

Buffy blinked herself awake, and rolled across her big bed to check her clock. "I'm up, Mom," she called, breathing in the smell of apple pancakes. "I'll be down in a minute." She brushed her teeth and pulled her flannel pajama top on, covering the tank she had slept in. She skipped down the stairs and slid in her stocking feet into the kitchen, coming up behind her mother who was facing the stove.

"You're all better!" they said simultaneously with relieved smiles.

"No more headache?" Buffy pursued, and her mom smiled and said, "No, thanks to Spike. He's been quite the little do-gooder, hasn't he? Carrying you home, making sure I got some medicine. All for the promise of cocoa."

"He carried me home?"

"Yes. Don't you remember? No, wait, you were still unconscious when he left." Joyce smiled, remembering how gingerly he'd placed Buffy on the couch, not noticing that her daughter was frowning in confusion. "Ready for pancakes? Go wake up Dawn and we'll have a real family breakfast."

"Sure, Mom," she said absently, suddenly remembering that she'd had a dream that a little baby Audrey II was growing in her yard - and smoking two cigarettes.



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The minute she stepped outside, she groaned in frustration and went back inside to change. The mugginess hadn't abated, but the air-conditioning had fooled her into thinking that it had. She stripped off her leather pants and long-sleeved shirt and changed into a sage green tank and dark grey jeans. She stepped back outside and looked up at the sky, noting the heavy cover of clouds blanketed across the sky. //I sure hope Riley's having better weather in Bumblefuck, Iowa// she thought with surprisingly bitter loneliness. //He's only been gone for four days - what is my problem? And he deserves to have a break.// But not even having Riley at her side would make her current task - thanking Spike - any easier.

She walked toward the crypt, knowing he'd have to be there, as it was daytime. She got the feeling that he didn't sleep all that much, and there was a chance she could catch him and thank him quickly. She pushed the door open, coming upon the wholly unexpected sight of Spike doing some housecleaning while a Partridge Family song played on a record player she'd never seen before. He was singing along, "I'm sleeping, and right in the middle of a good dream, and all at once I wake up from something that keeps knocking at my brain; before I go insane I hold my pillow to my head and spring up in my bed, screaming out the words I dread: I think I love you." She started to laugh, but he didn't hear her over the song and the sounds of furniture being moved. He went on, "Believe me, you really don't have to worry, I only want to make you happy, and if you say 'Hey, go away,' I will, but I think better still I'd better stay around and love you - do you think I have a case? Let me ask you to your face: do you think you love me?" He turned just as he sang the last few lines, catching sight of her at last. She expected that he'd be embarrassed, and then overly sarcastic to cover for it, but he merely grinned cheekily at her and took a bow. She had to applaud, and he said, "Tickets are still available. Call TicketMaster now!"

Buffy laughed, then sobered as she said, "Well, I really only came by to say thanks. You know, for helping, and especially for helping my mom."

All the mirth left his face in an instant as if it had been wiped clean away. "She's alright then, your mum? No more pain?"

"Yeah, she's fine. I think it's just stress - you know, her job, raising two kids on her own, all that kind of stuff."

"Good to hear. She's a nice lady. I've never felt even the smallest desire to eat her."

"Yeah, you're a prince, Spike," she replied, rolling her eyes.

"Does that translate into 'thank you' in Buffy-talk?" he responded, equally snarky.

"No - but that's what I meant. Thank you, Spike," she said firmly, looking into his eyes. He dropped his own in some confusion, and glanced back at her as the emotion in the air lightened. "So, what's with the Partridge Family record? Don't tell me you're a fan. That's worse than Giles music."

"Nah, it was Dru," he said, leaning back against the tomb with a fond smile that was echoed by his eyes. "She thought it would be funny to make David Cassidy into a minion and have him turn all the girls who were screaming for him. She said it was the quickest way to raise an army of the undead."

"So what happened?"

He started at her question, clearly lost in memories. "Nothin', of course. She never followed through with any of her grand schemes. They came to her, but she wasn't really interested in world domination. All she wanted was someone to be with."

//That's all I want too// Buffy thought, tears unexpectedly springing to her eyes. //Great - I'm just like the evil loony toon.//

She had to get out of there. "Thanks again, Spike. I'll see you around." She pushed out of the crypt as abruptly as she'd entered. //What is wrong with me? I've got someone to be with. Riley. He said he loves me - loves all of me, Slayer and Buffy. Why didn't I say it back?// She was back in the humid air, threading a path through the graves toward the Magic Box, when a vampire surprised her from behind. //What the hell! It's daytime!// Buffy staked the vamp quickly, seeing long red hair and a party dress swirl into dust, before she let herself deal with the implications of the attack. //If the sun isn't shining, they can come out and play, no matter what time it is.// She began hoping even more fervently for rain, both to cool the air down and to get rid of the thick, static clouds hovering in the sky. She made it to Giles's shop without further incident.

Buffy breezed into the store and let her back rest against the door for a moment as she got used to the beauty of the air-conditioning. She made her way to the back of the shop, unaware that she still held a stake until she saw Giles looking at it as she approached. "Giles, did you know that as long as it's not sunny, vamps can be out during the day? It was sort of a nasty surprise for me, but I figured it out pretty quickly. I think I deserve an A."

"I wonder if this is the weather problem that Thomas mentioned," he thought out loud. "I thought it was the heat - potentially enervating and all that - but it seemed to make Sunnydale safer, since everyone was indoors and not really issuing vampire invitations. But this blocking of the sun . . . that could be a huge problem. That would mean you'd have to be on patrol twentyfour hours a day."

She didn't want to think about what he was saying, so she tried to joke with him. "Giles, I've seen this Simpsons episode. The culprit is Mr. Burns."

He whipped off his glasses, ready to go into lecture mode when he stopped and read her face. She knew, none better, what vamps on the loose meant, and she wasn't going to let that happen. "I think we'll probably have a brief respite," he said finally. "After all, most vampires won't come out during the day simply because they're used to sleeping then. And they can't be certain that the sun won't come peeking through. If this weather persists, however, and they become aware of it, they'll most likely throw caution to the wind and come out in full force. We must be ready. We'll train now, and afterwards I'll call the Council and see if they're willing to extend any help. I doubt it, but the effort must be made. And Buffy . . . I think you should take Xander and Willow and the others with you on patrol, make sure they're on their toes. If the weather doesn't change, we'll need them to patrol while you sleep." She nodded grimly and moved into the back room.



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She walked back to the house, keeping her eyes peeled for unseasonably active vamps, but saw none. She was sweating more from the trip home than from her long workout; all she wanted was to peel off her sports bra and bicycle shorts and take a long cold shower. She headed upstairs and paused, thinking she heard crying. She saw her mother lying on her bed, sniffling quietly as tears ran unchecked down her cheeks. "Mom? What's wrong? Where's Dawn?"

"I sent her over to Wendy's house when I felt another headache starting. But I'm fine now."

"No, you're not. I've never seen you cry. Come on, we're taking you to the hospital."

"Are you going to call Rupert?"

"No, I can't," Buffy said in dismay, remembering that Giles had been heading out of town, hoping to find some more exotic merchandise for his shelves.

"It's okay, honey. I don't need a hospital. All they'll say is get plenty of rest, don't let your stress build, all that kind of stuff. Just get me some aspirin and I'll take a nap."

"Wait - Spike! He has a car. And I'm sure he'll do it. He said he likes you." Buffy waited for her mom to agree, but Joyce had her sheets in a white-knuckled grip and was gasping in pain. Buffy took off for the crypt at a run.

She broke into the crypt just as Spike was sitting down to watch Passions. "Spike! I need your help - with my mom. She's sick again, and could you drive us to the hospital? I don't know how to drive, and Giles is away, and Xander . . ." she burst out, babbling madly in her panic.

"Shh, pet, of course I'll give your mum a lift. Is she really that bad?" he frowned, something uncomfortable happening in the pit of his stomach, a kind of fear he hadn't felt in a long time.

"Yeah, she's even crying with it . . ." she replied shakily, pushing panic aside as she saw him pull on his coat and pat the pocket for his car keys. His face darkened, and he led the way to his car.

Continue: Part 2/15
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