DISCLAIMER: Everything but the plot is Joss'. Well, the baddies are mine. OK, Cortina’s mine, too. But everything else really is his. Too bad.
SUMMARY: Buffy has confessed to Spike that she loves him, and Cortina has told Giles her interpretation of the prophecy.

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Chapter 28: After

He didn’t mean to break the embrace. There so many incentives to stay in it---her breath, softly fanning down his neck as her pulse returned to normal; the curve of her breast as it pressed into his side, the bud of her nipple still hard, still tantalizing; the delicate combination of vanilla and musk wafting to his nostrils. But…her words…she hadn’t…

Spike pulled away, propping himself up on his elbow, heavy brows knitted together in a frown as he gazed down at her. “What did you just say?” he asked.

Buffy’s bottom lip jutted out. “You moved,” she pouted, then realized he’d spoken. “What?”

Her golden hair was splayed across the blankets, a silken tangle that invited, even begged, to be stroked, and the vampire’s long hand reached out, fingertips dancing across her forehead as he brushed away an errant tress. Was it the passion of the moment? Did she even realize what she’d uttered? As often as he’d dreamed it, as desperate as he was to hear it, Spike held no false hopes that the Slayer would, or even could, offer any more than the pleasure of her body, a few stolen moments where she treated him like a friend, like an equal. Even so…she was here; she’d deliberately chosen to board the plane, in spite of outside protestations. Though he’d been too far away to actually hear them, he had witnessed her argument with her Watcher when he’d tried stopping her outside the stable. How had she explained it? “What did you say…to Rupert?” he amended. “Back on the ground. Wouldn’t say he looked exactly thrilled from where I was hanging.”

“Oh, that.” She began fiddling with the loose threads on her blouse, pulling the ones out from around the buttonholes. “I just told him the truth, although I think Giles might’ve been happier this time if I’d actually lied. He was definitely bordering on a full-blown wiggins attack.” Her eyes darted back and forth between their semi-clad bodies. “How come I always seem to lose my pants and you don’t?” the young woman demanded, the tease in her voice lightening its tone.

Slowly, the blond vampire lowered himself back down. So much for confirmation, he thought. Any more questions and I’m goin’ to look like a pathetic wanker. I’ll just assume I didn’t hear it and let it go as an afterglow Slayer thing.

As soon as he’d resumed his prone position, Buffy snuggled up against him, her knee bending, draping her leg over his own. She began tracing abstract designs along his abdomen, nails grazing the flesh ever so slightly, sending shocks of electricity straight to his groin. “As much as I’d rather be playing,” she said, “we need to work on a plan. Something that hurts Daymon in a really huge way, I think. The guy just pisses me off.”

“I must’ve done somethin’ wrong then,” Spike murmured, lost in the sunlight of her hair.

“Why do you say that?”

“’Cause you can still think straight,” he replied.

The Slayer chuckled. “I just said we should. I never said I could.”

“Just point me at somethin’ I can kill,” the vampire declared.

Twisting her body around, Buffy turned her hazel gaze to meet his. “You miss it, don’t you?” Her voice was low, without inflection, and though she didn’t elaborate, they both knew what she was referring to.

It had been some time since Spike had actively considered his pre-chip existence. Ever since he’d realized his feelings for the Slayer, such dwelling had been replaced by an all-consuming focus on the young woman. Now, though, at her prompting, the memories trickled back, and his eyes clouded, averting from hers. “It was easier,” he intoned. “Everything made sense. I knew where I stood, what my place was, where I was goin’. Then someone comes along and decides to change all the rules. Doesn’t give me a choice in the matter, says it’s this way or the highway. So you adjust, learn how to survive all over again. And it’s still you, but it’s not, ‘cause your purpose is different now, and you’re not one hundred percent sure where you fit in anymore.” He broke off, unable to keep the hitch out of his voice, rubbing tiredly at his eyes. God, what he wouldn’t do for a cigarette right now.

She was still watching him when his hands moved from his face. Normally, the blond vamp had no problems reading her; Buffy wore her thoughts like a fashion accessory. Now, though, those classical features were inscrutable. “Where do you want to fit?” she queried.

His lips twisted in a bitter semblance of a smile. “If I knew the answer to that, luv, would I be wastin’ my time waxing all philosophical?” He sobered. “So the answer to your first question would be yes. And no.”

“…No?”

“If I didn’t have this bleedin’ chip in my head, I wouldn’t have here…I wouldn’t have now.” He reached up and cupped her cheek, his thumb stroking the curve of her lower lip. “I wouldn’t have you.” Here it was; this was her chance to run. Spike knew vocalizing his claim to her was the surefire way to set the Slayer off, send her bolting as far from him as possible in order to not have to face her own feelings.

But she didn’t move. Instead, she leaned her head into his caress, her eyes closing in what appeared to him, strangely enough, as satisfaction. “Sometimes,” she murmured, “I miss it too.”

Spike pulled his hand away and sat up in mock-surprise. “You’re not wishing for days gone by just ‘cause I was stake bait, are you?”

She rolled her eyes. “Please. Unchipped Spike means Psycho Dru, means big pain in my ass. So no. No missage from me.” Buffy scooted herself up so that the pair were side by side. “What I meant was, sometimes I miss when I wasn’t the Slayer.”

He snorted. “Really?” he asked unbelieving. “You miss being weak, and vulnerable, and not being able to boss around your friends because you’re the Chosen One?”

“No, I miss not having to save the world every night, and having blood-free clothing, and thinking the hardest thing I’d ever have to decide is what to wear to school the next day.” She punched him in the arm. “And I don’t boss around my friends.”

“Look,” Spike said, suddenly serious. “About what I said earlier. Don’t be fussed about tellin’ the whelp about me. We’ll get this Daymon mess sorted, and then when we’re back in Sunnydale, you just do what’s goin’ to make you comfortable, OK?”

She looked at him wide-eyed. “Since when did you turn into Mr. Sensitivity?” Buffy joked. “Don’t tell me this is what you’re like after sex, ‘cause have to admit, it’s a little on the freaky side. Good freaky,” she was quick to reassure, “but still just a little weird.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if you find out a lot of things you never knew before,” the vampire said. “It’s amazin’ what you can learn when you finally open your eyes.”

*************

Celie watched them from the corner of the room, her black eyes hooded, arms folded across her chest. It was just the four young people now; the older man who’d demanded she help them had yet to return. Without his guidance, the quartet seemed at a loss, wandering aimlessly through the stacks, engaging in mindless chatter about nonsense topics. What in the world was a Scooby dance?

“It always comes back to a library,” Xander was saying. “You blow one up, another appears in its place. Kinda like a bad zit.”

“I think it’s cool,” the redheaded witch replied. She kept touching the books, scanning the titles, moving from one row to the next. “Do you have any idea how much knowledge is contained in this one room? I’d imagine there’s stuff in here we couldn’t even begin to conceive about.”

“And that would be our daily affirmation, courtesy of Willow the research queen,” expounded Xander.

“Am I the only one who didn’t know about Spike and Buffy?” This came from the sharp-faced girl who’d barely left the young man’s side since they’d returned. Celie had yet to figure out her role in this odd dynamic. “This is big news. Why wasn’t I told?”

“It kinda snuck up on us, Ahn,” the young man reassured. “Trust me when I say, there is no way something this big could be kept secret for long.”

Celie caught the look the two witches exchanged before disappearing around a corner. They knew, had known for longer than Xander obviously, yet there seemed a sympathy about the knowledge. Did they actually support such a union? Perhaps her earlier doubts about selecting the young man as an ally in finding Spike had been unfounded.

Behind her, the library door opened, and a distracted Giles rushed in, several books tucked under his arm, keeping his head bowed as he scurried to the desk. “Right, now, where were we?” he asked, directing the question to no one in particular. Celie frowned as the four converged on the new arrival. He appeared…different than when they’d parted…more in…disarray. Something had happened; something was wrong.

“How’s Cortina?” asked Willow.

“Cortina? Oh, ummm, recuperating very nicely, thank you. We had an interesting…discussion.” He glanced around, peering over his glasses when he spotted the black witch seated in the corner. “Come here,” the Watcher ordered, the tone of his voice begging no room for disobedience.

Rising to her full height, Celie stiffly crossed the room until she stood before him, cold black eyes level with his blue ones. “I am not accustomed to being treated so rudely,” she stated.

“Then perhaps you should consider not hurting those we care about.” His words were brittle, edged with anger, and she could see him consciously struggling to control his emotions. “Now, about Daymon’s location---.”

“Why should I help you?” she queried.

“Because if you don’t,” the young man interjected, “we may just decide Elvis gets a little midnight snack---.”

“Xander!” Everyone was shocked at the harshness in Giles’ voice, the sparks that flew from his eyes as his head whipped around to glare at the construction worker, and all four younger people visibly shrank away.

For the dark witch, the sudden command he exhibited only seemed to raise her already rising respect for the Chosen One’s mentor. Out loud, she said, “Are you going to kill him?”

“What?” He seemed rattled by her question, frowning behind his glasses.

“Daymon. If your intent is to kill him, then yes, I will do everything I can to help you.”

The Watcher’s eyes narrowed. “You understand there will be no trade this time. You won’t be getting Spike as a reward just for helping us get Buffy back.”

“Do I get to live?”

Her question surprised him, but it was the coldness in her eyes that unnerved him even more. Giles stuttered in reply, “Well, of course---.”

Celie brushed past him, and began leafing through the books on the desk. “Where is your map?” she demanded. Quickly, Willow handed over the folded paper from the duffel, but the dark witch only glanced at it disdainfully before dismissing it. “Your world map,” she elaborated.

The redhead looked to Giles for help. “Bottom shelf in the corner,” he directed, then turned back to their unlikely conspirator. “You seem awfully…eager to help us find your employer.”

“Ex-employer,” she clarified, her face hardening. “It’s really very simple. He betrayed my trust. I do not enjoy being made a fool of. Besides,” she added, taking the book of maps from Willow as the Wicca returned to the desk, “Daymon is a monster. All demons should die.”

She didn’t see the looks passed between the young people as she flipped expertly through the pages, eyes darting and fingers scanning as she found the plane’s destination. “There,” Celie declared, and laying down the book, pointed to the tiny peninsula.

Giles sighed as he stared down at the atlas. “As I feared,” he murmured. “It might as well be the moon.”

“But Greece is good news,” the dark witch argued. At the group’s apparent confusion, she continued. “To fly such a distance requires almost an entire day, and even then, Daymon must finish the journey by boat. Cape Tainaron is far too mountainous for aircraft to land safely.” She looked directly at Willow. “That should allow you plenty of time to teleport everyone you wish.”

The redhead squirmed under the woman’s stare. “Well, thanks for the vote of confidence and all, but…I haven’t exactly got the right mix yet on the whole, you know, teleporting thing.”

“It’s quite simple. I could teach you what you need to know,” Celie offered. “I would do it myself if my powers were still intact.”

“Did you say Cape…Tainaron?” interrupted Giles, his brow wrinkled in concentration.

The dark witch nodded. “Daymon’s home is in the mountains there.”

“Why?” asked Xander. “What’s so special about Cape Ta…what’s it called?”

“Cape Tainaron is the modern name,” the Watcher reiterated. “In ancient Greece, it was called Taenarum.”

Celie looked at the older man with surprise. “You know quite a bit about my homeland,” she said.

“Oh! Oh!” Willow brightened. “Taenarum! I remember that from doing the research on Elvis! Mythology says that there’s a cave there that was used to travel to the Underworld. Hercules used it to kidnap Cerberus, and Orpheus used it to try and get back Eurydice.” She deflated slightly. “But isn’t that just more of the whole myth thing? I mean, there really isn’t a cave, is there?”

They turned expectantly to the dark witch, who regarded them evenly. “Yes, there is. And it’s on the edge of Daymon’s property.”

“That can’t be good,” commented Anya.

“There is no current threat,” Celie assured. “It has been sealed since I was a child.”

“Still, better to be prepared,” Giles said. “Now we just have to figure out how to beat Buffy and Spike there.”

“Can’t Celie do the teleport spell?” Willow asked, but under the older man’s withering gaze, she ducked her eyes. “OK, maybe not.”

“What about the Council?” suggested Tara. “M-m-maybe they can help.”

“There’s no need for that.” The group turned to face an even paler than normal Cortina standing in the doorway. “I can take care of your travel arrangements.”

*************

“Yes, sir, everything will be ready for your arrival.” The stout woman replaced the telephone receiver, sighing heavily. She had been expecting her master’s phone call for several days now; however, with half the staff sent off on holiday on her employer’s previous orders, she was unsure she had the resources necessary to gather everything he’d requested. Much of it was already in place, but he’d included a few surprises in this latest update, additions that would prove unwieldy in acquiring on such short notice. She would get them, of course. To fail Daymon was simply not an option.

The one thing that did surprise her was his announcement that Celandia would not be returning and to clear her room of its belongings. The witch had been a fixture within the household for years and the housekeeper knew for a fact that her master had grown quite dependent on her particular skills. Perhaps he had learned of Celie’s crush, and had dismissed her as a result. That would certainly fuel the staff’s gossip chain for a few days. Although the young woman had been discreet in her affections, most of his employees knew how she idolized Daymon; it was certainly only a matter of time before he discovered it for himself. Most likely, knowledge of such emotions was enough for him to let her go.

She looked over her list again, her lips moving as she re-read the items. Perhaps she’d send Titus and Nico to the city for the cage and the chains. But Thanos was going to need help. The extra work her master had requested be done at the cave would require more than one set of hands. Maybe the gardener and his son…


To be continued in Chapter Twenty-Nine: Soul and Spirit