Chapter Notes:

This is going to seem like filler - but I promise it's amusing filler, and things are mentioned that are important (or at least referenced) later. Also, Spuffy . . . which is all that really matters. Enjoy.

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CH 17

Bloody poetry in motion, she was. Most beautiful, bright thing his old eyes had ever seen and he had the privilege of seeing her every night on patrol. And he didn't even have to hide it anymore.

"Hello?"

A Buffy shaped hand waved in front of his face and Spike caught it reflexively, wondering when his mind had wandered off. He looked at her in question, not sure how much he'd missed.

"You're doing the creepy stare thing again and it's creepy."

Creepy was he? The rising flush in her cheeks said otherwise. He was tempted to push her, to tease, but he was more than half afraid she would bolt if he did. She'd only promised to give him a chance a few days ago, best not to make her regret the decision so soon.

"Vampire," he drawled with a shrug.

Buffy rolled her eyes, which was far too adorable for her own good. Spike shoved his hands in his duster pockets. No innuendo, no touching. But, God, it was hard. Especially seein' as they spent hours together every night trolling mostly dead cemeteries, pun only partly intended.

As if she'd read his mind Buffy said, "It's been so dead. And not in the fun way."

"There's a fun way now, is there?"

She settled on to the headstone beside him and gave him a half-hearted sideways little glare. "You know what I mean."

"I do," he agreed pleasantly, "but I have the distinct recollection of a certain slayer telling me there was no fun way once or twice."

"Recollection," she snorted. "You're such a nerd. Big Bad my ass."

"Oi! Take that back." His irritation was mostly feigned. She was happy. With him. He'd never thought he would see that day and he was still basking. "Nothing nerdy about having a thorough grasp of my native tongue. Ought to after more than twelve decades."

"Whatever. I just meant that's the first thing we've slayed since those gambling demons Monday. And he was just a fledge. Things always slow down when an apocalypse is brewing, but this is ridiculous."

She had a point. Even Willie wasn't getting much business these days and Spike's semi-regular poker table was getting empty. Been weeks since he'd even sensed a group of any significant size, save the gamblers she'd just reference. The demon community had been lying low since Glory, but now they seemed to be gone.

"Does seem the majority of demon kind is on vacation of late," he agreed.

"Why is that not reassuring?"

He had to agree. Something big must be going down for demons to abandon the hellmouth. And he had a sneaking suspicion he knew what it was.

"Can bring it up at the Scooby meeting tonight," he suggested. The others were all at the Magic Box now, pouring over the nerd-trio's facts and figures. Buffy and he were supposed to meet up with them after a quick patrol. From the general emptiness of Sunnydale's graveyards it looked as though it was going to be quicker than any of them had thought. He pushed off the gravestone at his back and fished out a fag. "Warehouse district?" he asked.

Buffy pushed to her feet as well and nodded. "May as well. I really don't feel like looking at little graphs tonight."

Spike chuckled. Among the pieces of equipment Gepetto had "borrowed" from one or another of the colleges in town there was something like a seismograph, but it measured particle saturation of some kind. Buffy hated the scribbled print outs, claiming they looked like a five year old had been set loose on them.

"Stalling, are you, Luv?" he teased.

"God, yes," she agreed with an emphatic nod.

Spike chuckled and almost threw his arm around her shoulder, but then he remembered that he wasn't pushing her and he let the arm fall to his side. Buffy gave him a knowing look, but didn't say anything. He wasn't sure yet what that meant. Buffy had never been shy about telling him exactly what she thought before, even when she was lying. It didn't always make much sense, wasn't always what she meant to say, but he'd gotten pretty good over the years at reading between the lines. Was a little harder when there weren't any lines. Especially since she was showing him a whole new side of herself. He didn't quite know what to do with a Buffy who wasn't a self-righteous bitch, but he was enjoying getting to know her.

Might even have been worth the distance between them these last few weeks if it meant she'd sorted her own head about them.

The warehouse district was deader than the cemeteries. Not even an empty nest to be found. Occasionally the air would flicker in that telltale way that let them know a time bubble was about to manifest, but they never stayed to watch the show. Frankly, as they'd made no progress on determining if and how these anomalies were linked to their thoughts, he didn't much want to risk sharing a glimpse of an alternate timeline with Buffy beside him. There were things he was certain Buffy was not ready to deal with.

"Think we've run out of dilapidated buildings, pet," he observed as they reached the end of Juniper street.

"Dang it. It's only a little after nine. How did we get through all the cemeteries and the warehouse district in under an hour?"

"Hazards of superhuman speed."

She pouted and he contemplated telling her what that made him want to do to her –as a friendly warning– before he decided it was definitely too early in this new understanding they had for that.

She sighed. "Let's go. The sooner we start looking at nerd math the sooner I can get home to ice cream and about twenty thousand milligrams of aspirin."

"Could take the aspirin now," he suggested. "Preemptive strike."

Buffy gasped at him. "Are you kidding? Then what excuse would I use to beg off early?"

"No one would know. I'm not gonna tell them."

"Lie? Because we're both so good at that." She shook her head. "No thanks, I think I'll stick with—Anything?"

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Buffy reviewed that last sentence in her head. "I'll stick with anything"? That didn't make any sense, even considering her admittedly poor communication skills. Spike looked at her in curiosity, but she couldn't say anything. Literally couldn't. It was as if she was waiting for the next line in a play, and, though she didn't know what it was, she knew it wasn't hers. All she knew for certain was that the street around them had changed, which meant whatever was happening they'd both been caught up in it.

Memory kicked in about the same time as Spike replied. Only they weren't her memories. Or not her current memories.

Crap. The last person she wanted to experience a time possession with was Spike. Especially since her newly acquired memories seemed to be suppressing something significant and possibly groiny. She wished alternate-whatever Buffy wasn't trying so hard not to think about Spike. She'd like to know what she was dealing with here.

"Not yet," Spike said, answering her question. "I might pick up on it if you stop asking me about every two seconds." He looked both irritated and oddly indulgent and she really wished she could force body-share Buffy to share what that was all about. She knew, Buffy could feel it, and it was firmly shoved into a neat little box labeled "denial."

"Spike, if you're dragging this out . . ." body-share Buffy said warningly. Real Buffy got a brief glimpse of naked ivory flesh in her alternate's memory before the memory was shoved away. Oh, God. She was really hoping this didn't turn into a sex thing.

Fortunately, Spike didn't look like he was thinking about sex. He rolled his eyes and came to an abrupt stop. Her body walked another few steps before turning around to face him.

"What, so I can linger near your precious self?" he said. "Get a grip."

"Like you've never drawn things out before." There was another flash of memory. An alley, a flask, the two of them in Spike's dirty old muscle car and then a nest in an old warehouse and a feeling of horror as Spike held the door for her.

Spike accepted this statement without argument. "Maybe, but we've been through this, haven't we? Things have changed."

Like the floodgates had opened, alternate-Buffy lost hold on the lid of the memory box and images came pouring into Buffy's mind. She kinda of regretted wishing for it as image after image of tangled, naked flesh assaulted her, accompanied by echoes of incredible pleasure, and a searing sense of shame that was quickly being eclipsed by a sensual sort of hunger. Mercifully, the picture show in her mind and all its accompanying torrent of emotions stopped after only a few seconds.

"Speaking of change," Spike said dryly.

Buffy followed his gaze to their surroundings and realized they were right back where they started.

Oh, thank God. Whatever that conversation was about, it wasn't heading anywhere good. At least there hadn't been any actual sex. She didn't know how she would have faced Spike if that possession had ended with them doing the horizontal tango. And it could have, if it had gone on just a minute or two longer. Other-her was definitely thinking about it. Those repressed memories of naked-goodness? They'd felt very recent. Like, maybe only hours old recent. It was all that Buffy had been able to do not to think about it constantly. And clearly she'd expected Spike to bring it up.

Buffy blanched as she realized the full implication of that thought. Alternate Buffy and alternate Spike had had sex. Recently. Good sex. And if Buffy could remember it Spike probably did too.

Oh God! Had he been having sex visions about them too? But he hadn't said anything. He would have said something, right? It wasn't like Spike was especially modest. Hell, she was pretty sure that word wasn't even in his admittedly large vocabulary.

Her gaze slid toward him almost involuntarily, and once it found him she dragged her eyes across his features, desperately looking for some sign of what he was thinking. He wasn't leering, which was a good sign. Actually, he looked kinda focused, but also distant.

"Spike?"

"That was a possession," he said.

"Uh, yeah."

His eyes focused on her with sudden intensity. "It was a possession. But there were two of us."

"Okay."

"'S not happened before, has it?"

She frowned. She had to admit she didn't always give Scooby meetings her full attention, but she did try to keep on top of new revelations. She couldn't recall anyone mentioning a joint possession before. "I guess not. Does that mean something?"

"It might."

Damn it. Everything was always might. She was ready for some definites. "Patrol over?" She fought rising disappointment. Not only had she been hoping to avoid research for an hour or so longer, but she and Spike hadn't sparred in weeks. She missed it.

"'Pears so," he said.

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Buffy looked disappointed and despite the fact that he knew it was mostly about impending research, it still left him feeling a little warm inside. Mostly about research left room for partly about other things – other things that might include no longer being alone with him. Experimentally he let his duster brush against her as they made their way through town toward the Magic Box. Buffy shivered, which was a good sign, but then she took a step away, which was not.

He frowned and took a surreptitious sniff.

She smelled a touch nervous, which didn't sit well with him, but beneath that there was something else. She smelled aroused. And not my-hot-vampire-demon-killing-partner-I'm-givin-a-chance-brushed-against-me aroused. This was I've-definitely-been-thinking-about-sex-in-the-last-five-minutes aroused.

His first instinct was to tease her. But she was clearly uncomfortable and if he did she'd likely withdraw again. They'd made progress these last few nights and he didn't want to lose that.

Besides, no guarantee it was this Buffy that was all hot and bothered. Whenever or wherever that possession scene had come from, their alternates, the both of them, had been aching for it. Had it recently, too, from what he'd seen of alternate-Spike's memories.

She'd picked up the pace while he'd been lost in thought and he took the opportunity to adjust himself discreetly before he caught up to her.

"What's this then?" he asked, because even if he couldn't tease her about wanting him, a bit of snark was undoubtedly the best way to set his girl to rights again. "Never seen you so eager for research."

"Maybe I'm just eager to get away from you," she snapped.

He waited, suppressing a chuckle, and a moment later she stopped and whirled to face him, just as he'd expected.

"God. I'm sorry. I didn't mean that."

An apology. From the Slayer. And a sincere one at that. Spike took a moment to relish that.

And then, because he wanted to make sure she was well and truly not thinking about that possession experience anymore, and also because he was a bit of an arse –demon here after all– he said, "An apology from Buffy Summers? The apocalypse must be nigh. You think the Watcher missed a prophesy?"

Buffy's eyes lit with fire and she tossed her hair over her shoulder as she resumed her earlier stride. "Whatever, I was trying to be nice."

"Is it really nice to patch up a bloke from an injury you delivered?"

He could see her scowl in the sudden tension in her back and he chuckled silently. She smelled like herself again. Clean and bright, like sunlight on water. Whatever lingering memories had plagued her were well and truly forgotten.

He increased his pace and slid up next to her, lips a breath from the delicate shell of her ear.

"Ta, Luv," he murmured. "Means a lot that you did it."

She started, but didn't pull away. "Could a fooled me, jackass," she said, a little sulky.

This time he didn't bother to hide his chuckle. He let his upper body shift back to a more natural position, placing an appropriate distance between them so that he could see her face again. "Demon, pet," he pointed out. "'S in the job description. Can't expect me to give up all my vices. 'Sides, didn't this conversation start with bitchyBuffy rearing her gorgeous head?"

She blushed. "Whatever," she said again. "I said I was sorry."

"An' I appreciate it, pet. Just like to yank your chain. Can't have you getting all complacent on me."

Buffy mock scowled at him and then her expression melted into a mischievous smirk. "I'll show you complacent."

He saw the shift of her hips, but hadn't yet decided what it meant when she turned abruptly and placed both palms against his chest. She gave him a light shove and then took off at a dead run.

"Tag! You're it!" she yelled over her shoulder.

Spike's lips twitched in helpless amusement and he took up chase.

Well that was easier than he'd expected. And a bit of fun besides. His girl never ceased to surprise him.

And that was one of the many, many, reasons he loved her. She was giving him a chance, and he wasn't going to bollox it up.

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Dawn resisted the urge to bang her head against the table as Anya and Willow alternated firing questions at her. She didn't know what they were saying - she'd stop listening about ten rounds or so ago.

They were driving her crazy. Everyone had been surprisingly nonchalant about the Dawn-of-Future thing up until now, but apparently that was only because life trauma had intervened. Now that Buffy was back on patrol the Scoobies seemed to have deemed a sufficient mourning time had passed and it was open season for questions about the future.

"Oo. Which grad school do I go to? Because, you know, I could save a lot of money if I weeded the others out now."

"Sweetie," Tara said, a gentle reprimand.

"What?" Willow asked. "They charge $25 per school, per test, to send out your results. Minimum."

"Never mind your silly school." Anya waved her hand dismissively as she leaned eagerly across the table. "I need to know how much money I make. Oo! And when I retire."

Willow scowled at her. "You do know she's only from, like, two and a half years in the future, right?"

Giles chose the moment to emerge from the nerd-cave with a fresh stack of printouts. Clearly he'd heard at least part of their conversation, because his lips were compressed in a tight line of disapproval. He set the stack in front of Tara and turned all that disapproval straight toward Dawn.

"I do hope you're not indulging them," he said stiffly. "The repercussions of sharing even the most trivial information about the future could have far reaching implications."

Dawn scowled down at the columns of meaningless numbers on the printout she was reviewing. "Gee thanks, Quentin Travers Jr., I'm not stupid," she muttered. It wasn't like she was planning on telling them anyway. She was the one who'd spent the last fourteen months walking the timeline tightrope. She'd only come back in time in the first place because she was desperate. And she hadn't even planned to tell anyone she was from the future. Ever. Even Spike had to force it out of her.

Still, if things didn't start changing soon she might have to bend herself-imposed rules. What did all this mean if the Scoobies still tore themselves apart?

Across the table Anya pouted. "I don't see what the problem is. I just want to know how big a house Xander and I end up with. Ooo, and what car!"

"What's that about cars?" Xander asked as he came in through the back door. "I see nerds are still hard at work doing nothing." He jerked his head back toward the training room from which he'd just come, where Warren, Andrew, and Jonathan were still playing with their "borrowed" machines. "Sorry I'm late. Hazards of being a responsibly employed adult." He held out a familiar pastel box. "I brought donuts."

"Donuts, shmonuts. Giles won't let Dawn tell us anything good," Anya groused. Despite her words she took a donut from the box as Xander passed by. "Does Xander ever stop getting jelly on our merchandise?" she asked.

"Hey!" Xander protested.

Dawn rolled her eyes, but was saved from answering when the bell above the door jangled and a laughing, breathless Buffy burst in.

"I win!" she cheered.

Spike followed a moment behind, grinning in a way that made him look beautiful and slightly boyish. The fact that the front of his hair had come loose of the gel and now curled over his forehead multiplied the impression by a factor of at least ten.

"Only because I let you, Slayer. You're a sore loser, you know."

Buffy laughed. "As if. Admit it, vampire. You're. Too. Slow." She punctuated the last few words with alternating jabs to his chest.

He caught her hand with a playful growl. "Watch it, Slayer. Didn't anyone ever tell you what happens to girls who poke sleeping bears?"

"Oh. Is that your excuse now? You lost because you were sleeping?"

Giles cleared his throat. The Magic Box had fallen eerily silent as the Scoobies all stared at the Slayer and her companion. Dawn suddenly remembered that in this timeline they didn't know. And she'd really like to keep it that way. Clearly there was progress being made here – the last thing Buffy needed was an ill-planned intervention.

"Uh, hey, Giles." Buffy pulled away from Spike awkwardly.

Spike ran his newly empty hand over his hair. It probably looked like a casual gesture to the others, but Dawn could see in his eyes that he was nervous. His eyes darted ever so slightly toward Buffy, though he was careful to keep his head angled straight out into the store.

"Slow patrol," he said, presumably by way of explanation.

Giles arched a brow. "Indeed. I always end slow days with a good laughing sprint down Main Street."

"It wasn't a sprint," Buffy muttered. "And it's great for breath control." Her eyes, eager to avoid her friends and watcher, skittered across the room until they landed on the table. "I see you have more stuff. So, uh, did you guys find anything?"

"Oh, yeah," Xander said with false enthusiasm, reaching down to flip through the loose pages covering the table, "A whole lot of papers with columns of numbers. I'm pretty sure that's only exciting in the Matrix. And only if you can interpret it all." He glared toward the back room.

"That movie was boring," Anya said. "But Keanu Reeve's leather coat was very sexy. Like Spike's."

Spike smirked at Anya and tossed her a mock salute.

"Ahn," Xander scolded. "Can we not group sexy and the evil undead together?"

Anya frowned. "But Spike is highly attractive."

Xander looked like he was about to say something stupid, but fortunately Buffy chose that moment to interrupt. Dawn was getting really tired of the way he continued to belittle his girlfriend, and from the glare Buffy threw his way it seemed she was too. Maybe if they worked on him together they could straighten him out without resorting to further revelations about the future. Or, maybe, if they planted the seed, the visions would do that part for them. Total non-culpability then, right? And Xander would still see how terrible he would become and not become it. Of course, that only worked if Spike was right about their thoughts directing the temporal instances.

"Speaking of the undead." Buffy said. "Spike has another theory."

Everyone turned to look at Spike expectantly and Dawn noted happily that there was a distinct lack of hostility. They were nowhere near ready to accept a Spuffy power coupling, but at least they no longer saw the British vampire as the enemy. Nice to know she'd fixed at least one thing in this timeline.

Spike took up a spot against the shelves, close to Buffy without being obvious that was what he was doing. "Well, wouldn't say it's a theory so much as an observation. Slayer and I had a possession experience tonight. A shared one."

There was a moment of silence as this new development sank in.

"It's getting stronger" Willow said quietly.

Spike nodded. "Seems to be. And there's more. Good portion of Sunnydale's demon population have left town."

"Leaving the Hellmouth?" Anya asked.

"That's bad?" Tara asked, looking from her girlfriend to the others for explanation.

Willow patted her hand. "Hellmouths are like, a Beverly Hills neighborhood to demons," she said.

"Prime real estate for demons." Dawn agreed. "Something big would have to be going down for them to leave. Even during an apocalypse they usually just lay low." She only remembered one other that had even the demons running for the hills.

Damn it. This did not bode well for whatever was going on. Also, Buffy was going to get really grumpy if she ran out of things to hit. And that didn't bode well for her relationship with Spike.

"I presume you've inquired as to the cause of this exodus?" Giles asked.

"We're shaking down Willie's every other night," Buffy said. "No one's talking."

Giles turned his gaze to Spike, who shrugged. "Not exactly popular with my peers of late, Watcher. Talked to my poker buddies, but they're mostly peaceful types. They don't know much. Best I can figure, no one plans on leaving until they do, so no one left behind knows their reasons. Though I will say most demons are a superstitious lot. They think they're seein' visions they're like to run as not."

"Maybe that's the point," Willow said.

"What?"

"Maybe this demon, or warlock, or whatever wants to run the other demons off."

"Why would someone do that?" Tara asked.

Willow shrugged. "Maybe they want the hellmouth all to themselves. That could be a thing, right?" She looked to Giles in question.

Giles nodded, expression contemplative, but before he could comment further the training room door opened with a bang. Giles frowned darkly and muttered something about plaster and paint.

"Got it," Warren exclaimed as he emerged with a new stack of papers.

"Oh boy, more useless columns of numbers." Xander said, monotone.

"Tachograph is done!" Andrew ran in, a long stream of paper flowing behind him.

"And more scribbles," Buffy observed without enthusiasm.

"Idiot. You'll tear it," Warren snapped. He dropped his stack of papers on the table and hurried to rescue the tachograph from Andrew. Jonathan followed them out into the main store, flipping through more printouts with a scowl.

Willow reached across the table and began sorting through Warren's latest printouts.

"These readings are all over the place," she said, shaking her head. "If this is some sort of plan it's not a very good one. The energy consumption pattern is completely inefficient."

"Right?" Warren agreed. He spread the tachograph over the table, making Willow frown as she had to shift stacks of printouts out of the way. "Anyone who can deliberately mess with time, well, you'd assume they would be a genius, but this shows no evidence of a superior intelligence."

"Maybe they're bored," Spike drawled. Despite the seriousness of the situation, Dawn couldn't help but smile at that.

"They're not really causing the time stuff though, right?" Xander asked. "I mean, Dawn caused the time things. Whoever this is, they're just taking advantage of it."

"I believe that was already our working theory," Giles said dryly. He shot Dawn an indecipherable look. She hoped he wasn't going to start on the blame Dawn band wagon again. They didn't have time for that and she felt plenty guilty without his help. She didn't regret it though. So long as Buffy and Spike stayed alive she could never regret it.

Xander shook his head. "No, I know. But I don't mean like 'oh, that power conduit is accessible, let me plug in my super computer' advantage. I mean like, 'oh, there's an unguarded pop tart and my stomach is growling. I'm gonna eat it' advantage."

Buffy's nose scrunched in confusion. "You think something's eating time?"

Anya huffed. "I already told you that doesn't happen. Doesn't anyone listen to me?"

Xander patted her shoulder absently. "Not time itself. But maybe the related energy." Xander looked to the nerds for support. "Stuff like that happens all the time in sci-fi, right?"

Andrew immediately perked up. "Absolutely. There are several examples of creatures sustained entirely by energy in science fiction. In episode—"

"That's just fiction, though," Warren cut him off.

Anya, however, had lost her frown and was nodding thoughtfully. "You'd be surprised what some demons consider food," she said. "I once met this guy from the 487th hell dimension who ate nothing but acetone fumes. Needless to say he worked in a nice little nail salon for quite a few years."

There was silence.

"Hell dimensions are numbered?" Dawn asked. How had she never known this? Although it kind of made sense. Wasn't time the fourth dimension?

Anya shrugged. "Some demon languages are very difficult to pronounce for species with a single prong tongue. Numbers are easier."

Warren shook his head. "Yeah, but, does the data support that theory?"

Willow traced a finger along the tachograph. "Well, we know it spikes when there's a change in the timeline," she said.

"And it's spiking pretty much all the time now, thanks to ripples."

Dawn glared at Andrew for the useless bit of added guilt; he cowered away.

"So then why are there still spots where it falls way down?" Xander asked.

"Something is using the energy," Warren said. "Obviously." The 'idiot' he clearly wanted to add to that address went unspoken, and Dawn transferred her glare to him. Seriously, was his superiority complex completely ingrained? He'd found absolutely nothing in almost a week, even with his machines, and he still treated the rest of them like idiots.

"Yes," Willow agreed. "But not consistently." She looked at Giles. "If this was a spell draw would be fairly steady, right? I mean, at this point, now that steady energy is available."

Giles nodded slowly. "Almost certainly."

"But this isn't steady at all. The dips aren't even the same size."

"Do you have a point?" Warren snapped.

Willow glared at him in a way that looked dangerously black-Willow. But, of course, there was no black-Willow yet, and there was no way Willow could access that kind of power right now. She'd never even tried. Dawn forced herself to relax back in her seat.

"I'm getting to it." Willow said. She turned her focus to Giles. "If something were powering a spell, then shouldn't we sense something magicky after the big draws?" She looked from Giles to Tara, who then exchanged glances with one another.

"You guys did that power tracking thing and got nothing, right? The trance that lets you see spells?" Dawn asked. It was the same spell Buffy had used when she was trying to figure out what was wrong with mom. Personal trauma aside, it had its uses, Dawn supposed, but they'd come up completely empty.

They nodded.

"So, Xander's right." It seemed like a pretty logical progression to Dawn.

"Xander could be correct," Giles corrected.

"Look, the power has to go somewhere, right? If it was being used for a spell, you'd have seen the backlash while you were in the trance. And if it was being stored the locator spell would find it. So it must be being consumed."

"Well, that's terrifying," Anya commented. She sounded almost blasé about it, and Dawn couldn't decide if that was progress or not. At least she wasn't planning a vacation on the other side of the planet at the first sign of impending apocalypse.

Xander tugged her down beside him and wrapped a firm arm around her shoulders. "Not helping, honey," he said through a clenched-teeth smile.

Anya ignored him. "Think about it. This hypothetical demon has to eat the rest of the time too, right? And it doesn't usually have time travelling key energies to feed off of. So it probably only eats regular time energies. Like, the energy created from the day to day progression. It's not a lot of energy, but it's constant. Now it's getting these huge waves of energy, and it's gorging itself. When this is over it's gonna be huge."

The Magic Box fell silent once more as they all contemplated this point.

"Someone needs to find me this thing so I can kill it." Buffy said tightly.

"How?" Jonathan asked. "Spells haven't worked and neither has science."

"Could go trolling door to door," Spike mused. "Or cave to cave. Lot of ground to cover though."

"Oh, come on." Xander threw his hands up in the air, exasperated, and Anya took the opportunity to slip away and start straightening the shelves. "We have two witches, a warlock, and an engineering genius – we have to be able to figure this out."

He didn't mention Anya, Dawn noticed. Despite the fact she'd made some good points tonight.

"And a demon summoner," Andrew said, clearly miffed at being left out.

"Right," Spike drawled. "'cause that'll be so useful."

"Oh! It could be," Anya piped up from over near the candles. "If he can summon the energy eating demon to us, Buffy can kill it. We won't even have to find it." She looked expectantly at Andrew. "Can you do that?"

Andrew shifted in his seat. "Uh, no."

Spike snorted. "As I thought. Useless."

"It doesn't work like that!" Andrew protested. "I have to know what kind of demon I want first. And even then I can't pick a specific one. Just the general species."

"Completely useless," Xander concurred.

"I could look through books," Andrew offered, sullen now.

"We can all look through books," Jonathan argued.

"Maybe I can summon a demon who knows about them."

"Maybe you could summon ten thousand demons and never find one who knows anything."

Wow. Jonathan and Andrew didn't get along very well, did they? And Dawn had always thought they were close. At least, that's what she'd figured from what Andrew had told her. That's why the seal on the uber-vamps broke when Andrew killed Jonathan, because they were friends. Of course, the way Andrew told it that was after they spent six months on the run in Mexico where no one else spoke English. That could be a bonding experience.

Warren cleared his throat loudly, interrupting the budding argument. "There's something," he said. "Another piece of equipment that tracks radiation and things like that. I can get my hands on one. It's real time, so if the tachyons are being funneled somewhere this thing will show us."

Buffy turned warrior's eyes to him and Dawn hated to see that expression on her face. Ending Glory was supposed to save Buffy from becoming nothing but a soldier. Although, she'd been laughing earlier tonight, so she wasn't that far yet. Hopefully she'd give Spike the chance to keep her from becoming that.

"How long?" Buffy asked.

Warren shrugged, but Dawn noticed he wouldn't meet anyone's gaze. That meant he was going to steal this thing. "A few days. Maybe a week. And then at least another week to collect data and pinpoint the spot. Especially if this thing's on the move."

"Can we wait that long?" Tara asked.

Giles sighed, his eyes scanning the stacks of paper on the table with resignation. "What other choice do we have?"

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Chapter End Notes:

I have nothing to say except: poor Andrew. He's always just the tagalong. Also, still plenty more theorizing ahead, just as a heads up. Remember, not everything the gang speculates could be happening is happening. You'll have to stick with me to the end to find out which is which. But you get more Spuffy as we go, so that's consolation at least.

Thanks for reading,

reenas-as