Title: In Diamond Light

Author: Ivytree

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss Whedon, UPN, Mutant Enemy, etc.

Feedback: Please!

Summary: How does Spike get from "B" to "A"?

Setting: Almost immediately after "Chosen."

A/N: The poem will be at the very end.

Part One

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Buffy crouched and scrabbled in the debris, breathing hard. Her scratched and bruised fingers stung, and darn it, there went another fingernail!

Faith stood behind her, holding a flashlight. "Look, B," she said, in a humor-the-patient tone of voice, "you sure we should be doing this? He--well, the guy made his choice. He knew what he was doing. Don't you want to ask Giles about it, at least? I know they had issues, but…"

"This has nothing to do with Giles." Buffy sat back on her heels, pushing a wisp of hair off her forehead with the back of her wrist, and met Faith's dark eyes. "If there's a chance for him--any chance at all--I have to try."

Jolt after jolt of emotion, from horror to desperate sorrow to euphoria, had followed hard on Buffy and her party's escape from the smoking crater that had once been Sunnydale. As dusk fell, the adrenaline abruptly ran out, and they were all suddenly overwhelmed with exhaustion. The group decided (with hardly any bickering) to head for the next town boasting a hospital, check the wounded in, and crash at the nearest motel. By midnight, gentle, ladylike snores from the girls sounded a pleasant counterpoint to the deeper rumbles emitted by Giles, Xander, and Andrew. Everyone slept, in fact--except the two senior slayers, who had crept out and, at Buffy's insistence, returned to the demolished municipality. Not in the school bus, however; that would attract too much attention. Luckily, law and order had not quite returned to California, what with one thing and another, and Faith could still hotwire a car. Their trip was speedy and uneventful (Faith could drive, too), and, being endowed with super-strength, they clambered down the steep face of the crater without much difficulty.

"You're taking a heck of a risk," Faith continued, considerately lowering the light so it didn't shine in Buffy's eyes. "Look, I'm just sayin', he never thought he'd come back… He might be just as happy where he is. I mean, that's probably heaven, after what he did, right?"

"But he wasn't finished--he never had a chance to live. He deserves a chance…" Buffy heard her own voice quaver, and looked away. "He never hesitated to take a risk for me. Now I'm going to do whatever it takes for him."

Faith held up her free hand in a gesture of surrender. "Okay, I give, if you think it's the right thing. You know better than me about that stuff, I guess."

Buffy turned back to her task, brushing her palms together. Faith seemed awfully mellow, all of a sudden. "I'm SURE it was around here--right near this pillar thingy," Buffy muttered, rising reluctantly to her feet. "The jewel has to be here somewhere. Wait! Faith, hold the flashlight a little higher! Over there! I see it!"

Faith raised the light, and gave a gasp as the blue-white glint of an enormous diamond winked out at them through the rubble and dust.

Dust…

"Come on!" Buffy cried.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"I wish we had something else to, um, put it in," Buffy complained.

"Hey, you said find a box." Faith kept her eyes on the road.

"Sure, but a shoe box?"

"Look, it was handy. I just bought shoes. You didn't tell me why you wanted it, all right? I didn't know it was for an oh-so-precious mystical jewel and, well, stuff."

"You're right." Buffy clutched the box tightly against her chest, and let her head fall against the seat back. "You're doing me a favor, and all I do is carp. Sorry."

Faith frowned. "Hey, B, don't go all Miss Manners on me, okay? That's so not us. Makes me nervous as hell. If we can't be straight with each other after all this time, who CAN we let our hair down with? We're the Old Girls in this sorority now. Carp all you want."

"I guess you're right," Buffy said, with a reluctant grin. "Apology retracted."

"Better. Anyway, I'm always up for a little joyride--long as we get back by eight."

Buffy looked curiously across at her fellow slayer, who shifted in her seat with apparent unease at the scrutiny. In fact, though she couldn't be sure in the darkness, Buffy would have sworn Faith was blushing. "What's at eight?" she asked.

"Visiting hours," Faith replied shortly.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"L.A?" Giles exclaimed. "Now, why? Although," he mused, "it's actually not a bad idea."

"I want to see Angel and, um, thank him for helping out and stuff," Buffy said eagerly. "And Wesley's one of the few remaining Watchers--you want to talk to him, don't you?"

The core of the Sunnydale contingent dotted the room in various postures of boredom, except for Andrew, who had gone to fetch snacks from the motel vending machine. Faith lounged on one of the beds leafing through a fashion magazine. Willow and Kennedy sprawled together on another bed, Xander perched on a rickety-looking armchair, and Dawn sat cross-legged on the floor by the blank-screened television, apparently from simple force of habit.

"Wes is totally hot now, by the way," Faith chimed in. Then, shrugging at their looks, she added, "I'm just sayin.'"

"And Dawn and me can visit our dad…"

"BRIEFLY, okay?" Dawn rolled her eyes. "His new wife sets my TEETH on edge."

"What, the lovely Romola?" Xander teased. "At least she doesn't want you to call her 'mom.' And hey, she'll take you shopping on Rodeo Drive—-I'm betting you oh-so fashion-conscious gals have already exhausted the possibilities of the local Wal-Mart."

"I just KNOW that accent is fake. Last time, she wanted me to get a makeover so I'd fit in with her stupid friends, including bleaching my hair and getting a perm. As if," Dawn snorted.

"Yeah, well, sounds good, B, but the thing is, I wanna hang around here for a while," Faith said, with a sidelong glance.

"Here? Why-—oh, right," Buffy said. "Well, no problem. We don't all need to go. Somebody's got to stay and take care of the girls--and everybody--who are still in the hospital."

"Well, sure, I can do that. Just call me den-mom, or whatever."

"Actually, Buff, I don't think I'll be going along, either," Xander said. "My mom's staying with Aunt Mae in Glenbrook, and I want to see she's okay."

"Your dad… ?" Buffy asked, arching an eyebrow.

"No. She's alone. I'm not sure where he…" Xander looked away.

"Oh."

"I think we should go to L.A., hon." Willow turned to Kennedy. "I want to get moving on some research, and no laptop equals no Google. Not to mention no clothes, no money, and no books."

"I can put you guys up," Kennedy offered. "My folks' house number three is in Beverly Hills; we can get clothes and money there. Plenty of room. And internet access, and whatever else we need."

"If there IS any internet access," Giles pointed out. "After all, they've had troubles of their own in L.A. Cable telly isn't up yet, and phone service is still spotty--we don't really know which services have been restored and which haven't."

"Don't say that, Giles," Xander said. "A Google-less Willow is a twitchy Willow. See, she's developing a tic already."

"That's not a tic, she's tickling me!" Willow squealed. "Kennedy! Quit it, or I'll turn you into a--a rat!"

"She can do it, too," Buffy said, watching the two girls giggle and squirm with a tolerant eye. Frankly, she was glad they finally felt free to be silly. It had been a long time. "So look-—the five of us will go ahead, with the slayers who can travel, and the rest of you follow when you can, and we'll all meet up at Kennedy's house, okay? Then we can figure out what to do."

"Sounds like a plan, Generalissima Buffy," Xander said, saluting.

The door opened, and Andrew walked in, his arms filled with crackling bags of wafers, crisps, chips, and doodles. "What?" he said apprehensively, as six pairs of eyes fixed on him. "Did I miss something?"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Good lord," Giles said, surveying the once elegant homes, now wrecked and charred, that lined the broad, exclusive street. He and Buffy sat in the front seat of another "borrowed" car, and Dawn, Willow and Kennedy in the back; by common consent, he drove. Following Kennedy's directions, they had passed scenes of devastation and anarchy as shocking as any war zone. Palm trees, once tall and gracious, lay uprooted, and potholes rutted the pavement. Giles pushed his glasses up his nose. "This is appalling."

"There was this, like, rain of fire," Willow explained, leaning foreword. "Definitely of the very bad. Then total, unrelenting darkness, followed by vamp-y mayhem. But it looks like that was just the beginning."

Kennedy's lips were a thin line. "Our house is a couple of blocks away," she said. "Maybe it's not so bad there."

"It might have missed your house completely," Dawn said encouragingly. "They're not all, you know, burned up. Or burned down."

"Sure," Willow said. "Apocalypses definitely tend to be hit and miss, don't they? And let me tell you, between us, we've seen a lot of 'em. So don't worry. Maybe everything's fine there. Right, Buffy?"

"Hmmm?" Buffy said, startled from an apparent reverie. "Oh, right. What she said." She assumed a hearty air. "You never know with apocalypses. Or is that apocalysi? What do you think, Giles?"

"I hardly think it matters." Giles lowered his voice, and met her eyes with some severity in his own. "And don't think bringing up occult technicalities will serve to distract me from that package you refuse to discuss-—or what you've really brought us here for."

Buffy turned to look out the window, hugging a box wrapped in brown paper to her chest. "It's personal," she said.

TBC