Title: Fragile – (Chapter 1 of How Many Days)
Disclaimer: Joss doesn't play with his toys anymore. Someone has to, dammit!
Rating: R
Pairing: Buffy/Spike, Dawn/Other, Willow/Giles, Willow/Other
Summary: Post-Season 7. This is a sequel to Don't Stop the Dance'
Distribution: Anywhere you like, just let me know.
Thank you: one terrific beta Pam for letting me bounce ideas off of you. ;]
Feedback is good for my mental health. Don't make me beg!

Enjoy!

=How Many Days=

Prologue: During the final days in Sunnydale, Buffy and Spike revealed themselves to one another, embracing each other freely and without reserve. It was through their connection that the Slayer and her champion gained the strength to perservere over the First. Through that and a powerful spell by Willow, which created a sisterhood of Slayers, evil was vanquished; but the cost was high. Anya was lost to Xander, Spike was lost to Buffy and a number of young Slayers lost their lives. In channeling the energy of the Scythe and the powers of White Magic, Willow was physically transformed and left with abilities more powerful than any of them could have imagined.

There were very few words on the trip leaving what was left of Sunnydale. When the bus reached LA, the surviving former-potentials were sent home to their families immediately with an open invitation to come to the London Motherhouse, once it was established. Formal training was not required, but rather strongly recommended; and no slayer was to take on any major event without back up from the newly reformed Council of Watchers.

Giles spoke with Angel about taking Buffy out of California and helping her build a life for her and Dawn. He had been reluctant at first, until Wes suggested she could help Giles in training all of the new slayers; that having something to do would, once again, give her focus and purpose.

During the week that they stayed at the Hyperion, Buffy was withdrawn. She cried incessantly and the only person she responded to was Dawn. The sisters had an almost mystical connection that no one seemed to understand except for Willow. When Angel asked the Wicca, she declined to comment. Angel was disturbed by the Slayer's grief and wanted to comfort her, but the others advised him to let her come to terms with her loss on her own. They didn't understand that he was also grieving and for two people: for Spike, his grandchilde and for Buffy's loss. He also felt somewhat responsible for delivering the instrument of Spike's demise to them in the amulet and secretly wondered what the price had really been to Spike's soul and if he had been truly meant to wear it himself.

But Willow and Giles convinced him that they needed Buffy's assistance to rebuild the Council. Even though Buffy is one of many slayers, she is still the Chosen one and the strongest ever: the Slayer. In the end, Angel acquiesced.

Xander decided to become a Watcher and stayed in L.A., with Faith and Wood, to research the best place to open the American Motherhouse. Andrew stayed as well, since he didn't have anywhere else to go. Angel gave him an entry-level position at Wolfram and Hart, with the stipulation that he keep an eye out for suspicious activity.

Kennedy decided that London was too far to follow Willow and she turned down the offer to work with Faith, instead deciding to go to Cleveland and set up a post on the suspected Hellmouth there. A few of the older slayerettes followed her.

On their last night in L.A., Angel held a farewell dinner for everyone. It was a somber occasion filled with memories of those they'd lost. Everyone attended…except for Buffy. Dawn surprised everyone by stealing some scotch from Wesley's private stash and getting "pissed". She was inconsolable in her anguish, mumbling something about a missing spark and injuring her arm in an awkward fall. Everyone noticed the gold of her eyes, but Willow assured them that it was the after-effect of being caught in the amulet's beam. She didn't want to alarm anyone. She wasn't sure if they were ready to know of what she suspected.

Fragile

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Perhaps this final act was meant
To clinch a lifetime's argument
That nothing comes from violence
And nothing ever could.
For all those born beneath an angry star
Lest we forget how fragile we are. -Sting

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Giles is happy that it's not raining. Not that the London climate ever really bothered him, but for
some reason the sunshine makes him feel a bit better: not so dreary. He glances over his shoulder at Dawn.
Her right arm in a soft cast, she's trying to maneuver herself through the tight turnstile after having
been x-rayed for concealed contraband. Buffy has already passed through customs, with Willow close behind.
With nothing to declare and not much to search, the group has had a surprisingly swift trip.

As he looks through the glass walls of Gatwick airport's south terminal, Giles finally breathes a
sigh of relief. Many people had been lost: Anya, Amanda and nearly Xander. They'd also lost Spike
and, as much as he hates to admit it, that had been the hardest blow of all for Giles. Spike had sacrificed
himself. True he hates to be wrong, but this goes well beyond that.

He feels regret.

Just thinking of what he had said to Buffy about the blonde vampire mere days before the final battle
makes him physically ill. But he won't let the others know. Looking at Buffy nowhe just cannot bear to see the vacant stare in her eyes or the way she allows herself to be handled by Willow and Dawn as if she were an invalid. It's as if the life has been sucked out of her. And it has, hasn't it?

The only word he'd heard her speak since Sunnydale came out of her mouth one week ago. When the bus
rolled into L.A., Giles asked her again what had managed to destroy the hellmouth, all she whispered
was Spike.

Spike.

Come on Buffy, we're almost there. Willow leads the frail blonde to the waiting taxi. She gives Giles a
look that makes his heart even heavier. Her white hair practically gleams in the bright sunshine. Her blue
eyes are dark and sad, however, as she helps Buffy take baby steps to the car. Dawn sniffles as she
gets in on the other side. She hasn't stopped crying since they left LA.

After they've all settled in, the driver heads to Victoria station. There's one more leg of the
journey, by train, to Giles' home. It is there that he will attempt to heal these three young women and coax
them back into the world they saved. He knows the fresh country air and change in scenery will do wonders
for Willow and Dawn. He doesn't know what it will take to bring back Buffyif anything.

At the station, Giles settles the girls on a bench while he goes to purchase tickets for the train. He
is retrieving his bill and thanking the clerk when a loud scream pierces the air. He spins around to find
Willow and Dawn desperately trying to calm a thrashing Buffy. Her arms and legs are flying everywhere and Dawn is quickly thrown to the ground. He rushes over to them as Willow releases her and stands aside calmly. The air around her swirls and lifts her hair slightly from her shoulders. She mumbles something and Giles looks from her down to Buffy who is slouched on the floor.

Not too far behind the group a young man with short, platinum blonde hair and a long black trench coat
stares at them in mock horror. Bleedin' nutter. He snorts as he strolls past with a slightly familiar
swagger. Giles stares after him and then he understands what has occurred. He looks to Willow
who is smiling with her eyes closed as the air around her returns to normal.

No one in the area could have noticed any change in her, only those with a trained eye or knowledge of
what Willow really is. To a passerby, she just looks as if she's standing there. Giles, however, can see
the tendrils of love stretching from her and wrapping themselves around Buffy, soothing and comforting
her. Buffy is folded in upon herself.

oh God tears stream down her blanched face as she rocks back and forth. She is
off in her own world of grief and shock. Dawn carefully approaches her and places her good hand on
her back, making slow circles.

S'ok Buffy. Shhhhhh. S'ok Dawn's tears fall silently as she looks up, her eyes pleading with
Giles.

Our train isarriving now. I'vethe liberty of getting us a private cabin. He nervously
avoids making eye contact with Buffy's shivering form. He is afraid that if he sees hertouches her he will
collapse himself. Willow and Dawn guide Buffy to the train and they all embark without incident.

The car itself is luxurious with spacious cabins that can accommodate 4 people easily. Once inside, Giles
closes the curtains while Dawn and Willow instruct Buffy to lie down on one of the bunks. They cover
her with blankets and she instantly falls into fitful sleep. Then they both join Giles in the sitting
area.

She's sleeping. Willow offers. Giles nods.

He wrings his hands and Willow covers them with hers. He looks up at her and she
can see him breaking apart inside.

she whispers. Giles lowers his head and begins to weep silently. Willow sits beside him and
he leans into her as she rests her back against the wall. Giles' head is in her chest and Dawn's is on her
shoulder. The three of them cry together for everything that they've been through, everything
that they've lost and most of all for the broken woman sleeping nearby.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy loves the dreams. They're heaven to her.

It's when she is awake that the nightmare begins.
It's when she's awake that Spike is dead.
It's when she's awake that the world's gone to
hell for her.

So she loves her dreams because everyone is safe and happy and Spike is there. She tells him she loves
him. He tells her he knows. She smirkshe smiles...and they're so in love.

So very much in love.

In her dreams, he flees the crumbling school with her. They run together through the ruins of the
disintegrating hallways towards the speeding bus that will take them to safety.

In her dreams, she stays with him and they face the end together.

In her dreams, they're just a guy and a girl, not a Slayer and a vampire, and they have 2.2 kids and a
cat named Zachary.

In her dreams, she is a loving person and never a cold, heartless bitch.

This dream is different, though; but not unfamiliar. There is bright light, warm and inviting. It
surrounds her, but she cannot see herself. She wants to look around, but there's nothing to see. There is
only the light and the incredible feeling of being loved. She hears words, but not really. It's just
somethingtelling her it's okay and I love you I love you I love you'.

Always I love you.

Buffy smiles in her sleep. The train jerks to a halt at a stop and it startles her awake. Her smile
disappears as she opens her eyes and sees the wood grain of the cabin ceiling. The light is gone and it
is replaced by the harshness of her reality.

Spike. Dead.

Spike is dead.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Giles wakes up to fingers caressing his temples. There is something soft and warm under his head.
Willow. He is momentarily embarrassed at having fallen asleep in her lap, but his embarrassment subsides
when he looks up and finds her looking at him. He is startled. Whenever he's away from her for any length
of time and then comes back into her presence he is startled. Her transformation is unnerving and, well,
exciting.

Her hair is truly cloud white and her icy blue eyes such a contrast to the deep green they had once
been. Willow smiles down at him. He nervously adjusts his glasses as he sits up. He is surprised not to see
Dawn there with them.

She went to Buffy. Willow's expression doesn't change, but she lowers her eyes to her lap, sensing
his discomfort.

How is she? Any change? Giles find it hard to contain his enchanment with Willow's newstatus. The
Wicca closes her eyes and scans Buffy's soul.

No. She's hanging on by a thread. She says slowly opening her eyes. Willow is careful to use a
moderate voice.

Since her change, she's found it difficult to gauge what is loud and what is soft. The first night at
the Hyperion, she'd shattered three of Angel's windows just by asking for honey in her tea. Fortunately,
the Council left an impressive bank account. And since Giles is one of two remaning Watchers, it mostly falls
to him.

Giles frowns at her response, although he really hadn't expected anything else.

She'll be fine, Rupert. Give her time. A lot of time and love and friendship. She'll be okay. Something
about Willow's voice reassures him and Giles pats her on the leg absentmindedly in appreciation.

Right. Of course. He opens the curtains to find a bright gray afternoon rushing by on the emerald
green of the English countryside. We're nearly there. He turns to Willow who is smiling at him. She rises and
places her hand on his back.

Don't blame yourself for anything, Ru. You did everything you were supposed to do. The warmth
from her fingers sends a current of electricity through his limbs. He reluctantly pulls himself from her and
heads to the sleeping area. Willow leans her forehead on the window.

I must not do things like that. She chides herself.
I'm giving myself the wiggins.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A car is waiting for them when they disembark from the train. Dawn and Willow once again guide a shaky
Buffy to the back seat, one girl sliding in on either side of her. Giles sits in front with the driver.
Surprisingly, Buffy watches the landscape, rather than closing her eyes or staring at the floor. Dawn
watches only Buffy, reacting to every movement of her face or body.

You ok, Buff? Need anything? Are you hungry? Giles, I think Buffy is hungry. Don't worry Buffy, I'll
take care of you. She brushes a stray hair from her sister's face. Dawn blames herself for giving Buffy
the letter from Spike. It was after hearing the words he'd written that she'd become truly distraught,
blaming herself for every wrong thing that occurred between them when he was alive (or undead.)

Unexpectedly, Buffy turns and looks at her young sister.

Dawn's gold-flecked eyes widen with surprise.

Buffy's voice is rough from disuse. I love you.

At those words, the younger Summers crumbles into tears and she clutches Buffy to her with her one
arm. Buffy slowly wraps her arms around Dawn and rocks her gently, kissing her hair. Willow embraces the
battered sisters and smiles when she feels Buffy's hand land on her leg and give it a squeeze. She locks her eyes with a bewildered Giles as he stares at the three women.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The house is old and very English. A simple but tasteful two up, one down that screams 'Giles'.

Willow had almost forgotten how many books he has. Of course the library is in a shambles from the Bringer
attack, but the rest of the house is surprisingly intact. Mrs. Whitcomb scrambles to the foyer from
the kitchen when she hears the door.

Oh dear! You're early, Mr. Giles. I've only just arrived! She scolds him, but softens her tone when
she sees the state of the group. She zeroes in on Buffy immediately. deary. You come with me and
I'll fix you a proper bath.

As she leads Buffy up the steps, she glances over her shoulder catching Giles' eyes. He nods and she
returns it. Dawn follows them up the steps. Willow and Giles head straight to the kitchen.

I'd love some. She says before he can speak. Giles' mouth drops open and he shakes his head.

You know, Willow they enter the kitchen. You really shouldrefrain from doing that.

Willow merely smiles at him though, as she sits at the breakfast table. He finds it nearly impossible not to look at her, finding her quite striking. He wishes he had the energy to do a little research on her transformation. It would have to wait though. He is exhausted and just wants a cup of tea and a long, long rest. Fortunately he's home, now, and time is plentiful.

TBC Chapter 2: Sister Moon