Chapter Two: Buffy's Gift
Illyria's hand went to her face. "I feel so strange." Spike reached hesitantly for her, and she swatted him and snarled, eyes flashing back to blue. "I do not need your assistance, half-breed."
Buffy's head was on a swivel, going back and forth between Spike and Illyria. "What just happened?"
"Silence, Slayer. This is nothing to do with you."
"Easy there, pet. No need to be rude about it. The Slayer's got resources and connections, and we can find out just exactly what's going on."
Fred's eyes looked at him from under Illyria's hair. "Hurry."
Illyria huddled on the bed while Spike rubbed soothing circles on her back and frowned, as Buffy talked on her cell phone. Giles was apparently being...difficult.
"Look, Giles, I don't care, okay? Spike was on our team, and as far as I'm concerned he's still on our team. He hasn't proven anything different to me yet." The phone squawked. "He didn't kidnap me! For God's sake, you know that if I'd known he was alive I would've gone running to him anyway." Spike's eyebrow went up at that. "The jury's still out on Illyria, I guess, but she's with Spike, so for now I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt. And she got Mohra blood on her, and now she's gone all wonky. We need to know how to help her."
Spike had given her the lowdown on how Illyria was an Old One who'd taken over Fred's body, and that Fred appeared to be manifesting again because of the Mohra blood. She relayed the information to Giles and hung up. "He doesn't know anything offhand. The Old Ones pretty much pre-date humanity; there's not much about them in his musty old books."
"What about Mohra blood?"
"That we can find out about. Give him a little while."
"We might not have a little while. The Senior Partners know where we are now."
"I can take care of that too." She punched a speed-dial button on her mobile. "Will? How quick can you teleport three, um, people to a safe place, and put wards up to protect two of them from some nasties? Can you get on that? Call me back as soon as you've got it set up, 'kay? Thanks."
"'Preciate it, Buffy," Spike said. "More than you know."
Buffy watched him rubbing Illyria's back for a minute. "She's special to you, isn't she?"
"Yeah." His voice was husky, and he didn't want to look at her.
"Do you love her?"
The bluntness of the question threw him for a second. He hunted his pocket for a pack of cigarettes and lit one, one-handed. "We've been through a lot together, she and I."
"And what about Fred?"
"Fred belonged to Wes. I never had a chance with her, even if I'd made a move."
Buffy's phone warbled out Slayer's "Reign in Blood." "Talk to me, Will," she said, while Spike smiled in quiet delight at her choice of ringtone and stubbed out his half-smoked cigarette. She hung up a minute later. "Ready to go?"
He jumped up, grabbed the weapons bag and the plant, and set them between himself and Illyria. "As we'll ever be, I suppose."
Buffy sat on the bed, grasping Spike's hand and touching Illyria's back. They all shimmered and disappeared from the room
And reappeared in a large, anonymous warehouse, with crossbows pointed at them in the hands of about five different Slayers, supervised by Giles. "Whoa, guys, stand down!" Buffy said. "Spike's a friend, and Illyria's in no shape to cause any trouble."
The weapons lowered, but most of the girls still looked suspicious. Willow gave them a little wave. "I've got your wards set up, Buff. They should be safe. Well," she amended, "as safe as it's possible to get with an Old One and a vampire in the same room." She approached Illyria, still huddled on the floor, with Spike hovering protectively. "Wow, her aura's really messed up." She frowned. "Is that Fred?"
"In a way," Spike replied. "You two met?"
"Yeah, once. Boy, I'm getting a whole split-personality vibe here. It would be better if I could get a clearer look at her."
Spike patted Illyria on the shoulder. "C'mon, pet, upsa dais'. Need to let Red here have a gander at you."
Illyria raised her head, blue eyes glittering defiantly. "I am Illyria, God-King of the Universe. I need no aid from these human vermin."
"Yeah, that song got old about the time you started looking like Fred again. Won't hurt, anyway, right?"
"Very well." She rose to her feet. "Although I do not see how such insects may help." Her eyes went to brown. "I'm grateful, Willow, more than I can say." Blue again. "Know this. If you attempt to harm me, I will have your spine as my necklace and your intestines for a belt."
"Oh, like we haven't heard that before," Willow said with an eyeroll.
As Willow examined Illyria, Buffy and Giles took Spike aside. "You look exhausted, Spike," Buffy said. "I can't believe you didn't come to us before this."
"Yeah, well, battling the Senior Partners' assassins and trying to keep a lid on Babe the Blue Ox there every day for seven months will take it out of you. Not ashamed to admit I could do with a spot of rest."
"You can stay with us as long as you need to. In fact, we could use you here with the Council. You've got experience training girls, and I bet we could find a place for...whoever she turns out to be. Could probably get the Senior Partners off your backs too."
"Buffy, I'm not entirely sure that's terribly prudent," Giles said.
Spike gave him a hard glare. "And I'm not sure I want to work with the bloody wanker who refused to help us when all this first happened with Fred to begin with."
"You did what?" Buffy asked, rounding on Giles.
"They were working at Wolfram and Hart. What was I supposed to think?"
"That maybe they had a plan? God, Giles, I can't believe you did that. Especially without talking to any of us first."
"Well, be that as it may, Buffy," Giles said, taking his glasses off and cleaning them, "this is the situation we're faced with right now. And I still say that it may not be the best thing to have Spike and Illyria working with us."
She put her hands on her hips and faced him down. "Based on what, exactly?"
Before he had a chance to answer, Willow came up to them. At the expression on her face, Spike grabbed for his cigarettes and lit one, hiding the tremor in his hands as best he could. "What's the word, Red?"
"It's not good, that's for sure. I don't think we can help her without destroying one or the other of them."
"I won't let you do that." He blew out a stream of smoke and ran his hand through his hair. "Fred's been through quite enough, thank you. And so's Bluebird."
"But, both of them? Sharing the body? Won't that be harder on them than sending one of them on to the next place?"
"And I'm supposed to make a Sophie's Choice as to which one? Bugger that for a game of soldiers, Witch. I won't kill Fred again, and I won't send Illyria to a hell dimension."
"I'm sorry, Spike. I don't have a way of transferring one or the other of them into a new body."
His chin came up. "Then they'll have to learn to share, I guess. Your offer still open, Slayer? You can make us useful and make sure the Senior Wankers don't bother us?"
"Buffy, I'm afraid I must object," Giles said. "The choice seems clear. Fred was human; Illyria is merely a demon in human form. I realize you have affection for Illyria, Spike"
"Affection? Bloody hell, Watcher, you're a heartless bastard and make no mistake. Illyria has fought by my side and watched my back for the better part of seven months now. I'm not going to allow her to just be killed out of hand on your say-so." Spike crossed his arms and stepped between Giles and Illyria.
Giles opened his mouth to say something else, but Buffy silenced him with a furious glare. "Yeah, Spike, we can help you guys out. No problem." Her mouth quirked up. "Merry Christmas."
"Thanks, luv. Did you tell Bluebird anything, Red?"
"No. I thought it would be better if you did." They glanced over at Illyria, who sat on the floor, stroking the tulip and singing to it.
"I'll go break it to her, then. Seems only proper it should be me." He tossed his cigarette away and walked over to her, squatting down beside her and putting his hand on her shoulder. "Hey, pet."
"Spike." She didn't look up. "The countenance of the sorceress told all. They are unable to assist us."
"Not entirely true. But it looks like you're going to have a split personality."
"Yes. I look forward to getting to know the Burkle persona better. You were fond of it. What will you do?" She seemed subdued. "Will you abandon me, now that my power has been diminished?"
"What? Why would I do that? Cor, luv, you need me more than ever, now. I don't abandon people who need me. Thought you knew me better than that."
"I'm sorry." Fred's accent still jarred him. "I didn't mean..."
"Freddi...Leery...It's all right. Look, the Council's going to do what they can to get the Senior Partners to back off, and they have a job for us, if we want it."
"Purpose is good, right?" she said, with a trembly smile.
Risking a pounding, he pulled her into a hug and spoke into her hair. "Yeah, pet. We'll get through it. The three of us, together."