Dear reader,

I'm very happy to be back with another story! Hopefully you'll enjoy it!

It takes place in Season5, between Triangle and Checkpoint. Here's a short up-to-date. Spike is a lot in love with Buffy. Riley's gone, gone away; having left a few weeks before this story occurs.

I wish to hear from you! That's all I ask, as always, in return for posting my words on this site. I hope you'll take the time to indulge me. I am much obliged to those I know always do.

Talk to you soon.

All My Love – Annie.

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On My Mind

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¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤ Unwanted Particulars ¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤¤

It was one of those days. It had started out as one of those days, and now, as she sat across from her Watcher, listening to what he was telling her she was supposed to do, she realized it would most certainly end as one of those days. And there wasn't a thing she could do about it.

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It had begun at eight-fifteen, when she had woken up and realized she had overslept. Almost an hour. It had continued as she stumped her toe while getting dressed, a minor injury, but even with Slayer bones a pretty painful one. Muttering she had walked downstairs to find the kitchen in chaos after another one of Dawn's attempts at inventing a new recipe for whatever.

"It's Saturday," the older had moaned. "What is she doing up this early?"

What she herself was doing up that early was something she had been asking herself rather frequently since missing her alarm going off, but still she had dutifully trotted to Giles', where she knew she was supposed to set up shop for the rest of the day. While trotting, she had contemplated the past week. Nothing to report, out of the ordinary, anyway. There had been the slight conjuring of a troll, and the resounding clash of Willow and Anya, but that wasn't something extraordinary.

This morning had been spent looking into something Giles had received the evening before. It had been delivered in a white box, tied with a red bow, and had consisted of two pieces of paper, on which written in red had been simply:

Within there are answers to where mourning will

Occur, if there's none I am destined to kill

Make the journey and you shall find

The dark and the chosen will read my mind

"It looks fairly simple, if you want to read it as a threat," Giles stated as the Scoobies had taken their seats in his living room.

"'Destined to kill' would make it sound like he's pretty upfront about it," Buffy nodded.

"Well, at least he's an honest murderer," Xander chimed in. "Most of them won't even confess to the crime after they've committed it."

"'Mourning will occur' surely points to the place where these crimes are supposed to take place... So he's saying we have a way to find out and... stop it," Giles continued, oblivious to Xander's jibe.

"Great. Wish he could've put down a more exact location, but hey, we've worked with worse, right?" Buffy said.

"Yes, but I believe he did," Giles murmured, eyes glued on the lines on the papers in either of his hands. "The answers lie 'within'."

"Uh-huh," she said. "Within what?"

"I opt for a blueberry muffin."

"Breakfast is coming, Xander," Giles replied tartly. "Can you let it go for five minutes?"

"I'm hungry. Brain of Xander no work on empty stomach."

"Well, there's a loss for the greater good." Xander didn't have time to part his lips before Giles turned to Buffy, saying: "The last sentence implies that you know where these killings will occur. 'The chosen will read my mind.'"

Buffy's eyebrows rose and she leaned forward slightly, thinking; then she said:

"If you ask me, 'where mourning will occur' sounds like a cemetery. Where do I spend most of my nights? Let's just stake them...all... out and..."

"No," Giles shook his head, gaze once more on what he was holding. "No, I fear it's not that simple. This is a game. I believe there is wordplay in these sentences. Our writer is referring to his – or hers – mind. And within there are answers... I believe the answer is in fact a memory you share, somehow, with the writer."

"Telepathy," Anya said.

"No, something remembered."

"Something remembered? Have we ever had a villain to fight who's not only killing-prone, but also rhymes and likes to play games?" Buffy asked, her face suddenly clouding over with realization.

"Give you a hint, sounds like 'Pike'," Xander offered.

"This isn't his style," Willow remarked. "He's all teeth and claws, and he can't hurt us anyway. I mean, there's no motive."

She got everybody's eyes on her for that and she smiled a small smile.

"No motive for him to make the Slayer wanna go stake-happy," she clarified.

"Will's got a point," Buffy slowly agreed. "'Sides, he's been on the wagon for so long I doubt his legs remember what the road even feels like."

"And there's this other part of the last line..." Giles began tryingly, unsure of how to phrase it.

Buffy frowned, then straightened her back a little.

"You're not suggesting what I think you're suggesting."

"Buffy, I've been considering our options..."

"For ten minutes! Ten minutes does not for deep considering make!"

Giles merely gave her an odd look before attempting to finish his sentence with:

"And the 'dark'..."

"Could be anybody!" she cut in. "Could be Anya. Could be Dawn."

"Dawn used to be a glowing ball of light, I don't think she fits the category," Xander said.

"Oh, so you'd rather it'd be Spike? You'd rather have him be an actual needed part in the solving of the message and the saving of however many lives?" Buffy shot and Xander shrunk back against the couch. Buffy looked at Giles. "There's no way it's him. It just isn't."

This was where the day had gotten even worse.

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She hated the cemetery hosting his crypt. She hated the look of the place, the smell of it, the sinister feeling of death and brutality which greeted her whenever she felt forced to set foot in it. She liked his door, though. It was so easy to kick in.

"Good morning," she greeted, grabbing his duster and barely looking at him as she threw the garment at him. "Rise and shine. Or glower or snarl or whatever it is you do. You're coming with me."

He got off the armchair, cocking an eyebrow. She met his gaze, unflinching.

"Now," she added.

"What's in it for...?"

She brought her stake out, and the next moment it was whizzing by his right ear, splintering against the wall behind him.

"You get to keep the next one from smashing into your ribcage."

He gnashed his teeth, but began to pull on the leather coat.

"Sure know how to make a bloke feel special," he muttered. "Where're we going, anyway?"

"Giles'."

"And am I allowed to ask why?"

The sarcastic glint in his gaze didn't escape her, but she ignored it. It was simpler being angry at having to rely on his help.

"You'll find out when we're there. He'll explain everything and... Where are you going?"

The last was asked as he headed for a large trapdoor in the floor.

"Tunnels," he said. "I have this slight case of sun-intolerance, case you'd forgotten."

"And here I was hoping you had," she said curtly, coming up to him. "What're you doing up anyway?"

He rested his eyes in hers in an almost odd way, a flash of something undefined in them, before he shrugged:

"Couldn't sleep. Go ahead," he urged.

"No, you go ahead, I'll follow."

He smirked.

"What novelty's this?"

But he did as she asked and took the lead. She merely huffed, then climbed down after him.

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And then the moment where the worsening bad day had dropped as low as it could possibly get, when Giles – after Spike had stopped smoking from the sun and had taken a seat on the couch – said the ominous words which had Buffy's head reeling in a very, very bad way. An omen kind of way.

He looked at Spike and then at Buffy and said:

"We need to find a way to get to whatever you know that's supposed to lead us to the killer."

Spike's eyes were growing round with wonder at this point, since the explanation he was due, was still pending. Giles continued:

"I don't believe a trance would be enough. Willow and I talked it over while you were gone, Buffy, and she put forth a proposal, which I admit I had contemplated myself, though it comes with a fair amount of risk." He paused, and Buffy knew this was serious since he needed to search for the right words. "It involves a form of hypnotism which will have you both fall deeply asleep, and then a spell which will take you both into one of you at a time so that you can search your subconscious for the memory you are both to have in common with each other as well as with the killer."

Nobody said anything for a full minute.

Here the reeling of Buffy's head came into play.

"What the bloody hell are you on about?" Spike finally broke the silence.

"For the first, and only ever, time, I second that," Buffy said. "And let me add – have you completely lost your mind? You're talking about letting him into my head? Literally!"

Spike's eyebrows rose.

"That's what he's on about? Sounds... intriguing."

"Sounds petrifying, I'm not doing it. Especially not if I have to spend time inside his head on top of it!"

Spike stared at her, clearly taken aback.

"I agree with her, doesn't sound like a good idea," he then said quickly. "We should try the trance thing... Why are we doing this again?"

Buffy motioned to Giles to tell the vampire what he was doing there.

"The answer to the riddle lies inside of you both," the Watcher said. "You have to search and find it or innocent people will die."

"So we'll have a chat," Spike shrugged. "We'll dig it out. Don't have to sodding blow our heads apart for it. You lot are good with the yapping, yeah?"

"It doesn't work like that," Buffy said. "How can you be one hundred years old and not figure it out for yourself? Think if it was that easy we'd even be here?"

"What? You're always here. Huddled together." He widened his eyes and then smirked. "What are you really doing?"

"Well, there is the fair amount of yapping," Xander cut in, the irony coolly slipping off the vampire as he turned his eyes in the mortal's.

"Now I'm bored," he sighed, getting to his feet.

Buffy followed his movement easily, putting a hand against his chest and pushing him back down.

"Remember that part about not going poof? Still stands."

"Right, because this is such a bloody brilliant idea," he snarled.

She glared at him, then looked away.

"It's the only one we have," she said with a glance at Giles, who gave a slight nod.

"I'm not bloody doing it. There's no way in hell I'm doing this. Do you bleeding well hear me, Slayer!"

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"Look into my eyes," Willow said, voice gentle. "Look into my eyes."

Buffy felt her eyelids slowly begin to grow heavy. When Willow brought the mirror up she was already half asleep, and the soft light reflected onto her face only helped enhance the sense of tranquility, of the complete trust she held for her friend. It would be alright. Everything would be fine.

The vampire had no such conviction as he stared at the Wicca. Dread seemed set to squeeze his heart back into life. He was paralyzed by the fact that he most surely was signing his own death warrant. He'd be dust, no matter the outcome of this little endeavor. Because how could Buffy not walk the pathways of his subconscious without ripping it to pieces? Without noticing the traces left by what he had kept so well-hidden? He tried to tell himself he was having a terribly vivid nightmare and that all he needed to do was shake himself awake. This was why it took longer for his eyes to close, for him to relax enough to actually meet Willow's gaze – and not merely notice it was there. But once he surrendered, he was as lost as Buffy, swirling into himself, into an abyss he didn't want to face.