Spike quirked an eyebrow at the witch and gestured for Dawn to enter before him. The younger girl did so and crossed to sit on the lower stair between the two adults.
Spike held the door open behind him with his hand and smirked at Willow.
"Need to see that one more time? Want me to keep this open?" He teased.
Willow cleared her throat and discontinued her startled fish impression. "So it's true?"
Spike's smirk leveled a bit, "Could sense Angel's presence. Heard him and the Watcher talking."
Dawn perked up at this, "Well that's not very human of you."
Spike shot her an eye roll, "Haven't lost it all yet, Bit."
Willow shook her head in disbelief, "But how? I mean, how? Why?"
"You're the one gone all 'Harriet the Spy' there, Red. You tell me. What is it?"
Willow shrugged. "I didn't catch that part."
"Well," Spike sniffed, "Let's just ask then, shall we?"
Willow made a move to stop him but Spike was already at the door. Ripping it open and storming into the training room, Willow and Dawn close behind.
Giles stood abruptly as Angel spun around to see his grandchilde and the two women.
"Spike," Giles started to say as the blonde vamp cut him off.
"So, the Great Gelled One is here to enlighten us all," Spike announced emphatically.
Angel rolled his eyes, "We're here to help Buffy, not you."
"We're here? Who else you manage to strangle into your helpless helping?"
"Fred Burkle—" Angel started to say as Spike laughed.
"Fred Burkle?" He chortled, "Who's he, some poncy Watcher breed or another?" Spike craned his head to look for the other person mention before his eyes settled back on Giles. "No offense, Rupes."
Giles sighed; annoyed, "None taken."
"Winifred," Angel bit out with emphasis, "Is a specialist in Paranormal Biotechnology. If anyone can help us it's her."
Spike scoffed, "Ooh, a bird is it? Paranormal Biotechnology? Fancy."
Giles held his hand out to stop Spike's further antagonizing. "Perhaps we should discuss your recent situation, Spike?"
Dawn traded a nervous look with Willow as Spike glared back at the Watcher. Angel stepped forward and put a hand on Giles' shoulder.
"That can wait," he told the man; redirecting his attention now to the redhead. "Willow, how's Fred doing? Did you guys make any progress?"
Willow blanched, "I left as soon as she came in. I told her I needed some air," she explained pitifully, "I don't know if she's found anything yet."
Angel sighed but nodded, "I've got Wesley on the books back home, why don't I call him? See if he's come up with anything, okay?"
Willow nodded weakly, "I'll head back up, see how she's doing."
The witch gave the group a saddened smile before spinning around to leave. Angel nodded then turned back to Giles, "Why don't you and Spike have that little talk now?"
Spike rolled his eyes, "Oh, giving out the orders now are we? Yes, General Forehead, sir."
"Spike," Giles hissed, grabbing the man's arm. "Sit."
Spike pulled away from Giles' grip and eyed him menacingly before slowly taking a seat at the table across the way.
Dawn looked around for a moment, crossing her arms over her chest before speaking up. "As usual, Dawn is useless."
Giles and Spike turned to face the young girl before regarding each other.
"There is a bit of research to be done," Giles informed her, "I believe your astuteness will come in handy."
Dawn snickered but came to sit beside Spike at the table regardless, "Yeah right."
"You're safer here than with Red and the Ghost Buster upstairs, Platelet," Spike reasoned softly.
Dawn released a tiny giggle as Giles cleared his throat, effectively gaining the pair's attention.
"First," Giles began, looking directly at Spike, "There's a prophecy."
Fred scanned the book before her, cross-referencing the instructions with the gadgets she'd assembled onto Buffy's body. Everything looked to be in order. She'd never done any experiments like this outside of the lab of Wolfram & Hart, so she hoped she was doing it right.
A soft tap came from the door and Fred spun her head to see Willow reenter slowly. The shy brunette gave the other woman a soft smile and gestured for her to join her.
"Feeling better?" Fred wondered.
Willow sank to the floor and stared at her friend's still figure, "Spike's turning human," she said distractedly.
Fred shot Willow a wide eyed look, "What?"
"I overheard Angel and Giles downstairs," Willow continued, "Spike's becoming human but he doesn't want to. Something about—"
"The Shanshu," Fred finished for her.
Willow lifted her gaze and studied Fred's expression, "Yeah. What is it?"
"A gift, to restore one's humanity," Giles explained.
Spike sucked on his teeth to prevent the snarky comments he wanted to release while Dawn diligently flipped through the textbook that Angel had brought with him.
"This says it was meant for a champion. Possessed of a soul, greater than human. The champion, harnessing the Amulet of Shansu, will save the world, immediately restoring his humanity."
"Amulet?" Giles and Spike spoke in unison.
Dawn shrugged as Giles reached to read the passage himself as Spike turned a vicious glare to across the room where Angel sat discussing something on the phone to Wesley.
Spike resisted the urge to leap from his seat and throttle his grandsire. The amulet. The soddin' necklace Angel had given to Buffy, who in turn had given it to him.
Resistance didn't last long. Spike shot up and sprang toward the taller vampire, clutching his neck with one hand. Dawn and Giles raced to their own feet and watched in frozen horror as Angel dropped the phone and batted the younger vamp's hand away, effectively tossing the bleached blond to the floor.
"Boy, you've got a lot of nerve," Angel reprimanded; straightening his jacket and reaching over for his fallen phone.
"You selfish ponce!" Spike spat, standing back up. "You were supposed to wear that damn thing, weren't you?"
Angel gave Spike an annoyed look, "I'm on the phone!"
Spike rolled his eyes and threw his hands up in defeat, "Bloody brilliant!" he cried, pacing back and forth before Angel like a caged tiger. "If you wanted this Shanshu rot so badly, why the hell give the amulet away?"
Angel tried to block out Spike's tirade as he struggled against the earpiece of his cell. Wesley had enlightened him with some startling facts about both Buffy and Spike's condition. And as yet, had tried to remain calm and collected on the phone, waiting until he had all the information to inform the right people. But right now, Spike was making that very difficult.
"Didn't know what would happen did you?" Spike continued, "Didn't want to deal with the consequences, did you? That's Angel for ya, wants all the pleasure none of the pain!"
"Thanks Wes, I think I've heard enough. I will, yes. Bye," Angel snapped the phone shut and hauled his fist straight into Spike's nose; effectively sending the man flying into the wall.
"I said," Angel sighed, "I was on the phone."
"So Angel's known about Spike's 'condition' all this time?" Willow clarified.
Fred nodded, "We all have. Angel received a huge dossier on Spike shortly after he returned. Someone at Wolfram & Hart must have been contacted about the resurrection spell y'all performed. He's been getting updates on it ever since."
"But it's not the Shanshu?" Willow checked.
"I don't see how it could be," Fred said, "Though I'm sure to Angel it must look that way. He always seemed to accuse Spike of taking what was his."
Willow managed a small smile at that, her eyes falling back to one of the 'things' she was sure Angel was referring to.
"Does it have something to do with the Amulet itself then?" Willow wondered, still staring at Buffy. "I mean, Angel said he didn't know how the amulet got back to him when he sent it to Buffy. And then Buffy used it in the spell…"
"It might," Fred considered, "But the amulet was part of the prophecy. And the Shanshu clearly states an immediate restoration. I always assumed that meant no waiting."
"Boom, Human?" Willow guessed.
Fred nodded, "Now as for Buffy," she motioned to the girl, "You explained to me that after your resurrection spell some years back, ya'll found out there was some complications?"
Willow bit her lip. It was a tender subject for a lot of reasons. Being reminded of performing a spell that was initially ill-received didn't help. The 'complications' Fred referred to being that Buffy had discovered a chemical change that had somehow made her come back not entirely human, though the percentage was small. A discovery she had made and told Tara about. Tara, remembering her slain lover and the aftermath of that wasn't helping either.
"I'm sorry," Willow squeaked, realizing she'd begun to cry. "Umm, yes. There was an auric disruption in Buffy's biology when she was brought back."
Fred remained professional, for Willow's sake, and simply nodded, "Yes, and that discrepancy is reading on my scanner. It's small, but it's there. See these little blue flecks?"
Fred turned the contraption toward the other girl and showed her the screen. Sure enough, a topographic image of white and red swirls shown; along with tiny blue streaks.
"Now, normally, a straight-up, Grade A, 100 percent human being would show all white. Demons, umm—pure bred demons, show up red. And well, other things…show up blue."
Willow furrowed her brow to indicate her confusion. Fred giggled and explained further.
"Because Buffy's a Slayer, she has demon essence within her, right? Hence the red. But these blue bits? Well, whatever about her got altered, it altered the human part of her. It didn't touch the demon essence. But that also explains why we can't reach her right now.
Whatever Murmur did to her, it wouldn't have killed her. But I think she might be trapped between dimensions."
"She wasn't human enough for Murmur to steal her soul," Willow realized distractedly.
"And she wasn't demon enough to be immune," Fred concluded.
"But why can't this," Willow held up the Iamblichus, "Why can't I reach her if she's in another dimension?"
Fred sighed, "That's for looking into another dimensions, right?" Willow nodded as Fred continued.
"Well, she's not just in one. She's in two. Her physical presence is here. But we don't know where her spirit is. She could be anywhere."
"So how do we get her back?"
"I think we need to fix how this all started."
"Bloody twat," Spike seethed under the compress Dawn was holding to his face.
He was a right mess. Could still sense other vamps and had advanced hearing, but now couldn't take a punch properly. Stake him now, if that'd even work anymore.
Angel shot Spike a bored look and turned back to address Giles. "I have some information from Wesley."
Giles nodded and took his seat once more at the table, "I gathered."
"Someone's conducting an experiment," Angel continued; tossing a hefty folder onto the table.
"I brought this as well," Angel explained, "Didn't think I'd need to show it. Thought I had this all figured out with the Shanshu."
"So there's more to this prophecy?" Giles clarified, reaching to inspect the folder's contents.
Angel shook his head and sank into a free chair. "No. The prophecy is what it is. And the amulet should have done its job," Angel said; shooting Spike a dirty look.
"But it didn't. Spike is slowly becoming human."
Spike snickered and pulled away from Dawn's hold, "State the obvious a bit more, yeah?"
Dawn grabbed him by the arm and pressed the icepack to his face again; effectively shutting him up as Angel sighed.
"Painfully slow," he drawled, "And sporadically. There's no rhyme or reason to his transformation."
"Oh there's a reason, you fu—"
"Hey!" Dawn stopped him with a thump to the head, "Young lady present."
Spike rolled his eyes and just growled at Angel instead.
Angel remained put out but continued with his explanation, "It's not the Shanshu. Something else is happening or…already happened."
"And you think someone else put this—whatever it is—into motion?" Giles wondered.
Angel nodded, "The Powers are benevolent. I can't imagine them responsible for something like this. They wouldn't ask—"
Angel stopped himself. He didn't want to explain what Wesley had revealed.
"The Powers wouldn't ask what?" Giles furthered.
"I don't know if it's the Powers but someone—" Angel started again, all eyes looking to him with a mixture of rage and anxiety.
Angel sighed audibly and painfully looked back at the group's awaiting faces.
"Either Buffy or Spike has to die."
To Be Continued…