title- Bigger Problems Pt4 of Under A Blood Moon
disclaimer- JW et al. own 'em.
feedback/distribution- let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
spoilers- ref. to SMASHED, (and kinda deadthings).
summary- Recap: Tahree has cast some sort of spell over The Champion and her Knight. After bringing down the house in Smashed, Buffy has studiously been avoiding Spike for the past 5 or so days, but she can't seem to get him out of her mind. After attempting to get her mind off of the demon at The Magic Box, Buffy goes home -- after stopping off for a meal she's been craving. Once back home, she and Dawn get into another fight and Buffy does something she's never knowingly done before.
"Dawnie? Dawn." Buffy had hefted her sister over to the sofa and propped her against the pillows. Gently brushing a few strands of hair away from her sister's face she touched Dawn's forehead. 'She feels pretty warm... Maybe she has a fever.' "Dawn?" Buffy released a small sigh when she heard Dawn's quiet moan of returning consciousness. Her relief turned to consternation when, after slowly blinking open her eyes, Dawn focused on her sister and screeched.
Scrambling back into the recesses of the couch, Dawn pulled her knees up against her chest and stared at Buffy, wild-eyed.
"Dawn? What's wrong?" Checking behind herself to see if maybe there was some 'big bad' creeping up behind her, Buffy saw nothing unusual. She twisted back around to her sister and reached out to touch her knee. "Dawn --."
The teenager squeaked, "Buffy?!" And although it seemed impossible, she pushed even further back into the corner of the couch.
"Yes Dawn, its me." She was starting to get worried. Dawn was still looking at her as if she'd grown scales and a pink feather tail. Quickly but surreptitiously looking down at her arms Buffy made note that they were still scale-less. 'Hellmouth -- you can never be too careful,' she reasoned to herself.
"Dawn, what's up? You're starting to freak me out."
"I'm freaking you out?!" the teanager squealed. "Buffy... before... when you were yelling at me..."
"You're eyes... they..." Dawn paused, searching for an appropriately descriptive word.
"They what?" Buffy prompted, as she began to relax. No scales. No feathers... Really, how bad could it be? "They blinked? They dilated? They --."
Dawn was screeching again. An almost hunger debilitating sound. Buffy reflected quietly as she viewed her cooling burger with one eye. "Oh is that all? You probably saw the sunlight reflecting off of them, or --."
"Is that all! IS THAT ALL?!"
There goes that shriek again.
"Buffy, your eyes were glowing! Demony glowing! Satan's wife, blood red, oogedy boogedy glowing. Scary. Creepy. And, and... GLOWING!"
Buffy denied; she was the queen of denial. "Not possible Dawnie. I'm not the glowy type of girl. I'm the hazel-eyed kind of girl. See," she leaned forward and peered at Dawn, "normal old regular eyes. Every day. All the time." She paused as Dawn continued to vehemently shake her head in disagreement.
"Really Dawn. It was probably just the sunlight causing a reflection off of my eyes."
Dawn derailed Buffy's train of denial with a little common sense.
"You're back was to the window Buffy. No reflection. And I know what I saw. Red eyes that no amount of Visine would ever be able to get rid of! You need to go to the doctor. Or get Will -- Tara, or maybe Spike here. But something is definitely wrong with you."
'Something's wrong with me. Something's wrong with me.' Spike's words came flowing back to her again. ** "You came back wrong." ** His words twisted with her sister's and abruptly, Buffy was scared. What if a second demon or spirit had been released when she was brought back. What if SHE was possessed by that demon?
"--the look on your face Buffy. You were so angry at me and your eyes were all red..."
Buffy fell backwards onto her butt with a thud. 'Angry. Eyes. Doublemeat Palace. Oh God!'
'That was why the manager had backed away so quickly and caved in to my demand for a rare beef patty.' And now that she thought about it, why had she wanted a rare burger in the first place. She never ate things rare. She observed the sandwich suspiciously; as if the answer to all her questions were contained between its' sesame buns.
'Maybe whatever possessed me, whatever is inside me craves rare --.'
"Hmmmm?" She finally registered Dawn's voice.
"Maybe... maybe you're just sick. Some sort of Slayer flu. Maybe... maybe we should just get you some chicken noodle soup and you should put your pjs on... You know... take your temperature and all..." Dawn's voice had taken on her 'I'm an adult' tone and she smiled as Buffy nodded in seemingly dutiful agreement.
Privately, Buffy questioned whether a slayer possessed by either the flu, or a demon would be made better by chicken noodle soup, but, what the heck.
"You go upstairs and put your jammies on and I'll bring up the soup when it's done."
Buffy stole another glance at her burger as Dawn uncurled herself from the confines of the couch, but did as told. Beginning a slow ascent of the staircase, Buffy literally heard her brain click 'on' again and she turned back to her sister. "Dawn, before you do the soup thing, can you, go to The Magic Box and ask Anya for the book that Willow got the spell from. You know, the one she used to bring me back. Oh, and also, if you can grab one or two other books... ones that discuss ummm, illnesses, and health problems of slayers, and other... other... people type beings? And can you be sneaky about it?" No need to involve the rest of the gang just yet.
"Sure thing Buffy, sneaky is my middle name!" Dawn was silent for a second before asking, "You think something in the spell they used is making you 'Glow Girl'?
"Maybe. It's probably the flu, like you said, but, well, I'd like to rule the spell out if possible. Think you can manage to get the books?"
"No problem. But, uh, will you be okay here, alone?" Gaining an affirmative nod from her sister Dawn added, "Okay then. I'll go right now, you go get changed, and I'll be back in less than an hour."
Buffy viewed her sister. For the first time in weeks, months even, Dawn looked happy. Not happy that Buffy wasn't... quite right, but happy to be doing something, anything. To be needed. Buffy recognized that feeling. She remembered a time when she yearned being needed. A time when being needed by others had been like manna from heaven to her. And now she could sense that craving in Dawn. A piece of the slayer's life puzzle fell into place. She whispered, "Thanks Dawn."
"Your welcome! Now go get changed!" And Dawn sprinted out the front door.
Almost before the front door closed, Buffy felt her body weaken and she grabbed the banister for support. She felt like she was going to pass out. Eyes closed, she attempted to stave off the wave of dizziness that was threatening to engulf her. With a puff of breath The Slayer opened her eyes and let them go where they wanted. She could almost hear the burger calling to her: "Bite me Buffy!" She fought the urge for half a second before electing to give in to her desire... or demon... or whatever it was.
Springing forward and taking the steps two at a time, she jumped onto the couch, settled down Indian style, and smiled one of the biggest happy smiles she'd ever smiled.
In less than a minute her Doublemeat Medley burger had been inhaled and she felt like a pig. A satiated pig, but a pig nonetheless. A satiated, non-dizzy pig.
"Mmmmm." Shoving the untouched bag of fries and the slowly dissolving chocolate shake onto the floor, Buffy settled back against the arm of the sofa, and closed her eyes; swiftly drifting into the first uninterrupted sleep she'd had in a week.
* * *
When Buffy woke up it was dark, inside and outside the Summers' home.
Turning her head on the sofa cushions she saw that there was a patch of light filtering into the living room from the dining room. Lifting her head a bit, she glimpsed Dawn sitting at the table, a pile of fat musty books surrounding her.
"Buffy, you're awake." Dawn looked up from the book in front of her and smiled with relief.
"Yep, all rested. How long was I asleep? I mean, what time is it?"
"About six, and about 6:00."
"It's 6:00? I slept for six hours?"
Dawn nodded. "I tried to wake you up when I got home, but you threatened to stake me if I kept nudging you, so -- with you being the slayer and all -- I decided to let you sleep. 'Sides, sleep is good for fighting flu's and stuff. Speaking of which, how are you feeling?"
"Fine. Right as rain." She scowled, realizing that she --
"... sounded like Spike" Dawn said with a giggle. "You look good. Better than before. Kind of all rested and bright. Maybe it was just a six hour flu, or maybe slayer's get really short cases of the flu!"
Buffy smiled, "This is the Hellmouth, I suppose weirder things have happened. Are those the books?"
"Uh huh. And I got a couple more that Anya recommended."
"Were you…were you able to be sneaky about it?"
"Like I said, I'm the sneakiest. I told her I was researching some stuff for one of my classes."
"And she believed that?"
"Good point." Stretching languidly in her nest on the couch, Buffy slowly uncurled herself and headed toward the dining room. "Have you eaten yet?"
Buffy thought briefly about admonishing her sister, but caught herself just in time. With a shrug of her shoulders she offered, "How about I put on that soup we talked about and then we can nosh while we research."
Dawn beamed and added, "Can we have oyster crackers too?"
"What's soup without oyster crackers?"
As soon as she entered the kitchen Buffy saw the basket Spike had delivered earlier, still sitting in the middle of the island. It was staring at her. Taunting and daring her to open it. "Not gonna happen" she mumbled. "Not tonight anyway." Flicking her eyes around the kitchen she looked for an out of the way place to temporarily store the basket. 'Hiding place... Hiding place...' Not knowing what was in the basket, she definitely thought it would be safer to tuck it away from Dawn's young eyes. Spike could have put anything in there, from chocolate to hidden camera photos of the two of them kissing and... Well, the kissing would be bad enough for Dawn to find out about.
Making room in the cabinet beneath the sink, Buffy shoved the container into its recessess. 'No way Dawn will find it in there. Garbage duty and dish duty she avoids like the plague.' Stepping back from the sink she shut the cabinet door and set about finding and opening a can of soup. Pouring it into a pot and setting it to simmer, she headed back into the dining room.
* * *
Taking a seat across from Dawn, Buffy sighed with dismay at the size and number of books her sister had managed to drag home. Girding her mental faculties about her, Buffy reached out and pulled a book to her.
'Sueprestia Oricilus: A Study of Health Issues and Physical Properties of Natural and Unnatural Beings.'
'Oooh, fun! -- Not!' Before 'diving' into the book, Buffy looked at Dawn hopefully, "Did you find anything yet?"
"No. Well, actually, I just found the spell Willow used. Did you know she had to --"
"Stop! I don't want to know what's in the spell, just the side effects."
"Good decision," said Dawn as she looked back down at the spell with a shudder. "Remind me to stay on Willow's good side will you?"
"Okay, okay! If I see any warning labels, I'll yell."
Buffy flipped through the opening pages of the text until she reached the Table 0f Contents. She skimmed through the headings. 'Akasha... Banshee... Boogey men... Boogey women... The Gentlemen'. Shuddering, she cleared her throat and hummed a note or two, just to make certain she still could.
Buffy made a mental note of the page number of the section titled 'Health Issues of the Common Human', but continued to make her way down the list until she hit 'Slayers, pg. 2038. She made a second mental note, and then continued to skim the chapter titles. 'Vampires'...3561. Underneath this chapter heading were the subtitles: Mating, Birth, Illness, and Death. She licked her lips and looked up at Dawn furtively; she was still concentrating intently upon the spell book in her lap. Good.
Buffy reasoned with herself as she curved open the thin papers of the tome to page 3562 -- 'Vampire mating'. 'It's just a scientific question, I'm a slayer... I need to know all I can about Vampires. And well, Angel didn't do it, but Spike did. I just want to see how common it is, and maybe what it means.' She ran her finger down the page -- skimming sections that she knew she'd go back to in a few minutes -- until she found what she was looking for: 'The Vampire's Purr'.