Unknown

By Sweetprincipale

This is set in my non-canon, but canon-esque series following Uncontrollable and Unmentionable. If you haven't read those first, please do, or this won't read nearly as well or make much sense. Unknown begins a few weeks after the end of Unmentionable, around the beginning of season five.

Author's Note: Picks up immediately following the last chapter. Finally, some conversations happen! For my readers having smut withdrawal- hang in there, it'll be back. Sometimes plot has to come first. (Shocking, I know...)

Dedicated to: Alexiarrose, ginar369, omslagspapper, Dlillith21, Sirius120, Jackiemack916, Spiked-love, Jewel74, Touch the Dark, Sanity Fair, Arlenedemalk, Teddybear-514,The Three March Hares, CailinRua, Lil-Leti, and ShyL. Wow guys! Thank you for taking time to review. You're the reason I keep sharing my work.

Direct Quotes are obviously not mine, but belong to the fabulously talented and creative people who wrote them. In this case, some of season five's dialogue will be used.

Disclaimer: Nothing of Buffy belongs to me, except my sincere admiration. However, this story is all mine.

Part XIII

Two figures hurried through dark alleys, sped through cemeteries, distracted, looking over their shoulders. "We need to get home, now." Buffy argued.

"We didn't hit the Bronze, haven't hit it for days."

"We have to call the police."

"What?" He yowled in surprise, slamming to a halt. "To take care of vamps at the Bronze, are you mental?"

"No, to deal with the- the bodies." She lowered her voice and got him moving again. "Then we'll hit the Bronze, and then, home. I feel like everyone in town is watching us, knowing what's-"

"Shhh! Still a secret, those three were in on the deal, this doesn't change anything." He stated determinedly, knowing her fear.

"It changes everything! Dreams are one thing, but when people from them start showing up in your town, that's all new kinds of bad, and boy do I have experience with the dream world becoming reality world. Remember? Prophecy Girl?"

"Yeah, yeah, so what? I'm not Prophecy Boy. No one needs me to do any big thing."

Buffy knew he was lying and ignored it. "Yeah. They just dropped a soul in for the hell of it, then came out of mystical enjoining spell aftermath land to see if you wanted to buy the extended warranty."

Stupid bint. Knows me so bloody well. Doesn't help we tell each other damn near everything. They crossed through another dark and tangled street, eyes still scanning for the undead enemies. Found one. Didn't even slow them down.

"Do you have to call the police?" Spike hissed, already knowing the answer. His fist latched onto the collar of a vamp concealed in the shadows, dragging him out into the light with no more effort than grabbing a leaf off a low hanging branch.

"That place looks like no one's entered it in forever and half." Buffy plowed through the vamp as if simply walking through a dust storm, her stake pierced, plunged, and was gone. "We can't leave them there, and we can't carry them through town to bury them."

"Could've." Spike huffed. "The police are gonna ask questions, it'll be in the papers, it'll-" He paused as Buffy gave him a withering look.

"In this town? It'll be hushed up, just more numbers on a morgue list and no one will ever even hear about it but us and the guys. Not even the guys, maybe." She shifted uncomfortably. She didn't like keeping secrets from her friends, her one window in a shuttered double life. Her words also made Spike flex his hands, like he was wringing invisible necks, his face a frustrated mask. "Look, they cared about you, and this might be the last thing we can do for them. Not just- leave them down there like they're not important."

"I know." Spike whispered, hands relaxing.

Buffy continued. "They had some sort of identification on them, those little papers written in Latin. Or were those spells?"

"Latin. Not much to go on. Just the name of their order. No location. Nothin'." He kicked a stone angrily as he marched ahead.

"Maybe someone was looking for them." Buffy offered quietly. "Or will be soon."

He grunted noncommittally. He felt responsible for them- a bit brassed off for sticking him with a soul when he happened to be quite happy without it, and now apparently the damn thing came with accessories... but still responsible. They came to town, for him, for them, with one more gift. He wouldn't ignore that.

"Lemme see that thing."

"No, they told me not to give it to you until it was the 'right time'. What if when I do, something huge happens? You could get sucked into it." There better be room for two in there, because if he goes, I go.

"Don't be stupid, I'm not gonna get 'sucked into' whatever it is. 'Specially if it's meant for me, it wouldn't hurt me, would it?" He scoffed with a lot more confidence than he felt. "It's not even big enough for that, Slayer, it's a little softball sized thing- unless you've taken to padding just one side."

"Hey! I do not pad." Buffy spat angrily, and rearranged her coat, eyeing her bust. She looked at him from the corner of her eye as they were pounding the pavement, walking fast as they could without breaking into a run. "Do you think I need padding?"

"No! For God's sake, that's not the point!" He cried in exasperation. "Lemme see the damn ball!"

"Wait until we get somewhere safe- and you are so not touching it, just looking. Don't tell me something small isn't powerful, Spike. They put Angel's soul in some glass paperweight orb thingy." She stumbled. Are they gonna take his soul back? Is it like when he's done, please return here?

Spike roughly swept his hand over her back, not a lover's touch as much as the gesture of the comrade and friend he'd come to be when they were battling. "It doesn't matter, does it? Don't need the shiny center to be there for you."

Buffy nodded resolutely. She stopped as they were entering the Bronze's locale, heading to a street side pay phone. "Shoot, no change." She ran a hand over her pockets.

"I've got some." Spike smacked the side of the phone with the flat of his hand and quarters cascaded out. "Help yourself."

"Spike!" Buffy gasped and looked over her shoulder like a child who's been caught raiding the cookie jar.

"I got a soul, I'm not a saint, an' I'm sure not a flippin' change machine." He picked up a quarter from the silver pile tumbling to the ground, and slid it in. He leaned against the box, lighting a smoke, nervous agitation just under the surface. It's a gift. With a price and a purpose, and now something I can use when I magically know when to use it. Bollocks. Dream figures bein' real figures, and comin' to town, lookin' for us. Both of us. You want me, fine, you leave my girl out of it.

"I want to report three bodies found...The basement of the old ironworks warehouse." Buffy mumbled into the phone. "Where? Um..." She tugged Spike's coat.

"Rear facin' lot off Sinclair." He spoke over her shoulder, and hung up the phone as the police dispatcher began to ask more questions. "That'll give 'em enough to go on." He tugged her away, on their mission, then paused outside the Bronze. "Maybe you oughta stay out here. You don't know what you're carryin'."

"Okay... But don't take too long?" She requested nervously, hugging herself. "I'm kinda wigged."

He nodded tersely and pressed a kiss to her forehead before skulking silently into the crowded club, mind going a million miles a minute.

His eyes slitted, nostrils quivered. So much blood and lust and sweat. He had the immediate distraction of wanting his Slayer, and all the aforementioned fluids from her. "Where's the bad apple in the barrel tonight?" He muttered, scanning the crowds of writhing bodies. "Always somewhere to hide in this place..."


Buffy kept her eyes peeled and paced the perimeter of the club and a few adjoining alleyways. Her mind kept up a steady patter of self-placations and then questions. He's right. Guh. Hate that sometimes. But he is, I don't know what I'm carrying. I don't know what they want him to do with it. Oh, man. If they tell me to protect him, and give me this thing... He unlocks things, he locks things, what's up with that? What the hell is "a key" when it's not all cryptic?

She turned as she saw Spike leading out a tall, beautiful brunette from the back, loud music spilling out after them.

"I'm starving. Hey- I thought you said you had a girl waiting for us out here!" A petulant voice exclaimed, and shrugged off his hands.

"I do. There she is. Meet the Slayer."

"Hi." Buffy waved, and her irrepressible spirit made a saucy grin come to her lips as she stepped closer. "Spike, I'm shocked. Asking another woman to dinner? How could you?"

"Ah Baby," Spike flicked his silver lighter open suddenly, catching it on the hem of the short sparkling dress the other vampire wore, ignoring her incredulous, panicked look, "she's nothin' to me." With a scream, and a flare, he was standing in ash.

"You don't have to get so grabby with the hot girl vamps." Buffy pouted at him teasingly.

"I'm sorry, weren't you the one doing the whole 'come hither eyes' to Dracula?"

"Yeah, right when I said 'My boyfriend's behind you'. Jealous much?"

"Insanely." He pulled her to his chest, and let her hands slip up the supple leather across his shoulders, mouth doing the same across cold lips. After a much needed moment of calm in a rapidly spiraling evening, Buffy pulled back for air. "Little Elvira was the only vamp in there." Spike said once freed. "Let's go."

She nodded breathlessly, and struggled for enough air to talk. "Stay- with me- tonight?"

"Your mum's gonna have a-"

"Extra guest for breakfast? She'll deal." Buffy panted, and fit her hand into his as they began to head towards her neighborhood.


Upstairs, slipping in as the red numbers on her alarm changed to 2:00, Buffy and Spike carefully unwrapped the ball from the coat's interior. "Bloody hell..." That annoying little thrum in his chest kicked back on, and he stretched a hand towards it.

"Hands off, buster." Buffy scooped it back up, and looked anxiously for a place to hide it. "They told me to protect you and this, and I'm listening to them. Sort of a deathbed request." She cradled it nervously.

"Wonder what happens if you don't protect it? Not like if it breaks, I break, right?" Spike laughed, hiding the concern under a half jest.

Buffy's eyes widened, and she sat it down on the center of the mattress, then surrounded it with pillows, afraid it would roll off or crack or something.

"You don't need to make it a nest, Luv. It survived on the floor of that warehouse, and even the rats were shyin' away from that place."

"We have to find out what it does."

"I've never even heard of it, Luv, an' I used to do a fair bit of readin' up on old curiosities." Spike leaned on the dresser, watching her agonize over the little sphere.

"Ever hear of the Key, or Dagon?"

"Can't say I have."

They exchanged a look. "Giles knows everything. Pretty much."

"We'll ask him tomorrow, well, technically later today."

Buffy nodded."Right, it's late. He needs his sleep." She slowly let down her hair, and slid off her boots. Spike took off his duster and boots as well, enjoying the sight of Buffy going through her little nightly ritual. "Weird..."

"What?"

"They guarded you all your life?"

"Think he must've meant the new innards, Pet. Never saw them before the dream."

"So if the thing in you is something we're supposed to hide, and I'm supposed to protect, and it opens many things, and locks many things, and now there's this super secret glow ball to go with it..."

"Yeah?"

"Don't you think someone is probably... um... after you? Or whatever's inside you?" We keep hinting at it, when are we gonna face it?

"Not like they can come in and cut it outta my chest." He laughed softly.

Suddenly not sounding funny.

Desperate people, people who want something that's been guarded, and hidden, and transformed so it would fit in a vampire's body, and then be given into the protection of the most powerful woman on earth... People like that probably wouldn't hesitate to try anything, anything at all, to get their hands on it.

Grim expressions suddenly took over their faces. "S'pose they might." He shrugged carelessly. "But I'm not afraid of them. We can take on anyone, you an' me." Her eyes were pitifully scared and he sighed, "With a bit of help, of course."

"Thank you!" She hated to do this, and was scared to and way relieved to all at once. Buffy tore from the room, across the hall and down a bit to the guest room. "Giiiles!" She called, and looked expectantly at the door.

The door at the end of the hallway opened. Joyce's door. The sleep mussed Watcher stuck his head through. "What in heaven's name is it?"


Buffy gaped and opened her mouth silently a few times, and looked helplessly at Spike for a second before hissing. "Get out here, right now!"

Giles frowned and cinched his robe shut before emerging, shutting the door softly behind him. "Now see here, Buffy, I am a grown man, and your mother and I-"

"Ew! Not that! Although- ew!"

"Oh, pardon me, I didn't realize skim milk complexions and neon hair were so attractive!"

"Oi!" Spike looked highly offended.

"Not that, not - geez, Giles, not that!" Buffy ran to him, and tugged him forward. "I thought you were in the guest room, I was a little weirded out, okay?"

"Well, hm. I was, but then I went to check on your mother and I- I fell asleep after- ah." He blushed and trailed off.

"Oh God." Buffy blushed as well and shook her head.

"Way-hay, Rupes." Spike winked and Giles glared.

"Can we please not do the locker room shtick now?" Buffy dragged them both into her room, and just as hastily forced them back out. "No, no, not in here, we'll wake her up."

"If she slept through you shoutin' and our snarkin', Luv, she's not gonna-"

Joyce's voice suddenly and effectively silenced Spike. "Buffy? Rupert? Is everything okay?"

"Everything's fine, Mom!" Buffy called. "I just needed Giles - to help me with something, in the basement!"

"What? The basement?" The groggy woman sounded more alert now.

"Yeah, I uh- I need help with the laundry. I got demon guts on my new jeans, Mom! Watchers always know if you should use, um, baking soda or essence of newt... or something. Go back to sleep!" Buffy pushed both of men ahead of her down the stairs, turning and racing back to get the monks' gift.

"She really must work on her cover stories." Giles mumbled despairingly.

"What the hell was that?" Spike commiserated, shuffling after him. "I need a little red pick me up. You deal with Miss Covert Ops. What the hell'd you teach her about stealth in four soddin' years?" Spike rummaged in the fridge for one of the blood bags usually tucked away in the back.

"Oh piss off or teach her yourself, you sneaky git..." Giles opened the basement door as Spike tossed the bag into the microwave. "You're the one who's marrying her." He muttered exhaustedly and stumbled down the stairs, still grousing. Spike, who'd only caught part of the phrase, stared after him in shock.

Buffy entered, ball held carefully in both hands. She paused at the image of Spike, head cocked and deeply confused looking, staring at no one. "Get your drink and let's go. Giles is probably falling back asleep down there."

"What'd you say happens to him if he doesn't gets over tired?" Spike jarred himself to action, grabbing a mug and pouring his late night feeding into it.

"Oh no. He's man bitchy?" She bit her lip.

"I'd say he's man PMSin' but Red an' Anya told me that's an offensive and hormonally inaccurate term." Spike cautiously followed after her. "So yeah, man bitchy. On steroids."

"I am not!" Giles snapped, overhearing them. "I'm merely sleep deprived and I- what in the world have you got in your hands?" Tiredness was instantly replaced.

"I think it's called a Dagon." Buffy clutched it back to her chest as he motioned for it. "I don't know if you can touch it, I'm supposed to protect it."

"Protect it from what?"

"I don't know."

"Where'd you find it?"

"In a really nasty warehouse basement."

"Why in the- never mind that. How do you know you're supposed to protect it?" Giles squinted down as Buffy held it out for him to examine. Spike stood to the side, head swiveling, watching the verbal tennis match.

"He told me I had to!"

He straightened up, keen hazel eyes suddenly at their keenest. "Who told you?"

"Sit down, Rupert. I'd offer to get you a whiskey, but you're gonna wanna wait 'til the end." Spike pushed him into a dusty camp chair stored in the basement, and leaned against the washer.

"Spike, you can't-"

"Can't, can't can't! No one tells us what the fuck to do, Slayer, or we'd never have been together! Shoulds and shouldn'ts die in this town." He reminded her fiercely. "We need to play straight or we're flyin' blind!" Spike growled warningly.

Buffy was never intimidated by him, least of all when in the face of a threat to a secret meant to protect someone she loved. "You can't just blurt stuff out!"

"He's got the previews of this little movie, Luv, maybe he already knows."

Giles swiped the air between the two of them as they faced off, like a ref breaking up an illegal contact. "Sit down both of you and be honest, tell me whatever it is you think you can't. We don't always play by the rules, Buffy, you of all people should know that. I don't know everything about the future, Spike, as I've said. But I do know I was given carte blanche, as it were, to help my Slayer, help all of us, live a better life. I had certain doubts erased, certain ideas reinforced." He kept his statement broad, and ignored the little voice in his head that warned him there was always a second, unpleasant option lurking.

"Do you know that Spike is- different, than he was before the dream?" Buffy finally whispered.

"Yes. He's had a change of heart. That's why you two fell in love."

Fell in love. Yeah. Never lose sight of that. Spike pulled Buffy under his arm, and they sat facing the graying man, propped on the edge of the washer. Their focal point was the sphere resting gently in her hands. "So you know nothin' else matters to us? What we have or what we don't, it was us, changin' for us that did it?"

"Love is very powerful. It can certainly change a person."

"We both changed. We want each other how we are." Buffy put the Dagon behind her, and locked her fingers with Spike's.

"I'm not sure I understand what this has to do with the object you found." Giles finally said after several seconds of silence.

"Well, Librarian, I hope you feel like doin' a bit of writin' because I have something to put in your dream storybook."

The lined brow lined further. "Do tell."

"That key whatsis I kinda vaguely referred to in my portion of our little nightmare? The one I dance around, and then always let the boy leap in on, let him explain how it means I'm the key to the Slayer's pretty little heart?"

"Yes..." Giles' suspicion was evident. "What about it?"

"There's more to it, first off. Apparently it's not only symbolic. It's real. Or real enough, to put inside me."

"Pardon?"

"We're not sure. But um..." Buffy's nails broke Spike's skin as she dug in, waiting for the jaws of dreamland, or Sineya, or something, to open up and take him away as she made their confession. "We think he has a soul. And they call it the Key."

"A soul?" Giles repeated slowly. "A soul."

"Four letters, starts with S, ends with her worryin' all night." Spike snarked, easing Buffy's fingers out of his hand before they broke bone.

"You don't act like you've been ensouled." Giles shook his head.

"Well, I wouldn't, would I? Told me to hide it. Told us both that it was given to me, by these monks, because it was pure hidden in impurity. I'm not gonna act different just 'cause someone messed up my metaphysical bits and bobs."

"No, no, it can't be. When a vampire reclaims his mortal soul, he feels the pain and remorse for what he's done and he atones, he's guilt ridden."

"Stuff that, I was a vampire. Evil. Not gonna be able to undo it all, an' not my bloody fault I bit people, I was hungry an' that's how you eat. Some thing's I'd do different, yeah, but I'd been regrettin' 'em before anyone popped the shiny in me."

"Oh, honestly, you massacred men, women, and children, the descriptions of your tortures are- not suitable bedtime reading, let's say that."

Spike didn't preen, as he would've in the past. "It's a blood rush, violence, pain, power. It's part of bein' demon. I'm still demon."

Buffy swallowed, hearing him speak so calmly, but not contritely about his past. "That's old news, let's focus." She said in a voice that trembled slightly.

"It's not my soul." Spike pounded his chest once, looking desperately into Giles' less than pleased eyes. "It's new. It was made new. Pure. For a new man. Cleansed by love." He looked to Buffy and back. "It doesn't matter what I did, it matters what I do now, because it's not some old piece of me. It's somethin' new." She makes me new in so many ways, and somehow I still stay true to myself. That's what real love oughta be like.

"Such magic is not possible." Giles whispered.

"You said all sorts of things weren't possible." Buffy reached for him with her voice, pleading for him to keep an open mind. "The human part of Spike's aura, the- the enjoining spell and him balancing us, you didn't think it was possible. Instead, it turned out to be old magic, magic you didn't know about yet, but we learned! We used it."

"Buffy, I know I wasn't aware of things that were merely 'old magic', but there's no magic I've ever heard of that can make, can create a new soul."

"You said love was powerful enough to change things." She insisted. "What if it's not," she struggled for an explanation, "what if it's not made? Like made out of nothing, what if it was already something else?"

"Yeah, what if it's this "Key", but the monks shaped it into a soul?" Spike tossed out. "Seems likely, or else wouldn't the just call it 'the soul', not 'the key'?"

Buffy picked up the thread hopefully, their conversation a seamless back and forth, mirroring partnership they'd built in the other areas of their lives. "Yeah, what about that? Can love, and magic, transform something that much?"

Giles blinked. Eyelids open- young couple, young warriors, desperate faces, sitting hand in hand, journey just beginning. Eyelids closed- older couple, sitting arm in arm, two children climbing in between them, faces full of love that he didn't know existed, something you only see in a parent's face... How'd those children come to be? How'd those faces change from hard and raw to soft and glowing with inner light? I don't know of any magic that would create such a reality, but love seems to have done the trick.

"I suppose anything is possible." Giles spoke quietly. "I should know that."

"You didn't already know? I mean, isn't this a violation of the hiding the 'Key' rule?" Buffy looked to Spike and Giles and back.

"I didn't know about this, Buffy. But I knew something had changed. Maybe that protects the secret, or maybe by keeping something secret, it merely means not to let it be seen." He smiled wryly. "Spike, you're doing an excellent job. You act like a thuggish, brutish layabout when it suits you."

"Aww, Watcher, you do notice." He winked. Then sobered. "It is a soul. I've said it prolly was, but tonight I know." He looked at his toes, dangling down, not wanting to look into eyes right now, preferring to see other eyes, dying but suddenly alight. "I felt it before, too, but it wasn't the time to talk about me. When I heard Joyce was sick, an' death suddenly stopped bein' meaningless. And then tonight, I felt for jus' a minute like I met an old friend... and he died holdin' my hand." His dark brows met, cheeks hollowed as he chewed on unspoken words. "You don't get that deep down pain inside, not unless it hurts you personally, not when you're a vamp, and some not even then. I was always the odd duck 'cause I could feel for others."

"Never forgot how to love." Buffy supported him.

"No, never did. But this is a different kind of pain. It doesn't come from loving someone, like I loved Dru, like I love Slayer. It's not even a bloody conscience, knowin' that somethin' is wrong. I always knew that, just ignored it." He laughed ruefully. "This makes you feel like somethin' is sick in the world, and you're sorry for it, even if it's not your fault, nothing you can do about it."

His eyes remained downcast. "Wicca chick said I still had my human half. Least I could call it up when I needed to. I think now it just stays up the whole time. Half human, half demon, all vampire. Don't know how to explain it." Spike trailed off.

Buffy helped. "I do. We're the same. Half and half, and need to be whole."

Whole they would be. "Tell me everything." Giles reached out and took her hand, paused for a moment, and touched Spike's wrist briefly as well. "It'll be alright. You can tell me. I know you worry about it for some reason, I'm sure it'll come out in the telling." He smiled as the two faces lifted slightly. "But I think it's safe that you confide in me, if no one else. I already knew, I suppose, in a way." Buffy's lips began to form a protest and he soothed her. "I never put a name to it, Dear, I merely saw," he tapped his temple, "the change and didn't know what caused it."

She shook her head, determined that he had to understand. "It doesn't have to be the soul that changes a person, Giles! Spike and I were in love before that, before the dream, before we went in to fight Adam!"

"I believe you, Buffy. The point is, I knew there was a change and something inside Spike. If you give it a name and a form, it merely adds to what I already knew." She finally nodded, and Spike patted her back. "Very well then. Begin."


"An' that's the end. It was the same blokes, I looked at all of 'em. Outta my head and onto the floor."

"Dead?"

"Dead and dying." Spike wrinkled his nose. "But they didn't smell right. Not quite human, and not quite dead or alive. Weird."

"Indeed. I'm afraid there are many things we will never know about what happened in the dream realms, or tonight. However, we know one thing. That sphere, the Dagon- oh dear, I wonder what language that's from?" he interrupted himself and then moved on, "-has to be kept hidden and safe until the right time, and we must find out what it does."

"And where the hell do I come in? What do I lock or open, an' how come I'm a Key? Key, that sounds nice an' threatenin'." He said snidely. "Why not the Blade? Or the-"

"What, Spike wasn't already threatening enough?" Buffy rolled her eyes, then rubbed them. "I so need some sleep. I have to take notes in American History or I fall asleep in there, and the professor is really not a fan of that." She stretched and jumped to the floor. "Research round glowy thing. Got it. But-" she looked suddenly panicked, "Giles, we can't tell the guys. Not about Spike, anyway."

"Can't see 'em bein' too thrilled once they find my fangs are back in order." He sneered, imagining the outcry.

"I'm not overly thrilled about that myself, but I know it must be necessary." There's human evil in this world. I should know. The eyes dulled and his hands flexed in a spasm. Who knows what a man is driven to do, to protect?

"I wouldn't have hurt you lot anyway. Not unless you were really beggin' for it." Spike chuckled.

"How completely unreassuring." Giles clambered out of the lawn chair, which collapsed as he was halfway out of it. "Nonetheless," he tried to preserve his dignity as he shook the plastic striped seat off his ankle, "I agree about keeping this a secret, for the time being, until we know more about who wants you, or what you're concealing." He said gravely. "Keeping this between the three of us is wisest, not because we can't trust the group, or because I believe Spike would suddenly be punished for revealing the information," he held up a quieting hand in Buffy's direction, "but because we don't know where the threat comes from."

"I don't think it's one of the guys!" Buffy exclaimed indignantly.

"He means because we don't know what the danger is, and if we don't even know, how are we going to protect them?"

"A valid point, but I was thinking more along the lines of the dream's rather vague descriptions about hiding the object in the most unlikely place. It must be hidden from your enemies, from the one looking for it. That is my take on it, combining all the information we've heard. Therefore, the fewer people who know the location, the less vulnerabilities we have, the less risk of secrets being overheard, fewer slips of the tongue."

"If people are going to sneak into your head and leave weird messages, they should include a phone number where they can be contacted for questions." Buffy groaned. "Watcher-Slayer training this week is going to be all about this Dagon stuff, right?"

"Yes, and any mystical references we find mentioning a Key, or the ability to create or bestow a soul, or monks. Did you happen to see any identifying symbols or designs on their clothing, their-"

"Oh, the name of the order was on a piece of cloth in one's robe. It was in Latin." Giles waited. "You're kidding, right?"

"Sorry, I'd forgotten." He said with a faint note of tired sarcasm. "Spike, what was it?"

"Fraternitatem Custodes."

"The Brotherhood of Guardians."

"Guarding me, or at least my new clockworks." Spike concluded dryly.

"I'll see what I can find about their order. I don't have access to the Council's resources any longer,unfortunately, but I'll see if I can approach any old friends about the issue- discreetly, Buffy, I haven't lived this long without some sense of self-preservation." He forestalled her yet again. "Alright. I suggest we talk more tomorrow evening, yes?" Nods all around.

He made his way up the stairs first, and then paused in the kitchen when Buffy grabbed his arm. "What is it?"

Speaking urgently, drawing him away from Spike who went to rinse mug in the sink, she asked, "I'm getting better at telling when you're not telling me stuff." Her voice dropped to a hissing whisper, "Do you know what's happening, or not? Please, just tell me, I can take it."

But he shook his head. "A lifetime in a moment, Buffy, that's what I saw. Sometimes certain parts stand out, sometimes parts blur. I can honestly say I see images, but don't know of their significance, or exactly what I'm seeing." A look of pain and uncertainty washed over her face, and his hand cupped her chin to redirect it, eyes fusing. "I know you fight. I don't know what, I don't know everything, I only know - there is something that will hunt you, or hunt him. You're both so connected, I can't tell your life from his anymore."

"That's beautiful. In a scary way." Buffy whispered letting her head rest on his comforting hand.

"Life is always scary, and you cannot always be brave." He smiled, "But you face your hunter. You fight. And you win." He sealed his lips as Spike rejoined them. "Well, it is late."

"Uh, yeah." Spike put his hands in his pockets, suddenly ill at ease. "I'll get my gear an' go on out." He gave Buffy a sideways glance. They'd planned to stay together tonight, but that was before they involved the Watcher. He could always slip back through her window after a decent amount of time had passed.

"Um. Yes. Right, I'll get your stuff and bring it down." Buffy smiled at him gratefully with sadness underneath. She knew he was planning to leave for the sake of not alienating her mother, even though it was all coming out in the open anyway, and to spare Giles the problem of choosing between supporting his slayer and arguing with his girlfriend if Joyce discovered Spike was spending the night.

"You do that." Giles turned from them abruptly. "I seem to have left my glasses in the basement."

"No you didn't, they're in your left pocket." Buffy pointed.

"Hm?" Giles patted himself, pushing the glasses farther out of sight. "No, must've left them downstairs. And I shall have to look about for them, they've probably fallen under that dratted lawn chair."

Spike tugged Buffy away, as the comprehension dawned. "G'night, Giles."

"Love you! And um- we'll be really quick about getting Spike's stuff and saying goodbye."

"Yes, yes, I'll probably need two or three minutes to scout round." He waved them on with a twinkle in his eye. "Oh dear. Joyce will probably kill me." Giles sighed softly, went into the basement, and waited patiently on the staircase, twirling his "missing" frames.


"He was being so awesome. He's like- not Giles. I mean, he is Giles, but he's like 'Giles, Caring and Communicative Human Edition'." Buffy hissed as they entered her bedroom. She tucked the glowing gift in a her weapons' chest, covering it in a mound of sweaters.

"He's not just bein' your Watcher anymore, Luv, he's bein' - well, he's tryin' to be part of the family." He's trying to be her dad, 'cause God knows she doesn't have one, 'cept in name.

"I know, but that whole 'you go on up and I'll pretend I didn't see you' thing, that's above and beyond."

"You do realize that it works two ways, right? He doesn't see me stay in, an' we don't watch him ignore the guest room and go get tucked in nice and cozy with Joyce."

Buffy fought down the reflexive negative comment. She didn't really mean them, she just was used to teasing her stuffy Watcher. Who was totally not the same person anymore. Well, he was, but he wasn't. Same, but changing. Like us. "Good."

"Well, well. Look who's all grown up."

"Maybe." She hugged him to herself as she turned off the light. "But you always thought I was, didn't you?"

"Knew you could handle yourself." He pulled her tightly to him. The tension was returning as they cocooned together, brave faces falling when they were alone again. "You can handle me, an' that's pretty bloody impressive." He managed a soft laugh.

She nodded into his shoulder, swallowing a few times before she could trust herself to much sadness and fear in just a few hours. In a few weeks. The world was crashing around them, and they just needed something to hold onto. So she held, hands digging in tightly, feeling his own bruising grip comforting her. "He said we win."

"Together?" 'Cause winning meant nothing if you lost the girl.

"So connected he can't tell your life from mine." She looked up at the lean face, darkness accentuating how bright his eyes were, how soft such hard lines could become.

He smiled down at her, the half to make him whole, partner in crime, on the battlefield, hawk to his rabbit, and rabbit to his hawk, the everything and anything he'd been looking for. Gonna be okay, 'cause we're gonna be together. The rest I can take or leave. "Alright, then. That's all I need to know."


To be continued...