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.

Dedicated to: CavemenFTW, skeezixx, ginar369, Alexiarrose, MaireAilbhe, omslagspapper, Dlillith21, Sirius120, Rachel, Kerry220, Jackiemack916, Alottalove, Annamonk, Jewel74, DidiSummers, Tawny, TessLouise, and KayanaM.

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 XXII

Weeks passed. There weren't that many places in California that gave off the beam of great goodness that the priests were seeking. One or two more, and they'd be forced to try a different place- and there was no place left try.


"I'm going to try not to get my hopes up too much. Or cry. Or anything. I mean, after today radiation is done, but that doesn't mean it's all going to be roses and kittens." Buffy brushed her hair nervously and seemingly spoke to herself in the mirror. Then she turned.

Spike stood behind her, looking equally uneasy and equally trying not to show it. "Nothin' to worry about. Just another treatment."

"The last treatment!" Buffy crowed. Then put her hands over her mouth. "I mean- c'mon. Let's go."

"Right." He slicked back his hair once more, followed her out of the bathroom and watched her ascend their unusual staircase. "Think she'll want me there?" Spike finally decided to voice his apprehension.

Buffy whipped her head around with a soft frown. "Of course!"

He raised one eyebrow slowly. "Of course?"

Buffy slid the hatch back with a sigh. "So, 'of course' might be a stretch, but- she doesn't go around being all anti-Spike anymore."

Spike grimaced and followed her. "That's 'cause she barely speaks to me. She just stares at me. Like she's trying to see inside me."

Buffy offered him a hand to pull him over the last rung, not that he needed it, and stood in his way. Unmoving, looking up at him with a bittersweet smile on her face. "That's good. Not that you're not pretty on the outside-"

"Shucks, Slayer." He fluttered his lashes dramatically.

She rolled her eyes. "-but, you do have a lot of amazing stuff on the inside." Buffy rubbed his chest lingeringly. "Maybe Mom is starting to see it. She just doesn't know what to say."


"Did Buffy say she's riding with us, or meeting us there?" Joyce asked.

"Meeting us there."

"And it's just you two, isn't it?" Joyce fussed with her wig and the blue and gold scarf over top of it as she looked in the hall mirror. "I know they'd all like to be there, but it's a little overwhelming on the staff when one patient brings enough people to fill the waiting room."

Giles laughed. "They all agree this is a special moment in terms of your treatment. They'd like to be there I'm sure, but I believe it'll just be Buffy and Spike who join us."

Joyce stiffened. "It's daylight."

Giles opened the door for her. "Why so it is."

Another sigh, more frustrated now. "I supposed it never stopped him before." He'd taken her to a dozen treatments. "I never thought vampires would move around in the day time. They'd skulk around at night. Angel seemed to." Joyce frowned and put her handbag and walked out into the bright fall sunshine.

"Spike is entirely different than Angel." Giles said. Joyce gave him a strange look. Right. Seems too easy. It's only been a short while- to the rest of them. "I meant to say- that is- Spike wants Buffy to have whatever she needs in terms of support. He'll accompany her in daylight."

"Even if he almost bursts into flames?" Joyce muttered.

"Yes." Giles stated firmly, capturing her eyes. "Even then."

Joyce was silent on the way to hospital.


"Congrats, Mrs. Summers. Last appointment. You've been a real trooper." The technician took Joyce's paperwork and gestured to the waiting area. "We'll get you started in a couple minutes." He walked off with a little wave.

"Last one." Joyce sank back in her seat and clutched Giles' hand in one of hers, and Buffy's in the other. "Something I can definitely say I'll be glad to clear off my schedule." She turned to Buffy and hugged her tight. "See? We made it." False comfort. The cancer was still there. But this part of the treatment was done. If the tumor didn't start to grow again... Joyce forced her smile to remain. It's still a relief.

Buffy's thoughts mirrored her mother's. We do the brave thing. She smiled broadly. "It's awesome, Mom."

Spike began to slip away. He was the ride to these appointments. The few minutes before they took her in, he was company. The half hour she was gone where he couldn't see her, he paced. The few hours where they let her sit and let the room-spinning, utter exhaustion, can-barely-breathe-for-being-tired part pass, he was the silent presence a few feet away. Or sometimes the one who read out bits of the magazines by the bed they put her on.

But they didn't need him now. She hardly needed him then. These strong women. He smiled slightly and backed towards the door.

"Where are you going?" Joyce asked, as if she'd been watching him the whole time, surprising him.

Bloody hell. Genetic, maybe. Spike coughed. "Family moment. I was-"

"I'm glad you came." The words left her mouth, and Buffy and Giles gave her a very unflattering look of shock. "Buffy needs you." Joyce said simply.

Hm. Needed after all. Something inside him seemed to glow, and Joyce's eyes seemed to squint.

"We're ready for you." The nurse appeared in the doorway with a smile and clipboard.

The moment was gone.

"There'll be other times." Giles murmured quietly and followed Joyce down the corridor, hearing two sets of footsteps behind his.


"You might see a change in her over the next few days." The doctor explained gently.

"She's always more tired."

"This was the final dose, and it was slightly higher."

"What does that mean? Was it supposed to be?" Buffy sat up straight in her chair, and Spike winced as her fingers crushed his.

"Each case is different, but yes, that was the plan in your mother's case. She'll move on strictly to chemo treatments, and the dosage is going to be a little higher there as well." He looked over the top of his glasses and then looked away, back at his notes. "Some of the side effects might be worse until things level out."

"Side effects?" Giles removed his glasses and gave the doctor a stare that combined "I'm vastly smarter than you are." and "Don't mess with my woman." "Go on."

"The affected area of the brain might take a little while longer to recover from this treatment. She'll be more tired."

"We can handle that. She- we have tons of help, she can sleep all day, no big." Buffy babbled.

"That's wonderful. In addition, there might be a loss of vision- temporarily. Blurred vision. Increased fatigue. Muscle pain. A loss of... lucidity."

"What?" Buffy blinked.

Giles took her hand, stilling her, licking his suddenly thinned, dried lips. "Those were always a possibility. She's done very well until now."

"What makes this different?" Spike demanded, fists balling in tension. Don't bite the doc. Don't bite the doc. Don't bite the doc...

The doctor stopped hiding behind the papers and sighed. "When radiation stops, sometimes the cancer makes a brief rally. The chemo will make a surge into the affected areas as well."

"My mom is not a battlefield!" Buffy snapped, angry, overwhelmed tears suddenly springing into her eyes. She blinked them away. "She's going to get better!"

"Yes, she is." Giles said firmly. Spike stole a glance at him. Pale. Paler than he should be. "Right now- she has to work through this." His breathing seemed to catch and drag a little.

"Steady..." Spike murmured and cast uneasy looks at the two humans he cared about- one freely, one slightly and begrudgingly.

"It's usually a minor set back. Your mother is progressing wonderfully. She has an excellent prognosis at this stage. A few days... Perhaps a week. And then she'll work on adjusting to the differences in the chemo." The paper shuffle began again. "Here, let me take you through this week's blood panel..."


Joyce woke slowly. Two figures, blurry, smiling anxiously. And a third shape. White and then gold and white again, with black edges. So confusing. "What'd they do to my eye?"

"Mom. Are you okay? Can you see?" Buffy demanded, fingers slipping past the side bars on the bed and into her hands.

"Of course I can, Sweetie." Joyce tried to sit up and rapidly sank back. "Oh. Ohhh, that's not good."

"You want me to get the nurse?" Spike needed to move, do something. Perching wasn't working for him.

"Spike's here?" Joyce rolled her head slowly, eyes struggling to focus.

"Yes, get the nurse." Buffy hissed.

"Spike? You look different. Sort of - gold and blurry. Gold... round ball." Joyce suddenly frowned. "You're not smoking are you? Oh!" The frown turned panicked. "You're not on fire?"

"I'm fine. I'm just fine, Luv." Spike soothed. "Gonna go get your nurse so we can get you off home."

Joyce nodded and closed her eyes. "That'll be nice."

Spike squeezed Buffy's shoulder and quickly left, looking for one o the staff members he knew worked with Joyce.

Giles stood and turned. Raked his hair, turned on his heel and paced three times across the room.

Buffy joined him, halted him, with a pleading look in her eyes. "She- she's just confused. It's a lot to shoot lasers at your brain- even good ones."

He didn't bother to correct her terminology, only nodded, wishing she'd move, let him pace again.

"She said he's glowing."

Another terse nod, eyes that didn't meet hers.

"Do you think people can see- souls?"

Perhaps. When they're dying. When the ether thins...

Why show me a future, why let me taste love again- only to rip it away? Why make two futures and give us precious little control over which one we end up in? What did they make us choose? Choose love, that was the lesson, and I have learned it. I have loved. I have chosen.

But someone else chooses the ending.

"Giles? Do you think she might have-"

"I suppose." He managed to whisper hoarsely before the noise changed. A dry sound, a half-choking, half-sobbing, muffled under a bitten fist as he turned away.

Buffy stared, surprised. Whatever she'd been expecting, she hadn't expected that. She hastily yanked the privacy curtain around the bed and scooted in front of Giles, gripping his forearms when he tried to turn from her again.

She hadn't seen this pained, strangled, silent weeping. Ever. Unless-

Fire. Flashes of red flame, smells of creosote and blood on tweed, and being so scared. That she would lose him, because he had lost her. "Giles. Hey. It's going to be okay." Buffy found herself thrust into his usual role, the calm one, the persevering one.

"I love her." Giles said vehemently. "I lose every woman I love."

She saw the face in her mind again, matched it up to the face she could see now, only this one was less maddened with grief, but still unraveling.

The night he came after Angel, who took Jenny from him. Now there's no one to fight back against and he's scared. He's in love and he's scared he's losing her, and I know how it hurts.

Buffy slid her arms around him and hugged, small, thin arms seeming so inadequate around such a typically staunch, unwavering frame.

"I love her." He repeated, hating himself for giving way, but clutching her to him all the same, leaning on the body he'd so often supported.

"I won't let you lose her." Buffy whispered grimly. She meant it. "I promise."


Giles straightened up in a moment. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be." Buffy shrugged. From behind the curtain, the unconscious woman moaned faintly.

"It's not that I doubt what I've told you before- about- about your mother's recovery." When in control, he forced the fears down.

"But seeing her all loopy... so bad." Buffy shivered. Cold chills settled in her stomach.

Giles nodded and peered around for Spike and the nurse, but no one had arrived yet. He quickly dabbed at his eyes and harrumphed to restore his composure. "When your mother doesn't notice that something is wrong, it- it doesn't resonate as it should."

Buffy sighed. "I know you're overcompensating for being upset in front of me or something, but speak teenager, okay?"

"When is the last time your mother lay back and let her symptoms overtake her without making at least a token effort to get up or fight them off?" Giles challenged. Then promptly wished he hadn't. The face that had been so strong in the presence of his tears now turned vulnerable, scared little girl eyes in a beautifully grown mask.

"Oh." Buffy managed to put a world of pained realization in one little syllable.

"She's got somethin' wrong with her eye and I don't give a bloody damn about 'expected', I want you to bloody check. Please." Spike was half pulling, half coaxing-slash-bullying a nurse into Joyce's room.

"She's gone back to sleep." Giles spoke up quickly.

The nurse looked between the two men, and decided the younger one with his curious growling sounds seemed more likely to snap and went over to the bed. "Mrs. Summers? Mrs. Summers?"

"Stay with her, okay?" Buffy whispered to Spike, and fled into the hallway.

"But I-"

"Get us if it's drastic." Giles darted past him as well.

Spike shook his head and growled. "Leave for a few minutes and all hell breaks loose."


"Buffy. Buffy, I'm sorry." Giles chased her down. "I didn't wish to -hm- alarm you, I simply-"

"No, you're right. It's a big deal. She doesn't notice that she's totally seeing sacred, mystical stuff, like a soul."

"She doesn't realize what she's seeing."

"But it'll be bad. She'll figure out what Spike has and-"

Giles shook his head, lips quirking. "Why are you worried about Spike's part in this now?"

"Well- shouldn't I be? Mom just developed mega x-ray vision into the one thing in the world I'm trying to hide. More wiggy, she doesn't even realize it's funky that she's seeing Spike with a sunshine center."

He swallowed. "Buffy. The ability for a human, not skilled in magic, to suddenly see a person's soul-"

"Well, I wouldn't care if it was everyone's soul, but Spike's is kind of a big, huge, 'I command you to hide this', people die because of this deal." Buffy cut him off impatiently, craning her head back through the window of the room where her mother was recovering.

Giles blinked. "She only saw Spike's."

"I guess. She never said we were glowing."

Relief. Oh, sweet, flooding relief! She's not dying. Giles sucked in a lungful of air and laughed once. "All of us have souls, all of these people! But she only noticed his!" He placed a hand on his heart and sighed.

Buffy placed a hand on his collar and shook him. "So help me if you drag my boyfriend out of the soul closet in the middle of this hospital I will burn every book you own." Buffy threatened. "You, Mr. 'told me to keep my whole life secret'. Discrete much?"

"No, you don't understand. I thought- well, never mind what I thought." Giles waved it away, and ignored her threats with equal dismissiveness. He took Buffy's elbow and led her down to a quiet part of the hall, furtively looking over his shoulder all the time. "Spike's- er-hrm. Yes, what he has, and what we have. His was bestowed. It wasn't naturally occurring."

"I so know this already." Buffy urged him to speed up.

"So Joyce isn't seeing souls. She's seeing this- this 'gift'."

"She's the only one who's ever said anything. Tara, who reads your spiritual colors or whatever, she never even-"

"An aura is not the same." Giles interrupted, then mused. "I doubt it's medicinally induced. He must have come across any number of patients under going similar treatments when he brings your mother."

"True. And it only happened this time."

"Your mother is not herself."

"She's just not all here right now." Buffy said hotly.

Not all here. Perhaps some is... elsewhere. "It's not her health. It's her mind."

"What?"

"Her mind. It's altered. She's not entirely lucid. Part of her brain is not functioning as it usually does after this last, more aggressive treatment."

Buffy bit her lip, tilted her head, then gave up. "What?"

"Whatever Spike has- Joyce saw it, because of what is going on inside her head."

"What does that mean?"

"I don't know yet." Giles admitted.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "All that build up and that's what we get?"

"I believe research is in order." Giles said with a small smile.

Buffy smiled suddenly. "You're feeling better."

The Watcher flushed. "Yes. Earlier- I didn't mean to leap to conclusions. I was simply not thinking rationally."

"Yeah. Being in love screws up logical stuff." Buffy led him back towards the room.

"It does." He nodded. Coughed. Polished. "Thank you. You held up very admirably."

Buffy didn't have anything to polish so she tugged on a loose strand of hair. "I don't think you have to thank me. You didn't just teach me to be a slayer. You taught me what it's like to be an adult."

He was moved. Much moved, and it would be mortifying to cry again. So he nodded and polished further.

She covered for him. "Not adult like how to pay the electric bill and balance a checkbook. But the other stuff. Handling a crisis. Knowing what to do when you don't know what to do. Does that make any sense?"

"Perfectly sensible." He held the door open for her, and they walked in together.


Joyce looked at all three of them together, looked at Spike wavering like a badly tuned television set, and then sighed when he came into sharp focus as she forced herself to concentrate. "I'm ready to go home."

"The nurse says you're not stabilized yet." Giles sat beside her. "Another hour resting would help."

"But I have to put my car insurance payment in the mail and stop at the bank." Joyce protested weakly.

Her three guests exchanged smiles.

"You're getting better already." Spike chortled.

"Hm. Don't smoke in here." Joyce's voice grew fainter and her vision blurred again. The golden gleam was hovering over Spike, not in the least like a cigarette, but the only logical explanation her brain offered.

"I won't, I don't wanna get chucked out." Spike smirked at Buffy. "Gotta visit a little bank of my own." He winked.

Buffy leaned her head against Giles' shoulder and wondered who else but Spike would have their soul mistaken for a smoke. "Hurry back."

"Buffy!" Giles gaped. "Raiding the blood bank while your mother is a patient here is-"

"Not now." Buffy watched her mother turn in her unrestful sleep, her pale face seeming to have a glow of its own. "We can talk about it when we get home."


Anya hung up the phone with a worried frown. "She's not coming in for a couple days."

Willow closed her laptop and Tara put down the dust cloth she was using.

"Why?" Willow asked, moving towards Tara, automatically searching for her comfort.

"She's really tired and having problems focusing." Anya turned to the cash register and started balancing the already balanced drawer with brisk, hard fingers. "That's fine. We can run the store."

"We have class tomorrow."

"Then I'll run it myself."

"Spike and Giles could probably come in." Tara soothed.

"That's fine." Anya started scribbling notes in the ledger, the same ledger she'd just filled out, with exactly the same numbers.

"Anya?" Willow dared to reach for her elbow.

"Stop that! I'll lose count!" Anya snapped explosively.

"Sorry!"

"Things should be orderly. Organized! Sequential. You - you earn money and you deposit it, earn interest, and then you spend it. Simple."

"Uh..."

"You're sick, you go get medicine, you get better. Your medicine shouldn't make you more sick! And if they're taking you off of a medicine- dammit, the last treatment shouldn't be worse than the first treatment!" Anya slammed the drawer so hard it bounced back with an angry ping. "Oh God! I hurt the money." She backed up from it slowly, only to be blocked in a very short space by the counter.

Tara and Willow exchanged a look. "It doesn't mean she's getting worse." Tara whispered, softly stepping towards her. Anya nodded, lips pursing as her face twitched in an effort not to cry. "She's going to be fine."

"We all worry about her. Buffy's mom is-"

"Isn't just 'Buffy's mom' to me. She's my friend. She's some sort of mother figure to you guys-"

"And you!" Willow said defensively.

"And me!" Anya agreed wholeheartedly. "She's also my friend. We- we talk and she doesn't treat me like I'm the outsider, and I never- had this- before." Anya said slowly. "Someone who likes me 'cause I'm me. Not just 'cause I'm Xander's girlfriend or I can help explain a forthcoming apocalypse." Anya shrugged back inside herself, and started straightening up the counter. "You don't have to get it."

"We-" Tara started to speak and Willow shook her head. A moment passed, while Anya viciously arranged things and Willow tired to find the right words.

"Anya? Do you want to go to the magic shop with us after closing?"

"What?" Anya looked up, puzzled.

"We need some more sand, and some white feathers. But we could get Joyce some healing crystals. Mixing magic and medicine don't work, I know, but we could just infuse a crystal with a positive energy spell for Joyce to keep in her house. It might help her be less tired..."

Anya stared, and stopped fidgeting with things on the table. "Is that your way of trying to initiate me into a deeper friendship with you two?"

Willow groaned in exasperation. "You don't ask things like that! It- it makes people uncomfortable." If I wasn't so uncomfortable, I could have just said 'Yeah. Duh.'.

"Oh." Another proof she was on the outside, not fitting in, doing the opposite.

Tara glared briefly at her sweetheart, who looked contrite, but before she could make another attempt, Tara stepped in. "Yes. That's what she meant. I know we're not Joyce, but we- could still be friends. Better friends, I mean!" She tacked on quickly. "I- I know what it's like to be on the outside of this group."

Willow's face crumpled slightly at Tara's soft, melancholy voice."Baby-"

The tone changed. "It doesn't last very long." Tara tucked her long braid over her shoulder while biting her lips almost shyly. "Amicus, senes animam?"

From one old soul to another. "Awwww." Anya put her hand over her heart. "That's so sweet. Not sweet like Xander-sweet, but sweet."

"Xander is really sweet. Goofy-sweet." Willow smiled. We have stuff in common. We have to stick together anyway. 'Cause it seems like it's really easy to lose each other around here sometimes...

"He's not very good at magic, though."

"I think he likes the magic books."

"All the half- naked pictures." Anya and Willow said as one, and laughed. Tara blushed and rolled her eyes.

"C'mon." Tara picked up her dust cloth once again. "They're going to need some extra help for a couple days."

The smiles sobered. "Then we help." Willow shrugged.


"They'll help out at the store tonight, and then someone has to cover tomorrow during the day, unless we want to leave Anya by herself the whole time."

"Heaven forbid. You can't unloose Anya on an unsuspecting populace without someone there to restrain her." Giles said tiredly. He was sprawled against the couch, glasses off, collar open, a small amount of scotch in a glass resting on his knee.

"Your mother shouldn't be left alone, either, and her needs are more pressing."

"I can miss class." Buffy said quickly, though her voice was dragging out slowly.

"Your mother would hate that."

"Mom might not notice." Buffy said bitterly.

Spike spoke from his seat underneath Buffy, his lover slumped against him. They were too tired to care about how it looked to the sometimes disapproving father-figure as she comfortably curled in his lap. "Think you're overlookin' somethin'. Or rather someone."

"Xander can't take off from work again this month. He doesn't work, he doesn't get paid."

"I meant me! I can mind the store, or keep the home fires burnin'. Whatever you need." They looked at him, then each other. "Done both before!"

"Yeah, but Mom keeps thinking you're on fire or something. She'll call 911 to come put you out. Really don't want to have to explain that."

"I'll keep out of sight as much as I can. Or I'll go to the store. Keep to the back."

"Your soul is showing quite a lot these days." Giles slugged his drink down and closed his eyes painfully.

Buffy defended him. "It's not the soul. He would do it anyway."

Giles' mind ran in lazy flashbacks, the weeks leading up to the night of their shared dreaming. Risked his life for her. Stood battling by her side. Comforted her. bonded to her. He loved her before the soul. Who knows just how long before? "I appreciate the effort." Giles nodded, speaking more to nothingness than to the couple across from him.

"Anytime." Spike shifted Buffy around and pulled out his smokes. "Calms the nerves. Want?" The other two declined.

They sat in silence, listening for any shifts or noises from upstairs, where an exhausted Joyce lay sleeping.

Hours went by, heads lolled, and brains relaxed enough to think.


He was chasing them through rooms he knew, past faces he was familiar with, but felt completely lost.

His grandmother's voice was sympathetic but direct. That's what happens when you see the future, Rupert. You know so much of what will be, and almost none of how it comes to pass. You took in too many sights, in too little time.

I love too many people. Too many lives wrapped inside of mine.

Wrapped inside? Now there's a problem.


Mom. Mommy?

Shhh. They're fighting inside her head. The doctor moved aside from his operating table to reveal a tray covered in ancient swords and spell books.

It's not magic! It's not, it's cancer and I- Buffy stopped speaking, voice trembling. If it was magical all along and I let them tell me it wasn't... If I backed down and now she dies...

She won't die. Giles appeared behind her, confident and resplendent in gray morning suit. I know. I won't tell you just how, but I do know. I know so many things you don't.

Giles, this isn't a time for games!

No, my dear. The suit changed, from the gray of pressed fabric to the gray of hard steel.

Morning suit, suit of armor, we never know what we look like when we're fighting around here, Buffy thought.

He handed her a broadsword. Not time for games. It's a time for war. I've trained you well, you told me so earlier.

But she refused to take the weapon. My mother is not going to be a casualty of whatever battle this is!

She's not a casualty. She's not a weapon. She's a clue. Her mind's eye sees what ours cannot.

Buffy watched her mother sit up, stare at something in the distance, and turned to follow her gaze.

Spike. In flames. Or rather one flame, burning, bursting in a perfect sphere from the center of his chest.

Buffy? Joyce's voice was slightly scolding. I've told you not to play with fire. Someone really ought to put that out.


Spike kept beating at his chest, trying to put it out. Get it out! Get it off! You bloody fool, it kills people!

A spaniel-eyed monk smiled regretfully. Not anymore. If you're careful. If she's careful. If you hide it, it'll save billions more than it's ever hurt. If you both do your jobs.

You leave her out of this! I'm not Soul Boy, and this means nothing to her! She loves me! ME! As I was, as I am, an' however I bloody well will be.

Loves you. She'll protect you. You'll protect her. Just don't get burned.

Spike sank his hand inside his chest, magically feeling his skin give and light soar out.

It glowed. It glowed perfect and gold and round like the moon and sun had danced and merged, then been shrunk to fit in the palm of his hand.

Oh no. No... Much older than your sun and moon. The voice was drifting away as it seemed to read his thoughts.

Spike kept staring at the ball.

That ball.

He woke with a snort and gasp. Buffy gave a cry and toppled off of him.


"What happened?" Buffy demanded. "Mom! Spike, Giles?" Everything was okay. She let out a shaky sigh. "Weird dream, anyone?" Both men nodded.

"Did we have another dream fest?" Spike was going to murder the person in charge of magical gourds if this thing caused sudden psychic flare up.

"No, not the same thing." Giles shook his head. "Not caused by the same thing. Slayers have prophetic dreams. Watchers can. Vampires-" He paused, realizing he didn't actually know. "As a rule, do vampires have prophetic dreams?"

"When somethin' makes our insides tick a little extra, it happens sometimes." Spike said grudgingly. "I wouldn't call it prophetic. More like the otherworldly bumpin' into the human side when the human side's too blind to notice something."

Not too blind. Maybe just too busy. Three exchanged helpless looks. What were we supposed to do? Life happens.

"We have to figure out what's inside Spike, and we must do it now." Giles was on his feet, and suddenly alert.

"It's old. It's a new soul but it's made out of somethin' old. Ancient. And I've seen something that looks like it." Spike was quick to jump in.

"Mom seeing it means something. It's only when you're sick you can see it."

"Not just any kind of sick, been in a ruddy hospital a hundred times this year." Spike grunted.

"Not sick. Seeing differently." Giles insisted and Buffy nodded.

"Get that glow-ball, Luv." Spike nodded his chin towards the upstairs.

"What? No!"

"Yes." Giles sided with Spike- causing everyone a moment of disbelieving silence. "Hm. Yes. He doesn't need to hold it, Buffy. I agree the monk's instructions about giving Spike the sphere at the right time weren't very clear and it's better to be safe than sorry. We need to study it. It's the only non-metaphysical object we have to study, and we need to find the specific connection between it, what the monks put inside Spike- and what your mother can see."

Buffy turned toward the stairs. "Okay." She agreed heavily. "If seeing it again helps."

Giles frowned. "I don't think I'm the only one who needs to see it."

Buffy stiffened and stopped. "No. No.You're not showing this to them."

"It's an unknown, something we can't find in any book."

"We've barely had time to look at all!" Buffy protested.

"All the more reason not to tarry with getting as much help as possible. This seems to be something ancient. Something older than the magic I know, something of the old ways."

"You can't tell them about the new clockworks." Spike sided with Buffy, which felt more natural to all.

"Nor do I intend to. But Tara's gifts- she is a conduit. She connects to something we can't hear, speaks for things which have no voice. And Anya- a thousand years in the demon world. If this is a force for good or evil, perhaps she'll recognize it. Something about it."

"You can't tell Demon Gal and Tara without telling the boy an' Red." Spike snorted.

"I'm aware of that." Giles hands locked and spasmed slightly. "They'll all find out. I know what that means. I have put people in danger before. I have tried to avoid it. I'll still try to, yet-"

"A war is coming." Buffy understood. Danger was coming whether they wanted it to or not. Slayers stand on the front lines. They choose their allies. They make hard calls. And the human side worries and prays and loves everyone extra because nothing is certain in this world... "We show them the Dagon. We don't mention Key, and we don't mention soul, and no way in hell do we connect those things to Spike or parts of his dream." She declared all these things fast and hard, because it was the only way she could force the thoughts to turn into words and leave her frightened mouth. "Spike?"

"I trust you." He gave her charge of his heart and soul, he could let her organize their "research".

Fear and doubt crashed around her, and she reacted, burrowing suddenly into his arms. "I love you."

"Shhh. Shh. Love you, too. Your friends- not exactly my kind of people, but you can trust 'em. An' I trust you."

"Yeah, I know that. But nothing else. I don't know what's going to happen. I never know, and it's worse this time."

Giles left the room, to check on Joyce, and to leave them alone. I have faith in you. Don't they say faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen? I've seen the end. I have faith we get through the middle.

Giles mounted the stairs noiselessly, quiet enough to hear Spike's rough, almost rasping, voice whispering. "You do know. You know that you and I never lose each other, no matter what. Rest of the world, the fights, the blood, the battles- background. We can fake our way through whatever they throw at us. 'Cause I promised I wouldn't leave."

She swallowed. She knew two things. They stayed together, that was one certainty in million uncertainties. The other- "You always keep your promises."

"Any promise I make to you."


To be continued...