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: Alexiarrose, CavemenFTW, ginar369, Sirius120, omslagspapper, Jewel74, jackiemack916, Cailin Rua, Rosalea12, and Illusera.

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.


"Is everything okay?" Willow slid her tray across from Buffy's as she sat down at a table in the campus cafeteria.

"Everything's crazy crap, but yeah. Okay." Buffy smiled into her oatmeal.

Willow noticed. "Oatmeal? That's not Buffy food." She arched her eyebrows inquiringly.

"It is if you burn a lot of calories." Buffy blushed. She totally knows what that means. Oh man.

"Hey, baby, I got your smoothie. I made sure they put extra protein powder in, and extra strawberries." Tara came over, long patchwork skirt swaying.

Willow met Buffy's eyes and blushed back.

"Gotta eat healthy." Buffy attacked her oatmeal and for a second, everyone was absorbed in their meals.

Tara swallowed her orange juice and smiled. "We hardly ever see you on campus. We never eat together anymore."

"Spike's place had no people friendly breakfast food. Gummy bears and rice cakes do not a breakfast make. At least not more than once a week."

"He needs lessons in people-food shopping." Willow giggled.

"Actually- that was me." Buffy admitted.

Tara coughed to cover a snicker.

Buffy protested, "I ate everything else that was breakfast-y earlier in the week! And- and I was hoping to run into you." She reached over and squeezed Willow's hand, and as an afterthought gave Tara a prolonged smile. "I needed friendly faces before I go down to the library and actually try to do this thing they call 'studying'. On my own." Buffy looked genuinely miserable.


"Yes. As in re-taking one."

"Oooh. Not good."

"Juggling too many things."

"You never studied anyway." Willow pointed out.

"Not studying was one of my juggle-y things." Buffy said with a slight pout.

More laughter. It felt good to have a whole five minutes when no one mentioned cancer, weird mystical objects, and unknown dangers.

"Why isn't Spike helping you? Or Giles?" Willow asked. "Painful as it was, I have come to terms that I'm not the only study-buddy you have."

Five minute reality break over. When did failing a test and massive headache-y studying become the "fun" stuff to talk about? "Giles is dropping Mom off at chemo, and Spike is taking her home and sitting with her." Buffy smiled painfully. "Mom-care gets dibs over studying."

Without a word, Willow moved beside her, and Tara reached out and took her hand. "I have an hour before class..." Willow murmured.

"You have homework." Buffy knew the insane amounts of studying, paper-writing, and other random smart people stuff Willow willingly took on.

"Nah... I mean, it's mostly done. I just didn't go in and do my foot notes and contradicting points of view papers that I usually do, so the professor knows I'm taking it seriously."

"Overachiever." Buffy rested her head on the red head's shoulder.

"I'll take a B for once." Willow smiled against her forehead.

"But that's like an F for you!" Buffy exclaimed.

Willow shrugged. Everything else considered? "No big."

"I'm afraid whatever it is, must be fairly large. Erm. Larger than I had thought." Giles murmured to Spike as they left the waiting area.

"Oh, bloody wonderful." Spike growled, then looked back anxiously over his shoulder. "Why're we leavin' the area? Shouldn't I get in there? Cover my shift?"

"Joyce isn't a job." Giles' voice reminded him sharply.

"I didn't mean any harm." Spike said with enough genuine feeling that Giles dropped his scowl. "I don't like her to be waitin' alone in there, dealin' with all those chemicals they're pumpin' in her." Spike gave another glance through the now closed swinging doors leading to the treatment areas.

"Today they're doing a full blood panel and something else she wouldn't even let me watch, so I assume you're not invited either. The nurse said to come back in half an hour."

"Poor lamb." Spike murmured.

"Hard as it is to believe, I think I'm more concerned about you and Buffy just at this moment." Giles took him to an elevator, looked around, and then pushed him inside the lift.


"Shh." Giles pressed a few random buttons and the car began to move. "I doubt we'll be overheard in here."

"You never know, but you've obviously gotta tell me whatever it is, so shoot, Watcher."

"I have to talk to Buffy as well, but it concerns you. Intimately."

Spike made a dubious face, one eyebrow slowly rising. "You're not gonna talk about what Slayer and I do in our own time, are you?"

"I don't have time to snipe at you. My contact at the Council found out something about those monks."

Seriousness reigned. "What'd he say?"

"They were to guard two things, one formed, one formless-"

"Shiny ball, shiny soul." Spike nodded.

"And never relinquish care of them, even at the cost of their own lives- until the end of days."

"The end of- well, any demon likes to talk big. 'End of the world, bring about the apocalypse, look I'm more evil than you'." Spike pointed out quickly, looking uncomfortable. "But most of us- we're just human hybrids, livin' in a human world, and the demons make it cozy enough on this planet."

"This demon is called the Unnamed One. Even the vast collection at Headquarters has no information on who or what that is. Only Travers has anything on the subject, and it's in the most highly guarded collection, his private one, that passes from Head of Council to Head of Council, on and on and on."

"Easy!" Spike soothed, as the ex-librarian worked himself into a lather, hissing as he paced in the confined space.

"I can't take it easy! Do you realize what this means? That unformed thing is in you, and this unnamed thing wants it to end the bloody world!" Giles was reduced to shouting. "How do you think they're going to get it for their own depraved purposes, hm?"


With a single shake of his fist, Giles cut him off, slightly wild-eyed. "And I can't toddle off and grab the information without letting them know Buffy's involved, and if they start sniffing around, what do you think might be the first unusual thing they notice?" Giles glared at him pointedly.

"Look, mate, you-"

The elevator came to a halt with a chime, and the doors opened. A young man in a wheelchair, no more than sixteen, joined them, pushed by a burly orderly. They were followed by two graying people, most likely his parents.

"He's not dangerous!" His mother was insisting. "He must've gotten hit on the head, he must have-"

"It's probably drugs, Marcie." The father looked worried and angry all at once.

" 'Scuse me folks." The orderly pushed past the two Englishmen and hit a button.

"It's not drugs, Clint, it can't be. It would've worn off by now. He was fine when he left for his paper route, but it's been more than a day!"

The boy, alternately lolling and twitching in the wheelchair, opened his eyes and suddenly pushed himself up straight. "Wow!"

"Kevin?" His mother bent hopefully to his level.

"Wow, you can see it- buzzing and zinging in there." The boy reached towards Spike, who stepped back with a panicked look.

"Hands in your lap, young man."

"But- so pretty!" Kevin reached more deliberately towards Spike, who gave Giles a thoroughly alarmed look.

"Son! Put your hands in your lap, or I'll have to restrain you!" The orderly warned. The boy's mother burst into tears, and the father apologized stiffly.

"Sorry. He- he isn't himself."

"It's alright. He's not hurtin' me." Spike held up a hand as the orderly firmly took the boy's hands and pushed them to the sides of the chair.

"You glow... She's gonna love you. So shiny..."

"This is our floor." Spike said in a strangled voice, and pushed past the distraught family, tugging Giles with him.

"Ah- best of luck!" Giles stumbled out awkwardly, watching the three adults try to restrain the young man as he suddenly clawed from his chair, reaching for the retreating figure in black.

"We have to get back up to Joyce." Giles said, breathing unevenly as Spike half- dragged, half raced him around the corridors, aimlessly moving, the only goal to put distance between him and the young man who seemed to have beyond x-ray vision.

"He could see me. See it." Spike, though he didn't breathe, had the same ragged sound to his voice.

"And most likely, that young, healthy boy, who apparently was well enough and sound enough to do his paper route, wasn't in an altered state until- well, I'd imagine a day or two by the parents' conversation."

"So it's in town. Mr. Anonymous who screws with your brains."

"She's in town." Giles paused in mid-step.


"The boy- he said that she would love you. Er-hrm. Because you're 'shiny'." Giles whispered in an undertone.

"Wonderful. Had enough women tryin' to rip my soddin' heart out, 'course it'd be a lady demon."

"Don't joke." Giles gripped the vampire's arm and maneuvered him down the hall and towards the stairwell, not wanting to risk any further encounters in the elevators. "I have to talk to Buffy. But I can't imagine she'd want Travers involved. On the other hand-"

"If this is world endin' stuff, she doesn't have much of a choice." Spike muttered grimly. The two fell into step, climbing the deserted staircase, where their footsteps echoed on the metallic stairs.

"I asked my contact to give us a few days, to see what we can dig up."

"We're all endin' up a mass of paper cuts, Rupes. Books only get you so far."

"Your beatings and threats haven't yielded anything valid either. We're naught for naught, Spike, and don't argue."

"Don't get bossy." Spike snapped.

"Don't get shirty."

"I thought you had to be at the soddin' store?"

"I do." Giles pushed open the heavy swinging doors to Joyce's floor, and they were no longer alone, back in the world of faintly beeping medical equipment and people hustling in scrubs and rubber soles. "Then I have to go to campus. Find her."

Spike nodded. "You want to switch jobs? You take care of yours, I'll take care of mine?"

"I'd much prefer it, but I think, knowing Buffy's history with the Council as I do, that I should be the one to discuss the situation with her. In addition, it's daylight, and you'd have to walk all over the place to track her down." He sighed. Then heaved his shoulders back, fixed a slight smile on his elegant face, and began to walk towards the treatment rooms. "I'll say goodbye to Joyce. Let her know you've arrived to make sure she gets home safely."

"Right then." Spike watched him head down the hall- then caught up to him in a shuffle of boots and leather. "You know Buffy won't like bringin' in your little Council of Wankers."

"I would prefer not to myself."

Spike gave him a quizzical stare. "Is it jus' for her?"

"That I'm trying to protect you?"

"I don't need protecting. Just - keepin' a low profile." Spike said harshly.

"No, it's not only for that." It's all of us. All of us interlock, we can't lose any pieces. Not for many years. "Go get your magazines, raid the blood bank, whatever it is you do for a few more minutes." Giles chivvied him away.

Spike reluctantly turned. "Ta, Rupes."

"Thank God you're here. We got one of those scary notices from the Chamber of Commerce." Anya babbled at Giles as soon as he set foot in the door.

"Oh Anya, honestly, I thought you spoke to Xander about putting the recycling in the appropriate receptacles!" Giles slammed down his leather satchel. In front of two very stooped, elderly women admiring a watercolor. He had the good grace to look embarrassed. "So sorry. Be with you in a tick. Anya?"

Anya trotted after him to the back of the store, waving a lime green xerox. "Look!"

"Yes, it's hideous."

"It's hideous green, the color of money not making its way into my cash register." Anya thrust the copy out more forcefully. "The Chamber of Commerce said there's been an act of vandalism."

"What?" Giles took the notice from her and scanned it. Then dismissed it while plugging in the coffee maker. "This is a Hellmouth. Vandalism and petty crimes runs riot, and that's only the smaller manifestations. Unexplained deaths, missing bodies, 'grave robbery' and -" Giles turned and found two wrinkled faces peering through the doorway. Words died abruptly.

"My sister and I will come back later." The taller one nodded with polite nervousness. Then in an urgent whisper of, "Go, Mildred. Now.", she shoved her companion toward the door.

"But- he's not saying that- wait!" Anya followed them, to no avail. She turned back to Giles with a glare. "See? It's evil green."

"No, you see. See Hellmouth. See Hellmouth spawn evil and aggression, particularly in the overwrought man who has not yet had caffeine."

"That's patronizing, and it's rude." Anya blinked.

He sighed. "I know, and I'm sorry. But honestly, why are you so concerned? This gallery is in one of the safest areas, and with our 'staff' I'd say we're more effectively protected than most."

"I know. But- it's Joyce's gallery. What if something happens to it when we're not here? I don't want her to think I'm irresponsible. She trusts me with money!" Figuring the cost of replacing stolen artwork almost made Anya faint.

"That's a risk Joyce has taken, knowingly or otherwise, for the past five years. And unexplained incidents and robberies have decreased markedly over this summer, what with Buffy and Spike both patrolling. It's so rare now they actually took notice of it, before it was just a rash of events. If they'd sent out a notice for every broken window, we'd have depleted the entire Amazon rainforest. Of course, having a demonic mayor didn't help." Giles rambled, giving the paper another look through. "Look Anya, it's only one store that was hit. It's probably some teen wanting something specific, a video game or a case of beer." Giles grabbed his morning paper and began to saunter away, first issue of the working day dealt with successfully.

"Or a skull or basic guide to possession or a casting stone." Anya began to leave the room, sighing slightly. "I guess the owner's insurance will-"

"What are you talking about?" Giles demanded, suddenly alarmed. "A skull? Guide to possession?"

"It was only one store, but it was the magic store. Don't lecture-" she held up her hand, "I know. I overreacted. It's just that this is my first real job, and Joyce is my first real friend - as a human anyway- and I have an overprotective side, I guess."

"W-well." Giles harrumphed a few times and polished his glasses. "I-it might not be a bad idea to be more cautious about this one particular act of vandalism." He looked at the community warning sent out once more. Three days ago. Something came to town recently, something new is here. Something turned that boy's mind. It could be something that requires a magical object. Or it could all be mere coincidence.

And the Queen secretly loves barbecues and rodeos. Giles, after many years of being a Watcher, had a healthy mistrust of "coincidence".

"I imagine it's nothing serious, but, as you say, it could affect Joyce and the gallery. I'll ask Buffy and Spike if they can patrol this area tonight. In addition to everything else they have to do."

"Hi! What are you doing here?" Buffy exited her last class for the day, only to find Giles waiting on a bench across from the lecture hall. Buffy's immediate pleasure- He hasn't done this in forever. It's so nice to just look out and see Giles waiting for me, with that stiff 'I'm happy to see you in my reserved English-y way' smile- was cut short. The youthful smile turned into a look of fear, and she ran the rest of the way across the wide sidewalks to all but crash into him as he rose. "Why are you here? Oh my god, it's Mom. It's Mom, isn't it? Something happened and you-"

"Buffy!" He took her shoulders gently. "I promise your mother is fine. She's resting comfortably with Spike. I talked to him only a few moments before I drove over here."

"Oh. Oh thank God." Buffy's heart slowly returned to normal rhythm. "So- why are you here? You just missed me?"

"Amongst other things. You're in need of some training. It's been a hectic few days, to say the least."

"You drove over to get me for training when I'm heading to the shop anyway, to bug you about the lack of information I can find in all the huge, musty books you make me lug around?" Buffy crossed her arms and gave him a cynical look. "Not buying. What's the what, Giles?"

"Something I need to talk to you about privately, and I think a drive is the right place to have this discussion." He whispered.

Buffy studied his face. "Bad?"

"Yes." End of days, unknown assailants, Travers' potential involvement...

Whoa. That was brief, even for Giles. "Okay. Let's drive. Let's talk."

"Yes. And then you'll have to think, about what you'd like to do with the information I give you."

He drove. He drove out of the town, out into the desert, a place he'd mentioned taking her for spirit quests, to understand her 'inner Slayer', that they never got around to over the summer.

He talked, heavily, and without the usual calm, factual tones Buffy associated with Giles delivering bad news. When he was done, telling her about what things he'd seen, what his Watcher friend read, what else was missing from the puzzle, he ended very simply.

"What should we do?"

Didn't she always ask him that? "You told Spike already?"

"I didn't want to, but with circumstances and timing, and-"

"No, I get it." She nodded, staring at miles of burning sand and brush. This is the place where I put on my war paint. Clay masks, sand on my hands, bones for spears and knives. I don't need a spirit quest. I'm already getting the feeling of being alone, the weight of the world on your shoulders.

"What do you think they'd do if they found out it was Spike?" She whispered.

"This demon?"

"No. The Council."

"I don't know." I only fear. I know my fears are groundless, don't I? "I suppose they might take him into hiding, they have better protections than we have, not to mention they know what the evil in question is."

"And what if this thing is bad enough and big enough to get right through those 'protections'?" She looked up at him, eagerly, like a lost child waiting to hear it will all be okay.

And knowing, like a young woman, that it won't be. "They may try to - to extricate it somehow. There are shamans who can remove souls. Although, this is not a 'soul' such as is typically encountered. They may not be able to simply 'remove' it."

"Then what?" She already knew.

His voice was hollow, quiet. "They'd kill him. They'd have no choice, Buffy. They're weighing the lives of humanity against one vampire. The world or one, well... they'd choose the world."

"But he's my world." She wasn't that selfish. "I don't think- I can live without him anymore. I know you think that's college girl drama, maybe just some crush gone into obsession, but -"

"But I know what you feel, and I know what you mean." Giles gripped her hands, squeezing hard, as if he could stop her tears from overflowing, press them back in as they began to fill her eyes.

"No! No, you can't." She gulped down a sob and shook her head. "I'm the one with the split aura, some big mojo 'ancient force' and the girl who really sucks at studying and thinks there should be a degree in shoe-purse coordination. I'm always going to be a freak, and- and I need someone who's like me, and then- when there's two of you- you're not alone anymore ,and you're not a freak anymore, and you're -"

"Simply whole?" He pulled her head to his chest lightly, already fishing for a handkerchief. She nodded. "You may not know it, nor believe it, but even us middle aged tweedy types still fall in love, in that big, all consuming, 'she is my world, my life, my death, my future' love."

Buffy looked up, mildly startled.

"Oh yes. It can happen." He smiled ruefully.

The seconds rolled past, as he waited for the answer, question asked many long minutes ago. She didn't have one.

How can I give him an answer when it's risk Spike, or risk the world? And-and those monk guys told us to hide it, keep it a secret, so that might bring out Mr. Mess-With-Your-Mind, just by blowing his cover. I am so screwed.

That happens to me a lot.

"You know-" Giles cleared his throat. "I know why this seems so impossible to answer."

"Because I'm literally trying to figure out how to save the world?" Buffy replied waspishly.

"Because you are looking at option A or option B. Have you considered there might be an option C?"

She hadn't. She waited for Giles to inform her of the third choice, but he went back to his downcast silence.

He can't tell me. I have to find it myself.

Find it myself.

"We're going to figure it out ourselves. We're going to give it like - like a week and we're going to figure out who's new and nasty in town, and what their game is, and then we'll figure out how to slice and dice and make demon fries. And if that doesn't work, fine, Council time. But we're not going to let them find out that Spike is the one. The Watchers are morons- not you, the other ones- and they don't listen to me, they don't know what we know. Spike might be some 'Key' that can open up a whole box of apocalyptical goodies, but he's also the one who can keep it shut. I'm not trying to risk the world, I'm trying to save it, by trusting those monks and our dreams. You said they've been around forever, and they know what they're doing." Buffy rattled out her impassioned explanation without pausing for breath, afraid to let Giles speak. She finally ran out of steam and concluded desperately, "I know he's just one- but sometimes one is all it takes..."

Giles nodded, brushing a hair from her tearstained cheeks. Xander saw a world filled with death and destruction, all hinging on Spike's absence. I can well believe it. If he were killed- would his 'soul' be freed, would it just be floating in the ether, where this creature could snare it somehow? Doomed if we do, doomed if we do not. Our only chance is to fight now, and not stop. "I know, Buffy. I'm here to help, and we'll try your plan. It's a good one." He patted her shoulder, coughed awkwardly, and put the car in drive. "You're right, you know. One is all it takes."

"Take three eggs, fold in, and bake at three fifty for two hours, or until golden on top. Hm. I think it sounds tasty. Put in a little blood instead of the vanilla extract, be a right treat." Spike gave his commentary on the magazine recipe he was reading aloud to Joyce.

"Mhm." She murmured faintly.

Spike frowned, put the magazine down and scooted his chair closer to the couch. "Now, see here, Luv." His voice was soft and serious. "I was sayin' that to get a rise outta you. Don't like when you pull this quiet act. You an' me know the Summers women are fighters. Hell raisers."

"Not if your head is throbbing." Joyce weakly lifted her arm to brush the pain away from her temple. Her hand fell back halfway there. Sometimes making the effort was more exhausting than easing the pain.

He hesitated. Swallowed twice. Leaned in, leaned over.

"Ahh. That's kind of nice." Joyce opened her eyes- and they stayed open, widening. Looking slowly to the side. His face, a foot away from hers, yet so faraway, and so concentrated on something besides her. His hand was cool and heavy, but resting lightly, laying on her achey temple.

"Is it?" He smiled crookedly. "Good on me."

She closed her eyes again. He had that damn bright light on again, that 'glow', kind of flickering. He soothed her head, but hurt her eyes. You have to take some bad with the good... Or vice versa in his case. She let out a breathy, exhausted laugh.

Again with the worrying. Oh bloody hell, I'm talkin' like Buffy does. In my own head. But why laughter? Poor thing. She looks so miserable. Pained and pale. "You alright?" He asked in the quiet, husky tone that was his attempt to keep the tough guy exterior in place- and failing.

"You're actually good at taking care of humans."

"Not all." Spike said uncomfortably. "Killed more'n I helped..." Another pale form, another sweating brow, always lined in pain- then lined in cold, mocking ridges, an angel's face distorted.

"Vampires do that."

"Yeah. Well. Used to. Givin' it up." He desperately wanted a smoke now, uncomfortableness had overthrown him for a moment wondering inanely if she could see inside his to his soul, if she could see inside to those private horrors he was reliving. "Get you a cold cloth. Be right back." He patted her head awkwardly and backed away.

Her eyes slitted, watching him go, that telltale blaze of light bobbing around with him, like the trail of a comet. Buffy is the one that makes him glow. "Did she spend the night with you?" Joyce called suddenly.

In the kitchen there was the sound of ice cubes clattering to the floor and a hiss of "Sod!" "Be a minute!" Spike prayed she hadn't really asked that, he hadn't heard right.

"Did Buffy spend last night with you?"

"Hrm. Yeah. Did some research. Patrolled." He came back with a bundle of ice- well, ice chips now, in a damp dishtowel and clumsily pushed it to her forehead.

"She was with you?"


"You take care of her?" Her hand latched onto his wrist.

Memories of Buffy's sweet little moans and enthusiastic cries sprang to mind- but he was sure that wasn't what Joyce meant. "She doesn't need me to do that, jus' likes a bit of help. An' I give it to her. Yeah, I do that."

"No... just... you need to take care of her. For me. In case."

"You're delirious. Meds makin' your brain wonky. Bet I look like a soddin' roman candle, don't I, Joyce?" He was shaken and didn't like it. Oh, he'd take care of Buffy, if she needed it, to the end of the world, to the death. But Joyce asking for it? "In case"? Please, no. He couldn't live with Buffy in that kind of pain, in that kind of grief. "No more talk like that. Doc is gonna call with all your blood test whatsits and say you can get off this damn acid trip real soon. Numbers are probably down to 'bout normal by now."

Joyce shook her head- and the world seemed to run, all streaks and blurs, and the comet's tail glowing in the middle. All the darkness, and in the middle light. Like him. Joyce tried to untangle her thoughts. Have to be strong for Buffy. Rupert. I'm going to get better. I am. She made her eyes focus and struggled to sit up.

Everything else struggled up as well.

"Oh God." She looked horrified, down at her lap, down at his hands.

"I've had a hell of a lot worse on me." He didn't even flinch. "Let's get you upstairs, cleaned up."

He must really love her.

He likes me. I think he does. Joyce settled back in her own bed, nausea temporarily diminished and world smooth and solid again. He's a terrible choice for her. He's a terrible creature in this world, a murdering demonic ... monster. But when he wants to help- for selfish reasons, for whatever reasons, just because he likes a person... he's so good at it.

She felt sleep finally, comfortingly embrace her as she snuggled into her pillow. Spike's actions swam through her drowsy mind. He was an odd choice of caregiver, but he was excellent at it. He did it all unquestioningly, unhesitatingly, and with something approaching a brutish cheerfulness, swapping places with a gentlemanly air that he carefully hid most of the time. He does all this for me...

Oh, he's still a vampire. But Buffy's in good hands.

A burden seemed to slip from her soul, and she slept.

"We will need to wait until most of the human inhabitants of the town are sleeping, Most Magnificent One." Dreg bowed low.

"I'm on a twelve hour window here, you scabby little magician." Glory tossed the scroll back to him. The moon was up, the night was clear, and she- she was impatient. "Go get me my damn bloodstone and my herbs, and- and -"

"A large, deadly snake and an earthen vase, My Queen." He supplied a few more ingredients.

"I have to get the snake." Glory rose and towered angrily above him- then fell.


"But I can't right now, because I need to eat something." Glory glared up at the throng quickly rushing to her. She hated appearing weak.

"We know what time the magic shop closes, and what time most of the other surrounding businesses close. We'll be there as soon as it is safe, and we shall get you the ingredients." Jinx soothed. "We will bring you back a nice morsel for your meal. Would you like any thing in particular?"

"Nothing over forty. Food should be visually appealing." She gave a snide smile and rose to her feet once more, shakily commanding them, then sitting with as much grace as she could muster. "Go. Go now!"

"Only a few of us should-"

"Everybody OUT!" She shouted, and the wall gave birth to a long crack.

Minions scurried.

Glory sank back, counting the hours until she would have the tools to make the spell, to find, at long last, her Key.

Harmony heard keys jangle in the lock. The sign was flipped to "Closed". The lights went out.

"Bradley Bear, do you think you could keep an eye on the rest of our happy little family tonight?" Harmony turned to him and wheedled as they watched the magic shop's owner leave the store and head to his car.


"You're the second in command. I'm afraid they'll get into trouble." Harmony batted her eye lashes.

"Second in command?" Bradley's shoulders went back as he proudly straightened up.

"Of course." Harmony stopped using her feminine charms abruptly and gave him a little shove. "Now go. I have - stuff to do."

Brad left, with an injured puppy look, and many longing glances back over his shoulder. Harmony gave him a brief wave, and then rolled her eyes when he was finally out of sight.

"God! So needy." Harmony tossed her hair and began creeping out of the shadows towards the store with its smashed and boarded up windows. "Never sire during your first year. Everyone says to wait, but when you're a fledge, what do you know?" Another hair toss, and a furtive look around. Too many people, still driving past, it was only a little after nine. Too early to break in and not be seen.

Unless there's a back way.

Harmony headed down the alley.

"I'll get it, Slayer." Spike insisted. "Do a proper job, down every alley and gutter, alright? Make sure I check the bars and the Bronze, everything near the shops."

"No! Something is out there, obviously after you!"

"An' how they gonna see what I am? Big bad vamp, lookin' for a tasty treat, that's me." He prowled around her, suddenly very threatening, very convincing.


"I think your mum'd like to have a night with you. She slept half the day, an' so did I. I'm revved. She's awake. An' you could keep her company. You know Watcher's workin' his arse off at the library he calls a flat so he won't be over."

Oooh. He was good. Mom guilt, plus Watcher-working-hard-with-headache-causing-books-o n-their-behalf guilt. He did have a point. A vampire hanging around town after dark probably wasn't as eyebrow raising- to other demons anyway- as a vamp and slayer hanging out together. "Fine! Go. Well- go later, I don't think anyone but a real idiot would go break into a store while everyone else is still having dinner out and doing late movies."

"Speaking of dinner-"

"You should stay! I can sorta cook." Buffy reminded him. "Make us some of my famous mac and cheese from a box?"

"Alright. Just for a bit." He kissed her neck.

She nodded. "Be safe, okay?" Buffy whispered as she gently stepped away, to look seriously into his sapphire eyes.

"I got a quarter." He flipped a shining silver coin neatly in the air as he pulled her back, into a kiss. "I'll call for back up if I need it."

"Dammit!" Harmony hissed and kissed her fingertips. "Broke another nail! I shouldn't be doing work like this... that's what minions are for." Unless they'd totally mess everything up if they got involved. She removed the broken backdoor from its frame, mindful of the jagged wood, and slunk in. "I need a manicure, like, yesterday."

"You're gonna need a lot more than that!" An older man, brandishing a baseball bat came careening around a pile of boxes as Harmony made her way through the dark store.

Harmony, in sheer surprise, let out a very un-evil shriek and cowered back. "You left! I saw you leave! No fair." She protested, righting herself.

"Snuck around back, like you!" He advanced, bat swinging. "Drove off, around the block, parked in the alley. You wreck a man's store, smash his windows- steal those damn unicorn statues! You don't expect him to defend himself! I've been waiting here to catch you in the act!" The bat connected with her face.

Harmony fell, long blond locks fanning over her bruised cheek.

Mr. Bogarty, the store owner, drew up short with a panting wheeze. "Oh God." He hadn't meant to hurt the hoodlums who broke in, only scare them. Maybe hurt them a little. But- she wasn't moving. Even her ribcage- it stayed still, with no rise and fall of breath escaping. "Oh God. Hey! Hey, you." He knelt and shook her shoulder. Nothing. His heart began to pound as his fingertips, suddenly shaky, went from her shoulder to her wrist. He took hold of her hand and felt for a pulse.

Nothing. "Oh no. No, no." He began to rock back on his heels, falling on his rear as he realized he'd accidentally struck a fatal blow. "She's dead."

Harmony turned over like lightning, blonde hair whipped back to reveal the fangs and grotesque mockery of her transformed face. "You're right."

She bit him too fast for his screams to leave his throat. She swallowed them down, mixed with his rapidly pumping blood.

"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day." Harmony patted the corpse on the shoulder and pushed it roughly into the debris of boxes she'd crashed into on entering the store.

Okay... now. Where's the book that has spells or potions to make Buffy turn into Little Miss Normal and Easy to Kill? She strode to the front of the shop- and her jaw dropped. Books. Hundreds. And weird gizmo thingies with symbols and words in languages she couldn't read, and jars and bottles of stuff she didn't know, and- and- "Dang it! Well... this is all hard now!" Harmony stomped her foot and almost wept in frustration. How are you supposed to be the Queen of the Hellmouth - she really liked the sound of that- if they don't even label the Slayer-killing stuff?

"I totally should have asked that guy before I killed him!" She snapped her fingers in realization.

With a weary sigh, Harmony trudged to the very back row of shelves on the ground floor, wincingly acknowledging there was another one above her head, probably equally full of confusing stuff. With a groan, she started combing through books and objects. She hated the task, but knew she was in danger of losing the respect of her already semi-mutinous band if she didn't come up with something soon.

Three hours ticked by and Harmony was ready to scream. Spells to get rich, get lucky, get rid of warts and ingrown nails, and nothing on how to make your enemies into dust or make them weak.

Books littered the floor, dozens, as Harmony took them out, flipped through, threw them to the ground in anger, and then seized on another one. "And I'm only on the second row!" She moaned, and grabbed another book. Summoning, Binding, and Casting.

Harmony began her cursory inspection of the text. Never one for thorough study, she tended to scan for key words, then toss the book aside if nothing leapt out at her.

This time, something did.

Summoning a supernatural entity. Binding it in place. Harnessing it. Making it do your bidding.

"Slayers are supernatural, right? Ooh, so are vampires." She could have Spike, who could totally kill Slayers when he wanted to, summoned and bound, and bidden or whatever, to obey her, and go kill Buffy. Then come back and bring her a dozen roses and say he was a total fool for not ever appreciating her, and for ruining their relationship.

Or I could summon Buffy, and bind her and bid her to just hold still and let me kill her. Yeah. I could do that. If it works on Slayers. Oooh, I could get some really big nasty demon to do it. Something way more powerful that ordinary vamps...

Harmony began to seriously read the text, flopping down on the pile of book rejects she had made, trying to figure out if she could perform these rituals, and if so, what supplies she needed.

The click of a lock and the soft thud of a closing door made her stop her perusal and sit stiffly in place, afraid to move.

"It's surprisingly well-equipped for a mortal-store. We should have no trouble with supplies."

"Except for the snake."

"She must get that. A snake wouldn't harm her, even if it bit her a thousand times."

"The gem... it doesn't specify a stone. Should we ask Dreg?"

"And go back without all the elements? The Mighty One would pull our eyes out through our nostrils."

"Without so much as rising from her chair."

There was a pause- and then sighing.

"She's amazing."

"Her power is limitless."

"We are not worthy of her- ah ha! Snakewood, snake skin, and venom."

"You need bile as well."

"Right, the bile..."

Harmony listened unmoving, wide eyed. Talk about your almighty bad ass! The Queen? Queen vampire? She risked a peek around the thick wooden shelves, seeing two cloaked figures- who clearly were not vamps. And vamps and other demons don't usually mix, let alone call another species "queen", so that's some other kind of demon queen.

"Ah- a black sapphire. Low grade, but perfect for a hell goddess's spell. It echoes to the ancients. The Sobekite priests would respect that."

"Glory will prefer a high quality stone." The other pointed out.

"As long as it gets her the Key, she won't care." His fellow ignored the advice, and put the thumb sized stone in his robe. "We have no time to be choosy. The Slayer is probably out doing her patrols."

At the mention of the Slayer, Harmony choked down a gasp.

"She wouldn't think to look in here. And if she did-"

As the two searched the front cases of the store, they argued. "Do not be so foolish to tempt fate! She dispatched Dracula, the unkillable undead."

"That's the wrong bloodstone. That's pagan, you want Sobekian." One came over to the other, putting down the stone just picked up.

"Are you sure it isn't the right one?"

"It has runes, not glyphs."

"Why can't mortals label things properly..."

From behind the bookcase, one former mortal glanced down at the summoning guide. "Know the name of the creature you wish to call forth. Specificity is the key."

I think I just found someone to call...

"What else is on the list?"

"Just the Khul's amulet and an earthen vase. Make sure the transmogrifying crystal is intact, or all we end up with is one pissed off snake, and another massacre."

"Don't talk to me like I'm fourteen hundred! I know what I'm doing."

Harmony risked another peek. The two figures were systematically going through every object in the display cases in the front, backs to her.

"You should spend less time arguing with me, and more time worrying about getting caught before we even get back."

"You're such a pessimist. Glory will find the Key with this spell, and then- Hell on Earth."

More contented sighing. Then reflection. "Once she has the Key- they still need to build the Tower to the Doorway."

"So? That doesn't take long."

"It will take a few days at least. And the Slayer is bound to notice that happening. Plus- the number of humans she's been feeding on, turning..."

"Master Ben will not cause any trouble this time. He's too busy at the hospital during the day, and trapped at night."

"The hospital is where the humans take those afflicted. I'm sure he'll act before too long. Unless we can prevent it."

"Chatter chatter chatter. You're worse than the mages."

"It's not idle chatter! I simply feel we can talk freely, for once." His voice dropped, and he leaned to his cohort. "Have you seen how weak she is? Even eating every day, her powers are cracking the shell, and the mightier they become, the more fragile and unstable she is. Even if we find the Key tomorrow night, the final ritual still takes time, the Tower must still be built. The Slayer will find her."

"Blasphemous! Even weak, the Slayer is only human."

"Those monks were only human. Look what they did to her."

There was silence except for the rustling of robes, until the less cautious of the two finally said, with more conviction than he felt, "Glory will take her Key, if not tonight, then tomorrow, then kill the Slayer,then enslave this pitiful town and build the Tower within hours. Stop second guessing and have some faith in her Supreme Unrighteousness. Concentrate on helping her." His leprous hand suddenly reached to the far corner of the case and held up a thick gold object. "Ah ha- there it is. That's the right one, the one with the perfect stone."

"I don't see any earthen vases or vessels. Check in the back."

Harmony twisted her hands as she rose silently. These creepy little fashion victims sounded like they worked for someone hugely powerful. Someone it would be good to befriend. She didn't want to end up on her bad side, listed as a spy or something, before she even got to send her a fruit basket or welcome to the Hellmouth gift.

"Perhaps we should just go to the museum? They're pound to have some old relic of a pot."

"Let's see if we can find it here first. You're so impatient! Larger items must be- oh, let's take that." A scarred gray hand pointed to a display by the door. "The one by the dried flowers. It should be big enough for the reptile."

With some grunting, more arguing, and a final check of their supplies, the two left silently, unobtrusively, by the front. Harmony moved slowly through the dark shop and stopped when she reached the front of the store, placing the book on top of the register, and scanning the page with glowing eyes.

"To complete a summoning, you will need..." She whispered as she read, voice fading until her pale pink lips moved silently. "Hmm. Casting stones or crystals? Crystals are more me. Let's see..."

Spike was seeing an upswing in action, and he had questions. Willy hoped he had answers.

"Ain't said nothin' to no one, and neither has anyone else. Told 'em, no stoolies here. Or they get cut off."

"I hope you told them you didn't mean their drinks." Spike patted Willy's shoulder with a bruising attempt at kindness. Willy laughed nervously.

"But there's some new group in town. Gotta be a vamp nest. N-not good customers. Y'know. The bad vamps, not chipped."

"Are you sayin' I'm not bad?" Spike asked threateningly.

"No! No, I'm just sayin'- they kill humans. Oughta get rid of them." Willy defended nervously.

"I might just do that. If someone could point me in their direction."

"Don't know where the nest is, but I think there are three guys and a girl. Think they have a leader someplace, but I haven't seen her. They came by a couple nights this week."

"And you didn't tell me?" Spike handsome face changed with a blink. "Willy, I thought we had an arrangement." The familiar grasp moved from shoulder to throat.

"Ordinary vamps, Spike, ordinary! Young ones, too, you can tell. They can barely look at a human without wanting to bite. Figured as sloppy as they were you and -"

"Shhh!" Spike shook him before he could finish the sentence and couple Buffy's name to his.

"They wouldn't last long! They wouldn't last long, God's honest truth Spike, I don't think they're -"

"You clearly don't think much as you should." Spike dropped him back to his feet, hard, and jerked his game face back with a crunch of neck and flex of shoulders. "Willy... I'm not happy. I'm gonna out now. I'm gonna go hope to have a real nice kill. An' if I don't... well..." Spike smiled sinisterly. "I'll see you after closing."

Spike hit the Bronze, still packed with hormone laden teens and collegiates. His fangs itched, but stayed tucked in. He had control. Century and half to master the urges. He was sure these new, sloppy vamps would not.

He was right.

The alley was full of scuffling. "I said quit it! I'm not into kinky stuff and I'm not into you!"

"Lady said she'd like you to stop." Spike emerged, cigarette dangling from the corner of smirking lips.

Two males were tussling with a young woman, and it was obvious they were rookies. Spike mentally calculated it would have taken him no time at all to silence that girl and be finished. But not these clowns.

"Dude! It's Spike!" The smaller one dropped their captive's arm and pointed.

Spike blinked in surprise. "Popular, am I?"

"Go get Brad." The burlier male muttered.

"Uh- vampire." Spike gestured to himself. "You don't have to whisper. I can still hear you anyway." Spike moved like a blur, forward, catching one shirtfront in each hand slamming both vampires backs first into the wall, as the young woman screamed. He sighed in annoyance. "Could you please just go back inside? Phone a cab and go home!" He grunted, and she scrambled away on broken heels. "An' wear a cross, you daft bint!"

"Whoa. You're like- a good guy now." Cyrus' face twisted with disgust.

"No, I'm like 'someone who wants to know why such stupid failures of vampires are trying to get on a my turf'. Spike blew smoke into their faces, and spat the still lit cigarette out, making sure it fell into the cloth of the bad leather vest he was holding onto. "That'll kill you. Not 'cause the packet says so, but because you're going to catch on fire. You've got a ten seconds to talk before you go up in flames."

"I take it back. He's really bad." Cyrus squeaked.

"Way badder than Brad and Harmony, that's for sure." Mort agreed with a strangled nod.

Spike dropped them both in shock. "Harmony? Blonde, high maintenance, brain the size of a goldfish?" Spike demanded.

Mort answered as Cyrus beat out his smoking vest. "Well... she's kind of our sire, so-"

"Oh bloody fuck no! No, no!" Spike cried. "She's sirin'? She can't work out the sharp end of a stake's the bit that'll kill you, what the fuck is she making new vampires for?"

"Um. Well, there was this pyramid scheme, and she-"

"Is she still stupid? Just tell me that?" Spike hoisted them back up.

"Yes." Both agreed as one.

"Plotting anything since she came to town?"

"To kill the Slayer, but-" Cyrus was cut off by the shout of laughter Spike couldn't contain.

"My Slayer? Harmony tryin' to kill a Slayer? Oh dear. Dear, oh dear." Spike shook his head, mirth leaving his face, replaced by something much colder. "She wouldn't stand a chance. But I don't like her troubled."

"We can tell her that. We'll just let her know that we spoke to you and you said-"

Spike interrupted. "Do you know where she is?"

"Uh. No. Brad saw her last, but we're going to make sure we tell her as soon as we see her. And then we can leave town. Okay?" Spike shook his head through this stumbling, squeaking speech. Cyrus swallowed. "Not okay?"

"You don't get to tell her anything, mates." There was a sudden thud as he dropped one to the ground once again, a swish of leather as a stake made short work of Cyrus, and then plunged down to finish Mort.

"Next. Brad, was it?" Spike strolled inside the club.

"Phone call for Brad? Is there a Brad here?"

He was stupid enough to come to the bar. Spike was quick enough to seize him and haul him outside.

"Hey! You're the ex! You -"

"I'm many things, let's just focus on one little question, okay?" Spike pressed a stake just under Brad's ribcage and smiled nastily. "Where is she?"

"You're not getting her back. She hates you. She's with me now."

"Oh you poor bugger." Spike winced. "You'll thank me when I'm done, then. No, I don't want her back. I have - some of her old- CDs and things." He lied, not terribly smoothly, but the sheer amount of stupidity he'd encountered in one night was dulling his edge.

"Oh. I don't know where she is. She wanted me to take her to the magic store a couple hours ago, but-" He never finished his sentence. Spike's eyes widened, the stake thrust up, and a black leather bolt shot down the street.

Harmony stepped out into the street, hands full, juggling stones and stinky herbs, and her new favorite book.

"Hullo, Harm. Need a little help?" A voice in the shadows asked.

Harmony gasped and dropped half the things in her hands. That voice. With the beautifully smoky accent, and those sexy - well, sexy everything. He broke your heart. Sort of. Remember, you're too good for that, and you don't need to be with someone who has trust issues. Besides. I'm going to kill his girlfriend, so the trust issues would just get worse. "Spike. Nice to see you." She tried to sound civil, disinterested.

"No, it isn't." Politeness was done.

On her side too. Ooh! He could be so nice one minute, then so rude. Damn him! "Get out of my way, Spike. We have nothing to talk about."

"Ah ah ah, not so fast." Fingers curled around her arm, and jerked.

"Let go!" Harmony struggled, but not too hard. He was always so - mmm. So commanding. Ruthless. Unlike football for brains.

"I like to help a lady with her shopping, is that so bad?" He snarled, and took a bunch of dried roots and some sand from her struggling hands. "You can't do magic, Harm. What do you need this for?"

He was also condescending, patronizing, and talked down to you. Her anger sparked back into a flame. "Oh, you'll see. You underestimated everything I could do because I wasn't your precious Drudzilla-"

"Watch your mouth." Spike warned.

"What?" Harmony gave a gasp of exaggerated surprise. "Still hung up on her? I thought you were pledging eternal love with that skinny homecoming queen wanna be."

"I didn't think it was possible, but you got more annoyin' and somehow even more stupid." Spike scoffed, not giving her words credence, internal alarm bells ringing. "You been drinkin' stoners, Harm?"

"Yeah, well- well, you're gonna think I'm the smart one pretty soon, Spike." Harmony said mulishly, taking her arm back with a yank. "When I'm boss around here, I'm gonna make you pay."

"Pay for what?" He shook his head, cold, mocking smile on his face. "Not treatin' you right? We weren't a 'happy couple', Harm, we were convenient. Temporary. You went one way, I went the other. Mutual sheer bloody disgust." She fixed him with a look that seemed to be struggling for the right words, something scathing. It'll be a long night before that happens. He pressed ahead. "Why's it matter? Was is harder out there than you thought? Poor little thing, never made a plan in your life, just went for what you wanted, no thought behind it, then whined and wanted someone bigger and badder to do the work for you, get you your pretties, lay 'em at your feet." C'mon, c'mon. I don't wanna goad, don't wanna trade nasties, so spill your guts, make your damn rookie mistakes and let me get home.

Harmony's jaw dropped, then clenched, seething. A certain kind of anger makes you blurt out things without thinking. It has to be the kind that comes from having someone point out the faults you pretend you don't have, the ones you try so desperately to hide from others, but you think they know anyway. Spike had always been good at calling her on stuff like that, one reason she had been glad to leave him behind. One reason revenge was gonna be so delicious.

"You know, all I wanted was for you to pay attention to me, and you were too busy with your plots and your stupid plans! You never put my needs first."

"True. " Spike agreed blithely, unapologetic grin on his face.

"But I know about you and her. You're putting her first- you and your Slayer 'together always'." Harmony backed away from him, book clutched tightly to her chest. "Everyone pretends they don't know, but I bet they do. You are so hooking up with her."

He didn't look fazed. She didn't know him well enough to notice the blue in his eye had gone a shade darker, pupils wider, nostrils whiter. Sure signs of holding in the beast- until it lunges.

"I'm getting my ultimate revenge, Spike. Then maybe you'll pay attention. Then you'll start wishing you'd thought a little more about me."


"I'm totally gonna kill your girlfriend."

The beast roared and pulled his chain, but the master gambler on the outside only laughed. "You think you can take on the Slayer?" Spike asked incredulously. "Look, Luv, I'm the only vampire in the world- in history, as far as I know- to take out more than one!"

"You said I like someone 'bigger and badder' to help me get what I want. I so want her dead, and I so want you to see it happen. I'm not doing it by myself, Maybe I couldn't. But I know someone else who's right here, right now, searching for something, who wants her dead. Someone who's a lot more powerful than you are. More powerful than she is, too."

Someone big and bad, right here, right now, searching for something? Shit. "And this all powerful person owes you a favor, why?" He shook his head pityingly, all the while filing everything she was saying.

Harmony flushed, though her skin tone didn't change. "Who needs favors? All you need is the right summoning spells and crystals and stuff." Harmony sassily shot back.

"And you need to know what to shout out, or they don't come." Spike led.

"I have her name." Harmony retorted.

"Do you now?" Spike slid easily closer, eyes half lidded, voice slick as wet silk.

Harmony's undead heart gave a little flutter at that tone. Mad or not- heck they'd been angry with each other all the time- those tones always got her. His bad boy, bedroom voice. "Mhm." She answered, throat suddenly narrow.

"I've misjudge you, haven't I?" He purred. "Smart girl. Smart girl, with all the plans... all the right things... all the right words..." He oozed now, closer, hands on her forearms, then up them, to her shoulders, each pause punctuated by a rolling of his sinfully skilled tongue and an artful framing of his marble lips. "All the right names..."

Harmony couldn't think straight. Never had been much for thinking at all. "Oh, Spikey..."

"Harmony, Sweetheart." He sidestepped, around behind her, holding her close.

"Spike, I -" Her head tilted back, expecting to meet eyes brimming with desire. She was sorely disappointed.

"Tell me the name, Harm." Spike's hand tightened on her throat, iron arm across her torso, making her ribs complain.

"I- I can't breathe." Harmony gasped out, fingers scrabbling at his hand.

"You don't need to. Now, be a good girl, and tell me the name." He shook her once.

Indignation overpowered fear, for a second."No. You were going to seduce me- to get information? You- you're such a rat!"

"I wouldn't say 'seduce', but fine, I'm a rat." He let out a dark, dangerous snicker against her ear, before his voice became cold and sharp, like a knife pressed to her skin instead of his lips. "I'm horrible. I'm a mean, evil, nasty vampire, and I will remind you how I got my name. I will go back in this magic shop, and I will find the biggest piece of metal I can, and I will ram it right into that empty place where your brain should be!" He pressed her windpipe more tightly, shaking her more viciously, ice white lips curled with fury.

"You won't get away with this. I have my own people now. I have a pack, and they'll hunt you down..."

"Killed 'em earlier. Most of 'em, anyway. But they're not comin' to help you. How do you think I knew where to find you, Princess? Your 'people' aren't really yours. You wanna talk rats, talk about them." Once again the tone changed, impatient and angry, tired of playing. "Now, tell your 'Blondie Bear'-" he gripped her chin suddenly, and twisted it hard, fracturing some smaller bones in her neck, but not enough to make her turn to dust, "what is the bloody name?"

"Glory." Harmony whimpered. "Glory. Spike, please if you just let me go, I'll leave and-"

"-and I don't like when people threaten my family. You ever even look at the Slayer..." He hissed, and pulled her head with sudden savagery, just as she screamed and pulled in the opposite direction.

There was a gasp and a snap that was all too familiar.

Ash rained down.

Spike stared at the space where she'd been. The summoning crystal she'd stolen must have fallen from her hand before he grabbed her, and it now rested at his feet.

He stomped it to powder, where it blended with the rest of the dust on the street.

"Sorry." He told the remains. His hands twitched slightly. It wasn't that he objected to killing her. He hated her, yes, he could say that. He'd staked her once before, only she'd been wearing the Gem of Amara, and that had kept her alive. Her death was a long time overdue, he rationalized. He just hadn't known for sure if he would be the one bringing it to her tonight. He knew he should. She was a killer of innocents, and more importantly- at least to him, someone out to kill Buffy. And obviously she killed and turned others, who would probably do the same thing and a town full of hungry little vamps was no good, not after they'd gotten it fairly simmered down. She'd have led a bloody awful existence, too. Stupid vamps don't live on their luck for long. Stupid right 'til the end, twistin' her neck like that, when I had already broken part of it... He felt suddenly ill."Sorry." He muttered once again. His hands still twitched. Bloody soul.

Not from the violence, he assured himself. From the threat. From knowing, or at least suspecting the unnamed one's name and maybe getting a jump on the boys in Watcher suits.

Speaking of Watchers, better let Rupes know what's happened.

Spike went in the unlocked door, and was immediately hit with the stench of recent death. He followed his nose, found the bitten body, and apologized again. "Sorry, mate. Shoulda been here a few hours earlier."

Giles picked up his phone. "Library." He answered absently, nose practically resting on something in ancient Sanskrit.

"Probably feels like it about now." Spike chuckled drily.

"It- oh my- it certainly does." Giles straightened up, his back cracking loudly. He looked at the clock and winced. He hadn't even been to bed yet. "Are you back at Buffy's?"

"No, I'm at the magic shop."

"At the- Spike!" Fully alert now, Giles rose in agitation. "I said patrol the area, not break into the place to use the phone!"

"I didn't. I'm the second one here tonight." He sniffed. His nose wrinkled. "Make that third." Some strange smell, not human, not vamp, nothing he'd ever caught scent of before, was thick in the room, especially right here by the rifled display case.

"What happened?" Giles demanded.

"I think the big problem might have begun to spawn some little problems." Spike said guardedly, looking around the place as best he could.

"Marvelous. Shall we call Buffy?"

"I hope she's sleepin'. Let's not wake her."

"If you're not home safely, I doubt she's sleeping." Giles replied, musing about how strange this world had become, that sworn enemies would now toss and turn until they felt the other asleep beside them.

Spike hesitated. "No, she's worried about her mum, and even if she's up, she's had enough bad news to think about for one day. Let her rest." Even as he said it, he argued with himself.She'd be brassed off at you for that, you know.

I know. But maybe with Joyce bein' ill, I have a bit of give.

Giles was about to question the wisdom of this decision when Spike began speaking again. "It's not that I think Slayer needs looking after- just a night- hell, not even- just a few more hours before she tackles the next big battle. I'll tell her in the morning, and if she smacks me, I'll know better next time." He made a sound that Giles thought that might be a chuckle, "Not like her punches hurt any more. Just hard enough." Another noise, this one more of a growling sound. "Maybe I should give her a call." Stop thinking with your trousers, idiot.

"Now that I'm quite disturbed, can you tell me what's actually happened?" Giles asked.

"Not over the phone." Spike looked around the shop. Signs of disturbance everywhere. Harmony only had that book and a handful of bits and bobs. Someone was here before her or after her. Who knows what they took?

What if it's someone working for this "Glory"? What was she searching for? Damn it to hell, should have made her talk more, should have forced more information out of her- then dusted her. Christ, Buffy's gonna kill me.

Although, Harm's the most oblivious little twit in existence. Was the most oblivious. She could have us chasin' our tails with whatever she 'misheard', passin' on stuff she doesn't even understand. Ha. That's a broad area.

"Spike!" Giles thundered.

"What?" Spike snapped back, roused from thought.

"Thank heavens! What on earth were you doing, I've been shouting at you for two minutes."

"Don't know if this place is safe, but I think you might wanna take a look. I'll wait for you here?"

"What, now?"

"I dunno. Maybe not now, but once the police get involved-"




"I know."

"I'll be right there."

To be continued...