Buffy woke up to see Dawn watching anxiously as her mother walked down the small hall to the store’s bathroom. She stretched and rose, going to the door to ask, “Do you need any help, Mom?”
“Good morning, Buffy. I’m sorry we woke you. And, no, I’m doing fine. Tara’s healing spells seem to be working very nicely. “
“Yeah, well, don’t get carried away. You’re not going to do anything more strenuous than walk to the bathroom until the doctor says so. And you won’t see him until sometime next week.”
Joyce just smiled and closed the door behind her.
“She seems pretty good, don’t you think?” Dawn’s need for reassurance had Buffy putting on her most confident air.
“Of course she does. Mom is strong. She’s going to be fine. We just need to make sure she doesn’t try to do too much. I’m going to check in at the gallery later and make sure they know not to bother her unless they have a real emergency. Thank God for Lisa. If Mom didn’t have so much confidence in her manager, we’d never get her out of the city.”
“So, that’s the plan? We’re all going to leave and you and Spike will stay here? What if she finds us and you guys aren’t there to protect us?”
“I’m going to be checking in all the time. And, here, this is Spike’s cell number. I’ll make sure he keeps it charged and somewhere handy.” She handed Dawn the slip of paper on which Spike had written the number for her.
The store phone rang and Buffy went back into the office to pick up the desk extension.
“Magic Box, hello? Oh, hi. Yep, we’re all fine. It was very quiet all night. Uh huh.... okay.... yeah, that would be great. Okay. Thanks, Giles.”
“Everybody’s on their way here. Xander’s bringing doughnuts.”
“More junk food.” Joyce’s voice as she looked in the office door was as disapproving as she could make under the circumstances. “I guess, all things considered, junk food should be fairly low on my list of things to worry about, huh?” She gave Buffy an affectionate, if somewhat strained, smile.
“For a while, Mom. Don’t worry. Once you guys are in another city, you can eat real food again.”
“While you stay here and live off doughnuts and pizza....”
“And beer,” Spike said, joining her in the hallway. “Never underestimate the importance of beer as an emergency provision.” At Joyce’s narrowed eyes, he added quickly, “I meant for me. Beer and blood – vampire food. Not for the Slayer. I’ll find real food for her, Joyce. You’ve got my promise.”
While all three women rolled their eyes at his sudden change in demeanor, and Dawn snickered at him, Buffy tried to reassure Joyce.
“I’ll be fine, Mom. As long as I’m not worrying about you and Dawn, it won’t matter what I eat. I might make Spike take me out for a nice steak dinner once in a while.” She ignored Spike’s expression and pushed past him into the hall. “Come on, I need to unlock the front door before our breakfast gets here.”
Joyce was laughing at Spike’s shock. “Did you think you could date my daughter and not have to treat her right?” she said, still chuckling.
“Yeah, Spike. Buffy’s kinda high-maintenance...” Dawn joined her mother in embarrassing her sister and what was obviously becoming the latest vampire in her life.
“I heard that!” Buffy’s voice carried back to them from the end of the short hallway. “And we’re not dating! We’re just working together!”
Not sure which Summers woman to respond to first, or what he would say if he did, Spike retreated to the office and picked up his coat. He made a big production out of taking off the tattered remains of his tee-shirt and throwing it away, giving Joyce and Dawn time to take their giggles out to the main room. He shrugged on his coat and, squaring his shoulders, went down the hall to join them.
By the time Giles and the Scoobies arrived, Joyce and Dawn were insisting that they needed at least a few minutes at their home to do their own packing and Buffy had agreed to go with them to stand guard. Spike said he was going to use the tunnels to go back to his crypt and get some blood and some less abused-looking clothes for himself.
“I’ll be downstairs,” he said, when Buffy protested. “Nobody will know where I am if I put the board and rug back. That’s assumin’ your boytoy really does plan to come looking for me. Wanker’s only been there the one time... and it was last year. Chances are, he won’t even be able to find it.”
“Okay,” Buffy said, waving at Willow and Tara as they came in. “I’ll meet you there after I see everybody off. Be careful.”
“I’m not the one’s going to be walking around in the daylight by herself,” he grumbled. “If you’re not there in an hour, I’ll be coming out to look for you.”
“And you’ll be a little heap of ashes before you get to the gate. Just stay there and be patient. I’ll be there when I get there.”
They exchanged stubborn glares that softened into smiles.
“We’re a pair, aren’t we, Slayer.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Buffy said, biting her lip to keep from laughing. “I’m decisive and all with the cautiony stuff. You’re just stubborn and reckless.”
Casting a glance toward the others, none of whom seemed to be watching them, he brushed his lips over hers and whispered, “One hour, Pot.” As he ducked into the stairwell, she glared after him.
“I’ll be there when I get there, Kettle.”
Xander and Anya arrived before Dawn and Buffy had devoured all the doughnuts, holding large paper cups of coffee and hot chocolate. Sitting down to join in the sugary breakfast, Xander looked around the room.
“Where’s fangface? I thought he was staying here to help you?”
“He did,” Buffy responded shortly. “He stood guard while I slept. He’s gone back to his crypt to get some clean clothes and probably catch a nap. I don’t know how much sleep vampires need, but I’m pretty sure it’s more than Spike’s had lately.”
Anya looked disappointed. “That’s too bad,” she said, smiling at the other women. “I’m sure we were all enjoying looking at Spike’s body. I was looking forward to seeing it this morning after the ugly hole was healed.” When there was no response from anyone except a glare from Xander, she continued, “What? I’m not saying I want Spike to give me orgasms – although I’m sure he’s quite skilled at it and with that vampire staminia—“ She choked off as Xander put his hand over her mouth.
“Ayn, haven’t we talked about what it is and isn’t okay to talk about in front of Dawn? And Mrs. Summers?” He gave Buffy’s mother an apologetic shrug.
In an effort to change the subject from Spike’s admittedly oglable torso, Buffy said quickly, “So, are we all ready to go? Except for Mom and Dawn. They have to go by the house and get their stuff. We’ll just have to hope that Ben is working today and Glory stays away until we can get you guys out of town.”
Eager to help with the subject change, Giles said, “I picked up a prepaid mobile phone on the way here. I can leave it with you and we can use the hotel’s landline phones to check in.”
“No, you keep it, Giles. Spike has a phone and I already gave Dawn the number. Put it in that phone so you’ll have it too.”
“But what if you are not with Spike?”
Buffy blushed. “The plan is to stay together as much as we can. We’ve got a better chance of fighting Glory if there are two of us for her to worry about.”
“Vampire – Slayer tag team!” Dawn repeated her comments from the previous day.
“Something like that,” Buffy said. “I’m hoping between the two of us, we have enough muscle to beat her.”
“Maybe you should have taken Riley up on his offer of help from the Army?”
“And get a bunch of guys who have no idea what they’re facing get killed or brain-sucked? They’ll have enough time to see how their guns work against her if we.... if we can’t stop her,” she finished quickly, avoiding her mother’s frightened gaze.
“And on that optimistic note....” Giles stood up. “I suggest we get ourselves up and out of here. The sooner we are out of Glory’s reach, the better for all of us.”
“I brought my car,” Xander said. “Anya and I can go ahead and check us all checked in before you get there. Do you know where it is? The Ramada Inn in Clarksburg?”
“I’m fairly certain I can find it,” Giles said as he helped Joyce to her feet. Buffy and Dawn had collected their mother’s meds and belongings from the training room and were holding them when the door burst open and Glory stood in the opening.
“Aha! There you are, Slayer. You’ve been trying to hide from me.” She looked around the room. “And all the little Slayerettes too. How perfect. For me.” Before anyone could react, she had grabbed Tara and put her hands on either side of her head. While Willow screamed, and Buffy charged toward them, the hellgod threw her head back in triumph. “So that’s where it is!” She let Tara’s limp body fall to the floor, where Willow quickly pulled her girlfriend away from Glory and began begging Tara to speak to her.
Buffy’s attack had its usual less than optimal effect on Glory who bounced back from Buffy first punch to send her flying into a shelf. She advanced on Dawn, saying, “Well, well, well. So my Key is a little girl. You’re a bad girl to be hiding from me all this time. But it’s all right now. I’ve got you.”
Shaking her head to clear it, Buffy grabbed the nearest thing she could use for a weapon, which turned out to be Olaf’s troll hammer. To her surprise, as well as Glory’s, a blow with the magical hammer had much more of an effect on the hellgod than had any of Buffy’s kicks or punches. She fell to the floor, releasing Dawn who scampered behind Xander and Anya. Another blow from the hammer had Glory scrambling toward the open door, shrieking her anger.
“Don’t think you can keep her from me, Slayer,” she screamed, as she retreated to the street, followed by Buffy and blows from the hammer. “I’ll be back!” She clapped her hands and disappeared, leaving everyone relieved and shaken.
“Forget the clothes”, Buffy said. “Get in the car and get the hell out of here. And keep going! As fast and as far as you can.”
Scrambling to obey, Joyce and Dawn were soon huddled in Joyce’s SUV, with Willow and an awake, but barely functional Tara huddled together in the back seat.
“What’s wrong with Tara?” Dawn whimpered, staring at the vacant expression on Tara’s face.
“I think she got brain-sucked,” Willow said, still crying as she petted Tara and tried to sooth her. Her eyes briefly darkened as she said, “I’m going to....” A whimper from Tara distracted her and her eyes faded back to normal as she hugged her girlfriend.
“She knows it’s me,” Dawn said. “She knows.”
“Buffy will handle her,’ Giles said with slightly more confidence than he felt. “It appears that the hammer can damage her, so Buffy now has a weapon that evens the odds a bit.”
“And she’s got Spike,” Dawn said.
“And she’s got Spike,” he replied, thinking about how useful it was for Buffy to have a vampire with no objections to killing humans on her side.
Clutching the hammer, Buffy ran to Restfield as quickly as she could, slamming her way into the crypt and shutting the doors behind her. Spike’s head was already poking up from his bedroom when she turned around, breathing hard.
“You’re supposed to be hiding,” she said, still holding on to her hammer.
Spike came up the stairs, frowning at her appearance and obvious distress. Ignoring her comment about hiding, he asked, “What happened?”
Buffy pointed to the ladder. “Let’s talk down there.” She walked over and went down the steps, somewhat awkwardly due to her refusal to let go of the hammer. When she reached the bottom, she realized that there were no candles lit and she moved to the side, waiting for Spike to come down. Peering up at the dim light from above, she saw that he was pulling the plywood back into place, pausing to reach up and tug the rug to the edge of the sheet of wood. When it was in place to suit him, he pulled it shut, plunging the room into total darkness.
Buffy heard him come down the steps, and felt his nearness as he paused in front of her.
“Is that going to work?”
She felt him shrug. “Dunno. If it’s lying flat, it should do. Depends on who or what’s lookin’ for us, and how smart it is.” He ran a hand down her arm to the hand holding the hammer. “Got some home improvement projects in mind, love?”
“It hurt her,” she said. “It can hurt her. It’s not leaving my hand until she’s a little blob of hellgod in a red dress.”
He touched the hammer and tried to take it from her, cursing in surprise when he almost dropped it.
“What the hell is it?” he growled, using two hands to raise it to chest level. “And how does a little chit like you carry it around in one hand?”
Buffy giggled and took it back from him. “Guess I’m just stronger than you are,” she said, giving him a nudge. “And it’s a magical hammer. It belong to Anya’s ex.”
“Demon girl has an “ex”?”
“Yeah, he was her boyfriend, or husband or something – anyway, he cheated on her and she cursed him and made him a troll. This was his hammer. “
“She kept his hammer?”
“No, he.... it’s a long story. Anyway, he’s gone and we’ve got his hammer and it turns out it can hurt Glory. So yay!”
“Yay, indeed,” he said. She could hear the smile in his voice. He raised a hand and stroked her hair. “So, did everyone get on their way today?”
Buffy shuddered and leaned into him. “Eventually. But she knows. She knows Dawn is her Key, and I guess she knows where they were going to go, so they aren’t going there.”
“How did that happen?” He was growling as if ready to go find the person responsible and make him pay.
“She brain-sucked Tara,” Buffy said quietly. “Right there, in front of me. I couldn’t stop her.”
“Not your fault, love.” His attitude changed immediately and he put his hands on her shoulders, squeezing them. “It’s not your fault.” His hands slid down to encircle her body, holding her while she took calming breaths. “Not your fault,” he repeated, his hands rubbing soothing circle on her back. “We’ll get her, love. You and me. We’ll get her.”
“What if we can’t? What if I can’t stop her, Spike?”
“Got all the faith in the world in you, Buffy. You’ll stop her. You will.” He pulled her tighter, holding on until she stopped trembling in what he soon realized was anger, not fear. “Bitch is a good as dead.”
Buffy pushed gently on his chest until he let her go, stepping back and asking, “So, what does a girl have to do to get some light down here?”
“Just ask, and you shall receive.” There was a snick from his lighter, followed immediately by the flare. He walked to a table and lit the candle there, then snapped his lighter closed. “See?”
“Sort of,” she said, smiling to take the sting out. “It’s better than stumbling around in the dark, I guess.” She looked around as best she could in the flickering light of the lone candle and saw that Spike had brought a cooler down stairs. “Blood?” She pointed to it.
“And some water for you. Not sure what we’ll do about food just yet....”
“I don’t plan to hide down here all week,” she said, looking around for someplace to sit that wasn’t Spike’s slept-in looking bed. “Just today. Till you can come out with me.”
“So, Slayer,” he said, sitting on the bed and leaning against the headboard. “Have a seat and tell me all about this hammer and how it can hurt the hellbeast. Is she missing teeth now?”
“Oh God, I hope so!” Buffy went around to the other side of the bed and sat down as far away from him as she could get and not be on the floor. He raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything, so she continued. “I didn’t really look at her all that close. I just kept hitting her, and she kept backing up and then she did something and disappeared.” She sighed. “The easiest thing to do might be to find Ben and just shadow him until he changes....”
Spike squeezed his eyes shut to avoid having her see what he thought they should do with Ben, but Buffy had no trouble understanding his silence.
“Spike, we’ve been over this. Ben is human. He has no control over Glory or what she does. I can’t blame him or kill him just because she decided he’d been a nice place to live for a while.”
“Right.” He still didn’t look at her, just sighed and kept his eyes shut. There was silence for so long that Buffy thought he might have fallen asleep, but just as she was going to close her own eyes he turned his head and looked at her. He reached one hand over and cupped her chin, staring into her eyes as if searching them for something important to him. After several seconds, during which she just gazed back, puzzled, but not trying to pull away, he leaned in to kiss her.