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Chp 20 : Betrayal

 

Willow looked long and hard at Xander and Anya. Her best friend refused to meet her gaze, but the demon girl just raised her eyebrows and nodded slightly. “So, we all agree,” Willow said softly. “Xander?”

There was a long pause. “She’ll hate us,” he said at last, worrying at a thumb nail.

Willow sighed but squared her shoulders. She was prepared for the hate, but knew what she'd decided was the right course of action. “Only until it’s all over and done with. Then, as the weeks go by, she’ll see we were right. Buffy isn’t silly. This Spike thing is just – ”

“A thing?” Anya put in helpfully.

“Exactly!”

“Who’s going to tell her?” Xander still wouldn’t look at the redhead and she bit her lip. She needed all three of them to make a stand; she couldn’t have Xander wavering like this.

“I will, but I’d like you two to be there as well.”

“But Will, they’re sort of – inside her! What happens to Buffy if they don’t go back into one body?”

“I rang Giles. He’s furious, but he says that he thinks Spike and William and the Demon can only exist for a short while outside a human frame. They’ll just – vanish – and Buffy will be our Buffy again. I think she’ll be glad – eventually.”

“That Demon thing – ” Xander shuddered. “How can she touch it?”

Anya opened her mouth to say that she couldn’t see what was so very horrible about Demon, then shut it again. Xander and Willow were in very odd moods and she wasn’t at all sure she completely understood why they were reacting like this. She would have thought they’d have been delighted that The Master was gone, but all they could think about was Buffy and Spike.
OK, she knew only too well that Xander still had these silly juvenile feelings for the Slayer, but Willow? That was weird and Anya didn’t do weird in this world. She had left weird behind and was not going to embrace it again. It was as if Willow had suddenly decided that she was the leader of the Scoobies, that she was more powerful than Buffy, had better ideas, knew exactly which was the right way to go. Anya found she was quite scared of this Willow and kept silent.

Buffy was still sitting where they had left her – on the floor of the cage Xander had built, with the three bodies collapsed around her. She had pulled Spike so he lay half across her lap, William’s head was pillowed against one leg and Demon against the other.

She looked up as her three friends walked slowly down the stairs. “Geez, Willow, paint dries faster than you walk. What have you worked out? Is it another spell? How long will it take? I’ve got to get them back inside their bodies – fast.”

Willow walked gingerly to the edge of the cage and peered inside. She shuddered at the sight of Demon lying closest to her. Even unconscious, his face was twisted and snarling with rage. William looked peaceful, as if just asleep. She couldn’t see Spike’s face - his head was buried in the softness of Buffy’s body – but his hair was a riot of tiny curls, pulled into tangles by Buffy’s compulsively stroking fingers.

“Buffy, listen. I’ve just been speaking to Giles – ”

“Good idea. He’s sure to have some plan.”

“Giles thinks – and we all agree – that you should just – just – well, let them go.” Her voice trailed away as Buffy’s hand stopped stroking Spike’s head and curled protectively over it instead.

“Let them go?” The Slayer’s voice was no more than a whisper and deep inside her, three voices were immediately, anxiously querying why she was upset, what was wrong, who could they kill for her?

“Buffy, even if we could find a way of getting their – I don’t know what to call them – their spirits, perhaps – out of you and back into their bodies, should we do that? They've been part of you, Buffy. We don’t know what that might mean if we restore Spike to his old self again.”

Buffy looked from Willow to Xander, then Anya, her eyes darkening to deep emerald. “Xander? Are you in on this?”

Xander pushed his fingers through his dark hair and gazed desperately around. “Buffy, don’t look at me like that! I know it sounds hard and isn’t probably what you want at the moment – ”

“But everyone thinks you’ll be pleased in a few weeks time,” Anya interrupted eagerly.

“You want Spike and William to die!” Buffy could hardly get the words out.

“And the demon,” Anya added.

Buffy ignored her. She stared at Willow and Xander as if she didn’t recognise them and in some way she didn’t. These were her two oldest friends. They’d fought together, been through every conceivable trial and battle. They’d both brought her back from the dead at different times but did they think that gave them the right to tell her how to lead her life, to decide that the man she loved should die? “Willow – don’t do this, please,” she said, trying to keep her voice from trembling, silently hushing the anguished voices inside her who didn’t understand what was going on but could feel her pain.

The redhead took a step backwards. “Buffy – I know it’s hard for you to understand, but trust me, this is the right thing to do. You took them into your body. A sort of claiming. What will that make you if they all go back? Buffy, you could be some sort of demon too!”

Buffy pulled the bodies closer to her. Betrayal! It was worse than any feeling she’d ever known. It left a taste in her mouth of ash and salt. Because she knew that whatever happened, nothing would ever, could ever be the same again. Her best friends were betraying her, killing the man she loved, killing William and dear Demon as well and all because they thought they knew best. She looked into Willow’s face and shuddered at what she saw there. Power, pride and a complete resolute belief that what she was doing was right. Buffy knew nothing she could say would change her mind and in that moment knew her friend was lost to her forever.

She turned to Xander and Anya. “Xander, I’m begging you – don’t do this. Help me set them free. Anya, please – ”

Xander felt bile flood his mouth and wanted to throw up. Buffy Summers was begging for a vampire’s life! It made him sick to his stomach. She was sitting there, holding those three creatures to her body as if the warmth of her flesh was going to warm their cold limbs.

“Buffy, you’re not yourself. You wouldn’t want this freak show to go on if you were. OK, I’m sorry about William. He seemed an OK sort of guy. But Spike and that – that – thing there on the floor! They’re inside you. It’s disgusting! But if you just let them fade away, then everything can get back to normal.”

Buffy heard herself laugh. “Normal? What, you reckon tomorrow we’ll all be heading off to eat pizza and see a movie? What world are you all living in? Xander, you’re helping kill the man I love.”

“Don’t say that! Don’t ever say that!” The shout echoed round the basement, full of pain and anger and bitterness and spinning round, desperate to get away from her stare, he ran up the basement steps.

Willow edged away, too. “I know you’re upset now, Buff, but it won’t be for long. Giles reckons they’ll fade away quite quickly and then you’ll see, you’ll be free. You’ll feel so much better. You’ll be our old Buffy again.”

Buffy watched her go. The witch didn’t even glance once at the bodies. She didn’t glance back once at the person who used to be her best friend.

“Slayer! Miss Buffy! I want to kill!” Three voices mingling inside her. She bowed her head over their bodies and the tears that she’d held back for so long began to fall, dampening Spike’s curls into dark wheat.

“It’s OK,” she whispered out loud. “Don’t worry. I’m OK. I’ll look after you.” She didn’t want them to know, to be afraid. Perhaps Willow was right. They would just fade away, not know anything – just vanish. Then what would become of her? Because Buffy knew the claiming was a deeper link than Willow and Xander realised. If Spike, William and Demon went, then perhaps she would die as well.And at the moment, she would welcome death if it meant she could go into the darkness with her family.

A sound brought her head up; Anya was standing at the cage door. “You still here,” Buffy said wearily. “Don’t let me keep you.”

“They’re scared,” the ex-demon said, her usual sharp tones softened. “Scared of what you will become. And Xander really doesn’t like Spike. In fact, Xander doesn’t like demons at all.”

“That’s going to make your life together very complicated.”

Anya nodded. “Yes. But I love him, so hopefully we’ll work it out. I must go before Willow forces him to think about not marrying me.”

She turned, then retraced her footsteps. “I liked Spike and William,” she said bluntly. “And although I think Demon should have far more concern for his personal hygiene than he does at present, none of us are perfect.” She came even closer and Buffy looked up sharply.

“Willow is being incredibly bossy. I have hundreds of years of experience behind me and she treats me as if I am a complete amateur. She leaves this lying around for anyone to find. Here!” She thrust something at Buffy who reached out automatically to take it. “This isn’t because I like you and I’ve no idea if you can make it work on yourself and if you can, I’d be grateful if you didn’t tell Xander who gave it to you because he simply wouldn’t understand.”

Then with a clatter of high heels, she was gone and Buffy was left staring at the Ferula-Gemina dividing rod she had used to get Spike and Demon out of William’s body.

The basement fell silent as Anya’s footsteps faded away and the door at the top of the stairs slammed shut. Buffy sank to the floor holding the dividing rod tightly against her chest. Why had the ex-demon girl given it to her? She wouldn’t be popular with Willow or Xander if they ever found out, and Buffy knew Anya liked being popular.

‘But they both treat her as if she’s a kid,’ she thought wearily. ‘And she isn’t. She’s older than old and has seen more, done more, knows more than any of us, including Willow. They just don’t accept that or don’t want to. Whatever!’

So she had the dividing rod, but what could she do with it? Buffy stared in despair at the three bodies lying on the ground next to her. This was her family! Her beloveds. How could Willow and Xander think that what had happened was a dangerous thing? She had never felt so complete, so loved, desired and needed in all her life.

Spike, William and Demon lay still: there was no flicker of life that she could see. But inside her, their voices were still there, urging her to talk to them, petting her, comforting, loving.

“Spike, I don’t know what to do,” she whispered in despair. Should she aim the dividing rod at his body or William’s or Demon’s? What if they weren’t strong enough to survive another blast of magic? She rocked backwards and forwards, cradling his head against her chest, running her fingers across the pale cheeks, circling his lips with her nails.

“Yes, you do, pet.” His voice, or the memory of his voice echoed inside her head. “You’re the Slayer. Incredible, magnificent, marvellous. And my girl. You’ll do the right thing.”

“I trust you, Miss Buffy.” William’s voice, slighter softer, just a touch more English echoed after Spike’s. “But you mustn’t worry. If we go, we go together, the three of us, and that is good.”

“Not going! Staying! Help us! Will live! Survive!”

Buffy could have wept. Demon had no second thoughts; he knew exactly what he wanted – was that imperious, animal tone of voice what she heard so often in Spike’s words?

‘Spike – William!’ she called silently.

‘We're here, pet. Both of us.’ Spike’s voice came with a huge rush of warmth, a wave of love and heat and passion that threatened to push her over the edge. She wanted nothing more than to let go and join him and the other two. What if they went on without her? Buffy shuddered and swayed, one fist gripping Spike’s shoulder, the other tangling in William’s cold hand.

‘Don’t leave me!’

‘We won’t, Slayer. But you need to hurry. We don’t know how much longer we can stay with you.’

‘Demon?’

‘Demon’s stronger than me.’ That was William – his voice soothing and soft. ‘I fear I shall be the first to go, Miss Buffy. I’m finding it extremely hard to stay, as much as I want to. Spike is holding me here, but it’s very difficult - I don’t understand what’s happening…’

‘I’ve got the dividing rod. Should I use it on Demon? Will he go back inside you, Spike, if I do?’

‘Bloody hell, Slayer.’ Even as a spirit voice, Spike sounded pissed off. ‘You know I’m no good with the magicals.’

‘But there’s no one left to help!’

‘Yes, there is.’ William stirred again, but sounding even further away.

‘Who?’ Buffy asked desperately. “Tell me who?’

* * * * * *

In Spike’s crypt, Dawn was sitting curled up in his armchair, hugging her knees. She felt so useless, so helpless. She hated being young; always the one who had to be protected, looked after. OK, so Buffy didn’t want to worry about her when she was fighting, that was cool, but no one seemed to realise that it was harder just sitting, waiting, not knowing what was going on, never being needed to do anything, always in the way.

Dawn gazed round the dark room. It was weird how at home she felt here. She knew every inch as well as she knew her own house. Spike – she felt a tremor run through her nerves. He’d looked so very dead, lying on the floor back there. But he wasn’t, of course. Geez, of course he was! But not dead in the not-there-any-more sense. Somehow his spirit and William’s and the gunky Demon’s were inside Buffy.

She jumped out of the chair and paced around the crypt. So not wanting to think that through anymore! How could they be inside her sister? Did it hurt? And what would happen if Buffy couldn’t get them back into their own bodies? A chill ran over her body and she realised it was fright. She lit a couple of candles, watching the match burn slowly down towards her fingers. Having William here had been fun, but he wasn’t Spike and as for the demon creature, not so cool. But what if Buffy could only choose one to live? Which would it be?

Just then, as the flame touched her fingers and she winced and shook out the match, Dawn jumped, because inside her head, deep in the deepest part of her brain – had come a pressure, a demand. She’d been told to stay here until Buffy told her otherwise, but now – she knew she had to go to her sister. How, she had no idea – but something was pulling her, calling to her and she had no choice but to obey. Hurry! Come quickly! Come home now!

Dawn ran all the way back to Revello from the cemetery. There was no sign of vampires or The Master. Sunnydale looked its normal self – cars driving by, people jogging, dogs being taken for walks, everything looked ordinary. Even as she ran, she thought how weird that was. All this chaos, death and demons had been happening within a few yards of these people and they knew nothing about it.

She passed Janice’s house, a stitch beginning to catch in her side. But she couldn’t slow down, couldn’t make her feet stop running. She had a fleeting thought that perhaps she could run up the drive and knock on the door. Janice’s mom would open it and ask her in and she could pretend that this scary, overwhelming feeling inside her wasn’t really happening. She and Janice would go upstairs and giggle and phone their friends and hang out and –

But she was fifty yards past now, still running and there was home – still standing, no Master, no demons, no vamps, just – and the relief was so great she could taste it, Willow, Xander and Anya standing on the sidewalk outside, chatting. She skidded to a halt next to them, gasping for breath, her dark hair tangled, flying free and they looked round, startled.

“Dawnie! What are you doing here?”

“You were told to stay at Spike’s crypt. I heard Buffy tell you.”

“Hey, Dawn. Are you up for pizza?”

She frowned. They all sounded – she couldn’t find the right word – weird, stilted – then she found it – they sounded guilty. “Hey, where’s Buffy? What happened? Has The Master gone? Are the boys back?”

“Oh you don’t have to worry about The Master anymore,” Xander said hurriedly. “He won’t be bothering us any more. We kicked his sorry – ”

“Xander!”

“Sorry, Ahn! He’s gone, Dawnie.”

“Buffy?”

“Er, she’s still inside, but she’s busy, Dawnie. We don’t want to interrupt her at the moment.”

“Busy doing what? Are Spike and William back? What happened to the demon?”

“Look, let’s go and get something to eat and we’ll explain it to you.” Willow was reaching out for her hand; Xander was moving to her other side. They were cutting her off from the house.

Dawn swayed as the pull inside her brain came again. Hurry! Come! Quickly! And now her own emotions were boiling to the surface – a swirling joy of knowledge – at last Buffy needed her, Spike, William, Demon - they all needed her.

To be continued