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Previous Chapter: Chapter 11
Next Chapter: Chapter 13

His eyes fluttered closed, a soft moan trying to escape as the liquid heat filled his mouth. The flavors danced across his tongue, tempting him to just hold it in. But then the rest would get cold, and that would be a bloody sin. Not that he was normally against that sort of thing, mind, but this… was Tea.

Spike swallowed and opened his eyes. Were a lot of unflattering things could be said about Giles, but the man made a bloody fine cuppa and had even remembered how he took it. Two sugars and a splash of milk. Good quality leaves steeped just right in good quality water. God, it was good to be home. ‘Course, it would have been even better if he’d woken with Senka there to tell him about the five days rather than Giles, but with Joyce still being in hospital and all, Spike understood. If he’d been conscious, he’d have shooed Senka off to be with her himself.

And speaking of consciousness, he thought, gazing down into his tea. It had been years since the only other time he’d set off the bloody slug, but he still remembered what it had been like. He’d been out for a full day and the pain had lingered beyond that. This time, he’d been out for roughly fourteen hours, and the vague ache in his head had cleared up after a mug of lamb blood.

The difference seemed to be that, this time, he’d been given slayer blood. And now here he was, sat at Giles’s table while the watcher himself puttered about at the stove.

Spike fidgeted and took another sip of tea, feeling restless and out of sorts. He should be doing something, not just sitting about on his arse. But wasn’t much he could do at the moment other than wait. When Giles had rung Senka up, Willow had answered, saying he was asleep and that she and Tara were working out a spell to remove the slugs. She’d used the plural there. Spike idly wondered if Red had planned to get rid of both from the start, or if Senka had forced the issue.

His thoughts were interrupted by Giles putting a plate of rice and lamb curry down in front of him before sitting down with his own. The smell was right, and most likely the taste as well since it was his own recipe. That was a bit of a fond memory, wasn’t it? Only last year as far as the watcher was concerned. Spike had broken into his flat, nicked some dosh, then come back to wake the sorry sod and teach him how to make a good curry. Giles had been so bored at the time, he hadn’t even tried to kick him out.

“What’s all this about, then?” Spike asked before taking a bite. Perfect. Utterly bloody perfect. Bloody hell, he was not going to cry over sodding human food. “Hasn’t been that long for you since you were whinging on about me barging in to help you keep to your diet.”

“Seeing as how I wasn’t actually on a diet, you eating my crisps and peanut butter crackers wasn’t terribly helpful,” Giles said dryly. Then he continued quietly, “What you did for Buffy, however, was.”

“Senka,” Spike corrected.

Giles’s face took on a troubled look. “She’s… she is Buffy, still, isn’t she? She’s not…?”

“Possessed?” Spike shook his head, considering what he should and shouldn’t tell the other man. “Not my place to go into most of it, but what we went through….” He poked at the metal collar still around his neck. “We were slaves with no way to fight back or get free. Not a situation someone like the Slayer is really equipped to deal with. And then what they did to her…. She couldn’t handle it. Not many could. She retreated into a different persona. A male one, so you’d best keep to male pronouns around him for now and use his name.”

“And you? Buffy… Senka, kept calling you Rehva and using female pronouns. And the way she was acting towards you….”

“Like I mean something to her?” Spike said bluntly. “Yeah. We got close, and when she was….” He looked down and shuddered slightly, mostly from impotent rage. He didn’t let himself dwell on it – he didn’t need another bout of pain and unconsciousness – but he wished he could get his hands on his former owner and rip some of her organs out. “She couldn’t be a woman anymore, not and stay sane. She needed to be a man with a woman by her side. I’ve been going along with it, and I suggest you do, too.”

He could tell that Giles had more questions, but then the phone rang, saving him from having to answer any of them.

 

 

Riley was increasingly feeling like he was surrounded by the enemy. They were all under the control of the key, even Giles. That had to be why the man had grabbed his arm and quietly threatened him when he’d tried to stake Spike. The vampire would be a strong protector for the key. Of course they wanted him still around. And of course they were going to take out the slug in his head, too. At least Willow had called to tell him about it. With the way they were all acting, he wouldn’t have been surprised to find himself left completely out of the loop.

 It’s not their fault, he reminded himself as he looked around the group gathered in the training room of the Magic Box. Willow, Tara, and the key. And Buffy, hugging herself and looking around anxiously while they waited for Giles and Spike to arrive.

“Buffy,” he said quietly as he slowly approached her. She gave him a wary look and backed away. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have grabbed you like that last night. I shouldn’t have.” He flashed her his most reassuring smile. “I’m glad you’re home. And… I know it’s going to be hard work for both of us to get back to where we were.”

Buffy was shaking her head. She didn’t think it would take work? Or….

“I…. Riley, that’s not….” Her expression hardened. “I’m with Rehva now.”

Rehva? He frowned in confusion for a moment before remembering that had been what Buffy had called Spike. His fists clenched at his sides, but he forced himself to stay calm. It wasn’t her fault. She’d been alone and afraid. Vulnerable.

“Buffy.” She flinched slightly at her name. “Listen to me. You have to listen to me. Spi… Rehva, isn’t right for you. He’s a monster, not a man. He can’t love you the way I can.”

She was shaking her head. Riley knew he shouldn’t, but he grabbed her, wanting to shake sense into her. He loved her so much, and she’d been pulling away even before all of this. Damn it, he wasn’t just going to let her go!

“He can’t give you any kind of normal life. Or get a steady nine-to-five to provide for you. Or give you kids. You can never have kids with him.”

He thought that would get to her, and it seemed to, but something was off. She paled, her eyes going wide as her breathing became uneven.

“Hey, what are you doing?” the key suddenly demanded.

Before Riley could tell it to mind its own business, Buffy jerked away from him.

“No!” she shouted, doubling over slightly with her hand pressed against her abdomen. “No kids!”

Riley frowned in confusion and allowed himself to be pushed out of the way as Willow hurried over to see what was wrong. He really wanted an answer to that one. What kind of normal heterosexual woman didn’t want children? The uncomfortable feeling that maybe Buffy just wasn’t right for him stirred, but he pushed it away. They were perfect for each other. He’d make her see that, and she’d love him the way she was supposed to. The way she probably had before the key had ruined everything.

“I didn’t mean right now,” he said, cutting through whatever the girls had been saying. “In a year or two, though… we could maybe get married and start trying for kids. As many as you want. We–”

He was cut off by a dark, nearly hysterical laugh from Buffy. “As many as I want? I can’t….” She backed away from her friends and the key, shaking her head. “They took it out. I can’t….”

Willow held up her hand as Buffy trailed off, and a faint shimmer of energy flickered between them for a moment before Tara grabbed Willow’s arm. “Willow, stop!”

“It, it was just a diagnostic spell.” Willow looked shaken, and Riley was pretty sure it wasn’t from the rebuke. “Buffy can’t have kids. Her uterus is gone.”

Everything seemed to freeze for a moment while Riley’s dreams of a white picket fence and two-point-five children life with Buffy crumbled into dust. He’d turned against his unit and ruined his career. He’d risked his life and health to be what she needed. And now this.

“What the bloody hell is going on?”

To Riley, Spike’s voice was an unwelcome intrusion, but it completely changed Buffy’s demeanor. Her closed off body language became open and confident. The trauma and inner turmoil seemed to roll right off of her like water off a duck’s back as she strode towards the vampire.

“Rehva,” she said, reaching up to gently cup his face.

And the sound of her voice…. It was over. There was nothing left to fight for. As those thoughts settled over Riley’s mind, his gaze landed on the key. It was doing a good job of pretending to be horrified by what had happened to Buffy, but he knew better. No one would just remove a perfectly healthy organ. Whatever emissions the key was giving off hadn’t just made Joyce sick. They must have infected Buffy as well.

Riley’s fists clenched as he fought the urge to snap the thing’s neck. Not yet. He needed proof first. There might not have been a future for him and Buffy anymore, but he would avenge her, when the time was right. For now, though, he couldn’t just stand here and watch things play out. He turned and left the Magic Box without a backward glance.

 

 

Tara stared down at the floor, feeling sick. Buffy had been violated, both by the people in the other dimension and by someone who was supposed to be one of her best friends. It was just a diagnostic spell… Said as if Willow just didn’t understand how horribly invasive that was without asking for permission first. And then to just blurt out what she’d discovered like that!

Thank god Spike had shown up when he had. Being near him had stabilized the ragged edges of Buffy’s aura. Or, well, Senka’s aura. This wasn’t a case of someone else being in Buffy’s body like with Faith, but there was a distinct difference between Buffy’s aura and this new persona’s. She’d seen it sort of blurring back and forth before she’d closed the door last night to give them private time with their mother.

Tara took a deep breath and focused on Willow. She wasn’t a bad person. Not at all. She could just be impulsive at times, like Tara herself had been with the spell she’d cast so no one would see the demon she’d thought she was. She’d thought that maybe Willow had learned better. That what had happened with the book would have curbed those impulsive urges. But it hadn’t. Willow saw a problem, realized there was magic that could help, and just did it without asking or thinking about the consequences. All that magic, and she had no real grounding in magical ethics. It was terrifying.

I’m going to have to talk to her about this again, she realized with a sinking feeling. Not right now. Not when there was an important and absolutely necessary spell they needed to do soon. But after that…. She didn’t want to think too much about it right now, but things were going to have to change.

 


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Table of Contents
Previous Chapter: Chapter 11
Next Chapter: Chapter 13

Reviews ( 1 )

kasumi
January 11, 2021 21:10

You do such a good job reflecting these characters so well. They are all being themselves, and it's heartbreaking. But yay for tea and curry for Spike. And dangit Willow.