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Previous Chapter: Chapter Two

Giles carefully ground up the handful of herbs, moistened with just enough holy water to create a thick paste, trying not to think. Spike was down in the lower level, preparing by scrubbing himself down with a packet of different herbs in the makeshift shower he’d cobbled together at some point in the past. He’d be doing the bulk of the ritual, with Giles helping with some of the preparation, keeping Spike focused, and then getting him tucked into bed afterwards to rest.

He’d been adamant about that. That the ritual would leave him physically and mentally fragile for the next twenty-four hours, and that he wasn’t to be disturbed except in dire need. They’d know immediately if Dawn would rise again, but the magic would keep her unconscious long enough for her new sire to recover.

There was a sound from the direction of the trap door, followed by Spike, damp and dressed in nothing but a pair of jeans. He already looked exhausted, no doubt running on the same lack of sleep as Buffy. As all of them, really, but the two of them had been pushing themselves even harder for the past few days. They’ve more strength than the rest of us, but less sense when it comes to leaving themselves any reserves. He’d the odd urge to make up another batch of grilled cheese sandwiches, but shook it away as the other man approached him. Human food wouldn’t do him any good. Besides, if the empty jugs next to the full ones of blood were any indication, he’d at least taken the time to get some kind of sustenance into himself.

“About done there?” Spike asked, inclining his head towards the wooden bowl full of herbs and holy water.

“I believe so. And the, uh, candles and incense have been placed around… the feral vampire as you instructed.”

He glanced towards the now lit corner. The thing that had once been Dawn had been stripped nude and bound tightly to a kitchen chair Spike had procured for somewhere or other. Murderous rage had joined the hunger in its eyes. Giles shuddered and looked away from it, handing the bowl over to Spike once he’d pulled on a pair of heavy leather gloves.

He nodded his thanks, taking the bowl and a mysterious cloth bag with him towards the bound girl. And then the ritual was begun.

It was, as Spike had warned, quite gruesome. Symbols were drawn all over her body with the holy water and herb paste. Crosses of various sizes were pulled from the bag and pressed into her flesh. And all the while, Spike droned on in a language Giles didn’t know, often drowned out by the other vampire’s shrieks of pain, but never faltering, even as the hands holding the instruments of torture shook.

Hours seemed to crawl past, though it was likely no more than one. It was a difficult ritual to watch. No doubt even harder to perform. But Giles told himself that the thing in the chair was not Dawn. It was something that had stolen her form, and what was being done to it would bring something like the Dawn they’d known back to them. And when Spike froze, shaking like a leaf and unable to press the largest cross into her flesh, Giles steadied him, holding his arm and helping him to lay it against her chest.

With one final scream of agony, the creature went limp in the chair, the eyes glazing over as they shifted from yellow to blue. Then the restraints were quickly torn away, the body carefully cradled against Spike’s chest as he cut into his own wrist and held it to her mouth. One breath. Two. Nothing.

And then the body in Spike’s arms convulsed, sucking greedily at his wrist before once more going still.

Spike shuddered and glanced towards him. “It worked,” he whispered hoarsely. “She’s—”

His knees buckled, and he fell to the floor before Giles could catch him, his energy utterly spent.

 

 

Willow sat alone in the living room, contemplating her next move. Xander and Anya had gone home after Buffy had left, and a tiny nudge of magic was all it had taken to send Tara staggering off to bed. None of them were taking the news of Dawn’s death well. Neither was she, honestly, but she was trying to push past the grief to think of what she was going to do about it.

There was the spell she’d used to resurrect Buffy. The urn had been broken, but now that she’d done the spell before, she might be able to come up with some sort of substitute or workaround. The biggest obstacle was not knowing how she’d died. Had it been the kind of unnatural death that the spell could actually reverse, or something completely normal? Dawn is the key, she reminded herself. Some kind of energy given a human form and life. Could any type of death be considered “normal” for a being like that?

Willow sighed and rubbed at her face. Everything would have been so much simpler if Dawn had just been at the Bronze when she and Tara had checked there. The spell she’d come up with had worked perfectly. It had shunted everyone but the two of them and any fifteen-year-old girls into another dimension just long enough for Willow to get a look at everyone left. A handful of young girls, but none of them had been Dawn.

And Tara…. She’d been so angry about the spell, arguing with her before she’d even cast it. At least that could be fixed easily enough. She’d used Lethe’s Bramble off and on throughout the summer to keep everyone focused and still had some sprigs of it in the bedroom. She’d just use it to make Tara think they’d just checked the Bronze like normal people before leaving. No more problem. If only everything else was as easy to fix….

The door opened suddenly, and she jumped to her feet, startled out of her thoughts. The energizing spell had helped with the search, but did make her kind of jumpy. Like way too much sugar and caffeine.

“Buffy—” she started to call out, then stopped as Giles came into view. He looked as tired as the rest of them, a haggard expression on his face.

“Where is Buffy?” he asked, glancing around the room.

“Giles, I….” She hesitated, not sure what to say. He’d be upset with her for using magic when he’d told her not to before he came back, but she couldn’t just not tell him about Dawn. “I…I did a locater spell. I know you said not to, but it’s just a simple spell. No trouble at all, and, and it’s not like it’s something that can really go wrong. It… um, it said that….” She took a deep breath and looked down for a moment before meeting his cold gaze. “She’s dead. Dawn is dead.”

Giles froze for a moment, so still she wasn’t even sure he was breathing. “Where is Buffy?” he repeated, voice soft and ominous.

Willow swallowed hard, taking an involuntary step back at the look in his eyes. “She, uh, after the spell, she went out to patrol.”

“You foolish child,” he hissed with terrifyingly controlled anger, “do you have any idea of what you’ve done?” He turned away from her, towards the door. “Stay here and do nothing else. You’ve caused more than enough harm with your rampant idiocy.”

Then he was gone, leaving her there alone with the echo of his harsh words.

 

 

Piles of dust. The corpses of demons that didn’t conveniently combust being consumed by smaller scavenger demons. It wasn’t enough of a trail for Giles to follow on his own, but they were obvious marks of Buffy’s recent path, proving that Spike’s nose seemed to be working even if the rest of him was having difficulties.

His grip on Spike tightened, keeping the vampire upright as he stumbled again. Even with Giles steadying him, he swayed like a drunk.

“Where?” he slurred, blinking owlishly. “Wha’s going on?”

“We have to find Buffy,” Giles told him, firmly but gently. It was far from the first time. “You need to follow her scent.”

Spike stiffened suddenly, eyes going wide and panicked. “The tower. She’s gonna—”

It wasn’t the first time for that, either. Giles clamped down on the desire to shake him back to sense. It wouldn’t work, and the inability to keep his thoughts in the here and now was hardly his fault. He’d warned Giles of the toll the ritual would take on his mental faculties, both before he’d started it and after he’d been woken and made to understand the current situation.

“No, Spike,” he said, tightening his hold again before the other man could attempt to run and fall flat on his face. “There’s no tower. We just need to find Buffy and get her home so she can get some rest.” It was quite a bit more urgent than that, but panicking him again wasn’t going to accomplish anything. “Find her scent.”

Spike’s eyes drifted closed, and for a moment Giles thought he was falling asleep on his feet, but then he breathed in deeply, mouth slightly open as if he were tasting the air he drew in through his nose. Then he attempted to turn and go back the way they’d come.

“That’s where she’s been,” Giles snapped before he could stop himself. He took a deep breath and throttled his impatience and worry. He forced himself to continue in a softer tone of voice. “We need to follow where she’s going.”

“Going… Th’ tower. Hafta stop her. If she jumps… Red’ll rip her out of heaven.”

Rip her out of…. Giles froze in shock, his grip going lax. Spike jerked free, managing two steps forward before falling to the ground. He left him there for the moment, trying to process what he’d just heard. Spike had been drifting through the past — even once thinking he was trying to get to Drusilla ahead of a crazed mob — but he hadn’t been spouting nonsense. If what he’d just said had been the truth….

They’d been working under the assumption that Buffy had been in some sort of hell dimension and that her depression stemmed from the memories of her time there. That she was now somewhere better and safe where she could heal. He’d begun to feel like his presence was somehow keeping her from dealing with and healing from that trauma. But what if….

He felt ill. It fit. It all fit. His slayer had died and had gone on to her reward, only for Willow, without apparently even bloody checking, to tear her from it. This was Buffy’s hell. The here and now. Her torture was ongoing, living in the mortal world after resting within the divine.

My poor girl….

Spike shifted on the ground, gathering his knees under him without lifting his upper body. His arm twitched out to his side, then lifted and dropped back down, pointing forward, finger outstretched.

“Tha’ way,” he mumbled into the grass. “She’s tha’ way. Hafta…”

Buffy had been in heaven. And if you don’t stop thinking about it and get moving, she may end up there again, he thought grimly. Which might arguably be better for her, but he wasn’t ready to passively let it happen.

He reached down to haul Spike to his feet, his arm around the shorter man’s back to steady him as they continued to follow Buffy’s trail.

 

 

Her muscles burned with fatigue, but she fought through it. Punch. Kick. Duck. Weave. Right hook. Left cross. Stake to the heart. Her body knew what to do, even when her mind was numb and mostly shut down. Someone rushing in from the left. Sounds of movement from behind her.

As she pivoted to the left, her aching legs betrayed her, sending her stumbling. She managed to recover, to get herself steadied, but it was too late. Even as she buried her stake into the heart of one vampire, the other grabbed her, his fangs sinking into her throat.

Her knees went weak. The stake fell from limp fingers. She should fight. She knew that. She should…. The longing for what she’d lost broke through all the barriers she’d tried to surround it with. Just a moment longer, and it would all be over. One more moment, and she could rest again….

Her vision started to go black, and the last thing she was aware of was a hoarse voice screaming her name.


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Previous Chapter: Chapter Two

Reviews ( 1 )

Rana
March 26, 2022 21:08

I'll admit I was hesitant to read this bc the basic premise is isn't my favorite and I read the other version; which I did enjoy overall and appreciated the care taken for difficult topics. But, I'm a fan of your works 🙂 and I couldn't not take a chance! I'm loving this rewrite! Looking forward to more.