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Next Chapter: Chapter Three

Candles, incense, a wooden bowl, and a few packets of dried herbs all taken from The Magic Box. A pair of thick leather gloves. Ten one-gallon jugs of human blood bought with everything he’d had from Willie’s, preserved and kept warm with magic and guaranteed to have come from willing college students looking for a bit of dosh. A cloth bag full of… all the other things he’d need. Just had to begin the prep work and wait for Giles to arrive before….

Spike shuddered and closed his eyes, drawing in several slow, deep breaths. He didn’t have to do this. Could just grab up a stake and dust the… creature chained up and unconscious on the other side of the crypt. Go to Buffy and tell her the truth of it, or claim he’d never found any trace of Dawn at all. Either way, he’d be leaving her with no body she could see. No proof to give full closure. There were only two ways around that. Force Buffy to see what her sister had become and deal with it. Or….

No bloody or about it. He wasn’t going to do any of that to her. The “or” was the only choice, and he’d committed to it the moment he’d called Giles from the payphone, telling the man to keep quiet to the others and get his arse to the crypt if he wanted any hope of getting Dawn back.

The Watcher had enough magical knowhow to assist. And, more importantly, was a spine of steel and a right nasty streak of practicality under that soft, ex-librarian exterior. He’d see the need in what Spike planned to do, and would keep him from faltering once the worst of it began. His gaze drifted to the cloth bag, his mind skittering away from thinking too much on what was inside. If he was meant to use it all on himself, it wouldn’t be a problem, but….

He shuddered and grabbed one of the jugs, opening it and gulping down the contents. Warm, fresh-tasting human blood. Whole, not separated into different components like at the hospital and with none of the preservatives. Enough to drink his fill after so long with only enough pig blood to stave off the worst edge of hunger. He tossed aside the empty jug and started in on another. Energy sizzled through him, reminding him that he hadn’t even taken the time for the sodding pig since they’d started the search for Dawn and Janice.

Janice…. Bloody hell, he’d forgot all about Janice. Snippets of memory flashed through his mind. Popcorn, pizza, and soda over the summer when she’d come to watch movies with Dawn. The two girls gleefully offering up suggestions when he’d put something together for dinner while the witches had a date night.

Had he just left her there in that basement, a true corpse, or a fledgling about to rise? No, he reassured himself. No scent of her anywhere near that house. Just Dawn. She’d likely been eaten along the way and tossed out like an empty juice box. A flash of regret that he hadn’t been able to save Dawn’s friend, but at least he hadn’t left her behind.

He took a deep breath and slowly let it out before setting aside the second empty jug. Best not to think right now, just do what he could to prepare before Giles got there. Get his strength up before the main event. He grimly picked up a full jug and began to drink.

 

 

“I know what happened to Dawn. If you want her back, keep your gob shut to the others and get your arse over to my crypt as fast as possible.”

Those words, the entirety of the phone call he’d received from Spike, echoed through Giles’s mind as he opened the door to the crypt. It was darker than normal, only a smattering of the usual candles lit, leaving one corner deep in shadow. There were sounds from that corner. The soft clink of chains and a low growl that rose the hairs on the back of his neck.

“Spike?” he called out hesitantly, slowly walking towards that darkened corner.

There had been something… off about Spike’s voice over the phone. Harsh, but with an odd mingling of hope and despair. That, more than the words he’d said, had been what had convinced Giles to follow the other Englishman’s instructions.

His eyes began to adjust to the gloom as he eased towards the corner of the crypt. He could just make out a chained figure. A crouched figure. Slender, as far as he could tell, with long, dark hair. And malevolent yellow eyes that gleamed in the darkness.

The unease grew as pieces of a puzzle he didn’t want to see began to come together. No. No, it couldn’t be. Spike’s phone call. Would he have sounded like that if…?

The chains rattled as the figure surged to its feet, lunging towards him with a hungry snarl. Giles stood there, frozen by the shock of horrified recognition. The only thing that kept his throat from being ripped out was the sudden arm across his chest that pulled him just out of her reach and up against a solid body.

He leaned into that body, let his own sag against the gently restraining arm. Staring at the creature before him, he hadn’t the strength to hold himself upright on his own. Dawn snarled and snapped, saliva gleaming on her fangs and nothing but frustrated hunger glowing from those crazed, alien eyes.

“Found her like that in a nest of fledglings,” Spike said quietly, carefully pulling him farther away from… the vampire before releasing his hold.

Giles staggered a little, but then regained his balance. Physically at least. Mentally, he was still reeling. Dawn was…. Dawn had become a vampire. I failed her, he thought numbly. Another girl meant to be in his care had died. Worse than died. He’d come here in the hope that Dawn could be saved, only to find…. His fists clenched, and before he even had time to fully think things through, he spun and slammed his fist into Spike’s face.

The vampire just quietly took it, a terrible understanding in his eyes. Then he wiped the blood away from his split lip with a slightly trembling hand.

“She’s feral,” he said, voice still quiet. “Nothin’ of Dawn left in her anymore.”

“There never is, with a vampire,” Giles heard himself say. It felt distant. Like someone else was speaking through him.

Spike just snorted and gave him a look. “We both know that’s bollocks the council came up with to make slaying easier on the girls. No need to parrot the party line with just us here.” He took a deep breath and ran his hand through his hair before turning away to pace. “Nothing to be done about her being a vampire now, but there is something we can do about her being feral. About her being… not Dawn. To a certain extent, anyway.”

“What do you mean?” Giles asked, slowly feeling like he was coming back to himself as he watched the vampire pace.

“There’s a… a ritual. Not commonly known, but Dru made sure I learned it after…” he trailed off, looking confused for a moment before shaking his head. “Don’t remember why she taught me, but there’s, uh, this ritual to sort of redo a siring. She wanted to make sure I knew how to go about it.”

Giles frowned, trying to work his way through what Spike was telling him. “What would be the point in redoing a siring? And how can that make Dawn more… herself?” He carefully kept from looking at the growling girl, keeping his focus on Spike and his increasingly agitated pacing.

“There are different… tiers I suppose is the best way to describe it, of being a vampire. Bottom of the barrel is feral.” He glanced at Dawn, shuddering and turning away from her before continuing his explanation. “A mindless beast of a demon in a body with none of the humanity at home. Next up is a brute. No more humanity really than the feral ones, but the demon is more than just a mindless eating machine. Not too bright, but able to understand orders and follow a stronger vamp about.

“After that, you have killers. A lot of variables in that tier. Dumb demon with a lot of humanity that just doesn’t give a damn. Smart demon with more than just base needs with no humanity to speak of. Everything in between. And then you have top tier.” He snorted a laugh at that. “Top tier, but the least respected by most others. The suckers. There’s some variance in the demon along with the killers, but the humanity is always intact. They’ll kill, and feel nothing about it unless they know the person, but it isn’t their first instinct.” He stopped his pacing, a faraway look in his eyes like he was seeing some distant memory. “They have to be taught to kill. Have to be taught not to leave their prey bumbling about, weak but alive.”

“And what does that have to do with Dawn and this ritual?” Giles prodded gently. There was something going on here. Something weighing on Spike beyond just the horror of what had happened to the girl Giles knew he loved like a sister. Or a daughter. It wasn’t something he was easy acknowledging, but he’d seen them together over the summer.

Spike took another deep breath, rubbing at his face. “The ritual does a few things. First, it pulls the demon out, which doesn’t bring the human back. It does sort of… reset the level of humanity, though. At that point, the new sire, or old, if it’s someone trying again, feeds it some of their blood. You either end up with just a human corpse, or a vampire fledge at the same tier as the sire. It’s not an easy ritual. It’s… gruesome, honestly, and takes a lot mentally and physically out of the re-siring vamp. In the end, Dawn will either be dead, or… far more Dawn than she is, now.”

“You mean she’d be a killer, rather than feral.” Giles considered that, of having Dawn back, mostly herself, but still with the desire to slaughter humans. Would that be any better for Buffy to deal with than a fully dead sister?

“No,” Spike said, breaking into his thoughts. His lips twitched up into a self-mocking smile. “She’d either die or come back at the tier I am. A sucker.”

 

 

Exhaustion dragged at her like a weight trying to send her back into the ground, but there was no rest. Could be no rest while Dawn was…. “Dawnie is dead.” Willow’s words swam around and around in Buffy’s head, sharks looking for any weakness and ripping her to shreds. Dawnie is dead. Dawnie is dead.

She didn’t want to believe it. Wanted to believe that Willow was wrong. That the spell hadn’t worked right. But Tara’s reaction had killed that hope before it could even fully form. She didn’t know Willow’s girlfriend all that well, but she would have suggested trying again if she’d thought it had been done wrong. She wouldn’t have started to cry. Wouldn’t have stuttered out pointless words of comfort that Buffy had only vaguely been aware of.

Buffy had left the house after that, mumbling something about having to patrol. It hadn’t been a lie. She’d had to patrol. Needed to patrol. She staggered through the cemetery, tripping over the uneven dirt of a fresh grave and falling to her hands and knees. Her eyes drifted closed.

God, she was so tired. She just wanted to curl up and sleep. Sleep and never wake up. Sleep…. She opened her eyes and lurched up to her feet. Dawnie was dead. She couldn’t sleep while Dawnie was dead. She had to find the body and take out whatever had killed her. And put down whatever demons or vampires she found along the way.

Buffy clenched her fist around her stake, hard enough to hurt. The pain focused her. Helped her to think through the fog of exhaustion. She was the slayer. Tonight, she’d make sure every demon in Sunnydale knew just what that meant.

Or die trying, whispered a little voice in the back of her head.

 


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Next Chapter: Chapter Three

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