Thanks to the lovely Slaymesoftly for beta'ing
A few more yards and he’d be safe; he just prayed the door wasn’t locked. His feet pounded across the lawn, muscles trembling from exertion as he pushed himself to move faster. Then he was there, the front porch just in front of him. He’d made it; relief flooded his system as he reached for the handrail to help propel himself up the stairs to safety.
His blood ran cold as a chilling laugh sounded from directly behind him, a fraction of a second later his face was landing hard against the rough wood of the Summers’ front steps as his legs were ripped out from under him. He tried to call out, but his voice didn’t want to cooperate, and his plea for help came out as a muffled squeak. The world was spinning rapidly into darkness and his last coherent thought was that the stairs could do with a lick or two of paint.
“What have you done to her?” Giles demanded, looking past his seething slayer to glare at the vampire.
“Spike hasn’t done anything to me,” Buffy growled. “Giles, why won’t you listen to me?”
“Why don’t we all just calm down,” Joyce cut in, moving to stand between the two combatants. “I really think…”
“Everyone, shut up,” Spike snapped. Holding up one hand when Buffy turned her furious green eyes on him, his head tilted to the side as he strained to listen over the watcher’s continued blustering.
“What is it?” Buffy asked after a moment.
“Angelus.” Spike’s eyes flicked rapidly as he concentrated on the noises coming from the front of the house. “He’s got someone,” he added, spinning and heading toward the front door.
“Spike, wait,” Buffy called, snatching up a handful of stakes and hurrying to catch up as he ducked out the door.
“Buffy, stop! How do you know it’s not a trap?” Giles reasoned.
Buffy paused in the doorway, looking out into the night. “Probably is, but if he’s got someone, we have to…”
“I meant that Spike could be leading you into a trap… we only have his word that…”
Buffy turned, eyes flashing angrily. “Don’t, Giles! I don’t have time for this, I’ve got to go. Look after Mom and Willow,” she added more quietly before hurrying out the door.
Spike was standing on the sidewalk when she came up behind him, vamp features to the fore as he scented the night air.
“This way, love,” he told her, catching the stake she tossed to him and heading off at a fast jog. “Angelus has your mate. The boy’s injured—can smell his blood—but he’s alive. Heartbeat’s strong an’ steady,” he added as Buffy’s face contorted with worry. They picked up the pace; Spike straining his senses to track Angelus’ movements as they sped down the street in pursuit.
“He’s waiting for us,” Spike whispered as they hurried through the gates into Restfield cemetery. They slowed to a jog and Spike reached out to squeeze her hand, offering a quick smile as he tilted his head, indicating a large crypt off to the right. “Bastard’s strong, pet, but none-too-quick; just don’t let him close with you.”
“I hope they’re okay. Do you think they’re okay?” Willow asked, turning frightened eyes away from the window she had been staring out for the last forty minutes and fixing them on the watcher. “Maybe we should have gone with them?”
“I’m sure Buffy will be fine,” Giles reassured the girl, turning to include Buffy’s anxious mother in his assertion.
“But we could have helped. You know, with the magic.”
“The best thing we can do is stay inside; Buffy doesn’t need to be worrying about protecting you while she’s fighting,” he told her, his own concerns causing him to speak more harshly than he’d intended. “Besides,” he added, “if Spike is leading her into a trap, the more of us left behind to rescue her, the better.”
Joyce and Willow gasped simultaneously and crowded closer to the window, watching for any sign of Buffy’s return.
“Not that he would be,” Ethan piped up, smiling reassuringly at Joyce when she turned away from the window momentarily. “It’s clear to anyone with half a brain,” he paused and looked pointedly at the other man. Giles’ eyes narrowed, his mouth setting into a thin line of disapproval as Ethan continued, “that the vampire dotes on your daughter. I’m sure they will be back any moment.”
“Here they come,” Willow yelled, excitedly. “Only, something’s wrong,” she added as Joyce flew out of the room and headed for the front door. “Spike’s carrying her,” she told the two men, quietly.
“I’m okay, Mom.” The Slayer’s voice carried from the entrance. “Spike, put me down. I told you, I can walk,” she added, sounding tired.
“Will do, Slayer. Let’s just get inside first, yeah?”
Spike walked into the room, carefully placing his burden on the couch before turning to a hovering Joyce. “Could use an icepack if you’ve got one.”
Joyce nodded. “Of course,” she said, hurrying into the kitchen.
“What happened?” Willow asked.
“Angelus,” Buffy answered, looking up to meet her friend’s gaze. “He’s got Xander. We tried to stop him,” she rushed on, glancing from Willow’s stricken face to Giles’ and back again.
“Almost had the bastard, too,” Spike interjected, kneeling in front of the couch and gently removing Buffy’s boot before taking the proffered icepack. “Only a bunch of minions showed up and netted Buffy.”
“That’s when I hurt my ankle,” Buffy added. “If it wasn’t for Spike…” She reached out, stroking his face and combing her fingers through his hair. When her fingers came away red she gasped, “You’re hurt!” Her eyes narrowed. “Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked, accusingly.
“’S nothing, love,” the vampire hastened to assure her. “Just a scratch, is all.”
“So, Angelus has captured Xander,” Giles recapped, attempting to get back to the matter at hand.
“Yeah, and he almost had me too. I can’t believe I was so stupid.”
“Not your fault, Buffy. No way of knowing what was gonna happen,” Spike tried to console her.
“Would you kindly stop talking in circles, and someone tell us exactly what did happen!” Giles demanded.
Buffy drew a deep breath to calm herself, meeting Spike’s eyes briefly before turning to face her watcher.
“We followed him into Restfield; he was waiting for us behind the old Rodriguez crypt. Xander was unconscious on the ground. He was bleeding—not badly,” she hastened to add at Willow’s muffled whimper. Her mother had taken the other girl under her wing and was doing her best to console her, all the while trying to be strong and not to look like the over-anxious, worried mom that she was. Buffy was so proud of her mom; sure there had been moments where she’d wigged a little, but all things considered, she was dealing and dealing well.
“We thought we’d got the drop on him, you know. That he hadn’t expected two of us, or even for us to have known he’d grabbed Xander. And, between us we were beating him. Only he had known about Spike, don’t know how, but he said something about… he called Spike…”
“Called me the Slayer’s lapdog. Don’t worry ‘bout it, pet. Been called a lot worse by him in my time.” Spike reached for Buffy’s hand, squeezing it gently and urging her to continue.
“Spike had him backed up against that big angel statue—the one with the baby in its arms—and Xander groaned. He was waking up, and there wasn’t really room for me to help without getting in Spike’s way, so I went to get Xan and that’s when the minions threw a net over me. They’d been hiding on the roof of the crypt. I dusted one of them, but fighting through a net? So not fun. That’s when I tripped and hurt my ankle. Spike left Angel to come and save me. We managed to get out of there, but we couldn’t get to Xander.”
“Angelus dragged the boy away while I was freeing Buffy,” Spike explained, not bothering to mention that he’d also been fighting off three minions at the time.
“I’m so sorry, Will. We’ll get him back. I promise!” she vowed, ignoring her mate’s slight involuntary wince and the look on Giles’ face, both of which clearly stated that they didn’t think there’d be anything of her friend left to rescue. She couldn’t, wouldn’t, give up on him—until she was presented first hand with either his dead body, or his dust, she had to go on believing he was alive.
“I don’t know how much longer I can keep making excuses to your mother,” Joyce said, handing Willow a cup of hot chocolate before taking a seat next to her. “You know that you are always welcome here,” she added, gently brushing a lock of hair away from the girl’s puffy, swollen eyes. “But I doubt your mother is going to believe the ‘working on a joint project’ excuse indefinitely. And you have school tomorrow.” She turned to include her daughter and Giles as she spoke.
“I think it should be safe enough for us all to return to our own homes as of tomorrow,” Giles said. “But remember, no one goes out after dark—that includes you,” he looked pointedly at his slayer. “I’ll tell Principal Snyder that I require the girls for a special project in the library tomorrow, so we’ll be able to continue our research as well as work on a plan for rescuing Xander.”
“Tunnels,” Spike said, shaking his head. “Angelus was boasting to Dru that there was sewer access straight into the school library—said he could waltz in there and pluck you out from under the Slayer’s nose whenever he wanted.
“Then why hasn’t he?” Giles asked.
Spike shrugged. “Who knows. Didn’t feel like it? Time wasn’t right? He was too busy stealing lumps of rock? Pick a reason. Point is, we hurt him tonight—he may have got away with the boy, but he didn’t get away unscathed. He knows I’m working with you lot now, and he’ll be pissed, looking for a way to hurt Buffy, to pay her back for my desertion.”
“He captured Xander,” Giles pointed out.
“Yeah, and taking the boy is only the beginning. He’ll come at her where he can do the most harm. He’s gonna want to keep her disoriented, not only to keep her from interfering with his plans, but because the bastard gets off on it. So you,” he inclined his head towards the watcher, “and Joyce are prime targets; and the school is a public place, no need for an invite.”
Giles sighed, deflating. What Spike was saying made perfect sense, he just hated having to admit it. “What do you suggest?”
Spike shrugged. “Don’t go. Stay inside with your books and suss out what this new big bad is.”
“Do you know where he is?” Buffy asked.
Spike shook his head. “Sorry, love. I know where he was, but there’s no way he’d still be there.”
“But you can find him,” she stated.
“Yeah, I can.”
“Good. Tomorrow night you find him, and we go in and get Xander out.”
“You can’t. You’re injured!” Joyce protested.
“I’ll be all better by tomorrow. One of the perks of the job,” Buffy added with faux chirpiness before turning back to the vampire. “Spike?”
“I’ll find him,” he agreed reluctantly. “In the meantime, you need sleep if you want that ankle to heal.” Without waiting for a response he scooped Buffy up into his arms and headed towards the basement door.
“You can be a right prat sometimes,” Ethan hissed.
Joyce had taken Willow upstairs a few minutes earlier, offering the girl what comfort she could with her presence and soothing, somewhat, her own maternal urges in the process.
“What the hell am I supposed to have done now?”
“That girl looks up to you. Would a word or two of encouragement kill you?” Ethan shook his head, sighing as he leant back wearily in the chair, his eyes closing as he continued, his voice barely above a whisper, “Have you really become so much like your father?”
“Not your slayer,” Ethan snapped, cutting him off. “Willow. She has so much power, so much potential and an amazingly sharp mind—and it’s you she looks to for guidance and a little encouragement. Her idea today was astounding, and it just may save the world, but you couldn’t spare so much as a ‘well done’.”
“What are you talking about? I told her...”
“No, you didn’t. The way you were scowling at her the poor child thought she’d done something wrong. Really, Rupert, how can you be so blind?” he asked in exasperation. “And why on earth have you not done anything about training the girl?” he continued. “Proper training—not just helping you with an occasional locator spell.”
“Willow is just a child.”
“A child with as much power as you—perhaps more. You weren’t a great deal older when we met…”
“Yes, and look how well that turned out,” Giles countered. Softening his tone when Ethan winced, he clarified, “I didn’t mean us.” The anger drained out of him as his mind drifted to the past. “Randal. What we—what I did.”
“All the more reason for proper training, don’t you think?” Ethan persisted quietly.
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