Seven Stages to Clarity Chapter 8

This entry is part 8 of 9 of the story Seven Stages to Clarity

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Chapter 8
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A/N: Occasional snippets of dialogue from the following episodes: “Tough Love ” (written by Rebecca Kirsher), “Spiral” (written by Steven DeKnight), “Weight of the World”(written by Doug Petrie) and “Over the Rainbow”, (AtS episode written by Mere Smith)

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“Never mind, Slayer.” He had to chuckle even though it hurt. “We’ll take it up with the whole lot of you later. Figure a way to get through. Meanwhile, we can work a plan to get rid of the human just like you were saying.”

Buffy blinked, having clearly forgotten all about his revelation about Ben being Glory.
“Right. Anyway, I was thinking that you won’t be any help in dealing with the human because of the chip.”

Spike felt deflated. Thanks to the bloody soldiers he couldn’t even help in the end-game.

“So I think we need to look for a doctor to get it out.”

Spike lay still and tried to decide if which parts were real and which were a dream. Surely the bits about the Slayer trusting him enough to remove the hardware was the latter. The twinge in the back of his skull begged to differ, however.

He would always remember the short argument. In losing, he had won. He remembered feeling the weight of responsibility as Buffy laid it out for him. Killing humans was a choice, one he would have to look in the eye daily and decide against.

So fierce was his Buffy! “Look, the chip was a good thing, I suppose. It let you start to think of us as more than just food. You started to… care about some of us, find other ways to feed your needs. Still, what the Initiative did was wrong and two wrongs don’t make a right.”

He’d blinked in amazement. “Yeah, but I guess what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Did my share of damage over the years.”

Buffy laughed. “You’re still talking about cooked dead geese.”

Her mood turned serious again. “Isn’t it a bigger challenge fighting demons anyway? What big is it to fight a human? Even Xander, who has field time under his belt and has taken out his share of vamps, isn’t really a challenge. So….what do you THINK? You can control your behavior? Make your own choices?” Buffy looked at him with such confidence. “Or are you like the Council says? Just an animal, one who can’t even think for yourself; less than a cat or a dog? With the chip in, you have no choice; with it out, you do. You can choose to be who I see you becoming. You can decide for yourself. You can control how you feed. You can still fight, only against demons and other vamps–worthy opponents, the way you like to fight. I believe in you.” She stared at him in silence as she waited for him to gain control of the many emotions she saw flickering over his face. “So…who’s in control of Spike?”

“Hey, thought you were gonna sleep forever!” Buffy smoothed the worried frown that had been on her face for the past few hours. She had a terrible fear that the doctor she had enlisted for Spike’s surgery might have caused permanent injury during the procedure.
Clearly the man had been unnerved performing his skills in the middle of a crypt in Restview. At least none of her friends or her Watcher would think to look there, not since Spike had been living with Joyce all this time.

“Traditional for the dead, yeah?” Spike quipped. He noted the fear wafting off Buffy and wondered if things had gone wrong. Nope, all parts seemed to be working. His one fear had been to be left a cripple again, but it seemed the doctor had been up to the task at hand. “Dawn make it off to LA safely?”

“She’s annoying Angel even as we speak.” Buffy smiled at the memory of how many excuses and alternate plans Angel had tried to come up with to avoid becoming guardian of the fuming teenager. Safe or not, the last thing Dawn had wanted was to be shuffled away from her mother so soon after nearly losing her. The LA crew were in for a rare treat in trying to control a miffed Dawn!

“What did your Watcher say about your little decision to take the leash off yours truly?” Spike was actually surprised not to see the grim man looming over him, stake in hand.

“Haven’t told him…or the Scoobies.” Buffy noted the shock on Spike’s face at that bit of news. “I don’t think they’re ready for that leap of faith just yet. Maybe never,” she chuckled nervously. In truth, Buffy wasn’t sure SHE was either, not entirely. She was placing a big gamble based on so little: seeing Spike truly try to be decent and her mother’s encouragement to have faith in what she saw, not what she was conditioned to believe. It was not that much to go on, all things considered, and plenty to risk. Still, if they were going to have any chance of defeating Glory and Glory spent part of her time in a human body, Buffy needed Spike whole. If she were wrong…well, she’d always done her duty before and would again if need be.

Spike looked deeply into Buffy’s eyes, searching for some clue to her decision. “Maybe all that workplace contact’s gotten to you too and I’m not the only one with highly inappropriate feelings?” God, he wished she’d make that particular dream come true like she had the one about being rid of the chip.

“I could never trust you enough to love you, Spike,” Buffy swore, her big eyes round with alarm. Sure, she didn’t feel any hatred toward the vampire any longer, even found him pleasant to be around at times, easy on the eyes too, but not love. It could never be love. Buffy loving vampires was a ‘been there, done that and didn’t even get the t-shirt’ thing. It had to be.

“Yet you removed the chip,” Spike reminded her softly. He could sense the barriers go up in the girl and sighed. May not be love, may never get there, given the mess left by his Sire, but at least there was something. He’d had to make do with less. “On that note, think I’ll go with the urge and sleep a bit, let those vampire healing benefits do their work.” Much as he loved looking at her, he hated seeing that closed off look come over her face. Sleep would be good. He couldn’t say the wrong thing then.

Buffy looked down at the paler than usual vampire and felt the confusing mix of emotions she had begun to get used to when contemplating Spike. She felt something. In her deepest heart she knew that was beyond changing and beyond denial. He had found a place in her heart in spite of herself, just as he had wormed his way into her life and family. She would have to guard herself well if she didn’t want to find herself in a place where the worst consequences were a reality.

It had been far easier to find a surgeon to remove the chip than Buffy would have expected. She wondered anew why Spike had only tried for its removal that one time. He was far from stupid, nor was he unresourceful. There had to be some reason, one she would likely never understand. Her mom had said she thought Spike had made a conscious choice to keep it so that he could stay close by. God, if that were true! …. Buffy wasn’t sure what to believe the vampire was capable of choosing.

Ever since the brain tumor, her mom had become a one-woman cheer squad where Spike was concerned. No, that wasn’t fair; Joyce hadn’t pushed. What she had done was talk often about his good points, about Buffy needing to look at the advantages of Spike being part of her life, her calling. Buffy knew that a large part of her mother’s reasoning was the desire to keep Buffy alive as long as possible, even to old age, and that she saw Spike as being a tool to help that happen. That wasn’t fair either. Her mom actually liked Spike and he clearly cared for the human woman more than Buffy could have imagined, even saving her life. For that last reason alone, Buffy could never go back to hating Spike, even if she did face the possibility of having to stake him one day.

“Don’t make me do it, Spike. I really don’t want to have to take you out,” she whispered.

“Not gonna do anything you’d hate, Slayer,” the not-so-asleep Spike responded as he reached for her hand. “I promise I won’t let you have any regrets for this day’s work. Love you too much to put you through that. I’d remake myself; been trying to. I’d turn myself inside out if you asked.”

At that moment, Buffy wished she could give Spike what he wanted, what he had already earned. Those days of just feeling what her heart demanded with no thought to horrors in the future were gone; they had walked away in the smoke along with Angel. “Spike, it isn’t fair to you, I know. I can’t feel what you do, can’t give you what you need. Too many people…too many things….” She saw the look of resignation on his face and knew that he already understood, maybe he always had. “That doesn’t mean I don’t feel something.” She couldn’t stop herself. “Maybe one day….”

Spike smiled ruefully. “Well, that’s a really big crumb right there then. Think I’ll take that and cut my losses.” He laughed and did his best to make light of it, lest she run away from the small admission of softer emotion.

A change of subject was in order before the doe bolted. “Witches any closer to a solution to the memory problem about who’s the softer side of that Glory bint? Gotta tell you it’s right annoyin’ havin’ all of you act as dim as Harris on a good day when I try to clue you in.”

“Will thinks she’s come up with a way to make a charm we can wear that will let us remember when you tell us. We won’t know if it works, though, until you’re ready to lock and load again.”

“Try it in a tick then. Need to have the Scoobies back to their regular brand of ‘frustrate the Spike’ instead of the kind that would give Dru a run for her money.” Spike frowned. “Chip out, I might accidentally do more than bitch slap one of ‘em if this keeps up!” His smile and slight laugh took the threat from the comment. Buffy’s return smile showed it did the job.

~*~

The group was looking glum. All the open books on the table screamed of frustrated research while the invisible clock was running down on their available time to come up with a workable plan.

Joyce was beginning to get an insider’s look at all these young people and how they had helped her eldest over the years. She shared a smile with Giles and patted his hand in reassurance. “You’ve all done this before and succeeded; you will again. With Dawn safely away, you have some of the pressure off. Much as I don’t care for my baby being in the hands of that man, I am grateful for Angel helping out this way.”

“What about her school?” Giles inquired. “I’m just relieved the new principal isn’t an utter baboon in the style of Snyder. The poor girl has enough on her plate without her education being imperiled.” Giles shuddered as he remembered the tin-pot dictator of a principal who had made his job far harder than necessary when Giles had been using the cover of school librarian.

“Mrs. Stevens was actually quite understanding. I told her a little fib about my sick sister in Michigan and she kindly arranged for all the school work Dawn needed to complete to be put together. She even sent her best wishes for Arlene’s recovery. Piece of cake!” Joyce smiled in genuine pride. “In fact, she said that Dawn is quite talented, especially with languages. She said Dawn has a very sharp mind, when she puts forth the effort. I don’t think she’ll even need summer school.”

“Excellent.” Giles looked up as the bell over the door announced the arrival of Buffy and a slightly wobbly Spike. Really, he had thought the vampire would be further healed than this by now!

Xander must have been thinking along those lines as well. “So why’s the walking wounded here? Not that we aren’t all grateful he managed to keep his yap shut with Glory, but unless he’s suddenly able to do research, I don’t see why he’s here.”

“He’s here because we need him.” Buffy had a look on her face that made Willow’s ‘resolve face’ look positively wishy-washy. “If Glory attacks again or comes after another one of us we need his strength.”

“The hell we do!”

“Look, this isn’t a discussion. He stays. Get over it.”

Giles looked from one to the other and then at the slightly swaying vampire and decided not to venture his true opinion. He could see that Buffy was firmly decided. “Well, Buffy does have a point. In a confrontation, Spike might prove useful.”

“How? By falling on Glory? Tripping her with his passed out body?” Xander sneered at the vampire in question.

“No point to bang on about it, bricklayer!” Spike eased into a chair. “Least I know the flesh prison Glory’s stuffed into.”

“Yes, about that….” Giles looked at Willow hopefully. “Do you have the charms ready to try out?”

Tara reached into her bag and pulled out several small, fragrant pouches on a string and began to hand them out. “If they work, we should wear them at all times until we’ve finally beaten Glory.”

Anya took a deep whiff of the pouch, “Hmm, lemon balm, anise, a hint of artemisia …can’t make out the rest. Basic counter-magic charm then?”

Willow beamed with pride. “More complex than that! My own recipe. I think it will do the job.”

“Why don’t we give it a try then?” Joyce suggested as she donned a bag.

Seven pairs of hopeful eyes turned to Spike. He took a deep breath and tried not to expect too much. Willow was a powerful witch, but her spells never seemed to work as well as one would hope. “Glory is that doctor Ben.”

“The one who helped when I was in the hospital?” Joyce looked shocked. “He seemed like such a nice young man!”

“Likely is, to a point. Knows all about Glory though, and didn’t do a thing to stop what was happenin’ when he made his appearance at my little encounter with the bitch.”

“You’ve no doubt about this at all?” Giles’ penetrating glaze brooked no subterfuge.

“Not likely to forget, Watcher. One minute Glory was parin’ me like a red delicious and the next, the good doctor–not lookin’ so pretty in a red dress, I might add–was yellin’ and cursin’ enough to near make ME blush.”

There was utter silence as they all absorbed the identity of Glory’s human side.

“Hey!” Willow’s face nearly glowed with triumph. “It worked! We all heard and remember!”

“Indeed!” Giles thought once more about the need to get a proper instructor for the talented witch before she became too cocky for her own good. “Nicely done, Willow… Tara.”

His expression turned grim. “That is the Achilles heel then. We will need to attack when Glory is in this form, not as a goddess.” Looking from one shocked face to the other, he held his ground. “It is the only way.”

“But,” began a horrified Joyce, “He’s just a young man. A healer with a kind heart and gentle touch.”

“He’s the only way to make Dawn safe and to keep the entire world from being destroyed,” Giles leveled a no-nonsense look at the gentle lady. “The needs of the many….”

“Outweigh the needs of the few, or the one,” finished Xander for him. “Star Trek, Wrath of Khan…a classic!”

“Precisely,” Giles agreed.

Buffy was squirming in her chair. “I know you’re right, Giles, but I’m not sure I can just kill an innocent human. The monks should have made Dawnie Faith’s sister, not mine.” She looked utterly miserable.

“We’ll take care of it, pet.” Spike wished he could pull her into his arms and give her the comfort she so obviously needed. Her heart was all about protecting the innocent and this was an impossible demand to be made of her. He silently damned the monks and the Powers for putting her in this position.

“How you planning to take care of anything, Spikey? You’ll be trying to keep your brains from oozing out your ears while Ben does a beatdown on your chipped ass and I can’t see how that will help anyone, in spite of the amusement factor.” Xander shook his head and rolled his eyes. Clearly Spike wanted to play the hero even though he was completely incapable of being of any use.

Buffy jerked to attention. Nope, not the time to mention the chipectomy. “We were thinking that since Glory is a god sharing Ben’s body that he might not be completely human either. Maybe Spike’s chip won’t stop him from helping to take him out.

“If nothing else, I can be there to jump in if Benny does the whole personality switch.” Spike looked at Buffy with gratitude. It was nice to not feel useless in her eyes.

“Excellent points,” Giles concurred. “I suppose we should make some concrete plans now that we know Glory’s weak spot.” He looked at Buffy and his expression gentled. “You won’t have to bear this burden, Buffy. Spike and I will handle it. You can work on a back-up line of offense should we fail.”

“Time to get crackin’ then. No time to nonce about,” Spike rubbed his hands and leaned in toward the Watcher, ready for a battle plan. “What about the robot girl?” Spike knew they had been working as hard on reprogramming that as Buffy had been in getting him fit for battle.

“We’ve made certain to be seen with April often in public. Very protective too, so any of Glory’s goons should have noticed something.”

“Where is she…er, it now?” Buffy inquired.

Willow went into the training room and returned with April in tow. “Hello, Buffy.” The robot gave a saccharine smile. “I’m so happy to see you. I feel safe again. You are my protector and also quite pretty.”

~*~

Glory let the FedEx man fall gibbering at her feet. “Ah, vitamins! I feel SO much better.” She kicked the slobbering man and snapped her fingers towards her minions. “Be dears and take the trash out.”

Three scabby monks rushed to do the honors.

“You! Dopey…Grumpy…Doc, whatever your name is…”

“Jinx, most juicilicious one!”

“Yeah, whatever. I think you better rack your little minion brain and tell me everything you saw when you were spying on the Slayer and her wacky pals. Maybe then I’ll figure out who the Key is. They’d have to be new to her circle.”

“Well, most exquisite, highly tenderized one, there is a young woman that all the Slayer’s friends are keeping quite close. She is not a demon or a Slayer, but more powerful than a mere human. I myself witnessed her throw a rather large college boy across a room! The Slayer whisked her away quite quickly after that and they have kept her hidden for the most part.

Glory gave a half smile, then her gaze hardened to one of resolve. “You all know your assignments. I think it’s time to collect the Key!”

~*~
Meanwhile in LA
~*~

Lorne poured straight vodka, hold the cranberry, hold the orange. “I don’t know where she is! I mean, my world, sure, but who knows if she’s even… NO!” The thought of Cordelia already being dead was unthinkable. “God, I wish I could get drunk.” He threw back the glass and coughed as the liquor hit the back of his throat.

Wesley looked harried. “Okay, lets approach this logically.”

“Screw logic,” bellowed Angel. “We’re getting Cordy back.” He grasped the book that Cordy had read from before being sucked into the portal. “We’re gonna open another portal and go in after her!”

Wesley took in the look of horror on Lorne’s face and cautioned, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“I don’t care what you think, Wes.”

“But we’re completely unprepared! We should go back to the hotel and research.” Wesley saw he was not getting through to the stubborn vampire. “Besides, there’s Dawn Summers to consider.”

Angel didn’t even flinch. “The kid’ll be fine. You’ll hire a babysitter or something, and I don’t wanna research, alright? I want to jump through the big swirly hole thingy and save Cordelia.” He opened the book and began to read from it.

“You might never be able to get back!” Wesley was alarmed at the lack of caution being shown by Angel in his single-minded pursuit of what he perceived as the right plan. “Besides that, you shouldn’t go alone.” He only hoped he had purchased a bit of time with that suggestion.

“It’s Cordy,” Angel replied as if that was the answer to all their collective concerns.

“Krv drpglr pwlz,” he continued reading.

“Oh crap!” Lorne muttered before ducking below the bar, taking the vodka bottle with him.

Nothing happened.

“Maybe I have to be standing where the portal is supposed to open?” He tried again with no success.

Angel stalked over to Lorne and lifted the cowering demon by his lapels. “Why isn’t this thing working? What am I doing wrong?”

“I don’t know! I don’t know how it works.” Lorne was near to crying in his emotional upheaval.

Angel, looking more Angelus like by the minute, threw the book. “Damn it!”

Wesley took a deep breath, “There is obviously not going to be any swirly hole to jump through, so perhaps that research I suggested earlier?”

Lorne looked relieved. “Yeah, right! Also that cute kid to see to. Wouldn’t want to disappoint the Slayer.”

“I suggest we return to the hotel and figure out what steps we need to take.”

Angel grasped Lorne by the arm and picked up the book in passing. “Come on, you’re helping.”

~*~

Joyce folded Dawn’s laundry and tried to keep herself from crying. Would her two girls ever really be safe? What could a mother do to prevent any harm from coming to either of them? She was just a fragile human, as her close brush with death had just underlined for her. So lost in her worries was she that she didn’t hear the soft footsteps of Spike as he came up behind her.

“Don’t fret, Joyce, I’ll protect your girls.” He grabbed the laundry basket before the startled woman dropped it. “Know it’s not much–I’m not much–but I’ve made it my purpose now. Not gonna let any nasty get either of them.”

She looked at the sincere vampire standing before her and knew she had made the right decision regarding him and her Buffy. As long as Spike had Buffy’s back, it doubled her chances of seeing a long life. What more could a mother ask?

“I know, Spike. That’s more than enough. Knowing they won’t be alone against all the monsters will let me have some hope.”

“That’s a boatload of manly responsibility there, missus. Hope I don’t let you down.”

“I think you’re up to it.”

“Speakin’ of ‘up to it’… how you feelin’?” He’d been watching Buffy’s mom carefully and could detect no further complications from the tumor or surgeries. “Keepin’ up your rest and recuperation like a good girl?”

“For the most part. I won’t really rest, though, until this whole Glory business is over and my girls are back to normal.” Joyce sat next to Spike on the cot and idly caressed one of Dawn’s t-shirts in the basket. “They are all I have, you know. I don’t think I’d want to live if I lost either of them.”

“I know that. Not gonna be a concern then, is it?” Spike smiled gently. Deep in his long dead heart, he knew it went both ways. If anything had happened to this gentle lady, neither Buffy nor Dawn would ever be the same. She was the heart of the family, the glue that kept them together.

“Do you think this plan will work then? That robot looks real enough, but will she fool Glory?”

“Not for long, no. Hope it will buy us a bit of time is all. Rupes and I have a plan put together and that should end it completely.”

Joyce looked at Spike and wasn’t sure if she should say what was on her mind or not, but finally decided he had a right to know. “I think Buffy cares far more than she will admit at this point, Spike.”

“Course she cares, Joyce! She loves Dawn and her duty is always important to her.”

“No, I mean about you.”

Spike gulped, completely unsure if he wanted to have his small hopes fueled this way. “She’s nicer, yeah. Seein’ me as an ally, not a foe.”

“Angel hurt her badly,” Joyce reminded him. “Your being a vampire is always going to be an obstacle.”

“Can’t very well change that.”

“No, but be patient with her and she’ll see you aren’t like Angel. I think she is already seeing that.” Joyce turned her sincere gaze on him and hoped that would be enough to bind him for now.

“Damned right I’m not Angel!” Spike spoke more forcefully than he wanted to and Joyce easily saw the conflict of emotions play across his face at the very thought. “Would never leave those I love, even if I had to keep my distance!”

“You’re very loyal,” Joyce nodded in agreement.

“’S more than that. Angel isn’t that different from Angelus in many ways. The same character flaws. Has to be the one makin’ all the decisions, the one in charge. Everyone else be damned. Knows how to manipulate and play games too, just like his unsouled self.” He closed his eyes and leaned back against the basement wall. “It was never about that with me. Loved the fight…the chase…the kill, I won’t lie.” He opened one eye and gauged Joyce’s reaction. He saw a slight flinch but ultimate acceptance from her and continued. “Never cared one bit about his idea of art. Never wanted to make others dance to my tune either. And I damn well respect Buffy enough to let her make her own choices.”

“I know you are very different from Angel, Spike,” Joyce assured him. “I wouldn’t be encouraging you to be around my girls if I thought you weren’t. I’d either run you out of town or stake you myself.” She smiled. “The last thing I’d be doing is trying to help Buffy see what a fine partner you’d make.”

Spike was shocked into silence at that. So that’s why the Slayer had begun to look upon him more kindly! Good woman, that Joyce Summers!

~*~

Down the hotel hallway, Dawn was listening in. Just like at home, the only way to find out anything was to eavesdrop. No one ever told her anything!

Angel looked anxious. Actually, he looked the same as always. Every facial expression on Angel was identical–not like Spike! Still, he WAS pacing and his voice sounded anxious.

“Start talking,” he ordered a nervous Lorne. Dawn had liked the Host immediately when they’d been introduced. He was the first demon she’d met other than Angel and Spike, and if he were any indication of the possibilities, she hoped Buffy hadn’t accidentally killed any nice demons over the years. She would have to make sure Buffy met this guy.

“Look, it’s no secret that I hate Pylea, my home dimension. Back when I lived there I would have done anything to get out. ANYTHING. So one day, five years ago, I was in the woods, when suddenly right in front of me, out of nowhere, a portal appeared. It was as if my prayers had finally been answered.” Lorne sighed at the happy memory. “So you see, I don’t know HOW the portal comes to be. I didn’t even know it was a portal then, just that it looked out on a place that wasn’t Pylea.”

Wes looked intrigued. “Then who opened the portal? Who had this book?”

“I don’t know. Someone here in this dimension, I suppose. This dimension which I love and adore and will never, never, never, ever leave, by the way.”

Angel was exasperated. No one was giving him what he wanted, just endless, useless stories. “So where did you end up in this dimension?”

“An abandoned building. That’s when I realized I’d been delivered from hell.” He heard the gasps from Gunn and Wes at that. “I created Caritas on that very spot.”

Angel’s jaw looked more locked that usual. Dawn feared it would stick that way.

“So you’re saying that Pylea is a hell dimension, that Cordy is stuck in hell?”

Dawn gasped. So Cordy wasn’t just on a shopping spree with Angel’s credit card! No wonder all the ‘kick ass and take names’ looks! ‘Speaking of looks…seems that Angel has moved on from Buffy,’ Dawn surmised. ‘Cordy, huh?!’ Well, at least Angel had experience in dealing with bitches on wheels. She was pretty sure, however, that bit of news was one Buffy wouldn’t want to hear, like, ever!

As they continued talking, Dawn was mulling over all the cool blackmail info she now had on the LA gang. Maybe Angel would loan that magic plastic to her before she headed home. There was a cute outfit at Limited that was just begging to be bought!

But wait a tick, as Spike would say, they were planning to dump her off with some guy named Merl while they went off and played “Sliders,” going off to some other world. No way! No one put Baby in a corner OR left Dawn Summers behind while they had all the fun! They didn’t know who they were toying with.

“When separate entities enter a dimensional portal they tend to separate. Assuming we find another hot-spot and manage to open another portal, if we simply jump in we could end up literally on opposite ends of the world.” Wes slumped in his chair and looked harried.

Angel was on mission. “We’ve got to find a dimensional hot-spot and then figure how we can all get through the portal without separating.”

Lorne began to squirm. “I meant the ‘not going’ part. You DO know I’m not going, right?”

Annoyed was too small a word for what Angel was feeling. “But it’s your world and we need a guide.”

“And I need to never go back there again. Remember when I said that I loved this dimension and I’m never, never, ever gonna leave? Well, exactly which
’never’ did you not understand?” Lorne saw the thundercloud over Angel without having to withstand a chorus of Copacabana. “Tell you what, I’ve got an idea about finding that hot-spot. Back in a jiff.” He headed for the inner office and the phone there.

The group could barely hear his side of the conversation, but Angel’s vampiric hearing did just fine, allowing him to get a bit of the dialogue.

“Dimensional portals, psychic hot-spots… I need to find one, cupcake.”

A woman sounded amused and curious. “Why?”

“Some friends are planning a little trip to the old homestead.”

The woman sighed. “Lorne, I can find your hot-spot, but on one condition. You have got to go with them. It’s the only way you’ll ever resolve all those issues that keep clouding up your aura. I can see it, and, be honest, deep down you’ve always known you’d have to take that one last trip home.”

“It’s the ‘last’ part of that sentence that scares me.”

“Well,” the lady laughed, “Sometimes the journey is taken simply because it must be taken. Is that vague enough for you?”

Lorne frowned. “Is that what I sound like? Sheesh, no wonder people complain!”

~*~

The attractive brunette smiled at Glory from across the room. She gave a small wave but said nothing.

“So it’s her. Under our noses all this time. I like the detail work those monks did.” Glory glanced over April in approval. “Quirks, foibles, passions…it’s all so cute! So human, you know?”

The relieved minions all nodded like bobble-head figures and grinned like fools. Perhaps they would be permitted to assist the magnificent one in her bathing later!

Glory moved closer to April. “Pretty convincing, really.” She whipped about in fury as the minions scattered. “But not convincing enough. This, this… THING isn’t even alive. Less than that vampire you brought me! You have less brain power than the meat bags I suck dry! How many times are you going to disappoint me this way?” She picked up one minion and ripped his arms off, tossing them and him across the room. “Worthless, scabby peons!”

Jinx dared to approach but took care to stay out of arm’s reach. “Most fantastical creamy one, we shall not fail you again. The Slayer has only a few friends. Surely we will find the one housing your Key soon!”

Glory brightened up at that.“Right! All I gotta do is rip through them one by one until we find it.” She plunged her hand into the still smiling robot and ripped out the power supply, leaving April to her final good-bye without a word.

~*~

Wes was still working on a way to keep them all together when going through the portal. “Perhaps a binding spell?”

“Good!” Angel was impatient and ready to go with no further delay. “Let’s do that and get going.”

“However, we could emerge on the other side as some freakish hybrid Siamese twin of some sort.” Wes shivered at the thought.

Even Angel could see the disadvantages of that. “Keep looking.”

“I keep seeing a reference to iron or metal. That could be a clue to how to prevent us from scattering.”

Angel thought for a moment, “Handcuffs? Would handcuffs work?”

“I’m fairly certain that handcuffs wouldn’t do the job,” Wes admitted.

“Well, what will?” Angel was ballistic. “It’s been twelve hours since Cordy’s been in that dimension. No telling what could be happening to her.”

Wesley had the beginnings of a slight smile. “I was just thinking of that old car of yours. Back in that day, automobiles were made from metal, not fiberglass. I wonder if we could simply drive through the portal?”

‘YES!’ Dawn could have kissed Wes for thinking of that! The car was perfect. Cars had trunks and she was still small enough to fit. They’d never even know she was there until it was too late. Merl schmerl, she was ready for a real road trip! Bring it on!

The hot-spot was not far and the gang was all present and accounted for, even the one they didn’t know was with them.

“Alright then,” Wesley urged, clutching the book tightly to his chest. “I suppose we should probably begin. Everyone set?”

“Let’s get a move on,” nodded Gunn.

Dawn was more than ready. Already the trunk felt stuffy, but it would be worth the nervous butterflies. ‘Buffy is so gonna kill me!’ She shuddered and then smiled rather evilly. ‘Right after she stakes Angel!’

“Take a good look around and say goodbye,” Angel said as Wesley began to read from the book.

Lorne looked even more green than usual, if that were possible. “Can we ix-nay on the good-bye part?”

In front of the convertible, a portal shimmered into existence and Angel drove headlong into it.

Almost instantly the car filled with humans, demons and one former green ball of energy disappeared with a pop.

~*~

Glory sat bolt upright in her bed and let out a loud scream. “GONE! My Key is gone!

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/430979.html

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