Chapter 45: Fifth Wheels

June, 2001

“Dear lord, has Christmas come early?”

Dawn laughed as she led Giles into the sitting room full of boxes and packing material. “Sort of. Our stuff finally arrived. I was starting to think it got lost somewhere over the Atlantic. Have a seat.”

Giles pushed aside a wad of bubble wrap to sit on one of the soft, slouchy, sitting room sofas. “Where are Buffy and Tara?”

“Upstairs, filling the master bedroom with all the stuff Buffy had shipped. She's excited to have everything here.” Dawn shrugged. “She likes having their stuff sitting around. She's only had that one Oscar Wilde canvas and their clothes since we got here.”

He sank back into the sofa cushions. “I'm not certain that's entirely healthy... Recreating their room at home rather implies either an unrealistic expectation of return, or shrine building.” He caught the expression on her face, and misread it. “I don't mean a shrine in a demonic or mystical sense, but in the sense of dealing with loss. More specifically, failing to do so.”

Tara walked into the living room with an armload of flattened shipping boxes and a plastic bag full of bubble wrap. “Dawnie, we need to come up with a place to store these, somewhere out of the way. Hi, Giles.”

Dawn took the bag from her to ease her load. “Well, there's the cellar, but it smells like the ghosts of a million ancient apples down there. ...Oh! What about the parlor? I don't see us getting any other use out of it. Giles, grab some boxes.” She picked up another bag of packing material and led them down the hall to the stiffly furnished, antique-filled parlor.

“This is a parlor, girls, not a storage closet.”

Tara dropped her stack of boxes on the rug in front of a wing-back chair. “We aren't going to be hosting any formal parties, Giles. That isn't why we're here.”

Dawn set the bags on a claw-footed table and lifted the boxes from the watcher's arms. “Yeah, high tea with the queen isn't exactly on the schedule.”

Giles rolled his eyes as he walked out of the room. “Americans!”

He stepped into the hall in time to see Buffy come downstairs with her nose buried in the armful of leather she carried, inhaling deeply. He watched her in silence as she very slowly and carefully hung Spike's duster from a hook on the wrought iron coat rack by the front door. She stood there, staring at it, until his voice brought her out of her thoughts.

“What are you doing?”

She turned to face him. “Putting my mate's coat where it belongs.”

“Buffy... You no longer have a mate. In a way, you never did, only a chosen--”

“No,” she said firmly. “I did. I may not have claimed him, but I had a mate.”

He took in the fierce look in her eyes, at the fire burning just below the surface of her calm attitude. He nodded slowly. “Of course. I'm sorry. I should not presume to understand the connection... um...”

“Between two demons?” Buffy asked, her tone softening. “I thought we discussed this the morning after... When I showed you guys the lock box. I accepted it, Giles. The big taboo you watchers don't talk about is fine. Really.” She held up her left hand to display her ring, mimicking the gesture she'd made three weeks prior, when they'd had the conversation in question. “I knew what I was getting into when I put this on, and before. I know what I am. Slayer power is demon power.” She glanced over her shoulder at the coat. “And this slayer's demon chose a mate.”

“I'm worried about you.”

“I know.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Make me need him less?” she whispered.

Giles drew her into a hug. “If I could make things that simple for you, I would do it in a heartbeat.”

Behind them, standing side by side in the parlor doorway, listening to the conversation, Dawn and Tara exchanged glances, both knowing Giles would have to be told something. Soon.

*~*~*

Buffy squinted at the dark haze before her, trying to make out her surroundings. Slowly, the haze began to clear, and she caught glimpses of a familiar alley. There was a pain in her side, and the most welcome tingle in the world on the back of her neck. She barely heard the words being spoken, she was so transfixed by the voice.

Lesson the second: Ask the right questions. You wanna know how I beat 'em? The question isn't 'How'd I win?' The question is, 'Why'd they lose?'”

Sparky!” She launched herself into his arms before the haze had cleared enough to reveal him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him with all the warmth and passion she could muster.

He jerked free of her. “Bloody hell, Slayer! Where'd that come from? And what did you call me?”

Buffy took a step backward in shock, squinting at him through the fading haze. “It's not you. Have I time jumped?”

He leaned the pool cue he'd been holding against the chain link fence. “Got hit on the head when you got staked, didn't you? That's the only way you kissing me like that could happen.” He shrugged. “'Less Red's found herself single and pouting again, of course.”

Um, actually... Willow kind of is in a pouty singleton place right now. ...Wait. Staked? That wasn't me. That was...” Her hand went to the source of the pain in her side. “Oh. I know when this is. So I've time jumped again, and erased what we changed. Huh. And I'm merged in. Ok. But you aren't?” Her other hand went over her mouth. “Oh god. You can't be. You can't be merged in because... How the hell did things end up this way, Sparky?”

That's it. School's out, Slayer. I'm taking you to your watcher. You're not acting right.” He waved a hand, ushering her out of the alley ahead of him. “Come on, now.”

Something shiny caught her eye. She snatched his hand and held it up. “If you don't know what's going on, what's this?”

It's a bloody wedding ring, you dozy bint! Where's yours?”

Buffy looked down at her own left hand, finding it bare. She dropped his hand and reached for her necklace, but that ring was missing, too. She closed her eyes. “This doesn't make any sense.”

It makes perfect sense, love,” he said softly.

The abrupt shift in his tone of voice brought her eyes back to him. He was holding the pool cue again.

Lesson the second: Ask the right questions. You wanna know how I beat 'em? The question isn't 'How'd I win?' The question is, 'Why'd they lose?'”

I'm dreaming, aren't I? Dreaming of a memory?”

Do I look like a memory to you, Slayer?”

You, yes. And you aren't who I think you are. You aren't the man I married.”

Buffy was suddenly thrown against the fence. She hissed in pain at the aggravation to her wound.

The pool cue clattered to the ground, forgotten.

Amber eyes bored into her at close range. “Is that what you think?”

She didn't flinch. “You will be. But you aren't him. Not yet. You don't know me like he does. And this version of me doesn't know you all that well, either. ...What am I doing here? Why am I dreaming of this memory? And why is it so confusing?”

You still aren't asking the right questions,” he growled. “Why are they going to lose?”

Who? Who's going to lose?” She leaned her head forward, resting against his ridged brow. “I need you here to sort stuff out with, Spike. I'm not used to doing this on my own.”

She felt the ridge shifting away under the weight of her own brow.

His voice was soft again. “You aren't on your own, Woodchuck. You can feel that, can't you?”

Buffy lifted her head to look into his eyes. “Sparky?”

I'm not here, love. You know that. This is just a dream.” He kissed her forehead. “All twisted up, just like everything else in that brain of yours.”

Yeah, yeah. I hear you.”

Ask the right questions, Buffy.”

You mean, 'why are they going to lose?' I still don't understand.”

Better question might be one with the same answer. Who are you?”

You know I hate nonsense dreams. You're supposed to be the one who makes things make sense. Why is my brain making you not make sense?”

He took a step back from her. “Come on, give me the list. Who are you?”

Um, a slayer? Freshly retired, of course.”

Go on.” He waved his hand, urging her on.

A time traveler. ...Your wife. …Your chosen mate?”

Now we're getting somewhere. Keep going.”

She straightened her shoulders and crossed her arms over her chest, looking irritated. “Would you just come out and say it, Lieutenant? I'm not in the mood for playing games with my own dream-tangled brain.”

He raised an eyebrow at her and waited.

Her eyes widened in realization. “General.”

Put it all together, love. Tell me who you are. Then tell me what you want.”

She gave it a moment's thought before she said, “I'm General Buffy Anne Pratt, the time traveling slayer who can and will change the world and undo death itself if I need to.” She clenched her jaw. “And I'm going to get my mate back.”

That's my girl.”

The dark haze began to flow between them again, blocking her view of him.

Look at me,” she heard him say.

No. Don't say that.”

Look at me.”

I have to wake up. I have to wake up.”

Through the haze, she began to see glimpses of their basement bedroom.

Look at me.”

No! I don't want that dream! I have to wake up!”

A few minutes later, Buffy's scream of “Spike!” echoed through the farmhouse at William's Folly.

*~*~*

Buffy was sitting on the floor in the hall, staring at the coat on the coat rack, when the phone rang. She scrambled to her feet without spilling her drink and rushed to the phone in the sitting room. “Hello?”

“Good afternoon. This is Lucinda Varnes, with Garrison & Hope, calling for Mrs. Pratt.”

“Speaking. Hi, Lucy. How are you?”

“Quite well, Mrs. Pratt. And you?”

“Oh, I'm getting along. You know, with William... out of the country. But Lucy? If you're going to insist on me calling you by your first name, you should get used to calling me Buffy.”

The woman on the other end of the call chuckled. “Alright, Buffy it is, then. I wanted to ask you about financing a project on one of the properties. I don't have to have a decision right this minute. I understand if you need to call William to talk it over... assuming he's reachable.”

“He's really not.”

“Oh, you poor dear. That must be difficult on a newlywed.”

“You have no idea.”

“I suppose there's no putting a leash on a vampire, even with a wedding ring. Very few are any good at staying in one place, or keeping in touch. In this business, we deal with a lot of wanderers, but the vampires are the worst of the--” She stopped abruptly. “I'm sorry. That was rude, and not good for you to hear. I'm sure William will wander back to you soon.”

“I hope so.”

Lucinda paused for a moment before explaining the reason for her call. “It's about the house in Barcelona, dear. The current tenants have decided not to renew their lease, and I'd like to delay advertising the property, so that we might freshen it up a bit... That's understating it. The truth is, the place could use a full renovation. It's at least a decade overdue.”

“Um... Ok. I can call Jenna, and have her set up an account for the project. William usually lets you two work out the details on budgeting this sort of stuff, right?”

“Thank you. Yes, he does.”

Buffy bit her lip as she studied the whiskey in her hand, remembering something.

'What kept me going was having something else to do, someone besides myself to worry over.'

She said into the phone, “Can I help?”

*~*~*

When the phone call ended, Buffy retrieved her bottle from the hallway floor and went into the dining room. She placed both her glass and her bottle on the sideboard and joined Giles, Tara, and Dawn -who were in the middle of another lunch she'd declined to eat- at the table. They looked up at her in surprise as she picked up her fork.

“Giles, I need you to buy a second car. I'll pay for it. We'll keep it here. Are you up for teaching me and Tara how to drive on the wrong side of the road?”

He swallowed. “I-- I suppose I could. But licensing and--”

“I'm not worried about that. As long as we don't crash into anyone, that's good enough.”

Tara's eyes wandered to the sideboard. “Driving?”

Buffy shrugged. “Well, you need to be able to run errands without waiting on Giles to stop by, and I've got a part time job to get to. And yes, I promise to drive sober.”

Dawn nearly spit out the water she was trying to drink. “What?! A job? How? When?”

“It's only going to be a few meetings a week. Nothing too time consuming.” She grinned. “But it sounds like a lot of fun. I'll take a cab until we have things settled with the car.”

They were still staring at her as she turned her attention to her food.

*~*~*

As soon as Giles' car started down the driveway, Tara and Dawn cornered Buffy.

“Ok, what are you up to?” Dawn asked, crossing her arms over her chest. “Nothing we're researching is supposed to require a car.”

“Another project,” Buffy said simply. “Also, more frequent Thai take out. I need more drunken noodle in my world.”

Tara tapped her foot impatiently. “Buffy...”

She held up her hands in surrender. “Nothing bad, I promise. I'm going to be working with Lucy, that's all.” She dropped her hands. “Besides, the three of us might have to make a run to London if we don't get what we need on the first try.”

“And when are we going to tell Giles about that?” Dawn shook her head. “I think he knows we're holding out on him.”

“When we have an actual plan put together, something more than vague ideas and a twitchy inner demon.” Buffy smirked. “When we know how they're going to lose.”

*~*~*

“Is it my imagination, or are you still sober?” Angel asked into the phone.

“I'm just now pouring my second round, and it's midnight here. Aren't you proud of me?”

“Actually, yes. I was beginning to think you were going to disappear into one of those bottles.”

“Me, too, if you want the truth. So I took some good advice I heard a while back. I found something besides myself to worry over, something to focus on between bottles.”

“Besides the breaking & entering plot? Because I'm still hoping to talk you out of that one.”

“Besides that. I have another project. This one's even legal.”

“Oh, this I've got to hear.”

“I'm conspiring to practically gut an entire house, and redo everything. Today, Lucy, the decorators, and I had our first conference with an architect who's local to the project. He's hilarious, and his accent is really cute. The decorators are darlings, and we really see eye to eye on what can be done to the place. Of course, it helps that none of them know me as the slayer.”

“Demons?”

“Lucy's human, but she works in the demon world. The others, yeah. Demons.”

“Who is Lucy?” Angel asked. “Does she own the house you're planning to gut?”

“No, I do. Lucy is Spike's estate agent.”

“Ok, good. So this is actually legal.”

“Angel, why do I get the feeling you don't trust me?”

“We really need to talk about the B & E plot, Buffy. It's just a bad idea, in every direction.”

She sighed. “I wish I'd never told you about that.”

*~*~*

Xander stepped into the training room and watched Faith work the punching bag for a minute before he walked across the room and into her line of sight. He hopped up to sit on the pommel horse just as the swinging of the punching bag stopped. “What's on the agenda tonight?”

Faith wiped her brow with the back of her hand. “Patrolling the east side cemeteries- Restfield, Shady Hill. Nothing scary expected. Not many funerals this week. Might hit up the Bronze to blow off some steam after. Why? What's up?”

“Flying solo?”

“I was gonna ask Anya to join me again. ...But maybe you're asking 'cause you don't want me to?”

He smiled. “Hey, I love that you guys are hitting it off, and she's finally getting into patrol. She's always been bored by cemetery walks before.”

“But? Am I taking away your girl too much, Xan?”

“But let me ask for her time first tonight, ok? Ahn and I haven't had a real date since before...”

“Since before the tower.”

“Yeah.”

“Don't let me step on your toes.” Faith came over and leaned against the pommel horse beside him. “I think she'd like a date. She talks like she misses you, even in the same apartment. Thing is, she's not missing you on Wednesday nights like she used to.”

Xander didn't have an answer for that.

“She says you haven't set foot in Willy's since the wake. You going this week?”

He looked down. “It's rough, you know? Going from five of us to three of us that fast.”

“You miss Spike.”

“And Eddie. But mostly Spike.” He looked up to face her. “It's weird, isn't it?”

“What? That B hooked up with a vamp? Not exactly new territory. That you got to be buds with him? Yeah, a little. That you've gotten selfish enough to start failing at math? Eh.” She shrugged. “I guess I never knew you well enough to judge.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean your Wednesday night group has gone from five to two. Have you even called those two demons lately? What are their names again?”

“Clem and Tinker. I've talked to Clem a couple of times.” Xander bit his lip. “You know, I don't think I like you enough yet to like you being right.”

She laughed. “I'll tell you what. You spend a year with nothing to do but think about things, about where you screwed up your life, about why your visitor log is nearly blank, and get back to me. There are a hell of a lot of ways to end up running short on friends, Xan, and half of yours are already either dead or out of the country.”

He jumped down to the floor beside her. “Maybe I'll go this week. But I've still called dibs on asking Ahn out for tonight.”

“Fine by me. Lydia's been nagging me for more field time together, anyway. I can take her.”

“Or...” Xander gave her a significant look.

“You mean Mopey?”

“Her visitor log is looking a little thin on names these days, too, Faith.”

“Yeah, well, from what I hear, that's partially her own fault.” Faith shrugged again. “So the time travelers kept secrets about themselves and what they were up to. It sounds to me like that was just part of the job. It's nothing to get cranky over.”

“Yours was partially your fault, too.”

“You think I don't know that? Time to think, Xander. Remember?”

“Have you talked to any of the Time Scoobies lately?”

“Giles called again yesterday. Why?”

“I talked to Dawnie this morning. Buffy's starting to cut down on the drinking some.”

“He mentioned that. Good for her.”

“And Tara's talking about trying again with Wils when they come home.”

“So you're saying we may only have to deal with Mopey through the summer?”

“I'm saying we only have the summer to get Mopey--” Xander threw her a glare. “Now you've got me saying it! --To get Willow to a place where she's ready to try again. If she doesn't get a little shift in perspective going, Tara's attempt is going to crash and burn.”

Faith returned to the punching bag. “I'm here to be your slayer, Xan. Not to play matchmaker. Leave me out of it.”

“You're here to be a Scooby, too, aren't you?”

“Yeah. So?”

“So you've known us long enough to know what that means, how it works. Are you one of us, or are you just the hired muscle who takes point?”

The bag swung from a few blows before Faith grabbed it on either side to hold it still. “I'm taking Lydia tonight. Give me a couple days to get around to Mopey.”

“Why wait?”

“I've gotten used to having time to think this stuff through.”

*~*~*

“Buffy!” Dawn called from the dining room. “We've got something!”

Buffy grabbed a dishtowel and dried her hands as she rushed toward her sister's voice. “The Urn of Osiris?”

“No, it hasn't been listed for auction yet, ” Tara said, looking up from the laptop. “I don't know exactly when Anya found it the first time, but I think it was in June or July. She spent a lot of time bidding and negotiating before it was finally shipped.”

“We're not going to do either. The second it's listed, reach out to the guy and offer however much he wants to make sure we're the ones to get it. ...But be careful not to tip our hand.”

Dawn giggled. “As in, don't tell him what we want to do with it?”

Buffy twisted the dishtowel in her hands. “I can't wait to smash that thing with a hammer.”

“You and me both.” Tara turned the laptop toward her friend. “But here's what we've actually found. Is this what you were looking for?”

“Hanneford Compendium of Oracles and Gateways,” Buffy read. “1967 edition. I don't suppose there's a more recent edition anywhere?”

“Not that I can find.”

“So no digital copies, huh?” Buffy looked at her sister.

Dawn sighed. “I'll add it to the list. But just so you know, you're going to be the one carrying all these books home, Super Muscles.”

“That's kind of what I expected, anyway. Tara? Any luck on the blueprints?”

*~*~*

Faith studied the little ball of sunshine floating near Willow's shoulder. “That's pretty cool. And it works like the real deal?”

“Yep.”

“Can you throw it?”

Willow wrinkled her nose. “Not very well.”

“Practice.” Faith continued her tour of the perimeter of Restfield Cemetery.

Willow fell into step beside her. “It's supposed to be defensive. You know, keep the vamps at bay?”

“What keeps them at bay better than lighting 'em up? You wanna live, don't you?”

“When did the bad slayer start making sense?”

“When she found herself with her very own Hellmouth and a team to keep alive. You're on that team, aren't you?”

“Yeah, I guess so.” Willow studied the cemetery fence as they followed it, two rows in from the border. “Buffy never walked the edges like this. She strolled right through the middle, and wandered around a little.”

“Different styles.” Faith held her hand up for Willow to stop, and broke into a smile. “We've got company.”

Willow, long accustomed to the routines of patrol, backed away to the cover of a large headstone as Faith moved toward the two approaching vampires, still smiling. She watched as the slayer took both on with eagerness, enjoying the fight, coming up from the blows rained down on her quickly and reciprocating just as fast.

Until she landed on her back, with both vampires leaning over her, apparently intending to go in for a shared kill. Faith focused on kicking at the one on her left as she pulled something out of her pocket and reached up toward the booted foot that was dropping dangerously close to her head.

With a scream, the foot was withdrawn as the pants around the top of the boot caught fire. Faith jumped up, staking the vampire on her left before she was even fully on her feet. She spun around and staked the other -whose attention was still on his burning leg- just as quickly.

As the dust settled, she looked in Willow's direction and held up something small and shiny. “See? Light 'em up, and you get to live.”

Willow squinted at the object as she approached. “That looks familiar.”

Faith tossed the scratched Zippo lighter into the witch's hands. “Spike's. B said it was for luck. I figure that's what she meant.”

“I doubt it. He was known for killing slayers, Faith. Not keeping them alive.”

“In this timeline, maybe. But Xan and Lydia told me some time travel stuff they'd heard. You know he helped her with a bunch of Potential slayers, doing the training and protection thing, right?”

“'They were under my care, too,'” Willow quoted in a whisper. She shook her head as she handed back the lighter. “Something he said when he and Buffy were arguing after Eddie got dusted. They were talking about two Potentials who didn't make it in their timeline. Maybe it was the soul, but he seemed like he felt as guilty about it as she did.”

Faith slipped the lighter back into her pocket and gestured for them to continue their walk. “Must have been pretty rough on them. Couldn't have been good, if rewriting history was their best way out of the mess they were in.”

“The mess that was my fault.” Willow's eyes again drifted to the fence as they walked. “Maybe that's why Tara left with them. Maybe she blames me for them having to come back, for her losing--” She made quotation marks with her hands. “'One of her best friends.' The top-secret Time Scooby squad only had to exist because of me, and now they're a member short.”

“You didn't dust him, did you?”

“Well, no. But I may as well have. His death cost me everything. It cost me Tara.”

“No, his death showed you who she really is.”

Willow steered them closer to the fence, and ran her fingertips along it as they walked. “Someone different,” she whispered. “Someone who's way more of a Scooby than I am, maybe than I ever was.”

Faith jerked her head in Willow's direction and blinked. “Whoa. I thought you were the smart one.”

“What's that supposed to mean?”

There was a brief silence as the slayer organized her thoughts. “You know how things were back when I first came to town? With you, Xan, and Buffy being so tight I never had a chance of breaking through, of becoming one of you?”

“Let's be honest, Faith. You didn't even really try.”

“'Cause I'm not dumb enough to waste my energy. At least, at the time I thought I was just saving energy. But it could have been different, if I'd tried. The Time Scoobies are a lot like the originals. You see that, right?”

Willow shook her head.

“I got about a week to see how things were in that household before they left. That was plenty long enough to notice. And I wasn't even living there. You were. Dawn and Tara are practically sisters. Tara and B are best buds. Buffy shut down and climbed into a bottle, and the three of them were still hanging on to each other, even still following B's lead some, with planning the trip to England. It's like you three used to be. Unbreakable.”

“I noticed.” Willow sighed irritably. “What's your point?”

“The point is, by the time I woke up from my coma, the tight, unbreakable group had basically doubled in size. Boyfriends and girlfriends got brought into the fold. They were there to help, and welcomed to do it. ...I've been on the fringes of Scooby stuff long enough to know how you people work. You come for the love, and stay for the mission. That's how it went for Tara, right?”

“I'm still not seeing the point, Faith.”

Faith pointed up ahead, at the opened gate near the turn in the fence. “Unbreakable doesn't mean the same thing as closed up. Tara got in. Anya got in. Hell, the infamous William the Bloody got in. So what if the group set up is different now? The gate hasn't changed. You still love her?”

“Yeah.”

“Then stay for the mission. And when they come home, try again. Two groups or not, there's still a gate. Love got her into the mission, changed her into a Scooby, same as it did when you three were starting out. The groups have changed, Willow. And I don't think they're gonna change back. But the mission is still there. The love can be a gate between the groups. But you gotta stay in one of them, stay on the mission, to be able to walk through it.”

Willow dropped her hand from the fence and studied the gate before them. “This isn't a relationship talk. This is a recruiting speech.”

“B's done with. Tara's done with it. No one's making a secret of that. They'll help us out if we get into a jam, but otherwise? Sunnydale's got one slayer, and that slayer's got one witch. That's us, Willow.”

“You know, I was starting to wonder if we were having this conversation because you were trying to be my friend.”

Faith smiled. “Nah. I'm just trying to be a Scooby. I don't need an 'I guess so,' Willow. I need a commitment. You in?”

“You really think it will help me get Tara back?”

“It sure as hell can't hurt. And hey, the mission's still worth it if it doesn't, right? So are you a Scooby or aren't you?”

After a moment's thought, Willow walked through the open gate. She stopped on the other side. “I'm in.”

*~*~*

Later is fine. ...Look at me. Later is fine.”

Are you sure? I know this isn't the answer you wanted.”

I'll tell you what I know, Slayer. I know I got all the time in the world for you to catch up...”

The basement stairs faded away, and Glory's tower loomed overhead. Buffy saw herself, fighting with Glory on the scaffolding. Xander, Anya, and Giles were swinging swords at the little demons surrounding them, using the sides of the blades to push back the wandering crazies. Willow was leaning against a brick wall, her head pillowed by a balled up leather coat. Buffy looked up, squinting at the platform. She could just make out Spike and Tara, standing near the edge. Something came up over the edge the platform, but she couldn't make out any details. Spike turned around, putting his back to Tara. Buffy screamed out a warning, her voice overlapping with Tara's, but it was already too late.

“Angel Investigations.”

“Angel, it's back,” Buffy said into the phone, still gasping for air. “It's been four nights... I was hoping I was done with it.”

“The spectator dream?”

“And all its emotional baggage.” She rolled onto her back on the bed, closing her eyes against the darkened bedroom. “The other dreams are bad, but this? I can't take it. It's the one feeling my buddy Jack won't numb for me.”

“Buffy, have you ever considered that maybe that's the problem? You're all about the numbing agents and distractions these days. You're not dealing with the emotions. Or any of it, really.”

She sighed. “What am I supposed to do, Angel? Break down and cry whenever I feel like it? Go into violent, screaming rants every time I wake up from that dream? And just cross my fingers that the suppressant doesn't completely wear off and send me straight to Looney-Ville?”

“You aren't going to crack up the second the bond recovers from the suppressant, and you know it. Just let yourself be sad sometimes. You might even try crying once in a while.”

“I did that, once. For, like, thirty seconds, right after we got here. It sucked.”

He sighed in exasperation. “That's not exactly what I had in mind.”

“And what did you have in mind for the spectator dream?”

“There's nothing wrong with being angry, either. Buffy, I really think he'd understand.”

“I doubt it. I sure don't.”





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