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Chapter Nine - Strange Brew
'What's he doing here?' Buffy demanded.
Joyce Summers was sitting at the kitchen table, a mug of coffee and a tin of biscuits in front of her. Spike was sitting opposite her, away from the windows. He also had a mug of coffee, but his appeared to be untouched.
'Leaving,' Spike replied, getting to his feet.
'No, stay,' Joyce ordered. She turned her attention to her daughter. 'Spike's been out looking for your sister.'
Buffy folded her arms.
'Now why would he want to do that?' she said. 'What's your game, Spike?'
'Did it ever occur to you that I might actually like the little bit?' Spike replied. 'She doesn't put on as many airs as her big sister.' He turned to Joyce. 'Sorry. We should probably take this discussion some place else.'
'Don't worry on my account,' Joyce replied.
'So, you were looking for Dawn,' Buffy said. 'That still doesn't explain what you're doing here.'
'He came to let me know what he'd found,' Joyce explained.
'Which was?' Buffy prompted.
Spike directed his answer to Joyce.
'I think,' he began, 'I don't know, but I think her trail heads north into the woods. I lost it after that.'
'Well, perhaps you'd better get out and find it again,' Buffy snapped.
'Hel-lo!' Spike retorted. 'In case you haven't noticed it's daylight outside. I can hardly track your sister if I'm an untidy pile of ash on the pavement, now can I? Soon as I'm done here I'm heading straight back to my crypt for a kip.'
Buffy stepped away from the door.
'Trust me, you're done.'
'Buffy!' Joyce protested.
'No, it's okay,' Spike insisted. 'I should be getting back.'
He picked up the blanket that was draped over the back of the chair and wrapped it round himself. Then he opened the front door and ran for his car. Buffy was sure she saw a lick of flame as the vampire opened the car door. Shame.
'Buffy, that was uncalled for,' Joyce reprimanded her.
'Oh come on,' Buffy replied. 'You just know he's up to something.'
'Enlighten me,' Joyce suggested.
'Well, he's Spike,' Buffy explained. 'He's a vampire.'
'So was Angel,' Joyce pointed out.
'Oh you can't compare ' Buffy began. 'It's totally different.'
'Well I guess you'll have to explain that to me,' Joyce replied, 'because from where I sit, all I can see is a man trying to help out. Which is more than I can say for you.'
'What do you mean?' Buffy protested. 'I've been out searching all night!'
'And if you'd bothered to look after Dawn like I asked then she wouldn't be missing in the first place!'
'I had to patrol. You know that. Xander offered to take her home. You were supposed to be here.'
'I got delayed,' Joyce explained. 'One of the crates didn't arrive and I was on the phone trying to find out what had happened to it. I didn't think it would matter since Dawn was with you.'
'I can't be expected to look out for her every second of the day!' Buffy protested.
'Buffy, she's your sister,' Joyce replied. 'If I can't trust you to take care of her who can I trust?'
'That's not - ,'
The phone rang.
Buffy picked it up from its rest on the wall and listened to the voice on the other end.
'Mom, it's Riley,' she explained as she put the phone down. 'He's woken up. I've gotta go.'
* * *
Riley fumbled with the buttons of his shirt. His fingers felt numb and unnaturally large which made dressing a slow and frustrating process.
'Are you decent?'
Buffy poked her blonde head round the door.
'Just about,' Riley responded.
The rest of Buffy followed her head into the private room Riley had been given.
Riley tried a slight smile and instantly regretted it. Was there any part of his body that did not ache?
'Any chance of a hand up?' he asked.
Buffy took him by his forearms and pulled.
'Ow! Careful, Buffy,' Riley admonished. 'I'm feeling a bit fragile at the moment.'
Buffy's face crumpled with concern.
'Sorry. Guess I forgot my own strength, huh?'
'Trust me,' Riley grunted, 'it's not something I'm going to forget in a hurry.'
His legs buckled and he shot out an arm to steady himself against the wall.
Buffy rushed over to help support him.
'Are you okay?'
'Sure. I just got up a bit fast,' Riley admitted. 'Give me some time to get my breath back. A week should cover it.'
'Are you sure you should be up?' Buffy asked. 'What do the doctors say?'
'They want to keep me in for a few more days for "observation",' Riley explained.
'And you're not listening to the people who should know because?'
'Another hour in here and my brain will turn to mush,' Riley replied. 'Besides, it's not like this is the first time I've had someone poking about in here.'
He tapped his chest.
'But enough about me,' Riley continued, 'what's been happening while I've been having my nap? Is it just me or are you looking a little under the weather?'
'It's just nothing,' Buffy lied.
'Buffy,' Riley scolded.
'It's well Dawn's missing,' Buffy admitted.
'Dawn's missing,' Riley repeated. 'And that's your idea of nothing?'
'I didn't want to worry you,' Buffy stammered. 'Not yet.'
Riley smiled. 'Buffy, I said I was feeling fragile. I'm not falling apart.'
'I know, it's just I worry about you.'
Riley took her in his arms and held her close.
'Well let me worry about you for a change,' he said. 'Now tell me what happened.'
Buffy told him.
'I've checked her room,' she concluded. 'There's no sign of a struggle.'
'Interesting,' Riley mused. 'If she's been taken by one of those golden guys you'd think they'd leave more of a mess. Was anything missing?'
Buffy thought for a minute.
'Her jacket was gone,' she said.
'So, there was no struggle and she remembered to take her jacket,' Riley surmised. 'Sounds to me like she left willingly.'
'You think?' Buffy asked hopefully. 'I guess it wouldn't be the first time she snuck out by herself.'
'Guess she gets it from her sister,' Riley commented.
'Hey!' Buffy raised her arm to poke him in the ribs, then thought better of it. 'That doesn't explain where she is, though, or why she hasn't called.'
'One word. Teenager.'
'I guess.' Buffy still sounded sceptical. 'Hey. How come you know so much about rebellious teens anyway? Are you telling me you've got a wild side I don't know about yet?'
'Who, me?' Riley asked innocently. 'C'mon, let's go check me out of here.'
'Thanks,' Buffy said as they left the hospital room.
'For what?' Riley asked.
'For making me a bit less worried than I was before.'
'Don't mention it,' Riley said before mentally adding I'm worried enough for the both of us.
* * *
Tara and Anya were on opposite sides of a table at the back of The Magic Box. The stack of books between them meant that they could not see each other without getting up, but the gentle sound of turning pages let each know that the other was still present. Giles had a book in his hands and was pacing the length of the shop as he read. He found that pacing helped him to think and since there were no customers today - it being a Sunday - he had plenty of space to take advantage of.
The bell tinkled as the front door swung open.
'Hey Buffy. Riley,' Willow called out as she descended the ladder. She had been examining the books upstairs.
'Hey Will,' Buffy called back.
'Riley,' Giles said, gently closing his book and placing it on the counter. 'It's good to see you, ah, up and about.'
'It takes more than that to keep me down,' Riley joked. Then his face crumbled in pain and he doubled over. 'Probably not much more, though,' he continued through gritted teeth.
'Here, let me help you.' Giles helped Riley to a chair next to Tara and the younger man sat down gratefully.
'Are you all r-right?' Tara asked shyly.
'I'm getting there,' Riley responded, favouring her with a smile.
'Any news?' Buffy asked Giles.
Giles shook his head. 'Your mother is telephoning all of Dawn's friends to see if she may have turned up there, but so far '
'We're doing everything we can,' Willow promised.
'I know,' Buffy responded quietly.
The bell rang again and Xander Harris bounded through the door.
'Ladies and Gentleman,' he pronounced, 'I give you 'The Human Torch'!'
Spike burst into the room. The blanket over his head had caught fire and, as soon as he was inside, Spike through the blanket to the ground and began stamping on it to put it out.
Buffy beamed at Xander.
'I suppose you think that makes you Mr Fantastic?' she said.
'Only if you can be Invisible Girl,' he quipped.
'Hey!' Riley said.
'Hey!' Anya echoed.
'What's with the 'heyness', An?' Xander asked. 'You've no more idea what I'm talking about than the G-Man over there.'
'Well, that's true,' Anya admitted sulkily, 'but I'm sure you deserved it.'
'She's right you know,' Buffy commented.
'If you've all quite finished speaking in tongues,' Giles interjected, 'I believe we've made a few discoveries you might be interested in.'
Spike raised a hand.
'I'm not,' he said. 'Can I go now?'
'Spike, I asked Xander to fetch you here for a reason,' Giles said, 'and, believe it or not, it wasn't for your intellectual contribution.'
'Because a shopkeeper knows so much more about demons than, say, a demon,' Spike retorted. 'So what is it I'm here for?'
'If you would let me get a word in edgeways you might find out,' Giles snapped.
'What's a vampire got to do to get some kip round here?' Spike muttered, sitting down on a set of steps by one of the bookcases. 'There was a time when the night part of creature of the night actually meant something.'
Buffy folded her arms.
'So, what have you found?' she asked.
'Well, Tara found it,' Giles admitted.
'And 'it' is?' Xander asked. 'Other than an excuse to keep us all in suspense.'
'Tara?' Giles prompted.
Tara glanced at Willow.
'Well,' she began slowly, 'I've been l-looking for references to the Cauldron of the Dagda. It seems to be part of Irish legend.'
'Dagda was a god in Celtic myth,' Giles explained. 'He was also referred to as 'the Good'. His daughter was Dana, also known as Brigit, and she herself had a son called Ecne.'
'And the point of this riveting family history is?' Buffy asked.
Giles removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose.
'From Ecne sprung the race called the Tuatha de Danann, literally 'the people of the god whose mother is Dana.'
'The descriptions in the texts match the things we fought last night,' Tara interjected.
'So we have a name,' Buffy said. 'An unpronounceable Irish name. Is that it? Because I should really be out there looking for Dawn.'
'Buffy, I understand you're frustrations,' Giles replied, 'but given that Dawn disappeared on the same night creatures from legend start showing up, I find it difficult not to believe there's a connection. The more we can find out about these Tuatha creatures, the more chance we have of locating Dawn.'
Riley offered his hand and Buffy took it and squeezed.
'So, where do we start?'
'They're looking for this cauldron,' Riley said. 'We find it, we find them. Heck, if we find it first it might give us something to bargain with.'
'I didn't know you cut deals with demons,' Spike said. 'I thought you just neutered them.'
'No, we just save that for the special cases,' Riley retorted.
'Boys,' Buffy warned. 'We have bigger issues.'
'You may have ' Spike began.
Spike shut up.
'Riley's got a point,' Willow said. 'They've got something we want. We need to find something they want.'
'And barter is an accepted practice among most civilised demon-kind,' Anya pointed out.
'Yay for those civilised demons,' Xander commented, before withering under Anya's glare.
'I feel it necessary to point out that we don't know for sure that the Tuatha even have Dawn,' Giles said, 'but Riley's plan still has merit.'
'All of which doesn't answer the central question,' Buffy said. 'What is this thing?'
'The Tuatha came from four cities,' Tara continued, 'Falias, Gorias, Finias and Murias. And from each city they brought a magical treasure. These were ' She paused and reached for another book. 'S-sorry about that. Here it is. A magic spear from Finias, the Stone of Destiny from Falias, the Sword of Lugh from Gorias and the Cauldron of the Dagda from Murias.'
'Yes, but what is it?' Buffy persisted.
'Well, the great treasures of the Dananns have persisted throughout legend for thousands of years,' Giles responded. 'The spear, for example, is believed by some to be the Spear of Longinus.'
'The what?' Buffy asked.
'Spear that pierced the side of Christ,' Riley explained softly.
'Precisely,' Giles agreed. The Sword of Lugh may be an early form of the welsh Caladvwlch or Excalibur.'
'And the Cauldron?' Buffy asked. 'What's that supposed to be?'
'The Holy Grail,' Tara said. 'What else?'
Riley stared at her.
'The Holy Grail?' he asked. 'As in the cup Christ used at the Last Supper?'
'I-it's just a theory,' Tara stammered.
'Which happens to make sense,' Willow said, interposing herself between Tara and Riley. 'Now back off.'
'I'm sorry,' Riley said, the edge in his voice softening. 'It's just, this is my faith and I don't like it being mixed up with all this magic and monster stuff.'
'Welcome to the real world,' Spike quipped.
Willow turned on him.
'You think this is funny, do you?' she snapped. 'Faith is important to some of us.'
'What, you think there's some great divine force that's going to wash away your sins? You think then when all this is over you'll go up to heaven complete with candyfloss clouds and harp playing bleedin' angels?' Spike sneered. 'Doesn't work like that, luv. I'm un-living proof of that.'
Giles was standing by a cabinet, taking items from the shelves and lifting them to the light to examine them.
'So you see yourself as proof of the absence of God, do you, Spike?' he asked absently.
'Well, yeah,' Spike replied.
'Catch!' Giles picked an item off the shelf and tossed it in Spike's direction.
The vampire instinctively reached out and caught it. Smoke immediately began to rise from his hands and Spike cried out in pain, dropping the cross to the floor.
'Sometimes the simple demonstrations are the most effective,' Giles said.
Willow was fighting to keep a smug smile from her face.
'Not one word,' Spike warned her, 'or I swear I'll forget I've got this chip in my head.'
Willow ignored him and turned back to Riley.
'I'm Jewish,' she explained, 'but I guess I wouldn't want someone mucking about with my faith either.'
'Nor me,' Tara said.
'Forgiven?' Riley asked her.
Tara smiled and nodded.
'Okay,' Riley said, taking a deep breath. 'So, whether I like it or not, we're looking for the Holy Grail. Shame no one knows where it is.'
'Well, actually,' Giles began, 'I do.'
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