* * * *

* * * *
Chapter Three
Closing In

* * * *

“OK,” said Giles, looking over the list as they left the grocery store. “We’ve got tomatoes for the sauce, angel hair pasta for Dawn…”

“I can’t stand regular spaghetti, it’s so chewy!”

“Yes, and that will be your fifth lament on chewy pasta this evening.”

“Two six packs of beer,” Andrew chimed in, lifting the beer cases that he held in each hand and grinning. “Tonight we shall drink like men.”

Buffy, Dawn and Kennedy shot him a look.

“And women. Really strong, scary women.”

Buffy smiled. Part of her never could get over the fact that she struck fear into the hearts of men. Wait, was that a good thing?

“So Buff," Dawn began. "Barring any random raids by the under-aged drinking police, could I join in the festivities?”

Buffy didn’t hear her. Her attention had been caught by the little shop nestled in between the bakery and the newsstand.

“What, she won’t let you drink?” Kennedy asked.

“The drinking laws in Britain are considerably more lax than in America,” Giles added. “But um, if Buffy doesn’t want you to drink then you shouldn’t. You’re seventeen. Yes, much too young.”

Dawn stared at Giles in amazement. “Please.”

“Madam Zora’s,” Buffy whispered, reading the hand painted sign in the window. It was half past six and she was still open. Why this mattered, Buffy wasn’t quite sure.

“Oh hey,” she called to the others. “I forgot something. Catch you back at the apartment?”

Everyone nodded in agreement and kept walking. Buffy slid into the shop as soon as they were out of sight.

The small entryway smelled strongly of incense and scented candles, and Buffy marveled at how anyone could stay awake with such an overwhelming scent invading their nostrils all day. Buffy inhaled deeply before passing through the beaded doorway.

“Hello?” she called. A short woman stood across the room with her back to her. She obviously hadn’t heard Buffy come in.

Buffy took this opportunity to take in her surroundings. The walls were paneled with wood, though across them hung several different colored silk scarves. Several rickety shelves were covered with packages of incense, jars filled with familiar looking powders, and in the center of the room was a small circular table covered in a large indigo tablecloth. No crystal balls in sight.

“You may have a seat, my dear.”

Buffy jumped, startled. The black haired woman hadn’t turned from the table at the far end to address her, and she never realized that she was aware of her.

She sat down in one of the creaky seats at the small table, wondering why she came here. Madam Zora, as Buffy assumed her to be, soon appeared on the other side of the table. She had a white and purple scarf wrapped around her black hair and large brown eyes. She wore a meshy black shawl around her shoulders and several rings on her fingers.

“Now, my dear,” the elderly woman asked, her large eyes searching Buffy’s face. “What brings you here?”

It wasn’t until she was asked that she knew the answer. “I feel kind of… lost.”

“Ahh, lost. In love?”

“No, not really. It’s just… I’ve lost so much in the past few years. My mom, good friends… people close to me. Where I used to live, it’s gone, and now…”

“And now you’re trying to find home?”

Buffy smiled. “I guess.”

“All the signs are misleading, hmm?” Madam Zora slid a hand beneath the tablecloth and pulled out a pack of tarot cards. “Let’s see if we can find our way.”

Tarot cards. You’re sitting in a smelly English magic shop with the most stereotypical fortune teller reading you tarot cards.

The first card hit the table. The words were in a language Buffy did not understand, but the images recognizable.

“A former lover will resurface.”

Oh really? Buffy thought, slightly amused by the cliché.

Another card hit the table. “Hmm,” the woman hummed, placing more cards after it. “Darkness lies in your path.”

No surprise there, Buffy thought.

“Death.” Madam Zora looked down at the card she had placed on the table. “Death.”

“Death?” Buffy repeated. “Right.” Did fortune tellers ever predict happy things? “So, does this mean I’m going to die? ‘Cause,” she laughed softly. “Been there.”

“Death has been transcended.”

Old news.

“He will return.”

“He? He who?” Buffy flashed back to her last encounter with the Immortal and hoped he wouldn’t be flinging more daggers her way any time soon.

Madam Zora raised her large eyes to meet Buffy’s. “No, he has returned.” She flipped another card over. “And he has lied.”

A lying man. That really narrowed down the list of suspects.

“Thank you,” Buffy said slowly, sensing that there wasn’t much more that she wanted to hear. She’d hoped for some sort of revelation, but all she got were more random images that meant nothing. “That’ll be six pounds, right?”

Madam Zora blinked as if startled and then smiled warmly and nodded. “Yes, my child.”

Buffy reached into her wallet and pulled out a ten pound note. “Do you have change?” Her words were cut off as Madam Zora grasped her hand tightly. “Or you could keep all of it,” Buffy replied quickly.

“Be careful, dear girl,” she warned. “Your heart, I fear, is in for a breaking.”

Buffy glared at the woman as she pulled her wrist away. “Well I’ve got good insurance,” she replied, speaking as if she were addressing a crazy person. As if? She placed the bill on the tabletop and exit through the beaded doorway.


* * * *

“Fred? Is that you?” She must be Xander’s mysterious blue person. “Why are you blue?”

“You knew Winifred Burkle?” Illyria asked, her posture becoming less defensive.

“Yeah,” Willow answered slowly. She looked down at Spike’s body.

“She is gone. I am Illyria,” she said proudly, sticking her chin into the air.

“What?” Willow asked distractedly. “Fred’s gone? What do you mean?”

“I am one of the Old Ones.” Illyria stepped towards her, recognition flashing in her startling blue eyes. “I have memories of you.”

“Yeah,” Willow said uncertainly. “We met last year. You… listen, is he OK?” she asked, nodding towards Spike.

Illyria turned to look at her wounded companion. “He didn’t burn when the sun rose. He is mortal, and his wounds are affecting him.”

“Mortal,” Willow whispered in awe, seeing his chest rise and fall as he breathed. “How?” She moved closer towards him, but Illyria stood in her way.

“You will not harm him.”

“I don’t want to harm him,” Willow assured her. “I came to help.”

“Another of his former acquaintances attempted to touch him.” Willow glanced at Pavayne’s body. Fred did that? “I cannot trust you.”

“No, you can. You remember me, right? Even though you’ve had some sort of identity crisis,” she grinned sheepishly as she took in the tight leather outfit. “Not that I’m complaining. But you know that I’m not evil.”

Illyria stared at Willow with her large blue eyes boring into her. “You’re Willow Rosenberg. A witch.”

“Yes, a good witch. Like Glinda.”


“Never saw Wizard of Oz? OK, then let's just settle on me being good. Ignore the pop culture reference.” Spike moaned on the ground behind them, silencing them both. His head rolled to the side and Willow could tell that he was in a great amount of pain. “He needs to get to a hospital.”

“I suppose I may trust you,” Illyria commented before disappearing.

“What?” Willow squeaked in confusion, looking around her. She shook it off and rushed over to Spike. “My god, you’re really alive.” She watched as he breathed, slightly unsettled by the peculiarity of the sight. “Spike?” she probed, reaching to touch his shoulder. Her senses were weakend, but she could feel the leather beneath her fingers. He was really there.

A few minutes later her head snapped around when she heard tires squealing nearby. A battered maroon Taurus whipped around the corner and into the alley, stopping abruptly right in front of them. Illyria sat behind the wheel. She opened the door. “Get him inside. We will move much faster with transportation.”

Willow moved to lift Spikeoff the ground but turned and shot Illyria a pleading look.

Illyria stepped out of the car. “Weakness is a common plight among your kind.” She lifted Spike off of the ground as if she were holding a teddy bear. Illyria placed him in the backseat of the car. “Get in.”

Willow hopped in the passenger’s seat and they sped off.

“No, reverse!” Willow shouted as they zoomed forward. She pointed towards the gear shift and Illyria considered it with interest before pulling it back. They grazed the side of a brick building as they turned out of the alley, and after several shrill driving instructions from Willow, Illyria set them on a course towards the nearest hospital.


* * * *

“We’re back,” Dawn called out as she and the others returned to Giles’ apartment, sans Buffy. They wandered into the kitchen and placed the grocery bags on the table. Giles balled up the note he’d left for Xander and Willow and tossed it into the bin.

“Willow?” Kennedy called, walking towards the guest bedroom. She knocked softly before opening the door. “Hey, are you awake?”

One look at Xander’s alarmed face froze her where she stood. Willow was on the bed, and she wasn’t moving. “What happened?” she asked urgently. Giles and Dawn appeared in the doorway behind her.

“I don’t know,” he answered. “I’m pretty sure she did a locator spell, but I don’t know why she won’t wake up.”

Kennedy and Giles moved towards the bed. Dawn stood frozen in the doorway. “She’s OK, isn’t she?”

Giles removed his glasses and examined Willow’s face. Her brow was furrowed in distress. Kennedy took one of her hands in her own and then her eyes widened. “Oh my god, I think she’s astralled.”

“She whattled?” Xander asked nervously.

“Yes,” Giles concurred. “Astral projection,” he explained, facing Xander. “She’s in another plane.”

“Another plane?” said Dawn. “Is she OK? She doesn’t look good.”

“Last time this happened she was looking for a Slayer that an evil shaman had banished from our plane,” Kennedy explained. “She was like this for three days.”

“Is it safe?” Dawn asked as Andrew entered the room behind her.

“That all depends on where she is,” Giles replied grimly. “Astral projection requires most of her energy, leaving her defenseless if something should attack her. Doing this without telling anyone… she’s put herself in serious danger.”

“Why would she do that? Where did she go that was so important?”

Kennedy looked to Xander, causing the others to turn and look to him as well.

“There was more to my vision than I told you guys,” he confessed. “I saw…”

He was interrupted as a voice drifted through the hallway. “Guys? Is anyone here?”

Buffy walked into the bedroom and took in the scene before her. “What’s going on?”

“Willow astralled herself onto another plane,” Dawn informed her.

“What? Why?”

“That’s a good question,” Kennedy said sourly, returning her gaze to Xander. His focus was on Buffy. Would it be a good idea to tell her?


* * * *

Two medics arrived at the emergency room entrance with a gurney.

“What happened?” they asked as they lifted Spike onto the stretcher. He hadn’t stirred since they left the alley, and his breathing had become shallow. Willow looked to Illyria.

“He was badly wounded,” Illyria informed him.

The young medic with glasses stared at her. Duh.

“…in a car accident,” Willow added. Now both medics stared at them in disbelief. How were they going to explain those wounds? “A-after a bad bar fight,” she continued. More raised eyebrows. She frowned. “Are you going to help him or not?”

“Dr. Clark!” one of them shouted as they wheeled Spike towards the double doors. “We’ve got a trauma victim. Multiple cuts and stab wounds on the lower abdomen and right chest…”

“Wait a minute.” A large nurse stepped in front of Willow and Illyria and held a clipboard in her hand. “We’ll need some information.”

Willow hesitantly took the clipboard. The nurse wrinkled her nose at Illyria in distaste before turning away. Willow sat down in one of the cold seats in the waiting room. “Name? Er, I guess I should put William,” she said, quickly scribbling it down. “Last name? Oh god, what’s his last name?”

“He doesn't have one. He and Angel were like Madonna,” Illyria told her.

Willow stared at her in disbelief. "You know Madonna but you don't know the Wizard of Oz?"

"I met her one day while following the green horned demon. She has strangely spaced teeth."

"Spike needs a last name," she said with a sigh. Without giving it much thought Willow wrote Rosenberg. “Insurance? Oh boy.”


* * * *

“Where did she go?” Buffy asked. Willow had a frustrated expression on her face. “That can’t be good.”

“L.A.,” Xander blurted out. Giles stared at him.

“L.A.? Why would she…”

“She did a locator spell. There’s a map on her computer.”

Buffy and Dawn stared at the monitor and saw the light glowing through it. “Why would she go to L.A.?”

“Because…” Xander was practically hyperventilating in fear of the response his next statement would receive. “Because she was looking for Spike.”


Kennedy looked incredulous, Giles awed, Dawn amazed, Andrew sheepish, and Buffy... laughed.

“What?” she replied shrilly. “Xander, Spike’s gone.”

“Actually,” said Andrew. All eyes turned towards him. “He’s kinda not.”

“What are you talking about?”

“When Giles sent me to L.A. to pick up that wacko Slayer-”

“Dana,” Buffy and Kennedy offered.

“Right, her. Well, I saw Spike. He was there with Angel.”

“How is that possible?” asked Giles. “Spike was burnt alive… more or less.”

“I’m telling you, he was there. All corporeal and stuff. And he came to Rome.”

“He what?” Buffy was on the verge of hysteria. Spike was alive and no one told her? He came to Rome? He went to Angel instead of her? He wasn't gone?

“Y-Yeah.” Andrew was slowly backing towards the doorway. “He and Angel. They came looking for you when you were out with the Immortal.”

Buffy sighed and closed her eyes. “Why didn’t anyone tell me he was alive?”

“On that subject,” Xander interjected quietly. “His aliveness is still up to question.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I saw him in my vision. He was alive, but bleeding.”

Tears fell from her eyes, but miraculously Buffy was managing to keep it together. For now.

“And he was human.”

“What?” It was Andrew’s turn to shriek in surprise. “No, when I saw him he was still a vampire. Dana tried to kill him, she even cut off his arms...”

"He doesn't have arms?!"

"He had some when he came to Rome!" Andrew put his hands over his ears. "Oh, this is bad. This is why he didn't want me to tell you."

"He didn't want me to know?" Buffy replied. She was hurt. Spike had been crazy about her, why wouldn't he come to her first thing?

“I saw him in my vision," Xander repeated. "He was human. The sun was out, he was breathing…”

“Guys, stop it!” Dawn shouted. Buffy was slowly falling, and Dawn quickly got to her in time and set her on the edge of the bed. “Buffy?”

“Oh god,” she wept. “All of my exes are going to live forever.”

Everyone wanted to laugh, but no one dared to.

“Except maybe Riley,” she said. “Oh god! I jinxed him. He’s probably out there, dying because I… I…” Buffy gasped for air. “Alive?” she squeaked miserably, turning wide, frightened eyes to Xander.

“Let’s hope so.”

Dawn sat beside her on the bed and wrapped a comforting arm around her sister’s shoulders. “What do we do now?” she asked Giles.

“I think the best thing to do right now is to bring Willow back. I can only imagine what sort of danger she’s in.”


* * * *

“Are you of any relation to the patient?”

“Um, yeah,” Willow replied. “He’s my, uh, my cousin.”

“Do you not have any information regarding your cousin’s insurance?” the nurse asked.

“No, he’s kind of a distant cousin. From England. Can we see him?”

The nurse sent another perturbed glance in Illyria’s direction. “I’m afraid you’ll have to wait in here until we hear more from his doctors.”

“I will wait no longer,” said Illyria regally, moving towards the double doors.

“What she say?” asked the nurse. Willow followed after her. “Hey!”

Willow jogged slightly to catch up. “Fred, wait!”

“Stop calling me Fred.”

“OK, um… what was it that you called yourself?”


“Illyria, right. I don’t know if we should be in here.”

Illyria stopped. “You.”

“Me?” said Willow. Has she gone mental? Well, yeah, with the hair and the clothes…

“I think she’s referring to me.”

Willow stopped and noticed tall man in a nice suit standing in front of them. His face was covered in blood and his neck appeared to be twisting towards the side.

“You’re supposed to be dead,” said Illyria.

“Who says I’m not?”

“Oh,” said Willow. “You must be a lawyer.”

Hamilton grinned at her. “Don’t insult me.”

“You will not touch him,” Illyria growled. Hamilton laughed.

“My dear, who said I came for the vampire?”

He threw a punch at her and she dodged it. She whipped around him and kicked him in the legs. Hamilton laughed as he fell to his back.

“Come on, great one!” He threw her into a nurse who was pushing a cart of instruments past them. Illyria, the young woman, and the cart flew into the wall and onto the floor. “Show me what you can do with that wimpy little body.”

The nurse scampered away in fear as Illyria growled and shot to her feet, lifting Hamilton by the lapels of his jacket and flinging him through the wall.

“Oh my god!”

Several of the doctors and nurses in the room shrieked and fled. Willow followed Illyria into the room.

Spike was lying on exam table, connected to tubes and all sorts of monitors. His shirt and jacket had been removed and his chest was covered in gauze bandages. He had stitches on the side of his face and an IV in his left arm.

“Is that all?” Hamilton laughed, struggling to his feet. “I won’t die,” he laughed madly, coming at her. Blood streamed from a large cut across his forehead. “You’ll never win!”

Illyria placed her hands on the side of his head and twisted it roughly. Not only did his neck snap, but his head came clean off.

“Neither will you.”

His head landed next to his body with a thud. Illyria turned to Willow. “We must leave.”

Willow nodded fervently and rushed to Spike’s side. She pulled out the tubes and the IV and grabbed his leather jacket off the side of the chair. “You’ll be wanting that,” she muttered, throwing it over him. She placed her hands on either side of the table and pushed.

The waiting room was filled with confused family members and nurses. The admittance nurse stood near the doorway. “What the hell?” she bellowed as Willow and Spike wheeled through the doors, Illyria hot on their tail.

Once they were inside the sedan they sped off. Willow sat in the back seat with Spike’s head resting in her lap. “We can’t keep doing this,” she said as Illyria drove aimlessly away from the hospital. “He needs more attention.”

“They’ll keep coming. Wolfram & Hart will send more after us.”

“Well, you can just rip off more heads, right?”

Illyria shot around a tight corner. “Please don’t speak. I need to concentrate.”

Oh god, she’s going to kill us. Why didn’t I drive?


Spike’s eyes were opened slightly, tiny slits revealing blurry blue eyes behind them.

“Spike, you’re awake?”

“Where…” he gasped and started over. “Is Buffy...?”

She shook her head. “No, Buffy’s not here. She doesn’t know.”

Spike’s eyes closed in relief, either that or he didn’t have enough strength to keep them open anymore. “Don’t tell her. Don’t want her to see… not like this.”

“OK, I won’t tell her - ahh!” Willow gasped at the end of her promise, feeling as if she were being ripped from the vehicle.

“Where are you going?” Illyria asked, unaware that her cohort was being pulled through several planes. There was a white flash and Willow opened her eyes, shooting upward off the bed. “No!”

“That was a very stupid thing you just did,” Giles admonished in shaky voice.

“Oh no,” said Willow, noticing that there were several more people in the room than had been there when she'd left. Buffy stood near the door with tears in her eyes. Giles closed the book in which he’d found the spell to bring Willow back.


Willow whimpered. "You don't understand."

"Oh, we understand," Buffy told her firmly. "Did you see him?" she asked.

Willow looked nervously to Xander as if seeking out permission to respond truthfully. He looked away.

"Yes," she replied.

"Great. Spike's in Los Angeles. So that's where we'll go."

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