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Ethan Rayne smugly smiled as he bent down and thrust the letter under the Summers’ front door. The cream envelope was simply addressed, with only Buffy’s name printed in it’s center with bold capital letters. He knew she would come as soon as she discovered the letter and read it’s demands. It was obvious to him how Ripper felt about his Slayer, and he was quite sure it was reciprocated, even though Ripper was too blind to see it. Or too scared. Or a bit of both. Ethan straightened up and turned with his back to the front door. It was dark in the night, with no moon visible. The perfect night for his lurking. He chuckled to himself as he stalked off into the gloom.

The next morning Buffy awakened and stumbled into the kitchen to make breakfast. Dawn had spent the night at Willow and Tara’s watching movies. She welcomed the silence of the morning. The coffee pot was timed for her morning cup at 8:00 A.M. so all she had to do this morning was throw some toast in the toaster. She often made pancakes for Dawn, just like her mother had made for both of them when she had been alive. But Buffy was in no mood this morning for a big breakfast on her own. The silence that had been welcoming at first, now became oppressive. The realization that she was more alone than ever was deafening.

After Riley’s departure, and the death of her mother, Buffy’s life had been consumed with all that was Glory, and the Watcher’s Council that was at her heels again. She was thankful that Giles was her Watcher again, but she was also terrified with the knowledge that Glory was a god. How could she protect Dawn, her sister and the key, from a god? Sure, she had the rest of the gang to help her, and even Spike seemed to want to protect Dawn. And she always had Giles. The thought of him brought a sad smile to her face. She owed Giles so much, and she knew that there had been a distance between them this past year or so. But things were getting better. For once the Watcher’s Council helped her, albeit indirectly. She forced Travers hand into making Giles her Watcher again, and that was the best thing she could have hoped for. That bond between them was back, and gaining strength. Buffy didn’t know what she would have done without him after her mother had died. She had begun to see him with new eyes. She hardly missed Riley at all.

As she buttered her toast and sat at the breakfast bar sipping her coffee, she realized why she didn’t miss Riley at all. She had never loved Riley. She had been fond of him, and he had been good for her for awhile. She had sought out something normal after all that had been Angel and Angelus. She thrived on normalcy after the Hellmouth of her life. But now she was having an epiphany. Riley was not what her heart sought. Riley knew that before she did. Riley never had her heart.

Giles did.

If only Buffy had never walked in on him with Olivia. If only there had never been an Olivia, perhaps that morning things would have changed between them. She had arrived sort of hopeful, and determined. She was going to tell him how she felt. But seeing Olivia had changed everything. She had shut her heart off, and found Riley instead.

She knew Olivia had not been around lately. She was pretty sure that the Gentlemen had scared her off. Giles never spoke of her, and of course Buffy never dared to ask. Secretly Buffy was kind of glad Olivia was gone. The jealous part of her that wanted Giles only to herself was glad. But when she thought of Giles being sad and alone, that made her upset. She loved him, and wanted to be with him, but she would rather him be happy then alone. She knew he only thought of her as a daughter. It wasn’t right of her to want him to be alone if she couldn’t be with him. She always seemed to hurt him. Now that Riley was gone, and Olivia was gone, the timing of Glory and the mess that entailed derailed any further thinking on her part of finally telling Giles how she felt. She couldn’t risk her heart like that again. It was easier to be the Slayer, than to love someone in vain. The pain of the battle was nothing compared to a broken heart.

How had her thoughts turned so maudlin this morning? She finished off her coffee and toast and put the cup in the sink to soak. It was time to get this day going. She had promised to meet Willow and Tara and Dawn at their place after breakfast. They had planned a small shopping trip for the day. They thought a fun activity together would help them all get their minds off of all the trials of their lives, at least for one afternoon.

Buffy finished with the dishes and headed upstairs to change out of her yummy sushi pajamas. She threw on some tight black jeans and a red tank top, with some sensible tennis shoes. Walking the malls required comfortable foot wear.

She then headed down the stairs and was startled as her front door burst open. Spike entered with a smoldering blanket over his head. He carelessly threw the blanket onto the floor where it fell covering up the yet unseen envelope that Ethan had slipped under the door not so long ago.

“Good morning, Pet.” Spike greeted her with a smile. She quirked her eyebrows at him. “Nice entrance.” Buffy came the rest of the way down the stairs, and stood in front of her nemesis.

His eyes dropped down to her shoes, and he raised his eyes slowly, taking in her outfit at his leisure. He cocked his head to the side, and said, "Mmm, Slayer, you look good enough to eat. Mind if I take a little nibble, luv?"

“You’ll be nibbling a stake in a minute, Spike, if you keep that up. Now, why are you here in my house? To what do I owe your loathsome presence?”

Spike continued his leer for a moment, merriment dancing in his eyes, until he saw the serious glint in the Slayer’s gaze. That erased the smile from his face, but not really from his eyes. He loved to tease the Slayer. He felt pretty sure that she wouldn’t stake him, especially now with Glory’s presence. “You won’t stake me, Pet. You need me.”

Buffy glared at him. “I’ll never need you Spike.” She turned and flopped down on the sofa, her back to the vampire. “I’m on my way out. What do you want?”

He looked at the back of her neck while she sat on the couch, tenderness gracing his face. If only she could understand how he truly felt about her. Hopefully the day would come when he could prove his love, and then she would see, and perhaps return his feelings. Protecting Dawn could be his key…the key to her heart.

“I saw Glory’s minions lurking about last night and early this morning, and I thought I’d come check on Lil’ Bit.”

That got Buffy’s attention. She jumped up off the sofa and turned again towards Spike. “Dawn’s not here. She’s at Willow and Tara’s. That’s where I’m heading. Do you think she’s safe?”

Spike saw how concerned Buffy was about her sister. “Oh, sure, I’m sure she’s just dandy. Shall I go with you to check, just in case?” He longed to just be in Buffy’s company.

Buffy opened the front door, letting the sunshine stream in. Spike swore and jumped back out of the ray’s path. “Bloody hell!” She smiled at him. “I think you coming with me is out of the picture for now Spike, unless you want to be a pile of ashes?” Buffy bent down and picked up the blanket, preparing to hand it to the vampire, when an envelope with her name on it became revealed. She picked it up in her free hand. “Spike, what are you doing this time?” She threw the blanket at him, and held the envelope between them.

He looked at the envelope, and then at her in confusion. “I don’t know a thing, Pet.” He glowered. What, did she have some new soldier boy pining over her now? Some secret crush? Just bloody great!

Buffy could see the consternation on his face. She turned the envelope over in her hands, examining it. It looked safe enough, but she didn’t recognize the handwriting.

“Well, are you going to open it or slay it?” he said with frustration in his voice.

“What’s your problem, Spike?” She looked at him quizzically. Then she started to giggle. “Oh, I get it. You think it’s a love note.” She busted up laughing at the look on his face.

He didn’t like to be laughed at, and all his defense mechanisms kicked in. His fists clenched at his sides, the blanket almost ripping in half at the force. But he froze in his speech as he watched Buffy open the envelope and begin to read. Her face paled with shock, and she began a soft keening moan in the back of her throat.

“What is it, luv?” he asked gently, stepping towards her as if to comfort her if he could. She seemed to read the note a second time before handing it to him. He read the blocked letters with concern.

BUFFY

I HAVE GILES. IF YOU WANT TO SEE HIM ALIVE AGAIN COME TO THE OLD WAREHOUSE ON FIFTH STREET. COME ALONE, OR HE DIES. NO TRICKS, NO “GANG”, NO WEAPONS. JUST YOU, ALONE, OR RIPPER DIES. YOU KNOW I MEAN IT, AND I WILL DO IT. ANYTHING FOR CHAOS, EH?

FONDLY,
ETHAN

Spike had heard the stories of Ethan, and had heard of his dark magics. Giles was in trouble, and he knew that Buffy would follow the instructions and do whatever it took to get Giles back safely.

“What do you want me to do?” he asked her softly.

“Go to Willow’s and see that Dawn is kept safe. I need you to protect her while I kick Ethan’s ass.”

He nodded his assent, then she bolted out her front door at full speed. He stood there for a moment, digesting all that had happened, re-playing it all in his head. He held the blanket out in protection and shut the front door. She had been in such a hurry she hadn’t even closed it in her haste.

He knew he should be going to Willow’s. It fell to him to protect the Lil’ Bit, and he would do it. But he couldn’t resist going upstairs to fondle some of the Slayer’s things. He had never been left alone in her house before, and the temptation was too great.

The bed was made, and the room was neat. That sort of surprised him. He thought that her clothes would be strewn everywhere and the bed unkempt. But he supposed with the death of her mother, orderliness helped her cope. Buffy liked to be in control, and she couldn’t control her mother’s illness and loss. Spike opened a few of the drawers, running his fingers through the lacy garments. On top of her dresser he saw the stuffed pig. It seemed to smile at him. He knew just by looking at it that Buffy had held and sought comfort from the stuffed animal on countless occasions. It looked well held. He picked it up and smelled Buffy on it. He wanted that pig. Buffy would notice it’s absence however, unlike the assorted under things he already had carted off with to his crypt. Perhaps he could find a replica of it, and replace it. He’d have the real thing, and she would never know. Especially with everything that was going on.

“Bugger it.” He pulled the pig under his coat, ran down the stairs, grabbed the blanket, and absconded out with it. He’d drop it by the crypt, buy a replacement, bring it back here, and then head to Willow’s to protect Dawn.

TBC
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