Almost Heaven

I Need You

Rufus giggled giddily as he paced in front of the unearthed seal to hell. "Soon, now. My brothers thought I was too weak to make my way home? Well, they were wrong! Soon now!"

Dawn groaned and dropped her head into her hands. Her wrists were tightly bound with rope. She sighed miserably as Rufus droned on.

"I knew the slayer would play a major role, but I didn't realize she would be helping me." He performed a stutter step and spun to face Dawn. "Humans and their love. It kills them every time."

"Yeah well, bad guys and their blabbing every detail," Dawn challenged, "it kills them every time."

"Not this time, sweets. There is nothing your sister, or her friends can do."

"Buffy won't let you open the hell mouth."

"She will. To save you. She died to save you, I don't see why she wouldn't let William the Bloody die for you."

"She died to save the world," the ex-key hissed.

"Mmm… no, that doesn't fit. She died for you. Like I said, love is fatal."

Dawn glared at the short man. She couldn't believe he was other than a pissy warlock human, but according him his was a god-like demon. A Senior Partner constricted to human form—whatever that was.

"Fine, Mister High an' Mighty, how do you plan on surviving the butt whoopin' Buffy's going to hand you?"

Rufus raised his eyebrow. "How do you assume she'll get that close? By the time she collects you, I'll be home, and the hero will be dead."

"And Spike? How do you plan on killing him? He'll kick your greasy ass!"

Rufus' eyes narrowed. "He won't last a moment against my pet."

"What pet?" Dawn scoffed.

Rufus whistled sharply and a phoenix-like animal ripped into the room. Dawn was stifled by the mixture of awe and repulsion the creature inspired. It's beautiful royal purple, golden yellow and fire red feathers were corrupted by the hideous tooth mangled beak and scaly sickly green, thick legs and dagger sharp claws.

XxXxXxXxXxXxXx

Willow glanced at Giles as she hung up the phone. "Hey! Wake up, you're not allowed to sleep until we fix you," she chastised.

Giles roused from his slumber. He blinked the sleep induced blur from his eyes, and rolled his tongue around in his dry mouth. He was still tied to a dining room chair, and the skimpy padding did little to stop his lower half from numbing.

"This is bloody ridiculous! Release me, Willow, please."

Willow shook her head. "Nuh-uh, mister." She picked up glass of water from the table and brought it to his lips. "That was Xander, by the way. William wasn't at The Bronze."

Giles gulped thirstily, emptying the glass.

Willow continued as she set the glass down, "Buffy said he wasn't at Willy's either."

"With no memories he could be just about anywhere," Giles pointed out. "We have no idea where he would go."

Willow frowned. "Well… we'll still find him. I know we will. For Dawn."

"We shouldn't deliver to this Rufus fellow anything that will help him."

"If we don't he'll kill Dawn," Willow argued.

"One life for the many? If it weren't Dawn, Buffy wouldn't risk the world.

"We all want to save Dawn," Willow said firmly. "Right, Giles?"

He made a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat. "Have you found anything about my dreams?" he asked, changing the subject.

Willow let him, and slipped into research-girl mode. "I'm sorry, not yet." She tilted her head at the large tome lying open on the other end of the table. "I've been searching, but this could be a curse, or a demon, or straight out possession. There's a lot to look at."

"If you'd untie me, I could lend a hand."

"Sorry, can't do. Buffy said no matter what, you stay in lock up." She brought the book over and sat in the chair next to the Watcher.

"I hope they find him. I wish I could help them." She tried to focus on the words in front of her.

Giles shifted uncomfortably on the chair the young people had tied him to. He longed to clean his glasses. "I don't need a babysitter. Release me from this confounded chair, Willow. You know I won't hurt Buffy." He bounced, causing the legs to wobble. "I'm all better now."

She hesitated, but sighed and said, "No. I'm sorr-"

"Do not say you're sorry," he snapped.

"Yup, you seem all better," she quipped.

He growled in frustration, but ceased his struggle. "I will get free eventually."

Willow swallowed hard. That sentence seemed more a threat than a statement. She wondered when the others would be back.

XxXxXxXxXxXxXx

William moaned a soft protest as a voice rang out. His name slid seductively around him, drawing him deeper into his dream, and farther from the intruder.

His eyes shot open as he was shaken awake. "Ahh-" he cried, pushing the shaker back.

Buffy stepped back, and watched William sit up. "William, I—"

He interrupted her. "What could possibly be so important that you loss any semblance of the manners your mother failed to instill in you!" His entire being protested at the thrumming pain. The blood helped, but his body needed time to heal, and his rude awakening had agitated his various wounds, and caused a world of pain.

Buffy baulked. "I-I…"

"What do you want, Buffy?" He sighed, running his fingers over the creased cotton of the white button up he had stolen off a clothing line after leaving Buffy's house the night before.

"I need you."

William looked up abruptly, trying to interpret her meaning. She looked… angry, and upset. That didn't help him narrow down what she needed him for.

"I thought you couldn't trust me?" he asked softly, his tone only hinted at the well of pain he felt from her repeated rejection.

"I don't have a choice in the matter," she snapped, trying to hide the depth of her emotions. She hated having to send William into a situation that could end his life.

William hardened. "Then allow me to simplify your choice. I refuse."

"But I need—"

"No. I wouldn't want to force you to work with a man you don't trust. I am a gentleman after all."

Buffy growled. "You better shut up and listen. I don't have time for attitude. The sun will be down in only a couple hours."

"Yes, and I'll be able to escape your company. Unless you leave now and save us both the bickering."

"I'm not done talking," Buffy said, stepping closer.

"I'm done listening. Get the hell out of my house," he mimicked her words from the night before. Logically he knew his resentment was mostly uncalled for, but something about the tiny woman drew it out of him.

The hostility that poured off both parties was tangible.

"I can't." Buffy's hard façade broke, and tears flooded her eyes. "I can't. I need you."

William's eyes widened. "No, Buffy, please don't cry."

Buffy found herself incapable of closing the floodgates. The stress that gripped her so tightly forced its way out through her tears. She found herself in William's arms on the couch, though she couldn't remember how. She sobbed into his neck, and he rubbed soothing circles against her back.

William murmured into her hair, "It's okay, Buffy. Whatever it is, I'll help. I'm here."

Buffy clutched onto him a while longer, her tears slowly drying as her vampire held her.

"I'm sorry," she said hoarsely. "I- I trust you."

William ran his fingers through her hair, kissing the top of her head. "I should have told you. I'm sorry. It's my fault."

"I'm so scared, William," she whispered against his chest. "I can't do this alone."

"Buffy, whatever it is, I'm here, I'll help. I'll protect you. I swear." He tightened his arms around her small form. "I've got you, Buffy."

Buffy just nuzzled into the soft fabric of his shirt, deriving strength from his presence, and his touch. She needed a few moments to pretend he really could chase away her demons, and make the world right.

Silence settled over them.

"Dawn is gone," she finally said.

William frowned. "What?"

Buffy sat up, scooting off his lap to sit beside him. "Dawn was kidnapped, and I can't get her back unless… He wants the blood of a hero. The hero. I have 'til an hour after sunset, then he kills Dawn."

William felt a surge of possessive anger. "I won't let him hurt you, Buffy. We'll get her some other way."

"It's not me," she whispered. "It's you."

William took a sharp breath. "Me?"

"I…. We don't have to give up, but I can't fight him alone, and Dawn is—"

"—Too important to you to bet her life on our success," William finished.

Buffy studied him for a moment. "I didn't say that," she said in a quiet voice.

William brushed a stray strand of her hair behind her ear. He smiled as she leaned into his touch.

"You don't have to. It's true. I'll…go. Do what it takes. Bleed for him." He looked down for a moment, taking a deep breath. "I'd die for you and Dawn."

Buffy shook her head. "You don't even know us."

"I know enough. I know I love you." He clenched his jaw and with an air of determination, he resolved, "I'll do it."

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