Author's Chapter Notes:
RATED NC-17!!! Read the following warnings! Please do not read if you are underage. Warnings for: Explicit sex, adult content and language, character deaths, spoilers for seasons 6 and 7, angst, abuse. BEWARE: Some smut in later installments may contain sex with half-human/half-animal fairy tale characters! So if that squicks you in the least, do yourself a favor and don't read any further. Thank you :)

{A/N: Takes place during season 5 of BtVS after the episode 'Listening To Fear'. This story has a mix of silly and serious. Some things will make you giggle (I hope!) and others will make you cringe. Most of us have read the old fairy tales, and know how dark they could be.

This is an old-new story. I wrote some of it about 5 years ago, but left it unfinished because I wasn't sure if it was too different (and in parts, too kinky!). But, at CallMeKitten's urging, I took up the story again. I'm putting out the first part to see if ya'll are interested, so let me know if you want me to continue. I write at a snail's pace, so updates won't be speedy, but I intend on seeing this through 'til the end :) }

* Thanks to the lovely and talented DFL for beta'ing!
** Endless thanks and love to my homegirl CallMeKitten for her help, suggestions, and encouragement. I would not have even gone back to this old story idea if it weren't for her. Thank you, Kitten! *smoochies and lurve* I'd also like to thank Brett, Chantelly, and DFL for their support *more smoochies*
*** Thanks to Chantelly and Edgehead for the lovely banners!

Joss and ME own all.
Giles was on the phone about a shipping problem. "No, I told you that I ordered one crate of Eye of Newt, you sent me 10..." He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I'm positive. The mistake was yours." Pause. "Why would I order that many bloody newt eyes?" Pause. Giles groaned. "Yes... I'll hold."

Dawn bounced over to him holding four books, and placed them on the counter near the cash register. "Giles, Buffy's gonna be here to pick me up any minute, so can I take these books home to check out tonight?"

"Dawn, this isn't a library. I don't lend books."

She looked down and pouted. "Oh... okay."

Giles sighed and smiled a bit. She was too bloody adorable. "I won't lend them... but you may have them as a gift, if you'd like."

Dawn looked up again and grinned. "Really?!"

"Yes, they're yours."

"Oh, thank you, Giles!" Dawn ran behind the counter and gave him a bear hug.

Giles chuckled and patted her on the back. "You're welcome. You understand that this isn't going to be a common occurrence? I'd go bankrupt if I gave away merchandise all the time."

"I know. I promise I won't ever ask for anything for free again," Dawn made a crossing gesture over her heart.

"Hmmm, we'll see about that," he said with a skeptical smile. Then he held up his hand as the shipping company came back on the line. "Yes, I'm still here."

Dawn skipped back around the counter and picked up her new old books. She took them over to the table, and sat down to look through them. She couldn't wait to read about all the neat spells and pagan customs.

Giles was still talking into the phone, sounding more exasperated by the minute. "I have that in my office. Hold, please." He put his hand over the receiver and smiled. "Wish I could play Muzak while they're forced to wait. Dawn, would you mind the store for a minute while I'm in my office?"

"Sure, no problem!" She liked that she'd be in charge, even if she was the only person there. It still beat being treated like a helpless infant, aka the way everyone treated her. Well, everyone except Spike.

After Giles closed the door to the office behind him, Dawn was tempted to stand at the cash register to feel more officially in command. But the books in front of her demanded her attention; she had full view of the store from where she was sitting. She opened one that had caught her eye, it had seemed to actually call to her. It wasn't a book about magic or spells like the others she'd chosen, it was an old leather-bound book with elegant, gold cursive letters on the cover. It was a collection of fairy tales. There were beautifully drawn, lifelike pictures to go along with the stories. Dawn didn't know why this particular book had appealed to her, she just thought it was cool.

She did feel a little guilty as she turned the gilded pages, the book had to be crazy-expensive, and yet Giles was giving it to her. Maybe he didn't realize that this one was included in the ones she wanted to take home. Dawn tried not to be greedy and told herself that she'd ask Giles if it was okay when he came back out. Maybe her honesty would be rewarded by him saying it was still okay for her to take it.

Dawn frowned when she felt the table vibrating. 'Earthquake!' her mind screamed.

She jumped up from the table and ran to the doorway to the training room. But the floor wasn't shaking. Looking back at the table, she saw that it was the book of fairy tales that was vibrating. She walked slowly toward it, wondering what could be making it do that. It wasn't a magic book -- at least it wasn't supposed to be.

Dawn reached out to touch the book. A white mist rose out of the pages and hovered over the table, making her quickly retract her hand and jump back. As she stared at it with wide blue eyes, the mist took the shape of a large hand.

"Giles!" She finally found the power to speak. "Giles, there's --"

Dawn didn't have time to do more than squeak before the hand suddenly shot at her and grabbed her. The mist enveloped her completely, lifted her up off of the ground, and then swiftly withdrew back into the book, taking the frightened girl with it. The cover of the book slammed shut.

Giles poked his head out of the office and looked around the main room. "Dawn, did you call me? Dawn?"

Four hours later...

"Where the HELL is my sister!?" Buffy yelled, near panic.

Buffy had entered the shop a minute after Dawn disappeared. It didn't take long for her and Giles to become sick with worry when they couldn't find the lanky teen. The rest of the Scoobies had shown up since then, but no one had any luck in the search.

"Buffy, you mustn't panic," Giles said, fighting panic himself.

Buffy had been battling fear since she discovered Dawn was missing, it was getting harder not to give into the fear. "Mustn't panic? Glory could have her! What other explanation could there be? Dawn wouldn't just take off without all of her stuff."

Dawn's jacket and book bag, as well as the books Giles had given her, were still where she'd left them at the table.

"There would have been some noise if she were abducted," Giles reasoned. They had already gone over all of this earlier, they were just repeating themselves and moving in circles for lack of a proper trail to follow.

"You said that she called you. She could've been calling you for help."

"It was only a matter of seconds, Buffy. I don't see how anyone could have taken her by force in that short amount of time. They wouldn't have even gotten to the front door of the shop without me seeing something."

Buffy took a breath to steady her frayed nerves and rubbed her eyes. "What am I going to do? I have to find her. What am I going to tell my mom? She doesn't need any extra stress..."

Willow was preparing a spell in the training room. She could hear the pain in her friend's voice. "Buffy, the spell might be able to find her. Don't give up."

Spike came in the front entrance, making the bell above the door tinkle. Everyone looked at him expectantly.

He shook his head with a rueful expression. "Searched high and low... still no sign of the Bit, and no one's heard anything."

"Shit!" Buffy cursed. "How can no one know what happened to her?"

Spike shook his head again and looked down at his boots, shoving his hands into his coat pockets. He had come by the shop a few hours ago to see if there were any jobs the Scoobies had that would pay. But they informed him about Dawn being missing instead. Spike immediately volunteered to help, which caused all of them to raise their eyebrows. He didn't like feeling this way -- actually worried about someone, especially one of them. But Dawn was different than the others, she'd shown him kindness and even treated him like, dare he think it, a friend. She was a sweet girl and he'd taken a shine to her, despite his best efforts not to get attached. It made his guts twist into knots to think that some mangy demon (or Glory) had taken Dawn against her will, and that they might be doing unspeakable things to her as he and Buffy's friends searched impotently.

"Okay..." Buffy said, trying to regroup. "How's that spell coming, Willow?"

Willow looked up as she sprinkled sea salt on the floor to form the sacred Circle. "We'll be ready to go in a few minutes. Right, Tara?"

"R-Right. We'll find her, Buffy." Tara nodded from her seat at the table. She was going over the location spell one more time to make sure they had everything they needed.

Buffy smiled gratefully at the blonde witch for a moment, then went back to wringing her hands with worry.

Minutes later, the Scoobies were standing in the training room, gathered outside of the Circle. Willow and Tara were inside of the Circle casting the location spell with a map of the city spread out in front of them. They used Dawn's hairbrush that they'd found in her book bag as the personal item to focus on.

Willow and Tara incanted:

"Goddess Hecate, distant one,

Ruler of night,

Aid us in finding your lost daughter

Who has been taken from our sight

Lead us to her, make her location glow bright"

A spot of light appeared on the map.

"Where is it?" Buffy asked impatiently. "Where does it say Dawn is?"

Willow's red brows furrowed. "It's... here, the Magic Box."

Buffy's shoulders slumped. The spell was the last thing she could think of to find her sister, and it had failed. "We know she's not here. We've gone over every inch of the building dozens of times."

Spike felt a sort of tickle on the back of his neck, causing him to look back into the main room. He didn't know what was going on (if anything) but something was drawing his attention. He'd always been sensitive around magick, being able to sense when mojo was being worked near him, but he'd written off the odd feeling because Willow and Tara were working on a spell. But now he wasn't so sure.

"Did Dawn try doing any spells when she was here?" Spike asked.

Giles shook his head. "No, though she was reading about them. It's not possible that she could have had time to perform a spell in the time I was in the office."

Spike followed the pull on his senses out into the central room. "Uh, think I found something," he called over his shoulder.

Buffy came running out. "You found her?! Where..."

One of the books on the table was glowing.

Buffy joined Spike in staring at the glowing book.

"What the hell...?"

The Scoobies were assembled around the table trying to figure out what this meant, and what their next action should be.

Willow did a Divining spell using one of the divining rods that the shop had in stock. It was a thin branch of a willow tree, ironically. The divining rod virtually flew to the large book of fairy tales.

"Dawn has to be inside of the book," Willow said.

"How can she be inside of it?" Buffy asked. "Maybe she got like... microscopic somehow?"

"Like, 'Honey, I Shrunk The Bit?'" Spike shook his head. "No, Willow's right I think. Why would the whole bloody book, pages and all, be glowin' if a very small Dawn was just perched on top of it?"

Willow nodded and bit her lower lip. "If Dawn were tiny, there would be just a tiny dot of light. We should open the book and see..."

"We don't know if the same thing would happen to us if we touch or open it," Giles cautioned.

Xander spoke up, "Make Spike do it."

Spike shot him a flinty glare and growled quietly. "Sod off."

Willow said, "If I had to speculate right now, I'd say that some kind of strange magick might have... sort of sucked her into the book."

"The book sucked her into it..." Buffy turned her head to look at her mentor, "Giles, why do you have books that suck?"

"I didn't know it sucked! I-I mean, I had no idea that the book possessed any magick or power whatsoever. I never would have had it out here for the public to touch if I'd known."

"Oh, brilliant. Nice goin', Rupert," Spike said mockingly.

"Shut up, Spike!" Buffy snapped at him. She was kind of pissed at Giles too for not being his usual thorough self, but she wasn't about to let Spike, of all people, criticize him or make him feel guiltier.

"Hey, I'm here trying to help -- and without any monetary compensation, I might add. I'm not the one who gave your little sis a book to play with that sucks people into it."

Buffy narrowed her eyes at him. "Shut up, or I'll shut you up." She reined in her anger and frustration, and then sighed. "I wish Riley was here..." It would be nice to have strong arms around her and a solid chest to rest her head on; Buffy needed a big hug. Riley had gone to visit his parents a few days ago, so she was left without those strong arms and solid chest to lean on.

"Why? There's not enough people taking up space in here?" Spike asked. "Why don't we get a cardboard cutout and prop it up against a display case? It'll be just like the real thing -- better, in fact."

Buffy whirled on him. "Oh, shut up, Spike! My god! Can't you be quiet?! I'm sick of your shit!"

Spike's nostrils flared in anger. He was about to say 'sod it' and leave... but he really did want to help get Dawn back. "Think I'll step outside for a smoke. Too bloody stuffy in this room."

He stalked to the front door, opening and closing it more roughly than necessary. Would it kill the bitch to show one iota of gratitude to him for helping? Just because he dared to question the all-powerful, all-knowing Giles, she'd been ready to bite his head off. Well, he'd also insulted her extraordinarily lame boyfriend... she didn't appear to care for that either.

Spike was leaning against the brick wall of the shop and enjoying a smoke when Anya strolled up to him. "Where you been?" he asked curiously.

"Nice to see you too, Spike. Didn't Xander tell you that I take a course at the community college?"

"Let me guess... something to do with making more money?" He smiled slightly and blew out a hit.

Anya smiled cheerfully. "Yes, it does! It's a business course."

"Well, good luck with that then," he said, tossing his spent cigarette to the ground and grinding it under his boot.

"Thank you. What are you doing out here? Did Buffy kick you out?"

Spike sniffed and squared his shoulders. "No, Bitchy didn't kick me out. Was my decision."

Anya rolled her eyes. "Yeah, sure it was."

Spike decided not to get into an endless 'Yes, it was/No, it wasn't' argument. "Want me to bring you up to speed on the latest shit to hit the fan?"

"Oh, no... there's shit?"

"Isn't there always?" Spike asked with a sigh.

Anya and Spike entered the shop together.

Spike said, "Anya's got an idea about what's goin' on."

The others were instantly interested.

Anya gave Xander a kiss hello. "Spike told me about what happened with Dawn and the book. It sounds like an Unari thing to me." She went to the book and reached out to examine it.

Giles said, "Anya, be careful! We don't know if it will suck -- and let's find a better term for that, shall we? -- if it will suck you in as well."

Anya touched the book with an index finger, not looking concerned. "I don't think anyone else will get sucked. Yep, it's Unari. I didn't know you had one of these, Giles."

"Unari... are you certain?"

"Yes, I've seen one or two in my time." Anya opened up the book.

"Why didn't you say that you knew what it was before?"

"I've never seen it before. Inventory is your job, Giles. I handle sales."

Spike crossed his arms. "Maybe an inter-office memo or newsletter might help bridge these annoying communication gaps."

Giles ran a hand back through his hair, and muttered, "I... didn't know it was an Unari book..." He was supposed to be the brains of the outfit, and he'd fallen far short this time. Hopefully his lapse wouldn't end tragically for Dawn... he wouldn't be able to forgive himself.

Buffy, wanting to move things along, said, "What's an Unari book, what does it do, and how do I get my sister out of it?"

Anya explained, "There's an order of demon-witches, called the Unari, who are very talented and efficient at creating different realities or dimensions. They're also big on fairy tales. They made hundreds of these books. And they really did a great job -- just look at this binding."

"Yeah, it's real nice. Why do they make books that suck people into them?" Buffy was trying to be patient. "Something besides the simple answer, 'They're evil and crazy', would be helpful."

Giles was content to let Anya answer the questions. He needed a little time to get over his embarrassment.

Xander was still concerned about Dawn, but couldn't help but smile proudly at his girlfriend. Anya was smart as well as sexy, a terrific combo.

Anya turned pages as she talked, "The books were created for a few different reasons. One was their love of quests -- you know, the band of warriors striving toward the same goal. Originally, the Unari began enchanting books as holding dimensions for those they felt needed to be imprisoned or punished in some way. But then they began using them to test bravery, cunning and strength."

“Why did Dawn get sucked..." At Giles' sigh, Buffy used a different word, "Why did she get drawn into the book?”

Anya thought for a moment. “I can’t say for sure. But I think it could have something to do with her... nature.”

“You mean... the Key thing.” Buffy was afraid it had something to do with that.

Anya nodded. “She must have accidentally triggered a portal open, and it drew her in. That‘s what I think anyway.”

“Yes... that sounds plausible to me as well,” Giles had to agree. He strived to be gracious, “Nicely done, Anya.”

She grinned at him. “Thank you, Giles! I’m just happy I can help.”

"So,” Buffy wondered, “we have a good theory about why she got pulled in. Now all we need is a way to get her back out. Any ideas?”

Giles suppressed a grumble when Anya answered again, "From the accounts I've heard, whoever goes into the book has to quest; they have to look for a portal to take them to the next part or story. And there might be additional quests/tests along the way that you have to finish in order for the next portal to activate."

"Dawn's being subjected to tests?" Buffy said worriedly. She hung her head back and sighed. "Great... my little sister is being tested in some weird dimension, I have to search it for her, and I don't know what I'm going to tell my mom without scaring the crap out of her."

"Look at it this way, Slayer, it can't get any worse," Spike said.

Riley came into the shop, smiling broadly. "Hi, everybody, I'm back!"

Spike closed his eyes, "Bloody hell... I was wrong." He knew he shouldn't have said that, he'd jinxed himself. He watched mutely as Buffy flung herself into the ponce's arms.

Buffy had reluctantly called home to tell her mother about Dawn. But she'd gotten lucky (sort of) when Joyce said she was very tired and was going to bed before the girls got home. That gave Buffy a grain of hope that she might be able to get Dawn back, safe and sound, before Joyce woke up in the morning. Buffy made something up about how Dawn was helping Giles with new inventory and wanted to stay until it was finished. She felt bad for lying, but it was better than upsetting her mom. Joyce bought that explanation, and said it was okay for Dawn to stay out late since it was the weekend. She also said to say hello to the others and to give Dawn a kiss goodnight from her.

Anya was sharing everything she knew about the Unari, with Giles tossing in his own knowledge whenever Anya took too long to answer. Buffy wanted to know how to find one of them so they could find out how to get her sister back. But the Unari had gone off the radar, becoming reclusive around the 1960s; not many people had interactions with them, much less knew where to find them. They were powerful, and of course a bit nutty. Their main talent was the ability to create and shape new dimensions, but they were also telepathic. They were fond of using books as portals into the alternate dimensions, such as the one Dawn was looking at when she disappeared.

Anya informed them that she'd heard that all Unari inter-dimensional books had been "locked" around the time the demon-witches became recluses. Dawn shouldn't have been sucked into it, it should have been just a lovely old book with no power. It had to be Dawn's 'uniqueness' that made it possible. But it should be possible to do a spell to activate the book again, to create another portal for someone to go in and bring Dawn back.

"We don't know what's happening to her..." Buffy said, trying to keep her voice from breaking. "She could be suffering."

Willow was looking through the pictures in the book, and stopped at one that caught her eye. "Um, this looks exactly like Dawn... or am I hallucinating?"

The others came over and looked at the picture. It was Dawn, without a doubt. She was smiling brightly, not looking distressed in the least, and she was dressed like a princess in a pink ball gown and diamond-studded tiara. Precious jewels were dripping from her neck and fingers. She was standing at the top of a red-carpeted grand staircase, in mid wave to people below. The gold lettering under the picture read: Her Royal Highness attending the ball.

"Dawn's a princess and literally having a ball." Buffy let herself feel a measure of relief that her sister wasn't being tortured or hurt. "Can we trust this to show what's really happening? Maybe it's just bullshit."

"No," Giles said, "they wouldn't lie about what happens in their books. I believe it's a true representation of what's happening to her; Dawn truly is being treated like a princess."

"How did she get to be a princess?" Buffy asked.

Anya took over again, "She would have had to complete a quest or quests, moving through stories by finding a portal to the next one. She got lucky somehow, or she did a great job on the quests, and ended up a princess."

Willow skimmed the text next to the drawing of Dawn. "It's not part of any established story, as far as I can tell. There are blank pages before and after. What little text there is says that Princess Dawn is one of the prettiest girls in the kingdom, and that she hopes to find a handsome prince-to-be to call her own at the ball."

"Oh God, she'd better not get frickin' married in that story!" Buffy groaned.

"It also says that the ball is actually being thrown for her brother to pick a bride from amongst the many lovely women that came from all over the realm to attend in hopes of becoming his future queen."

"Brother?" Buffy frowned. "What brother?"

"Um..." Willow read more carefully. "It just identifies him as 'Prince Charming'. For what it's worth, Buffy, it doesn't sound like Dawn's in any danger. If she's a princess, she'll be protected from harm."

"Well... I don't care how great a time she might be having, I need to get in there and bring her home." Buffy felt a passing stab of guilt at wanting to disrupt a wonderful fantasy for her sister. Buffy wouldn't mind being able to crawl into a book and be a princess instead of having to deal with the messiness of her real life either. "How can we activate the book for me to go in?"

"It's a quest-based thing," Anya pointed out. "Two people have to go, one won't be allowed."

"I'll go," Spike said immediately.

They looked at him.

"We're not giving you money, Spike," Giles said, thinking that would dissuade him.

"Don't recall asking for any, Rupert. I happen to like Dawn and wouldn't mind helping bring her back," Spike said seriously.

Buffy had to stop and collect her thoughts. It was strange for Spike to care about anything or anyone other than himself, and it touched her that he cared about her sister. She thought Spike had never looked more handsome or gallant as he did at this moment. A small smile turned up on her lips as she and Spike looked at each other.

Riley took Buffy's small hand in his, wanting to show support for his girlfriend. But he mostly didn't like the way that the Slayer and Vampire were looking at each other. They were sort of... gazing across the room into each other's eyes. "I'll go with you, Buffy," Riley offered, squeezing her hand to make her pay attention to him.

Buffy turned her eyes away from Spike's, and up to Riley's. She smiled wider. "Are you sure? It could be dangerous."

Riley grinned. "I'm sure, honey. I'd be happy to help."

"Thanks, Riley. It would make things so much better if you came with me."

The other Scoobies were all happy and congratulatory, saying what a good idea it was for Riley to go with Buffy.

Spike's jaw tensed. He narrowed his eyes at the wholesome twosome, they made him want to heave. As far as he was concerned, the Slayer and her buddies could go spin. He'd made a no-strings attached offer to bring back the fair Dawn, and they'd rejected him -- fuck them then. Riley couldn't hope to measure up to Spike in any way, shape or form. Buffy would find that out when she needed a powerful right-hand and all she had was an ex-soldier boy with a completely valid insecurity complex.

"But Dawn went in by herself, so why wouldn't I be able to?" Buffy asked, looking to Anya.

"I think what happened with Dawn was a fluke," Anya speculated. "Besides, I think you'll have a better chance of getting quickly through it if you have a partner."

They all had to agree with that.

Buffy felt a head-splitting headache coming on strong. "Here's one of the many things I'm still confused about: Dawn just went into the book hours ago... She went through and passed all their tests already?"

"I'm pretty sure time flows differently in the other dimension. What might feel like months to people in the Unari dimension, might just be hours in real world time. That worked out well when the Unari were using the books as prisons. Someone could serve a lengthy sentence and come back out into the real world not long after they left, ready to be a productive member of their society again."

"So there's a chance that I can get Dawn back before my mom knows anything was wrong?" Buffy asked hopefully.

Anya nodded hesitantly, "I think it's possible."

"Good, I'll hold onto that grain of hope. But, on the off-chance that I don't get back before morning, I'll need you guys to try explaining it to my mother in a way that won't freak her out... too much." Unfortunately, some freaking out would be inevitable.

"I'll talk to Joyce if it becomes necessary," Giles assured her.

"Thanks, Giles." She fervently hoped that it wouldn't become necessary. "Will we run into these Unari people in the wacky dimension?"

Anya answered, "I don't know, maybe. I know that they did enjoy observing the subjects and interacting in the fantasy realm."

"What do they look like?"

"Unari are human-like in appearance, except their eyes are red. But they could appear as whoever or whatever they want in their alternate dimensions."

"Oh, that's helpful," Buffy said wryly.

Anya shrugged, "Sorry, that's the best I got."

Buffy sighed. "I'm sorry, Anya, I don't mean to sound grumpy or ungrateful. You've been great with the info giving."

"I understand, Buffy. You're just worried about Dawn."

The two women smiled at each other.

"You said we'll be looking for portals to move from one part to another. What will they look like?"

"They'll most likely manifest themselves as oval-shaped, swirling vortices, perhaps 2 meters in diameter," Giles said quickly before Anya could answer and beat him to it.

Buffy wasn't sure how much 2 meters were in feet, but figured that should be big enough for them to spot.

"I've heard that the portals are bluish in color, and that they give off a sort of energy so you know when one's nearby, like the hairs on your arms and the back of your neck standing up," Anya added. "Odds are that you'll have to complete a quest or action correctly for the next portal to open. And in case you aren't sure, 2 meters equals approximately 5-6 feet."

"Thanks, Anya," Buffy said with a little chuckle. "I know what to look for now."

Giles was happy that Buffy was getting as much information as possible, but it irked him that Anya had trumped him again -- she'd whooped his ass good in the knowledge department today, and his ego was stinging a bit. "Yes, thank you, Anya," he said with a smile, but clenching his teeth.

Xander gave Anya another hug, smiling a dopey smile. "Smartest -- girlfriend -- ever. Better watch your back, G-man," Xander joked. "She might be gunning for your job!"

The others laughed.

"Ha-ha, yes... very droll," Giles chuckled.

He thought, 'Bloody ingrates... I make one error and they're pissing themselves over Anya?' He was surprised to see that Spike was smirking at him, as if he could see through the jovial façade. For all of his faults (of which there were many) Spike was a very intuitive person... Maybe it wasn't such a bad idea for him to be Buffy's companion on the journey, after all.

"Buffy, I think it might be beneficial to have Spike with you," Giles said, surprising everyone, especially Buffy and Spike.

Riley butted his big moon-head in, "No, it's okay, Giles. I'm going. Buffy won't have to be stuck with... him." He smiled smugly at the blonde Vampire.

Spike cracked his neck to the side and smiled as if he were fine with all of it. "Suits me. It's the Slayer's funeral. Well, hers and Dawn's. But it's no skin off my ass, so carry on."

"What makes you think I won't be able to help?" Riley asked, irritated.

Spike replied dryly, "Because I've met you. You're even more of a big-fat deadly-dull dud since you lost your super-soldier skills. But you do follow orders well, so you have that goin' for you. Can't think for yourself, but --"

"Shut up!" Buffy interrupted. "Just... shut up." She was confused now. First she was ready to accept Spike's offer, then she was relieved when her boyfriend volunteered, and now she was back to thinking that maybe Spike was the best choice... even Giles seemed to think so. But it would break Riley's heart if she chose Spike over him for anything. It... would be okay with Riley, he was... He could... He had a good heart, and he did follow orders well. "I'm perfectly happy with Riley," Buffy said, giving his hand a squeeze and smiling up at him.

Riley squeezed back and grinned. "Hey, maybe we'll end up a King and Queen in the story!"

"You're more likely to end up a court jester with bells on your shoes." Spike smirked, pretending it didn't turn his stomach to see them look all googly-eyed at each other.

Everything was in readiness for the portal to be opened.

Willow dropped the last spell component into a bowl, and the book began to vibrate. A stream of energy shot from the book to a spot in the middle of the shop, and expanded into a portal like the one Giles and Anya had described. It was a large, blue, swirling vortex, about 5 feet wide.

Buffy and Riley stood in front of the blue and white whirling portal. She looked at him, "Ready?"

Riley nodded.

Just as they were about to step into it, a white wispy tendril came out of the vortex and hung in the air between them. No one moved. They stared at the white mist nervously.

Buffy said, "Uh, should we be doing something?"

In a flash, the white mist took the form of a hand and shot out past Buffy and Riley to Spike. He had time to widen his eyes before it enveloped him.

Then, in the blink of an eye, it was Spike standing next to Buffy in front of the portal, and Riley was now standing where Spike had been a moment ago.

"What's going --" Buffy began, looking from Spike to Riley.

But her sentence was cut off when the big white hand gave her and Spike a swat from behind, sending them hopping straight into the portal.

Once they disappeared, the white hand zipped back into the vortex, blending with the blue swirls again. And then the portal winked closed with a *whoosh!*.

The Scoobies blinked and looked anxiously at each other.

"What the hell happened!?" Riley whined. "I was supposed to go with Buffy! Spike did something! I know it has to be his fault!"

Chapter End Notes:
Be sure to let me know if ya like it so I can decide whether to continue or not :)

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