Buffy frowned as she examined the factory from the shadows. She had tracked Angel here from the mansion, and couldn’t think of a single good reason why he would be at the old factory. It was all burned, threatening to fall down at any moment. There was nothing left, no reason why Angel should be there.
No reason that I know of, anyway. But then, when has Angel been one to share? With a shrug, Buffy strolled toward the factory, her hand resting lightly on the stake in a new leather stake-holster. Giles had made it for her, adapting a dagger sheath for the purpose. She loved it; it was better than shoving the stake into her waistband and getting poked in the back every time she took a step.
“Angel?” she called, pushing open the huge steel door, which promptly fell off its hinges. The resulting crash ruined any thought she might have entertained about stealthiness.
Oh, well. If Angel’s here, it’s not like there’s anything to hide from.
She still didn’t see him, though. “Angel?” she called again.
“Buffy.” Angel appeared from a shadowy room. He was shirtless, and Buffy took a minute to drool. “Is something wrong?”
“No, I was just looking at . . . uh, for you.”
Angel smiled. “See anything you like?”
“Yeah. I mean, what?” Buffy frowned. That didn’t sound at all like Angel. The last time Angel hadn’t sounded like Angel it had ended badly. “Are you okay?”
“Fine.” Angel went back into the other room. Buffy followed him cautiously. He picked his shirt up from a conveyer belt and shrugged it on.
“Are you sure? I mean, you seem a little. . . .”
“A little what?” Angel turned to face her as he buttoned his shirt, looking up at her with that puppy-dog look that always made her knees go watery. Or, usually made her knees go watery.
“A little whiny,” said a new voice, a female voice. “God, Angelus, are you going to kill her or simper at her all night?”
Buffy whirled, cursing herself for letting Angel distract her from her usual situational awareness. She stumbled back a step as a familiar figure stepped out of the shadows.
“Darla,” she gasped.
“Hello, Buffy,” Darla said. “Long time no see.” Her arch smile and sassy pose looked slightly out of place in the burnt-out factory, especially since she was wrapped in a black silk bathrobe.
That’s one of Angel’s.
Buffy turned back to look at Angel, who was wearing a familiar smirk. “Angel?” she quavered, hoping against hope that she was wrong. The smirk broadened to an even more familiar, evil smile. “But we didn’t . . . you didn’t . . . there wasn’t any. . . .”
“Not everything’s about you, Slayer,” Angelus replied. “This definitely isn’t.”
He and Darla moved together, Darla’s hand sneaking up to rest on Angelus’ chest.
“But . . . what, then?”
“Oh, yes, let’s tell her all about the plan, so that way she can counter it at the last second.” Darla was too ladylike to snort, but her smile conveyed the same idea. She turned to look up at Angelus. “I’m hungry.”
Buffy didn’t wait for one or both of them to attack her. She took off, back out of the factory and into the alley nearby. The sun was just peeking above the mountains, sending rays through the spaces between buildings. Buffy paused in the alley to catch her breath, watching the factory door to make sure neither of the vampires tried to come after her.
“Oh, bugger,” growled yet another familiar voice from a nearby patch of shade.
“Spike?” Buffy drew her stake from its sheath. “What are you doing?”
“Getting home too sodding late, that’s what.” Spike sighed. “Or, as much of a home as I’ve got anymore.”
“You’re staying in the factory?”
“Yeah. I mean, no.” Spike glared at her. “I won’t have you running me out of yet another hidey-hole.”
“Did you know about this?”
Spike arched an eyebrow at her. “About what?”
“Angel . . . us. And Darla.”
“Darla? She’s dead, ain’t she?”
“Not anymore, apparently. And Angelus is back, too.”
Spike looked disgusted. “Did you and he get naked again?”
“No!” Buffy threw her hands in the air. “I don’t know what happened or why I’m trying to defend myself to you or explain anything!”
Spike leaned forward to look out of the alley, where the sun was making the shadows deeper. He sighed. “Well, I’m stuck here for awhile, anyway. Why don’t you explain it to me, luv?”
“I told you everything I know.” Buffy sheathed her stake and shook her jacket down over it. “I guess I’ll go ask Giles.”
“Or I can help.”
Buffy’s eyes narrowed. “Help what?”
“You. And the . . . investigation.” Spike waved a black-nailed hand in her general direction. “They might tell me stuff. You never know.”
Buffy could feel her face squinch up further. “Why are you offering to help me?”
“I helped last time your boy got all evil, didn’t I?”
“Sure. You . . . grabbed Dru and bailed and left me for dead.”
“And look how well that worked out.” Spike leaned back against the alley wall. “If Darla’s back, things are going to be much worse than just . . . ending the world.”
“Worse than ending the world?” Buffy raised her eyebrows at him.
“Damn right. When Darla’s around, Angelus doesn’t do the thinking. She does. And she’s much more conniving and evil than he could ever be. Trust me. I used to run with them. She won’t want to end the world. She’ll want something much worse.” Spike lit a cigarette, his cheeks pulling in as he inhaled. Buffy wrinkled her nose and took a step away from him. Spike just rolled his eyes at her.
“But you like mayhem,” Buffy said. “Why would you want to stop it?”
The corner of Spike’s mouth twitched up. “Because I hate Angelus, that’s why. And Darla, for that matter, though not as much. They ruined my life. Or un-life. Always cramping my style. Getting between me an’ Dru. I like him much better when he’s Angel, as whiny as he is, and her much better when she’s dead.”
“How do I know I can trust you?”
Spike pondered this for a minute, taking a long draw on his cigarette. “Guess you don’t, do you?”
Buffy sighed and studied the ground for a moment. The ground was dirty. Trash and cigarette butts and . . . ew. She didn’t want to know what that was.
“Fine,” she said. “See what you can find out. You know where to find me.”
“That I do, luv.” Spike’s smile was predatory. It faded as he checked out the sun again. “Bloody hell. I do not want to spend the day in a dumpster or something.”
“Cardboard box.” Buffy pointed. “Can’t you, like, hold it over your head and make a run for it or something?”
“Not a bad idea.” Spike took another drag on his cigarette. “I might just do that if this alley gets too toasty.”
“Glad I could help.” Buffy’s tone bordered on sarcastic. “I’d better go see Giles. Come see me if you have anything useful to add.” She sounded as if she didn’t believe that was possible.
“Yeah, yeah.” Spike barely acknowledged her, being too busy watching the sun progress across the sky. Buffy rolled her eyes and headed home, not noticing Spike’s attention shift to her as she strode away.