Spike heard their voices long before he realized they were really there. He often imagined either of them – not at the same time, normally, but it wasn’t beyond his imagination’s sense of humor to have Angel and Buffy talking, just off the periphery of understanding, sounding normal, like they were trading gibes on their way to fight some baddie du jour. An easy intimacy, camaraderie, just to haunt him. Yes, his imagination would do that.
He couldn’t see, of course… not anything beyond the play of shadows on his knees, the blue velvet cushion he’d been given to kneel on for display, and the white edge of the pedestal. Below he could see mauve carpeting, worked with chains of roses. It was a pleasant view, and he wasn’t injured, and the metal cuffs that held him in place were lined in soft fur, to keep from marking him. He should be content, but the thought, the traitorous lie, that he heard HER, made his neck stiffen.
Mustn’t look up. Slaves’ eyes belonged down. And smell was denied him by the cloying sweet oil they had spread over his skin for the auction: Jasmine and Myrrh.
Her voice first – women’s voices carry farther. “…since I was fifteen, I don’t need my ex-boyfriend to protect me. … Well, what if he isn’t? Cordelia isn’t exactly an unimpeachable news source.”
“I told you she has a link to the powers that be.” His grumble was close enough now to be heard. “And it wasn’t Cordy who told me.”
No, they couldn’t be there, not really. His mind was slipping away again. He fought the urge to look up. He concentrated on his breathing. Steady, steady.
“Oh my god!”
And at that clarion, Spike did what he hadn’t for years – he looked up.
Buffy, no older than he’d left her! Beautiful. Hair a little longer, maybe. She was wearing her black skirt and the beige turtle-neck. Angel stood at her elbow, pole-axed, staring back at him.
Spike returned his eyes to his knees, but his breathing was very fast now, almost hyper-ventilating. He caught snippets of their scents over the resinous perfume oil.
“Spike?” Buffy whispered. She was close enough now he knew the darker shadow that fell against his left knee was her head, the wisps of hair ghosting out in lighter grey. A shiver started at the base of his spine and threatened to shake him apart.
A hand touched his right arm where it lay pulled taut against his back. “We’re going to get you out of here,” Angel said. “What can you tell us about the security? Is there a back way?”
Spike felt his breath passing quickly in and out of his open throat, sticky with scent. “Can’t,” he said.
“Can’t?” Buffy touched his face. She made him look at her, hand soft but firm on his jaw. “Can’t what? Can’t talk? Are you being watched?”
“Hello! I see you’re interested in our vampire. Quite a specimen, isn’t he?”
The salesman, with a voice like salesmen throughout time, cajoling and false, strode over. His shadow mixed with Angel’s and Buffy’s, almost darkening Spike’s knees completely. Buffy let her warm, soft fingertips fall from his face.
“Yes, we’re interested. Oh boy, am I interested.”
“The skin is so soft, isn’t it? A lucky find in a male. Though of course, it’s that beautiful face that makes him so valuable.” The salesman’s hands were cold and rubbery. He cupped Spike’s chin and made him raise his head again. Spike was careful not to focus his gaze anywhere. The showroom lights swam under tears.
“How valuable is valuable?”
“Bidding on this particular lot will start at two hundred thousand.”
“It would be a steal if he goes for so little. He is truly one-of-a-kind. There is a brochure, if you’re interested?”
There was a brief sound of struggle. As Spike’s head was released he caught a glimpse of Angel’s hand, restraining on Buffy’s bicep. “Thank you. My wife and I will be sure to attend the bidding.”
Wife? Spike risked a glance under his lashes. Buffy hit Angel in the ribs with her elbow, an incidental little shove that wouldn’t have hurt from a non-slayer. Angel covered his pain with dignity. She looked so much the way he remembered. Perfectly as he remembered. Her blonde hair curled out just a little as it brushed her shoulders. It looked like the haircut she’d gotten just after her birthday. How could she look exactly as she had so many years ago?
But Angel and Buffy were walking away, arguing with each other under their breath, elbows poking back and forth, and the salesman placed a flat hand on Spike’s lower back, just over the kidneys. “Friends of yours?”
Spike didn’t want to answer, but of course the words slipped out, “Yes, master.”
The flat hand patted him. “Don’t worry. Security will keep an eye on them but won’t hurt them. They should be motivated bidders.”
The salesman walked away, leaving Spike with a hard knot of hope in his chest, alien and unwanted as poison. He closed his eyes, tried to steady his breathing, and think of nothing. Nothing at all.
But maybe, just maybe, it was over, at last.
Three Weeks Earlier
It started on what had been a pretty good day. He could still feel a little tenderness, on his cheek, if he pressed hard. Evidence that Buffy really did love him, that. The bruises were fading, though, he knew they had to be mostly gone – no one had commented at the birthday party.
But he’d seen Buffy off to work after patrol and a nice shag. She’d cut her hair short, but he was pretending not to mind. Was her business if she wanted to do that. He’d snookered a couple frat boys out of a c-note, and wasn’t that going to keep him in fags and booze for a while? He was on his way to the all-night convenience store to break the note and stock up, and, if luck held out, he might even be able to slip a twenty to Dawn on the sly. And when that “Doctor” bloke paid up on his storage services, there’d be cake and Gucci handbags all around from magnanimous old Spike. Even the slayer couldn’t turn that down.
Yup, his luck was on the up, completely. So he should have known it was about to take a hard turn south, considering his usual luck. But no, he was out on a clear night with a spring in his step, fingering a cheek bruise and practically whistling.
So he didn’t notice the blokes following him down the alley shortcut until four guys stepped into the opening on the other side, blocking him in. Whistle died, his hands dropped to his sides, and he scowled. Heartbeats, all of them. He tilted his head back, just to let them know he knew they were behind him. “You lot look lost. The sorority houses are that way.”
“Hello, Seventeen.” One of the men in front stepped forward. Clean-cut, military-type, broad in the shoulders and thick in the neck.
Spike tilted his head back. “Hello, random Initiative fuck-head. I’d call you a number if you were important enough to assign one. Didn’t you boyscouts pull up camp and bugger off to blow Uncle Sam’s dick somewhere else?”
The soldiers – if soldiers were what they were – carefully surrounded him as he spoke. Spike shifted slightly, keeping as many of them in sight as possible. He was buggered sideways if they left an obvious opening, though. Weaknesses? One of the soldiers had a bored look on his face, not quite paying attention. Right, that was the one he’d go for.
“This is what I like about you, Seventeen. You sure make it easy.” The lead soldier nodded to his left.
That was it. They jumped on him. Spike dove for Mr. Weak Link. The chip fired almost immediately – some bastard got in his way, he stumbled, hand touching the gritty concrete as he tried to get going, the end of the alleyway shone bright and welcoming. Someone landed on him with a grunt, thick arms wrapping around his neck, squeezing hard. He was crawling now, another body joined the first, pushing him down. He carried them. Whoever it was wouldn’t operate in the open, in the glare of Sunnydale’s shopping district.
He was kicked and punched, but he ignored it. Just concentrated on moving forward. Even as his arms were grabbed, as the chip fired again, as his face was pressed to the ground under a knee and metal closed, biting hard against his wrists.
“Damnit, Rockwell! This would be a hell of a lot easier if we tasered him.”
“Yeah, and we’ll have the money for a taser when we turn this fucker over. Catch-22, isn’t it? Now come on, before Sunnydale’s finest mistake this for a kidnapping.”
They ground his head into the pavement some more as they twisted his arms, pinning them up high between his shoulder blades. They pulled him up to wrap a collar around his throat. “The slayer will get you for this,” Spike growled.
They laughed. He knew they would. But he held his head up as they frog-marched him out of the alleyway. Buffy might not love him, but she cared, he knew she did. He was a part of the team. Even old Rupert might care. Maybe. A little.
They dragged him into the back of a van. He felt the engine roar and the tires peel away even as he fell onto his face on the corrugated metal floor.
“Bastards. Cum-guzzling lip-dick…” Spike growled as he was pulled by his hair, back arching against someone’s knee.
“Does this give you jollies? Beating someone who can’t fight back? Hope your pride feels as small and shriveled as your…”
A punch right between the eyes halted him and a rubber bit-gag was shoved into his teeth.
There went his last weapon. He thrashed his head – and hit someone. Whoever invented the chip could not possibly die a slow and agonizing enough death to make up for being blinded by pain while just trying to get free.
Rough hands held him down, pushed him this way and that as additional bonds were fastened. At last he was left, panting for breath around the nasty-tasting rubber and conveying all the curses he would rather have shouted through pure glare.
“So this is the guy? The vampire with the anti-violence thing in its brain?”
“It just works against humans, a pain-chip. So, you know, if you want him to beat up other vampires for the fun of it, you can.”
Three men, out of the twelve that jumped him, were still there. Jeans and black shirts. One smelled strongly of motor oil. Spike looked long and hard at each of them, letting them know their features would be remembered and vengeance taken. Two new people, one an older man, banker-type in a beige suit.
One of the soldiers put his boot on Spike’s back. “Why didn’t they put that in a girl vampire?”
“Pfft. I know, right? Well, the boss of the base was a woman.”
Knowing snickers. Spike rolled his eyes.
“Well, good news is, the guy I contacted is all excited about this. He wouldn’t care if we brought him someone as ugly as you. Takes all kinds.”
“Just make sure we get enough to split. I had to hire twelve guys to take him down.”
“Rockwell, you’re a wuss. It shouldn’t take two guys with that chip in his head!”
The man in the suit lowered himself, slowly, ponderously, with a groan and a hand to support his weight on one thigh. He peered at Spike’s face. “Sure doesn’t look worth it. But one of a kind. Shit. You’ll get your money.”
And you’ll get your head ripped off, Spike thought. You too, Rockwell. He fixed the man whose name he knew with an especially long stare. Rockwell smirked back at him. “Isn’t that cute, how pissed he looks?”
“Speaking of piss, how long until LA, man? My back teeth are floating.”
Beige-suit frowned. “Knock it out,” he said.
“Hey, I didn’t exactly have time before the rendezvous.”
“No, you idiot. Knock the vampire out. He’s listening to us, and should the little punk get free, he now knows which way we’re heading.”
There was a fumbling and “Oh.” Spike just had time to hear Suit mutter, “Idiots,” once more before the sap hit his head.
L.A. hit his senses like smelling salts. He blinked and shook his head, filling his nostrils with petrol, concrete and urban decay. The pavement under his knees was still warm from the sun. A man pulled him up by his hair and frowned over his face. “It’s bruised.”
“Any client other than your first would get him like that anyway.” Beige Suit was there, still in beige, but it looked like a different jacket. “Anyway the damage is incidental. Do you have interested buyers or don’t you?”
“Heh.” The new man smelled of cigars – the cheap kind. His thumb dragged along Spike’s cheekbone, digging into the bruise. “It’s easier to find folks in LA willing to fuck for money than people willing to pay to fuck. You know that, right?”
“Did you or did you not do your job?”
“Yeah, I got ‘em lined up. Keep your man-bra on. Special interests, those aren’t hard to find. Those sick bastards are always hungry.” He smiled, hungrily, and rubbed Spike’s cheek again.
Spike tossed his head to get free of the man’s grip.
Suit and the new man exchanged papers. “Haley wanted him unblemished, and he’s paying double, so take him there first. They all know what they’re getting.”
Spike quashed any anxiety rising in his gut with a firm growl. This was good news. Chances were, whatever sick bastards paid to bugger him would want to do it in private. That meant fewer humans to escape. Hell, the ‘client’ might even untie him if he batted his baby blues.
No, he wasn’t scared at all, or helpless and panicking. Not one bit. He just kept telling himself that.
The client was a big man, long in bones and limbs, so that even his expensive suit rode high on his wrists and his face looked all put together from spare parts – eyes too small, mouth too large, and a ridiculous mustache.
And he leered at Spike with eager need. “It’s prettier than I thought,” he said. “Good work, Mr...”
“I can’t say I’m happy about your terms,” Beige Suit broke in, hurriedly. No, he wasn’t going to let his name be heard. That gave Spike hope. “But here is the key to the cuffs, Mr. Haley. Keep in mind, you’ll owe me double again what you paid if he escapes.”
Haley brought the key close to his mouth and looked liable to lick it. “It’s no fun if there’s no struggle.”
Good, Spike thought. I’ll give you your struggle, sick fuck.
Beige Suit discretely bowed out of the room. Haley paused in his leering to walk to the door and slide the dead-bolt.
Then he was behind Spike, his long thighs sliding on either side of him as he pulled himself flush, his hard-on pressing against Spike’s bound hands. Spike used the opportunity and what little freedom of movement he had to squeeze, hard.
Landing on his face by the hotel bed was worth it.
Taking a boot to the gut, only somewhat less so.
He was hauled unceremoniously onto the bed like a sack of potatoes and the shackles wrenched from his wrists.
“Ah-ha. Not going to fight me now?”
Seizing the barest opportunity, Spike rolled over his shoulder, onto the floor – kicking up more dust than housekeeping would admit to being there. He ripped the gag off his face and tried to duck under the bed – only to find it a solid box structure.
Bollocks. He needed time, distance to get the leg irons off. He crawled across the room, searching frantically for an exit.
And was tackled.
“Yeah!” the man laughed, eager and excited as they wrestled. Unfair as it was – Spike had strength and agility, but no legs and he couldn’t actually hurt the bastard – the struggled went a good long time. He could twist out of a hold and squirm away, but every time he only made it a foot or so before a strong hand gripped him and pulled him back.
He was able to escape mostly when Haley let go to attack his clothing. Third time, he wriggled away without his jeans, which Haley held, stripping him as he moved. Denim bunched fast and hurt, damn it, as he struggled against it.
No, he was muscled up, wrestled under another body. Teeth clenched on the fabric of his T-shirt, and in panic he twisted and swung at the guy.
Blinking through the pain, he limped away, only to be grabbed again. This time, Haley had him bare. Their bodies squirmed together, a parody of passion in struggle until Haley could get himself lined up, get Spike down.
“Ah, yeah… that’s it… oh that’s it, bitch.”
Spike’s forehead was against the wall, his right arm pinned under him, his left twisted against his back, held by the bastard who’d paid to rape him.
Cock jabbing in and out – stubby little thing, but more than enough to get the job done, to tear him and make him bleed, make his skin want to crawl away from where the other man’s lightly furred stomach slapped against him, wet with sweat.
Spike felt himself stop struggling, just fall limp against his strained joints, into the pain and helplessness. “Oh yeah, take it. Yeah.”
He realized, for the first time, that he wasn’t getting away.