Dating Harmony had seemed like a good idea at the time, at least to Spike’s alcohol-addled mind, but he wasn’t the most patient version of himself of late, and she was getting on his last nerve, rattling on and on about France and what-all while he was trying to work. Couldn’t she understand that the Gem of Amara was important? Didn’t she care that it was the very thing that would help him bag his Slayer?
He snapped and turned on her, lifting a nearby piece of wood and shoving it straight through her chest where it– had no effect what-so-ever.
Spike pulled the wood out again and stared at it.
Harmony slapped his arm. “What was that for?”
He ignored her and made a grab for the ring on her finger. She all but threw it at him. “If that's all that matters to you, then take it.” Her voice broke a little as she added, “I would have just given it to you.”
Spike concentrated on the ring, refusing to let himself be distracted by the pang of guilt pulling at him. He stepped away from Harmony and was just about to place the Gem on his own finger when his senses went haywire and Drusilla stepped out of the shadows and into the crypt directly in front of him. He stopped, mid-action, and stared at her, scared that if he blinked she might disappear back into his imagination.
Harmony continued to sniffle and whine in the background. It grated Spike’s nerves afresh. Two momentous things had happened back-to-back and she was ruining the moment, damn it. The temptation to stake her again surged but, before he could move an inch, Drusilla hissed and commanded her to hush.
Harmony fell silent.
Something within Spike unclenched. He smiled at Dru, amazed at her all over again. With Harmony thralled into being background furniture, Dru’s attention was on him and him alone. His blood sang. Her eyes drifted to the Gem.
Spike swallowed and lowered himself to his knees. There was no way in hell he was going to mess this up. He was seconds away from having everything he ever needed.
“Dru, love,” he crooned, holding the ring out to her.
Drusilla let him slip it on her finger before holding her hand up to admire it better in the lamplight. She grinned but her eyes were hard. Their gaze returned to Spike, who she backhanded in the next second.
He fell backwards, the fingers of his left hand instinctively reaching for the spot beside his mouth where she’d struck him. They came back bloodied.
“Did you think you could win me back with trinkets?” demanded Drusilla, glaring down at him.
Spike pushed himself forward, back into a kneeling position. “Dru, love, that’s not–”
“I know what it is,” she snapped. “It doesn’t make up for what you did. Only one thing will wash away your betrayal.”
It was on the tip of Spike’s tongue to protest his innocence and explain his actions to her once more, but he pushed that instinct aside. “Anything, love,” he vowed instead. “Name your price and I’ll pay it.”
“The Slayer’s blood,” said Dru instantly. “She’ll bleed out and you’ll be free from her siren call.”
Spike’s chest deflated. “That’s all well and good, pet, but–”
“Hush,” said Dru.
Spike shot to his feet, fuelled by sudden rage. “That won’t work on me. I’m not weak-willed like sodding Harmony.”
Drusilla tsked him. “Words don’t matter. I see your heart.”
Spike rolled his eyes. “Not this again.”
“Yes!” exclaimed Drusilla. “Don’t tell me what I can’t see!”
Spike raised his hands in a placating motion. “Know there’s nothing that can change your mind on this. Not tryin’ to talk you out of going after the Slayer, just think that it’s a lost cause. The thing about her is, she tends to win – infuriating as it is.” He shrugged. “Guess that doesn’t matter. If your heart’s set on it, I’ll go along with–”
Drusilla jabbed a sharp fingernail at his chest. “You will stay out of this.”
“Enough!” she said, turning to sweep out of the room. At the last second, she paused to click her fingers.
Spike watched as Harmony followed after her. He stared at the empty space before him for a long minute, barely able to believe the turn of events, before he swore and started throwing things around.
Goddamn it, he’d been screwed over again. “What is it with bloody women?” he roared. Another golden cup hit the wall with a clang. He lifted something else and flinched at the hiss of flesh. Shit. That was a cross. He needed to pay attention to what he was picking up. He needed to think.
Shit shit shit.
Drusilla was powerful. If she wanted to kill Buffy, she stood a real chance, and that was before he’d handed her the power of invulnerability. Fuck, he’d really screwed up now. This new error in a long line of bloody brilliant mistakes meant he really had to do it: admit to himself that he didn’t actually want the Slayer dead.
If he didn’t help her take down Dru, or at least give Buffy a heads up, she’d be a goner. That thought twisted his insides. Of course Drusilla knew that. That had no doubt been why she’d gone about her plan like this.
“Bitch,” he said under his breath. He couldn’t understand why she never just left things alone. If she’d stayed with him, he’d have kept his nasty little nightmares to himself and none of his feelings would matter because he’d never act on them. She had to have known he’d never act on them, right? Not if they were together. But she’d gone and bloody well forced his hand.
Spike picked up the cross again and sent it flying at the doorway Dru had vanished through. At least it was some small comfort that she’d taken Harmony off his hands and that he’d never have to hear her bitching at him again.
Buffy had been having a blissfully boring day before a vampire had to just turn up and ruin it.
“What’s with you?” she snarked. “You’re like a bad penny.”
Spike spread his hands. “Not here to fight.”
Buffy shrugged and punched him in the nose. “Pity.”
Spike growled. “Will you just bloody listen? This is important!”
Buffy went to hit him again in reply, but he danced just out of reach. She sighed. “Fine. Make it quick.”
To her surprise, he wasted no time in outlining his B.S. story: Drusilla’s back, she’s got some thingy that means she can walk about in the sun – god knows she needed a tan – and couldn’t be killed, and…
“God, are you done? You can’t seriously believe I’m buying any of this.”
Spike’s jaw dropped open a little before he clenched it tight. “You know what? If you want to die, go right on ahead. Don’t let me stop you,” he snapped.
Buffy watched him stomp off into the shadows, briefly considering going after him before shaking off the idea. She had better things to do, not least of which to pick out an outfit for her date with Parker.
“He didn’t call? At all?”
“No. He was a total no-show.”
Willow frowned. “Well, maybe he’s really busy. Like, with studying?”
“Didn’t you notice? He totally skipped psych. My slayer-sense is definitely tingling.”
Giles glanced up from his book. “What’s this?”
“Missing student,” said Buffy. “Probably. I mean, maybe he’s just had enough of college already and dropped out. And not told me.” She groaned.
Willow patted her arm soothingly and tried to change the subject. “Seen any more of Spike?”
Buffy groaned louder. “No, but I know he’s around. It’s like I can feel him watching me. Super creepy!”
“Maybe he’s, um, you know… I’m really trying to find something comforting here, but I’m kinda fresh out. Giles?”
“What? Oh.” He set his book down. “I’m afraid I can only provide more bad news.”
“Why?” demanded Buffy. “Why now? It’s not even apocalypse season!”
“Buffy,” Giles chided. “You know–”
“That evil doesn’t really run on a schedule and I should be ready to face it any time. Yes, I know, but no fair!” She crossed her arms and slid deeper into the couch.
Giles’ expression turned contemplative. “Is there a reason you feel more… erm, upset than usual?”
From the corner of her eye, Buffy saw Willow shaking her head and making, ‘run away while you still can’ gestures. She sat up straighter and pouted. Before Willow could start babbling about something to cover up for the fact that yet another guy had ditched her, Buffy ignored all of it and pressed on. “You said there was bad news?”
“Ah, yes, well–” he consulted his book again. “Two things: You said Spike referenced a mystical artifact?”
“Yeah.” Buffy reshuffled her thoughts to try and remember the name. “O’Hara, something?”
“I think he may have been referring to the Gem of Amara. It’s a jewel that gives a vampiric wearer immunity from sunlight and is generally considered to be a myth, but I’ve found a text that posits its whereabouts in the ‘valley of the sun’.”
“Oh, goody. So maybe he’s not talking a crock after all. What’s the second thing?”
Giles handed over a newspaper. The headline was all about a train full of dead people arriving in town the day before. “This coincides with the arrival of Drusilla.”
“So Spike didn’t lie,” said Willow, eager to jump on any scrap of good news. “Maybe he really is trying to help. For… some reason?” She suddenly didn’t look so sure.
“Unless the evil, murdering, lying guy actually killed the train people,” said Buffy. “Either way, I should look into it. I’ll try tracking him. Either he’ll lead me to his psycho girlfriend or I’ll find out what he’s up to all by himself.”
Giles took off his glasses to study them intently. “You will be careful, won’t you? Both of them are strong in their own right. If one of them does indeed have the Gem…”
“I’ll be careful. The careful-ist. It’s not like I have a choice. I can’t just ignore it until it goes away.”
“What about the Bronze tonight?” asked Willow, her eyes wide. Pleading. “Lots of Halloween party goodness. You said you’d come.”
Really not in the mood for dancing, it was on the tip of Buffy’s tongue to make her excuses in favor of her sacred duty, expecting nothing but enthusiastic back up from Giles, but he piped up to say that Halloween was usually quiet within the demon community and “perhaps” she should take a break to “cheer” herself instead.
Buffy bristled at the betrayal but was left with no other choice but renew her promise to Willow. Two hours later, when tracking Spike was officially a bust, Buffy donned her Little Red Riding Hood outfit and headed for the Bronze.
Xander greeted both girls with a hug before going off to the bar and Willow disappeared backstage to help Oz set up, leaving Buffy to idle at the edge of the dance floor.
“Nice outfit, Slayer. Anyone ever tell you that red’s your color?”
She whipped around and pinned Spike to the ground with her glare. “Where the hell were you, and what are you doing here?”
Spike smirked. “Looking for me, were you?” Buffy’s jaw ticked. “My, my, if looks could stake. PMSing, are we?”
“What. Are. You. Doing. Here?” Buffy ground out.
He shrugged and glanced around. “Gotta play my part. Heard you were in need of a Big Bad Wolf. Say, where are the three little pigs?”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “That’s not even the same fairytale!”
“Depends which version you’re talkin’ about.” He waggled his eyebrows. “Want me to blow your house down?”
She went to hit him but he danced out of the way with a chuckle. “Come on now, pet. Where’s your sense of fun?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” her hands went to her hips, “Maybe it’s with the train full of dead people.”
Spike’s expression sobered. Buffy could tell he wasn’t putting it on. He genuinely was surprised. Isn’t that interesting. And totally worrying. “Has Drusilla pulled that before?”
Spike cast his eyes downwards. “Look, Buffy–”
“No. Tell me straight. Is she really in town?”
He focused his gaze back on her, eyes now narrowed. “I already told you.”
“And I was, what? Expected to believe you? Just like that?”
Buffy backed up a step at the force of the statement. She eyed him carefully, not able to figure him out at all.
“I’m a lot of things, Slayer, but I’ve not lied to you.”
“Oh, sure, you’re way on the up-and-up.”
Spike scoffed. “We can fight about this all night, but it ain’t gonna change anything. You wanna dance?”
Buffy baulked. “Dance? What’s wrong with you! I’m talking about dead bodies!”
He shrugged and pushed off into the crowd. “Have it your way.”
She went to go after him but caught sight of something from the corner of her eye that made her hesitate. Ignoring Spike, Buffy made her way up to the balcony, led by a niggling instinct and an ever-increasing sense of dread. I know that sweater. Wasn’t he wearing it the other day?
She stepped closer and he turned around. Buffy gasped. “Parker?” He looked like death and she was pretty sure it wasn’t Halloween make up.
“Oh, hi, Buffy. I came to find you.”
Buffy blinked. “Parker. You– you’re okay?”
“Well, I was,” he said, “But then I saw you chatting with your boyfriend. I guess it didn’t take you long to get over me.”
Buffy’s eyes nearly fell out of her head. “What are you–”
“It doesn’t matter,” said Parker easily. “If you’ve got a thing for vamps, I guess I’m still in with a chance, right?”
Before she could start processing that statement, he slipped into game face and lunged.
Buffy swiped roughly at the dust coating her now ruined costume and slipped her stake back into her basket. She made her way back to the lower level of the Bronze where she quickly told Xander she had to split and asked him to apologize to Willow for her.
Outside, she had no difficulty finding Spike again. He was leaning against a wall by the club door, smoking. If she didn’t know any better, she’d be sure he was waiting for her. She hit him in the jaw and his cigarette went skittering into the gutter.
“Why? Why did you do it? Why him?”
Spike held up his hands and asked what in the hell she was “Going on about.”
“Parker. I got Drusilla’s little message.”
Spike’s head tilted to the side. “Don’t know the bloke. You said there was a message?”
Buffy’s fists clenched at her side. “If this is some game, I swear–”
Spike sighed. “You’re really not getting this. I’m not with Dru. If I were, why do you think I came to you?”
“It’s mind games. All of it. It’s gotta be.”
“Yeah?” He stepped a little into her personal space. “And why’s that?”
It took Buffy a second to acclimatize to the weird effect having him so close had on her body. “None of it makes any sense,” she answered, the sharp edge to her tone dropping a little. “Drusilla’s message? In a nutshell, she’s taking revenge, going after anybody I have because I took what’s hers. What’s she talking about?”
Spike backed up a little. “Right. Err, yeah… not a clue.”
“Wow,” said Buffy. “So much for not lying to me. You actually suck at it, by the way.”
He clenched his jaw. “Fine. She has some wack-job theory that you’ve…” he made a vague gesture. “I don’t know, corrupted me somehow.”
Buffy stared at him, speechless.
“Hey, you wanted to know. We both know it’s bull, but try tellin’ that to her!”
“You’re trying to tell me that I lost a friend tonight because Dru is jealous we had a truce one time?”
He shrugged and Buffy stamped her foot. “That was for her!”
“I know, Slayer. She won’t listen. Lost it more than usual, she has.”
Buffy shook her head. She hadn’t thought it possible, but she was actually angrier now than when she first confronted him. She’d poised herself to slug Spike again when Riley came walking up the alley and asked if he was bothering her.
“No,” Spike told him. “Now push off.”
Buffy ignored him and turned her attention to her T.A. “I’m fine, really.”
“You don’t look fine,” said Riley. “You need a walk home?”
Once more, Spike opened his mouth to reply but – this time – Buffy held up a finger to silence him. Plastering the fakest of fake smiles on her face, she said, “Sure, let’s go,” and linked arms with Riley. They walked a couple of steps away and Buffy heard Spike swear under his breath before stomping off in the opposite direction.
“So…” said Riley. “How long have you guys been broken up?”
Buffy unlinked her arm and stopped walking so she could stare at him.
“I mean, you clearly dated him, right?” Riley’s smile slipped. “You’re not still dating him, right?”
“Spike is not my boyfriend. Never has been, never will be. Why does everyone always think that?!”
“It just looked like… like you had history.”
“Oh, sure, plenty of that,” grumbled Buffy. “Look, can we not talk about him?”
Riley smiled and offered his arm again. “Whatever you want.”
The last of Buffy’s rage and adrenaline leeched out of her at the pleasantries – just in time for her to realize she’d made a huge mistake.
“I, uh, really appreciate the walk home, but am I keeping you from anything? Were you headed to the Bronze?”
“Oh, no, it’s okay. I was just out for a walk.”
Buffy resisted the urge to raise an eyebrow. “A walk. On your own. In the dark?” Clearly, he hadn’t lived in Sunnydale long enough.
“I’m a big boy,” he assured her.
Buffy’s annoyance resurfaced. She declined the offered arm but began walking again. “You know neither of those things prevent a person from being attacked, right?”
Riley gave her a sidelong glance, like he thought she was joking. She ploughed on, because it wasn’t just a difference of opinion about some hypothetical topic, she’d put him in real-life danger just by being seen with him. If he really did get attacked, it would partially be her fault. And partially because he’s a meathead.
“I’m serious,” she said, carefully modulating her tone to come across firm yet sensible. The last thing she needed was to be written off as hysterical.
“So am I,” said Riley. “I can handle myself.”
Buffy pursed her lips, really not sure how to get him to understand he needed to be super careful other than bringing him to a vamp nest for show and tell. Where’s Spike when I need him? All he’d have to do is flash a little fang. Nothing fancy.
“He’s really got you on edge, hasn’t he?”
Riley pointed back the way they had come. “The guy you were talking to. The not-your-boyfriend guy? It looks like he got you rattled.”
Buffy almost laughed. Her scared of Spike? Not likely. But maybe something she could play up for her own purposes.
“Yeah, he’s um…” she swallowed. “He’s dangerous. Way, way bad. And totally jealous. That’s why you need to–”
“He’s jealous?” questioned Riley, cutting her off. “Of people talking to someone he’s not even dating?”
Buffy’s mouth went dry. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. “Not jealous. Wrong word. He’s just… uh, dangerous. I said dangerous, right?”
Riley stopped walking and turned to face her. “Did he threaten you?”
“What? No. No!” You know, except for that time he said he’d kill me… and then kept trying to kill me. She sighed. “I’m not saying this right.”
“If he threatened you, I can deal with it. With him,” said Riley.
Buffy grimaced. “You know what? I’ve kinda dug myself into a hole here. Can I level with you?”
He nodded and she told him straight, “A friend of mine died tonight. A guy friend. Please believe me when I say I think you should be careful.”
Riley frowned and said he was sorry for her loss. “This guy friend… Did he die because of your dangerous friend?”
Buffy ground her teeth. “Can’t you just be careful anyway? Why are you pushing this?”
“Whoa!” he held up his hands. “You told me someone died. That’s pretty serious. I’m just trying to understand.”
“Yes it’s serious!” snapped Buffy, “That’s what I’m trying to tell you. I shouldn’t have had to confide something personal just to get you to listen.”
Riley looked taken aback but kept his mouth shut. Buffy apologized and started walking once more. “All I’m asking is that you avoid dark allies and run away if someone with fangs jumps out of a grave.”
Riley laughed. “Fangs? Like a vampire?”
Buffy shrugged and forced a smile back on her face. “Just covering my advice-giving bases.”
Riley gave her a look that she couldn’t quite interpret but was sure she didn’t entirely like, but he didn’t say anything else. Soon enough, they were back on campus.
Buffy said goodnight and was surprised, yet again, when Riley asked to spend some time with her after their class the following day. Ignoring her initial instinct to say no, she agreed, rationalizing that if he refused to keep himself safe, she’d have to keep an eye on him.
Warning: there’s nothing explicit in this chapter, but a dub-con situation is implied.
Back in his frat house, Riley ignored the early bedtime he’d been building into his routine and took the elevator down to the labs instead of the stairs to his personal quarters. There was just something bugging him about his interaction with Buffy and he knew he wouldn’t sleep soundly without checking it out.
He found a vacant computer terminal and turned it on, typing in his access codes and then opening the student database. He pulled up Buffy’s file and began to scroll. The Initiative was connected to the military’s mainframe, so he had access to way more than just her academic record. Underneath Buffy’s list of current grades was a list of her previous schools and a string of misdemeanors. Underneath that was her medical history including a psych report from L.A.
Riley frowned. He’d got the impression that she wasn’t just your average girl, but this was something else. She was nuts. A delinquent. He wasn’t quite sure how she’d passed high school let alone got into college until he clicked to open the psych report’s attachment. It was a photocopy of handwritten notes detailing the specifics of Buffy’s “episode”.
The words ‘vampires’ and ‘slayer’ immediately caught his eye. Riley minimized the tab and opened the demon folklore database, searching there for the word slayer. There were a few hits, mostly notable demons “the slayer” was famed to have taken out, a page about a vampire calling himself the “slayer of slayers” and then one about the – capital ‘S’ – Slayer themselves. Riley clicked on that and frowned again. It didn’t make sense. The file was about a girl – singular – but it had a long list of names; definitely in the plural. At the end of the list, just before the final listing for ‘Faith LeHane’ was Buffy Anne Summers.
Riley did a double-take. Seriously?
He looked up a few more sources. They all backed up his original findings. Buffy was a Slayer. Maybe THE Slayer? She was studying right above their state-of-the-art facility and no one had mentioned it. If there was a briefing, he’d definitely have remembered. What he did know was that some of the scientists didn’t put much stock in demon folklore. His best guess was that, if his superiors looked into it at all, they dismissed her as non-threatening. At least to them. Somebody somewhere had probably used her info as a character study, but Buffy hadn’t been tagged as a person of interest.
Riley stared blankly at the screen for a few moments, trying to process that. He flinched slightly when someone came up and put a hand on his shoulder.
“Why you down here, soldier? Ain’t this your night off?”
“Yes, sir.” He hit the power button and stood up. “Leaving right now.”
His lieutenant waved him off. Riley headed for the elevator but hesitated when the doors opened. He could go to bed – he wasn’t too far behind in his sleep schedule – but he’d been left with more questions than answers and still couldn’t quite rest. On a whim, he headed back out across campus.
Spike didn’t know what to do. Buffy seemed to have finally accepted that Dru was in town, but she still wasn’t bloody listening to him with regards to anything else. He didn’t know how to change that, beyond pure perseverance, but he also didn’t know how much time he had before Drusilla did something really bad that neither of them could come back from. In truth, he was surprised she hadn’t struck already. She had even less patience than him, usually. The fact that she was waiting – picking off inconsequential people in Buffy’s life – meant she had grander plans. And wasn’t that just fucking terrifying?
He tracked her scent to a plush hotel where all the staff took on a glazed expression when he mentioned her name. Great. She couldn’t have used that little trick when we had to bed down in a filthy factory?
The staff didn’t answer Spike’s questions, but they didn’t need to. They didn’t try and stop him when he took the elevator up in search of Drusilla’s room and that was enough. She’d cleared out the whole top floor: two separate penthouse suites that she’d let spill into one by leaving the doors open and allowing the Happy Meals on legs wander about.
He shook his head at their varying degrees of undress and blood loss but didn’t allow himself to get distracted too much. In the master bedroom of Penthouse One he found an entirely naked Harmony. All of the blinds were down despite it being dark out, but Spike didn’t think it was to protect her modesty because one: he knew for a personal fact that she didn’t have any, and two: the chit was out of it. Sure, she raised her head a little and giggled at him, but it was clear no one was really home.
Dru had done a real number.
Spike felt genuinely sorry for Harm. Not because she’d ever really engendered a great deal of feeling in him, beyond annoyance or lust, but because – once upon a time – that had been him. He scanned the room, looking for something that might put her out of her misery when Dru came in the door directly behind him and snarled.
He turned around and put up his hands. “Had a party and didn’t invite me, pet? S’not very nice, is it?”
“You’re invited to the Slayer’s house,” said Dru, shifting the topic. The wench. It occurred to him that, last time he was in town, his entry to the Summers’ house had indeed withstood. He hadn’t questioned it at the time, but it was definitely noteworthy now. Or, at least, when he wasn’t in immediate danger of having his head ripped from his shoulders. Hands still raised, he backed away towards the opposite exit.
There was clearly no point in trying to reason with Dru. She was circling him like a wild cat. He didn’t even know why he bothered. Except, of course he did. Anything to stop Buffy being next on her hit list.
Spike continued to back up the whole way to the elevator and pressed the down button, not taking his eyes off Dru the whole time. To him, it seemed like they’d changed. A hundred-plus years he’d known her, but only one spent apart and he could barely recognize his former paramour. What had happened during that year? Did he even want to know? The questions slipped off him as he ran across town to the college campus. He wasn’t being chased, but he needed to work off the anxious energy building all around him. More than anything, he needed to warn Buffy. Again.
Riley was almost at the outer door to Buffy’s dorm when he stopped short. Ahead of him was the guy she’d been fighting with outside the Bronze. What had she said his name was? Spike? Yeah, that sounded right.
Riley watched as Spike reached for the door, hesitated, and then began pacing back and forth. When it became obvious he wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, Riley stepped out of the shadows and closed the distance.
Spike looked up and rolled his eyes. “What do you want? Haven’t bothered enough people for tonight, eh?”
“I go to school here,” said Riley casually. “Got every right to be on campus. Why do I have a feeling you’re not one of the student body?”
Riley filled in a mental checklist: pale skin, outdated sense of style, hostile nature, and linked to someone who is known to associate with vampires – the guy had a full card.
“What are you looking at?” demanded Spike.
Deciding to test his theory, and knowing he could easily laugh it off as a joke if it didn’t go well, Riley said, “I think I’m looking at a vampire.”
Spike went still. Like, inhumanly still. But that still wasn’t proof enough. Riley had to see him actually do something before he could take him in.
Head tilted to the side, Spike considered him afresh. He sniffed once, scrunched up his nose at his own set of findings, and then laughed. “Supposed to be scared of a little boy hulked up on steroids, am I?”
Riley narrowed his eyes. “I think you should step away from the building and leave Buffy alone. Haven’t you figured out she doesn’t want to see you?”
That wiped the smile off Spike’s face, but Riley wasn’t all together sure why. He didn’t stand around asking any more questions. One momentary flash of fang from Spike and Riley pulled out his taser, blasting him right in the chest.
Warning: There's no graphic detail, but torture is hinted at in this chapter.
“Is it just me,” asked Willow in hushed tones, “or does Riley keep smiling at you?”
Buffy sighed. She’d been trying to ignore it. When the psych professor wasn’t looking her way, she replied to Willow, “Yeah. He, uh…” She grimaced. “I think he likes me. Maybe.”
Willow seemed a little confused about this, or maybe confused as to why Buffy wasn’t happy about the development, but the psych professor was looking at them again so they didn’t get the chance to talk it out any more.
When class ended, Buffy hung back and told Willow she’d catch up with her later. Riley wasted no time in pulling Buffy off to the side and jumping headlong into a one-sided conversation. Within five seconds he’d sped through pleasantries and was asking her to follow him.
She eyed him. “Why?”
“Well, I….” He finally took a breath and turned bashful. “I have something to show you.”
“Yeah.” He beamed and started walking, leaving Buffy no real option other than to follow along and keep up if she didn’t want to be rude. Damn social convention. “So, I know about you. Now I want to bring you in on what we’re doing.”
Buffy stared blankly. “You know about me?” she repeated carefully.
“That you’re the slayer,” Riley clarified.
Buffy’s eyes went wide. She pulled him into a nearby empty classroom. “God, could you keep it down? What is this?”
Entirely ignoring the caution in her voice, Riley’s smile got brighter still. “So it’s true. I knew it!”
“Look,” said Buffy, “I don’t know what you think you know, but–”
Riley waved a hand dismissively. “Don’t waste time denying it. There’s already a lot to cover.”
Buffy crossed her arms. “Right. You said you wanted to bring me in on what you’re doing. What’s that?”
Her mouth dropped open as he explained, briefly, that he was part of a secret government operation to “capture, study, and exterminate hostile sub-terrestrials.” When she found herself speechless, he added, “I also got you clearance.”
“Clearance?” This has to be a dream. Or a nightmare.
“Come on,” he urged again. “I’ll show you.”
Equal parts wary and curious, Buffy let him lead her back out of the classroom and across campus to his frat house, then down to basement level. Hot holy wow, he had not been kidding about the setup. On the short walk, Riley had given a little more detail about his own personal background – how he ended up as a recruit, and his posting to Sunnydale – before boasting about having personally taken seventeen HST’s “down or out.”
“Seventeen,” said Buffy. “Wow. That’s… seventeen.”
“That’s right. Eleven vampires. Six demons. What about you?”
“Yeah. How many demons have you–”
They’d still been walking along as the conversation progressed, past rows and rows of containment cells; some empty, most full. There had to be hundreds in total. Beside each one was a little board that stated the date of capture, location, and an identification reference for the ‘subject’. Some of the codes were as basic as the soldier in charge’s name with a number added on the end, some were overwrought sci-fi references that Buffy only had a vague awareness of, and some were even more basic still.
Buffy zoned Riley’s questions out when she got to the row that began with ‘Hostile One’ – a perfectly harmless Ferinty demon – and ended with ‘Hostile Seventeen.’
“Oh my god!” Her hand automatically went to her mouth to stifle a gasp, but it was already out. She turned to Riley. “Where did you find him? What did this?!”
Riley’s brow furrowed. “Well, I did,” he said slowly, in an exaggerated ‘well, duh,’ fashion. “For you. Hey, get this.” The smile crept back onto his face. “We even put a microchip in his head so he can’t fight back.”
Buffy felt vomit rise in her throat. “You did this?” She mentally scolded herself over taking so long for it to click. Where had she thought this was leading? Dumb, Buffy. So, so dumb!
“He’s a demon,” said Riley. As if that explained everything. As if it made it okay that Spike strung up, black and blue, leaking blood and god-only-knew what else.
“Yes, he’s a demon,” she ground out. “What the hell’s your excuse?”
Riley gaped at her like a fish and she shoved past him to get closer to the door. Suddenly, she wasn’t so interested in anything her TA had to say. She punched the little keypad beside the lock and got a small jolt of electricity for her trouble.
“Damn it! Where’s the key?” She could hear the panic even in her own voice – she really did sound hysterical now – but she didn’t care. She couldn’t bear to see anyone like that, let alone someone she knew, who’d been trying to help her less than twelve hours ago.
Riley had begun talking again, trying to calm her down and explain away his actions in a flurry of words, but Buffy wasn’t having it. She rounded on him, glaring daggers. “I swear if you don’t get him down right now, I’ll really show you what a slayer is.”
A small chuckle emerged from the other side of the glass door. Spike started to say something but the words cut off in a coughing fit.
“Now, Riley,” demanded Buffy, holding out her hand expectantly.
Someone else came walking down the corridor and asked what “all the ruckus” was about. Buffy watched Riley as he did some mental calculation before shrugging off the question and handing over the passkey. The other soldier didn’t seem too bothered about questioning things further.
As soon as the door was open, Buffy rushed in and held Spike up so she could unhook him from the top of the cell. He winced when she touched his ribs, halfheartedly whispered, “My hero,” and unceremoniously passed out in her arms.
“What are you doing?” asked Riley.
“I am getting him out of here. What does it look like?”
He stood in her way and tried to reason with her but she barreled straight on through, not pausing until she was in some dimly lit corridor where she found just what she needed: a blanket and an escape hatch.
Giles paced the length of his living room three times before turning back to Buffy.
“They were doing experiments?” he questioned.
“Yes,” said Buffy, her lips twisted up. “It was way gross.”
Giles made a ‘hrmm’ noise and began another lap. “And you say they fitted Spike with a microchip? What were you thinking bringing him here?”
“I wasn’t, okay? No thinking Buffy. I was just so mad. You should have seen them, Giles. It was–” She shook her head. On second thoughts, she wouldn’t want anyone to see that. Ever. “We need to shut it down. We can do that, right? The council, or, or… something?”
Giles ‘hrmm’ed again. “We may have a more pressing matter. If they have as much technology as you say, they’ll likely be tracing him and will be with us shortly.”
“Shoot.” Buffy jumped to her feet, grabbed Giles’ phone, and dialed Willow. She didn’t waste any time on explanations, just called a code red and asked her to come over as soon as possible. “Sooner, if you can.”
“All this in aid of little old me,” said Spike from the couch. It was a relief to hear him snark – something Buffy could not have imagined all that long ago – but the words came out weakly enough that she was still worried about him.
Spike and weak didn’t go together in the same sentence. They were way un-mixy. The whole thing was wrong. Without consulting Giles, Buffy followed her gut and made a second call, asking Xander to pick up some premium-grade butcher’s blood, stat.
“I didn’t know you cared, pet,” said Spike, but still the tone was off. If she didn’t know any better, Buffy would have said he was scared. Fear and Spike? Two more things that definitely didn’t match.
“What’s your plan here, Buffy?” asked Giles. He looked away from Spike and lowered his voice. “Would it not be, erm, kinder to put him out of his misery?”
“No.” Buffy took a deep breath. Everything was happening way too fast. “The plan is, we get Spike better and he helps me take down Drusilla. In the meantime, you and Willow find a way to put that place out of business.”
Spike opened one eye to the dim light of a side lamp. It took more effort than he wanted to admit, even to himself. His other eye wasn’t even for trying. If he could see himself in the mirror, he was pretty sure he’d be greeted by big, black panda eyes. Not exactly a look he was aiming for.
“Are you okay?” Buffy asked softly from her position in a nearby armchair. He grunted and rolled over, galled by the fact that he wasn’t initially aware of her and how becoming aware of her had made him flinch. She seemed to take it as an answer, at any rate. “Right. Sorry. Stupid question.”
“What time is it?” he asked, his voice raw. He’d lost all sense of… well, everything. “What the bloody hell happened?”
“You don’t remember?”
He thought about it for a second, then decided he didn’t want to. “Nevermind. Time?” he asked again.
“After midnight. Giles is asleep upstairs.”
Spike opened his eye again to fix her with his gaze. “Guarding me, are you?”
Buffy shrugged. “You could call it that.”
He propped himself up on one elbow best he could, which wasn’t very well at all. “Not exactly in much of a position to pose a threat, in case you hadn’t noticed.”
“That wasn’t–” Buffy began only to trail off. “Whatever. Do you want more blood?”
So that was it. She was actually taking care of him, guarding him from others and not the other way around. That needed some thinking about and he for damn sure didn’t have the energy. He licked his lips and focused on her question instead. “You been feeding me beef?”
“A blend of pig and cow, I think. The butcher said it wasn’t bad.”
Spike scoffed. “I bet it passed his personal taste test. Go on then, give’us some more. Not like there’s gonna be anything better on offer.”
Unless he was very much mistaken, Buffy looked genuinely tempted for a moment. Bloody hell, just how much of a bad state was he in? He didn’t bother asking, just sat quietly as the microwave distantly whirred and dinged.
“Do you need a straw?”
“No!” he snapped. “‘M not a bloody invalid.”
“You’re not making this easy.”
“Well excuse me! So deeply sorry for being tortured.”
Whatever comeback Buffy had planned died on her lips. She didn’t meet Spike’s gaze as she handed him the mug. “I’m sorry, okay?”
“Yeah,” he said, his own ire winking out. “Me too.”
“Maybe you should sleep more,” said Buffy.
He took a tentative sip, not taking his eye off her. “And you? Just gonna sit there watching my good self?”
“I have reading. I could, y’know, read. Or maybe something that doesn’t sound quite so lame.”
“Or you could sleep,” said Spike.
Buffy sighed, frustrated. “Why is this so weird? We’re being nice to each other, mostly. It’s…”
“Weird,” he affirmed. “Would you rather fight about it?”
She sat back in her chair, leaning her head on a cushion. “No. Tired.”
Spike shifted a little, settling himself. “Well, then. You sleep, I’ll sleep, and we can argue as much as we want in the morning.”
Buffy laughed a little. “Be good. Don’t scratch at your wounds.”
“I’m not a sodding dog.”
“Oh yeah? You should have heard yourself earlier, growling at Willow when she removed your tracker.”
That gave him pause. “Red do anything else?”
Buffy shrugged one shoulder, the other being pressed against the chair. “She examined you some. We can talk about it tomorrow.”
“Fight about it,” Spike corrected her.
Buffy laughed again, softly, following it up with a yawn. “Sure, we can fight about it.”
Buffy woke to the sound of Giles and Spike bickering about Weetabix. Whatever that is. She rubbed her eyes and looked around.
“Why is it bright? And why is there noise?”
“Ten AM, pet,” said Spike, who looked way too perky for a recently tortured dead guy.
Giles pointed a butter knife at him. “This one wants to polish off my specially imported cereal.”
Buffy stretched her arms above her head and rolled to her feet. Man, sleeping in a chair is so not comfy. “So let him,” she told Giles over her shoulder on the way to the bathroom. “Call it a one-off, on me. I’ll write you an IOU.”
She felt Giles stare after her but closed the bathroom door before he could vocalize any surprise. Upon returning to the living room, she found Giles had moved on to occupy himself with a book but Spike had taken up the mantle of irritation.
“What?” she asked, defensive.
“I don’t need pity.”
Buffy sighed. She’d been hoping his promise of a return to their standard arguments was a joke. “I can’t win with you.”
Spike’s scowl dropped into a look of surprise. “Since when do you want to do that?”
“Don’t we have a truce?’
“I offered one. You refused, remember?”
“Yeah, well, things are different,” said Buffy. Spike scowled again and she threw up her hands. “Seriously! What do you want? Are you just gonna get pissed off at everything I say and do?”
After a long moment’s consideration, a petulant “maybe” passed his lips and they slipped into a silent stalemate until Willow arrived with coffee, doughnuts, and a declaration of “Xander sends his love.”
Buffy reached for a jelly-filled. “How come he didn’t send it in person?”
“He’s on a trial for a new job,” said Willow. “Barman on campus.”
“Is he old enough for that?” enquired Giles.
“Who cares?” said Spike. “Are there any chocolate muffins? Updates regarding our friendly neighborhood wanker?”
The small talk fizzled as Willow admitted that Riley hadn’t been in psych class. She pulled out her laptop and explained how she’d done a little digging and his military record showed that he was currently ‘under caution’ for letting an HST go.
Spike scoffed. “He didn’t bloody let me do anything. It was either that or face the wrath of the Slayer. Hardly an option.”
Buffy frowned at him. “I thought you didn’t remember.”
He shrugged then pressed a hand to his shoulder. “Bits and pieces.”
Not sure how to reply – unclear if remembering made things better or worse – Buffy kept the conversation on Riley. “At least if he’s been disciplined in the brig or whatever, we know Dru hasn’t got to him.”
“Shame,” said Spike.
“Hey!” Buffy and Willow objected in stereo.
“I know what he did was awful but–” Spike’s glare cut off her train of thought.
“But he’s human and that makes it okay?” he snarled. “Because you’d still like to think he’s still a good guy deep down, is that it? Goes to show how little you know about how awful he is.”
Silence hung heavy in the room for a minute, then Buffy apologized. “I’m not ever gonna condone human deaths, but your reaction makes sense. I shouldn’t give you a hard time about it.”
“How very generous of you.”
Buffy let the sarcasm slide and asked Willow if she’d found out anything else about the chip.
“What chip?” asked Spike.
She studied him carefully, her heart sinking when she realized he really didn’t know. Shit. She steeled herself and asked if Giles and Willow would let them talk in private. They agreed, which only put Spike even more on edge. In the short time it took them to clear out, he looked ready to murder someone. Which…
“There’s a chip in your head. Riley told me it, umm…”
“Spit it out, Slayer.”
She let out a slow breath and braced herself. “It stops you from fighting.”
Spike didn’t explode. He didn’t blink, or breathe, or do anything, he just stared at her for a long time. That scared Buffy more than anything. Spike, if nothing else, was always in motion. She found herself apologizing again before he finally closed his eyes. Tentatively, she sat on the couch beside him.
“It was wrong what Riley did. We all know that. Whatever happened in the past, you don’t deserve–”
“Stop,” said Spike. Buffy tried to continue but he told her to stop again, this time with a snap. After another pause, he asked if Willow was able to confirm what Riley said about the chip.
“She was able to tell there’s definitely one in there,” said Buffy. “She was just about to tell us if she’d got any Intel on it.”
“Spike, I…. Are you okay?”
God, it was painful to watch him try and process everything. It was so weird to feel bad for him.
“Okay, listen, hear me out. This shouldn’t have happened, so we can fix it; find a way to get it out again.”
For the first time since the revelation, Spike’s expression lifted a little. “You would let me hunt again?”
Buffy considered her answer carefully. “No,” she said at last. “You hunt, I slay you. That’s the deal. That’s always been the deal.” He tilted his head and she continued on to say, “What I want to give you back is free will and the ability to defend yourself. If you’re serious about helping me take down Drusilla, I would really appreciate the help.”