DL 1.10

Aug. 13th, 2005 01:31 am
[identity profile] eee1313.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] dancing_lessons_archive
Lesson the Tenth: Very Bad Things

by alkibiadhs
Just Another Day by Oingo Boingo
Wicked Game by Chris Isaak

Shoutouts: Particular shoutouts to Dynagirl, Peggin, and cousinjean, who messed around with the schedule of authors a great deal so that I could write this chapter. General shoutouts to all the other authors for setting the story up so beautifully, and to Redemptionistas everywhere. The fight goes on, and the dream will never die. [Additional shout-outs to Pete, Scarecrow and Artie for their help in hooking me up with the Oingo Boingo tune, and big love and thanks to Fenchurch for ultimately providing us with a copy. --Jean]
This episode is rated PG-13 for language.


*

Xander woke up surprised.
It wasn’t so much that he was surrounded by demons that was news to him. He had pretty much expected it. The feeling in the pit of his stomach that he was about to die wasn’t much of a shock, either. Generally, being set upon by demons with clubs on a nighttime walk led to waking up in strange and unpleasant situations.
What surprised him was that his hands and feet weren’t tied, and nobody was pointing a weapon at him or making any sort of menacing moves whatsoever. Instead, he was on a large comfortable bed. He looked around. The comforter was a sort of girly red color. The rest of the room was decorated with statuary, flowers, and paintings.
This is the lair of a Hellgod?
There were long haired, scabby demons in brown robes standing at the corners of the bed where he had been sleeping--
Well, okay, I was unconscious, I’m man enough to admit it.
--but they didn’t seem to be more than casually interested in him. Xander sat up and began to rise.
“No, just stay there, sweetie.”
Glory entered the bedroom. She was wearing a bathrobe and had a towel on her head and looked…well, Xander considered himself a one-demon man, but he felt that there probably wasn’t much harm in looking.
Yeah. No harm at all. Unless of course you count death.
“Glory,” he said, trying to sound brave. She wouldn’t have left you alive unless she wanted something,he thought. Anya has to have called Buffy by now. She’ll come. Stall, and she’ll come.
“That’s me!” Glory beamed at him. She seemed to be in a good mood. Xander wondered if that was good or bad. She sat down next to him on the bed, still smiling. Almost anyone would have called her manner friendly, even flirtatious. Xander, who had once been possessed by a hyena spirit, knew better, knew about what went on behind a smile like that. He suppressed the urge to shiver.
Glory cocked her head. “Scared?” She asked him.
Xander was silent.
“You should be, you know.” The goddess continued. “Your friend the Vampire Slayer has been insensitive, and rude, and thoughtless. And it’s not gonna do a lot of good for her social life, if you know what I mean.”
Xander did. It occurred to him that the reason he wasn’t tied up was that he couldn’t escape. Even if the demons weren’t there, he’d seen enough of Glory in combat to know that he wouldn’t even make it to the door if he tried to run. If this woman wanted to kill him, he was dead.
Stall!
“So why not kidnap her?” he asked. He felt guilty suggesting it, but it was all he could think of.
Glory shook her head. “That girl has a nasty habit of beating up my minions. And I can’t be fighting her all the time. It’s too common, you see? Anyway, I’m pretty sure she’ll come here to find you, if I keep you long enough.”
A tentative kind of relief hit him. “So that’s your plan? I’m bait? I hate being bait.”
“Oh, you’re more than bait, honey,” Glory told him. “You’re…you don’t know where the Key is, do you? This would be a lot easier if you’d tell me.”
Xander lied before his mind had time to think about the consequences. “Not a clue.”
Glory sighed. She studied him, puzzled. “You’re lying,” she said. “Did you think I wouldn’t notice?”
“Have to admit, I was kind of hoping…” Xander found himself on his back. There was a sharp pain in his jaw, and the thick taste of blood was on his tongue.
“No,” she said, her expression considerably less friendly. “Don’t talk. Everybody gets one chance to do this nicely, and you blew it.” She climbed on top of him. “Anyway, what I was going to say was, you’re not just bait. You’re going to send a message for me.”
A very small part of Xander took some measure of hope from this, until the rest of him realized what she meant.
“You’re going to lose,” he told her.
She smiled that hyena smile at him. “You’ll never know,” she said, and plunged her fingers into his brain.
***
Spike wasn’t in his crypt when they arrived.
“Damn,” Buffy said.
“What do I do?” Dawn asked.
Buffy considered a moment. She couldn’t take Dawn to fight Glory. But she couldn’t leave her here without Spike, could she? The sun wouldn’t be up for another hour or so, and this was a graveyard in Sunnydale. Still, Dawn could at least hide here. She couldn’t say the same for their home.
“Stay here,” she told her sister. “Do not come out unless you hear someone you know. Understand?”
Dawn looked annoyed at her elder sibling’s bossiness, but simply nodded. “Help Xander,” she said. “If something happens to him, it…”
“Nothing is going to happen to Xander,” Buffy told her, and left the crypt, re-entering just long enough to add, “Stay.”
***
At exactly that moment, William the Bloody was on a mission.
Spike could not remember the last time he’d been this happy. When he’d killed the Anointed One and he and Dru had taken over the Sunnydale nightlife, that had been pretty good. When he’d beaten Angelus to the floor with a crowbar, that had been better. But this…she had kissed him! Or just about, anyway. And barring her sudden attack of conscience, things might have gone even farther. Who knew?
Truth to tell, he hadn’t been this giddy since the last time he…
Since the last time I killed a Slayer. Goes a bit heavy on the irony, that.
Spike wasn’t sure how much this line of thinking bothered him, because he had been ignoring such thoughts for the last few weeks. A wiser man might have decided that this was a good time to take stock, but the vampire had other plans. He was going to do something for his Slayer.
It has to be around here somewhere, he thought. The duffel bag he’d brought with him tried to slip off of his shoulder again, and he readjusted it impatiently.
Spike had been in the Initiative caves since about an hour after Buffy had left him. Somewhere, he knew, was a cache of armaments that the cyborg Adam had planned to give to Sunnydale’s demon population in case it appeared that they weren’t evenly matched with the government’s soldiers. Its plan, if Spike remembered correctly, had been to pit all the demons and all the demon-slayers in town against each other, just to see how much death would be caused. Even at the time, Spike had thought Adam more than a little creepy. Adam’s grand battle, however, had been too short for extra weapons to matter, thanks to Buffy’s ripping the half-demon’s metal heart out of its chest. Assuming the government hadn’t found them, and Spike doubted that they had, the weapons would still be here somewhere. The trouble was, he’d never bothered to memorize the cave’s labyrinthine passages while working for the cyborg, so his search was taking longer than he’d expected. Still, Spike was a vampire. There were few things to be found in a cave that a vampire could not, given time, uncover.
And this might well be worth the trouble. Glory was far stronger and more powerful than Spike and Buffy combined. But Buffy had fought opponents that powerful before, and won. Case in point: a couple of years back, Spike had given Drusilla a present. His gift had been the resurrection of a powerful demon called the Judge, of whom it was said that “no weapon forged” could destroy him. The Judge had lasted exactly two days against Buffy. At the very moment that the Judge had gotten himself back to full power, the Slayer had taken after him with a rocket launcher. The memory of it made Spike smile. It had been irritating to lose like that, yes, but hadn’t it also been, well…kind of funny? A bloody bazooka! Who ever heard of a Vampire Slayer using heavy ordnance?
Not Glory, he expected. But she was going to be hearing a lot about it, if Spike had his way. An awful lot.
A few minutes later, Spike found what he was looking for. He loaded as much as he could into the bag, and headed home.
***
The first thing Buffy had thought of by way of locating Glory was the snake. The goddess had summoned it to spot the Key for her, and it had. Fortunately, Buffy had been able to kill it before it could report back to its master, but the question was, how close to home had it managed to get? There was an upscale apartment complex very near to where she’d fought the monster. It seemed as likely a place as any for Glory to be hiding out…but how was she supposed to check? It wasn’t as if she could go in, knock on every door at 4:30 in the morning and ask for the resident Mistress of Evil.
There had to be some way to…
Willow. I need Willow. Oh God, does she even know?
Buffy found the pay phone closest to the cemetery. She was about to put in her change when she realized there was something behind her. Buffy whirled in just enough time to avoid a savage blow from a large, rather chubby vampire.
Probably followed me out of the graveyard, she realized. “I don’t have time for this,” she told the creature. It snarled and swung again, faster than she expected. The vampire’s fist connected with her jaw and knocked her backwards into the pay phone. Buffy hesitated, giving the vamp a chance to do exactly what she expected, which was to close with her, pinning her against the phone. It grinned at her, showing its teeth and opening wide to bite at her throat.
Buffy pushed off against the pay phone and brought her knee into the vampire’s crotch. It howled in pain, stunned long enough for her to land a series of kicks to its midsection and face. The vampire staggered. Reaching into her coat, Buffy drew a long knife.
“Wrong girl, wrong night,” she told her opponent, and cut his head off. There was a soft popping sound as the creature turned to dust.
God, she hated vampires. Disgusting, evil, and possessed of the worst timing imaginable.
So what were you doing with Spike back there, girl?
Buffy forced the thought away and dialed Willow’s number.
***
The bag was heavy.
Spike opened the door to his crypt and threw it inside. He needed sleep. It had been a busy night, and besides, the sun would be up in an hour or so.
He got about a step before something put a hand on his shoulder and spun him around. Mostly by reflex, the vampire punched in the direction he was being pulled. He heard a muffled “oof” as whatever he had hit collapsed to the ground.
“Pardon us, sir.”
Spike looked up. There were a number of…things. They looked pretty much the way Buffy had described Glory’s servants to him, but when he’d heard the description, he’d assumed he’d know what they were when he saw one. No such luck, it turned out. The only thing he could tell from looking at these creatures was that they weren’t going to be winning any beauty contests, but that was hardly rare among demons. The one he’d knocked down got up and backed away awkwardly.
“Tell you what,” Spike told the little…whatever it was which had spoken to him. “How about you all go away and I don’t get violent. It’s late and I’m tired.”
“Sir, my apologies, but my mistress, the ineffable and impeccable Glorificus, demands an audience with you.”
“Yeah, well, tough rocks, all right?” Spike said.
“I’m afraid you don’t understand, sir. I was not offering you a choice.”
“No, mate, you don’t understand. I’m offering you a choice. Give up on this, or I kill you all. Got it?”
Spike was fairly certain he could follow through on his threat. There were only five of them and none of them looked anywhere near combat-ready enough to handle him.
“Killing us would do you little good, sir. Glorificus would become angry. The one called…Xander Harris, is it?…would surely perish.”
So let the little bugger bite it. Fat lot of good he ever was, anyhow. Only what he said was, “All right, let’s go.”
And they did.
***
“Are you sure this is it?” Willow asked.
“As sure as I can be. This is where it died…I’m guessing she’s holed up in one of those condos.”
“Do you think he’s all right?”
Buffy grimaced. “If he’s not, I’ll kill her.”
The two women stared up at the building for a moment, considering. Finally, Buffy asked “Can you find her?”
Willow shook her head. “I don’t really know enough about Glory to scrye for her. But if she’s got Xander, I can at least find him.”
“Okay,” Buffy told her friend. “Do it.”
Willow sat down on the ground, Indian-style. She began to mutter to herself.
“Aren’t you supposed to have something special of his or something for this?” Buffy asked.
The young witch smiled and looked up at her. “Buffy,” she said, “I’ve known Xander since kindergarten. I’m something special of his.” With that, Willow cast her gaze downward and resumed chanting. Buffy checked the weapons in her coat, anxious. She paced back and forth a few steps. Finally, she sat down next to Willow, waiting.
A minute later, Willow jerked out of her trance, gasping.
“Did you find him?” Buffy asked.
“Yeah. Yeah, he’s in the penthouse…up…up there.” Willow said, pointing. Her breathing was slowing down, but tears had started to roll down her cheeks.
“Are you all right?”
Willow nodded, eyes closed to fight the tears. “It’s just…he’s so scared, Buffy. He’s so scared.”
The Slayer got to her feet. “It’ll be okay, Will. I’ll go get him.”
“What do you want me to…?”
“Stay here. If I don’t come back soon, get Giles and come after me.”
“Good luck,” Willow said.
“Thanks.”
With that, Buffy left her friend and walked into the complex, just in time to see Spike and a cadre of Glory’s minions taking the elevator to the top floor.
***
“Hello again, vampire.”
Glory, wearing something which looked horribly expensive, was reclining on a comfortable looking sofa, being fed grapes by yet another robed minion.
Where does she find these losers?
“Hi. Look. We’ve been over this. I don’t know where your sodding Key is. You don’t need me.”
“Oh, that’s okay,.” Glory told him. “I’m not looking for the Key anymore.”
“Given up, have you?” Spike asked. “Good. ‘Cause I can tell you, you weren’t really getting anywhere with it…”
“Hey!” Glory shouted at him, up off the couch and in his face before he knew she was moving. “I’m trying to be polite here. No punching, no threats, no torture. I need a favor.”
“That’s rich. Why would I want to help you?”
“Well, you know…you’re a vampire. You’re evil. I’m evil. Anyway, I thought you might want some help holding on to that Slayer you’re so taken with.”
“It’s none of your…”
“I mean, it’s pretty pathetic saying you’re her boyfriend when she doesn’t even seem to like you, you know? Plus…well… you’re a vampire and all. She will have to kill you.”
“That’s my business, all right?”
“If you say so.” The goddess shrugged. “But you’re not going to get anywhere if I have to kill her.”
Spike snarled. “If you touch her, I’ll…”
“Do something stupid, and I’ll tear you limb from limb, cut off your head and drive a stake through your stupid vampire heart. Yes, I know. But if you would listen to me instead of wasting my time with your meaningless little threats, you’d see my point.”
“And that is?”
“The cat’s out of the bag, vampire. I know little sister’s the Key.”
Spike was stunned. “What…? I mean, she couldn’t be…”
“I was surprised, too,” Glory told him. “But then it started to make sense. I mean, why would the Slayer be so protective unless it was personal?” The Hell-god smiled. “Those clever little monks. I killed them too quickly.”
“Sounds like,” said Spike. He had a great desire to snap this woman’s neck. Staying out of game face was requiring some effort.
“See, the thing is, I’m not ready for it yet. I have to wait for the portal to be ready, otherwise the Key is worthless. You see my problem?”
“Not really,” Spike told her, which was the truth. It seemed to him that any self-respecting evildoer would view Glory’s situation as ideal.
Glory sighed. “If they find out I know, they’ll try to run. Then I’ll have to go after them and it’ll all be a big waste of time and a mess. And I’d hate that.”
“So you want me to what, keep them in town?”
“Yes!” said Glory, enthusiastic. “Keep them in town and then I promise I’ll leave the Slayer alone when it comes time.”
“What about Dawn?”
“What, the Key’s shell? She’ll…well…she’ll die, I guess. I can’t see how that could bother anyone, though. It’s not as though she’s really a person.”
Look who’s talking, Spike thought, but said “I suppose.”
“Okay,” Glory told him. “Then here’s the deal. You keep them close, and don’t tell them I know or betray me in any way, and I’ll go about my business with the girl without troubling the rest of you. If I even think you’ve said something to her, though, I will kill you all. But I’ll save you for last, vampire. I’ll make you watch your little human friends suffer and die. And then I will kill you as slowly as I possibly can. Blood starvation, probably. I will do this because I am a god, and I will not be fucked with.” She studied Spike's face. “Do you understand?”
“Yeah,” he told her.
Glory grinned. “Great! Well then…oh! One more thing.”
“And what’s that?”
One of the warty creatures that worked for Glory came in from an adjoining room, dragging Xander Harris behind him. There was something wrong with him, Spike realized. For one thing, he didn’t seem to notice Spike was there.
“They’re all out there…the Generals…” Xander sputtered.
The minion thrust what was left of Xander Harris towards Spike, who only just managed to keep the boy from falling down.
“I want you to deliver a message for me,” Glory said.
Outside, the sun started to rise.
***
Willow was frightened.
It wasn’t clear to her how Buffy thought she could get Xander away from Glory, assuming the Hell-goddess really was inside. Willow wanted to help, but she had brought neither weapons nor spellbooks, and without time to plan, her magical assistance would mostly consist of floating heavy objects into people, which was a neat trick, but not enough.
I should go back and get Tara and Giles and some black magic. I should go right now.
Except she couldn’t, because Buffy was still inside, and she’d told her friend she’d wait. Willow sighed.
“Willow?”
The witch looked up. “Buffy? Why aren’t you inside?”
“Spike is in there.”
“She got him too?”
“Well, he’s not tied up, and he’s not unconscious, so I’m thinking ‘got to’ is maybe more appropriate.”
Willow considered this. “You mean…you think he’s working with her?” She considered further. “I mean, he wouldn’t…” Willow’s face fell. “Oh God, we’re so stupid.”
“We don’t know that yet. It could be…” Buffy was at a loss. “It could be something else.” She hoped so. If Spike really had betrayed them, Glory already knew about Dawn. That would leave Glory with no further reason not to kill them all. And Buffy honestly didn’t think she could stop her.
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to find out. Will…Dawn’s at Spike’s crypt.”
“What?”
“I left her there. I thought she’d be safe.” Buffy’s tone was hollow. “Get her out of there. Go to Giles’. Get Tara and Anya to meet you there, and get weapons.”
“Buffy…”
“No taking chances. I’ll meet you there as soon as I can.”
Assuming I don’t get killed, she thought.
Willow nodded, and looked at her friend carefully. “Be careful, okay?”
Buffy manufactured a confident smile. “Absolutely.”
Willow hugged her briefly, turned and left without another word, leaving the Vampire Slayer on her own.
She headed back into the complex, thinking. This whole situation made no sense. As disturbing as it could be, Buffy was convinced that Spike’s love for her was genuine. He’d helped her, helped her friends, even. He’d done it in the face of her scorn, for months. Nobody would put up with as much as he had just to get her trust. No one would say the things he had…unless…
Unless they’d been working against you this whole time and needed to find a way to keep you from suspecting.
No. That was impossible. It was implausible, even. What could possibly be in it for Spike? Besides, why tell her about Ben’s connection to the goddess if he was working for her? That was crazy. There had to be some other explanation.
She realized with a start that she wanted to believe he was innocent. Dammit, he’s a vampire! He thinks of people as food, he tastes his own nose blood, and he’s probably up there selling you out right now. Do not choose this time to get mushy over one (good) kiss and some folded laundry!
It was in this somewhat conflicted state that Buffy made it back into the building. She headed for the elevator. So the plan is, you bust into Glory’s apartment, grab Xander, and run as fast as you can, while not being killed by the super-strong, super-fast, indestructible Hell-Goddess. Is that right? Buffy asked herself. But in fact, it was right, because she had nothing better.
She got about three-quarters of the way to the elevator before the bell rang and the doors started to open. Thankful that the lobby was otherwise deserted at this hour, Buffy leapt over the check-in counter and hid behind it. With any luck, no one would notice her.
“So how do I leave, exactly?” she heard Spike asking. “It’s bad weather for vampires right about now.”
“There is a manhole outside, sir,” a sniveling voice replied. “You should be able to get to the electrical tunnels. I am given to understand that underground travel is relatively simple here.”
It does help when the Mayor of the town sets out to build a playground for vampires, Buffy thought.
“Yeah, okay. So what do I do with him?”
“Take him to her house, and leave him there.” That was Glory, Buffy realized. She was here. Were they talking about Xander? Maybe Spike had convinced her to let him go somehow.
“You know,” the vampire said, “she’ll want to kill you for this.”
Buffy’s heart sank. Xander was dead.
“Spike?” Xander asked, and Buffy relaxed quite a bit until he continued, “They have your eyeballs, you know. The doctors. They have your eyes.”
There was a sharp sound Buffy recognized as the sound of a well-landed punch.
“Aw, sodding hell,” Spike said. “Now I’ll have to carry him.”
“I can’t stand that incessant rambling,” Glory replied. “Hey, one thing I can’t figure out. It’s really been bugging me.”
“Yeah?”
“What’s that thing I took out of your head?”
“A pain in the ass.”
The goddess sighed. “Whatever. Just deliver my message.” She paused, then called, “Minions! I’m taking a bath. Get my things ready.”
The elevator bell rang again. Buffy could hear the sounds of shuffling feet for a few moments, and then it was quiet again.
“All right, here we go,” came Spike’s voice. Buffy looked around the corner of the front desk as the vampire slung her friend over his shoulder and headed towards the sewer entrance. “Bloody hell,” Spike added, for no reason she could understand.
When she was in high school, Buffy knew, she probably would have jumped out at Spike and confronted him. She wanted to. In fact, she wanted to stake him several times in a row. Her hands were shaking with the desire to attack.
But it wasn’t safe here.
Spike still had Xander. And he didn’t have the chip anymore. If Buffy tried anything now, Xander was as good as dead. Besides, Glory was still in this building. Better to take the fight elsewhere…and Spike was heading for her house. All she had to do was beat him there. She would pretend not to have seen anything. She would take Xander off his hands and into her house, where he could not enter.
And then she would kill him.
***
It took Spike over an hour to get to the grate nearest to Buffy’s house.
He should have been tired, but he wasn’t. He was too upset to be tired.
That bitch. He was going to do something horrible to Glory. The second he worked out how, he was going to make her suffer until she begged for death. Spike could put up with a great deal without taking it personally. But Glory had made him feel weak, and helpless, and terrified. He could never forgive that.
But what could he possibly do? The goddess had been right. If he told Buffy what he’d learned, she very well might try to take Dawn and leave town. And that would set Glory on them before they were ready. Of course, Spike knew, if he explained that to the Scoobies, they might listen. They might try to beat Glory at her own waiting game. At this point, that was probably the best chance any of them had.
But would they listen? Spike wondered. They didn’t trust him. Well, Dawn trusted him, and it seemed as though that girl, Tara, might be receptive to what he had to say. And things had been going well with Buffy. So maybe…
No. The trouble was the load he was carrying on his shoulders. Spike doubted if any of them, faced with what had happened to Xander, would be willing to listen to reason. Not for a while, at least.
“I’m sorry, mate,” Spike told his unconscious cargo. “You were a wanker, but you didn’t deserve this.”
Spike moved the grate aside and hefted Xander through the opening. He had just gotten Xander’s shoulders through the opening when the boy was pulled out of his grasp and set on the sidewalk above.
***
Buffy pulled Xander up over her shoulder. He was still unconscious. She was beginning to worry that Glory might have given him a concussion on top of driving him insane.
“Spike!” She called down. “Stay there, let me get him inside.”
Hoping he’d do as she said, Buffy started to carry Xander into her house. Once there, she picked up the phone and dialed Giles, who answered on the first ring.
“Hello?”
“Giles? I need you to send someone over for Xander.”
“You’ve got him! Are you both all right?”
“I’m all right. Xander isn’t. Just come. I need to go.”
“Why? Buffy, what are you doing?”
“I have a vampire to slay.”
***
Spike watched Buffy climb down the ladder.
“I’m sorry,” he told her.
She nodded. “What happened?”
“Glory, I expect. He was acting like one of those loonies she’s been putting in the psych ward lately when I found him.” The lie came easily to him. The truth, he decided, would have to wait for a better time.
“So why is he unconscious now?”
Spike tried to look embarrassed, and did a passable impression. “Well, I…um…I hit him.”
The Slayer said nothing.
“Had to, in fact,” he continued. “I couldn’t leave him wandering around, could I? And he wouldn’t come with me.”
“Why not take him to his place?” she asked. There was something wrong with her voice. She was taking all this too calmly. Did she know he was lying? But how could she?
“I don’t know where he lives, pet. It’s not like we were close.”
Buffy stood very still for a long moment. Then she smiled. “Thanks.”
“It was no problem…” Spike began, and noticed that she had reached into her coat and drawn a wooden stake.
“Not for bringing him back, Spike,” she told him. “I expect you do whatever Glory tells you to, now that she’s removed your chip. I just meant thanks for making this easier.”
Spike had exactly enough time to think oh, shit before she was on him.
***
Buffy hadn’t wanted a kill this badly since Faith, at least. Maybe never.
Her anger was giving her power, but it was also making her sloppy. Spike was blocking her attacks too easily.
“Slayer,” he said. “We don’t have to do this.”
Talking slowed him down. She hit him in the face and sent him sprawling. “Yes, we do,” she told him. He was back on his feet in an instant.
“You’re just…” He dodged a kick. “You’re just helping Glory beat you.” He backed away as he spoke.
“There’s only one of us helping Glory, Spike.” She told him. “And we both know it isn’t me.”
“Buffy, listen…”
“Shut up,” she told him, and he realized he’d been more right than he knew when he’d told her he hadn’t seen hatred in her eyes when she looked at him lately. As it turned out, he’d never seen hatred in her eyes. Until now. “You made me care about you. You bastard.”
They stood silent and still. If he moved, if he so much as spoke, Spike knew, she would come after him again. He weighed his options. If they fought, she might kill him, but that didn’t worry him. The prospect of fighting her was giving him a palpable, if guilty, thrill. But he might win, and there was a problem. Chip or not, he couldn’t kill her. And if he let her go now, she’d definitely try to take Dawn and run. He was going to have to make her listen. But how…
Spike smiled. It was an evil smile, and he knew it.
“All right, Slayer,” he said. “Come get me.” And he ran.
***
What is he doing? Buffy wondered, running as fast as she could. She couldn’t catch him—Spike had longer legs than she did and didn’t need to breathe—but she could just about keep up.
It was a silly question, really. What he was doing was leading her into a trap. But she found she didn’t care. Spike was going to die for what he had done.
How long? She wondered. How long has he had the chip out? At least since the episode with the Knights, she suspected. It did not surprise her that Dawn might have lied to her about the incident, but it added to her rage. How many people has he killed while I assumed he was safe? Five? Ten? How many lives has he made me responsible for?
Of course, if he’d been free that long, that would mean that Glory had known about Dawn all that time, so why protect her? Why not just kidnap her immediately? She must be waiting for something, Buffy decided. Using Spike to keep Dawn safe until…until whatever Glory has planned.
Buffy lost sight of Spike as he turned a tight corner, but that was all right. She could follow the sound of his footsteps.
She wondered if it would be worth trying to get answers out of Spike before she killed him, and realized that she probably couldn’t. Killing him was going to take a toll on her. A heavy one. If she let herself think about it, she might slip.
She realized that she couldn’t hear him anymore. He’d gotten away.
“Damn!”
Next to her, the wall swung open.
“If you really want to have it out, Slayer, you’ll have to come in,” came Spike’s voice.
She followed it inside.
***
Buffy recognized the place at once. This was the cavern beneath Spike’s crypt, the place where he’d set up the shrine and the-—ugh—-mannequin, and where he’d chained her to the wall and offered to kill Drusilla to prove his love for her. He had access to the sewers and electrical tunnels from here? He could get anywhere, anytime, she realized. Just how much have I let him get past me?
Spike was standing about a hundred feet away. He was carrying a large, wicked-looking knife.
“Do we really need weapons for this?” he asked her.
In spite of everything, Buffy smiled. “It makes me feel all manly,” she told him, and tossed the stake away. Spike put down the knife and charged, his face going from human to vampire as he came.
Buffy sidestepped, avoiding his attack, and punched the vampire in the ribs. He doubled over, so she launched a kick at his head, which he avoided by catching her foot and shoving her backwards, toppling her to the ground.
Spike waited patiently for her to get up. “Do you think this is a game?” she asked him, angered.
The vampire shrugged. “You’re the one who wanted to dance, love.”
“We…are not…dancing!” Buffy told him, executing a beautiful combination of punches and kicks, all of which Spike either blocked or avoided. How is he doing this? she wondered.
Spike ducked under a punch, grabbed her right arm, and twisted it behind her back, forcing her to press her back into him. The move put her in position for a bite, and Buffy felt an unnecessary breath of air tickling the hairs at the back of her neck. The sensation failed to be unpleasant in a way that discomfited her. “I told you once before, love. All we do is dance.”
Buffy lashed out, sending a heel into Spike’s foot and then flipping him over onto his back. He laughed and avoided the kick she tried to follow up with. She grappled with him as he tried to get to his feet, but he knocked her away with a headbutt.
“You know,” he told her, “I’m a little disappointed, pet. Have you forgotten who you’re dealing with?” She tried to kick him again but this time he sidestepped her and landed a punch that very nearly took her to the floor again.
“I’ve spent two lifetimes killing Vampire Slayers,” he continued. “I know how they think. I know how they fight. And I’ve had two years to watch every move you make.” He hit her again as she tried to recover. “Don’t get me wrong,” he added, kicking her to the floor. “You could beat me. Maybe. But you don’t want to.”
Buffy managed to get to her feet again, but Spike had hit her hard. Her next series of kicks was too slow. Nevertheless, she managed to hit him this time, backing him off. Spike started to swing at her, and she moved to avoid it, realizing the instant she did so that it had been a feint. Spike’s left hand reached past her defenses and clamped around her throat. Before she could free herself, he took a step forward, still throttling her, and pinned her against the side of the cavern.
“I’m sorry, Buffy,” he told her. He said something else, but she couldn’t hear it, because the world had gone away.
***
The fire sounded like a waterfall.
It was everywhere, consuming everything. She had to find Dawn. She had to save her. As long as she searched, the flames would not touch her.
In the distance, Buffy saw a figure. She ran towards it, realizing as she did so that this was Giles, examining something in a book. She could not see his face, and for some reason, even though she knew he loved her, she did not want him to look at her.
“I just don’t know what it means, Buffy,” he said. “I can’t understand it at all. Would you like to see?”
“Yes.”
“Then look,” Giles told her, and when he turned, it was not Giles she saw, but Glory, Glory in a tweed jacket and medical scrubs.
“Hi, Buffy,” Dawn said, from behind her.
“Dawn, go home.” Buffy said. “You’re not supposed to be here.” She felt very sure of this.
“Sure she is.” Glory took Dawn’s arm and they began to run, faster than Buffy could keep pace with them. They ran into the fire.
Buffy screamed.
“Buffy? Are you all right?” It was Spike. He was holding her. She felt certain that there was definitely something wrong with this, but the thoughts wouldn’t come to her.
“Buffy?” he asked again.
“She’s got her,” Buffy told him. “She’s got Dawn…she…”
“Wake up, Buffy.” He shook her, and the flames began to fade away. “Wake up,” he said again, and they disappeared completely.
Buffy’s eyes opened. Spike was kneeling over her, gently rocking her back and forth by one shoulder. Groggy at first, she tried to work out what was happening. She seemed to be lying on a stone floor…the floor of Spike’s crypt. She was very sore, and her lip was bloody. She was also, she realized, bound. Spike had tied her hands over her head, and put her in leg manacles, which he’d bolted to the ground. As a result, she was relatively comfortable, but unable to move
“Are you all right?” he asked gently.
Buffy recovered enough to glower at the vampire. “Do I look all right?”
Spike smiled. “Well you’re a bit banged up, but I’ve always had a thing for women in chains. I’d have to say yes.”
“Bite me.”
“Look, I realize you’re angry…”
“You don’t have a mmmf,” she almost got the sentence out, but he clamped a hand over her mouth.
“Let me speak, pet. You’ll have your say.” He removed his hand. It came away stained with a bit of her blood.
Buffy watched him, waiting.
“Anyway, I know you’re angry, but I want you to know that I haven’t betrayed you. I didn’t give Xander to Glory. I didn’t even know she had him until her little pet warts came to get me.”
“Why did she remove the chip, Spike? What did you do for her?”
“Nothing! It was an accident, all right? Just blind sodding luck. Back at the hospital, she tried to do to me whatever she did to your friend, and it knocked the thing out.”
“You’re lying.”
“I’m not.”
“Spike, you just knocked me out and tied me to the floor. I don’t exactly consider you trustworthy right now.”
“You should. The ropes are just for protection.”
Buffy glowered at him. “They won’t hold me forever.”
Spike smiled a knowing, sad smile. “It’s protection for you, love. If I wanted you dead, you’d be dead.” Spike looked at the blood on his hand, and for a moment Buffy was afraid he was going to taste it, but instead he leaned over her, putting his weight on both hands. “Or maybe you’re right. Maybe I have gone back to my evil ways. Maybe I just wanted you to be awake when I bit you…” Spike lowered his head as if to make good on his threat until he was close enough, then pulled back. His face was passive but intense. “But then again, maybe not. The point is, you ought to trust what I’m saying to you right now, because if I meant you harm, believe me, this is when I would do it."
Buffy found that she could not disbelieve this. “Then tell me what’s going on.”
“If I tell you, it could put your sister in danger.”
“Oh, please.”
“I’m dead serious, Buffy. If you ignore what I tell you, or decide that I’m lying, Dawn will die, and so will you, and so will your Scoobies. Matter of fact, I’ll probably kick it, too.”
“So there’s a positive side to this.”
Spike winced. “Don’t. Please.”
“I’m sorry.” She told him, and meant it. Hurting Spike had lost its joy awhile ago. “It’s just that this is getting to be kind of a pattern.”
“If I let you up, can I assume you won’t try to stick anything through my chest?” he asked her.
Buffy didn’t respond.
“I didn’t think so,” he said. “Anyway, look, what Glory wanted was for me to keep you and the kid in Sunnydale for a few more days.”
“Why?”
“Because she knows your sister is the Key.”
“You told her,” she accused.
“No,” Spike said patiently, “I told you already. I didn’t betray you. She must have gotten it when she picked the mophead’s brain.”
“His name is Xander.”
“Fine. She got it when she picked Xander’s brain. Or at least, that’s the best I can work out. The point is, Slayer, if you try to leave town, or show any sign you know about this, Glory will come down on us like a ton of wet bloody cement in tacky heels.”
“Us?”
“Well yeah, us. She’ll assume I told you.”
“So what should ‘we’ do, then?”
Spike ignored the sarcasm, treating the question seriously. “Well she’s screwed up, hasn’t she? You know she won’t mess with you as long as you don’t try to leave. All you have to do is be ready for whatever she’s planning.”
Buffy sighed. “You know what, Spike? I think I actually believe you.”
“But if I let you off the floor, you’ll still try to put a stake through my heart, won’t you?”
Buffy studied him. “Since the chip came out, how many times have you fed?”
“Not once. Still living on sodding butcher’s blood.”
Buffy visibly relaxed.
“Is that what you’re thinking? That I’d just start feeding again? Buffy, I love you.”
“You do,” she agreed. “You really do. But what you don’t get is, I can’t be responsible for you. It can’t be because you don’t want to make me mad that you don’t go around eating people.”
“That’s not…”
“And one of these days, Spike, you’re going to realize that I’m not going to fall in love with you. And you’ll be angry, and you’ll be hurt, and you’ll want to hurt someone else. And when you do, it’ll be my fault for not stopping you when I had the chance. I can’t let that happen.”
Spike shook his head in amazement. “You’ve really put some thought into this, haven’t you? I mean, that’s a very nice, logical argument you’ve got there. There’s really only one problem I can see with it.”
Buffy took the bait. “What’s that?”
“It’s horseshit. Start to finish. Anyone can kill, Buffy. It’s not your fault unless you do it yourself.”
“It’s your nature…”
“Sod my nature.” Spike was shouting now. “I decide who I am, all right? Not you, not Angelus, and not a set of pointy bloody teeth. And while you’re at it, sod your stupid bloody logic, as well. Is letting me kiss you your idea of telling me there’s nothing between us? Or maybe you’re talking about the way your heart races whenever I get my teeth near your throat.”
To her great annoyance, Buffy found that she was blushing. “I was frightened.”
“You were excited,” Spike told her. “Scents don’t lie.”
“We’re not having this discussion.”
“You’re right,” he said. “We’re not.” He kissed her, cradling her head in one hand, and she found herself responding, enjoying his odd combination of presumption and need. The kiss lingered, until finally the vampire pulled away.
She glared at him, breathing hard. “Don’t do that again.”
“Buffy, you…”
“Just don’t. Don’t touch me.”
“You can’t just deny the way you feel.”
“It doesn’t matter how I feel!” Buffy shouted at him. She took a moment to regain herself. “You’re dangerous, Spike. You’ve killed more people than you probably even remember. I can’t just ignore that because I want to.”
“But if you want to…”
“Stay out of my way,” she told him, her voice flat and final. “If you love me at all. Please, stay out of my way.”
Spike nodded, and walked out of her line of vision. He came back with the knife he’d been holding earlier. He placed it carefully on her stomach.
“Here,” he said. “It’ll probably take you a bit to figure out how to use that to free yourself. In the meantime, I’m leaving.”
Buffy nodded. It was only fair.
“Oh by the way,” he added, “There’s a present for you upstairs. Big canvas bag, you’ll know it when you see it. I’ll be seeing you around, Slayer.”
“I hope not.”
Without another word, the vampire disappeared.

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