[identity profile] eee1313.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] dancing_lessons_archive
Part one of two

Episode Five: Enemy Lines

by cousinjean
Trouble and Yellow by Coldplay

Notes: Willow's barrier spell is taken verbatim from the television episode "Spiral," written by Steven S. DeKnight.

This episode is rated R. This episode is also about twice as long as normal, hence, it's posted in two parts.

A big shout out to georgevna, just 'cause I loves ya. And for many helpful and correct suggestions. And also because I didn't know any brand names for bourbon. Special props to AurelioZen for making a tiny little change in ep. 4 which set up one of my scenes so perfectly, even though she didn't really want to, but she did it anyway, and she didn't even accept my bribe. She's getting a prezzie anyway, 'cause she's such a good sport. Big, big thanks to enkeli for helping me kill my babies. And much love to the rest of my cheering section in the Redemptionista fic thread over at MBTV. Every bit of feedback was helpful.


*

"I c'n still be the Big Bad."

Spike took another swig from his bottle of Maker's Mark.

"Yeah. I'll show her. Show that bint what kind of bloody Pandora's Box she opened. Nothin' holding me back now, baby." He stumbled over a flat grave marker, but caught himself before he fell. He straightened up, and looked down at the grave. "I've been a good dog, I have!" he shouted at its inhabitant. Then he muttered, "I've been a bloody Buffy-whipped sod, is what I've been. But no more!" He continued walking. "'Cos, really, what's the point?" He stopped walking, and looked up at the sky. "Could somebody please tell me," he shouted, "what is the fucking point?!"

He stood like that for a moment, gazing up at the sky, as if he expected answers to rain down from the heavens; but the heavens were less than forthcoming. Spike hung his head, and sighed. "I mean, I am a vampire, am I not? Isn't it about time I acted like one?" He knocked back some more bourbon. "That's just what I'll do." He started walking again. "Go find myself a nice, ripe girl to drink. 'S not like it'll make a difference to Buffy. Already made her mind up, she has. Thinks I'm out killing again, her and her merry band o' Slayerettes. Bleeding wannabes. Bunch of self-righteous, judgmental pillocks. Oi!"

Something passed him, knocking into his shoulder. He spun around to see who it was. "Bloody watch where you're -- oh." It was just a statue, a marble angel with a woman's face. He studied it a moment, then pointed a finger at its chest. "You know what I should do?" he asked. "I should go eat one o' them. Have myself a bloody Scooby Snack." He stopped to laugh at his own joke.

He started to walk away, then he turned back around and pointed an accusing finger at the cherub. "Harris. Stupid git, I'll start with him. This's probably all his fault, you know. Never did like me, never wanted me with Buffy, prob'ly just waiting for a chance to turn her against me. Yeah. 'Cos Spike's not good enough for his precious hero. Never mind that I schlepped his ruddy brain-sucked ass through three sodding miles of sewer to get him to Buffy's nice an' safe. Or that I kept him out of harm's way when the big fight went down. Or, or what about all the help I've been giving him since, with his Watcher training, eh? Shouldn't that count for something?" He drained his bottle, then put a conspiratorial arm around the angel's neck. As he spoke, he poked the statue's arm for emphasis. "You know, that boy is going to make one hell of a Watcher."

He considered this, then let go of the statue and shrugged. "Well, he would, 'cept, you know, now I'm gonna eat him. Been ages since I had a decent meal. Not since last time Dru came to town…" He staggered back a couple of paces, then rubbed his forehead as he remembered. "Bloody hell. Drusilla. It's all her fault, it is." He threw his bottle at the statue. It shattered at the base. Spike bent down and retrieved the neck, and shoved it in the statue's face. "Sod the Scoobies. You know what I should do? I should find that bitch. First I'll cut her," he made a jabbing motion with the broken bottle for emphasis, "then I'll stake her. Just like I should have done last time she was in town. If I'd done that, I wouldn't be out here conversing with ruddy statuary, instead I'd be back at Buffy's getting in a good snog. If I do it now, maybe… maybe she'll take me back."

A set of claws dug into his shoulder and spun him around.

"Hey, watch the leath--urk!" A large hand closed around his throat and lifted him off the ground. Spike studied his attacker. It was big, it was purple, and it was spiny. "'S there a problem?" he managed to croak out.

"You," it said. Well, at least it spoke English. Or something Spike could understand, at any rate. He was too drunk to keep his languages straight. "You are the problem," the demon said. "The Slayer's boyfriend."

Spike laughed. "Ex-boyfriend, actually. Get it right."

The demon tightened its grip on his neck, and sniffed him. "You stink of her scent."

"So I've been told." He grabbed the demon's wrist with his empty hand and tried to break its grip, but it was no use.

"You are a traitor to your own kind," it continued.

"Yup, heard that one, too. Are we through here, or do you want to sing me any more golden oldies?"

The demon brought him down until they were face to face, a bit closer than Spike would have liked, especially considering the bloke smelled like raw sewage, and his breath was even worse. The thing grinned at him. "You die."

It threw him backwards into the angel statue, toppling it over. It broke into pieces as it hit the ground. Spike landed in the middle of them. He sat up and shook his head in an effort to clear it. As the demon stalked towards him, he remembered the piece of broken bottle he still clutched in one hand. The demon bent over to pick him up, but Spike thrust the glass up into what he guessed were ribs. He jammed it in as far as it would go, and then ripped it across the creature's gut, spilling its insides onto the cemetery lawn. The demon dropped to its knees. Spike got up and moved behind it. He took its head in his hands and twisted until he heard the grinding, wet pop of breaking bones. When he let go, the thing fell over, dead.

Spike stood back and admired his handiwork. "That's right," he said. "I could still be Big Bad." He still had demon guts on his hand. He slung off what he could, then wiped the rest on his jeans.

His head started to hurt, and he decided to go home and sleep it off before he did anything stupid. As he went, his foot caught on a chunk of the statue, and he slammed into the ground. He thought about getting up, but his limbs wouldn't cooperate. He sighed. If he couldn't sleep next to Buffy, then he figured this was as good a place as any.

***

Buffy awoke to the sound of drawers and cabinets slamming shut in the kitchen. The sounds of a teenager in the house. Thankfully, she could smell coffee brewing. She realized she was still in the same position as when she'd dozed off: curled up in a ball on one end of the sofa, clutching a pillow to her chest. She squinted at the clock on the VCR. She'd slept just a little over two hours. With a groan, she stretched out and put the pillow over her head.

She heard the thunk of a mug being set on the coffee table. "Use a coaster," she mumbled.

"I did," Dawn said. "And this is your coffee. The memorial service is in an hour. You have to drive me, so get up."

Buffy sighed, and forced herself to sit up.

"Whoa," Dawn said. "You look like hell."

"That's better than I feel," she said, reaching for her coffee.

"You're not sick, are you?" Dawn asked.

Buffy shook her head.

"Then how come you slept on the couch?"

"Didn't feel like sleeping in my bed," she said.

Dawn sat down next to Buffy. "Something happened, didn't it? Where's Spike?"

Buffy stared at her coffee as the night before came back to her in vivid detail: Spike. And Drusilla. Kissing. Talking about killing the Slayer. His face as he swore he was only pumping her for information. Why bother? His back as he walked out the door, slamming it behind him.

"Buffy?" Dawn prompted. "Where is Spike?"

"Sit down, Dawn."

"I am sitting. Oh, God. Did something happen to him?"

"No," Buffy said. "Nothing like that. It's… complicated. We had a fight."

Dawn looked relieved, then irritated. "God, Buffy. Dramatic much? Don't scare me like that. So, what did you guys fight about?"

"Drusilla's back in town."

"Oh." Dawn looked worried again. "He didn't do anything stupid like last time, did he? Tell me he didn't chain you up again."

Buffy shook her head. She thought about telling her she saw Spike and Dru kiss, but she wanted what she was about to say to sound like it came from the Slayer, not from Jealousy Girl.

"Dawn, listen to me. If Spike comes around the house tonight -- or ever, for that matter -- don't invite him in."

Dawn made a disgusted face. "You had him disinvited again? Just because you guys had a fight? I don't believe you, Buffy. This is getting really old."

"I haven't had Willow do the spell yet, but I'm going to. Dawn, we didn't just have a fight, we…" She sighed. "I don't know how much we can trust Spike right now. When Drusilla's around, he tends to become dangerous."

Dawn shook her head. "This is all just because his ex is hanging around town? Jeez, Buffy. I know you have trust issues, but this is Spike. He loves you. He loves us. Hasn't he done enough to prove that by now?"

"Dawn, you don't understand."

"I understand you're overreacting."

Buffy stood up, still clutching her pillow. "Overreacting? I want to protect my little sister from the people who slaughtered half of her class, and you think I'm overreacting?"

Dawn stood up too, shock and anger on her face. She shook her head. "Spike didn't have anything to do with that."

"We don't know that," Buffy said.

"I know that. And so do you."

Buffy threw the pillow down on the sofa. "Dammit, Dawn! Do you think I want to believe that my boyfriend helped murder a club full of kids? I want him to be innocent more than anybody! But what I saw… I just can't take his word for it."

"What you saw?"

Buffy sighed, and sat back down. "I saw him with Drusilla. They were talking about killing me."

Dawn shrugged. "So?"

Buffy looked at her, shocked.

Dawn rolled her eyes. "Buffy, did it occur to you that maybe Spike was just trying to get information out of Drusilla? Whatever you saw… it couldn't have been what it seemed."

Buffy looked down at her hands. "That's what he said."

"Well, there you go then. So what's the problem?"

Buffy looked back up at her. "The problem is that for two nights in a row he was sneaking around and keeping secrets from me. And if he thought Dru was in town and he just wanted to investigate her, he could have told me. He should have told me, if that's all it was."

"So he didn't play by your rules," Dawn said. "That makes him a killer? We have to be afraid of Spike now?" She shook her head. "Sorry, Buffy, that just doesn't work for me." She started towards the kitchen. "I'll find my own ride to the funeral," she said.

"Dawn, I can take you," Buffy said, getting back up.

"I don't want you to," Dawn said. "I'm going to a funeral for half the people I know. I don't want to have to listen to theories about how one of my best friends killed them all on the way."

"Dawn…" Buffy called, but she was met with silence. After a moment she could hear her on the phone, asking for a ride. Buffy closed her eyes, and sighed. Yesterday had been terrible, and last night had been even worse. Today wasn't shaping up to be any better. She opened her eyes, and looked down at the spot where she'd slept. Her makeup had rubbed off and stained the upholstery on the new sofa. Somehow she just couldn't find it in herself to care. She moved the pillow over the spot, picked up her coffee, and headed upstairs to take a shower.

***

Spike rolled over and pulled the sheet over his head. As he drifted toward consciousness, he became aware of three things: one, his head hurt like a bitch; two, it was day; and three, someone else was in the room with him. Someone female.

"Izzat you, babe?"

"Mmm hmm," came the reply.

He grinned and held his hand out from beneath the sheet. "Hell of a dream, love. You an' me had a fight. Worst one ever. Broke us up."

A soft hand took his outstretched one. "Glad it was just a dream," he said as he pulled the hand to his lips. When he felt its coldness, he flung it away like it had scorched him. He opened his eyes and sat up.

"Sounds horrible," Darla said. "Pity it wasn't a dream." She sat on the edge of the bed.

"Bloody…" Spike said, "where the hell did you come from?"

"Well, this time around, from Drusilla. But surely she's told you all about your new little sister?"

"Yeah," Spike said, rubbing his eye with the palm of his hand and trying to clear his head, "She mentioned it. Congratulations." He looked around the room. "This Angel's mansion?"

Darla frowned, and stood up. "It was. It's ours now." She started to pace at the foot of the bed.

"I'm sure Angel's thrilled."

"Angelus," Darla said, "can kiss my ass." She paused, then muttered, "Not that it'd do anything for him. Anyway, it's not like he was using it."

"Whatever," Spike said. His headache made him long for a good old chip-zapping. He really wasn't up to hearing all about Darla's issues with the nance. "Um, where's Dru? And for that matter," he added, realizing that if not for the sheet he'd be completely naked, "where are my clothes?"

"Your clothes are being washed. They should be ready soon." She wrinkled her nose in disgust. "They smelled like raw sewage and cheap bourbon--"

"It was a bloody good bourbon, I'll have you know."

"--and caked with little bits of that demon you killed. You know, you're lucky we found you. If not for Drusilla deciding she felt like a moonlight stroll, you'd be a pile of ash right now."

"Yeah," Spike said. "Lucky me. And Dru is where?"

"Out shopping."

"Shopping? But it's day."

Darla shrugged. "She knows her way around in the daylight. Anyway, she was too excited to wait. She wanted to get a present for her boy." She lowered herself to the bed, and started crawling towards him. "Which begs the question." Spike leaned back as she crawled up him and straddled his lap. He tried to scoot away from her, but he was already up against the headboard. Darla traced a finger down his bare chest, causing him to shudder. Not in a good way.

Darla placed her mouth against his ear and breathed, "Are you still her boy, Spike?"

"Um, look, granny…"

Darla's shoulders slumped as she raised up to look at him. "How many times do I have to tell you not to call me that?"

"No offense," Spike said, "but I never really thought of you that way."

Darla laughed. "Oh, William," she said, running her fingers through his hair, "don't be ridiculous." She stopped laughing as she grabbed a fistful of his hair and jerked his head back. "Now you listen to me, you limey little ingrate punk. I had to watch my boy turn against me for that Slayer tramp--"

"Tramp? Look who's talking," Spike said.

Darla slapped him, raking her nails across his cheek and drawing blood. She didn't bother to lick it off. "Watch your mouth," she said. "If not for me you'd have died a prissy little bookworm loser of a nobody."

"Oh, yeah?" Spike said. "If not for you, Dru would've died a nun. 'Course, if not for her, you wouldn't be here now." He smirked. "Your unlife plays like a bad country western song. You're your own grandma."

Darla shoved his head into the headboard, which didn't do anything for his headache. She climbed off of him. "Well, I'm also yours," she said, standing up. "And your sister, in a manner of speaking. Which is why I don't just kill you right now. We've decided to give you a chance to prove yourself, since you're family."

"Prove myself, eh? Well. That's right thoughtful of you, grandma. So, how exactly do you expect me to do that?"

Darla glared at him. "You'll find out soon enough. But listen well, sweet William. If I have to watch Drusilla lose you to that little bitch the way I lost Angelus, I will kill you."

Spike sighed. "Like I already told Dru, I was only trying to get in good with the Slayer so I could--"

"So you could kill her. Right, she told me. And your lack of any real feelings for her explains so well the bad dream you thought you had about breaking up with her."

Spike tried to remember his exact words upon waking up. "I, um, I thought you were Dru." He swallowed. He didn't meet her eyes as she studied him. It had never been easy to put anything past Darla.

"You know, I'm actually inclined to believe you," she said. "I mean, fucking your way into the Slayer's trust, getting her to let her guard down -- that's not a bad plan. I guess you do what you have to do, considering."

Spike raised an eyebrow. What the hell was she talking about?

"By the way, I might know some people in L.A. who can help you out with your little problem."

"My problem?"

Darla smiled sympathetically, almost maternally. "Come now, Spike. No need to be embarrassed. Drusilla told me all about that awful chip the government put in your head. Talk about cruel and unusual punishment."

Oh, that. Spike had to turn his head away so she wouldn't see him smile. So, they thought he was still chipped. This could be a good thing.

"Uh, yeah," he said. "It's been just bloody awful, it has. You think you can help me get it out?"

"Of course. If you behave yourself, we'll take care of it just as soon as all of this is over."

"Great," Spike said. "That's, uh, that's awfully decent of you. So, after all what's over, then?"

"Right after we--" She stopped, and smiled. "Oh, no. Sorry, Spike, you're going to have to stick around a while if you want to find out."

"No problem," he said. "Not like I have any pressing engagements."

"Good," she said. "Now, let's see about your clothes." She went to the door and stepped out into the hall. "Girl!" she called.

"For like the tenth time, lady," a familiar voice shouted from down the hall, "my name is not 'girl,' it's Harmony!"

Spike hung his head and sighed.

"Your name is what I tell you it is," Darla said. "And if you speak to me like that again, your name will be 'Dust.' Is that clear?" Without waiting for an answer, she said, "Go and get our guest his clothes."

"Okay, look," Harmony said, coming into the room. "First of all, I don't work for you, Miss Thang, and I am nobody's maid. The only one who tells me what to do is Dracula."

Spike perked up at that. Dracula was still around?

"Second, my days of doing laundry for that sleazebag are over." She glared at Spike. "He can get his own damn clothes."

"Harmony…" Spike warned.

Darla grabbed her by the throat and slammed her against the wall. "Apparently I didn't make myself clear. Dracula, Drusilla and I are partners. That means you work for us all. Spike here is our guest until one of us says otherwise, and you will treat him as such. So, go. Get. His. Clothes." She threw Harmony into the hall. "Now."

Spike could hear the clicking of Harmony's heels on the tile as she ran down the corridor.

Darla gave him an apologetic look. "Good help is so hard to find. Anyway, make yourself at home. Vlad will want to meet with you this evening, decide for himself if we can trust you. Be in the main living room by five." With that, she left.

Spike lay back down and put a pillow over his head, which by now felt like it might split itself in two. "What the hell have you gotten yourself into now, Spike?"

The bedroom door slammed open, and he sat back up. When he did he was smacked in the face by a black bundle.

"There's your stupid clothes," Harmony said, and turned to leave.

"Harm," Spike said, but she didn't respond. "Harmony!"

"What?!" She spun to look at him.

He sighed. "Word to the wise, pet. Don't cross Darla. Or Drusilla. They'll tear your head off as soon as look at you."

Harmony swallowed, and rubbed her neck. "Yeah, I'm kinda starting to figure that out."

Spike felt a pang of guilt. He supposed he was somewhat responsible for the girl's current predicament. "I'd hate to see anything happen to that pretty little head of yours," he said, offering her a smile.

She started to return it, but then she stopped, and scowled instead. "Can you say, 'too little, too late,' Spikey?"

"Fine," Spike said. "I don't suppose I could bother you for some aspirin?"

Her face softened. "Aww. Does my little Blondie Bear have a headache?"

"Yeah," he said. "Guess I'm a bit hung over."

She gave him a look of sympathy, and then a smug smile. "Good!" she shouted, and walked out the door, slamming it as hard as she could behind her.

Spike grabbed his head. "Bloody hell!" He flopped back down and covered his head, and tried to figure out how he was going to win one of his ex-girlfriends back while keeping the other two at bay.

***

Buffy trudged into the magic shop, ignoring the various greetings directed at her as she made a beeline for the coffee pot. She filled a Styrofoam mug, then poured in way more sugar than was good for her. She took it over to the reading area and slumped down in one of the overstuffed chairs.

"Ah, Buff?" Xander asked, perching on the arm of the chair. "You okay?"

She shook her head. "Is Willow here?"

"She has classes all morning. Want to talk to me about it?"

"Not really," Buffy said, and sighed. "But I guess I have to."

"Gee," Xander said. "Try not to sound so enthusiastic, there, Buffy. I might start to think you actually like talking to me or something."

She smiled weakly at him. "Sorry. You know I didn't mean it like it sounded."

"Rough morning, huh?"

Buffy frowned. "Does it show?"

Giles came over then, concern written all over his face. I guess it does, Buffy thought.

"Buffy," he asked, "what's the matter? Is it something to do with Dawn?"

"No," Buffy said. "Well, yeah. We kind of had a fight this morning."

"About Social Services?" Xander asked.

"No. She still doesn't know anything about that. It was… it was about Spike." She stared at a loose thread on the arm of the chair, and picked at it as she continued. "I think you guys may not have been completely wrong to suspect him."

"Damn," Xander said. "I knew it."

"Yeah, well. So much for Insightful Buffy. Guess this is your chance to say 'I told you so.' You must think I'm pretty stupid for believing in him, huh?"

"Not at all," Giles said. "While Spike did appear circumstantially to be the most likely culprit, we were all prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt."

"Yeah," Xander said. "Truth is, I was kind of hoping I'd turn out to be wrong on this one."

"So, tell us," Giles said, "what evidence did you find?"

"I found him macking with Drusilla at the mansion on Crawford Street."

"Oh, dear," Giles said.

"I'd say that's some pretty darn solid evidence," Xander said.

Buffy sighed and shook her head. "I don't know, guys. When I confronted him he said he was just trying to get information from her."

"But you didn't believe him," Giles said.

"I honestly don't know what to believe. I mean, I was so upset, because of the kissing, and I heard him talking about how it was all part of his grand plan to best me."

"That's it," Xander said. "Giles, what's that you were telling him about endless pain and torment?"

"But it doesn't make sense," Buffy said. "If he really still wanted to kill me, he's had plenty of opportunity. Every night, I sleep right next to him, completely unguarded. He could kill me a thousand different ways if he wanted to."

"How very comforting," Giles muttered.

"So then, why hasn't he?" Buffy asked. "What's he waiting for, if that's really the plan?"

"It sounds like perhaps you're not so certain of his guilt after all."

She leaned her head back on the chair. "I just don't know anymore."

"Tell me, did you ever ask him where he was the night of the murders?"

"Several times," Buffy said. "He kept saying it was a surprise. That's why I followed him to the mansion."

"So, he never gave you an answer?"

She closed her eyes. "Yeah, he did. As he was leaving, after we… after we broke up."

"So, what did he say?" Xander asked.

"He said he was out getting some papers so that he could get a job."

After a long silence, Xander spoke up. "A job? Spike? Well that cinches it. He's gotta be lying."

Buffy shot him a look.

"Actually," Giles said, "if he was trying to start a paper trail, that most likely means he left one in the process. If it's true, his alibi shouldn't be too difficult to check out."

Buffy perked up. "Really?"

Giles nodded. "I suppose we could start by questioning Willy. He should know where one would go to procure a false identity."

Buffy jumped up. "Great," she said. "Can you guys go do that for me?" She headed over to the weapons cabinet.

"Sure," Xander said, "but what are you gonna do?"

"I'm gonna head over to the mansion," she said as she loaded up, "see if I can find out anything for myself about what Drusilla's up to."

"Buffy, do you think that's wise?" Giles asked. "You don't appear to be in the best of shape."

"I'm fine," she said. "Drusilla was alone, and I know that mansion at least as well as she does. I can stick to the sunlight. I'll be fine."

"Uh, Buffy," Xander said as she headed for the exit, "what'll you do if Spike's there with her?"

Buffy paused, but she didn't turn around. "He'd better not be if he knows what's good for him," she said, and left the store.

***

Buffy snuck through the sunlit garden to the terrace doors. She let herself inside, and looked around. A hall led off of the garden room, towards the staircase leading to the rest of the mansion. As she approached the staircase, she could hear muffled voices coming from behind closed doors just beyond it. They didn't sound familiar, and she couldn't make out how many, or what they were saying. As she stood debating whether to go eavesdrop or to just burst in and start fighting, an arm grabbed her around the middle, pinning her arms as a hand clasped tightly over her mouth.

Her attacker pulled her out of the hall and into an enclave. She raised her leg and brought the heel of her boot down, contacting with his kneecap. She heard her opponent groan in pain, and he loosened his grip enough for her to get an arm free. She elbowed him in the ribs and pried his hand from her mouth, then spun around, stake poised for the kill.

"Bloody hell, Slayer," Spike said, clutching his ribs. "You trying to let everyone know you're here? Why don't you make some more noise, they might not have heard you down in the cellar."

Buffy lowered her stake, but she didn't put it away.

"What are you doing here?" he asked.

"What am I doing here? What about you?" She crossed her arms. "Though, I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see you here. After all, you did say you were going back where you belong."

"Yeah, and I meant it, too." He glanced up at her. "For all of five minutes."

"So what changed your mind?"

Spike straightened up to look at her. "That was about as long as I could go without missing you."

Buffy looked down at the floor. With a sigh, she put her stake away.

"What are you doing here, Spike?"

"What do you think? Same thing I was doing last night, trying to find out what the hell Dru and her pals are up to."

"It won't matter what they're up to if we go stake them now."

"Wrong there, love. Whatever it is, I think it's already begun. They won't tell me anything yet, but from what I've been able to overhear, they've started something big. If we don't find out what it is, we won't be able to stop it, will we?"

"Then let's just go make them tell us. Then this can all be over and we can just go home."

"I'd like nothing better. But how? No offense, pet, but you look like hell."

"Flattery will get you nowhere," Buffy deadpanned.

"Yeah, well, how 'bout honesty? You look like you feel as bad as I do. Neither one of us is in any shape at the moment to take on this lot."

"This lot? I thought it was just Drusilla, and maybe a minion or two."

Spike shook his head. "No. What, you thought she killed all those kids herself? Even Drusilla's not capable of that much carnage in one go."

Buffy didn't say anything.

"Oh, that's right, I almost forgot," Spike said, his voice turning cold. "You and your groupies applied your oh so astute powers of deduction and came to the stunning conclusion that I was helping her."

"Actually," Buffy said, her voice equally cold, "it was a fairly obvious conclusion to reach when I saw you making out with the prime suspect."

Spike closed his eyes. "It didn't--"

"Don't tell me it didn't mean anything. I could see it all over your face. It meant plenty. What the hell was I supposed to think, Spike?"

"You were supposed to trust me!" he shouted, then stopped and looked around. He continued in a whisper. "You never would have followed me in the first place if you believed in me half as much as you claimed to."

"How could I when you were keeping secrets from me?" Buffy felt her bottom lip begin to tremble. "I asked you again and again what you were up to and you wouldn't tell me."

"I wanted it to be a surprise," he said.

"Yeah, well. Imagine my surprise when I heard you tell Drusilla how you planned to kill me."

"You know that's not--"

"What I know is that my last boyfriend gave me all kinds of believable reasons for why he wouldn't be around on occasion. And I believed him, because I trusted him. Surprise! He was sneaking off and getting suck jobs from vampire whores!"

"Please, love. Keep your voice down," Spike warned.

"And my boyfriend before that? 'Surprise, honey! I don't have a soul anymore, and I want you dead now!'"

"How many times do I have to tell you, pet, I'm not--"

"Oh, and how about my dad?" Buffy said. "'Guess what, girls, I don't love your mom anymore. Those business trips I've been taking to Chicago? I was really sneaking off to boff my secretary. Surprise!' You know what, Spike? I really don't like surprises."

Spike sighed. "Point taken," he said. "But you need to trust me now."

"Then come with me and help me do my job."

"No."

"Fine. Then stay out of my way, or end up dust."

She pushed past him, but he grabbed her arm and spun her back around.

"Dammit, Buffy! There are too many of them. Darla's in there with about a half a dozen of her minions, and Dracula's around here somewhere. Drusilla's not even back yet. Now is not the time to attack. Go home, and let me do this my way."

She wrested her arm out of his grip, and stared at him. He looked so earnest, and she wanted so badly to believe him. But she couldn't shake the fear that believing him would just get her killed. Or worse.

"Please, baby," he said. "If I ever needed you to trust me, it's now."

Buffy sighed. She opened her mouth to answer, but then she heard the sound of heels clicking on the marble floor at the end of the enclave. She turned to see who was coming.

"Spike, there you are," Harmony said. "Her royal bitchiness sent me to -- oh. Oh God, it's Buffy."

Spike grabbed Buffy from behind. "'Bout time," he said. "I was running out of excuses to keep her here until someone could come along and deal with her proper."

"Spike…" Buffy warned.

"Oh, God," Harmony repeated. "What should I do?"

"Go tell Darla the Slayer's here. She'll know what to do with her."

Harmony stood staring at them.

"Hurry!" Spike said. "I can't hold her like this forever!"

Harmony turned and ran back the way she came. "Help!" she cried. "The Slayer's here!"

Buffy pulled herself free from Spike and whirled to face him.

"Guess you gotta go now, pet," he said.

Without another word, Buffy slugged him, knocking him out into the hall, where he landed in an unconscious heap. She paused over him on her way back to the garden room, but she could already hear the others coming. She ran down the hall in the opposite direction, and slipped out the terrace door, into the sunlight.

***

"So then you hit him?" Willow handed her a cup of tea as she sat down at the research table.

Buffy nodded. "Knocked him out. Unless he was faking. I didn't have time to check."

"I'm confused," Anya said. "Why didn't he fight back?"

"He didn't want them to get me," Buffy said. "He just wanted me to leave."

"Well, that certainly doesn't sound like someone who wants to kill you."

"I know," Buffy said, "and I don't believe he does. But the thing is, who was he trying to protect? Me, or Drusilla?"

"Maybe both of you," Willow offered.

Buffy nodded. "And that's a problem. I mean, he knows I'm the Slayer. He knows I have to stop her. How are things ever supposed to work between us if he's going to go around aiding and abetting his old pals every time he gets nostalgic?" She stirred her tea. "Anyway, I thought he put that part of his life behind him."

"But, Buffy," Willow said, "Drusilla's an awfully big part of his life to expect him to just leave behind and never look back."

"And also," Anya said, "you made an exception for him. Maybe he thinks an exception ought to be made for her, too."

"But she's a killer," Buffy said. "I only made an exception for Spike because he stopped killing. At least, I thought he did." She leaned forward and buried her face in her hands. "I just don't know what I'm supposed to think. I was so sure that I knew him."

Willow patted her on the back. "I'm so sorry, Buffy."

"All of those vampires gathering in once place," Anya said, "it can't be good. Especially if Dracula's involved. I say, when the guy's get back, we all go over there and put a stop to it."

"I think you're right," Buffy said, sitting up. "Spike will just have to either help, or get out of the way, or…"

"Buffy, would you really be able to?"

"I'll do what I have to do, Will. Anyway, if Dracula's there, we need to be ready for surprises. Do you have any spells to protect against thrall?"

"There should be something," Willow said. "I'll go look."

"Great. Thanks." Buffy looked around the shop for a clock. "What time is it?"

Anya checked her watch. "About a quarter to four."

Buffy got up. "I should have heard from Dawn by now. Of course, she's not speaking to me. She refuses to believe Spike could be anything but innocent. You should have seen her face when I told her Spike might have had something to do with the Bronze. She looked at me like I'd just asked her to eat a kitten."

She went to the phone and dialed home. After several rings, the machine picked up. "Dawn, are you there?" No answer. Buffy sighed. Still getting the silent treatment, it seemed. "Listen, Dawn. I want you to stay in tonight, and don't invite anybody in. Willow will be over before dark to do the disinvite spell, and then we're all going to patrol at the mansion. Stay in the house, Dawn. It's not safe." She waited a moment, hoping her sister would pick up, but then another beep told her she was out of message space. With a sigh, she hung up the phone.

***

Spike nursed a black eye as he paced the room, grateful that Buffy had been either considerate enough or pissed off enough to deck him before she made her getaway. Either way, the bruise would only help him bear up under scrutiny -- something which he found himself to be under a lot of at the moment.

"You let her get away," Darla said.

"Me? You're the ones who weren't fast enough to catch her. What the hell was I supposed to do, talk her to death? I can't lay a finger on her as long as I've got this sodding chip in my head. I'm lucky the bint didn't stake me."

"And why do you suppose she didn't?" Darla asked.

Spike shrugged. "The silly bird's still in love with me, I s'pose. Prob'ly hoping this is all just an act and I'll go crawling home to her with information. I mean, the girl always was a bit daft. She couldn't bring herself to stake Angelus when she should have, either. This is just status quo for her."

"Tell me, William," Dracula said. He presided over the room from a chair that came ridiculously close to resembling a throne, raised on a dais in the center of the room. Spike didn't remember that being there before. Could be Angel'd had it put in, but he had a feeling Dracula'd had it made special, arrogant son of a bitch that he was. Darla and Dru flanked him at each side. Harmony and a bunch of other vamps Spike didn't recognize were scattered about the room, watching the proceedings. There were also a great many humans in the room. Bug-eaters, Spike suspected, considering that none of 'em were tied up, and they didn't seem to mind being in a room full of vampires. "Why should we trust you? Last time we met you were helping the Slayer."

"Pft. Don't tell me you bought the white hat routine. You don't smell a bloody soul on me, do you? I mean, it wasn't without it's perks, and it was fun while it lasted, but you said it yourself, Vlad. Demons don't change."

"No," Dracula said, and smiled. "No, we don't. But I am confused about something. If you can't harm humans, why were you able to hit the Watcher?"

Shit. He'd forgotten about that. "Well… I wasn't trying to hurt him," Spike said. "See, the chip seems to work based on my intent. I knocked the Watcher out for his own good, to keep him from ratting me out and bollixing up my big rescue. There was no ill intent, so it didn't trigger the chip."

No one said anything, and for a moment he feared that they didn't buy it. Hell, he'd never been much of a good liar. He was somewhat surprised that Dru hadn't had a vision of his de-chipping. After all, she'd seen it going in. Her visions could be pretty hit or miss. Maybe this time he got lucky, and it was a miss. Still, if anyone would be able to tell he was lying, it would be Dru.

"That's interesting," Darla said at last. She turned to Dracula. "You know, maybe he could fight if you hypnotized him into thinking he wasn't hurting anybody."

"I don't bloody think so," Spike said. "It's bad enough having the government muck about in my brain. I'll not have you doin' any of your ruddy gypsy mojo on me."

"It would not work on him," said Dracula. "His will is too strong."

"Well, I'm sure he'll prove useful in other ways," Darla said. "So, William, can we take it that you're over your ridiculous little crush?"

"Please," Spike said. "Do I look like bloody Peaches to you? Falling for a Slayer… that'd be right stupid of me, wouldn't it?"

Drusilla clutched her head and started humming, rocking violently. "You lie!" she shouted.

Ah, bugger, thought Spike.

She stepped down from the dais and slowly walked towards him, gazing at him with those black eyes that he knew could see right through him. "I can still see her in you, Spike. In your head, in your heart." She reached out and placed her palm against his chest. "You still love her. More than me. You love the Slayer."

He looked at her for a moment, trying to think of the words to convince her. Of course she'd been able to see that. Foolish of him to even hope he could hide it from her. She'd sensed his feelings for Buffy before he even knew he had any.

"Well what if I do, pet?" he asked, injecting anger and helplessness into his voice. "Bloody lot of good it's done me. Soon as there's trouble, who do you think her and her little Scooby Gang blame? I haven't made a kill, haven't had a drop, not one drop of fresh blood in ages, but is that good enough for 'em? I can't take this anymore, being that bitch's slave." He reached out and pulled her to him, encircling her in his arms. "You were right, baby. I should've gone back to LA with you. I should've let you kill her. I won't stop you now, you can be sure of that. Get rid of the whole bloody lot of them, then things can go back to the way they were. Me and you, princess, the way it's supposed to be."

He kissed her then. He kissed her like he meant it. Yet as he did he realized how little he meant any of it.

Buffy was right. The night before had meant something. It had been a visit to the past, a last taste of the one thing that had brought him joy for over a century. This black beauty had also brought him plenty of torment, though, hadn't she? Even now. His little trip down memory lane had already proven to be a lot more trouble than it was worth. He was more than ready for it to be over.

As he let himself slide down into Drusilla's cold embrace, all he could think about was how much he longed for Buffy's warmth. How he would give anything to feel her touch once more. How he would do whatever it took to earn back the amazing gift of her love. And above all, how much he hoped like hell she wasn't hiding somewhere and watching all of this.

Drusilla began to giggle as she pulled away. "I knew my boy would come home to his mummy." She began to dance around the room, spinning in circles like a little girl with a new dress. "Princess has found a treasure for her brave knight," she sang. She stopped spinning, and smiled brightly at him. "Do you want it, Spike? Do you want to see what I've brought you?"

He smiled, and hoped it covered up the sadness he felt as he looked at her. Even though he knew how close Dawn had come to winding up alongside those kids at the Bronze, he couldn't despise Drusilla for it. It was what Buffy could never understand about Dru. How she could remain so innocent in the midst of performing such monstrosities. For him and the others, it all came down to choice. He understood that now. But Dru had no choice. Darla and Angelus had seen to that. They'd taken away her capacity to choose, determining her path for her, for all eternity. She was every bit as much a victim as those children at the Bronze. Knowing that, how could he hold anything against her?

"Of course, poodle," he said. "I can't wait to see my present."

Dru giggled and clapped her hands, and then ran out of the room.

"So," Spike asked after she failed to return right away, "how can I make myself useful? And more importantly, why would I want to?"

"How does world domination sound?" Darla asked.

"Can't say as I've ever been too big on the notion of destroying the world, gram."

"Not destroying," Dracula said. "Ruling. The Order of Aurelius is on the rise, and will soon be restored to its former glory. Vampires will no longer stand for being treated like second class citizens."

"Um, I hate to break it to you, Vlad," Spike said, "but we're not citizens. I think the less than pleasant business of dying pretty much rendered our citizenship null and void."

"Yes, well, that's a minor detail," Darla said. "One that will hardly matter once the Master is restored."

"Restored? As in, resurrected? And just how do you plan to do that?"

"Same way they did it to me," she said. "There's just one problem. We don't have all of the ingredients for the ceremony. We thought we had enough of the text, but when we tried, nothing happened."

"Something happened," Dracula said. "I felt him. For a moment, he was there; but then he was lost to me."

"Sure, Vlad." Darla rolled her eyes. "Anyway, the thing is, to complete the ceremony that brought me back from the dead, we need the Scroll of Aberjian. Problem is, it's safely tucked away somewhere in that big ol' hotel of Angelus's. That's where you come in."

"What, you want to send me after the scroll?" Spike shook his head. "Sorry, but my good guy act didn't extend as far as Angel. He'd never have bought it, anyway. If I showed up there, he'd kick my ass just as sure as he overdoes it on the hair gel."

"Yes, we thought of that," Darla said.

Spike shrugged. "I suppose I could sneak in and steal it. The poof's never been that creative, at least when it comes to something other than killing things. Get me a blueprint of the place, and the scroll shouldn't be too hard to find and pinch."

"Please," Darla said. "Much better thieves than you have died trying. For all we know he doesn't even keep it at the hotel. Probably one of his human employees has it stashed somewhere."

"So, what do you want me to do, then?" Spike asked.

"Help us capture the Slayer," Dracula said. "We will take her alive, and use her to barter for the scroll."

"Right," Spike said, rolling his eyes. "'Cause she's always so easy to capture, and her friends never come to her rescue."

"That's why we'll kill her friends," Darla said. "The trap is all set. It'll all go down tonight, at the old high school gym. I don't care how good or how lucky her and her little groupies are, they're no match for our numbers. And more than half of our numbers are human," she said, indicating the bug-eaters under Dracula's thrall. "If I know our little Slayer, she won't kill them. She'll do whatever she can to keep from harming them. That's her weakness, and it will be her undoing."

"You know," Spike said, "that actually sounds like a good plan. Kudos to the both of you for coming up with it. But I still don't get what this has to do with me."

"You will lure them there," Dracula said.

"Right," Spike said. "Of course. Um, mind if I ask how?"

Darla sighed the sigh of the much put upon. "That's your problem, isn't it? Use that stupid English charm and convince her you were only spying on us. And tell her about the humans. She'll have to play hero if she knows we have human hostages."

"Sure," Spike said. "Yeah, I can do that. Right, then. Sounds like a plan. What time do you want her there?"

"Nine o'clock," Dracula said.

"Good," Spike said. "Gives us plenty of time to get there after the sun goes down, but doesn't give her enough time to come up with a plan. Good thinking."

"Then it's all set," Darla said. "Oh, William." She smiled. "It's so good to have you back in the family. Let's celebrate. Children?" She addressed the minions scattered about the room. "It's dinner time. I'm afraid we need most of the humans for tonight, so just a snack for now. You'll each have to share, and try not to kill any of them. You'll each get plenty to eat after we've captured the Slayer. Harmony, go and fetch a goblet for Spike so he can join us."

The young vampire glared at Spike and muttered a string of decidedly unladylike curses under her breath as she left the room. He watched her go, and then turned back to see the roomful of vampires putting on their game faces and plucking human beings out of the lineup like fruit from a tree.

He hadn't witnessed a vampire feeding since the last time he himself had fed, at the Bronze with Dru the last time she'd come to town. That had been the first time he'd tried to see what he was through Buffy's eyes, and it had unsettled him. For the first time that night, he'd seen himself as a monster; but being that he was a monster, he'd pushed the thought away and drank from the dead girl Dru had handed him. But now... unsettling wasn't a strong enough word. He wanted no part of this. He felt nauseated as he pictured first Buffy's face on each of the victims, and then Dawn's...

"Spike," Drusilla said from behind him, "I've brought your present!"

Spike turned around, and his heart leapt into his throat. He swallowed. "Dru," he said, forcing himself to smile, "you really shouldn't have."

Relief filled Dawn's eyes. "Spike--"

"Heard of me, have you?" Spike cut her off. He grinned, and half turned his head to address the room behind him. "Nice to see my dalliances with the Slayer haven't completely ruined my reputation among the locals."

The room laughed. Dawn looked confused.

Drusilla released Dawn, whose hands and feet were bound with twine, and came to stand beside Spike. "Do you like her?"

"Oh, she's lovely, pet."

"Do you like how she glows?"

"Glows, does she?" Shit, thought Spike. This was getting worse by the minute.

Drusilla circled the girl. "Beautiful green energy, Spike. It swirls and whirls... can't you see it?"

"Well," Spike said, tilting his head to one side and pretending to examine her, "she does have very shiny hair."

"Silly Spike," Dru said. "Don't you see? Don't need a cup to fill up, don't need to break her... you can eat this one live. She's not really human."

In spite of her fear, Dawn looked stung.

"She looks human enough to me, pet," Spike said softly.

"But she sings to me," Drusilla said, reaching out to touch her.

Dawn flinched away from her. "Don't touch me! When my sister gets here, she'll--"

"Your sister?" Spike asked, loudly enough for the room to hear. "And who might that be?" Through his smirk, he tried to give Dawn his best "please shut the hell up if you know what's good for us both" look.

"She's... she's a cop," said Dawn.

Good girl, thought Spike. "Oooh," he said mockingly, and looked back at the room. "A cop! How terrifying. Do you think she'll arrest us?" The room behind him laughed.

"Aw, she's adorable, Dru," Darla said. "It's almost a shame to eat her."

Think, Spike! "Uh, you say she's some kind of green glowy energy thing then, eh, poodle?"

"Oh, yes. She's so very pretty, Spike."

"That she is, pet. But I think it might be a bad idea for any of us to eat her. No telling what a nip o' her glowy green blood might do to you."

Drusilla pouted. "You don't like my present, William?"

"Yes, of course, love," he said. "You know, I think you've done a brilliant thing bringing her here." He turned to address Dracula. "I know this group of robey demons, hangs out on the outskirts of town. They've been looking for some kind of glowy key thing that they need to open some sort of portal. It sounds like we may have just found it. We could turn the girl over to them, in exchange for their loyalty. They might make some pretty good allies. In fact, maybe we could talk 'em into helping us tonight. Shouldn't take too much persuading."

Dracula took a moment to consider, then nodded. "Agreed. Stan, Kyle!"

Two vampires dropped their snack to the floor and stepped forward.

"Follow Spike's instructions, and take care of the girl."

"I don't mind taking her myself," Spike said. "It's on the way to the Slayer's. I still have to go talk her into showing up tonight anyway. I can go right now." Before Harmony comes back in and recognizes her.

"Very well," Dracula said. He turned to the other two. "Accompany him. Show them the mark of Aurelius, let them know you are dealing on my behalf."

Spike untied Dawn's feet, and took her by the arm. "Let's go, little bit."

"Did I do good, Spike?" Drusilla asked as he started to lead Dawn away.

He stopped, and looked at her. He looked back at Dawn, and imagined Drusilla sinking her fangs into the girl's throat. He suppressed a shudder, and smiled at Dru. "You did great, baby," he said. As he left, it occurred to him that he'd found something he'd be able to hold against her, after all.

The two minions followed them down into the basement, and into the tunnel that ran beneath the mansion. After they'd walked for about half a mile, Spike shoved Dawn up against a wall. "Stay there," he told her, then spun around and punched Stan in the face. Or maybe it was Kyle. He didn't really know which was which. Didn't really matter, since they'd both be dust in a minute anyway.

As the minion reeled back, the other one lunged at Spike. He ducked out of the way and kicked him from behind, sending him crashing into the wall. He slumped to the ground, unconscious. The first one regained his balance and charged Spike, tackling him to the ground. Spike punched him, again, and again, finally knocking him off. He leapt to his feet and pulled a stake out of his coat pocket, spun around and plunged it into the minion's back as he was trying to get up. Then he went over to the remaining minion, still unconscious, and dusted him.

He put the stake back in his pocket and went to Dawn. He sunk to the ground in front of her as his knees went weak with relief. "You okay, Nibblet?"

She shook her head as he untied her. "I haven't been that scared since Glory tied me up over the hellmouth."

"Yeah, well, me neither." He looked up at her, and reached up to wipe a tear from her cheek. His hand trembled, but he forced confidence into his smile. "But hey, I got you out of that mess too, didn't I?"

She nodded. A look of uncertainty crossed her face, and then she bent down and hugged him. He squeezed her tightly, too grateful for her safety to be self-conscious about it.

"Come on," he said after a minute, and climbed to his feet. "Let's get you to the shop."

"So," she said after they'd walked a ways, "that was your old girlfriend, huh? The one who sired you?"

"'Fraid so." He stopped walking. "Listen, Dawn. I'm sorry you had to get caught up in that."

Dawn shrugged. "It wasn't your fault. Besides, once I saw you there, I knew you wouldn't let anything happen to me."

Spike laughed bitterly. "Guess you haven't talked to Buffy today."

"Yeah I did," she said as they started walking again. "I know all about her freak out. She's all panicked because your ex is in town. She said she saw you two talking about how you planned to kill her. But I told her you were probably just pretending, to get information or something. You were pretending... right?"

Spike looked at her. "What do you think?"

"I think Buffy needs therapy."

Spike laughed, for real this time; but he sobered up as they neared the shop. "Listen, Dawn. I don't know how this'll play out tonight. Don't go home. I want you to go someplace safe, somewhere even I can't find you. See if you can sleep over at one of your friends'."

Dawn's eyes glazed over with unshed tears. "All of my friends are dead, Spike."

Damn. He'd forgotten. As he watched her struggle with her grief, he had a sudden urge to go back to the mansion and hurt them all for what they'd done, including Dru. With a sigh, he reached out and hugged her to him. "I'm so sorry, Nibblet." He held her as she cried, stroking her hair in a futile attempt to comfort her.

After a few minutes, she pulled away from him and wiped her eyes. "I know you didn't have anything to do with that," she said. "I don't care what Buffy and the others say."

Spike nodded. "Thanks, sweet bit. Good to know someone still has faith in ol' Spike." He climbed up the manhole and pushed the cover off of the opening, then dropped back down. "Do me a favor. Tell your sis to meet me in back of the shop as soon as the sun goes down."

"Okay."

"Right, then. Up you go."

She started to climb up the ladder, then stopped. "Spike, this'll all be over soon, won't it?"

"One way or another, love," he said, "it's going to end tonight."

He watched her until she recovered the manhole, then he sat down to wait for sunset. He thought over the last couple of days as he lit himself a cigarette. He'd handled things so badly. If he'd just been up front with Buffy about everything from the get go...

He sighed, and held his head in his hands. What he'd seen earlier... it hadn't been anything he hadn't seen before, hundreds of times. Hell, it was what he used to do. What he used to be. No wonder Buffy had panicked. How could he expect her to be so sure of him when he couldn't be that sure of himself? Part of him still missed it. The rich, coppery taste of life flowing between his lips, coating his throat and his insides with its warmth... His mouth started to water. He swallowed, and sighed. No matter how much he tried to pretend otherwise, he would always be a vampire. What business did he have asking Buffy to love a creature like him, let alone to trust him?

Maybe he really did belong with Darla and Dru, as much as he hated to think he had anything in common with them any more. After all, like Darla said, they were family.

He pushed these thoughts out of his head as he leaned back against the wall, and smoked, and waited. Waited for sunset, when he would set the trap. Soon, everything would be in place.

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