"It's good to be me again," said Buffy, clasping shut the last button on her blouse found stashed in a tunnel enclave along with the rest of their stolen wardrobe. She turned to regard Spike, now fully dressed. "And you're... once again you. Sporting less the bare-chested macho-macho-man look, more the I'm-a-creature-of-darkness-who-never-bothers-to-change-his-shirt look. Which is a good, 'cause I was afraid I'd have to get you a gold chain to go with."
Looking as if he was about to speak, Spike only bit his lip.
Heaving a sigh, Buffy gave up. He hadn't spoken more than two words since they'd left the factory and it was getting on her nerves. It wasn't like him to be silent-treatment guy. Not that she... well, obviously she cared. Attempting to shake it off, she slipped on her jacket and said, "I guess we're good to go."
"Good, 'cause I'm itchin' to burrow out of this rabbit hole." Faith left her resting position against a graffiti-sprayed wall and threw over her shoulder, "Where to now, bunnies?"
As reluctant as Buffy was to consider the where to, what to do now of things, she knew she had little choice. "Now I hippity-hop on home to Mom and get a good grounding-'til-I'm-eighty. Then I call Giles and tell him... Something." She glanced at Spike. He looked away. "As for Spike, I don't know. Someplace dark, I guess. Any idea where we are?"
"It ain't downtown Topeka," Faith said.
Looking merely inconvenienced, he squinted up at the ceiling. "Uh... middle of town. Just under City Hall. There's an in to the Library basement not far from here."
Finally, he speaks. Even if it is just about location... and why does this bother me at all? "Great. Then we'll drop you off there. Just stay out of the occult section... and, you know. The librarian's neck."
"Fine," he said disinterestedly.
At that, her short fuse blew. "Okay, what exactly is your problem?"
She nodded slowly. "And I should buy that because..."
"You know, I think I heard something up there," Faith lied. "I'm just gonna go ahead and check it out. See you on the other side, B?"
Buffy wordlessly beseeched her friend to the contrary, only to be ignored.
"Now, Spike, you seem like a nice enough evil guy," Faith snapped her fingers and pointed as she backed up. "But you bite her, and you're chimney soot. Clear?"
Wearily he nodded. "Loud and." Truth be told, he was ravenous. But the thought of drinking from anyone -- or Buffy in particular -- made him strangely ill.
"Good," she smiled brightly and left the pair to trudge the dimly lit tunnels alone.
"Straight-to-the-point Girl," Buffy filled the silence awkwardly. "That's Faith. Verrry pointy."
"Pity it doesn't run in the family," he mumbled.
She stopped walking. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh bloody-- Can the innocent act, Slayer." He gestured towards the factory. "Something happened between us today, something--"
"--that will never happen again," she spoke over him, closing her jacket tightly, feeling exposed.
"Alright then. What's the official excuse? I was handy? You thought you'd have a bit of fun since you were naked and trussed up for the day, and god knows you can't take it out on your one and only?"
"No!" she scoffed. "Well, not exactly the way I'd..."
Bitterly, he chuckled and spun away.
"Why does it matter so much to you anyway? What do you care what my 'excuse' is?"
Halting, he dragged a hand over his face in frustration, making a fist at his chin.
"Okay, look," Buffy reasoned to his black-leather back. "We had a... a thing. Sex. We had sex. And I don't know why we did, or what it means, but you seemed to be having your casual 'bit of fun' too -- and now suddenly you want me to... what? Be your girlfriend? Forget about Angel? Hold hands and sip from the same milkshake at the burger joint?"
He took a steadying breath, and stepped close. "All I know is, I felt something back there. And you felt something too."
She impulsively stepped back. Fear laced her voice. "Like...?"
"Like the bloody earth moving. Like your life beginning and ending. Like it was meant to be all the bloody long."
Buffy swallowed, hard.
"You tell me I'm wrong and I'll leave, right now. I swear to you you'll never see my face again."
For a few moments, Buffy breathed, eyes on his. Finally, she said it: "You're wrong."
He looked down, nodded, gave up on her, and turned away.
Quietly, she felt herself say, "Except..."
He stopped in his tracks, listening.
"I... I had this dream."
"The funny thing is, I..." She couldn't believe she was saying this. Why was she saying this? Why couldn't she stop it from tumbling out? Why didn't she want him to go? "I had it before I met you. And... after. A few times."
Well, this was intriguing. He turned slightly.
Telling him this would only give him more blackmail material. She should have just let him leave. "It's a stupid dream. It's nothing. I don't know why I brought it--"
He strode over to her, face nearly touching hers. "Tell me."
Wow, he really wanted to know. "I um..." Buffy fixed her attention on the stream flowing on the ground. She had to get out of this tunnel. Being in dark places with Spike was making her much too honest. She spit it out quickly: "In this dream, I... I'm in the library, at school. Everyone's there -- Giles, Willow, Xander, we're researching something. All of a sudden, Giles tells me to look out, because..." she glanced at him, and away, "you're there. Behind me? We fight, but no one pays any attention, they just keep on reading."
A few seconds ticked by. "And then?"
She'd spilled this much milk, might as well empty the whole carton. "And then, you back me into the table..."
He smiled, tongue curling against his teeth. "I do that?"
"Yeah." She lifted her chin, gathering courage. "You're about to... to bite me, but you stop. You go, 'No one's looking, they can't see.' And..."
He watched her neck muscles move as she swallowed her pride. "...And?"
"You lift up my skirt, and..."
Spike moved a finger up her leg.
"You sit me up on the table and we..."
More seconds passed, and he prodded, "We...?"
"We..." She looked down again.
"We shag," he finished, impressed, hand steadily trailing up her hip.
"Yeah." Her eyes met his. "And then the Hellmouth opens up and devours us whole. Pretty, huh?"
"Beautiful," he whispered, and kissed her.
It was a nice kiss. Soft at first, but turning strong and possessive and...
"Mmph-- No!" She pushed him away. "Hellmouth, remember? Did you hear the part about the devouring? No, Spike. I don't want to be devoured. I think you should just go back to Dru, like you said--"
"Yeah, well, Dru left me 'cause all she saw when she looked at me was you."
Buffy was stunned. "What?"
"She knew all of it." He pushed a lock of hair behind her ear. "Even the things you'd say. See, I thought she meant I only wanted to kill you, but..."
Is he saying he...? Shocked and overwhelmed, Buffy recoiled. "I... I can't do this."
"No." She stepped away from him. "Don't tell me anymore."
"Buffy!" He grabbed her by the arm. She wrenched herself free. "Damn it, Slayer, let's talk this out!"
"With our lips?" She wiped her mouth on her sleeve. "I'm sorry, Spike, but I cannot do this. You're a cold-blooded killer. I'm the one who's supposed to stop you. And as long as you're..." She trailed off. "We're not meant to get mixed up in this--"
"We're already mixed up in it!"
"Speak for yourself!" And she ran from him, water splashing beneath her booted feet.
* * *
Buffy stealthily jumped down onto the firm grass below her bedroom window and peered into the house for any signs of life. General Mom fast asleep. Check.
She wasn't grounded, per se -- when Buffy explained that she'd been held hostage for nearly twenty-four hours, leaving out the pertinent Spike-drenched details of course, her mother had been surprisingly lenient. But due to the crippling worry she'd caused, slaying was now forbidden unless it was absolutely necessary. Faith can handle the regular patrolling, she'd said, Faith can take over, who needs you, yadda yadda, blah blah blah.
Well, this was necessary. Buffy needed to find Trick, and make him pay.
* * *
"Gimme another," Spike grumbled to the barkeep.
Willy tipped the bottle to pour another shot into his glass. Spike watched it bend and twist from the spout, like a glinting black ribbon. "What's the matter, Spike? You ain't been drinkin' regular?"
Spike looked up with a scowl.
"Not that it's any of my business."
"You're right. It's not." He threw back the blood and put the glass down. "Another."
"What'd I tell ya, huh? This is primo stuff."
"It's pig swill."
"Uh, right." Willy slunk away.
* * *
"I'll ask again, slower this time," Buffy said, looming over the vampire, stake pressed against his chest. "Where... is... Trick?"
"He's got... he's got this office space on Main -- but I've never been there, I swear -- that's all I know!"
"Not helpful enough," Buffy said in mock-disappointment, pushed through the skin... and hesitated.
Her eyes widened. I hesitated? Killing a soulless vampire, I hesitated?
Taking advantage of her surprise, the vampire flipped her over, pinned her down and grinned. "I'm gonna be famous," he leered before descending... then suddenly burst into dust.
After coughing and waving the ash out of her eyes, Buffy saw Angel standing above her.
She'd been purposefully avoiding him since the Dreaded Chain Event, and it didn't help matters that her stomach still knotted and her heart still twinged in his presence.
"Gloating," he memorialized with a shake of his head. "Never works out."
"Hey," she said wanly.
"Hey." He helped her up. "Just for the record, I wasn't following you."
She smiled. "Recorded."
"I was following this trail of dead demons..."
"And I was inevitably at the end of it," she concluded. "It's okay." She brushed the dust off her pants. "I'm a little less anemic now, thanks to you."
"You would've done fine without me," he shrugged, brow knit.
There's that annoying twinge again... "I don't know."
He put his hands in his pockets, surveyed the small park and looked back at her. "What's tonight's reign of terror all about?"
"Well," Buffy took a quick breath. "You know, the usual: See evil, slay evil. But I'm especially on a Trick hunt," she said, managing to muster some pep. "So far I got four bogus domiciles and one spitting cobra demon that I probably should've guessed didn't have vocal chords. How 'bout you? Any leads?"
"On Trick? No. What's he up to now?"
Tying me up and making me want to have my wicked way with an evil vampire you hate? "Bad things."
Great, he wanted elaboration. "Well, the short of it is, last night... he made a really big mistake."
"He was behind that?"
"Wait, what?" Buffy stepped back. "Behind what?"
"The Akalam's hostage stunt."
"What? Wait, wait, wait. How did you know about that?" And more importantly, what did he know about that?
"The demon. He told me that you and Spike were chained together, and that I'd better save you before he ate you. Didn't Faith tell you I sent her?"
"No." Buffy's eyes widened as she froze in place. So that was Trick's big plan? And that's how Faith knew she was there? How could she neglect to mention that Angel had sent her, that he couldn't even be bothered to save her himself? Not that she was complaining, given the circumstances, but... ooh, that little--
"She filled me in afterward, told me it was all a really bad setup." His features darkened. "That is what it was, right? I mean, you were okay, and Spike wasn't really there..."
She scoffed for effect, and carefully chose her words. "Oh. Total setup. Lamest setup ever. And yeah, I was fine, but it was a real inconvenience all around. And there lies the basis of the Trick hunt." There, no lies. Nothing revealed. Not so bad.
"Got it," Angel said. "But I don't think he's much for borrowing books."
"Huh?" Taking in her surroundings, Buffy noticed that her 'Trick hunt' had miraculously led her to the backyard gates of the Sunnydale Library.
The place she'd last seen Spike.
* * *
"You," a voice rattled behind his ear.
Spinning in his barstool, Spike came face to face with a livid Akalam demon. He took in the Hawaiian shirt and muddied white slacks. "Well, if it isn't the Don Ho of the demon realm. How'd you manage to break out?"
Perry lunged, pushing Spike against the bar, hairy arm heavy against his throat. "You killed my brother!"
Spike coughed and raised his hands in defense. "Look mate, I don't even know your--"
"Shut up, you little shit!" He grabbed Spike by the hair and banged his head onto the bar.
"Not! Nice!" He kneed the demon in the groin, and as it hissed in pain, Spike smoothed back his Brill-Creemed coif. "Watch the hair, will you?"
"Yeah?" Perry advanced, fingertips glowing. "When you're blistering in boiling-hot metal, you might have other worries!"
Spike gripped his attacker's arms and growled, struggling to keep those fingers away from his face. "Keep your soddin' cattle prods off me!"
Slowly, Perry lifted Spike into the air.
"Hey, fellas! Fellas!" Willy pleaded. "This is a respectable establish--"
With a scowl, Perry let go, tossing the vampire headlong into the bar mirror. Silver shards and liquor bottles crashed to the floor... along with Spike.
"Hey, now that wasn't necessary!" Willy gesticulated helplessly.
On the floor, lying in broken glass and addled with pain, Spike felt his body shift into demon mode. This, he realized, could actually be some fun.
He shot up, jumped onto the bar, and puffed out his chest in vampiric pride. "So it's a real fight you want then?" He grinned and licked a bead of blood from a fresh cut on his wrist. "Don't say I never gave you nothing."
In a flash, he vaulted down, ripped a barstool out of its hinges and bashed it into to the demon's Neanderthalic jaw.
Staggering, Perry snarled, touched a finger to his wounded neck and let the metal and hair mix to mend his skin in a matter of seconds.
Spike had forgotten about that trick.
The demon rolled his neck from side to side, making loud popping noises, and asked with a determined glower, "That all you got, Slick?"
They circled around one another, closed in by a crowd of gawking demons, prodding them on and placing bets.
"The name is Spike," he said. "And that's just the pre-show." He threw a punch.
Perry blocked it. "Yeah, right. Let's see how tough you are without two slayers helpin' you out..."
The patrons gasped.
Spike spun to address the crowd. "Hey, I don't know what this nutter's goin' on about--"
Perry made his move, with a good old-fashioned sucker punch to the back of the head.
Spike reeled and hit the floor, face first. Bugger hits like a truck.
Perry descended, flipped him over, collared him and pressed his fingers to Spike's face. Feeling the hot sting on his cheek, Spike answered with a reflexive headbutt. He thought better of it once the Ouch came, but at least the thing had registered the blow... and wasn't melting his face.
"Gonna carve a silver cross in your vampire ass," Perry threatened, fingers aglow.
"Not if I lop off your barmy metal-head first," he said through grit teeth, holding him back with nothing but pure adrenaline.
"You don't got what it takes," Perry said.
"Don't I?" Spike knew, of course, that he didn't. That it'd take several more of him to get the job done. But there were several more like him in the bar... "Oi, brethren! This wanker thinks a vampire can't kill him! Thinks we're not strong enough!"
A few words of dissent peppered the crowd, but no one came forward. So much for that plan.
"Two can play that game," Perry snorted as they struggled. "Hey, everybody! Wanna know what this shitbag does for fun?"
Spike's eyes widened.
"He fucks slutty little slay--"
A primal, unearthly roar erupted from Spike's throat.
The next thing he knew, he was holding Perry's decapitated head by the ears.
He stared at it, trying to work out how it got there. When he lifted it up, liquid metal dripped out of it onto the floor, balling up like mercury.
An awed silence surrounding him, Spike rose to his feet, flung the trophy behind the bar, stepped over the demon's lifeless body, and strolled out into the night.