Buffy put her hands on her hips and glared up at the faces peering down at her. She saw Professor Walsh lean down and a voice came out of speakers in the ceiling.
"That was fairly impressive, Ms. Summers. But nothing that my men couldn't have handled just as easily. Let's see how you do against multiple opponents, shall we?"
Before Buffy could respond, a formerly invisible door slid open and several harmless K'vkel demons were shoved into the room. They staggered a few steps, then stopped when they saw Buffy staring at them.
"Slayer! Slayer!" With much shrieking and waving of tentacles, they ran back to the now-hidden door and began to pound on it, begging to be allowed out. Buffy watched them for several minutes, then shook her head and shouted, "Cut it out! They aren't going to let you out, and I'm not going to slay you, so stop screaming. You're giving me a headache."
Buffy went over to the listing desk and broke off the rest of the legs, lining them up on the flat top and studying them with a critical eye. "I guess they'll do in a pinch, but I wish I had something longer and sharper to use."
Her comment set the K'vkel off on another round of screaming and pounding, which ended when she stomped over to them and said, "I told you to stop that! What's wrong with you?"
"Y...you aren't going to kill us?" the bravest demon asked, unable to hide his disbelief.
"No! No, we're harmless. Well, not harmless, but we don't eat humans... or pets."
"Then stop acting like you're locked in a room with a man - er - demon-eating lion and help me figure out how to make better stakes out of these furniture legs."
Buffy held up one of the stubby pieces of wood and glared at it. To her surprise, one of the smaller K'vkels approached timidly and pulled a tool from a pocket in what Buffy had assumed was funny-looking skin. He held it out, saying, "This might be strong enough to shave them to points."
Buffy handed him one of the feet and he began to scrape along the sides. The other demons quickly took out their own scraping tools and Buffy soon had four, still short, but now properly pointy stakes. She put one in her waistband, one up her sleeve and set the remaining two on the desk. Hopping up to sit on the desk beside the stakes, she sat there swinging her legs and looking bored.
"Ms Summers," Walsh's voice rang out, her anger clear. "You have subterrestrials in front of you. I expect you to take care of them."
"I am taking care of them," Buffy said cheerfully. "If any big bad vampires come in, I can protect them with my new stakes."
There was some inarticulate muttering from the speaker, as though someone had put a hand over a microphone. Buffy heard, "...go ahead and do it. We can reuse it on something more tractable and it will give us a better sense of which is stronger."
It was several boring hours later when the door opened again and the K'vkels were allowed to scamper out while armed commandos held Buffy at bay. Instead of the door closing immediately, there was a small commotion outside it and then a familiar black-clad figure was thrust into the room.
"Spike! You're all right!" She ran to him, heedless of the armed men backing out again.
He shook his head and winced. "As alright as I can be," he growled, fingering the back of his head. "Devil knows what they did to my poor noggin this time."
"Here," she demanded. "Let me see..." She stared at the new scar on his head and frowned. "They cut into your head again... In the same place."
"Brilliant. I can't wait to see what they want me to do now. Probably provide a punching bag for you to practice on."
"Actually, Hostile Seventeen," Maggie's voice came over the intercom, "we have removed the chip that was preventing you from attacking humans."
"Really?" He looked up at the window, his vampire face emerging as he stared at the woman responsible for causing him so much pain. "Don't suppose you'd like to come down here and explain how you did it, would you?"
"That won't be happening. All you need to know is that you've been freed from your leash, we will not be providing any food for you, and you and Ms. Summers will remain locked in that room until only one of you is left."
Buffy's face paled and she unconsciously moved closer to her stakes. Glaring up at Maggie, while trying to keep Spike in her peripheral vision, she said, "What the hell are you doing? And I can't stay in here all day. What if I have to pee?"
"You are facing, if stories are to be believed, one of the more dangerous vampires on the planet. A demon that has made it his life's work to kill little girls like you. Surely you have more immediate concerns than whether or not you will be allowed to relieve your bladder!" Maggie's tone was both disbelieving and angry as it occurred to her that the two natural enemies below her did not seem overly inclined to try to kill each other. "And you, Hostile Seventeen. Not only have we provided you with an opportunity to kill another 'slayer', if you do not, you will very likely starve."
"You think I'm going to... that she's food?"
"Why wouldn't you?" Maggie seemed genuinely confused, then interested. "Is there something wrong with her blood? Is whatever she takes to become so strong toxic to vampires?" She turned to speak over her shoulder. "Make note of his answers. If what Ms. Summers takes is toxic to vampires, it could be a good addition to what we give our men."
She looked back in time to see Spike muffling laughter while Buffy glared at him with her hands on her hips. He glanced up when he heard the woman stop talking, saying, "I think you could safely say that Slayers are toxic to vampires. But it isn't their blood that does it. It's those pointy little wooden things they carry around."
"So, then, you could drink her blood with no ill effects to you?"
Spike snorted again while Buffy just gaped at the windows and wondered how someone so stupid could get a PhD in anything, let alone Science.
"Did you miss the part about the pointy sticks? Turning to dust is my idea of a very ill effect."
Maggie studied the two people below her, frowned as she tried to grasp what was going on. Buffy showed no fear of the vampire, and, in spite of his words, he seemed just as oblivious of any danger she might pose to him.
"You did understand me when I said the chip had been taken out, did you not?" Maggie seemed not yet ready to give up her view of "subterrestrials" as animals upon which she could experiment freely.
"I understood you. I'd say 'Ta', but I'm pretty sure you didn't do it to make me happy."
"I did it so that we could evaluate Ms. Summers abilities against something stronger than the first idiot we put in there with her. However, if you are not going to cooperate by attacking her..."
"That's what you want? To see us fight?"
Buffy snorted and dropped all but one of her stakes onto the desktop. She slipped the one remaining stake into the back of the pants and began to bounce on her toes.
"Got your weapon, pet?"
Buffy gave a feral grin. "You betcha. Got yours, vampire?"
"Always, luv," he said, slipping into game face. "I've always got mine."
Without further conversation, they began to spar, at first being careful not to hurt each other, but as it became clear that Spike's chip really was out, their blows became harder and they began to fight in earnest. Spike's hearing caught the sounds from above and as he temporarily pinned her to the floor, he murmured in her ear, "We're drawing a crowd, Slayer."
"It's 'cause we're awesome," she hissed back, flipping him off her body and springing to her feet before he recovered.
Before they could resume their deadly ballet, the door of the room burst open, and a squad of unarmed commandos entered, using tasers to herd a group of snarling vampires ahead of them.
Maggies voice drifted down again.
"As entertaining as my men have found this to be, it hasn't really shown me that either one of you is as lethal as we've been led to believe. Let's see what you can do against numbers."
"Bloody hell," Spike breathed, eying the tasers and the hungry vamps.
"I'll see your bloody hell and raise you an 'oh, shit!'" Buffy whispered back.
She picked up her other stakes, holding one and putting the other in her sleeves.
"Plan?" Spike asked as the vampires began licking their lips and stalking towards Buffy. The commandos, meanwhile were circling him.
Buffy shrugged. "I don't know about you, but I'm about to show them what a slayer really is." The hungriest of the vampires jumped toward her, only to be impaled on one of her stubby stakes. "Damn!" she said, as the stake disintegrated along with the vampire. She met the next one with a roundhouse kick that sent him careening into two others.
"Got your back," Spike growled, slipping back into game face and snapping the neck of a straggler.
"Watch your own back," Buffy grunted, as she incapacitated two other vampires. "If they get you with those tasers...."
"All over it," he growled, jumping off the floor high enough to kick two tasers away before he came down between their former owners. With a roar of satisfaction, he began throwing punches, using his superior speed and agility to avoid most of the blows they tried to land on him.
Buffy had knocked out or otherwise crippled all the remaining vampires, and was systematically walking around plunging her stakes into their hearts. She discovered that if she did it quickly enough, and yanked them back immediately, she could keep the one in her hand from dusting with the vamp. As she worked, she kept one eye on the remaining commandos, noting that while they still surrounded Spike, they were not really willing to get close enough to taser him.
When Buffy saw Spike throw one of the soldiers into the wall, she moved closer to him and warned, "Don't kill anybody."
"Figured that out for myself, Buffy," he said, sounding mildly disappointed, as he sent another man to the floor unconscious.
Buffy reached behind her and patted him on the leg. They were now standing back to back and waiting to see what the remaining soldiers were going to do. "I know you did. It was more for them than for you. See how scared they are now?"
"The wankers were already soiling their knickers," he growled, then held his hand up for quiet. A grin broke out over his face as he let it drop back into his human mien. "Think the cavalry has arrived, Slayer."
As he spoke, the door opened again and a uniformed man stepped into the room and surveyed the scene. Behind him were several armed men and Giles. The new arrival snapped out several rapid orders, which had the commandos, expressions of relief on their faces, lowering the tasers and moving away from the still-alert duo. As soon as they had left the big room, Buffy moved toward the door, Spike trailing after her.
"Giles!" she said in relief.
He looked around the large arena, taking in the dust liberally sprinkled over the floor, and the moaning or unconscious men now being helped from the room.
"What happened here?"
Before Buffy could say anything, Spike put a hand on her arm. She turned to look at him, understanding dawning at the question in his eyes. She swallowed hard, staring back and forth between Spike and Giles.
"I'll tell you later," she said. "I need to... to use the ladies room. Where is it?" she asked one of the men waiting in the hall. They gestured toward the end of the hall and she sprinted out, dragging Spike behind her. When they were safely out of hearing range, she slowed down, but continued to hang on to his hand. The "ladies room" that she'd asked for turned out to be small unisex toilet set into a closet-sized room.
"Uh, Buffy... I don't think I... I mean I know we... but..."
"Oh, stop worrying. I'm not going to make you watch me pee. I just needed to get away from Giles so we could talk." She went into the room and stood, tapping her foot impatiently until, with an embarrassed shrug, he stepped in and shut the door. She stared at him. "What are we gonna do?"
He shrugged. "Don't suppose your watcher's likely to believe me if I said I wouldn't kill anybody?"
She sighed and shook her head. "I'm not sure I'd believe you," she admitted. When his face fell, she put her hand on his arm. "I know you won't hurt me," she said softly. "And I'd like to think you wouldn't hurt anyone I care about...but..."
"But that includes the whole world," he finished for her.
They stared at each other, their eyes filling with tears they would have denied if anyone had dared to point them out.
"So, that's it, then? You'll tell your watcher, he'll order you to stake me, and we're done?"
"I don't want to stake you," she whispered, moving closer to him but holding her trembling hands at her sides.
"Wasn't planning to stand still for it, lo– Buffy." His expression hardened just enough to stop her from touching him. "Could go the other way, you know."
"It could," she agreed, her own face now settling into the hard lines of an angry slayer. "But I don't think it would."
"You're good, Slayer, but you're not invincible. Not by a long shot."
"Same to you, vampire."
She met him glare for glare; the anguish and anger pouring through them making them both shudder. Giles' voice outside the room broke the standoff.
"Buffy? Are you in there? Where's Spike? He seems to have disappeared, and I've heard something very disturbing about him. You need to hear this."
Spike put a trembling hand against her cheek, shutting his eyes when she involuntarily leaned into it. "Open the door, love. Let's get this over with."
Taking a deep breath and straightening her shoulders, Buffy stepped around him and opened the door wide.
"What is it you think I need to hear, Giles?" she said, standing aside so he could see who else was in the small room with her.
He gaped at her, his eyes darting back and forth between Buffy and Spike. There was no mistaking the atmosphere between the two -- if Buffy's flat voice and dull eyes hadn't given it away, the sheer agony on Spike's face would have.
"Apparently you are already aware that Spike has had his chip removed."
She nodded, afraid to trust her voice. She startled when Spike stepped up behind and rested his hands on her shoulders.
"We were just discussin' the situation, Watcher."
Giles turned his eyes on Buffy. "Surely you realize there is nothing to discuss? He's no longer harmless. I saw what he did to those men back there. You must do what you need to do."
"They're all alive, aren't they?" Buffy's lip came out stubbornly, and she felt Spike give her shoulders a light squeeze.
Giles lips tightened. "Are you seriously suggesting that William the Bloody isn't going to go back to killing?" He shook his head. "Once again, you are allowing your... feelings... for a dangerous vampire to interfere with your duty."
The reminder of what Giles had lost when Angelus was loosed made Buffy bite her lip, and her eyes fill. She felt Spike's barely audible growl vibrating through the chest now pressed against her back.
"I'm not bloody Angelus!" he snarled, the impact of his impassioned protest somewhat marred by the way his eyes flashed amber and his fangs protruded just past his lips. He was quickly back to his human face, but Giles had seen what he needed to see.
"No," he said quietly. "You are not Angelus, and therefore, there is no soul to be put back into your body. That chip was the only thing standing between you and a killing spree."
"If," Spike said, his voice dangerously calm and low, "I were going to do something like that, I know exactly which wanker I'd begin with...." The look he sent Giles made it quite clear what he meant. Before Buffy could follow up her stiffening body with anything more lethal, he quickly continued. "But I've got something better than the chip, better than a soul – which, last time I checked, everyone of the sadistic bastards working here still has." He kept his hands on Buffy's shoulders, his thumbs rubbing small circles on her back where Giles couldn't see them. When she relaxed slightly, he said. "I have something no other vamp has... a reason for not killing."
Buffy gave a small gasp as she realized what he meant, and what he seemed to be promising. She turned her head, tipping it back to look up at him wordlessly. He gave her a brief smile, then turned his attention back to Giles.
"Got my soul, conscience, whatever you want to call it, right here," he said. "Not going to kill her, and I don't plan on givin' her any reason to kill me."
"Buffy," Giles pleaded with his slayer, even as his intuition told him that the unique vampire in front of him was telling the truth. "Surely, you don't believe him!"
"I'll believe him until he gives me some reason not to," she said, bringing up her hands to cover and squeeze Spike's. "Spike has never lied to me."
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