“You don’t want to do this,” Buffy was warning. The soldiers were amused by her obvious concern, having no idea it was not her own safety she was worried about. “You should let me go. This is a bad idea. You really shouldn’t try to keep—”
“I think we should,” Graham said, exchanging a laugh with Forrest. “Who’s going to stop us?”
Buffy’s hearing picked up the sound of a door being kicked in just a split second before they heard it. She shook her head in mock sadness.
“Probably more of a ‘what’ from your point of view,” she said as Spike burst into the room in full game face, leaving that less sturdy interior door in splinters. Close behind him were Giles and Xander, with Oz, Willow and Anya hovering near the door and keeping crossbows aimed at the small group of more seriously injured commandos still left in the outer room.
Spike glanced quickly at Buffy, but when she smiled that she was all right, he turned back to the three men facing him and snarled deep in his throat. Even Buffy, who had faced off against Spike’s demon more than once, was impressed with the menace rolling off the coldly furious vampire.
Riley looked back and forth between them, not recognizing Spike as the man he’d seen so briefly several days ago. “What kind of demon is that?” he said, reaching for one of the free weights lying nearby.
“That, guys, is a genuine old vampire. A pissed off old vampire. You might want to untie me now.”
“You think you’ve got a better chance against him than we do?” Riley scoffed, disbelief in his voice despite what he’d seen Buffy do to his team.
“Oh no. I meant, if you’ve let me go, I might be able to talk him out of killing you,” she said cheerfully.
“I don’t care how old he is,” Riley said, swinging the forty-pound barbell in front of him. “I doubt he’s up to killing me. I’ve staked at least four or five cocky vampires by myself in the past month or so.” He frowned and shared a puzzled look with his teammates when everyone else, including the vampire he now recognized from his clothing, burst into laughter. Taking advantage of Spike’s momentary distraction, Riley swung the weight at his head, narrowly missing it when Buffy yelled, “Duck!” just in time.
While Riley was off balance from his swing, Spike came up from his crouch, grabbing the arm holding the weight and twisting. The bone broke with an audible ‘snap,’ and Buffy winced in sympathy as Riley gasped and dropped his makeshift weapon, grappling with the snarling vampire with his remaining arm.
When Buffy noticed Graham and Forrest circling Spike, holding pieces of the wooden door and tasers in their hands, she shouted again, then pulled one arm loose, and quickly untangled herself from the rest of the ropes.
Jumping to her feet, she crossed the space to Graham in one bound, kicking him in the side of his knee and sending him crashing to the floor. She knocked the taser away and stepped on the sliver of wood, crushing it under her booted foot. Graham was clutching his ruined knee and glaring at her. “Unnatural bitch,” he said, searching for something else with which to hurt her. Buffy leaned forward and snapped his head back with a short jab.
“I’m really more of a natural bitch,” she quipped before turning serious. “And if you try to hurt me or mine again, I will stop being easy on you.” She turned away and moved back to where Spike was holding Riley in the air with one hand. Even with the tremendous height difference between them, with his arm extended, he’d been able to lift the soldier’s feet off the floor. Riley managed to kick Spike in the thigh, causing him to stagger a little and drop the bigger man without releasing his grip on his neck. Before Riley could follow up his chance to inflict more damage, Spike brought his other fist across and knocked him to the floor, where he remained, dazed, if not as completely unconscious as Spike had expected.
“Huh,” he said, frowning. “That should have put his lights out for an hour.”
Buffy nodded as she joined him. “Yeah, they’re human, but they aren’t any more normal than I am. There’s something going on here. Something weird.”
When Forrest saw what was happening to his two comrades, he turned to run out of the room, only to find Xander standing in his way. “Don’t think so, buddy. Not unless Buffy says so.” Using his uncocked crossbow, Xander knocked the taser out of the other man’s hand. He followed up with a clip to Forrest’s chin, which did not have the desired effect on the soldier. They grappled, dropping their weapons and wrestling for dominance. Xander’s work-hardened muscles, however, were no match for the soldier’s enhancements and he soon found himself in a headlock, turning blue from lack of oxygen. “Little help?” he croaked, as Spike and Buffy were talking. “I’ll be back, mate,” Spike snarled at Riley who sat on the floor, shaking his head in an effort to clear it.
Stepping up to Forrest, Spike tapped him on the shoulder, saying, “I’d expected you college boys to be smarter than this.” Forrest swung around, keeping Xander between himself and the fearsome creature now laughing at him.
“This is getting to be a habit, innit, Harris? Overgrown bad guys using you to keep me off them?” Spike grinned through his fangs when Xander’s eyes widened at the reminder of how Angel had used him to try to fool Spike when they’d first met. “No worries, whelp. Got no reason to think this one isn’t serious about killin’ you, so I guess the Slayer will want me to do something about it.”
“Could you stop talking long enough to… urk!”
Spike’s hands were in motion so fast, Forrest didn’t even see them move. Spike had yanked the arm off Xander’s throat and twisted it behind Forrest’s back before either human could react. Xander fell to the floor, holding his throat and gasping for air, as Spike pulled the now-screaming soldier against his chest and reached for his neck with his fangs. He’d barely broken the skin when Buffy’s quiet, “Spike…” stopped him.
His yellow eyes looked up at her, meeting her steady gaze defiantly. For a long tense moment, his teeth hovered over the pulse pounding frantically just beneath them. It was the sadness he could see behind Buffy’s stern expression that made him shake off his fangs. He made one attempt to argue, “But…”
Shaking her head, Buffy waited until he’d thrown the unharmed man across the room with a disgusted curse before she walked up to him and stood on her toes to kiss his cheek. “Thank you,” she said.
“For what?” he grumbled. “Coming to get you, or not eating that wanker?”
She shrugged. “Either. Both. I don’t know. I just know I’m glad to see you, and happy that you didn’t kill anybody…” She glanced toward the other room, worried for a moment. “You didn’t kill anybody, did you?”
“Nah, pet. You did for that lot without any help from me.”
Buffy nodded. “I did, didn’t I? Dumbasses. I told them to let me go.”
“Complete gits,” he agreed. They exchanged smiles, staring into each other’s eyes until Xander croaked, “Hey, as sickeningly sweet as this is, can at least one of you tear yourself away long enough to notice that the bad guys have guns?”
As one, Buffy and Spike pivoted to find Riley holding an automatic pistol in his good hand. Graham was dragging himself toward an open closet that seemed to contain weapons of several types. His determination made it clear that he expected to find some kind of help there. The crossbow bolt that Giles put where the soldier had just been about to put a hand brought his painful progress to a halt and he leaned against the wall, reduced to ineffectual glaring and holding his crippled knee.
Riley moved the gun back and forth between Spike and Buffy as, without noticeable communication, they began to ease away from each other; he seemed unsure which one posed the bigger danger, but had finally settled on Buffy as being the one most likely to be stopped by a bullet. He was just taking aim at her when Giles fired the crossbow bolt into the floor in front of Graham, causing Riley to involuntarily shift his gaze.
That moment of inattention was all it took for Buffy to tackle Riley at the knees while Spike grabbed the hand holding the gun and began crushing the fingers against the metal until there was blood seeping out around the handle and trigger. He took the gun from Riley’s useless hand and, while the man watched with a sick look on his face, licked the blood off – first the gun and then his own fingers.
“You know that was gross, right?” Buffy said, making a face.
“Do you have any idea the names my demon is calling me for not having turned this place into a slaughterhouse?” he fired back. “I think the least you can do is let me have a little taste.”
“And I repeat, gross.”
“I second the gross and add an ewwww,” Xander said, standing up and rubbing his neck. “But thanks,” he mumbled in Spike’s direction.
Spike acknowledged the reluctant gratitude with a smirk, before turning back to Buffy.
“So, now what, Slayer?”
“I dunno. I guess tie them all up and see what we can find out about them. And who this “Maggie” person is that they needed to get permission from.”
“I think she’s our Psych prof – Maggie Walsh. Remember? That’s who Riley and that guy” – Willow walked in the room and pointed at Graham– “were talking to yesterday, just before he asked you to come over tonight.”
“Buffy…” Riley’s voice was strained, but firm. “My men are injured. They have broken bones and God knows what else. They need medical attention. I’ll go with you. I’ll tell you whatever you want to know. Anything I’m at liberty to talk about, anyway. Just let me get some help for my men.”
Buffy frowned and glanced at Giles who grimaced as he said, “I suppose that would be the humane thing to do. However….”
“Not until we’re safely away from here,” Spike growled. “Wouldn’t trust that wanker any farther than…” He hesitated as he realized what he’d been about to say. “…than Red, here, could throw him.” he concluded with a cough.
“I agree. We take Riley with us and let him call from somewhere safe.”
“Better yet,” Xander said, “we call 911 for him. That way he can’t use any secret code or anything…” He trailed off as everyone stared at him. “What? It’s a good plan!”
“It is a good plan, Xander. In fact, it is an excellent plan.” The disappointed look on Riley’s face made it clear that he didn’t think it was a good plan at all, and that cemented Giles’s decision. “Let us get our captive out of here and then we can send medical assistance for the others.”
Both arms dangling at his sides, Riley nodded and stood up. Spike walked over to him and took a strong grip on his unbroken arm. “Don’t think I’m going to forget who you were aiming that gun at,” he snarled in Riley’s ear. “If the Slayer gives me permission, I’m going to spend the rest of the night making you regret you were ever born.”
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