“Oh, the pet vampire. Isn’t that cute. Hey, thanks for the lift the other night,” she said with a smirk. “Let’s see if you know where she’s hidden my key.” Moving too fast for either Buffy or Spike, she grabbed his head and plunged her fingers into it. His muffled scream was barely audible in the uproar caused by a crowd of minions running across the busy street to attack Buffy.
It was soon obvious that, no matter how many of them Buffy slayed – not easy to do without a sword – their focus was to incapacitate and capture her, not kill her. Buffy did her best, sending many of them to the pavement with broken bones, but eventually numbers were in their favor and she went down in a swarm of ugly little creatures with chains and manacles.
With a “Well, you’re worthless. That brain is dead,” Glory tossed a barely conscious Spike away. “And you’re welcome, by the way,” she added, tossing a bloody clump of tissue at him.
Riley arrived, carrying his assault rifle, just in time to watch Glory throw Spike aside and pluck Buffy from the midst of the minions. She held Buffy up and shook her. “You’re coming with me, and you’re going to tell me what you’ve done with my key.”
Riley took a deep breath, assuring himself he was not shooting at a human woman, and fired into Glory’s body until the gun was almost empty.
Blown backwards by the force of the bullets, Glory dropped Buffy to the ground and shrieked her anger. She staggered to her feet and began to stalk toward them again. Buffy struggled to get out of the chains the minions had managed to get on her, while Spike remained on all fours, bleeding from his eyes, ears and the holes Glory had put in his skull. His blurry vision tried to focus on the bloody piece of brain matter lying in front of him and he reached out a tentative finger to poke it, revealing a small piece of plastic.
Riley emptied the gun into the advancing hellgod, slowing her down enough for Buffy to get to her feet. Visibly drained by the effort it took to counter the bullets she’d absorbed, Glory shrieked again and began to shake.
Before their eyes, and those of the crowd that had gathered to watch, including some of Sunnydale’s finest, who were remaining safely out of reach, Glory began to grow and change until Ben was standing there, barely covered by the red dress and cowering in fear from the man with the large gun. He held up his hands, saying, “I’m just as human as you are. Please don’t shoot me.”
Riley lowered the gun and shook his head. “I don’t understand,” he whispered. As soon as the gun was pointed toward the ground, Ben took off running, kicking off the high heels as he did so.
“Riley, stop him!” Buffy said, still fighting to get untangled from the chains.
“I’ve got it, Slayer,” Spike rasped, staggering to his feet.
“Forget it, Spike. Even if I let you go after a human being, you won’t be able to stop him.” Riley pushed Spike back down, surprised when the vampire used a leg sweep to drop Riley to the ground beside him. Showing Riley his fangs, Spike said, “Yes I will, soldier boy. Best remember that, if you know what’s good for you.”
While Riley struggled to accept what he was sure Spike had said, Buffy shook off the last of her chains and got to her feet. “Spike, don’t hurt yourself!” she said as she dropped the manacles on the ground.
“I don’t think he’s going to,” Riley said. “Look.” He gestured to the bloody chip lying on the ground. “You know what your duty is now, Buffy. Go do it.”
Sending Riley a look of complete disgust, she shook her head and took off after Spike and Ben.
Even still woozy from Glory’s attempt to suck his mental energy, and with a violent headache from the chip being sucked out of his skull, Spike had no trouble catching up with Ben who turned to face him.
“You can’t hurt me,” he said, standing up to his full height. “I know about you and your chip.”
“You, the other, much more dangerous you, seems to have relieved me of that little problem. Can’t say I enjoyed the process, exactly, but....” Spike swayed on his feet, but remained upright.
“You follow the Slayer. She won’t let you kill me.”
“Think she will,” Spike said. “Doesn’t matter. Gonna do it anyway and sort it out with her later.” He advanced on the man, face shifting as he did. With the blood still visible in his eyes and draining from his nose and ears, his normal frightening face looked terrifying. “No way in hell am letting you live long enough to bring that bloody bitch back.”
“Spike—” Buffy’s voice carried to him as she ran toward them. It was clear she was not happy.
“Stay out of it, Slayer. She can’t have you and she can’t have the Bit. This is the way to end it.”
“Spike! He’s human! And innocent.”
“Nothing innocent about luring you out here by yourself and setting you up for his live-in hellgod. Think about it, Buffy. If she goes home, he’s free of her. You think he isn’t trying to save his arse by helping her out?”
“I can’t let you do this.”
“Can’t stop me anymore, love.”
Seeing there were several curious people between them, including Riley, Spike took his chance and dove for Ben, knocking him to the ground and grabbing him by the throat. Through Spike’s snarls, and Buffy’s anguished attempts to pull him off, the now-familiar shaking began to take place and suddenly Spike was spitting out the blood and shouting, “Get out of here, Buffy. Run!” He pushed her away from him with one hand, while trying to hang on to an emerging Glory with the other.
“No! She’ll be weakened. It’s now or never, Spike.” Buffy jumped on Glory’s back and began trying to wrench her head off. Spike began throwing punches into her torso, trying to find a vulnerable spot that might allow him to pull out whatever she had in the way of a heart. Between the two of them, Buffy now punching Glory’s head, in lieu of having pulled it off, they managed to keep her off balance enough that she couldn’t quite get away. The longer they fought, the weaker she seemed to become, and eventually she fell to the ground and shook until she was Ben again.
He lay there, gasping for air with shattered lungs and a destroyed diaphragm, his eyes swollen almost shut but visibly full of fear.
“Buffy?” Spike’s voice held a plea, but she shook her head rapidly, fighting back tears as she stood there staring at the horribly injured man she’d been hitting so recently.
Spike took a deep breath and sighed as he straightened up. “Got to be done, love. Even if it means we never.... it’s got to be done.” He pushed her aside gently and knelt beside the gravely injured man. “Sorry, mate,” he said. “But it’s you or my girls.”
Before he could follow through on his obvious intention, Giles put a hand on his shoulder.
“Why don’t you go reassure Buffy that you haven’t turned back into a killer.”
Spike glared at him. “Not happening, Rupert. He needs to go.”
“I am well aware of that,” Giles said calmly. “I think it would be best if neither you or Buffy were around when it happens, don’t you?”
Spike studied Giles’s face for a full second, then nodded and stood up.
“She isn’t going to forgive you either,” he said.
“She won’t have to if your move your bloody arse and get her out of here.”
“Right.” Spike turned away and hastened to where Riley was waving his arms and arguing with Buffy that she had to stake Spike now. “Time to go, pet. Let’s get back to your mum and the Bit.”
Buffy stared from him to where Ben was still gasping on the ground, with Giles leaning over him as if to offer some sort of help.
“Didn’t. Let’s go before some of these people remember they saw us beating the stuffing out of a woman in a red dress.”
“Is he still....”
“You can see that he is. Let’s go.”
Riley grabbed Buffy’s arm, ignoring the snarl from Spike. “Buffy! He was going to kill that man. He’s unchipped now. It’s your duty to stake him before he’s kills somebody.”
“Could be somebody real soon if you don’t take that meaty paw off the Slayer and let her get out of here.” Spike’s cold stare reminded Riley that he was no longer unable to defend himself against humans, and in spite of himself, Riley lifted his hand.
“Stop it, Spike,” Buffy said. “I don’t need the reminder. Let’s go. Thanks for the save, Riley. That big gun came in handy after all.” Without looking at either one of them, she began walking, back stiff, toward the hospital.
Riley and Spike stood for a few seconds, watching her walk away.
“Shit,” Spike said softly. His gaze went to where Giles was leaning over Ben and gesturing for Spike to follow Buffy. With a nod, he took off running, overtaking her before she’d gone very far. He fell into step beside her, not speaking until they were walking up the hospital’s fire stairs.
“Afraid to be in an elevator with me?” he asked as she continued her silent march.
Buffy stopped on a landing and sighed. She turned to face him and reached a hand toward his face, dropping it before she touched him.
“You need to clean up before you go into Mom’s room,” she said. “You’re all bloody and beat up. You can’t walk through the lobby like that.”
“Right back at you, Slayer. Not like you came out of that looking like you’re on your way to church.”
“Great. So if we walk in like this, we’ll scare Mom to death – bad choice of words, I guess. But okay. So, we’ll get out on this floor, find the restrooms, clean up, and meet back here. Okay?”
She pulled the heavy fire door open and peered down the hall. “Looks clear. I see the ladies room right across the hall, men’s room must be close by.”
“I’ll find it. You go first.”
Buffy slipped out the door and across the hall before anyone could see her, leaving Spike to pull back and hide from a couple of technicians walking down the hall.
“It’s only two floors. Want to walk down?”
Spike jumped up to the next landing and crouched by the stairs until they had entered the stairwell and gone down, chattering the whole while.
“If I was still evil, I could have had one of them for dinner and I’d be half-way to healed by now,” he grumbled as he hurried back to the door and peered out again. Seeing no one, he stepped out and strolled to the men’s room where he splashed water on his face until it no longer showed pink in the bowl. The mirror did him no good, so he just ran a wet hand through his hair, straightened his clothes, and stepped into the hall in time to see a much cleaner Buffy.
“That’s better, love. How do I look?”
“Like a hellgod just tried to suck your brains out... we need to get some blood in to you.”
“Are you sayin’ I’m not my usual handsome self?”
“I’m saying if you walk into Mom’s room looking like that, she’s going to wig. And if any of the doctors or nurses sees you, they’ll probably send you to the morgue.”
“Bloody hell. It’s a good thing my feelings aren’t easily hurt, Slayer.”
Buffy sighed and tugged him back into the stairwell with her. “I’m sorry, Spike. I know you got mangled trying to help me, and I’m not trying to make you feel bad. I just don’t know when I’ve seen you look quite this bad, and I don’t want to scare Mom or Dawn.” She reached her hand to his face and stroked it gently. “You’re scaring me a little bit too.”
“Huh. So all this time, all I had to do to scare you was get myself beat up?”
“Jackass,” she said, flicking his ear before bringing her hand down. “There’s a difference between being afraid of you and being afraid for you.”
His voice softened as he brought her hand back to his face and kissed her palm. “Worried about me then, are you?”
“Maybe? A little bit? I.... I don’t want anything to happen to you. Anything dust-wise.”
“Tell you what, pet, you go check in with Mum and the Bit, I’ll run by Willy’s and get myself some 0 neg, and I’ll meet you back at your house later on.”
“You seem pretty sure Glory isn’t going to come looking for us there.”
“I don’t know where that stands right now, but I can tell you, god or not, she isn’t going to bounce back from that beating we put on her. And her hiding place isn’t in any shape to help her out.” He cocked his head at her. “You know, love, he might die anyway. In spite of you pulling me off before he stopped breathing.”
Buffy bit her lip and sighed. “Don’t patronize me, Spike. I know why you hustled me away from there. I won’t happy about it if Giles kills Ben either, but if it wasn’t me, and it wasn’t you, then.... I think I can live with that.”
“Told the Watcher you were made of sterner stuff than he thought.”
“You were going to kill him,” she said flatly. “Knowing what that would do to any chance of us... knowing I’d probably have to stake you. And what that would do to—” She stopped, shaking her head.
“Was a chance I had to take. Would’ve too if Rupert hadn’t stepped in when he did.” He still had hold of her hand and rubbed his cheek on it. “Would you really have staked me for it, Buffy?”
She pulled her hand away. “Yes! No! I don’t know. It’s not like you can’t fight back now…”
“So. The only reason you haven’t staked me yet is because I was harmless?”
The becoming-all-too-familiar hurt expression that quickly melted into an expressionless mask was back in place, causing Buffy to sigh and shake her head again.
“Stop doing that!”
“What am I doin’?” His voice was as flat and uninflected as the look on his face.
“Making me feel like I should be apologizing for… for hurting your feelings when I wasn’t trying to.”
“Just a vamp, pet. No feelings to worry about, are there?”
She stared at him, his eyes telling her nothing. “If you say so,” she said, turning away. “Guess it’s just my own feelings I’d have to worry about it I had to slay you.”
She was already pulling the door open when Spike’s hand reached past her head and slammed it shut.
“Goddamn it, Buffy, can we just stop this dancin’ around?” She blinked up at him, watching his eyes flash between blue and amber. He took a deep breath and held her gaze as he said, “I’m bloody well in love with you. Don’t pretend you don’t know it. I am, God help me. And if I’m telling the truth, I’m right fond of your mum and little sis too. If I can do something to keep any or all of you safe, I’m going to do it. And if it means I have to kill….” He stopped and shook his head. “Don’t want to do that to you, love. I know you’ll never love a monster, but there’s somethin’ there between us and it would hurt you to dust me. I understand that. I do. And I don’t ever want to do that you to you – force you to—I don’t want to be Angelus.”
He turned away from her, shoulders hunched. “But I’d do it if I had to. And if you tried to stake me for it, I’d fight back. Wouldn’t try to kill you… couldn’t… I’d let you stake me first if it came to that… But I’d protect myself long enough to get away. Would tear my heart out to leave you – more than you’ll ever know – but I’d do it.”
Buffy stared at his back for several seconds, running the night’s events and their conversation over and over in her head. With a sigh, she put her hand on the door again.
“Can we just agree that I don’t want to stake you and you aren’t going to give me any reasons why I should? And then I can go see Mom, take Dawn home, and maybe have a hot shower and something to eat while you go do the same?”
“Oh. Um… yeah. Alright. I can do that.”
Buffy rolled her eyes at his abashed tone and muttered, “Drama queen” as she went into the hallway.
“I heard that!”
“You were meant to!” She turned around and stuck her head into the stairwell. “And please stay away from Riley. He knows the chip is out. When you’ve had enough to eat and changed your clothes, come by the house. We should be home in an hour or so. We’ll talk about this after Dawn goes to bed.”
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