Storm Warning by Lilachigh
Chapter 16 Liam’s territory.
Deep underground, in the Los Angeles sewers, Buffy kicked out at a rat who was hopefully sniffing at her foot and sent it squeaking away into the dark. Red eyes gleamed from nooks and crannies on every side of the tunnel and she shuddered slightly. There was something implacable about rats; no matter how many you killed, more would eventually appear. The ground was wet beneath her feet, her boots were ruined yet again, and the smell was enough to make her sick.
She swallowed furiously as the hot bile swelled up into her throat. Why was so much of her life spent in places like this, fighting in filth, wading through complete grossness? She had a sudden vision of being a Slayer on a tropical island, running through sand, killing little demons, sitting on a terrace watching the sun go down, sipping a cocktail, ready to head out in a scented night to slay vampires. Then the smell reasserted itself in her nose and throat and she tried hard not to throw up.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” she whispered.
“You can speak normally, Buffy. They can’t hear you: there’s solid rock between us and the hotel basement.”
A cold hand slid over hers, fingers locking with hers, fingers that she knew only too well, that parts of her body knew intimately, longingly.
“So, Slayer, what’s your plan? There’s a doorway a few yards along the passage; once we go through there, we’re in Liam’s territory. I’m sure you’ll be welcome, but perhaps I’d better stay here, out of sight. For some reason he always wants to kill me as soon as he lays eyes on me. Odd bloke!”
“I don’t understand why the two of you can’t declare a truce, or have a peace treaty or something. After all these years, this fighting is stupid.”
Spike sighed. He had the utmost respect for the Slayer’s fighting abilities and thought she was the bravest woman he’d ever known, but her understanding of men and their emotions was below zero. Her understanding of male vampires and the connection they had to each other was below that.
“It’s hard to explain, love.”
“I really couldn’t care less and don’t call me love,” Buffy replied automatically. “OK, then I’ll go into the hotel and see who’s around. Even if Angel isn’t here, one of his friends might be able to help. Every minute we waste, Dawn could be in greater danger. I’m sure Angel will be able to find her. You wait here and keep the door open in case I need to - to - “
“Make a hasty retreat in case lover-boy decides to chance Angelus appearing and sweeps you off to his giant bed in order to assault you with his giant - Ouch!”
Buffy’s fist, even in the dark, had no problem in thumping against his nose. “You’re vile, Spike. Gross and vile. I can well understand why Angel wants to kill you every time he looks at you.”
She spun away and felt along the passage wall until she found a door handle. A sliver of soft light cut into the passage way and she was gone.
Spike licked the blood from his fingers that had dripped from his nose. “Oh, he wants to kill me, OK, pet. And also wants to throw me across his giant bed! Did it many times before. Would do it again in a flash. And I loved every moment of it. Can’t say I didn’t. But you know what it feels like with me, now though, Slayer. You will never again want what he could give you. Never.”
He leant against the wall and scowled at the rats who retreated hastily into the dark. Why did he continue to irritate Buffy like this? Especially when she was so worried about Niblet. He knew exactly which of her buttons to press to get a reaction. He wasn’t used to analysing his feelings and desires but understood his words were some sort of defense against her ability to be the passionate, hungry lover who could bring him to unknown heights one moment and a first rate bitch the next.
Stretching out the weird vampire sense he still didn’t fully understand, even after all these years, he tried to feel if Angel was there, in the big hotel above his head. But all he got was confusion, grief and a weird sense of exultation. He wondered how he would feel if Buffy rekindled any sort of relationship with the vampire who had been so important to him over the years. And a slow, boiling anger, so different to his usual rush of passion, began to build inside him. She was his; not Liam's. Dru had swung backwards and forwards between the two of them, answering Angel's beckoning finger without a backward glance at him. And he'd let her go. He'd never fought for her. But Buffy Summers was different. He would fight till his last moment for her. This hotel might be Liam's territory, but Buffy wasn't. Not again. Not ever again.
Inside the basement, a single light shone down as Buffy moved slowly through the shadows, skirting round the vast washing machines, heating equipment, metal racks stacked with plates, bowls and saucepans and piles of assorted garbage that had been state of the art when this hotel was being used by hundreds of guests. Now everything was covered in dust and dirt.
“Well, obviously no one washes their underwear down here,” she muttered, wondering why on earth she was thinking about laundry and remembering with a piercing pain that after her mom had died, she’d been surprised to find that laundry, eating, shopping, cleaning, all continued in exactly the same fashion.
She sighed and forced herself to concentrate. Absentminded Slayers became very dead Slayers very quickly and that wouldn’t help Dawn at all.
At one end of the basement she could see the big iron doors that probably led to the garages or an alley way where the supply lorries would have arrived to bring in vast quantities of food and drink for the hotel guests. But at the other end, a steep flight of wooden steps led up towards an archway and through that, another soft light was shining and she thought she could hear voices, and what was even weirder, she could have sworn she could hear a baby crying! No, that was impossible. No one would bring a little baby into a place like this: it was probably a cat, a demon cat.
“Sounds like Angel’s got himself some odd demon companions,” she said out loud, then stopped as her voice sounded silly and lost in the vast space. For the first time, she wondered how she would react when she saw her first lover. Would the heartache start up again? They weren’t destined to be together, and hey, she’d killed him once and if Angelus ever appeared again, she’d cheerfully kill him a second time.
And anyway, there was Spike now. She stopped in mid-stride as the thought bounced around her head. Surely she didn’t think about Spike the same way as she had Angel. Angel had a soul - Spike was, was....well, he certainly didn’t have a soul. Admittedly he was useful - “As a patrolling partner,” she murmured under her breath and as hard as she tried to deny it, she had to admit that was a pretty pathetic thought. “And OK, sex, lots of lovely sex, but hey, I’m a single girl, I can party if I want to. He makes me feel - things.”
She reached the bottom of the steps. “OK, things is a stupid word. But I don’t know what to call those sensations. He makes me feel good, real, alive.” And ecstatic and sexy and fulfilled and randy and safe and filled with an overwhelming desire to make love to him all the time, said the voice inside her head that wouldn’t shut up. But she refused to listen. It was sex, not love. She’d told herself that over and over again, ever since the first time in the ruined house, with the beams falling, the plaster in their hair, his lips on hers, the look on his face as she touched him -
Stubbornly, she shook herself like a dog: if Spike hadn’t been there, she would just have found someone else to make her feel alive.
And she overlooked the fact that even as she thought that, she crossed her fingers, as she’d done all the time as a child when she’d told her mom a lie.
Her face drawn and pale, she started up the stairs. “I’m not going to worry about Spike just now. I need to find Dawn. She could be in all sorts of trouble. I’m going to kill her. She isn’t going to leave the house at night again until she’s eighteen - no nineteen - no twenty! I have to find Angel. I’ll be calm and polite and ask him to help me find Dawn. No emotion, no remembering, no mentioning Spike or the fact that we - quite often - well, lots of times, I suppose - No, no mentioning any of that! Just two friends meeting up in a difficult time for one of them and asking for help.”
Then suddenly she stopped. The archway at the top of the steps turned suddenly dark and a huge demon filled the space. Something very tall, very broad and no doubt deadly. And all thoughts of being peaceful Buffy vanished as she reached automatically for her stake.
“Buffy! Stop!” A swirl of black leather, hard hands tightening on her waist and she was half lifted to one side. “It’s Eriddny. Dawn’s friend.”
“Hi Buffy, Hi Spike.”
Buffy stared up a foot to where the face in the middle of the waist was talking to her. This was Eriddny? The tiny, sparkly little demon was now vast, covered in dark purple hair and the four arms growing from her head all had long, black claws gleaming in the soft light shining behind her.
“Eriddny? Hi - wow, you’ve grown.” Buffy heard herself saying those words and felt disgusted. That was what old people always said when they hadn’t seen you for ages. “My, you’ve grown, Buffy. And how are doing at school?”
“Yeah, tell me about it!” Eriddny muttered.
“Listen, where’s Dawn? What the heck have the two of you been doing? Is she here? In Angel’s hotel?”
Buffy felt her face growing hot. She’d never thought of that - Dawn going to Angel for help. She didn’t know him but she must have heard from everyone else of her sister’s connection to the vampire. And Buffy could only guess at what she might have told him about Buffy and her life since coming back from the dead.
“No - she’s not. The demons in a bar we went to are holding her for auction. I escaped but I couldn’t get her out. She told me to find this Angel vampire guy, but when I got here, well, they are super busy and there was no way I could speak to him. They’re getting ready for some big fight, I think, and they’re fussing like crazy over - “
“You went to a bar! To drink?” Buffy’s voice slid upwards and then Spike’s cold hand tightened on her arm.
“Deal with that later. I think the main point of Eriddny’s message is Dawn being held for demon auction. We need to move fast, Slayer. Once she’s sold, she could be transported anywhere, in this world or some alternate universe. We might never find her. Buffy, she could already be gone.”