She was sitting in his chair, facing the door, when he entered the crypt that night.
Time froze in that way it did in the movies—at least for him. In his world, there was the weird and the bug-shagging insane. This was the latter.
This went against the sodding rules. The only rules he cared to live by.
Vampires dusted after being staked. The only exception to said rule thus far was Angel, and he hadn’t been staked properly. As the story went, the Slayer had run him through with some enchanted sword and Acathla had taken him to Hell. The Powers had got involved and revived him because he was their almighty champion or some other rot. Angel hadn’t dusted, therefore the fact that he was walking and annoying today wasn’t impossible. Weird, yes. Unfair, absolutely. But not impossible.
Darla, on the other hand, had bit the actual dust. Spike hadn’t been there to see it firsthand, but news had a way of traveling, especially when one slept next to Drusilla. She’d started wailing and moaning about how Daddy had gone to the circus where the lights were too bright and how he’d become so ensnared by an acrobat that he’d staked grandmum to win her over. The acrobat would kill him eventually, but for now, she was satisfied. Because grandmum was dead.
Only she wasn’t. Not completely. Darla, looking quite well and most assuredly not dust, was comfortably lounged in his very own chair, grinning at him as he entered his own bloody tomb.
Spike blinked and looked at her for a moment. “Well,” he said at last. “There’s somethin’ you don’t see…ever.”
“William. So glad that you haven’t lost your sense of humor.”
“Yeah. Could say the same to you. By the way, what the bleedin’ hell are you doing here?”
Darla shrugged, tossing a leg over the arm of the chair and folding her hands behind her head. “I was just in the neighborhood. Wanted to see how my dear grandson was doing. Or are you my brother now? Honestly, the Order has become a freaking redneck joke. It’s disturbing when you think about it.”
“Disturbing. Yeah. Kinda like you being in my crypt when you’re supposed to be dead.” Spike took a hesitant step forward, reaching for his cigarettes almost as a nervous habit. “You are real, aren’t you?”
“Do I look real?”
“I’ve seen quite a few numbers that looked to be real in my time.”
“Well, I can’t blame you for asking. You did spend the better part of a century with a lunatic.”
He arched an eyebrow. “And you were with Angelus for how long?”
Darla grinned, which had never inspired him with confidence. “Long enough. As a matter of fact, that’s why I’m here. More or less.”
“You don’t say.”
“Ever heard of a little law firm in Los Angeles called Wolfram and Hart?”
“Greatest known evil on the face of the planet, right?” Spike strolled to the sarcophagus, giving Darla a quick once over again. He half expected her to fade away—the image of some ghastly hangover that he would pay for come morning.
Only tonight he hadn’t drunk himself silly.
“If you don’t count census takers and insurance salesmen,” she replied in the same tone. “They brought me back.”
Ah, sense was being made. Wolfram and Hart did have the means to extract such potent magic and certainly didn’t have any reservations concerning the dangers in manipulating the natural order.
“Good for them.”
“Three guesses why.”
He rolled his eyes. Of bloody course. “King Forehead, I’m presuming,” Spike replied. He moved without awaiting a reply to the other side of the crypt, still put off by her presence. “What’s the story?”
She shrugged. “They wanted Angelus.”
“And they went with you.”
“They also wanted to drive him crazy.”
“Well, by having you revived, I’m guessing they played their cards right.” Spike grinned cheekily and reached into the refrigerator to retrieve a bottle of half-consumed bourbon. “Drink?”
“Do you wanna drink? Got some cold blood, but something tells me that you aren’t quite on the same diet I am.” When she failed to acknowledge his offer, he shrugged and took a long swig. “Right then. Suit yourself.”
There was a long silence. Darla finally stood and brushed herself off.
“So, this is what you do now,” she said, glancing around. “You’ve nested quite nicely. Conveniently near the Slayer. And yet she’s still alive. Still annoying, still slaying. You disappoint me. Surely this is not the work of the great William the Bloody, renowned Slayer of Slayers. Petulant braggart.” She grinned nastily. “What’s wrong, Spikey? Waiting to make just the right move?”
Her words cut, but he made an effort not to show it. “Why waste a good thing is my bloody motto,” he replied. “Got me a sweet little set-up. Bunches and bunches of tasty towners, a good brawl here and there, and a Slayer who keeps me on my toes. Finally took a page outta your own bloody book, Darla. Slow deaths are ever so much more fun.”
“Hmmm,” she replied. “Interesting. And here, I could’ve sworn your incompetence was due to the government chip some frat boys shoved in your cranium. Really, William, it was an honest mistake.”
Spike’s face fell. Despite the time that had passed, being reminded of that never failed to piss him off. It was bad enough enduring Xander’s insipid nicknames and Buffy’s constant ridicule. “What, the bloody Initiative take out an advert or something?”
“I know I would have. That’s so priceless.”
“Uh huh. Thanks for the reminder. You’re free to see yourself out.”
Darla grinned and spread her arms. “Why would I want to leave when I’m so comfortable here?”
“I could escort you out if you’re having such a hard time of it.”
“This chip stops me from manhandling humans, pet. You’re fair game.”
“I know that. You couldn’t.”
There was really nothing to say to that. She was right. Darla was the oldest vamp he knew, no matter if she’d recently been rehatched. She looked, smelled, and sounded the same. It was a safe bet she’d retained enough memories to thoroughly kick his ass if he gave her a reason. “Right…” he drawled in defeat, hating himself. “Not to sound bored…or wait, I don’t care. What brings you to ole SunnyD? Last I checked, Wolfram and Hart’s up in LA with your honey. You shouldn’t have taken that left at Albuquerque.”
“Angel and I have already had our heart-to-heart. I thought it better to check up on old acquaintances.”
“Y’know, you shoulda taken a snap of his face. He’s not keen on being expressive, but I’m guessing you got him wiggling a bit.”
Darla grinned. “It was rather amusing.”
“Still doesn’t answer my question. You and I aren’t exactly fond of each other. Why take time out of your busy Angel-pestering schedule to visit yours truly?”
“Right to the chase, then?”
“Just the way I fancy it.”
“Very well.” Darla licked her lips. “I have a proposition for you.”
Spike arched an eyebrow.
“Wolfram and Hart’s modus operandi has changed drastically since they brought me back. Prior to his…well, I would say untimely death, but I thought the timing was just right—Holland Manners had organized a rather interesting proposal.” She crossed her arms, awaiting a response and frowning when he offered none. As though his silence was a terrific insult to both her and their kind. “Evidently, he had plans to reassemble the Order of Aurelius.”
Spike blinked. “Well now. Ambitious bloke, isn’t he? Show Angel the light, so to speak, coax Dru back and bribe me with pretty words and frillies?” He scoffed and shook his head. “Good luck finding Dru. Last time I saw her, she—”
“She’s in town.”
Okay. Wasn’t expecting that. “She’s what?”
“When Wolfram and Hart brought me back, there was an unfortunate mortal twist. They sent me to Angel a sniveling, whining, pitifully soul-inflicted squashed cabbage leaf. They also sent me dying of syphilis.” A look of pure hatred filled her eyes. “When he refused to sire me because of his poor tortured conscience, they brought in someone who would.”
Spike couldn’t help but stare. “So…Dru vamped you?”
“That she did.”
Then he couldn’t help himself. He grinned. “Betcha just can’t stand it. You were never her number one fan.”
“Aside from you and Angel, I can’t think of anyone who was.”
He shrugged. “Chaos demons, apparently. So Dru’s on board. Is that your big selling point? Trying to lure ole Spike with the ex-missus? Not very original, is it?”
Darla smiled sweetly. The same kind of sweet laced with cyanide. “Let’s get one thing very, very clear, Willy.” She leaned forward and her eyes drew to two fine daggers. He would never doubt their edge. “I don’t give a flying fuck if you come with us or stay here, the laughing stock of the Order. The only one of us fool enough to allow himself to become the guinea pig of some boys in white coats. A lab rat. You’re a disgrace to our kind. Always have been. The only reason I see having any benefit to your addition is a potential distraction for Dru while Angelus and I tear the city apart.”
Spike prowled forward. “Is that right?” he asked coldly. “Well, that works out just dandy. Dru’s made it up and clear that I don’t hold her interest anymore, and I can think of about a thousand other things I’d rather do than watch you and dear ol’ Granddad shag each other’s brains out. If you haven’t heard, things with me and Angelus weren’t exactly rosey when he took his magical mystery tour to Hell.”
“That’s right. You sided with the Slayer.”
“Preferable to siding with the likes of you.” He snickered and nodded toward the door. “Why don’t you sod off? Get Dru, tell her no deal, and get the hell outta town before the Slayer—”
“What? Finds out?” Darla crossed her hands primly. “You see, sweetie, that’s another one of the perks. If your lovely former’s following protocol—and trust me, I’m not holding my breath—your Slayer’s night has taken a turn for the interesting.”
Spike froze. “What?”
“Another delightful twist to Holland’s vision. Evidently, this little proposal includes a deal concerning your very own heart’s desire. Drusilla, naturally, suggested that we find her and drop something heavy on her head.” Darla shuddered slightly. “You’d think immortality would strengthen my tolerance for such tomfoolery. It hasn’t.”
There wasn’t room for consideration. Spike stormed over, grabbed Darla by the shoulders, and gave her one good, hard shake. “Where is she?” he demanded. “What’s she doing to Buffy?”
Darla didn’t flinch. Didn’t move. She just studied him before throwing her head back with a long cackle. “Oh my god!” she exclaimed in glee. “It’s worse than I thought. Wow, you are pathetic.”
“Shut the bloody hell up. Where is she?”
“Do you have so little faith in your precious Slayer that you think Dru poses a threat? After all, she has managed to school you rather effectively.” Darla shook her head, laughing still. “Of course, you never resorted Rohypnol, did you? No, no. Our Spike must have his fair fight. It’s that sort of thinking that got you all chipped up with no place to go in the first place.”
“You’re…” He closed his eyes in an effort to maintain some semblance of control. “You’re plannin’ to drug the bloody Slayer?”
Darla shrugged. “All a part of Holland’s great vision. He truly was ahead of his time. Angelus will be most pleased.”
“Oh yes. He’s already in the game. Fully stocked. Likely tearing that living practical joke that is Angel Investigations apart right now.” She grinned and hoisted herself onto the abandoned sarcophagus. “It’s left to you, my dear. Lindsey, my little puppet, has assured me that finding means to eradicate you of your…condition won’t be very difficult at all, given Wolfram and Hart’s connections. So you see, Spike, it’s a win-win situation. No chip, Drusilla, and even a slayer to play with on the weekends.”
But he was hardly listening to her—his mind racing. Buffy was still at the Bronze most likely. On a Friday night with patrol as slow as it had been all week, going home early was probably not on the agenda. If he left now, he might be able to stop whatever Drusilla had planned.
Or your arrival might look bloody convenient.
He didn’t have time to care about how it looked. While Buffy was resilient, she wouldn’t expect a date rape drug.
Without realizing it, he had set off for the door, strides heavy and intent.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Darla asked.
Spike stopped at the door and glanced over his shoulder. “Go home.”
“You’re really going to do it, aren’t you? Go after your precious Buffy?”
“If I come back and you’re still here, you crazed bint, I’m gonna tear your bloody head off. Understand?”
There was an amused chuckle. “Do you really think you could?”
“Do you really wanna find out?”
There was another laugh and nothing more. He took that as enough of an answer and left.
He was running before the door had closed.
The moment he arrived back at the Bronze, Spike was amazed that he hadn’t noticed the scent before. How something once so familiar and comforting to him could have been missed at all. The area around the Bronze stunk of Drusilla, pulling on that innate tie he had with her, and would always have no matter how close they weren’t anymore. His skin tingled as he approached the Bronze’s entrance. He did not know if he was ready to see what awaited him inside.
It was foolish to worry about the Slayer. After all, she had powers he had only dreamed of. Though Dru had claimed the life of one slayer, Spike knew—trusted—that she’d be no match for Buffy.
She was the best. No bloody doubt.
But dammit, he wasn't supposed to worry about her.
He wasn’t supposed to care. He wasn’t supposed to rush here to save her bloody life from his bloody ex. He was supposed to watch with glee as she was ripped apart piece by piece.
The thought had his demon snarling.
Spike took one step inside and felt his concern melt away.
Buffy was as he left her, more or less. She was hunched over the bar, talking to Willow and Xander, her gorgeous face alit with laughter.
He didn’t think he’d ever get used to feeling his body relax with relief at the sight of her unharmed. She was giggling, chatting, and completely out of his reach.
So fucking perfect.
“Oh look,” Xander said once he spotted him. “It’s Return of the Evil Undead. You do know that you abandoned a perfectly good game of pool…and that I consequentially won by default.”
Spike ignored him, keeping his focus on Buffy. There was still no sign of Drusilla, but he knew her well enough to know she wasn’t far. “Everythin’ here all right?”
Buffy shot him a painfully fake smile. “Well,” she began, “it was until you showed up. Again. You know, I was getting really attached to that thing that happens when you’re not around. The sheer contentment that is me.
Nope, nothing wrong here.
“Slayer, my deep apologies. I didn’t realize your cycle was due to start. If I’d known, I woulda run for cover before the bomb dropped.”
“Hey, Spike,” Willow greeted before Buffy could scream at him. “What’s up? Nothing of the evil nature to do tonight?”
“I got a lead,” he replied. “A little birdie dropped by my crypt. Dru’s in town.”
A still beat settled over the group.
“Dru’s in town?” Xander repeated. He turned to Buffy. “Those vamps that were here earlier didn’t seem to be under the influence of anyone particularly…well…insane, did they?”
“Yeah,” Xander answered airily. “There were a few. No big, though. There was slayage action, then we resumed the typical Bronze-bashing that was us. Excluding you presence, though, which, bonus.” He held up a hand before the vampire could speak. “And for the record, all attempts made by myself to bury the hatchet became null and void the minute you left our game. That was a one-shot opportunity, buddy. Too bad for you that you missed out.”
“So it would seem,” he answered, glancing around the Bronze. It was bloody hard to know if Dru was near with so many people lounging about, but he was entirely too self-conscious now to move. As though his very presence endangered them. Of course, Drusilla was the jealous type. If she saw him lurking around the Slayer, she’d go right batty.
“So, back to the big.” Harris cleared his throat. “Dru’s in town?”
Spike blinked and looked at him, annoyed. “Yes, Special Ed. Need me to repeat that in your good ear?”
“So what are you doing here…with the panicky face and the asking how everyone is?” Xander gestured. “Shouldn’t you be off somewhere canoodling? Or is that too personal a question?”
Oh right. Spike’s shoulders fell a bit at that. This had to look a bit awkward.
“Don’t patronize him, Xander,” Buffy intervened, her voice saccharine. “Now that Spikey’s been neutered, he’s probably a bit embarrassed to be seen around her.” She flashed another smile. “Either that or the sleeping with Harmony.”
Buffy was out for blood tonight. Extra bitey to compensate for all the unnatural bonding that had been occurring as of late.
“Whatever.” Spike rolled his eyes and turned to leave. “Pardon a bloke for caring. Though, if she does decide to show, tell her to rip your innards out real good for yours truly. Or to at least drop a line, so I can come and bathe in your blood, even if it isn’t me doing the spillin’.”
He was gone again before anyone could offer a final word.
Bloody ungrateful wankers.
Definitely the last time he stuck his neck out for the likes of them.
Well, at least this week.
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