The False Prophet
It was a strange feeling.
The streets were populated with people. All sorts of people. Young, old, tall, short, fat, thin, it didn’t matter. They were people. They were humans. They were everything he was supposed to hate. Everything he was supposed to resent. The wrapping you threw in the trash after a good meal.
He could have one now. He could have a thousand. The chip was gone. It was gone, and he could have whomever he wanted.
The procedure had ended an hour ago—there had, apparently, been a lot of paperwork to go through. Medical releases, completely bogus questionnaires, inquiries to his family’s history. Spike had the nagging suspicion that the holdup had been so McDonald could search for a reason to cancel the surgery altogether. There weren’t many things Spike could be sure of anymore, but one thing he did know was that Lindsey McDonald was not his number one fan. He didn’t know what he’d done to piss off the wanker, but the glares the lawyer kept throwing his way made his feelings more than clear.
He was in a dangerous spot. Spike didn’t realize how deep he had allowed himself to get until noting that—quite possibly—he would be facing the rest alone. While Wright, Cordelia, and the others would remain true to their word, bringing them in now had the potential to jeopardize everything.
Angelus had big plans for the evening, and that made Spike nervous. It was a bizarre feeling. Temptation at its blessed fullest. It was hard enough resisting the urge to act out now that he didn’t have a chip to worry with. Now what he craved, and would always crave, was flaunted in front of him. And he had to ignore it. He had to say no.
This was as close to bona fide torture as he ever wanted to come.
He had given his word, and that was something he refused to take lightly. Too much depended on restraint. Buffy’s trust, Wright’s friendship, and the continued support from his new colleagues at Angel Investigations. So much on the foundation that he would be a good little boy and play by the rules.
It was against his nature.
Every step thus far had been against his nature.
There was also that pesky little voice that warned him that he didn’t really want to partake in the violence anyway.
That was also a bother.
It was intimidating—carrying so much weight on shoulders that were not only accustomed to dropping their burden whenever convenient, but also rolling around in the carnage. Being responsible was something he had never fancied for himself.
And yet here he was.
Spike discovered quickly that there was little one could do in this city that Wolfram and Hart wouldn’t ultimately know about. He wanted to share as much as he could with his associates, but he didn’t dare risk the trip across town to warn them what the evening according to Angelus would entail. He knew he was going to be expected to kill. He knew he was going to be watched like he had never been watched before. He knew that whatever he did had to look authentic. Genuine enough to fool one of the most notorious vampires in history.
There would be real blood spilt tonight.
Spike decided the best course of action was to go through Caritas. It was the perfect middle-point and Lorne would be sure that Wright received the message. It was close enough to Wolfram and Hart to elude suspicion, but far enough away that tattling on him would be a pain for any bystanders.
Spike wanted to avoid his unfortunate blood ties as long as possible. While remaining close to Wolfram and Hart was a given, he couldn’t stand the idea of being confined to a lot that didn’t particularly care for him. He roamed as much as he could, delivered his message to the Host, and made several rounds of the law offices.
Angelus had yet to mention the Slayer, which failed to surprise. When and if Buffy was ever introduced to the picture, it would be well after Spike had completely regained his family’s confidence.
However, the Spike wasn’t willing to wait that long. He wasn’t willing to wait at all.
There were other things. Drusilla had forgiven and forgotten without much provocation, and was already pawing at him in ways that Spike would have leapt at just a few months earlier. Daddy and Grandmummy hadn’t seen to her as they used to, she claimed. Daddy was once again at a place where all he saw was Darla. All he saw, touched, and inhaled was Darla. Darla Darla Darla.
Funny. When Spike saw Darla again, he had to fight the urge to stake her. Out of loyalty.
To a human.
There was more than something wrong with that picture.
Spike was resolved to evade Dru’s advances as long as possible, but he understood that he might become cornered. If he refused too passionately, suspicions would to arise. And it wasn’t that Spike hadn’t been known to indulge in the sins of the flesh—rather he was very known for it.
There was no clause that suggested he needed to be faithful to Buffy. They weren’t involved, after all. He had used Harmony for more of the same.
But he didn’t want to shag Dru. He didn’t want to use the face of a woman he had loved in order to save the one he loved now. For whatever reason, it seemed wrong.
Wrong. That was a word that had radically changed definition in his vocabulary over the past year. What was worse, he didn’t know who it would be wrong against. Using Drusilla didn’t bother him, per se. She sure as fuck hadn’t cared about using him.
No, he felt he would be betraying Buffy.
He had to find her. He was here now. He had reached his destination, and patience was running on empty.
He had to find her.
It was amazing what a man could find to miss. The icy looks. The irritated tones. The empty threats that followed the not-so-empty punches. Romancing the bloody stone. And then, there was the rest. The way she laughed with him when she thought he wouldn’t notice. The way they patrolled and chatted comfortably when no one else was around. The way she could open up just a bit—allow herself to become that much more human.
The scent of her tears against the cold night air. The shiver of her skin beneath his touch. The way he could frighten her without threats, even if she would never admit it. The way she could match him—word for word, move for move, in anything he did. Her butchering of the English language. Her liking for petty clichés. The hint of her mother’s perfume in the air, even if she used it sparingly. How she dropped her shoulder in battle without realizing it, but rarely lost the upper hand.
How she could be so cold. So distant. So perfect. So completely not his, and make him not even care.
The way she cared and tried. The way she simply was.
It had been too long, and he missed her.
Before this had happened, they had been on the road to something. Not friendship—not completely. But something beyond the revulsion. It was more than he would have ever expected. She had saved his life more times than he could count, and he had returned the favor even if she never noticed.
He missed the way she made him human.
The lower levels of Wolfram and Hart were much like those above, except less flashy. Not something one would see on the regular tour. Spike knew that if he was going to find Buffy, it would be here. The lawyers wouldn’t allow her to be taken off the property while she was still alive. And the fact that she was in Angelus’s hands put the likelihood of finding her anywhere but the lower levels very low. Angelus had a liking for large, open and dark spaces. He would want the traditionalism of a good old-fashioned torture chamber.
He would want it all.
Spike had no delusions of heroism. Not now. With his head still aching from the chip’s removal, there was no way he could battle his way out with the Slayer intact and get past all the personnel. When they got her out, it would be a team effort.
Spike wished it otherwise. The last thing he wanted was to overcrowd her, but he didn’t have much in the way of options.
The bowels of Wolfram and Hart potentially stretched for miles, and he couldn’t explore them without arousing the others’ suspicion. Especially since he’d just been back for a few hours. The others wouldn’t even tell him about Buffy. That she was alive, or even how she had allegedly kicked it. Anything. She hadn’t been mentioned once, and he would be damned before he jeopardized her by bringing her up himself.
His manhunt would have to be postponed. It was nearing time to leave.
Mustn’t keep an eager audience waiting.
Spike was ready to turn and head back to the upper levels when the scent hit him. It was faint, nearly imperceptible. For a moment, he suspected his overly-anxious mind was playing tricks on him.
But no. It was there. It was real.
Spike found himself overwhelmed, such that he nearly choked on tears that sprouted from nowhere. And there again. The mix of dirt, blood, the salty essence of skin…everything that made her Buffy. His Slayer. A scent he would follow across oceans. The very same that had brought him here. Everything. Spike choked pitifully, following his nose without realizing it. Following the corridor as far as her scent would carry him.
Followed until he encountered a door.
Buffy was on the other side of that door.
And he had run out of time.
The larger part of him wanted to blow it off. Sod the entire plan and all that bloody rot. He had found her. She was on the other side of that door, waiting for him. He wanted to race in, take her into his arms, and get the fuck out of Dodge. Now.
But the smaller, more reasonable voice within told him that it could never be that easy. He would be staked dead before reaching the first floor—if not by Angelus or one of his own, then definitely by a Wolfram and Hart associate.
Spike sputtered an indignant sob at that. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair to be here, to be standing with only a door between them. To be dragged away because he had a role to play was bloody unfair. He needed her now. He needed to look at her, touch her, feel her…now.
To do so now would risk everything and not on the kind of odds he liked to wager.
“Hang on, love,” he whispered, his voice echoing to the halls around him. “I’ll be back.”
And he would. He would be back. Sooner rather than later.
Spike always kept his word. And nothing short of a stake to the heart could keep him away now.
Cordelia hung up the phone, collapsed against the front counter, and buried her head in her arms.
Wesley glanced up from his reading. “Good news?” he asked.
“Oh yeah. The best.” She sighed and shook her head. “We gotta get Zack on this, stat.”
The man in question bounded down the Hyperion staircase the next minute. “Gotta get Zack in on what?”
“The Host just called. Apparently, Spike has to go hunting tonight.”
A shadow crossed Wright’s face. “Hunting?”
“Every bit as ‘bite the humans’ as it sounds.”
“So his chip is out?”
“Out, and our resident vampire has himself a new set of teeth that are just hankerin’ for the chomping.” Cordelia sighed again, leveling her gaze with Wright. “I don’t think we have anything to worry about,” she said. “I mean, before Wolfram and Hart decided to get soul-happy, he was probably the last person in the world that I would trust, but—”
“Why is that?”
“Oh. Because the last time I saw Spike, he was sticking hot pokers into Angel. Trying to get some gem. A ring. The gem of…something.”
“Gem of Amara?” Wesley offered helpfully.
“Yup. That’s the one.”
“It exists? Dear me, I hadn’t thought—”
Wright held up a hand and Wesley immediately fell silent. “So,” he said, “Spike’s new leaf didn’t turn until…recently, is what you’re saying.”
“Way recently,” Cordelia agreed. “But he’s completely different from the vamp he was in the way back when. I didn’t even know him all that well, to be perfectly honest. Not when he was all kill Buffyish. I just knew that he was there, had some psycho girlfriend, and now he’s one of us.”
“You trust him.” It was more an observation than anything else.
At that, Cordelia paused with a frown. In all honesty, the thought hadn’t occurred to her. Not in the fullest sense. It wasn’t something that someone randomly shouted from the rooftops. “Yeah,” she finally said. “I do. I guess it’s a little premature, but since he’s been here, he’s really…well, not been Spike.”
“And you don’t think it’s an act?”
“Honey, I’m an actress. I’d know it if it was an act.”
Wesley coughed. He wisely ignored the look he earned in turn.
Cordelia rolled her eyes and turned back to Wright. “You’re not suddenly thinking Spike’s not one of us, are you?”
“No,” Wright said. “No, it’s not that. I’ve…for reasons beyond me, Spike and I… We’ve come to an understanding.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” he replied. “I just—”
“You know, it’s okay if you have. He’s a pretty cool guy, once you get passed the retro ‘Oh dear god, did someone trap me in the 80s’ look.” Cordelia grinned. “You wouldn’t be the first to warm up to a vamp. Trust me. Been there, most definitely done that.”
Wright’s face fell and Cordelia realized she had stumbled upon a sore spot. “I…” he said softly. “I don’t befriend vamps. Doesn’t matter about the…conditions.”
“Don’t go getting righteous on me,” Wright snapped at him. “You don’t know the half of it.”
Wesley looked affronted, and his hands came up. “I didn’t say anything.”
“You didn’t have to.” Wright shook his head and combed pathways through his brown hair. “God…the sooner this is over, the better. What did the Host say? Anything he wants us to do in particular?”
“Yeah.” Cordelia glanced down, unwilling to concede defeat that easily. Whatever Wright was hiding would come out eventually. Scars hurt—she knew this as well as anyone else—but picking at the scabs didn’t do a damn thing to help. “Spike’s said that he’s going to have to…well…bite…a few…people.”
A very still beat settled through the Hyperion.
It didn’t last.
“He wants you to follow,” she added. “Angelus is going to be there…watching him. I guess it’s some sort of initiation. He’s told the Host that he’s not going to kill anyone. That he doesn’t want to, and I think we need to trust him on this. But he’s going to be biting people and he’ll need you there to help get them medical attention. Stat.”
“A demon hunter seems logical,” Wesley observed. “Especially one with a grudge.”
“And if they see me?”
Cordelia shrugged. “You’re just gonna have to be careful.”
Wright had broken into a pace across the lobby, shaking his head and muttering to himself. “No. No, no, no, no. I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all.”
“Neither does he.”
Wright stopped at that, eyes blazing. “How the fuck can we know that? Really? Spike’s—”
“A vampire. I think we got that by now.” Cordelia sighed and stepped forward. “He’s also one of us. He’s in it for her.”
“How do we know he wasn’t in it for the chip? How do we really know?”
“Because he would’ve agreed to Darla’s proposal in Sunnydale,” Wesley reminded him rationally. “Cordy’s right. Spike cares far too deeply about Buffy to do anything to endanger her…and that includes hurting others. He knows he’d lose our support if word was confirmed that he was feeding again.” He stilled a moment. “You know this, Zack. You were here when McDonald told him that—”
Wright held up a hand, seeming to calm. Reason drifted slowly back into his eyes. “I know. I know. I was arguing this point earlier…I just…” Another long breath. “I don’t like it.”
“Neither does he,” Cordelia said softly. “Apparently, he got really righteous at Caritas. Started ranting about how it was too much pressure for someone who doesn’t know, and, I seriously quote, ‘what the bloody hell’ he’s doing, and where the line is.” She waited for Wright to look at her before continuing. “He’s just as afraid of his potential to slip up as we are.”
That seemed to settle it on some unspoken terrain. Wright exhaled deeply and nodded. “I don’t know how he expects me to help,” he said. “I’ll go. Of course I’ll go…but even…what if we don’t make it in time?”
“You’ll make it.”
Cordelia frowned. That was the first direct reference he had made about the vampire that had done him wrong. The past two days had been colored with hints, but Zack was a very private person. But she didn’t think he had always been.
“He didn’t mention Darla,” she said after a moment, “but I’m guessing that you have free reign.”
The shadow fell across Wright’s face. “I don’t think so,” he said. “Just yesterday, he was pissed at the idea of…no. For Buffy’s sake.”
“I don’t think it would matter, personally,” Wesley said. “If you’re there and not at Spike’s side. From what I gathered of your agreement last night, he didn’t want you to attack because of your established relationship.”
“No good. Angelus thinks that I’m a vamp groupie.”
Cordelia quirked an eyebrow. “You made him think you were a vamp groupie?”
Wright grinned. “I did at that. And I’m a damn good actor, if I don’t say so myself.”
“I’ll bet,” she replied with a smirk. Then she tilted her head. “You know, you should really do that more often.”
“Do what? Act?”
“No, smile. I don’t think I’ve seen you really smile since you got here.”
He shrugged. “Haven’t had much reason to before.”
“I like it. Keep it up.” Before he could offer another reply, Cordelia turned sharply to Wesley, who was staring at her blankly. “So, what’s the game plan? You both gonna tackle the ‘patrolling Spike’ front, or—”
“It’s not a good idea to advertise that I’m a demon hunter,” Wright said. “Especially not now. As much as it really pains me to admit it, Spike was right last night. If I establish that I’m very much working with you guys, it’ll raise suspicion and get him staked and her killed. There’s no way that’s going to work.”
“You can say that you were using him because you knew who he was.” Cordelia shrugged. “It wouldn’t be too far from the truth, pre-us.”
“I’d already thought about that. Seems most plausible, but still too early.” Zack shook his head, glancing to Wesley again. “If we follow, I’m gonna have to take you with me. That way any diversion we cause can be your choice. Don’t worry, old man. I won’t let them—”
“I wasn’t going to say that,” Wes grumbled. Then paused. “Old? Do I look old?” He turned to Cordelia. “I don’t look old, do I? I certainly don’t think so. Why, I’ve gotten carded at several of the bars Gunn drags me to. Point of fact—”
Cordy cleared her throat, unable to banish the smile from her face. “Earth to Wes. Slightly on the less of the importance-o-meter right now.”
Wright cleared his throat, too. “I take it back. Are you coming or not?”
“Of course.” Wesley sighed and removed his glasses. “If it will help. I am prepared to deal with Angelus if I must. Anything right now would be useful. Right now, we at least know that Buffy is all right.”
Zack pursed his lips worriedly. “I don’t understand that,” he said. “Despite everything… From what I’ve read about the Order, particularly Angelus, it seems that he would’ve tired of her by now.”
“If she was anyone else, he likely would have,” Wes agreed. “But Buffy is a slayer. Not only that, she is a slayer that he had a lengthy relationship with. And even if the novelty of abusing her now wears off, she might have some higher importance to Wolfram and Hart that is keeping her protected.”
Wright thought about that for a long moment, then shook his head. “I don’t see any of them being the type to uphold contracts. Especially where these matters are concerned. From what I’ve read on Angelus—and what I know of Darla—there are too many opportunities opened to them. What’s to stop them from siring her and causing the town that much more damage? I don’t get it.”
Wesley chuckled. “I wouldn’t worry about them siring anyone. It would not be beneficial in the slightest.”
“Because the last time a slayer was sired, she laid waste to her maker, his childer, and who-knows-how-many-other-vampires before she was finally defeated. That was centuries ago.” When it didn’t appear that Wright was following, he shook his head and leaned forward conspiratorially. “Siring a slayer is essentially signing a death warrant. They’re damn near impossible to kill, with slayer strength in addition to demonic attributes, and by the time it’s over, angry as hell with the one who made her.”
“Angel explained this to us a long time ago,” Cordelia said, nodding. “If Slayers didn’t keep their souls, then all vampires would wanna turn them. Being a sire already gives you a certain measure of power—if you were the sire of a soulless slayer, you’d be damn near invincible.”
“Which is why the Powers That Be deemed it impossible,” Wesley concluded. “To even the odds. I suppose they consider it poetic justice. If a vampire is fool enough to sire a slayer, he’ll most assuredly get what he deserves when she wakes.”
Wright took a long minute, blinking. “So we don’t have to worry about that.”
“No,” Wes replied.
“Nadda,” Cordelia confirmed.
“Zilch,” Gunn said, slamming the door to the lobby shut behind him.
Cordy jumped and whirled around. “Where the hell did you come from?”
”Umm, the outside?” He merely grinned unashamedly and shrugged. “Ya’ll are humorless. So, what’d I miss?”
Wright and Wesley’s eyes met, and they broke for the weapons closet together. They were on their way for the door in a matter of seconds.
“Come on, Charlie,” Zack said with a grin, patting the other man on the shoulder as they headed out. “We’re goin’ out for a spot.”
Cordelia just shook her head and gestured after them. “Just go. They’ll explain.”
“Right.” Gunn turned to follow with a frown. Then whacked Zack upside the head. “And don’t call me Charlie. God, you and Spike, I swear…”
Wright merely smiled and shook his head, turning to wink at Cordelia. “Watch the girls for me, would you?”
“And don’t let them get in trouble.”
She waved dismissively. “Trouble? Around here? Psh. What could…” She stopped with a frown, eyes wide. “God, I almost said it. Right. Big no to trouble. We’ll stay here and watch the very safe television, order some very safe pizza, and play a very safe game of Scrabble.”
“Wouldn’t call that safe,” Zack replied. “You don’t know how competitive Nikki can get.”
“Nikki?” a thoroughly confused Gunn asked.
“Again, we’ll explain.”
“Bye, Cordy!” Wes called.
“Bye! Don’t get killed!”
Wright grinned. “Words to live by.”
Over the expanse of his long life, Spike had never seen himself in this position.
The sensation of déjà vu was too much for him—or nearly, as one might speculate. For an hour, he had followed them. Been one of them. Watched as Angelus slaughtered who he liked—some for food, most for pleasure. Watched him dance with Darla under the streetlights. There was so much blood. Everywhere. It was intoxicating.
He wanted so desperately to ignore that voice, but it was too persistent. It was wrong, and what’s more, he knew it.
He felt it.
They had made beautiful havoc of downtown Los Angeles. The four—rather three—of them. He had watched from a distance, feigned participation when they glanced his way. It disgusted him, but that didn’t mean rot for difference. It was simply that. The face of what he had become. Not for anyone. Not even for Buffy—not in the end. Spike. The Slayer of Slayers—William the Fucking Bloody—reduced to this. To caring.
To caring so much that he had to avert his eyes when Angelus sank his teeth into another hapless victim. He had to clench his fists to stop himself from throwing Darla off the single mother heading to her car after a long night’s shift at some cheap diner. Had to flash Drusilla a smile when she danced over to him with a bloodstained mouth and asked if she had earned a cookie. He hated them for being what they were, and worse, hated himself for hating them in the first place.
He had never felt so thoroughly torn. And he hated them for it.
“My William is not hungry?” Drusilla asked him, pouting as she rubbed his stomach, curled into his side. “I can feel you, pet. Tummy’s growling at me. Think it will feast on my hand lest we find you something better.”
“Spike!” Angelus exclaimed loudly, thumping him on the back. “M’boy. What’s wrong? Too fresh for you? I’m sure we can make a pit stop at the blood bank if you really find it necessary. Though I must say, I’m disappointed. Nearly a century of famine and I dove right in. You’ve been on your diet for…what? A year?”
“I must say,” Darla cooed, strolling up to him and licking idly at her fingers. “You are quite a picture from the loud, obnoxious thing I remember. Actually, Angelus, I think I prefer our Spike this way. Submissive. Perhaps we—”
“Just leveling the playing field, mate,” Spike said, though his thoughts were elsewhere. If it wasn’t bad enough that every turn tugged on his unwanted conscience, but he couldn’t keep himself from thinking of the girl he had left behind. For this.
She was waiting for him, and he was out with those who had wronged her.
Spike closed his eyes and blinked to awareness immediately.
He couldn’t afford to sacrifice his footing.
“Leveling the playing field?” Angelus repeated, arching an eyebrow. “Interesting. And here I thought you were simply sitting on your ass.”
“You must admit, Spike,” Darla added, “that in the past, you’ve been more a leveler rather than waiting for it to happen.”
“Hush, Grandmum,” Drusilla cooed, burying her face in his shoulder. “My dearest is simply working up to his goodies. He’s been all alone for too long. Wandering through the night with no one to answer his call.”
“Aww, poor baby.” Angelus snickered. “Does somebody need a hug?”
“So off, you righteous wanker.” In all honesty, he didn’t know what he would do. The idea of taking one of these people, the very same that he shouldn’t care about, made his stomach churn.
These people who had homes and families. Husbands, wives, children, parents, brothers, sisters, friends, lovers…
One little nibble won’t hurt anyone.
Spike sighed. When had life become so damn complicated?
Three words. Buffy Anne Summers.
There. He selected the best looking of the lot. The healthiest. The one chit that looked like she could stand for a little bloodletting. And from there, it was instinct. He didn’t know how it happened. Any of it. From one minute standing on the sidelines, watching everything pass before him, to pursuing his intended into some dark alley.
He reverted to game face and inhaled deeply…searching…
The woman was trembling. A wreck. Her eyes were fixated on his face in horror, and she spluttered a string of burdened pleas and bargains for her life. He wasn’t listening, too entranced by the picture she presented. There was fear. Real fear. He hadn’t smelled true fear in a long time. A man half-starved with self-induced famine, and she was practically begging for it.
God. For that moment, he wanted to. Wanted to bugger it all and sink his fangs in her throat. Remind himself of the taste of blood. Real blood. Direct from the sodding source. Buffy’s image flittered in and out of his mind but refused to solidify. What mattered was there was reason here. There was purpose. And if he neared just a bit more…
“Please!” the girl whimpered, throat scratchy and rumbly with all sorts of mousy squeaks. “P-p-please d-d-don’t hurt m-m-m-me. Take whatever y-y-you need. I have money. Just p-pl-please don’t hurt—”
Something nagging his insides. Spike was too entranced with the scent of raw fear to notice. He had her by the shoulders and pressed flush against some building side. He nuzzled her throat, reveling in the throbbing pulse that beckoned his fangs to her. Intoxicating.
Then something happened.
In later days, he wouldn’t know if the guilt or the smell hit him first. He speculated it was the guilt but there was every chance that was wishful thinking. Just that at one precise moment, everything came reeling back. Buffy’s face fought through his bloodlust, reminded him of his purpose. What he was here doing. What he needed to portray in the face of danger. His reason. His bloody meaning.
He became aware of a familiar scent next. Actually, three familiar scents. His friends from Angel Investigations were close. Close to the point that they were probably watching him.
Spike reckoned if he actually went through with it, he’d earned whatever punishment they gave.
He didn’t. It was bad enough that he thought about it.
It was bad enough that he lamented thinking about it.
Life was one vicious fucking cycle.
He didn’t make a move to withdraw. Instead, he lowered his mouth even further. Such to the point where his bumpies ground against her in effort to avoid the throbbing temptation of her pulse. Then his lips were at her ear. “Shh, pet,” he murmured. “I’m not gonna hurt you, all right?”
There was a pause at that. “Wh…what?”
“It’s gonna sting a little. But I promise I’m not gonna kill you. I’m not even gonna rob you. Your goods are safe as bloody houses.” The hands that had previously kept her still were now rubbing circular caresses into her shoulder, but at that she seemed to tense more. He frowned until he realized her assumption, and had to fight the temptation to roll his eyes. “And no, I’m not gonna do that, either. Just close your eyes, and it’ll be over before you know it.”
“Three blokes’ll be here in a sec. Good guys. You get me? They’ll take care of you. Don’t fight ’em.”
An intrusive scent suddenly perturbed the alleyway.
“Well, Spike,” Angelus drawled, bored. “You actually gonna do it or have you taken to romancing your dinner before you make the kill?”
Spike tensed but relaxed just as easily. He didn’t move. “Just make it look real, pet,” he whispered, voice degrees lower. “And all will be fine. If you don’t, this chap’ll do you and me in. You don’t want that, do you?”
She shook her head rapidly. The hot sting of her tears collided with his cheek and served to make him feel worse than he already did. But they were through with negotiations. He had told her all that he could. The rest was up to her.
At first bite, though, Spike nearly buckled with pleasure. The first taste of human blood from the source in over a year. It felt so damn good. He pressed her against the wall with more intent, ignoring her dying wails and pleas that seemed to melt into nowhere. He drank and he drank fully. Unabashed. And it was good.
When he felt her heartbeat begin to slow, he pulled away and let her fall to the ground without so much as a second glance. He snickered disinterestedly before pivoting back to Angelus, arching a brow. “Right then,” he said, overwhelmed and more than a little buzzed. “Let’s off, shall we?”
For the look on Angelus’s face, the entire ordeal was almost worth it.
It continued like that for what seemed like hours. Watching. Tearing. Destroying. Killing without killing. Confronting many terrified pulsers who looked him in the eye and realized that what he said was true—others that refused to listen to reason. Those he let go without a struggle. Well, enough of a struggle to appease those watching him, but not a real struggle. There were times when he thought Angelus’s eyes narrowed a bit too much for his own good, but his action was never questioned. Drusilla was pleased. Darla was apathetic. And that was, currently, all that mattered.
Only that his thoughts were with someone else, and being so near her without seeing her was slowly driving him out of his mind.
He couldn’t stay out here long. He had to get away.
To see her.
If only once.
“Hospital checked,” Gunn reported as he strolled over to Zack and Wesley. They were hovering over the third person that Spike had allegedly killed that night. A small teenager who looked much too pale for her own good. “The chick I dropped off should be fine.”
“We better check her in, too,” Wesley decided, lifting the girl into his embrace. “I believe he took enough to make it look realistic, but still it was too much to my liking.”
“Everything tonight’s too much to my liking,” Wright muttered.
Wesley nodded at him gravely but did not reply. Instead, he turned back to Gunn and deposited the girl in his arms. “Did you see them on your way back?” he asked softly.
“Yeah. And let me tell you, man, not a pretty picture.”
“Where are we gonna be needed next?” Wright demanded.
“I don’t know. Spike wasn’t there.”
Gunn shrugged. “Not that I saw. And Angelus was getting pretty pissy about it. Seems he snuck off about a half hour ago. Think our boy’s afraid of a little competition?”
“That or something else.”
Wright frowned. He didn’t like this one bit. “I don’t get it. It’s risking too much to… Where would he have gone?”
Someone was nearing.
Buffy realized this dimly but it failed to click. Somewhere, this had become routine. Habit. Had she been here long enough to form habit? It sure seemed as such. She didn’t know. Her eyes were too tired from trying to keep them open, her arms strained with too much exertion and the innate but denied need to find rest. She had been hanging for what seemed like forever.
There might as well be no skin there, for all they had done.
And more. Always coming back for more. She wondered if she would feel it this time. Last time hadn’t hurt nearly as bad. Perhaps her nerves were wearing away one by one. Perhaps…
Someone was nearing. A vampiric someone. Her slayer senses were still there, still tingling in her gut. Lately it seemed to be an Angelus alarm, warning her of his approach.
Someone was nearing. God, she hoped it didn’t hurt this time.
Someone was there.
There. Breathing. Harshly. And then murmuring her name.
That voice. She knew that voice. It haunted her dreams—something that no longer surprised her. She was used to him being in those visions. Used to dreaming up the one person that shouldn’t come. Used to seeing him—though for no reason whatever—only to have him tell her the same.
She was dreaming again. Only she wasn’t. This was real.
And she knew that voice.
That was all it took. She glanced up, and her pained eyes went wide with astonishment. Buffy had thought herself bankrupt of surprise. But no. It was there. There, and burning with as much fervor as ever.
It wasn’t Angelus.