Kiss the Flame
The last thing Spike expected upon arrival was to be greeted with a hearty dose of hostility, and yet it was received in spades. First by the if-looks-could-stake glare delivered by the woman he recognized as Detective Kate Lockley, and next for the groan that slipped through Cordelia’s lips as she banged her head on the front counter.
“Let me guess,” she said in manner of greeting. “You didn’t talk to Lindsey.”
Spike arched an eyebrow. “Lindsey? Yea tall? Lawyer type with a baby face and a poncy name? Nope, can’t say that I have. Not since the operation, anyway.”
“Great. Just great.”
“Ummm…just curious, but why?”
“He was just here,” Lockley said, her tone cold. “Evidently, the two of you have been playing at a crossroads.”
Spike stared at her blankly. “Whassat?”
Another low moan came from the lump that was Cordelia. “This thing,” she said, muffled. “Lindsey’s on an all out rescue-Buffy warpath. And he’s been having a major wig about it ever since…ever.”
There was a pause. Spike arched an eyebrow, calm and determined to remain reasonable. “Is that so?” he demanded. “Funny, because I coulda sworn he was one of the prats who set this entire thing up in the bloody first place. Guess life’s a little ironic like that, huh?”
At that, Lockley’s eyes widened with fury that he hadn’t noted before. “You wanna talk irony?” she spat. “Like, how you say you want to protect your slayer, and yet I somehow wind up with a dozen assault reports that match a man of your description?”
Cordelia cleared her throat, looking up. “Ummm, that’s not irony, Kate,” she corrected. “It’s hypocrisy. And didn’t we already cover this?”
Spike scowled. “I am not a bloody hypocrite. I did what I had to.”
“Yeah, what you had to.” Lockley planted her hands on her hips. “Funny how that just happened to coincide with sinking those fangs of yours into the necks of civilians all across town and the destruction of ten thousand dollars in public property.”
Cordelia frowned. “You didn’t mention that.”
“I’m mentioning it now.”
“Oh.” She furrowed her brown in consideration before turning to Spike. “Ten thousand dollars? What did you do last night?”
He shrugged. “Little of this, little of that. The usual.”
There was an irritated snicker from Lockley. She did not look impressed. “Well, that usual’s going to cost you.”
A shiver of pure anger raced down his spine, and the calm he’d been trying to hold onto slipped away. “Listen, you ignorant bint,” he snarled. “Considering my record, you oughta be glad that’s the worst that happened. Remember me? Dangerous vampire here. The same I recall you saying you’d read up on. Gave me a little lecture on the basics of my own sodding kind. I’m here for one purpose only—get the Slayer out. If a few bystanders happen to get scratched in the process, so bloody be it. I couldn’t give a lick.”
Cordelia snickered at that. “I suppose it’s too late to tell you not to take anything that Kate says personally,” she advised. “She just hates vamps.”
“Yeah, I do,” Lockley agreed. “And this one’s not climbing on my list.”
Spike leaned forward, eyes widening. “Not my problem,” he growled. “Listen, I wager you have some tragic sob story to account for your vamp aversion. Guess what—not the bloody first. I know me quite a few blokes who’ve had a bit of the same over the years.”
Cordelia cleared her throat, coaxing Spike to meet her eyes. One fleeting glance was all it took. One glance on mutual territory, and they knew each other.
“This has nothing to do with me,” Lockley spat.
“You’re right. It doesn’t,” Spike agreed, snapping back to her. “Give us a ring when you’ve figured it out.”
“Kate can help us,” Cordelia offered.
“She was our link to Wolfram and Hart. That job’s been passed on to me. She can leave.”
“No, she really can’t.” Cordelia stood at that and navigated around the desk. “I know it’s not exactly what we want, Spike, but let’s face it. Our options, our allies…kinda running on the low side, wouldn’t you say? We need all the help we can get.”
“Not from tarty bints who think themselves so bloody better than the lot of us.”
“And—ehm—excuse me, but it is Buffy that we’re saving, isn’t it?”
He frowned. “Not funny, pet.”
“But oh so true. And admit it—if she wasn’t Miss Waiting To Be Saved, you’d be the first to say so.” Cordelia batted her eyes at him expectantly, but her grin faded almost instantly when she took in his face. “Oh god. I’m sorry. Was it something I said? I—”
Spike held up a hand, shaking his head. “It’s all right,” he said. “It’s just…I saw her.”
“What?” Lockley demanded, astonished.
“You saw her?” Cordelia repeated. “And she…and you… Well, where the fuck is she? Is she okay? Is she hurt? What happened?”
That was the question, wasn’t it? What had happened and why. Spike felt nothing but cold. “She…” he said, voice growing distant. “God, he’s…he’s all but butchered her.”
“So, why is she still there? Why didn’t you—”
At that, his eyes narrowed. “You honestly think that we’d be having this conversation if that’d been a bloody option?”
“Well, no. But—”
“They’ve got her fixed in these shackles that can’t be broken. Very posh. Something every decently evil law firm needs lying around.” A sigh broke his body and he collapsed into one of the armchairs in the foyer. “And what’s better…guess who has exclusive access?”
There was no need to guess. “Angel.”
“The one and only.”
Lockley pursed her lips. “Is she…is the Slayer going to be all right?”
Spike’s scowl darkened once more. “Bloody right she is.”
Cordelia looked at him. “Did she know you were there?”
He nodded. “I…I couldn’t walk away. She was just dangling there and…I couldn’t…” He shut his eyes fell, fighting the losing battle to keep his emotions to himself. Despite his liking these people, he didn’t want to bear all. “She…what they’ve…I couldn’t leave without doing something.”
Evidently, there was something in the suggested tone that Lockley didn’t like. She crossed her arms and leaned against the front counter, studying him a bit too close for comfort. “Oh really?” she retorted. “And what did you do?”
Spike looked at her with masked surprise. Well, didn’t that beat all? Of course, the one licensed detective in the building caught onto whatever he wasn’t making much noise to hide. Still, it was irritating—and furthermore—it wasn’t her business. What had occurred between him and the Slayer was very much that—between him and the Slayer. He didn’t need the opinion of an outsider and he certainly didn’t need her approval.
“I helped,” he said. And that was that.
“Oh, I’m sure you did.”
“Spike…” Cordelia ventured. “What is she talking about?”
At once, he was too infuriated by suggestion to respond. Instead, Spike leapt to his feet and stalked forward, pulsing with rage. It was both irritating and commendable that Lockley refused to flinch. The chit had stones, he had to admit. But the insinuation in her tone was unforgivable. The notion, the slightest hint of what she was saying…
It was enough to make a bloke do something he would regret.
“I didn’t hurt her,” he snarled.
“Hey,” Cordelia barked. “If Spike says he didn’t hurt her, he didn’t. Sorry Kate. Just one more vamp that doesn’t fit your ideal stereotype. And on that note, The Bias Line is closed tonight. Please see yourself out.”
Lockley looked at the other woman askance. “Didn’t you just say a minute ago—”
“Yeah, I know. Changing my mind. Well, you pissed me off. Get lost and don’t come back unless you have some information from Lindsey or Wolfram and Hart or something that is not a threat or an insult to my friends. All right?”
Spike stared at her, awe and bewilderment flooding him. She pointedly ignored his gaze and instead crossed her arms, waiting for Lockley to find the door.
There weren’t any words exchanged. Nothing more than a roll of the eyes and a sigh of exasperation as the detective turned and made her way out the doors. It wasn’t until they were alone that Cordelia finally glanced to Spike and offered a weak smile.
“So? Spill! Details!”
He frowned suspiciously. “About…?”
“You and Buffy. I want the full.”
“Don’t even give me that ‘nothing happened’ bull crap. You have something-face. Any woman knows it. Why do you think Kate was all bug-up-her-ass?” She held up a hand. “And, let me clarify, I mean ‘more-so-than-usual’ and her radar isn’t nearly as good as mine. Hello. If I had actually gone to college instead of working for my lame not-boss, I likely would’ve majored in dating.”
Spike grinned in spite of himself. “Yeah, you’re a right natural.”
“So talk! What happened?”
He shook his head and held up a hand. “Ah, ah, ah. I’m not one to kiss and tell.”
“Since now. And for the record, pet, you and I haven’t been chums for long.”
She growled, even if there was a smile on her face. “Bah! I hate not knowing things. This is so unfair.”
Spike just smirked.
“It wasn’t like that,” he replied, shaking his head. Then he paused, remembering. “It was…she was in pain. She…what he’s done to her. And she was bleeding. She was bleeding because of him… And she begged me not to leave her. She didn’t even think I was real until the end.”
The tease in Cordelia’s gaze had fallen completely. She stepped forward and touched his arm. “It’s okay,” she whispered. “We’ll get her out.”
“Bloody right we will,” he growled. “I just don’t know how. It’s why I came here. It’s why…” He shook his head. “These things that they’ve got her tied up in… Angelus is the only wanker who can—”
“I know. You mentioned it earlier.”
“If it were anyone else, I’d knick it the old fashioned style. But I don’t know what I’m looking for. If it’s even in key-shape or what all.” A sigh depressed his shoulders, and he collapsed again into the lobby sofa. “But whatever we do, pet, it’s gotta be soon. I’ll be dust before I before I just stand aside and let him hurt her like that.”
Cordelia followed him, took his hand into hers, and patted the back of it in an almost sisterly fashion. “We’ll figure something out,” she said again, earning a weak, however grateful grin.
“You know what?”
“You’re an all right bird.”
She smiled. “Naturally. You, too.”
Spike plastered on a pert grin. “Naturally,” he retorted in the same manner.
“You seemed to think so.” He pulled back and rose to his feet. “So, where did everyone get off to?”
“Zack and the others? Oh, they went by Caritas to see if you had decided to contact us again. Seemed kinda presumptuous to me. I mean, the Host called us last time.” She shrugged. “I think it’s because they’re bored, and being of the sitting duck clan, I can’t say I blame them. They also might’ve gone out to see if the Order’s hunting again.”
Spike nodded. “And the girlies?”
“Upstairs. I don’t think Nikki likes me.”
He snorted. “You and me both. I can see why.”
“Well, seems you and Zangy have gotten close.”
“What makes you say that?”
“‘Zack and the others’?” he replied, arching an eyebrow. “Bloody interesting development, by the way. The chit’s probably worried about him, given all that happened. Either that or bloody resentful.”
Cordelia frowned. “Huh?”
He shrugged. “Nothing.”
“They’ll probably be back soon if there’s no new info. Then we’ll figure out what to do.”
Spike sighed. “Yes, we will,” he declared with fierce determination. “God, I can’t take this. I see her every time I close my eyes. She begged me not to leave her, Cordy. She begged me not to let him take her again. I can’t bloody stand this.”
“We’ll get her out.”
He nodded. They had had this conversation a thousand times. It was time to do something about it.
A few minutes passed, filled with uncomfortable silence. Then Cordelia smiled and took a step toward him in an obvious attempt to cheer him up. “Actually, it’s going to be kinda sad,” she mused. “I mean, I’ve gotten used to you being around. And really, with as much as I like brooding Angel, you have a lot more personality.”
Spike sighed dramatically. He knew perfectly well what she was doing but took the bait anyway. It was the best option in such circumstances. “Cordy, if you’re madly in love with me, just say so.”
She rolled her eyes. “Oh. Right. That’s it. You caught me.”
“Bloody knew it,” he replied. Whatever the motive, her method had worked. He was smiling again, not completely distracted, but distracted. “Though, by the smell of things, Zangy’s lucky I got my heart all given to someone else.”
There was a long pause and—for whatever reason—an adapted deer-in-headlights look. “What? I—”
Spike pointed to his nose. “Nothing incriminating,” he assured her with a grin. “Just enough to know you two have been spending some quality time together. Though honestly, pet, I thought you had better taste. You really fancy that arrogant wanker?”
“Who are you to be calling anyone arrogant?”
A pause. “Touché. Relax, I’m just teasing. He’s all right.”
“Yeah,” she agreed with a little smile.
“Hope it works out,” Spike said sincerely. “The git needs a little happiness.”
“Well, don’t book the church just yet. There’s not gonna be a wedding anytime soon.” Cordelia shook her head. “Really, we’re just flirting. You’re blowing everything out of proportion.”
“Right. Does he know that?”
“Of course. You’re really jumping the gun on this, buddy.”
“Yeah,” Spike agreed, not believing a word. “Here’s hoping, though.”
“Either way, they’ll be back soon.”
Spike nodded, his mind shifting back to where it spent most of its time. He hoped beyond hope that she was right. The Slayer was counting on them—on him—and he would be dust before he let her down.
There wasn’t a moment to spare.
Lindsey McDonald couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
He remained cemented firmly in his seat as the images unfolded beat by beat on screen. He had heard Cordelia’s testimony—heard and hadn’t believed it. Yet here it was. The proof he had so desperately needed.
The look on Spike’s face betrayed him for everything he had tried to hide. The unbridled flashes of rage. The unmistakable self-loathing and guilt. There was no denying it. No twisting reality to fit his narrative.
No. The depth of feeling that Spike revealed with a glance spoke volumes. Lindsey knew those feelings well. That rattling in the pit of his stomach. The weary grinding at his heartstrings. The pain that greeted him every morning, knowing he was about to get ready for a job he didn’t want anymore. It was a frightening thing. Waking in the middle of the night to realize that, yes, this was his life. Yes. He did work for an evil corporation that killed children and kept women chained up in the basement. Yes. He was likely forever damned for things he had not done, things he would never do. Things that were tied to his name through association. Through the contract he had signed before developing scruples.
Frightening indeed. Lindsey had no idea what had brought him here. Prompted him this far. He would like to have argued that his actions of the past seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was far from the truth. He would like to have stated that he hadn’t known what he was getting himself into, but he’d all but drafted the disclaimer himself. He would like to have believed he was a man of principle, someone who would never allow themselves to sink this far. And yet here he was. On top of the fucking world. So far elevated that all were deaf to his screams.
The vampire he was watching was not so different from himself. Spike. A demon who looked appalled at the darkness around him. It was true. Everything that McDonald had campaigned against was true. True and there, captured on camera.
He loved her. Spike loved the Slayer. Loved Buffy Summers. The very same Buffy Summers that Lindsey had all but tortured himself over in regard for her well-being. He loved her, and he was here to help.
And if the pictures before him revealed anything, Buffy was glad.
There had been tears, of course. Tears and blood. Tenderness. When Spike had touched her, he did so with reservation. But he had comforted her, best to his ability. He had found solace within her presence, soothed his rage only to be rekindled once more.
Fascinating what video could reveal.
The image fizzed and died as the tape matched its reel. Lindsey sat in silence for long seconds after, pondering what to do next. There was no telling who else among the Wolfram and Hart personnel had seen this. No noise of it was circulating in the hierarchy of the Special Projects committee, but ignorance of such things did not mean anything.
However, with the way things were going, Lindsey banked on Wolfram and Hart’s support. Not in the full way. The way that would guarantee the Slayer’s release—they couldn’t stand for that, especially with the apocalypse on the waiting list. No, the firm worked wholeheartedly against the greater good, even if things didn’t always go their way.
Angelus, Darla, and Drusilla hadn’t gone their way. In fact, they were a dangerous asset. Dangerous but too powerful to get rid of. And thus, while Wolfram and Hart would never consent to liberate Buffy Summers, Lindsey wondered if they would give a shit if she just…disappeared.
Either way, it was too dangerous to risk. The video had to be kept secret. That shouldn’t present much of a problem, he reckoned. Though other associates were aware that the videos existed, it was only Lindsey who took to viewing them every night. One tape shouldn’t make any difference.
Of course, in this building, one could never be too sure.
Things had gone far enough, and he was through waiting at the sidelines, ducking his head to be avoided. Time to throw himself into the thick of it. And the wisest way to do that would be an alliance with the very vampire he had wrongfully resented. To ask Spike’s assistance in the Slayer’s rescue.
There. While the burden was hardly lifted, Lindsey took the first breath of air that did not taste tainted. And it was wonderful.
He was determined then. No more waiting. No more idle twiddling.
Together, he and the vampire would get her out. Maybe then he would know some form of rest.
He had to try. He had to help. He had to get her out. He knew this.
Because it was right.
It was right.
And that was all that mattered.