Bottle of Red Wine
Spike slumped against the elevator, panting, exhausted, and desperate for rest. He felt as though he had just completed a marathon. Or, rather, how he wagered those pulsers who competed felt at the end of a race.
It was too much, he decided. Barely ten minutes had passed since he left Buffy’s side, but his skin still tingled. She was an itch just beneath the surface of his skin. With him yet out of reach.
The past hour had changed his bloody life. He now looked through eyes that knew there was something out there deeper than love. The bond forged between them had grown to near painful proportions in the matter of an hour. Fuck, he felt as though she was in him.
The part of him that had been largely responsible for letting his heart overpower his head for the past century wanted to believe it meant all that and more to her, too. A few weeks ago he might have been able to convince himself of anything.
But even though he hadn’t been there, Spike knew damn well how Dru had been shaped by what she’d experienced at Angelus’s hands. The girl she’d been before was nothing on the vampire she’d become, and while the demon had done its share to warp her, the bulk of the damage had been done.
Buffy was a damn sight stronger than Dru, but she was still human. Parts of her were still fragile, and Angelus knew it. Those were the parts he wanted to break.
And maybe he had. Maybe that was all Buffy had left—a girl who wouldn’t look at him twice otherwise had all but begged him to fuck her with his mouth.
If Angelus had broken the Slayer, really broken her, Spike wouldn’t stop at just dusting him. He’d follow the bastard to Hell and kill him again and again for all of sodding eternity.
He inhaled her. Warm. Complete. Wholly female. And human. Always human. He felt his tears collide with her abused skin. He didn’t know how long he’d been on his knees before her, though it could not have been long. His arms were tight around her as though she would disappear on command.
There was nothing for long minutes. Nothing but her hard gasps as she came down. And he felt it when she did—when the world she had begged him to erase came soaring back.
He’d stirred at that, blinked up the length of her beautiful body to meet her eyes. “Sweetheart?”
“Why are you crying?”
The elevator soared higher still. Figured the wanker would have an office located near the top. He recalled thinking this the last time he’d come to see Lindsey McDonald, but for whatever reason, it bothered him now.
But he knew the reason. Of course he did. It bothered him because every inch he moved skyward was one more away from her.
He was at his feet in seconds, making no effort to hide his tears. “I don’t wanna leave you.”
She mewled in protest. “I’m strong with you here,” she whimpered. “Don’t go. Please.”
The bloody elevator finally stopped and the doors slid open. Spike drew a deep breath and willed himself not to jog to McDonald’s office. He passed a few red-shirts, one or two who did a double take at the sight of him, but most who didn’t give a damn. From what Spike had gathered, Angelus was the only one in the fam who made regular trips to the higher-ups. Ever since they’d ripped that pesky soul away, it seemed Darla had reverted to form. All she wanted to do was eat and kill and fuck, and not always in that order. She didn’t have the time or interest to deal with Wolfram and Hart. Why should she, when she had the grand-daddy prize she’d wanted so bloody much?
Unless she got tired of Angelus playing with the Slayer, which was all too possible.
“I’m not gonna let you die ’cause I don’t know when to stop.” Spike brushed a kiss across her temple. He had hesitated then, a dark thought entering his mind. It was stupid and dangerous but filled him with a spark of hope. If he couldn’t stay with her, perhaps he could make her stronger.
But not without permission.
“Buffy,” he said, very slowly. “Listen to me. This is serious, and we don’t have a lot of time. He’ll be back soon enough. Hour’s nearly up.”
She blinked. “What is it?”
“What would you say if I told you that there’s a way to make you stronger? To make it…easier…to—”
“You haven’t even heard me out.”
“No. But I trust you.”
That confession alone was enough to floor him. “You’re not gonna like it, sweetheart.”
There was a dry snicker at that. “I don’t think that matters anymore. Do you?”
True enough. Spike exhaled deeply. She had agreed, of course, but he wanted to make sure that she knew what she was getting herself into. “Listen. I’ll explain.”
“No explain. Just do it.”
“No. I wanna make sure you know what you’re asking for.” A sigh rippled through him. “Back in the fifteenth century, a craze broke out across Europe for—”
“Fifteenth century? Why the history lesson?”
“Listen to me. It’s important.” He sighed. “There was a craze going through Europe. Wasn’t exactly highly regarded by the hierarchy, though rumor has it, they were bloody addicted, too. Mortals who drank vampire blood, thinking it’d make ’em live forever or what all. It didn’t turn them or anything…but it did juice ’em up with power. Some got addicted. A few clans started to hunting down vamps and bleeding them to maintain the high. It’s potent stuff, Buffy. Dangerously potent.” He dropped his eyes to the ground. “It didn’t last long for the obvious reasons. More powerful vamps got wind of it and took out the bigger threats. The craze ended and vamps were given an even uglier name than before. I only mention it ’cause it works. I know it does.”
Lindsey’s office was vacant. Spike paused inside and scowled. Well, that was just rude. He had an appointment, after all.
Blowing out a deep breath, he turned his attention to the books that lined McDonald’s shelves. Law titles, mostly. A few ancient demon scrolls and a copy of the King James Bible. Eclectic mix.
“You’re teasing me.”
He blinked. “Am not.”
“Why do you think so?”
“I didn’t become addicted-girl after Dracula made me drink from him.”
Ah. That explained it. “Love, how much did you drink?”
“Well…not much. A sip, really. But it was gross.”
“Wasn’t enough. And yeah, gross as it might be you bloody pulsers, something tells me you might a bit more open to it now.”
“Don’t count on it.”
It was that—that note in her voice that made him hope she was still the same. Or enough the same that she knew what she was doing, because fuck, she sounded like Buffy.
“I’d never even suggest it if I didn’t think it’d help. And I’ll be damned before I see you jonesin’ for it like they did in the old days. You’re a slayer. It’d work wonders on you.” He leaned inward impulsively to kiss her, and reveled in the moan she fed him when she tasted herself on his tongue. “I just wanna help. As much as bloody possible. And I don’t wanna leave here without knowing I did everything I could to make things better for you.”
Her cheeks tinted at that. “Have you…” she asked softly. “Did you ever…do this before? Make someone…?”
“Then how do you know—”
“I watched Angelus and Darla do it once for kicks. Dragged some poor unsuspecting bird into their clutches and got ‘em all doped up on vamp blood. Not a pretty sight, ’specially when the girl started goin’ through withdrawal.”
“I don’t like the sound of this…”
“I wouldn’t let you get like that.”
“You’d have a say?”
“I know how much is too much. Doesn’t take an experienced donor to tell you that.” Spike shook his face, his fangs descending. He raised his wrist to his mouth and bit. Then he watched as she studied the blood that bloomed under the wound with wide, curious eyes.
He hesitated a moment, then raised his wrist to her mouth.
Her face was a map of uncertainty—which he’d expected, but not as much as he’d have thought, and he didn’t know whether or not to be relieved. The Buffy Summers of before would never have even considered. She might have taken the offering from Angel—hell, he knew she would have taken the offering from Angel. But he was not Angel. He was Spike, and up until all too recently, she had hated him.
But she did not hate him now.
His irritation at the lawyer’s absence from his office was on the verge of graduating to anger. With things as they were, the Spike hardly felt comfortable entrusting everything he had to lose in the hands of a man he had only recently decided not to kill. Another few minutes and he might start prowling the halls and screaming the git’s name.
Every second counted.
He pulled away when he felt her disgust turn to desperation. Any more could prove fatal for both of them, and she was not completely beyond her fear of addiction, or worse, transformation. She had not taken enough to give herself more than a twenty-four-hour boost, but he was content, if not terrified.
Buffy seemed to sense this. Her eyes became large and inquisitive, and she gave a small shudder when he leaned inward and licked his own blood from the corner of her perfect mouth.
“Please don’t hate me for this,” he whispered.
“My choice. I trust you.”
Her words soothed, but he did not wholly believe them.
“Hey. Look at me.”
The command in her voice made him smile. The blood was working wonders already. And Spike complied. He was helpless to do anything but.
“You’ve done more for me than anyone,” she said seriously, and he saw that she meant it. “I can’t…I can’t begin to—”
“Then don’t,” he whispered. “But there is something I need you to do for me.”
She nodded. Amazing. Unquestionable faith. There was no hesitation in her eyes. Whatever it was, she would comply. And that was all there was to it.
Spike inhaled deeply and raised his wrist to her lips, flinching when she instinctively neared. That wasn’t what he wanted, and he knew damn well that Buffy loathed the idea of being dependent on blood. She hated blood, and while he would never understand why she had chosen to believe him in now, he was just grateful that she had. “You have to make it look like a bite,” he said. “Your bite. Like you were tryin’ to…I need you to make it look like you hurt me.”
Spike knew the instant that he was no longer alone—knew well before the office doors swung open. Lindsey’s scent was ingrained.
McDonald was on his cell phone and, from the look of things, not surprised to see him. For a moment, they stared at each other, then Lindsey held up a hand to signify his need to end the call. Spike’s jaw tightened but he nodded and returned his attention to the bookshelf.
“I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
He grinned at her concern but shook his head. To be honest, he was surprised. Though he knew she was fueled with more than enough to get her through the next few hours—hopefully longer, to tide her until he and his friends from Angel Investigations made their move—he had not expected her to react so enthusiastically. She hadn’t liked the idea of biting him, but she’d understood the why. The air was still thick with the scent of her climax, but if all went well, the whiff of Spike’s blood would throw Angelus off. Spike already had a story in mind to go with it, though he knew making it believable was a different matter.
He could only try. And hope that his elder didn’t decide to do them both in.
“I’ll be back,” he promised her. “Before you bloody know it.”
Then, because he couldn’t help himself, he claimed her lips.
Buffy threw herself into the kiss. The taste of his blood on her tongue nearly caused him to double over in pleasure. “I know you will,” she answered when they pulled apart. “Because you love me.”
And the simplicity—the understanding—in that statement had left him thoroughly defeated. If there was ever a time that he could hide himself from her, he did not recognize it. She saw him and knew. She knew. Buffy knew that he loved her, and she accepted him. Trusted him.
And he had left her.
“I hope you have not been waiting long.”
Spike snickered. “Long according to whose clock? I got time. She doesn’t.”
Lindsey snapped his cell phone shut and tossed it onto the desk. “Touché.” A beat later, and he broke across the floor for the minibar that sat parallel the bookshelves. “Would you like something to drink?”
Spike’s eyes narrowed and what remained of his patience evaporated. “Bugger the pleasantries. Whaddya got for me?”
Lindsey nodded and paused by the minibar. “I believe that I have found a loophole in the magic that protects Buffy’s chains from breaking. I just got off the phone with someone that can help us.”
A sigh rumbled through his throat. “We’re bringin’ in more independent wankers? No. I just now got Zangy to trust me. Listen, McDonald, I appreciate everything you’ve done, but we’re getting too close to worry with what may or may not work. Cordy’s got this plan… It’s not very good, but I already fancy it more than whatever you’ve got cooked up. Black magic can’t be fucked with. You oughta know that.”
“In any other circumstance, I’d agree with you,” Lindsey said, handing him a glass of Amarone without looking at it. The gesture threw Spike off for a minute, but he took the offering all the same. “You’re right,” Lindsey continued. “Absolutely. But in cases such as these, there is only one thing that can undo an enchanted shackle other than its key.”
“Oh?” He took a sip of his drink. “And what is that?”
“The warlock I just got off the phone with. Popular guy, but his rates are negotiable, and he owes us a few favors.”
That was it. His interest was piqued. “Who is this?”
“The same…well, not a man, but client that made Buffy’s bindings. He’s the only one who can undo them, aside from the key bearer.”
Relief was a funny thing. It didn’t take much to alter Spike’s mood. A magic-prone locksmith sounded oodles better than the lame and voted-most-likely-to-fail plan that Cordelia had up her sleeve. This was it. It could work. It bloody well had to. “Bloke got a name?”
“Never heard of him.”
“Well, that’s what he’s calling himself in Los Angeles. He might go by other names elsewhere.”
Spike nodded, tossed back another drink and let himself sink into one of the chairs opposite the lawyer’s desk. “So, what’s all that, then? We wait around until this bloke agrees to get her out?”
“And this is the type of gent who respects his verbal contracts?”
Lindsey nodded, claiming his seat behind the desk. “Absolutely.”
“You have no doubt?”
“Like I said, he owes us a favor.”
Spike’s eyebrows perked. “I see. Interesting. ‘Cause you see, you better be sure that he’s the type of guy who holds up to his bargains. Now I got my heart set on this, if it goes belly-up, you’re gonna find out just how much monster is still inside me.”
Lindsey rolled his eyes. “Look, Spike, don’t try to threaten me. I’m your best connection and I know you’re not going to do anything to mess with that. Despite what your associates might think, you are an intelligent man, and I think you see that if I’m gone, your chances of getting Buffy out are as well. We’re all sharing our part of the blame here.”
“Some more than others.”
Lindsey looked down. “Yes,” he agreed. “I won’t deny it. Had I known what she was going to be put through, I would’ve done everything in my power to get her out of here when it was under my control. That’s my fault and I assume all responsibility.” He glanced up once more, gaze serious. “I thought I was in love and that bringing her in would… I don’t know what I thought. Whatever it is, you can’t imagine how…”
“Funny thing. My imagination’s stronger than you think.” He paused. “I promised her that the next time I came to her, it’d be to get her out. And it will be. You hear me?”
Well, that was easy.
“And if your bloke doesn’t come through?”
“He will. I know he will.” A pause. “But if something happens…if he doesn’t…I’ll do what I have to. Whatever I have to.”
Lindsey glanced up, eyes stilling him. “Whatever I have to,” he said softly.
A sigh then. Spike considered him a long beat, nodding when he saw it was true. And there was nothing else to say. Nothing else to verify. He could not ask for more than that. They were covered from all corners. It was only a matter of hours now.
“There is something, though,” Lindsey continued, “that I want you to do for me.”
Ah, here it comes.
“I see,” Spike drawled, leaning back. “And what might that be?”
“Regardless of what happens to me, or to her, I want you to kill Angelus.”
Lindsey ignored him and continued. “And at this point, I don’t care if the Senior Partners get pissed off or not. Wolfram and Hart is not in a place to remove him, even though he has not served up his part of the bargain that he and—”
“Hold up, mate. Lemme get this straight. All I gotta do—”
“Is kill Angelus. That’s it. No strings.”
He snickered. “No strings? Rot. I’ve eaten my fair share of lawyers, so I know what they hunger for. There are always strings.”
“Not in this. I just want him dead.”
Spike stared at him. That was it? The end? It couldn’t be, but Lindsey looked as serious as a man could.
Doesn’t that beat all? The bill was a dead Angelus, something he had banked on from the beginning? Well, that was too perfect. Perfect.
“I tell you what,” Spike said, kicking his feet onto the desk and raising his glass. “You drive a hard bargain.”
“I’m sure.” The cynicism in Lindsey’s voice did not reach his eyes, and for whatever reason, Spike found that even more reassuring. Eyes were far more telling than tones. “Do we have an understanding?”
“And more so.” Spike raised his glass. “I’ll even drink to it.”