Chapter 14, in which Spike makes a series of terrible mistakes.
This is a way to kill a wife with kindness.
Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew
Spike’s head was burning. Literally burning, he could smell the smoke. He fought off the impulse to scream. He had to get that thing out – vampires were volatile. A decent spark burning strong enough, and he’d turn into little more than a big pile of ash. He reached for the back of his head, and felt the hot spot. It was burning through his very skull! That would leave a space for the embers to escape, but he couldn’t be sure it would burn fast enough. In the red glow of the emergency lights, he reached for the hard plastic stake still in his chest and yanked it out. He yelled, but he had an instrument now. Unable to see what he was doing, he pointed the stake at the burning spot on the back of his head, and gouged. The stake went in through the half-burned bone, and the smell of smoke increased. He grunted with the pain and the horror of what he was doing to himself, but he reached in with one finger, took everything hot, and pulled it out. Some ashy substance came with it, which Spike suspected to be parts of his own brain.
He knew which parts the moment he tried to stand up. Yes, he was in a hell of pain, and yes, he had a big hole in his chest, and another still smoking one in his skull, but he should have known where his head was in relation to his body. He was terribly dizzy. But he knew what was wrong with him, and he knew where there was something that would help him to fix it. He grabbed the deactivated cyborg, which was still standing, propped it up against the wall below the glass fronted bunker, and climbed it. It was slow going, but the light was bad, and there was chaos all around outside the arena. The scientists in the bunker had thought him incapacitated. They didn’t realize he was coming for them. He reached the window and punched. There was a startled cry, but Spike wasn’t quite able to track movement. Most of the victims in the room seemed to flee, but there was one right in front of him, more astute than the others, who was slowly backing away, pressing the button on a controller, over and over again.
“It’s gone. Can’t make your little toy work, pet,” he said through his fangs. He reached forward and grabbed. “But I work just fine, now.” He yanked the victim toward him and sank his teeth in. Oh, thank bloody god, he’d been starving for this! He sucked the warm, living blood and would have sobbed with joy if he hadn’t been so busy drawing it in. Months he’d been without this, sodding months! His blood sang as he again became what he’d always been, a vampire, a force for death, the Big Bad.
His victim cried out, a choked plea. “Adam! Adam!” Spike ignored her.
So did the broken cyborg.
She crossed the main floor, unnoticed by most, ignored by all. A solider lay on the ground, being tenderly looked after by... was that Forrest? Buffy thought she recognized him as one of Riley’s friends from the cafeteria. “Forrest.” Forrest looked up, recognized that Buffy was not supposed to be there, and pulled a gun on her. “I so don’t have time for this,” Buffy said, kicking the thing away. He looked startled. As he pulled back, Buffy recognized the soldier on the floor. “Riley. What’s happened to him?”
“I dunno,” Forrest said. “He said it was his heart. He started screaming, and then he went down. I think...” he stopped. “There was some talk of implanting... something... in some of us. Maybe the chip?”
Buffy knelt down. “Is he alive?” she asked, checking for a pulse. He started moving, so she assumed he was alive and gave up looking.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Forrest asked Buffy.
Buffy ignored him. “Riley, where’s Spike?”
“Where’s Spike? Where’d you stash him, in this military hell hole?”
Buffy gave up on him and grabbed Forrest’s shirt. He tried to push her away, and seemed genuinely shocked when she was far, far, far too strong. “You,” she said. “Tell me where you keep your prisoners.”
“Pri-prisoners?” Forrest said, as if he genuinely had no idea what she meant.
Buffy hit him. “The vampires! Tell me where you took my husband!”
Forrest looked dumbfounded.
Buffy twisted his shoulder. He cried out. “We-we keep the hostiles in the pens!” he grunted.
“Show me!” Buffy took up her crossbow again and marched Forrest ahead of her.
“Riley...” he said.
“Did you call in that there was a man down?”
“I think so. Communications are out.”
And there were fights breaking out all over, Buffy realized. Riley seemed incapacitated, but if he was dying, there was nothing she could do, and she didn’t have time now. “Someone will find him,” Buffy said. “Just think about home, Riley,” she called over her shoulder. “Think about the down home goodness of Iowa!”
He tried the door to the bunker. It was locked. Whoever had run away had thoughtfully locked it behind them. The main lock was fried – it was still smoking a little – but there was a smaller glowing redundancy above it which must have been activated after whatever took out all the active electronics had done its business. He ran the key card into the little slot. A tiny green laser shot out, flickered over his face, and a disembodied voice said, “Unrecognized access. Retinal scan required.”
Spike scoffed. Was that all he needed? “Why didn’t you just say so?” he muttered. He reached for his victim again, and it was only the work of a moment to gouge one of her eyes out of its socket. He held it up to the light, and the little lock obediently clicked, opening the door.
Spike pocketed the eye, and passed through the door. He found himself in a war room, shouting soldiers issuing orders which were not being obeyed, because their communications were down. Someone shot Spike, but they either missed, or he was really high on Walsh’s blood, because he didn’t feel a thing. He grabbed the nearest soldier and used him as a shield, pushing forward despite his dizziness. The solider was shot, and Spike grabbed the one that had shot him, breaking his neck without stopping to think. It felt soo good to kill again! He grabbed another solider – they were like grapes on a vine, just reach out and take! He dislocated the man’s shoulder as he bit down, drawing another hit of blood.
Spike stopped, and spat it out. What the hell was this guy on? Some kind of steroid, or amphetamine. No wonder they’d caught him so easy. They were totally juiced. He bashed the man’s head against a desk instead, splitting his skull. He died instantly. Spike realized he’d been lucky. He might have grabbed the only clean vic in the place.
He lost count of the soldiers in the room, but the last one he killed had been scrabbling at a control that had been protected under a plexiglass box. He’d gotten the box open, but he’d been trying to get another retinal scanner to work. It wasn’t a door lock. Spike looked down and examined. It had a map of the entire compound, and a series of switches indicating different areas. Countermeasures, the little controls read. There were several labeled, but one really caught his eye. One innocuous little label reading HCN.
Spike smiled. He’d lived through World War II. He knew how to play the Nazi – they had great uniforms. So they wanted to play gas chamber, did they? Hell. It wasn’t as if he needed to breathe. He turned the control, flipped every single sub-switch, and dangled Walsh’s eye above the scanner before he quietly pressed the HCN button.
A little cyanide gas would teach those soldiers to try and take down the Big Bad!
He made his way through the main open compound at an unpleasant dizzy stagger, which was the only reason he saw the solider lying on the ground. Spike laughed when he saw him. “Well, if it isn’t Captain Cardboard,” he said.
Riley looked over at him, opened his eyes wide, and he cringed. “No...”
Spike grinned and knelt down. “Who’s got the power now, Whitebread?” he asked. He stepped on Riley’s hand, and watched the soldier grimace more. “What’s the matter with you?”
Riley didn’t answer, so Spike broke his hand. The soldier cried out. “Oh, hurts, does it?” Spike said. “Gonna hurt more in a minute. Do you smell almonds?” He chuckled.
“B-Buffy,” Riley murmured.
“Ain’t never seein’ her again, mate,” Spike said. He stood straighter, straightened his coat. “Big bad’s back. And I’m gonna go get what’s mine.”
Riley didn’t seem to care. He reached back toward the pens. “No... Buffy....”
Spike frowned at him for a moment. Why would he...?
Realization struck him like a hammer. The power failure, the broken locks, the chip malfunction. This wasn’t the typical government fiasco. This had been a rescue mission.
And Buffy was still doing the rescuing. In a demon studded gas-chamber in a war-zone of chaos.
Spike ran. Dizziness be damned, he ran like he had never run before in his unlife. It was a nightmare, his body refusing to move the way he knew it could, his eyes refusing to catch the way they were supposed to. The walls blurred, his vision narrowed, his blood sang with panic as he ran back into the chaos to save the woman he loved from certain death.
The pens were bedlam. Forrest shouted that the electric doors had been shut down, and the demons had escaped. They were fighting each other, fighting the soldiers, some were cowering in their pens. “Which one was Spike’s cell?” Buffy demanded.
“Hostile 17 was... was down at the end...” Forrest gasped. He was coughing, too.
“Spike!” Buffy yelled out. She couldn’t imagine he'd still be sitting down there in the midst of all this. If the cells were open, he’d be out and about, probably trying to escape.
“How did he get out before?” Buffy demanded of Forrest.
“Hostile 17! He escaped this pit once before, how did he do it? What route did he take!” Forrest only coughed. “Answer me!”
Buffy looked up. “Spike?” She tried to peer through the smoke and the chaos.
It was Spike. Spike looking like death warmed over, bruises on his face, his black shirt torn and saturated with blood, a hole openly gaping in his chest. “Spike!”
“You have to get out of here, slayer,” he said, reaching her. He pulled on her, dragging her behind him.
“It doesn’t matter about me! This whole place is gonna be a graveyard in about fifteen minutes.”
“What are you...?”
“Gas, Buffy. Can’t you smell it? Whiff of bitter almonds. Now get the hell out of here!” He pushed Buffy toward the exit.
“They’ve gassed the pens?”
“The whole damn compound! Get the hell out!”
“Everyone!” Buffy shouted, planting herself firmly in the middle of the chaos. “Everyone human, and every demon who needs to breathe! This compound is being flooded with lethal gasses! Spike, where’s the exit?”
“What in the hell are you doing!” he shouted.
“We’ve got to get as many people out as we can!” Buffy gasped. She stopped and coughed, her eyes streaming.
“Oh, bloody hell, you god damn hero types!” Spike grabbed her roughly and dragged her behind him.
It was then Buffy saw the burned gap in his head. It was a scorched black crater in his skull, stark against his white hair, and Buffy knew without asking what had been there. She also didn’t have time to consider it. “Everybody, follow me!” she shouted behind her as Spike dragged her. She couldn’t see. She couldn’t see....
Rather than making his triumphant escape and striding out into the night like the powerful nightmare he was, Spike found himself leading a ragtag team of mostly humans through the compound to the exit. And Buffy wouldn’t leave anyone! Every time she saw someone, or heard someone crying out, she’d turn and try to go to them, until Spike grabbed her roughly and actually bloody carried her. “Everyone, get out!” Buffy kept shouting, her voice hoarse with the blood agent already closing up her throat.
They were almost at the exit – many of the soldiers had pushed past Spike and escaped – when Buffy twisted in his arms. “Riley!”
“I left him! He can’t move! He–”
“You need to get the hell out of this place, slayer! Now!”
“I’m not leaving him helpless!” Buffy shouted in his face.
“Yes you are, you worthless bint!” Spike shouted back.
He wouldn’t let her go, so Buffy hit him. Spike hit her back. He punched her over and over again and pushed her into the arms of the nearest soldier. But she was the slayer, of course – he hadn’t managed to knock her out. “Get her out of here!” he shouted. “I’ll get the sodding mick, just get the hell out!” He ran back into the compound on a quest to save Riley bloody Finn.
He was right where he’d left him, still grunting a little. Spike couldn’t even lift him up, he was so dizzy. He grabbed the incapacitated soldier and dragged. It was agony, his chest blooming with pain, his head aching, and he hated every second of it. “She always – falls – for the bleeding – torturers,” Spike grunted as he dragged his tormenter out of the poisonous compound and toward the waiting exit.
This was the back door, near the air vent Spike had used to escape the first time. It opened into wild land out back of the campus proper. Buffy was standing in the middle of the escapees, directing the soldiers to tend to the wounded, or get help, and getting the demons off to safety. Spike dumped Riley unceremoniously by another pile of wounded men. A second later, he was turned around, and slapped. “Bloody hell, slayer!” Spike cried. It hadn’t been hard, but it jostled his head. A second later, he didn’t care. She’d kissed him. He grunted, and she pulled away. “I’m sorry,” she said.
Spike staggered and fell, almost landing on top of Riley. Whatever reserves Spike had been running on, whatever demonic equivalent of adrenaline had powered those last few minutes, had been totally depleted. He collapsed, the world spinning, and Buffy caught him, pulled him against her, and then pulled him away from the soldiers.
It was quiet by the trees. Everyone else was running about in the dark. Some of the commandoes had cracked chemical lights, little green glow sticks, bathing the glade in an eerie luminescence. Buffy propped Spike against a tree trunk and caressed his cheek. “You’ve looked better.”
Spike blinked up at her. She was alive. She was alive, he hadn’t killed her, and she had come for him. She had come for him. “You never have,” he said.
Buffy smiled, amused. Then she was crying.
She was crying because he was hurt. She was crying because she’d been scared. She was crying because she had found him again. She was crying because she had let him be lost and tormented for so long. She was crying because the chip was gone, and she didn’t know what that would mean. She was crying because he’d come back to save her. She was crying because he had gone back to save someone she knew he hated. So what if he had done it for her? He’d done it.
“You’re crying...” Spike said.
Buffy didn’t remind him about the eye irritation from the gas. She was crying. “I love you,” she whispered.
“I love you, too,” Spike said. He pulled her to him, kissed her, kissed her cheek, her jaw, her throat, bit down hard....
What happened next was an accident. Spike hadn’t realized he’d been vamped up the whole time. The pain had forced it out of him, and Buffy had even kissed him through his fangs without him noticing. The human blood made him impulsive, kept him from thinking too hard about whatever he wanted to do, and erased the very idea of consequences. And the effect was heightened, because his tolerance was down, not really having had any in six months. But mostly, he was used to being with Buffy with the chip telling him how much and how hard. He was used to biting her as hard as he could until the chip started to tingle, and he’d stop there. The chip was gone now. His mortal slayer with her sweet smelling blood was in his arms, and he bit her. He pierced her throat, and suddenly his mouth was full with sweet, sweet slayer’s blood, potent and powerful and seductive as the dawn.
He was too shocked by it at first to even register, and then it tasted so damn good. He was in agony, his body crying out for something to heal it, and slayer’s blood had powerful healing properties for vampires. It was instinctual for him to swallow it down, groan and growl pull her closer, unable to hear her cries. She struggled, and he swallowed more, drew more inside himself, made her a part of him, her, her blood, her power, the sweetness, the slayer, his Buffy...
“Gah!” he pulled away, horrified with himself. Buffy sat gasping, and she backed away still sitting, her face white with betrayal. She held her hand to her throat, trembling, her eyes wide, still filled with tears. The woman he loved, the woman he’d die for, the woman who... who loved him.
“Oh, god!” Spike retched. He could feel the blood inside him, roaring through his being, healing the wounds in his body, his head, and he groaned. He sobbed, forced himself upright, and fled, fled into the darkness, moaning with disgust at the creature he’d become.
She and Tara spent a good couple hours washing her hair over and over in the sink, trying to get the sick green color to wash off, as the dye bottle insisted it would. Temporary dye, it had said. “I don’t know,” Tara said after the fifth attempt. “Maybe we should try a spell.”
Willow laughed. “I thought you didn’t approve of using magic if you didn’t have to.”
“I know,” Tara said. “But it’s looking more and more like we have to. Or... or I could get some henna. Dye it back to red.”
Willow rubbed her wet head with the towel one more time, reached forward, and kissed her. “It’s not easy being green,” she whispered into Tara’s ear.
There was a knock at the door. Willow ran to it, opening it happily. “Buffy!”
It wasn’t Buffy. A Spike who looked very much as if he’d been hit by a train leaned heavily against the door jam. “Invite me in.”
“Um...” Willow looked unsure.
“Please! Invite me in!” Spike begged.
“Come in, Spike,” Tara said quietly.
Spike fell into the room and collapsed into Tara’s wicker chair. It creaked under his weight, and he gasped, shuddering as if he was terrified, or very cold. He turned to Willow. “Willow,” he said. He stopped. “What the hell, Red?”
Willow looked embarrassed, and pushed her hair behind her ear. “It’s going back,” she said. “I’m not keeping it like this.”
Spike shook his head. He didn’t even care. “I need a spell.”
Willow rolled her eyes. “You and your damn love charms! I’m not doing it. Buffy told you no, and she’s serious. I–”
“I don’t need a sodding love spell!” Spike snapped at the witch-cum-vengeance demon. “I need you to get me my soul.”
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