AN: Once again I have to apologize for not responding to all reviews personally, but have too much to do this weekend. Thank you everyone who is reading and commenting - I do read each and every review and I do appreciate them. *hugs reviewers*
Without thinking, Buffy and Spike moved closer together, automatically switching positions so as to have room for their weapon hands, even though all they had were Buffy’s stakes and a pile of bones. Blinded by the light in their faces, they couldn’t see who was behind the floodlight, nor how many might be there. Fortunately, Spike could hear and smell. He concentrated on the heartbeats, whispering to her that he could only hear three people and that they already knew who two of them were.
“Riley?” Buffy tried to keep the hurt from her voice. “What did she mean ‘you were right’? Did you call me a ghoul?”
“I said I thought you might be another kind of demon, one that preys upon its own kind. It’s the only explanation for your strength and this…attraction…you have for vampires. And your violent tendencies,” he added, sounding very much like a psych major.
She was struggling to form a reasonable response when Spike blurted out, “Other than being Heaven’s Chosen One, you mean, you stupid git?”
“Heaven’s Chosen One?” Maggie’s voice dripped sarcasm. “Exactly who Chose her?”
In spite of Buffy’s best attempts to shush him, he replied, “WHO chose her? You’re dumber than you look, aren’t you, Doc?”
In an icy tone, the titular head of the Initiative’s demon study unit reminded him, “It may turn out that I am so dumb I will feel it is necessary to repeat some of those experiments you were so kind as to participate in earlier this year.”
Buffy gasped at the obvious threat and Spike’s smothered snarl, wondering what he had not told them about his experiences before he escaped.
“Are you threatening my…vampire?” Buffy growled her own warning, stepping in front of him protectively.
“YOUR vampire? I was not aware that your job description included ownership of any sort. Stabbing them with pointy sticks – isn’t that what you told me you do to them?”
“Spike has been very helpful to us since you put that chip in his head. I consider him one of my friends.”
“Ah yes, your friends. An interesting collection, are they not? Another vampire- this one claiming to have a soul, a young man just out of high school who appears to have quite a knowledge of military tactics and procedures…. Ms Rosenberg, I understand, dabbles in witchcraft? We have some interest in all of them actually. And I truly do not understand the purpose of that unpleasant man who ‘watches’ you for some group in England, but I suspect we could find out if we tried.”
Buffy tried to picture Quentin Travers and Maggie Walsh squaring off against each other and couldn’t help grinning. “I suspect you could,” she agreed with a soft laugh. “What do you think, Spike – the Initiative versus the Council – who would you put your money…er…kittens on?”
“Think I’d have to give the Council of Wankers the nod, pet. They’ve got thousands of years of sneaky, underhanded, demon killing experience to draw on. Prob’ly make mince meat of these wannbes.”
There was a moment of silence as Riley and his boss tried to understand what the two blonds facing them found so amusing, then, walking out from behind the flood light that was apparently being held by the third man, Maggie stepped into the pool of light with the vampire and the Slayer.
“There are two ways to do this, Ms. Summers. You can come with us willingly and be treated as an honored guest while we…explore your abilities and talents—“ she was interrupted by a furious snarl from the vampire who quickly pushed Buffy behind him.
“You’re not taking her anywhere, you bloody, sadistic bitch.”
“There isn’t really much you can do about that, now, is there, Hostile Seventeen? Agent Finn, would you please restrain the hostile while I finish explaining her options to the Slayer?”
Riley also stepped into the lighted area, not meeting Buffy’s accusing eyes as he shoved Spike away from her and into the pile of bones. The vampire came up snarling, fangs bared as he attacked the waiting commando. He had barely touched the impassive soldier when he fell to the floor, clutching his head and howling in pain.
In the meantime, Maggie had approached Buffy in a friendly fashion saying kindly, “If you cooperate, we won’t hurt him. And we certainly have no intention of harming you, we just want to study you in an appropriate setting.”
While Buffy was distracted by the sight of Spike writhing on the floor, the older woman quickly tapped the back of her neck with a stun gun, effectively sending the Slayer to the floor unconscious. She nodded at Riley to pick Buffy’s inert body up and turned to leave only to hear a strangled gurgle from her second in command and a gasp from the man holding the light. She turned around in time to see a barely upright Spike drop Riley’s apparently lifeless body on the floor. Weaving unsteadily, blood pouring from his nose and ears, the vampire stood over the Slayer, daring the woman to test his willingness to risk permanent brain damage to prevent them from taking her.
To her credit, the head of the Initiative did not flinch back from the obviously injured, but still dangerous, vampire. She merely gestured to the man behind her holding the light, saying, “Put that light down, soldier, and remove this creature.”
At Spike’s feet, Buffy began to stir, her Slayer healing throwing off the effects of the taser much more quickly than would a normal human. She raised her head, shaking it to clear the confusion, and looked from Riley’s bleeding body to the vampire and back to the woman who had attacked her. As she went to push herself unsteadily to her feet, Maggie approached her again, holding the taser in front of her like a gun.
“An amazing recovery, Ms. Summers. I think we can begin our experiments right here. Let us see how well your body handles multiple, successive hits from this device.”
“Let us not, unless you wish to see how you might fare also,” came a cold voice from behind her. Rather than the soldier she was expecting to see joining her within the bright circle of light, an angry man stepped forward, holding in his clearly experienced hand a very real pistol. Maggie blanched when she saw the firm purpose on the Watcher’s face and she quickly stepped away from Buffy, her eyes searching frantically for her back-up.
“If you are looking for the young man who was holding this obnoxiously bright torch, it would appear that the sight of Spike ripping out the throat of his superior had a very negative effect on his desire to remain here. I believe he is outside explaining to some unusual-looking demons that he is sure it was not he who captured and mutilated their relatives.”
With a frightening smile he added, “I do not believe the conversation is going well for him.”
“Who ARE you people!” the still-more-angry-than-frightened woman hissed.
“If you survive long enough to get yourself and your men out of this cemetery,” Giles nodded to Buffy who kicked a communicator out of the woman’s hands, “you will no doubt find out at some point. As we speak, there are communications going forth from certain highly placed people in the British government and military to their counterparts in this country. I believe you will find that your…experiments…have been terminated. As has your employment.”
“Go, Council,” Buffy said cheerfully.
“Does that mean we won?” Spike asked weakly, clinging to the sarcophagus for support.
Buffy spun around, not having seen anything that happened while she was unconscious, and gasped as she took in his appearance. The vampire’s eyes were sunk into his head, bruising evident all around them and his nose was still pouring blood. She could also see blood oozing from his ears. Before she could answer him, he mumbled, “I bloody well hope so…” as he slid to the floor.
“Giles!” the fear in her voice was unmistakable as she dropped to the floor beside the now-unconscious vampire. To her surprise, it was Xander who appeared out of the darkness, lifting the smaller man onto his shoulder and saying, “Let’s go, Buffy. We can take him back to my place.”
“Just a minute, Xan,” she said quietly. “There’s something I have to do for him.”
The Slayer took a quick look at her former boyfriend, noting that while he had lost a great deal of blood, it did not appear that Spike had actually killed him. “Too bad,” she muttered, kicking his inert body as she walked by. She stalked towards the now visibly-worried head of the Initiative, not stopping until she was dangerously close to the frightened, but still defiant woman.
“If you’re so anxious to know what a Slayer can do, here’s a little taste,” Buffy said with a smile that did not reach her eyes. She brought one fist forward in an uppercut that the older woman never saw coming, sending her flying through the air to land on top of the pile of broken bones.
“Okay, let’s go now,” she said cheerfully, as she turned back to her friends. With the light no longer pointing directly into her eyes, she could see that Willow was hovering behind the Watcher, her new friend, Tara, wringing her hands behind her. “We’re taking him to my house, Xander,” she said as she walked over to the young man patiently waiting with the vampire hanging over his shoulder.
Giles lowered the no-longer necessary pistol, asking Buffy with little concern, “How hard did you hit her?”
Reading his meaning immediately, Buffy sighed. “She didn’t kill any of us, so I didn’t kill her. If she doesn’t make it out of here…It’s not my problem,” she finished defiantly.
There was no disagreement from her Watcher; he simply dropped the now unneeded gun into his jacket pocket and followed the young people out of the crypt. In the graveyard, the confrontation between the strange-looking demons with wrinkled skin and the frightened young soldier who had been holding the light was still going on.
All heads turned toward the humans when they emerged from the crypt bearing Spike’s body. Buffy stopped and surveyed the scene before her. She quietly greeted the one demon she knew by name, nodding at the others noncommittally.
She cocked her head and said clearly, “I don’t know who this boy is, but his boss and one of the top demon-hunters are inside. We’re leaving now,” she added, in case they missed the permission implicit in her first remark.
Moving to walk beside Xander, she held onto one of Spike’s dangling hands, telling herself he would be fine as long as he wasn’t dust. She was relieved to see that Giles had driven his car to the cemetery, making the trip back to her house much quicker than it would normally have been.
When the little parade of Scoobies-plus-Slayer entered the Summers’ home, Joyce gave a small cry at seeing Xander’s burden. She quickly ordered the still unconscious vampire carried upstairs to the guest room, clucking over the obvious damage inflicted by the chip.
“What happened to him?” she demanded. “Who did this?”
“He did it to himself, Mom,” Buffy said sadly. “I’m not really sure why, but he attacked Riley and hung on long enough for the chip to do some real damage.”
Giles, who had followed them up to the bedroom, spoke up gruffly, “He did it to prevent Riley from carrying you back to the Initiative for his boss. It appears that keeping you safe this time was a bit more dangerous for him than fighting with Angel or Dracula.”
“I know he didn’t want her to take me there. I heard that. She threatened him with doing more of her ‘experiments’. I guess he was afraid that she was planning to do the same kinds of things to me…”
“I believe that to have been her intent,” the Watcher said, touching Joyce’s arm comfortingly when she gasped in fear. “Whatever Riley told her about you – and about the rest of us, for that matter – gave her cause to think we fall into the same category of laboratory animal as demons and vampires.”
“They aren’t laboratory animals either!” Buffy growled, picturing Clem’s relatives being tortured for the sake of learning more about them, and Spike being subjected to similar tests.
With no idea what to do for the inert vampire, except to clean the blood off and wait for him to wake up, they all went back downstairs, leaving him resting on the bed looking uncomfortably like the corpse he was. Buffy trailed one hand along his arm softly before following everyone out the door and down the stairs.
“So,” Buffy said, sitting down on the easy chair and curling her legs up under her, “The Council is pulling strings?”
“Yes, apparently they had become aware of this situation, as had the United States military. Investigators from the Army were already on their way here to see what was going on, this has just added some impetus to the need for closer supervision of the operation.”
“Do you suppose she and Riley made it out?” Buffy’s question bore no trace of concern, but merely requested an opinion.
“I imagine that would depend on how quickly she recovered from your…” he glanced quickly at Buffy’s mother…”justifiably angry response. If she got to her communicator before those angry demons found her…”
“There was a squad in the next cemetery,” Buffy finished for him. “They might have gotten there in time. Or not,” she added with a complete lack of interest in the outcome.
“I think it might be in everyone’s best interests to stay here tonight,” Joyce put in quietly. All eyes turned to the Slayer’s mother who rarely interfered with or commented on the doings of her daughter and her fellow demon hunters. Joyce stuck her chin out and repeated firmly, “If you are all together, it seems to me it would be a lot harder to for them to capture anybody.”
“Thank you, Joyce. That would undoubtedly be a wise course of action for the time being.”
Buffy suggested Willow and Tara share her bedroom, while Giles and Xander would have to make do with the couch and the easy chair. When her mother raised her eyebrows, Buffy said firmly, “I’m staying with Spike until I know he’s okay. I’ll sleep in the guest room.”
There was, surprisingly, no argument from anyone; due, no doubt, to the vampire’s obvious inability to threaten either her life or her virtue in his current condition. The fact that he had, so far as anyone knew, maintained a chaste watch over her while she slept in her own bed, went a long way towards allaying any fears her mother or her Watcher might have had about the propriety of the arrangements.
When Buffy had retrieved her pajamas from her own room and changed into them after brushing her teeth and washing her face, she slowly opened the door to the guest room hoping to see sparkling blue eyes watchiing her lasciviously. Instead, she found the vampire in the same position in which she’d left him, sprawled on his back with no signs of life.
With a sigh, Buffy pushed him over far enough for her to climb into the bed also, sliding under the covers and turning on her side so as to face him.
“Good night, Spike,” she whispered, brushing a kiss over his chiseled cheekbone before snuggling into her pillow.
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