Note - Thanks to my beta, t_geyer, for her unending patience, perseverance and support. Thanks also to always_jbj who keeps arguing that she doesn't merit a co-writing credit, but without whom I would never have got the basic plotline worked out.
Spike froze at the realisation that his chip hadn't fired, the scent of unwashed skin drowning his senses. The knight smelled human, but maybe the chip knew different. His head buzzed with a multitude of possibilities, rapid flashes of where he had the power to take things from here.
Joyce looking back and forward between him and a crumpled blood-soaked body on the floor, her expression gradually changing from one of puzzlement to disgust and cruellest of all disappointment.
The madman locked in a prison cell with another, whose lawyer's suit was betrayed by his military mien, babbling about the pretty glowy girl.
The man slumped on the kitchen floor, his skull deeply dented, his blood spilled all around him while he, Spike, tried to explain to the police that it was an accident, that he hadn't meant to kill the guy but he'd hit his head on the corner of the units, that they really didn't need to take him in for questioning, not out into the early evening sunlight.
Prowling the streets of Sunnydale, a predator again with so many happy meals to choose from, his demon growling encouragement.
Pain blossomed upward as the knight stamped downward on his instep, taking advantage of Spike's distraction to break free of the vampire's grip.
Spike's teeth caught at his lower lip to stifle his cry of pain. Another flash, another possibility. Spike straightened up, gave a twist of his neck as if trying to shake off a crick he'd developed and fixed a determined gaze on the man who was halfway through the living room, obviously having decided to go around Spike rather than through him.
Any sane man, seeing the way his eyes seemed to glow with intensity and strength of purpose, would have run, but even before Glory had stolen the cohesion from his brain the knight had been a fanatic. He barely spared the vampire a glance as Spike launched himself forward, as intent on finding and destroying The Key as Spike was on silencing him.
Buffy's heart began to race in her breast as she spotted the ambulance as it pulled free of the jumble of police cars in front of the house and sped away from her. Her book bag dropped from numb hands to the sidewalk and her feet began to devour the distance between her and home. "Mo-o-om!" she bellowed, knocking over a burly police officer as she swung the front door open and caught sight of what had once been the living room, her eyes drawn to the flattened coffee table, the smashed vase, crushed wildflowers and the water that darkened her mother's favourite rug. "Dawnie?" she howled, already knowing that she was too late, that she had failed.
"We're here, honey." Her mother's softly reassuring tone came from behind. "We're fine." Buffy swivelled to see her mother standing in the doorway to the dining room, Dawn hovering nervously at her shoulder. She closed the distance at slayer speed, almost knocking the policeman back over just as he was pushing his way to his feet and wrapped her arms around as much of her mother and her sister as she could manage, squeezing them both breathless.
"Oww!" Dawn gasped and only then did Buffy notice the cut on her arm.
"Wh-what? How? Who-?" Buffy stammered, her relief so overwhelming that she could barely get her words out.
"There was a mental patient who escaped from the hospital," her mother explained with remarkable equanimity. "He attacked Dawn on the way home from school but she managed to get away and when she got here William was able to fend him off for long enough for Dawn and me to shut ourselves in the basement and call the police."
Fear settled like a lead weight in Buffy's stomach as her eyes scanned the room. If she couldn't even keep Dawn safe from your run-of-the-mill loony then how could she protect her from Glory? And who was this Wi-. Her eyes lighted on a shock of peroxide blond hair. That William?
Spike sat at the dining room table, a policeman opposite him with his notebook open and pen poised, but the vampire didn't even seem to hear his questions. He was staring straight at her, his head tilted questioningly to one side as he looked at her with every appearance of concern.
Had his eyes always been such a deep shade of blue? Why was he looking at her like that? Could he tell how much this whole mess scared her? Could everyone? Or was it just Spike and his freaky perceptiveness? What had he even been doing here? And did it matter? Her mom and her little sister were safe... because of him. Without letting go of either her mom or Dawn, Buffy silently mouthed the words, "Thank you."
In the space of a breath, concern was replaced with surprise and Spike's features were transformed by an answering smile, a genuine smile with not a trace of sarcasm or bitterness. He gave a slight nod in acknowledgement of her words and turned back to face the policeman, his thumb and forefinger pinching at the bridge of his nose. What Buffy didn't realise was that he was trying to ease the clamour of his thoughts rather than the pain from the chip.
Buffy struggled to take things in. The police had finally left, her mom and Dawn were trying to straighten up the mess in the living room, leaving her to get the story of what had happened from Spike, and work out where they went from here.
"We need to pack. We have to go. If all those people Glory's brainsucking are going to come after her, we have to get her out of town." She didn't even realise that she'd spoken aloud until he answered.
"Not them all," Spike assured her, his sympathetic tone unsettling her with its sincerity. "Least I don't think so. Couldn't say anything in front of the coppers but your guy was one of them knights. Kept spouting off about The Key being some link that had to be severed."
Buffy gave him a panicked glance. "They're bound to have a police scanner or it'll be in the paper or something. They'll find him. They'll know."
A cool hand came to rest on each of her arms, holding her in place. "Won't make no never mind if they do find him, not for a while anyway. He's not going to be telling them anything, not once that broken jaw of his gets wired shut, and the police won't give out Dawn's identity to the press what with her being a minor. Chances are by the time they can get someone in to talk to him, he'll be on some high security mental ward and sedated all to hell and back. Don't think there's much chance of them putting it together, an' if they do they'll probably think he came after you. Relax, slayer."
Buffy tried but couldn't dispel the tension from her body, her adrenaline turning sour in her veins and her slayer senses screaming at her that there was a powerful vampire standing right here. "I can't relax, Spike. They're my family. They're all I've got."
Spike's hands dropped away at her sharp tone and she almost missed the touch, that feeling that she hadn't had since Angel left that someone could lend her their strength when hers ran out, but that was an illusion she reminded herself. Spike was no souled vampire, no white knight, just a killer on a leash, and if he helped her now, then it was only because it was her goodwill that kept him safe. She could only rely on him as far as his self-interest held. And that line, to judge by the glances he kept casting toward the windows, had just been crossed.
"Got a hot date waiting for you or something?" Buffy asked.
The vampire looked almost sheepish. "Something like that," he muttered under his breath.
Buffy felt a pang of envy. The damn vampire ruins her love life and then has the nerve to rub her face in it that even he has someone. "Anyone I know?" she asked with a bitter little twist to her voice that she couldn't quite hide.
He grinned. He damn well grinned... as if he thought she was jealous 'cause it was him. "Wouldn't you like to know, slayer?," he taunted, practically dancing toward the door. "Well, sun's low enough. You're here to keep an eye on mom and little sis. Time I made a move."
He swivelled on the balls of his feet when he reached the middle of the hall to call out a goodbye to her mom and her little sister, and Joyce rushed over, taking both Buffy and the vampire by surprise when she wrapped him in a hug.
"Thank you for taking care of my daughter, Spike. See you tomorrow just before two," she told him, her tone making it clear that it was a summons rather than an invitation. "I want to hear how it goes with that thing we were talking about."
Buffy just looked on in amazement when Spike brushed a kiss to her mom's cheek before he stepped free of her arms. Spike kissed her mom... and her mom was giving him that look. That was a mom-look. That was only meant to be for her and the brat... and they were talking about 'Things' . Okay, loopy knights of hack and slash running riot in her home, smashing the place up, trying to kill her little sister was bad enough, but she could deal with that. Not quite sure how... yet, but she would deal. Spike the untouchable had a date, mom was acting all mommish with him and that was just too much for her brain to handle in any one day. It just overflowed out her ears and she was obviously hallucinating. Maybe she'd been brainsucked and forgot about it and this was the end result. She almost convinced herself that she didn't see Dawnie attach herself to the evil fiend like a limpet and he sure as heck didn't tousle her hair before he disentwined himself and made a break for freedom... It all had to be part of one of his diabolical schemes to set everyone to arguing with each other or something, she just couldn't work it out, not till her brain stopped whirring like a top.
"Mom, I'm going to go have a bath before dinner," she announced. Maybe if she could just get some alone time to figure this all out her brain would stop hurting.
"Heyyy!" Dawn protested. "I need a bath more than she does. Mo-om, tell her. Who knows what sort of ick that guy had on his knife?"
There was a heavy thud from outside as if something had been dumped on the front porch. Cautiously, Buffy opened the door, half-expecting to find a severed head, the way her bizarro David Lynch day was going. There on the porch was her book bag that she'd ditched half a block back but there was no sign of the vamp who'd left it there.
Buffy had been right about Spike's rush to get away. Where she had miscalculated was when it came to his destination. Spike took a seat at one of the tables outside the Expresso Pump and waited. The watcher had what he needed, and with any luck the old fool would think there was no point bolting the door after the horse had gone. The last light in The Magic Box winked out and the old man appeared, checking before he got into his midlife-crisis-mobile that the door was securely locked. He was carrying a briefcase and Spike just had to hope that the information that he needed wasn't in it. The watcher would be far too suspicious and it wouldn't do for him to guess why Spike wanted more information about the knights.
Just to play safe, Spike ordered another double espresso and took his time, at least five seconds, over drinking it before he made his move.
It was so much quicker picking the lock second time around, his fingers seeming to remember the caresses that had freed the lock when he had come with Dawn. The 'secret' drawer opened at his touch and right there were half a dozen typed and spiral bound sets of notes... All the stuff that the council had had on Glory and everything that came with her. Looked like the watcher was planning on giving out homework. Spike grabbed a copy and headed for the training room, knowing that a light in there was far less likely to raise any comment or bring anyone looking. Even the Scoobies would just assume that Buffy was putting in some practice, but he had a feeling that the slayer wouldn't be straying from hearth and home tonight. He flopped onto the dilapidated sofa that the watcher kept in there and swung his feet over one arm. He skimmed page after page before he found the first reference to the knights and began to read in earnest.
This was not good Spike thought as he pushed the set of notes back into its hiding place with the others.
This was very very good replied another little voice in his head. Nowhere in all the information the council had gleaned was there any indication that the knights were anything other than human. Nothing about, say, fun initiation rites involving demon possession, no hints that perhaps their ancestors came from the same dimension as Glory, sent here to protect The Earth if she ever made an appearance. Nope, their head office was apparently in Cleveland. It wasn't because he was a knight. It wasn't a one off. Spike double checked to make sure that he had left no sign of his passing before he slammed the door closed behind him.
When the frat boy dithered about getting out of his way as Spike approached, the vampire barged him out of his way with his shoulder as much because he was preoccupied and lacked the patience to stand still and wait for him to move as to confirm his growing suspicion. The kid went flying backward, landing on his arse with an exclamation of surprise and pain, but Spike strode heedlessly onward, absently noting that the fact that the chip hadn't fired.
He was free. He should be rejoicing. He should be shaking the dust of this dreary little burg from his boots, getting the DeSoto out of storage and heading for the bright lights. He should be cutting a bloody swathe through the timid little teenaged virgins this place had to offer, not giving them hugs and playing with their hair.
Trouble was freedom didn't look half as appealing as it had a few months ago.
He threw a bill at the girl at the club's ticket booth and didn't stop to wait for change. "Triple bourbon, straight up, leave the bottle and bring it a friend," he told the barman, slamming down the last of his folding money on the counter. Soon, he would have to make a decision. Soon, but not tonight.
If you are under the age of 17, please use your head and do not read fics that are labeled "NC-17". Parents, I cannot control what your children are reading, so please be advised that the majority of the fics archived here are NOT suitable for those under the age of 17.
I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I am in no way making any profit from this site. This is for pure entertainment purposes only.
Concept: (c)bringonthebloodshed.com (2004), Code & Design: (c)Diabola (2006), Graphics: Selene & Always