Chapter 7: Battered and Bruised
Spike bit off a scream as the Slayer unceremoniously dumped him on his cot. His second fight of the day hadn't gone as well as his first.
The demon he'd been up against was practically a tank. It had hard shells covering every part of its body like a suit of armor a hundred turtles had given their lives for.
The fight had been one of the most brutal he'd ever been in. The truth was if it hadn't been for the extra kick of strength he had from the Slayer's blood, he doubted he would have won. It had been a feat of raw strength and determination that had allowed him to pry off one of the shells on the demon's side. Luckily the pain of having part of its skin ripped away had stunned the brute, because by that point the right side of Spike's body had been pretty much pulverized.
After that it had only taken a few hits to the demon's exposed and sensitive flesh to get his opponent to stay down. Not that he was exactly up himself, but he was closer to standing than the other fellow and that was enough to get himself declared the winner.
"Fuck!" he moaned as what he was pretty sure was a smashed hip hit the hard mattress of his cot.
Without another word the Slayer disappeared out of his cell back into the main part of the house. Not that he cared, he was more than happy to be left alone with his misery.
A moment later she reappeared, and he figured that was all right since she had a large cup of blood with her. She sat on the edge of the cot and lifted his head up to help him drink down the blood.
"You know, you're pretty lucky," she said sympathetically. "You're so thrashed that there's not much point in me punishing you. You wouldn't be able to tell the difference between what I did to you and what that demon did."
Spike thought he was lucky that the Slayer obviously knew nothing about torture. But other than that he was having a hard time thinking through the pain.
"What the fuck did I do?" he asked after taking a large swallow of the blood she was offering.
"You attacked me, remember? And you know what? You'll probably be nice and healed up by tomorrow, so maybe I'll just wait until then to punish you."
That's right, now he remembered. He'd let that Slayer blood go to his head and tried to kill her.
"You know," he said, trying to smile, but he ended up wincing instead from the pain, "a bit more of your blood would help me heal up faster."
Not that he expected her to give him any, but he wanted to make it clear he wasn't worried about whatever punishment it was she had planned for him.
"Yeah, like I'm falling for that," she said, but there was something almost kind in her voice.
And that's when it occurred to Spike that maybe he'd been going about this all the wrong way. Sure she was the Slayer, but she was also a girl. Specifically, a girl just full of hormones. She expected him to attack her, and she was obviously ready for that. What he needed to do was get her guard down. And considering the way her body responded both to his bite and to their training sessions, he had a pretty good idea how to do that.
He tried to smile again, this time with more success. "Can't blame a guy for trying. And I'm sorry, 'bout trying to off you earlier."
"Liar." Her tone was friendly though. "You meant to kill me, and you'll try again. The only slaves who don't want to kill their masters are broken. And I have no use for anyone who's broken."
"Yeah, well, I have several ribs that would disagree with you."
She smiled. "Okay, maybe you're a little busted. Don't worry, it'll be a while until your next fight."
With that she got up and left.
In other circumstances Spike might have been given to plotting the details of his revenge against her. In this case, he simply closed his eyes and hoped that somehow he'd be able to fall asleep despite his many broken bones.
Chapter 8: The Same Routine
It had been several days since Spike fought in The Circle. Buffy had realized that she'd taken too big a risk in entering him in that second fight. Belef had obviously been trying to set her up, and he nearly got her. She should have found out who Spike's opponent was before entering him in that second fight.
But she hadn't and he'd nearly lost. She wasn't going to make that mistake again.
So now she was biding her time. Looking for the perfect opponent to set him up against next. After all, if she really wanted to make money off of him, she had to make sure the crowds were interested in watching him fight. It had become clear to her that he was as unpopular a fighter as she had been, but that wasn't bad. The Circle had its heroes and its villains, chosen only by how the crowd responded to them. If the spectators hated Spike and wanted him to lose, that was okay. It meant that they would pay to come see the vampire fight, hoping that this time someone would take him down. Just like they had paid to watch her fight.
She also wanted to make sure that he was completely rested and healed before she entered him in another fight. It was true that she wasn't in debt anymore, but that didn't mean she had enough money to buy another slave if something happened to Spike.
She was considering all this while eating her typical breakfast of gruel, when Spike interrupted her thoughts. "Don't you get tired of eating the same thing every day?"
She did. In fact she hated the gruel, but there wasn't much in the way of human food in The Center, so she had more or less the same diet she'd had as a slave. Only now she didn't have to worry about anyone taking her food from her.
"You drink blood every day, don't you get tired of that?" she asked.
"Sure. Especially if it's this stuff," he said holding up his cup. "Life's no fun without a bit of variety. To be honest I'd love nothing more than some hot wings, or one of those blooming onions. You ever had those?"
She nodded. She missed good food. Really, really missed it. Especially chocolate. But you couldn't get it in The Center; she'd have to travel back into the real world to get some. And the real world wasn't a place she fit into very well.
"So why do you buy nothing but that sludge? Why not get something a bit more appetizing?" Spike asked.
"Chili's hasn't exactly opened up a branch here, you know. And there aren't exactly groceries stores either." She shrugged. "There's just not much human food available here."
"Don't tell me you don't know how to leave The Center? Is that how you ended up here? Followed some nasty through a portal and couldn't get back so you ended up a gladiator manager or whatever you are."
"I know how to leave," she said angrily. "I can go back and forth anytime I want. I just. . . I don't really blend in the regular world. Not to mention that I don't think Chili's accepts payment in kittens."
"Well you're right that dressed like that you'd stick out. God forbid you be in town at the same time as a comic book convention. Who knows what would happen to you. But if you put on regular clothes everyone would assume you're just a girl. As for the kittens," he shrugged, "you know there are places were you can exchange them for cash. I could show you if you like."
She knew what he was trying to do. He thought if he could get her someplace else that he could escape. Maybe he had a trap set up somewhere with some of his vampire buddies and he was hoping to walk her into it.
But it was tempting. Just to go out and have one regular meal. Eat good food, drink soda pop, maybe have some chocolate cake.
She was almost done with her breakfast, but as she looked down at her plate of heated gruel, she suddenly felt like she couldn't eat another bite. It had been years since she'd last left any food on her plate. When she had been Tain's slave, you ate what you got when you got it, because if you got hungry later no one was going to give you food.
"I guess it couldn't hurt to go out," she said noncommittally.
"'Course, I'll need some other clothes," Spike said quickly. "These are getting a bit bloody and torn anyway. Not to mention this unbleached cotton makes me look pale."
The eagerness in his voice to have new clothes almost made her wonder if this was all nothing more than a plot for him to get something else to wear. She'd provided him with nothing but a second set of plain cotton clothing to match what Kira had originally given her with him.
He'd complained about his clothing before, but she hadn't really cared. The clothes covered him up, and that was all that really mattered. Although after that last fight it had occurred to her that maybe she should get him something more like the light leather armor that she wore, to give him a little more protection when he fought.
But of course that wasn't what he wanted now. He'd stick out just as much as she would, dressed either as he was now, or in the sort of leather get up she imagined him in. He wanted regular clothes.
"So now you want me to buy you clothes, too?" she asked. "Considering where I bought you, you should be glad you get any clothes at all."
Instead of being chastised, he smirked at her. "Well, if my clothing is such a financial burden on you. . ." He pulled his shirt off and tossed it onto the floor.
Her eyes went wide. Sure he'd been naked when she'd bought him, but she'd tried very hard not to look at him. He'd looked too human, and she'd identified too much with his plight. If it wasn't for the fact that she figured she was saving him from a worse fate, she probably wouldn't have been able to bring herself to buy him. That and she was desperate.
But now she couldn't help but look at his chest and admire it.
Then he stood up and his hand dropped down to the top of his pants, and she realized that he was about to take them off too. She could feel her cheeks burning, and her eyes seemed riveted to his stomach as he slipped his fingers in the waistband of the pants.
"Stop," she said with much less force than she had intended. "It's not. . . You can keep your clothes on, and I'll think about the rest."
He smiled and sat back down. But he didn't go get his shirt, and as he sat down he leaned back in his chair placing his hands behind his head. Buffy swallowed as she tried not to look at the way his muscles rippled when he moved.
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