Chapter 18: The Challenge
Spike patted down his pockets, sure that somewhere he must have another cigarette hidden away. He'd taken to smoking a lot more recently. He tried to tell himself that it was because of all those weeks spent in The Center when he hadn't been allowed to smoke, but the truth was he felt just as bottled up here as he had as a slave in the Slayer's house.
He wasn't the only one. Every vampire in Darla's little domain was feeling just as edgy as he was. They all yearned to get out and hunt, but Darla and Riley insisted that only a few of them ever went out at a time. They didn't want to lose more of their number to the Initiative, or worse, lead the government back to their lair. It was one of the only things that Riley had gotten right.
Still it was making them all irritable. And having the Slayer around seemed to make things worse. Spike was just starting to realize how much her presence was adding to the general tension in the air.
As for him, although the Slayer didn't put him on edge the way she did the other vampires, he found her presence unnerving in other ways. The little shopping excursion the day before hadn't helped. Just the thought of Buffy in something frilly and lacy made his cock twitch, and he didn't have any way of relieving that bit of tension. Not unless he wanted to risk his balls in a trip to Darla's bed. Darla was probably willing, but Spike was willing to bet that she would catch on to why he might want to take her from behind, and that she wouldn't appreciate being a stand in for the Slayer.
Finally Spike was forced to admit defeat. He was out of cigarettes. That meant he was going to have to endure another one of Riley's 'when I was in the army' lectures without the aid of nicotine.
That didn't last long.
"No, one gives a flying fuck about your sodding army manual," Spike finally said.
"At least I'm willing to fight instead of let some human girl do it for me," Riley retorted.
Spike was about yell back when he suddenly realized a way to ease all their tension and provide a bit of entertainment. "I suppose you think you could take her?" Spike suggested.
Darla, who had been studying her nails, suddenly shot Spike a warning glance. She only attended these strategy sessions as a reminder that she was the one in charge here, but the truth was she was old fashioned and preferred to leave the battles to the men.
"Are you kidding me?" Riley laughed. "Does she even weigh a hundred pounds? I could snap her in two without even trying."
Spike wanted to whack Riley upside the head. The truth was he'd love to beat Riley into a pulp himself, but that wouldn't teach the young vampire anything. Riley's whole problem was that he was still playing by the old human rules. He just didn't understand that in a vampire's world size didn't matter much.
In fact if it was a question of raw strength, Darla most likely had them all beat. Four hundred years was an impressive age even for a vampire, and as Spike understood it, it probably wouldn't be long until she began to permanently take on the features of the demon. He half hoped he'd be around to see that. On the other hand, as vain as she was, maybe it was best to be far away when that day came.
No, what Riley needed was to have his ass handed to him by a certain tiny blonde, and a good spot of violence would go a long way towards relieving some of the general tension in the lair.
"Well, you certainly talk big," Spike baited the fledge. "Too bad that's all it is, talk."
"I don't see you backing up your claims that this Slayer is actually good for anything other than feeding."
Spike growled, his eyes flashing gold. There was no way he was ever letting Riley near the Slayer's pretty neck. This fellow had no right to the ambrosia that was slayer blood.
"What did you have in mind?" Spike asked, returning to his original plan.
"How about a little wager. I fight your Slayer, and if I win you give up your place as Darla's champion."
Spike snorted. He wasn't surprised, Riley hated taking orders from Spike.
"And what does Spike get if the Slayer wins?" Darla asked, obviously amused by the idea.
The fact that she didn't seem to mind Riley trying to overturn her own choice implied that she didn't think Riley had a chance. Darla never made bets that she couldn't win.
Spike smiled his best Angelus smile as he sized up the former soldier. "If the Slayer wins, then Captain Cardboard here spends the next week wearing a dress of my choosing."
Spike could only wish that his grand-sire was there to see him, and not locked up half-crazy. If Angelus had ever taught him anything, it was that sometimes the best torture could be simple humiliation.
"Well, Riley?" Darla asked. "What's it going to be? You're not afraid of this girl are you?"
The goading of his sire was too much for him. Riley stood up, his demon flaring to the surface. "I'm ready anytime."
"Good," Darla said clapping in her hands together in excitement. "Do gather everyone together in main room, Riley. Spike, go get your Slayer; this should be fun."
Spike couldn't agree more. Watching the Slayer mop the floor with Riley was going to be a blast, not to mention it should get him into the Slayer's good graces. It would be another break from her lessons; a chance for her to mix it up a little. And who knew, once she'd finished beating Riley to a pulp, maybe Spike could turn her excitement to his advantage, get a look at some of the unmentionables that Harmony had helped her purchase.
"Guess what?" he exclaimed as he burst in on the Willow and Buffy. The two girls looked up at him startled. "You get to fight Riley."
Much to Spike's disappointment Buffy didn't instantly share his enthusiasm.
"Why would I want to fight Riley?" she asked.
"Because hitting him would be fun," Spike answered. "Besides, we've got this bet going, see. You win, and he has to wear a dress for a week."
Not only did this not garner the Slayer's enthusiasm, she actually looked hurt.
"What if Riley wins?" Willow asked.
"Not going to happen," Spike assured the red-head. "But if he did, then he'd take my place, be in charge again, well after Darla of course."
Even that didn't seem to catch the Slayer's attention. Maybe Buffy didn't understand the significance of this, Spike reasoned. Here he was so certain that she was going to win that he was risking his entire position, not to mention having to take orders from Riley.
"Do I have to?" she asked.
Spike's face fell. He couldn't actually force her to fight, but if she didn't he'd end up looking like a fool.
"You don't have to," he said. "But you don't want that git Riley thinking you're a coward do you?"
"I'm not afraid," Buffy said. Her voice wasn't defensive though, it was more as if she thought this should all be obvious to Spike and it wasn't. "I just. . . never mind. Sure I'll fight him. Might as well. That's why I'm here isn't it?"
"Well, yeah," was all Spike could think to say. He couldn't understand this lack of enthusiasm from the Slayer. She was a fighter, she should be as anxious for a bit of violence as the rest of them were.
She let him lead her into the main room, where the rest of the Order was gathering. Spike took his place by Darla's side while the other vampires started making their own bets on the fight.
"Something wrong?" Darla asked him.
"Nah, it's just. . . I thought she'd be more into this. She used to always get off on it when we'd fight."
Darla smiled knowingly. "I'm sure she did."
"What? You know what's up with her don't you?"
Darla laughed lightly. "Isn't it obvious?"
"No. What is it?" Spike demanded.
"Now why should I tell you? I think it'll be much more fun letting you puzzle it out for yourself."
"Bitch," Spike said under his breath, knowing full well that Darla could hear him.
She only laughed.
"Your boy's going to lose, you know," Spike shot back at her. This wasn't turning out to be half as fun as he had thought it would be.
"Of course he is, and it'll be good for him." It was Darla's turn to frown. "It should be you down there."
"What, fighting the Slayer?" Spike asked, finding Darla as mystifying as Buffy.
"No, fighting Riley. He should have challenged you directly, and long before now."
"What would have been the point?" Spike asked. "He wouldn't have won."
"Of course he wouldn't have but. . . Did I ever tell you about the first time Angelus met the Master?"
It took a great deal of self control for Spike to only nod his head and not to roll his eyes. Darla was annoyingly nostalgic these days. Even Dru never went on about Angelus as much as Darla now did.
"A girl doesn't like to be taken for granted." That brought a smile back to her lips, although Spike got the impression that Darla was laughing at him.
Shrugging it off he turned his attention to the center of the room where Buffy and Riley were squaring off and the fight was about to begin.
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