Chp 2 Eye of the Storm
Chapter Two: Eye of the Storm
Buffy sat staring at her reflection in her bedroom mirror as she dragged a brush through her hair. OK, she was now officially crazy. She would send round a memo to all her friends in the morning giving them the news. What the hell was she doing? Even as she tried to pound her brain into giving her answers, she was pulling on a clean black lacy top and reaching for –
What the heck? She wasn’t going on a date with Spike; she was going to the Bronze to stop a fight. She did not need perfume of any sort, shape or description. There would be blood and dust and general ickyness. That was the sort of aroma a Slayer was used to having clinging to her skin.
She picked up two stakes instead and thrust them into the waistband of her jeans. There! That was much more Slayerlike.
And no, she reasoned as she peered round the door into Dawn’s room to check on her sister, she wasn’t mad. OK, it was late, way after midnight, but she wasn’t going to sleep any more and killing things would take her mind off her mom and what lay ahead in the next few days.
Dawn was sprawled across the bed, a long-limbed starfish shape. She’d thrown off the coverlet and Buffy gently pulled it up over her shoulder. The dark hair spilled across the pillow like a shadow and the teenager muttered in her sleep and tossed her head from side to side. Whatever she was dreaming, it wasn’t making her happy.
Buffy tiptoed downstairs: Riley was still sound asleep on the sofa where she’d left him so Dawn wasn’t alone in the house. So she could go to the Bronze, kill demons and be back home before either of them woke up. But she wrote him a note anyway and left it on the floor next to his trainers.
A flash of lightning cut across the treetops as she reached the sidewalk. She paused and Spike appeared, swinging around to her side, matching her stride for stride as they walked, their boots ringing in unison, one dull thud, the other lighter, crisper.
“You don’t have to come with me,” she snapped.
Spike shrugged. “Nothing else to do, Slayer. Watching you trying to separate the Progta Clan from the Fleista Warriors will be better than an episode of Passions.”
Buffy stared at him suspiciously. “Who are these demons and why haven’t I heard about them before?”
“Your lack of knowledge about demon life never fails to astound me, Slayer. What does Wanker Watcher teach you? Progtas are fat, smelly bastards, usually bright yellow; Fleistas are tall, tentacled geezers with bad tempers. They’re sworn enemies. Their whole lifes’ aim is to kill each other as bloodily and painfully as possible.”
“And they’re going to have a fight at the Bronze?”
Spike was glad the clouds were so heavy over Sunnydale that there wasn’t even a glimmer of moonlight. He knew he could lie for Britain when he wanted to, but surely even the Slayer would guess he was making the whole thing up if she could see his face. When Joyce had asked him to take Buffy’s mind off her problems for an evening, he’d had no soddin’ idea how to do it, except by inventing a fight that wasn’t going to happen. He still wasn’t sure why he’d agreed; the Slayer in pain should have been a plus, but somehow that only applied when he was the one dealing out the pain.
“Why are they fighting at the Bronze?”
“There’s a late night demon birthday party and some idiot invited both clans by mistake.”
Buffy stopped in mid-stride. “A demon birthday party at the Bronze?”
Spike spun round to face her, genuinely puzzled by her reaction. He hadn’t been fabricating the party details. “Well, what did you think happened after all the Sunnydale kiddy-winks went home to their warm little beds? The Bronze couldn’t keep open on the money they make from the soft drinks they serve to the likes of Xander and Red! They need to sell the hard stuff to demons. There’s usually a party of some sort about two or three in the morning.”
Buffy studied his face as another flash of lightning cut through the clouds. Something about this whole set-up didn’t ring true, but she couldn’t quite work out the catch. “If this is some lame plan of yours to get me ambushed, I’ll – I’ll – ”
Spike raised an eyebrow and shrugged. His whole attitude was one of nonchalant boredom. “Slayer, as I said to you yesterday evening, all any vamp or demon needs is just one good day to take you down. And when that happens, I’ll be there on the side-lines, cheering them on, counting the squishy parts of your body as they separate into lots of little pieces. But Progtas and Fleistas are just in a pain in the arse to self-respecting vamps and demons. Once they start fighting, life gets very messy. You’ll be doing me a favour by getting rid of them.”
Buffy rolled her eyes and stalked past him down the alley and into the Bronze. She could hear the music thundering out of the club before she pushed open the heavy doors. The sound hit her like a blow, wave after wave of deep, heart-wrenching beat. It was far darker than normal inside: the usual lighting had been replaced with a few candles and a cloud of cigarette smoke hung in the air.
The place wasn’t crowded; a few demons were dancing, more were sitting twined together and there was obviously a heavy drinking session going on at the bar. Something small and furry squeaked when it saw Buffy and fled past her but the rest of the demons didn’t seem bothered. “No vamps,” she said to Spike.
“Not tonight, no. They have enough sense to steer clear of demon parties when there’s a brawl about to happen. Too many weapons being used. You could get caught in the cross-fire.”
“So where are these two demon gangs?”
Spike peered around dramatically, wondering what he would do if anything vaguely resembling the demons he’d described out of his imagination suddenly appeared. “Not here yet, Slayer. Probably out somewhere working up a blood lust. Fancy a drink?”
“Spike, I am so not here for alcohol!” Buffy coughed and waved violently at the cigarette smoke, which – she sniffed – didn’t smell as if it was just tobacco!
“Well, at least sit down, Slayer. You look like some dumb loser who’s been stood up by their boyfriend just standing there. Or you could buy me a proper drink. Nice glass of Scotch would go down well.”
“Spike, this is not some sort of date.”
The vampire shrugged, his eyes glittering in the candlelight. “You were quite happy to spend time in my company last night – and pay for it.”
“Last night I wanted information – and which, by the way, far too much – tonight I’m working.”
Spike sighed heavily. “OK, OK, don’t get your knickers in a twist – if you’re wearing any, of course! I’ll get the drinks.”
Buffy glared at his back as he pushed his way to the bar. No one could annoy her quite as effortlessly as William the Bloody, chipped or not. She was sitting at a table, her gaze quartering the club automatically, searching for the first sighting of demons answering to Spike’s description when he reappeared, flung himself into a chair opposite her and placed two glasses of Scotch on the table. “Bottoms up, pet!”
“What? Uggh, that’s disgusting. Couldn’t you have got me a soda?”
“Bottoms up? Old English expression. Why, you didn’t think it meant anything else, did you, Slayer. My, my, you’re certainly learning some odd things from soldier boy.”
“Spike – get your mind and mouth out of the gutter! And don’t talk about Riley. In fact, just don’t talk.” She sipped her drink automatically, then pushed it away. Spike picked up her glass and cheerfully poured the contents into his. He hadn’t paid for it, anyway. The demon serving at the bar had “agreed” to give him credit. Of course, the sight of fangs heading for his throat had been a great incentive.
Buffy leant back in her chair; her shoulders ached, the tension in her body was unbearable. She wished she could relax, but that was like wishing for the moon. Her mom’s operation, Dawn, Glory, Riley – she wondered what it would be like to have half an hour when none of that was pounding at her brain.
The heavy metal music slid into something quieter, gentler and she found her foot tapping in time. She realised that Spike had been silent for more than five minutes. Glancing up, she found the startling blue gaze fixed on her, the stupidly long lashes annoying her.
“I heard about Joyce,” he said abruptly.
Buffy winced. “How?”
Spike shrugged. “Word gets around.”
Buffy bit her lip so hard she drew blood, but she was too preoccupied to notice Spike’s head tilt, the hunger that flashed across his face at the scent. She struggled to keep control of her thoughts, her emotions. She was the Slayer, the last thing she should do was show a vampire, even a chipped one, that she could be vulnerable.
“She has to have an operation on her brain. On her brain!” The words broke through in a flood of despair. “Everyone keeps telling me she’ll be okay, but how do they know? I keep telling Dawn she’ll be home soon, that everything will go back to normal, but – ” She stopped, then because this was Spike, not someone important to her, not someone whose feelings she had to consider, she blurted out, “What if she isn’t okay? What if she - ? ” Buffy choked on the word. Her worst fear, her ultimate nightmare and she couldn’t say it.
His hand shot out and grasped hers, his touch agonizingly tight, but she welcomed the pain and dug her fingers into his cold flesh, knowing instinctively that whatever she did to him, he could take it. Spike fought not to wince; it felt as if his hand was being ripped from his wrist. “Say the word, Slayer!”
Their fingers twined and clung, the pain was red hot now and she was surprised their flesh didn’t burst into flames. “What if she dies?” There, it was out, said, squirming down onto the table between them. A four letter word. One of the nastiest she could imagine.
“What do you want me to say, Slayer? That it comes to all of us? That I have total belief in the sodding medical profession? Well, I haven’t. I’ve known witch doctors with more skill than some doctors I’ve met. ”
“Stop it! What do you know about mothers, anyway! I love my mom so much. I don’t know what I’d do if she died.”
For a second the blue of his eyes went black and blank and she had the oddest feeling that she’d hurt him more than he’d hurt her, which was ridiculous because hey, this was Spike.
“You’re right, Summers. My knowledge of mothers is zero. Killed a few in my time, though. Did they deserve to die? Probably not. Does Joyce deserve to die. Bloody hell, no. What can you do about it? Sod all, pet. And until that day comes around when it happens, you go on believing that it won’t.”
Slowly their fingers slid apart and he cursed silently as he saw tears glisten for a second on her lashes before she blinked them away. This wasn’t working out as he’d hoped. He was supposed to be taking her mind off Joyce, not making her unhappier about the bloody operation.
Back at Revello Drive, Riley rolled over, snorted and half fell off the sofa. “Buffy?” But there was no reply. He swung his legs to the floor and sat up, yawning and rubbing at his eyes. He guessed immediately that she wasn’t in the house: there was an absence of her presence he could feel.
His heart sank as he found and read her note. She’d gone out to deal with some demon problem. No information, no “why not come and join me”. Just “see you in the morning, tell Dawn not to worry if she wakes up”.
He screwed up the paper and flung it across the room. What the hell did she think he was? Some babysitter for her sister? He pulled on his jacket and shoes. Dawn was sound asleep. He’d be back by the time she woke. He needed – he opened the door and stood on the porch. It had started to rain, lightning flashed across the sky and thunder crashed overhead. He needed to feel a man, in control, powerful. He needed to be someone in this world who wasn’t overlooked and taken for granted.
The door slammed behind him and he plunged off into the night. The slam echoed through the house and upstairs, Dawn woke with a start, her eyes wide and scared as the thunder crashed again.
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