He cursed himself over and over as he gathered his few belongings and stuffed them into the worn duffel bag. Bleedin' idiot...made a soddin' fool of yourself this time...Peaches'd be proud...maybe you should go look him up and see if he won't teach you the proper way to be a bleedin' pouf...
His emotions swung from rage through wounded pride to despair and back again. A younger man--a greener monster--might have broken down beneath the weight of the pain, but he had played this scene before and knew the remedy--escape. Fast and clean, and don't look back. He was glad he had enough cash saved for gas and a little liquid refreshment for the road.
His bag packed, he stood in the center of the crypt, staring about him at what would no longer be his home. He let his mind wander briefly to the scene they had played out here...only two nights ago? He felt as if he'd lived his entire un-life over in the space of that time...only to be brought to this.
His back was to the door when it slammed open. He'd half-expected the Soldier Boy to show up at any time. In truth, that's why he'd taken his time packing, hoping for a real confrontation. He knew how it would finish--something quick and dusty in a size 'Spike.' He turned, ready for the end.
She stood in the doorway, entirely unprepared to face him. The sprint to the cemetery had given her time to think...of nothing but how badly she'd handled the situation and how confused her feelings were.
He felt a painful twist in his chest at the sight of her. Then he forced his face to become the blank mask that had covered his pain for more than a century. He took measure of her as she paused in the doorway, sucking at her with his eyes, absorbing every detail...the very fibers of her skin committed to his memory.
"And where do you think you're going?" She'd intended it to come out as a simple inquiry, but it sounded like a challenge. Everything between them was a challenge, a battle of wits--always had been. Why should this scene play out any differently? Except that there was a difference, and perhaps the time had come to admit it--if not to him, no, never to him--then at least to herself.
"I thought it time to take my leave, pet. The charms of dear old Sunnyhell have suddenly grown a bit stale."
She winced at the implication. "Don't do this, Spike. What Riley said--"
"What the boy said was no more nor less than the truth, Slayer, an' I would have hoped you'd have the grace to let me slink away into the night without a final game of kick-the-Spike, but I can see I'm mistaken."
"He had no right--"
"Oh, but he had, pet. He had every right. You're feelin' sorry now? Don't. Save your regrets for those that need 'em." He settled his bag more firmly on his shoulder and took a step toward the door.
"I won't let you just take off like this."
"You won't let me? Is it to be more chains, then? Delightful as that sounds, ducks, I believe I'll take a pass."
If he had been all bluster and beast, she would have known what to do. This quiet determination of his confused her and she felt panic rise in her chest. She knew she couldn't stop him if he were intent on leaving. Chipped or not, he had always been a master at escape. She went to the only place she had any strength left--straight to her battle station.
She dropped into a crouch there in the doorway. "Come on, Spike, make a move. I'll knock you flat on your ass."
He looked at her as if she had lost her mind. "Luv, this isn't necessary. Just let me go."
"I won't. You'll have to hurt me to get out of here."
He dropped his head. "Not fair, pet. You know I can't."
"Why, because of that stupid chip? I thought you were stronger than that, a master vampire--maybe you're losing your edge."
He lifted his face and she read the truth. Chip, no chip, monster, man--no matter. He couldn't hurt her--not anywhere near as badly as she had already hurt him. Still, he dropped the bag and slid out of his coat, and the dance began again.
He waited for her to make her move, fully intending to slip past her at the first opportunity and out into the night. She could keep the bag and the duster--as mementos, trophies, or more likely as trash for the dustbin. He wanted only escape now.
She wasn't moving. She was just crouching there, watching him watch her.
"Thought you wanted to dance, Slayer. Let's go--give it me good. I've places to be before sunrise."
"You won't be going anywhere, before or after sunrise."
"So says you. I'm done here. Had a bellyfull of this town."
"I've heard that before."
They had begun to circle one another. She was aware that, if given the chance, he'd bolt. She needed to get closer--if she couldn't block him, she could catch him.
Spike bobbed gracefully on the balls of his feet, falling naturally into a boxer's stance. He feinted left and dove for the door. She flew halfway across the room in a single leap, desperation fueling her. She caught him at the waist and brought him down hard, her face buried in his back. The scent of him brought instant tears to her eyes.
He lay there beneath her, savoring the moment--their last embrace. Only fitting it should be this way--ultimately, they were destined to fight more than to love.
She felt him relax and loosened her grip, only to be flipped onto her back and held down by his weight. She didn't struggle, just looked up at him, sorrow turning her eyes a deeper shade than he'd ever seen in them before.
"I'm sorry, Spike. I didn't want it to go this way."
"I know, luv. No harm, no foul." He began to pull away, but she grabbed his shirt and held him fast.
"Don't go. Stay. Can't we...can't we make this work somehow? Come to some sort of...arrangement?"
"What do you suggest, Slayer? Shall we be like the whelp an' his demon bird? What does she call 'em? Orgasm friends?"
"Well...isn't that pretty much what you do with Harmony?"
Ooops. Wrong thing to say. Those little golden sparkles, that vibrating rumble--yup, she'd pissed him off again. But it was worth it to see the apathy drop away from his face--to know that she could get a response--any response.
"Is that what you want, you silly bint? Some pet demon on the side to keep the fire in you damped down so you won't go 'round scaring the boyfriend? Might I suggest you just go 'an find yourself a better man in the first place--one who won't wet his trousers every time you wanna be on top."
"NO! I won't do it, Slayer. Much as I enjoyed it, I won't hang about waiting to stick my tongue up your quim every time you've got an itch."
She slapped him hard. She saw the ripples beneath the skin of his face, saw his eyes shoot yellow fire at her. And she saw him push it back, repress it. The mask had returned.
She let him go. He stood and straightened his clothes, smoothed back his hair, and faced her, helping her to her feet. Ever the gentleman.
"Buffy. Luv, what you need is a man that understands you. Who appreciates the bright an' the dark in you and can match 'em both with his own. Your soldier boy isn't that man--not his fault, just his misfortune. 'An yours, if you insist on tryin' to make it fit."
"I won't be. Riley...he's gone for good, I think."
"Sorry, pet." He smirked. "Well, that's a fib, an' I expect you know it. But you deserve better."
She took a step towards him and then another. "Do I?" He was inches away, his face filling her vision, blocking out the dim light.
His voice was warm again, with a tenderness she'd first heard in her room the night before. "Yes, Slayer. You do. Now I've taught you a bit about yourself--how you respond to the right touch--I expect you'll find someone to fill the job."
That painful twist in his chest returned as he thought of her happy and satisfied with another man.
"Shhhh." He placed his palm against her mouth. "Time for me to go, luv. My work is done here. Strains of William Tell, an' all that."
"The William Tell Overture...the Lone Ranger? Mythical white-hat of the American west? Oh, never mind." He sighed and dropped a gentle kiss on her forehead.
"On the porch...you said something about a proper shag and a proper kiss. Do you have time...?"
"Oh, ducks. Hauulin' out the big guns now, are we?"
"Well, I 'spose there's always time for a proper kiss, provided you don't try to lure me into another compromisin' position..."
He lowered his head and she stretched upward, the distance between them measurable in millimeters. He watched her eyes close in anticipation and felt a stirring deep within himself. He wondered if perhaps, maybe...
"A touchin' scene, Spike, very touchin' indeed." They broke their embrace, startled apart by a figure in the doorway of the crypt. He was short and very homely. He wore a shapeless coat of indefinable fabric, and his baggy pants were held up with blood spattered suspenders. On his bullet-shaped head sat an old bowler hat, and between his stained fangs he held a stubby cigar. Butch. And he wasn't alone.
"Sorry to interrupt, m'dears, but we've a spot of unfinished business to discuss." Five or six vamps crowded into the doorway behind him, and Buffy could see at least that many pushing in from outside.
She felt Spike change behind her, transforming in a single instant from lover to demon. She had time to recognize the change, and feel a surge of pure desire for him, before slipping into fighting mode herself.
The pair backed
away from the gang in the doorway. She glanced over her shoulder and saw
that Spike had left the trapdoor to the lower level open. She heard him
growl low in her ear: "On the count of three, luv...one"Butch advanced,
removing his cigar from his mouth"...two..."Buffy shifted her weight, preparing
to pivot"...three!" They dove for the open portal, bypassing the
for the door as he leaped, slamming it shut behind them and then dropping
to the floor to roll next to her. Up in an instant, he had her by the wrist
and was dragging her to the far wall of the basement level. Kicking aside
a pile of scrap lumber and odds and ends, he shoved her through the opening
of what appeared to be a tunnel. She helped him to replace some of the
boards that had been covering it and the two slipped away into the darkness,
sounds of Butch's gang tearing down the stairs echoing after them.
She allowed him to pull her along, since he seemed to know where he was going. Dodging in and out of various passages until the sounds of the vamp gang behind them began to fade, they stopped briefly in a small alcove where she took a moment to catch her breath. It was dark with a blackness that was almost tangible, and she felt smothered by the thick, rank air.
He could feel her fear mounting and he pulled her against him to calm her.
"Listen, pet, here's the plan. It's me they're after, so we'll need to separate soon. I'll guide you to fairly safe an' open area, give you directions to find your way out, and take off the opposite way. With a bit of luck, you'll be safe in your bed inside an hour."
She couldn't see his face in the darkness, but the tone of his voice had the protective, almost paternalistic quality that never failed to annoy her when Giles, Xander, Angel, Riley, or any other male being used it.
"Boy, you must really want to get away from me."
"Love to. Maybe later. In the meantime, in case you've forgotten, I'm the Slayer. I don't run from vamps, they run from me."
"An' you're just itchin' to take on a dozen or so all at once, are you? An' in the pitch black to boot?"
"It wouldn't be so dark if you'd turn on your eyes--make with the yellow sparklies."
He laughed under his breath, and complied. Instantly, the alcove was dimly illuminated by a golden glow.
"Guess I'm good for something beyond dildo-duty after all, eh, pet?"
"Glad you think so. But Buffy, you have to get out of here. We can't take 'em all without reinforcements--gather up the Scoobies an' come back, if you must. I think I can evade 'em for a bit. But go. Now."
"Sorry, Spike. No can do. Got another plan?" She smiled sweetly at him, but he recognized the intractable stubbornness in her voice.
He dropped his head into his hand in frustration, and the space became instantly black again. She waited, fairly certain that he would give in, but ready to defend her position if necessary. When he lifted his head, he looked resigned.
"Right, then. Take off your shirt."
"Just do it, an' be quick. They'll be on to us soon."
She removed the jacket she was wearing, then the cotton shirt beneath it. She wore no bra.
"Don't you ever go 'round in proper undergarments, Slayer?" His hands reached for her, sliding over her skin as he helped her back into the jacket. As she connected the zipper at the bottom, his cool fingers found her breasts, and she froze as he caressed her there, gently squeezing and rubbing. Then the sounds of many leaden feet came to them from a distance.
"Bugger." This time his frustration found voice in a growl. He removed his hands and she zipped the jacket, feeling the rough material rub against her hardened nipples.
She watched as he stepped away from her and across the passage, the light disappearing with him. When he returned a few moments later, the shirt was gone from his hands.
"I rubbed it about a bit on the floor an' walls, an' threw it a good ways down another corridor. At least some of them should follow the scent, if we've any luck at all."
"Smart. OK, now what?"
"Now we run, Slayer, an' I hope you've been keepin' up with your trainin."
Then he had her by the wrist once more and they were sprinting, dodging, and stumbling as the passages he chose grew rougher and more narrow. Often, she had the sense that she was breaking bones beneath her feet as she ran, as if this place were a huge underground cemetery that mirrored the one above it. But surely they must have been out from under the cemetery by that point--she felt as if she had run miles in the darkness with only his hand on her wrist to support her and the glow from his eyes to guide her.
They came to rest again and she leaned against him, breathing hard. They could hear no footsteps in the distance, but she couldn't feel safe. The longer they ran, the more disconnected she felt from anything real. The only difference she could sense between her frequent nightmares and her current reality was his presence, for in her nightmares she was always alone.
"Buffy, you alright luv?" He felt her clutch at him, and heard her heart rate increase even as she rested.
"Nope, not alright. Pretty damn far from alright, alright?" It came out snotty, with an edge of malice that she didn't intend. He took no offence, just held her closer.
"Spike, why are we still running? I want to stand and fight. And what is this place, anyway?"
"We're running in hopes that the pack of 'em will thin out a bit by the time we have to take a stand. As for this place you really don't know?"
She shook her head.
"Your Watcher's been fallin' down on the job, I see." She glared at him. "Alright, short version: you've heard of the catacombs of Paris?"
She looked at him uncertainly. Yes, catacombs, Paris, it seemed vaguely familiar--another history lesson she hadn't seen any point in giving her full attention.
"Lore has it that wherever there's a Hellmouth--be it Prague or Paris or sweet SunnyD--one will find catacombs beneath the streets. They're used as burial grounds, battle grounds, hiding places--a veritable city of the damned."
"There's a Hellmouth in Paris?"
"What, you thought the French were in love with Jerry Lewis 'cause they exist in such a stable, upliftin' atmosphere?"
"I guess it does explain a lot...so where are we headed?"
"To be honest, luv, I'm not entirely sure at this point. We're long past any area that I've explored."
"Are you telling me that we're lost?"
"I wouldn't say 'lost' so much as 'misplaced.' You're not frightened, are you, Slayer?" A teasing note had crept into his voice.
"No, I'm frustrated--I had better things to do tonight than race around in some dirty tunnel." She stamped her foot in frustration, and felt bones crumble to dust beneath her heel.
"Yeah? Better things? An' what would those be?" He settled her more securely against him, leaned in close and took her earlobe between two cool lips, nibbling gently.
She pulled away. "WHAT do you think you're doing?"
"Makin' the best of a bad situation, ducks. Now tell me, what are these better things you have waitin' for you elsewhere?" He began to explore the terrain of her neck with the tip of his tongue. Wherever he touched, he left a tingling sensation that reminded her of biting into a wintergreen Lifesaver in the dark.
"Well...there's a psych test next week...haven't done any of the reading...and Willow and Tara wanted to rent a movie..." She was babbling and didn't care.
"Red and her bird have most likely settled in for a nice snog by now, pet. It must be well after midnight." He unzipped her jacket. The sound it made seemed very loud in the confined space.
She struggled against him with very little conviction. "We can't do this. Not now."
One cool hand had found her breast again, and suddenly her head was swimming. She felt him shift against her, grinding himself into her hip.
"Spike. Stop. Please." In her head, her words sounded firm. In her mouth, they tasted weak as water.
"Alright, Slayer, I'll stop...since you asked so very nicely." He pushed her away from him slightly, and the damp air on her exposed skin made her shiver. "Now, I'll need you to remove your knickers--provided you're wearing any, of course."
"Your knickers, luv, your panties--same tactic as before, but stronger scent this time."
"You mean THAT'S why you..."
He favored her with his customized sardonic grin as he stepped away to give space.
She kicked at him once in a fit of temper--a kick that he neatly evaded--and then angrily stripped her jeans from her hips. Not bothering to step out of her boots or pants, she tore the scrap of cotton--blue this time--from her body and threw it at him. He caught it in midair.
"No need to have a tantrum, pet." He felt the torn cotton in his fingers, noting the dampness there. Giving a small grunt of satisfaction, he turned and disappeared into the darkness.
Irritation and humiliation coursed through her as she slid her jeans back over her hips and zipped her jacket. She was disgusted by the betrayal her own body had visited upon her, and hated the feeling of being bested by him in a game she hadn't even known they were playing.
The seconds ticked by and he didn't return. She began to become aware of the darkness in a way she never had before--as if it were an entity itself, stalking her.
"Spike?" She whispered it, but even her whisper sounded like a shout. She stepped away from the wall she'd been leaning against and immediately stumbled over a pile of...of what? Stones? Bones? Something else?
Her Slayer senses tuned in to a fine, high-pitched humming she hadn't noticed before. On full alert, her body sang with tension. Then a cool hand grazed her face, and she barely swallowed a scream.
"What took you so long?"
"Sorry, pet, didn't mean to give you a fright. Just doin' a bit of explorin' to see where we've ended up."
Her heart rate slowed and she ceased panting. "And?"
"You hear that hummin' noise?"
"Yes...what is it?"
"I believe it's electrical--think we might be beneath the power plant."
"How...how far down?"
"Hard to say. Not too far, I think." He watched her as she gathered her hair off of her neck and pulled it away from her face. He saw weariness in the gesture.
"Are you ready to plow forward, luv?"
She nodded. He stepped closer for a moment and she fought the urge to sag against him.
"Just a bit further,
then you can rest, I promise." He held out his hand for hers, and together
they started again into the darkness.
to Chapter 7
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