Battle Stations
Chapter Eight

If his mind had been where it should have been--on their survival--he would have sensed Butch's presence before the little troll-like vampire had been within a hundred feet of them. But Buffy had lured him away from the business of staying alive by reminding him why life--or un-life--was so sweet to him in the first place.

Her hands and her mouth, so soft and warm, were on him. It wasn't the first time--it was the third, in fact--and yet each time he was surprised by his own response. Master vampires were models of self-control--had to be. One didn't stay undead for very long without the ability to control oneself. But the moment Buffy touched him in that intimate way, he lost all sense of mastery. He
regressed from a highly evolved supernatural being into an animal in the blink of an eye...and that animal was the human in him. She made him feel human and, unlike Angelus, he loved her for it.

She progressed quickly from gentle, affectionate nuzzling to aggressive sucking and stroking, with no patience for teasing this time. She wanted to hear him sing out his pleasure; she wanted to know that surge of power again. He didn't disappoint her.

In under a minute he was grasping at her hair, his body taut and hips rocking in a steady rhythm as she ravaged him with long, firm strokes of her mouth and hands. When he came, it was with a crash and a roar that echoed through the cavern and out into the passages beyond.

His body still twitching and writhing with sensation, he pulled her up against him, his game face slipping forward and back in a way that nearly mirrored the throbbing in his loins. He struggled to settle himself, wanting to speak, needing to tell her what was in his heart.

If it hadn't been for the pounding in his ears, he might have heard the mumbled incantation. If it hadn't been for his eyes filled with Buffy, he might have seen the arc that the orange end of a stubby cigar made as it was flung away, or the small puff of powder that came from the same direction.

He felt her relax against him, and he believed her to be resting. He shifted her against himself, looking for a more comfortable position on the stone floor, and she fell limp. He wondered briefly at her ability to fall asleep so suddenly and completely and then--

And then his distracted senses finally picked up the scent that had been drowned out by bliss of her touch. A feeling of cold dread gripped at his throat.

Snatching his trousers up over his nakedness, he let her roll away from him and jumped to his feet. Revulsion at the idea that they'd had such a malevolent audience battled with anger at the violation he felt on her behalf.

Out from the deepest shadows and into the low glow of the dying embers stepped Butch. Spike pulled himself up to his full height, which towered over the repulsive little demon, and buckled his belt with slow determination.

"Butch. Enjoy the show?"

"Can't say that I did, Spike. I'm sorry to see that the rumors are true--you've gone soft, ol' boy."

"Don't make a mistake, Butch. This chip keeps me from my appointed rounds...but it won't protect the likes of you. Where went all your mates?"

"Sent 'em topside for a good feed. Won't be needin' 'em."

"You think not?" Sparing a single glance for Buffy, Spike noted that her eyes remained half-opened, if somewhat unfocused. "You'll be wanting to undo whatever hocus-pocus you've put on the girl before I start tearin' your limbs off."

"Stop right there. Take another step, I snaps me fingers. I snaps me fingers, all the involuntary-type muscular responses in the little chit's body cease--she quits breathin', 'er blood quits pumpin'--you get the idea?"

Spike froze where he stood. "You know who she is? She's the Slayer, you fool.  You think you can harm her with your ratty bag of tricks?"

"You used to be a bettin' man, Spike. Wanna wager I can 'arm 'er...kill 'er if I fancy?" Butch smiled his satisfaction at the fear that flickered in Spike's eyes. "Didn't think so. Not after what I just saw. 'Ow long you been puttin' it to 'er, ol' boy? You stink of 'er, you know. 'Nuff to turn me stomach. Does your grandsire know what you're about?"

Ignoring the question, Spike's mind raced to come up with a way out.

"It's truly a shame to see what you've come to--you 'ad such potential when I knew you last. Now 'ere you are, dallyin' with ' a female, no less.  Almost not worth me time to take you out--almost." Butch gave a cackling little laugh and rocked back on his heels.

"Your business is with me, then. Step up, Butch. Let's see what you've got."  Dropping into his fighting stance, Spike circled away from Buffy's limp body, hoping to lure the demon into a dance.

"Don't think so, ol' boy. Never was one for 'and-to-'and combat. I prefer the subtler you should well remember." From the pocket of his raggedy vest, he withdrew a worn leather case, slightly larger than sewing kit. Spike recognized it immediately.

"Here, now! Put those bleedin' tools of yours away! D'you think I'll let you--"

"What are your choices, Spike? You can let me kill 'er, or you can let me 'urt 'er. I, of course, would prefer the 'urt, but I'll take the kill. Remember, you pillock, it only needs a snap of me magical digits, an' it's over for the slut--but in the end, she might thank you for lettin' it be quick." He fingered the leather case. "Pity I don't 'ave me good recall that one, don't
you Spike? The big sharp blade?"

"To make up for your tiny, dull dick?" Spike thought that a bit of verbal parry might distract the monster from his mission.

"Shut your soddin' 'ole, you bugger--wasn't me lying on the floor with me head between the wench's knees--disgustin', I calls it. At least when I 'ad a proper tool to use, I used it properly. Didn't sully myself with all the 'slurp-slurp' an' 'give-the-cow-a-thrill' buggardly business this new generation is up to--debasin' an' degradin' an' for what? Could always find me another bitch when
one wore out...not like anythin' female was worth the grit under me fingernails when I was through with 'em." He was off and running on his favorite subject and Spike was relieved to learn that Butch hadn't changed much.

"That so, Butch? An' how's that workin' out for you? Last time I saw you, you were lightin' kittens on fire just to watch 'em burn."

"Ah, Spike, you know what they say: evil is as evil does." Butch gave another cackle.

Spike let out a fake laugh in return, all the while aware that Buffy--strong, amazing Buffy--was fighting the spell that held her down and limp against the floor. From the corner of his eye, his saw her fingers scratch against the stone. Now, if I can just keep the soddin' git talkin'...

"Tell me, Butch, what've you been up to? Still have plans to take over where the Master left off?"

"That's why I'm in town, ol' man. But enough about me--let's chat about you an' 'ow you're gonna 'elp me rise to me rightful position--if you know what's good for you." He had removed a small, sinister looking pair of tweezers from his pouch. The tips had been filed to a pin-point, and the edges sharpened razor-fine. He ran them between his stained and nubby fingers, and then tested
them against his own tongue, sucking on them thoughtfully as blood spilled over his lips.

"I'd certainly be willin' to assist an old friend in any way I could, Butch...providin' there was proper compensation." At the sight of the tweezers, Spike's eyes had glowed yellow. The last time he recalled seeing them, they were being used to--No, don't think about that, pillock, you'll only do somethin' stupid...But he couldn't tear his mind away from the image of the girl on the
floor in the house in Vienna all those years ago, and the agony in her eyes. His demon fought to break free--he wanted nothing more then to tear Butch's head clean from his body before he could make a move towards Buffy. He held himself in check, barely.

Butch was busy removing other small tools from his case and lining them up on the floor in some very specific order, fussing over them, caressing them with his gnarled fingers. Chancing another look at Buffy, Spike saw that she had stilled, but her eyes were wide open and staring straight at him. He thought he understood her message--he prayed he wasn't mistaken.

"What do you say to a change of locales, Butch? I've left my smokes behind--we could continue this fascinatin' discussion in the comfort of my lair. I've most of a bottle of bourbon..." As he chattered, he circled around, placing Butch between himself and the immobile Slayer.

"What's your rush, ol' boy? I'm preparin' to make with the artistry 'ere--watch carefully, now, you'll like this--I've refined me technique." He rose from a crouching posture and turned to stand over Buffy, straddling her body with his stumpy legs. Her noticed that her eyes were closed.

"Oi! Slut! Wake up! Neither of us will enjoy this if you sleep through--"

Her eyes snapped open at the same time her torso shot into the air, her head making solid contact with Butch's midsection. He folded in two with a harsh grunt, and then Spike, morphed to full demon mode, was on him.

She watched as Spike ripped into the smaller vampire, but was still too weak to assist. He began by crushing both of Butch's hands beneath his boot heels, thereby removing any lingering threat to her safety. Then he proceeded to inflict as much pain as possible upon the little demon, appearing in his rage and frenzy to enjoy Butch's screams.

When each and every instrument of torture from Butch's case had been systematically imbedded somewhere in the demon's hideand several given a sharp twist for good measure, Spike turned from his victim. Snatching up a half-burned piece of wood from the dying fire, he offered it to Buffy. "Care to do the final honors, Slayer?" She shrank from him, shaking her head. He shrugged and strolled almost casually over to the bloodied lump.

Butch stared up at him. From within his shattered, pulpy mouth came a last cackle. "You think you're better than me--look at yourself. An' see the way SHE'S lookin' at you." Spike gave a glance over his shoulder, and caught the expression of revulsion on Buffy's face. With a howl of fury, he turned on Butch and finished him with a stab to the heart. Silence dropped like a stifling quilt
around them.

After a few moments, he turned back to her, his demon visage sliding away. He found that he couldn't meet her eyes.

"Can you walk, Slayer?"

"I think so." She scrambled to her feet, refusing his offer of help. She noticed that the quality of light around them had begun to change. Looking out into the passageway, she could see a shaft of clean sunshine had dropped down from above.

"It's morning. I...I should go. My mom..."

He looked at her, wondering what was in her thoughts.

"Right, then." Following her into the corridor, he avoided the shaft of light that spilled there. She stood directly under it, staring up. The golden beam lit up her hair and face, making her appear angelic, as grimy as she was. He watched from the shadows.

"Maybe you could give me aa boost or something? I'm still feeling kinda..."

He said nothing, just stepped forward to the very edge of the pool of light.  Clasping his hands, he motioned for her to place her boot there.

"Count of, two, up-you-go." He felt his skin sizzle slightly as the light made direct contact for a moment, and he stepped back into the shadows.

She grabbed for purchase on the rough walls, and then was pulling herself through the opening in the roof of the catacomb. When she was safely through, she looked down again. "You were right, Spike, we are underneath the power--"

But he was gone.

She gazed down into the shadows for a long time. Finally, she turned and stood, brushing the dirt from her clothes. Still feeling weak and unsure of herself, she began the long walk homeward.

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