I think I’ve made myself slow down enough to not have to everything twice. Of course, I could easily be wrong…
Chapter Eight (8/9)
They walked in silence for several blocks, Buffy almost stomping down the street and refusing to acknowledge Spike’s presence until she realized he was no longer pacing along beside her.
She stopped and turned to find him standing still, hands in pockets and disgusted look on his face. He shook his head and pointed to the front stoop of an abandoned building. For a town its size, Sunnydale seemed to have a large number of buildings that served no purpose but to act as a buffer between the human areas of town and that small area near the dump that was almost exclusively demon.
“Why?” she demanded, placing her hands on her hips and jutting her lower lip out.
“Because,” he said, sitting down and pulling out his cigarettes, “I think we need to chat this out before we get where you’re so determined to go.”
“Nothing to ‘chat’ about,” she said, sitting next to him with exaggerated disdain. “There are places where vamps bite people; I’m the Slayer, I stop vamps from biting people. Ergo, I should take those places down.”
“And the silent treatment you’re giving me is in no way related to the fact that two of those girls are my friends?”
“Two of those vampires are your friends,” she growled.
“And that’s a problem because…?”
Buffy struggled to come up with a reasonable response, then gave up. Her shoulders slumped and her lengthy exhale sounded almost like a groan.
“I sound jealous, don’t I?”
“A bit,” he said, smothering a smile. “Are you?”
She glanced at him out of the corners of her eyes.
“Would you like that? If I was?”
He shook his head even as he said, “Would feed my ego a bit, got to admit.”
“Your ego doesn’t need feeding,” she said, the corners of her mouth quirking up.
“You might be surprised, Slayer,” he said mildly. “But that’s not the point. The point is, these two girls have never hurt anyone – not on purpose. Angelus and Dru may have provided them with a first meal when they rose, but after that…”
“How do you know so much about them?”
“Remember when you put me in that wheelchair? Those months I spent depending on my grandsire and my bug-shagging crazy sire to remember to feed me?”
Buffy nodded, giving him an apologetic shrug, which he acknowledged with a dismissive shrug of his own, and a pat on her hand.
“Like I said earlier, they kept the girls around for a while before they turned them. Angelus…” He fixed his gaze on Buffy. “Don’t think you want to hear about what it was like to be a captive of your ex when he’s not all souled up,” he said.
She nodded and gave him a grateful smile. “Just give me the important parts.”
“Right. Well, the girls were kept chained, but with room to move around a bit. Made it more fun for—Never mind. Anyway, it’s not like I had a lot to do then once Dru’s ‘daddy’ was back, so I talked to the girls; we got to know each other a little. Angelus even let me feed off them once in a while – once they stopped cryin’ every time he came in the room, he lost interest in them himself. And I…I made it good for them.”
“Doesn’t have to hurt, pet. Remember?”
“So, evil, unchipped you didn’t drain them and didn’t even make it hurt?”
“Was no point in losing my only source of fresh blood by using it all up at one time. And since I couldn’t chase them around the room without getting tangled in the chains, it was in my best interest to make them willing to come to me.”
“So this was all about feeding you, not about helping them.”
He gave her a flat stare. “I’m a vampire, Buffy. And at that time I was unchipped, starving and miserable. Too bloody right it was about me.”
She moved away just enough for him to notice, not enough to actually have been said to recoil. Spike’s breath came out in an explosive sigh.
“Not going to pretend, love. You know what I am…was. Can’t change it – not sure I would if I could. What I was is part of what I am now. Know I’ve changed since then, but–”
Buffy interrupted him. “So, what has all this got to do with me not staking these two vamp hos?”
His jaw tightened, a muscle flexing in his cheek, then he said, “After they were turned, they came back to be minions. But they didn’t want to kill – told Angelus they knew they didn’t have to kill to drink, and they wouldn’t do it. Thought the old poof was going to spontaneously combust,” he said with a grin.
“He threw them out, told them they could come crawling back when they were ready to act like ‘real vampires’. But I’d already told them who to talk to about working in a bite house, so they were alright.”
“Okay…”Buffy said dubiously, “but why do you feel like you owe them? Seems to me that they owe you.”
“Oh, well, they were grateful for my help with Angleus and they used to sneak back in when he was busy trying to end the world and bring me blood from Willy’s. They pretty much kept me from starvin’ to death – probably the only reason I was able to walk by the time I found you, truth be told. Those regular meals kept me going.”
Buffy was silent while she digested this new information about vampires and their relative evilness. Her eyes flew to Spike’s and she opened her mouth to speak. He cut her off before she got more than, “Have I ever–”
“Don’t,” he said with more force than he meant to. “Don’t ever let yourself worry about stuff like that. The vamps that don’t want to kill know enough to stay away from you. You see it, you stake it. That’s the bottom line, Slayer. Any hesitation on your part, and you’re dead.”
“But, what if…”
“No ‘buts’. No ‘what ifs’. You’ve learned to recognize the demons that don’t feed on humans, that’s good enough. If I thought telling you about those girls would slow you down when you’re doing your job, I’d let you kill them.”
There was genuine fear in his face and voice; once again, Buffy was reminded of what he’d almost said to her the night before. She studied his anxious eyes, searching them for any sign of duplicity, but all she could see was his very real concern that he may have been responsible for endangering her.
She sighed and nodded her head.
“Don’t worry,” she said with a wry smile, “I think Giles has me too thoroughly brainwashed. I can’t imagine stopping to worry about a vamp’s possible good qualities while he’s trying to kill me.”
“Cross my heart and hope to…ok, not die, but something less drastic.”
He exhaled with relief and leaned back on his elbows. He smiled at her, feeling that familiar warmth go through him when she smiled back.
“So, are we alright, then? You’re not going to stake my friends in a fit of jealousy?”
“Depends on how pretty they are,” she said, tossing her hair playfully.
“Not as pretty as you are, pet. I can guarantee you that,” he said, running one hand up her cheek, withdrawing it before she could object.
Buffy blushed, but managed to stammer out, “Well, I guess that’s okay, then. Let’s go find them.”
This time their walk was more leisurely and Buffy let their shoulders brush occasionally. From the corner of her eye, she could see Spike’s fingers twitching and she guessed he was fighting the urge to take her hand while they walked. Fortunately, before she had to decide if holding hands with William the Bloody was something she was willing to do in public, they arrived at the first of the bite houses. Buffy studied the innocuous-seeming building for some sign that it was the home of Evil, but all she saw was a somewhat decrepit apartment building, or perhaps an old hotel.
“This is it, pet. Just bear in mind, these vamps aren’t trying to hurt anybody, they’re just doing what they need to survive.”
“Spike, they are biting people! They’re feeding. On people. They don’t have to do that. I’m sure the butchers’ have enough pigs blood to go around.”
“They probably do,” he admitted. “It’s not like I’m the only vamp in Sunnydale that drinks that swill – I’m just the only one that has to. The others choose to drink it if they aren’t getting enough of what they need.”
“Yeah,” he said, making a disgusted noise. “Oh. I told you before, Slayer. None of these vamps are trying to hurt anybody. You’re not going to be able to stop people from getting bit if that’s their thing. You’ll just be putting them in more danger by sending them out to bars to hook up with vamps that may or may not be lyin’ when they say they won’t kill them.”
“Spike – it’s wrong!”
“Tell me something, Slayer.” His use of her title lent weight to his angry words. “If you didn’t think your ex might show up here, would you still be as set on shutting them down?”
“Of course, I would! It’s just as wrong for anybody else to be here as it is for Riley.”
“Didn’t know managing other people’s personal lives was one of those things Slayers were charged with doing,” Spike said mildly. “I would have thought fighting real evil would be enough to keep you busy.”
“You don’t think Riley would be evil if he got himself turned?”
“Oh, don’t doubt it, pet. But all you really need to do is stop that from happening. No reason to do in a lot of innocent bystanders in the process.”
“Spike, there is nothing “innocent” about these vampires – or about their customers for that matter. Nothing.”
“Alright. I’ll give you not innocent; but not intentionally evil, either. Nobody’s doin’ this that doesn’t want to be here doin’ it. Vamps or humans. It may be seedy and kinky, but–”
“Icky. The word you’re looking for is “icky”
“I’m bloody well sure “icky” is not the word I’m looking for,” he growled.
They glared at each other for several minutes, only startled out of the stand-off when a man came out of the house and scuttled off in the direction of downtown. A woman emerged a moment later, freezing when she saw Spike and Buffy.
“Gina. How are you, luv?”
The vampire’s eyes flew back and forth between Spike and Buffy. Her brow furrowed and she began to edge back towards the door.
“Isn’t that–” she began, her expression becoming more frightened as she noticed the stake Buffy was juggling conspicuously.
“It is, but she isn’t going to hurt you,” he soothed, stepping between Buffy and the dark-haired vampire. “Can you get Dixie for us? Slayer wants to talk to you.”
“Dixie…she’s busy with a…Oh my god!” Something about the vampire’s horrified expression clicked and Buffy jumped around Spike, grabbing Gina by the arm.
“She’s busy with what? Who? Who is she busy with?”
“She didn’t mean…he asked…but we don’t…” She appealed to Spike for help as Buffy charged up the steps and into the building, shouting Riley’s name.
“Stay here,” he said. “We’ll be right back. What floor are they on?” he added as he ran up the steps, following the sound of screaming and breaking furniture.
“Se…second. They’re on the second floor…” She was speaking to empty space, Spike having already burst into the building. He shoved his way through the crowd of frightened vampires and confused customers trying to get out, hitting the stairs right behind Buffy. She had paused at the top, her eyes darting right and left as she tried to figure out which room to look in. Spike touched her arm gently and pointed right.
“His scent goes that way, Slayer,” he said.
Without response, Buffy turned right and started down the hall, pausing before each door to let Spike listen and sniff. Doors began opening as the sounds from downstairs interrupted the activities going on – sometimes slamming shut immediately when the inhabitant spotted the stake in Buffy’s hand. A young vampire whose handsome face looked uncomfortably familiar burst out of one room, an equally young, frightened girl clinging to his arm. The blood on his mouth and the girl’s disheveled appearance were all Buffy needed to raise her stake.
Immediately, the girl threw herself in front of the vampire, crying, “No! Don’t stake him. You can’t stake him!”
Grabbing the girl and shoving her behind him, the boy trembled but stood his ground, shielding her with his body. Buffy frowned in confusion, hesitating just long enough for Spike to grab her arm.
“Leave them be, Slayer,” he said, the plea in his voice doing as much to stay her hand as his powerful hand on hers. “Can’t you see they’re just kids?”
“She’s a kid,” Buffy said, gesturing to the girl who was fighting to get out from behind the boy and protect him from Buffy. “He’s not a kid anymore, and he never will be – or he always will be – whatever. He’s feeding off her and who knows what else he’s doing to her…”
“I love him!” the girl sobbed hysterically. “He isn’t hurting me. He wouldn’t hurt me. We’re in love.”
Buffy stared, mouth open, as the two youngsters, neither one more than a couple of years younger than she was, stood, trembling in fear, their arms wrapped around each other tightly. When the boy spoke, Buffy realized why he looked familiar. He was the younger brother of one of her own Sunnydale High classmates.
“You…he…you can’t be in love. He’s a vampire! He can’t love you. He has no soul.” Her slight hesitation told Spike she’d heard his soft growl as he took his hand off her arm.
“I can too love her,” the boy snarled at her. “I loved her before…this…” he gestured at himself, “and I still love her. I will always love her. We’re going to be married as soon as we’re old enough.”
The girl blushed and hid her head in his chest. When neither one of them said anything else, Spike frowned and stepped closer. The young vampire growled at him, but Spike was uncharacteristically polite as he said, “Jus’ want to give a listen. Won’t hurt her. I promise.”
Without waiting for the boy’s reluctant permission, Spike stepped closer to them and leaned down until his head was near the girl’s abdomen. He listened for a minute, then smiled and stood up straight.
“Congratulations,” he said, pulling Buffy away. “Now get out of the building. Find yourselves someplace else, yeah?”
Nodding vigorously, they ran down the hall to the stairs, holding hands the entire time.
“What the hell was that?” Buffy hissed, continuing her march down the hallway. By now, many of the doors were open, their occupants having taken advantage of the conversation going on at one end of the long hall to sneak out the other. After several more dead ends, Spike held his hand up and listened closely outside the next to last door, inhaling deeply, then nodding.
“Promise me you won’t harm Dixie,” he said. “She’s as much his victim as he is hers.”
“No promises, if she’s turned him,” Buffy said, her face set into hard lines.
With an exasperated sigh, he nodded, knowing from the sounds coming from the room that Riley was still very much alive. He offered to open the door for Buffy, but she raised one foot and kicked it in herself. She shrugged when he muttered in her ear, “I was just going to turn the doorknob, Slayer.”
When she saw the couple inside the room, she almost wished she had let Spike go in first. Riley glanced up from his position between Dixie’s legs, blood trickling from his neck where she’d been sucking on it. His expression went from shock to anger in only a moment’s time.
“What’s he doing here?” he demanded, as if his being caught with his pants down and a vampire’s fangs in his neck was somehow Spike’s fault. He sat up, tucking himself away and picking up a nearby towel to wipe the blood off his neck. The vampire – Dixie – remained frozen in terror. She knew exactly who Buffy was, having been warned many times to stay away from areas where she might run into the Slayer. She also knew exactly who Riley was – having listened to Spike complaining about the Initiative soldier many times.
“Pull your skirt down and get out of here,” Spike growled at her. “Go downstairs and wait with Gina.”
He could see that Dixie was too sure that she’d be dust if she moved to follow his orders, even though he’d used a voice he rarely bothered with – one that should have caused such a much younger vamp to jump to obey. He touched Buffy’s rigid back lightly, and said, “Slayer?”
“Leave,” Buffy gritted out, never taking her eyes off Riley. “You too, Spike. Get out of here.”
Shooting the soldier a warning glare, Spike left through the open door and walked down the hall, pounding on the closed doors and saying loud enough for vamp hearing, “Slayer’s in the building, and she’s not happy. Get out while you can.”
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/378310.html