Chapter Six – a long one
Giving Willow an abbreviated version of the day’s events, Buffy just shook her head at the questions about Clem and the soldiers and, pleading exhaustion, went to bed. Where her dreams contained more snarky, blond vampires with sexy chuckles than they did scenes from Hamlet.
In spite of the lack of Shakespearian dreams, Buffy felt she’d sailed through the test – waiting anxiously for Professor Brandon to glance over it. When she looked up with a satisfied smile, Buffy relaxed and beamed. “So, did I do okay this time?”
Professor Brandon nodded. “You did very well. Even the essay question was answered with detail and thought that I have to admit, I wouldn’t have expected.”
Coloring, Buffy remembered Spike’s easily understood explanation of why Hamlet said and did so many of the things she didn’t understand. “I… uh… I have a… friend… who knows a lot about Shakespeare, and he helped me understand the play.”
“Oh, a tutor? Well, that’s not a bad idea for someone in your special circumstances. Is it that handsome young man who often meets you after class?”
“Handsome man—? Oh, Riley. No. No, it’s not Riley. He’s just my boyfriend. The guy who’s helping me is an old… Just somebody I’ve known for a while who knows a lot about English Literature. He’s British,” she finished brightly as if that explained everything.
“Ah well. He’s doing an excellent job. Give him my compliments. I could use an assistant who can discuss and explain Shakespeare in that kind of depth.” She waited patiently for Buffy to offer more information, but when her comment was greeted with wide-eyed panic, she shrugged. “Well, that’s it, then. I’ll expect to see you in class tomorrow.”
“Yeah – I mean, yes. I’ll be there. And thank you.”
Buffy met Willow for lunch and they walked together to their Psych class.
“So, Dr. Walsh is some kind of mad scientist? And she doesn’t just run her experiments on evil creatures? That’s kind of scary. What if she wants to study you?”
Buffy shrugged. “Between Riley’s squad and those jerks I beat up last night, I wouldn’t think any of them would want to get near me.” As they entered the building, the girls saw Riley standing outside the room staring at them, a strange expression on his face. “I’m going to tell Giles about it tonight, though. In case he wants to let the Council know about the new demon hunters in town.”
Before the girls reached the door to the large lecture hall, Riley ducked inside without speaking to them. They exchanged looks, then entered the room and sat midway up the tiered seating. Riley was standing near Dr. Walsh, obviously engaged in a heated conversation. Buffy narrowed her eyes when they both turned to stare at her.
“I wonder what those creeps last night told him? If they told him anything. The squad leader said some pretty nasty things – I don’t think he likes Riley very much.”
Willow nodded. “Maybe the other guy is jealous because Riley has a girlfriend. A girlfriend that can beat him up.” She frowned. “Seems weird that he didn’t even say hi to you, though. You don’t think that guy told a bunch of lies that Riley believed, do you?”
“I don’t know what he could have said. All I did was keep them from taking in a harmless demon to experiment on. If they’d left Clem alone like I told them to, I wouldn’t have had to hit anybody.”
“And they wouldn’t have tried to capture you,” Willow pointed out. “That’s really the biggie – they knew who you were, and they still tried to catch you like you were some kind of demon or vampire. Riley should have kicked their asses again when they told him they tried to capture you.”
“You’d think.” As Dr. Walsh stepped to her podium and turned on the screen behind her, the girls stopped talking and took out their notebooks. All during the lecture, which ended earlier than usual, Riley just stared at Buffy, looking away every time she tried to meet his eyes. When the class ended, he remained at the front of the room with the professor, still not saying anything to Buffy or Willow, or even acknowledging their presence.
Willow studied Buffy’s hurt and puzzled face as they walked out of the building. “I’m sure he’s got a good reason for behaving like that,” she ventured. “He’ll probably call you tonight to explain and apologize.”
“I have plans for tonight,” Buffy said. “Too bad for him.”
“You don’t want to hear why he’s being such a poophead?”
Buffy sighed. “It’s because he’s a guy. It’s what I do to them. Start dating Buffy and immediately turn into a poophead. I think it’s some kind of spell the Council puts on slayers so we can’t have real lives.”
Buffy attended one more class, grabbed some food in the cafeteria, and went back to her dorm to change clothes. She stared at the phone, but it gave no sign of ringing. “Buffy plus boyfriend equals suckage,” she muttered. “I’m definitely blaming the Council.”
She dressed quickly, putting on black jeans and a long-sleeved red tee shirt. Adding a black denim jacket, she tucked her stakes in and around her body and left the room. At the last second, before pulling the door shut, she dashed back in and grabbed a dark scarf, stuffing it in her pocket.
As she walked down the stairs, she happened to glance out a window to see several black-clad men lurking behind cars and bushes. The chill that ran up her spine at the sight was enough of a warning for her to turn away from the main exit and sneak to the other end of the building. Careful study of the small emergency door and the area outside it seemed free of black-clad soldiers and she slipped out of the building and sprinted into the nearby bushes.
She was very grateful for her color choices that evening as she heard voices approaching and realized the commandoes were planning to stake out the door she had just used. Covering her bright hair with the scarf, and pulling it across her face, Buffy faded back into the shadows, moving slowly and silently until she was far enough away that she thought she could outrun them if necessary.
She ran the whole way to Restfield, pausing only to stake a waiting vampire and the newly-risen one he was helping out of the grave. She had an uncomfortable moment as the newbie cried, “Dad!” when the first vamp turned to dust, but his immediate attempt to bite her was a reminder that, related or not, they were evil and dangerous creatures that it was her job to destroy. She reached Spike’s crypt, yanked the outer door open far enough for her to slip in and shove the inner door out of her way.
Spike’s head appeared in the glow from the lower level. “Slayer?”
“Yeah, it’s me. Get out of the way, I’m coming down there.”
He blinked at her abrupt demand, then disappeared. “There’s a ladder now, Slayer. You don’t have to jump.”
“Oh. Well… good.” She looked at the crudely put together pieces of wood and bit her lip. “Are you sure you don’t want Xander to help you with this?” she asked, stepping gingerly on the top rung.
Spike shrugged and stepped back where he could watch her descend. “I might bring it up tonight. Clem’s brother’s a nice guy, but his idea of building something…”
Buffy reached the bottom, one foot still raised to the last rung, stretching her jeans over her rear. She turned her head to look at Spike only to find him staring intently at her ass. She sighed and blushed. As seemed to happen so often lately when she was around Spike, she found herself annoyed and embarrassed in equal parts.
“Spike! Stop staring at my butt and finish your sentence!”
“Huh? What sentence?” As she planted her foot on the floor and turned around, hands on hips, he raised apprehensive eyes to her face. When he saw more blushing embarrassment than anger there, he relaxed and shrugged. “Your arse is very watchable, Slayer. You must know that or you wouldn’t wear such tight trousers.”
“I don’t wear…. Okay, maybe I do. But you shouldn’t be looking at it.”
He gaped at her. “What do you think I am… a eunuch? Just cause I can’t kill anymore doesn’t mean I’m completely neutered, you know.”
“Oh, trust me, I know….” she muttered, turning away from him, forgetting about his vampire hearing.
“Remember that, do you?” he crooned, moving closer to her and laughing when she whirled around with wide eyes and a face that had once again gone very pink. “Wasn’t sure if you’d really forgotten, or if you were just hoping I would.”
“We agreed we were never going to talk about anything we said or did during that spell,” she said, glaring at him.
“Hey, I didn’t bring it up, you did.”
“I didn’t mean to! I didn’t know you could hear me. I wasn’t talking to you, I was talking to myself, so… so it doesn’t count!”
Buffy faced him, hands on hips, eyes narrowed and making it very clear it wouldn’t be in his best interests to continue the conversation. He remained standing very close to her for several seconds, then sighed and moved away.
“Alright, Slayer. So, what brings you here so early? It’s barely dusk – wasn’t expectin’ you for another hour or more.”
“Oh. That. Well – first off, I aced the test! “ Her expression changed to one of delight and he returned her smile. “The professor was really happy with it and she said… well, she thinks you’re a pretty amazing tutor. I think she wanted me to tell her who you are so she could offer you a job as a TA or something, but I….”
“A job? Me?” He shook his head. “You told her to forget it, I hope.”
“I didn’t tell her anything. I just kind of let her hint drop to the floor and didn’t pick it up.”
“Well, yeah. I mean, it’s not like you could work in a university anyway. You’d have to have some kind of degree… and a green card or a social security number… and references… and…” She peered at him. “You don’t have any of those things, do you?”
He shrugged. “Can get most of them if I need them. Reckon the degree’s got a little dust on it by now, though.” Ignoring her surprised look, he patted his wallet. “Do have a drivers license, although I’ve never had to show it. Mostly if I got stopped I just ate the—“ He stopped when the surprise changed to disgust and disappointment. “Not something you really need to know, I guess… and I’ve not done it recently!” he added quickly, when her expression became even more unhappy. “I’m not like that anymore.”
“You’re not like that because you have no choice,” Buffy said, her shoulders slumping. “I don’t know why I forget that sometimes.” She turned away and stared around the room, avoiding his eyes and noting the other improvements he’d made. He’d moved a bookcase in from somewhere, and, oddly enough, a small desk. More candles were visible, both in dirt recesses he’d carved out of the walls and on all the flat surfaces. “Lots of candles,” she said, still not looking at him. If she had, she would have seen the frustration and regret on his face – emotions that were gone by the time she did look him, replaced by his usual cocky smirk.
“I like light,” he said. “Don’t need a lot of it, but I like it.” When she didn’t respond, he sighed and pointed at the ladder. “Long as you’re here, I guess we may as well head to your watcher’s.” He pinched out all but one of the candles, hissing when he burned his fingers.
“Yeah, I guess so,” she said, going to the ladder and starting up slowly. “Don’t look at my ass,” she said, her voice colder than before.
“Wouldn’t dream of it, Slayer.” He moved up behind her. “But if you don’t move it faster, I might bite it.”
She froze, and for just a second he thought he’d gone too far, then he heard her muffled giggle and he smiled with relief. Without answering him, she pushed off, pulling herself past the last two steps with her arms and landing easily on the floor of the crypt. She turned to watch him appear right behind her.
He stepped into the room and stood with his head cocked.
“Am I goin’ to need one of those apologies I’ve been practicing?”
Buffy frowned – “No, I thought it was funny. I know you wouldn’t really do it. Why would you— you’ve been practicing?“
“Didn’t mean the crack about biting your arse – although wouldn’t be so sure I wouldn’t do it, luv. It looks very bitable – I meant reminding you of what I am… used to be. Atmosphere got right chilly after that.”
“Oh.” She shook her head. “I’m not mad at you. I’m mad at myself for… “ She looked up at his too pretty human eyes and said sadly, “You can be so… and then I….” She shrugged. “I let myself forget sometimes. And I can’t. I shouldn’t do that. When I forget what vampires really are, people die.” At the devastated look on his face, which he quickly masked but not before she’d seen it, she stepped forward and touched his cheek. “I needed the reminder. I should be thanking you, not acting mad. Maybe I should be apologizing.”
“I’m not him, Buffy,” he said, catching her hand and holding it against his face. His eyes challenged her to deny that she was punishing him for things Angelus had done.
“No. No, you’re not.” She pulled her hand away and walked toward the door. “Come on, let’s go. I’ve got more to tell you.”
By the time they reached Giles’s, Buffy had filled Spike in on Riley’s strange behavior earlier in the day and the commandoes she’d had to dodge to get out of her dorm.
“So, the outfit isn’t just because you wanted to dress in my favorite colors, then?” he teased, nudging her arm. During the course of the walk, they’d both relaxed back into the easy companionship that seemed to have grown between them in the weeks since Willow’s spell.
“As if!” she snorted, then smiled. “Well, I was already planning to wear black, just not quite as much of it. I’m glad I did though. They probably would have seen me sneaking away if I’d been wearing something light colored.”
“See? And you think I just don’t have any imagination. I’m just always ready to hide.”
“Probably a good thing right now,” she said. “With them wanting to beat you up or recapture you. Keeping a low profile is in your best interest.”
“Yours too, pet,” he said, his voice suddenly more serious. “Sounds like they’ve decided you’re on the wrong side.”
“Wankers,” he agreed. “But dangerous wankers. You‘ll be careful, luv, won’t you?” he was saying as he held open the door to Giles’s apartment.
They stopped when they got inside, Buffy’s gasp echoed in Spike’s snarl. Giles was tied to a chair, his head slumped forward, clearly unconscious. His desk had been rifled through and his books were pulled out and scattered around the room. Spike slammed the door shut, locking it carefully and pulling the curtains closed.
Buffy had run to Giles and was trying to wake him up. When he moaned, she untied him and helped him move to the couch, then ran to the kitchen for a wet cloth and some ice. By the time Spike had finished checking the apartment for intruders and securing it as best he could, she was sitting beside Giles and holding the ice to his head.
“What happened? Were you robbed?”
“Your boyfriend and his harridan of a boss were here. When I wouldn’t tell them where you were or when I expected you, they started going through my books. I think she took a few, but my watcher’s diaries are locked up, so they didn’t get anything too important.” He sat up, holding his head and groaning. “Help me get to the phone,” he said. “It’s time to update the Council on what’s going on here.”
Buffy quickly told Giles about having to sneak out of her dorm, and about the attempt to capture her the night before.
“So, the girl whose job it is to protect the world’s human population is now in danger from the very people she saves every night. Only in America.”
Buffy glared at Spike’s muffled laugh of agreement before turning back to Giles. “So, what can we do? I can’t slay them, but I guess I can—”
“You cannot fight men with guns. I’m sure they would prefer to capture you alive, but—”
“Over my dead body.” Spike’s voice was all the more menacing for the uninflected coldness in it. .
Giles met his gaze for a long moment, confirming some things he’d been considering for some time as he’d spent more time with the unusual vampire. He nodded.
“Exactly. We cannot take that chance.” He turned to Buffy, saying, “As much as I hate to tell you not to follow your instincts, in this case I am afraid I have to suggest that you keep a very low profile until we have the resources we need to take on a covert military unit.”
“You want me to hide?
“You too, Watcher. I wouldn’t count on them not coming back for you when they don’t find Buffy.”
Giles sighed and nodded. “Right you are, but I must communicate with the Council first. We may be in need of their assistance. I do not want Buffy facing them alone.”
“She’s not alone.”
Spike and Giles exchanged stares for a full minute while Buffy looked back and forth between the two men, certain that some form of communication had just taken place, but not sure what it was. Whatever it was, a decision seemed to have been reached. Giles made his way to his desk and flipped through a small book there. Finding what he was searching for, he nodded and wrote something on a piece of paper. He handed the paper to Spike and said, “Do not make me regret this.”
Spike read the name and address on the paper, frowning with confusion. His eyes went to Buffy, then back to Giles. “She trusts me now. I… I don’t think I want that to change.”
“You’re turning it down?” Giles was incredulous. He shook his head. “That only proves it’s the right thing to do. The enemy is human. She will need the extra backup this time.”
“Know that. Didn’t say I was going to turn it down. Just… she won’t trust me anymore.” The genuine anguish on Spike’s face confirmed for Giles that he was taking a very small risk in trusting the vampire.
“Hello? She is right here in the room. What are you two talking about?”
Spike went to the door, pausing to look into Buffy’s narrowed eyes. “Just remember, I didn’t ask for this, luv.” He glanced back at Giles. “I’ll be back by morning.”
“You’re leaving? Where are you going? I thought we were going to kick some Initiative butt?”
“We will, Slayer. I promise you. Just don’t start without me, yeah?” he said, reminding her of her words to him a few nights ago. He leaned forward, almost as if he was going to kiss her, then straightened and settled for using a finger to tip her chin up. “I mean it. Don’t start without me.” Without another word, he was out the door and gone.
Buffy shut her open mouth and fought back a sense of abandonment and disappointment. She pulled her shoulders back and walked over to Giles. Her first attempt at speaking didn’t go well as she choked on the unexpected lump in her throat. She blew out a deep breath and tried again. “Are you going to tell me what that’s all about?”
Giles looked at her and smiled his reassurance. “It’s about keeping you as safe as possible until the Council can shut these people down. He’ll be back. With luck, it’ll be before we have to confront the Initiative and he will be bringing us some additional… manpower.”
“You make it sound like we’re going to be in a war.”
“It would appear that the enemy this time is the military – or the secret branch of it that has set up residence in our city. I think we have to consider the possibility of finding ourselves in a war at some point. Your – one hopes, ex – boyfriend and his superior were much too confident in both my inability to hear what they were saying while I appeared to be unconscious, and in my lack of understanding what they were talking about.” He picked up the phone and dialed a number he clearly knew well. “I don’t bloody care what time it is there. This is an emergency. Get him up.”
While he waited for the head of Council security to come on the line, he told Buffy some of what he’d learned from Riley and Maggie as they’d ransacked his apartment. “The harridan has concluded that the Council and its… employees… constitute an obstacle to her planned army of controlled vampires and demons, and she therefore wants to eliminate it…. Beginning with you.”
He grabbed Buffy’s arm as she tried to leave, muttering about what she was going to do to “that bloody bitch and her overfed minions”. He shook his head at the obvious Spike influence, but smiled his agreement. “Right you are, Buffy. But we will need Council backup on this. If you go charging after her, you will just get yourself killed or captured and we will have accomplished nothing. The important thing now, is to let the Council know what’s going on and then find a place to hide until they let us know how they want us to handle things.”
“And what about Willow? And Xander and Anya? Riley knows they hang out here all the time.”
“That’s true. All right, as soon as I— Yes, yes I know what time it is. This cannot wait.” Buffy paced impatiently as Giles filled the Council’s head of security in on what was going on, including the threat to Buffy. As she listened, she realized that Giles had obviously already told the Council about the Initiative and their capturing of demons and vampires, as well as the experiments that had been performed on them. And that the Council had additional information about the program.
When he got off the phone, he handed it to Buffy. “I suggest you contact Willow and Xander and tell them to find somewhere safe to stay for a few days. And then you and I will have to find somewhere safe for ourselves to hide. Your home will be too obvious, and could endanger your mother.”
“If they touch my mother…” Buffy’s look was pure Slayer as she considered the possibilities.
“Quite. Hence my suggestion that we take ourselves elsewhere.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Spike’s crypt. They don’t know where it is, and they won’t be able to find us if we stay downstairs.”
Giles blinked, then nodded. “Alright then, let me just get some supplies to take with us…”
“Better bring food. Spike doesn’t have any. And blankets. There’s not much furniture yet.”
While Giles packed a duffle bag with non-perishable food and other necessities, Buffy called her mother and told her not to let Riley in the house and to call the police if any strange men showed up looking for Buffy. After reassuring Joyce that she was fine, just going to lay low for a few days, she dialed Willow, telling her to get Xander and Anya and meet Buffy at the gate to Restfield. “And Willow? If you see Riley, or any of the Initiative guys? Run and hide. Or turn them into frogs. That works for me too…. yeah, I’ll explain when I see you.”
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.dreamwidth.org/326853.html