Faith stumbled out of the bedroom, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. "Coffee," she ordered.
Xander grinned at her and poured a cup. "Not a morning...er, evening person?"
He laughed as she accepted the cup and slumped in the chair at the kitchen table. He offered her a donut from the trip he'd made before sundown, then sat next to her. "I talked to Giles earlier. He's says that he misses his best employee."
"I'm his only employee," she mumbled.
He went on as if she didn't say anything. "And he says everything is normal. Well, as normal as it can be for the Hellmouth."
"How's the witch and the werewolf? Boy, I'm sounding C.S. Lewis."
"Good. They're still in the hospital, but the cuts are healing nicely. I was thinking, before we slay, can we carve 'payback's a bitch' in this Virginia chick?" Xander asked.
Faith's lips quirked into a grin. "Better idea. We'll write it with holy water. Kinda like pissin' your name in the snow."
"You never cease to amaze me with your talents," he told her. "What other ones are you hiding?"
She winked at him. "Ones that require a hands on demonstration."
"Is that an offer?"
"Might be," she replied, taking a sip of her coffee. She watched him over the lip of the cup. His grin widened and he leaned back with pure male posturing, but the effect was ruined when the chair tipped to the floor. She laughed.
"Yuck it up, Slayer," he said, from the floor. "I'll have you know I did that on purpose."
"Trying out for the circus?" she asked sweetly. "'Cuz if you are, apply for the monkey's job."
Angel emerged from the bedroom in a pair of sweats looking grumpy. He mumbled a quick hello and went right for the refrigerator for something to eat. Without turning, he fed on the cold fluid, tossed the empty bag in the sink, then poured himself some coffee.
"Hello to you, too, Deadboy," Xander greeted, picking up the chair and sitting back down. Angel growled at him. "Someone else that's not a happy riser."
"Shut up, Xander," he replied, taking a healthy sip of the brew. "You didn't have to deal with Cordy's tossing and turning all day. I did."
"Poor vampire," Faith said sarcastically. She looked over at the couch. "Speaking of dead guys, where's Blondie?"
Xander frowned. "He wasn't there when I got up. Maybe Buffy staked him. We can ask her when she gets up."
"B ain't in the bedroom," Faith told him. They both shot her puzzled looks. "Maybe they snuck off together for a little pelvic action."
"Now that's something I did not want to picture," Xander said, shuddering. "Worse than her boinking Deadboy here."
"You know I'm still standing in the room, right?" Angel said threateningly.
"What of it?" Xander replied, not caring. "You got punished for your actions by having to live with Cordelia."
"I heard that, dweeb," Cordelia said, exiting the master bedroom, primped to perfection. She accepted the coffee Angel poured for her. "At least she had sex, which is more than I can say for you, virgin-boy."
All eyes turned to Xander, who was trying hard not to blush. "You're a virgin?" Faith asked, incredulously.
"Who me?" Xander laughed nervously.
"Hot damn, you are!" Faith said, chuckling. "Who'd a thunk a stud like you would be unplucked." Angel was biting his lip not to burst out laughing at the boy's expense, while Cordelia watched on with an amused expression. "I don't think I've ever met a virgin."
"Excuse me while I throw myself to the vamps," Xander said, standing. He quickly made his way to the girls bathroom.
"Think he's red?" Faith asked the couple, a grin on her face.
"He'll forget about it in a while," Cordelia said, then smiled evilly. "Well, if we don't constantly bring it up, that is."
Buffy woke to find herself staring at a pair of bare feet. Confused, she closed her eyes again, then opened them. *Nope, feet still there. Sexy feet, too,* she thought, pushing herself onto her side. She followed the feet up a long pair of jean clad legs, lean waist, bare muscular chest to Spike's sleeping face. *Sexy everything,* she thought, then scolded herself. *Bad Slayer. He's the enemy, no matter how much of a hottie he is. Plus, he's still in mourning for his whacked out woman.*
With a mischievous grin, she brought her free hand forward and ran her nail along the bottom of his foot. He twitched, but did not move. She did it again, and this time his eyes shot open to glare at her. "Quit it," he growled, then closed them again. Buffy laughed softly, then used all her fingers on his foot.
This time, his hand shot out and grabbed her leg, yanking her across the hardwood floor so her stomach was parallel with his head. He didn't pause, using the same hand to start tickling her waist. She laughed, squirming out of his reach. She quickly stood and before she knew it, the peroxide blond vampire was standing as well, reaching for her. With a screech, she took off towards the stairwell, Spike chasing after her intent on revenge. He caught up with her at the door, tickling her unmercifully.
"Stop, stop, stop, stop," Buffy begged between laughs, her knees going weak.
"You started it, I'm just finishing it, ducks," Spike told her. She slid to the floor bonelessly, then reached back and knocked him off his feet. She raked her nails along the bottom of his foot before jumping up and tearing up the stairs.
"Cheater," he yelled after her.
Angel cocked his head when he heard pounding in the stairwell. He was about to comment when Buffy burst through the door with a shriek, Spike a few steps behind her. They ran past the befuddled group straight to the guest bedroom, laughter following.
"Told ya," Faith said, smiling widely at her friends.
After a few minutes, Spike and Buffy joined the three in the kitchen. "Xander in the john?" Buffy asked, pouring herself and Spike coffee.
"Yeah," Faith answered, grinning at the two of them. "What have you two been up to all day?"
"Beating on Spike," she answered, shooting the vampire a grin.
"More like I was pounding you, ducks," Spike replied, leaning against the counter near Angel. The two vampires struck up a conversation about Virginia.
Buffy sat next to Cordelia at the table and Faith leaned forward to whisper to the two girls. "Check out the two half-naked hotties in your kitchen, Cordelia." All three turned and looked at the pale, shirtless pair sipping coffee. They were a study in opposites, dark versus light, big versus lean, smooth verses scarred, angelic verses chiseled. One was relaxed, the other a barely controlled bundle of energy. But both were sensual, powerful, lovers, predators, creatures of the night.
"Oh, wow," Buffy said, taking a shaky breath. "This is better than a Chippendale calendar."
"Too bad they don't show up on film," Cordelia said to the girls. "We would make a killing with them as models."
"Man, Cordy, you are one lucky broad," Faith said.
"Aren't I though?"
"What are you ladies talking about?" Angel asked, breaking into their hushed conversation.
"Oh, nothing," Cordelia said innocently. "Just girl talk."
"How come I doubt that?" Spike said, looking at Buffy. She flushed and looked down at her coffee. Xander finally decided to emerge from hiding and joined the group in the kitchen.
"Since we're all here, let's discuss the plan for tonight," Angel said, setting his empty mug in the sink. "We can go trolling again or try something new."
"I say we split up into teams of two and hit three clubs at once," Buffy suggested. "We may be able to draw her out that way."
"Better yet," Cordelia said. "Drop hints that we're all staying together somewhere and let them come to us."
"Like fish in a barrel," Xander added, nodding at his former girlfriend's idea. "They shouldn't be able to resist."
"Let's find a location, then," Angel said, moving to a desk and pulling out the map of the city with marks all over it. The rest of the early evening was spent getting ready to plant their trap in the minds of their enemy.
The night passed quickly as the separated group traveled from club to club, leaving breadcrumbs of information in their wake. At 3:30 am, they stopped and headed back for the warehouse, knowing that by the next night their trap would be sprung.
Buffy was laying on her side in bed, not sleeping, when Spike suddenly came in and threw himself face down on the bed next to her. "Hello Mr. In-My-Bed. What are you doing?"
"They won't stop yapping," Spike said, burying his head in the pillow. "How's a bloke suppose to get some sleep if they go on and on and on and on and..."
"I get the idea," Buffy interrupted him. "Why didn't you just go downstairs."
"When this big, comfortable bed was available?" he said, turning his face toward her.
"This big, comfortable bed that's occupied by your worst enemy, you mean," she told him.
"You're not my worst enemy, ducks," he replied, his blue eyes piercing her own.
"Oh, really?" she said, eyebrow arched.
"Yes, really," he answered dryly.
"Who is then?"
He closed his eyes, but not fast enough for her to miss the pain in them. "Love, pet. Love." Buffy stared at his handsome features, stunned, but didn't comment, instinctively knowing he would say more. "Have you ever loved so intensely, it consumed your very being, only to lose that love, not to death, but to life?"
"Yes," she whispered, thinking of Angel.
"You know, I lost Dru's love long before she died," he continued, opening his eyes to look at her. "It was never the same after Angelus came back, even though we had a bloody good time these past few years." He inhaled deeply and sighed, sadness in his expressive gaze. "I'll miss her."
Buffy reached out and touched her palm to his cheek in comfort and kinship, two beings who've loved and lost, yet will never forget. "She walks in beauty, like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies. And all that's best of dark and bright meets in her aspect and her eyes. Thus mellowed to that tender light which heaven to gaudy day denies," she quoted softly to him. "It's by Lord Byron. When I first read it, I thought of Drusilla."
"That was beautiful, Buffy," he said quietly, using her name for the first time in front of her.
"Thank you." She gave him a tender smile.
Faith and Xander sat having a staring contest. They were kneeling nose to nose on the couch, trying desperately not to blink or laugh.
"You blinked!" Xander exclaimed, not moving.
"Did not," Faith said.
"Yeah, but you will," he replied.
"In your dreams," she told him.
"You're doing more than blinking in there," he said, then realizing what just came out of his mouth, blinked.
But Faith didn't notice, didn't move. "You dream about me?"
"Um...if I say yes, you're not going to rip my arm off and beat me over the head with it, are you?"
Faith blinked, yet they still sat nose to nose. "Are they...dirty?"
"Only in a clean way," he murmured, holding his breath. "Would you like a preview?"
She couldn't answer because his lips had descended upon her own, coaxing, caressing, igniting something new between the friends. Her hands moved up to encircle his neck, his around her waist, pulling her against him. The kiss went on for several minutes until they both broke away, breathless. "Was that ok?" Xander asked, his voice deep and rough.
"More than," she answered. "In fact, if you don't go it again, I will rip your arm off and beat you with it."
"Well, since you put it that way," he said with a grin. She shut him up with another kiss.
Spike awoke to find his arms wrapped around a warm body. Buffy's warm body to be precise. He could feel the gentle rise and fall of her chest, hear her heart beating as she slept. Instead of pulling away, he snuggled closer into her back, spooning her with his own cool body. He felt relaxed, at peace, and he didn't want it to end just yet, didn't want to go back to being mortal enemies, or whatever they were.
"Stop wigglin'," Buffy mumbled as his arms tightened around her.
"Sorry, pet," he replied softly, waiting for her to yell at him or stake him. She did neither.
"'S-ok," she said. "Gonna sleep for longer. You too."
"Whatever you say, Slayer," he said, closing his eyes and purposely inhaling her scent. "Whatever you say."
Several hours later, the friends reassembled in the kitchen, this time to prepare for the ambush. Xander and Faith had gone to the chosen location when it was still daylight and rearranged things to their liking, hiding weapons and other useful items in the warehouse. They also set up a few things to make it look like they lived there.
Loaded down with stakes and other slaying paraphernalia, they left in four cars - Buffy and Spike in his DeSoto, Faith and Xander in Buffy's Blazer, Cordelia in her car and Angel on his bike. They were to park in various parts of the neighborhood for escape, but not close enough together so any remaining vampires would easily be able to follow.
"Here they come," Xander warned from his perch on the ceiling beams. He was watching out a high window, crossbow and holy water bombs with him. The others were spread throughout the warehouse, waiting for the attack to begin. They didn't have to wait long.
A loud roar sounded, then a large truck drove through the side of the building, leaving a gaping hole where two dozen of vampires ran in, prepared to fight. Xander dropped his bombs on the unsuspecting vamps, sending them fleeing in the directions of his hidden friends.
The fighting was fast and furious. Buffy slammed a stake into the closest vampire, then sent her foot flying, cracking ribs with her punishing side kick. She spun, sending her leg out again and hitting him in the face. She dropped back, elbowing the vamp who came up behind her, then letting her fist fly up to connect with his face. She dropped to the floor, out of his reach, and rolled to her left.
Faith grabbed the vampire's jacket, sending him sailing into the wall with a hard throw. She immediately turned and kicked a second vamp in the chest, then followed with a right cross and a left hook. She blocked his punches, sneaking under his defense to stake him before being grabbed from behind.
Spike growled at the vampires he faced, allowing them to rush him. He clotheslined the first taker, sending him to the ground with a crash. The second he allowed the vamps momentum to help the peroxide blond throw him into some crates. He smashed down with his boot on the fallen vampire's face at the same time as he punched a third attacker, drawing blood.
Angel and Cordelia worked together, covering each other's backs. Their combined efforts rendered the attackers dust, their martial arts skills at perfection. Angel sent a vamp over his head where he landed at Cordelia's feet. She kicked him in the ribs before dropping on his chest and plunging a stake into him. Standing, she caught the leg of another attacker trying to kick her, and pulled. The vamp fell hard to the floor as she twisted his leg, breaking it.
Angel blocked another vampire's punches before returning the favor. He let a stake descend from the wrist sheath and smashed it into the vamp's chest, leaving a shower of dust on him as he turned to the next attacker.
Xander aimed and fired at the vampires attacking Faith and Buffy. He avoided helping the others, not wanting to hit Angel or Spike by mistake. So far, those who had tried to climb up to get at him, the young man dusted with a well placed bolt.
The action was getting intense, each of the friends using all their skills to defeat their opponents. The fight had been going on for what seemed like hours when Xander smelled the first licks of fire on the building. With a curse, he pocketed as many bombs as he could, prepped his crossbow, and began to climb down. "Fire!" he yelled to the others, hoping they would hear and escape.
Faith heard Xander yell something and flipped a vamp over her head in order to see the brunette climbing down. She swung, connecting her stake with the chest of another vampire before running to join him. "What is it?"
"Fire," Xander replied, sending a holy water bombs at advancing vampires. "I hope the others heard, because we need to get out of here."
Faith nodded and they ran for the door, passing Spike on the way. "Fire!" she shouted at him, pausing to trip one of his attackers before continuing on with Xander to the exit. Spike swore and closed his hands around another vampire's head, slamming his knee into the face of the other. He let the vamp fall to the ground, sent a spinning back kick at another, then took off running after the other two.
"Angel, I smell smoke," Cordelia said, slightly breathless as they fought. She plunged her last stake into a vampire, and turned in time to see her boyfriend dust the remaining attacker on the duo. "We need to jet." Angel agreed, grabbing her hand and running out the convenient hole in the wall from the vampires truck.
"Damn it! That was my last nail!" Buffy exclaimed, her foot flying to connect with the offending vamp's head. He staggered and she sent her stake home. Jumping straight up, she avoided the one trying to tackle her from behind. She landed gracefully behind him, and, with a sweet smile as he turned to her, plunged the wood into his undead heart. She turned to fight yet another when she saw the licks of flames climbing the wall. "Uh, bad guys? Fire." The remaining vampires looked where she pointed, then took off running without a backward glance. "Grateful louts," she muttered, running after them. "Didn't even have the decency to wait."
"Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap," the Slayer swore as she dodged falling debris. Virginia's minions had doused the perimeter with kerosene before lighting it, and the warehouse went up easily. The door that she had ran for was blocked, sending her into another fit of obscenities. Tearing around a corner, she came up against a wall of fire with no way to get through.
Spike waited anxiously by his car, pacing up and down the sidewalk. None of the other vampires had followed him as he wove in and out of alleys as the escape plan called for. "Damn it, Slayer. Where are you?" After a few more laps, he swore and took off back to the flaming warehouse.
Her eyes were tearing from the smoke. Running as low to the ground as she could, Buffy tried desperately to find an exit not blocked by the flames. She was pushed back to the main room where Xander had sat on the ceiling beams, each of which were engulfed by the deadly fire. The hole the truck had driven through had filled with fallen wood and metal from the walls.
She coughed, her heart pounding as the deadly smoke threatened to asphyxiate her. She dropped to her knees, crawling towards an office in hopes the window was not blocked. Just before she got there, the wooden doorframe collapsed, sending sparks and bits of wood flying at her, burning her, cutting into her skin. With a small cry, she scrambled back on her knees, pain radiating from her oxygen deprived lungs.
Spike leapt onto the large garbage dumpster outside the flaming building and flung himself through a window, crashing to the ground on the inside with a hail of glass. He rose quickly to his feet, looking wildly around the fiery room for the Slayer. He spotted her in the middle of the floor, barely moving. He was next to her in an instant, picking her petite form up into his arms and heading for the window. But by the time he got there, it was enveloped in flames, preventing escape.
Growling and cursing, he searched the room for another exit. His keen eyes picked up a ring on the floor with perfectly straight cracks around it. "Trap door," he muttered, racing for it. He set Buffy gently down, then grasped the metal ring and yanked. The cement door opened and he could see a ladder leading down into darkness. Not wasting an instant, he tossed the Slayer over his shoulder and descended the ladder.
Realizing they needed to have light, he put her down once again and ran back up into the inferno. Stripping off his coat, he threw it into the hole, then broke a nearby crate into pieces. He made a torch with his favorite red shirt and let it catch on fire, then descended into the darkness, pulling the trapdoor closed behind him.
Angel looked out the heavily curtained window at the rising sun. In a moment, he would have to move, but for now he stared worriedly out onto the street. He had arrived back home followed shortly by Cordelia, Faith and Xander, but no Buffy or Spike. Now with the sun's arrival, he feared the worse.
"Angel," Cordelia said, coming up behind him and wrapping her arms around his waist. "It's time to move away from the window."
"I know," he sighed, drinking in her support. "I just keep hoping…"
"They're probably holed up somewhere because of the sun," she told him as he moved away, letting the drape fall into place. "Xander and Faith both saw Spike leave the warehouse, and I'm sure Buffy wasn't far behind."
"I wish I could be certain they were alright," Angel said, hugging her to him.
Buffy paced nervously around their prison for the umpteenth time. She had become lucid as Spike closed the trapdoor above them, torch in hand, the only bit of light in the small enclosure. The room was the size of a twin bed, with cement walls and was probably used to store illegal substances or other things. They had been stuck down there for roughly an hour, and she was growing more anxious with every passing minute.
"Slayer, you're driving me batty," Spike said from his seat behind the ladder. "Sit down."
"You'd like that, wouldn't you," Buffy said. "So you could have more space to yourself. But I'm not falling for that, no sir."
The vampire arched an eyebrow at her, the torchlight casting shadows on his face from where he set it in a ring on the wall. "What are you talking about?"
"I think the fire is gone. We can leave now," she said, ignoring him and scrambling up the ladder. She tried to push on the heavy cement door, but the wounds on her hands prevented her. With a cry, she banged on the door.
"Hey now," Spike said, standing quickly. He pulled her from the ladder and down onto the ground with him. "What's going on, Slayer? Why are you so anxious to get out of here?"
Buffy started to rock in his arms, nervously eyeing the walls. "Kill me," she said to him. "Kill me now before the walls do."
"You're claustrophobic!" he exclaimed, astonished. He started to chuckle at the thought of the mighty Slayer being afraid of small spaces, but it turned to silence as she continued to mumble about him killing her before the walls did. "Slayer, stop it," he said none to gently.
Buffy didn't hear him, her own terror of being buried alive tamped down on her rationality as she rocked next to him.
Spike's mind turned rapidly as he tried to think of a way to break her out of her fear. *Distraction. I have to distract her from the situation,* he thought, forming a plan. He only hoped he didn't end up a pile of dust for what he was about to do. Pulling the Slayer onto his lap, he captured her face between his hands and pressed his lips to hers.
Cordelia returned from the post office with their mail. Not being able to sleep, she had decided to run some errands during the day, picking up their mail along with some food. When she got back, Angel, Xander and Faith were sitting on the couch, staring morosely at a blank television.
Sighing, she dropped her purchases on the table, then sat next to her boyfriend with the mail. She leafed through it, then stopped, her heart dropping as familiar handwriting caught her eye. "Angel," she breathed, handing him the envelope with a shaky hand.
Angel tore the envelope in his haste to get to the message. His eyes rapidly scanned the handwritten text. He stood with a choked sob, dropping the paper as he practically ran to the bedroom, slamming the door behind him. Cordelia picked up the letter and read it. She closed her eyes tightly, handing it to Faith before heading to the bedroom as well.
"What's it say?" Xander asked, staring after the couple.
"'Two down, three to go,'" she answered, her voice tight with emotion.
Buffy felt soft lips on her own and blinked, surprised at the contact, penetrating the fear that had enveloped her. She let her eyes close and gave herself up to the feeling of being kissed for the first time in years. The cool lips coaxed, then demanded as her heart started beating rapidly in her chest.
*Bloody hell,* Spike thought as she began to kiss him in return, her tongue darting out to touch his lips. What had been a simple plan of distraction was rapidly arousing him. He deepened the kiss, sliding his tongue past her teeth and into a duel with her own. He moved his hands to the back of her head, twining his fingers in her hair, holding her to him.
Buffy let her own hands travel up to rest lightly on his chest, feeling the coolness of his skin through the thin black shirt. Suddenly, she wanted to get closer, wanted to feel that coolness directly beneath her fingertips. She grabbed the material and lifted, pulling it from the waistband of his jeans. He broke the kiss long enough for her to divest him of the shirt, then recaptured her lips, tasting, sipping, delving into her mouth with his talented tongue.
His own fingers moved to her shirt, sliding up and under to caress her warm skin. He skimmed her stomach, his touch light. He groaned low in his chest when she arched into his palm, seeking his touch. The feel of her fingertips playing along his chest and abdomen was wreaking havoc on his control.
Quickly, before he was lost completely, Spike set her onto the floor, breaking the kiss to spread out his long coat in the small space. This time, when he returned to her lips, he seized them rather than caressed, commanded rather than asked. Her own shirt and bra were gone in an instant, and he pulled away to gaze through hooded lids at the beauty in front of him.
Xander cleared his throat, looking at the figure lying on the bed as he exited the bathroom. He had sought refuge behind its closed door, pulling himself together so as not to bawl in front of Faith. It was not the time to mourn, that would come later. Now was the time to reaffirm life, to take what was wanted before it was too late.
Faith turned her head to him, noting the nervousness of his posture, the worrying of his lip with his teeth. As their eyes met, she knew what he wanted, knew what he needed. Wordlessly, she patted the bed next to her, inviting him into her life, her love.
He slid next to her, pulling her into his arms, kissing her deeply, passionately, reverently. His hands clumsily unbuttoned her shirt, separating the material, exposing her naked form to him. He began to rain kisses along her jawline, moving down the column of her neck to her collarbone. He dipped his tongue in the hollow of her throat, then went lower, blazing a trail with his mouth.
She arched into him, holding the back of his head with her hands, wrapping the dark strands around her fingers. His inexperienced tongue and teeth worked magic on her senses, sending bolts of pleasure radiating through her body. She moved her hands to his shirt, tugging on the material until he released it over his head.
He brought his lips back to hers, crushing her against him with the weight of his bare chest pressed against hers. Her nails scraped along his back, and he shivered with desire, pulling them over so she was on top of him. Breaking the kiss, he looked into her passion filled eyes, conveying his message of want, of need, of love.
"I…you…we," Xander stammered, holding Faith against him in the aftermath of their passion. "Thank you," he finally said.
"I should be thanking you," Faith told him, raising her head to kiss his chin. "It's not often I'm in the deflowering position."
Xander chuckled at her coarse words, the pain of the news about their friends pushed deep down. "In that case, you're welcome…to do it again."