"Xander, can I see that coin thingy again," Willow said, holding out her hand. She examined each side of it. "A-ha! I thought I recognized these symbols."
"What are they?" Xander asked, fiddling with a Bunsen burner.
"Runes of the Elder Futhark," the red head replied. "The triangle one is Thurisaz and the other one is Perthro."
"And I take it they have some sort of meaning?"
Willow nodded. "Thurisaz is the rune for testing and challenges, Perthro is the rune for taking a gamble or an unexpected turn of events."
"Willow, perhaps if you cross reference these symbols with our list since we must wait to get the results of-of the chemicals used on the darts," Giles suggested.
"I'm on it," Willow replied, heading out the classroom door.
"What do you want me to do, G-man?" Xander said.
"Stop calling me G-man."
Spike practically skipped down the third tunnel, his lantern swinging wildly as he moved. The fight with the spiders had been disgusting, but exhilarating, and now he was bursting with energy. Of course, he was normally overflowing with energy, so this wasn't much of a change. But having the Slayer walking behind him was different.
She did look cute all covered in the black, slimy substance, then again, he always thought she looked cute. Or beautiful. Or gorgeous. Or any other synonym he could come up with. Even back when he'd first arrived in Sunnydale with Drusilla, when he watched her from the balcony at the Bronze, he'd thought she was sexy. She exuded power and fire, both which were bundled in a tasty little package.
But back then, she'd been his mortal enemy. And she was in love with Angelus of all wankers. He hated his sire and his stupid, poofy hair. Spike had yet to figure out how he did that with his hair. He much preferred his own short, peroxide locks, even if it was a pain to bleach it. Of course, now he didn't have Drusilla to do it for him. Well, she would if he asked, but he didn't want to ask her, didn't want that crazy female to come within ten feet of him. He'd told the Slayer that love was a funny thing, and he meant it, because now he loved his mortal enemy rather than the woman he'd spent a century loving.
Not that they were mortal enemies anymore. More like…what? Friends? Only lovers? Frowning, Spike knew he wanted to be classified as something better, something more tangible, something to reflect the feelings for the blond woman trudging along behind him covered in black goo and wearing his duster. He missed that duster. *Ok, mate, you're rambling off in a million different directions,* he told himself as they rounded a corner in the passageway. "Pick one thing and concentrate on it."
"Did you say something?" Buffy asked.
"Hmm?" Spike replied, turning around to walk backwards so he could see her.
"It sounded like you said 'concentrate on it'," she said. "Concentrate on what?"
"On anything, pet," he said. "My thoughts have a tendency to fly off without me."
She giggled. "Let me guess - you start thinking about, say, draining a man, then you notice the color of his eyes, which reminds you of someone you met in the 1960s, which gets you thinking about Woodstock and flower children, then a song starts in your head and you can't get rid of it…"
"And I sing it out loud until I come to a part which describes someone else, then I start thinking about them until I no longer know where I bloody started from," Spike completed. "How did you know?"
"One of my old friends was just like you," she told him. "Only younger, and no where near as sexy. I think he was diagnosed with ABC or XYZ or something."
"ADD, sweets," he corrected. "At least, that's what the shrink called it."
"You saw a shrink?" Buffy asked incredulously.
"I ate a shrink."
She dropped her head and groaned. "I had to ask."
"I found them!" Willow exclaimed to her companions in the library.
Giles hurried over to her side. "I am starting to think you might want to teach me to use this-this-this machine," he said, looking over her shoulder.
"Anytime," she said, smiling up at him.
"So, what's it say?" Xander asked.
"That we still have time to place money on Buffy and Spike if we want to," Willow replied. "Or just one of them. Or on neither - you can bet on them losing." Her eyes scanned the screen. "If you had a million dollars, which is the minimum bet."
"A million clams?" Xander's eyes widened and he whistled. "That's a lot of clams."
"The name of this…er, organization is Fehu," Giles read. "Notice the symbol that looks like a 'Y' with an extra line coming off the right?"
"That's the rune for Fehu, alright," Willow confirmed. "It means wealth or prosperity."
"Does it say where they've taken Buffy?" Xander inquired.
Willow scrolled down the screen. "They're in Game two. No specific location is given, but it's described as 'underground catacombs with a multitude of pratfalls and perils.'"
"Very poetic," Giles commented, removing his glasses to clean them.
"Hey, look," the hacker said, pointing at the screen. "There's a whole article here on Game one."
"Well, don't keep us in suspense," Xander prompted. "Read it."
"'In a feat of amazement, two…yes, two…players won Game One: The Jungle by arriving simultaneously at the finish line. The Slayer and Vampire, paired together for their equal strengths and weaknesses, succeeded where the others failed," Willow read.
"The Jungle, a privately owned island, was the battle place for this game. Six teams were delivered via crate with the only instructions being to find the finish line. They were left with no supplies and no weapons, forced to survive on their wits and skills alone."
"I wonder what Buffy ate?" Xander said.
"Those of you privy to the Intel-camera were able to watch via satellite feed as the Slayer and Vampire worked together under the cover of darkness. The Slayer's exclusion from the game was almost immediate as she led a charging Yahoma away from the Vampire during the day. Her tumble down a steep incline ended with her slipping into unconsciousness as her head connected with a rock. However, the Vampire went after her, and together they ended up at a pool of water surrounded by large rocks set in the middle of the island. The area has been named Kenaz in honor of them." Willow gasped, her face turning red. Xander looked at her questioningly, but she continued before he could speak.
"Their first meeting with another team happened the next night. Two ex-Seals became victim to the Vampire's bite. After, it looked as though the winning team would come to blows as the nature of the Slayer opposed the Vampire's actions. However, survival instincts prevailed, and the two returned to the pool," she read.
"The Vampire almost met his match at noon the next day as another team player, who had killed his own teammate, attempted to pull the Vampire out into the sun. The Slayer once again saved him by attacking the Mossimer, breaking his neck despite her foot being caught in between the rocks. That night, they found where the finish line was located, then returned to the pool to give the viewers a very passionate show."
"What!" Xander exclaimed. Giles cleared his throat several times, nervously fiddling with his glasses still in his hands. "She…she…she…with him!"
"Willow, please con-continue," Giles said before Xander could go on with his tirade.
Willow nodded, her face matching the color of her hair. "Two nights later they began to scale the cliff, on top of which the finish line was located. One-sixth of the way up, the Lacrama team found the cliff and started ascending behind the Slayer and Vampire. Halfway up, the Vampire suddenly descended to the Slayer's side, letting her bypass him to put himself between the Lacrama and her. She reached the top and, instead of entering the shack which served as the finish line, she found a rope and lowered it to the Vampire," she read.
"It looked as though the Vampire was going to kill the Slayer when he reached the top, but the first of their competition came over the edge of the cliff, and they ran to the shack. Now, it is common knowledge that vampires cannot enter a non-public structure without an invitation, yet somehow, as the Vampire pushed the Slayer, they both landed simultaneously on the floor inside the structure. Avoiding death from the Lacrama's tail, the Vampire kicked the door to the shack closed and the game ended. The Slayer and the Vampire both winners.'"
Willow blinked and leaned back in her chair. "That's it," she said. "It lists the odds and the winning percentages of the first game, and has links to past games, but nothing more."
"Well, um, thank you, Willow," Giles said, replacing his glasses. "I think that is all we can do for-for tonight."
"Spike, look-" Buffy called as the blond vampire fell backwards with a loud splash."-out."
She laughed as he came up sputtering from the water of the large, underground pool that stretched out before her, disappearing into the darkness. The path they had chosen veered sharply to the left along the side of the water.
Spike stood, moving to the edge he fell off and set the wet lantern down. "Thanks for the warning, pet," he said sarcastically.
"Serves you right for walking backwards," she said, watching as he hoisted himself back onto the path, his clothes sopping wet. Her eyes widened as he began to strip. "What are you doing?"
"What does it bloody look like?" Spike said. "I'm going to wash this slime off me." Naked, he dropped back down into the water, pulling his T-shirt with him to clean it off. When he looked up, the Slayer was shimming out of her pants to join him.
"Aah," Buffy sighed as she got into the cool water. "This is nice."
"It's pretty nice from where I'm standing, too," he commented, staring at her bare breasts as she lay back in the water. Buffy splashed water at him in reply, catching him by surprise. "I don't think so, luv," he said, throwing his shirt on the rocks, then retaliating.
Cavorting like children, they splashed and chased each other in the underground pool, oblivious to the dangers below the surface.
Spike watched as Buffy tread water, taunting him, and smiled. His unlife had taken such a drastic turn, from death and destruction, to death, destruction and love. And if anything was going to be his downfall, it was love, because he knew at that moment if anything happened to the Slayer, his heart would be destroyed. He realized that he would move hell and earth just to see her smile at him. *Bloody hell,* he thought. *The great William the Bloody, defeated not by the Slayer's stake, but by her love. I am such a wanker.*
"Hey, root-boy," Buffy called. "Tiring out already?"
"Not on your bloody life, Slayer," he called back.
"Then what are you standing there fo-" Buffy's voice was cut off as she was pulled under the water.
"Slayer?" Spike yelled out over the water.
"This isn't funny, pet!"
If his heart was active, it would be pounding in his chest as panic began to overtake him. Pushing off, he swam in quick strokes to where she had been treading water about twenty-five feet out from the path. The light from the kerosene lantern barely cut through the darkness as he looked around wildly for her. "If this is a joke, Slayer, I'm going to bloody kill you," he called out in hopes she'd answer.
Suddenly realizing that it was possible that she was drowning, he kicked under the water, his game face prevalent as he tried to sense her. Muted, but still there, he heard the sounds of thrashing coming from his right. Swimming quickly, he aimed for the noise, only to feel something wrap around tightly around his leg and pull him down.
With a mental savage roar, he grabbed the soft, rubbery tentacle and ripped it in half, freeing his leg. He knew he only had moments to free the Slayer who was undoubtedly caught by whatever creature this was before she was lost to him. He had no way to breathe life into her lungs, lacking the requisite ability to produce oxygen.
Cutting through the inky depths, he found the Slayer and seized the tentacle holding her captive, tearing it from her struggling body. She shot towards the surface like a bullet, Spike rising up directly behind her, keeping himself between her and the creature. He stayed below the surface, hovering by her legs as she filled her lungs with air. When she began to swim towards the rocky path, he followed slowly, his senses on alert for another attack.
Buffy pulled herself up onto the ground, panting heavily, her whole body shaking. She had almost drowned, again. Shivering not from the cold, but from the trauma, she curled into a ball as Spike climbed up out of the water. "S-S-S-Spike?"
Spike dropped to the ground and pulled her onto his lap, holding her tightly to him, his body shaking as well from fear. "I almost lost you," he whispered, his voice hoarse with emotion. He kissed the top of her wet head, then pressed his cheek against it, listening to her pounding heart. He closed his eyes and swallowed heavily, telling himself that she was safe, that she was unharmed.
With a trembling hand, he raised his head and tilted her chin up to see fear-filled eyes.
Wanting reassurance, Spike crushed her lips with his, tears streaming from under his
tightly closed lids. Breaking away so she could breathe, he stared at her with his own blue
eyes reflecting unnamed emotions. "Buffy, I need " He trailed off, not knowing how to
convey what he needed.
But Buffy knew what he meant, for she needed him, too. She needed to feel his touch, to
feel him filling her, reassuring her that she was alive. Moving off of his lap, she spread
out the leather duster away from the edge of the pool, then beckoned him to her side....
Afterwards, they lay entwined together, clinging to each other as they calmed down.
Spike raised his head and looked deep into Buffy's eyes. He opened his mouth to tell her
how he felt, then closed it again, deciding now was not the time. Instead, he gave her a
Spike re-lit his lantern and stood, holding out his hand to Buffy. "Ready, luv?"
"Yeah," she replied, intertwining their fingers as they continued to walk around the edge of the pool, following their chosen path. "You know, I'm really sick of being grabbed or thrown or chased after or drowned or slimed…"
He chuckled. "I imagine you are," he said. "This is going to sound like a silly question, but do you like being the Slayer?"
"It doesn't matter if I like it or not," Buffy said with a shrug. "It's a part of who I am."
"But if you got to choose…"
"Spike, before I was the Slayer, I was a shallow, bubble headed twit who cared for nothing more than boys and clothes," she explained. "After I was called, all I saw was death. The death of my friends, the death of my first Watcher, the death of my old life."
"So, I gather you'd choose not to be the Slayer," Spike surmised.
"No," Buffy denied immediately. "No matter how much evil I fight, how much senseless destruction or death I cause or see, being the Slayer has made me value life, to not take the little things for granted because everything could be gone in an instant."
Spike was silent as they continued walking, pondering over what she said. He would have hated the pre-chosen Buffy as she described herself and was glad that she wouldn't want to go back to being that way.
"Same question," Buffy said. "Do you like being a vampire?"
"It has its moments," Spike confessed. "It's bloody annoying not being able to go out in the sun, but having the power of life and death in your hands is the greatest high. You know that, pet. You have that power each time you go on one of your patrols."
"But if you got to choose…" She trailed off in the same manner he had.
"If I got to choose whether or not to be turned?" Spike asked. She nodded. "I could take the easy way out and say if Angelus didn't make me, I wouldn't have met you."
"But you won't," she said.
"But I won't," he repeated. He was silent for a short while. "I don't know, pet," he finally said. "I wasn't a very nice man when I was human. I'd like to think that over the years, soul or not, I've changed for the better. I learned to love. I learned to enjoy some of the things humans have to offer besides being meals on wheels. I learned I can have fun without killing anyone, although killing does have its highlights."
"How is it that you're so different than Angel was when he lost his soul?" Buffy asked.
"No offense, Slayer, but Angelus was a bloody wanker before he became a vampire, while he was still human. I've heard enough stories over the years to put together a picture of a drunken lout, whose sole purpose in life was to drink and whore, especially luring married women to his bed," Spike said. "After he was turned, he became a viscous killer. So, when his soul was restored to him, he felt the guilt of all those deaths, and it changed him. Made him soft. Then when he lost it again, he was suddenly free of all that guilt and remorse."
"But that only explains why he acted the way he did, not how come you two were so different," Buffy said.
"Luv, I was a viscous killer before I was turned," he said. "And I've had years to learn that killing is not the be all, end all of a vampire's existence. There are many of us out there who use immortality to its fullest advantage. Dalton loved books. For close to a hundred years, he surrounded himself with them, reading everything he could get his bloody hands on as he traveled with Dru and me."
"What happened to him?"
"The Judge zapped him," he replied.
"But I thought that the Judge could only work on humans?" Buffy asked, confused.
"On humanity, pet," Spike corrected. "He could've killed me or Dru because we allowed ourselves to love."
"Oh," she said, looking over at the smooth walls of the tunnel they traversed. "Do you still love her?"
"Drusilla?" Spike clarified. She nodded. "Do you still love Angelus?"
"I asked you first," Buffy said.
"And you're the Slayer," her replied with a smile. She laughed, remembering their chat room conversation. "How about this: I love Dru, but I'm no longer in love with her."
"Same for me," Buffy said.
"You love Drusilla?"
She smacked him on arm with the lantern. "Angel, you dork."
"Oh, I'm a dork now, am I?" Spike said. "And here I thought I was just a bloodsucking demon."
"You're that, too," she giggled.
"Keep it up, Slayer, and I'll take my duster back," he threatened, the huge grin on his face belaying his words.
"What is it with you and your love obsession over this coat?"
"If I love that coat that much, imagine how much I love you," Spike replied offhandedly. He suddenly stopped walking. "I just bloody said that out loud, didn't I?"
"You…you love me?" Buffy asked, her eyes wide as she stared up at him in the lamp light.
A slow smile spread across his lips as he brought a hand up to caress her cheek. "That's not how I planned to tell you, but yes, I do."
Buffy's entire face lit up at his confession and she launched herself into his arms, the lantern hitting him in the back. "Oh, Spike. I love you, too. I have ever since you bandaged my hands, then kissed my fingertips when we were still on that island."
Spike closed his eyes as a feeling of complete peace stole over his body. Gently, he brought his lips down for the sweetest kiss he'd ever had in all his two hundred years.
"Well, what do we do then?" Xander asked Giles when they reconvened in the library a few nights later.
"Wait," Giles replied. "We do not know where this-this Game two is taking place, so we shall have to hope Buffy and...er, Spike make it through."
"It wasn't bad enough when Buffy was with Deadboy," Xander complained. "Now she's hooked up with peroxide boy?"
"Xander, we don't know that," Willow protested. "Well, we do know that they hugged. And had...had...relations, according to that article. And they seemed friendly to each other. And Buffy's been wearing his coat for weeks. Ok, they hooked up. They're hooked."
"Picture the ramifications of this relationship," Xander said. "Hi, I'm shacking up with a bloodsucking, soul-less demon who likes to torture people with railroad spikes for fun. How are you?"
"I didn't know you knew such a big word," Giles replied drolly.
"And the tweed man becomes a comedian," Xander said. "Can life get any worse?"
"Um...Giles?" Angel said softly, standing in the doorway of the library.
"That was a rhetorical question!" Xander shouted up towards the ceiling. Willow giggled.
"Have you seen Buffy?" Angel asked, shifting nervously on his feet under the Watcher's stare. "I...um, there's a problem."
"What sort of problem?" Giles asked, his tone wary.
"Trick is planning a raid at the hospital," Angel replied.
"Very well, if you'll excuse me," Giles said, walking into his office.
Angel's brow knitted in confusion. He looked over at the two teens at the table. "Buffy?"
"She's a little busy right now, but if you leave your message after the beep, she'll be sure not to get back to you," Xander responded snidely.
"Xander," Willow chided. She looked over at Angel. "Buffy's gone."
"Gone?" Angel said. "Where?"
"She's been...uh, kidnapped," Willow replied. "Again."
"By who?" he asked sharply.
"The same guys who took her last time," she answered. "You do know about that, right?"
Angel nodded. "Did she tell you about her...um, partner?"
Xander snorted. "Nice way to put it, Wills."
"Not really, Willow," Angel replied to the red head's question. "Why? Is there something I should know?"
"Well, he was took, too," Willow told him. "I mean, taken. By the guys. Who took Buffy. Again."
"How do you know?"
"We saw him," she replied. "Get taken. With Buffy, that is. From the park, where we were patrolling. We had slayed two vamps when Spike came up behind her, and then she started laughing at him, then we realized he was wearing different clothes and that the coat was his, you don't know how many times we tried to figure that out..."
"Willow," Angel interrupted. "Did you say Spike? Buffy's partner was Spike?"
"Um...yeah," she said.
"And they were quite cozy, too," Xander added, looking pointedly at the vampire. "In fact, so cozy, clothing was optional."
Giles came out of his office before Angel could reply. "I managed to get hold of Faith. She will go to the hospital."
Knowing that his presence was no longer welcome in the library, Angel nodded and silently left, his mind a whirlwind of questions and confusion over what Willow and Xander had told him. And inferred.
"Why do I feel like Harrison Ford is going to come running around that corner any minute?" Buffy asked as she looked across the chasm that separated them from the other side. The lovers had curled up together in a small crevice they found on the path to sleep earlier, holding each other close, reveling in the new found admission of love. They had no way of knowing how long they'd been in the caverns, or whether it was night or day outside, only that they were both tired of the darkness and hungry. Very hungry. Especially Spike.
"I hear you, pet," the vampire replied. He put both hands on the rope bridge that was strung across the chasm and shook it. Some rotting, wooden planks broke off and fell silently, disappearing into the blackness down below. "Are you sure you want to go this way?"
"We've been heading steadily up for a while now," Buffy said. "Eventually we'd have to reach the surface."
Spike nodded. "Do you want me to go first?"
"No. I will," she said, stepping in front of him. "You know, I never understood why the characters never just ran across."
"Because the scripts called for dramatic tension, luv," Spike told her. He tilted her chin up and planted a hard kiss on her lips. "Be careful."
"Right. Careful," Buffy agreed, hooking the lantern handle over her wrist. She took a deep breath, then grasped both sides of the rope bridge tightly. Steeling herself, she walked forward.
The bridge groaned under her weight, the rope stretching. A few more boards broke off and floated slowly down into the chasm. Deciding to follow her own advice, she quickened her pace, her stance wide as she traversed the divide. When she reached the opposite side, she let out the breath that she'd been holding, turning around to wave Spike across.
And as Spike worked his way across, in typical movie fashion, one of the ropes snapped, sending the vampire grappling for a better handhold as he dangled precariously over the open chasm. Buffy bit through her lip so she would not scream as he swung his legs up around the remaining rope. Pulling himself backward hand over hand, Spike made it to the other side without further problems.
"You know, I always wanted to try my hand at stunt work," he commented, brushing his no-longer-blue jeans off as he stood. He raised his head to see blood pouring down the sides of Buffy's trembling mouth, igniting both his worry for her and his bloodlust. He was so very hungry. He brought one hand up and wiped the blood on his thumb, bringing it to his mouth to taste as the Slayer watched, wide eyed.
Power. That's what he tasted when he licked her blood from his hand. Pure, unadulterated power that beckoned to him. He closed his eyes tightly and clenched his hands into fists at his sides. "Buffy," he gasped out through gritted teeth. "Get away."
"Now!" His face rippled to that of the demon, then back to human as he called on every ounce of control he ever had and then some he didn't. He barely heard the Slayer as she turned tail and ran up the tunnel, taking the scent of her tantalizing blood away with her. He turned and faced the chasm, dropping to the ground to dangle his feet over the edge and stared down into the darkness.
He wanted her. He wanted to sink his fangs into her neck and take all that power into himself. Who was he kidding? Thinking that they had a chance to be together had to be the most idiotic idea in all his two hundred years of existence. Even though she understood his love of violence, his need for action, his short attention span she'd never be able to stay with the demon who now craved her blood. On the island, he had fed before they scaled the cliff, so when he bandaged her hand he only had to control his base instincts. But now he hadn't fed in what seemed like days, and he was tired. And that tiredness combined with his hyperactivity and hunger made for a deadly vampire.
He was debating whether or not to throw himself off the edge when he heard her scream.
They were everywhere.
Buffy screamed in terror as the things shot out of the darkness at her head, scratching, clawing, biting at her. She raised her arms up protectively, the lantern clunking against her arm as ran. She barely stopped herself from pitching over into a shallow pit lined with spikes as she batted at the creatures swooping at her. Finding one wall of the cave, she crouched down, dropping the light from her wrist and pulling the long, leather duster over her head, trying to make herself as small as possible.
"This is not the behavior of a good Slayer, Buffy," she fearfully chided herself as the things thumped into her back. Luckily, the leather was tough and durable, having survived fifty years of vampire escapades. Suddenly, she heard a loud roar and squealed in fright, clutching the coat firmer around her tense body, not wanting to know what was behind the primal animal yell.
Listening, she heard the sickening sounds of flesh being torn, bones cracking, bodies smacking against the rock floor. The attacks stopped on her back, but she was still afraid to move, afraid to peer out from behind the folds to see what was happening. Narrowing her eyes, she forced herself to do just that, moving the lapels barely enough to look out into the cavern.
If she had anything in her stomach, she would have thrown it all up. As it was, her body convulsed with dry heaves as she surveyed the carnage around her.
Wings with the tendons ripped out, extending towards the ceiling like sinewy masts sat next to heads with hooked beaks dangling by barely a thread, blood gushing from the holes where they had been. Eyeballs hung from the sockets like grotesque rear view mirror ornaments. Flesh was peeled back, exposing hearts still beating behind rib cages. Some of the creatures were tangled in their own entrails, trying in vain to fly. Yellow, orange and black piles of organs littered the floor with fragments of white bone looking like sprinkles on cupcakes. Blood, thick and red, was splattered everywhere, decorating the cave with surreal designs, as if an expressionist painter were let loose.
And in the middle of it all sat a vamped-out Spike.
"Spike?" Buffy called out tentatively, not moving from her spot against the wall. The blood covered vampire turned his yellow eyes to her. "Are you...are you ok?"
He tilted his head to one side, staring at her in a predatory fashion. Buffy was about to retrieve one of her last remaining stakes when the human mask slipped into place and he dropped his head. "I'm sorry," Spike whispered, the words barely reaching her ears. "I wanted to...to...to..." His voice hitched and he choked back a sob.
Buffy stood immediately and rushed to his side, not caring about the blood on him as she wrapped her arms around him, pressing his head to her breast. "But you didn't. That's the important thing."
"No," he snarled, trying to break away. "It's not bloody ok that I wanted to drain you dry! And I could have, too. I could have drained the life right out of you before you even knew it!"
"Spike, shh," Buffy said, running her hand through his blood spattered hair as she held him to her. "Don't think about it right now."
Spike gave into the tears and let her be his strength as he sobbed against her like a baby, his whole body shaking with emotion. Eventually, he had no more tears to cry and he sniffed, calming down as Buffy rocked him gently in her arms. "Spike?"
"I'm going to tell you this once, and then we're never going to mention it again," Buffy said, staring at a bloody splat on the cave wall. "If it ever came to the point where you couldn't control your hunger, I would gladly die so that you would be able to live."
He began to tremble in her arms. "Hey, what's wrong?"
"I don't deserve you," Spike answered with a harsh voice.
"You're right," she teased softly, kissing the top of his head. "But you're stuck with me, anyway."
He chuckled and sniffed, bringing his arm up to wipe his nose. Blinking rapidly, he focused his eyes into the cave. "I made a bloody mess, didn't I?"
"Eh, I've seen worse," Buffy said casually. He snorted, sending them both into much needed, mood lifting laughter.
Sighing, she released him and sat back on her heels. She put her hand under his chin, making him look at her. The side of her mouth went up in a half grin. "William the Bloody. It fits."
He brought both hands up and wiped his face, staring at the appendages in horror at the amount of blood on them. "Cor, I must look a fright."
"Disgusting," Buffy agreed, pushing to her feet. "But still cute." He looked up at her skeptically and she chuckled. "Come on, Blondie, let's blow this popsicle stand."
Spike stood and walked over to where he dropped his lantern, glad that it hadn't broke in his headlong rush into the area. When he returned to Buffy's side, she looked down at her blood-covered hand, then at his, then purposely intertwined their fingers. "I am so looking forward to taking a shower," she said, leading him around the pit.
"Need someone to scrub your back?" Spike asked suggestively.
"Maybe," she said coyly. "Depends on the volunteer."
"Will a blood-spattered vampire who loves you more than his duster do?"
"Duster do?" Buffy giggled. "Sounds like a bad hairstyle."
"Like the big hair era," he said. "With the ten gallons of hair spray that stuck to your skin every time you walked into a room."
"When was that?"
"1950s, early 60s," Spike replied. "Before flat hair came back. You should have seen Dru, her hair draped across an ironing board as she made me press it for her. I remember burning Jason's face with the iron when I caught him laughing. And I liked Jason. He had this thing about bells, little ones, big ones. He collected them, you know. One time, he asked if I wanted to go steal one out of Notre Dame with him, bloody nitwit. But you wouldn't believe how beautiful Notre Dame is, with the gargoyles perched on top, looking over the streets. I would have happily stolen one of those..."
Buffy smiled widely as he spoke, listening to him go from one topic to another without even realizing it. His ADD was even more pronounced than her friend's had been. Mark could stay on one topic for about five minutes before he was distracted. Spike changed to a new one with practically every other sentence. She wondered how he managed to get anything accomplished.
"...And then she said 'But Spi-ike, Miss Edith told me you were getting a turkey.' A bloody turkey! And we're talking cooked, not fresh, Slayer. I had to traipse all over looking for a shop that still had turkeys on Thanksgiving night. Cor, I wanted to strangle her...."
"Why are we here again?" Xander asked as he and Willow trailed behind Giles to the back entrance of the hospital.
"Because we’re the Slayerettes," Willow explained. "This is what we do."
"But we’re playing Tonto to Faith’s Lone Ranger, rather than the Buffster," Xander said. "It’s wiggy."
"All Slayer’s should have groupies, Xander," she told him. "Maybe that way we’d get T-shirts. Black ones, with a brown stake through a red heart. That would be cool."
"Um…Willow?" Xander said in a strained voice.
"Duck," he instructed as a vampire body came flying over towards them. The two friends hit the ground as the vamp sailed by, then scrambled to their feet after him, stakes in hand.
The fight was going strong as they rounded the corner after dusting the vampire. Faith and Angel were knocking their opponents left and right, with Giles shooting at them from behind a dumpster. They joined Giles in his hiding spot, attacking any vamp that came their way with their holy water and crosses.
"There are lots of holes in these rocks, Spike," Buffy replied.
"No, I mean someone put a bloody hole in this rock," he corrected, pointing at the large, man made hole. He stuck the lantern through and looked. "It’s a boiler room."
"Really?" Buffy asked with excitement. "Does that mean we’re free?"
"Looks that way, pet," he said, squeezing her hand. "Would you like to do the honors?"
"I’d love to," she replied, raising her leg over the opening. She held her lantern aloft as Spike came through behind her. "Woah. Deja vu."
"What was that, luv?"
"I’ve been in this boiler room before," Buffy told him as they linked hands again, some of the dried blood flaking off as they touched.
"And what were you doing down here, young lady?" Spike asked, pretending to be appalled as they began walking.
"Probably killing something," she said. "Although maybe this is where Oz found me naked."
"See, Amy turned me into a rat," Buffy explained. "And I ran away and ended up turning back into me in a boiler room. Anyway, Oz didn’t really see me naked, because I was behind some boxes."
"He better not have, or else I have to rip his bloody head off," Spike growled.
She laughed. "Jealous much?"
He was about to retort when he tripped, his predator like agility the only thing keeping him from falling flat on his face. He looked down at the ground, but saw nothing. "Did I or didn’t I just trip?"
"You tripped," Buffy confirmed, looking at the ground, as well.
"Well then, what the bloody hell did I trip over?"
Carefully, the Slayer moved her leg around the area and was startled when she connected with something solid. Something solid, but invisible. She shook her head and chuckled, holding the lantern to where she expected to see stairs. *Yup, there they are.*
"What’s so funny?" Spike asked, confused.
"Kindestod," she told him.
"Gesundheit," he replied.
"No, no, no," she giggled, kicking her foot out to connect solidly with the invisible body. "Kindestod. Child death. I killed him last year. You just tripped over him."
Spike nudged his foot forward and was surprised when he ran into something he couldn’t see. "How the hell did you kill him if he’s bloody invisible, Slayer?"
"I had a 105 degree temperature at the time," Buffy explained. "He could be seen as long as I had a fever."
He looked at her in amazement. "You killed him while you were sick? How in the world did I ever think you were not that strong?"
"Well, I’m not that tough," she confessed, pulling on his hand to lead him to the stairwell. "I was almost killed by Angelus because I was sick. If my friends didn’t show up when they did, I would have been lunch."
"Friends aren’t in the handbook, you know," he said.
"Did everyone get a Slayer handbook but me?" Buffy said exasperatedly as she listened at the door. She slowly pushed on the handle and stuck her head out, looking both left and right down the quiet halls. "All clear."
"Ducks, we’d best sneak out the back way," Spike said as he followed her out the door. He gestured at himself, then her. "Or they’re liable to think we’re on the critical list. Luckily, now that we’re above ground, I can tell it’s nighttime."
She laughed lightly upon taking a good look at him in the light. His hair was no longer blond, but dark red with bits of white streaked in it. He had bloody finger marks on both sides of his face where he ran his hands down his cheeks. The front of his T-shirt and jeans were almost completely black from the combination of the spider blood and the winged creatures blood and his hands looked like he dipped them in dark red paint.
Spike was surveying Buffy at the same time, noting the large, red stain on her not so white baby tee, making it look like she was stabbed or shot in the chest. Her neck and cheek on one side were smeared with blood from where she laid her head on his hair while comforting him. Her one shoe and pant leg were completely black where she had kicked the metallic spider and he could see sucker marks along her belly from the tentacle that held her captive under water as her shirt moved while she walked. Her hands were streaked with blood as well, but not as much as his were.
"Slayer," he said quietly as they made their way down the halls. "No one could ever accuse us of leading boring lives."
"Is that all of them?" Faith asked, looking around at the scattered dust behind the hospital. "Damn. I was just getting jacked up, too."
"Good work, Faith," Giles said, coming out from behind the dumpster with Willow and Xander. He looked over at the vampire resting his hands on his legs. "A-a-and thank you, as well, Angel."
Angel nodded and winced, cursing his body mentally for not being at full strength yet. Pulling himself upright, he turned to go, but caught something out of the corner of his eye. Or more like someone. "Buffy?"
Four heads whipped to where the vampire was looking, their mouths dropping open as Spike and Buffy came out one of the back doors of the hospital hand in hand, covered in blood, carrying lanterns. Xander was the first to speak. "Buffy?!"
Buffy heard her name being called and turned to see Willow, Xander, Giles, Faith and Angel standing in the alleyway. "Oh, look, a welcoming committee," she joked, smiling up at Spike, her eyes dancing with merriment. "Are they ever going to wig when they get a close up of us." She turned back to the group as they came down the stairs. "Hi, guys!"
"Buffy, dear Lord, are you alright?" Giles asked, looking warily at Spike.
"Spike, what happened to your hair?" Willow said, her eyes wide.
Spike chuckled, squeezing Buffy’s hand before dropping it to take the lantern from her. "Just a little accident, ducks. Nothing to be alarmed about," he replied with a half grin.
He put out both of the lights, then transferred them to one hand.
"It’s not his blood," Buffy explained. At her friends frightened looks, she quickly amended her statement. "Or mine."
"Any of you guys wanna tell me why we’re not staking this stiff?" Faith asked standing near the back of the group by Angel.
"Don’t even try it," the blond Slayer said in a low, dangerous tone.
Faith put up her hands in defense. "It’s five by five. If you Ls and Gs will excuse me, I’m outta here." She gave them a cocky salute, then left.
"She has a point," Angel said quietly.
"I hate to say it, but I have to go with Deadboy on this," Xander said.
"I can go," Spike said softly to Buffy.
"No," Buffy said, putting her foot down. "You’re not going anywhere and if anyone has a problem with that, you have my permission to eat them."
"I don’t think that’s going to endear them in my favor, pet," he replied dryly.
"Look, you guys, unlike some, Spike hasn’t tried to kill any of us since before mom was seeing Psycho-Ted," she told them.
"But what about the spell?" Willow brought up.
"Did he try to kill you, or just threaten?"
"Uh…threaten," the red head replied meekly.
"Ok, then," Buffy said. "I don’t want to hear another word about it, or come summer, I will take my Slayer behind far away from here and leave you in the hands of Faith."
An uncomfortable silence hung between them. "Well, if-if-if you are certain you are not hurt," Giles finally stammered. "I suppose you will be wanting to go home to, er, shower, before you fill us in on what happened."
"Big time," she replied, relaxing slightly. "Then I want a nice, large pineapple pizza, a gallon of Evian and a foot rub, in that order." She looked up at Spike who was studiously picking off the dried blood on his black fingernails. "Do you want anything?"
Spike gave her a slow, lazy smile. "Oh, I’m sure I can come up with something I want."
She blushed and punched him on the shoulder. "Where’s your car?"
"By the park," he replied.
"Ok, we’ll swing by and pick it up on our way to my house," Buffy said, linking her arm through his. "Come by in about an hour, guys, for the full scoop. And don’t forget the pizza."
"Very well, Buffy," Giles said. "We shall see you then."
"So," Buffy said a few minutes later as they walked, arm in arm, towards the park. "Do you still volunteer to scrub my back?
"I think I can manage to do that, luv," Spike replied, sticking his hand in his pocket. Frowning, he pulled it back out and looked down at it. "Um, Slayer? What do you suppose this is?" he asked, holding his hand out for her to see.
"Looks like something that came out of those winged creatures," Buffy answered. She looked up at him and shrugged. "Maybe a spleen?"