The Shadows Breathe


by Saber ShadowKitten
The Game: Part 3



Part One




Buffy stepped into the small terminal and took a deep breath of the stale airport air. The bustle of travelers around her was painful to ears that had gotten use to the peaceful noises of the jungle, and she slowly walked further into the waiting area. She was home.

Then why didn't she feel happy about it?

Shoving her bandaged hands in the pockets, she pulled the soft coat closer to her body. This time, when she took a deep breath, she bent her head to inhale the scent of the old leather. Closing her eyes, she imagined she could also smell the earthy maleness of him.

"Buffy?"

Buffy heard her name being called. She opened her eyes to see Giles heading for her in the surprisingly crowded terminal. She forced herself to put on a smile, even if it was a false one. "Hi, Giles."

The tweed clad librarian looked like he wanted to embrace her, but held back, choosing to survey her from head to toe instead. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah," she replied. "Can we go now?"

"Certainly," Giles said, leading her out of the airport to his old, decrepit car. He watched his young ward out of the corner of his eye, taking note of her slumped shoulders and the heaviness of her steps under the long duster. He frowned as something tickled his mind about the coat. He hadn't seen her wear it before, but it looked awfully familiar.

They arrived at his car and he pushed the errant thoughts away. "Would you like me to take you home or somewhere else?"

"I could use some food," Buffy answered absently, staring out the window at the passing scenery. "I haven't eaten since before we climbed the cliff."

"Cliff?"

"Huh?" Buffy asked, turning her attention to him.

"You said something about a-a cliff?" Giles prompted.

"Yeah, that was, I guess two nights ago. Maybe three. I'm not sure how long we were on the plane. The tape said we were to land in Brazil at 2100 hours and I know we left wherever the hell we were while it was still dark…"

Giles listened to Buffy ramble on, his mind turning over the fact that she kept saying 'we.' The he noticed her bandages as she gestured. "Good Lord, Buffy," he interrupted. "What happened to your hands?"

She held up the two thick, white bandaged appendages. "Cliff," she answered simply. "And before you ask, there's a McDonalds. Food, then library. I only want to tell this story once and I have a feeling Willow, Oz and Xander are all there waiting."

Giles smiled. "Of course. They're always underfoot."


*****


"Buffy!" Willow exclaimed as the Slayer and Giles entered the library. She jumped up to give her best friend a hug. "You're ok! And you're wearing a great leather coat. Oh, your hands! You're not ok. Are you ok?"

"Willow, I'm fine," Buffy stopped the red head's excited chatter. "Hi, guys."

"Buffy, glad to see you're alive and walking," Oz greeted.

"As opposed to dead and walking, which we've already seen enough of," Xander said, giving her a quick hug. "So, you gonna tell us where you've been for the past week, young lady?"

"Has it only been a week?" Buffy asked, sliding into a chair. She yawned, covering her mouth with one bandaged hand. "Sorry. I've been keeping vampire hours. And the plane rides were really long."

"How many times did you change planes?" Willow asked.

"Twice. Although I don't remember the first changeover, considering I was asleep. But waking up in first class was kinda nice."

"Time out here," Xander said. "How can you change planes without knowing?"

"Oh, my…er…" What was she going to say? Lover? Friend? Mortal enemy? "…Travel companion carried me, I guess. I wouldn't really know, seeing as how I was asleep."

"Before we get into any more questions," Giles said as Xander opened his mouth to do that very thing. "Why don't we allow Buffy to explain what happened from the beginning."

All eyes turned to the Slayer, who shifted in her seat, bringing the duster closer around her petite form. "From the beginning, right. Well, you guys remember that dude who was following me around? I decided to follow him for a change. And before you say anything, Giles, I know it was a dumb thing to do."

Buffy laid her hand on the table, the fluorescent lighting bouncing off the stark white bandages. "To make a long story short, he caught me, injected me with some sort of drug and I woke up in the middle of a jungle in a crate. Turns out I was 'selected' to participate in some sick-o survivalist game. We found out later that bets were placed on who the winner would be, like dogs or horses, only they were gambling on our lives," she said.

"Basically, after that, it was a lot of walking with a few fights against other players thrown in. Which reminds me, I saw some really weird dudes that you'll have to look up, Giles. One was a moss-man. He kinda looked like that guy on the show 'Swamp Thing.' The others were a pair of red skinned creatures with horns and scorpion-like tails. Way wiggy."

She looked down at her bandages. "Anyway, I got scraped up pretty badly scaling a cliff. My right hand should be fine by tomorrow, but my left one is going to take awhile to heal. Seeing the bones in your hand is not something I'd put on my top ten list of things to do."

Willow paled as she pictured what Buffy just said. "Who bandaged your hands?"

A smile played on Buffy's lips as she remembered the gentle way Spike had cleaned and wrapped her injuries, the way he kissed her fingertips when he'd finished, the small smile he gave her. "My…uh, partner," she answered. "All the players had partners."

"Who was your partner?" Willow asked.

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," Buffy replied cryptically. "Any questions? Because I'd really like to go home and shower. Plus, my mom is probably having a worry-fest waiting for me."

"Do you know who your captors were?" Giles asked.

"Nope," she said. "And that's something I want to find out, too, so I can hunt them down and beat them senseless."



Part Two




Spike lay in his bed, hands under his head and stared up at the ceiling, waiting for the sun to set. Music was blaring from the stolen stereo, echoing off the walls. Normally, he'd be pacing in his room or terrorizing his minions as he waited, but for some reason, he just wanted to lay still and think. Think about what had happened, think about his life in general, think about her.

Every night I fall
Every night I call your name
Every night I fall
Every night I fall again

When he had sauntered into the boarded up house where he'd made his home two nights before, the minions pretty much freaked at his appearance. None of them had been bold enough to ask about his change in clothing, but all their eyes had widened so far, Spike had thought they'd pop right out of their empty heads.

Of course, the new leather bomber jacket was no where near as comfortable as his duster had been. He couldn't believe that he'd given it up. That was, until he pictured who he'd given it to.

Every night I fall
Every night I scream your name
Every night I fall
Every night the dream's the same

He smiled at the memory of her standing in the firelight that first night, looking all powerful and feminine. Then, his mind flitted to what she looked like lying naked on the soft material. He closed his eyes, remembering the way she felt, the way she tasted, her warmth surrounding him as they made love.

And it was making love. Spike had given everything to her that first time, holding none of his tightly controlled emotions in check. It was as if all the time they had spent fighting the year before was building up to that very moment, almost like foreplay. Behind his eyelids, he could see the burning desire in her eyes for him, her need reflecting his own. When they finally joined together, he felt as though he touched heaven, and knew that nothing would ever hold a candle to the sensations she evoked, to the completeness that he had felt.

Every night I fall
Every night I scream the animal scream
Every night I fall
Every night the dreams call my dream

But that was neither here, nor there. He was still a vampire. She, the Slayer. Off of that island, they had no choice but to go back to being mortal enemies. With that depressing thought, Spike got up out of bed, his hyperactiveness slamming into him ten fold and he went to exorcise some demons - both external and internal.


*****


The lighter flared up under his face as the man turned around the corner, bathing him in its orangish glow as he touched the flame to his cigarette. Inhaling the smoke, Spike smiled evilly as the man came closer, his barely controlled energy bubbling under his skin at the thought of the hunt. As the man went to pass, the blond vampire stepped in his path. "Word has it that you're the man to see if you're looking for a certain…something," Spike said in a low voice.

The man narrowed his eyes, looking up at Spike in the darkness. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Oh, I think you do. All men have vices," Spike said. "And yours happens to be little boys."

"What, are you a cop or somethin'?" the man asked, slight panic in his voice.

"No," he replied, letting his game face come forth. "I'm your executioner." Spike laughed out loud when the man turned tail and ran. He counted to ten, then took off after him, pouring his excess energy into the long, drawn out game.

He caught and drained the man right outside of his door, his hand still on the key in the lock.


*****


Three weeks later, Spike couldn't take it anymore. He had to have some contact with Buffy, any contact, before he went out of his mind. Everywhere he looked, he thought he saw her, though he heard her laugh. His dreams alternated between tender and erotic with her as the star, leaving him to wake wanting to touch her, to hold her, to feel her fire. His minions all fled each time he came into the room, fearing for their undead lives at his short temper. Even Drusilla, who'd been trying to get back into his life, avoided him like the sun. He couldn't sit still for more than five minutes at a time except to sleep, but that only lasted for a few hours before he was awake and aching for her.

That night, he went shopping.



Part Three




"Buffy? Could you come here for a minute?" Willow asked from her position in front of the computer.

"Sure, Will," Buffy said, stopping the punching bag from her last swing. Three weeks had passed and her left hand was healing nicely, but there was a hole in her heart that grew bigger with each passing day. She hated the feeling, but knew it was there to stay, because she could never be with the man who created it. "What's up?"

"This E-mail message is for you," the hacker said, moving over so Buffy could read the screen. "See the subject line?"

"'Please 'give' to Buffy Summers,'" Buffy read out loud. She looked further down the screen. "Where's the message?"

"It's an attachment," Willow told her. "I didn't want to open it because the contents might be private. All you have to do is double click on the paperclip icon."

"Thanks," she replied, doing as instructed.

As the sun comes up in the sky
I think of you and smile
So far away, yet so near
In my mind
I touch you
I taste you
I feel your heart, beating for me

"Willow," Buffy breathed. "Read this."

Willow looked over at the screen her eyes rapidly scanning the text. "I think you have a secret admirer," she said, grinning widely.

"Should I reply?" Buffy asked, her right hand hovering over the keys, her heart pounding in excitement for the first time in two weeks. "What would I say?"

"I don't know, Buffy," the red head replied. "That's up to you."

Buffy clicked on the reply to sender button and started pecking at the keys.

>To: nightwalker@aol.com
>From: littletree @aol.com
>Subject: [Re:] Please 'give' to Buffy Summers
>
>Hello whoever sent this. It was very nice. Do I know you?
>BS


*****


"Buffy, you got a reply!" Willow said excitedly, moving so her best friend could take her place again later that night.

"Already?" Buffy said, sliding into the chair. She opened another attachment.

I would say you know me
very well
I would say you know me
not at all
I would say you know me
but it's the surface
I would say you know me
but there is so much more

Do you want to know me?

I know you

I know your smile
I know your laugh
I know your softness
I know your strength
I know your tenderness
I know your fire

Yet, I don't know you

I don't know
your deepest fears
I don't know
your favorite color
I don't know
if you cry
when you hear a sad song
I don't know
if you like to swing

I would like to see you swing
see your hair flying behind you
as you climbed higher and higher
laughing with delight

Do you want me to know you?

"Be still my heart," Buffy said, slumping back into the chair, breathless once again. "This guy sure knows how to write. Too bad we can't talk directly."

"You can," Willow said. "See if he has an ICQ number."

"A what?"

"ICQ. It's instant messaging or you can create your own chat room. Kinda like talking on the phone, but you have to type instead," Willow explained.

"And you have one of these?" Buffy asked.

"Yup. Go ahead and type your message," she instructed. "Now put ICQ#13316251 at the bottom. That's my number."


*****


"Here he is!" Willow squealed, quickly double clicking on the small message icon at the bottom of the laptop screen. The two girls had moved to the Slayer's house, where Willow was waiting for Oz to pick her up. "He wants to know if you want to chat." At Buffy's huge smile, the hacker giggled. "I'll take that as a yes." She accepted the chat request, then moved once more. "You're in. All you have to do it type."

"Hey, Buffy," Oz said, entering the bedroom. "Willow, are you ready to go?"

"Yes," Willow replied. "Buffy, when you want to quit, just hit the 'x' at the top of the screen, then log me out."

"Thanks, Wills," Buffy said. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Bye," Willow said, closing the bedroom door behind her.

Buffy turned her attention to the screen, where her secret admirer was waiting for her to respond to his greeting.

< nightwalker > Hello
< littletree >Hi!
< nightwalker >I was pleasantly surprised when I received your ICQ. Or rather, Willow's.
< littletree > She suggested it. That I send it, I mean.
< nightwalker >*laughs*
< nightwalker > How are your hands?
< littletree > How did you know I hurt my hands?
< nightwalker > How do you think?
< littletree > Oh, well. I guess for you to be an admirer, you can see me.
< littletree > You can't see me right now, can you?
< nightwalker > *laughs*
< nightwalker > I wish.
< nightwalker > I can see you in my mind, though.
< nightwalker > You are so utterly delectable.
< littletree > *blushes*
< littletree > Do I know you? I mean, personally, as in, have we met before?
< nightwalker > Yes.
< littletree > Just yes. No 'I'm so and so'?
< nightwalker > Who was the last person you loved?
< littletree > Woah. Nice non sequitur. And it's none of your business.
< nightwalker > I only wanted to know who my competition was.
< littletree > You will never be able to compete against him.
< nightwalker > Really?
< littletree > Yep.
< nightwalker > How do you know?
< littletree > Because even though I'm talking…er,
< littletree > writing to you now, it doesn't mean I'm interested
< littletree > in more than figuring out who you are.
< nightwalker > Describe him.
< littletree > Who?
< nightwalker > Fonzie. Who do you think I mean?
< littletree > Oh, sorry.
< littletree > Why do you want to know?
< nightwalker > He's still my competition.
< littletree > Can't you read?
< nightwalker > Humor me.
< littletree > Fine. He's perfect.
< nightwalker > No one is perfect.
< littletree > He is for me.
< nightwalker > Is he your boyfriend?
< littletree > No.
< nightwalker > Well, then, if he's so perfect, why aren't you two together?
< littletree > Because we can't be.
< nightwalker > Why?
< littletree > It's…complicated. Too many obstacles.
< nightwalker > Have you tried?
< littletree > Tried what?
< nightwalker > To be together.
< littletree > We can't, so it doesn't matter.
< nightwalker > And yet your heart is still for him.
< littletree > Yes.
< nightwalker > I don't know whether to be sad for you
< nightwalker > or happy for him to have your love.
< littletree > Depressing much?
< nightwalker > Does he return your love?
< littletree > I wish.
< nightwalker > You know, if you tell me who he is, I can find out for you.
< littletree > Ain't gonna work, buster.
< nightwalker > *laughs*
< nightwalker > I tried.
< littletree > Besides, you'd have a long way to go to be able to talk to him.
< nightwalker > Why's that?
< littletree > He's kinda not here.
< nightwalker > Where is he, then?
< littletree > I don't know.
< nightwalker > That makes it easier on me if the competition isn't even around.
< littletree > Listen, whoever you are, I don't want to play this game
< littletree > I am in love with someone else
< littletree > and whether he returns my love or not
< littletree > doesn't change how I feel about him!
< littletree > He is perfect - tender, caring, sweet, with the most beautiful blue eyes
< nightwalker > I thought they were brown?
< littletree > What?
< nightwalker > Nothing.
< littletree > No, I can read what you said. What made you think he had brown eyes?
< littletree > Hello?
< littletree > Are you still there?
< nightwalker > Sorry.
< littletree > What happened?
< nightwalker > Buffy, who do you love?
< littletree > Why should I tell you?
< nightwalker > WILL YOU JUST ANSWER THE BLOODY QUESTION!
< littletree > Who is this?
< littletree > Who is this!
< littletree > Fine. I'm out of here. DON'T contact me again.
< nightwalker > It's me, Slayer.


Part Four




Buffy's heart dropped to her feet when she read the last line. "It can't be," she whispered, her hand lightly resting on the keyboard. She looked over at the leather duster lying across her chair. A day had yet to go by when she didn't wear it, just to feel close to him. With nervous fingers, she began to type once again.

< littletree > Spike?
< nightwalker > The one and only.
< littletree > But…how…why???
< nightwalker > I wanted to talk to you, pet.
< nightwalker > I actually miss you.
< nightwalker > Bloody ridiculous if you ask me.
< littletree > Well, then count me among the ridiculed.
< nightwalker > *laughs*
< littletree > I didn't know you could use a computer.
< nightwalker > I'm a vampire, luv, not an idiot.
< littletree > Sorry. My bad.
< nightwalker > How are your hands?
< littletree > Getting better. It still hurts when I make a fist, though.
< nightwalker > Must make it tough to fight.
< littletree > Sometimes.
< littletree > Why didn't you wake me?
< nightwalker > I hate good-byes.
< littletree > Oh.
< nightwalker > I hate this even more.
< littletree > Talking to me?
< nightwalker > No! I meant you being in Sunnyhell and me being down here.
< littletree > Are you still in Brazil?
< nightwalker > Yes.
< littletree > Would you…
< nightwalker >Yes, pet?
< littletree > Would you ever come back?
< nightwalker > I think that could be arranged.
< nightwalker > If you really wanted me to come back, that is.
< littletree > But if you came back, we'd be enemies.
< nightwalker > We could never be enemies, luv.
< littletree > I would have to slay you if you fed.
< nightwalker > What if I didn't kill them?
< littletree > Can you do that?
< nightwalker > Of course. It's just not as much fun.
< littletree > Would you?
< nightwalker > Not kill anyone or come back?
< littletree > Both.
< nightwalker > Yes.
< littletree > Really?
< nightwalker > No, I'm lying just to get into your pants. Of course, really.
< littletree > That's not funny.
< nightwalker > Sorry.
< littletree > So, how long will it take you to get here?
< nightwalker > A week. Maybe more.
< littletree > Oh.
< nightwalker > You never answered my question.
< littletree > Which one?
< nightwalker > Who do you love?
< littletree > Who do *you* love?
< nightwalker > I asked you first.
< littletree > Well, I'm the Slayer.
< nightwalker > See me shaking.
< littletree > *laughs*
< nightwalker > I have to go, luv. There's a lot of yelling going on in the other room.
< nightwalker > Have to crack some skulls.
< littletree > Then I guess I'll see you when you get here.
< nightwalker > Count on it.
< littletree > Well, bye.
< nightwalker > Bye, Slayer.
< nightwalker > One more thing - how's my duster?
< littletree > Warm, soft and leathery.
< nightwalker > *sighs*
< nightwalker > I miss that coat.
< littletree > Then why did you leave it with me?
< nightwalker > You already know the answer to that, Buffy.
< nightwalker > -Leaves-

Buffy logged off the computer and closed the laptop, then grabbed the leather duster from the chair. She hugged the soft material to her and laughed. Spike wanted to see her, wanted to be with her, and quite possibly loved her as much as she loved him.



Part Five




It had been the longest week of her life. The hours stretched on for eternity, the nights were spent sleeplessly waiting. The anticipation was making her both excited and draining her.

Buffy looked over at the clock for the tenth time that hour and sighed. The eighth day of waiting had passed the night before and still no Spike. *Well, he did say it may take more than a week,* she thought, watching the second hand as it circled the clock. *Besides, sunset isn't for another twenty-two minutes and thirty-thirty eight seconds.*

"Buffy?" Giles said, frowning at her. "Are you paying attention?"

"Who me? I'm attention girl," Buffy said, pulling her gaze away from the clock. "See my enthusiasm?"

"Yes, well, you are acting as if you can't wait to-to leave," Giles informed her. "Granted, this is exercise isn't that exciting, but it is necessary to…"

"To hone my skills as the Slayer, yada, yada, yada," she finished for him. "But didn't we already do this one. I think I remember quite clearly hitting you with a dodge ball."

"This time, I want you to traverse this room," Giles said, putting a thick scarf over her eyes. "You never know when you may have to-to fight blind, as it were."

"Maybe I should start carrying a candle and lighter along with my stakes," she joked as the Watcher moved chairs and other obstacles in the library.

"Perhaps," Giles replied. He walked and stood by the doors. "Alright Buffy, come to me."


*****


Spike didn't think his smile could get any wider until he saw the sign. With a chuckle, he plowed right into it. "Thanks for the welcome," he said out loud, then backed up and continued on his way, leaving the Welcome to Sunnydale sign flat on the ground once again.



*****



"No, Willow, Xander," Buffy was practically on her knees begging. "You don't have to come with me on patrol."

"But it will be fun," Xander insisted. "We haven't done any group outings in weeks, and I for one am all for the bondage time."

"Don't you mean 'bonding'?" Willow asked. Xander smiled wickedly at her.

The three friends were walking towards the park. Buffy had almost escaped from the library when her two best friends showed up, wanting to help with patrol. "Isn't the Bronze having no cover tonight?" she brought up, hoping it was true.

"Nope," Willow said. "And the Dingo's have practice tonight, so I'm free."

"Swell," Buffy said, forlornly. She took a deep breath and sighed. *Maybe he won't show up tonight, anyway,* she thought, hands in the pockets of the long, leather duster she'd taken to wearing the past week on patrol, despite the warm weather.

The trio entered the park and began the rounds, chatting aimlessly about school, the Bronze and other harmless topics, waiting for the vampires to attack. They didn't have to wait long. Two of them came out of the bushes and were instantly on the friends.

Buffy lashed out with her sneaker clad foot, catching one vamp across the chest, followed by a spinning back kick to the face. She blocked his clumsy swings, retaliating with hard punches of her own before whipping out a stake and plunging it home. Turning, she saw Xander and Willow holding their own against the second vamp. Silently, she crept up behind the demon and slammed her stake into his back.

"Well, that was fun," Buffy commented, looking at the pile of dust on the ground.

Xander was about to say something when Willow's cry interrupted him. "Buffy, behind you!"

Buffy spun, dropping into a fighting stance, ready to block whatever attack was about to come. Only it didn't. Her eyes widened as she took a good look at the vampire who'd been haunting her for the past month, noting the brown, leather bomber jacket, the blue jeans and the faded T-shirt. Or, more specifically, the faded Guns 'N Roses T-shirt. She started to chuckle, coming out of her fighting stance as her chuckle turned into a side clutching laugh.

"Uh, Buffy?" Xander said, warily eyeing the blond vampire from behind his laughing friend. "I don't think it's a good thing to laugh at Spike."

Willow grabbed the other teen's sleeve as her eyes shot back and forth between Buffy and Spike. "Xander, the coat! The one we couldn't figure out why it looked so familiar. It's Spike's! She's wearing Spike's coat!"

"Where did you get that shirt?" Buffy finally managed to get out, wiping the tears from her eyes.

Spike held the hem of the shirt and stretched it out in front of him, looking down at it. "This old thing? Had it in my closet for years."

"Liar," she giggled. "You only had one set of clothing over fifty years, remember?"

"Did not," Spike said, half grin on his face. "I had that duster for fifty years. It looks like you've been takin' good care of it."

"Aw, does wittle Willy miss his coat?" Buffy replied, smiling broadly at the memory of the last time she said the same thing.

"Don't call me that," Spike said, his smile growing wider.

"What? Little or Willy?" Buffy completed.

Spike growled playfully, then opened his arms. "Come 'ere."

Xander and Willow stood immobilized as Buffy practically launched herself into Spike's embrace. "Xander? Why is Buffy hugging Spike?"

"I don't know, but I don't like it," Xander replied, snapping out of his petrified amazement. He was about to say something to the Slayer when all hell broke loose.

Spike tilted Buffy's chin up to look into her eyes, then lowered his head to claim her lips in a kiss. Suddenly, he felt a sharp stinging in his neck and brought his hand up to find a small dart embedded in the skin. Buffy's wide eyed gasp and the similar dart protruding from her neck were the last things he saw before all went dark.


*****


"GILES!" Xander yelled as he and Willow tore into the library.

"Good heavens, Xander, what is it?" Giles asked, practically running from his office.

"It's Buffy. She's been taken by some guys with guns," Xander explained quickly.

"Spike, too," Willow added.

"What? I'm not sure I-I-I follow," Giles said. "You say Buffy was abducted by gunpoint?"

"Spike, too," Willow repeated, her eyes wide and fearful.

"Yeah, G-man, that's another thing," Xander said. "Buffy and Spike were hugging like long lost friends. Or lovers."

"Her secret admirer. And the coat! The coat she has is Spike's!" Willow exclaimed.

Giles took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose, realizing the hacker was correct and that was why the coat looked so familiar, but could not be placed. Spike must have been her partner on the island. Which means… "Oh, dear," he said, replacing his glasses. "I wonder if these are the same abductors as before. Explain to me exactly what transpired."

"Well, we dusted two vamps," Xander explained. "Then Spike came out of nowhere wearing way different clothes. Buffy started to laugh, then they hugged, then grabbed their necks and fell to the ground. Then the big men with guns came out of the bushes and grabbed them."


*****


"This is where they were taken from," Willow said, leading Giles into the park.

Giles knelt on the ground and began running his hands over the grass. With a shrug, Xander and Willow both did the same. "So, what are we looking for? Lose change? Worms?" Xander asked.

"This," Giles said, holding up a small dart with small, red tail feathers. He was careful not to touch the needle end.

"I got one, too," Willow said, holding up a similar dart, with green feathers instead of red.

"And I found this," Xander said, showing the other two what looked like a small coin or charm. It was about the size of a penny, dark brown in color, and had two symbols on it - a right facing triangle centered on a line and a simple bow tie minus its right side.

"Willow, do you still have that list of potential, er…associations of high stakes games?" Giles asked as they climbed to their feet.

"It's in my locker," Willow confirmed.

"Looks like it's back to the bat cave," Xander quipped.



Part Six




"Spike?" Buffy said, looking around in vain. Wherever she was, it was pitch black, damp and chilly. She brought a hand up and rubbed her neck where the sharp sting had pierced her skin, then closed her eyes and thanked Giles in his infinite wisdom. She closed her eyes and honed.

Crawling on the hard, rocky floor to her left, she found the blond vampire laying in a heap. At least, she hoped it was the blond vampire, and not a different one. "Spike?" Buffy called, shaking him.

"Stop your bloody shaking before my head comes off."

*Definitely Spike,* she thought with relief. "Are you ok?"

Spike opened his eyes and saw nothing. Panicking slightly, he responded to her question. "I can't see anything."

"Neither can I," Buffy replied. "I think we're in a cave or something."

Closing his eyes, he let his game face come forth and extended his own senses. He could hear the sound of dripping water, the hardness of the rock under him, the moistness in the air. Opening his eyes, he let his features fall back to human and sighed. "I would say you're right, Slayer."

"Do you have your lighter on you?"

Spike nodded, then realized she couldn't see him and chuckled. "Of course, pet," he said, digging through his pocket. He flicked the familiar tab and a flame appeared, casting some light into the inky darkness. He looked up at her. "Well, hello, cutie. Long time, no see."

"Very funny," she said with a small smile on her face. "Have I ever told you how much I dislike you?"

"Why's that pet?"

"Bad things tend to happen when it comes to you," she replied.

He pushed himself to a sitting position, holding the lighter above their heads. "I seem to recall a few good things happening, too," he teased, before capturing her lips in a searing kiss, his other hand coming up to tangle in her hair and hold her to him. He didn't break away from her until he knew she needed to breathe. "I've been dying to do that for four bloody weeks."

"Uh, Spike? You're already dead," Buffy joked, breathlessly. He chuckled. Trying to compose herself, she peered at what she could see in the faint light from the lighter. "What's that on the ground next to you?"

Spike moved the lighter down by his side, the orange flame highlighting the smooth texture of the pile. "Bones," he said. "Human, I think."

Buffy shuddered. "Ugh."

The vampire leaned down for a closer inspection. "They've been here awhile, pet. See how the moisture has worn them smooth?" Spike said, moving the hand holding the lighter until he found the femur. "Take off your brassiere."

"What?" Buffy asked incredulously.

"Slayer, not that I'm not all for getting you naked and fucking you blind, but I was thinking more along the lines of using it to create a torch," Spike told her.

"But why my bra?" Buffy said, pulling one arm into her shirt and sliding the strap over it.

"The cloth is only going to last so long, pet and I don't fancy walking around here naked until we have to," he explained.

"Well, you're next," she replied, putting her hand up her left sleeve and pulling out the bra. He handed it to him, then giggled at the expression on his face in the dim light. "You were expecting a free show, weren't you?"

Wrapping the material around the bone, he set the flame to it and waited as it caught fire before answering her. "A vampire can only hope," he said with a grin. Holding the new torch aloft, he stuck the lighter back into the pocket of his blue jeans and surveyed where they were.

The walls of the cave were shiny with moisture, large stalactites dripping down onto the floor, creating rippled stalagmites that thrust from the earth like spires. The pile of bones turned into several piles scattered throughout the small enclosure, definitely human and almost all worn smooth with age. Off to the left was the only way out, beckoning to them, a black hole that could lead to anywhere. Lastly, a white envelope could be seen lying harmlessly in the middle of the rock floor.

"No, no, no, no, no," Buffy cried, reaching out for the envelope. "Not again." She opened it and pulled out the single, type-written sheet of paper. "Don't look, don't look, the shadows breathe…"

"The Cure," Spike said at her confusion over the words. He propped their make-shift torch in the eye socket of a skull, using a second one to keep it from tipping over.

Buffy nodded and continued reading. "The Game continues, Slayer. No competition, just you and your partner, pitted against the perils of the catacombs. Escape if you can."

"That's it?" Spike asked, taking the paper from her.

"That's it," she replied. "These have to be the same jerks who took plopped us on that island. We tried to figure out who they were, but the list of illegal games was too big, and we didn't have any specific clues to narrow it down."

"Well, it looks like we're in for another adventure, Slayer," he said, dropping the paper to the floor. "But first, I think there's a more pressing matter to attend to."

"What's that?" Buffy asked, looking up at him.

"This," he said, boldly pulling her onto his lap, his lips descending upon hers. She moaned into his mouth as her own hands encircled his neck, her fingers running through the back of his short blond hair. He had wanted their first time back together to be leisurely, loving, but she was reducing him to the likes of an inexperienced teenager, hungry for every inch of her, but unsure of where to begin.

Moving his mouth, he nipped and licked a path down her neck, stopping to suck on her ear lobe as she arched against his hands. She pushed the bomber jacket off of his shoulders until she couldn't push any farther, then let go and removed the long leather duster from her own as he teased the sensitive spot behind her ear with his tongue.

"Spike, please," Buffy gasped, grabbing the hem of her baby tee and yanking it over the top of her head. She wiggled against him, causing him to groan from deep in his chest. He quickly shed his own coat and T-shirt, then pulled her against him as he lay back on the discarded clothing, not noticing the hard rock pressing into his bare back. All his senses were focused on the warm body laying on top of him, the lips that were caressing his neck, the tongue that dipped into the hollow of his throat making him inhale sharply.

Spike's hands dove under the waistband of her cargo pants, pulling her tightly against him before moving his fingers between them to find her already wet and ready for him. "Slayer, now," he ground out as she brushed against his smooth chest, inciting him into near frenzy.

Buffy rolled off of him and kicked off her shoes, then removed the rest of her clothing as he did the same....

Breathing heavily, Buffy collapsed bonelessly on him, her forehead resting against the cool, moist rock of the floor, her chin on his shoulder. She could feel his fingers running lightly up and down her back and breathed a sigh of pleasure. "I missed you," she said quietly in his ear.

"I missed you, too, luv," Spike replied, his body calm for the first time in over a month. He kissed her shoulder softly, his arms wrapping around her waist to hug her tightly against him. "I missed you, too."



Part Seven




"It's a bloody good thing I decided to wear knickers," Spike said as he wrapped his boxers around another leg bone. He lit the material with his lighter, watching as the flames began their ascent, sending light into the darkness of the tunnel they were in.

They had been walking down the straight, rocky path for over an hour, with no turns or end in sight. Buffy was starting to wonder how they got into the room where they started out. "Are we ever going to get anywhere?" she complained. "This is getting annoying."

As if someone was listening, the tunnel suddenly opened up into a large cave. Holding the torch aloft, they peered around the rocky room cautiously. "Slayer, look," Spike said, pointing to several kerosene lanterns sitting on the ground. Buffy went and picked one up, shaking it slightly before handing it to him.

"Still full," she commented, choosing another one. "This one, too." The blond vampire went about lighting each of the lanterns she handed to him, until all ten were casting a soft glow around them. He put out the torch, and picked one up, intent on surveying the large cavern.

There were four separate tunnels leading off the room, not including the one they came from, along with a multitude of holes in the rock walls. "Which way should we go?" he asked, gesturing to the tunnels.

"Miney," Buffy suggested, pointing to the third one.

"Any particular reason?"

"In iney, meany, miney, moe; miney never gets picked," she told him with a serious expression on her face. She ruined it by bursting out into giggles.

Spike was about to say something when his keen hearing picked up a strange sound. He held up his hand, cocking his head to listen more intently.

Buffy shut up instantly, curious as to what he was doing. Then she heard it, too. The sound of clicking, as if a woman were walking in high heel shoes on a tiled floor. Carefully, she held the lantern she'd chosen up high, turning in a full circle as she tried to find where the noise was coming from. At first, she thought that the cave was creating an echo, but then she realized her error when five, large, metallic spider like creatures came out of the holes in the walls.

Her entire body shivered with the willies. "Nyagh."

"Look out, Slayer!" Spike yelled to her as he saw one running up behind her. She whipped around and threw the lantern at it in fright. It broke over the spider, the kerosene catching fire, igniting. A loud, high pitched squeal was heard as the creature continued to advance upon her.

Spike ran towards Buffy, kicking the spiders that were in his path. With one arm, he captured her around the waist and pulled her out of the way in the nick of time. The burning creature exploded where she had been, showering them with gore.

Buffy screeched in his ear, pounding on the vampire to put her down as more advanced upon them. As he set her on her feet, she passed him a stake, kicking one of the spiders with all her strength. Instead of it flying across the room, her sneaker clad foot sunk into its body. "Eeewwww!"

As the Slayer extracted her foot, Spike pounced on another one, ramming the stake in the middle of it's silvery back. The eight legs shot out straight and it collapsed onto the floor, twitching, the stake severing the nerves. Whirling, he brought arms up as one of the remaining creatures spindle like legs pierced his skin. He growled out in pain as he saw the underside of the spider, it's hideous looking, sucker like mouth coming towards him as the other legs tried to latch on to his chest.

"Its got my shoe," Buffy said as her stocking clad foot came out covered in black ooze. She dropped to her knees and plunged a stake into its back, just to make sure it was dead. She heard clicking behind her and dove forward, somersaulting over the body as the metallic spider attacked, one of its legs ripping the cuff of her pants.

Without stopping, the Slayer rolled to her feet, pulling another stake out of the pocket of the duster. She turned and threw it at the creature, hitting it squarely in what looked like a mass of black fish eggs, but it didn't stop advancing. Grimacing in disgust, she leapt over the spider towards the other kerosene lanterns as it came after her, looking like a deranged unicorn. She raised the object over her head and sent it crashing down upon its back, lighting it on fire like the first one.

Spike slammed the creature's back up against the wall just as it bit him. The body was crushed under the impact, splattering him in the face and chest with innards and black, fizzing ooze. Suddenly, he felt himself being tackled, falling roughly on the hard rock ground as another loud squeal filled the chamber, followed by the noise of a creature exploding.

"Oh, god," Buffy said, sliding off of Spike's body onto the ground. She brought a shaky hand off and wiped the black goo that had rubbed onto her off her face. She looked over at the vampire lying next to her on the ground and grimaced. His entire face and chest was coated with the slimy substance. She took out her panties, which she had not bothered to put back on, out of her pocket and used them to wipe the gore from him.

"Ow," Spike said after he was sure he wouldn't get any of the black stuff into his mouth. Sitting up, he removed his jacket and T-shirt to examine his arm. Buffy gasped when she saw the bleeding holes in his arm and chest from where the creature sunk its legs. There was also a ring of tiny teeth marks on his hand. "Slayer, did any of those things bite or scratch you?"

"No," Buffy replied, looking at him worriedly. "Why?"

"Poison," he answered, wiping his hand bleeding hand on his jeans.

"Will it…will it kill you?" she asked, her eyes wide and frightened.

"No," Spike said. "Just hurts like a bugger." He bend forward and took off his Doc Martens, then his socks. Carefully, he wiped at the wounds on his arm and chest, noting with relief that the bleeding was already coming to a stop. He looked up and gave her a cocky grin. "Well, that was fun."

Her mouth dropped open in shock. "Fun! Look at me! I'm covered in spider creature guts! This is worse than the time I was swallowed by the mama Bezoar!" She rolled to her feet and stomped over to one of the downed creatures. With a loud snort of disgust, she reached inside its belly and pulled out her sneaker. Giving Spike the evil eye, she turned the shoe over and heard the sickening plop as innards fell to the ground.

"Would it help if I said you look cute all covered in black slime?" Spike suggested as he put his boots back on.

The shoe hitting him in the side of the head was his answer.



Continues

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