Willow pressed two numbers. "Most people would say the answer was one and ten, but that would only be nine years. The ages are ˝ and 10 ˝," she told him. The door clicked and swung open.
"How did you get to be so smart?" Angel asked as he followed her into the next room.
"Years of having nothing to do on Friday nights but homework," she replied as they entered another bedroom. This one had a double bed and a single dresser, with the door located in the middle of the wall. On the dresser sat a globe with writing on it and a small refrigerator. She opened it up and noted four more brown bags. "Care for a bite?"
"Pardon?" Angel said from his position by the next door. There were two buttons this time - one labeled Sethian and one labeled Oronian.
"The food, as promised," Willow told him, opening a bag at random. She had left hers in the kitchen by accident. Pulling out the bottled water she took a long drink, then dug for the candy bar at the bottom. "Ooh, my favorite: Three musketeers."
Angel walked over to her and grabbed a bag as well. "Why is that your favorite?" he inquired, pulling out a bag of blood and holding it in his hand. *It wouldn't hurt to feed,* he thought.
"The three musketeers is what me, Jesse and Xander called ourselves a long time ago," she replied. "You never got to meet Jesse, did you?"
"No," he said, facing away from her and slipping into his game face. "Who was he?"
"He was our best friend," Willow said sadly. "He died the night of the Harvest. Vamped, then staked. I still miss him."
Angel finished and quickly wiped his mouth on his sleeve, putting the empty blood bag into the brown paper sack before facing her again. "I'm sorry."
"It's ok," she told him. "It doesn't hurt that much anymore. At least I still have Xander. Which reminds me, I wonder if they know we're missing."
"We haven't been gone that long," Angel said. "Were you planning on meeting him tonight?"
"No," Willow replied. "Buffy and I were having a girl's night out type thingy. Xander had a graduation party to go to for his cousin in Shelbyville."
"Didn't he get a party?" Angel asked, leaning against the dresser.
"No. I doubt his parents even remembered he graduated," she said, spinning the globe with her fingers. Then she noticed the words on the orb. "Oh, hey. Here's our next puzzle. Boy, this is a long one."
"Sock it to me, baby," he said. Willow arched an eyebrow at him and he grinned. "Just because I don't own a tv, doesn't me I haven't watched it. Now, read the clue."
"‘In a certain solar system, the sun has only two planets - Oron, inhabited by the Oronians, and Seth, inhabited by the Sethians. Both races are highly intelligent and able to travel from one planet to the other. The trouble is that whenever the inhabitants of either planet land on the other one, they become totally disoriented and all their beliefs are wrong. When they are back on their home planet, they are perfectly oriented again and all their beliefs are then correct. Now, an inhabitant from one of these two planets once believed that he was an Oronian who was then on Seth. Was he Oronian or Sethian?'"
Buffy looked up at Spike, noting that he was playing with a green stuffed frog. She started to laugh, making him raise his head. "What are you laughing at?"
"You," she replied.
"Oh, really?" he asked, raising his scarred brow.
"Yup," Buffy said, crawling across the floor to him. "Wanna know why?"
"‘Cuz you're so damn cute, surrounded by all these stuffed animals," she answered, kneeling up between his legs.
"This isn't solving the puzzle, luv," Spike said as he watched her under a half-lidded gaze.
"Relax, Spike. You're too tense," Buffy said, slowly running her hands from his jeans-clad knees up towards his hips. "And I know just how to relieve that tension."
"You do, do you?" he said, his voice dropping a sexy notch.
"I certainly do," she said seductively as her fingertips ran up under his faded blue T-shirt and along the waistband of his jeans. "Want me to show you?"
"By all means," he replied, then let his head fall against the back of the couch as she undid the fastenings on his pants and pulled them down just enough to expose him.
"Looks like somebody's a little stiff," Buffy laughed sensuously. "I'll guess I'll have to give you a massage."
"He was Sethian," Angel deducted. "Because if he was on Seth, he would have believed himself to be a Sethian. Therefore, he must be on Oron in order to think he was an Oronian on Seth."
"If Buffy were here, she'd say ‘huh'?" Willow joked as he walked over to the door and pressed the left button. The door clicked and swung open. "Luckily, to me, that made complete sense. The again, quantum physics makes sense to me."
"Willow, if anyone ever tells you that you are a nerd," Angel said. "Take it as a compliment. I'd rather be with a girl who had brains over beauty any day."
"Then what were you doing with Buffy?" Willow asked, then gasped and covered her mouth. "Oh, I can not believe I just said that!"
Angel chuckled as she blushed. "It's ok, Willow. I was wondering the same thing myself recently, especially in light of her being with Spike."
"Spike's not that bad. Well, he is, but only in a I'm-a-demon-killer-who-plans-to-drain-you- while-you-scream kinda way," she said in defense of Buffy. Then she shook her head and made a funny noise.
"Don't worry," he told her. "Nothing you can say about Spike would offend me, even in conjunction with Buffy. In fact, bash the bleached nut job as often as you want."
"Angel," Willow's eyes widened at his insult. "Such bad words." Her face shifted from one of surprise to one of perplexity. "Do you think the peroxide could have accidentally seeped into his brain, which is why he's with Buffy now?"
Angel laughed loudly, slumping against the door frame. "Willow, I think you staked the vampire right in the heart."
Willow grinned unabashedly. "You're coming up with some pretty good puns tonight," she said as she walked to his side to peer into the next room.
"Must be the company," he replied, calming down. He turned and focused on the next room as well. Stretched across the entire floor were two foot squares of various colors, like an odd checker board. Written across the opposite wall in large, flowing script was the clue.
"‘Somewhere over the rainbow,'" Willow read out loud. She looked down at the floor, then back at the wall, then down at the floor again. "What are the colors of the rainbow?"
"ROY G BIV," Angel said, examining the floor. "Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet."
"Hold my wrist," Willow said. "This time, I want to be prepared."
"What are you doing?"
"This," she said, carefully stepping onto the red square. It held. "Over the rainbow. ROY G BIV. We cross this room by following the colors in order." She took a step diagonally onto an orange square, pulling Angel onto the red one. "See?"
Their kisses turned from passionate to tender as they came down from their respective orgasms. Eventually, Spike pulled away from Buffy's soft lips to rest his forehead against hers as she caught her breath. "Maybe getting separated from Willow and Angel wasn't such a bad thing after all," Buffy said quietly.
Spike chuckled. "Indeed," he replied, kissing her lightly on the lips before pulling away from her completely. They redressed then sat together on the couch, Buffy curled up against his chest, her eyes drooping. "Tired, luv?"
"A little," she confessed, then yawned. "Ok, a lot. Someone kept me up too late last night."
"I wonder who that could have been?" Spike asked dryly. She smacked him on the leg, then snuggled closer to him. "Why don't you take a nap, Slayer?"
"But what about the puzzle?"
"I'll think about it while you sleep," he told her.
"‘K," Buffy replied, already drifting off. "Love you."
"I love you, too, Buffy," Spike said, resting his cheek against the top of her head. Soon they were both fast asleep.
"We have two choices," Angel said. "Door on the left or door straight ahead."
"There's nothing on the door to the left," Willow pointed out.
"I guess then it's straight ahead," he replied, moving to the door of yet another bedroom. "There are a bunch of pictures here. Several animals, including a human figure, and scenery."
"I guess we need to find the clue," she said, looking around. She spotted a small music box out on the dresser and went over to it. Music played as she opened it to find a scrap of paper. "This song sounds familiar. Something that my parents used to listen to."
"I don't recognize it," Angel told her as he took the paper from her hand. "Then again, I didn't start really listening to music until I met up with Whistler when Buffy was called. And he had awful taste." He unfolded the scrap as she closed the box. "‘I Went To The Desert On A Horse With No Name. Who Did I Go With?'"
"That's the song!" Willow exclaimed excitedly. He frowned in confusion. "A Horse With No Name, by America. My parents argued about the meaning of the song for hours." She suddenly slapped his arm. "That's it!"
"What's it?" Angel said, completely lost.
"The puzzle. ‘Who did I go with?'" Willow replied. "I never thought my parents analyzing everything would come in so handy. I'll have to thank them. If they ever come home, that is. I don't think I've seen my dad in months. And my mom! Only in passing and only if I am in the living room at precisely 6:07 p.m. when she gets home from work. But, you probably don't care about that. You probably just want to know the answer, right?"
"Maybe I'd rather listen to you talk, instead," Angel said. "I think that's the most you've said to me since I returned."
"It is?" Willow said. "Oh, I'm sorry."
"I didn't mean for you to feel excluded," she answered. "You're my friend and I'm glad you're back to your old self. Before the new self, which is now the old self because you changed again, which, technically would be the new self. Unless we classify it as the new new self. Or maybe the old self to the old old self..."
"Oh!" Willow blushed. "Sorry. Press the person."
Angel did as requested and the door clicked and opened. He looked at her questioningly. "I don't get it."
"That's because your parents probably weren't as strange as mine," Willow said. "Take apart the sentence, like you're diagramming it."
"I went to the desert on a horse with no name," Angel said. "Three sets of prepositional phrases. I can omit any of them and still have a complete sentence that makes sense."
"Right. Omit the second one and you'll see why I picked the person," she said.
"I went to the desert with no name," he stated. "Oh, brother. That's pretty bad. ‘No Name' is the name of someone."
"Yup," Willow said. "Like a Native American name. My parents discussed this point for hours."
"Willow, I think I feel sorry for you," Angel said, shaking his head. "Shall we continue?"
Willow walked over to him and looked through the door. Inside was a relatively empty room, with only a grandfather clock on one wall and a free-standing statue on the other. She raised her eyes to meet his and gave him a small smile. "Hickory Dickery Doc?"
Angel chuckled. "Could be," he said, stepping across the threshold. He went over to the clock as Willow went to the statue. Behind the door, he could see a piece of paper attached to the pendulum. He grasped the small, ornate knob and pulled.
Whirling in panic, Angel was able to catch a glimpse of red hair as the hacker fell through a trap door that opened beneath her feet. He ran and dove for the hole, laying down and sticking his head inside to search for her. "Willow!"
"Angel? I'm down here!" Willow called up to him. She could see him against the light coming through the open trap door.
"Are you hurt?"
"No, I landed on something soft. I think it's a big mattress," she yelled back.
"Hold on a second and I'll read the clue to see if there's a way to get you out," he called down. Standing, Angel rushed back over to the clock and grabbed the note. In his haste, he also latched onto the weight chain that hung behind the pendulum. He heard his fate before it actually occurred and could only go with the flow as the floor beneath him gave way and he found himself falling.
He landed and rolled with the impact on the softness. Right into Willow.
"Oof!" Willow got out as Angel crashed into her. She fell back onto the mattress and groaned.
"Willow, are you ok?" Angel asked worriedly, his game face coming forth so he could see better.
"Could you remove your elbow from my ribs?" Willow replied. He did immediately and she sighed. "Thanks."
"Are you ok?" he repeated.
"Yes, Angel, ‘I'm fine. We're all fine here now,'" she quoted, pushing herself to a sitting position, then looking up at the open dual trap doors. "Now, how the hell are we supposed to get back up there?"
"I don't think we can," Angel replied, rolling to a sitting position as well. "There's probably a door out of here, if we can find it."
"At least we have some light," Willow said. "I don't think I could stand being in the pitch black. Why is it called 'pitch black,' anyway? Isn't black black enough?"
He chuckled quietly, relived that she was alright. "I have no idea, Willow," he said, pushing to his feet and heading for one of the walls. He began to feel around for a door.
"I think it's the American language, which is way different than English," she said, joining him in his search of the walls. "We make up too many slang words and...well, words, period." She felt a crack and made a small sound of geeker joy. "Found the door."
He went to her side and felt around the edges to where she indicated. "No knob, though. And it swings inward towards us."
"Then how do we open it?"
"I don't know," he replied, his face returning to human to settle into a frown. "I really don't know."
Spike woke first, his body letting him know he was hungry. Remembering Buffy had stashed a bag of blood in the pocket of his leather duster, he managed to snag it with the top of his boot and bring it within reach.
After feeding, he tossed the empty bag and dug out a cigarette from the pocket of his jeans. He hadn't worn his bomber jacket, even after it had been thoroughly cleaned from the carnage of the last Game they played. He frowned as he lit the smoke with one hand, not wanting to disturb the still-sleeping Slayer. He was getting tired of these escapades he kept finding himself in. Granted, he wouldn't trade the first one because that's what brought him and the Slayer together, but the last one and now this could be wadded and shoved up someone's hole. Especially this one.
He'd never been considered too smart in the book learning department. He was mostly street smart. After two centuries of living, he did pick up one or two things from reading, but he preferred to leave the intellectual stuff to vampires like Dalton. He still missed that nerd from time to time. He could play a mean game of poker.
*Speaking of games,* Spike thought, turning his attention on the door across the room. *How the bloody hell are we going to get through this one?* He felt Buffy stir and blew the cigarette smoke up in the air before kissing the top of her head. "Morning, pet."
"Hey," she said sleepily. "Is it morning already?"
"Don't know, don't care," he replied. "Although I bet it is, seeing as I was hungry when I woke up."
Buffy's stomach growled in agreement. "I really need to start wearing a watch again," she said, searching through the pocket of the duster still on his lap. She pulled out the paper lunch bag and dug through its contents for the sandwich. "So, have you figured out the answer yet?"
"Can't say that I have," he answered, taking another drag as she ate. "Maybe if we set up the problem."
"Well, we have enough bloody stuffed animals to start an army," Spike replied. "We'll chose two and put them in the situation." He looked down at the piece of paper he'd retrieved from next to him on the couch. "One facing east, the other facing west."
"Which way is east and west?" Buffy asked, picking up the stuffed frog Spike had been playing with earlier and moving.
"That wall will be east," he answered. He set down a stuffed bear facing opposite hers, to the ‘west', so they were back to back. "Now, how can they see each other?"
"I know!" Buffy suddenly exclaimed. "What if the frog was facing west and the bear was facing east?" She moved and turned the two animals around. "They end up facing each other!"
Spike paused and looked at her. "Is it me, or do you feel bloody idiotic not getting that right away?"
"Yup, we're idiots alright," Buffy agreed as she walked over to the door and turned the knobs until both camels were facing each other. One was upside down, but the door clicked and opened anyway. "And as head of Idiots Anonymous, I shall allow you to enter first."
Spike grabbed the duster and the lunch bag off the couch before entering what turned out to be a music room. A baby grand piano sat in one corner and shelves upon shelves of music filled the rest of the room except for a small refrigerator and the door on the wall to the left.
Buffy followed him in and was surprised when he suddenly shoved the coat and bag in her hands, then crushed out his cigarette and moved to the piano. She walked towards him as he sat on the black bench and raised the lid covering the keys. Her brow raised as she saw him run his fingers lightly over the keys, not depressing them, a small smile on his face. Curious, she waited, seating herself on the floor near him. She was glad she did.
From the first chord, the Slayer was swept away. She watched, fascinated, as his fingers began dancing over the ivory keys, making the piano sing. His eyes were closed, that smile still on his face as he swayed slightly in time with the music. The song itself was unfamiliar, but hauntingly beautiful, rising and falling in tempo and sound.
She sat, transfixed, as the song continued, stirring something within her. She hadn't known he could play, didn't know how he found the patience to learn, but was infinitely glad that he did. The music he caressed from the strings being hit by the keys was exquisite, moving, heart breaking. Tears were streaming down her cheeks from both the song and the man who brought it to life when the last chord faded into the room.
"Why are you crying, luv?" Spike asked quietly, not wanting to break the peaceful hush in the room.
Instead of answering, she stood and walked over to him. With both tenderness and passion, she pressed her lips to his, the saltiness of her tears blending into the kiss. When it ended, their eyes met and Spike felt that wonderful calm settle over his body, as well as a wave of love. "I love you so bloody much, Buffy," he whispered, pulling her down on the bench beside him.
"I know," she whispered in reply before her mouth was captured again.
Willow and Angel both wept shamelessly as the music came to an end. It wasn't coming from nearby, but it was still loud enough for them to hear and be carried away by the beauty of the song.
"I wonder who played that," Willow said after composing herself slightly. "It was wonderful."
"I don't know," Angel replied. "Buffy doesn't know how to play, does she?"
"No," she replied. "How about Spike?"
"Spike? That's a laugh," he answered. "Why would a demon learn to play the piano? He didn't do it when I ran with him all those years ago."
"Maybe there's another person in the house. Or it was a recording," she said. "It probably was a recording."
"Yeah, you're probably right," Angel agreed. "Too bad, though. It was heart rending."
Willow nodded. Their eyes had gotten use to the dim light coming from the trap doors and could see pretty clearly, especially since they'd been stuck in there for over fifteen hours. The room was the exact size of the one above them, with a queen-sized mattress on the floor in the center and a drain in one corner. The hacker had been using it to relieve herself, much to both their embarrassment. Finally, the only way out seemed to be the door. They both had a feeling that this was the way some of the members of the last team to make it this far died - locked in a room with no food or water and no escape.
They both could only hope Buffy and Spike found them.
"When did you learn to play?" Buffy asked, pulling out the apple and biting into it.
"Started in the 1920's. Drusilla heard a certain song and she wanted me to play it for her. Cor, it took me ten years to get past the bloody basics. I killed a lot of teachers over that time in my frustration. One of them was this really skinny bloke, like Ichabod Crane in the Disney Halloween Special. Dressed like him to, he did. Of course, that's how artsy mortals dressed in those days, especially in England. I don't know about American fashion, we didn't come here until after the second war. War is wonderful for vampires, pet. All that death and destruction, blood and fear. Dru loved it. She would dance among the corpses, like a dark-headed goddess..."
Buffy grinned into her apple, nodding as she listened to him. Many would think she should be jealous of Drusilla and his obvious love for her, even though they were no longer together, but Buffy wasn't. Drusilla had been part of his unlife for close to 150 years, and he loved her for just as long. If he didn't speak of her with fondness and love, Buffy would be scared, because that would mean he really was just a demon.
"Well bob's your uncle, there's the next clue," Spike suddenly said in the midst of his rambling, pointing to the underside of the upraised piano lid. He wouldn't have noticed it if he hadn't had leaned forward to look at the strings and hammers. "‘Sing us a song, you're the piano man. Sing us a song tonight. Well, we're all in the mood for a melody and you've got us feeling all right. What time is it?'"
"What?" Buffy asked, confused. "What time is it?"
"It's part of the song, ducks," he replied, starting to play the familiar tune. His voice, when he began to sing, ran down Buffy's spine, making her shiver. "It's 9:00 on a Saturday, the regular crowd shuffles in, there's a beautiful woman sitting next to me, making love would not be a sin. She said ‘Love, will you play me a memory, I'm not really sure how it goes. But it's sad and it's sweet and I knew it complete, when I wore a younger girls clothes.'"
"That's not how the song goes," she said with a giggle over the piano.
"Now, Buffy is a Vampire Slayer, who likes to get into a fight. And she's in love with demon, which is beyond reason, and probably will be for life," Spike continued to sing with his made up words. "La la la, did di da. La la did di da, da dum..."
Buffy clutched her sides as she laughed. Eventually, he finished the song with a flourish of notes, then stood and took a mock bow. In response, she hammed it up with applause, whistling loudly and yelling. It took them a good ten minutes to calm down after that. When they finally did, Spike planted a hard kiss on her lips, then pressed the correct button on the door.
The room was an old fashioned smoking room, with a long bar on one wall, dark furnishings and antique ash trays. The next door was to the right, with the numbers zero through eight on it. Spike walked over to the bar and was pleasantly surprised to see full bottles of liquor behind it. "Care for a spot, pet?"
"For a what?" Buffy asked, looking around for the next clue. He held up a bottle of Jack Daniels. "No, I don't drink. Ever...again."
"Why's that?" Spike said as he poured himself a glass full.
"I went to this frat party with Cordelia, oh, it must have been only a few weeks after you came to Sunnydale. Anyway, I went because I was mad at Angel because he didn't even want to get coffee with me, and they drugged the one drink I had. Turns out Cordelia and I were to be sacrificed to this ugly snake god called Malika or Maraschino or something," she told him as she bent to take a closer look at a pair of horse statues that flanked the door they had just come through.
"Did you ever get that coffee?" he asked, the alcohol burning a fiery trail down his chest.
"No, I played hard to get," she replied with a grin. "It kinda worked, too, except I almost blew it by dressing up as a noble woman for Halloween and, well, you remember what happened."
"I almost killed you," Spike said. "And do you want to know why?"
"Because you're a master vampire who likes to eat Slayers for breakfast?"
"Eat out a certain Slayer, maybe," he replied with a leer. "But the real reason was because you were a sniveling wuss. Gone was everything that made you...you. It was bloody awful."
Buffy picked up the piece of paper she found under the hoof of one of the horses. "You mean you had a thing for me way back then?"
"Not telling," Spike said with a wink. He poured another glass and moved out from behind the bar, sitting down in one of the green, high backed chairs. "What's the puzzle?"
"‘A certain sheik named Hassan had eight horses. Four of them were white, three were black, and one was brown. How many of Hassan's horses can each say that it is the same color as another one of Hassan's horses?'"
"More math," he groaned.
Buffy walked over and sat on a second, matching chair. "‘I have a bad feeling about this,'" she quoted, swinging her legs up over the arm of the chair. "Did you know that four main characters of the Star Wars trilogy said that as some point?"