Master of Puppets


by Saber ShadowKitten
Series: The Game, story 7



Part Five




"We only have little more than half an hour until we get picked up." Angel's voice seemed to echo, despite the quietness of his voice, when the silence was finally broken. He removed his hand from Spike's grasp and rolled out of the bed. "I'm going to take a shower," he told them as he gathered his clothing, then left the room.

Spike felt immediately bereft after his sire had left. He felt bare, exposed, unprotected without the older vampire behind him. He raised his head to look at Buffy and rolled onto his back, still deep inside of her. He went to pull the tank top over her head, but found that his left hand was bandaged up tightly, preventing him from doing so. He frowned at the offending appendage as she sat up and yanked the clothing up over her head.

Buffy caught his eyes again, then lowered herself down as she began to move her hips, capturing his mouth with her own. Soon, they were both caught up in the slow, ageless rhythm, their tongues entwined in a lover's dance, until they fell silently into orgasm.

Afterward, Spike held Buffy closely to him, listening to the steady beat of her heart and whispered, "I love you, Buffy. No matter what, remember that I love you."


*****


The ride to the gaming complex in Chesterton was made in silence, save for the rhythmic bouncing of Spike's leg. Xander had driven Willow and Faith, and Cordelia had gone separately, leaving Giles to chauffeur the two vampires and Buffy. He had borrowed one of the school vans for the trip, covering most of the windows with black construction paper just in case.

"There don't seem to be any lights on," Willow commented as the group stood together in the parking lot.

"Well, Motel 6 it isn't," Xander replied.

"There are other cars here, though," Buffy pointed out. "Don't know if that's a good thing or not."

"I guess we'd better go inside," Angel said, studying the large, warehouse-like building. "Everyone armed?"

As quietly as a group of eight that included Cordelia could be, they made their way over to the front doors and went inside. The entryway was completely bare save for a free-standing sign that had one light over it. "Welcome players," Buffy read out loud. "Slayer team go right; opposing team go left. Enjoy your stay."

"How nice of them," Faith said sarcastically as she looked down the hallway to the right. "Do you think we'll get those little chocolates on our pillows, too?"

"Only one way to find out," Buffy said, leading the troops down the right hall.

The hall opened up to a room with a single refrigerator and multiple outlets in the walls. There were no windows in the room but four doors, two of which were marked as the men's and ladies' restrooms. The third door led to another hallway with multiple small rooms off of it, which the group deduced to be the old offices. The fourth door opened up to reveal the center of the gaming complex, which was well-lit and huge.

And covered with large, bi-colored squares, like a giant chess board.

"You don't see Death lurking around, do you?" Xander asked as he followed Buffy and Spike out into the main room.

As the commentary went on behind them, the Slayer and the Vampire approached what looked like a computerized, gaming console. Attached to the screen was the expected white envelope, and Buffy gave Spike a look before picking it up and opening it. "Guys, you need to listen here," she raised her voice to quiet the others. When she had their attention, she went on. "Angel and Willow already know what this letter means, but for the rest of you, it contains the basic instructions for the game and how to win."

She made sure everyone was listening, then unfolded the letter. "‘Come crawling faster, obey your master,'" she read and looked over at Spike.

"Metallica," Spike replied to the unasked question. "Master of Puppets."

She nodded and continued, "‘Obey your master, players, or death will be your consequences. The master controls the action, the winner is up to you. So, choose your king wisely, for your lives are in his hands.'"

"What does it mean?" Willow asked.

"I s-suspect it has something to do with, er, chess," Giles said. He gestured to the large board on the floor. "It said to choose your king and that-that computer thing is in the white king's square."

Xander walked in front of Buffy and looked at the monitor. "It's a computerized chess game," he told the others. He moved the mouse pointer on ‘help' and clicked. "Hey, check it out, ladies and germs. ‘This is a live action chess game, where the king controls the movement of the other chess ‘pieces.' The board is recreated on the screen, allowing the king to see the entire field of play. Eight robotic pawns have been provided for you.'"

"Fascinating," Giles commented.

"‘Rules of play: To capture an opposing piece, the challenger for the square makes the first strike. If the challenger defeats the opponent, he moves to that square. If the challenger loses, the opponent may chose to move to the challenger's square or stay in his own. There will be a five-minute break between each challenge to clean up the bodies,'" Xander read.

"Why am I thinking this is not a good thing?" Faith said, looking out over the empty chess board.

"‘Each round of play will last four hours with a two-hour break in between,'" the dark-haired teen continued. "‘Other game rules: no one is to leave the field of play except for file one or eight until the break and then you can only go to your team's respective rooms; attempting to cross the field of play during the break will result in forfeiture; no one can leave the building once the game starts; food and medical supplies are located in the refrigerators; the game starts precisely at midnight.'"

They all stood silently for a moment, contemplating what Xander read. Cordelia was the one to break the silence. "Does this mean I'm stuck with you guys until whenever the game is finished?"

"Yes, I am afraid so," Giles replied.

"Then I'm getting some things from my car," Cordelia said as she turned to go. "I'm going to need something to do that doesn't require talking to you guys."

"You know, the Bitch Queen has a point," Faith said. "Xand, key me. I'm gonna get my walkman and some tunes from your car."

"Will you get my backpack, too?" Willow asked the brunette Slayer.

"Will do, Red," Faith replied, then left as well.

"I suppose we should pick who will be king," Giles said, removing his glasses to clean them. "I know a bit about chess, but I haven't played since I was a boy."

"I can play," Xander said.

"I know the rules, but I never actually played before," Willow said. "What about you, Angel?"

"I said, I can play," Xander repeated.

"Chess was never my game," Angel replied. He looked over at Spike. "What about you?"

"Hello? Can you hear me talking here?" Xander said.

"Yeah, right," Spike replied to Angel. "It took me ten years to learn to play the piano, and that wasn't boring like chess is."

"You play the piano?" Willow asked, her mind turning. "It was you playing at the house! Angel, it was Spike! You were so good. We thought it was a recording."

Spike shrugged the compliment off, looking instead around the room. He suddenly stiffened and froze, his entire body tense. Angel saw this and quickly walked over to his side. "What is it?"

"I guess that you do not know how to-to play, either, Buffy," Giles said. Buffy arched a brow at him, her back to the two vampires. "I figured as much."

"What about Faith or Cordelia?" Willow suggested.

"She's here," Spike answered Angel, his right hand clenching into a fist, the left still bandaged tightly and hanging uselessly at his side. His blue eyes darted around the empty room. "That bloody bitch is here."

"I doubt either of them know how to play," Buffy replied to Willow's question.

"Ok, people, am I invisible?" Xander said, moving in front of Willow and waving his hands.

"Xander, what are you doing?" Willow asked. "We have a serious problem here." She turned to Giles. "Maybe if we worked together..."

"Are you sure?" Angel said, putting his hand on Spike's shoulder.

Spike looked up at the taller vampire, fear and anger in his eyes. "Yes, I'm bloody well certain, you sod," he replied. His body tensed up further, the adrenaline rushing under his skin as tendrils of her whispers invaded his mind. "No," he ground out, putting his right hand to his forehead, trying to prevent her voice from affecting him.

"I KNOW HOW TO PLAY!" Xander suddenly shouted, causing everyone to jump.

In startled reaction, Spike's demon face came to the foreground and he growled loudly. He reached out and grabbed Buffy's hair, yanking her roughly around to face him. Her yelp of pain was cut off as his mouth descended upon hers viscously, his fangs cutting into her lips as he plunged his tongue between them. He broke the kiss, his yellow eyes flashing, and practically dragged her into the other room by her hair.

"Isn't anyone going to stop them?" Xander finally asked when they heard the door to the hall with the offices slam.

"They're fine," Angel said reassuringly. "Now, did you say that you knew how to play?"

Spike slammed Buffy up against the wall, causing her to gasp as the breath was knocked out of her. His mouth crushed against hers again as he shed his duster, letting it fall to the dirty floor. He grabbed the waistband of her shorts and panties, then pulled them down as far as he could without breaking away from her mouth. His good hand immediately sought her heat and he thrust two fingers into her as he raised his foot to shove her shorts and panties the rest of the way to the floor.

"Yeah," Xander replied, looking over at the doorway the couple had gone through.

"You do?" Willow said. "Since when?"

"Since you hooked me up with a computer," he answered. "I play online."

"What is your, er, standing?" Giles asked, long forgotten terminology coming to mind.

Spike freed his hard cock then rubbed it against Buffy's dark curls, his mouth moving from her mouth to her neck. His fangs sliced the skin as she wrapped her legs around his waist. He positioned himself, then slammed into her fully, her lower back banging against the wall. He set a furious pace, growling and biting at her skin as she held on for dear life.

"Master," Xander replied. "At least, in the arenas I play in."

"My word, Xander," Giles said. "That is-is-is astounding."

"And kinda freaky," Willow said. Xander looked hurt, and she quickly added, "I meant that with this game we need a ‘master' and you're a-a Master. Why didn't you tell me?"

Xander shrugged. "It's just something I do when everyone else is busy and I want to hide from my parents," he replied. "Nothing big about it."

"Well, Xander, I think it's wonderful," Giles told him. He gestured to the computer console. "I guess you should, er, familiarize yourself with that-that-that machine."

"Will do, big kahuna," Xander replied.

Buffy clawed at the back of Spike's neck as her lower back was constantly banged against the wall. He had sliced the skin of her upper chest and was gripping her buttocks painfully with one hand, the other just supporting her as he slammed in and out of her. She cried out as an orgasm as violent as he was tore through her body, her legs squeezing his waist in a death grip. Spike snarled loudly and ripped a bit of skin off from above her breast, causing her blood to flow freely as he latched his mouth over the wound.

Willow saw Angel stiffen suddenly, then relax again. "What is it?" she asked, concern winning over her nervousness around him.

"It's nothing," Angel replied. She gave him her ‘I'm not dropping this until you tell me, buster' look. "I, uh, heard Buffy...er..."

"Oh!" Willow said, her face reddening as she understood what he meant. The blush deepened as her mind brought up the memories of her and Angel and she quickly turned her attention to Xander, who was sitting behind the computer.

Angel closed his eyes briefly and swallowed. His mind had also brought up the memories when he realized why Buffy was crying out. He wanted nothing more than to grab the redhead and cart her off much as Spike did the Slayer and bury himself in her sweetness. "I'm going to go and...," he trailed off with a wane smile and left the main room.

Spike shot his dead seed deep within Buffy's core as her blood flowed over his tongue. He held her captive against the wall until she lowered her legs from around his waist. Raising his head, his yellow eyes met her hazel ones and he read confusion and slight fear in hers. Forcing the human mask back over his features, he stepped away from her and readjusted his clothing.

Buffy bent and quickly put her panties and shorts back on, then looked down at her chest and tank top. Both were covered with blood and scratches, most of which were already healing. She raised her eyes to his again and saw that his held tears. She stepped forward and opened her arms, pulling him into a tight embrace. "Hey, it's going to be ok," she cooed, misunderstanding the reason behind his tears. "It's just a little blood. It's not like you haven't done this before. I'll heal."

Spike just held her close, not really hearing her, as he forcefully pushed away Drusilla's delighted laugher, still echoing in his head.



Part Six




Buffy had disappeared into the ladies' restroom with Spike's red button-down shirt in order to wash the blood out of her tank top. The blond vampire stood uncertainly in the doorway leading to the offices, his blue eyes flitting around the room, not focusing on anything in particular. His hands were deep in the pockets of his duster, holding the material close around him as if for protection.

Cordelia came into the room from the hall that led to the outside, took one look at him and sniffed disdainfully before venturing out to the main gaming room. Faith trekked in a moment later, a backpack and a duffel bag slung over her shoulder, walkman in her hand. She was singing along to the music, her voice harsh, yet strangely melodic to Spike's ears.

"I am the city, I am the park, I am the ground and the mother-fucking dog. I am shocked and deceived. I don't want to believe no more. No more. No more," Faith sang. She dropped the duffel bag onto the floor and bent to dig something out of it. "Golgotha tenement, city of souls. Give me your down and your wicked and your dollar whores. Turn on your brother, the children are sold. The people wait for streets of gold, streets of gold. No more. I am the chosen one. I am the chosen one."

She stood and faced him, then tossed a pack of cigarettes at him. With a wink, she went into the main room, her voice fading as she sang. "I am the chosen one. I am the chosen one...."

"Spike," Angel said, coming out of the men's restroom where he had decided to hide in order to collect his raging hormones. He went over to the blond vampire who stood staring down at the pack of cigarettes in his hand. "Hey, are you home in there?"

Spike raised his eyes to his sire, the orbs full of pain and rage. Then, he did something completely uncharacteristic, something that went against the very grain of everything that made him who he was -- but his world was so askew, it didn't matter anymore. With a choked noise that could have been a sob, he stepped forward and wrapped his arms around the older vampire, pressing his face into Angel's chest as he tried to stop the images in his mind.

Angel was surprised, but he responded immediately by holding Spike close, as a father would his child. "I won't let her get to you, Spike," he said quietly, feeling the younger vampire trying to stifle his crying. "Buffy won't either. We'll protect you."

"I didn't tell her," Spike said. "I don't want her to know. I don't want her to know. I don't want her to know. I don't want her to know..." He repeated the sentence over and over, his voice growing softer and softer.

"Shh, it'll be ok, Spike," Angel comforted. "I won't tell Buffy. But I really think you should. She loves you and can help..."

"No," he replied, pushing away from Angel roughly and wiping his face with the back of his bandaged hand. "I won't drag her into this crap with Dru."

Angel sighed. "Very well," he said. "Why don't you go outside for awhile, let the fresh air help clear your head. I'll come get you before the game starts."

Spike nodded and glanced at the ladies' restroom door, then walked past his sire towards the exit. Once outside, he walked over to Xander's car and sat on the hood, lighting up a cigarette from the pack Faith gave him. Then he stared up into the night sky, the stars obstructed by the heavy, dark clouds that had prevailed all day yesterday and today. The same clouds that had prevented him from killing himself.

Head like a hole
Black as your soul
I'd rather die
Than give you control

One part of him was glad that he failed in that attempt, the part that held Buffy reverently, that cherished each moment with her sunlight. The rest of him, however, cursed the sky and the weather and Drusilla for having some sort of hold over him. He didn't remember too much of what had happened the day before, only that he had gone into the sewers and tried to force Dru from his mind. He supposed that was how he hurt his hand, which he still couldn't feel. He only wished the rest of him couldn't feel.

Bow down before the one you serve
You're going to get what you deserve
Bow down before the one you serve
You're going to get what you deserve


*****


Angel walked back into the main room where the giant chess board was set up to see Faith dancing around to music only she could hear. Xander was engrossed in the computer console while Cordelia sat cross-legged by the wall, reading a magazine. Giles and Willow were both kneeling on the floor across from each other, an open book next to them and spell components between them.

His eyes traveled over the redhead and she raised her eyes as if she sensed him looking at her. She cocked her head as if asking him what was wrong, and he shook his in return, letting her know that he'd tell her later. As she went back to working with Giles, he marveled at the fact that he could easily communicate with her without words. He didn't know if that was a good thing or not.

Walking up behind Xander, being sure to make noise so he didn't scare the teen, he put his hand on the back of the chair and looked at the screen. "How's it going, Xander?"

"Ok," Xander replied, closing one screen and opening another. "I've been able to piece together what exactly I have to do. It's kind of a cross between regular chess and that scene from Star Wars, when Chewbacca and R2 are playing that whacked-out chess game and C-3PO says: ‘I suggest a new strategy, R2. Let the Wookie win.'" He pulled up the starting board and gestured to it. "You guys are going to be the ‘royalty' on the board and I control your movements by telling you, well, where to move. The object is to put the other king in checkmate, just like normal chess. The king seems to be the only one who won't get his butt kicked at any time in the game."

"Sounds like fun," Angel said. He glanced behind him to see Buffy enter the room wearing Spike's red shirt buttoned up to the neck. "Let us know when you want to explain more."

"Aye, aye, Deadboy," Xander replied.

Angel shook his head and went over to the blond Slayer. "Where's Spike?" Buffy asked immediately.

"I sent him outside," Angel replied. "How bad are the bites?"

"Bites? Um, well..."

"Buffy-"

Buffy sighed and unbuttoned the top two buttons, showing him her slightly ripped up chest. Long, red slices ran from her collarbones down to the tops of her breasts. A raw patch that looked like a cross between an abrasion and a scrape was on the top curve of her right breast and he could see fang marks around the wound. "Seen enough?" Buffy said sarcastically.

"I just wanted to make sure he didn't hurt you," Angel replied. "He's not entirely in control of himself."

"Why? You didn't get a chance to tell me earlier," she said, re-buttoning the shirt. "Is it something that I did?"

"No," he said. "It was nothing that you did."

"Then what?"

"He just has a few things on his mind," Angel semi-lied. "It's not really my place to tell you. All I can say is to be there for him."

"I will always be there for him," Buffy said.

"Guys, I need everyone over here," Xander announced, breaking into the conversation.

"Why don't you go get Spike," Angel told her. "And make sure you tell him you love him. He really needs to hear it." Buffy gave him a confused look, then turned and left. As he watched her go, he quietly added, "He needs to hear it more than you can know, Buffy."


*****


"First I need to now how many of you have any inkling of how to play chess," Xander began. Angel, Willow, Giles and, surprisingly, Faith all raised their hands. Buffy held Spike's good hand and shrugged while the blond vampire stared off into space. Cordelia stood with her arms crossed, a peeved look on her face. "Alright, I'm going to do a quick rundown of the board, so when I give you directions, you can follow them."

He turned and gestured to the giant board. "The rows going across the board are called ranks. Each square is labeled ‘a' through ‘h' starting in the bottom, left corner. The rows going up and down the board are called files. Each square is given a number, one through eight, starting again with the bottom, left corner. So this square," he said, walking over and standing in said bottom, left corner square. "Is ‘a1.'" He took a step to his right. "This is ‘b1,' this is ‘c1' and so on."

He walked back over to the group and continued. "Each side has eight pawns and eight ‘royalty.' There are two rooks, or castles; two knights; two bishops; a queen; and a king. Now, I've decided that I want Buffy as the white queen, since that is the most powerful piece on the board. Deadboy, you and junior are to be the rooks, with you on a1. Willow, you and Cordy are the knights. I'm putting you between Angel and Giles, who is the bishop. Faith, you're the other bishop, next to me."

"Do we get to wear those pointy hats?" Faith asked with a grin.

Xander ran a hand through his recently shorn hair. "No hats. But, you do get weapons. I have no clue who's on the other side, but my guess is they aren't going to be pretty. Probably vampires, demons and other things that like to carve humans up and use their bones as toothpicks."

"Giles and I have cast a protection spell over everyone," Willow said, then glanced at Angel. "Well, not everyone, because it doesn't work on vampires. Sorry."

"The spell won't, er, protect you from danger," Giles said. "But it will offer a-a bit of extra help against whatever you are fighting, especially magick users."

"Let's see, what else? Oh, if you capture a pawn, I guess the piece just disappears. No fighting required. The only other thing I can think of is that you can move off the board only when you are in file one. Once moved somewhere else on the board, you have to stay there until the break," Xander said. "Are there any questions?"

"Yeah, why is my life in your hands?" Cordelia said. "Your knowing what you are doing is like saying that Drusilla wasn't a psycho."

Spike's head shot around to stare at the brunette, his hand squeezing Buffy's tightly. "Ow, Spike," Buffy said, grabbing his arm. "You're hurting my hand."

"Bloody hell," Spike cursed, loosening his grip. He went to run his other hand through his hair, but when he saw the white bandage he growled, dropped Buffy's hand and proceeded to rip the material off.

"Spike," Angel said sharply, his tone making everyone else look at him in surprise. "Stop it."

"But-"

"Now," Angel stated, as he crossed to the blond in two strides. He grabbed Spike's left arm above the wrist and held it tightly. Spike's eyes flashed in defiance, then lowered submissively when a warning growl came from deep within Angel's chest. He dropped his childe's arm and turned to see the others staring at him with confusion or trepidation. "Sorry. Go on, Xander."

"Um, yeah," Xander said. "There's nothing really more to say, other than where's the food, because I'm hungry."

The teen's joke broke the small bit of tension and everyone but Willow and Spike left the main room to raid the refrigerator. Spike stayed at Angel's side, staring at the bandage on his hand as the redhead looked questioning at the older vampire. "Angel, what's going on?" she asked, letting her concern override her feelings of unease.

Angel took her arm and led her off to the side, away from the blond vampire who did not even notice that they'd gone. "It's Drusilla," he answered, unable to lie to her. "She's messing with his mind."

"That's not good," Willow said, secretly pleased that he still held her arm. "Not good at all."

"No, it's not," he replied. "You may hear or see me do a few things that are...very vampire-like, for lack of better term. I'm still me, though, so don't be afraid."

"I won't," she said. "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Unless you know some spell that can block Drusilla from his mind, no," Angel said. He glanced back at Spike, who had started to pace back and forth and was chewing on his right thumbnail. "But can you sort of warn the others without alerting them to the problem. Spike doesn't want Buffy to know, for some dumb reason."

"Ok," Willow replied. She gave him a small smile. "Look. We're talking. With words and not uncomfortable silences."

Angel smiled back at her. "Looks that way," he replied. "I like it."

"Me, too," she answered shyly. "Um, I'm gonna go and eat something. Do you need anything?"

"No, I'm fine," he said.

"‘K," Willow said, then turned and went into the other room.

Angel sighed again and went over to Spike. The younger vampire stopped and looked up at him. "What?"

"You know what," Angel said, taking the bandaged hand and looking at it.

"Shove off," Spike told him. "And take that stupid bandage with you."

"Can you even feel your hand?"

"No."

"That's because you did quite a number on it," Angel told him as he fixed the bandage. "Now, do you need anything before this game starts?"

"A hard fuck and a bullet to the brain would be good," Spike replied. "Not necessarily in that order."

"Well, I'm not going to give you either, so you're SOL," the dark-haired vampire responded.

"You're no bloody help," Spike grumbled, digging out another cigarette with his good hand. He jostled one out of the pack and pulled it into his mouth. "What's up with you and the little witch?"

"None of your business," Angel replied as he dropped Spike's hand.

"That bad, eh mate?"

"Spike, shut up."

Spike chuckled for the first time in days.



Part Seven




End of passion play, crumbling away
I'm your source of self-destruction
Veins that pump with fear, sucking darkest clear
Leading on your deaths construction

Spike sensed her before he saw her. He was pacing in his assigned square, h1, ignoring the part scathing, part scared looks Cordelia was giving him from the next square over, when her familiar presence hit him like a sledgehammer. He stopped pacing and spun around to face the other side of the board, where the opposing team was coming out of their own back rooms, his entire body coiled with tension, as if preparing for a fight.

He hadn't been in a good fight in awhile, and he liked violence. It was fun to spar with Buffy, but he missed being able to rip someone's arm off with his bare hands for no reason. The last big fight he'd gotten into had been in Brazil, a nice barroom brawl to christen his leaving the country to return to Sunnyhell. There had been a couple of martial artists of some sort in that fight, and he learned a few cool new moves. He loved the martial arts, especially the movies, like the Hong Kong action flicks. In fact, he wouldn't mind going to Hong Kong some day. He'd never been to the Asian world. Most of his travels revolved around Europe, mostly England, and then in America with Drusilla. Drusilla.

"You managed not to think of her for a whole minute, so things can't be that bad," Spike said to himself, watching the other team.

"What's not that bad?"

Taste me you will see
More is all you need
You're dedicated to
How I'm killing you

Spike whirled around and struck without thinking. His still-bandaged left hand connected with the Slayer's face, sending more pain to him than it did to her. "Bloody hell, that hurt," he growled, holding his hand protectively against him. He started to curse, fluently and in complete disregard for who was listening. Then, as Buffy stood there watching him with confusion, he started to pace again, saying the same sentence over and over. "You stupid bloody bitch, I hate you stupid bloody bitch, I hate you stupid bloody bitch, I hate you stupid bloody bitch, I hate you stupid bloody bitch, I hate you stupid..."

"Geez, Buffy, what is it with you and the psycho boyfriends?" Cordelia asked.

Buffy ignored her and stepped into Spike's path. When he saw her, he started again, bring his fist back to hit her until he realized who it was, or more specifically, who it was not. Instead of hitting her, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close, mumbling in her hair that same sentence. "...Bitch, I hate you stupid bloody bitch, I hate you stupid bloody bitch, I hate you stupid bloody bitch, I hate you..."

Master of Puppets I'm pulling your strings
Twisting your mind and smashing your dreams
Blinded by me, you can't see a thing
Just call my name, `cause I'll hear you scream

Buffy didn't know what to do or what to make of his words, so she wrapped her arms around his waist under his duster and just held him.


*****


Willow and Angel had been sitting next to each other in their respective squares, talking more comfortably with each other than they ever had before when Angel's head suddenly shot up and he peered across the room.

"What is it?" Willow asked, trying to see what he did.

"Drusilla," Angel replied, leaning back slightly to see around Xander and the computer console. Spike was staring across the board, as well.

"Here? She's here?" Willow said. "This is not good. This is so very not good. Not good in the very bad sense of the words not good."

"Very true," he replied. The other team, that was coming out of their own back rooms, was definitely made up of non-humans, and not just vampires. The black king, who had come out first and was now seated at the other computer console, looked like a troll or perhaps a gnome. It was hard to tell under the heavy, black robe he wore.

Angel heard Spike growl and turned to see him start pacing, his mouth moving as if he were saying something, but Angel could not hear it. He saw Buffy step into his path, then the blond vampire wrap his arms around the Slayer and hold her.

"There she is," Willow said.


*****


Master, Master, Where's the dreams that I've been after?
Master, Master, You promised only lies
Laughter, Laughter, All I hear and see is laughter
Laughter, Laughter, laughing at my cries

Spike knew the second she entered the room, because he felt himself almost being physically pulled towards her, as if he were still attached to the wires of his dreams. Her voice echoed in his head, calling to him, and he held Buffy tighter in response, his voice getting louder as he tried to block Drusilla out. "...Hate You Stupid Bloody Bitch, I Hate You Stupid Bloody Bitch, I Hate You Stupid Bloody Bitch, I Hate You Stupid Bloody..."

Buffy was scared. She didn't know what to do. She didn't know what was wrong. She didn't know how to make things better. She felt helpless. She was scared.


*****


"Shit," Angel swore, causing Willow to look at him oddly.

"What's wrong?" Willow asked.

"Remember what I told you about how I might act?" Angel said, rising to his feet.

"....YOU STUPID BLOODY BITCH, I HATE YOU STUPID BLOODY BITCH..."

"Oh goddess," Willow said, watching as Angel quickly crossed the back of the board, behind his confused somewhat-friends. She stood as well, following behind him until she was standing with Giles near Faith and Xander.

Angel went up behind Spike and put his hands on both shoulders, physically yanking the younger vampire around. Spike let go of Buffy as he was turned, his fists flying out, his face changing into that of his demon. Angel blocked them both easily, then took hold of his childe's upper arms and pulled him within inches of his face. "Spike," Angel ground out, his gaze meeting wild yellow eyes. "Look at me."

Spike tried to get away, snarling at his sire and Angel shook him harshly. Then, he started walking forward, pushing the blond vampire back with each step until Spike was against the wall of the main room. Angel closed his eyes a moment as Spike continued to snarl, and when he reopened them, his fierce, commanding yellow eyes met his childe's.

Hell is worth all that, natural habitat
Just a rhyme without a reason
Never-ending maze, drift on numbered days
Now your life is out of season

He let go of Spike's arms and grabbed him with one hand by the throat, raising him slightly off the floor. A low, powerful growl rolled across the floor to where the other five were standing, watching the two vampires. They each stiffened visibly with the sound, even Willow, who was prepared because of what Angel had told her.

Come crawling faster
Obey your Master
Your life burns faster
Obey your Master

Spike suddenly stopped struggling, as if the strings controlling him had been cut. He closed his eyes tightly against the tears that started to fall, unheeded, down his cheeks. When he opened them again, his human mask was back in place and he stared at Angel unseeingly, his blue eyes reflecting complete fear.

Master of Puppets I'm pulling your strings
Twisting your mind and smashing your dreams
Blinded by me, you can't see a thing
Just call my name, `cause I'll hear you scream

Angel let his own human mask return and he lowered Spike to his feet. He let go of the younger vampire's throat and put his hands on both shoulders. "Spike, look at me," Angel commanded in a quiet, but firm tone. When Spike didn't, he enunciated each clipped word. "Look. At. Me."

Finally, recognition flitted across Spike's face as he looked Angel in the eyes. "Cor, Angelus, make her stop," he whispered, his voice closing as he became choked up. "Make her stop."

"Buffy," Angel raised his voice slightly so the blond Slayer would hear him. Spike's eyes were still locked with Angel's as she hurried over to them, her face expressing her worry and fear over what was happening to her love. "Spike, Buffy's here."

"Hey," Buffy said quietly, taking Spike's good hand in hers. "Are you ok?"

Spike dropped his eyes to Buffy as a feeling of calm stole over him from her action. He nodded slightly to answer her question, squeezing her hand.

A loud bell sounded, startling everyone, and a voice came over the loud speaker. "Players. It is now midnight. Welcome to the Endgame. The bell you just heard will signal the end and beginning of each round. White moves first. May the best team win."

Angel looked over his shoulder and met Willow's gaze, Buffy and Spike continued to look at each other, and the others exchanged nervous glances. "Well, gang," Xander said. "As Caine once said in Mortal Kombat: ‘Let the games begin.'"

Continued 1