DISCLAIMER: We know they're Joss', right? Which really is a shame, because most of the time, we're so much nicer to them than he was.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Buffy decided she needed to get out for awhile, and Spike agreed to accompany her. Back in Rome, Angel called in Wesley's help to try and save Buffy...

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The night had cooled considerably in the few hours she’d been beneath the high school. No more stars speckled the sleek sky, ebony stretching to and beyond the horizon, and silence blanketed Sunnydale as assuredly as a down comforter in the thick of winter. There wasn’t even a whisper of wind to break the stillness. Buffy’s discomfort with the sound of her shoes against the concrete increased with every step.

Spike didn’t speak. He moved like a wraith at her side, the only sound coming from the snick of his lighter when he lit a cigarette upon first emerging from the school. Every time she glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, his attention was shifted elsewhere, always moving, drinking in their surroundings with the mien of an animal accustomed to being hunted. She wished he would say something. Yell at her. Taunt her. Anything. Nothing was as bad as his self-imposed silence. Spike not speaking to her meant she wasn’t worth the expended effort.

It wasn’t unexpected, but that didn’t mean it still didn’t hurt.

She had thought he would keep her to populated areas, but the first thing Spike did was veer away from downtown and head toward the industrial park near Willy’s. He didn’t take a straight path, either. There were turns and jogs down narrow streets that could only be an indication of the army patrols Tara had mentioned; her respect for Spike and the population he helped protect grew with every step. Could she have lived like this if she hadn’t died? she wondered. Could she live like this now if they couldn’t find a way for her to get home?

She dismissed the latter quickly. If Tara and Fyarl Giles couldn’t find the means to do it, Buffy had no doubt that Paolo and her Giles would. Paolo wouldn’t keep such dangerous things lying around his house without having some sort of safeguard. With as many resources he had at his command, it was even likely he could get her home again before the answer was ever found here.

When Spike took another unexpected turn, guiding her away from a density of warehouses, Buffy frowned, glancing back at the empty streets behind them. “Where exactly are we going?” she asked.

He didn’t look at her. “Believe the answer to that is nowhere. You said you wanted to walk.” He shrugged, gesturing vaguely around them. “We’re walking. If you’re ready to go back, just say the word.”

“No, not ready. I guess I was hoping we’d find a fight. Where are all those demon half-breeds when you want one?”

She said it jokingly, but it made Spike halt in his tracks. “Are you off your nut?” he demanded. “Or still suicidal? Because I’ve about given up tryin’ to suss you out, Slayer.”

Buffy rolled her eyes and kept going. “Oh, please. You’ve made it Swarovski clear that you don’t care one way or another. I mean, you’re only here now because my mom and Giles made you promise to keep an eye on me. Like I really need a vamp-sitter.”

“With as daft as you’re bein’, wanting to find a fight? You need one.” Before she could take more than a few more steps, his hand curled around her bicep and jerked her to a halt. “Not that way, you dozy cow. You’ll get us both killed.”

“How?” Buffy looked around at the deserted neighborhood, her voice echoing between the far walls. “There’s nobody here. You did your job, Spike. I’m perfectly safe, and one hundred percent bored.”

His nostrils flared from his rising temper, but in spite of his words, he didn’t loosen his grip. “Never signed up to be the onboard entertainment. You want excitement, go toddle off downtown or find a nice cemetery to play in. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of Adam’s boys willing to take you up for a bit of rough and tumble.” He leered, letting his dark gaze flicker over her. “I hear tell, they like it better if the girl puts up a fuss. Gets ‘em all hard when the bird fights back, makes ‘em go at her even stronger.” Fury glinted in his eyes. “So do me a favor, Slayer. Just say no.”

She was getting tired of his taunts, but this was downright too far. His final words had memories echoing inside her skull, bouncing around like shouts off tiled walls. In spite of her better intentions, Buffy’s fist shot out and slammed into Spike’s jaw, sending him staggering backward as images of that night in the bathroom – images she had thought long buried – made bile rise in the back of her throat. Immediate alarm at her actions made her pull back, but not before Spike vamped out, snarling in bitter anger.

He leapt at her on instinct, and the sharp crack of her head hitting the concrete as they both tangled to the ground made Buffy cry out loud. Her elbow shot back, cuffing Spike hard enough for her to break free, but when she whirled to face him again, the world slightly spinny around her from the blow to her temple, he was still crouching on the road where she had left him.

The ridges smoothed from his brow, leaving blue eyes staring up at her in confusion. “I hurt you.”

Buffy rubbed at her head, grimacing when she felt the new knot forming. All these bumps were going to leave her brain damaged, she was sure of it. “Don’t worry,” she said grumpily. “I won’t tell Mom or Giles. Your rep as vampire savior will remain intact.”

But he was still staring at her, only now he had lifted his hand to his head in mimicry of her. “The chip,” Spike said. “I hurt you.”

It was the only explanation for the abrupt shift in his behavior she needed.

Buffy’s eyes went wide. “Oh.” Damn it, she had been hoping to avoid this topic. It was likely Tara knew the truth, had seen it in her hop, skip, and a jump through Buffy’s brain, but for some reason, Buffy knew she would never have said a word about it. Not that it mattered now.

Seeing the look on her face had Spike leaping to his feet. “What the hell is this?” he demanded, stalking toward her. His voice was just as loud as hers had been, bouncing between buildings to boom even more in her ears. Without warning, his hand shot out and shoved her, his other going experimentally to his temple in anticipation of the pain that she knew would never come.

“Surprise,” Buffy said with a weak smile. When Spike growled, she automatically took a step backward. “It’s not a big deal,” she added hastily. It wasn’t that she was afraid of him, but she wasn’t so wrapped up in this one’s similarity to her Spike that she didn’t recognize the potential danger of his anger. “The chip hasn’t worked on me since Willow brought me back from the dead this last time. Something about a deep tropical cellular tan, Tara said. It still works like it always did, just not on me. Not a big deal.”

“Not a big deal?” His eyes were flashing as he began to prowl around her, still out of arm’s reach, but with his hands balled into tight fists at his sides. “You haven’t been chained up like a dog for the past four years, wishing for just a second of what you know life should be like. You’ve got no bloody idea how much I hate this fucking chip, how much I hate the wankers for sticking it in my brain. So don’t tell me it’s not a big deal, Slayer. This is door number three here. Between this and finding out Adam’s not as invincible as we thought, this is turnin’ into a hell of a night.”

When his fist lashed out this time, Buffy saw it coming and deflected it easily. “What the hell are you doing?”

His lip curled into a sneer. “Looks like I’m picking a fight.”

He came at her with fists flying then, a flurry of anger that made his swings unpredictable and his kicks vicious. She took a hard jab to her left side before she was able to land a punch, a glancing blow to his nose that had blood spurting to speckle the ground. When she did a roundhouse that had him flat on his back, Buffy retreated out of his way as she glared at him.

“Stop this! I don’t want to fight you!”

Spike kipped to his feet. There was a feral laxity to his limbs, and the way he kept bouncing on his toes was starting to remind her of one of the jackhammers from Xander’s old construction site. She had never seen him like this, so hopped up on adrenaline. Another lick of fear began to ripple down her spine.

“So you’ll fuck me, but you won’t fight me?”

She couldn’t help but watch when he reached down and adjusted his erection in front of her, hard and clear beneath his jeans. Buffy rolled her eyes. At least that was something she could have predicted.

“I find that very hard to believe, Slayer,” Spike went on. He was circling her again, remaining out of her reach but close enough to keep her on alert. “Do you know what you smell like right now? Like bloody heaven. Your cunt all wet and juicy. All that lovely blood running through your veins, just waiting for someone to take a sip. Haven’t smelled anything as delicious in years, ‘specially since I know if I wanted, I could snap your neck and drain you dry.”

Buffy shook her head. “You wouldn’t.”

His jaw hardened. “I would.”

“My mom and Giles would never forgive you.”

Mention of his new “family” made Spike pause. “Could tell ‘em you got taken by the patrols,” he said warily. “Know exactly where to leave your body so that they’d never know the truth.”

“Except you’d be lying and we both know you suck at that.”

With a roar of frustration, Spike flew at Buffy and backhanded her with such vehemence that she was thrown face-first into a streetpost. The force knocked the wind out of her long enough for him to pin his body against hers, arms circling her waist to grip the pole and prevent her from easily escaping.

She heard him inhale deeply, knowing all too well what had caught his attention. Her eyes squeezed shut when he began to grind his arousal into her ass.

“This how it started then?” His mouth was at her ear, his voice the husky whisper that had always been one of her greater weaknesses. “Can see it now, plain as day. You said something to brass me off, I took a swing, realized I could hit you without the chip firing, and…”

Her throat worked convulsively to swallow down the lump in it. He’s just messing with your head, she tried telling herself. It’s all part of his games and manipulation. He only wants to get a rise.

But still, she didn’t move.

One of his hands left the pole to worm its way between her stomach and the cool iron. His palm was hard against her abdomen, his fingers determined as they slipped beneath the waistband of her jeans. Her head told her to fight him, but her body screamed otherwise, and Buffy gritted her teeth to try and block out the sensations.

“Do you dream of that night?” Spike asked. “When it’s dark and everyone in the world sleeps except for the Slayer and all the nasties you try and tell me you hate…do you remember?”

A whimper was strangled from her throat when his index finger brushed across the tip of her swollen clit. “No,” Buffy answered truthfully. “I don’t remember about then. I remember about after.”

His hand stilled, fingers poised along her outer lips, ready to explore further at only the slightest provocation. “What was after?”

There were so many potential answers to his question, but they all came back to only one. “After he came back from Africa. Where my Spike got his soul because he loved me.”

It as was if she’d scalded his hand with holy water.

Jerking free so violently that he popped the button on her jeans, Spike released his hold on Buffy and staggered away from her. By the time she turned to face him, the pole still at her back, his eyes were so dark with disbelief, shiny in the yellow light spilling from the streetlamp, that she had to struggle not to go to him and try to ease some of his fears away.

“You’re lying,” he rasped. He pointed an accusatory finger at her. “You take that back.”

Buffy shook her head. “I can’t take back what’s true,” she replied. “Maybe I’m not the only one who has to face some harsh realities tonight.”

“No.” His voice was growing more firm in its denial. “That was Angel’s gig. I would never need a bloody soul.”

It struck her that what bothered Spike was not the revelation that his other self had loved a Slayer. He hadn’t even blinked at that particular part of her confession. It was the complete disregard for what a soul would do for him and his distaste for Angel’s that sparked this reaction. It wasn’t surprising. Until she realized how he had phrased his argument.

Before Buffy could question him, there was a shout off to their right. Spike’s head snapped up, his body back on the alert, eyes scanning the darkness. She could see nothing, but he obviously did, darting forward and grabbing her wrist as the sound of footsteps began to echo in the night.

“Over here!” a man shouted.

She didn’t have time to argue with Spike’s sense of direction, following his lead as they ran back the way they had come. Behind them, she heard the patrol start to give chase, but where Buffy and Spike had been able to outdistance the team at the graveyard when she had first entered this dimension, this patrol was definitely more capable, their pounding steps audible long after they left the industrial park. Her heart was thudding inside her ribcage, as much from exertion as her growing fear. They couldn’t lead the half-breeds back to the high school; she knew that much for certain. It was imperative to keep the others out of harm’s way. But could Spike get them far enough away from the patrol to be able to double back to safety?

He yanked her to a stop near the elementary school, pulling her into the shadows of a tall fence. “Something’s wrong,” he whispered. “That section of town should’ve been clear. But we’ll make a break for it across Restfield. There’s sewer access---.”

“I know where that is.” Provided the sewers were clear, they could use those to find a way back to the high school. There was no doubt in her mind that this Spike was even more well-versed on the underground tunnels than her Spike had been. It had the potential of being the perfect plan.

They broke off into another dead run at the same time, strides matching pace as they angled toward the walls of Restfield. There was renewed vigor in Buffy’s muscles, and in spite of her earlier spat with Spike, it felt good to have him at her side again, if only for the few minutes until they got to safety.

And god, she really had to get home before this place completely wrecked any equilibrium she might have gained.

Spike was the first to vault over the wall, but when Buffy landed silently on the other side, she almost tripped over his unmoving form. He stood, staring into the cemetery, and his arm shot out to prevent her from going past him. Her eyes followed the same path his did, and the blood that had been surging through her veins frosted to a startling halt. And the surprises keep on coming.

“Hostile Seventeen.” Riley’s voice rumbled between them, his face in shadows from the poor light filtering from the street. She could see the demon skin grafted onto his forearm, though, the even stitches livid against the pale skin above his elbow. Glints reflected off the heavy weapon he cradled in his arms. “So good of you to join the party.”

 

To be continued in Chapter 10