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: Spike and everyone went to rescue Buffy and Other!Spike, splitting up once they reached Adam's lair, Buffy figured out how to get away from Riley, and Adam started operating on Other!Spike only for Other!Spike to wake up...
They made a motley group, Giles cramped and curled as he tried to sit against the side of the van, Joyce and Tara on either side of him. Candles marked each of their places, including the vacant fourth, and they flickered at the same rhythm of the trio’s even breathing. The spell they had altered for their purposes rested forgotten in Tara’s hand, words scribbled out, others written in, a visible declaration of hope they had clung to as their last resort. All three were focused on inner images with eyes vacant and jaws lax. All three were pouring the remainder of their belief into the magic. They had to. It was all they had left.
Joyce’s lips parted as the words flowed from her mouth. “We grow weary of your tyranny…”
Adam’s eyes narrowed. Perhaps the operation had not been as successful as he had hoped. “Your speech patterns have become odd,” he mused. “Return to the operating table. I shall need to examine you more closely to ensure I did not damage any necessary functions.”
Hostile Seventeen’s grip didn’t waver. If anything, it grew tighter.
“And you still fail to understand. This is why you never beat us. You cannot conceive the impossible.”
Higher reasoning had to have been affected as well, Adam realized. The vampire was making little sense, his statements contradictory within themselves. His good mood faded. He would be of no use in the raid now. He would be of no use to Adam at all. There was little choice but to destroy him.
His free hand shot out, ready to wrap his fingers around Hostile Seventeen’s neck and snap it from his body. He never made contact.
The vampire crushed the heel of his hand into Adam’s sternum, breaking the contact between them and sending the larger demon back against the wall. Plaster shattered behind his back, raining down around his shoulders in loose dust that left him feeling gritty. Adam was back on his feet within a fraction of a second of impact, but the vampire appeared completely unbothered by the brief attack.
“What is this?” Adam asked. His mind worked as he tried to find a logical reason for this new turn of events. “You should not be this strong.”
A ghost of a smirk twisted the vampire’s mouth. “We have always been this strong. It is you who has been weak.”
“Yet you are the ones who hide.” He took a step closer, bringing him within the necessary distance. Bending his arm, Adam sent mental instructions to his hard drive to re-order the weapons in his arm until the one he required was in place. “It shall be my pleasure to drive the rest of your resistance out of their holes. It is too bad you shall not be there to witness it.”
He felt like Hansel. Hell, he’d be all right feeling like bloody Gretel if it got him to Buffy faster.
Spike found the first drop of blood outside a bank of elevators. The building had the appearance of being bathed in bleach every day, so the scent of her assaulted him almost as strongly as the sight of the splash of red against the white molding. Though it was far from necessary, he crouched to examine it more closely, rubbing it between his fingers as if to grind it into his skin.
Buffy was definitely here. And the trail was fresh. She had been alive when they’d brought her in. Now he only had to suss out which room in this place they’d stowed her away in.
He pressed the button for the lifts and waited until the one opened that carried her scent the strongest. Then it was a matter of descending, floor by floor, testing empty corridors for further signs. He found it on the fourth.
And saw the droplets lead away from the steel doors like a death march.
The cut on her forearms was still bleeding. Buffy could feel it chafe against the heavy chains, making them slick so that they slid along her skin in tiny fractions every time she fidgeted or shifted her weight. Riley seemed oblivious to her state, but then again, he seemed more interested in the taut expanse of her stomach than anything else at the moment.
And her time was running out.
“Do you remember sparring with me?” Buffy asked, keeping her tone as solicitous as she could manage. God, she hoped they’d gotten that far in this dimension. It would make all this so much easier. “Remember when we agreed to pull out all the stops?”
His fingertips came to a stop, hovering along her side. Something dark and flinty flashed in his eyes, and his jaw hardened. “What does that have to do with anything?”
She held his gaze for a long minute. “I lied.”
Her meaning sank in almost immediately. Jerking his hand away, Riley straightened and took a step from the bed. “That’s not true.”
“You’re only saying that because that’s what you need to believe. And you wanna know something else? It wouldn’t matter if Adam turned me into some corpse bride. I would still be better than you.”
“I beat you. I won. You can’t deny that.”
“You jumped us from behind with weapons,” she scolded. “But maybe that’s not so unexpected. You need every advantage you can get, I suppose. Because we both know that given the opportunity, I could kick your ass from here to hell and back.”
Riley’s lip curled into a sneer. “I don’t need assistance in order to best you, Buffy. I’m a far superior soldier to when you knew me before. I will always win.”
“Oh, yeah? Prove it.”
It was a risk, but the Riley she had known would never be able to resist a challenge. He was far too competitive. She was counting on those qualities being multiplied in a demon Riley.
“You can’t even get free of your restraints,” he said. “You would never be able to fight me.”
Buffy took a deep breath. Slowly, with Riley’s gaze following every movement, she lifted her right hand and grasped the nearest link of the chain. It took a concerted effort, but within seconds, she had wrenched it free from the string, allowing the rest to fall from her arms. He stiffened though didn’t approach when she shoved them off and rose from the bed to square off.
Lifting her chin, she regarded him with every ounce of certainty she didn’t feel. “Want to try that again?”
Adam loved the sound the skewer made as it was released. He loved the way it sounded when it sank into soft, unforgiving flesh. He loved the squelch it made when he withdrew it, sticky with blood.
He was cheated when Hostile Seventeen accompanied the first discharge with a wave of his hand and some muttered words that sounded like Sumerian.
The skewer disintegrated to ash before his eyes. He felt it spread up and into its sheath, like an itch he couldn’t reach, and in all those seconds, the orange glow of Hostile Seventeen’s eyes remained steady. It infuriated more than it did anything else, and he rushed forward at lightning speed, grabbing the vampire and tossing him as casually as he had been thrown only a minute earlier.
“The witch has been training you,” he said, advancing even before Hostile Seventeen had landed. “It will not make a difference. You will still die.”
His next blow connected with the operating table instead of the vampire’s head, punching through the metal and momentarily trapping his wrist in its ragged binding. At Adam’s elbow, Seventeen rose to his feet and clapped an unyielding hand on the larger demon’s shoulder.
“We will not. We will do as we always do, regardless of whatever power you think you might have. We will carry on, and we will thrive, and you shall forever wonder why it is you lost.”
An excruciating agony shot down Adam’s arm as the vampire curled fingers beneath the scars of stitches made four long years previous, tearing them open and tearing them free.
Then he couldn’t feel his arm at all.
There was a terrifying moment of vertigo when the world wavered at the corners of her vision, but Buffy stamped it down with years of practice, holding her ground as Riley stared at her. Disbelief raced behind his eyes, followed swiftly by anger, and then ending in grim determination. He even smiled. Its iciness made her shiver.
“You will still lose,” he said.
Buffy smiled. “Only one way to find out.”
It was only a moment that he looked away from her to reach for the weapons cabinet, but she had known he would. Riley was a soldier, through and through. Even with built-in demon parts, he had to fight with the tools that were known to him.
Buffy was a Slayer. She fought with whatever tools were handy.
Where the speed came from, she had no idea. But she was grateful for every advantage it gave her as she scooped up the chain. It made a low, heavy whistle as she swung it, but Riley’s new agility wasn’t enough to get him out of its path as the links wrapped around his ankle. Buffy yanked, pulling him off-balance and onto his back.
He screamed in frustration. Before he scrambled back to his feet, though, Buffy released the chain and grabbed the bed, tossing it so that the edge of the frame landed heavily on his chest. She heard his sharp exhalation as the air was driven from his lungs, and then his grunt of pain, but she refused to give him time to recover. Picking up the chair, she lifted it over her head and brought it down, legs first, around his powerful thighs.
One steel leg was driven into the muscle, pinning him to the floor.
Her heart thundered. She knew she should kill him, finish it off so that he couldn’t get to anybody else. She also knew her adrenaline-fuelled strength was already waning. Death would have to wait another day.
Buffy leapt over his downed form, racing for the door. She only got two feet before she felt an iron grip around her calf, sweeping her legs out from beneath her so that she landed flat on her stomach.
“You’re not going anywhere,” Riley snarled.
She tried to roll over, but he was too strong, keeping her prone, slowly dragging her across the cold floor toward him.
Spike heard the scream like a low rumble through to his bones. It was closer, but not close enough, and he broke out into a run as he chased the echoes down the hall. They burned in his ears, setting every nerve alight, and by the time he reached the point of origin, he was half-convinced he was too late.
He tried the door. It refused to budge.
“You’re not going anywhere.”
Spike’s head snapped up at the menace in Riley’s voice. Straining his ears, he realized he could hear the distinctive pounding of heartbeats on the other side of the door.
And the unmistakable sound of somebody being dragged.
“Buffy!” he shouted, pounding on the intractable metal separating them.
There was the sharp crack of bone shattering, followed by another shout. It was too low to belong to anybody but Riley, but Spike didn’t rest on the satisfaction that his girl had got a good hit in. With a growl, he stepped back and looked over the door, trying to figure out how to open it. There were no hinges, the smooth white merging with the wall at a smooth seam. Next to it was a keypad, a small red light blinking in the corner. An electric lock. Figured.
He curled his fingers around the edges of the plastic, digging to get a grip. The fight continued within the room, spurring him to try harder, put as much strength into yanking the bloody thing off the wall. Blood dripped from his fingertips where the plastic split his skin, but then it came off with an unexpected jerk, a small pop announcing the short in the electricity.
Spike tried the handle again. This time, it turned easily.
This was a new sensation. A new feeling. Adam was sure of it. Because there was only way to characterize his state of mind as he stared at the vampire.
It shouldn’t be possible. Vampires did not possess that kind of strength. Vampires did not turn the finest tempered metals into dust. Vampires were lower demons, scarcely worth the time and bother to change into something better.
This vampire was proving all of those facts – suppositions – wrong.
Adam tried to twist out of Hostile Seventeen’s grip, but it refused to budge, keeping him trapped against the operating table with his cheek pressed to the cold metal. “Perhaps we can come to an arrangement,” he suggested. Desperation drove him to it. “I can offer your people protection. You only have to let me go.”
“You would offer,” Hostile Seventeen said in that eerie echoing baritone. “And then you would withdraw it. This is the way you work.” He leaned in, his mouth close to Adam’s ear. “But no longer. We shall be safe, but it will not be due to your amnesty.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Adam saw the vampire draw his arm back. He only had a moment to wonder what Hostile Seventeen was going to do before the vampire swung and punched a hole through his body armor, through his spine, into his rib cage, grasping the uranium core before extracting it along the same path.
Then the synapses failed. He barely saw the orange glow fade from Hostile Seventeen’s eyes. The last sound Adam ever heard was a muttered, “Bloody hell…”
The sound of Spike’s voice just on the other side of the door gave Buffy the distraction she needed. Her heel kicked out and connected with the side of Riley’s face, crunching his cheekbone and stunning him enough to loosen his hold on her. She scrambled to her feet. As much as she hadn’t thought she could do it right now, she knew she had no choice but to kill Riley before she left. He would never let her go, otherwise.
He tried to grab her again as she made a dash for the weapons on the wall, but she was too fast. Smashing her fist through the glass, Buffy took the first something sharp her fingers touched, breaking more glass on its exodus. Blood dripped from the fresh cuts on her hand, but she didn’t have time to consider the pain or the fact that her head was spinning or that breathing was becoming a difficult thing. She only had to concentrate on one thing.
Riley tossed the bed off his body, shoving it toward her so that her path was blocked from reaching him right away. “This proves nothing,” he rasped.
Buffy shook her head. “Were you always this dense? Face it, Riley. It’s over.”
“No. It’s only---.”
An electronic screech filled the air. The next second, the door was torn open, and Spike – her Spike – was flying through the opening, launching himself toward Riley. The two men grappled in a flurry of snarls and fists, allowing Buffy the time to get a proper hold on the lethal dagger in her grip. The fight freed Riley’s leg from where it was pinned, but as soon as he was on his feet, she vaulted over the bed that separated them and buried the blade between his shoulder blades.
Spike stumbled back, getting out of the way as Riley tried to reach around and pull it out. His heel slipped in a pool of blood, and he fell onto his back, the force driving the knife in even deeper. He coughed once, and then twice, blood staining his lips.
Buffy witnessed the second the light died out in his eyes.
When she started to sway, Spike was at her side in a shot, strong arm around her waist, guiding her back to the door. “Van’s outside,” he said. “Just stay with me ‘til we get to the lifts—“
“No.” She tried to pull away, but the adrenaline from the fight was already ebbing. “We have to find Spike. The other Spike. Adam has him. He’s going to…we have to find him.”
“Tara’s doin’ her mojo to juice him up,” he explained. “If Adam has him, he’s either beat him or dust. Either way, there’s nothin’ you can do.”
“I don’t care,” Buffy argued. “I have to try.”
“No, we need to bloody get out of here while we can.”
She looked up to see Other Spike standing in the broken doorway. Blood matted his curls, and the skin was broken on his knuckles, but otherwise, he looked perfectly fine.
The Spike at her side stiffened. “You escape?”
Other Spike smirked. “Yeah. Right after I tore out that wanker Adam’s power source. Should’ve seen me. I was all—“
Buffy didn’t hear the rest of the story. The world went black around her.
To be continued in Chapter 28…