DISCLAIMER: The characters are
Joss’, of course, and the chapter title comes from Shakespeare’s “Sonnet XCIV.”
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Baltozar is poised to killed Willow, Spike and Willow have had a heart-to-heart about Esme and her magic, while Havi has gone to the campus to get Buffy after discovering Graham has escaped…
With classes in full swing, there were few options for parking. Havi had little choice but to leave Joyce’s SUV in an adjoining neighborhood and jog to the campus, intent on reaching the Slayer and relaying the new information about the Watcher as quickly as she could. This would show them her loyalty, she thought as she ran. Spike would have to accept her at face value once he saw how eager Havi was to help.
So focused on her goal, she almost missed the familiar scent drifting along the slight breeze. Only when she reached the walk outside the dorm did Havi hesitate, sniffing pointedly before looking around with a frown. It smelled of Baltozar’s cigarillos, dusky and slightly sweet. She didn’t think people smoked that particularly brand outside of Europe.
Then, she saw the crushed white butts, ground into the earth beneath a nearby tree. The grass was trampled, and when she looked up, she saw the dried ash that still clung to the rough bark of a low-hanging branch.
From that spot, someone could watch the dorm without being seen.
Someone, but specifically…Baltozar.
Whirling on her heel, Havi broke into a dead run for the front door of the dorm. She only hoped that she wasn’t too late.
“You’re kidding, right? What about the blue one?”
“I’ve already told you what I think about the blue one, Red. The other’s more fetching.”
“But it’s way too tight.”
“Still not seein’ the problem. It’s not like you’ve got anything to hide.”
Spike rolled his eyes. How Oz put up with his girlfriend’s insecurities about her looks, he had no idea. He was about to tell her exactly what she could do with the sweater he preferred when a furious pounding came at the door.
“Thank god,” he muttered as Willow went to answer it.
His relief was short-lived when Havi pushed her way past Willow, her dark gaze sweeping the room with a practiced eye. Leaping to his feet, he yanked Willow out of the way, placing himself between her and the new arrival before Havi could surprise them with a weapon, letting his fangs slip into place.
“Where’s the Slayer?” Havi demanded, heedless of Spike’s angry state.
“None of your soddin’ business,” he snarled.
To her credit, she didn’t cower in the face of his fury. Instead, she looked past him to Willow, her mouth grim. “You must come with me,” she said to her. “You are in grave danger.”
“Of what? Bein’ stabbed in the back? Don’t think so, Studs.”
When Willow remained behind him, mute in the face of the supposed threat, Havi seemed to realize she would get nowhere until she’d dealt with Spike. “Baltozar has been watching the dorm,” she said, this time to him. “I do not know why, but it cannot be good. We must get Buffy and Willow to safety.”
The Spaniard’s name did nothing to ease his foul mood, but Spike refused to step back. “And you just conveniently showed up to do the totin’, huh? Funny how that works.”
“I came to retrieve the Slayer. Her Watcher was knocked unconscious.”
“Uh, not that I don’t worry about Giles,” Willow said, poking her head out from behind Spike, “but that’s not really all that surprising. He gets knocked out a lot.”
“It occurred when his prisoner escaped.”
“Oh. OK, that is newsworthy, then.”
“What makes you so sure that Baltozar’s been pokin’ his nose around?” Spike asked.
Wordlessly, Havi held out her hand, opening it to reveal a crushed white cigarette butt. His nose wrinkled at the familiar scent.
“Damn,” he muttered. His gaze flew to the window, but with the sunlight still deadly on its other side, he was barred from using it to search the grounds.
“Then, you understand the threat.”
He swiveled his eyes back to Havi. “I understand he’s a killer who’s already made shish kebab of one person I cared about,” he said. His fingers wrapped around Willow’s wrist, his human countenance returning. “C’mon, Red. I’ll get you out of here so that Buffy can take care of the bastard.”
Pulling Willow past Havi to get to the door, Spike was jerked to a halt when the other woman grabbed Willow’s free wrist, trapping her between the two who were each so determined to be the one to protect her.
“Let her go,” he snarled, and started to yank to free Red from the unwanted hold.
Electricity began to surge across Willow’s skin, making it ripple and glitter, and her eyes sparked with orange flame. “Stop it!” she ordered.
The energy was released with a brilliant flash.
Spike was thrown off like a ragdoll, crashing into the wall with a loud thump as his body sang from the electricity still rushing through it. As he blinked against the stars dancing before his eyes, he saw Havi in a similar position on the opposite side of the room, though she had managed to knock over a chair at the same time. Good, he thought angrily.
Slowly, it dawned on Willow what she’d done, and contrition softened her features. Rushing to Spike’s aid, she babbled, “Sorry, sorry,” and pulled at his arm to help him back to his feet. “I guess I just don’t know my own strength.”
“Yeah, well, I’d rather you left me out of your hat tricks, Red,” he complained. He turned a wary eye to Havi, stifling the iota of alarm Willow’s magic burst had momentarily aroused. “Good to see you got it at least half right, though.”
It was taking Havi longer to recover from the blast, wobbling slightly as she finally managed to stand. “Why…did you do that?” she asked.
“I didn’t mean to,” Willow said. “It’s just a…defense mechanism.”
“But I am not your enemy.”
“That remains to be seen,” Spike said.
Pressing her lips together, Havi strode determinedly to the window, pulling aside the curtain to peer outside.
“Watch it!” Spike cried out, leaping away from the golden shaft of light that cut across the floor.
She ignored his irritation and continued her visual search. “He could be anywhere,” she said. “It would be foolish to linger longer than is necessary.”
“Tell you what,” Willow said, holding up her hand to cut Spike off when his mouth opened to interrupt again. “Spike and I will go check on Giles, while you go wait for Buffy at her class to let her know about the possibility of Baltozar hanging around.”
“Now, wait a bloody---.”
“It’s not like Buffy can’t take care of herself, Spike.” Grabbing her backpack, Willow slung it over her shoulder as she headed for the door. “And if there’s really danger, she’s the best one to deal with it, right?”
“You would choose to escape with a vampire rather than me?”
Willow flushed in the face of Havi’s confusion. “No offense, but I know Spike, and I know he’s not going to hurt me. Plus, vampire strength. Big bonus.”
“It’s daylight. He is a detriment.”
“Only if I need to get out of the car. Sorry. This round goes to Spike.”
Spike was left grinning at Havi with wicked delight when Willow opened the door. Though she was waiting for the pair of them to leave with her so that she could lock it behind her, he remained rooted long enough to get one last word in with Havi.
“What can I say?” Nonchalantly, he shrugged his shoulders. “The bird’s got excellent taste.”
He sauntered out into the hallway, the memory of Havi’s wide-eyed frustration burning brightly on his mind’s eye.
Baltozar’s blood ran cold when he saw Havi go into the dorm. What the fuck was she doing here? Her purpose on the Hellmouth couldn’t coincide with Esme’s in some way, could it? But why would she show up at the one place he’d been instructed to watch if it didn’t? Had she found out and was here to stop it?
It didn’t matter. He couldn’t risk Havi getting caught in any kind of crossfire. His marksmanship was good enough that he wasn’t worried about hitting her, but if for some reason she was involved with the witch, Baltozar couldn’t guarantee she wouldn’t get hit with backlash of some sort. He was going to have to abort his immediate plan.
He was almost to his car when he saw the black Thunderbird parked beneath the covered walkway that led from the back of the dorm. Baltozar paused. Spike was here, too. When had he arrived? It must’ve been when he’d been getting into place for the shot, Baltozar decided. It was the only time he hadn’t been watching the building like a hawk. Come to visit the girlfriend, most likely.
Then, a more chilling thought struck.
If Havi really was here to see the witch, she was now in danger. There was no way a powerful vampire like William the Bloody wasn’t going to be able to detect the scent of the Guardians all over her, and if Spike suspected for a second that Havi might be in some way connected to Rose’s murder, he’d attack without even thinking about it.
His feet were moving before he could finish the thought, his hands searching his pockets for anything he could use as a weapon.
Maybe it wouldn’t take doing Esme’s job to get Havi back. Maybe all it would take was playing the hero, swooping in to save her life from the vengeful vampire determined to take it.
Baltozar grinned as his boots thudded against the concrete.
He liked that scenario a hell of a lot better than relying on the old bat’s non-existent magic. That one was all about him.
She really hadn’t meant to do anything to Spike and Havi, but when they’d decided to turn her into the Thanksgiving wishbone, something inside Willow had swelled to the surface. It was hot, and it was angry, and in those few seconds when it took control, she felt freer than she’d ever felt before.
Then, she’d seen Spike slumped against the wall, his hair curling from the electrical discharge. And the guilt had set in with a fierce vengeance.
It wasn’t quite so strong with Havi, though. She still wasn’t sure what her deal really was.
This was the one part of the magic that Willow couldn’t deny still wigged her out. Freaky with more than a little deaky, it surged beyond her control every time something seemed to threaten her. She recognized it for what it was now. It had been the impetus for what had happened to Esme the other night when she’d pricked Willow’s finger. And the fact that it could react so vehemently against even the tiniest of threats did not fill Willow with sunshine.
To make it worse, she had to pretend it was OK. If Giles or Wesley or anyone knew just how out of control those moments left her, they’d forget the New Age feel-good therapy with Esme and go straight for the padded room and strait jacket. Not that it would do them any good. After realizing that the magic would lash out at those she knew wouldn’t harm her, like Spike, Willow was starting to wonder if maybe it might not be a better idea to figure out how to siphon off some of the power instead of trying to control it. She would have to feel the Watchers out on that idea the next time she saw them.
This wasn’t going to be the next time, however. This was the let’s-get-the-hell-out-of-here-before-some-creepy-guy-tries-to-hurt-her time, with a side of let’s-help-Giles. This was running for safety.
She wasn’t entirely sure why Havi bugged Spike so much, but Willow wasn’t going to question it. She just followed him doggedly to his car, and pretended not to hear Havi just a few footsteps behind her.
Spike had a harder time with that part. On the first floor of the dorm, he whirled in the hallway and bared his best non-fangy snarl at Havi, forcing her to come up short.
“Me gettin’ Red to Rupert’s doesn’t require a bloody bodyguard,” he said. “Shove off.”
“I’m merely going to provide assistance---.”
“No, you’re goin’ to leave us the hell alone or I’m goin’ to put a couple extra holes in the back of your neck, understand?”
Havi lifted her chin in defiance. “The Slayer would not be pleased with that,” she said.
“Yeah, well, leave Buffy to me.”
“She will not condone your murdering of humans, regardless of the fact that you’re the father of her child.”
His cold grin made Willow’s insides shrink in fear. “Looks like there’s a lot you don’t know about my Slayer,” Spike said.
While Havi didn’t appear to be swayed by Spike’s retort, Willow edged closer to the wall, her eyes darting between the two as they continued to argue. She was going to need to have a serious talk with Buffy about what the deal was. If she didn’t know better, she would’ve said that Spike was actually serious about killing Havi on the spot.
“Not to be a spoilsport,” she said in a brief lull, “but aren’t we supposed to making with the getaway because of the impending psycho that’s supposedly hunting me down?”
The reminder stopped Spike’s next retort, and he straightened his shoulders as he continued to glare at Havi. “Right then,” he said. “Best we get on. Make sure the door hits you on the way out, Studs.”
He turned on his heel and stalked to the exit, grabbing Willow by the wrist as he brushed past her. She stumbled against him, wincing slightly at the pressure of his hold, but took a small measure of comfort in the fact that the magic didn’t rise to the surface. So it could differentiate intent to a mild extent. That was good to know.
Sunlight surprised him when he pulled open the door, and Spike growled as he instinctively shrank away from it. “Don’t s’pose you could get the bitch back there to fetch me a blanket,” he said, releasing Willow to slap at the flame that had erupted on the back of his hand. “Might be easier to keep you safe if I’m not a big pile o’ dust in the process.”
“I told you to I would be the better one to protect her,” Havi said.
Willow was knocked onto her bottom when Spike flew past her to wrap his burned hand around Havi’s throat and shove her into the wall.
“Gettin’ a mite tired of this holier than thou act,” he growled. “’Specially since bein’ unholy is something I’ve always prided myself on.”
Havi’s fingers clawed at his grip, but there was no submission in her eyes. “This isn’t about us,” she hissed. “This is about the Slayer. And Willow.”
“Then I suggest you back the fuck off.”
So rapt in the confrontation, Willow didn’t hear the back door open again until it was clicking shut. She did, however, see the hatred gleaming in the face of the man who entered, and there was no way she could miss the makeshift stake he clutched in his large hand. Especially when he made a fierce lunge for the fray.
“Spike!” Willow shouted.
The witch’s shout was an irritant more than anything else. Couldn’t she see that he was in the middle of a perfectly good tussle here?
But then he caught the scent of Spanish cigarettes.
He was already starting to move when he felt the wood plunge into his back. The scream ripped from Spike’s throat was almost as much from surprise as it was from pain, and he let Havi fall to a crumpled heap as he whirled to face his attacker.
Rage made Baltozar’s face a livid red, and his fist slammed forward into Spike’s jaw before the vampire could react. “I should’ve killed you in Barcelona,” Baltozar said. His foot drove into Spike’s gut, sending him down to the floor next to Havi. “Vampires always have such a way of ruining perfectly good lives.”
Spike reached to grab the nearby ankle, but Baltozar danced back out of his way. “And you didn’t kill a perfectly good Guardian,” he said. “Right.”
Falling had driven the stake deeper into Spike’s flesh, scraping along inner organs with a burning rasp. At least the bastard had missed the heart. Spike figured he had Red to thank for that one.
“Leave him alone!”
It wasn’t the voice Spike expected. Behind him, Havi rose to her feet and stepped over his prone form, placing herself between him and Baltozar.
“Don’t tell you’re protecting him,” Baltozar said in disbelief. “Wake up, Havi! He was trying to kill you!”
“It’s not something you haven’t tried yourself,” she said. Her voice was cold, emotionless, and Spike frowned up at her through his haze of pain.
“You heard her.”
Now Willow’s intervention is what Spike had expected. She could start with the fireworks any minute.
“I mean it.” Pause. “Pretty please?”
Spike rolled his eyes. Red’s cred just bottomed out with the begging of the bad guy. He was going to have to talk to her about that when they got out of this particular mess.
“Is that why you’re here?” Havi asked Baltozar. “To try and protect me?”
The muscles in his jaw twitched, and the glance he shot Willow betrayed his intent.
Spike’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t think that’s it, Studs,” he said carefully. “Just think that was an added bonus for your boyfriend here.”
For the first time, Havi faltered. “You can’t hurt her, either,” she said. “I won’t allow it.”
“Because it’s your grand calling?” It came out as a sneer, and Spike’s dislike for Baltozar swelled. “She’s a child. A nothing. You’re better than that. We’re better than that.”
“Hey! The nothing child is standing right here!” Willow protested. “And…I’m not so nothing. Just try attacking me. See how much of a nothing I really am. I’ll make you go all poof. Really.”
Maybe it was the final really that set Baltozar off. With a grimace, his leg swung back in a wide kick, sweeping Willow from her feet and sending her tumbling to the floor again.
Havi reacted first, springing forward to with fists and snarls to start pummeling against Baltozar. It took him by surprise, but he quickly recovered, lashing back with almost as much rabid fury as hers was ice, crashing into opposite walls to send plaster flying while Spike just tried to stay out of their way.
The fight lasted for only seconds before a fireball appeared from nowhere and crashed into Baltozar’s back.
With a fearful shout, Spike rolled out of the reach of the flames, ignoring the pain shooting through his torso from the wood embedded in his back. Beyond the burning Spaniard, he could see Willow’s outstretched palms, her skin still charged with electricity from the magic that continued to swell to her fingertips.
“A little consideration, Red!” Spike shouted. “Wankers aren’t the only things that can burn here, remember?”
But she didn’t seem to hear him. All her attention was trained on the man who’d hurt her, and Spike’s gut sank. She was going to set the whole place on fire if she kept it up. And he couldn’t exactly stop her without going up in flame himself.
That didn’t stop Havi, though. She saw the threat and dove to place her long frame between Willow and Baltozar, her cheek bleeding from a nasty gash.
“Be smart,” she ordered. Behind her, Baltozar had dropped to the ground, rolling around on the floor, trying to extinguish the inferno that had already scorched through his clothing. “You do this, and you’ll be killing yourself.”
Willow didn’t move. The energy crackled between her fingers.
“He won’t be a threat,” Havi continued. Slowly, she backed up until she reached the spot where Baltozar had stopped. “I’ll see to that. Just…do not do this.”
Willow blinked. Once. Then, twice. Her hands never moved.
A groan came from Baltozar’s curled-up form. Havi’s heel slammed into his face, effectively silencing him.
“Listen to her, Red,” Spike said. When the witch turned incredulous eyes to him, he shrugged. He couldn’t believe he was saying it, either. “The prat’s out for the count. He can’t hurt you now.”
Slowly, her hands fell to her sides. “I…I…” But she couldn’t finish the sentence. The strength in her shoulders dissipated as quickly as it had come, and she slumped back against the wall.
Stepping forward, Havi crouched at Willow’s side, examining the bruising that was already starting to bloom on the witch’s cheek from where she’d impacted on her fall. “You must rest,” she instructed. “Can you walk well enough to return to your room?”
Willow nodded and feebly rose to her feet. “What about Spike?”
“Nothin’ wrong with me that a little extraction won’t cure,” he said, struggling to stand. “Though why these pillocks are always takin’ a poke at me through my back, I have no idea.”
“Buffy will be home from class soon,” Willow said. She stopped at his side and put her arm around his back, careful not to touch the wood that still protruded slightly from the leather. “She can help me patch you up.”
Spike caught her wide eyes as she looked at his back. “Tell me the leather’s not ruined,” he said with growing fear.
“Um…well, ruined is probably a little harsh.”
He scowled. “But you can mojo it back the way it was, right? It’s not like I didn’t get it tryin’ to save your skin, Red.”
“I can try. But…it’s just a coat, Spike.”
“You did not just say that.”
Havi stepped in front of them before they could continue to the stairs. “What do you wish me to do with him?” she asked, gesturing toward Baltozar’s unconscious body.
After only a moment’s thought, Spike reached into his pocket and pulled out his keys. “Stow him in my boot until Buffy gets back,” he said, tossing her the jangling ring. “Black T-bird. And hold your breath when you open it up.”
“I’m trustin’ you with my car and you can’t trust me with this? Be that way then. But it’s your nose, Studs.”
He turned his back on her and let Willow start leading him toward the stairs, leaning on the small witch a little more heavily than he would’ve liked. The wound hurt like a bitch, and it was only the thought of a little TLC from Buffy that kept him going at that point.
“So,” Willow said when they reached the door, “you save my life, so I save yours? Does this make us all tit for tat now?”
“Think there’s still a spare tit out there somewhere,” he replied with a sly grin. “Might belong to your beau, though.”
She giggled at his small joke, and as they started to climb the stairs, Spike couldn’t help but relax more in her presence. Yeah, her magic was starting to scare the hell out of him, but the easy camaraderie Willow offered in its aftermath was almost too enticing to resist. It was something she and Oz seemed to share. Each powerful in their own right, but when not utilizing that power, two of the friendliest faces he’d run across in decades.
It was a feeling Spike thought he could get used to. Very fast. This Sunnydale arrangement just might end up being the best thing that ever happened to him, he decided.
Once he got this bloody stake out of his back.
To be continued in Chapter 33: Give Them Thy Fingers…