DISCLAIMER: Everything but the plot is Joss'. Too bad.
SUMMARY: Buffy & Spike plan their escape, while Xander has come face-to-face with Celie and the Hound.
Her nails dug into his arm, and in spite of his numbing fear, Xander winced. In an attempt to loosen Dawn’s grip, he rolled his arm in the socket, his brown eyes never leaving the woman and dog before him.
She stepped forward and he was struck by the sheer size of her. Holy Wonder o’ Woman, he marvelled. Wouldn’t that be a treat to find wrapped under the Christmas tree.
“You are the warrior,” she stated in a curiously accented deep voice. “You are her friend.”
“What’s she talking about?” Dawn hissed in Xander’s ear.
“I don’t know,” he sing-songed under his breath. Louder, he piped, “What’re you talking about?”
“The Slayer,” she replied. “You fought with her in the alley behind the store that sells magic.”
At the mention of her sister, Dawn jumped forward. “What about Buffy? Is something wrong? Is she hurt?” For a moment, she had forgotten the Hound, but he had not forgotten his duty. His growl grew louder as the teenager approached and she suddenly froze, all too aware of the dripping muzzle that was now only a few feet away.
Slowly, deliberately, Xander stepped forward and grasped Dawn’s arm, guiding her backwards and away from the dog. The Hound quieted, but its ears remained pricked, its haunches tensed in case of attack. “The child is rash,” Celie commented.
“I’m not a child! Why does everyone keep saying that?” Safely tucked behind Xander again, Dawn seemed to have regained her confidence and her elfin features were contorted in anger.
“You obviously want something.” Although his voice was steady, Xander was fighting to stay calm. The Wicked Witch music from the Wizard of Oz kept going through his head, and he had to squelch the urge to cackle and say, “I’ll get you, my pretty! And your little dog, too!”
Her black gaze swept over him and the young man unconsciously pulled himself straighter. “I’ve come to offer you a transaction,” she finally said. “You and your friends.”
“Ah, this must be the ransom part of the abduction,” Xander nodded. “At last, we’re finally getting somewhere.”
“Ransom?” Dawn’s voice was shrill. “You kidnapped my sister?”
Celie frowned. “The Chosen One has a sister?”
“Yeah, and I am so going to kick your ass!”
Xander turned to face the teenager. “Dawnie,” he cautioned firmly. “Don’t. Let me take care of this.”
“I come not for ransom but to offer you a trade,” Celie explained.
“You give us Buffy and we give you…what? A year’s supply of eye of newt?”
“I want the vampire.”
There was a long pause as confusion colored Xander’s face. “Did I miss a chapter or something? You got Spike when your guys snatched Buffy.”
“Yes. And no.”
“They got Spike, too?” Dawn’s voice was incredulous. “How much more were you guys keeping from me?”
“There isn’t much time,” Celie said. “The Slayer will be removed sometime tomorrow. If you wish to have her back, you must decide now.”
Xander crossed his arms over his chest. “Decide what? You haven’t given me the options yet.”
Celie sighed. The boy was proving to be quite exasperating. Perhaps she should’ve had the Hound find the witches instead… “I help you get the Slayer, you let me have the vampire.”
“And what exactly do you need me for? You didn’t seem to have any problems getting Buff the first time around.”
“You will be able to approach more easily than I. Daymon’s men are attuned against most of my magics. And you have skills that will prove very useful in the event of a battle against them.” She took a step closer, her voice growing melodic. “I can make it possible for you to save your friend. Does that not interest you?”
His brown eyes narrowed. There was a catch here someplace, he just knew it. Follow the witch, get Buffy, save the day, and all it would cost was a certain peroxidized vamp with a bad attitude? It just sounded too good to be true. “My friends won’t be back ‘til morning. What say we meet up at the Magic Box around nine-ish, you leave poochie at home---.”
“There is no time for that,” Celie interrupted. “Choose.”
“Xander.” Dawn’s eyes were wide as he turned to look at her. “You’re not going to let anything happen to Buffy, are you?”
Taking a deep breath, the young man squared his chest and faced the Hound and its caretaker again. “Deal.”
It had been almost a minute since he’d knocked and still all was silent inside the room. He shifted his bulk, right foot to left, wishing for the thirtieth time that he had a free hand to carry a weapon. Instead, he was stuck playing lady-in-waiting to the young woman and her vampire because all the maids refused to go into the room after what had happened earlier.
Upon Daymon’s orders, two of the newer girls had taken fresh clothing
to the guests, accompanied by another of the guards. They had been surprised
to find the man---vampire, he had to remind himself---tied to the chair,
and the blonde woman saying, “He refuses to play nicely so he’s
going to stay there tonight to learn his lesson.” As soon as the maids
had entered though, crossing the barrier with the aid of the witch’s
amulets, the monster’s true face had emerged, all ridges and fangs,
taunting and teasing the girls until they had run from the room in tears.
No amount of coaxing could convince them the demon was harmless as long
as he was bound, so now, here the guard stood, a stack of towels in one
hand and a fruit basket dangling from the other.
He was about to knock again when an irritated British accent cut through the door. “Just bloody come in, why don’t you?”
The vampire, wearing his human face, was still bound in the chair, and the annoyance in his blue eyes was more than obvious. “Took you long enough,” he groused. “She’s been in there singing ABBA songs for the last half hour. If I hear Dancing Queen one more time---.” He cut himself off, groaning as the slightly off-pitch, too loud strains of Mamma Mia came filtering from the bathroom.
The guard edged his way into the room. Although an unpleasant being, the blond vampire was clearly not a threat, as he was certain the monster would have done something---anything---to stop the young woman’s singing.
“Was everyone in this place born in a barn or somethin’? Shut the bleedin’ door!”
He found himself obeying the vampire’s command as quickly as he would’ve Daymon’s. Even bound, there was something authoritative about him, a feral presence that was almost impossible to ignore. He did not pretend to understand the relationship between the demon and the young woman, but somehow, it did not seem so unlikely that one could occur.
“Don’t know how she does it,” the vampire was complaining. “You’ve seen her; she’s just a little bitty slip of a thing. How she can use half a dozen towels for one---.” A crash from the bathroom splintered the air, followed by silence. “Buffy?” the vampire called out. The singing had stopped, leaving only the gentle sound of dripping water in its wake. “Buffy!” he roared, and faster than the guard could blink, the demon’s face emerged. Golden eyes glittered as he glared at the man. “Don’t just stand there!” he barked. “Go check on her!”
The guard hesitated. He was alone, unarmed, and should the vampire escape while he aided the young woman, Daymon would not be pleased.
In the chair, the monster growled. “If something happens to her because you’re afraid to move, I swear I’ll rip your eyeballs out and force them down your throat before tearing them from your gut.” His menace had the opposite effect on the guard, however, as the stocky man’s eyes widened, frozen in fear. The vampire’s blue gaze narrowed. “Wouldn’t want to be in your shoes when your master finds out the Slayer got hurt because you refused to check on her.”
That did the trick. Dropping the towels on the dresser, the guard scurried to the bathroom door. “Miss?” he called out as he pushed it open, disappearing inside.
Spike didn’t bother suppressing his smile as a loud thud, followed very quickly by the sound of a basket hitting the floor, drifted into the bedroom. As he watched the door, an apple rolled to the edge of the carpet, coming to rest on the thick pile. “Buffy?” he called out.
She appeared in the doorway, bending over to scoop the fruit from the floor, giving it a small toss from hand to hand before leaning against the doorjamb to look out at Spike. “Wow,” she said. “That was just too easy.” Without moving, the Slayer crunched into the apple.
“Doesn’t mean we get lazy,” Spike reminded her, and shook his bonds.
Tossing the fruit in the bin, Buffy crossed behind the vampire and began untying him. “Why do guys always fall for the damsel in distress routine?” she asked nonchalantly, not really expecting an answer.
Spike stood and stretched, his arms reaching overhead as the muscles in his back loosened. “Don’t know a bloke alive who’d pass on the chance to be a hero, ‘specially if there’s a beautiful girl involved,” he answered, and glanced at her out of the corner of his eye before bending over to finish his stretch.
Thoughtfully, Buffy watched him, her eyes sweeping down his body before returning to his face. “What about the undead ones then?” she queried.
His lip curled as he straightened. “Pretty much applies to them, too.”
Her laughter was unexpected. “Well, that certainly explains a lot,” she said, before turning to face the window. “Now, on to phase two.” Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out the amulet the guard had been wearing around his neck, crossing the room at the same time to within a few feet of the curtains. Her hand stretched out as she inched her way forward, anticipating the barrier, only to find it gone as she touched the window glass. “It’s about time something went right,” she commented, slipping the lock and sliding the glass open.
Spike watched as she leaned into the night air, inhaling deeply. “We can stop and smell the desert roses once we’re out, Slayer,” he said.
She tried ducking her head as she pulled it back in, but the blond vamp caught the blush tinting her cheeks. For being in the middle of an escape that could go wrong at any moment, she seemed remarkably relaxed, taking the time to joke with him as if he were just another of the Scooby gang, even having her guard down enough to let her occasional embarrassment slip through. No way would she have been like this prior to her coming to stay at his crypt, but then again, a lot had happened over the past couple days.
Turning back to the vampire, Buffy said, “Catch,” and flicked the amulet with her wrist.
Both of them fully expected the talisman to pass through the barrier; neither foresaw the amulet bouncing back and striking the Slayer in the cheek.
“Ow!” Buffy exclaimed, as she stooped to pick it up off the floor.
“Doesn’t seem to work unless it’s being held,” commented Spike.
“Well, duh. Question is, how do we get both of us through at the same time?”
Both of them knew the answer to that one, but Buffy seemed hesitant to admit it out loud. Finally, the blond vamp rolled his eyes and held out his arms. “Well, c’mon then,” he said impatiently.
Buffy’s eyes widened. “Excuse me?” she sputtered.
“Only got the one, right? Means we both have to go through at the same time, and I don’t really fancy bein’ hauled out a window by a girl, even if she is the Slayer.” He continued to hold the pose as he waited for her to come to him.
“Oh, really?” She crossed her arms. “I seem to remember you letting Drusilla drag your ass out of that church when it fell in on you. Don’t even start suggesting---.”
“That was different. I couldn’t bleedin’ walk then!” His arms dropped, and his eyes darkened at the sudden opposition.
“You got shot this afternoon!”
“And you seem to be conveniently forgetting how I’ve managed
to get over that.” His voice was rough, his exasperation creeping
through as he struggled to keep his composure. “Not feelin’
light-headed, are you? More than usual, I mean.”
“Spike…” Buffy stepped forward through the barrier. “We don’t have time for this.”
“Exactly.” He approached her slowly, stopping when only a few feet separated them. “Fact is, I’m taller than you and gettin' through that window will be easier for both of us if my legs aren’t dragging us down. So stop pretending that you’re all offended and get over here.”
The look that passed between them was electric, his hooded sapphire eyes challenging her hazel ones to defy the truth. Slowly, her gaze never leaving his, Buffy closed the distance between them. The amulet still dangled from her hand, gleaming dully in the lamplight, and she waited in silence for the vampire to claim it.
He didn’t take it from her. Instead, Spike took her hand in his, forcing her fingers to curl around the talisman, then scooped her up so that her curves melded against him. She lifted one arm around his shoulders to steady herself, forcing her body to press even more firmly to his, and the hand with the amulet nestled against his chest.
She nodded. “Let’s do it,” she said.
As he stood in the window watching the moonlight splay over the desert horizon, the last thing Daymon expected to be seeing was the Slayer climbing gracefully over the far fence with her vampire close at her heels. His fingers curled into the windowsill, carving half-moons into the soft wood, and his heart sank at the realization that somehow, Buffy Summers had managed to escape his control. Celie’s magic had proven fallible after all.
The pilot answered the phone on the second ring. “I’ll just have one of the girls go back and put her on,” he said in response to Daymon’s request. The wait seemed interminable, and the Greek was beginning to wonder if he’d been disconnected when the pilot returned to the line. “I’m sorry, sir,” he said. “Celie doesn’t seem to be onboard at the moment.” Further questioning revealed that neither the witch’s belongings nor the Hound were anywhere to be found, and Daymon replaced the receiver in an even blacker mood than when he’d started.
Somehow, he was right back where he’d started from when he’d first discovered who and what the Chosen One really was. All those years of searching, only to be spoiled by a headstrong girl with a penchant for vampires, and a witch with some unknown agenda. He sighed, rubbing his eyes. The deadline was drawing nigh; the time for being a gentleman about this was over…
To be continued in Chapter Thirteen: Out of the Frying Pan…