DISCLAIMER: Everything but the plot is Joss'. Well, the baddies are mine. OK, Cortina’s mine, too. But everything else really is his. Too bad.
SUMMARY: Giles has learned the truth about Spike and Buffy, while Daymon has found the Scoobies in Cortina’s caves.

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Chapter 22: Revisited

She hadn’t made a noise, but even in the blackness, he knew she was there. Vanilla…the dry perfume of Cortina’s sheets…and sweat, a salty tang that caused his mouth to suddenly water, the image of her golden skin shining in the light as she slid on and off of his cock fixating on his inner eye. His erection was immediate; he only wished that he could turn his head so that he could see her approach, feast on her animal grace as she wound her way to his side. But the witch’s magic bound him in place, and he could no more look around than he could sit up.

Hot fingers trailed up the bare skin of his arm, and Spike found himself unable to suppress the shudder of pleasure the faint touch evoked. His eyes flickered shut as the Slayer traced the prominence of his clavicle before mirroring its path in reverse down his left shoulder. “Buffy…” he groaned, only to be silenced by her lips covering his, a firm caress sucking out what little air he had in his lungs. He longed to reach up, entangle himself in those blonde waves, pull her into the kiss harder…deeper…

“You didn’t think I’d just let psycho-witch get away with Lindbergh-ing my favorite Spike, did you?” she whispered, her mouth suddenly only millimeters from his ear. The sharp tip of her tongue swept along the ridges, and her teeth nipped at the cartilage of its upper arch, sending licks of flame down the vampire’s spine.

“We don’t…have that much…time…” he gasped.

In a flash, she was straddling him, her hair hanging over her shoulder and tickling his chest. “Then I better be quick with this,” Buffy murmured. He didn’t know when she had removed her pants---or his, for that matter---but there was no mistaking the slick channel of her pussy as it sucked him in, stretching around his girth, devouring his cock in one ravenous swoop. He waited for her inevitable slide back up…but it never came.

“She didn’t lay a hand on you, did she?” the young woman asked, holding him deep inside. “Give me a reason to hurt her.”

He chuckled. “Not yet, luv,” Spike said, his voice barely above a whisper. “She seems to be waitin’ for somethin’.”

“I know what I’m waiting for,” Buffy replied. Her head lowered and she brushed a feather-soft kiss across his mouth, her hazel gaze never breaking from his. “I love---.”

Her words choked off with a gurgle, and Spike felt the warm splash of her blood on his face. He couldn’t move, but the panic rose in his throat like bile as her body slumped against his, the pounding of her pulse already starting to fade, the glint of the scattered moonlight reflecting off the knife in her back…

*************

“…Buffy!”

His scream ripped through the heavy musk of the stable as he bolted upright, his nerve endings racing as if he’d just sparred with the devil himself. A dream, a dream, it was only a dream, he intoned silently, but the taste of her blood on his lips…its scent as it spattered across his cheeks…too real, it had seemed so real…Even now, he couldn’t help his hands coming up, convinced that he’d still find rivulets of red etching his face.

Spike heard the witch stir on the other side of the pen and froze, hoping against hope that he hadn’t woken her. She was in a foul mood, constantly muttering under her breath about some stupid side effect of her spell before finally drifting off to sleep. From the thick aromas in the air, the vampire finally knew where he was; she’d moved them to the Hound’s quarters. He had yet to see the dog; he could only assume it was somewhere nearby. This was only a temporary pit stop; the witch was exhausted and in desperate need of rest before continuing on to whatever final destination she had in mind.

“Enjoy your sleep, demon,” she’d snarled. “It’ll be your last.”

The pen was surrounded by the same type of containment spell that had held Spike and Buffy within the bedroom in Daymon’s hold. The vampire knew from experience that there would be no chinks in the invisible walls; still, with Celie so fatigued and her powers so diminished, there was the chance that a crack did exist. As stealthily as the dry straw and his aching muscles would allow, he stood and found the edge of the spell behind him. He’d do this all night if it meant getting back to Buffy…

*************

“I refuse to allow you to go alone,” Giles argued.

Her arms crossed over her breasts, Buffy tilted her head as she regarded the older man with a tinge of amusement. “Alone equals one. Last time I checked, Slayer plus Wicca plus big scary Hound thing equals three. I will not. Be. Alone.”

“And if Celie is in fact with this Daymon? Are you prepared to take them both on with so little help?”

“By that point, I’ll have Spike---.”

“---who could be seriously injured or even dead---.”

“---who would only be a last resort anyway since neither Boris nor Natasha are demons.” She sighed. “Trust me. I’ve seen this guy. Daymon’s such a non-threat, even Benedict Xander could take him.” She deliberately avoided looking back at him as she said this.

The young man shrugged. “It’s nice to know there’s at least one bad guy out there who would fall under the might of that which is me,” he joked, but felt the first flicker of hope since returning to Cortina’s lair. Maybe he could actually be of some help with this kidnapper…

Giles regarded his charge, his lips pursed. “Buffy,” he said tightly, “could I possibly have a word with you? Alone?” He gestured to the other side of the stream.

The Slayer rolled her eyes. “Because of course, now, alone can equal two,” she commented, but stepped past him anyway, walking slowly around the edge of the water and away from her group of friends.

Watching Giles follow after the young woman, Cortina stepped up to the group of friends. “OK, let’s dish,” she said brightly. “Anyone care to fill me in on the details of this little prophecy that’s got Rupert so hot and bothered?”

Willow glanced over at the demon. “He didn’t tell you?”

“He was a little distracted by my…books,” she replied, her pale blue eyes dancing mischievously.

Anya reached into her bag and pulled out the Tract of Telemus. “Be careful,” she said as she handed it over. “It’s quite old and very valuable.”

Cortina turned it over in her hands, before beginning to flip through the pages. “You’re kidding, right? Please tell me you didn’t pay a fortune for this.”

“Well, I’m…not sure,” Anya stumbled. “Why? It’s not a fake, is it?”

“Oh, no, it’s the real deal. It’s just not a very good copy.” She held it up to her nose, sniffed delicately at the papyrus. “Someone’s rebacked it, there’s foxing in the Middle Ages section, and…” She took another whiff. “…at some point, it’s been buried with a Plasonian demon.”

Xander let out a low whistle, leaning over to whisper in Willow’s ear, “Someone more freaky-deaky about books than Giles? Who’d of thunk it?”

“But the p-p-prophecies are still right, aren’t they?” asked Tara.

“Well, as right as they’re going to be for a manic/depressive with a god complex,” Cortina shrugged. “Where’s the one about Buffy?” Taking the text, not quite so gently this time, Anya turned to a page toward the end of the tome before handing it back. The white demon grimaced. “Crappy picture.”

Willow nodded. “It’s not high on the Buffy lovin’ scale, either.”

The demon read out loud,

“…And Chosen is the Chalice,
To war, with passion, with strength,
Then to devour, with equal fortitude
As the demon possesses her
Body, soul, spirit.
Radiance quickening,
For the cleansing of the impure calls forth the vermin
Who cling to evil’s underbelly,
Feeding from the Chalice
As she rains a shower of death.
And those she loves will burn.”

She was quiet for a moment, a tiny line between her brows, and then, “Huh.” Glancing up, her eyes went to the Watcher across the stream, and Cortina repeated, “Huh.”

“You only think it’s huh-worthy?” quizzed Xander. “I know you’re not part of the usual Slayer cortege, so maybe you’re not as bothered by the burning loved ones as we are, but you still seem a little blasé about the whole Buffy raining death thing.”

Very slowly, the white demon closed the book and handed it back to Anya. “I’m sorry,” she said, distractedly. “It’s just…if I didn’t know better---.” She was interrupted when one of her horned lieutenants came scuttling out of nowhere and began whispering in her ear, its guttural dialect lost on the young people surrounding her. Her translucent blue eyes widened, then darkened in anger, and she turned a flushed face back to the Scoobies. “Please, I must excuse myself,” she apologized, before rushing off after her guardsman in a white flurry.

The quartet stood there, looking around at each other awkwardly. “So,” Anya finally said, “how much do you think the book is actually worth?”

*************

She didn’t know how to describe it…a cross between worried Watcher and angry Giles, perhaps? With a little of reluctant Rupert thrown in on the side for just a bit of flavor. She watched as he chewed on the ends of his glasses, his left hand tucked under his right arm, those lined blue eyes staring down at her. “So…” Buffy said, desperate to break the silence. “It’s been my experience that lectures usually involve some form of oral interaction, normally of the talking kind, although sometimes of the shouting. I do believe this is my very first reprimand of the mime variety.”

“I’m not angry.” His voice was clipped, even more so than usual, and the young woman felt the familiar ache of guilt as she averted her eyes. “Is there…anything you wish to tell me?”

He was giving her the perfect opportunity. He knew it. She knew it. And yet…the Slayer’s throat constricted, the words strangled before they could even be uttered. Why was this so difficult? She silently laughed. Hell, if she couldn’t say the words to Spike, there was no way she could say them to Giles. Maybe it was a them-being-British thing. “I just want you to know that I know what I’m doing here,” she finally said. “You have to trust me.”

“I do,” he murmured. “I always have. But that doesn’t stop my worrying.” He rubbed a hand over his tired eyes. “I’m not blind, Buffy. I know something has happened to you over the past few days, something you’re choosing to keep to yourself, for some inexplicable reason. I’m not going to demand that you divulge your little secret. What I am going to do, however, is insist that you listen to my expertise when I say that refusing additional aid is both rash and foolhardy, and will most likely cause someone their life.”

Deep down, in that place she kept locked away from outside eyes, the Slayer knew he was right, that not allowing the gang to help her was both risky and desperate. But to agree, to let them in, meant…sharing Spike…when she’d only just discovered him for herself…

“When this is all over,” she said, “I promise you that I will explain everything.” She forced herself to meet his blue gaze. “You won’t like it, and you’ll probably go Daddy Dearest on me, but I’ll tell you anyway. Because you deserve to know the truth, more than anyone else.” She took a deep breath, steadying her racing nerves. “For now, as long as you agree that we get Spike first, I’ll let you play Kirk and be all ordery. I’ll even listen,” she finished with a smile.

“Thank you,” he murmured, his face relaxing only slightly at the concession. “I don’t want you to think I’m against trying to help Spike,” he found himself adding as she began to turn away. Her hazel eyes came back to his. “He has proven…useful on a number of occasions.”

Buffy’s lips curled slightly. “Yes, he can be…useful,” she agreed. “Did I mention he helped me get over the fever?”

“Yes. Yes, you did.” Just go ahead and tell me, Giles begged silently. Put us both out of our misery.

“And of course, he’s been a tremendous asset when it comes to the whole Hound thing.” She was babbling now, more out of relief to be past the Spike issue for the moment than anything else. “Oh, and he was the Sherlock when it came to the cave Cortina’s men found us in. You know, for a demon, she seems pretty cool. I haven’t really figured her out yet, but at least she’s nice enough about it. Don’t you think she’s nice, Giles?”

At the mention of their hostess’ name, Rupert colored slightly and hastily replaced his glasses. “Very,” he said quickly, too quickly really, but Buffy was too distracted to notice. “Perhaps we should rejoin the others. Revisit our plan of attack.”

Anything to avoid this topic, he thought.

*************

“Where’s Cortina?” Buffy asked as they returned to the group.

“Off on demon business,” Xander explained.

“Right. Well, we’ve decided to opt for a new strategy,” Giles said, ignoring the knowing glances passing between the younger people. “Rather than---.”

“Ssshhhh!”

All heads swiveled to look at the Slayer, who now stood stock-still, her body rigid, her eyes fixed on nothing as she strained to listen, to confirm or deny the…What had it been, a scratching…a rasp? The Scoobies held their breath as she stretched her senses, hoping to…

And there it was again. A dryness, rustling in the cave’s void, somewhere off to her left. Slowly, Buffy reached into her Watcher’s duffel, extracting the crossbow he had ready there. “Don’t move,” she whispered, not even looking at her friends, her gaze intent instead on sweeping the various exits that spanned the area from which the sound had emanated. “Eeny, meeny, miney, moe,” she murmured, and took a step forward, arming the crossbow without even looking at it. “Somewhere out there’s a demon ‘ho.”

She stopped, struggling to narrow her field of choices, eyes dancing from arch to arch. It was there, she could feel it in her bones, and she only had to be patient, wait for it to make its presence known. Inside her head, a tiny giggle bounced around. Nice to know the Slayer equipment still works, she thought happily.

Five…ten…thirty seconds stretched into a minute, and Buffy began to wonder if maybe she’d been mistaken. It still felt like something was out there, but there were no more sounds, no more clues as to its whereabouts. Maybe it’s just one of Cortina’s guys, she thought. Maybe with all this worrying about Spike, I’ve just gone into overload and one of those guards has set all this off. The crossbow perched on her shoulder lowered, and she half-turned to face the Scoobies, a sheepish smile of apology ready and waiting.

“Sorry, guys,” she said. “Don’t know what got into me…” Her voice trailed off as she took in Willow’s eyes, wide as saucers…Anya, clutching desperately at Xander’s arm…Giles, arm flung out to his side in some half-assed attempt to shield Tara…All of them were staring off to Buffy’s left.

Looking back seemed to take forever. When she had, she felt her heart sink to her boots. There, in the central exit, it stood. Seven feet tall if it was an inch…why are all these demons so damn big? the Slayer thought irrationally. It wasn’t a man, although it walked erect. It wasn’t a snake, although it had a tail on it that dragged along behind for almost five feet before disappearing around a bend in the corridor. Perhaps the closest equivalent would be some type of lizard, scaled in a deep brownish-green, black reptilian eyes staring coldly directly at her. No tiny limbs for this one, though. Arms as heavily muscled as a professional bodybuilder’s wielded an elaborate sword, its four-foot blade reflecting rainbows onto the stone walls, while the thick legs, although not quite man-sized, still made up almost half its height.

“You look so familiar to me,” Buffy said lightly, raising the crossbow back up to her shoulder, trying to look more confident than she felt. “I didn’t kill a relative of yours, did I? A mother, maybe, or a brother? Third cousin on your father’s side?” No response, no movement. “Although, must say, snake samurai? Soooo B-movie.”

As her finger tightened on the trigger, the demon spoke. “So good to see you in improved health, Miss Summers.”

The Slayer froze. That voice…so oily…slick…although with more of a hiss…Her grip relaxed on the weapon as the face of the demon melded with the face of the man in her mind’s eye…

…Daymon…


To be continued in Chapter Twenty-Three: Blood Battles