DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course,
and the chapter title comes from Shakespeare’s “Sonnet XVII.”
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Both Buffy and Willow have learned the extent of how much of the Slayer is in each time, leaving William increasingly depressed about Buffy’s impending departure and Spike missing from the modern-day hotel…
Temperature was normally of no consequence to him. Hot. Cold. Lukewarm. All the same. When it came to heat, only the searing simplicity of fresh pumping blood sliding down his throat elicited any regular reaction from Spike, making him hard, making him throb, making him alive.
Now, though…trudging through the sewers of London, he was all too aware of the pressing damp trying to cling to his pores, each draft around his ankles making him unexpectedly chilled. It was welcome. Like the blood that dripped from his shredded knuckles, the result of repeated punches into the stone wall he’d found after losing the Watcher bird, it distracted him for milliseconds at a time from the war currently raging inside his skull.
“This was deliberate? Surely, you had to know what the results would be?” Lydia. Outraged and more than a little bit surprised. Self-righteous bint.
“Of course. Though I could hardly have predicted she’d actually get physically involved with William, now could I?” The witch. Unruffled. Cool customer, that one. “Perhaps the Council should include some sort of ethics training for their Slayers. I don’t expect Quentin would be pleased to hear Ms. Summers is having relations with yet another vampire.” He could almost hear the smile on her face. “Of course, he’s not actually a vampire yet so maybe she should be given a bit of leeway, eh?”
For Spike, that had been enough to start the questions from earlier tumbling again. But hearing Red and the witch argue after the Slayer’s X marks the spot display had been the impetus for answering at least one of them.
The familiarity of the scent of semen that he’d been so quick to dismiss the first time around.
Familiar…because it was his.
After he’d left the room with Willow, the niggle that the aroma permeating the room had been known to Spike had been just that. A niggle. Ripe for tossing once the joy of being able to shock and surprise the easily led redhead with a meticulously over-detailed, too exaggerated tale of what exactly he’d sniffed out in the room had overtaken him.
But with the added information---sleeping with this William they kept talking about, the Slayer’s time traveling tricks, their conviction that Spike was what they needed to bring Buffy back---he couldn’t help but go back to it. And the answers he came up with made his flesh crawl.
Not possible, he silently raged. And as he tried to distance himself from the fiasco of the hotel, he continued the internal diatribe with the occasional shapeless scream, the odd kick at a crumbling stone in the wall.
I’d bloody well know if I’d fucked the Slayer. Can’t just forget something like that. Wouldn’t just forget. But the miserable bitch wouldn’t spread ‘em for me so easy, anyway, right? Not because of the demon thing---certainly never got over her taste for a bit of cold comfort with Angel, now did she?---but ‘cause how many times did I have to put up with the holier than thou routine? Soddingstupidfuckingannoyingbeautifulgoddamn Slayer!
The last was punctuated with a ferocious growl and a slam of his fist into the nearest brick, a shower of stone and dust erupting from the force of it and the bones cracking in his hand. The pain was good. The pain was real. More real than fantasies of time games that would’ve made ol’ H.G. proud.
Of course, also real was his come dripping from the Slayer’s thighs.
He wanted to know what the fuck was going on. Though Spike had briefly considered doing a runner on the whole shebang, the need to understand how what he suspected could conceivably be surpassed his fleeting fetish for flight. It was bad enough having to be plucked about like Esme’s very own Pinocchio; being blinkered on a story that put him smack in the middle of his own Passions episode was too much to take.
His feet slowed. Though the witch and her odd crew weren’t spilling on details Spike thought he should know, that didn’t mean they were the only ones to be privy to the information. He’d been brought to London for a reason, and if they refused to bring him on as a full team member with all its inherent privileges, then maybe he didn’t want to be on their team anymore anyway.
It would mean foregoing getting Dru back so easily, Spike knew. And he wouldn’t get the pleasure of tucking a turned Slayer under his belt.
Well, not until he was done with what he needed from her, that is.
He just had to find this April chit first. “Demons of the world, unite,” Spike muttered as he took stock of his underground position for the first time since going on his rampage. His knowledge about the female vampire was sparse. Traveling with her boyfriend, had a hankering for Esme’s blood, been out of the city for quite awhile. Not really enough to go on, he realized. He had to think out of the box. He had to think like a vengeful turned Slayer. He had to try and put himself in her shoes.
A vicious humor curled his lips, and Spike chuckled as the idea sprang into his head. It was a long shot, but it wouldn’t take long to test. And if he was wrong, then he could just hit up a few demon bars he knew to see who was willing to share about a new power in town. His body was itching for a brawl anyway.
It just might help him to forget about the sight of a certain young blonde for a little bit longer.
Buffy watched him roll up his shirtsleeves, the surprising midday sun turning his unruly curls into honey. “Make sure you’re comfortable,” she instructed. “We’re going to take it easy at first, but you need to be prepared to move around.”
William nodded as he turned back to face her. Once the insight regarding Buffy’s situation had settled and the group had realized there was little they could do in the interim, the discussion had reverted to William’s training, culminating in Richard’s offer of all his resources. It was his suggestion they begin the process privately because, though the Council had a wider variety of weapons at hand as well as more extensive training rooms, there would be too many questions asked, and William’s privacy would be threatened. That was why they now stood in the center of the Council Head’s private garden, surrounded by a tall fence that completely blocked anyone from casual spying. Rose was still inside, studying how to go about finding Anne Freston, but Richard sat on a stone bench at the edge of the green lawn, ready to help should the need arise.
William’s stiffness didn’t escape Buffy’s notice. “Relax,” she said as gently as she could, and gave him a smile of encouragement when he visibly lowered his shoulders. She wasn’t so stupid not to know that his tension was about her upcoming return, but for now, she couldn’t let either of them indulge his tender feelings. With April on the loose and no way of telling how much longer she had in this time period, Buffy had to get William up to fighting form as fast as she could.
“Your glasses,” Richard said from the side. Both young people turned to look at him. “If you don’t need them for distances, I’d suggest removing them. One blow to your face, and you could be blinded.”
Another nod from William, and he slipped off his spectacles, carefully folding them as he carried them over to the bench. His mouth was pressed thin, as if that was the only way he was going to be able to keep his words inside, but when he returned to the center and faced Buffy again, his eyes were clear.
“Come at me,” she said. “I need to see how you move.”
His hesitation was obvious. “I can’t…” he stammered, and for the first time since beginning, William looked as if he wanted to flee.
“You’re not going to hurt me,” Buffy assured. “Slayer, remember?”
She wasn’t sure he was going to listen to her, but after a long pause, William exhaled slowly. “I’m not sure what you mean when you say ‘come at me,’” he admitted. “You wish me to…hit you?”
“Well,” she said with an impish twinkle in her eye, “I want you to try.”
She knew not to expect much. He had no exposure to rougher elements, and besides the bullying he’d taken as a child, William knew nothing of hand-to-hand combat. When she easily sidestepped his broad swing, even the slight momentum he’d had was enough to send him sprawling, but as she turned around, Buffy noted with delight the grace and speed with which he picked himself up from the ground again.
He wouldn’t meet her eyes as he wiped the stray grass from his palms. Short, sharp breaths highlighted the bright pink of his cheeks, and she knew he was embarrassed for his ineptitude. “Can we try again?” he surprised her by asking.
“Yeah,” she agreed, and this time watched as he expected her duck to the side again, compensating with a twist of his torso and a shorter swing that, while it didn’t connect, came much closer to her shoulder and kept him upright.
“Perhaps hand to hand is not your best option,” Richard said.
William frowned at the discouragement. “I can do this,” he argued, a touch of vehemence in his voice. “I must.”
“Richard’s right.” She kept herself firm when his hurt gaze swung back to stare at her. “I’ve seen enough.”
“I’m not giving up!”
“I didn’t say you were. I’m just saying I don’t think your fists are your best weapon.”
He paused. “What do you mean?”
“You’re fast. Maybe you can use that to your advantage.”
“But I’ve seen April. She moves so quickly, I have no hope to keep up with her. How am I to get close enough to stake her?”
“You don’t. But staking her’s not the only way you can kill her. Setting her on fire, or shooting her through the heart with a crossbow, or cutting off her head…those all work just as good as an old-fashioned stake.”
“Have you ever fenced?” Richard asked. “Or tried your hand at archery?”
“My father…before he passed…forced me to take several fencing lessons,” William said slowly. “But I was quite young, and my mother ended them after his death.”
“But that’s a start,” Buffy jumped in eagerly. She turned bright eyes to the Council Head. “I don’t suppose you’ve got a couple swords lying around, do you?”
His heart hadn’t been in it, at first. Even with Buffy’s assurances to the contrary, William couldn’t shake the fear that he was going to hurt her in some fashion, and deliberately held back on his initial punch. But the anger that rose in his gullet at his awkwardness had spurred him to try again, and his second attempt had been much more determined, even if it had failed as well.
And then the issue of swordplay came up, and he began to flounder again. It had been years since he’d held an epee, his mother’s constant worries that he’d get hurt forcing him to abandon the mild thrill that fencing had brought him. It was a guilty pleasure, one of the few which he could share with his father, and he’d always held himself proud for having that one tenuous link to his sire. Severing it had been excruciating, especially since in the aftermath of his father’s death, he’d only desired to have at least one thing of his to hold onto.
The moment the weight of the hilt caressed his palm, William felt a solemn peace settle over his limbs. This was right. This would work. It might take time, but his body remembered the weapon. This would be his means to winning Buffy’s respect.
She held her own sword with a casual ease that made him bristle, much to his surprise. He knew she was proficient with smaller blades---he’d witnessed her skill both in the dreams and here in London---but the petulant child within William wanted to claim superiority in the longer weapon. Combine that with his earlier frustrations and fears, and his first clumsy strokes smoothed within minutes, the fervor of his feelings driving his body harder, forcing him to fight to match Buffy’s expertise.
She never once raised her voice with him. As she danced around the garden, parrying his strokes, she guided him with verbal instruction on how not to drop the point of his blade, and how to stop watching his feet when they threatened to betray his balance. Even Richard’s occasional comment lapsed into silence under her composed tutelage, and together, she and William sharpened his long-forgotten skills, quickened his tepid initial pace.
Inside his chest, his heart thumped with a power that usually suggested his need to flee. It took William a few minutes to realize that it was the thrill of the fight that was surging through him, an insane desire to see it through to its natural conclusion that goaded him to begin experimenting with his lunges. A flash of Buffy’s ankle as she swirled away from his last attack was enough to send a rush of heat to his groin, and he spun out of her direct line of sight so that she wouldn’t see his sudden erection.
Though his practical mind was dizzy from trying to comprehend what was happening to him, his emotions---and, more importantly, his body---were taking charge, drowning in the release the fight was offering, where all he could see was the glistening of Buffy’s skin as she moved like music in the sunlight, and all he could hear was the roar of his own blood in his ears as he edged her toward one of the hedges lining the garden.
He’d never felt so free in his entire life.
There was no win or lose in their match. Buffy’s proficiency made it impossible for William to truly get the upper hand---of that, he was more than aware. But she allowed him to test her boundaries, countering his occasional reckless stroke while her eyes never left his face. If he didn’t know better, William almost would’ve thought she was enjoying their contest beyond what he would’ve expected. Every so often, she smiled, as if she had a secret that she wasn’t willing to share, and it only served to drive him even harder.
She surprised him before he could get her to the hedge. When he took one too many steps in one of his advances, Buffy’s leg swept out in a broad circle, catching against his shins and sending him to the ground. His sword fell from his grip as he landed hard on his back, and before he could react, she was straddling him, her skirt hitched up around her knees as her thighs curved around his hips.
William’s breath caught when he felt her wet heat pressing into his erection. Staring up into her face, the world fell away around him, where even the grey-blue of the sky above melted into nothing and all he could see was the shine on her cheeks, the too-bright gleam in her eyes.
Without warning, she fell forward, hands splaying to the grass above his shoulders to keep herself supported, her breasts grazing his chest. “That was reckless,” Buffy said breathily. “Do that with April and you’ll be dead before you know it.”
Mutely, William nodded. Of their own accord, his hands lifted to grasp her hips, tugging her slightly against his body so that the friction sent tiny tremors of pleasure along his spine. She gasped, freezing against his hold for the briefest of seconds, eyes locked on his.
“Do that with April,” she whispered, “and I’ll be the one who kills you, got it?”
It was the possessive tone in her voice that kindled the return of his earlier emotions, pushing him to the edge of rashness as his arm slid from her hip to curl around her lower back. “You say that as if you care, Miss Summers,” he said, adopting a mocking formal tone so stilted she couldn’t help but know that he was teasing her. “Surely, you aren’t concerned about the dispensation of my affections.”
For a moment, her face clouded, and the fear that he’d overstepped the boundary of their game and hurt Buffy sliced into William’s gut. “I’ll always care,” she said softly. “Even when…even after I’m gone, don’t you dare forget that I care. I love you, and I’ll love you even if I’m not here to say the words when you need them. And if you insist on forgetting, I’m just going to have to find some way to come back and kick your ass. Is that clear?”
“Clear,” he repeated. His mouth was on hers then, demanding the kiss she had no problem giving, claiming Buffy in a hungry bid for possession. Only the sharp cough behind them was enough to break through William’s passionate exaction, and they simultaneously pulled apart to see Richard gazing at them sternly.
“It would be appropriate for us to return to the house,” he said, his tacit meaning urging them to their feet. “I believe we’ve accomplished all we’re going to today.”
He turned on his heel without waiting for a response, and William jumped when Buffy poked him in the side.
“Somebody got us in trouble with the teacher,” she teased.
He smiled when she linked her fingers through his. “I thought that was your role,” he replied as they followed Richard back to the house. Between the kiss and their dueling, much of his tension from earlier was gone, replaced with a quiescence in his heart that was remarkably liberating. Pulling her hand to his mouth, William brushed his lips across Buffy’s knuckles, adding, “Thank you.”
She only smiled, slightly squeezing his hand in hers when they fell back between their strolling bodies.
She had never looked more beautiful.
Though the pictures were spread out before him for his scrutiny, Quentin didn’t see them, lost in the same thoughts that had been plaguing him since Lydia’s mysterious disappearance the night before. He had no doubts as to who was the means to her escape; only Esme had the power to slip in and out of the Council’s radar like that. What troubled him was the lone report that corroborated his suspicions.
As per standard procedure when there were unusual occurrences within the Council building, Travers had had staff members quiz some of the local businesses for anything odd that might help them. Nothing unusual panned out, but a Paki news agent around the corner had volunteered his store’s video tapes for them to watch, in case anything jumped out at them.
And stills taken of the Paki’s evening customers had revealed a nervous-looking Willow Rosenberg entering to buy a box of matches and a small bottle of water.
Esme was nowhere to be seen on the tape, but Quentin knew that meant nothing. If she didn’t want to be seen, she wouldn’t. What was unsettling was thinking that she might have actually convinced the Slayer and her friends that the Council was their enemy. He didn’t want to be responsible for ordering their deaths, not when they were such powerful allies.
He didn’t look up when a quiet knock echoed throughout his office. “Yes?” he called out.
The door opened and Beryl stepped inside, leaving it slightly ajar behind her. “Security has just called up a report,” she said. She wasn’t bothering to maintain any semblance of privacy; Travers’ office was tucked away in a reserved portion of the building where he could work in peace and where risks of interruption were at a minimum.
His eyes flickered to her calm appearance. “Was it not serious enough for them to bring to my attention themselves?” he asked.
“They didn’t think so. But they called it up, just to be safe.”
“There was a jump in the wards set up around the basement entrance. It flashed as if a vampire had broken in, but disappeared just as quickly as it showed up.”
He frowned. “Has anyone gone down to investigate---?” Quentin started to ask, only to have the question choke in his throat when smooth hands appeared from nowhere to wrap around Beryl’s head and give it a quick snap.
“No need,” the young woman said as she stepped over Beryl’s lifeless body. A lanky dark-haired young man followed her into the office, closing the door behind him and standing against it to prevent anyone from entering. “They won’t find anything but a broken door.”
He’d lived far too long not to know they were both vampires. Maintaining an outward calm, he leaned back in his seat, his hand dropping to his lap so that he could surreptitiously reach the weapon he had hidden underneath his desk. “I don’t believe I have you on my schedule,” he said calmly, and then froze when the female vamp was suddenly at his side, one hand blocking his hand’s path, the other in a talon around his throat.
“You Watchers never change,” she spat. Flecks of gold danced in her light brown eyes as she sneered in disgust. “The years pass, and your offices stay the same, just as your pathetic excuses for refuge never differ. I should just kill you now and be done with it.”
As the air became increasingly less in his lungs, Quentin’s head began to feel as if it was floating. Somehow, he’d always known he’d be dead at the hand of a vampire; he’d just assumed it wouldn’t be something as mundane as strangulation.
Then…her hand was gone, and she was sitting on the edge of the desk between him and his weapon.
“I don’t know why you’re being so antisocial,” she said, just as if she hadn’t just threatened to end his life. “From what I hear, you’ve been trying to find me for weeks now.”
Quentin shook his head. “I’m afraid you’ve heard wrong then,” he managed to croak. “I don’t even know who you are.”
Her smile didn’t reach her eyes when she thrust out her hand. “I’m April,” she said. “The Vampire Slayer.”
To be continued in Chapter 30: To Hear Her Speak…