DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course. 
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY:  Spike has told Buffy that she’s not the mark, while Wesley has saved Willow from getting hurt when Lindsey and his bodyguard arrive at Heaven to prevent her from helping Spike escape after the hit.  Willow has figured out that Spike is being set up for something by whoever it was that hired them, and he, in the meantime, has arrived at Faith’s apartment…

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

Chapter 14: A Slight Case of Murder

Give the man a twenty-four deadline and he goes for the whore angle, Trick thought as he stepped into the foyer of the apartment building.  Interesting.

Considering how slippery the Mayor could be, it wasn’t the method he would’ve used to get to the man; it seemed to Trick that down and dirty was really the best plan of attack under the circumstances.  Find the man in the street and gun him down with too many witnesses to give a coherent report.  But he’d been warned that Rook was unpredictable and this certainly fit his modus operandi.  And if his boss wasn’t so invested in the outcome of the hit, he’d be tempted to just sit back and watch the whole thing go down.  Somehow, he got a feeling it was going to be a good show.

Or it would’ve been if he didn’t already know how it was going to end.

Under normal circumstances, he didn’t think the doorman would’ve let someone like him loiter in the lobby of such a hoity-toity apartment building, but slipping him a pair of C’s had made him a lot more amenable to overlooking Trick’s presence.  He’d been looking forward to this part of the job ever since the arrangements had been made.  As soon as the mouthpiece had given the deadline ultimatum, the assignments had fallen into place---Trick on Rook, McDonald and Leroy on the red-haired dame, Gunn on Giles.  They’d had to pull someone in from the neighborhood to cover the other guy---Trick didn’t even know his name---but Rook was the important player in this game.  All of them knew that.  That was why Trick got him.

Because he was the best. 

Because there was no way in hell the boss was going to let Rook get away without paying for what he’d done so many years ago. 

And because vengeance served cold tasted sweetest.

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

He couldn’t help his smirk as his blue eyes swept over her exposed curves, the white silk of her peignoir set offsetting the olive tones in her skin, deepening the cinnamon of her eyes.  “Now that’s a breakfast treat to wake up to,” Spike commented as he pushed himself off the jamb and stepped inside the entrance.  He brushed past her and into the elegantly furnished living room, drinking in the plush contours of the furniture before strolling over to the large window.  “Nice view.”

“Did I miss the part of our conversation last night where I said stop by and see me some time?” Faith asked.  She kept the door open, hand on its edge, making it more than clear that she expected him to leave.

His back was to her, and as carefully as he could manage, Spike slid his hand to his holster inside his jacket so that she couldn’t see what he was doing.  “And here I thought we’d developed a rapport,” he said.  The twist of his body sideways aimed his gun directly at her, and his mouth was firm.  “Now shut the door.”

She didn’t even flinch as she pushed it with the tips of her fingers, waiting until it was closed against the outside before speaking again.  “Funny.  Not the long and hard I’m really in the mood for right now.”

“Expectin’ company?”

“Don’t need company for that.”

In spite of his mood, he grinned, and felt his admiration for the girl swell.  If it wasn’t for Buffy, this was one dame he could’ve spent hours being entertained by.  Probably a tiger in the sack, he reasoned.  No wonder Wilkins likes her so much.

Out loud, he said, “As much as I’d love to be the one to prove to you otherwise, I’m goin’ to be needing you to get dressed, pet.  We got us a little business to take care of.”

Defiantly, she folded her arms across her chest, not moving from her spot.  “This the business that had you around Heaven?” she asked.  “I knew I should’ve told Richard about you.”

“Hate to break it to you, but Dick already knows.”

His response was the first thing to garner a reaction from her, and Faith frowned, her body stiffening.  Spike watched as her eyes darted to a small end table that lay halfway between them, and saw the phone that rested on top of it.

He beat her to it, yanking the cord from the wall as his leg lashed out to sweep her feet out from under her.  Faith went sprawling, and before she could regain her balance, he had his free arm wrapped around her waist, chuckling as he carried her struggling form into the adjoining room.  “This kind of moxie’s only goin’ to get you hurt,” he said.  “And you’re not the one I’m interested in hurting right now.”  Unceremoniously, he dropped her onto the unmade bed, and pressed the barrel of the gun into her temple.  “But I will if you don’t start behaving like a good little girl and do as I say.”

“What’s the grift, Spike?” she spat.  Slowly, she sat up, fixing her gaze on him even as he kept the gun trained on her head.  “Not that I didn’t already think you were one to get all gashouse on a girl, but all you had to do was ask, you know.  If you’d played your cards right, I could’ve shown you tricks B couldn’t even begin to imagine.”  She saw his nostrils flare at the mention of Buffy, and the smile curved across her face.  “Is that it?” she asked.  “Did B tell you to go climb up your thumb?  Well, aren’t I a bunny.  I should’ve guessed you were here to work out your sexual frustration.”

Snarling, Spike entangled his free fingers into the loose strands of her hair, pushing her face down sideways against the bed before kneeling to put his own only inches from hers.  “Buffy’s got nothin’ to do with this, understand?” he said.  The flicker of pain that darted behind the brown sent a twinge of guilt through his head, but he quickly shoved it aside in the face of the job that lay before him.  “This is business, pure and simple.  Now.  I’m goin’ to let you go, and you’re goin’ to sashay that perky little ass of yours to what I’m assuming is your closet and not the maid’s quarters, and you’re goin’ to get yourself dolled up all nice and pretty-like, all right?  Because if you don’t, I’m goin’ to put a bullet through your head and find another way to get my business accomplished.”

He sincerely hoped she’d just start doing what he said.  He liked Faith.  He didn’t want to kill her.  But if she wasn’t going to cooperate and come peaceably, he wasn’t going to have a choice about plugging her and coming up with another solution to killing the Mayor.

The tension slowly eased from Faith’s shoulders, and her lashes lowered so it was impossible for him to see her eyes.  “Fine,” she said tightly.  She waited for him to move the gun, but when he only extricated his hand from her hair, she gritted her teeth and sat up anyway, brassily pressing back against the muzzle until she was erect.  “I suppose you’re going to want to watch me change, too,” she added, and only then did she look up at him.  “Be a good boy and maybe I’ll let you help.”

“I’ll wager that’s probably Dick’s favorite part,” Spike said, relaxing his aim slightly to allow her to stand.

“That mean you’re taking me up on my offer?”

“No, it means your sugar daddy’s got good taste.”  His eyes flickered to the mussed sheets, the realization that she was still dressed in her nightclothes at nearly noon finally settling in his brain.  His eyes narrowed, darting around the room.  So many things he had missed upon entering, but then again, he’d been a little distracted.

The slightly steamy feeling in the air as the sticky air wafted in through the open door to the bathroom.

The faint aroma of aftershave.

A heavy watch laid meticulously on the nightstand.

“Where is sugar daddy?” he asked warily, backing slightly away so that he could peer into the bathroom. 

His gun never wavered, and though Faith could see that his attention was elsewhere, there was no mistaking his notice of her.  “Not here, if that’s what you’re thinking,” she replied.

“But he was.”

“And now he’s not.  What’s your point, Sherlock?”

His blue gaze was level, a glimmer of satisfaction hidden in the depths.  “He left his watch.”

“So?  In case you haven’t noticed, Richard’s got the dough.  He can afford to own more than one watch.”

“Next to his wallet.”

It was only then that she looked over at the stand next to the bed and spotted the billfold almost hidden behind the lamp.  Before she could turn back, Spike had wrapped his hand around her arm, jerking her firmly against him.

“Change of plans, luv.  Now, why do I think a skirt like you is goin’ to have rope handy?”

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

She hadn’t stopped moving since the phone call.

With an exasperated sigh, Mickey heaved himself from the couch, pulling his keys out of his pocket at the same time.

In mid-step, Buffy froze, frowning as she watched him head toward the door.  “Where are you going?” she asked.

“Anywhere but here,” he replied.  “You’re making me dizzy with all the pacing, and if you’re not going to do something about what Spike said to you, then there’s no point in me hanging around.”

“You’re kidding, right?”  She stared at him, incredulous.  “Do you really think I should just throw away everything I have here, meet up at the airport with a man who very possibly is trying to kill me, and fly back to California, like all the stuff that happened there before doesn’t matter now?”

There was a pause as he seemed to contemplate her words.  “Yeah, that’s what I think,” Mickey finally said.

“You’re crazy.”

“So’re you.”

The ringing of the telephone cut Buffy off from replying, startling her from her stance as her head whipped around to look at it.  “That’s gotta be Wesley,” she said, practically sprinting for the phone.  When it was up to her ear, she rushed, “Please, oh please, say you have good news for me, Wes.”

A long silence.  “Um, OK, first of all, not Wes.”

She stiffened at the sound of Willow’s voice.  “How did you get this number?” she demanded.  “And what kind of nerve do you have---.”

“I got it from Wesley,” Willow interrupted.  “And it’s only me calling so that he has time to change his clothes before we leave.”

“So now you’ve fooled another decent man with your Pollyanna act?”  Buffy almost couldn’t believe the bitterness that tinged her voice.  Prior to the revelations about Willow’s involvement with Spike, she’d genuinely liked the redhead, and had been pleased that Wes had seemed to be interested in her.  Two good people who deserved to have a little happiness, she had thought.  Of course, that had all been shattered upon learning that the coat check girl was really working hand in hand with one of the best hitmen to ever come out of New York City.  Another gut instinct all shot to hell.

“What?  No, it’s not like that.  He had blood all over---.  Never mind.  It’ll take too long to explain and I don’t have time to be storyteller right now.  Listen, he told me what he said to you.  You’re not Spike’s mark, Buffy.  You’ve got to know that.  Wes got it all wrong---.”

“And I should believe you because…why, Willow?  You called my place in the middle of the night and Spike goes running without telling me why, except to tell me not to go anywhere because he needs to be able to find me.  And then I find out he’s William Rook?  You tell me what I’m supposed to think.”

“You’re supposed to think that Spike’s nuts about you.  We’ve got tickets to get out of here tonight and he made Giles buy one for you, too.  Call the airline and confirm if you don’t believe me.  He doesn’t want you dead.”

The blonde grimaced.  Call the airline.  Why hadn’t she thought of that?  Because she’d been too busy obsessing about the possibility that Spike could actually be telling the truth and what in hell was she thinking even considering leaving everything behind here?

“If you’re on the up and up,” she finally said, “put Wes on the phone.  Otherwise, I’m hanging up and you can tell Spike he should’ve taken his shot when he had the chance.”

“Damn it, Buffy---.”

“I’m going to count to five.  If you don’t put Wes on the phone, I’m gone.”

“I told you, he’s changing.”

“One.”

“You have to believe me.  Why would I lie to you?”

“Two.”

“Oh, god, don’t hang up.  Spike’ll kill me.”

“Three.”

“Wait, wait.”  Willow’s voice grew fainter as she pulled the phone away from her mouth.  “Wes!” she called.  “Wes!  Please tell me you have pants on because I’m coming in!  You need to talk to Buffy now!”

Though the image of the club manager struggling with his trousers threatened to bring a smile to Buffy’s face, she kept her voice level.  “Four.”

“Don’t say five!  Don’t say five!  Hang on, he’s right here.  Hang on!”

A clatter on the other end of the line.  Something crashing to the floor, and then the unmistakable sound of Wesley cursing.

“Buffy?  I’m so sorry for this.”

Her heart was pounding; he was actually there.  Was all of it true?  Her gut was screaming at her a resounding yes, and the tenuous grip she had on her nerves threatened to slip.  When she spoke, though, her tone betrayed none of that.  “I knew you liked her, Wes,” she said, “but I didn’t expect her to be able to sway you over to the other side quite so fast.”

“It’s not like that.  I was wrong.  I had all the facts---well, not all the facts, I didn’t get those until I heard them threatening Willow.  Anyway, you’re not the mark.  The Mayor is.  They’re being blackmailed into killing Mr. Wilkins.  Not.  You.”

She heard a slap of skin against skin and Willow’s voice in the background immediately following.  “You weren’t supposed to tell her that.  It puts her in danger, too.”

“She needs to know.”  Back into the receiver.  “Did you hear me?  You’re perfectly safe.  You can go back to your apartment.  You’re not in any danger from Spike.”

“He’s…trying to kill Mr. Wilkins?”

“Yes, but they’re setting him up for something---.”

“Wesley!”  That was Willow.

“---only we don’t know what,” he continued as if he hadn’t been interrupted.  “As soon as I get off the phone here, we’re going to where he’s taking Faith---.”

It was Buffy’s turn to cut in.  “Faith?  What does she have to do with anything?”

“Apparently, she’s how Spike was planning on getting to him.”  He paused, and Buffy could hear Willow’s voice in the background, muffled as if he had his hand over the receiver so she couldn’t hear.  

Her mind was racing over all the new information.  First Mickey’s disbelief, then Spike’s disavowal.  Now, Wesley’s confirmation of everything.  Not her.  He’d been telling her the truth.

And he was in trouble.  Enough trouble that Wesley was getting involved. 

“Buffy?  Did you hear me?”

She stopped the train of her thoughts long enough to focus on his voice again.  “What was that?” she asked.

“We’re going now.  I’ll try to explain what I can tonight at work, all right?”

“Right.”

Her fingers were trembling as she hung up the phone, a glaze shading the green of her eyes as she just stood there, using the table as support.

“You all right there?”  Mickey’s hand came out to rest on her shoulder, kneading it gently.

At first, Buffy nodded, but then the nod disintegrated into a mute shake of her head.  When she lifted her gaze to look into his face, the uncertainty had been replaced by the staunch strength he recognized as the woman he knew.  “Is that bucket of bolts of yours downstairs?” she asked.

His returning look was quizzical.  “Yeah.  What of it?”

Her purse was in her hands and she had pushed past him, out the door, before she answered.  “Because I need you to get me somewhere.  Fast.”

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

Maybe they’d been wrong.  Maybe the fact that Rook hadn’t reappeared meant that he was just messing around with the whore and none of this had anything to do at all with the hit on the Mayor.  Maybe Trick was just wasting his time by hanging around in the lobby, waiting for something that wasn’t going to happen.

He ducked his head when the doorman rushed forward to pull open the door for a whistling Richard Wilkins, noting the small white pastry bag dangling from the older man’s hand.  Trick followed him with his eyes as he headed straight for the elevators, not once noting the presence of anything out of the ordinary, and disappeared inside the small lift to head---most likely---up to his mistress’ apartment.

Then again, he thought with a satisfied chuckle, maybe everything was happening exactly according to plan.

With a small salute to the doorman, Trick slipped through the doors onto the street, aiming himself for the phone booth just several feet away.  Within seconds, he’d inserted his coin and had dialed the number. 

It was answered on the first ring.

“Get ‘em down here,” he said.  “I can only hold him so long.”  Barking out the address of the apartment building, he was off the phone and back inside before the elevator had even stopped moving.

“You might want to freshen up a bit,” Trick said to the doorman as he pressed the button for the elevator.  “You’re about to get a whole lotta company.”

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

His hand still hurt from where she’d bitten him.  Midway through tying Faith up, the brunette had tried to make a break for it, screaming at the top of her lungs when she only half-managed to twist free from his grip.  Spike had immediately clamped his hand over her mouth and was rewarded with a resounding bite, but it hadn’t been enough to loosen his grip.  Dragging her back to the bed, he’d slapped a gag on her as well as he could without letting her go, and finished lashing her wrists to the bedframe.  She’d only glared at him since.

Wilkins was coming back---that much was clear---but how long he would be gone, Spike had no idea.  He’d briefly debated following through on the original arrangement, but this opportunity seemed too rich to pass up.  Shoot the bastard when he came back for a little more nooky, then blow the joint and head straight for the airport.

The only kink in the new plan was that he couldn’t call Harris and Red to let them know, having already yanked out the phone cord to prevent Faith from ringing for help.  They’d probably start stewing soon, Spike thought.  Not knowing where I am or what’s goin’ on.  Only hope is that Wilkins doesn’t take long to show.  Then, I’ll just head to the rendezvous as we’d arranged, but with the job done this time.

And then it would be the airport, and home.  Alive.

It was only then that he let his thoughts drift back to Buffy, and to the phone conversation he’d had with her before heading to Faith’s.  She knew who he was.  She had some of her facts a bit all to cock, but she’d still not been so afraid to keep from calling him.  He should’ve said something to her sooner.  Should’ve told him who he was and why he exactly he was in the city.  But he couldn’t, and he knew that.  And keeping her in the dark about who his mark was going to keep her alive, which right now, meant more to Spike than if she got on the plane or not.

Not that he didn’t hope with all his being that she would show at Municipal.  God, what would he do if she didn’t?

Back to life as normal.  Sign off on the contract with those fucking lawyers to get Red and Ripper in the clear, and then do what he could to make all this up to them.  A long vacation.  That’s what they deserved.  Hell, Red was going to need one after having to give up on that club manager.

But what about him?  Could he just pretend the last week hadn’t happened?  That he hadn’t met Buffy, that she hadn’t completely turned around his head on what could be possible when someone who understood you was right there by your side?

The short answer was no.  No way could he forget.

The long answer scared the hell out of him.  Because coming back to New York another time, especially after offing the Mayor, was just going to be too risky.  So if Buffy didn’t come of her own accord, he was going to be left holding the bag on that one.

And the tattered remains of his heart, the scarred and battered one Dru had left him with, the one he thought had been incapable of feeling love again, would be left sitting and collecting dust on a long-forgotten shelf in the blonde singer’s life, a prize she’d won without ever even knowing it.

The distant click of the door immediately sent his distracting thoughts scattering, and Spike stiffened, poising himself behind the bedroom door as he heard the footsteps come slowly through the apartment.

“Now where’s my little firecracker?” the Mayor called out.  His voice grew louder as he approached the bedroom, and there was a papery rustle before he spoke again.  “I was thinking we could eat these sugary delights in that bubble bath you suggested.  It’ll save on the clean-up afterward.”

The door pushed open, and as the ginger hair became visible, Spike swung the butt of his gun at the back of the Mayor’s head, watching as he crumpled to the floor.  Out like a bloody light.  Good.  Time to finish the job.

When he grabbed the pillow from the bed, his eyes met briefly with Faith’s, the brown wide with fear and hatred.  For a moment, Spike faltered.  She was going to be losing out on a lot here; there was no reason he had to kill Wilkins in front of her.  It would only take a few extra seconds to drag him to the outer room.

Eschewing the urge to comfort her, he turned away, tossing the pillow through the open door before grabbing the Mayor under the arms and dragging him out.  Quickly, he picked the cushion back up and, placing it over the man’s head, pressed the muzzle of his gun into its soft depths.  A deep breath steadied his nerves, clearing his head at the same time.  With three successive pulls of the trigger, the Mayor’s mild struggling that had started as soon as his breathing had been blocked, stopped.

Immediately, Spike’s hand shot to Wilkins’ wrist.

Nothing.

No pulse.

It was done.

Straightening, Spike reholstered his gun, stretching his neck to the side as he did so.  It was surprising how tense he was.  He’d spent most of his life killing people for old man Conti; though he wasn’t keen on having to do this particular assignment in the first place, he’d wasted more time and energy worrying about it than anything else he’d done in years.  It seemed like the further he got away from his past time-wise, the more distaste the choices he’d made left in his mouth.

But that didn’t matter now.  Wilkins was dead, and now it was just a matter of---.

The cold steel pressed against the back of his neck, and Spike stiffened.  In his unwinding, he hadn’t heard the steps come up behind him, and now realized he was no longer alone in the room.

“Well, isn’t this just bloody swell,” he muttered.

“Nice work.”  It was a masculine voice behind him.  Not what he was expecting.  He’d thought it was Faith, managed to get herself free.  “Too bad I missed the main attraction.”

“If I’d known there was goin’ to be that much interest,” Spike replied, keeping his voice even, “I’d’ve sold tickets.”  Before the last word was out of his mouth, though, his body was swiveling, his elbow lifting to connect with the underside of the man’s jaw, and he watched in grim determination as the black man went crashing back, his jaw clicking shut with a painful sound, his gun flying loose from his hand.

His own weapon was in his grip and aimed at the new arrival before he could sit up.  “Now tell me, who the fuck are you?” Spike demanded, standing over the man.

He wasn’t responding.  As the seconds ticked by and it became clear that he wasn’t going to get an answer, the blond’s patience began to wane, the smell of the blood from the body behind him sending the reminder that he had places to go, people to see.  Briefly, he considered plugging the new guy, too, but quickly dismissed it.  It wasn’t as if he didn’t already have a witness to his presence; adding another body to the count could only mean trouble in the long run.

“On second thought, who the fuck cares?”  Spike’s foot lashed out, smashing against the black man’s jaw, knocking him out just as cleanly as if he’d shot him.  Only not permanently, he thought wryly.  Wouldn’t Red be proud.

After a quick survey of the room, he was satisfied nothing was amiss and bolted for the doors, quickly noting the absence of the elevator and heading straight for the stairs.  A dozen or so floors wouldn’t hurt him.  Especially since he’d learned on the way up that the damn lift made snails look like Seabiscuit.  Time was of the essence and all that rot.  Had to get out and get clear before Mr. Bojangles decided to wake up from his little nap and muck the whole thing up.

Spike skidded to a halt at the bottom of the stairs, the muffled sound of voices---a lot of them---coming through the door to the lobby.  Pressing his ear against it, he caught the odd phrase and quickly realized the place was swarming with cops.

Bloody hell.

His mind raced.  He couldn’t have been heard; he’d made sure to use the pillow to muffle the sound.  No phone meant the mistress bird couldn’t have called for help.

That left the bloke he’d knocked out and Spike’s gut was screaming at him that he wasn’t a cop.

There wasn’t any time for reflection, though.  His priority was to get out of the joint without getting nailed.  There was one other door in the stairwell, but where it led to, Spike had no clue.  A quick listen at it, though, told him there wasn’t anyone on the other side.  Can’t be worse than here, he reasoned, and quickly, pushed it open.

Maintenance.  In the corner, a furnace blazed, and Spike stood still for a moment as his eyes adjusted to the dim lighting.  The deafening silence meant he was alone, and it was on his second sweep of the interior that he saw the dark outline of the exit. 

Jackpot.

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

Luck had been on their side with traffic.  As they rounded the corner to Faith’s apartment in what was probably record time, Buffy’s eyes widened as she saw the cadre of cop cars clustered along the street.

Apparently, Spike’s trouble came with a badge.

“Pull over,” she ordered, and waited as Mickey eased the car into a spot as near to the apartment building as he could get, hopping out before the vehicle had even stopped moving.

“Where are you going?” he said, leaning over the passenger seat to talk at her through the open window.

“To find out if I’m too late,” she replied and began walking determinedly down the street.

Well before she made it to the entrance of the building, an officer blocked her path.  “I’m afraid you can’t come through here,” he said.  “You’re going to have to take another route.”

“What’s happened?” she asked, eyes darting past him to see even more cops flooding inside the building.

“Someone’s been killed.  Now just move yourself along.”

Frowning, Buffy stepped back, walking just far enough away to convince the policeman she was leaving.  As soon as he’d turned away, though, she ducked into the nearest alley, pressing herself against the wall.

Now what? she thought wildly.  Did they have Spike in custody?  Was she too late to stop him?  It could be he’s already gotten away.  I can’t do anything here if I can’t get inside.  All I can do is…what?  What can I do?

Go to him at the airport.

The simplicity of the response startled her.  She wanted to be with him.  She’d wanted that almost from the beginning.  The fact that he used to work for the Conti’s---and how could she not trust his words after hearing Wesley and Willow on the phone?---almost seemed inconsequential.  After all, she’d been planning to marry into one of the most dangerous families in the city.  She’d been prepared to surround herself with a world of violence, all because it would lead her to her own vengeance, and she’d been willing to do that with a man who didn’t make her half as happy as Spike did.

Airport then.

She was about to slip back out onto the sidewalk when she caught a movement out of the corner of her eye, hesitating to look down the alley and see the door open outward.  Her breath caught in her throat, and she had to stop herself from yelling his name out loud when she recognized the shock of white-blond hair.

Spike.

Buffy was rushing toward him then, covering half the distance even before he’d turned to see her.  Curses for whoever invented heels were quickly lost as she threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck in a furious grip, choking back the sobs in her throat.

“Buffy?  Pet?”  Spike’s arms came up around her, one hand reaching up to stroke the hair that tickled his nose.

She didn’t even pull away to respond.  “Are you all right?” she asked.  “Please tell me you’re all right.”

“Fine.  Just…fine.”  She heard him inhale the scent of her perfume, felt the tension ease from his body even as his grip tightened.  “God, are you really here?” he murmured.  “What…?  How did you…?”

“Willow called me.  I took a chance that I would catch you before…”  It dawned on her then just why he was there, and the fact that he’d emerged from the apartment building on his own.  Slowly, she pulled back to look up into his face.  “There are cops all over the place, Spike.”

“I know.  Can’t figure out how.”

“Did you…you know…Mr. Wilkins?”

His mouth thinned.  “Red shouldn’t have told you.”

“She didn’t.  Wes did.”

That didn’t make him any happier.  “Red shouldn’t have told Wes, either.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

In spite of the sunshine of the day, the alley was dim, expanding his pupils so that his eyes appeared almost black.  Spike regarded her for a long moment.  “Yeah,” he finally said.  “Does it matter?”

“It matters to those cops out front,” Buffy replied, and was rewarded with a tilt of his head, the upward curve of the corner of his mouth.  “Which means we’ve got to get you out of here.  Now.”

Grabbing his hand, she dragged him to the mouth of the alleyway, stopping before they could be seen by those in front of the apartment building.  “There,” she said, pointing to Mickey’s car.  “Get in the back seat and get your head down.  I’ll be right behind you.”  She glanced over her shoulder and saw the crowd milling around, none of them looking in their direction.  “Go now,” she directed, giving Spike a little shove.

Mickey turned his head and grinned as the two blonds slid into the back seat.  “Not too late then,” he commented.  He nodded at Spike.  “You always carry around this much excitement with you, pal?”

He answered with a grin, causing Buffy to just shake her head.  “As glad as I am that you two are such bosom buddies,” she said, “we don’t have time for this.  Getaway now.  Bonding later.  Drive, Mickey.”

 

To be continued in Chapter 15: The Good, the Bad, and the Innocents…