DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Spike decided to just get Drusilla out without confronting Angel, but his distraction failed to work and he is now cornered inside Heaven with a passed out Dru in his arms…
Gino panted heavily as he came lumbering around the corner of the building, following the smaller Mickey into the alley. Gripping the wall when he saw Clem run up, he bent over, gasping for breath.
“What happened?” Clem asked.
“Angel…pulled his…heater out,” he managed.
“Yeah,” Mickey said. “We argued with him for as long as we thought it was safe, but then ran when things started getting ugly.” He frowned, scanning the otherwise empty alley. “Where’s Spike?”
Clem shook his head. “Hasn’t come out yet.”
“That can’t be good.”
“We should go in after him,” Gino said, straightening and trying to push his way past the smaller man. He stopped, though, when Clem grabbed his arm. Running just wasn’t his strong suit; he didn’t have the breath or the strength at the moment to argue with his friend.
“Spike said to wait. We have no idea how many of Angel’s men are in there, so as long as we don’t hear any gunshots, we gotta assume Spike’s OK.”
“Unless Angel’s got a knife,” Gino muttered.
“Spike can take care of himself.” He turned to Mickey. “Go get the car and bring it around. I’ll get mine. We’ll both be ready just in case---.”
“When,” Gino interrupted. “You mean when.”
“---when Spike comes out with Drusilla.”
As he watched, Mickey nodded, and both men took off at a lope to coordinate the vehicles. Gino didn’t like it, but that was the plan, and rather than more dead bodies get scattered around, he had to stick to it. The least he could do, was make sure no more of Angel’s men got inside through the back, and that the two who’d been on guard stayed unconscious. Stepping up to the pair on the ground, he gave both of them vicious kicks to the back.
That’s for Spike, he thought grimly, and turned to the door to wait.
His eyes were cold as he watched Angel nudge the door closed behind him with his heel, leaving them staring at each other across the dance floor, the thirty feet or so separating them doing nothing to diminish their mutual enmity. “Got quite the superiority complex there, haven’t we?” Spike commented. “’Specially, as you and me are both of the same age or so. Y’know, the last bloke to call me ‘boy’ got his tongue ripped out for the pleasure. You must be gunning to follow in his footsteps.”
A chuckle. “So we’re cutting right to the chase. Right. Well, sorry to disappoint, but I’m not up to sharin’ that spot of information just yet. Not ‘til I get Dru out of here.”
“That wasn’t the arrangement, Rook.” Slowly, Angel began sliding along the length of the wall, attempting to narrow the gap between them, but for every step forward he made, Spike took one back, keeping them ever equidistant.
“Looks to me you buggered up the arrangement the second you pulled your little peashooter on me.” He deliberately looked down at the sleeping woman in his arms, making it clear with that one motion that he wasn’t fearful enough not to look away from Angel. “And when you put the lights out on Dru. All bets are off, mate.”
The sound of the gun being cocked echoed against the walls. “I could just kill you where you stand and say to hell with it.”
Spike’s eyes flared. “Do it, and you’ll never know where Buffy is.”
Angel laughed. “Doesn’t matter. She’ll come back. She always does. The dame doesn’t know how to stay away from me.”
“And here I thought I was the irresistible force. Thanks ever so for setting me straight.”
“I’m only going to ask you one more time. Where’s Buffy?”
The gun shifted in the space of a blink, its furious retort making Spike’s ears ring while the bullet’s impact caused him to lurch to one side. His head whipped around to see the blood dripping from Drusilla’s ankle, her foot dangling at an awkward angle. The bone was most likely shattered, his mind raced, and his lips automatically curled into a snarl as the first droplets of her blood fell to the smooth floor.
“It could’ve been you,” Angel said. There was no change in his voice, no indication that he was in the slightest bit perturbed by what he’d just done. He took a step toward the center of the room, but this time, Spike remained where he stood.
“Old Man Conti’s goin’ to make you pay for that,” Spike growled, hugging Drusilla closer to him and silently condemning himself for playing the odds that the wanker was bluffing about the gun. “Right after I’ve had my say about the matter.”
“Conti’s going to crumple as soon as he tries,” Angel countered. “I’m the one in charge of this town, and it’s not going to take very much until the rest of the world knows it.”
“Wood might think otherwise.”
“Wood’s small potatoes.” He paused, the beginning of a crease forming in his heavy brow. “You glommed on to Wood, huh? I wondered how long it would take you to figure out he was the one who wanted you behind bars.”
“Didn’t have to figure it out.” Spike waited, knowing his not telling would eat at the other man, and risked glancing at Dru’s foot again. It was hardly a fatal wound, but she was still losing blood. The sooner he got her sorted, the happier he was going to be. “A little birdy told it to me.”
Like the most predictable arrow, Angel leapt straight to the conclusion Spike had hoped he would. “How did Buffy find out?” he asked. A sense of urgency was creeping into his voice, the muzzle of the gun moving almost imperceptibly away from the target it was trained on.
“Then there’s the whole matter of feds poking their noses in where they don’t belong,” he continued, ignoring the question. He had to restrain from laughing when Angel visibly paled. “Not that I’d expect them to really put their finger on anything, but kind of puts a damper on goin’ whole hog on a turf war when you’ve got hammer and saws lookin’ over your shoulder.”
“No way would you tangle the feds into this. They’re just as hot for you as they would be for me.”
“Nobody said I was the one who called ‘em in.” No point in not playing it straight here; if he stayed alive long enough to walk out the doors and get around to the plan the next day, it would be moot anyway. And if not…well, he wasn’t going to consider that as an option at the moment. “Here I thought you would’ve noticed one of your nearest and dearest playing hooky from all the funeral festivities.”
“But…Buffy’s not a fed.”
Rolling his eyes at the blind confusion in Angel’s face, Spike shook his head. “Not Buffy, you berk. Wesley.”
“Now I know you’re lying. Wesley’s one of the most faithful employees this family has ever had---.”
“Which is why he was a no-show for the Mayor’s going away party, right?”
The longest of pauses accompanied Angel’s narrow-eyed search of Spike’s face, culminating in a visible crumpling as connections inside his head clicked into place. “Wesley a fed,” he murmured, shaking his head. “Fuck…” It was then that he looked away, his newfound knowledge distracting him from the game at hand.
It was the opportunity Spike had been looking for. As he’d spoken, he’d shifted his hold on Dru so that when his window came, all he had to do was drop her across the table at his side. He bent low and made a mad dash toward Angel’s legs, hoping against hope that the chance he’d been given wouldn’t be wasted by any lack of speed.
One shot rang out when Angel realized what he was doing, and Spike felt shards from where it hit the floor fly up and embed in his cheek. It didn’t stop him, though, and a fraction of a second later, his arms were wrapped around the other man’s knees, tackling him to the ground so that the pair rolled toward the stage.
The hard cylinder of the gun’s muzzle pressed its length against Spike’s thigh, cold even through his trousers, but he ignored it, concentrating instead on sinking his teeth into the upper arm that held it. Angel screamed out in pain, his other fist rising to strike the side of the blond’s head, but the blow glanced off with only the mildest of stars springing behind Spike’s eyes.
Twisting his torso, he transferred his weight so that he was able to slide his leg between Angel’s, and angled his knee to more properly align with its target. When it went flying upward, he heard the satisfying exhalation of air as Angel’s eyes bugged, his mouth open in a silent scream, crumpling and falling away from the tussle with both his hands cupped around his crotch.
Slowly, Spike stood up, his hand reaching to touch the blood that starting to drip down his cheek. He rubbed it between his fingers before lifting them to his mouth, his tongue darting out to sample the coppery tang. It stung like a bitch, but he didn’t have time to worry about it just then. Maybe he’d get Buffy to play Florence Nightingale when he got back to the hotel, pull out the pieces before they got infected. Maybe coming back wounded would earn him the sympathy vote and she wouldn’t be too mad at the whole debacle. Lots of maybes.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Angel begin to reach for the gun and kicked it out of his path, hearing it skitter to a stop against the far wall. “Don’t think so,” he said coldly.
“You just fucked yourself, Rook,” Angel growled. “You should’ve shot me while you could.”
“What? You mean I can’t do that with this?” Casually, he pulled his own gun from his jacket and held it up. “You really think I’d walk into a set-up like this without my own piece, you pillock?” He looked at it for a long moment, and then slid it back inside. “But you’re not dyin’ on my watch. Not tonight. Made a promise and plan to stick to it.” He turned back to where Drusilla still rested on the table. “’Sides, once tomorrow’s come and gone, it will all be---.”
His scream of pain was garbled as the blade buried itself into the back of his thigh, and Spike collapsed to the floor. Lesson the first, he heard inside his head. Never, ever, turn your back on the enemy.
Fuckin’ fool. That’s what he was.
Clutching his leg, feeling the blood seep into his trousers and begin dripping through his fingers, he glanced back to where Angel was on his hands and knees, struggling to get to his feet. Rage boiled beneath his skin. Fuck what I said. Self-defense, that’s what it’ll be. Buffy would understand if it was self-defense.
And as he began to reach for his gun, all the lights in Heaven winked out, leaving them in utter blackness.
Xander was the first to notice the darkness outside the suite window. “We should probably be going here pretty soon,” he said to Giles as he tucked away the last of the weapons into the bag. “If we don’t, Wesley’s bound to beat us there with his fed crew in tow.”
“Yes,” Giles agreed. Hefting the duffel over his shoulder, he began walking toward the door. “Spike’s going to need all the back-up he can get. We can’t afford---.” He stopped, frowning as he looked back at the empty hotel room.
“What is it?” Xander asked just behind him.
“When exactly did Buffy leave?”
For a long moment after she killed the power, Buffy stood stock still, drowning in the darkness as her eyes adjusted to the gloom. OK, maybe not her brightest idea, she thought as she strained to hear anything from the front of the club. But she had reacted instinctively, Spike’s scream piercing through her, and had thrown the switches that had been by her side without even thinking. If they couldn’t see each other, she rationalized, they couldn’t hurt each other. And at the moment, the only thing she was interested in was keeping both of them alive.
It had been the first gunshot that had finally allowed her to get past Gino’s guard at the back door. They had been arguing, his arms folded across his chest as he stood his ground and refused her entrance. “Go ahead and shoot me,” he’d dared, his bulky body acting effectively as a second door that she knew she could never physically move on her own.
She’d been about to try the front entrance again when the shot rang, diverting his attention enough for him to turn and look at the club. Darting past him, she’d pushed open the back door and been immediately confronted with the distant murmurs of Spike and Angel’s voices. Neither sounded in pain, and she had hung back, afraid of interrupting and getting one of them killed.
“Give him a sec,” Gino had whispered from where he’d mysteriously appeared behind her.
And the second had segued into several, and then erupted into the obvious explosion of a fight, another gunshot intermingling with the unseen grunts and scuffles. Gino had been the one to push past then, his hand going to his weapon, only to stop when Spike’s voice came through, louder and clearer than it had the first time.
They were both alive, she’d exhaled silently, wondering why her body was refusing to cooperate with her. She heard Spike’s repeat of his promise to her, how he wasn’t going to kill Angel, and hated herself for ever doubting him. It was only when he cried out in pain that her muscles sprang back into action, and now here she was, wondering what in hell she should do next.
“What next?” Gino whispered, verbalizing her thoughts.
“Get outside,” she replied, just as quiet. “The others will be here soon and they need to know what’s going on.”
“What about you?”
Her feet were already moving. She didn’t need light to navigate the Heaven’s backstage; she’d tread these boards often enough to do it in her sleep. “I’m going to stall.”
In the heavy air of the dance floor, the only audible sounds were the rasp of Angel’s breathing, and the soft squelch as Spike pulled the knife from his leg. “Forget to pay your light bill?” Spike said through gritted teeth, grimacing in silence against the pain that tore into his hip.
“What the hell’s going on here, Rook?”
“Don’t ask me.” Carefully, he inched himself toward the stage he knew was only a few feet away, and exhaled at the exertion once he felt it pressing into his back. “Probably your boys havin’ a spot too much fun.”
“My boys know not to poke their mugs in here without my say-so.”
Which actually left the notion that it was his boys playing peekaboo with the lights foremost in Spike’s head. Maybe it was Clem or one of the guys trying to give Spike a hand, thinking darkness would allow him the cover to escape. Except I’m not goin’ anywhere without Dru, he thought, so it was a waste of an effort. Well-meaning, he was sure, but still…a waste.
Two different sounds bombarded him at the same time. From in front of him, he heard the scrape of fabric against the floor as Angel struggled to rise to his feet. Probably going for the doors, he reasoned.
But it was the other, the one that drifted to him from behind and to his right, that gave Spike pause. The softest of steps, the whisper of a curtain being drawn, and then…hints of jasmine and clove tickled his nose.
He’d know that scent anywhere, and hope ignited within his breast.
For once, he was glad she had ignored his words and followed her own head.
Almost immediately, his hope dissolved into anxiety. Bloody chit was going to get herself killed by showing up here. No way was Wilkins going to be Mr. Forgiving once he realized the full extent of her defection, and if she did manage to fool him, it still left her under the delusion of his so-called worthiness.
Spike’s tongue tapped against his upper teeth as the plan formed. She’d never forgive him for slandering her ex without definitive proof, but if the words came straight from the horse’s mouth…
“You know you’ve buggered your chances with Buffy right good this time,” he commented. He shifted his weight, and felt the soft brush of fabric against his cheek as he settled more comfortably against the stage. A tablecloth. His hands curling around its hem, he gave it a short tug to affirm it wasn’t the table he’d set Dru on, and then pulled it down with a clatter, sending the votives and ashtray in its center flying to the floor. “Considering her parental issues, maybe you should’ve thought twice about offing your own pop.”
“I’m just sayin’…” The tearing of the material was muffled by his voice as he ripped a strip from its length. “…you really have to be barmy if you think this is the sort of thing she’d just overlook. You can kiss that songbird goodbye ‘cause there’s not a chance in hell she’s coming back here to roost.”
“I said, shut up!”
Spike could still hear Angel moving around, and wondered how much closer he was to the door. Quickening his efforts, he looped the strip he now held in his hands and tied it snugly around his leg. Hopefully, it would stop the bleeding. The last thing he needed when the lights finally came back up was to stand, slip in his own blood, and land on his ass with that wanker standing and laughing over him.
“You can’t seriously think she’s still goin’ to marry you?” he said through his efforts.
“Of course, she will,” Angel spat. There was a muffled curse and the bang of a chair falling to the floor, and Spike grinned at the image of the other man getting tangled with the furniture. “I’m all she’s got.”
The matter-of-factness of his tone made Spike’s blood run cold. “Don’t be so sure about that,” he replied.
Angel laughed. “You can’t possibly be referring to yourself, now, can you? Because I hate to break it to you, but you’re not stepping out of this joint alive, Rook.”
“That’s still open to debate.”
“Not really.” Another crash, and Spike began to wonder just what in hell Wilkins was doing over there. “If I don’t get you, my boys have orders to kill if you step one foot outside the door. So, see? I win. I always win. And sooner or later, Buffy will get over her little infatuation and come crawling back to me. Hell, she got over Hope and she was married to him. What makes you think you’re any different?”
Now that was more like it. Get him talking about the past. “She’s older now,” Spike said. “A bit more to the wise. She’ll see through whatever story you decide to weave about me.”
“Fuck, you really have it bad for her, don’t you?” He could almost see Angel shaking his head. “Face it, Rook. She’s just not the brightest bulb in the box. She’ll believe whatever I tell her to believe.”
“Like what you wanted her to believe about her mum?”
It was a risk broaching it so directly, and he heard the sharp intake of breath from behind him as Buffy realized what he was doing. It could all go to hell in a soddin’ handbasket if Wilkins denied it, though. Spike was just gambling that the prat’s vanity would win.
The room was silent as the seconds ticked by. “What did Buffy tell you about that?” Angel finally asked cautiously.
“Enough for me to recognize the work of a pro,” he countered. “Maybe she can’t read between the lines, but I’ve spent my entire life doin’ it. Hard not to see your hand all over it all, playing God because it suits your fancy---.”
“I love Buffy!” The force behind the three words was all Spike needed to know he’d hit a nerve. “Everything I’ve ever done has been for her benefit!”
“Oh, because stripping her of her loved ones is just so humanitarian of you. Right. Remind me not to invite you to the next blood drive. Something tells me you’d be nicking all the biscuits and tipping over the proverbial apple cart. I wouldn’t even be surprised if you pulled your own Drac attack---.”
“You have no idea what you’re talking about. Nobody loves Buffy like I do. I only wanted her to be happy.”
“And funerals are such a good way to do that, I hear.”
A furious growl. “Hope talked her out of singing, didja know that? You’ve heard her. She’s an angel up there onstage. She was born for it. And she’s happiest when she’s crooning her little heart out. I wasn’t about to stand back and let him turn her into some housefrau with half a dozen brats tugging at her skirt and wondering what if. I gave her her life back.”
“By taking his.”
Like I’m dumb enough to do it myself.
It was all set up to be an accident, just like I wanted. Not even the police sniffed on to any foul
Maybe he should’ve stopped there. It was certainly enough for Buffy to lose her Angel delusions once and for all. But Spike needed to know the truth about it all, needed her to have those blinders ripped off fully and completely. And so he pressed on.
“Too bad that didn’t work for the gallery trick. You almost lost Buffy for good on that one.”
Silence. Too much silence. Fuck. He should’ve quit while he was ahead.
“You have no idea how much I wish I’d never let her go to work for my boys.” Angel’s voice was low, almost a whisper, as if he were in confessional and Spike was his demonic priest. “When they came and told me what she was doing, I should’ve put a stop to it right then and there. Only good thing to come of it was cut all her ties to California and make it easier for me to talk her into coming back to the city with me.”
Spike stayed mute, unsure as to how this was going to play out. Angel sounded too contrite, and the last thing Spike wanted was to build up Buffy’s sympathies for him even more. As he tried to lift himself into a standing position, his hand slipped in a puddle of blood at his side, and he winced as another pain stabbed down his leg.
The other man was oblivious to the noises he was making. “I hated seeing her in the hospital. All pale and upset and crying every time the police tried to talk to her. It wasn’t supposed to play out like that. You know, I killed the guy who sent her the note warning her. If she’d never gotten it…”
The light tread behind him alerted Spike to Buffy’s movement and he spoke up in an attempt to hide it from Angel. “So you set up the fire,” he guessed.
“No. Just didn’t…do anything about it when they said what they were doing. I didn’t think she’d get there before everything went up in flames, though. She surprised the hell out of me on that one.”
“She told me you saved her.”
“Damn right I did! Didja know, she was actually trying to get her mum and sis free when I showed up? Her fucking feet were on fire, and still, she just stood there and clawed at the ropes, crying and saying she was sorry and not even noticing that the building was coming down on top of her head. She would’ve died with them if I hadn’t shot her.”
The last statement came as a kick to his gut. The rest of the story had been expected---Spike had pretty much figured that out on his own---but to hear Angel had been the one to---.
He blinked when the stage floodlights came on, temporarily blinded as flashes of orange and yellow danced before his eyes. Across the room, just a few feet from the doors to the lobby, Wilkins was sitting on the floor, leaning heavily against an overturned chair, a gash trickling down the side of his face. His dark eyes were locked on something behind Spike, and slowly, the blond swiveled his head to look.
At the corner of the stage, a solemn Buffy stood with her hand on an auxiliary light panel on the wall, the curtain drawn back behind her to show how she’d come out. “Hello, Angel,” she said, her gaze fixed on her ex-fiance.
To be continued in Chapter 43: Back Door to Heaven…