DISCLAIMER: Not mine, which is a shame because usually we're nicer to them than Joss was.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Spike seems to have different memories than Buffy does, telling her he wasn’t in Sunnydale after getting his soul except for the fall of the Hellmouth; Lindsey found Spike at his apartment and is also confused, trying to figure out what is going on; Faith and Wes bonded a little more before Buffy showed up to tell them she’d found Spike; and Angel went to visit Dana, ending in her shoving her hand through the window separating them…
Angel caught Dana’s fist before it connected with his jaw, but the suddenly potent sense of coppery blood made him reel backward, inadvertently pulling Dana with him. She crashed the rest of the way through the window, rolling on top of him in a heap, but it was the distant sound of an alarm pealing through Watts’ hallways that Angel was most worried about. He couldn’t let Buffy find out that he’d come to see Dana; that would go over as well as her discovery that he’d known all along about Spike’s resurrection. Faith wasn’t as big a concern. She would be on his side, and if not, she was easy enough manipulated to come back to it.
But he couldn’t be caught.
Dana’s knee slammed into his groin. Angel snarled in pain and shoved her off, suddenly uncaring that he might hurt her even further.
This would have been a lot easier if they’d only been able to take Dana back to Wolfram & Hart.
There was broken glass everywhere, large and small shards that looked far more fragile than they did whole. Dana was oblivious to them against her bare feet as she whirled away from the wall to face Angel again, and the fresh cuts on her soles only made the smell of her blood even more pungent. His demon roared within, desperate for a taste, and it took a good part of Angel’s self-control not to vamp out in front of her. That would make this already awful situation even worse. This wasn’t supposed to be about hurting Dana. He’d come to see for himself if he really could go through with using her.
But she didn’t approach. She just stood there, watching him warily through her disheveled hair. For some reason, he couldn’t shake the irrational thought, Can’t someone get this girl a brush?
“I’m not here to hurt you,” Angel said carefully. Security would be coming soon, and considering this was Dana, that meant Slayers, too. He needed to get out of here.
“Yes, but that doesn’t mean I want to see you hurt.” He took a careful step back, toward the doorway. Dana didn’t move. “You’re bleeding. I’m going to go get you a doctor,” he lied.
Another step. He risked a glance out into the hall to see if anyone was coming yet.
The kick connected with his jaw, the blood from the bottom of her foot smearing across his cheek. It spun Angel around, crashing him through the door so that it went flying off the hinges. If the alarm hadn’t already alerted security to his presence, that surely would, he reasoned, and Angel flew down the corridor in search of an exit. He kept expecting to hear the sound of her bare feet racing after him, but it never came, leaving him to flee alone. By the time he felt the cool night air upon his skin, Angel knew there was nobody coming after him.
He wiped the blood from his cheek, his fingers glistening in the moonlight. Before he could think better of it, he licked it away, nearly buckling from the sudden slam of a Slayer’s lifeforce surging into his system. It made him vamp out, his head turning to look back at the looming edifice, but the scuttle of hearts inside reminded him of what a truly bad idea that was. He forced himself to head in the opposite direction, aiming at his parked car as he tried to shake off his demon.
Control didn’t return until he was more than a dozen blocks away.
Gemma’s blood pounded in her ears as she rushed toward the conglomeration of people standing outside the broken door. Young girls she knew were other Slayers stood arguing with orderlies, and the annoying young man – Andrew, she remembered Buffy saying his name was – was trying to keep the head nurse from pushing her way inside.
“What’s going on here?” Gemma barked as she neared. The Slayers parted to allow her passage, and she barreled straight toward Andrew. The smell of blood was thick in the air, and there was broken plaster littering the floor where something large had impacted the wall opposite Dana’s rooms.
If it was at all possible, Andrew grew even paler at her approach. “Um…Dana’s had a little…incident,” he said.
“What kind of incident?”
She didn’t wait for a response. Heedless of the girls barring the door, Gemma pushed inside, to see the window lying shattered on the floor. There was more blood in here, with a stronger scent, but there was something else, something darker, something she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Dana wasn’t in the observation room, though. She sat on the makeshift lifeboat she’d constructed for herself in the adjoining room. Bloody footprints led from one to the other, making it obvious that Dana had chosen to break the window. What wasn’t so obvious were the whys.
Why had she done it?
Why hadn’t she run?
Why had she retreated back to her room?
Gemma wasn’t quite as concerned about the answer to that last question. The important thing was, Dana was still here. There would be no Slayerhunt tonight.
“Do we know what happened?” she asked without turning around.
“Not really,” Andrew hedged. One of the Slayers poked him in the ribs, and he squealed slightly in pain as he bowed beyond her reach. “Except Paula says she’s sure she senses a vampire around here. I told her she was crazy, but…”
His words faded into a distant drone as everything in Gemma sharpened. It wasn’t just her. Dana had perked up at the word as well, and now stared at Gemma with dark eyes, alight with understanding.
“Angel,” she whispered.
There was no need for elaboration. Gemma knew exactly who she was talking about. She’d read the files and knew exactly what had happened prior to her arrival.
Two break-ins in a single night. Did one have anything to do with the other? She wasn’t surprised Angel was interested with Dana, but the cute guy who’d broken into her office was a mystery. She might have lost that one, but it was possible Angel was still lurking around.
Momentarily turning her back on Dana, Gemma said to Andrew, “Organize the Slayers and have them canvas the area. The building, the grounds, the parking lot. Everywhere. See if they can find Angel. I want to know what he was doing here.”
He wavered, his eyes going everywhere but in her direction. “Angel’s usually Buffy’s domain,” he said.
“Is Buffy here?”
“And Angel’s still a vampire, right?”
“Then you’re going to send these Slayers out to find him. Now.”
In response to her orders, the girls behind Andrew scattered, leaving him looking like a trapped, skinny rat. “What about Buffy?” he whined.
“Leave her. She needs to sleep. If they find Angel, then we’ll let her know. Otherwise, I’ll tell her myself in the morning.” She waited for him to vanish, too, but he just stood there, fidgeting. “And you’re not helping the Slayers why?”
That sent him scurrying, and Gemma was left alone with orderlies who weren’t sure what to do and a bleeding Slayer who barely knew what was going on. After making arrangements for Dana to be moved to another room, she waited until they had left before turning back to the broken window.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered to the girl. “I should have protected you better.” Her nostrils flared, her better sense rebelling against the bloody aroma hanging in the air. “I won’t let it happen again.”
Buffy’s story was fantastic, but there was no doubting its veracity, even after she finally stopped talking and sank back into the corner of his worn couch. She looked completely and utterly drained, like someone had left a rag doll out in the sun for weeks upon weeks, and Wes was at a loss as to what to say to her.
Faith, on the other hand, was not.
“And you just left him like that? Jesus, B, you’ve been off the hook about Spike for the past two days, and you’re telling us you walked away?” She snorted, casting an irritated glance toward Wes. “And you’re worried about my head being fucked up. Might want to start seeing what we can do for Little Miss Muffet here.”
Not even Faith’s frustration was enough to rouse Buffy. “I didn’t have a choice,” she said. “You don’t get it. In the world according to Spike, the last time he saw me…” Her nose wrinkled in a moue of remembered pain, and she closed her eyes as she leaned her head back against the cushion. “If I’d stuck around, things would have gone from bad to seriously messed up without me even trying. I didn’t travel halfway around the world to screw my life up even more than it already was. I could’ve done that just fine without getting jet lag.”
“Clearly, Spike’s memories have been altered in some way,” Wes said. “Rewriting portions to fit with some grander scheme. Most likely, it was done in conjunction with his abduction this afternoon, though I fail to see the logic in it.”
“Can you fix it?”
The query came not from Buffy as he might have expected, but from Faith, her regard sincere and steady. There was an air of anticipation surrounding her, like she was waiting for him to offer the solution as if he was the only one who could do so. It left him both pleased and perplexed – the former because it was astonishing that she would look to him so truly for the answers, the latter for very much the same reason.
“It would require speaking with Spike,” he said, “to determine the extent his memory has been tampered with. But generally speaking, it’s very difficult to make these sorts of spells stick.”
This time, it was Buffy watching him. “Because a bunch of monks had so many problems making my sister out of a blob of green energy and then convincing all of us she’d been around all along,” she commented dryly.
Wes frowned. He’d forgotten about Dawn. “They had very ancient magics at their disposal. And considering whoever cast this spell on Spike couldn’t seem to make it affect anybody who might corroborate his memories, I think it’s safe to assume that this one will be much less binding.”
“Which means you can undo it,” Faith said.
He looked at her and nodded. “After we find the antidote to your—”
“No. Before. We do Spike first.”
Before he could express his extreme displeasure with that plan, Buffy was taking interest in the conversation again.
“Antidote? For what?”
Faith intervened first. “It’s nothing. Just got a little bite from something that Wes is going to help fix up.” Her next comment was pointed straight at him. “But it’s waited this long, another day or two isn’t going to make a difference.”
“Faith, I don’t think it’s wise—”
But she was already moving, grabbing her jacket and slipping it on as she headed for the door. “I’ve got shotgun.”
Wes was left staring at the door when she left. Behind him, Buffy sighed.
“And there goes Hurricane Faith,” she said. “Sorry you’re getting caught up in it.”
He had a feeling he’d been trapped in that particular maelstrom from the moment he’d first set foot in Sunnydale. “You’re welcome to spend the night here,” he said. “Faith and I can stop by Watts after we’re done with Spike to get a few of your things.”
Buffy nodded without a word, without an argument. The power and confidence he’d seen at Wolfram & Hart that afternoon had been replaced with this haunted creature, leaving him to wonder just what color the world was that Spike had left her with. Nobody really understood what exactly had prompted the vampire’s quest for his soul, but Wesley thought it was fair to surmise – based on Buffy’s reaction – that it had been far from pleasant for either party.
He was halfway out the door when her voice stopped him.
“I forgot to ask.” Her eyes were huge and hollow; sleep would do her well. “I know it wasn’t Spike’s dust in that bed, but what did you find out? About Angel and what that nurse said.”
The words he chose were what Wes believed, if not what he’d seen. “Angel had nothing to do with Spike’s abduction. Everything he told us was true.”
“Good,” she sighed. And then… “You guys really have to get out of that place. Someone there doesn’t like you very much, if they’re willing to go to these lengths to mess with Spike and Angel.”
Though Wesley nodded, he left without allowing his feelings regarding her declarations show. Because the more he learned, the more he feared she was correct. Though he didn’t think it was a Wolfram & Hart employee who held such a grudge.
When Angel learned that Lindsey McDonald was back in town, Wes was sure blood would be spilled.
The pain in his arms was more tolerable than Spike would have expected, but he credited it with the many bottles of beer that he’d consumed since getting back to his flat. He hadn’t drunk nearly enough, though. He was still conscious. And thoughts of Buffy and why she would come to Los Angeles, even spouting off rubbish like she had, kept foraging around inside his brain.
She was even more beautiful. As wrong as it was, he still dreamed of her on a nightly basis, and though the dreams had grown less violent since the collapse of the Hellmouth, the softer, kinder Buffy in his head was but a pale shadow of the gleaming woman who had stood at the side of his bed, struggling to get a shirt on him. That Buffy had looked at him with such regard, concern cloaking her like a favorite garment, that for a moment, he had forgotten about everything. All the bad that had led to their separation in the first place, all the anguish he knew he had levied at her, all the time that had transpired since he’d first harbored the delusions that she would someday return his feelings. He had looked at her, and for a split second, Spike had believed that every hope he’d ever had had come true.
Then reality turned. With white bandages and haunted eyes.
Though her nonsense about the previous year was obviously untrue, Spike suspected that the rest of what she’d said was not. He remembered the Wolfram & Hart doctor coming in to check on him, and he remembered Angel poking in his gob afterward. The room Buffy had taken him from was definitely not his original, and the halls were none he’d ever walked before. And she had confessed she’d thought Angel had dusted him. He did believe that part. Some of her rantings had been bollocks, but she couldn’t hide her fear; she never had been able to master such pretense, at least not with him.
Spike mulled that tidbit over with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was a bloody revelation to have Buffy finally seeing the danger of Angel and not the dark knight she’d built him up to be. But on the other, Spike didn’t believe for a second that Angel would waste the effort of patching him up only to put a stake through him afterward, not without Spike being fully cognizant of what was going on.
So, whatever was going on, Angel was at the heart of it. That made finding out what was going on a hell of a lot easier.
“You going to be okay if I take off?”
Spike opened his eyes to see Doyle rising from where he’d been perched on the end of the couch ever since returning with the beer. He’d forgotten about the man being there, but he blamed that on both the alcohol and the muddle of his head. Normally, Doyle chattered away like it was going out of style, but after some vague questions about how he was doing and what had happened, he’d lapsed into the same sort of contemplative silence that Spike had.
“Lasted this long without a sitter,” he said. “Think I can make it another night.”
There wasn’t another word until Doyle stood in the open doorway. “I’ll bring you some supplies tomorrow.” He grinned. “If Buffy comes back, you’re going to need more beer.”
It was hard to argue with a man who appreciated the value in getting well and truly pissed. Spike chuckled and nodded. “Bleedin’ understatement. Maybe I won’t give her the satisfaction of being so easy to find again.”
It was an empty threat, though from the slight shadow that passed over Doyle’s face, Spike wasn’t sure it sounded like one. He wasn’t going anywhere. He’d hold the regrets of that night with him for an eternity, but the same could be said for his feelings for Buffy. He would be there when she got back. Because he was a glutton for punishment.
After Doyle closed the door behind him, the apartment shifted from being nominally home to cavernous again, the walls cold and austere, the silence deafening. Spike had grown accustomed to solitude since leaving Dru, but that didn’t mean he liked it. And he had spent months roaming Wolfram & Hart’s halls. As much as he hated the whole notion of the company, being around that many people, at least superficially, had made the ghost thing a little easier to bear. He almost regretted Buffy dragging him home, but only almost. At least here, he didn’t have to worry about not being his own man. Who knew what would have happened if he’d been locked away at Bedlam even longer?
Leaning his head back against the couch, Spike closed his eyes. It was better this way. There were no visual cues to remind him that he was alone, and he could concentrate on trying to figure out what step to take next.
It kept coming back to one thing.
Faith had to give Wes credit. He didn’t start giving her a hard time until they were both in the car and heading towards Spike’s place.
“Helping Spike does not preclude helping you, you know.”
She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. His attention was fixed on the road ahead of him, the streetlights casting shadows across his face that made him impossible to read. “Don’t remember saying it would.”
His mouth thinned. “I understand how difficult it is for you to accept help, Faith, let alone have it be mine. But in spite of what you think, it does not make you weak. If anything, it makes you stronger, because it forces you to utilize all your resources.”
“Save the Gipper speech,” she said. “I don’t need a Watcher any more.”
“You’re right,” Wes agreed. They coasted to a stop at a red light, and he finally looked in her direction. “But that doesn’t mean you don’t need friends.”
She felt like she’d been sucker punched. In spite of their new relationship, there were a lot of issues she and Wes danced around, things neither one of them wished to talk about unless it was to specifically provoke a response in the other. Like his speech about her rotten soul the previous spring, when he’d hoped to make her angry enough to kill Angelus. It had been an act, but the intent was true, and Faith doubted she would ever forget it. And now here he was again, saying things that sounded plausible that she didn’t dare believe. Was it another show?
Her head throbbing again, she shifted her attention to the sidewalk. She should have stayed behind in Rome. This kind of shit had not been on the agenda.
Wes had just started to pull through the intersection when Faith saw the familiar form step into a pool of light a few hundred feet ahead.
“Stop the car!” When Wes frowned but didn’t slow, she repeated it, her hand already on the door handle, and added, “It’s McDonald!”
That drew the reaction she needed. Before he’d pulled to a complete stop, though, Faith shoved the door open and hit the cement running, her knees crunching as she ran for Lindsey. The wind whipped her hair around her cheeks, and the muscles in her stomach pulled painfully where Wes had patched her up, but she didn’t slow, unwilling to let Lindsey get away from her again.
He heard her too late, half-turning to look over his shoulder as she shoved him into the wall of the nearby building. His arms came up to block her attack, and though there was a glancing blow across her cheek, Faith was ready for him this time, grabbing his wrist to twist it behind his back.
“Must be my lucky day,” she said. “Didn’t think I’d get another chance at you so soon.”
“If you wanted a chance, all you had to do was say so.” Through the darkness, she caught a glimpse of his smirk. “Do you put ‘em away wet when you’re done, Faith? Makes the getaway a hell of a lot faster, I’ll bet.”
She pushed him into the wall. “Shut up.”
His tone was mocking. “I’m sorry, I thought you wanted to chat.”
“Actually, she’s waiting for me.” Wes appeared in her peripheral vision, cocking the gun she hadn’t realized he’d been carrying. “Let’s talk.”
To be continued in Chapter 10: Mix Like Sticks of Dynamite…