DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course.  And the chapter titles are courtesy of Miles Davis.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY:  While the rest of the gang staked out Midnight, leaving Anya to go missing, Buffy and Spike have gone off in the search of the mysterious gris gris woman…

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

Chapter 24: Wait 'til You See Her

Only the occasional tingle reminded Spike of his injuries, the odd slither of pain down his side when he moved in an unusual direction, and he silently thanked the witch and Rupert for their little mojo to get him over the worst of it.  Whatever they had done, it had worked wonders.  He’d never seen a healing spell take effect so quickly, or so thoroughly.  Red’s little girlfriend is more powerful than we all thought, he mused.  Probably should do to keep an eye on that one.

With the moon shining brightly overhead, he and Buffy prowled the streets of the French Quarter, trying to retrace her steps from that first day in the city, on the lookout for the shop she swore up and down the gris gris woman owned.  While the familiar scents of the city hung in the air---that sickly sweet sewage smell that was uniquely New Orleans---Spike didn’t notice it as much as the other, the eruption of aromas emanating from human bodies. 

Sweat. 

Fear. 

Adrenaline. 

Arousal. 

Blood.  

No matter where he turned, some revenant of fragrance charged his senses, reminding him of just how hungry he really was, abrading his flesh with granular fingers until his skin crawled in anticipation.  It came from anywhere and everywhere---the tourists with their garish attempts to play up the party atmosphere of the town, the more daring of the locals amused by the displays the out-of-towners were putting on, even the occasional wannabe seeking out the underbelly of everything they’d been told. 

His was not the only nose that was tickled.  More than once, Spike caught the eye of another vampire as it passed, silent assessments passing between demons that told of his superior power even in light of his injury.  It didn’t surprise him to see so many out; this section of the city was one of the areas his kind was able to walk about with relative impunity.  They were, in fact, embraced by many of the tourists as part of the attraction, and he felt an odd sense of nostalgia and longing as he watched more than one sneak off into an alley with a willing victim.  The good old days, he thought, and then remembered where he was, who he was with. 

She had been blind to the various demons that had passed them, saying nothing, but Spike wasn’t surprised.  Buffy had enough on her plate at the moment.  It was understandable why she was distracted.  Good thing, too, because as far as he could tell, no one knew that it was the Slayer who walked at his side, a minor blessing in disguise.  With what they needed to accomplish, having to deal with even more trouble than they already had would’ve only wasted precious minutes.

Not for the first time that night, his eyes slid to his right, flickering over her lithe form as she stopped and started, looking up and around.  She’d dressed lightly, a halter top and small shorts that curved around her ass, in an attempt to combat the still sweltering heat, but sweat still managed to shine along her skin under the moonlight.  He could see her pulse hammering in the hollow of her throat, and combined with the aromas that clung to the air, had to struggle to quell the demon within, his mouth watering at the thought of his tongue running along her skin, salty tang mixing with the coppery flow of her hot, sweet blood as it---.

Spike jerked his eyes away.  Fuck.  He’d been having thoughts like this all night.  Images of a sweating Buffy lying beneath him, his cock buried deep inside her, her head arched back exposing her neck, his fangs nipping at her jugular.  He was rock-hard, had been almost since leaving their old hotel, and while he certainly entertained the notion that getting this done and over with as quickly as possible so that he and the Slayer could slip away for a quick shag was delectable, the other left him with a sense of disquiet that made his pace quicken.

He heard her talking then, and turned to see her stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, a group of four college boys semi-surrounding her as she turned on the Summers charm.  The description of the store she was looking for tumbled from her luscious mouth, punctuated with girlish giggles that instantly made Spike frown, and he couldn’t help but notice the hungry gazes of the young men as they watched her play with the ends of her hair.

Stuffed deep inside his duster pockets, Spike’s hands balled into fists.  This was not the first time she’d tried this trick tonight.  In her attempt to find the gris gris woman, Buffy was stopping strangers in the street, asking them if they could help, and when the stranger happened to be male, she played her coquette card, flirting and smiling with an abandon Spike had only seen directed at him when she was drunk.  It didn’t last, though.  When no answers were forthcoming, she would politely say thank you and walk away, resuming her place at his side as if nothing had happened.  But the effect of it was still there, seething inside him with his growing hunger, knotting him tighter and tighter with each foot they traversed.

It wasn’t as if she was acting distanced around him.  She was in her all-business mode, intent on finding the woman as quickly as possible and getting back to the others.  Spike supposed that if he ventured to touch her, she wouldn’t recoil, but to that point, he hadn’t tried, maintaining his distance in order to let her work.  She was worried---he knew that---but watching her slip into such flirtatious behavior was churning his jealousy so that it blistered him in ice.

What happened to things being different between you? Spike scolded himself.  It’s all about the trust now, and the friendship, and the…the other.  Except that other had still yet to be clearly defined.  Lovers, in the technical sense of the word.  Lovers…in the literal?

He stole another glance at her.  She wasn’t even paying him any attention now, green gaze intent on the shops that lined the street, slim fingers occasionally straying to the charm that hung around her neck.  He had no clue as to her depth of feelings for him.  For the first time since he’d met her, Buffy was proving to be an enigma, hiding from his inquisitive eyes the truth of her emotions by not wearing them on her sleeve.  If she felt anything more for him than lust and maybe a strong like, she was playing it close to the vest, her actions in the shower be damned.  For all he knew, he was just another bloke to have a little fun with.

But then, maybe she did care.  It wasn’t like Buffy to be doing for him the things she’d been doing.  Announcing to her Watcher she trusted him?  Demanding someone stay with him to ensure his safety?  Forcing him to get out of his own head when doubt seemed to be winning?  Not the actions of someone who didn’t care.

Still.  It would be a helluva lot simpler if she’d just say the damn words.

And stopped flirting with every Tom, Dick, and Wanker that walked down the street.

But what about him?  Was he ready to admit that his feelings for the Slayer had grown beyond a professional respect?  Was he ready to be at her beck and call, even if she didn’t want him around, just for the few scraps she would throw him?  Was he ready to have his heart stomped again if this was all just a game to her?

After what had happened with Dru?  Hell no.

He realized then that Buffy had stopped again, and brought himself to a halt to turn back and look at her.  She was frowning down at the gris gris in her hand.

“Stupid thing’s broken,” he heard her mutter irritably.

“What’s that, pet?” he said, taking a step back to her.

She blushed at having been overheard, and dropped the charm so that it nestled back between her flushed breasts.  “Nothing,” she hastened to say.

“Not nothin’.  You said something about being broken.  Now unless I’ve gone completely ‘round the bend, I haven’t missed any stray blasts of magic aimed our way, which means you’re fussin’ about something else.”

“It’s just…”  Buffy’s flush deepened, and she edged her way away from the street and the people who were passing by, dropping her voice at the same time.  “I guess I kind of, sort of thought that, maybe it would go all…beacon-y or something.”  The last few words were rushed out, like she was embarrassed to admit it, and she was rewarded with Spike’s quick laughter.

“The thing’s not a soddin’ homing pigeon,” he said.  “Though wouldn’t surprise me if it doesn’t have a bird part or two wrapped up inside that skin.”

Instantly, Buffy’s nose wrinkled, and the fingers that had been reaching for the gris gris shot as far away from it as possible.  “Ewww!” she exclaimed.  “Please tell me that’s some kind of sick vampire joke.”  At his lack of a response, she tried, hopeful, “An English one, then?”

Spike shrugged.  “It’s probably just the crunchy bits.  They make for the most power when it comes to vodou.”

“So basically, you’re telling me I’m accessorizing with roadkill here?  I am suddenly not so much in a hurry to find our mysterious lady any more.”

The heat from her body…the roaring of her blood through her veins…the frustration of having just watched her flirt with every other male on the street except for him…and suddenly Spike was no longer in the mood to be looking for the gris gris needle in the haystack.  Answers.  That’s what he wanted.  And he wanted them from Buffy.

His eyes swept the length of the road, scanning the various establishments, before reaching forward to grab the Slayer’s hand.  “C’mon,” he said, pulling her across the street.

He felt her muscles tighten, readying to yank herself away, but after the first few seconds, Spike was surprised when her fingers shyly coiled through his instead.  “Where are we going?” Buffy asked.

“Takin’ a little break,” was his reply.

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

At least it’s not another demon bar, Buffy thought as she stepped past the bouncer, into the dimly lit interior.  It could’ve been the Bronze, just picked up off the Hellmouth and plonked down into the middle of the Big Easy.  That made walking in almost a balm to her frazzled nerves.

A band, playing songs she didn’t recognize but didn’t actually sound like animals being strangled, was situated at the front of the room, with a small dance floor before it, a smattering of tables dotting the remaining interior.  Along the walls, intimate booths with high backs and velvet seats offered a little more privacy for those who were seeking it, and it was there that Spike pulled her, aiming for one in the corner with a good view of the rest of the club.

“What’s this all about?” she asked, as he came to a stop before the booth.  “We’re supposed to be---.”

“You’re hot, I’m hungry, and if we haven’t found her yet, luv, I’m not so certain we will without a little help from our witch friend.”  He let go of her hand and gave her a little push toward the bench.  “Have a seat.  I’m goin’ to get us some drinks and see what they’ve got to eat in this place.”

Sliding across the velvet, Buffy watched as he turned away from her, exposing the burned side of his face to her for the fullest inspection she’d had since they’d left the hotel.  It was definitely looking better, she thought.  No more oozing.  Bright patches of fresh skin shining through the worst of the fading injuries.  He even seemed to be moving easier, like it didn’t even hurt any more.  A far cry from just that morning. 

The relief it created in her surprised the Slayer, and she couldn’t help the small smile that curved her lips.  “Spike,” she said softly, reaching forward to touch the edge of his coat as it brushed against the table.

The look he shot back at her was curious, his brows knitted together.  “Yeah?” he asked, blue eyes sweeping over her face.

The words failed her.  How could she tell him why she’d stopped him when she didn’t know herself?  That none of this made sense to her?  That imagining her life without him in it, without him by her side, left a barren crater somewhere in the middle of her soul, as if someone had sucked an entire world out of existence?  He’d laugh her into next Tuesday if she started spouting off things like that.  No matter that they were true.  No matter that the urge to just pull him down on top of her and kiss every inch of his porcelain skin made her want to scream from suppressing.  He’d laugh.  That’s what the Big Bad did.

“Just get me water,” she said instead, keeping her tone neutral.  “We’ve been tapping way too deep into Giles’ resources on this whole highway to hell trip as it is.  We should really start being masters of the penny watching.”

His eyes narrowed imperceptibly, his head tilting as he regarded her.  After a quick glance back at the bar, Spike said, “Tell you what, Summers.  If I get the drinks and grub on the house, you eat it up like a good little Slayer.  Otherwise, it’ll be just the water and then we’ll hit the streets until we find her, all right?”

It was her turn to frown.  “How are you going to get the stuff for free?” Buffy asked suspiciously.

The smile he shot her was blinding.  “Thought you trusted me, pet,” he drawled, and with a smirk in his eyes, he sauntered over to the bar.

Twisting in her seat, Buffy watched Spike as he walked away---no, make that swaggered, she amended with a wry grin---but when she spotted the rather homely girl behind the counter he was aimed at, her mirth immediately vanished.  Her mood plummeted even more when she saw the brilliant smile light up the bartender’s face as he leaned across the bar to her, her laughter telling the Slayer more about what was happening on the other side of the club than if she’d actually heard the words.

He’s flirting with her! she thought, and though she’d cooled slightly when coming into the air-conditioning, the flush immediately returned to her skin, the unexpected ire roiling in her stomach.  He’s got the nerve to try and charm his way into freebies right in front of me?  When she saw him reach forward, slim fingers skating along the inside of the bartender’s bare wrist, Buffy was on her feet before she’d even realized it, determinedly marching toward the bar.

He may be a big ol’ flirt, but he’s my big ol’ flirt.

The bartender had just turned away to pull a draft of some kind of beer the Slayer didn’t recognize when Buffy slipped her arm through his, nestling herself against the side of Spike’s lean body.  Ignoring the startled look that knifed through his gaze, she turned on her biggest and brightest smile.

“So, do they have onions here?” she asked, just a little too loudly.

The bartender looked back then, eyes darting from the new arrival to Spike in curiosity.  Buffy leaned forward conspiratorially.  “He loves those stupid things but you really don’t want to know what they do to his breath.”  Rolling her eyes dramatically, she was rewarded with a quick, painless yank on her arm as the vampire tugged her back against him.

“You want lemon in that Coke?” the bartender asked Spike coolly, all signs of her pleasure from the flirting now gone.

“Did he order me a Coke again?” the Slayer pouted.  “Can you change that to an ice water, please?  Honestly, you’d think after all this time---.”  Another yank, this one harder, and she was silenced, watching in growing amusement as the other girl finished pouring the drinks.

“That’ll be fifteen even.”

Tossing a few bills onto the counter, Spike grabbed Buffy’s elbow and began pulling her away, not even hesitating when she reached awkwardly for her water still sitting on the bar.  When they were back at the table, she exploded.

“What the hell was that all about back there?” she demanded, sliding into her seat.

His face was closed as he slid in after her.  “What was what?” he asked obliquely.

“You were flirting with her!”  Her voice was hard now, all outward signs of amusement gone.  What had happened to everything they’d said?  All those words in the shower, the touching?  Maybe it all really was just a game to him.

“Well, yeah.  How else did you expect me to get it on the house?”

“You were flirting with her in front of me.”

He leaned forward, a glint in his eyes.  “Don’t tell me you’re jealous.”

“Don’t be stupid.”  She spat the words out, too quick, too sharp, and inwardly Buffy groaned.  Way to go for playing it cool, she thought.  Awkward much?

“Funny, I thought it was rather smart.  And you do know that that’s twice now you’ve tried tellin’ me that, right?”  His voice dropped, his hand reached across the distance to begin tracing the veins on the back of hers.  “You pulled this same trick with Iris, remember?  I didn’t buy it then, either.”

“You want to act ridiculous, be my guest.”

“Just thought I’d join the club, pet.”

His fingers were still stroking her hand, soothing her even as his words riled her up.  “What?” she asked, confused.  “There’s a club?  Did those burns go through to your brain?”

“I didn’t do anything different back there than you did out on the street, Buffy.  Used a bit of the natural charm to get what I wanted, is all.  ‘Course, I don’t have the advantage of being able to be practically naked in public in order to distract the other sex into helping me, but still, I don’t seem to have many problems gettin’ their attention---.”

She flushed with awareness.  He’d done it deliberately.  Just because she’d been friendly to some of the guys outside while she was trying to find the gris gris woman, Spike thought he could…

Wait.  He was the jealous one here.  She hadn’t done anything wrong.  Even when it had been apparent guys were interested, she’d always come back to Spike when she knew they couldn’t help her.  Surely, he realized that?  But then, obviously he hadn’t or he wouldn’t be acting like this.

Slowly, Buffy pulled her hand away, averting her eyes to focus on her drink.  “I’m not even going to dignify that with a response, Spike.  You know I’m worried about Willow.  All I’m trying to do here---.”

“What am I to you, Buffy?”

Too much was swirling around in her head, and she knew that one glance at him would betray more than she was willing to share at the moment.  Not going to look, she droned silently.  Not going to look.  Don’t see those incredible blue eyes staring at you.  He’ll be able to tell what you’re thinking the second he sees you.  Look at the water instead.  Watch the disco lights go through the glass.  Ooo, pretty. 

“You’re Spike,” Buffy said casually.  That was good.  That was…indifferent.  Pleased with how well she was handling this, she reached for the drink.

Spike’s hand shot out, palm covering the mouth of the glass before she had a chance to pick it up.  “I didn’t ask who I am,” he said.  “I asked what I am.  To you.”

Every pulsation of her heart beneath her ribs seemed to echo in Buffy’s ears.  Sometimes, this directness was infuriating, this ability of his to cut to the bone of the matter and make her confront what she didn’t want to.  Sometimes, it made her want to smash his face in out of sheer stubbornness, to mar the perfection of those cheekbones and make him feel just a little of the disquiet that she did, even if it was only through pain.  And then there were others, more dangerous times, where she felt like the fly caught in the spider’s web, forced to face the enemy head-on.

As she sat silent, she watched as his fingers curled, two lean digits dipping into her water to slowly extract a single ice cube.  “You’re not answering me,” Spike murmured.  His voice was nearer, his body only inches from hers---when did he get so damn close?---and she could feel the cool air from his words tingle below her ear.

“Is this just a game?”

She hadn’t moved.  She’d only watched as his hand fell away, feeling the weight of his arm shift the back of the cushion as he practically whispered in her ear.  The second the ice touched the back of her neck, Buffy stopped breathing in an audible gasp, holding it in as Spike ran the cube down the valley from the base of her skull to the top of her spine, dripping and freezing and cooling and heating all at the same time as warming rivulets managed to sneak away to join the drying perspiration on her back.

Goosebumps erupted along her arms, and she finally exhaled in a ragged sigh, her jaw dropping as her lids seemed impossibly heavy.  How could he know?  How did he always seem to know?

“Are you just playing?” he continued.  “Or am I more of a…diversion…”

The ice sinuated in lazy coils along her shoulder, tracing the strap of her halter.  The marble of his skin became visible as Spike allowed it to almost freefall along the fabric, arching along the curve of her breast, before taking control of it again with those nimble fingers.  Sliding it beneath the top, he found the already hardened nub of her nipple with the cube, tracing the aureola without letting his own fingers stray.

Buffy licked her lips.  She was suddenly parched, and more than anything, she wanted to take his hand from her flesh to suck on the water dripping from it, sating the growing thirst gnawing inside her gut.  It would be temporary, she knew.  The need would soon return, hungrier, angrier, demanding sustenance which for some reason only Spike could provide.  And she wouldn’t know exactly what to do then.

Just tell him, her mind raged.  Tell him what he wants and get it over with.

Before she could open her mouth, though, he was moving again, back over her clothing, the ice cube that was now almost completely melted away by the heat of her skin gliding over her stomach toward her waistband.

“Or is it something more…”  Spike taunted.  On the “more,” his fingers disappeared down her shorts, inside her underwear to brush against the coarse curls, forcing their way down to press the remainder of the ice against her clit.

She bucked then, unable to withhold her body’s response, agony and pleasure and needles of delight shooting into her pelvis as her fingers gripped the edge of the table, her eyes squeezed shut. 

His hand withdrew, leaving the cold behind, and it took more than a few minutes of ragged gasping and concentration for Buffy to regain control of the nerves that were racing out of control.  The silent order to breathe---in…and out…and in…and, oh fuck---was only being half-obeyed, every other attempt vanishing with the rational thought that accompanied it.  Never before, and she wondered if ever again, had someone made her feel like this, known what buttons to push to set her going.  Like she was some classic car that required specialist training.  And Spike was the only specialist on hand.  And what a hand it was…

When she finally felt strong enough, Buffy opened her eyes, turning her head to see him watching her.  He was waiting.  Still waiting.

“How can you even ask that?” she rasped, and everything---the questioning, the desire, the need, the emotion---shone in the green of her eyes as she stared at him in amazement.  “How can you not know?”

He paused.  “I need to hear you say the words, Buffy,” Spike said slowly.

Shadowed in the corner of the club, his eyes were dark, all signs of playing gone from them as he waited for her to answer.  Words?  He wanted words?  She wasn’t word girl.  Willow was word girl.  Buffy was action girl.  She did things.  She didn’t say things.  Would she even know what to say?

“I don’t play games,” she said.  “I’m not Parker.  Although I’m beginning to wonder if maybe you are.”

The smallest of flinches at the corners of his eyes, a slight flaring of his nostrils, but Spike’s voice remained calm.  “I’m still not hearing the words,” he murmured.  “And I’m not.  Parker, that is.”

He wasn’t running.  He wasn’t mocking her.  And he’d been as hurt by what he’d seen as her flirting as she was by his.  Time to stand up and smell the roses, Buffy, she thought.

“All of this,” she started, her voice a little more calm, a little more even.  “Looking for a way to get more of these…”  Her fingers picked up the gris gris from where it hung around her neck.  “…this is all because I am sick, and tired, of watching people I care about get hurt.”  It fell from her hand as she reached toward him, trembling as she ran her touch along the ridge of his brow, feeling the ache of the corrugated burn as if it was her own.  “I’m so sorry you got this after…after everything.”

Slightly, Spike’s head tilted into her caress, but his gaze remained enigmatic.  “I’ll be right as rain soon enough,” he said.  “That little healing spell had quite a kick.  And don’t be thinking I’ll let that bitch get another shot at me.  Not with the witches needin’ me like they do.”

I need you, Spike.”

“For the fight.”

“For…you.”  Please understand, Spike, she begged silently.  I’m so not good at this part.  “We…just found…this…whatever it is.  I’m not ready to lose it.  Not when I want…more.”

Her breath hitched when his fingers caught hers, pressing her palm to his lips.  “See, pet?” he murmured, and his other hand reached up to brush the hair from her face.  “Not so hard.”

“Actually, I’ve faced a few apocalypses that were easier,” Buffy joked, smiling as the tension began to unfurl from her limbs.  He wasn’t laughing.  He was sitting there, staring at her, not running, not making fun of her, and she was still in one piece and the world hadn’t fallen apart around her and… “So…what…is this?  We’re…?”

“…eating,” Spike finished for her as the waiter came up with the blooming onion they’d ordered.  “And then we’re goin’ to give the Quarter another sweep for our gris gris bird---.”

Buffy’s nose wrinkled.  “Can you not mention bird and gris gris in the same sentence?” she asked.  “I’m trying to live in a state of denial here.”

He snickered.  “And then,” he continued, as if she hadn’t spoken, pulling a petal from the blossom, “I plan on gettin’ you back to the hotel and showing you just how much healing I’ve actually done.”  The last was said with a smirk, which brought a flush to Buffy’s skin.

“Sounds like a plan,” she agreed, and made a grab for her share of the onion.

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

She’d said it.  Well, she’d almost said it.  He couldn’t really expect much more, knowing the Slayer like he did.  Didn’t matter, though.  It was enough.

Joy bubbled beneath his skin, putting an even greater swagger in his step as he pushed open the back door to the club and edged into the alley.  Have a smoke, get back on the streets, get back to the hotel, and spend the next twelve hours in bed with Buffy.  The perfect plan.  His earlier doubts were now forgotten, overshadowed by the unmistakable emotion he’d seen in her eyes, that knowing smile he’d seen thrown in everyone else’s direction but his prior to this trip to New Orleans.  Nothing could darken his current mood, he decided.  He might even let Harris get in a few gibes without having a go at him in response.  Let the boy have his fun for a few minutes.

Then again, maybe not.

Inhaling deeply, Spike caught the dark shadows of two young men, reeking of alcohol, come staggering into the alley.    

“Dude!” the smaller said as he pitched toward the vampire.  “Got a light?  And a cigarette?”

He was punched in the shoulder by his friend.  “Asshole.  Of course he does.  He’s smoking, isn’t he?”

Spike’s scarred eyebrow quirked.  He’d traveled all the way across the country to be called “dude?”  A quick sniff confirmed that they were human, and he affected his best badass attitude.  “Piss off,” he said.  “Unless you’re lookin’ for a spot of trouble.”  He didn’t mean it, of course.  The chip saw to that.  But no reason he had to share with two prats like this.

“Well, that’s not very friendly,” the smaller guy said, and before Spike could react, he’d launched himself toward the vampire.

His reaction was instinctual.  Ducking, Spike felt the man fly over him, crashing into the brick wall of the club.  When his friend’s fist shot out, the blond deflected it with a lift of his forearm, pushing back with more force than he realized.  He heard the bones crunch, and rolled out of the way, tossing his cigarette aside as he watched the two men writhe around on the ground.

“Next time, try sayin’ please,” he drawled, and turned to go back into the club.

It was only because of his vampiric hearing that he heard the words of the man who’d tried to punch him.  “Oh, man, I think the motherfucker broke my arm!  God damn it hurts!”

Serves the git right, Spike thought as he pulled open the door.  Think they can just roll me over because I won’t share my…

He stopped, frowning as the metal clanged shut behind him.  Wait.  Hurts?  Quickly, Spike replayed the incident in his head and reached a tentative finger to his temple.

No pain.

Not a single jolt from the chip.

What the bloody hell was going on?

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

Xander’s heart was pounding as he bolted for the car in the street, his eyes stricken as he hammered at the driver’s side window.

“What is it?” Giles asked as he rolled down the glass.

“Anya,” he said, breathless.  “Anya.  Tell me you’ve seen her in the last two minutes.”

The Watcher shook his head, then glanced over at Tara to see her corresponding shake.  “What’s happened?  Don’t tell me you left Anya by herself.”

“For the record, she left me, and I only looked away from her for a minute when I saw Will---.”

“You saw W-w-willow?”

“Did you speak to her?” Giles asked.  “Did she approach you?”

“Yes, no, and no.  It was a mirror thing.  I tried to go talk to her, but---.”

“And now you can’t find Anya.”  He pinched the bridge of his nose, thinking for a moment, before pushing open his door.

Xander followed him around to the trunk.  “What’re you doing?”

“Tara and I are going to do a sweep around the club while you check once more inside, and if we don’t find Anya, we’re getting back in the car and going back to our hotel to wait for Buffy and Spike.”  Tucking a crossbow under his arm, he handed a stake to Tara, who had joined him on the other side.

“Wait.  We don’t find her and we run?”  Xander was incredulous.  “Are you kidding me?  I’m not leaving Anya behind here.”

Giles slammed the trunk shut.  “If we don’t find Anya, we have to assume Iris and Sandrine have her.”

“But why?  How do they know who she is?”

“Were you paying any attention this morning when Buffy was telling us about Willow being Sandrine now?  She recognized Buffy.  Most likely, she recognized Anya as well.”

“And if Anya was right about this being about the voix mortelle…”  Tara looked up at the Englishman with wide eyes.  “We probably sh-sh-should’ve thought of that before we did this.”

“Oh, dear Lord.”

“Thought of what?  What should we have thought of?”  His voice was rising in volume, his worry etched across his brow.

Giles sighed.  “The fact that if Sandrine is truly after the voix mortelle, Anya is the only person in this world who knows where half of it is.”

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

Sandrine pointed to the couch.  “Put her there.”  With a satisfied quirk of her lips, she watched as Tom laid Anya’s unconscious form along the sofa’s length before straightening and edging toward the door, dropping her purse that he’d had dangling from his wrist on the chair near it.

“I don’t know how long she’ll be out,” he said.  “I hit her kind of hard.”

“That’s OK,” Sandrine replied, dismissing him with a wave of her hand.  “You can go now.”

When they were alone again, Iris frowned.  “Why are you waiting?” she demanded.  “Wake her up and find out where it is.”

The redhead scowled in the vampire’s direction.  “For someone who looks like she should have some finesse, you sure don’t act like it,” she said.  “There’s something new and exciting you might want to try out.  It’s called patience.”  Curling herself into a chair, the folds of her black dress fell around the slit in the skirt, exposing the length of her legs as she began to pick at her nails.  Her green eyes settled back on Anya, and her mouth became grim.  “Something tells me my old enemy just might be a little stubborn about sharing…”

 

To be continued in Chapter 25: Aura