Wet and Wild
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Riley instructed her to use the shower in Professor Walsh's office and pointed at her clothing, which was still stacked neatly in a chair. She turned to thank him, but he was already gone and she sighed angrily, tired of his attitude. Glancing at the desk and the paperwork there, she contemplated rifling through it as she gathered her clothing in her hands. Something ticked in one corner of the room and she saw a video camera mounted high on the wall and quickly moved to the door that said 'Restroom' instead.
Once inside, she peeled her wet clothing off and started the water, getting it as hot as she could stand. Every muscle in her body ached and she leaned her head against the wall, wondering if she had done the right thing. Giles would kill her when he found out that she had revealed herself and she couldn't blame him. Actually, considering the pain in her back, she would probably encourage him to put her out of her misery.
The hot water warmed her and she was reminded of the night Spike was taken and how cold she had been when Giles put her in the tub. A sob caught in the back of her throat; a sob born of relief that she was inside the Initiative, the ache in her bones and the fact that she had only scaled one small obstacle of who knew how many. She was here, possibly only a few feet from Spike, but she was still helpless to do anything for him. She rinsed the soap from her hair and allowed herself to break down, something that she had wanted to do all day.
When she had bathed and pulled herself together, she stepped out and wiped steam off the mirror to check her reflection. Swollen, red eyes stared back at her from a face that looked like a stranger's and she dried off quickly, dressing in the clothing she had worn that morning. Realizing that she had left her shoes in the other room, she opened the door and sat in a chair to pull them on.
Riley knocked lightly and poked his head in. He had been instructed to retrieve her and bring her to the conference room for the 'talk'. As soon as he saw her, his greeting died on his lips and he shut the door behind him. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." She zipped her boot and leaned to get the other one, hissing when her leg muscle tightened.
Riley kneeled beside her and handed her the shoe, watching her closely. "You 're crying."
Buffy didn't look at him as she shoved her foot into her boot. She refused to admit to him that her body felt like it had been run over and there was no way she could tell him that she was worried about Spike and really wanted to see him. "I said I'm fine."
"But you're not." He reached up and brushed a tear off her face, holding it up so she could see it the small wet spot on his thumb.
Her mind raced, looking for a tangible lie, and she finally spoke in a small voice. "I didn't know that I wasn't supposed to kill that thing. I just wanted to do a good job and now you're mad at me."
"I'm not mad."
"You yelled at me and you-"
"Buffy," Riley took a deep breath and pulled her hands into his, still kneeling in front of her. "I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings. I don't want you to think that I'm not proud of how well you did today. I am proud and I am happy that you'll be working with us, but I'm worried about you."
"I can take care of myself." She glanced at their hands, noticing the way hers were completely hidden in his and realized how powerful his need to protect her was. Her eyes met his and held, and she licked her lower lip, wondering what to say.
"I know you can." Riley's gaze was drawn to her mouth and he mimicked her, licking his own lips. "But that doesn't mean that I can just shut off the part of me that wants to pull you in my arms and not let go."
Willing herself to play along, Buffy pulled one of her hands free and ran it down his face. "Riley, I'm still just a girl and I have a part of me that wants to fall in your arms and not let go too."
Riley swallowed hard and moved closer, letting his arms go around her tiny waist. Her hair was damp and smelled like vanilla and he leaned his face against it, closing his eyes. "I really am sorry."
"I am too." Buffy replied, her arms winding around his neck. His shoulders were broad and she pressed her face against his neck, inhaling deeply. Whatever cologne he was wearing smelled fresh, spicy and really, really good. She squeezed a little tighter and felt him shudder slightly. "You're shaking."
"You make me nervous." He replied and pulled back slightly. "The Buffy puzzle has turned out to be quite challenging."
She smiled, leaving her arms around his neck as she met his eyes. "Well, at least now you've put it all together. You know my secret."
Riley nodded slightly and then paused, "No, I don't have it all together. I' ve wondered something since I saw you for the first time."
"If a kiss from you would steal my breath."
Before Buffy could reply, he lowered his lips to hers and pressed lightly. Her heart pounded against her chest and her fingertips moved to the back of his hair, instinctively combing through it. When he felt her reciprocate, he relaxed against her and pulled her closer, his tongue slipping past her lips and seeking her own. Her mouth tingled and she could feel her face flushing as she let her body react the way it wanted to, deepening the kiss and taking comfort in the strong arms around her.
"It did." Riley mumbled, as he broke the kiss. A knock at the door caused him to pull back and stand.
Walsh stuck her head around the corner and said, "Buffy, we have some paperwork for you to go over if you're ready."
Nodding, Buffy stood and grabbed her coat. Riley caught her before she walked past him and whispered, "Buffy, it stole my heart too."
Buffy blushed and grinned up at him before she joined Walsh at the door. Maggie looked at her closely and narrowed her eyes. "Are you-?"
"I've never been better." Buffy interrupted, glancing back at Riley. "I'm great."
Giles paced back and forth in the Summers' kitchen, glaring at his watch every few minutes. He had arrived thirty minutes after Buffy had called and informed him of her visitor and he had not left since then. Almost eight hours had passed and he was tempted to yank the instructions Buffy had left from his pocket and march underground to find her.
Willow, who was taking a break from the laptop, massaged her neck and watched him change direction. "Giles, you are making me incredibly nervous."
"Why aren't you on the computer?" He snapped angrily. "Is this the way you help? Sitting here watching me?"
Willow gasped and started to stand, but Giles strode toward her and put a hand on her shoulder. "I apologize, Willow. I didn't sleep well and haven't had my tea today. You have done a remarkable job with the Initiative's programs."
"It's okay and thank you." She sat back at the table and used her foot to push the chair across from her out for him. "Why don't you sit down?"
Nodding absently, Giles sat down and sighed, leaning his head against the cool wood. "I just don't understand why she would be so capricious. She knows better than this."
"It had to happen sooner or later, Giles." Willow said softly. "She can take care of herself."
He sat up slowly and exhaled loudly. "I hardly think that we can pretend to know how well she can take care of herself surrounded by guns and an army, Willow. We have only seen the Slayer in her own element, not theirs."
"She got away once. She can do it again if she has to." Willow rubbed her head, frowning at the headache she was developing and moved toward the stove. "Do you know where Mrs. Summers keeps the tea? I'm going to set up an IV drip for you."
It took Giles a couple of seconds to make sense of what she said and he chuckled, shaking his head apologetically. Before he could answer, the front door opened and closed, then Buffy appeared in the kitchen doorway. Giles jumped to his feet and pulled her into a rough hug. "Buffy, are you trying to kill me? I've been worried sick."
Buffy groaned as he pressed against her aching muscles and pulled away. "I'm sorry. I would have called, but the opportunity didn't arrive until I was free to go and I just left."
Willow watched as Buffy slumped into a chair and quickly grabbed a soda for her from the refrigerator. As she sat the can down in front of her, she said, "You look like hell."
"I've been there. All day." Buffy drank deeply and wiped her mouth before she told them about the Initiative's recruitment process. The story of climbing walls, riding bikes and then swimming with a thing called 'Helix' left them staring at her with wide eyes.
"Good Lord! They have a Helathon demon in captivity? That's positively unheard of." Giles pulled his glasses off and then shoved them back on without cleaning them. "Are you certain it was a Helathon?"
"I said that they called it Helix. I don't know what a Heffalump demon is." Buffy finished off her coke and stood to grab another.
"Helathon." Giles corrected. "If it looks like you said then that's what it has to be. How did they react to your killing it?"
"I'm a Slayer. They knew that when they threw me in there with it." Buffy shrugged and then her eyes widened when she realized what she had said. It had been her plan to keep it a secret that they knew about her Slayerhood.
"You told them?" Giles shouted, pinning her with his best icy glare. "You let an entire militia know that the Slayer exists and you are she?"
"I didn't know what else to do, Giles. I didn't want to have to pretend to be terrified all day. I think that being a Slayer actually got me in because Walsh seemed pretty damn impressed." Buffy moved toward a cabinet and took out three Excedrin PM pills. "I'm going to take these and go to bed."
"Shouldn't we discuss everything? What did they tell you?" Willow asked, watching as Buffy swallowed the pills and took another swig of soda. "I mean, we need to be kept up to date."
Rolling her eyes a little, Buffy sat down across from Giles and said, "There 's nothing else to tell. After I made it in and got a shower, they took me to this little room and made me read these pamphlets and watch some really poorly shot videos. Think Blair Witch Project meets Technicolor. Then I had to get my eyes scanned and a voice sample for their security system and I gave fingerprints and got a pass and code. I can't use it for seven days, I guess they have to feel me out, but that's it."
"And are you allowed to tell anyone?"
"Nope." Buffy shrugged a little and tossed her can across the room and straight into the trash. "It's just like being a Slayer. It's a big secret. But with the Initiative, if they catch you blabbing about it, you actually get punished and stuff."
"Well, perhaps I never had you completely convinced of how mad it would make me if you told." Giles said, making sure his tone packed the bite he was aiming for. "If I were still your watcher, you would be punished severely for this."
"How?" Buffy grinned a little as she asked.
"Severely." He replied, crossing his arms over his chest.
Willow giggled a little and then composed herself. "Well, at least you're in and it didn't hurt you too much."
"That can't be it though. It's too easy. Surely you've only completed one aspect of the recruitment." Giles gazed at Buffy closely. "Did they test your motor skills, reading skills or anything psychological?"
"I can read. I can write, walk, and talk so my motor skills are fine. And Professor Walsh tests us daily on all things psychological."
Giles shook his head. "No, that doesn't make sense. It's obvious to me that these people chose you for a reason."
"Riley has a crush on me. Walsh wants to make him happy." Buffy replied with an indifferent shrug. "What do I care as long as I'm in?"
"And what about Riley?" Willow questioned, wondering why she seemed so distant and cavalier.
"What about him? He was there the whole time. I don't think he wanted me in at first, but I'm sure he does now." Buffy smiled a little and cocked an eyebrow playfully. "Very sure."
"Oh." Willow looked confused for a second and then gasped. "OH!"
"You've slept with a commando?" Giles blurted, then reddened. "Of all the irresponsible and careless things you could have done . that's absolutely appalling, Buffy. You can't use that for leverage!"
"You went all the way?" Willow squeaked, her mouth hanging open at the thought. "Wow."
"No!" Buffy looked scandalized and shook her head. "But I plan on making him think I would. I get the impression he's not thrilled with the way his mommy handles things and I figure that if he thinks he has a chance with me, he'll go against her and help me out."
"That's your plan!?" Giles leaned forward and wagged a finger at her when she nodded. "You're planning to play a very dangerous game then, Buffy. Family ties are a lot stronger than you seem to understand and a boy will do just about anything for his mother."
"Maybe in England. This is America, Giles. A boy will do anything for a piece of ass."
"Now, that's just crude!" Giles pulled off his glasses and wiped them clean, hoping the girls didn't notice the renewed redness he felt in his face.
"But it doesn't lack truth." Buffy stood up and stretched. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go soak in the tub and then sleep for a year."
Giles stood and caught her arm before she could leave the room. "I want you to be careful, Buffy. I'm not going to pretend to be behind you on this because I don't think it's worth it. You've compromised your safety by exposing who you are and I feel that you're overestimating your effect on this boy."
"Trust me, I know my own effecting value."
"I have the impression that you believe yourself to be infallible and that's not the case." Giles tightened his grip and shook her lightly for emphasis. "Just because someone likes you doesn't mean they won't disappoint you when it comes down to it."
"You don't have to worry about me." Buffy put her hand on his and squeezed affectionately. "I know what I have to do and I'll do it, Giles. As soon as I get Spike out, I'll quit."
"I don't think it will be that easy."
"Easy?" Buffy scoffed. "Since when have I ever let that word into my vocabulary?"
"Easy has many definitions. See that you don't let easy become you." Giles let her go and turned back toward the table to lift his coat off the chair.
"What is that supposed to mean?" She asked, watching his movements intently.
"When someone compromises themselves for a cause, any cause, the outcome is never the intended one. Keep that in mind." With that, he walked past her and out the front door.
Buffy shook her head angrily and looked at Willow, who was staring at the flower arrangement in the middle of the table. "What did that mean?"
"I think it was his way of saying that your plan to entice Riley onto your side is wrong."
"Why is it wrong?"
"You'll find out soon enough, I suppose." Willow got to her feet and paused beside Buffy. "I hope you know what you're doing and I believe in you, but I don't like this."
"I keep hearing that."
"Keep it in mind."
"If I keep all this stuff in mind, my head will explode."
"I think it already has."
Buffy opened her eyes and saw several men in masks moving back and forth in front of the metal table. The same metal table she was usually tied to in her dreams. She moved forward, trying to see what was there and gasped when Spike came into view. His head was tilted all the way back and a large tube was down his throat.
"What are you doing to him?" She screamed, trying to knock the people aside so she could move closer.
Someone tapped her on the back and she turned to see Spike standing behind her. "Things are never what they seem."
"What?" She reached for him, but he sidestepped and pointed at the table. Glancing at it again, she saw another vampire tied to it, not Spike. "I thought it was you."
"Follow me." He smiled and nodded toward a door in the corner.
Buffy followed without a second thought and he took her hand, bringing it to his mouth and kissing it softly. She closed her eyes and whispered, "You have nine days."
"Give or take a couple."
"What do you mean?" Buffy asked, her voice filled with panic.
"Just what I said. Some things change and time runs short." Spike replied in a small voice, as he led her down a hallway that was lined with paintings. "Do you like artwork, luv?"
"No." She shook her head, studying his face and trying to memorize every last detail of it. "Spike, please hold me? I-I can't just ..."
"You have to listen to me." He shook his head when she stepped closer and pointed at a painting on the wall. "What do you see?"
Buffy glanced at the wall and saw a little girl dressed in a frilly dress. She was sitting in a field full of grass and had several tiny flowers in her hand. "I see a happy little girl." She replied and tried to pull him into her arms. "Spike, please?"
"Look again, Buffy." He forced her to face the wall.
Buffy gasped and tried to look away, only to find herself held in place by Spike. The little girl was surrounded by wolves and was being eaten alive. Blood dripped off the wall and she could hear the growls and screams even though the painting was motionless. She yanked away roughly and rubbed her eyes before she looked again. The painting had gone back to the original state and she backed away. "I don't understand."
"You make dreams so hard." Spike leaned against the wall, oblivious to the blood that was running just inches away from him. "Think about it. Things aren't what they seem."
"I need more clues." She replied, ashamed that she was always the last to decrypt cryptic messages. Moving down the hallway, she scanned the area for anything else.
Spike pulled her around and pressed his mouth to hers, lifting her off her feet and pinning her to the wall. She wrapped her legs around him and held on as his tongue plundered her mouth, seeking hers and enticing her to duel. He braced her with the lower half of his body and freed his hands to roam through her hair. Both of her arms were around his neck and she held on, as if clinging to a lifeline. It left her breathless and unable to think beyond the feel of him. She vaguely registered that no other kiss had ever felt this good.
Reluctantly, he pulled away and put his hands on either side of her face. "It's not what you think, Slayer. It never is what you think."
She nodded, still staring at his mouth and wishing he would kiss her again. Her knees were weak and she feared the moment that he would stand her on her own legs. There was no way she could support her weight after a kiss like that.
Spike smiled at her and pecked her lightly on the lips. "I won't understand, Slayer."
"I just won't and I can't help it."
Spike growled low in his throat when someone shook him, forcing him to open his eyes. "I need sleep! Sleep!! It's a simple concept really and one that you pricks should try."
"You'll get plenty of sleep, eternal sleep, in a few days." Michael replied, gripping the hostile by the front of the shirt and tugging him to his feet. "Now get up. You're the last freak I have to deal with before I get to leave."
"Bloody hell!" Spike slipped a little on the smooth tile and the man caught him, shoving him upright. "What exactly is it that you people get out of this?"
"We get the satisfaction of seeing you squirm."
"I'm not squirming."
Spike glanced around the area, scanning the various holding pens and tests that were underway. In one corner, a vampire he recognized from Angelus's crusade began to scream and Spike cringed when he recognized Holy Water induced smoke boiling off the man. "What did he do wrong?"
"He asked too many questions." Michael fired back, shoving the hostile roughly through another doorway. "Now shut up. You would think that by now, they would have invented something to keep the mutants mute. You can de-bark a dog, why can't you de-talk a vampire?"
"Where are we going?" Spike had to ask, although he dreaded the answer.
"Are you just hoping to piss me off?"
"How could I piss you off? I'm nothing, right?" Spike glared at him, aching to hit him right in the balls.
"You have a whole day of fun ahead, freak. That starts later though." Michael opened another door and pushed the hostile into a room full of people in white coats. "For now, you get to be sanitized so we can take samples."
"Samples of what?"
"Samples of you."
The beeping broke through the cloudy haze in her head and Buffy groaned, sitting up to find the culprit. She smacked her alarm clock, knocking it to the floor and then yanked the plug when it kept blaring. It took her several seconds to realize that the offensive sound was coming from the pager that the Initiative had given her. Tossing back her cover, she turned the lamp on and found it, squinting to make out the number.
As luck would have it, the number was a four digit code and she had no idea what it meant. She dug through the pamphlets she had brought home and flipped through the signals, finally locating the one on her pager. It was the code number for quick assembly and she jumped up, tossing on the clothes closest to her. Realizing how far away she was, she snatched her mom's keys from the kitchen on her way out and prayed that Joyce would sleep late the next day.
It was only after two in the morning and Buffy made it to Lowell house within thirty minutes of the initial page. She parked in the driveway and jumped out, noticing for the first time how nervous she felt. Riley met her halfway and she followed him inside, taking in all the action around her. Boys, in various states of dress, rambled left and right. Some were stepping into their shoes and heading toward the elevator and others were trying to locate other 'agents'.
Riley and Buffy waited together in front of the elevator and he filled her in on what was happening. "I'm sorry to wake you up, but Walsh insisted that you be in on this so the page went to everyone. Seems that there is some kind of demon cult on the outskirts of town. They took one of the agents last night and he managed to escape and put us on red alert. These things are bad, Buffy. They have humans there that they plan on sacrificing and bringing some sort of stronger demon up from hell."
Buffy nodded, still half asleep and stepped into the elevator beside him. "Any idea how many?"
"He said there were over thirty that he could see and even more than that from what the others were saying." Riley leaned forward and spoke into the microphone and then focused on her again. "I'm guessing that this will be a watch and learn mission for you. I don't want you at the forefront."
"I'm not here to watch, Riley." Buffy replied, leaning against the back wall. The sleeping pills she had taken were not wearing off as fast as she would have liked and her head felt like it was stuffed with cotton.
The doors opened before he could reply and they stepped out as one. Riley motioned for her to follow him and he led the way down into a large area with chairs and weapons lining the walls. Several of the boys turned to stare at Buffy and nudge the people beside them and it took all of her composure to keep from telling them to piss off. Machines made loud noises, demons growled and banged against walls and Buffy watched in stunned silence as more and more men joined the group.
"I didn't know that there were this many soldiers." She whispered to Riley.
"We prefer the term 'agents'." He replied with a small grin. "Last time I checked we were almost one hundred and fifty strong. That's just in the field. If you count the doctors, lad techs and researchers then we have almost two hundred."
"How many people work for a Slayer?" Riley asked, giving her his full attention and scanning her from head to toe. She looked gorgeous. He hair was a little messy, probably from sleep, and she had on an old sweatshirt and jeans, but she looked beautiful to him.
"Just me. I mean, some people know, but it's better for me that not too many people get wind of it. It's like this," she motioned at everyone with her hand. "you can't just expect people to understand so you have to keep it a secret. I can't believe I told you guys who I am."
"If it's any consolation, Walsh isn't telling everyone. The only people who know are the people who were there to see what happened with Helix and they aren't allowed to say a thing."
Buffy really smiled, relieved that it wasn't as bad as she thought. "That's great."
Riley was going to say more, but Maggie stepped up to a small podium with a microphone and began to speak. "We have problems, people. Human lives are at risk and it is up to us to see to it that every single person out there tonight is sent home safely. Agent Ruiz was taken last night and held hostage near the old drive-in theater by a league of demons. Origin unknown. He used his tazer to escape but was unable to do a search and rescue. He estimates that the numbers are in excess of fifty and they fight hand to hand and with swords. Ruiz reports that the hostiles were immobilized with the tazer, but he did not discover a way to slay the demons. You know the drill. I want at least five brought back here, unharmed, and the rest of them killed. I don't care how you do it, kill the remaining hostiles. We don 't need this trouble."
She paused, allowing all the information to digest and then motioned for Buffy. "Agent Summers, please come here."
Buffy bit her lower lips and stepped up onto the podium beside Walsh. Maggie draped an arm over her shoulder and stared around at the faces of the men. "This is Agent Buffy Summers. She was recruited just yesterday and it's an honor to have her here. If all of you will keep an eye on her this morning, I'm sure you will see why. She knows demons and she knows how to kill them. I suggest you all take notes and if I hear that one of you gave her a hard time, all of you will regret it. Am I clear?"
"Yes, ma'am." The audience chorused.
"Buffy, I have your clothes laid out in my office. You get dressed and Special Agent Finn will show you how to assemble your gear." Walsh nodded at Riley and he extended his hand, helping Buffy off the stand. "As soon as you are suited up, both of you, see me."
"Yes, ma'am." Buffy nodded and followed Riley.
Ten minutes later, she was zipping her vest in place and watching Riley put a gun together. Part of it had been plugged into one of several hundred outlets on the wall and he was explaining how important it was to always put it back when you weren't using it. The voltage depended on it. He pointed at the gun in front of her and told her to assemble it as fast as she could. Her movements were jerky at first, but she quickly had all the pieces in place and shoved it over her shoulder like he had done.
They moved to another case and he pointed at the thigh packs on the wall, telling her that the first aid essentials would be found inside. He strapped his on and then watched Buffy try to fasten hers. It was way too big and she wound up having to loop it twice around her upper thigh, causing him to chuckle a little.
Buffy arched an eyebrow. "Do you find it funny that I can't wear this stuff?" She pointed at her baggy pants, which were cinched tight with a belt and the vest that hung low on her hips. She took several steps and grabbed the crotch of the pants, which hung to her knees. "I'll be lucky to be able to walk at all."
"Well, you look cute." He winked at her and turned his attention back toward the rows of lockers. "Your locker is beside mine. Come one and I'll get your combination."
The combination was inside the locker on a new lock and he handed it to her, watching as she read the numbers. She looped the brass lock through the handle and fastened it before she turned back toward him to say thank you. The words died on her lips when she heard someone on the other side of the row say her name. "And Buffy Summers? What kind of name is that?"
"Look at her. You can tell that she's an airhead." Another voice replied. "Did you see the way Walsh was fawning all over her? I'll lay odds she makes rank within days."
"It's all because Riley likes her." Came a third voice. "I mean, what are they hoping to be? The odd couple? He's twice her size and she has the body of a ten year old boy."
"I doubt she has the ass to hold up her pants."
"She has nice tits."
Buffy repositioned her weapon and walked around the row of lockers. Riley tried to stop her, but she brushed his hand away and cleared her throat. The boys who had been talking stood up straighter and stared down at her. She took a deep breath and said, "My name is short for Elizabeth and a name hardly makes someone an airhead. If I make rank it will be because I earned it and not because someone likes me. Size doesn't matter, unless of course your penises are as small as your brains. If you don't like my body, don't look. As for my ass, I'm sure you'll have no trouble kissing it." She turned to walk away, then paused and turned back. "And my tits thank you, but neither of them are flattered by your interest."
Riley's jaw joined the rest of the jaws on the ground as she walked past him and went to look for Professor Walsh. He covered his mouth for several seconds and then turned, ignoring the men who were now offering apologies. He caught up with her and laid a hand on her shoulder. "Do you want me to report them?" "God, no." Buffy craned her neck and spotted Maggie on the other side of the room. "I don't plan on tattling every time someone yanks my chain. This is a new adjustment for them so I'm willing to cut some slack."
"Okay, if that was cutting slack then what does going off on someone look like?"
"Bloody." She wrinkled her nose a little and joined Professor Walsh. "You wanted to see me?"
Maggie nodded and then frowned when she glanced up from her clipboard. "Oh, Buffy, we'll have to get you some clothes that fit. Those were the smallest that we had in stock. I'll go tomorrow and special order some."
"That would be nice."
"I want you to remain as close to Riley and Forest this evening as possible. We usually travel in threes and this will be no exception. Riley has rank in the group and will be the one to give the orders and you are to follow them with no argument. Are we clear?"
"Very good. This is going to be a bad night, Buffy. I've seen you fight and I know you're capable though. Stay focused and get it done." Walsh patted her on the arm and then turned toward Riley. "Remember to bag and tag five. The rest must be exterminated because we don't have the space for them. Get in and get out. Bring all the civilians here for quarantine."
"Whoa." Buffy held up a hand. "You bring the victims in here?"
"It's a routine surveillance, Buffy. We use our facilities to check them out and make sure they aren't contaminated in any way and then we let them go. They simply think they've gone to a hospital." Walsh checked her watch and motioned at several of the groups. She raised her voice and said, "If you have already been briefed then I want to see asses and elbows people. Move."
Riley pulled Buffy along beside him and then signaled for Forest, who waited at the door. "Forest, you know Agent Summers."
Forest nodded and smiled at her. He had already been told that if he made one comment about the Helix incident, he would be scrubbing all the johns with a toothbrush. "Glad to have you on board."
Riley pulled a map from his pocket and led them into the sewers, staring out at the sea of faces that waited for him at the bottom. Stepping into the role of leader, he spoke quickly. "Force is the only way to go, guys. We'll shoot down as many as we can and render them incapable of fighting. As soon as we get the upper hand, we'll bull ring these things and work them into a tight circle. Then we'll blast them."
"Blast them?" Buffy asked Forest, leaning closer to him.
"Yeah, Buff. We'll use small explosives, like grenades, that were designed especially for the Initiative. Not many demons can survive that." He pointed at the sack that hung from her belt. "You will find what you need in there. Riley will give the command and you'll pull the pins and toss."
"Won't people come running to see what the noise was?"
"Nope." Forest grinned and ran his hand over her gun. "See, all the weapons here are unique. You've heard of silencers, right? Well, our grenades don't go above five decibels because we have the best of the best building stuff for us."
"Are they still powerful?"
"Oh, hell yeah."
Riley glanced at them disapprovingly and then gave the command to fall out. The group moved together down the narrow tunnel, quickly making their way out of town. Buffy could feel her adrenaline began to pump, something that rarely happened with average slays anymore, and she smiled a little. "This is exciting."
"You scared?" Forest asked, checking her out in the dim light when she shook her head no. "'Cause I was scared shitless my first outing."
"Forest, is that kind of talk really imperative to the conversation?" Riley adjusted his backpack and tried to readjust his leg strap while he walked.
"Oh, please. Like you don't say worse." Waving a hand, Forest dismissed him and concentrated on Buffy again. "You know, I was one of the ones you fought here."
Buffy glanced him up and down. "Really? You looked bigger."
"Riley was the big one. Graham was the one with the now broken arm and I was the one who kept ducking and running."
Riley's eyes widened and he stopped walking completely, ignoring the strap on his leg. "Buffy, I was going to tell you it was me."
Buffy turned to face him and slumped a little. It wasn't a shock, because the minute she had seen his bruised face, a part of her had known. However, she had to react to it and decided to look upset. "A tree limb, huh?"
"I'm sorry." He glared over her head at Forest and added, "Thank you so much, Forest. This is exactly the way I wanted her to find out."
"I'm just going to go catch up with the others." Forest held his hands up and moved around Buffy. "Are we cool, Buff?"
"Don't worry about it." She shrugged and started walking as well.
"Hey." Riley fell in step beside her and held out a hand to slow her down. "I'm also the one who let you go. They all thought you were a demon."
"That was you?"
"You told me it was almost Christmas and you were only eighteen and didn't want to die. I knew right then that I couldn't keep you there. Your arm was bleeding and you were crying and it killed me. I told you that you were under the Bronze and how to get away."
"It was you. In that case," Buffy stood on her tiptoes to press a small peck on his lips. "thank you."
"Agent Finn!" A man's voice shouted from up ahead, echoing through the tunnel.
"Damn." Riley shook his head apologetically and grabbed her arm, pulling her alongside him quickly.
The other agents had halted and were staring down at something Buffy couldn' t see. From her vantage point, all she had a view of were shoulder blades and broad biceps. Forest grabbed her elbow and pulled her to the front of the group. "Let her through, assholes."
"She's so little she can see through our legs."
Buffy glanced at the boy who said it and nodded, "Especially since you probably have nothing dangling in my way."
A low chuckle rumbled through the men and the boy who had spoken turned red and moved back into the crowd. Riley stared at her a second, then dropped to his knee beside the corpse in the sewer. It was a little girl, probably no more than eight or nine. There was a pile of small flowers beside her and she was mangled, covered in blood.
Buffy gasped a little, realizing that she had seen this in her dream, and squatted on the other side of Riley. Pushing back the blond curls, she checked the girl's neck for bite marks.
Riley grabbed her hand and said, "What are you doing?"
"Trying to find out if a vampire killed her."
"No, it wasn't vampires." Riley shook his head and glanced up at Forest. "It 's killing people now. It's gone from cats and dogs to human beings. We have to find it."
"What is it?" Buffy mumbled, still staring at the body and wishing she didn' t feel responsible. It was her to job to protect people, and when this type of thing happened, she took it as a reflection on her abilities.
"Something worse than a vampire, I can tell you that." Riley replied and stood, motioning for the soldiers to keep going.
Buffy lifted a newspaper that was still rolled up in a plastic bag from the edge of the sewer and pulled the paper free. She opened it and laid it over the body before she stood. "It lives down here, in the sewers?"
"Shouldn't be too hard to find."
Forest snorted a little and then pointed left and right. "You think we haven 't already covered this place? This thing knows how to hide."
"My favorite game. Hide and seek." Buffy glanced back down at the body again and readjusted her gun.
"This thing is off limits to you, Buffy." Riley said, nodding at Forest to start walking. "You are not signed on for any of the sewer drills to sweep for it and I don't want to find out that you're down here alone."
Buffy watched Forest round the corner and then looked up at Riley. "I'm still the Slayer."
"Not on my watch." He replied firmly and pointed up the tunnel. "Now, we have things to do and this is a waste of time. We have to stay focused on the goal."
They walked in silence for ten minutes and then they joined the rest of the group, who had stopped beside a ladder. Riley pulled out his map again and nodded. One by one, the men climbed out and Forest, who was ahead of Buffy, turned and pulled her out of the manhole. He sat her on her feet and she glanced around, collecting her bearings.
Riley stepped out of the hole last and shined a small light on the map. "We' re just off the interstate, about a quarter mile from the drive-in. Agent Ruiz was taken right around here so keep your guard up. Shoot anything that moves."
Buffy could hear traffic whizzing somewhere off to her right and she scanned the treetops, seeing the headlights of the cars. The sewer opening was set in the middle of the woods from what she could tell and that was incredibly odd. Turning around, she could make out the remains of a large movie screen in the distance and the thin patch of trees that stood between it and them. Her Slayer senses went haywire and she closed her eyes, pinpointing exactly where the unease was originating: the clump of trees that stood between them and the theater.
"We'll go straight through the woods to the drive-in." Riley told the group.
"And into the trap." Buffy replied. "They know that someone got away. You think they aren't expecting this?"
"They're demons. They don't think or expect anything." Said the boy who had made the comment about her height.
"You think demons don't think?" Buffy exclaimed. "How much dealing have you had with demons? They think all the time and if there are as many of these things as Walsh said, then they know how to survive."
"Do you have another suggestion, Agent?" The man asked.
"Well, we can't see in the woods. We can't run or fight in the woods. There has to be an access road to the drive-in and if these things are aggressive, they'll come to us and save us the trouble." Buffy shrugged.
"You mean, just walk out in the open?" Riley stared at her like she had suddenly grown horns.
"As opposed to walking straight into their lair?" Buffy shot back. "Look, I 'm not itching to get killed tonight and if you send us through there then it's a real possibility."
"Fine, let's find the road." Riley said, heading toward the left.
Several of the men protested, claiming he was a 'pussy' and a 'wimp' to let a woman tell him where to go. He ignored them and pushed through several thorny bushes, exposing a gravel road. He turned right, pulling his gun into his arms as they headed toward the drive-in.
Buffy pulled her own gun into her arms and pushed the safety feature off as she scanned the thick overgrown landscape on either side of the road. She walked between Riley and Forest, out in front of the other men and she was very aware of the whispering going on behind her. Halfway down the slope, she paused, noting the lack of crickets and frog sounds that she had heard since she stepped out of the sewer. Turning slowly, she scanned the woods and froze.
Riley held a hand up, stopping everyone in their tracks. "What's wrong?"
"They're all around us."
"Are you sure?"
Buffy took aim and fired a few feet from Riley's back and a demon fell through the brush, landing in a slump at his feet. She quickly tugged a long knife from her boot and sliced through the neck, severing it's head from the body. It flailed, then dried up and withered into nothing. "Beheading."
At that moment, the woods erupted, spewing demons all over the place. Some carried swords, which they began to swing and the commando's rays lit up the night, striking and leaving the enemies helpless. Heads rolled, milky blue blood spewed and Buffy fought alongside the men, alternating between shooting and chopping.
Soon, Buffy was covered in the vile smelling liquid that shot from the demon 's necks and she backed away a few feet to wipe her face clean. One of the demons caught her in a firm grip and she slung her head back, catching him right in the face. It howled and dropped her, causing her to land off balance and roll down a small incline, losing her gun. As soon as she slammed against the trunk of a tree and came to a stop, she was back on her feet, unarmed and in a fighter's stance.
Scanning the area, she saw that the thing hadn't followed and glanced upward, dreading the climb out. That was when she heard the sobs and noticed a wooden bridge that ran across a small creek. Ducking under several branches, she came to a clearing and gasped when she saw nets suspended from the wood under the bridge and several people inside.
The nets swung back and forth, about fifteen feet off the ground and she tried to see if there was anything for her to stand on. A small groan escaped her lips when it dawned on her that she would have to climb the bridge and make her way across. She opened her thigh pack, looking for something to cut the ropes with and wondered how much it would hurt the people inside to drop through. She swore quietly when all she found was a red Swiss Army knife and threw her hands in the air. Rolling her eyes, she began climbing up the side of the bridge, the knife clutched in her teeth.
Riley shouted her name when she was halfway up the side and she braced herself, pulling the knife from her mouth. "Down here. I found the people." She glanced down when she heard footsteps and saw about ten of the men standing below her. "I'm going to climb across here and cut out the side of these nets. You guys try to break the falls."
"Buffy, be careful." Riley stared out at the jagged rocks and shallow water and back up at her. "That's a helluva fall."
"I don't plan on falling." She answered, putting her knife back in her mouth.
The first net contained three people and she swung out onto it, gripping the thick ropes that held it together. She lowered herself low onto the side and sawed through the material, telling the people inside that they were going to be fine. When the opening was big enough, she motioned for a woman to come through and gripped her forearm. "Just hang onto me and I'll lower you. They'll catch you."
The woman, who was a sobbing mess, complied and let Buffy pull her through the hole and then drop her. Riley caught her and motioned for the others to help her. A man moved through the hole, praying softly under his breath and gripped Buffy tightly. She smiled at him and tightened her hold on the ropes as he dangled from her arm, then slipped down to the others. The third man wouldn't allow her to help him and let himself dangle from the bottom of the net and drop on his own.
Buffy nodded at Riley and motioned at the next net, further out over the water. She climbed carefully, testing the weight on the wood and then dropped onto that net, as she had done the one before. Two little girls gazed up at her with dirty faces and Buffy reached through, gently wiping away a path of tears. "You're going to be fine."
"Are you an angel?" A tiny voice asked.
"You are to me." The little girl smiled and watched as Buffy cut through the ropes.
Within minutes, the girls were lowered and Buffy was making her way toward the final net. It was larger and had several people in it. As she moved further out, almost to the middle of the bridge, she cast a glance down and cringed. Here, there was nothing but rock and debris. If she fell, it could kill her. The drop was easily forty feet from the top. She would have to count on her momentum to leap at least ten feet and land down on top of the net, since there were no handholds left to support her and bring her any closer.
Taking a deep breath, she swung back and let go of the wood. The people in the net moved away when they saw her coming, causing the net to swing back and she missed the top and slid down the side. Buffy found a grip just as she was about to slide completely off and held on, suspended by one hand, almost at the bottom of the net. Her shoulder popped painfully and she yelped a little, nearly dropping her knife.
Several hands moved out of the net, finding hers and pulling her back upward. Her vest was gripped, her belt was tugged and she found herself where she needed to be and quickly cut through, making an opening. Buffy closed the knife and shoved it in her pocket before she shouted, "Are you ready down there."
"Yeah." Forest shouted, shivering in the waist deep water below her and glancing at the men who stood waiting with him.
A woman stepped through and screamed loudly when Buffy released her. Buffy watched her, making sure the others had her and she was safe before she motioned for another. Six people were freed from that net and when the last one dropped, she moved down to the bottom and held on, waiting for the go ahead. When she got it, she let go and fell easily into the outstretched arms of the commando's.
Riley carried her out of the water, not willing to let her get soaked and sat her on her feet. Several of the men clapped her on the back and she groaned. "I think my shoulder's out of place."
Riley unzipped her vest and ran his hand upward, making a face when he felt the odd angle of her bone. "You're right."
Forest moved behind her and gripped her firmly around the waist and the man who had made comments to her all night put his palm flat against her back. Riley gripped her arm and said, "On three."
Buffy nodded and he counted off and yanked, pulling it back into place with a loud snap. She winced and rotated it, then motioned at the people. "What about them?"
"We've called for transport. Teams four and five will wait here with them and the rest of us will go back the way we came." Riley still had a hand on her arm and added, "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." She replied, then jumped when she heard several bangs in the distance. "Grenades?"
"They had to destroy the bodies." Forest nodded and pulled a walkie-talkie from the pocket of vest. "Come in, team two, over."
"Team two, responding, over" Crackled a voice through the speaker.
"Were you able to obtain five hostiles, over?"
"Affirmative, five hostiles tagged and on their way to the lab with team three, over."
"Any further signs of activity up there, over?"
"Bodies are destroyed and teams six and seven are sweeping the perimeter, sir, over."
"Team one is leaving scene to file reports, check back in when the area is secured, over." Forest waited for the confirmation and pocketed the device again. "Now comes the hard part. Paperwork."
"I'm terrified." Buffy laughed, following closely as they led her back toward the tunnels. She hated to admit it and she definitely wouldn't bother mentioning it to her friends, but working with a group that she didn't have to worry about or keep tabs on was a nice change. These people were strong, capable and on top of the game.
They were just like her.
And it was nice not to feel alone.
Spike crossed his arms over his chest and shook his head again. The man who had been trying to coax him out of his clothes for almost thirty minutes, threw his hands in the air and turned to Professor Walsh. “You deal with him.”
“Would you please just do as you are asked?” Walsh eyed the vampire critically, sitting her clipboard on a table.
“No. If you wanted me to behave then you shouldn’t have told me what you plan on doing to me.” He replied, shoving his hands into his pockets.
Maggie took several steps forward and stopped a few feet away from Spike. “The sooner you get this over with, the quicker you can go back to your room.”
“Well, there’s incentive. I get to go back to a four by six cell and sit there until you decide to do this again? It’s a nice offer, but I’ll pass.” Spike stuck out his chin and remained planted in one spot.
“You are trying my patience. Now, take off those clothes and get in the tub!”
“You’ll have to kill me first.” He declared, moving his hands away from his chest and pointing at the spot above his heart. “There, just stick wood through it. Better yet, give me some wood and let me do it myself.”
“Tempting, but no.” With a sigh, Maggie pulled a chair away from a desk in the corner and sat down. She glanced at the vampire and shrugged. “I have all day.”
Spike nodded and flopped on a stool beside the desk. “So do I and let’s think about it. You’re sitting here because you want to stick a probe up my ass and I’m sitting here because I don’t. Now, who do you think has less to lose and will give in first?”
“It will be painless.”
Spike narrowed his eyes. “Then you go first.”
“Look, we need to get a sample of your skin, take your temperature and check you out. That’s why you’re here.”
“That’s why I’m here? I’m saying no, so let me go.”
“We need these tests on you. It’s imperative.”
“Okay, scrape a piece of skin off my arm, stick a thermometer under my tongue, leave my ass alone and I’ll let you check me out.”
“You don’t understand. Our equipment is designed to-“
“Get broken.” Spike interrupted. “I will tear up everything in sight if you even attempt to get me out of my pants.”
“You still have to be sanitized. You’ll have to undress for that.”
“Lady, my dick hasn’t seen action in weeks. I can assure you, it’s clean.”
Maggie lifted her clipboard and skimmed over the Hostile’s file, taking into consideration the amount of time he had remaining. “How about we make a deal? You get into the cleaner, let them scrub you down and we’ll skip the anal probe and take samples the old fashioned way.”
“How do I know you’re being serious?” He looked skeptical and pulled his jacket further around his body.
Maggie held her hand out and said, “We’ll shake on it. I’m good at keeping my word. And, if you don’t take me up on it this way, I’ll just let the agents force you when they get back from their mission. I’ve got some guys here who take great pleasure in playing with the anal probe.”
Spike tried to look as deadly as possible as he extended his hand. “I want my clothes back, lady.”
Smiling, Walsh stood and pointed at a changing screen in one corner of the room. “Leave them back there and we’ll wash them. You’ll find a robe hanging up. Put it on and come back out here and Dr. Stein will oversee your bath.”
“What, you aren’t going to scrub my back for me?” He asked, still slumped on the stool and staring up at her. It was devastating to be at the disposal of these people and even worse that he was unable to fight back with force. Even being stubborn didn’t get him the results he wanted and that was a hard pill to swallow when you were used to being on top of the game.
“Sorry, I have things to do. Now, behave yourself and don’t make me have to come in here again.” Maggie smiled at the vampire and motioned at Dr. Stein. “See to it that no tests are done on him until I am present.”
“Yes, ma’am.” The doctor replied, watching as Spike moved behind the screen. He lowered his voice and said, “Are we really skipping the probe?”
Glancing at the screen, she nodded. There was something about this one, something she couldn’t place, and a part of her wanted to reach out and hug him instead of test him. He was different, the only way she could find out why would be to earn his trust, and there wasn’t much time. “We’ll be doing it all the old fashioned way.”
“Mind if I ask why?”
“Mind if I remind you that it’s not your place to question me?”
There were stacks of folders on top of desks and shelves all around the room. Some were blue, some were red and some were green. Riley quickly explained that the blue ones were for the Hostiles in captivity and the observations during tests. The red ones were for the Hostiles that had no implants yet and the green ones were for field reports. The green ones were the only ones they would actually use since they were ‘agents’ and not ‘Techs’. He opened a green one and showed her the questions that she would be required to answer and let her know that he would be doing all the paperwork for this mission, but at least she would know the difference.
Forest fished a thick book out of a file cabinet and handed it to her, telling her to take it home with her and study it since it contained the ‘proper’ ways to write a report. She flipped through it and sighed, causing Forest to laugh a little and go off on a tangent about writing being evil and how Riley actually enjoyed it. Threats were made and Buffy found herself giggling like crazy several times, completely relaxed around both boys.
She yawned as Riley put the finishing touches on the field report. He glanced at her and she clapped a hand over her mouth. “Sorry.”
“S’ok.” He smiled and closed the binder before he passed it to Forest, who opened it for review. “Buffy, would you like to go ahead and go home? I think that’s pretty much it for this mission.”
“I’m fine and if you feel like showing me around some more, I’d appreciate it. I don’t like not knowing where everything is.”
“I’d love to.” Riley glanced at his watch and then stood and extended a hand toward her. “Forest, think you can cover the rest?”
“I think I can handle it.” Forest put his hand on Buffy’s arm as she started to follow Riley and added, “Buffy, what you did out there tonight was amazing. I’m glad you’re on our team.”
“Thank you.” Buffy’s smile was wide as they left the room and Riley pointed toward the left.
“Over here we have the holding pens. When we tag a demon, we bring them here, usually unconscious, and they stay in lock down for seven days.” He nodded and led her down a brightly-lit corridor with glass walls. “And please, feel free to ask me questions. I like that you’re interested.”
“Why seven days?” She asked immediately, taking him up on his offer. The more she learned, the better it would be when it came time to move through the cracks and rescue Spike.
“For seven days, we pump antibiotics and disinfectant through the air in there.” He paused and pointed at an empty room. Buffy started to press her hands against the glass and he grabbed her. “It looks like glass, but it’s not. A military shield was invented during the Gulf War. No one knows it exists. Don’t ever, ever touch it.”
“Why?” Buffy backed away fast, staring up and down the length of the clear substance.
Riley chewed his lip for a second and then moved toward a demon that was pacing behind the glass. He lifted a bucket next to the security pass and the demon threw itself at the glass; causing it to light up with blue electricity and blow the demon backwards. “That’s why.”
“Okay.” She gasped as she took it all in: the padded rooms, the extra security, the demons stalking back and forth. It was mind boggling to think that this all existed for years and she never knew. “How many rooms are there?”
“In this level there are three hundred. Up there,” he pointed up at the platform that Buffy had used to escape, “we have over one hundred different rooms and cells, not to mention some other testing facilities, the infirmary and the mess hall.”
“I didn’t realize how big it was.” Buffy scanned the different cells, aching to catch a glimpse of Spike. By the time they reached the end of the hallway, her heart felt like it was pounding in her ears. "So what exactly do you do to them once you catch them?”
“Well, after the seven days, we get them out and put a special device in their brain.”
“Hmm.” Riley scratched the side of his face and thought for several seconds, wanting to avoid the boring medical diagnosis. “Have you seen the South Park movie?”
“Well, you know how Cartman gets the thing in his head that shocks him everytime he swears?” He waited for her to nod and when she did, he shrugged. “There you go.”
“You shock them when they cuss?” She shook her head and laughed a little.
“No. It shocks them if they try to harm any living creature. It literally sends a powerful jolt straight through the nervous system and causes excruciating pain. They can feed on other demons, even kill them, but not people.”
Buffy digested that. No one had even thought of letting Spike feed on other vampires. If she had known that, she would have brought him along on patrol and put him to work. “What’s the point though? Why not kill them and be done with it?”
“Why should we have to kill them? If we can implant enough of them, and perfect the device, then they’ll kill each other and stop feeding on people all together. The best demons would be at the top of the food chain and the others would be extinct. Do you know how easy it would be to kill the remaining breed?”
“So, the Initiative wants to mess with the food chain and change the menus?”
“Exactly. We want to get people off the entrée list and get enough demons out there who are demon killers themselves.” He paused in front of a large window and pointed inside.
Buffy craned her neck and saw a vampire laid out on his stomach with his head hanging off the side of gurney. Several doctors were working on him and one was using a long metal pole to poke something near his ear. “Implanting?”
“How’d you guess?” He grinned and pointed at the sign above the door that read, ‘Implanting Room 3’.
“You said if you could ‘perfect the device’. What’s wrong with it?” She turned away from the window and watched Riley closely, trying to make sure he told her the truth.
“The life expectancy of the implant is short and the Hostile has to be kept within a ten mile radius of our main signal. If he gets out of the range, it kills him.”
“How does it kill him?”
“Well,” Riley pointed at the vampire on the other side of the glass again. “take a vampire for instance. When the human body dies and the demon takes over, the brain remains active. It can remember it’s life before the change, it can remember small details, everything. Walsh has a theory that the changing actually slows the body down so much that the brain doesn’t die at all, it’s like being cryogenically frozen. The implant, when it wears down, has a backup device that kills the brain completely. Even an immortal demon will die if the brain doesn’t function, it’s like beheading.”
“Is it instant?” Buffy chewed her lower lip, forcing herself not to run screaming through the complex and demand to see Spike.
“Sadly, no. The vampire begins to weaken as the date draws near and we can’t pinpoint why. They don’t eat, they don’t function and some become aggressive to the point that we have to stake them.”
“Has anyone ever removed one?”
“Yes. We did that several times and the demon, upon being freed, was about thirty times worse than an average vampire. The implants apparently damage a part of the brain and the vampire becomes unable to return to a human visage and stays in demonic form for good.”
“Wow.” She mumbled, unable to coherently say anything else. This wasn’t what she had hoped for. She had wanted to stop the implant from killing Spike, but leave it there, so he couldn’t hurt anyone. If this was true, then the only option to keep him alive would be to remove it and let him go back to being what he was. Only worse. Or put a new implant in, but who knew how long he could survive with someone constantly messing with his head?
“Let me show you the labs down here and find you a map. We might have to save the upstairs for later because I have to run some errands today at noon.”
“That’s fi-.” Buffy checked her wrist for her watch and realized it wasn’t there. “Oh my god! What time is it?”
Riley pulled out a stopwatch and said. “Almost ten a.m.”
“My mother is going to kill me!” Buffy turned back the way they had come in, hurrying down the corridor of cells. “I don’t have a license, you know, I told you that. I took her car and didn’t even leave her a note.”
“You want to call her?”
She shook her head. There was always a chance that the telephones were tapped around the facility and there was no telling what her mother would blurt out. “No, thanks. It’s going to be much better for me to see her in person.”
“We’ll cut through the back and get to Walsh’s office faster so you can change. Come on.” He grabbed her hand again, anxious to touch her as much as possible, and led her down several hallways.
Buffy could see the familiar row of offices in the distance and was about to thank him when a side door opened and Walsh stepped out. “Oh, Buffy! I hear that you are to be commended for a job well done tonight. Everyone’s talking about it.”
“You should have been there.” Riley beamed, brushing his thumb over the back of Buffy’s hand. “She scared me to death, but it was unbelievable.”
Buffy shrugged a little and waved her hand, dismissing the praise. “Just another day at the office for me. I’m glad that I’m not out there alone anymore.”
“What’s going on with him?” Riley asked, nodding over their heads at the blond Hostile who was having the back of his gown tied.
“Oh, we’re moving him back to his room. His tests are finished.” Walsh stepped aside and an agent stepped through the door, followed by Spike.
Spike glanced at the people in the hallway with indifference; then it dawned on him what he was seeing. He jerked his head up again and his eyes widened. “Buffy!” He stepped toward her fast, rapidly speaking. “What are you here to-?”
“Don’t you touch her.” Riley moved fast, shoving him away and causing him to hit the wall hard. Spike lost his footing, weak from stale blood and no exercise, and slumped to the floor.
Buffy positioned herself between them, painfully aware that all eyes were on her and her every move was being scrutinized. She waited for Spike to stand upright, trying to assess his condition. As soon as he was on his feet she drew in a deep breath and leveled him with a glare, hating herself for what she would have to do. “Spike, I see they haven’t staked you yet. You’re lucky that I’m not the one watching you.”
Spike searched her face and then let his gaze wander over her clothing. He took in the belt she was wearing and all the small pouches dangling from it. He slowly stared over the open vest and the green T-shirt underneath, then moved lower, drinking in the baggy camouflage pants that were tucked into her boots. “I’ll be damned.”
“You already are.” She replied, smiling cruelly at him.
Spike’s eyes met hers and held, searching for something, anything, to indicate that she was still on his side. He wasn’t a fool, he knew that if she was pretending to be on their side she would have to be cruel to him, but he needed some kind of sign. When she didn’t let a single emotion flicker across her face, he said, “Then you’ll be damned right along side me in this hell hole.”
Riley shook his head and pulled Buffy’s hand into his. “Let’s just go. You can get changed and go home and rest. After last night, I’m sure you need it.”
Spike locked his gaze on their entwined fingers and saw red. “After last night? What are you doing now, Slayer? Whoring yourself down here since you’ ve exhausted the college campus?”
Buffy felt a rush of blood go straight to her face and she did the only thing she could think of. Swinging hard, her fist connected with the side of his face and he fell back into the arms of the doctors, who gripped him hard, not letting him get near her. Riley caught her around the waist, lifting her off the ground and carried her down the hall.
Spike pulled free and rubbed his jaw. Walsh watched Riley disappear around the corner and then gave Spike her full attention. “You knew she was the Slayer?”
He shrugged in response and licked the trickle of blood on his lip. “We go way back.”
“Not as far as she went with that fucking soldier boy apparently, but far enough to despise her.” Spike watched the woman stalk down the hallway and growled when he was gripped and led back toward his cell again. There were two things he knew for certain: Buffy had done exactly what he had feared she would do when she came back and he wasn’t going to take it lying down. No matter what her intentions were … fucking around with one of the people who put him there was never on the agenda.
As soon as he was shoved into his cell, he turned toward the wall so no one would see how much pain he was truly in.
Riley was sitting on the edge of her desk when Maggie opened the door. She glanced around the room, figuring Buffy was changing in her bathroom, and said, “Leave us alone, Riley.”
“Permission to destroy Hostile Seventeen requested.” He said angrily, grinding his teeth back and forth.
He looked ready to put up an argument and then stood, walking out the door and closing it behind him. Maggie waited for several seconds before she crossed the room and tapped lightly on the door. “Agent Summers, I’d like to speak with you.”
“Just a second.” Buffy splashed water on her face and dried off with a few paper towels. Seeing Spike had affected her in ways she hadn’t been prepared for. She despised herself for hitting him and hated the fact that everyone had seen what happened. She changed her clothes quickly and pulled in a deep breath, fully expecting Walsh to tell her she was fired. Opening the door, she stepped out, glanced around for Riley and was relieved when she didn’t see him.
“Agent Summers, what exactly is your relationship with Hostile Seventeen?” Maggie shoved a chair away from her desk and pointed at it. “Sit.”
Buffy complied and watched the woman take a seat opposite her. “I’ve known him for a while. I was in High School and he came to town, trying to kill me and making trouble.”
“You told us that you were kissing him because you were trying to get information out of him.”
Licking her lips, Buffy nodded, allowing the lies to flow like wine. “Spike’ s like that. A few months ago, we teamed up against this demon thing and he told me how to kill it. He knows stuff and I needed someone who was in the know. I string him along and he thinks that I’ll sleep with him one day and if I appease him with kisses, he tells me. He’s a narc.”
“Is that right?” Walsh wasn’t convinced. “Why would a vampire help you?”
“I swear it. He’s not like other vampires. Even before he got the chip, he was different. I mean, he’s a killer, but he’s not stupid. That demon was going to destroy the world and he knew that.”
“And what did you have to give him in return for his help.”
Buffy thought fast and then pointed at the scar on her neck. “Slayer blood. It’s like a drug for a vampire. Or so I hear.”
“You allowed him to feed off of you?” Maggie looked stunned. “And he let you live?”
“We had a deal. Spike’s going to look out for his ass no matter what the cost. That’s how he is.”
“It’s been my experience that you can’t make deals with demons.”
“And I’m living proof that you can.” Buffy raised her eyebrow and then stifled a yawn with the palm of her hand.
“You’re exhausted. You go home and sleep for a while. We’ll need you back here by ten tonight for patrol.” Professor Walsh stood again and pulled Hostile Seventeen’s file from her desk. “Maybe then, I’ll have the results back on Spike and we can figure out why he’s so … unique.”
Maggie watched the girl leave and leaned forward, resting her chin on her clasped hands. She was convinced that Buffy was hiding something and she meant to find out what. Until then, the girl would stay and aid the Agents as if nothing was amiss.
And like it or not, the Slayer would help her uncover the mystery of Spike.
Because he could very well be the one that got away.
The Story Continues...