Wet and Wild
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Maggie Walsh stared at her computer with a furrowed brow. For at least ten minutes, she had waited for it to load completely and when it finally had, the screen went blank immediately. She was about to restart again when a window popped up, informing her of an internal system error. Glancing at the paperwork that Riley had found, she typed in the system override codes and pressed enter, watching with a frown as the hourglass moved in a circle, indicating that it was 'working'.
A new window opened, insisting that the override codes were invalid and she clicked out, trying the codes again slowly. After three tries, the screen turned white and something buzzed loudly. Maggie watched closely as a dancing cartoon monster entered from the right side of the screen and made its way across, ping-ponging back forth. “What in the hell is going on?”
She tried several buttons and was ready to smash the screen, when suddenly, the dancing character finally and began to write, red lettering splashing against the white background. It leaped up and down after each letter it wrote, leering back and forth, and Maggie watched in shock as it scribbled out, “The system has been corrupted. Files and data have been breached. Security Code Blue has been activated.”
Walsh grabbed the telephone, dialing the programming department. On the third ring, a man picked up and, very calmly, she spoke. “This is Maggie. Are you at your desk?”
The reply was swift and she closed her eyes tight. “Look at Panel C and tell me if there is a light blinking.”
The technician sat his cup of coffee down on the desk and turned his chair away from the television he was watching. His eyes widened immediately and he stood, knocking his coffee onto his leg with the phone cord. “Dear God in Heaven, Maggie. Code blue is running.”
Putting her hand over her mouth, in an attempt to curb the nausea, Walsh asked, “How much time do we have?”
“It is currently at six hours and counting down. Do you want me to page the Agents?“
“Absolutely not.” Maggie snapped, not letting him finish. “The people inside the compound right now are the only people who know what to salvage. The Agents may as well be civilians in this case. Alert the Alpha team that we are to begin transporting the data that we have immediately. When that clock reaches four hours, you contact the Dean and have him evacuate the campus.”
“Maggie? What could have caused this? It would take someone with the pass key to infiltrate the system.” The tech ignored his scalded leg and sat down again, shaking uncontrollably. “Is this really happening.”
“This is not a drill.” Maggie cradled the receiver and gave the line time to clear before she picked up again, dialing Riley’s cellphone.
“Agent Finn.” Riley answered and plugged one ear. He cocked his head to the side, trying to hear over the noise of the party and hoped that he would hear Buffy's sweet voice on the other end. He had been trying to channel party thoughts her way for over an hour.
“Agent Finn, I have a special mission for you.” Maggie picked up a tissue and blotted her eyes, trying to remain composed until she could give him his orders. “I want you and Forest to round up Buffy and go get a delivery that is waiting for me in Los Angeles.”
“What!?” Riley shouted, walking up the stairs two at a time so he could find a quieter place. “You do realize that this was supposed to be a vacation?”
“Just do it. If the package isn’t at our Post Office Box then you stay there until I call you.” Maggie’s voice sounded strained, even to her, and she prayed he wouldn’t notice it.
He did. “What’s going on? Mom, what’s really happening?”
“Nothing, son. You go and do this. Get the others and go.” She hung up quickly and leaned her head against the desk, hoping Los Angeles would be far enough away to keep them safe.
“So, are you going to tell me what’s going on?” Angel carried Buffy’s bag over his shoulder, watching her closely as she led him through the cemetery. She was wearing blue jeans, something he seldom saw her wear, and a t-shirt that fit snugly; exposing her belly when her jacket blew open. Her hair was pulled into a tight ponytail, indicating that she was expecting trouble. “I need to know, Buffy.”
“I’ll tell you soon enough.” Buffy stopped walking and scanned the cemetery, going so far as to jump onto a headstone so she could see better. She felt like she was being watched and she had felt that way since she left Angel's place.
“What is it?” Angel found himself even more unnerved and glanced around as well.
“We’re here. I was making sure no one is around.” She leaped off of the Rose headstone and crouched behind it, flipping the button.
The door to the small crypt made a clicking sound and she motioned for him to hand her the bag. She pulled out two flashlights and shoved a stake into her pants before she stepped through the door.
Angel had to crouch to step inside and he let his demon slip free so he could see better. “What is this place? Something doesn’t feel right.”
“It’s only going to get worse.” The lawnmower was back over the manhole cover and she said, “Help me push it aside.”
Angel moved to her side and together; they exposed the grate. Buffy pulled it open and asked for the rope from the bag. As soon as she had the knot secured, she dropped it inside and leaped down into the tunnel. Angel was right behind her and he eyed the structure suspiciously. “This isn’t the sewer.”
“Yay, you just won the jackpot on brilliant deductions. Don't spend it all in one place.” Flipping her flashlight on, she led the way. She was well aware that the faster they made it, the more time she would have to spend with Spike.
And every second counted.
Michael had seen Buffy leap onto the headstone and had hidden himself behind a large stone sculpture. She was a bright one, this girl. This, what was it that Maggie had called her, a Slayer? Whatever she was, she had somehow figured out a way to get around the security and was probably leading the man she was with down there to sabotage the Initiative.
She was far too late. He had taken care of that too.
He remained behind the statue until he heard a door open and close, then got to his feet and walked slowly toward the crypt. Giving them plenty of time to get out of the earshot, he tugged the door open and slid his night vision goggles into place. Just as he suspected, the entrance was open and a rope had been lowered. Agent Summers was taking the man inside the facilities and had not come here to have sex with him.
Putting the gun strap around his neck, he stuck his head into the hole, checking the tunnel both ways. Seeing that it clear, he dropped inside and pulled an instrument from his pocket, putting one end into his ear and holding the other in front of him. Buffy was leading the man, who wasn’t registering on his heat seeker, straight to the base.
Grinning, he followed their trail.
“I can’t believe this place.” Angel said in a low voice. He and Buffy had gone so far underground that the air had dropped several degrees and the tunnels just kept going; an underground labyrinth. The cement looked new and had no cracks that he could see and the walls had small lights every few feet that were not on, but impressive nonetheless.
She paused at the first juncture and tried to remember which way she was supposed to go. “If you think this is impressive, you should see what they have on the inside.”
“No thanks. I got the distinct feeling that these people aren’t very vampire friendly.” He pointed to the right. “I feel something down there.”
“That’s the way then.” She picked up her pace, thinking how hard it was not to run now that she was so close to getting Spike out.
They walked in silence for a few minutes, until they came to the next juncture and she took a deep breath, flipping off her flashlight. Spike was right around the corner and she was terrified of what she would find. “We’re here.”
Angel had not bothered with his flashlight and when he saw the lights flickering from the tunnel ahead of them, he let his demon fade. He waited for her to make a move, but she didn’t. “Do you want me to go first, Buffy?”
“What if he’s already dead?” She swallowed hard and shook her head, replying to her own question. “No, he’s not dead. I’ll go.”
He watched her step out ahead of him and stayed back a few feet, letting her have a few seconds alone to digest whatever she would find. None of what was happening made any sense, but he knew better than to keep asking. When she was ready to explain her friendship with Spike, he would listen. When he heard her talking in a low voice, he stuck his head around the corner and his eyes widened.
Buffy had been frozen in place, convinced he was dead, when she saw him at first. He hadn’t moved at all and she kneeled beside him lifting his face. “Spike?”
His eyes opened slowly, trying to focus on her, and unable to. He registered dimly that she looked like something seen through a kaleidoscope and wondered if he was hallucinating. “Slayer, is it you?”
“It’s me.” She kneeled beside him and pulled him against her as best she could. His arms were still chained and his head lolled, rolling back a little.
Angel dropped the bag and pulled out the bolt cutters, quickly snapping the links closest to Spike’s wrists. Spike realized that someone else was there and looked up, grimacing when he realized who it was. “Bloody hell.”
Angel made no reply. He couldn’t have replied if he had to. Spike’s arms had fallen over Buffy’s shoulders and he hugged her lightly, burying his face in her neck. “I’m dying, luv. I kept waiting for you to come.”
“I know. I waited forever to get here. I'm so sorry that I hit you the other day, Spike. I-I came here for you, to get you out. That's all.” Buffy choked a little and pulled away, running her palm over his pale face. The circles under his eyes had grown larger, shadowing all the way down to his cheekbones and she brushed her thumb there, remembering how chiseled and perfect he had been just days before. “But I have an idea, okay? Angel’s going to have to help though.”
Too sick to object, Spike simply growled lightly and Buffy stood, reaching for Angel’s hand. She laced her fingers through his and looked up at him, her eyes big and panicked. “The implant in his head is releasing a blood based toxin. Willow thinks that my blood might save him, like it did for you.”
Angel’s grip on her hand tightened and he shook his head. “No. Absolutely not, Buffy. I am not going to stand here and do nothing while he bites you. I know him. He doesn’t know how to stop.”
Buffy closed her eyes for a second and when she opened them again, tears were streaming down both sides of her face. “He can’t bite me anyway. Angel, I need you to bite me and let him bite you. He can bite another demon and my blood will be fresh inside of you, right?”
“Are you insane?” Angel gripped her upper arms and shook her a little. “If I did bite you and he bit me, that would make you drain faster. It would be like two vampires on you at once, pulling your blood. I can’t do that.”
“You have to.” Buffy pleaded with him, glancing back at Spike, who was staring at them intently.
“Don’t I get a say?” He rasped, his voice a whisper. “Angel’s right, Slayer. No.”
“Willow just thinks it might work? She doesn’t know for sure?” Angel asked, his heart aching for the Slayer and breaking for what had become of Spike. He vividly remembered the time that Spike had been his most prized possession, more so than Drusilla, and more so than the thrill of the hunt. The only thing he derived pleasure from for years had been Spike. Not just sexually, but watching his eagerness to torture and destroy had been overwhelming. The memory was intoxicating, the pleasure, the pain, the gory gratification. The bond they had shared was unimaginable.
Buffy turned back to Angel. “You have to at least try. I couldn’t go on living if I didn’t try everything.”
The admission caused him to narrow his eyes, realization dawning on him suddenly. Buffy wanted Spike to live because she wanted him. She wanted Spike in a romantic way. “He’s a vampire. I left you so that you could have a real life with a human. Vampires don’t deserve to be saved.”
“I saved you.” Buffy replied quickly. “I didn’t question it or second guess it. I did it because it was you and you were worth it.” She pointed a shaking finger at Spike and then added, “You can’t tell me that he isn’t worth it too.”
“Yes, I can. He tortured me for that damn Gem of Ammara, Buffy. He tried to kill you with it and-“
“And you made him what he is.” Buffy hissed loudly, pulling her jacket off and grabbing a knife from her boot. “Now, you can either do this, or you can watch me cut myself and bleed into my hand and feed him. I think I'd lose more blood that way, but if that's how it has to be then that's fine." She stared at Angel in anticipation, willing him to move and deciding to piss him off when he didn't. "How can you be so selfish? You created him and you should help save what you created. Oh, who am I fooling? I'll always have to clean up your messes."
Her words stung Angel. There was seldom a day that went by that he didn’t remember those that he had turned. Killing them was one thing, but damning their souls was another. How dare she say this to him? He watched her lift the front of her shirt and position the knife and stepped forward, taking it from her hand and dragging it over his own wrist. He kneeled, not saying a word and morphed, sinking his fangs into the tender flesh of her lower abdomen.
Spike was horrified that Angel had actually done it and cringed when Buffy cried out in pain. He reached for her, wanting to knock her away from his sire, but he couldn’t find the strength. Buffy watched Angel lift his wrist, offering it to Spike and whispered, “Eat it, Spike. You’re so weak.”
~ Eat it, William. You’re so small. ~ Groaning out in shock, Spike was blasted back to his childhood and the way Elizabeth had always offered him her bread with almost the same words. He had to live. He had to survive for Buffy. He latched onto Angel’s wrist and sucked deeply, pouring what was left of himself into the familiarity of his sire’s blood and the power of the Slayer’s blood.
With one of her hands on Angel’s shoulder and the other on Spike’s head, which was leaning against her hip, Buffy threw her head back and willed herself not to faint. The room was spinning and her breathing was coming in jagged spurts. She wanted desperately to tell Angel to stop, that she couldn ’t give any more, but the sound of Spike’s hunger kept her silent. He drank deeply, noisily, and she would die before she would deny him that.
Angel could hear Buffy’s pulse weakening and pulled his fangs free, gently stroking the puncture wounds with his tongue. He was about to ask her if she was okay when something bright flashed through the darkness and hit him in the back. He was aware of falling to the side, aware of Buffy’s strangled scream, and then it went dark.
Spike, who was still feeding, was jolted as well. The current that passed through Angel struck him, sending him against the wall. It wasn’t enough to knock him out, but it was enough to immobilize him. He could only watch as Buffy swayed dizzily and clutched her bleeding stomach.
“Who’s there?” Buffy cried, laying a hand against the cement for support.
“Agent Summers.” Michael stepped out of the darkness and shook his head. “I wouldn’t have believed this if I had not seen it myself. Two vampires, a bitch in heat and some blood letting. And you call yourself a Slayer?”
“You don’t-“ Buffy’s world tilted and her ears began to ring. “You don’t understand.”
“Oh, I understand perfectly well. This is even easier than I figured it would be. You’re already half dead.” He set his gun’s voltage to the least possible amount, so she wouldn’t be knocked out for the entire night, and aimed. “The next time I see you, we’ll be having a private party.”
The rays were blinding, but Buffy visualized them snaking her way in slow motion, slicing the air and reaching for her like blue fingers of death. They struck her in the stomach and she fell back, her hand almost reaching Spike’s. Her mind tried to force her to fight, to see that the others were okay, but her body slept and soon her mind followed it into the black.
Willow paced frantically, the cordless phone clutched in her palm. She had called Giles a million times and he was not answering. Xander and Anya were looking for him and she was stuck at Buffy's house, unable to do anything other than wait. Her heart had leapt into her throat, causing blind panic, thirty minutes before that. She had been trying to reload her computer so she could look at the Implant program she had downloaded before the wackiness. As soon as it booted, a tiny monster, some kind of crazy animated .gif, had danced across her screen and typed a very disturbing message. To make matters worse, the candle she had lit for Buffy’s protection had suddenly gone out, and there wasn’t a draft in the room. Her skin tingled and she knew that something dark was looming on the horizon.
She was staring at the laptop screen again when someone knocked on the door. Yelping, she dropped the phone and scrambled to open it. “Buffy?”
Riley and Forest stood on the porch and both of them stared at her for a second before Riley spoke. “Isn’t she here?”
“No!” Willow started to cry and Forest moved past Riley, pulling her to his chest. She clutched him, scared to death, and said, “She’s gone. Something’s wrong. Very wrong.”
“What happened?” Riley stepped in as well and shut the door behind him. “She told me she was staying here.”
“I can’t tell you.” Willow brushed her the tears off her face and looked at him apologetically. “Buffy would kill me.”
“If she is in some kind of danger then we need to know.” Forest replied, massaging her arms.
“Willow, you know how I feel about her. I would do anything I could for her.” Riley moved closer to her. “Please?”
“I can’t.” She whimpered and hid her face in her hands.
Riley watched her and then glanced up at Forest. Forest nodded and Riley took a deep breath. “Willow, Forest and I are –“ He shook his head and looked back at Forest, unable to say it.
Forest forced her to face him and cleared his throat. “He’s trying to tell you that demons are real, Willow. Buffy is a vampire slayer and we’re demon hunters.”
“Duh!” Willow threw her hands in the air. “I’ve known about Buffy for four years! You guys are in the Initiative and Buffy joined to save Spike and now she is on her way down there to —oh, I didn’t just say that.”
“To save Spike?” Riley’s eyes had widened and he moved to sit on the stairs, his heart thumping against his chest. Buffy had lied to him. No, that couldn't be right. “She was planning that all along?”
Willow made a small noise in the back of her throat and nodded slowly. “He’s sort of like, a friend, of ours. One that you dread seeing because he’s so vile and mean. After he broke free from you guys, he came to us for help and he and Buffy are – friends.” She emphasized the last word, more for her own benefit than his, telling herself that Buffy would have told her if it was more.
“How do you know about us?” Forest asked slowly.
“We found a disk in the dumpster behind the Bronze. I uploaded it and –oooh!” She raced into the living room and grabbed her laptop, then returned to the two stunned men in the foyer. “I was trying to figure out how to disable the Implant in Spike’s head because I messed up two of the ones that Buffy gave me-“
“She stole implants?” Riley’s head snapped up and he gripped the banister, willing himself to calm down. “When?”
“Just today.” Willow replied quickly, thinking that was a good thing.
Riley bit his lower lip and nodded, not bothering to speak. He had probably caught her stealing the implants when he found her in the bathroom. He had been stunned by how she reacted to him, kissing him, groping him, and now he knew why. For Spike. She would have slept with him for Spike.
Forest closed his eyes, trying to imagine how severely he would be punished for the disk being stolen. “You can’t disable the implants. We made it impossible.”
“Well, I would have figured that out if this hadn’t appeared.” She turned the laptop around and pointed at it. "What does it mean?"
Taking it from her, Forest read the words out loud. “The system has been corrupted. Files and data have been breached. Security Code Blue has been activated.”
Riley shot to his feet and grabbed the computer, reading the words himself. He yanked his phone from his pocket and dialed the secure line inside the Initiative. The operator informed him that the number was no longer in service and he slammed his fist against the wall. “It’s real. The phone lines are already dead down there.”
Forest ran his hand over his head and nodded, “I think Maggie knows. That’s why she was trying to get us out of town.”
“Definitely.” Riley agreed, still staring at the screen. “Oh, fuck! Willow, you said Buffy was heading to get Spike?”
“Yeah. She found a way into the tunnels through the cemetery somewhere. Giles has the map.”
Forest put the laptop on the table and said, “Willow, where is your coat?”
Willow pulled her coat off a hook behind the door and held it up. “Why?”
“Put it on. You have to come with us.”
“No.” Willow and Riley said in unison.
“The hell she doesn’t.” Forest shouted, grabbing her coat and helping her put it on. “We’re going to go get Buffy and get as far away from here as we can.”
The front door opened and Giles walked in, followed by Xander, Anya and Joyce. Riley stepped forward and spoke quickly. “Ms. Summers, I need you and your friends to take Willow and leave town.”
“What?” Joyce dropped the grocery bag she was holding and scanned the room. “Where is Buffy?”
“She went down to get Spike.” Willow said in a small voice.
Giles’ voice boomed when he shouted, “What in the hell was she thinking?”
“My thoughts exactly.” Riley commented, allowing himself to be sidetracked into thinking about the things Buffy had done.
“Who are you?” Giles demanded, pointing from Forest to Riley.
“We’re friends of Buffy’s. I’m Forest Gates and that's Riley Finn.” Forest held out his hand and then pulled it back when Giles simply glared at him. “Listen, you people have got to get out of here. Get on the highway and drive as fast and far as you can.”
“Why?” Xander asked the question on everyone’s mind.
“They all know the truth too.” Willow offered Riley, who was already looking incredibly tormented. The truth couldn't hurt. The truth could have spared all the trouble to begin with.
“Fine.” Riley shrugged slightly and stood up tall. “There is a lab below the Sunnydale campus, underground. It’s furnished with the most complex technological devices you can get. It is also stocked with enough arsenal to blow up the whole structure and take half the town with it.” He motioned for the laptop and turned it so that they could see the screen. “Code blue has been activated. The system saw a breach in security and is disabling itself. Phones go first, the entire compound locks down and the cells can’t be opened. We have six hours to evacuate.”
“Then what happens?” Anya asked, enthralled with all the possibilities.
“It explodes.” Riley watched their faces and was stunned when they didn’t panic.
Xander sighed and stretched a little. “That’s kind of a really big build up for such a small bang.”
“It won’t be small.” Forest stepped toward the door and looked the boy in the face. “It will be big enough to ruin the college and possibly more.”
“Been there, done that.” Xander narrowed his eyes. “Buffy will stop it. She always does.”
“Buffy doesn’t know.” Willow offered.
“Oh dear.” Giles began to clean his glasses and then shoved them back in place. “How do we stop it?”
“The only way to stop it died with my father.” Riley crossed his arms, shoving the memory aside and going into business mode. “Time is wasting. Agent Gates and myself will do a search and rescue for Agent Summers. I need the information on where she will be accessing the tunnel system.”
“The information stays with me.” Giles replied, digging the keys to his car out of his pocket.
“Sir, I have to insist-“ Riley began.
Giles held up a hand. “You may come with us, er, Initiative people.”
“You can’t all just go traipsing through the tunnels. It’s dangerous and stupid.” Forest didn’t know what to do about the situation and tried to point out the obvious.
“Yes, being in the Scooby Gang is often dangerous and stupid.” Xander clapped his hands together and plastered a goofy grin on his face. “But the Scooby snacks we get as reward make it worthwhile.”
Willow grimaced and said, “What he is trying to say is that where Buffy goes, we go. It’s gotten us into trouble before, but we’re family, and if this town is going to blow up. We all go or none of us go.”
“We’ll take two cars.” Giles stated as he headed out the door.
Anya giggled a little. “We’d be better off in a horse and buggy as opposed to that thing you call a car.”
“That is quite unnecessary, Anya.” Giles replied. “However, since these Initiative people have a nice big vehicle and Joyce has her car, we’ll take those two.”
“Was that an admission that I’m right about you car?” Anya asked, walking beside him toward Joyce’s car.
“Quite right.” He opened the back door and watched as she and Xander climbed in and then turned toward Willow. “Willow, are you coming?”
“You can ride with us.” Forest took her hand and smiled a little.
“I’m riding with Forest.” Willow told them, following Riley toward his Four Runner.
Giles narrowed his eyes and said, “Joyce, I shall accompany Willow with these large men.”
“Ohh! Can I come?” Anya poked her head out the window.
“No.” Xander and Giles said together, both adamant for their own reasons.
“Damn!” Anya sank back into the seat and crossed her arms. “But just so you know, Xander. If it looks like we’re going to get blown up, I want to die fucking.”
“I’m so proud. You’ve made it to ‘F’ section.” Xander draped an arm around her shoulder and pulled her tight.
“I made it to ‘G’ too. Gangbang sounds interesting.”
Xander pulled his arm off her shoulder and said, “Is that what you were thinking about when you wanted to right with those guys?”
“No. It was more like a foursome. Without Willow, of course.”
Joyce stared in her rearview mirror in shock and turned the radio full blast. If they all survived this night, then she was going to see to it that she had a nice long talk with Anya. Poor girl.
Buffy was wet again, soaked to the skin and she was vaguely registering the freezing temperature on her shoulders, but no where else. Someone had her by the ankles and was dragging her through water that kept splashing over her face, threatening to choke her. Her eyes opened and she focused, seeing the familiar gun beating against the back of whoever was pulling her. “Michael?”
Michael stopped walking and turned, staring down at her. “So, you’re awake.”
“Why can’t I move?” Buffy cried, as her feet slipped from his hands and crashed down limply. Nausea engulfed her and she glanced up at her captor, wondering why he was fuzzy around the edges.
He pulled a syringe from his hip pocket and smiled. “It’s sort of like man made paraplegic in a bottle. It will wear off -- but you’ll be too dead to notice.”
She was barely able to hear him because of the water covering her ears and realized she could move her arms; though they felt like lead. Pushing herself up a little, she rested on her elbows. “Why are you doing this to me?”
“You killed my father. I’m going to get revenge.”
Buffy stared at him incredulously. “So, your name is Inigo Montoya?”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Michael moved over her, putting his feet on either sides of her hips. “I’d be very careful about what I said if I were you.”
“You think that you can get away with this?” Buffy used her hands to pull herself away from him and leaned against the curved wall of the tunnel. She had to keep him talking, buy some time.
“I know I will. See, in about five hours, everything that the Initiative worked for and most of the people, will be blown to hell and back. It’s code blue, Buff. My father would have been so proud to see code blue. He always talked about it.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Of course you don’t. You’re nothing more than a smarmy civilian who slept her way into the organization. I’ll put it in the simplest terms. My father helped design the Initiative. He doesn’t get credit because Maggie Walsh is an evil glutton for praise, but he did. When he died, I found his passkey to the system and as of tonight, the Initiative is committing suicide.”
Buffy stared at him blankly and he threw his hands in the air and continued. “It’s got a backup security system that views what I did, hacking into top secret files, as a breach in security. Without the passkey, you can’t stop it. The compound is laced with explosives and will destroy itself tonight. Am I not a genius?”
“No, you’re an evil glutton for praise, just like Maggie.”
“Now is as good a time to kill you as any.” Michael squatted across from her; opening his bag. “You seem to really like Riley and I know he likes you.”
“That’s not a crime.”
“No, but murder is.”
“Which is why you will go to jail for a really long time if you hurt me.” Buffy willed her legs to move, struggling to wiggle her toes inside her shoes.
“An eye for an eye.” He pulled a hook from the bag and held it up for her to see. “It’s gonna hurt all right. I’m going to insert this into your back and string you up. Then, I’m going to gut you while you’re still alive.”
"Then it's a good thing I'm numb from the waist down."
"Oh, trust me, you'll feel enough. This is going to be like one of those movies where the poor little ditz is so helpless. I'm going to be the villain and you'll be the young starlett, okay?"
“And then in the sequel, you get sent to prison where some guy named Big Al packs your stool so tightly that you have to have daily enemas.”
“I’ll never be caught. Do you want to know what the real justice of it all is?”
“That I was justified in my first impression that you were a moron?” She asked, and quickly wished she hadn’t when he moved fast and slapped her across the face.
“No. The real justice is the fact that Riley, assuming he lives, will think that this thing in the sewer killed you.”
“If everyone is getting blown up then how will he find me, you idiot?”
“Maggie will see to it that her pride and joy is safe and sound and we’re far enough away now that the blast won’t reach us. I’m going to mess you up so bad that he will have to live with that for the rest of his life. Riley will always wonder if he could have saved the wonderful Slayer from this thing; the one man *he* loved.”
“What man?” Buffy suddenly felt a chill pass over her and looked down through the darkened sewers, away from Michael. She sensed a presence that made her skin crawl.
“His father.” Something growled in response.
Buffy jerked her head toward the voice and gasped. Standing behind Michael was the most horrible looking demon she had ever seen. It grabbed the boy around the neck and tossed him against the wall like a rag doll. Buffy heard bones snapping and saw that Michael lay motionless, before she looked back up at the demon. She half sobbed and tried to walk backwards on her hands, dragging her legs. “Please?”
The thing crouched next to her and brought a deformed hand to her face, stroking the red mark that Michael had left on her cheek. “You know Riley?”
Buffy was shocked at how soft the voice was, how human it suddenly sounded. She studied the face, the vampire ridges on the forehead, the horns that grew from the cheeks, the ears that hung like a basset hound, and nodded. “He- he’s m-my boyfriend.”
“Don’t be afraid, child. I mean you no harm.” The demon scooted back a few feet, as if to show her that he was serious, then spoke again. “Riley is my son.”
“Riley’s a demon?” Buffy cried, her eyes going as round as saucers.
“Good. I didn’t want to have to slay another boyfriend." She clapped her mouth shut and shook her head. “I mean-“
“You are the Slayer, I know who you are. I always knew you existed.” The thing held out it’s deformed hand again. “Slayer, I am Hal Walsh.”
She shook it softly, feeling the warmth just below the scaly skin. Raising her eyes to his, she saw something there, something real. “No offense, Mr. Walsh, but Riley doesn’t look a thing like you.”
Hal chuckled and nodded. “I’ve seen him. He turned out beautifully, even though Maggie was his only influence for the past ten years.”
“Ten? You’ve been down here ten years?” Buffy shivered in the cold and wrapped her arms around herself.
“You’re cold.” Hal stood, towering over her. “I can help you if you will trust me.”
She glanced back at Michael, wondering how far he had taken her through the sewers, and then nodded. “I don’t think anyone will stumble onto me before hypothermia sets in, so you win. I trust you.”
Hal scooped her up, his arms wrapping around her like she was precious cargo. He turned, taking her down the tunnel, away from Michael and said, “You’ve lost blood, I can smell it. Were you stabbed, Slayer?”
“My name is Buffy and no, I wasn’t stabbed. A vampire bit me.” She squeezed her eyes closed and pictured Spike, wondering if he had survived the attack.
“I will heal you, Buffy. I know how to counteract everything they can manufacture.” He picked up his pace, his feet splashing through the sewer loudly. “How is Riley?”
“He’s good. I mean, he’s great. He’s a teaching assistant at my college.” She had her arm around the thing’s neck and she could feel his pulse thrumming below his skin. “So, you’re alive?”
“I am a man at the core.”
Something clicked, a piece of the puzzle fell into place and Buffy sighed. “Maggie did this to you, didn’t she?”
Hal stiffened and stopped walking. “What do you know about Maggie?”
“I know that she runs the Initiative and I think that she’s doing something to humans, but I haven’t had the chance to find out what." She replied and the added, "Yet.”
“You are an agent?” Hal growled low in his throat and his eyes glowed red. “How do I know I can trust *you*?”
“If Maggie did do this to you then she has to be stopped before more people get hurt.” Buffy swallowed hard and tried not to think about the fact that she was pissing the demon/man off. “Riley could get hurt. As a matter of fact, Michael caused something called code blue. He has a passkey if that means anything to you.”
“Jesus Christ!” Hal shifted her slightly in his arms and almost ran down the tunnel, praying under his breath.
Buffy would have giggled at that, a demon praying to God, but something told her that now wasn’t the time or the place to find the fun. Spike and Angel were still in the chamber and she didn't know when or even if they would make it out. Willow was bound to tell Giles where she had gone eventually, but a million things could go wrong before then. She leaned her head against the massive shoulder of the thing carrying her and closed her eyes.
Something bad was going to happen.
Of that -- she was convinced.
The first thing that Angel was able to register was the dull ache in the muscles of his shoulders. His arms were chained above his head and he dangled forward, causing his arms and shoulders to strain at an awkward angle. Fumbling to his knees, he took the pressure off, and glanced around the tunnel trying to remember what had happened. Buffy led him here, he fed on Buffy, fed Spike and then…
Spike moaned out and his chains rattled as he turned to look and Angel. “So, sleeping beauty is awake?”
“Who chained us up?” Angel tugged at the thick links that held him to the wall and slumped back, realizing how strong they were and how weak he was. “Where’s Buffy? Buffy!”
“Hmm, even if I had not been awake for the entire thing I would still be able to put two and two together. It was the same person who shot you, Angel.” Spike saw the way his sire gave up after only a couple of yanks on the chains and shook his head. “You have to bust loose right now. He took Buffy.”
“Took her where?” Angel struggled to stand and braced his foot against the wall, pulling as hard as he could.
“Do you see that I am chained as well? How should I know?” Spike chuckled when Angel slipped and fell, jerking his shoulder out of place. “Still as graceful as ever, I see.”
“Could you not talk to me?” Angel rolled a little and sat up again, his shoulder throbbing every time he moved. “These chains must be connected to some kind of support behind the concrete. I can’t do anything until I get my strength back. I don’t know what the hell he shot me with, but it weakened me.”
“You’ve been weak for about, oh, a hundred years now. Give or take twenty.” Leaning his head back, Spike glanced up at the grates above his head. “Something is going on up there. I keep hearing shouts and people scurrying all over the place.”
“Maybe they know that someone took Buffy.” Angel stared upward as well, keening his hearing. Buffy would not be able to fight with so much blood loss. She needed rest and a chance to heal. “Was it a demon?”
“Whoever took her was a soldier boy. I saw his outfit and the weapons.” A sharp pain coursed through Spike’s head and he growled, his demon surfacing. “Bloody hell!”
“Are you cured?” Angel turned and studied his childe, noting that the circles under his eyes had vanished. “You look cured.”
“No, you soddin’ ‘git! I am not cured and don’t sit over there and act like you aren’t glad that I am still dying. Whatever was in the Slayer’s blood seemed to help me for a while, but this thing in my head is doing something again. I feel it.”
“Well why don’t you concentrate on feeling it and not talking to me?”
“Why don’t you concentrate on the fact that I intend to haunt you when I die.”
“Spike, you should have learned something about demonology by now.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Spike inched closer to his sire, every movement draining his color more and more.
“You’re already dead. You don’t have anything left in you to haunt me.” Angel saw him moving closer and said, “What are you doing?”
Spike’s leg flew up and then dropped back even faster and he snarled. “If I could kick you as hard as I’d like to, it would decapitate you.”
Angel used the toe of his boot to scoot Spike further away. “If you weren’t so pathetic, Spike, I *would* kick you that hard. Might put you out of my misery faster.”
“That was bloody well uncalled for!” Enraged, Spike pulled himself into a better sitting position. “Where is the compassion that your damned old soul is supposed to be famous for? You fuckin’ ass, I’m dying over here.”
“I’m sorry.” The words were simple, but sincere, as Angel stared at the blond.
Throwing his head back a little, Spike chuckled. “You’re sorry? Sorry that you made me or sorry that you left me in Romania when I was still so young and needed you?”
Angel’s eyes widened. “Needed me? If I had come back to our place in Romania unable to kill anyone, you and Dru would have skinned me alive."
“No, I wouldn’t have hurt you.” Spike lowered his gaze and took an unneeded gulp of air. “I would have hunted for you, given you what you needed, and stayed with you. You were my sire and I was loyal. I didn’t know what it meant to not need you. I didn't learn that until much later.”
“Spike, it’s not like I had a choice. I was scared. I knew that I would not be able to live with you and Drusilla anymore.”
“For years I waited for you to come back. It was hell to know that you were out there and didn’t want to be with us. I didn’t find out what happened to you until the Sixties and by then, I hated you.” He leveled Angel with a cold glare, needing to tell him exactly what he thought before his time was up. “I hated you for giving me this life and then walking out on it. My real mother left me, Elizabeth left me, you left me, Dru left me and then the Slayer left me. I’m always being left behind and that’s worse than leaving.” He clamped his mouth shut and thought about that comment for several seconds before he added, “Actually, leaving is pretty damned bad too. I have to leave and it hurts just as bad as being left.”
“Buffy came back for you.” Angel pointed out slowly. “She didn’t leave you.”
“Yeah.” Spike softened somewhat and closed his eyes, remembering the way she had massaged his head as he fed from Angel. “She came back.”
“I came back too, Spike. Buffy told me you needed help and I came.”
Spike’s eyes popped open and he shook his head. “She made you come and she made you feed me.”
“I didn’t have to come. I didn’t have to go along with it. I saw you here and I knew what I had to do. Spike, there isn’t a day that passes that I don ’t regret the things that I did. I remember you as a human; begging me not to hurt that girl, telling me that you would trade places with her, running from me. I remember your will to live and I am sorry that I took that from you. I am sorry that I made you into someone that can’t show his face in the light.” Angel paused for a second and stared at the wall before he continued, knowing that the truth was the only thing that would set Spike free. “But I can’t be sorry for what you meant to me afterwards. I didn’t know how to love you. Angelus can’t do that, can’t say that, but I can.” His gaze traveled to Spike. “I loved you like my son, my friend, my life. I know that in his own twisted way, Angelus couldn’t have lived without you. That’s why I didn’t come back to you and Dru. Angelus was gone, but I still knew you, Spike. I knew that if I came back I would have been forced to kill you, so I ran as far and as fast as I could go to keep you safe.”
Spike was unable to move. A weight had been lifted off of him, something strong and powerful that had clung to him for decades. He had not forced Angelus away. His punishment for falling in love with his sister, cursing the Gods and being a drunk had not been to lose everyone. “I never knew any of that. I thought you left because you thought you were better than us, not because you wanted to protect us.”
“When you and Dru came to Sunnydale, I ran into her in a park. I begged her to take you and leave town. I was already helping Buffy, but I couldn’t stand the thought of her killing either one of you. I asked Dru to leave, but she didn’t and I was so torn between the two of you and Buffy.”
“I was torn too. You just kept on going even though you should have suffered too.”
“You moved on, put it all behind you and I never did. I was stunned to see you at the high school. I told you that you were my sire, my yoda. I wanted to take Buffy away from you so you would know what it felt like.”
Angel’s jaw tightened and he studied his protégé closely. “Is that what you are still trying to do?”
Spike watched the man thoughtfully and shook his head. “No. I don’t even know what the hell happened there. She was so mean to me when I came and asked for help. Giles wouldn’t let her kill me but she wanted too. She settled for torturing me instead; always running around baring her throat, tempting me with little snide comments and trying to provoke me so my head would explode when I went after her. Willow did this spell thing where we thought we’d get married. We were sickeningly in love. I would have gladly rolled over and played bitch for her if she had asked me to.” He leaned his head back as a pain slammed through his temples. “Then we got cured and I couldn’t get her out of my head. I couldn't stop remembering how it felt to love her.”
Angel leaned his head back as well, not from pain, but from shock. “You fell for Buffy.”
“You say it like it hasn’t been done, mate. You fell for her first.”
“It’s not normal. You can’t feel things.” Angel sighed and looked back at Spike. “She deserves something normal.”
“Normal by whose standards? Don't tell me I can't feel. I felt for Dru and you know that and when she left me, I said I would never, ever need anyone again. That night we were taken, Buffy said something to me in the sewers. She said that she knew how I felt because she had lost all her power once. She didn't laugh at me when I was so scared and something happened. Something clicked between us. I knew what it was like to need someone again.” Spike growled when the pain intensified and leaned his head against one of his arms, still over his head. “Doesn’t matter anymore, the poison is still coming. You will find her, yes?”
Angel got to his feet and tugged at the chains again, leaning back with everything he had. He grunted, yanking and tugging and then squatted again. “It’s no use. I can’t get loose.”
A new voice spoke from the mouth of the tunnel. “That’s because the chains are reinforced through the wall, not just stuck through a loop.”
Angel turned to face the man who stepped from the shadows and appraised him closely. He was tall with sandy blond hair and had a large gun in his arms. Another man, black and not quite as tall, stepped in beside him and looked back and forth. “Where’s Buffy?”
Angel was going to reply when Willow and Giles stepped into the light, followed by Xander, Anya, and Joyce. Willow moved to where Spike was and kneeled beside him. “Oh, Spike! You look even worse than Buffy said. Riley, unlock the chains.”
“Buffy’s hurt, Red.” Spike mumbled, looking past her -- at the soldiers -- warily. “One of their friends shot her and took her. Said he wanted to have a private party with her.”
“What did he look like?” Riley asked, dropping his bag to the floor and pulling out a set of keys. He didn’t have any doubt who had taken her. Michael. His threats were real.
“He looked like every other pansy ass whelp in army clothes that I’ve been forced to stare at for days.” Spike said, watching as Riley set Angel free.
Xander snorted a little and stepped past Anya, glancing down the tunnel. “Why are there demons chained to walls here?”
“I heard that being chained is erotic to some people.” Anya said, fingering the set of broken chains that Angel had cut Spike out of earlier that night. "And I was a demon."
Forest and Riley were talking in hushed voices and Angel gripped his bolt cutters, moving toward Spike. Forest saw what he was doing and stepped between him and the hostile. “Sir, you can’t let him go. He’s a vampire.”
Angel looked down at Spike and morphed, then brought his face back up to meet the stunned boy’s gaze. “He’s also *my* vampire and I’m letting him go.”
Forest stepped back, reaching for his gun and Riley raised his. Willow leaped between them and said, “No! Angel’s a good vampire. Look, I don’t have time to explain everything so you will just have to trust me. He’s on our side. Buffy came down here to let Spike go so, when we find her, we need to have him with us.”
“I can’t believe this.” Riley shoved his gun back onto his shoulder and used his keys to free Spike. “I know who took Buffy and I have a pretty good idea of where he is taking her and why would Buffy come down here with a vampire to free another vampire? I hate this town.”
"Riley, you're rambling." Forest clapped him on the back.
Angel helped Spike to his feet and the vampire stumbled for several seconds before he sat again. The blond looked stunned, defeated and in pain. “I can’ t make it. You all, you go and find her. Tell her I said – well, Angel, tell her something poetic from one of those books you fancy and tell her I came up with it just for her.”
Shaking his head, Angel gripped him under the arms and said, “You’re coming.”
Something growled down inside the tunnel and Angel turned as he hefted Spike over his shoulder. What he saw chained to the wall almost caused him to drop Spike onto his head. Right there, staring at them from it’s green flesh, was the answer to all the problems. His guilt over creating Spike could be erased, he could give Buffy what she wanted, he could give Spike a second chance. Or he could do what he thought was best for Buffy and get Spike out of her life.
Spike moaned and Angel closed his eyes. He had created Spike, made him what he was and it was time to prove that he had never forgotten what Spike had meant to him. With quick even strides, Angel strode down the tunnel and kneeled, putting Spike on the floor beside the demon.
Spike glanced up at the thing and wrinkled his nose. “What is this? It stinks.”
Angel pulled a knife from his pocket and cut the demon’s hand, then he grabbed Spike’s hand and cut his palm, before slapping the two together and holding tight. “This is a Marah demon, Spike, and you just won the lottery.”
Spike wrestled weakly, trying to pull his hand from Angel’s grip. His sire had just cut his palm, cut a demon’s palm and clamped them together and Spike wasn’t happy about that at all. Something was making him dizzy and it had started with the blood mixing. “Angel, what the hell are you trying to do?” he growled, leaning away. “This thing stinks.”
“Just hold still.” Angel gripped the front of Spike’s shirt and hauled him upright, pinning him with his leg to keep him from struggling free. “Trust me, it's going to be okay.”
“I’ve heard that before and it usually precedes you screwing something up.” Spike stared at the blood that was dripping from the demon’s hand and recoiled again, heaving slightly.
The others had followed Angel down the corridor and were watching with a mixture of shock and curiosity, whispering amongst themselves. Angel ignored them, gazing intently at Spike. He couldn’t remember how long it had taken for the Marah demon to make him human when he came into contact with it, but he was willing to wait as long as he needed to. The Marah demon grunted, trying to yank away, but it was no use, Angel was stronger than both of the dying demons put together.
Suddenly, Spike’s eyes rolled back and he clutched his throat with his free hand, clawing at his flesh as his body came to life. He choked in mouthfuls of air, struggling to remember how to do it for life instead of habit, and then slumped forward, wheezing as his lungs expanded and deflated under steady human breathing.
Willow was the first to kneel down beside the two vampires. She heard the blond’s breathing and looked at Angel in shock. “What did you do?”
Giles moved closer to the demon that was chained on the wall and whispered,
“It’s a Marah demon.” “We established that.” Riley pointed out, staring at the vampire on the ground. “What we haven’t established is what just happened.”
Giles moved closer, studying the demon that was chained to the wall. “A Marah demon is considered by many to grant humanity to demons who were once human. Since it wants to be a superior species, it possesses the power to rid other creatures of that which makes them a demon. It’s supposedly untrue, something that can’t be done.” He ran his hand through his hair and looked back down at Spike, who was breathing steadily. “Has it been done, Angel?”
Angel brushed his hand over the back of Spike’s head, feeling the warmth of his flesh and he smiled, letting his own demon slip away. “He’s human.”
Spike coughed a couple of times and sat up, looking at Angel from a face rich with color. He had finally gotten a handle on the breathing and now he was coming to terms with the fact that he had lost his heightened sense. “What did you do to me?”
“I saved your life.” Angel stood and held his hand out. “I did what was asked of me.”
“I don’t recall telling you once that I wanted to be human.” Spike didn’t take the offered hand. He got to his feet by himself; surprised at how strong he felt and stunned when he had an urge he hadn’t felt in decades. “Bloody hell! I have to piss!”
Willow reached forward tentatively, and placed a hand on Spike’s neck, checking his pulse. She felt the steady beating and backed away, shaking her head. “Oh my god. Is this really happening?”
Spike turned away from everyone, staring back down the tunnel. This was insane. How dare Angel just assume that he wanted to be alive, a fucking human. He felt a rage begin to boil deep inside and spun again, glaring at his sire. “I’m going to rip your heart out.”
Everyone gasped and Angel took several steps back, staring at Spike like he was suddenly deformed. Spike watched their faces and forgot about mangling Angel. “What? What is it?”
“Y-your face.” Willow said, pointing at him.
Spike ran a hand over his face and his eyes widened. The familiar ridges on his forehead were there, but he was missing the fangs that usually accompanied the change. He stuck his thumb into his mouth, feeling his teeth and looked back at Angel. “You defanged me!”
“Something’s not right.” Angel looked at the demon on the wall and back at Spike. “It was supposed to make you a complete human.”
Without thinking, Spike reached through the crowd and grabbed the nearest weapon, a crucifix that Anya was holding tightly against her chest. He smacked Angel on the head with it and shouted, “You fucking defanged me!”
“Spike!” Willow pointed at the cross in his hand.
Spike glanced down and tossed it quickly, clutching his hand to his chest. “Ahh! Ahhh. Wait a minute.” He raised his hand and looked at it closely. “I’ m not burning up. I’m not smoking.” Squatting down, he gingerly lifted the cross with his thumb and finger and held it up to Willow. “Press it to my forehead.”
“I don’t want to.” Willow shook her head quickly.
“I do.” Xander shoved his way to the front and held out his hand.
“If it burns me and I yell, then you better get off me.” Spike growled.
Nodding, Xander clutched the cross and pressed it onto Spike’s forehead. Nothing happened and Xander shrugged. “I don’t get it.”
“I don’t want to get it.” Spike growled, snatching the crucifix again and throwing it at Angel. “What have you done to me? I could grow fangs before you did this and now I’m breathing and-“ He suddenly grabbed his crotch and bounced on his toes. “And my God, I still have to piss.”
Xander rolled his eyes and pointed down the tunnel. “So go.”
“Vampires don’t piss. I haven’t pissed in over one hundred years.” Spike groaned as he felt his bladder swelling more. “I’m going to explode.”
“Do you need someone to hold it for you?” Anya stepped forward and held out her hand. “I will.”
“The hell you will.” Xander gripped her arm and took her back to the opening of the tunnel.
Willow looked at Giles and asked, “What are you thinking, Giles?”
“Does anyone have a mirror?” Glancing at everyone, he saw Joyce digging through her purse and moved toward her, taking the mirror she held up. Turning back toward Spike, he held up the compact. “What do you see?”
Spike snatched the mirror and stared into it. The hateful glare that had been there softened a bit and he brought his hand to his face. “Is that me?”
“You see yourself?” Angel moved behind him and looked over his shoulder, squinting a little. He nodded and looked back at Giles. “He’s got a reflection, but it’s transparent. I can see the wall through him.”
“You’re all going to drown in urine.” Spike snapped the mirror closed and handed it to Willow. “I’m almost crippled now from the pain. Dying felt better than this.”
Giles stepped forward and motioned for Spike to follow him down the corridor and Willow blushed, quickly returning the mirror to Joyce and turning away.
Angel turned his attention to the two men with guns and snapped, “You two work for this organization?”
Riley nodded slightly and exhaled loudly, unable to comprehend the things he had seen and heard in the past two hours. “We do.”
“Can you explain to me what’s happening?” Angel craned his head, listening to the string of profanity coming from Spike as he drained his bladder.
“I don’t know anything about what just happened with the demon and the blood. The chip in his head, the implant, doesn’t harm human beings though. If he's human at all, he looks really fucked up.” Riley shrugged a little and glanced back at Spike, who was walking up the tunnel with Giles. He looked him over and shook his head, unable to see what Buffy saw in him. “We need to split up into teams and try to find Buffy. Forest will lead one team and I’ll lead the other. It’s best that we lead because we know the man who has her.”
Forest cleared his throat and nodded. “His name is Michael. His father was killed in the explosion at Sunnydale High last year. Apparently he blames Riley for that and knows that Riley is in lo- likes Buffy, so he threatened to take Buffy away from Riley as punishment.”
“Why didn’t you tell her that? Prepare her?” Giles demanded, staring at the tall blond boy in shock.
“I did tell her.” Riley replied angrily. “God, do you think I would keep something like that from her? I made her promise me that she wouldn’t go out and would stay away from him. So much for her word. Now we need to-”
“I’m not taking orders from you.” Xander piped up. “I don’t even know if we can trust you and time is running out.”
“Do you have a better plan?” Riley crossed his arms and stared at the young man, recognizing him as the boy that Buffy had left a party with once. “Because I really would love to hear it.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Joyce spoke up suddenly, her voice harsh. She moved to the middle of the group and stomped her foot angrily. “This is my child we’ re talking about. Talking isn’t going to get her back. Now, if we need to separate, then let’s do it and go. Riley, tell us what you want us to do and if any of you have any arguments with his plan, then you take it up with me.”
“Thank you, ma’am.” Riley glanced at the people who were joined together by a desire to see that Buffy was safe and spoke quickly. “Willow, Xander, Anya, Giles, Mrs. Summers, you go with Forest.” He clenched his jaw a little tighter and looked at the two vampires. There was no way he would allow them to go search alone. He needed to be there when Buffy was found and make her talk to him. “These two are with me. Forest, you take your people and go to Michael’s house. Go through everything there and see if you can figure out where he has taken her. He could have her there, hidden somewhere, so be prepared to use force and I want you to stay in constant contact with me on channel fourteen.”
“Where are we going?” Angel asked, eyeing the others as they started to walk away. He smirked a little when he heard Xander’s familiar grumblings and Giles’ urgings for him to ‘do be quiet’.
“We’re going down into the sewers.” Riley dug through his bag, pulled out another gun, and handed it to Angel. He gave Spike a hand held device and said, “You watch that screen and you tell me if you see a small green dot.”
Spike stared at the device in his hand and rolled his eyes. “Why does Angel get the gun? He’s a vampire! I can piss now, I’m human.”
“I don’t know what you are, but it damn sure isn’t human.” Riley stared at the ridges on his head. “Besides, that is a heat seeker and we’re looking for Buffy’s body heat so you have a really important job.”
The three men moved further down the tunnel and paused as Riley pulled a grate open and stepped into the sewer. He slid his night vision goggles on and scanned left and right. Angel pulled his demon forth and asked, “Which way?”
“I think he would lead her away from Base. We’ll go left.” Riley set the pace, walking briskly.
Spike looked at Angel, whose eyes were glowing yellow and at Riley, who had goggles on and promptly tripped over a pile of debris. “I can’t see a thing.” He growled, getting back to his feet. Staring at Angel pointedly, he added, “I used to be able to see in the dark. I used to be able to do a lot of things, like have fangs, hear things that humans couldn't and walk and not trip.”
“Spike, I did what I had to do.” Angel brushed past him and caught up with Riley, who had continued walking.
“Had to do, my ass.” Spike mimicked his sire, prissing down the tunnel behind him. “I’m going to have to kick your ass.”
When he caught up with the other two, they were discussing Buffy’s slayer strengths and fighting skills. Riley took a deep breath and stopped walking. “You both should know that there is something down here. Something that kills for the sake of killing and not because it needs to eat.”
“What is it?” Angel looked behind them in the tunnel and yanked Spike closer to him, instinctively protecting him.
“Don’t touch me.” Spike pulled his arm out of Angel’s grip and glanced behind him as well. “Forget –what- it is, how –big- is it?”
“Big enough.” Riley scratched the side of his face and closed his eyes. “It’ s my father.”
“You’re a bloody demon?” Spike shouted, his voice echoing through the darkness.
“Do I look like a demon to you?” Holding up his arms, Riley stood still for several seconds.
“Yeah, as a matter of fact you do.” Taking a step forward, Spike glared at him. “And I’m going to-“
“That’s enough.” Angel stepped between the two and rolled his eyes. “Both of you are ruining the chances of finding Buffy and I’m sick of it. Now, if she is down here someplace, the best way to find her is to keep walking.” He turned his attention to Riley and added, “And I’d suggest you keep talking if you value your ability to walk. What do mean it’s your father?”
Riley repositioned his bag and started down the tunnel again. “My dad is – was a human being. I was only thirteen when it happened and I don’t remember everything, but he supposedly uncovered some things that were happening here and my mo- uhm- people inside the Initiative took care of him. They turned him into some kind of thing.”
“And you let Buffy get involved in that?” Spike asked, balling his hand into a fist and getting ready to strike.
Angel caught his arm and moved between the two again, urging them to keep walking. “Why did you get involved with it, Riley?”
“I had no choice.” Riley kept his eyes straight ahead and admitted the truth, something that he had never done to anyone outside of the organization. “My mother runs the ship. She would have had the same thing done to me if I gave her any trouble.”
“And he’s a mama’s boy to boot.” Spike chuckled a little and shook his head. “What exactly did she do to your father?”
Riley glared at the blond and shrugged. “I don’t know. All I remember is seeing them lead him into this room and then they led him out a few days and he wasn’t a man anymore. Sort of like you, Spike. Only uglier.”
Spike’s eyes widened and he leaped toward the boy, only to find the business end of the boy’s gun aimed at his chest. “Oh, that’s perfect. You let your mouth overload your ass and then you shoot me?”
Angel aimed his gun at Riley and said, “Looks like I’m the only one here with a set of priorities. Buffy is in danger. I will shoot you both if you keep this up.”
“What do you care?” Riley asked the dark vampire. “She’s a slayer. What do you have in common with her anyway?”
Spike laughed loudly and then pointed at his sire. “Buffy didn’t tell you about him? This is the great poof, the love of her little life. The man who took her virginity and then left her all alone.”
Angel suddenly found himself the target of Riley’s gun and didn’t make a move. Calmly, he spoke to the man. “Buffy and I are friends. She trusted me enough to come down here alone with her and if I have to maim you to get her back ... I will.”
Spike moved quickly, yanking Riley’s gun from his arms and turning it on him. “A-ha! How did you like that?”
Riley looked stunned and glanced down at his empty hands. Angel nudged Spike with the barrel of his own gun and nodded his head at Riley. “Give it back to him, Spike.”
“No way. He’s-“
“NOW!” Angel shouted, his voice as feral as his face.
Spike shoved the gun at Riley and pointed down the tunnel. “Let’s go.”
They moved as one, silently making their way out of town. Each man was lost in his own thoughts and each man’s thoughts were of the same woman. Angel was wondering if she would be okay with so much blood loss, Riley was wondering if she would ever look the same to him again and Spike was trying to figure out what to say to her when he saw her. Confessing his feelings for her seemed like the only logical thing to do.
~ Feelings? ~ Spike stopped walking and felt his forehead. The ridges were gone and he was suddenly overcome with a rush of emotion. He had killed people in this very same sewer. Clamping his hands over his ears, he tried to silence the memory of their cries for mercy.
Angel looked back at Spike and whispered, “Spike, what are you doing?”
“I’m sorry that I was mean to you before. I wouldn’t have decapitated you even if I had been able too.” He swallowed hard and ran a hand over the back of his head, before looking at Riley. “And you don’t look like a demon, but you are still a mama’s boy.”
“What the hell is he doing now?” Riley asked Angel.
“It’s my guess that he’s feeling guilt for the first time in one hundred and twenty-six years.” Angel moved down the tunnel and laid his hand on Spike’s shoulder. “I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to suddenly have this rush of—“
“Hunger.” Spike looked up at Angel and patted his stomach. “Now I’m hungry. And OW!” He cupped his mouth quickly and felt his teeth. “My fangs are back.”
“But your ridges are gone.” Angel ran his hand over his own face and felt the way his flesh rippled over his brow. “I don’t know what happened.”
“You fucking broke me.” Spike shrugged, no longer emotional or worried about hurting Angel's feelings. "Prick."
Angel watched him walk away and shook his head, trying to rationalize why Spike was suffering Jeckyll and Hyde syndrome. When he was angry, the ridges came across his forehead. When he was hungry, the fangs grew, but the ridges vanished. When he was normal, he had emotions and what appeared to be a soul. ~ It’s going to a long night. Assuming we all survive. ~
Buffy winced as Hal sat her on a pile of cardboard and paper in one corner of a tiny room. She could still feel the bite mark on her stomach, even though she still had no feeling below her hips. They had gone through the sewers for what felt like hours, but a quick glance at her watch told her it had been less than thirty minutes. “Where are we?”
“Old breakroom for the sewer workers. It’s not on any maps.” The demon/man was busy opening several small boxes and when he turned, he had a syringe in his hand.
With wide eyes, Buffy watched him put the needle into his arm and draw out a small amount of blood. He started toward her and she scooted away, using her hands to move as fast as possible. Hal squatted in front of her and held the needle out. “My blood is an antidote. It will counteract whatever it was that Michael injected you with.”
“Or make me a demon. No thanks.” Buffy replied, staring at the needle. “Besides, I’m scared of needles.”
“I can promise you that it won’t make you a demon.” Hal moved closer and held out his hand. “Just give me your arm and within minutes, you will be okay.”
“Okay, first of all, sharing needles is unsanitary. There’s this thing called HIV that you may or may not be aware of and second-“
“Buffy, I am immune to all diseases and infection. As a matter of fact, I don’t even have to eat to survive. My body takes care of itself by keeping my blood pumped with enough vitamins and minerals to sustains my life. I give you my word that you will be healed and much stronger for it if you will allow me to help you.”
She weighed her options and asked, “How long before the paralysis goes away on its own?”
“Depending on the dosage, I would say twelve hours. Considering that you are a Slayer, and probably have quicker healing agents, it could be six hours.” Hal raised a clawed hand to scratch behind his ear and whined out a little. “But we don’t have six hours. If code blue is in effect -right now- then we need to move -right now-.”
“What is code blue?” Gripping one leg at a time, Buffy pulled herself into a semi-upright position and slumped forward, swearing under her breath.
Hal pushed her up gently. “Code blue is when the computer tells itself that it has to self-destruct. It will blow up the entire compound and anything in it’s way.”
Buffy immediately thought of Spike and Angel and the rest of the gang. “We have to do something now.”
Hal held the needle up to the small light that hung from an exposed set of wires, letting her see the small amount of purplish liquid. “And now is what I can give you.”
Taking a deep breath, she held her arm out and squeezed her eyes tightly closed. “Don’t hurt me.”
Hal smiled a little and turned her arm over, exposing the vein. As he slid the needle into her skin, he asked, “How is it that a Slayer finds herself scared of needles?”
“Long story.” Buffy said in a shaky voice. “Are you going to do it?”
“I’m done.” Hal patted her on the hand and let go, standing again.
“What?” She eyed the small drop of blood on her arm and said, “How did you do that without making me feel it?”
“I told you. My blood is an antidote. All I had to do was rub a little on the area before I inserted the needle and you didn’t feel a thing.”
“Can I keep you during flu shot season?” Buffy smiled and wiggled her feet a little. “I can move!”
Hal reached down, lifted her under the arms, and put her on her feet. “Stretch out the muscles some while I look for the tools we will need.”
“Need for what?” Buffy squatted and stood several times, feeling her lower extremities come back to life completely.
“You and me, sweetheart. We are going to put a stop to this madness once and for all.” Turning, Hal held up a security pass and a bag full of disks and wires. “And make sure that you still have a college to go to while we are at it.”
“Do we really have to save the college? I’d be willing to let that be a casualty.” She smiled a little and took the pass from him as he shoved a few more items into a bag.
Hal laughed a little and then stood up tall, staring down at her. “I’ve been waiting a very long time for this. If I can get inside and get my programs running, I can be cured.”
“Why didn’t you do it before now?” She followed him out of the small room and back through the sewers.
“Because now is when a Slayer happened to grace me with her presence and gave me a reminder of my son.” Hal splashed through the water quickly and then paused, looking back at Buffy. “You feel okay?”
Taking a deep breath, she nodded happily. “I feel like I’m stronger than I’ ve ever been. I almost feel … invincible.”
“You are.” He motioned for the security pass she was carrying and handed her a large knife. “For the time being, until your blood flushes mine away, nothing can harm you.”
“Why do I feel a ‘but’ coming?” Buffy took the knife and eyed it with apprehension.
“But, when it wears off, there will be a time span of about ten minutes that you will be weak; weaker than you can imagine, as your human body overcomes the change.”
“Change?” She tightened her ponytail holder and pointed a finger at him. "If I turn into something, I am going to kill you."
“I’ve given you a gift, not a curse. It's only going to aid you for a small amount of time. I didn’t give you enough of it for it to last indefinately.”
“How will I know when it’s wearing off?”
“When you can’t hold that knife in your hand, it’s basically wearing off.”
“And what happens if I happen to be holding this knife to fight off a really large demon of some kind?” Buffy’s anger was evident in her tone. Sure, she was able to walk and felt stronger than she ever had, but the price tag for it could be her life.
“I suggest you yell loudly for me if that situation arises. Don't worry. We will be in and out before that could happen.” Hal winked one glowing red eye and moved on down the tunnel.
“You know, I specifically asked you if this would make me a demon.”
“And I specifically told you that it wouldn’t. You are not a demon.”
“I’d have to be.” Buffy replied, brushing past him and stomping ahead. “Because only demons could entertain the thoughts I’m having and not feel guilty about it.”
Hal followed her, his salvation, through the tunnels and glanced upward, praying that she would forgive him enough to listen to him when the time came for them to make their move. Their lives depended on her ability to listen and do everything he told her to. Glancing at his deformed hands, he knew that the future was out of his hands and completely in hers. She would have to be the one who worked the program, crawled into the gut of the structure and cut the wires to the explosives.
The weight of the world was on her shoulders.
And she seemed to be standing up just fine.
The Story Continues..
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