Eurydice (eurydice72) wrote,
Eurydice
eurydice72

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The Forever Shroud, chapter 2

Because people seem to want some bit of conclusion to the action sequence...and because I'm weak and love to share... ;)

“You’re going too fast,” Clem complained from behind Anya, his huffing an audible wheeze even above the blare of the speakers as she wove her way through the conflux. “Slow down. You don’t even know for sure that anything’s wrong.”

The look she shot him over her shoulder was incredulous. “And you work for who exactly?” she said. “We slow down, and Spike’s either going to be in the middle of getting stuck by the Slayer and one of her little blade fetishes, or he’s going to be in the middle of sticking it to her. Neither scenario accomplishes what we’re here to do.”

“Well, if he’s sticking it to her, then that means we’ve got her for question…” His voice trailed off as Anya rolled her eyes and resumed her brisk pace. “Oh. That kind of sticking it. Gotcha.” He scurried to close some of the distance between them, pulling his hat down further over his ears when he caught the stare of a curious toddler at the edge of the boardwalk. “So, where are we going then?”

“He hadn’t moved from where we dropped him off when the receiver when on the fritz. We’re going to start there.”

When she suddenly veered right, Clem almost tripped over the child in front of him before he was able to cut across and join her. “Do you have any more money?” he asked as he panted to a stop at the railing. “They’re selling cotton candy back there---.”

“Shut up, Clem.” Anya’s voice was uncharacteristically quiet, her body rigid as she stared out at the beach, and then, under her breath, came, “Crap.”

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

In spite of the danger he saw in her eyes, Spike’s body still hummed from the delectable power of her kisses, his fingers digging into the soft swell where the back of her thighs merged to the lower curve of her bottom. It was almost funny. With all his good intentions that this was just a job, and that Buffy Summers was too dangerous to play around with, all it took for him to chuck it to the wayside was a taste of her intoxicating skin and the throb of her pounding heart against his tongue. Sure, he’d been known to play with a little dalliance on jobs before, but this one was supposed to be different. This was about Dru, for fuck’s sake, and he couldn’t afford to be mucking it up by losing control, even for a second.

But this Slayer had done it, with her California charm, and the percipient glint in that green gaze. And while he was annoyed with himself for revealing his hand so quickly, Spike couldn’t say that he regretted their little gropefest. Not when he couldn’t bring himself to let her go. Not when he had to struggle not to resume kissing her, even knowing that this was playing with a bloody bonfire and not just a matchstick.

Not when he felt half-hammered just holding Buffy in his arms.

“You know what I am.” Her voice was a harsh rasp, rough from unchecked desire, and he could feel her muscles already tensing beneath his grasp. “How? Why?” Anger was quickly replacing the confusion in her eyes. “How?”

Spike chuckled. “You’re not exactly the brain trust in your little operation, now are you, pet?” he taunted.

Where the knife came from, he had no idea, but the flash of neon across its silver blade was enough of a warning for Spike to twist away, thrusting Buffy back and across the metal cage of the cablecar as the slick burn of a slice across his cheek snapped him from his earlier reverie regarding the girl.

“Sit. Down,” she said. She’d quickly composed herself from the crash against the wall, and in spite of the now violent swaying of the car, had situated herself on the opposite seat, back straight and angled in the corner in order to face him. The six-inch-long knife she held ready in her hand---and the possibilities about where exactly she could’ve been hiding that certainly wasn’t helping his arousal for her abate---glittered in vermillion from all the lights, though the carnival seemed worlds away from them at the moment.

“Can’t rightly stand in here, now can I?” Spike replied. As he felt the drip of blood begin to tickle down his cheek, he lifted his hand to swipe at it, glancing down to see the red stain on his thumb before returning his eyes to her. With a quick suck, the fluid gone from his hand, and he saw her nose wrinkle in disgust. “Don’t fancy makin’ a mess,” he said casually, holding up his now clean fingers. “And don’t tell me a Slayer’s squeamish about a little blood.”

Buffy ignored his attempts to get a rise from her. “Keep your hands where I can see them,” she instructed. “Or lose them. Your choice.”

He waggled his fingers. “And here I thought you liked my hands. You wound me, Slayer.”

“Not yet, but I can remedy that.”

“Doubtful.”

“You’re awfully sure of yourself, considering I’m the one with the weapon here.” She pretended to remember something. “Oh, wait, that’s just part of the whole Big Bad, Spike Adams package, isn’t it? Doesn’t know when he’s beat until someone drops an organ on his head.” She smiled broadly. “I never realized it before. You’re the Wile E. Coyote.”

He flinched at the unexpected reminder. It had been nearly half a decade since the incident at the church. Dru’s illness had distracted him, his fear of losing her overshadowing his common sense when he made the deal with Willy about getting the drugs to cure her. He hadn’t expected the set-up, and he certainly hadn’t expected the Jamaican Slayer to arrive with her crew in tow. When the fight had erupted, his only thought had been to get Drusilla to safety before she fell into the wrong hands. He just hadn’t expected the little black bitch to topple the loft and leave him for dead under the rubble.

Buffy had grown thoughtful. “Funny,” she mused, “but when I read about what happened in Kendra’s logs, it sounded like the sort of thing someone doesn’t just walk away from.”

“I didn’t.” He shrugged when her confused gaze swept down to his obviously functional legs. He didn’t care how cute the bitch was; there was no reason to spill all his secrets to a government merc just to have them show up in some cocked-up version of a “This Is Your Life” federal memo. “What can I say?” he said instead. “I heal quick.”

She fell silent, glancing back over her shoulder to see the crowds rushing and laughing so many feet below. The rocking of the cablecar had begun to still, settling into a gentle roll back and forth as the pair remained motionless, and for the first time, Spike began to wonder how he was going to handle this when they reached their destination. Buffy was right; he didn’t have a weapon immediately at hand. He’d been prepared for a search of some sort and instead chose to plant tools that could be used in defense back at the beach and at the meeting point, neither of which were going to help him at the moment. And the tiny space within the metal cage left hand-to-hand too dangerous while she still wielded the blade. Just because he was confident, didn’t mean he was suicidal, and Buffy Summers was still a Slayer. One of the best, if not the best. It might be the time for a strategic retreat, even if the idea of not getting the information he’d come for made his blood boil.

He unobtrusively scanned the fairgrounds below them before speaking again. “You know what else is a bit of funny, Slayer?” Spike said nonchalantly. He angled his torso in the seat, stretching out his arms to rest along the railings that ran along the side of the car, and effectively blocked her view of the car’s lone door with the ebony sweep of his coat. “The fact that you compared me to that cartoon coyote.”

A moment of hesitation. A narrow crinkling of her eyes. “That was a joke.”

“Ah, but who exactly was the joke on?” She was watching him, and he deliberately stared back, letting his hand slip unnoticed to the latch. “See, what you forget is that the coyote always comes back. You can knock him over, you can flatten him out. Hell, you can even drop him off a sodding cliff, and still, the wily git always manages to get away to come back and try again later.” Another glance beyond the metal bars and he saw the hard top of the bumper cars coming into view as the cablecar began its descent.

There was the tiniest of twitches in her hand as her grip tightened around the hilt of her knife. “You know what, Spike? You talk too much.”

He grinned. “That I do, Slayer.” The metal pin fell free from its hook, and he caught the chain before it could clank against the door and announce its freedom. “See you around.”

“Wha---?” Buffy started, but never finished the word when, all of a sudden, she was talking to a gaping hole in the side of the car where the door swung free.

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

Disgruntled, Xander kicked at the sand with the toe of his boot. “Well, we didn’t find her head,” he joked. “But at least that would’ve been a clue as to what happened.” He waited for a response, but when Willow remained silent, he glanced up to see what was holding her tongue.

She was staring at the boardwalk, her fingers already sliding into her pocket where she kept her tiny stun gun. Following the line of her attention, Xander swiveled his head and spotted the pair at the railing, the woman just as tense as his redheaded friend, the guy in the floppy hat looming behind her looking slightly confused. Neither was familiar. She was slim, with a thin, angular face, and wide brown eyes that gleamed with intelligence even from that distance, while he seemed almost oafish, tall and shlumpy as he hid his body in the oversized flannel shirt and baggy jeans. The light she stood beneath washed out the color of her hair but there was no denying her distinctive beauty.

Or the way she was glaring at Willow.

“Anya Jenkins,” the redhead said under her breath.

“Huh?” He looked down at his friend. “You know her?”

“Don’t do it, Willow.”

Xander felt like he was at a tennis match as he jerked around to see the woman who spoke again. She hadn’t moved, but her fingers were curled around something silver cradled in her palm and her jaw was set in determination.

“What’re you doing here, Anya?” Willow asked. Her hand came away from her coat pocket, falling to her side.

“The same thing you are, I’m going to bet.” She quickly scanned the otherwise empty beach. “Where’s your boss?”

“Where’s yours?”

“Will one of you two please tell me what’s going on?” Xander interjected. “How do you know each other?”

“We don’t,” Willow replied, softly. “She’s part of Spike’s team.”

“Oh.” His eyes went wide. “Oh.”

“Where are they, Willow? I know you’re tracking Buffy.”

“And you’re not tracking Spike?” the redhead replied. “How stupid do you think I am, Anya?”

“So, how does she know who you are?” Xander asked. “Since when do dissidents know anything about us?”

Anya snorted in disgust. “It’s no wonder we’re kicking your ass if everyone’s as narrow-minded as you, Harris. Do you really think you’re the only ones who can do their research?”

A long minute stretched into discomfort as the four just regarded each other. Finally, the man behind Anya cleared his throat.

“Looks like we’ve got a Mexican stand-off here,” he said.

“Not really helping, Clem,” Anya said. She sighed. “But he’s right, Willow. Clearly, you’re looking for the Slayer, and we’re looking for Spike, and since neither one of them are here, it’s probably safe to assume they’ve gone off somewhere either to kill each other or boink themselves to death. Either way, we need to find them fast, preferably still alive.”

Xander couldn’t contain his laughter. “I know Spike’s supposed to be some badass with the women, but there’s no way Buffy fell for his little bag of tricks. If those are the only options, she’s probably standing over his cold, dead body right now.”

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

Buffy stared in shock at the banging door to the cablecar. He’d jumped. The bastard had actually jumped. She’d had him, and now he was gone, and he was probably splattered in tiny bleached pieces all over the carnival, and she was never going to get Dawn back now because she couldn’t interrogate her sister’s kidnapper when he was most likely a big black-and-white pancake in the middle of a cotton candy stall, and he was undoubtedly laughing at her from the hell she fervently hoped he was twisting in. Laughing because not only had he escaped her clutches, but he’d also managed to get her hot and bothered when obviously he knew who she was all along and was only interested in making her look like a fool.

Fury rose in Buffy’s throat like acid.

Just who in hell did Spike think he was?!?

The car lurched as she pushed off from her safe corner to hover in the open entrance. Green eyes started to check over the ground for his dead body when they stopped, arrested by a familiar shape straightening almost directly below her.

“Bastard,” she repeated, this time out loud.

The large, rectangular roof of the bumper cars beneath her had broken his fall. Obviously, he’d planned it like that, because, as the cab she was in swung precariously back and forth from the imbalanced distribution of weight inside it, Spike looked up, saw her watching him, and smirked. She saw his lips move, but what he could be saying was drowned out by the din of the carnival.

And then he was moving, walking away with that ebony coat billowing out around him like some damn superhero cape.

“Oh, no, you don’t,” Buffy muttered, slipping her knife back into its sheath in her boot. Gritting her teeth, she cast one last look at the distance between them, and jumped.

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

“Do you have a better idea?”

Anything is better than splitting up right now, Willow.”

“I can handle myself around her. I have my stun gun.”

“And there’s no telling what that little toy in her hand does,” Xander shot back.

“Anya’s all talk.”

“Really? You backed down pretty darn quick when she told you to. That doesn’t sound like you believe she’s all talk to me.” He glanced back over his shoulder at the couple who remained at the rail. “Besides, something tells me she’s got a mean streak somewhere beneath that gorgeous exterior. I’m not letting you go anywhere with her by yourself.”

Frowning, Willow looked past him. “You think she’s pretty?”

Xander shrugged. “Sure, in a hungry, man-eating, squeeze her legs around me so tight kind of way…” He wagged a finger in her face, shaking his head. “Ah ah ah. No distracting me with sexy thoughts. I’m still not letting you go.”

“How ‘bout pizza instead then?”

A shrill scream pierced the air, cutting through the pounding beat of the music in the loudspeakers to catch not only the four’s attention, but everyone on the boardwalk as well. For a moment, the festive atmosphere froze in time as all heads turned in the direction of the sound, and then…another set of screams joined in with the first.

Anya and Clem exchanged a look. “Spike,” they said together. All thoughts of cooperating with the other team to find their leaders vanished as they pivoted to disappear into the now surging throng.

“Time to play follow the maneater,” Xander commented, and together, he and Willow took off after the others.

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

It was the screams from the ground below that made him look back.

Spike saw Buffy as she leapt from the swinging skycab, her face set in determination as she became a blur of scarlet and gold against the night sky. Unbidden, a smile formed on his lips, and he stopped in his tracks to watch her roll to a mostly safe landing twenty feet away.

Spunky doesn’t even begin to describe her, now does it?

“I can’t believe you made me ruin my favorite skirt,” she complained as she stood up.

The satin hem was in her hands, baring the jagged gash in the fabric, but Spike only saw the sumptuous curve of her calves as they disappeared beneath the garment. Tilting his head in hopes of seeing just a little bit more, he said, “Nobody told you to follow me.”

“Nobody told you to jump.”

He quickly straightened when she looked up, affecting an air of innocence. “That Mr. Pointy of yours seemed to be screamin’ it,” Spike said, and then frowned, suddenly aware of the missing weapon. He looked her over, and then slipped into a leer when she crossed her arms in annoyance. “I think I’d really like to know where you’re hidin’ it, though, Slayer.”

“Is everything about sex with you?” she demanded.

“Not everything.” He sobered. “This your way of playin’ cat and mouse? Bat me around with your pretty paws while I wait for the claws to come out? Not really in the mood any more, pet. ‘Specially since you seem so bound and determined to add me to whatever trophy shelf you’ve put Dru on.”

For a moment, she faltered, eyes dark in confusion. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Don’t play coy with me. It doesn’t suit you.”

“What’s your psycho ex got to do with anything?” Buffy continued. “Last I heard, she was hiding out from fire inspectors in LA.”

“You think I’d agree to meet up with one of the feds’ best assassins for my health?” He took a step closer to her, oblivious to the growing crowd that was appearing on the ground behind him. “You’re cute, Slayer, and I can’t say it hasn’t been fun, but I don’t put my entire team at risk just to get my rocks off. Not even for a chance to get a poke at you.”

“So if you knew all along who and what I was, why agree to meet up with me? Why pretend to do this stupid weapons deal in the first place?”

“Because I’m not one of you,” Spike replied, both his tone and eyes deadly. “If someone I care about gets put in danger, I don’t just up and abandon them.”

He was expecting it this time, and saw her hand go for the back of her calf, extracting the long knife from its hiding place in a single, liquid move. With a burst of speed, he darted forward, tackling her to the rough surface of the roof as she thrust the blade in the direction of his stomach. A quick twist prevented it from going between the ribs she’d intended, instead grazing his side before getting caught in the rippling fabric of his shirt, but he ignored the pain as they struggled for dominance.

They rolled across the pitted roof, twin bodies lean and zealous as each fought for superiority. At one point, Buffy managed to regain control of her weapon, ripping half of Spike’s shirt away in the process, but that only served to spur him on, his renewed fervor impelling them ever closer to the roof’s edge. Somewhere in the background, female screams mingled with the music, the distinct “someone’s up there!” adding to the cacophony he was desperately trying to block out, and he wondered how in hell they’d become another sideshow at the carny. It all ended with him on top of her, his left hand locked around her right wrist as his coat draped around both of them.

Her heavy pants were hot in his face as he set his jaw. “Let it go,” he growled, slamming her wrist against the metallic roofing.

The pain that shot through her arm was evidenced by the grimace that screwed up her features, but in spite of it, Buffy’s fingers remained fixed around the knife’s hilt. He slammed it down again with the same result.

“Give it up, Spike,” she hissed. “If you think for a second I’m going to back down on this, you’re in for a rude awakening. Emphasis on rude.”

“My eyes have been open for a long time, Slayer. And I’m not about to fold until you give me what I came for.”

Her eyes flashed in anger. “One Summers wasn’t enough for you?” Buffy snorted, trying again to twist away from his grasp. Her strength came as a mild surprise, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the extra weight and muscle he had on her, and Spike exerted additional power onto the holds he had on her wrists above her head.

When their eyes locked, both sets bright from adrenaline, he actually saw the shift occur behind the green, and tensed as she took a deep breath to speak again.

“Contrary to your egotistical and incredibly wrong bias, you do not have a monopoly on caring about people. I don’t know what delusional world you’ve been living in that makes you think I give two figs about that loonybin refugee of an ex of yours, but I do know that I’m not willing to just sit back and cater to your hallucinations while you do God knows what to Dawn.”

When she paused to take a breath, Spike felt the hint of a frown begin to form. What the hell was she talking about?

“You want claws?” she continued. “I’ll give you claws. If I find out that you’ve hurt one hair on Dawn’s head, you’re going to feel each and every one of them while I rip your heart out with my bare hands, do you understand me? So don’t think I abandon the people I love. She’s the only real family I have left, and I am not going to let you be the reason she gets taken away from me.”

The hint became reality, and he said the only thing that was going through his head. “Who the hell is Dawn?”

“Drop the weapon!”

He saw the confusion in her eyes the split second before both blond heads swiveled toward the sound of the voice. At the far edge of the roof, the security guard who’d chased them away from the beach stood with his gun drawn, face grim with determination. Spike’s exasperation rose like a caustic wave in his blood, but before he could say anything…

“Damn it,” Buffy muttered.

He looked back down. Buffy’s thin brows were knitted in consternation, and her bottom lip was being chewed apart by her teeth. “Don’t know what you’re so bothered about,” he said in a voice too low to be heard by the new arrival. “All you have to do is flash your Slayer cred and you’re scot-free. I’m the one who should be shakin’ in his boots here.”

“I can’t.” When he cocked his eyebrow, she lowered her gaze---almost guiltily, he thought---and added, “I’m not supposed to be here.”

“You work for the feds, pet. You can be anywhere you bloody well please.”

“Not when I’m supposed to be on vacation.” He had to strain to hear the next. “Especially when using Slayer teams for personal reasons doesn’t exactly match up with Council protocols.”

Her words settled another piece of the puzzle that had been drifting around inside Spike’s head into place. When another order to drop the weapon met their ears, he cast a surreptitious glance around in calculation before returning his gaze to lock on hers.

“I can get you outta here,” he murmured, “but you gotta do two things for me.”

“I’m not doing anything for you.”

“Fine. Take your chances with Donut Boy. I’m sure he doesn’t have any mates hangin’ around, ‘cause those sorts always work on their own.”

Pause.

“What’re the two things?”

“First, you gotta trust me---.”

Buffy snorted.

“---and second, when I get us out of here, you and me are havin’ us a little talk, Slayer. Something tells me we’ve got a few wires to uncross.”

“I’m not going to tell you again!” the guard shouted. “Put. The weapon. Down!”

Spike didn’t bother looking up at that, eyes intent on the woman beneath him. He could see the hesitation to acquiesce lingering on her face, but he was playing his odds here. She’d followed his lead the last time they’d been cornered; he was fairly certain she would do it again.

“Do what he says,” he said quietly.

“What? Are you nuts? That’s my only weapon!”

His smile was instantaneous. “Pet, your whole body is a weapon. ‘Sides, you drop it, he lets down his guard ‘cause he thinks he’s won, and we get us a few more seconds of grace to get out of this. You’re trustin’ me, remember?”

She rolled her eyes, but beneath his grip on her wrist, he felt the muscles twitch as she loosened her hold on the knife. When it clattered to the roof, Spike allowed himself to steal one last look at the security guard before hooking his ankles around Buffy’s muscles calves. “Time to roll,” he said. “Now, hold on.”

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

Xander was the first person to see it. “Whoa,” he said, skidding to a stop, eyes wide.

From behind, Willow grunted when she collided with his wide back, fighting to remain vertical as she twisted to see what was going on. “What is it? Is it Buffy…?” Her jaw dropped just as she saw the black leather-wrapped pair of bodies topple over the edge of the bumper cars roof, two blond heads almost a blur as the crowd parted to let them land.

Anya and Clem didn’t seem nearly as surprised to see their team leader freefalling from carnival equipment. Pushing her way through the crowd, she aimed herself toward the nearest security guard, and, while Willow and Xander watched, pretended to stumble into him.

“Excuse me,” they heard her say. Her hand was up, her palm pressing into the guard’s bicep, and before she’d even turned away, he crumpled to the ground, eyes open but looking very much like all awareness had checked out. The flash of silver in her grip was all it took for Xander to turn in satisfaction to the redhead.

Told you, you didn’t want to mess with that little toy of hers,” he said.

Clem had taken a different route. Skirting the throng, he clambered over the turnstile for the ride, ignored by the spectators, and darted between the stalled cars to head for the electrical box on the other side. No one noticed when he pulled a switchblade from an unseen pocket and jimmied the box open. No one, except Xander.

“Go help Anya,” he instructed, shoving Willow toward the other woman.

“Help her what?” she called out when she saw him race to join Clem.

“It’s called a diversion!” he yelled back. “Now go divert!”

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

The next few minutes were a blur for Buffy, though that was a secret she wouldn’t divulge to anyone when it was over. In her line of work, blurs were the surest way to get killed.

Of course, putting her life into the hands of a dissident she was sworn to eliminate should’ve been suicide, too.

It was her gut’s fault, Buffy decided. For some unknown reason, it was screaming at her to trust Spike to get her out of this. Not that she had much of a choice. If word got back to the Council that she was using her resources to get Dawn out of Spike’s clutches, specifically after they’d explicitly told her they would handle the matter, not even Giles would be able to protect her from retribution. She could handle a lone dissident on her own; taking on the most powerful men in the world was beyond her current means, especially when they knew her every weakness.

So there was that, and…

I don’t think he even knows who Dawn is.

For that too-brief moment before the security guard had shown up, she’d seen the bewilderment in Spike’s face when she’d mentioned her sister. Between that and his repeated assertions that she was somehow interested in Drusilla, Buffy was beginning to suspect he might be right about uncrossing those wires.

Not now, though.

Now, she was too busy falling through the open air.

He’d hooked his body around hers as soon as the knife was gone, and promptly rolled the few feet to the edge. Then, it was the sudden dropping of her stomach as she hung there for a fraction of a second, followed by their simultaneous twisting to hit the ground feet first. In the background, she heard the distinct sound of metallic popping, accompanied by the acrimonious stench of sulfur, but she paid no heed to it as she tumbled to her knees.

Spike’s hand was on her in an instant, tugging her away from the crowd that had parted for them. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the incapacitated bodies of half a dozen more guards, but they bled into a cloud of color as Buffy and Spike whipped past them. They’d run only a few yards before he veered to his right, and she saw the small blonde woman who was beckoning him from the throng. Buffy began to panic, tightening to flee regardless of whatever unspoken claim she’d given him, when a familiar red head bobbed past. She gaped as she saw Willow join the blonde between the attractions.

“I’m out of juice,” the unknown woman said when they came to a stop before her.

Spike’s eyes narrowed as he looked back in the direction they’d come. “Where’s---?” he started, only to be drowned out by a booming explosion at the far end of the bumper cars. “Never mind,” he said, turning back.

“Are you all right?” Willow asked Buffy. Her eyes darted from her friend, to Spike, and back again.

“I could ask the same of you,” she replied.

“No time for chitchat, ladies!” Giving the Slayer an indelicate shove, he followed her through the machinery Anya was leading them, weaving and dodging the power cables and generators until they found themselves on the border between the fete and the parking lot. Only then did Buffy step away, the world sharpening back to razor focus around her.

“End of the line,” she declared. She folded her arms across her chest, an action mirrored almost immediately by Willow at her side.

“We don’t have time for this, Slayer,” Spike said.

Willow’s head swiveled to stare at Buffy. “He knows who you are?”

“It was a set-up.” Green eyes bored into blue. “But funny enough, he claims not to know who Dawn is.”

“Who’s Dawn?” Anya asked Spike with a confused frown.

He didn’t answer her directly. “You got the video feed on Dru?” he quizzed instead.

“Yeah.”

“Give it to me.”

Anya pulled a flat black box from her bag, handing it to him. As Buffy watched, he began punching buttons beneath the small video display at its top.

“Why’d you want to see me, Slayer?” Spike said. “Straight up. No more runaround.”

Her lips thinned. “Because you took Dawn and my bosses were dragging their feet on getting her back.”

He nodded as if it was exactly the answer he’d expected. “Sussed out yet why I agreed to it?”

“Not exactly. Something to do with your psycho ex, I think.”

Another nod, and this time, he passed over the display. “Someone snatched Dru two weeks ago.”

Finally, Buffy tore her gaze away from his to view the video playing out on the tiny screen. “What is this?”

“Footage from street security cameras outside a bank in DC. One of my people tapped in and got it.”

As she watched the busy street in the picture, a pair of men stepped into frame, the slim form of Drusilla Chapman evident between them. She was conscious, but there was a sluggishness to her face and movements that shouted sedatives, even in the fading twilight hours on the video.

“I still don’t get what this is about,” Buffy said, and started to hand back the display.

Spike stuffed his hands into his pockets instead of taking it. “Keep watching.”

She sighed melodramatically, but returned her gaze to the screen.

The trio had stopped before a parked car. While the two men talked unheard between themselves, one of them tapped on the blackened rear window, stepping back when the door opened. Another pair of suits emerged, but it was the third exiting passenger that captured her attention.

Spike’s eyes were narrowed in scrutiny of Buffy’s face, assessing her every reaction as she watched the feed. Disbelief…shock…disbelief again…and then finally…anger. “I’m guessin’ Bitesize would be your little sis then,” he said evenly. “Least that answers one thing for me.”

Her fist was the last thing he expected, his head snapping back from the power of the blow. “Bloody hell!” he exploded, but before he could react, she was pinning him against the hood of the nearest car.

“What the hell is going on here, Spike?” Buffy hissed. She waved wildly back at the video player she’d thrust into Willow’s hands before attacking him. “What is all that about?”

“Thought it was obvious,” he growled. He could’ve fought back, forcing her to release him from her restraint, but chose instead to glare at her in blue fury. “Someone’s playin’ us off each other. They took your little sis and let you think it was me.”

“They? Who’s they?”

“Uh…Buffy?” Willow’s voice grabbed the blonde’s attention to see her hovering behind Buffy’s shoulder.

“Kinda busy here, Will.”

“I think you need to see this.”

Buffy frowned as the video display was thrust before her face again. The two groups were disappearing into a tall building in the background. “What am I supposed to be seeing?” she asked.

Willow’s fingers flew over the buttons to rewind the feed, starting it up again at the point where the suited men with their prisoners approached the building. As they stepped onto the lowermost stair that led up to the dark glass doors, she paused the picture, looking up in expectation. “Don’t you recognize it?”

Buffy shook her head. “Should I?”

“That’s what you get for sleeping through all our arrivals.” Her fingers jabbed at the building on the monitor. “That’s Council HQ in Washington.”


To be continued in Chapter 3: If You Can’t Beat Them…
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