DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course. The chapter title comes from The Doors’ song, “Light My Fire.”
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Spike followed Buffy to Lindsey’s house where he witnessed Lindsey slipping on the ring Ethan used to control her…
The story begins here.
The boytoy didn’t know. If he had, he would never have put the ring on, not even out of mild curiosity.
Or if he did know, he was using the ring to deliberately contact Rayne.
Either way, Buffy’s secret was no longer secure.
The walls that separated them couldn’t be breached. Not by Spike. If he wanted to get her away from the impending threat, she was going to have to come to him. He was going to have to make her come to him. It was the only way to get her to safety while there was still time.
He worked swiftly. Silently. Starting at the back and then working his way around each side with the cool efficiency of a century’s experience. There could only be one way of egress; he couldn’t risk missing her out of one of the other exits. On the other hand, it couldn’t be so dangerous that she got trapped. If it got out of control, Spike would be unable to save her. He hadn’t come this far to lose her so foolishly.
When he was done, he cocked his head to listen inside. The boy hummed under his breath, moving about at some unknown task, but in the bathroom, the shower still ran. She was still in there. Spike knew he needed to do this now.
Wet was better.
The shower was supposed to make her feel better, but it only served to isolate her from the real world and make the memories even sharper. Every second beneath the spray washed away another of the veils she’d specifically erected, but still, Buffy couldn’t bring herself to get out. As crushing as the past could be, the real world was even more so.
Spike. In town. As hungry and predatory as ever.
She got wet thinking of how he’d hunted for her.
It wasn’t good, of course. He was going to fuck everything up. He would wreak havoc with her job and with Lindsey and with everything she’d been so careful about building, and he’d do it with a hard-on and a perpetual grin. What pissed her off—what had always pissed her off—was that he wouldn’t see what was so wrong with that. She’d walked away for a reason. OK, so maybe she didn’t always remember what that reason was, but her life was better now that he wasn’t in it. It was.
“What’s this?” she asked, picking up the flat package.
“Yours.” His voice was muffled from where he was bent over the sink in the bathroom, rinsing the bleach out of his hair.
She sat on the edge of the hotel room bed, sinking into the broken springs, and slit open the red foil paper he’d used to wrap it. “It’s not Christmas for months yet.”
“And it’s not your birthday. I need a reason to get you a little something?”
When her fingers slid across the leather cover of the journal, the sting of unexpected tears blurred her vision. She blinked rapidly to get rid of them when she heard the tap get turned off in the next room.
“About the only thing this fuckin’ hole in the wall has worth anything is that leather shop next to the bar.” Glancing up, Buffy saw him lounging in the doorway, naked as he towel-dried his hair. He didn’t like risking getting bleach splatters on his black clothes. “Got one for me, too.”
“I didn’t know you liked this kind of thing.” She couldn’t stop stroking the cover. She hadn’t been able to keep a decent journal since they’d left LA.
“Used to always have one around,” Spike said. He tossed the towel back into the bathroom, ignoring it when it landed wetly on the floor. “Only stopped because Dru kept tearing the pages out to make paper dolls.”
He was in front of her before she could blink, taking the box and book from her hand and tossing it as casually aside as he had the towel. Before she could protest, his mouth was on hers, his body pressing hers back into the mattress as he nudged his knee between her legs to pry them apart.
“Don’t think you really fancy paper dolls,” he murmured as his mouth slid to her neck. Her eyes started watering again from the acrid smell of his hair, but she squeezed them shut when his hard cock nudged against her ass. “Now let’s give you something to write about, yeah?”
The taste of blood on her tongue broke through her fugue, and Buffy froze as she realized she’d been biting down to keep from crying out. The fingers she’d stuffed into her pussy slowly withdrew, shaking as she lifted her hand to the spray to rinse them off. Fuck you, Spike, she thought. You won’t win this way.
It was the complete absence of sound that woke her up. No music, no roar of the engine, no under-the-breath singing that usually accompanied their drives across the moonlit countryside. She opened her eyes and peeled her cheek away from the leather upholstery, blinking to adjust to the added darkness of the car. The driver’s seat was empty.
Opening the door, Buffy paused as the cool desert air drifted in, drying the travel sweat that made her clothes stick to her body. She needed a shower. Maybe she could get Spike to stop at the next town for a little while.
When she got out of the car, she saw they weren’t alone. A truck was parked along the road a few dozen feet ahead, but its taillights were vacant pockets of black in spite of the jack that still held up the rear of the vehicle.
Spike was lying on the hood of the car, staring up at the stars overhead. He was humming, but it was so low she hadn’t heard it until she was out of the car.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. “Why’d we stop?”
“Was feeling peckish,” he said, reaching into his coat pocket for his cigarettes.
That was when she noticed the smell in the air. When she looked back at the truck this time, she saw the pale line of a young man’s arm half-hidden in its shadow. The cheeseburger she’d had for supper threatened to come back up as she walked over to the dead body. Another one. She’d seen more death since being with Spike than she had since being Chosen.
Wasn’t she supposed to be the one to keep people like this alive?
Her hand automatically went to her throat. When she didn’t feel the ring there, Buffy’s eyes flew open for a split second in panic before she remembered asking Lindsey to help her take it off. What had Spike called it? Her lifeline? Maybe he was right. But it helped, it really did. It helped her remember, to keep things in focus. It reminded her why she was trying so hard, and it reminded her of more that made the other bearable.
With a deep breath, she tilted her head against the now-lukewarm spray and rinsed the rest of the conditioner out of her hair. She couldn’t hide in here all night, as tempting as it was. Lindsey was waiting for her, and it wasn’t fair of her to keep using him like this. He was a good guy, and even if neither of them had committed to anything more than serious like for each other, she knew he cared about her. She could see the worry in his eyes when he thought she wasn’t noticing him.
The door slammed open just as she was turning off the tap. Lindsey beat her to pulling aside the curtain.
“Fire,” was the only word he uttered.
It wasn’t the fear etched on his face that made her pulse start to race. It was the smoke she could suddenly smell drifting through the open door. She wasn’t sure how long she’d been in the shower, but apparently it had been too long.
Neither one of them said a word, both leaping into action as they raced from the bathroom. Buffy grabbed the towel from the sink and began wrapping it around her. She wasn’t sure if Lindsey had thought about her clothes or not.
Smoke was billowing from the back of the house, forcing them to keep their heads low, their mouths covered as they ran for the front door. The temperature was already intense, her every instinct to flee from it, but it wasn’t until they were outside, staring back at the house’s façade, that she saw how extensive it really was.
The entire rear of the house was ablaze. Thick, black puffs of smoke drifted up into the sky, chased by the orange flames that hissed and spit against the night’s peace. Already, neighbors were emerging from their homes, but all Buffy was aware of was the way her skin prickled in the heat.
“What happened?” she asked.
“I don’t know.” Though he was fumbling with his cell phone, Lindsey noticed her half-dressed state and pushed her toward his truck parked on the curb. “Go wait in the front seat,” he said as he dialed. “People are staring.” This was a different Lindsey than the one she knew. This one was harder, more in charge, acting like a man more accustomed to barking orders than taking them.
As she retreated to the semi-privacy of the truck, Buffy considered how crises prompted different reactions from different people. She would never have expected Lindsey to fall apart, but neither was she prepared to see him herding the neighbors off to the periphery of the property or hear him yell at the operator at the other end of the line. It made her wonder how much she knew about him at all.
It distracted her from noticing the shift in shadows as she reached for the handle of the car.
A cool hand clamped over her mouth, followed by a hard body sucking her back away from the truck. Soft leather whispered around her bare arms and legs, but it was the murmur in her ear that kept her from fighting against her assailant.
“Just answer me one thing,” Spike said. Unbidden, his voice eased some of the urgency running along her skin. “Did you give Rayne’s ring to the boytoy, or did he decide to try it on all on his lonesome?”
Her hand flew to her throat, her body going stiff. That seemed to be the only answer Spike needed.
“Right, then.” His hand disappeared from her mouth, though the arm he held around her waist remained. “My car’s around the corner, pet. What’s it goin’ to be?”
There was only one way to answer him.
Though he got the call about the fire at Lindsey’s rental within two minutes of the fire department being notified, Holland refrained from changing his plans for the night to attend to the matter himself. Instead, he called his secretary back in Los Angeles and left the instructions for her to handle it. In his opinion, it would be far more effective for Lindsey to think that his position had been weakened enough to merit only peons’ attention. Let the young man stew a bit. A wary associate was a diligent associate. That was a lesson Holland had learned very early on in his career.
Besides, trying to reschedule his meeting would’ve been a nightmare. Demons weren’t fond of schedules unless it involved mass carnage or an inevitable apocalypse. Getting the players he needed together for what they considered red tape had been almost as bad as his last review with the Senior Partners and he was hardly going to sacrifice the work he’d done to go off and hold Lindsey’s hand while his house went down in flames. It was all a matter of priorities.
Sipping at his red wine, Holland watched the patrons in the club as he waited for the others to arrive. Most were enthralled by the green demon singing onstage; personally, he thought the creature’s voice was too high and nasally to be truly appealing. It had to be endured, though. The venue was necessary.
Everyone arrived on time, and by midnight, Holland was elbow-deep in negotiations. The Fyarls weren’t happy about their recent spate of losses, while the others were reluctant to send their own warriors into battle. Though they all talked a good game, when pressed to the wall, nobody wanted to face the Slayer. The stories that had preceded her were chilling, even to them.
“Would you rather a greater power be allowed to rampage through the lives you’ve built for yourselves here?” Holland asked. “The Slayer is just a pawn. If you ignore her, it’ll be too late.”
“This is all your fault,” an obsidian-scaled Quaza hissed. The studded tattoo on his wrist caught what little light reached their table and scattered white slivers across the surface as he spoke. “If Lilah Morgan--.”
“Assigning Lilah Morgan to this matter was an unfortunate choice,” Holland smoothly interrupted. “And trust me, the Senior Partners have more than punished her for her failure to secure Jutta’s Ring. This does not, however, alter the fact that there is change in the wind, my friends. By all means, if you wish to sit back and allow lesser creatures to take what is rightfully yours, then you have my blessing to walk away right now. No one will judge you.”
In the background, the cabaret singer launched into a new number. Holland had to bite back his smile at the irony of the Nancy Sinatra title.
A minute passed. Though nobody rose from the table, eyes shifted sideways, assessing what the others might do. When Holland was satisfied, he nodded as if he’d never expected anything less.
“Now that we have that out of the way,” he said, “let’s get down to business.”
To be continued in Chapter 6: Give Me Sanctuary…