DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course. The chapter title comes from The Doors’ song, “Land Ho.”
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Buffy is temporarily staying with Spike, while Kevin has agreed to do what he can to keep Lindsey safe from Ethan’s imminent arrival…
The story begins here.
He gave Buffy the pull-out bed with only a little pestering about joining her in it. One look at the weariness in her face was all it took for Spike to abandon that avenue; he hadn’t gone to such lengths to find her just to lose her again by being a complete git. So he listened to her breathing even out from the loneliness of the couch, waited until her heart had slowed before slipping into slumber himself.
He dreamt of Prague, of all things. It had been a long time since he’d dreamed of Dru.
“Will there be music, Spike?” Her hand trailed over his bare chest, drawing designs known only to her. “I think I’d like to dance. Soft shoes all ripe and willing. You will dance with me, won’t you?”
“’Course, I will.” Pulling her more tightly against him, Spike could feel the shivers undulating beneath her translucent skin. “Are you cold, pet? Need a drop of someone to warm you up?”
“I’m always cold,” she singsonged. “Nine days, nine days, nine days old.”
He didn’t answer. It would’ve been pointless.
She rose from their bed, long limbs so frail in the moonlight that filtered through the open window. As she used what little energy she had to flit around the bedposts, Spike rolled onto his side to watch, propping his head up in his hand to afford a better view.
“Come back to bed,” he said. “You need to be saving your strength.”
Drusilla ignored him. She tilted her head back, letting her long dark hair trail along her spine, and spun ever closer to the window.
The Slayer came from nowhere.
Cocoa-colored arms wrapped around Dru from behind, pulling her toward the open window. Before Spike could leap from the bed to stop it, the Slayer thrust her stake through Drusilla’s back, the pointed tip tearing through his love’s perfect breast and quivering for the infinite second it took for it to turn to dust. He was left gaping at the proud Slayer who remained.
“Did you really think you could save her?” It wasn’t a woman’s voice that came out of the Slayer’s throat. It was a man’s, with an English accent and a deprecating laugh in every syllable. “You can’t even save yourself.”
He saw the stake arc through the air, but couldn’t move out of its path.
Spike woke with a jerk.
His muscles were like lead, and his head was fuzzy from only a few hours of sleep. A glance at the clock on the microwave confirmed that it wasn’t even noon yet, but while he would’ve loved to get more rest, Spike knew it was a lost cause. His brain was done. He just needed to convince his body now.
Rising to his feet, he stretched until he heard the audible crack of his joints, but before he could head to the bathroom for a hot shower, a soft sigh from the direction of the bed seized his attention. Spike turned and then stopped, the sight of Buffy’s hair splayed across the pillow compelling him toward her. He’d always loved watching her sleep. For whatever reason, she’d always curled into him without thought, and he’d spent dozens of hours simply memorizing her face, etching every line of her body into his brain. He would never have admitted it by the light of day, but those were his favorite times, when there wasn’t a wall of hers or his between them. Those were the times he could pretend that she belonged completely to him.
He was going to lose her again. He knew that. Buffy hadn’t said another word about what was going to happen when she woke up, but Spike knew that even if she agreed to let him take her away from Las Vegas, the play would unfold exactly as it had the first time. She could only take so much of the death and destruction before she itched for life. She would leave in search of it. And they would be back to where they’d been before a lucky break had dropped Kevin off in her little corner of the world.
The reality of what was to come pissed him off. It wasn’t just at Buffy, though it burned hot enough for that. It was at his personal weakness for the Slayer, that being left alone again was going to rip his insides out. It was easy to pretend that his interest in her was all about the sex and the silent thrill in knowing he was shagging a Slayer, but at the height of noon, when the sun shone its brightest and drove all the demons to their respective shady corners, the truth was much harder to ignore.
He cared about Buffy.
Hell, he liked her, liked how sharp her mind was, how she could make even the most dismal circumstance light. What was worse, he liked how she treated him as an equal. There’d never been any disdain for who he was, in any form. She’d even got him to talk words with her—books, poetry, anything in print. They spent a lot of their time fighting and fucking, sure, but they’d spent almost as much talking and listening.
And the stupid bitch was going to leave him the first chance she got. Spike just knew it.
When the knock came at the door, it startled him from where he’d perched on the end of the couch to watch her sleep. In long strides, Spike went to answer it, frowning when he saw Kevin waiting on the other side.
“Is she up?” Kevin asked, his eyes darting past Spike to try and see inside.
“No.” He pulled the door almost closed, stepping into the hall in order not to wake her. “Little soon for you to be back, isn’t it? I thought you were takin’ care of this ring business for Buffy.”
“I was. Am.” His normally guileless face was drawn into a worried frown. “We need to talk.”
Kevin waited until Spike had taken a few soothing drags of his cigarette before venturing to talk again. “Did you and Buffy get stuff sorted out?” he asked. Start with the lighter issues, he’d decided. Things were going to go from bad to really, really awful faster than Spike could shift into gameface.
“Not really,” Spike admitted. “She was knackered, so I let her sleep.”
“But you’re going to leave with her, right? I mean, that was always your plan. Find the girl, get the girl. Tie the girl up, if you have to.” He knew his voice was getting desperate, but after the morning he’d had, Kevin figured a little desperation was allowed. “Don’t tell me you’re doing all this not to run ride off into the sunset with her. I’d hate to have to turn in my ears.”
Spike’s eyes narrowed, mouth tight around the cigarette as he inhaled. The heel of his boot was leaving an imprint on the cheap wallpaper in the apartment building’s corridor, the black smudge widening a fraction of an inch with every frenetic tap of his foot. He spoke again only after dropping his ash to the carpet.
“That bee in your bonnet’s got a bit of a sting,” he commented. “You goin’ to share before it makes your head explode?”
Fuck. There was no way this was going to be pretty, any way he painted it. Kevin knew he just had to come out and get it over with.
“I went out to find that Lindsey,” he said. “Since you torched his house, I figured I’d start with his work. The girl who runs the club’s office had an interesting file on him.”
Spike perked up. “Oh, tell me the prat’s got dirt. The way Buffy’s been goin’ on, you’d think he walked on water.”
“That’s the thing. She didn’t have anything at all. It’s like the guy appeared out of thin air.” He held up a hand to stop Spike from interrupting. “So I dug a little deeper. And I just need you to tell me one thing.”
“That law firm you and Buffy wrangled with. It wasn’t Wolfram and Hart, was it?”
It took only a second for the temporary glee in Spike’s eyes to disappear. “Son of a bitch!” he snarled.
Kevin flinched when Spike kicked at the opposite wall, his boot tearing through the paper to shatter the plaster beneath. Though his instinct was to roll his chair away, Kevin held firm, only going so far as to knot his hands in his lap.
“I’m going to take that as a yes, then,” he said when it looked like Spike was ready to stop hitting the walls.
“Is he one of them?” Spike demanded. He whirled to get into Kevin’s face, so close that Kevin could smell the tobacco on his breath. “Tell me he’s one of them so that I can rip his goddamned throat out.”
“Yeah. Special projects. But…Spike. It gets worse.”
His lip curled into a sneer. “There is no bloody worse than those wankers knowing Buffy’s alive.”
“Lindsey’s boss is in town. They’re both at the same hotel now. Odds are good…they’ve got Buffy’s ring.”
He saw the connection get made in Spike’s head. All he had to do was watch the eyes. The vampire was a hell of a lot smarter than he liked to let on.
“We need to get it back.” Spike’s eyes flickered to the closed door of the apartment. “As much as I’d love to see Rayne go straight to ‘em, there’s no way they won’t use it against Buffy.”
Kevin’s throat was tight. It had been ever since he’d learned the truth about Lindsey McDonald. “No offense, Spike, but this is Wolfram and Hart you’re talking about here. They make Leandro look like a first-grade schoolyard bully. You can’t be serious about taking them on.”
The death in the vampire’s eyes said otherwise. “Did it once. Do it again.”
“The first time was a surprise. There’s no way in hell they’re not going to be prepared for you now.”
Spike grinned. Kevin almost pissed his pants at the malice in it. “Just makes it more interestin’ then, doesn’t it?”
Though he wasn’t privy to the audio, Lindsey watched the monitor from the meeting closely, intent on learning as much as he could through body language if not their actual words. Holland sat at the head of the table, leaning back in his plush chair with feigned insouciance, fingers steepled in front of him as he listened to the vampire who seemed to be in charge speak. Every once in a while, he’d make a comment, but mostly, he seemed content to hear the speaker out. It was a curious relationship, Lindsey thought.
There were four of them, all male, all vampire. None could’ve been older than twenty-five when they’d been turned, but the leader was the youngest of the bunch, tall and gaunt with the gangliness of youth still encumbering his slim frame. Eighteen, tops. Lindsey hadn’t caught any names, but he knew the leader was British. He wondered if they’d come all the way from England.
This had something to do with Buffy. Holland hadn’t specified, but Lindsey wasn’t stupid. Everything about Las Vegas had always been about Buffy, regardless of their semantics. He just wasn’t certain yet how she fit into the big picture.
When he saw Holland rise from his seat and shake the vampire’s hand, Lindsey stood as well and handed over the rest of the money to the security guard he’d bribed to let him sit in the control room during the meeting. It wouldn’t do for Holland to discover that his urgent appointment hadn’t been as private as he would’ve preferred. Lindsey had to get back to the suite before his boss returned and found him gone.
He’d only just sat down on the couch when he heard the latch undo in the door.
“You’re still here,” Holland said. “Good.”
Lindsey watched him cross to the wet bar. “How did your meeting go?”
“As expected. Any word on locating the Slayer?”
“No. She hasn’t reported in to the casino, and nobody else has seen her.”
“She has to be somewhere.” He turned to face Lindsey with a tumbler of ice water in his hand. “Since our usual methodology isn’t working, I suggest you start utilizing less orthodox procedures. The sooner we find her, the better it will be for you.”
Holland was the master of understatement.
Lindsey left without looking back. He still wasn’t sure what the game was that he was playing, but he did know that he needed as much power on his side as possible if he wanted to survive it.
Power equaled Buffy.
Ethan peered at the lobby occupants with barely disguised disdain. The hotel surprised him. While it was as gauche and extravagant as anything else on the Strip, its sheer glass front made it lethal for those of Spike’s persuasion. From all appearances, the vampire’s masochistic streak ran deeper than playing in a Watcher’s sandbox.
His cock grew stiff. Suddenly, interrogating Spike just turned infinitely more interesting.
There was no doubt that the ring was in the building. Though no more contact had been made along its link, its energy called to Ethan as soon as his plane landed, drawing him to the towering hotel/casino as surely as a child of Hamelin. It was difficult to ascertain just where inside the building it was, but he had no doubt that he’d find Spike soon enough. There was nothing about the vampire that was ordinary. Someone would be sure to have spotted him.
His instincts told him it would be a female someone. Ethan smiled. If he was fortunate, he’d even catch them together.
Though his body cried out for rest, Ethan refrained from settling in to his room right away. His best attempts at finding a staff member who knew of Spike would be during the daylight hours when the vampire was confined to the hotel, and he refused to abandon any advantage he might have. He had come too far to treat this lightly.
Beginning at the bar, he charmed his way through the female personnel, complaining of missing his colleague and asking if anyone might have seen him. When he got nothing there but three phone numbers and a very interesting proposition from a buxom redhead with a nose ring, Ethan moved on to the restaurant, only to get the same results. Nobody had seen a man of Spike’s description.
The light was flashing on his phone when he returned his room. A message in his voice mail asked him to call the bar, and he rang, wondering which of the young ladies had decided she couldn’t wait until that evening to share his company. The redhead came on the line.
“You are an impatient little minx, aren’t you?” Ethan purred. “That’s going to be an absolute pleasure to break you of, my dear.”
She giggled. “God, I love your accent.”
“You didn’t call just to hear it again, did you?”
“No, no, well, yeah, but no.” Glasses clinked in the background. “That guy you were looking for? The one with the bleached hair? I think he’s here, only he doesn’t look like a professor, not like you do. What did you say he teaches?”
All pretense of flirtation fled. “He’s there?” Ethan said, straightening.
“Yeah. He just ordered a whiskey.” The girl giggled again. “I don’t suppose you guys are into threesomes, are you? ‘Cause he’s really---.”
“Yes, well, we’ll have to discuss that when I get down there. Thank you, my dear.” He was about to hang up when he thought of something. “Did you happen to mention to my colleague that I was looking for him?”
“No. He’s not in my section. You want me to---?”
“No, don’t say a word. There’ll be time enough for that later.”
His heart was pounding inside his chest when he set down the phone. He had the distinct feeling that this game with Spike was going to be even more illuminating than he’d originally envisioned. He hadn’t lied to the redhead at all.
There would be ample opportunity for words. He hoped there would even be screams. Buffy deserved every single one of them.
To be continued in Chapter 9: That Promise You Made…